A Visual Journal:
Riding Gran Canaria
The Canary Islands form an archipelago off the north-west coast of Africa and just like Catalunya or the Basque Country, are an autonomous community of Spain. While not the largest, most populous or best known of the Canaries, Gran Canaria, the administrative centre of the archipelago, is an underrated and relatively untouched cycling destination.
At just 50km across and with a strong tourism industry on top of a population approaching one million, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gran Canaria would be an over-crowded hot spot. Far from the truth, the population is largely concentrated in the capital Las Palmas, giving most of the island a remarkable sense of enchanting remoteness. Just a short trip out of the city and it’s easy to ride for hours while hardly passing a car.
Like its iconic neighbour Tenerife, the island is geologically dominated by the volcano that formed it, however Gran Canaria offers vastly more varied terrain and with it a richer array of riding options. Thanks to a population concentrated on the coast, there’s a fair chance you’ll be staying in or around the capital Las Palmas or the resort town of Maspalomas, which means starting at sea level. There are endless winding coastal roads, flanked by postcard beaches and the crystal clear Atlantic if you want to keep the vertical metres low, with no shortage of worthy places to stop and drink in the scenery or a local beverage. The real beauty of riding Gran Canaria however, is found once you turn inland and the road tilts definitively upwards.
There’s the unmissable Valley of the Tears, a 12.7km climb up the GC606 (all the main roads have similarly memorable names), gaining just over 1000m for an average grade of about 10%. What those numbers don’t reveal however are the early switchbacks that bite at over 25%. Or you can make the monstrous 44km, 2200m climb to the island’s second highest peak, Pico de las Nieves, easily built into a breathtakingly scenic 120km loop from the Maspalomas in the south. There’s also an equally picturesque climb to the island’s third highest point, Roque Nublo. Whichever route you end up on, you’ll notice a general theme emerging of snaking switchbacks peppered with more than a few brutally steep pinches. Not for the faint of heart but worth every pedal stroke for the views at the top.
Gran Canaria has more than just world class rides and fresh seafood on offer. Just like the rest of the Canary Islands, the weather is reliably favourable, especially at times of the year when the rest of Europe has put their bikes in the shed. With just 21 average rain days a year, totally less rainfall than we might see in a single bad week in Sydney, there’s a good chance you’ll see the sun on your trip. While slightly variable on some of the inland routes, the road surface is generally excellent which means some of the descents are world class, just rewards for battling double digit gradients up the climbs. Direct flights from most major European hubs also makes the island incredibly accessible and surprisingly affordable. A visit to Gran Canaria makes it obvious why it was the inspiration for our latest H2/22 collection and worthy of a spot on every rider’s bucket list.