Words and photos by Aaron Zwaal
When you think of BMX and Spain, almost everyone instantly thinks of Barcelona – aka BMX Mecca. I’ve been guilty of taking the easy way and going straight to Barcelona but Spain has so much more to offer.
When local Dutch rider and friend Janos Baars went to Bilbao to study on the Erasmus program for 5 months and said he had a place to crash and plane tickets were cheap, I did not hesitate! I quickly booked a flight for a week of BMX in the north of Spain.
The location is awesome, with the sea close but the mountains too, you know there are some good spots and vibes around! The only downside to the area is that it can be quite rainy but thankfully when you have warm temperatures it’ll be dry really quickly and apparently during the visit we also had one of the first very good weeks of weather.
Upon arrival I met the housemates of Janos, one girl from Spain, one from France and one guy from South Korea, all Erasmus students and all pretty chill which is pretty nice when you are crashing at the place for a week with your bike and stuff. Off to a good start!
On the first day we linked up with some skaters Janos knew who had a Renault Clio, and after some Tetris and both wheels out, 4 boards, 2 bikes and 5 people with bags were fitted in the car and went off to Mungia, a village closeby which had quite a new skatepark. With all the bits and bobs you need to have a good day of cruising at the park, not too busy with skaters and scooters, just perfect and really good in the afternoon. Bart van de Kamp, also another rider from the Netherlands who just happened to be close during his surfing roadtrip with his van and girlfriend turned up for an evening session and ended the day with a curry from the van which was awesome!
On the second day we walked some hills, cruised around a bit, went into some water reservoir until we couldn’t see daylight anymore, shoes starting to get wet and no spots, but all for a good cause.
Janos knew some amazing playground with transitions though so we went with that option and checked the playground out. The floor was made of that soft kind of rubber you expect in playgrounds but all the transitions needed to get some actions and it was good but knew I had to get back in the evening after the sun was down. With a trip like this and mostly two man missions it’s easy to leave the heavy bags at home and if you see something you want to shoot you can come back another day.
"With everyone kind of sleepy, we needed a wake up call – time to hillbomb!"
On the third day we set off with the Korean housemate and an English skater to Algorta skatepark, an iconic park that has an amazing view. The park was quite crowded so after some chilling and some beers we went to take the scenic road along the cliffs, a lot of ups and downs literally but such a good view and a good adrenaline rush on the way down!
While the sun was already setting we opted for the beach where Janos knew a couple of friends were chilling and it was so nice and hazy. We decided to make a campfire until the last metro and had to hurry up quite a bit because of all the hills but it worked out in the end!
One morning we took a metro up the hills. The best advantage of a high starting point is that the only way is down! We cruised into the city a bit, again after some touristic shots on film and left a lot of rubber on the roads... The soles of our shoes were getting pummelled from braking on these hills! After some random spots and stairs it was off to the famous quarter/waves/hips, which are such a sick playground! It wasn’t Janos' first time there, he was able to blast some nice toboggans on it. Housemate Jontxu was also back in business and we went off to the more harbour side of town where Janos knew some scenic anchors that scared him a bit to blast but worked out in the end, one and done as well!
We ate supermarket baguettes for dinner and watched the sun set over a beach, where Janos managed to sneak in a post-dinner suicide no hander.
Around midnight we had the bright idea to check out one of the higher mountains and see the city view and shoot a star trail. In the end it was around a 2 hour trip uphill with loads of steep stairs and hills... But finally at the top you almost instantly forget about that stuff and just enjoy the amazing view with such an accomplished feeling. I always recommend doing this kind of stuff!
With the weather still quite warm and us being in the middle of nowhere shooting a photo of an hour everyone was dozing off and sleeping under the stars, which was such a nice experience as well.
With everyone kind of sleepy, we needed a wake up call – time to hillbomb!
Halfway the police stopped us which was kind of sketchy because of no brakes and lights, but apparently there were some robberies close by and they just wanted to see what I had in my bag and needed to see some photos.
Two days later Janos and I were wondering what would be productive to do and started searching up spots online and saw a bank spot in a video, thankfully after some CSI stuff and seeing a name of a building in the background it was easily found and once again at a metro station which made for an amazing warm up spot with elderly people walking by and exercising at the same place.
Bilbao is filled with some kind of glass roll-ins that mark where the entrance for the metro is. Janos took the other option and went down it the proper way with people going from A-B under him.
During sunset we knew we wanted to make it productive and planned to go to the playground. As it was already dark we thankfully had everything for ourselves and could set up easily and made it productive once again during a two man mission!
After some breakfast it was already the last day in paradise. First spot was a kind of tight bank with 2 trees on it which makes it even more sketchy, but Janos made a downwhip work on it and off we went.
We met up with Bart again, who still hadn’t gone far with his van and had an early finish surfing and wanted to explore Bilbao a bit more. After a skatepark session we were off to some industry terrain next to a river, which was nice and rough but found some wallrides and polejams and ended the day at once again a scenic spot near the river, what a trip it was!
If you ever have the chance to go to Bilbao, I really recommend it. There are loads of spots, it seems so much safer than Barcelona – but just bring two pairs of shoes (or a brake) because you probably need it!