Mountain biking is one of these sports that its enthusiasts take to extreme (and often dangerous) levels — and each of the five locations below are certainly places where you can do that. But this is not a post exclusively for aspiring X-Games participants. Each of these five destinations is also a great travel destination even for those with no interest in biking (or mountains). And if you are an uninspiringly average mountain biker, you’ll find cool travel ideas for you too:
Moab, Utah USA
No where on the planet provides more amazing mountain biking for the entire spectrum of riders — from newbie to grand champion — than does the area around Moab in eastern Utah.
For beginners there are trails like the Bar-M loop, which rewards riders who climb its hills with inspiring vistas out across Arches National Park and its scenery that looks like it came out of a Dr. Suess book.
Advanced mountain bikers looking for a challenge, head to the world-famous Slickrock Bike Trail. This 13-mile (20.9 km) loop circumnavigates a landscape of “petrified” sand dunes and the eroded remnants of ancient sea beds. The Slickrock name is very much a misnomer. The rock surface is much more like sandpaper; it grips the tires, allowing riders to balance at downward angles that seem to defy gravity. (See the 2nd and 3rd photos, below.)
The Cliffs of Moher
County Clare, Ireland
If the photos of The Cliffs of Moher below remind you of The Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride, it’s because they are! The Cliffs of Moher were used as a filming location for other movies too, including Leap Year and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Every year nearly a million visitors The Cliffs of Moher and the town of Doolin, which is also straight-from-a-movie-set scenic. (Spot Cool Stuff once flew from Washington DC to Ireland for the weekend simply watch a sunset from the cliffs). The vast majority of those visitors either walk along the cliffs or take a scenic boat tour of them. But adventure sports photographer Victor Lucas decided he would mountain bike along the most precarious section of the trail. The updrafts at this section of cliffs can be strong enough to rider a biker weightless. And from there it’s a 200 meter (almost 700 ft) drop into the Atlantic Ocean. So it’s a good thing he was wearing a helmet.
There are several cool mountain biking parks and resorts we could have featured in this review. We selected Copper Mountain, in Michigan’s upper peninsula, partly because it is the unexpected choice. As we’ve written before about Michigan, the state is the most underrated travel destination in the US.
The other reason we chose to feature Copper Mountain: It has utterly fantastic mountain biking. The trail system includes 20 single-track runs that span 25 miles (940km) with 700 feet (213 meters) of elevation change. There’s a mix of technical, jump and flow trails; we’re especially fond of the smooth rollers (like the one featured to the right). The Keweenaw Adventure Company in downtown Copper Harbor can make all the arrangements for you and provide shuttle service from area hotels.
Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking
If you are a really hard core traveler you can arrange your own mountain biking tour of Bolivia. But definitely easier, almost certainly smarter and probably more fun is to travel through Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking. The travel operator has an excellent reputation for the quality of their trips (and we’ve personally talked to several travelers who rave about them). For extreme mountain bikers, Gravity will send you down the world’s most dangerous road. Beginning riders, and those less death-defying, tend to gravitate (pun!) towards their Coroico trip. But Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite offering from Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking is the Ghost Ride — it includes a visit to a haunted castle!
Megavalanche Alpe d’Huez
Alpe d’Huez, France
Thinking about taking part in Megavalanche Alpe d’Huez? Our lawyers request that you promptly review this site’s terms of service that states how we aren’t responsible if information we provide results in your legs getting mangled beyond recognition. (We’re paraphrasing). That seems a real possibility for the participants of Megavalanche, a three day extreme mountain biking competition that culminates in the awarding of the Avalanche Trophy. There are Megavalanche events take place in Peru and Reunion Island, but the most scenic has to be the first stage of the race down from the 3,300 meter summit of Pic Blanc in the French Alps. That’s when 250 or so tightly-packed mountain bikers speed down a snowy slope. It’s superb fun to watch. And less fun to take part in.
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