Biscay, the land of bicycles
N othing suggests you are in bike country. Many kilometres of coastline covered with distinctive side winds. Too many hills with short but steep slopes that are connected one to the other. Hardly any plains. Frequent days misted by that fine rain we call sirimiri. And, in spite of everything, the love of cycling is part and parcel of Biscay. That’s why the Tour is on its way.
If you travel through Biscay to see its towers, beaches or in search of a traditional steakhouse, and you do so by road, you will inevitably come across cycle tourists. Men and women, young and old, alone, in pairs or in large packs. This can happen on any working day; at weekends and during holiday periods, the roads belong to the cyclists far beyond the many specific cycling routes. Cars respect the rules scrupulously and patiently. The driver may well be a regular cyclist.
The bicycle, like the motorbike, offers the possibility of enjoying narrow roads, surrounded by forests and dotted with bends. The landscapes open up at every turn and the aromas of fresh grass, burnt wood, saltpetre or mushrooms reach the routier depending on the time of year. Viewpoints over valleys and inlets, as well as taverns used to comfort the pedalling enthusiast, appear on the roadsides. Cycling is a widespread culture in Biscay.
Figures back up these statements. Not including professional and elite races, eleven powerful mass cycling events are organised in Biscay on a regular basis every year. There are localities where the patron saint’s festivities cannot be understood without their youth or amateur races. There are more than a hundred cycling clubs. And there is a busy calendar of cyclo-cross competitions between October and January, with the Amorebieta event being of international importance.
If you’ve come without a bike, it doesn’t matter!
ROUTES IN BIZKAIA
Therefore, it is not surprising that the Provincial Council of Bizkaia proposes 14 routes for cycle tourists that cover the whole territory, which can be consulted on its website and downloaded in PDF format.
One of them starts at the Forua train station on the Bilbao-Bermeo narrow-gauge line. It starts at the visitable remains of an ancient Roman settlement from the 1st century and pedals through the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, along the BI-2235 road, the main artery of the region, up to the red asphalt of the protected cycle path that leads to Murueta. At this point there is a Cantabrian holm oak grove dotted with strawberry trees, aladerns, laurels and sarsaparilla, inhabited by wild cats, genets, badgers, tawny owls, southern smooth snakes and green lizards.
Cycling along the road again, you reach Busturia, where the cycle path ends. But close to the road you reach a quiet track that goes down to the Mape stream, whose right bank leads to the heart of the marshland. From there it is not far to the bird observatory of the Oka estuary, which is half hidden among the bushes: in silence, if you are cautious and lucky, you can spot cormorants, sandpipers, redshanks, plovers, herons, egrets, the odd spoonbill or osprey.
The route continues along the old Camino Real, passes by Torre Madariaga, a unique building steeped in history that houses the Basque Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, and heads towards Axpe next to the
Oka estuary, to the Sukarrieta recreational area and San Antonio beach, ending at the Busturia-Axpe train station.
It is quite an experience. And the route guide offers thirteen more routes.
Bizkaia by bicycle - Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia
For complete information and routes
In addition to private companies and hotels that rent them, Bizkaia has various automatic bicycle loan services promoted by public institutions, which can be consulted at the following links:
On the other hand, the municipalities of Otxandiano, Barakaldo, Orozko and Mundaka have manual bike loan services.
Traditional Basque food. Specialising in ﬁsh and meat. Seasonal local produce.
A BAR WITH AWARD
Assorted tortillas, cod, octopus, gildas, anchovies, Bilbao, mushrooms, tigers, squid rings, perretxikos, Roman hake…
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