Gravel Culture: Travel Gravel - Gravel Days in central Spain

Posted By Gravel Union On 1 April 2021

Jorge Padrones sent in this brilliant piece about exploring the Castilla region of central Spain last summer with an ex-pro MTB racer.

You don’t need that much to have it all - a bicycle, a friend and an excuse, along with the passion for discovery that can be found riding gravel bikes, are the ideal recipe to spend some perfect days. The excuse was to travel the Spanish plateau-lands, following one of the most important hydraulic engineering landmarks in Spain, the “Canal de Castilla”.

The friend was Antonio Ortiz, who was a pioneer on Mountain Biking in Spain, has raced in MTB Word Cups and World Championships and now is an ambassador for gravel associated with several very well-known brands.

Using komoot we planned a route that suited the summer long days to discover the wonders of this Spanish area sitting in the middle of the middle, between Madrid and the North coast in a region called Castilla and known for its big flats and plateaus that we touring on our way to the beginning of the channel than later we will follow from until the end in Valladolid passing by the never ending cereal fields of Tierra de Campos, crossed by small tracks that follow the contour of the hills that are spilled around the landscape.

On our circular route we departed from Valladolid to pass along some of its well-known wine production areas with an origin certification and where some of the best wines of the country are made and possibly some of the best in the world when it comes to red. Kilometers were passing by across vineyards and climbing some hills topped with Castles which give name to this magnificent Spanish region.

We also travelled part of a variant of the Saint Jaques way that joins Madrid with Santiago de Compostela, so we were able to participate of the spirit and the atmosphere from those who follow this pilgrimage, a discovery trip either internal and external. As we were approaching the start of the Canal de Castilla, the terrain was getting more hilly, we were getting close to the Picos de Europa, the northern mountain Spanish range not far from the sea and the Cantabria region.

Almost 160 Km long is the trip that takes the water on the man made engineered course from Herrera de Pisuerga until it finishes in Valladolid. It is interesting to think the trip a single drop of water will be doing on the channel flow, the same trip that used to follow the goods and coal that was brought from the northern Spanish ports to the Castilla region some centuries back as was the purpose for which the channel was built, and the same trip we will be following. A nice way with beautiful locks, some of them triple, to save the gradient, and mills that used to transform the Cereal using the power the water was giving, all in a shady route ideal for hot and long summer days, an oasis in the middle of the dry and ochre Castilla.

Gravelling and bikepacking you realize the finish is not the goal but the route itself, the sentiment of discovery, new places, new landscapes, new people, a different way to spend your days just biking and face to face with the nature and sometimes reaching the destination has even a sad note as all the enjoyment is coming to an end.

Cycling is not only about w/kg KOMs and km/h it’s also about discovery and enjoyment, of the place, the company and even yourself while just pedaling along the way, you just need a bike, a friend and an excuse and you will have it all.

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Jorge Padrones

Jorge is based in Spain and is a regular on the start-line of different gravel events across Europe and further afield too.