MALAGA - LOCATION GUIDE
Updated: Jan 18
Malaga is home to fantastic riding that you won’t find anywhere in the UK.
Situated in the Costa Del Sol, Southern Spain. This country has an entirely unique terrain.
For some of you, this will unlike anything you have ridden before. From fixed, technical, rocky descents, to deep sandy chutes with loose boulders. You think you may have conquered a savage rock garden, but try one covered in sand! Malaga has it all. There’s no doubt that you’ll come home an improved rider, either that or broken and battered.
Malaga itself is a sunny country, it’s warm all year round, but the riding temperatures are just perfect in our winter months. It is the ideal place to retreat to when the UK weather is grim. Dust comes guaranteed.
Rated by Redbull in 2017 as the best winter riding destination in the world, we decided to go and see what the hype was all about.
Looking for somewhere to shred in the sunshine, Switchbacks seemed the obvious choice. Mike Saunders, who owns and runs Switchbacks, moved to malaga with plans to expand on the existing trails it had. Originally having only 5 specific MTB trails, there is now a whopping 45+. Switchbacks offers an all year round, gravity/enduro specific, mountain bike experience.
During the summer months, may to October, Switchbacks runs trips from their base in Bubion, Sierra Nevada, where it’s cool enough to ride when the weather's hot. In the winter they are based in Malaga. The empty trails in Malaga and Mike's super shuttle service means you get the most enjoyment of the trails there. Your legs will thank you for the lift as some of the climbs are solid.
Mike is a real character, a person that you may only meet once but never forget. He’ll get you hyped about the ride you are about to take on. He’ll whoop and holla with you on the descents. If your flagging towards the end of the day, Mike will be there to pick up the mood. He certainly did a great job of cheering me up after Ieuan took me on a very long "short-cut" via the motorway (on the DH bike). I'll tell you that story some other time.
After a day on the trails, it’s back to the Villa. Located in Alhaurin el Grande, it has an enormous workshop, secure bike storage, jet wash and a large pool. There is a bar for post ride drinks and a football table, a ping pong table and darts for evening entertainment. Breakfast is included for your stay and Mike can organise a fabulous BBQ. Several excellent bars and restaurants are within walking distance of your accommodation. If you've got the energy, the Costa del Sol nightlife is only short drive away.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Malaga and I was pretty desperate to ride my DH bike. Although it was not the right bike for some of the rides we went on, I was very glad to have it in certain sections. An enduro bike would be perfect for this type of riding. Long travel is advisable over short travel and for God’s sake, if you ever want kids in the future then don’t bring a hardtail. That being said there’s something to suit everyone out there and Mike does a great job of selecting trails to suit you.
There are more tracks in Malaga than you can shake a stick at. Here’s a sum up of a few we rode.
The mountains in Mijas are covered in the most amazing trails. Sram Test Tracks are located here. They are loose with lots of line options, quick and easy to uplift. 911 and Leftism are super technical, long trails. Starting from the mast at the top, the views are spectacular. Watch out, these are the ones with the sandy rock gardens (very tricky) and technical, rocky switchbacks. They take you into the middle of nowhere, a great feeling and a huge sense of achievement when making it to the end in one piece. Lets face it, the only thing that can rescue you out here is a man with a donkey, but isn’t that what adventure is all about?
Ridiculator (my favourite) with its sandy chutes and switchbacks at the top, then flat out sections through gully’s at the bottom. As well as Rockadillo (what can I say…..so many rocks) These are over the Benalmadena side of Malaga. Be sure to check out the local park there, it’s full of chickens. It was a highlight of our stay….we really like chickens.
Happy days. This is a set of trails that deserves a big shout out. All of the tracks are quick and easy to shuttle, but if you are keen to pedal it’s a steady straightforward climb. After a run down you’ll be smiling on the way back up. This is a favourite for a lot of riders. Loose, dusty and rocky turns, tasty booters through the middle, technical and rooty to finish. Loads of different lines here, it’s a lot of fun.
El Choro is a short drive to a remote location, it’s brilliant riding on a totally different terrain. Full of lots of different trails. Mike took us down Pineapple, it’s absolutely flat out and flowy with a nice fast corners in a gully. Here we also had a run down Dambusters. A long track that takes you from the top of the dam to the bottom, full of loose rock and shear drops. When we finally made it to the bottom, Mike took us to a great little place for lunch. We ate chicken sandwiches and sipped cold beer under the lemon trees watching a dog with a dodgy leg chase cars.
Riding in Malaga is brilliant. Switchbacks did a great job of providing us with a holiday we will never forget. We will certainly be hoping to catch up with Mike again to check out the summer riding in Sierra Nevada.
If you want to drive to Malaga, its most definitely possible but Holy Toledo, it's a seriously long way. Put it this way, it's a 24 hour ferry from the UK, plus a 9 and a half hour drive through Spain. If you are going for a week, this really eats into your holiday. A person with sense will fly to Malaga. Check out Skyscanner for the best prices. Keep a look out for our travel guide on how to travel with your bike. It’s not as scary as it sounds and you can learn from mistakes we made without having to make them yourself.
Certain accommodation, like Switchbacks, will arrange airport pick up. If you want to see the sights and decide to hire a car, take into consideration that airport hire is expensive. There is always a deal to be had from companies just outside the airport, if you play your cards right they will even meet you at arrivals.
If you are up for getting out and exploring the culture of this beautiful country, then there's an enormous selection of restaurants to choose from. Be adventurous and enjoy some Spanish cuisine. You can eat a Sunday dinner at home but you wont always get a chance to delve into paella or have a fish cooked Spanish style. In the town Benalmadena there’s an exceptional restaurant we would like to recommend. Restaurante Rincon Asturiano serves traditional Spanish food. It’s definitely worth a visit.
The weather in Malaga is scorching in the summer but perfect over our winter months, wear sun cream wherever you go, the rays can be ferocious. It goes without saying that you must keep hydrated. During our stay, we were out riding Ridiculator, the heavens opened and dropped 6ft of rain on us in an hour. It was awesome riding in a warm downpour. Sections of the track ran even better after a soak. The next day it was dusty again. Be prepared for anything. Pack-a-jackets take up no room but come in very handy.
Malaga has some weird looking, hairy caterpillars. It’s pretty cool the way they travel around in a long train, but touch them and they give you a horrible itchy rash. If you get this rash, don't stress, all you need to do is take some anti-histamine tables (the cream is just as good). This will sooth your ailments and you will be good as new before you know it. So just leave them alone and try not to run over them when you are out and about, unless it’s in a car. One of the Pole test riders did this, the caterpillar got stuck to his wheel then flicked up into his neck. I suppose the caterpillar got the last laugh.
You are on an enduro holiday so pack spares, get your gears and brakes sorted. Malaga will give your bike a hammering, suspension setup is super important. You won’t be wasting money to get it serviced before you go and give it some love afterwards for bringing you home safely.
Yeah, I know it’s the boring bit, but you’ll be more relaxed about taking risks if you have travel insurance. It will allow you to enjoy your riding more. Make sure it covers mountain biking, it’s super cheap if you shop around.
Winter riding can be challenging and fun, but if you need to make a break for the sunshine then try Malaga. Remember - Do NOT touch the caterpillars!
Photos - Alex Hunter, Ieuan Williams, Switchbacks
Words - Alex Hunter