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