Cycling hooks you: it's good for your health, for your mood, for the environment and it's a fun and unique way to travel. It's no surprise that more and more pilgrims are travelling the Camino de Santiago on two wheels.
If you're thinking of becoming a 'bicigrino' (bike pilgrim), there are some important things to consider before hitting the road. We'll discuss some of them in this new Camino Postcard article. Let's roll!
Choose your route and research the layout
The routes to Santiago are very different, both in distance and slope, climate, road type, conditions & acommodations, etc.
- On bike, you'll have to travel a minimum of 200 km to get your Compostela.
- Study the different routes: think about how many days you have, how many kilometres a day you will travel, the slope of the stages, the time of year, etc. Choose the most adaptable Camino.
- Avoid winter, especially if you’ve chosen a Route with mountainous areas. Many recommend travelling the Camino at the beginning of autumn, when there are fewer pilgrims on foot.
- Be flexible: cycling allows you to travel farther in less time. Most pilgrims prefer to take it easy, completing 50 or 60 km stages, so that they can rest and explore the places they are passing. Leave some room to allow for changes in your route and so that you can visit nearby sites.
What bike is best for the Camino?
- The most common are mountain bikes, which can go along the same roads that pilgrims walk. It is inevitable that in certain sections, you'll have to get off and push and this varies for pilgrims on bicycles.
- More and more pilgrim are choosing hybrid bikes, a cross between a mountain bike and road bike. They are lightweight but strong, working well on different types of terrain due to their intermediate wheels. Body posture is more upright and there are different types depending on use.
- If you are a road cyclist and like speed, the Camino de Santiago offers an interesting experience: in fact, for some years now the cycling competition 'Vuelta a España' has a few stages through the Jacobean Route. This bicycle requires you to travel on asphalt, turning off from the original layout and missing all of the beautiful places along the Way.
Gear for cycling the Way of Saint James
In addition to basic equipment for the Camino that you'll share with pilgrims on foot, to travel via bike you'll need special materials for both yourself and for your 'horse'.
- Helmet: the Camino de Santiago has some difficult stages and even the most experienced cyclists fall sometimes. Your helmet is there to protect you, wear a quality one at all times.
- Culotte: your seat may be very soft, but at the end of the day you're going to be sore: choose a good quality culotte. If you're going to travel a long route, you may need a new pair halfway down the road. To reinforce your shorts, there are silicon cases available for your seat. Wearing bike clothes will also make your trip more comfortable.
- Footwear: for normal pedals, resistant sport trainers can be used; if you use clipless pedals, you'll need adapted footwear. An extra tip: if you are not familiar with clip less pedals, practise before you arrive, or choose normal pedals.
- Forward, rear and reflective lights: a bicycle is a vehicle and, as such, involves certain obligations. If you are travelling by road at night or very early, you need to bring lights; reflective elements on your clothing are also recommended. On a bicycle you are vulnerable: do everything possible to be seen. Similarly, pilgrims on foot become vulnerable when you coincide. If they see you, ring your bell so that they can hear you, and everyone will be more comfortable.
- Tools for the bike: bicycle pump, patches, tools, a pair of spare tubes, chain oil, etc. You know your bike better than anyone else and you'll know what you need. But keep in mind that you're going to have to carry this weight for many kilometres.
- The final dilemma: how can I take all of this on my bike? You have several options. The simplest is this: you don't have to carry everything on your bike! Use our Rucksack Transfer service and we'll move the 'bulk' of your luggage from stage to stage (sleeping bag, clothing pack, spare parts, etc.) so that you can limit yourself to the essentials (minimal tools, jacket, raincoat, food and water, etc.). In any case, you'll need a small backpack or saddlebags. A backpack is better on a rear bike rack than in your back. If you choose saddlebags, be careful with installation and what you put in each: if they are not balanced or if a belt is loose, they can cause quite a shock.
Bicycle Pak: bicycle transport on the Camino de Santiago
Unless the Camino is right outside your doorstep, you're going to have to take your bike to your starting point.
Travelling with your bike may become an ordeal. That's why we've devised the Bicycle Transportation service (a.k.a. 'Paq Bicicleta') , our transport service for bikes before and after the Camino de Santiago.
Bike transportation service: How it works?
- Drop by the Post Office in your area and ask for the 'Paq Bicicleta'. We have special packaging and will transport it safely to the office where you want to start the Camino. Another advantage is the price: for peninsular shipment, prices begin at €42,03. You'll save a ton of energy and money!
- To ship from Santiago de Compostela, come to our office at Rúa do Franco no. 4, three minutes from the Cathedral, or to our Pilgrim Office and we'll manage it from there. Since you're there, ask about other services for pilgrims: you can leave your bike or your bag in our locker, send your bag back home with our Luggage Transportations service (a.k.a. 'PaqPeregrino') or ship your bag from stage to stage if you want to go to Fisterra.
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Farewell, bicigrinos, and Buen Camino!
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