I recently purchased a Ritchey Outback Breakaway with the goal of doing more multi-day, off-road bicycle adventures in beautiful places worldwide. While this is a typical steel gravel bike, it splits into two pieces which allows for easier packing, and by extension plane travel.
This trip was my first attempt at traveling with the Ritchey. I chose to go to Romania because there are two books that I really like set in this country. Also, I wanted that “autumn, Balkan (ish), Ottomon (ish) village vibe.” Finally, I wanted mountains! Transylvania is home to the Carpathian Mountains.
Briefly, a few winners and losers from the trip:
- Food. Romanian food is very hearty. Lots of meat, brothy soups, polenta, and desserts like apple pie and my favorite, lichiu (pictured below).
- Dog deterrent device. Romania, like many countries in this part of the world, has dogs that are unfriendly to cyclists. I’ve dealt with them many times before in my travels. Before this trip, I fretted about dogs. And then I thought, “why don’t I protect myself somehow?” Soccer shinpads? Pepper spray? I then came across this clicker (thanks, ChatGPT) which emits a high-frequency sound that distracts dogs. Almost unbelievably, it actually worked. As the dogs would approach, I would press the button, and it would scramble their brains and they would back off. Indeed, you do have to point it in their direction, so it’s not a “set and forget ‘forcefield,'” per se. But definitely a great thing to have.
- The bicycle. I was able to successfully take the thing apart and put the thing back together! Yes!
- Komoot. Komoot was a terrific navigation app. I had my AirPods in, listened to directions, and it (largely) told me where to go.
- AloSim. This was the first time I tried an “e-SIM.” It worked great! I didn’t have to buy a physical SIM card; I could instantiate, monitor, and top-up data—which ran through their local cell towers, and didn’t involve my US carrier in any way—from my phone.
- People. Broadly, Romanian people were lovely and hospitable. Including the woman on Day 1 that let me come into her backyard and use her hose to wash down my bicycle that was once so caked in mud that I couldn’t even push it.
- Aggressive children. On one occasion, I had to fend off a group of particularly aggressive children at the entrance to Bunesti (after entering from the Viscri side). This was really not fun. From there on, when entering my villages, I modulated my speed to be somewhere between “slow enough so as not to startle any dogs” yet… “fast enough to circle around and bypass aggressive children as needed.”
- This one section of the road where I fell. Alas, I took a fall when descending the Transfagarasan Highway (the road below with the crazy switchbacks). It sucked. I was letting a bus pass me, pulled into a turn-out, hit the brakes, slid on some gravel, and boom. I was very bloodied up. Doing better now!