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Bikepacking, the Professional's Road Trip
Posted by Jon Hicken on
I travelled 1152 kilometres to the south of Portugal, my head full of thoughts of bikepacking. I went by train to the Algarve, both because I had time, and also because my girlfriend lives in this beautiful region. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic struck whilst I was there, and all return flights were cancelled. However, as the health situation was better in Portugal than my native France, and I was in good health, I decided to stay.
I respected the rules of lockdown like everyone else, unable to go outside to train. For the first two weeks I did all the DIY in my girlfriend’s house. After that, I noticed that there was a guy doing construction on the street and I offered my services to him.
From then on, I’d do short sessions on my home trainer, help the workers on the site, and then do a second session in the afternoon. It kept me busy and also helped me keep in shape.
The lack of freedom began to get me, and I had a really strong urge to get out. I started thinking more and more about doing an expedition through the south of Portugal, something I’d wanted to do for quite a while. I’d had a bit of a taster session the weekend before lockdown, going out for two days, and testing my gear. I’d seen that my panniers held well and was
keen to extend my adventures.
So as soon as lockdown ended, I was off. The original plan was to follow the entire Spanish border and then to zig-zag across the country - around 800 miles in total. Having done this, we decided we still had some more miles in us and so added two further steps, going north of Lisbon. We really wanted to see Sintra and it didn’t disappoint. Lisbon was great fun. We took the boat across the Tagus, wandered on a peninsula, and continued through the estuary.
Data and Daily Information
Day 1: 153kms, 3422kcal, 1758m ascent
Day 2:. 181kms, 4074Kcal, 2048m ascent
Day 3: 77kms, 1243Kcal, 577m ascent
Day 4 91kms, 1836Kcal, 863m ascent
Day 5 179kms, 4532Kcal, 1873m ascent
Day 6 Part 1 67kms, 1474Kcal, 785m ascent
Day 6 Part 2 93kms, 2087Kcal, 1132m ascent
Day 7 177kms, 3388Kcal, 1231m ascent
Day 8 146kms, 3950Kcal, 2243m ascent
Totals for the Trip: 42h13min - 1152kms, 26058Kcal, 12544m ascent
I didn’t really know Portugal that well. The trip allowed me to explore it and discover different regions, villages and vegetation. Being outside again gave me a real sense of freedom.
A few anecdotes – for the first few days, the restaurants weren't open due to the restrictions associated with Covid19. On The first evening, we found a restaurant open for take-aways but on the second evening the village was in the middle of nowhere, it was Sunday and everything was closed. We came across an old man sitting outside. My girlfriend, who speaks Portuguese, asked him for something to eat. He gave us a sausage, cheese and six eggs. It made our meal.
The next day, restaurants and bars reopened. There was a party in the village because everything had just reopened. We met our host who bought us a drink, then the whole village got rounds in. We ended the evening late into the night sitting around a table with our new friends. It was a good time.
Having known little about Portugal beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of its people. They were really warm, very kind, and simple. The roads were beautiful and with relatively little traffic except near Lisbon.
I'd really recommend Portugal for bikepacking adventures.
Jérôme Cousin, rider of Total Direct-Energy Team