Altitude difference: 130m
Terrain: gravel route, rocky single track
Technical difficulty: *** (out of *****)
Notes: sections with broken glass on the track
Park your car on the top end of the forest (if applicable). Foret Gammarth is not that big, but it does have a great density of forest tracks and even some single track. The forest tracks are generally fast and not that technical. The single track, specifically going up requires stamina and is at times quite steep. This short but phenomenal circuit is an excellent training ground where all disciplines in mountain biking can be found. There's even a dirt bike track near the trailhead to practise your corners and jumps. A blessing to have this in the city!
Altitude difference: 570m
Terrain: forest and country track, sandy sections
Technicality: ** (out of *****)
This brilliant route takes you from the Maison de Jeunesse in Bizerte to the wild and windswept beaches northwest of the city. You could skip the city part by parking at the edge of the pine forest.
Once you left the urban area, you start climbing a fairly steep, rough road through the forest. There's a great viewing point where the track flattens a bit. A short downhill with a small section of single track brings you back to civilisation (the village of Nadhour). In the village turn right at the T-junction and go back to the forest. This is the home of a fast competition course held in March 2014. There great bits of single track on the side of the dirt road. At the first junction you can either go up and climb towards the navy station looking over Cap Blanc (recommended!). Return to this junction again. The at times rough track turning left stays in the forest and eventually leads to an open area where you can see the Mediterranean. A challenging downhill with sandy section leads to a main junction where you turn right. Follow this route (check for some great single track on the side!) which goes all the way to Ras Angela and the lighthouse. A view of the truly wild and virtually unspoilt coastline is your reward.
Backtrack your route for around 9km to the junction after the challenging downhill. Here, turn right. A very long climb takes you back to the tar road for a little bit. At the T-junction, turn left (you will pass the Bizerte prison). At Nadhour, backtrack the forest track (the first long climb). Great, fast downhill back to Bizerte!
Altitude difference: 410m
Terrain: wide forest track with deep trenches, big rocks and sandy sections
Technicality: **** (out of *****)
The route seen from Mrezga
Time to hit some technical trails! This loop (almost) has it all; steep technical climbs, hairy fast descents with deep trenches and big rocks and flatter sections for speed.
Park you car at the bottom of the hill at Mrezga, just east of Hammamet (best is to use the GPS data as a reference). The route we took was great, but it may as well have been one of the other many tracks that snake through this small hilly area. Our route is essentially a loop around this broad valley. Staying on your bike is the biggest challenge when going up. If you choose the right line, it's all rideable. The descents, especially the final descent, are fast with loose rock and gaps. Take care! It's a lovely ride and easily accessible.
The men, about to be released...
On 15 December 2013 the very first XC mountain bike race took place in Rades Forest in Tunis. Tunis based bike shop Espace Velo sponsored this event and I think they created the 8km XC route as well. The course was fast, with small technical sections and scenic. I truly enjoyed riding the 4 rounds despite my broken gear cable in round 2 (who needs gears anyways??). See below for the trail map.
2 Ksours: Loop Chenini - Guermassa
A 29km loop in a place that looks like a landscape on Mars
West of the cities of Medenine and Tatouine is a small mountainous area with canyons and table mountains. I used the wonderful ancient village of Chenini as a base for some bike exploring. There's a great Gite to stay called Kenza.
The trail starts on the saddle of the village mountain at the mosque. Descent towards Chenini Nouvelle which is along the tarmac road (eastwards). Before you enter the town turn left on a tarmac road that quickly becomes a dirt track. It's a flatt-ish at times rough track that passes the mountains on the eastern side and goes pretty much north bound all the way to Guermassa. There are several tracks but these all lead to Guermassa Nouvelle. From there the dramatic ancient town of Guermassa is visible. Go up the rough and steep track towards the old village (good luck, you probably have to hike a bit of this...).
Guermassa Ancient, dramatically perched on top of a hill
The final descent seen from Chenini
Foret du Remel Tour
Photo left: great bit of single track but unfortunately dead end...
Both photos in this post taken by Michael Pfau
Potential Mountain Bike Park Sidi Bou Said
Deprived from mountain biking for a while now, I see potential trails everywhere. The area that is on the radar for a while now is an awesome bit of no-mans land between Sidi Bou Said and La Marsa. It's a roughly 15ha woodland with both pine and deciduous trees and is situated on a hill with about 40 metres maximum hight difference. Currently the woodland is a wasteland, owned by the Tunisian government. It is a shame it's not being used, apart from some folk who secretly drink and make a mess of this wonderful spot.
Potential bike heaven
So I've taken up the task to try and convert this bit of land into a mountain bike park. This week I've been exploring the area and got really psyched about the incredible potential this place has. Although the altitude difference is not big with creative trail design you can build swooping trails through the trees, lot's of interval up and down and make maximum use of the slope. The vegetation is not thick so in theory trail building can start tomorrow. But as it would be great to promote the sport and get the Tunisians to get a taste for biking, I'll go through the proper procedure to realise the project.
Beautiful trees and cactus in Sidi Bou Said woodland
So the first step is to find the right people to talk to. I am in touch with local cycle enthusiast and campaigner Adel Beznine who may be able to point me in the right direction.