March 24, 2024

Day 87: South of Almonte (Cycle)

Today's cycle was supposed to be 50/50 on/off road. First it was off road to the town border of Almonte. Whereupon I noticed numerous folk carrying very large pieces of vegetation - "por qué" I thought (notice how well my Spanish is coming on - thinking in Spanish - whatever next!). It was only about five kilometres along the next stretch of off road that it dawned on me (as I eventually woke up)* that it must be Palm Sunday!

* In actual fact I woke up late today or, so it appeared! I was feeling rather tired last night and when I went to bed at about 11pm I almost immediately fell asleep and, did not wake until 9.33AM. I was rather surprised by this because whilst out here I've been tending to wake/get up between 7.30 - 8.00 AM; aiming to be out on the bike between about 9.30 - 10.00 AM. Again, it wasn't until many cycling kilometres had passed that it dawned on me that I was suffering from the equivalent of "jet lag"! My oversleep was not as great as I first thought because, for me, having returned to Spain the clocks had moved on to GMT+1, whereas, clearly, my body had remained on GMT (Portuguese time!). So only a half hour oversleep and, not so bad given I'd gone to bed at what was effectively midnight "body time"! Moreover, today's cycle route only became today's cycle route because I'd "slept in" and, obviously, a shorter route than the original 115 kilometres should be undertaken if I'm that tired!!

Meantime, the cycling continued but, not for as long as I'd anticipated.


The area in which I am located is dominated by the Parque Nacional de Doñana, which is a major wilderness area with Iberian Lynx as residents. Anyhow:

  1. some folks I met last year remarked that this was one of their favourite places in Spain. So I was keen to visit so that I could see it for myself.
  2. the cycle route planning App that I use has a heatmap feature that indicates where fellow cyclists have ridden most frequently: the brighter the colour of a given section of road/path/mud/sand/gravel the more frequently it is ridden. When I viewed the cycling heatmap for NP Doñana and the surrounding area, I was surprised to see how few cycle routes appeared to exist in this area: mostly everything was without colour!
  3. further research indicated there were 3 dedicated cycle paths, one of which I road today.
Back to the main event:

It was not long that my off road cycle turned into off road walking! This was due to encountering soft sand. A case of either wrong bike or wrong surface! If I'd been on a fat bike I'd have been fine. For those not in the know, a typical fat bike looks something like this (they are mainly used on either snow or sand and have fat tyres: hence the name.):

Fortunately, The taking of my bike for a walk lasted for only 1.5 kilometres or so and, ended because I was lucky enough to come across a paved road, which I diverted on to, adding about 20 kilometres to my planned ride!

The taking of my bike for a walk resumed as I reached the outskirts of El Rocio! Yes, a town exists in Spain which is built on sand and where all of the roads are "made of soft sand". Nobody warned me! Indeed, the town has the feel of an "Old, Out West" cowboy town but, with sand rather than mud!

So, after walking on/in soft sand for about three kilometres (that's two miles!) and, as the "dust rain" was starting to make it's presence known, I hastily found tarmac and left El Rocio for the van. Fortunately, the "dust rain" didn't come to much until after my return to the van.

The main take away from this ride is that off road cycling is not practicable on a gravel** bike with 32mm slick tyres with a tyre pressure somewhere between 50 - 60 psi (pounds per square inch is a non SI unit commonly used in countries wedded to the old ways!). Perhaps this is why there are so few cycle routes showing up on the cycle heatmap for this area!

** Perhaps that should be me on my gravel bike - much wider tyres, with deep tread and/or a fat bike and/or a mountain bike would probably do the trick!

  • Distance driven: 0
  • Distance cycled: about 66.5 kilometres (plus about 4.5 kilometres walking!)
  • Weather: Overcast grey, 24°C, occasional "spits and spots" of "dust rain", becoming more frequent and heavier after I'd returned to the van, which was later than expected due to the unexpected amount of hiker-bike!

Today's ride: