Mountain Biking in Romania – Europe’s last great wilderness

Adventure Awaits
in Transylvania

Trail riding heaven in Romania

Take a trip to transfixing Transylvania

by Robert Thorpe, with additional content by Tudor Oprea & Larisa Chinces

Transylvania, a fascinating and quite beautiful region of Romania, has been central to European history for centuries. In more modern times, we tend to think of it simply in terms of the quite false literary account of Count Dracula. In truth, there’s so much more to Bran Castle than vampires, and there is definitely lots more to see and do when exploring what is rightly known as Europe’s last great wilderness.

The Carpathian Mountains are simply spectacular and sublime, with the endless forests and high meadows, that rise with the light coloured rocks standing sentinel over historic villages and towns. Sibiu, sitting nestled in the shadows of these mountains, is a world heritage site, with streets and squares closed to traffic and more historical buildings than you could dream of. Add to this that it has an international airport, with direct flights from London, Munich and elsewhere, and that its art festival (FITS) is second only to Edinburgh, then you’d be right in asking yourself “Why haven’t I been here already!”

Find your soul on sublime trails

There’s always been a heart-felt connection between the mountains and the human spirit. It recharges our soul and warms our heart, as we ride of hike or climb further into the hills, feeling that spiritual connection. Coming from a mountaineering and climbing background as I do, I recall those long hikes in to crags, weighed down by heavy rucksacks filled with gear, but lightened by the feeling inside of me. It’s still the same these days, as an older, greying version of me rides into the mountains on a very light and nimble Orbea Oiz mountain bike. I feel refreshed and warmed and alive once more. Last year, after a troubling time and too much loss in too short a period of time, it was to the mountains  that I retreated, taking regular hikes in solitude and rediscovering myself.

Whilst I live on the edge of the quite beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park, my heart seems to lie in Transylvania and its transfixing mountains, and amidst the history and majestic medieval history of Sibiu – probably my favourite town or city on earth. I love the people of the place, their warmth and kindness, their spirit of adventure and their friendliness and generosity. They are to me, unequalled in their altruism and love for life. Whilst here in the U.K. we seem to be largely focused on self interest these days, and the fitness of our nation is woeful at best – yes, it’s true – in Sibiu, you walk and ride freely and uninterrupted by  the absence of annoyance and the wealth of warmth that shines from the smiling faces of the local people. Romania and Transylvania is an area of Europe that is finally discovering its place in Europe, and it will quite rightly be at the centre of the action and adventure scene, with the Carpathian Mountains taking centre stage. Yes, you can head to the alps and take a week of uplifts, riding down busy trails in busy towns and the mountain biking equivalent of Trafalgar Square, or you can find your soul, exploring the endless trails of Transylvania – you choose.

Image: Larisa Chinces riding near Paltinis

Places to ride

There are so many options for riding here in Transylvania, that you’re literally spoilt for choice. However, basing yourself in Sibiu is always a good option. It has a superb international airport close to the city centre (15 minute drive), a wealth of history and culture, great restaurants and the ability to eat outside and enjoy the historic buildings, and a tourism and hotel network that is skilled in catering for travellers from around the world. My own favourite hotel is the Art Hotel, close to Piata Mare.

Travelling out to Paltinis, the mountain resort, is a mere 30km or so away, and car or van hire is cheap here too. On my own trips, we’ve always pre-booked a minibus and driver, which when split between the group is cheap and reliable, and you get their local knowledge too. In terms of the trails, you can ride for an hour or all day long. Many local mountain bikers take to the mountains on all day rides, exploring the high trails, all of which are well signed. And, with research, you’ll find mountain huts scattered in the hills, where you can get refreshments. However, the trails can also be long and isolated, so we’d recommend taking a well-packed Camelbak backpack, with fluids, snacks, spares for repairs and an extra jacket for if the weather cools down too much.

In terms of the weather here, in summer it can frequently be 30+ degrees in Sibiu, with 20/25+ in the mountains, albeit cooler higher up, so where sun protection too. Paltinis is the oldest mountain resort in Romania, and is also the home venue of the epic TRIADA mountain bike race series, organised by Tudor Oprea and the team, from TRIADA. Tudor is a former Olympic mountain bike rider and manager for the national team these days. His knowledge of the area and its trails is encyclopedic, which is why he’s our partner editor for the region. The trails recommended by the amazing guy, will be some of the best that you’ll ever ride – anywhere in the world.

TRIADA & the Trilogy of the Trails

With thousands of miles of trails to explore, and a forested paradise for mountain bike lovers, it was only a matter of time before a world-class event idea to came into being. Tudor Oprea and the TRIADA race series team and taking things to a whole new level for 2024 and beyond, with the new off-road biking festival, ‘the Trilogy of the Trails.’

Taking place over three weekends, in April, late June and September, using Avrig near Sibiu and also Paltinis, the new event is designed for 3 different bike riding styles: E-Bike, mountain bike, and finally, the growing genre of gravel biking. Yes, riders from all three disciplines can take to the foothills and mountains, and find their own challenge, as each weekend event has entries at all levels, from young kids, weekend warriors to elite and world class riders. There are also equal events for men and for women, which we like here at Pedalnorth, being the biggest promoter of ladies cycling online.

If you’d like more information, then simply click the link below and plan your own adventure for 2024, taking on the Trilogy of the Trails in transfixing Transylvania!

Image: Larisa Chinces riding with Camelbak near Paltinis

Let Pedalnorth help to guide your ride!

With skilled riders and writers such as Larisa Chinces leading our team over many years, we’ve built up some great contacts and a wealth of knowledge regarding the mountain biking opportunities and accessibility in Transylvania. If you’d like us to help you with your own plans and ideas for an adventure, then why not send us an email using our contact form. We’ll put you in touch with the right people, give you advice on hotels, and guides, plus where to hire a bike if you don’t want to bring your own.

The map below also gives you links to many of our own favourite mountain bike routes in the region. We’re also looking to expand our team of people who help us to identify the awesome mountain bike routes in Transylvania; so if you’re a local rider to the region and have a great ride for us to map out, then let us know!

In a crazy and often chaotic world, we all need to find ourselves and to find an escape from the daily routine every now and then. Transylvania trail riding and mountain biking takes you into one of the most beautiful and natural landscapes in the world, with the added bonus of amazingly beautiful towns and small cites, filled with history and culture. Isn’t it time then that you joined the new off-road riding revolution and found your soul, on a 2-wheeled adventure in transfixing  Transylvania

Related Content