Finale Ligure MTB winter trip

It is a dark and rainy day somewhere in November. I have just rinsed the mud off my bike, trousers and shoes again, when I receive an app: “The Final Plan. Are you coming?” That’s cool! Right in January, banging out a few days of trails in Finale Ligure.

And a few weeks later, we are there. Jess and Erik (MTBVerbier) are there and have been here so many times by now that they have taken on the whole organisation for convenience. Flat booked, shuttle company fixed and the restaurant booked where we meet them with a beer in hand after a long day of driving. Good vibes!

It’s about a 20-degree difference from home, as we leave exactly in the days when it’s -5 degrees. And here it is indeed (at most) 15 degrees. Yet we only knew 2 days before departure that it actually made sense to get in the car. Because just before our arrival, there was still snow on the higher trails and they were all closed.

Finale destination

For if you have never heard of Finale Ligure: check Trailforks (over 150 trails!) or the video of our last visit in 2018. Our memories have also faded a bit again. We really didn’t remember all the trails we rode, but still regularly imitate the humour of the bikeguide from back then. “Va bene. Nothing special on this trail. Andiamo!” After which we hit only big drops and thick rock gardens.

And as it turns out… once again we board the same guide: Matteo! So we know we still have to be sharp when a trail has “no special features”.

We shuttle directly from sea level to almost 1,000 metres altitude. Slightly higher, towards Nato Base, we do see some snow. And so it is also chilly at this altitude, just a few degrees above zero on this January morning. Toboga is a classic warm-up trail. And what a treat it is again! The ground is not frozen, but it is a nice hardpack. The trails are in perfect shape. There can’t be anything else but trail builders walking around with a leaf blower. Surely the sound of your tyres on rocks and roots is the finest thing there is.

The Classics

Today we mainly ride some familiar classic trails from Finale: Toboga, Rollercoaster, Kill Bill, Cacciatore, Madre Natura, Little Champery, Pino Morto, 115, Ingegnere, Crestino, Ca Bianca. A good 4,000 descent metres.

And hey! With few cycling hours recently and zero to no strength training, this still feels really good. And that’s mainly thanks to the coil spring I had put in my Rockshox Zeb. A Vorsprung Smashpot. The chosen coil-strength is just right and I feel it engage immediately if I hit even the first small stone with my front wheel. Clearly much less tired arms!We are staying in Finalborgo: which is less than 1.5 kilometres inland from Finale Ligure, but is actually much more atmospheric than the coastal town. Inside an old fortress wall and with many small and cosy streets with bars and restaurants. So this is also where we drink our beers. And apparently we are not the only bikers at the moment. Because we also see other clubs with Scott, Specialized and Canyon jackets and caps. But definitely low season it is!

Still, enduro bikers are very welcome everywhere here. Nowhere do you have to feel encumbered about parking your bike somewhere in front of an entrance or stepping in with your sweats on. At a pizza stop, I ask to fill my water bottle in the kitchen and I even get it back washed. The whole local economy runs on bikers. Not to mention what a fantastic lunch we get, for very little money, when we take (ample) time for lunch somewhere on the mountain.

Pietra Ligure

The next morning, after our breakfast, we quickly score a doppio on our way to Matteo and the shuttle. At the ramparts, a Piaggio tumbles by and a nun crosses the road. How Italian do you want it! The old dilapidated factories on the Finale Ligure coast, by the way, turn out to belong to Piaggio.

Like yesterday, we board Ride On Noli’s Landrover Defender again. This time we head towards Pietra Ligure. Surely with quite a different type of trails, also more often with a looser surface and red dirt. A bit more natural. And many stages of EWS competitions here too. No other shuttle company could have driven us this far up, as we literally drive the Defender up solid rocky ridges. The trailer with 9 bikes bounces happily behind it.

The Wishlist

Stocked for the final day! Another sunny day and a very pleasant 15 degrees at sea level. This time we hand Matteo a wish list of trails we do want to ride. He starts laughing, because it’s difficult to combine them… We haven’t even considered where each trail is located. But we are going to Cromagnon and DH Men anyway. Surely these are the iconic trails whose EWS images you know. And the riding pace has also grown nicely over the last few days. On DH Men, I just dream up the rows of spectators. Views of the Mediterranean Sea I have only when I stop, as there is no moment to lose focus.

High fives all over the place. And we end the day – with our kneepads still on – on a tiny terrace. Yes, outside. In January. This trip was the ultimate anti-winter dip!


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