Biking in Bulgaria – part 1 – Central Balkan Region

Over the previous 2 years I added summary write ups on biking trails and pleasant areas to bike in several corners of Bulgaria.  Today, having just returned from yet another trip to Bulgaria (and a brief London visit), it is time to add more to the list of potential areas for biking in this country.

As stated, previously I provided write ups and photos on:

This time around I want to add commentary and photos on a few more locations, starting with the area known as the Valley of the Thracian Kings (around Kazanlak), high up in the Central Balkan mountains between the peaks where Shipka and Buzludzha are — then in a follow up installment I will cover areas in North-east Bulgaria around Kavarna, Balchik and the Zlatni Piasaci (Golden Sands) resort.

So about the area around small towns (more like villages) outside of Kazanlak there are plenty of dirt roads for you to explore between Kran, Enina, Shipka — you can see on this map:

And these photos:

DescriptionValleyofThracianKings 300x199 Biking in Bulgaria   part 1   Central Balkan Region    MountainBikeroad nearShipkaBG 300x199 Biking in Bulgaria   part 1   Central Balkan Region  BikingDirtRoadOutsideKran 1 300x225 Biking in Bulgaria   part 1   Central Balkan Region   

And next a few photos from the road from Shipka to Buzludha (a near by peak of the Balkan mountain range) — the road itself is not heavily traveled and allows for a good bike ride of about 6-8km and if you continue back down to the valley you will come out on the main road that links Shipka, Kran and Kazanlak.

P1110734 300x146 Biking in Bulgaria   part 1   Central Balkan Region P1110736 300x191 Biking in Bulgaria   part 1   Central Balkan Region

If you get a chance you should definitely consider biking in this region.  Then of course sample some of the great food and see the historic Thracian Tombs.

Bike saddles and airplane seats

Who said bike saddles are not important – turns out they could become even more so to a larger population – namely all air travelers.

turns out Airbus is toying with the idea of bike style posture and seats for plane configurations….


original Bike saddles and airplane seats

US20140159444A1 20140612 D00002 Bike saddles and airplane seats As you can tell from the other photos from the patent application filed by Airbus, the future of economy seat is even more aggressive than what we have today.  Yep – only one way to generate profits in the airline business I guess – offset high fuel costs with even more passengers per flight.  

For all of you who are bike enthusiasts – you know how comfortable a bile style saddle could be on a 2+ and above ride….NOT AT ALL!  So then you need to think what would a flight like this feel like – I can give you a hint – VERY UNPLEASANT!


Trek X-Caliber Test Ride

Earlier today I wrote about the fact that our daughter is test riding a bunch of new bikes as we are getting her ready to hit the trails.  It is about time to get her truly into mountain biking.  She has been testing a bunch of new bikes:

  • Giant Talon
  • Giant Temp
  • REI Novara Ponderosa 27.5" and 29er both
  • Specialized Jett Comp

The Giant and Specialized were nice bikes according to her and her mother.  But more about that in a future post.  As we went to the last of the bike shops – I came across a great find.  TREK X-CALIBER 29er;   The bike was heavily discounted as it is the 2013 model.  I rode it as I am planning now to trade in my current bike.  The ride was very smooth – due to the good shifters and the higher-end RockShox Reba with Solo Air.  The remote lockout for the fork was an interesting and somewhat useful feature – it takes adjustment to — but I think it is cool and convenient. 

                                                         Trek X Caliber Test Ride

The wheels for the bike support a great new feature for mountain bikes — tubeless tires – which can offer a very nice / comfortable ride.

Bike Specifications

Trek Stache 8
Trek X-Caliber



Buying a New Women’s Mountain Bike

A couple of years ago, we posted a series of articles on the process of shopping for a new women's mountain bike. Well, here we are today with our daughter eager and ready to jump on a new real mountain bike and looking forward to trail riding. Her bike today is a Giant 650XT 26-inch aluminum frame, mechanical/coil front shock — a combination which somehow never fit her well as she was growing fast.

Over the last few weeks she has been test riding mostly her mother's Specialized Jett 29er and has been feeling progressively ready to get rid of her current bike regular smile Buying a New Womens Mountain Bike

So, let's start the hunt (I say) – but first what should one look for in a women's bike?  What are the key criteria?

  • Fit and size:  probably the most important aspect no matter you are looking for men's or wormen's bike; You do not want to have a bike which is too large – it will reduce your ability to manuever safely and with confidence; A bike which is too small will reduce your ability to pedal effectively, will add to quick fatigue and will impede your breathing.  Overall you are looking for a bike with a frame size that gives you the clearance to stand astride of the bike and when riding your stretch to the handlebars is comfortable – i.e. no pain or discomfort in your shoulder blades for example or anywhere else in your body;
  • Suspension:  if you are buying a bike with suspension – make sure it is adjustable (no matter whether it is coil or air based); The coil based suspension is lower cost but even so it needs to be adjustable as different body size and weight – especially given women are much lighter – require that adjustment for effective operation of the fork/suspension.  Talking with women riders – the shock absorber can add or save significant fatigue and stress in your hands / wrists especiailly when riding on a trail;
  • Saddle and Handlebars:  Those are important as well — make sure you test ride the bikes you are considering.  In general even the handlebars for women's bikes are different / can be different – usually narrower and with slimmer grips — again from my experience / feedback from women's riders – the grips make a difference in the overall riding experience and enjoyment.
  • Overall – at the end of the day, MAKE SURE you test ride the bikes you are considering and once decided on the best one you like, make sure the bike shops does the final fitting to your body and riding posture

Here are the bikes we will be considering — next we are off to do a few test rides with our daughter.  Stay tuned for the next report – from the rides…

marin bear valley womens trail buyers guide Buying a New Womens Mountain Bike    raleigh eva trail buyers guide Buying a New Womens Mountain Bike  gt karokoram womens trail buyers guide Buying a New Womens Mountain Bike   2014 Giant Tempt 2 2501504 Buying a New Womens Mountain Bike


Travel Notes in Photos

Today I am going to digress from my bike related postings and put together a photos only based summary of my recent trip to Agra, India.  Probably many of you are familiar with Agra as the location of the famous Taj Mahal. There are many writeups about the Taj Mahal, so I decided to focus on giving you a view of the place via a set of photos….After all 'a picture is worth a thousand words…'

EntranceToTajMahal May2014 150x150 Travel Notes in Photos InnerEntranceToTajMahal 150x150 Travel Notes in Photos Near TajMahal May2014 150x150 Travel Notes in Photos TheTajMahalFromTheEntranceGate 150x150 Travel Notes in Photos P1080125 150x150 Travel Notes in Photos P1080112 150x150 Travel Notes in Photos

Cycling Accidents and Courts Reactions

Cycling accidents, like any other unfortunate event of this nature, are always a very sad occurance.  However, what makes them even more problematic, has been the attitude of the public and courts to them.  At the same time our society is striving for ways to reduce the green house effect and reduce our carbon footprint as a way to improve the environment, we have a strange attitude in a dominant chunk of the population still at odds with even the laws — there are too many instances where a bicycle rider ends up being hit (in some cases being killed) and the driver involved is found not guilty of anything

The tide, though, seems to be turning.  In a recent rulling by a court in Philadelphia a bicycle rider involved in a very serious accident won a significant rulling

In 2011, Ashley McKean was involved a horrific bike crash at Broad and Brandywine streets. McKean, a Temple student, was riding her bicycle when she was doored by a Honda Accord and then struck from behind and then run over by a van. According to a lawsuit she filed, she suffered multiple hip, pelvis and leg fractures, some of which caused permanent damage.

A jury rendered a verdict in that lawsuit very recently, and McKean won a $2.4 million judgment against those involved in the crash.

This case and associated rulling will hopefully increase awareness among drivers (many drivers do not even know the laws pertinent to bicycles sharing the road with other vehicles), and even drive some caution among driver who are consistently inconsidered of bicycle riders on the roads.   

What I mean by this is the behaviour by some ignorant drivers who continue to both drive aggresively around bikes and even engage in verbal attacks on bikers – and I say this from personal experience.  Once I had a car (an old clunker) slow down near me (while I was biking) with a passenger in the car yelling "…buy yourself a car.." – a sad statement I thought given that my bike probably was worth more than the vehicle the occupants yelling at me were in… But that shows you the state of mind many have…

At any rate, I am very glad of this latest award in Philadelphia – hopefully it will set precedent and help drive safety for bicycle riders across the nation.  

While this needs to happen, all of us bicyclists, need to continue following the laws and observe defensive practices.  Make sure you have your protective gear – e.g. helmet, bright lights etc. when you are on the bike.

For more on the rulling referenced in this posting plus some additinal links can be found here

More iPhone Apps for Biking

I am a big advocate of using your gadgets to the fullest.  As you can tell from this blog, biking apps for iPhone, are a big focus for me as a way to track my exercise as well as learn more about my biking style.

Side note: if you have an Android based smart phone – you can leverage many same or similar applications in that framework

With that in mind, today I wanted to review yet another good application, namely, Argus – Pedometer, Calory, Nutrition, Activity Tracker by Azumio.  This application converts your iPhone in a relatively sophisticated computer to track your biking as well as other activities and combine those with estimated calory tracking.   It is a good aggregator of multiple bio-related tracking points to help you analyze your habits and develop better ones.

Here are some screen shots – as you can see the application in this case is aggregating my walking statistics with a bike ride I took on the same given day:

argus1 150x150 More iPhone Apps for Biking argus2 150x150 More iPhone Apps for Biking argus3 150x150 More iPhone Apps for Biking argus4 150x150 More iPhone Apps for Biking

As you can see the user interface on the main dashboard is very neat – I like a lot how the application aggregates information which then it can display (upon selection) into separate user panes.  

Here is also a snapshot of the application's main features: 

- Daily Steps and active Calorie counter 

- GPS mapping of Running, Cycling and Driving 

- Creates Food diary of all your meals with food photo snapping 

- Set daily goals for Steps, Sleep time and Hydration 

- Observe trends over time with all variables to track wellness 

- Uses Instant Fitness for your home workouts 

- Uses Sleep Time to monitor your sleep cycles 

- Uses Instant Heart Rate to monitor your heart beats 

- Built in support of third party wearable devices and health app

Finally, I will continue to review applications. In the mean time – here is a link to other postings on the topic

Biking Applications – Part 1

Biking Applications – Part 2

Biking Applications – Part 3

Biking Applications – Part 4

Summary Views

Bikes in Antwerp – Even at the Weekend Market

Antwerp is a city where bicycles are normal part of everyday commute as well as weekend outings.  Bike lanes are visibile everywhere in the city and so are stations for borrowing bikes — here is one just as an example of the convenience they offer (i.e. swipe your membership card, and off you go on two wheels)

Antwerp veloStation e1402756646789 150x150 Bikes in Antwerp   Even at the Weekend Market   AntwerpNearCentralTrainStation TonsOfBikes 150x150 Bikes in Antwerp   Even at the Weekend Market You can see on one of the main streets in the city there are tons of bikes parked – presumably the owners are in the near by caffees, restaurants, and shops.

But the more interesting thing I observed was on a Sunday morning. I stepped out of the hotel for a run through one of the near by parks.  Then at some point during the run I veered to some of the side streets and eventually ended up near the city stadium and in the middle of a hude street market.  There were tons of stalls selling cheese, clothing, live animals and birds, ….and of course! bicycles…. Take a look below:

Antwerp SundayMarket 150x150 Bikes in Antwerp   Even at the Weekend Market   Antwerp SundayMarket2 150x150 Bikes in Antwerp   Even at the Weekend Market

And mind you — there were a very large number (as you can tell from the photo above) of bikes available for sale.  You can also check out the earlier postings

Beer Bike in Antwerp

Well folks, biking is a great form of exercise as well as a good way to see and experience nature.  When you are on a mountain bike on a trail in a park or in general in the woods, chances are you will see wild life — all sort of birds and potentially larger creatures.

Now, let's change the scene and think of what type of activities one can associate with biking…?  OK, time is up…Did you think of one?  I bet you did not think of a "Party Bike"…!

The nice people of Antwerp have thought of that.  On a recent visit I saw this strange contraption – which looked like a mobile taco stand…But when I looked closer I determined that the vehicle was actually a giant bike – powered by multiple people sitting on seats as if at a bar.   Please take a look:

OnlyInAntwerp BikeDiningTable 300x148 Beer Bike in Antwerp

So, next time you are planning a trip to Antwerp and would like to mix drinking and fitness – do think of this interesting concept.  I certainly plan to do…!