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Camino del Norte/Primitivo - Bike - July 2020

Mikadelic

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hola,
I'm new to the Camino but I have a lot of experience on bikes. I'm just about to set off solo on the Camino del Norte. I'd like to share my plans for any advice and comments, especially with the current situation around COVID and what is open or not.

I'm Irish, 37 yo, and I live in Barcelona. Being Irish, I prefer the northern coastal camino. I am planning to take a train from Barcelona to Pamplona and start on my gravel bike from there. I have a very good carbon gravel bike, carbon, shimano Ultegra, etc, and I have decked it out with two 20litre Decathlon panniers and it is probably in better condition than I am for the camino! Im planning around 10kg, of clothes etc, and I am not carring a tent or heavy sleeping bag.

I'm quite experienced with multiday hiking and biking, and my weekend rides in Barcelona are mostly on mountain bike with around 30km to 40km and 1,000m to 1,500m of climbing. With the camino my plan is between 60km to 100km per day depending on weather, climbs, and my physical state.

I have aroudn 18-19 days of flexibility, basically the rest of July. From the forums my plan is more or less as follows:
- Barcelona -Pamplona in train with bike disassembled. One night in Pamplona
- Pamplona-Irun - 1 day on bike 90km more or less
- Irun-Oviedo-Santiago 12-15 days (I will more or less follow two trails I found on Wikiloc of 12 and 14 days)
- If all goes well I will do Santiago-Muxia-Finesterre-Santiago over 2-3 days at the end
- Santiago Barcelona by plane or train at the end of the month

=======================
Questions
-----------

- COVID - Is the camino del norte open, are there people on it, is it acceptable to be on it by bike solo?
- In Irun the albergues are closed officially, but I dont mind booking private. What worries me is will I miss out on the most of the camino experience by not meeting a lot of other people in the evenings. Any comments on private accomodation that I should keep in mind along the way?
- On bike is it necessary to reserve accomodation in advance? My preference is to book only Pamplona and Irun for the first two nights, and everything else depending on the day.
- Being Irish I understand that weather forecasting is impossible. But in the north I see it rains around 12 days a month. Any recommendations on warm clothes I will need for the bike or evenings? And when it rains, does it rain all day, or is heavy showers for a few hours?
- Are there any sections that are notoriously windy, or is it impossible to predict?

Thanks, all comments welcome.
Michael
 
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Pilgrim_95

Young Pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
Portugues - 2015
Norte - 2016, 2020
Frances - 2018
Hey @Mikadelic,

The Camino Norte is open,yet there is a lockdown around Ribadeo (currently until the 10th of July). Based on the forum there are pilgrims on it. I did the Norte a few years ago and I am returning back in 10 days... I don't remember it being particularly windy... I assume the coast might be time to time, yet the second half is mostly inland. We walked it in the middle of June - July and had like 2 days of rain...

I assume this year will be a bit specific in terms of meeting other pilgrims. Most common areas of the albergues will be closed, so meeting other pilgrims will probably happen in the cafes and bars. No one forbids you to ride alone.

Always look for the cyclist alternative as I remember some parts (e.g. the stage after Soto de Luiňa) have quite difficult terrain (more like enduro than gravel ).

Also, based on your description, your carbon gravel looks like an expensive bike... so look for accommodation with good storage options.
 

Barbara

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
I would just add that it's wet rather than very cold. Also that sometimes places to eat at lunchtime can be a bit hard to find. They are there, but not often very obvious. You might need to ask.
Are you taking the Greenway between Latasa and. Andoain? About half way from Pamplona. On a disused railway. Brilliant ride and not too hilly to get there. Has tunnels, though and not that well lit.
 
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Mikadelic

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
@Albert_Hadacek
Thanks for the tips. Only saw the news on the Ribadeo area after your message. My plan is to take the Primitivo from Oviedo so I would avoid this area. But it does make me question the necesity of doing this trip this year.🤔
Im quite happy to tackle technical sections on the gravel, but I will check out the trails and alternatives on the areas you mentioned.

@Barbara
Great, Im OK with wet over cold! Interesting comment about the greenway, I will look into that sounds good. I actually found another more direct route on Wikiloc that looks fantastic and the second half is also a Via Verde. https://www.wikiloc.com/gravel-bike-trails/pamplona-behobiairun-1a-ruta-solo-19202967
 

Barbara

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
That looks like a nice ride if you are good on hills. My route was a lot flatter. I started at puenta la Reina and went to Irutzun on minor roads, I don't seem to have recorded the route bit there was only one major hill right at the start then along a river before a gentle climb to the Greenway. La Plazayola which then gets a different name half way along. From Ascain (edit... Sorry that should be Andoain) (which has a Pilgrim refuge) you can cycle to Irun or put an assembled bike on the narrow guage.
 
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Barbara

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
This is pretty close to what I did on my way to Bayonne. Its not a recorded route but I think it's right without going into my written notes which are at home.
Hope it helps. I don't think you need worry too much about being locked down in Spain in remote areas. Maybe allow a few extra days or have a flexible return booking.
 

Martin.P

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Via Algarvinia (Sept 12)
Camino Frances (June 16)
Via de la Plata (May 19)
Finisterre (July 16)
Hi,

I have not done the Norte, but I've done the Francis & La Plata by MTB, the only bit of wisdom I can add is to the choice of bike.

I'm an experienced cyclist both on Road & MTB - if you are planning on sticking mostly to the trails I would recommend you bring your MTB. We had many occasion to walk/push our MTB'S on certain sections & I believe you may need to do more of this on a gravel bike. Is your gravel bike fitted with standard handlebars or drops? For better control standard would suit.

Our MTB's took a fair beating on downhills & front suspension was a must even on some of the flatter sections.

Having said that you seem to have plenty of time set aside, so taking a stroll every now & then will most likely only enhance your Camino experience.

Be flexible, take every day as it comes, don't plan too much, breath in the salt air & sweet smell of the summer flowers.

Your a lucky man, may the road rise to meet you & the wind be forever on your back.....

Martin.
 
D

Deleted member 56069

Guest
I can only speak for the Camino Primitivo section. My wife and I walked it in Sept. 2018. If your plan is to ride the actual trails versus road riding, then be prepared to walk your bike for long sections on many of the days. There are alot of steep sections that in my view would be virtually impossible to ride up with a bike loaded with gear. I mountain bike as well...but never on a Camino so far, but based on my abilities I knew I would not have been able to ride much on any of the days.
All that said the Primitivo is a gorgeous route and very much worth doing.
Good luck on your ride and Camino.
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Micadelic I am heading to the norte on foot in August. If you are already there could you please tell me if the public hostels are open and most importantly if the charge more than the usual 6-10 euros? I am on a very strict budget so it might affect whether I go or not after all. Send me a pm if you like and we can also exchange contact info if you wish. Thanks a lot and buen camino!
 

Merisi

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hola,
I'm new to the Camino but I have a lot of experience on bikes. I'm just about to set off solo on the Camino del Norte. I'd like to share my plans for any advice and comments, especially with the current situation around COVID and what is open or not.

I'm Irish, 37 yo, and I live in Barcelona. Being Irish, I prefer the northern coastal camino. I am planning to take a train from Barcelona to Pamplona and start on my gravel bike from there. I have a very good carbon gravel bike, carbon, shimano Ultegra, etc, and I have decked it out with two 20litre Decathlon panniers and it is probably in better condition than I am for the camino! Im planning around 10kg, of clothes etc, and I am not carring a tent or heavy sleeping bag.

I'm quite experienced with multiday hiking and biking, and my weekend rides in Barcelona are mostly on mountain bike with around 30km to 40km and 1,000m to 1,500m of climbing. With the camino my plan is between 60km to 100km per day depending on weather, climbs, and my physical state.

I have aroudn 18-19 days of flexibility, basically the rest of July. From the forums my plan is more or less as follows:
- Barcelona -Pamplona in train with bike disassembled. One night in Pamplona
- Pamplona-Irun - 1 day on bike 90km more or less
- Irun-Oviedo-Santiago 12-15 days (I will more or less follow two trails I found on Wikiloc of 12 and 14 days)
- If all goes well I will do Santiago-Muxia-Finesterre-Santiago over 2-3 days at the end
- Santiago Barcelona by plane or train at the end of the month

=======================
Questions
-----------

- COVID - Is the camino del norte open, are there people on it, is it acceptable to be on it by bike solo?
- In Irun the albergues are closed officially, but I dont mind booking private. What worries me is will I miss out on the most of the camino experience by not meeting a lot of other people in the evenings. Any comments on private accomodation that I should keep in mind along the way?
- On bike is it necessary to reserve accomodation in advance? My preference is to book only Pamplona and Irun for the first two nights, and everything else depending on the day.
- Being Irish I understand that weather forecasting is impossible. But in the north I see it rains around 12 days a month. Any recommendations on warm clothes I will need for the bike or evenings? And when it rains, does it rain all day, or is heavy showers for a few hours?
- Are there any sections that are notoriously windy, or is it impossible to predict?

Thanks, all comments welcome.
Michael
Hola, Michael,

how was your Camino? :)
I am very interested to hear about your experience because this June I would like to do something similar. I was thinking about cycling the North Route and then continue south, to Sevilla. From what I have heard, people usually do not recommend the North route, they prefer the French route instead, but they also say it could be a bit boring (without the possibility to hide from the sun).
Did you manage your trip? And how did you enjoy it? :)
Thanks for sharing your feelings and experience :)
Merisi
 
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Mikadelic

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hola, Michael,

how was your Camino? :)
I am very interested to hear about your experience because this June I would like to do something similar. I was thinking about cycling the North Route and then continue south, to Sevilla. From what I have heard, people usually do not recommend the North route, they prefer the French route instead, but they also say it could be a bit boring (without the possibility to hide from the sun).
Did you manage your trip? And how did you enjoy it? :)
Thanks for sharing your feelings and experience :)
Merisi
Hi, thanks for your interest. So unfortunately/fortunately, I didn't make it last year, I had the train booked within a week from my post above, but I decided against it with the lockdowns and family commitments.
I am just gearing up to do it in the coming weeks again, but I do not have anything booked. Sorry I do not have any better information, but we may see eachother on the trail this year!
 

Merisi

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hi, thanks for your interest. So unfortunately/fortunately, I didn't make it last year, I had the train booked within a week from my post above, but I decided against it with the lockdowns and family commitments.
I am just gearing up to do it in the coming weeks again, but I do not have anything booked. Sorry I do not have any better information, but we may see eachother on the trail this year!
Aaah, I see! :) So I hope you will enjoy your Camino this summer! :)
We are leaving next weekend for a month and we will see, how it goes :) We have no exact plans, just to enjoy beautiful Spain on our bikes! :) Take care and who knows, maybe see you there! :)
Martina
 

Mikadelic

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hi all, I cycled the camino del norte over the last two weeks of June. Here is a brief summary of a great experience, I'm open to answering any questions that I can for those thinking of doing the same route by bike. The forum here helped a lot in my prep.
- I flew from Barcelona into Irun with my bike on a Sunday eve, assembled the bike outside the airport beside some convenient recycling bins for the box, and explored Irun Sunday evening by bike.
- 10 days from Irun to Santiago including a side trip to Oviedo. Originally thinking of doing the Primitivo, but did not make sense doing it solo with my gravel bike, and incoming wet weather around those days, so I headed back out to the coastal route from Oviedo again.
- 1 of every 3 days was raining, I stayed on the Camino as much as possible as I found it more rewarding (and challenging!) in all ways.
- It was quite solitary, but I was expecting that as I started on my own, I was doing it by bike, it is a less travelled camino and in a less travelled year.
- After Santiago I did two extra days to go out and back to Fisterra. Used Correos very convenient Pac Biciclete to ship my bike home afterwards.

Bike including pannier, alforjas, and my stuff was just under 20kg. I stayed in albergues maybe 3 nights, and cheap pensions or hotels the other nights. Albergues from 13euro, private rooms from 25 euro. All were perfect for my standards.

Very rewarding experience in so many ways for me. Thanks to the community here in my prep, and I will try to answer any random questions ppl may have in this thread.
P.S. I am considering selling my gravel bike, either bare or camino ready if anyone is interested, I see enough questions around logistics for getting bikes to a starting point, but with Correos it can be quite easy. I hope this message doesnt break any site rules!

Final shout to the Buen Camino app, ended up being my go to app every day for any doubts along the route.
20210625_120943.jpg
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
Is it polite to ask your age? Are there any particular sections of track that you would not recommend for an old guy on a bike?
 

Skinnybiker

The Skinny Biker in Spain
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
Great update, thanks for the various tips. Ten days seems very good going, were there any rough sections you found difficult on a gravel bike? What about camping. would you consider that as an option; either wild-camping or pitching the tent at an albergue to use the facilities?

What sort of price are you thinking for the bike? Probably not interested in the camino equipment.

Thanks again Richard
 
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Mikadelic

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I'm 38. To give a feel for my profile, I've been cycling for years, started with and always prefer mountain biking, then some triathlons, and more recently gravel. I'm not a die hard athlete, with family, work and other commitments, I prefer the adventure and I enjoy as much time maintaining my bikes as on them!

Any particular sections not recommended for an old guy on a bike. Obviously depends, but to give my impression:
- In terms of bike - if you prefer staying on the camino, then a nice light rigid mountain bike is def the best choice. I have a very expensive mountain bike but its not made for panniers, plus I have a gravel and was stubborn enough to take the gravel after many others correctly identifying a mountain bike IF ONE WANTS TO STAY ON THE CAMINO AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

- In terms of terrain - I find it hard to summarize in a way thats useful, but I essentially met every possible type of terrain, but in many ways that is what I was looking for. (I'll attach some images). The limits will be decided by your experience and fitness levels, and appetite for adventure. I consider myself experienced, average fitness, really looking for the adventure and prepared as a solo biker.
I was even recommended locally a few times to avoid certain sections of the camino by bike as they were boring, too steep, too much of a detour, had steps or whatever reason. But I ignored most of these and hands down, the most rewarding part of the whole experience was staying on the camino. I definitely climbed more metres of altitude, and in some areas the climbs can be 20% gradients for a few hundred metres, or around 15% and go on for 1-3 kms. Equally there can be some intimidating descents. But as a mountain biker it was what made it such a great experience for me. I made it up most of them, and really enjoyed the challenge, but at anytime I could have taken a break or walked up with the bike.
The camino del norte is in general close to population and roads, so you are never too far from the safety of people. Im intentionally not naming specific areas as it is too subjective, and of course the weather on the day, AND the time of day you are hitting a particular section can make you more or less comfortable with the terrain which was the case for me. I would cycle every inch of camino on a sunny day and especially in the morning, whereas when it came closer to the afternoon or a very bad weather day, I was inclined to take alternative routes by road.

- Buen Camino App - Finally, I have to mention this app again. I frequently use Strava, Garmin and Wikiloc to find and follow routes and I used wikiloc extensively to plan my stages for this trip. But when I started, I ended up using the Buen Camino app and the physical indicator arrows almost exclusively. The arrows are very well maintained and positioned, some days I would only check the app 5-6 times throughout the day for planning. But the app is exceptionally well setup as a guide. Luckily I have a waterproof phone mounted to my handlebars, and the Buen Camino app lets you download your specific camino (so you dont need to have data all the time), and it suggest bike alternatives in addition to overlaying the camino all the way on a Google Maps image. It is childproof and was essential to me. It even has little notes pinned along the map where it will advise alternative routes, let you know if a long isolated section is coming up. I cant say good enough things about what this app offers, I already gave a donation after using it, as it is completely free.

I'll stop here, but feel free to ask more.
 

Mikadelic

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Great update, thanks for the various tips. Ten days seems very good going, were there any rough sections you found difficult on a gravel bike? What about camping. would you consider that as an option; either wild-camping or pitching the tent at an albergue to use the facilities?

What sort of price are you thinking for the bike? Probably not interested in the camino equipment.

Thanks again Richard
Just see this message now. You will prob get some value from my post just now, but more specific to your qns:
- yes, it was at the limits of a gravel bike, and prob above them in some sections, but still possible if you are a little stubborn! haha. But I am very used to all types of terrain and ascent/descent in mountain bikes, so I was laughing through a lot of it from pure enjoyment! (Going down anyway!) I remember slip-cycling through a muddy field only to get to a coastline at 7am with nothing only me, sheep and cliffs! and a 2km climb that I had to power through almost entirely out of the saddle but isolated in a morning drizzle in pristine fire road and forestry. They were really special moments! I do remember maybe 4-6 sections throughout that were very very rough or a steep decline, but in general they were only between 200-1000 meters max so even if I had to walk the bike, it was not an issue in the bigger picture. If you want specifics, let me know and I will review and pinpoint them.

- ten days was good for what I had initially planned. I gave myself 12 days plus 3 to go to Muxia/Fisterra and back. I ended up doing 10 days to Santiago plus 2 days to do Fisterra only and back. On my last day before reaching Santiago, I met two guys on gravel bikes my own age, but prob fitter and they had done the same route from Irun to Santiago in 8 days on gravel bikes. They did however take road most of the way, we compared a lot and found that they did more kms overall (and obviously each day) but maybe 10% less climbing each day as the road has less ups and downs, and definitely less hours on the bike each day as they were fitter and the road helps obviously. I wouldnt change it if I returned though, sticking on the camino is what made it for me. Id prob carry a moutain bike though as mentioned earlier.

- Camping. I ruled it out early as I wanted to pack light. I had 9.5kg in gear and alforjas - and I think in total the loaded bike was approx. 20-21kg. It is absolutely not necessary as plenty of options, and an extra 20-30 minutes on a bike will easily take to a different town for more options. If you absolutely prefer tenting for the cost of the extra weight, then I didnt see it being an issue in any of the rural areas which is obviously the majority of the camino. Although, personally I ended up preferring the towns in the evenings to allow me to shop, wash the bike, laundry, etc. I did notice towards the end that the costs start clocking up!

- Great! Thanks for the interest in the bike! Maybe PM me and I can give you some more detailed info on it, sin compromiso!

Photos (in order of days mostly):

Screenshot_20210630-183139_Gallery.jpg 20210621_105932.jpg 20210624_072642.jpg 20210624_093307.jpg 20210626_101519.jpg 20210627_141906.jpg 20210629_101239.jpg 20210629_111113.jpg 20210629_112145.jpg 20210629_180500.jpg 20210629_180500.jpg
 

Skinnybiker

The Skinny Biker in Spain
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
Hola Mikadelic - I have sent you a pm / message / conversation, have you seen it? O would appreciate some info about the bike if it is still for sale. Thanks Richard PS Great photos
 

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