Before I tell you all about the start of our cycling adventures in Spain, I need to take a moment to tell you how much biking means to me. Cycling has helped get me in shape, taught me how to push myself physically, given me a great hobby to share and experience with my husband, and has taken me to places that I would never have seen otherwise. I used to scoff at people who talked about a “runner’s high.” It wasn’t until I biked long distances that I understood what this feeling was – the beautiful rush of endorphins! I never imagined that I could bike 130 miles, but last year, Grant and I trained for this and completed it on our first wedding anniversary. That day, I thought, “there is nothing that I can’t do with this man beside me.” It was a no-brainer for me to take our bikes to Europe with us. I am so excited to grow as a cyclist and see some amazing parts of the country that we would never have seen otherwise!
Setting up bikes & our first group ride
We unpacked and re-assembled our bikes this past weekend (and by “we”, I mean Grant)! There was only one small plastic part that got damaged during the transport. Thankfully, all it took was €6 and lots of hand-waving and repeating “no funciona <it doesn’t work>” at a local bike shop to get a replacement.
We found a group of expats that organize lots of road cycling events on Meetup, and so we went on a ride with them this weekend up along the coast outside of Barcelona. It is a very diverse group – Americans, Canadians, Brits, Brazilians, and Australians. The leader of this ride actually used to live in San Francisco, so it was really fun to exchange stories with him. He and his wife made about the same move we did a few years back – and they are still here!
Side note: At the meetup, when we told people we were planning on staying about a year, they responded with, ‘So you’re going to be here about 3 years?’
We haven’t ridden in a few months, so I have to admit it was pretty tough, even though it wasn’t a particularly hard ride! Everyone in the group is really nice, though, and it is great to find people we have something in common with. Here is the route we took outside the city and a pic at an espresso stop with the group:
Biking culture in Barcelona
Biking is a pretty popular form of transport in Barcelona. It is very cool to see how the city has adapted to a bicycling culture. The city has a huge bike share program calling Bicing, which can only be used by local residents. Once you have a card, you can unlock a bike from its parking spot anywhere in the city, ride it somewhere else in the city and leave it there.
Barcelona also has an extensive network of separated bike lanes (with barriers) and raised bike lanes. Traffic lights include bicycles in them for signals. Here are a few shots of the great dedicated bike lanes (including one on a roundabout, which I had never seen before!):
By far the most impressive thing to me, though, was the Parque fluvial del Besós. It provides 5km of space by a river & greenery for walking, running, or biking. It is easy to get on it from the bike path along the ocean, and it is so refreshing to ride in an urban environment without any cars getting in the way.
Discovering BCN bike lanes on a sunny afternoon
Yesterday, Grant and I went on a leisurely ride around some of the bikes lanes around Barcelona. As you can see, we didn’t make it around the whole city, but I wanted to share what we discovered and the fun we had!
As all bike rides should start, we had some delicious tapas and a glass of white wine:
^whose fork is that sneaking in to get patatas bravas? Grrannnnt!
Parc de la Cituat
Then we we started off biking by the Parc de la Ciutat, the city park.
Views of the Torre Agbar followed us during our next stretch.
Random plaza #1
I’m sure it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Spain has TONS of plazas. Here are some goofy shots of me biking in one….somewhere.
^that is pure joy, folks
Skateboarding is very popular here, thus there are a lot of skate parks. With Grant’s prodding, I tried out some super steep courses and even did a 360!
Nope. That did not happen. But I did go over the humps. We look pretty intense in the photos, anyway.
^don’t worry, these daredevils have Spanish health insurance
Parc de la Diagonal Mar
Apparently, this park is kind of a big deal. I just thought it looked cool. What refined taste I must have! 🙂
Water that flows through the raised tubular structure that spiders its way through the park. This moving line occasionally coils around suspended plant pots which are reminiscent of Gaudí’s organic architecture. In addition to being the linking element of the jigsaw puzzle of the park, the tubes also convey groundwater which irrigates the gardens.
Off to the beach!
Did I mention that Barcelona also has beautiful beaches right here in the city? There is a bike path all along the ocean. It is gorgeous on a sunny day.
Parque fluvial del Besós
After riding around the rather abandoned Olympic facilities (BCN hosted in 1992), we hit the 5km no-car path that I talked about earlier. So peaceful.
Detour because Strava led us astray
Strava is the program we use to record our rides, as well as plan out new routes. They have this useful feature with which you can create a route based on the most-trafficked routes that bikers have recorded. Apparently, not many bikers had recorded in this area, because Strava wanted us to get on the freeway after the Parque. Yeah, no.
So we took a detour, involving seeing an outskirt of Barcelona where there is an escalator built into the landscape (wha?) and a short stint on a mountain bike path. My poor road tires were balking.
Random plaza #2
This city has beautiful art, design, and sculpture literally everywhere. It never ceases to amaze me. I’ll be walking to an “official site” and notice a designed detail that causes me to pause and look closer.
This sculpture is obviously not just a detail of the landscape, but it is a good example of art in everyday places.
On our way back towards home, we head towards the Sagrada Familia. It emerges out of the trees and street as we cycle towards it. It surprises me and takes my breath away. I feel like I’m in a fairy tale headed towards the witch’s castle.
Arc de Triomf
As dusk is falling, we head back towards the city park and then on towards home. The lighting of the setting sun gives a new wrinkle and contour to this familiar site.
^ perhaps the lighting was given a boost with an Instagram filter…
The haunting of history is ever present in Barcelona. I see cities as organisms, as living creatures. To me, Madrid is a man and Barcelona is a woman. And it’s a woman who’s extremely vain. – Julie Burchill
Barcelona, I can’t wait to explore all your dimensions, contours, and curves. And I can’t think of a better way to do it than on bicycle.
You better not be there for 3 years! 🙂 Love the captions to the pictures.
Grandma and Granddad Marvin
We are really enjoying your well written blog and hearing all the details and thoughts about your experiences so far in Spain and can’t wait for the next edition. It is almost like we were there. Please do not stay for three years. We miss you so much. But we are happy for you.