After an incredible season Manon Carpenter took some time out on the Spanish sunshine to ride in Malaga. The top three ladies in the World Cup were the only ones to break into the 1000 points plus club so she definitely deserved a break. In the first of a new series of rider diaries we get an insight into what Manon got up to on a recent trip to Malaga.

Impromptu trip to Sunshine: Photo – Jacob Gibbins

Where to start? Maybe that with it being off season at the moment I’ve pretty much been ‘Living the Dream’. I don’t use those words often because although training full time and racing around the world is amazing, it is still work and you don’t get a lot of time to do just what you want to do… It’s not a holiday. However the past few weeks have been incredible. Being able to do whatever I want, when I want and ride bikes purely for the fun of it has made me realise how lucky I am. And I’ve definitely been making the most of the free time before training kicks in properly again… Which it will do very soon!

So my weekend started with a friend’s 21st in Cardiff followed by Bristol pumptrack challenge and the Wideopen end of season party (other magazines also available) where too much alcohol is now an annual tradition. Whilst recovering in Bristol the next day Jacob Gibbins was packing to go to Malaga to stay with Roost DH for the week and ride bikes, and I couldn’t help but feel jealous. On comparing weather forecasts between a wet and windy Wales and 26 degrees and sun in Spain it was a no brainer… I wanted to go too!!

The sun was out in Bristol so I wasn’t in much of a rush to get home, spending the afternoon at a skatepark being taught how to skateboard by Jess Greaves and watching Phil Atwill razz around on his hard tail. Getting home after 8 and spending a little while trying to figure out what bikes to take and when to go I had my flights booked by 10; BMX, hard tail and bags packed by 12 and my alarm set for three hours time… 6 o’clock the next morning and I was on a plane out of there!

After leaving a black and rainy Bristol behind, Malaga was looking ideal already.

By lunchtime we were at the dirt jumps and Day 1 had me grinning already. After spending a month in Malaga at the end of the season last year I had a good idea what was around so Ben from Roost dropped Al Bond, Jacob and me off and riding in the sun commenced.

Starting the trip off with trails in the sun followed by a swim in the sea.

Photo – Jacob Gibbins

Al Bond mad keen to get to the beach!

Last year I had hooked up with Salva from The Bike Shuttle and Syrup media who showed me around and took us to all the riding spots so it was good meet up and go riding again one year on. There’s a new concrete skatepark in Malaga that I’ve wanted to ride for ages so on Day 2 that’s where we headed. It was designed by Ruben Alcantara so as you can imagine its got a lot of cool features and is the nicest concrete bowl I’ve ridden. Getting to watch him ride it was pretty awesome! So many lines you have to memorise them before you drop in or you’ll get lost.

It was cool to have Ruben showing me where to go in the park, and it definitely made my Dad very jealous haha

Meeting Ruben!

Photo –  Salva @SyrupMedia

After a good few hours riding I still wasn’t done but my arms and legs were and food was calling. Salva took us on a tour of Malaga on the bikes, via some really good food as usual, and we went to the Port and along the beach front. I love having a local guide, they know all the best spots!

Touristing round Malaga with Salva

Wednesday was a relaxed day which I welcomed after the weekend. Everyone else who was staying at Roost were riding Downhill so while they were out I stocked up on fruit from the supermarket and headed down to the beach. I was mainly surrounded by retired British ex-pats but it was good to chill out with a book and feel the sun for the first time in a while.


Later that afternoon Salva and I headed back to the skatepark for round 2. All of the locals were lovely and I was happy to find I could still remember how to speak Spanish! There were people from all over the place at the skatepark; some guys from Bristol on a weeks holiday, an Australian couple traveling round Europe for 6 months and a lady from Oregon who’d lived in Spain for 6 years and was rad on a skateboard. After trying boarding the weekend before I had huge respect for her and all the locals who flew around the park on four wheels… Definitely a lot harder than it looks!

 Can’t beat the sun. Photo – Salva @SyrupMedia

By day 4 I was feeling pretty confident in the skatepark, I knew a lot of the lines and didn’t have to think so hard before dropping in. I went with Al Bond, Mark Scott and Jacob who wanted to film a bit of the park for the Wideopen video. It was funny having me knowing where I was going in the park after having ridden there for a few days and the boys who hadn’t ridden it before struggling to get to grips with it.

Looking for lines with Al Bond.

Photo – Jacob Gibbins

Photo –  Jacob Gibbins

That afternoon we went to El Chorro, a place that’s good for xc or DH bikes but probably not for a hardtail with dirt jump tyres on! I definitely hadn’t come prepared for mountain riding with the wrong equipment and less than ideal kit but I’d heard about the lake jump there and wanted a go so I went along for the fun…in full on freeride mode for the day!

This is what happens when Jacob is in charge of the camera…

Messing about on the HT.

The trail we rode was pretty smooth and really dry which was a laugh with my slicks and flat pedals, as soon as I touched the brakes I was sliding! As the sun was going down we headed over to the lake jump. Having seen a photo of Tom Lloyd, one of the guides at Roost, mid jump I thought it couldn’t be that bad until I stood on the top… Oh my word it looked high! It took a long time for any of us to jump and even after Al had stepped up I took even longer again. Mark and I were stood weak at the top but Al reckoned the water wasn’t that cold and even though my legs were jelly I really wanted a go… Launching off the edge you sure had a lot of time to contemplate how far you were falling before you hit the water. As soon as I landed and everything was intact it felt amazing and I wanted another go. If anything to tease Mark who was still bricking it up top haha. The result was an awesome photo from Jacob and Mark going home dry!

Photo – Jacob Gibbins

Day 5 was a mega day. Starting off chilled with one last trip to the beach and haggling with the market traders in Malaga, Salva then picked me up and we headed off towards Marbella to ride some of the nicest dirt jumps I’ve ridden. When we reached the spot it was pretty windy although most of the jumps were in the trees. The spot was immaculate and before anyone rode the whole group watered and swept the jumps so they were perfect. I’d seen a video of Gabi, who had made the trails that year, riding the dirt jumps but hadn’t realised how steep they were going to be! The lines started off with a few mellow hips before dropping down into a huge bowl and throwing you up into the air over the first of the tall doubles. I hadn’t ridden anything that steep, tall or fast for a while so it took some adjusting! Once I’d figured the jumps out however, thanks to plenty of encouragement from the locals, I loved them. So much air time! Definitely need to go back next year.

Gabi and one of the other locals.

Photo – Salva @SyrupMedia

Having lost my knee pads at the start of the week I was offered some for my first attempts… I was the first girl they’d had at the trails and I think Gabi was a bit concerned haha.

Photo – Salva @SyrupMedia

Once it was too dark to ride we headed back via the GoKart track where Salva dropped me off . I think GoKarts should be a compulsory part of anyone’s trip to Malaga, the outdoor track is so much fun. There was plenty of carnage as usual especially with Wideopen’s newest team member Joe Parfitt spinning out everywhere on his first experience of karting! Then all that was left to do was head to Fuengirola for tapas and beers and the trip was done. Ending with the knowledge that I definitely speak better Spanish when I’ve had a few cervezas! Or so I think…

Thank you to everyone who made the trip so much fun 🙂 I’ll be back!

I’ll finish with one of the amazing Spanish sunrises, definitely worth getting up for.

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