Monday, August 30, 2021

Summer Cycling Trip 2021

Trip wheel from Veloviewer


As every year at Devex the company takes a week long Summer break in August. August isn't really the best month to take holiday in Spain, because on the one hand everybody does and on the other hand tends to be really hot. That's why I tend to do a trip on my own, without my girlfriend. In the recent years this have been cycling holidays.

I had the idea for this years trip for a while: rent a camper-van and travel to the nice hills that are not so easy to reach from Barcelona. 

I rented a van from Indiecampers, which have reasonable prices unless you book in the last minute like I did. The car was a pretty posh Mercedes Marco Polo. It drives pretty much like an oversized car and comes with automatic gears (why would you have anything else in 2021?). 

There is no bike rack, but my bike fitted inside. This is a bit of a hassle, because it tends to be in the way when cooking or eating. I also had to sleep in the raised roof, because my bike had the nice downstairs spot. 

I didn't really plan a fixed route or places to stay. I had Montsec, Val d'Aran and Seu d'Urgell on my wish-list.  

Most rides were pretty short. Cooking, planning, camping, looking for place to camp, shopping, sleeping, ... leave less time for riding. A fully organised trip is more effective. Even staying at one or two hotels/AirBnbs and then doing loops like I did last year gives more riding time.

Day 1. Montsec  

I took off from Barcelona toward Montsec. I used Park4Night to find a nice parking lot near a lake not far from the area I wanted to ride in. It was pretty quiet at night, but I didn't sleep well ... as all night on the trip. 

The route I picked was not ideal and in the end I decided to just ride back instead of doing the whole thing. It was very hot and a lot of the route was on fast roads. The first part was nice though. 
Turns out planning rides on the go without a laptop is pretty tricky. I used a mix of Garmin Connect, Strava Mobile and Wikiloc for the rest of the trip.

Strava: Day 1: figuring out the car and a hot ride

Day 2. Montsec Climb 

I drove close to the climb and the route turned out pretty nice except of some bad road surfaces. I knew the area, because I looked at a house to buy here once.
 
Very nice area, maybe a bit warm in August. I had to fill up my bottles a couple of times.

Strava:  Day 2: Col d'Ares and Tremp

 

Day 3. Rest Day  

I had no good idea what to do, so I decided to stay in a hotel for two days. It was a lucky pick. Hosteria Toloriu 1948 is a real nice mountain hotel ... highly recommended.  I thought I check out the area, but after having two punctured inner tubes before even get going and then a puncture on the first descend I decided to call it a day.
I did the laundry instead and tried to patch the inner tubes. Note for next time: bring more spare tubes and possibly some tires.

Strava:  Day 3: the day of the thousand punctures

Day 4. Val d'Aran 

Next I headed to Val d'Aran to a very quiet parking lot in the park next to a stream. I arrived late and only had time for a short ride. There was also no reception in the park, which made planning tricky.  

Good ride though with nice climbs and very quiet roads. The villages are very picturesque and probably full of tourists during the day.

Strava:  Day 4: short, punchy and pretty

Day 5. French quicky 

I knew this climb towards France from an early organised trip, but only as descent. There was a sign on the bottom about the border being closed, but the police let cyclist through at the top. Arriving in France I remembered how bad French drivers are at overtaking cyclists, so I aborted and quickly drove back and did a loop around Val d'Aran instead. It turned out to be a good choice, with nice climbs and scenery. 
In the evening I moved to a small camping site.

Strava:  Day 5: French quicky and some hills

Day 6. Bonaigua 

Bonaigua is the highest cycling pass in Catalonia. I parked on the not so nice side to avoid some of the climbing and then cycled up, down and up again. It is a long climb and temperatures went from 35C on the bottom to 20C on the top. Fun, with the exception of the bee who stung my temple on the first descent.  
 
I run out of water again ... I think this is becoming a theme.

Strava:  Day 6: Just Bonaigua

Day 7. Aig├╝estortes 

Last minute addition to my plans. This is a national park with lots of streams and waterfalls. I definitely plan to come pack. I found another nice parking lot in a village, which was also a good starting point for cycling.  
Due to bad planning, weak legs and running out of time I missed the largest climb and did only three of the four panned climbs. So pretty though! And cold in the morning at 10C. 
After finishing the ride I drove back home.

Strava:  Day 7: Aig├╝estortes

Day 8. Return 

The great thing about Indiecampers is that it isn't far from home and I rode back from their depot with my bicycle. Very convenient. 
By now my legs were pretty smashed. 

Strava:  Camper drop off

Conclusion


This has been a brilliant trip and something I want to repeat. Now that I have some practice it will also be easier.

It would be nice to also take the mountain bike. There is some nice infrastructure for mountain biking in Val d'Aran and in Andorra.

 

 

Some more impressions on Flickr below ...


Cycling Trip 2021

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