Last summer we pedalled around Spain on Tunturi RX700 hybrid bikes in 7 weeks. We accrued a total distance of 4,030 kilometres, with a whopping 52 kilometres of vertical ascent in the mountainous Spanish terrain!
It all started a year earlier, when Taina came up with the challenge of cycling around Spain without a support crew, and Laura was aboard right away. Is a normal person capable of even such demanding performance? Certainly! All it takes is hard training and determination.
Careful preparation before the trip
Neither of us had done any long bike rides before, so we were both surprised by how hard the year of preparing and training was.
Looking for partners, we were incredibly lucky to get greenlighted by Tunturi. It opened doors to many other sponsors. Getting the Tunturi RX700 hybrid bikes was like Christmas in the middle of summer. We learned bicycle maintenance by studying online and with the help of wonderful volunteers.
A couple of days before it was time to take off, we started packing. Almost two months’ worth of stuff had to fit in the 25-liter Velo Zapit side bags and a small handlebar bag. We had to discard items and repack a few times over in order to keep the weight of the bags reasonable. We packed only a few changes of clothing, so we did our fair share of laundry by hand.
We set off from the Fuengirola town hall. We were accompanied by a group of friends, people who had followed our project and representatives of various media. Getting on the Tunturi RX700 bikes and setting off was a huge relief. When we arrived in Fuengirola after 7 weeks, a wonderful group of people and representatives of the city of Fuengirola were waiting for us at the town hall.
Getting up early, snacks, laundry by hand and route planning – we quickly settled into daily routines
The first day, on our way to Tarifa, we realised that we wouldn’t have that much time to linger or admire the scenery. We arrived in Tarifa only after dark. We decided that we would wake up at five in the morning in order to arrive before the hottest time of the day.
We quickly developed a daily repeating rhythm. Waking up early, morning routines and getting on the bike at the crack of dawn. We took snack breaks about every two hours while riding. We booked accommodation a few hours before arriving.
We set off early, so brightly coloured jackets and reflective vests were necessary in the dim morning light.
We had planned to carry as little food as possible, but this plan was sabotaged by typical Spanish rhythm of meals and the culture of siesta. Restaurants would be serving breakfast when we wanted to have lunch. Dinner was not served before nine p.m. or even later. Often, we would also be quite far from human habitation when hunger struck. We started carrying snacks with us, even though there wasn’t much extra space in the bags. We got quite used to bread with salami, bananas, nuts and energy bars.
The amount electrolyte water you had to drink was immense. At the hottest time, we would consume a litre of liquid per hour. From the beginning of the trip, we always tried to make it to gas stations for bathroom breaks, but in the end we would settle for any brush.
The evenings we’re filled with doing laundry, shopping for snacks and having dinner. Then it was time to review the photos of the day and write the texts for social media posts.
Last, but by no means least, we would plan the route for the following day. Plan daily schedules proved difficult. The map application would tell us that the bike ride would take a certain amount of time, but hills, headwinds and dirt roads would extend the trip by several hours. In Spain, the road with the same number could be dirt or asphalt, so we had to check all the roads. There was even a few times when the road suddenly turned into what was practically a highway. Or daily trip varied between 60 kilometres and the 146 kilometres of the first day.
From the scorching terrains of Andalucía to the green forests of the north and the coolness of the mountains
We got to experience Spain’s varied nature while cycling, from the sun-baked terrains of Andalucía to the green forests on Portugal’s northern border. The forest was so impenetrable in places that you would have thought you were looking into a jungle.
Seeing birches in the forests left an impression on us. We could feel a little twinge of longing for Finnish forests.
In the Basque Country, we got to admire colourful fishing villages. The pastel coloured villages and towns were like straight out of postcards. The coastline of the area is rugged and rocky, with the waves hit again and again.
In the cities, we noticed that extensive and well-implemented networks of bike lanes made cycling through the cities easy.
We pedalled through extensive melon plantations and the fields extended as far as the eye could see. Our route also took as through vast areas of greenhouses, where we spent several days. The air was stagnant between the vegetable fields and roads were often in poor condition.
I never got tired of Spanish landscapes. I wish I had more time to admire them.
In Andalucía, the roads wound through mountainous terrain. The downhills were steep, forcing us to constantly pump our brakes.
From Almuñécar, the pearl of Granada coast, it was only a hundred kilometres to the finish line.
We also saw a lot of storks on the way. They make quite a unique sound, which sounds more like an extinct dinosaur than an ordinary bird. Go ahead and google the sound of the white stork!
At the Portuguese border, the roadsides were teeming with snakes. Colourful, small and large. The largest were as the thick as a wrist. Dodging the snakes at high speed was difficult and one snake was run over.
Not just sunshine – going home as winners despite cool rains, heat and sandstorms
Before the trip, we hadn’t even considered that we would have to endure rain and cold in the Spanish summer. During our bike trip, the temperature varied from over forty degrees to a cool eight degrees. In the north, we were greeted by the coldest weather front in twenty years. We rode for a week in the rain with frosty fingers in our Pearl Izumi summer riding clothes and our toes soaking wet in our Shimano cycling shoes. In the evenings, we dried our shoes with a hair dryer and joked that we needed wipers for our riding goggles. During this week, our mood clearly fell, but we were all smiles every time the sun peeked from behind the clouds.
You can see videos of the varying weather conditions here.
Inexpensive price and Wi-Fi are the key factors for accommodation
Our budget was tight and most of it was reserved for accommodation. Our criteria were an inexpensive price and Wi-Fi. We quickly came to realise that how many stars an establishment had provided no information at all. A one-star hotel could be better than a three-star hotel. Often, the promised wireless network was just words in a brochure.
We stayed in some truly interesting places along the way. To access one of our accommodations, we had to go through a laundry room and a cleaning closet. We also stayed in a private home, where the upper floor was used for accommodation.
We spent the night in a surfing hotel, with a line of wetsuits hung out to dry in the yard.
Have you seen the horror movie The Shining? We had and now we have also stayed in the hotel. The hotel was an old coal plant. We were quite sure that we would run into twin girls in the corridor asking us to play. The chimneys of the surrounding factories spat fire.
We also stayed in pilgrims’ albergues. Once we were able to enjoy a shared dinner with other hikers. It was lovely to listen to their stories and share ours.
Taina and Laura biked around Spain over a 7 week period.
Accompanied by high-quality Tunturi RX700 hybrids
The Tunturi RX700 bikes did well throughout our trip. We had them maintained a few times during the trip. In Aínsa in the Pyrenees mountains we had all the screws tightened, gears were fine-tuned and the rear brake pads changed. The person carrying out the maintenance praised our Tunturi RX700 bikes. We all agreed that we had gotten durable bikes for our trip.