Picos Mountain Bike by Exodus' Ian Langford
After a good eight months out of the saddle, it was time to find my bike legs again, so I decided to try our week-long trip to the Picos Mountains in Northern Spain. After a two-hour flight from London Stansted with Easyjet, you arrive into Bilbao which is approx two hours from Arenas De Cabrales, our base for the week. Alternatively, you can fly into Santander with Ryanair, which is slightly closer and you will still get a free transfer, so the choice is yours!
We were met by Jim Thompson, our host for the week, who has lived in Spain for the past 20 years. He runs the Hotel Torreceredo with his wife, Pilar, who leads our Picos, Peaks & Gorges Trekking holiday. The hotel, set in the most picturesque of locations, started off as a small bed & breakfast run by Pilar’s parents, but over the years it has grown into a 19 bedroom hotel which still retains its warm welcome and you are assured of fantastic hospitality throughout your stay.
The trip is graded as a B/C, which means that it can be challenging and you do need to have a fairly good level of fitness. The trip is mainly off road, but there is vehicle support throughout the trip and there is nowhere Jim’s LandRover can’t go! Jim is the vehicle support driver, and his friend Jules – who has a superb knowledge of both the cycling and trekking routes in the region - was the bike guide for the week.
The trip is centre-based, so you head off from the hotel each morning after breakfast. On the first morning, we rode from the hotel as we were doing three different circuits in the local area, whereas on other occasions, our bikes were loaded onto the LandRover & Jim drove us to various locations throughout the Picos (no more than a 1.5 hour drive away). You are averaging approx 25 miles per day on your Rockhopper bikes, all of which are of superb quality and no more than two years old. You do get one free day during the week, and you can either go on another self-guided bike ride, do a spot of canoeing or even try your hand at canyoning – it’s up to you!
I have travelled to many places in Europe, but I have to say that I don’t think anywhere quite as special as this region. The rides you do throughout the week are all so different and there is always some new vista to take your breathe away! One moment, you will be on farm tracks, surrounded by lush meadows filled with wild flowers, another time, you’ll be cycling through forest trails and then getting your adrenalin fix by taking on some downhill singletrack. I was constantly stopping & taking pictures, so make sure you have plenty of room on your memory card!
There were so many highlights for me throughout the week, but if I had to pick out a few I would have to mention the ride on Day 3 to the beach at Llanes where the swim was most welcome, if a touch on the cold side; the 12km walk along the spectacular Cares Gorge and the cable car ride up to La Vueltona on the last day followed by the some terrific downhill to finish off a truly memorable trip. We were also lucky enough to be in Arenas for it’s Saints day, so we had a memorable evening enjoying live bands in the village followed by numerous dodgem rides – I’m still a big kid at heart!
There were 15 of us on this trip - couples and singles, a mixture of ages and we all had a great time, so a big “thank you” to Jim, Jules and all the staff at the hotel for looking after us during our stay.
If you want to know more about the trip, just email me and I’ll be happy to give more detail about it!