The Poland Gravel Race route is the most beautiful (all-road) route through the eastern part of the Polish mountains.* I do not know if this is true, but I will stick to this statement.
Everything is simple in life.
My connections and plans, sir, are always perfect. How did it happen that I appeared on the tour with the organizers - do not be afraid of the words - the best, gravel race in this country? I do not know. I do know that the total planning time for this rash was probably a dozen or so minutes. I will describe it briefly to you, because it's sunny outside, so it's better to go out and breathe the air than sit on the internet. And if you do not know where to go on a bike here, it means that you did not go on PGR routes. For me, the list of places to visit during the summer holidays has grown significantly.
The detour was to verify the condition of the currently existing route, slightly modified by the virological situation. And the time it is passable for an ambitious average person - that's me.
For me, since we live in Męcikała, everything is simple:
On Tuesday after work, Sylwia drove me to Czersk, from which I had a regional train to Tczew, from which I had a regional train to Malbork, from which I had Intercity to Eastern Warsaw. There I ate two kebabs at the Windmill, I did some kebabs at home (with breaks for the bathroom after kebabs), worked and ran again to Wschodnia, from which, together with Michał, we drove Intercity to Lublin, from which we went to Stalowa Wola, stuffed up to the ceiling, from which We went regional to Grodzisk Dolny, from which we took a substitute bus transport to Przeworsk, from which we went to Przemyśl in the regional one. There overnight in Under the White Eagle to the accompaniment of pizza and the first goal was achieved.
Then all that's left is to drive 550 km of the Poland Gravel Race and, after a few major and minor adventures, check in at Głodówka. As befits one of the largest mountain resorts in the country - it is impossible to come back from it, so we cycle to Krakow. The road is the worst in the world, but we still do it faster than cars that need 6 hours to cover the Zakopane-Krakow section on that day.
In Krakow, pizza and sweetness, to wake up at 3:50 and go to the station, from which we have a comfortable connection to Wschodnia, from which I have so much to go home that at 9:00 I check in at my computer at work. On the way, I change the reservation of my return Pendolino to an earlier hour, thanks to which I miss it and the bike does not fit on the next trains. I spend the afternoon trying to return an unused ticket. In the evening, I return to Tczew by another Pendolin, from which after half an hour I go to Czersk, from which a girl will pick me up and after half an hour I will be in Męcikała.
As I said - everything is very simple, now let's get down to business.
Because the hardware is the most important thing and everyone knows it. Only the tires are more important, but it's also hardware.
Bike: Factor Vista + Goodyear County Ultimate 35mm tires
Bags: Apidura backcoutry seat 14l + under the frame Apidura backcoutry 5.3l
Clothes: Eroe shorts, Rapha Classic Jersey II T-shirt + Rapha Brevet baselayer, ROADR 900 decathlon socks, Luxa Midnight sweatshirt, technical t-shirt, waterproof running pants from Decathlon, ultralight Endura FS-260 Pro, Sportful sleeves, old socks and t-shirt which I throw away after the first night, short gloves and rain gloves (Roeckl Malvas)
Spanko: 2-person tent aptly named Big Agnes copper spur hv ul2 bikepack + Cumulus sleeping bag, Klymit insulated v ultralite sl mattress
Lumber: some bars, fast usb charger + 4in1 cable, camera, 10k powerbank, bactericidal wipes, multitool, tubeless repair straps, grease, a small Decathlon backpack.
- Experimentally, I put the tent poles under the frame instead of attaching it to the tent at the steering wheel - it's more convenient, and the loss of space doesn't hurt me too much.
- I drive in the Baselayer even when it is super warm, because it is easier to dry and the T-shirt does not stink.
- The Klymit insulated v ultralite sl mattress is too small for me (188cm), but when packed it is so much smaller than my Sea To Summit UltraLight Insulated (L), that I prefer to ride with it anyway.
- I do not take the leggings, because when it is cold and / or it rains, I put my long pants over the cycling shorts and this is a strong bikepacking discovery, because the pants take up little more space than the legs.
- I would add that the Eroe shorts are the best in the world, but the guys are riding in civilian shorts and some even wearing civilian shirts (not shirts) so a bit silly. Thanks to this, however, it is known that you can ride the route elegantly in a shirt and now you can buy a PGR gravel shirt in the shop: https://www.am-cycling.com/shop/gravel-black-shirt-pgr/
- I like the 14l saddle more than the 9l seat (with which I was traveling, for example, through California) - even if I am carrying the same number of items.
- At the moment, I cannot imagine replacing the tent with the recently popular hammocks. Maybe because I didn't use the hammock, but I have a feeling the hammock people didn't use the good tents either, so it's a draw. The weight is similar, the size is similar, I spread it in about 2-3 minutes, pack it in 4. Two people fit inside and it is possible to sit under the roof like a man.
You can have doubts when you read about one T-shirt and shorts for 4 days, but you know how it is. Either you smell it or you carry it.
The most important application to the internet is of course:
38mm tires are faster than 35mm tires on this route and aluminum is faster than carbon fiber. I am saying this on the basis of the fact that Michał, with whom I am going, reports 4 seconds faster at the finish line. Would the result be different if he knew we were racing and I knew where the finish was? Maybe…
The PGR route is ~ 550km and about 10km up.
As it is easy to calculate, there is about 2k elevation differences per 100 km, which is for me the lower limit of the term "solid mountains". Only rarely do such mountains last non-stop, as here. The description and the track can be found on the website: https://pgr.kolo-ultra.pl/trasa-pgr2021/. Quoting "goes through: Przemyskie Foothills, Sanocko-Turczańskie Mountains, Bieszczady, Beskid Niski, Beskid Sądecki, Pieniny and Spisz. We add another 120 km to get to a sensible railway station, i.e. Krakow. The route Zakopane -> Krakow is bad, and the more sunny weekend ends outside, the worse. In our case it ends the most, so it is the worst. The only thing that saves the situation at the finish line is pizza z Pizza Garden. It may not be the best place to enter it with 4 days of dirt, but it does not bother us particularly. Nobody from the surrounding tables reports that they got a 4-cheese pizza despite ordering a Capricciosa.
I have never been to Wierchomla, Grandeus, Nurseries, near San, in the Magura National Park and several other places that have left a positive impression on me. But I was in Szczawnica, which is just as good all the time. Going down from empty nurseries to a city full of colors and sounds is like a shot in the face. Tourists are great though.
The exact description of our ride and the conclusions can be found in this text, so in general, you do not need to read this post anymore:
If I were to describe the Poland Gravel Race in one word, it would be: hard. To my surprise, however, it is completely different hard than I thought. Mainly because the difficulty is due to the topography, not the ground. The hills are mostly short and steep, but sometimes long and very steep (greetings, Nurseries). Łapszanka or Głodówka has never been so easy as when Nurseries rattled in your mind.
As proof, I will say this: Nurseries are 8.5 km off-road with an average of 8%, and the final 5 km is over 10%. If you have a sensor on the fork that measures the distance, it is worth moving it to the far wheel, because it will certainly make more mileage than the front ;-)
Komoot says that at 556km: 264km is asphalt and 127km is a paved road.
I am very happy about it, because I remind you that I ride 35mm semi-slicks, and my driving technique corresponds more or less to people training turning in traffic towns. The calculations show that the route is passable (here it is worth noting that we bypassed OS Hawran) is about 99.999%.
Throughout the entire PGR route, I have a nice feeling that when I'm driving on an unpaved road, it makes sense and for a reason other than: you have to go off-road because it's an off-road race! Let's be honest, graveling around the area for too long is not pleasant. At least for me. This interweaving is just right for me, although I would probably say differently if I had a purebred 45mm Greylum. But I don't, so I don't say.
The most technically difficult moment of the tour is packing my sleeping bag into a compression bag.
As for the views, I hope the photos speak for themselves. This is one of those routes on which you write down several times in your head: oh, I have to come back here, do some more. I have set the Low Beskid as a priority for my return. Priority priority!
It seems to me that by riding with human reason and dignity (i.e. eating, sleeping, enjoying the views and the ride), the average cycling mortal is able to set off from Przemyśl on Thursday morning and (more or less) check in at the finish line in the early Saturday afternoon. Nevertheless, the medal of the brave cyclist belongs to everyone who finishes this route. Sincerely.
We go with tents, sleeping bags, mattresses. I mean, I'm going, the guys are professionals and instead of tents they have bivas (such an expensive garbage bag that you put your sleeping bag in).
We use them only in the first stage - the one without civilization. Because the long lack of civilization in the Bieszczady Mountains means that when one suddenly appears, there is also a lot of people there. A nice lady in the first potential accommodation looks at us as aliens when we ask for a free place on a long weekend. So we sleep in the campsite - the main criterion for this choice is the distance from the pork chop with wild garlic, which we eat in Smerek stop, so it is located in the same facility. We pay PLN 15 per head + PLN 1.80 (necessarily in cash) for a piece of lawn and the possibility of draining the water after visiting the toilet.
At night, the temperature drops by about 20 degrees. I spend the night listening to the bones bursting from the cold in the neighboring tents and thinking about what I will open up to the biva boys in the morning. On the one hand, I am afraid to drink, because the vision of an emergency exit to pee at night is terrifying, on the other - I visualize the usefulness of warm urine in defrosting my colleagues.
The second and third nights are full of civilization. Nowica 21 - found through verbal communication with people in the village and Agritourism "Na Chmielniku" in the town of Grywałd - by means of verbal and telephone communication to places found on Google Maps (because in the Tatras / Pieniny it is not good with Booking). Especially the second one is worth recommending, because not only is the best breakfast you can imagine for PLN 20, but the bikes are the safest in the world. Based on a tractor, between chickens, kittens, little dogs and Harnasie, which is a bit like The Never Ending Story character.
In Krakow, we sleep once again in Krakow Central Apartments. It is cool (although we are on the 3rd floor, and not on the ground floor, as last year), because it is an accommodation practically next to the station and you enter at any time with a "code", so no one is bothered by bicycles.
If you have a bike with a tire wider than 32mm and you like mountains - I recommend it. As if to think that the route can be continued, e.g. through Slovak Fatra, fly Czech Moravia (our last year's variant), and then Jesenik, the Kłodzko Region, the Karkonosze Mountains ... the head explodes.
I recommend it very much. It is only worth having a lot of time or any form, so that your knees do not swing sideways for six months.