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The Finale

16 April 2024

Words & Photos: Dave Mitchell & Ditte van der Meulen

The descent into Italy.

To the Med.

If Italy's profile reminds you of two heads, a leg and a boot, north to south, then picture this: the Ligure coastline is an eyelash below the left-hand head, and the furtherest north section of coastline Italy has on offer. This region traditionally receives around 1200mm of rain per year which is relatively evenly distributed throughout, but for 2023 a long dry spell had persisted into late summer, as we discovered and devised our cunning riding plan.

Finale Ligure old city centre.

All that glitters is gold.

Finale Ligure is world famous in mountain biking and enduro circles, like Max is to F1 fans (especially the Dutch). It’s a popular picnic spot for the Euros, especially the Germans, Swiss and Brits who flock to this sunny Mediterranean sandpit like seagulls to a seaside fish and chip shop, only in search of single-track, pizza, gelato and beer. It’s way too hot over summer, unless frying like an egg on the beach and building sand castles is your fall back position. September through to early November is a more salubrious and cooler bet.

Provincia Di Savona all stickered up.

Historic Torano.

We arrived mid September from the high mountains of France where Jack Frost had been on the prowl. Those sub zero mornings were soon forgotten as we checked into our sunny apartment in Pietra Ligure on the hillside above the town. With single-track up to your armpits, shuttling is a way of life, especially when you have less than a week up your sleeve to cover the vast network of tracks and trails on offer. We had two weeks up ours, so a more relaxed attitude prevailed.

Barbarian hoards overlocking Pietra Ligure.

Street art.

On most of our road ascents a flotilla of 30 or 40 shuttle vans would sail by us, packed to the gunnels and towing bike trailers of every configuration imaginable - just like toast racks behind a procession of model trains. Considering the barbarian hordes that had descended upon the Finale arena we hardly saw anyone while out riding. Which probably means that we are incredibly slow or they are incredibly fast, or both.

Deserted trails.

Torano town centre.

We purchased the 'Finale Outdoor Region' map and supporters card, and marvelled at the track network on offer. All proceeds go to track building and maintenance. "Unleash you desire for freedom" and "take a ride on the right side" are the translated catch phrases and certainly staying right had become a habit in every mode of movement in Europe. With a choice of over 200 named green, blue, purple or black trails ranging from a simple H to an expressive Madonna Della Guardia nomenclature. Trailforks filled in the gaps with loads of additional options and the Outdoor Active website threw a few loops into the alphabet pasta soup.

Fill 'er up sunny.

Melogno Tops Din Trail.


First up was a foray to Melogno on a steady climb snaking through the historic villages of Tovo San Giacomo, Bardino Vecchio, Bardino Nuovo and Magliolo. With lots of old churches and colourful houses painted in earthy pastels, light blues and white all clinging to the convoluted hillsides, enjoying views across the lumpy valleys and out to the shining Med.

Dinner bell.

Fast and Furious.

Melogno sits at a crossroad or more precisely a Y junction 1000 meters up and there were tracks and trails in every direction egging us on. A mix of pine, oak, larch and beech cover these slopes with an understory of tough looking scrubby bush that’s not to be messed with. A cafe and accomodation shop round off the the shuttle van park.

Dog Eat Dog.

Colle de Melogno.

Beech forest for days.

We indulged in Rollercoaster and Toboga Di Canova and they were flowy, rocky and in some places quite steep, but oh soooo much fun. On subsequent forays we scored Toboga and then from Colle de Melogno after riding through Europe's biggest natural beech forest we bombed Fast and Furious, Revenant and a gnarly pine tree trail clinging for its life onto the side of a steep valley. It was sketchy and loose but we didn't mind. We bottomed out at Magliolo and managed a few trails in the Monte Grosso bike area before heading home dusty and tired.

Base Nato surrounded.

The blast door.

Base Nato

If you take the right hand fork from Melogno a row of giant wind generators greets you like you are in a transformer movie. They are perched gallantly on the ridge line, slowing earths rotation and demoralising the wind. This two-tank wide military road wanders up to Base Nato. An interesting place to say the least; abandoned in the eighties as the Berlin Wall collapsed and the cold war lost its chill. Now surrounded and guarded by wind generators, the derelict buildings have had their faded camo replaced by colourful can art, but their secret underground silos are still secret and silent. Rumours of ghostly helicopters and stealth drones remain.

Crestino Trail.

Rock shoot.

Just beyond the base the railhead has a vast array of narrow gauge track options on offer. This was where we found a very, very long DH. That’s if you joined up the dots riding Crestino PT 1 & 2 followed by Monte Alto and Supergroppo. A shagfest of descending worthy of a repeat a week later. It was yet another superb combo of fast flowing lines, technical interludes stunning sunny scenery and some navigation to keep us on our toes. Bits of water-race and olive groves flew by in a blur of colour.

Old abandoned farmhouse.

Olive grove trail.


Base Nato DHs are pretty legendary but it was Trail De Boccioni north down to Mallare that really convinced us. It’s very old-schoolish following the ridge line and natural terrain all the way to the valley floor where the village of Malare resides. This is a rambling farming community in the nicest possible way, with a massive church and small shop that sells just about everything but closes for an undisclosed chunk of time mid-day. We pedaled on old forestry roads back up to the top admiring the view and looking forward to another stunning downhill back to base.

Trail del Bossioni.

Oltre Finale Trail.

Monte Carmo

From San Lorenzo a rough 4WD track climbs roughly forever to the Colle de Giustenice below the towering rocky jumble that is Monte Carmo. We climbed up this track a few times indulging in some very cool downhills including Hiroshima, Oltrefinale, Hell Boy, Rock’n Rolla, Dog Eat Dog to name but a few. They were a real mix of flow trail, repurposed walking tracks through a technical and rocky limestone landscape and some super cool routes used in past seasons for the Enduro World Cup. Apart from a wandering pine breaking Ditte’s brake lever and a bit of dusting to do after work, all went well.

Edilplast Track.

Titalana Trail.

Mounte Sebanco

On the remote western edge of the Finale Outdoor Region resides a beautiful jungle trail and an old military road to Fort Paggio Grande. To access either of these requires a steady climb from the coastal town of Loano on SP60 to the Giogo di Toirano Saddle. Neither of these tracks were marked on our MTB map but Trailforks came to the rescue. To access the Pagliarina Trail required further climbing through a tall beech forest to a dozer cut that climbs to the 1100m contour.

Pagliarina Trail.

Via della Valle.

In a past life this area must have been used for shuttling, as an abandoned camp site with picnic tables and camp oven still reside here. From there the Pagliarina Trail headed down open slopes on Monte Carmos western flank, but the jewel in the crown was the Val della Valle track that rides a rocky limestone corridor in the dark depths of the valley below on ancient cobbles, switchbacks under a high canopy of larch, oak and beech. There are wonders of human enterprise on this trail. Dry stone walls, bridges and dwellings along with water control and collection infrastructure.

Via della Valle Roman bridge.

Carmo X Sempre cobbled together.

Carmo acomm & pizza oven discovered.

The second ride took us from the saddle on a metal road heading towards Mt Sebanco, where an old military road (trail 305) winds around the hilly south face to the well hidden Forte Paggio Grande. Beautiful stone work and a commanding entrance give way to a rear mote full of tall trees. We bombed the black downhill to Saint via Crusis, a church in restoration mode. Below it another one of their excellent ancient repurposed walking trails roamed into the open arms of the valley below with a sketchy 4WD track thrown in for good measure. Gelato at Loano was mentally taxing with over two dozen flavours on offer. This became our favourite post ride treat with the cool clear Med lapping the edge of reason.

Forte Paggio Grande.

Poddio Monte Croce.

Monte Art.

We messed around in the foothills behind Pietra Ligure in the Ranzi and Monte Grosso bike parks where loose and rocky trail prevailed. Beyond the 'Finale Outdoor Region' both up and down the coast and inland a vast array of trails are at your mercy. Take a look at Trailforks and you will see a theoretical physicists' version of the ultimate string theory there in all the colours of the trail grading guide and a life time of riding happiness. Hopefully we will be back before string theory is debunked as we had a ball and you would too.

Ranzi bike arena.

Monte Grosso.

We generally use booking.com or Airbnb for our apartment accommodation and found that Pietra Ligure had better prices and quality than just up the road in Finale Ligure, plus it was way quieter. There is also plenty of bike hotels to choose from. These coastal towns are famous for their fine fish restaurants, but mostly everything else apart from fake food is available. Bike shops are numerous, especially in Finale, and there are big rental fleets and shuttle services to choose from. The water is wet, the sun usually shines and the hill climbs are not totally daunting. English is commonly spoken. We used a small windowless van to transport our bikes which was great for high narrow exposed mountain passes and oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road. I really mean for security so robbers couldn't see what was lurking in the windowless back.

Check out www.finaleoutdoor.com for some inspiration.

Ranzi views.

Bikes for sale.

A final salute to some of the best gelato and mountain biking in Italy, and the best scooter drivers on planet earth, who mainly inhabit the Finale Outdoor Region. They can ride a large executive scooter fast on steep and windy road descents with just one hand occasionally on the bars, the other holding a cell phone in animated conversation wearing only roman sandals, builders shorts and a singlet with no helmet in sight.

La fine

My name is Ditte, water works house.

My name is Luca.

2 Responses


18 April 2024

I want to go back!!!!! I had a week and a bit in the Dolomites late last year. I want to go back!!!!


17 April 2024

Great story and pictures. Sounds amazing!

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