Mountain Biking in Spain
One of my goals for the trip was to go mountain biking in the Pyrenees. Well, that didn’t happen for a lot of reasons, but during one of our last evenings in San Ignazio, we were discussing the trip with our adoptive family and I happened to mention that I would have liked to do some mountain biking while I was here. Well, “J” (the leader of our now infamous hike of goats and vultures) perked up his ears and told me he was planning a “short, easy ride” on Saturday morning. “Well, mostly easy, just one hard part—well two or three hard parts, then we’re at the top— only then we climb some more – but very nice!” Our flight out was 7:15 Sunday morning, so a mountain bike ride on Saturday would leave my lovely wife with much of the packing and cleaning. I was concerned that it was too much, but since she pointed out that I don’t know how to pack and that there’s not much to clean she insisted I go.
I had not spent much time with the bikes that went along with the apartment but on Friday I went down to the basement storage closet and looked to see what I had. The only bike big enough to fit me was “A”s bike, which was basically a commuter (with 24 speeds). The tires were deep-tread commuter and were in good shape. The saddle had a telescoping seatpost and the fork had a few inches of travel and seemed to have good dynamics. I pumped up the tires, adjusted the seat, swapped a water bottle cage from one of the kids bikes (oops, that reminds me, I forgot to change it back, sorry ‘bout that) and I was ready.
At 9:45 the next morning (have I mentioned the these folks are extraordinarily prompt?) “J” was waiting as I was wrestling the bike up from the basement.
I thought he know what bikes his brother had, but apparently not. He looked at the bike, shook is head, tsked a couple times and noted the tires were narrow, the lowest gear wasn’t all that low and it was quite heavy (which I knew, since I just wrestled it up the steps.) But, it is what it is, so we set off. He had a nice Trek hardtail and his friend who we picked up at the local coffee bar also had a nice hardtail. Both were in full cycling gear included shoes and clipless pedals. Whereas, my cycling jersey was all I could bring to pack, so I was in cargo shorts and old sneakers (which was fine, since the bike I was riding has platform pedals). Both “J” and his friend had clear misgivings about the bike but they were resolved to show me the ride. While I was concerned, I was also secretly relieved. Any shortcoming in my riding ability would be attributed to the bike!
Well, the first part was the toughest, similar to riding the “Council Springs” ride in East Boise. Lose gravel, steep grades, but not too long. The only time I was off the bike was to fix a fortuitously-timed chain mishap. I was pushing the shifter (certainly there’s one more gear, isn’t there?) and the chain jumped off the freewheel and into the space between the freewheel and the spokes. It’s a tough thing to fix since the chain tends to jam up in there and you don’t want to damage the spokes. As I said, the timing was fortuitous because it gave me a chance to catch my breath. There’s no way I would have completed that clime without a breather in there (again, I can blame the bike!).
In any event, we made it to the top of the ridge and stopped to enjoy the view.
“J” took a shot of me holding in my gut showing off the bike that made it up the hill
Notice the carrier and fenders? This was one heavy bike!
So, we were off to a good start. My companions professed to be suitably impressed, but my guess is they were just relieved they didn’t have to wait for me to push the darn thing up the hill! The rest of the ride was uneventful, with the exception of some tire work on one of the other bikes.
Which gave me a chance to catch my breath and enjoy the view
I enjoyed it, but it went a bit longer than my current condition would normally support, and I really hit a wall on the way home. I didn’t really realize this until we doubled back, but the next 10 km or so was a steady uphill climb, with a few little swoops down to break it up.
The final ride was about 32 km and I used my iPhone app to capture it, but since I had the data roaming turned off and I forgot to return to it after trying to contact my wife to update her on our whereabouts, the altitude isn’t very accurate and it missed the last 20 minutes or so, nonetheless, this link shows you approximately what we did. If you zoom in on the river crossing to the right, and switch to satellite, you’ll see the most recognizable landmark in Bilbao.
We marked the end of a successful ride with a stop at their favorite watering hall, leaving me assured that, just like in Boise, the mountain bike trails in Bilbao end at a bar.
Entry filed under: Bilbao.