Banish the winter blues for under £250 and go off-road
The sun is high in the sky. There’s not a cloud in sight. It’s 20 degrees C, and the warmth seeping through my lightweight enduro kit is erasing the memory of a cold and grey English January.
I may have got up early and spent £50 for a budget SleazyJet flight to Malaga but I feel like I’ve won the lottery. After winding my way up another dirt trail to the top of yet another Spanish peak, I pause for a breather and survey our playground. It’s stunning.
With the sea and Gibraltar a distant backdrop to the south and the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada to the North, it’s a breathtaking vista. I’ve ridden in Southern Spain countless times, but never on an off-road ride and I feel like I’m rediscovering the country with this different perspective.
We head deeper into the hills, on ever more secluded, rocky and technical tracks, using routes only frequented by adventurous off-roaders. I still can’t believe it’s early January.
Around every corner is another spectacular view. From dusty, wide-open fire tracks, to gnarly rocky climbs, tight single-rut tracks and river crossings, it’s an inexhaustibly diverse landscape. And throughout the day you have the benefit of a highly-skilled instructor on hand, leading the way and offering riding advice as the terrain changes.
What is Offroad Orange?
Offroad Orange, the British-company behind this escapism, are based just 20 minutes outside Malaga and offer a range of KTM off-road experiences, all tailored to the needs of each individual or group. You can fly in for a single day (like I did) or spend up to four days with a group of mates or strangers exploring endless trails.
You don’t need any kit, either. All you have to do is arrange your flight to Malaga and rock up on the morning of your ride. You’ll then be provided with a 2019 KTM 250 EXC-F or 350 EXC-F and all the riding kit you need, from boots and socks to helmets, goggles, body armour, enduro kit and all in tip-top condition, clean and ready to go. That means you don’t need to lug a kitbag to Malaga, or bring home a bag of smelly washing when you return. It’s all included.
All of Offroad Orange’s Spanish-based team are Brits so you don’t need to worry about language barriers or local knowledge, either. You don’t need to know the area, worry about local laws or even have to look at a GPS. Just follow the man in front and it’s all good.
On arrival, the team couldn’t have been more welcoming: after kitting-up in the clean and pleasant changing rooms, we had a short safety briefing and were on the bikes in minutes, threading our way through narrow Spanish streets and out onto the first trail just a few miles from base.
You won’t get left behind either. The OO team operate a system with a lead instructor and a ‘tail gunner’ at the rear who are in constant radio communication with one another. As a result you feel safe and reassured at all times, relaxed and able to focus on simply enjoying your ride secure in the knowledge that you’re in the hands of professionals.
They really do tailor the routes to the riders, too. The first 30 minutes of relatively gentle riding allows the instructors to assess the riders’ skills and they can then ensure that everyone is kept close to their comfort zone throughout the ride. It’s not a race or a talent show, it’s a guided ride aimed at maximum enjoyment. And at no point will you be asked to do anything you don’t want to.
As a competent but improving off-road rider I could feel my skills and confidence growing throughout the day. The instructors are always there to offer advice if needed, which means that if you’re prepared to push yourself there’s ample opportunity to tackle more challenging routes and obstacles; all with guidance and support.
The pace was perfect; fast enough to keep it interesting, without ever feeling that the group was moving quicker than I wanted it to. By the end of the day we’d covered nearly 60 miles off-road, and I could feel the pleasing muscular burn of exertion.
Overall, it’s so simple, easy and affordable I wondered why more of us don’t take advantage when the UK is shivering beneath a blanket of frost. There’s no better way to banish the winter blues and burn off some Christmas excess.
How to get off-road with KTM's Offroad Orange
If you don’t mind an early start, you can do a single-day riding trip and all your travelling in just one day. Grab an early morning flight to Malaga with a pre-booked hire car waiting and you can be at the Offroad Orange HQ in time for breakfast and the morning briefing; it’s just 20 minutes from Malaga.
Arrive with nothing more than the clothes you wore on the plane, you can then get kitted out with everything you need and get the flight out of your system with a full day’s riding.
Once back at HQ, simply indulge in a nice hot shower, return all the centre’s kit and whizz back to Malaga for your flight home. Of course, most people take it at a more relaxed pace, flying out the day before their ride to have a night sampling the culture in Malaga before exploring on two wheels the next day.