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Slowly becoming recognised as a world-class cycling destination, the Lozoya Valley in Spain’s Sierra Norte de Madrid is winning riders over with its rugged landscape, steady climbs, and sublime asphalt.
We’d heard all about the Sierra Norte’s perfectly paved roads, sweeping climbs, and fiery fall hues. We’d seen glimpses of the unforgiving landscape — at times barren and mysterious, other times verdant and full of life— on rare visits by the Vuelta a España.
Just 60 minutes north of Madrid, these fairytale lanes had our name on it. For the final road-testing of our FW20 UMA GT Collection, we envisaged careening along its buttery smooth tarmac amid falling leaves and mushroom foragers.
Fortunately, close friend of the brand Auxi Martin, an ex-professional cyclist and former WorldTour soigneur for BMC Racing Team, CCC Pro Team, and World Champion Valverde when wearing his Spanish national colours, was on hand to take us on a tour of her home roads.
Based in Madrid, Auxi spends most of her time time riding, so it’s no surprise that we wanted to make the most of her encyclopedic route knowledge.
A beautiful, mellow loop with two big climbs: After rolling out from Lozoya on the M-604, you’ll soon reach Canencia. There’s a fairly steady, 14km climb straight from the junction of the M-629, keeping you under a canopy of trees for almost the entire way. From the top, cruise down to Miraflores de La Sierra where the next climb begins. This is Puerto de Morcuera, the hardest in the Sierra de Madrid. We’re approaching it from the “harder” side, with gradients hovering between 7 and 10%. A quick descent takes us to Rascafría, one of the most important towns in the Sierra and the starting point for numerous hiking trails. On a hot day, take a dip in the Lozoya river, before looping back to Lozoya on the M-604.
There’s no better time than autumn for this ride: day two takes us on a lesser-known route on the other side of the Sierra de Madrid. Leave Lozoya on the N-604 toward the A1. Before reaching the highway, take a left turn to Gargantilla de los Montes on the N-634. You’ll pass through the towns of San Mamés, Villavieja, La Serna, and Madarcos on super quiet roads. After Madarcos, take the M-139 toward Montejo de la Sierra. These villages are humble places with an impressive capacity for surviving in this brutal natural environment. You’ll then ride through Hayedo, a very particular fairy-tale-like forest that’s known for its spectacular red and copper hues come autumn. From here you’ll climb El Cardoso; it’s about 5km with steep sections of 12–14%. The downhill takes you directly to Hiruela, which is one of the most beautiful towns in the Sierra, awash with characteristic architecture and black slate constructions to withstand the harsh winters of the Sierra. Stay on the M-130 before turning onto the M-134 towards La Puebla. We’ve picked this harder (but shorter) first-cat side of the 11km climb. It’s worth it for the views of the inhospitable-looking Sierra del Rincón. Now descend to La Puebla, with a welcoming vibe for tourists and cyclists and striking black slate architecture. There’s only one road out of here—an undulating, sinuous ribbon of tarmac taking you toward Robledillo de la jara, where you could be lucky enough to see vultures, eagles, or deer. Once in Robledillo, continue until you spot road 135, which connects to the road taking you back to Lozoya.
For Auxi, this represents the ultimate Sierra Norte route with 2,160 metres of climbing and a real taste of the region.
Head out on the same road as day 1 to climb Canencia and enjoy that beautiful downhill once more. Once at Miraflores de La Sierra, continue along the M- 611 toward Soto del Real. (Those choosing to grab a coffee here will bump into a who’s who of the Madrid cycling scene). From here, take the M-608 toward Manzanares el Real, a town with a 13th century castle, before Boalo on the M-608, where you’ll start one of the most legendary Sierra de Madrid climbs: Navacerrada. The gradients are fairly moderate on this first-cat climb that ends at the Navacerrada ski resort and plateaus at 1,900 metres above sea level. Make sure you have a jacket for the descent. With its tall pine trees and breathtaking views, you might momentarily think you’re in the Dolomites. Cruise down to Rascafría and Lozoya to end the ride.
To sum it up: a tough but stunning route.
One of the most beautiful climbs in the area begins right on the doorstep of the Ciclo Lodge: the Puerto de Navafría. 14km up to 1,773 meters of altitude. It’s unsurprising that it’s so popular with riders given the lack of traffic and stunning scenery. No two rides are ever the same on this road, with vegetation that changes along with the altitude. Nothing beats an autumnal ascent of Navafria, with fiery reds in every direction. After following the N-110 through Navafria, a winding road takes you to Torrecaballeros and you’ll hit one of the most spectacular towns in Segovia, La Granja de San Ildefonso. With an incalculable amount of culture, it’s loved by tourists all-year-round. From there, follow the CL-601 to Valsaín, where — if it is very hot — Auxi suggests a dip in the natural pools to cool off. Get ready for the Navacerrada climb — it’s tougher than the previous day’s side and known for its “Siete Revueltas,” seven turns. From the top, repeat the descent from Cotos to Rascafría and Lozoya. End the day with a hearty meal at the Ciclo Lodge.
The monster beauty with three provinces and a whole lot of culture: Head out from Lozoya through Gargantilla, Navarredonda, San Mamés, Villavieja until Cardoso and Horcajo. It’s similar to route 2 but you’ll follow the GU-187 into the province of Guadalajara, riding through typical Guadalajara towns with their black architecture that forms part of the “Black Villages of Guadalajara” cultural heritage. Go left toward Riaza and head up an unnamed but well-paved road into the Cebollera Mountains, another small mountain range at the foot of the Sierra de Madrid. This section, despite not having a specific-named climb, is relentlessly tough, but the sight of the charming Hayedo de la Pedrosa forest takes the edge off the suffering.
The SG-911 takes you toward Sepúveda. Another tourist town known for its stone constructions, it’s a cool pace for kayaking on a rest day. Next up is Pedraza, one of the jewels of the Madrid province. From here, the N110 takes us to the base of Navafría, which we’ll approach from the harder and shorter Segovia face this time. To finish, cruise back down to Lozoya.
How to get there: Just 60 minutes north of Madrid means that this special riding location is accessible from one of the most frequented airports in Spain, as well as via the country’s high-speed rail network. Grab a car when you arrive and head out of the city, ready to ride.
Where to stay: We based ourselves at the Ciclolodge El Nevero in Lozoya, which takes the term cyclist-friendly to another level.
What to climb: El Cardoso (1,358m), La Hiruela (1,478m), Canencia (1,524m), La Puebla (1,636m), Navafría (1,773m), Morcuera (1,796m), Cotos (1,830m) and Navacerrada (1,880m).
What to eat: This region assiduously follows the seasons so right now you need local mushrooms on the menu. The flavour is like very few others that we have ever tried.
ESSENTIAL KIT FOR THE SIERRA NORTE
UMA GT Spring Fall Knickers: Perfect for cool fall and spring rides where knee coverage and a touch of insulation are just the ticket, these knickers feature a blend of ultrasoft and insulating fabrics, along with our proven female-specific insert and signature fit.
UMA GT Spring Fall Vest: A light, packable vest is invaluable for rides in variable conditions, such as those encountered in the mountains above Madrid. We always throw one in a back pocket in spring and fall — just in case — as they take up no space, weigh practically nothing, and help fend off the chill of a fast descent and cold wind.
UMA GT Spring Fall LS Jersey: With a touch extra insulation, targeted breathability, and a layer-friendly fit, the UMA GT long-sleeve jersey is a must-have for cool spring and fall rides, keeping us out on the road in greater comfort and with enhanced protection.