Musings of a Mountain Biker

Our new series will help you learn everything there is to know about cycling in the western Algarve.

By Gilly Grateley

Hi, Gilly here, a cycling enthusiast, unofficial ride leader and explorer. 

When buying our first home here in the Algarve in 2005, my partner Simon and I cheekily asked the previous owners if they wanted to sell their mountain bikes too and ever since, we have been exploring the fantastic local routes, tracks and trails. 

Initially, we were among a small biking community, made up predominantly of locals cycling to and from work, the odd schoolkid and out-of-town shopper. Today the landscape for biking is far more popular and diverse, and through my monthly musings, I hope to share my enthusiasm and passion with you, along with information from the local biking community.

I mountain bike and I aim to ride 40–50km two or three times a week. I am hooked on the fantastic opportunity to ride coastal paths and gorgeous forest trails on the same ride. I like to mix things up and I am always looking for new routes. When I chat with the uninitiated about my biking obsession, after the inevitable raised eyebrow, which I take to mean “are you sure a woman of your age goes mountain biking that much?” – I am only fifty-four and yes, I do – the most common question is how I know where to cycle. So this month, I thought I would share with you my experience of the fantastic BTT routes in and around Lagos.

There are nine circular routes all well marked and graded on a simple ski run style system with four levels of difficulty: green, blue, red and black. Route 1 is the shortest at around 10km and nine the longest at around 65km; in total, there are 300km of marked trails. The routes and the bike centre in Barão de São João are a câmara initiative and were established in 2019. They take advantage of the excellent conditions in and around the beautiful forest and the yellow triangle sign system is easy to follow.

I have ridden all nine over the last 18 months, not always in their entirety as they start and end at the bike centre, so I often pick up a route at a point closer to home. I like to mix and match different sections of the routes with other tracks and trails. Route 8 is my favourite for the single tracks through the trees. I always enjoy Route 4 for a leisurely countryside ride and Route 3 backwards is my least favourite. If you are not confident enough to just follow the signs, you can pick up a printed copy of the map from the information centre as I originally did or download them from the council website below.

I feel very privileged to have such excellent quality and varied riding opportunities on my doorstep so I guess this would be a good opportunity to give a shout out to the various organisations that have collaborated on the BTT initiative. I understand from a câmara source that there are formal partnerships between the city council, the freguesias of Bensafrim and Barão de São João, the Cultural Centre of Barão de São João and four local cycling clubs (Cycle Clube de Lagos, Associação Amigos de Almádena, the Grupo Popular das Portelas, and Coxos do Pedal) for the development and maintenance of the routes and services. Thanks, guys for the fabulous work that you do. 

I believe the câmara also has plans to develop a cross-country track in the forest for training and competitions, along with gravel routes to link the municipality of Lagos through the forest to Vila do Bispo and Aljezur. Whether you ride for sport or leisure, it looks like our opportunities to get out and compete, train or explore are only going to get better and better.

I hope this has inspired you to explore the trails, you never know what you might find and please, if you manage an event, run a cycling club, team or related business, or like me, you just get out for fun and have great routes and photos, please get in touch via email.

Stay safe and have fun!


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