When you think of bikepacking, mountain bikes and tents may come to mind. But there are many ways to do it, and Belgian rider Jonas Decraene recently completed a 24-day self-supported trip across the paved and gravel roads of Spain and Portugal on a 3T Exploro. Decraene, a radiologist, averaged more than 120 miles a day and documented the region's beauty on Strava. BikeRadar caught up with him at the Barcelona airport on his way home.
Decraene's Iberian Odyssey, by the numbers
- Total distance: 2,993mi
- Total elevation gain: 242,930ft / 74,045m
- Total time: 24 days
- Bike: 3T Exploro Team, SRAM Force1 (46t x 12/36), DT Swiss XMC 1200 650b wheels and WTB ByWay tires
- Computer: Garmin Edge 1030
- Bags: Apidura
- On-bike clothing: 3 bib shorts, 3 base layers, 6 jerseys, 6 pairs of socks, 1 gilet, 1 rain jacket, helmet, shoes, glasses
- Off-bike clothing: 2 shorts, 2 T-shirts, 1 boxer short, 1 swimming short, 1 pair of All Star shoes
- Misc: Sunscreen, toothbrush, antiseptic spray, chain lube, tubeless sealant, some pocket tools, DJI Mavic Air Drone
BikeRadar: How did you come up with this idea?
Decraene: I did this kind of bike traveling for the first time one year ago and I really loved it. It's very different from driving your bike somewhere with a car and doing a loop. So I was looking for new ideas, and I wanted a real challenge that would be difficult but possible. The original plan was cycling from Barcelona to Lisbon, but as I couldn't choose between the northern way or the southern way. It soon got out of hand...
How did you pick the route?
After the main outline 'cycling from Barcelona to Lisbon and back' was set, I started making a checkpoints list with places I wanted to include. For this, I looked at maps, did basic 'must-see' Google searches and looked at Google photos projected on the map. Of course, I also had some checkpoints in mind that I had wanted to see for a longer time, and received some hints from friends. After the list was complete, I started to design a long track connecting them in the best way possible, with mostly cyclist-friendly roads and some unpaved stretches. I selected the roads based on Google streetview and satellite images when needed.
Did you do the whole thing solo?
Yes, 100% solo. All luggage was mounted on the bike. Only the bike case for the airplane was stored in Barcelona for 24 days.
Did you stay in hotels, or sleep outside?
I have considered sleeping under the stars, and I really wanted to try it, but I was too afraid that I wouldn't be able to recuperate for the next day for so many days in a row. I wanted a good shower, a good bed and a good breakfast, and based my choice of hotels and B&B's on that. Everything was booked in advance, so I kind of had to reach my destination every day.
Have you done anything like this before?
My first bikepacking trip was one year ago. I cycled 2,000km from North Italy (Genoa) to South Italy (Bari) in 12 days. That was also a plan that got a bit out of hand. I needed to be in Bari for work for three days and wanted to combine some days off with it... I liked it so much, that I also have planned bikepacking trips to Norway and Corsica this year, 10 days each.
How did your gear work?
The bike setup and the bags proved to be absolutely perfect for this kind of trip. As for the luggage, I don't think I need more for 24 days, I could have maybe even cut it down a little. I was happy I brought my gilet however, because the first 10 days were rather cold and rainy.
Are you on Strava? Then join the BikeRadar Strava club and share your adventures with riders from all over the world. And check out Decraene's Strava page to see his Spanish routes and more photos.