The city and the Mediterranean sea define the initial Barcelona experience for most people, including me. In my six years of living here though, I have come to love the mountains at the city’s doorstep just as much. The mountains outside of Barcelona promise unforgettable experiences and regular involvement in exciting new adventures that have become much more meaningful to me than a new car, moped, or tv: canyoning in ice cold water (so exciting I hardly noticed the teeth-chattering temperature); rock climbing in breathtaking scenery; skiing; paragliding above the volcanic zone in la Garrotxa; or, riding motorbikes so high up in the mountains along tracks and skinny paths that even the hardiest of cyclists won’t attempt. Mountain activities push you to your limits, even if those limits are rather modest. Most importantly, though, they provide unforgettable experiences and stories you can dine out on for months.
Enduro is the art of riding a motorbike in rough terrain. It is not about speed or jumps and it is not motorcross. After conducting extensive online research with a friend, we settled on motor biking with an outfit called Endurobarcelona, based in Calella, Maresme. Safety and learning about the activity were our top priorities, but we also wanted to have fun. We chose well and I have been back many times to ride with Endurobarcelona, either alone or with friends.
The key element to a successful Enduro outing is having an experienced and hardened motorcyclist as the group’s guide. Massimo, our guide, happens to be Endurobarcelona’s owner, not to mention a professional in his younger days. Massimo knows his bikes inside out, which is to say, he can detect a poor fuel-air mixture in the carburettor from a 100 yards and performs in-situ repairs when the bikes get damaged. His half day tours feel like whole days and his full day tours have a necessary hot lunch in some hidden mountain restaurant.
The Bike: Massimo’s bike of choice is the Enduro specialist bike, a Yamaha WR 250cc. The 450cc is also available for heavier or more experienced guests, while a lighter 125cc may be better for those less used to riding mountain trails or if they only have a car license. Of course, some motor biking experience is necessary, including being able to use manual bikes with gears, although we have had people in our group with limited experience.
Safety: As always, safety first. Massimo provided us with quality protective equipment, including body armour, knee high boots, gloves, goggles, and helmets. The three main rules for successful riding are so simple, they may tempt one to disregard them. Stand on the pegs because it lowers the centre of gravity and gives the rider more control. Lean forward to go uphill, so that the front wheel grips for steering and lean back over the back wheel going downhill, so the back wheel grips for braking. To turn, put your body weight on the opposite peg, while you lean the bike over. Sounds simple, but those who think they know better and don’t follow the instructions, soon regret it.
What I love about Enduro is the sensitivity required to direct the bike and get through the trails. This makes it a leveler, regardless of your strength level, height, or weight. Keep a light touch on the throttle and brakes. Let the bike do the work. Using brute force to manage the bike will inevitably lead to overdoing it and falling off or slipping. Even a fall is rarely adventure-ending. The pace is slow because speed is besides the point. Plus, with the armour on, it is far safer than road riding and bumps and bruises are usually the worst of it.
Riding: Practice comes before adventure. First we rode on the tarmac around the block a few times, practicing the tips Massimo has taught us. Convinced of our rule-following ways and mastery of the basic rules, he led us out onto the dusty trails. Massimo continued to scrutinize our riding technique and his sharp eye never missed a detail, even for those lingering at the back of the pack. I got a scolding for using all five fingers on the brakes. It felt counter-intuitive, but through our many rides, I have learnt to trust what he tells me and to do as he says because it works. (For absolute beginners he will take them to a field to practice turning the proper way and braking on gravel.)
The Mountain Ride
The higher we wind up the mountain paths, the less likely we are to come across others. Massimo knows the mountain trails like the back of his hand and chose them according to conditions and the group´s ability. I have seen him split up groups with mixed abilities, so the more adventurous and experienced can test their limits. Fallen trees rarely stop us; somehow get over…or, as during my last outing, Massimo pulled out a pocket saw and made short work of an otherwise impenetrable branch in ten minutes.
Narrow paths focus minds and I end the day as mentally exhausted as I am physically. Enduro requires quick reactions and standing on the pegs while using your body to direct the bike wakes up new muscles. It seems impossible, until you discover your true capabilities. A group of complete strangers becomes a team out there, working together and relying on each other. Even if you don’t take to it, you won’t regret the experience. If you do, you will just want to keep returning. The appeal of Enduro crosses age, gender, and abilities.
The Details: The day typically starts around 9am and the half day tour concludes by 1pm. The cost for this is €90, including the use of safety equipment and motorbikes. The true value, though, is having an experienced guide who inspires confidence, is an excellent teacher, and takes you to the top of the most beautiful mountains and back down again – in one piece – regardless of your ability.
Endurobarcelona’s website offers more details, or join Massimo’s WhatsApp chat group at 616 82 10 44.
Author’s Bio: An English man from North Surrey, England, Aston Swift works in finance and brought his family to Barcelona to experience a new type of life.