Being a mountain biker at forty offers rather more challenges than just terrain and skills. For me the sheer complexity of managing a corporate job, frequent and unavoidable travel, a tribe of children (seriously seems like they’re everywhere!), a busy working wife and a very energetic puppy mean that locating time to pedal is the toughest element of the sport for me. This means that when I do get a rare, selfish opportunity to dedicate time and travel to the bike I have very specific requirements for the trip.
With this in mind, I had to think long and hard on where to ride with my regular group trip last summer. Given my frequent sojourns at the hands of the usual generic/faceless Hilton/Holiday Inn/Radisson type properties, I wanted a location with a little more soul. Taking into account my limited time to ride and subsequent limited ability to breathe without throwing up whilst doing so, I want a location with a wide number of excuses to stop and enjoy the view as well.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re trying to persuade a group of varied, crazy, deranged, and generally unstable individuals to part with their hard earned cash to travel with you, it pays to have a good solid bribery base established. Therefore, I needed the multiple temptations of good food and plentiful beverages, more than some of which needed to have alcoholic properties. It’d also help to have the opportunity to ride and learn with top class guides and coaches, oh and just to make a tough list tougher we need the location to be within budget airline/short haul flight distance. All in all a simple requirement surely?
As it turns out; yes. Yes, it really is an easy ask for the UK/European mountain biker to spend a few days in stunning surroundings, catered for with top quality fare and managed by a brilliant and confidence inspiring team. Welcome to Pure Mountains. Run by the unflappable team of Jenny Mayhew and Tim Kirkus Pure Mountains is a gem of a company running residential mountain biking holidays in the sierra Nevada hills of Spain.
Jenny and Tim packed their bags and moved to a remote hillside in Spain a few years ago and set about building a traditional style, self-supporting property in stunning surroundings to house their MTB holiday offering. With a focus on top quality in terms of the general experience Pure Mountains marks a welcome change from the more usual outdoor sports company style of bunk rooms, beans and beer (although there is ample supply of the latter).
Of course managing a very mixed bag of riders and kit offers challenges in itself. Getting 9 rowdy mountain bikers through airport security complete with bikes, kit and other ’accouterments’ offered its own challenges. Not least when the game of the day is to suggest (with volume it must be said) to the security teams that other members of the group may have illegal or restricted property and/or items secreted about their persons… Although not true there was an eerie silence as the security guys tried to work out if the 6’4”, 18 stone man stood in front of them really could have a methamphetamine manufacturing kit hidden just exactly where the other slightly crazy looking guys said he did?
Such a diverse group offers a challenge to even the best guides. Our group consisted of all manors of bikes and tastes with a raft of 29’er hardtails hitting the trails alongside 650b/160mm trail bikes and other 26” machines. One of the group even electing to rent one of Pure Mountains own top Spec Canyon Spectral full suss trail bikes rather than travel with his own. It is part of the genius of Tim and Jenny to mix trails that offer terrain to cover all but the most extreme DH fans as well as offering the guidance and support to allow riders to grow in confidence to tackle the terrain challenges. Once you’ve ridden sections like ‘Entrance to the Valley of Death’ (Strava) you feel that lovely ‘oh yes, that’s a proper mountain bike trail’ feeling. Of course if you rail a section like that on a hardtail you get to bask in the glow of your own Jedi skills whilst silently suggesting the to the guys on the big hit bikes that they did really well too, for the easy option….
The Sierra Nevada trails have an unsurprising beautiful natural feel to them, which is logical given their true wilderness location. A real bonus for the UK riders who, on the whole, live with ever increasing amounts man made trails as a staple to their riding. Of course true wilderness riding offers challenges that mean proper guiding and vehicle support are the only sensible option and the Pure Mountains Land Rover seemed to have a magic ability to deliver refreshments and stunning spreads to the most beautiful and remote locations. Not to mention a rather less energetic option for the climbs for those that need or want it.
It might be noted that planning to be out on all day rides in remote locations requires a little more thinking than some were used to. Tim and Jenny pack just about everything allowing the real pleasure of riding without a full pack but it still paid to carry a few personal essentials as discovered when we learned (fortunately not visually) just what a Felix does in the woods. Now known affectionately as Mr. bear..
This was the second trip I had arranged to Pure Mountains and it won’t be my last. Whilst the surroundings are stunning, the accommodation is just perfect. The house is designed to promote a social experience. There are no flat screen TV’s, no games consoles, just great food, a fridge full of cold beer and wine and social spaces for you to do the best thing about our sport. Socialize. It also offers the opportunity to learn to negotiate with the resident canine team members which adds another brilliant dimension to the experience. It must be said that I never did get the better of big Jimmy Dog in the ‘Who’s getting the comfy seat in the truck’ debate.
It is however Jenny and Tim that make the company brilliant. The location is perfect, but you can’t help but feel when visiting that Pure Mountains exists in the space not because of it. There is the clear feeling that 2 people set out to do something very well, with very clear ideas on the values they wanted to promote. You feel as a guest that you are welcome in the house, but regardless of your personal lifestyle you’re welcome to adopt theirs whilst with them, and that is no bad thing. No bad thing at all.
During our first visit as a group my father travelled with us. A genuine English eccentric he loved riding in the truck and taking pictures and was set to join us on our return visit when he passed away suddenly. As a mad group we decided to support his wish to return and carried with us a small pot of his ashes each day. I can only imagine what was going through Jenny’s mind when, as a group, we asked if they might have some materials lying around that we could use to help us propel a (small element) of a deceased relative off of a stunning ravine as part of his wish to leave some of him in the Sierras.
After a short pause (and a blink or two) the ideas on how to achieve this final goal began to flow. I don’t know of many companies that are that flexible (nor would want to be, neither am I suggesting that the request was something Jenny or Tim would want to be known for or would consider tasteful!) but its just another example of the brilliance of the couple and their wonderful ability to engage with the groups they host.
Pure Mountains offers an experience that reaches to the real heart of our sport. Personal challenge and social interaction. It delivers on quality by working sustainably within its local environment. They do it without airs and graces and with just the right level of humor and well judged sarcasm. Best of all they offer exceptional value for money for quality that is certainly not the norm in experiences of its type. Visit www.Puremountains.com for further details. I and indeed all of the group, really recommend you do.