Impact, bikes, yoga… in the following lines I share my point of view on the health of MV in the area, and I show you one of its «side effects» through the eyes of its protagonists: the guys from Surya Bikepacking and Sombra Cycles.
Over the four seasons of the creature’s life, one of the most interesting aspects I’ve found is the overall impact generated along the way. It’s true that the essence of this project isn’t to achieve a big explosion with quick effects. It would risk losing all the essence and either become an uncontrollable monster or fall into oblivion in just a few years. There are plenty of examples of it.
Instead, I’ve always believed in organic growth, based on the effect of real experience of travellers themselves. In a natural way, gradually permeating the area, at its own pace. As I always say, without knowing clearly where the ship is sailing, but knowing where I don’t want it to sail.
In this way, some villages have reopened the bar, others have offered new accommodation or adapted the existing ones to the new visitor profile. More and more establishments are interested in providing spare parts and being a small service point for cyclists, becoming self-managed MV-Points, a sign that every day we are more and more considered, something extremely positive.
There are also businesses that have found MV to be just one more reason not to close down in these difficult years. Of course all these is a huge honour, but I’ve to admit that it’s also something that makes me feel a bit dizzy at times.
But among all these cases, there is a special one, that moved me from the very first moment I heard about the genesis of the idea.
A family leaving everything in a big city to start a new era in Teruel, offering services that didn’t exist here until now, hats off! They’re not only three more inhabitants for Teruel, for me they are a symbol of future, of hope, reinforcing in me the idea that this is land of opportunities. They perfectly represent the counter-argument to the «It will never work here» that I’ve heard more than once about MontañasVacías.
Irra & Cris have moved to Teruel with their son Léo and their dogs Uma and Audrey to found Surya Bikepacking. Let them tell us about it!
– These days we read everywhere about chasing dreams, but in the end, not many people go for it. How has this process been?
Cris: For years it’d been clear to us that the lifestyle we were following didn’t make us happy. We wanted to empower our own skills and be part of something we believed in and were aligned with. That sounded idyllic, but it was far from reality. We had to make great sacrifices, leave family and friends behind, give up a comfortable life in material terms and, as is logical in any vital change, go through many obstacles and difficulties. A years-long process of doubts and uncertainties, we didn’t know how it was going to come true.
Then MontañasVacías arrived. And that saying that life doesn’t give you what you ask for, but it gives you what you need, became true for us more than ever. We were in love with Teruel, a place we returned again and again on our weekend breaks. We considered it a real cycling paradise, and we thought it was amazing that someone had created such a project there, with so many impacts, so many possibilities for the area, and such depth and substance in so many aspects (raising awareness about depopulation, highlighting issues such as environmental care and respect, or creating something that flows organically on its own). Something ignited inside us. No wonder that Surya is the Sanskrit word for Sun and MontañasVacías was that light that illuminated our path full of doubts.
– What is Surya Bikepacking and how did you come to this model?
Cris: Surya is a dream. It’s that place where, as a traveller, you’d love to find when you have a problem or a need of any kind (from renting adventure bikes, bikepacking bags or any kind of repair, to buying lyophilised food, water purification tablets for your first aid kit or having a shower). And of course, a nice chat about bikes, trips and everyday life with a hot coffee. It’s also an integral yoga and meditation centre. We are a co-working model, in which we have optimised the space so that both of us can offer and transmit what has marked us deeply: bikes, yoga, and meditation. We aspire to be that meeting point for every bike traveller, beyond the purely commercial relation (but not forgetting it, sure, otherwise the project couldn’t be possible, we’re not naive). Finding the necessary balance between economic sustainability and growing a community of people who share, have fun, and learn from each other.
As we said, a dream come true.
«In this industry where everything is about cutting-edge equipment, renewing bikes every year and products with expiration date, Surya totally breaks away from this idea. We know and believe that another model of consuming exists.«
-But Surya is also a workshop with a very different DNA, isn’t it?
Irra: That’s right. My philosophy about the workshop is: «everything that can be repaired, is repaired, rather than replacing the whole part». Everyone is attended to, giving full priority to the traveller, so that they can continue their journey as soon as possible. And if we can’t, we do our best to find a solution. For me, other shops are not competitors, they’re collaborators. We’ve helped travellers by referring them to other workshops where we knew they could help them, cooperation is key in our way of life.
I come from a DIY learning process, from years of repairing all kind of bikes with few resources, observing a lot, learning from great professionals and trying to improve every day. In this industry where everything is about cutting-edge equipment, renewing bikes every year and products with expiration date, Surya totally breaks away from this idea. We know and believe that another model of consuming exists and our workshop is the best example of this. Maintenance and upgrading of classic bicycles is one of our greatest satisfactions as a workshop. In addition, we offer custom builds for those who, like us, have always been looking for a special, unique and durable bike, something that big brands don’t offer. We believe that every cyclist has unique needs. It’s crucial for me to talk to the client to really understand their needs and intentions, so you know, give us a call or if you are in Teruel pop in for a coffee and I’m sure I can help you with that project or modification you have in mind no matter how crazy it is!
-Cris, despite what many people may think, I’ve got the feeling that yoga and bikepacking are two extremely compatible disciplines, aren’t they?
Cris: At first sight, it wouldn’t seem that both would have much to do with each other, but from our experience we know that they converge in essence, touching on very similar spaces: connection with ourselves, with an inner silence enabling that connection, self-knowledge, etc. Bikepacking goes to the essence of the journey: lightness and freedom. So does Yoga. A light and clear mind detaches us from our limits, that’s also freedom. I propose an integral yoga, with a physical part, through Hatha Yoga, moving to mental silence through Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga and Mindfulness techniques. If you’ve travelled by bike, you’ve probably experienced that feeling of «nobody thinking anything«, haven’t you? That’s one of the most significant connections between yoga and bikepacking, but not the only one.
-I’m sure you’ve got something in mind to bring the two disciplines together, can you give us a clue?
Cris: In our weekend rides with friends, we like to have a yoga session at the end of the day as a perfect way to finish, creating a wonderful energy. It’s a gift for me to be able to do so, as an offering to my friends. It’s always beautiful to see people connect with that natural state of mindfulness that we loose in our day-to-day lives and is essential for our health. As I say, for us, yoga is a way of building bridges, to oneself and to the group’s energy.
Also, in Surya, in addition to the regular classes, if any traveller or group wishes to receive a class after finishing a route, there are mats, zafus, meditation benches, etc. available for them. In fact, there have already been travellers who choose to end or begin their trip with a yoga session, and we are deeply honoured to do so.
«Bikepacking goes to the essence of the journey: lightness and freedom. So does Yoga.«
–When you told me about your idea, it was obvious to me that you would be a MV-Point in the city of Teruel, When you told me about your idea, it was immediately clear to me that you would be an MV-Point in the city of Teruel, especially for those things that I could no longer do, such as delivering gas canisters (impossible to find here so far) or hiding maps when I couldn’t personally deliver them. What I couldn’t imagine was that Surya would become so quickly the hub for all the bike-travellers visiting Teruel. Did you expect it to happen?
Cris: When you imagine your dream, you inevitably dream big. Mind is illusory and has its own games. But then, difficulties arose, and after these first few months in the shadows, the generated noise in social networks and mouth-to-mouth (both in Teruel and through Google reviews) began to produce positive results: a constant flow of riders and the arrival of our fleet of bicycles for rent.
We knew we were heading for something unique, exclusive and innovative, but even if you want to firmly believe it’s going to work, it was impossible to come close to what it’s happening! Without a doubt, the business aspect is important for us, but the real driving force, the real confidence, comes from all those warm words of gratitude from everyone coming to Surya.
–Irra, I can’t let this opportunity pass by without asking you about your impressive improvement in English… In just a few months you’ve managed to speak in a language that blocked you until quite recently… We want to know more about the Surya Method!! 😉
Irra: Hahaha!! Well, the Surya method consists of dealing every day with several foreign customers coming into the workshop or phoning to tell you about that annoying noise on their bike…There’s no other choice, pure survival! I didn’t speak any English a few months ago when we opened, but trying a bit every day, using a translation app and totally forgetting the embarrassment about my bad pronunciation or grammar, we finally understand each other. In the end, it’s just throwing yourself into it, watching some YouTube videos every night, and that’s it!
It is clear that Surya is a soulful project. So do the bikes they’ve chosen for renting. Pablo Hervás, founder of the B BLOQUE brand, is one of the most prestigious and talented frame builders in this country. With MontañasVacías in mind and in collaboration with Surya Bikepacking, he has developed a new product line: Sombra Cycles.
Sombra Cervus, his first model, represents the spirit of MontañasVacias, a frame and fork set designed to move on these rough terrains. Pablo tells us about the birth of Sombra Cycles and the design process of the Sombra Cervus:
–How was Sombra Cycles born?
Pablo: When Surya Bikepacking proposed the challenge of designing and managing the manufacture of a specific frame for their project, I didn’t hesitate to get involved. I couldn’t say no. I was so excited about Irra and Cris’ project… I wanted to be there from the beginning, so I had no doubts about getting fully involved in something I believed in.
I couldn’t use the brand B BLOQUE, as that’s the custom frames and geometries part of my business, so I decided to create Sombra Cycles, a project in which I could offer models in defined sizes at a lower cost.
–How was the design process?
Pablo: We haven’t invented anything new, we’ve used our knowledge of geometries, pipe selection and of course our travel experience to develop a comfortable and versatile model for fully loaded riding in mountainous terrain. We’ve used a selection of Reynolds 631 and 853 tubing giving stiffness, stability and lightness to the frame, compared to other steel frames on the market.
So, what qualities should a frame have to be suitable for such a project?
Pablo: The Sombra Cervus was born out of the need to have a rigid MTB model, ready to carry both front and rear loads, prioritising position, manoeuvrability and style. The upright hand position prevents the full weight of the body from falling on them, reducing pressure and fatigue on long days riding, the main purpose of these bikes.
In MontañasVacías we can find doubletracks and singletracks sometimes with loose rocks, smooth and not so smooth groads, and also some asphaltso following the «slow cycling» philosophy, we opted for developing a frame and fork set that could absorb terrain imperfections, with great load capacity and a very comfortable position, but without affecting higher speed riding. A long wheelbase for stability and comfort. Good tyre clearance for wider tyres if necessary, but without compromising on road sections.
We haven’t forgotten details we think are important, like access for dropper seatpost for extra security downhill, dynamo cable access on the fork or the possibility of mounting a suspension fork up to 120 mm.
As they were originally intended to be rented, we had to make a frame that could be used by a wide range of riders, from beginners to roadies coming from carbon bikes, used to high speed riding. It’s been an interesting challenge, but feedback from all those who already rode them shows that we’ve got it right.
Apart from renting from Surya, will these bikes be available for sale?
Pablo: Surya Bikepacking is our first official dealer, where you can rent and buy Sombra Cycles frames and products. Apart from it we are preparing a website where you can buy directly the frameset, consisting of frame+fork+through axle+post clamp, as well as other bikepacking and adventure products.
We don’t want to stay with just one frame model, so we are already working on a «gravel adventure» model. If all goes as planned, it will be ready by summer 2023. In any case, you can contact us on our instagram to solve any doubts or if you want to order one of our Cervus frames, until the web is up and running. Sombra Cycles is an honest project with an organic growth, no big companies or investors behind it, everything is handmade, with love and from here.
You can see a complete gallery here:
A few weeks after its opening in Teruel and once the dust settled, Cris & Irra gifted us with a beautiful weekend of bikes+yoga as a way of inauguration with a lot of friends of this project…
The venue was Orihuela del Tremedal. May there be many more like this! Thank you Irra and Cris for counting on me for such a special time!
Whether you live in the area or if you’re riding around, you should go to meet them and have a coffee, you’ll love them, believe me!
You can follow them on @suryabikepacking, take a look at SuryaBikepacking.com, or visit them at Avenida de Sagunto, 55, in Teruel.
Also, here is the Sombra Cycles website, and their Instagram account: @sombra_cycles.