Top 10s

Top 10 offroad destinations

Why wait for Spring to come to you when you can get the best of the warming weather abroad?

Devon

United Kingdom

Company: Wheeldon Off-Road Centre
Costs: From £199
Dates: Year-round
Experience level: Beginner to intermediate
Contact: www.wheeldontwo.co.uk

South Devon is home to cream teas, scones, miles of ship-wrecking coastal cliffs interspersed by glorious sandy beaches and Europe’s only public purpose-built indoor motocross track - all 30,000 square feet of it at the Wheeldon Farm Off-Road Centre.

Skill levels and ability are quickly perceived during our first sessions. As road bike riders we sorely lack any serious off-road riding skills, but that’s normal here and nobody laughs. Much. They video your performance here and we review the tapes as a howl of cackles echoes through the barn. “Sit further forward, get your elbows out, shift your weight, straighten your legs, push down harder on the bars, dig that front wheel in”. It’s confusing at first but is all constructive criticism that helps you to develop your skills.

For the second day we opt to ride on the intricate network of green lanes that crisscross in abundance across Devon.

Andy and Jim Savery run a tight ship at Wheeldon Farm, with a complete fleet of the latest Suzuki off-road machines varying from the small-wheel RM85 through to the full-on RM-Z250. This place is a haven for off-road fans, with every type of off-road riding catered for, from green-laning to red-blooded action on the indoor circuit.

Spain

Competa

Southern Spain

Company: Trailblazers
Costs: From £150 per day
Dates: Year-round
Experience: Beginner to intermediate
Contact: www.trailblazers-spain.com

Welcome to ‘Competa’ in southern Spain. It’s March and the sun’s well and truly out. A bunch of well-maintained Yamaha WR450’s wait in line, as do three Irish lads, two English blokes and a Swede. It’s not the start of some smutty joke, but there were seven very sore arses at the end of the day…Trailblazers have been running bespoke off-road tours in this part of Spain by British hosts, Graham and Liz. They can make it as easy or as hard as you want, and cater for groups out of their Competa, Marbella and Murcia operations, all handily near major airports. Pick one that suits your holiday plans.

A quick pep talk and away we go, riding out of Competa and up into the Sierra de Competa mountains behind. There are few roads up in these parts, just access tracks that turn into single tracks. And then nothing at all. The temperature cools as we head upwards, but the activity keeps you warm. I am no Stefan Everts but after just twenty minutes I already have a shit-eating grin plastered on my face. The WRs are punchy and powerful but easy to ride and give you plenty of confidence. The trails are rock-strewn but easily ridden as we ride up through stunning scenery and various terrains; some rocky, some sandy and even some snow sections right at the top of the mountains. Look over your shoulder (if you dare) and the Mediterranean shimmers in the distance.

The beauty is that all these routes can be ridden by riders new to off-road, or can be as testing as you like for the more experienced. On the day we rode, four out of the seven of us were new to dirt bikes and everyone coped impressively.

After five hours’ riding it’s time for a well-earned lunch, a half-hour stop to eat and re-hydrate and then it’s off again for the last two hour ride of the day – perfect.

Trailblazers have got a well-oiled, flexible set-up. They sort out hotels, hire cars and food whilst riding for two and three day rides or you can simply book and turn up for a days ride. The prices are pretty reasonable considering how much you get, and it’s a personal service they provide. Whether you’re an experienced off-roader or totally new to the discipline Spain is ideal. Close to home, affordable and bloody good fun.

Slovakia

Podluzany

Slovakia

Company: Adventure in Slovakia
Costs: From €150
Dates: Year-round
Contact: www.adventurein2slovakia.com

Experienced guides lead you through a plethora of tricky yet increasingly fun tracks, open pasture, forests and river beds on your own bike or on one of their immaculately prepped KTMs. Accommodation is also available from €30 per night, and they’ll even help with transfers and sourcing a flight to Bratislava for you. How nice!

Italy

Lucca

Northwest Italy

Company: Enduro Tuscany
Costs: £130-500
Dates: Year-round
Experience level: Intermediate to expert
Contact: www.endurotuscany.com

Enduro Tuscany is based just outside of Lucca, a hidden gem of a walled town featuring some of Italy’s finest medieval architecture, superb dining and even endless beaches less than half an hour away. They filmed the car chase from Quantum of Solace through the marble mines here, and now you can ride a dirt bike through the same location as Bond himself.

Luring you into a false sense of security, the day starts in typically relaxed Italian fashion, with a hearty breakfast and a couple of cups of strong espresso. Then it’s out for the first ‘test’ of the day on brand new Honda CRF250s. It’s not long before we’re beginning to think we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. If blood, sweat and tears are your thing, then the technically demanding trails through the Tuscan mountains will be right up your street. We persevered, picking up the CRF time and again on the steep rocky climbs, forearms pumping hard with the effort, but a feeling of perverse enjoyment coursing through our bulging veins.

As the sun descended over the mountains at the end of day four, we reclined, battered but with a satisfying feeling of achievement and all thoroughly glad we took Richard’s advice to ride the smaller CRF250 over its bigger 450 brother. Lighter and more nimble, it coped admirably with the tough and testing terrain where skill wins over sheer power ever time.

Portugal

Mexilhoeira Grande

Portugal

Company: Algarve Off-Road
Costs: From €169-€1160
Dates: Year-round
Contact: www.algarve-offroad.com

Algarve Off-Road in Portugal is a great opprortunity for some early sun and excellent riding this Spring. Seven day tours are the norm, but if it’s just a long weekend away you’re looking for they’ll cater for that too - just give ‘em a bell to sort the details. Sat atop one of the latest 2009-spec Husabergs is a superb way to tackle the varied terrain encompassing forests, mountains, coastal regions and dusty plains as you navigate through the ‘Golden Triangle’. Then you’ll head back to base via the southerly most tip of Europe, the Cabo de Sao Vicente, with steep cliffs and plenty of wheel spinning sandy trails to test your riding skills.

Romania

Romania

Company: Adventure Romania
Costs: £850
Dates: March-November
Contact: www.adventuromania.co.uk

Romania offers some of the most spectacular scenery on offer in Europe. Each tour covers 100 miles a day, catering for every level of riding ability. Stephen & Vica Palmer offer bespoke riding packages to suit your group’s skill levels, a choice of machinery from his new fleet of Yamaha WR 250 or Honda CRF 230s, great accommodation and food in his own guesthouse, and the Carpathian Mountains right on the doorstep.

United States

Moab

Western United States

Company: Moab tours
Costs: £500-600
Dates: Feb - Sept
Experience level: Expert
Contact: www.moabtourcompany.us

Moab is a tumbleweed town nestled between two rivers and a deep gorge 250 miles south-east of Salt Lake City. It’s the weekend playground of Utah, a place where 4x4s are invited to drive over fossilized Tyrannosaur bones. It won’t last for long because (quite rightly) the environmental lobbyists – or “fuckin’ liberals” as they’re known in Moab - have cottoned on to what’s going on and are rattling their sabres with increasing volume, so if you want to ride Moab book a week off work and do it soon.

There’s only two places in town where you can rent bikes; look for parked-up Hummvees and hand over your credit card. 5hrs rental is £120, and that’s plenty for your first day. We opted for two battered but sound XR400s. They give you a badly-drawn trail map, point you in the direction of a gigantic mesa that towers over the horizon, and say “go that way.” That’s it – you’re on your own.

Riding Moab is not for wimps. The trails start easy enough but as you wind upwards through incredible canyons and arches it’s a mix of deep sand and rock steps. You’re stood up the entire time, looking ahead, scoping the next place to play. It’s a weird sensation, riding on solid sandstone, a place where knobblies make no difference to grip and 500ft chasms yawn to either side. Make a mistake here and it could be the last one you ever make as you plummet to your doom. The sheer size and scale of the place fair puts the zap on your head – where you see is where you can ride.

The rims on our XR400s are seemingly made from shipping-grade steel as we smash from one rock-step into the next. You’re as giddy and excited as a child, you can’t ride anything like this in Europe and can’t believe you’re allowed to out here, attempting to climb vertical rock climbs like a trials rider. My riding buddy wipes out on the suitably named ‘wipe out hill’, a vertical slickrock climb, and mashes his knee. How I laugh. The only people we encounter all day are some rednecks on holiday, five ATVs all two-up. “Man, this place is awesome, we’re from Colorado and we’ve never seen nothing like this.” The dude unclips a Glock 21 from his holster and we blaze off a few clips at Coke cans before he lets his 8 year-old son have a go. Damn, I love the American outdoors...

Iceland

Iceland

Volcanic Off-Road Heaven

Company: Blue Mountain
Costs: Approx £1200
Dates: Late June to early September
Experience: Intermediate to expert
Contact: www.bluemountain.is

I’d spent a day in Iceland on a whirlwind whale watching package trip back in 2001 for my 30th and was completely mesmerised by the archaic beauty of the volcanic aftermath that covers the island. Just a three-hour flight from Heathrow (approx £165 return), Iceland is an island of outstanding natural beauty, and the ideal location for an off-road adventure.

I tracked down a new company, Blue Mountain tours, founded in early 2008. It was evident that they’d spent a great deal of time scouting the routes, checking out hotels and watering holes to make sure everything was perfect.

This trip is not for the fainthearted, though, with over 1100km of tough riding over five days but the rewards far outweigh the effort. Despite being so far north, Iceland has a pretty temperate climate, perhaps due to the natural heat harnessed within the island’s geological make-up, making for perfect off-road biking weather.

Before you fly home, take time for a quick stop at the spectacular Blue Lagoon for a dip in the natural open air spa, that apparently has excellent healing properties - the perfect remedy for a few aches and pains gathered over previous days.

Morocco

Marrakech

Morocco

Company: Moto Aventures
Costs: From £2,000 per person
Dates: May 2009, October 2009
Experience level: Intermediate to expert
Contact: www.motoaventures.com

Morocco is one of those places that’s soul defining. Miles of endless desert without another living thing for miles gives you ample opportunity to contemplate deep psychological aspects of your life, a time to reflect on past, present and future. Or you could just open the throttle a little wider and rip the shit out of the sand on a KTM 450EXC over the top of humungous sand dunes in search of the next superb, breathtaking trail.

Moto Aventures runs a number of tours out of three sites; Ouarzazate, Marrakech or Essaouira.

You don’t have to be of Dakar ability as the tours are not so much technical, more on a reasonably challenging and strenuous level. Make it through the day and you’ll be rewarded with excellent hotels laden with great local beer and sparkling blue swimming pools, ideal for the post-ride relaxation.

If you feel the need for a little extra tuition on the ride, Patsy Quick, the only woman to have completed the Dakar, will be on hand to offer words of wisdom and encouragement as you traverse this spectacular country. With flights from as little as £165 return, a week living the life in the al-Maghreb al-Aqsa - ‘The furthest land of the setting sun’ – is a bigger commitment than some of our entries but it’s an off-road ride you won’t forget in a hurry.

Mongolia

Mongolia

Company: Outback Mongolia
Costs: From €2,166 per person
Dates: Year-round
Contact: www.outback-mongolia.com

Follow in the steps of Genghis Khan as you take on the ultimate adventure through one of the last natural wildernesses on the planet. Tracking through the Ghobi Desert, camels and wild horses will become a common sight as they gallop across the Steppes. With an area covering a whopping 1.6 million square kilometres - the size of western Europe - this is a unique opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable expedition.

With changeable weather conditions, the itinerary can change at a moments notice, but whichever route you choose, you’ll come back with lasting memories.

Join the conversation!

Let us know what you think, just sign up for a free account, leave a comment and get involved!
Register Now

Latest Reviews

Review
Review
Review

Latest Videos

Feature
Article
Article