On this page we tell you about the most famous bike route in the world that we covered by bike in 12 days. An itinerary that is much more than a sequence of kilometres, much more than a gravel route, much more than a simple gravel trail. Santiago by bike is an adventure to remember and tell for a lifetime because it marks a “before” and an “after” the encounter with oneself, with one’s strengths, one’s weaknesses and one’s determination to complete something big and important.
On this page you will find:
The Camino de Santiago is an itinerary of about 1000 kilometers that develops between France and Spain on a mixed road surface. Born as a pilgrimage route, it is now traveled by thousands of cyclists every year from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. The dense network of signposted Albergues (accommodations) and the strong spiritual and emotional component make the gravel Camino de Santiago one of the most popular and popular cycling routes in Europe.
The French Camino de Santiago is the one that starts from the small town of Saint-Jean Pied de Port, at the foot of the French Pyrenees, crosses the splendid regions of Navarre, La Rioja, Castilla y Léon and Galicia, and ends in Santiago de Compostela, in front of the mother church. The walking route is about 800 km long and is normally divided into about 35 stages of varying difficulty and on mixed surfaces, mostly dirt. Cities, villages, countryside and simple refreshment points are often fascinating places and it will be really difficult not to stop to take a photo and share it on social networks. Some destinations in particular have a remarkable artistic, cultural and landscape richness and have become iconic images of Santiago: Pamplona, Logrono, Leòn, Astorga and Santiago de Compostela are just a few examples.
The itinerary for pilgrims on foot or “pietones” is very heavy, at times impossible, to do by bicycle. For this reason, for pilgrims by bike or “bicigrini” there is a special itinerary, a little less picturesque but easier and less bumpy than the pedestrian one. The signage, however, distinguishes the route for pilgrims and the one dedicated to bicigrini.
The Camino de Santiago de Compostella by bicycle is a demanding itinerary that requires preparation from an athletic, technical and technological point of view. As far as athletic preparation is concerned, it is not necessary to be an Olympic champion but it is sufficient to train for a few weeks before leaving: in principle, it must be possible to pedal for 6-7 hours to travel from 75 to 100 km a day.
The French Way is undoubtedly the bicycle route most frequented by cyclists and for this reason also the most organized: approximately every 10-25 km along the itinerary there are hostels for pilgrims, called Albergues, where it is possible to eat and sleep in reduced prices or even with a simple offer.
The climate can be a variable that increases the difficulty of this adventure since it can rain heavily and even for several days, even in the summer. The climate of northern Spain is highly variable and rainfall can be very abundant and sudden, even in the hot months. The best periods are May/June and September/October even if they are the most “crowded”, especially in the last 200 km. If you want to obtain the Compostela, you need to request a pilgrim’s passport.
You can decide to bring your own bike with you or use a rental bike. The important thing is to choose the right bike: better a gravel or a mtb. You can decide to travel by electric bike (with pedal assistance) but it is better to inquire first about the possibility of recharging the battery at the albergue.
To tackle the Camino de Santiago by bike, a medium-level physical preparation is sufficient. To complete it in a reasonable time you need to travel at least 75 to 100 kilometers a day. Obviously you can decide to cover a greater daily distance, but this would distort the very essence of the Way. The bicycle, given the scarce presence of cyclomechanical workshops along the route, must be of good quality and well maintained. We recommend fitting puncture-proof tires with Kevlar protection or latex. Always better to have a repair kit, some spare inner tubes and a kit to clean and lube the chain and drivetrain. As far as luggage is concerned, it is best that it is as light as possible. Albergues usually do not provide sheets or towels, so it is essential to have a sleeping bag or sheet bag, for towels we recommend those in microfibre, which are lighter and quick-drying.
WHICH ACCESSORIES ARE NEEDED?
Given the abundance of indications (arrows, signs, etc …), the GPS navigator may not be indispensable but very useful for keeping an eye on the distances and kilometers travelled. If you prefer a mobile phone, it is better to bring a rather large power bank with you because it is not always possible to recharge it quickly.
The bags we used are Ortlieb Sport Classic for the front rack of both bikes, Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic for the rear rack of one bike, Vaude Aqua Back for the rear rack of the other.
The compact, powerful, rechargeable Petzl Tikka R+ Headlight was the best choice to light up our path. Furthermore, being water-resistant, it does not fear the rain.
The Ferrino Kalahari 3 tent ensured us all the comfort we needed at a really affordable price. With its 3.5 kilograms it is unfortunately not suitable for all uses.
WHEN TO LEAVE?
In theory, the Camino de Santiago is open all year round but during the winter it is inadvisable to follow it since, due to the high altitudes, you can encounter snow and bad weather and it becomes risky. On the official website of the Camino it is possible to consult the variations and seasonal closures, especially of the mountain passes.
DO YOU MEET OTHER BICIGRINI?
During an experience like walking, you always meet interesting people with important emotional baggage. The Camino de Santiago is no exception, indeed it is the one along which you meet the most people. People who have chosen to walk the path for the most varied reasons and who want to meet other people who have decided to live this experience. The meetings are perhaps the most important component of the whole journey so you have to enjoy them thoroughly and to the last.
Reaching the starting point of the French Camino de Santiago is not always easy since Saint Jean is a small town without an airport. However, it is possible both by train and by plane. One of the options to consider is the plane to Bordeaux and then the train to Bayonne especially since on most French trains there is no supplement for transporting a bicycle (more information on the website www.sncf.com ) the last part of the journey from Bayonne to Saint Jean Pied de Port is covered by a bus which however does not accept bicycles on board so it may be necessary to cycle this distance. If instead you decide to start from an intermediate stage of the journey, the possibilities are rather limited: the intermediate airports are Bilbao, Pamplona and Irùn, from which it is then possible to travel by train www.renfe.com. Bicycles can only be carried on MD trains and not on fast trains.
To bypass the difficulties related to transporting the bicycle by plane and train up to the intermediate stages of the journey, an interesting solution may be to rent the bike directly on the journey. Some agencies offer good quality bikes and give the possibility to choose the model and the type of pedal assisted or normal traction. Some of these agencies also allow the collection and return of bicycles at any point along the Camino. For more information about bike rental on the Camino de Santiago you can visit this website and request a quote.
To walk the Camino de Santiago you can use almost any type of bike, just change the track and avoid the stretches of dirt road. However, if you want to keep the charm of the itinerary and have fun on the long downhill dirt roads, it’s better to opt for a gravel or mountain bike. The tracks on this page are for gravel bikes.
On our journey we have Specialized Awol bicycles with a steel-chrome-molybdenum alloy frame that is able to absorb most of the vibrations, restoring good reactivity, moreover, with such a robust frame you are always calm, even when the bike falls to the ground.
The 29″ wheels ensure good smoothness and if combined with Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires you can walk the Camino without thinking about the problem of punctures. The current Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires have covered almost 20,000 km without even a puncture.
The general set-up of the bicycle is very comfortable but also allows for a slightly more “advanced” use, especially on “fast” downhill roads or with bumpy surfaces. Tubus luggage racks are very robust and very functional.
Our choice was guided by the need for a very robust and versatile frame that would allow us to tackle not only the Camino de Santiago but also the rest of the journey on any type of road surface and weather condition. For a journey limited only to the Camino de Santiago by bike, any solution can be taken into consideration as long as it is a comfortable frame on which quality accessories are mounted. An aluminum frame with a carbon fork with a bike-packing setup with a saddle bag can be an interesting solution, as well as a mountain bike with a saddle bag. Also consider a touring bike with a steel frame and side bags.
Our choice was guided by the need for a very robust and versatile frame that would allow us to tackle not only the Camino de Santiago but also the rest of the journey on any type of road surface and weather condition. For a journey limited only to the Camino de Santiago by bike, any solution can be taken into consideration as long as it is a comfortable frame on which quality accessories are mounted. A gravel bike with an aluminum frame and a carbon fork, bike-packing setup with a saddle bag can be an interesting solution, as well as a mountain bike with a saddle bag. Also consider a touring bike with a steel frame and side bags.
Although the Camino de Santiago is a religious journey, from the very first steps (or pedaling) one will realize that the reason why a person may decide to start the journey can be different from religion. Very often, in fact, the interest of the bicigrino can be sporting or spiritual. However, although the reason for starting the Way may be different depending on the bicigrino, the hospitality reserved by the Spanish people for all pilgrims is identical. To be recognized as a bicigrini it is necessary to have the credential which is issued by the confraternity of San Jacopo and can be requested before the trip or directly in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the Oficina del Peregrino.
If you prefer to request it before the trip, you can visit the Brotherhood website and locate the delegate of the local brotherhood who can deliver the official credential.
The passport is theoretically free but it is advisable to inquire in advance if there is any cost for delivery or shipping. Once the credentials have been obtained and the journey has begun, we will be able to collect the sellos (stamps) which will certify the passage to a place with which we have an agreement (bar, albergue, tourist information offices, etc …). Once in Santiago, the passport will be used to collect the hard-earned “prize” for the efforts incurred during the bike trip. The recognition is the Compostella and to obtain it you must go to the Oficina del Pelegrino in Santiago de Compostela and have traveled at least 100 km on foot, or 200 km on horseback or by bike, having all the stamps in order: at least two for each day travel distances that do not suggest the use of a vehicle.
The Camino de Santiago is traveled every year by tens of thousands of pilgrims and cyclists, therefore the reception network is very well organized and it is very difficult to remain without accommodation. However, it must be considered that pilgrim accommodations (such as the albergue donatives) give precedence to pilgrims on foot and only subsequently to bicigrini. Below is a list of the types of accommodation on the Santiago:
Albergues de peregrinos e refugios – hostels for pilgrims and shelters where you can sleep only if you have a Credential. It is not possible to book a bed, so there is no certainty about availability until arrival and priority is given to pilgrims on foot. They provide a bed (without sheets), a bathroom with hot water and, if available, the use of the kitchen. It is the cheapest solution but they can be uncomfortable and very crowded, especially those that do not require the payment of a fee but only a donation;
Albergues Privados – are privately managed hostels, slightly more expensive than the previous ones but of much higher quality. In these structures it is possible to reserve a bed;
Paradores – are state-funded structures often within a castle or former monastery. Usually they are prestigious and very well maintained structures, quite expensive but picturesque;
Casas rurales – are structures similar to Italian farmhouses, they have a limited number of rooms but are usually in very charming rural settings. They usually have great restaurants;
Hostales – are the typical pensions and inns, with cheap prices and spartan service, where cyclists are welcome;
Pensiones – the same as the Hostales;
Hospedajes – very cheap but not particularly comfortable solutions;
Habitaciones – private rooms that can be very cheap but comfortable. Depending on the floor they are on and the rules imposed by the manager, they may not accept bicycles;
Camping there aren’t many campsites on the Camino de Santiago since very often the albergues have a special space for those who want to sleep in a tent.
It is almost always possible to find normal hotels to book and which have a standard or superior service and international classifications. Regardless of the type of structure chosen, a tip is always to call in advance to inquire about the possibility of storing bicycles in a safe place
Food on the Camino de Santiago is not a problem since there is certainly no risk of starving. In fact, the food is plentiful, relatively cheap and tasty if a little monotonous. The standardization of the pilgrim’s menu, in pure parish travel style, has led to a lowering of prices but also of variety. In fact, the pilgrim’s menu almost always includes the same things, since after a long walk the priority goes more to the belly than to the palate.
However, you never get tired of some delicacies, such as fried peppers, Galician octopus and mussels au gratin. In some cases, drinking water can be a problem, unlike food, which you will always find in abundance and of excellent quality. In the refreshment points and trattorias along the Way it is almost always possible to find the pilgrim’s menu which, with around 10/12 euros, allows you to have a complete meal of first/second course, side dish, dessert, wine, water and coffee. Furthermore, in most restaurants it is possible to order other dishes such as soups, fish and roast meats à la carte.
The route of the Camino de Santiago by bicycle winds its way, for the most part on unpaved secondary roads but also on various types of paved roads. Below is a list of all road types (paved and unpaved) encountered on the Santiago:
Autopista – motorway, both bicycles and pedestrians are prohibited;
Autovia – freeway, in some cases passable by bicycle, never on foot;
Carrettera Nacional – state road, almost always passable by bike but to be avoided on foot;
Carrettera Provincial – provincial road, always passable by bicycle and on foot;
Carrettera Local – local road, always passable both by bicycle and on foot but almost always with asphalt in non-optimal conditions;
Desvio provisional – alternative route on a dirt road, specially created for pilgrims and/or cyclists, always passable on foot, sometimes also by bike.
On all types of roads (even on the highway) you will come across the Santiago signs. The signals can be of various types: yellow arrows for pilgrims and white arrows for bicigrini traced with spray on walls, rocks or directly on the asphalt; horizontal and vertical signs dedicated to pilgrims and bicigrini. And if you are distracted and get lost, don’t worry the Spaniards love to give directions to pilgrims and bicigrini.
La Flecha Amarilla
The yellow arrow, both on signs and with the spray on rocks and low walls, always indicates the direction of the journey towards Santiago. When the arrow is white it is exclusively for cyclists.
Piles of stones
You will find them scattered almost everywhere and they are the symbol of the “moral burden” from which the pilgrim frees himself during the Way. Pilgrims and bicigrini, in fact, carry a stone during their journey and leave it in a pile when they feel the time is right.
They are the milestones of the Camino and indicate the distance traveled and the one leading to Santiago.
Cross of Santiago
There are many types but the most striking is, without a doubt, the red one in the shape of a sword on a white background.
The symbol par excellence of the Camino de Santaigo and of the pilgrims who travel it is the shell that is present everywhere, even in the signs. It represents the shell of a scallop, an Atlantic mollusk. Collecting one in Finisterre and bringing it home after the pilgrimage, served to demonstrate that you had reached the end of the Way, i.e. Finisterre or Muxia. All pilgrims carry one hanging in their rucksack, bicycle bags or horse saddle.
Greetings from pilgrims
“ULTREIA ET SUSEIA!”
“DEUS ADJUVA NOS!”
The Camino de Santiago by bicycle is an imperative itinerary, especially in the warmer months and if you are traveling with heavy luggage. We have covered it in 12 stages which we report below with the Komoot tracks. Get ready for an epic journey of over 1000 kilometers and 9000 meters of elevation gain.
Everyone can modulate the entire journey as they prefer, taking into account their own abilities and the time available.
One of the most demanding stages of all of Santiago by bike. The ascent to the top of the Perdon is a tough nut to crack to climb by bike with tenacity and determination, as is the descent to Roncesvalles which, on treacherous stony ground, engages muscles, eyes and above all the brakes. The view of the Pyrenees, both French and Spanish, however, repays all the effort.
This stage is characterized by a long and fun descent on asphalt and stretches of dirt road. Do not miss the entrance to the fascinating city of Pamplona through the beautiful Comarca River Park.
This stage is a continuous ups and downs between medieval villages and bridges on ancient paved roads. You ride mainly on asphalt, cycle paths dedicated to bicigrini with a breathtaking landscape.
A rather demanding stage with lots of dirt roads, long white roads and wheat fields where the view extends to infinity. Little shelter especially in the warmer months, so we bring lots of water with us. Do not miss the stop at the Irache wine fountain where you can fill your bottle with red wine for free.
The first stretch out of Najera is unforgettable, especially if done at dawn when the first rays of the sun illuminate the red rocks that surround the city. What follows is a relaxing itinerary, especially on long straight stretches of very dusty gravel road.
A demanding, fun and adventurous stage. Particularly appreciated by those who love gravel and dusty roads. If you don’t travel by gravel bike, what pleasure is there?
A long sequence of ups and downs that culminate in a climb of a few hundred meters up to Sahagun. Unforgettable are the canals on which you pass by crossing some small bridges.
Industrial zones, lots of asphalt and big cities. This is certainly not the most fascinating stage. To visit Astorga with its beautiful palaces.
This is the stage of strong emotions and time to meditate. In fact, a long climb leads to the top where the exciting Iron Cross is located and a long descent that allows us to meditate on the emotions experienced.
A stage characterized by the ascent of the Alto del Cebreiro with its 1300 meters where the village of Pedrafita do Cebreiro fascinates us until the moment of detachment to cover the long and fast descent to Sarria.
Commitment and emotion, eagerness to arrive and nostalgia for the nearby destination and the end of an exciting journey, villages “moved” to build a house, lakes and the fog typical of these places. Galicia has a lot to give with its humid climate and forests. For the bicigrino who has covered the entire Camino de Santiago, the coveted prize is the Compostela which is awarded to those who have traveled at least 200 kilometers by bicycle. After all the effort, the unforeseen events, the joys and pains experienced on the gravel saddle, the emotions are uncontainable and we explode in emotional tears. The journey is over but the journey continues in another place, with the gravel spirit!
This is not the last stage of the Camino which actually has already finished in Santiago. This is a kind of bonus something magical that is not expected. A few kilometers to reach the end of the world, finis terrae. The place where the Romans arrived and thought “here the world ends”, the end of the world but the place to start a new journey with one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world in the eyes.