Our Must Do Rides series features some of the best routes around the world. This ride comes from Barcelona-based photographer and cyclist Brazo de Hierro.
Must Do Rides: Barcelona
Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, by the city’s own reports it receives over 12 million visitors a year. Most people could probably place it on a map. What they know about the city might include the nightlife, the architecture of Gaudi, the mild Mediterranean weather, and the beautiful beaches. But there is another side to Catalunya, beyond what most tourists experience.
Simply cross over Collserola mountain, in the backyard of Barcelona, and you’ll find a cycling paradise. There are a few ways to get there: you can take a 40-minute train ride, or ride your bike across the “Forat del Vent” or climb up to Tibidabo Amusement Park before descending to Sant Cugat. This small village, located just 16 kilometers from the city center of Barcelona, is where we started our ride.
We began (as I would recommend you do) with a coffee on the terrace of the Somewhere Cafe in Sant Cugat. Then, we started off towards the village of Terrassa, until we reached the road to Castellar del Valles. We’d gotten a late start, and a relentless sun-baked every kilometer at a temperature of 34ºC.
Our route covers nearly 100 kilometers with just over 1,800 meters of climbing. Starting from Sant Cugat, we headed towards Sant Llorenç Savall, entering the Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac Natural Park. Here we found the “El Perro” segment. With hairpin turns and near-vertical walls, this is a mythical spot in this area. Once above El Perro, we descended towards Sant Llorenç Savall. We went directly to Cafe-Bar Royal in Sant Llorenç Savall, which is a classic stop in this area. It isn't the best bar in the world, or the most beautiful, and it doesn't have the best coffee, but it does have a charm that will take you straight back into old-world Spain.
Seizing the occasion, we had a surprise for Toni, co-founder of the RAW Cycling Magazine, whose birthday was a few days ago. Without him knowing anything, we met up with a few friends of his and we surprised him for his birthday.
In Sant Llorenç Savall there is a bakery where you could buy the best croissants in the area. Toni loves the croissant from that bakery – especially the ones stuffed with white chocolate. So for that reason, there was no birthday cake, but a GIANT white chocolate croissant.
Toni didn't turn 341 years old, he turned 35, but a culinary conundrum left us without number 5... So, we made a 34 + 1!
While we celebrated our friend’s birthday, the weather changed fast, and the hellish heat turned into a summer storm. This isn’t uncommon in the Mediterranian and we had no choice but to wait for the storm to pass and continue with the route to the next point, Gallifa. Fortunately, the storm refreshed the atmosphere and left the entire road wet. After the heat that we had before, this was a welcomed way to continue the route.
Once we reached the top of Gallifa, we went down towards Sant Feliu de Codines, with caution as the road was still wet. The temperature was perfect for riding in summer.
Since we had lost a lot of time with the giant croissant and the storm, we decided to increase the pace. We could also feel another storm was approaching, it was 7:30 p.m. and we were running out of natural light with a few kilometers ahead.
So, from Sant Feliu de Codines to Sabadell, passing through Caldes de Montbui, Sentmenat, there was not much time for more than just pedal at a good rhythm. That is, until we reached Sabadell, where Victor had a puncture. And while we waited for Victor to fix the puncture, the storm hit us again.
Fully soaked by rain, we finished the route. The last hours of natural light and the wet roads made for some very nice shots and we continued pedaling with a nice rhythm towards Rubi, to be able to finish the route back where we started at the Somewhere Cafe. A tidy 92 kilometers in the backyard of Barcelona.