The Spanish Biker’s HISS

The aim of the HISS rallies is for Adventure Bike Riders (ABRs) to explore and ride routes and trails in some of Spain’s most beautiful and unspoiled areas, while at the same time enjoying an informal and friendly atmosphere in hospitable, ‘bike friendly’ locations. A simple set of objectives one may imagine, but experience of the first HISS, in May 2012, revealed that much of the work involved unnecessary administration and that participants needed clear guidelines, e.g. the ‘what’s and the wherefore’s’, to begin with before getting down to the fun. The result is what may appear some rather formal notes and protocols, but this is all about the admin side. The real business of the HISS rallies is to give ABR’s all the details they need to spend a week’s valuable time having the maximum amount of biking experience with the minimum amount of hassle – not forgetting that it’s supposed to be an Adventure!

High Intensity Sojourns in Spain

How the HISS works:

  • HISS Guidebook: this is professionally printed and bound and includes details of all the road routes and trails including Satnav co-ords* of the beginning and end of trails as well as important way marks. The trails are described in detail, i.e. how to identify the right trail and have maps of individual routes plus an overview of the whole HISS rally trails. The guidebook does not include a separate ‘official’ map, should one exist, but if these are available they can be ordered in advance at cost price for collection at the briefing. (*NB: Satnav routes of the trails, e.g. ‘.gpx’ files, will not be distributed for the HISS  events)
  • Itineraries and routes: HISS Rally trails are chosen to be accessible to all levels of trail rider and bikes, this is not to say that some won’t have their difficult bits, which are identified as such in the guides. The trails are normally between ten and twenty-five kilometres in length and are arranged in four ‘itineraries’ of about ten trails each, thus there are usually between 500 – 600 kms of trail in all. All HISS locations are selected for their variety of landscape and habitat within a reasonable radius of the base camp and the itineraries are planned to reflect these.the itineraries are not intended to be followed slavishly, however, rather they form ‘themes’ of landscapes and trail types; deep forests, high plateaus and mountaintops, steep ascents between valley systems or round trips. Both trails and itineraries intersect at nodal points so riders can plan their own routes to suit themselves and readily change them along the way depending on the weather and how the day’s riding is going or simply for a change of scene. The itineraries also intersect with splendid roads, so it is possible, even desirable, to mix and match riding styles. This is especially useful in Spain’s somewhat capricious climate – why not cool off during the hot midday with some high-speed road riding! – or ride in the dense forest during the cool mornings and take to the open mountain uplands during the torrid afternoons.
  •  Planning: individual trails are identified by a number reflecting its itinerary and nominal ‘order’ within this; A2, B7, C11, etc., so by planning a day’s ride using the Monster Map – and recommendations from other riders as the HISS goes on! – riders can note their routes in shorthand and quickly find the relevant page in the guide when it comes to finding and riding individual trail. Note that the summary details of each trail include a list of intersecting or nearby trails so it is easy to re-jig the routes ‘on the hoof’, so to speak.
  • HISS Monster Map and Briefing: the large map is located at the rally base and serves two purposes: for groups of riders to orientate themselves with where the trails and routes are located so as to plan individual itineraries, and equally importantly for groups to show where and when they are starting their day’s riding. This is to help ensure that groups don’t overlap and risk being prosecuted for excess numbers – see below. The Monster map and guidebooks distributed at the Briefing held at 09.00 on the first riding day of the Rally, i.e. the day after arrival, normally a Tuesday.
  • Riding: it is the riders’ responsibility to comply with any local regulations as well as to take on board local conditions with regard to safety. The rules and regulations are outlined in the HISS Guidebook and the routes show prohibited trails, protected areas, e.g. nature reserves, etc.  Note that each region in Spain has its own set of regulations as well as the general restrictions such as speed limits, documentation, roadworthiness, etc.
  • Groups: forming groups is entirely up to the HISS participants, many of whom arrive in groups but it is usual for groups to chop and change constantly during the Rally – no pack drill or ‘Handbags at Dawn’ here! Riders often find their ‘soulmates’ by examining each other bikes – and in the bar of course!The most important consideration is maximum number of riders in any one group, which varies considerably, but in general safety and common sense indicate that riders should form groups of 4 – 6.
  • Numbers: this is strictly limited to 36 riders, plus associated ‘camp followers’, i.e sweethearts, offspring, etc. who aren’t riding or have their own bikes. There are three reasons for this: i) availability of space at the camp sites, ii) avoiding the possibilty of ‘saturating’ the trails, expecially near the base camp, and iii) to make the HISS events a genuinely intimate and ‘special’ event for everyone who participates – you’re riding a long way to be at the HISS so it’s got to be good!
  • Safety: a change from last year’s policy is that I’m not organizing any form of rescue service. From experience I felt that doing so encouraged a false sense of security that, in the event, couldn’t be backed up with the arrangements we were able to make. So-called ‘professional’ rescue costs in the region of €300 per day for stand-by plus call out expenses depending on where the rescue had to take place. So I stress that it is the rider’s responsibility for themselves – and their comrades I hope – to ride safe and be equipped to keep going on the trails.
  • Accommodation: this is completely independent of the HISS, although sometimes we are able to negotiate a special price. I give a list of HISS participants to the campsite together this each rider’s arrival and departure dates. The owners then create individual accounts so that riders only pay for what they have. It is then up to participants to register at reception and agree payment, etc. Preferential rates may apply and it is usually possible for participants to extend their stay at the same rates, but this is entirely up to individual campsite owners.
  • Important Notice: All material in this web page is subject to copyright: © 2012 Simon Rice.

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  • HISS Spring 2014

    June 16th, 2014
    First arrivals at the Aragon Hiss
  • HISS Summer 2014

    September 1st, 2014
    First arrivals at the Catalonia Hiss