Gravel cycling in Girona along peaceful roads and tracks in stunning scenery. On our two-week holiday we cycled around Girona and Banyoles with its stunning lakes, forests and rivers. Our 12 routes will show you quiet roads and tracks, quaint villages and ancient fortresses, churches, chapels and monasteries; we pedalled through nature parks full of forests and visited the famous Costa Brava.
Mieres and El Torn loop
We couldn’t resist going for a brief ride on the day of our arrival. While we changed and grabbed a bite to eat by the lake, Edward from Rocacorba Cycling generously constructed our bikes. The skies darkened as we drove away, and it began to rain about halfway through our ride. We sought shelter under some trees, but the rain grew heavier and didn’t appear to be letting up. So we gathered our wits and resumed riding, having a terrific time in the process.
Fortunately, we weren’t getting cold, just wet. I’m not the best descender, and the wet surface terrified me, so I rode down slowly. I could catch up with Robin on the flats, ensuring that I stayed warm while working up some speed. We returned to Rocacorba and parked our bikes in the impressive bike area, where hero Edward once again took care of them. We went to the lake for a big meal, but not before a steaming hot shower!
Our first real riding day in Banyoles! We set out on a route that includes a good mix of gravel and road. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of gravel in the mix. There were some long stretches of tarmac that were also fantastic thanks to the kindness of local drivers.
The gravel ranged from fast, hard packed gravel to big chunky rocks and red mud that sucked your tires right in. It’s definitely a fun mix of technical climbs and descents. The gradients were difficult but never too difficult. Before you know you’re already at the top and rolling down while taking in the view you’d just worked so hard for.
As inexperienced tourists, we missed the shops’ opening hours, so while the shopkeepers were napping, I was slightly concerned about the lack of snack supplies. We stopped for a pastalunch in Lladó and brought a snack for the rest of the journey. After our ride, we stocked up on snacks at Lidl and cooked a home-cooked meal (more pasta) in Rocacorba’s well-equipped kitchen. Carbs and candy: the winning combination for a successful cycling vacation?
Gravel from Girona
We took a scenic route from Banyoles to Girona. We were riding so fast on the tarmac that we missed a few turns because we were looking around and not paying attention to our cycling computers. There were some climbs planned on the way to the city, but due to road construction, we had to skip the second. Instead, we were treated to a beautiful quiet gravel road where we had to stop and take some photos because the light was falling through the foliage so beautifully!
We went shopping at The Service Course and ate at La Fabrica. You can believe everything you’ve heard about them. Everything about La Fabrica is excellent: the food, the service, the atmosphere.
We returned by following the Vies Verders, a long-distance gravel cycling route with hard packed gravel bike lanes that runs through farm fields.
Gravel and singletracks
We couldn’t get enough of the gravel cycling in Girona, so we asked Edward from Rocacorba Cycling for a short, exciting gravel adventure. He arrived with a fantastic 44-kilometer loop, including an incredibly flowy single track that felt tailor-made for gravel bikes.
The remainder of the route followed the double track used by farmers and residents of the small villages scattered throughout the beautiful region. There were a few small hills to climb, but nothing too difficult. The elevation did provide us with a stunning view of the higher mountains in the distance.
We wanted to see the famous Pont de Besalú, and Edward had a fantastic road ride that took us over this famous bridge and straight through the Medieval town with its traditional cobblestones. With our bikes in hand, we walked down the stairs and across the impressive medieval bridge.
The highway towards Olot, which we cycled alongside, was a bit of a letdown after this picture-perfect setting. But the noisy and busy road soon vanished into the mountain, where it was swallowed up by a tunnel, providing us with some peace and quiet.
Cyclists heading to Olot ride around the mountain. When you see the lovely Castellfollit de la Roca, you’ve arrived at the start of the 15-kilometre-long climb. But the gradient is forgiving.
The descent to Banyoles begins after Olot. First, you’ll travel on a lovely tarmac road, which you’ll share with other cars who typically wait until it’s safe to pass. Later, through the green Volcano nature reserve’s double track gravel roads.
The first ever Jeroboam was held in Girona in 2019, departing from Rocacorba Cycling. Jeroboam is a gravel race with three distances: 75 kilometres, 150 kilometres, and 300 kilometres. We wanted to try the 150-kilometre route, but we were already leaning toward skipping the last sections.
The route started out extremely difficult, with one uphill immediately followed by another. It made us wonder how difficult this thing would be! We had planned to stop for coffee at Rustik (tip!), but they close at 1pm, so we had to rush to get there in time.
The landscape changed dramatically after Rustik. The rolling hills had given way to open fields, and we could feel the coast getting closer and closer. We soon passed L’Escala and began climbing the rough roads of Parc Natural del Montgr.
We had arrived at the Costa Brava where we had a big paella lunch, followed by a smack in the face-strong espresso. Enough fuel to return to Rocacorba Cycling. We returned by riding through apple orchards and following the river. Compared to the way out, these roads were practically flat.
Edward had warned us not to attempt the final climb because, quote, “it is just mean.” Unfortunately, our route planning was not as sharp after 100+ kilometres, so we managed to navigate over an off-road section that required us to carry our bikes up, as well as a highway! So, if you intend to ride this route. Either complete the original route (komoot.nl/tour/100633309) or reroute the last section of this route from the big roundabout at 107 km.
A (not so) recovery ride
On our seventh day in Spain, we had planned a day of rest. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the route we had planned was far from ideal for a recovery ride.
Sabina had a saddle sore as well, so we turned around and rode a short loop around the lake instead. You have to give in and listen to your body at times.
Rocacorba and Roca del Castell
All week, the Rocacorba had been watching over us, luring and taunting us. “Climb me, climb me,” we could almost hear from the top of the two red and white radio towers. Many local cyclists claim it is their least favorite ascent, but when in Rome…
We discussed strategy and devised a plan of action. Robin designed a route and asked if I was okay with a second, smaller climb. “We’ll give it a shot!”, I said. I’m glad my strategy for the Rocacorba was ‘easy does it’, because I don’t think I’d have made up Roca del Castell otherwise.
The Rocacorba climb is relatively easy because the gradient is never too steep. It progresses in three stages, with the middle stage being the most difficult and time-consuming. The final twirl around the peak felt the longest because it gets steeper here and you can see the radio tower, but it still feels so far away.
If you want to complete the Strava segment, make sure you ride all the way to the fence. My time was 1:05:31, placing me at 1.324 out of 2.014 women who attempted it. I’m aiming for 697th place the next time!
The difficult part began as we rode downhill. Robin had discovered a gravel section that was more akin to a downhill MTB segment. Our bikes bounced over the loose rocks, and as we squeezed them, our brakes cried for mercy.
When I saw the second climb looming in the distance, I almost started crying too. Of course, this was the day I decided to ride light and not stuff my handlebar pack with candy and other snacks. So, with empty stomachs, we tackled the second climb, which was completely off-road and had gradients of more than 20%. The view from the top, on the other hand, was breathtaking.
Moving from Banyoles to Girona
Another ride meant to be a recovery ride, but didn’t work out that way. We moved to Equipe guest house after an amazing stay at Rocacorba Cycling. Equipe is a lovely modern guest house high in Montjuïc, next to Girona.
The service at Rocacorba Cycling had already exceeded our expectations, but thanks to the amazing team, we were able to ride our bikes to our new home while they moved our bike case and bags for us.
The road we took was a gorgeous gravel road with some punchy climbs where walking sometimes might be faster. The ascent over tarmac to Equipe guest house, felt cruelly steep. We were fortunate to be welcomed so warmly, and we were able to rest our legs by the pool, which overlooked the city and the mountains that surrounded it.
Gravel with Mick
Wilma and Mick, the owners of Equipe, are a super nice Dutch couple. Mick offered to show us his favourite gravel cycling in Girona. My brakes were completely done after the previous few days, so we stopped by Eat, Sleep, Cycle before heading out. We had already ridden the first section, but we didn’t mind returning to Rustik!
A local’s knowledge always leads you to the best roads, and the gravel was fast to say the least. We rode at a much faster pace than usual through tree plantations and apple orchards. It’s funny how bringing in another cyclist motivated us to push ourselves a little harder.
We treated ourselves to a lovely lunch at La Fabrica in the city after the ride before tackling the climb back up to the guest house.
No visit to Lolita
Some rides, you just have the feeling that today isn’t going to be your day. Especially after riding about every day for almost a week and tackling much more elevation than you’re used to. Add a few saddle sores to the mix, and you’ve got me beat.
We had planned this beautiful ride with a visit to Lolita from Our Girona, but we have to save it for another time. If you go, will you tell us how it was?
Els Angels and Santa Pellaia
Our last day of gravel cycling in Girona! It was almost time to clean and pack up the bikes, after two incredible weeks. But not before another perfect loop with a good mix of adventure cycling, climbing, and smooth rolling tarmac.
We climbed the first half of the way up to Els Angels via Puig Estela’s trails. A mountain bike might be better suited for these trails, but we managed our way up, not complaining because we were so happy to be in such a beautiful setting. In comparison to what we had just done, the rest of the climb on tarmac felt like easy sailing.
We marveled at the breathtaking scenery from the summit, with views stretching all the way to the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava. The descent to Madremanya was a dream, with soft turns and a gentle gradient.
We stopped for coffee in Monells at the fairytale square, where we laughed at the worst latte art we’d ever seen. By the square’s tap, we filled our water bottles. When we tried to continue our ride, we discovered that my rear brake had locked, clamping tightly on the disc rotor. We were able to push it a little further out, but thankfully it happened on the last day. Our 3T Exploro’s and the new Rebel wheels really help up well under the abuse over the last two weeks.
The Santa Pellara climb also provided stunning views of the surrounding greenery, and the road surface and drivers’ behaviour were both excellent. We will definitely return to Girona for more gravel cycling!
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