Musings of a Mountain Biker

Hi, Gilly here. Winter in the Algarve is my favourite time for mountain biking. I love the quiet routes, the sunny days and the great temperatures for exploring. I recently had the pleasure of a guided MTB ride with the local trail-building legend Jim Carroll and his team from Mountain Bike Adventure.

Jim, an MTB fanatic, is the go-to guy for a fantastic day out hitting dirt roads and single track you probably wouldn’t find yourself. Since 2005, he has spent countless days building a rapport with the local communities and landowners in and around Monchique and the western Algarve, cutting, building and maintaining his own trails and growing his reputation for quality guided rides. 

I hadn’t been on a guided ride like this before and I really appreciated the opportunity to explore the amazing and diverse countryside without having to plan my own route. In fact, it was a real treat, especially as discovering new tracks and trails is my favourite type of riding and most of the route was new to me. 

I was booked on a small-group ‘Summit to Sea’ ride, an off-road, predominantly downhill route from the summit of Fóia to the coast in Alvor. As always, it is great meeting and riding with other like-minded cyclists and, on this ride, I was with keen riders with a range of abilities from occasional mountain biking to skilled downhill. This type of ride is a social event, not a race. It offers something for all levels of rider, whether that’s switching off and letting someone else do all of the organising and route planning, exploring wonderful wilderness, or using the guide’s expert knowledge to improve riding skills; there’s lots to be gained. 

After a 9.30 am meet-up in Luz, we were transported up Serra de Monchique with our bikes safely loaded onto a purpose-built bike trailer. Here I should say I took my own bike, but if you don’t have a suitable bike, or want to book for family and friends as part of their holiday, then Jim has a new fleet of full suspension bikes that can be included in the package.

The drive up was on quiet back roads and included a stop-off at a pretty traditional village for a coffee and a chance for the group to get acquainted. At the top of Fóia, the highest mountain in the Algarve, we were treated to fantastic views and, whilst we were taking them in, our bikes were unloaded, ready to go. 

The ride itself was 40 km descending approximately 900 metres down to the coast (for fellow stats nerds, the total ascent was 330 m and total descent 1,200 m); most of the route was dirt roads and single tracks. With Jim’s expert knowledge, we were guided through forests and agricultural landscapes, over rocks and down a river valley. My senses were in overdrive, taking in the beautiful views and the smell of the eucalyptus. 

Our transport stayed with us, albeit taking a more conventional route down, and the driver was in regular radio contact should there have been any blowouts or wipeouts. Fortunately, there were no dramas and, after about two hours of riding, we met up on a double track north of the Autodrome, where we were treated to self-assembled sarnies and snacks to keep us going to the end of the ride.

On arriving at the coast, we cycled alongside the nature reserve, where we had great views of Fóia in the distance, giving us a chance to appreciate the variety of scenery and terrain that we had covered. From here, the bikes were loaded back onto the trailer and we arrived back in Luz mid-afternoon.

As you can probably sense, I thoroughly enjoyed my day and I would highly recommend a guided tour, whether that’s the summit to sea or one of the coastal routes, or a bespoke ride organised specifically for your group. Thanks, Jim; the route was epic and a great way to explore the Algarve.

Since setting up his MTB adventure business, Jim has also established a bike retail, repair and rental business called Bica Bikes. Details of all the ride options and services can be found on his websites. 

I hope this inspires you to get out and discover more riding in the Algarve. As always, have fun, stay safe and if you have something to share with the MTB community, please get in touch at


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