Mountain Biking in the Pyrenees, Spain: History, Heli-Drops, and Heart

October 30, 2019

Mountain Bike in Spain

You prob­a­bly know Spain for the run­ning of the bulls, rich red wine, fla­men­co danc­ing, sun­ny Mediter­ranean beach­es, fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry, and foot­ball (that’s soc­cer to Cana­di­ans, eh?). But you should also get to know Spain, and the Span­ish Pyre­nees, as an incred­i­ble place for moun­tain biking.

If you dream of end­less sin­gle­track trails and long descents (we’re talk­ing 4,000 metres in one day!), topped off with mouth-water­ing cui­sine, local vino, and 1000-year-old castles—visit Spain. It will not disappoint.

Check out our 8‑day guid­ed moun­tain bike trip through Spain — The Pyre­nees & Beyond. The mind-blow­ing itin­er­ary includes two heli-drops in the pic­turesque Pyre­nees moun­tains, sin­gle­track rid­ing near the his­toric town of Aín­sa (home of the 20152018 Enduro World Series), a ‘glamp­ing’ expe­ri­ence in the alpine, and so much more! 

What’s So Great about Mountain Biking in Spain & the Pyrenees?

Pedaling Through History

Ped­al back in time through Spain and you’ll dis­cov­er that your wheels are turn­ing on ancient sea beds. Today, ancient sea beds rich with small fos­silized crea­tures from before humans walked the Earth sur­round the small cob­ble­stone streets of Aín­sa . And, when our homi­noid rel­a­tives start­ed to walk the Earth, one of the ear­li­est known records can be found in the Span­ish cave of Ata­puer­ca, where archae­ol­o­gists found a flint tool dat­ing back to 1.4 mil­lion years. It’s impos­si­ble to ignore the incred­i­ble nat­ur­al and cul­tur­al his­to­ry that sur­rounds you when moun­tain bik­ing in Spain. 

Imag­ine ped­al­ing along the per­fect slice of sin­gle­track and stum­bling upon a 1000-year-old aban­doned fort perched on top of an impres­sive look­out over native forests, lakes and a riv­er below. The fort stands tall and is still equipped with a bell tow­er, a pro­tec­tive stone wall and a small church where the locals used to pray and seek for­give­ness. If the walls could talk, they would amaze you with sto­ries about the lives, hard­ships, wor­ship­pers, and war­riors from the past.

In Spain, it’s not uncom­mon to ride past numer­ous aban­doned vil­lages steeped with fas­ci­nat­ing history.

The town of Aín­sa (host of the 20152018 Enduro World Series) lies south of the Pyre­nees moun­tains. The towns’ charm stems from the unspoiled cob­ble­stone streets and reclaimed relics of the past, includ­ing the San­ta Maria Church that dates back to the 11th cen­tu­ry and icon­ic cas­tle made from fairy­tales. While the town boasts incred­i­ble sin­gle­track in the sur­round­ing hills, those trails would­n’t exist with­out the unique his­to­ry of the area. For years, the main eco­nom­ic activ­i­ties in the area were (and still are to some extent) stock­breed­ing and agri­cul­ture. The sea­son­al migra­tion of live­stock was nec­es­sary to ensure a healthy herd and avoid harsh weath­er. This move­ment of live­stock cre­at­ed hun­dreds of trails that criss­cross the hills now redis­cov­ered and uplift­ed by moun­tain bikers. 

The Heli-Drops: From Flying Over Spain to Mountain Biking on the Pyrenees

The Span­ish Pyren­nees moun­tains offer up the per­fect land­scape for mind-blow­ing moun­tain bik­ing and heli-bike experiences. 

As the nat­ur­al bor­der between Spain and France, the Pyre­nees are old­er than the Alps and made up of sed­i­men­ta­ry deposits, includ­ing lime­stone, as well as igneous gran­ite. Shaped by glacial move­ments over mil­lions of years, the moun­tain range is lit­tered with beau­ti­ful alpine lakes, strik­ing rock fea­tures and pine forests.

With the knowl­edge, pas­sion, and net­work of local guides with heli­copter hook-ups, it’s pos­si­ble to ride over 4,000 ver­ti­cal metres in one day through spec­tac­u­lar scenery. You won’t soon for­get these tech­ni­cal, rocky descents that end in small Span­ish vil­lages, topped off at the end of the day with gas­tron­o­my expe­ri­ences you won’t soon forget.

The 8‑day Pyre­nees and Beyond ride fea­tures two heli-bike expe­ri­ences. The first drops you at the Pun­ta Suelza peak (close to the French bor­der) at an alti­tude of 3,000 metres. You’ll drop into rocky tech­ni­cal ter­rain, roll through grassy mead­ows and fin­ish close to the small town of Biel­sa where eager ped­allers can con­tin­ue shut­tling trails in the van.

The sec­ond heli-bike ride drops you at the peak of Sier­ra Negra (2,850 metres). The descent starts above the tree-line and then weaves into pine forests before rolling back into town along the riv­er. Before you drop-in, watch for icon­ic Beard­ed Vul­tures soar­ing above the wide-open moun­tain land­scape. Also known as ‘bone-smash­ers’ these incred­i­ble birds are the only known ver­te­brate whose diet con­sists of 70 — 90% of bone. Wave ‘adiós’ to the heli­copter and put your game face on, this descent will leave you smil­ing from ear-to-ear.

The Heart & Soul of Spain

Spain is a des­ti­na­tion with heart. What do we mean by this?

Well, walk into any hotel or restau­rant and you’ll be greet­ed with a smile, a gen­er­ous plate of food, vibrant con­ver­sa­tion and, of course, a full glass of local wine. The local peo­ple pour their heart into their com­mu­ni­ty, their friend­ships and families.

In Spain, that heart and soul (and hos­pi­tal­i­ty) can also be applied to moun­tain biking.

Moun­tain bike des­ti­na­tions, trails and com­mu­ni­ties don’t just appear. They are the result of pas­sion­ate trail builders, local guides, moun­tain bike clubs, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, and peo­ple with a vision.

Below we’d like to intro­duce one of those peo­ple, with a lot of heart.

Meet Pablo

Pablo is our Lead Guide in Spain. He is a well-round­ed adven­tur­er. As a white water kayak­er, back­coun­try ski­er and of course moun­tain bik­er, Pablo has trav­elled to the four cor­ners of the Earth; Nepal, Cana­da, Mex­i­co, Argenti­na, Colom­bia and Africa as a guide and adven­ture seek­er. Always escap­ing with a quiver of toys, but even­tu­al­ly return­ing to the beloved Pyre­nees moun­tains in Spain. Dur­ing his 12-year for­est fire­fight­ing career, Pablo worked with heli­copters and met his busi­ness part­ner Lluís. Their friend­ship grew and gave rise to a dream; heli-access bik­ing in their beau­ti­ful Pyre­nees back­yard. Good luck try­ing to wipe the smile off his face. Pablo grew up near the his­toric town of Aín­sa and con­tin­ues to explore this beau­ti­ful area. Pablo and his moun­tain bike guid­ing team are always scout­ing new trails in the Pyre­nees, build­ing and main­tain­ing trails and giv­ing back to the com­mu­ni­ty with their time and sweat!

There’s only so many spots in the helicopter!

Don’t miss out! Our 8‑day Pyre­nees & Beyond ride fills up fast. Explore and ride near the his­toric town of Ain­sa before head­ing to the rugged Pyre­nees moun­tains — the nat­ur­al bor­der between Spain and France. Heli-drops, shut­tle runs, tech­ni­cal sin­gle­track rid­ing, local guides and meals included!