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Discovering Spain on two wheels

Sun-drenched Spain has always been Europe's original package-holiday destination, but beyond the Costas lies a land of culture and beauty just waiting to be explored by bike.

Nicotine for Oxygen
12 August 2014 @ 15:20

I started cycling when I gave up smoking. I was smoking on average 20 a day for nearly 20 years. Not very clever, I know, but I finally decided that it was enough and I needed to make a change. I stopped radically, no reducing the number of cigarettes or nicotine patches or gum, no, none of that, just simple cold turkey, but with a strong mental preparation before hand. Fortunately it was easier than I had initially expected. As a part of my change I had decided it was time to get fit and attempt to reverse some of the damage. I hated going to the gym, and got very bored running so I needed something a little more exciting and then I was introduced to road cycling.

I bought a simple road bike and just started pedaling, at first it wasn’t very far, a few km’s, in fact I would get tired even going down hill! But very shortly I started to build some stamina and it was the beginning of a new journey for me and I haven’t stopped exploring ever since. I swapped my daily dose of nicotine for my daily dose of oxygen on two wheels, a far more exciting way to spend my time. I hope to share some of this journey with you and promote what a wonderful place Spain is for cycling.

On the whole, Spain is a very cycling friendly country with an impressive cycling heritage and where ever you go you can see people of all ages pedalling away. It is a country of tremendous diversity and scope, it has everything the cyclist loves: quiet roads, cycle paths, great weather, ever changing landscapes, flat valley bottoms to challenging mountain climbs, friendly people, world famous cultural and architectural sights and of course spectacular culinary delights. Paella, Dénia Prawns, Manchego cheese, Rias Baixas Albariño, Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, the famous “tortilla”, cured meats, mouth-watering seafood platters and the list just goes on and on…after all one has to replace the calories used up on that long ride.

Away from the coastal tourist hotspots there’s much in Spain to attract cyclists. It boasts some of Europe's finest cities and is a hotbed of culture. Not surprisingly, for one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, it is also home to some of the continent's most spectacular scenery.

Northern Spain is just about as far away as you can get from Spain's tourist hubs – and not just geographically. If you opt for a cycling trip around the Cantabria province, rich green views, picturesque coastal towns, secluded coves and dramatic peaks will welcome you. And as you wind your way along this verdant coastline, over to the south lies the Picos de Europa National Park. With its striking peaks, deep caves, brown bears and wolves, the Picos offer a tempting, if challenging, diversion inland.

Over to the east, the city of Girona acts as either a great start/finish point for a circular route around Catalonia or, for the fit, a terrific base for daily excursions to the coast or into the hills. Head west and you're into some serious mountain territory, used for training by some of the world's top professional teams.

Moving further south and you hit the Valencian Community. The combination of excellent surfaced roads in the interior of the Valencia region with excellent rural accommodation and sun practically guaranteed for most of the year make the Valencia region an ideal place for cycling all year round. Popular with international teams drawn by the fine weather in spring and autumn plus the empty well maintained roads, cyclists of all ages and ability can enjoy the splendid scenery and terrain to be found here, as well as the endless cycling lanes that literally cross country and mountains for kilometers.

Often based in small villages, cycle tour operators have become part of the community and provide the perfect way for visitors to connect with village life and to meet local people. The majority of the rural roads running through the rich agricultural lands are of good quality and provide an excellent way to gain an insight into the production of wine, olives, almonds and oranges which are the staple produce of the Valencian region. 

The best time for cycling in Valencia is in the spring and autumn, when sun is practically guaranteed and when temperatures do not get too extreme. But even in winter there is usually plenty of sun and little rain which can make for ideal cycling conditions. This is my region and I can say I only lost 4 cycling days all winter becaus of the weather. Even in January cycling was enjoyable, admittedly a little chilly but still enjoyabel nonetheless.

As I continue with my blog I will be writing about these areas and others, as well as routes I have done and also routes I aspire to do, all in the hope of showing a different Spain and the best way to stay healthy at the same time. 

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Brian John Deller said:
16 August 2014 @ 17:10

Having a father who smoked heavily and died young at 62 after 10 years of heart attacks and pain, I have never smoked and now at age 76, I am happy to say I am so glad I never started. Many smokers will jeer at my statement but I genuinely feel sorry for their addiction, and my wife (who also has never smoked) watch in horror sometimes at people eating with a fork in one hand and a lit cigarrette in the other. Now that is really sad. If you can stop, do your best to do so. It is well worth it. It only takes will-power.

Garbi said:
17 August 2014 @ 12:52

Hi Brian, thanks for leaving a comment. The only thing I would say is that as an ex smoker if you try to give up smoking by using will-power you will be very miserable or end up smoking again. Will-power is in most cases only temporary. One needs to use common sense and realise that cigarettes need no substitute and not smoking them is not a sacrifice but a benefit. Unless you truly believe this you won't be successful. If you have to use will power to keep up the "sacrifice" you will eventually fail.

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