• Team Escapar

Guide to the best gravel riding in the Valencia & Alicante region

The Community of Valencia is the second most mountainous region in Spain (after Asturias) and is a year-round mecca for cyclists. The gravel riding starts at km zero in Ontinyent with a multitude of options in every direction. From Casa Sanz, there are trails less than 1km away. To the north, running west to east, lies the Serra Gross mountain range, with the Serra Enguera to the north of that, with Tuscan style valleys and ancient towns in-between. To the south and west lies the Serra Ontinyent and Serra Agullent, which then rises to the Serra Mariola National Park. To the east lies Ombria de Benicadell, the Rotogola valley and the Costera plains. To the west lies the Serra de Biar, La Solana and the Fontanars plateau. In every direction, there are amazing gravel options. spectacular climbs, miradors and an unmatched variety of gravel riding. In this post, we'll cover what kind of bike is best for the local gravel, why the area is a gravel and mountain bike nirvana and we'll highlight some of our favourite routes. We have lots of routes that all start and finish at our base, Casa Sanz, in Ontinyent.

What kind of gravel bike, wheel size and tire size is best?

We use several bikes that fall under different ends of the gravel spectrum. Most gravel and gentle trails - Whyte Saxon Cross or 47c gravel bike Originally launched as a cyclo-cross bike with mountain-bike geometry, it comes with a slack fork angle, relatively low bottom bracket, longer top tube and short stem which make for a bike that broke the 3-Peaks Challenge downhill record. There's room for 40-42c tyres and 47c or more with 650b wheels. Something like this will cover a good deal of terrain in the region and copes well on tarmac too.

Best for broken back roads. Kona Roadhouse or small tyre gravel or cyclocross bike

A super comfortable 853 steel framed bike, that came equipped with 32c gravel tyres and sports a relaxed geometry for a road bike. If the route was long and flat and on mixed terrain and very gentle gravel, we might consider using this bike; but for most of the gravel rides we do, it would be out of its depth and it doesn't lend itself to exploring unknown trails in the mountains.

Our favourite option - lightweight carbon hardtail 29er Currently our weapon of choice. Some gravel bikes can quickly get of shape on the downhill sections and we're much happier running a lightweight XC mountain bike with fast-rolling tyres. If we're going long or were planning a bike packing trip, we'd fit inner bar-ends to replicate riding on the hoods to get more aero and give us more hand positions. As for front suspension, anything more than 100mm isn't necessary.

Other Options We regularly ride with others using e-bikes of the hardtail front suspension variety, full-suspension short travel e-bikes, 27.5 hardtails with 130mm of front suspension, e-gravel bikes like the Orbea Terra. Ride what you bring! Our recommendation for gravel bikes in the Valencia region A gravel bike with at least 47c tyres or hard a tail 29er with 100mm of front suspension or rigid forks. The gravel bike will be a little quicker on the road and flatter sections, the hardtail quicker downhill and able to ride more technical terrain. The bigger the tyre, the better, as it will mean more grip and comfort. The flat terrain speed difference of drop bars is mostly negated when there's mountains involved.

What makes a great gravel riding location? Why Ontinyent is brilliant Many visitors to the region know Denia and Calpe as it's popular for road riding, but for the best gravel and mountain biking, you need to head inland as there's nowhere near the number of routes and variety near the coast and you'll end up racking up many miles on the tarmac just to get to the good stuff. There are some routes around the Jalon area, but again, it is much more limited in variety and there's a fair amount of rocky and steep stuff to contend with.

Ontinyent lies in the heart of the Vall d'Alibaida, the comarca (like a borough) that sits on the Valencia and Alicante border, one hour from Alicante and Valencia airports. It's a small town with a population of 35,000, but considerably larger than most of the towns and villages inland of the coast. There have been people living in this green and fertile area, which is also known as the Tuscany of Valencia, for thousands of years dating back to the Neolithic period (10,000 to 3000 BC). There are ancient cave dwellings and excavation settlements dating back to 1900 BC on the Barranc de Tarongers between Ontinyent and Bocairent. Why the brief history lesson? Our local ancestors and subsequent generations gifted us goat trails, walking trails, horse and cart trails by the hundreds. There are literally thousands of miles of gravel trails in the area, passing through mountains and valleys in every direction. Today, many of the larger gravel trails are maintained as fire roads and fire breaks, to prevent forest fires. That means we get groomed gravel trails in addition to the natural terrain and the more rugged routes Ontinyent and Fontanars are also known as the Tuscany of Valencia. We are surrounded by rolling green hills, vineyards, almond, persimmon, olive and agrarian farming with dirt tracks linking everything together.

Trails of Baranc Tarongers between Ontinyent and Bocairent
Baranc Tarongers between Ontinyent and Bocairent
Gravel climb above Casa Sanz Ontinyent
Above Casa Sanz

Great Gravel Rides In the hills around Ontinyent There are flat and rolling routes, multiple easier climbs and several really challenging climbs to suit all abilities. All starting in Ontinyent, heading in every direction on the map. We're still finding new ones all of the time. Where else has a local climb called the Turmalet?!