Back in Bulgaria – Sofia, Vitosha & Bunovo

 

Last Spring I explored the biking in Bulgaria over a period of two months. This time I’m back for work and a long weekend.

Already Friday afternoon I got the bike assembled and went for a ride in the city. „Went for a ride” became a climb of 1400 meters and as many meters of downhill as well. I started by dropping by a newly opened BAS-shop. The guy running it is a friend since last year. He has just recently built a dirt in one of the parks downtown and wanted to show me. Some work still needs to be done but the kids where already all over it and of course we had a couple of runs as well.

Amazing that Cucu managed to shape all these jumps with a rental excavator in spite of never having handle such a machine before…. the dirt has been inaugurated and even the mayor of Sofia was there to hang out with the kids. Now some other cities are lining up to get his attention.

Anyway. With a new bike and a mountain stretching all the way up to 2300 meters of elevation the temptation was too big. I did some trails at the foot of the mountain and kind of just got going. The lift was closed but I found my way up some small road that lead onto a cobblestone road that leads to Aleko – the base for the ski resort.

At Aleko you are basically at a plateau on 1800 meters and the trails are really nice

What is it with mountains and me? It’s like the peaks are mentally pulling me up and I can’t resist. I just had to go. Finally I got a grip on myself seeing the dark clouds and knowing the hour. At 2100 meters elevation I told myself that I’ve anyway been to that top before and turned around.

1400 meter drop down to the city. Got my armor on. About time to see how the Giant Reign 2 performs! Only a drop of rain down to, and over, the plateau. A lot of sound from the chain moving all over… but wow! The bike is great. Actually very impressed on how an air suspension bike can handle the downhill. Less impressed about the Fat Albert in the wet slippery rocks. Some quick pictures to give an idea of what the trails where like

However… The rain caught up with me, which wasn’t too bad in the forest. Less pleasant while fixing a snakebite on the very last trail section before reaching the streets of the suburbs. People are just so nice. Several cars stopped to give me a lift while I was fixing the flat tire – would never happen in Sweden. As I was quite wet I figured I better just get going on my own and made it through the rivers of water in the streets back to the hotel. Got myself a hot shower and some beers at a friend’s place so I could have been worse off…

The weather forecast for the rest of the weekend was just promising rain and rain and rain but luckily yr.no has been mostly wrong lately. During the rest of the weekend I rather had an issue of getting too much of a tan in the sun. Anyway… Saturday morning I got on the train to Bunovo with my friend Orlin. It’s a ride of 1h40min and the place is a small village forgotten by everyone I guess. We had no problem of fitting the bikes on the train…

Here is the map from last year’s rides updated with Bunovo

Picturesque village

We started a climb of around 1000 meters. First on a regular gravel road but then just more and more beautiful landscape

Wild strawberry stops along the way

At 1300 meters you pass this cabin

While continuing up the mountain we came across a guy on an ATV asking if we had a pump to help him out with a flat tire. Jesus, the guy inflated a whole tire with a bike pump…

At this time of the year there is lots of flowers all over and a lot of the (quick translation) “tourist’s toilet paper”.

At 1500 meters we make it above the tree line and get to enjoy a fantastic landscape

The fog came in while we made some 10 kilometers up on the ridge. Some wild horses are roaming around

With more than 1000 meters of drop down to the village of Slatitsa it was so nice that the fog let go of its grip and we could catch some sped on the dirt road

At a certain point we took right onto a DH-track from a competition three weeks ago. Again, the Reign was just great. Some fine tuning of the fork and maybe a bigger disc on the front could be something to wish for.

The DH-track is ending up in a small village and from there we just coasted it down to the cold beers in Slatitsa.

2 hours on the train back to Sofia isn’t bad if you bring beers

Some football game going on I guess

The weather forecast for Sunday was as bad as the one for Saturday. Only, that this time it was confirmed by looking out the window: thunder, lightning and lots of rain. Rain doesn’t normally stop me, but it is a bit less inspiring to get going up the mountain when it’s just pouring down from the very first minute. I spoke to my friend Mitko on the phone and we said we would keep in contact to see what would happen. And yes! Like magic, all clouds are just gone in one hour. Weird, but me like!

Mitko is an awesome dude living at the foot of the Vitosha Mountain, just outside Sofia. During the winter he takes his skies on the backpack and climbs up the 1300 vertical meters to ski it down – like three times a week… So… Mitko told me about this yearly event coming up in a week’s time. You bike around the Vitosha Mountain. It’s almost 100 kilometers. We could try that today?

We did.

On top of the almost 100 kilometers I would guess that we did some 1500 meters of climb. Basically you move around between 800 and 1350 meters of elevation. The trip was absolutely awesome. Here’s a view early on – Serbia somewhere in the distance

After some fast climbs we reach a ridiculously smooth single track that just keeps going for 10 kilometers.

We leave the trail for a village and some big fields that during 1,5 kilometers offered the worst kind of sticking mud I’ve ever experienced. The wheels wouldn’t turn

We cleared the worst parts with sticks and with our hands, but then we just ran the rinsing program at 20 degrees

With somewhat lighter bikes we enjoyed a downhill section and then up again on asphalt. Quite tired and after some few drops of rain we arrived at a coffee shop or whatever it was. Mitko got one of I don’t know how many flat tires fixed. For some reason he more or less had a leaking tire throughout the whole trip.

Food, Pepsi, Coffee and we had fresh energy to kick us up the next climb

Rewarding view after that climb… Big slopes of meadows where leading to the lowlands between us and the mighty Rila Mountains

The double track from there had awesome edges to be used as berms. Lots of fun!

The dudes for sure know how to pimp their set of wheels in the village of Jarlovo…

We found the trail out of there. Such a nice setting to bike in

Asphalt again. First up and then down – using all three chain rings. 15 minutes of downhill on asphalt and I can understand that road biking has it’s thrill. Back into the forest and here are some pics to show you what it was like

Sometimes there were actually signs…

The city is visible again but we continue in parallel with the mountain at high speed. I don’t get it but it seems I still have a lot of power in my legs. Playfully we follow the trail and the sound of dogs makes us aware that we are indeed approaching the city. Maybe we got carried away on the trails, but we miss where to turn off and end up in some villa streets. And right there Mitko has his last flat tire of the day. Yes, the last one. No more tubes and no more patches. And how weird isn’t it that while talking about what to do my Fat Albert goes Flat Albert without even biking on it. Here’s Mitko with his flat tire and the city in the background

I’d say that’s timing – if it anyway was bound to happen. 150 meters down that road there was a bus stop, and the bus showed up almost immediately. 2,5 kilometers and we were almost back by the car

OK… we had to walk for some 20 minutes to reach the car, but still we were lucky it didn’t happen on the other side of the mountain. What a great finale to the weekend. High fives and big smiles – what a ride!

I got back to the hotel and packed my bike

…which could have been the end of the story. But it’s not. Cause I stayed a couple of days in Sofia and had the chance to enjoy the “Big 4” concert at the Vasilj Levski stadium in Sofia. Can’t stop myself from sharing some pics from Metallica and  when all bands (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath, Anthrax) came up on stage together.

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