DESTINATION: CANARY ISLANDS
Mountain biking off the coast of Africa
Jordi Bago is a factory rider for Pivot Cycles who splits his time between the Canary Islands and Europe. He often writes us and has been sending us photos of the riding in the Canary Islands for years. We decided that it was time to find out more and share some of that knowledge with our readers.
The Canary Islands are located in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean, about 100 miles off the coast of Africa. They have a population of just over 2.1 million people. The islands were formed from volcanoes, some of which are still active today, and the terrain is mostly rocky and dry. The islands are located at roughly the same latitude as Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The islands have long been a popular vacation area for European mountain bikers and endurance athletes. We reached out to Jordi to see what he could tell us about the mountain biking there.
TALKING WITH JORDI BAGO
When are the best times of the year to go mountain biking in the Canary Islands?
The Canary Islands are well known for their good weather and are one of the top European destinations for holidays and pre-season sports training for athletes. We can go there any time and ride all year long, but the best time I would say is from October until April. That’s the high season and not so hot as the rest of the year.
What is the weather like during the winter, spring, summer and fall?
The weather is always warm all year long, some islands more so than others. To put it in perspective, some areas are very dry like Arizona. When I was there with Pivot in Phoenix, I felt the weather and environment were quite similar to the area where I am in the Canary Islands. In some other areas of the islands, it’s raining often and the landscape changes; it’s greener. Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are the driest islands, while Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro are very green.
Winter for me is the best time to go there, though! It’s about 20–24 degrees Centigrade (68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit).
How often do you get rain there?
In Gran Canaria, in the south, where I am based, it rains maybe 10 times a year max; in the north, you get some rain almost every week. The islands where it rains more often are La Palma and La Gomera, which is one of the smallest islands but still very cool and green! The driest islands are Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. These two islands are a great destination for triathletes, as they are very flat, as well as for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. They also do some World Cup events and pre-season races in marathon.
How many miles (or kilometers) of bike trails do you have there?
We have so many kilometers of trails in all the islands that I don’t know the total number of kilometers, but all the trails are long or very long, so for sure over 1000 kilometers (620 miles) of trails. I will say I tracked over 120 trails on my Anywhere app, and these are almost all of them. You can find many of the trails on some of the sports apps out there and see the elevation and terrain before you get on the trails.
Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife are where almost all the people and riders go for training and bike holidays. The one that has the most trails is Gran Canaria, with over 60 trails, and many nice off-road trails in the mountains and next to the seaside.
La Palma has over 30 trails. For me, it has the best trail network of all the islands, going from almost 3000 meters elevation (almost 10,000 feet) to sea level—over 35 kilometers (about 22 miles)—all the way down. You start with some muddy parts and finish with steep, rocky switchback turns.
Tenerife has a lot, also. Some are in the national park, so you better skip them because you can get in some trouble if you ride them (laughs)!
The other islands—La Gomera and El Hierro—have trails, but not so many.
How many islands are there?
There are seven main islands and another tiny one, but there is no riding there. It is called La Graciosa. The rest we already mentioned: Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro.
Are the trails good for beginners, or are they only good for expert-level riders?
All the islands have so many trails for everyone: beginners, amateurs, experts and pros. I brought some kids there for training camps, and they had no problem riding almost all the trails. One of them is a pro rider now, Alex Marin, who was there with me when he was 12 years old.
Also, we had a Pivot Cycles event, and everyone—journalists and dealers—loved it, and we had riders of so many different levels.
Which islands have the best riding for visitors?
For me, the best ones are Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma. As I mentioned before, La Palma has amazing trails, going from top to bottom with insane views. I really recommend that one.
Tenerife has some trails that are also very cool, next to Teide Volcano, and what can I say of Gran Canaria?
I really hope you come visit me next winter, and you will see with your own eyes how amazing the trails, the riding and the views are. There is a very hard trail that goes 42 kilometers (26 miles) from the highest point of the island to sea level, going through the majestic Roque Nublo, the massive rock formation that is the icon of the island; that part is very rocky and fast. Then that ends with a trail in the middle of the cactus area between the Little Grand Canyon and the dunes of Maspalomas. I will say that this trail crosses the four best spots on the island.
This is the trail I use to test some of my sponsors’ new products, like the new Crankbrothers Synthesis wheels, TRP brakes, saddles from Selle San Marco, Kask helmets, etc.
What’s the best way to get to the Canary Islands?
The best way is flying if you come from the U.S. through Barcelona or Madrid. There are over 15 flights a day with Vueling, Binter, Norwegian, Iberia and Ryan airlines, but for me the best one is Vueling, because it’s much cheaper to bring your bike with them than with the other airlines.
Do you have any bike shops you can recommend?
That is a hard question, because I have many friends who own shops, but I must admit the best one I know is Free Motion, owned by my friends Mike and Sandra. They have rental bikes and offer bike tours and shuttles, and you can also rent helmets, clothes and other things. I am working hard to get our Pivot e-bike in those stores.
Do you have any mountain bike events or races in the Canary Islands?
Yes, many. Every year I do some big events, like I did last year with Kask helmets with all the media and dealers, and this year with Nissan-Brisa Motors. They support us, and Pivot Cycles on our media press for the Switchblade, and also European dealers. We also had the Spanish Championships, which I won in downhill in Pro Master.
There is also a UCI marathon race in Gran Canaria, and in Lanzarote they have the La Santa bike stage race around February, with many top mountain bikers. Emily Batty was there last year. And, of course, there are many enduro, downhill and cross-country races, like the National Canary Island event, and also regional races.
In these races, there are lot of riders taking part. Some of them are top Spanish riders like Edgar Carballo, who is now on the Enduro World Series team.
Can you recommend any places to stay?
For me, the best places to stay are the Melia resorts. They are bike-friendly, so they take good care of the riders and their bikes. If you go there, say you were recommended by Mountain Bike Action and Jordi Bago, and they will offer a special discount. Also, we can find so many hotel accommodations from top to normal prices and apartments on all the islands. There is also a website page from the Canary Islands where people can check all the bike-friendly accommodations.
How much does it cost to go there?
To fly to the Canary Islands from Europe and Spain, I would say that the average price is no more than 200 euros round trip. On the islands, we can use Binter flights. They are quite cheap, like a taxi between the islands.
You can find hotels for 50 euros per day with breakfast, if you are booking in time. There are also a lot of apartments that you can rent, which, in my opinion, is better if you’re traveling with friends or family.
The islands are also tax-free, so everything is a little cheaper than other destinations. When I did the training camps there, I got special prices for the riders, and they had an entire week of hotel and food for 600 euros total.
If some of your readers want, they can contact me on social media @jordibago. And, if they want to come or need some info, I’ll be happy to help them. And, if they come and they want to ride with me, it will be a pleasure. It will be fun!