Lying in the Spanish foothills between aqua-blue reservoirs and vistas of the snow-capped Pyrenees lies the village of Tremp. The lively town center is filled with young faces, sitting on sunny terraces between modern restaurants and hotels juxtaposed against the surrounding hills laden with defensive fortifications from the 11th century. While many may consider a trip to Tremp to learn more about the revolutionary history of the Pallars Jussa region or even to see fossilized dinosaur footprints, even more make the trip to spend time aboard two wheels and knobby tires thanks to the local trail building organization, Lo Podall.
Outside of the highest peaks of the Pyrenees and the occasional bike park on private land, many mountain bike trails in Spain are generally unofficial or even illegal. This makes it difficult to disseminate updated trail information and even contributes to lower standards of trail building in terms of both fun and long-term sustainability. Tremp, however, has a dedicated trail building association that is uniting a whole community around mountain biking.
The Lo Podall Association, or l’Associació Lo Podall, is a membership-based nonprofit dedicated to the recuperation and construction of trails with a primary focus on mountain biking. With 211 members, each paying 10 euros annually, the pace and quality of trail construction is truly a work of art. Just in the last year, about 10km of new, bike-optimized trail has opened. How is all this orchestrated? Dani Terrisse Puig, President of Lo Podall and professional firefighter filled us in.
“First, work is done to find the best lines for trails (less impact on vegetation, looking for grade changes to avoid erosion from the rain, and a line that is fun for people on MTBs),” said Terrisse. “We also consult the land registry to find the property owners and consider the options for the terrain. Later, the desired corridor is marked with flagging tape, branches are cut with the chainsaw, and a weedwacker is used on the whole corridor. Once the line is clear, we build specific features like armoring/supports, berms, drains, bridges, walkways, etc. Once the members know the projects to be done, each member goes when they are able. Only for special occasions, like in the construction of bridges, moving large rocks, etc., do we work in a group.”
One unique aspect for new trail construction by Lo Podall is that the sheer number of riders plays an integral part. It’s common to find shaped jumps and berms without a cut trail in between features. Over time, local and visiting riders alike wear in the connecting sections of trail. After all, Lo Podall is 100% volunteer-powered.
“The trails are very compact with all the riders passing over them,” said Terrisse. “We work less on maintenance now [as compared to before the pandemic when there were less people]. The riders keep the trails alive!”
It is difficult to categorize Tremp’s trails relative to other well-known riding destinations because the terrain is so varied in geology and riding style. Is the red soil more like Utah? Or does the Mediterranean climate make it more like the renowned EWS stop at Finale Ligure? Are the gray rock slabs in the plush pines more similar to the Pacific Northwest? The common thread is well-designed trail that harnesses landscape-accentuated fun for all types and levels of MTB riders.
Enduro World Series racer and 2019 Spanish National Enduro Champion, Mariano Marí Marí, summed up the trails best:
“Pros can enjoy the features, but the same trail can be enjoyed by intermediate riders, even beginners.” Marí added that “Tremp and Lo Podall have the potential to grow. There is already a pump track and legal trail network with a supportive community around it. It is a real MTB destination.” Marí also believes “locations like Tremp can help elevate the level of Spanish competition on the international stage.”
Purpose-built trails for bikes are a rarity outside of bike parks in Spain but they are in abundance in the Pallars Jussa region. Just to the north in La Pobla de Segur, there is another trail building group, Trenkabikers. Regionally speaking, there are a few shuttle services along with bike shops, e-bike rentals, and various bike-friendly accommodations. Lo Podall is actively working with businesses to bolster the trails even more.
“The hotels and restaurants are dialing up these efforts to support the trails,” said Terrisse. “Our partners receive a sticker for their location with a QR code that links to our website with MTB routes… the local population and businesses are very conscious that well-maintained trails bring new tourism to the region that wasn’t here before. Therefore, we have all of their support.”
The European bike industry is starting to notice as well. Bernat Guardia, marketing manager at Intense Europe, recently had a photoshoot in Tremp for their 2022 bikes.
“It’s a great place with tons of different scenery and trails… our European office is based near Barcelona, so it makes things easier.”
Here we’ll break the trails down into four general zones, which each individually could exist as a trail center in and of themselves.
Dragon Khan & Serengueti Zone
First, there is the Dragon Khan zone, an area to the northwest of town that some have described as “mini-Rampage” with wide open, knife-ridge descents and terracotta-colored terrain.
Dragon Khan is the most well-known trail and for good reason; while the trail is not difficult in itself, a little bobble could send you tumbling to the canyon below, kind of like riding a 1km-long skinny. Dragon Khan is also the name of a roller coaster at the biggest amusement park in Spain, so that may give you a better idea of what to expect. In this zone you will also find other top-hits of Tremp like Serengueti and Afghanistrail, which are quite similar to riding a rollercoaster as well. These trails are not very rocky or technical, but there are ridges and curves that require a certain level of awareness due to the exposure.
All are maintained to a level not often seen in Spain with smooth berms and the occasional bike-optimized drop to enhance the high-speed flow. If long gripping descents are not your thing, this area also has trails with short, punchy ups and downs like on the White Line or Massanes Trail. Sisquet Pump and Mega Sisket are brand new trails with jumps and berms that are almost reminiscent of a bike park.
Susterris Views Zone
Closer to the village center with even more lap-able descents is the Susterris zone, just to the east of town. While almost all of these trails are labeled as intermediate, that certainly changes if you like to go fast and find doubles.
Tamarro is a new trail in the area that fits this description. It was just flagged and cleared, so it still has a natural trail feel with lots of grip thanks to the forest shade. It is almost as if you are riding through layers of historic land use as you fly off an old rock wall or descend through a pump track of long forgotten farm roads that bisect the trail. Susterris Views Trail is the classic of the zone with incredible vistas to the north overlooking the Sant Antoni Reservoir and the white-tipped Pyrenees in the Aigüestortes National Park.
Roc de Neret Zone
In the same direction as Susterris, but a little bit higher and a little more eastward, is the Roc de Neret zone. Just like Dragon Khan, it would be hard to talk about Tremp’s trails without mentioning Slick Rock Trail. Starting out a bit more loose and chunky, after a quick descent you end up on giant rock slabs that beg to be pumped and explored at high speeds. It is a pockmarked chalky rock that seems like it could very well be the surface of the moon, or a well aged Spanish blue cheese. Once again, this is an intermediate-friendly trail that could be ridden on an XC bike.
Arizona Cactus is a newer trail with a similar style in this zone that deserves to be ridden as well. If you like quick technical ups and downs, Scream is a must-do. This style of trail is very rare in Spain. If you are a Coloradan that enjoys the climbs on Dakota Ridge, or anyone that enjoys technical, off-camber rock, this is for you.
Roques Pelades Zone
Saving the best for last, the fourth zone is Roques Pelades, meaning naked rocks. While it is a 6km climb on a combination of gravel and asphalt, it is also shuttle-able. This zone is steeper with up to 450 meters (1,500 feet) of continuous descent. It is all bike-optimized with berms and rock features that inspire confidence when riding.
Roques Pelades is one of the trails that goes from top to bottom with a mix of chunk and smooth rock slabs. A side-line called “El Llom,” or “The Loin,” plummets down a slab of rock surrounded by pines that would fit right into one of Yoann Barelli’s or Remy Metallier’s YouTube videos from British Columbia. However, the real pearls of this zone are two new trails that haven’t even reached a year of age, Valkyries and Escorpins. While both have a ton of flow, Valkyries is a bit more forested with more organic soil and ripping berms. Escorpins is a combination of all the trails in this zone that just opened a few weeks ago. It has steeps, rock drops, and berms. It has exposed sections where you yearn to look at the incredible views, but probably shouldn’t while barreling along a cliff. It has over 200 meters of vertical drop that is made specifically for people on modern trail bikes, at a minimum.
Planning your visit
When is the best time to visit Tremp? Well, Terrissee recommends spring and fall, but also noted that “this winter has been very good since we have had little fog. The summer is normally very hot. It is necessary to wake up early in order to enjoy the routes.” In fact, Terrissee used the word madrugar, which is a succinct way to say that you need to wake up at the crack of dawn, but all in just one Spanish word. Before the summer starts, Tremp celebrates the trails with both an enduro and XC race.
“Right now we are prioritizing the trails that are part of the Bucardo MTB Enduro Race, taking place on May 21-22, and the GeoBike Marxa on May 28th. We are leaving the trails in impeccable shape so that the race participants can enjoy them to the maximum.”
Race information as well as accommodations that support the trail network and more can be found at tremp.cat.
For Lo Podall, success is defined as “continuing to enjoy what we do and to receive the support from our city and the riders that visit,” said Terrisse. “In five years, we hope for a little more official help from the town and that the trails are the same or better than they are now. Salut i Pedals!!”