The raddest mountain bike races on Earth.
After longing for my bike over these dull, frigid winter months, I’ve begun to fantasize about spring time, green trees, and sick single track again. I know, it’s a little early here in the east coast of the United States to start anticipating any quality dirt time without hopping on an airplane…so I’ve let my imagination take over and the airplane idea to take hold…
In a small little village in Germany, lies an old salt mine that has taken to innovative ways to increase revenue: host races and events of all kinds in it’s underground tunnel system. Erlebnisbergwerk “Glück auf” Sondershausen (Adventure Mine “Good Luck” Sundershausen) is where you’ll find the Race to the Center of the Earth. Pro DH bikers like Brian Lopes have claimed victory in this dark, and sometimes dangerous, race. Falling is doubly painful as the salt seeps into your wounds and teams are formed on the fly when light batteries go dead. You bet your ass this is a rad race. Good luck getting in – space is limited and it’s more of “who you know” than anything else.
Cape Epic, South Africa
Some call the Absa Cape Epic the ‘Tour de France’ of mountain biking. Some call it insanity. Others are drawn to the adventure. The Absa Cape Epic is a test of strength, endurance, resilience, and preparation. This 800km, 8-day stage race is the longest in the world and is not for the faint of heart. Two-person teams are required and as one rider put it, “You will carry your partner and you will need to be carried by your partner.” You’ll ride through lush greenery, majestic mountains, and alongside the wild nature that represents South Africa.
Downieville All-Mountain Classic, United States
Downieville All-Mountain Classic is a 2-day, cross-country/Downhill mountain bike race in sleepy Downieville, California, USA. What makes this race on the rad list is that not only is it in beautiful northern California, but the race conditions are unpredictable. In 2011, the race route had to be altered because of snow cover. Volunteers were shoveling snow the morning of the race to continue to clear trail paths. On top of that, it’s a 46 mile battle to the finish line. You’re required to use the same exact bike for cross-country AND downhill – the bike has to be the same weight both days and have the same tires. A killer climb plucks the weaker participants out of the pack almost immediately and the rocky, technical downhill makes it anybody’s race.
Single Speed World Championships, Location Varies (South Africa, 2012)
Costume? Check. Beer? Check. Singlespeed? Check. The major requirements for the Single Speed World Championships include these three plus…you have to be fast. This race has been won by world champions and locals alike but the real heart of the race lies in the “don’t take yourself so seriously” culture that has been created around the event. The kick off starts with a contest to see who will host the following year’s race (this year won by leopard suit wearing guys with afros singing “In the Jungle”), lots of bike riding and beer drinking leads up to race day. Race morning the camp is turned into a circus of costumes and bike decoration while local reporters try to take it all in. You’ll laugh the entire way to the finish line while pushing yourself harder than you ever have – in one gear.
Valparaíso Cerro Abajo – Urban DH Race, Chile
Valparaiso has some of the most dedicated and energetic cycling fans I’ve ever seen. As you screech through someone’s backyard, they fly after you waving a banner and screaming encouragement. This race takes you along the backside of houses, through busy streets, down stairs, over sidewalks, through crowds, ending at the center of town. Possibly unsafe, totally unbelievable, and incredibly fun…it’s a bucket list kind of race.
Red Bull Holy Ride, Japan
Dude…it’s at a SHRINE! Amongst the endless amounts of stairs it seems you have to ride down, this race is held at Ishizuchi Shrine which is for worshipping the god of wishes (convenient). Nestled in the mountains of Japan, the shrine has been around for over 1,300 years. Sacred and transcendent meets downhill racing.
Want to add to the list? Disagree and want to rock-paper-scissor to see who has the best list?