Some would consider Britain blessed with the seasonal variation we have. However, in the depths of winter, when your bike lights always need to be charged & you're considering a second layer of gloves, it can be tough remembering why you enjoyed riding in the first place. So when a few friends got together with the idea of travelling for some gravelling in a more equatorial climate, it was a bit of a no-brainer.
Our plan was to head to Tenerife.
Last year a few of the Restrap crew had headed south & covered a few of the Canary islands, ticking off one per day, & never stopped going on about how great the riding was. We'd heard of the Gran Gaunche gravel route, & as semi-competent off-roadeurs it looked like the perfect way of exploring a new side of one of the islands. With a few tweaks to the route to divert to places to stay & refuel, we had ourselves a plan.
Our route took us on a clockwise lap of the volcano Mount Teide. The most populated parts of the island are the lower grounds around the coast, & the gravel was generally most found at the higher altitudes.
As such, our days fell into a pattern of punchy climbs in the mornings, followed by long rolling gravel traverses in the afternoon & fast descents to our accommodation towards sunset.
For quite a small island, we were surprised by how much variation we encountered. Starting at sea-level, we'd encounter huge flowering cacti, lizards warming up on the rocks & deep ravines.
Getting higher we'd often climb through cloud & find ourselves in quiet pine forests, some trees scarred with scorched bark.
Reaching the summits, we'd be riding across deserts which felt not unlike the surface of Iceland or Mars, with striped sandy hillsides & rocks of deep black, occasionally glinting with obsidian.
The riding itself was superb.
The Gran Gaunche route does well to pick out some of the best trails we've ridden, & and the bits we rode had a great mix of fast rolling gravel, chill shaded climbs & the odd technical bit to keep things interesting.
Komoot was really handy in the route planning, making the search for suitable trails to connect where we were staying to the route easy.
Highlights include some fast twisty road descents, smooth alpine climbs & gravel sections which took us right off the beaten track & straight into full-blown adventure.
In only a short week, it feels we fit a lot into our trip to Tenerife, yet at the same time, like we've barely scratched the surface. At every junction we spotted an alternative gravel track or mountain road & we couldn't help but wonder what was that way.
Not wanting to stretch ourselves too far with the unpredictability gravel can bring, our route was short & sweet, so we had time for a rest day before returning - taking the chance to see other sides of the island with some tertiary activities such as a morning at the driving range, an afternoon rockpooling (we spotted an octopus, sea snails & lots of hermit crabs) & an evening enjoying the local cuisine.
Now back at home, I think we all feel a renewed vigour for riding (even to the extent that two of us unpacked our bikes at our local airport & rode home from there). Hunting down another set of gloves to stave off a chill now doesn't seem so bad, when there's adventure out to be had on bikes with a few friends.
Words by Gideon Jones (@gideonparanoid)