Spain’s Sierra Nevada isn’t just a treat to ride, this stunning landscape is also a haven of tranquillity. With the expert hospitality of Pure Mountains, everything falls into place for us to escape the daily grind and have five amazing days of riding, discovering the intricate bonds between Serrano ham, mountain biking and beer.
When you think Sierra Nevada, its American namesake might spring to mind, along with unspoilt nature and breath-taking mountains. The real deal in Spain shares many similarities. Home to mainland Spain’s highest mountain, the National Park is around two hours from Malaga and the throngs of sunburnt tourists. What sets this landscape apart is how it stretches from the Mediterranean to the mountain peaks, from 0 to 3,479 metres crossing meadows of wild thyme and rosemary, almond groves, shade-filled pine forests right up to boulder fields. Except for the height of summer, the peak of Mulhacén at almost 3,500 msl has a covering of snow.
This is what we’re looking forward to as we board the plane from a cold, rainy Germany: topping up on vitamin D and ride something other than the sloppy mudfest of a German winter. We’re met in Spain by two Brits, Jenny and Tim, the founders of Pure Mountains. Having bought a rustic farmhouse for the business, they’ve set up a veritable riding paradise and even built a cross-country mountain biking course (it’s fairly short, but packs a punch). A magnet for small groups of mountain bike-hungry guests, Pure Mountains make sure that guests enjoy great, homemade food, a laid-back atmosphere, excellent wine and the wealth of singletrack outside the door.
We wanted to create the sort of holiday destination that we’d go on ourselves.
Jenny & Tim – Founder Pure Mountains
With all-day rides on the itinerary, Pure Mountain days typically begin with a substantial breakfast on the patio. It’s not uncommon to see an extra face join the rides either; group numbers (and your own personal technique) are often buoyed by qualified guides or pro riders like Neil Donoghue and Olly Morris. Those in the market for ten shuttle runs a day over bike park-esque trails with big jumps and berms should probably look elsewhere, or instead change your attitude ahead of pedalling up the region’s seeming forgotten trails. There is a Land Rover as a back-up, but this untouched nature lends itself more to a self-supported type of riding. Tim looks after most of the trails here, not just maintaining them but also making them more fun to ride by adding a few key features. From super-quick sections over open fields with natural jumps right through to tight, twisty trails in pine forests and sketchy rock gardens up high, Sierra Nevada isn’t short of variety and Pure Mountains know how to weave it into every ride. The view over the Med tops it off – as does the welcome offer of a home-brewed beer to finish.
But first up is the day’s ride, with trails and somewhat secluded villages, including Trevélez, one of the highest and still populated places in Spain. It’s distinctive with the white facades of the houses and for its Serrano ham, that’s air-cured up here. Jerry, one of the Pure Mountains team, is waiting for us here with Earl Grey tea and a ready-prepared buffet for lunch that beats any sort of energy gel we’d have back home.
I must have the best job in the world; every single day I get to drive the Landy in such a great place.
Jerry – Tim’s right-hand man and shuttle driver
A standout feature of each day is dished up in the afternoons, with a descent of way more than 1,000 metres that you won’t want to end. Even though the Landy’s designated purpose isn’t for shuttle run after run, Jerry picks us up from the bottom of the valley–far below the farmhouse. We get an ice cream from a bar in a village that’s so small you’ll be amazed that anything still happens here, let alone several bars. Our bikes are placed on the trailer and the Land Rover climbs up the remote gravel tracks back to where we’d begun. The dogs Coco and Molly, we discover, are permanently by Jerry’s side and willingly provide in-shuttle entertainment.
The riding is crowned with a tasty homemade dinner each evening, accompanied by delicious wine and Tim’s own-brew beer. The outside temperature cools off in the evenings (it’s still winter in the mountains after all), and we sit around the fire as we chat. Entertainment and new friends included.
Spain’s Sierra Nevada doesn’t have the manmade stuff. You get natural trails, without the wall rides. Here you don’t have to snake in the queue for lifts, you can spot real snakes in the undergrowth instead. It’s not a place that’s overrun with riders either. With Pure Mountains, Jenny and Tim have created the ideal base where you get the ultimate balance between kicking-back and getting a decent fix of first-rate mountain biking. Great vibe, lovely food and nice people – hasta la vista!
For more information, check out puremountains.com
Words & Photos: Felix Stix