Whether it's sifting through old Lonely Planet guides, browsing travel sites or simply throwing a dart/knife at a map of the globe, January is the best time to plan the year's two-wheeled adventures. But where to go?! Here's our guide to the far-flung places we reckon look like some of the best prospects for a mountain-bike adventure.
1. New Zealand
This was relatively easy as it feels like every man and his bike are currently in NZ already. It's the middle of the Kiwi summer riding season at the minute and the country features what is being widely touted as some of the best riding on earth. It's quickly becoming a popular 'training camp' for the pros of the UCI World Cup desperately seeking year-round endless summer escapades.
The country also plays host to the incredible Gorge Road dirt jumps just in case you get bored of all the downhill runs and singletrack.
- Gorge Road dirt jumps, Queenstown: Possibly the best dirt jumps on Earth.
- Gravity Bike Park, Rotorua: World-class DH and slopestyle riding on Mount Ngongotaha.
- Rainbow Mountain, Rotorua: Ascend Mount Maungakaramea for incredible views before descending amazing trails and dipping your toes in the geothermal pools of Kerosene Creek.
Canada had to feature, didn't it?! And whilst all the fuss usually centres around Whistler and the North Shore, we've opted for Retallack. An area made famous by its back-country skiing is now seeing a growing popularity as a top freeride destination.
The old mining hills and expansive slopes make it perfect for build-it-yourself shenanigans. It mightn't be for the faint-hearted, but, trust us, it would be worth it!
- Whistler, BC: The mountain biking Mecca is perhaps the most famous spot in the two-wheeled world. Get a lift pass and ride until your wheels are square!
- Coast Gravity Park, Sechelt: The Coastal Crew backed and designed freeride park offers a dizzying array of big bike freeride lines.
- The North Shore, Vancouver: The place that arguably gave birth to freeride. It's not all skinnies and woodwork (in fact, very little of it is) but the trails are virtually endless.
When it comes to riding in Wales, you're spoilt for choice. Man-made spots include its vast swathe of modern trail centres and of course Bike Park Wales, one of the UK's premier mountain bike destinations. But it's the scope for endless 'back country' escapes that we love. Do the work, ask around and the trail riding gold is soon revealed.
The Welsh riding scene is incredibly active and has produced two of the world's leading young racers in Mike Jones of Chain Reaction Cycles/Nukeproof and Taylor Vernon of GT Factory Racing.
- Bike Park Wales, Merthyr Tydfil: The UK's first bike park redefines how much fun you can have on an enduro/trail bike and offers options for all.
In terms of international mountain biking Norway is perhaps most famous for the Hafjell Bike Park, but its stunning fjord-hugging mountains mean that there's so much more to explore. The Sunnmøre Alps in particular feature incredible trail riding but only once they've emerged from their 10 metres of snow.
- Hafjell Bike Park, Hafjell: The under-threat bike park is the famous home of Norwegian World Cup racing and hosted the World Championships in 2014.
- Åndalsnes, Romsdalen: Picturesque even by Norwegian standards, including a stunning waterfall.
5. Finale Ligure
From the minute you leave Nice Airport and begin skirting the Mediterranean coast, you're already in love with Finale. By the time you reach the beach, having descended one of its many world-class rocky trails it's too late, you'll want to stay forever. There are few places on earth that can claim to marry this quality of riding with this kind of backdrop. It needs to be experienced to be believed.
- There are an estimated 150 trails in the hills surrounding the town, so we'd recommend getting a guide to help you explore them.
- The town is taken over once a year by the Enduro World Series (EWS), so why not go and join in the celebration of everything two-wheeled?!
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