That is how this trip went down. Picking a phone from Dartmoor Bike's R&D Manager - Jan Kiliński, is always a gamble. He may ask about the recent industry news, PR advice or invite you for a hell of a ride. We have been on the road for the past decade, so I know there is no certainty in his plans. Let's just "one up the last one". Getting a small brief about "going to Italian mountains by the end of the season to capture alpine biking" sounds excellent. "Oh, we will have a seasoned guide to show us around as he tests Dartmoor Bikes E-Thunderbird. Perfect.
Meet the riders: on the left Jan Kiliński and Paweł Kurczab on the right
Guide: Paweł Kurczab of the Endurofina YouTube channel is a cycling vagabond with a soft heart for ebikes. This gentle giant with his V6 Dodge was as intimidating as a guide could get. Navy seal appearance vanished just after making us a morning coffee and describing how we should manage the climb on little to no motor assistance to save the battery juice for the day. While carrying the media backpack with nearly 10kg of gear, I smiled and thanked myself for winter 2022, when I did not skip leg days.
The Julian Alps and the region of Prealpi Giulie/Regijski Naravni park Julijskih Predalp, just on the Slovenian border, are wild. Local people live off lodging and mining while providing curious looks as we passed them uphill. It's a small Italian enclave of lovely hearts and delicious beverages. The region is mainly known for its hiking trails. Still, with Paweł's experience in wandering and Trailforks, we found two single tracks surrounding the town we stayed in - Stanizza. With just a weekend to create a story, we woke for the sunrise and focused on the long day ahead!
As I am a "hot laps at the bike park" type of rider, I don't read red flags like "around 1500m+ vertical with 20% decent" as a threat. If you are going be dumb, you better be tough, as a classic Jackass song claims. With that in mind, I kept lying to myself about enjoying the high cadence on the eco mode with a big-ass backpack full of camera gear. Adventure! In front of us - one trail Paweł rode before and a completely unknown one left for day two.
What was I happy to pack on the trip? Apart from snacks and enough water for a day that is obligatory, I have a few spare CO2 containers, a tube, and essential tools to work on my stallion. The whole thing was shot on the Sony A7III with 14mm 1.8, 55mm 1.8, and 70-200mm 2.8 Sony primes. Drone shots are from DJI Mini 3 PRO, and videos are FX3 & A7III. As for the gang, we lost Paweł's derailleur just 15 minutes into Alpine ridge on day one and the second one on Jan's bike by the end of day two. So, get yourself a replacement, as it was around a 100km drive in between the days to pick a shifter locally. Oh, and always have your first aid kid and spare jacket - just in case!
Perfect eight hour-long "one lap"
As for the trails, it was "challenging, but epic" in the whole spectrum of this thought. With routes meant for hiking, we were lucky enough to meet maybe 2-3 people during our endeavor. Everyone was chill about riding respectfully by them. Yet, it's a significant node to stay alert, as getting help around here could be tricky. We kept our walkie-talkies on all the time, as phones had no signal, so even with just three of us, it was far better than yelling on the top of the mountain with high winds. It's all about bike control, maintaining speed in narrow spaces, and switchbacks in such terrain. With mostly front and back shots due to the ridge structure, having a drone is bliss to show how beautiful these mountains are.
As Paweł told us, "If the decent makes you thrilled but put a smile on your face by the end of it - the way up was worth it." With that in mind, I can easily say it was damn fun to challenge our inner bike park rats and explore uncharted territory. We may only ride two trails during the weekend but with 8 hours of biking experience each day! This is definitely enough to make us smile!
Off to the next one!