Friday, November 14, 2014

The bikes of the Camino de Santiago

My wife and I recently walked the Camino de Santiago, an (almost) 500 mile trek from St. Jean Pied de Port in southwestern France across the Pyrenees foothills and across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela near the northwest coast. While the majority of "peregrinos" (pilgrims), walk this old pilgrimage trail, there are lots of cyclists making the trek now, too. To qualify for the compostela certificate in Santiago, you must either have walked the last 100 kilometers, or have ridden the last 200K. I intended to take a lot of pictures of bikes I encountered on the Way, but frankly, the majority were almost identical! I only saw a couple of touring bikes, they looked like Surly LHT's from the distance I saw them. I couldn't get a decent picture of those. Generally, the typical "Camino Bike" was an MTB, either hardtail or full suspension. I also saw a few hybrids. 

Pretty typical rig.


Much of the Camino is dirt and a lot is rocky and rough. Bicycles are directed to other routes along some stretches which are just too rough for a loaded bike to pass, especially with pedestrians sharing the path. Frankly, I felt that there were a lot of stretches where I encountered bikes that I felt it would be better not to have them there at all! There was often a paved road along side which the riders could have easily taken. Most riders were courteous and many used bells, which should be mandatory for the Camino. But you had a few knuckleheads who swept up behind you with no warning and zoomed by. I was relieved there was no accidents, but there were a few near misses.

Good reason to use an MTB(or the closest paved road).

700C Hybrid style.
Most if not all bikes I saw were equipped with panniers and a fair amount of gear. The great thing about the Camino is that you will have access to really cheap accommodations, so the sleeping gear can be reduced to a sleeping bag! Food is pretty cheap too, so I wouldn't bother with cooking gear, either, (you can use cooking gear at the albergues, too, if you want to cook.) I think you might be able to go the minimalist route and use a Carradice Camper and handlebar bag.

Walking the Camino can be a life altering experience, but to be honest, cycling it would be, to me, just another, albeit interesting, bike tour.