The summer had escaped us and winter arrived with no annual bike trip for me and Papa Prendergast. I had a craving for sunshine and mountains and after some bullying my Dad agreed to fly out to Spain and hire a motorbike – as long as he could reach the floor. I contacted Kevin and Lynda of Tours on Two Wheels who recommended a Triumph Tiger 800 for the shorter gentlemen. Luckily a local dealer had one and after a quick check Papa Prendergast was happy to fly-ride. I booked the Triumph for him, and a KTM 1190 Adventure for myself. We were good to go.
The plan was to travel light. Dad met me at work – White Dalton Motorcycle Solicitors – and after a quick change into bike kit, a bag packed with spare pants in tow, we were off to Luton Airport. It couldn’t have been any easier. A cheap, fast flight and we landed in Málaga. Even better, Kevin met us at arrivals to go and collect the bikes.
About 10 minutes from the airport Lynda was waiting at a hotel with the bikes, and the paperwork was dealt with over a coffee. Tours on Two Wheels is my kind of company – professional, efficient but small enough to give the personal touch. We were briefed and shown the bikes. As each had hard panniers we loaded them up with our kit and bolted on our own sat navs (Tours on Two Wheels will lend you equipment if needed) and we were off. It really was that simple. About three hours after leaving the UK we were riding bikes and heading towards the mountains. Days don’t get too much better.
Before we left the UK we had already decided we would head to Ronda first. If you come to Spain you need to ride the A-397. It starts at the coast at Marbella and heads inland, which is where it starts to get interesting. The mountains loom larger and larger out of the landscape as the road climbs higher and higher. What a bit of Tarmac! It’s smoother than a baby’s bottom and it’s basically a fast, sweeping A-road with some switchbacks thrown into the mix. Several miles later we reached Ronda – the stunning mountaintop city set above a deep, dramatic and spectacular gorge proving a perfect place to stop for lunch.
After refuelling our bellies, and taking the chance for a walk around the historic centre, we were off back through the mountains on the scenic route towards Málaga for our first night’s stay. We took the A-366 on the way back, and the route was in stark contrast compared to the on via which we had arrived. It was an altogether different beast and reminded me in places of the twisty back roads that run through the Lake District, albeit with a backdrop that would not look out of place in a spaghetti western. The pace had to be slower, but nonetheless the wander from Ronda is a worthwhile one. It is desolate in places, with the colours of the mountains and hills changing from red to stark grey – the highest being topped with snow. One thing to consider is that any mountain pass will usually take you longer than you think. However, even on the twisty mountain roads both the KTM and the Triumph were the perfect ‘mountain goats’ with their high handlebars, capable suspensions and sit-up-and-beg styles.
Due to the excesses of the night before there was a lazy start to day two. The bikes, however, were calling out to be ridden and on the outskirts of Málaga there is a belter of a road – the A-7000. It climbs almost vertically out of town and within minutes offers views across the sea on one side, and the mountains in the distance on the other. Because it so close to Málaga you do have to keep an eye out for cyclists plodding up and flying back down, however this is not a road you should be racing on – it’s a road for taking your time and enjoying the show that Mother Nature lays on. It is a truly spectacular place. We eventually stopped in Colmenar. Two ridiculously strong coffees later and we headed north-ish for a few hours before picking up a motorway and zipping back to Málaga in about 40 minutes. While you can explore the wilderness of Spain, their motorway infrastructure is second to none meaning you can be back to civilisation in no time.
Throughout the next few days we moved from cosmopolitan Málaga to sleepy Nerja. Geographically it is an easy place for us Brits to get to being about 30 miles away from Málaga’s international airport. While Nerja is a resort town, it has not been spoiled with high-rise hotels and there is no rat race agenda here. The place is an absolute cracker with its highlight being the Balcón de Europa – a ninth-century Arabic fortress that offers breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, the surrounding mountains, sandy beaches and cliff-side coves. From this perfect location we went out exploring on our bikes during the days, then returned to hit town in the evening, sample the local cuisine and enjoy a pint or two. The best riding to be found is not generally on the coast roads along the Costa del Sol but inland, where it seems to be relatively ‘undiscovered’ by the tourists. If you are on a fly-ride without the luxury of time, I would recommend exploring Spain’s national parks. The highlights are usually found losing yourself on the back roads and mountain passes; the routes are accessible, the locals friendly and the views incredible.
As with any holiday the time raced by, and we wanted the last day in the saddle to be a good one, so we dragged ourselves out of bed early and headed for the Sierra Nevada mountain range. While you can be wearing your shorts by the coast in 20-degree sun, an hour away in the mountains and the temperature dropped to as low as three degrees while we were there. Bearing in mind this range contains the highest point in continental Spain – that being Mulhacén at 3479 meters above sea level – we decided we’d rather be a bit sweaty in town than too cold up a mountain, so we kitted up accordingly with full textile kit, winter gloves and spare fleece in the panniers.
From Nerja we made good use of time by blasting up the motorway before peeling off to towards Órgiva. The aim was to see how far we could get up the Sierra Nevada mountain range itself. The villages in this area have something of a Peruvian feel about them. Hanging up outside shops are brightly woven items for sale and, from an outsider’s perspective, life appears to have a leisurely pace to it. After a pit stop for fuel, we took the snaking A-4132 before turning towards Capileira. Snow started to appear by the side of the road and ski resorts could be spotted in the distance as we climbed higher and higher on the adventure bikes. Roads with no barriers were peppered with hairpins hanging off the side of the mountains; if you have a fear of heights then this portion of the trip might not be for you. Eventually we hit the end of the road – quite literally – for our bikes on road-biased tyres. We had passed the snowline and, in just half a mile, the road had turned from Tarmac to hardpacked mud to slush. Proceeding further was not an option, and even turning around was a sphincterpuckering moment.
After soaking the views in, we headed back down the mountain to Nerja for our last night. Mucho paella and a pint or two was consumed before Tours on Two Wheels picked up the bikes the next morning just before we flew home. Sunshine, mountains and motorbike riding all three hours from the UK via a cheap flight… top stuff.
If you fancy a fly-ride to Spain, here are some tips…
1. If time is short, plan roughly where you want to ride before you get there. Searching for a route while you’re meant to be riding is time wasted.
2. Make sure you have a sat nav. Navigating small Spanish towns to find your hotel can be a little tricky – you don’t want added hassle.
3. Take a map as well as a sat nav. It helps visualise where you are and, if your sat nav goes astray a map will not lose reception. I recommend Michelin maps. The roads highlighted green are scenic and so are ideal these sorts of adventures.
4. Take a smart phone and use Expedia (or equivalent) to book accommodation. It means you can be flexible in your planning and also save money.
5. Take good kit and make sure you can add layers to stay warm. I recommend waterproof textile kit, rather than leathers.
6. Travel light and don’t waste valuable time checking luggage in and out of the hold if you don’t have to.
7. Find a reputable travel company. Tours on Two Wheels were excellent – tourson2wheels.com