Blog, Spain
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Spain: Chasing Autumn

Ever since France we had been cycling just ahead of the leaves changing colour. The last few Spanish towns had only one or two trees changing, glimpses of yellow and red, but this was the first real sighting of the full Autumn spectacle.

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Entire valleys were shining with a fiery golden river of trees, Autumn in her element.

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We were greeted by a couple of enthusiastic sheepdogs, who had clocked off work for the morning.

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After explaining to Suyin why the dogs could not join us on our adventure we rode on.  Past several signs of miniature bulls and plenty of tumble weed.

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With crops already harvested for the season the landscape was quite bleak in sections although broken at times by colourful hills.

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Suyin was a foot taller with the amount of mud slowly compiling on the bottom of her shoes, from jumping off the bike and running out to take photos.

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Our last night before Madrid was spent in the town of Humanes. Being Sunday the only store open was Super Humanes II, a Chinese grocery store which sounded more like the title of a cheesy superhero movie.

Entrepreneurial Chinese immigrants have taken full advantage that the Spanish do not work on a Sunday.  Most small towns we rode through had a Chinese convenience store, with trade booming on a Sunday as there is literally nothing else open.

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When planning our Spanish journey we researched how to actually ride into the heart of Madrid.  There was very little information on cycling in, and for good reason too, the frightening mess of unavoidable highways.  Even paid cycle tour itineraries would bus their tour in for that last bit.

Eventually I found a Spanish blog of a cyclist riding our exact ride from San Sebastian to Madrid.  Translating his descriptions into English and using his gps map to plot points we tried our best to zig-zag into the city.  But just as we, and everyone else before us predicted, we were constantly getting stuck on the shoulders of large 100km per hour, multi-lane freeways.  Even scarier we had to navigate huge and busy roundabouts with enormous trucks flying through at high-speed.  Riding next to massive trucks was relentless as truck drivers would deliberately avoid the new tolled expressways and fly down the old but toll-free highways, the same roads we were riding to try to avoid the traffic.

Below is a handy info graphic showing a clear distinction between the safe and dangerous sections of the ride into Madrid.

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I would not recommend this ride to anyone. Irrespective of your experience level you are at the mercy of the trucks and cars going at 100km an hour.  There is about a metre of shoulder but it disappears when you need it most; at junctions, roundabouts and bridges.  It’s an unnecessary danger and not enjoyable at all.  This is clearly shown in that we do not have a single photo of that section.  It was never safe to stop and we wanted it over as quickly as possible.

After somehow surviving the 7hr, 90km heart attack inducing ride, we found ourselves in front of the largest bull fighting ring in Spain – Las Ventas.

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Which signalled that we had made it to the city of Madrid! And the ending of our last major ride in Europe.  Not the easiest way to finish our European leg but we were thankful for the experience we had gathered over the last seven months which allowed us to ride in such conditions as safely as possible.

All that was left was to make it to our AirBnB, smack bang within the centre, and enjoy a week off the bikes, in our last European city.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Guys – this advice is clearly too late for Madrid, but I’ll tell you how I safely and easily handle cycling into larger cities such as this. This is in the hope that it comes in useful next time. I simply pick a railway station in a nearby small town or suburb and take the bike on the train for that final stretch. My wife and I have even done this with a tandem. This will work well for anywhere outside of the UK as in the UK taking a bike on a train is rather hit and miss depending on train company, day, phase of the moon etc.

    Oddly now I come to think of it I’ve never felt the need to do the reverse on exit but I guess I’ve always reasoned that there are many routes out of a city but only one that goes in to the very centre. No reason not to do the reverse too for cities of a suitable size.

    Will

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Will, Thanks for the comment. Yes we would certainly go down the train route in future. Unfortunately Spain is even more fickle then the UK when it comes to bicycles on trains and if they are allowed they need to be boxed. (From reading some other blogs though you may get lucky and be allowed with the bike in one piece) you are right with cycling out of a major city, it just always seems to work, even London was a piece of cake. Cheers

    Like

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