Where Eagles Dare: High in Tuscany

Dec 10, 2017
by Ian Robertson  
Last summer I decided to book a holiday with Richard Williams, a guide I had met when he was working in northern Italy with Riviera Bike. Richard has now set up his own company, Ridgeline, deep in the Tuscan hills above Pisa. I had been promising myself a trip there for a couple of years since he set up there and finally got it sorted this summer. Even better I managed to persuade 10 of my riding buddies to come along with me, including Paul who flew in all the way from LA just for the trip. To be fair it wasn't difficult to persuade them to come after showing them the pictures of the trails, food and scenery on Richard's website. The pressure was on Richard to produce an unforgettable holiday.

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Cheers! From Richard, Davide, Paul, Tom, Chris, ME, John, Toby, Gareth, James, Frances, Jesse (and Dave on the camera!)

Luckily he didn't even come close to failing.

The accommodation is an Agriturismo on the edge of a small town called Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, about an hour's drive north of Pisa where we flew in to. The Agriturismo was a 'basic' country farm hotel. We all shared large twin rooms. But when I say basic, it had a great restaurant serving amazing fresh local food, decent WiFi, a swimming pool and breakfast cafe serving superb breakfast cappuccino. Not only that but there was a fully appointed workshop/bike store as well!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
This was to be our home for the next week...

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Looks bike friendly!

Anyway - enough chit-chat - suffice to say I decided to take my camera gear along to try and get some good riding shots of everyone. So glad I did as the scenery and trails were amazing...

Enjoy!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
NOT the uplift truck.

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Looking forward to jumping into the that at the end of a hot dusty day's riding!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Anyway - to the business at hand and some last minute fettling in the workshop...

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
How's this for the first trail of the holiday - natural bike park berms in the burnt forest

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Frances is certainly enjoying it!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
The lunches never disappointed - limitless fresh pasta and more...

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Richard in his element, leading us down amazing dark hidden trails

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Dave and Tom doing their best to keep up!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Who asked for more switchbacks?

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Yep! says it all!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Richard's local guide Nick showing he can still keep up on a 29er hardtail.

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Even the climbs are scenic...

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
...and I mean scenic!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Coffee to start day 2.

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Breakfast, Tuscany style

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Paul enjoying his cappuccino

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Time to hit up the local SuperEnduro trails - very steep!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Davide - another of Richard's local guides - who also owns a brewery - more of that later!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Richard dropping into amazing trails above Calci

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Are we having fun lads?

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
The bikes rest up during another delicious lunch

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Toby enjoying more trails above Calci

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
John dropping into Calci

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Tom - not in his natural Scottish habitat

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Of course, the guide has to show off!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Jesse enjoying the olive groves

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Finally - time for some of Davide's beer!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Steak night tonight - some seriously large lumps of amazing beef!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Tasted as good as it looks!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Dave enjoying the views high above Massa

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Easy does it John - it's a long way down!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Natural trails test out the guys

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
That doesn't stop Dave messing about

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Where Eagles Dare!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
There was a little bit of carrying

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
A church made of rocks, miles from anywhere...

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
He's at it again!

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Last day - and steep rocky challenges.

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
The last trail of the last day and Toby leads the train home over the railway bridge...

Where Eagles Dare High in Tuscany
Stormy sunset over the pool on our last night

www.ridgeline.bike


MENTIONS: @captainian



64 Comments

  • 11 0
 I’ve been out to Ridgline four times now with various groups of friends and all have booked to go back again , I feel lucky enough to consider Rich and Sandra from Ridgline as true friends , there hospitality and that of all the guides is fantastic.
Roll on June 16th to see all the guys again .
Keep that beer cold Davide
  • 2 0
 Cheers for the awesome message mate! We can't wait to have you and the guys back out next year (again!). We are busy building more madness for you, but it's obviously all about getting back to ride 'HolyShit' this time!!
Davide has drunk all the beer, but luckily he makes beer for a living so you should be just fine mate!
  • 4 0
 We have been holidaying with Ridgeline for 3 years in a row. Best MTB holiday & destination - head & shoulders above all the others (& we do a LOT of travelling with our bikes in Europe). Sandra & Rich are the best hosts ever & have put so much thought & planning to ensure everyone has the perfect ???????? holiday. Trails are challenging & so varied. Accommodation is spot on with awesome food & drinks included. We love Tuscany & love riding our bikes with Rich & the local guides - all professional & quite good riders too..... ????????????
  • 5 0
 Lovely write up accompanied by some stunning pictures! Is it summer yet?
  • 2 0
 Cheers B.B.
  • 4 0
 Better do it in spring, summer is too hot
  • 2 0
 @Mac-Aravan: We went in June - it was perfect!
  • 2 0
 @captainian: out of curiosity, how much is a holiday like this and how far in advance does one have to book? I've been eyeing one up for a while now & will be able to do one later next year :-)
  • 1 0
 @cunning-linguist: Hi Mate - check out the website www.ridgeline.bike/summer-riding

Currently 886 euros - plus flights - includes full board, transfers, all guiding etc - you just need lunch (10 euros/day) and beer money! Get in touch with Richard for dates - deffo worth booking soonish I know he's filling up!
  • 3 2
 Is there any proper DH? (Proper is a relative term...I suppose I mean ala EWS)

How do they handle varying skill levels? Have always wondered this as my buddies and I are concerned we'll get stuck with a tame group and have to cater to the "weakest link".

Not at all trying to be an ass...genuinely curious as it'd be an expensive trip, but looks incredibly fun!!!
  • 2 0
 @nvranka There's plenty of gnarr - super steep rocky super enduro trails, and some super steep loam too etc. Richard likes to deal with groups rather than individuals (to avoid the problem you talk about) so best to get 6 of you together and have a bespoke week - drop him a mail - he will always be responsive and bends over backwards to give you what you want...
  • 2 0
 @captainian: cool thanks!
  • 13 2
 @nvranka Or it could be the other way around, that you and your buddies are the weakest link slowing the rest of them down!
  • 2 2
 @billreilly: meh...experience tells me otherwise. Wouldn't expect that sentiment to resonate with the PB audience, but frankly I don't care
  • 1 3
 @billreilly: a delusional 57 yr old listing themselves at an ability level they have no business in is actually a legitimate concern...this isn't skiing, there isn't a proper track in existence that I know of that has p-lines and alternate routes to accommodate a wide variety of skill levels at once.

If you've visited any WC DH tracks and given them a spin, you'd know that anyone capable of hitting the lines at speed requires a high level of riding ability. Sure, there are tame tracks around the world that pros and noobs can have fun on alike....but I'm not traveling to f*cking Tuscany unless there are at least a few proper tracks. Of course flow trails /jumps and other shit can be enjoyed by all...but that wasn't my original question.

A proper track cannot be enjoyed by all, and if they exist and we get stuck with some sub par riders, we won't be riding them.
  • 1 0
 @nvranka you might be better off going to Finale free ride Italian Riviera (EWS ) trails you can pay for uplift days only also try Omnia free ride based in Imperia and Diane Marina , Awesome guides trails and then smashing the tracks around San Romalo!!
Some of the technical tracks going.
  • 1 0
 @flyingfox49: sounds rad, thanks! I'll check it out
  • 4 0
 @nvranka Hi, we just thought we would step in here and clear up the very relevant questions about handling mixed groups and riding technicality with us here in Tuscany.

Although 'Tuscany' does not immediately summon up the idea of technical riding, (we get that!) we have created all of our riding network here pretty much from scratch, and it is catered directly towards the more advanced level riders. The mountains we ride in are over 2000m/ 6500ft and are very steep and technical where we focus on natural trails, not flow trails or bike park style! I have guided all over the Riviera for many years now and we are definitely not easier than going to Finale or any of the others mentioned!

For mixing people into groups, I know all too well from experience how this can ruin a very expensive holiday, so we are normally very reluctant to do this. For us it is more important that someone gets the perfect holiday than us just walking away with a quick sale.

@captainian very kindly mentioned that we only focus on group bookings for that exact reason you mentioned. It's very hard to match skill, personality and fitness when mixing groups, and we are very fixed when sticking to these goals. When you have a group of riders who are friends coming out, these issues of being the slower or fitter rider are within a group of mates, and therefore not a problem. This only happens when you mix people in, so when we rarely do this, we talk a lot to the individuals about their personal goals for the holiday. For us it's not just knowing how their skill and fitness level will match up, but also the personality and attitude towards challenges that you could encounter are equal to the goals of the group that they are joining.

I hope that answers your questions, and if you have any other questions about our holiday's that we put on here in Northern Tuscany then feel free to drop us a line on info@ridgeline.bike
  • 1 0
 @captainian: how does it compare to Basque, either Backcountry or Coast, done both with Doug
  • 1 0
 @cyberwoozle: Ooooooofffff - tough question - I've done both too. In terms of tech it's probably comparable - the hardest trails in Tuscany were probably a bit tougher than the hardest in Basque (coast or Backcountry) but maybe that's because it's fresher in my mind - and now I think about it, Doug's newer steep trails are on a par (i.e. both scare me a bit). But if you enjoyed Basque - you would definitely enjoy this. Quite a few of the group above have done both Basque trips and loved Tuscany. All want to go back.

The thing that struck all of us was the variety of trails - from proper alpine riding, to steep loam, to a bit of impromptu bike park, to some man made techy/jumpy flow trails, to Mediterranean scrub, burnt woods, local superenduro race tracks (difficult!), switchbacky natural goat tracks and deep forest - all within a short drive of the base. Richard has so much to offer in terms of terrain - he will make sure you get the type of trails you want.

Not sure if that answers your question!
  • 2 0
 @ridgeline-mtb: thank you for the reply! I will email you directly to discuss once we have a group committed
  • 1 0
 I was in Tuscany this past August, there were some fun trails by Piamaggio, The Pinewood Crew took us on some sweet shuttle laps and served us fresh lasagna, cheese, cured meat and wine for lunch, it was so rad, I would definitely recommend it!
  • 3 0
 WOW.!!! Amazing scenery, and great riding pic's too..What a bunch of lucky guys..
  • 2 0
 Was in the Alpi Apuane 10yrs ago, there was not a single trail worth mountainbiking (overgrown hiking paths, brambles, flies and midges).
Maybe I should try again Smile
  • 1 0
 You have too ????
  • 2 0
 Not ??? But !!!! ????
  • 2 0
 On my to do list for the scenery, experience and title..." I ain't no goddamn son of bitch..." www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WoxLk2g4-w
  • 3 0
 He didn't make the gap jump... www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OpMRRgTseI
  • 2 0
 @captainian: shit that looks like a good watch, gotta find it
  • 2 0
 Not about snow biking in Germany/Austria

No use of the famous drumroll intro

Missed. Opportunity.

#whereeaglesdare #clinteastwood
  • 2 0
 Nice! We were in Florence this summer and loved it, but no biking. Guess we'll have to go back for a 2nd round!
  • 2 0
 Epic looking trip. Beautiful scenery, challenging trails, amazing food and hospitality. What more could you want!
  • 3 0
 Amazing photos, the location is definitively worthwhile!!!
  • 3 0
 ma tu je dai dippiù...
  • 1 0
 @lucamasserini: Pazzo quando vieni?
  • 1 0
 @lucamasserini: :-) :-) :-)
  • 2 0
 Awesome, looks so amazing. Nice to see an Orange in the Mix, oldy but goody.
  • 1 0
 That's Gareth @spikymonkey - Orange through and through Smile
  • 2 0
 beautiful pictures, beautiful country and fantastic trails!
  • 2 0
 Sold where do I sign up! ????
  • 2 0
 Smile www.ridgeline.bike - do it. Even if it’s just for the steak!
  • 2 0
 great pictures, awesome landscape and trails!
  • 2 0
 @captainian were some of those trails above Marina de Massa?
  • 2 0
 Maybe Wink
  • 1 0
 ha ha ,competition lol
  • 2 0
 @captainian: Haha, no worries. I ask because I have family there, who aren’t into mountain biking, but they’re home would make for a good base of operations.
  • 2 0
 @simirving: just go for it, u have two mountains full of trails above Massa, check the Trailforks, but be aware Italians drive like crazy on the roads = cyclists unfriendly

I was for 10 weeks down there just under Eagle nest just below the Scorpion trail Black trail for sure. I don't know how I survived without my bike. Unfortunately haven't climbed Mt. Folgarita but bottom half/third looked good to me.

Enjoy.
  • 1 0
 @simirving: you should definitely go. The combination of food, lifestyle, weather, scenery, coffee, history and TRAILS makes it an irresistible combination. The hills above massa have a huge network of trails, some man made, some natural. All awesome!
  • 2 0
 Nice of the guide to dress in such a way that you could never lose him.
  • 2 0
 Careful, Rich is a big gay bear with poor grooming habits!
  • 2 0
 But he's the first not-arrogant guide I met. The steaks're great
  • 2 0
 "Basic accommodation?!" Looks fantastic.
  • 1 0
 How's the beer? What type? Def looks like a bucket list.
Ez to get couple runs per day(diff trails) or long car drives etc?
  • 1 0
 Don't worry about the beer - plenty of it, cold, bottled and all days end at a bar. Proper beer, not American Wink

There is way more riding than sitting in vans - maybe an hour (absolute max) in the morning and then usually a short shuttle or 2 during the day. One day uses ski lifts.
  • 1 0
 @captainian: proper beer..so like ipa, stouts, porters..good beer?
American?.. stone, ska brewing,
Just curious what's being brewed out there
  • 1 0
 @jrocksdh: try www.lastffetta.com - this is run by Davide Brondi who also moonlights as a guide for Richard and is a bloody fast rider!

We sampled his beers in Calci - all sorts, wheat beers, porters, IPAs, strong pilsener lagers etc...
  • 2 0
 Front page for the win!
  • 2 0
 Gorgeous!
  • 2 0
 Awesome stuff mate.
  • 1 0
 Cheeers dude!
  • 1 1
 There ar no eagles or proper mountains in touscany
  • 1 0
 are* Tuscany*

It's quite easy to get to 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) in Tuscany - we did one day in the high mountains using the ski lifts to access higher trails (the final lift was closed due to high winds so no photos made the final cut).

Tuscany is home to the short-toed eagle, amongst several other birds of prey. I have not formally identified the raptor in the photograph, but Tuscany is also home to peregrine falcons, kites and buzzards.

www.europeanraptors.org/raptors/short_toed_eagle.html

Several other species of eagle are native to Italy
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_of_Italy
  • 2 0
 probably they call them Apuan Alps by mistake :-)





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