Epic Mountain Bike Holidays | Spain | Basque Country | Pyrenees

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Trail > New Route – Contours, Crestas and Canals

This week I was lucky enough to have the Navurros, a group of hardy Spanish bikers from around Pamplona, show me some seminal mountain biking on one of their secret trails. They reckon this is one of the best trails in their part of Spain and I knew that I would never have found it without a local guide, so I was really excited to give it a try. I had done the second part of the route before, using a car for uplift, so I had some inkling what to expect, however this time we were starting at around 300m and biking the whole loop, peaking at around 1450m, so it was a bit of a different proposition! Epic “mountain-bike-eering” in it’s truest form was the order of the day!
Carlos and I rendezvoused at my house at 8:45am and loaded the bikes into my van for the 30-minute drive to a tiny village deep in the Spanish mountains. It was like stepping back in time; crooked houses jostled for position in narrow cobbled streets and the smell of animals wafted from the stables and pens that occupied the bottom story of many of the houses. Away from the coast temperatures were already reaching 30-degrees celcius, even at that early hour, and we all gathered round the cool fountain in the village square, loathed to start the climb. I find it hard to follow the conversation when they all start bantering together, but I can follow enough to laugh at the teasing and piss taking which is common to groups of bikers the world over. We climbed out of the village on tiny back roads which quickly gave way to dirt tracks that got rougher as we climbed. If I’m honest, it was hard work in the mornings heat and the pace was lazy. It wasn’t long before we turned off the main track and picked up the faintest hint of a singletrack contouring off into the forest, and indeed it wasn’t long before we came to a section that wouldn’t go on the bike and we were pushing!
This isn’t a trail for those of you who hate pushing the bike. We pushed a fair bit and although there wasn’t much carrying, there was a bit. The rewards were spectacular though, we climbed higher and higher on tiny contouring singletrack, with the feeling that we were pushing deeper and deeper into the wilderness. We passed a few dead horses which had been feasted on by the vultures, leaving white, bleached bones lying in the green grass and adding to the sense of being very detached from the rest of the world.
The contour singletrack was amongst the best climbing I have done on a bike ever; totally absorbing, with every pedal stroke having to be timed to perfection to avoid the dreaded inside pedal clip which would result in the rider being ejected down the hill and some lengthy air time. There was no way to look at the views when you were cycling, so we had to stop frequently to make sure we didn’t miss anything! The trail wasn’t just upwards either, regularly we were treated to a section of the same contour singletrack where gravity removed the need to time any pedal strokes and we could let the speed build as far as we were comfortable with. Often the trail would suddenly round a corner and dive into a stunning forest, going from smooth 4 inch wide, 4 inch deep scalectrix track to rocky or rooty tech in an instant. Having done a lot of trail finding myself, I know the work involved in linking these remote sections of singletrack together and felt very privilaged to be shown someone’s secret stash.
We arrived at the summit around 3pm and sat down to have lunch, totally surrounded by stunning views of the snow covered Pyrenees and green Basque mountains. The temperature here, at 1450m, was a far more pleasant 20 degrees. Lunch with these guys is always a treat! Skins of wine, exquisite dried meats and home made chocolate were all produced and partaken of, with gusto! With a warm glow from the wine I felt that I would have been quite happy ending things there, without the normally essential descent, but we had more than a vertical kilometre back to the car and it was going to take us three or four hours.
The descent! Well, it wasn’t all downhill, we enjoyed lots more contouring and short climbs as we dropped through trees, over bare hill tops, along ancient covered canals, teetered along narrow tracks clinging to cliff faces and generally had a blast. The descent is equally as remote as the climb, and for a long section follows an old canal. These canals are all over the hills here and take water from the mountains to a meeting point where they are combined and dropped through a hydroelectric generator to power the local houses. They are all properly old and are normally covered so that in places you wouldn’t realise you were riding on one, they also have a fantastic penchant for clinging desperately to cliff faces and offer some spectacular trails.
Finally we arrived back at the village, around 8pm, totally exhausted, dehydrated, excited and contented. The first thing we were faced with in the tiny village, bouncing over the time-worn cobbles, was a group of Segways! After quickly checking that everyone was seeing the same thing and we weren’t suffering from mountain fever, we followed them, to be confronted by the local fiestas just getting started. That meant one very important thing… a cold beer sitting in the town square. Happy days, I love Spain, the Spanish, the Basque Country and the Basques! Heck, why not throw in France and the French too!
So, all in all a fantastic route… for the person who likes a certain type of route! The climbing was tough and impossible without some pushing. The descending was tough and impossible without some pushing! The rewards were totally wild, beautiful places on tracks away from other people and civilisation. The route can be done with uplift but, for me, the full experience is unparalleled. The route would suit people who were fit and wanted a long, challenging day, the descending wasn’t particularly technical although most of us chose not to ride the short exposed sections. It’s not a route you’ll find me showing to you unless you either ask me to, or I talk you through it in detail and you fancy the challenge.
One more time I find myself saying a big thanks to Carlos and the Navurros for their routes. I had a fantastic day, I totally loved it, and I look forward to sharing that feeling when I take the right people there another time.
I also have to thank them for their fantastic photos! The photos here are a mixture of Carlos’s, mine and Antonio’s. If you have some spare time I really can’t recommend having a look at their photos enough. Great captures in fantastic places.

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