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BasqueMTB: Big Bike Days in November

Big mountain day with the bikes.
Climbing under the blue skies that were hiding above the low clouds.
Almost exactly two years ago Carlos and I were sitting with our mountain bikes at the top of a certain cross covered, 1000m peak for the first time. Talk centered around the climb, possible improvements to the route, of course, the descent. I remember looking out west and seeing another mountain with another cross on it. “Do you think that mountain is possible on bike?” I asked Carlos. “Probably” was the answer! Well that winter in Spain was spend developing bike routes on some other mountains and then it was the holiday season and there was no time for exploratory biking. Somehow we forgot. Or rather, we just didn’t remember. The idea of that peak stayed in the back of both of our minds ever since. I have just finished my holiday season so have more time and coupled with the fantastic weather this part of Spain is experiencing, suddenly the peak was in the front of our minds again. Plans were made, routes discussed and yesterday Carlos took a holiday from work. The game was on!
Sort-of-singletrack past old farm houses.
The forecast was for blue skies and cool temperatures, perfect for taking a bike up a mountain then. Javito, another local biker, and two of his friends had heard about our plans and decided to join us, so it was 5 of us who met at the base of the mountain. There was a slight disappointment to find the skies covered with low cloud but we quickly put that aside, loaded up with some extra clothes and set out on the climb. From the map the most likely climb seemed to be largely on concrete and wide dirt roads. That isn’t uncommon and it certainly makes for the most efficient, if not the best climbing. Climbing up though the old farm houses we quickly started to get some nice views and we were also surprised to find that we were climbing on a mixture of nice singletrack and quiet roads. So far so good.
Grassy trails through white rocks.
The climbing continued like that. Singletrack winding along the contours past old farm house interspersed with short, sharp climbs on concrete and deserted mountain roads. The variety made the climb seem much shorter and amazingly we were at almost 800m before we reached the first section that it wasn’t possible to ride. Preparing ourselves for a long carry we were again surprised when after a few minutes we reached more rideable singletrack. Now we were climbing on grassy singletrack winding through sharp white rocks that looked like sharks teeth had rained from the sky.
The machine of the day, the GSpot.Lunch at the summit.
At about 850m we reached the level of the top of the clouds and were warmed by the sun once more. The last 150m was climbing on a very rocky, broken fireroad and what it took from the spirit with it’s steep ramps it gave back with it’s amazing views. Finally there was a little push to reach the cross we had seen all that time ago at the end of a different climb. The views over the clouds were stunning and lunch was spread out in an awed silence.
Grassy descent through white rocks.
During lunch I started to get the butterflies in my stomach that is typical for these situations. That is, when you have hauled your bike up a big mountain and are now faced with a long, technical and unknown descent. Not many people take bikes up here. We might even be the first bikers testing out these descents. The fact is that any mistake or triumph of adrenaline over sense can have consequences. Up here those consequences are likely to be much more severe than those at less rarefied altitudes. I don’t think that anyone doesn’t feel that tingle of nerves at a summit. It’s part of the game and part of the reason we play it.
Picking up the old mountain tracks.
Fed, padded up and full of adrenaline it was time to start our descent. We began on grassy singletrack winding around, and over, the sharp white rocks typical of the mountains in this area. Speed was easy to gain and hard to loose and everyone had more than one sideways moment as they tried to wipe some speed for the next corner. Dropping down to a little mountain pool we picked up an old mountain road. About a meter wide and lined with big, slippy stones it was all about line choice and commitment. Luckily this part was around that magic gradient where pedalling is irrelevant and braking is sporadic. The track varied between grassy and very rocky but no matter how rough it got it had that magical element, flow.
Carlos leading the way on his G-Spot.
We wound into woods where the path was covered in roots and then just as suddenly out onto the open mountain side where the path was rough and exposed. Long straights followed by quick switchbacks. I was pretty much in mountain bike heaven. A couple of the guys found some sections hard and there were a couple of crashes, nothing serious though.
Sun behind photographer.Sun infront of photographer!
Tunnel vision set in, and focus was fixed on the rider in front and the smoothest path over the rocks. Somehow we forgot to keep a track of where we were, instead looking for the next pump, jump or potential wheel trap. Somehow we screamed past the junction. Somehow we rode for miles down the wrong track. Somehow we found ourselves pushing back up 100m to find the planned descent. We make these mistakes so you don’t have to!
Old, rocky mountain paths.
After our junction the path got significantly less rocky. Grassy singletrack dived down through old farm houses, sheds and herds of bearded goats. By this point we had been descending for around an hour and our arms and legs were tired. By now line choice was poor and a lot of the rocky sections were just flat out tests of faith in our suspension. Eventually though all good things have to come to and end and we found ourselves at the upper limits of the town where we had started. The last 50m of descent were on tar and, to be honest, it was welcome. Smoothness, blood returning to hands and the first time we had sat in our saddles for over an hour. These things were good.
Descending from the quiet mountain to the busy town.
We rode from around 11am to around 4pm. The route was about 98% rideable on the way up and 100% on the way down. All the descending apart from the last 5 minutes was on very high quality mountain paths, maybe not the best descent we have but it is a fantastic introduction for people into what it’s like to take your bike up and down these mountains. Definitely one I will return to, and it was definitely worth the wait!

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