“But it always rains in the Picos,” said Weeble pessimistically. It was the night before the ferry, so I was stopping halfway down with my old photographer- who’d done half a dozen trips to the Spanish mountains with me.
It was certainly sunny next day when I met Bruce “Teapot One” Smart and our group at Brittany Ferries’ Plymouth terminal to embark for Santander. I know some people question the cost of the ferry, but if you have limited time and want to spend all your holiday enjoying the roads in Spain, not riding across France, it’s invaluable. After a bit of faff with the cabin allocation, we had a smooth crossing… but disembarked under leaden skies. I put waterproofs on just in case. Damnit, Weeble, you jinxed it!
Our first full day in the Picos dawned equally overcast, as we headed over the San Glorio Pass, past the famous deer statue (nobody believes you’ve been to the Picos without a picture of it). The sun was trying to break through and after lunch - when I had the biggest menu del dia ever - we had proper blue skies and sunshine.
Next day began with a bang, on one of my favourite “secret” roads: 15 miles of immaculate, über-twisty tarmac with heroic views. There were no handy points to stop for pictures… not that anyone really wanted to stop. We were all enjoying riding too much. “Can we turn around and do it again!” asked Steve. Sadly not, as we had to keep heading west.
The only catch with this road is it’s basically a road to nowhere, so it’s followed by five bumpy miles to the coffee stop. After that it was more epic riding to lunch - though the sight of 15 burly bikers seemed to freak some people out and two places said they couldn’t feed us…
I’d planned a more relaxed run for the early afternoon, to let the food go down, then we jumped on a cross-country road that had plenty of corners but flitted from two lanes to three, adding an extra lane for every uphill run but removing much of the challenge. Frankly I need to find a twistier way to link up with my favourite roads that finished the day - sunny, scenic and more involving.
Our overnight stop in Lugo was just perfect: great hotel, packed with character, not too big to walk around, with loads of great places to eat and drink. Even if next morning I took a wrong turn into its one-way system.
Once we were out of the city it was fireworks all the way, with amazing road after amazing road, running eastward along the spine of the mountains, dodging pilgrims walking west on the Camino del Santiago. “That road yesterday morning might have been the best road ever,” said Matt when we got to the hotel, “But today, all day, was the best day’s riding.”
The final full day could have given it a run for its money, heading back into the heart of the Picos de Europa. Unfortunately, as can happen with motorbikes sometimes, one of the team had an off. He was luckily unhurt but the bike wasn’t rideable. While the rest of the guys had a slightly extended lunch, we got him sorted.
Bruce and Matt waited with him for the recovery truck while I led the rest of the group. As we were debating whether to do the full route and get to the hotel a bit late, or shortcut it, a couple of huge cracks of thunder made the decision easy: short route, arriving on time and ahead of the rain.
It was a fantastic trip, even with the up and down weather (yes, yes, Weeble…) and the bit of drama with the dropped bike. These trips are all about the people and we couldn’t have had a better group of characters than Alan, the two Andys, Dale, George, Luke, Mark, Matt, Milky, Mike, Smudge, Steve and Stevie G.
I rode to Bilbao with the guys (ahem… slight navigation error on my part - sorry. I am human, after all) then set off to collect my girlfriend from the airport and ride home. But that looks like being a very different story…