One of the things I love about the Basque Country is the fact that we get seasons. Proper seasons. Many people take this for granted but not me, and this knowledge keeps me going through these cold, dark days of biblical rains and biting winds. I know that in a few short weeks the sun will make its appearance once more, drying out our trails and heralding the arrival of a bright and welcome spring. The bright green shoots will force their way through the rotten leaf mulch that covers our mountain bike tracks, the trees will once more offer their beautiful canopies to our heads and the birds will sing their songs of love, and lust, as they have done since the dawn of time. As is the way of things, spring will give way to summer, wild flowers will line our paths and we will search for climbs in the shade to ease our sweaty passage to the tops of the hills. We will swim in the sea at the end of our rides and drink cold beers to soothe our parched throats. Summer is great but, like winter, it is only temporary and will soon pass to autumn, a time of rustling leaves and cooler temperatures. In autumn we will enjoy the cool, clear days on the Basque coast and drive south to escape the sudden storms. Autumn is probably my favourite time for mountain biking, with the Basque forests showing their full splendour and many trails covered with deep leaves which give a soundtrack to our passing tyres. And then once more we enter winter, temporary winter.
Like I say, it is important to remember these things now , during these weeks when we can only grab our bikes and dash out between the storms to enjoy a couple of cold, damp hours in the mountains. At times like this I often look back at last year´s mountain biking holidays and remember sunnier times. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I do.
… And Even In Summer It Isn´t Always Blue Skies!
Having a Lunch Break on the Coast With A Group.
Plenty of Cold Refreshments Needed on Days Like These!
Sometimes The Coolest Place To Be Is Up A Mountain.
In two weeks BasqueMTB will receive our first customers of the year. It seems like winter has flown past, especially with the near perfect mountain biking weather we have had. The mountains are dry, the mud from the short snow melt has long since gone and all the trails are riding very nicely. Roll on the 2012 mountain bike holiday season!
Over the last month we have shot another couple of mountain bike videos. The idea with the videos is to give people an idea of what to expect on their mountain bike holiday. The Basque Country is so different to other parts of Spain. Unique and beautiful. The variety is what really sets us apart from the rest of Spain though. We can ride on the beach one day, in the mountains the next and deep in the old forests the following. There are not many places in the world, certainly not in Spain where that is possible. Hopefully these last two videos give an idea of the majestic beauty of the Basque Country, along with some of the variety we have.
“Epic Days, Blue Skies and Snowy Ridgelines” This is a very different type of mountain bike trail. The day starts with a big, tough climb up to over 1000m where the summit is rewarded by the most amazing views. The trail then follows a ridgeline, up and down, before a final 10km descent back to the start. This video was shot just after the snow which covered the Basque Country, and the Pyrenees and the trail was still covered with snow in many places. It made the climbs hard but the descents were still great fun.
“Rocky Hell Road” This is a strange title for our video! We name all of our trails, it is the only way to keep track of were we ride due to the number of different mountain bike trails in the area. This trail was named by the local rider in this video and the name has just stuck. The trail is very technical, almost like trials riding in places. Only the most skilled mountain bikers are really going to enjoy this descent.
This video was shot at the end of 2011, just after the end of our mountain biking holiday season. The Spanish weather was perfect for mountain biking, dry and sunny but not too warm. I spend a couple of days mountain biking and filming and then edited it together into this video. Ideally a video should be between two and three minutes long but the scenery on the coast was so stunning I just couldn’t bring myself to cut the video any further!
At BasqueMTB we started producing videos to show people what the mountain biking was like in this part of Spain. Many people know of the south of Spain for mountain bike holidays, however the infinitely more beautiful Basque country is relatively unknown. Many people don’t even know where the Basque country is, or have heard of San Sebastian but don’t know its location. We think that if people can see how beautiful this area is they will want to come here and that is the reason we started producing these mountain bike videos and pictures. So far that seems to be true and the series of videos we have produced have had hundreds of thousands of views from hundreds of different countries all over the world. It reinforces our view that the Basque country is one of the best places in the world for a holiday. Or for anything else for that matter!
At BasqueMTB we are gearing up (bad pun, sorry!) for the 2012 mountain bike holiday season. After a very successful 2011 we are already taking holiday bookings for this season and are encouraging anyone who wants to come to this part of Spain for a mountain bike holiday with BasqueMTB to book soon to avoid disappointment.
Mountain biking near San Sebastian
Mountain biking on the Basque coast
Mountain Biking near Bilbao
Mountain biking in the Spanish Pyrenees
Many people ask me what we do when during the winter when we don’t offer mountain bike holidays. Well, the answer is that we prepare for the next season. A large part of that is exploring to find new mountain bike trails. We offer day trips in Navarra and longer mountain bike tours in the Spanish Pyrenees as well and all these trails need to be researched. In addition, for 2012, we will offer a Basque Coast mountain bike tour, riding from San Sebastian to Bilbao. This trip doesn’t follow the Camino del Norte, (an alternative to the Camino de Santiago), instead following less used trails, so again it takes a lot of work to map out all these trails and find the most fun route.
Mountain biking in the Spanish Pyrenees
Mountain biking in the Spanish Pyrenees
Mountain Biking near San Sebastian
Mountain biking in Basque Mountains
The other big job is to maintain, or improve, fitness. In the holiday season we will be guiding 5, 6 or sometimes 7 days a week. If the body is unprepared then that is almost impossible. Winter is the perfect time to get some big mountain bike miles in so that when the holiday season rolls around the toll on the body is manageable.
Alistair Roberts was visiting the Basque Country with his FPV plane, an Easystar which he has funded and built as part of his final year project at school. An amazing feat. He flies it with video goggles linked to a GoPro camera on the plane which is servo driven to mimic his head movements. We took the plane and my bike, (a Cove G-Spot) up a local mountain to capture some footage of me riding in the stunning scenery offered by the Basque mountains.
While we were filming the wind picked up, making it very hard to control the plane and we had to abandon the shoot without all the footage we wanted. Hopefully next year we will capture some more footage!
Just a quick post this time to put up another of our mountain biking videos. Some of you may recognise this mountain, it’s quite distinctive. The descent is pretty tough by bike, as is the climb, but if you know the right route then it’s a really rewarding day out. Definitely not one for the faint hearted though, because the descent is very rocky and technical and the consequences if you get some bits wrong are as high as they get.
Well, our big mountain biking skills adventure with Ed Oxley from Great Rock has just finished. I’m totally exhausted and covered in cuts and bruises but I’ve got that warm happy feeling from a week that worked out well! Ed Oxley is a renowned mountain bike skills coach from England and I met him back in December 2010. It was very quickly apparent to me that Ed was the real deal. He a fantastic understanding of the techniques involved in riding a mountain bike and, more importantly, a great way of explaining them. You can read my impressions of my mountain bike skills weekend with Ed Oxley over on the main BasqueMTB News and Views section.
Our idea for week was to take a group of riders formountain biking holiday, as normal, however Ed would help develop their skills through the week to make sure they got the best from the technical and varied trails of the Basque Country. From the very start we knew that the key would be to balance the skills and riding so that everyone felt they had learned lots but still had a fun mountain biking holiday. We weren’t entirely sure how we would organise everything, we weren’t sure how it would work out but we were sure that we wanted it to be a fun experience for everyone involved. And all the feedback says that it was!
The beauty of the whole week was that it really felt like we were doing plenty of mountain biking; the skills stuff didn’t really intrude into the day, yet by the end of the week everyone was riding noticeably better. On the last day we took everyone to a very technical trail that would have been too difficult for many people at the start of the week… it was amazing to see everyone riding parts that they would have pushed their bikes down before. The guys that were already riding at that standard were noticably faster and smoother.
Of course, it wasn’t all mountain biking and skills training. We were on holiday you know! The beauty of the Basque Country, especially around Hondarribia and San Sebastian, is that the food and drink are up there with the best in the world. So of course we sampled some of that too. We had planned our week to coincide with the Fiestas of Irun so, of course, our week wouldn’t have been complete without a visit there one night to let off a bit off steam!
Life has been pretty busy at BasqueMTB and we have been guiding in the Basque mountains almost every day. The Basque weather has been kind to us, apart from one wet week , and we have enjoyed pretty much perfect conditions for mountain biking. On the wet days we ride further south, near Pamplona, and so far we have almost managed to avoid getting wet. We have had guests from all over the world, New Zealand and Denmark to name just two, and ranging in ages from 25 to 62. We have even had a journalist from the USA here to sample our trails. The one thing which everyone has had in common is that they have left deeply impressed by the beautiful landscapes and rich culture that the Basque country offers. It isn’t hard to see why people return from their holidays here so affected by the place, I ride every day in the mountains and still find myself totally awestruck at the views. I don’t believe that there are many places in the world where people can ride in the mountains in the morning and finish at the beach in a cool city like San Sebastian in time for an early evening cervezas and pintxos.
Hello and welcome to the BasqueMTB blog. Through this blog I’m going to share some of the sights and stories from my mountain biking adventures in the beautiful Basque Country. Keep an eye out for the latest news, photos and videos along with any special holiday news that comes up.
To start with I’d like to set the scene with a video and the story behind it.
Long Days on the Coast I love spending long, warm days riding by the coast. We’re lucky in the Basque Country that ancient tectonic plate movement kicked up lots of ridge-like mountains which fence the Atlantic ocean here, giving loads of coastal trails with perfectly sized hills. I shot this video one day in October and I rode the whole day, capturing video as I went, until I got caught out by the sunset. I was still a few hundred meters above the van and had to limp my way down the last descent in the pitch dark. Epic days of riding, from morning until dusk, are what it’s all about. Am I wrong?