Nothing could be greater than combining a holiday with doing what you love the most. All that time to ride your mountain bike, days upon end without a worry in the world.
After all the research and time spent studying maps for that network of exotic mountain bike trails in some far-off location the day has finally arrived, it’s time to box up your beloved bike or head to that far-flung bike shop in the mountains. Here are some hints and tips for mountain biking abroad to make sure you make the most of your big trip.
1. Make hand luggage your new best friend
Baggage gets lost sometimes, which, while not the end of the world, can be a huge nuisance if you’re going for an adventure-specific trip like a mountain biking holiday.
Carry your bike helmet as hand luggage as a start. You don’t even have to fit it into your hand luggage bag. You can literally just carry it on with most airlines, as long as it’s not in a separate helmet bag. Stick the small things like your gloves, a couple of extra pairs of socks or underwear and your sunglasses into your hand luggage too, just in case, but beware of packing your multi-tool. It’ll more likely than not get confiscated at security. Stick it in your hold luggage to be safe. Bon voyage!
2. Contact a local bike shop in advance
If you’re renting a bike, it makes sense to do your local bike shop scouting before you touch down in your final location. It’ll get you stoked for the trip, you’ll make sure that you get the best local in town, and if you give them a shout before you arrive, they’ll be expecting you when you get into town, which is always nice.
That means they’ll have your bike all ready when you get there or have a good idea of what would suit you best. They’ll also usually be more than happy to give you plenty of recommendations for riding in the local area.
Even if you're bringing your own bike, it’s not a bad idea to search out a good local bike shop in advance so you know where to go for those quick repairs or spare inners you might need. You can get some hints and tips for the local area while you're there.
3. Beware of the brakes if you’re renting
For the majority of bikes available around the world at the point of sale, the front brake is on the left and the back brake is on the right. But beware, in places like the UK, New Zealand and Australia, the brakes are the other way around.
If you’re renting your bike from a local bike shop and the brakes are the wrong way around for you; ask them to swap this for you, so you’re riding what you’re used to. They’ll probably do it without much bother as it doesn’t take long.
4. Get good travel insurance, like your mum says
Like, yeah, let’s not linger on this point too long, but get decent travel insurance. Obviously. Your bike is precious. You are precious. And make sure your insurance actually covers mountain biking, because not all do. You also need to make sure that it covers air evacuation and medical bills in the country that you’re travelling to and that the equipment protection covers a high enough value of product that it’ll actually cover your bike if the worst happens.
If something does happen, make sure to contact your travel insurance provider as soon as possible.
5. If you're from the EU and riding in the EU, bring your EHIC
If you’re an EU or Swiss resident and you'll be riding in the EU, dig out your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), make sure it’s still valid and stick it in your wallet. The EHIC entitles holders to discounted medical treatment at state-run medical facilities in any EU country, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, which is handy for mountain biking. You may still have to pay something, but you get treated the same as anyone in that country going into their local hospital. It can save you a whole lot of money.
6. Learn about the local trails before you ride them
Where's the best viewpoint on the mountain? Are the trails shared with hikers or horse riders? Are certain places strictly forbidden for mountain biking by local law? Is there any patch which is going to be particularly boggy that you should probably avoid today? Is there a good chance that, at some point, you’re going to encounter a bear on the trails?
Depending on where you’re going, you’ll come across a lot of different things in the world of mountain biking. Some will be good. Some will be a little trickier. The last thing you want to do is get fined by a park ranger for accidentally riding through a conservation area, or to annoy the locals by messing up a trail you didn’t know would be so wet and wild on that particular day.
Do your research on the trails and you’ll find out all the good stuff, and the stuff that it’s best to steer clear of while you’re out there to ride.
7. Get yourself a local guide – you won’t regret it
Much of the above, including learning all about the local trails, ensuring you have no maintenance problems and much more, can be accomplished by hiring a local mountain bike guide to take you around the trails during your stay. It’s almost an essential if you really want to make the most of your trip.
Guides not only know the best trails, but by telling them the kind of riding you like they can tailor the ride to you, make sure you don’t miss those spectacular viewpoints or don’t stray into areas that are a little sketchy or maybe beyond your grade on a mountain bike.
Guides are also great for giving you a comprehensive breakdown of the local mountain bike scene in the area, telling you what’s what with regards to the trail building, the best local shops, bars and restaurants, and generally keeping you entertained throughout the day with stories from the local community.
You can study a trail map as much as you like, but nothing’s ever going to beat having a local show you their trails!
Looking for some inspiration on where to go on a mountain bike holiday abroad? Check out our MTB destination guides to get the lowdown on some of the most beautiful places in the world to go mountain biking.