Almost Fearless

Testing the Theory: Biking Costa Brava

Can you be super out of shape, walk out of the house with nothing more than a backpack and your street clothes, hop on a bike with two kids, ages 1 and 4, and bike up the coast of Spain?

Yes, apparently.

For context, here is the route we took, it’s about 60-70 km total if you include the diversions, but we biked about 25 km a day.


I kept Barcelona on the map for reference. Girona is a big biking hub, and there’s lots of pro and very serious bicyclists that tour the area because it’s really great biking, beautiful scenery and a lovely coast line. We went here to do a little biking before setting out on our 10 country route across Europe, so we’d have some experience under our belts before buying bikes, trailers and other gear. It’s early in the travel season for Europe, so we mostly had the roads to ourselves, the beaches were only dotted with the occasional other tourist and many cafés were completely empty.

On the first day, we biked downhill to Llafranc from Parafugell, a little beach town that is surrounded on both sides by cliffs and there’s only small cove-like beach next to a small marina. That first 5K on the bike was glorious. All down hill. The blue of the Mediterranean peaking out at us between trees and cottages along the way, the breeze ever so gently cooling us as we cruised down to the coast. “This is so fun!” I thought, entirely confident that I discovered the most magical way to travel ever — by bike.

After unloading the kids at the beach, playing around a bit and taking photos, we got back on the bikes and realized, “right, now we have to go uphill.”

Drew googled it and found a route that followed the coast, we just had to pedal over this big hill, the same cliffs we had sailed down the hour before. About 30 minutes into that ride, on the lowest gear, sweating and grunting, we couldn’t go any further. We literally couldn’t bike up any more. We got off and started to walk.

There was no breeze. The sun was now beating down on us. We were panting. I had a moment of pure panic, the thought that flashed across my mind was this: “Well maybe we can just take the bus to the next town and figure out how to get fit enough to do this later.”

Oh god. I just quit my bike tour in the first day.

My worst fear, what if I can’t do this, was realized. I can’t do this. I am not in shape enough. I am a fool.

We pulled over to hide in the shade for a minute. I didn’t confess my condition to Drew, but he pulled out his phone, “Well we could do the other route, the one that goes straight through town.”

Oh my god, Drew.

“Yes. Let’s do that. There’s another route?” I hopped on my bike and headed down the hill we just spent 30 minutes trying to climb. It was sort of devastating that it took me less than 30 seconds to get back down.

Bike tour not quit, confidence restored, we slogged through the 25k from Parafugell to Mas Pinell, swearing never, ever to attempt hills again.

Happily tired, with the sort of endorphin punch-drunk you get after biking for half a day, we collapsed for the night, patting ourselves on the back for doing it, for making it this far, the first day of the trip, and we didn’t quit.

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • Sounds excellent, if slightly terrifying! As someone who isn’t in particularly great shape and hasn’t really been on a bike in years, it’s comforting to know that a three-day bike ride is still a possibility. And I would have to agree with you – choosing a lack of heart attack over beautiful views is probably a necessary sacrifice!

  • Well, you didn’t die, so good on you! You’ll get up to speed in no time. It will be interesting to see what happens once all those European vacationers start hitting the road, though…

  • I love the way you plan things—or don’t plan them that much. That would be my approach. It’s going to be fun following your adventures this summer.

  • “Oh god. I just quit my bike tour in the first day.” ~ Those words have been uttered by many and many have hung in there, as you did, to discover they CAN do it! It pays to have a smart partner who can figure out alternate routes. Go Team! I’m loving this new adventure already!

  • You can do it! Love your tenacity and ability to flex…by going thru town and around the hills. There’s a great bike route by me. 26 miles to a cute town where we always stop for coffee and bread (a huge loaf that we eat in one sitting). The last 4 miles or so are all down hill and glorious. After eating a loaf of bread and drinking coffee I always swear under my breath as I pedal UP 4 or so miles. Not as much fun. Happy Pedaling!! It does get easier.

  • yippee for not giving up! That’s the great thing about biking in Europe: so many roads, so many options.

    Yippee too for debunking the myth you need to be fit to do this stuff. As Geralyn says, you just need to be tenacious, to find an easier route, a lower gear, or a way to ship half your stuff back home so you’re pulling less weight. And then fitness will follow.

  • keep going! one of the things that helps me stick to a goal is when I announce it publicly. So, good work in keeping up the blog so you can keep yourself accountable 🙂 I am excited to hear about your journey! you have inspired me to think of ways to incorporate travel into a family lifestyle.

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