Sierra MTB has been established since 1992 and caters two B&B villas in a beautifully looked after secluded villa complex complete with private gardens and good sized swimming pool. Alan runs the business with his partner, son and a great team of guides. Alongside the spacious villas (that can sleep up to circa ten people in each) and the hearty breakfast available each morning the team supply a team of ride leaders, technical assistance if needed, two vans for uplifts and a fleet of hire bikes available if you weren't brave enough to try and pack and transport your own bike…
Five of us from the club headed abroad on this trip, a smaller number than first expected, but with all these trips people to tend to drop by the wayside the nearer to the date itself particularly when the trip costs more than the usual single day trip tank of petrol. Of the five of us only four of us were riding the week plus one injured sole, Lester, who came to enjoy the sun, sea and food but had picked up an injury a few weeks prior to the trip and couldn't ride….serves him right for taking up running as a hobby!
On arrival mid-morning on Saturday we were picked up from the airport by the Sierra MTB team and whisked off to the villas to unpack our bikes and kit and head out for a uplift assisted afternoon descent called ‘Mijas Down’ running from the old picturesque town of Mijas back down to the seafront in Fuengirola. This ride gave the ride leaders a chance to assess our skills and riding credentials on a local pump track before the long descent and let them get an idea of what terrain we'd be able to take on as the week progressed. The route down from Mijas was primarily all downhill natural singletrack; dusty, rocks, off camber sections, the odd natural jump and drop and some slow speed technical ascents and narrow gulley runs….all in all a great introduction to what the local regions terrain and trails had to offer. After a fast and dusty ride we finished up at the sea front for an ice cream (which would become a afternoon tradition all week) before heading back to clean up for a dinner and a beer (or two…). A delicious fresh fish and local pork dinner was washed down with some finest San Miguel at a great traditional restaurant, Restaurante la Farola, hidden away in a small secluded square in the old town of Fuengirola.
A cheeky holiday fry up Sunday morning gave way to our first big ride of the week. Big mountains, great views and temperatures of 38°C. This route took in a very natural twenty five odd mile route, mainly singletrack based in a mixture of terrain, but one thing was for sure, wherever we went it was dusty, loose and very technical! This route was a version of the ‘Alhaurin Woods’ loop; an amazing technical woodland based ride, this for me was one of the most fun of the week. Some great woodland sections kept us out of the sun for the most part of the day with some great technical rocky gully runs keeping the team grinning for the rest. After a cracking lunch that cost mere peanuts we were aided with another short van assisted uplift to complete another fun loop back to base. The evening led us to having a wander back into a different part of the old town, this time having another fantastic fresh feast at the Restaurante Gastro Bar El Picoteo in another very busy old town square.
On the Monday we took in another of the longer rides of the week, this time having a go at a version of ‘Jonny’s Trail’. This ride started with a steady fireroad climb up to the start of some amazing singletrack descending down to Mijas. This route took in some death defying switchbacks, about forty in total! Every part of the descent on this trail had you looking several hundred feet down into a gulley….not for the faint hearted! None of us rode any of the switchbacks as well as we knew we could, the margin for error was small, very small! The loop took in a great mix of trails before an urban downhill themed ride through the beautiful old white washed parts of Mijas old town to stop for lunch before taking in a different version of the ‘Mijas Down’ descent that we had ridden on the Saturday. Another route called ‘San Anton’ then gave us more fun incredibly fast singletrack to enjoy on our long descent back to the seafront, for ice cream of course! Dinner was taken care of by an incredible Argentinian restaurant called Restaurnte Estilo Campo; the portions were huge, well cooked and delicious, served even better with beer, wine and ice cream to finish! We may need to burn some extra calories this week...
By Tuesday the heat had taken its toll on us a bit, it had hit as high as 42°C the past couple of days so we were all happy to have a more leisurely cross-country based ride; Alan recommended their Roman Baths ride. This route was less technical but still very fun, swopping in and out from fast open singletrack, woodland sections, dry bush areas and wide open fireroads. The highlight of the route was stopping at what are presumed Roman built baths; natural mountain spring water filling natural pools with fresh water perfect for bathing and paddling. After an hour stop taking a rest, a swim and plenty of photos we kitted up again to take in another loop before descending our way down to Fuengirola. A great singletrack descent with some photos later we neared the final pedal home in ‘Death Valley’ a bone dry riverbed (we reckon the golf clubs have stolen all the water….)
Wednesday originally was meant to be our midweek day off for tourist activities and rest, but a shuffle round with leaders and the other groups of riders coming and going meant we were happy to delay our day off until Thursday. Today’s ride was a road trip to a ‘trail park’ north of Estepona. We arrived after about 50 minutes in the van and some very entertaining mountainside road climbing! The ride started with a good hour of constant fireroad climbing, but the views made it worth every minute! From the midway point views of the Rock of Gibraltar and Morocco could be had. The afternoons riding would entail riding up the hill to take in some seriously technically naturally descents taking in everything from tight cliff side singletrack, gulley descents, drops, jumps, switchbacks, technical climbs and flowing singletrack. We all agreed this was some of the most severe technical terrain we had all ridden. Mike head butted a tree, I ripped off my rear mech and half the group got lost on the second run down....sound familiar to a usual BucksMTB Club ride anyone!? We didn’t wander so far in the evening as Lester was still struggling with his injury so we made the most of a short walk and a cheaper meal, a decent tasty Italian washed down with some medicinal beers for good measure.
Thursday became our official day off, slightly later in the week than originally planned but well deserved after many days of pedalling miles and miles of dusty, hard and technical trails in circa 40°C heat. Several ideas were batted around for a plan for the day but the eventual winner was a hire car option to Gibraltar for the day, returning to downtown Malaga for a traditional tapas restaurant tour before heading back to base. Around 130km drive from Fuengirola to Gibraltar, a nice big comfortable car you'd expect? Wrong. Five burly guys squeezed into ‘Jack’ the white Fiat Panda; cosy. We did make SierraMTB unofficial history for being the only guests to do so much driving in a day. It was a great fun day exploring Gibraltar as most of the guys hadn’t been before, we narrowly missed David Cameron who was in town but did manage to watch the England match with beer, coffee and cake! After an afternoon wander we took in another great drive past our base towards the old town centre of Malaga so I could give the group a tour and take in the delights of some traditional tapas in proper traditional tapas bars! It was quite late by the time we got back particularly after an entertaining route through Malaga....the pièce de résistance of the evening was the accidental Monte Carlo-esque rally hill climb stage trying to get back out of Malaga old town…”that was the diff gone...[laughter]”. Please note, no actual hire cars were damaged in the making on this adventure!
Friday morning gave way to a slight lie in for some of us. With Lester not riding all week anyway, James feeling worse for wear after his crash earlier in the week, and Manuel, my Mondraker, sporting a large previously unnoticed crack in the main frame only Mike and Martin headed out for a hot twenty five mile cross-country route with the guides to round off the week. The highlight of my day was returning Jack the epic hire car to the dealer, before a lazy day packing and sunning at the pool. With it being a Friday night I managed to talk everyone (quite easily) into a curry and a few beers; no one was quite brave enough to try the chefs special 'chicken jalcrazy' but the food was amazing, the beer even better, and then James and I ventured off on a little bar crawl to finish the week off in style.
Saturday morning rolled up fast, how had a week gone by already?! A leisurely morning packing, relaxing and after a bite to eat for lunch (and a final gelato fix…) it was time to lug the bike boxes back to the airport. Amazingly this was the first Starbucks fix of the week for me, it felt well deserved and everyone join in keeping my share prices rising! After a typically late easyJet flight back to Luton made worse by ridiculously strong headwinds we made it back to a wet, dark and miserable Luton airport. After James tried to leave the arrivals hall without his bike, twice, we all parted our ways and looked forward to putting all our photos together over the course of the next few days.
I have to say a massive thank you to Mike for organising this trip, both on behalf of the Club, but also from me too. Thanks to everyone who came, it was an incredible week and great fun throughout. A big thank you the whole team at SierraMTB for keeping us fed and watered and showing us some truly incredible natural trails all week long. We saw an incredible insight into the technical trails and superb views the local mountain regions had to offer, and we all look forward to another visit back to the ride the other trails we didn’t get a chance to try out this time.
A full album of everyone's photos from the trip can be viewed online here
If you missed this trip and really fancied it then have no fear, it sounds like a repeat club trip is a definitely on the cards for 2017 and beyond!