So, six Bucks MTB amigos: Nathan B, Vit K, Martin I, James L, Steve A and Martin J (MJ) met up in the early evening at Luton Airport, with our bikes safely secured in their bike boxes, most now having invested in owning rather than hiring this essential travel item. Not so for Steve A though as he opted to hire an ebike for this trip as he awaited surgery for a torn tendon in his leg. Our flight landed in Malaga around 10pm local time. As we transferred to our accommodation our host, Alex, informed us of how dry the trails were, not having rained for 6 months on the Costa de Sol, an indication of the challenges that lay ahead.
First thing was to rebuild the bikes from their boxes. Nathan B taking advantage of the courtesy bike stand provided to rebuild his Orbea, as it was necessary for the bike to be almost completely stripped down in order to fit into the rather smallish travel box he hired for the trip. A labour of love no doubt!
After an “all you can eat” breakfast we prepared for our first day’s riding. Our guide for the day was Josh, who proved to possess impressive riding skills as time went on. We loaded our bikes and us into the bus and were driven high into the mountains to ride the trails in and around a wooded area called Coin Woods. The first trail we rode through the woods was fairly level, though twisty. A couple of loops of that and we then rode a steady climb to our next trail. By now it was almost midday and up to 25 Celsius, we were beginning to feel the heat! After a quick stop at a viewpoint for some photos we took our next trail: Steep. Rocky. Loose. The difficulty level had just been ramped up! We all rode this twisty trail, steering our bike through and over the rocks down to the fireroad where the trail ended. We were given the option of riding the trail again by our guide, and 5 of the 6 of us opted to ride again, Jim L deciding it would be best to rest. It was a long climb back up to the start of the trail in the heat and all. We went off again and it wasn’t any easier, this time I lost my front wheel on some loose scree trying to round some off-camber slabs. Taking a hit on the slabs fortunately I was well protected by the pads I had on. We continued along the trail and laying in wait at the end was Jim L with his camera, taking the first action shots of the trip. We then rode to our lunch stop on a mixture of level trails and a new road network for a town which hadn’t yet been built! Some of us jumping the 30 inch wide manhole covers on the road, though rounding the ones which had the covers missing – wouldn’t want to fall into an 8ft deep manhole!
Lunch was at a popular Café, although a good menu at reasonable prices they only scored 1 out of 10 for service, we were literally gasping for a drink by the time we were served. At least this gave us time to admire the strongly patterned, highly coloured, garish MTB shirts worn by the Northern riders staying at Sierra MTB, who had also stopped for lunch.
After lunch we took the trail called “Voltacado” for the descent back to the coast. This was a mixture of up and down, and at times steep, rocky gradients on loose trails. All challenging riding! In the afternoon heat, however, we were beginning to feel the first wave of exhaustion. Fortunately, the lower slopes were easy fireroad down to the dried up river bed which we followed back to the coast. We were all happy to stop for icecream before finishing back at our accommodation.
Today’s trails proved to be the most challenging of the trip. First up was “Anna’s Trail”. The uplift took us high into the mountains, so high that we could see the North African skyline across the Mediterranean Sea. Even after the uplift, we had a long climb to ride followed by carrying our bikes up a steep mountain slope. The trail was rocky and loose with serious exposure to the steep slope of the mountain as it followed the contour. At regular intervals the trail would drop down into a gully with a tight turn immediately followed by a steep ascent out of the gully. Important here to get the gearing and cadence right to make the climb! The trail then entered a fire break on the mountainside, a wide stretch of nothing but boulders. We then entered Alhaurin Woods, criss-crossed by various trails. We had another steep slope to carry the bikes up, but this time our guide Josh rode up it, impressive! The trail took us to a bomb crater where the challenge was to get down, up and out from just using your entry speed, by no means easy. By chance we were joined by another MTB group, very entertaining watching them trying to make it out the bomb crater! Then followed another long climb over very rocky terrain which was absolutely exhausting. Once up, however, we followed a very fast, flowing trail through the woods eventually taking us back down the steep slope we carried the bikes up previously! We rode back out across the boulderous fire break mentioned earlier. This time Jim L took the wrong line through the boulders and took a tumble over the rocks, though nothing serious. The trail was fun to ride and we were all enjoying riding the trail. Eventually, however, we had to tackle an extremely steep gully were the climb out was off camber with steep exposure to the right, the advice was to stay left when climbing out. Each of us in turn made our attempt to ride in and out of the gully, with varying degrees of success, though none of us made it completely out. Nathan B, on his new Spanish Orbea, was just a little too much to the right on his climb out. Not quite making the climb, Nathan and his bike went over into the gully. Nathan managed to stop himself going right down, but once back on his feet, again lost his balance and fell right down onto his carbon Orbea. Sixteen stone falling onto a carbon bike is not a good move and so it proved when an inspection of his bike revealed a crack in the rear triangle. We continued to ride the trail, rocky, fast and furious as it weaved through the woods down the mountainside. At another gully Martin I lost the line and took a tumble onto the rocks, sustaining a minor arm injury despite protection. To get off the mountain we dropped into an extremely rocky gully and followed this, picking our lines through the rocks until we reached our lunch stop. Here, after discussion with our guides, it was decided it would be too dangerous for Nathan to continue riding his bike with a cracked frame. The guides arranged for a replacement bike to be brought up for Nathan to continue with. After lunch we took the “Garden Trail” back to the coast, mainly following fireroads at speed. With temperatures reaching 27 Celcius, we were glad of the easy riding.
For today, Jim L decided to test the theory for himself the effort required to ride an ebike, and duly arranged to hire an ebike for the day. Steve A, unhappy with the ancient rig hired to him on the first day, insisted on a more updated model for today’s ride. As it turned out, the trails ridden today were great fun and hugely enjoyable, all under the clear blue skies and hot sunshine of the Costa de Sol. For the morning we rode “Mijas Down”, a collection of fast descents and steep climbs, at one point having to carry the bikes up. The trails were rocky and rutted, being important to hold your line through them. It was on this trail Vit’s rear tire took a hit and opened up, necessitating some serious tubeless repair work to fix. By now the temperature was up to 27 Celcuis and we were grateful for our lunch stop in the outskirts of Fuengirola. For the afternoon we took the uplift high into the mountains for a serious decent on a section of a trail called Telecom Tower, rated as a Black run. Dropping off the road onto the mountainside, the trail was a series of switchbacks on loose and rocky terrain. Great for those who can flick the backwheel out to turn the corners, care needed for those who had to ride the bike. Either way, it was a truly exhilarating descent. The next section was a stretch of extremely rocky undulating trail high above the road with some serious exposure at times. It was necessary to pick your lines through the rocks, the trail finishing with a steep gradient down to a dried up riverbed. The trail followed the riverbed, being extremely rocky and uneven. The suspension on the bikes really smoothing out the ride. We then took another trail “San Anton” a serious of mainly fireroads descending down to the coast. At one stage we reached a circular plateau with a small rocky outcrop in the centre. Cue a few minutes of fun: Josh our guide hopping the bike on the back wheel, Vit pulling wheelies and jumping off the rocks, Jim L skidding the back wheel to a stop. This was followed by riding the “Decent of Death”, an extremely steep and long descent into a valley with the aim of who can climb highest on the other side. It was our guide Josh who made it the highest. The last couple of km followed the coast back into town.
This being our departure day, it was essentially a morning only ride for those riding, being Martin I, Nathan B and Vit K, the others taking it as a rest day. For the riders, they chose to ride again the trails of Telecom Tower and San Anton. Telecom Tower, by far the most exhilarating, was ridden twice though this did mean a steep and long climb to ride it the second time. Vit K’s tyre finally opened up beyond repair, the only remedy being to fit a tube. The guys resting checked out the local bike shops before spending time in the on-site private pool chillaxing in the hot sunshine. When the riders returned we packed our bags and left for the airport for the flight home.
As a trip this ticked all the boxes for a great time: Good accommodation; great trails; great weather; good camaraderie between the six of us; excellent value for money; and lots of fun! Thanks to Steve A, Martin I, Jim L, Vit K, Nathan B and MJ for all contributing to making this a memorable trip!
Please see video below:
Report by MJ