Life is a constant journey. Sometimes we travel the same roads and sometimes the same roads take us to new places and lead us into the unknown. This weekend our road led south through the Gotthard tunnel to the Italian speaking Canton of Ticino. With a bad weather forecast for the north side of the Alps we went in search of two days of sunshine and singletrail. After packing our bike rucksacks with everything we needed for the weekend we jumped on a train and headed off through the magic weather tunnel.

Our initial plan was to ride a slightly optimised version of a route I had done a couple of times back in 2010. It involved a taking the cable car from Rivera up towards Monte Tamaro and then piecing together as much singletrail as possible while making our way south. There are a number of versions of this ride, but we wanted to try a different way to figure out which is “the best”!

Unfortunately as we got to the lift station we discovered the the access to the top of the trail was closed due to too much snow. We decided not to chance it and instead headed south towards Lugano to do an old favourite half day tour on the Arbostara Peninsula.

Short sharp climb on Monte Arbostara

The Arbostara tour is one of those trails that can make anybody smile. It involves a small bit of pedalling to get the most out of it but it is something that almost anybody with a bit of confidence on the bike can ride and there are some great views of the lake on the way around. There are also a number of great lunch spots in Morcote to enjoy some sunshine and a pizza by the lake.

Woodland goodness on Monte Arbostara
There is enough to keep the trail “interesting”.

After a very fun afternoon and a quick people watching drink at the Piazza in Lugano we took the lazy option and got a bus to Tesserete where we had planned to overnight. After a quick shower it was off to the restaurant for some food and to plan Sundays tour.

Not a bad view to finish a ride.

We knew the rough route we were going to do but rather than follow the path most followed and having gotten a tip in a local issue of a recent magazine we decided to go against the normal flow and do the tour in the opposite direction to the way it’s normally done. This we figured would allow us a longer singletrail descent almost directly to the train station we had started at the day before. With the rough route in our head it was time for some sleep and an early rise to get in the 1100m of climbing we had in the morning to the start of the trail.

With views like this you forget the climb.

Sunday morning dawned with a perfect blue sky and breakfast on the terrace under palm trees. After breakfast it was back in the saddle for 1100m of self powered altitude gain. As we wound our way up the road we wondered if it wasn’t possible to get a bus to the back of the valley and thus avoid about 500m of climbing. Soon we were in a rhythm though and the time passed in a blur of amazing views. After about an hour the paved road ended and we started to climb a steep fire road that was to take us to the saddle where our trail was to start. Another hour later and we were sitting in the sun on the pass looking at amazing views over Lugano and eating our sandwiches.

Not sure which is better, the trail or the view.

With a few extra calories it was back on the bikes and straight onto the trail. 4km’s passed in the blink of an eye. Swooping descents, flowing flats and burning climbs as the trail contoured it’s way along the hill never loosing or gaining more than a few metres. Every now and again we had to stop to savour the views and before focussing our attention back to the trail.

4km of swooping flowing goodness.

Soon it was back to making decisions… Tough decisions…. Keep going on what seemed to be an endless singletrail or take a short hike up to another pass and drop down the back before traversing onto our original route in an effort to extend the amount of trail we could ride… Soon our bikes were on our shoulders and after 5 minutes we were clicked back in our pedals with our bikes pointed downhill on another world class trail. All things come to an end though and to stick to our original plan we soon had to climb back up to the ridge to rejoin our original route. With lactate building in the legs and lungs gasping for air we rejoined the pass to see what would be our second hike a bike of the day. Almost 200m up the steep eastern flank of Monte Bar. With 1600m of altitude gain already in our legs we motivated ourselves with the thought almost 1400m of descent to end the day once we reached the summit.

Not just a walk in the park.
But the view is worth it.

A quick pause to enjoy the view and it was time to get back on the bikes and drop down off the wind exposed ridge. (Ironically from here we were looking directly across at our Plan A route for the day before and there wasn’t any snow at all to be seen!) At first the trail was almost impossible to make out and the wind was so strong it was making concerted efforts to blow us off the side of the mountain.

1400m to the valley. Worth every bit of the effort.

Soon we got down to a more defined trail and dropped down to the leeward side of the ridge and into one of the trails that we usually only dream about. Swooping and flowing with a perfect gradient towards the valley floor and regularly interspersed with some rocky features to ensure that we didn’t let our concentration slip just yet. Eventually this trail led us to the road and a paved descent before descent before dropping over the northern side of the ridge and down to the train station in Rivera.

Not always flowy on the descent!

We arrived in Rivera with just enough time to buy as many calories as possible and jump on a train to Bellinzona where we met with two of our SAA organisers on the platform. We enjoyed a relaxed journey back through the magic weather tunnel with each of us telling stories of our adventures in the sunshine.

Roll on next weekend.


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