Transalping Around – Bieszczady Edition

The idea behind getting back into riding the Transalp was to do at least one epic run a season. Now the jury is still out on what exactly would deem a ride ‘epic’, but right away my imagination started running wild. Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, no, screw that, Albania! It’s all just a few thousand kilometers really… wait, maybe we should do a test run somewhere local to see how we pack, eat, sleep, ride, and enjoy this first?

And so we did just that. Neither Ania nor I have ever been to the Bieszczady mountains in the south-east of Poland and being just 540kms and only six hours away, it made for a perfect test run destination for this past long weekend.

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I purchased the Transalp with all metal cargo boxes included, and while I don’t know exactly how many liters each holds they seem to be on the larger end of packability. Ania got the one on the right, I shared the left with extra fuel, spare inner tubes, basic tools, and sandals. Yeah, sandals! On top of the boxes we mounted sleeping bags on one side, and air mattresses on the other. The rear box held some food, water, camp stove, dishes, and other mutual stuff.

We packed for four days, and we just barely made it all fit. That was test number one, and we only somewhat passed. More on that later.

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Test number two was our first far-ride together in one seat. Until now we only rode about a 120km stretches around town for fun. This time, packed to the teeth, we set out to do at least two-250km stretches and then some.

Fail no. 1: the Transalp was not built for the highway. All fuelled up, the Transalp weighs some 210kg, plus my 100kg, plus my wife’s… well, plus my wife, plus all the boxes and stuff inside…that thing was damn heavy. Add to that lack of fuel injectors (carburetor tech), off-road tires, and lack of a 6th gear, that Transalp rolled pretty hard up to about 120/130kmh, but at that speed, it sucked fuel like a… you get the point. I fuelled up quite a bit is what I’m trying to say, and rolling down the highway at high speed wasn’t at all enjoyable yet necessary to cover as much ground as possible on that first day of travel.

We rolled much better once we got back on express roads and back down to about 90-100kmh. Not only did we burn less fuel, but at that speed Transalp just feels like a glove. It was perfect. Even once we got to twist and turns of the mountains and all the way down to 2nd gear hairpins, even with all that gear and Ania in the back, it all felt great.

Fail no. 2: our sleeping situation was as awesome as it was terrible. I learned about a place called Bieszczadzka Przystan Motocyklowa a few years ago. The name loosely translates into “Motorcycle Pier in Bieszczady”, a place designed and made specifically for motorcyclists. And that it was. I booked a motorcycle shack for us: a wooden tree-house looking structure with room for a motorcycle on the bottom and sleeping area just above. It was awesome. Until it wasn’t.

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You see, that little house actually has room for two separate parties. Meaning we had the left side of the shack, and someone else entirely had the right. Someone that didn’t realize how much their deep voices carried through the almost non-existent walls as they took shots of vodka and talked old motorcycles half the night, and someone who snored so damn loud the other part of the night that we indeed didn’t sleep then either. All’n’all I think we slept maybe three hours that night. We then spent two more nights in that wooden house, but I politely asked the guys next to us to cut the chitchat and somehow snoring wasn’t that bad either. Great experience. Never again.

The best part of this motorcycle campground was the bond fire set by the owners each night. We got to meet a lot of really cool people, all talking motorcycle trips all over Europe, all sharing their experiences and stories of being on the road.

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Overall we spent three nights camping in the mountains, while during the day we rode some 700kms of trails crisscrossing the Bieszczady mountains in every possible way.

We rode along the Polish border with Ukraine which was the furthest east of Poland we’ve ever been and came across a Polish bison just taking a walk in the woods. Polish bison, mind you, is not something you see every day as they were once hunted almost to extinction. Today there is about 1,212 bison in Poland, most in some sort of captivity, and evidently, one running around loose on the road.

We also rode around the Solina dam which is the largest dam in Poland, hiked the Tarnica mountain which is the highest peak in these mountains at 1.346meters, stopped by some local gems such as the pancake place called Chata Wędrowca and a pretty famous bar/restaurant called Siekierozada. We also rode through many small towns spread across the region, some with 100+ year-old wooden houses still standing strong.

This riding experiment was a great success and I believe we are quite ready now to pack for longer, further, destinations. Ohh yeah, and I will pack more shirts this time around. As I packed for an exact number of days, I didn’t take into account that we might get wet due to sudden weather change, and I ended up sporting two-day-old clothes on our last day. I didn’t mind, but Ania had to sit behind for 500+ more kilometers. Lesson learned.

What a great ride.

Some stats:

  • KM traveled: 1,860km
  • Type of ride: expressway ride day 1 and 5, mountain twists days 2, 3, 4
  • Type of surface: asphalt mostly, very little gravel
  • Transalp weight: 2 people, 3 boxes, a lot of gear = heavy
  • Days on the road: 5
  • Liters of fuel burned: 109L
  • The worst fuel/km ratio on the trip: 7,59L / 100km
  • The best fuel/km ratio on the trip: 5,43 / 100km

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