Gravel Culture: Travel Gravel - Hiru Hiriburuak weekend gravel
Gravel Union On
25 March 2021
Friday afternoon was upon us and I had a desire for adventure. My bike packing bags practically leapt out as I opened the door to my closet. The weather forecast looked perfect. An exploratory gravel riding trip to the Basque Country was in my plans for the weekend.
I settled on the goal of riding a route which unites the three "Hiru Hiriburuak" capitals, Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Donostia-San Sebastián.
My aim was to create a route that encourages tourism in the area and is accessible to all. I hoped that the route would allow riders the choice of doing it in one go, splitting it into several stages, or even doing it on different weekends, taking advantage of the different means of public transport that connect the main cities.
The availability of time and the physical fitness of each person trying the route will be different, but the one constant is the wildness of the Basque topography. My route allowed for all of these different variables.
The route was 90% off-road. I set up my gravel bike, with everything I needed for the ride carried bikepacking style. I planned to be 100% self-sufficient. I was going to be travelling light, not depending on anything or anyone and being able to travel long distances easily.
My chosen configuration for the ride was an Orbea Terra M20i gravel bike, fitted with Shimano’s GRX Di2 2x11 groupset and 40mm Vittoria tyres. I hoped this was the perfect combination for the tracks (which are in good condition), but without penalising me on the asphalt sections.
I’ve had four bags on my bike. A 17L saddlebag containing my sleepwear, spare clothes, sleeping bag, stove, gas cylinder and cup. A 9L handlebar bag containing my tent and sleeping mat. A handlebar pocket bag for accessories, consumables, dehydrated food and energy bars. Last, but not least, I had a 4.5L frame bag containing my wash kit, electronic elements and mini padlock.
I rode until nightfall and dined like a king – albeit a slightly shabby-looking, sweaty king. A night under the stars was chilly in March but completely worthwhile for the mental space and solitude it gave me. I was up with the crows for a campfire breakfast for another near-200km day.
The result of my weekend exploration was 380kms ridden in 48 hours. The weekend was over. I had a tired body but a refreshed mind.
My advice for aspiring weekend gravel adventurers is organise your time - a weekend is more than enough for a revitalising exploration trip. Enough time to get away from the routine, to learn about your environment and its history. Pack up your bike packing kit, get out there and see what you can find!