Best Trails, Runs, and Rides

The 25 Best Bike Rides in the World Right Now

Tour de France stages. Classic British Columbian downhills. Epic gravel grinds in the American heartland. These bucket-list rides are guaranteed to be the most fun you can have on two wheels.

Let’s be clear: this is a subjective list, and you’re going to curse us on social media before you even read it. But just know that this roundup of the best rides on the planet—culled from my own personal experience of riding bikes for the past 30-plus years, as well as the advice of passionate cycling friends—is just gravy. My favorite rides have always been the ones that leave from my garage. But even though bikes are a great form of environmentally friendly recreation and transportation doesn’t mean we all don’t daydream about century-distance rides through the European countryside and fat-tire epics across the Mountain West.

So here goes.    

best rides
(Crotteur/Wikimedia Commons)

Colle de Finestre

Piemonte, Italy

Style: Road climb
Miles: 11

The Dolomites, in northern Italy, are worthy of the hype, but that’s not all the country has to offer cyclists. The Piemonte region, in the northwest, is also riddled with great climbs and is perhaps even more steeped in Italian cycling culture. Start from the town of Susa, in the Cottian Alps, find your way to the town of Fenestrelle, and if you have the legs, include the Giro d’Italia’s famed Colle de Finestre climb, an 11-mile haul that averages a 9 percent grade and gains some 5,558 feet.


best rides
(TRAILSOURCE.COM/Creative Commons)

403 to 401 

Crested Butte, Colorado

Style: Cross-country singletrack
Miles: 18

At its best, mountain biking is equal parts aesthetics and whoop-it-up fun, and these two Crested Butte stalwarts—you should link them—are among the sport’s best. Featuring natural flow (no machine-made berms here), expect loamy singletrack, a few sportingly steep corners, and ample high-altitude climbing. Also plan on ripping through wildflowers so tall that they beat your hands, elbows, and even shoulders in some weirdly beautiful masochistic embrace as you fly on by.


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(Rob Meendering Photography)

Barry-Roubaix

Hastings, Michigan

Style: Gravel (plus a race)
Miles: 22, 36, 62, or 100
When: April 13

The organizers of the Barry-Roubaix call it the largest gravel race in the world, and with 3,500 contestants, who are we to doubt them? There’s tons of prize money and whatnot, but really, the Barry is more of a celebration of cycling and a spring throwdown than it is a race. The huge peloton is filled with people excited to cast off the winter blanket and embrace a new riding season, and we love everything about it, especially the fact that the 100-mile route is called Psycho Killer. Want to ride it another weekend? The race organizers put together a comprehensive course map that you can tweak to choose your own adventure.


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(Dave Young/Creative Commons)

Mount Taranaki Circuit

New Plymouth/Taranaki, New Zealand

Style: Road
Miles: 77

New Zealand is worth visiting for way more than its road riding, but you might as well get in some exercise while you’re enjoying perhaps the friendliest country on earth (at least judging by the Kiwi skiers we’ve known). This ride circumnavigates an active 8,000-foot stratovolcano on the North Island and includes 4,600 feet of elevation gain. The route can be tackled solo anytime during the southern summer, but if you want to immerse yourself in local culture while clocking some serious miles, sign on for the Taranaki Cycle Challenge, which happens again in January. More than 1,000 cyclists participate, and if you’re a total hard-ass, you can loop it twice, as 11 people did last year.


best rides
(Marius Maasewerd/Swiss Epic)

Swiss Epic

Graubünden, Switzerland

Style: Cross-country singletrack
Miles: 155

The world’s best mountain bikers are coming from Switzerland these days for a reason. It’s the riding, people. And this year, the Swiss Epic, a five-day, 155-mile stage race, heads to Graubünden in the country’s southeast, near the ski towns of St. Moritz and Davos. Pro mountain-bike racers consistently tell us that the Swiss Epic is the hardest—both technically and in terms of climbing—of all the mountain-bike stage races, and we expect more of the same from Graubünden, which has over 10,000 miles of rideable trails that pass through pine forest, along treeless high-Alpine ridges, and across cold mountain streams. Sign up for this year’s race, August 20–24, only if you’re crazy serious. Everyone else should use the race route as a guide for an epic ride at their own pace.  


best rides
(Pedro Szekely/Creative Commons)

Logan Mill to Sugarloaf to Magnolia

Boulder, Colorado

Style: Gravel and paved
Miles: 40

Boulder is famous for its paved road riding. It should be known for its steep dirt. On a gravel bike, head up the Boulder Creek Path to Four Mile Canyon, then bang a left on Logan Mill and follow signs for the Escape Route, a forest-fire egress that’s steep enough to put you on the rivet. From there it’s on to Sugarloaf Road (paved and dirt) and the Peak to Peak Highway (paved). Make sure to stop at Salto in Nederland to refuel on pecan sandies and a macchiato for the big ring push down Magnolia Road to the Boulder Creek Path to complete the circuit. And this is but one of a half-dozen mixed-surface routes above Boulder that are nearly devoid of cars and feature soaring views of the Continental Divide.


best rides
(Louise Ireland/Creative Commons)

Tour of Flanders

Flanders, Belgium

Style: Cobbles and more 
Miles: 162

Until the gravel-bike boom, we’d never have called the brutal cobblestones and trampled dirt paths of Belgium farm country among the best riding in the world. Watching the pro peloton barely survive spring-classic events like the Tour of Flanders on skinny-tire bikes made for fun racing but abysmal riding. But that’s changed. Armed with a modern gravel bike with 40-millimeter tires and a more comfortable body positioning, these heritage routes are now doable, especially if you keep to the dirt edges and don’t punish yourself on the cobbles. Focus your ride plans on the Flemish Ardennes in East Flanders, where the cobbled climbs beat the hell out of racers but will give you riding like you’ve never experienced.


best rides
(Sébastien Launay/Creative Commons)

A-Line

Whistler, British Columbia

Style: Downhill mountain-bike trail
Miles: 1.5

Twenty-one years ago, Whistler’s A-Line Trail was old-school singletrack with nice natural flow. The trail that’s evolved since has been credited with the invention of the purpose-built flow trails that now dominate not just downhill parks but our local trail systems, too. The basic idea? A sustainable trail complete with capping soil, bermed turns, long-distance sightlines, and a range of gnar options, so mountain bikers can lay off the brakes, lean their rig way over, and catch smooth air. And far from being left behind, A-Line continues to get better every year.


Trail
(Edu_Ruiz/Pixabay)

Alto de Arrate

Basque Country, Spain

Style: Road climb
Miles: 2

Longtime Tour de France fans have heard about the great climbers of Basque Country for generations, but relatively few Americans ride there. Which is weird, because the western Pyrenees rival France with its mix of mountains, beaches, hamlets, and dining. Stage out of San Sebastian and ride the Alto de Arrate from both directions. The two-mile climb appears frequently in the Vuelta a España and annually in the Tour of the Basque Country. Think lush countryside and 10 percent grades—without the touristy T-shirt shops of France.  


best rides
(LithiumFlash/Wikimedia Commons)

Clawhammer/Black Mountain

Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

Style: Technical singletrack
Miles: 12.5

Located in the 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest—North Carolina’s fat-tire dreamland—the Clawhammer is a rooty, rocky technical ride with a 7.5-mile beast of a climb thrown in. The ascent takes you to a ridge that contours two summits before you gird yourself for a rollicking, scare-your-spleen, four-mile, 1,900-foot descent that comes at you quickly. Be sure to wait for a few sunny days to dry out the course before you attempt this one. It will be worth the wait.


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(Miwok/Wikimedia Commons)

Col de la Croix de Fer

Le Bourg-d’Oisans, France

Style: Road climb
Miles: 20

Of the Tour de France’s most famous climbs, the Col du Galibier is sketchy with too many tunnels, Mont Ventoux is windy and isolated, and the famed Alpe d’Huez is totally overrated (the top looks like a kitschy tourist shop). But the steady climb up the pass of Croix de Fer (the Iron Cross) runs some 20 miles and gains some 5,000 feet in the French Alps near Le Bourg-d’Oisans and is, in my estimation, the most scenic in France.


best rides
(TRAILSOURCE.COM/Creative Commons)

The Whole Enchilada

Moab, Utah

Style: Singletrack 
Miles: 35

Purists might scoff at the notion of a shuttle ride earning top status on a compilation of bucket-list rides, but before you start hating, make sure you actually ride this 35-mile, 8,000-vertical-foot descent. There are various starting points, but the full smothered enchilada plate begins high in the La Sal Mountains and passes through at least three distinct ecosystems before finishing right beside the Colorado River just six miles from downtown. The scenery is stunning, and the riding is fast and largely directional (it’s rare to see anyone heading up). It’s also in no way an easy day on the bike. You’ll still climb 1,500 vertical feet, and if you’ve ridden technical trails before, you know that bike handling still burns a lot of energy.


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(Dan Krauss/AP)

Rebecca’s Private Idaho

Ketchum, Idaho

Style: Gravel
Miles: 20, 60, or 100

Ketchum is famous for its endless and fast-flowing singletrack. It could just as easily be known for its gravel offerings. That’s in part because this is Idaho, where paved roads are scarce. There are plenty of amazing routes you can tackle by yourself, but if you sign on for this event, founded by famed endurance racer Rebecca Rusch, also known as the Queen of Pain, you can choose from 20-, 60-, or 100-mile routes, which you can ride solo, with a partner, or even tandem. Don’t let the Labor Day weekend discourage you—high summer in Ketchum means temperatures in the high seventies, and you’ll rarely swelter. We also love that Rusch isn’t afraid to throw buttery singletrack into the course. Gravel bikes love baby singletrack.


best rides
(Ministerio de Turismo Ecuador/Creative Commons)

Vuelta al Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi, Ecuador 

Style: Cross-country singletrack 
Miles: 90
When: November 9–10

One of the toughest mountain-bike races on earth, the Vuelta al Cotopaxi climbs 4,000 feet over a mix of trail surfaces, none of which you’d describe as purpose-built and all of which you’d describe as grueling. It’s so hard that, unlike the Leadville Trail 100 race, which is roughly the same distance, most humans could never finish it safely in a day, so be prepared to camp near the summit. Sounds miserable, but with 250 two-person teams signing up to to do again and again, it’s worth checking out this year. If you don’t want to race, the trails around Cotopaxi make for great bikepacking.


best rides
(Brent Soderberg/Creative Commons)

Vermont Gran Fondo, a.k.a. the Gaps

Waitsfield and Warren, Vermont

Style: Road
Miles: 100

You can head out any old summer day and try to knock off all six of the “gaps” (northern New England speak for mountain passes) around Waitsfield and Warren, Vermont, or you can settle for just four gaps and sign up for this June 29 gran fondo. Organizers change up the route every year, but it generally covers 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. The state’s lush countryside and fully supported aid stations are such a draw that Coloradans and Californians make the trip.


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(Max Pixel)

Alpine Panorama Route

St. Margrethen to Aigle, Switzerland

Style: Road tour
Miles: 300

One of nine officially designated bike tours in Switzerland, National Route 4, also known as the Alpine Panorama Route, is itself nine stages long and covers 300 miles while gaining 30,000 feet in the mountains and the rolling hills of the Swiss foreland. You’ll ride past bucolic farmland, mountain passes and gorges, castles, and tidy chalets with self-pay apple-cider stands. The well-marked route is great for self-guided tours, and if you’re feeling fit, try the dramatic punch up to the ski station of Saas-Fee.


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(C J B Scholten/Wikimedia Commons)

Tai Mo Shan Downhill

Hong Kong

Style: Downhill mountain-bike trail 
Miles: 18+

Named for the tallest mountain in Hong Kong, which it descends, this route is really a series of trails that takes you from Tai Mo Shan Country Park, past the Tai Lam Chung Reservoir, and all the way to the Gold Coast, if you chose. Expect steeps, rock gardens, and berms, with drops up top and terrain that mellows out somewhat as you descend until you reach the fast, beginner-friendly trails around the reservoir and, eventually, the ocean. You’ll want a dual-suspension bike with plenty of travel and a friend or taxi to shuttle you, as it’s a big climb to the trailhead.              


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(Glen Bowman/Creative Commons)

Fóia

Algarve, Portugal

Style: Road 
Miles: 20+

The word has long been out among regular tourists that Portugal is more affordable and less crowded then the rest of Western Europe, but that news is only now reaching the cycling community. The Algarve region, in the country’s far south, is a perfect mix of culture and rolling terrain, and it features a great assortment of category 2, 3, and 4 climbs, with stops along the way for coffee and pastries. From the town of Almádena, head through the foothills of anachronistic Portugal and finish atop Fóia, the region’s highest peak. For steeper climbs, head north to Manteigas and fuel up for the effort with a “Super Bock”—a local beer.


best rides
(Pinnedgrit)

Belgian Waffle Ride

San Marcos, California

Style: Gravel
Miles: 133
When: May 5

This sufferfest soothes its 13,000 feet of elevation gain and roughly 130 miles with waffles and beer. That’s great, but we mostly love it because, unlike some other gravel beatdowns we know, the waffle ride happens in May in sync with Europe’s spring classics, the spirit of which it has been designed to replicate, so you (probably) won’t die of heat exhaustion.


best rides
(Trailsource.com/Creative Commons)

Dale Ball Trails to the Winsor Trail

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Style: Cross-country singletrack
Miles: 25+

You’ll have to love climbing for this one. Leaving from Santa Fe’s central plaza, you’ll climb the Dale Ball Trail network and find your way to the Santa Fe National Forest and the Chamisa Trail, which has two routes that ascend about two miles to the Winsor Trail, a steady, 9.3-mile doubletrack grind that tops out after 7,000 feet of climbing. But that means there’s 7,000 feet of descending ahead of you. And better yet, it all ends in the village of Tesuque, whose namesake market is home to the best taco and enchilada plate and margarita around.


best rides
(wwoods/Wikimedia Commons)

Mount Washington Hill Climb

North Conway, New Hampshire

Style: Road climb
Miles: 7.6 
When: August 17–18

It’s been called the hardest hill climb on earth, and in terms of actual bike races, it lives up to that hype. The average grade is 12 percent, after all, and some large sectors sustain 16 to 18 percent, while the last few hundred feet max out at 22 percent. That’s steep enough that in spots you’ll have a hard time maintaining traction on your rear wheel. Sadly, the only time you can ride this treasure is during the actual race (and its one practice ride), which benefits the Tin Mountain Conservation Center. That needs to change, because cyclists that don’t have $350 to spend on the entry fee should get the chance to test themselves, too, but the benefit is worthy if you have the cash.


best rides
(Dave Silver/Wikipedia)

BC Bike Race

British Columbia, Canada

Style: Singletrack
Miles: 200+
When: July 4–12

The best ride is the one you’re on right now. Which is why we’re including the BC Bike Race in this roundup. Instead of telling you which section of trail in B.C. is our favorite, you can tell us. The race covers seven stages and includes the rooty, loamy boreal riding that western Canada is famous for. It can be grindingly technical. It can be fast and flowy. What is constant is Canadian beer. In short, it’s like cycling: wildly diverse in its excellence and all the better for it.


best rides
(Courtesy Giba Gorge)

Giba Gorge Mountain-Bike Park

Pinetown, South Africa

Style: Cross-country and downhill 
Miles: 15+

Technically, it’s not one ride but seven, but if you find yourself in South Africa with the need to shred dirt, head to this private bike park 17 miles northwest of Durban and the Indian Ocean, where you’ll shred berms, rock drops, and bridges and push yourself on fast, fun climbs. Anchored by cross-country trails like the Blue Route, a ten-mile loop that’s one of the most popular rides in the country, the park also features downhill and enduro trails to give your full-suspension rig a workout, as well as BMX and supercross tracks and horse-riding routes.  


best rides
(Aquarianbydesign/Wikimedia Commons)

Mount Tamalpais to Point Reyes  

Marin County, California

Style: Road
Miles: 94

You can ride this route as part of the Mount Tam Century or on your own whenever it suits you. But you must ride it. Our friends that are familiar with the route rave about both the ride quality of its beautiful California tarmac and the views as you emerge from the fog of the redwood forests. Loops in this area can run any length you like. We recommend the 94-mile option that includes the climb up 2,560-foot Mount Tamalpais, but whatever route you choose, you’ll likely gain 3,000 feet or more.


best rides
(José Luis Rodríguez C./AP)

Breck Epic

Breckenridge, Colorado

Style: Cross-country
Miles: 220+
When: August 11–16

Breckenridge is home to some of the longest and most rollicking backcountry rides in North America, but figuring them out on your own can be a lesson in orienteering. Better to sign on with the Breck Epic, a six-day race/ride that will see you tackle a 35-to-50-mile loop of the region’s most amazing trails each day for six days. That’s a staggering amount of high-country singletrack and would involve much cursing and map reading to navigate on your own. Days three (Guyout), four (Aquaduct), and five (Wheeler) are the most memorable, and you’ll finish each stage in the tent with a recovery sandwich known as a Big Johnson: PB&J with fluff and potato chips smashed in.

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