If you are a passionate of the Way of St. James and the bicycle, the term bicigrino might be familiar to you. In fact, it’s more and more frequent that pilgrims decide to do the Way by bike, (more than 5% of the total number of pilgrims who obtained the Compostela in 2019 did it by bike). Therefore, in this post we want to give you some practical advice to prepare your adventure.
The Way to Santiago by Bicycle: are you a Bicigrino?
If you are also among the thousands of people who are planning to travel one of the Santiago ways by bicycle, you will probably be a fan of this means of transport. In 2019 alone, according to the pilgrim’s office, more than 19,500 pilgrims chose the bicycle to reach Santiago de Compostela and apply for the “Compostela” certificate. However, there are many more pilgrims along the official routes. In fact, since some decide to do only one part of the route without reaching Santiago and others do not require the Compostela at the end of their journey, we cannot have a real calculation of the numbers of bicigrinos.
Without doubt, this is a trend that has been developing in recent years. Thanks to the increasing use of bicycles and with the higher attention that we give to our body and leisure time, activities like this are growing. As much for the growing importance that physical activity is assuming in our lives, as for the desire to be outdoors and in contact with nature, the number of pilgrims (both walking and cycling) has, in fact, increased in recent years.
Choose the ideal bike for the Way, it will be your best friend
Do not rush into choosing a bike and ask for advice from an expert. For most of the routes, no doubt the best option is a BTT but you will have to choose both the right size and the model that can help you to cover so many kilometers with less difficulty. It’s important to have a good suspension system that will allow you to absorb as much shock as possible during descents and therefore weigh less on your back.
At the same time, it is possible that, in order not to have to make too much effort uphill, the most suitable option is an electric bicycle. Nowadays, the possibility of renting this type of bike at a moderate price can make the difference between a pleasant and unforgettable trip and prolonged suffering. Do not think twice, if you are afraid of not being in perfect shape, rely on an e-bike and totally enjoy the experience.
What to know before embarking on the way by bike
Whether you’re an expert bike rider or you don’t know much about the mechanics of a bicycle, it’s essential to know the minimum necessary to be able to set up your bike at any point along the way. Consider the worst possible scenario and prepare yourself so that you can get out of it without too many problems. It is true that if you rent your bike with a specialized company, they will offer you assistance on the way. However, it will not always be possible to reach you where you are. Moreover, you will want to avoid the risk of waiting hours and hours in the rain, or in the hot sun, just to change a tire.
Prepare yourself with time and you will surely discover that learning how to solve these small setbacks during your journey, will give you more confidence in the future. Nowadays you can find basic mechanics courses for bike repair or follow online tutorials with experts from all over the world. To help you live your journey without worries we invite you to read this post with tips on how to prepare for the camino.
Do not underestimate the difficulty of the route
Often, it happens that the bicigrinos impose themselves too long stages, with too demanding gradients and consequently they risk not really enjoying the experience for having underestimated the difficulty of the itinerary. Remember that the camino is a journey that not only aims to reach the Cathedral of Santiago, at the end.
The Way of Saint James is a unique opportunity to stop and admire the landscapes, to visit the wonderful cities that you’ll cross, to give space to your thoughts and express your emotions. Hopefully, to spend time that otherwise you would not dare to give yourself, getting to know other people and discovering the culture, history and gastronomy of new places.
You won’t be able to do any of this if you are exhausted after a whole day riding your bike, with the only desire to finish your stage. Live the journey completely, lose yourself in nature and explore a part of yourself that you did not know. But above all, be well informed about the path you want to take, the differences in height, prepare in advance and do a test of several consecutive days, with a number of kilometers similar to what you would do on the way.
If you want to get the Compostela at the end of your journey, inform yourself about how many kilometers you will cover.
The Compostela for pilgrims by bicycle, is given at the completion of at least 200 kilometers of distance, unlike for pilgrims on foot which is only 100 km. Each official route has the minimum distance required except the English Way, which can still be cycled but without obtaining the final certificate. Find out more about the Compostela certificate, and what you need to do to get it, in this post.
Many routes as bicigrinos
Do not choose a path that you know a priori is not for you. You are lucky to be able to choose between different routes, so do not make the mistake of missing the route that best suits your preferences and needs. If you are a true lover of the sea, for example, and you want to undertake the Portuguese Way, we recommend the Portuguese Coastal Way, rather than the inner one. If, on the other hand, you are a lover of the mountains and solitude and you are not afraid to make an extra effort, we recommend the Primitive Way. Remember that this experience will change your life, and if in doing so you can enjoy the landscapes that most fascinate you, why not? Later on we will show you the various stages with the distances of the different routes by bike.
Think what you really need to take with you
Like most pilgrims who make the pilgrimage to Santiago, it is possible that you plan to take many more things than necessary on your journey. Saddlebags hanging from your bike can make the ride quite complicated so we always recommend that you also request a backpack transfer between the stages.
However, very often 10% of what we consider necessary is useless, so think if you really need everything you bring with you. To help you decide what to take with you during the Path, we have written this post, which will surely be very useful for you!
Think about the weather forecast in advance
We know how difficult it can be to plan a route according to weather conditions, especially if we are talking about the north of Spain and especially the region of Galicia, where the last 100 km of all the routes to Santiago de Compostela are located. In addition, in recent years we have seen an increase in climate instability and this makes the decision even more difficult.
Certainly is that doing the way with rain, and therefore mud, is not particularly attractive. For this reason at Galiwonders, we recommend to choose to cycle it between the months from May to September. These, in fact, are considered as relatively little rainy, while from November to the end of March, are more likely to find bad weather.
Travel with others bicigrinos
Both on foot and by bicycle, you will have no problem getting to know other pilgrims on the way. However, if you travel alone, it will be more complicated to deal with those small problems that you might have along the way. Also, remember that you will go faster than the pilgrims on foot, very often combining two or three stages in one day and this will make it almost impossible to find the pilgrims of the previous days along your path. If you travel in company, you can share the wonderful moments, and the most difficult ones, with another bicigrino, and this could give a new meaning to your journey.
This is simply an advice if you want to live the most social part of the journey. Without a doubt, there are bicigrinos who prefer to travel alone, following their own rhythm and living this adventure in total autonomy. Whatever your final decision, your journey will be incredible!
Don’t be surprised, then, if you see whole families cycling along the Way. Sometimes we forget that the little ones are often the most resilient and this family adventure will certainly be a wonderful memory that they will never forget.
Check the main routes by bike along the Way
Stages of the French Way Complete by Bicycle
The Complete French Way from Roncesvalles is one of the most popular routes by bicycle, because it allows you to cover the entire route in less than half that on foot (16 days instead of 35). Also, it has a not excessive average of daily kilometers, for those who obviously already have a good physical preparation.
Stage 1: Roncesvalles – Pamplona (42 km)
Stage 2: Pamplona to Estella (42 km)
Stage 3: Estella – Logroño (46 km)
Stage 4: Logroño – Santo Domingo de la Calzada (47 km)
Stage 5: Santo Domingo de la Calzada – Burgos (68 km)
Stage 6: Burgos – Fromista (61 km)
Stage 7: Fromista to Sahagún (58 km)
Stage 8: Sahagún – León (53 km)
Stage 9: Leon – Astorga (52 km)
Stage 10: Astorga – Ponferrada (51 km)
Stage 11: Ponferrada – O Cebreiro (51 km)
Stage 12: O Cebreiro – Sarria (42 km)
Stage 13: Sarria – Portomarín (23 km)
Stage 14: Portomarín – Melide (38 km)
Stage 15: Melide – Santiago (55 km)
Stages of the French Way (last 200 km) by Bicycle
If, on the other hand, you only have a week, the ideal option to obtain the Compostela is to travel the 200 kilometers starting from Ponferrada. Here are the stages with the relative distances:
Stage 1: Ponferrada – O Cebreiro (51 km)
Stage 2: O Cebreiro – Sarria (42 km)
Stage 3: Sarria – Portomarín (23 km)
Stage 4: Portomarín – Melide (38 km)
Stage 5: Melide – Santiago (55 km)
Stages of the Portuguese Way by Bicycle from Porto (Interior)
Also lasting one week, you can choose to do one of the two Portuguese ways, here you will find the stages of the inner Portuguese way, while below you will find the stages of the Portuguese Coastal Way. In both cases from Galiwonders, we recommend you to book an extra night in Porto and visit this wonderful city.
Stage 1: Porto – Arcos: 38 k
Stage 2: Arcos – Lima Bridge: 54 km
Stage 3: Bridge de Lima – Tui: 38 km
Stage 4: Tui – Redondela: 34 km
Stage 5: Redondela – Pontevedra: 20 km
Stage 6: Pontevedra – Padrón: 39 km
Stage 7: Padrón – Santiago: 25 km
Stages of the Portuguese Way from Porto by Bicycle (along the Coast)
Of the same duration as the Portuguese Inner Way, the Portuguese Coastal Way allows us to enjoy a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean for most of the route. Read this post if can’t decide between the two Portuguese ways.
Stage 1: Porto – Esposende: 51 km
Stage 2: Esposende – Vila Praia de Ancora: 43 Km
Stage 3: Vila Praia de Ancora – Bayona: 43 km
Stage 4: Bayona – Vigo: 26 km
Stage 5: Vigo – Pontevedra: 35 km
Stage 6: Pontevedra – Padrón: 39 km
Stage 7: Padrón – Santiago: 25 km
Stages of the Primitive Way by bicycle
In this case, the most common thing is to start the journey in Oviedo, a beautiful city of Asturias, although in order to get the Compostela, you could start later because in total the distance from Oviedo will be more than 300 km. Oviedo is the starting point of the oldest of all the Santiago Ways, hence its name Primitive.
We remind you that this is undoubtedly a path for very experienced cyclists, both for the irregularity of the terrain and for the steep slopes (reaching peaks up to 1200 m). Moreover, since the Primitive Way is not a very busy route it will sometimes be very difficult to cross other pilgrims and you have to be prepared to solve the problems that could arise on your own.
Stage 1: Oviedo- Salas, 48 km
Stage 2: Salas- Pula Allande, 47 km
Stage 3: Pula Allande – Grandas de Salime, 33 km
Stage 4: Grandas de Salime- O Cádavo Baleira, 49 km
Stage 5: O Cádavo Baleira- Lugo, 30 km
Stage 6: Lugo – Melide, 50 km
Stage 7: Melide – Santiago de Compostela, 50 km
In addition to these routes, other Santiago Ways can be covered by bicycle: the Northern Way, the Silver Way (Via della Plata) or the English Way, although the latter will not give the right to the Compostela for not presenting the minimum distance of 200 km. Cycling the Camino, will allow you to experience the camino in a more dynamic way, taking fewer days than on foot, but as we said before, it can have disadvantages from a social point of view. Moreover, you might enjoy the landscapes that you’ll cross, with less calm.
Without doubt, each pilgrim chooses his or her own path, according to their own tastes and individual needs. If you would like to receive an itinerary tailored to your needs, do not hesitate to contact us. At Galiwonders, we will be happy to send you the perfect route for you. also, we would like to remind you that next year will be Holy Year and we recommend you to book now your camino by bike to get the best accommodation.