Cycling abroad is an exciting and great holiday, nice and challenging. Four friends have made successful journeys in 14 different countries the last 17 years, Although we have experienced some common challenges (brain & heart infarctions), we have kept fitness and are still cycling!
Written by Sigurd Solberg
Norwegian world cyclist, still going strong at 72!
We were 49-56 years when we started along Donau and have since cycled within the borders of Ireland (W), Poland (N), Croatia (E) and Spain(S). Although we have experienced some common challenges (brain/heart infarctions), we have kept fitnes and are still cycling. We are following the same kind of planning, adapted to age, conditions and experiences.
Our advice is: Do not go more than 4 persons together, carry your own luggage, spend the nights at hotels, perhaps bed&breakfast. We have learned that four people are convenient, 2 double rooms, you can eat together, you can split up easily for one night – if you feel its necessary, its easy to arrange. To carry the luggage is something to learn. You do not need much clothing. Wool is essential (also in summer), also daily washing (of something). One pair of shoes is maybe sufficient. We use always watertight bags. Regularly you need only one bag for a 1 week trip (2 bags for 2-3 weeks). We often like to go down along rivers, it is a guaranty for nice travel.
How do we decide where to go? Desires and initiative counts. Often we want to visit people we have met at cycling-journeys before or who have visited us in Norway - sometimes we end or start the journey there. Commonly we buy the air transport and two nights- the first and the last- in advance. The other lodging we arrange during the journey (if advice does not tell us that this will not be possible).
We have never lacked accommodation – from 87 spontaneously arranged lodging – every time, although difficult, was arranged. Sometimes, these stories have become our most beloved moments: once a closed hotel was opened by help from the neighbors, another time we were handed over the hotel keys and locked the hotel in the morning - because the owners went on holidays.
In our last journey, in northern Portugal the first week of November, we happened to use the firm Cycling Rentals and their services. It was an unambiguously positive experience, the most reliable bicycles we ever experienced, reasonable priced and very practically arranged (hotels, transport). Thank you!
Most of our cycling clients and friends bike tour a lot more that I do, so I thought it would be nice to share their inspiring stories with you. If you have a tale to tell of your two wheeled journeys, why not share it right here?
Some of the best bike touring stories are not all about the bike or even the ride, but about the people you meet along the way, and the experiences you have - or the emotions! A classic bike tour that never fails to elicit all of the above is of course the Camino de Santiago, but some of my own unforgettable rides have been much closer to home.
Below are a few of my favourite and most inspirational bike tour stories, that simply put the joy of pedaling in me. But I would love to hear about your most memorable experiences on a bicycle!
Written by Martin
With 365 days of cycling possibilities in a year, what was your favorite bike moment or most epic ride of 2017?
Written by Martin Thompson
Share your photo here with a short caption and we will publish your photo and shortlist 2 contenders for a final vote vote on our Facebook page. The winner will receive a 25% discount voucher for any of our bike rentals and get mad kudos!
Deadline for submissions is the 25 of December!
After decades as a secret cycle touring paradise, the west coast of Portugal has finally been placed firmly on the bike tour map.
Written by Catherine Deffense
We first ran our popular Blue Coast bike tour back in 1986, when the Rota Vicentina did not even exist. Now, as all those years ago, this classic tour has you coasting along quiet back roads from Lisbon to Lagos and the brilliant beaches of the Algarve.
Officially inaugurated only in 2015, the Rota Vicentina offers spectacular seascapes along some of the wildest coastline in Europe, starting in the idyllic Alentejo region and ending at the Cape of Saint Vincent in the Algarve region of southern Portugal.
Our Rota Vicentina bike tour explores the beautiful and rugged Atlantic west coast of Portugal, cycling through white washed villages and cork forests along the way.
There are two official marked routes; Historical Way & Fisherman's Trail, the first of which being ideal for mountain bikes, the second for hiking.
Our tour route is a mix of small roads and optional off road detours. You can take a look at our Rota Vicentina Self Guided bike tour details here and see if it sounds like your kind of cycling holiday!
If you prefer guided road touring, Cycling Centuries Bike Tours, our mother company, offers all the all tarmac, fully supported Blue Coast route tour, with scenic, low traffic cycling through some of the prettiest villages and towns in Portugal.
Rota Vicentina E-bike rentals
We also offer powerful, class leading E-bikes on our Rota Vicentina Bike Tour, as well as all our Portugal bike tours.
If you like cycling but don't like sweat too much on your rides or can't get your heart rate up too high, electric assisted e-bikes are the way to ride. You can find out all about E-bikes for our self guided bike tours here.
Although it's always been politically charged, the northeastern region of Catalonia is arguably Spain's finest cycling destination - and arguably not Spanish!
Written by Martin Thompson
With a language that long predates Castilian Spanish and a rich heritage of cultural and political power through the ages, the Catalan region in the north east of the Iberian Peninsula has plenty to offer to cycle travelers, beyond the upheaval of recent events.
From the snow capped peaks and foothills of the Pyrenees to the pine clad shores of the Mediterranean sea, Catalonia boasts a stunning range of idyllic scenery and superb riding conditions. The numerous secondary roads and exquisite cycling trails make exploring the region by bicycle immensely enjoyable and rewarding.
With sufficient variety of terrain to suit every type of cyclist, the only real difficulty is choosing the best route for your limited travel time and that is why we have worked so hard to put together a bike tour of our very favourite province in Catalonia: Girona. Home to dozens of professional cyclists and racing teams, the Girona province has all of the finest Catalan attributes - great scenery and route options, through ancient villages and monumental landscapes from the ocean to the mountains. Could a cyclist dream of any more??
Aside from the phenomenal cycling conditions, aprés riding activities are just as delightful, as Catalonia offers some of the very best cuisine in the western Europe - yes, I would say they even give the Italians a run for their money! World class wines and superior accommodation put the finishing touches on this remarkable part of Spain and will have you not wanting to leave. But when you do, you will no doubt come back for another ride!
Andrew Leach and friends recently cycled the Camino, starting their adventure in Pamplona on a gruelling schedule to Santiago using our Camino Rental Pack. Here is his own account of his journey and experience riding across Spain.
Written by Andrew Leach
I first heard of the Camino de Santiago when I was walking the Pyrenees about 10 years ago. I thought at the time it would be interesting one day perhaps to continue my journey on to Santiago de Compostela and so complete my journey from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Last year a French acquaintance named Paul had just returned from his 'Camino' and we spoke of travel, walking, food and many things. Although he never entered my house as he was delivering logs, there was an empathy between us. I brought him back some special Abondance cheese from France which he likes, as a thank you for the wood. He inspired me to cycle the Camino.
The History / Legend of St James is much a character of Legend in Spain as St George is in England. Facts about his life are hard to come by, although it is certain that he was beheaded by Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem in 44 AD... the rest is however hypothesis. His body and head are said to have been taken by his followers Athanasius and Theodoro to Jaffa where a stone boat was commissioned and within a week this boat and precious cargo were washed up at modern day Padron only 20k from modern day Santiago de Compostela where he was buried.
For 800 years he appears to have lain undisturbed and forgotten until a hermit called Pelagius had a vision of a star shining on a field (Compo - Field; Stela - Star) and his tomb was discovered. Some time later king Alfonso II declared St James patron of Spain. He was often reported to be seen in battle against the Moors on a white charger. A Church was built over his tomb and so the modern history of Santiago de Compostela began.
This summer Gerard, Michael, Neil and I set off for Bilbao to cycle the Camino. We carried just the very bare essentials... it was going to be hot.
We planned to cycle about 100k every day, over some beautiful landscapes to parts of Spain which we had never heard or imagined of .. look up Burgos, Leon, Logroño.. to name but a few of our stops, these places were a revelation to us.
The people we met along the way came from all points of the compass; Levenshulme to Christchurch NZ and everywhere in between.
Everyone we met had a different story and reasons for their journey.. too many to tell here, although one chap we saw in Santiago dressed as an old fashioned Pilgrim had been walking for years and has lived off the land without money or any modern day accouterments. Others had walked the last 100k to receive their certificate. Some people had walked/cycled from Poland, Austria or Italy, you name it and here were to be found pilgrims. One German boy I spoke with had walked into Santiago in bare feet.
The reasons for their journeys? As numerous as their origins, spiritual, penance, in memory of loved ones, a challenge? Others because it was just there to do.
The food along the way was in most places wonderful (pilgrims fare on average for 3 course was on average €15 inc of wine, coffee & water) Accommodation was excellent and inexpensive, we stayed in small hostels or converted Monasteries, which offered good value. We could have stayed in an Albergue for about €5-€10 per night but the thought of a large dormitory for the night wasn't for us.
At every stage along the way you received a Stamp to prove the distance you have travelled and at the end you receive a certificate once your credentials are produced .
We travelled through the Navarra region and on to the Castilian flatlands at between 800 and 900 meter for two days in the searing heat with little or no shade and arrived in Galicia with it's green mountainous landscape. I hope to return in the future to explore and experience some more of this beautiful part of Spain with it's friendly people and interesting culture. It is really a hidden part of Spain which I would imagine few British people have visited.
On our penultimate day we stopped in a small town called Sarria and visited a small church, we sat outside had a sandwich and drink and set off again. We all said we needed more food and a coffee and decided we would stop somewhere soon. We must have passed a few dozen places selling coffee and were leaving town up a steep hill when Neil's foot slipped off a pedal, we all stopped to see if he was ok when a voice from behind me said "Hello Mr Andrew Leach, how are you". At first I didn't recognize the face with the goatee beard and black shirt and I was trying to figure out who it was; then I realised it was Paul... the Guy who had inspired me to do the Camino. Was this Divine intervention, purely coincidence or just chance? He was working at a restaurant and served us some excellent fare and we talked for a while said our goodbyes and cycled on.
Arriving in Santiago was something of an anticlimax, with it's busy streets and pilgrims everywhere and we were tired after another long hot day in the saddle.
Did we have a religious experience? what had the journey taught us, we spent some hours discussing this over dinner that night.
It was a great journey on a terrific landscape, meeting interesting people... And you find out things about yourself and what your body is capable of. I cycled for 5 days with a badly sprained ankle, most people we met had blisters and bandages here and there.
Everyone was in agreement that it was a real sense of achievement, one we're unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Thinking of cycling in Spain and perhaps taking your bike on the train? Here's what you need to know before you go!
Written by Didi Knowlton
When undertaking a long distance bicycle tour it can make sense to cut out certain long haul sections of the journey, especially if you are short on time. One of the best ways to travel these parts of your route is to simply put your bike on the train - or is it?
If you are bike touring in Spain, there are a few things you should be aware of if you want to use the rail services for any part of your journey. You should be able to take your bikes on the train on most rail routes using the Regional or Media-Distancia trains, and making sure that you book your train seats ahead of time and add a notification that you will be bringing a bicycle.
If you are travelling with friends, you also need to be aware that there is a maximum of 3 bikes per train composition.
You can get more details from the official Renfe website.
Although Portugal and Spain are both very safe travel destinations, and cycling is statistically a very safe sport, it's important that you cover yourself for the unexpected by arranging Travel Insurance before you go.
Written by Fernanda Mateus
As world travelers and cyclists ourselves, we looked long and hard for a simple, inexpensive but broad covering insurance that would have us covered on our active travel adventures. The very first time we felt we should get travel insurance, we were already on our way and frantically hunted for a full coverage plan. We settled on World Nomads as we were able to easily buy fairly priced insurance online before we even reached our starting destination.
We were also able to increase the coverage during the journey to cover more activities and we were very happy with the service and have used them ever since! We also like that fact that they support local communities through their Footprints initiative and feel they are the best choice for active travelers and now recommend them to all our riders.
For all these reasons and since we have had many requests for active travel insurance, beyond our Crash & Theft insurance, we have added a simple form on our site where you can get a real time, no obligation quote. Safe travels!
When in comes to bicycle maintenance, there is one unavoidable task to make sure you can keep on pedaling - oiling your chain - unless of course you have taken the high road with a belt or shaft drive!
Written by Martin Thompson
At Cycling Rentals we wash, lube and tune a great many bikes throughout the year and that means a lot of bike washing, and a lot of oil residue running down the drain (we actually use a decantation separator in our bike wash unit).
Right from the start we knew this was a serious concern for us and opted for a totally biodegradable chain lube that guarantees top performance on the the bike and low or no harmful impact on the environment.
So you have decided to cycle the Camino de Santiago - you won't regret it - but be sure to pack properly so you can have a bike tour you won't forget, for all the right reasons!
Written by Didi Knowlton
With the growing amount of Camino Rental Packs we dispatch, we thought a Camino cyclist specific packing list would be very helpful! We update this article regularly and count on your suggestions to make it better and better.
The first thing to bear in mind is the Camino de Santiago is that you can essentially cycle the pilgrimage route any time of year - though our preference is for late spring, early summer or fall. Other times of year can be rather too cold or hot for comfortable cycling. Having said that, any time of year you choose to cycle the Camino, you should bear in mind that given the distance, elevation and natural micro-climates, the variation of the weather is something you must prepare for.
From the brisk mornings in the Pyrenees to the hot plains in and out of Leon, to the chilly heights of O Cebreiro and the possible rain showers around Santiago de Compostela, you will be exposed to a range of temperatures and weather conditions. With that in mind and because you don't want to pack too heavy (despite the generous 40 liter capacity of our Ortlieb panniers!), here is our suggested bicycle packing list - why not print it out and check items off as you pack?
1 x Bike helmet
1 x Sun glasses
1 x Fingerless gloves
1 x Full finger gloves
1 x Clear lens glasses (or changeable lenses)
1 x Cycle Shoes
2 x Padded cycle shorts
2 x Cycle Jersey
4 x Cycling socks
1 x Light Water-proof wind breaker
1 x Warm, light Fleece (makes a great base layer for your rain jacket on cold days)
1 x Arm warmers
1 x Sunscreen
1 x Small first aid kit
Post Ride gear
1 x Long sleeve "dinner" shirt
1 x Short sleeve "dinner" shirt or polo
1 x Long trousers / practical skirt
1 x Warm, light Sweater
1 x flip-flops or light walking shoes
5 x Underwear (remember you only wear after showering each day!)
1 x Compact wash kit
Tools & Equipment
1 x Smartphone
1 x Camera (or save space and weight and just use your smartphone)
1 x Multi tool
1 x Spare tube (and / or patch kit)
1 x Small bottle chain oil
If you have found other items to be useful, or any listed items to be superfluous, get in touch and let us know!
This was first published on our old Blog.
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