Fear of the dark – Carpathians, Romania

In spite of a whole week among vampires and bears in Transylvania and repeated forecasts of dark clouds and rain there was no ”fear” and no ”dark” until the whole biking adventure was over. But by then we had it all!

We rode in different places in the Transylvanian Alps (the prolongation of the Carpathians) so to be precise we were not only in Transylvania but also in Wallachia. Anyway, in Romania.

The crew: Micke, Thomas and I. The places:

The six first days we had a guide from Mtb Tours and the seventh day we pretended to be road bikers totally on our own. Adding the easy rides in the forests around Bucharest one day before and after plus a bonus trip to the mountains after work, we had 10 days of riding:

325 kilometers on trails

50 kilometers on asphalt

10.000 meters vertical climb

15.000 meters decent

Day One

We started off with a whole day of shredding trails in Postavarul, a mountain that offers a lot both winter and summer time. The trails are ending up on the square in Brașov, a city which used to be a hangout for some knights in the late 12th century and became a real town when the Germans settled in the late 14th century and built a bunch of nice houses.

After a long climb we reach the plateau

On an awesome single track down to the city our guide Horia does an OTB and dislocates two fingers and hits the elbow so bad that he couldn’t continue. F**k! We’ve used Horia before and were really looking forward to team up again this week. But what to do… I’ve been skiing and biking on this mountain before so luckily we managed to find our way for the rest of the day. After dropping off Horia we did the climb from the morning once more and then jumped in to the cable car to gain some more vertical meters. A small additional climb on bike rewards you with this view:

We drop in and shred the trails all the 1100 vertical meters down to the city. Too good to stop for pictures, but OK I got one of Micke:

Postavarul is an aggressive mountain that tickles the DH nerve and it’s impossible to hold back and… What I am trying to say is that the mountain gives. The mountain takes …

Yes I know… You could bring some protection, or even wear it… but the feeling is nicer without… In spite of cuts, bruises and a sprained thumb it’s with high fives that we’re coasting down to the square after more than 2000 meters of decent and 50 kilometers of riding. Slightly intoxicated we make our way home through the tightest/longest/whatever-alley.

During dinner we get to know that we get a new guide after a swop between guiding of hikers and bikers. Kind of a relief to secure the rest of the week.

Day Two

We are picked up in a van with a trailer and make a stopover at the local market to get some breakfast for the next day. Great market with fantastic local products, including garlic for the ones that think that it helps in Vampire land.

At a pass we get dropped off. 1300 meters elevation. We are about to explore the Ciucaș mountains. As usual there is no warm-up. Straight onto the climb and some carrying

And then it happens! Finally the 25-years-of-competing-motocross-Micke shows that he is human after all. But ok, it’s not a crash but at least he is falling over.

We’ve made it to the elevation of 1700-1800 and perfect trails.

We are mesmerized by the formations – has somebody been photoshopping the landscape?

More awesome trails

And steep downhill sections

…and uphill

Seriously, has someone just copy-pasted some backdrops or what is this? Totally unreal in the picture. Totally unreal in reality

Another sheep-hangout

Full speed through a forest section…. Just some strokes here and there… Awesome flow… And then suddenly, in a sharp left turn we get the terrible experience of what it feels like when you are going to die. Technical skills on 30 centimeters are saving us from falling off a 20 meter cliff. Our guide Mihai is behind and gets warned and pass the section in a more appropriate speed

Less dramatic landscape but beautiful

We arrive in Cheia and the bikes gets rinsed

Nice, they are growing chili in the garden. Worth trying? Looks hot. We bring some for later. I’ll get back later on to report if they were spicy…

Another day without rain in spite of dark forecasts, but OK light rain in the late evening.

Day Three

Mihai finds a guy with a van and we get a ride up to the same pass where we started yesterday. Nice to avoid the asphalt climb when we anyway have 1800 meters of climb in front of us. …It turned out. This time we are heading the other direction though a forest and then quickly up to an open landscape with yesterdays mountains behind us

Some horses are hanging out on a ridge

And we on another one. We wonder if the dark clouds will deliver or not. If they will the plan is to skip hours of mud and follow a valley down and then take a train to where we are going. We don’t like that plan though. We continue down from 1700 meters of elevation

The proportions are awesome. Thomas and Micke in the lower part of the picture.

Heavy metal! We like the chain!

And we like biking in fairy tale landscapes

We are now in the valley offering the alternative plan, but we go for the no-rain-set-up and hit another climb. A lot of push bike and we gain 800 meters. We make it up the mountain again

And to this windows based landscape

Bit of a hangout in the grass and we are pleased to see that the dark clouds are keeping the distance

We continue the climb

Again, we are at 1700 meters and strike a pose with the Bucegi range behind us. 6 kilometers of downhill waiting to be hammered

After eight hours we get hallucinations of beer, or is it for real?

It is for real. We get our beers and even sun shine when we reach the accommodation. What a day! The bikes get cleaned and Micke is wheeling while some conference guests have their break in a PowerPoint session that lasted to after 10 o’clock…

Day Four

To be honest we are a bit sore in our muscles but kick off another day of awesome riding. 1600 meters of climb in front of us. After some gravel roads and less fun downhill we get closer to the Bucegi mountain range and get some views of it

Not only aluminum horses are moving around up here

Awesome views

Clouds are coming and going around the ridges

We continue down to a cabin and enjoy some snacks before getting totally stoked on a trail that has it all: roots, rocks, small jumps, natural berms and even some small sections of climb. We are so carried away that we just keep going until we realize that it’s a long time ago since we saw the guide. High on shredding trails.

Mihai is apparently already in the village. We try the chili from Cheia. Hoooooly crap!

Day Five

First cable car in the morning takes us from 900 to 2200, but it’s raining like hell. But who cares when it only takes the weather Gods five minutes to change their mind? A couple of minutes away we enjoy the classical Babele rock formations

The cable car returns to pick up more people

We get going

A bit chilly but the trails are warming us up

At Şaua Cerbului there is this 100 meter cliff where I manage to drop my glasses in a crevice. They stop three meters down, 20 centimeters from the edge. The climber Mihai brings out all our spare tubs for securing his climb and saves the glasses. Amazing!

We reach the peak Omu at 2507 meters and get ourselves a hot soup

Awesome downhill trail are awaiting us, but what the hell is this childish crap about? Who can possibly have done it… ?

Magic light down Valea Cerbului.

More trails

And views

And speed

At the place where we will stay for the night we realize that we want more. Up the valley there is a cable car back up to Babele. An inspection is ongoing so we have to hang around for a while. A lot of bears in the area…

…but we only see all enthusiasts preparing for tomorrows running. We are talking competition. We are talking 90 kilometers and 7500 meters of climb!!! How is it even possible??? Anyway, the cable cars starts working again and we all feel safe with this guy controlling it…

So, back at 2200 meters and we now have a downhill of 700 meters elevation in front of us. …And a flat tire among cows and dogs

At Piatra Arsa the high altitude training camp is just sitting there at 2000 meters. We can’t hold back. We go for 400 meters in biking shoes and helmets. Thomas is the winner.

Mmmmm… this is the shit! Full speed with flow and sections of technical stuff

Thomas is crossing the creek and we are back in Peștera where we took the cable car from

On the way back we make a small detour to this monastery

After a day like this… what can you say…? We are in heaven. And apparently they have beer in heaven nowadays.

Day Six

Today’s climb is only 800 meters, but almost 1500 decent after the pass Şaua Strunga

From steep mountain sides to alpish meadows – all the time on technical trails

Some more meters and we have arrived in the valley

Claimed to be the Dracula Castle… Only that Vlad Țepeș, which was his real name, never lived there but rather further South-West and not in Transylvania. So no vampires here …

But who cares when you can devote yourselves to Sumo wrestling?

Day Seven

Time to say goodbye to our guide Mihai, but we want more. Maybe not trails, but more mountains for sure. We want climbs and descents. We go for the Transfagarașan. It’s 1,5 hours away by car. Someone had the idea of a hell. We didn’t.

We find the pace, in spite of 6 inch travel bikes. Thomas finds the super powers and just disappears in front of us. It’s 25 kilometers up and a climb of 1400 meters. We did it in 2h15min and Thomas in 2 hours. Maybe not road biking speed, but road biking can be fun!

At the top, which isn’t the top, but a flat stretch in front of the tunnel leading to the south side of the mountain, we enjoy the view of this road-engineering-wet-dream. Time to coast down the mountain. Well, that’s what we thought… But instead we find ourselves pedaling like hell – high on speed for 30 minutes. We overtake a lot of cars and at the end we actually get some rain, but dry clothes are waiting in the car

For more info on the road: check out Top Gear’s episode (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLAtcrB0GZg) about Romania – jump to 4min45sec

It turned out to be a fantastic ending of seven days riding in the mountains and time to drive back to Bucharest. The day after we did two hours of riding in the forests outside the city just to have been biking nine days in a row … Time for Thomas to leave, but Micke stayed around for some more days and dammit I made it an early day at the office and we made it back to the mountains for a bonus ride

The Bonus Ride

Same cable car from day five, same climb towards the Omu peak, but then we dive into a new valley: Valea Ialomița. Amazing cliffs and rocks

Some of them pretty heavy

We get some drops of rain but in some magic way, luck is on our side and instead we get some sun. The trail is just getting better and better.

We didn’t make it in time for the cable car back up but the trail from last week, but we manage the uphill. Now we see the reason for the drops of rain

After the climb we cross the ridge and start descending the very steep super technical trail that just continues and continues.

Gravel road back to the car and we sum it up to 30 kilometers, 800 meters of climb and 2000 meters of descent.

Sooooo, ten days of biking. Magic escapes from rain. No vampires. No bears, No “Fear of the dark”? Oh yes indeed. In Piața Constituție in fornt of Ceaușescu’s sick building – world’s second biggest after the Pentagon – finally Fear of the dark…

And as for the biking… Micke did a great job putting together a video

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