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Spain

Your Linesman

Simon Rice

My name is Simon Rice and my usual nickname on Internet forums is ‘Simon_100’ but I sometimes pop up as ‘The Spanish Biker’, which is the name of my blog where you can find all you need to know about independent traveling in Spain plus special guidelines for biking here, including details of off-road rules, etc. Although I’m not Spanish I’ve lived here for over twenty years – enough time to hardly feel ‘British’ anymore!!

My biking ‘career’ began in the early ‘seventies when British bikes ruled the roads – at least in Great Britain! – after a few years I went Japanese for a while before settling in to a long ‘affair’ with Italian metal, from exciting but unreliable single cylinder Ducati bikes, an outrageously expensive Laverda 750, before ending the decade plodding up and down to Sussex University on a Suzuki GT 500 two stroke twin – actually a wonderful bike! – with the occasional trip home to Shropshire with my girlfriend on the pillion – we’re still married …

At that time ‘adventures’ mainly consisted of seeing how many parties one could gatecrash over a weekend plus occasional breaks up to Wales or Scotland, usually camping in a field behind a welcoming pub … but this phase came to an end with mortgages, steady jobs, when when most bikers sold their machines and thought that was it over forever … until in 2009 to celebrate the big Five-0, five years cancer free and living in Spain I bought myself a modern ‘adventure’ bike, my BMW X-Country, which made access to trails feasible, even for a novice who hadn’t ridden more than a bicycle for nearly 30 years!

My interest is more to use trail riding as a means to an end, reaching amazing places, etc., rather than as an end in itself. Usually traveling alone and camping, at conventional sites but also making bivouac. But also traveling alone often leads to making friends along the way , very much in line with the TET’s ‘philosophy’.

DOWNLOAD THE GPX TRACK

The trail has been put up by country based volunteers. The accuracy of the trail is not guaranteed, nor are the GPS co-ordinates. We do not represent or warrant that materials in the site or the services are accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free. We cannot represent or warrant that the site or its servers are free of viruses or other harmful components. If you stray onto private land, apologise and get back onto the byway or trail. These trails can be shut or permanently closed at short notice under local law. Do not ride trails beyond your capability. If unsure, get off your bike and walk the trail first. Trail riding alone, especially on trails you do not know is really unwise. Wear the proper safety kit. Many country trails are rarely maintained. You will find ruts, holes, floods, treacherous surfaces and the occasional booby trap hazard deliberately placed by people who do not like motorcycles using trails. When you use the trails, you are on your own. You exercise your judgement in your own skills and your own navigation. All we can do is show you where some of the trails are, but this can change at a moment’s notice.

Practical tips for trails you do not know;

  1.  Ride in at least a pair. If you fall with a motorcycle pinning you down to cold and damp earth, in the Europe we do not have to worry about being eaten by exotic carnivores (usually!) but exposure, hypothermia and shock can do a very effective job of killing you. Do not rely on the trails having a regular through flow of users to come to your aid
  2. If your riding companion cannot pick your bike up off you then get a lighter bike, a stronger riding companion or ride in a bigger group
  3. Trails can vary immensely. A vehicular right of way can be a rocky or muddy scramble
  4. Adventure bikes – especially on adventure tyres – can struggle with some trails. Do not just bowl into trails because they are on a map – they can be horribly technical and totally unsuitable for even fairly competent riders on light machines or experienced riders on bigger machines
  5. Stop for horses and kill your engines to let equestrians pass. A horse spooking at a bike revving will be likely to result in criminal charges if the police get involved and a motorcycle is a lot easier to control than a horse
  6. On the trails there will be free running dogs. Do your best to be nice to them
  7. Mobile phone coverage can be patchy on the trails. Do not rely on calling an ambulance – if you’ve got stuck, the emergency services are going to get just as stuck trying to retrieve you. That is if you can raise them by telephone
  8. Finally, obey the golden rule, which is don’t be a dick by unnecessarily annoying other country side users or letting ego outstrip talent.

ROUTE INFO

May, June, September and October
Barcelona (Morocco and Italy, including Sardinia), Bilbao (UK), Maçanet de Cabrenys (France), Santander (UK), Tarifa (Morocco), Tavascan (Andorra).
Ayamonte (Portugal), Barcelona (Morocco and Italy, including Sardinia), Bilbao (UK), Calvos (Portugal), Les (France), Martinet (Andorra), Santander (UK), Tarifa (Morocco) .
Basque, Catalan, Galician, Spanish.
Wild Camping' as such is prohibited but in practice making a bivouac is OK as long as one is sensible, heeds certain universal restrictions and avoids overstepping common sense limits. The distinction between ‘camping’ and ‘bivouac’ is subtle - the term is used and understood in Spanish so if you are questioned say ‘vivak’ to explain your presence. There are a few simple bits of advice:

- make camp after 20.00 and be gone before 08.00

- your tent should be less than 1.2 metres high or better still a bivvy bag type

- your intention should be obviously a temporary shelter on your route and not just a cheap option to conventional accommodation

- cooking is OK as long as you use a genuine camping stove and never, ever, ever light a fire anywhere in Spain, no matter how sodden the land might look!

IN SOME PLACES EVEN A BIVOUAC IS FORBIDDEN:

- within 100 metres of the sea

- within two kilometers of military installations

- within two kilometers of a regular camp site (when it’s open I presume)

- listed historic sites

- in protected areas like national parks, natural parks, etc. (be especially aware of bird sanctuaries called ‘ZEPA’s, (Zona Excepcional de Protección de Avifauna).
A number of laws regulate the use of unsurfaced trails in Spain but the 'Ley de Montes’ (2015) is the main law. It restricts traffic to defined trails of no less than four metres in width and also prohibits traversing open country and features such as fire breaks and water courses.

Furthermore, it authorizes the seventeen regional governments to make restrictions in circumstances such as periods of high fire risk. In practice these are usually set on a seasonal basis, e.g. 'summer' or June - October. NB there is high fire risk in winter as well as summer!

The law specifically requires that ‘sports’ or competitive events require special permissions and insurance policies and/or cash deposits to indemnify third parties, etc. Obviously sports events don't have speed limits, but there is a ‘generic’ speed limit of 40 kmph, which is frequently reduced in specific trails and areas.

All vehicles must be ‘street legal’ with a specific requirement to have all documentation available for inspection. In practice this can also mean street legal according to Spanish rules, so trail bike owners should have two mirrors, a chain guard and a ‘reasonable’ silencer with some regional rules specifying silencers adapted for fire prevention. This suggests that a forest warden patrol, who have ‘police powers’, may use this to prosecute a rider with a non-standard exhaust in the absence of noise measuring equipment.

The ‘Ley de Conservación de los Espacios Naturales’ empowers the regions to enact their own rules regarding access to nature reserves and other protected spaces (National Parks (Parques Nacionales) are excluded from this devolved power) and, once again, the regions have a diverse interpretation of these powers. For example both Cantabria and Navarre are extremely restrictive whilst Catalonia is ‘open’, allowing, almost encouraging, motors to pass through reserves albeit on given specified trails. In fact it is often easier to navigate in these areas since as long as you don’t pass a ‘No Entry’ sign you can’t get lost!

As well as the nationwide rules for motor transit in Spain, each of its seventeen Autonomous Regions has the right to amend these with their own regulations. The regions vary considerably in their implementation of these rights with some merely reiterating the generic rules while others tend to overstate the obvious.

The table below describes the most important additional regional rules and is derived from the website of AMVER (the Spanish trail riders’ association). The TET Spain has been divided into sections corresponding with the Regions allowing easy cross-referencing.

It is worth taking these rules seriously as the fines can be severe. For example, up to €6,000 in Catalonia for being at the head of an oversized group (€600 for each of the followers too) and up to €30,000 for more serious infractions such as not getting permission/insurance for a ‘sporting’ event.

REGION                        MAX NO IN GROUP    MIN ROAD WIDTH    MAX SPEED    NOTES

ANDALUSIA (A) n/a n/a n/a n/a

ARAGON (A) 5 n/a 30kph Min 30 minutes between groups

ASTURIAS (AS) n/a n/a n/a n/a

BASQUE COUNTRY n/a n/a n/a n/a

CANTABRIA (CA) n/a n/a n/a n/a

CASTILLA-LA-MANCHA (CM) 3 4m 30kph CM1, CM2

CASTILLA Y LEÓN (CL) n/a n/a n/a CL1, CL2

CATALONIA (C) 7 4m* 30kph C1, C2

EXTREMADURA (EX) n/a n/a n/a n/a

GALICIA n/a n/a n/a G1

MADRID (M) n/a n/a n/a M1

MURCIA (MU) n/a n/a n/a n/a

NAVARRE (N) 10 2m 40kph N1, N2

LA RIOJA (LR) 5 n/a 20kph LR1

VALENCIA (V) n/a n/a n/a V1


Each Region has an agreed ‘Initial’ that corresponds with secondary and tertiary roads that are under their management.

NOTES:
CL1: specifically allowed to ride on drover’s trail routes, i.e. Cañadas Reales
CL2: specifically prohibits footpaths
CM1: ‘sports’ vehicles e.g. trial and enduro bikes and quads prohibited except for specifically authorized trails
CM2: specifically prohibits non-standard lights, etc.
C1: limit to 4 cars
C2: private landowners may allow traffic on trails of less than 4m
G1: motor vehicles are prohibited on forest trails or any that are not listed on the ‘road’ network
M1: all ‘public’ access to trails are totally prohibited to motors!
N1: motors are prohibited on fire breaks and forest access trails
N2: specific exclusion zones: all nature reserves, trails on the Camino de Santiago (Eng: The Way of Saint James)
LR1: forbidden to ride trails after dark
V1: awaiting confirmation …

Please note that this information is provided for your information and guidance but its completeness and accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Each rider is advised to ensure the abide by whatever national and regional regulations are in force at the time they ride.

ROUTE OVERVIEW

Spain occupies about 80% of the Iberian Peninsula, which has an average altitude of over 600 metres and is almost entirely mountainous. It also has a wide variety of environments ranging from the hot, dry ‘Mediterranean’ zone in Catalonia to the wild Atlantic coast of Galicia in the far North-west (a place I like to think of as like Galway with garlic!) ranging through near desert regions, badlands, etc. not forgetting the ‘Alpine’ landscapes of the Pyrenees where the TET enters from Spain and passes through Andorra. Taken as a whole the Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Andorra, Portugal as well as Spain could be considered as a 'sub-continent' of Europe as a whole.

To reflect this range of landscape and climates, plus its popularity and a biking destination, the Spanish TET is arranged into four long distance routes (Gran Recorridos in Spanish) and several Special Sections that feature unmissable locations: the GNR (Great Northern Route) enters Spain from France near the eastern extreme of the Pyrenees in Catalonia and runs along the north of the country to enter Portugal from Galicia on Spain north-western extreme, passing through Andorra on the way. Leaving Portugal in the far south the TET joins the Southern Routes in Andalusia and Murcia, where turning north it joins the GER (Great Eastern Route) which runs up inland of te Mediterranean Sea to re-enter France west of Andorra in the Val. d'Aran.

A series of trails, the GCR (Great Central Routes) cross cross Spain linking the TET main routes to the ferry ports at Barcelona, Bilbao and Santander as well as the popular coastal resort towns on the Costa Blanca at Calpe. Further GCR routes that cross the wild and unpopulated interior are work in progress ...

At present there are three Special Sections: the 'desert' regions of Las Tabernas in Almeria and the Bardena Blanca in Navarre, both if which were used for filming the famous Spaghetti Western genre movies, while in the deep south in Huelva province, known locally as the 'Frying Pan' of Spain a Special Section explores a little known region, criss crossing in and out of Portugal in the process - NB the Spainish TET 'manages' this part of Portugal but take note of rules, regulations, etc. from the TET Portugal section.

As well as climate variations according to its regions (Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean). Spain has extreme weather patterns, sometime suffering years of drought and very severe winters, and also local weather phenomena. For example it’s not uncommon for over 60 mms of rain to fall in less than half an hour – sometimes more than twice this! - or for the temperatures to vary around 25º in a single day! These conditions have a very considerable impact on the trails with deep ruts, exposed boulders and washouts occurring even on well used and maintained trails. It is impossible to keep up to date with these events so riders have always to be prepared for the unexpected.

Most of rural Spain is very sparsely populated and the TET aims to pass through these regions - not only for their natural beauty and the possibility of riding unhindered by any ‘traffic’ – actually that can be rather worrying! – but also to bring newcomers, and to an extent their money, to areas where the warmth and generosity of the locals seem in stark contrast with the wildness and drama of the landscape and the harshness of the climate.

WHAT NOT TO MISS

Regional diversity, peoples, cultures, foods, wines ... At least one of the Special Sections.