Sunday, 20 November 2016

El Teide Tenerife - Tips for Road Cyclists

El Teide in the Distance
Cited as 'Europes longest continuous climb' - the volcano El Teide on the island of Tenerife is on the bucket list of many a keen road cyclist.  Standing some 3,718M tall, its imposing figure dominates the skyline of the Canarian island.

Returning to Tenerife to ride up the East side route recently, I thought it worth noting some tips about the climb if you're planning to head up that way on an upcoming cycle holiday to Tenerife or just taking a day out from the family to shoot up there and tick it off the list.

Each way up offers a different ascent and length profile.  So if you plan to ride El Teide you should study the different routes up.  

Road Cycling Tour Guides - Club Activo

I rode with an organised ride, booked through Club Activo cycling.  Club Activo is a fairly new business, formed around a cycle cafe and hub up in San Miguel.  I'd discovered them by accident whilst riding up to San Miguel from Las Americas (a lovely 10 mile steady climb at around 6%).  

With a friendly welcome, good English speaking staff, a bike rack outside and obligatory espresso machine, they had all the ingredients of a place I'd be going back to time after time on my holiday.

Cost was €55 to join the tour, including the transfer, bananas, water, energy bars and a rather nice two course meal when we returned to the cafe after the descent.  If you want to hire a bike too, it's around €80.00 all in. 

Our guides for the day were Estonian - Anti - (a body double for Peter Sagan) and Lorenzo, assisted by Edward in the mini-bus (who was a good laugh).  The guides were very competent cyclists, who rode at the front and back of the group enabling everyone to ride at their own speed.  Group size was around 15 people all of varying capability.

Setting Off

We set off from a point up on the TF-24 road where the junction of the TF-523 meets it in the forestThe mini-bus groaned as Edward went up and down the minibus gearbox to cope with the gradient which undulates between 6-11% on the way up.

I climbed up this part (the bit we drove) last year from a place called Cosme on the TF-523, it is a real tough climb of switchbacks and steep ramps. The route that I took last year you can find here on Strava.  Was 11.3 miles with 3,930 feet of climbing, roughly 347ft per mile which is a tough first leg

Arriving in the forest you are already at around 5,500 feet in terms of altitude.  It was cold and we were all soon shivering and putting layers on keen to get off.  A cold mist enveloped the area.

As we rolled, you could notice straight away that the thinner air disrupted your normal breathing pattern.  My heart rate was running around 3-5bpm higher than normal.  I'd already determined that I was going to sit around 152-156bpm on the climb, so I was keen to find a tempo/rhythm as soon as possible.

The road is a pretty steady 6% gradient for most of the way (27.6 miles).  Interestingly there are a couple of quick descents within the ascent.  They are potential flashpoints as the shade hides some pretty nasty road conditions until you are right on top of them at 40mph, it's very much a case of hang on!! 
One of the descents on the way
As you come out the forest and out of the low cloud, you get this magnificent viewAs you look over the edges you realise just how high you really are.  You need to stay focused as you could quite easily ride off the side if you lose your concentration.

Looking back to the Clouds
Temperature wise, you're now beginning to strip off all the layers you put on before as your work rate collides with the warm weather. As we climbed up it was around 23 degrees, which was absolutely lovely.  It was a clear day and you could see for miles.  As you look ahead you see El Teide in the distance (see photo at top of blog).

Keeping a steady tempo was definitely easier given the temperature and altitude.  Around half way up I took a quick pic of the Garmin screen (see below).

Garmin Data after the 12 mile climb - took 1 Hour
After passing the top of the Volcano on our right (you can't ride to the absolute top) your not far from reaching the top of the road where you'll eventually get to see this sign indicating that you've done it. At this point, you'll have covered 27.6 miles and 3,750ft of elevation (135ft of elevation per mile). You can see the climb here on Strava.

At the Top of El Teide
After all that climbing, of course you get to go descend and what a thrill that is.  Just shy of 14 miles of twisting roads where you're generally doing 40-45mph on the straight bits, slowing down for the bends and switchbacks.  

My average on this stretch was 29.7mph and it was brilliant fun.  You may need to take a gilet with you if the conditions are cooler as it can get cold.  At 23 degrees we were OK on the day.  

Eventually we reached the cafe at San Miguel, racked the bikes and tucked into a two course lunch of soup and salad with bread, then some grilled chicken (washed down with a well earned beer), followed by coffee.
Post Ride Lunch in the Cafe

It's a stunning climb, I'd recommend anyone to do it.  If you climb up from Cosme (adding on the bit that I did the previous year), then it will around 39 miles of climbing with circa 7.7K of ascent (roughly 197ft per mile). I'll be back next year to do that.

Thanks to the guys at Club Activo cycling for a well organised tour and some great grub when we got back. Would definitely recommend them if you're considering a ride up El Teide or one of their other tours around the island of Tenerife.

Kit List

One of the upsides of booking through an organised tour provider was having a support van where you could chuck a bag in.  On the day I wore, bib shorts, base layer and short sleeved top.  I did however take a cap and arm warmers, plus a gilet due to the cold conditions setting up and also in case of need for the descent.  I also had a rain cape as it can be known to suddenly heavy rain given the height you are at, didn't need it though.

The support van had plenty of water.  I took some Zero tablets with me and ensured I had regular fluids as we went up, keeping the electrolytes going.


I hired a bike from Bike Point Tenerife in Las Americas.  This is the second time I've used them.  They have a nice range of bikes which are well set-up in a well stocked shop which has everything you need if you've forgotten to bring it.  I hired this Focus Izalco which was very well set-up.   


Gears were tight, rubber was new and brakes very sharp.  I took my own saddle out with me.  Gear ratio was 52/36 on the front with a 32 tooth cassette on the rear.  Hoops were nice with DT swiss hubs which rolled very well.  Overall the bike was superb, ideal for climbing and very predictable on the descents.

Pedals I hired too plus helmet.  They supply a saddle bag with inner tube and levers.  If you let them have your measurements in advance, they'll get the bike set up to your dimensions too, which is very handy.  

If you do a tour with Club Activo, they have a fleet of Ridley bikes which you can hire for €25 or so a day. 

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