Friday, May 21, 2010

Ride Sierra Nevada - Spain


I’m sure that most of you will remember last year's circular email proposing a trip to Spain for MTB and sun! Well, eventually I managed to gather a total of 3 riders (Chas Willy & me) and here is the full report following a long weekend's riding in the Sierra Nevada Mountains – Andalucía

Following lots of Internet searching, blog browsing and personal recommendations I decided to organise a guided 4 day long weekend of riding with from May 13th – 17th. Flights to Spain incl. bike carriage were organized independently and ridesierranevada provided onward transport to location, accommodation, breakfast & lunch supplies, and guided routes to suit the groups needs….total price per person incl was around £420.00. is run by Shaun Allen and Csilla. It’s a family run business located in Monachil which a small town located at around 2500 feet in the Sierra Nevada range. Shaun and Csilla run the business together on a daily basis and they provide a very personable and extremely friendly service. Their approach is very relaxed and helped to set the tone for a great holiday. Running a MTB guiding service in a fantastic mountain location is very much part of their life style choice and it was always very refreshing to finish a days ride at the local bar, sharing a beer and tapas and unwinding in the afternoon sun.

For the three of us it was our first time MTBing in Spain and between us we had little idea of what to expect. Our riding was split over 4 days with the routes determined by Shaun and targeted to give us a broad range of obstacles and challenges.

It was a very early start to travel day with the flight to Malaga with easyJet leaving at 6am - bikes had been packed late the night before so sleep was in short supply. Shaun met us at the airport on arrival and after a stop for coffee on the way up (that was to become a common theme for Shaun) we were up in Monachil by just after lunch. The bags were dropped off at our comfortable accommodation (we had a pool!!) and went up to the village to get our bearings. About 15mins later, we were in the bar for the first of a number of rounds of beer and tapas - another common theme of the trip. Although slightly squiffy, we managed to put the bikes together later in the afternoon with no (significant) parts left over which was comforting.

Day 1. Initial uplift was provided by Shaun. This enabled us to ascend around 1000 ft without peddling. Thereafter we were entirely reliant on our own steam and as expected we had to use pedal power to accent a further 1000ft. It’s all good quality fire road and within an hour we were ready to discover what was on offer in the downhill stakes…..

It’s at this point we discovered the true meaning of natural MTB single track…..frankly it was a shock for all of us. The shear variety and variation within each descent was mind boggling especially for MTBers used to groomed UK red routes. We were constantly faced with obstacles, line/approach choices, gradient variations, changing subsoil…… much to take in. As a result we found our riding technique severely challenged. Some sections we coped with well, others we struggled on, some to be honest were beyond our capability. It became very evident that natural trails constantly change in severity and nature of technical challenge. The first half day incorporated rocks, tree lined single track, very steep rocky switchbacks, short sections of rock/bolder gardens, loose stone single track and so on…all of us fell at least twice in the morning and we were slightly concerned that Shaun said this was probably one of the easier descents...

Following lunch (Shaun’s hand made gourmet quality sandwich) we faced a shorter but tougher climb to the next ridge line. However, we were rewarded with a flowing trail centre style descent through wooded forest back to Monachil. We all enjoyed this section immensely. It was fast, fun and a good confidence boost for the rides to come. Needless to say, we ended the ride in the bar...

Day 2. Unfortunately Rob awoke on day 2 with ‘Deli belly’ and had to miss the ride…… Willy and Chas set out with Matti (a German trainee guide) direct from Monachil for a ride around and then actually in, Grenada. This was a totally different day which started on lower single track through the woods which was less rocky that the day before but just as steep in places. A quick skirt around the outer edge of Grenada and then away from the city up a steep and techy climb which had us all walking for some of the time. We reached a plateau and then down some very steep rocky switchback sections to a roughly flat (well up and down) section around the edge of a hill which opened up to views of Grenada and the Alambra Palace. We actually went through the palace itself and ended going down narrow stepped alleys from the palace to the new part of the city below. This was really fun and gave us a feel for "urban" riding though without all the reminded me of the "Italian Job" and the Minis with us popping out onto roads with curious glances from pedestrians and drivers alike.

At the bottom (yes, after another bar stop) we were picked up by Csilla and driven back to Monachil where Rob had staged a bit of a recovery which enabled us to go to the "Socialist Hunters Bar" (still not sure whether they hunted socialists though) for more beer and Tapas.

Day 3. Chas decided to take a well earned rest, Paul (officially a ‘mountain goat’) as usual was fit a rearing to go. I’d recovered enough to hold my breakfast down but was feeling a little sorry for myself! To add another dynamic, Shaun decided to combined us with another group of lads (7 in total) who had traveled from the midlands. A fine bunch of guys, blessed with a good sense of humor and a broad range of riding skills. Once again we were provided with uplift and initially rode great single track with lots of small rocks and boulders to provide a challenge. After working our way into the valley and across a river, we proceeded to climb for around 1 hour on double track and then push a final ascent on tough single track to an impressive summit with fantastic views. I must point out that ‘mountain goat Paul’ nearly rode to the top of the single track and Shaun powered up…RESPECT!

The descent from the top was simply fantastic. As usual combining a multitude of technical challenges some of which were exhilarating, others beyond my capability. However, almost without exception we all loved the ride. There really is something special about descending from the top of a 5000 feet summit! By now the weather had improved so it was back to our place for a swim and a few beers before going to the other group's place for dinner prepared by a local paraglider!

Day 4. The final day. By consensus we chose an easier ride in terms of tech down hill. Uplift to a higher altitude, lots of climbing but for the first half of the day the decents were on high level double track, dusty, loose, but generally straightforward. The upside was plenty of time to enjoy the stunning views for the last time! The afternoon provided a few more challenges. More dry riverbeds (by now my nemesis!), some rocky sections and drop offs (which I was now riding with so much more confidence) and finally the sweet single track descent back to the village that we had all enjoyed so much on the first day. Great way to finish!!


Chas, rob (R2) and Paul (Willy) + guest appearances from the Midlands crew:
Midge, Gareth (Taf), Martin, Chris, Gav, Al , James

Rigs: R2 & Chas Canyon XC, Willy – Cotic Hemlock (just right for the terrain!)

Mechanicals: Surprisingly few! R2 x2 pinch flats & displaced Oro lever piston after fall (fixed). Willy got chainsuck in the first 50m on the first day.

Injuries: Lots of loose stone bruises to shins, bramble scratches to shins for all. R2 removed skin from forearm after repeated tumbles in dry river bed!! Willey, bruised hand after fall.

Falls: Too numerous to mention but Rob's fall over handle bars into a Rosemary bush on day three and Chas's low speed Les style "lie down" into a grassy dell on day 2 were memorable.

Midlands crew: Al face planting a large rock on day 1 resulting in serious bruising and 3 stitches to face!, Midge missing a narrow bridge at speed on day 4, falling 4 metres with bike. Amazingly, just minor scratches!!

Memorable events: R2 eating river bed dust after numerous falls (I’m going back to crack it!). Willy breezing up all climbs and riding extremely well through varying terrain and tech challenges (envy!). Chas, making it through after some tough climbs and scary downhill moments.
Shaun…..making it all look Sooooo easy on a hardtail!!!!

Weather: Day 1, snow in the air at 4000 feet. Day 2 – 4 fabulous sunshine and blue skies

Final Comment:

Highly recommend Shaun, Csilla and
Fitness and good basic tech skills will ensure maximum enjoyment and safety
Your riding WILL improve
You WON’T forget the experience!

Thanks to Rob for setting it all up!


Dan Howell said...

Share a "bear"!? You were only away for 4 days, you don't get that desparate do you!? And having seen the size of their claws, I hope to gawd you drugged it or otherwise it was a very obliging animal :)

Dan Howell said...

(Oh, and great write-up, sorry! Sounds awesome and a teensy bit scary all at the same time!)

Rob#2 said...

Sorry about the smelling pistake...corrected!....You are right awesome and a bit scary!

Farqui said...

Brilliant, sounds like a helluva wkend.

On these big trips, you want trails that challenge ya's otherwise you may as well ride your local tracks. On new trails if gonna be difficult to gauge the right level. There's nowt quite like a good batch of buttock clenches to make you feel alive...

Glad no major injuries were sustained, a few offs prove you were trying :p

Sounds like the guided option is a winner.

martin said...

Rob, great write up, Midge told me about the blog. Your right it was an awesome trip. Although it took a few days to come down as the adrenalin subsided!.We are hopefully off to try the new cannock trails this weekend, and Im hoping it will be a breeze after Sierra Nevada.Maybe see you all on the trails.Martin (midlands crew)