ROMANIA: Hidden Mecca
An incredible country for riding
September, 2019: Although the drive for our Romanian trip revolved around the efforts of Dana Bates and supporting the transition from coal to tourism in the Jiu Valley, it’s important to note the level of potential for mountain biking in this area of the world.
See our other post for details of our initiative for the kids – ROMANIA: Jiu Valley
Although it may not be as established as the U.S. or Western Europe, the infrastructure and terrain is ripe for badass riding and all levels of enthusiast.
No, there is no real riding in the capital. However, it’s good to note the airport situation for those who care. It’s a small airport and renting a car is easy. To get out of the airport, there is literally a rotary and only a few options. It’s almost as if I could tell you that, if you are going for mountain biking, all you need to do is get the car, load the bikes, and take the first right out of the rotary. Use some GPS just in case but…I’m just saying.
At the end of our trip we came back to the city and stayed a night. It’s an incredible city and has so much to offer. Give it more than one night.
This area in Transylvania is epic for biking. We took some runs here that I will never be able to explain. Think of Top Of The World in Whistler. Unreal and instantly worth taking the flight and 5 hour drive from Bucharest to experience.
We met up with Marius and Max from Massif Experience to help us around the area.
The first day we rode outside Brasov (we stayed between Sinaia and Brasov in an incredible AIRBNB) with one of the most seasoned mountain bikers in Romania, Max Munteanu. Don’t be afraid of his Instagram. Just don’t ride like an idiot and he will take you to some really solid riding. Max has been in the scene as long as the scene has been a scene. And he has raced in every mountain bike race in Romanian history (I’m not lying).
Max took us to several lift access runs and then some areas that are being built up as small parks and skills sections. There is some pushing/pedalling but if you love bikes, it’s all good and for the adventure. Whatever you want, they have it in Brasov and every longer run ends with good urban riding and beers.
The next few days we rode with Marius Stratilia, owner of Massif Experience. He told us he was afraid that we were going to be better riders…and then he showed us how to really ride Romania. What an incredible person and guide. And an incredible rider.
He showed us lift access at Bike Resort Sinaia and then some unreal guided runs outside of the Bike Resort Sinaia trail map. The riding in this area is for every kind of rider. There is extremely steep technical, long flowy XC and everything in between. The actual bike park boasts access to some of the most challenging DH we have ever ridden (the first day we rode in the rain) with drops, road gaps, and some small jump features. The real challenge though is the love they have for roots and rocks. Some of our runs have been saved to our Instagram if you are interested…or reach out and we will share with you.
We rode Sinaia and beyond and I feel like there was probably 2-3 more days of riding if we had the time.
Lupeni, Jiu Valley
This area was the whole reason we were in Romania in the first place. We had been sold on how remote but ripe with mountain bike potential it was. We always try to do as much research as we can on a certain area prior to arriving but there was really no way to prepare for the Jiu Valley. It’s ominous, derelick architecture is at first extremely intimidating but what you quickly realize is that it’s just different…not negative. There is a culture here that should be weakened by a few decades of hardship. However, it isn’t. The people are kind and inviting; curious about an increasingly growing number of adventurers in the off-season.
I say off-season because in the winter, you can only imagine that the towns are bustling with activity. There are several mountains and modern ski lifts in the area and the infrastructure has grown around that quicker than interest can support. They are seeing the economic benefits of adventure sports and now are starting to see that those benefits can cover more than just the winter months.
We spent 4 days here, riding and working on one of the trails with 5 badass riders and Dane Bates (our contact for the initiative).
The riding here was surprising because, being so remote, you wouldn’t have expected the trails to be so dialed in. However, there are several long, groomed, flow trails right from the lift at Straja. One of the most famous in Romania, The Baloo Trail, is honestly some of the most smile inspiring riding we have experienced. It was built by a team officially IMBA trained and has now hosted the National Enduro Cup (the CNE) in 2019 with hopes of continuing that trend in the coming years.
Baloo the bear: There is a situation that I have to mention. The trail is named after a bear in captivity at the trailhead. It is a contentious debate and has been going on for some time. It isn’t the public in the Jiu Valley that is at fault, it is one business man who refuses to allow Baloo a transfer to a sanctuary. I have debated how to write about this and what to do because I don’t want to hurt the image of the area. However, it had to be mentioned. It isn’t fair in any way.
LIBEARTY SANCTUARY: My solution is to mention that one fact, but also mention that in Brasov there is the world’s largest bear sanctuary, Libearty. It was started by Millions of Friends Organization and it is literally incredible. If you would like to help show your support, they are a trusted organization and any little bit would help them.
At the end of our trip, we had the privilege of riding with Cristian Dunca, Co-Founder of HeliSki Romania. Cristian and his father had previously donated a helicopter flight to the kids in Lupeni and he offered to take us out to the Tarcu to show us his new vision for Mountain Biking in Romania.
The possibility in this region (Southeastern Romania) is unlimited. We rode several runs from the peaks of different mountains down jeep paths and some logging roads. The the speed and intensity of these runs was unreal. Literally 100 different lines every step of the way.
This area boasts rocky tundra, rocky and rooty alpine, steep loamy shoots, fast rocky single track, and long flowy switchback “urban” riding. 45 minute runs are the norm and at one point we covered 38 kilometers. That’s not an exaggeration.
At one point Cristian mentioned that his father, brother, and he had built a ski lift on one of the local mountains and asked if we would like to check it out for ourselves.
From the lift we all of a sudden were being showed a downhill park at it’s very fruition. Cristian took us down several runs as he described his vision of the future.
At the end of the day, there is so much to be said about riding in Romania. There is established XC, growing DH, and unlimited Enduro.
We didn’t get to every area we wanted to but we gave it a valiant effort. I would give you a suggestion of where to go in Romania if I thought that was possible…but really, you should just experience it all…as much as you can. The people are friendly, the food is good, people are hospitable, and the riding is epic. It’s just RAW…that’s how I would describe it…raw and just beginning. In 5-10 years, all three of the regions we visited will be built up; it’s happening fast. All it is going to take is continued support from local communities, attention from the mountain bike community, and more awareness overall.
We did learn one important lesson: in some parts of the world, when you say “expert” they think you mean “professional” (as in a sponsored athlete). In hindsight, this is pretty funny. At the time, there was some confusion and perhaps some disappointment.
Lawrence, Massachusetts: We gathered and donated 30 bikes to kids in programs at the Lazurus House.Read More
Sanbornton, NH: During COVID we invited a team of talented producers and riders to Andrew’s Wonderland.Read More
Lupeni, Romania: We are supporting five kids in the mountains of Romania with bikes and gear so they can race in the 2020 CNE (National Enduro Cup).Read More
Riding Romania: We came to support the youth…but we found so much potential throughout the country.Read More
Havana, Cuba: Just doing what we can; a small team and our local bike shop helped get much needed parts to Velo Bikes in Old Town Havana.Read More
- Lawrence, Massachusetts
- Sanbornton, NH
- Romania: Jiu Valley
- Romania: Hidden Mecca