Classic Cols of the Picos :: Essential Information
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 14:11
The Picos mountains are very popular with Spanish tourists, as a consequence we have a better choice of hotels available than on our other holidays. For this trip we spend 1 night is a 3 star hotel and 6 nights in top end 2 star hotels. There are oudoor swimming pools at the hotel on 4 nights.
Breakfast: Continental style breakfasts are provided by the hotels. We supplement these with cereals and fruit.
Lunches: These are not included so you can choose your own diet while cycling. We recommend suitable places en route depending on individuals pace.
Dinner: 6 evenings meals will be taken together either at the hotel or a suitable restaurant in town. All the 3 or 4 course meals will be tailored to the requirement of cyclists and the portions are very generous.
Snacks: Cereal bars, raisins / nuts and fruit are included in the price and will be distributed by the support van. However we suggest you bring your own favourite energy powders/gels/bars with you as these will not be easily available en route.
Special diets: The hotels are very used to providing meals for vegetarians and coeliacs. Please contact us if you have any other special dietary requirements.
Recovery food: Dinner is not served in the hotels until 19:30, which may be a bit late for those arriving at the hotel mid-afternoon. We suggest you bring some recovery drinks / bars with you.
We have two holiday leaders who will be driving the support vehicles during the trip. As it is not expected that the group will stay together, you will be given comprehensive route notes, with colour maps, directions, altitude profiles and details of the night's hotel. We also provide GPS files that can be uploaded to you unit the week before the trip. With two vehicles, we can offer a high level of support and encouragement allowing you to stock up on water etc. Naturally we can offer lifts up (or down) the hills as needed. The van has a bike rack to take assembled bikes as needed, and the leader will have bike mechanic skills.
What to Bring
You will be sent a link to our suggested packing list with your final joining instructions, sent out a week or so before your trip. For information before this time, please see our Before You Go Section of the website
Bringing Your Own Bike
On all of our Road Cycling Holidays, we are able to transport your bike box from the start to the finish of the trip, regardless of if it is a soft bag, a cardboard box or a hard box. Your bike box / bag will not be easily accessible during the holiday so we advise you to remove any items from it that you may need during your trip.
We get a lot of people asking us if their bike has enough gears for the trip. This is an understandable worry, but a hard question to answer! None of the climbs on the Raid are particularly steep (compared to a lot of hills in the UK), but they do go on for a very (very) long time. So it is more a question of personal stamina, fitness and mental strength! There is also the additional energy draining effect of being on the bike day after day, making it quite hard to test your gear ratio suitability before you come out.
We often hear people muttering "I needed a few extra gears to get up that one", but we have never heard people commenting that they regret the money that they spent on a new cassette! It is also worth saying that if you "push a big gear" you put more strain on your knees than if you 'twiddle' your way up the mountains.
The majority of people 'get away with' a compact (smallest ring on front having 34 teeth), with the largest ring on the rear cassette having 27 teeth. If you are worried about getting up the hill then the cheapest way to get even lower gears is to change your rear cassette and chain. Shimano currently produce a 12-30 cassette in the Tiagra range (lowest quality. Although this is a bit heavier than a 105 or Ultegra, the 3 extra teeth may make all the difference (they are compatible!). Campag have cassettes with 29 teeth and Sram produce a 34 toothed cassette that will get you up anything! For most of these big cassettes you may need to have fitted a rear derailleur with a long reach.
We have also had some feedback from other clients who regretted not having triple with them for the cols - so would advise anyone who has not had time to do quite as much training as they would like to have done, that a triple is a great idea!
In June 2009 Phil Corley (one time British National Professional Road Race Champion and manager of Corley Cycles in Milton Keynes) came on our Raid. He is happy to offer advice and naturally sell you the relevant components to get your bike 'Raidworthy'.
If this is all too expensive then we do have some carbon Cannondale bikes for hire with triples and 27 or 30 toothed cassettes!
Flying with your Bike
If you make sure that your bike is properly prepared for travel it is unlikely that any damage will come to it. In terms of how bikes are handled, it actually has nothing to do with the Airline but the Airport ground staff (which are the same for BA, EJ, KLM, Ryan Air etc.). We have found over the years that small airports with simple baggage handling systems are actually more reliable in delivering the bikes than the larger airports. Having said that, the large airlines are quicker at getting your bike to you in the event that it does not turn up on the same flights as you (this is a very rare occurrence and a hire bike can normally be borrowed while waiting for your own).
Costs: Most airlines now charge for transportation of bikes. They are also constantly changing their policies / charges, so it is best to check the latest information before booking your flights. The links below are for the most frequently used airlines used on our trips. We have also added some of our comments.....
- Ryan Air: Although these seem fairly expensive, Ryan Air are the only airline that actually limits the number of bikes at the booking stage, so it is impossible for there to be more than 15 bikes on the flight. Also with their ridiculous charges for hold baggage, most people just fly with hand luggage meaning that their hold is actually fairly empty, making it very unlikely that there will not be space on the flight for your bike!
- British Airways: They have lots of flights per day, so if your bike does not arrive on the same flight as you then it will catch up sooner!
- Easy Jet: Their new plocy is very pro bikes! Good on Easy Jet.
- Jet 2: They still cannot gurentee that the bike will fly with you.
Trains with your Bike
Please see the sections called 'Independant Travel by Train or Car' in the Travel section of your holiday.
Packing your Bike
All airlines now insist that your bike is either be boxed or bagged.
- Blag a cardboard box from a local bike store.
- More and more bike shops are offering a bike bag / box rental service which may be worth looking into.
- If you know that you are going to do a lot of flying with you bike then check out the range of boxes / bags available on the Wiggle website.
- Bike Box Online hire out boxes and offer a professional bike packing service!
Packing up your bike need not be too complicated. The key thing is to brace the forks / rear stay after you have taken a wheel out - this can be done with an old hub or the piece of plastic your bike came with (any bike shop will give you one of these for free).
Full info on packing up you bike will come with your bike bag / box, otherwise check out this bikeradar.com article which gives you a comprehensive overview.
There is no need to bring any tools with you to reassemble your bike (except specific fork / suspension pumps). We have a torque wrench, but you will need to know the torque values. We naturally have track pumps and other general bike tools available throughout the trip.
If you do not want to have the hassle of bringing your own bike or need a bike with more gear (compact or triple) then you can hire a bike from Marmot Tours. This must be arranged in advance as there are limited bikes (and sizes) available. For more information please see the Bike Hire section.