Bajaj is not a very popular brand in Romania, that’s why it draws your immediate attention when you see one and especially when you see 3 of them with Ukrainian registration plates. Last year, 3 riders from the Bajaj Ukraine Club travel through our country, so I reached out to find more about their whole experience with our country and with this brand of motorcycles. One of the riders, Yurii who’s picture at the bottom of the Transfagarasan you can see up in the cover section, accepted to answer our question.
1.First of all , tell me a little bit about you Yuriy. When did you start riding motorcycles and how did you get stuck with this passion 🙂 ? What was your first motorcycle ?
My childhood was tightly connected to motorcycles as my grandfather, who lived in the countryside, had several of them in his garage. I used to spend all summer school holidays at my grandparents’ home and often, rode his USSR-made bikes (with and without a sidecar). My first own bike was bought years later when I was 28 – in 2008 and it was Korean Hyosung GT250 Comet.
2. How was it to be for the first time on your own motorcycle? Do you remember which was your first trip ?
My first bike (Hyosung) was rough, loud and solid looking. I loved its feel and sound (V-Twin inside). Once, riding on a highway in hot summer day, I thought to myself that my ride very mush resembles a bird’s flight – my spirit was singing. My first trip was to one of Ukrainian cities 150 km away from Kyiv (where I live). It was a group ride initiated and led by me. Later we rode to several more places in Ukraine. Despite all these joys in that period of time I was not ready for highly exposed biker lifestyle and in just half a year later the bike was sold with 10000 km on the odometer.
3. I saw in your pictures that you currently ride a Bajaj Avenger. Why did you choose this bike, we also have it in Romania, but it’s not a very common brand, what do you like best about it ? How many kilometers you have on your odometer and did you had any issues or mechanical failures ?
My real motorcycle life started in 2016 with buying then not known to me Bajaj Boxer 150 – quite a spontaneous purchase I must admit. This purchase opened for me the quickly expanding Bajaj community in Ukraine and a motorcycle firmly entered my life – now I was ready to live this way. With my Boxer (widely customized right after its purchase) we made my first abroad trip – to Romania and Bulgaria (3400 km). I visited Transfagarasan and Bikaz Gorge in Romania and Stara Planina Mountaing with some seashores in Bulgaria. As far as I know, I became the first Ukrainian to ride any Bajaj motorcycle so far away. I have no complaints on Boxer reliability-wise for 19500 total kms– very simple and steady unit.
In three years I realized that me and my girlfriend needed more touring-inclined bike and I again applied to Bajaj. I loved its Ukrainian community (it’s really large), price and proven image (for me) and bought Bajaj Avenger 220 Cruise before the season 2019. The bike was more powerful and speedy and allowed me and my girlfriend to made three abroad travels and several inside Ukraine. We visited Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukrainian Carpathians and Black Sea southern region. Thus far I have had 16700 km since February and spontaneously ride it even in winter. With my girl and luggage the bike manages to cruise at 100-105 km/h at highways and feels much better and plush than my previous Boxer. Its drawbacks are obvious –small displacement and overall size. Despite complete absence of complaint concerning reliability during all these kilometers I want bigger and more powerful motorcycle. My experience suggests me cruising speed 110-120 with no stressing the engine and enough HP to overtake long tails of cars on narrow twisty roads when you need to shoot on your bike into the suddenly opened “windows”. And know what? I consider buying for the upcoming season the new Bajaj Dominar 400.:))
4. We know that motorcycling and traveling go hand in hand, I saw you did a lot of traveling this year. You started the season with a trip all the way to Turkey. How was this trip, what was the plan ?
The trip to Turkey was a little bit unexpected. We planned to travel in early May, when we have several holidays in Ukraine, to the Eastern Europe. But the weather was against us – the forecast predicted rains all the way during the planned days. The vacation days were already taken at work and we could not waste them. I always use Windy app as the best travel weather forecast, because it allows to precisely plan rain-free trip by hours. The app directly ordered us to go south.:) No problem! The route was done in hours – Ukraine – Black Sea shore of Romania and Bulgaria – Istanbul. We moved there and succeeded – the weather was almost perfect, except for some occasional rains, the season was low and as a result there were not so many tourists and low accommodation prices, roads are mainly even and the traffic is calm. We made our way to Turkey and back in 8 days (4 days in each direction) and one day we spent in Istanbul.
This was the first time we visited Turkey. And it impressed us a lot! Impressed with hospitable people, the authenticity and atmosphere of its towns, quality of the roads. Istanbul became the biggest and the most astonishing metropolis I had seen in my life! So huge, so busy, so modern (we lived in its European part). Definitely, one day is not near enough to take even a small glimpse at this city. We plan to visit Turkey at least one more time and dedicate more days to this country. And my deep persuasion is that if you visited only resorts in Turkey you can not say that you visited Turkey itself – you need to deepen into this country, ride or hike through its smaller dwellings and see how regular citizens live there. P.S. The asphalt in Istanbul is indeed very slippery, especially during the rains – so I confirm the similar information from other motorcycle travelers who have been there. Be careful!
6. After you came back from Turkey, you decided to go for another trip in Romania, this time with two other friends riding also Bajaj motorcycles. How was your experience with our country in terms of interaction with people, road, landscapes ?
Romania for many Ukrainian riders is the first country of choice, when they decide to make an abroad trip on two wheels. It is close to us, quite big and, what is the most important, it has beautiful Carpathians range! Transfagarasan and Transalpina lurk every biker! Me, as the one having experienced the Romanian mountains, wanted to show this country and its landscapes to my friends from Ukrainian Bajaj club. Three of us decided to hit these roads and the bikes were my Bajaj Avenger 220 and my friends’ Bajaj Pulsar NS200 and Bajaj Dominar 400. We saw many natural wonders and slept in many beautiful places (in guesthouses). One of my companions told me that some places very much resembled him our Ukrainian western Carpathian regions, but with better infrastructure and roads. People in Romania were always friendly, which is very helpful in every travel. And thought with this trip my personal count of visits to Romania reached five I will return to this country and maybe not once. I think that motorcycle and automobile attractiveness of Romania must be promoted much further at the state level in your country as it has everything for a perfect trip on the wheels.
7. I saw you rode on the famous Transfagarasan and Transalpina, would you recommend other foreigners to plan a moto-trip here ? Were there other roads that you enjoyed and you would recommend to others ?
We spent 7 days for the trip to Romania and visited Bikaz Gorge, Lake Bikaz, Transfagarasan and Transalpina. The quality of the roads in these regions is mainly goods with the exception of some parts at the northern part of Transalpina and the southern of Transfagarasan. Bikaz region with its mountains and lakes is just gorgeous! I also like the Black sea region of your country with its wide, long and even roads and windy weather, which creates a feeling of endless journey from a horizon to a horizon. So the above-mentioned is my recommendation to other travellers. And do not forget to take the good rain clothes and protection for your belongings if you ride a bike in the mountains as every turn can surprise you with rains, which happened to us on Transalpina where we drove more than an hour under the heavy torrents in the dense traffic at low speed.
8. After Romania you also did a trip to Hungary and Slovakia. How was that experience ?
Trip to Hungary and Slovakia was the last one in 2019. Me and my girlfriend invited my close Bajaj club friends to join us and one of them, who we had ridden to Romanian with, responded to our call. Initially we did not plan to visit Hungary, but the weather forecast suggested two-three days of rains in Slovakia at the beginning of our travel, so we decided to make a short visit to Hungary to wait until a good weather is established in Slovakia. And I like that this happened, because Hungary now is my perfect choice in the Eastern Europe if you want to see German-like villages, peaceful sceneries and amazingly traffic-rules-obedient drivers. The country from the pages of a fairytale! We visited Miscolc city with its Castle of Diosgyor and the Lillafured Gardens. The must-have places to visit! Later on we entered Slovakia and in three days crossed this country. We drove through amazing National Park of Low Tatras and outstanding range of High Tatras. They hit me with their sceneries! So different, but so inspiring at the same time – the Low Tatras are similar to Carpathians with their winding roads though low mountains covered in forests, and the High Tatras are called mini-Alps for their peaky naked stone giants and beautiful places to have a rest like Strbske Pleso (lake) at the foot of the mountains. Please, do not miss a chance to visit these places!:)
9. Since it isn’t all about roads, sometimes touring on a motorcycle is about discovering remote places or historical tourist attractions, and I saw some great pictures on our facebook page, what were the places that you enjoyed most on the way and you would recommend others to visit ? (not motorcycle related necessary) Let’s say a top 5 of the places you visited on two wheels this year.
Hmm, top 5 places of 2019?… I like the road itself maybe even better than the concrete places and do not memorize them, but I will try. May I be repeating myself?:)
a) Istanbul – the mind-blowing mega-city!
b) Lviv, Ukraine – this is something special and with its unique old European atmosphere! Lots of tourists from around the world, an abundance of stone-paved roads and tram ways, calm and cosy or crowded and loudy cafes, live music on the streets.
c) The 300 km road stretch from Odesa, Ukraine through a tiny piece of Moldova (Palanca) to Reni, Ukraine (the state border with Romania near Galati). Lone road of very nice pavement with little traffic, winding through lake territories and partially along Danube river. Your soul is resting and recharged while driving it…
d) Katunishte village in the very heart of Stara Planina mountain range in Bulgaria. The dead end road. I have been there twice in general and intentionally visited it this year again. You sleep in a guesthouse not far away from the small creek and in the morning you see the sun rising above old sylvan mountains. A balsam on your heart…
e) Not this year, but also very memorable place – the village of Dunavatu de Jos in the Tulcea region in your country. Quite remote place in the lake basin with amazing hilly road through endless fields there and very calm atmosphere. Slept like a baby living there.:)
10.I believe a very important part of this traveling experience is meeting different type of people. I guess you met other travelers on the way. Do you remember any funny story or interesting encounter that you had on the way?
Once in 2017, when I rode to my first abroad trip on Bajaj Boxer, being in Romania and heading Bulgaria I noticed that the engine oil level started to decrease each day. The tendency was strong and I calculated that approximately in Varna, Bulgaria I will need to replenish the oil level. Due to lack of travel experience on a bike I made a mistake and didn’t take spare oil with me. So in Varna I started to find a shop where I could buy the same oil that I had at that time. No success in this direction! The oil suggested was different from my type and I could not even find the similar. No internet I had and asked the surrounding people to direct me to the proper shops. Near one of the motorcycle shops I accidentally met one Bulgarian man who was also a rider. He listened to me and decided to help, saying like “Follow my car”. He accompanied me to… the base of one of the Varna motorcycle clubs with a workshop! Lots of old and new motorcycles were there, many logos and club attributes etc. True place!:) The service guys there, though being not acquainted with my motorcycle, were kind enough to change my oil for free. I also bought a spare bottle of the same oil type, which now was in my bike (and which was not used further in the trip as everything went good). We exchanged contacts with this man and made friends in Facebook, he appeared to have a girlfriend from Odesa and visited Ukraine sometimes. The man was very helpful and I am deeply thankful to him to his support. After that I realized that problems in your travels can often be solved with the help of kind people and you need to worry less and enjoy more.:)
11. During these trips did you had any issues or have you ever been in any dangerous situations ?
Luckily, I did not have any serious troubles in my trips as of now. But I have one companion from Bajaj club who fell with his bike twice in our three mutual trips.:) I smile because nothing very serious happened, though his last falling was spectacular and blockbuster-like with side sliding on a road turn from the asphalt, wet under the rain, right into the fence of a road-side private house:). And in the previous one occasion, at dark midnight under the moon in Ukrainian Carpathians he was gazing at the lake waters, missed a road turn and hit the low road fence. Falling he broke his vape in the back pocket and told later that this was a sign from above to abandon smoking.:)) He definitely need to do something with his luck.:)
12.Since one of the most common reasons or better said the best excuse for many not to leave on this kind of journey is the budget. Did you made an estimation of the amount of money you spent? Or how did you plan or estimated to have enough money for the trips ?
First of all, you need to decide, which type of travel you want to organize. I suggest answer three questions: where to live (accommodation or tent), how to eat (prepare food by yourself or by it in the shops) and what places to visit (only natural sightseeings or paid tourist attractions). Depending on the answer the budget will differ from extremely little expenses to full-fledged expensive travel. My approach is the following: I book accommodation via Booking, live in cheap guesthouses or hotels (not hostels) with no meals included and with fenced parking, buy ready-to-eat food in Lidl supermarkets or similar shops and avoid paid tourist places (only nature, only hardcore:)). The estimated budget for, say, 9-day trip via Eastern Europe with such approach will not exceed 300-350 US dollars per person (if you don’t ride an over-2-liter behemoths, of course, which consume gallons of petrol along with your money right from your pocket). You can greatly reduce expenses by living at couchsurfers, in cheap hostels or tents fully or occasionally. No need to calculate everything very thoroughly – just make an estimation per three main positions (accommodation, food, petrol), take some spare money in case of unexpected expenses and go!
13. If somebody is thinking about doing this kind of trips and is currently doubtful, what would you advice them ?
Just make the first step and the road will suggest you everything else. Really, it’s nothing special about travelling by bike. Going for my first trip I felt like diving into an unknown waters – I was not sure what I am doing at all!:) But after the first successful trip you will get lost in this immerse world of motorcycle travelling! Finita la commedia – you are caught!:)