Bicycling WOW Rides



Santuario del Ghisallo Magreglio, Italy

It’s a pilgrimage to the chapel of the Madonna del Ghisallo, originally known as the patroness of travellers until 1949, when Pope Pius XII granted a local priest’s request that she be called the patron saint of cyclists. At the shrine you’ll find old jerseys from such legends as Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, and Felice Gimondi, row upon row of portraits, and rafters packed with racing bicycles – including the one Fabio Casartelli was riding the day he died in the 1995 Tour de France. The fork blades are cracked. It’ll give you chills just to stand there. Know Before You Go

There are several routes to the chapel, but start/finish in the town of Bellagio for gorgeous views along Lake Como. Difficulty 4, for the above route, although harder ways are possible. From Bellagio, the round-trip is less than 30km, with an average grade of 5% and a few steep pitches (with grades of up to 14%).

– joe lindsey

Franschhoe­k Pass, Western Cape, South Africa

Franschhoe­k Pass is one of the world’s most scenic rides. And you can climb up it and down the other side. It’s important to get into a comfortabl­e rhythm, because you’ll be climbing until you


1 = You can bring the kids – and your grandparen­ts 10 = You’ll question your sanity

think you can’t climb anymore – and there’s always a bit more. When you get to the bottom you can turn around and climb the pass back to Franschhoe­k, which will be a very tough 50km ride, or you can turn it into a 100km ride by pushing on towards Villiersdo­rp, where you can smash a coffee before returning to Franschhoe­k. Once you’ve ticked that route, try the famed Four Passes, which from Stellenbos­ch is a classic 2 000m-of-ascent training route following a 140km loop that includes Somerset West, over Sir Lowry’s Pass, left through Grabouw, over Viljoen’s Pass, and Villiersdo­rp; then over the Theewaters­kloof Dam bridge, left and over Franschhoe­k Pass, Pniel and Helshoogte.

Know Before You Go Franschhoe­k Pass should be tackled only if you’re fit – and although it’s not an exceptiona­lly busy road, it is narrow at times, which can make life nerve-wracking if there’s an impatient truck driver on your tail.

Difficulty 7 (10, with an impatient truck driver on your tail) – j.a.

South Island New Zealand

You’ll hit nearly every microclima­te imaginable within a few weeks of riding, including mountains, beach, desert, and glaciers. You might even get to high-five a penguin. Expect lots of climbing on a mix of quiet roads and busier tourist areas, with campsite ocean views that make it all worth it. Know Before You Go Pedallers’ Paradise: The South Island by Nigel Rushton is a top-notch guidebook. Adventure South NZ offers five- to nine-day supported tours (R13 000 and up) of South Island segments. Feeling more adventurou­s? Independen­t Cycle Tours can arrange a self-guided tour

of the rugged West Coast (R15 000 and up). Difficulty 7 – caitlin giddings

Haleakala Maui, Hawaii

You climb 3 055 metres from near the beach at Paia to the summit of a volcano – on a smooth road with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Hawaiian Islands – at a moderate average grade of 5.3%, for 58km. Then you turn around and scream downhill for an hour and a half, without pedalling once. Know Before You Go Bring warm clothes and layer up: Even when it’s 33 degrees in Paia, temperatur­es at the top can be below freezing. There’s a fountain at the ranger station 2 300 metres up that dispenses filtered water and accommodat­es cycling bottles. You’ll need it. Difficulty 10

– louis mazzante

Lost Lake Trail Seward, Alaska

Moose, glaciers, waterfalls, and meadows of wildflower­s create a colourful backdrop to singletrac­k that intermingl­es ripping smooth ribbons of trail with twisty rocky, rooty bits. Know Before You Go The 12km trail connects to the Primrose Trail near Lost Lake. Pack extra of everything – cell phone service is iffy. There’s 550m of climbing in the first 10km. Difficulty 6 to 7

– selene yeager

Crested Butte, Colorado

It’s real singletrac­k with natural flow in one of the most beautiful places on earth, with mountains, trees, and wildflower­s stretched out in every direction. Some of the trails are the same ones mountain-bike pioneers rode in the ’70s. Know Before

You Go The joke goes ‘There are three seasons in Crested Butte: July, August, and winter’, so plan your travel

accordingl­y. (Western Spirit offers five-day Crested Butte Singletrac­k trips in August for R19 000.) CB is at 2 700m and the rides ascend from there, so take it easy until you acclimate. Difficulty 6 (terrain); 9 (elevation)

– matt phillips

Cederberg, Western Cape, South Africa

Cycling is the perfect way to explore the rough and raw wonder of the Cederberg Mountains. Riding varies, from open jeep track – sandy, in places – to rocky singletrac­k, to loose gravel. But what is consistent is the plethora of awesome, photo-worthy vistas from every direction. It’s the perfect place to rent a cottage with a group of mates and have a weekend MTB getaway!

There are many wellestabl­ished routes – country roads and trails – that take riders into the mountains; but what makes the Cederberg a ‘wow’ destinatio­n is that there are also many secret MTB trails, waiting for you to discover them.

Know Before You Go Check out the Cederberg MTB map on iride Africa’s website ( for a guide to trail networks in the Cederberg. New trails are added all the time.

Difficulty 4 to 7 (depending on which trail you choose)

– j.a.

Kyoto, Japan

This compact city of nearly

1.5 million is one of the most preserved towns in Japan, and its 1 600-plus temples and 17 World Heritage sites are easy to visit by bike. Cruise wide, flat paths along the

Kamo River for views of cherry and maple trees, herons and egrets, and 48 bridges, or wander narrow back streets, where you might spot a miniature shrine – or even a beer vending machine. Go in late March or early April, when the cherry blossoms bloom – their delicate fragrance

(and the festivals held in their honour) are worth the time you’ll spend manoeuvrin­g through the crowds. Know Before You Go Motorists drive on the left (yay!), but traffic can be heavy. There are few bike lanes, so most Japanese cyclists ride on the pavement, which is technicall­y off-limits to bikes (unless specially marked), but police rarely enforce the law. Kyoto Cycling Tour Project rents city bikes for about R125 a day and offers guided tours of the city in English. Difficulty 2 to 4

– emily furia

Col du Tourmalet Hautes-pyrénées, France

When the 17.4km climb was introduced to the Tour de France in 1910, the first rider to the top, Octave Lapize, had to walk part way, and is supposed to have cursed the organizers: “Assassins!” Mostly steady slopes of 4 to 7% ascend past two big waterfalls, through four snow tunnels, by rustic hamlets and open fields, and beside precipitou­s canyons to the ski resort of La Mongie, after which steep hairpins cluttered by cows and sheep careen to a crest that makes it seem as if you’re about to ride off the edge of the world. Know Before You Go You want the eastern approach, starting from the town of Sainte-marie de Campan. Also – sorry – it’s a gradual 12km climb from just about everywhere to get to the base of the Tourmalet. Duvine Cycling’s R60 000 Pyrenees Journey Bike Tour crosses the Tourmalet during trips in July, August, and September. Difficulty 5 to 7

– bill strickland

Whistler Mountain Bike Park

British Columbia, Canada

From high-alpine descents through snowfields and volcanic debris to smooth cruises with zen-like flow to jump trails that will test (and improve) your skills, Whistler’s trails are more diverse than anywhere we’ve ever ridden – or even heard about. Know Before You Go Leave your bike at home. Many of Whistler’s bike shops demo the latest rides. Difficulty 3 to 10 – l.m.

Midlands Meander, Kwazulu-natal, South Africa

This route takes you through countrysid­e with mighty waterfalls (such as the

Karkloof Falls, and Howick Falls), and sanctuarie­s such as Kamberg Nature Reserve and Amber Valley. You can follow the R103 from Estcourt to Howick, and a favourite road loop for locals is from Howick along Nottingham Road to Rosetta and Mooi River and then back, a good 100km wellpunctu­ated by coffee shops. Know Before You Go Road riding in the Midlands can be dangerous, because there’s not much shoulder and roads are frequently used by large trucks. But the roads are quiet. Difficulty 5 – j.a.

Mauvoisin Dam Switzerlan­d

This is a real adventure ride – about two-thirds dirt road, one-third rocky and sometimes very steep and exposed hiking trails. There’s also more than 1 000m of climbing on the remote, 27-kilometre loop. Start circumnavi­gating the dam by riding through several long tunnels through rocky cliffs. Once you’re out, the scenery is an explosion of colours: green grass on the mountainsi­de to your right, and bright pink, purple, and yellow wildflower­s waving in the breeze.

You probably won’t see another

soul out there. Know Before You Go Don’t be fooled by the mileage and elevation numbers – this ride will take most of your day, because of the long hike-abike sections.

Difficulty 7 – gloria liu

Chapada Diamantina National Park Mucugê, Brazil

Constantly changing terrain – from slick rock to limestone to red clay to dark, loamy earth – makes this one of the most magical-looking places you’ll ever ride. Watch for wild horses and donkeys. Know Before You Go Tour company Terra Chapada runs seven-day mountain-bike trips through the park (R9 300 and up). The location is home to Cachoeira da Fumaça, or ‘Smoke Falls’ – named because the wind catches the falling water before it can complete the 112-storey drop, creating a cloud of billowing mist. Difficulty 5 to 8 – s.y.

Swartberg Pass, Prince Albert, Western Cape

The Swartberg Pass is one of the planet’s most iconic gravelroad climbs. You ascend the 28km-long and 1 600m-high pass up sharp switchback­s, with spectacula­r views at every turn to the summit.

It’s a relentless climb, with gradients of 10% in places. Helping to take your mind off the climb are signposts documentin­g historical points of interest, such as

‘Die Stalletjie’, ‘Witdraai’, ‘Fonteintji­e’, ‘Skelmdraai’, and finally ‘Die Top’. Know Before You Go The Swartberg Pass is a national monument, and a World Heritage Site. Difficulty 10

– j.a.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa