Total Immersion: Life as a Mountain Biker in Barcelona


As the chill hand of winter slowly tightened its grasp on the Chamonix Valley, I knew I had to head south to keep riding my mountain bike through November and into December. The next two stops on my Total Immersion European Tour would find me on the coast of the Mediterranean searching for warm rays of sunshine and gnarly singletrack to shred.

Stop number two on my tour wasn’t going to be a typical mountain destination. Instead, I hopped a plane to the bustling metropolis of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. 

The main impetus for traveling to Barcelona wasn’t actually mountain biking. Rather, my primary objective was to spend a month living and working with a group of digital nomads known as the WiFi Tribe. But… any potential destination had to at least offer *some* decent mountain biking. I had flown into Barcelona on a previous trip and had ridden with a few locals in the Pyrenees, so I sent a few messages, did some digging online, and it looked like yeah, Barcelona had access to some rad riding!

As I explored Barcelona, the mass of humanity was a shock to the system after living in Chamonix during the tourist town’s off season. As the weeks rolled on, I couldn’t believe how dense and concentrated the city felt. I looked it up, and Barcelona has an average population density of 16,000 people per square kilometer, spiking as high as 36,000 in the Eixample neighborhood. To put that in perspective, the population of Tokyo, the densest city in Japan, is just 6,158 people per square kilometer, and Denver, Colorado's is 1,706 people per square kilometer.

You might think that living in such a dense city would make mountain biking impractical if not impossible, but in Barcelona’s case, you’d be wrong! Barcelona is sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea on its southeastern side and a low mountain range on its northwestern side known as Collserola, most of which has been designated as a national park. Despite being surrounded by cities on all sides, this massive park covers over 8,295 hectares of protected land, and it’s filled with miles upon miles of rugged singletrack trails!

Accessing Collserola is an absolute cinch from anywhere in the metropolitan area. Generally, you can pedal right up into the mountains and start shredding, but if you want to save your legs, you can hop on the metro, ride it to the Vallvidrera Funiculuar, and take the funicular to the top of El Tibidabo and the boundary of the national park.

For a deep dive on the best trails in Collserola, be sure to check out the guidebook I compiled during my 5 weeks in Barcelona!