What's Cool In Road Cycling

Top Rides: Barcelona

The masterpieces of Gaudi. Tapas galore. And all those brown-eyed girls…ahem, women. (Men, too, my wife tells me.) Barcelona is a terrific city, and, particularly when you get outside of town, great for cyclists. Nearby Girona gets most of the cycling mojo, but Barcelona is more than worth a visit.

By Marvin Zauderer

Ah….summer vacation in Spain. After a lovely week in the north – Basque Country and Cantabria – my wife and I headed to Barcelona for a week of sun, sightseeing, and Catalonian cuisine.

La Venta restaurant has terrific food and a view to match. Plus the stonework is amazing.

The lovely Mrs. Z admires the chocolates at Cacao Sampaka.

La Pedrera: One of the many Gaudi masterpieces in Barcelona.

I successfully negotiated a pass for a morning’s ride, and then set about finding a bike and a route. Fortunately, through the magic of the Internet, I found Andrйs Hernandez at BarcelonaBiking.com. He arrived at our hotel – the Hotel Majestic, a very nice place – with bikes in hand, ready to lead me out of the city to roads beyond.

Andrйs had the bikes ready to go.

We headed north through the city towards Tibidabo, the mountain overlooking Barcelona. At 512 meters, it’s the tallest mountain in the Serra de Collserola mountain range. It wasn’t the Galibier or the Mortirolo, but promised to be fun.

Tibidabo (green arrow) overlooks Barcelona to the northwest.

As we made our way through the city, it was clear that Barcelona is cyclist-friendly.

The Spanish have a most welcoming attitude for cyclists.

The city has a new program, Bicing, that provides 1500 easily-rented bikes for short-term rental at locations all over the city.

Bicing rental stations are easy to find and use.

For about $8 per year, members get a card that, when swiped through a reader at a rental station, entitles the rider to ride free for 30 minutes, and about 40 cents for every half hour after that. Just return your ride to any rental station when you’re done! [Ed. A ton of European cities are taking on this idea and it’s utterly fantastic. Any American takers?]

The Tibidabo climb begins.

Andres tells me, “Shakira stayed here – she went MTBing.”

As we made our way up the 7km climb (average grade: ~6-7%), it was impossible not to stop and admire the view, both toward the top,

Something awaits at the top, but what?

and toward the city below.

Full disclosure: I’m thinking about tapas and Rioja here. That and Mrs. Z.

Once we got to the top, it was time for a brief celebration,

Andrйs had been waiting all day for this moment.

and a bit of sight-seeing.

Study in contrasts: an amusement park and adjacent church at the top of Tibidabo.

Then, we headed down the back side of the mountain. We watched a rider in Caisse d’Epargne kit head off toward a 12km detour (“very hard, Marvin, very hard,” said Andrйs) that Andrйs promised to take me on someday,

Tibidabo has excellent hiking/MTB trails. Is this where Shakira rode?

and made our way through neighboring towns.

Roads were always well-marked, and offered some tempting stops.

After 20km or so, we hit Sant Cugat del Valles, and it was time to head back. Only too soon we were back at our hotel. All in all, a wonderful 3-hour ride: terrific scenery, nice roads, and great company.

Andrйs gets PEZ’d!

About Marvin:

Marvin Zauderer leads the Mental Training program at Whole Athlete, a performance center in Marin County, California that provides a comprehensive set of coaching, testing, fitting, and consulting services to amateur and professional athletes. He is a licensed psychotherapist , USA Cycling Level 2 coach, and Masters road racer for Synergy-Taleo Racing. He works with athletes of all sports in person, by phone, and by video chat, and speaks to groups in person and via the Internet. You can email him at [email protected], or check out his website over at www.marvinz.com!

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