Nobody doubts that Vía de la Plata is a jacobean route, but comparing it with the French Way is like comparing an egg to a chestnut. The most notable difference is the geography and from it derive all others.
While the French Way or the Northern Way, and even Camino Catalán, go to Santiago without changing latitude, i.e. without sudden changes in weather conditions, Vía de la Plata crosses the peninsula from south to north. The result is that, as going "up" to the north, the traveler sees and experiences a gentle but steady change in scenery and of course in the character of the people of the regions that we pass through.
Another feature of Vía de la Plata is signaling. All the route is indicated with the traditional yellow arrows, and with other guidance elements that change in each region, but are not as abundant as in the French Way and in some sections we can notice their absence. The bike-pilgrims must be more attentive if possible, because in many cases the arrows are located in hard to see places if looking from the top of a bike, especially when you are focused on avoiding a stone or keeping your balance.
The difficult orientation, far from being a drawback, should be taken as an extra attractive, since it helps to give Vía de la Plata an adventure feeling that the popular French Way does not have. This does not mean that it is essential to use a GPS device, but of course, having one will help on some desertic sections of the route and will add tranquility to the journey.
It should be added, moreover, that often arrows follow an erratic and illogical course for a bike-pilgrim. This is because the promoters and caregivers of Camino avoid, whenever it is possible, to mark the route on road. But sometimes for a bike-pilgrims the road can be a good outlet. We speak of agricultural sections such as "Tierra de Barros" and "Tierra de Campos", which become real traps when wet. In these cases the N-630 is the best alternative. In fact, if you think about it, Vía de la Plata always runs close to the road and in some sections by its roadside. Moreover, the vast majority of cars are using the new highway A-66, which follows a path parallel to the N-630, so the traffic in the national road is very small.
On the other side, the construction of the new highway is also having a negative impact on the route of Vía de la Plata and in some sections there are occasional inconveniences. Apart from the undoubted impact on the landscape that this has caused in some places, the highway has affected, and will continue to affect while not completed, the route itinerary, causing difficult situations in some cases.
For all these reasons, in addition to the guide individually chosen, it is interesting and recommended keeping a good road map. This will help us to find alternatives to the original path when for some reason we have to detour.
Practically all the itinerary of Vía de la Plata and the Camino Sanabrés variant are cyclable. The most abundant paths are gravel roads, and the lanes are comfortable enough. There are also many miles of trails. The "forced" asphalt sections are, however, few. The places where you get off the bike necessarily are anecdotal, and when you find a section where you can not cycle, there are alternatives on asphalt that do not separate us much of the original layout. However, these alternatives are not marked on the route, so you have to carefully study the guide and take along a map. Another important thing is that the cyclability of Vía de la Plata is greatly reduced in case of rain, as the paths get muddy and become nearly impassable.
Summarizing, Vía de la Plata is a TREMENDOUS adventure and if you have "doctorated" in the French Way before, you will realize that you are facing one of the most beautiful and spectacular touring routes. For me Vía de la Plata has been by now, after completing six different routes of Camino de Santiago, the most beautiful route I have ever done. However, I want to clarify that to enjoy it at its maximum you should do the French Way before. If you know the essence of the Jacobean spirit beforehand, just then you can appreciate the true value of Vía de la Plata as a CAMINO DE SANTIAGO route.