Presenting the Slovenian Mountain Bike Route

Hills and mountains have in the past been predominantly visited by hikers, climbers, perhaps the odd paraglider. More recently though, the trend of bike touring has been growing in popularity and the top brass over at the Alpine Association of Slovenia came up with the idea of a bike route that stretched the length and breadth of the country.

So a couple of years ago a group of mountain biking specialists got together and they set to work on what was a massive project indeed. The aim was to lay down a bike trail that would visit pretty much every attractive cycling region in Slovenia. Just last year they succeeded and the trail was officially opened. From the hilly vineyards around Maribor the route crosses Pohorje and continues into the equally hilly region of Koroška. Then it turns down towards Ljubljana and after that  you’re in for some serious climbing in the Alps. You’ll find yourself in the beautiful scenery of the Triglav National Park, then turn towards the coast and some warmer climate. Still more vineyards (and wine cellars) await you along the way south. Catch some beautiful Adriatic sunshine, have some ice cream on the beach, then head east again along the Croatian border and into the dark forests around Kočevje. You’re well on your way here, almost but not quite home yet. Just a few hills lie on the way back to where you started out in the region of Štajerska.

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The route is natively known as Slovenska turnokolesarska pot, or STKP. Click here for an interactive map.

It reads like a nice day out, but unfortunately Slovenia isn’t as small as that. In fact the route is around 1800 kilometers long and features about 50.000 vertical meters of ascent, so you’ll have quite a bit of uphill pedalling to do. It is divided into 41 stages and is meant to be taken over a longer period of time, step by step. It was designed to incorporate local hospitality providers and other attractions, so that cyclists can get to know the area they’re in. This also provides revenue for the local communities along the way, while cyclists don’t have to worry about getting stranded with mechanical difficulties or sleep under the stars on a cold night.

Along the way you might visit the world’s oldest vine that grows in Maribor, learn about the lives of coal miners in Velenje, drink coffee on the busy squares of Ljubljana, or have a glass of Teran, red wine that is native to the karstic regions just inland from  the Adriatic coast. The trail can be taken up pretty much anywhere along the way, there is no official beginning or end. Accommodations in alpine huts, private rooms, camps and other lodgings are available throughout, so you can get a good night’s rest after a hard day of cycling. You’ll be well supplied with internet connectivity and other modern amenities as well.

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It hardly shows in the picture, but the climb towards the peak of Uršlja gora is one of the toughest bits of the route. Uršlja gora is also it’s highest point at just under 1700 meters above sea level.

They designed the route so that it runs along quiet roads, away from traffic. Mostly it sticks to unpaved roads and forest tracks, so it’s nice to have a bike that can handle a bit of rough terrain. A hybrid should be able to do the job, but a full fledged mountain bike would be ideal to handle everything along the way. You don’t need any special off road riding skills, as the route was designed with a broad audience in mind. Do keep in mind all the safety precautions before you go though – keep your bike in good working order,  choose stages according to your physical ability, wear protective equipment and care about your surroundings. Don’t litter and give way to hikers if you want to avoid nasty looks.

Follow these simple steps and your heart, and you should find a range of experiences along the way that will keep you coming back for more. You can plan your trips using the official STKP website. There you’ll find more info on different aspects of the route, as well as a list of 109 control points where you can stamp your route diary. These are usually cottages or restaurants that provide a warm welcome, a refuge from the elements and probably a cold beer as well.

A couple of snaps from the field. Credits go to PZS and Jože Rovan, president of the Slovene mountain bike touring commission.

So if you’re looking to spend this year’s summer holidays a bit differently, or perhaps a new epic project, the STKP is sure to provide a worthy challenge. Be sure to click through the provided links and enjoy your time out on the bike.

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Spring brings a new bike to the house – 2011 Felt F85

Just a few snaps today of my new acquisition – it’s not really a new bike, though looking from afar one might get the feeling that it could be. It came from a friend who bought it new a few years back, did a couple of rounds and then decided cycling wasn’t really his thing. He hung it on the wall in his garage and had it there for a few years more, then got tired of watching it every day. He came to me asking if I knew anyone who’d be interested in buying it. I said I’d think about it, then went round to his house and handed over the money.

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Now, the F series from Felt is made up of pure race bikes – light, fast, aggressive and good looking. The 2011 F85 features an aluminium frame with carbon forks and seat post, a Shimano 105 groupset and a flashy black-white-green paintjob complemented by white-topped tyres. Rims are Mavic CXP 22 and rubber comes from Vittoria. Thrown in with the deal were a pair of Shimano road cycling shoes with white matching pedals which I haven’t fitted yet, so the bike has to do with cheap plastic ones for now. They do a good job of ruining the bike’s looks, but that’s all for a reason.

The problem I have with the bike comes mainly down to me and my height, or rather the lack of it. The size of the frame is 54, whereas I would be much happier with something between 49 and 52. Couple that with a stem that’s quite long as well and you get a bike that – at least for me – is very uncomfortable to ride. The funny thing is that the friend who originally bought it isn’t much taller than me, so I can understand why he didn’t enjoy riding it. Some advice for beginning cyclist looking for their first bike; look for one that’s the right size for you. By that I don’t mean the size of the tires, it’s the frame that’s in question. Make sure you don’t feel overstretched when you reach for the handlebars and that you can reach the pedals and ground comfortably.

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Despite the size issue I did take if for a quick spin and it felt even quicker than the Specialized Diverge I normally use. Though I didn’t weigh it, I think it’s considerably lighter as well. The 23 mm wide tyres may not soak up as many bumps as the 28s on the Diverge and I wouldn’t take it onto dirt or gravel, but for flat out asphalt runs, the bike is perfect. I think I’ll sell it on sooner or later, maybe even make a bit of a profit on the deal. The main thing is that the bike is too good to be sitting in a garage and deserves someone who’ll use it on a regular basis.

Feel free to check out the gallery below for more pics and post a comment if you’d like to know more about the bike. 🙂

The rebirth of an old-time legend – the Rog Pony returns

Back in simpler times, say 30  or 40 years ago, Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, a country that of course leaned heavily to the East. Socialist politics didn’t think much of the western world and were of the opinion that we’d be better off on our own. Imports from the other side of the border weren’t favoured upon, so if you wanted to buy a cheap, simple and reliable bike, you turned to the Rog bicycle factory. Not only were they the largest bike producer in the country, they were just about the only one. The basic model was called the Pony and it was very simple indeed – it was intended for use around town and had a single speed transmission and no brakes in the back. Much like track bikes of today, with the major difference of looking nothing like track bikes.

PonyThe model above even featured a hinge on the downtube, which meant the bike could be folded together. I’m not sure who would ever use such a feature, but then I never lived in a small socialist flat. Ponies were much loved among cyclists, as was Rog itself. Sadly with the collapse of the former republic Rog began facing competition from imports and soon fell upon financial difficulties. It remained in business for about a decade after Slovenia declared independence and was then forced to close it’s doors. Slovenia had no big bicycle producers any more and that left a huge gap in the hearts of the domestic cycling fans.

Then for a long time all was silent. Like the company itself, most of their bikes were lost through the years, ended up at scrapheaps or left to slowly rust in some old barn or garage. Some were kept in good repair by enthusiasts and despite being at least two or three decades old, you can still buy them online for about 100€, give or take a few cents. Surviving classic Rogs have a certain cult status, a retro vibe to them that’s easy to appreciate.

On the wings of this new-age brand appreciation, a new company called Gor Bikes was created with the purpose of continuing the Rog Pony production with a modern twist to the classic design. They bought the licensing rights and a new website at www.rogbikes.com was launched, promising a revival of the old favorite.

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After much heated anticipation the reimagined Pony was revealed late last year. Public opinion was unanimously in favour of the new, modern look. Then a second later everyone saw the price and was immediately put off by it. You see, while the original was cheap and cheerful, the new bike was anything but, at least not for our standards of living.

There are two basic models to choose from, each with a few further levels of trim. The one pictured above is called the “Pony Classic” with prices starting at 329€ for a base bike with direct drive, no gears and no rear brake. There is however a Brooks Saddle as standard and an internal hub dynamo that charges both front and rear LED lights. The equipment is all Shimano and Sturmey-Archer, so quality of parts is assured by default. 100€ up from the base model is the Classic 3 with 3 internal gears, a rear brake and some premium bits. Then at the top of the Classic range is the 5, which has – you guessed it – 5 gears, even more premium bits and a couple of special colours to choose from. It costs a whopping 789€. Keep in mind that for the same money you can get an entry level Specialized Allez, which is a full fledged road bike. If you take the time

The other model in the Pony selection is called “Sport”. I’m not sure how sporty you can get on a bike like this and judging by the pictures on the website it’s merely a Classic model minus the back pannier. The specs are also a mirror copy of the Classic, only this time there is no single speed edition. Prices are also the same at 429€ for the basic Sport spec and 789€ for the Sport S, pictured below.

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First deliveries are scheduled for March this year and presumably they deliver to whomever wants to order one. The first series is limited to 500 bikes and you get a shiny plaque with the serial number, a bit like a Lamborghini. No worries it’s going to run out any time soon – the website shows the number of bikes sold in the series, so you can track the sales numbers if you wish to. It’s been a while since the unveiling and due to the popularity of the original, you’d expect these Ponies to sell like hot buns. Well, not exactly. Not even close. In about 2 months they’ve sold 115 bicycles, which is a lot less than I expected, no doubt due to the relatively high price. Even I’d gladly order one if it was a bit more reasonable. Plus you get a rather splendid looking Rog Gangsta hat with your order, so you can cruise with yo’ Pony like a playa down the streetz of Ljubljana

Overall it looks like a very nice product and I have no doubt it will meet buyers’ expectations. It’s a nice attempt at reviving a cult classic and I’d really like it to succeed. It’s just a shame though that it’s gotten off to a shaky start.

For more on the new Pony head on over to their official website at www.rogbikes.com.

*Images are not mine this time, I’ve shamelessly borrowed them from the official website. The cover image is from someone called Hedonist on his own site here.

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Photos from the road #3

Actually it’s just the one this time – the one in the cover photo.

Heatstorms are quite common this time of year. They come around after hot, humid days like yesterday. It’s mostly just a lot of lightning and little or no rain or thunder, so it’s nice for catching lightning bolt patterns. I went out to the nearby field with my Felt hybrid and tried to make some kind of panorama, but it ended up looking boring. Then I put the bike in the foreground, painted it with some light from my phone’s flashlight and things began to look promising.

This is also the first photo that I’ve done some more in-depth post-processing in Lightroom on. It’s not perfect and a closer look will probably spot aspects to improve on. But on the whole I like it a lot and I hope you do too. 🙂

Look around for previous “Photos from the road” including my Specialized Diverge by clicking here and here.

The Grossglockner High Alpine Road

Ask a hiker why he or she spends countless hours or even days walking up a steep hill when it would be much easier to just watch TV and you will probably get the answer that it’s nice, refreshing, good for your body and so on. Indeed these things are all true and while many people know the benefits of a good hike, others give not a damn about all those rocks and trees. Mountains are dangerous, you could get lost or caught by the rain. Those fancy panoramic pictures look nice on Facebook, but walking up steep inclines just to take a selfie is out of the option for some people.

Luckily for all those naysayers there is an easier way. You see, back in the 1930s some Austrians had a nasty problem. Being from a mountainous country, they always had to climb everywhere if they wanted to visit their neighbours or, say, pop to the shops. It was especially difficult for those living under the Grossglockner – the highest pointy bit in the country at nearly 4.000 meters above sea level. Cars were the new fashion and they were tired of walking anyway, so they decided to build a road that would take them across the surrounding highlands, connecting the regions of Salzburg and Carinthia.

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But building such a high alpine road was no mean feat. More than 4000 workers had to work in harsh conditions for over 5 years, but eventually they got it done and in early August 1935 the Grossglockner alpine road was open for business. It was 48 kilometers long, featured 36 bends and took it’s users over 2500 meters above sea level. Trade was quickened significantly as traveller no longer had to look for high mountain passes on foot and to celebrate the occasion, there was an automobile race the day after the opening.

As cars became commonplace the road’s popularity quickly began to spread and people were eager to experience the thrill of driving up into the mountains. The economic potential of this was soon realized and a number of tourist accommodations, cafes and museums were added to make the destination even more appealing. Soon the road itself had to be widened as traffic grew. Today this is one of the top 3 tourist spots in Austria with almost a million visitors coming here every year.

The curse of mass tourism

Come here on a sunny summer weekend and you will see long lines of cars and motorbikes at the entry toll station. Daily car admissions go for 35€ a piece and will grant you free access to most of the museums relating to the history of the road and life in the area. Further up the hill dense traffic and bursting parking lots; space is limited on the mountain, but it seems admissions are not.Of course weather plays and important role here; winter snows stick around well into spring time and the workers only clear it away around late April. The road itself is open for visitors from early May until late autumn.

When it is open, it’s marketed as a thrill ride for keen drivers and bikers, and it would be if one had enough space to safely open up the throttle. In reality you will mostly be part of a slow-moving convoy of cars, busses, caravans and cyclists climbing ever higher in search of stunning views of the surrounding mountainsides.

The stampede culminates on the Edelweissspitze, the highest point of the road at  over 2.500 meters up. A steep and narrow cobbled road leads up from the last big parking lot and ends at a smaller summit area, but you can still take your car there. This is the most gridlocked section of all, as everyone tries to squeeze their machines into what little space there is.

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Upon successful summitting and parking everyone flocks to the panoramic terraces and pulls out his phone, camera and selfie stick and fires away. The views really are stunning and the pictures I’m providing here do nature no justice. I tried my best to avoid getting the crowds of people into my frame, but you have to take the good with the bad when visiting such a popular destination.

The true heroes of the climb

Alongside all the motorists you will see surprisingly many cyclists pushing their pedals tirelessly up the steep inclines. They are the real heroes of the day and hopefully an inspiration to many people speeding by in their air conditioned vehicles. As a cyclist myself I tip my hat to everyone who has managed to climb up the road on any kind of bike. It is a real challenge in the best of conditions, but top that with summer heat and busy traffic, and you have the makings for a climb that is not for the faint-hearted.

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Once you do manage the climb though, you are richly rewarded with some of the best views you will ever see. Several 3.000 meter peaks open up in front of you, and clouds roll lazily around them. The highest of them is of course the mountain that lent the road it’s name, and it is truly a sight to remember.

Whether you are a nature lover, a passionate cyclist, a motorbiking fan or just looking for your next trip, the Grossglockner alpine road is an experience that leaves a long lasting memory. If you can, visit it away from the main tourist season when it’s not so crowded and enjoy the stunning vistas it has to offer.

Head on over to their official website for more info.

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Hiking and biking on Uršlja gora (1699 m)

Uršlja gora (also called Plešivec) is a peak with a hard to pronounce name that lies in the Karavanke range in northern Slovenia, close to the border with Austria. It’s just short of 1700 meters high and features a cozy cottage at the top, accompanied by the Church of St. Ursula, which happens to be the highest-lying church in Slovenia.

For a long time the peak has been popular with nature lovers who visit it either on foot or by mountain bikes. A forest road that’s closed to traffic leads all the way to the top and provides a great opportunity for a cool MTB trip. Hikers meanwhile have almost a dozen different variations of well marked footpaths, all suitable for people of basic physical ability. Depending on your starting point it should take you anywhere from an hour to about three to get up to the top, where you’ll be able to enjoy the views on the surrounding mountains, hills and valleys.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, I went for a little day trip with the local hiking club and found it quite fun. You could roughly translate “Uršlja gora” into “Ursula’s mountain”, but there’s nothing really mountainous about it. Just about anyone from young kids with parents to active pensioners should be able to make the climb and enjoy the lush forests on the way. Or, if you are a mountain biker looking for a challenge why not take this one on. You’ll be biting your knees in places, but a cold beer and nice views will surely be waiting for you when you get through it.

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The outdoors season, either for hikers or bikers is now officially open and so is just about every mountain cottage and refuge all around the country. We had a pretty nice day today with a short shower just as we peaked. Still, it was nothing to it, the cottage was packed full of cheery hikers and a bit of rain ruined no one’s day. Click through the gallery for more pics of the day, including some scenic views  and bikers and hikers doing what they love to do. Keep an eye out for yours truly making an appearance. 🙂

If you find yourself in Slovenia’s mountain regions, don’t hesitate to put your hiking boots on. Or look for a bike and spin the pedals a bit. Either way, you won’t regret it.

For more info, head over to the Active Holidays section on slovenia.info, the official Slovenian travel guide.

Le Mans-style hiking & biking for a good cause

Yesterday I took two of my friends, Sanja and Damijan on a rather special outdoor event in Ruše, just outside Maribor. The local elementary school prepared a 24-hour charity hike & bike which had everyone doing round trips from the starting point to a bar some 3 kilometers up the hill. There was a control point at each end where you checked in, along with some refreshments and music – a pretty simple concept and easy to pull off just about everywhere, but it got people going in a big way.

While the hiking route ran up through forests in a number of ways, cyclists had 6 kms of paved roads to manage, with a rise of around 300 vertical meters. It might not sound a lot, but most of the participants – including us – did multiple repeats, and some went deep into double digits. In fact – in the time of writing this, they’re still at it. The official incentive was that for every lap completed, more would be donated to charity. The event started at 4 pm yesterday (friday) and would run all through the night, finishing 24 hours later. And while the charity aspect was a nice touch, I had the feeling most of the people were there in the spirit of friendly competition. Everyone had that one more notch in their minds, some cyclists even more so, it seemed.

At first we were quite concerned about the weather, which has been acting up in the last couple of days and the forecast wasn’t promising either. Luckily the heavy rain clouds dispersed just hours before the event, the sun came out and so did many of the locals. It was really nice to see such a diverse crowd – schoolkids, young families, pensioners and active runners, all were doing their share to contribute to the experience.

Our own plan was to start late in the afternoon and keep on walking well into the night. Sanja was having some problems with her stomach, but luckily she’s tough as nails and we pressed on regardless. Along the way we met the self-pronounced oldest hiker of the day, looking strong at 87. “You’ll have many hard moments in life,” he said. “But just like hiking, you have to take it one step at a time and eventually you’ll get there.” Talk about spirit.

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Looking down on Maribor

It’s amazing what an active lifestyle can do for a person. Right then I thought of my grandma, who’s been watching TV and doing crossword puzzles for the past 30 years. She’s 86 now, a year younger than the man we met. She has a very hard time managing the three steps at her house.

Pretty soon we came upon Martnica, the finishing point for the first of what would later be three repeats. The hiking route met up with the cyclists and the cafe terrace was packed. It also meant I could gaze my eyes on some rather nice road bikes. Click through the gallery if you’re interested.

 

I’d like to direct your attention to the bright blue Rog Super. In the age when high-performance carbon bikes are commonplace, these retro beauties really stand out. Even more so because Rog is a nostalgic Slovenian bike brand, now sadly a remnant of times gone by. Attempts are being made to restore the name, but I fear the products they will make (if any) won’t have much in common with the factory from decades ago.

You can read a story about Rog and it’s Pony bikes in a fun post called “Only half a turn.”

After looking around and resting a bit, we turned back down and pretty soon the sun went down with us. The clouds were nowhere to be seen and above us opened a canopy of stars worthy of the greatest Hollywood romance. We were far away from the city lights, so the stars were even brighter. Such a wonderful sight, but one many people never even think about any more.  You really should take time to look up at the night sky more often. The view is quite humbling.

So we kept on walking by the light of headlamps into the early morning. The number of people thinned understandably, but there were still small groups or individuals out walking even at 1 am. Altogether we did 3 laps in about 7 hours, stopping at around 2pm. By that time some of the cyclists had done more than 10 repeats and were seriously thinking about breaking last year’s record, said to be at 32 climbs. Not bad for a day’s work. 🙂

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Ride report: AJM Team Time Ride 2016

I’m just back from a great day of cycling at an event called AJM Team Time Ride, a rather splendid, easy-going ride around the vineyard hills just outside the center of Maribor.

As you might have read in one of my previous posts, it’s a “race” where teams of 2-4 people compete in getting as close as possible to the average time of all teams. Sounds a bit complicated, right? Here’s how it works: Each team rides around the course together and their time is recorded at the end. When all teams finish an average time is calculated and the team that finishes with a time as close as possible to it is crowned the winner. Of course you never know what the actual average time is going to be, so it’s pure guesswork how fast or slow you should be going, or indeed how many Spritzer* stops you should make.

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More than 220 team set out on a route that started in the village of Kamnica and went into the surrounding hills, which are a pallet of forests, meadows and vineyards. This meant a constant up-and-down mix of tarmac and dirt roads and even though the course was only about 25 kilometers long, it still took some time to complete. Mainly it was because of the hundreds of cyclist sharing the roads with you, but people also paused a lot at the many wine producers opening their doors to the masses cycling by.

The “most average team wins” concept kept pace low as well. Riders had plenty of time to make the hilly round trip, so no one was in a hurry to get back. I took my friends Nejc and Gregor with me and we entered as Prazni Krigli, or “The Empty Tankard Team”. We each strapped a beer tankard to our backpack and set off. Right around the first couple of corners came the biggest climb of the course which could seriously ruin your (otherwise quite perfect) day, if you weren’t prepared mentally or physically. Some were already stepping off and pushing their bikes through the forest, cursing their teammates for talking them into ever doing the ride.

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Because of the local geography, the route was quite tricky and unpredictable.There was very little flat terrain. Short, steep hills prevented you from seeing very far ahead and there wasn’t a definite last climb where you could give it your all. You couldn’t really tell how much you still had to go. Even if you thought you were safe for a while, the road picked up sharply just around the corner.

Not that there was any need to go fast. We made good time, avoided most of the wine cellars and even though we helped one lady with a puncture and had lunch before going back to finish the clock, we were still 10 minutes faster than average. Prizes were given out to the winners (2 secs from average) and runners-up (4 secs from average), as well as a host of other achievements. Sadly our team failed to grab any of the prizes – holiday packages in Malta, Greece and Turkey, Scott mountain bikes and Briko cycling gear all escaped our grasp.

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Someone once told Nejc (left) that he looked like Antonio Banderas. Now he won’t stop talking about it.

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While we sadly didn’t get anything at the giveaway, nature more than made up for it and rewarded us with great views and lovely weather.In the end we had a great time and were quite proud of ourselves for having completed the course. As the leader of our team I was most pleased that both Nejc and Gregor, who are not that into cycling as I am, came with me, pushed through the hard bits and enjoyed a wonderful day. To me, that’s a lot more important than winning any prize or title. I hope they’ll come with me again when the time comes to spin the pedals some more.

The AJM Team Time Ride has now been going on for around 7 years, and I believe it’ll be here for at least that many more. With quality sponsors, a large turnout from all over the country and great organisational support, the event has nowhere to go but up. I believe we’ll be there to see how it goes next year, hopefully with some international teams as well.

Some more pictures for you down below, and click here if you want to go to the AJM TTR home page for more info.

For more on cycling in Maribor and the surrounding area, visit the official tourist info site.

*Just to let you know if you don’t already. A spritzer (or špricer, as we call it) is a glass of wine mixed with sparkling water. Served cold and very refreshing. 🙂

Cycling with Pops

In my experience, it can sometimes be quite challenging to get someone on a bike if they haven’t ridden one in a couple of decades. Mostly you have to deal with all kinds of excuses, even if the weather conditions are perfect and their bike is ready to go. For them it might be too hot or too cold, the laundry needs to be done right away and the weather man said it was about to rain anyway.

Take my dad for instance. He’s been a sunday league footballer all his life, though you couldn’t tell it by his physique. Years of truck driving and those post-match beers have left his belly a bit rounder than it should be. The extra weight-carrying his body’s had to do has left its toll and now it seems he’s turning more and more away from football and looking for something else.

For a long time I’ve been trying to sit him on a bicycle, but as mentioned, there was always something else that needed doing. On top of it all, he also lives on quite a large hill and the first reply was always that there was no way he would be able to make the climb. Walking wasn’t much of an option either.

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Then as I got the Diverge I had a decent, very rideable Felt QX70 hybrid waiting in reserve for just these kinds of occasions. Hybrids are perfect for people who are just starting out with cycling – they’re easy to use, comfortable and decently quick. They can also take whatever you give them, from smooth tarmac to dirt roads and field tracks. Because I live just under the same hill he does, that meant he could drive by and leave the car, go for a spin with me, and drive back up.

It took a bit of convincing and patience, but now with good weather and all, he admitted he’d been thinking about it as well. We’d actually done the same round trip before last autumn and you can see glimpses of the route in this post.

In the end it was a great ride. Slow and relaxed, no major obstacles along the way. When going out like this, you need to consider physical limitations of the least prepared person in the group – they’re the one suffering the most, and probably won’t come back again if you get them into hard times. Choose a scenic route, let them see what cycling is all about. Build up a general interest in the activity and just have a good time. Climbs, sprints and fancy bikes will come later.

So we took it leisurely. No busy  main roads, no rushing ahead, in fact we were a lot like a pair of pensioners. I’ve been through these parts so many times that I barely give them a second thought, but having someone with you gives it a new perspective. Dad seemed to enjoy it a lot, and if we keep going like this he might even end up cycling full-time. While going through the Požeg natural park, a popular recreational area for the locals, we even met a swan family paddling across the lake. I thought it might make for some nice pictures, so here you have it. 🙂
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Call it “Swan Lake” 🙂

So what about you? I’d love to hear your experiences about getting “non-cyclists” out on the road. I’d also greatly appreciate it if you followed the page for more similar content and dropped by some other time as well. 🙂

Until then, enjoy! 😉

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Fun cycling ahead!

Finally something that’s cycling-related. When I first started out this site I had this grand vision of how I would ride my bike as far as the eye can see and bring you a million and one amazing stories. Since then my blog has been overrun by posts about hiking, random trips and other miscellaneous adventures. In the midst of all that, cycling has taken a back seat. It’s not that I’ve quit riding my bike, it’s just that I mostly do it on the same old routes and there’s really nothing much to write about.

Until now!

I’m pleased to report that in less than two weeks from now I’ll be taking part in a couple of rather promising cycling events with hopefully a big turnout, great company and nice weather. They’re both recreational events, meant purely for enjoyment on your bike and don’t fall into the category of racing in any real way. Here’s a brief overview of both of them.

AJM Team Time Ride 2016 – May 29th

The AJM Time Ride has over the years gained a reputation as a solid, well organised and much visited cycling event. The route starts in Kamnica, a suburb just north-west of Maribor and then winds it’s way for 25 kilometers and considerable height gains through the surrounding hills, forests and vineyards. Much of the route follows dirt roads, so the Specialized Diverge will probably be left at home, to be replaced by my Felt QX70, left on the picture below. Ever since the Diverge appeared at the house, the Felt has been somewhat pushed to the back and this will be a great opportunity to spend some time with the iron horse again.

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Preparations are under way! My friend Nejc brought his bike around and we gave it a good once-over, so it’ll be ready for the big day.

There’s a fun trick to the Time Ride. It’s not about getting to the finish first, rather it’s about being the most average team on the track. Teams of 2-4 riders set out together in short intervals and complete the preset route. Their time is logged and when all the teams finish, an average time is calculated as the benchmark. The team that gets closest to that average time is then considered the winner and takes home a holiday package in Malta, Turkey or Greece. Special prizes will be given out to the team with the best selfie from the top of the course, so we should definitely do something about that. I’ll be taking my GoPro with me, and we’ll see what we can come up with.

This is the first time I’ll be taking part in the event. I wanted to go for the last 2 years, but never managed due to other setbacks Here’s a video from 2014:

Apparently more than 150 teams have signed up already, which means upwards of 500 riders tackling the course. Let’s just hope the weather holds up. 🙂

8th Europark Bike Marathon – May 28th

Europark is the biggest shopping mall in Maribor and they’ve done a good job of organising an annual cycling event for the last couple of years. This is actually just a day before the Team Time Ride and even more laid back. The setup here is that there are 6 or so starting points all around the Styria region and then everyone meets up at the mall. Again there’ll be a prize giveaway from the sponsors, some music, food and beer.

Though it’s called a Marathon, in reality the route we’re taking is only about 40 kilometers long, so combined with getting to the start site and then back home it should make about 60-70, an mostly flat. I’ve done the event last year and won a wristwatch in the giveaway, but it turned out to be a shabby chic women’s watch with a rubber band and fake diamonds around the encasing. Gave it to my mom who was really pleased for the first five minutes, then never wore it again.

I’ll try to bring back at least some pictures if not videos from both of the events, so follow the blog and come back for more. I’ll try my best to get The Small Country Cyclist back into cycling waters, (though hiking is still cool, don’t forget that).

Hope to see you soon and have a great time! 🙂