Original review at ENDURO Mag here
Sick of gazing out the window as winter’s chill reigns supreme and the trails are a filthy, snowy mess? For those struggling to get out on the northern hemisphere’s wintery trails, think of us as your savior. We’ve compiled a list of the six best winter riding destinations. You can thank us later.
If you want to keep riding throughout the long, cold winter, you’ve got to reach that pretty hefty decision of whether to go by car or plane for your riding holiday. Planes are your best bet if you want to jet out to the two small islands in the Atlantic that have evolved into veritable top riding spots: Madeira and La Palma. Another great option is a flight to Lisbon, from where you can explore the Sintra and Algarve region. Similarly, if you’re fortunate enough to have more than a week’s holiday, direct your sights to New Zealand where it’s now summer and you can give winter the two fingers from a safe distance. However, if four wheels and Italian flair are more your thing then the classic bike mecca of Finale Ligure is worth considering. Our fifth tip? That’s the surprise entrant onto the list, and somewhere that’s always worth an outing.
The volcanic island of La Palma is split into two markedly different climate zones by a central mountain ridge, with one side being a serious sun magnet. Here you’ll find descents that drop 2,000 metres of altitude and take you through wildly diverse vegetation and micro-climates, so don’t be surprised to start in below-freezing temperatures from Roque de los Muchachos before hitting over 20°C as you roll towards the beach at midday. The trails have a bit of everything, and definitely aren’t the easiest one around so you won’t get bored. Given the aggressively-edgy lava rocks and fine sand, it’s wise to pack robust tyres and replacement brake pads for any trip here. Seriously, La Palma is even that good that pro rider Daniel Schäfer spends half the year here.
Guiding & Hotel: Atlantic Cycling/Magic Bike
When to travel: Oktober–April
Where to fly: Santa Cruz
Over the past few years Madeira has evolved into a genuine insiders tip for riding.Thanks to the efforts of the local scene, there is now a huge choice of diverse trails on the island with super quick ones on fine, earthy ground right through to rocky, technical trails. As the last few hundred metres of altitude drop down to the sea tends to be eye-poppingly steep, you’ll find most of the trails above 600 metres altitude. A bike with 160 mm of travel is going to be your best pal out in Madeira, and given the steep climbs you’ll be shuttling a lot of the uphills.
Guiding & hotel: Bikulture/Freeride Madeira
When to travel: October–April
Where to fly: Funchal
SINTRA and ALGARVE in PORTUGAL
The ocean that batters the Portuguese Atlantic coast is rough and wild – not so the climate. Even in winter, the temperatures are consistently above 10° and there’s very little rainfall, offering great conditions for riders throughout the year. The regions Sintra and Algarve are well known for their wonderful trails, picturesque beaches and Portuguese flair. With a very active local riding community constantly adding new trails to the network, fun can be found from the eucalyptus forests all the way to the coast. While these are not strictly ‘official’ trails, conflicts with hikers are never an issue and riding is positively encouraged. However, most of these trails are not signposted, so you’ll be well advised to get some help from local guides like Hugo, João, and Luis Pedro from WERIDE.
Guiding, shuttles, hotel recomendations and great rental bikes: weride.pt
When to travel: All year round, preferably spring and autumn
Where to fly: Lisbon or Faro
That quiet period just moments after the circus of the Enduro World Series departs Finale Ligure is exactly when you want to get this spot on your radar. It’s the ideal coastal resort for more northerly-based riders who are just not into winter. Thanks to the mild temperatures, it’s virtually a year-round riding destination with low temps of around 10°C. The trails directly on the coast are gnarly and rocky, and the true gems are set a little bit further inland. Head out from the Nato base and enjoy drops of 1,400 metres in altitude on seriously dreamy trails to get back towards the sea. The off-season doesn’t mean boredom either; both Finale Ligure and Finalborgo have winding little streets in the old towns where you can kick-back and soak up la dolce vita.
Guiding & hotel: Finale Ligure Bikeresort
When to travel: October–November/April–October
Where to drive: best reached by car, head south from Milan
Where to fly: Genoa/Turin
A country that’s basically the polar opposite of Europe, New Zealand is on the other side of the world. So while we’re caught in the throngs of winter right now, they’re enjoying summer. Not into snow and the extra TLC your bike needs, then hop onto a long-haul flight. That’s what our intern Daniel did with his mates and they didn’t regret it. Loads of pro riders love to head to the region around Queenstown on the country’s southern island, and you might recognize some of the super diverse trails from the countless bike videos that have been shot there. The north island isn’t without its charm though, so it’s wise to give yourself at least a month to explore properly.
Travel tips: Brett Kennedy gives his take on the trails around Wellington.
When to travel:: October–April
Where to fly: Expect a good few hours in the airplane to Wellington.
Why travel so far when winter can dish up some amazing days of riding? Those home trails that you might write off as boring get a new sheen and added challenge with a carpet of snow and the longer shadows of winter. Riding on a pump track is a hot-fire way to scrub up your skills and that feeling as the blood circulation returns to your frozen toes and fingers under the hot shower is simply indescribable. Our winter special is crammed with tips to make sure you get a ton of fun riding in the cold weather.
When to travel: all year.
Text: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer/Trevor Worsey/Victor Lucas/JC Smith
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer