Riding the Trails

Mountain biking is one of the most popular sports, and nowhere is it more exciting than on this very island – there are trails to suit every level of rider... and the scenery is out of this world!

So be adventurous – park your rental car for a day, slip into your shorts and helmet, sling a camelback across your shoulders, saddle up your 21 speed, and head for the hills. You'll see a side of the island you'll never forget.

And there's more good news. Avid mountain bi-kers needn't worry about packing up a precious Proflex in a shatter-proof case to embark on a fat tire vacation to St. Maarten/St. Martin. Good quality bikes can be rented very reasonably here.

Shops on both the French and Dutch sides of the island offer a wide range of mountain bikes to rent, along with cycling accessories and clothing. They're also a great source of news about rides, events, and whatever else is going on. Mountain bike races are organized and group rides can be arranged in advance at mutually convenient times.

A visitor's best bet is to join an organized trip, as bike-shop staff know the island's trails better than anyone. In many cases, they are the ones who've mapped the trails with the cooperation of the landowners, and their presence helps to ensure trouble-free access across their land.

Some of the best and most scenic trails are located in the hills on the French side in areas such as Bellevue, Colombier, Pic Paradis, Friar's Bay, Grand Case, and Anse Marcel. The ride up to Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island, is well worth the effort for the breathtaking view at the top... and the heartstopping run all the way back to the bottom. Also make a point of riding the coast road from French Quarter to Oyster Pond, with the superb view of the ocean and St. Barths on your left.

Goat tracks winding through the pam-pas grass make up some of the terrain you will ride on. Large rocks often lurk hidden in the grass, and another hazard are the thorn bushes of "West Indian barbed wire" that are sometimes low to the ground. So exercise caution, and always carry spare tubes and repair kits.

Many rides are a mixture of on-road and off-road – usually dirt track – but are generally suited to intermediate level. Occasionally, you may have to select the low gears on the steeper hills. On the Dutch side, Guana Bay, Belair, Pointe Blanche, and over the border to Lowlands, are all quiet residential areas to ride.

Cycle Sense

Riding in the Caribbean is hot, hot, hot, so remember to:
- Bring along and drink plenty of water
- Apply sunblock and lip salve often
- Bring gloves, a helmet with visor, some protective gear, and good dark sunglasses.