The Rise of Gravel Cycling in Girona

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 […]

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!

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Written by Louise Laker

The bike has always been an escape for me - a way to get rid of the stresses of the day, to set myself a physical & mental challenge, to meet great people and have ton of fun.

After years of studying, working in the sustainability sector and road racing on the UK circuit, I moved from London to Girona to pursue the dream of professional cycling.

Instead, something more incredible happened - I co-founded Eat Sleep Cycle in the cycling capital of Europe, Girona.

We create & deliver beautiful cycling tours all over Europe. We love what we do and that shows in our work.

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