If you haven’t heard about the TET (Trans Euro Trail), it is a project which aims to map a predominantly off-road but legally rideable network of tracks and trails covering the whole of Europe. At the time of writing this, with the help of a large network of volunteers (I have mapped large sections of Catalunya) and linesmen, 51,000km of trails have been mapped from the Arctic circle to Africa and from Portugal to Ukraine. It is a community driven project, and the GPX files are available for free so anyone with a suitable bike can ride the TET.
At the moment, the Spanish TET is part of one large circular route incorporating Portugal, with some small branch routes to places of interest, and some circular routes around the more scenic parts, which becomes more of an Iberian TET. The entire TET network is under constant development so before setting off, you always need to ensure you have downloaded the latest GPX file. Check out my post about navigation. Sometimes trails can be washed out by rain, rockfalls can make some tracks impossible to follow, and sometimes the right to ride along a trail can be revoked.
The Spanish TET GPX route is maintained by a friend of mine, Simon Rice, also known as The Spanish Biker. My own contribution to the Spanish TET focuses around the town of Flix in Tarragona province. I own a farm here and I was able to route the TET right past the farm which had a legal holiday cottage. Unfortunately that business had to close following a wildfire which swept through the area in June 2019.
Using my farm as a starting point, I have been able to regularly ride the TET north and south of this area, and I can now ride for a day in each direction without needing to use any form of navigation. Due to the weather systems in the inland parts of Spain, the TET can be a very different experience at different times of the year, which is why I would suggest people return and try it again, possibly reversing the route to make it even more interesting.
So what can you expect on this part of the Spanish TET? Well the tracks here are wonderful. Typically, they are tracks that the farmers use to get to their land and they criss-cross the entire country. As they are used by tractors, they are wide enough for two bikes to pass, but not wide enough for a bike to pass a tractor without one having to pull over. The soil varies considerably, from slate and shale to the most gloopy and sticky terracotta clay. Most of the soil is a pale, sandy substrate which is like concrete when its dry, but this quickly becomes gloopy clay after some rain. I personally find this soil perfect to ride with knobbly tyres after a couple of hours of rain. Just a bit or rain allows the tyres to bite into the soil without it becoming too soft and slippery.
The trails are never far away from civilisation for food and drink stops, even little sleepy rural villages will have a bar that does a coffee and a generous sandwich (bocadillo) for just a few euros. Having said that, it can be incredibly hot when travelling slow along the trails, so make sure you carry plenty of water to hydrate, and especially if you get a puncture or break-down, it can be a long, hot walk to get help, and the chances are the local garage will be closed for siesta. Fuel stops can be found easily with just small detours from the trail into a nearby town. Its the same for accommodation, practically every town will have somewhere for you to stay and a selection of bars serving food. Most towns will also have a mechanic, should you need any repairs or spares.
During the dry months, you will see people riding on almost bald tyres because the ground is too hard for anything to dig in and find any traction. But after the first rains of Autumn (usually the end of September), everyone rushes out to get some new knobbly tyres. I have tried various tyres on the TET here, the first were a set of Mitas enduro tyres. These were probably the best in terms of grip, but they didn’t last long enough. I then tried some Michelin Sirac tyres, which were great in the dry months, but very difficult to ride along the trails after a bit of rain. I then tried some Continental TKC80’s, which were OK. They aren’t an outstanding tyre, but they are a great all terrain tyre. Comfortable on or off-road, and with a reasonable lifespan for the money. I’m currently riding on a set of Motoz Tractionator Adventure, and I have mixed feelings about them. They certainly last longer than the others, although I am getting through 2 fronts to 1 rear which is really unusual for bike tyres. I find the front lacking bite when cornering off-road, but the rear is good and confidence inspiring.
There are a few dangers to be aware of when riding the TET in Spain. The fact that the trails have to be suitable for tractors means that there is the risk of you coming across one at some point, so please only ride as fast as you can stop safely. And farmers don’t always drive around on a slow tractor, you will see them driving around in their 4×4’s. Wild animals are also a risk on the trails, particularly wild boar. If you hit one of these, you will do a lot of damage to your bike, but worse than that, if you encounter one with babies, you can expect one to charge you. These beasts with their tusks have severed femoral arteries and people have bled out and died, so whilst they look cute and interesting, please stay away from them. And where there are wild animals, you will also find hunters and their dogs. Hunting seasons and the days they can hunt vary from region to region, and there can be exceptions, but when they are hunting, you will generally see lots of 4×4’s parked up, sometimes guys in hi-viz who act as spotters, and of course dozens of hunting dogs which generally have a hi-viz collar so they aren’t mistaken for a wild animal and shot.
Take a look at a YouTube video of me riding parts of the TET so you can see what its like, and feel free to email me if you have any questions or are looking for someone to guide you along part or all of the Iberian TET.
You can download the latest TET Spain GPX file by clicking here.