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Few things in life are as satisfying as cresting the summit of a craggy peak after a long, winding mountain climb – and all the better on two wheels.
But when the summit is still far off and your legs are beginning to burn, lungs heaving in the thinning air, your mind may wander to the breezy, high-speed bliss of a long downhill…
From the ridiculously long to the ridiculously stunning and the ridiculously fast, these downhills are likely to take even the most discerning rider’s breath away.
18km descent from Col de Tourmalet
Ever fancied trying your hand, or rather legs, at the Tour de France’s legendary mountain stages? How hard can it be?
This fantastic route takes you from the Atlantic to the Med, conquering many of cycling’s most famous challenges en route.
Not for the faint-hearted, the hors categorie Col de Tourmalet presents riders with 2,115m of rock to assail, but then rewards them with a blistering descent through the town of Saint Marie de Campan then on to the next iconic col.
Ride it: Raid Pyrenean Coast to Coast Ride
40km descent from Imouzzer to the sea
The grand finale of eight days in the High Atlas mountains, this is the ultimate descent – 40km downhill from mountain peak to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.
The route follows a rugged winding trail, heading gradually downwards through remote villages that perch on the reddish Atlas slopes, eventually finding its way to the sea.
At the end of a long week’s riding on the fringes of the Sahara, a swim in the cool blue ocean makes for a perfect finish to the trip.
15km descent through National Parks
Take your time – this is a descent to be savoured. The route winds through pine forest and paddy fields, taking in the Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park.
The park is home to an astonishing array of rare and endangered plants and animals, with ancient trees punctuated by the bright flashes of a plethora of orchid species.
Watch out for the elusive vampire flying frog (not actually vampiric, but capable of gliding between trees), which has only ever been sighted within the boundaries of the park.
54km descent of the Western Ghats
Few people get the chance to freewheel through a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the Western Ghats gives you the opportunity to do just that.
The mountain chain in southern India is older than the Himalayas and one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ for biological diversity, according to UNESCO.
The 54km descent passes through the tea plantations that hug the cool mountain slopes, the road winding down towards the heat of the plains and ultimately arriving at the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.
This article was written for Exodus by journalist, traveller and guest writer Dan Hinge.
View our cycling descent trips below.