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On the Giant's summits — Italy's Mount Cusna by mountain bike

Stefano Udeschini (Steve Ude)

On the Giant's summits — Italy's Mount Cusna by mountain bike

Mountain Biking Collection by Luigi D'Imperio

3

Tours

17:13 h

67.9 mi

14,900 ft

In Italy’s Reggio Emilia Apennines, Mount Cusna is a truly wild and little-known place, largely unspoilt and far from mass tourism. After Mount Cimone, Cusna is the highest mountain in the entire northern Apennines. Its profile, together with that of the surrounding peaks, resembles a huge man lying on his stomach. In fact, the locals call it 'the Giant'.

If you love riding in the mountains and can't wait to test yourself on technical and exhilarating trails while earning epic descents with the sweat of your brow, lots of lactic acid and a good dose of hike-a-bike, then this Collection is for you.

Between high mountain single track and narrow ridge trails, you’ll encounter challenging terrain. Excellent riding skills are required for this adventure and the best way to tackle it is with an enduro bike that’s not afraid to go uphill, or, if you’re good on trails, an all-mountain bike that’s not afraid to go downhill. Make sure you’re also familiar with hike-a-bike, which is necessary to conquer the most important peaks of this slice of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines: Monte Prado, Monte Ravino and, of course, Monte Cusna. To reach them, you’lll have to head along ridge paths that are not always rideable, often pushing your bike or carrying it on your back. Grippy, comfy shoes are therefore vital! As the route includes several stretches of hike-a-bike, it’s unsuitable for e-bikes.

On this route, you’ll ride on mountain trails far from the crowds and chaos of the city. Here, you’re unlikely to meet more than a handful of people. But don't worry, you’ll be far from alone. First and foremost: the marmots. As fearful as they are curious, they scatter around the ridges and stare at you from a distance, emitting their characteristic whistle. If you’re not seeing any, look closer: they blend in well among the high mountain landscapes, and it’s their bulk and seemingly awkward gait that often give them away. The golden eagle, another inhabitant of these areas, is aware of this and is fond of marmots; this explains why those sweet rodents always seem so stressed.

The start and end of this loop is the village of Rescadore. This is also where the Febbio 2000 ski lifts are located, which, at the time of writing (July 2022) aren’t in operation due to maintenance work, which doesn’t yet have an end date. If in operation, these lifts are an excellent solution for enjoying the Cusna trails while saving several hundred metres in elevation gain. To find out about the reopening, you can contact the operator at infofebbio.com.

I’ve divided this itinerary into three stages: you’ll find a detailed description in each Tour. The distance and altitude gain may not seem like a lot, but don’t underestimate it: the type of terrain you’ll encounter in some sections presents difficulties that’ll keep your average speed rather low. The first stage ends in Ligonchio, a picturesque hamlet in the municipality of Ventasso. Fun fact: this small village is famous for being the birthplace of none other than Iva Zanicchi a.k.a the Eagle of Ligonchio, the Italian pop singer and politician. The origin of this nickname is unclear. In any case, I don't know if she’s fond of marmots.

The itinerary has several crossroads that allow you to modify it to your liking. I’ve indicated the huts you’ll encounter on the trail, but there are also others in the area, in case you want to organise your stages differently.

The best time to embark on this adventure is from the beginning of June to the end of September. This way you can enjoy mild temperatures and avoid snow and ice at altitude. Remember that you’ll be in the high mountains most of the time, where weather conditions can change abruptly. You’ll face challenging singletrack, a lot of climbing and your legs will be tired. For this reason, caution is a must: if a section seems too complex, don’t hesitate to get off your bike and do it on foot. Better not to take unnecessary risks.

This itinerary covers much of the Cusna area, touching on three of its main peaks. But in this area there are many other MTB routes for all tastes and levels, which are definitely worth exploring. To find out more, visit the Ride The Giant website: ridethegiant.it. This is a local MTB school that also organises tours, promotes the area and maintains the trails. Without them, this adventure would not have been possible!

Finally, remember to always be careful and respect the environment, the mountains and the people you meet on the trails, whether on foot or by bike.

Have fun, the Giant is waiting for you!

On The Map

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Sulle cime del Gigante - il Cusna in MTB tra crinali, sudore e adrenalina

69.1 mi

14,975 ft

14,975 ft

Last updated: July 14, 2022

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Rescadore to Ligonchio — on the peaks of the Giant

    Difficult
    04:47
    19.9 mi
    4.1 mph
    4,250 ft
    4,875 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    Let's get off to a great start, immediately conquering Monte Cusna. But take it easy ... it will take a while! In fact, more than 21 kilometers and 1,260 meters of positive altitude difference separate you from the summit. Shortly after the start, the asphalt gives way to the pleasant dirt road of the

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    by Luigi D'Imperio

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  • Difficult
    06:16
    21.1 mi
    3.4 mph
    5,650 ft
    3,075 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    From Ligonchio to Passo Pradarena there are over 700 meters of positive difference in height, first on asphalt then on the path. Some steep sections await you, but they are always pedalable. Once at the top of the pass, a rather tourist destination also frequented by motorcyclists and campers, continue

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    by Luigi D'Imperio

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  • Difficult
    06:10
    26.9 mi
    4.4 mph
    5,000 ft
    7,000 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    From the Battisti Refuge, retrace the stretch of the first day to the Passone, where you will now turn right along the ridge path that will take you first to the Vallestrina Pass, then to the Passo della Volpe and finally to the top of Mount Ravino, at 1,882 meters above sea level. of the sea. This stretch

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    by Luigi D'Imperio

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    3
  • Distance
    67.9 mi
  • Duration
    17:13 h
  • Elevation
    14,900 ft

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