00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation

You are now at post Nr. 00a out of 10 for this tour.
If you want to read the post of that trip in order, voilà:
00a Freiburg – Barcelona preparation
00b Freiburg – Barcelona READY to go
01 Freiburg – Lake Neuchâtel (206km, 1200m)
02 Lake Neuchâtel – Geneva (119km, 968m)
03 Geneva – Lyon (167km, 1585m)
04 Lyon into the Cevennes – on climbing and descending… (157km, 1885m)
05 Lac St. Martial – Tarn (187km, 2900m) Prototype of THE cycle touring day
06 Tarn – Carcassonne (203km, 2683m) – A long day in 3 dimensions
07 Carcassonne – Casteil (148km, 2635m) Arrival at the ‘base camp’
08 Walking over the Pyrenees and cycling down into Spain (110km, 2671m) – reality checks
09 Hot as hell. Tortellà, Costa Brava, Canet de Mar (145km, 1468m)
10 La Final: last 48km to Barcelona & recap. What a tour…


As usual, preparation took a lot of time and i think i did it thoroughly. It involved mostly proper route planning, changes to my luggage setup (for more comfort) and installing lighter gearing.

The Route

Figuring out the exact route is important to me because I do not want to end up taking only big roads just because it’s the ease-to-navigate option. So I had to really plan, and also check almost every km of the route in StreetView for proper pavement – where possible.

So I used Google MyMaps to lay out some routes. I took into consideration that I wanted to visit a great old old friend in Lyon, pass the Massif Central through exciting areas, exit it in Carcassonne, and then wanted to find a pass over the Pyrenees that is not the easy and crowded option (like through Andorra) but preferred to find something more lonely. remote and adventurous. So I ended up with something roughly like this:

Luggage setup

I was actually very happy with my basic setup. There was one major change: Last fall I bought aero-bars. Last year’s tour was very strenuous for my arms. So I thought aerobars could be a worthwhile idea. Of course I also hoped to feel some aerodynamic effect. At first I felt a bit ridiculous, but after some fine tuning I started to love it!

Sadly that meant I could not use my Ortlieb bag anymore. Instead I would strap a drybag with my sleeping bag and mat under the bars, would add two food pouches and a fuel tank bag. Since I did not store my sleeping gear on the rack anymore I had space left to empty the backpack and put more stuff on the rack which would make the riding even more comfortable.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset


I do not have much mountain experience. And this will be a killer mountain trip. So I had to do something about my gearing. I bought an 11-32 cassette. But to accommodate the large cog I also needed to replace the derrailleur with a larger WiFli-cage. Furthermore I changed the front chainrings from 46/36 (cyclocross gearing) to 46-34. So with a combination of 34/32 I should get up the climbs despite my poor climbing experience and the luggage.

Little things

Furthermore I had to sort out many little things to make everything work. Among them:

  • had to get ahold of spare spokes. I did not want to end up with a broken spoke on the top of a lonely Pyrenees pass. Was wuite a hassle to find the right model for my bike…
  • I lost the clamp of my great Pletscher Orion rack. After some E-Mail exchange with Pletscher and some confused communication I bought a new rack – same modell. I modified it for my needs: sawing off the cage with the accessory compartment, built a little board to fill the gap, sawing off and rounding off the tip of the closing mechanism so it doesn’t rub on my leg.
  • finding the right kinds of bags was a challenge, too. I ended up with two Revelate Designs food pouches (thanks Michael from m-bikes for your help!), a Blackburn fueltank bag and a simple drybag.
  • find a new saddle. This is actually quite a risk: I bought a new saddle 3 weeks ago and didn’t really do a hardcore test (actually I did, but my new Assos pants were so terrible that I couldn’t judge the saddle). I ended up with the Specialized Power.
  • had to find some proper straps to make the mounting of my bags easier. Was also more difficult than expected.

Flashback: Why?

At the beginning of this year I had serious doubts whether to do another tour this year. I’ll be honest A) I remembered how in some moments last year on my Berlin/St.Pete/Helsinki trip on an uphill highway in the rain I thought “next time I’ll do this by car”… and B) I opened the season in March with a 100km ride and noticed: it’s exhausting.

Flashback: Previously I couldn’t help thinking where my next trip should go: Clearly: last year 1) was not really summery, 2) the landscape was very homogenous and flat and 3) I cycled distances that did not really allow me the time to interact with these exciting countries and people or relax. So these were…

the requirements for this years tour:

  • warm
  • mountains
  • a direction I didn’t explore yet (= South Europe)
  • shorter day distances
  • make it more recreational
  • start in Germany (to explore “from home”)
  • but not through all of Germany

The two options for me were: Through the balkan to Greece or to Spain/Portugal. I prefered the “culturally easy” option plus I had never seen Barcelona and had heard great things. So if I were to do a trip, it would be this:

Freiburg to Barcelona. Roughly 1300km and thousands of meters of altitude to climb. Because it will be hot at the Mediterranean Sea and because the coast line can be a bit dull, I decided to go through the Massif Central and the Pyrennees.

Flash forward: When I doubted to ride at all, I did check some random StreetView spots… close to Carcassone, in the Pyrenees, in the Massif Central. SO BEAUTIFUL! So: I had to go.

Author: Malte Cyclingtourist

Hi, I'm Malte, cyclo-hedonist, endurance traveller, occasional bikepacking-racer (mostly road) – www.cyclingtourist.com – Strava: Malte Cyclingtourist – Instagram: @maltecyclingtourist

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