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Trig does Benalmedena, Malaga, Spain

Trig does Benalmedena, Malaga, Spain

Kicking off 2008 with the first article of the year (Happy New Year, by the way), Trig is back with more road-trip tales. He hit this on a major budget and only a week before Xmas! Read on to see how it's done. Fancy some flat out dusty, rocks riding? This ought to whet your appetite for a summer - or a sneaky pre-season session.
In a further attempt to lure more people away from The Port Du Soleil and try (ahem) "something else" I want to increase the exposure of this and other DH venues in the hope that
a) more people go
b) more trails get built
c) bike parks in general get better when they realise the competition is ever increasing
d) I have more fun and it gets cheaper!

So here goes...

Sun, sea, good DH trails, a gondola........and in late December? Can it be true? That's what I got told 3 weeks ago so it took little arm-twisting for me to get on the EasyJet website and buy a ticket to Malaga.

Hmmm, must be a catch, but I'm an optimistic fella and always in for a good adventure especially if the odds sounds dodgy and the organisation is vague.

Maybe it was gonna cost a lot? Flight 50 + 30 for bike so 80 total. Accommodation is 50 for the week. Maybe the food is extortionate? No again, our flat is over the road from Lidl and there's a kebab shop 10 meters down the road.

So I fly from Liverpool.........ahhhhhhhhhh, maybe THAT'S the catch! The baggage handlers that charge 100 ransom for your bike? Nope, not at this time of year. There just isn't an exodus of 10,000 mtb'ers going to Geneva airport like in the months of July/August so the check in staff were calm and reasonable when I weighed in my 35Kg bike bag plus 13kg clothes bag. No charge, thank you.

Spanish 'oversize lugage' handler is a MTB'er himself...
...and lets us play with the X-ray machine

OK, so now I'm in Malaga airport and still expecting the big catch - the transfer cost. Well a 15 minute train ride costing a total of $1.15 Euros (that's 80 of your English pences) is pretty reasonable I think.

We did now incur the first of a few potential cock-ups tho: The original accommodation booked seems to have fallen through. Its soon remedied tho, as while talking to one of millions of Ex-Pats in a bar, a kind hearted sole gives us a number of some other cheap place to stay. Phew, sorted.

Day one, kit up, build bikes get to the Burro Del Turismo who inform us that there's no rush, the lift opens at 11am and closes at 5pm. Now comes the second potential cock-up: the lift station lady seems to be a complete bitch! She won't sell us week passes, only singles. Arrrr! Its $7 Euro's a go! My heart sinks. We go up for 1 run anyway.

Front wheels off every lift. Hmmm, that's gonna get annoying, but good news, someone's figured out how to get week passes. Phew! What a bitch the lift lady was - she blatantly knew what we were asking for. She talks constantly on the phone and looks pissed off. Anyway, relax, a season pass is $83 (with bike) we're sorted.

Gondola ride views

Over a 6 lane motorway!

From the top

My fellow freeride felons. Start of DH courses in the back ground.

OK, so the riding:
First of all the loading - its front wheel off every time. In practice is much less annoying than I expected. It doesn't really hold you up cos the gondola's are only every 40 seconds or so, plus you can have time for some track banter. A front Maxle would be nice tho!

The lift itself takes about 15 minutes and goes all the way up to 867m (remember that Malaga is coastal, so you drop down most the way to 0m). At the top its put the front wheels back on and ride down the road about a mile to the start of the DH tracks.

There are 4 main courses: "Bajada", "Way", "Break" and "Nameless".

Bajada is the first we session. Its long and rocky. Dusty/rubbley switchbacks, rock doubles, rock gardens, rock slabs and boulders with orange/red dust. Punctures rapidly become so frequent that the rapidly diminishing supply of tubes is becoming worrying. 4 for me on the very first day. In the end I run fat Comp 16's with DH tubes and 50 psi in the rear and 35 in the front. Sheesh, that hurts my hands, but its the only way.

Fixing another puncture

Next is "Break". Named by ourselves as it really is nice to have a 'break' from the constant hammering. Way starts with deep dusty rutted switchbacks and then becomes fast flowy speedway with small kickers and the occasional hairpin. In comparison to Bajada it has much less features, but it really is nice to have a 'break'!

Both Way and Bajada join just near the bottom and run a short but ACE fun man made DH course with immaculate berms, a few medium doubles and a medium but great fun wooden drop. It really is the 'BMX' bit and great to pump or have a comedy sit down race.

Next up is "Way". With some really steep rubbley switchback sections thrown in, Way is mostly about jumps - loads of 'em! Its a short course in comparison, but there are at least 12 medium sized doubles. They're all nicely made, flow well and are pretty easy - there's only 1 difficult/shady triple which has a tiny lip and sends you in to a boulder field at 40mph. That's pretty scary!

Once at the bottom of the DH courses you come to a road - now this bit is very important. There is a quick and direct route back to the lift station - but you have to know where it is! Its on and off road and great for a bit of a BMX style elbows out race. Unfortunately we didn't know this sneaky route on the first day and were taking a super long road route until day 2 when we rode with some Spaniards who showed us the way.

When you know where to go and what you're doing, plus get the wheels off/bike in the gondola technique down, you can get full circuit times down to just over 30 minutes - but nearly 10 of that is riding. In reality 6/7 runs in a day - especially if you ride Bajada a lot - is plenty.

I think we all agreed that Bajada is by far the best course. Its hard and very physical, and falling off HURTS! You have to run rock hard tyres and soft suspension. Its a real work out, but really rewarding when you smash it hard enough for the wheels to come off the ground a bit more and things begin to flow.

Bit o'wood


There's also some Trails and a skate park on the way home

We could also have done a race in nearby Andalusia that was on the Sunday we were there, but we had transport issues and a general lack of organisation so missed it.

One thing I haven't mentioned is the weather. The weather was slightly mixed. We had overcast but dry, sunny all day, over cast, the one rainy day (but we timed that perfectly by getting pissed-o-spazzed the night before anyway), then overcast and windy, then sunny and windy. When the sun came out it was up to 25 degrees, but most the time it was about 17/18. The wind did get to be a pain in the later days as it meant we couldn't ride jumpy 'Way' course. It is VERY weird being on holiday, in a warm sunny climate with dusty trails when Christmas is less than a week away - I never got used to that.

So that's it really. I had an ace time and I'm planning on going again next year. It cost me about 300 for the week and I could have spent a lot less. The Spanish are building new stuff all the time so by the time I go again there'll probably be at least another whole track.

Thanks to Dave 'stoner bashin time' Kilner, Ben Evans, Pete 'casanova' Adams, Chris 'mechanical disaster' Elliot, Malcom 'iron tongue' Finnie and Micheal 'Dirk' the dutchman.

If you still need convincing to go, type in Benalmedena into YouTube.....

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More articles from the 'riding | feature' section:
[ Trig's ATC 09 roadtrip ] - posted on 30th July 2009 by Trig.

[ Pila, Tignes and Les Arcs 08 ] - posted on 30th March 2009 by John Wootton.

[ Pinning the Atherton Gap ] - posted on 11th August 2008 by Phil.

[ Trig does Benalmedena, Malaga, Spain ] - posted on 1st January 2008 by Trig.

[ Trig's Alpine road trip ] - posted on 16th November 2007 by Trig.

[ No Place Like Home. 008. The Final Installment ] - posted on 9th October 2006 by Trim (and Ali).

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