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Old 04-30-07, 01:25 PM   #1
muckdog
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pyrenees

Hi, has anyone here cycled over the Pyrenees from the french side to the spanish side? I'm planning to cross the western pyrenees, heading from Pau to Pamplona, crossing via Isaba and Roncal. Basically what i want to know is how difficult will this be for a bunch of people who only bike around London and just have mountain bikes rather than road bikes. Will it be Hell on earth? We will have to go up around 1500m I think. Has anyone else done such a climb and how hard was it?
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Old 04-30-07, 02:38 PM   #2
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Well, I went East to West, from Perpignan to St. Sebastian and so on, staying on the French side. My recollection was three major cols and, I think one more that had too much snow even to push the bike through. It was at least as fine, in every possible way, as any bicycing I've ever had. As for the long climbs, it shouldn't be any bother at all. Have gearing low enough that you can go very slow, even very, very slow, then just take your time, enjoy the incredible scenery, and before you know it you'll pop out on top. Go for it!!!!

PS Oh yes, everyone needs to have their bikes in perfect maintenance, new tires, adjusted brakes etc. You don't want anything to go wrong on the way down. And that, btw, will be equal to any other finest experience you've ever had.

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Old 04-30-07, 03:10 PM   #3
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About two years ago I did what you're going to do. From St. Jean Pied du Port to Roncavalles will be a few hours of uphill. It will never be super steep as this is the easiest pass over the Pyrennees. And the great news is, once you get to Roncavalles, the next 80 km to Pamplona is downhill ALL THE WAY!!! That part is a HOOT!!! Was the best part of the whole Camino de Santiago.

EDIT: I just realised you won't be going the same way I did. Will you be doing the Camino?

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Old 04-30-07, 03:12 PM   #4
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And by the way, it will be rainy and extremely wet the whole way up the Pyrenees. Once you get the Roncavalles, the sun comes out and dries everything off, then you won't see rain again until Galicia.
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Old 04-30-07, 07:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by becnal
And by the way, it will be rainy and extremely wet the whole way up the Pyrenees. Once you get the Roncavalles, the sun comes out and dries everything off, then you won't see rain again until Galicia.
The 2 times I biked from France to Spain, it was sunny and hot in both countries (once in June, once in September). It was also sunny and hot on the days I rode over the Tourmalet and the Col d'Aspin in June, both passes entirely within France.
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Old 05-01-07, 11:08 AM   #6
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If you want a slightly easier route, we found a pass that is only at about 900 meters and it was a breeze coming from the Spanish side, although it would have been slightly more work coming the other way, some 13 percent grades, but beautiful natural scenery. Like another poster did, we went via St Jean Pied de Port.

Details here, with road notes below the post:

http://travellingtwo.com/278
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Old 05-01-07, 11:29 AM   #7
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They are long, steady climbs and the best strategy is to stick to a comfortable work rate, sit back and gear down so you can spin.
Your MTBs will have plenty of low-end gearing but you may want to use slick road tyres for lightness and efficiency. 1.5" slicks can still handle riding along tracks and trails.
I found that some MTBs are setup with the bars too high for climbing. A cross-country setup with the bars and inch or so lower than the saddle is often more comfortable.
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Old 05-02-07, 05:15 AM   #8
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Hey, i have a thread about Barcelona to Belfast, and this will be handy for us, keep the routes coming :-)

Becnal has suggested one good route for us so far... The other option for us is something similar to what you are planning, through the pyrenees, but we want to go in the option direction of you. If you come up with a final route let me know, id be interested to see the route..
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Old 05-02-07, 11:15 AM   #9
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The French side is steeper and more dramatic than the Spanish side, but it is incredibly beautiful. Granny gears are a must! It rained most of the two weeks we took to do the ride, but we heard that the Spanish side can be sunny and dry when it is raining in France. Perhaps, being flexible about the route and giving yourself plenty of time are your most important considerations. Also, French side has longer, less steep climbs going up the mountain heading west from east. Example, col de Mairie Blanc (a real PIA coming from the west but relatively easy from the east).
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Old 05-08-07, 02:44 PM   #10
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thanks everyone. we'll be ascending from oloron-st-marie up to arette-st-martin I think. Seems like quite a steep climb. Is it quite easy to free camp?
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