Discover the hidden beauty of the volcanic island of Tenerife while travelling on two wheels.
LA LAGUNA, TENERIFE — When holidaymakers first arrive on the island of Tenerife, they are often shocked by the motorways, hotel complexes, high rise apartment blocks and huge banana plantations behind walled compounds and covered with plastic sheeting.
Montaña de Arenas Negras
But what initially rekindles a scene from a post-modern movie is an island that will delight anyone prepared to leave the beaten track and explore.
The hidden Tenerife is far from just an overflowing holiday resort such as Playa de las Americas, Los Christianos or Puerto de la Cruz and is best explored on foot or by mountain bike.
A trip on two wheels will be rewarded with magnificent vistas of Tenerife’s volcanic and mountainous landscape.
Ralf Petrovskis, who lives on Tenerife, has set up a business catering to mountain bikers. One of the tours the German organises is a trip to the volcanic region of Arenas Negras in the island’s west.
Starting at the parking lot in the mountain village of San Jose, cyclists make the steep climb along an apparently never-ending path, through a pinecone forest before reaching soot black fields of volcanic slack, ash and lava stone.
The path is lined by the occasional verdant pine tree – a sign that nature is slowly conquering the way to the volcano’s summit.
The green set against black is a beautiful contrast that distracts cyclists from the gruelling climb.
“You have to overcome at least 500 metres uphill,” says Petrovskis without the slightest hint of effort in his voice.
Essentially, finishing the tour means beating your own inertia. Thankfully the temperature is not too warm and the air here at an altitude of 1,100 metres is refreshingly cool.
As the cyclists progress, the mountain bike’s chain moves silently over the rear wheel’s cogs at a constant, slow speed.
Then the well-proportioned silhouette of the Negra volcano is visible. For a short moment, the mountain can be seen in full glory before billowing grey clouds quickly hide it.
The next stage of the journey is over a gently rising path that offers a wonderful panoramic view in fine weather.
“You can even see as far as the neighbouring islands of La Gomera and La Palma,” says Petrovskis pointing to the blue-grey haze that hovers over the Atlantic Ocean.
The difficult part of the tour ends at Chinyero, the last active volcano on Tenerife. In November 1909, Chinyero spewed lava and ash for 10 days.
From Chinyero, cyclists can enjoy a trip downhill over stone and gravel paths in the knowledge that the bikes are equipped with disk brakes.
Pico del Teide on Tenerife
Other routes and challenges
Tenerife has other challenges to offer mountain bike and free ride fans such as the “single trail” over the Anaga mountain range in the northeast.
Cyclists travel mainly along old donkey paths that criss-cross the craggy landscape. The tours are challenging and take cyclists up steep paths with hairpin bends, rocky stairways, narrow clefts and recesses.
Many of Anaga’s valleys lead to the Atlantic coastline where fine lava sand beaches await tired cyclists.
The contrast between the black sand and the white sea spray is fascinating and a brisk dip in the waves is refreshing.
Adventurous teenage bikers looking for more action can try “Bike Park Tenerife” northwest of La Laguna.
The former Spanish triathlon champion, Zeno Zrenner Plaut, has designed several downhill courses of differing grades on the grounds of a finca.
A small truck takes bikers to the starting point where they can head off on either the blue, red or black category courses through forests, along narrow paths with integrated hazards, hairpin bends, chicanes and jump ramps.
The course is steep at times and in sections you come dangerously close to enormous cacti. Some of the trees that line the route have been padded and nets have been installed under some of the slopes. All bikers must wear helmets, knee protectors and gloves.
Although Plaut is often seen riding a mountain bike, he rarely takes to one of the black category courses.
“I’m 30 years old and I’d better not attempt the six-metre jump,” he grins.