Trailmaster Challenge

Die Trailmaster Challenge wurde vor einem Jahrzehnt von Freeride-Pro Rob Heran ins Leben gerufen und entwickelte sich rasant zu einem der Saisons-Highlights schlechthin – sowohl für ambitionierte Hobby-Rider wie Profi-Athleten. Als Ehrenbürger der BIKE REPUBLIC SÖLDEN bringt Rob nun die Trailmaster Challenge zum Nationalfeiertag (6. bis 8. September 2019) ins Ötztal. Sölden ist mit seinem einzigartigen Konzept und dem gewaltigen Trail-Netz genau die richtige Heimat für den spaßigen wie fordernden Drei-Disziplinen-Event.

Downhill-Nightsprint, Dual Slalom, ION Avalanche Enduro – die  ist eine der spannendsten und abwechslungsreichsten Rennen der Bike-Szene – und das sowohl für Fahrer wie Zuschauer. Das legendäre Multi-Stage-Rennen findet im Rahmen des Nationalfeiertags statt und fordert die 200 Profi- sowie Amateur-Biker an drei Tagen in drei spektakulären Stages. Es geht um Tagessiege und die Gesamtwertung, um Taktik und Ausdauer – und das Feiern der Vielfältigkeit unseres Sports.


Das Programm

Freitag, 6. September

– Bei Einbruch der Dunkelheit startet (unter Flutlicht) der Downhill-Sprint – eine kurze, aber technisch anspruchsvolle Challenge mit Ziel im Expo-Gelände
– Riders Party

Samstag, 7. September

– Beim Raiffeisen Club Kids Race fahren Rookies von 8 bis 17 Jahren (in verschiedenen Klassen) gegen die Zeit.
– Am Samstagnachmittag steigt der Dual Slalom, bei dem sich Frauen und Männer auf einer neu angelegten Strecke mit allerlei Obstacles duellieren.
– Whip-Off Jump-Contest der Pros
– Riders Party

Sonntag, 8. September

Mit der ION Avalanche-Enduro findet die Trailmaster Challenge am Sonntag seinen krönenden Abschluss: Nach dem Massenstart geht es für die Teilnehmer 1.500 Tiefenmeter abwärts, bevor der Gesamtsieger aller drei Tage feststeht

Hier kommt ihr zur Anmeldung


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The Syncronicles ep II

The Syncronicles ep II is just around the corner. In case you missed the first part, we have built a nice website for you to get lost with us on our journey across the western Alps. There are also a lot of unseen images and written details about how I built the van. Check it out:

The end of 2016 was full of ups and downs for me. After 7 years with Canyon I decided to move on. I’m very thankful for the years we had together and I’m proud that I have been part of their success story. Canyon is now a global player in the cycling world and has grown 8 times larger than when I began working with them. But in 2016 many things have changed and with that I got more and more the feeling that I need to move on, with a smaller brand again where the personal factor and fun are the main driving elements to be in the business to build sick and true Mountainbikes. I found the perfect fit with EVIL bikes from Seattle.

So I packed my van, strapped by new bike „The Wreckoning“ on the rack and said goodbye to my family for a 3 months journey down south into the unknown territory of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, to reset and open my mind for the new adventures ahead and fulfill some childhood dreams.

What the trip has been about is captured in my new episode of „The Syncronicles“ and will launch soon.

„There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.“Christopher Morley




The Syncronicles, Living the Vanlife

It must have been around 1991 when I first sat in a VW T3. After my mom died, I grew up in an orphanage and there we had two of those white VW T3 Transporter vans we used to get around in. Back then the orphanage was led by Christian nuns, so they were driving these things – not really well – so it has always been an adventure. I remember really funny stories when we drove down to Italy during the summer holidays for our annual two-week beach vacations. It was the highlight of the year. It was all about camping out, eating outside and living under the pine trees at the beach. We never had any issues with the Vans – they brought us back safely, sunburned and happy.

The years went by and when I was 19 my summer vacation took me to the Atlantic coast in France to learn how to surf. Again – Camping out under pine trees with many other surf people and their customized adventure mobiles. The camp ground was packed and no more space was available. There I spotted this perfection of a VW van – a much higher T3 with larger tires and the 4×4 Syncro decals on it. And it was parked on top of a small sand dune where no other car without all-wheel drive could get up.

In 2007 I made the investment and bought a T3 Syncro –the Van or at least a good base to build the van of my dreams. It used to be an old, empty military transporter van with plastic seats but with little rust and low milage. I paid 5400 Euro – which was a lot for such an old van 8 years ago, but nothing compared to the prices that are asked for very basic Syncro vans today. It seemed like a solid base to start a long conversion process. First I stripped the interior down to the metal and cleaned everything. I applied sound deadening matts everywhere and insulated the full body. The rear got a foldable bed and some storage underneath for the second battery, electronics, sound and the Webasto diesel heater. I made new wooden sides and roof panels and covered them with real alcantara fabric. On Ebay I found some used pilot seats and a good Alpine radio. Later I invested into some larger offroad wheels

I drove the van like that for 6 years. But the salty winter use and the bad military matte paint job destroyed the body very fast. Massive rust popped up everywhere and as soon as you look deeper whats under the “bubbles” the more you get frustrated when the screwdriver bores itself through the porous metal. The old engine made more and more problems as well so, two years ago, in fall 2013 I had to make a decision whether to give up on it or invest again to get the Van back on track.

I didn’t plan to invest a huge amount of either time or money.

But due to my research for a good car body paint shop I ran into Marco Romaldini and his company Romaldini & Biccario in Munich. He is only a couple years older than me, a Mountainbike enthusiast and runs one of the best paint shops in Germany. His carpark was full with Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin supercars when I rolled in with my old rusty Van. I was like – fu*k it, this is the wrong place, turn around and look for something less exclusive. But luckily I didn’t. After a couple minutes with Marco, I knew he is the right person I could trust. That was in fall 2013 and the start of a full restoration process. The van needed some new metal body parts, some professional welding and rust removal.

To be honest, I had no clue what I had begun.

If I have known back then how much work it would be, I probably would have never started. I took the half car apart, removed the windows, the doors, the complete dashboard and so on to have a good access to all small corners and edges. Marco gave me the opportunity to do all the pre-paint work by myself in a corner of his shop. I thought I would be done with the van in like two weeks. It took more than two months. When I stood in front of the van – everything stripped, the hanging lights which looked like popped out eyeballs I lost faith in the project!

“Throw it away, stop here and now… It’s a massive waste of time and money!”

I often said to myself. There were days I came home from the workshop deeply frustrated because I couldn’t see an end. But Marco and his team kept me somehow motivated even they thought was completely crazy to put that much work into such a rusty f*cked up car. I kept going and did what had to be done. There was no way back anyhow…

At the point when I began to sand the body, I figured that when I make such an effort I could also give the car completely new and different paint. I was over the military nato-olive-green and thought the Van would look great in a more modern grey suit. Marco showed me the 200+ grey options I had to choose from… unbelievable. I listened to his expertise and we made a decision to use a metallic dark grey paint with a matte clear coat on top.

When the Van rolled out of the cabin with the fresh paint, applied by the master, all doubts and worries were blown away. The perfection of the new paint – the new fresh look made me feel uncomfortable when I thought that I would run the car with the old engine and live in the old interior. So I had to step up the game completely and made the decision to re-do everything for the second time of the vans life.

The engine has been replaced by a modern 120hp TDI with many custom parts. All taken to perfection by Alexander Schank – a real master and specialist in for custom built engines and transmissions. It took him a couple months to build a solid engine that changed the character of the Van enormously. A huge benefit is not just the extra power but also the modern and more eco-friendly technology that has been built in.

The car meets all modern standards – for real – not like in the latest modified VW cheating manner. I’ve spent the spring of 2015 rebuilding the complete interior and made all door, roof and side panels new. I changed many old cables and installed LED lights and new instruments to have control over my engine at any time when driving. I invested in some new Recaro seating because there is nothing more important than proper seats when traveling for thousands of miles on and off the road. To be completely self-sufficient when setting up camp far away from camp sites I installed two new batteries, new chargers and a mobile 100-watt solar panel to have enough power at any time.

Due to the fact that my little family was growing as well, I needed think how to fit us all in the van. We are now 4 when we travel as a family, so far we had space on the large bed in the back but with another kid, it’s getting way too tight. I’ve spent many nights thinking about how I could fit them all when we camp out without cutting the roof and install a classic Westfalia pop-up roof. Well, it’s not bad at all to have it, but I need for my job a heavy duty roof rack to more than I need a pop-up roof all year long. I found a solution and made a HEIMPLANET tent fit onto my roof rack. Its set up within 5 minutes, works excellent and solves my space problem in an aesthetically cool way too.

The last huge remaining work that had to be done was the complete underbody. Mechanically as well as fighting rust and protect the metal good enough for the next decade or two. Again with the help of Romaldini I had a workshop for my use. I took everything apart – which sounds easier than it was. It took me a week to open the 25 year old bolts. Most of them didn’t move at all so it hat to cut and drill them open. I replaced the old shocks with new GMB-Mount height adjustable ones. These are a lot stronger and more firm for a good drive with a heavy loaded van on and off the road. I also replaced all the bushings, joints and bolts. Everything new. I also kicked out the old drum brakes and installed new discs for better braking performance as well. Last but not least the underbody got a 2-way bitumen metallic wax coating to protect the metal for many more years of heavy winter and off-road use to come.

Finally, I’ve built the van of my dreams and learned tons about cars in the process.
It’s the most versatile car I can think of (well maybe apart from Richie’s G Wagon.)

Am I finished? I wish, but I guess not.
But it was more than worth it.
Rob J Heran.

Filming by Sebastian Doerk, Infinite Trails

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As long as there are tracks, bikes will remain one of the most versatile means of following them. Even where there are no tracks, gravity and a vertical drop can still make for good day’s riding. All you need is the right type of soil…

Compare this to surfing. Swells come rolling in across the ocean, hit the shoreline and transform into a series of fascinating waves. Surf breaks depend on the type of seabed, i.e. reefs, rocks or sandbanks.

There’s one big difference between surfing and biking though. Swell is irregular and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get any. Tracks, however, can be found wherever human beings have settled. This means you can ride all over the world.

On Bali, there is no end of places to ride. Both on a board and on a bike. You can literally shred a volcano all the way down to the beach. Conversely, you could start the day with a session on your board in the morning and still have time to surf the gravel fields of Mount Batur in the afternoon. All you need is the right guidebook, a desire to explore and the courage to try out new terrain.

Bali is where Surfing Trails meets Surfing Waves.

Riders: Julia Hofmann, Rob J Heran, Antoine Bizet, Nick Pescetto


Um ehrlich zu sein, hatte ich Kentucky vor dieser Reise nicht wirklich auf dem Schirm. Was ich mit Kentucky in Verbindung brachte, war lediglich die Fastfood-Kette mit dem alten Mann im Logo. Bis letzten Herbst! Als ich im Internet plötzlich auf die Bilder eines neuen Untergrund-Mountainbike-Parks in einer alten, stillgelegten Kalksteinmine gestoßen bin, wurde ich neugierig. Der Megacavern Bikepark ist in Louisville/Kentucky. Eine Gegend die bekannt ist für Bourbon Whiskey und Legenden wie Muhamed Ali, aber von Bikeparks hatte ich dort noch nichts gehört.

Da ich richtig Biken will, zu Hause aber tiefster Winter herrscht, gab ich dem Untergrund eine Chance. Also wurde ein Flug gebucht, mein Canyon Spectral AL 29 und das Stitched eingepackt und schon war ich wenige Tage später in Kentucky. Bei eiskalten -24°Celsius vor Ort kann man nicht von einer Winterpause sprechen. Für den Osten Amerikas hatte sich eine der härtesten Kältefronten der letzten 15 Jahren für diese Woche angesagt. Bingo! Sogar die Niagara Fälle waren teilweise eingefroren.

In meiner Vorstellung erhoffte ich mir beim Betreten der Mine zunächst einen rustikalen Aufzug der mich zum Mittelpunkt der Erde bringt. Tatsächlich konnte man dort einfach mit dem Auto hineinfahren und so in die gewaltigen „Räume“ gelangen. Die Mine ist heute tatsächlich als unterirdisches „Gebäude“ deklariert und ist mit 100 Hektar Fläche das größte im Bundesstaat Kentucky. In den 30er Jahren wurden in den Limestone-Minen große Mengen Kalkstein zum Straßen- und Brückenbau aus dem Fels gesprengt. Über 40 Jahre war das ein blühendes Geschäft und wäre es wahrscheinlich bis heute noch, wenn der darüber liegende Zoo nicht protestiert hätte. Seit der Stilllegung der Mine stand diese über 20 Jahre brach, bis ein Geschäftsmann aus der Abfallwirtschaft auf die Idee kam, das Bergwerk mit Bauschutt, Lehm und Altreifen wieder aufzufüllen. So wurden nach und nach die 25 Meter hohen Räume wieder aufgefüllt. Tom, der smarte Geschäftsmann hinter der Idee erklärte mir alles ausführlich. Nach einigen Stunden Besichtigung wollte ich dann aber endlich aufs Rad und den Bike Park sehen. Auch wenn ich auf ersten Bildern nur die Dirt Jumps gesehen hatte, wusste ich, dass es hier vor allem richtige Trails gibt. Tatsächlich besteht der Großteil des Areals aus Singletrails. Der äußere Rand ist eine grün gekennzeichnete Strecke. Die verschiedenen Farben kennzeichnen die Schwierigkeitsgrade. Neben den einfachen grünen Lines gibt es eine Vielzahl blauer Strecken mit Bodenwellen, engen Kurven und einfachen Sprüngen. Die schwarzen Tracks sind dann schon mit Drops und steilen Kickern versehen. Es sind so unfassbar viele kleine Abzweigungen, Verbindungen und Lines, dass ich einige Stunden brauchte, um mir einen groben Überblick auf dem etwa 100.000 qm großen Areal zu verschaffen.

Circa 45 Trails sollen es sein, wenn alles fertig ist. Unglaublich wie hier jeder Meter sinnvoll genutzt wurde. Verantwortlich dafür ist der erfahrene und bekannte Trail Builder Joseph Prisel vom Burlington Bike Park. Er baut hier seit Monaten an dem größten Indoor Bike Park der Welt. Nach ein paar Runden fahren komme ich tatsächlich ins Schwitzen. Der Großteil der Wege lässt sich wie ein endloser Pumptrack fahren. Um mit Speed durch die Lines zu kommen, muss ich richtig pushen und die Wellen und Kurven ausnutzen. In den hinteren Bereichen des Parks liegt die Temperatur bei angenehmen und geothermisch aufgewärmten 16°Celsius. Kaum vorstellbar, dass man bei den eisigen Temperaturen über der Erde dort unten in T-Shirt und Shorts biken kann. Im Winter ist es aber nicht nur warm, sondern vor allem trocken. Der Staub in der Mine stellt allerdings ein kleines Problem dar. Bei hohem Fahrbetrieb entstehen relativ große Staubverwirbelungen. Deswegen werden die Lines permanent bewässert. Im Sommer hat man dort unten eine hohe Luftfeuchtigkeit und man kann sich das Bewässern sparen. Es ist sehr beeindruckend welche Hingabe und Manpower hier gleich von Anfang an in die Streckenpflege und Sicherheit gesteckt wurde. Jeden Tag werden zwei Stunden vor Eröffnung des Parks die Sprünge ausgebessert, Lines geshaped und von losem Dreck und Geröll befreit.

Mit meinem 29er Spectral AL bin ich auf den Trails mit dem richtigen Bike unterwegs. Doch für die Jumpline muss das Dirtbike her. Und schon hat man wieder mehr als 15 Optionen um durch die drei Hauptlines zu kommen. In der Megacavern treffen sich die BMX Kids, Racer, Dirt Jumper und auch einige auf ihren Enduros, um etwas Airtime zu schnuppern. So einen Mix unterschiedlichster Bikes an einer Location habe ich vorher noch nie gesehen. Manche Fahrer sind seit 10 Jahren nicht mehr auf dem Bike gefahren. Da es nun diese Möglichkeit gibt, graben alle ihre alten Dirt Bikes, BMX oder Klunker aus der Garage. Hauptsache es hat zwei Räder und rollt über den Dreck.

Ich hatte schon diverse Gerüchte im Vorfeld über diesen Park gehört. Aber als ich das Potential dieser Anlage mit meinen eigenen Augen gesehen habe, wusste ich, dass dort etwas Großartiges erschaffen wurde. Von diesem Spot wird man in den nächsten Jahren mit Sicherheit noch eine Menge hören. Die Motivation mit der die Leute vor Ort an die Sache gehen, konnte man in jedem Detail erkennen. Es ist nicht nur eine Spinnerei für eine Saison sondern alles hat Hand und Fuss und eine Nachhaltigkeit für die kommenden Jahre.

Nach ein paar produktiven und intensiven Sessions unter Tage und einer sehr guten Zeit in Louisville, kann ich nur sagen, dass dieser Bike Park bei jedem Mountainbiker auf der „To-Do-Liste“ weit oben stehen sollte.

Filming by Sebastian Doerk, Infinite Trails | Canyon Bikes


Into thin air

The air is thin up here. I hike up the last steep slope to around 4500 metres and try to extract everything that my legs and lungs have to give. I’m right on the limit and about to start the last descent of my time here in Nepal, on the Lubra Trail deep in the Upper Mustang and surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. Annapurna (8091 m), Dhaulagiri (8167 m) and the Nilgiri (7061 m) are just a few of the summits I can see. Surrounding these giants are several “smaller” six-thousanders that haven’t even been named yet, our guide Mandil tells us as that there are simply too many of them. How many undiscovered trails and lines are still out there? How much can still be ridden? The possibilities appear endless. They are. Before dropping in and riding the trail down to the riverbed of the mighty Kali Gandaki for the last time, I spy an enormous ammergeyer floating on the thermals, majestically soaring across this ancient kingdom without a single beat of its wings.

This is what it’s all about. At these moments, right in the here and now, time stands still. For the next thirty minutes I have the whole trail to myself. You ride yourself into a trance, the senses become hyper-alert, reading what lies ahead so that each movement flows seamlessly into the next. The trail’s a high-speed mix of loose corners interspersed with steep, exposed sections all the way down to the bottom. Make a mistake riding this fast and you’re in serious trouble, but thoughts of “what if?” have no place in the mind right now. I’m utterly consumed by the experience.

The perfect ride? It’s definitely one of the best trails I’ve ever ridden. The crowning glory of my time in Nepal.

This journey was so much more than just another trip into the backcountry to go and ride. There were points when it felt like we’d gone on a journey back through time, to an era when old values still counted for something, an existence we all too often seem to have lost touch with in the western world. Up in Mustang, people still live their lives as they have been doing for centuries, perfectly in time with nature’s rhythm. This entire area has only recently become accessible to outsiders, meaning modern influences have yet to take a hold, people do things as they always have done. Everything is made by hand. Whatever they undertake, they do it with full dedication and take their time until every last detail is perfect. It’s like they go beyond Buddhism. Nothing gets rushed. All actions are carried out with a constant, unwavering attachment to their religion.

This will not be the last time I travel to Nepal. The terrain has so much more to offer, it’s just waiting to be discovered. I also want to learn more about the people here and their rich culture. And when I do come back, I’m going to take my time. It’ll be worth it. Especially when the stifling effect of modern life’s stress, pressure and imbalance makes our air too
thin to breathe.

Filming by Sebastian Doerk, Infinite Trails | Canyon Bikes


This is not a bike film, well not as you’d expect it i guess. And even though it’s narrated by Alan Watts, a philosopher, the question it brings up is rather basic.

What if you wouldn’t be scared, scared to give up the job you hate, scared to leave for a better place.

What if you could dream your whole life in one night and make changes the nights following. Would you still be the same person when you wake up? Can a simple dream change your everyday life?

„I wonder, I wonder, what you would do if you had the power to dream at night any dream you wanted to dream. And you would of course be able to alter your time sense, and slip seventy-five years of subjective time into eight hours of sleep.

You would I suppose start out by fulfilling all your wishes. You could design for yourself what would be the most ecstatic life. And then after a couple of months of this sort of thing at seventy-five years a night, you’d be getting a little taste for something different, and you’d move over to an adventurous dimension, where there were certain dangers involved, and the thrill of dealing with dangers. And after you had done that for awhile, you’d think up a new wrinkle, to forget that you were dreaming, and think that is was all for real.“ Alan Watts

„Free you mind and the rest will follow“ is easier said than done, but it’s worth thinking about it once in a while. Are you as good in postponing to the very last moment as i am? When it comes to life, your life, this moment might be too late to get epic shit done.

Great filming and editing by Sebastian Doerk. Thank you so much.
Thanks Canyon and ION bike for supporting this project. Turn up the volume and enjoy.


My this years journey to Cape Town marks my personal 10 year anniversary since my first trip to the Cape of good hope in 2003.

I am not that kind of person who need to travel to the same place over and over again. But when its winter here in Europe and i cant sit still because I really need to ride dusty trails – then there are not too many options. Southafrica offers a lot of riding – most of all at the western Cape region. Since the Cape Epic stage race is THE ultimate Marathon for athletes around the world – the region is word famous for riding bicycles.
On my first journey in 2003 there was not that much mountainbiking around Cape Town. Most of the riders used fire roads and only a few of gravity guys built some DH tracks. But what i figured was that this little but fine scene is highly motivated to stick together and ride together whatever rolls on two wheels. If its a BMX a Mountainbike or a Roadbike – there was no disrespect for the other „wheelsize“ lets say… The scene has grown fast in the past years. The MTB business is huge and the shops sell a lot of bikes and products. More and more brands enter the southafrican market.
Also a lot of new riding spots pop up every year. Most of the new trails are on private farm land – and so are the new races as well. During the Summer months from December to March you can ride almost every weekend another really well organized stage race. Some European marathon athletes spend the winter at the western Cape to prepare for the season.

But not too many gravity oriented riders come to Cape Town for mountainbiking. Well, one reason is that you need to know some locals first of all. The spots are hard to find and some of them should be ridden in a group only. Sadly another reason is that Southafrica is a poor country with a lot of violence. Mountainbikers are a new target-group for thieves and muggers.Table mountain became one of the most dangerous places to ride. If you want to return home WITH your bike make sure you ride in a group. But the cyclists are organizing themselves really well and put a lot of pressure onto the City to make the riding safer.

My friend Craig Kolesky is Cape Towns sports-action photographer. I met him on my first trip in 2003. Back then he was this young and highly motivated surf photographer who wanted to shoot as much as possible to make a living out of it. Over the years he became such a great photographer and now he is traveling the world to shoot with all the Red Bull and Oakley athletes. Craig got also serious about his riding as well. Last year he had this idea to ride the Cape Epic for a good cause to raise money for the non profit organisation „One Sight“ which gives eyewar to people who cat effort it. Craig teamed up with his buddy and former kite surf pro Tyrone Rawlins and trained for a year to get in shape for the hardest stage race in the world. They finished the Epic and raised a good amount of money for One Sight.

This year I brought my Canyon Strive Enduro bike with me. A perfect ride for all kind of terrain which the Cape region has to offer. Craig and I spent some days to ride and shoot on the new trails in Yonkershook which is close to Stellenbosh. Some really amazing tracks link together and create a huge playground of smooth and also technical enduro singletracks. So much fun!
Another place to ride is Tokai Forest on the backside of Table mountain with a huge variety of well build tracks.
On weekends the DH track in Paarl is one of the hot spots for gravity riding. One DH track and one easier freeride track can be found there. I tried to ride as much as possible during my three weeks there. On some days we went for a roadride early in the morning before the brutal heat comes in. Or we did some late afternoon rides in the woods. I also found a great Dirt Jumping spot in Haut Bay. Luckily there was an event happening as well. The „Night Harvest“ was a MTB and BMX Dirt Jumping session.
All in all – I must say that Cape Town is still one of my favorite places to be and even I have been there the last ten years – I probably will be back soon again. Thank you Craig!! Good times.

© Craig Kolesky© Craig Kolesky© Craig Kolesky© Craig Kolesky© Craig Kolesky© Craig Kolesky


What a bad start into the 2013 Bike season… Massive rainfalls and floods all over Europe. Where to go for riding? Well, we had a mission with ION bike to produce all the pictures for the 2014 bike brandbook. We had only two weeks time to get it done. The only place in Europe to go was Sicily. I have been there four times already to ride the trails around the Etna volcano. Its only a two hour flight from munich. Perfect. Almost – ION wants us to drive all the way down to be more flexible if weather changes. 1700km one way with our old VW van. Not a good idea, I thought. It would take us two days to get there and its a hell of a drive. Not to mention the risk with the old Van… but we had to do it. There was no other option. I started with Markus Greber a day earlier then the rest of the crew to take some first shots at Lake Garda. We stopped at our friends from Hotel Santoni in Torbole and told them about our mission to Sicily. They were laughing at us and made clear, that driving all the way down is not the smartest option and no Italian would do it. They all take the ferries! We never thought of this option before but it made sense. So we booked a cabin for the next day and told the rest of the crew that we meet at the harbor in Rome.

When we left Torbole Markus VW Syncro lost a lot of oil, made weird noises when changing gears. We were concerned if we would make it in time and every kilometer it got worse. Somehow we made it just in time to Civitavecchia. We met ION Teamrider Julia Hofmann, Max Schumann and Nicola Pescetto as well as our ION marketing manager Basti Dietz. When we told them about the problems we had with the Van it was Julia who was lying under the car the next second, checking for leaks and tasting the oil. Her analysis: the gearbox is loosing oil and spills it onto the clutch – thats why the gears jump out when we drive it with a lot of pressure… Okay… we thought…whatever… but, why the hell does this girl know that much about cars? Markus and I were like: „sure, thats what we thought as well“ to hide that we knew nothing. She told us that she restored an old VW Beetle and some old Landrovers lately. Her brother is a mechanic and so she learned everything from him over the years. She gave him a call to double check if we can continue our trip. We did continue and jumped onto the ferry which took us over night to Palermo.

Our first stop was Castelbuono, a little beautiful village surrounded by some mountains with many different singletracks to ride and shoot on. The days were long as always on trips like this: Get up at 4:30am, pack the cars, shuttle as far as possible, ride the rest and be on location when the first light hits the trail. We found some great trails to ride, but not to shoot on. We needed Trails with epic backdrop – not dark pics in the forest. So we moved location to a secret place for some real Big Mountain ridge lines. I could not believe my eyes when we arrived there. An endless playground with ridgelines and options for jumps like in Utah. Instantly I felt like the guys in „where the trail ends“ and I knew this is the place where we find the „moneyshots“ for our ION catalogue.

We started to hike up the hills and ride some first lines to get a feel for the new terrain. It was hard to remember the right rigde and line when you go fast. I paid the price with some hard crashes when i took the wrong one. Learning by doing, I guess… I was surprised how Julia surfed down all the lines with us – it was also for her the first time on terrain like this. She had so much fun riding there, that she could not imagine to get back to enduro-racing after this trip. Nicola Pescetto was in his element. He found a location for a massive jump to build. He worked hard to get it done and after two days work he went for it in perfect last days light. Backflip over a 15 jump. Sick.

We had our shots, but one thing I was missing. I really wanted to get the crew up on the Etna Volcano to ride the black and powder-like deep ash slopes. Last day and only a few hours time to do it. We got up early, and tried to get into the cable car. But it was tourist rush hour. We had to wait for two hours… Markus was already really nervous because we had to drive to Palermo as well this day to catch our ferry back home. We managed to climb the mountain while the wind was blowing like hell. But there we stood, on top of an endless black ash powder field. Its very different to anything else you know on a bike. high speed, no brakes and carving like on skis. That was the best moment of this trip – and the best moment to go home. It could not get any better. Big smiles on our faces. Good times and memories for life. One of the best trips ever.

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