When people think Camino de Santiago, they typically think hiking. But did you know that nearly one in ten people chose to use their feet in a different way – to power themselves along on a bicycle? Switching to pedal power gains you speed, frees your feet from those annoying blisters, and allows you to venture farther, affording you some stunning sights and trails along the way.
It isn’t easy – while walkers need to hoof it for 100kms to receive their certificates, bicigrinos (the term for bicycling pilgrims) must achieve double that to have their name on a certificate. To help you get there, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 Best Bikes for Camino de Santiago. Of course, you can rent a bike when you get there, but its always better to take your own so that you are 100% sure of its performance characteristics, comfort level and condition. After all, 200 kilometers in the saddle isn’t a joke and you don’t want a wonky rental bike to take away the experience, do you?
Top 5 Best Bikes for Camino de Santiago
Schwinn Discover Hybrid Bike
Best for Men:
Schwinn Network 3.0 Mens Hybrid Bike
Best for Women:
Roadmaster R8047WMDS Women’s Granite Peak Mountain Bike
Best for Kids:
Huffy Kids Hardtail Mountain Bike
Best Overall: Schwinn Discover Hybrid Bike
In a Nutshell:
- Hybrid bike, can be used by men or women
- Available with step-over or step-through frame for easier access
- 21-speeds with SRAM twist-grip shifters
- 28-inch wheels and Promax alloy linear pull brakes for progressive braking control
- Lightweight aluminum frame means less weigh to lug around
- Padded seat and swept-back handlebars for comfort on long rides
- Front and rear fenders to keep dirt and muck away from you
The Schwinn Discover Hybrid Bike is a stylish commuter bike that is useful if you are an ardent commuter by bicycle who also plans to hit the Camino. Designed for male and female riders, you can choose step-through or step-over frame designs at purchase. SRAM twist-grip shifters offer 21 speeds to choose from, and Promax alloy linear pull brakes help you stop. The bike has a padded seat and a rear-gear carrier that will be useful for your backpack along the Camino trail, as will its lightweight aluminum frame.
Bear in mind that this bike does not have full front and rear suspension, and the brakes act directly on the wheel rims and are thus prone to overheating. It does offer front and rear fenders to help direct dirt, mud and muck away from your body, but the 28-inch wheels mean that a petite rider may find it harder to mount and alight from.
In a Nutshell:
- Steel frame for toughness but more weight to lug around
- 18-speeds with twist-grip shifters for easy shifting
- Front and rear linear-pull brakes
- Tool-free adjustable seat post for quick changes
- Suitable for riders of height 5’4” to 6’2”
- 26-inch wheels with knobbly tires
- 3-piece toughened mountain crank
The Roadmaster – 26 Inches Granite Peak Men’s Mountain Bike does what it says on the tin – which is be a legit mountain bike. It’s rated for riders ringing in between 5’4” and 6’2” in height and comes with a tough steel frame, knobbly tires and a 3-piece toughened mountain crank. This bike wouldn’t necessarily be a comfortable city commuter – it’s meant for serious trail business for the rider who is on a budget. You don’t get fenders or gear carriers, but you do get a front suspension fork for some comfort.
User reviews are largely positive, stating that it’s a decent mountain bike that also works in the city. Bear in mind that since it comes partially assembled, you will need to perform some final assembly, as well as air up the tires to the recommended pressure. The seat is also a bit hard, so you might want to upgrade the seat if that’s a deal breaker for you!
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Best for Men: Schwinn Network 3.0 Mens Hybrid Bike
In a Nutshell:
- Hybrid alloy frame for a blend of lightness and toughness
- 700c-size wheels – approx. 28.5 inches in diameter
- Rated for riders of height 5’4” to 6’2”
- 21-speeds with thumb shifters
- Alloy linear pull brakes
- Schwinn front suspension fork and suspension seat post
- Comes fully disassembled
- Lifetime warranty for as long as the buyer owns the bike
The Schwinn Network 3.0 Mens Hybrid Bike is another hybrid bike that is made for the city slicker as well as the trail plugger. It’s a 700c-size bike which means wheels of approximately 28.5 inches. This will pose an issue for petite riders. It’s got 21 speeds that are actuated with thumb shifters. Some riders actually prefer these to twist shifters so it all depends on your preference. Front suspension fork and suspended seat post mean the Camino trails will be somewhat more cushioned and the hybrid alloy frame offers a good blend of lightness and toughness.
This bike comes fully disassembled so bear that in mind, and a nice touch is the lifetime warranty for as long as you (the buyer) own the bike. Taller riders shouldn’t encounter any difficulties with this bike, but shorter riders may find it a little more challenging. If that’s you, a potential fix could be changing the seat post – bear in mind if you go down this route, you do lose the seat post suspension.
Best for Women: Roadmaster R8047WMDS Women’s Granite Peak Mountain Bike
In a Nutshell:
- Steel frame
- Front suspension fork
- 26-inch wheels with knobbly tires
- 18 speeds and twist-grip shifters
- Step-through frame
- Linear pull brakes
The Roadmaster R8047WMDS Women’s Granite Peak Mountain Bike is designed for ladies to take to the trails with ease. It sports a steel frame for strength and a front suspension fork to cushion impacts on the rider’s arms. 26-inch wheels with knobbly tires mean that this bike is more suited off the tarmac than on it, and accommodates riders from 5’4” onwards. The step-through design makes it easy to alight, and 18-speeds with twist-grip shifters help you make easy work of the Camino’s notorious hills.
As the bike requires some assembly, we recommended that you ensure all parts are properly seated, tightened and torqued, and that the tires are inflated to the correct pressure. The seat could also be a little on the hard side for longer rides, and an aftermarket seat could be a good upgrade.
Best for Kids: Huffy Kids Hardtail Mountain Bike
In a Nutshell:
- Steel frame, metallic cyan paintwork
- 6-speed with single twist-grip on RHS handgrip
- Recommended for kids aged 5-9 years, and 44-56 inches in height
- 20-inch wheels with 1.95” knobbly tires
- Linear pull brake levers
- Padded, stitched ATB saddle
Who says adults have all the Camino fun? If you plan to take your kids with you, the Huffy Kids Hardtail Mountain Bike is a great way for them to join you. Featuring a steel frame with an eye-catching metallic cyan paintjob, this 6-speed bike will have them tackling the trails with ease. It’s made for kids aged between 5 and 9, and 44 to 56 inches in height. Is 20-inch wheels and knobbly tires and will surely have them trying out some stunts! The padded and stitched saddle will keep them comfortable, too! The bike comes partially assembled and a tutorial video on completing assembly is included, which we love, because it makes assembly time quick!
As a side note, even though this is technically a kids bike, adults of a more petite stature could for sure get away with riding this!
Features to Look for in a Bicycle for Camino de Santiago
Gears and Gear Shifters
The Camino is not all smooth and flat – there are hills and dips and you will definitely need a bicycle with gears if you are to conquer it all. Just like in your car, gears help your body transmit its power to the wheels in response to the changing terrain. For efficient cruising at speed, a high gear allows you to settle into a comfortable rhythm. When a hill looms ahead, shifting into a lower gear means you will pedal more to maintain a certain speed, but each downward stroke with your foot will require less energy. After all, the last thing you want is to get bogged down midway up a hill.
Gears are only half of the story. How you shift those gears is the other half. Typically, bicycles have two ways – either through twist-grips on the main handlebars, or thumb shifters that you flick with your thumbs. Thumb shifters are more conducive to braking whilst shifting than twist-grips, while twist grips feel more natural to operate for more casual riders. It all depends on your preference so choose accordingly.
Frame stiffness is one of those things that affect how your bicycle handles and feels. Remember that each time you put force through a pedal, that force is coursing through the entire frame. A mushy frame will make your bicycle feel less certain, less stable and absorb some of that precious energy when you ride hard. However, it will also be more comfortable to ride under normal conditions.
Go for a stiffer frame and your bike will feel like a performance car – stable, focused and razor-sharp handling. You will waste less energy too. However, it will also ride less comfortably, resulting in your butt and arms getting more battered. Not ideal for long hikes! Remember that to stiffen a frame whilst controlling the weight requires sophisticated materials – it’s not uncommon to find carbon-fiber frames among the highest-performance bicycles – so the cost will skyrocket as well.
For the Camino, we reckon the average bicycle frame should be more than enough – it isn’t the Tour de France after all, and you’re focusing on exploring and discovery more than outright speed and competition.
Kickstand Mounts and Kickstands
If you are planning on taking your trusty daily rider to the Camino, it probably already has a kickstand installed – after all you wouldn’t dream of riding without it, would you? If you’re looking to purchase a bike specifically for the Camino, do you actually need one?
The short and long answer is, yes, you do. Whatever little aerodynamic and weight benefit you gain by foregoing one is overshadowed by the sheer convenience of having it. After all, you are likely to stop at points of interest, even if for a few minutes to take in the sheer beauty of the scenes along the Camino. A kickstand allows you to rest your bike upright in a convenient spot (make sure it’s off the trail where it can’t pose a danger to other bicigrinos), alight from it and explore. We truly believe it’s something you need.
Yes you can. Nearly 10% of Camino pilgrims become bicigrinos – that is, they cycle it.
Depends on which trail you take. You need to bike a minimum of 200kms to receive your certificate. Typically, trails can be just over 500km in total and take 2 weeks to bike, meaning your daily cycling target is around 38-45 kilometers.
It all depends on where you are coming from. If you are a very short distance from the start of a trail, why not just ride there? If it’s within driving distance, hitch your bike up to your car and take a drive. Other options include flying it with you, or shipping it in advance.
The best time is from April to October. The temperatures are starting to rise by April and you may encounter some rain too. Temperatures may touch 30C in peak summer, but nothing too scorching, with lows of 15C. Come October, temperatures are dipping again and some rain can be expected too. Do not attempt in winter as the trails can be slick with snow.