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Camino de Santiago

Old 10-09-19, 12:13 PM
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Camino de Santiago

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After more than 30 years of working in a windowless, bunker-like office for an undisclosed government entity in Washington, D.C., I am preparing to retire in the next few months. And once I am retired I plan to spend most of my time outdoors. As part of this, I am planning for my first long distance, self-supported bike tour. I will be traveling the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Greater, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. However, there are a number of different pilgrimage routes leading to the cathedral. Some of the more common ones start in Spain, France or Portugal. Has anyone on here biked the Camino de Santiago? If so, do you have a recommendation on which route to take? Anyone else have any recommendations specific to this type of bike tour?
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Old 10-09-19, 01:14 PM
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I think if You want to compare notes with other friends who have done this the most common way is called the 'French Way' - here is the link to the detail https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Way
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Old 10-09-19, 01:45 PM
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Yes I've done two, or more accurately 1 & 0.85. The first (0.85) was the Levante from Valencia which I didn't complete because I had an accident and end up doing the last 250kms by bus. The other I did in June 2018 from Bordeaux along the north coast of Spain, the Norte.
Here's two links to the journals I did about them on CrazyGuyOnABike (CGOAB) plus an article about the hostels along the Levante route.
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/..._id=20742&v=NW
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/..._id=18344&v=AK
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/..._id=18335&v=44

The French route is incredibly crowded and the infrastructure stretched to accommodate the large numbers. I know this from a close friend who does the Camino regularly.
The Levante is little known and very few people do it. It's largely flat till after Toledo and then gets very hilly in Galicia on the final leg.
The Norte from Bordeaux where I started isn't as busy as the French route but is getting more so all the time as people are choosing to do it rather than the French one due to the crowds. From Bordeaux the first couple of days are relatively flat till you get to the Basque country.

Anyway have a look at the links and I'll happily try to answer any questions you have, although I don't claim to be any kind of expert.
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Old 10-09-19, 02:44 PM
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A couple years ago my wife also got tired of working in a windowless, bunker-like office for an undisclosed government entity in Washington, D.C. and took a 6 week sabbatical to walk the Camino. She got summoned for grand jury duty while on the trail and came back to an immediate 6 weeks of that.

Returning to work after 12 weeks of being off she decided it was time for a career change. She now works at a slightly different windowless, bunker-like office for a government entity in Washington, D.C.

Point of the story, enjoy Spain! If it were me I'd probably pick somewhere else to cycle or just walk the Camino and enjoy the company of everyone else. I did have some neighbors that biked the Portuguese route of the Camino earlier this year and they really enjoyed it.
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Old 10-10-19, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Smitty2k1 View Post
If it were me I'd probably pick somewhere else to cycle or just walk the Camino and ...
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Walking the Camino is not an option for me. I feel quite fortunate, however, for what I am able to do rather than lamenting what I am no longer able to do.
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Separate accidents (falling off a balcony and slipping on some ice) have resulted in each of my ankles having to be surgically reconstructed and medical hardware implanted. The back and forth motion of pedaling a bike still works just fine. But the side to side and pivoting functions of my ankles do not work anymore. So I can ride a bike for 100 kilometers with no physical problems. But walking a just a few kilometers can be painful and cause my ankles to become swollen.
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Old 10-10-19, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
Yes I've done two ...
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Thanks, Caretaker.
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I am also a member of crazyguyonabike.com. I previously did a search of "Camino de Santiago" in the journals section of the site, and had already found and started reading your journals before you posted on this thread.
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I appreciate your willingness to answer questions I may have. I have not yet finished reading your journals. But once I have I will not hesitate to contact you if I need to ask something.
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Old 10-10-19, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by DC Bike Blogger View Post
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After more than 30 years of working in a windowless, bunker-like office for an undisclosed government entity in Washington, D.C., I am preparing to retire in the next few months. And once I am retired I plan to spend most of my time outdoors. As part of this, I am planning for my first long distance, self-supported bike tour. I will be traveling the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Greater, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. However, there are a number of different pilgrimage routes leading to the cathedral. Some of the more common ones start in Spain, France or Portugal. Has anyone on here biked the Camino de Santiago? If so, do you have a recommendation on which route to take? Anyone else have any recommendations specific to this type of bike tour?
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Have you visited the "Cycling the Camino de Santiago" forum?
Cycling the Camino de Santiago Camino de Santiago Forum
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Old 10-11-19, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Unapomer View Post
Have you visited the "Cycling the Camino de Santiago" forum?
Cycling the Camino de Santiago Camino de Santiago Forum

I have been reading threads about biking the Camino in another forum (https://www.caminodesantiago.me/comm...the-camino.24/), but not the U.K. one. Until now, anyway. And I started reading and immediately found a reference to yet another resource: https://www.caminocyclist.com/blog.
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Thanks for referral, Unapomer. And whether you are a pilgrim or not, buen Camino.

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Old 10-12-19, 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by DC Bike Blogger View Post
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​​​​​​
After more than 30 years of working in a windowless, bunker-like office for an undisclosed government entity in Washington, D.C., I am preparing to retire in the next few months. And once I am retired I plan to spend most of my time outdoors. As part of this, I am planning for my first long distance, self-supported bike tour. I will be traveling the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Greater, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. However, there are a number of different pilgrimage routes leading to the cathedral. Some of the more common ones start in Spain, France or Portugal. Has anyone on here biked the Camino de Santiago? If so, do you have a recommendation on which route to take? Anyone else have any recommendations specific to this type of bike tour?
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I did the camino two years ago starting in Cologne, Germany. I took the north route in Spain. Don't do that if you are afraid of climbing. Do that if you want to escape the crowds and like great landscape. And the sea.
I went mostly by road and fully unsupported. The "official" camino is not always rideable, even with mountain bikes. I took mostly small rosds. But the point is to get to Santiago by your own power, not to follow a route dictated by the tourist boards.
You find my blog at
Colognesantiago.WordPress.com

Tips: you don't need a tent although I was happy I had one at times. You don't need to cook yourself. Spain is full of good and cheap eateries. It's not the third world. Pack lightly.

Buen camino!
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Old 10-12-19, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by DC Bike Blogger View Post
-Separate accidents (falling off a balcony and slipping on some ice) have resulted in each of my ankles having to be surgically reconstructed and medical hardware implanted. The back and forth motion of pedaling a bike still works just fine. But the side to side and pivoting functions of my ankles do not work anymore. So I can ride a bike for 100 kilometers with no physical problems. But walking a just a few kilometers can be painful and cause my ankles to become swollen.
Slacker! I managed to get the same damage in a single fall, with similar results. Fortunately, my walking has not suffered as badly; it's standing still that I find painful. Cycling is okay and even pushing the bike on hills is doable, but still embarrassing. I hope you continue to heal and get to enjoy what you can do.

I've seen a couple of episodes of a PBS program series called Pilgrimage that follows a group of hikers on their trip. Worth a watch to get a feel for the terrain and the vibe.
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Old 10-13-19, 06:49 PM
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Hi,
First of all, good luck with your retirement and a Camino is a great way to begin!

To be boring, before deciding what route to follow, I'd suggest having a think about what your goal is - do you want the pilgrimage experience or do you want the touring experience?

I started my Camino in the Netherlands, cycled along the French coast as far as Bayonne then joined the Camino Francais to Santiago. On my way home I followed the Northern coast of Spain, sometimes doing some of the Norte route in reverse.

I followed the walker's path as much as possible, taking the road when it was parallel or on the more extreme descents. I carried my bike a lot! I also travelled very slowly and often waited until walking pilgrims were long gone.
In other words, if you expect to follow the same route/path as the walking pilgrims allow lots of time.

Following the road is easier in that regard but eliminates a lot of the camraderie & human contact along the way.

Walking pilgrims talk of a "Camino family" people they encounter every day or couple of days. That's much harder to achieve as a cyclist, since we typically move faster. The further you go along the way the harder it is to break into the cliques was my experience.
Also,the last 100 km after Sarria was packed with walking Pilgrims. For 2 days I let the pilgrims walk and started cycling in the afternoon having the path almost to myself - pure Bliss.

From a bike touring perspective I more enjoyed the time post Santiago, wandering the west, then northern Spanish coasts.
But the Camino route itself was "special" and looking back I wish I had taken longer.

Cycling in Spain is glorious. Drivers are respectful, the food is fantastic and a cervesa con Limon will slake any thirst!

Burn Camino
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Old 10-13-19, 08:20 PM
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I've toured extensively in southwestern France and northern Spain. I haven't done the Camino because it has no interest for me, but I've found myself unwittingly along various Camino routes at times. One particularly glorious route for touring that's on one of the Camino routes is the Célé river valley in SW France between Figeac (a very pretty town) to around Cahors on the Lot river.

A couple of things to know about northern Spain:

Northern Spain receives a lot more rain than the rest of Spain and it's cooler than the rest of Spain. It's very green. When I toured there in mid-to-late May, I had a fair bit of rain. Also, a lot of campgrounds weren't open yet, but I was staying in inexpensive inns. Prices were quite reasonable.

There generally is no road right along the coast in northern Spain, and where there is one, it's usually not at all a flat road. The coastal topography changes dramatically at the French/Spanish border. The northern Spain region is hilly-to-mountainous, even along the coast. South of the Picos de Europa range, the climate is much drier and more typical of Spain. The Picos de Europa area was wonderful for touring. It was my favorite part of northern Spain, but probably a bit south of the Camino.

Spanish eating and shop hours are challenging for touring cyclists. Dinner in restaurants often began around 10pm and usually not before 9pm at the earliest. Those hours don't work for me, so I never ate dinner in restaurants. Lunch, however, was mid-afternoon and there were inexpensive fixed price lunches available everywhere (a lot cheaper than restaurant dinner prices). So I often tried to finish my biking by mid-afternoon and had a leisurely lunch. If I was at all hungry in the evening, I'd either get a snack in a bakery (which were open late) or get a beer or glass of wine with a tapa in a bar. Bakeries do not open as early in the morning in northern Spain as they do in France, however, so I'd have to buy bread the evening before if I wanted to have some bread for breakfast in the morning at the time I'd want to eat. And I was not getting up ridiculously early. (BTW, dinner eating hours are similar in Argentina and were also problematic for touring there if you're not preparing your own.)

I don't know what the Portuguese Camino route is, but northern Portugal and northwestern Spain are very nice. I met some young Portuguese cyclists who had just toured on the Portuguese Camino route and they told me that they enjoyed their tour.
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Old 10-14-19, 04:54 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post

Spanish eating and shop hours are challenging for touring cyclists. Dinner in restaurants often began around 10pm and usually not before 9pm at the earliest.
Doing the northern Camino in Spain I found restaurants did a 'pilgrim menu' for about €10 from 7pm. Normally in Spain the cook/chef only arrives around 8.30pm at the earliest.
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Old 10-14-19, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
Spanish eating and shop hours are challenging for touring cyclists. Dinner in restaurants often began around 10pm and usually not before 9pm at the earliest. Those hours don't work for me, so I never ate dinner in restaurants.
That was SO hard to get used to during my 7 weeks touring Andalucia. I didn't camp as much as I thought I was going to, so I often bought stuff for lunch and ate dinner out. I remember numerous occasions scrambling to get the markets in small towns so I could get jamon, queso and pan for sandwiches before they closed at 2 p.m. for siesta. I also remember wanting to chew my fingers off waiting for the local restaurant to open at 9 p.m. When I did camp and cook dinner I was often waiting outside the market door when it re-opened at 6 p.m.
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Old 10-15-19, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by thumpism View Post
Slacker! I managed to get the same damage in a single fall, with similar results.
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I may be a "slacker." Not all of us are talented enough to break both ankles at the same time. But what I lack in results I make up for with persistence.
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Also, in the second accident I also broke my leg and several bones in my foot, and dislocated the ankle. And let me tell you, resetting a dislocated ankle when the leg, ankle and foot are all broken is something most "slackers" would not survive. So, I may, in fact, be a slacker. But I consider myself an "above-average" slacker.

And thanks for suggesting the Pilgrimage series on PBS. I will check it out.
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Old 10-15-19, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
Hi,
First of all, good luck with your retirement and a Camino is a great way to begin!
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To be boring, before deciding what route to follow, I'd suggest having a think about what your goal is - do you want the pilgrimage experience or do you want the touring experience?
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...--
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First off, thanks for the experience-based advice.
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I have been thinking about the fellowship aspect of the Camino, and how I might miss out on some of the interaction with other pilgrims by cycling instead of walking. Since I have no choice, however , I am trying to think of ways to offset or mitigate that aspect of the pilgrimage. But I also find meaning and enjoy the greater amounts of solitude when cycling. So my journey may be different in some ways than that of others. But that's to be expected. So I will embrace it.
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Old 10-15-19, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by DC Bike Blogger View Post
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I have been thinking about the fellowship aspect of the Camino, and how I might miss out on some of the interaction with other pilgrims by cycling instead of walking.
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The fellowship will be missing on the Levante until you get to Zamora. On the Norte staying in Albergues you will meet plenty of walkers and some cyclists but only occasionally on the road. The walkers leave very early in the morning so it's likely you will pass groups or individuals along the way.
As others have pointed out the route is designed for walkers and some sections are very rough. Typically the off-road sections start off looking easy but soon start getting hilly with rough stones and you regret not staying on the road.
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