SIERRA NEVADA - LOCATION GUIDE
After a fantastic experience riding with Switchbacks in Malaga a couple of winters ago, we couldn’t resist an offer to check out their summer riding destination in Bubion, Sierra Nevada.
Sierra Nevada is a vast mountain range in Andalucia Spain with mountains reaching up to 3,479 metres (11,414 ft) above sea level. This unspoilt landscape is home to a sleepy little village called Bubion. Clinging to the hillside the picturesque white village, with a population of just above 300 people, sits at the height of Ben Nevis in the Sierra Nevada National Park. It has breathtaking views looking down the valley and out towards the Mediterranean Sea and is surrounded by countless tracks to ride.
What to Expect
Switchbacks picks Bubion as their summer riding destination from May to the end of October. In the height of our UK summer Sierra Nevada is in its prime with lots of sunshine and dry, dusty trails. It's baffaling to see the mountain peaks towering high above the village still bearing caps of snow, despite the glorious sunshine.
Riding wise, you don’t need to be good at jumping but you will need an enduro bike and a decent level of fitness to get the most out of your holiday. Loose scree and fixed rock make up the majority of surfaces you’ll be riding. Say goodbye to puddles and slick roots, these are a rare phenomenom in Sierra Nevada. You will navigate a variety of different types of trail including rocky Ancient Medieval tracks and technical ridge lines that meander down into the valley and all the way to the sea.
Not many of the locals mountainbike so the tracks are raw, totally unspoilt and only used by the people that visit plus the occasional donkey and a goat or two. It’s not unusual to stumble upon a deserted ancient medieval village, Sierra Nevadas history is so well preserved. Local culture is everywhere from landscape sculpted by ancient farming techniques, to the famous Serrano ham houses and my personal favourite, the shepard dogs way up in the hills, gaurding their herd of goats without a human in sight.
Riding with Switchbacks
Switchbacks is owned and run by Mike Saunders. A fountain of knowledge, Mike is full of lots of local information and knows the Nevada’s best kept secrets. Switchbacks provides guided big mountain adventures with tuition if desired and shuttled runs to make your time away all the more enjoyable. During our UK winter months, Switchbacks is based in Malaga, but as Malaga reaches sizzling temperatures in the summer, Switchbacks is moved to the cooler mountains in Sierra Nevada.
Mike has a huge trail network that is always expanding. Always on the go, he uses his days off to scope out new trails waiting to be ridden. Switchbacks aims to give its customers the ultimate riding holiday. To make things nice and easy, Mike has enduro and ebikes available to hire including Pole and Marida bikes. With Switchbacks you can shuttle your new favourite tracks for the afternoon in Bubion or head on a big adventure for the day where you’ll be lucky to spot another person. High peak rides all the way to the sea are mind-blowing, and after a long day in the saddle it's great to soak your feet in the water sipping on a cold beer.
If you want to improve your riding then look no further than Switchbacks. Whether you are with them in Sierra Nevada or Malaga, it caters for all levels of riding and Mike will organise rides around your skill set and trail preference as best as possible. If you want tracks that will make your bum twitch or some flat out single track, Mike will show you where they are hidden.
If you’re keen to head over on a road trip then there are plenty of lovely secluded spots to park the camper. If however you are taking a trip over on the plane then you’ll need somewhere to park your bum and your bike when you're not riding. As part of the package, Switchbacks has a gorgeous traditional Spanish villa in the heart of Bubion. It has everything you could need including a workshop area, a sunny balcony overlooking the whole valley and even a washing machine. If you fancy eating out, there’s plenty of local bars and restaurants within walking distance.
Bike Shop and Bike Hire
Despite Bubion being a tiny villiage, it even has a well stocked bike shop with a variety of bikes to hire. Alpujarra Bikes is owned by Brian and Lynn, both keen cyclists who live and ride locally. The shop has a selection of mountain bikes to hire and road bikes too if you are that way inclined. If you find yourself needing a tube, or if your bike needs some love in general then pop into the shop where the lovely Brian and Lynn will be able to help.
Luki is Mikes right hand man and we felt that he needed a shout out. He drives the bus and makes sure that everyone is where they need to be. If you don’t know Spanish then communication with Luki is limited but he’s a great guy and it’s cool to attempt conversation even if it does end in utter confusion, I'm pretty sure he gets a kick out of it too. He is the smoothest driver. No matter how close the road is built next to a cliff edge, we felt safe with Luki at the wheel. The only times that his smooth driving was interrupted was to avoid animals...including a mouse. It’s clear that Luki is not only a great driver but an animal lover too.
Water Water Everywhere
Throughout the Sierra Nevada National Park there are stunning villages dotted around the valleys. In every village there is at least one if not several fresh water fountains. The water that comes out of their spouts is quite likely the best and most purest water you’ll ever have tasted. In fact Bubion is known to have the best tasting water in the whole of Sierra Nevada and it just so happens to be on your way to the shuttle bus in the morning. Mikes adventures will regularly direct you through these villages meaning you have plenty of opportunities to top up on water as well as coffee and food.
Flora and Fauna
The area is full of some of the most unusual and beautiful plant life alongside wonderfully bizarre creatures such as geckos and even praying mantises. But there is nothing quite like racing down a stonker of a track with the sun on your skin and bursts of aroma coming from every plant you brush past. After riding in Sierra Nevada you’ll have flashbacks to that moment every time you add some herbs to your cooking.
Not all the plant life is so sensuous though, depending on how you look at it. Some of the most stunning plants are also the most prickly. Despite the hot weather it would be wise to wear something with sleeves to protect you from the sun and the plants.
Living on Tapas
With every drink comes free tapas! I’m not kidding, free food. Now we aren’t saying that you shouldn’t try the local restaurants, Bubion has plenty and we had some fantastic meals. However if the need came for it and you had to scrimp and save for your holiday then not buy any food for the whole trip….it is possible to survive as long as your keen for a drink. A particular local favourite in Bubion is Restaurant Teide. Antonio looked after us extremely well during our stay and the tapas he served were the best! Mike has great knowledge of the local food so dont be afraid to let him do the ordering.
It goes without saying how important it is to stay hydrated when riding in hot climates and to protect yourself from the scorching sun. It’s near impossible to find the right trails without a guide and pretty dangerous to try so don’t waste your money on plane tickets without giving Mike a call to show you around. For goodness sake DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE!!
So if you are looking for a holiday that incorporates great weather, sick trails, full days of riding with some sleepy, relaxed Spanish culture then look no further than Sierra Nevada.
To start planning your mountain bike holiday visit www.switch-backs.com