Mountain biking

Markus near the end of the Bacu Orovigili cross-country ride
Technical descent, Scala di San Giorgio, Urzulei

The publication of the mountain bike guide to Sardinia at the end of 2011 really established the island for mountain biking. In particular “our” area, Ogliastra, on Sardinia’s east coast, has become a new destination for serious bikers. In the first half of 2014, 15% of guests in The Lemon House came specifically for a mountain biking holiday, often bringing their own bikes, such as Markus on the Bacu Orovigili cross-country rides in the photo on the left, or Andrew in the photo on the right as he tackles the technical Scala di San Giorgio descent.

Sardinia mountain biking - Description of Talana Sorberine ride

Peter started systematic exploration of Ogliastra’s footpaths with his mountain bike in 2009, developing for these route descriptions, GPS files and photos and videos. We use this know-how to advise our guests which are the best routes for them according to preferred riding style and ability. In the photo left, the description of the Talana Sorberine ride.
Videos give you a unique insight into what the riding is actually like and we particularly enjoy seeing the videos our guests have made – that’s what for them was memorable. Urzulei GASAU is the best cross-country ride on the east coast of Sardinia – see Janet’s video on the left – while for All-Mountain rides you have to choose Cala Sisine, see Runar’s video on the right (not viewable on mobile devices due to copyright on Norwegian music :( . These and many other rides are within 1 hour’s drive of The Lemon House and due to their elevation (600 – 1000 m amsl) are rideable even in summer. As you can see from the videos you can combine good mountain biking, as good as in the Alps or the Dolomites say our guests, with a beach holiday. A very popular combination :) .

Type of riding

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Mountain biking around where we live ont the east coast of Sardinia is likely to be very different from what most northern Europeans (the majority of our guests) find on their doorstep. We have easy cross country rides on fireroads in the valleys and in the rolling forests on the granite hills, more technical cross-country rides on rough singletrack – see eg Janet’s video above – and lots of really technical “alpine” singletrack. All the trails are natural and are next to the Mediterranean’s finest coastline, so that you can ride in the morning and swim in the afternoon. This is a KEY difference to mountain biking destinations in the Alps such as Riva di Garda or the Dolomites, and the riding is every bit as good, say our guests! One UK visitor commented that the singletrack descent to Cala Sisine (see the video above right of the singletrack from Su Irove Longu to the sea) was the “best descent I’ve ever done, even better for being natural”. A Slovenian said the 1000 m vertical descent singletrack from Olinie (see video above left) was a “singletrack worthy of the Alps”.
Some key facts for planning your mountain biking holiday here:

  • Unlike some other countries, in Sardinia there are no laws which prohibit mountain bikers from riding on footpaths. So there are tonnes of great singletracks and we ride (or try to!) all the footpaths, except the very popular walking route to Cala Goloritzè, which we leave for the many walkers to avoid conflicts, and because you have to push back uphill for 90 minutes after a 15 minute descent
  • Sonja Santa Maria Freeride, a technical singletrack mountain bike descent on the east coast of Sardinia
  • The riding is different to a UK trail centre. On the All Mountain and Freeride rides, you have tight ‘alpine’ switchbacks and sharp and loose rocks you don’t find on a black run, like “Santa Maria Freeride” in the photo on the right.
  • There is almost no mud!, and you can often ride all week without washing your MTB. From May to October it hardly rains, and even when it rains heavily the water soon drains away, though the flash floods do destroy the mountain dirt tracks where they cross the river beds, and many smooth tracks will have rocks exposed after rain.
  • There are no trail centres, nor professionally-maintained singletracks…you have instead are easy rides in the valley and in the rolling forests on the granite hills along relatively easy Forestry tracks suitable for 4WD vehicles (like Rik and Jenny in the photo below at Santa Barbara), or the shepherds’ 4WD tracks on the Supramonte. Singletracks: choose from the “Isola di Sentieri” paths, and rocky,
    Rik and Jenny on the fireroad in the woods at Santa Barbara

    technical singletrack climbs and descents along old muletracks made by shepherds and charcoal burners and suitable for good MTBers on the limestone Supramonte.

  • There is a lot of climbing! Within 8 km of The Lemon House the ground climbs up to 700m, and so you soon find yourself on steep climbs or (more fun unless you are Peter, who with his road biker background and skinny bod prefers climbs!) descents. We give people a lift up to the plateau above Baunei, or Arzana, Talana and Urzulei, in our 9-seat van (or take the bus) so that they can do rides which involve less climbing, and then roll back down. See these photo galleries

Sardinia mountain bike Arzana Villagrande

Sardinia mountain bike MTB / Mountainbike Sardinien / Sardegna: Arzana Villagrande

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Sardinia mountain biking Urzulei Talana

Sardinia mountain bike MTB / Mountainbike Sardinien / Sardegna: Urzulei Talana

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  • Some areas are very remote, with no mobile phone coverage and no-one there…occasionally you

    may meet a shepherd or, in winter, a hunter. They are the only people who go to these places. See the video on the right of one of the most remote rides, the “Flumineddu Circuit”. On this epic solo exploration, Peter met no-one and there was only a mobile phone signal at one point of the route. We can suggest which of the documented rides are OK to do by yourselves, and which it’s best to do with Peter or someone who’s done them before, …or you can go exploring with Peter.

Sardinia mountain biking Cala Luna, Sisine

Sardinia mountain bike MTB / Mountainbike Sardinien / Sardegna: Cala Luna, Sisine

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    So, if you want to ride natural trails with your mountain bike and don’t mind climbing, and fancy a dip in the sea afterwards, or maybe sea kayaking one day, Ogliastra and Sardinia is the place for you! You can ride these trails with hardtails, including those hired through The Lemon House, although to appreciate to the full the more technical All Mountain descents, you should bring a full suspension bike with at least 140 mm travel front and rear, or 160 mm for the Freeride rides.

    The MTB Rally di Sardegna

    Marco rides near Perda 'e Liana on the route of the Mountain Bike Rally di Sardegna

    The MTB Rally di Sardegna, a 6-day “extreme but accessibile” marathon mountain bike race with 400-500 km of riding and about 10-12.000 m of climbing, is held in Ogliastra each year at the start of June. Over the years we have helped promote the Rally. In 2009 Peter translated the website into English, and rode one of the stages. In 2011, together with our biker friends from Arzana who design the stages, Peter accompanied the Dutch journalist Roland Jacobs of Fiets magazine to ride the first Arzana-Perda ‘e Liana-Gairo stage, and Roland took some great photos which we used for the mountain bike guide to Sardinia. The guide includes a “sample” Rally stage, taking the “special stages” (each stage consists of easier transfers before and after the more technical “special stage” over which you’re timed) at Jerzu from the 2009 and 2010 races – the organisers sent us the GPS files and photos – and adding some hitherto undocumented singletrack a circular route. Full details of the Rally at http://www.rallydisardegnabike.it/.

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