Cycling Getaways: Girona (Spain)

Girona is one of the major cycling destinations in Europe, it’s up there with Mallorca for getting away for some early or late season sun. It’s become a bit of a hub thanks to the number of pros that have descended on the area, who use Girona as a base to go out for some quality riding thanks to the many rolling hills. Along with the pros are plenty of cycling tourists and the local amenities are properly set up for cycling. Local cafes have a cycling tilt, there are tonnes of hire shops and well-known shops run by former cycling professionals. Any ride or spell at a coffee shop should allow you to spot at least one pro unless you somehow go properly off the beaten track.

How to get there

Girona has its own airport which famously used to be called Barcelona by Ryanair. It’s not a million miles away from the Catalan capital but for our purpose, it’s only a short 15 minutes bus or taxi ride into Girona. Many UK airports fly to Girona – including Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Stansted, and from East Midlands Airport. That means you’re never too far away from an airport that can get you to Girona. I flew from Birmingham with Jet2 and flights can be had for around £65 but naturally varies.

Basso Diamante SV L'escala
Basso Diamante SV by the beach at L’Escala

Bike Hire in Girona

There are so many options! It largely comes down to what you want to do as some places offer only road bikes but some will offer gravel bikes and MTBs as well. Then it’s down to how much you’re happy spending – personally, I like to ride a hire bike that’s better than my bike back home as a bit of a treat. After a bad experience with Bike Rent Girona, I went with Eat Sleep Cycle who were based very close to the hotel.

I’d booked a Basso Astra with SRAM Rival AXS but the previous renter had damaged it and it wasn’t available. They quickly sorted something out with available bikes, which involved a Basso Astra with mechanical Shimano Ultegra for 2 days and then took that back to the shop to get a Basso Diamante SV with Campagnolo Super Record EPS. That effectively meant I got a free upgrade as the two Astras were the same rental price but the Diamante was €25 a day more to hire. The Astra was fine but I absolutely loved the Basso Diamante SV.

Hotel Carlemany

Accommodation

I stayed in the Hotel Carlemany which was part of the flight + hotel option on Jet2 Holidays. As it happened, it ended up being the same place that took a bulk booking for the rest of the group later on and so was able to easily accommodate 30-odd cyclists, mostly sharing twin rooms. I can’t fault the rooms at all, plenty of space, clean, well equipped. Having a minibar just to keep stuff cool is an added bonus, even if you don’t actually take something from the minibar stock.

Hotel Carlemany is ideally placed in the centre, about 500m and only 5-10 minutes walk from places like Eat Sleep Cycle. In the underground car park, there is lockable bike storage with a track pump and bike stand for any running repairs on your trip. Your hotel key card unlocks and locks the storage area so that only hotel guests can have access. It’s still worth taking a basic lock just in case but we had no issues. The storage area had space for something like 40 bikes all in all.

The hotel has a bar, restaurant and cafe attached to it, so breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner are all possible in the same spot. We mainly used it for brunch when we first arrived and then post-ride drinks, with the easy-drinking Radler a firm favourite.

Track standing at the top of Els Angels

Where to Ride

As you’d expect, there are plenty of climbs nearby to have a go at. Closest to Girona itself is Els Angels which is a popular way to head out East and one of the quieter roads to get away from Girona on. Heading north you have the big beasts of Rocacorba and Mare de Deu del Mont. You really don’t have to go far to get the climbing metres in, one a shorter local loop used by many pros you can get a strong ride in by pushing without truly overdoing it. Quite a good one for a middle day of a trip.

Heading north to the beaches is also a popular easier type of day. You can make it tougher by going up Els Angels and then you’re firmly into a fairly gentle rolling area all the way to the sea. For those who like to try out the local beers, this version of a route to the beaches at L’Escala comes back via the DosKiwis brewery. Located in Rupia, 22km out of Girona, Doskiwis is well worth a visit for something a little special before the last spurt back into the city.

Doskiwis

The Hincapie Loop is an infamous route made famous by George Hincapie in the early days of Girona’s place as a cycling hub. Els Angels is crested before some rolling roads takes you to the Santa Pellaia climb. It’s a classic gorge climb with fairly gentle gradients, just a long winding road up and out of the gorge before a descent down to Cassà de la Selva. Both descents from the climbs are just the right amount of technical. There are no sudden full hairpins, so you can keep the speed up and enjoy whipping down.

Post-Ride Places to Visit in Girona

Seeing as Doskiwis is a little bit too far out of Girona, most of the riding we did ended up back at Eat Sleep Cycle for some afternoon easy drinking. The bike shop is next to a cafe so you can pick up some last-minute supplies if needed as well as some of the session drinking Radlers or a stronger lager. The courtyard is a nice place to sit, especially when the sun’s out and there’s plenty of warmth, unlike the UK in October.

Eat Sleep Cycle

If you’re done from your ride nice and early, there are the likes of La Fabrica and Service Course where you can pick up some late lunch and great coffee. The Hors Categorie cafe has a similar vibe too.

For late nights, Kerunta Brewpub is more into the old town and has many great craft beers available on tap, including Doskiwis handily. You’ve also got the Crafty Bear which is worth a visit as well.

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