Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018

Final Thoughts On Spain

I'm going to cover some things about our Spanish trip that didn't quite fit or make it into the travel story. 

Riding in Spain. 

Regular readers will know I'm driven to despair in the UK by our speed limits, in particular how badly signposted they are and how often they change. I have no objection to the concept of speed limits I just wish they were clear, obvious and easy to follow.

Is Spain any better?

Erm, in a nutshell, no. The principles are the same as at home but they are just not followed - either by the authorities that implement them or the drivers who ought to adhere to them.

It's not uncommon to find the 90kmh countryside lane you're riding being dropped to 70kmh for nothing more than a simple humble bend. From what I understand there then should be a white circle with a faded "70" on it and black diagonal lines to show the end of the 70 zone and a return to the original speed limit. 

A typical red circle speed limit and end of speed limit signageAt a lot of relatively easy bends you may see this - but not always the sign to "end" or "cancel" the limit.

So we pass the 70 sign and slow to 70. We continue, awaiting either a 90 sign or the end of the 70 sign. Nothing. Nada. Meanwhile the road has straightened and a Spanish car is right up Sharon's derrière suggesting we should return to 90.

I was told in Germany the 70 would apply to the hazard then once the hazard is passed it is assumed to return to 90 (or 100). Does the same rule apply here? Sometimes we see a sign cancelling the 70, sometimes we don't, leaving us confused.

The same with towns. In France the 50kmh zone starts at the sign with the town's name on it and ends with the same sign with a diagonal line across it. Here in Spain sometimes that happens, sometimes there's a 50 sign, sometimes there's a sign cancelling the 50 and sometimes there nothing. 

A sign with a town name upon it and a red border in France
In France this is the start of town and the start of the 50KMH zone.

The rules are there I just get the feeling the task of implementing and signing the rules is far from complete. 

There's also these weird traffic lights at the edge of some towns. The idea is that if you're going too fast they sense this and remain red, causing you to slow down. If you're at the correct speed they'll change to green as you approach. Like many UK lights they can't sense motorcycles and remain red. Very frustrating. 

Beware at roundabouts. It is not unheard of for people in the right hand lane to turn left, effectively shutting the door for those on the inside lane of the roundabout and stopping them from exiting. This seems to be the habit of small truck or van drivers in particular.

Beyond this Spain has it's fair share of bad drivers, but no worse than I'd expect to come across in the UK.


We could use our phones in the same way we could use them at home with no additional charges. This was great - but please note this is likely to change with Brexit. Get in touch with your provider before you travel.

The coverage was stunningly brilliant. In Blighty if you're in the sticks it's likely you'll struggle to get any signal at all. Yet on narrow single track lanes in the middle of huge mountains we were getting good data no problem at all. It was a revelation that brought a realisation that the UK providers need to sort themselves out.

A large nest with the head of a stork just visible on top of a steel mobile phone and data mast
Nature making use of Spain's mobile phone and data network. 

Most campsites have WiFi - although the speeds here were a little hit and miss. Overall I'd say Spain is a very "connected" country.


We thought we were being wild and adventurous. For us we were but there were hundreds of other Brits around, particularly in Potes and The Picos De Europa. I daresay nearly all the motorcyclists we saw were Brits and the campervans were either British or Dutch. 

It's obvious why. 1 long ferry ride and about 100 miles sees us amidst beautiful surroundings with amazing roads. Most Brits like ourselves will come via Bilbao or Santander. When we reach the Picos the obvious question is "why go any further?" I also cannot recall seeing any Spanish motorcycles heading to the UK but then - who can blame them?

The Language.

No. No the Spanish do NOT all speak English. Those who work in the tourist trade will have some basics but even Potes with the large number of British tourists is a Spanish speaking town and if you don't have any Spanish you will struggle. 

At LEAST learn please (pour fa-vour) and thank you (grassy-ass)! I spent about 8 weeks practising and learning from YouTube and this really paid huge dividends. Also make use of your data with Google Translate. Show willing, try and the Spanish will try with you.

The People.

Of course Spain has grumpy old men and gobby kids, our experience though was very positive indeed. It was a pleasure to be served at the petrol stations with at least a smile, more typically a jovial encounter. The people in the towns, the country and the campsites that we met were at least pleasant, more often delightful. 

Against the snow atop a mountain a cyclist and motorcyclist talk in the distance
Lovely people, of course some of them are a bit mad.

Would I Return?

Hell yeah. I had a great time. With the benefit of hindsight I believe there are 2 aspects to this. 

Firstly Northern Spain itself. The star of the show was The Picos De Europa with amazing roads and amazing scenery. The Sierra De La Demanda came a very close second and the Sierra De Los Ancares a very respectable third. If I'd only seen but one of these ranges I would still have gone home a very happy chap.

The countryside roads have been splendidly quiet, gasp-inducingly beautiful and thrillingly curvaceous. The smaller towns are lovely. The people have been a pleasure. I've enjoyed attempting to learn the lingo. Even the weather managed to avoid a washout.

Secondly me. No, I did not make the trip worthwhile but I have changed and I am changing. I am a little more relaxed and a little more experienced. This means rather than fretting about everything I am learning to calmly flap in a mature manner. I doubt I'll ever stop worrying but I have moved from it spoiling the adventure to becoming an aspect of it. 

Thank you Spain.

If you'd like to contact Bikes And Travels Ren can be found at ren@bikesandtravels.com

Building Up To EspaƱa In the prologue to their journey Ren can't help but feel that the forthcoming journey might be a costly disaster. Forever the optimist.
Getting Ready For Spain Sharon is determined to be ready, organised and prepared for her forthcoming trip to Spain. However life is even more determined to ruin her plans.
Bodging Daaan Saaaf Ren bears witness to an impossible event. Then there's some last minute bodging to be done.
Motorway Miles And Muses Sharon's derriere proves more than tough enough for the big ride across England. Can she manage to lose them emotional luggage while securing her physical luggage though?
To The Ferry What are the chances of Sharon getting out of bed very early twice in the same week. Well she'd better had otherwise the Muppet's will miss the ferry.
Ocean Blue Sharon's more excited than nervous but this is the first time the Kwakker has been aboard ship. That's if customs let her on board.
Lost Off The Ferry The great adventurer and motorcyclist Ren is proving that he is in fact a useless idiot. He can't ride and he can't find a campsite that is open. Oh what will become of the BAT muppets?
Campsite Conundrum Sharon is having way too much fun while Ren is trying to find a place to sleep. Well someone has to be happy when Ren's such a grump.
Discovering The Picos After a troublesome first day in Spain hopefully Sharon and Ren's luck will improve. Thing is they have a 187km detour to reach their destination. There have been worse detours though.
Heaven's Mirror Putting fear and doubt to bed for a while Sharon enjoys the wondrous ecstasy of nature and the joy of riding a motorcycle through it. Oh and a lot of sharp corners too.
Rain In The Picos Will the rain bring doom and gloom to the already grumpy Ren? Luckily there's enough scenery and interesting things to keep him going.
The Sound Of Silence In spite of a dire weather forecast Sharon's day in Spain is filled with the beauty of nature, fond memories and the creation of great new memories.
Riding to Burgos Is motorcycle touring a non stop stream of excitement, beauty, wonder and exploration? Erm, nope. It's a rather ordinary day on the road to Burgos.
Tin Tin It's both a good and bad day for Sharon as she travels from the delights of the mountains to the grim reality of the city and the rain. At least her hair is looking good.
Higher Than I've Ever Been In spite of the weather forecasts. In spite of no longer being in The Picos. In spite of Ren being a pessimist. In spite of all this it seems Northern Spain has more delights in store.
Magical Kingdom Sharon's having another amazing day riding around Northern Spain. She's on a high, metaphorically and literally.
Boots And Burgos Ren is suffering a footwear malfunction and it's time to go and do that city thing. Can Burgos convert Sharon and Ren into city lovers?
Burgos Bimble Sharon explores the city of Burgos, Spain. Architecture, stone masonry, pilgrims and tempting food. But can a city really endear itself to this country girl?
Lost In Luxury How to turn a fortuitous and splendid day into a nightmare. Just follow Ren and he'll sort the rest out. Still, it could be worse.
Dam Lost Fearing the weather Sharon is braced for a drenching. Thing is the weather isn't really the problem.
Gritty Northern El Bierzo There's time to explore a different part of Northern Spain today. It might not have the beauty of The Picos De Europa it is however a fascinating area.
Blink Of An Eye Sharon has an interesting day poking around north west Spain. There's a something of a shock in store for the evening.
Back To Beauty, Dodgy Caravan It's time for the dynamic muppets to saunter their way back towards the ferry and Ren is in reflective mood. Wonderful scenery, weird accommodation.
The Good, The Bad And The Musty It's a day of confusing emotions for Sharon, but life is for living. Will this evening's accommodation be as luxurious as the previous evening's?
Beautiful Potes While going to a now familiar town is hardly intrepid at least it means Ren is calm, chilled out and not lost. For once.
Head In The Clouds Sharon is calmed by the wonders of Northern Spain's wondrous scenery as she returns to the comforts of Potes.
Sun, Sand, Sea And Santander The weather has improved now it's time for the dynamic muppets to head back to the ferry. Ren is intrigued by stories or walking across Northern Spain, will we see "Walks And Travels" or W.A.T.?
Splish Splash Santander The beauty and grandeur of the The Picos means Sharon does not want to leave, ever. It's back to the city, ready to sail home. Fear not, there's still pleasures to be found.
The Ferry Home It's the dynamic muppet's last day in Spain so it's time to catch the ferry. A mixture of sadness and relief for Ren, but what about the other riders in the queue?
Final Thoughts On Spain Ren crosses the T's and dots the I's on the Spanish trip.

Reader's Comments

Borsuk said :-
My own personal favourite is where the solid white lines are faded beyond readability or they have not been repainted and strangers cross over them. The police know they are there and will do you for crossing them.

I'm glad you enjoyed your time in Spain. I am looking forward to getting a bike over here so I can enjoy my local roads and tracks and explore more of the Southern mountain ranges.
22/08/2018 11:02:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Had a customer fail her test due to stopping on a "KEEP CLEAR" box. I got her to take me to the junction. The sign was so faded and it was lashing down, even stood at the roadside we could barely see anything.

Yeah I had a great time. Now if you could see you way to organising cheap crossings on the ferry that would be marvellous.
22/08/2018 11:38:50 UTC
Borsuk said :-
I could get myself cheap crossing fares but the ferry company might object to me jumping ship every time I got into port.
27/10/2018 02:08:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ah you mean work your passage then disappear? I think if I applied for a job on board it wouldn't be long before my lack of boat knowledge would come to the surface.

"Ren, go to the stern and cast off"
"Is that the pointy end or the blunt end?"
27/10/2018 06:22:06 UTC

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