Highly Informal Sojourns in Spain
The aim of the HISS Events is for Adventure Bike Riders to explore and ride routes and trails in some of Spain’s most beautiful and unspoiled areas, while at the same time enjoying an informal and friendly atmosphere in hospitable, ‘bike friendly’ locations. A simple set of objectives one may imagine, but experience of the first HISS, in May 2012, revealed that much of the work involved unnecessary administration and that participants needed clear guidelines, e.g. the ‘what’s and the wherefore’s’, to begin with before getting down to the fun.
How does the HISS work?
Simple really, there are no fixed groups or ‘teams’, no set itinerary or objectives, no ‘competition’ and above all no ‘Johnny-no-mates’! HISSites roll into the venue as and when they please – the is no paperwork or ‘pack drill’ other than checking-in with the accommodation (see below). On Day 1, i.e. the Monday – ideally at 09.00! – we give a presentation of the HISS materials, i.e. the Monster Maps and Guides. These serve to make sense of the .gpx files of the HISS trails and road routes that we mail out a few weeks beforehand – the idea being that riders learn how to use their expensive Satnavs! After the briefing groups of riders select various trails and string them together to make up their day’s itinerary. We help people do this, offering advice on terrain, the weather conditions and how these may affect the trails (both HISS locations have varied landscape and climate zones within the ‘territory’) and, if asked, point out trails that may be too ‘technical’ for some riders and/or their bikes. NB as a general rule the groups that spend more time going through this process have a better time riding the HISS!
Some of the Aragon HISS trails. The trails aren’t graded as such but their descriptions in the Guides includes details of the condition. However in this area – about a third of the 2017 HISS territory – ‘technical’ trails are shown in green while the red trails are suitable for novice riders on big bikes. This map covers and area of about 100kms square and shows 382 miles of trails out of a total of 802 miles for that HISS as a whole.
Some groups come ‘ready made’, i.e. mates team up at home, arrive together. Others come in pairs, or just pal up as they go – we use the ABR Forum and a group on Facebook to help people link up beforehand. The idea is that it’s totally informal and groups can change during the week as some riders seek buddies to ride the more challenging trails and others want to ‘back off’ and ride with a group that wants to take it easy – some have even taken a complete day out on their own, e.g. riding from the Aragon HISS down to the Med. (we recommend Peñiscola) for a swim and a paella! The process of forming, and re-forming, groups usually takes place in the bar or wandering around the site kicking tyres and talking trash!
There are summary notes given below, but the real business of the HISS events is to give ABR’s all the details they need to spend a week’s valuable time having the maximum amount of biking experience with the minimum amount of hassle – not forgetting that it’s supposed to be an Adventure!
- Registration: application is first come first served and is by using the Contact Form here. Registry is complete only when the deposit payment is received – see below.
- Fees: these are to cover the expenses of devising, researching and holding the rally. The fee includes use of the guidebook (see below) but not the cost of the campsite. Payment is in Sterling to our UK high street bank.
- HISS Monster Map and Briefing: the large map is located at the HISS base and serves two purposes: for groups of riders to orientate themselves with where the trails and routes are located so as to plan individual itineraries, and equally importantly for groups to show where and when they are starting their day’s riding. This is to help ensure that groups don’t overlap and risk being prosecuted for excess numbers – see below. The Monster map and guidebooks distributed at the Briefing, which is usually held at 09.00 on the first riding day of the Event.
- HISS Field Guides: these are lightweight folders for groups of riders to take with them on the trails. These give tried descriptions of the individual trails to help riders decide their routes once they are out and about – a frequent occurrence!
- Riding: it is the riders’ responsibility to comply with any local regulations as well as to take on board local conditions with regard to safety. The rules and regulations are outlined in the HISS Briefing and the routes show prohibited trails, protected areas, e.g. nature reserves, etc. Note that each region in Spain has its own set of regulations as well as the general restrictions such as speed limits, documentation, roadworthiness, etc. The most important consideration is maximum number of riders in any one group, which varies considerably, but in general safety and common sense indicate that riders should form groups of 4 – 6.
- Safety: it is the rider’s responsibility for themselves – and their comrades I hope – to ride safe and be equipped to keep going on the trails. Note that in Spain there is excellent public rescue service accessible via the 112 call service – in case of serious injury the recuse service will remove bikes to a place of safety – normally the fire brigade depot.
- Accommodation: this is completely independent of the HISS, although sometimes we are able to negotiate a special price. I give a list of HISS participants to the campsite together this each rider’s arrival and departure dates. The owners then create individual accounts so that riders only pay for what they have. It is then up to participants to register at reception and agree payment, etc. Preferential rates may apply and it is usually possible for participants to extend their stay at the same rates, but this is entirely up to individual campsite owners.
The numbers continue to be limited to 36 bikes/riders for various reasons, mainly so as to overcrowd the trails and also not to swamp the campsites, which are also used by ‘normal’ people! The limited number also helped create a warm and friendly atmosphere and gives myself and Mrs Spanish Biker enough time to be around to help folks settle in and get the best out of the rally.
The Catalan Pyrenees
500 kms of legal trails bases around the Pallars Jussà ‘county’. This region covers two very distinct landscapes; the ‘Alpine’ Pyreness, which are at an average height of over 2,000 metres and the so-called ‘Pre-Pyrenees’, which are range range of mostly limestone sierras that follow the main ridge just to the south. This area has a Mediterranean climate and is distinctive for huge cliffs and deep ravines – it is also very hot and dry, at least in summer, but offers much longer trails than the Alpine zone.
As before there is plenty to do ‘off bike’, the white water rafting was a great success but there is plenty more. The campsite gets a discount price for groups of folks who are staying there and the company also does other action sports like kayak and canyoning . . .
Aragon: The Sistema Iberico
The ‘Sistema Iberico’ is the range on mountains that runs roughly north-south right across Spain between Madrid and Zaragossa. Unlike the Pyrenees these mountains are very ancient so they tend to be well eroded; like the highlands of Scotland there are no ‘Alpine’ landscapes, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who claims that the Scottish mountains lack grandeur! Furthermore, the Sistema Iberica is much larger than the highlands, being some 500 kms (310 miles) in length and having six peaks of over 2,000 metres, the highest being Moncayo 2,313 metres (7,588 feet). This ‘gentle’ profile makes these high mountains much more accessible to trail riding than the Pyrenees, indeed the summit of Javalambre, (2,020 metres) the fourth highest mountain in the system has four distinct trails to the top* – all of which are in the HISS itinerary, naturally. (* OK, there’s a ski resort and various observatories up here too, so road bikers can get there as well with a bit of effort over the last few hundred metres!)
The Sierra de Javalambre is quite literally one of the high spots of the Aragón trails!