Euro Tour 2010 Summary

These are photographs from an April-May bike tour to Spain and Portugal. The route was planned by noticing that there are a large amount of scenic designated roads (per Michelin Motor Atlas) in Northern Spain and Portugal. You can piece together a beautiful scenic route; riding coastlines, mountains, and vineyards with almost no traffic. Maybe 90% of my route was deemed high quality euro touring.

I was on this tour exactly a month. I rode 27 of 30 days, probably over 2000km. About half the day, I rode, and the rest of the day, I would sight-see or do work related tasks online. As hotels are fairly cheap in this area, about half the nights were spent in hotels, but I carried camping gear (tent, pad, bag) on my bike, the remaining nights were spent at euro camp grounds. It’s nice to have your own choice at each destination; camp or hotel, depending on your current mood, needs, and the weather.

I carried only only a latex spoon, so all my meals were taken out. I don’t have accurate bookeeping of my trip expenses, but I estimate approximately two grand for a month, this includes my $800 RT airfare; Denver-Madrid-Denver. I probably spent $100 on prepaid Internet data charges with Vodaphone.

There have been a number of posts about keeping my gear lite. I have a rear trunk bag on my Richey Breakaway bike and I wear a small hydration-like REI Flash pack, no panniers for me. All my gear weighed 11 pounds total. This is light enough to ride comfortably in the mountains. I have decided that 10 pounds is the golden threshold for comfort and speed. Reaching this threshold weight does require a lot of gear research. Almost all touring riders I met had too much gear. Everything needs to be light-weight, multi-purposed and compact.

Next trip I think I can eliminate my Canon Powershot camera, camera battery charger, and USB upload cable with the new iPhone 4 (half pound lightened?). The iPhone 4G camera has a 5 mega pixel camera with a 5x zoom which is probably good enough for most trip photography. Many of the panorama shots were taken with the Pano iPhone app which stitches together multiple lined-up photos. This app really helps with the limitations of the cell phone’s crappy lens allowing you to capture wide angle vistas.

The biggest technical problem with my bike tour camping is not being able to recharge electrical devices from a tent site. In my case this means my iPhone; my only electrical device. I have been researching small camping solar panels. There are some promising solutions that would allow recharging while riding or from panels connected to your tent’s roof.

The second biggest challenge is finding a place to leave your bike box if you are traveling overseas. Upon landing, I had my bike tuned at the Bike Room in Madrid, they allowed me to leave my box at their shop, super friendly too.

The Google map below shows my route. The white placemarks show my overnights in hotels/pensions. The green placemarks designate campground overnights. I traveled from Madrid to Talavera and Bilbao to Madrid with my bike on the bus.

The kewlest phenomena about euro bike packing/touring is going lite and being able to be spontaneous and mobile. If you desire other Europeans tour destinations, check out my book Euro Tours.

Related links:
Gear list
Camping Souvage
Digital Michelin Maps
Virtual Travel Laptop
iPhone Data Plan Spain
iPhone Travel Blogging
Only Digital Travel Books
Travel with Google Voice
Goal0 – Portable Solar Products

Vodafone iPhone

 This is a post about my latest travel in Europe using an unlocked iPhone. I was going to use my Movistar SIM for travel in Spain and Portugal but my Mexican Movistar SIM card was not compatible with Movistar Spain. Movistar Spain did not have a non contract prepaid data option for travelers either, and Vodafone did (no contract), so I purchased their SIM card. In general, I have been very happy with Vodafone. Coverage 99% of the time. I wish I would not have had to purchase a Vodaphone Portugal SIM as well when going into Portugal, but the cost for a week in Portugal was only 10 euros. I think having to have two Vodafone SIMs is a function of European countries and their taxes. No one in Europe seems to be able to have a “Euro” carrier that works without roaming in all of Europe.
I used my Vodaphone prepaid SIM only for data for one month, no voice or SMS use, only data. You do need to activate the data option once you buy the SIM card. In Spain, you need to insert the iPhones Network >>> Cellular Data setting as well. This is the APN address, just Google “iPhone Spain Vodaphone APN” and you have them (APN:, username: voadfone, password: vodafone) In Portugal leave all the APN fields empty. Of course, you should do this before you get to Spain, while you still a cellular data network or just do it from the Vodafone store where you bought the SIM card on their computer.
Adding “recharga” Euros to your prepaid account in Spain is very easy. Just go to any gas station, supermercado, or Vodaphone store. You just tell the clerk how much to recharga and what your Vodafone telephone number is. You will get a text from Vodaphone confirming your purchase, seconds after the clerk submits it to Vodafone. There are other ways to recharga, including directly on your iPhone but I don´t like giving my credit card number to any carrier ever. One glitch, I experienced initially was that your data connection will be cut-off once you reach a minimum Euro balance of around two Euros. This confused me the first time it happened. The good thing about Euro carriers is that they must notify you by law if your balance is low and they can´t let you accrue a negative account balance. No monster bills allowed in Europe. The US congress is trying to create the same laws in the US but corporate America probably will try to derail this good idea.
I kept my iPhone in airport mode mostly as I didn´t want to drain my prepaid minutes or my phone´s battery (I was camping 50% of my nights and didn´t always have an easy recharge option). I used Google maps and the GPS alot for bike touring map navigation and this required activating the Vodafone data network. I used the data network without hesitation for a month and I spent about 70 Euros “upping” my phone, totally worth the cost in my mind. Having a Vodafone iPhone with maps/GPS, email, NYT, and Twitter is great for a month long bike tour in Spain.

Camping Souvage

Every once in a while you get screwed. After a fanatastic 70km ride up Rio Navia. I reached a town called Grandas. It was Sunday in Spain and this town was dead. Nothing was open, no food, no hotels, no campgrounds. One bar was open. So what do you do?
Plan B: eat bar food which includes pound cake, peanuts, and ice cream That’s all the bar had. Not even any tapas which is unheard of in Spain. I also loaded up on vino tinto which is practically free in Spain. Of course, there is the other Sunday religon; futball on TV to help pass the time. Strangely, the town had wifi but no food on Sunday?
Since you have no place to sleep and it is 6:40pm, it’s time for “camping souvage” (Francais). Which means you must resort to camping in an unimproved campsite. Rare in Europe, but no big deal in North America. So tonight I will camp souvage for the first night of the trip; no hot shower, no morning expresso, no AM crissont delivered to my tent. If I don’t survive the camping souvage night please shed a tear for me when you can.