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Camino Frances Biking Tips from a Non Biker.

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#1
Not sure why I decided to post this summary of my Camino experience, but I thought somebody might find it useful and I found it difficult to find bicycle information about the Camino. As a starting point I'm a reasonably fit 52 year old male, office worker who eats well and exercises regularly. I don’t have any real religious beliefs and I wanted to do the Camino for the experience, physical challenge, live out my “The Way” dream and become a Dual Pilgrim, having previously completed the Kumano Kodo in Japan. I finally got the opportunity to do the Camino this year, I could only get 2 weeks off work, so I accepted Jost’s advice from the movie that I could finish it in 2 weeks on a bike far more easily than walking it over a month.

I ended up biking the Camino Frances and finishing in 12 days, some thoughts:

  • I flew London - Madrid - Biarritz, then Santiago - Madrid - London with Air Iberia and had no problems.
  • I hired a mountain bike from Bike Iberia on the internet under a Camino package, it worked fine and I have no complaints.
  • I left SJPDP on Sat 16/9 and finished in Santiago on Wed 27/9, had a day in Santiago on 28/9 and flew out on 29/9. During this time of year, sunrise is at about 8am and its difficult/dangerous riding in the dark, sunset is not until about 8.30pm.
  • There are pilgrim peak hours between about 7am and 9am, 1pm and 3pm in and out of the Brierley stages.
  • I used the Brierley guide book, it was useful and a good investment. I followed the conventional Brierley path and didn’t have time to divert onto the green or alternative options.
  • The grey roads in the Brierley guide are sealed country roads with little traffic, so they are fairly bike safe, in fact you will often find pilgrims walking on these roads.
  • I rode on the red N roads occasionally when I wanted to make up time or when the pilgrim track followed these roads.
  • If you find a red N road that runs parallel to a blue freeway, the red road will be almost deserted and safe to ride a bike.
  • The red N roads have a kerb generally between 1 metre and 1.5 metres wide. In busy sections there are a lot of trucks and buses, so exercise some caution on these roads.
  • The quality of the pilgrim tracks vary greatly from gravel sendas, rocky sharp granite boulders that vary in height between 15cm and 30cm, rutted tree roots, mud, dirt, shallow creeks and everything in between.
  • The km per day completed below reflect the hills I had to climb in a day and there were hills every day.
  • I had 40 litres of capacity in my paniers, filled them up and regretted the extra weight on the bike - travel light !
  • I planned on washing my clothes by hand, but getting into an albergue at 5pm wont allow enough time to get your clothes dry overnight (assuming you have good weather). If you are going to ride a bike and finish late in the day, then budget an extra 3 euro for a machine wash, plus 3 euro for the dryer. 5 washes over 2 weeks equals 60 euro and you will love the smell of clean clothes the next day!
  • I took about 24 muesli/protein bars which I thought were worthwhile. I got sick of the endless toast and jam in the mornings. Its hard to find a bowl of cereal on the Camino.
  • Carry 2 litres of water daily because on long hot days you will be drinking about 6 litres per day and it is sometimes hard to find a water fonte.
  • Take 2 padded bike shorts and 3 changes of clothes, therefore you only have to wash every second day. Track pants and casual shorts are good at night. The Camino is definitely not a fashion parade, bars and cafes will let you in wearing just about anything.
  • Wear runners on the bike, not the specialised lock-in bike shoes, because you will be walking the bike a lot on tracks and roads.
  • I took a doona cover (cotton sheets), a thin fleece blanket to sleep in and long PJ’s. I didn’t need the fleece, the albergues were warm enough and they have spare blankets.
  • I soaked my bedding and PJ’s in Permethrin, had no issues with bed bugs and never heard of any bed bug issues in the albergues where I stayed.
  • Expect 4 seasons in a day, I generally started at 8am with a t shirt, fleece and gortex shell. I took off the shell at 11am and took off the fleece at 2pm because it was too hot.
  • Weather was fantastic, half a day of showers on day 1, some rain at night, half a day of fog in the middle, sun burn and sun screen all other days.
  • Not sure if it was the time of year, but there was a consistent head wind in my face just about every day on the bike.
  • Research albergues on the internet and highlight the ones that take bikes in your Brierley Guide, it will give you a target for the day and you will know where to stay at the end of a long day. See the Bicigrino guide on the net.
  • Finish riding by 5pm, get into the albergue, shower, wash and relax by the 7pm dinner time.
  • I would recommend doing a maximum of about 2 Brierley stages per day (approx. 50km), any more and you will be exhausted, not enjoy the trip and miss visits to Cathedrals, Museums, etc. I wanted to stop and smell the flowers, take photos, eat in cafes, soak my feet in a river, lay in the sun which were not possible all the time due to my time constraints.
  • The more experienced cyclists I met on the Camino (see below) were easily doing between 60km and 100km per day. Their focus was more on enjoying the ride, they had support cars, rode mostly on the roads and didn’t have 15kg packed into paniers on the bike.
  • I had mostly fine weather on my Camino, riding the bike on generally dry tracks and roads. Travelling between 50km and 90km per day kicks up a lot of dust, dirt, grime and kills a few bugs. The bike, my paniers and I were filthy at the end of a day and we needed a good wash.
  • The albergues I used were private and cost about 9 or 10 euro per night, they were good quality places to stay and normally provide dinner for an additional 9 or 10 euro with a free bottle of wine. Nearby cafes provide similar deals.
  • I thought the pilgrim meals were generally very basic and I needed a pizza or paella every couple of days fill up.
  • You can eat and drink whatever you want each day because you are burning so many calories.
  • Breakfast and lunch cost between 3 and 5 euros each depending on how much you want to eat. A ham and cheese bread roll and a coffee costs about 4 euro.
  • I would suggest that most people cant ride a bike up the Napoleon route from SJPDP unless you are at Olympic medal standard.
  • I pushed the bike 80% of the way up the Pyrenees and 50% on Alto del Perdon, Cruz de Ferro, and a detour around O'Cebreiro. Going downhill is not easy either with rutted tracks, boulders and rocks.
  • The state of the pilgrim tracks before Sarria vary greatly and are sometimes quite narrow, so I would recommend using the roads when possible and safe. The tracks after Sarria seem to be wider and can accommodate walkers and bikers more easily. Not sure what it would be like at other times of the year when there are more pilgrims.
  • I didn’t really have a “life changing Camino experience”. I think the Camino would be a lot more personal if you hold some religious beliefs and you can connect with the history and culture. All the small towns and churches were a bit lost on me and became a bit of a blur.
  • I had a more spiritual experience on the Kumano Kodo in Japan where there is a cultural overload on the senses.
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#2
The good, bad and the ugly:
  • Bus loads of tourists being dropped off at the edge of town and walking in like pilgrims. Yes it happened in Carrion, 50 or 60 tourists hitting the shops all at once was disturbing.
  • Overweight pilgrims using luggage transport services. There seems to be a significant industry developing with medium size vans zipping all over the Camino, in and out of albergues and not really looking out for pilgrims walking or biking.
  • Seems like the luggage transport services maybe causing more pilgrims to book accommodation and the more popular or highly rated albergues were full. I tried to get into the albergues that were highly rated on this forum only to find out they were generally booked full in September.
  • The biking pilgrim myth - I had no real incidents with walking pilgrims, probably because I walked the bike uphill most of the time anyway. I thought downhill was too dangerous to go fast, so I took my time. I used my bell when appropriate and we all got along fine most of the time.
  • The pilgrim shuffle - having a mutual laugh with walking pilgrims who walk to opposite sides of the road, shuffle in the middle or spin around in circles trying to get out of my way.
  • I travelled with other bikers who were riding at about the same speed - 6 from Mexico, 3 from Spain, 3 from Brazil, 1 German and 1 French. We crossed paths for a coffee every couple of days and sometimes stayed at the same albergues, what a wonderful international experience.
  • I met some great interesting people in the albergues and enjoyed the communal atmosphere.
  • Variety of scenery - beautiful and changing all the way through. Loved eating grapes in the vineyards, the vast open plains but I regret not seeing the sun flowers in bloom in September.
  • I didn’t encounter any bad behaviour, no weird locals or pilgrims, no crime, etc. It was just a wonderful experience.
Must have items:
  • Small LED torch - use it in the albergues, on the road, etc.
  • A small valuables bag to hold your wallet, passport, tooth brush, torch, phone, camera, etc. You can pull it out of your paniers quickly to visit churches, go inside cafes to order lunch and sleep with it at night. Therefore people can only steal clothes or muesli bars if they are desperate.
  • Ear plugs - the silicon variety that mould to the shape of your ear and stop about 20 x more sound than the soft foam variety.
  • Aqua/sports towel, like a chamois you can store in a plastic container and not worry about wet towels in your back pack.
  • Biking gloves - I underestimated how important they would be on cold mornings and when I fell over on at least 4 occasions. I avoided serious injury on barbed wire and sharp rocks.
  • Sun screen and lip balm. You will get sun burnt on the left side of your body due to the direction of travel. Your lips will get sun and wind burn on the bike.
  • Multi-port USB charger - You can now get international power point converters with 4 x USB ports. There is no faster way to get a power point in an albergue than showing fellow pilgrims you can connect 4 devices (including your own !) to 1 power point.
  • Shower gel and deodorant - I have never been so filthy and smelly after a day of exercise. I could see the mud, dirt, cow dung and dead bugs falling off me in the shower.
  • Berocca multi-vitamin dissolving tablets - I put 1 in my water bottle every morning after about day 3 and felt I had more energy to start the day. Helps after a free bottle of wine each night !
Nice to have items taken, but rarely or not used:
  • Kathmandu multi tool – pliers/screwdriver, etc. Would have been handy for mechanical problems on the bike which did not occur.
  • Hat - I wore my bike helmet all day, so not required.
  • Spare USB battery for phone, camera or laptop. I managed to find a power point every night so I didn’t have to use the spare battery for charging.
  • Laptop computer - I had to do work while I was away and keep the emails churning over. So I thought I would get through a few emails at night over a glass or 2 of wine. The wine was great, but I was exhausted and asleep by 10pm most nights, so make do with a smart phone. It will save a lot of weight and space on the bike.
Packing List:
  • 2 x bike pants
  • 4 x quick dry t-shirts
  • 2 x light weight fleece
  • 2 x long sleeve quick dry shirts
  • 1 x gortex rain jacket
  • 4 x underwear
  • 1 x track pants
  • 1 x shorts
  • 4 x socks
  • 1 x runners
  • 1 x sandals
  • Doona cover, fleece, pillow slip, long PJ’s
  • 1 x vegemite tube - its an Australian thing - don’t leave home without it.
  • 1 x bar of clothes handwashing soap.
  • 1 x octopus strap to tie down my sleeping gear on the rear bike rack.
  • 1 x velcro strap to tie down my Brierley guide on my handle bar bag so I could see the map while I was riding.
  • The usual toiletries, sunglasses, etc.
Preparation:
  • I rode an exercise bike in the gym for 6 months, doing at least 20km per session, varied the resistance/gears and did between 60km and 80km per week. This was in addition to regular sessions running on the treadmill, cross trainer and rowing machine.
  • I seriously underestimated preparation. An extra 15kg of pack weight on the bike, changing gears with terrain, looking out for obstacles, pilgrims, cars and trucks makes it very difficult. I didn’t have the required bike fitness levels and stopped at least every 500 metres to walk the bike on the steeper hills.
  • For the walkers - I saw so many people wearing brand new hiking boots/shoes and those same people had serious blister issues and physiotherapy tape over all their legs. I would suggest wearing in your footwear for at least 1 year before you start walking 20km per day over 30 days.
Injuries:
  • My legs, knees and feet were generally fine other than some soreness in the muscles. Leg fitness improved after about day 5.
  • Initial back, arm and shoulder soreness disappeared after 2 days.
  • 2 weeks after finishing the Camino, I still have no feeling in the little fingers and ring fingers in both hands and my thumbs are not much better. I think it was the constant jarring and grip on the handle bar, but it’s getting better (note the importance of gloves above).
  • I used bicycle anti-chaffing cream every day and never had an issue, either it worked or it was a waste of money - I’m not sure which.
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#3
My final itinerary was:
  • I had to book accommodation on my first and last nights to enable delivery and pick up of the bike. My bag and extra luggage was transported by courier from SJPDP to Santiago and included in the bike hire package
  • All other albergue accommodation was not booked.
15/9 SJPDP - Gite Compostella
Flight from London – Madrid – Biarritz. Train to SJPDP.
I couldn’t get anybody to do a ride or taxi share, so I ended up getting the bus from Biarritz to Bayonne, then train to SJPDP which was a good experience anyway and probably saved about 50 euro. The train trip only takes an hour and its daylight until 8.30pm anyway.

16/9 SJPDP – Zubiri
Albergue Suseia 47km
This was a hard day up the Pyrenees with some rain. I slipped over in the mud twice and slipped over in the water crossing a creek bed. I made it to Roncesvalles by 2pm and was exhausted at Zubiri at 6.30pm. The descent into Roncesvalles was dangerous and rutted.

17/9 Zubiri – Puente La Reina
Albergue Puente 45km
The climb to Alto del Perdon and the following descent was hard and should not be underestimated.

18/9 Puente La Reina – Viana
Albergue Izar 62km
I used the N-111 a lot this day just to make up time, so I missed a lot of the sights and was exhausted by the time I made it to Viana.

19/9 Viana – Belorado
Albergue Santiago 82km
This day seems like a blur just to make up time and I used the N-120 a lot.

20/9 Belorado - Hontanas
Santa Brigida 80km
I wanted to stop in Hornillos but all albergues were full, San Bol was also full so I had to go onto Hontanas. I saw the Cathedral in Burgos, otherwise it was just a large city and I wanted to get through it.

21/9 Hontanas - Sahagun
Albergue Domus Viatoris 93km
Making it to Sahagun got me back on schedule, but it was a long hard day.

22/9 Sahagun - Hospital del Orbigo
Albergue San Miquel 90km
I enjoyed Leon and visited the Cathedral, Orbigo is one of those picture postcard towns you must see.

23/9 Hospital del Orbigo - Ponferrada
Albergue Alea 67km
I would have liked to see more of Astorga, but I didn’t have the time and pushed onto Ponferrada. I used the grey roads all day and they were fine. Cruz de Ferro was interesting but full of tourists.

24/9 Ponferrada - Fonfria
Albergue Reboleira 68km
Interesting day following the pilgrim tracks and roads. I detoured around O’Cebreiro on the N-V1, then took the grey road to O’Cebreiro because I heard the track was not suitable for bikes. The N-V1 was virtually deserted because there was a parallel blue freeway next to it and very safe for bikes. The ascent to O’Cebreiro on this route took about 3 hours from somewhere after Herrerias and the descent to Fonfria was relatively easy. Great albergue and communal meal at Fonfria - not to be missed.

25/9 Fonfria - Portomarin
Albergue Porto Santiago 50km
By this stage I was back on schedule and decided to take it a bit easier and enjoy the trip. Pilgrim numbers certainly increased after Sarria.

26/9 Portomarin - Arzua
Albergue Don Quijote 54km
Some albergues were full, otherwise the Galicia scenery was amazing.

27/9 Arzua - Santiago
Albergue La Salle 40km
Made it to Santiago uninjured and attended the Pilgrims Mass on 28/9, flying out on 29/9. The Pilgrims office stopped people entering the office from about 7.30pm and compostella’s started being issued a lot faster after this time, seemed like staff wanted to go home.

The bus from Santiago to the airport was easy and I think it cost 3 or 5 euro.

Post Camino blues - 2 weeks after finishing the Camino I feel like my hips and knees are falling back into place, muscles are still a little tight a times and my fingers are improving. Mentally I’m slowly getting back into work, but it’s a battle.

As an inexperienced cyclist, I don’t think I would cycle the Camino again - it was an uncomfortable exhausting whirlwind. I think the experienced cyclists I met along the way enjoyed it, but I believe there are other better cycle tours you can do in Europe. I might walk the Camino again to take in some of the sights I missed, but I don’t know if I want to live out of a back pack and be on the road for a month.

Sorry for being too long, but I tried to cover biking information I couldn’t find before the trip.

Buen Camino !
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
#4
Hola Mark - well as one of has cycled the Camino Frances (from Pamplona) I congratulate you on a comprehensive report. I am sure that some might disagree with something you have said/written but for anyone who is contemplating a bike camino it will be a very useful first reference. Cheers
 
Camino(s) past & future
France's (2017)
#5
@Mark T17 great report you've inspired me to write a report of my trip that was a couple of weeks before yours. I'll do it this weekend, but for now - well done you! A huge effort in the time frame you had. We took 16 days from Pamplona, shortest day 20km into Santiago and longest day 75km on the meseta. 1 rest day in Leon, and about 7 or 8kg of gear. We also felt rushed and would have liked more time to explore the villages we kind of rode on through due to time constraints.
I think @Saint Mike II suggested time frame of 21 or 22 days would have been ideal to truly enjoy and savour the experience. I would ride it again but take longer. Cheers for now
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#6
This is a very comprehensive, well written post that answers most any question a prospective bicagrino might ask. Although I'm a walker, I have had some curiosity as to what the bicyclists encounter on the Camino and enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for taking the time to share such a detailed account of your personal experience. It sounds like you had a most enjoyable time overall!
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#8
Hi Jenny, look forward to reading your report and how you went. It was certainly an experience I enjoyed and I'll never forget. I prepared for a hilly start and end to the trip with an enjoyable flat Meseta in the middle, so the hills on the Meseta surprised me a little but that's part of the joy of travel. I had planned to do a bus trip to Muxia and Finisterra at the end if I had time but those plans disappeared after day 1.

Thanks to all for your comments, I don't think I would change anything in hindsight, I only had 2 weeks leave from work and my flights were booked, so I had to finish on time.
 

Peregrinopaul

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Sanabres (2018) Frances reverse(2018)
#10
Not sure why I decided to post this summary of my Camino experience, but I thought somebody might find it useful
Your post was fascinating to read, Mark. First-timers will find it invaluable.
I was curious about the 15kg in your panniers 'till I read that you had a laptop with you. Even then that's a lot. Pushing a mountain bike with load like that along some of those stony tracks would have been sheer hell, I imagine. On every camino I've done, I have shaved the weight down, (now to about 5 kg).
 
Last edited:

martyseville

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
a/a
#11
Mark, thanks for the summary.

One of the best, if not the best, I have ever read.

Very helpful information.

I biked the Frances few years ago. Had bike Friday and a trailer. So most of my ride was on the highway.

I will use your notes for my next bike ride.

Again, thanks
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#12
Thanks all for the comments, the 15kg was estimated total weight and the paniers felt heavy each day carrying them into the albergues.

2kg - water
1kg - bike tool kit, lock and chain that came with the bike
1kg - paniers
1kg - lap top, cords, chargers, etc
1kg - museli bars
1kg - toiletries, clothes soap, chaffing cream, sun screen, etc
1kg - Nikon SLR camera - not sure if I would recommend taking a large camera, but I love photography and got some great pics
1kg - travel, work papers, guide book, etc
1kg - sleeping gear
5kg - clothes

I think the weight adds up about right, certainly room to cut some fat in the future !
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#13
Great report Mark, well done. Lots of good tips and insights.
But.....

  • I didn’t really have a “life changing Camino experience”. I think the Camino would be a lot more personal if you hold some religious beliefs and you can connect with the history and culture. All the small towns and churches were a bit lost on me and became a bit of a blur.
Could this be because you were cycling and travelling fast compared to walking?

I had a more spiritual experience on the Kumano Kodo in Japan where there is a cultural overload on the senses.
Did you walk that one?
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#14
Hi Robo, interesting questions which I found difficult to answer. As for the blur question, I think you are right and in hindsight I suggested riding only 2 Brierley stages or 50km per day above which would allow a pilgrim on a bike more time to experience and absorb the culture and Camino. But my time constraints would not allow that.

As for your second question on the Kumano, I walked 80km through Southern Japan over 4 days with some side trips. So it's difficult to compare 800km through Christian Spain with 80km through Buddhist Japan in 4 days, but I feel quite passionate about both experiences which I would like to compare:
  • I was raised in Australia during the 1970's and 80's which still had memories of WWII, so I went to Japan with feelings and beliefs that were wrong.
  • I was raised a Christian in Australia and I'm familiar with the Bible. I went to Japan knowing little about Shinto, Buddhism and Japanese culture.
  • I rode the Camino in September and interacted with about 1000 international pilgrims over 2 weeks. I walked the Kumano in November virtually alone in the wilderness and didn't speak to anybody in English for over 7 days.
So where am I going with this - honestly I don't know. I walked the Kumano knowing little, talked to nobody, was alone for 7 days and nights and had an amazing experience. I biked the Camino knowing a lot, talked to a lot of pilgrims and was familiar with the Bible but flew home after a long bike ride. So where's the gap?

I'm not sure, I think if you go into the Camino or Kumano looking for something in your life then you will find it (the Camino provides!). If you are generally happy in your life, then you'll have an experience which you will remember forever.
 

Peregrinopaul

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Sanabres (2018) Frances reverse(2018)
#15
Thanks all for the comments, the 15kg was estimated total weight and the paniers felt heavy each day carrying them into the albergues.
I have to say that your list looks a lot like mine for my first camino. I think we bicigrinos fall into a trap because you can pack an awful lot of stuff in big bike panniers, and if it fits, "Why not take it?" (I didn't have a laptop but I did take an iPad). The result is a lot of heartbreak when faced with the big climbs, or even worse, some of those tracks.
I have inevitably adapted to the mindset of the walkers. who have a more obvious motive to be paranoid about weight. For example my sleep gear consists of a silk sleeping-bag liner, probably 100g, and as I always travel in summer and use private accommodation fairly often, I have had no problem.
I too, used to carry a good camera, spare lens, small tripod (+the inevitable charger and spare battery). Now I just use my iPhone 6s.
Low weight makes a huge difference to the enjoyment of the ride.
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#16
Hi Paul, I agree with you. If you like photography (like me) I drove around Iceland last year in a hire car and got some great photo's including the Northern Lights. The Kumano in Japan, has some great mountain scenery, temples and waterfalls. However don't ride a bike through Iceland - the kerb is about 0.5m, freezing cold, wet with wind sheer and it's not possible to ride a bike on the Kumano.

Cheers, M
 

Peregrinopaul

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Sanabres (2018) Frances reverse(2018)
#17
However don't ride a bike through Iceland - the kerb is about 0.5m, freezing cold, wet with wind sheer and it's not possible to ride a bike on the Kumano.
Don't you just love Spanish bitumen, especially on the N highways? I'm a big fan of the N630 (VdlP) which has almost no traffic because of the always-nearby Autovia, with its wide hard shoulder and super-smooth surface. I remember once on my first Camino getting down in the ditch to photograph the lavish thickness of the bitumen at the edge of the road, (6-8 inches I reckon), just to impress people back home! The NW Coastal Highway is definitely not in the same league. We should apply to join the EU.
 

m00nman

Neil and Craig in Pontedueme - 2012
Camino(s) past & future
Ingles (2012), Norte (Hendaya - Gernika, (2013), Sanabres from Ourense, (2014), Portugues Oct (2017)
#18
Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your very detailed, honest and open experiences which I really enjoyed reading. It was refreshing to hear and as some of us are considering cycling next year I can really take some tips from everything you wrote...have you shared any photos etc, would love to see them?
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#19
Hi Moonman, I haven't shared any photos, I just have the usual ones you see everywhere. Check out the Lex Ells series of videos on Youtube, they're an amazing daily account of the CF using a drone. He was there in October 2017 and can give you a good idea of what to expect.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Bike Camino, Leon to Santiago late Aug 2018
#20
I have to say that your list looks a lot like mine for my first camino. I think we bicigrinos fall into a trap because you can pack an awful lot of stuff in big bike panniers, and if it fits, "Why not take it?" (I didn't have a laptop but I did take an iPad). The result is a lot of heartbreak when faced with the big climbs, or even worse, some of those tracks.
I have inevitably adapted to the mindset of the walkers. who have a more obvious motive to be paranoid about weight. For example my sleep gear consists of a silk sleeping-bag liner, probably 100g, and as I always travel in summer and use private accommodation fairly often, I have had no problem.
I too, used to carry a good camera, spare lens, small tripod (+the inevitable charger and spare battery). Now I just use my iPhone 6s.
Low weight makes a huge difference to the enjoyment of the ride.
Can this sleeping luggage weight not be avoided by using the bedding in the albergues? Or am I being incredibly naive?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances May/June 2015, via the Atlantic Cycle Route
#21
Can this sleeping luggage weight not be avoided by using the bedding in the albergues? Or am I being incredibly naive?
I'd recommend at least to bring a sleeping bag liner if for no other reason it feels better than a lot of the disposable sheets used in some of the albergues.
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#22
There's also a bed bug issue that is regularly discussed on this forum, so I'd prefer to sleep in something that I know where its been and I'm not sure of the availability of blankets in all albergues.
 
Camino(s) past & future
July 7th 2014 Camino Frances
Camino Portugues 26 July (2016)
#23
Wow Mark, so glad I found this post..... Awesome to read and lots of questions answered. I have walked camino Frances and camino Portugese and thought this year I had to become a bicigrina.. I am gearing up to ride the Camino del Norte, Camino Portugese and somehow get over to Seville to complete via de la plata all in a weeks time and hoping to complete all this in 5 weeks. I ride a lot and completed Tour of New Zealand this year in 23 days and thats over 3000km long. My bike weight 24kgs but I found after day 5-7 you didnt even feel the load anymore. Loved it so much that the camino had to be next. Your gear list is essentially what I have minus the laptop so thanks for that. I only hope that one day I will be able to write a discriptive account of my camino's like you have. You'll have to try Tour of NZ. Next one is in 2020 starts beginning of Feb and you have 30days to complete this. Anyway again thanks for the write up.
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
#24
Hi Ingrid, not sure if I ever want to get on a bike again to ride a long distance. I think I learnt my lesson and will stick to putting one foot in front of the other next time. My very long term plans at this stage are to hike to Base Camp, Mt Everest one day and maybe come back and walk the CF after holy year in 2021. Good luck on your trip, sounds amazing, not sure if I could live out of paniers for 5 weeks! Enjoy! I've been skiing at a few places in NZ and love it, not sure if I want to ride through it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
July 7th 2014 Camino Frances
Camino Portugues 26 July (2016)
#25
Hi Mark, you'll love NZ by bike. Big kudos to you on your Everest trip - that is extreme but I think I'll stick to the bike. Have walked Camino Portugese and Frances so trying the bike and will see how it all pans out. There will be at least 12 kiwis on the trip all the way to Porto via Santiago and then ill be on my own. I do hope to meet other riders along the way, but if not then that is 'the way'. Hope to do a blog every now and again along the route. We shall see. Cheers again.
 
Camino(s) past & future
None
#26
Not sure why I decided to post this summary of my Camino experience, but I thought somebody might find it useful and I found it difficult to find bicycle information about the Camino. As a starting point I'm a reasonably fit 52 year old male, office worker who eats well and exercises regularly. I don’t have any real religious beliefs and I wanted to do the Camino for the experience, physical challenge, live out my “The Way” dream and become a Dual Pilgrim, having previously completed the Kumano Kodo in Japan. I finally got the opportunity to do the Camino this year, I could only get 2 weeks off work, so I accepted Jost’s advice from the movie that I could finish it in 2 weeks on a bike far more easily than walking it over a month.

I ended up biking the Camino Frances and finishing in 12 days, some thoughts:

  • I flew London - Madrid - Biarritz, then Santiago - Madrid - London with Air Iberia and had no problems.
  • I hired a mountain bike from Bike Iberia on the internet under a Camino package, it worked fine and I have no complaints.
  • I left SJPDP on Sat 16/9 and finished in Santiago on Wed 27/9, had a day in Santiago on 28/9 and flew out on 29/9. During this time of year, sunrise is at about 8am and its difficult/dangerous riding in the dark, sunset is not until about 8.30pm.
  • There are pilgrim peak hours between about 7am and 9am, 1pm and 3pm in and out of the Brierley stages.
  • I used the Brierley guide book, it was useful and a good investment. I followed the conventional Brierley path and didn’t have time to divert onto the green or alternative options.
  • The grey roads in the Brierley guide are sealed country roads with little traffic, so they are fairly bike safe, in fact you will often find pilgrims walking on these roads.
  • I rode on the red N roads occasionally when I wanted to make up time or when the pilgrim track followed these roads.
  • If you find a red N road that runs parallel to a blue freeway, the red road will be almost deserted and safe to ride a bike.
  • The red N roads have a kerb generally between 1 metre and 1.5 metres wide. In busy sections there are a lot of trucks and buses, so exercise some caution on these roads.
  • The quality of the pilgrim tracks vary greatly from gravel sendas, rocky sharp granite boulders that vary in height between 15cm and 30cm, rutted tree roots, mud, dirt, shallow creeks and everything in between.
  • The km per day completed below reflect the hills I had to climb in a day and there were hills every day.
  • I had 40 litres of capacity in my paniers, filled them up and regretted the extra weight on the bike - travel light !
  • I planned on washing my clothes by hand, but getting into an albergue at 5pm wont allow enough time to get your clothes dry overnight (assuming you have good weather). If you are going to ride a bike and finish late in the day, then budget an extra 3 euro for a machine wash, plus 3 euro for the dryer. 5 washes over 2 weeks equals 60 euro and you will love the smell of clean clothes the next day!
  • I took about 24 muesli/protein bars which I thought were worthwhile. I got sick of the endless toast and jam in the mornings. Its hard to find a bowl of cereal on the Camino.
  • Carry 2 litres of water daily because on long hot days you will be drinking about 6 litres per day and it is sometimes hard to find a water fonte.
  • Take 2 padded bike shorts and 3 changes of clothes, therefore you only have to wash every second day. Track pants and casual shorts are good at night. The Camino is definitely not a fashion parade, bars and cafes will let you in wearing just about anything.
  • Wear runners on the bike, not the specialised lock-in bike shoes, because you will be walking the bike a lot on tracks and roads.
  • I took a doona cover (cotton sheets), a thin fleece blanket to sleep in and long PJ’s. I didn’t need the fleece, the albergues were warm enough and they have spare blankets.
  • I soaked my bedding and PJ’s in Permethrin, had no issues with bed bugs and never heard of any bed bug issues in the albergues where I stayed.
  • Expect 4 seasons in a day, I generally started at 8am with a t shirt, fleece and gortex shell. I took off the shell at 11am and took off the fleece at 2pm because it was too hot.
  • Weather was fantastic, half a day of showers on day 1, some rain at night, half a day of fog in the middle, sun burn and sun screen all other days.
  • Not sure if it was the time of year, but there was a consistent head wind in my face just about every day on the bike.
  • Research albergues on the internet and highlight the ones that take bikes in your Brierley Guide, it will give you a target for the day and you will know where to stay at the end of a long day. See the Bicigrino guide on the net.
  • Finish riding by 5pm, get into the albergue, shower, wash and relax by the 7pm dinner time.
  • I would recommend doing a maximum of about 2 Brierley stages per day (approx. 50km), any more and you will be exhausted, not enjoy the trip and miss visits to Cathedrals, Museums, etc. I wanted to stop and smell the flowers, take photos, eat in cafes, soak my feet in a river, lay in the sun which were not possible all the time due to my time constraints.
  • The more experienced cyclists I met on the Camino (see below) were easily doing between 60km and 100km per day. Their focus was more on enjoying the ride, they had support cars, rode mostly on the roads and didn’t have 15kg packed into paniers on the bike.
  • I had mostly fine weather on my Camino, riding the bike on generally dry tracks and roads. Travelling between 50km and 90km per day kicks up a lot of dust, dirt, grime and kills a few bugs. The bike, my paniers and I were filthy at the end of a day and we needed a good wash.
  • The albergues I used were private and cost about 9 or 10 euro per night, they were good quality places to stay and normally provide dinner for an additional 9 or 10 euro with a free bottle of wine. Nearby cafes provide similar deals.
  • I thought the pilgrim meals were generally very basic and I needed a pizza or paella every couple of days fill up.
  • You can eat and drink whatever you want each day because you are burning so many calories.
  • Breakfast and lunch cost between 3 and 5 euros each depending on how much you want to eat. A ham and cheese bread roll and a coffee costs about 4 euro.
  • I would suggest that most people cant ride a bike up the Napoleon route from SJPDP unless you are at Olympic medal standard.
  • I pushed the bike 80% of the way up the Pyrenees and 50% on Alto del Perdon, Cruz de Ferro, and a detour around O'Cebreiro. Going downhill is not easy either with rutted tracks, boulders and rocks.
  • The state of the pilgrim tracks before Sarria vary greatly and are sometimes quite narrow, so I would recommend using the roads when possible and safe. The tracks after Sarria seem to be wider and can accommodate walkers and bikers more easily. Not sure what it would be like at other times of the year when there are more pilgrims.
  • I didn’t really have a “life changing Camino experience”. I think the Camino would be a lot more personal if you hold some religious beliefs and you can connect with the history and culture. All the small towns and churches were a bit lost on me and became a bit of a blur.
  • I had a more spiritual experience on the Kumano Kodo in Japan where there is a cultural overload on the senses.
Very informative reply many thanks. Will have to purchase the Brierley you talk about. Many thanks steve n lou.
 

hecate105

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2009 Portuguese Estellas 2014 Aurelia 2016 St Davids 2017 Via Augusta/V dl P. 2018 Michael Mary Way
#27
Good Lists.. I, like Ingrid, carry more, usually 17-20kg but that includes tent and cooking stuff. I feel that once you are riding you get used to the weight and I don't resent the load - even when walking up hills! I sometimes go riding with much less and actually miss the stability of the weight on the bike. Also I would much rather have the little luxuries with me - bottle of wine, espresso maker.... I find that stopping to buy drinks is really expensive over a long trip, so better to carry the kit.
It really depends on your situation and attitude - budget v time restraints....
I have met pilgrims spending lavishly (great for the locals) and those who travelled on less than 5 euro a day....
Takes all sorts!!
 

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