When on holiday, I like to do something. Sitting around next to the pool or on the beach gets tedious very quickly for me. Last September Carolyn (my wife) and I decided to make sure we made the most of our time off. We live in Morzine, France, and by September the lift system is closed, meaning we have to pedal our bikes up the mountains (I know, terrible). However, we had heard that there was some pretty good riding to be done on the Italian Mediterranean coast. So we decided to make a trip, to learn about mountain biking Finale Ligure.
Where is Finale Ligure?
Finale Ligure is on the Gulf of Genoa, in the Italian Riviera. It is about an hour’s drive from Genoa Airport and about and hour and a half from Nice, France.
This historical coastal town is known for its white sandy beaches and stunning views. These views are especially stunning from the mountains overlooking the town. One of the iconic views you may know, is the one from one of mountain bike Enduro World Series (EWS) tracks, overlooking the sea.
Finale Ligure is the location of the last leg of the EWS every year. This is due to its technical terrain, that pushes both rider and bike to the limit.
What is it like mountain biking Finale Ligure?
The best way to get the most out of mountain biking Finale Ligure is with guided uplifts. We stayed with MTB Beds (nothing to do with MTB-Threads), who have teamed up with Ride on Noli, a local guiding company. These guys are charismatic Italian locals, who know the area like the back of their hands. Paulo and Marco are helped by Sandra, a very handy mountain bike guide from Germany.
Ride on Noli picked us up early in the morning and loaded our bikes on to the trailer. Then they drove us up the mountain roads to the top of the trails. Many of the trails start from the old NATO base, which is about thirty to forty minutes drive from Finale itself. This may seem a long way, but the journey gave us time to wake up a bit.
Riding from the NATO Base
Our first taste of mountain biking Finale Ligure was on a trail from the NATO base known as “H” or “Helicopter”, as it starts at the old helipad. We followed Paulo, and Sandra played back marker to pick up stragglers and give tips. It was a steep one to “warm up” with and I don’t think I blinked once all the way down. However, this trail became one of our favourites by the end of the week.
The trails through the forests are technical with roots, rocks and some smallish drops. But many of the trails are rocky and technical, and feel like dried up river beds. This type of trail is very different to what we are used to riding, and took a bit of adjusting to. However, once we got our heads in mountain biking Finale Ligure mode we were loving it.
Oh my….lunch! Ride on Noli took us to some pretty great places for lunch. Our favourite lunch stop was at some bloke’s house in the mountains. We were led in to his back garden, which had the most amazing mountain view and a long table under a trellis covered in grape vines. This was proper Italy!
The owner brought out four or five courses, all made with ingredients that came from no further than two miles away. He also brought out his home made wine and lots of banter. This is a leisurely Italian lunch, there is no rushing around, which is perfect.
When we were eating dessert, we heard loud music coming from the conservatory. I went to have a look, and the owner was sitting there behind his Karaoke machine, belting out some classics. It was very random, but we joined in any way.
All this only cost €15 each….bargain.
Feeling a little lethargic, it was time go mountain biking again. Where we went, depended on what day it was. The guides like to show you as much of the area as possible. If you decide to try mountain biking Finale Ligure, you will ride many of the EWS trails, and some are more difficult than others.
The most difficult one is the Rocche Gianche. I actually didn’t do this one….erm…because….my bike was broken…..honest. But looking at the guys that did do it (who were much better riders than me), I’m glad. Their eyes were like saucers, and their mojo had taken a bit of a blow. So you need to be a bit handy for this terrain.
Some of our favourite trails were:
- Roller coaster
- All the NATO base trails
- Kill Bill 1 & 2
- Toboga di Canova
These are all fun, fast and quite technical in places. Some are very long with 1000m of descent, nearly taking you to the sea front.
Once we had made it back down to Finale in the evening, we sat in the Piazza enjoying a few beers in the sun, just a stone’s throw from the beach. It was the perfect way to finish the day.
Where to Stay
I have worked in high end holiday industry for a while so whenever I go on holiday, I really struggle to switch off my “work head”. I notice things that most punters…sorry holiday makers, don’t, which can be a bit annoying. However, we stayed with MTB Beds. We were not quite sure what to expect, but I can tell you we were not disappointed.
The accommodation was a large villa, about two minutes walk from the beach, and less than ten minutes to the main square. This is where you will drink most of your beer and eat most of your gelato.
The villa is quite typical of the area, and sleeps over ten people, and is run by Ben and Tiff, while Lee fixes your bike after a punishing day. The bedrooms are basic but comfortable enough, with shared bathrooms. You eat and relax on the top floor, where there is a TV, stereo etc. There is also a small outside area, which is great to enjoy a beer from the honesty bar.
The ground floor has bike storage inside Lee’s workshop. If you take your own bike, you don’t need to worry about security, but you can hire their Orange enduro bikes.
The food was superb. Tiff really knows her way round the kitchen and uses local ingredients. There is nothing like eating a fish, that was caught that morning.
There is beer and wine available at extra cost from the honesty bar. But, with the trails we were riding, we wanted to be as sharp as possible.
Should you try Mountain Biking Finale Ligure?
Yes, it is brilliant! However, you do need to have a certain level of skill to tackle these trails. On a group guiding session, the guides will take you on trails that will challenge you. The guides will split groups up if necessary, depending on riding ability for some trails, but you will ride together for most of your trip. You will need to be comfortable riding red and black trails with rocks, routes, drops and possibly gaps.
The guys we were staying and riding with were a great laugh. Everyone gave encouragement and sympathy where it was required over a beer in the evenings. There were no egos, just great chat and banter.
I belive that mountain biking Finale Ligure made us better riders. We were pushed out of our comfort zones (in a good way), by riding with different people on unfamiliar terrain.
The guys at MTB Beds were great. Ben’s knowledge of the area and his hospitality helped make our holiday. As did Tiff’s fantastic food and Lee’s excellent spanner work. We will definitely be going back.
What else should I know?
You will need to wear protection, as there is nothing comfortable to fall on. I would not ride Finale Ligure without a full face helmet. I use the Bell Super 3R, it has a removable chin bar, but it stayed firmly attached all week.
I recommend that your wear elbow and knee pads, and any other protection you feel safer in.
It was really hot during our stay, but some riders wore body armour. One guy “used” it when he came a cropper, and it saved him a trip to an Italian hospital. Therefore, he was very happy that he wore it.
Once you are on the trails, you will be a long way from a bike shop, therefore, you will need a backpack to carry spares. The rocks are very sharp, so spare inner tubes are a must (even if you are riding tubeless tyres). If you are not aware of the benefits of tubeless over inner tubes, click here. Obviously a pump is a must, but so is a multi-tool and anything that is likely to break on your ride. Such as a mech hanger, gear cable or pivot bolts.
Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit Finale Ligure. This is because it is so hot during the summer and Finale gets very busy. Apparently, you can’t get anywhere unless you have a scooter or motorbike.
The villa staff and guides have a day off mid week. This means you can either go for a ride, pay for an uplift or chill on the beach during the day. In the evening you will need to find your own food. This is not difficult in Italy. Ben will point you in the right direction for whatever food you are in the mood for.
I hope this has been helpful
Check out MTB Beds, as I couldn’t fault them. This is a genuine account of our trip and not sponsored in any way. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below.