Cyclists Are People, Too

Tired cyclist arrives at the Cathedral of Santiago

Tired cyclist arrives at the Cathedral of Santiago

Anyone who has walked the Camino has had an experience like this: you’re walking along, working hard to avoid straining your knees too much on the downhill, perhaps avoiding treacherous loose stones and keeping a careful eye on your footing. Then it happens – you hear a growing noise of bouncing metal and tires spinning, then the cry of a cyclist shooting down the hill you’re having to tread so carefully. Or perhaps you’re quietly enjoying the day, walking on a flat patch and alone with your thoughts or in deep conversation with a friend and a shout breaks the quiet mood. In both causes, you jump out of the way as one or several heavy-laden cyclists hurtle past you.

Occasionally these “bicigrinos” (peregrinos on bikes) will thank you for moving, or even apologize for surprising you, but most of the time they rattle by without a nod. It can be extremely frustrating to walkers to watch them speed along without much effort while you yourself are nursing blisters and sore muscles. As tempted as I sometimes am to stick my walking pole through the spokes of their wheel, though, or fume silently while they fade into the distance, there are two things I always try to remember.

First, cyclists are on their own pilgrimage; it may not take as long as yours or require as much physical effort, but they are going to the same destination and experiencing many of the same struggles and joys that you are. I’ve shared supper and rooms with many cyclists along the way, and they are just as aware of the depth of the experience on the Camino. Like many who only walk a section on one trip, or who use buses and trains or go with a tour group, cyclists often don’t have enough time off from work to walk the whole way.

Second, and far more superficial, while cyclists do get an easy ride on downhill portions, they have it very rough on many uphill slopes. So the next time you have to jump out of the way, remember that the cyclist who rushes by had a long road to get to the point where he could fly down the hill you’re on. If it were me, I’d be relieved too!


Hunter Van Wagenen’s Camino experiences began in 2007, and he enjoys sharing the humorous and the miraculous stories, in addition to practical advice he has lived and collected. His dream is to live in Spain helping pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. He currently lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife Stephie, who will walk her first Camino this summer with Hunter.