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If every now and then, walking through the woods of Mount Etna, you see a path apparently demolished, do not come to quick wrong conclusions. Take a good look. You will see that maybe it is just a path created naturally by dry branches, fallen leaves and some wooden boards to delimit its perimeter. What is it for? It is to show the way to those who practice mountain biking on our volcano. In fact, on Mount Etna there are at least 15 tracks for mountain bicycles . Which, if you know how to use them, do not create any damage to nature. Mountain Bikes are, on the contrary, another wonderful way to experience it.

Mountain Bike and nature

The first Mountain Bike (or MTB, from “mountain trail bike”) was built in California in 1978, invented by Joseph Breeze. But bicycle races in the midst of nature, on the Californian mountains, were already taking place in the 1960s . They used bikes modified in an artistic way to serve the purpose. In the 1980s, properly modified, MTBs were already a success on the world market.

Their characteristic is a more compact and lighter frame, wheels that can adhere to any terrain and obviously the gears to tackle the climbs. In their evolution, Mountain Bikes have also become aesthetically attractive: bright colours, writings, fluorescent elements. And they have paved the way for modern bikes, including road bikes, for the innovative materials they have introduced into the sector.

Even if they look aggressive, these bikes – if handled wisely and with experience – are not harmful to nature. They follow the paths already created by streams, landslides and similar. They simply challenge the strength of man in facing unexpected events.

mtb etna 2
photo by G Musumeci

Mountain Bike on Etna

Today many mountain tour operators offer excursions and mountain bike trails. Even on Etna there are several choices in this regard. For those who want to move independently, the ideal would be to take a tour of the volcano, get to know it in all its facets and then try the route on their bikes.
There are several trails for mountain biking on Etna. Among the most famous we point out:

  • Pineta Linguaglossa-Pista Altomontana and Crateri Silvestri-Piano dei Grilli (two of the hardest routes that require an excellent previous training);
  • Piano dei Grilli-Maletto and Galvarina Refuge ring (suitable for everyone);
  • Pineta Ragabo-Solicchiata, Crateri Silvestri ring, Grotta della Neve ring, Serra Buffa-Grotta della Neve … these are of medium-high difficulty and therefore require at least a good previous training.

Other routes that can be done by mountain bike are the ascent from Nicolosi to Rifugio Sapienza, the Ragalna-Piano Vetore route, the ascent from Fornazzo to Rifugio Citelli. In these cases, asphalted roads are also used a lot, but you can enter the dirt road at any time.

Rules for MTB on Etna

Etna is a large mountain and also a volcano. This means that, as a mountain, it is also popular with hikers, families with children, and horse lovers. If you throw yourself down a MTB track in the wood, always keep in mind that you may suddenly find tourists and hikers in front of you.

Eyes wide open, then; and be always ready to signal your arrival, especially if you are fast.

Etna is an active volcano. So it is subject to sometimes strict and extreme safety rules. When access to a route is forbidden, it is not out of a “whim” but perhaps because a serious and dangerous volcanic activity is taking place. Biking on a volcano also means being in an area marked by crevasses, deserts of sharp lava rocks, caves. Some environments are inaccessible because they are dangerous, others because they are a rare natural heritage that must not be ruined. Not even by the passage of a rubber wheel. Respecting the volcano is essential to save nature and one’s life!

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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