The slope descends rapidly among sharp stones and sand, while the road narrows into a trail that falls to the right. Ok then… which way do I go? High up on my bike, I try to evaluate the trajectory which is to keep me vertical, while the only thought running through my head is to let the front wheel run, unless I want to test the resistance of my helmet. Truth be told, I ride rather slowly (too slow, as some might say), and a fall would only damage my morale. The boys are being patient with me and are as encouraging as ever.
The climb starts in Sibiel (a touristy village near Sibiu) and we ride up till we reach Crint. There are two different tracks to Crint from Sibiel: one is through the valley, and the other is through Poiana Soarelui. The ride is longer through Poiana Soarelui, but prettier and more varied. Through the valley it’s shorter and more intense, but also terribly monotonous – you just go through the woods, each turn looking exactly like the next, not really knowing how much more you have to go, till you finally reach the point where the trees end and you find yourself in an opening –finally you reached Crint. At least the ride is under constant shade, which is a big bonus during the heat of mid summer.
Once at Crint, there are several ways of getting yourself down again: by taking a cart road to a village called Gura Raului, but it is quite technical – I am amble to climb it, but I refuse to ride down on it; through Poiana Soarelui which I just mentioned, which I really like and have the guts to let myself go on the descents; or by taking the dirt road on the poetically named Dove Ridge – which is in fact a detour, lengthening the ride considerably. This was the track that we were supposed to follow today – I had kept avoiding it during our last rides to Crint, complaining that it was too long, or I was already tired, I had muscle cramps etc. Excuses which I was now too ashamed to bring up with the group, and so decided to just go along with it.
The Dove Ridge is apparently very picturesque: winding through the alpine pastures at an altitude of 1.200m, passing by old farm houses, sheep herds, peasants quietly driving their horse carts. On a clear day, the visibility is spotless, you can see way to Cindrel and even the Apuseni Mountains. I however, can’t tell you much about its beauties: I was too concentrated on the descents, trying to control my bike and my fears, as I passed through mud, puddles, sand, stones and small boulders. I would get off the bike if things got too complicated. I do exaggerate, the descent is not really all that difficult, as the inclination is fairly mellow, but it is too technical for my abilities. We also stopped quite a lot, which allowed me to catch my breath, relax, and admire the breathtaking landscape. For the more experienced rider, the bike tour from Sibiel – Crint – Dove Ridge (Creasta Porumbelului, in Romanian) – Jina – and back to Sibiel will be a revelation. It is a very friendly ride, 60 km of joy through unspoilt rural Romania.