Pyrénées/Catalonia bike tour 2018

Our full route:


You can see the full details of this route here. When I say full details, I mean FULL. (Max speed, average speed, moving time, stopped time, elevation, temperature, number of pain aux chocolats consumed, etc.) It says we travelled a distance of 1056.9km but that would be because we took the train from Port-la-Nouvelle to Perpignan.

Best routes:

      • D-3/GI-503 from Arles-sur-Tech to Darnius (Col de Coustouges)
      • GIV-6703 from La Creuet to Madremanya (Els Angels)
      • N-260/D-914 from Llançà to Cerbère (the route is still nice afterwards but the traffic intensified a lot once we were back in France)
      • D-21/D-9/D-619 from Caramany to Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet

Top stopovers:

      • Arles-sur-Tech
      • Girona
      • Foix

Best meals:

      • Endless pain au chocolat.
      • Lunch at BionBo in Girona.
      • Lunch at La Quadra in Maçanet de Cabrenys.

Best campsites:

The elusive picnic table. Le Moulin du Pont D’Alies campground.
      • Le Moulin du Pont D’Alies in Saint-Martin-Lys.
      • Fagamis L’Oasis in Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines. (Mostly for the hospitality we received.)

Best hotels:

      • Les Terres Basses in Villerouge la Crémade.
      • Hotel Margarit in Girona.

Chillest French cat:

The stink-eyed cat of Mauvezin-de-Prat.

The Pyrénées/Catalonia was an excellent pick as our first overseas bike tour destination.

Here’s some potentially useful information for those interested in self-propelled trips:

It wasn’t all the climbing we had to do that made our rides hard, but some strong headwind (40km/h with gusts up to 70+km/h). We could have prepared for this by, uh, riding in a wind tunnel?

The purchase of the GPS was one of the best decisions we made. Using it for a month before our trip allowed us to understand what we were capable of doing. We knew we were comfortable with long-ish rides, but our regular rides rarely exceeded 1000m in elevation gain and we certainly weren’t hauling loaded panniers. In the end, it mostly just meant we rode at a slower-than-usual pace.

Our daily distance was usually based on how soon we could find a decent hotel/campsite when we’d start searching around 17H.

Start bike nerd talk: I was on my smallest chainring (36T) about 80% of the time. I use a 46-36T double chainring with an 11-42T cassette while Yann uses a 42-28T in the front and 11-36T in the back, giving him 3 easier gears than me, although I used my lowest gear far more than Yann did his!

The lowest of my low gears.

Curious about your gear ratio? Check You would also need to take into account your tire diameter as bigger tires make the effective gearing on the bicycle larger. (Easton explains this well in this .pdf)

I use 700c 35mm giving me a wheel circumference of 2173.98mm while Yann uses 650b 47mm giving him a wheel circumference of 2113.98mm. Unless you’re a particularly strong rider, make sure your gearing is easy enough for all the long hills you’ll have to climb in the Pyrénées and along the Costa Brava! /End bike nerd talk.

Camping in Europe is nothing like camping in Canada. Campsites seemed to be more of a place to stay in-between destinations whereas, in Canada, campgrounds are THE destination. All campsites we visited had WiFi and hot showers. Most had a swimming pool and a bar. Some had washers and dryers. For the purposes of our trip, this was much appreciated but it’s not the kind of camping I like to do here in Canada.

With the exception of Les Terres Basses which is technically a gîte, we stayed at 1 or 2-star hotels. The cheapest hotel (Fasthotel in Toulouse) was somehow cheaper than the most expensive campsite (Camping Esponellà). Excluding the flight, this trip cost us about $900 CAD apiece ($60/day average).

Best practice squatting with your knees bent at a 120° angle because most public and campsite toilets don’t have seats. Upon learning that one of the first public restrooms we visited had a 15-minute time limit, Yann remarked, “Who can squat for that long anyway?!”

On that note, make sure you carry around at least a wad of toilet paper as it’s not something that is often supplied, even at some of the campsites we stayed at.

Don’t expect to be able to purchase food easily on Sundays. I don’t think I saw a single store that sold food that was open 24 hours. The French like to eat dinner absurdly late: many restaurants weren’t even open until 20H!

We packed very well but if one thing was missing from our stash:

Thou shan’t forget ye chain lube.