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  1. #1
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    Cycling in Madrid

    This is the first in a series of several posts describing my trip to Spain last week, describing my cycling in and around Madrid.

    Cycling in Madrid, Day 0 (arrival, jetlag spin) and Day 1 (Anillo Verde):

    My hotel was right in the heart of Madrid downtown (Atocha station), and after checking in, despite being jet-lagged and not sleeping for 30 hours straight, I assembled Ritchey Breakaway and took it for a quick spin around Parque de Retiro, a nice wooded area with many paths for running, walking, biking and rollerskating. Somewhat similar to Central Park.

    But that does not count, the first real ride was the next day, when I decided to go on an orienteering adventure in search of Anillo Verde - a newly constructed 40-mile ring of bike path system looping around Madrid. (I was using this excellent map of cycling-friendly roads and bike paths in and around Madrid). From conversations and reading about it (many Madrileno cyclists apparently are not even aware of it’s existence) I knew that because the project is not completely finished, the bike path often appears to “end” and it takes a little bit of poking around to discover it again. While doing so one may have to ride in the streets which is not bad once you get used to it - the trick is to take the far right lane (very few downtown roads have bike lanes), which is normally reserved for taxis, motorbikes, scooters and buses. The trick is to go around buses (which go slowly and make numerous stops) while avoiding getting run down by motorbikes that go fast but pass very safely.

    By using a combination of bike paths (that run right next to the pedestrian sidewalks, and often used by pedestrians, so one has to watch out for them, as well as watch the lights) I was able to get to Northeastern section of Anillo Verde.

    I hooked up with a few bike commuters who helped me stay on the bike path instead of getting lost, but soon after getting to the official Anillo Verde path (by M-40 road circling the city) I had to turn back so I could make it back to hotel in time, before it got too dark.

    On the way back I was feeling more confident and was riding faster, sharing some sections with cars.
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  2. #2
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    Madrid Cycling Day 2: Paseo de Campo and Royal Palace

    On my second (long) ride I decided to venture west, in opposite direction to previous day and explore Casa de Campo, a large park on the Western side of Madrid. The doorman in the hotel turned out to be an avid mountain biker and tried to explain to me which roads to take (he spoke no english but with maps one needs no other language).

    My goal was to get to small river that goes through Madrid, Rio Manzanares, and use the bike path that travels along the river all the way to Casa de Campo, but he recommended taking Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto North to Campo del Moro (another park), Sabatini Gardens, and explore area around Royal Palace, "very beautiful" he said.

    I followed his advice and didn’t regret it. Unfortunately my attempt to cut through Campo del Moro were stopped by the guard since bikes are apparently not allowed. I rode around Royal Palace area, and then headed to Casa de Campo.

    When I got to the park, I stopped to look at the map when two riders on road bikes zip by me at 25 mph. Mountain bikes are more popular in Madrid than road bikes, so I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to join them, so I jumped on the bike and chased after them.

    The road was closed to cars and after some chase I finally was able to join them. Unfortunately they did not speak English (however international signs for pointing out road hazards and elbow-waving to indicate you are done pulling and it’s next riders turn needed no translation).

    Soon we started climbing, not very steep, maybe 4-5%, but we were hammering and one of the riders was eventually dropped. The remaining rider and I took turns and after a few unsuccessful attempts to drop each other, we stopped at the top of the hill to wait for his “amigo”.

    A quick descent completed the loop - the riders parted ways with me and left the park - I did two more loops, easy this time, and climbed through the park and to the Madrid Zoo, and finally headed back to the hotel through the bike path along RIo Manzanares (which by the way has a wide variety of the most amazing, architecturally, footbridge designs I have ever seen).

    A mile or two in afternoon rush traffic (in bus lane), and zipping through thousands of taxis parked in Atocha train station, I was safely back in the hotel.

    Total ride was 40.0 miles, relatively flat with only 2,300ft climbed.
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    Last edited by 55x11; 10-26-2011 at 04:34 AM. Reason: title

  3. #3
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    Madrid Cycling, Day 3: Colmenar Viejo bike path, Universidad Autonoma Madrid

    Madrid Ride Day 3: Bike path from University to Colmenar Viejo and back
    Today I wasn’t supposed to ride, but I had my bike in friend’s car at the Madrid University, which is on the outskirts of Madrid, some 10-15 miles north of downtown.

    My friend joked that I should take the bike out and ride through campus and explore the bike path that runs north from the city into the Sierra mountains. The idea got stuck in my head so I slipped out from lunch early and took the bike for 1.5 hour spin.

    I started riding north on the bike path that runs along M-607, the road connecting Madrid with the Sierra mountains. Unlike US cities where downtown urban area is gradually transforming into suburban sprawl as you move away from the city center, in Madrid it is a rapid transition - one moment you are surrounded by apartment buildings, and a few hundred meters later you are in the middle of open pastures with rolling hills and mountains in the distance.

    The bike path didn’t have many cyclists, I probably saw only a dozen or so in my 25 mile ride. Most cyclists in Spain appear to wear more clothes than even soft southern Californians lf would - it was 75 degrees F, and almost everyone I saw was wearing leg and arm warmers, and even a few winter jackets!

    I went as far as Colmenar Viejo, a small town in the flatlands just before mountains start climbing, but then turned around and went back to the campus.

    The bike path is wide and is in excellent condition - and has no stoplights or any other interruptions (it goes from one side to another side of the highway a few times, using underground mini-tunnels or small bridges over it. The path just goes on for miles and miles without any stops for lights or road crossing (at least 15 miles with no interruptions, but from looking at the map it is most likely about 25 miles or more).





    Beautiful views of mountains in the distance and nearby rolling farmlands (many cows, and generally quite open and free of urban sprawl). On the way back I poked around the university campus which is quite cycle-able, as advertised by the street signs.
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  4. #4
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    Very interesting! I like your photos and recognise all of the different places you've been to. I often go up the bike track into the mountains, which is where it's really at: if you get the chance for a longer ride, I would definitely get into those mountains at least once. There's a host of 1st category climbs and even a special category climb too (La Bola del Mundo-I need my 34*28 to get up that) and some stunning scenery. Good 1st category climbs are La Morcuera and Navacerrada (apologies if you already know all this).

    I know what you mean about the clothing. I did an event a couple of weeks ago and I was the only one in cycling shorts and a short-sleeved top!

    Hasta luego!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madridmikey View Post
    Very interesting! I like your photos and recognise all of the different places you've been to. I often go up the bike track into the mountains, which is where it's really at: if you get the chance for a longer ride, I would definitely get into those mountains at least once. There's a host of 1st category climbs and even a special category climb too (La Bola del Mundo-I need my 34*28 to get up that) and some stunning scenery. Good 1st category climbs are La Morcuera and Navacerrada (apologies if you already know all this).

    I know what you mean about the clothing. I did an event a couple of weeks ago and I was the only one in cycling shorts and a short-sleeved top!

    Hasta luego!
    Madridmikey - I did ride Morcuera and Navacerrada - these are two of my remaining mini-reports, coming up - stay tuned! It's great to know I hit the right climbs (I had a few friends who showed me around and they said these are must do). Absolutely amazing scenery though, gorgeous city, nice scenery outside of the city and gorgeous mountains just north of Madrid - Madrilenos are so lucky!

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    Madrid Cycling Day 4: Puerto de Canencia and Puerto de Morcuera

    Madrid Ride Day 4: Puerto de Canencia and Puerto de Morcuera.
    This was the “big, planned ride”. My friend, Jose, rented a bike front the store (only 15 euros a day, much less than I would have expected, even though the bike was relatively old steel bike - it appears it worked just fine for him though).

    Jose’s brother Juan met us in the morning and the three of us drove out to the bottom of the Sierra Madrid mountains, to a small town of Miraflores de la Sierra, just past Colmenar Viejo, the town I biked to the day earlier. Miraflores de la Sierra is a town where many Madrilenos have summer homes, but it was relatively deserted in October.

    We parked, got our bikes out of the car and the climbing started right away - no warmup, immediately hitting 4-8% gradient up to Puerto de Conencia. The three of us passed two other riders who did not appear to like it and chased after us. All five of us reached the top of the Canencia at about the same time, but the other two guys appear to exert a lot more effort and they were “done”, while we cruised downhill along the beautiful wooded road, with Juan showing off his amazing descending skills.

    There was almost no traffic - maybe one or two cars. After descent we rode through a gorgeous little town and onto a little busier roads (which had nice bike lane/shoulder) and into the bigger town, which featured some pave climbs into the center where we refilled our water bottles and ate a snack.

    From there it was to Morcuera, a 10 km long, and quite steep climb that is commonly featured in one of the final stages of Vuelta, just before race finishes with a ceremonial stage in Madrid. Near the top the climb wasn’t very steep (a lot of gorgeous pastures, once again with cows, and one cow managed to get out of the fence sitting right in the middle of the road!), but to compensate for gentler gradients we were riding into the brutal headwind.

    The top of Morcuera provided fantastic views, and from there it was a very rapid descent back to the car, where the three of us changed out of bike clothes and went out for delicious tapas lunch.

    Total ride of 42 miles with 4400 ft climbed and three tapas consumed afterwards.
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    Some good pics there . I've never actually climbed Morcuera from the side you did it from, I've always started in Miraflores. The side you did it from is probably more picturesque, a winding road, the other side is more exposed. I've climbed up there a couple of times at the height of summer and it's hard work. I see you've been through Rascafria as well: a beautiful village. Keep up the good work!

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    Madrid Cycling Day 5: Puerto de Navacerrada

    This is the fifth and final installment of a series of five posts about my trip to Spain in October of 2011, describing my cycling in and around Madrid.

    After a week of ideal weather - Indian Summer hit Madrid providing sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures (for late October) in the 70ies - Fahrenheit that is - today was supposed to be a rainy day according to all forecasts. However, the morning was still sunny so Jose and I drove out to Segovia, a beautiful touristy town north of Madrid, famous for aqueduct water delivery system dating back to Roman Empire, an amazing Cathedral, and a castle that served as inspiration to Disney World (Walt Disney basically ripped off the design).

    Segovia is also a place where every Christmas Day an unusual cycling race, Carrera del Pavo (Turkey Race) is traditionally taking place: riders ride in staggered starts, screaming full speed down the steep aqueduct hill (on rough "pave" style roads!) and then are trying to get up equally steep 5-7% gradient hilly paved road leading to the Cathedral - but with one little detail - bikes must be chain-less! Whoever can get farthest up the hill without putting their foot down and keeping both wheels on the ground wins.



    Apparently it is possible to ride a bike up the hill without pedaling or even without a chain!!! This race has been going on since 1935.

    After a few hours of walking around Segovia, we drove out to the tiny mountain town of Pradera de Navalhorno and rode up the Puerto de Navacerrada. The climb itself is used in Vuelta often, in fact it was used twice in deciding "epic" stage 20 of 2010 Vuelta (the riders climbed Navacerrada once earlier in the stage, using it as a "softener" climb, and then after a descent and a loop around the mountain finished again up Navacerrada with a final stretch - another 2.5 miles concrete patch from Puerto de Navacerrada, with 19% gradients - up to Bola del Mundo, where Ezequiel Mosquera tried to drop Nibali and take away the Vuelta lead - Nibali hung on to keep the jersey with Mosquera taking the stage win).



    Navacerrada was also a final, uphill individual time trial stage in 2008 Vuelta, stage won by Leipheimer (Contador finished second and Valverde third) that secured Contador's win and Leipheimer's podium spot.



    Not quite Pyrennees or Basque country super-long and super-steep climbs, but still very, very difficult, and often deciding stage, since it happens at the end of Vuelta, just before ceremonial ride into Madrid.

    We started off riding into a brutal headwind, and because we were quite tired from several difficult days of riding (especially Morcuera the day before) we decided to take it easy and enjoy the scenery.

    It was about 2 miles of relatively flat roads through an amazing forest, then another 2 miles of gentle incline at maybe 2-4%, followed by 4.6 mile climb at 7.4% average, with occasional pitches of 10%.

    As with all epic european climbs, the road was covered in inspirational messages supposed to cheer on riders, with numerous mentions of Alberto Contador who lives and trains in nearby Madrid, but I also spotted many mentions of Valverde and even a few "Go Lance!" messages - not sure when Armstrong rode that climb but it must have been during Vuelta Castilla y León, rather than la Vuelta de Espana.

    As we got closer to the summit, the fog became denser and denser, and with 2 miles to go we were in the middle of the giant rain cloud, and it felt as if we were hit by the rain. Visibility at the top was maybe 50 yards, and temperature dropped to 6 deg Celcius (43F), down from 70F at the start of the ride.

    We turned around and headed down treacherous descent (raining, wet roads, zero visibility in the fog), but a few miles down the Navacerrada hill the sun was out again and we were flying back to the Navalhorno where we had a nice tapas lunch, just like the day before.

    Temperatures at the bottom were around 70 again, with sunny sky, as if we were transported into some parallel micro-climate universe. After that we did a little more sight-seeing and headed home.

    I was going to catch a flight back to the United States in the morning, so that was all the Spanish cyclo-touring for me - I quickly took my Ritchey Breakaway bike apart and packed in the suitcase.

    Total Ride - just short of 18 miles, but with 2,400 ft of climbing.
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    Last edited by 55x11; 10-26-2011 at 08:47 AM.

  9. #9
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    Wow, very nice looking area for riding (and visiting).

    Can't wait to see more!
    Quote Originally Posted by the_dude
    these are better than i was expecting, and my expectations were already rather high.

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    Ritchey CX BreakAway!


    Nice report and photos.
    Stinky

  11. #11
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    Beautiful! Spain is on my short list for a place to tour. Do you have any other suggestions for regions to ride or resources on planning a cycling tour in Spain? Your report contains some great ones already. Thanks.

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    Girona

    Quote Originally Posted by Art853 View Post
    Beautiful! Spain is on my short list for a place to tour. Do you have any other suggestions for regions to ride or resources on planning a cycling tour in Spain? Your report contains some great ones already. Thanks.
    Do a search for some ride reports - Girona is where a lot of pros train. Phillipe is a member of this forum who has posted many good write ups and very knowledgeable.

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    Best Commuting and Touring thread ever.
    Retired sailor

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    Quote Originally Posted by stinkydub View Post
    Do a search for some ride reports - Girona is where a lot of pros train. Phillipe is a member of this forum who has posted many good write ups and very knowledgeable.
    I have no personal experience with these locations, but I did ask people -
    Girona is a nice location, combine it with Barcelona, and it will be a highly cultural trip. If I had to go back, this is what I would do - go to Barcelona and explore north towards Girona/Pyrenees.

    In terms of riding bikes - if you like climbing, anywhere north, along French border, is great - Cataluna towards Basque country, San Sebastian, Bilbao - excellent during summer when the southern Spain is scorching hot.

    In the fall/spring or winter one should ride in Andalucia (Seville, Granada) - too hot in the summer (Madrid area is hot too - unless you go to the mountains).

    Asturias and Majorca were mentioned das well. The nice thing about Europe is that everything is relatively close together - Girona is just 6 hour drive from Madrid, for example. In my mind it was somehow further away (too used to United States I guess). As they say - Americans think 100 years is a long time, and Europeans think 100 miles is a long distance.

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    Superb Ride Report

    What a great trip and what a great way to present it, thanks. The pictures were super, mixed in with the youtube clips were very cool. I must get up there for a ride.
    Fred

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  17. #17
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    Beautiful pics... thanks for sharing.

  18. #18
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    Very, very nice. For me, those rural and mountainous areas are definitely where I'd be aiming. I love those small towns you went through too. Wow, I'm envious to say the least.
    “To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit — ever. They’re like the Viet Cong — Varmint Cong. So you have to fall back on superior intelligence and superior firepower.”

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    Hey

    Great posts. I've just recently moved to Madrid and am looking for any advice I can get on cycle routes and/ or any organised groups. I'm living not far from Retiro Park - so looking for any rides (60-100kms) that can get me out of the city, away from the traffic and hopefully towards any hills. Preferably without some madman in a car hitting me or needing to get on a train.

    If anyone has any suggestions - they would be gratefully received.

    Thanks
    James

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    Quote Originally Posted by JGraham View Post
    Hey

    Great posts. I've just recently moved to Madrid and am looking for any advice I can get on cycle routes and/ or any organised groups. I'm living not far from Retiro Park - so looking for any rides (60-100kms) that can get me out of the city, away from the traffic and hopefully towards any hills. Preferably without some madman in a car hitting me or needing to get on a train.

    If anyone has any suggestions - they would be gratefully received.

    Thanks
    James
    Hey James, from my very limited (1-week) experience riding in Madrid I would certainly recommend the Casa de Campo as the place to go - once you get there, you can do various 5-10 mile loops (hilly too!) with almost no traffic, and meet new riders that way too. For longer rides, over weekend, hit the mountains north of Madrid (Sierras Madrid) - those seems to be the place to go. Cannot be much help on organized rides, but I think Strava and mapmyride may be a good place to start - check who is riding segments near you at the speed similar to yours and contact them for more info. Check the internets - hopefully someone else chimes in too.

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    Great post just reviving it because it is still relevant as well as excellent. I rode Madrid for the month of July and was in heaven. I did all of the rides listed here many times with great satisfaction. Group rides road can been found at the various bike shops, TRIMAD near Casa de Campo has a Facebook page with organized rides to Colmenar Viejo and Morcuera. They call those rides "salidas". I brought my road bike, best choice for me, I was there a month. The city can be very hilly depending where you are, so just riding in town can be a workout. Don't forget BiciCritica (Critical Mass) the last Thursday of every month at Plaza de Cibeles around 7:30 PM, excellent ride through Madrid with a party afterwards. La Bicicleta Cafe is an excellent bike scene hangout with free Wifi not far from Gran Via and Fuencarral. I'll report with some pictures next post.

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    Hey 55x11, thanks for posting this great thread, I have been making short trips to Madrid to see my brother for years and I hired a bike there for the the first time last week after reading all your great stories above. I only had two days but I saw a lot of the Anillo Verde, Casa de Campo, the city streets and the Carril north of the city in that time.

    I liked the Carril (bikeway) up to Soto del Real the best - uninterrupted road with a great paved surface and plenty of serious roadies flying up and down it. The Anillo Verde is a good way to get from one part of the city to another but I found the many traffic lights meant often you had to stop every 500m, although there were some 7km uninterrupted sections. I only saw a small part of Casa de Campo but that looked like a great spot for training too. Cycling through the city is kinda scary, it wouldn't be so bad if you knew a good route but the one-way systems are frustrating and tend to funnel you on to massive boulevards. Cycle paths in the city centre are largely ignored by the locals and the buses are a real danger to cyclists. Be very careful cycling in the city.

    One thing I did realise while I was there is that it is quite easy to take your bike on the Metro between 10:30am and 12:30pm, you just have to be between those times and be in the first or last carriage. That way you can safely get to the edge of the city and avoid some danger and all those traffic lights and jams. Also next time I am there I plan to take a Cercanias (regional) train out towards the Sierra de Guadarrama and try some of the big climbs. Can't wait to get back cycling in Madrid again!

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