Back in Romania – a road trip

It’s been a long time since the good old travel case has been used. Packing your bike is normally a fantastic feeling – thinking of the great time with friends and mountains that lay ahead of you. This time though, it was with mixed feelings. The heat wave was announced to be replaced by very cold weather and rain, not only in Romania, but pretty much in all places reachable by car from there. Cold weather and rain means snow on the trails in the mountains… What was supposed to be one hell of a boys trip – biking in the perfect October weather conditions in Romania was more looking to be a misery… But what can you do? Throughout the years, I have learnt that things can change and after all, the best part of the trip was still going to happen: hanging out with friends 🙂

Packing …

And as always… things get better with the right attitude, some planning, and of course… some luck. We studied the forecasts in detail and found some hours of gap in the raining: one hour of driving north of Bucharest – where Razvan was organizing a race in one week’s time. So why not go there?

Day one – Casa Timiş, Ploieşti and a short one in Băneasa, Bucharest

The race is part of the events and called “Haiduci și Domnițe”. Preparation where still going on and we basically just followed the intended race track.

From the vines to walnuts

After an initial climb it’s more up and down along the hills leading up to the Carpathians. The mountains are not far away and would have been a great backdrop but today they are hiding in the gray clouds. It’s somewhere here where I realize that the extreme not-in-shape-struggle up the hills was not a health issue. Not for me at least, but for the bike. One of the pistons in the front brake caliper had got stuck and was constantly pushing the pad on to the rotor…

By pushing out the lever after every braking I got the wheel rolling without resistance and I could continue with normal effort. After a while we reach some forest and oil pumps – this is after all the center of the oil production in Romania

As we approach the vineyard again, the clouds are getting dark. After some 32km, 700 meters of climb and a hang out by the service vehicles, we go for a drink in the bar. On the second of when the rain was forecasted to come – it starts raining. Gooood timing.

We get back to Bucharest and the rain has stopped. Why not go for a ride in good old Băneasa? Feels like I’ve never been away – still know every root and corner of that forest. We make a lap and call it a day after some additional 20km.

Day two – No biking at all

We started by cancelling the reservations we had for hotels in the mountains. Some roads where anyway closed up there, due to snow. So we did some errands in the rain, paid a visit to my old job and had a late lunch. And why not add on that a small afternoon trip of 500 kilometers by car… Well, we did. The snowing up in the Făgărășan mountains had stopped and the Transfăgărășan road was open.

This is where the famous road is:

The raining and snowing had stopped and we met this guy, one out of approx. 6000 in Romania.

Nice view from Lacul Bâlea looking north. And nice memories from havening biked it up and down.

We managed to get down on the Transylvanian side before dark. Looking back:

A long drive back and we were back in Bucharest before midnight

Day three – Câmpulung

Now, here’s when the element of luck comes in. The weather forecast guys came with good news and me and Cosmin decided to go to Câmpulung as a base for some rides. The sun was shining and why not try the old concrete velodrome at the Dinamo club when anyway being there to fix my bike?

Razvan has some space there for preparing the races and fixing bikes. The guys were busy packing a loooot of race packages and Ali got that caliper of mine moving again

Now off to Câmpulung!

We get to borrow Razvans fantastic place, where it’s clear what the theme is… Just one out of many nice things

It’s a bit late but we want to do the track of the Lupii Dacilor race before it gets dark, so we park the car in the village of Bughea de Jos and get going

You can tell from all the water puddles that the rain has been heavy, but now the sun is shining and it’s fantastic!

And all that climbing of course pays off 🙂

In a small village, close to Bratia the second climb starts; up to Ciocano. By the way, check out a nice clip HERE from the Ciocano trails as I hardly took any pics on the way down. It became too dark. Anyway, the way up from the village is just so nice. Really capturing the rural life of Romania

Just before the peak and the peak itself

Some playing around before we hit the super nice Ciocano trails in far too poor light.

Once down in the valley. Cosmin pics up the car and I choose to bike the extra 10 kilometers back to the accommodation. Bit of a stupid choice as it was totally dark by the point that I reached the normally so awesome downhill. I ended up going super slow in the sticky mud, seeing only what you can see with the light of my phone… But I made it and we had a fantastic BBQ with friends coming over.

Day four – Iezer

A “fantastic” BBQ one day turned into a “fantastic” hangover the next. And this was the day of a big climb… Meant to be the revenge of the trip back in 2016 where we couldn’t reach the top because of snow (link). I went for an early morning walk trying to get better. The scenery helped a bit…

And the weather too. Ștefan arrives directly from Bucharest and is all over the place of excitement. We get our act together and get going the 30 minutes to the starting point – Barajul Râușor. Such a fantastic morning

Hard to not enjoy in spite of the hangover

All set to start the big climb, and then Cosmin realizes that he has forgotten the bike shoes… Me and Ștefan start slowly for him to catch up later. The landscape is as beautiful as it gets but I’m just out of energy, but so much appreciating the fact that there is no other place in the world than this that would be better for curing the hangover.

Ștefan keeps talking and talking and I hardly respond. Cosmin is not catching up and we get worried. We start descending and finally the three amigos are together again to continue the climb. But only for a short while. Eventually my energy level is back to normal after a couple of hours of sweating out yesterdays drinks, but Cosmin and Ștefan are starting to slow down. They will not make it to the top and decide to go further a bit (quite far it turned out) and then the same way back. I’m too eager to not miss the opportunity to reach the top. I leave them behind and find my grinding pace for the climb.

Good to know that the bears don’t give a shit, they actually do…

The guys are far behind but pushing it

I reach a milestone – this is basically where we had to take another route three years ago because of too much snow.

The climb continues. There in the background are the Făgărăș mountains and where we were on our car trip a couple of days ago.

Still some snow on the north faces

Finally, the peak. To be honest not the highest Iezer peak – that’s just a carry-bike-exercise. This is the small Iezer peak: Vf. Iezeru Mic (2383 m), only 80 meters short of the bigger sister.

Almost 2000 meters of climb. Reward time 🙂 . The first part is just crazy. Good overview, high speed and some small jumps here and there. Then it gets steeper and more gnarly and at the end actually too steep. It’s an old forestry road that is so steep and slippery that I plan escape routes all the time in case it gets out of control. But I manage.

I make it down to Cabana Voina and then it’s just tarmac some 10 kms back to the car. Cosmin and Ștefan took the same way down as up and meet up just some 5-10 minutes later. Good timing I’d say. The bad morning experience is long gone and we’re at it again. Copy paste from yesterday…

Day five – Bucegi, the classic

New day. New opportunities. In our optimization of picking mountains to ride based on evaluating numerous weather forecasts, we go for the big one today. The Bucegi classic: from Coto 2000 to Bran. We take the car from Câmpulung to Sinaia.

You could have different opinions but this recycling is almost CO2-free. Horse and carriage to pull the car wreck…

In Pucioasa we meet up with Catalin and continue in two cars. If you’ve seen it – the Borat movie – you can imagine… Down this street to the right they filmed the scenes where Borat is still in Kazakhstan (link).

Anyway… we make it to Sinaia and take the gondolas up to Coto 2000.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been up here. It feels like home and yet exiting every time. Cosmin:

Behind me: Munții Baiului


Somewhere after Piatra Arsa myself and Catalin continue ahead of the others as we anyway will do the big tour. Classic pic at Babele

Classic views from the way up to the cabana at Vf. Omu, 2507 meters.

Passing below the Bucura peak looking down the valley of Gaura

A bit of carrying and you get to this awesome setting

And it continues all the way to Șaua Strunga

And from there it’s epic. Best downhill ever. The drop is approx 1200 meters and the trail is approx 10 km long – all the way to the church in Șimon 😉

Mandatory picture I guess. The tourist magnet Bran castle… Tourists keep coming even though it’s pretty clear that Vlad Țepeș (Dracula) never lived there.

And the perfect afterbike while waiting for Ștefan and Cosmin to show up with the cars.

Do I need to say how the evening continued……

Day Six – Piatra Craiului

Surprisingly fresh this morning. By now we know the drill, I guess

Piatra Craiului is a natural park and is essentially a long steep and rocky ridge and the lower hills around it. It’s right here:

The way into the park from road 73 is a beauty in itself through the canyon. Colorful trees along the creek… We start biking at Cabana Brusturet.

The climb is partially steep but fairly ok. Blue skies and all kind of colors around us make it easier.

After some 400 meters of climb up to 1400 we reach one of my favorite view points in these mountains. Bucegi in the background.

A trail of more Swedish style takes you to Poiana Frumoasă and onwards to Poiana Grind.

It’s basically downhill all the way back, but with some short climbs in between

And some funny laughs while having a snack. Team Stereo:

A view of the ridge before diving into the forest. First a fantastic single trail with lots of speed and then steeper and steeper as you approach Poiana Busturet.

Cosmin offers to take the car. Ștefan and I role it down to the main road. About 10 kms of nice views and only a few pedal strokes.

We reach the main road just in time to get 5 minutes rest before Cosmin shows up. Someone is tired…

It’s been 6 intensive days so no wonder. With a careful planning and some luck we tricked the forecasted gloomy weather by moving to the right places in the right time and only missed one day of biking. And made that day more than great too… Time to get the bike in the box and say goodbye for now…

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