Although we’re big fans of hiking while traveling, we are always up for a great biking adventure, especially in beautiful destinations like Spain. Today’s guest contributor, Vanessa A Nirode from Girls Drink Stout, is here to take us on a two-wheel adventure through Barcelona’s beautiful landscape.
I’m fairly certain I fell in love with Barcelona the first time I visited; in fact, I think I fell while peering out the back window of a taxi coming from the El Prat airport. My first visit was on a clear night in November. I had the window partially rolled down. As we sped towards and into the city, I realized I could smell both the sea and the mountains. And that’s all it took. Two of my most favorite things – two of the most necessary things for my life – right next to, in fact, almost in, a thriving, bustling, diverse city. I kind of felt as if I had found Mecca.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Barca over the years and I love it more each time. Most recently, I spent a too short week at the beginning of August. I stayed in the wonderful, quiet, residential area of Camp de l’Arpa, removed from the herds of summer tourists. The apartment was on the top floor and had a terrace. My plan was to rent a road bike, ride in the mornings and early afternoons, then spend the late afternoons and evenings on the terrace writing and reading – my own little version of a meditation, feel like myself again, retreat.
I went to Terra Diversions to rent a bike. They rent mountain bikes as well as different levels of road bikes. They also do guided tours if you’re into that sort of thing. I had called the store the day before to set up my road bike rental of a carbon Canyon Ultimate CF. Xavi had my bike ready and waiting for me when I arrived. We did a quick bike fitting then talked about what rides I wanted to do. Terra rents GPS’s with about 20 pre-loaded courses on them. Xavi also provided me with laminated maps and a charger for the GPS (since I was renting the bike for multiple days). He talked me through the routes I was interested in doing, filled my water bottles, and sent me on my way.
The next morning I got up early, as I like to do. I wanted to ride a 100K route that headed northwest out of Barcelona and into the mountains. The amazing thing about riding a bike in Barcelona is how quickly you find yourself on a smooth low-trafficked road heading up. I turned inland from Badalona, heading towards Tiana. The route then turned toward La Roca del Valles, on to Orrius, then to Dosrius and the loop climb above it. Before the climb, I stopped at a gas station that is visible off to the right as you enter the town. There’s a café attached with a sign displaying a bicycle. I bought water and a coke and sat at one of the outdoor tables to rehydrate.
After the looped climb from Dosrius and back, I continued on to Argentona, then back down to the sea. A map of the route I took can be viewed here. The last 20-25K of the ride is along a pretty busy double lane road that runs along the coast. The traffic does move fast and if you’re not used to riding in heavy traffic (there is a shoulder and it is a designated bike route) you might find this part a little disconcerting. For me, who regularly rides in traffic in New York City, I was just happy that no one seemed to actually want to run me off the road. In fact, the drivers were all pretty courteous and there was no honking or yelling out of car windows to “Get off the Road!” I finished the 100k and arrived back at my apartment by 2pm – just in time for a siesta!
As I lounged on the terrace, I checked my email and found I had message from a friend of a friend inviting me to join an ‘intermediate’ ride of ’30-40k’ with ‘not too much climbing’ at 6pm.
“Sure,” I thought, “Why not?”
I met the group at the appointed time at Plaza Molina. The group of 12 guys was a wonderfully eclectic mix of nationalities: Spanish, British, Dutch, German, Russian, French, Serbian. We all spoke English. The guys led the way out of town and again I was struck by how quickly we ended up away from traffic and started climbing.
I figured out pretty quickly that the ride was definitely not intermediate. Nor was it only 30 to 40K with little climbing. It was hot and it was hard and I was having a fabulous time trying to keep up. I only knew where we went by looking at the route on my GPS afterwards.
The ride was 75K with about 1135 meters of climbing. We did four climbs – La Vallensana, La Conreria, Ronda de Dalt, and Carretera de l’Arrabassada. The sun was going down as we started the last one and I was tired. I lost sight of the guys about a third of the way up. I worried briefly about not having any lights on my bike and how I would get home if they didn’t wait. “There’s always Google,” I thought to myself and pushed on.
As I neared the top, I was met with a beautiful sunset and the silhouettes of 12 guys waiting patiently for me. I drank some water and waved them to start.
“It’s all downhill from here!” somebody yelled as we spilled over the crest to the other side.
And indeed it was. A glorious fast descent all the way back to the center of town, laughing and yelling the entire way. Perfection.