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Sierra Nevada Spain on a Road Bike

FerrinoFerrino Posts: 83
edited May 2007 in Tour & expedition
OK, so I started a thread on cycling down from Sevilla towards Jerez and the great beaches along the Costa de la Luz, but I am now starting to think about perhaps taking in a different route and heading eastwards towards the Sierra Nevada and Granada - has anyone done this on a road bike and know of any good routes to take through the Sierra (and from Sevilla)? Was thinking of perhaps going to Sevilla -> Cordoba -> Granada -> Sierra Nevada. And then perhaps getting a train back to Sevilla as I will be on my own.

What do you think? I went to Granada for the day at Christmas and absolutely loved the place - it would be so amazing to cycle up to the peaks that I was gazing at.... How tricky is such an ascent?

PS. This is in May....


  • CathrynCathryn Posts: 176
    I don't know the area at all so am not that useful, but we went cycling in the Sierra de Gredos, West of Madrid in May last year and as a word of warning, it was SCORCHIO!!!!! Beware the heat!!!
  • HarryDcpHarryDcp Posts: 57
    Cycle Touring in Spain (Cicerone Press) describes a 340km route from Seville to Cordoba via the Sierra Morena which is a great route through this empty quarter of Spain.

    From Cordoba head quickly across the plain to Baena then through the hills of the Subetica via Zuheros (superb hotel), Priego de Cordoba & Montefrio. Then onto Granada.

    Not many quiet circular rides from Granada but if you have the time (&legs) have a ride up towards the ski slopes & Pico Veleta. There & back.

    Average mid-day temps in May 27C & June 32C for Seville.

    I've done all the areas described & can only recommend them to others

  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    The last 3km or so of the climb is on decent unsurfaced track, but the rest is tarmac, good below the ski resort, a bit bumpy above.
    It is possible to ride a road bike to within 100m or so of the trig point on top.
    The climb is about 2700m in 44km (just over 6%). Allow 4 or 5 hours to the top.
    It is also possible to carry on over the top and down the other side
    to Capilera, but this is a rough track in the upper reaches, and on a road bike you should have tyres as wide as possible (I used 28mm), and allow another 4 hours for the descent. Once over, you could return via Trevelez (overnight stop?) and the Puerto do la Ragua.

    As ski resort implies snow, you may not be able to get to the top if you go too soon. It's been September when I've been there.
  • FerrinoFerrino Posts: 83
    Thankyou very much your contributions! Sounds very interesting. Can I please ask a few more questions:

    1. How would you rate this climb in terms of difficulty? I have no idea how tricky 6% for 44km is.... Guess it depends on fitness, but how many times would you typically stop on the ascent from 700m to 3400m?

    2. I need to buy some new tyres for the trip and am currently running Hutchinson 700x23 tyres that came as standard with the bike and are great for training around our roads. What width would you recommend for touring around southern Spain? I do like the sound of continuing on the other side of the peak, as opposed to heading back into Granada, which you said would require something like 28 wide - how would these compare in feel to my current 23s?

    3. Would it be plain stupid to attempt this alone?

    I was going to buy a pair of Bontrager Racelite Hardcases - do you think these tyres in 700x28 would be a good choice for this tour, or are 32s the way to go, assuming they will fit?

  • andrew_sandrew_s Posts: 2,511
    With long climbs, it's best to go for a steady rhythm that you can keep going for a long time, and not stop except at planned locations. Once you start stopping for a breather, you tend to find that it becomes a habit and the stops start to become quite frequent. I mostly stuck in 38x28 or 38x32 until I left the tarmac near the top, where I dropped onto the 24T granny.
    I stopped for food/drinks at the cafe stall in the car park that's just below the "no cars" barrier half a mile or so after the parador.

    With tyres, I used Conti TT2000 28 going up from the Capilera side, and Conti Gatorskin 28 going over from the Granada side to Capilera. For normal riding, I prefer the gator 28s to the same in 23 because I can have the pressure lower, which makes for more comfort, and it doesn't really make much difference in speed (as someone who doesn't race). The wider the tyres, the easier they are to handle on loose and rocky ground. If you are thinking of doing it, you should really find some unsurfaced tracks with loose gravel on to practice in the UK. Some people find the sensation of the wheels sliding sideays on the loose very offputting and end up walking or taking a different route.
    It will depend largely on what your bike has clearance for.

    Solo traverse:
    Any official advice would be No.
    It's very high up, and the weather can get very unpleasant even in summer when it's baking at the bottom.
    There's 10-12km of little used track that hasn't had any motor vehicles other than bikes on it for 10 years or so, from the col to where the track comes out on the top of the ridge south from the peak of Mulhacen. From there down to Capilera, there's a weekend minibus service, and the road is much better (being rebuilt when I was last there).
    If you did come a cropper, there are very few other folk going past. I've seen about half a dozen folk on each of my 2 crossings. Not sure what days of the week it was though (I think one was a Monday, as we'd arrived from England, then had a day at leisure (ride to top and back), then done the crossing.
    In the end, it's your call. It is a jolly fine trip though. Just don't get so set on doing it that you set off in dodgy weather.

    If you go for the up and back trip, it's a nicer climb if you go through Guejar Sierra, and then take the old main road (left at T when rejoining the major roads, rather then right then left). It does have pretty steep sections on the minor road.

    In May, there may be snow stopping you getting to the top, and if you can, there may be blockages on the other side. You do get a fairly decent view of a lot of the track from the summit, which may help with decisions.
  • hinexeterhinexeter Posts: 18
    I spent a week in Bubion last September which is halfway between Capileira and Pampaneira in the Poqueira gorge. I did a load of day rides and found it to be a really good place to ride. There are not that many roads so you have use the same bits of tarmac on different routes but it's all so nice that doesn't matter. It is hot and very steep so you get through loads of water but where I was riding nearly every village has a spring water drinking fountain in the square so topping up in no trouble. If you have a day off the bik the walking is fantastic too.


    The more you ride the cheaper it gets (per mile)
    The more you ride the cheaper it gets (per mile)
  • sean02iesean02ie Posts: 161
    Last year's cycled Savilla to Malaga towards Cordoba on to Subbetica, Prigo de Cordoba then south to Iznajar, Loja, Antequera, Alora. some photos on let me know if you want more info.
  • FerrinoFerrino Posts: 83
    Thankyou again for your posts! Climbing to the Pico de Veleta is something I really want to do, so I'm hoping that the weather will be OK. I would also really love to head over onto the other side, but this again depends on the weather and my ability to handle much rougher tracks on the road bike....

    I am therefore considering just doing the 'up and back to Granada' trip on the day. I would then still like to head over to Las Alpujarras and was thinking of taking an alternative route: maybe east towards Guadix and then down to the Puerto de la Ragua?

    BTW, which is the best map of the area to buy?
  • I cycled out of Seville eastwards last year and had a great trip to the Pyrenees
    click on my sig line ( pedalpatagonia) and then the Europe link and then the pages Ubeda and Pyrenees for more of the route.

    A great area was Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas, with the fortified town of Hornos.

    I thought it was far better than the Luz , I was in Trafalgar and Cabo del Manos (??) that is in the european journal too.

    Just don't go during the Week before Easter ( Semana Santa) the marching bands in every town village etc play about 5 times a day starting at about 5 am, so not much sleep


  • HarryDcpHarryDcp Posts: 57
    If sticking to roads then the Michelin orange map 578 Andalucia 1:400,000 map is reliable & accurate enough. Also cheap & readily available.

    Alternatively the 1:50,000 Sierra Nevada Alpujarras Marquesado del Zenete published by Editorial Penibetica (I've only seen it in Spain)covers both Veleta & Ragua. It has good off road detail & reliable topographic detail. Recommended.

    Editorial Alpina maps 1:40,000 are also good for mountainous areas. I've used them for elsewhere in Spain but assume they would be the same standard for the Sierra Nevada. Avaiable from Stanfords.

    If you are considering routing through the Sierra Morena between Seville & Cordoba then the Mapa Guia 1:100,000 Parque Natural Sierra Norte supplements the Michelin map in the more remote parts.

    I second the advice not to do Veleta to Capiliera solo.

  • FerrinoFerrino Posts: 83
    Thankyou for the map recommendations!

    There has been a development in that a friend of mine is now going to come out and accompany me and also I think we are going to spend a maximum of 5 days. So I am now considering bypassing Cordoba and just going directly to the SN - what do you think of the following (just completely made up):

    Day 1: Sevilla to Granada
    Day 2: Up to Veleta and back (snow-permitting)
    Day 3: Cycle NE of the SN and traverse the SN at Puerto de la Ragua
    Day 4: Day walking/hiking in Las Alpujarras?
    Day 5: Final day cycling in SN, heading back to Granada, train back from Granada to Sevilla

    Comments very welcome! I think a day of hiking would be good for us. Obviously I am bypassing the coastal part that I envisaged, but I've heard that the coastal roads are very congested anyway and I have plenty of opportunities to visit the coast elsewhere in Andalucia, so not important - I just want to capitalise on the beauty of the SN!!! Cheers.
  • mikebriscoemikebriscoe Posts: 393
    Ferrino, I live in Granada province and I know you will have a great time -- though were having a censored spring here, with chill winds and plenty of rain. Check the Granada-Sevilla train times carefully becauase they are not all that frequent. There is an English section of the RENFE website ... F=NaN&ID=i
    And I have never tried to take my bike on a train in Spain, so might be worth checking that too? best wieshes and let us know how you got on.
    Just because they didn\'t hit you, doesn\'t mean they saw you
  • FerrinoFerrino Posts: 83
    Cheers Mike. We are going to get to train to and from Granada now, to maximise time in the SN area. Something I haven't worked out yet is the best route to take to go from Granada to the Puerto de la Ragua pass on the Eastern side of the SN - and avoid the major roads/motorway. I'm sure I read of one route which starts on the same road that ascends to the Pico de Veleta and then splits off towards Guadix, but can't find it anywhere. Any ideas?

    Thanks for the tip about the trains!!!
  • megillelandmegilleland Posts: 786
    The route you want is signposted out of Granada to Cenes de la Vega and then left onto the SE-39 signposted Dudar and Quentar. This road continues past the Embalse de Quentar (reservoir) and passes 2km west of Tocon and onto La Peza, Los Banos, Purullena and into Guadix (45kms from Granada). The most famous feature of the town is the cave dwellings in the Barrio Troglodyte where many of the population live.

    Leave Guadix on the SE-19 to Jerez del Marquesado, Lanteira, Alquife and onto to La Calahorra (good views from the castle).

    From La Calahorra take the A-337 over the Puerto de la Ragua (40kms from Guadix). There is a Refuge/cafe/bar at the summit. I had a good meal here.

    Good photos of the area described above from a dutch motorcycle tour including some of the roads. All are tarmac, with the exception of the track up to the castle. ... h.php#cala

    The more you spend - the faster you go - the less you see.
    The more you spend - the faster you go - the less you see.
  • FerrinoFerrino Posts: 83
    Thankyou all for your contributions! I had planned a 5-day trip, with the climb up to Veleta on Day 1 and then moving to the north of the SN and crossing into the Alpujarras via the Puerto de la Ragua and then looping back to Granada. Unfortunately my wingman broke his ankle a few days before the trip and I decided to do a series of smaller solo trips, eg. from Sevilla to Malaga via Sierra de Grazalema & Sierra de las Nieves, Sevilla to Punta Umbria (near Huelva) and I took my bike by train to Granada to do the Veleta climb on my last day in Spain! I managed to get to around 3000m altitude before snow blocked the road to the Pico - ahhhhhh! I carried the bike through a few patches, but there was no way to the top.

    Mixed emotions really - I was really happy that I managed to get as far I did with my 8-speed Double Decathlon bike (it really needs another lower gear I think, as I was really mashing away at low cadences for a lot of the climb) and the views were stunning, but I had the legs to finish it, so was a little disappointed not to get to the top! I'm already thinking about trying to get out there for a few days in July/August to make amends and hopefully see the Alpujarras this time!!!

    Thanks :)
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