Cycling the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path is a wonderful and challenging endeavor and in order to enjoy it, and make sure that the original walking pilgrims can enjoy it, there are a few common sense things to think about as you ride to Compostela.
Written by Martin Thompson
As more and more travelers discover the experience of cycling rather than walking the Camino routes, some of them chose to follow the well worn hiking trails, invariably riding past fellow pilgrims on foot. Naturally the hikers will be traveling at a much slower pace and it is simply good manners and good sense to consider their safety and yours, to make sure everyone has a Buen Camino - a good pilgrimage.
"I hiked the Camino and was appalled at the majority of bikers who approached from behind at high speeds with no warning"
Don't aim for Strava KOMs
Cycling the Camino de Santiago is not by any means a race and in fact you would miss out on so much of the experience by not slowing down to smell the flowers and occasional field of cows, that it would be a shame. It would also very much against the spirit of friendship on the Camino to zip down a bumpy single track trail or cobbled village, weaving through the unsuspecting pilgrims. Also remember that down-hills are much harder on walkers than uphills. If anything, offer to shuttle a weary pilgrim's heavy pack to the next Albergue!
Don't practice your Freeride skills on the trail
Some of the forest trails on the Pyrenees and in Galicia would be superb for some root-ridden enduro decents, only they are designated hiking trails... Graciously shared with cycling pilgrims by the hikers who began walking the Camino over a 1000 years ago. As a mountain biker myself, I have often been crazy to speed down the single track on my 29er, and I know we are both good for it - but that is not the point of the Way and I know this is a lifetime journey to be savoured by me and by everyone else.
Don't ignore lost, broke down or tired pilgrims
Sometimes where you are rolling at a fine pace, the last thing you want to do is slow down, let alone stop, but part or the Camino spirit is one of selflessness and willingness to give or help out. Just because you are hauling down the tarmac hairpins on your way in to Ponferrada with nothing but the warm wind in your face and a grin from ear to ear - not everyone in your team might be riding so happily. So take the time to stop and help and if needs be pedal back up the hill to help fix that blown out tire - or just to give a kind word of comfort; I can tell you from personal experience you will be much happier if you do!
Don't block Doors and Passage ways
At the end of a long days ride, you can be so tired you just want to lean your bike against the closest wall and grab a cold Aquarius. Just make sure it is not blocking a local's front door or path of passage for fellow cyclists, hikers or drivers. This can happen a lot more often that people care to imagine, I know: I have done so myself to a shepherd who was no doubt even more tired than I was!
Fit a bell to your bicycle
All our Camino bike rentals, rental packs and tours include a pretty handlebar mounted bell. Not only do they have a nice ring to them but they can keep you and your fellow pilgrims safer on shared trails and in the narrow streets of old towns and villages. If you are bringing your own bicycle to ride the Camino, make sure to fit a bell before you leave or certainly before you start your journey.
Make yourself known whenever you approach a walking pilgrim
No point in having a bell if you are too shy or forgetful to ring it to be heard! The point is to make your presence known before you pass the hikers, so if they are a little hard of hearing, let them know you are about to pass them by calling out some friendly heads-up words. As there are pilgrims from all over the world, I recommend using the timeless "Buen Camino" or Good Pilgrimage greeting!
Go slow when passing
To keep things safe, particularly when cycling on rough or technical sections of the Camino, it's best to slow way down when passing as you don't know when a hiker my decide to pull over for a rest, nor to which side. You won't know if they have headphones in or are hard of hearing so don't take a chance and just play it safe for both of you even after you have announced you presence.
Be a Goodwill Biking Ambassador
As you cycle the Camino you will start to feel the Camino "Vibe", a kind of kinship of fellow travelers on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Be a part of it! Help other bikers and hikers along their way and you help someone have a little Camino miracle with something as simple as a shared bar of chocolate or a plaster from your first aid kit, for a painful blister.
Can you think of more Camino Do's & Don'ts? If so, drop us an email and we will be happy to share your Camino words of wisdom here too!
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.
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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