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Cycling in Catalunya
Ismael of Biela at Rat Penat
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It’s living the dream—if you’re a roadie. That is, a cyclist.
I’m a Canadian living and training in Barcelona. I mostly race in France because there are larger pelotons of female road racers there. I get asked quite a lot, “Why Barcelona?" Sure, Girona, Mallorca and the south of France are better known riding meccas, but here are eight reasons I’m here:
1. The climate
The weather is spectacular. Barcelona has fewer rain days, and warmer average temperatures all year round than Girona or the south of France.
2. The location
Girona is a wonderful place for cycling. And, it is only an hour from here by train or car! Barcelona is an international hub. Planes, trains and cheap rental cars make going to and from other places convenient. Renfe’s fast train gets me to France with my bike in less than two hours. I can easily and cheaply fly to most major cities. I travel for competitions, but for training I have convenient local hills—Tibidabo—every day. For something more epic, I can ride out to Castelldefels and climb Rat Penat (20 percent grade!)—the view is spectacular.
3. The sea
Looking down at the sea from Rat Penat, or rolling along the coast of the Garraf is such a pleasure. I don’t swim, but I take my bike out for coffee at the beach.
4. The food
Caffeine is my drug of choice and I can grab a quick hit on any corner. I love the Mediterranean diet. Great fuel. I dine on fresh local produce, salty meats and fishes and bread from some great bakeries. I can find maple syrup at a shop just down the street, but I could never find the quality or selection of olive oils that exist here at a reasonable price in Canada.
5. The people
Cycling isn’t football, but I find the drivers are generally respectful of cyclists when compared to other cities. Catalan people are friendly without being overbearing, and there are lots of expats, too.
6. The roads
The roads are smooth. Traffic, although annoying, is good for bike-handling skills work.
7. The Velodrome
Did you know there is a velodrome in Barcelona? If I don’t feel like climbing hills or riding on the road, there is always the track. No cars there!
8. The cost of living
I doubt that the quality of urban life in Barcelona can be matched at this price. Economic crises have advantages.
The food, riding and the living are awesome. Sleeping? Room for improvement. This is Barcelona.
El Velòdrom d’Horta: www.velodrom.cat
Trains to France: Renfe's AVE and Larga Distancia trains connect with the French TGV trains at Figueres-Vilafant; it is about 1 hour 40 minutes to the first main stop in France at Perpignan. Road bikes are allowed on the train for this destination if in a bag or box. The conductor will often ask that they be put in coach four next to the cafeteria, where there is lots of room. www.renfe.com
Veritas: stocks Canadian maple syrup and the price is about the same as Canada. www.ecoveritas.es
For info about the weather, see: www.worldclimate.com
To learn more about Rat Penat click here.
Cicles Biela: Torrent de l'Olla 37, www.ciclesbiela.com
Christina Smith is a designer, writer and athlete. Canadian by heritage; Mediterranean at heart. She completed post-graduate studies in both architecture and law, and is a self-educated expert in horticulture. She works as a freelance writer, legal and business researcher/consultant, and landscape, architectural, furniture & accessories designer. Her free time is spent nourishing her cycling addiction.