Region Information: In March 2014, following the overthrow of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, unmarked Russian forces with local militias took control of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. The Russian-controlled authorities held a referendum on Crimea joining the Russian Federation, after which the territory was formally joined to the Russian Federation as two federal subjects: the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine deemed the referendum unconstitutional and Ukraine continues to assert its rights over the peninsula with most UN member countries continuing to regard Crimea as Ukrainian territory.
The following is a trip was undertaken by long term Pinkbike users to Crimea
When someone mentions Russia you think of cold long winters, a couple meters of snow, Siberia, vodka and bears wandering around on the streets—the usual stereotype. But many don't even imagine that due to the vast terrain of the country and the wide variety of terrain, you can find anything in Russia, ever frozen lands (permafrost), long winters with -50 Celcius and alike. But in the South, you have places where it barely snows and average temperatures rise above +10 Celcius. Also, the tallest mountain in Europe is Elbrus mountain, located in Caucasus mountain range, precisely in the South, not far from Crimea.
Crimea is one of those privileged places, with warm and dry summers and short, not very cold winters. Recently there was a lot of talking about this region due to political conflicts between Russian and the Ukraine. Many friends commented, "Are you sure, what about security there?". Well, my friends, there are no issues at all in Crimea, security is not a problem at all. A large percentage of the local population has Russian roots for generations, so switching from Ucrania to Russia was not an issue for them, on the contrary, most of them are really happy with it due to the quick increase of Russian tourists and all of the business possibilities that come with that. Historically, Crimea has been the main summer tourist destination for all ex-soviet citizens; currently citizens from around 15 different countries. So everyone cares more about the increased number of tourists and therefore the increase on businesses and income related to this.
And what about mountain biking, what can you say about it? Well, welcome to the paradise. Mountains up to about 1,700m high, with a wide variety of terrain and a huge trail network for all levels. I stayed for three weeks in the small town Alushta, just 70km (one hour drive) from Simferopol where the international airports are located. Alushta is right on the seashore on the beautiful Black Sea, surrounded by a U-shaped mountain range with the highest peak ranging around 1,500m. This location offers an extensive variety of trails, flowy, technical, steep, fast, all kind of them, many ending just five minutes from the sea where to enjoy a fresh local beer once you finish the ride and even take a plunge into the sea if you feel brave enough.
I planned my three weeks of riding with the help of BikeTest.ru
, a small but active company focused 100% on MTB routes for all levels. Their main leader and guide is known Russian rider, Vados Barbados, with more than 25 years of riding experience. In the 90´s and beginning of the 2000's, he used to race professionally and even participated on several DH world cups in Fort Williams, Vigo, and Catalunya. With those credentials, fun is assured.
I booked my flight to Crimea just one month before my trip, so it was somewhat on the pricey side, around 300€ from Spain to Simferopol. But if you plan ahead several months, you can get two-way tickets for less than 200€ from Spain and other locations in Europe. All flights pass through Moscow where you need to do a change to a local flight to get to Simferopol in Crimea. There aren't, at least for now, direct flights from European countries to Crimea. Aeroflot was my chosen airline, it offered the best price. Also, if you travel light and your bike box doesn't weight more than 23kg, there is no need to pay extra for the bike. So you save about 50€ as compared to other airlines. Just grab all your clothes and helmet with you on the cabin luggage, that's what I've done without any issues. For three weeks, it was more than enough for me, so if you plan for just one week, you will be covered.
BiketTest.ru offers pickup and drop off at the airport, so you don't need to worry about a taxi, bus or alike. After 1h drive you arrive at Alushta, the accommodation suggested by BikeTest.ru is a "bike friendly" small hotel with 12 double rooms and one attic for four persons. It has a secure room for the bikes, washing station, and a staff perfectly aware of riders necessities. It has a small restaurant where they offer tasty local food and breakfast. The hotel is located a five-minute ride from the sea and town center where you have plenty of places to choose to eat and enjoy a nice holiday. Prices are usually around 30–40% less than in most European countries. And, what's most important, about just 1h slow pedaling from the first trails.
Trails, what about trails?! Let me tell you, there is a lot more than you will be able to ride in one week. I spent three weeks riding, doing around 40km long routes on a daily basis, some days combining lifts and some pedaling and still didn't tried all the trails around. Just about 30-minute pedaling from the city you have already several fun flowy trails for all levels, mainly green and blue levels as Ceraus, Ai-Iori, Mamontovaya or Alushta trails. BikeTest offers several options according to each group of riders, trying to accommodate same level riders on one group so the ride satisfies everyone. There are also technical step trails for the hardcore riders with a lot of exposed zones, rock gardens and more gnarly sections.
BikeTest offers several options according to each group of riders, trying to accommodate the same level riders to one group so the ride satisfies everyone. There are also technical step trails for the hardcore riders with a lot of exposed zones, rock gardens and more gnarly sections. Trails like Iagodka, Zimelinika, Man, Zpovednii, will leave you with a big smile on your face. And the views from the top, that's something to take into account. Starting at around 1,500m height and ending near the Black Sea means the same amount of non-stop descent with very few climbs. There is a ton of information on the TrailForks website
, with all data. I even updated some of them to make it even more accurate.Alushta mountain biking trails
Some days we had even up to five uplifts with some pedaling involved to get to the trailhead, accomplishing by end of day about 1,500m of cumulative climbing and an astonishing 3,700m of descent. Days usually start at 10am with pickup at the hotel and a small briefing to let everyone know the plan of the day. Usually around 3–4pm the route is over, that's about six hours of riding, including stops for snacks and the delicious sandwich that BikeTest always has ready for each rider, each day. For me, the best moment of the day was enjoying those moments just sitting, enjoying the views and eating that sandwich, thinking about the awesome trail that lies ahead.
In order to enjoy the days to the fullest my advice is to be in a relatively good physical shape and be able to withstand several hours on the bike. There are no really long and epic rides, but riding several days in a row, doing lots of descents where your arms and legs will suffer, it's recommended to be ready for that. If not, you will risk having crashes due to fatigue and you will not enjoy all that the trails have to offer.
As for the spares, I recommend taking at least the minimum necessary for several days of riding with you. A couple of tubes, one spare derailleur hanger, at least one pair of brake pads and if you have space, take a spare tire just in case. In my case, I didn't take one as I was limited by weight, and on the third day of riding, I had a clean two-inch cut in the rear tire, a brand new 27.5 Minion 2.3 Exo tire. Thankfully, Vados had some spare tires at home and I immediately bought one from him (a HighRoller Exo 27.5) and had it ready that night. I also had some issues with one of the rear wheel bearings and on the same day got a spare one from a store located on Simferopol, but spent one day without riding waiting for it to come and later mount it. I used that day without riding to do some tourism in the nearby city of Yalta, remarkably known as the place of the "Yalta Conference" where leaders from the USA, UK, and the Soviet Union gathered at the end of Second World War to shape a post-war peace agreement and Europo postwar reorganization. It's a beautiful city by the sea with a long stroll along the seashore, known to be visited by most of the main intellectuals of the pre-Soviet era late 18th century, Pushkin, Chekhov, Khanshovkov, Gorki and more.
Summarizing: I would totally recommend spending at least one week riding in Alushta area with BikeTest as your guiding companions. The area has outstanding trails and lot to offer to everyone. You will certainly not regret flying there.