Europe's a vast continent with some of the best riding on the planet. It's got huge mountains, small hills and every other type of terrain in between. With resorts vying to get you to visit and spend your hard-earned cash, it's tough to know where you should go to get the most bang for your buck. We've compiled a list of European riding destinations we'd love to hit up in 2018, and although this list is by no means exhaustive, we think these are some of the biggest and most established places that you really should visit at least once! The list will be updated with new locations when we've either been there or found out about a hidden trail Nirvana!
Although it would be fair to say the UK isn't the most glamorous riding destination in the world, it does offer some of the best and most varied riding in Europe with its purpose-built trail centres and miles of off-piste routes. There are uplift services across the country (that replace gondolas and chairlifts more commonly found in Europe) that rely on vans to shuttle riders to the top of the hill to help them get their gravity fix. Famed for its wet weather, it's almost guaranteed the UK will throw up a mixed bag of conditions throughout the year, but the trails normally run well during the winter without the risk of closing because of snow or ice.
Nestled away in South Wales, BikePark Wales is just a short drive from the M4 motorway which connects it to some major airports (such as Cardiff, Bristol and, further away, London and Birmingham). Boasting 37 trails that range from green to pro-line, there are plenty of descents to keep you entertained and busy for a couple of days of riding. You can get to the top of the hill under your own steam or take the dedicated uplift service, but make sure you book early – it can get full well in advance, especially at the weekends.
Located in the Scottish Borders, Innerleithen and Glentress make up two parts of the 7Stanes trail centre network. Just a short distance from each other, it's possible (if you've got the legs, at least) to ride both in one day. Glentress has over 60km of official, waymarked trails and plenty of hidden, secret tracks that are dotted around the woods. It's best ridden on a trail or enduro bike.
Innerleithen has a dedicated uplift service run by Adrenaline Uplift that'll whisk you to the top of the downhill trails, whilst the trail centre remains accessible with a loop that takes you to the top of the mountain if you fancy pedalling up under your own steam.
Quite possibly the toughest track in the UK, Fort William's world cup downhill track is a high-speed, rock-filled white-knuckle ride that'll chew you up and then spit you, and your bike out at the bottom. At around 5-minutes long for the fastest World Cup riders, your average Joe is going to take quite a bit longer to get down. Downhill bikes are recommended, and the gondola uplift service means that the lugging a DH bike around isn't going to be an issue. There are other trails at Fort William, including a massive XC loop, should you fancy punishing yourself!
With more mountains than you can shake a stick at, if you're planning on going to France for a riding holiday you're spoilt for choice. France has some of the longest descents in the world that are effortlessly accessed by gondola or chairlift, so it's quite likely you'll have the time of your life wherever you choose to go in the French Alps. In the mountains, the summer seasons are usually three months long, so there isn't a huge window of time to go riding, but at least you're guaranteed to get a lot of time on your bike whilst you're out there. Most of the French Alps are served by Geneva, Grenoble and Lyon airports.
Along with Whistler, Morzine and Les Gets are some of the most well-known riding spots in the world. And for good reason – with more interlinked chairlifts and trails than you can count, it's possible to ride more and further than your body can handle. The Les Gets bike park's tracks are nucleated around two chairlifts which means it's easy to get in loads of laps in quick succession. You can access the rest of the Portes Du Soleil with your bike using the lifts from Morzine or Les Gets, widening the possibilities of where you can ride.
Morzine's Le Pléney is famous for its full-on off-piste trails and Super Morzine, opposite Le Pléney, has an ever-growing selection of great trails and that function as the portal to the rest of the Portes Du Soleil domain.
Châtel Although it's existed for years, Bike Park Châtel has more recently become the place to ride in the Portes Du Soleil. The trail crew have spent a lot of time updating their network of tracks with help from Nico Vink and other Scott-sponsored riders. The effort they've put in and the work they've done is obvious to see – berms now tower above riders' heads and the trails can be enjoyed by seasoned pros and beginners alike, thanks to some clever building techniques that hide massive senders amongst gentle rollers. If you don't believe us, check out the Vink Line for yourselves:
Thrust into the mountain biking spotlight in 2014 when the small alpine town hosted the final round of the UCI MTB World Cup, Méribel has more to offer than just the full-on downhill track. Forming one part of Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys), Méribel alone boasts 25 official trails. You can head over to Courchevel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens by bike, too. So, if the 25 tracks at Méribel aren't enough you've always got access to more. But don't come here expecting Morzine-like nightlife – the village is very quiet in the summer months so make sure you've got your own entertainment sorted.
Hosting the famous Megavalanche event, where riders race from a lofty 3300m atop the Pic Blanc down to Allemont at 700m above sea level, the 2600m altitude difference makes the Mega's descent one of the longest and gnarliest (almost entirely downhill) descents in Europe. Although the top half of the Mega track isn't open outside of the race, you can still make the most of loads of amazing riding with some incredibly varied terrain. Higher up the mountain, the landscape is lunar-like, while lower down, you'll wind your way through alpine pine forests on purpose-built trails.
Between Spain and France, Andorra enjoys cultural influences from both sides of its borders. With plenty of mountains, this land-locked Pyrenean country has plenty to offer the experienced mountain biker. To get there, you can either fly to Toulouse in France or Barcelona in Spain and then catch a transfer to the area. Although there isn't a sprawling network of resorts like the Alps, the type of riding on offer is intense and well worth travelling for. Andorra is home to Cédric Gracia, Production Privé and Commencal Bicycles – and for good reason!
Vallnord first hosted a World Cup event in 2008 and has become a regular stop on the race calendar for the world's best. The general consensus is that the riding here is rad, rowdy and gnarly. You'll have to take their word for it, and why wouldn't you? Vallnord has great weather, epic views and relatively traffic-free trails, so if you're looking to get away from the madding crowd check it out!
Best suited to spring or autumn riding, Spain's dry and warm climate attracts mountain bikers like moths to a flame. Although there's riding across the whole country from the western Basque Country, over to Catalonia and down South, when the winter hits the Northern Hemisphere you're most likely to want the sunniest and warmest riding experience you can get. For that reason, it's best to head as far south as possible to Andalusia – flying into either Málaga or Granada. Although that isn't to say the weather is going to be crap in central and northern Spain, but you're more likely to get a tan the further south you go.
Made famous by Martin Whitely's 23-Degrees HQ, Granada and the surrounding Alpujarras mountains have some world-class riding, including the famous "Greg Minnaar Test Track". Best ridden with a guide (there are plenty on offer), trail and enduro bikes are most suited to the type of terrain here, and the likelihood of gaining altitude by pedalling rather than shuttling means that you need to be relatively fit to access to the least-ridden descents.
Whilst on the Mediterranean coast in Málaga, there's a bustling hot-spot of downhill riding. With plenty of companies offering fully-catered holidays where they'll take you to the best tracks and shuttle you up all day long, you're bound to have a great time if you choose to go here during the winter months.
Much like Spain, Portugal enjoys great weather through the winter months, helping to make it a perfect destination if you're looking for a top winter getaway. You can fly to either Porto or Lisbon which should give you access to the rest of the country. There are loads of riding spots scattered across Portugal, but the most focused and developed riding destinations are Lousã, which is in the centre, and Madeira, located in the Atlantic Ocean.
First discovered in the late 2000's by pro world cup riders as a must-go winter training destination, Lousã's popularity has grown along with its amazingly crafted network of downhill trails. The trails have been lovingly created by a handful of devoted locals and now a number of holiday companies offer uplift services and accommodation along with all the usual luxuries we've come to expect, so you can take advantage of their amazing trails. Even though Trailfork's map doesn't list many trails, don't be fooled – Lousã is teeming with tracks to ride on both your downhill and enduro bikes.
Located in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Morocco, Madeira has become one of mountain biking's hottest destinations – and for good reason. With mountainous terrain that varies greatly from the north to south and west to east, Madeira is a real dream destination to go riding. Thanks to its increasing popularity and media attention it's been thrust into the public eye by edits made by pro riders. The Enduro World Series also visits the island, and it now has several companies that offer holiday packages to mountain bikers looking to get a taste of the trails ridden by their heroes and stars.
Switzerland is a country loaded with epic mountain biking terrain, great infrastructure and easy-to-reach resorts. Fly to Geneva, Zürich or Bern and you'll have instant access to the mountains – very little of Switzerland is flat. With trains, buses and gondolas connecting almost every village and town, there are no shortages of ways to easily get your gravity fix. Although there are too many resorts to list, Champéry stands out as the most recognised riding destination in Switzerland.
Famed for its ultra-steep downhill World Cup and World Championships track, Champéry's course is a real test of skill, nerve and strength. For average riders, the epic descent can take up to 10-minutes if tackled in one go, although we're sure some of you have gone faster and some quite a bit slower! Close to Les Crosets, which also forms part of the Portes Du Soleil, you can either drive to Champéry or make your way there from another resort within the massive network of lifts. Although it's probably wise to bring a downhill bike with 200mm disk rotors, it is possible to negotiate the track on an enduro bike – you just might not have as much fun!
Italy's varied terrain and southern location mean that it's possible to ride in the mountains all year round. In the summer, the Alpine ski resorts are open for bikes, and then when winter comes you can head further south to the Mediterranean coast to get your fill of dusty, dry Italian dirt. With loads of international airports dotted across the country, you can normally get cheap flights that'll take you pretty close to your chosen riding spot. Oh, and whilst the biking is amazing in Italy, the food is even better. Make sure you come with an empty stomach because you're going to want to just keep on eating all of the pizza and pasta!
Starting at 2300m above sea level, it's possible to ride a trail that'll take you all the way down to Aosta on the valley floor, some 1700m further down. This epically long descent is a real test of mind over matter and can take up to 40-minutes if you're taking it easy. There are no shortages of tracks either, and the Pila bike park has enough trails to keep you entertained for more than a day's riding. Some holiday companies that operate out of Morzine, just the other side of Mont Blanc, offer day trips to go and ride the characteristically dry and dusty trails in Italy.
Punta Ala Just an hour's drive further south down the coast from Pisa, Punta Ala, is surrounded by amazing scenery. The region hosted a round of the 2013 Enduro World Series, so the trails are flat-out, rocky and pretty gnarly. The local camping resort operates an uplift service and provides amazing accommodation on the seafront. There are several groupings of trails but most are accessible by bike and you can pedal to the trailheads if you've got the legs.
Punta Ala is a family-friendly location, so if you fancy going riding for a few hours, your family won't get bored waiting for you to eventually return.
Probably one of the most famous Italian riding spots, it has been the venue for many EWS and Italian national enduro races. Finale is now a firm favourite for holidaymakers, team training camps and media companies to visit – and for good reason – the trails are well maintained, there are good uplift services that run regularly and you can pedal to the top of most trails if you want. The close proximity of the mountains to the sea means that snow very rarely falls and you'll be unlucky to visit the Ligurian coast when it (infrequently) rains.
As another mountainous country, Austria has, much like a lot of its Alpine counterparts, plenty of big and small resorts where you can ride your bike during the summer months. Made famous by downhill world cup racing, places like Leogang and Schladming are considered must-visit locations if you're planning a European road trip. One of the European stops of Crankworx visits Innsbruck – a city with mountains full of trails that tower above it. Austria is, quite simply, a mountain biker's paradise.
Sölden Sölden's a relatively new resort on the European bike park scene, but don't assume that the trails are underdeveloped or just muddy ruts down the mountainside. Sölden has spent inordinate amounts of money creating their very own bike park with plenty of trails that vary in nature from flowy blues to gnarly blacks. Their summer season is fairly long, from mid-June until the end of September, so you can always head there in search of some Autumn shredding.
Known by world cup racers as a 'real track' – Schladming's most famous downhill race track is an absolute blast to ride. It is flat out, rough and full of technical features like roots and rocks. That's not all, though, the rest of Schladming is one of Europe's best bike parks – although lacking in volume of trails like Châtel or Pila, the trails are fantastic fun and the mountain's elevation means that they're not short, either!
Although Slovenia isn't at the top of everyone's list of mountain bike destinations, that doesn't mean it isn't a solid contender for your attention. First hosting a UCI downhill World Cup in 1999, Slovenia quickly became one of those places that everyone wanted to visit because of the gnarly riding Maribor has now become well-known for. With bike parks dotted around the country, it's possible to do a week-long road trip and not ride the same destination twice. There are plenty of cheap flights that fly directly to the country's capital, Ljubljana, in the geographical centre of the country.
Maribor On the list with Schladming and Champéry, Maribor's downhill track is a true test of ability – the way most mountain bikers love it to be. Although Bike Park Pohorje only has three official tracks, we've been assured that plenty more exist in the vast woods that surround the recently-refurbished gondola.
Norway isn't your typical go-to destination if you're looking to book a summer mountain biking holiday. But with beautiful scenery, amazing mountains and fewer people and more space than most other European resorts, Norway should be high on your list of places to visit. Tour operators organise trips around the country's other riding spots, so don't think you've got to stick to the bike park.
Although Hafjell's been around in one form or another as a riding venue since 2001, it wasn't until 2012 when it hosted the final round of the downhill World Cup that it was thrust to the front of our minds as a place we wanted to ride and visit. Now with 16 individual trails and a dedicated gondola uplift, it's hard to ignore Norway's premier riding spot as a hot riding location. A three-hour drive from Oslo, it's not too far into the Norwegian wilderness but is far enough to make you feel like you're heading towards the back of beyond.