When the sun is beating down and it’s over 44 degrees, the best thing to do is swathe yourself in bike gear and head outdoors. We discover the best off-road holiday in Spain…
I’ve just had the best few days riding of the whole year and all it took was a cheap British Airways flight to Malaga. The rest is kind of up to you depending on what tickles your trout. I plumped for a spot of dirt biking – nothing like it to sharpen up the reflexes and shed a few pounds – and some cruising around the sun-bleached countryside on a road bike. Honestly, the tonic of 44 degrees of sunshine, cloudless skies and that superbly relaxed late evening eating and drinking culture is the best anti-depressant available. Stir in a bit of varied bike action and you’ve just invented the best prescription drug ever.
I flew with a group to Malaga. The group had the definite waft of Honda because they were taking us out there to show off their new off-road playground – a place called Redtread nestled about an hour to the East of Malaga in the pretty mountainside village of Competa. The key here is the word ‘mountainside’. We were picked up by Redtread’s owner Ian from the airport in his Land Rover, which looked like it was ready for a Long Way Down kind of trip. With the luggage thrown on the massive roof rack it was then a quick drive up the motorway to Redtread’s HQ in Competa. We’d gone for the three night two-day riding package (£495) and, as I type this a week later, my forearm muscles tell me that this is probably enough for the inexperienced dirt bike rider, prone to carpal tunnel syndrome.
The accommodation at Redtread is just the ticket. A lofty villa is separated from the barbeque area and workshops by a plunge pool and large sun terrace. The rooms are simply furnished, immaculately clean and have a stunning view down the valley towards the sea. My room had a verandah, kitchenette and bathroom with over-bath shower.
But never mind the Villa, check out the garage. A raft of CRF450X Hondas, a smattering of 250s and a couple of 230s for novices are all guarded by two of the biggest (and thankfully friendliest) dogs you’ve ever clamped eyes on. You don’t even need to take your bulky riding kit as Redtread have a full stock of lids, armour, pants, shirts and gloves. Being a great believer that helmets are a very intimate piece of kit, I took my own as hand luggage. Most airlines permit one piece of hand luggage and an additional piece of hand luggage as long as it’s essential safety equipment. Bearing in mind what happened at Madrid airport, I think any airline would struggle to argue against a crash helmet being essential safety equipment.
It was approaching the high thirties after we’d finished breakfast on day one and putting body armour on, heavy motocross boots and nylon pants seemed like the wrong thing to be doing when a well stocked bar and cold pool lay alongside. Once suitably attired, we waited in the gravelled yard area while the ‘famous racers’ adjusted their mirrored Oakley goggles and checked their reflections in the windows to make sure the latest 2008 Shift motocross gear was looking good, sweat dripped off my chin onto the dust-covered plastic tank of my CR450 which had been ticking over for at least five minutes. None of this seemed sensible.
Continue Mad Dogs & Englishmen
Leon Haslam, Cal Crutchlow, Steve Brogan and James Ellison joined us on our trail ride to, er, liven things up a bit. It certainly did that. They’re all crackers. 10 minutes into day one Leon rode, flat-out, off the road down an embankment and parked his CR250F up an olive tree. Judging by a) the drop and b) the size of the boulders, he was lucky to walk way.
Crutchlow did exactly the same a few hours later after looking back over his shoulder and veering off the dirt track. His bike fell off a cliff to be stopped by, yes, you guessed right, an olive tree. Ellison seemed to enjoy the tarmac sections, powersliding his knobbly tyred CRF into, though and out of anything even vaguely resembling a corner. It was a delight to watch.
Brogan, having had his spleen removed a while back – presumably because it presented unnecessary extra weight, fell foul of some virus which gave him the chronic shits. ‘Fell foul’ serves a double meaning in this sense. Brogan was always in the woods, doing what bears do best, and the thoughtful Liverpudlian even tidied up after himself with the aid of a carrier bag. Sadly this carrier bag was still on the roof of the Land Rover at the end of day three. Literally, a bag of shite.
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