Learning the hard way - I just spent 17 hours on the bike!

Hey all,

Thought Id share this story with you, and hopefully will give people an idea of the sort of situation they could get themselves into when cycling if they dont fully prepare.

I decided that i needed to achieve 100 miles in one day. Ive come close to that over particularly tough terrain. 122km was my best, so thought 160km and plan a pretty flat route.

I planned a route that i knew the first half of, and knew it was pretty flat. Checked with google, knew that the second part was bit of an uphill, but elevations only of 200m - 400m Ive done much more than that in the past.

So off I go, on my own, on my rockrider 5.3 (This is a mountain bike with slicks) 160km (100miles) was waiting for me.

Its all going pretty well, though even from the offset im not feeling the energy I felt i should have. I've had this before. The first 50km can be tough, but then the body responds.

Its all going pretty well, except the hill part of the ride was a lot harder than i imagined.
Oh, did I mention, im on the south of spain. It hit over 30c today!

I head off into the middle of nowhere, on uncharted territory. Hour after hour of narrow country lane. I check my mobile, no signal at all. But thats ok i know where im heading.

After about 7 hours in, im ready to start heading south. A huge physical barrier is in my way.. a motorway. No Cyclists allowed. However, on google maps it showed that there was side roads all the way down the motorway. So i had planned to take these. This was going great for about 20km. Then all of a sudden.. it ran out. Im presented by a roundabout where the only option was to take the motorway or head down another road. Remembering that part of my map did show the side deviating off from the motorway. Im like, ah this will be the bit. But i'll just check on the phone (which has gps) to make sure. Oh shoot.. the battery is dead as a can of spam. Going through hours of no signal, just drained it!

And thats where it all went wrong. So im following this road. Yeah it seems to be doing what i remember from the map. One bad thing about Spain is things are badly signposted. I was facing another issue, i was almost out of food and water. The late evening sun was belting at this point.

Im going down this road, and i know it wrong. Im watching the sunset, its taking me more west, but kinda south as well. So i thought, well if i keep going it'll go south im sure, as thats to the coast, where everything is. It must lead there.

Its rather disconcerning when you cycle 20km to finally see a sign, showing that where i wanted to be is exactly back where i just came from. Worst of all, its now going dark, and i had 75km more cycling to do yet. I had managed to go 22km in the wrong direction. Its getting dark, im out of food and water. Im in the middle of nowhere. As it was a day trip, i have no tent, no sleeping bag, no warm clothes.. nothing.

I spot a strange recreation area, which has some abandoned buildings. It leads down a lovely lake. I headed down there in the hope of finding water. Sometimes these places may have a communal tap with tap water. Anything to fill my bottles at this stage, i wasn't bothered. I needed some luck right now.. nothing no water at all. Another 500m in the wrong direction down a hill in the hope of finding water. However.. i did spot attached to the building, the water inlet box. So i cracked it open, and sure enough theres the pipes connecting that building to the mains water supply. So a quick disconnect of the pipes, and viola, ive got water! This stuff hadnt been used for a while.. it was brown! but i ran it for a while, and then it went cold and clear. and seemed to taste ok. so filled bottles up, and off I went. :blush: (cheeky i know!)

I had no option and headed the 22km back to the motorway.

By the time i got to the motorway its pitch black. I did have my vis jacket and some small LED lights on the bike. So i had put these on by now and i was off. Then i spotted another road and thought bloody hell, this is the one that leads by the motorway. Went down it, pitch black with little lights. Its a gravel path. Which goes past a big house.. which a big dog guarding it, who then proceeds to give chase. I pelt is fast as i can and eventually the dog gives up. A bit later on, i realise.. omg this is taking me west again. So i head back.. and get another chase off the dog. Another 10km added to the trip.

Thats it no option. not only do i have to cycle on a motorway illegally. I now have to do it in the dark. and so i headed on it, and just pelted it as much as I could. Also at this point the water i had filled up was running out too.

I had 23km on this motorway to do to get to a large town. I was cycling down it, and had got so far, and then i just felt.. empty.. drained. completely and utterly done too much. I had about 12km left to get to the large town, and i was unwell. My stomach was doing somersaults, i needed to throw up.

Sadly as my mobile was dead, I couldnt phone friends for rescue. My phone was dead, and even if i found a payphone, i cant remember their numbers! Im in the middle of a motorway at whatever time it was (I had no time on me either!) I kinda got off the motorway a little bit, to the other side of the crash barriers. Finished whatever water i could.. and ended up having to lay down. It was at this point i wondered if i could wake up again and go. I was in a bad way. I was dizzy and couldnt even stand.

I must have laid there at the side of the motorway staring up at the stars for, i dont know 30 minutes an hour. I was even looking for the SOS phone boxes at the side of the motorways to just ask for help. I thought im gonna end up spending the night in the hospital. I considered hitching a lift.

As I laid there i started shivering, it was getting cold. I have no idea whether it was that, or some energy beemed into me, but i suddenly got a 5th wind and was just off again. I took it steady, heading down the hard shoudler. And after what seemed like an eternity im on the exit for the town. I headed into the town. And at this point i'd already decided that when i got there, i'd lock the bike up, find a cash machine, get some money out, and then jump in a taxi home. I still had 30km - 40km at this point anyway. I honestly thought i might have died on that highway tonight. I was so happy to get to that town.. that was until i realised i couldn't find any taxis. Sunday night /Monday morning at 00:30 and everythings shut up.

I had no option. plod on.. again. I had found this energy, no idea where it came from. Another 10km later and i fonund something sent from heaven. a 24 hour petrol station next to some foundaries. So i went in there and stocked up on high energy foods and high energy drinks. Sat for a while, ate and drank.

I then had about 25km to limp home. With the worst bit being, that i live on top of a hill. I had that hill to do. At this point, i'd thrown out of the window my rule about never pushing the bike. I was absolutely buggered!

And well... I did it. I got home :biggrin: 17 hours after i set off, i managed to limp back in home. I clocked over 220km (137 miles) - on a mountain bike. That was 137 miles that i was not ready for. Now im going to hurt all over for a little while.

Anyway lesson learned. Take peoples phone numbers on paper. Take a paper map. Dont rely on technology. And if do, take spare batteries! Take more water and food than you think you'll need, and replenish at every opportunity even if you have quite a lot left.

On the upside, this hasnt put me off my pending tour for Gibraltar to Yorkshire. If things get too tough, i'll know then that i can pitch a tent. sleep and recover energy for the next day. Its just i didnt have the kit for this.

If anyone knows southern spain / andalucia quite well, then here is my google map of the route i took, adding in the first major navigational error!

Take care out there :thumbsup:


Smutmaster General
Blimey, you were unlucky/lucky (depending on which way you look at it)...

just jim

I looks as though you've learned lots of valuable lessons in a short time - glad your o.k. You didn't give up though!


New Member
Well done, I would add to lessons learned:-

Ride with a buddy or a group if at all possible on a ride like that.

I did a group ride (road bikes) in Bahrain of 100 miles on 7th May in 5 hrs 18 min, was quite chuffed as I am 62. Temperature at the end of the ride (11am) was 38 deg C, it is possible to ride in the heat, it just needs great care with the hydration. Plan routes so that you know can get water, juices etc. and drink plenty in the hour or so before you set off. Above all, try to ride with a group, it is easier when riding into the wind and it takes your mind off the pain!

Best regards,


"Never worry, if there is something to worry about and you can do something about it then no need to worry. If you can't do anything about it, why worry?"


Well-Known Member
onlineamiga said:
Hey all,

Oh, did I mention, im on the south of spain. It hit over 30c today!
You lost all sympathy at this point :smile:

thanks for sharing though. Good lessons there for the rest of us too.


Legendary Member
I really enjoyed that story, just shows you what can go wrong. Fortunately I've never been in that situation!


Tattooed Beat Messiah
Blimey, that's a story and a half to read on a monday morning. The dog chasing episode made I laugh.. glad you survived and lessons have been learnt.

jay clock

Massive member
Hampshire UK
nasty! A good lesson though. Having toured in Spain, I know how the road layouts can be bonkers. They take pride in converting roads into Motorways then a 20k direct route becomes a 60-80k diversion. I had that in Sevilla coming in from the east.


New Member
Excellent story. If you can cope with a day like that then you can cope with pretty much anything.

p.s. I had a quick look at your route and a I cycled a fair bit of it on my way to Gibraltar a couple years back (Alaca - Jimena). It was pretty hilly from what I remember.


Cycling in the sun
Well done - I'm sure I would have been in tears at the side of the road. If you are going to cycle in area's with no signal - its probably worth turning the phone off too - mine seems to really drain the batteries when that happens. Look at it this way you have proved that you don't give up easily and worked out what you needed to do to get yourself home - Well Done (don't do it again!!!;))
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