MTB Bucket List - 9 Places Sven Martin Says You Should Ride Once in Your Life 19

Bucket lists are hard. They are so subjective, based often on so many more factors than the ride or trail alone. Most of the trails and areas on my list are more about the total experience than a single trail and are influenced by the group of riders and friends I was with at the time, not to mention weather, which can often make or break a trip.

Don't pay too much attention to the list order and know that if you ask me to create this list next year, the answers may be completely different, as the best ride is often the next ride. - Sven Martin

Presented by REI

1. Nelson and Surrounds, South Island New Zealand

Nelson has some great trails right in town. Four separate downhill-specific shuttle tracks and some amazing steep, natural, tech tracks like 629, Face, Peaking Ridge, Smasher, Hotbox and Supplejack to name a few. The beauty of the area is not one single trail, but rather the bounty and variety of truly epic, longer-day or multi-day rides all within an hour or so from town. The fact that at least three of my top ten trails in the world are all within this relatively small area is what puts Nelson at the top of my list. Sure, some need helicopters, some need boats or shuttles for drop-offs or pick-ups, but this just adds to the fun and adventure. Queenstown and Rotorua may get more attention, but do yourself a favor; if you have enough time or the spirit of adventure for longer rides, pay Nelson a visit. Camping, kayaking and climbing can add some diversity to your trip and it's also NZ’s sunniest place to ride.

2. Haute Alpes Region, France

When Ash Smith of the infamous Trans Provence says he knows a few trails he thinks we'd like and organizes a trip around, I don’t ask questions, i just clear the calendar. France has a never-ending amount of trails, many part of their nation-wide VTT-signed routes. But if you know how to read the maps and have a sixth sense for sniffing out epic MTB trails like Ash does, the French world is your baguette.

Tucked in the peaks and valleys surrounded by famous Tour De France Cols, the Hautes Alpes region simply blew my mind. Each day was a new, best-ever trail all ridden fast and ridden blind. With a personal background steeped in racing, I can't help but rate trails as potential race tracks. There sits possibly the single-best potential enduro race stage I have ever ridden. There sits possibly the single-best potential race track I have ever ridden. Just shy of nine kilometers long with a little over 1500m of descending, this track covers every type of riding style, condition and surface you could ever want to encounter with stunning vistas thrown in for good measure. Wow. Just wow.

3. Oakridge, Oregon

photo by Paris Gore

photo by Paris Gore

Oregon is definitely one for the Bucket List. I was based in Bend, Oregon, for many years and there was a multitude of trails to choose around town and in the area. Trails like the McKenzie River Trail, Hood River, Sandy and North Umpqua are incredible, but one of the standout regions about 90-minutes from Bend was Oakridge.

Oakridge, Oregon is a quiet, old logging town that is seeing growth because of its mountain bike trails. What used to be a secret is now a destination riding location thanks to miles of singletrack among the beauty of a classic PNW environment full of massive trees. There are trails in the old-growth forests like Larison Rock and classics like Moonpoint, Alpine and more. The inaugural Trans-Cascadia MTB event kicked off in Oakridge because of the all-encompassing atmosphere and beauty of this special place.

photo by Paris Gore

photo by Paris Gore

4. Ainsa, Spain and Spanish Pyrenees

New locations and fresh adventures with unexpected surprises sit at the front of the memory banks when looking back and thinking of bucket list destinations. Visiting Ainsa, Spain, for the successful Enduro World Series was great, but the real treat was getting to join Doug on a Basque MTB adventure. When you have limited time to explore wild and vast new areas, it is usually best to defer to someone who has already figured it out. Doug is such a guy. He took us up high and then down some of the most unexpected and awesome trails I’ve ever ridden. I’m a sucker for mammoth descents and there are plenty here!

5. Provence, Southern France

Before I started riding in the region and then returning for more each year, I always thought Provence was just lavender fields and some hills that ended by the Mediterranean. How misguided was I. The area is riddled with trails; simply too many to choose from. The best way to sample the region, hassle-free is simply to enter the Trans Provence race each year or sign up for a guided trip. The route always changes and this year's was the best yet. Stunning, long days in the high Alpine, incredibly long descents all linked up in a meandering route to the warm, inviting, rewarding Mediterranean.
Très bien.

6. Queenstown, New Zealand

Phew, I almost get tired just thinking about the riding and activities in Queenstown. It's trails can be ticked off somewhat like a packaged holiday, so Queenstown's popularity is quite high. But the fact that a few wise souls have stayed and planted their roots here, and why so many others choose to return each year speaks volumes for its bike scene and trails.

The location is truly remarkable and breathtaking. There are so many good trails for all kinds of bikes, from Downhill to Dirt Jump and everything in between. Queenstown features the Skyline gondola, servicing the bike park with one of the most epic backdrops found anywhere. Another big draw are the other publicly-built and maintained trails and dirt jumps parks like Wynyard (Dream Track) and Gorge Road, but it is the strong, unequaled continuous addition of epic singletrack the Queenstown MTB club has built each year that is really putting this place on the map for both lifers and visitors. All the steep and tech tracks off Fern Hill and Queenstown Hills are now a much-needed and welcomed addition to all the fun flow trails up on Coronet Peak. This is also one of the few places in the world you can fly in and rent top-of-the-line carbon DH and enduro trail bikes thanks to Vertigo Bikes. #huckingisthenewenduro

7. Whistler's "Other" Trails

Each year I always look forward to going to Whistler. My trips there mostly involve work and I have stuff to shoot every day over Crankworx, but I make sure to get up early and get my laps in when everyone else is either still sleeping or hung over or both. While I love the time I get to spend on the DH sled in the bike park, my most memorable rides have not been in the park these past two years.  Near the park? Yes. But technically not in the park. Surprising me even more (because usually I'd rather take a shuttle or lift) is the fact that these trails can only be accessed via human power (pedaling or pushing). I have to thank Seb Kemp (pictured above) for showing me a few new hidden gems each and every time I visit. The feel of natural loam under a mid-travel bike on uncrowded trails is hard to beat in that neck of the woods. 

8. Old Ghost Road New Zealand

Having officially just opened this past Christmas, the Old Ghost Road should be on everybody's bucket list, no matter what kind of rider you are. It is New Zealand’s newest (and also longest) multi-day ride (or single day if you are up for the challenge  Old Ghost Road trail is 85km long and traverses some of the wildest and most beautiful native bush country, ridge tops and rain forest jungle New Zealand has to offer. You can stay in any of the well-situated and crafted huts that dot every 20km of the trail.

Old Ghost Road has joined together two old, forgotten mining routes linking the Lyell Valley to the Mokihinui River on the West Coast. It may not be the most technical trail, but when you are packing for a multi-day ride in this kind of country and scenery, that's not what this ride is about. It's simply amazing what true NZ grit and determination, along with thousands of hours of volunteer work and private and government funding, can accomplish. 85-kilometers of singletrack not enough? Link it up with another 80-plus kilometers of singletrack with the nearby Heaphy track. Outdoor adventure at its finest. 

9. Too Many To List

Since I can't think of not having at least one of these two destinations in my list, I'll call it a tie and put both in - Scotland and Chile are about as far apart in riding types and styles as you can get, but what they both have in common is people with a passion for the outdoors and a sense of adventure that has translated into their trails. 

Scotland has an open-access-for-all policy which can make it a bit daunting trying to get off the beaten path of trail centers (all of which are well documented). We always default to the experts and hit up Go-Where Scotland’s Andy and Aneela for advice or a trip. Never a dull moment and always something in the flask if the weather turns.

Then there's Chile. I can't wait to go back there again. The boys at Montenbaik did not disappoint with the Andes Pacifico and the Enduro World Series a year ago, so I can't wait to see what they have in store for us in 2016.

Spots like Lake Garda and Finale Ligure, Italy, or Verbier, Switzerland, also have a rightful place to be ranked up here, but under strict instructions I had to draw the line somewhere.

Vital thanks Sven for this look into adventure around the globe. For more help finding your next adventure on two wheels, visit for rides, maps and information.


View replies to: MTB Bucket List - 9 Places Sven Martin Says You Should Ride Once in Your Life


In reply to by Alexptdmg

In reply to by integralnz

In reply to by integralnz

In reply to by Oz_Taylor

The Latest