Post from our roving art editor, Andy Garside.
We were a week into our three-month winter sun escape when Sideburn Editor Gary emails
about a friend who’s just moved down to Spain. 'Give him a shout, he says he’ll take you
dirt biking.' The friend in question is Gille, a Belgian rider I briefly met at the DTRA finals
last October. A few messages later and it turns out he’s just a couple of hours away from
where we’re parked up and we have an invite to visit.
We arrive mid-morning at their house and despite being just 20 minutes from the coast it
feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. To be fair, you are… mountains all around and
miles and miles of wilderness stretches out to the north. The views are incredible. A quick
tour shows how busy they’ve been modernising the place without losing any of its original
Spanish charm. The tour leads us to the garage and amidst the flat-trackers, vintage motocross
and minibikes are a couple of enduro machines.
Gille points me towards a two stroke KTM EXC 300 Six-Days Special, while he jumps onto a
Honda CRF450. Now, I may have been a little liberal with the truth about my riding
experience. “I’ve not done much enduro” translates to, er, none. But, until I passed my test
last year, I had only ever really ridden bikes on dirt and also spent my formative years
competing in trials. So, I feel more comfortable riding off tarmac than on.
We head out of Gille’s driveway and wind through the village roads for just a couple of
minutes before diving off onto a gravel fire road. Then, within a few metres we’re onto
proper off-road territory that we stay on for the next four hours. I instantly feel at ease on
the bike. It feels totally normal to be up on a tall machine, wide bars and standing on the
pegs. It’s a quick machine and launches away in any gear, but pulls steadily from really low
revs, which I wasn’t expecting for a fairly highly tuned two-stroke.
Gille has spent the last few months mapping as much as he can of the surrounding area.
When you rise up onto a hill-top and view the scenery around you realise that it’s no mean
feat. It just keeps going and going, a veritable playground of dirt. There’s everything from
gravel roads to hard enduro level to be ridden here. You could ride every day for a year and
probably not cover the same trail twice. A dirt biker’s dream.
Technical climb. Gille ahead ready to film any mishaps
“So, how gnarly do you want to go today?” says Gille.
“I’m happy to have a go at anything.” I reply, naively.
Next thing we’re hitting a 500 metre, 45 degree climb made of loose shale with a few bike-
deep ruts weaving up it. The bike’s squirming below me and I’m keeping the front wheel
down. Don’t look at the ruts, don’t look at the ruts! I think I’ll make it, and I do. I get to the
top with a whoop and a cheer. Over the next couple of hours I’m led up and down steeper,
rougher and sketchier hills, over stream crossings and through thorn-filled undergrowth.
During the lunch break sat on the crumbled wall of an old shepherd’s hut Gille explains what
brought him here. He, and his wife Lana, used to run a festival catering business. Covid put a
huge dent in that industry and, like many others, gave them the space to revaluate what was
important in their lives. So, plans were hatched to find a property to use as holiday rental
accommodation. Their search took them to the mountains of Andalusia in southern Spain
and the possibility of adding on ‘enduro holidays’ to their portfolio. They found the perfect
property, complete with pool, but Gille wasn’t a hundred percent sure if there would be any
riding to be had before they moved here. As it turns out he had nothing to worry about.
Their place is slap bang in the middle of enduro heaven. He’s now in the position to offer
enduro and guided off-road tours of small groups or one-to-one, all aboard Husqvarna 250
Refreshed, we head back out onto the trails. A fast section along a ridge descending and
climbing gently, our speed increasing as I follow Gille’s dust cloud. I overcook a brow of a
hill, and stomp too hard on the rear brake. The engine stalls, locking the rear wheel and the
bike slides away on the off-camber loose shale. I’m on the deck quicker than a drunk
grandad on a cruise ship. Turns out it hurts when you use your shoulder as a crash mat. It
hurts a lot, but the adrenaline is doing its best pain killer impression and I’m back on the
bike and flying again. My stamina is flagging by now, so we make our way back to base.
As we wheel the bikes back into the garage Gille suggests he could show me another area
he’s been mapping out tomorrow. It’s too good an opportunity to pass on, that’s a hard yes
from me. We’re treated to a delicious feast of an evening meal, an added bonus being the
guests of people from the catering trade, and talk all things bike, travel, dogs and more until
Day two is helped along with a good dose of painkillers to stop my shoulder from screaming.
I feel more relaxed this time around, moving about on the bike more and actually breathing
properly. Within five minutes of leaving the house we’re on more technical terrain. Rocky
ascents with steps and roots. My trials background is kicking in now and I keep cleaning
sections so much better than yesterday.
The bike with a thorn in its side (one for the Smiths fans)
The landscape changes with every hill you pass: one minute you’re on swooping singletrack,
next it’s clambering over logs in a deep narrow ravine, then boulder-strewn
ascents/descents. Each section feels like it could be in a different country, and there are
endless miles of this to explore.
Gille, Lana and Lupo the dachshund
Gille makes an excellent guide, keeping the flow going while being very aware of who he’s
riding with. He’s also a very accomplished rider, which is great when you’re following him.
My competitive streak kicked in big-time and I pushed myself further than I thought I would.
And to my surprise I survived it all. I can’t wait to return.
The Collector’s House – Finca & casita with Mediterranean sea view located in southern Spain
The Roadshow – Enduro trails and guided off-road tours in Andalusia https://www.instagram.com/theroadshow.andalusia/