Nestled roughly 25 kilometers southwest along the Mediterranean coast from its provincal capital of Savona, Finale Ligure is a must-shred location for mountain bikers of all stripes. The lively town is home to roughly 12,000 Finalese residents, with a summer tourist population that easily doubles that. Finale, as it exists today, is comprised of numerous former towns and hamlets, of which the medieval-walled village of Finalborgo definitely deserves a long look. People flock to this little seaside city for its sandy beaches, gelato tours, hidden beer and wine cellars, gnocchi al pesto, rock climbing, sailing, Roman-era wonders, and — above all — the amazingly well-engineered and maintained trails.
In a coming article tomorrow, we will share some ways to slice a Finale trail pizza in order to taste the full experience, but for now, we had a chance to chat with one of the finest mountain bike guides in the area.
With between 20-50 shuttle vans running most days in Finale, it can be tough to decide who to roll with, and where. My recommendation is to find a true local who not only has intel on when new tracks will open, but also knows exactly where to send you for supper.
One such local, Bobby Bertone, owns and runs a well-oiled guide service aptly named Finale Bike Shuttle. To top off his keen knowledge of the area, Bobby is lightning fast. Even if he had a policy that clients who can drop him on a ride don’t have to pay, he wouldn’t be out any cash.
Here is a brief look at the life of a Finale MTB guide
How did you get started working in as a guide in Finale, and for how long have you been guiding mountain bike tours?
I started mountain biking with my friends in 2001, and I have been guiding for the past 7 years.
Have you been able to find solid support through the bike industry for your shuttle business?
I must say that I consider myself lucky. For clothing and protection I have to thank Riccardo Ricalcati at The Ultimate Bike Shop, and for bikes The Marchisio Millessimo Store. I was born in Finale, live in Finale, and have three generations of family in Finale, so I have Finale in the heart. The local shops support me very well.
How has the MTB culture changed in Finale since you started guiding?
The culture of mountain biking has changed a lot since there were only XC and DH bikes [in the early days]. Now everything has changed and I can not say if for the better or worse. It would take hours to tell that story.
Do you think that the number of riders coming to Finale is sustainable for the community?
To date, the number of bikers in Finale Ligure from mid-September to the end of May is truly a delirium. In my opinion, the city of Finale Ligure should offer more for bikers than just the trails.
Who are some of the trail builders in Finale?
Here we touch on a very sensitive button. Fabrizio Valenti and Fulvio Balbi created Free Ride Finale, and shortly thereafter Alessandro Massa started creating many trails. Also, the mythical Ivo created and is creating trails in the Feglino area.
Now all Finale maintenance is entrusted to some guys like the [legendary] Robi Matteo, and always the area of Feglino to Ivo. I have proposed that each shuttle operator should be responsible for taking care of one trail. If we all took one trail, they would all be in perfect shape.
How has the annual EWS race affected the MTB scene in Finale?
Since the [start of the] EWS there [has been] an influx of people, which has become very important. There are people coming from all over the world, almost all year round.
What is the future of mountain biking in Finale? Is it changing?
In my opinion, the future is more e-bikes and fewer shuttles.
What is a perfect day of riding in Finale for you? What are your favorite tracks?
I do not have any particular days because I’m lucky to go almost every day, but my favorite trails are Cavatappi and Madonna Della Guardia.
Where is your favorite place to eat and drink in Finale?
Bar la Scaletta in Feglino Luisa is number one!
What bike are you currently guiding on?
This year I have the Trek Slash. It’s a scary fast bike.
On a typical shuttle day riders can expect to make 4-5 runs before stopping in one of the mountainside villages for pasta or sandwiches. Lunch is not a quick ordeal for Italians, so plan on a “good hour” of feasting. After lunch, if you want more gravity practice, your guide will often take you to a new peak or ridgeline to explore for the rest of the day. Most shuttles head to the barn around 5-6pm, and your afternoon will be balanced with an additional 4-5 solid rocky runs — provided you have ample energy and forearm strength.
Typical bike shuttle cost
- €50 for a full day
- €25 for a 1/2 day
- €10 for a single lift
While I fully agree with Bobby’s suggestion for traditional Italian grub, I would recommend visitors also step into Sir Arthur Craft Beer for a pint and some delicious tacos. Italians may be famous for pizza and wine, but their beer and Mexican food game is also surprisingly on point.