Riding the Spanish Pyrenees & Aragón with Troy Corser
At the end of 2016, Leod Escapes asked track riders all over the USA, “What should the next tour be?” The choices were Czech Republic’s Bohemia and Brno; Thailand’s Golden Triangle and Chang Circuit; The coasts of Portugal and Portimao; or The Spanish Pyrenees to Aragón.
While the other three were surprisingly close in votes, Spain and Aragón was the clear winner. A year in planning and the riders choice tour is ready to go. Here is what it’s all about.
Go east young racer
It’s no secret that Spain is were it’s at when it comes to road racing. Spaniards rank road racing as their number 2 sport after soccer (known to the world as football). Indeed, the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia is a classic example of a race track that could only work in Spain. It’s a giant stadium with a race track in the center instead of a playing field.
Dorna runs both MotoGP and WorldSBK out of it’s headquarters in Barcelona. The fanaticism surrounding any racing that involves two wheels and an engine can be heard at every stop light in any major Spanish city. When the light turns green all the scooters race to get the hole shot.
So it’s no surprise that Spain has been churning out successful racers. It’s the place to go if you really want to prove your ability as a racer. The Iberian peninsula is littered with top quality circuits and an abundance of sunlight. So it should come as no surprise Leod Escapes scouted Spain for possibilities of tours and discovered some important principles.
The Forgotten Empire
For over 400 years Spain was a massive global empire and the wealth of that empire flowed to the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. The remains of those powerful days can be seen in the immense wealth that was poured into castles and cathedrals between 1492 and 1899. The demographic shift of people living in cities and the hard modern economic woes of Spain, mean that what would be a sizable tourist attraction in other parts of Europe, hasn’t even made it into a guide book yet. Much of old Spain remains off the tourist bus route and few ever see it. Take the back roads though and you’re in for glorious authentic surprises.
The country where nobody goes anywhere
It’s no secret the Spanish people have been battling economic troubles for the past few generations. One of the effects of this has been an emptying of many old villages and population concentrating around cities. Families retain their ancestral homes in the hands of a few older relatives while the rest seek their fortune and return occasionally for large family get togethers.
Add to this a good high speed rail system that connects the major cities and you get a welcome effect for the motorcycle rider. When you ride outside the major cities, there’s nobody there. The roads are empty. With modernization concentrating in urban areas, many of the old towns that haven’t changed much in hundreds of years. Spain itself lacks the resources to promote itself effectively outside of few well worn tourist trails. This means much of the country outside the cities remains an authentic joy… if a tad short of services. Even if you are not a fan of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, you will learn to love Repsol because they are often one the few outposts of civilization on these lonely roads that you can count on.
A culture of “It’s good enough”
No country is perfect. Decades of economic hardship have thwarted the ambitions of many and created an environment where maintenance just had to be deferred until better times came along. People just get used to a lower standard of quality. Couple this with a well known trait for passionate enjoyment of leisure and things can get lax.
This can be disappointing to some visitors. What this really means is you’ve got to carefully choose your vendors in Spain. Choosing the right hotels, motorcycle fleets and local staff becomes much more important in Spain than say Austria. Leod Escapes is proud of the work it’s taken to find the right people but always be aware that you can’t expect everything in Spain to run like clock work.
Waking up in a castle
A small fraction of Spain’s historical buildings became part of the Paradores program in 1928. It’s a profitable state run business that preserves historic buildings and turns them into hotels. Adapting an old fortress or monastery to serve as an upscale traveler hotel obviously comes with some unique challenges.
Changing market tastes and styles come and go with each generation. This makes the Parador experience like a trip though a time machine that’s not firing on all cylinders. Walls from the 1800s were meant to withstand cannon fire, not deliver wifi. Different generations of plumbing and electrical conduits route around 1000 year old frescos or defensive parapets.
Vestiges of past make overs mesh with modern needs and infrastructure. Europe is skilled at keeping the old and merging the new but the Parador experience is unique. It’s not often that you’ll want to take a keen interest in the history of your hotel. Plan on reading the historical plaques in your hotel and be aware electrical outlets will be few in your room.
It’s just creative bar food plus ham
The trendiness of tapas falls away when you realize it’s true purpose in Spain. This is just fun bar food and it really makes sense. In Spain it’s common to socialize and eat late in your local bar. Tapa refers to the lid that used to cover your glass at a bar. It became traditional to put a small portion of food on top of the plate or perhaps patrons began to use their small plates of food to cover their glasses.
No one is really sure how it all began but it became a joyful part of Spain. Order a few with your drinks, find a few you really like and order more of them or just keep on sampling. Count your plates or toothpicks to pay your tab and move on to the next bar.
Some places get really creative but never forget that real purpose of tapas is to keep you in the bar drinking and enjoying the company of other people. The other ubiquitous element everywhere in Spain is Jamón. In a rare display of sticking to the rules, like the German Reinheitsgebot for beer, Spain is famously proud of it’s Iberico Ham. The quality and quantity of ham found in every corner of Spain makes it’s a luxury you can enjoy just about anytime.
The Pyrenees always the bridesmaid
The Alps are always the poster child for European wilderness and idyllic villages. The Alps photograph well and draw the wealth of northern Europe to play in both winter and summer. The Pyrenees lacks the central proximity to all the money and the granite peaks but it delivers on empty wilderness and curves curves curves.
The Alps overbearing pinnacles and village cuteness gives way to having to dodge tourist buses on hairpins and frustrating wads of traffic in the valleys. The Pyrenees serve up mile after mile of bends with less development and a whole lot less traffic. Many riders flat out like the Pyrenees better for sheer riding pleasure.
Aragón with Troy Corser
A track day in Spain is a bit different mainly because road racing is so popular in Spain. Also many Europeans come to Spain to train. This means the paddock is sometimes filled with race rigs to rival a Moto America weekend. The facility is professional and the circuit is massive. Aside from having the most annoying hot bit alarm of any MotoGP circuit, the track is very impressive. To prepare for it practice your body position going left at speed for long sweeping turns.
Practice your high speed braking smoothness and strength. Get some endurance training in because the speeds of this course will tax you physically.You will be joining a normal European track day but your sessions with your coaches will be separate from the rest of the riders.
Max 20 on course during our sessions including coaches. You’ll have plenty of room to pass and to make progress during the day. Troy Corser is on hand to teach some of the classroom theory sessions and will naturally be on course watching both students and coaches. You’ll be riding a new BMW S1000RR on Metzler K3 sport tires, expect to actually use 6th gear.
Barca! Barca! Barca!
The tour starts and ends in Barcelona. This is the capital of Catalunya. This region of Spain has it’s own language and independent culture. It’s certainly worth coming early, as Barcelona is a destination in it’s own right. Spain and the Catalan people are sometimes at odds, making support of the famous local football team Barca all the more important.
If you are done with cathedrals and architecture and want a real Barcelona experience, go to a game. Visitors are welcome to join the cheering…for Barca. Book your flights early to get the good deals and arrive in Barcelona a day or two early to get a great local experience.
To learn more and book, visit Leod Escapes Spanish Pyrenees & Aragón with Troy Corser tour.