Each worldwide bike tour is particular, however none is as memorable as your first one. For my spouse, Carrie, and me, our first worldwide tour was in 2010 – a two-week tour of Spain and Portugal with IMTBike, a bike tour and rental firm primarily based in Spain with workplace areas in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Málaga, and Lisbon, Portugal.
Carrie and I’ve had the great fortune to go on many worldwide bike excursions collectively. Using two-up, totally on a giant BMW GS, we’ve explored a dozen nations in Europe, in addition to Canada and Ecuador. We acquired engaged on the prime of Stelvio Go within the Alps and spent our honeymoon on a tour in Norway. However for that first tour, our guides have been Scott Moreno, IMTBike’s founder and CEO, and “Tremendous” Chano Lorenzo, IMTBike’s longest serving information, who’s been with the corporate since 1998.
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Like outdated associates, Scott and Chano shared their unabashed love and deep data of Spain and Portugal with everybody in our group, treating every one among us as particular and taking time to get to know us so they may tailor the tour expertise to our specific wants or wishes.
Of all of the excursions Carrie and I’ve been on, our most embarrassing second occurred on Day 1 of that first tour in 2010 – earlier than we had even gotten on the bike. Whereas having fun with ourselves on the festive welcome dinner the night time earlier than, we imbibed a bit an excessive amount of vino tinto. Once we acquired again to the resort, feeling the consequences of jetlag and the wine, we determined to get up early to pack and prepare for the tour. I set my alarm, and we went to mattress.
With the curtains drawn to dam out town lights of Madrid, I used to be jolted awake by the cellphone. It was Chano. “Buenos dias, Greg! It’s 9 o’ clock, and everyone seems to be on the bus, ready to go. Are you prepared?”
Mierda! I had gotten the a.m./p.m. blended up on my cellphone’s alarm.
“I’m soooooo sorry! We overslept!”
“Don’t fear, which means you have been relaxed! Scott will head over on the bus with the others and begin the bike handover. I’m downstairs with everybody’s baggage within the van. I’ll look forward to you.”
Hungover with throbbing complications, our pulses racing, we threw every little thing into our baggage and suited up in our using gear as quick as we may. Carrie and I are each fastidious Sort A individuals, and we hate being late. We did the stroll of disgrace out to the van, solely to seek out Chano with a giant smile on his face as he reassured us, “Is not any downside!”
And it wasn’t. As embarrassed as we have been, Chano and Scott simply rolled with the scenario. Our blunder was the supply of playful ribbing all through the tour, an inside joke we nonetheless share to today. And we discovered our lesson – in almost 100 days we’ve spent on abroad bike excursions since that first morning, we now have not been late as soon as, and we’re usually the primary individuals on the bikes within the morning, able to go.
A Very Good 12 months
Like all bike tour corporations, the pandemic was a intestine punch to IMTBike. Covid restrictions meant the corporate couldn’t run excursions for greater than a yr, however Moreno stored his workforce on the payroll, and so they used the downtime to refresh, refine, and develop their tour choices. IMTBike makes a speciality of excursions of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), but it surely additionally presents excursions in France, Italy, the Alps, and Morocco, in addition to MotoGP excursions (Catalunya, Jerez, and Valencia) and excursions in Turkey, Thailand, Japan, and New Zealand.
IMTBike resumed its excursions in 2021, the identical yr it earned a coveted Tripadvisor Vacationers’ Alternative Better of the Finest award. In 2022, IMTBike celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary, and Scott personally invited Carrie and me to hitch him and Chano on the Southern Spain Andalusia tour.
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Superb Andalusia by way of IMTBike
As a lot as we have been trying ahead to getting the band again collectively for a reunion tour, a household emergency precluded Scott from becoming a member of us. Chano served as head information, and our comfort prize was Paolo Pezzoli, a younger, energetic Italian who was new to the IMTBike workforce.
The Southern Spain Andalusia tour hits the candy spot – not too quick or too lengthy, not too straightforward or too difficult, and excellent by way of each day mileage, alternative of roads, surroundings, sightseeing, and lodging. The tour is 9 days, with six using days, one relaxation day, and journey days on every finish. It begins and ends in Málaga, a metropolis on Spain’s Mediterranean Costa Del Sol (Solar Coast), and consists of stops in Granada, Córdoba, Seville (relaxation day), Arcos de la Frontera, and Ronda.
Carrie and I arrived a day early to shake off our jetlag and spend a day exploring Málaga, which was based in 770 B.C. and is without doubt one of the oldest constantly inhabited cities on the earth. IMTBike booked a contemporary, trendy resort that’s a brief stroll to the guts of town. We visited the Nineteenth-century Atarazanas Market, the 14th-century Cathedral of Málaga, and the Eleventh-century Alcazaba, a Moorish palatial fortress perched on a hill overlooking town and coast.
After our strolling tour – which included a cease at a busy sidewalk cafe for tapas, sangria, and people-watching – we met the tour group within the resort’s bar. Over beers and wine, we met Lonny and Linda, a pair from Idaho; Kobus and Magda, a pair from South Africa; Bernard, a solo rider from Canada; and Oliver, a solo rider from Dominican Republic. Every of us took turns telling the group slightly about ourselves, and Chano gave us an summary of the tour and guidelines of the street in Spain.
To maintain us related, IMTBike arrange a gaggle on WhatsApp so we may ship textual content messages, dwell areas, images, and extra by way of Wi-Fi. We additionally acquired hyperlinks to the tour’s each day routes on Google Maps and to a Google Drive folder so we may add and share our images.
Following the briefing, we walked to dinner. Spain is understood for its afternoon siestas and late-night dinners, and within the evenings, the streets of cities we visited have been bustling with locals and vacationers, younger and outdated and every little thing in between. Our tour was in October, with delicate days and funky nights – supreme for strolling on cobblestoned and tiled sidewalks which might be tons of of years outdated, their surfaces worn easy by hundreds of thousands of footsteps. Our welcome dinner was at a restaurant handpicked by IMTBike, and Chano acquired us began by ordering Iberian ham, cheese, and wine for the desk. Everybody was in good spirits as we broke bread and acquired to know one another.
Up, Up, and Away
Carrie and I awoke early, loved a decadent breakfast on the resort, introduced our baggage down, and walked outdoors to seek out two R 1250 RTs, three R 1250 GSs, and an F 850 GS lined up on the sidewalk. IMTBike is an official associate of BMW Motorrad, and it owns the world’s largest fleet of BMW bikes (greater than 200 ultimately rely). Bikes out there to lease vary from the G 310 R to the Ok 1600 GT, and all are outfitted with a prime case and aspect circumstances; a GPS unit is non-compulsory. Our group was adopted by a help van that carried baggage and a spare bike.
On our first tour in 2010, Carrie and I described Spain as “California with castles.” The coastal areas of Southern Spain and Southern California have delicate Mediterranean climates in addition to rugged mountains that rise dramatically from the ocean. Inside minutes of leaving Málaga, we climbed up, up, up into the mountains on a decent, steep, endlessly curving street that stored us on our toes. After a midmorning espresso cease, we rode again all the way down to the coast to have scrumptious paella proper subsequent to the seashore. We ascended into the mountains once more on a slender lane carved into the rock often called the “Goat Highway,” arriving in Granada in time to discover town’s outdated quarter earlier than assembly up for a gourmand dinner at among the finest eating places within the metropolis.
From Granada, we acquired full use of our tires and leaned deeply by way of the curves of a shaded canyon earlier than coming out into the excessive plains, the place we acquired a chook’s eye view of the village of La Peza from an overlook. We rode by way of infinite olive groves and visited the Núñez de Prado natural olive oil manufacturing unit in Baena, the place the olives are crushed by monumental stone mills to extract the “flower” and first chilly urgent of additional virgin olive oil.
After lunch within the Baena city sq., we rode to Córdoba, house to extra UNESCO World Heritage Websites than every other metropolis. It was a scorching afternoon, so we cooled off within the rooftop pool overlooking the Guadalquivir River and town. We explored the slender, cobblestoned streets and visited the beautiful Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. At an out of doors cafe, Carrie and I joined Lonny and Linda for sangria, after which we loved a family-style dinner with the group at an area restaurant.
On our third day, we rode from Córdoba to Seville on a collection of backroads that appeared tailored for motorcyclists. Spain is a motorcycle-mad nation, and you may’t assist however suppose that civil engineers mentioned to themselves, “Let’s make these curves circulate with a pleasant rhythm. We’ll give them a constant radius, good banking, and easy pavement. Riders will find it irresistible!”
After winding by way of farmland with rolling hills crammed with oak and cork timber, herds of sheep, and black Iberian pigs (the supply of extremely prized jamón pata negra), we rode over the Sierra Morena mountains and again down into the Guadalquivir River valley and the magnificent metropolis of Seville.
We arrived with just a few hours to unwind, loosen up, and discover earlier than dinner. We walked from the resort to an outdated restaurant adorned with bullfighting memorabilia, and we loved vino tinto and plates of jamón, queso, ensalada mixta, and different delicacies, all topped off with a wide range of diet-busting sweets and little glasses of house-made liqueur.
Caves, Espresso, and Cava … IMTBike Type
After a relaxation day exploring the fantastic metropolis of Seville and a mesmerizing flamenco present, we continued our meandering lap round Andalusia. We rode by way of rolling hills of olive timber and handed a number of of the area’s iconic Pueblos Blancos (White Cities), the place all the homes and buildings have whitewashed partitions and terra cotta tile roofs. We stopped for lunch in Setenil de las Bodegas, a city constructed alongside a small canyon with homes and retailers constructed into the hollowed out limestone caves on either side of the river.
Subsequent up was probably the most spectacular street of the journey, an Alps-like climb from the valley to 4,452-foot Palomas Go. We descended an equally winding and scenic street and made our option to Arcos de la Frontera, an outdated city constructed excessive on a limestone promontory. De la Frontera means “on the frontier,” so named as a result of Arcos was on the frontlines of Spain’s Thirteenth-century battle with the Moors. Perched on the sting of the cliff overlooking the Guadalete River, our resort was a Parador, one among roughly 100 motels managed by Spain which might be in buildings of historic, creative, or cultural curiosity.
Leaving Arcos de la Frontera, we rode beneath the flying buttresses of the cathedral and descended steep, slender cobblestone streets made damp by in a single day rains. We continued our trip alongside La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos (Route of the White Cities) the place whitewashed villages on the mountainsides stand out like giant polka dots on the inexperienced panorama. We rode into Sierra de Grazalema Pure Park and wound our approach as much as El Boyar Go on our option to our morning espresso cease in a bustling city sq..
Day-after-day, we rode up and down on small mountain roads and thru idyllic agricultural plains. Site visitors was minimal, and the rugged, old-world surroundings was enchanting. On our fifth using day, we loved extra quick and enjoyable roads within the afternoon as we made our option to Ronda, a metropolis perched excessive on either side of the Tajo gorge carved by the Guadelevin River. We stayed in a Parador on the sting of a cliff overlooking the “new” 300-year-old bridge over the gorge (the outdated bridge was constructed in the course of the Roman Empire).
We began our final day of the tour with a good looking dawn over Ronda. We rode east into the rugged granite mountains of Sierra de las Nieves Pure Park, winding our approach by way of canyons and over passes towards El Burgo.
It was Saturday, and we stopped for espresso at a preferred meet-up spot for motorcyclists, its tables abuzz with riders and its car parking zone filled with bikes. The ultimate spotlight of the tour was a trip as much as El Torcal de Antequera, a mountain ridge coated in uncommon karst rock formations that reminded us of Joshua Tree Nationwide Park seen by way of the eyes of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí.
We descended extra slender, twisty roads again to Málaga, the place we turned in our BMWs at IMTBike’s warehouse and toasted a celebratory glass of cava. After drinks and laughs on the resort’s patio, we loved a festive farewell dinner at one other fantastic restaurant.
The week glided by quick, a positive signal of how a lot enjoyable we had. Chano and Paolo have been a relentless supply of appeal and good humor, and so they did plenty of work behind the scenes to maintain every little thing working easily. Our small group bonded rapidly, and even months after the tour, we nonetheless ship messages by way of WhatsApp to remain in contact.
When you love good roads, good meals and wine, and good lodging, in addition to historical past, structure, and rugged mountain surroundings, this tour is for you. Simply strive to not oversleep.
The 2023 Southern Spain Andalusia excursions run March 11-19, April 15-23, and Oct. 14-22. Go to the IMTBike web site for more information.