When I moved to Spain I started googling for cycle routes to do. I found it quite difficult to find anything detailed and so decided when I started cycling that I would blog about my routes, link to the strava map of the route and give some detail. That way hopefully these blogs can be helpful to other cyclists in Spain, whether living here (in which case say hi!) or on holiday with a bike. Also if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know 🙂
The Anillo Verde (literal translation: green ring) is a cycle path that circles Madrid. It is 69km, 39 miles long in total and is almost entirely off-road, on smooth, wide bike paths. It starts about 15 minutes from my flat, 15 minutes on quiet backstreets. Sounds perfect, right?!
And that’s why I decided my first proper ride in Madrid would be on the Anillo Verde. In hindsight, perhaps 40 miles was pushing it slightly for my first proper cycle in over a month and my first long cycle since January.
Saturday was a beautiful, warm sunny day with forecasts of above 20 degrees. I faffed around getting ready, putting suncream on, digging out my summer cycling gear and sunglasses, and headed out around 11am. I had downloaded maps to my garmin and a route from strava (more on this I think in another post) and was using this to give me directions.
Getting on to the Anillo Verde is easy – especially from my flat.Basically you want to get into the Casa del Campo, which for me is about a ten minute downhill scoot through Madrid backstreets, then up and over the motorway on a cycle bridge. The route starts with another cycle bridge and I was off! Winding my way in one big circle around Madrid.
It was a cycle of ups and downs, both physically, with over 600m of climbing, but also mentally. I was really enjoying myself for the first bit, on a lovely path beside the river. The path is paved so perfect for road bikes, and wide. There are three sections – two wide pathways for bikes in both directions (room to ride two-abreast and to overtake) and another section for walkers / runners, of which there were many in the first hour or so. The scenery to the right was standard city suburbs, ugly looking flats, large department stores and building works. But the scenery to the left was magnificent – expanses of fields with snow-topped mountains in the not-so-far distance. Hard to believe that was actually snow when it was so warm in Madrid!
The path was busy, but not too busy. There was a constant stream of cyclists in both directions, ranging from families with kids on little bikes (going up some steep hills!) to mountain bikers, to super-sporty-looking road bikers. And lots of women cycling on their own! Which I quite enjoyed as, other than communting, I have very rarely seen a woman cycling by herself in the UK. I was also surprised by the high number of mountain bikes, by far the most common type of bike. It was strange as the path was perfectly suited to road bikes.
About 15k in started the part of the ride I didn’t really enjoy. For at least half an hour, if not longer, the bike path just ran along side a busy, wide road. Yes, at least I wasn’t actually on the road. But being on the path meant frequent stops for side roads and it all just got a bit wearing. Plus I have a big thing for views and, as striking as some of the buildings were, this was just not my idea of an ideal ride.
Once we finally left the side of the road my spirits perked up a bit, with some lovely long downhill stretches from about the 40k mark. At one point the path dived into a ridiculously green wooded area, with the river gently bubbling through it, at another point it ran parallel (prior to the main downhill) to the parque lineal de palomeras, which had incredible views looking out to the countryside west of Madrid. I bet there would be some fantastic sunsets from there.
But after 2 hours and 30 minutes, my garmin screen froze. I still have no idea why this happened and really hope it’s not going to be a continuing problem. The route had been relatively easy to follow up until this point. The path was red and so looking out for the red pavement was always a good way to spot where you should go, and there were signposts pointing out “la ruta ciclista” or directly “anillo verde“. There were also always other cyclists to follow, or to point out the correct route, as happened twice when I looked slightly lost. Someone would cycle past and say “derecha!” (right) and I would follow them.
Then we hit a problem. I reached the entrance to the Parque Lineal de Manzaneres and the red path just stopped. Did I go into the park? Around it? I went in, stopped, looked around. Asked a cyclist where the anillo verde was and he gave me directions back out of the park. With hindsight, he was directing me back the way I had come, going the opposite way around the ring, but at the time I thought I must have missed a turn-off. I almost found myself cycling onto a motorway, realised just in time that that obviously wasn’t right. At this point I came across another cyclist who told me I couldn’t continue any further (I’d kind of worked that out by the cars and lorries rushing past at 70mph plus) and said I could follow him and he would show me the way to the anillo verde. So I did, and he did – back into the park. My next error was that I missed the exit from the park and ended up cycling almost all the way round it. I was having a bit of a sense of humour failure at this point. Losing my garmin meant I’d lost the constant “elapsed time” reminder that kept me on track with eating etc every hour. Plus I had no idea where I was or how much further I had to go. I was getting hungry – it was well past lunch time. I had finished off a banana and loads of strawberries, and although I had some shot blox I really wanted some lunch!
I eventually found myself back on the right route, and soon realised I was coming along the river back into the centre of Madrid. This area was very busy with people wandering (it’s different from walking, trust me) in a way that the rest of the route hadn’t been and it was hard to get up any speed whatsoever. I almost had a collision and ended up swearing at a young child when I was just about to overtake him and he decided, without looking over his shoulder or making any suggestion whatsoever, to turn at a right angle and cycle directly across the path and pretty much directly into me. In my defence, I didn’t so much swear at him as swear involuntarily. I have a big fear about coming off my bike in a collision. Heart rate sky high I cycled on.
After almost exactly 40 miles, I was home! I immediately got some water boiling for a huge bowl of pasta and was exhausted the rest of the day – probably not helped by the fact I had managed to burn myself quite badly on my thighs and on the inside of my elbows despite the putting on of suncreamI had done in the morning! There is now absolutely no way I can pass off as being Spanish.
All in all its a good route to do if you want an easy circuit that doesn’t involve cycling on the wrong side of the road (if you’re English) or getting to grips with Spanish driving. Its unlikely to be a route that will give you a top overall speed but there are definite sections you can really push yourself on to get a good workout in. I’d do it again but I won’t be doing it every week!
Here’s the ride – if you have strava premium you can directly download the gpx onto whatever device you use and have the map! If not then at least it will give you a good idea. I’ll update this when I do the route again without getting lost 🙂