Crossing Poland from North to South. My bike trip story.
Crossing Poland from north to south or from south to north is something I’m doing for half of my life now. In the beginning, I traveled by train, later by car, but…. never by bike! Till that one day when I came to an idea to go to… Cracow. The historical and iconic city of Poland.Spontaneously.Without planning and big preparations.The plan was to go for a 500 kilometers trip in two days. Alone. I’m aware it’s not a big achievement for a good cyclist. But you must know I’m a total amateur.
Someone recently has told me that you become a cyclist after three years. I am cycling for a year and a half. So still can’t call myself a cyclist. After my first big trip over 200 km in May this year, I have learned that I can’t ride fast but I can ride far 🙂
So the decision was made. I checked the route and decided to divide the trip for two days, 300 km in one day, and the rest in second. It was great because for some time I wanted to do my first 300 km ride. I’ve booked a hotel for the first night in halfway and… I was ready to go!
Of course, this brilliant plan was a nightmare for my husband 😅 He wasn’t happy with it at all. Such a long, alone ride for a girl may seem dangerous. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to stop me once I made my mind 😅 [Here is useful tip no. 1 – sharing real localization via Google maps is a truly great option. Do not hesitate to use it. ]
I’ve had no experience in backpacking before and had no panniers and I decided NOT to buy it in a rush. There wasn’t even time for that. I’ve chosen to take a rucksack. And… It was a huuuuge mistake. Never, ever take 5 or 6 kilos on your back when pedal 300 km!!!! [Useful tip no. 2- don’t be stupid as me, use panniers]
Generally, this story is more about things you should never do! 😉
So on Wednesday I prepared and checked my bike, packed myself, and was ready. I was so excited that I could not fall asleep. At 4.00 am on Thursday (after 3 hours of sleep 🤦♀️) I set off. I think the most difficult was the first 30 kilometers. It was dark, I had this rucksack on my back which annoyed me from the very beginning, I had a long ride to make and I was a bit unsure if a make it. Whether everything will go fine. There were a lot of thoughts in my head.
But after one or two hours I stopped for a coffee, had a sandwich and I regain my good mood and self-confidence. It’s not a big deal. You just need to keep pedaling. Nothing more.
When doing such long rides it’s necessary to remember about drinking and eating. I have had always a problem with this. So take a sip of water every 15 minutes. You cannot dehydrate yourself. I tried also to take short breaks every one or two hours for a rest and some snacks. I don’t use any energetic gels or bars, I don’t like them, I prefer to eat a banana or some doughnut for example, but it’s up to you whatever you choose. I’ve also stopped for lunch. Twice 😅 The first lunch break was at 12. I’ve eaten some meat and rice. Later at 5 pm, I had some pancakes.
The first 300 km passed without bigger difficulties. I enjoyed the ride, views. The worst was the last 5 km… I guess it was the worst 5 km in my cycling life so far. And no, it was not because I was tired… All because of the road. My navigation decided that the only possible way to get into Sulejów ( the town of my first destination) is to ride along the country road no. 74… In the dark (because it was already 9.30 pm), with no path for bicycles, with no roadside, with huge traffic like on the highway… I was terrified. I was afraid that I would be hit by a truck or car. I turned on all possibles lights I had with me and frightened, angry and desperate, I hit this road. Everything went fine. I survived. [Useful tip no. 3, take more light than you think you may need, you never know what will happen on the road. At this moment I was so thankful to my husband that he almost forced me to take one more flashlight ].
After I got into the hotel I immediately went shopping. Thankfully there was still open Żabka (groceries) just around the corner. You may believe or not, but polish dumplings, heated in a microwave, eaten at 11 pm, never tasted better than it that particular moment😅
The next day I wanted to start a ride at 7, but when the alarm rang at 6, I was totally unconscious… My body needed more sleep. So I got up a bit later, had breakfast, coffee and went to take some pictures in Sulejów. There is The monastery complex of the Cistercian abbey in the city, build in the XII century. Great place to take some nice shots.
There is only thing I don’t like about long rides. No time for sightseeing. If I wanted to stop for every nice place, building, castle I was passing on my way, this journey would probably take a week, not two days 🙂
So day two actually started at 10. I was afraid of that day very much. I didn’t know how my body would react. Whether I will feel tired. Whether my legs won’t sore. But to be honest. I felt great. This second day was even better. The weather was great, the views were nice, the roads were pretty good… What else do you need? I felt a real pleasure from the ride. I was pedaling with a big smile on my face. Everything was going perfect until 50 before my destination point. I stopped for ice cream. It was a mistake 😆 [Useful tip no. 4, if you feel good and have a good ride, don’t make unnecessary stops! ]
After this break, I felt I’m tired and don’t want to cycle anymore and at the same time I was aware that the worst is still to come… Hills and climbing! I was very close to Cracow, and it’s upland area. It was the moment I felt something wrong is starting to happen with my Achilles tendon. It started to sore.
Did I already tell you that I’m amateur cyclists? So I have never been to bike fitting and I’m still not using SPD pedals (yes, yes, I know, shame on me) So this ride learned me that proper position on the bike is essential when doing such distances and my injury was caused by my lack of knowledge.
But… There was still a ride to do. So, not paying attention to my tendon, I kept pedaling, excited I’m so close.
About 20 km before Cracow, I’ve met with my instafriend, @wroblewski_cycling who helped me to ride through this big city so the story from the day one didn’t repeat. I’m so pleased that social media and Instagram give me an opportunity to met such great people 😇
The essential destination was Main Market Square in Cracow. It looked amazing while golden hour, just before the sunset.
From the Main Market, I still had 4 or 5 km to do to my friend’s place, where I was going to stay for the next two nights. I don’t really remember how I have done that. Almost with tears in my eyes and with very, very big pain in my right Achilles tendon, I just kept riding. After I reached the destination I stopped Strava. Day two and 182,5 km. 488 km in two days.
I was tired, sore but so so happy that I made it. And, what’s more important, I do know now, it’s not a limit of my abilities 😊
What is a recipe for a long ride? I don’t know, probably everyone has its own. Do not think too much about the ride. Just keep pedaling.
Write by @little_one_84