WITH its diverse environment, the Sierra Nevada is the perfect destination for cycle tourism. Formed of ancient glacial valleys and terraces, it has a vast network of interconnecting tracks, originally intended for mules but now perfect for cyclists on day rides or endurance trails.
This beautiful area attracted Michael Saunders of Switchbacks to create his company back in 2001.Previously a history teacher, he was inspired to move and start his business without ever having visited Spain before.
At that time, he explains, there “wasn’t any mountain biking in the Sierra Nevada”. His company launched with a 100km route from Pico de Veleta to Castell del Ferro that could be done all in a single day. This was the longest descent in Europe, involved a beach visit, and remains one of the company’s most popular routes today.
Switchbacks quickly became successful. Micheal initially ran the company while living in a tent above the village of Pitres, using a Nokia phone. He says: “There was biblical rain that winter, but it didn’t stop me growing my business.”
Switchbacks worked with the ‘Medio Ambiente’ to clarify what could legally be ridden in the Sierra Nevada Natural Park. Michael established that the altitude of 1,800m is the limit for riding on single track – above is illegal.
Previously, the authorities considered the bicycle to be “a vehicle” – just like a car or lorry. He lobbied to have bikes recognised differently and persuaded the local town halls to support his company, as cyclists bring economic benefits […]