Mountainbiking in Georgia
A trip that offers extreme contrast between the Mediterranean-style environment around Tbilisi and the vast Caucasus Mountains, location of Europe’s highest peak.
Georgia is on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, between Turkey and Russia. Once part of the Soviet Union, it has been an independent country since 1991. While Georgia has in recent years become very popular among hikers and culinary tourists who come to enjoy the country’s cultural diversity, mountain bike tours in the area of the capital city of Tbilisi and the Tusheti National Park high up in the mountains are still unusual. Which makes no sense, for there are numerous dusty, Mediterranean-style singletracks around the capital, some natural, some enhanced with built features. While Tbilisi, with its population of around 1.2 million, is full of hustle and bustle, in the national park, some 80 km to the north, things happen a little more slowly.
The journey over the Abano Pass features one of the most dangerous pass roads in the world, and leads to the Caucasian hinterland. Here we use the vast network of paths to enjoy spectacular descents from more than 3000 m down to the small mountain-villages. Primal, rustic fare awaits us in the guesthouses of the villages of Omalo and Dartlo.
There’s hardly any other cycling area that offers such changeable stretches within such a “small” area. Located on similar latitude to central Italy, Tbilisi offers dry, sandy and rocky enduro-style rides. From the capital, at 380 m altitude, we use a combination of 4×4 minivan and muscle-power to explore the singletracks found in the surrounding hills.
A half-day’s drive takes us over the Abano Pass and into the Tusheti national park. In a short time we find ourselves in a high mountain environment: the character of the rides changes abruptly. Perfectly located hiking paths wind their way from above 3000 m down into the valley to the simple mountain villages. Here people live either from tourism or by herding sheep or cattle.
In Georgia the guest is king: in every corner of the country, you are always welcome. The unbelievably generous culture puts a smile on tourists’ faces over and over again. With a little luck we will be invited to eat with shepherds up high, or have the opportunity to do some tasting at a distillery producing the local grapebased spirit. The food in Georgia can well be described as the “haute cuisine” of former Soviet gastronomy. It’s delicious, and above all there’s always plenty of it on the table. In the guesthouses, regional specialities made from locally-produced ingredients are served. The food tends to be very solid, with a lot of meat, but there’s plenty for vegetarians too.
What we’ll ride
This trip combines enduro routes close to the city with high-mountain singletracks. While the routes around Tbilisi are partly built up with banks and jumps, in the national park you meet long, long rides along mountain ridges, and rideable switchback turns on both soft and rocky terrain. In order to reach the descents it is necessary to push or carry our bikes. A network of forestry roads, like we know in the Alps, is in Tusheti not to be found. Bicycle mountaineering at its finest.
We spend the first day in Tbilisi, settling in by riding the finest trails around the capital. In the late afternoon we jump into 4×4 minivan and head off to Telavi in the Caucasus Mountains. On the second day we travel up into the highmountain area of the national park.
In Tbilisi we stay in a 3* hotel near the historical part of the city. Breakfast is substantial, and very good. The proximity to the centre is perfect for seeing the unmissable historical area. On the last day, you have the option of recovering from the exertions of the week in a spa or browse through the old town of the city.
When we’re in the mountains, in Telavi and in the Tusheti national park, we sleep in simple, rustic guesthouses. Here too the food is generously portioned and always delicious – Georgian cuisine is known for tasty meals based on lamb and stews.
- Day 1: Arrival in Tbilisi and airport transfer to the hotel
- Day 2: Day rides with minbus support around the city of Tbilisi. Transfer to Telavi.
- Day 3: Transfer up to Abano pass (3.000 m) and descent on a spectacular mountain road. Followed by a 800 m climb (carrying/pushing) and descent to our hostel in Omalo.
- Day 4: Day rides around Dartlo. Check-In in another hostel in Dartlo for 3 nights.
- Day 5/6: Long day, long climb. Up to 3.000 m with a descent full of tight switchbacks to Dartlo.
- Day 7: Heading back to Abano pass and descenting on the other side. Transfer to the hotel in Tbilisi.
- Day 8: Depending on your flight you have time to browse through the city. Airport transfer.
Changes may be influenced by multiple factors such as group riding abilities, weather conditions or the condition of the trails.
- 2 nights accommodation in double or dorm rooms in a hotel in Tbilisi including breakfast and one lunch
- 1 night in a double or dorm room in a hostel in Telavi, including halfboard
- 4 nights in simple hostels in the Nationalpark including fullboard
- All minibus transfers
- 4 guided day trips with our fully qualified expert Bikefex guides and local guides from Mogzauri Rent
- Airport transfers
- Max. 7 people per guide
- Personal travel to/from Tbilisi airport
- One dinner in Tbilisi
- Drinks during the evening meal
Technical demands are mostly very moderate, at S2. In some places the ride is simpler and with more flow; there are also harder sections to be either wrestled with or bypassed. Around Tbilisi the routes are faster, with difficulty level up to a maximum of S2.
Temperatures in august can be up to 40°C. Even in high altitudes, in the Tusheti Nationalpark, it can still be more than 25°C. Bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat for protection.
You should bring sufficient strength for around 1.500 metres of climb each day. Most of the time we have to push/carry our bikes. Don't underestimated the altitude - we will ride up to more than 3.000 m above sea level.
Tbilisi is well served by Georgian Airways, with direct flights from across Europe. We currently advise participants to avoid flying via Turkey and the Ukraine. This is partly due to the varying political situation in these two countries, but mainly because the transfer time between flights is very short; this has led to delays in bikes reaching Georgia.
- Wellmaintained mountainbike: all-mountain full suspension with at least 140 mm suspension travel
- MTBspecific protective clothing (helmet, eyewear, gloves, knee protectors, other body protectors if available)
- Waterproof gear and multiple changes of clothing
- Rucksack for day rides (drinks bottle, spare inner tube, pump, energy bars, lights for riding on the road, …)
- Appropriate and sufficient spare parts. Our local guides will bring a tool box and a lot of spare parts, but remember: we are in the Caucasus range, far away from the next bike shop.
Be sure to bring sufficient spare parts for your bike. Our experience has taught us that it’s worth carrying an extra tyre: the rough terrain is very tough on rubber. If you do forget something, there are a couple of bike shops in Tbilisi that you could go to on the first day. After that, nothing. (Except maybe a blacksmith, if you’re riding on steel…).
Our local partner agency has Scott and Specialized bikes available to hire if necessary. It’s always better to ride your own, and we take our bikes on planes all the time, but if you’re really keen to travel light, get in touch: we’ll definitely be able to source a suitable bike for you.
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Unless otherwise stated, all our trips need to be booked at least two weeks before the day of departure. At that point it will be ascertained whether the minimum number of participants has been reached and the trip is able to take place.