The 5 Hairiest Trails
Veteran mountain biker and writer, Amanda Wilks, previews her pick of the world’s most dangerous mountain bike trails.
WORDS: AMANDA WILKS
There comes a time in ever rider’s career when familiar trails and comfortable rides no longer seize the imagination as they once did. Cresting the same hill you’ve seen two times a week for the past year sucks the wind out of any cycling enthusiast’s sails and is just as likely to leave you sitting on the couch as a leg injury. Much like an injury, there are specific treatments for the malaise of trail fatigue and mountain biking somewhere new and exciting might just be the cure.
Take note that these trails are not for beginners. You may know how to navigate rough terrain and handle yourself in the wilderness. Hats off to you if you do. If you’re not prepared for some of the most gruelling mountain biking courses the world has to offer, though, you’ll be lucky to make it out in one piece. Many of these trails have seen fatalities and are not for the faint of heart. These trails are known as the most dangerous for a reason, which is all the more a solid reason to respect their legacy before taking them on.
Proper Gear and Safety Measures
Preparing for these trails means years of practice and choosing the right biking gear, designed to stand up to the roughest conditions imaginable. Moreover, don’t even think of leaving the house without pads and a helmet rated for serious falls, enough water to keep you going over multi-hour courses that will seriously tax your body, enough food to keep you pedaling and a bike that can stand up to black diamond ratings and beyond.
By the time you’re considering taking on a trail of this magnitude you’re probably a regular rider with a serious love for the sport. Finding a full suspension mountain bike that will get you through these trails and out in one piece can be just as important as bringing proper safety gear, as traditional hardtail bikes may not be able to cushion the strain of such intense rides and still hold up through a busy season.
Without further ado, here are five of the world’s most intimidating trails guaranteed not to leave you bored out of your wits.
1.Porcupine Rim – Moab, Utah
There may not be a simple way to acclimate to insane bike trails, but Porcupine Rim offers a sort of introduction to the insanity that comes with double black diamond level tracks without forcing you to adapt or wipe out every ten feet or so. The views of Utah’s rocky landscape are amazing, but the trail is rough enough that you’re nearly forced to carry your bike through several sections. Riders beware!
2. Garbanzo – Whistler, Canada
Ever fancied getting a serious forearm workout during the introductory segment of a trail? Garbanzo’s expert trail is littered with massive boulders and tree roots that can stop motorized vehicles in their tracks, let alone bikes. This is not a track to be taken lightly, but the intermediate trail can help you warm up to its bigger, nastier brother.
3. Radwanderung – Garnitzenklamm Gorge, Austria
Though technically a bike trail, this is the sort of path most are hesitant to take on with a hike. It’s also technically a singletrack but has the hallmarks of some of the most dangerous singletracks in the world: Narrow paths, tiny wooden bridges and a ravine drop around every corner that can end your vacation as quickly as it began.
4. Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
Conquering what isn’t technically a trail and turning it into a biking challenge is just what Swiss cycling champion Hans Rey did with the Cliffs of Moher, a mountain biking trail that occasionally narrows to as little as four inches (or 10.16 centimeters) wide at its narrowest segments. Worse yet, there’s the occasional 600-foot drop (nearly 183 meters!) into rocks or ocean waves below. Pick your poison.
5. Yungas Road – La Paz, Bolivia
Yungas Road is recognized to be the most dangerous road in the world. Though not a bike trail by the strictest definitions, it is a primarily downhill ride of nearly 40 miles that occasionally spans over 2000-foot drops.
There are no safety rails and the only thing between a rider and imminent doom is their concentration and skill in handling their bike. Even as a dangerous biking destination, Yungas Road requires a special level of recognition.
To go or not to go?
You may not immediately feel like packing up and heading to Bolivia for your next mountain biking excursion but there are plenty of trails out there with rugged, difficult terrain to challenge your skills without threatening you with massive sheer drops. For everyone else, the adrenaline of conquering the world’s craziest trails can be the best drug there is.
For those with a sense of adventure that doesn’t quite extend to the prospect of life-ending injuries, something like The Pioneer in New Zealand or joBerg2c in South Africa might just fill that adventure void you’re looking to fill.