After a couple of winters spent scouting, Tristan Ridley’s latest video documents his first full ride of the new Gran Canaria Grande bikepacking route in Spain’s spectacular Canary Islands.
Words, photos and video by Tristan Ridley (@tristanrid)
For many people, the Canary Islands are all about sunshine, beaches, and booze, but half-hidden behind an outward veneer of sunscreen, resorts, and package holidays, the islands hold enormous potential for cycling of all disciplines. Bikepacking is no exception. The islands have spectacular scenery, a wealth of roads, tracks, and trails to explore, and a remarkably diverse array of landscapes. The last few years have seen the Canaries gain more exposure within the cycling community due to the fantastic work of Matteo Minelli in putting together the GranGuanche routes, which cross all seven of the major islands. Several organized races following the GranGuanche routes are now held yearly, with many of the biggest names in endurance cycling having already taken part.
I first visited the Canary Islands in November 2021, flying into Gran Canaria with my bike, gear, and only a rough plan for how I would spend the following few months. I chose the Canaries because I wanted to escape the damp, dark misery of the northern European winter. The Canaries—located just off the northwest coast of Africa—are blessed with a fantastic climate that tends to be good all year round. As part of Spain, the Canaries are also part of the EU, which makes things easy in terms of visas and SIM cards. Plus, flights from Europe are inexpensive, even with a bicycle.
All of the Canary Islands are unique and worth visiting, but I think Gran Canaria is by far the best of the bunch for bikepacking. One glance at a topographic map of the island will tell you that it’s incredibly mountainous, formed, as all of the Canary Islands were, by volcanic activity dating back millions of years. Despite measuring only around 50 kilometers (30 miles) in length, the high point of the island is an impressive 1,949 metres (6,394 feet), and dozens of deep valleys run down from this central caldera towards the coast, creating a dramatic landscape rich in mountains, canyons, and remarkable towering rock formations.
Gran Canaria also has an impressive network of roads and trails throughout the island, so it has enormous potential for exploration.
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