Italy still has secrets, and Paganella is one of them. Locals and gold-diggers love it. And after our impromptu visit, so do we.

“Finale Ligure or Lake Garda?” is the topic up for discussion inside the van before this spontaneous trip can get on the road. But each suggestion hits a roadblock. “Let’s just get moving, right,” says Ross pleadingly. So we do. Heading towards Italy. The details can come later.

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The seat belt on the back seat doesn’t want to work, I grumble. Daniel’s in the front on the left, Ross to his right. The test rider and the photographer. They’re mainly speaking English. Ross is Scottish. So’s his English. We can’t make out much more than “Wuauauaw,” but that’s usually sufficient. Our headlights illuminate the empty road, a veritable hamster wheel where everything looks the same. As shadows dance across the dashboard, I’m engrossed in my Facebook newsfeed. “EUROPEAN ENDURO SERIES in Paganella” catches my eye. “Hey, anyone know where Paganella is?” I call out. Daniel gives a casual shrug: “I reckon the guys ahead of us have a fair idea.” We’re following a FOCUS TEAM van as if it’s the star of Bethlehem. We don’t waste any words coming to an agreement: it’s obvious that Paganella is where we should go.


Views and nice weather never fail to prompt a smile, and this time it is surely down to the bright sunshine that breaks in the morning, opening up the view over Paganella mountain and Lake Molveno. “Alter!” utters Ross, who’s virtually speechless. Alter is the only word he knows in German, and it’s a good substitute for ‘dude.’ That will probably be the extent of the German he learns with us. We all dig out our phones as we pull up. The motor’s still running. We climb out, take some photos, and crack some jokes. Ross points out that the lift is already running so we rush back into the car and drive down towards the valley floor. “Quick, stop here, there’s the lift! Hurry!” I shout.

Pull up the kneepads, grab the helmet… the thru-axle’s still loose.

We jump into the first gondola. “Guys, check out the view of the lake from up here!” We get a bit lairy with excitement. Once up at the top, we follow some riders with start numbers. Even though we can’t race this time, of course we still want to check out the course. Before we drop into the stage, we do another high five. Then all you can hear are our emotions, clearly expressed in the loud whoops of delight.

With our guide Stefano Udeschini, an immediate friend after bumping into him on the trails on that first day, it feels like we manage to cover every single stone in the area. The lifts are our savior, letting us indulge our riding addiction. At the top of the lift it feels like you can even see the curvature of the earth – or at least I think I can. Daniel says it’s because I’m a vegan. Ross doesn’t really contest either way: “Roasted veggies… never go full vegan, wuawuaw…” You can see everything from up here, really.

We only communicate in stupidity. We learn how to say ‘Aua’ in Italian, laugh at crashes, overtake on the inside line. Our knees get weak, and our hearts are racing in our throats. We ride recklessly, cutting each other up on the trails. Once down, we dive into Lake Molveno, destroying the crystal clear, mirror-like reflection. Then comes pizza and tales of heroics. We’re joined at the table by red wine and cramps. Those jumps of three metres turn into at least five metres, and the steps become massive drops.


Hidden at the back of Lake Garda

This place is a revelation, we declare, waxing lyrical about its diverse trails, the fun you can have, the potential it has. Rocks, roots, loose ground. Trails weaving through unspoiled forests of maple, hazel, and birch, enough to make any standard of rider go mad with excitement. Then there’s the constant postcard-perfect views of the Brenta Dolomites and Lake Garda. You aren’t missing anything by coming here, you don’t have to sacrifice anything, or even really share anything. We’re usually the only riders on the trails, although the race stages are busier. We check out the hiking trails, the stage routes, and the official bike park sections. They leave their mark on us: smiles, or bruises.

We bump into some friends, incredulous at our story of this spontaneous trip. They’re all doing the enduro race, proudly letting us know their split times, but they only know half of Paganella’s story. As elite riders, they’re confined to training the stages. They don’t have the luxury to explore more. After the race they’re ushered on to more racing on the calendar. In fact, it’s like they were never really here. We drink another espresso together before parting ways.

Back on the trail, the GPS briefly shows 58 km/h. No one wants to brake. The sunlight streams through the clouds of dust in the corners. Headwinds make us grin, make our eyes water. I let go of the brakes again, testing my strength and the berm. Daniel jumps in front of me, and I follow suit. We overshoot the landing, laughing. There are even North Shore sections, fresh from the saw. Our guide sets a blistering pace. Of course he can – he built this section himself.

Time flies when you’re having fun. We try our best to slow down the tempo, extend our stay. It works for a while. As Stefano gets his bike ready for the following day’s guided ride, we pack our stuff. Paganella is now at the top of our list.



Follow the regular route to Lake Garda but take the S. Michele all’Adige/Mezzocorona exit from the Brenner motorway A22/E45. Follow the SS43 until you reach the destination.

Bike park variety

Spanning a network of 400 km, the Bikepark Dolomiti Paganella has fun riding routes for everyone – from newbies to pros.

The routes

The area around Paganella is accessible with cable cars and chair lifts. Most of the trails are relatively easy to find, although it’s still wise to book a guide as they’ll show you the hidden gems. Guided tours start from around 100 €.

Where to stay

Paganella has everything from five-star hotels to campsites, so you’re sure to find somewhere within budget.

Lake Molveno

A dream! The lake is surrounded by sandy beaches and green grass, making it the ideal spot to chill out. Riders, hikers, and locals meet here to while away hours in the sun.


For more information visit the Dolomiti Paganella Bike Website.

Words: Julian Lemme Photo: Ross Bell

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About the author

Julian Lemme

Julian has already explored the Pacific in the company of sharks, come face to face with his fear of heights in the Himalayas, sat in Uruguay's oldest prison and found the answer to world peace in the Brazilian rainforest. This globetrotter has travelled halfway around the world while doing the layouts for our magazines. Today, he's almost settled down, living with his dog Bonnie in sunny Lisbon to ride, surf and enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. As art director, the awesome style and layouts that distinguish our magazines are all thanks to him.