15 Nov 2017

Finale: Dodici – 12 Small Things

WORDS & PHOTOS x Eskapee

We recently decided to relocate Eskapee HQ to Finale Ligure, Italy for a solid month of riding, with a little work thrown in. Over the month we got to see the little seaside town in more depth than what a quick weekend would allow. Here are our top 12 observations, tips, and general ramblings – in no particular order.

  1. Flat paddles win medals

We have never seen as many riders with flat pedals as we have seen in Finale Ligure. Admittedly we haven’t ridden much in Europe so maybe it’s more common than we see in other places but it’s a safe bet that Europe is winning some kind of flat pedal medal. After a few too many over-the-bars excursions on the super steep stuff we even started to toy with the idea of ditching the clips.

  1. Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution of trail building is yet to arrive in Finale Ligure. So, don’t expect anything to be machine built, containing the word “flow” in the trail name, or smooth enough to hold the 2018 billiard world championships on. 100% hand-made and most probably not very IMBA certified. Expect raw, steep, eroded, old-school, and very much a great version of mountain biking.

Don’t let that scare you off though. Just because it’s not machine built doesn’t mean there aren’t trails for everyone.

  1. Coffee is not a take-away item

Coffee is to be enjoyed in what Italians believe is a moment to relax with friends and discuss topical events. These may include former Prime Minister Berlusconi’s mistresses and how life will go on after Italy’s football team missed its ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Coffee is not a take-away item and as such there’s no non-recyclable cups being used as fashion accessories as you walk around town. (The same cup that ends up in landfill and one day washes up on the beaches of Tahiti.) Even if you’re in a rush, you can choose to stand at a bar in the café and have a quick chat with a local. And the added bonus, you’ll be doing a little something for the environment.

Oh, and don’t ask for the wrong coffee at the wrong time of day. Cappuccinos are not served after dinner 🙂

  1. Learn to Turn

Cutting laps in your favourite bike park isn’t going to cut it here. On certain trails you’re going to have to learn how to turn a bike on a very, very small radius. As our bikes get longer, lower, and slacker that’s becoming a pretty hard task. Our advice: study all the insta-movies of Ludo May or purchase one of those articulated “swing bikes” to get yourself around the switchbacks. Not every trail is like this, but it’s best to be prepared.

  1. eMTB

Yeah, the eMTB thing is pretty big in Europe and Finale Ligure has its fare share of pedal-assistance on show. If you’re into them you won’t have rocks thrown at the back of your head and you will be safe in numbers. If you’re not into them then it gives you plenty of targets to hang shit on as you sip your caprisoskas at the end of the day on the trails.

  1. Ciao

Using a little bit of local lingo goes a long way. To greet someone more formally it’s buon giorno. To greet them less formally it’s ciao. To be even more casual and familiar it’s ciao ciao. If you want to be really relaxed and super casual just keep adding more ciaos to the mix and so you’ll be saying ciao ciao ciao ciao ciao to all and you’ll be a local in no time.

  1. Don’t judge any books by their covers

You’re going to see some joey-looking person on a clapped out bike running no socks and a full-face with visor in the wrong position and totally not conforming to the latest industry marketing pitch. That same person is going to absolutely smoke you on the trails of Finale Ligure. They are probably going to be French too. Get used to it.

  1. Smoking

Europe, please…there’s nothing worse than sitting in an outdoor café with a refreshing Aperol Spritz in hand and breathing the fumes of the Marlboro man. Yep, alcohol is bad for your health (and society) too and us calling out smokers could be considered hypocritical but unless we’re starting a drunken fight with you or projectile vomiting across your table then you do not have to share in our vice. We’d like to enjoy our free food (see below) sans cancer so maybe it’s time to join other countries and ban it in outdoor eating areas too.

  1. Free Food

If you like a post-ride beer then you’re in for a special treat. Buy your drinks after a certain time in the afternoon/evening and you’ll get free food. Buy another drink and you’ll get even more free food. And it’s not just cheap pretzels and nuts, it is pretty damn good and there are even places that have all-you-can eat self-serve versions too. Drink enough and dinner is taken care of.

  1. Gelato

Eat heaps of it, enjoy it, indulge it, love it. Even if you’re conscious of your weight that’s not an excuse to skip the most important meal of the day. Take a day off the shuttle and ride to the top of NATO Base to work it off, or do a real day of Enduroing (see below) – just don’t skip gelato as part of your daily meal plan. And a good insider tip: don’t get to the front of the queue at the gelato shop without knowing what you want. Holding up the line with indecision will mean you’re not their favourite customer and you may find yourself at the receiving end of some Italian words you won’t understand.

  1. The Spirit of Enduro

If you go to Finale Ligure and do nothing but shuttle runs then you’re just riding downhill – you’re not doing this thing called “enduro”. Take a day off endless shuttle runs and actually ride some ups with your downs. Find a route, connect distant trails, and spend the day on the bike pedalling and get to know what the whole enduro thing is all about. It makes the beer and free food taste even better.

Plus, countless engineers have spent even more countless days, months, and years ensuring our modern 160mm travel bikes can actually pedal so you will be honouring their hard work too.

  1. That’s Amore

We loved the riding, loved the people, loved the food, loved the swimming, and loved the weather. We loved Finale Ligure and want to thank everyone we met and everyone who helped out. fino alla prossima volta.