The new year is here, and among all your other it’s-a-new-decade life-examination efforts, it’s a great time to revisit your mountain biking bucket list. If you’re anything like me (and I know I am), looking ahead and dreaming about amazing rides takes up a sizable portion of my winter brainpan.
Also, like me, you may already have a pretty meaty list of places you want to ride. But in spite of that, none of us want to miss out on that next great thing, those cool experiences that we haven’t heard of yet. So how do we find quality inspiration for the unique rides that will occupy our precious vacation and weekends?
Here are some sources you can dive into during that next snowy night in front of your computer. It’s guaranteed you’ll end up with more bike dreams than you can shake a floor pump at.
Instagram, with its focus on images and video, is an ideal place to scope out new adventures. If you don’t already follow a selection of people who make you jealous with their riding trips, it’s easy to find some. If you explore the feed of one cool rider or photographer, you can slide down the rabbit hole of many more. Rick Hackett, a master ride planner, says his favorites are @mattyhunter, @bkxc, and @mtbgreg. Some of my favorites include @natehills, @thewideeyedworld, and @eyeroam. You can also dive into hashtags like #mtbtravel, #mtbadventure, or #mtbtrips. Or if a general location has piqued your interest, you can drill down from there. For example, I know I want to plan a trip to Switzerland at some point, so I follow @mtbswitzerland to give me a regular dose of inspiration and trail ideas.
Meanwhile, for your weekend trips, it’s more relevant than you think to follow people who live near you. No matter how well you might know your state or region, riders are finding new trails or putting together new adventures you never thought about. Similarly, Strava is another excellent resource for new ideas. You can see what your friends are riding, explore heat maps, and even check out what locals are riding in those far-flung locations like Finale Ligure, Italy (just sayin’).
Amy Thomas, a rider in the Denver, Colo. area, has used races and events to check out an area, then planned a trip to go back on her own schedule. After enjoying multi-stage races in Breckenridge, Colo. (the Breck Epic) and British Columbia (the BC Bike Race), she returned to both locations on vacation or over a weekend. “The race makes an easy intro to an area, like an appetizer, then you can go back to ride with friends and explore other trails.” Her vacation back to BC included Pemberton and Nanaimo, since “Both of those towns the BC Bike Race had gone through, so I had a sense of the lay of the land.” Another event, the Salida Big Friggin’ Loop, inspired her to ride a local bikepacking route she hadn’t known about. She didn’t feel like doing the 100 miles in a single day for the event, so she turned it into a three-day trip with a friend instead. “It was really fun to see all these dirt roads and phenomenal views I didn’t know about. It inspired me to look at a bunch of maps to see what else is back there.”
Websites & Apps:
Leslie Kehmeier, a travel/adventure photographer and mountain biker, says: “Most often I hit up bikepacking.com. The site has a lot of fresh content for routes, updated almost daily. They really hook you in with great photos and the right amount of pertinent information.” Thomas agrees, citing a ride she found there that she’s hoping to do soon — a three-day backpacking trip in northern New Mexico that finishes at the famous Ojo Caliente hot springs. “That site offers a lot of great information, like where you can find water, is it safe to do, when is the best time to do it.” TrailForks.com is an indispensable site and app for every stage of trip finding, from gathering location ideas to on-the-ground navigation of trails. While skiing in Driggs, Idaho, Thomas looked at TrailForks and realized how much trail had been built in the area. Now she’s planning to return with her mountain bike, combining it with a trip to Rebecca’s Private Idaho, a gravel event in Ketchum. “For all my trips where I didn’t know exactly what I was riding, TrailForks was a lifesaver. It works really well internationally, too.”
Sometimes we get so used to looking at bike-specific sites that it’s easy to forget the elementary effectiveness of search engines. “Once you decide where to go, a Google search, as simple as it sounds, is also an interesting way to see personal accounts of a particular place and find more details,” Kehmeier said. YouTube.com can provide endless eye candy and POV trail experiences (I added Scotland to my bucket list after a recent YouTube binge). And finally, once you’ve progressed to the nitty-gritty details of planning, Kehmeier recommends using mapping site RideWithGPS.com for building your adventures.
It’s hard to beat the detailed perspective offered by people who live in a place you want to ride, or those who have already traveled there. “The first spark of inspiration for new places to ride frequently starts with friends or people who I intersect during my travels,” Kehmeier said. Similarly, Thomas remarked on how many Canadians approached her in BC, seeing her friend’s car with Colorado license plates. “There wasn’t a lot of tourist traffic in the spot we were in, so they would come up to us after the ride. These people offered for us to stay in their homes! Canadians are so friendly.” While you’re out there, it’s easy to meet locals as well as other travelers who can tell you about their home trails, or other places they’ve visited. You can also get unexpected nuggets by stopping in local bike shops or outdoor stores and chatting with employees. With so many people moving around the country to pursue outdoor passions, it’s common to find someone from North Carolina working in Jackson Hole, who would be happy to give you detailed information about Pisgah National Forest.
Finally, the most structured way of tapping into local knowledge is to book a guided trip. Guide and tour services (found through Google) abound in many popular riding locations across the globe, allowing you to enjoy several days of great riding, food, and exploration in a single decision.
With so many different ways to research them, your big ideas for 2020 can come to life in more detail than ever before. As Thomas said, “It’s so much easier to plan stuff now. If you think of something and Google it, somebody’s done it.”
photos provided by Amy Thomas