Cycling Holidays in Spain. So why Galicia?

There are many regions to choose from when considering cycling holidays in Spain. So why Galicia? There are many considerations to be taken into account when planning your trip. Spain is a very varied country. Its regions, its climate, its accesibility and its cycling culture all vary substantially. So why does Galicia stand out?

Mallorca and Girona

The most popular destinantions for cycling holidays in Spain are without doubt Mallorca and Girona. These have been the staple diet for years of cyclotourists to the country. Mallorca is well set up for cycling. Plenty of holiday companies operate there, and generally the weather is good. So what are the downsides? One could say it has been the victim of its own success. Mallorca now can be full of cyclists, and cars. This issue fed the emergence of Girona as a new centre for cycling holidays in Spain. As the professional peloton became more international, overseas riders set up home in Girona. It has plenty to offer, but again could be going down the path of Mallorca as overcrowded. The “been there,seen it , done it go the T short ” mentality.

Spanish regions north and south

Other hotbeds of cycling in Spain have their own issues too. Andalucia and Alicante are popular, as many parts are just like being in the UK. So those looking for authentic Spain will be disappointed in Alicante in particular. It is “Britain on sea” . The Basque country is the domestic haven for cyclists. However its terrain can be too demanding for many. Asturias is the same story, and the weather there can be awful, even in the summer. Many have seen the Angliru in the Vuelta at 5 degrees and raining in late August.

Cycling Holidays in Spain.So why Galicia?

The question therefore is when booking something new for your cycling holidays in Spain.So why Galicia? Galicia has everything that you could possible need. Accesibility via Porto is very simple. The roads are excellent, and due to a lower populaltion density, relatively traffic free. The weather is very ambient. No overly cold temperatures in winter, nor sweltering heat in the summer. The terrain can be challenging, but only if you seek that out. There are endless kms of flat, mildly undulating terrain, and much of it coastal, or next to rivers. The price is very competitive. The quality of food in relation to its cost is second to none in Spain.

So, overall Galicia, despite it being realatively unknown, is perfect for cyclists of all levels. The next time you look into cycling holidays in Spain, put Galicia at the top of the list. Guaranteed enjoyment.

 

Off Season Cycling

Today is the 12th of October. In Spain that is a national holiday. The day of Pilar, the patron saint of the Hipsanic people. It is also the date that Columbus sighted land for the first time in his journey to discover the Americas. So, all in all, it is an important day in the Spanish calendar. For me however, it has always signalled the end of the cycling season. And today, it is the first day that it has rained in our part of Galicia since early June. So that is a sign that summer may well have passed, and we need to start preparing for off season cycling. The weather in Galicia is extremely temperate. Very well-designed seasons. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean prevents very cold temperatures within 30-40km of the coast. Yes, it rains, but never too prolonged. How else would we have such beautiful forests? However, it is unlikely that we will see the 25-30 degree temperatures for a while. So, we must start to prepare for off season cycling.

Maintaining the bike

Firstly, the bike. Like all machines, a bike will suffer more in winter than summer. Thus, it is important that you maintain your bike more regularly during the off season. I would recommend a quick clean after every ride. The road surface will kick up a lot of dirt and muck as the wet weather moves in. This is a nightmare for your bottom bracket, and your gearing. If you have access to a high-pressure hose, use this for general cleaning. As the bearings can get damaged do not use it to clean the bottom bracket. I would suggest using an old toothbrush to clean the delicate parts of a bike, with a specific bike cleaner, rather than a generic soap. The drivetrain and bottom bracket, particlularly during off season cycling must be cared for. If not, some expensive replacement will be in order come springtime.

A Top Quality Jacket

The improvement in the quality of winter clothing over the last ten years or so has been eye-catching. Yes, the price of some of these jackets are eye watering not eye catching. However, sometimes you must invest in one off items. And there is nothing quite like being cold and wet through on a bike. I am not here to recommend one brand over another. Last year I invested 170€ in a wind and water proof jacket, that had detachable arm sections. I have to say that it was a very good investment. The arm warmers can be used without the jacket, and the jacket can be used without the arm warmers. Take it from me, this is an advantage. The jacket doesn´t make you sweat, but importantly keep you warm and dry. Somethings you cannot scrimp on.

Off Season Cycling – Indoor vs Outdoor

Sometimes during off season cycling, this question arises. Shall I go out, or just hit the rollers. I, like many, always will choose to go out. However, each winter I find myself on the rollers more. I was fortunate enough a couple of years back to have lunch with Tour De France winner, Oscar Pereiro . He spoke about the constant demands of keeping his weight down, particularly during off season cycling. His “secret” was to get out of bed, and on his rollers for 30 minutes at least four times a week. And never eat before the rollers. It sounds a lot, but it is only 45 minutes extra in the morning. Get up, bib short on, earpiece in, quick podcast loaded, and spin away for 30 minutes. Straight in the shower, breakfast and off to start the day. This is now part of my routine from October to February.

More Gym Less KM?

Many pro cyclists are now sacrificing kms for more time conditioning their bodies. In the past, it was just 6 hours riding, and home to bed. Now, Pilates, yoga, running, and gym work are fundamental to be a top cyclist. So, what can us “domingeros” learn from the pros? Without doubt, stretching is fundamental to cycling. At all levels of cycling muscles take a beating. After every ride, stretching must be done to avoid longer term injury. Core stability is key too. This is where yoga and Pilates are really becoming important to cyclists. A stable core allows the legs to do their work. Although I personally am not an advocate of the gym for cyclists, I can see that weight training for toning is a good idea. Only track sprinters need to look like Hulk Hogan. In conclusion, what you do during off season cycling can have a profound effect for how you start the new season. Try something new like Pilates. Keep you and your bike in good condition through the winter months. And when spring comes you will be ready for the adventures ahead. And why not a cycling holiday in Spain to really enjoy life on a bike.

Cycling and Blogging Brings Rewards

When I set up the Cycling Galicia project, it was always going to be ” a journey”. This is a well used phrase in modern life. I wasn´t sure where it would all lead, and the best journeys are always like that. Cycling is a huge part of my life, and always will be. Blogging has never been, and writing was not what I thought was my strong point- However, now I can see that cycling and blogging brings rewards. And both have now become part of my life. And thanks to Feedspot , I have now achieved something that I have never achieved on two wheels. I have won something. Well, not “won”, but I count it as a win. To be named in their top 100 cycling blogs is a win for me.

Passion for Galicia

I think when you write about a subject, there has to be a passion involved. Mine are for cycling and for Galicia. This is why CyclingGalicia was created, to share that passion with those who do not know this region. A region that has so much to offer in its beauty, its history, its gastronomy, and much more. And, above all for cyclists, its abundance of climbs , all on a myriad of safe roads. This all adds up to the perfect place for a cycling holiday in Spain. And I want to share that experience with all of you.

Long Hot Summer

It is now getting towards mid-October, and still the weather here is marvelous. Highs of 26 degrees and above are forecast all week. Perfect cycling weather. The lack of rain has left the ground tinder dry, and forest fire is a threat .Galicia’s abundance of forests are always vulnerable, and overnight there was a fire close to the Alto de Moscoso. I will take a look later at the climb to see if it has been affected. However, these risks will always remain in an are that is so extensively covered with pine,oak and eucalyptus forests. In the summer they provide our shade, and also the beautiful “smell of Galicia”.

So, back on the bike, enjoy the last days of summer, and then back to the keyboard to share those thoughts with you all. Cycling and blogging brings rewards, and I fully intend to continue with both for a long time yet.

Very Steep Climbs. Why do we love them?

Having watched the World Championship road race yesterday, it got us thinking about very steep climbs. Seeing the best cyclists on the planet , zig -zagging up the final climb begged the question. Is this really what cycling is all about? So let’s try and answer that question.

Cycling is a sport that always includes a degree of suffering. Regardless of your standard, at some stage it is going to hurt. Most cyclists, certainly those who get to a decent level secretly enjoy that sensation. Indeed, for many cycling is all about the pain. That is the challenge, the raison d’être for want of a better expression. And the most suffering occurs when the road goes upwards. And very steep climbs now are all in vogue.

Very Steep Climbs in Galicia and Portugal 

The recent Vuelta de España featured some brutal ascents, and the organizers seem to want to promote this. Spain and Portugal are two countries that have some very mountainous regions, so are ideal for lovers of very steep climbs. Galicia and Asturias are the best regions for this, so a cycling holiday in Galicia is perfect for those who like 20%+ ramps. In the list of Galician climbs there are plenty to choose from, the hardest being Arga de Cima and Sao Silvestre. Both these climbs hit ramps of 20%+ , and are a proper test for lovers of lactic acid.

Steep Gradients: Enjoyable or not?

However, sometimes these type of climbs can become excessive. Yes, it is always good to say that you have survived these brutal tests, but can they be enjoyable? I think the answer to that question is quite straightforward. Yes and no!!!! Yes, because of the sense of achievement gained by tackling something that pushes one to their limits. And no, because the sheer effort and sometimes agony of getting up 20-25% gradients means that nothing can be appreciated during the effort. Legs and lungs burning whilst you move at no more than walking pace, cannot be enjoyable.

So, whilst it is good to try these very steep climbs, I think “less is more” for enjoyment. That is why with our our bike holidays in Galicia we try to balance the climbing with much more. There are plenty of very steep climbs, plenty of long steady climbs, and plenty of undulating and flat terrain. We have it all, and the scenery and weather too. So if you want to enjoy a cycling holidays in Spain, come to Galicia.

Galicia is a Cyclist´s Paradise

When you are planning anything on a bike now, be it a Sunday run, a full blown holiday, or it seems a grand Tour, climbing seems to be an integral part. Cyclists have always wanted to go uphill since bikes were invented. However, this now seems to be an obsession, with riders and organisers alike. The recent Vuelta de España was packed with different types of climbs. Even the “hilly” stage in Galicia had 3300m of vertical gain. So, for those who like challenging terrain, this region is perfect for riders of every ability. It can truly be said that Galicia is a cyclist’s paradise.

The Modern Day Problems of the Famous Climbs

The historic climbs, particularly those featured in the Tour and the Giro, have always been part of cycling folklore. The Stelvio and Alpe D´Huez are the two most famous from those great races. Most cyclists have those two on their bucket list of things to do before they die. Tourists flock to these monuments, and and just bike tourists. The Alps in particular have become a haven for motorcyclists too, who much prefer descending to ascending. This has added to the danger of visiting these climbs. Tourism in general has not helped either. Cycling has made these places very familiar, and in the summer now, these mountains can be very busy with tourist traffic. Nothing quite like rounding the hairpins of Alpe D´Huez in a caravan of motor homes and exhaust fumes. Similarly heading down a busy dual carriageway ahead of the Tourmalet is not ideal preparation.

Galicia is a Cyclist’s Paradise

So, if you want to enjoy climbing on a bike, what ingredients do we need. Well, first a decent supply of mountains and hills is fundamental. Secondly, as climbing implies going uphill, sometimes to altitudes well above 500m, some good weather too. Thirdly, roads that are relatively traffic free, as all climbs have to be descended too, and safety is an issue. And lastly, a good combination of climb length and severity. Thus, those who love to climb should try a bike trip to Spain, as the country offers this in abundance. And in particular, the cycling in Galicia is tailor made for those who love climbing.

Galicia’s Famous Climbs

On our page, we have listed the Galician climbs. These are those found just in the south western part of the region, and the Portuguese border. Galicia offers some of the best cycling terrain on the continent, and undiscovered gem. And for those who love climbing, it offers long 30km efforts such as Cabeza de Manzaneda. Also, short , violently steep efforts such as Monte Aloia and Arga de Cima.  Each of these climbs present a different challenge, and that is what makes Galicia so unique. Many of these climbs can be tackled traffic free, in fact there are more animals than cars. Descents can be enjoyed without dodging motor homes or motorbikes. Nature in it’s rawest from can be observed. And you are never far from the sea, to enjoy some flat after all the effort.

Here in the region of Galicia, cyclists have everything they could want on a bike holiday. Climbs, safe roads, little traffic, ocean side rides, and after a day in the saddle , great food too. All these ingredients add up to make Galicia the ideal place for cycling holiday. Galicia is a cyclist’s paradise. Come and see it for yourself.

Transporting a Bike. What are the Options?

There are many ingredients to make the perfect cycling holiday. However, like any recipe, if you get one wrong you can end up with a disaster. So, what are the most important issues when you are organising transporting a bike on a cycling holiday? As all of us know, travelling nowadays can be hard work. The heavy reliance on budget airways has changed the way that we all plan for out travel. Cyclists have had to re-think their strategy on bike transport. Long gone are the days when a cycling holiday meant taking your bike on a plane, free of charge. So, from the very beginning of your planning, bike transport is very important. So, let´s examine the options, and try to come up with an answer.

Renting a Bike at The Destination

Many nowadays like to rent a bike when they arrive at their destination. At least this means that worrying about transporting a bike is taken out of the equation. Whilst removing the experience of packing, transporting and unpacking, it adds other problems to your holiday. A different bike is never the same as your own. Immediately settling on to another bike is hard. The geometry is never the same, and it can take time to adjust to the way it rides.  Also, the cost can be high. Almost always higher than transporting your own, sometimes considerably higher. We at CyclingGalicia  believe that this is only the best option for those who fall into two categories. Firstly, if you have a connecting flight and must use budget airlines for at least one. And, for those who are not “married” to their own bike and are happy to switch.

Transporting a Bike on an Aeroplane

So, what other options are there? Before you book a flight, check with the airline directly for their policy of transporting a bike. The rules for each airline can vary enormously, so do your homework. The cost of travel is not just the headline price, it is the final price after luggage . Check how heavy your bike bag can be. Many can weigh up to 23kg. If you have a light bike, and bike bag, this can be a money saver. You can easily pack clothing and much more inside the bike bag, thus leaving you with just hand luggage on the plane. Also, packing clothing etc, in plastic bags around your bike, can make it more secure. The less movement inside the bag, the less chance of frame damage. There is nothing worse than opening your bag at destination, and the drop out has snapped, or worse.

Sending a Bike Ahead of Travelling

There is a third option, however very few cycling holiday companies offer at. At CyclingGalicia , we not only offer it, we encourage this mode of transporting a bike. The facility to send your bike ahead of your trip, and sent back afterwards. This service allows you to travel light. If you pack well and sensibly, you could find yourself with just hand luggage on your journey. You can use our partner service SENDBIKE for this. They are a specialised bike courier that uses DHL for all their deliveries. You simply get your bike plus anything else you want to send packed up. Then use our promo code at SENDBIKE. They pick it up and deliver it to our shop in Galicia. There your bike will be assembled, and ready for your arrival. And after the trip, your bike will be packed away and sent back to your door.

So, there are a few options for transporting a bike on your next cycling holiday. You have to decide which one suits you best. Here at CyclingGalicia we endeavour to give you as many options as possible. If you arrive stress free, and leave stress free, then our job is done.

Campaign for Spanish Road Safety Laws

All of us who love this sport of cycling must contend daily with the dangers that lie therein. All modes of cycling present their own form of risk. That risk draws people to the sport in the disciplines of downhill, and mountain biking. Those who choose the road as their main method of cycling are in a constant battle with vehicles. Perhaps battle is not the correct word, but sometimes it does feel like that. Whilst the region of Galicia is not perceived to be as dangerous as London for example, risks remain apparent. And the world of cycling in Spain is doing something about it. The campaign for Spanish road safety is now flying.

La Vuelta Highlights Campaign for Spanish Road Safety

The three weeks of the Vuelta de España focus the country in the minds of the cycling world. Also, reporting of it in the main Spanish newspapers draws other sports fans to cycling. Thus, the organisers of the Vuelta have taken advantage of this to push through the national campaign for Spanish road safety laws. Called ” #PorUnaLeyJusta“, translated meaning “for a fair law”, this campaign started in 2016. Our club, Club Ciclista de la Fuente were heavily involved at its inception, after an accident that affected our team in March 2016. Carlos Moure, the “godfather” of Galician cycling has been active on social media promoting it. Because of this there has been a lot of success. The 1.5m law has been enshrined by many autonomous regions. This makes it a legal requirement to give a cyclist 1.5m of space when passing in a vehicle.

Contador and Friere Join the Fight

Two days after the start of the Vuelta, the Spanish cycling legend Alberto Contador met with the Justice minister Dolores Delgado. This meeting was very high profile, and a lot of media attended. Clearly the new law cannot be approved in just one day. However, Delgado listened intently to Contador, and gave assurances that the law would be fast-tracked. In addition, the second rest day of the Vuelta was in Torrelavega in Cantabria in northern Spain. This is the home town of Oscar Friere, the three-time world road race champion. In conjunction with ASO the organisers, Friere headed up a presentation to promote the new law. Alongside other legends of Spanish cycling, such as Pedro Delgado and Oscar Pereiro, Friere gave a passionate speech about protecting cyclists. He really helped to push the campaign for Spanish road safety on to the front page.

New Law Improved Safety

With the full backing of these revered cyclists, all of them legends in Spain, the law has a great chance of passing. There will always be dissenters, and cyclists too have responsibility to ride sensibly. However, with the threat of greater punishments for drivers who flout the law, we can only hope that it reduces accidents. Spain is at the forefront of safer cycling, and Galicia is heavily promoting the cause. We all love cycling, and we all want to enjoy it knowing that we are protected. Europe could do worse than follow the example of Spanish road safety.

The Vuelta de España 2018 Arrives in Galicia

After ten stages through the south and south-central part of Spain, the Vuelta de España finally arrived in Galicia. And what a difference it made. Viewers of the race on Eurosport must have been a bit weary of endless days watching cyclists travel through barren landscapes. Because of the climate, much of the southern part of Spain is arid. All the commentators mentioned the extreme heat of 40+ centigrade every day. The cyclists themselves in social media spoke of little else, just the need to constantly hydrate.

So cycling in Galicia came as a welcome change to everybody. Temperatures were constant around 25 Celsius, and the day had every type of weather possible. This included a lovely short sharp shower just 5km from the finish. The day was listed as medium mountains, but included 3200m of vertical gain in 207km, with just 11km of flat road. The first 73km taking the cyclists form Mombuey on the Castilla y Leon border to A Gudiña was on one road the N-525. 73km of rolling terrain with hardly any flat at all. The peloton covered it in just 90 minutes, an astonishing 48.3 km/h average, with no crashes and no punctures.

Vuelta de España – Cabeza de Manzaneda

As the raced turned inland, it skirted around the Cabeza de Manzeneda Galicia´s highest summit climb. The route included the first 5km of the climb, and just this section was given a second degree category. At the finish line yesterday, the talk from the organisation was that Galicia could host up to five stage in next year´s Vuelta de España. And that one could finish at the Cabeza summit , last conquered by David Moncutié in 2011. The route then passed by the spectacular Cañones of the River Sil, possibly the most beautiful river valley in Spain. The helicopter shots were incredible. The finish in Luintra, a small town of just 1250 inhabitants, and  estimates yesterday were of 10000 spectators at the finish. Oscar Pereiro, Galicia´s most famous cyclist oversees podium presentations at the Vuelta de España. It felt like the whole of Galicia had turned out at the finish to welcome him home.

Stage 12 Estaca de Bares

Today´s stage is in the extreme north Galicia. The finish at the Estaca de Bares lighthouse is Spain´s most northerly point. The forecast is for a 30km/h wind from the coast, and some light rain. With 2300m of climbing too, it could prove to be a tough stage for the riders. So, Galicia hosts two days of the race, and hopefully in next year´s Vuelta de España more than double that amount. The pros love the terrain, comparing it to the Ardennes classics such as Liege Bastogne Liege. That is a good comparison. So, come and see for yourselves. Try a cycling holiday in Galica and see what the pros are all raving about.

Galicia Spain’s Hidden Paradise

When people from outside Spain are asked if they know Galicia, the answer is invariably negative. Why is it, that this part of Spain is so popular with Spanish tourists, yet remains relatively unknown for foreigners who visit the peninsula. The easy answer could be the weather. The Costas of the Mediterranean , and the Andalusian coast have always been popular with sun-seeking tourists from all over Europe. The sun is guaranteed, but the beaches can be very overcrowded, and not very clean. Many are private, and also full of expensive sunbeds and parasols. At least you know what you are going to get, and the local councils plough a lot of money into attracting tourists. This last point could be the reason that the region remains unknown outside of Spain.

Galicia vs Northern Spain

Many Spaniards from the centre of Spain, who spend most of the year far from the coast in arid lands, love Galicia. They love it’s greenery, it’s unspoiled beaches, it´s locally produced food, and above all it’s tranquility. And also the love it’s weather. Other parts of northern Spain , such as Asturias and Cantabria can compete with Galicia on some fronts. However, their weather is unreliable, and this reduces their appeal for tourists who like the sun. Galicia has much more guaranteed days of sun a year, and thus the domestic tourists come flocking.

Opening up Galicia

As Galicia has always felt that it has enough tourists fro it’s own country, over the years it has been a little slow to advertise itself abroad. Many ex-gallegos whose families left Galicia during Franco’s rule, also flood back in the summer months. However, with some old style economy such as agriculture and fishing declining, tourism is stepping in to fill the gap. Oddly enough, the huge upgrade to the airport in Porto has helped Galicia. It’s southern entry point in Tui is just an hour’s drive from the airport. Porto serves almost 75 different destinations, and the budget airlines have really upped their flight volumes. Galicia has been quick to take advantage of this, and the regional government have supported the tourist industry.

TurGalicia was launched in 2010 to coincide with the Xacobeo Galicia celebrations, and has been a huge success. Foreign visitor numbers have swelled , many due to the Camino de Santiago, but also as the TurGalicia has visited many overseas holiday fairs.

Many of the tourists come to experience that balance of sun-seeking, and the culture of the region. And obviously the gastronomy . And now, a growing part of this tourism is outdoor sports. Surfing has grown in popularity, as has trail running and hiking. Galicia’s mountains providing the perfect environment for these pastimes. And now cycling holidays ares slowly beginning to grow in their popularity, as the abundance of mountains, coast and safe riding conditions appeal to cyclists. Cycling Galicia is in a perfect spot to attract these new tourists, and open up this paradise even more.

Tourism in Galicia

Galicia remains one of the hidden gems of Spain. Galician tourism is becoming an important factor to the economy.  The Spanish know all about it, and they love to come here on their holidays. The population that lives in what is known as the interior particularly relish Galicia. Much of Spain, particularly the central and southern parts are arid and dry. And in the summer can be quite unbearable, as temperatures hit 40 Celsius. Thus Galicia, with its coast, mountains, and unlimited greenery is very appealing for anybody thinking of cycling tours in Spain.

Due to its history, Galicia has experienced a lot of emigration in the last 75 years. However, like salmon, these displaced Gallegos love to come home for their holidays, providing a boost for Galician tourism.  In July and August, Galicia seems to fill up with Swiss registered cars. Switzerland was the favourite European destination for Galician emigres over the last 50 years. Its political neutrality being very popular. South America too, particularly Uruguay and Mexico have a large Gallego population. In August, successful Mexican businessman with Gallego roots flock to Galicia, leaving their private planes at Vigo airport. They create a tourist attraction, as small crowds gather to watch them arrive. They bring their big fancy cars in transport planes, and head to Avión, where they have huge summer houses. The fiesta in Avión is a lavish affair, paid for by the emigres, and full of Mexican culture.

In northern Portugal, we see the same summer influx of emigres, but this time from France. Portugal until the early 70´s was a military dictatorship under Salazar, and many fled. Portugal has a long history of furniture, clothes and shoe manufacture. These skills were taken abroad by the emigres and found a willing home in France. And these people flood back to their routes in July and August, boosting Galician tourism and the local economy. These ex-pat Portuguese also have a huge affinity to Galicia, due to the historical cultural ties. Also, the beach lovers prefer Galicia. The coastal geography presents much better beaches, warmer water, and less dangerous. This appeals greatly to those with younger families.

In the last 10 years, Galician tourism has seen an upturn, including those with no roots in the region. The Camino de Santiago is more popular every year, and visits by the Vuelta de España have also boosted tourism. Galicia remains however unspoilt by tourism. The “ley de la costa”, which prevents development on the coastline has prevented huge hotels going up. Galicians value their land, and its outstanding beauty. That will never be sacrificed, and thus Galicia will always keep its natural charm. Come and see for yourself. You will fall in love with it.