Unfortunately, most of your regular bike parks and trails are closed, and while winter rides are fun, they can’t be compared to the bliss of everyday summer mountain biking. The lack of a chance of getting frostbite is also somehow appealing. Needless to say, you need some ideas, and as usual, we are here to help. We gathered the top 5 best spots in Europe where you can enjoy mountain biking while the rest of Europe is freezing their bums off.
5. Côte d’Azur, France
On top of our list is the French riviera and its magnificent views. Granted, this location is usually used by roadies for their winter getaways but it can offer just as much fun for MTB riders. The city of Nice is quite welcoming to all sorts of riders. To be honest, they welcome all sorts of tourists during the cold months of the year with their mild climate, cosy accommodations, delicious food and outstanding hospitality (as far as French hospitality goes, that is).
Cote d’Azur is truly a biking paradise with average temperatures of 8-10° in the winter months, with mostly sunny weather. On average, one could enjoy more than 25 rainless days during the months between December and April. Moreover, there is practically no snow, and even in the rare cases it snows, there is never a white blanket to disrupt your joy.
To top it all off, local authorities have invested significantly in transforming Cote d’Azur into one inspiring biking destination. The infrastructure is well-maintained all year long, and there are a lot of trail choices regardless of whether you prefer XC or DH. The trails are magnificent, combining limestone, fine dirt, forest sections and everything an MTB rider needs to have a great time.
While that’s technically Africa or at least an African island, it’s still under Portuguese governance, so getting there won’t require visas or pose any significant complications. Moreover, thanks to the close proximity of the Canary Islands, Madeira remains a hidden gem. If you prefer secluded vacations with relatively few tourists, Madeira might be perfect for you. With average winter temperatures of around 17°, it’s ideal for mountain biking. The only minor problem is the humidity but once you start traversing the volcanos, you forget about this issue instantly.
The small island northwest of Africa is truly magnificent with its coy trails and charming sceneries. Naturally, since the place is not as trendy as the Canary Islands, the tracks are relatively desolated, so it’s a good idea to have a friend when going riding. Otherwise, if you have a crash, there is a chance no one will find you for days.
You have the opportunity to explore the local trails on your own but if you have limited time, we’d suggest hiring a guide who can show you the best-hidden gems on the island. Although the terrain is mountainous (as most volcanic islands are), there are trails for every rider, no matter their skill level. Still, the best can make some outstanding downhill rides from the very top of the island to sea level. Just don’t jump in the sea afterwards, as usually the water temperature during this time of the year is around 14-15°.
3. Finale Ligure
Visiting Italy is a good idea at any time, for any reason. Visiting it with a bike may only improve your experience. However, when it comes to winter mountain biking, we need to give way to Finale Ligure. The charming Italian village, just a stone’s throw away from Genoa, has been an MTB hotspot since the Enduro World Series started there. Thanks to its mild climate of about 10°, the resort has become a pilgrimage destination for many Enduro and DH riders from Northern Europe, as they don’t mind the relatively cool weather much.
There are some trails right next to the coastline that can make any bike rider happy but for the true gems, you need to go a bit further inland at the foot of the Alps. There you can enjoy some truly magnificent descents of more than 1,400 meters in altitude.
The town itself is also not to be missed. It has one truly gorgeous old town and the food… Oh my God, the food. Don’t be surprised if you actually gain some weight despite all the pedalling.
2. Gran Canaria, Spain
The Canary Islands are generally a good idea to visit during the winter. The temperature year-round is about 20-25°, making it the perfect place to enjoy some sun and relatively warm weather during the winter. Many Brits made these Spain-owned islands off the coast of West Africa their winter home precisely for the same reason. Gran Canaria, as the biggest one of the bunch, has the most to offer, especially when we are talking about mountain biking. With 325 days of sunshine each year, you can be confident that you will have at least a couple of opportunities to hit the volcanic trails on the island (provided they are not under lava at that particular moment).
In general, the terrain is highly mountainous and you will have to be fit and strong to endure. Still, if you’re all about downhill, you can rent a van with friends and enjoy some genuinely inspirational trails right to the ocean. You can even swim afterwards if 20° water is not too cold for you. Keep in mind that the terrain is usually dry and dusty thanks to the abundance of sun and ash from the volcano, so gear up accordingly.
1. La Palma
Speaking of the Canaries, the island of La Palma is truly the place to go during the winter months if you are in for one genuinely magnificent MTB adventure. The island was recently the scene of a catastrophic volcanic eruption that forced thousands to leave. However, the volcano has been considered calm since the end of 2021, and while the eruption was truly tragic, we can find a silver lining in those brand new trails that formed after the lava flow. The temperature is around 20° annually, making it an outstanding spot for winter rides. Moreover, with trails that can accommodate every skill level, this is the perfect place to go with your entire family.
For the newbies and the kids, there are some relatively easy trails near the shore, while up in the mountains, there are some serious tracks that can be challenging even for pros. The terrain is entirely made of volcanic rocks mixed with fine sand, which should give you a hint that you will need premium tyres for this one. Still, having brand new trails and the ability to descend over 2,000 meters makes La Palma the Creme de la Creme of winter MTB destinations. Just a few words of caution if you decide to take that journey. You should take forbidden areas very seriously and make it your business to learn where there are dangerous spots to avoid them. Usually, those are well designated but just to be on the safe side, don’t stray too far away from the trails.
These were the top 5 spots to make your winter vacation with your MTB. All you need now is some free time from work and to see if you have direct flights to that destination. See you there.