It happens often that foreigners appreciate more the beauty of a country and even promote it better than the locals. This doesn’t happen only in Romania, it happens everywhere, probably that the locals take for granted everything that is around them. I had the same impression when I saw some of the clips from Adventure Country Tracks(ACT), from their 2018 moto trip in Romania. To find out more about ACT, what they are set-off to do and especially how was the whole romanian experience, I asked Martin Wickert,one of the founders of this project, a few questions.
1. First of all , tell us a little bit about you. When did you start riding motorcycles and how did you get stuck with this passion :)? What was your first motorcycle ?
I am riding motorcycle since I was 18 years old, riding nakeds bikes, choppers, Dirt bikes, etc. I was always dreaming about the big trip, after one trip with a chopper to Nordkapp I decided I need an adventure bike, my wife and me bought two Africa Twins and started travelling, finally the Panamericana for 2 years from 2004-2006. Since then I am connected to this adventure world, but I ride whatever there is.
There is a project in the USA called Backcountry discovery routes since many years initiated by Touratech USA. I rode the Washington route some years ago. After doing some offroad riding in Portugal, the idea came up to connect legal offroad tracks and talk to tourism, hotels, etc. that this is positive for their economy, positive to keep the logging roads maintained and so on. So Touratech Germany, Portugal and some others came together discussing that, getting Sena and Motorex and others on board and started in Portugal. The team has been riding before but not so intense. There is less and less the opportunity to ride offroad with respect to nature, people and country. We want to preserve offroad tracks in europe to experience a little adventure in a normal vacation time.
3. So, the first trip was in Portugal. What was it like to kickoff the project and start riding? I mean sometimes everybody is full of enthusiasm and when it’s time to go, they back down 🙂
NO, here nobody backs down, it is just difficult to get the right timing, weather, job and other things need to work out. It was so much fun starting this inPortugal with portuguese locals, good riding, good food, good wine, friendly people that we wanted to go on with it immediately. It is not easy to get the funding for those who need to get paid but we have good partners. Portugal is not easy but a medium adventure level for people who want to try themselves out, because paved roads are never far away and tourism is developed.
4. After that it was Greece with tracks a little bit more technical than Portugal and last year it was Romania. Why did you chose Romania for the 3rd ACT trip ?
Romania has alwas been in our mind and our colleagues have been working within the Red bull romaniacs, and always said they want to go there not with racing but travelling. We had some guys from Touratech Austria who have done tours there, so we had local knowledge and after having two touristy countries we wanted to have a remote region. Greece was more difficult and remoet but still with touristy options. There is always a “trend” within adventure travellers, some years it was Iceland, then Romania, now Albania….we wanted to show travellers that it is an adventure within europe that is accessible and do-able. But of course it is also to make people understand about culture, people, etc. there are so many negative ideas about the eastern countries that it is important to show that the people make the difference. And Romanian poeple were great.
5. Has anyone from the crew ridden here(in Romania) before ?
Yes, we had two or three colleagues who have been there before, 2 travelling, 1 racing.
6. Since we are a website that promotes motorcycling tourism in Romania, we are very keen to find out what was your experience with our country, in terms of interaction with people, nature, landscapes, roads? And what are your best memories from here ?
The best memories are the people – waving kids, happy people in the streets when passing by. Not being negative about motorcycling like in many other countries. When we experience a country we are always surprised about the variety of landscape. Everybody knows the touristy spots, but connecting them on backroads give you a differenct perspective. And the fascinating history and colorful culture was overwhelming. Friendliness of people was the most impressive. We felt safe, supported and welcome.
7. Although you rode mostly gravel and dirt roads I saw that you rode also on the Transfagarasan and Transalpina. The inevitable question that any foreigner receives is : Transfagarasan or Transalpina, what do you prefer ?
Difficult question. We are adventure riders, so we prefer the offroad, nevertheless all of us started into racing mode when entering the Transfaragasan. But enjoying landscape and nature transalpina is better, I think. And less people!
8. I saw some cool accessories and kits on the bikes from the videoclips, like the Suzuki V-Strom Desert Express. What kind of preparation did you do to the motorcycles before each trip or what do you think would be a decent, basic setup if somebody is trying to ride your tracks and wants to be free of worries let’s say ?
Touratech has equippe most oft he bikes or it is even Touratech Bikes we are using. But this project is open to everybody. Suzuki Germany did this special project with another builder and it was more oriented tot he light travels. Also for us this is always the big question: fully equipped with hard cases or rather lightweight with softluggage and more action. Both works, depending if you stay in tents or local pensions. This time we decided due to weather conditions and quite many options of rural pensions to stay in local place and meet the people. We also have to use hard luggage often fort he camera equipment. Important is crashbar, skidplate if you hit a stone or drop the bike, then u lose the fear of dropping it and riding is more fun. Important is not the equipment or the bike, but that people go riding. In remote places you needd more protection for bike and body and some tools for changing tires or repairing things.
Some companies are supporting this project and of course we are using their equipment for testing, for presentation and to understand if things are working iin the real world.
9. Did you have any incident during these trips like mechanical failures or have you been in any dangerous situation?
We had a flat tire that was fixed in 15 min. But on the scouting we had a bad accident from a professional rider. He broke some ribs, but luckily it was three people who organised help and transport. It was a riding mistake on a remote road. So no involvement of anybody else.
10.After this trip to Romania, would you recommend other foreigners to plan a moto-trip here ? What would you recommend them to see and to do ?
Yes, Romania is a must do. Following the ACT route gives you probably a good overview. But you can spend 3-4 weeks in the country and experiencing new locations all the time. The famous spots like Transfagarasan and Transalpina are must do for riders, the churches and culture in the north are worth visiting, but the best I always enjoyed is spending time with locals in little mountain villages to understand their living. I would book myself in a small local pension and spend time with farmers, horsetrainers, shepherds who are living in the mountains. There you understand as a western always working money oriented person what life is all about.