The 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.