Mountain Biking for an Absolute Beginner: Costa del Sol

1 Nov

(Writer’s Note: I was not offered and did not receive any discount, inducement or incentive from Sierra Cycling to write this story. This is the unvarnished truth. The videos feature Alan, Ash, Dave and Nikki. Don’t try this at home kids!)

All Saints Day, a national holiday in Spain, fell on a Tuesday this year so the ‘bridge day’ of Monday was taken by many companies as a holiday, including my Flamenco academy, giving us a glorious four-day weekend. This was my chance to go somewhere further afield and try something completely different from Flamenco, bullfighting and eating and drinking too much in tapas bars. What to do?

My new found love of cycling prompted me to search the internet for cycling trips in Spain. Nothing much was on offer for those four days until I discovered Sierra Cycling based in Fuengirola, Costa del Sol. A phone call and a couple of emails with the British owner/manager Alan and I was booked into one of his two beach houses for four days mountain biking in the hills behind the Costa del Sol. I’d scanned the website so had a rudimentary idea of what the holiday involved but didn’t ask too many questions, figuring I would sort it all out when I got there. How hard could it be?

A train from Seville to Malaga then a change to the local line to Fuengirola and I was at base camp, the house I and the other assorted mountain bikers would be staying in.

Alan is a pioneer of guided mountain biking in Spain, starting back in 1992 when the rides began and ended at the coast. Now with two professional guides and two transit vans they can ‘uplift’ two groups of eight riders up into the mountains to cut out many of the gruelling ascents and leave more time for the fun stuff.

I had never, ever mountain biked before so Alan tried me out on an afternoon, ‘easy’ ride and I started with the basics, like ‘How do the gears work Alan?’. Seville is completely flat – no need for gears there. I misunderstood what he said and it was only after a rocky ascent when I found I couldn’t make it that I discovered I had many more gears than I had previously thought and it all became much easier!

Our route was gravel roads and dirt paths with just a little regular road traffic to contend with. I forded streams with stony and gravel bottoms, did my best to avoid mud puddles and bramble bushes, and panted up some quite steep hills finishing with a smile on my face. I felt like a big kid!

Much of the countryside was farmland or national park and the stillness of the afternoon siesta time was only broken by the teenagers on scooters who found the quiet back roads perfect for practicing wheelies!

Over the course of the next three days I covered many trails with Ash and Dave, the other guides, and Alan, another client, with a foray into Mijas for lunch where I found I had not escaped Flamenco at all as a gypsy trio was busking in the square.

I was in awe of Ash and Dave’s skills. Ash loves to do wheelies downhill past puzzled pedestrians while Dave spent a lot of time riding his bike with his body on one side of the bike. They both seem to be able to get down anything.

Much of the riding was scenic, a flock of goats with their goatherd, crumbling haciendas and some magical spots like the waterfall at the end of the Barranca Blanca fire trail. Late afternoons were spent on the beach, walking up to Castle Sohail just around the corner, and generally lazing about.

The beach strip has restaurants galore and I found the only Indian restaurant in Fuengirola had all my favourite North Indian dishes. Heavenly.

On the final day I put into practice what the guys had been coaching me to do: ‘Relax, use mostly the back brake, lift off the seat and put your weight behind the seat, keep your feet level on the pedals, pick your line then let the bike just roll over everything and – did I mention? – relax!’. I was able to follow the guys down some single track and got a taste of what real mountain biking is all about. Wickedly, huge fun!

Thanks fellas and also to Mary for fuelling me up with excellent breakfasts. Great adventure holiday.

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3 Responses to “Mountain Biking for an Absolute Beginner: Costa del Sol”

  1. Alan Biddulph November 2, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    Thanks for the writeup Sharon. Makes us sound good!

  2. Heather watt January 17, 2015 at 6:01 am #

    Makes me think of what plans we may enjoy after THE op.!! enjoy while you can as you say. Love Heather

    • Sharon Tickle January 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

      Absolutely Heather! Look forward to walking with you and George ;-))

      Sxx

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