The Transfăgărășan Highway

The north side of Romania’s Transfăgărășan Highway

I’m back home, finally, from nearly three weeks on the road, most of which was accompanied by Internet access that ranged between poor and nonexistent. RKP’s normal pace of posting has been off as a result, and I’m sorry about that. It’s been a strange trip, placing me on mostly flat roads and 100-plus temperatures nearly everywhere I rode. I capped the trip with an excursion to Sibiu, northwest of Bucharest, Romania. There I rode one of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s many monuments to himself, the Transfăgărășan Highway.

I’ve had more than a passing interest Romania and the Carpathian Mountains since, well, since reading Dracula in undergraduate school. The combination of a foreign culture, mountains and cycling kept the location in my interest until the BBC program Top Gear did a segment on the Transfăgărășan, calling it the greatest road in the world. I’m not actually a motor head, but I do find car reviews interesting for how they discuss the driving experience.

Jeremy Clarkson and his compadres run a fine balance of passionate enthusiasts, inspired comics and complete buffoons, which makes Top Gear one of the only shows I bother to record (other than Archer). The possibility that they had uncovered the finest single road around was better than having a cute girl wink at me. At least I knew what to do in this case.

I needed to ride it, of course.

That I made it to Romania with photographer Greg Page in tow goes down as the biggest surprise of my year. Just why that happened belongs to another story, though. We rented a car at the Bucharest airport and headed north early the next morning; We drove up the south face  and parked at the top. My plan was to descend the north side, turn around and then climb back up and then descend the south side—there simply wasn’t time enough given the pace I’m climbing to ascend both sides. Besides, this ride was more about the down than the up.

You can check out my ride on Strava. My feature on the experience will be in Issue 15 of peloton magazine. If you aren’t already a subscriber, this would be a good occasion to fix that. Subscribe here.

 

6 comments

  1. MCH

    Awesome! The Top Gear episode featuring that road was spectacular. I can’t wait to see the Peloton issue.

    Btw, traveling to the far reaches of europe to ride a single road is crazy. But then, someone had to do it – glad it was you.

  2. jorgensen

    Rarely get to see Top Gear, but they at least have an opinion. Romania, now the home of some Campagnolo production.

    Greg Page, that name rung a bell, he photographed my Senior Thesis industrial design model decades ago if that is the same fellow. I was a demanding client, but we got what I needed on the second shoot.

  3. Michael

    I lived in Romania in the early 1990s, helping them dig out of their hole. There are MANY other roads to ride in the Carpathians too, so one could spend many weeks riding new roads every day. If the paving has improved, it’d be great.

    My field vehicle broke down once on a back road in Bucovina near a tiny little cottage, a la Hansel and Gretel. An old woman came out and invited us in for tea while our driver hitched into town to find a part. Her husband was due back any moment. It turned out that ‘due back’ was coming back from a 150-km RT ride on a three-speed to get three chickens, which he transported in a box on the back. He was in his late 70s. Oh, he had stopped and picked a bouquet of flowers for his wife too.

  4. peter lin

    @Michael

    Thanks for sharing that story. That brought a smile to my face and reminds how rejuvenating cycling is. If only more people rode a bike daily, many of the health issues affecting people would be much better.

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