The weather might just be perking up here in the UK, but Neal was enjoying some dry and dusty trails out in the Canary Islands in the depths of winter. Take it away Neal…
Like many other middle aged men who mountain bike and have a young family, I tread a fine line between escaping from under the wife’s feet for a few hours to pursue the thing that keeps me sane in the chaos that is having two small children – and taking the bloody piss!
I decided not to have any biking holidays away while my girls were so young (they’re both pre-school), but looked on longingly as my friends have disappeared abroad every summer. It was good of them to send me pictures of themselves eating ice cream on the Italian riviera after smashing out thousands of meters of uplifted descents, I was really pleased for them.
I’d looked into taking the family to more well-known biking destinations, most recently Finale Ligure, but none of them seemed massively child-friendly resorts. Our kids are one and three so to make things easy we wanted somewhere all inclusive with a pool, kids play area and some kids attractions near by and of course it had to be hot!
Like many others I find January and February a bit of a drag, Christmas has come and gone the days are short and the weather is usually at its worst so getting away at this time of year appealed to me. With its year round sun and reasonable flight times, about four hours, Tenerife ticked all the boxes. Now I just had to find some biking!
In 2005 Darren Collins a project engineer from Leeds took a chance, sold up his house and moved his family (including two young children) out to the Canarian island of Tenerife in the hope of setting up a mountain bike guiding company.
With no knowledge of any trails and seemingly no mountain biking to be found on the island, the only thing he knew was that Tenerife had plenty of mountains. The highest being mount Teide – an active volcano that sits at 3,718m (12,198ft) – nearly 3 times higher than Ben Nevis.
He was taking a big risk but as they say fortune favours the brave and today he runs his successful guiding company Lavatrax, and spends his days either descending 2,000m-plus on some of the nice techy descents the island has to offer, shuttling his current guide Laura and clients up the mountains before doing some trail maintenance on some of the mainly footpaths they use or fixing bikes and ordering parts.
Pretty much the things you and I squeeze into our spare weekends and evenings but the cream on the cake for him is its in the sunshine.
Over the two weeks I was there I booked three rides with Lavatrax. They run five guided, all mountain rides but I thought I’d definitely be straying into the taking-the-bloody-piss category if I’d booked onto all five.
Along with the all mountain rides they also do XC guided rides – but I like to descend the techy stuff, and maybe do a little bit of pedaling to make me feel like I’ve justified my extra helping of pudding back at our all inclusive resort.
First up was the Vilaflor Caminos ride.
Starting with the van and bike trailer picking me up at the hotel at quarter past nine. This is where I first met Darren and Laura – our guide for the first two rides. It was her first year guiding with Lavatrax and she was out for three months from her home in Helsinki.
We were uplifted to about 1,600m stopping at a little cafe for coffee on the way up. We then climbed an extra 400m in height, on a fireroad track (the biggest climb we did all week) and it was a good warm up because as we entered the cloudline the temperature cooled a little.
We descended on fireroad until we reached our first piece of singletrack. I set off behind Laura thinking it would be a gentle ride behind a lady but she was pretty quick and knew her way through the very rocky tracks we were riding. Other than the odd chute it wasn’t particularly steep but it was pretty techy.
By the time we finished it everyone was starting to feel a bit of arm pump. The day continued swapping between road sections, flat out doubletrack and rocky, techy singletrack with the occasional little climb and – of course – stopping for lunch at a little cafe.
We finished the day with a nice flowy, dusty singletrack from the viewing point La Centinela which sits at about 550m above sea level over looking Los Cristianos and Las Americas, where I was stopping.
It was a great view and the singletrack that followed was superb, if someone had told me it had been put in as part of a trail centre I would have believed them. This took us back to the road where Darren was waiting for us with the van.
In the middle of February to finish a ride and have nothing to do but throw the bike in my room put my swim shorts on and jump in a nice cool pool with the kids before pulling myself a pint from the self-service pool bar is a great feeling.
The next ride was Area 61, this is described as their most technical day. The day followed the same drill as the first, uplift with a coffee stop then riding. This time there wasn’t as much to climb before we descended.
There wasn’t anything more technical riding wise than the Vilaflor Caminos ride – just a lot more of it. There was less road and double track sections but more tight, rocky singletrack, we even rode a small section with a couple of jumps and a North shore-style wooden feature. We finished the day with the same flowy single track from the La Centinela viewing point. Another cracking day with over 2,000m of descending in the sun.
The trail with no name
The third and final ride I did with Lavatrax was The trail with no name. The day followed the same schedule as the others picked up at 9.15am, uplifted, ride, lunch, ride, lift home – but this time completely new trails.
Darren himself was guiding us this time and I don’t blame him as there was some fantastic riding with possible the best bit of trail I did over there – a flowy piece of thin singletrack which was smooth and grippy but littered with techy rock sections. Darren knew the lines so we carried good speed through them.
The ride finished at the beach in the lovely little seaside town of El Medano. As with all three rides you have to switch between some road work and some doubletrack to get to the singletrack sections, but they’re worth it and to be doing 2,000m plus descents in the sun in February, with not a massive amount of climbing is a great feeling.
Tenerife is littered with hills and mountains and as my girls were having a siesta at mid day everyday, I took the chance to have a quick hour and a half scoot up some of hills close to the resort I was stopping – and even managed to find some nice singletrack. This meant that in a two-week family holiday I squeezed in three full days of riding and a couple of short rides on my own.
At possibly the most depressing time of year to spend two weeks in the sun doing the two things I love most, chilling out time with the family and mountain biking felt great. I’ll just have to get back to try the rides I couldn’t squeeze in.