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Cycling the Via de Plata This Summer

kksweene

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe
Hey everyone,

Lovely website here. We are a couple from the United States who is planning on cycling the Via de Plata starting next month from Sevilla. We live in Andalucia currently. We are currently experiencing the rough heat of summer but we cycled over 100km last weekend to give ourselves a go and we think we can handle the heat of Extremadura.

Anyway we aare wondering the routes others have taken while cycling. Did you guys mostly stick to N630 (a paved, not heavily trafficked Carretera is my dream...) or try and follow the path of those walking? Any other general tips? We plan on alternating between Albergues and wild-camping, as well as bringing equipment for all types of weather we plan on encountering. Also we both have sufficient spanish to handle whatever strange situations we may find ourselves in over the course of the trip!
 

peregringo1

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
140+ days total on various caminos
i cycled sevilla-zamora last fall and mostly stuck to the N630. very little traffic, wide shoulders, and went through most of the camino towns on the walker's path. easy and straightforward, though sometimes a bit monotonous.

earlier this year before the shutdown, i walked sevilla-salamanca on the walker's route. most of the path was relatively flat and easily rideable. there were a couple of sections i recall where you could divert to a nearby road or push your bike up rocky paths. note that most of the walkers path is gravel roads, so if you have slightly wider bike tires, you'll manage fine.

one big highlight which is not on the walker's route is the via verde near bejar and baños de montemayor. it was spectacular on a bike, and goes along an old railroad high above the valley with amazing views. strongly recommend you don't miss that.

 

OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'CP, Frances,Norte,Salv/prim;Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, Vdlp 2019>Táb/ Prt Levante 2020
Welcome @kksweene
As a walker myself, I’ve wondered what cyclists use for guides. However, on many occasions walking I’ve seen a sign splitting direction advised for walkers and cyclists if the terrain is unsuitable for bikes.
Sometimes that is shown as a sketch of a cycle on the paved road with an arrow to continue straight on road or an arrow taking walkers off to a foot path. I believe some cyclists may use a gadget with an app on their bikes similar to that used in cars to indicate the route they’ve loaded.

Mostly cyclists seem to prefer being on the camino route though where they can. I’d say in many instances it might be safer too. Looking through my photos of Vdlp I see so much beautiful park like sections and off roads that are very bikeable and I consider the essence of Vdlp. A shame to miss.
one big highlight which is not on the walker's route is the via verde near bejar and baños de montemayor. it was spectacular on a bike, and goes along an old railroad high above the valley with amazing views. strongly recommend you don't miss that.
I agree there are some places like that one I wouldn’t like to be ‘carrying ‘ a bike up even though the walk was stimulating and good views too. The cycle alternative sounds great as well- you can enjoy the best of both if you plan well.

Buen camino
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
One of the reasons I love the VdlP is that in most cases the tracks are bike friendly, provided that you have MTB tyres. In difficult stretches the (largely empty) N630 is usually nearby. The Roman road route in the southern half tends to be wide farm track, with a good surface. Obviously in the mountain sections it is sensibly to stay on the bitumen.
I keep returning to the VdlP as it is a perfect bike camino. I don't recommend aiming at very long stages (100km) on endless bitumen. You will miss out completely.
El Berrocal Amaden 17-6-16.jpegIMG_0304.jpeg
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2017, 2018, 2019
I'm not much of a cyclist, but if I were I'd want to cycle on the tracks of the VDLP with a touring bicycle and not too narrow tires. Being on roads all the way would be less fun. Take a look at this walker's video to get an idea of the typical surfaces. Around the 14:30 minute mark, you'll see some cyclists navigating a ford. If you can manage that, I think you'll be fine for the whole VDLP:
 

kksweene

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe
Wow - Thank you all so much for the replies! Super appreciated!

one big highlight which is not on the walker's route is the via verde near bejar and baños de montemayor. it was spectacular on a bike, and goes along an old railroad high above the valley with amazing views. strongly recommend you don't miss that.
Saved this on our map and will definitely do it. Did you stay in Albergues or wild camp? Or maybe a mix?

Mostly cyclists seem to prefer being on the camino route though where they can. I’d say in many instances it might be safer too. Looking through my photos of Vdlp I see so much beautiful park like sections and off roads that are very bikeable and I consider the essence of Vdlp. A shame to miss.
Any areas in particular that you are referencing? Like some specific can't miss areas?

The Roman road route in the southern half tends to be wide farm track, with a good surface. Obviously in the mountain sections it is sensibly to stay on the bitumen.
Do you happen to know approximately where the farm track begins and ends? We would like to combine N630 with the more feasible parts of the walking path and farm track sounds pleasant =)

I'm not much of a cyclist, but if I were I'd want to cycle on the tracks of the VDLP with a touring bicycle and not too narrow tires. Being on roads all the way would be less fun.
Agreed the roads seem less fun so we will try and find some of the more bikable portions of the walking path before heading out!


Seriously all, we really appreciate all the help! What a great website. Sorry if my method of quoting/replying is not correct!
 

Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
I’ll try to be more specific.In the southern half, before Salamanca, there were a few places on the track that I would recommend avoiding, even on a mountain bike.

Between Guillena and Castlblanco, the track is rough and has many gullies, but is passable with a little pushing. On subsequent caminos I took the road, but I am in my 70’s so …

Definitely avoid the track climb to El Calvario, aproaching Almaden de la Plata. I got in real trouble here. There is a detour which takes you around the ridge for bikes which is signed. On my first VdlP I ignored it to my cost.

The track climb to Monasterio, (10km) is a killer. In subsequent caminos I’ve used the N 630, still a challenging climb.

After Baños the road is the best option to Puerto de Bejar, then the track is really pleasant to Fuenterroble.
North of Fuenterroble, the track is difficult on the approach to Pico de Dueña, and I took a road detour.

All good until the mountains of Sanabres where I used the road and the tunnel.

Castilblanco-Almaden.jpeg North of Villafranca.jpeg After Puerto de Bejar.jpeg Approach to Arco de Caparra.jpeg En route Fuenterroble.jpeg River country after Tabara.jpeg Santa Marta de Tera ahead.jpeg
 

Attachments

OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'CP, Frances,Norte,Salv/prim;Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, Vdlp 2019>Táb/ Prt Levante 2020
This pic is one example of where it’s indicated for bikes to take the other route. This section of the walking trail is just after leaving Cañaveral. 6EE5329E-C716-4643-8F81-7043C56BD7EC.jpeg
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
we are wondering the routes others have taken while cycling.
I am envious, regardless of the route, that you can cycle at all. As a teenager I cycled a hilly route to and from school: and often beat the school bus over 6 km from near sea level to nearly 200 m above sea level. Alas I have left that skill far behind and would most probably be a danger to everyone today.

I have experience of walking both the pilgrimages and other long distance journeys (see below) and my local training walks I find there are often many sections where cyclists and walkers will be in conflict on a trail that is primarily used by walkers.

Sections where this conflict can (and has erupted) that come to mind on the route from Saint-Jean to Compostela (the Frances) include:
1) between Saint-Jean itself and close to Pamplona;
2) descent from Alto-del-Perdon;
3) between Hontanas and the approach to Castrojeriz;
4) up from La Faba;
5) down from Fonfria;
6) between Sarria and Compostela itself, because of the numbers of walkers "in season".
And I am sure there are many others.
For the Frances proximate public roads covering nearly all the distance are the N135, N120, Lu633 and N547 with some "fill ins"

One point I hear cyclists make for wanting to use today's walking routes is "these are the routes the ancient pilgrims used I we would like to follow in their way."

I am sure the ways the ancient pilgrims used were the easiest in their day, following contours etc. And in many, if not most, cases those ways have became today's roads.

Another point I hear cyclists make is they like to mingle with all pilgrims. From my observations that is hard to do when underway. But can occur at meal and sleeping stops. Which, for the most part, the roads above for the Frances pass through.

And, by dint of the greater distances cyclists achieve each day, they will have their own "camino families"

I have no experience of the Via de la Plata itself, but suspect the general rule from above (use public roads) is the best policy for you.

I wish you every success and hope to hear of your achievements.

Kia kaha (take care be strong, get going)
 

peregringo1

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
140+ days total on various caminos
also worth checking out https://www.larutaenbici.com/en which has both mountain bike and road bike routes for the via de la plata. the site is not strictly for the camino as it continues to gijon. here are two write-ups of both routes:



to answer your question above: i stayed at albergues as they were plentiful and cheap and provided opportunities to meet pilgrims (mostly walkers so i would only see them one evening). this was in pre-covid times so if i were doing it now, i would likely camp more often.
 
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Peregrinopaul

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
I am envious, regardless of the route, that you can cycle at all....
I found your observations very pertinent, Alwyn, particularly with regard to the CF. We mostly cycled the trail as far as Pamplona, excepting the steep and dangerous descents. Without doubt I felt my presence on that section to be inherently intrusive to the walkers, no matter how considerate I tried to be. Hence, after that for the most part I stuck to the roads. However I found the VdlP a totally different experience. Walkers were so few by comparison that any interraction was always welcome to both walker and cyclist, and I would usually stop for a chat, language permitting.
 

OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'CP, Frances,Norte,Salv/prim;Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, Vdlp 2019>Táb/ Prt Levante 2020
. However I found the VdlP a totally different experience. Walkers were so few by comparison that any interraction was always welcome to both walker and cyclist, and I would usually stop for a chat, language permitting.
I you’ve explained this very well. I’ve walked both routes mentioned and the Vdlp is definitely as you described. Walking pilgrims don’t need to jump out of the way of cyclists for fear of death !!
 

Jim

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006- Camino Portuguese
2008- Camino Frances
2009- Sanabres extension of the VDLP
2010- Camino Frances
2011- Camino Potuguese
2014- Camino Frances
2017- Camino Finisterre
Mostly cyclists seem to prefer being on the camino route though where they can. I’d say in many instances it might be safer too.
[/QUOTE]

Yes, but many bikers seem to be inconsiderate of walkers. The sounds of a bell in the distance behind them means little to those elderly walkers, or those walkers with hearing impairments or those who have accompanying children! I join the group that thinks that bikers out to stick to routes not used by walkers. I am an American ad my sentiment seemed to have been voiced frequently by European walkers.
 

irishwalker

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walking, Astorga-Sarria 2011, StJPdP -Longrono 2012, Logrono- Burgos 2013, StJPdP - SdComp 2014, Valenca do Minho - Santiago ,Easter 2015, Seville- Santiago by roadbike, Sept 2015. Burgos to Leon, walking, May 2016
We cycled from Sevilla to SdeC in 2015. We pedalled on tarmac roads, on the N630 as far as it took us. We covered the distance in 10 days. We had a driver who carried the luggage. We did not rush every day. We started around 9am, stopped for coffee around 10.30/11am. We then stopped for lunch 'Menu del Dia' around 1pm. We usually finished around 4/5pm. Somedays, if the distance was long, maybe 120k, we started around 8am and had breakfast around 9am in a local town. The eldest in the group was 75 at the time. The same group cycled from Madrid to SdeC in 2019, via Sahagun. Happy and safe cycling
 

Shirley Proctor

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
From Salamanca 2012 From Pamploma 2006
Rode bike on VDLP 2018 from Seville and El Norte from Irun
20180605_113958.jpg
I hope I have attached a copy of an excellent guide I used cycling the VDLP in June 2018. It shows the camino with notes where to deviate and gives a bitumen only option for those with road bikes with narrow tyres. I stayed on the camino I think 95% time. I started early at daybreak in the south when very hot so that I was at my destination those days before 2pm.
I am an older Australian female with a small wheeled Bike Friday (USA design) and as they like reports where their bikes go see
https://www.bikefriday.com/folding-...orte-caminos-spain-on-a-bike-friday-june-2018 for photos of VDLP and El Norte which I also cycled...1800km in total over a leisurely 6 weeks
 

Hansel

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances and Fisterre (2018,08) ,Camino Primitivo, and Fisterre,(2019,04)
Hey everyone,

Lovely website here. We are a couple from the United States who is planning on cycling the Via de Plata starting next month from Sevilla. We live in Andalucia currently. We are currently experiencing the rough heat of summer but we cycled over 100km last weekend to give ourselves a go and we think we can handle the heat of Extremadura.

Anyway we aare wondering the routes others have taken while cycling. Did you guys mostly stick to N630 (a paved, not heavily trafficked Carretera is my dream...) or try and follow the path of those walking? Any other general tips? We plan on alternating between Albergues and wild-camping, as well as bringing equipment for all types of weather we plan on encountering. Also we both have sufficient spanish to handle whatever strange situations we may find ourselves in over the course of the trip!
Good luck,I'm going to be going in the opposite direction,and probably a month behind you,be interested to know how you get on.
Bill
 

Hansel

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances and Fisterre (2018,08) ,Camino Primitivo, and Fisterre,(2019,04)
I’ll try to be more specific.In the southern half, before Salamanca, there were a few places on the track that I would recommend avoiding, even on a mountain bike.

Between Guillena and Castlblanco, the track is rough and has many gullies, but is passable with a little pushing. On subsequent caminos I took the road, but I am in my 70’s so …

Definitely avoid the track climb to El Calvario, aproaching Almaden de la Plata. I got in real trouble here. There is a detour which takes you around the ridge for bikes which is signed. On my first VdlP I ignored it to my cost.

The track climb to Monasterio, (10km) is a killer. In subsequent caminos I’ve used the N 630, still a challenging climb.

After Baños the road is the best option to Puerto de Bejar, then the track is really pleasant to Fuenterroble.
North of Fuenterroble, the track is difficult on the approach to Pico de Dueña, and I took a road detour.

All good until the mountains of Sanabres where I used the road and the tunnel.

View attachment 78987 View attachment 78989 View attachment 78985 View attachment 78986 View attachment 78988 View attachment 78983 View attachment 78984
That looks a lot like bits of the Frances,only your first picture looks tricky.
Bill
 

Mike Wells

author of 'Cycling the Camino Frances'
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (1995) (2017 x2) (2018) Via de la Plata (1996), Finisterre 2018
Interesting that a well structured question about the road/off-road options for cycling on the VdlP and its informative and mostly valuable replies, eventually led to other contributors ranting about the presence of cyclists on the Camino Frances. Some of these comments are valid, others just reproduce oft-said but unjustified prejudice.
Some important facts. Firstly, the Caminos are not footpaths reserved for walkers, rather they are bridleways with equal rights of passage for all pilgrims, be they walkers, horse riders or cyclists. Indeed in the days of the medieval camino a significant number of pilgrims (albeit the wealthier ones) went by horse. Secondly, long stretches of the current CF route are a modern day interpretation of the original route, much of which disappeared under asphalt during the 20th century. Thirdly, while some cyclists are happy to ride the road route, others ride the Camino precisely because it is one of the best long-distance off-road cycle routes in Europe. Those that want a speedy journey and who might prove a threat to walkers tend to stick to the road. Those who want a challenge and an experience (the same motives driving many walkers) prefer to ride off-road.
As a cyclist who has ridden both the CF and VdlP on road and off-road routes, I always use my bell politely, when coming up behind walkers. The response of most walkers is a cheery 'buen camino' or 'hola' as I pass. Some however are less tolerant, I won't repeat some of the comments I have heard. Some even complain about me ringing my bell! From my point of view, the best response is some kind of indication they have heard me, either verbally or by raising their walking pole, so I know that I can pass safely. The worst are walkers who step across the track. or those with ear-phones who cannot hear anything but music from their i-pads.
In my guidebook to cycling the CF, I describe both road and off-road routes for the whole journey. I also point out those off-road sections which cyclists should avoid such as the Ruta Napoléon, the descent from the Alto del Perdón or the ascent to La Faba. I try to promote peaceful co-existence between walkers and cyclists (and horse riders too in the unlikely event I ever meet one). I urge walkers to see cyclists as fellow peregrinos, not as dangerous interlopers. SHARE THE PATH!
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
[On the VDLP] ... walking pilgrims don’t need to jump out of the way of cyclists for fear of death !!
Most paths in my region have signage showing a walker above and a cyclists and it is not infrequent to have text such as "shared path" and occasionally "cyclists must give way". And the general experience is one of courtesy to the other.

So I was greatly disturbed when walking on one side of a 3 metre wide path last week to have a two cyclist pass either side of me, from behind, at speed and talking loudly to one another.

Unless the cyclist knows the route well (having walked it beforehand) you don't know when the path may constrict down. The classic example is from Hontanas westwards. The start is on a road from the village. But soon the route is a narrow (sheep) track between fields with no room for even walkers to pass one another. And I guess almost impossible for a cyclists to walk beside their bike behind a walking pilgrim.

This is not an anti-cyclist rant (although I suspect some will see it as such).

I do suggest, unless the way is well known beforehand to be both walker and cyclist friendly, that cyclists use cycle ways or roads. And I suggest this based on my experiences, most of which are good. Regrettably, some go horribly wrong.

@kksweene, I bid you kia kaha (take care, be strong, get going)
 

OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'CP, Frances,Norte,Salv/prim;Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, Vdlp 2019>Táb/ Prt Levante 2020
Most paths in my region have signage showing a walker above and a cyclists and it is not infrequent to have text such as "shared path" and occasionally "cyclists must give way". And the general experience is one of courtesy to the other.

So I was greatly disturbed when walking on one side of a 3 metre wide path last week to have a two cyclist pass either side of me, from behind, at speed and talking loudly to one another.

Unless the cyclist knows the route well (having walked it beforehand) you don't know when the path may constrict down. The classic example is from Hontanas westwards. The start is on a road from the village. But soon the route is a narrow (sheep) track between fields with no room for even walkers to pass one another. And I guess almost impossible for a cyclists to walk beside their bike behind a walking pilgrim.

This is not an anti-cyclist rant (although I suspect some will see it as such).

I do suggest, unless the way is well known beforehand to be both walker and cyclist friendly, that cyclists use cycle ways or roads. And I suggest this based on my experiences, most of which are good. Regrettably, some go horribly wrong.

@kksweene, I bid you kia kaha (take care, be strong, get going)
I hear you Alwyn
& understand but having walked many paths too - the Vdlp is not the same
The OP is asking about the Vdlp.
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
Annie, I was more than conscious the query was for the route from Sevilla.

While my particular examples were on the route from Saint-Jean (which many might relate to) they are but an echo of my experiences on every other route I have followed in Europe. Whether it be route conditions or interactions between cyclists and walkers. And from my reading of posts by others at this an other times, I understand I am not alone.

On the other hand, as I understand it, you are saying, in response to the question from @kksweene, that on the 700 km route from Sevilla to Astorga there are no conditions that can cause problems between cyclists (irresistible forces 🙂 ) and walkers (immovable objects 🙃 ).
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
@kksweene (and @OzAnnie), hi again

Since musing above I have now also read this post by travel writer John Hayes. He says he usually writes on walking trips he has undertaken. But in this instance he switched to a bike for the Via de la Plata (the surfaced way he says?) and followed the N630. He explains "traffic has deserted it, preferring to thump along the new motorway, leaving it virtually empty but for cyclists and a few local users."

If I am given enough time to walk from Sevilla I suspect I would also follow the N630 unless there was a very good reason in places to take to the current "normal" pilgrims route.

Kia kaha koutou katoa (may you all take care, be strong, get going when you can)
 

OzAnnie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
'CP, Frances,Norte,Salv/prim;Le puy, Inglés, CDM, Invierno, Fin/Mux, Vdlp 2019>Táb/ Prt Levante 2020
@kksweene (and @OzAnnie), hi again

Since musing above I have now also read this post by travel writer John Hayes. He says he usually writes on walking trips he has undertaken. But in this instance he switched to a bike for the Via de la Plata (the surfaced way he says?) and followed the N630. He explains "traffic has deserted it, preferring to thump along the new motorway, leaving it virtually empty but for cyclists and a few local users."

If I am given enough time to walk from Sevilla I suspect I would also follow the N630 unless there was a very good reason in places to take to the current "normal" pilgrims route.

Kia kaha koutou katoa (may you all take care, be strong, get going when you can)
Alwyn
Thanks for that link to cycling the Vdlp.
A very good read (long though and I haven’t finished ).
I’m happy for cyclists to use the N630 - even we pilgrims use it on the Vdlp at times. I must say though, it isn’t completely ‘empty of cars’ in all areas.
I would love to have had at least one experience myself of cycling some part of any camino, however it’s not likely to happen for me now in my senior years. I ‘tip my hat’ to cyclists ... I don’t think it would be too easy.
Cycling the N630 would definitely be less bumpy etc and much faster ... but if I were a ‘pilgrim’ cyclist .,I’m sure I’d want to share some of the walking paths where possible.
 
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