Life on bikes

Event: Colombres Rally, the classic motorcycle festival in Spain

Each year in mid-October the small sleepy village of Colombres, located just a short ride from the Picos de Europa, awakes to the rumbling exhausts of classic motorbikes. Ollie Rooke dropped by during his tour of the Cantabria region of Northern Spain.

On the ferry to Santander, I’d been tipped off by members of the Mole Valley branch of the Moto Guzzi owners club (who were taking part themselves) about the Colombres Rally. A chance meeting at the top of a pass in the Picos mountains convinced me I should stop by and check out the nearby classic motorcycle festival. Camera in hand, it turned out to be a great decision.

The rally is run by MC Indianos and this time around hosted 150 pre-1988 bikes. Over the course of the week, from Monday to Friday, the classics and their riders are put through their paces with daily routes across the Picos. At the weekend, the action switches to classic hill climbing and motocross events.

Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke | Crowds line the streets as riders push their bikes to the limit

Pulling into Colombres on Saturday morning it was clear the weekend was going to be a good one. Bikes lined the streets, spilling onto the pavements and even into the driveways of local residents, who seemed happy to accommodate.

Wandering down to the main square, the size of the event and the Spanish public’s love for motorcycles soon becomes apparent. While just 150 bikes made up the rally and were given pride of place in the square, there must have been quadruple that parked in the surrounding streets. The crowds milled around the classics and the race tents checking out the bikes. Every so often the hubbub was broken by revving, as one of the race bikes was fired up or another classic rolled in.

Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke | A rider lays down a soundtrack for the day in the paddocks
Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke | Bob’s 1937 Royal Enfield, sporting a slightly scary gear selector
Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke | Unsurprisingly Bultaco was a well-represented manufacturer on the day
Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke | The Moto Guzzi Club GB were in town

After catching up with the Guzzi club, and checking out the myriad of manufacturers and models on display, it was time to find a good spot for the afternoon’s main event. The road had been closed off with hay-bales stacked at the corners and the hill-climb event was ready to go. The atmosphere and the crowds lining the course were a testament to the Spanish love of all things racing, the turnout was seriously impressive.

There must have been at least 20 bikes competing, although sadly not all of them managed the fairly long course, with a handful limping home to the loudest cheers of the day. But the crowd was into it, and it was easy to be caught up in the fervour as bike after bike whizzed past.

As a bit of a newcomer to the sport the thing that struck me the most was simply the noise of the bikes as the course evened out for the final straight, and the speeds these guys were reaching. I’d had a blast up the route on Friday before it was closed, and it wasn’t easy!

Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke
Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke | Spectators aren’t kept at an arm’s length, you can be just a few feet from the action

On Sunday, the final day of the rally, the showpiece was the classic motocross. Although the course lay outside the village, and directions weren’t too well signposted, I followed my nose and the smell of two-stroke engines and, sure enough, found myself in the thick of the action again.

Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke

The beauty of the two events was how close you were to the action; perhaps in some cases a bit too close as a rider lost the rear end of his bike and I was showered in dirt and gravel. Once again the crowds were huge, the atmosphere was fantastic and the racing on display thoroughly entertaining.

Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke
Colombres Rally Spain
© Ollie Rooke | Sunday is when the motorcross hits the hills outside Colombres

As the rally wound down to a close and more of the spectators headed off (myself included) the core remained in the village square to celebrate another successful year.

The rally was reborn after the original meet moved to nearby Santander, not wanting to lose the event and the tourism that came with it local hotel owners decided to resurrect it. And herein lies the beauty of the rally, as an outsider joining in on the open days it felt friendly and open to all, and hadn’t become bogged down in the logistical troubles larger meets can have.

For anyone planning an October break in the Picos I’d highly recommend seeing if your plans coincide with the final weekend of the Colombres rally. It’s a perfect day off from heavy riding, and being just a stone’s throw from the Picos or the ferry terminal it’s hard to find an excuse to not stop by. Hats off to the organisers, the participants and the Mole Valley Guzzi club for bringing me in. Until next year!

Ollie is touring Spain and Portugal throughout October and November 2019. For daily updates and photos follow his travels: @a2adventurer 

About the Colombres Rally

Colombres Rally Spain
Credit: MC Indianos

Held every year in October, the picturesque village of Colombres becomes a biking mecca for classic motorcycle enthusiasts. The Colombres Rally is a week-long festival of rides organised by the Moto Club Indianos, which takes pre-1988 classics on daily rides of up to 300 miles.

Most of the rides are between 80 to 160 miles, in an area that takes in the beautiful countryside of Asturias and the stunning mountain roads of the Parque Nacional de Los Picos de Europa, ‘the Picos’.

As well as the staged rides, over the weekend at the end of the rally, Colombres plays host to classic bike displays and autojumbles plus, on the Saturday, the Bustio-Colombres 12 + 1 hill-climb, and on Sunday, a classic motocross race.

Sunday’s motocross action

If you are planning a tour to the Picos, October is a good time – thanks to, cheaper crossings, lower temperatures and fewer pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago’s Camino del Norte, which passes through Asturias.

Colombres is a good base, roughly halfway between the Picos and the coast and less than an hour from the ferry in Santander (crossings from Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cork, with Brittany Ferries).

Colombres Rally Website:

Looking for more motorcycle events? Check Biker & Bike’s Motorcycle Events Calendar

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The Author

Ollie Rooke

Ollie Rooke

When I was about 9 years old I remember pulling something in my neck playing football. I don’t really remember if I was milking it or not (I probably was) but I do remember spending the day in front of the TV obsessively working my way through ‘The Long Way Round’ boxset. By the time Charlie and Ewan made it to New York I was hooked, I’d discovered my dream.

Since then motorcycling to me has always been about adventure: living on the road, everything you need strapped to two wheels and an engine, camping in the wild and travelling to places most people will never go.

Years later, in 2016 at the age of 21, I passed my CBT and started a passion that I doubt I’ll ever willingly give up. Since then I’ve upgraded to an A2 licence and will eventually go back to complete my MOD1 and MOD2 again to finally ride unrestricted.
In the two years since passing my A2 test I’ve travelled to 14 countries between my old Honda CBF500 or my current pride and joy, a bright orange BMW F650GS Twin. 11 of those were covered in one ill-fated trip that took me to the top of Norway and down through the Baltics until it was all brought to an end after 8 weeks with a crash in Latvia.

But it hasn’t stopped me, if anything it’s made me want to travel more. The dream is to one day travel around the world my motorbike, but for now I’m planning to tick off the entirety of Mainland Europe by bike.

I aim to focus my writing on all things touring, whether it be tips on preparing for a trip, country specific guides or general motivation I’d like to encourage everyone to make even just one overseas trip by bike.

I can be found on a new Instagram, where I can post constantly about bikes and touring without irritating my friends: a2adventurer. I also have a sparsely populated blog,