We think that Spain is the best place in the world to ride your bike. We’re espangelists.
Why? Here are some of the characteristics of Spain that make it such a mountain biking paradise.
Spain is rightly famous for its benign climate. In the southern half of the mainland, you can rely on sunny weather most of the year. Of course it rains sometimes, but you rarely get two rainy days in a row. Autumn, winter and spring are perfect for mountain bike trips in the south; whereas high summer is too hot. Generally, the northern half of Spain has a much cooler, wetter climate and the best time to ride is late spring through to early autumn.
But there’s much more to Spain than the weather.
Mainland Spain and Portugal make up the Iberian Peninsula, which is separated from the rest of Europe by The Pyrenees mountain range. Spain is Europe’s second most mountainous country (after Switzerland). There are hills and mountains everywhere you look (except on the vast plateau of the meseta central in the centre of Spain). The most famous mountain ranges, or sierras, are the Sierra Nevada, The Pyrenees and The Picos de Europa, but there are many, many more.
Mountains mean livestock farming, leading to the creation of endless droving trails, which make perfect mountain bike trails. Mountains also lead to sparse populations, so you are unlikely to come across other trail users, away from the most popular spots.
The variety of landscapes throughout Spain is astounding, too, from the pastoral to the truly wild.
Spain has a population of approximately 47 million people. It has an area of 506 thousand square kilometres. The population density is 94 people per square kilometre. In contrast, the UK has 280. 80% of the population lives in the large, urban centres. This means that when you are mountain biking in the countryside, you won’t see many people. This has its pros and cons, of course. If you have a problem or you get lost, you’ll be waiting a long time for a passer-by to help out. That’s why we recommend a guided trip. On the other hand, there’s no traffic problem on the trails and you have a wonderful feeling of escaping from the world.
Culture and Cycling Culture
Due to its geographical (and previous political) isolation, Spain is surprisingly different from other European countries and has a very strong cultural identity.
As a visitor, you will notice enthusiasm for outdoor activities and friendliness towards other trail users from Spaniards, whether on foot, bike, horse or mule. They are delighted to see you. On the roads, too, motorists will wait to overtake cyclists and give them plenty of room (1.5 metres is the minimum legal passing distance). In rural areas, the locals will be genuinely pleased to see visitors, though they may be mystified by your choice of tricky trails over the asphalt alternative.
Bars, Food and Fountains
Spain has the highest number of bars per capita in the European Union, at one bar per 169 residents. The autonomous community of Andalucía alone has as many bars as Ireland, Denmark, Finland and Norway combined. This means that you are never far from food and drink. The prices are more than fair, too. Even better, the province of Granada, in Andalcucía (where you will find Pure Mountains) is famous for providing a free tapa (snack) with every alcoholic drink.
For mountain bikers, another boon is the ubiquitous drinking water fountain. There is at least one in even the smallest hamlet.
DIY or Guided BikeTours?
Despite the patchy quality of Spanish maps and online resources, with plenty of homework you can put together a great road / bike packing tour yourself. You can also put together an MTB trip, but you’re going to spend a lot of time getting lost, scrambling through undergrowth and wishing you were riding the trails in the opposite direction. That’s why you need Pure Mountains, of course!
In conclusion, whether you do it yourself of sign up for a guided mountain bike adventure, we are confident that you will discover that Spain is the best country on earth for riding your bike!
Co-owner and guide, Pure Mountains