Tenerife: the enjoyment of pain?

Focus Cayo Carbon

Is it madness, stupidity or both that entices a seemingly sane human being to spend a week pedalling the contours of Tenerife? Now, those of you who have been to Tenerife probably remember the nice cosy things about the island: warmth, sunshine, pleasant sea temperatures, good food and wine, nice drive to the top of the

Relief model of Tenerife

volcano El Teide…….. To appreciate the sinister side, however, you really need to scale the top of El Teide (the highest mountain on Spanish territory) on a pair of wheels.

El Teide 3718m

I mean, how do you explain to normal human beings that some cyclists love to feel gut-wrenching pain? And for it to go on continuously for 4 or 5 hours at a time? To experience ascents that take you into ever-thinning oxygen levels, but the effort required to continue climbing remains the same? Then, when you are looking forward to the 30 mile downhill from 10,000 ft, your whole body freezes with the inactivity of the descent and the wind-chill, and your hands seize up applying the brakes to prevent yourself going into a head-spin over the side of the mountain? When you get to the bottom of the mountain, you are so chilled to the bone (even though it’s 25C at the bottom) that you struggle to dismount from the bike. You go into the nearest café and order a glass of very hot milk spiked with a large shot of brandy. And when you have thawed out……….. well, of course, as to be expected in a masochist, you begin planning your next ascent from a different side of the mountain ;0) Does this make any sense to anyone?

During the quiet week before Christmas, when prices were cheap and the numbers of tourist low, I ‘snuck in’ a week before the onset of the festivities. But instead of laboriously packing one of my own bikes, I decided to hire one from a dealer on the island, which actually cost about the same as freight prices for sports equipment. I had ordered an aluminium-framed road bike (for 90 euros) but ‘sadly’ they had to upgrade me to full carbon for the same price. I said to the German dealer: “What a pain!” and he replied “Are you complaining?”. I said “No, it’s just British humour”, to which he retorted “And my reply was just German humour!”

Above the clouds

(game, set and match to him……..). If you ever hire a bike on Tenerife, I would highly recommend Bike Point in Playa de las Americas.

My week consisted of 6 full days on the bike, nearly 400 miles and over 40,000 feet of climbing. There are very few flat areas on the island, so be warned. Of the 36 hours I spent on the bike, I reckon at least 30 were spent ascending, sometimes continuously for 4-5 hours. Your overall average speed will be low (mine was only 11mph). But whether it is for base training for the coming racing season or simply for the pleasure of scaling the heights, Tenerife is a great place for getting a good dose of ‘winter pain’!

The ubiquitous Red Bull cans

Above Los Gigantes cliffs

Rancho Canario stew: delicious!

About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on December 27, 2011, in Cycling Tenerife and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. What I would have most been frightened by would be the descent. Kudos to you Frank for attempting these wonderfully wild adventures in your retirement. Booyah! – Olivia


  2. Good to see that your Red Bull sighting talents are working despite the tough climbs! And of course on that island the traffic does drive on the “wrong” side of the road (your version not mine). Does appear that you received your daily dose of Vitamin D! Enjoyed report.


  3. Thanks for the read. Man those hills! We have nothing like that here. Great read and great photos. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Red Bull / Cycling reminds me ……. 4* Low Phils cycled from my home in London E12 in 1945 to stay with a fellow School mate [ Alistair Mortimer now RIP] in Lynton, Devon.
    * 1 David Milburn the History Professor, 2 Ned Beasty [not ordained, Now? RIP]]
    3 Stephen “Bull” Sullivan [RIP Mgr] and 4 Self [87 , retired Master Baker now Cornish Church History Buff]


  5. Great to hear from you. You must come over to Europe (and Canaries) to try some of these mega-ascents! Had a look at your blog…….you cover some interesting stuff. Which are the best parts of Australia for long rides (ie. 2000+kms)?


  6. ….Len, that would have been a remarkable trip. And I bet you remember well the sharp hills in Devon! David Milburn taught me both French and History. Now that’s another connection between us….


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