Routes

Routes and rides is the main matter of The Spanish Biker. Most of the routes that appear have here been explored and ridden, often after lengthy planning, and approximate dates are provided in an attempt to upgrade the details, road/route changes, etc. as far as possible – but Spain is a country that seems to be almost constantly rebuilding, so older routes, especially off-road trails, should be taken at face value – don’t blame The Spanish Biker if a leafy lane is a four-lane motorway by the time you get there!

Googlemaps

I’m using Googlemaps as they are easy and more-or-less universally available. It’s up to readers to transcribe these onto GPX files, for example, and add them to Satnavs. I’d like to upgrade this but having a Satnav and the relevant maps are some way down the Simon Wish List!

An important point to note is that the sections on the routes are purely arbitrary; I try to make the sections as long as possible to get the whole route onto one Googlemap page – very difficulty with a there-and-back route like the Trans-Pyrenees – but avoid the route snapping to another road as soon as it’s a few metres longer than the one I want. This is likely to happen when ascribing routes, so the advice is to include lots of waypoints along the chosen route before your Satnav plonks you back onto the sensible bits!

The Spanish Biker’s Road Grading Scheme (RGS)

Apart from creating an impossible acronym I’ve invented a simple system for assessing roads within routes.  Bearing in mind that these do not necessarily relate to the classification of the roads (see Routes/Geography/The Road Network), often far from it, these are quite a reliable means of planning long distance routes and ‘Ace’ rides’ – depending on the type of riding/bike you have.

I’ve made the Scheme as straightforward as possible using the ‘KISS’ methodology (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) but there are bound to be overlaps and sometimes qualitative judgements. – and human error of course! I’ve avoided using ‘hard’ data such as road width even though this is in theory possible; Spanish roads have always been built to certain national standards I don’t want to pin myself down to stopping with the tape measure.  Although the  condition is another matter altogether – between repairs and the very rapid deterioration of surfaces it would be impossible to maintain an accurate survey of this – but in my experience roads only rarely change their character with improvements and repairs.

The RGS defines three categories of roads, ‘A’ for main roads, ‘B’ secondary roads and ‘C’ country lanes. Each category has two classes:

  • A1: broad carriageways (US Eng. – ‘roadway’, I ask you!) with wide margins separated by a solid white line. These roads often have overtaking lanes, especially on up-hill sections. The carriageways are wide enough for cars to use space taking corners without cutting across to the other side or using the margin – not that either of these don’t happen! Here’s a good example of an A1 ride – which also happens to be one of my ‘Ace Rides’!
  • A2: carriageways with no margin (although there is often a solid white line), no overtaking lanes and sometimes with the lanes themselves are just a bit more narrow – so trucks may have to cross the median on corners. Here is a good example of an A2 ride , although I can’t condone the riding it makes a very good detour from the Trans-Pyrenean ‘Red Route’!
  • B1: although frequently not marked with a meridian line the carriageways that are nevertheless wide enough for a car and a truck to pass without much more than a sharp intake of breath. This section of the N260 Trans-Pyrenean national highway bears out my point about the scant relationship between a road’s classification and its grading: it is a  – and note just how sharp that intake of breath can be!
  • B2: just wide enough for two cars to pass without actually stopping.  It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between B1 & 2 roads, but this example of a B2 ride, on the Trans-Pyrenees ‘Green route’, should serve the purpose should serve the purpose well – note also how recent improvement methods surface the drainage channels to give a little bit of extra leeway!
  • C1: single carriageway that is wide enough for a truck to pass and some fast-ish riding if the visibility is sound. These roads often have dotted meridian lines but these are indicative only and do not signify right of way.
  • C2: these really are country lanes that allow little more than pootleing along taking in the sights (and smells) of the countryside. There really isn’t room enough to manoeuvre into ‘taking’ curves.

Map references and co-ordinates are given according to the best means available at the time, these vary considerably depending on the region – some communidades have fantastic cartography services, some none at all! – and what equipment was available at the time of riding; The Spanish Biker is of the old breed of map-and-compass-in-hand type – much more fun than gawping at a boring SatNav!

Readers routes are especially welcome – check out the Readers Rides page for format notes.

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