Catalina Island for XC Mountain Biking
If you are looking for an XC mountain bike ride or race that is an exciting US based destination, try Catalina Island. It is located on an island about 60 miles of the Los Angeles coast line.
If you are in it to race your XC mountain bike try the Gran Fondo race event on Catalina Island:
The best riding to enjoy an XC mountain bike adventure is to ride from one side of the island to the other. You can start from either side of Catalina Island since the Catalina Express, the ship that takes you to the island docks in both Avalon and the Isthumus side of the island.
The Avalon side is much more active, and it is even a cruise ship destination as well. The isthmus side is much less populated, offering visitors places to tent camp as well as trails for hiking.
Traveling to one side of the island to the other is about 50 miles each way, and while there are a few hill climbs, crossing the islands is more fire road based so four wheel drive vehicles can travel back and forth.
The Catalina Airport is another point of interest. I have traveled there in small aircraft and the takeoff is breathtaking as you launch off the cliff into the clouds, returning to Los Angeles California.
The island does have some imported Bison that were originally purchased and brought to the island for a movie many years ago. Since then they have remained there and been allowed to breed. Avoid them, and they will avoid you. Use caution with them, these large animals are very fast, I personally have had to pedal fast to get away as one of them got a little protective over the herd.
Also if you are riding towards Avalon, on the last very long downhill street road use extra caution to avoid oncoming vehicle traffic traveling uphill.
The best time to ride is my opinion is the spring or summer. In the winter the island can get muddy and rainy. When the trails are hard packed I find the riding much more enjoyable.
The views of the ocean which are enjoyed from several locations are breathtaking and I have always found the island people to be friendly.
I rarely get a flat, but I always take my XC mountain bike repair kit. Depending on the temperature it is generally very comfortable and a hydration reservoir makes the most sense but water bottles can get the job done for those who are use to long rides and small amounts of water.
There are free places to get water on both sides of the island, but I prefer to buy bottled water at both ends of the island. Avalon has a large supermarket, while the Isthmus has a small store.
I typically run XC mountain bike tires that are fast rolling and designed for hard pack. I prefer to run light weight UST rubber for this type of adventure. Here are my tips for the best XC mountain bike tires if you are looking for rubber.
Warm weather gear is best for your clothing, with half finger gloves and a dedicated XC helmet is best. Helmets are required to be worn at all times when crossing the island.
Remember to purchase your bike pass from the Conservancy as well. It is cheap, and a small stipend is used for trail maintenance.
Bring your swimming gear and take a nice dip to cool off on either side of the island and enjoy this delightful, well kept secret.