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17-05-2023 | Hadassah Groenewold

Bike Festival Riva del Garda: MTB at its best

Wednesday evening April 26, I set off to Riva del Garda (Italy) with the family to experience the Bike Festival. I will be immersing myself in the world of mountain biking, partying and cycling beautiful organized routes in the mountains for four days.

In search of grip

The festival is being held for the 29th time this year and attracts a total of about seventy thousand visitors throughout the weekend. The main languages are Italian, German and English. Since it will be my first time mountain biking in the mountains, I decide to take a test ride upon arrival. The GPX files of the routes are already online and I decide to start with the easiest lap. This turns out to be a great decision, because mountain biking in the mountains is quite a bit different than in our flat Netherlands with its sandy soil. The surface here consists mainly of loose large stones. Keeping grip, steering and braking are suddenly almost impossible. Fortunately, I can steer a bit and as preparation I had followed an MTB clinic, focused on mountain biking in the mountains and especially on descending. Friday was the opening of the Bike Festival. What a happening, with a very friendly atmosphere. All different kinds of bikers, different gear stands with great promotions and friendly staff. If you are looking for something in the field of biking, it is here to get it.

For the press, after the opening there was an exploratory ride on the e-MTB in the mountains with a local guide with the purpose of explaining a new route system and exploring the area. This ride gave me the opportunity to ask for additional tips from the guide. He gave me even more valuable advice on pressure distribution and especially 'trust your front wheel'. But just to see how the locals flew over the trails was very inspiring. I was also recommended to change my front tire for one with higher profile. Fortunately, I was able to have this done at the Bike Festival, even at a nice discount.

The Marathon

Saturday is dedicated to the Scott BIKE Marathon. You could choose between three courses, in both the license and hobby classes.

  • Ronda Extrema: 83 km with 3500m+.
  • Ronda Granda: 60 km with 2400m+.
  • Ronda Piccola: 31 km with 1100m+.

The original idea was to ride the Ronda Grande, but after my first experience in the mountains with the descents I switched to the Ronda Piccola.

And so after the first day's test ride, I started on my second Ronda Piccola, but this time with a different tire for more grip. Unbelievable what a difference this made with both climbing and descending! I could suddenly just brake (very handy on a descent I can tell you). It was a beautiful route, slightly technical and with good feed stations along the way and at the finish. Once at the finish I regretted not having ridden the Ronda Granda. I still felt fresh and in terms of technique I felt I could have handled more. Good tires and good equipment turned out to be worth their weight in gold. I consoled myself with the thought that the next day another gravel ride of 100 kilometers and 2000 meters of climbing was planned. I would get my share.

At the Bike Festival, there are all sorts of activities in between. I was supposed to participate in a "girls ride better" clinic. Unfortunately the schedule didn't work out quite as planned. But now I did have time to explore Riva del Garda and treat myself to an ice cream on a terrace. And even there you don't know what you see. The town breathes cycling. I felt like a fish in the water. At the end of the evening there was live music and party, concluding the marathon races.

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This day a gravel ride was scheduled. You could choose from two distances:

  • Lake Bash epic: 101 km, 1800 m+ with three sections in which time was measured.
  • Lake Bash juicy: 65 km, 500 m+ with one section in which time was measured.

It was the first time a gravel ride was on the Bike Festival program and it was quite clear. For example, there were some problems with navigation via GPX and the feed stations were not clearly enough marked. Whether the route was really suitable for a gravel bike I doubt. Fortunately, I was riding a mountain bike.

I brought some extra food and drink myself, but this was not nearly enough to finish the tour in warm conditions. A bit of a shame, because I was top fit at the start, but got completely empty and got a headache from the lack of fluids. Along the way I luckily got some food from fellow riders who had enough food with them (thank you, you are my lifesavers!). This immediately caused all kinds of nice conversations along the way. Nothing but praise for the route (ideal for the MTB) and a very nice addition to the Bike Festival program. I sincerely hope they keep the gravel ride in the program, although I would change the name to MTB ride.

After I recovered from this monster ride, we watched a BMX show on the festival grounds. My MTB was professionally cleaned (for free) and we had dinner and a beer among all the other bikers.

The festival continues for another day, but for me this is the ideal conclusion to a successful cycling weekend in a beautiful environment. I am really enormously proud of myself for doing these rides as one of the few Dutchmen and as one of the few women. Hopefully until next year!

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