Search over 55.000 Camino Questions

A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it


Advertisement
John Brierley Camino Frances Guide
This guide is one of the ones that has been around for over 15 years. Updated yearly. Please read the reviews.
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.

Cycling - Franics vs Norte/Camping vs Not/Road vs actual route

jporcas

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
none
Hi - I was hoping to get some advice on a few things so here we go...

Looking to tour through N. Spain on my bike by myself as I have wanted to it for a while. Not for religious reasons, I just like riding my bike and Spanish food! I'm a 28 year male and I ride a reasonable amount (was in italy last summer with 2 panniers and average 90-160km a day depending on hills). Ideally the trip would be 10 daysish (thinking it will be ~800km bilbao to santiago)

Main questions which i would love to hear people thoughts on are:

1. Francis from Pamplona (potentially actually starting in Biaritz/Bilbao) or Norte route again probably starting in Bilbao. Leaning towards the the North route as I would like to get into the hills and worried the francis might get boring if its all flat for the 1st half? Is this the case?

2. To camp or not to camp. So I have a light weight tent and gear which i quite like the idea of using however. Is it easy to find places to camp? Are there many nice space to freedom camp quickly for the night. Will i have to book Albergues in June time far ahead (i like the idea of being flexible)

3. Road vs Actual route. So i know on a road i can cover ~100km a day inc. a few hills on a loaded bike...no idea how this would translate to on the actual route? Am i gaining anything by sticking on the actual route vs roughly following it on the roads eg. easier navigation, social aspect as might see fewer people.

Thanks in advanced! Really want to do it but a bit daunted at bike touring by myself!

James
 
2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.
Holy Year Credential
Get the HOLY YEAR Camino Credential (Passport) here.
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
Unless you're doing any of the Camino routes as a pilgrimage, rather than simply wanting a bicycle touring route, it would be good to stay off the Camino routes and stick to roads and other bicycle paths. Pilgrims who are pedestrians have enough challenges with pilgrims on bicycles without adding additional non-pilgrim bike traffic.:)

That's just my opinion; others may views things differently.
 

Northern Laurie

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Northern Way (2017)
I can't speak to the Frances, but from Bilbao there are official bicycle pilgrim reroutes - take them. They are there because the pedestrian route is not accessible to the typical road bicycle (some might be accessible to mountain bikes) or would create a dangerous situation for both cyclist and pedestrian. For the most part, I believe you would be sharing the vast majority of your time with other pilgrims.

If you really want hills though, the stretch from Irun to Bilbao is definitely more challenging. I don't think you'd get to Santiago in your 10 days. But you'd have a fantastic and beautiful trip, with lots of physical challenge. And the best food... IMHO

If you want to stay in the Albergues, I would respectfully request that you think about how your trip could become a pilgrimage to you. There are many, many different ways to think of pilgrimage - for example, learning the history of a place, reading up on cultural way markers, or an intentional practice of becoming a better person. None of these are religious, but will open your experience potentially into something deeper. It will give you some common ground with others staying in the Albergues and allow you to experience the richness of hte community on the Camino - a pretty amazing part of doing this.

If you really do not want to explore this aspect of the Camino, that is fine too.
 

Kurt5280

Crazy Enough To Try It Again!
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances: SJPDP to Finisterre & Muxia 9/15 (MTB) - Norte: Bayonne to Muxia & Finisterre 9/18 (MTB)
If your intention is an exercise Camino then I would bike the Camino del Norte starting at the Biarritz Airport...the food and scenery are better...also unless you have a mountain bike the Camino trails on the Camino Frances are not made for a road bikes...and I mountain biked the Camino Frances from SJPdP to Muxia and I still pushed my mountain bike up 300+ km of Camino hill trails...if you want to camp the best way is to ask the landowner and I even saw Pilgrims asking hotels and hostels if they could camp in the courtyards...lastly I recommend booking a place to stay in advance in SJPdP, Biarritz, and Santiago.
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
Also, with regard to albergues ---

From APoC: "Walking pilgrims often have priority over cycling pilgrims, the general policy being that walking peregrinos will be given beds first. The premise is that if a walker appears at an albergue and it is close to filling its beds, the walker will be in a difficult way having to walk an additional 5 km to the next albergue. However, there seem to be more albergues opening every year, both public and private, so accommodation is rarely an issue. It's important to note that there are only a few campground located on the French route." "When registering at an albergue, you will be asked to present your credential to verify that you are walking or cycling the Road."

From CSJ: "There are hostels – known as refugios or albergues – all along the Camino Francés, and on a growing number on other routes. These hostels only admit pilgrims carrying a Pilgrim Record or credencial who are walking, cycling or horse-riding the camino. Some do not admit pilgrims with vehicular back-up i.e. using luggage carrying services. "
 
2021 Camino Guides
Most all Camino authors have decided to use 2020 guides for 2021, with free PDF files with updates coming in the spring. Get yours today.
Donation to the Forum
A donation to this forum helps it continue to exists and also removes all ads for you.

Helen1

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
Hi James,

Might be worth taking a look at the route profiles here: http://www.godesalco.com/plan/frances

Not cycled on the Norte so can't give you a comparison (I suspect it's tougher). The CF has some lovely smooth, quiet, tarmac roads that are a joy to cycle on so I would stick to the road but I think Newfydog will tell you about the off-road benefits!

Camping is very controversial on this forum, yes there are plenty of places on CF but remember Spanish people go to bed very late and pilgrims start walking way before dawn. It's also not entirely legal and after Sarria there are a lot of signs up asking you not to camp. There are plenty of commercial albergues and hostels in the main cities- sometimes you might have to go to the next town but it will only be a couple of km. I suspect the food will be better on the Norte.

If you did 90-160km in Italy you can easily do that on the CF. I suspect you main problem will be weather not distance. You could be lucky and get no rain but you could also get deluged. If the weather is fab you might find yourself cycling in beautiful evening light with local club riders and enjoying being alive. The flat bit of the CF can be really windy.

Helen
 

Mark T17

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Kumano Kodo 2012
Frances Sept 2017 (bike)
Hi James,

You might like to look at my post under biking in this forum when I completed the Frances in September 2017.

1 I think the Frances is far from boring and there are hills every day. If you want a challenge, do the Napoleon route out of St Jean and you'll be sore for days.

2 I personally don't like camping and don't know why you would do it on the Frances, when you can get albergue accommodation suitable for bikers for 9 euro per night. I remember seeing 1 or 2 camping grounds over the whole route so I don't think its worthwhile. I didn't book any albergues in September other than my first and last nights, it was busy but I didn't have any problems finding vacancies other than one town that was full after Burgos.

3 I estimate the tracks require about 30% more energy and effort than the roads. I preferred the roads for this very reason and you don't miss a thing. The tracks are no more than about 300 metres away from the roads, so you're not missing anything. In fact some of the roads still have the old camino markers prior to the path moving over to the new tracks, so you could say the roads are the original path in some areas.

You will miss the social aspect of the camino on the bike, but that's the choice you make. I did travel through with about 10 bikers and we shared some experiences, but its no the same as the walkers.

Don't worry about biking by yourself, in September there were about 20 bikers on the Frances on any given day and about 200 walkers.
 

jporcas

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
none
Thanks for all the advice!

@Northern Laurie whilst not religious will be a trip away to sort my head out after the end of a long term relationship if that counts...

Think will probably stick to road routes then.

@Mark T17 Did you book hostels/albergue in advance (by advance i mean on the day/day before using hostel world etc). Was it much of a concern? Did you stick to the Napoleon route from St Jean? It would mean i can travel super light without panniers and just saddle pack and frame bag if not carrying tent, cooking equipment etc...
 

Jenny267

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
France's (2017)
@jporcas like Mark I rode in September and agree with his words of wisdom! However we stayed in hostels/hotels and booked ahead on the day or the night before as not all places have secure storage for bikes and we wanted to be sure of a bed. We either rang up or used booking.com
I think the camping gear would be more trouble than it's worth and the benefit of travelling light will be worth it
 

enriquerivers

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
Hi @jporcas good luck with your trip. I planning to do the same thing this year around September time. Would be good to hear about your experience. I was planning to do it on a Brompton from Bilbao. Would I be crazy to consider doing it on a fold up bike?!!
 
Casa Ivar Pin
Custom hard enamel pin badge with silver coloured locking pin. Size: 30 mm.
Create your own ad
€1,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.

Older Guy

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francis -May 2016 by bike---Loved it
My 2 cents. I did a bike CF in May 2016 Pamplona to Santiago with a train trip from Leon to Ponferrada because of horrible rain that turned trails to mud and had water running over roads. Ponferrada is 200+ km from Sanitago so you can still get a Compostella.

Mine was for religious, physical challenge and tourism. I really want to urge you to consider adding a religious purpose as it can add a whole other layer to the experience. I did my CF all by myself, but I spent several months studying for it.

The Camino has been a pilgrimage and trade route for hundreds of years and more. There are few other routes where the infrastructure (places to stay inexpensively, places to eat, historic sites, stores to restock your every need, medial services) is so advanced. If you get the Pilgrim's passport that Iar can sell you, it will open doors for you, it will be the ultimate souvenir, and if filled in with two stamps a day will earn you a Compostella or mileage commemorative (another great set of souvenirs for a life event).

In addition to what you see a big part of the CF is who you meet and what you share with them. Almost all locals you will have meet will have done one or more Caminos and so you have a common shared experience, as do most pilgrims you meet. That feeling of connection and swapping stories is a big part of the Camino experience! In July of 2017, I did a solo self directed C2C across England; no body was doing what I was doing and so I couldn't really share much with those I meet.

That is why attending some Mass or church services and Vespers services adds so much. You will meet nuns, priests, and pilgrims with whom you share things, plus you get to participate in ceremonies that have gone back hundreds of years and enriched the life of millions of pilgrims. It makes you part of history.

Now switching to the practical. Use a 29r MTB with disk brakes. There are several reasons. First, you will want to take the trail in a few places. Second you want the low gearing for some of the hills with a bike load of panniers. Third the roads will be easier on your body with an MTB. Long day after day rides even with gel padded gloves are hard on wrists and hands due to road vibration without a front suspension. Also, you will find lots of cobblestone roads in villages and old parts of cities. Cobblestones with narrow road tires can lead to serious injuries! There are some huge downhill grades on the CF and it does rain a lot so rim brakes can be an issue.

Most of the CF trail is within site of a road and some of it is on the shoulder of a road. Plan on mostly roads with some trail where it is not crowded and trail conditions are good. Be respectful of the hikers and yield to them.

Camping? Why bother? You will miss the ability to interact with others there are inexpensive accommodations with a passport so don't haul the extra weight you don't need.

The weather will not be perfect, so take gear for every kind of weather or have lots of contingency days. Which brings up the last point. Your plans will change during your Camino so think ahead about contingencies. It may be weather, an injury, a breakdown. Remember when bad stuff happens, you can always hire to send you panniers ahead via taxi/courier service, take a short train trip or a taxi option.

Good luck and enjoy your Camino experience!
 

Ste66

Irish pilgrim
Year of past OR future Camino
2020
My wife and I cycled the camino Frances from Pamplona to Santiago in 2015.
We used rented hybrid bikes with fully loaded panniers, initially we used the walking trails but as we got more experienced we flitted between road and trail.
There are roads close to the camino trail for the whole journey but some of them can be very busy. As for sharing the trail with walkers if you are courteous and respect others there will be no issues. We used the Michelin guide for navigation and we pre booked most of our accomodation and we had a ball.
Whatever you choose Buen camino
 

Flatlander

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May/June 2015, via the Atlantic Cycle Route
Hi James,

I kinda did both in 2015, cycling from Holland to St. Jean and following the Camino Frances to Santiago (I foolishly did the Napoleon Route! :) ). After wandering over to the West Coast, I followed the Northern coast back to San Sebastian, via Bilbao.

Because I was travelling from Holland I brought camping gear (but no cooking gear).

My thoughts on your proposal....

You don't need cooking gear. Food is plentiful and cheap.... and good.
If you do the Frances, you don't need camping gear. Albergues are everywhere, if one is full, cycle to the next one.

In terms of route choice, based on your preferences for hills and long distances I would suggest the Northern route, or at least a route based on it. And camp. I can't vouch for wild camping, but the campsites along the coast are reasonably priced and with practically no exceptions that I can remember, the views are out of this world! A lot had private beaches to swim in the ocean.
The roads are excellent, mainly quiet and the drivers are very respectful giving lots of space when overtaking, or waiting patiently when no overtake is possible.

Northern Spain is definitely my favourite place to cycle.

If you choose to go the Frances and you want to do large distances daily, then stick to the roads.
It will not be possible to do large distances on the walkers path without speeding and severely upsetting pilgrims. Remember, every morning when everyone leaves is the busiest time on the path. Everybody is bunched together. Quadruple that after Sarria (100 km from Santiago) and it lasts all day here. If you're under pressure for big distances it will not be enjoyable.

In Santiago I met 2 bikers who had bikepacked & wild camped a route based on the northern route. They were very, very glad to reach civilisation! :) So, it can be done.

I also met 2 German cyclists who packed up their bikes on day one because the rain was so bad. Allow time for contingency planning.

Bear in mind also, that the pilgrim life is early to bed and early to rise (sometimes very, very early!). This means that you can miss out on the "real Spain" because the Spanish like to eat and socialise late.

Also, the bonding that walkers have, seeing the same pilgrims day after day is next to impossible when you're travelling by bike. That's not to say that you don't have sociable evenings, just that sometimes there's already a group dynamic formed.

As for travelling on your own - it gives you so much freedom to pick and choose on the fly and the Spanish I found to be incredibly friendly and hospitable. Truthfully, I found this more off the Camino routes than on.

Whatever you choose, I'm sure a great adventure is awaiting you.

All the best

Frank
 

ruthyk004

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
bike the Northern Camino in 2018
I can't speak to the Frances, but from Bilbao there are official bicycle pilgrim reroutes - take them. They are there because the pedestrian route is not accessible to the typical road bicycle (some might be accessible to mountain bikes) or would create a dangerous situation for both cyclist and pedestrian. For the most part, I believe you would be sharing the vast majority of your time with other pilgrims.

If you really want hills though, the stretch from Irun to Bilbao is definitely more challenging. I don't think you'd get to Santiago in your 10 days. But you'd have a fantastic and beautiful trip, with lots of physical challenge. And the best food... IMHO

If you want to stay in the Albergues, I would respectfully request that you think about how your trip could become a pilgrimage to you. There are many, many different ways to think of pilgrimage - for example, learning the history of a place, reading up on cultural way markers, or an intentional practice of becoming a better person. None of these are religious, but will open your experience potentially into something deeper. It will give you some common ground with others staying in the Albergues and allow you to experience the richness of hte community on the Camino - a pretty amazing part of doing this.

If you really do not want to explore this aspect of the Camino, that is fine too.

Hi, You say that "from Bilbao there are official bicycle pilgrim reroutes" - how do I find these reroutes? Is there a map online or a printed map or itinerary? I'm biking from Bilbao to Santiago in May, on a hybrid bike. Thanks
 

ForrestUS

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Pamplona to Finisterre starting May 12th
Hi - I was hoping to get some advice on a few things so here we go...

Looking to tour through N. Spain on my bike by myself as I have wanted to it for a while. Not for religious reasons, I just like riding my bike and Spanish food! I'm a 28 year male and I ride a reasonable amount (was in italy last summer with 2 panniers and average 90-160km a day depending on hills). Ideally the trip would be 10 daysish (thinking it will be ~800km bilbao to santiago)

Main questions which i would love to hear people thoughts on are:

1. Francis from Pamplona (potentially actually starting in Biaritz/Bilbao) or Norte route again probably starting in Bilbao. Leaning towards the the North route as I would like to get into the hills and worried the francis might get boring if its all flat for the 1st half? Is this the case?

2. To camp or not to camp. So I have a light weight tent and gear which i quite like the idea of using however. Is it easy to find places to camp? Are there many nice space to freedom camp quickly for the night. Will i have to book Albergues in June time far ahead (i like the idea of being flexible)

3. Road vs Actual route. So i know on a road i can cover ~100km a day inc. a few hills on a loaded bike...no idea how this would translate to on the actual route? Am i gaining anything by sticking on the actual route vs roughly following it on the roads eg. easier navigation, social aspect as might see fewer people.

Thanks in advanced! Really want to do it but a bit daunted at bike touring by myself!

James
Hello curious to see whether you have started your Camino. I myself will be attempting to bike the Francis starting in Pamplona May 12th.
 
Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
Silver Oxide Camino de Santiago pendent
Camino de Santiago pendant that has a shell on the front, and "Camino de Santiago" engraved on the back. Comes with a black cord. Pendent is slightly larger than a 50 euro cent coin, about 25mm.

Northern Laurie

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Northern Way (2017)
Hi, You say that "from Bilbao there are official bicycle pilgrim reroutes" - how do I find these reroutes? Is there a map online or a printed map or itinerary? I'm biking from Bilbao to Santiago in May, on a hybrid bike. Thanks

I am a bit out of my comfort zone (I am not a cyclist), but I used two apps. The Buen Camino app included maps and information for cyclists, including amenities specifically geared for cyclists. At many locations, I would see "Bici" with an arrow pointing a different direction... but I don't know overall how well way marked the route is, and if it is easily visible while traveling at speed.
 

Jean T

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2012) on foot (incomplete)
Camino del Norte on bicycle with children April 2018
Hi, You say that "from Bilbao there are official bicycle pilgrim reroutes" - how do I find these reroutes? Is there a map online or a printed map or itinerary? I'm biking from Bilbao to Santiago in May, on a hybrid bike. Thanks
Wikiloc has various cycling and MTB routes for the Norte. I have used the CSJ’s 2 part guide, which has some advice for cyclists on which parts are less suitable for cyclists. I poured over google maps and Norte app and plotted route onto ViewRanger at home beforehand to reduce the decision time at each Bici/Camino variance. Most of the yellow Bici arrows on the Norte steer cyclists towards a better surface and/or gradient. I have followed walkers path in dry conditions in late September, sometimes it is worth it! But now in March/April I’m tending to follow those Bici arrows and increasingly I’m staying on a road rather than the Camino due to mud fatigue!
 

Attachments

  • 6DDDD478-0374-447A-B454-09402259299A.jpeg
    6DDDD478-0374-447A-B454-09402259299A.jpeg
    691.9 KB · Views: 14
Last edited:

Did not find what you were looking for? Search here

Popular Resources

“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf ivar
  • Featured
“All” Albergues on the Camino Frances in one pdf
4.95 star(s) 100 ratings
Downloads
14,989
Updated
A selection of favorite albergues on the Camino Francés Ton van Tilburg
Favorite Albergues along the Camino Frances
4.83 star(s) 35 ratings
Downloads
7,649
Updated
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances ivar
Profile maps of all 34 stages of the Camino Frances
4.88 star(s) 24 ratings
Downloads
7,511
Updated

Camino Updates on YouTube

Camino Conversations

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Most downloaded Resources

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 16 1.1%
  • February

    Votes: 10 0.7%
  • March

    Votes: 61 4.3%
  • April

    Votes: 211 14.9%
  • May

    Votes: 345 24.4%
  • June

    Votes: 103 7.3%
  • July

    Votes: 27 1.9%
  • August

    Votes: 30 2.1%
  • September

    Votes: 408 28.9%
  • October

    Votes: 173 12.2%
  • November

    Votes: 19 1.3%
  • December

    Votes: 11 0.8%

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store
Top