Video & Photo Story: Visiting 4 Developing MTB Communities in the Balkans

Sep 16, 2018
by zam  


Views: 1,980    Faves: 3    Comments: 0


The Zam crew and Richard Gaspi Gasperotti visited countries of former Yugoslavia and Albania to find both true friends and great riders.

"Zam" means journey in the Mongolian language. It‘s also a name of a unique mountain bike project that was founded seven years ago. The Zam is a story depicting the journey of Richard "Gaspi" Gasperotti (41), European mountain biking legend and four-time Red Bull Rampage participant. The goal of the project is to travel to the countries where mountain biking is just in its beginnings, with the intention of introducing the emerging communities to the rest of the world. This time, we decided to travel through the four beautiful countries of Balkan with the intention of meeting as many local riders as possible.

photo Adam Marsal



Kosovo

The basic rule of the Zam project is, there are no rules. Less than a week before departing, we contacted the bike club in Suharekë, Kosovo, and the guys there told us they would be waiting for us with the bikes ready. Kosovo is a young country and everything is very cheap and the people are more than friendly. Good English is common as the guys want to learn as much as possible about foreign countries, where - with the Kosovo passport - it's not easy to enter. The bikers introduced themselves as Arnold, Ideal, Arianit or Shkodran. In two days, they presented most of their trails to us. In the green vegetation of Sharr Mountain, we had a great time together, following with a proper dinner including pljeskavica, grilled dish of spiced meat patty mixture of pork, beef and lamb served with raw onions. The next morning we set off and headed to Albania.

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal


photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal




Albania

From Suharekë to Albania, we took a brand new Albania-Kosovo Highway. Dubbed the “patriotic highway”, the project links Albanians in Kosovo and Albania, helping to boost cultural and economic ties. Albania has made a leap many other could only dream of. The progress made in recent years is outstanding, represented by modern highways, spectacular constructions, and magnificent architecture. Even here, a group of four travelers got a great meal for a total price of 10 euros including drinks. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the mountainous villages of Theth and Valbonna was horrible, and so we had to reschedule our trip and change the direction for the capital city of Tirana. With the help of Facebook, we got in touch with local rider Andi Qyqja who met us in front of the university. For a big part of the year, Andi works in Italy as a bike guide, however, he loves Albania the most. After a wonderful afternoon spent filming and riding on the trails of the Lalmi hill, we returned to downtown and visited the “Albania Off-Road Cycling” bike shop. Owner of the shop Endritt Lala arranges bike trips or service maintenance for anyone interested. You can reach him on his website: www.aorc.al.

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal




Montenegro

Montenegro is a fascinating country with a charming coast that is regrettably far less visited by tourist than the resorts in Croatia or Slovenia. Our next destination was Boka Kotorska - a winding bay that once accommodated an Austrian-Hungarian war fleet. Overlooking the deep blue bay from the surrounding mountains, you'd naturally recollect the landscapes of the Norwegian fjords. From this point Gaspi took a beautiful narrow hiking path, descending back to the sea level. You can find the beginning of the trail close to the Jadran restaurant, dwelling at 950 m, by the road leading from Kotor to the ancient town of Cetinje. The trail running through the pine woods is very rocky and sometimes uneven so you really should watch out to avoid the risk of a crash. After a rocky ride down the hiking trail with 70 switchbacks, we entered the ancient city of Kotor, the most appealing place to spend a late afternoon visiting orthodox churches, wandering through the narrow streets and drinking local beer. In the night, we moved to Zabljak resort situated in the middle of Durmitor national park. Finally, we had an opportunity to ride in the big mountains, with the peaks still covered with snow. The park resembles Canadian backcountry and so we could recommend this area for all lovers of real wilderness.

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal



Bosnia and Herzegovina

Crossing the border to Bosnia from the South was quite terrifying as the signs warned us about the dangerous mines still scattered in the area surrounding the road. Our mood lifted after passing some resorts providing canoeists and rafters with the equipment to float down the Drina river. Our final destination was Sarajevo, the magic city with a sad history connected to the siege of the 90s. Luckily, the grief and sorrow have gone, and we spent a great time enjoying its hospitality. Although we weren't the first bikers with the idea to ride down the Sarajevo Olympic Bobsleigh and Luge Track, we didn't want to miss the opportunity. The track is situated on Trebević mountain overlooking the City of Sarajevo, built for the 1984 Winter Olympics. During the Sarajevo Siege from 1992 till 1996, the bobsled and luge track were used by the Bosnian Serbs as a base for artillery but today it is a museum which has been covered by graffiti artists. It's possible to ride down it, however, double check if there's no group of school kids hiking up which is exactly what we experienced there. In the afternoon, we made an appointment with the guys from the legendary Savages Crew of Sarajevo, an 11-member gang of enthusiastic downhill maniacs from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their story began a few years ago when they started to build short bike tracks on Trebević Mountain located 15 minutes from Center of Sarajevo City. A time went on, they built more and more, so now, they have managed to create a full downhill track with a length of about 2.4 kilometers. They are constantly trying to improve the course and make it even faster, more extreme and demanding for riders. The crew is especially committed to preserving the natural environment through constant cooperation with environmental experts and activists and aim to have a minimum human impact on nature.

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal

photo Adam Marsal
photo Adam Marsal


Aftermath

Even though the Balkan trip has been the shortest event in the Zam project history, we had fun all the way and on top of it, we made new friends everywhere we stopped. With most of the guys we met, we stay in touch which is the greatest benefit of traveling and exploring. This way, biking community can grow and get united all over the world. See you somewhere else next time!

Full documentary movie coming soon

photo Adam Marsal

zam6 team
rider Richard Gasperotti
camera Martin Smolík
photo Adam Maršál
holidayman Lukáš Jusko

photo Adam Marsal

Big thanks to the locals:
Theranda MTB Crew | Kosovo
Andi Qyqja | Bike Point Albania
Savages crew | www.savagescrew.com


24 Comments

  • + 8
 I know this will get me downvotes, but the Albanian folks I experienced in Kosovo have made me never want to visit Albania or Kosovo ever again. I'd discourage anyone from going to either place. Bosnia and Croatia on the other hand are full of truly wonderful people who would give you the shirts off their backs. Many of the Serbs I met were also very decent people.
  • + 6
 You should check Serbia next time when on the Balkan trip...you will not be dissapointed
  • - 13
flag Euskafreez (Sep 16, 2018 at 6:04) (Below Threshold)
 What a joke bru. Kosovo je Srbija !
  • - 9
flag Euskafreez (Sep 16, 2018 at 11:00) (Below Threshold)
 Being downvoted by kebabs is priceless. Three fingers high all day everyday!
  • + 6
 @Euskafreez: for all respect for your opinion but what are you saying,in which era you living?we are a community that we have a passion for bike.please open the mind.
  • + 3
 @oqyqe: some minds just cant be opened... hope to see you in belgrade trails sometimes Smile
  • + 1
 @glavonja: next season ????????
  • + 2
 I would love to go over to eastern europe. Looking at a family road trip from italy round the coast through solvenia, croatia (again), etc next year. Probably no bikes. It is weird though how you get these preconceived ideas in your head though. I went to yugoslavia as a kid just before the war and there was a real air of evil. Then i saw it on the news and now work with guys that were UN peacekeepers there. It was horrific. Its amazing it bounced back and an awesome destination. Good trip guys.
  • + 2
 Spent time in Sarajevo at the end of the siege an all I could think about was how rad the mountains looked for mountain biking. Then I wondered how many years it would take to clear the land mines. I would love to someday be able to afford to return and check out the place and get to ride trails.
  • + 1
 Landmines are not really an issue there are countless places to ride.
  • + 2
 Here is the soundtrack for the film, just in case you haven`t decided yet www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtgA0jvhp2A
  • + 3
 Bulgaria next! You won't be disappointed Smile
  • + 2
 BOMBYČKA.....!!!! :-D
  • + 1
 You should come by Macedonia too, we have some sick trails
  • + 1
 civsa teze... Smile
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