It’s all about the bike trails
I come from a city enriched with natural wonders, Brasov-probably the best city in the world. Here you need more than a day or two of riding to tick off all the existing bike trails from the list. Some of them are natural flow with some man-made elements, built-entirely for shredding. The network of easy fire roads found here serve the purpose of getting to the top of the trails. Local trail builders designed some moderate to hard trails. The longest natural ride is around 8km long, a flowy and easy trail in the beginning that develops suddenly into a hand-bashing rock garden alternating with small drops and roots. It eventually ends into a junction of trail heads, where the rider can choose its way home or to the local beer spots.
Altough most of the rides here are actually genuine hiking trails and even though at the moment there is no existing law that applies strictly to dividing the trails by purpose, the local culture allows for the existence of hybrid trails. Brasov’s home-mountain, Postavaru, is a gem with just 1 meter shy off the 1800 meters mark, it displays sheer wilderness with big-mammals roaming free around the still standing tree-tops. The geology of it makes it really accessible to mountain-sports addicts: sky-runners, mountainbikers, climbers, skiers and boarders in winter, para-gliders etc, which all come together in the same dopamine-pursuing effort.
Most of the bike trails in Brasov can be found on Trailforks: https://www.trailforks.com/region/brasov/?activitytype=1&z=8.5&lat=45.49448&lon=25.44743
Postavaru is historically related to shepherding and later on with the development of one of the first ski resorts in SE of Europe, with competitions going back all to way to the early 1900’s. Mountain-bike competitions also play a part in the history of the mountain with 4cross competitions and mega-avalanche races held here after the 2000’s. Not the case anymore since the development of local competition calendar stalled to a halt. Hope is on the rise with the approval from the authorities on building 3 mountain-bike only trails. Everybody is really looking forward to see their own rubber-knobs biting in those newly-built berms
If you want to ride other places, effervescent spots can be found in a 1h drive radius from Brasov. Piatra Mare, Ciucas and Bucegi mountains are top considerations for mountain-bike thrill-seekers! Following this enticing amuse-bouche of an intro, you are probably wondering why I made the 180″ turn to Mercheasa? Where the Gods of altitude difference and engulfing valleys where not as daring.
Starting with day one since I got here, somewhere around 2011, first on foot and then powered by the inertia of two wheels, I realized the beauty and the potential of developing ways of exploring Mercheasa. Amazingly raw, with the upfront nostril-filling smell of a cow-heard going by, surrounded by spiritually-enhancing old oaks with thick barks, and amazed at the opportunity of opening up the landscape to cyclists, ambitions levels increase into envisioning a mountain-biking destination. In Mercheasa there were no bike trails at the time I got here.
Historically speaking, the settlement has been through the rough patches that characterize Transylvania. I also wrote another article which sheds some light on the past of Mercheasa: https://ebiketransylvania.com/mercheasa-and-its-history/ . Check that out if you feel the need to find out more!
One of the first actions that I took was to scout the entire network of fire roads on the ol’ google maps, try to understand the old forestry roads that most of the times will lead to nowhere, ask the hunters and the villagers for directions and eventually head out into the rolling hills on my ebike. My equipment was first of all the technical kit which consists in the extra tube,tire leavers, the mighty multi-tool, the hand pump, the quick-link and always, always the zip-ties! I would carry with me my smartphone, a rain jacket and maybe some water but that would be it.
Heading into the unknown
Riding the hills alone is always the case of adventure, something that I am really fond of, but these can be mischievous and I found myself many times scattered all over the pasture with bruises covering my body, or racing with my pulse to avoid being chewed-to-the-bone by the very own cousins of Cerberus which found their existence more meaningful by guarding flock of sheeps on the hills of Transylvania, rather than guarding the Gates of Hell.
But the biggest thrill I ever got out of riding alone in these woods were the subtle encounters with wildlife. One time when riding on the ridge of Gaura Corbului, a mellow ridge hidden beneath a forest of compacted oaks and birch trees, a sounder of wild boars came up in my field of sight from the right. I was only 5 meters away and I could do nothing but roll with the bike while seated on my saddle. I could not use the brakes as my fingers, my hands and my entire body was cemented in time from the surprise. The 30 or so fanged-creatures forcefully fled into the valley on my left, also scared about the sudden encounter with a human coming up from nowhere. After tramping viciously on my very nerves during those few seconds they were out of sight, creating a sense of mystical void in the air. I was alive, I felt energized! I also felt the sudden urge to flee as well to shelter, covered in a nervous smile.
The commune of Homorod, where Mercheasa is assigned to as an administrative center only, is comprised out of 120 km2 stretch of land, and I managed to put down in the first year around 2000km on my one and only full-suspension ebike. I began to wonder if my enduro bike is jealous of the mileage put down by its brother full sus, like a horse that feels the urge to scamper away from the stables. A horse maybe to big for these hills, or to powerful. And that’s when the idea struck me, what if I could start build my own trails, similar to what I ride when in Brasov, but with added adrenaline and laid down with my own sweat?
In life usually, conceiving a plan and implementing it is more appealing but who says you cannot just go with the flow? As you already know from our first page, I managed to obtain a grant from the European Union that would benefit my business with the purchase of the ebikes, the wheels of the business, but the rest of the development will rely mostly on marking the best possible bike trails that can enhance the access to all the highlights that the village and the valley that nestles its inhabitants has to offer.
The general direction is to mark the best viable options that can connect the places to each other. The first project is already finished an with the combined efforts of heavy machinery, volunteers and donations from local contributors including the town hall and some local business we manage to lay down around 25 big boulders that mark the route from the Homorod commune, starting right at the Tourist Information Center. The trail head will have a map of the entire route Mercheasa and there on leading to the next trails.
This first of the bike trails has an available parking spot and your bike ride can start with a visit to the Saxon Fortified Church of Homorod, a 14th century built establishment, with added 3-lines of defensive walls and an incredible 17th century built wooden hand-painted ceiling, found in the main body of the church. The hidden jewel of this place are the stories told by Mrs Marton, the Saxon gatekeeper, who is an excellent cook and a takes care of the former Priest House, also renting rooms. The Archery Tower can be climbed all the way to the top and should not be missed. In its basement a unique 12th century fresco of Jesus Christ, almost intact to the passing of 800 years.
Continue your journey through the village and head towards the Homorod Mud Volcanoes, while admiring the typical saxon house, with their gates shaped in a reversed letter “U”, wide and tall enough to fit a hay-filled cart.
This bike trail can be found here https://ebiketransylvania.com/trails/
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