A comprehensive trail map of southern France would look as spaghetti-like as a metro map of Manhattan, with more area covered in colorful lines than not. Like its neighboring southern European nations, Spain and Italy, nearly every hillside that can support a trail does. Winter temperatures in the Mediterranean climate are mild, and there are far more sunny days to enjoy than wet ones.
Nested in the foothills of the French Alps, Evo Bike Park reaps the benefits of a seaside climate combined with steep slopes. The year-round park is open Saturday through Monday, with weekday shreds available for reservations of nine or more riders. Uplifts are handled by a pair of giant military-style trucks that shuttle riders to the top while enjoying open views of the nearby countryside and chats with bench buddies.
Shuttle drivers take care of the loading and unloading process, and all you have to do is ride.
There is a series of jumps at the bottom of the trails where you can practice your shapes while waiting for the next lift. Each shuttle ride lasts roughly 12 minutes, so you won’t be sessioning long before getting back to the gravity-fed lumps. With these quick lift intervals, riders can descend 10-15 times throughout the day, if their forearms can handle it, making Evo a fantastic spot for honing all manner of gravity skills.
The blue trails at Evo are flowy and fast, with large berms and smooth tread. There are some steeper sections, but the beginner and novice riders on the shuttle reported pure fun and excitement. I had fun riding Dirty Wave into its two blue lines toward the bottom. There are plenty of ways to make the descent as challenging or as chill as you prefer, both by doubling the smaller jumps or airing the berms. There are not many smooth flow tracks where I live, and I took advantage of the chance to practice riding the tall berms faster each lap.
The red trail that we rode the most is called Slate Line. It felt super steep until I rode the black line next to it. The trail rolls across the ridge, taking a couple of shorter plunges downhill before it meets the spine of the hillside. From there it becomes steeper and rockier, but at a pitch you could stop on if you had to in most sections. The lower switchbacks and chutes are rocky and natural. This was my personal favorite track in the park.
The adjacent red track, titled Whip It, is well-designed for exactly that. The trail consists of over 50 jumps, all built for a particular speed and timing. This is a good track to ride easy once or twice to get an idea of what you want to hit and how fast you want to hit it. If you can follow a local down it for your first full speed run, even better. For folks who prefer traction over hang time, there are some good spots to watch other people risk their bones alongside and between the jumps. We didn’t get any photos on Whip It, as there were not heaps of folks keen to huck that hard.
Some of the black designated trails were being worked on when I visited Evo, but I did get to ride the lower part of Original Gangster, and the length of Chainsaw. The open chunk of Original Gangster was a steeper and more natural version of the blue trail that flows into it. Apart from being steep, it is not particularly more difficult to ride than any of the blue trails. Chainsaw, on the other hand, has some wall-style descending, with narrow catch berms at the bottom that you need to look through, rather than at. I love steep trails, but this one is a bit past my personal fun zone. For folks training or practicing for true DH racing, this is your spotlight.
Where to stay
There are a number of towns nearby, with their own share of history and attraction. Digne Les Bains is the closest hamlet, surrounded by its own collection of natural tracks to peruse when the park is closed. If you prefer a larger city, Aix en Provence is about an hour and 20 minutes south of the park, and Marseille sits along the warm sea 1.5 hours away.
- Open Saturday-Monday, 9 am – 5 pm, year round
- Elevation drop per lap: 235 meters (771ft)
- Shuttle service via 15-passenger trucks
- Full day: €29, with half day and group rates available
- Open Tuesday-Friday for reservations only, for groups of 9 to 40 riders
- 7 tracks open, with several more in the works
- Park break daily from 12:30 – 13:30 for lunch
- A burger truck serves lunch daily, with several different sandwiches, a vegetarian patty, fries, and cold beers available: +33 (0) 6 26 63 43 93
- Call the park to ask about available rental bikes
- Nearest airport: Marseille