Black Hole Trail – underground enduro trail

“The one and only underground enduro trail in the world” – this is the slogan that advertises Black Hole Trail. Just by letting You ride a bike underground, suggests that it will be interesting. But after riding on this trail, I can say that this is not only just a cheap marketing slogan. Former mine Pece, thanks to the efforts of builders and shapers, has a genuinely amazing attraction for bikers.

Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

The Black Hole Trail is located in the Slovenian town of Mezica, in the Koroska region, in the closed mine Pece (Petzen). Until the early 1990s, lead and zinc were mined here. And after closing the mine in 1997 the first tourist route was opened here. Over the years, the first easy bicycle trail was opened for tourists, and in 2018 the trail with true enduro characteristics intended for advanced bikers was officially opened. Black Hole Trail itself is a  10 km underground trail, during which we descent over 140 meters of height, by riding thru 5 levels of the former mine.

Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

My experience from the mine

Preparations

Firstly to be able to ride the Black Hole Trail, we must contact the team “Bike Nomad”, because for our safety, riding there is available only with a guide. We met at 10 o’clock in front of the mine’s infocentre, where other tourist routes begin. A short briefing with my guide Anej and my first surprise when, I was asking “How much time does it take to ride this trail?” He replied that it will be something like 3 hours. From the very beginning I was also aware that this is a trail only for advanced bikers and even with the most experienced riders, very few of them were able to cross all the prepared downhill sections. Of course, each of us believed in our own skills, so “lets do this!”. On the trip with me was also Nina Hoffman, who just the day before took the 6th place among women at the Downhill World Cup in Maribor (and recently in Leogang 2nd place!). The trail itself has no lighting, so everyone must have their own headlamps (or You can borrow them on the spot). Recommended is to have one strong lamp attached to the helmet. Elbow and knee pads are required, and it is also good to take something to drink with you.

Going in to the mountain (literally)

Officially, it is an enduro trail, but the only big climb is done at very beginning by a shuttle bus with a bicycle trailer. It takes us from infocenter to other entrance to the mine located much higher than the main part of the museum and recreational routes. Once we are there, we unpack the bikes and go inside the mountain. However, the first meters underground we cover on foot with bicycles aside. All this must be done, so that our eyes and other senses will be prepared for the lack of natural light and to safely navigate the narrow tunnels of the mine. After a short walk and introducing us to the climate of the abandoned mine, we jump on our bikes and start to ride.

Ride!

To get to the main downhill sections, we have to ride underground over 2 km on flat terrain, of which at the beginning we ride between the trails of the former mine train. We are moving in a group all the time, and we can not disconnect from it. While passing a lot of crossings it is obvious that it would be very easy to get lost down here, because all the tunnels are very similar to each other.

The experience of riding only in light of the headlamps is unique, and after warm up on flat ground the main attraction await us. Already after the first descent we were all surprised by the level of difficulty of trail. Downhill sections are quite short but very technical, and most of them are very steep and require a lot of skills. In front of some of them we were stopping and Anej was telling us what to expect and what to watch out for. Despite the steepness of terrain, I must admit that the grip on the rocks of the former mine is excellent. This gives us good control over the bike and after a while we feel more confident. Sometimes we had to navigate between low ceilings, and sometimes we had to deal with tight 180 degree turns. Riders who love technical descents on typical high-mountain paths will have a lot of fun here.

Most of the downhills have been shaped in the rock, but do not count here for an extra smooth surface. In this part of the mine, the miners mostly were using explosives and the walls on each side are full of enormous holes like Swiss cheese. The course of the route is well marked, and the larger gaps on the sides are secured with nets. During short breaks Anej told us a lot of stories about the area in which we were, as well as how hard it was to prepare this trail to be rideable. You really see the amazing amount of work put into this project, and there is of course further development in the plans.

Photo: Tomo Jeseničnik

At the moment there is one section on which we absolutely have to get off the bike and go down by the ladder. Also I have to admit that one other short downhill was to much for me, so I personally gave up the ride and just walk down with the bike. But Anej was warning us about it, that this is the hardest one on whole trail and only a few of visitors decided to go for it. The most important thing, however, is to be safe and just have good fun, and this definitely was truly amazing ride!

Going back

After full of adrenaline descents, it’s time to return outside. To get to the surface, we have to ride almost 5 km of underground tunnels on flat terrain. The exit route is similar to the easy recreational cycling route led here, and when riding it, we are passing various remains from the glory days of the mine. Anej also showed us remainings of the old elevator, which if they could reconstruct (and there are such plans!), it can take us back to the place where the downhill sections start.

The world’s first underground bike park with guaranteed unchanging weather conditions? That would be something :) We, however, reach the exit on bikes, but not directly at the infocenter only slightly higher. From there, we can take the asphalt road, or climb a bit and end the whole trip with cool natural singletrack. Of course, we choose the singletrack option and after a while we were back at the starting point of our trip.

My thoughts

Personally, I did not have earlier a high expectations of good riding in the mine. I rather believed that only the atmosphere will be special. But after the experience of this ride, I can say that I was wrong. Black Hole Trail is a really interesting and challenging trail that would be good even if it was outside on the surface. The feeling of the former mine illuminated only by the headlamps is just another advantage. For Black Hole Trail proper shape and preparation, there is the team of shapers that is responsible also for creating single trail park Jamnica, which are the best enduro trails in Slovenia, where the edition of Enduro World Series was held in 2018. I was very impressed by the scale of the project, when Anej told us about the beginnings, when nobody believed that it could be able to go down by bike there at all. However, over 3 months of continuous work in the mine, allowed to set a trail, which is constantly evolving and being improved. The version that I was riding at the end of April 2019 is probably easier than the original one, but it is still definitely a difficult one and it is intended only for people who have good control over the bike. Of course, I regret a little of not going this one short section, but I will be thrilled to come back in the future to have a go on Black Hole Trail again!

Practical information:

  • Admission and riding only with a guide, in the groups of 3-7 people.
  • The ride is paid 50 EUR / person, the price includes a shuttle bus and the care of the guide. Booking available via the website bikenomad.com.
  • Black Hole Trail – is intended only for advanced bikers and it is not about the condition, but about technical skills, especially overcoming steep descents.
  • According to the recommendations, full suspension enduro type bikes are the best choice here. It is possible to rent such a bike on site.
  • Each participant must have a helmet and a set of elbow and knee protectors.
  • The basic principle of riding on the downhill sections is to trust your tires, because despite the steepness, the grip is very good here.
  • If any of the downhill sections seems too difficult for you, it’s better to stay safe. In each place you can safely go down on foot.
  • If you are not sure about your light, it is better to borrow a lamp on the site. I stayed with my own headlamp, which in practice turned out to be a bit too dark.
  • The whole trip takes about 2.5-3 hours.
  • Under the ground, the temperature is 10 degrees all year round, and also the humidity of the air is not changing.
  • It is a perfect option for a rainy day.
  • In the area there are also many other bike trails such as single trail park in Jamnica, and Petzen Flow trail.
  • Mine can also be visited thanks to an easy recreational cycling route, a standard hiking route, or by the kayak on the lower levels that have been flooded.

More information about the mine itself and available attractions can be found on our blog: balkanyrudej.pl/kopalnia-pece-czyli-na-rowerach-pod-ziemia. More information on enduro / fr / dh trails in the area can be found at bikenomad.com.

The article was made in cooperation and with the support of Bike Nomad and the Slovenian Tourism Organization. Thank you!

Text: Marek Chabros
Photos: Marek Chabros,
Podzemlje Pece, Tomo Jeseničnik