BULGARIAN ROAD TRIP
Words: Jérôme Clementz // Photography: Reuiller Jérémie
Bulgaria is not the first tourism destination that will come in mind to most people, and even less for mountain biking. I have to admit that I never consider to visit this place until I got invited to an outdoor Film festival in Sofia in November 2016.
During the festival they broadcast some video of different sports filmed in Bulgaria and I noticed some beautiful mountain, scenic places and trails that looked rad. In the meantime I met the Bulgarian MTB scene and they were all keen to show me around. I told them, I'll be back!Step 1: Borovets
Borovets is one of the closest ski centers from Sofia. In the summer it offers a bike park but also some cool natural ridgeline below the highest peak of Bulgaria called Mousala (2925m).
We are at the limit of the vegetation and the glacial rock garden with views over Borovets and Sofia in the background. The trail is technical and we have to find our way beetween massive rocks and these typical local dwarf pine that spread along the ground to 2m heigh. In these conditions the speed is not too high but it’s a challenge to try to find the smoothest line and not putting a foot down.
On the way down we enter a pine forest and the flow gets better and faster, not many riders rode this trail so it’s loamy and full of pine cones, perfect to drift and slide around.
After a little climb we get to the bike park, the good surprise is that there is a brand new trail freshly cut, with some berms, jump and roller. We didn’t ask for more and we start shredding all the way down, sending it over everything, jibbing when we could with a smile on our lips. Step 2: 7 Rila lakes
If you Google Tourism Bulgaria it will probably be the first destination that will pop out. It’s an iconic place with 7 lakes that are like stairs in the mountain.
It’s the end of the spring and there is still snow and iceberg, which make the scene even more epic.
We play around on the different trails linking the lakes, for the afternoon, before starting our descent toward the valley on a long and fun trail, sorry we didn’t stop for photos but it was so good that we forgot to stop!Step 3: Bansko and Pirin range
Andy, from the White lavina hotel, is our host, he’s a former ski freeride world tour rider and develop MTB in the area with trail and bike camp for kids and adults. After a proper Bulgarian dinner where we tasted some local wine and Rakia (local Grappa) assorted with some meat on the grill, we get some rest.
For the first day we start a ride to discover the high alpine, the surrounding is majestic, with the peak in the sky and the sea of cloud in the valley. The trail is not the easiest to ride and there is some hike a bike, but the view and the way down to the mountain hut make it worth.
The dirt is just perfect with the little rain of the last evening, the natural movement of the terrain makes the ride playful
Some of the trails were used for the national enduro race last year and some are fresh. The gradient in this part of the mountain is perfect and you need neither to pedal nor to break and just play between the rocks, roots, and turn around the trees and ferns.Step 4: Petrich
We continue our trip down south! Petrich is nested at the bottom of a massive mountain range that makes the border with Greece and Macedonia and has a big MTB scene.
Our goal was to get to the summit of Mt Kongur (1951m) which mark the border with Greece. From the top you can see Greece and Macedonia and there is a unique singletrack on the ridge towards Petrich. A flowy ride with an amazing scenery in the middle of nowhere.
The locals built tons of trails on the lower parts with jumps, berms and north shore. Some of them are huge and to be honest I did not send everything on my trail bike and open face
But I rode and jump some stuff that was outside my comfort zone, for the camera and the photo. This feeling never gets old, when you land and clear something big for the first time, there is this adrenaline rush and excitement running through your body that just make you stoked.
For this journey we weren’t disappointed and Bulgaria delivered unexpected quality and variety of riding, and our guide said there is more to see. Definitely it’s a destination you can add on your travel list.
Dobromir and Tsvetelin were priceless with all the information, planning and guiding and once again they proved that travelling with the locals bring so much more to the experience and teach you a lot about a country, it’s culture and lifestyle.
Big thanks to Dobromir Dobrev from www.bike-ventures.com and Tsvetelin Ivanov Cuco from Pulse Cycles for the guidance and help, Andy from www.lavina.bg for having us in Bansko. Last but not least Thanks Jérémie Reuiller for the Photos and Pierre Henni for the videos.
I suppose there's a deep lesson in all of this, like "take away all the man-made boundaries, and we're all the same, man." But there's something to hippy-dippy about that for me. I think I'll settle for: "Fun can be found right outside your backdoor. You don't have to travel all the way around the world for it."
I'm glad you had a great time in my home country, the MTB scene is still underdeveloped, but hopefully things are going in the right directions!
Sopot is definitely the most extreme riding but its has struggled with help and keeping it maintained.
Trial forks does work well i tried it with alot of success this year.
Well done all the bg crew????????
We just decided to go south west and Sopot was not on our way. Bulgaria is big and we couldn't visit all the riding spot in 1 week!