The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part IV (last one)

The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part IV (last one)

Part I is here >> 

Part II is here >>

Part III is here >> 

CP 4 - The Transfagarasan, Romania

Day 9, High Tatras, Slovakia. After all I went through in the last two days, I was so happy to make the CP3 cut, especially that it was with only four minutes to spare! Words are not enough to express the relief, the satisfaction and pure joy I was feeling. I called my family and I could barely control my voice. As I entered the hotel at the top of the mountain, the rain started to fall and the fog covered the top. Perfect timing! I joined fellow riders in downing one beer and I was looking forward to not do anything for as long as it would be possible. Not long though, I realize I had to start making plans for CP 4. Most of the riders around me, were quite pessimistic about making it on time to next CP. My morale was high especially that the next CP is the one I was dreaming about since I signed up for the race. I was going to my home country, Romania. I also felt I found my racing mode and I was feeling more confident about my cycling skills. I arrived 203rd at CP1, 195th at CP 2 and now I was 133rd at CP 3. I was improving relatively to the field so my plan was to continue in this same pace. It then struck me that I had exactly 68 hours to cover almost 800 km. Realistically speaking, since it was already 5 PM and I was planning to go the nearest town and rest, I had around two days to do that distance. Shit, I started to feel the pressure. I grabbed my bike and headed down to Poprad for shower, pizza and sleep. By that time in the race, "headed down" meant cycling one hour in the cold and rain, but it felt like going next door to buy some beer, compared to the brutal days that I've been through. :))

Day 10, Slovakia. As I wake up, it is pouring down rain and the weather is cold. It's so hard to leave the comfort of the hotel but in the end, after postponing as much as I could, I man up and start cycling through the cold rain. It's a miserable day out but it's my first day of cycling in the rain so, I can't really complain that much. But wait, wouldn't this be a great time to have a flat? Yes, indeed. My first and only flat of the race so I can't really complain. But wait, what about the Garmin failing now? Yes, let's have that too. But I can't really complain because I have another Garmin back-up with me...NOT! Actually my Garmin stopped working, for reasons still not known, for the remainder of the race. I had to rely on my phone for navigation and that was such a big, big pain. The battery lasted a lot less than the Garmin and the device was so much harder to use while cycling. Oh well, another day at the office. I cycle all day long through Slovakia and in the evening I reach Hungary. My plan was to cover the distance between Slovakia and Romania in one day but I can't make it. I decide to stop one hour before the Romanian border for a quick nap.

Day 11, Hungary. I wake up absolutely f*cking tired and with no energy at all. It's amazing how my body reacts to this effort. Some days just feel easy and on others I feel like I'm not going to make any progress. As the days progress, I usually find my rhythm but the start of each day is a pain. I eat some rice I bought from a Chinese restaurant the night before in Slovakia and head on straight towards Romania. No time to waste. I have to cycle 500 km and 8.000 m elevation in 30 hours to make it on time. My family is planning to meet me at CP 4 so I'm super motivated to give everything. The fact that I'm now cycling on home territory also makes a huge difference. Just the simple fact that I recognize the places and names gives me such a comfortable feeling. It's like I'm being pulled towards the CP. I take no pictures, no useless brakes, nothing but cycling all the time.

Day 12, Romania. It's midnight now and I still have 180 km and 12 hours to go until the CP closes. Not to mention the epic Transfagarasan climb, which, in normal conditions, would take me 2 1/2 hours to do. I'm tired and hungry, and for the first time, I think I'm not going to make it on time. That thought starts creeping in my mind and it starts building on itself. I find excuses for myself and for others. I tell myself that I was so close, that I gave everything but it was just not meant to be. Oh well, at least I tried. I know I'll get over it as long as I just finish the race. I tell myself that I'll just cycle for a couple of hours more and then just get some much needed sleep. My thoughts are interrupted by some lights coming from the distance. I can't believe it. Another TCR rider. It's Lea. We met before at CP 3 and she struck me as an incredible tough girl. She looks pumped on caffeine and adrenaline. She's talking soooo fast and she's hyper excited. "Let's go man, we're going to make it. Come on!" I try to sympathise with her but I'm just depleted. I let her convince me to give it one more try and we start riding together for a while. WTF man, she's too strong for me and I can't seem to be able to keep her pace. She fades away in the distance but she did her job for me. I'm cycling again and I'm believing again. Lea, if you're reading this. I owe you CP 4, at least. Thank you! :) We meet again tens of kilometers ahead in a gas station. She's drinking massive amounts of Red Bull. I'm getting a triple espresso, some ice cream and continue to pedal again through the night. I enter a state of trance and continue to go through the km's, one after another. The sun comes up and I'm almost at the foot the climb. I know that if nothing stupid happens, I'm going to make it on time. And to think I almost quit 8 hours ago...I take on the Transfagarasan climb and it's a grueling effort. My legs are close to shutting down as I was already did 3.000 meters elevation in the past 12 hours. I make it to the top and I'm in heaven. I have never been so proud of myself! The CP is only 15 km downhill and it's there where my family is waiting for me. I fully enjoy the effortless downhill and when I see them...oh man, it's so hard to describe the mixed feelings. I knew I looked liked shit but I didn't want them to see how much I was suffering. I hugged Tudor, Laura and both my parents. Priceless! We had a lovely lunch together and after, just a couple of hours of break, I had to continue with my race. I was 103rd now and I had an ambition to arrive in Meteora in time for the finishers party, in four days time. I cycled another 80 km to Curtea de Arges, where I stopped for the night.

The Finish, Meteora, Greece

Day 13, Romania. I woke up surprisingly fresh considering I had hardly slept in the two nights before and, after a ridiculous big breakfast, I hit the road towards Bulgaria. I was relaxed and focused as I knew that if I were to keep a pace of 250 km a day, I would check my main objective when I started the race which was to make it to the finishers party. The heat wave was still strong in this part of Europe and the day was incredibly hot. In spite of that, I was feeling strong and I was doing good progress. I was already 300 km closer to the finish. I decided to sleep for a couple of hours and then continuing through the night as it was cooler. I went to sleep in a gas station on the Bulgarian border.

Day 14, Bulgaria. I woke up after three hours feeling horrible. My stomach was bloated and was hurting like hell. I felt dizzy too. I tried to eat something but I instantly became sick and threw up. That wasn't good. Not good at all. I climbed on my bike but it was a disaster. I couldn't keep my balance and I had zero power in my legs. I was so sure I had sun stroke but there was nowhere to hide. On that day, the temperature was going to be around 40 C in Bulgaria. I managed "to crawl" 30 km and make it to the first city in Bulgaria, in Vidin. I stopped at the first gas station I could find and threw up again. It was clear that I couldn't continue at that moment. I could barely walk straight. I went to the nearest park, and passed out for a couple of hours in the shade. When I woke up it was noon already and I was feeling worse. I didn't know what to do next...I went back to the gas station and bought some ice to put on my head convinced that I was suffering from sun stroke. I found it ironic, as the last time I had this was when I was a kid. I believed I was Sun trained! A nice lady saw me suffering like a dog and I somehow managed to communicate that I was ill. She took my to a pharmacy. While talking to the pharmacist I arrived at the conclusion that I had a virus. She gave me some medicine and recommended that I rest for 3 days, eat and drink well, stay indoors. Exactly the opposite that I was planning to do... I had to take the hardest decision in my whole TCR. Quitting was not an option for me. But neither was cycling on that day. I had to take the day off and try to recover. That meant I would miss the finishers party which I worked so hard for. I was devastated to say the least. I found a hotel, went to sleep and woke up the following day, 15 hours later.

Day 15, 16, 17, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia. I started day 15 feeling better psychically but still weak. I didn't have any apetitive for food but I knew that, in order to continue, I had to eat something. The only thing I could eat was toast with white cheese. And tea. Lots of tea. It was no more Coke, ice-cream, coffee, chocolate. No more meat. Just rice and vegetables.

I decided to address the journal for the following three days together because they were all the same: a never ending struggle to stay in the saddle for as long as possible. I cycled from petrol station to petrol station, stopping every time to go the toilet. No need to go into too much detail. You get the picture. My rhythm dropped considerably, together with the hours I could pedale every day. I only had 700 km to go when the virus hit me and by day 17, I only finished 500 km. That's 160 km a day. My new objective was just to make it to the finish safe. The bonus was to make it before the finish line closed. I never felt so helpless and powerless in my life. The suffering was so real and constant that my mind blocked that part of the race. Even now it's just a blur and I don't know how I found the power to continue for three days in that state. Never retreat, never surrender. That's my mantra...

Day 18, Greece. I wake up at 5 am somewhere in the bushes close to the Greek border. It's the first night I sleep outside after the virus episode. It's also the first day when my appetite is back and I eat a huge ham and cheese sandwich and drink my first coffee. Tonight, at 11 pm the finishe line will close. I'm less than 170 km away from the finish and I know that I'll most probably make it on time. I decide to make most of this last day and be careful not to make anything stupid on this last stretch. The last three days were a nightmare and it feels so good not to worry about my body and just to be able to cycle. The views are amazing in northern Greece, a constant up and down through epic mountains and deep valleys. It's an important holiday today and the Greeks are celebrating at restaurants or barbecuing in their small villages. I spend most of the day crying and laughing at the same time. My family is waiting for me at the finish line and I know it's going to be an emotional moment. I try to clear myself before I meet them. :) I'm looking at my phone and it hits me: I'm 30 km away from the finish line... My mind can't really process that information. I hardly thought about the race as a whole because the distances just felt titanic. I took the race one day at a time, 100 km at a time. Only now I'm realizing what I'm just about to finish. 4000 km, 17 days, 19 hours, all alone. I cycled through Europe on a bike to explore the continent but I actually ended up exploring myself. The sight of Meteora takes my breath away. The suspended monasteries seem from another time. I could so relate to their solitude. I too was suspended in time, being there, but also in a paralel life.

I'm only 1 km from the finish line and my face is just a huge grin. I enter the hotel parking and I see my Tudor and Laura, Madalina, my sister, and Daniel, her boyfriend, waving the Romanian flag. I stop the bike for the last time and crash in their arms. I'm done. Since the last time we met at CP4, I lost a lot of weight. I look terrible but my soul is smiling. I grab my last stamp, the finisher T-Shirt and a beer. TCRNO5 checked. Out of the 250 riders that started in the solo category, 95 managed to finish on time and I was 94th in the end.

Aftermath

I spent a whole week in Greece with my family which was the best R&R I could get. My body and my mind took some time to readjust to the normal world. Here is what I noticed:

  • I lost 9 kg mostly in the last 4 days. It took me one month to put that back.
  • I ate around 3.000 kcal a day for the following first week
  • I lost all manners during TCR and I was eating like a pig when I got back
  • The palm of my hands continued to hurt for another three weeks
  • I had panic attacks the first two nights. I woke up in the middle of the night not knowing where I was

Final thoughts

Even though I was initially disappointed with the fact that I didn't make it in time for the finishers party, I'm now grateful I finished safe and sound. This was my first long distance cycling race so I'm humbled by the fact I finished it and I have learned so much about me and about cycling in the process.

I want to extend my congratulations to all the TCR participants. You're all heroes in my book! Also, a warm thought to Frank Simons family and to everybody who has lost someone dear in these cycling races. Stay strong and remember that you're not alone. A special thanks to Mike Hall who started all this madness and to his friends and family that decided to continue his legacy, even though they have been tested so badly this year. Much respect to you all.

In the end, I want to thank my dear family, my friends and the whole community here in Romania that supported me during the race. You all gave me the power to continue when I never thought I still could. I will always remember this feeling of closeness for the rest of my life.

 

The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part III

The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part III

Part I is here >> 

Part II is here >>

CP 3 - High Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

Day 5. It is now the evening of my 5th TCR day and, after waiting for the heat to go down a bit, I start to climb the famous Monte Grappa. Even though this is one of the most brutal climbs in Italy, I'm so excited that I made it on time for the CP, that it doesn't really affect me. I make it to the top at the same exact moment as they close the restaurant. That's good bye for the food, water and the Coke I was dreaming about for the entire climb! I put on my night shift gear and head off on the mountain. It's not long I find myself cycling at around 1.600 meters on the plateau on what seem absolutely non sense roads. I was expecting to start descending straight away but, after one hour, I am still cycling on this f*cking mountain just as my front light is starting to fade away. Just great! After some more skirmishing, I finally get to the descend and it's absolutely steep and with a lot of hairpins. I start descending in the dark and the feeling is amazing. I am both afraid and excited. I can hear my breaks squeaking and the tires sometimes loosing their grip. My hands hurt from so much pulling on the brakes but the feeling is fantastic altogether. As I arrive at the bottom, I meet some really nice Spanish guys and we start chatting. We end up having some kind of sandwich and ice cream dinner and we crash in the same orchard for the night.

Day 6. As I wake up on the 3rd August, I'm 1.000 km away from CP 3 with 3 1/2 days to make the cut-of time. The elevation profile is quite friendly so I figured that I can easily ride 280 km a day and make it on time without a problem. Yeah right!! What I didn't take into account was the fact the temperature was going crazy at that time in Italy due to a heatwave called Lucifer. That particular day, the temperatures was around 40 C, sometimes even more than that. I'm not that affected because I'm used to cycling in the heat here, in Romania, where the summers can get as hot. But what this means is that I need to make a lot more stops to get precious liquids in. I drank 10 liters at least, not to mention that I was stopping to soak my cap and and clothes in water. All in all, the day was a good one and I made a good progress towards CP 3 by getting 260 km in before stopping in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Day 7. I wake up refreshed today and feeling good. I'm still 750 km away from the CP but I feel confident. As the day unravels, the heat becomes unbearable again. As I start cycling through the mountains of Slovenia, something happens that it's difficult to put in words even now. I just love the Carpathian Mountains which are the biggest mountains in Romania. I cycled them, I hiked and ran them and there are a big part of who I am as an outdoors person. The Carpathians have a distinct smell because of the plants that grow there. It's different from the Alps altogether. As I was cycling through this beautiful forest area of Slovenia, by the side of river, the same smell, the smell of home just hit me. It was so sudden that I couldn't control my feelings. I busted straight into a river, no, a tsunami of tears. I stopped one the side of the road and let the emotion go over me. I was home sick, thinking of my family and my friends, and especially my 5 year old son. It took a while to get back on the bike after this but I managed to find my composure and continue. The day went slow because of the heat and, as evening was appropriating, I was nowhere close to the quota for that day. I made a decision to stop for a big dinner and then continue as much as possible in the night to make up the time wasted in the day. As I was heading into the night, a storm came out of nowhere with furious winds and rain. I had to stop in a small town close to the Slovenian - Hungarian border with no other chance than to wait it out. I managed to find some shelter in the form of bus stop and I finally understood why this amazing piece of human engineering is worshiped by the TCR participants. If it weren't for that shelter I would have been finished. I took my bivvy out and wrapped myself in it, while sitting on the small bench inside the bus stop. The next thing I remember was this weird feeling of falling that I had loads of times while dreaming. This time it was for real. I woke up midair while I was falling as a sac of potatoes, head first on the pavement. I woke up as in sheer panic. The rain had stopped and I must have just fallen asleep on that bench, sitting on my ass. My heart was exploding out of my chest. I bruised my hip, knee and elbow but luckily my head was ok.  That would have been such a stupid way to get an injury...Just another reminder that you always have to be vigilent. It was around 1 am when I started cycling again and I tried to do it as much as possible and after four hours I stopped again in a miserable bus station in Hungary and fell asleep for two hours.

Day 8. I wake up just as the sun was coming up and I couldn't wait to be on the road again and leave that miserable bus station I slept in. I was making the calculations and I realized I was almost 500 km and 34 hours away from the CP. Theoretically, it could be done but I wasn't sure that it could be done by me. I have never done anything like in my life so it really meant I had to dig really dip. I just took it one hour at a time and was doing my best to get closer to the objective. I cycled all day long through Hungary and in the evening I entered Slovakia by passing over the Danube river.  After 20 hours of cycling my body was shutting down and I decided to sleep for two hours in a gas station before pushing through.

Day 9. As I woke up, it was still dark and I was feeling very tired and confused. I tried to cycle but I was having trouble keeping my balance and I was falling asleep on the bike. I panicked and I stopped for another hour of napping in a bus station. By now, the sun was coming up but my brain was still not starting. I went into the first gas station and I pumped myself full of caffeine and sugar hoping to get some energy going. I managed to cycle 340 km in the last 24 hours but I was still 10 hours away with 150 km to go. It felt impossible as the gradient was starting to go up and I had no idea how the climb to CP 3 looks like. I decided then and there that I would just give my absolute best to make the cut off time. And that is what i did. I only took short, very short breaks, and I pedaled like crazy.

As the afternoon was approaching, I was growing confident that I could do it. I was looking at my Garmin and it was estimating that I would arrive at the top with 40 minutes to spare. My brain was trying to get me to take longer breaks because of that extra time that I seemed to have but I decided to push on. After days of not seeing any other fellow TCR participants, I started to meet them as we were all making our way to the bottom of the climb. They were all in a big hurry, bigger than me, anyway. Some of the guys I was talking too, seemed to be in panic mode, worried they would miss the cut off. I didn't understand that. Yet! My Garmin was showing me that there's enough time to do it. Anyway, I didn't mind the others too much and I kept my own pace. As I arrived at the bottom of the climb I pulled out my phone to check that I'm not missing the mandatory parcour. Well, it's then I finally understood why everyone was in a hurry. I was at the bottom of the wrong f*cking climb! When I planned my route, I just put the wrong climb in it. I almost fell of the bike in despair. I worked so much for this to miss it for a stupid mistake. I looked at the map and I was 13 km away from the bottom of the correct climb and the climb was 7 km long with more than 700 meters elevation. I had 90 minutes to do all this. It was going to be tight but I literally gave it all...I was not going to fail. I cycled those 90 minutes as my life depended on it. My heart rate was going through the roof but I just didn't care. Failure was not an option for me. I was shouting, growling and f*cking screaming at my self to keep going. And I made it to CP 3 with 4 minutes to spare!!! Brilliant! I just looked at the Strava stats for that climb and I have a TOP 10 performance from all the TCRNO5 competitors that uploaded their ride. :)) Adrenaline, baby!

I arrived at the CP3, got the stamp and crashed in the hotel restaurant for beer, lunch and tons of stories with the TCR heroes that were already there.

[to be continued]





 

The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part II

The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part II

Part I is here >>

CP 2 - Monte Grappa

The morning after arriving at CP 1, I woke up as if I was hit by a bus. Last night's push to do the parcour on an empty stomach and the fact that I fell asleep hungry didn't help either. Sleeping was also bad again because of the cold. Since I packed a bivy bag and air mat but not a sleeping bag, I ended up sleeping with all my clothes on every night.

As I was slowly waking up, I started to notice the diverse bunch that was taking shelter at the CP. People had arrived all through the night and also in first hours of the morning. We all had a small sense of accomplishment by getting the first stamp but we were also humbled by the realization that we are just 600 k's into a 4.000 k's race. I don't why but that thought just made me laugh out loud. By now, although only three days in, I found it normal to talk to myself loudly, to laugh or to swear out of the sudden. Nope, nothing strange there...

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My plan for the day was to cycle to Austria and sleep at the base of the Alps before making my way to Italy the following day. I knew that, considering my sleeping gear, I should definitely find a hotel for that night, otherwise I'd be freezing outside. The day went on absolutely miserably. I couldn't find my pace at all and I was constantly hungry. I managed to enter Austria in the evening and the welcome was as bad I as expected it to be: windy & cold. I went to the first McDonalds I could find and ordered basically everything they had. My mental status was one of relaxation because I knew that I would sleep in a hotel and, as the temperature was dropping, I was happy to do so. But wait...The idiotic thing I did was that I didn't take the time during the day to book any accommodation. Now, at 10 pm, I found myself realizing that...guess what...in this tiny city in Austria, there weren't any places available. My morale just fell through the roof at the thought that I would need to sleep outside again. After spending more than 30 minutes on research, I summoned up all my courage and went outside. Yep, still windy, even colder. What happened in the next hour is something that you could call "the desperate hunt for shelter"! I turned the small city upside down looking for a shelter, clothes, blankets, something to keep me warm. Nothing! Around 12 pm I realized that it's just useless - I either start cycling through the night or, just as well, go to sleep out there. I went into survival mode. I managed to find a secluded place and, after putting all my clothes again, I went to sleep. I woke up several times shivering and I had to massage myself to sleep every time. It was horrible...

As I woke up at 5, my Garmin was showing a temperature of 8 degrees C. I couldn't wait to start pedaling. My first stop was five minutes away in a life saving petrol station, for a hot coffee and a sandwich. I kid you not: I was hugging the coffee cup, crying and laughing at the same time. I was slowly realizing what it would take to get to the end of this race. New limits, here I come!

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My plan for the day was to cycle all the way to Bolzen in Italy via Reschen Pass. That would put me 160 k's away from CP 2. What an amazing day this was. I left the somewhat boring hills and plains of Germany behind and now I was cycling through these amazing valleys in the Alps. The vegetation was green and lush, water was plentiful and the most important thing, the sun was up and it was so nice and warm. The top of the Reschen Pass is one my favorite places in this whole race. After a grueling, long climb, arriving at top, with the turquoise lake and the 4.000 meters snow covered peaks in the distance, was just as arriving in paradise. I stopped to eat a pizza at the first pizzeria in Italy - literally it was in the first 50 m into Italy. While eating that pizza, I also booked the hotel in Bolzano. He-he, learned my lesson! :) The road down to Bolzano was epic - all downhill on bike paths trough the vineyards. Oh man, the first night at the hotel, after a hot shower and a cold beer, was a life saver. Only topped by the buffet breakfast in the following morning that I absolutely destroyed. Must have eaten 1.500 kcal at least :D

On that day, August 2nd, at 5 pm, CP 2 was going to close. I felt I had enough time to pedal the 160 k's as long as I wasn't going to waste any time. The cycling for the day went incredibly smooth and I reached CP 2 with 2 hours to spare. The only things that kind of slowed me down was the heat. Little did I know that it would only be the start of it. The atmosphere was extraordinarily lively at the check point. I also felt good and my morale was high. After four day into the race, I was getting the hang of it and I felt I was being more in control of the race. After I got the much desired stamp, I joined other TCR participants that we're waiting for the heat to go down a bit so that we could attack the Monte Grappa climb. We chatted for an hour or so about our adventures so far. Their stories of grit and resilience were amazing. I had the realization that everyone was suffering at some level. Just like me. We were all pushing our limits. I suddenly stopped feeling alone in this crazy challenge and I felt I'm apart of the amazing TCR community. I wasn't just the outsider anymore, the rookie that was dreaming to do this race one year ago. I was doing it! I left for the Monte Grappa climb all pumped up...

>> Distance from start: 1.200 km. Duration: 4 days 17 hours.

(to be continued)

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The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part I

The Transcontinental Race 2017 Journal #TCRNO5 - Part I

At the beginning of this year, as I was accepted to take part in the #TCRNO5, my feelings were of excitement and panic, in equal amounts. Now, after successfully finishing the race, as I look back at that moment in January, I feel that I'm different person. I have no idea how the Silviu Martin from January had the guts to do this race now that I know what I've been through and what it took to finish this beast of a race.

When does the Transfagarasan Highway open?

When does the Transfagarasan Highway open?

Since we're running cycling tours on the Transfagarasan here at Martin Adventures, I'm really interested in finding out when does it open and, of course, close. The Transfagarasan has its own functioning rules that state when this road is operational every year.

The Transfagarasan Highway closes every year on October 31st. According to the sames rules, the Transfagarasan Highway opens again on July 1st.

Is the whole Transfagarasan Highway closed?

No. The Transfagarasan Highway is 90 km long and out of that, only 25 km are closed every Winter until Summer. Check the explanation below.

OPEN between Bascov (km. 0) and Piscu Negru (km. 104)

CLOSED between Piscu Negru (km. 104) and Bâlea Cascadă (km. 130+800)

OPEN between Cabana Bâlea Cascadă (km. 130,8) and DN 1 (km.152)

Why is the Transfagarasan Highway closed seven months a year?

That's a great question. Of course there are other roads in Europe and in the World that are higher than the Transfagarasan (2.100 meters) that don't need to be closed. The reason is that the Transfagarasan is not safe in winter. Basically, there aren't enough snow and avalanche protection systems and it would be dangerous to attempt driving the road during winter.

Does the Transfagarasan ever open earlier?

Yes. And there are two sides of this answer.

First, the official one. There are cases when the snow melts before the 1st of July so the authorities start preparing the road when they have this opportunity. After this, they make an on-site inspection and decide to officially open the road earlier then July 1st.

And second, the unofficial one. Now, of course, the locals, who are interested in using the pass as early as possible, try to get to the other side even when the road is not yet officially opened by the authorities but it's still usable because well, the snow melted.

To sum up, technically, you could drive, cycle or walk on the Transfagarasan before 1st of July in two cases:

  • the authorities decide to open it before the standard opening time
  • on your own risk if the road is usable

Who decides when to open and close the road?

That's the mission of The Road Infrastructure Management National Company. They actually have an English website with some useful information.

How will I now when the road opens?

You could always follow Martin Adventures on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter and will let you know.

Check the real time updates on the Transfagarasan Forum.

Got more questions about the Transfagarasan Highway? Let me know in the comments below.

How was on my first cycling camp in Tenerife

How was on my first cycling camp in Tenerife

I recently just came back from the first ever Martin Adventures cycling camp in Tenerife and it was just A-MAZ-ING! Before I get into all the details, I can tell you that we'll be surely doing more of these off-season cycling camps in Tenerife. :) 

I stayed for ten days on "the island of eternal Spring" and I must say, the island did live up to its name: the weather was marvelous by any standards. Even though the middle part of the tour was under the influence of the calima (a dry and hot wind blowing from the Sahara Desert), the weather was still good for cycling.

We were stationed in the southern part of the Island, in a small village, called Arona, that is lying conveniently on the road to Mt. Teide. One the highlights of the trip was actually climbing Mount Teide (3.718 m), the highest mountain in Spain and still an active volcano. I was lucky enough to do the climb twice. The first time I started at sea level and the second time from Arona (600 meters) (Strava Ride 1, Strava Ride 2)

We also explored some of the popular areas in the South, such as the Los Cristianos & Las America beaches, Los Gigantes, Masca village. I also had the chance to visit  the north of the island, around Taganana beach and then further East to Santa Cruz, which is the capital city of Tenerife.

I'll leave you with some photos of the tour and a video of the descent from Mt. Teide to Vilaflor.

Also check out a video of me descending from Mt. Teide to Vilaflor. That was an epic sensation! :)

Shot during our cycling camp in Tenerife, March 2017.

https://www.martin-adventures.com/tenerife-camp/

How to plan & achieve your cycling goals

How to plan & achieve your cycling goals

First of all, let me just start by stating something obvious: It's really useful to set goals in life.

And I'm not just talking about cycling. I've heard from other people there's more to life than cycling. :P It's been proven scientifically that if you have goals and if you work towards them every day, you tend to achieve them. And that makes you happy. See? It's not rocket science. The best news is that setting and striving for a goal, even if you don't make it, will make you happier.

Ok, since I hope I convinced you to start setting cycling goals, let me tell you how I do it.

I start by dreaming

Before I get into a specific goal, I basically day dream for a while, trying to imagine some thing: a destination, a challenge, a route or a competition, that would motivate me to want to do it. I try not to limit myself in ways that are dependent of time, money, equipment or any other down to Earth reasons. For example, for this year I totally wanted to go on an incredible bike adventure on my own. I didn't know when or where but I wanted something challenging. I was feeling that in the past couple of years I haven't been so adventurous and I needed some more adventure in my life. A couple of weeks later, I found out about TCR and I instantly felt I wanted to do it. In the same instant, a dozen reasons came into my mind about why this is too crazy: no experience, no time, not enough money, equipment and other bla bla.

I set goals that scare me

There's no point in setting goals that are comfortable and easy to achieve, that won't give you a major adrenaline kick at the end. If you're already doing 100 k rides don't make the 2017 plan to reach 120 k. That's boring! Set a goal that it's in that sweet spot between impossible and achievable. Coming back to my goal. The TCR is certainly scaring me and keeping me awake at night but I know that with enough training I'll surely do it.

I set SMART goals

SMART meaning:

Specific - do a tour in Europe in June or ride 200 km in a single day

Measurable - some way of knowing that you achieved your goal: a specific mileage, competition, etc.

Achievable - see what I wrote above about the sweet spot

Relevant - make sure your goal is relevant to you, your passions, your overall life goals or more specific cycling long term goals.

Time - have a clear deadline for achieving that goal. I would also add: have at least monthly (if it's a year long goal) checks to see if you're on track.

I write them down. Yes, on paper. With a pen.

I can't really stress enough the importance of writing your goals down. Almost six months ago, I started journaling again and I do it every other day. It gives me clarity, focus and it reminds me why I do the stuff I do every day. Now stick the paper on your desk or in front of your bike trainer to see it every day.

I break it down into a plan

Now that you have the big goal it's time to break it down in more chewable bits. For example, I'm planning to do a specific mileage each month before the TCR. This means I have to do a specific number of rides weekly to achieve that. At the beginning of each week I plan those rides to reach my quota.

I follow through (I hate this part)

Now this is the really nasty part: actually having to work every day towards that goal. This is what I find the hardest and where the struggle really is.  It's because it's here where the fluffy and sweet stuff that dreams are made of is meets the cold and bitter stuff reality is made of. Reality is that cold, windy, misty morning,  when I have to clock this week's 200 k. Brutal!

You just have to remind yourself (and I know it's sooo hard) that this is the stuff champions are made of. It's called GRIT.

What are your audacious cycling goals for 2017?

New dates & discounts for the road cycling tours on the Transfagarasan & Transalpina

New dates & discounts for the road cycling tours on the Transfagarasan & Transalpina

I have some exciting news to share with you.

In the past couple weeks, I've been getting a lot of messages from you, the road cycling community, about the Transalpina and Transfagarasan cycling tour  that we're doing here in Transylvania. The interest to come here and test yourselves on these two epic roads has never been so high as this year.

This just gives me an amazing feeling of fulfillment. I feel that all my work to promote the beauty and uniqueness of this areas is starting to reach more and more of you. :)

I've decided to give you some more options for doing the road cycling tours during the high season so I've added another tour starting with the 20th of August. Check out our 2017 calendar for all the dates.

Also all July tours are 100 Euro cheaper now for the next 5 people who book with us before the end of this month. That's 845 Euro instead of 945 Euro. If you're thinking of booking with us now it's the perfect time to do it.

Thank you all and see you on the road!

Cycling competitions on the Transfagarasan and Transalpina

Cycling competitions on the Transfagarasan and Transalpina

The Transfagarasan Highway in Transylvania, Romania. Copyright Martin Adventures, Road Cycling Tour.

Year by year, the amazing Transfagarasan and Transalpina highways are becoming, rightfully so, more and more popular with people who are passionate about sports. In turn, this makes them perfect places to stage various types of competitions: cycling, triathlons, trail running and of, course, motor sports, just to name a few.

If you're thinking of coming over to Romania on a holiday this summer and perhaps you don't have enough time to join our road cycling tour on the Transfagarasan and Transalpina, then you could give these competitions a chance.

Transfier

Transfier King of Transfagarasan. Photo via www.transfier.ro

Transfier King of Transfagarasan. Photo via www.transfier.ro

The name literally means Trans (from the Transfagarasan name) + Iron ("fier" is iron in Romanian, from Ironman). So, as the name suggest, the competition started out as an half Ironman distance race a couple of years ago. As it grew in popularity, the organizers added shorter distances for triathlon but also a road cycling race. The latter takes place on the Southern part of the Transfagarasan and the route is 45 km long. It practically represents the best part of the Southern part climb to the top. It usually takes place in the second week of September and registration costs is 15 Euro.

Road Grand Tour Eroica

Road Grand Tour. Picture via www.roadgrandtour.ro

Road Grand Tour. Picture via www.roadgrandtour.ro

Road Grand Tour is a series of road cycling competitions started by Alex Ciocan, a Romanian profesional cyclist. The Eroica takes place on the Transalpina and is, in my opinion, the hardest and most beautiful race in the tour. The route is 90 km long and joins the official Transalpina highway for the final 20 km, the best part of the Northern Climb. If you're around in the second part of August, I'd recommend you give it a go. 

Here's the 2016 and probably 2017 route: https://www.strava.com/activities/683022862

Sibiu Cycling Tour

Sibiu Cycling Tour. Picture via www.ciclism.sibiu.ro

Sibiu Cycling Tour. Picture via www.ciclism.sibiu.ro

According to Wikipedia, the Sibiu Cycling Tour (Cycling Tour of Sibiu until 2015) is a 2.1 category professional bicycle road race held in Sibiu, Romania. Its first edition took place in July 2011, as part of the UCI Europe Tour. Held entirely around the city, the race normally runs over four days including a prologue on the cobbled streets of the city, and two climbing stages, one on the Transfăgărăşan Road to Balea Lac and a second to the mountain resort of Paltinis. 

In 2017 the race will be taking place between 5th - 9th July and, most likely, the Northern side of the Transfagarasan climb will be an individual time trial. 

Even though you can't actually join this race as an amateur, if you're around, perhaps even joining one of our road cycling tours on the Transfagarasan, it's worth watching the big boys going for it.

The PeDAL ED  Transcontinental Race #No5

The Transfagarasan Highway in Transylvania, Romania. Picture via Apidura https://www.facebook.com/Apidura/

The Transfagarasan Highway in Transylvania, Romania. Picture via Apidura https://www.facebook.com/Apidura/

The Transcontinental Race (TCR) is an annual, self-supported, ultra-distance cycling race across Europe. It is one of the world's toughest ultra-endurance races. The route varies for each edition and the distance has been between approximately 3,200 to 4,200 km, and the winners have taken between 7 and 10 days to reach the finish. Interest in the race has grown rapidly: 30 people started the first edition of the race in 2013; over 1,000 people applied for a place in the fourth edition in 2016, 350 of whom were successful. Source: Wikipedia

I'm double excited about the race. It's the first time the Transfagarasan Highway is on the official route as CP 4, the last one before the finish. More than 350 cyclist will get to see Romania and this magnificent mountain road.

Secondly, if you're reader of my blog, you probably already know that, this year, I'm taking part in the race as a competitor. Woop! Woop! If you're not yet a reader, well this is your chance to become one. :)

Martin's top winter tips for cyclists

Martin's top winter tips for cyclists

If you're like me, and by that I mean, living in the northern hemisphere and "blessed" with a long and cold continental winter, I pity you. :) The relationship between winter and cyclists is just dead from the start. No future there! So here are my tips on how to make it through winter without loosing your sanity.

1. Dream big

The Transfagarasan Highway in Transylvania, Romania. 

The Transfagarasan Highway in Transylvania, Romania. 

If you're just stuck indoors for so many months it helps to have a big and inspiring goal for the following season. This is the time for researching your dream tour, for making plans with your rider friends and start doing the arrangements. It will give you a different mind set and a new meaning to your cold, snowy and fogy days. Personally, my ginormous challenge is doing the Transcontinentall Race #5.

>>> Need inspiration? Check out our cycling tours. Road Cycling on the Transfagarasan and Mountain Biking in the Transylvanian Alps

2. Cross train

Cross fit.

Cross fit.

I always use this time of the year as an opportunity to build my cycling strength. There are plenty of tips out there of the specific exercises you could do. I go to cross fit classes two times a week and that's just an amazing workout for me. Also, think about giving trail running or skiing a chance. Even though you're not using the same "cycling muscles", it definitely helps with maintaining your endurance. Oh yeah, one great endurance workout I've been doing recently is the rower. Awesome total body workout + endurance.

3. Join a cycling camp in the South

Tenerife Island. 

Tenerife Island. 

If you have the budget and the time to get away, one thing that you could always do is, instead of waiting for the spring to come to you, for you to go where there's spring already. I'm talking about joining a cycling camp in some place where is warmer. The Pro's usually go to Mallorca, Tenerife or Southern Spain. I'm lucky enough to host a road cycling training camp in Tenerife in March so that is something I absolutely look forward to. 

4. Ride indoor

16424066130_69800b7963_b.jpg

I hate myself for giving out this tip! I think that the beauty of cycling comes from the fact that you get to be outdoors, to explore and to feel alive. Riding indoors just kills it for me. But, I have to be realistic and admit, that if there's snow and ice on the road, there's no way to ride out. So yeah, I also use this time to ride the indoor trainer or the stationary bike. Listen to your favorite podcast or audio book, read all those articles you saved months ago and maybe, just maybe, you'll feel time pass faster.

5. Ride outdoor

Even if it's just once a month, I try to find an opportunity to go out and ride. There's nothing like a REAL ride to boost the morale and get the endorphins going. If it's too snowy for the road bike I take out my mountain bike and ride on trails, through the snow.

How do you manage to go through the cold winter times? Leave your tips or thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!

Martin is going Transcontinental in 2017!

Martin is going Transcontinental in 2017!

The start in Geraardsbergen, Belgium. Photo Credit: www.transcontinental.cc

The start in Geraardsbergen, Belgium. Photo Credit: www.transcontinental.cc

Because I'm getting closer and closer to the european cycling community, it was just a matter of time before I found out about the Transcontinental cycling race. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it going to be my pleasure to introduce you to one of the greatest solo races out there. And who knows, perhaps implant the dream of actually doing this race too! I'm talking about a 4.000 kilometers adventure that starts on the Muur van Geraardsbergen, Belgium and that finishes in Meteora, Greece. There are only four mandatory checkpoints: Schloss Lichtenstein - Germany, Monte Grappa - Italy, Tatra Mountains - Slovakia and...the Transfagarasan - Romania. Other that that, every rider is free to plan and ride his or her route. This is the first year that the Transfagarasan is part of the race so I'm even more stoked that so many cyclists will climb our awesome road.

The Transfagarasan Highway, Romania. Photo credit: www.martin-adventures.com/road-cycling

The Transfagarasan Highway, Romania. Photo credit: www.martin-adventures.com/road-cycling

The big news that I received at the start of this year is that I was also accepted in this years race together with 200 other riders! I'm excited but also absolutely scared as I've never done something as ambitious before. I researched the race and the route as much as I could and I'm confident that with training... and then some more training, I'll be able to check my objective of being in Meteora in 14 - 16 days. That means an average of 250 km of riding each day non stop for two weeks.

I wanted to share this awesome news with you and of course, I promise to keep you updated on this here blog as things progress.

Cheers,

Silviu

Transfagarasan vs. Transalpina. What's the best road for cycling in Transylvania, Romania?

Transfagarasan vs. Transalpina. What's the best road for cycling in Transylvania, Romania?

By now, everybody knows that Romania has at least one famous road, namely the Transfagarasan Highway. Featured on Top Gear as "the best road in the world for driving", this road has had its share of the spotlight and it keeps attracting aspiring drivers as well as sporting enthusiasts from all over the world.

Perhaps not that well known is the fact that only 100 km away to the West, lies the Transalpina Highway or "The Kings Road", as the locals call it. It's said that its history goes back thousands of years to the time of the Roman Empire. 

I decided to put these two European landmark roads head to head and see which one takes away the prize for the most spectacular road for cycling.

TRANSFAGARASAN

The final km of the Transfagarasan.

The Transfăgărășan (trans [over, across] + Făgăraș) also known as Ceaușescu's Folly, is a paved mountain road crossing the southern section of the Carpathian Mountains. It’s the second-highest paved road (2.042 m) in the country after the Transalpina. It stretches 90 kilometers (56 mi) between the highest peaks in the country, Moldoveanu and Negoiu. The road, built in the early 1970s as a strategic military route, connects the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia. It has 833 bridges, 28 aqueducts and 5 tunnels, the longest one being 880 meters long.

Transfagarasan is the more popular road of the two. The small distance from Sibiu and Brasos makes it easy for tourist to hop in their cars and arrive at the base of the Transfagarasan in less than one hour. The road is also included in national and international cycling races such as Sibiu Cycling Tour, Transfier Triathlon and (big news!)...Transcontinental Race in 2017.

The elevation profile of the road is pretty straightforward. When you're riding in from the N, you have 30 km of climbing to the top of the Transfagarasan, Balea Lake. It's mostly all downhill from there, around 60 km, with the exception of the occasionally rolling hills.

The road is open every year between 1st July - 30th Octomber.

cycling tours in romania

Epic cycling tours in Romania

 

TRANSALPINA

The Transalpina Highway

The Transalpina is a paved mountain road located in the Parâng Mountains group, in the Southern Carpathians of Romania. It's one of the highest roads of the Carpathian Mountains and the highest road in Romania. The road was built under the rule of King Carol II and rebuilt during World War II by German troops. It is called "The King's Road" by the locals because King Carol II and his family opened the road back in the 1930's. Also a story has it that Nicolae Ceauşescu had the Transfăgărăşan Road built during the communist regime just to surpass the Transalpina.

The road has its highest point at the Urdele Pass, where the elevation is 2,145 m above sea level. Given the high altitude, the road is closed during the cold months of the year. Works began in 2007 in order to transform this spectacular road into a modern highway (148 km), allowing a rapid transit between Oltenia and Transylvania.

The elevation profile of the Transalpina and it's length (+60 km when compared to the Tfg.) make this road a more demanding one for cycling. At the end of the day, you'll feel your legs a lot heavier than after cycling the Tfg. When you start riding from the S, you have 30 km to get to the top. After a couple of km of descending, you start a brutal climb that sucks the rest of the energy out of your legs. Wait, there's more. After a nice and peaceful descent, you still have 6 km of climbing and 10 km of flat roads, until you get to the final, long descent. Yeah, it's quite demanding!

HEAD TO HEAD

Before we drill into the results let me first tell you what are the criteria I selected to analyze these two epic roads. Landscapes - it's all about the glorious views that you'll remember; the higher the score, the better the views are. Car traffic - the higher the score, the less cars there are on a regular day. Road Quality - the quality of the tarmac, if it's new tarmac, if there are pot holes, etc.; the higher the score, the better the road quality. Accessibility - how easy is it to get to the base of the road, how close is it to large cities; the higher the score, the more accessible the road is. Extras - how easy it is to find decent food, drinks or accommodation while on the road; the higher the score, the more decent options there are. The maximum score for each category is 5.


Landscapes

TFG: 4

TA: 5

Car Traffic

TFG: 3

TA: 4

Road Quality

TFG: 3

TA: 4

Accessibility

TFG: 5

TA: 4

Extras

TFG: 4

TA: 3

OVERALL

TFG 19/25

TA 20/25


There you have it. The score is tight, favoring the Transalpina slightly. I know I'm a bit subjective and I have to admit that I kind of wanted Transalpina to win. The road quality is better, the road is longer by more than 60 km and the elevation profile makes this road a lot more demanding. All of this, make it my favorite cycling road in Romania.

You can read about the other epic road cycling roads in Romania and, if you can't decide what road to cycle on, you don't have to. Join our Romanian cycling tours to do all of them.

 

Travel Tips for British Trekkers Flying to Romania

Travel Tips for British Trekkers Flying to Romania

Just like an adventure reality show such as The Amazing Race, traveling from London can either be tricky and challenging or simple and laid-back. In a way, everything depends on you and your knowledge of the easiest route from your home to the airport, to the parking spaces, all the way to the departure area.

If you’re an avid adventurer, specifically someone who takes pleasure in the thrill of the great outdoors on foot, going to a different European country like Romania is a valid option.  Seat 61 even has a detailed approach to the more than 3000-kilometre journey. However, since we want the most efficient course, for now let’s focus on air travel.

Say you’re departing from Heathrow, an airport described by The Telegraph as the sixth busiest in the world. The most logical thing to do is to leave home early to be ready for the London traffic and find an appropriate airport parking space. As a side note, if you’re driving to Heathrow, it’s imperative to reserve a slot 24-48 hours prior to your flight to enjoy maximum savings and convenience.

On the other hand, since London has an exemplary public transportation network, another way to effectively commute to the airport is via the Express train. The parking and aviation industry experts at Parking4Less even suggest taking the Tube’s Piccadilly Line as a cheaper yet time-consuming alternative to get to Heathrow. Once you reach the west London aviation hub, it all becomes elementary from here on out.

Recently, The Guardian reported the government’s plan for Heathrow’s much-needed expansion. Based on the article, a third runway will soon pave the way for hundreds of thousands more flights to and from London annually. This also means there will be more flights covering the three-hour trip from the UK to Romania.

Now upon arrival at Bucharest International Airport, you have to make your way to Sibiu either by bus, by taxi, or by train. This Transylvanian city is where you’ll find the Piatra Craiului Mountains, where you’ll trek the 25-kilometre, 1.600-metre high trail with sharp ridges and cavernous gorges. The end destination features a main ridge that has a beautiful vista unlike any other.

All in all, travelling from the United Kingdom to Romania can be a breeze as long as you know these little intricacies that may or may not make the difference to your itinerary. For devoted British adventurers, such as yourself, hiking the Transylvanian trails offers something out-of-the-ordinary, a change of pace from the usual city life. So what are you waiting for, put these tips to good use and explore the mountainous regions of Romania on foot.

The 2017 Calendar is out now!

The 2017 Calendar is out now!

Best of 2016

The 2016 season is now over here in Transylvania and the weather has turned to (almost) winter. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our fellow explorers that have joined our tours this year. Take a look at the "Best Of" Facebook album to catch a glimpse of how it all went down.

The 2017 Calendar is now available

To kick-off of the 2017 season, we're launching a new road cycling tour to make the winter months more bearable, namely in Tenerife. You can check out this new Tenerife Road Cycling Tour on our website.

We're continuing with our Road Cycling, Mountain Biking and Trail Running tours with almost no modifications. The Road Cycling tour now starts on a Sunday so that we start enjoying the Transfagarasan on a week day when car traffic is almost 0.

Check out the complete 2017 calendar now.

Meet the Martin Adventures UK Brand Ambassador

Meet the Martin Adventures UK Brand Ambassador

It's so important for Martin Adventures to be close to our local communities of explorers and, starting with this year, we're doing so with the help of our Brand Ambassador Program. I'm really excited to introduce to you Martin Cox - our first UK Brand Ambassador. In case you're wondering - no, we didn't just choose Martin because of his first name. :)

I'd like to thank our judges for their involvement and, of course, their fair judgment: Donna Navarro - award winning blogger, travel lover and women's cycling advocate, Alain Rumpf - a swiss with a pulse & chief cycling officer at Grand Tours Project, Erik Jonsson - a designer turned nature photographer by way of cycling and Tom Owen - a professional cycling writer with a travel ‘problem’ & founder of the Big Boys Bicycle Club.

We've interviewed Martin for our blog so that you get to know him better. You can also follow him on his blog , Facebook or Instagram to learn more about his cycling adventures.

Martin Cox - age 39 - freelance writer, consultant, university lecturer

You’re a self declared cyclist. Why did you choose cycling and what does it add to your life?

Why cycling? low impact, high smiles, cake-enabling exercise! What does it add? Everything? It doesn’t matter how long or short, after any bike ride I’m a better version of myself. It can stretch me in ways I’d never have considered previously, I know more about me than i thought possible.

How do you manage to combine your hobbies with your job?

I got rid of the TV to avoid that time suck, and I’m not scared to set an early alarm! other than that my work fits around my passions in life, family and cycling.

What is your favorite place to ride, how many times have you been there and would you return?

It’s so hard to choose a single favorite, because it discounts so many stunning places to ride! I would say in terms of scenery it would probably be either Tuscany in France (mountains and purple fields) or Taiwan for the sheer multitude of hills! But closer to home I adore the effects of my local roads, for the calming focus they bring to my life.
 

What is your next travelling destination and what made you decide you should go there? 

By the time this is published I’ll be racing around Ireland in the Transatlantic Way Race, a solo 2.500 km race around Ireland's west coast. Going for these stupid races is what motivates me all year :-)

You said that cycling the Transfagarasan is high on your list of places you'd like to ride. How did it end up there since is not such a well known road?

I came across a picture of the road and knew had to ride it! the scale of the engineering feat is fabulous and the story behind the road is incredible. It looks utterly crazy to ride, like the Stelvio but stretched out further :-)
 

When it comes to riding your bike in the city, what is the first thing that comes in your mind and why?

Own the space, ride like a car driver and make each and every move obvious, blatant and utterly impossible to ignore, in short; don’t get hit!

 

The essential & short 5

  • Riding with music? Yes, if the mood takes me.
  • Alone or with crew? Normally alone, I like to ride for days, exploring and racing countries, and it's easier to go alone. But I do love to ride with my son, and I'm teaching him the ways of going long!
  • Always wearing the helmet (even short commutes)? No
  • Eating gels on rides?  Yes, whatever is to hand!
  • Love climbs? Love the idea of climbs!

If you could send a message to all the cyclists in the world, how would that sound? 

There is literally nothing in this world that will provide you with more boundary-stretching fulfillment than simply riding a bike. It is THE greatest method of transportation and fun available, where else can you experience true joy on nothing more than bowl of porridge!

Why the hell should I visit Romania?

Why the hell should I visit Romania?

In case you're still asking yourself "Where is Romania?" or "Where is Transylvania?", perhaps you should read this article first: "Where is Transylvania"

Look, I know there are plenty of articles out there written by people that have already visited Romania in the past couple of years and have had an incredible, positive experience. Here are just a couple of them if you'd like to read them:

Things you didn't know about Romania by Travel Away

Here are some reasons to never ever visit Romania by Happy Traveler

9 reasons you should be afraid to visit Romania by Heart My Backpack

Lets not forget that we also have Lonely Planet recommending Transylvania (you know, that more famous region in Romania) as their 2016 region of choice. That's quite something, right?

Nevertheless, I'll still take my chance at bringing something new on this subject since people that come on our tours are more adventurous, cycling or trekking savvy and not that keen on cultural or historical aspects.

So, I'll mostly share my five reasons and one anti-reason for "Why the hell should you take a cycling or trekking holiday in Romania, in 2016?"

1. It's the nature, baby

View of the Piatra Craiului National Park in Transylvania, Romania

Most of the experiences above, mention the breathtaking nature as one of the main reasons for coming to Romania, and that's not without justification. We've been blessed with all types of land forms: the Black Sea, the Danube Delta, the Transylvanian Plateu and Hills and, of course, the Carpathian Mountains. So basically, in just 6 hours you could taking a bath in the Black Sea and then trek on top of Moldoveanu at more than 2.500 meters above sea level. This gives you plenty of options for exploration and practicing various sports on your holiday.

2. The Mountain Biking trails are awesome. And not crowded at all.

Mountain Biking trails in the high Bucegi Mountains

I actually believe that Romania is one of the least known high quality mountain biking destinations in Europe and quite possibly in the World. With a forest cover of roughly 30%, quite similar to Switzerland or Norway actually, there are endless single tracks options through the woods. Let's not forget the Alpine routes in the Carpathian Mountains. And as I mentioned at #1 you could practice MTB on all types of terrains: from the shores of the Black sea to the ridges of the Transylvanian Alps. Check out my more detailed article on the "Five of the the most beautiful off road cycling holidays areas in Romania".

3. The Road Cycling is intense

The Transfagarasan Road, Transylvania, Romania

Maybe you were actually thinking that the roads in Romania are bad, crowded and not suitable for road cycling. You wouldn't be that far from the truth. Actually I'm not encouraging you to tour Romania on a bike - although other people have done it and it's not that bad, it seems.

We have some epic climbs that are actually worth doing at least once in a lifetime. I'm mainly talking about the Transfagarasan and the Transalpina but also other nearby routes. One of our fellow cyclists and clients from Norway, has actually mentioned that climbing the Transfagarasan on a road bike was one of his childhood dreams. How about that for a new tagline: "Martin Adventures is making dreams come true". Check out my more detailed article on the "The five most difficult cycling climbs in Romania".

4. The accommodation is authentic

Inn on Balaban in Bran

I never thought that I'd put this on my list, but yes, I'm actually doing it. Most accommodations in Romania are bad and customer service sucks. I know. But, look, I'm not talking about the average places now. In the past couple of years some forward thinking B&B owners figured out they could just have decent service and that alone could take them ahead of the competition.

They managed to keep the local atmosphere and flavor, improved on the comfort level and the client service and there you have it. They are pretty successful now and others are following their lead. I can easily recommend ten great accommodations in Romania such as Inn on Balaban. You'll find them in the "The Adventure Travel e-Guide to Romania" you can opt to receive at the end of this post.

5. The community

Me with my friends and family

Me with my friends and family

Us Romanians have learned to believe that "we're a friendly and hospitable folk". This is more or less a myth. One guy, and by this I mean "a scientist", actually made a serious study on the subject and we didn't come out as friendly as other people in Europe. But here's something else that he found out. Things radically change when we're talking about small communities. Romanians tend to organize themselves in these small, trust based and niche communities.

What I'm saying is that, if you manage to make your way into these kind of niche communities, you'll be surprised by how much people are willing to give without asking anything in return. These means that, when you're planning your trip in Romania, adventurous or not, you should look for signs that the local provider (B&B, host, tour operator) has ties with the local community and they are willing to let you in.

6. (Not for) Dracula and Vampires

Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania

You won't find any vampires here in Transylvania and for that matter...not anywhere the world. You know why? They don't exist. Grow up! :) Really now, if your only reasons for visiting Romania are the vampire stories and the castle in Bran, you'll surely be disappointed. Of course, there will be plenty of people trying to make some profits out of this story but most Dracula tours, restaurants or birth places, etc. are just a waste of your time. Believe me. If you don't, read this very long article by Livescience on The Real Dracula.

* * *

What do you think? Do you agree with my views on this or not? Looking forward to reading your comments below.


Looking for the next UK Brand Ambassador

Looking for the next UK Brand Ambassador

Silviu writes his thoughts on the Martin Adventures community and launching the Brand Ambassador Program. Also you may read about how to enter the #MARTINADVENTURES Instagram contest and win a cycling trip in Transylvania, Romania.

Where is Transylvania?

Where is Transylvania?

Transylvania is the travel destination for 2016 according to Lonely Planet and other experts. Here are a couple of general facts about Transylvania and Romania. In case you're wondering, I did answer some of the Dracula questions. Enjoy!