Alpine Bike Route #1

I was looking for some biking to do in Europe this past summer but wanted something more off the beaten path than the typical Eurovelo routes. When I came across Alpine Bike Route 1, I knew that was it.

Being last minute and #totallyFRED I used Swiss Trails, a sorta self-guided tour thing. They make the reservations and haul your baggage from one place to the next, pick you up at the airport, bring you back to the airport at the end, etc. While in retrospect it would be fun to bikepack this bitch, I *really* enjoyed having a hotel or simple room with a bed and hot shower at the end of every grueling day. Don’t underestimate the Alps: you will climb 1500+ meters a day and it will generally all be delivered to you in 7-8 miles. Some of the grades were too steep to ride, others too technical (they were hiking trails at the high passes after all.) Any extra weight when you are doing over 30mi/day in the Alps is unwelcome…to say the least. Hardest 11 days of riding ever. Pushing 24×36 felt like mashing a track bike uphill at times. But then oh, all that sweet fast doubletrack downhill and gorgeous high mountain stoney singletrack, larch forest, mountain deities and glorious cheese. This was some Lord of the Rings Middle Earth shit.

California – Los Padres / PCH

In early June I went out to Cali for my cousin Caroline’s wedding and then spent a few days in the Los Padres before shredding the PCH from Carmel to San Luis Obispo.

Camped at Upper Oso in the Los Padres which was super chill. The campground steward/wizard was this old bearded hippy that lived on solar power in a trailer and had vast knowledge of astronomy. The Santa Cruz trail was an interesting experience. First mistake was not taking the fireroad to the top, because this is a downhill shred, yo!! I rode up the downhill, which despite the cool air brought me so close to the sun I was near hallucinating. There was much push-bike. The trail was fun in the intended direction however, especially on the capable Kona, but really sketchy landslide sections as you can see from the photos…

The idea for the PCH was an out and back. I was a little worried to ride it because of the traffic, but it is a very popular route. I had booked a hotel at Ragged Point, 76 miles from Carmel, so I had to make it. Wasn’t much of a problem with a light load on a road bike until the 60th mile or so. The last 10 miles saw a lot of elevation change and self-loathing. To see the change in ecosystems was amazing though. Redwoods to desert forest jungle in one day. The views were predictably incredible.

Body was wrecked I wasn’t about to ride back the next day, opting for a chill mostly downhill ride to San Luis Obispo. Ridiculously, the “bike path” at the last segment becomes a highway shoulder. Literally riding a highway shoulder for 10 or so miles, cars passing you at 90 mph. I flatted of course, because the should is filled with debris. Ridiculous but whatever. Bought an Amtrack ticket but the train was late, so I bartered for a bus ticket instead. Made it back to Carmel that day, threw the bike into the car and drove back to Santa Barbara arriving late.

The PCH is gorgeous but I wouldn’t do it again. Just too many idiots in cars and campers ruining the experience. It is however some of the best road riding imaginable. Screw the touring bike, do it on a fast road bike.

Huracan 300 – 2014

Last March a bunch of Atlanta folks and Loose Nuts Cycles crew decided to head down to Florida for Singletrack Samurai’s HuRaCaN 300, a 300+ mile (mostly) off road endurance race. The ITT event is a loop, starting and finishing at Greenway Cycles in Ocala. It was rumored to have it all: sugar-sand riding, gators, panthers, swamp crossings, meth-head trailer parks. We were totally sold. We got rained out on day 3 but manage maybe 270 miles total. Day 1 was 110 miles, day 2 135 miles. Crazy fun times.

The play by play:

Day 1…After not so much sleep at Santos campground we headed over to Greenway Cycles for the dark 6am start. Most headed counter-clockwise which meant beginning with Santos in the dark. After losing someone not 2 miles in, we regrouped and finally got our bearings as the sun came up.

Post-Santos Sunrise

Post-Santos Sunrise

Soon enough we hit the sugar sand. Definitely takes a minute to get used to riding this stuff. Exhausting.

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Not for the faint of heart, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the SAND

So so so many barbwire fence hops! Careful of that rubber…

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Gorgeous Cypress forest. Tough riding through this terrain…like a minefield.

Cypress

Cypress forest

At the end we were so hungry we detoured some 10 miles for Mexican, and then camped on some property of folks met at a gas station. Hammocks and beer, it was early to bed.

The sweet camping hookup

The sweet camping hookup

Day 2 through the Green Swamp. My ass was sore because I’m the kind of jackass that likes to try out a new seat on a 300 mile bike ride.

Approaching the Green Swamp

Approaching the Green Swamp

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

This place is purdy.

This place is purdy.

After the swamp we had a whole lot of road and dirt road to get to Apopka.

The dirty peleton of 3

The dirty peleton of 3

the fun begins after the pavement ends

the fun begins after the pavement ends

After dark, nearing Apopka we had another stretch of sand offroad nonsense that was incredibly difficult. Scary moment too as upon entering this path from the road some woman yelled “DON’T GO IN THERE!”

Scariest but perhaps most fun night riding evah

Scariest but perhaps most fun night riding evah

After some seriously fast pedaling though the swamp dirt roads outside of Apopka, we had made it…135 miles, and straight to pizza, beer and a shitty hotel. Day 2 was over.

Day 3

We got a late start and the group was down to Chris, Paul and myself. Weather called for horrible rain but we wanted to try. There was some tough slow going riding. I managed to lose my SPOT today, but someone found it later.

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More Sand, Please.

More Sand, Please.

Yours truly at the infamous creek crossing everyone was worried about. We didn’t know how deep it would be, or what would lurk below. Turns out it was barely waist deep, and nary a gator in sight.

The infamous creek crossing. No gators to battle.

The infamous creek crossing. No gators to battle.

We carried on until Maggie Jones road, and then the rain really came. We took cover in some really nice dude’s garage who gave us Cokes and couldn’t wrap his head around what we were attempting. Haha. One last futile attempt at Maggie Jones which was just the slowest sticky clay ever and we turned back after a mile or so. We decided to call it since at the rate we were going we wouldn’t have gotten back until 3am. Oh, and tornadoes.

EV6: Donauradweg – The Great River Shred

Got a backlog of bike journeys I need to document. This one took place in September, 2013 and was my second week n’ change bike tour in Europe. First one was the Czech Greenways (Austria/Czech Republic) on a rental. This time I settled on following Danube, part of the EV6, mostly because it was logistically easy and supposedly beautiful. One train from Bratislava to Regensburg, Germany and then follow the river back.

The “unrealized” sections of the EV6 are often the best if you like dirt roads and wild scenery. Following the river was often more confusing than one would think, deciding which side to ride on, crossings, etc. Or as in my case in Regensburg…how to find a starting point (doh)! Signage was good for the most part, and there are many local options to choose from, but the GPX downloaded from the Eurovelo site was woefully inaccurate. It took you through towns on roads most of the time while there was often a riverside path or dirt road available for the same stretch. Simple solution: trust your gut and follow the river.

It was a great trip with lots of schnitzel devoured. Pretty steady rain for the first 6 days. Every hotel/hostel had bike storage and sometimes bike wash stations and shoe dryers. Gotta love Europe. I covered 475ish miles in 9 days, and for this trip I hauled my new Salsa Vaya Travel (S&S coupled) overseas, which proved to be quite the capable beast. Such a great bike. Even handled singletrack in Malé Karpaty (Little Carpathians) outside of Bratislava with sufficient aplomb. The only drawback I would say with a river tour is that it can be a wee bit boring. Lots of flat, straight and paved.

Overnights in Regensburg, Straubing, Passau, Linz, Grein, Wachau, Wien, and Bratislava.

Czech Greenways Day 5

Slavonice – Jindřichův Hradec – Tabor – Praha

And…there was rain. But not before a really damp, chilly, woodsy and magical ride from Slavonice thorough Landštejn Castle and into Nová Bystřice.

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Lots of dark, foreboding alpine mystery.

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In Nová Bystřice it really started to come down. I had met some Dutch cyclists the day before, and we held up in a cafe waiting it out. We tried at one point to break for it, and take a shortcut road rather than the Greenway path, which was a bad idea as not only did the rain double down, but the road was pretty busy.

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Eventually we took the train to Nová Bystřice and went on to Tabor since the forecast called for rain the next day. I was looking forward to the Tabor – Praha ride the next day, but alas, weather did not cooperate. Had to train to Praha and then negotiate back to Bratislava.

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Tip for taking bikes on trains. The Czech Republic train system is an old bureaucratic nightmare. They expect day before “reservations” even if there is available space. Get a first class ticket and you will bypass all of this nonsense! Money always talks.

This trip was wildly successful beyond my expectations. Yes, I got a bit lost, and good lord did Google offline maps come in handy…there was the rain…but for a first time bike touring trip it couldn’t have been better. Much easier than you think if you are doing the credit card thing and not hauling camping gear. The Greenways is a terrific and remote route full of really good scenery. I’ll do it again someday and take more time to explore the Český Krumlov region.