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Cycling in Spain
Spain In A Nutshell
Spain, with its environmental diversity, is an amazing place for a cycle tour but aside from one small flat bit, you're going to need the legs for it. It's also great value for money, probably better that anywhere else in western Europe.
When I Went To Spain
11th - 25th August 2011
31st August - 7th September 2011 (red)
30th March - 16th April 2012 (blue)
21st September - 4th October 2009 (previous tour, maroon)
Various other shorter tours
Where I Went
Spain's current laws regarding cycle helmets are comical. You have to wear them at all times unless you're in a town (y'know, where the cars are), going uphill or if it's hot. I don't know whether 'hot' is a personal judgement or if it's above a specific temperature. I've never worn a helmet in Spain and the police have never said anything. Apparently they are a bit stricter with this rule in the Valencia area.
As if purposely trying to discourage cycling there are reports of new laws that would make cycle helmets mandatory at all times although this is being fought by Spanish cycling groups.
Spain is the only country in Europe that has snowy peaks and deserts, wetlands and areas so dry that they burst into flames each summer, beautiful white villages and several truly great cities.
Spain's Road Quality
Spain marries wide roads, usually with a good shoulder, and courteous, cycle-friendly driving. The Spanish keep their distance. (I spend a lot of time on the south coast and if a car comes too close to me it's almost always a GB-plated or rental car.)
As mentioned, Spanish main roads often have a wide shoulder. Since "La Crisis" I've noticed more gravel build-up in some of these shoulders, possibly due to road cleaning cut-backs, making occasional sections unsafe to use. I've no idea if that's just the roads local to me (Andalusia) or generally in Spain.
Spain's Accommodation & Costs
The price information below refers only to the UniCycle50 tour and not earlier ones.
Although there are hundreds of campsites along the coast, there are only a handful inland. The two I used averaged €14, which is overpriced when you bear in mind that if you choose your accommodation carefully you can get a bed in a comfortable if basic room for between €20 and €25 in most areas of the country away from the coast and popular tourist cities. Since my ride included a bit of a city tour, my average is above what it could have been. My thirty-four rooms averaged €35 (ranging from €20 to €60).
For food, a menu del dia is almost always good value, normally between €8 and €12. This is usually three courses with bread and a drink, although I got a full bottle of wine with one once.
Even better value than this is eating tapas in bars where tapas are free. A small plate of meat or fish with each of several small beers or glasses of wine soon fills you up.
Once you are away from the coast, very few people speak anything other than Spanish.
Reasons To Go To Spain
Great scenery, tapas, reliable weather (in summer at least), good roads and driving.
Q. I'm trying to find out which roads you are not allowed to cycle on in Spain, and how these are marked (ie. A, N etc.) - Andy
In my experience you are allowed on all roads except motorways. Road numbers can sometimes be complicated. There is a motorway on the south coast that has an A number, an N number and an E number. That said, I don't remember any confusion while in Spain as to whether or not a road was a motorway. There will be a No Cycling sign.
Spain has an annoying habit of converting main roads into motorways, leaving cyclists without a legal way out. (Look at a map and see how you would head west from Zaragoza, for example.) I've heard more than one story of cyclists using the motorway because it was the only option and then successfully arguing their case when stopped by the police. But you may not be so lucky.
What Others Say About Spain
Comments may be edited for concision. If the comment was taken from elsewhere, click the author's name for the full comment.
Roads on the meseta are practically deserted in June. Everything is coerced onto the autovias, via some creative government signage. Spain is a super safe and relaxing place to cycle. Water is available in just about every village. Rooms are as cheap for two sharing as camping. On your own, then you'll pay €15 if lucky to €30 if desperate, and there is always somewhere to stay. If you don't see somewhere, then ask. Weigh up whether the room above a bar is really such a good deal at €10 cheaper than the hotel where you can eat as much as you want for breakfast and pilfer enough for lunch too!
Your Opinions & Questions
Have you cycled in Spain? Tell me what you think and I'll include your comments here. Also, if you have a blog, web site or Facebook page that includes an account of your trip, send me the URL and I'll include a link below. Include your name if you want your comment to be attributed to you. Or do you have a question about Spain? Ask me and if I can answer it I'll add the information to the page.
Amazon Reviews for
No Place Like Home,
"...by far the best cycle-based travel book I have read."
"Inspirational and very funny.”
"...the funniest book I've read for a very long time."
"...made me laugh out loud as well as ponder the meaning of life."
"I guarantee you WON'T put it down"
"...a great read."
"Laugh out loud funny."
"...kept me laughing all the way along."
"...never a dull page."
"BIG laughs, pithy observations on life, the universe and everything else and simply great stories."
"Thought-provoking and funny"
"Very useful website. I love it."
(Marianne, UniCycle50 comment)
"Sweet website, super layout, very clean."
(Anon, UniCycle50 comment)
"Love your descriptions of European food!"
"This is great. There needs to be one for the whole world. Loved your descriptions of the UK and Russia!"
"Very good website."
"This looks great."
"Love the site."
(theDaveB, CTC Forum)