Over a Beer: Why I Travel With My Mountain Bike

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A small village on the French side of the Pyrenees. Riders: Juan Garcia and Jordi Bonet / MTB Dreams

Editor’s Note: “Over a Beer” is a regular column written by Greg Heil. While Greg is the Editor in Chief for Singletracks.com, any opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com.

When I lived in the Midwest and in the Southeast, my mountain bike travels had one main goal: to ride more impressive trails than I could find at home. Whether those trails had longer descents, better views, or more technical features, the goal was always to find higher quality trails than I could access on a daily basis—even if it was just a quick trip from Georgia to North Carolina.

But now, I live in the High Rockies of Colorado, with one of the most acclaimed trails in the nation—if not the world—located virtually in my backyard. Yet I still love to travel.

Calling some of the best trails in the nation my stomping grounds has changed the primary objective of my travels. Now, I’m not necessarily interested in finding trails that are better, but instead I try to search out trails and places that are different.

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As always, steeper than it looks. Plus, it’s impossible to capture the consistent steepness mile after mile! Rider: Jordi Bonet / MTB Dreams

I recently completed a 5-day mountain biking trip in the Pyrenees mountain range, which forms the border between Spain and France (with Andorra sandwiched in the middle). While we were riding in a mountainous, alpine environment—similar to that found in Colorado—the trails were still remarkably different. They were steeper for longer amounts of time, less manicured (despite how wild some of our trails in Colorado are), and the mountains, while lower elevation, were steeper and just as formidable. Stay tuned for a full analysis in a future feature story!

Ainsa, Spain--a UNESCO Heritage site.
Ainsa, Spain–a UNESCO Heritage site.

Not only were the trails different, but the entire culture and experience was absolutely unique and totally foreign. Being immersed in a sea of Spanish and Catalan with nary an English word to be seen anywhere, popping out of the singletrack into a thousand-year-old village for a quick beer or Clara before continuing our ride, and staying in a stone-walled bed and breakfast that looks more like a medieval castle than a hotel—these are experiences you simply can’t get anywhere but the Spanish Pyrenees.

At the end of the day, were the trails I rode objectively “better” than the ones I ride every day in Colorado? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is certain: the trails, the towns, and the culture are completely and radically different.

And variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

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