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Cycling on the Frances

Derek Sullivan

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2017
Hi. I've been reading camino messages for many weeks because I'm planning a pilgimage later this year. After Easter but before summer. Never posted before so I'm REALLY interested what might happen, if anything¡

So here goes! I would like to start from St Jean Pied del Port and believe its quite a difficult cycling stage, if not the most difficult stage? How true is this!

Derek S
 
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wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
2012
Welcome Derek, the stage to Roncesvalles is probably tough in terms of altitude and incline, same with accent to O'Cebreiro but I think where its get tough is when you hit the clay mud on the trails further on in the Camino.
I have not cycled the Camino and I'm sure you will get better advise from those who have.
Happy planning and Buen Camino.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
I haven't cycled it. Although there is a serious climb and descent, I think the bad reputation of the SJPP - Roncesvalles section is due mainly to the length for walkers, and the fact that it is often the first day before they have jettisoned their excess baggage and gotten their feet hardened.

There are difficult pieces all along the Camino Frances - often only for short sections, but places where a cyclist should consider taking the road instead. The hard parts are narrow paths without room for cyclists to safely pass walkers, very muddy sections where the wheels/boots get clogged, or loose rock on steep downhills. Cyclists need to remember that the walkers are struggling with wobbly knees too, and can't nimbly leap out of the way for an out-of-control cyclist.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
This stage goes from 164 m to 1430; see the profile here. It is pretty tough, but I have seen many cyclists doing it. It has 15 km on a paved road (there is a path section shortcut, that you can just ignore), then a very short section (Bentartea pass) that I think it is not cyclable, and an easier gravel road to Lepoeder pass. There, you can take the paved road to Ibañeta and Roncesvalles, to avoid the steep forest trail.
Alternatively, you can choose the Valcarlos or lower way option: it is nice, too. After Valcarlos there is a path by the forest, but you can ride by the highway (just sparse traffic). Anyway, be cautious, and please attach a bell to your byke to warn walkers.
Good ride!
 
D

Deleted member 43780

Guest
C clearly stated it very well!

I biked (Bike Friday with trailer in tow) in 2015. Many parts of the trail I could not ride on. Even if did not have the trailer in tow.
When I thought certain parts would be impossible, I found out I could do them on my bike. When I thought parts would be fine, they were not.

I went via the Valcarlos route. Mostly on highway. Lots of pushing my bike w/trailer. Also saw many fit riders also pushing their bikes as well up hill.

Had tent in trailer. So did some tent sleeping. Slept outside the A'bergs. i.e. at Roncesvalles used shower, table to eat, etc. and then slept outside in tent in back of the A'berg. So it went for other towns. i.e. Los Arcos slept outside the A'berg and used shower, kitchen in A'berg.

Of course paid nightly fee for such.

Other sections of the CF presented challenges for bike riders. Each to their own. IMHO there were other sections that presented more of a challenge than the first leg. But, the ride from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles was tough at times on a bike.

Most of the motorist on the highway were respectful of me. They gave me ample room. BUT, still be careful!!

Securing bike inside was not a issue at most A'bergs. Some had inside storage area for bike. Some I had to keep bike outside. Some outside ones had a overhead cover and some did not.

Have a lock. But not too heavy of a lock. If they want your bike, they will.

Be careful. Helmets are mandatory in Spain (casco.... de bicicleta). Watch out for walkers. Few times I thought I had the Camino to myself and around the bend was a few hikers.

Enjoy your Camino. Your way.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
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.
Learn Spanish for the Camino
Enhance your Camino experience by learning about the Spanish language and culture.
Past OR future Camino
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Hola @Derek - cycling the Camino is really no different to riding your bike at home, except, that in general, you have ab 800 km path laid out ahead of you. There has been extensive posting on the "Biking the Camino" section. Have a look there and come back with any more questions. Cheers
 

Kent Davis

Member
Past OR future Camino
Completed CF in Oct 2016
My experience walking was that the many of the bikers created the most dangerous circumstances on the Camino because they simply did not use their bell or shout out when they were closing in on people they just bolted past. Certainly there were groups that were careful but almost everyday I could have been hit by someone. The most important thing you can do is respect the walkers by making sure they know you are approaching as there are downhills where you build up considerable velocity and with the surfaces steering can be tricky. Most of the riders I spoke with spent some days on the camino and other days on the highways to balance the climbing.
 

Helen1

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
Hi Derek,

I didn't find cycling out of St Jean Pied de Port very challenging (note I cycled from London so this wasn't my first day). I took the road, cycled all the way up pretty slowly in low gear and didn't find it very challenging but it was a bit boring. Nicer near the top where I met some walkers to say hi to.

Stopped for a refueling snack a couple of times. Thick fog/mist at top so I had no idea what was ahead. It did seem to go on forever but it's switchbacks so the gradient isn't too bad. The day coming into St Jean in torrential rain was much, much harder mentally and physically as it was up and down and a lot steeper.

There was a stretch of Roman Road a few days later on that I almost lost the will to go on. For me that was much harder. Dead straight flat road, terrific headwind, nothing around other than the occasional lorry going past at high speed. (This road isn't on the walking route)

Have fun! - Helen
 

Derek Sullivan

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2017
Wow! Thanks everyone! Amazed by such a quick response from all over the world. Incredible! Muchisimas gracias a Felipe y Martyseville.

Many excellent comments. Yeah! I'm bell prepared for warning any fellow Camioneros. If the truth be known I'd prefer to walk but Tendonitis prevents the neccesary daily slog but cycling I can manage.

I do want to balance track and road.

I realise there are many Apps and web pages giving routes etc. However, can you recommend a 'map' or 'book' I might buy in order to see accurate routes? Both for nearby roads and the 'Camino' itself?

Do you know imagine 70 km is a good daily target or is this over optimstic?

Thanks to all who follow this thread..

Derek S
 

MikeC

Member
Past OR future Camino
Cycled SJPP to SDC September 2016
Starting Camino Ingles June 2018
I cycled from SJPP to Santiago last September, but used the roads rather than the walkers trails. It took me 15 days using a touring bike.
Where you are not on the main trail you will not have the benefit of following the yellow arrows and will need a map(s) that give a slightly wider geographic context than the walking guides.
The CSJ in London have a cycling guide pamphlet which I used, and I also found the Michelin Camino guide useful.
There is a very good and free map system available for download at maps.me. This was very good when I took some detours to places such as the monasteries at Yuso and Luso.
It also helped me to bypass Pamplona by headling south from Erro to join the Camino Aragones and then get to the Templar church at Euanate.
if I were to do it again I would allow more time and flexibility. Cycling is more solitary than walking and I would want more nights in Albergues to meet others and share their pilgrimages.
Don't plan too precisely, allow time to "smell the roses", and enjoy the experience.
Buen Camino
 
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ForrestUS

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Pamplona to Finisterre starting May 12th
I cycled from SJPP to Santiago last September, but used the roads rather than the walkers trails. It took me 15 days using a touring bike.
Where you are not on the main trail you will not have the benefit of following the yellow arrows and will need a map(s) that give a slightly wider geographic context than the walking guides.
The CSJ in London have a cycling guide pamphlet which I used, and I also found the Michelin Camino guide useful.
There is a very good and free map system available for download at maps.me. This was very good when I took some detours to places such as the monasteries at Yuso and Luso.
It also helped me to bypass Pamplona by headling south from Erro to join the Camino Aragones and then get to the Templar church at Euanate.
if I were to do it again I would allow more time and flexibility. Cycling is more solitary than walking and I would want more nights in Albergues to meet others and share their pilgrimages.
Don't plan too precisely, allow time to "smell the roses", and enjoy the experience.
Buen Camino
I myself will be attempting cycling the Camino Frances starting in Pamplona in May.
Curious, were you an avid Rider before your Camino experience? Though I am in good physical shape my writing experience mainly consists of a stationary bike so I'm a little concerned about my abilities regarding cycling the Camino
 

MikeC

Member
Past OR future Camino
Cycled SJPP to SDC September 2016
Starting Camino Ingles June 2018
I was used to cycling up to 40 miles on roads, but I was 70 so you should be a lot fitter than I was.
The cycling got easier as I got more used to it, the first section from SJPDP being tough because most of the altitude gain comes in the last bit of it. It is quite a short day though.
Cruz de Ferro and O Cebreiro are much higher but also more gradual.
Mike
 

RobertB

New Member
Past OR future Camino
May 2018
I haven't cycled it. Although there is a serious climb and descent, I think the bad reputation of the SJPP - Roncesvalles section is due mainly to the length for walkers, and the fact that it is often the first day before they have jettisoned their excess baggage and gotten their feet hardened.

There are difficult pieces all along the Camino Frances - often only for short sections, but places where a cyclist should consider taking the road instead. The hard parts are narrow paths without room for cyclists to safely pass walkers, very muddy sections where the wheels/boots get clogged, or loose rock on steep downhills. Cyclists need to remember that the walkers are struggling with wobbly knees too, and can't nimbly leap out of the way for an out-of-control cyclist.
Thanks for Info
 

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