Monday, 20 February 2012 5:33 PM
If you're keen to pull on your mountain bike gear and explore Europe on two wheels, you won't be short of stunning places to visit. Head to any of the following destinations, however, and you can be confident of being able to combine wonderful biking with seeing fantastic outdoor scenery and other great sights.
Visit the Portes du Soleil region of France and you can soon enjoy cycling across an extensive network of well-maintained trails.
In addition to ten dedicated mountain biking areas, there are also five parks in which you will be able to practice jumps and other freestyle manoeuvres. You'll discover runs to suit riders of all abilities – although it is perhaps best suited to those who like the thrill of downhill riding – while the presence of two dozen cable cars and lifts allows you to quickly travel between routes.
Alternatively, you may be inclined to visit Austria in order to bike along the magnificent Tauern Cycle Path. Stretching some 270 km, following this route not only provides you with stunning views of the Austrian alpine countryside – including the Saalach and Salzach rivers and the majestic Krimml waterfalls – but you will also get to see a range of amazing manmade attractions, such as the 11th-century Hohenwerfen Castle and the extensive Hallein salt mines.
In addition, there will be the opportunity to explore the picturesque marketplaces of Golling and Kuchl.
With around 90 per cent of the route seeing you travel along designated cycle paths and side roads that are generally free of traffic, you ought to find the trail can be completed fairly comfortably in the space of about a week.
To see more of the country's stunning sights, you may also want to ride along the amazing Danube Cycle Path. Although this route starts in the German city of Passau and ends in eastern Europe, some of the most beautiful and popular stretches of the trail are to be found in Austria.
On your way to Vienna – the nation's capital – you'll get to pass by picturesque monasteries, pretty villages and the wonderfully-preserved medieval Clam Castle. Following the path of the Danube river, another wonderful highlight of this mountain biking route is Enns, which is considered to be the oldest town in Austria.
Alternatively, you may want to visit Lake Garda in Italy. Commonly regarded as one of the best destinations in Europe for cyclists, it's a good idea to first invest in some new mountain biking shorts and other specialist clothing prior to heading out here. That way, you can be sure that you'll be well-equipped to explore the dozens of high-quality routes.
There are more than 1,000 km of signposted trails for cyclists of all ability levels to explore here, so you needn't fear that boredom will set in anytime soon.
Perhaps one of the most popular trail is Tremalzo, a single-track route which will see you cycle along ancient military roads.
Alternatively, you may want to go on a ride through the Arco valley in which you can see beautiful olive groves and ride through pretty villages, such as Vigne, Ceole and Varignano.
The above are just a few of the places on the continent where you can experience wonderful mountain biking and you can be confident that wherever you go you'll have a fantastic active break.