Forum home Road cycling forum Tours, routes, audaxes & organised rides Tour & expedition

Pyrenees by bicycle - which route?

Hello, in May I'm planning my 9-10 days cycling trip in the Pyrenees mountains with a road bicycle.

I want to go from Mediteranien see (Llançà or Perpingian) to the Atlantic coast (San Sebastian).
By checking several sources I found several different route options and can't decide which one would be best.

Can anyone recommend a specific moderate/challenging route to go?
In addition, what is the best option to go back from San Sebastian to Barcelona? Train? Bus? Car?

Thank you!

Posts

  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 21,910
    I would look at the routes that various companies use for their Raid tours.
    I imagine that they are very similar. Just one example as I've used them but not that tour.

    https://marmot-tours.co.uk/holidays/raid-pyrenean/
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 27,704
    Any route that avoids the busy roads… avoid the road to Andorra/col du Puymorens for example
  • drhaggisdrhaggis Posts: 972
    rob796 said:

    Hello, in May I'm planning my 9-10 days cycling trip in the Pyrenees mountains with a road bicycle.

    I want to go from Mediteranien see (Llançà or Perpingian) to the Atlantic coast (San Sebastian).
    By checking several sources I found several different route options and can't decide which one would be best.

    Can anyone recommend a specific moderate/challenging route to go?
    In addition, what is the best option to go back from San Sebastian to Barcelona? Train? Bus? Car?

    Thank you!

    I've spent quite a bit of time in San Sebastian, but I've cycled mostly around, rather than to the Pyrinees.

    Trains in Spain are hit/miss. Cities on the high-speed network will have good connections. The northern coast is not there, due to orography and politics. The train to Barcelona was an absolute pain in the past. The carriages should be fine, but will be slow [Checks Renfe... it's now 6h, and not too expensive, bike requires special reservation]

    In the routes linked by pblakeney, I'd consider avoiding the coast road between Hendaye and St Jean de Luz in the high season. It's a beautiful road, mind you, but full of busy tourists that don't know what a cyclist is. I did it once with my wife and it wasn't pleasant in the slightest. On the other hand, St Jean de Pied de Port is 100% worth a visit.

    If you cross the border to Spain in Hendaye, you should avoid Gi-636 road and go to San Sebastian via Jaizkibel (Gi-3440). It's a proper Cat 2 climb, features yearly in Clasica SS (now the other way around), and will also be in this year's TdF.

    Also, if you plan on spending some time in San Sebastian book early. Places get booked quite in advance, and the prices there are not Benidorm.
  • rob796rob796 Posts: 9
    Thanks to all of you for your recommendations.
    I found a flight back home from Bilbao, so there is no anymore intention to get back to Barcelona.

    Based on what I've learned here is my initial route https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1BdpqK-HkfQ1jWxQ28R6otAo0dvCAxQs&usp=sharing
    Still considering, maybe I should spend more time on French side. On the other side, I guess Spain is cheaper to travel. Any comments which side is better?
  • drhaggisdrhaggis Posts: 972
    I'm furious. I posted a really long answer that got lost in the forum bugs. This is a shortened version.

    I'd try to go through Tourmalet, fitness allowing. For that, rather than Sabiñanigo, I'd probably sleep in France, closer to Pau. For an epic return to Spain, you could go though the lesser known, but no less tough, Larrau.

    Then, for the last bit, you must be aware N-121A sees quite a bit of heavy traffic. It's got a very serviceable, wide hard shoulder, and on the tunnels cyclists are rerouted through the old road. So you should be safe, but it really wouldn't be my choice.

    Also, you do Lesaka-Oiartzun half through the road, half through tracks. This looks like a garmin suggestion. If you go this way with a road bike, stick to the road (Na-4000 -> Gi-3420). It's very popular with cylists. Just don't be too ambitious in the descent after the tunnel, as the asphalt is a bit bouncy in a couple of places.

    However, since you're sleeping near Roncesvalles, I'd go through St Jean de Pied de Port, and then through some small french-basque villages:
    https://ridewithgps.com/routes/41849274
    If not the summer or easter, the coast route from St Jean de Luz is totally worth it.

    Whatever you do, do not get into the forbidden bits of N-121A

    BTW: Spanish roads starting with N- (e.g. N-121A, N-634) are the equivalent of UK A-roads. Expect good surface, wide lanes, probably hard shoulder, but traffic too.
  • kingstongrahamkingstongraham Posts: 22,733
    That route is begging for Tourmalet and Aubisque to be added in.
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 21,910
    Wait a minute! The route does not include the purple bike symbols?
    You've chosen entirely the wrong route if so.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • kingstongrahamkingstongraham Posts: 22,733
    pblakeney said:

    I would look at the routes that various companies use for their Raid tours.
    I imagine that they are very similar. Just one example as I've used them but not that tour.

    https://marmot-tours.co.uk/holidays/raid-pyrenean/

    This is still the answer - another one here: https://pyreneesmultisport.com/tours/pyrenean-traverse/

    They all choose Atlantic to Med rather than the other way, probably because the Tourmalet is so much better climbing that side and descending as fast as possible through La Mongie.
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 21,910

    pblakeney said:

    I would look at the routes that various companies use for their Raid tours.
    I imagine that they are very similar. Just one example as I've used them but not that tour.

    https://marmot-tours.co.uk/holidays/raid-pyrenean/

    This is still the answer - another one here: https://pyreneesmultisport.com/tours/pyrenean-traverse/

    They all choose Atlantic to Med rather than the other way, probably because the Tourmalet is so much better climbing that side and descending as fast as possible through La Mongie.
    Prevailing winds?
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • drhaggisdrhaggis Posts: 972
    pblakeney said:

    pblakeney said:

    I would look at the routes that various companies use for their Raid tours.
    I imagine that they are very similar. Just one example as I've used them but not that tour.

    https://marmot-tours.co.uk/holidays/raid-pyrenean/

    This is still the answer - another one here: https://pyreneesmultisport.com/tours/pyrenean-traverse/

    They all choose Atlantic to Med rather than the other way, probably because the Tourmalet is so much better climbing that side and descending as fast as possible through La Mongie.
    Prevailing winds?
    Prevailing wind is mostly N or NW in Northern Spain. Provided you're near pyrinees, it shouldn't be particularly windy. Can check ventusky for a month or so.
  • jimmyjamsjimmyjams Posts: 541

    pblakeney said:

    I would look at the routes that various companies use for their Raid tours.
    I imagine that they are very similar. Just one example as I've used them but not that tour.

    https://marmot-tours.co.uk/holidays/raid-pyrenean/

    This is still the answer - another one here: https://pyreneesmultisport.com/tours/pyrenean-traverse/

    They all choose Atlantic to Med rather than the other way, probably because the Tourmalet is so much better climbing that side and descending as fast as possible through La Mongie.
    When I did an organised tour through the Pyrenees (mostly on the French side), we went east to west, with a couple of circular tours thrown in, from Puigcerda to Louvie-Juzon. The exception to the rule?
    (Also, when I was there with the family and did my own half-day rides as we moved base, all my rides were east to west because that is how we moved, from Argeles on the coast near Perpignan to Ondarroa, halfway between Donostia and Bilbao)

    I agree with others that rob796's currently proposed tour would be better (i.e. more appealing to me) if it included many of the well-known passes which he, at the moment, is skipping.
    Other changes I'd make to his route are (1) avoid Andorra altogether, an ugly place, (2) avoid Lourdes altogether, a highly-commercialised holy Blackpool, and (3) avoid the stretch along the valley either side of Jaca, an uninteresting landscape.
  • rob796rob796 Posts: 9
    Great insights; thank you so much!
    What concerns the direction - I didn't think much of it. In the beginning, I found a cheap roundtrip ticket to Barcelona, which was mostly the reason. But as now I'm flexible with flying from/to Bilbao, I can adjust.

    Do you think prevailing winds could be an important factor? If it is just the last section near San Sebastian, probably wouldn't be a big thing.

    With well known climbs. First I draw the route and later I got an idea to mark them on the map to see how many of them comes naturally on my way. I didn't have intention to climb to all of them o:) But now I see with some corrections I could connect the dots and attempt to climb more of them.

    Looks like I'll have to spend some time on the weekend for updating the route ;)
Sign In or Register to comment.