Hey, guess what? Winter is here. That means we usually have to swap out our trusty mountain machines for road or cross bikes, give the trails a break (and hopefully a hand too), and get a ride in when it’s not dumping rain or snow on us. The hardcore among us won’t stop altogether, but motivation drops like a thermometer’s mercury when we have to get out of a cozy, warm house to go suck freezing air up a slippery, mud-covered ascent. Our minds tend to drift to other places, distant lands and exotic locales where the skies are still blue and it’s t-shirt weather for a few more months.
These “Endless Summer” fantasies are often put to rest in the face of harsh reality. Either time or money prevent us from pursuing those perfect trails around the world, following the sun to ride the best dirt on Earth.
But what if nothing held us back? Forget, for just a minute, about the demands of life. No job, no bills, unlimited time, unlimited budget. Where would you go, what would you bring, when winter is here?
Here are a few ideas to keep you warm.
The “Pearl of the Atlantic”, a volcanic archipelago off the coast of Portugal, is famous for its namesake fortified wine. It is somewhat lesser-known as a world-class mountain biking destination, with everything from dense subtropical rainforest singletrack to summit-to-sea ridgeline descents. After a day of riding, one can enjoy a dry Madeira wine as an aperitif, a meal of locally-caught Black Scabbardfish or carne de vinha d’alhos, then Ponchas until the party’s over. Since Madeira is the birthplace of the ukulele, bring along a Kala Banjo Ukulele. It’s made near Kitsbow HQ in Petaluma.
This Andalusian city on the Coast of the Sun experiences the warmest winters of any European locale. Málaga is one of the oldest cities in the world and is renowned as a destination for Spanish cuisine. Excellent tapas featuring local sardines, boquerónes, olive oil, and goat’s milk cheese will keep the rider’s belly full. The Museo Picasso Málaga, which was converted from the Buenavista Palace to a modern museum space, showcases the works of this ancient city’s famous native son, Pablo Picasso. Málaga is also known for its rocky, sketchy, pine-forested trails, which are popular with UK Enduro riders in search of winter training. Pro downhillers also make a point to head there for product testing on Málaga’s most popular trail, the SRAM Test Track. Since the region is also known for its wine, ranging from sweet Moscatel to rich, leathery Tempranillo, bring along a US-made PlatyPreserve wine bladder for a trailside tipple.
Nelson, New Zealand
Nicknamed “Sunny Nelson” because of its consistently warm climate, this city on New Zealand’s South Island might not be as famous in mountain biking circles as the other Nelson, in beautiful British Columbia, nor is it as familiar as the premier riding destination to its north, Rotorua. But in addition to a thriving arts scene and a few excellent wine producers, Nelson attracts visitors to the area by building trails. Lots of them. There’s Codgers MTB Park, right in the heart of the city, or the trails in Richmond Hills. But the main attraction near Nelson is the epic Old Ghost Road trail, a three-hour journey out of town that, upon completion this year, will boast about 55 miles of truly epic single track, with huts for camping out throughout the ride. We suggest taking a full three days to enjoy the scenery, so bikepacking with Porcelain Rocket’s Mr. Fusion V2 and Orbiter frame pack would be ideal.
All three of these locations would make for a dream winter vacation on the bike. Just thinking about riding in the sun on a foreign shore tends to warm us up. It’s like a hot toddy for your mind. Try it out for yourself. When you’re out on a ride in the dead of winter, recall that sunny place. Then, someday, go there.
Where would you go? What would you do?
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