Bike Trip Report – Finale & Pietra Ligure

At the beginning of the summer season, despite the increasing temperatures, we’ve decided to go visit the “mecca” of European enduro – Finale Ligure the dream riding location in Italy. Just a week before our arrival, the prestigious Enduro World Series competition was held here, as it is every year, where the world’s best riders in several disciplines try to win the championship. Finale Ligure is rightly considered a place with one of the most extensive trail networks ever. It is made up of 15 main larger or smaller parts, mostly named after nearby villages or hills such as Feglino or Issalo and you will find a total of about 300 trails. Together with beautiful beaches, seaside atmosphere and inseparable Italian cuisine, as well as year-round stable weather, it is one of the best places to ride your bike ever.

After a rather complicated wrist surgery, this was finally my first really intense bike experience, where I was supposed to function partly as a delegate, that is, to take care of our guests during the trip as well as on the trail, and in the second part even as a guide to lead our group. I was really looking forward to the ride with the guys, but at the same time I had a lot of respect for guiding after more than half a year out of the guiding saddle.

This time our riding “crew” consisted of a mixed team of riders made up of our Slovak delegate team – me and Martin Klučka, and five crazy croatians Viktor, Andrej, two Markos, Damir, and finally Mahir, a mad Bosniak who came up with the whole trip. This was also our very first trip with foreign guests to put into the mix, so it all promised a great experience ahead.

A damper on the whole experience happened just about 10 minutes into the drive towards Finale, when a fire truck hit our van and for the next 6 hours we were dealing with the police and our mechanics to get the car back on the road again… If you have the choice, stay far away from Fire Trucks, too big to mess with. Fortunately our main car mechanic Filip, who is also a very capable rider, has put the car together without it even appearing to be damaged in the first place. Half a day later we were again on the road like nothing happened. 

This year, the main part of the EWS competition was not held in the Finale itself as usual, but on the opposite side of the hill in Pietra Ligure, namely on the mountains of Monte Grosso and below Monte Carmo. This was great news for us because for our host and main guide Martin Accame from and his team of guides and drivers Pietra is their home ground and their playground where they grew up. Hello and thanks to Dominika, Ivano and Tam!

And since our guests were here for the first time and demanded a rougher, more intense experience from Finale than what an ordinary mortal would get, Martino and I put together an ambitious itinerary with two days on the Pietra side and one and a half days on the so-called “classics” that everyone who comes here should try.

Unlike Finale, Pietra is specific in that the trails are deep in the forest in the so-called “backcountry” and in most cases there are no asphalt roads leading to them. Therefore you cannot get here with a regular van, of which there are some 40 already in the area. It requires a proper 4X4, as in our case, a beautiful black Defender Jeep with a beefed-up trailer for bikes. Despite the great car, don’t expect comfort here, as the fire roads are often in a similar condition like at home, and thus the road to the trail head is often shakier than when going down the trail at full speed. In addition, e.g. for tracks like Issalo Extasy, you need a permit to enter the forest by car, which only two companies in the area have, and one of them is Flow, so we were happy that we wouldn’t have to pedal the final part up. 

Despite the fact that if you open the Trailforks map in Finale Ligure, most of the trails are marked blue, you have to remember that the difficulty here is dictated by the average in the area. For this reason, it is possible that you may often rightly think that you would rather label a blue trail as red or even black. Also, don’t expect flow trails in the sense that we know from home or, for example, in Austria. In Finale, you will find flow parts, but they are often, or rather always, interspersed with rocks, and the dry surface, sand, clay, or loose stones significantly increase the difficulty of the trails.

Since this was already our third joint trip to Liguria, we wanted to start with something new. That’s why on the first day we went to see the old-new area Osiglia. Trails were ridden already 15 years ago, but it has fallen into oblivion alongside the other more popular areas, as it is a little more remote. However, the home team revived the whole area and the result is really worth a visit.

As I mentioned above, it is difficult to find easier trails to start in Finale, as even classics such as Roller Coaster or Ingenere have several more difficult passages, so in the past it was a bit of a problem where to start with a new group that you didn’t really know in terms of riding skills. However, this was completely changed by Osiglia, which charmed us with its flow tracks with soft loam ground and tracks almost without rocks. Trails are not difficult, so they are also suitable for beginners, and the level of fun depends only on how much you want to let it go, or how you to let go of the brakes. In this area, we tried the three trails of Baltera DH and Osigilia DH, also with the alternative finish of Simona. Finally, we tried the River trail, which leads above the river, after which it got its name. Due to its speed and fun terrain, it has definitely become my favorite of the area.

Since the guys’ request was to ride as much as possible and try as many trails as possible without repeating them, we were already rushing in the Defender towards my favorite trail from our last trip, Issalo Extasy. Most shuttle companies drop you off at a fortress from the time of Napoleon, which was also used during the First and Second World Wars, and you could find kilometers of tunnels criss-crossing the mountains here. From there, you usually have another 30-40 minutes to pedal, depending on your fitness level, to the top of Issalo itself, which is the highest point in the entire Finale where the trails start at 1275m above sea level. Thanks to Martino, however, we got to the top relatively quickly in the jeep along the fire road.

However, in order to enjoy the view from the roof of the former military bunker on Issalo, one needs to be very lucky, since, just like in the case of Base Nato, which is probably the most popular area in Finale, it is usually cloudy and mostly foggy, just like this time too. In addition, thanks to the clouds, it rains much more often here, even when it’s beautiful and sunny down on the beach. This time we have encountered Issalo Extasy in a very wet state and after the first minute we regretted not having waterproof clothing. This is one of the longest trails with the highest elevation, which you will really appreciate after a long ride in the jeep. At the top, there is a couple of steep chutes, drops and natural stairs that wait for you. A little further on, the trail winds along the side of the mountain, where, however, when the humidity is high, a small spring flows on the trail, so you are guaranteed to get a free muddy bath. Later, Issalo winds its way along a stony clearing for a while, then through a pretty forest with a view of grazing cows whose bells ring in the distance. Then we get to the Revenant trail, which is very reminiscent of our home loam trails. It is a fast, pleasant trail with many natural rollers, several tight turns, and deep chutes where you will experience a significant compression at the bottom. There are also a lot of stairs and smaller drops, on which you can have great fun. Despite the water and us being soaked through on Issalo, Revenant did not disappoint and we definitely recommend adding this trail combo to your itinerary on the next visit.

For me, however, the biggest surprise of the day was the Toboga Di Canova trail, which now starts near the well-known Roller Coaster trail, but continues towards the end of the Revenant trail and ends at the well where the shuttle usually loads the bikers. Toboga is a super nice trail full of steps and drops, often in relatively closed turns and sloping terrain, so definitely something for more technically skilled riders. Toboga was definitely the most popular trail for me and the Croatian crew on the first day.

Finally, we went to Monte Grosso, which towers directly above Pietra Ligure. Monte Grossol was the scene of several EWS stages a week ago, and thanks to the rain, all but the Route Di Pietra trail were not rideable. These trails were built by Martino and his father, as they end a short distance from the Rose di Pietra, apartments and bungalows belonging to their family where they will happily accommodate you and, in addition to a fair price, you can enjoy a wonderful view of Pietra and the coast here. Monte Grosso also offers beautiful views of the sea, which is, with a few exceptions, very rare in Finale. Even though it is a relatively low hill, the trails here are steep and quite challenging due to the loose surface with stones. Sharp rocks peek out from the track at every step and remind us of the croatian bike area of Rabac in Istria, where our previous expedition took place. As befits the Croatian team, we ended the day with a barbecue with “maso na žaru”, a few bottles of good Italian beer, and a wonderful view of Pietra in the evening to complete the perfect experience.

A real backcountry Pietra Ligure experience awaited us on day two and at the end even one of the best stages from the EWS a week ago. To begin with, we started with a fun, but tough trail Oltre Finale, which starts at the top of the mountain with a relatively technical first part.

It is a four kilometer trail that winds nicely through the forest and you can enjoy it also going for the first time, as there are no tricky sections waiting for you. Subsequently, it connects to Rock n Rolla, whose name is really characteristic of this trail. A lot of stones, stairs, drops, all this in a sharply off-camber steep terrain, which will really awaken a rider of van lethargy. We finished off the first ride with Dog Eat Dog, which despite the similar terrain is even more fun to ride and the guys were absolutely ecstatic at the end of it, so we definitely recommend not to miss it on your next visit.

On our bike plate for the day, Martino also added a relatively new and largely unknown area of ​​Bardineto and Castelvecchio, where a fairly large tangle of trails was recently created. We tried Pian Fien, Ca Du Campo, or Supercanaleta. It was more about faster, less technical trails, but they were no less fun and were a welcome change after the morning start in Pietra.

I would still like to ride here a little longer and get to know this area, so that I could really evaluate and properly compare the quality of riding with the more famous areas. After a “short” lunch, which in Italy, no matter how hard you try, always stretches to an hour and a half or even two thanks to their primi, secondi and dolce, even without the second course and coffee. We finished our visit and were already looking forward to the final ride in Pietra, where Hiroshima Mon Amour and Hellboy 1 and 2 awaited us this time.

Hiroshima is a fast, steep, relatively straight course that makes beautiful use of the undulating terrain of the area. On the other hand, Hellboy, which was part of the EWS, goes through a beautiful open landscape, goes further along a narrower stone channel and generally drives a rider forward with its fun character. Out of all the trails so far, our gang liked Hellboy the most, and that might be due to the fact that it was in top condition after the EWS.

P.S. One of the great advantages of Pietra, which completely balances the limitation of getting here by vans and trudging around in the jeep, is that the trails are in very good condition most of the year and you will not meet nearly as many riders as, for example, on the Finale Ligure side. I’m not talking about the fact that you won’t come across braking bumps here, which are so common on more popular trails across the hill. 

This time, half of the crew and I headed straight to the beach after riding to refresh ourselves in the sea, which I missed a lot the first two days here. The sea had an ideal temperature and, according to the guys from Croatia, it was even a little warmer than in Istria. After a whole day of grinding the trails and bumping our asses in the jeep on dirt roads, I can’t even imagine a better ending. For the evening, I took the boys to the local Iguana beer pub and restaurant, where they make first-class pizza with local beer and you won’t meet a lot of tourists here, which is usually a sign of really good cuisine and often more favorable prices.

On our last full riding day, I took turns with Martino and took over the guiding, and this time pointed our dial towards the Ligurian “classics”. After two hearty days on the trails, I can say that even the relatively easier trails in Finale compared to those in Pietra were a real challenge. We started easily on probably the most famous and relatively easiest trail Roller Coaster, which, however, lost a little of its charm after the last reconstruction. Since it is also one of the most accessible trails, you will also find an endless number of braking bumps from excessive braking, which made our hands and bikes work far harden than on the more technical trails during the previous days. The Roller Coaster gets its name because of the many chutes and subsequent shots into the opposite hill, which resemble, you’ve guessed it, a roller coaster track. The rocky finish was very, very slippery thanks to the previous rains, and we each had to scoot several times to get our bearings. I had a great feeling about the trail from the last visit and had fun on it, but this time no one from our group liked it very much.

Therefore we moved to probably the most famous place in the whole of Finale, namely the Nato Base, a former military base that has been out of service for over 30 years and only the bare buildings remain. At the same time, it is probably the most popular starting point for several trails. What’s more, thanks to many graffiti artists, it’s a place where many bikers go to take really nice photos, which was the case also in our group. After about half an hour of taking pictures with Garfield, Peppa the Sailor or Megatron from Transformers, we finally set off on the trails.

Since it was quite cloudy and it looked like it was going to rain at any moment, we started with the most fun of the four Nato Base trails, the Base Nato trail. Here, the boys had a blast, and even though it started to rain like a torrent, no one minded it in the slightest and everyone had a true American smile on their faces. In truth, the weather made it all the more fun. On a side note, if you’re planning a trip here next time, don’t even look at the weather. With the number of trails and their variety, you can ride here to your heart’s content in any weather, and except for the wildest storms, a shuttle will always take you to the trails from Finale Outdoor Base.

Due to the fact that the forecast showed rain for a few more hours, we decided to keep riding. Since it was really very wet and the rain was still getting stronger, I decided to add the Madre Natura trail as the next one, which is probably the easiest of the Nato Base trails and therefore ideal for this weather. At the beginning, a nice flow with newly shaped berms, which held nicely, and it continued into the local classics of rocks, roots and a chute-drop, which I almost crashed on, since I didn’t roll nor drop it and somehow landed too front-heavy. The surface was great, but after finishing the trail we were already soaking wet and the mud covered our clothes from inside out. This year, some entrepreneurial Italians decided to set up a Coffee Trailer conveniently just under the Nato Base, so we had a good coffee to warm up and a bite to eat a stone’s throw away from the helipad at the base.

However, since our stomachs were already starting to rumble and we had sandwiches in the car, which we had prepared in the morning to maximize the ride and avoid a long lunch, we decided to take one more longer trail and eat properly. Ingenere is, like the already mentioned Oltre Finale, Roller Coaster or Issalo Extasy, one of the longest trails with more than 5 kilometers and 650 in elevation. You can get there from the Nato base by a short traverse along the Cravarezza trail and the beginning of the Crestino, where the Engineer itself starts. It is a wonderful fast trail that ideally combines flow and occasional technical obstacles. Thanks to its respectable length, you can go crazy on it to your heart’s content. At the end, it connects to the Crestino trail, where there are several options for completing it, and one of the best is a beautiful 10-15 meter long rock garden, which, although it seems challenging, actually holds the stone beautifully even in the rain, and it is a pleasure to finish the ride with it.

Under the bridge in Feglino, completely drenched, but all the happier we stuffed our sandwiches and hid in the pub for a beer, a radler and a coffee. We still had the Pino Morto trail in our plan, but thanks to the heavy rain, we weren’t very attracted to this trail.

We consulted with Ivano, our driver, who usually also works as a guide, and decided to try the icing on this biking cake, namely the iconic DH Men and DH Women trails. These are the tracks with probably the most beautiful view of the sea and the nearby fortress above the coast you can find in Finale and Pietra.

At first we were pleased that the trails were just on the edge of the clouds and the sun was shining here instead of the Mordor above, and then the fact that the very sandy and loose surface had even better grip after the rain, than when it is dry, which greatly also contributed to our joy. We wanted to start with the DH Donne, i.e. the women’s DH trail, but at the crossroads we chose the most difficult DH Men from 4 different options. This trail, like the women’s version, is very short and very steep. The top starts with a flow with several manmade jumps and then passes into the rocky main part, which often has tons of sand, smaller or larger stones in the grooves and together with a very sharp slope really defines the difficulty of Black Diamond. During EWS, the riders go down at much higher speeds, which is almost unimaginable on such a difficult trail. The fact that this trail belongs to one of the few black trails in Finale Ligure speaks for itself. The guys liked it, but they expected it to be harder and more fun, so instead of repeating it, we switched to DH Donne. It’s a similar trail, but less steep, and according to the guys, there were more trail options, so they even liked it more than the men’s version. At the end, however, both join together and enter the town of Varigotti together in a short city downhill.

For the evening, we went to our favorite past restaurantl in the area, namely Spaghetteria Del Vicolo for the excellent Gnocchi Neri con Gamberi, a dish that I order here every time I visit. I don’t know if it was because they replaced the gnocchi with spaghetti, or because there was a lot less asparagus, and maybe because the tourist season started and prices went up by a third, the food was nowhere near as good as I remembered it. Next time we will probably try to go somewhere else. In the end, we took a walk through the old narrow streets of Finale and went to our terrace and had a beer.

On the last half-a-day of the entire trip, we went to the Nato Base once again under my guidance, since we were still missing H trail and 115 starting from there. After the first ride on the 115, which by the way was named after the former emergency line in Italy, my wrist gave way and decided to call it quits after the intense three days of riding and I had to stop riding a little earlier. Fortunately, my colleague Maťo, who also knows the area very well, took care of the boys during the morning.

Well, since we all had to leave for home in the afternoon, only 8 hours for the Croatians, 12.5 for us and even 16 hours for Mahir from Bosnia, we happily packed it up at one o’clock, said goodbye to Martino and went home with a lot of positive memories on the trails .

Finally, I would like to thank Martino and his entire team, as well as the participants and Maťo, for shaping another great experience. By the way, except for a couple of falls, which looked scary, but fortunately had no serious consequences, everyone coped brilliantly, and it must also be said that in Croatia the guys really know how to ride, which is always gratifying for the guides.

I am looking forward to the next trip, even if, given the almost endless drive, it won’t be until autumn at the earliest. Finale is anyways more or less shut down until September anyway due to very high temperatures, during which it is better to be soaked in the sea or at the beach than to drive around with a sweaty crew in a van. See you on the trails next time. 


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