A shambolic week with Sierra Cycling

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  • A shambolic week with Sierra Cycling
  • Guess that’s one company i’ll not use.


    Wow! That really was a terrible week you had.

    I presume you’ve already taken it up with Sierra Cycling; it’d be interesting to hear their side.


    That does sound shambolic, thank you for the heads up, I wouldn’t expect my cycling holiday to be like that so I will not consider them in the future.

    Hope you have given SC an opportunity to respond to your disappointment before you came on here and slate them… 😯


    Doesn’t really matter what SC say, MC & 8 others have clearly had a crap time. The damage is done.


    Im going at Christmas and cant’t wait.

    I’ll let you now how we get on.


    Sounds awful, I’d hate to have a holiday ruined like that. Hope you managed to get something out of it at least. Will keep them in mind to avoid in the future.


    Hope you have given SC an opportunity to respond to your disappointment before you came on here and slate them…

    You must be new here? 😉

    …but seriously, the damage appears to have been done in relation to MC’s holiday experience. Not the sort of thing that can be fixed retrospectively, short of some sort of financial recompense. Even then, their experience remains as written above.


    Hope you have given SC an opportunity to respond to your disappointment before you came on here and slate them…I presume you’ve already taken it up with Sierra Cycling; it’d be interesting to hear their side.

    It’s an honest review, most people would balance the mix of reviews and form their own opinion.

    Premier Icon vinnyeh

    Hope you have given SC an opportunity to respond to your disappointment before you came on here and slate them..

    Never sure what the protocol here is. It’s a holiday, and can’t be fixed under warranty- it’s what happens during the holiday that matters- a host that has their finger on the pulse and rectifies/manages problems and issues as they arise.


    Hope you have given SC an opportunity to respond to your disappointment before you came on here and slate them..

    If it was crap other people who might go may be interested to know, just as good holidays get reported without prior consultation, so should bad ones.

    1 Guide isn’t enough with a group of any size never mind 10. What if the guide had fallen off and been knocked unconscious. Had a similar experience in Greece where the advertised “Advanced Level” trip had managed to attract a woman who had never cycled before, she freaked out at the first offroad section, our sole guide sent her a different way and promptly set off down the trail, went over the bars injuring his arm. The woman wasn’t seen for the rest of the day as she got lost on the alternative route. By the second day our group of 6 was down to 2 of us and a guide, the rest of the week was great!


    Were Sierra the ones who used to advertise in mags with ads about how bad the competition are? Could be doing them a disservice of course.


    Sorry to hear that, MC. I’ve been with them before and had a great time; then (1999 or 2000 I think), there were at least 2 guides per group, and they were ace.

    Having said that, the whole set up was fairly laid back and chilled, so it’s not surprising that when things go wrong (van, ill guides), the impact is immediate and obvious to clients. Like others, will be interesting to read SC’s point of view.


    Hope you have given SC an opportunity to respond to your disappointment before you came on here and slate them . . .

    Here we go. 🙄

    Can’t say that was a ‘slating’ – seems like a balanced and reasonable review to me, and for that I thank you Mr M-C.

    Hope you have given SC an opportunity to respond to your disappointment before you came on here and slate them…

    Surely the owners could of offered some sort of compensation the OP would be happy with, or an explanation as to the sub standard level of service….and maybe then OP wouldnt of felt the need to come on here and explain

    Fair enough if the owner wasnt helping or offering a resolution then the OP has every right to come on here and tell all.

    Two sides to every story and all that… 😉

    Fair point though – the damage has been done and Mr MC obviously didnt have a good holiday.


    I used them 6 years ago and had a good time (though the day before we got there there was a break in to one of the houses and the guests bikes got stolen) so doesn’t make good reading

    Premier Icon leffeboy

    It would be great if someone from SC came on now to say that they would look in to what happened. That would give confidence that they cared

    What is more likely these days is that the thread gets pulled once they hear about it which is a pity as things do go wrong and what differentiates the really good organizations is how they handle it when things go wrong.


    To be fair, what i remember of Alan, he’ll post on here when he spots it


    Interesting, I spoke to Alan about a guiding job lately, looks like he should have employed me not the other guy 😉


    I wonder why you cant recommend the region as you are the only person Ive ever heard say that.
    In fact Im going because of the region and that my friends keep going back to train through the winter.

    Premier Icon chakaping

    I can’t recommend either Sierra Cycling or the region itself

    What area did they take you riding in? Did you get up into the Alpujarras around Bubion, Lanjaron, Orgiva way?

    It’s a few years since I went (with a different firm) and my riding has come on a lot since, but I still reckon some of the best trails I’ve ever ridden were there.

    Surely the owners could of offered some sort of compensation the OP would be happy with, or an explanation as to the sub standard level of service….and maybe then OP wouldnt of felt the need to come on here and explain

    But the damage was done. And also, a review is a review. Compensation shouldn’t make any difference to what the review of the holiday consists of.

    On the flip side, I had the opposite experience recently on a motorbike trail riding holiday. 3 days before we went someone posted up a review on about 5 different websites saying how crap the riding and service was, to the point where me and my mate debated driving strait past them to the Pyrenees. In the end, we gave it a chance and it was probably some of the best riding I’d done, certainly out stripping Wales.

    So one bad review doesn’t break a company, but it needs to be taken in context with all the glowing reviews.

    Premier Icon muddydwarf

    I went with them 8yrs agor on 2003 and had a good time.
    Mind you, it was my first (and only ’til next month) mtb holiday so i had nothing to compare it to. We had two guides at all times, apart from the first afternoon when Alan took the two of us out on a short local loop – we had landed that morning.
    As for the quality of the riding, it was a long time ago but i remember there wasn’t a huge amount of singletrack but i enjoyed it all the same.

    I am very surprised to hear about the use of illegal trails in the National Park though, if true (and i’ve no reason to dismiss it) then this is quite serious as i’m led to understand the Spanish Police make no differential between the holiday operator and their clients, all will be equally guilty and i believe you can even have your bikes confiscated! That could really be an expensive problem to solve.


    🙁 been twice 2009 and 2010 yes it is a little layed back so tiny things can mushroom.
    i have had very good times with them, yes the airport thing got us the first time round knew who to look for the 2nd time.
    we had very good guides of which none are nolonger working there, and only one at a time but always rode at the back telling us where to wait for everyone to catch up so cannot comment on the guides you had.
    the days where split around lunch sometimes riding the same routes which i like as i will go faster if i know where i am going
    would i go back yes i was thinking about next oct2012 for some winter sun.
    M-C hope you ended each day with ice cream on the beach or has that gone too 🙁

    (Mr MC posting)

    Posted on the basis many here recommend them, and Alan uses the forum to promote his business and has a right to reply.

    Managed to identify Alan lurking in the airport despite not wearing his SC baseball cap, and making no effort to approach what was obviously a bunch of cyclists looking for their host. If we hadn’t been his clients than a friendly intro might have promoted further business.

    Unpacking the bikes in what is effectively the rear yard of the house we stayed in, a woman walked in the front, through the house passing most of our group, to the rear. Stood watching me, unloaded a washing machine, then turned and walked out, not saying a word to any of us. Turns out this is Mary, Alan’s partner and our host. Putting aside personalities, an introduction would have been professional and common courtesy.

    Sunday our group of 9 headed out in one van with our single guide. We completed what was planned to fill the whole morning in an hour, so our guide Dave invited us to go ride the loop again, whilst he sat in a cafe. So no medical support, no guiding, no “here’s an emergency number” etc etc.

    For most of the week, our group of 9 had one guide. The other group of no more than 5 clients had 2 guides (Alan and Salvo).

    In the afternoon one of our group got lost. The guide was the last one to realise (we all know each other) and the last one to respond and try do something about it. Luckily one of our group who was a really strong rider and a repeat visitor followed the most likely “wrong” route (road descent), and did eventually find our missing rider. Not that the guide would have known, as no effort was made to ensure he had been found safe and well.

    Monday we were joined by a day-client on a rental bike. So now our group numbers 10. Still with one guide, who as he is ill is more accurately an uplift driver. We cram our bikes into the back of one van (MC’s new Fox forks getting trashed in the process),to discover the other van with half as many people (which left from the same place) is at the same site, so we could have more efficiently split the loads. The day’s riding is actually guided by our repeat visitor friends.

    Apparently the website advertises that they will look after you, including fixing punctures and mechanicals (which is not something I would ask for or expect). The day client suffered a puncture, and the “guide” was forced to borrow one of our pumps to fix it as neither he nor the van had any kit.

    The rest of the week followed in a similar fashion. A van broke down mid week, and our guide was ill. Neither of which should impact on me the paying client; Alan could hire another van, keep the one van in use doing multiple runs, or cram as many people in as possible and do as little as possible. He chose the latter option. At one point we had 10 people in a 9 seater minibus, so likely to be insurance issues there.

    One of the best days riding is El Chorro. Except most of it is in a national park where it is illegal to ride. Alan usually guides there on a Sunday when the rangers don’t work (we were caught and turfed out). Whatever the reason for banning cycling, be it environmental sensitivity or just a blanket policy, I am not impressed at a professional outfit using illegal trails. I also know my travel insurance covers mountain biking “on designated trails”. Whilst I haven’t tested this definition I am sure it would exclude trials where cycling is prohibited.

    The day guest described the set up as chaotic which is accurate if charitable. They have the feel of a new start up with teething troubles, not someone in their 20th year. Alan obviously has enough custom to keep in business, but in 14yrs of annual foreign riding trips this was the worst. Limited riding, poor or none-existent guiding, no-expense-spent bike transportation (the back of a van, old sheets and fingers crossed = the only time any of our bikes have ever been damaged in transit). Our repeat visitors had a far better experience last time with a different guide so much may be down to the quality of the staff. When the 2 groups merged we got to meet Salvo, the Spanish guide who’s total lack of English is offset by his enthusiasm, charm and attention and I am glad to hear Alan is looking to keep him on.

    We were a group of 9 of mixed abilities from nervous to former Commonwealth competitor and are happy to accommodate each other, which is just as well as with one guide there is no way SC could accomodate different needs. If you are going to push it and run such a big group with one guide then surely asking one of the group to play sweeper would have been sense (something we usually do on non-guided holidays anyway).

    This is only the second time we’ve had a guided/supported holiday so we’re not high maintenance molly-coddled types, but the difference between SC and Cycleactive (and Rich Barnard) couldn’t be more stark. Rich and Hassan in Morocco added to our experience and it’s only from riding with SC I’ve appreciated just how able they were.

    I expect happy clients to step to Alan’s defence, but I can’t recommend either Sierra Cycling or the region itself. Apparently Alan commented to one of our group as he left for the airport that we didnt seem happy, which seemed a little late to show an interest.

    (Mr MC posting)

    couple of points;

    I deliberately left posting any review for a few days to try be dispassionate, objective and accurate. Only reading positive reviews of anything doesn’t necessarily give an accurate picture.

    “Our” guides were Dave, Alan, Salvo and Ash. Ash literally joined SC mid-week (you may remember Alan advertising on here for a guide a few weeks ago) and seemed like a nice guy. One of our group quizzed him on his qualifications and when he discussed the MBLA he mentioned that he would never guide a group larger than 8…. Alan is the owner, Dave has been there this year, Ash as above and Salvo I understand was a new local recruit (he knew the trails but not the routes if that makes sense). Our repeat visitors had previously ridden with guide Johnny and raved about him but he has moved on. Worth bearing in mind as the old “good” guides other respondents used may have left. In the future Ash should be trained up, and Salvo (a lovely guy) have studied English. Or Alan may more evenly split groups/guides.

    I wouldnt recommend the area based purely on what we rode. Our rides were short (see original post for example) and in the same couple of areas so we re-rode sections and hills. There may well be far more out there but we didn’t see it.

    Our group of 9 are of all of a similar opinion to mine despite the vast spread in ability, and we have actually been a group of as as much as 15, taking up 2 chalets in Morzine. me n MC are off to India with mountainbikekerala in January, and should be having a week with bikeverbier in the summer so whilst most of our previous trips have been self-supported we are not averse to paying for guiding. Both these have come with rave reviews and I am looking forward to the trips.


    Had a good time with them back in the day (in my 20’s), remember the guide snapped his seat post but still managed the rest of the ride…bit chaotic but worked out ok, perhaps this is more spanish style. Kind of liked it back then.


    At one point we had 10 people in a 9 seater minibus, so likely to be insurance issues there.

    Actually not yikes. Given the choice between waiting 40 minutes for a minibus to go back for one person and bundling in the back, I’d jump on on. Live life on the edge me.


    TBH having read the review it kind of illustrates horses for courses, none of those occurances would have had me worried. I think I still would have had a brilliant time, but I can see why the OP is fed up.

    I went to spain with Switchbacks DH in march, and I am going back in nov, we had groups of 6/7 with a driver and guide, it was awesome. The guides were all excellent riders, very good at talking us through sections and overall excellent fun. We rode at el chorro, (at least I think that was the place) without any issue.


    I’ve been with them a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it, we always had 2 guides though for our 8 [ish] strong group.
    We had plenty of long days out and the trails were good, I wonder if the inexperience of the guide meant he was restricted to the shorter routes that he’d had time to memorise?

    Stuff like getting people lost, more than 6 guests to 1 guide, the guide having no kit and overloading the minibus are completely unnacceptable. I can’t understand why you didn’t say anything while you were out there ?

    TBH it should have been to have sorted it out with them face to face rather than washing dirty linen on here.

    Premier Icon Tracey

    Not been with them so cant comment, I can say that you will be blown away with the set up with Bike Verbier next year. When are you going?

    Premier Icon Andy

    I went a couple of years ago and had a great time. But I’d suggest that was largely down to the lead guide at the time, Jonny, who couldn’t do enough for you and took me on some great trails.

    There was also another guide there (Dave – a kiwi corporate drop out) who couldn’t be bothered. Funny guy, but just not motivated as a guide (which was why I was there dur!!).

    I liked the shambolic way of doing things, but as said, the superb guide made the holiday.

    Oh and didn’t exchange two words with Mary the whole week 🙄

    +1 for Bike Verbier. Try Switchbacks if you want to try another Spanish flavour.

    Everyone should note that at least one Chamonix based outfit guides on illegal trails during July and August. “Just say you’re English” doesn’t wash with me, and it certainly doesn’t wash with the Mrs who is a Scot.


    There are some great trails in this area it’s a matter of knowing where to look, clearly your guide didn’t know them. You would have thought though that the routes used every week by S.C. would be recorded on a GPS so that any new guides would know where to take clients.
    Good post Mr M.C you are paying guests and are not satified with the holiday and want a reply from S.C.
    As previously stated One guide to Nine clients is not only totally unacceptable It’s dangerous.

    b r

    Did you mention to Dave your concerns, while there – what did he say?

    Like after the first day or two?


    So you raised your concerns during the trip whilst they still had a chance to do something about it, or you sat their quietly waiting to get back on line and have a rant about it.

    I’m confused by your first 2 points. You found the guy in the airport – ok he didn’t make it easy but it doesn’t sound like it was a disaster. Then you let some “woman” walk past you in the yard without talking to her (perhaps because you thought she was just the cleaner) then complain she didn’t give you a cuddle or whatever your issue was.

    Whilst I can see some of the other issues could be frustrating, did they really ruin your trip? I mean someone needed a loan of a pump, I doubt I’d have remembered that at dinner that night never mind a week later. You’ve said yourself that many of the guiding issues (a sweeper, mixed abilities etc) you took care of yourselves – perhaps the guide didn’t want to upset your “status quo” by enforcing “school rules” on you.

    Perhaps not a trip you would recommend – but hardly holidays from hell!

    Premier Icon Northwind

    poly – Member

    I mean someone needed a loan of a pump, I doubt I’d have remembered that at dinner that night never mind a week later

    That’s the sort of thing that could be a bigger problem though- if the guides say they’ll take care of tools, punctures etc then people might just ride without them. Once they’ve offered something it’s important to follow through

    (we had a brilliant week with A Quick Release but another rider had a big mechanical that only got fixed because I’d ignored the instructions that we wouldn’t need tools and shouldn’t weigh ourselves down. But that was offset by all the really, really brilliant stuff, unlike in this case where it becomes a minor issue on top of other issues)

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