Cycling

Bikepacking the Pirinexus: Girona, Costa Brava & the Pyrenees

By January 27, 2020 February 6th, 2020 No Comments

The Pirinexus is a circular 360 km route on cycle paths & quiet roads running from Girona to the Pyrenees and across the border into France & the town of Ceret. From here the trail climbs back across the border to the town of La Jonquera before hitting the flatlands of the Empordà region en route to the Costa Brava. From the Costa Brava the Pirinexus loops back around to finish in Girona. For a full route description head over to our Pirinexus 360 – A Different Side of Catalunya blog.

The Pirinexus is a route which is popular with a multitude of cyclists of varied abilities and inclinations. It can be spread out over a leisurely 2-week trundle or, at the extreme of endurance, be completed in a 24-hour challenge. Whilst most sensible folk choose to get their luggage transferred to each new hotel, bikepacking the route is a great option to maximize the sense of adventure and enjoy the freedom of the trail.

What is Bikepacking?

Bikepacking is essentially the ‘cool version’ of cycle touring where the tarmac is swapped for rugged off-road terrain. The goal is to pack light & to carry everything you’ll need for the journey ahead. Some bike-packers carry a tent & camping equipment, whilst others opt for the ultra-lightweight ‘credit card’ style and check-in to guesthouses along the way. Whilst traditional bike tourers carry their gear in wide, bulky panniers, bikepackers use neat bags which fit close to the frame, a set-up which is much better suited to rocky or narrow trails as well as being more aerodynamic.

Choosing a Bike for the Pirinexus: Road, Gravel or Mountain Bike?

Bikepacking bikes come in all shapes & sizes and pretty much any bike can be turned into a bonafide bikepacking bike. The key consideration when choosing a great bike for the Pirinexus is understanding what type of terrain will be encountered.

The Pirinexus starts and finishes on Via Verde, a smooth gravel custom-built bike path that stretches from the Costa Brava to Olot in the foothills of the Pyrenees. In Olot, cyclists can choose a rugged mountain bike trail or a quiet road to climb to reach Sant Joan des Abadesses. The next major climb of the route, the Col de Ares, is also a road climb – painfully slow on a mountain bike. So far the gravel or road bike is the clear bike of choice unless you fancy tackling the rugged trail from Olot!

Things change on the border on the return to Spain. After climbing a quiet lane to reach the border the road quite simply disappears and a fairly technical, awesome stretch of gravel unfolds. Here a mountain bike or an adventure gravel bike would make this section loads of fun. Anyone on tyres under 40c would be on foot. There is, of course, an unofficial alternative route on the road – the perfect choice for anyone lacking confidence with their bike skills or riding a road bike.

After La Jonquera the route alternates between quiet lanes and gravel farm tracks – perfect to enjoy on any type of gravel bike.

Ridley Kanzo Adventure – perhaps the perfect choice for the Pirinexus. A lightweight carbon frame with tyre clearance up to 42c. Make sure your gear ratio is up to the steeper sections of the route.

Reilly Gradient – a great choice and better on the technical sections than the Kanzo. This is a bike which absorbs the bumps of the road for optimum ride comfort.

Ridley Ignite MTB – an awesome lightweight hardtail. You’ll sacrifice speed on the paved road sections but you’ll fly along the technical stuff.

Ridley Tempo – a great leisure bike option with a rack for traditional-style luggage carrying. The 1×10 set up may struggle on the seriously steep moments but this bikes simplicity is a joy. Most at home on the Via Verde!

Bikepacking Bags

If you’ve sorted your bike then next up is to select your bags for carrying your luggage. Here it’s time to take a look deep into your soul (& perhaps the weather forecast) to decide if you’ll ride super-lightweight with next to no gear or opt for the full self-sufficient set-up.

Ortlieb are the staple of cycling luggage. They offer a full-range of bikepacking gear as well as traditional panniers. Their bags are fully waterproof & their oversized saddle bags even fit well on small frames. The straps are all velcro & the bags are really simple to fit. This is really useful when you arrive late at your hotel & want a stress-free efficient route to catch the sunset on the terrace with a beer.

Arkel are also known for great quality bags. Their saddle bag comes with a rack – great for added stability and something you’ll appreciate when flying downhill around corners. However, the rack is fairly tricky to fit and it does not work with small frames – the bag is too deep and rubs on the rear tyre.

What to Pack for your Bikepacking Adventure?

Your packing list is up to you and will be shaped by both how long you plan to be on the road, the time of year you’ll be riding & your hygiene standards!

The Bare Essentials for Dry Summer Cycling

On the Bike

  • 2 x sets of cycling shorts (wash one, wear one)
  • 2 x cycling jerseys
  • 2 x cycling socks
  • 1 x gilet (for the descents)
  • 1 x buff (incase you need to ride early/late)
  • Cycling shoes
  • Helmet
  • 2 x spare tubes, patch kit & pump
  • Front & rear rechargeable lights (just incase)
  • Lightweight rain jacket (good for an extra layer in the evenings too)

Off-Bike

  • Light, comfy shoes – espadrilles or similar are a great option for chilled evenings
  • T-Shirt
  • Lightweight trousers or shorts (or both if you can squeeze them in)
  • 2 x underwear (you’ll never regret carrying more)
  • Ladies – a lightweight comfy cotton dress that doubles as nightwear
  • Gents – lightweight shirt, great as an extra layer or to smarten you up for a nice restaurant
  • Sweater – merino is a great choice for multiple wears without washing

Toiletries

  • Mini suncream
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant (essential for the comfort of those around you!)

Other Essentials

  • Passport (all hotels need it & you’ll cross country borders twice!)
  • Smartphone
  • GPS device loaded with routes
  • Chargers

Non-essentials – little luxuries you don’t need but will love! 

  • Lip Balm
  • Tooth floss
  • Mini face-wash
  • Mini moisturiser

Backpack the Pirinexus with Eat Sleep Cycle

If you’d like to find out more about one of our European cycle tours then give us a call on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online for more info! Check out our Pirinexus Cycle Tour page for more details about the route.

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