Mountain biking has a come a long way since the 90s, when designated trail centers were basically unheard of and you were lucky if your bike came with adjustable handlebars.
Two-wheel travel tips
Professional mountain biker Calle Friberg knows where to find the best tracks.
STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA
“If you like fun, technical XC riding on an amazing single track in great weather, then you’ll love Stellenbosch in the Western Cape,” Calle Friberg says.
As the historic heart of the country’s wine region, Stellenbosch and its surrounding areas are also renowned for their gastronomy. What’s more, the landscape is rugged. That combination makes this part of the Western Cape province a popular choice for outdoor sports enthusiasts.
If you need a place to stay, the Clouds Wine and Guest Estate is a haven of tranquility situated on the crest of Helshoogte Pass. And as a working vineyard, Clouds cultivates a variety of fine wines.
Helshoogte Road, Stellenbosch
“If you enjoy technical riding with roots and rock slabs then Hellas is a top-notch location,” Friberg says, using the locals’ nickname for the Hellasgården Recreation Area. Just imagine – it comprises thousands of kilometers of flat cross-country single tracks and amazingly enough, Hellas is a mere 20 minutes from Stockholm. For urban millennials, it’s all about “nature meets metropolis.”
For Swedish professional mountain biker Calle Friberg, who was inspired to take up the sport as a 10-year-old boy when a specialist store opened in his neighborhood, those are days he remembers well.
“When I started mountain biking in 1991–92, I was riding on 26-inch wheels with no suspension,” the 37-year-old recalls. “The introduction of bigger wheels, more suspension, plus carbon fiber frames and disc brakes are some of the biggest differences I’ve noticed in the sport.”
“The same trails we rode back then are more fun now and easier with modern bikes.”
After graduating through the ranks and collecting numerous Swedish titles along the way across multiple age categories, the outdoor sport enthusiast had well and truly caught the biking bug.
“It’s a great feeling to win. All the training, sacrifices and hard times are suddenly forgotten and you’re on top of the world,” says Friberg, who is set to coach two camps in Fuerteventura in January.
“It used to be only winning that mattered, but now I can enjoy the process and experience of racing around the world,” he adds.
During the season, Friberg’s grueling regime can include six training sessions a week, with a five-hour road or endurance-ride and two-hour interval sessions or core workouts in the gym. Where does he find the motivation to continue training during the winter months?
“Having a goal that you’re working towards helps you get through the winter months and bad weather conditions. Even though I’ve often traveled to warmer places for training during the winter, I do enjoy training at home in the snow, too,” he says.
“To keep the motivation going, I also try to do other sports, such as trail running, XC-skiing and alpine skiing.”
Alongside the obvious health benefits and opportunity to exercise his adrenaline junkie spirit, Friberg says participating in these action-packed sports is a great way to explore unlikely destinations.
“As a professional mountain biker who has been racing in XC World Cup competitions and in marathons around the world, it’s now also about finding new cool races in new places.”
He adds, “Not only does it give me a reason to travel to a place that ordinarily I might never go to, but there is something special about climbing a mountain, looking at the view and feeling a sense of achievement.”
With the phenomenal growth in the sport’s popularity reflected in heavy investment in designated mountain bike trails around the world, the demand for new experiences by cycle tourists has experts predicting a rise in active vacations for 2019. Friberg encourages us all to find our inner adventurer.
“There’s something for everyone in mountain biking – from hard downhilling to gravel road riding – and stopping for a coffee,” he says. “It’s a fun way of keeping fit and having a blast at the same time. Whether you aim to race or not, mountain biking is always fun. I don’t think I’ve regretted a single ride in 25 years.”
Published: December 12, 2018