Category

Gravel

The-Rise-of-Gravel-Cycling-In-Girona-Routes-Bikes

The Rise of Gravel Cycling in Girona

By Gravel No Comments

Girona is firmly on the map as the European road cycling destination of choice for aficionados from all over the globe. It’s network of beautifully paved, quiet roads long climbs, beautiful descents, the Costa Brava, the Pyrenees & the fantastic food scene make Girona a true cycling mecca. But even die-hard roadies are choosing to switch out the classic road rides for off-the-beaten track gravel routes – but why?

The gravel scene in Girona can be likened to the ongoings in the 1970’s on Mount Tamalpais when a group of friends discovered mountain biking. Whilst gravel has been around for a long time, originating in the US on long remote stretches of fire road, the boundaries of this discipline are being explored by groups of local riders here in Girona. The scene is evolving, riders are on a never-ending quest for the perfect gravel bike, the optimum gearing, the best kit & the best bike-packing gear. Girona is hot bed of experimentation & off-the-scale-awesome routes. 

Why Ride Gravel in Girona?

Girona is home to half the world tour peleton & also home to a growing ex-pat & local community of cyclists with time to ride. Many people choose to base themselves in Girona as they love to ride, explore & find new routes. There’s nothing like the thrill of riding somewhere new or riding to your favourite spot on a brand new route. Whilst cycling can simply be a sport, for gravellers, cycling is way more – it’s the chance to explore, to ride to new places, to seek adventure & freedom, to discover a new way of life & travel. 

The region has that heady mix of perfect routes, landscapes & climate & has a bunch of people living here who live for the thrill of the ride, and so a gravel craze is born and grows.

What is gravel cycling in Girona?

This is not as stupid a question as it may first seem. Ask 5 different gravel riders and you will receive different answers. There have been many heated debates enjoyed over a “caña” (small beer) as to the exact definition, here are a few:

“Any track you can drive a jeep on”

“Anything between road and a single trail”

“Gravel is gravel isn’t it!”

Essentially, everything from a rough road to a single track can be ridden as gravel in Girona. I myself am a roadie at heart but have become more and more addicted to gravel. Depending on the mood I am in, I will ride with or request a new route from a more or less extreme Girona gravel rider. 

Choosing the perfect bike for Gravel Cycling in Girona

There’s a huge range of gravel bikes on the market & there isn’t a one-spec-fits-all perfect gravel bike. The beauty of Girona is the huge variety of terrain that can be classed as ‘gravel’ & so there is no one-spec-fits-all ‘perfect’ gravel bike for riding here. The following formula might help:

Speed x Comfort / Terrain = Perfect Gravel Bike?

Some riders (particularly those used to attacking local climbs on a carbon road bike) might be looking for something fast, others (maybe those heading out on a long-distance adventure) might just want something comfortable. Depending on which camp you fall in influences a key decision aroudn you perfect bike – frame choice.

Carbon or Metal Gravel Bike?

There are now many Girona gravel cyclists swearing by metal as the frame of choice for the technical riding, downhill sections and bikepacking adventures. But there are others sticking to carbon as the metal frames just feel too slow. This is where terrain comes into play – riders looking to mix up wide gravel tracks, sections of paved road & avoid the technical stuff would likey enjoy a carbon gravel bike. The lovers of technical stuff verging on mtb terrain, titanium or steel is the best way to go (or a full suspension carbon mountain bike of course!) 

 Gravel-Cycling-Girona-Perfect-Gravel-Bike-How-To-DecideThe Best Gravel Bike Build for Girona?

We’re working on a superlightweight build of a 2-11 MR4 – a super comfortbale steel frame. We reckon with a lightweight wheelset, components & group, this could be an ultimte Girona gravel bike, able to keep up on an paved sections and lead the way down any technical trails.

Daan, our mechanic favours a titanium Reilly Gradient GRX for all his rides (check out his blog on the Altas Mountain Race). Menno, our gravel-tour planner, rides a titanium Foundry GRX. Lee, our founder, sometimes rides a carbon Basso Palta & sometimes chooses the steel 2-11 MR4, depending on the ride & group. I go for the carbon Ridley Kanzo for a speed advantage riding in groups or with stronger riders.

Girona Gravel Routes

The problem is not finding the routes, but choosing the best routes for the situation. Gravel routes are fluid. They change when a mud bridge is swept away by a storm, they can be easy in dry conditions or trecherous in muddy conditions. One rider with great bike skills could thrive on a techinical route that a new gravel rider would hate. A route that gets rave reviews from a bunch of roadies could be slated as easy & boring by a group of mountain-bikers. Advising on gravel routes & bike choice is a tough thing and the ideal route for one rider will be very different for someone else. 

So we’re building out our gravel routes to suit a range of riders! Here’s 3 of our favourites:

Empordà – a gorgeous ride across vineyards & farmlands to your choice of Rustik cafe, the Mooma Sidreria or the Dos Kiwis brewery!

    • Terrain – 1 big climb, some rolling climbs, flat
    • Surface – mixed – farm tracks, fields, tarmac, loose stones, river bed
    • Best to ride – dry conditions
    • Techincal Level – 2/3
    • Fitness Level – 2/3
    • Best Bike – Anything goes!

3 Peaks – a tough challenge taking in the 3 peaks of Els Àngels, Puig Cornador & Rocacorba

    • Terrain – 3 huge climbs, everything in-between
    • Surface – everything, some single track
    • Best to ride – dry conditions
    • Techinical Level – 3/3
    • Fitness Level – 3/3
    • Best Bike – 2-11 MR4 or Reilly Gradient

Girona to Sant Feliu – a speedway to the Costa Brava!

    • Terrain – mostly flat
    • Surface – hard packed gravel path, small sections of tarmac, occasional farm track
    • Best to ride – all conditions!
    • Techinical Level – 1/3
    • Fitnes Level – 1/3
    • Best Bike – Ridley Kanzo Adventure or Basso Palta.

Interested in exploring Girona by gravel bike?

Check out our Girona Gravel tour, find out more about the Pirinexus gravel route or get in touch for a custom gravel tour designed around you & your ride buddies!

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

Riding the Atlas Mountain Race

By Gravel No Comments

The Atlas Mountain Race is an unsupported bikepacking race which starts in Marrakesh and heads over the Atlas mountains, through the Anti-Atlas & on to finish on the coast in Agadir. The 1,200 km course follows single track, gravel roads & old colonial pistes. There is plenty of hike a bike & not alot of tarmac. It’s an event riders spend months planning. As well as training to stand a chance of completing the route, kit selection, bike set up, logistics & nutrition planning all come together to play a key part. 

Just a week before the roll out from Marrakesh Eat Sleep Cycle staff member Daan Van Meuween got a last minute opportunity to enter the race. Taking on such a huge challenge with so little time to prepare was ambitious to say the least. But he calmly made his qucik preparations & got to the startline. Back in the office in Girona, we watched Daan’s steady progress across Morocco. Against the odds Daan completed the event in 6.5 days. Here’s his account of his Moroccan epic. 

“Prepared to keep going”

It was at the registration, or it might even have been at the start line when I came up with a tactic for the Atlas Mountain Race; “just keep going”. Looking back, I think it was the single most important piece of preparation. You can get yourself a custom-built bike, test your equipment over a hundred times or get a specific one-year coaching plan, but in the end, the only thing you are going to have to do is move your legs up and down.

Coming to the realisation that this “unsupported ultra-endurance event through remote mountain areas” was just going to be a few days of moving my legs up and down, gave me some peace of mind and made me feel a bit more comfortable starting this event. I didn’t expect it to be easy, I knew it was going to be hard, but I also knew it was going to be simple. I didn’t have any race-tactic, team strategy or personal goals, the only thing that I would have to do was move my legs up and down till I arrived at the finish.

Riding my bike is something I have done since forever and there haven’t been many times where I didn’t enjoy riding my bike. There might have been occasions, where I didn’t like the things that came with it, but simply riding my bike is something I always enjoyed and am pretty alright at. I don’t need a big trophy or a goal to work for to get on my bike. Discovering new places and amazing views are definitely something I can appreciate, but they aren’t the only reason I ride my bike. Having true freedom and completely emptying my mind, is something I only experience when riding my bike.

Figuring this all out in the days leading up to the Atlas Mountain Race made me feel pretty confident when I lined up for the start on Saturday. I had a good night of sleep the night before and I was feeling relaxed. Somehow I was starting a really tough and not completely non-dangerous event, in which I had zero experience and with very little preparation. I felt a bit ignorant and stupid, standing there between riders with way more experience and preparation. The next few days were gonna show me if I was indeed ignorant and stupid or I could move my legs up and down for almost 1200 km through challenging terrain.

When everybody took off on that Saturday morning, I knew I was alone. I might have been riding the same route together with 180 people and from time to time, I would ride next to somebody else and talk a bit with them, but it didn’t matter. It was just me, riding my bike from the moment I got up, till the moment I went to bed. The race turned out to be completely different, a lot harder, more technical and packed with more struggles and obstacles than I originally expected. For example, 96 km with only 2L of water turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. The same goes for riding 40 mm tyres on a dried-out river bed.

Although it was hard, challenging and a tiny bit unpleasant at times, it was never complicated. The only thing I had to do was move my legs up and down, (or push my bike up a hike-a-bike section). For six and a half-days that was the only thing I did. Ride till I got tired, get some sleep and start riding again. My phone didn’t come out of my pocket for much more than checking the route, partly because I rarely had any signal, but mainly because I didn’t think about anything else, other than riding my bike. For six and a half-days my mind was completely empty, I rarely thought about anything else other than riding my bike.

The Atlas Mountain Race was truly unique and left me with forever lasting memories. Riding through completely empty deserts, going over high-mountain passes, sleeping under a sky full of stars and riding on trails where most people wouldn’t even walk, will leave you with stunning images (even more if I had actually taken the time to take some more pictures). However, the thing that impressed me most and will stay with me forever, is the pleasure I got out of simply riding my bike and doing nothing else for six and a half days.












The Bike: Reilly Gradient GRX

  • Shimano GRX 1×11 Groupset
  • DT Swiss CR1600 Wheelset
  • WTB Nano 40 Tubeless Tyres
  • Pro cockpit and seatpost with Fabric Saddle
  • Ortlieb saddle-, frame- and bar bag

Packing List

  • Sleeping System
    • Sea To Summit UltraLight ASC Mat
    • Nomad Pegasus Sleeping Bag
    • MSR e-Bivy
  • Clothing (way too much as it turned out)
    • synthetic puffer jacket
    • Clean pants, socks and T-shirt for sleeping
    • 1 pair of bibs and jersey
    • Merino baselayer and extra warm baselayer
    • Merino buff and legwarmers
    • Warm jacket and rain jacket
    • 2 pair of gloves
  • Spare parts and repair kits
    • Fabric multitool with chain breaker
    • Opinel knife and Titanium Spork
    • Silicone folding cup
    • 3x inner tubes + tyre and tube patches
    • Tubeless plug + spare fluid
    • Spare chain links and quick links
    • Tape and glue
    • 2 powerbanks + 1 USB charger
    • Cateye front + rear lights
    • As much food as I could carry

Cycling in Morocco

If you’re inspired to get off the beaten track and discover the beautiful landscape of Morocco, check out our Atlas Mountain Tour for a safer, fully supported way to discover this incredible country by bike. Give us a call now on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online!

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

Reilly Gradient Gravel Bike Review

By Gravel No Comments

The Reilly Gradient is the latest gravel bike to join our Girona Bike Rental fleet, and this one is rather special with its British designed Titanium frame.

The Reilly Gradient, A Brief History

Reilly Cycle Works is a UK based bike manufacturer founded by frame builder Mark Reilly, graphic & product designer Damon Fisher & carbon specialist Neil Fitzgerald. Mark, Neil and Damon have been friends for many years and their experience and talent combine to make Reilly the beautiful brand that it is.

Mark is the number one specialist in the UK on Titanium.  Titanium frame building is notoriously demanding but the benefits include excellent corrosion resistance and very high cycle fatigue properties – so, treated well and barring an accident, a titanium frame will last an age. Could it be that titanium offers the perfect material for the demands of cycling off-road?

Reilly Gradient Gravel Bike – Reviews

So, what’s the bike like out on the Girona trails?

“It absorbs all the imperfections”

“When riding the Reilly Gradient over rough ground I was able to still enjoy the view as it seems to absorb the bumps and grooves, even bigger holes, more so than other gravel bikes I have ridden.

The Reilly Gradient is a joy on the descents, especially on rougher gravel as it absorbs all the imperfections.”

– Lee Comerford, Eat Sleep Cycle Founder

“I will take it on a bike-packing adventure at the Atlas Mountain Race!”

“After riding a few long gravel routes on the Reilly, I can say that it is truly a do-it-all bike. The bike handles very well on technical trails and is still fast enough on the flatter sections. It is so versatile I will take it on a bike-packing adventure at the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco”

– Daan van Meeuwen, Eat Sleep Cycle Content Guy & Mechanic

It’s not just the Eat Sleep Cycle team who love to ride the Reilly – it’s picked up rave reviews from gravel lovers across the globe.

“Fun and capable adventure road bike with great looks to match the great ride” 

“The Gradient is right at home negotiating narrow tree-lined singletrack with loose corners and steep climbs and would be a good choice if you’re looking for a bike to tackle one of the growing number of gravel events like the Dirty River.”

– Road CC / David Arthur, read his full review on Road CC

“Where this bike really excels, in my view, is when you point it downwards”

“I want one. I won’t rest until I get one. I know that if this bike was in my shed that, more often than not, it is the bike I would grab more than any others to take me out on adventures. It’s so versatile, so capable and so damned pretty. This is a bicycle that doesn’t ask, it just insists and, well, who am I refuse?”

– Gritcx / Mark Tearle, read his full review on Gritcx

Reilly Gradient GRX – Our Build

Designed by Mark Reilly to offer a ‘progressive’ ride Gradient combines a super-stiff hydro-formed Reilly Axis 3AL-2.5V titanium tube set with an ultra-secure disc 12 x 142 mm rear thru axle. The frame has clearances for 50c tyres with 650b wheels. Reilly claim that this is a bike which has it all, comfortable on & off-road, fast & responsive & deadly fast downhill.

We’ve built our rental fleet to the following spec:

  • Shimano GRX 1×11
    • 11-42 Cassette with a 42 Chainring
    • 160mm Rotors
  • DT Swiss ER 1600 SPLINE Wheelset
  • WTB Tyres
    • 700C x 40mm on bigger sizes
    • 650B x 50mm on smaller sizes
  • Pro Discovery Finishing Kit
  • Fabric Saddle

Reilly Gradient Bike Rental

Do you want to try the Reilly Gradient for yourself? Reserve yours now by visiting our bike hire portal or give our team a call on +34 972 754 301.

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to join our newsletter to receive regular updates on our latest tours!

Cyclists Guide to Morocco from Eat Sleep Cycle

Cyclist’s Guide to Morocco

By Gravel No Comments

Morocco is an off-the-beaten track destination with a fast growing reputation for all types of cycling. Eat Sleep Cycle founders Lee & Louise set off to spend a week exploring Marrakesh & the Atlas mountains by bicycle. They came back with this blog, a starter guide for anyone thinking of cycling in Morocco as well as incredible memories of mind-blowing rides & wonderful people.

Cycling in Morocco

When you think of Morocco you might imagine crazy drivers, rough roads, pickpockets, bartering & dodgy food – all the ingredients of a terrible cycling holiday! But think again – Morocco is a vast country of varied terrain, beautiful landscapes, friendly people, delicious food, fabulous guesthouses and is home to some seriously good riding.

When is it best to ride in Morocco?

Choosing the time of your visit carefully is key. Avoid the summer months of June through August, it’s just too hot. The autumn, winter & early spring are all great times to cycle with balmy temperatures & good conditions for legs-out riding. Just be aware that if you want to ride the high Atlas mountains you may encounter some snow & some ice at altitude in ‘winter’. The ice usually melts by mid-morning, so a perfect excuse for a lazy Moroccan breakfast before clipping in for the day.

When to ride your cycling trip in Morocco

Choosing a Bike for Cycling in Morocco

This is a huge question with no right or wrong answer. The first thing to know is that cycling as a sport or a way to spend a holiday is not normal here. Locals are seen piled onto scooters, donkeys, into pick-up trucks or simply walking to get from A to B. The only bikes around are Decathlon rejects, sometimes seen grinding up huge mountain passes – and not for fun.

For us pleasure-seeking cyclists a lightweight machine will make a huge difference when cycling in the mountains. Wide tyres will make a huge difference on rough sections of road (of which there are a fair few). A pure road bike would be too harsh, an endurance road bike with 30 c tyres would be pretty great if you were planning on enjoying mostly road riding.

A gravel bike in Morocco makes a lot of sense. Not only will you soak up the bumps on rough sections of road, you’ll also have the flexibility to turn off on a desert track or switch out a busier road for a dirt one. Yes, you’ll need to work a little harder on any pure road climbs, but the sacrifice is worth it.

Mountain bikers would also have a blast here – hardcore mountain bikers should look up Mount Toubkal. At over 4,167 m it’s the highest mountain in North Africa. There are specialist guides who can take you up – just make sure you have excellent insurance for coming down.

What bike should I bring to ride in Morocco?

Is it Safe? What is the Traffic Like?

The traffic has it’s own laws. Drivers are generally not in a rush but will launch dangerous overtaking maneuvers to get around slow moving trucks. Cyclists are generally given space (as are the donkeys, pedestrians & scooters) but it’s definitely worth doing your research on which roads are great & which roads are best avoided. Quiet roads are fabulous roads. Busy roads should only be attempted when completely unavoidable.

Cycling in Marrakech would only be enjoyable if you’re an experienced rider with bike-messenger style skills & a strong nerve. Embrace the flow and everything will probably be ok, or just hitch a ride 20 kms out of the city to keep things zen.

Where to Stay in Morocco?

There are plenty of places to consider basing yourself for a cycling trip in Morocco and it’s best to pick two, three or even four locations to really experience the variety of the riding. Most groups & tours start & finish in Marrakech but quickly move out to escape the city & get to the best roads & trails. There is no obvious cycling hub to stay in, but great locations are Ouirgane – for great riding in the foothills of the Atlas & access to the huge Tizi n’Test pass, Imlil – for Mount Toubkal & Tisseldeï for the Tichka pass, the mud city of Ait Benhaddou & some desert riding.

The best stuff is impossible without support or without a tent. Do not underestimate the difficulty of covering large distances at altitude. It’s important to have a set up whereby you’re completely self-sufficient, or at least have a number you can call if you need a rescue. The Moroccan people are such that if you’re basing yourself at a guesthouse the owners will likely offer their phone number by way of back up & will even come and look for you if you don’t return by your scheduled time.

Recommended guesthouses include:

Riad Atlas Imlil, Imlil – a newly built Riad with exceptionally welcoming hosts, Lahcen & Abdullah. The ceilings are hand painted by a local artist, the rooms are furnished in traditional Berber style & the food is fabulously prepared by Lahcen’s uncle. This is the place to enjoy the best breakfast for cyclists in Morocco! They can also arrange bikes for you & can cater for all dietary requirements.

Dar Isselday, Tisseldeï – a small oasis at the bottom of the Tizi n’Tichka pass run by Famita, Kamal & their family. Stay in small but comfortable rooms, eat delicious food prepared by the family and relax on the beautiful terrace overlooking the valley.

Tagadert Lodge, Oumnass – an exquisite guesthouse 20 kms south of Marrakech located in a typical Berber village. Combining the best of Moroccan & modern design with welcoming staff, Saide, Fatima & Mohammed.
Where to stay during your cycling trip in Morocco

What to Eat in Morocco?

Do not travel to Morocco if you don’t like cumin. Cumin is quite literally the spice of life here and can be found in pretty much every dish. This is a country where it’s difficult to eat unhealthily with fresh fruit, vegetables and meat being the main food.

The staple dishes in Morocco are tagine – a slow cooked stew with chicken, lamb, beef & vegetables, or couscous, with chicken, lamb, beef & vegetables. Meals are a delicious mix of sweet & spice, but nothing so spicy that can’t be enjoyed. Soups are also popular, as well as meat grilled over open fires.

Breakfasts are a delicious mix of fresh juices, bread in all kinds of delicious forms, served with olive oil or jams, as well as eggs – served fried (with cumin!) or as an omlette.

Fresh fruit is high on the agenda and delicious fresh juices are readily available. Good coffee can be found but is not guaranteed. Berber Whiskey is readily available, that is tea made from all sorts of fresh herbs and served with our without sugar.

Which brings us nicely to the subject of alcohol. Drinking is not illegal in Morocco, indeed, there is a local beer in production as well as two or three winery’s. In fancy hotels, licenced bars & tourist areas it’s possible to order an alcoholic drink off a menu but in off-the-beaten track rural areas (where your bicycle is most likely to take you) it’s not. If you really need a drink to recover from a long day in the saddle be discreet when you ask at your guesthouse or simply resort to Berber Whiskey (tea!) & embrace the clarity of mind & health benefits avoiding alcohol brings!

Eat-Sleep-Cycle-Morroco-Africa-bike-tripMorocco Cycling Routes

Now to the fun stuff! There are no ‘set’ cycling routes in Morocco as is the case in European cycling hubs like Girona, Mallorca or Calpe. However, there are some awesome highlights to include in your agenda.

Tizi n’Tichka Pass – the gateway to the High Atlas, this pass separates Marrakesh in the north from the road to the Sahara desert in the south. This is the climb used by GCN on their bikepacking Morocco adventure. It’s a paved road climb and, as the main route for vehicles heading south, can be quite busy. The road is in a constant state of flux and has near continuous roadworks underway to maintain the route. The climb tops out at 2,260 m altitude. From the village of Zerkten (already at 1,200 m altitude) the climb is over 30 kms long. Gradients are steady & the views are spectacular!

Tizi n’Test Pass – this climb is a little known monster that rivals the Stelvio & Tourmalet for cycling greatness. From the village of Ijoukak (itself a long drag away from Marrakesh at 1,100 m altitude) the climb winds its way up a river valley for 40 kms to an altitude of 2,100 m at the top. The road is broken & doesn’t have much traffic. The descent is broken for the first 6 kms then turns to silky smooth tarmac all the way to the bottom.

Tizi n’Tacheddirt – a high mountain pass and a village at an elevation of 2,425 m above the sea level. Access to this unpaved road is from the village of Imlil (altitude 1,700 m). It’s gravel, rocky, bumpy & is not for cyclists with vertigo. From November to April there are varying amounts of snow – seek the advice of a local guide before setting off to conquer this one. The climb is 13 kms long and best suited to wide-tyred gravel or mountain bikes.

Toubkal – another monster from Imlil, this time just for skilled mountain bikers. The trail is 14 km long to the summit of Toubkal, with a monster elevation change of 2,435 m to an altitude of 4,100 m. Only attempt this with a qualified local guide & factor in the impact of altitude. This is a seriously tough challenge to the summit of the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains.

Ait Benhaddou to Telouet – The road connecting these two places is quite simply awesome. From Ait Benhaddou, the 1000 year old mud city & UNESCO world heritage site, the paved road climbs alongside a river. Soak up the sites of local villages as the road heads up. The surface is paved but sometimes broken & gravelly – a road bike with wide tyres or a gravel bike is ideal. This road can also be enjoyed an an alternative descent from the Tizi n’Tichka Pass.

Agafay Desert – 30 kms south of Marrakesh is a stony dessert, full of trails, camels & quad bikes! The region extends over several hundred acres and is ripe for exploration on a gravel or mountain bike. Lake Takerkoust is a man made lake on the edge of the desert with a wealth of gravel roads to explore & great places to stay.
Riding bikes in Morocco on gravel

Is it ok to wear Lycra?

Yes, but you’ll stick out like a sore thumb & might feel a little exposed!

For women, there is still a stigma attached to exposing bare skin and ladies will feel more comfortable wearing lightweight, floaty materials which act as a cover up, especially off the bike. As well as respecting the local culture it’s actually the best clothing to wear outside in the sun too. That said, there are unwritten rules for tourists and plenty of women on holiday in Morocco set out to get a tan without any consequences.

On the bike lycra is likely the most comfortable choice, although baggier clothing as per mountain bike/gravel/touring gear will still be comfy & help you blend in a little better.  It’s something everyone will appreciate if you stop at a local cafe for a bite to eat whether you’re a male or female cyclist but it comes down to your personal choice.

Getting to Morocco

Getting to Morocco is easy, with regular flights from all over Europe into Marrakesh. Marrakesh gives you best access to the riding covered in this blog, but there are also airports in Rabat, Casablanca & Fes to the north.

Marrakesh airport is just a few kms from the city centre, so transfers are fairly cheap – it’s by far the easiest to book a transfer through your hotel if you’re staying Marrakesh for the start or finish of your cycling trip. Don’t get into a random car outside the airport. Car hire is also a good option & there are plenty of well known companies located at the airport.

Make sure you land with a clear plan to get your next destination. The airport is a magnet for wondering locals looking to earn a fast buck from confused tourists.

Cycle in Morocco with Eat Sleep Cycle

If you’d like to sign up to our Morocco Atlas Mountain tour, give us a call on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online for more info! We also run custom gravel, road or mountain bike tours in Morocco – let us know what you’re looking for & we’ll do the rest!

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

Bikepacking the Pirinexus: Girona, Costa Brava & the Pyrenees

By Gravel 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.

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

Girona Gravel Cycling Tour Why You Should Come On One - Eat Sleep Cycle

Girona Gravel Cycling Tour – Why You Should Come On One!

By Girona, Gravel No Comments

Gravel cycling is tricky to define. In terms of terrain, ‘gravel’ can mean anything from unpaved roads to MTB single track and everything in between. On the subject of bikes, bike manufacturers use terms such as ‘all-road’, and ‘adventure’ to define their gravel machines, but one thing that gravel cycling can be defined by though, is how much fun it is to ride – and consequently, how addictive it is.

So, if you’ve exhausted the road, or even if you haven’t and you just want to try something new or want an excuse to buy a new bike / book another cycling trip then we’ve got you covered with the following reasons to join a gravel cycling tour!

Reasons to Come on a Gravel Cycling Tour

The Novelty of a New Discipline
Off-road purists may sneer at the advent of gravel cycling, at best dismissing it as a poor relation to cyclo-cross and at worst denouncing it as a mere marketing ploy by bike brands to sell more products. But there’s more to it than all of that, for starters, there are key differences between gravel and cyclo-cross bikes, namely that the former is designed for all-day endurance and thus comfort and the latter for flat-out racing on varied terrain over approximately one hour.

Gravel cycling is a novelty, but definitely not a gimmick, and it’s a novelty that doesn’t wear off, namely because there are always…

Girona Gravel Cycling Tour - New Places to Explore - Eat Sleep Cycle

…New Places to Explore

Uncovering new places you didn’t know existed, or completely rediscovering places you thought you already knew is part of what makes gravel so fun. The added benefit of a gravel cycling tour is that you can experience this without the danger of getting lost thanks to the addition of a knowledgeable, local guide. Gravel continuously surprises and when you’re on a bike that makes riding virtually any surface possible it’s always fresh and exciting. Taking this exploration to another level with bike-packing trips is just another way that gravel cycling enables you to see and do so much more.

Beginner Friendly

Never ridden a gravel bike before? No worries. A gravel cycling tour is the perfect opportunity to learn new skills and test your limits without worrying about traffic or hard tarmac. If you’re familiar with road riding and are just dipping your cleats into the off-road world then gravel is the perfect place to learn. Plus, on a gravel cycling tour your guide can coach you through technical sections and routes can be adapted to your level.

In addition, Gravel cycling is more inclusive than road or other disciplines, it’s not about what you wear, how much you know, your average speed, or how many Strava KOMs you own, if you’re up for an adventure then gravel is for you. You’ll never forget your first gravel ride!

Gravel Biking in Girona - Eat Sleep Cycle

Gravel Biking in Girona

So you know Girona for the pros, the classic climbs, the cafe culture, the quiet Catalan, country roads, you’ve got it sussed out, you know what it’s about. Think again. Girona is a gravel wonderland waiting to be discovered. For every classic Girona climb, you can bet there’s a gravel version. Done Sant Grau already? Do it on gravel and see it through a whole new perspective. Ever wondered if there was a different way to get to Banyoles Lake? There is, on gravel. If you thought road cycling in Girona seemed like an inexhaustible labyrinth of new discoveries then prepare to be amazed by what you can uncover off-road.

Basso Alta and Ridley - BIkes for Gravel Cycling - Eat Sleep Cycle

Weapons of Choice for Gravel Cycling

Of course, the right bike is vital for making the most of a gravel cycling tour. A versatile machine that can take you on almost any terrain is the order of the day. At Eat Sleep Cycle our go-to gravel steeds are the Basso Palta and Ridley X-Trail. You can read reviews of both on our blog!

Girona Gravel Cycling Camp - Eat Sleep Cycle

Want to Test the Girona Gravel?

Whether you’re a seasoned gravel rider or you just want to give gravel a try, our Girona Gravel Camp is for you! Give us a call now on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online for more info!

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

Photos by Daan Van Meeuwen

Basso Palta Bike Review - Eat Sleep Cycle

Basso Palta Bike Review

By Gravel No Comments

The Basso Palta is a machine turning heads in the gravel world so naturally we decided to add them to our fleet of Girona rental bikes. Not content with re-branding their cyclo-cross bike, Basso literally went back to the drawing board to design a bike specifically for gravel riding. And so, we sent ex-racer, Eat Sleep Cycle founder and gravel aficionado Lee Comerford out to put the bike through its paces at this weekend’s Rocacorba Gravel Gran Fondo.

Basso Palta - Rocacorba Gravel Gran Fondo - Eat Sleep Cycle Review

Basso Palta Ride Review

Before detailing the various components that make the Basso Palta I’ll give you the quick review of the pros and cons, thankfully there are plenty more pros than cons!

Pros

  • Stiff, light, fast
  • Comfortable, stable
  • Looks awesome

Cons

  • The wheelset is an upgrade opportunity!

Manufacturer: Basso
Price: €3,999 RRP

Basso Palta Bike Review - Frame - Eat Sleep Cycle Girona

Basso Palta Frame

I first rode that Palta on the road to get to the start of the gravel Gran Fondo. I was expecting a slog and for it to feel like any other bike with fat tyres on tarmac. I was pleasantly surprised as it felt like a road bike. The frame felt stiff & light and I really had an advantage over the others in the group.

The Palta looks good and demands attention wherever you ride. Basso have really nailed the frame design and paintwork – it has a beautifully shaped flat top tube and is finished with a luxurious paint job which suits its Italian heritage.

If you want the Palta can be set up like a road bike but I prefer a more upright position to best enjoy the demands of Rocaroba. The more comfortable position is perfect for seated climbing which loose gravel demands. The bike handles beautifully. It’s responsive and really sticks to the trail. Climbing the steep gradients of Rocacorba was amazing – it had all the forward momentum and lightweight feel of a road bike & the comfort & stability of a mountain bike. Needless to say, I got used to the Palta straight away.

Sram Force 1x Groupset

I’ve always used Shimano so didn’t think I would like Sram. But it’s intuitive and only took 5 minutes to get used too. The shifting is smooth I love that you don’t have to think about a front derailleur.

The 1 x system handled gradients of up to 20% with no problem and there was plenty of range for the terrain. I’m yet to be convinced about the shape of the Sram hoods & levers – they felt really rounded and a little odd after my years of riding Shimano.

Basso Palta Bike Review - Wheelset - Eat Sleep Cycle Girona

Basso Palta Wheels

The only small downside of this build is the wheelset as it’s where most of the weight comes from. Whilst they’re a little on the heavy side they roll really well and are they’re durable. The rims hit a rock mid-ride and there wasn’t a scratch on them.

Tyres

For the event I rode Michelin Power Gravel 40 mm tyres. On the road they’re really fast with high pressure. At the start of the Gran Fondo I took the air out to run 40 psi and was able to fly down off-camber descents fast and safely. The tyres gripped beautifully and were well equipped for the dry conditions.

Saddle & Seatpost

I rode a Selle Italia saddle which was comfortable. The ride was noticeably smoother than other gravel bikes I’ve ridden; in part due to the carbon layup of the frame and also the vibration damper doing it’s work in the seatpost.

Basso Palta Bike Review - Value for Money

Basso Palta – Value for Money?

I think you get a lot of bike for the money. It’s a classy bike that looks the part and performs perfectly. The build and components used speak for themselves:

  • Basso Palta frameset, available in 4 sizes
  • Custom Palta fork
  • Sram Force 1 x Groupset
  • Hydraulic Sram Force Disc brakes
  • Wheels
  • Clearance for 42 mm slicks or 40 mm gravel tyres
  • Integrated seat clamp system
  • Vibration damper Palta seatpost

So, that’s what it’s like to ride and whath the Basso Palta is made of but what about maintaining the bike? We asked Eat Sleep Cycle Head Mechanic Borid del Cid for the lowdown.

Mechanics Perspective on the Basso Palto

Q. What do you think about the bike?
A. I really like it! I especially like the fact that this bike still looks and rides like “a road bike with bigger tyres”, and not “a mountain bike with drop bars”. As anybody in Eat Sleep Cycle will tell you, I spend most of my day ranting about how gravel bikes with 650b super wide tyres are really just mountain bikes hiding in plain sight, so being able to ride and rent this bike makes me very happy.

Q. What tyres would you run?
A. If it was for me, I would probably run a pair of fast rolling WTB Exposure 34s, but probably the most versatile option, especially year round, is the classic WTB Nano 40 tire.

Q. What gearing would you choose?
A. I think a 10-42 cassette is ideal. The range is wide enough to tackle almost any climb around Girona, I would probably keep the 40 teeth chainring at the front, maybe have a 42 that I can use for flatter days and coast rides.

Q. What’s the bike like to maintain?
A. Super simple! I’ve always been a proponent of simple, no nonsense bikes that make you forget what bike are you riding, and focus on the ride itself. But more importantly for me, It’s super easy to maintain and service. With only one cable, the Force 1x groupset is very reliable. The bike is really easy to maintain, but cleaning the sandy mud that we have around Girona is another story.

Q. Why this spec for the rental bike?
A. The bike we rent comes pretty much stock. We use Michelin Power Gravel tyres, which should roll really well on the fire tracks around Girona this summer.
The only thing that is different is the stem. We stay away from the proprietary stems that come with all Basso bikes. Even though they look super cool on the bike, they are not the best option when we are trying to fit the bike to each cyclist that wants to rent it.

Q. Where would you ride it?
A. Probably on too sketchy terrain! I’ve been known to ride it down some rocky single tracks around Sant Miquel and Els Àngels where the bike had no right to be in. That’s the most fun though!
I would also love to ride this machine across the Pyrenees or Portugal, on a bikepacking adventure (only with the best ortlieb bikepacking bags! 😉  )

Basso Palta Test Ride - Eat Sleep Cycle Girona

Want to Test Ride the Basso Palta?

You can rent this beautiful machine from us during your next Girona cycling break – we run gravel tours in Girona all year around and are we’re heading Trans Alps on gravel this July which is going to be epic! Give us a call now on +34 972 754 301 or contact us online for more info!

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

New Gravel Bike Trans Alps Tour - Eat Sleep Cycle

New Gravel Bike Trans Alps Tour – Embrace It!

By Gravel No Comments

The Alps, the Dolomites, the Sella Ronda. Romeo & Juliet, Garda, the World Champs. Verona, Innsbruck, Munich. Italy, Austria, Germany. Groads. Yes. Our Trans Alps Gravel Bike tour is happening this summer, and you’re invited.

Gravel Bike Trans Alps Tour Stages

This is an incredible new itinerary rolling out in July 2019 linking Munich in the north to Verona in the south, via the cities of Innsbruck (host to the 2018 Cycling World Championships), Bolzano & Trento and straddling the Alps. Designed & tested by Joan Calvera Porta of CycloCat the route links bike paths & gravel roads on a journey through changing landscapes and spectacular scenery.

Stage 1: Munich to Bad Tolz, 60 km, 418 m

The gravel bike Trans Alps Tour starts in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Located to the north of the Bavarian Alps & on the banks of the River Isar the city makes a grand start to the ride. Spin south towards the mountains through woodland, trails & traffic free roads. The River Isar runs from Munich with our path to Bad Tolz, the first stop on the route. Bad Tolz is the gateway to the Alps!

Route Highlight: Munich

Gravel Bike Trans Alps Tour Stage - Stage 2 Munich to Bad Tolz

Stage 2: Bad Tolz to Innsbruck, 109 km, 864 m

From Bad Tolz the scenery starts to change dramatically as the route enters Austria & the Alps. The route passes through the town on Lenggries, runs across the Sylvenstein Lake and on into Austria. The road reaches 1,000 m altitude at the town of Maurach before a steep descent meets the River Eno, which carves a flat route to Innsbruck.

Route Highlight: Sylvenstein Lake

  • At the Austrian frontier is the spectacular Sylvenstein Dam, a reservoir which provides flood protection & maintains a steady flow of water to Bad Tolz in the valley below. Ride around and across the damn before leaving the River Isar and crossing the Austrian border.

Route Highlight: Innsbruck

  • The Austrian city of Innsbruck made a name for itself when it hosted the road cycling world championships in September 2018. The high mountains of Tirol served as a spectacular battleground where Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and Dutch woman Anna van der Breggen emerged victorious.
  • Innsbruck is the captial of the Tyrol region and is located in the broad valley between high mountains, the Hafelekarspitze, (2,334 metres) to the north, and the Patscherkofel (2,246 m) and Serles (2,718 m) to the south.

Gravel Bike Trans Alps Tour Stage - Stage 3 Innsbruck to Klausen

Stage 3: Innsbruck to Klausen, 68 km, 351 m

30 kms south of Innsbruck lies the Brenner pass. The Brenner Railway provides transport for the first part of the day, taking riders safely past a busy section of road. Brenner station is at 1,371 m altitude – the highest point reached on the Italian & Austrian rail networks. At the pass is the Italian border & the gravel road begins again with a glorious descent through Italy.

Drop through Colle Isarco & a myriad of Italian villages to our resting place in Klausen, conveniently located at the base of the route to the Italian Dolomites.

Route Highlight: Brenner Pass

  • The Brenner Pass connects northern & southern Europe. Dairy cattle graze in alpine pastures throughout the summer in valleys beneath the pass and on the mountains above it. At lower altitudes, farmers log pine trees, plant crops and harvest hay for winter fodder.

Stage 4: The Sella Ronda Gravel, 53 km, 2,200 m

It was impossible to resist adding a day to explore the iconic Sella Ronda route away from the usual holiday traffic. Our route combines sections of the classic road route with off-road sections which provide a unique and gorgeous perspective on this well-ridden route. It’s today that riders need their climbing legs with altitudes reaching over 2,200 m.

Route Highlight: The Sella Ronda

  • Guidebooks of the Dolomites region are graced with images of the stunning Sella Ronda mountain range. The Passo Gardena, Passo Campolongo, Passo Pordoi and Passo Sella make up this iconic cycling route. The loop passes through the ski town (and summer cycling hub) of Corvara in Badia, itself synonymous with the annual Maratona del Dolomiti Granfondo.

Stage 5: Klausen to Trento, 100 km, 550 m

After a day in the Dolomites it’s time to head south again, this time to the Italian city of Trento. The route follows the gently descending valley through Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol. Bolzano is considered as a bridge between the North and South due to the three spoken languages in South Tyrol – Italian, German, and Ladin, and the confluence of Italian and German-Austrian culture.

Route Highlight: Trento

  • Trento is located on the Adige River in the Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtiroll. Formerly part of Austria and Austria-Hungary, it was annexed by Italy in 1919. With almost 120,000 inhabitants, Trento is the third largest city in the Alps and second largest in the Tyrol.
  • Trento is an educational, scientific, financial and political centre. Soak up the picturesque Medieval and Renaissance historic centre & make sure to take a look at the ancient Trento Cathedral and the Castello del Buonconsiglio.
  • Trento was awarded the title of Alpine Town of the Year 2004.

Gravel Bike Trans Alps Tour Stage - Stage 6 Trento to Verona

Stage 6: Trento to Verona, 124 km, 809 m

The final stage is also the longest stage. Continue south on a flat trail through the town of Rovereto. Detour up a gentle climb to see the spectacular Lake Garda. Retrace and follow the trail to the heart of Verona, a city made famous by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

Route Highlight: Lake Garda

  • The largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda is located on the edge of the Dolomites and is an exquisite destination for holiday-makers throughout the year. Francis of Assisi founded a monastery on one of the Lake’s islands in 1220. Now travellers around the world enjoy peace, tranquility and a touch of luxury at the lake.

Route Highlight: Verona

  • Roman architecture, Opera & Shakespeare make for a glamourous city to host the grand finale of our Trans Alps gravel adventure!

Italian Basso Palta Gravel Bike

What Gravel Bike For The Trans Alps Tour?

To best enjoy the Trans Alps gravel tour we recommend a gravel bike (no surprises there!) – something fast enough on paved sections & super comfortable on gravel. Try the Italian Basso Palta to truly pay homage to the route.

Trans Alp Gravel Bike Tours – Secure Your Place

We’re really excited about this new tour of the Trans Alps on gravel bikes and the interest we’re receiving about this tour is phenomenal but what’s not to love about it? Gravel, bikes and the Alps – perfect! If you’re interested in securing a place on the tour then give us a call now on +34 972 649 131 or contact us online for more info.

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

Cycling Barcelona to Girona: A CycloCat Adventure

By Gravel No Comments

Sunday 22nd January 2019 saw the third annual edition of the Ladies & Gentlemen’s Barcelona to Girona Gravel Ride. The ride was desgined & organised by CycloCat, a non-profit organisation on a mission to map all the off-road, safe cycling routes in Catalunya.

When CycloCat approached Eat Sleep Cycle looking for a venue in Girona to host the finish we jumped at the chance to get invovled in this unique event.

Naturally Eat Sleep Cycle sent a team to take part and check out the route. DS Brian pulled together a squad made up of Eat Sleep Cycle riders Lee, Lou & Boris with guests David Millar of CHPT3 & Miguel, local brompton-riding legend. With over 300 riders on the start sheet it was set to be one hell of a ride.

The Gravel Adventure Begins

An already damp team met at a wet Girona train station to catch the 07:04 train to Barcelona. It hadn’t rained for months but the team were in cheery-ish spirits with the promise of an epic day on the bike ahead.

7 hours and one deluge of mud, sweat, broken brakes & hardcore river crossing later we caught up with the riders of the ‘Paulaner Express’ to capture their impressions of the 140 km route.

Lee: Ex-Engineer, Eat Sleep Cycle Partner

Describe your ride in one word:
EPIC

Best moment?
When Boris repaired Miguel’s brakes, which meant we would make the ride.

Darkest moment? 
Riding to the start in the cold, wet & rain.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
Wish I was wearing what David had on (CHPT3)

Will you ride again next year?
Most definitley but only if Brian does it.

David-Millar-CHPT3-Barcelona-Girona-Gravel-Ride

David: Founder of clothing brand CHPT3, ex-Pro Cyclist

Describe your ride in one word:
Complicated

Best moment?
Getting all my shit ready the day before, I hadn’t done that in years.

Darkest moment? 
Catching a glimpse of the blue AVE autoroute bridge 4hrs after we’d started and realizing we were still miles away.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
All of it. LSWBL Baselayer, J/J Jacket, K61 Jacket, Nanoflex tights – I stayed completely dry and correct body temp the whole time, which even I was impressed with.

Will you ride again next year?
If Brian does I might.

Boris: Bearded, Eat Sleep Cycle Mechanic

Describe your ride in one word:
Never-ending

Best moment?
Finding my pace after finding myself doing a solo effort.

Darkest moment? 
Realising I was not in Llagostera but Tordera.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
I would say water, but since I forgot that, I’m going to say my Assos winter bibs.

Will you ride again next year?
Next year I’ll ride it on a  Brompton

Louise: Tiny person, Eat Sleep Cycle founder

Describe your ride in one word:
eesh.

Best moment?
That sweet sweet coffee in Caldes de Malavella. The team had scattered but home was in sight.

Darkest moment? 
When we hit gravel 10 km out of Barcelona and saw a disturbed rider coming back the other way shouting ‘molt aigua’.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
I nearly died. I needed actual winter kit. CHPT3 for women, David?

Will you ride again next year?
err. If Silvia does it.

Miguel: Girona local, Brompton lover

Describe your ride in one word:
The river crossing!

Best moment?
Personally, I had the feeling ‘nothing could stop me’…!

Darkest moment? 
That we were called the Paulaner team and only had coffee at the end.

Item of kit you would have died without and/or item of kit you wish you had?
No comment.

Will you ride again next year?
Perhaps. It was a great #7hrGravelChallenge

Hat’s off to the team. Out of 300 riders who signed on around 80 started the ride and around half completed it without the aid of a train. Thanks also to the Eat Sleep Cycle Hub team and the kind bakery’s & cafes who welcomed and fed some extremely dirty cyclists along the route.

CycloCat & the Origin’s of the Gravel Ride

Whilst bang on the current trend for riders to get off road, organiser & founder of CycloCat, Joan Calvera, reveals the origins of the ride in the 1940’s. We sat down with Joan after the event to learn more about the Ladies & Gentlemen’s ride and to find out more about Joan’s motivation & vision for CycloCat.

What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Joan Calvera Porta. I was born and raised in Sant Andreu del Palomar, Barcelona, so my first kilometers on MTB were on the mytical Collserola mountain. After Barcelona I lived in Girona, Brussels, England and South-Tyrol (so I can speak 5 languages!)

Tell me about how and why you started CycloCat?
We (together with my wife Anna) started CycloCat after coming back to Catalonia and realising that there was no information about cycling paths connecting urban centres. We checked how other systems worked in places like Belgium & Italy and then we created our Catalan version of that.

What inspired you to start the Ladies & Gentlemen’s Barcelona to Girona event?
When I started racing on MTB at 16 years old, my Grandpa told me that he was also a cyclist. He was able to ride from Barcelona to Girona on a single speed, wooden wheeled bike. No helmet, no culotte, no jersey. So, when we had completed mapping all the safe cycling tracks from Barcelona to Girona then we decided to recreate this ancient route. In fact, now it’s more difficult than in the 40’s, as my Grandpa rode on the N-II (not totally asphalted, a lot of cobbled sections) and the easiest route from Barcelona to Griona. But, nevertheless, today’s route is so nice because it sneaks between small vilages and green fields with very few cars at any time. Even being a cyclist, we all tend to think as a car driver, and when somebody asks you how to reach certain village we all think first how to get there by car, without considering slopes, for example.

You rode the event – how was it?
Yes I rode. Well, I understand it could be hard for some people especially at the begining. But if you have good clothes and certain experience of riding under the rain, it was a very nice journey. After 3 hours riding in the rain, good clothes get dry. Once we were in Sant Celoni (less than half of the route) we were already dry. I like the course very much, especially the changes from tarmac to dirt or to single track. Gravel bikes give you that freedom to go fast on road and manage the mud on single-tracks.

What is your favorite gravel ride in Catalunya?
I use to train close to Girona (when I have a chance): Vidreres, Llagostera, Caldes. La Selva and Gironès are very good for training and have good gravel tracks. Then Osona and Urgell are also amazing places to ride. I use to train a lot around Vallès, but it’s mid mountain and sometimes there’s too many cars due to the proximity to the big city of Barcelona.

What’s next for CycloCat?
As you know, CycloCat is a private non-profit organisation that documents and classifies the safest cycling routes in Catalonia. Out criteria is our moto as well: “minimum slope, maximum safety”. We have already documented 1300 Km that join the 4 main capital cities in Catalonia.

In the next month we are going to release the tracks to reach Lleida (an amazing gravel area through Urgell) and we are trying to develop software together with Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona that allows us to create the routes in a easier way.

Thanks to the brave photographer Gonzalo Rodríguez from Fotos Cursa who risked hypothermia to capture the event –  check out the full album from the event on the Foto Cursa facebook page.

Thank you to Joan & Anna at CycloCat for organising a great day out on the bike and for continuing to build an incredible resource of bike routes for everyone to enjoy. Check out the CycloCat website to see the maps.

For anyone with kit-envy or planning a suitably wintery excursion it’s worth checking out David Millar’s CHPT3 winter range. Seriously good kit.

Experience your own Gravel Cycling Adventure in Catalunya

If you want to explore the network of gravel roads in Catalunya check out our Girona Gravel Adventure, or why not hire a gravel bike & bags and head off on your own bike-packing extravaganza on the Pirinexus Trail. The sun does normally shine, promise! Give us a call on +34 972 649 131 or contact us online for more info!

P.S. Enjoyed this blog? Why not sign up to receive notifications every time we post and get regular updates on our latest tours!

First Gravel Ride: Ridley X-Trail

By Gravel No Comments

Amy Jones, long time road rider, reports on making the transition to Gravel in this account of her first ever gravel ride. Guide Ed takes her for a spin on our Ridley X-Trail rental on his favourite trails around Girona.

I’m slowing you down, joked Ed who was showing me the ropes on my gravel debut, 30 seconds later I became rather too well acquainted with the grass verge. Thankfully this didn’t set too much of a precedent for the rest of the ride and as we traversed every kind of terrain from road, to mud, to rocks and naturally, gravel I only hit the deck on one other occasion.

I had been aware of the growing trend for gravel and had thought how fun it looks for a while now, however I hadn’t got around to trying it out myself. Of course, the main barrier to trying out any new kind of cycling is acquiring the appropriate bike, but when you work somewhere that hires them out that’s hardly an excuse. So, with some (very little) encouragement, I took out a Ridley X-Trail from Eat Sleep Cycle and was all set for my first ever gravel ride.

We could have headed to the via verde for my first gravel experience, indeed, that would have been the logical move. However, not one to shy away from a challenge I decided I’d ride some of the long route of the gravel edition of the Rocacorba Gran Fondo. Things started off pretty mildly as we went around Banyoles lake until we headed onto a grassy path that was only wide enough to go single file and I got a taster of what was to come – adrenaline-filled sketchy moments that were simultaneously great fun.

Accustomed to harder, skinnier tyres it took a while for my brain to adjust to the fact that I could take that gravel-scattered corner faster, or bunny hop without the discomfort of coming clattering to the ground on 90psi. Once I had processed this, and put my trust in the bike I started to test the limits, and I loved it. There is so much amazing road riding around Girona but being able to take things both on and off-road adds a whole new level of fun and exploration.

I was surprised to find that I was at my most comfortable descending, rather than climbing – a dynamic that is the reverse for me on the road. For my first real off-road experience the Ridley quite literally guided me through the mud and over the rocks, transcending my actual ability. With all my green-ness in the gravel world I don’t exactly have the expertise or experience to give an extensive review of a gravel bike, but can definitely say that the Ridley was a great companion.

Mostly, I learned that when things feel wobbly just keep going, and if that isn’t a metaphor for life I don’t know what is.

Inspired by this ride? Rent your own gravel bike for your next cycling holiday to Girona, or bag yourself a bargain and buy yourself a sweet ride in our ex-rental bike sale.