Get in touch with the guys who run 360 Valtellina bike and arrange an uplift day. Not only will they be stoked to share Basso Valtellina's sickest and most gnarly descents, they're also a great laugh.
Here'a an jaw-shaking, adrenaline-inducing major descent off the Passo San Marco. Best to have a guide if you're not sure about the terrain. Steep and slippery.
From Sondrio you'll first ride the Passo Aprica before a long, swooping descent to Edolo. From here it ramps up gentle to Monno before a steep climb under a canopy of trees takes you up towards the Passo Mortirolo. You'll ride a few kilometres along the top before hitting the pass sign and the top of the much steeper side. Start going down that descent but take a right turn towards Grosio. Safer and a lot less steep, this narrow downhill pops you out on the far side of Grosio. From here, follow the small roads or even the Sentiero bike path back towards Tirano and Sondrio.
The Mortirolo doesn't usually open until late May/early June.
The road up from Cedrasco is steep, so perhaps get all your conversations out of the way before embarking on the suggested first hour of this ride. It levels off after a while and there's beautiful, wide open scenery with meadows and high, high, high mountains on the horizon. If you bring a bike lock (not that you'll need it), you can do a ciclo-Alp adventure and keep running once the two wheels have taken you as far as you can go on the gravel.
Val Cervia is often over-looked but that's what is so special as you'll barely see a soul. Just marmots and deer. Exactly how it should be,
For the descent I'd nip off to the right when you see a bumpy track. It'll add some more excitement to your ride.
Set aside a good few hours for this exploratory gravel ride around the valley. Expect the unexpected: cute villages, snaking singletrack, rasping-breath-inducing cobbled climbs, and more. We expect a lot of highlights on this route. Don't let yourself be navigated though – this is one where you should take any turning that takes your fancy.
A spectacular route that starts at a holiday park-esque pasture that takes you by surprise. Cross the meadow, pine needle-strewn trails, a long but gentle gravel climb that escalates into sublime trails and an opportune bivouac. The descent is trickier – especially if there are still remnants of snow – but it's a superb mountain run and displays the greatest of the Basso valley.
A route reserved for late spring, summer and early autumn.
Setting off from Postalesio means you'll get a few kilometres of flatter running to warm your legs up ready for the climb. It's a tough one, but super rewarding when you realise that you're exploring rarely-seen territory, even for the locals. Other than us, the only runner you might see here will be a former international boxer and his dog.
The descent starts a little bit slip-and-slidy, but opens up into an incredibly runnable gravel track.
This is 87 km with a lot of bang for your buck. Exciting, tiny roads that wiggle across the valley sides. It might be easy to brush this route off but it's a great starting point for bigger rides. The climb from Bianzone up to Teglio is included in the Gran Fondo Stelvio Santini but gets so crowded with inept climbers during the gran fondo that it's much better to do in your own time, on your own ride, away from the masses.
There's a section on the Statale that's almost unavoidable, but you could take the Sentiero Valtellina if you really hate the main road.
The route back to Sondrio teases with the 'Via Panoramica', which is delightfully short of traffic and swoops and swerves its way back along the south-facing slopes. It's an exciting route that provides amazing views. There's always the option to stick to the Via Panoramica if you prefer to bypass the super scenic, slightly arduous route that is outlined here.
A popular haunt with the Basso valley lot, and a route that just edges into a top-30 position. Avoid hot days as the summit of Colmen could be crowded. Plus, on those days isn't it nicer to get high? Spectacular flat, Scandinavian-style woodland section once you're over the top. The whole run is worth it for that.
Year-round route for mindless running days when getting high is out of bounds but you still want to get a fix of great views and steep trails.
This route came to fruition in 2017 for the launch of a brand new uphill mountain race, which takes place in February. It starts from Agriturismo Sesterzio (a lovely B&B that does superb food and unrivalled hospitality), and begins with a rather steep, narrow trail. After just a few minutes it eases and weaves up through the cute village of Regoledo, with a mixed bag of terrain. After leaving the village via a beautiful single track, the climb continues, criss-crossing the road before jutting off to the left and following a gravel climb up to one of our favourite hidden houses in the valley. The descent is super fast and fun, bringing you back to Monastero then Maroggia, then finally Sesterzio again.
Finish this one off with dinner or cake at Sesterzio. It's worth it. Those guys know their wine too.
Loosely based on a race held every October, this route does a beautiful climb before looping through cute villages with great views. It's fast and furious to descend. You'll have fun, we promise.
From the highest point you can easily add another 1,000 metres of climbing by following signs for Alpe Schermendone. It's worth it when you get up past the tree line. It isn't a particularly tough climb either, just follows the ridge line with views all down the valley from under a canopy of trees.
There's a great bakery in Ardenno to round off your run – they take a long lunch break though, so time your effort.
You're bound to have a fondness for your most local route, which is why this route has found its way here. But adopted home village aside, the view from Ca' Moroni and its cute cluster of houses makes any run worth its effort.
From Ca' Moroni it flattens off onto a gravel track for about 1km, before joining the road briefly and taking a trail up and down to the Pirimadi, Postalesio's geological addition to the curiosities of Valtellina.
Expect to startle plenty of deer in autumn and early winter.
Stock up on cheese when you've finished this route. Postalesio is home to the best goats cheese producers in the valley, if not the whole of Italy. They can be found just opposite the bar at the entrance to the village.
A staple run in the valley, the vineyard climb from Triasso to Triangia is a tough section of uneven steps that seems never-ending. It does end, but you might wish it hadn't because it's just so beautiful. Obviously afterwards the first thing you should do is go and find some Sassella red wine, preferably that made by the cooperative wine sellers in the village of Triasso or by Alfio Mozzi, Valtellina's fastest wine producer.
You can make so many variations of this run, including starting from almost anywhere: Sondrio for a longer climb or Castione for a shorter loop. This one starts and finishes in Postalesio to give your legs a warm-up and warm-down. The trail across the top of the vineyards from Castione is part of the Terrazzamenti trail, and it's just magical.
Above Triangia you've got the option to include the lake or not. I probably would but there's some beautiful pine forest trails that loop around it.
The descent back to Castione goes by the name 'Rodelbahn', as it weaves its way playfully through the woods. Enjoy it.
Year-round route. The wine harvest is in October usually, so that's a great time to see the hustle and bustle along the route.
This ride starts and finishes in Postalesio, but you could easily start from anywhere – you'd just end up climbing even further.
From Triangia the road is tarmacked beautifully up to at least 1,100 metres where you'll find a cluster of houses called Ligari. You can fill up your bottle and nip into the 'village' for some cake and a chat at the restaurant. It's open all-year round.
The road then worsens a little, but doesn't turn to gravel until around 1,700 metres of altitude. Then expect steep, concrete corners and rutted out gravel. Once you reach the cross at 1,900 metres, the track 'flattens' out for 6-7km before dropping down ever so slightly to Alpe Colina. The whole of this stretch is pretty beaten-up gravel so mountain bike tires are definitely recommended.
From Alpe Colina, you can take the road straight down to Postalesio. The first 1.5 km is still gravel, but unfortunately in 2017 they made the decision to tarmac a lot more of the road. It's in a great condition now if you're into going fast. There are a lot of options for proper descending on trails, just look for deviations on either side of the road.
At 1,000 metres you'll reach Pra Lone, an opening with a few houses, and here's where the real trails start, dropping down to Ca' Moroni then Postalesio. These are not gravel bike-friendly, just sayin'.
Route reserved for summer and early autumn.
A staple loop that's rideable all year. Join this route from absolutely any village and add in extra climbs if you're feeling fresh. Up and down, fast and furious. Cuteness overload with some of the villages.
Year-round but watch out for the shady descent into Val Masino as it can be treacherous in the depths of winter. Your alternative is to descend to Morbegno from Dazio on a beautiful, newly tarmacked fast road.
Here's a stellar route for anyone who wants to avoid traffic and see the most unfrequented roads and tracks. So many variations of this route are possible, but there are certain unmissable sections like the tiny road linking Gaggio to Buglio that doesn't appear on most maps, or the pristine gravel across the bottom of the valley floor from Ere to Ardenno that gives such a sense of tranquility, so far removed from the madness of the main road.
Year-round route. Gets pretty muddy on the valley floor after rain. You can get away with narrower cyclo-cross tires on this route.