Bike Touring Spain: The Transnevada Off-road Route

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Leaving Africa was like saying goodbye to a dear friend. As the ferry roared out of the El Hoceima port, we watched the foggy cliffs of the Dark Continent fade into the mist. But soon there was something new drawing my eye to the north—the high snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada range in Spain’s southern district of Andalucia.

There are countless options for off-road cycling routes in southern Spain. These include the Andalbike routes, the 2,000KM TransAndalus, and the many footpaths that traverse the country. We only had a short period of time in Spain before our flight home, so we opted to do a chunk of the 450KM Transnevada route in the steep and rugged Sierra Nevada National Park.

A scant 30 kilometers due north of the touristy Mediteranean beaches, the Sierra Nevada juts straight out of the Earth in massive spires of wildflower covered peaks. The autonomous range was designated a national park in 1999 and is the largest in Spain.

In 2011 a gnarly web of doubletrack, single track, gravel and footpaths were adopted by Andalucia Tourism and supported by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). The effort resulted in a well documented, and extremely well signposted, 450 kilometer route that encircles the jagged range in eight named segments.

Chunky rock descents, heart valve tearing climbs, and almost impassable hike-a-bikes make up a route that is as punishing as you make it. We were fortunate to land here right in the midst of a mild late spring when wildflowers were at their peak, the crisp mountain sky held back moisture from the sea, and chilly mornings made coffee extra special. The riding was epic.

Africa coastline

From the ferry at El Hoceima… watching Africa fade into mist.

2014-06-transnevada-02

We arrived in Motril late, got lost, ended up staying at a Hostal in another town. A look back on the white city on the way out the next morning.
Granada Tapas
One great tradition that is still alive and well in the state of Granada, Tapas. With each drink ordered, you get a snack, gratis. We didn’t pay for a meal for over a week.
Cervesa vending machines
Nothing says welcome to Europe like a beer from a vending machine.

Surly ER, Tubus Rack, Salsa Minimalist, Rohloff

The ECR got naked and washed.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

The very well put together map of the Transnevada route. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take it with us from the tourist center… I guess they were running low.

Bike Touring Sierra Nevada Spain

Before we got on the Transnevada in Trevelez, we did a lot of road climbing.

Bike Touring Sierra Nevada Spain

Navigating the tight streets in Trevelez.

Bike Touring Sierra Nevada Spain - GR7

The first part of the Transnevada we jumped on shared trailspace with the legendary GR7 footpath. The GR7 is part of the Senderos de Gran Recorrido and runs from Gibralter to Northern France.

Surly ER, Tubus Rack, Salsa Minimalist, Rohloff

Knards.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Some wicked hike-a-bikes.
Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain
After I took this shot, I helped out… don’t judge.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Crystal clear bluebird days.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Watching a front roll in from the sea.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

The big peaks of the Sierra Nevada range.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

High altitude clouds are the best.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

A long climb in the forest.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

A snack near our campsite.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

Sunset view from a good campsite.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

Some fairly good options for out of site wild camping…

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

… next to an old ruin…

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

… with a view.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

Getting an early start on a morning climb. Nice to see some spring.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

Working our way up.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

There are a lot of historic springs and fountains along the way. Oddly, some of them are marked not to drink.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

A rest before a nice descent.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route

Singletrack…

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

… that abruptly stopped and became one of the steepest hike-a-bikes I’ve encountered.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

They even had a sign for it.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

This went on for almost 1,000 feet.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Nice views though… wildflowers and blooming shrubs were in peak form.

Serra Nevada, Andalucia, Spain

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Finally it got rideable.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain
A long traverse.

Sierra Nevada, Andalucia, Spain

Giant versions of dandelions.

Transnevada Off-road Cycling Route - Bike Touring Spain

After 6 days in the Sierra Range (one that included a backtrack because of a loose bottom bracket), we make an early exit to get to Granada. I will be back to do the whole thing, for sure…

Bik Touring Spain

… but now it’s time to find this hamburger.

For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.

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  • Sean

    Hi there, how was it taking a bike on the ferry from Morocco? Did you need a bike ticket or reservation? Which ferry operator was it. Thanks for any info

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Hi Sean. No need for reservation from El Hoceima to Motril, but we did get there a day early and went to the ticket office. The operator was Naviera Armas. They charge about $10 US per bike. The El Hoceima to Motril ferry was only running once per week, but may have changed since it is now high season. I would probably recommend calling ahead or looking on ferries.co.uk…

  • Georgie Ormrod

    Wow, that looks amazing. But at almost 5 months pregnant I’m trying to reduce cycle tour inspiration, not add to it ;-)

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Sorry… and congratulations!

  • https://rental24h.com/driving-in-spain-guide SpainDriving

    We’d love to have a bike Europe tour and start from the Estonia. We are planning to land in Tallinn and then move to the South. The question is that we don’t want to pick up our bikes to the plane and we want to rent them in Tallinn. Is it a good idea or it’s better to ride on your own bike? If not, please, advise some companies that provide such services and what model of a bike is better to choose? Thank you.

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Hi. That’s difficult to recommend as I don’t know what options you will have. I think any hardtail mountain bike would be good. Or, for this route, you could use a cross/gravel bike and be OK, although a few sections might be pretty touch.

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