It’s been a while since we’ve been able to freely get up and go wherever without first checking to see if we can go anywhere at all. The idea of traveling right now almost seems pornographic, not in a naughty way but as a fantasy to cast ourselves in. It’s a turn-on just to think about riding elsewhere, to experience something different from routine, which we can all agree that we’ve had enough of. It doesn’t even have to be that far, but it could be if you want, here’s a list of suggestions for where to ride post-pandemic*.
Tom Ritchey’s home turf in California
First we’ll go to where it all started with Ritchey: California’s Bay Area. There’s so much to explore here that it’s worth doing some investigating on your own but this should get you motivated.
Head to San Gregorio for a spicy loop that traverses the northern edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains and passes through two open space preserves that reward you with some of California’s most picturesque views. Many of these roads and the trails that sprout off of them are the inspiration for some of Tom’s designs, and the source of his more entertaining ride stories. This casual loop starts and ends in San Gregorio (thanks to Fergus, Ritchey’s US marketing manager, for the route recon). He also supplied us with some helpful tips:
La Honda is State Rt 84. The shoulder is generous at times, but it’s a popular route for cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers alike, so single file is recommended.
Portola Valley is one of the Bay Area’s more affluent zones and is a thoroughfare for roadies of all shapes and sizes. There’s a bike lane that runs the length of the strip.
Alpine used to be informally known as “Dirt Alpine” and was a challenge on a road bike. Recently, it’s been paved as part of an evolving fire break in case of future natural disasters, which makes it an easier route to get back up to the ridgeline. Be patient with hikers and other cyclists.
West Alpine is one of my favorite descents in the Bay Area. It lasts for – seemingly – ever. It’s a real treat to drop into the Redwoods and experience the shift in temperature.
Wrapping up your ride in San Gregorio means a recovery beer at the general store.
Austria - Bike Republic Sölden
This ambitious mountain bike project in the Ötzal Alps of western Austria has reimagined what a mountain biking destination could be (more than just a line item on the projected revenue tab for ski areas). Underscoring the project is an extensive network of ecologically built trails plus enduro routes and a pair of pump tracks. Everything that comes after has been thought out by and for mountain bikers, like a 3D trail app, special events, shuttle service, a bike park for children, and a website that answers your questions before you even think of them. All of this make it pretty easy to put Austria in your post-pandemic travel plans.
Spain - Tabernas Desert, Almería
You wouldn’t be mistaken if you feel like you’ve been here before. Hundreds of films and series episodes have been filmed in the Tabernas Desert, like El Cid (1961), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Cleopatra (1963), and more recently, Doctor Who (2012), and Black Mirror (2017). But it’s probably most famous as the backdrop to the masterworks by Sergio Leone. Even now, 55 years later, it wouldn’t be hard be hard to imagine “Blondie” galloping away to the heady score by Ennio Morricone in the final scene of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966).
Like much of Andalusia, the area is laced with dirt roads and trails that are the domain of local knowledge. It’s not impossible to find where to ride though, user-generated databases of routes around Tabernas can be found on websites like Wikiloc (tip: look for trails ranked 80 and above, which means other users have given them high marks).
Switzerland - Zermatt
Located in southern Switzerland, Zermatt is at the base of the mighty Matterhorn (14,692’/4478 m), which is a little titillating when considering the mountain biking that must be there. Lift access directly from Zermatt drops you off to connect with whatever trail suits your mood at the moment; you’ve got options. Like many things Swiss, the efficiency of the train system can deliver you and your bike to Zermatt from Zurich in 3 hours 20 minutes (or less). Before you go, check the website for information about trails openings and lift service. While there you can hire a guide, buy lift tickets, and book your stay.
Italy - Dolomiti Paganella Bike
It’d be nearly impossible to cover this area in just a few days. More than 400 kms of bike trails crisscross this region of Trentino that makes up Dolomiti Paganella Bike. The area is organized into three bike zones connected by trails and lifts, which transform the area into a life-sized edition of Chutes and Ladders. You could even start and finish in a different location each day by taking the Bicibus, which runs from Trento to Sarche in season. As with most of the destinations listed here, it’s best to check the website for updated information for 2021.
U.S.A. - Acadia National Park, Maine
This unusual little park on the coast of Maine was stitched together by private land donations with one of the most significant gifts coming from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. A personal project of Rockefeller’s was to build a carriage trail system forever closed to cars but open to horse and carriage, later to mountain bikes, and now to class 1 e-mtb’s. The carriage trails are ideal for riders who don’t want to go too hard, long, or far, and they are perfect for a gravel bike.
The road riding isn’t bad either. The Park Loop Road is a 27-mile (43 km) scenic circuit that connects the park’s lakes, mountains, and coastline. What it lacks in distance it more than makes up for in quality because the surface is a smooth, uninterrupted ribbon of road that’s one-way for about 2/3’s, which means you can ride side-by-side without incident for most of the PLR. To punctuate a lap or two, turn off and climb up Cadillac Mountain. The climb lasts 3.5 miles (5.6 km) and averages 5.4 percent grade.
New for 2021, automobile traffic will have to make reservations to summit Cadillac for a fee of $6 however bikes are free. A park pass is required in all areas of Acadia.
This relatively small (pop. just under 10k) western town under the evening shadow of Yellowstone National Park has recently come under the influence of young families returning to the area and pushing outdoor recreation as a priority. Advocacy groups who have been lobbying for the space to play outside have caught the attention of the local government, which shares their interests. More trails are getting built, which is reason enough to check out Cody, then add in vast public lands interlaced with old logging roads and you are forced to choose: gravel or mountain bike?
Trailforks.com is a good place to start researching rides in Cody. Then move on to the Park County Pedalers website for more local info.
U.S.A. - Marquette County, Michigan
What makes this area different from any other mountain bike destination on this page is a brazen absence of mountains. But get this, Marquette Co. is home to more than a hundred miles (160 km) of lovingly cared-for singletrack and to the Marji Gesick 100, an ultra-endurance mountain bike race that sells out in minutes each year. The trails tumble over tailings piles left behind by the iron mining industry and shoot through the woods on paths originally established in succession by the native Paleo, Anishinaabe, and Ojibwe people. While this region on the northern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula may seem out of the ordinary, that’s precisely why it should be on your list for where to ride post-pandemic.
Start your ride search with Trailforks.com, which has an active representation from Marquette County. You can also seek out Marji Gesick online to find more ride resources.
*Travel information changes frequently so it’s shrewd to stay on top of developments related to the easing of travel restrictions and the opening of vacation destinations like the ones listed here. Check websites and be informed before you go!