Words by Anna Glowinski

Three winters ago, I decided to escape the gloomy British winter and spend the “worst” months in Andalucia, Spain. It was a great idea. As a freelance TV presenter and designer, with quiet months through the winter and overly hectic in the summer, it would give me a chance to relax in the warm weather and actually ride my bike (contrary to how it looks, filming about cycling requires a pitifully low amount of time on the bike). The idea was to hone my riding skills and recover my frazzled body, whilst keeping in touch with the working world via the internet. A short haul flight back to the UK meant that it could be done quickly and easily if a job came in at the last minute, and rent is incredibly cheap compared to what I am used to around me in London.

Southern Spain in the winter is simply perfect. The dry, dusty trails that traverse down mountains that jut almost directly out of the sea are bathed in almost constant good weather.

It’s so good to wake up each morning and open the curtains to a bright blue sky. Your riding kit has likely dried already from washing it the day before, so by the time breakfast is finished there’s nothing more to do than get riding. Pedal up the mountain if you fancy it, a good sweat and some force on the legs is great training, or book onto one of the shuttle companies operating here to give everything you can to the descents.

The riding is technical and often steep, there are challenges around every switchback and maintaining flow here is an art of intense focus. This is why pretty much every pro rider who has ever existed in northern Europe has made the short flight down. Here is the obvious choice of any bike film production company, photographer, or instagrammer. Any self-respecting bike press launch will have done at least something here at some point. It’s a short-haul Mecca.

For those who are lucky enough to spend a little more time exploring, there are dainty white mountain towns that make you feel as far away from England as possible. Sangrias and tapas can be enjoyed on a terrace with a view, and the passing local riders will give you a grin as they pass. It’s just perfect. Isn’t it?

Well, you know, sometimes things aren’t always as they seem in paradise.

  • 1) Friendly car parks - I believe that car parks at british riding spots, private or otherwise are uniquely friendly. The mix of ages and genders makes them particularly non-cliquey, and the buzz of excitement pre-ride is tangible. Admittedly, language was a problem at first, because the moment you don’t have the same language as someone, your riding conversation ends as soon as it started. Thus blocking the vital information you need about local trails, the do’s and don’ts and the ways into the special stuff. I remember saying hi to some people in the car park, as I would in the UK, they said something to me and rode off. It felt awkward. I don’t know if they had dismissed me, or if they had invited me to join them and then thought that I was the rude one! Now that I have got the hang of Spanish, I still conclude that the MTB community is so big and varied in the UK, that it is has a deep, cultural friendliness.

  • 2) Mud actually equals skills - I have found myself trawling instagram whilst sipping a cold white wine, and laughing out loud at a video of someone slipping over in the muddy slide of a wet berm. And then a pang of “oh, but, wow!” when the next video shows the same person nailing it. The skills acquired in the mud are incredible and guaranteed to make you a better rider come summer. Do not underestimate it.

  • 3) The variety of trails in the UK is second to none - I love natural trails, and we all know that true MTB is not about just becoming a park rat. But over here, due to a mix of the fact that the land is terrible for creating features that last (steep, dry and crumbly) and a community of riders that simply isn’t as invested in trail maintenance as in the UK, there is a severe shortage of decent jumps and berms. They are vital parts of riding and so, so, so much fun. I experience withdrawal symptoms each year and need several jump-specific sessions to get myself back up to confidence at the end of every winter.

  • 4) Post ride pub lunch - It’s definitely contains a certain smugness, licking an ice-cream on the beach wearing just your sports bra and shorts. But it just doesn’t magic up the same appeal as chips and gravy around a loud table of mucky, happy riders.

  • 5) The sense of reward - it can take a huge amount of willpower to drag yourself out in the damp and cold, for a ride where the ground sucks at your wheels, eating at your flow and speed. Afterwards, you have soggy clothes to wash, and gravel to scrape out of the washing machine. And cleaning your bike immediately afterwards is a necessary evil that kills the skin on your hands. But it is precisely this hardship that instigates the feeling of achievement, the muddiest smiles are often the happiest!

Spain images 


UK images Roo Fowler