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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Hiking and culinary delights around the Nanos area

Such is often the case when going hiking with a bigger group of like-minded hikers. I’ve said before that these people know how to have a good time and a wealth of experience in doing so. As an unwritten rule, a group hike should be organised so that it ends in a nice, cozy unwind at a local café, mountain hut or wine cellar. It is part of a long-time tradition, almost a social obligation. To simply return to the car, pack your bags and leave for home would be somehow rude to your fellow hikers. Surely you must be tired, in need of a refreshing rest – come, let’s have a drink or two. It’s hard to say no.

The story today takes us back to last October, when I went hiking with my local club, as I sometimes do. Great people all around, even though they’re usually quite older than me. It seems the younger generation aren’t as keen on organised group hiking as the older folks are. They don’t know what they’re missing is what I say. Anyway, our destination was a hill called Nanos, a windswept karstic range about halfway between our capital Ljubljana and the port city of Koper. It’s quite iconic for being a prominent feature along the coastal highway and it’s striking outline is well known throughout Slovenia. The top sits at 1240m above sea level and can be reached by just about anyone who’s reasonably fit – it’s not technically challenging and the routes are well marked and maintained. You can find more info about it on SloTrips.si, though the content is in Slovenian.

The morning was quite foggy and cold, so everybody was keen to get warmed up and climb higher, towards the warming rays of the sun. The terrain provided no real challenges, as the route planners apparently decided on taking the easier route towards the top. It was easy going, great for switching your mind off and just taking in the sights. The coastal hillside is quite barren, with low-lying bushes and grass – the winds can get quite high here in some parts of the year – over 150 kph is relatively common when the winter winds blow.

We made good time and swiftly reached the top which features a nice alpine hut, pictured above, and a large telecoms tower that’s used to send TV and radio signals far and wide. The tower also features a related exhibition where one can learn about the history of the telecommunications trade in Slovenia.We had a guide show us around, but I didn’t really pick up much. Too much tech talk and a room full of large 1960s cabinets filled with relays and switches that failed to tell much of a story. I guess my tech imagination wasn’t up to it.img_6434We left the exhibit behind and pressed on westward along the ridge. The sun was properly shining now, it turned out to be one of the last warm days of the year. Again nothing hard to deal with, pure joy and relaxation in a truly remarkable environment. Then someone ordered a stop, we put our backpacks down and out came bottles filled with all kinds of liquor – home distilled blueberries, a Johnnie Walker, even some rum. I’m not encouraging anyone to go hiking and get wasted doing it, in fact it’s highly irresponsible behaviour. But we all know where the boundaries lie, and taking a sip is more down to the occasion than anything else. You offer what you brought with you to everyone else and in turn you’re offered what everyone else has with them.

Break over, and we had only a short way left to the next lodge where lunch was planned. Looking back, this really wasn’t the day for extreme physical workouts. We’d been walking quite leisurely for maybe 3 hours all together, during which we’ve had a number of breaks and soon lunch was now upon us. The waiter was already waiting for us and prepared a common table on the grassy terrace outside the hut. The luncheon was simple, as they usually are up in the hills, but what joy! It really doesn’t get much better than great nature, great company and some warm sunshine to make your day.

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Funny enough, that wasn’t it for the day either. It was back to the bus after lunch and back down to ground level where we had one final appointment, this time at a wine cellar called Vidus in the nearby village of Podnanos. Janko Trošt is the man of the house here and he runs a very neat operation, producing a range of local wines and offering them in a magnificent cellar that looks properly ancestral, but was in fact built in 2012. He also has a uniquely attractive personality that’s perfect for hosting wine presentations. Open and inviting, but also very professional – he takes his wines very personally and is able to put across the labour required in producing such wonderful wines as his.

If you happen to find yourself in the area give Vidus a visit, I’m sure you’ll find it worth your time. I’m sadly not too keen on wines, but sometimes the stories and characters of people behind them are equally as remarkable as their taste.

For us Vidus was the last step on our semi-culinary hike around the Nanos area. Should you get the chance to do a similar trip, don’t pass it by. You can easily combine half a day of hiking with some local culinary delights, be it at a simple hillside hut, a local wine producer or a recommended restaurant. Pick a nice, sunny day and some good company and I promise you won’t regret it.

Exploring Slovenia’s mountain region – Gorenjska

I must apologize – It’s been a while since I last wrote anything here, over a month in fact. I just couldn’t get myself to post anything of half-decent “quality”, so I let it be for a while.

Now I’m happy to report that I was on a yet another cycling-unrelated trip yesterday and while I really hoped to squeeze more bike-related stuff in here, it just wasn’t meant to be, at least not this time. However, Gorenjska, Slovenia’s mountain region is great for bicycle exploration and there are a lot of bike paths, trails and spots to enjoy. I guess I really should bring a bike the next time I go.

What follows is just a couple of spots I went to see yesterday. I had the help of Amela B., a friend of mine who is also a local of the region and knows where to go to get the most out of your day. A bit like having your own personal guide, quite fancy. I picked her up in Ljubljana in the morning and the original plan was to visit the Triglav lakes, but that would require a full day of hiking, and we sort of drifted in other directions.

#1 – Lake Bled

If you’re a tourist planning to visit Slovenia, this is probably one of the spots you hear the most about. Lake Bled, the castle on the cliff, the church on the island in the middle, the Bled cake –  these are some of the most known tourist attractions in the country. When I was last here a month ago, in the peak of the tourist season, it was absolutely packed with people from around the world.

We took a walk around the place, found that it was not so packed any more and headed on. You’ll find much better pictures online, there are probably 5 photographers for each 100 meters of shoreline here.

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#2 – the Peričnik Waterfall

Here’s a sweet spot. If you head into the Vrata valley, you’ll soon pass the Slovenian Alpine Museum, a gem in itself. A bit further on, just a short hop from the road is the Peričnik Waterfall. There are actually two of them, with the higher being 52 meters tall. The ledge it falls over is overhanging, so you can even walk behind the curtain of water. Another fun fact; it freezes over in winter, so the whole rock face gets covered in ice, creating a fairytale view.

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Observe the family on the ledge behind for scale. The ledge can easily be used to walk behind the curtain of the waterfall.

#3 and #4 – Planica nordic center and the Tamar valley

Turning into another glacial valley nestled between high mountain peaks we find the famous ski-jumping center of Planica. If you happen to follow the sport you’ll know that this is the venue of the last leg in the season and tens of thousands of people gather here every year to watch people jump upwards of 220 meters on skis. If you’ve never seen ski jumping before, this is what it looks like:

A nordic center has recently been constructed, allowing for full-time training on several different hill sizes, and there are ski-running and biathlon courses here as well.

Red Bull is hosting a 400-meter sprint competition up the biggest hill. It’s called simply the Red Bull 400, it’s much harder than it looks and it’s happening next weekend.

Further down the road from Planica is the Tamar valley. Like many alpine valleys, it’s enclosed on three sides by high mountains and provides a peaceful retreat from the everyday bustle. A dirt road takes you to a hut at the end of the valley, which is also a starting point for a number of climbing ascents.

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#5 – Lake Jasna

Just before we left we decided to stop at yet another alpine lake just outside Kranjska gora, the best known resort town in the area. It seems that you’re never far from a stream or a small lake here, and they all paint these beautiful images with mountaintops in the background.

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Gorenjska is deservedly the best looking part of Slovenia, and it provides nature lovers with plenty of things to see and do. Leave a comment below if you’ve been here before, I’d like to hear about the time you’ve had.

For more info, head on to the official page of the Triglav National Park.

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Conquering Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain (again) – photo & video gallery included

Another hiking post! And this one even includes some climbing to top it off.

I’ve written about the hiking culture here in Slovenia and my first go at climbing our highest mountain in posts here and here. Long story short, hiking is a bit of a national pastime around here and the saying goes that you’re not a real Slovenian if you haven’t stood atop the 2864 meter high Triglav at least once.

Luckily I have, so the pressure was off when we decided to have a go this past weekend. By pure mountaineering standards, Triglav with it’s measly height of under 3000 meters of course isn’t anything special. But it is a national symbol and to reach the top for the first time is a thing of personal pride. Experienced climbers and hikers will look elsewhere for new challenges, but to average office workers looking for bragging rights, topping the mountain might not seem so easy.

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All in all, Triglav is Slovenia’s most visited mountain and trails that lead to the top are well marked and maintained. Where there’s climbing to be done, they are well protected with steel ropes and grips. Most people choose to make it a two day trip with an overnight stay at one of the lodges that surround the top. Faster hikers will make the ascent in 4 or 5 hours, so a one day round trip is also possible, but sleeping in a high altitude cottage brings it’s own charms. While these cottages offer basic sleeping and eating amenities, they are a place of complete joy and warm spirit.

Never ever have I met a hiker with a bad heart – I guess bad people just don’t do these kinds of things. Especially not at these altitudes. And when you walk into a warm room after an 8-hour uphill struggle, a warm meal and some tea is the only thing on your mind. After that, somebody is sure to produce a guitar or an accordion, then dancing will ensue and heated exchanges of all kinds of stories. Soon after the sun sets behind the mountains, everyone takes to their beds and silence takes over until the early hours of the morning.

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Even though we were blessed with great weather throughout the weekend, mountaintops in the area were covered with clouds and winds were blowing hard enough to lay you flat on your back. We planned to reach the summit early on the second day, but turned back due to low visibility and heavy winds. In my mind it was a good call, as going on would bring added risk and no real joy. Safety comes first and the mountain won’t go anywhere any time soon. One more reason to try again next year.

I carried a GoPro on my helmet all through the trip and made a video of it. It should serve you well to get a proper feeling of the place. Feel free to watch it down below.

And if by now you’re still reading, why not stay a while longer and look through the gallery of scenic panoramas and highland vistas. If you haven’t been in the mountains yet, now is the perfect time to start! 🙂

For more info visit the official site of the Triglav National Park.

 

 

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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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