I’ve recently returned from a fabulous trip to Menorca, where I hired a local guide (Dídac Pujol) to take me out riding some of the island’s fabulous singletrack. It’s the second time I’ve ridden with Dídac as guide, and it got me to thinking about my own guiding here in Wales, what it is that guides can offer to the mountain bike rider, and how they can more positively affect the experience of the ride.
In the UK, with way-marked trails littering the ever growing network of trail centres, availability of on-line mapping tools, GPS-enabled devices which’ll direct you from A to B by the metre, and websites packed with pre-mapped routes for youto ride, it might seem pointless and even a little counter-intuitive to hire a mountain bike guide for the day.
So why would you do it? Well, here are a few of the things a guide will offer to make your day’s riding a fabulous experience:
1. Local trail knowledge. If you’re not fully conversant with the area in which you’re riding, then a guide will help you to find a great ride, at a level which suits you. A good guide will have spent a lot of time thinking about route choices in the area they’re guiding, and they’ll know the trails with the best views, the fastest sections, the best climbs and descents, the flowiest or the most-technical trails. They’ll be able to use this knowledge to offer you something that will tick all your boxes, and you won’t even have to look at a map.
Riding with Didac we stopped by an innoccuous gap in a wall, lifted the bikes over, and then rode some of the most amazing tree-lined gorge trail to the tiniest of coves on the island.
2. Local area knowledge. Need somewhere to stay? Want to get a bit of history about the area you’re riding? Struggling with the language or even just place-names? A professional guide will be able to recommend the best local accommodation, great places to eat and drink, furnish you with historical, geological, and social event information about the area, helping you to enjoy your stay both on and off the bike.
My conversations with Didac ranged across various topics: the history of the island from pre-history to modern occupations, the differences between Catalan, Spanish, French and Welsh, the geology of the island and how this affects riding terrain, the best places to eat tapas, and why the kayak is like a bike for the sea.
3. Experience. A qualified mountain bike guide will have years of experience in the sport. It’s their passion for the sport that makes someone become a guide in the first place. During your trip they’ll be only too happy to share their experience with you, improving your riding techniques, and passing on tips to enhance your future in the sport.
4. Safety. A qualified guide will hold a valid first aid certificate and will know what to do in the event of an accident on or off the trail. They’ll know the quickest routes back to civilisation, be equipped with a first aid kit and a shelter, and will ensure that you’re looked after properly should things go pear shaped.
5. Bike fixes. If you break down on the trail then your guide will know how to get you rolling again. A decent guide will be carrying all the tools you might need. This means you don’t have to think about or pack everything yourself.
Overall, what a guide does is to try and make your day as good as it can be. They’ll smooth out the rough, and focus on what makes the ride special. Their aim is to enhance your ride and create long-lasting, positive memories that you’ll treasure forever.
If you’re ever in Menorca, I’d suggest giving Didac a call. If you’re riding in Wales then give me a call and I’ll try to be just as good!