[ blog » 2023 » 09_South-West ]d11: Bilbao ( by Philipp Gesang, location: Espinosa de los Monteros)


Basque Country did a light effort to confirm its reputation as one of the more humid parts of Spain and brought a light shower down during the night – noting this here as it was the first rain I experienced since I started out eleven days ago. Nothing to worry about, the tent stayed completely dry under the foliage, but it wouldn’t be the last rain of the day.

Misty, low clouds carried a lot of humidity to the coast which added an extra fatiguing element to the challenging terrain. Until Bakio it was again an uninterrupted chain of uphills and downhills between villages and beaches. Countless road cyclists were out too in the early hours for their Sunday ride; I got quite a few thumbs-up from the crowd too, including motorists.

From Bakio I took the busy direct road to Bilbao through the hills and reached the town on a three lane highway. Not a fun situation to be in but not too worrysome either as Spanish drivers are generally patient and respectful towards cyclists. The center of Bilbao is a pretty place that is hard to do justice just rolling around there for an hour; the Concordia train station in particular stood out thanks to its colorful façade. I left it at some basic sightseeing and went on my way to the Cadagua river to head back to the mountains.

Burgos Province

Following the Cadagua through its valley I had to climb my way out of Bizkaia into the Burgos province of Castilla y Léon. At that point I already had accumulated 1000 m of altitude thanks to the Basque topology, just the right condition to double that in the late afternoon!

The scenery soon changed from hilly to properly mountainous as I entered the eastern end of the Cantabrian mountains. What’s more, those mountain slopes are covered in pines so I was instantly hooked. There didn’t seem to be an alternative to the main Bilbao-Burgos road which was quite busy at times even on this Sunday afternoon. Due to its breadth and overall engineering the climbs on this road gave the impression of endless false flats. Add a scorching sun to that and reaching Espinosa de los Monteros at about 800 m altitude felt too much like a grind. The view compensates for that though.


Today being a Sunday most of the larger shops were closed. Up until Bilbao I still found smaller grocery stores that were open so I made the mistake of assuming that would be the case in more rural Burgos as well. I even skipped an opportunity to stock up on foodstuffs in the Cadagua valley to avoid carrying a backpack full of food uphill for 30 kilometers.

That proved one of the worse decisions I made as Espinosa where I had booked a room for the night was completely shut down when I arrived on account of festivities on the village’s main square. I went on a hike to find a place where I could still get some protein and carbohydrates only to find out that it wasn’t just the shops that had closed early today but also all the restaurants. At that point I was getting worried I would end the day with zero recovery when I spotted the village’s hamburger bar just down the road from the hotel. As the menu suggests half the customers were families with little children who went there for the next best thing to a McDonald’s. Me I just wanted the calories so with some pointing and gesturing I ordered two main dishes – which must have been so puzzling to the waitress that she came back with only one, checking back with me if I really wanted the other considering the size of the first plate. Why of course! There’s no such thing as being sated when on a bike tour.

133 km with 2250 m of climbing. Festivities outside still ongoing.

gps tracks

[view GPS data in mapbox]


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