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Mountain biking is a great way to keep fit, and can be a fantastic way to see the countryside. Often going off the beaten track, the mountain bike itself is sturdier than an ordinary bicycle, with a larger tyre allowing for more shock absorption.
Mountain biking can be broken down into 5 main kinds; cross country, downhill, freeride, dirt jump and trials/street riding. Unless undertaken as part of an organised tour, the sport does require a certain amount self reliance, as you can be far from parts of civilisation, and may need to be adept in fixing your bike.
Other than needing the right kind of bike, it relies on a sense of adventure to find the right trail to ride - and that, ultimately, is where the enjoyment lies!
Whakarewarewa Trail Network, Rotorua, New Zealand
Set amongst the Whakekarekare Forest and the natural hot springs of the Rotorua region, the extensive trails wind their way through the 30 hectares of lush forest. With the forest harbouring many different kinds of trees, mountain biking in New Zealand is a unique opportunity and is not only for the young or experienced, as the 70 year-old granny who cycled it as her first ever ride shows!
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Monarch Crest Trail, Poncha Springs, Colorado, United States
Seen by many as one of the premium rides in the United States, the Monarch Crest Trail, in the small town of Poncha Springs, will keep you on your toes. With one of its nearest airports being Denver, it is easy to reach the area, although the ride itself requires a bike shuttle to get to, as it is elevated very high above the tree line.
Although a challenging ride at times, and one requiring a lot of focus, breathtaking views and a great stretch of downhill riding will reward your hard work. The 3 trails are separated by difficulty, but this should be undertaken by more experienced riders.
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Lhasa to Kathmandu, Kathmandu, Nepal
The foothills of Nepal and Tibet are the perfect terrain for the mountain biker, as spectacular scenery is surrounded by great trails. It is possible to take both guided mountain bike tours, led by experienced Nepalese guides, or go it alone.
The epic Lhasa to Kathmandu journey will cross the Tibetan plateau and includes the longest downhill descent in the world, at 4,600m down into the foothills of the beautiful Kathmandu valley. Taking up to 3 weeks to complete the entire journey, this ride will test your stamina, and although not the most technically challenging, it is difficult due to the very high altitudes.
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Sea to Sea trail, Lake District, England
This beautiful area of England receives many visitors every year due to its beautiful lakes, and mountain biking is the newest adventure sport to be introduced here. With various tracks immersed throughout the countryside, the Sea to Sea (C2C) is 130 miles of well signposted track, and is mainly ridden on disused railways and minor roads, although there are tougher, off road options for the more experienced.
The perfect track for beginners to the sport, as well as many experienced riders taking to the trail, tradition dictates that the track begins by dipping your wheel in the Irish Sea, and only ends when the same treatment is given in the North Sea.
The Kasbah Trail, Morocco
Riding through the lush Draa valley, and following the ancient trade route from Timbuktu, this ride will take you back to a time where camels are the major transportation of the native Berber people that still live there.
Cycling through the High Atlas mountain range, you will not only pass canyons and ride through some of Morocco’s stunning scenery, but you will also pass remote villages. This is a ride full of contrasting and vivid scenery, and will end up in the Valley of the Roses. Easily reached from Marrakech, this will be a ride that you will never forget.
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Sintra Trails, Sintra, Portugal
Hailed as the one of the up and coming countries for mountain biking, the small town of Sintra, near Lisbon, not only has beautiful scenery but great terrain for mountain biking. These trails are surrounded by the history that Sintra is famous for, being associated with royalty, with a palace still visible to visitors today. The Natural Park surrounding the various trails, mean that the trails are all beautiful, and can be undertaken by various skill levels.
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Mountain Biking in Ecuador
Ecuador is an amazing playground for the mountain biking enthusiast, with endless back roads to explore, spectacular scenery of the Andes which also make it perfect for the downhill mountain biking enthusiast. The very technical descent of the Cotopaxi Volcano and the Pichincha Volcano riding right down into the basin of the Amazon, make these rides a must to add to your mountain biking itinerary.
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Mountain Biking Loire Valley, France
For a mountain biking experience that offers a little comfort and luxury, you might wish to choose biking through the Loire Valley in France. Not only can you view and stay in beautiful chateaux and chalets, you can also decide to detour to any of the plentiful vineyards for a spot of wine tasting.
The ride itself is not that challenging, but all that this region has to offer, as well being able to ride alongside the Loire River itself, makes this a worthwhile trip. As the region extends quite a long distance, there are many places to choose from for accommodation. Orleans is one of the major places, and a charming stop in its own right.
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