Few extreme sports travel as poorly as mountain biking. “Flying is a nightmare,” says professional racer Ross Schnell. “You have to disassemble the bike, cram it into a travel case, and pay these crazy fees—and more than half of the time they lose the bike.” But you shouldn’t let any logistical nuisances hold you back from a much-needed, two-wheeled escape. Unlike Schnell, contractually bound to lug his deluxe, high-performance, full- suspension Trek Remedy around the globe (our hearts go out to him), you have a much easier solution: Leave everything at home. At these booming trail-riding meccas of varying continent, terrain, and degree of difficulty (not to mention fitness level), all you need is a ticket and a toothbrush. Though we would strongly suggest a fresh pair of legs, too.
Near this quiet, windswept town perched on the southern side of the Sierra Nevada, mountain bikers careen down uncrowded, slaterock trails laid by Roman road builders eons ago. (The area has remained largely uncorrupted since the Moors settled here during the Middle Ages. Current population? Roughly 400.) The riding is intense, open, and fast—a welcome change of pace from the herky-jerkiness of your nearest root-laden forest.
What to do: The company Switchbacks handles all of your logistics and instruction. One week of shuttles, a bike, tutor sessions, and trail guides costs roughly $1,000 per person. For lodging, we recommend holing up at the Hotel Estrella de las Nieves in nearby Pampaneira—a rustic, upscale establishment equipped with a rooftop pool, ideal for a scenic rest after a full day’s ride.
Where to fly: Málaga
Evenings: Restaurante Teide
Fitness level: Mid to High
With its rugged, Andean highlands and low-slung tropical forests, Ecuador is a biking paradise. Riders begin a 10-day journey in Quito and eventually pedal their way up an arduous, 15,000-foot ascent to the hardened lava trails of Cotopaxi, an active volcano. Rookies need not apply. This trip is called “Taming the Dragon” for a reason.
What to do: H&I Adventures runs the excursion at $2,907 per person (with an extra $850 for the bike), which includes transportation, a professional guide, and several nights’ lodging at multiple spots across villages and camps in the Ecuadorian countryside. The company advises participants to arrive in fit form and ride at least once a week with training in rocky, rooty, and singletrack terrains.
Where to fly: Quito
Evenings: Hacienda El Porvenir in El Chota
Fitness level: High
These flame-colored, slick-rock mountains used to be a spaghettilike mess where adrenaline junkies pedaled at their own risk. But after a trailblazing effort in recent years by the local bike community and U.S. Forest Service, Sedona has emerged as the nation’s premier mountain biking destination. Get there as soon as you can. The more than 200 miles of trails— from easy, multiuse paths to dangerous, technical tracks flying over rock formations and creek beds—are luring diehards from Utah’s trendy and congested Moab.
What to do: Pure Adventures ($875 for a 7-day/8-night package includes bike; $195 for guided rides) and Over the Edge Sports ($90 per person a day for guided group rides) each offer bike fittings, in addition to updated maps of the area’s shapeshifting routes. Book a room at the low-key Red Agave Resort ($139 for a studio; $239 for chalet), mere paces from the mouth of the area’s popular “Slim Shady” trail.
Where to fly: Phoenix, AZ
Evenings: Oak Creek Brewery & Grill
Fitness level: Low to Mid