Bordeaux to Barcelona

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
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Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby robhaigh » 21 Nov 2011, 4:40pm

noobie alert!!

hello all.
my first post ... so be gentle!!

group of 3 looking to do bordeaux to barcelona next year.
Lots and lots to sort out before then but, just to get the ball rolling was looking for some seasoned advice on a couple of things......

we are going to fly out on the saturday and fly back a week a week tuesday, that fives us 11 days including the 2 days with flights (not sure on flight times yet so may have to play it safe and say we only have 9 days cycling).
currently I am riding a Giant SCR 1.0 2007, I love it and I think it will be fine for my first foray into a grand tour? - thoughts?
compact chainset - will this be fine ? , just plan on getting the head down and ploughing up those hills..(I promise I will get plenty of hill training in ).
route - any recommendations on routes would be greatly appreciated, as this is our first long , planned ride we are a bit daunted by the simple question of 'which way do we go??'
tyres - recommendation for a touring tyre, currently running on lithion 2 tyres, which are great for commuting and weekends but, thinking I should be putting something wider and gripier on (schwalbe marathons ??)
accomodation - bearing in mind we are on a super tight budget, but, none of are real tent fanatics :-) what are peoples experiences / recommendations for cheap accomodation.

again.. apologies for all the noobie questions!! wish us luck :-)

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby robhaigh » 22 Nov 2011, 8:26pm

Does no One want to share any wisdom :-(....

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T other Dave
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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby T other Dave » 22 Nov 2011, 9:12pm

Hey, First thing is to buy a decent scale road map open it out on't floor and kinda pick the straighest line, then you can work out if theres owt you fancy along the way that you wanna see of ride over (classic tour mountain stages?). The other way google maps and route finder using non highways that will give you a idea of miles you'll need to cover a day to keep you on track. Bike? Well what ever your comfy on, Chain ring if your good with it dont worry, tyres? I use Schwable marathon plus more rolling resistance but good puncture protection (700/25). Tent is my pref choice and is cheapest although if you reshearch your route use google to find cheap hotels (1* chain ie premiere classe) in France are decent enough for overnight with mates also pensions/hostels are relatively cheap in Spain and damn good value, also b&b rooms in peeps houses can be cheap n good food. I know people who have turned up at big eurostyle campsites late on and got a luxery caravan for the night for 20 euros. As for getting lost if your bothered get a satnav thing, I just use paper maps works for me, my advice eat well, dont overplan and be flexible most of all enjoy.

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby robhaigh » 24 Nov 2011, 9:19pm

Many thanks for the reply.
Really looking forward to this ride :-)
Kinda leaning towirds the camping option, seems to be some good lightweight gear on the market these days for reasonable money...
Vango banshee is in gooutdoors at the moment with 20% off at £64... bargain! And only 1.85kg.
and after all we are doing it in July so hopefully the gods will be kind to us.
Sat nav... got a bit of a thing for tech! So looking at a map, GPS tracker thingy... .. fancying the bryton 50t cycle sat nav.

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby ossie » 25 Nov 2011, 6:48pm

I did Girona to St Malo in June and passed Bordeaux to the East so I guess I was on a roughly similar route some of the way but in reverse.

If you were to head towards Toulouse and Perpignan then south you would have a flatter route than a straight line across the mountains.

I camped and it was very cheap so I would thoroughly recommend it. If the worse comes to the worse you can always wild camp and camping gives you more flexibility. If you are taking camping gear on your rack seriously look at the strength of your rear wheel (36 spoke for example).

The Pyrenees were brilliant but expect the unexpected weather wise.(cold and rain with a snowline of 5000 feet was my experience in June) Make sure your gearing is right and you can spin away all day up those mountain passes. Take as many water bottles on your bike as you can fit. I could fit three and on several days worked my way through them all...twice.

GPS wise, I took a Garmin Etrex. I pre- loaded the route plus it gave me all the camp sites in the area using Garmin City navigator, also found a great site that lists nearly all camp sites in France. The beauty of the etrex is that is takes AA batteries, so no worry about charging and 2 sets of Lithiums got me home from Spain.

I also took a michelin 1:200000 map book of France (ripped out the pages ) about £8 on amazon.

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby fausto copy » 29 Nov 2011, 5:54pm

Hi Rob, we did your trip t'other way round a few years back.
I rode a light tourer/audax bike and the others had fairly sturdy commuter or tourers.
We all had 2 panniers and a handlebar bag, which I don't think you'd manage on your current mount.
Accommodtion wise, we found B&B, small pensions and some nice hotels and the costs were much less than the British equivalent.
Food costs were much less too and improved vastly leaving Spain and entering France.

We rode over the Bonaigua, Peyresourde and Aspin passes and they're not too steep, just a lot longer than anything in the UK.
It was September when we went and the weather was lovely and warm, apart from the fast descents, when we needed to wrap up well. It took us 12 days, with a rest day in Bordeaux at the end and our total distance was 500 miles.

Most people will also warn you of pickpockets in Barcelona, but I had my wallet nicked in Bordeaux, so beware anywhere. :roll:

Hope that helps,

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby robhaigh » 18 Jan 2012, 11:20pm

Thanks for all the replies so far.

Just thought I would update things a little, just in case anyone is interested . (please tell me if this isn't the done thing on the forum and I won't post any more updates !! )


Santa bought me a garmin 800, ..... Mmmmmm nice, still getting to grips with it, so far I have managed to download open source 'velo' maps of UK, France and Spain to it as well as plan and upload some local routes as well as the planned big France trip....
More on the garmin as I work out how to drive it.

No real 'training' started yet, just my usual weekend outings.

What i have done so far...

Decided to stick to the light touring option , hostels, b&b etc. Not taking tent.

Taken off my aksim race wheels and replaced with some mavic a319 36 spoke rims and marathon supreme tyres.
I tried marathon plus tyres but they are just sooooo heavy !
Loving the marathon supremes.
Lving the 700 x 28 tyres.
I can't really tell the difference between these and slick 700 x23 tyres... In fact , riding on th new 700 x28 feels nicer , more comfortable and more like 'when I woz young' kind of cycling rather than 'head down getting rattled about' cycling. !!

What else... Oh yes....
Won a pannier rack and a pair of panniers on eBay. Nothing huge just 15ltr each which, should do the job or, at least, make me pack just the essentials !
I have checked it out and my giant scr does have pannier mounts so, all good there, they do fit.

Also... Managed to book some accomodation , mid trip in bagneres du luchon (i think that's what the place is called !).... Turns out we hit there the same time as the tour de france so, thought it best to book something and hopefully we can catch a bit of the tour :-)

So... That's it so far... In preperation for our big France summer cycle.... New rims, new tyres and a new garmin toy to play with...
So far, so good !

As i say, thought i would keep any updates posted..... If that's ok / people are interested.....
If its not the done thing just let me know and I will keep my ramblings to myself ! :grin:

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby spicerack » 7 Mar 2012, 12:35pm

Hi Rob,
Please keep the updates coming. I'm planning a route from somewhere in France (probably Chateroux) to Barcelona in June and going through the similar decisions so any updates you have would be great.

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby Gearoidmuar » 7 Mar 2012, 1:55pm

I would say that unless you're a REALLY athletic cyclist, and light, that a compact chainset is inadequate. I speak from the experience of nearly 70 bike tours and being in the Alps and Pyrenees numerous times.
e.g. the Col du Tourmalet, as an example, is 11 miles long with an average of 8.5% gradient with maxes of 13%.

I would also give you this bit of advice. When you are covered in sweat and you get to the top of a really high pass and it's not roasting hot, put something dry on underneath and get a windproof jacket on before you descend. It can get unbelievably cold descending in such conditions, in a flash. If this is not satisfactory put on the brakes and pedal somewhat against them. This can help you to warm up.

What I can recommend as being REALLY spectacular (I've done it three times) is to cycle over the Pyrenees via the Bielsa Tunnel and then down to Ainsa. (the top is at about 6000 ft and has a good bit of 10% on the way up) Then head towards Catalunya (if you have time).

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby RickH » 7 Mar 2012, 3:06pm

fausto copy wrote:Food costs were much less too and improved vastly leaving Spain and entering France.

Maybe it was just the places we went though but we found the reverse last year - at least for prepared food. Going from Bordeaux to Barcelona the food in France ranged from the expensive to the "how much!". From Bagnères-de-Luchon (our last stop before Spain) and into Spain the cost of eating dropped dramatically - in fact I queried a drink bill at one place in Spain as I thought they had only charged me for 1 drink rather than the 2 I'd had but they assured me it was correct. I don't think the French generally "do" carbohydrates when they eat out!

I too would recommend low gears - we were supported, so only had to carry stuff for the day, and I appreciated my 26/29 first gear on the steepest bits of the big climbs and spent a lot of time in 2nd (26/26) but I do like to spin rather than grind.


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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby lebarronblue » 7 Mar 2012, 4:30pm


I did Home to Barcelona last year,1135 miles in 18 day's

for photos go to Facebook,Nicks Trike Trips and Tours,Photos, Home to Barcelona ... =3&theater

any questions just let me know

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby spicerack » 13 Mar 2012, 7:00pm

Hi lebarronblue,
Looks like a great trip. I'm also thinking of taking in part of the Canal Du Midi, do you say it was better before Toulouse? I was thinking Toulouse to Carcassonne.

Also, how many km's were you averaging a day? Need to get a rough idea of loaded touring expectations in those areas.

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby robhaigh » 29 May 2012, 11:20am

its been a while so I thought a little update was due. :-)

Training - Picked up the pace a little (well, for me anyway!!) riding in to work most days now (20 mile round trip), and getting some decent runs in at the weekends. We did a superb round trip in derbyshire last weekend , chapel en le frith, over to and down 'winnets Pass', then a circular route round derbyshire and then (after a wonderfull chunk of apple pie :-) ) back up winnets...... good god thats a tough climb... not ashamed to say I had to stop half way up!
also, trying to fit in my other (and number one passion) more often.. kitesurfing, I love cycling but, if the wind is blowing then it comes second best to kitesurfing!!

bike - Decided to give a larger cassette a go, stuck on a Sram 11-32 cassette , needed to change rear derailleur to a long cage one but so far so good. Still not 100% happy when changing gear, it sometimes skips up/down two rather than one, but, I will tweak it a bit and get it right, all in all, its a good upgrade (for me anyway, slightly unfit and feeling my age/ years of a desk job!). Tis lovely to have the 'get out jail free 32 ring on the back!
Annoyingly the Front derailler is playing up a little, changing up from small to big I sometimes get chain off. I adjust the limit screw, it works for a while, then doesnt want to change up at all. I use the barrell adjuster to increase tension on the wire a little, still no joy, wont change up. I tweak the limit screw ever so slightly and hey presto, everything working, can change from small to big. this works for a random amount of time and bang... chain off again, back to square one with tweaking/mucking about.
Have changed the cable to see if its cable stretch causing it.... same problem.
Have loosened everything off and reset front derailleur... same problem.
going to stick a new front derailleur and big chainring on just in case I have knocked it at any point and its a bit bent out of shape.

Route - sorted the route out....
our daily average will have to be 50miles a day ......... do-able we think, but tough once we hit the pyrenees!

Accomodation - Booked something in bordeaux, something in the middle around Luchon and something at the end in barcelona. The rest.. we will just play it by ear.

flights - all booked. Sorted out a bike box to get the bike there, not sure at the momoent how we will get them back !!! thinking to take just a huge plastic bag and a roll of packing tape to wrape the bike in for the return. (dont really want to trust my pride and joy to a plastic bag but... hats all I can think of doing for the return flight).

Garmin 800 - Kind of a love / hate relationship with it. It always 'kinda' works. to say Garmin do such intuitive car navigation systems you would have thought they could hit the mark with a cycling gps.
Faults - You load up your route, hit 'go' and then follow the purple line on the map, trouble is , purple isnt a great contrast against the background map!! so you do loose your way a little sometimes.
- also... route re-calculation... it doesnt work!! if you go off route, you would think it would re-route to get you back to your planned route as best possible... what it actually does, god only knows!! I cant even explain it... so, I just turn off the 'auto re-route ' feature.
other than that, its fairly intuitive, the battery life is reasonable and I am warming to it the more i use it.

KIt - Not even started looking at what to take! . currently debating a full on waterproof or.. will I get away with a lightweight waterproof and a microfleece, something like the pacajac ... elID=61519

Other kit - Phone . T-Mobile are doing a pay as you go with a nice bolt on £30 gets you a sim that has a ton of international minutes and data on it. It only lasts a month but that will be great and means we wont get hit for massive data charges.

thats about it for now... more when it happens.

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby robhaigh » 30 May 2012, 9:19pm

Mini update.

After another 4 hours of general tweaking and mucking about last night I literally cracked my front shifting problem...
All this time my front derailleur has been cracked !
I took a heavy fall a couple of months back, must have broke my derailleur.
Its clean broke in two at the front. You can't actually see it but the thing has what looks like a hairline crack in it, on closer inspection its not a crack, its a full break.
So, what happens when I change up is, the whole cage flexes and causes a chain off.

New one ordered , awaiting arrival.

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Re: Bordeaux to Barcelona

Postby robhaigh » 15 Jun 2012, 10:22pm

Eventually (after 9 days ) the new front derailleur turned up.
Fitted, tweaked and front shifting is smoother than James T Kirks chat up lines... :-)

It has meant being off the bike for over a week :-(

So... Back on it now..... Managed most of the week in to work and back and hoping to do a nice hilly circular over in north wales on fathers day.

Other updates....
Not much really.. still wondering what to take!
Fitted a new rear light as my old one packed up.
Things to do.....
Lots !

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