When people think of cycling in Spain they think of the seaside and they think of the coast. They think of long flat roads and short climbs. I made the mistake of thinking that so when I arrived in Spain I went cycling but every direction I tried involved climbing steep gradients. The first ride I did took me to the top of the Cumbre Del Sol and I felt that it was hard but I didn’t mind as I expected it to feel like a climb.
It’s when I tried to ride in other directions that I came up to the steep gradients and started to understand the challenge of riding in such a landscape. In Switzerland you can have 12km climbs but they’re at shallow gradients most of the way with the occasional steep gradient. Roads with steep gradients are usually closed in Switzerland. In Spain they don’t have such an issue with ice and snow so they can build steep hills. The hills are so steep that I considered using normal shoes so that I could dismount easily if I ran out of steam. I continued with clipped pedals.
I was using the Komoot app for one route and it asked me to go up consecutive steep gradients. I dismounted and walked up a short bit before getting to another flat bit of road. As I walked up that steep gradient I saw a scooter descending my way and as he applied the brakes to slow down a bit he hit a wet patch of road and the scooter slid for a distance downhill. I believe I made the right decision to dismount at this point.
I eventually reached my destination after studying the map on the app and ignoring directions.
Aside from the painful uphills there are some very nice downhills. This one is going down to the sea through Fanadix, not an Asterix character. This was an excellent and pleasant descent. I only went down this road twice and as I saw that there were some wet patches I didn’t go at full speed. It’s the type of descent you see idealised in road and cycling programs. I love when you have roads that are wide enough for traffic to go uphill and downhill because it feels safer than two-way roads that are only a car width wide.
When I cycle I try to take secondary roads as much as possible for two reasons. The first of these is that there is less traffic so you can enjoy the landscape and see places that people following main roads cannot see and the second reason is that when you’re going up a steep gradient it’s nice to be able to take up the entire road. This is something that I tried in Switzerland and adopt on most of my rides. It’s safer. Before this spot I was going up a steep gradient and sticking to the right of the road when I saw a car coming down the other way. The driver could have continued down safely but she was courteous and stopped, letting me progress up the hill.
This landscape reminds me of Mont Sur Rolle. Spanish terraced vineyards looking towards the sea. In Switzerland vines are given cables to grow on but in Spain at this time of year vines are cut so you see the vineyards unblemished by metal cables.
It’s nice to cycle in Spain but I noticed that I could easily do three to five hundred metres of climbing on every bike ride up steep gradients. You need strong legs for the gradients. In Switzerland it’s rare for me to stand up as I pedal but in Spain it’s almost a requirement. It is a good place to perfect your climbing technique. I will explore more routes next time I go.