Biking + mountains + culture = great plan in the Sierra of Madrid

13 December 2023

We start our route in the CicloLodge El Nevero, an accommodation where you can breathe cycling and nature in equal parts: we are in Lozoya, in the Sierra Norte de Madrid We are surrounded by its most legendary mountain passes: Canencia ( 1.524m), Navafría (1.773m), Morcuera (1.796m) or Cotos (1.830m). In CicloLodge they have chosen them to name their room blocks, and today we savor the morning coffee thinking that in a few hours we will have pedaled up to Morcuera… with this challenge in mind, we start riding on our e-bikes: we have 2 days and 100km ahead of us, and a lot of desire to have a great time.

Cycling and cycling Sierra de Madrid_Pinilla Reservoir

On the way to Rascafría, we border the Pinilla Reservoir and pass through postcard villages such as Oteruelo or Alameda del Valle. The colors of the countryside remind us that autumn is approaching, and the air of the Sierra widens the lungs. When we arrived at the Forgiveness Bridgeagainst the Carthusian Monastery of El Paularsomeone comments that if you have to ask forgiveness for something it is for not pedaling more often through this valley, which a little over an hour from Madrid transports you to another time, with the summit of Peñalara as mistress and mistress of the days that pass at her feet.

Rascafría and El Paular Monastery by bicycle.

In addition to the beauty of the surroundings, there is the comfort of the route: the track has a homogeneous surface, with hardly any unevenness, so that these first Km are frankly to let yourself be carried away by the bikes, which almost roll on their own. So, walking along the so-called “paper road” (it turns out that the Carthusian monks used to make paper here and it was on these sheets that no less than the first version of Don Quixote was printed!!!) we arrive at another evocative place: the forest of Finland. It is a corner that, in spite of its Scandinavian vegetation, gives shade to a small pier on the Lozoya River. Nearby, at the Visitors Center Valle de El Paular, we remember that we are in the middle of the National Park of the Sierra de Guadarrama and we get ready to start the ascent by track to the port of La Morcuera.

Ascent to the Morcuera mountain pass by bike.

From now on, the road is still easy, but the slope is steep and the climb is long, because the pass we are going to crown is at the very respectable altitude of 1796m. In any case, the ascent through pine trees and the electric bikes make it all easier… Breathing quickens and legs get heavy with each pedal stroke, but soon we are at the top, next to the Puerto de La Morcuera Youth ShelterAnd looking at the austere granite building, the feeling of triumph for having made it this far could not be more pleasant.

They say that “everything that goes up comes down”, and after a well-deserved lunch-catering savoring the best of the Sierra, it’s time to face the descent of the pass. Adrenaline rushes when our bikes start to fly downhill, winding through dozens of curves that bring us closer to our last stage of the day: Manzanares El Real. There are places that we admire for their beauty, no matter if it is the first time we see them or if we are lucky enough to be able to look at them often. This is the case of the Mendoza castle, which has guarded the slopes of La Pedriza and its impossibly shaped rocks since 1475. After a stop at our hotel to get dressed up, we tour the town accompanied by an excellent guide who reveals that it has not one, but two castles, and explains how one of the most powerful families of Renaissance Spain settled here. We ended the day having dinner in front of the church, which also dates back to the end of the 15th century, and tasting a dessert that was probably already made in those days: the endearing pokesa kind of sweet porridge with croutons and aniseed that reminds us all of childhood, even if some of us had never eaten them before.

Castle of Manzanares el Real. Bicycle.

Of course, the bike will be our companion again during the second day of the route, to continue discovering the nature of the Region of Madrid, but also its culture and roots. We arrive at the municipality of El Boalo, Cerceda and Mataelpino, where we meet a herd of Guadarrama goats, a native species of the Sierra de Guadarrama that the municipality is fighting to conserve. As explained by the shepherd of the flock and the mayor of El Boalo himself, and currently also president of ADESGAM It is not only a matter of keeping this breed and the pastoral tradition of the Sierra alive, or of promoting productive livestock activity: by preserving pastoralism and training young people in this age-old profession, the municipality has managed to greatly reduce its expenses for the maintenance of the valuable forests and fields in which it is immersed, reducing the risk of fires and protecting an ecosystem that is as fragile as it is fundamental.

Cycling and cycling in the Sierra de Madrid. Native species.

After tasting the exquisite goat cheeses of the cheese factory La Maliciosa, the day, which runs on wheels, takes us to Becerril de la Sierra on a track with some more complicated sections where the advice of the expert guides who accompany us is especially appreciated. Becerril also tastes of tradition, with its ethnological museum and, above all, with its craft brewery La Gabarrera. We continue to Collado Mediano, where 2000 years ago our Roman ancestors stopped to rest before or after venturing across the mountains on their way to Segovia. This is attested by the remains of the roadway and the inn we visited.

We continue, there are storm clouds that stalk us, but they allow us to arrive dry to Los Molinos. Cyclists who with more or less luck (depending on how you look at it, because cycling is also water, mud and adventure, and there are tastes for everything) arrive wet at this location, will soon be able to tune up their bikes and recover from the fatigues of the trip in the mountain bike center public that is about to inaugurate its City Hall. Nearby, we visited one of the bunkers that still dot the Sierra, witnesses of the saddest history of our country.

We are approaching the end of our route, which we will finish celebrating the triumphs of Paquito Fernández Ochoa, next to his statue, in his native Cercedilla. This village with an alpine flavor is a luxurious setting to recap on the milestones of the trip, the shared laughs and the challenges we are already planning for our next cycling trip through the Community of Madrid.
During part of our tour we were accompanied by a team from Telemadrid’s Madrid Directo program. Here is an excerpt of the report that was broadcasted last October 14.

The trip we have briefly described is part of a product test carried out by the CiclaMadrid Association in September 2020 and can now be enjoyed by any cyclist. Our Association aims to promote bicycle tourism in the Community of Madrid, thanks in large part to the CiclaMadrid initiative launched by the Community’s General Directorate of Tourism.

From the CiclaMadrid Association we encourage you to pedal through our region to climb mythical mountain passes such as La Morcuera or any of the others that mark our Sierras or, if your profile is less sporty and more for beginners or families, to do affordable but spectacular routes, such as the Lozoya Natural Trail. Whatever your level, we propose you to make culture and good gastronomy your best companions for your cycling routes. The Community of Madrid is a destination that will never cease to surprise you.

You can pedal on your own or let our partners, such as the Central de Reservas Sierra de Guadarrama who organized this trip, make everything easier for you so that all you have to do is enjoy.

On this occasion, we would also like to give special thanks to the municipalities of Lozoya, Manzanares El Real, El Boalo-Cerceda-Mataelpino, Becerril de la Sierra, Los Molinos, Collado Mediano and Cercedilla for their support and their commitment, like all our partner municipalities, to make cycling tourism an increasingly present and rewarding reality in the Community of Madrid. Our most sincere thanks also to ADESGAM and the Centro de Innovación Turística Sierra Norte, for the great work they carry out in the structuring of the territory.

If you want to know more about what the Association and each of its members have to offer, take a look at our website. You will see that your next bike tour in Madrid is going to be amazing.

➡️ In addition, the program Hoy por Hoy Madrid on Cadena Ser interviewed our guide, Javier Pou, who explained live how this product test trip through the Sierra de Guadarrama organized by the Central de Reservas Sierra de Guadarrama for the CiclaMadrid Association took place. Listen to the speech here:

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