Hey 3T Bike fans, Kolovna Team here again. After our summertime Stoneman Miriquidi bike packing overnighter we wanted to end the season with another fun ride. This time we decided to ride from our guesthouse / bike centrum in the Jeseníky mountains to Prague, where we have a showroom with a 3T Bike Experience Center. The entire route totaled about 270km and we had to take mid-November conditions into consideration. For the record, we complied with all Covid 19 pandemic related governmental measures and restrictions applicable at the time.
Our trip started by boarding a train in Prague. The weather forecast looked chilly (3 to 8 degrees Celsius on average) but not rainy. After about a two hours train ride, we swap a nice fast train for a shabby local one. Dressed in skinny cycling clothes and bike covered with bags, we felt a little awkward among rural folk returning home for the weekend. We ended in Hanušovice, where our friend Viktor waited with an old Nissan pick-up truck. We loaded our Exploros onto the truck bed in a proper MTB freeride manner and headed towards Hynčice pod Sušinou.
Hynčice is a small mountain village at the Czech – Polish border. Our Kolovna penzion guesthouse provides accommodation for about 30 guests. We also have a bike centrum with rental bikes and excellent food. Over the last two years, Viktor has been building mountain bike trails to extend the endless natural options. The area also provides fantastic gravel as well as road cycling possibilities. The nearby Dolní Morava resort is investing into a huge bike park, currently consisting of a super long flow trail and jump lines. We contemplate interconnecting the whole area with bike trails as far as Rychlebské Stezky bike center.
After checking in into an empty guesthouse we ate a quick dinner and headed straight to bed. We wanted to rest as much as we could so that we could wake up early heading towards the adventure.
We set the alarm to 6:00AM to depart as soon as the light is out. After silent packing, followed by a hearty breakfast with several espressos we went outside to prepare our bikes. The temperature around zero with frozen mist and fog was not very welcoming. We went through very typical first day struggles, including not enough space in the bike bags, twisted tubeless valve, forgotten gloves. We were about an hour too late against our plan. Deja vu anyone? Finally, we took our start photo and departed around 8:40AM.
Due to delay and shitty weather, we abandoned our initial considerations to start via the mountain bike climbing trail and opted for a direct asphalt option across the village. After about 10 minutes we bent into a forest fire road climbing towards Dolní Morava. The gravel road turned into a steep asphalt climb and during the first 8 km from Kolovna we gained almost 500m. This definitely warmed us up but the frozen fog on our jerseys and faces suggested a pretty cold downhill ahead.
Once you climb into approximately 1150m altitude the asphalt section turns into a wide gravel road cut into a mountain ridge with fantastic views. Well, due to fog we saw none of it, but rain started to slowly drizzle and the temperature was at freezing level. After about 15km of alpine gravel we arrived at the top of Dolní Morava resort.
We unanimously also abandoned the idea of riding down through awesome bike park flow track single trails. We continued through (usually) picturesque gravel roads that slowly turned into pretty steep downhill courses. Here a proper rain started. As we rode into the valley, we were soaked. Great beginning of a day which was supposed to be cold but quite sunny.
After we left the mountain resort, we rode down the mild valley road in full rain, bypassing drivers staring at us in disbelief. We soon reached a state road towards the town of Králíky, with a beautiful monastery on the hilltop. My gloves were completely wet and fingers frozen. I remember seeing a signpost of “sport and bicycle store” with maybe dry gloves for sale. The millisecond of hope was killed by the boys leaving in the distance. We stopped at the little historical square and Jirko gave me his spare summer leather gloves. Nothing felt warmer! The rain stopped and turned into an occasional drizzle, which was bearable.
From Králíky we continued almost exclusively on small twisty C roads mixed with gravel roads or occasional single trails. Jirko is a fantastic route planner and he never kept us bored. When we were enjoying descending roads for too long and thinking about good average speeds, he surprised us with a muddy climb or another type of game slower detour (or shortcut?).
I was in charge of food stops planning and due to Covid related restrictions, we were left with take away options only. Our first pitstop was planned at Jedno Bistro in Ústí na Orlicí. With 80km in legs, we were desperate for warm food. We parked our Exploros in front of the serving window and hung our clothes on bike frames to dry. As we were waiting for sandwiches with hot tea in our hands, the sun came out finally. The mood suddenly improved. With filled stomachs and sun in our faces we did not mind continuing our journey with a short but punchy climb. The next 10km were my highlight of the day. Mildly descending cycling path in the valley of the Tichá Orlice river covered in a good layer of fallen leaves and twisty berms copying the river was spectacular. We were keeping good pace and flow. We knew we were also running against the dark.
I ordered a mandatory stop in a random patisserie in Vysoké Mýto, the last town with some fueling possibilities. We quickly ate snacks, washed them down with Coke and espresso. The sun was almost down, and we had about 30km to go. Freshly fueled, the first climb was not as bad as one would think. The sun set down exactly when we came over the ridge. We took a couple of pictures and Jirka pointed towards the valley showing one of the villages in the distance. We had about 20km to go. We turned on our front lights and enjoyed the twisty downhill. With the dark and cold finally settling we went into auto pilot mode. The names of the villages seemed all the same; we just hung on Jirka’s wheel hoping to see our B&B soon.
We finally arrived at our destination at about 5:30PM. The Orchard Guesthouse was beautifully warmed up and the burning wood stove provided a great atmosphere. We immediately received a fantastic grilled dinner, courtesy of our host. The best was yet to come, as the farmhouse has a beautiful garden with a sauna. The day couldn’t end better. In the evening the hosts stopped by for a glass of wine and we had an excellent time.
The plan was the same, super early start to depart soon. We woke up quite early. Jirko went to take pictures of the guest house for www.amazingplaces.cz booking platform, of which Kolovna and Orchard House are members. Lukas was swapping stems between his and Jirko’s bike and I was in charge of the breakfast. Somehow, we were again behind the schedule and departed at 8:30AM. Despite the sunny morning, the temperature was quite chilly. Our legs were slow and the first 20km were uphill. Jirko’s planning creativity led us through muddy river single trails as well as water crossing. I volunteered to test ride the river crossing, but the surface was too slippery. I had to stomp my feet down to avoid crashing into the cold river. The water in my boot felt pretty unpleasant for a day. There was nothing else to do than to continue.
We decided to have lunch after about 60km in Kutná Hora, one of the most beautifully preserved medieval towns in the Czech Republic. It was Sunday noon and all people decided to grab their takeaway lunches. We had to wait in the blistering cold and wind for about 15 minutes for our meals. At some point a guy from the restaurant yelled at us and gave us free tea commenting that he cannot watch us shake from the cold. The food was excellent, but we could not really enjoy it. Pedaling again was the only way to warm up.
The next 60km was a combination of small steep climbs followed by quick descends. Lukas and I relied on Jirka and we had no detailed information about the road. Jirka’s reply was always “this is actually the last big climb, it’s pretty much downhill from there”. It was not. Even if the altitude profile looked descending in a larger scale, there were some small climbs in between.
At about 3PM we had a little crisis and had to stop for last resort gels and snacks. They helped and at kilometer 113 we crossed the last mountain line before we started descending towards Prague. The sun was down again, and things were getting darker. At least I started recognizing names of villages around Prague. We arrived at the outskirts of Prague in the complete dark and had to ride with lights across the Sunday evening traffic.
We split around 6PM after 140km and headed to our respective homes adding probably another 10km. We ended our November journey tired and cold but extremely happy that we managed to end the overnighter seasons with such an awesome trip.
Practicalities and tech
Martin rode custom Exploro Team with 1x GRX (40T x 11-42) drivetrain, Torno cranks and Discus Plus i28 LTD wheels with WTB Resolute in 650 x 42. These were a little overkill for this trip but handled well the muddy and off-road parts. If you chose to ride this route in summer, take something slicker like the Ventures or Riddlers. Martin relied on the (not so precise) weather forecast and wanted to pack as light as possible. He carried his limited stuff in a Pedaled (Miss Grape) frame bag (4 liter), small Salsa saddle pack (3 liter) and Topeak fuel bag. Martin sported Isadore Thermoroubaix tights and Isadore Jeseniky Merino Jersey with two base layers, most of the time combined with a Giro gilet.
Lukas rode the Blue Exploro Team Force/Eagle eTap (11-50 T) paired with 650B WTB Byway tires, that were sometimes a little slippery for the muddy off-road conditions. Lukas wore a Maloja winter kit with a Kolovna gilet. Lukas used Vaude’s back loader saddle bag (12 liter) combined with Apidura fuel bag.
Jirko rode an off-road monster 3T Exploro Team in brown (he likes to think it’s bronze) color with Sram Force 42T chainring and 12-Speed Eagle eTap (11-50 T). The 47 mm tires were quite handy off-road and those extra 20 or so watts on paved roads didn’t slow Jirko down much. Right? He was dressed head to toe in Rapha deep winter clothing line starting with winter bib tights, thermal base layer, and long sleeve thermal jersey. He was switching between insulated gilet and winter jacket. Completed with deep winter gloves from Gore and winter overshoes from Vaude, he felt quite comfy for the whole ride. He packed his valuables, clothes, and snacks in Apidura Expedition frame (4,5 liter) and saddle (14 liter) packs.
Best time to ride:
May to September because of longer days and warmer weather. But as we learned also the second half of November is doable. Summer will also be great for sleeping outdoors.
There are plenty of options as long as pandemic restrictions are uplifted. We rode during the time when only takeaway options were allowed, which was unpleasant because there was no possibility to get warmed or dry up inside. In normal times this should be no issue.
If you consider this route, do not hesitate to contact us. Subject to restrictions, we plan to host a Kolovna Gravel Weekend on 14 to 16 May 2021. We plan two routes (Kolovna 100 and 60, partially overlapping with the beginning of our journey), bike packing presentations, yoga sessions, and chilled vibes all day and night. 3T Bikes will be available for demoing, good times guaranteed. Check out more @kolovna.