Cycling in the Western Pyrenees

Cycling Western Pyrenees

On the 1st of May 2006, I set off from Pau on the 13.50 train to Oloron to do some Cycling in the Western Pyrenees. I then started cycling towards the Gorges de Kakouetta. Here is what I found.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Here is my bike loaded up with a Vaude handlebar bag with my camera bag and Nikon D70 well protected inside. Two panpack front panniers and two vaude rear panniers with a Terra Nova Quasar tent between them. Weight? About 3 tons. The bike alone weighs 20kg.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

One of my favourite views in the Pyrenees. This was taken from the train near the village of Buzy. This is a great starting place for rides into the Pyrenees up the Vallée d’Ossau.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Superb weather, superb road surface and not a car in sight. From Oloron I rode to Aramits then on the D918 towards Tardets-Sorholus and then the D26 for 8km before turning off onto the D113 to Camping Ibarra, 3km South of the Gorges de Kakouetta.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

The campsite was lovely and cost 5 euros a night. Hot showers and a river side pitch. What more could a man ask for? The beer, brewed down the road in Licq, was also excellent.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

A local butterfly.

This amazing piece of geomorphology leads for about 2km through a gorge 300m deep and in places just 5 metres wide. At the end there is a large waterfall spurting out of the rockface. I have a separate webpage for the Gorges de Kakouetta.

 

Cycling Western Pyrenees

I have a lightweight tent. It was slightly damp when I came to pack it away so I took out the tent pegs and took off the flysheet and went to clean my teeth… Yes, lightweight tents can be blown away. I was very lucky that it got caught in a tree, not carried off downstream.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Another beautiful morning as he set off down the D113. Click on the image to enlarge it and you may see the sheep glued to the hillside.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Back on the D26, a pleasantly quiet road with an excellent road surface and just a gradual gradient. No problem to climb, even with a heavily-laden bike.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

These things happen. A puncture. I repaired it. Got 50m down the road, tyre flat again. I repaired the second one and got back on. Would this be the end of my problems?

Cycling Western Pyrenees

After a big lunch served by a surly waiter at the logibar, I set off up the steep climb to Larrau. It was a tough one but luckily not too long. It was here that I noticed that a brake block on my rear brake was missing. Abandon the trip or carry on? There was no real option…

Cycling Western Pyrenees

The col Bagargui – 13km climb. Started off very nicely with a gentle ride through a valley with a bubbling brook. Then it started to get steeper and steeper. It was also hot, despite being surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Here is a shot about 3km from the summit. Great views but one of the toughest climbs I have ever done. 15% in places and regularly 12-13%. I took my last sip of water about 2km from the top. Pedalling up I stopped every 500m – just to take pictures of course.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Here I am at the 1327m summit – fresh as a daisy. Well, as fresh as a daisy that has just cycled up the Col de Bagarui. It was already 19.00 – just time to find a campsite and some water.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Alas, the campsite was closed until June so I decided to pedal on – enjoying the sunshine and the superb road surfaces.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

With only a front brake, again I had to stop every kilometre – this time to allow the front rims to cool down. A blowout at 60km could spoil an otherwise enjoyable descent. This allowed me to take some more pretty pictures.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

A close up of the road surface. You could play billiards on it – well, apart from the fact that it is a 10% slope… I finally found a campsite in St Jean le Vieux, getting in at 21.15. Just enough time to put up my tent, have a bite to eat and enjoy a very welcome sleep.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

The next morning I cycled into St Jean Pied de Port, a pleasant little town with the citadel area virtually free of cars! There were lots of people setting off on the St Jacques de Compostelle hike as this is one of the main starting points.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Rather than taking the horribly busy D918 to Bayonne, I took the scenic route along the D22. Through undulating countryside the D22 undulates as well -but nothing too gruelling. After the Col Bagargui, nothing is gruelling.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

This is definitely the Basque Country. White houses with red beams and attractive gardens. Quite a change from the more austere architecture further east.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

At Hasparran the D22 was getting busy so I took the D10 to la Bastide Clairence -a very attractive Basque village. From there, the road is downhill to the village of Urt and the crossing of the River Adour.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

Je t’adour. Well, maybe not that much. Rather than taking the train back to Pau from Urt, I crossed the River Adour to cycle the 14km to Bayonne.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

And what a beautiful ride it was. Perfectly flat apart from one little climb right at the end. There were quite a few racing cyclists on this stretch.

Cycling Western Pyrenees

And dotted along the route were some very attractive houses – like this one. Arriving in Bayonne was a rude awakening with its heavy traffic though fortunately it does have cycle lanes. I arrived with 30 minutes to spare before the 17.17 train back to Pau. 220km covered.


Practical Information

Train services in the region: http://www.ter-sncf.com/aquitaine/V2/index.asp

Camping in the area http://www.pyrenees-pireneus.com/CAMPing_64.htm

Information  about Basque towns (in French) http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jacques.managau/villes.htm

Want to see more of my cycling trips?

Holland Germany Denmark    South West Coast of France    Col du Somport   Cycling in the Western Pyrenees   Cycling in the Spanish Pyrenees    Cycling over the Pyrenees

4 thoughts on “Cycling in the Western Pyrenees

  1. I very much enjoyed reading about your cycling trips and your teaching courses.
    It’s coincidental that we not only share the same name but also a passion for cycling and teaching too (I was a science teacher).
    You have a nice way of reporting your trips. I like the photographs with text below.
    I shall look forward to following your next adventures.

  2. Hi there, I’m researching a trip from Spain to Central Europe and I imagine crossing the Pyrenees is going to be one of the highlights. This and your other Pyrenees posts are the best and most inspiring info I’ve come across so far. I was wondering if you have any route advice, more specifically which pass would you recommend. I’ve done a fair bit of mountain touring in South America on a loaded bike so I’m not afraid of climbing.

    Any info you can pass my way would be gratefully received. And any route ideas for further north in France, too, if you’ve done any cycling there. I’m considering heading into the Alps but it might be a little early in the season. I’m guessing it would be early to mid May by the time I got there.

    Cheers,

    Anna

    • Hi Anna, I can’t imagine there is an ugly route over the Pyrenees so any of the ones I did would be suitable. If you’re not a member of warmshowers.org I would recommend joining. Hope you have a great trip!

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