Cycling is “a way of life” and Andalusia “is a fantastic region where you can go cycling even in the winter,” argues Francisco J. Cortés, coordinator of the Transándalus Project. Unfortunately “people in Spain prefer spending the summer on the beach, eating and drinking rather than doing sport in the mountains”.
But what exactly is Transándalus? “Transándalus is a long distance route for mountain bikers that takes in all the provinces in Andalusia” explains Cortés. It was drawn up in 2000, when two cyclists from Huelva, Antonio C. Álvarez and Juan Manuel Muñoz, came up with an idea for a project to promote cycling tourism in the region. Their first attempt failed because “we could not get the necessary support,” explains Cortés. They tried again four years later as the Andalusian online community of cycling enthusiasts grew. “For years people have been publishing their own guides in blogs. They know the area and have everything they need to explore the region.” Many cyclists from Andalusia got in touch with the Transándalus Project asking to take part. This time the launch of the project “went off to a flying start, even though it still had the potential to attract more people,” Cortés continues.
Twenty five members and over forty collaborators have participated in the project which, though complete, still needs to be constantly updated with information about stretches that have been closed down and alternative routes. Six members have completed the whole Transándalus route and four of them did it all in one go. In order to complete the whole circuit without breaks you need “at least thirty days and you need to be in great physical shape,” explains Cortés. “The Transándalus route is not for everyone. There are stretches that are really tough like those in the south and especially those that go through the Cazorla mountain range”.
Despite all this, hardcore enthusiasts are not put off and cyclists from as far away as Russia and Australia have come to try the route. Many people come from abroad with their rucksacks in tow to take part in this Andalusian adventure. The project collaborators never know exactly who is doing it at any given time, but the majority of cyclists get in touch with the team after they have finished the circuit via the website’s forum. “That is our reward. When they post their stories on the website”. Riders accounts encourage the Transándalus team. “It means that the information we have provided on the website is so good they didn’t have to contact us before or during their adventure”.
Each stretch is described in detail but what makes Transándalus.com a practical website are all the digital tools that users have at their disposal. A “route viewer” shows the trail in each area and includes specific information about the distance, the slopes and the weather. The “stageometer” is a calculator for each of the stages that plans your journey for the day. You can use this to calculate cycling distance and time. You can also find accounts of riders’ own experiences posted in the forum section and there are statistics published online.
The Transándalus team have just started publishing regional guides with all this information in collaboration with the Andalusian government, who have exclusive publishing rights. “We received offers from private publishing companies but the Andalusian government were offering the best price for the public,” says Cortés. “These guides only cost 3 euros, so everyone can afford a copy.”
For Cortés “the most incredible thing is getting to know another side to Andalusia and meeting people with the same enthusiasm for cycling”. He doesn’t consider himself a cycling fanatic; he drives and doesn’t complain about the lack of cycle routes in built up areas. “These issues are in the hands of the public because they are the ones who can force the government to make decisions. It is not a case of creating cycling lanes, it is more a case of encouraging people to use them”. Those involved in the project are only asking the Andalusian government for one thing: “that they help us to promote the route. We don´t need anything else. We just want to promote a different kind of Andalusia abroad”.
Often we hear cycling enthusiasts complain about the fact that cycling in Spain will never take centre stage and that the media don’t give it the attention it deserves. Nonetheless, these complaints seem less relevant nowadays since it’s is becoming clear that “many people take their bikes out every day, with their families, alone, along the roads or up in the mountains. That is the real power that cycling has. You have to do it rather than watch it. You don’t need the media to pay any attention in order to enjoy it”.
These books related to Transándalus may interest you.
- • VV.AA. TransAndalus. Guía de Córdoba en bicicleta. Consejería de Turismo y Deporte de la Junta de Andalucía, 2008