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Return Visitors to Spain from Aviemore

Basque MTB Mountain Bike Holiday Spain
This weeks mountain bike holiday report from the Basque Country, Spain... big mountains, uplift and some great mountain biking!

Mountain Bike Holiday Report from Spain with Basque MTB: First Week in July

In 2011 Jamie booked a mountain bike holiday with Basque MTB, however he hurt his knee whilst on holiday in southern Spain the week before so couldn’t make it. The rest of his group, Kirsten and Al, did manage their holiday and they enjoyed it so much they booked a second holiday with Basque MTB at the end of the year. This time Jamie also managed to come with them. It was a great week and you can read about Jamie, Kirsten and Al’s mountain bike holiday with Basque MTB in 2011 here. This year Jamie brought three friends with him and they were joined by Callum from England, Bear from Sweden and Chris from Canada. We had a great week, riding some big Spanish mountains and generally checking out some of the great mountain biking in the Basque Country, Pyrenees and Navarra. Read on for the report from their mountain bike holiday in Spain with Basque MTB!   
Day 1 of the Holiday: South of the Pyrenees for Dry Trails.
Mountain Biking in the South Pyrenees on the first day of the mountain bike holiday.
There was some bad weather on the coast for the first day of the our mountain biking holiday. Rather than get wet we decided to head to the South Pyrenees, just near Pamplona in Navarra, to ride in the pre Pyrenees mountains. There are some zones there with micro climates which stay dry when the rest of Spain suffers from bad weather. Luckily for us there is also some fantastic mountain biking there! Today was a big figure of eight, with the central climb repeated twice and two very different descents. The first descent is a rocky, trialsy test of nerve and skill. Slower speed and awkward. The second descent is very fast and flowy with little drops and technical challenges. It was a little bit testing for the first day of the mountain bike holiday but everyone rose to the challenge and came away with a big buzz. One of the highlights of today was getting to ride with Bear from Sweden. Bear has been coming to the Basque Country for ever to surf and we had been talking about mountain biking for the last couple of years. Last year everything got really busy very quickly for me and I couldn’t fit Bear in for a holiday, something I was very disappointed about. Finally this year I got him out on our trails! I think (hope!) that he enjoyed finally getting to mountain bike on his Basque holiday.
Day 2: Uplift on the Coast of Spain.
An uplift day to let everyone rest their legs a bit. It is a holiday after all!
For day two of everyone’s mountain bike holiday we decided to do some uplifted mountain biking on the Spanish coast. I was on uplift duty and Tom was guiding, giving the guys several runs down “All Along the Watchtowers” with all the variations possible. We worked out at the end of the day that the guys had around 25km of descending, with hardly any climbing. Good stat’s! This year I have been mixing groups a bit more. Having a second guide means that if everyone doesn’t enjoy riding together we can split them up so it’s easier for me to mix people. It’s been one of the highlights this year for me to see how people bond together into a group, with everyone finding a place. So it was with the group this week.
Big Basque Mountain for the 3rd Day of their Mountain Biking Holiday in Spain.
Today we tackle one of the big Basque mountains. Proper mountain biking!
Today we decided everything looked good to tackle one of the big Basque mountains. The descent is around 1000m in total and is pretty rocky all the way down. This is the first time I have used this trail on a mountain bike holiday so the guys were going to be testing it out for me! There are two options for the climb, either climbing the whole 1000m, on great trails with plenty of singletrack, or using an uplift to around 650m, meaning it is pretty easy to reach the summit. After some debate the guys decided they wanted to do the whole climb as they wanted to challenge themselves on this holiday! We stopped in at a local butchers shop I know to buy some of the finest cured meat that Spain can offer and set off on the climb. I’d forgotten how good the climb was to be honest, it’s a challenge but the trails are great and before long we’d reached the restaurant where the uplift van could have taken us. Time for a coffee before we finished the climb. We arrived at the top around 3pm and sat down for a big lunch of cold meats and cheese. Funnily we met a fell runner on the summit who recognised me from “The Crosses” video, apparently his fell running club had watched it on the big screen as part of their last meeting! I wasn’t sure how impressed he was!
More Pictures from Our Big Mountain Day.
The descent starts as it continues. Rocky and technical. The trail must have been an old path linking the village at the bottom with the high pastures and is largely made from rock which has been polished over the generations of use. It is quite intimidating to look at but once you ride it and get your speed above that magic limit it starts to flow a bit more and make sense. Today Callum was riding fast, unfortunately his tubes weren’t loving it and he used up everyone’s spare tubes as he pinched his way down the trail! Eventually we reached the bottom though and had a beer in the shadow of the mountain we’d just ridden. That’s one of the things I like best about riding the big mountains bottom-top-bottom; sitting at the bottom having a beer and looking up at what we’ve just accomplished.
Rest Day… Not on this Mountain Bike Holiday!
Wednesday is always a rest day on our mountain bike holidays. Occasionally we can guide people, or mark up a GPS or map for them but we really encourage everyone to take a rest day and either surf or visit San Sebastian. The guys this week were divided and some decided to have an extra day of mountain biking with Tom, (our guide), who took them on a big route round the coast. Some of the other guys decided to relax and Chris sat by the pool in the accommodation and drank a quite impressive amount of beer. You can take the boy out of Canada…
Day Four of Our Mountain Bike Holiday; to Navarra and the Sun!
Mountain Biking in Navarra to find the Spanish Sun for our Holiday Guests.
Today there was a light drizzle in the Basque Country. We had perfect weather for the whole week but finally the time had come to rain. No problems, rain doesn’t need to dampen a mountain bike holiday with Basque MTB! We decided to head down to Navarra and a little trail area I know where it is almost always dry. We’ve been using the trails here a bit recently and they have been really warmly received. Today was no different! Lots of little climbs and descents characterise the mountain biking in this part of Spain with plenty of singletrack and big views. Today we also saw an Imperial Eagle, a rare and special sight.
This iPhone photo sums up how good this day was for me. Good trail + cold beer!
Final Day of Our Mountain Biking Holiday. More Uplift!
An iPhone Montage of Today’s Ride.
First of all, let me say a bit about how much uplift we are doing this year. Basque MTB is not a downhill mountain biking venue. We ride what the Europeans call Enduro and British mountain bikers call All Mountain. We do some days shuttling but even on those days there will be some climbing. Maybe only 100m for a few thousand meters of descent but it isn’t for a downhill bike. I feel this distinction is really important. I could of course offer fully uplifted mountain bike holidays but I don’t feel that it’s right for the area. We currently have a very happy relationship with the authorities, walkers and local people and I don’t want that to change. This year we have other guides working with us and that has let me use more uplift on some days. Other days we climb as much as we descend. It is all tailored to the holiday and what suits the guests that week. Some weeks we do around 25% uplift, others 50%, maybe at the outside around 75% but never 100%. Our uplifts are designed to make sure you get the most out of your holiday and aren’t too tired to enjoy the descents. To get to the best places, which is the aim of our mountain bike holidays, you are going to have to pedal a bit! Explanations over! Today we did an uplifted ride through the forests on the coast of Spain. We uplifted three times, giving around 2000m of vertical for free. The guys had to pedal for around another 100m but got plenty of descending to finish off their holiday. The descending today was on Celtic Flo and Cross the Streams. The former is a mix of loamy goodness and bermed corners and the second has a few more rocks and stream crossings. I was driving today (boo!) so I only took one photo! That was it, this week’s mountain bike holiday was over. For the guys it’s back to their countries and for me it’s another week of mountain biking, this time with a mixture of day trips and family biking. We just had time to enjoy one final night out together in Hondarribia. We opted to have pizza and beer and what a good night out it was. Chris was leading the comedy charge and his face when he received his “forbidden dream of the fisherman” pasta is one I will remember, and laugh about, for a long time. Good times guys, great to meet you Chris, Callum, George, Dave and Mac and very nice to see you again Jamie! I’ll see you all again, either here or there.


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