My cycling daydreams usually involve penny-farthings in Victorian England, so I contacted three south-of-the-border pedal experts for some more useful advice. The United States may be the home of the automobile, but it's also streaked like a muddy downhill racer with great mountain biking options.
First up: the Beehive State.
"Utah has a huge variety of riding opportunities and there are trails almost everywhere you go," says steely calved Dave Iltis, editor of Cycling Utah magazine (cyclingutah.com). While he agrees that hot-spot bike town Moab is a big lure, it's not the state's only option.
"Park City is the world's only IMBA [International Mountain Biking Association] Gold Level Ride Center. It's got over 350 miles of trails – including the Mid-Mountain Trail and systems such as Glenwild, Deer Valley and Round Valley. The Wasatch Crest Trail is also beautiful – and easily accessible from Salt Lake City."
He adds cities such as Hurricane and St. George, plus the farther-afield regions of Vernal and Price to Utah's great mountain biking lineup. For more sociable visits, come during the Hurricane Mountain Bike Festival (March 28 to 30) or Moab's Ho-Down Mountain Bike Festival (Oct. 23 to 26).
Then there's the 25 Hours in Frog Hollow event on Nov 1. "It's our state's answer to 24-hour racing: a one-day mountain bike race, held when the time changes from daylight savings to standard time in the fall."
Colorado and Nevada also have their own trail-packed charms, while California's Death Valley and Marin County are magnets, too.
Alternatively, Asheville, N.C., is streaked with mountain trails, while great southbound destinations include Alabama's Oak Mountain State Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas.
But if you're hankering for a surfeit of life-affirming, forest-fringed downhills, consider Oregon. From Bend to Eugene and beyond, the Beaver State has some of America's best scenic rides – plus top craft beer to sooth those buckled knees.
"Oakridge/Westfir has 400 miles of single track on over 60 trails – it's a mountain bike paradise," says Randy Dreiling, owner of bike tour operator Oregon Adventures (oregon-adventures.com). "I'd say Alpine Trail is the No. 1 – amazing flow over 15 miles of single track in old-growth forest," he says, adding that Waldo Lake's High Cascades ride is a tasty second course.
While June to October lures most riders, Dreiling recommends July or August for the two Mountain Bike Oregon events (mtbikeoregon.com). "It's one of the top non-racing events in the USA and one of the best ways to see the area. Everything's included: rides, guides, food and local beer and wine."
If you prefer dramatic Arizona moonscapes instead, weave toward a super-friendly bike shop in the Grand Canyon State. Local legend Sedona Bike & Bean (bike-bean.com) serves java and bikey chit-chat. If you've left your wheels at home, they'll set you up with rentals and advice on where to go – the trails start just outside.
Owner Jim Monahan recommends the Sedona region for bikers of all levels. "We've got some of the most consistently challenging natural terrain, coupled with the aesthetic beauty of the red rock. It makes for an amazing 'I can't believe I'm riding here' feeling," he says.
With more than 400 kilometres of single track, some local routes are standouts. "The most exciting trails for visitors are High Line, Hogs, Hangover and Slim Shady – all at the expert level. The rest are still challenging and fun and give just as much excitement. There's even a beginner-friendly trail system here."
But when's the best time to saddle up? Sedona's mild winters are popular, but spring and fall are when many bikers roll in. "The weather is perfect then and the trail conditions are primo – but book early for rentals or hotels. And don't forget to bring lots of memory cards for all the pictures you'll be taking!"
OUR READERS WRITE
- In Canada, the Cariboo is known as the Shangri-La of mountain biking! See ridethecariboo.ca @westcoastdcj
- Utah, Canyonlands National Park. Stunning vistas, hot and dry! Joe Willis
- The best is biking in Europe off AMA Waterway River Cruises in Europe. They supply bikes and no hills along the river edge, lot of nice small towns. It is lots of fun biking through Budapest! Wayland Amy
- If you’re looking for destinations in B.C., we’d suggest the Cumberland Forest [Vancouver Island]. @CumbyForest
- Oakridge, Bend, Sun Valley, Fruita, Sedona. If I had to choose one to go back to it would be Sun Valley: combination of epic rides, chairlift options and scenic views.
- Oakridge and Bend, Ore.; Fruita, Colo., and the Mecca of Moab, Utah. Moab is the benchmark for all the others – a true mountain bike town. In April, it’s filled with Canadians for good reason: range of trails, sunny skies, etc. @JaniceGFraser
- Wisconsin’s Chequamegon National Forest has bad-ass trails. It’s Fat Tire Festival in Sept. is a big to-do. @karlazimmerman
- Moab is one of the best mountain biking destinations in the world. Slick rock and tacky dirt. @LauraGallant
- Sedona. It has incredible scenery and a huge range of rides from epic to moderate. Easy to access via PHX as well. It’s also an easy day trip to hike the Grand Canyon so it makes a great vacation visit. @em_pd
- Bend, Ore., Bellingham, Wash., Sun Valley, Idaho, Bozeman, Mont., and Santa Cruz, Calif. @mtnbikinggirl
- On my list for one day are Moab and Red Rock Canyon. The latter is a state park outside Vegas. If I ever go back to Vegas, I’ll be off-strip and cycling there – not doing the Strip. @SnarkySteff
- Kettle Valley Railroad in British Columbia. Nice, easy grades, lots of history. And driving through the vineyards in Penticton is also nice. @macaroniponi
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