Photographer Marcella van Alphen biking the Via Appia, Rome

Uncovering Antique Rome without hordes of tourists [Via Appia]

Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Cycling past the monumental Circus Maximus where a quarter million spectators used to rave at chariot races, the gigantic Bath of Caracalla where Romans bathed 2,500 years ago, the Via Appia Antica unveils. Just past the Arch of Drusus marking the start of the very first Roman highway, we stand on top of the tower of the Gate of San Sebastian. Following the Via Appia as far as we can see it, we are picturing the rural landscape surrounding antique Rome dotted by large agricultural estates thriving on these fertile lands with the snowy summits of the Abruzzo Mountains in the background. If we are only a short bike ride away from the extremely touristic centre of Rome, we are already far from the hustle and bustle, and about to discover an off-the-beaten gem…

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Top 5 mountain biking adventures in Norway

Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

The vast and wild northern landscapes of Norway, with the right to roam freely on uncultivated land as the only rule, set the expectations pretty high for mountain bikers. The reality is not as dreamy, as the very democratic Norwegian vision prompts for trails for all, instead of specifically designed for and designated mountain biking, hiking or cross-country skiing tracks… resulting in no ideal trails for anyone. Still, adventurous riders can have a blast and feel like travelling back to the start of mountain biking, using today’s high-tech bikes! Norwegian mountain biking adventures, past bike parks, have to be deserved. But fear not, if you are ready to do some pushing and carrying during your ride, and if you love being fully immersed in nature while enjoying dramatic sceneries, keep on reading to find out where your extra efforts will be greatly rewarded!

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Reflection of a mountain biker in a calm Norwegian lake

Mountain biking in the tracks of the CIA and reindeer in true wilderness [Norway]

Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Above Snåsa in the heart of Mid-Norway, a winding dirt road takes us to Ismenningen Fjellstuggu at an altitude of about 500 meters. Our host, Skjalg Ledang welcomes us with a warm smile as we arrive. With his wife Grethe, he has recently acquired this former hunting chalet to turn it into a homey accommodation to explore the beautiful surrounding wilderness of the Blåfjella – Skjækerfjella / Låarte – Skæhkere National Parks, close to the Swedish border.

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Suicidal Tendencies in Utah

The legendary Slick Rock trail in Moab, the Porcupine rim or the Gooseberry Mesa are just a few of the most scenic and technical mountain biking trails leading through the characteristic rocky terrain of Utah. However, with the popularity of mountain biking sky-rocketing these trails get crowded with avid mountain bikers from all over the world and locals alike, especially as they cannot be done year round due to snow cover in winter.  Luckily Utah is a big playground and its most Southern West corner has not been touched by mass tourism yet! All the more reasons to hop on a bike to explore its trails!

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Mountain biking the Maïdo [Reunion Island]

Most tourists visiting the Reunion Island drive up the Maïdo road to take in the stunning vistas on the Mafate Cirque from its viewpoint. However, there are more fun and adventurous ways to take in the scale of the ramparts and explore the various ecosystems along the volcanic slopes of the mountain, like rock climbing the Maïdo Peak or mountain biking back down to the coast.

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The new outdoorsy capital of South Africa [George]

George seems to be a sleepy city populated mostly by retirees. It is a bit of the forgotten city along the Garden Route not posh enough for wealthy tourists to really stop, not popular enough for backpackers to consider it. However, George is becoming the outdoorsy capital of South Africa, plebiscited by avid mountain bikers, canyoning enthusiasts, fit hikers, skilled surfers, and passionate birdwatchers. Don’t miss out and make sure to stay for a few days to enjoy its fantastic activities. Keep travelling!

Author Marcella van Alphen mountain biking the Northern Drakensberg, South Africa

Epic mountain biking in the Northern Drakensberg, South Africa

Article updated on August 22, 2022
Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

I pick up some speed going downhill towards a small stream of crystal-clear waters. The all-terrain tires of my mountain bike on the wooden bridge break the silence followed up by the swift change of gears as I pedal hard to get up the steep single track ahead of me. I slalom my way up amongst blooming protea trees that add some bright orange and red colours to the green slopes of the Northern Drakensberg that we are exploring by mountain bike.

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Angkor off the beaten path & on the single track!

The majestic temples of Angkor are victim of their own success: with 4 million visitors a year mostly during the dry season focusing mainly on three temples, the atmosphere can be lost. Still, it is possible to experience the Angkor temple complex off the beaten path for a fantastic and authentic discovery, unravelling the splendour of the great Khmer civilisation.

I skilfully steer my mountain bike along a few pointy rocks on a narrow single track through the jungle of Cambodia. In front of me appears a desolated ruin, half swallowed by tree roots of strangler fig trees. Birds sing, butterflies flutter around reflecting the strong sun rays peeping through the dense vegetation on their brightly-coloured wings, and a cat yawns while stretching its front paws on the step of the almost-millennium old Khmer temple of Preah Khan in the temple complex of Angkor.

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Mountain biking down the Mont Faron with a view on the bay of Toulon, France.

Mountain biking, overlooking world’s 3rd largest bay!

I am loosening my helmet to wipe the sweat from my face while putting my sunglasses back in place. I take a few sips from my water bottle while enjoying the view on world’s third largest bay, after Hong Kong and San Francisco: the bay of Toulon along the French Riviera. From the top of the 584-meter high Mont Faron, the view on France’s hidden gem and massive military harbour is Keep traveling!