- Bike Checks
by Hans Rey
Alright, this is a one tough list to narrow down. There is a bucket list and then there are so many great experiences and memories. Often they cannot be compared and often they had to do with the era and the folks I was sharing the ride with, so I've done my best to give you my top five must-rides of a lifetime.
If memory serves me correctly, this trail is located about 1 hour south of Lima, Peru in South America. I had the chance to ride this trail together with photographer Bob Allen back around 1996, right after I finished my adventure on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (another all-time classic ride). From Lima it takes about four to five hours to wind up the mountain road in an old school bus before reaching the starting point. The road is a rough, switchback accent with spectacular view points along the way. We had some local guides with us, and I only had my Zaskar hardtail bike.
The first 20km is all granite rocks, sand and dust as you descend from 3,600m to the Pacific Ocean. We were warned by our guide that brakes would be our best friend on the downhill and he wasn’t wrong. The trail is quite technical and has variety of different terrain and sections; kind of a little of everything. One section I will never forget, it was a hill side, much like a ski run in the mountains, there was no defined trail, one could go wherever and turn whenever necessary to scrub speed - it was the closest biking ever got to skiing for me on that day.
Along the route there are some fantastic views, including views to the ocean on a clear day. The trail passes through the village of Olleros which is an opportunity to take on a little more water and meet the local kids who are happy to pose for photos.
At the bottom of the downhill section, the trail snakes through a deeply incised canyon and then out into a wide river valley. At that point the trail is rather flat, one cruises down the dried out river valley with terrain like a skatepark. The dry mud had perfect natural rollers, banks and jumps. That last section snaked its way all the way down for for about 5km, until we ended up in a garbage dump with wild gangs of dogs roaming around. That was a bit of a bummer, but the cold beers and ceviche right on the beach made up for it all after our 4 hour descent.
The small Geisskopf Bike Park in Eastern Bavaria (not far from the Czech border, near the town of Deggendorf) is probably the first bike park in Europe and was built by trail sculpting guru Diddie Schneider. A few years ago he added the Evil Eye Flow Country Trail to the bike park. Flow Country is a term Diddie and I coined for a certain kind of flow trail that is never steep, never extreme and never dangerous. Something fun for everybody on every kind of bike, no matter what skill level. This year the trail got an extension. It takes about seven to ten minutes to ride it and smiles are guaranteed. One can take the lift to the top or pedal the mellow fire road up the hill. These kind of trails are proving to be a big part of mountain biking's future. Small berms and rollers make it feel like a endless roller coaster. Beginners learn to roll, intermediate riders learn to pump and expert riders learn to fly….
Livigno is my favorite all-around spot and offers world class riding for any biking discipline. Located in the Italian Alps on the Eastern border of Switzerland, Livigno is in the heart of the Alta Rezia Bike Region. It has an endless network of natural and man-made trails. Some go way back before the Worlds Wars and even to the ancient trade routes and Smuggler Trails. It's a very popular stop-over on many Trans Alp routes and has one of Europe's top bike parks (Mottolino.com). The surrounding area offers some of best day and multi-day rides and there are plenty of freeride shuttle options. Choose one of the many ski resorts or use the famous Swiss Red Train which takes riders and their bikes to the top of the legendary Bernina Pass.
One of my favorite trails is the Val delle Mine Trail in Livigno. Livigno is a beautiful alpine resort village, known for its duty-free shopping and many restaurants. Livigno hosted in 2005 the Mountain Bike World Championships and built the first official Flow Country test trail a few years ago. There are great restaurants to enjoy the italian foods and there are 15 Hotels specifically labeled "Bike Hotels." They cater to us two-wheelers with bike storage, wash, overnight laundry service, guided tours and even rental bikes.
The Telonics trail in Laguna Beach is a legendary downhill trail that descends into the Laguna Canyon from a place known as "Top of the World." It features beautiful views over the Southern California beach town with the Pacific ocean stretching out to the horizon. This classic downhill trail is host to the oldest-standing annual downhill race in the world put on by the Laguna RADZ. A fast rider will only take 2 minutes to ride to the bottom.
The trail offers many a variety of elements from wide open fire roads, to the classic Volkswagen rocks and several steep sections where riders hang off their bars, way behind their seats...not exactly beginner-friendly. Telonics is a classic, it's on my door step and it almost ruined my career when I had a massive crash that shattered my leg in 2008.
Wait a minute is this already my last choice for my bucket list? I haven't even mentioned BC or the North Shore, Copper Canyon Mexico, Annapurna Circuit Trail in Nepal and many others. One of my all-time favorite rides was a first descent I did with Richie Schley in 2004 on Mount Kenya, Africa's second-highest mountain. It was a classic five day traverse up the Chogoria route, summit Point Lenana (the trekkers peak that can be reached without ropes) and down the Sirimon Route.
The weather changes several times daily on Mount Kenya (16,300ft.) from really nice to rain, snow and ugly. So does the terrain. One constantly crosses through different climate zones, from the farm lands, open savanna, rainforests to equatorial glaciers, along with a very diverse flora and fauna. Mix in some wild animals and you have the perfect setting for an epic adventure.
Mount Kenya is a very gradual mountain (it's not very steep) and its a long way from the base to the top. One has to take it slow to acclimate to the high altitude. Along the way we camped and slept in shelters and huts. After reaching the top the downhill was amazing and super fun - from loose technical rock fields to some steep sections and endless flowy trekking trails all day long. For sure one of my all time favorite rides.