The bells of the 11th century church tower ring seven times, our alarm for this last and final day of riding in a place none of us could ever dream about. Our bodies have been beaten and battered for several days before this, but knowing what’s greeting us in the sunny courtyard just steps away, we peel ourselves out of bed, down a café-con-leche, make breakfast, and gear up for another day on the bike. The riding here is just too good to miss, and it’s so different from what we’re used to back home.
Colorado to Ainsa, Spain
A handful of days earlier, we traveled almost 5,000 miles from our snow-covered home of Colorado to Ainsa, Spain to escape winter and sample the trails that the world has come to know as Zona Zero. First, put on the map by the Enduro World Series in 2015, the trails here are quickly gaining popularity (and scope), and after another EWS stop in 2018, they’re bound to blow up on a global scale. Truth be told, the trails here deserve to be recognized; you’ve got a network of over 40 marked trails within a 45-minute drive of town center, all waiting to beat you to a pulp.
Our local guide, Borja, describes the trails as “fighty” and although we’ve never heard that term used back in the States, we can’t think of a more appropriate way to tell friends what to expect on the next trip. Because there will be a next trip. The Zona Zero area is the masterpiece of local Jorge Ruis de Eguilaz; a work-in-progress that spans a huge area at the foot of the Pyrenees just south of the border with France. Jorge is quite the businessman, as he also owns biker-friendly accommodations in town (Casa Rivera) and the local bike shop, so he has a motive. But far more importantly, he has a love for mountain biking and has helped his hometown embrace it while discovering a new way to attract business to an otherwise quiet area in the middle of nowhere.
Zona Zero : cobbly descents that rattle your bones and push the limits of modern-day suspension.
The trails in Zona Zero are like nothing we’ve seen in the United States; most of what we rode during our stay in Ainsa were rehabilitated walking paths between old, abandoned villages. Because of this, you get a level of technical riding that we’ve also never seen: never-ending kilometers of rocky, cobbly descents that rattle your bones and push the limits of modern-day suspension. A favorite from the second day of our trip was the “Cuellos de Orello”, or “Coffin Trail”: a perfectly laid-out path that locals once used to transport coffins from one town to another since the residents did not have a cemetery of their own. Think about it: because a coffin is approximately the same length as a mountain bike, it was a match made in heaven.
Riding here is best done with a shuttle as the fire road climbs can get a bit long and tiresome, and there are so many trails to sample that it’s best not to waste time climbing. In fact, we didn’t ride a trail all week that we’d ever want to climb, so a large majority of riders here utilize a local van and “uplift” trailer. We had the crew from Basque MTB show us the goods, so all we focused on was enjoying the riding and the mind-blowing scenery. And Serrano ham. Lots of Serrano ham.
So, what can you expect from a visit to Ainsa and the Zona Zero riding center? Technical riding. Unique trails that descend forever. Crazy weather. Muddy tires. Abandoned villages in the middle of nowhere. Friendly locals. Great Spanish food, beer and wine. And a sense of community, because that’s really what matters.