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mountain bike holiday > End of Year Round Up at BasqueMTB

End of Year Round Up at BasqueMTB

MBR Magazine Review
Some news on the 2014 mountain bike holiday season and some changes for 2015.

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: Basque Coast and the Pyrenees

The year has passed so quickly and it’s hard to believe that it’s almost over. At basqueMTB we have had our busiest year ever. We say that every year, however this year has felt like an especially big step forward. It has also brought its own challenges, in particular we have had to turn away loads of people due to lack of space, which has been really sad. To all you guys we couldn’t fit in, we really apologize and hopefully we will get a chance to guide you again next year. To explain a little bit, we decided early in 2014 that we would only let ourselves grow a little bit so that we could make sure that we concentrated on the quality of our trips and I have to say that sitting here at the end of such a busy year it definitely feels that we made the right decision. It also feels, looking back, that despite having two full time guides and a part time driver/guide we had some weeks where we needed more support. To that end we will be making some changes for 2015 but more on that later, lets have a look at 2014 first. It’s quite a long story but I really wanted to get all the information to people. I have divided it into sections so you can skip to the sections which interest you! Read on for more

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: Backcountry Pyrenees

The year started with the Backcountry Pyrenees tours in April and March. These tours have really taken off this year and we were sold out pretty early on in 2014. We changed the routes a bit through the year as we got feedback from guests and saw what trails worked and which could do with being changed. I guess we will always be tweaking our trips and introducing new routes and over this winter we are already actively working on some new options for 2015. There will be a bit more news on that in the next few months but expect some changes to make the trip even bigger and better and keep it fresh for us guides and also for all the people who are returning for another trip.

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: New Backcountry Pyrenees Trails

Around the end of May we started guiding on the coast again and we were really busy, with these trips being really heavily booked up since the end of February. We were guiding on all the old favourite trails, however there are a bunch of new trails which we introduced through the year as well, some of you will have ridden the new descents to Hondarribia or El Cerro or the tracks down near Pamplona where we eat in the restaurant on stilts above the vineyard. We used the same accommodation in Hondarribia that we have been using from the start, however we also added a fully catered option in Doneztebe, a bit inland from there, which worked really well with amazing feedback on the food. We guided almost 300 people through the season, a big increase from last year, and to manage that we had Antonio guiding full time and Borja very ably backing us up on uplift duties as well as keeping the van clean and organised. Sadly we didn’t have Scottish Dave this year, he has returned to Scotland after landing a very nice teaching job, and he was definitely missed but Antonio and Borja have really stepped up to the mark.

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: New Orbea Bikes for 2014

This year we were lucky to be working with some fantastic companies. We have been riding Orbea bikes all year, with us all on the 160mm 27.5 Rallon which has been absolutely amazing. I have been lucky enough to have an Orbea Occam 29er as well which is a shorter travel bike and a great contrast to the super capable Rallon. We have also been carrying all of our gear in Osprey packs and that has been great and really taken the strain off our back and shoulders. We have received some Mavic gear through the year, the highlight of which I think are the 29er ST wheels which have been without fault. Don’t worry though, we haven’t gone all corporate and Doug still uses gaffer tape to keep the bum of his shorts together occasionally!

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: Basque Coast Trails

The season closed out with another group of Backcountry Pyrenees trips in October and November and we enjoyed some seriously warm autumnal weather this year with dusty and fun trails. The last week we had some snow on the highest trails as winter finally started announcing its entrance which really added an epic feel to the trip. And then all of a sudden it was the middle of November and time for some off season adventures and setting everything up for next year. We are working on quite a few exciting things for next year and we will keep you up to date with all the developments as they arrive.

2014 Mountain Bike Holiday: basqueMTB in the Press

Despite being overly busy we also gained some great exposure in the media this year. At the start of the year The Guardian reported that they were, “in the Basque country, eating the best food I’ve ever had.” That was followed by IMB riding Technotricity and reporting that “Nothing in the UK comes close to the severity, length and altitude loss”, and Singletrack Magazine who struggled with the heat due to the fact we had organised a special trip to Spanish Utah in July! There’s a reason we only run trips there in Spring and Autumn! Still they loved the area and trails and Pete concluded that “the best or most memorable rides aren’t always the perfect ones.”

Later that year we organised the launch of the new Nukeproof range and again had Singletrack magazine out on the Basque Coast. They wrote an article about the Basque Country and thought that “one of the extraordinary things about riding in this region is how like the UK it feels; albeit a region of the UK where the trails go on for a long time, and where there are no access issues, and the food is much, much, much better”. Bike magazine, from Spain, were also amazed and mused on the Spanish culture in their article saying, “Whistler? It’s a common Spanish mistake to think that what is abroad is always better, but the truth is that you would be surprised with the never ending, technical and demanding trails of the always green and humid region of Guipuzkoa…. total ecstasy”.

Later in the year we had MBR out, who moaned that “that ride could and should have lasted for ever!” and said that “there is something truly special about the sun, the dust, the Atlantic breeze, and the Basque pace of life. Trust me and try for yourself.” More recently Mark from Singletrack named us one of his 3 dream mountain bike destinations along with Verbier and Canada saying, “if you want proper natural trails with descents that have to be earned, plus real Basque Culture and amazing food”. It was also quite special to feature again in Dirt Magazine when they did a double page spread on Doug in their Industry Profile section. Full links to the articles will be up on our Testimonials Page really soon.

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: Basque Coast Trails

What I really wanted to tell you about is that in 2015 there are going to be some changes at basqueMTB, it’s nothing drastic for you guys but it will be a big change for us. We will have a bigger team working next year with both Antonio and Borja joining us full time and also an extra guide / driver, also called Borja confusingly, for 3 or 4 days a week. Over the winter we will buy a second van and trailer and the plan is to run with two vans, two trailers, two guides and two drivers for the days we are doing uplifts. That will mean we can take around 10-12 guests each week but we will be able to split into two smaller groups, each with a guide and driver. We will continue to put a lot of effort in to match together groups of similar skill and fitness but this will be a lot less risky with the ability to split the groups and still offer full uplift. This isn’t going to be enough to take everyone who wants to book I’m afraid, unless we have less bookings than 2014, but we think it is a manageable step for us to take without risk of changing the feel of a basqueMTB trip.

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: Doug Needs to Ride His Bike Less

This year we have had some feedback that our communication has been a bit patchy at times. It is true, I (Doug), have been riding my bike sometimes 6 days a week and then doing transfers on the 7th day and, combined with a new baby, that hasn’t left much opportunity for emails. For 2015 we are going to make sure that Doug guides for a maximum of 5 days a week, (and Doug is insisting that he rides for no less than 4 days every week!), and spends a bit more time in the office keeping on top of the emails. The transfers will change as well and we will use the model we use for our Backcountry Pyrenees, where people take the transfer bus to San Sebastian and we pick up from there. The feedback on that transfer has been that it is very easy and a lot of people have used it this year without any hassle.

2014 Mountain Bike Holidays: Pyrenees Trails

We will also be offering more uplift on some days for those groups who want that. Our experience during 2014 has been that most people want a gravity biased trail, more in the style of our Backcountry Pyrenees, so if you choose “As Much Uplift as Possible” when you book then your trip will look something like this:

  • Sunday – A day with less uplift. We always offer less uplift on the first day of the holidays because we believe it lets us start the holiday in a safer, more controlled manner. Typically today will be around 300-500m uplift with 500-1000m of climbing on the bike.
  • Monday – Full uplift. Generally this means we either do a big traverse with 500-700m uplift but starting and finishing at different points, or we do a day of shuttles, so up to around 2000-3000m uplift with a couple of hundred meters climbing on the bike.
  • Tuesday – Full uplift, as for Monday.
  • Wednesday – Rest Day.
  • Thursday – Partial uplift. This will generally mean two uplifts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with some pedalling in between. Around 1000-1200m of uplift with around 500-1000m of pedalling depending how you feel.
  • Friday – Full uplift as for previous days to finish off with some adrenaline.

That means that, if you want it, we will be offering more uplift that we currently do on our Basque Coast weeks.It won’t be full uplift, more like 70% uplifted. Of course if you still prefer less uplift we can organise that too!

Of course, we will still offer trips with less uplift, as we have done since the start, and you can state your preference for that when booking and we will make sure we put you in the correct group.

These changes are going to mean we have had to look at our costs again and there will be a small increase on the holiday cost. We are still calculating what that has to be and we will put this live on the website in the first week of January but if you book before then you will still be able to get the 2014 prices of course.

All these changes are aimed at letting us give you all the mountain bike holiday you want, to let us take one more little step towards the impossible goal of being perfect. We would love to hear from people to see what you think about our ideas and if you feel that we are going in the right direction. You can mail us, add comments here, send us messages via facebook or pick up the phone and give Doug a call.

Thanks to everyone who booked a mountain bike holiday in Spain with basqueMTB

Thanks to everyone who came with basqueMTB in 2014. It was an amazing year and thanks to you all because you have made it. We can take you to the best trails, show you the best food and try and organise everything as much as we can but ultimately it is our guests who make the week special. Hopefully we will see you all again soon and thanks for an amazing year from Doug, Borja, Antonio and the wider basqueMTB team who make our meals and run the accommodation we use. It has been emotional guys!

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