This January we ran our first two Ainsa Enduro mountain bike holidays to test the idea on some real mountain bikers. We invited guests who have ridden on at least one of our other mountain bike trips to come and help us test the new holidays. The only thing they needed to agree to was that we would stop to do more photos than normal and that each night they would give us detailed feedback on the day´s mountain biking. These first 12 guests would help us shape the future of the “Ainsa Enduro” holiday. So how did it go? Read on to find out more!
“There is no better mountain bike trip in the winter”Roman (translated by Google) via TripAdvisor
For the first holiday we had Andy (6th visit), Pete (3rd visit), Chris (5th visit), Nick and Mike (1st visit due to a mistake!) and John who would have been on his 4th visit. Unfortunately John had a nasty bike crash before he came; if the rumors are true it seems that he managed to rip his testicles off and they are reattaching them now! We managed to replace John with Marcel from the Netherlands, who was not testicularly challenged, at the last minute.
Marcel booked within a couple of hours of us announcing the available place, so sorry to the people who tried to book that place but were too late, it had to be done on a 1st come 1st serve basis.
“I genuinely cannot recommend this trip enough, if you like mountain biking book on it now.”Peter via TripAdvisor
A few of the group arrived under their own steam and we picked the others up in San Sebastian, as for our normal trips. In the future we will offer transfers from Barcelona on an arranged transfer bus because it offers people the most options for flights. We will ask people to arrive any time before 4pm and there will be a transfer around that time. We will also ask people to leave any time after 1pm and there will be the transfer back leaving Ainsa around 9am. That will simplify the logistics for arrivals and departures a lot as well as offering people more scope for finding good flights.
“The riding itself is incredible. The guys have an awesome knowledge of what is on offer and how to tie it together”Craig via TripAdvisor
Prior to this trip we had planned out over 12 days of riding, with a mixture of Zona Zero and other great trails around the area which few people ever see. Antonio and I had met up with Oriol, a local rider who has published a map on the area, to work through some of our ideas and test them. The style of riding we planned was heavily influenced by our experiences at the Enduro World Series in Ainsa last autumn. All our guests, and us, agreed that the EWS trip was fantastic, with a mixture of the Zona Zero enduro trails and some wilder days of adventure with basqueMTB. To that end we planned to run this mountain bike holiday in a similar manner and also try to include as many of the EWS stages as possible during the week but link them up in a way to make use of the vans more effectively.
In winter there is less light and making the most of the day is important so we planned days where we had two or three uplifts mixed with some pedalling and lots of downhill. It was going to be more physical than the Backcountry Pyrenees mountain bike holidays, with more “transfer stages” where we had to pedal. This let us include some great singletrack climbs that don´t fit into any of our other mountain bike holidays and opened up more trail options. It also lets people pedal a bit more and gain some winter miles on the bike to really start the year´s fitness off well.
“I’ve ridden in BC (Canada), French Alps and Sierra Nevada, but these Pyrenean gems outshine even those at times. “Mike via TripAdvisor
The second trip we had Craig (2nd visit), John (1st visit but Craig´s friend!), Anton (3rd visit), Rob (3rd visit), Peter (2nd visit) and the two flying Swiss, Roman and Rito (2nd visit). Most people arrived to San Sebastian and by the middle of the afternoon we were in our apartments in Ainsa building the bikes. The idea was to change this week around a bit with the feedback from the first week but in the end we only really tweaked a couple of days with some great suggestions. This week we had a winter heat wave and the temperatures were almost 20degC at some points, almost too hot for all the clothes we had brought!
The two trips we ran this year settled around 60% uplift, with some tough climbs each day. We rode around 500-700m up each day, often on tough, technical singletracks, and we descended a little under 2000m most days. The overall statistics for the week settled around… 4000m up, 11,000m down with around 170km of trails. This worked really well and meant that with a 9:30am start we were all ready for a shower and beer, (not always in that order), by 5:30pm. On a few days there was the option to do more but the group were ready to finish by then.
The plan for the week was to ride each of the stages of the Enduro World Series (EWS) but we changed the order so that we could link them better using van uplift and of course we managed to add in a whole bunch of fantastic nearby trails that the EWS couldn´t include. By the end of each week we had ridden all of the EWS stages, however this only accounted for a fraction of the trails we rode. It worked out that we rode 3 days in the main Zona Zero area and 3 days slightly further away making use of the van for uplifts, to bring us lunch and also to let us do point to point rides.
“What can I say. I was blown away.”Nick via TripAdvisor
The feedback from our guests was fantastic, as you can see above. That was a bit of a surprise if I am 100% honest, we expected to do more tweaking of the itinerary this week but as it was we will only change a few things around based on the feedback. Those people who had done our other holidays loved the idea of this one being a bit more physical. Those who hadn´t done our other holidays are already asking about availability for the Basque Coast mountain bike holidays and the Backcountry Pyrenees trips this year!
We will definitely run this trip next year, offering trips in December, January and February. We probably won´t run every week and will let the bookings drive which weeks we operate. Pricing will be approximately in line with the Basque Coast and will include 2 packed lunches, breakfasts, 2 dinners and 6 days of guiding. If you are interested then let us know as soon as you can because I have a feeling that these will fill up quite quickly. More photos and a full description will be going up on the website shortly, the current description needs to be updated, we will do this before the start of the season.
We asked everyone to write down a few words about the trip overall at the end of the trip. Some people also wrote reviews on TripAdvisor which I have linked to above but here are some of the other things that people said.
“Amazing trails, love the diversity of the terrain”.
“Come with an open mind. Blown away by the trails, the scenery, the food. Thanks for an amazing week Doug”.
“A great trip in fantastic surroundings, huge choice of challenging trails. A great start to the year”.
“Best bike trip yet! :-)”
“Really great trip. Epic trails, fantastic weather and superb guiding from basqueMTB. Felt blessed really”.
“It is a awesome region where we have been guided through. The amount of trails, the quality and duration leaved me speechless after every new trail. Sometimes i could not stop shouting out my excitement while riding”.
“Doug put together the perfect trip of varied trails – some of the best I’ve ever ridden! It had everything I could have asked for and the days balanced extremely well”.
“The trails really are world class. Challenging, fast, flowing, technical and all of them have incredible views. The variation between harsh rocks to loamy forest and then to ‘dawn of time’ fossil beds was amazing, especially as you regularly got it all within 10 minutes of descending!”
“The quality of your hosting and guiding along with Antonio’s was also second to none. Every day felt different and enjoyable. I cannot wait to return!”
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