7 Hills for 7th Heaven – e‑biking around Lisbon

 click the logo for the original URL link from E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine

click the logo for the original URL link from E-MOUNTAINBIKE Magazine

Leave your bike at home. There’s everything you need right here.

Nomads used to refer to this place as Finisterre, a name that signifies the end of the world. But these days the once-presumed End of the World now looks a lot like a mecca for riders. So how are Lisbon’s seven hills, unpretentious neighbourhoods, green trails, and heavenly beaches best explored on an e-bike? We sought the help of professionals to find out.

When I think of Portugal, I just see green. A subtropical climate, where the sea and the mountains flood into a cocktail of greatness, of which you just can’t get enough. After my last trip to this Iberian peninsula, I left feeling like I had unfinished business – but that next time I’d be needing added help (in more ways than one). With my mind set on riding the Sintra mountains the local hills of Lisbon, I hauled in the guides from WERIDE Portugal, confident I’d get more than just fish and fado music.

Uncomplicated and cool

We meet João and José from the WERIDE Crew under a bridge. But not just any old bridge; this red steel construction is simply called ‘Ponte’. 3.2 km in length, it joins Lisbon’s creative district Alcântara with the town of Almada and represents the military coup that liberated Portugal on 25 April 1974 from the dictatorship.

As the cruise ships and fishing vessels chug out of the nearby harbour, we pedal off towards Belém.

From Belém to the world

Once the departure point for explorers like Vasco Da Gama to set sail and discover new continents, Belém is now a popular haunt for sightseers, swarming the must-visit tourist hotspots like a game of Tetris. Thanks to the all-inclusive eMTB package provided by the WERIDE crew, we slip into Eco mode and swerve the queues, confirming that an eMTB is the ultimate mode for avoiding mass tourism and seeing the city from a different perspective. We ride by buildings dating from the year 1501, a figure that’s matched by the number of people trying to nail the perfect selfie. Eventually concrete turns into trees and the noise subsides.

The city’s beating green lungs

Lisbon’s Parque Florestal de Monsanto, also known as the city’s green lungs, isn’t short of anything within its 800 hectares. From basketball courts to a RC Formula 1 racetrack, the landscaping has been dialled, with picnic-touting families, horse riders and joggers all seeking their own little piece of tranquillity outside of the city. Our first trail is hidden behind a park bench. We drop into it. Short, flowing and void of people. The trail network is complex and somewhat mysterious, so it’s best explored with guides. I’d probably still be lost otherwise.

It’s an interchangeable game of flow and what a buddy of mine has dubbed ‘ratatatat’, that sort of trail that jars your jaws with consecutive bumps. At times it reminds me of riding in Rio de Janeiro. The script is similar; you don’t have to ride for long before you’re out of the city and into the dense jungle. I lose myself in the lush greenery, stare into the crystal-clear water and ride into the open arms of Cristo Rei. 

New shores (and a new trail) reached by boat

Certain things can only happen in Lisbon, surely. Like boarding a boat at the end of one trail in order to reach the next. Naturally skipping over the part where we had to once more weave our way through the crowds–but the view over the historic city from the deck of the boat provides more than enough compensation.

Good views

The sun stays low in the sky, the wine is warm and the people are friendly. Wherever we go in the city, we’re met with smiles and waves. Passers-by inquire about our bikes, wanting to know more about the sport and us. It all feels very familiar, particularly at the Miradouro de Santa Catarina, where people of all ages are chilling out with the tones of Bob Marley singing ‘Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.”

From here your best bet is to once more climb to the heart of Lisbon, then back down. Steps, wall drops, steep gradients, in hot pursuit by the trams. The battery is still full. For the last time our pedal strokes bring us face to face with the city’s most tucked-away corners. The view from all of the seven hills is magical. Down a final Ginginha liquor and back into the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s Friday and the city is ready for the weekend. Us too. 

ATÉ JÁ – See you next time

Travel tips

When’s best to go: All-year round! Autumn is probably the best time for riding though, with dry trails, sunshine and a refreshing Atlantic breeze.

How to get there: Lisbon’s airport is super accessible from the city and most budget airlines fly there from across Europe. 

Where to sleep: My friends will hate me for saying this, but nothing beats an airBnb experience in Lisbon. 

Guides, shuttles and sublime BMC e-bike rental (BMC): WERIDE.pt

What to eat: To eat like a local you need to stock up and eat at the Mercado da Ribeira and Mercado de Campo de Ourique. Vegans will love Ao 26 Vegan Food Project and there are all sorts of alternatives. No one has to go hungry. 

Words: Julian Lemme Photos: João Mourão

GRAVITY

WERIDE, Sintra, Lisboa, Portugal