Trans-Provence photo by Sven Martin

Todd Seplavy is as East Coast as they come. Hailing from Long Island, he's Director of Product for GT Bicycles and has seen his way around the world thanks to mountain biking. Take his advice on some trails and locations worth hitting at least once in your life. -gordo

Whistler B.C. with Kids or Newbie

Whistler is pretty much on everyone's mountain biking ‘bucket list’, and for good reason! Whistler is Disneyland for mountain biking. It has the trails ( The Bike Park, Garbo, and all of the local trails in the area), it has the scene, it has the vibe. No matter how long you've been in the sport, no matter how many times you've been there; it's hard not to feel the stoke and be happy in Whistler.

I've spent at least a week per summer for the past 12-or-so seasons at Whistler. After a while I started to wonder if maybe I was 'getting over it', but then I started going up to Whistler with my son Connor. Watching him progress and embrace the sport breathed fresh life into my Whistler experience.

Even if you think you know everything in Whistler, go ride it with a kid or someone brand new to the sport. Ride the green and blue trails with a newbie and you'll find out a lot about your own riding and about having fun. Mountain bike trails don’t always have to be about the gnar and the tech. It can be refreshing to ride flow trails and even to go back and think about some of your own ride skills and bad habits while teaching others about the sport.

Kingdom Trails, Vermont

photo via Mountain Bike Vermont

Nestled in the mountains of the Northeast's Kingdom region of Vermont are some of the best-sculpted trails and some of the best dirt that you'll find anywhere in the U.S. Kingdom is all about the mid-travel bike. You won't find huge alpine climbs or long, tech descents but you'll discover dozens of miles of well-marked, flowing singletrack.

Kingdom might seem fairly ‘off the grid’ in terms of location, but it’s only about 2-1/2 hours from Montreal and 2 hours from Burlington, VT. There’s such a good vibe up there with riders of all backgrounds and abilities out on the trails. There are a couple good shops in town, a community pumptrack, and even an outdoor Tiki bar. It’s a great weekend trip or place to hit with family.

Plattekill, New York

How can this place NOT be on @ska_todd’s bucket list? Platty is a legend! This is the birthplace of East Coast Hardcore riding style. It’s decidedly no-frills but that’s almost all of the charm. There are two lifts (an old triple and a slightly newer double) that service a myriad of old trails and race courses. The trails aren’t groomed much, if at all. It’s steep-n-deep with lots of loose, slidy shale. Plattekill pretty much held the East Coast DH scene together in the early-2000s and should be in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

To get there, you drive 2 hours north from NYC, get off the New York State Thruway at exit 19, and proceed to enter a time machine. The Catskill region of New York never recovered from the recession; not the one from 2008, the one from the early 1970s. There aren’t really any chain hotels up there, but lots of B&Bs and privately owned hotels. But why bother when you can camp in the parking lot and jump your bike over bonfires? Plattekill isn’t your typical bike park so check your expectations at the door and expect to get back to the roots of why we ride bikes.

Laguna, California

While Mount Tam is the birthplace of mountain biking, SoCal might be the place it grew up and got rad! Laguna may be one of the best examples of this. The trails might not be all IMBA-smoothed-out and who knows exactly what is legal or illegal to ride, but I can’t ride there without feeling a visceral connection to the sport – it’s pretty awesome.

Riding Telonics from Top of the World, you’re on a trail where some of the most legendary bikes have been tested or developed, where John Kerr has clicked off millions of photos, and where pretty much every hero of our sport has laid down sweet skids. Expect to see the likes of Hans Rey, Lopes, Schley, or any visiting pro shredding during any ride you’re on.

Venosc - Les 2 Alpes

Until you go and ride in the Alps, you cannot truly appreciate how steep and loose trails can actually be. There is a reason that guys like Nico and Fabien and Loic are assassins on a bike and a lot of it is just comfort riding in the steep terrain. I have spent a bit of time at Les Deux Alpes over the years for product camps and events. L2A is home to the legendary Mountain of Hell race and hosted Crankworx Europe for a few years.

Les Deux Alpes might not be the most glam of the resorts up in the Alpes, but it has an absolute gem of a trail in Venosc. It’s basically 2-miles long, has a  2100+ foot drop with a 20% grade  and 100+ berms and turns. The actual trail isn’t that technical and if it wasn’t so steep, it probably be wouldn’t be any harder than say B-Line at Whistler. But when you combine the steep, the looseness, and the overall length, this trail is just that much harder and simultaneously that much more spectacular. Ride Venosc, get loose, smile, take the gondola back up, then go to the Windsor Bar to have a Duvel, and bit of génépi, and rejoice in the radness of this trail.

Trans-Provence

photo by Sven Martin

This one pretty much goes without saying - this is the hardest, stupidest, funnest, best thing you can ever do on a bike. Ash Smith and the Trans-Provence crew put together an amazing experience. You’ll ride amazing trails, drink a bunch of red wine, and forge some great friendships.

The trails in the Provence region of southern France are plain and simply just on another level. During the six-days of TP you will ride everything from old farm paths, goat paths, hiking paths, roads dating back to the Roman Empire…and some of the most mind-bending singletrack you’ve ever set tires upon. You think you know how to ride switchbacks until you see French guys do it at speed in the backcountry and are forced to do it yourself a hundred times over.

Glentress, Scotland

I’d ridden in the UK a few times and came away thinking the trails were good, but nothing that really set my heart a-flutter. That was until this past spring when I spent a day at Glentress in Peebles, Scotland. I’ve heard there are better trails centers in the UK, but this one gave me that “ah-ha” moment. For those unaware, trail centers are man-made trails, generally on public land, that often have facilities like showers, bike wash, bike shops, or café or pub on premises. Overall, a pretty solid concept.

photo by Sven Martin

We rode Glentress a couple days following the EWS on just a typical mid-week day. The weather wasn’t perfect, but the combination of riding with friends, dialed trails, climbs that we’re designed to get you back up without killing you, and good facilities on-site made me jealous that we don’t have these on our side of the Atlantic. Trail centers seems to get a bad rap from a segment of the ride population who want the sport to be nothing but backcountry trails or natural terrain, but I found Glentress to be a ton of fun. I can see how they can bring new people into the sport or help riders grow skills. We could use some of these places in the States!

My local trails

photo via mtbproject.com

For my job I often travel 20+ weeks per year. Sure, I get to ride in some amazing spots and often times with some of the world’s best riders but, there is a real great feeling about riding your own locals when you get back from a long trip. Sometimes you need to travel far to discover the best things are right in front of you.

For many years I didn’t think much of the kinda-flat, less-than-technical networks of trails in the eastern suburbs of NYC. I pretty much wanted to get away from them to anything with elevation and more tech features. It wasn’t until I started to travel a lot more across the country and around the globe that I really began to appreciate how good the trails were just a mile from my doorstep.

I have been riding the local trails on Long Island for over twenty-years. They are mostly thin ribbons of singletrack laid down in pine-barren forests through the moraine left from the receding glaciers 21,000-years ago. There is little in the way of elevation change, and not many rocks or technical features so to speak of, but the trails on LI have been solidly developing over the past two decades due to the hard work of the local club CLIMB (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bikers).

My personal favs are Rocky Point and Manorville Hills. Both are fast, XC-style loops with short, punchy climbs and tons of trees passing millimeters off the edges of your bars. This is short-travel and 29er hardtail riding that is honestly just pure fun. If you’re in the area, please drop me a note and I’ll do my best to show you around!

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8 comments
  • cecald

    5/11/2016 8:34 PM

    Comment on the trail centres is spot on - USA needs this concept realized like yesterday. I didn't get it either until I visited Coed Y Brenin in Wales. The trail centre is like a "gateway" for people - it brings complete newbies into the sport by providing a safe and, more importantly, easy way to get into the sport (bike rentals, food, bathrooms, and trails all in one spot). And then it provides another gateway to take beginner bikers to the next level by providing solid demo bikes, better gear, more challenging trails, and skills areas.

  • bigbird

    5/9/2016 7:37 AM

    that platty vid is not representative of what that mountain really has to offer. but glad it did make the list. but everything the write up says is true.

  • ska todd

    5/9/2016 9:59 AM

    I would have went with something like Chain Reaction I, II, or III myself

  • bizutch

    5/9/2016 10:53 AM

    I tell everyone I've only raced there once but how awesome it is. Home of rock surfing.
    Met so many great perps there. Chase, Bosch, Nobman, Lars, the Van Dines, Conto, Eric Fleming, Pentecost, DW, Erik Rucker, Mikey Valach, Hartlove, E-bot... Holy cow so much stoke. And yes, fire pit jumps and crazy dudes showering in the drain pipe of the pond. That kid Connor....hah!!!!!

  • bigbird

    5/9/2016 11:14 AM

    I still have all those on DVD at home. I have great racing memories of broken tooth, the wall and the jump run!

  • the_owl

    5/9/2016 7:01 AM

    Really? Laguna and not Moab or Sedona?

  • ska todd

    5/9/2016 9:58 AM

    I went w/ Laguna because of the emotion it brings to me when riding there. It makes me feel like I'm in the spiritual homeland of the sport. Plus, there's such a unique, chill SoCal vibe there.

  • bizutch

    5/9/2016 5:23 AM

    Pisgah not on the list. And ska Todd did not mention curry. Fraudulent post. Hah hah.

    ...kidding

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