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Trail Riding in Ethiopia

Mar 9, 2015 at 7:36
by Grant Dansie  
Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015

While many may equate Ethiopia with the treacherous famines that struck the country during the 80's and 90's, and horrible Bob Geldof songs, today the reality is somewhat different. Ethiopia is a dynamic, fast growing country that has become a stable regional hub in an area all too often characterized by violence and conflict. Addis Ababa, the capital is a city on the move with building going on everywhere, including a new rapid transport system. The city lies at 2400m and is surrounded by mountains, often full of Eucalyptus trees. For an Aussie such as myself, that makes riding in Ethiopia somewhat similar to riding at home, especially with the beautiful scent of Eucalyptus all the time. What many don’t know is that Addis Ababa and the surrounding mountains are a mountain biker’s paradise. After hundreds of years of people trudging up and down the local hills they are simply full of trails.

I first came to Ethiopia last year for a work conference and was lucky enough to hook up with a friend of a friend, Ken Ford, an American ex-pat living in Ethiopia with his family. I spent four days riding, with some days spent with Ken showing me the local trails and others spent scouting new areas. The riding absolutely blew me away, and a year later, I had to come back for more. There a quite a few options near the Capital, Addis Ababa. Entoto Mountain is the most easily accessible place for riding near Addis, stretching up from the city to a height of 3200 metres. Looking down over the city and topped with Eucalyptus forests, Entoto offers long flowy descents over a variety of terrain – lush Eucalyptus forest, grassy plains, rocky arid outcrops and dusty lower sections before ending in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
Riding to the trailhead on Entoto mountain above Addis

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
Backside of Entoto Mountain

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
Beautiful Eucalyptus forests on Entoto Mountain

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
Going down the mountain the trails get rockier and dustier

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015

The pearl of Ethiopian mountain biking is Menagesha Forest. Situated about an hour outside of Addis is a fantastically beautiful forest reserve, full of luscious green native forest. It is also full of some of the best natural singletrack I have ridden. Early Saturday morning we met up with the local downhill crew consisting of Ken, another ex-pat American, Steve and the flying Finn, Kari. Since we first rode last year the guys have done an amazing job mapping and linking up the trails. And the best thing is they are easily accessible by shuttle.

I have ridden in many countries around the world, but the Menagesha trails truly stand out. If 15km downhill runs including 800m descents through fast flowy singletrack are your cup of tea then you’ll love this place. Add to that the beautiful nature and the wonderful fauna – deer, warthogs, baboons and oryx and you’ll be as happy as a kid in a candy store. During the course of the day we got six runs in, totalling 5000 vertical metres. It was a truly amazing day, although we did lose Kari for a while after he made a wrong turn and ended up riding around the Ethiopia countryside for three hours. Then Steve ripped his pants off and had to spend the day riding around like a 90's stereotypical euro rider just in his knicks, making a very comical sight for all. The bullshit and banter were flowing and coupled with such epic runs it made for the perfect day. The boys were well prepared, and even had a cooler full of beers for the trip home before hitting up the local burger joint.

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
Ken getting in his Khat fix on the way to ride Menagesha

The next day we hit up a new area the Ken had wanted to scout, another big hill situated in a forest reserve about an hour outside of Addis. After a hard slug up the hill in Ken’s 4 wheel drive, things looked promising – some nice singletrack flowing up to the ridge. We hiked a bike for the last hour up to the summit, which was worth the effort with amazing views of Addis and its surroundings. The singletrack down to the car was challenging but fun, but unfortunately that was all we managed to find in the area. We spent another couple of hours scouting, but unfortunately there was no more suitable riding. We decided to cut our losses and get back to the beer instead. You win some and you lose some, and although we didn’t find any amazing new trails we still got in a first descent which is always worth it.

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
No pleasure without a bit of effort

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
The hike-a-bike is well worth it for the awesome views

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
With people having walked up these mountains for thousands of years there are masses of trails to explore

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
Pick your own line and have some fun

Trail Riding Ethiopia 2015
Some of the great things about riding new places, super friendly people and great food

Riding Ethiopia is really a wonderful experience. The local culture is fantastic, whilst riding gives you the opportunity to explore some really out of the way places, and meet a lot of friendly locals along the way. On top of that the weather is great this time of year, escaping from the cold and darkness of Norway where I live to 25 degrees and sunshine every day never gets old. And the riding we did this trip is just a tiny fraction of what the country offers; we were only riding around the capital whilst Ethiopia is nearly twice the size of Texas. If you are looking for a bit of adventure it’s well worth checking out!

MENTIONS: @grugged

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grugged avatar

Member since Nov 16, 2005
1 articles

  • 25 0
 Fabulous article and great photos. It's so refreshing to see people going beyond the norm when it comes to finding adventure.Ethiopia is beautiful.
  • 8 0
 Thanks Grant for a great article. Ethiopia is a freaking great place to ride. Since Grant's visit we have added in a few more trails in Menagesha, and there is more to come. There was a team of folks that just recently made the mistake to go all the way to the Simiem mountains for some serious hike-da-bike, little did they realize they were missing the true good that can be found right next to Addis. It sounds like the nearby park is interested in developing some mountain bike trails and within the last 2 weeks we have uncovered 5 downhill/Enduro runs with to weed out of the hills. I also went down south and did some exploring down in Arba Minch, which had some nice 1000m descent accessible by dirt roads. And the off to the Bale Mountain where I think I have figured 1500m descent that I will have to get back too.

With all that said there is little in the way of mountain bike tourism industry here. If someone is telling you they can plan your mountain bike holiday to Ethiopia, I would be extremely wary, Ethiopia uncharted in the way of mountain biking, very few lucky peoe know anything about riding in Ethiopia, including the Ethiopian themselves.
  • 5 0
 Interesting taste of Ethiopia here. I was one of the folks that made that trip to Ethiopia's Simien mountains last month. Our trip was perhaps the flipside to shuttle riding in Ethiopia. Yes we had a fair bit of hike-a-bike, but the Simien mountains delivered a decent amount of amazing trails too, all served up with a mega-gulp of real challenges and adventure, including summiting the highest peak at 4550m. So keep an eye on the printed and online press in late summer for our epically adventurous Simien mountains story and film, shot with pro riders Sarah Leishman and Kamil Tartarkovik, (hashtag: EthiopiaEpic). We also got to ride the trails you show here with @stifford on our last day after coming back to Addis. They were a real treat (thanks @stifford for showing us) and it gave some balance and perspective to the 8 days of adventure in the mountains.
Ethiopia is a fantastic place. Its full of change and potential, and great people and incredible landscapes. Go there. Make new friends. Watch this space for the Simien episode.
  • 3 0
 Im Steve in the artivle and vid. Ethiopia is one of the best places to ride quality natural descents anywhere in the world (I've lived and visited almost everywhere). Not bike related but for those interested in Ethiopia and poverty, economic growth, and the revolutionary regreening success that is on going, please see this vid:https://youtu.be/nak-UUZnvPI . This year is the 30th anniversary of LiveAid, a nearly useless charity effort that spread the images of famine, a famine that was actually caused by the Stalinist Derg regime (is bombing feeding centers etc). Since then land has been rehabilitated, and this is one of the great successes in modern history. You haven't heard much about this yet but later this year you probably will.
  • 1 0

That was educational. Does the World Bank or other bodies publish case studies of worthy work going on in Ethiopia?
  • 2 0
 Lee, Yes, everything is in the public domain at worldbank.org. By the way I rode the Brunico, Italy, environs a couple years ago based on your travel article here. Nice trip!
  • 2 0
 If anyone's curious enough. This video was illuminating
  • 8 2
 Bob Geldorf ain't horrible. Boost 110. Now that's horrible!
  • 1 0
 Geldofs a c#nt. And so is Bono. True story.
  • 2 0
 Hell yeah! I just got done watching the video and you definitely captured Menagesha. Even though I am here I will watching that for some stoke. I want to go ride right now. Can't wait for tomorrow morning.
  • 1 0
 Been trying to Upload more videos on PB but it hasn't been working for me, so here is the links to them on YT.

Entoto, backyard riding, it was fun revisiting this area though much shorter than other place, there is some kick ass trails here.

The latest trail unearthed in Menagesha.
  • 5 2
 it s crazy when you think that this country has certainly no local riders... pretty sad. and are there any ethiopians on pb ?
  • 11 3
 it is the poorest country in Africa
  • 11 0
 i was about to say that its ironic and sad that these bikes probably cost a lot more than what some of these people will live on over a lifetime. incredibly sad.
  • 3 8
flag fatenduro (Mar 21, 2015 at 12:44) (Below Threshold)
 Well you can owe it to Bob Geldorf and the fundraising they did in the 80's that such a beautiful country's now safe enough to ride in.
  • 4 2
 safe to ride in? do your investigative work first. Maybe for a man but def not for females.
  • 8 1
 Speaking of investigative work, Ethiopia doesn't even make the top-10 list for poorest countries in Africa.
  • 5 3
 @madmon I'm afraid your're wrong-.Ethiopia is not the poorest country in Africa. Here are the World Bank's GDP figures to prove it: data.worldbank.org/country/ethiopia
  • 3 4
 It's actually the 7th richest country in Africa. This is taken from wikipedia, but it references the world bank index so it should be accurate en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29
  • 8 2
 that says nothing about the poor. It means some people have a shitload of money while 80% starve. you need some real life instead of a virtual book
  • 4 1
 madmon - serious question. Is this from real life experience?
  • 3 0
 How is it a MTB website has more arguments about literally the most irrational topics...
  • 9 0
 as a studying rasta for 16 years I have a load of Ethiopian friends Lee. I see endless pics of starving family members who can't get medical care. I don't want to highjack this thread as I adore the fact people are riding there and some cool riders have introduced modern bikes to people who might never see them again. I have mixed feelings here and don't want to get emo about it. 16.5% of all children die from malnutrition. 2 out of every 5 kids suffer from stunting and it's not a bike trick it is from poor diet. I am done sorry.
  • 3 0
 Thanks madmon. Sorry. Was not trying to raise bad feelings
  • 4 1
 your job to call us out. Too many asshats here on PB. Mad respect.
  • 2 0
 For 11 years, I cycle in many countries around the world ,Ethiopia was one of them. Ethiopia is a beautiful country and I love the culture, some time it was difficult to look at some life reality .
  • 2 1
 I do not see the value of this discussion. Ethiopia is an African country and Africa is poor and suffers - or they keep it this way. Haven't you heard? However Ethiopia is definitely doing much better than many /most of the African countries.
If you can ride above 2,500m you are welcome, the weather is fine and stable throughout the year, at lower grounds things are a little bit harder - a lion could eat you or a deadly mosquito could bite you but then again what is life without adventure?? But, I forgot, this is another PB internet ride !!!!
By the way the majority of the country are Orthodox Christians.
  • 9 1
 @madmon I spent 6 years of my childhood growing up in Ethiopia. I'm not Ethiopian, but I feel a sense of patriotic pride towards the country, which is why I get offended when people get their facts wrong about the country. And yes, of course the GDP figures don't mean that there's not terrible poverty there- I was aware of that everyday I was living there. But if there's one thing that really annoys me, it's people writing off the country as nothing more than a poverty-stricken wasteland. That's why this article is so refreshing- it shows some of the good bits about the country.
  • 3 0
 It is not the poorest by far, but there is definitely room for economic development.
  • 3 0
 They do have some local cycling talent too - www.procyclingstats.com/rider/Tsgabu_Gebremaryam_Grmay
  • 2 0
 ^Nice to see that. The majority of Ethiopia is at a very high altitude. I imagine that given the right opportunities, there could be some very good Ethiopian riders, especially in the road and cross country disciplines. Just look at Ethiopia's records in long- distance running...
  • 3 0
 You are right. I'm steve in the article above and work for the world bank. 10% growth each year for ten years. Ethiopia is moving forward. Yes there is extreme poverty but millions have ben pulled out or extreme poverty. There are certainly challenges here but the place is a far cray from the civil war and drought of the live aid era in the 1980s.
  • 1 0
 Great vid and article Grant! Great riding with you here in Addis. Here are some more vids of local trail descents:
Monkey machete mayhem:
Furi mtn:
Entoto descent:
  • 1 0
 Just for archiving's sake in case anyone is doing some research about riding here: As of now Ken and I have found 11 top to bottom, mostly forested, mostly slightly undulating singletrack descents at Menagesha Suba. That's about two full days of trail bike shuttles on high clearance road or 5-6 days of pedaled descents, depending on how hard or time constrained you are. Each descent averages 700m vert and 10km length. The trail quality is among the best in the world I've ridden* if you favor primitive, flowy, old school tracks.

* BC many times, US NW, US SW, US NE, US Mid Atlantic and SE (lived there), Chile (lived there), South Korea (lived there), French-Italian-Swiss Alps many times, Spain, Bolivia, Bali, Sumatra, Japan, Nepal.
  • 4 0
 Refreshing --- thanks for the article Grant
  • 14 0
 agreed, can we have more of these stories and less garbage about hub sizes
  • 1 0
 They grow great coffee. We are very fortunate to live in a modern western culture. Thank you for keeping the story positive and sharing the beauty of this country.
  • 1 1
 I didn't think mountain biking existed in Africa outside of South Africa. It's awesome to see that you can enjoy this sport absolutely anywhere
  • 1 0
 Many countries in Africa have good cycling communities.
  • 2 6
flag RedBurn (Mar 22, 2015 at 4:52) (Below Threshold)
 south africa isn t a real africa country lets be serious ..
  • 3 0
 There is some freaking awesome riding in Africa. Since most people mode of transportation is walking there are trails everywhere. I have been riding all over east Africa and there is endless number of trails to choose from.
  • 1 0
 @RedBurn .... sure South Africa is not a real country (If you have been living under a rock your whole life and are completely ignorant) ...... let's be serious here, I will assume you are just joking around ..... SA has some flipping awesome trails!
  • 1 0
 The world is not all about war and hatred.. Thanks for sharing your experience.
  • 1 0
 Great article Grant! Love the pictures!
  • 2 0
 what is that dish?
  • 5 1
 The dish is called 'injera'. It's a sort of grey pancake with air bubbles on one side. It's made by fermenting 'teff', an indigenous grass. As you can see, there's a selection of spicy stew on top of it (called 'wot'), the traditional method of eating is to break off the injera with your fingers and scoop up the wot with it.Traditionally, the plate with the injera and wot on it would sit on a round woven grass table called a 'mesob'. People would gather around the mesob and break bits of injera off the same plate, literally eating around the same plate.
  • 1 0
 oh nice, is the spicy stuff like a curry? it has the same color almost. or is it the darker sauce there?

I'm so hungry right now and I just read this... I'm going to make something
  • 1 0
 Yeah, the wot is like curry. It an be made out of beef, chicken, fish or lentils
  • 1 0
 Anyone for chicken?
  • 3 3
 So glad they didnt call it enduro!!
  • 3 3
 you sell these bikes and you save the whole country from misery and hunger
  • 3 3
 Seriously,there are some fckin idiotic comments on this thread.
  • 2 4
 pretty clear that not one of these paths were created for MTB riding Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Primitive trails are rad!!
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