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Touring Bike On The Camino Frances Route

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Hola @SubicBay As one who has ridden from Pamplona to Santiago I would say no. There will be those who will of course tell you yes.
So to clarify you can ride, with wide (say 27mm tyres on a standard rim) ride 75/85% of the walkers camino. But there are definitely sections to avoid. I suggest you avoid the west of Pamplona via the Alto del Perdon. There are a number of local road diversions; the ancient Roman bridge after Lorca is another follow the N111 - its about 2 or 3 km; there are parts of the camino between Villaranca Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega and Atapuerca to Villaval.
Most of the Meseta is open to bikes although the climb up the Alto de Mostelares west of Castrojeriz and the descent down the other side are quite a test. From Leon to Rabanal its ok taking either of Brierley's suggested routes. From Rabanl to Molinasseca I would strongly recommend the road, this section includes a one thousand metre (1000m) descent in less than 8-10km. Even on the road be prepared for cars crossing your side of the road. The climb up from Las Herrerias there is a diversion marked for cyclists - its a tar sealed road to O'Cebreiro. I would also suggest following the highway from O'Cebreiro to Triacastela.
From Saria to Santiago there is very little to see on the walkers Camino (imho - I have also walked it).
There are two alternative guide books that help the cyclist: the Michelin Camino de Santiago guide ( my copy is date 2014/15 so not sure if its still available); there is another guide - its in French (I do not know of an English language version) its called Sur les Chemins de Compostelle, Le Camino Frances "velo guide, a velo). Maybe a google search will turn up an English version.
So to conclude - where you ride is up to you, but be aware of the walking pilgrims and give them plenty of notice when passing. I strongly suggest getting a loud bell and using it. No doubt others will give you alternative advice and I am happy for them to do so.
Buen Camino and Happy, Holy Christmas
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
Hola @SubicBay As one who has ridden from Pamplona to Santiago I would say no. There will be those who will of course tell you yes.
So to clarify you can ride, with wide (say 27mm tyres on a standard rim) ride 75/85% of the walkers camino. But there are definitely sections to avoid. I suggest you avoid the west of Pamplona via the Alto del Perdon. There are a number of local road diversions; the ancient Roman bridge after Lorca is another follow the N111 - its about 2 or 3 km; there are parts of the camino between Villaranca Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega and Atapuerca to Villaval.
Most of the Meseta is open to bikes although the climb up the Alto de Mostelares west of Castrojeriz and the descent down the other side are quite a test. From Leon to Rabanal its ok taking either of Brierley's suggested routes. From Rabanl to Molinasseca I would strongly recommend the road, this section includes a one thousand metre (1000m) descent in less than 8-10km. Even on the road be prepared for cars crossing your side of the road. The climb up from Las Herrerias there is a diversion marked for cyclists - its a tar sealed road to O'Cebreiro. I would also suggest following the highway from O'Cebreiro to Triacastela.
From Saria to Santiago there is very little to see on the walkers Camino (imho - I have also walked it).
There are two alternative guide books that help the cyclist: the Michelin Camino de Santiago guide ( my copy is date 2014/15 so not sure if its still available); there is another guide - its in French (I do not know of an English language version) its called Sur les Chemins de Compostelle, Le Camino Frances "velo guide, a velo). Maybe a google search will turn up an English version.
So to conclude - where you ride is up to you, but be aware of the walking pilgrims and give them plenty of notice when passing. I strongly suggest getting a loud bell and using it. No doubt others will give you alternative advice and I am happy for them to do so.'
Buen Camino and Happy, Holy Christmas
I really appreciate the detailed information, Saint Mike II! You provided good information that I'll certainly reference in planning my ride on this route. Again, thank you very much. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
 
Is it feasible to ride a touring bike on the Camino Frances route? I would appreciate to hear your experience and/or advice if you ridden a touring bike on this route.
In various trips, I've taken a Brompton from Pamplona to Uterga, from Estella to Frómista, and from Santiago to Fisterra. (Also many kilometers not on Camino Francés.) I've also taken a non-folding bike on some of those sections.

From Alto del Perdón to Uterga, take the highway, and make sure your brakes work.

On the meseta, if it rains, you may find that the clay buildup on wheels makes pedaling MUCH more work, and paradoxically makes caliper brakes not work!

Somewhere near Logroño there's a hairpin turn on a steep downhill. Without good brakes, prepare to learn how to fly!

West of Santiago, much of the path has lots of rocks and tree routes. I haven't had 700 cm wheels there, but when the 16-inch wheels of the Brompton encounter a rock or root, it's like running into a wall.
 
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In various trips, I've taken a Brompton from Pamplona to Uterga, from Estella to Frómista, and from Santiago to Fisterra. (Also many kilometers not on Camino Francés.) I've also taken a non-folding bike on some of those sections.

From Alto del Perdón to Uterga, take the highway, and make sure your brakes work.

On the meseta, if it rains, you may find that the clay buildup on wheels makes pedaling MUCH more work, and paradoxically makes caliper brakes not work!

Somewhere near Logroño there's a hairpin turn on a steep downhill. Without good brakes, prepare to learn how to fly!

West of Santiago, much of the path has lots of rocks and tree routes. I have.n't had 700 cm wheels there, but when the 16-inch wheels of the Brompton encounter a rock or root, it's like running into a wall.
Thank you for sharing your experience and information, WGroleau. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
 
Good comments above. I have cycled from Logrono to Santiago, a long long time ago (I think St James was still alive but not sure).

The sections that are difficult for a bike? Walk with the bike - you will see pilgrims pushing buggies with small children in them - where they can go you can go.

By touring bike I guess you mean classic lightweight frame, drop handlebars, etc? I agree with Mike re fitting wider, more off-road tyres.
Is possible that the wheels may not be strong enough for the rough parts of the Camino, mountain bikes have stronger wheels but tourers tend to balance strength to weight so go lighter. (That is a guess, not knowledge).

If your handlebars are drops you could turn them upside down and refit, so you are more upright, or temporarily fit swept back Dutch bars - the ideal is to be sitting Dutch style, sort of upright - much more control - and hey! you get to look at the views.
But! that may just be me as that is how I ride. My bike is a classic 80s frame that I have adapted for my comfort; wider Kevlar banded tyres, swept back Dutch bars with a much longer handlebar stem so set nice and high, super duper thick comfort saddle, lower rear gearing.

Enjoy.
 
In trying to answer your specific question about a touring bike, I have no personal experience (I use Hardtail MTBs) but one of the larger rental companies offer touring bikes for caminos. You might want to check their specification against yours to see if they differ.

 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Is it feasible to ride a touring bike on the Camino Frances route? I would appreciate hearing your experience and/or advice if you've ridden a touring bike on this route.
It depends. There is both a trail route and a road route for bicycles on the Camino Frances.

I bicycled the Camino Frances from Pampalona to Santiago in April of 2022. I did use a mountain bike, and I rode on the regular walking trail for the most part (which is legally designated as a shared bicycle and hiking trail by the Spanish government).

I think it would be extremely difficult to take a touring bike on a large portion of the shared walking trail. It’s mostly dirt paths.

So I think you need to qualify your question. Road or trail? The paved bicycling route is mostly on automobile roads. Much of it follows the NA 1110, I believe. It’s a very quiet road without much traffic because they built bigger highways nearby. It’s perfect for a touring bicycle.

I had the Cicerone guidebook for bicycling the Camino Frances, which gave a good overview and explained both routes. However, I found their directions and maps extremely difficult to follow.

When I did this in April 2022, the trail was not very busy until the very end after Sarria. Once I got there, I often felt that the trails were too crowded to ride a bicycle, and ended up going on the roads. I think it would be an unpleasant experience to go on the trail route during a busy walking time of year.

I also would say, I don’t think I would’ve found following the road route personally rewarding. On the trail, I was regularly meeting and talking to other pilgrims, and if I had been on the road route, I might have as well just been riding around my house.

 
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I did a rental bike from Pamplona to Burgos and would echo the notes from Mike and Steve. Riding on the CF footpath is not easy but riding on the roads that parallel the route is fine and relatively safe. I packed too much stuff in my two panniers and that turned out to be a negative regarding my balance on the bike.
 
We have cycled a version of the Camino Frances on a robust tandem, running 2 inch trail tyres. We departed the walkers' trail on several sections (perhaps 40% of total distance) where it was too broken or rutted to cycle or there were too many walkers for it to be feasible. Most of the alternative, little roads were sparsely trafficked.

On a skinny wheeled touring bike, it would be best to stick mainly to the roads; they aren't busy. You can still string together the villages and towns which the Camino passes through.

Even on parts of the trail which are well surfaced, the Camino Frances is not like most cycleways, in that walkers outnumber the cyclists many times over. Pilgrim walkers are often engaged in deep conversations or listening to music on headphones, so don't hear cyclists approach, even with bells, so a safe pace can often be only slightly above walking pace.

Be aware also that near-misses and actual collisions involving a minority of speeding mountain bikers (locals or visiting groups) with little respect for the safety of pilgrims, have somewhat tainted the reputation of all cyclists, resulting in animosity among some walkers, even towards those cyclists who *are* careful around pedestrians.

Sorry to be less encouraging. If you are patient, it is still a worthwhile journey. If you are willing to slowdown, to get off to push occasionally, to keep ringing your bell, to engage with walking pilgrims and to equip your bike with gravel tyres, there's still the opportunity for a great adventure.

There are some GPX files for roadbikes, for which I believe the latest edition of the Cicerone guide includes a link. Aternatively, there are several guides in Dutch, German and French which present well-researched road-cyclist routes.

Personally, on a touring bike, I would be tempted to cycle to Santiago along a version of the Via de la Plata (from Seville), where there is a proven road route, fewer walkers, great landscapes and a good choice of accommodation. Or, if you prefer a lot of hills, there are some wonderfully dramatic routes through the Picos de Europa, to which could still add a cross country asphalt route finishing in Santiago.

Whatever you decide, good pedalling and buen camino!
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Be aware also that near-misses and actual collisions involving a minority of speeding mountain bikers (locals or visiting groups) with little respect for the safety of pilgrims, have somewhat tainted the reputation of all cyclists, resulting in animosity among some walkers, even towards those cyclists who *are* careful around pedestrians.
When the Camino Frances in its modern form was first marked out in the 1980s almost all cyclists used road touring bikes and followed alternative parallel routes. Their bikes could not be used on the rough paths. So there was little conflict between cyclists and pedestrians and for some years the proportion of cycling pilgrims on the Camino was much greater than it is today. With the arrival of off-road bikes and vast increases in pilgrim numbers the potential for conflict of interests and animosity has risen enormously.
 
One thing to be aware of is that when one cycles the Camino one loses the pilgrim 'family' connections.
Tending to go much further than any walking day stage one meets new pilgrims at a refugio and then never sees them again - more, you get to a village and book in, no one you know .. you go to eat and there are groups who all sit and chat and laugh together as they have seen each other on and off for days, even weeks .. so always an outsider. Worth thinking about.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
One thing to be aware of is that when one cycles the Camino one loses the pilgrim 'family' connections.
This is what I found when my walking Camino was changed by injury into a bicycle Camino. It was quite lonely and anti-climactic when I arrived in Santiago. And it's also while I'm training to give the Frances another walking try in March.
I think bicycling the Camino would be much more fun with a friend or group as opposed to solo.
 
Oh - another neg ... if a refugio is busy they may not book a cyclist in until late, to allow walkers to get there and book in as they see it as much easier for a cyclist to ride to the next refugio (which it is). So one can be hanging around waiting, hoping.
 
I would have thought that most touring bikes are perfect for camino trails whether paved, dirt, gravel, etc. My touring bike has 700x48 tires. Currently smooth but easy to trade out for small knobby tires suitable for most paved, gravel or dirt. Touring bike gearing is also fine for Camino trails. Many touring bike front chainrings are 38x24 gearing. Great for hills with a load. Touring bikes also frequently have more upright and wider handlebars for better stability. Finally touring bikes generally also feature attachment points for racks and baskets to carry your gear. Perfect for Camino roads and trails. No?
 
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I would have thought that most touring bikes are perfect for camino trails whether paved, dirt, gravel, etc. My touring bike has 700x48 tires. Currently smooth but easy to trade out for small knobby tires suitable for most paved, gravel or dirt. Touring bike gearing is also fine for Camino trails. Many touring bike front chainrings are 38x24 gearing. Great for hills with a load. Touring bikes also frequently have more upright and wider handlebars for better stability. Finally touring bikes generally also feature attachment points for racks and baskets to carry your gear. Perfect for Camino roads and trails. No?
I hate to admit it, but when the OP said touring bike, I was thinking of a curved handlebar bike with skinny road wheels. More like a road racing bike.

But when I googled touring bikes, they were more like what I would call a hybrid. More like a street bike with knobby wheels. Indeed, that would be perfect for the Camino. Rick, I think you have to give us the definition of a touring bike?
 
You are right hybrid bikes do have some key touring bike features…bigger tires…more upright riding position…attachment points for bags.
 
Good comments above. I have cycled from Logrono to Santiago, a long long time ago (I think St James was still alive but not sure).

The sections that are difficult for a bike? Walk with the bike - you will see pilgrims pushing buggies with small children in them - where they can go you can go.

By touring bike I guess you mean classic lightweight frame, drop handlebars, etc? I agree with Mike re fitting wider, more off-road tyres.
Is possible that the wheels may not be strong enough for the rough parts of the Camino, mountain bikes have stronger wheels but tourers tend to balance strength to weight so go lighter. (That is a guess, not knowledge).

If your handlebars are drops you could turn them upside down and refit, so you are more upright, or temporarily fit swept back Dutch bars - the ideal is to be sitting Dutch style, sort of upright - much more control - and hey! you get to look at the views.
But! that may just be me as that is how I ride. My bike is a classic 80s frame that I have adapted for my comfort; wider Kevlar banded tyres, swept back Dutch bars with a much longer handlebar stem so set nice and high, super duper thick comfort saddle, lower rear gearing.

Enjoy.
Thank you for sharing your experience and information, David. The touring bike I intend to rent is a hybrid, half-road/half-MTB. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
 
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It depends. There is both a trail route and a road route for bicycles on the Camino Frances.

I bicycled the Camino Frances from Pampalona to Santiago in April of 2022. I did use a mountain bike, and I rode on the regular walking trail for the most part (which is legally designated as a shared bicycle and hiking trail by the Spanish government).

I think it would be extremely difficult to take a touring bike on a large portion of the shared walking trail. It’s mostly dirt paths.

So I think you need to qualify your question. Road or trail? The paved bicycling route is mostly on automobile roads. Much of it follows the NA 1110, I believe. It’s a very quiet road without much traffic because they built bigger highways nearby. It’s perfect for a touring bicycle.

I had the Cicerone guidebook for bicycling the Camino Frances, which gave a good overview and explained both routes. However, I found their directions and maps extremely difficult to follow.

When I did this in April 2022, the trail was not very busy until the very end after Sarria. Once I got there, I often felt that the trails were too crowded to ride a bicycle, and ended up going on the roads. I think it would be an unpleasant experience to go on the trail route during a busy walking time of year.

I also would say, I don’t think I would’ve found following the road route personally rewarding. On the trail, I was regularly meeting and talking to other pilgrims, and if I had been on the road route, I might have as well just been riding around my house.

Thank you for sharing your experience and information, Stephan the Painter. When possible, I intend to ride the light gravel, hard-packed sections; skip the hard technical terrain sections and divert back to the paved roads. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
 
We have cycled a version of the Camino Frances on a robust tandem, running 2 inch trail tyres. We departed the walkers' trail on several sections (perhaps 40% of total distance) where it was too broken or rutted to cycle or there were too many walkers for it to be feasible. Most of the alternative, little roads were sparsely trafficked.

On a skinny wheeled touring bike, it would be best to stick mainly to the roads; they aren't busy. You can still string together the villages and towns which the Camino passes through.

Even on parts of the trail which are well surfaced, the Camino Frances is not like most cycleways, in that walkers outnumber the cyclists many times over. Pilgrim walkers are often engaged in deep conversations or listening to music on headphones, so don't hear cyclists approach, even with bells, so a safe pace can often be only slightly above walking pace.

Be aware also that near-misses and actual collisions involving a minority of speeding mountain bikers (locals or visiting groups) with little respect for the safety of pilgrims, have somewhat tainted the reputation of all cyclists, resulting in animosity among some walkers, even towards those cyclists who *are* careful around pedestrians.

Sorry to be less encouraging. If you are patient, it is still a worthwhile journey. If you are willing to slowdown, to get off to push occasionally, to keep ringing your bell, to engage with walking pilgrims and to equip your bike with gravel tyres, there's still the opportunity for a great adventure.

There are some GPX files for roadbikes, for which I believe the latest edition of the Cicerone guide includes a link. Aternatively, there are several guides in Dutch, German and French which present well-researched road-cyclist routes.

Personally, on a touring bike, I would be tempted to cycle to Santiago along a version of the Via de la Plata (from Seville), where there is a proven road route, fewer walkers, great landscapes and a good choice of accommodation. Or, if you prefer a lot of hills, there are some wonderfully dramatic routes through the Picos de Europa, to which could still add a cross country asphalt route finishing in Santiago.

Whatever you decide, good pedalling and buen camino!
Thank you for sharing your experience and information, Tandem Graham. Your emphasis on avoiding mishaps with pilgrim walkers is noted; I totally agree on safety with a shared path of cyclists and pedestrians. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
 
I would have thought that most touring bikes are perfect for camino trails whether paved, dirt, gravel, etc. My touring bike has 700x48 tires. Currently smooth but easy to trade out for small knobby tires suitable for most paved, gravel or dirt. Touring bike gearing is also fine for Camino trails. Many touring bike front chainrings are 38x24 gearing. Great for hills with a load. Touring bikes also frequently have more upright and wider handlebars for better stability. Finally touring bikes generally also feature attachment points for racks and baskets to carry your gear. Perfect for Camino roads and trails. No?
My touring bike has similar specs as yours, Rick. I believe this bike is capable, but plan to avoid the sections of hard technical terrain and detour to the paved road. Because this will be my first time on the Camino Frances, I wanted to get an idea of what to expect from other people's experience riding this route. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
 
Ideal pocket guides for during & after your Camino. Each weighs only 1.4 oz (40g)!
My touring bike has similar specs as yours, Rick. I believe this bike is capable, but plan to avoid the sections of hard technical terrain and detour to the paved road. Because this will be my first time on the Camino Frances, I wanted to get an idea of what to expect from other people's experience riding this route. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
I forgot to mention that earlier this year I rode Lucca to Rome on pavement, gravel, dirt, cobbles, grass and just plain rocks. It was a lot of learning about new terrain but all went well!! Yes…Merry Christmas to you too.
 
I hate to admit it, but when the OP said touring bike, I was thinking of a curved handlebar bike with skinny road wheels. More like a road racing bike.

But when I googled touring bikes, they were more like what I would call a hybrid. More like a street bike with knobby wheels. Indeed, that would be perfect for the Camino. Rick, I think you have to give us the definition of a touring bike?

Me too! When I read touring bike I thought back to my touring days, Reynolds 531 lightweight tubing, drop handlebars, ten speed, lightweight wheels ... I have now Google image searched touring bikes too - and although many still do use drops they are a different kettle of fish, stronger, lower gearing - get the tyres right and away you go!
 
Thank you for sharing your experience and information, Stephan the Painter. When possible, I intend to ride the light gravel, hard-packed sections; skip the hard technical terrain sections and divert back to the paved roads. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Maybe you saw my post where I confessed that I mixed up what a touring bike was. I thought it was more like a road racing bike. If it's more like what I would call a hybrid, you'll be fine with a knobby-wheeled touring bike. Apologies.

There are only a few parts of the trail that you would have a problem with. The downhill part of the trail leading into Molinaseca comes to mind. And there were a couple of really unpleasant muddy days in April when I did it.

The Cicerone guidebook told me which parts were difficult, but I think much of this information you can just find online through blogs, etc. All I used was the Wise Pilgrim app to keep me on the shared walking/bike trail. And there's always a road to detour on.

The only other comment I would have is that many people think the Via Del Plata is the best Camino to bicycle. Starts in Sevilla and goes north. You might take a look at that if it's not important to you which Camino you do. I haven't done it. Have a wonderful Camino!
 
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Down bag (90/10 duvet) of 700 fills with 180 g (6.34 ounces) of filling. Mummy-shaped structure, ideal when you are looking for lightness with great heating performance.

€149,-
Thank you for sharing your experience and information, WGroleau. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
You're welcome. I should have added, for the benefit of anyone using a trailer, that there were a very few spots where the path was narrow and the vegetation prevented pulling my trailer through.
 

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