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Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, At the foot of the Bear Glaciers, eternal ice, British Columbia, Canada

Adventure is what you make it

Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, at the foot of the Bear Glaciers, British Columbia, Canada.



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  #1  
Old 16 Jun 2015
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UK to Romania: 2 week trip

I am riding a 2007 model Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom. It is standard other than a madstad screen, up and back risers, fork brace, kappa K33 panniers and a 52 litre top box. It was bought in the UK with less than 2k miles on the clock. When I started this trip it had 18.5k. As I write this in Romania it is now has 21k odd (tours like this offering a challenge to the Vee's ridiculous 3.5k service interval).

I was (see below) riding with two friends, one with a Kawasaki Er6f and the other with a BMW R1100RT. We mapped a rough route, which we have tweaked as we have gone along.

UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434448897.571791.jpg

We needed to put some miles in early so took motorways as far as Cologne (Germany). This exposes the bike's biggest flaw, at least for me. By 6 or 7 hours riding on the trip I get a very painful 'trigger point' at the base of my neck - a sharp pain in a very specific area that burns like a trapped nerve. This is not an issue I had with previous bikes, and I ride two long distance trials on my dirt bike (20 hours with only minimum breaks) each year without this issue so i know it is bike specific. Fitting the madstad screen and up and back risers but this has not resolved the issue.

Next up were the Harz mountains in the east of Germany. There are some great roads but if you can, visit during the week. We found it much better on Monday morning than Sunday afternoon, when it was too busy to find a good riding flow.

UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434448979.565268.jpg

From there we headed south east towards Krakow (Poland) via a night in the Czech Republic. We found some nice roads but the route in (and out) of Poland was largely a chore because although the scenery was good, the roads were crammed with processions of trucks.

Krakow itself is a lovely city and well worth visit. I suspect I will return with the wife for a weekend, by air. Krakow was also a quick maintenance stop. My chain is on its way out, having significantly stretched over last 1,000 miles so needed quite a bit of adjustment. I hope to nurse it around the rest of the trip, or at least to Austria or Germany where I can get a replacement easily.

From there we spent a full day riding down through Slovakia and Hungary into Romania. We found some nice roads around the Poland/Slovakia border. The Hungarian plains themselves were very hot.

We spent our first night in Romania in Satu Mare (NW), just over the border to allow us to make an early start for a long following day. Unfortunately one friend had an off leaving town. He locked the front at a pedestrian crossing on a poor road surface, fell off and broken his collar bone. We therefore spent the day between the hospital, the police and vehicle testing (which the police required, along with a breath test, blood test and more paperwork than you could ever conceive as possible for a minor incident!). Whilst this was clearly most unwelcome, adventure trips tend to set their own agendas and it was really interesting seeing how the system worked and spending the day with one of the policemen finding out about his life, family and outlook.

We found a place to store our friend's bike and put him on train the next morning to a friend of his in west Romania, before setting off as planned, but a day behind.

We rode up to and along the northern border with Ukraine to Bukovina, a day characterised by nice mountains, interesting villages and some very dodgy roads. The Vee really came into its own here, allowing me to ride long beautiful mountain pass up on the pegs. This allowed the bike to absorb the terrible surface and gave me more visibility of the potholes. It was well up to a few unsurfaced sections; much more so than my friend on his R1100RT who was lagging behind and well out the bike's comfort zone.

If visiting I would strongly recommend you fit off road pegs (no.2 on my to do list, after finding a fix for my neck). I probably spent 10-20% of the Romanian leg of the trip stood on mine. I was glad of bar risers (I would have higher still for proper off road use) but the narrow pegs became uncomfortable on the soles of my feet during extended standing use. This aside the Vee is very easy to ride standing from long periods (hour plus at a time).

We visited the famous painted monastaries at Moldovita and Voronet in The north east. Aside from being beautiful it also gave us a laugh when we were chased by an irate fat nun. We had inadvertently misread a Romanian sign saying no entry and were heading into the nun's private chapel! The situation was quickly resolved with humble apologies.

UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434449064.641487.jpgUK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434449089.193226.jpgUK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434449109.348367.jpg

Next day we headed SE into Transylvania through beautiful mountain roads. The road surfaces were often appalling and I had a close call. This piece of road was unusually free of patches, potholes and over banding, but the surface was completely worn out and shiny. In one of those weird premonitions I was looking at it and thinking I really don't much fancy an emergency stop on this. Two minutes later in the next village a VW van pulls to right to park. As I start to pass (thankfully slowly as I had slowed right down to see what he was doing) he changes his mind and starts to swing left to a parking space on the other side of road. I brake sharply and the front locks and shimmies, complete with loud tyre squeal. I quickly let off the brake and thankfully the bike recovers to allow me to reapply and bring the bike to a controlled stop. I don't have enough spare pants on the trip for this and reflect that my next bike will have ABS.

We spent later afternoon in Sighisoara (the birth place of Vlad Dracul, and father of Vlad the Impaler) and breakfast in Sibiu. These are two beautiful historic towns. It was Sunday morning in Sibiu so we stood for 15 mins outside the packed Romanian orthodox church. Whatever your views on religion, the music was beautiful to listen to.

UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434449178.672179.jpgUK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434449192.361983.jpg

Then one of the trip's biking highights; riding the Transalpina through the Carpathian mountains. This runs parrallel to the more famous Transfaragaran pass (which is closed until 1 July). It is an interesting and challenging combination of great, terrible and none existent roads. The Vee the perfect partner.


UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434449233.878404.jpgUK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434449245.547418.jpg

We followed this up yesterday morning with a stunning ride through the Carpathians on the way to Jimbolia, a town on the hungarian border, to meet our injured friend and to spend a day with an amazing family who run a great charity helping gypsy kids. Out of the mountains it was staggeringly hot. I could feel my concentration falling, even after a break and suspected I was getting close to heat exhaustion. I soaked my tee shirt in cold water in order to get my body temperature down a bit and this got me there intact.

On a full on two week trip it's nice to have a down day and I know if I don't write this up now it won't get done. We head out tomorrow, across Hungary, Austria, Germany, Belgium, France, home Sunday afternoon.

The verdict so far: for a pure bike riding experience from the UK the alps give more addrenelin for less effort. However for adventure in a wider sense, which includes some great riding, but also seeing history, understanding new cultures and eating new foods (i am now addicted to cream of garlic soup - handy in Transylvia) this has been a great trip.
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  #2  
Old 16 Jun 2015
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Nice report I can't wait to read the next instalment
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  #3  
Old 16 Jun 2015
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Enjoyed the report and look forward to the rest. Thinking about heading down that way later in the summer. Interesting comments on the road surfaces as it may influence my decision whether to take the BMW 650X or the 1200GS. Was thinking 1200 but the 650 may be the best bet if the roads are poor.
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  #4  
Old 16 Jun 2015
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I'd say it depends what roads you want to ride. Your GS would be fine if you stick to the roads we took and you be happy riding it on say a gravel trail. I'd not fancy doing it on a sports bike though.

I did meet a local who rides an enduro bike and he said the best riding is on some of the minor roads. Locals i met were largely on enduro bikes and had been off-roading i suspect (worth researching?) or DL650s.


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  #5  
Old 17 Jun 2015
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Nice write up

We did a similar trip on 2008 on two Norton Commando's and an ER6, roads were bad but when we returned in 2012 the change was noticeable, EU money = plenty new roads. Interesting country, any bike will do but be aware of local driving practices
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  #6  
Old 21 Jun 2015
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UK to Romania: 2 week trip

Part 2 (of 2) - the homeward leg

Is there a better feeling that getting into a cool shower at the end of a long and roasting day? Suitably refreshed from our ride to Jimbolia we walk into town for a couple of s and dinner and get shown round the charity's first school building (we are staying in the second one). One thing which is apparent in Romania is that everyone hates the gypsies and no one is slow in telling you. Keen to do something positive about this our friends take children in after school, feed them lunch, help them with homework, put on afternoon activities, then feed them dinner before they go home. This way around 80 gypsy children are well fed and educated each day in the hope that, over time, this sets up a more positive cycle where, for example, the girls decline to get sold into marriage by their families as early teenagers (they have some say, but are under huge pressure to agree). It shocking to think that, even in Europe, this is a norm for some children, but heartwarming to be reminded of the great good that humans are capable of when they set their own self interest aside. Suitably inspired we return to base for a couple of bottles of Romanian wine and some stunning green walnut schnapps (from Austria).

Following a lazy following morning (in which part 1 of this report was written), we eat the meal of the trip (a Romanian speciality called sarmale - home cooked stuffed cabbage) and head into Timisoara for ice cream in the square in front of the church where the revolution in Romania started following Ceausescu's order to fire on the crowds. However, the main reason for the trip is to pick up our friend from the hospital, where he has just had his collarbone wired together. It was great that he got it sorted but looking at the state of the hospital makes me appreciate what we have in the NHS. He is staying on for couple of weeks before flying back to the UK at the end of the month. He will then fly back out in September, pick up his bike and meet us for a few days riding in the Swiss alps.

We spend the evening with our host arguing the merits or otherwise of apple vs microsoft over more Romanian wine and pilinka, before heading off early the following morning for a effortless but rather dull ride across Hungary, stopping for the night in a pretty village a couple of miles from the Austrian border.

The plan was to spend the next day riding in the Austrian alps, but alas my lack of preparation came to bite me. I have been planning for my Cape Town to Bristol ride in 2016 and neglected to prepare properly for this shorter trip. My chain is shot and is not going to make it home. Thankfully my poor bike preparation is made up for my inspired choice in riding partners (both competent engineers) so, even with one of them broken I have a spare to help me fix the bike! A call to a motorcycle superstore in Graz, Austria's second town and only an hour from us, means I have a new chain and sprockets waiting for me, along with a full set of brake pads and all the necessary tools at 9am the following morning. We turn one of their parking bays into a makeshift workshop, which proves a great way to meet a range of Austrian bikers throughout the morning. By 1.30pm we are off, ride transformed by a bling gold DID chain and new sprockets.
UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434911243.442111.jpgUK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434911262.614167.jpg

We still have time to ride some great roads, finishing with the excellent Nockalmstrasse before dropping into Sankt Margarethen im Landau for the night. Our B&B host is a biker himself and unexpectedly produces a Gas Gas trials bike and points us in the direction of his 'kick start' course, complete with humps, jumps, rocky ravine and a range of tractor tyres. We find the energy for an hour's play (how could you say no?) before walking into the village for a meal.

Friday is catch up day; we have rolled two days into one to get the trip back on track so rise early for 500+ miles of motorway. Lady luck is not smiling on us. First we are stranded on the motorway for an hour when it is closed to recover a lorry from a tunnel and then, 10 minutes after resuming, the heavens open making riding treacherous. On the plus side, even the motorways in Austria are beautiful! Further delays for roadworks and another broken down truck follow, but we finally make it to our B&B on the Mosel river at around 9.15pm.
UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434911280.903899.jpg

As an aside, you may all know this, but this €9.99 'cramp buster' proved a real help when knocking off big motorway miles.
UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434911295.613397.jpg

Our B&B hosts' main occupation is running a vineyard so before even checking in we were given an impromptu wine tasting session (6 different whites between us). This was a very nice way to sign off on the ride, but by this stage all the restaurants were closed and the one remaining option was a donner kebab, which slid down nicely with a pint of the local .

Given our long day on Friday, we opted for a bit of a lie in (up at 7.30 instead of 6) and spent the morning riding to Ghent (one of our two preferred 'last night' destinations since it is a nice city and an easy hop to the Chunnel the next morning). We split up in the afternoon; I took a walk round the town and went to see an excellent photographic exhibition '80 days of summer' that I stumbled across in the university district.

We ate dinner at an alleged gastro pub (ok but gastro would be stretching it a little) wandered through a drizzly but beautiful old town, stopping for coffee and a bit of people watching, rising early Sunday morning to knock off the 100 or so miles to Calais. From there is was back to normal life, the assimilation helped by multiple tailbacks on the M25.
UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434911314.070352.jpg

Being home has its rewards too. It was great to see my wife and kids and my eldest daughter (14) made me a welcome home cake. 30 minutes ago my wife came in to say the dog had climbed on the table, licked off the cream and eaten the strawberries.........5 minutes ago the dog climbed onto the sofa and gave them back. A glamorous end to a fun trip :-)
UK to Romania: 2 week trip-imageuploadedbytapatalk1434911331.028259.jpg

Cheers
Andy


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  #7  
Old 9 Aug 2022
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Route Advice

Loved reading your report.
I fly into Krakow September 4th and will be picking up my rental bike the following day. I've got 16 days to ride and would be very interested in your road routes you took on this trip?

Thank you!
Bobbie
Quote:
Originally Posted by Temporaryescapee View Post
Part 2 (of 2) - the homeward leg

Is there a better feeling that getting into a cool shower at the end of a long and roasting day? Suitably refreshed from our ride to Jimbolia we walk into town for a couple of s and dinner and get shown round the charity's first school building (we are staying in the second one). One thing which is apparent in Romania is that everyone hates the gypsies and no one is slow in telling you. Keen to do something positive about this our friends take children in after school, feed them lunch, help them with homework, put on afternoon activities, then feed them dinner before they go home. This way around 80 gypsy children are well fed and educated each day in the hope that, over time, this sets up a more positive cycle where, for example, the girls decline to get sold into marriage by their families as early teenagers (they have some say, but are under huge pressure to agree). It shocking to think that, even in Europe, this is a norm for some children, but heartwarming to be reminded of the great good that humans are capable of when they set their own self interest aside. Suitably inspired we return to base for a couple of bottles of Romanian wine and some stunning green walnut schnapps (from Austria).

Following a lazy following morning (in which part 1 of this report was written), we eat the meal of the trip (a Romanian speciality called sarmale - home cooked stuffed cabbage) and head into Timisoara for ice cream in the square in front of the church where the revolution in Romania started following Ceausescu's order to fire on the crowds. However, the main reason for the trip is to pick up our friend from the hospital, where he has just had his collarbone wired together. It was great that he got it sorted but looking at the state of the hospital makes me appreciate what we have in the NHS. He is staying on for couple of weeks before flying back to the UK at the end of the month. He will then fly back out in September, pick up his bike and meet us for a few days riding in the Swiss alps.

We spend the evening with our host arguing the merits or otherwise of apple vs microsoft over more Romanian wine and pilinka, before heading off early the following morning for a effortless but rather dull ride across Hungary, stopping for the night in a pretty village a couple of miles from the Austrian border.

The plan was to spend the next day riding in the Austrian alps, but alas my lack of preparation came to bite me. I have been planning for my Cape Town to Bristol ride in 2016 and neglected to prepare properly for this shorter trip. My chain is shot and is not going to make it home. Thankfully my poor bike preparation is made up for my inspired choice in riding partners (both competent engineers) so, even with one of them broken I have a spare to help me fix the bike! A call to a motorcycle superstore in Graz, Austria's second town and only an hour from us, means I have a new chain and sprockets waiting for me, along with a full set of brake pads and all the necessary tools at 9am the following morning. We turn one of their parking bays into a makeshift workshop, which proves a great way to meet a range of Austrian bikers throughout the morning. By 1.30pm we are off, ride transformed by a bling gold DID chain and new sprockets.
Attachment 15500Attachment 15501

We still have time to ride some great roads, finishing with the excellent Nockalmstrasse before dropping into Sankt Margarethen im Landau for the night. Our B&B host is a biker himself and unexpectedly produces a Gas Gas trials bike and points us in the direction of his 'kick start' course, complete with humps, jumps, rocky ravine and a range of tractor tyres. We find the energy for an hour's play (how could you say no?) before walking into the village for a meal.

Friday is catch up day; we have rolled two days into one to get the trip back on track so rise early for 500+ miles of motorway. Lady luck is not smiling on us. First we are stranded on the motorway for an hour when it is closed to recover a lorry from a tunnel and then, 10 minutes after resuming, the heavens open making riding treacherous. On the plus side, even the motorways in Austria are beautiful! Further delays for roadworks and another broken down truck follow, but we finally make it to our B&B on the Mosel river at around 9.15pm.
Attachment 15502

As an aside, you may all know this, but this €9.99 'cramp buster' proved a real help when knocking off big motorway miles.
Attachment 15503

Our B&B hosts' main occupation is running a vineyard so before even checking in we were given an impromptu wine tasting session (6 different whites between us). This was a very nice way to sign off on the ride, but by this stage all the restaurants were closed and the one remaining option was a donner kebab, which slid down nicely with a pint of the local .

Given our long day on Friday, we opted for a bit of a lie in (up at 7.30 instead of 6) and spent the morning riding to Ghent (one of our two preferred 'last night' destinations since it is a nice city and an easy hop to the Chunnel the next morning). We split up in the afternoon; I took a walk round the town and went to see an excellent photographic exhibition '80 days of summer' that I stumbled across in the university district.

We ate dinner at an alleged gastro pub (ok but gastro would be stretching it a little) wandered through a drizzly but beautiful old town, stopping for coffee and a bit of people watching, rising early Sunday morning to knock off the 100 or so miles to Calais. From there is was back to normal life, the assimilation helped by multiple tailbacks on the M25.
Attachment 15504

Being home has its rewards too. It was great to see my wife and kids and my eldest daughter (14) made me a welcome home cake. 30 minutes ago my wife came in to say the dog had climbed on the table, licked off the cream and eaten the strawberries.........5 minutes ago the dog climbed onto the sofa and gave them back. A glamorous end to a fun trip :-)
Attachment 15505

Cheers
Andy


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  #8  
Old 29 Aug 2022
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Sorry Bobbie, I’ve just seen your post. I suspect you are sorted now but i’ll try snd dig out the map i used and share a link.

Ironically I am heading back there myself for the last 2 weeks of September to ride the TET.

Enjoy the trip and let us know how you get on.
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