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Planning a ride in The Pyrenees in 2020 - how far is too far?

I live on the east coast of Australia and we have some fairly good mountain passes not far from me, but nothing as high as Europe has. A mate and I have been contemplating a week or so in The Pyrenees for a number of years now, inspired by video of the TDF. September 2020 is looking most likely. We’ll probably do a self guided tour, loosely following one another mate did, organised by IMTbike from Barcelona. That tour ranged from 150 to 250 kms per day, and my mate found it a bit light on, and tacked on some extra on each leg. The did 2,500 km in 8 days.
I’ve looked at 2 days

but is it biting off more than we can chew?
On the east coast of Oz, stringing 4 aggressive sections ranging from 50 km to 100 km and a total ride of 650 km can be done without stretching the friendship too far (Mt Hotham, Omeo Hwy, Buchan - Orbost & The Bonang). An 1100 km ride from Canberra to Adelaide can be done in a 12-13 hour day on the bike - straight and flat as it is. So what should I expect from Spain? Is 400km on Day 2 too much?

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Hi, your second link isn’t working for me, but let me try to answer anyway.

I think 400 in one day is quite doable, yeah, if

  • you’re comfy on your boke
  • you take enough brakes and hydrate well
  • the weather isn’t too hot
  • it doesn’t get dark too soon
  • all participants know ahead of time what awaits them

I would advise you that as you go over 2500m the oxygen gets a bit low and you should not ride too hard otherwise you’ll get exhausted and your brain will have slower response times. But that’s a problem you’ll have more in the alpes than in the Pyrenees.

But, with all that said: don’t you think you’re missing out a bit on the landscape and culture by doing such long stints? I would personally visit more bars, stop at more viewing points, take very tasty lunch breaks etc. Is there any way you could extend your stay?

Hi Mate, it’s great that you are joining the Kurviger community!

This really depends on the size of roads you are using. Day 2 should be still alright, but expect a long day. While 400 km on the main highways in OZ are easily done, once you are using back country roads, things are vastly different. It might happen that you are riding on broken down single lane roads, where you will have to take things slow. The same should be true for the Pyrenees.

That said, you seem to be mostly using the major roads, so you should be perfectly fine. If you would be using the extra curvy option with avoid main roads, I’d say you wouldn’t be able to make it :slight_smile: https://kurv.gr/1xNFX

I think @wemm66 and @MichT know a bit about the Pyrenees, so I will ping them here :slight_smile:.

Hello, Engenia,
I don’t know how well your buttocks are trained, but if you stay on the main roads you can do 400km in one day - albeit with a bit of stress. Only - you won’t see much of the wonderful scenery, as the main roads have a lot of traffic and limit relaxed driving. In my opinion it is also important that you choose the right motorcycles. If you want to use small side roads, I would choose a travel enduro. Something handy 50-70PS is enough in my opinion and it should not be too heavy.
I live at the end of the Pyrenees, where they are not so high anymore, the passes just about 1400m (4000ft), have a look here https://forum.kurviger.de/c/nice-routes there you will find 4 trips from me, which might give you a little insight what to expect in the Pyrenees.

xxx wemm66

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Thanks for your input guys. From what I am hearing, planning for 300 - 400 km / day should be enough, with cafe and sight seeing stops along the way. I’ll try to plan for loops that can be cut out if time runs short. I’m not used to traffic though, and I was hoping The Pyrenees would be fairly quiet by European standards.
I never drink alcohol while I’m on the bike, so bars & restaurants will have to wait until evening.
I’m always up for a chat with the locals (country pubs are great for that), but I have no Spanish at present so I’ve got 12 months to rectify that, at least to some small degree. I don’t expect much English is spoken where we will be going. Here in Australia very few are multilingual. There is no need. My rudimentary German got me by in Hannover but I doubt it’ll be much use in The Pyrenees.
I’m still deciding if I ship my own bike over or rent locally. I was thinking my track bike, converted back to road use could be the weapon of choice. It’s a GSX750. Light, nimble, handles really well, and I don’t care if it gets (more) damaged.
@wemm66, I’ll check out your routes. Thanks heaps

250-300 km per day is more than enough if you actually plan to have sightseeing as well, Engenia.
Andorra is not worth a stay. It’s a stinking, totally overloaded place with even for bikes sticky traffic.
However, the landscape around is really beautiful. So, as long as you avoid Andorra capital, you will like it.


Ahhh, very important: NOBODY will speak English outside the capitals. Even young people! This was very astonishing for me, actually.


I would like to confirm MichT comment.
The km depend how often you want to stop at some interesting points, doing one,two coffee stopps, lunch, fuel filling and for sure, how long you would like to drive a day?
For example, what I’m planning for us:
We’re normally starting at about 9/9.30h and then arrive about 17h at the next hotel with curvy roads and some (higher) mountain in alps and whereever- on trips without any main roads or only connecting routes on a highway. In the last 20 000km logging our tours we have then always about 6/6,5h driving and the rest is stopping, making photos, coffee shop, lunch, visiting interesting points, stopping on the top of the mountain, fuel filling etc…
In this case we’re driving about 250-300km - more is then very hard. If I have to add some connecting routes or some km on a highway then I’m adding this to the 250km.
That’s our best experience in “touring mode”, that means no racing, but experienced driving fast, but stopping whenever we want. We wouldn’t drive 400km.
Perhaps an idea for you.
Best regards

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They are most likely quieter than the Alps. Especially if you visit outside of the high season and stay away from the main tourist centers, it should be fairly quiet. There will be more traffic than in OZ for sure, but there will be more to see and do as well.

The Pyrenees are definetly quiet, on the other hand, there are not so many big main roads. Means: The fast motorbike drivers will be there. But it’s not overcrowded, not at all. My hint only meant Andorra la Vella, the town, which means: Avoid this place and you will be on your own. On the other hand, this is a good place to have tyres changed, f.e., because there is no VAT existing.
Spain and France in General have only about half of the population density than Germany. Means: These are the only countries in South Western Europe, where you can actually avoid sticky traffic by simply modifying your tour.
Simply give it a try. For us German Europeans it’s hard to give you general recommendations, because we are so much used to our conditions and culture here. I regularly drive France and Spain, because these are the countries that are not so much over-regulated. F.e. the Spanish speed limit signs are really good hints how fast a curve actually is. They are not so much a permanent paternalism of a clear mind like f.e. in Germany. Things like that are much more important for a nice travel experience than the actual density of the road traffic. To enforce speed-limits inside towns, the French and Spanish administrations use speed-bumps, which is much nicer than always be overhung with radar and high penalties like Austria and Switzerland. Moreover, in France right at the moment, almost all speed cameras are destroyed by rioting people (against the new general speed limit of 80 km/h), there are no speed controls at all. In Spain, during 6000km, I haven’t seen even one speed camera (which doesn’t mean, that there was no…).

I can only agree with MichT that alcohol and cigarettes and tyres can be bought cheaply in Andorra. But all the rest… Every day there are whole busloads of snacks of tourists being driven there, into a foaming valley where the exhaust fumes accumulate!
The language problem - you also have in France, everyone learns English at school, but people have a hard time speaking!

I’m curious. We were thinking of travelling in September, hopefully after the summer holiday season, but I’m not sure.

  1. When is “high season”?
  2. Where are the main tourist centres in The Pyrenees?

In June the number of vacationers is still bearable, while in July the whole of Europe is going on school holidays. August, forget it, there is also the big invasion from Northern France, which brings its stress and hectic pace. Similar things are happening on the Spanish side. A Catalan friend told me once - July and August is for the tourists, the rest of the year is for us!
Big cities / tourist centers - the best thing to do is to have a look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrenees#Urban_areas .
Directly in the Pyrenees you won’t find a “big” city except Andorra. And even Andorra has only about 22.000 inhabitants!
One more thing is the weather, you will move up to 1500 (5000ft) and higher, the nights will be cool even in summer and it is always possible that you will be surprised by a thunderstorm/rain/snow! You also have to reckon with strong winds. Every 10-14 days we experience here the Tramontane, an extremely strong wind (up to 70-80km/h // 40-50miles gusts), a pressure balance between the Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Lion.
Money - You need much less to live than in AU, with the exception of gasoline. You can have lunch from 10€ on, tobacco and alcohol is also super cheap compared to AU. However, you should have a credit card, best VISA or MASTERCARD, AmericanExpress does not work everywhere.
Because at the petrol stations, always looking for supermarket petrol stations, you can usually pay during opening hours but outside opening hours only with a card. Brand petrol stations are up to 0.15€ per liter more expensive!
If you have an Android mobile phone, try SPRIT to find the cheapest fuel stations.

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Thanks mate, that’s really useful information.
We’ll not be able to do it before July, so September it is.

Hi there,
living North of the Pyrenees, a few words:
Depends, how often you actually plan to cross them. There are beautiful pass roads across North/South and on the North side, evenso beautiful valleys, the rivers have carved out. Expect 80Km/h average
There are also very small scenic “roads on the roof”, where you always have to expect 100++ goats, cows etc. happily free running. Expect 40Km/h average.
I think its a good idea, to plot some initial route and then check some points out on Google Street view. That should give you a good idea, of what you’re looking into.
As a general rule, National roads starting with N-xxx are quite good and have in general an excellent asphalt.
In France, the regional roads start w/ D-xxx and the more digits they have, the smaller they get.
In Spain, regional roads start w/ the Letter of the region and they are color coded.
Have fun
PS: I am an active member of the BMW-Motor Club de France section Bordeaux. Bad luck, we are just coming weekend doing a road trip “Pyrenees Passes” with 10++ bikes. However, its always a good idea, when you’re coming over, to check us out, what’s in the pipeline.