Planning Your Summer MTB Adventures

It’s officially spring and while there may still be snow on the ground in some spots, it’s time to start planning an epic mountain bike trip for the summer! Depending on your budget and the level of adventure you’re seeking, here are three types of bike trips to consider.

Guided & Supported MTB Trips

If you’re planning an epic mountain bike trip, the itinerary should be primarily focused on riding. While getting in a ride or two during the family vacation is certainly a valid strategy, it’s not the type of trip we’re talking about here. This article is about putting together a full-on mountain bike trail assault!

With that in mind, one of the easiest ways to put together an MTB-centric vacation is to book a trip through a company like Sacred Rides or Western Spirit. The guide company will typically book accommodations, provide meals, plan routes, and even shuttle and guide you during the ride each day. Most companies will also help you get a bike rental if you need one so really the only thing you have to do is get yourself to the start (and back home at the end).

Sacred Rides: mountain biking in Peru

Guided trips are great for exploring unfamiliar areas and even foreign countries where logistics can be difficult. Of course all this hand-holding comes at a price – trips can cost as much as several hundred dollars per day per person. Trip itineraries can also be more rigid since you’ll be traveling with a group of customers. For solo travelers, being with a group is certainly a selling point, though it’s a bit of a gamble. Our advice? Bring at least one friend along. Popular dates and destinations often fill up quickly so now is the time to book for summer.

Logistically Supported MTB Trips

Been dreaming of riding Kokopelli’s Trail but don’t know how you’re going to carry all your gear? Tired of asking your significant other to sag you as you tackle that multi-day epic? Many companies offer supported trips where some (but not all) the logistics are handled for you. Shuttle services fall into this category as do hut-to-hut and sag service providers.

Last summer I rode from Durango to Moab with three friends through San Juan Hut Systems and it was a great trip. The company provided a series of rustic huts stocked with food and bunks in the National Forest separated by about a day’s ride. At the start of the ride we got a map, a key, and some instructions – and that’s about it. This type of trip allowed us to ride at our own pace and take any alternate trails along the way with no set start or arrival times each day.

Logistically supported trips do carry some risks including mechanical/medical emergencies, getting lost, and a lack of alternatives for bad weather days. You’ll have to cook for yourself at the end of a long day of riding and oftentimes your menu will be limited to the non-perishables stocked in your hut (or drop site). You’ll also need to carry personal gear (clothes, sleeping bag, spare parts, etc.) which for a long trip, can start to add up. Expect costs to be around $100 per person per day. As with guided tours, book early to ensure a spot on the trip of your choice.

Self-Supported MTB Trips

Ah, freedom! The sky is the limit when you plan your own mountain bike vacation – you can ride where you want, when you want, at whatever pace you want. You can camp out, stay at a fancy resort with lifts, or sleep in your car along the way. Budgets can range from ultra-frugal to money-is-no-object. Trips never fill up so you can go whenever you like.

We ended up riding this (scenic) gravel road because the trail we had planned to ride was closed due to prescribed burning. If we had had a local contact we might have avoided this situation.

It seems like most riders tend to go this route but frankly there are some drawbacks you might want to consider. If you’re like me, planning and preparing are the worst parts of any trip and there’s way more to it than you might think: where to stay, what to eat, how to get from trail to trail, how to transport bikes, etc. For local or “road trips” logistics are only slightly less complicated. If you’re flying to the ride, the details can quickly become overwhelming.

When you plan your own trip there’s also the risk you’ll miss out on great trails simply because you don’t know about them. Many years ago mudhunny and I planned a biking trip to the northeast including a couple days in Vermont. Somehow, despite buying books and doing online research, we missed the Kingdom Trails, arguably one of the most popular trail systems in the northeast. Hooking up with a local expert is the best way to find great trails but it’s not always an option when you go it alone.

Sneaking in a ride or two during a family vacation is one thing but planning your trip around mountain biking is another thing entirely. Decide which type of trip is best for you and do your homework because the ultimate goal is to get on the trail and let the details fade away!