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Planning A Bike Tour In Andalucia

December 5th, 2010 20 comments


Our next bike tour will be in the Andalucia region of Spain and we’ve spent the last month or so slowly planning it.

Going downhill, but mostly up on this day!

Our last trip to Andalucia looked like this. (January 2007)

What fun! It’s just so wonderful to spread a bunch of maps out on your living room floor and dream. So, after a fair bit of idle dreaming and some semi-serious research, here’s what we’ve decided.

The synopsis: We’ll fly into Madrid in mid-December (we’re flying easyJet: cheap and hopefully bike friendly). We’ll take the train a short distance out of the city and then spend 3 weeks cycling on our new Santos Travelmaster touring bikes. We’ve based large sections of our trip on the TransAndalus mountain bike trail but we don’t want to miss the cities entirely, so we’re also taking in places like Ronda, Granada and Jaen.

The current map goes something like this:

Google Map of Spain Route(click for the interactive version on Google but give it a while to load).

So far it’s a rough guide. We don’t like to plan our trips too carefully, but you get the idea. By creating a GPS track and plugging it into the Bike Route Toaster, we come up with an elevation chart like what you see below. A few mountains, but that’s the way we like it!

Elevation Chart of our Andalucia Bike Tour

How we planned it: We used a variety of sources and techniques to help us plan this trip.

First, we thought about what we’d done before and therefore didn’t want to do twice. That’s why we are skipping out on the area west and south of Seville.

We also considered distance. We’ll be away for 22 days. Two of those days will be taken up as we arrive in and leave Madrid. That leaves potentially 20 cycling days. Inspired by this formula for calculating distances on a bike tour, we decided to make one of our own. Ours is quite simple. We know that:

  • We can usually bike 80km a day without issue
  • Allowing 1-2 days per week for sightseeing and bad weather is a good idea.

By averaging the distance on riding days throughout the week, we arrive at a figure of about 60km per day of holiday.

20 days x 60km / day = about 1,200km

With the region and distance roughly decided, we started to plot a general route, drawing lines on Michelin regional maps (1:400 000 scale) with a highlighter. These maps aren’t super detailed but they do show a lot of back roads and will be fine for most of the on-road riding we do.

We also looked at the maps on the TransAndalus trail website and roughly drew where the trail goes off-road or on back roads too small to be included on the Michelin maps. To actually cycle these roads, we’ll print out more detailed maps for the relevant trail sections from the excellent TransAndalus website.

A little rest on a hot Spanish dayHow did we pick the route itself?

  • We focused on smaller roads, in particular anything marked in white (back roads) or a green strip (scenic route) got preference.
  • We tried to include a mix of countryside and towns or cities. In our experience, it’s nice to have a mix of wilderness and city life. So, we’ll be out in nature for 3-5 days at a time before arriving in a city to wash up, have a good meal and head back out again.
  • We looked for national parks and mountainous areas. Both are favourites of ours.

We also read a few journals and descriptions from other cyclists to get inspired. This included reading descriptions from tour companies (a bit flowery but still good for a general idea of what there is to see) and of course perusing the journals on CrazyGuyOnABike. Finally, we checked out Climate Charts to see what the weather might be like. It could be a touch cold at the higher elevations (we don’t mind, we’ve got hefty sleeping bags and Exped mats) and possibly wet. Let’s hope not!

What we’re taking: Not much. We’re making a new effort to go lighter on our trips, at least on shorter journeys where carrying things like water filters, a million books and tons of tools shouldn’t be necessary. We’ll have back racks only, so our luggage carrying capacity is limited to 2 panniers and a tent.

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17 Responses to “Planning A Bike Tour In Andalucia”

  1. Blanche says:

    Looks great!
    Don’t forget the website in Dutch from the spanisch Raul Gonsalvez with useful information. http://www.fietseninspanje.nl/ Use Google translate :>

  2. Simon says:

    Have you looked into the Rutas Don Quixote to get from Talavera down to Andalucia?

    http://www.jccm.es/web/es/CastillaLaMancha/Tu_Region/Un_Lugar_Para_Visitar/Rutas_Para_Perderse/contenidoFinal1212675770109pg/index.html

    They are network of walking and cycling routes, mostly off-road & “dual-track” although sometimes they degrade a bit into single-track and “Proper” off-road which will leave the touring cyclist pushing. There is also a good “viaverde” just south west of Talavera (Via Verde de la Jara (http://www.viaverdedelajara.com/) starting from Calera y Chozas) that you could incorporate into the route.

    • friedel says:

      Great tips, thanks! We’ll definitely check out those links. One of the things we want to do on this tour is go more off-road so that sounds perfect.

  3. Stephen Botel says:

    I also used that Google “live view” to plan the bike tour I did this weekend…

  4. Rob Prouse says:

    We did that trip last April/May. It is a beautiful area and an amazing place to bike tour. Check out http://www.prouse.org/bike-touring/souther-spain-780-km-2-weeks/ where I link to all of our blog posts about the Spain trip along with the blog posts of the other two couples that were with us.

    If you like mountains, you should really tour south of Granada through the Alpujarras (or did you hit that last time?) It is very beautiful through there. Also, the guide books pan it, but we really enjoyed Malaga. It is a bit tough to get in and out of (but not nearly as bad as Granada), but if you need a break in the middle of your trip, it is a worthwhile destination.

    Have a great trip, I’ll look forward to reading about it.

  5. Have a Great trip!

  6. Brilliant – thanks for all the planning & advice

  7. Brilliant – thanks for all the planning tips & advice

  8. Dad says:

    Nice to read about your latest plans. When we had the Portugal/Spain holiday in Feb/May 2008 we visited a couple of the places on your list.
    In Granada we visited the Alkazaba…it was a guided tour and we seemed to spent a lot of time waiting around. The Generalife Gardens were impressive.
    Now the scenery around Ronda is certainly impressive. The Old Town is perched on a rock reached only by a few bridges.
    We will be keeping our fingers crossed about the weather for you. It could be dicey in nDecember even in the south of Spain.

    Dad

  9. oanh says:

    Cool! We have loved cycle touring in Spain.

    From Talavera to Belalcazar, we really liked the Los Lagos / Embalse de Garcia Sola and Embalse de la Serena regions and are pleased to see it’s on your route! The green scenic roads on Michelin’s map through these regions were fantastic. Castillblanco seemed to be a nice town, with plenty of accommodation options, though we did not stay there.

    You might also be interested in the Via Verdes – there is a lengthy one running from Jaen over to near Baena and beyond. We travelled a short section recently and it is well-graded (except for horrid sticky mud, but I think you’ve experienced sticky mud in the past!) Not entirely sure how you find out about them, as we just stumbled across it, but probably contacting the relevant regional tourist office?

    Happy cycling!

  10. Nathan says:

    I travel light, but I would still recommend spreading your gear between front & rear panniers. I pack my tent & sleeping bag in a set of panniers instead. The panniers provide a lower CG and are easier to get on/off the bike. All the weight over the rear wheel can make the bike hard to push & park.

    ¡Buenas suerte!

    • friedel says:

      I hear you, Nathan. Normally we’d have front racks but at the moment we don’t (we ended up leaving most of our bike touring stuff in Canada when we moved to Holland and we won’t get it back until Spring 2011) so for now we’re making do with cheaper racks, and only back ones.

  11. Mike says:

    Easyjet will NEVER get me onto their aircraft again… lost my sons luggage last year, then found it the day before we flew home and charged a huge amount for excess baggage…. that we had to purchase due to the lost luggage… and NOBODY at EASYJET GIVES A TOSS…. just to forewarn you, otherwise have a great trip, looking forward to hear how the Travelmasters behave.
    Mike

  12. Emilio Pla says:

    Hi.I’m a spanish person that currently lives in Madrid.Last October did a trip to the south west of Spain,Where i come from,on my bike.If there is any information about the area or about getting in and out of Madrid let me know.Your last bit in to Talavera was part of the route i did on my way down.Be weary of the puerto de San Vicente.It seems small but it’s a nasty steep climb.

  13. lex says:

    which is the most direct cycling route from malaga to cadiz?

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