12 November 2013
Saturday Ride Report: Dervenohoria
Some decent climbing, not so decent climber
Last Saturday I was out riding with my friend George. We went to some mountains to the north-west of Athens. First we had to pass a lot of industrialized areas in direction to Elefsina, riding on the shoulder of big roads, not really my preferred thing. Then we passed through the plain near Aspropirgos. Here we had smaller roads and with much less traffic.
Then the climbing started: At first on a long, straight stretch that is still part of the plain, with a gradient of 1-2%. Then getting bit by bit steeper up, and finally arriving in the forested slopes of the mountains. After a bridge, the real climb starts: 8.3km with an average gradient of 5.7%. Less steep at first, more steep towards the end. Shortly before the top there is the first "peak" which marks the arrival at the pass height, the road going almost down a bit and then one last climb to the road's peak.
At first George and me had started the climb together, but after the first kilometers I lost him - his higher gearing definitely doesn't help there. So I soldiered on by myself. Lots of trucks passed, but in generally with enough space on the road to be ok. One of the truck pushed out a huge cloud of exhaust, both in passing me and continuing on uphill. The fume lingered on, which was very tough to ride on and one of the times where I wished for a bit more wind to get it away. By that time I was also already feeling exhausted, mustering my strength just to not stop till I reached the peak. When I got there, I waited for George and had some time to recover.
Down we went, onto a high plateau and a village where we filled up on water. We had the best of weather, sunny but still fresh. The plateau was very interesting. It looked to me like a forgotten place. Empty and forgotten so close to the big city. We continued through the plain to the exit on the south-east. First some more climbing to get over the "border" of the plateau, then a huge downhill ride. This part again was forested and looked empty and forgotten, except for one town with a collection of huge tavernas advertising lamb chops and stuff like that. We hadn't seen a sheep in all the ride, so I guess the taverna customers don't mind that their meat arrives on the same roads as they do.
We kept on our return, through ever slightly more crowded streets, through the industrial areas again. In the Athens neighborhoods we hit on Saturday shopping traffic, but after having lunch at George's place, everything was calm on the way back to my place. I felt tired and done, but had no sore legs. I just wanted to go out again as soon as possible and get this climb done properly.
Distance: 110km, 1470m elevation gain, 4:40 riding time, average speed riding (without the stops): 23.6km/h.
10 November 2013
Morgens in der Stadt
Eigentlich habe ich die Stadt im Moment etwas über. Aber früh am morgen gefällt es mir immer noch in der Stadt zu sein. Am besten natürlich an einem sonnigen Tag, von denen haben wir ja glücklicherweise genug hier. Früh morgens aus dem Haus gehen, um eine Bougatsa zum Frühstück zu holen. Das Sonnenlicht auf den Häusern, Menschen, die zur Arbeit gehen oder im Quartier einkaufen.
15 October 2013
Riding the Apollona Round with Wu
Almost 100km of cycling fun on Naxos
This sunday I went for a big bike ride with my friend Wu. The local
gang of cyclists call this ride the "round of Naxos", but since it
does not go around all the island (it can't, there are no suitable round-trip roads in the
south), I call it the "Apollona round". I've ridden it a couple of
times. This time though, I was going to ride it with Wu. He isn't such
an experienced cyclist (yet), the longest rides he had done so far was
26km on his own and 36km a few days ago with me. So this was going to be
a bit of an adventure.
We started out at a nice and easy pace. Soon we discovered that it was
windy (and with the north wind, it was in our front), so a quick lesson
in "riding on the wheel of someone" was called for. (For those not
into the bike riding thing: if you "draft" - ride right behind another
cyclist - you get a bit of protection from the wind, saving around 20%
of your energy). As usual, after Chalki, the wind was blocked by
the mountains. We took the big climb to Apeiranthos slowly, as Wu
hadn't climbed something like this before. Arriving there, we called our
car-driving friends where they were... they hadn't even started yet.
Continue reading "Riding the Apollona Round with Wu"
30 September 2013
CatEye HL-EL540 - Night Riding Light
Shine on you crazy diamond
I spent a lot of my free time this summer cycling on Naxos, I had really
caught the bug. In summer there is a lot of daylight to ride, but
still I happened to be out and cought in the dark a couple of times.
Sometimes, because I was riding too far in the twilight evening hours
that I like so much, another time because I went for a swim and some
pasta at the italian restaurant at the surf club on Orkos beach and then
it just was dark when I came back. I wasn't afraid of that, as I had
lights with me, but my headlight was one of those small commuter things
that are much more suited to getting you seen than to see yourself.
Going downhill with that thing meant to go really slow and hit the
breaks a lot. On that evening after the Carbonara at Orkos, going uphill
fast from Mikri Vigla, I was often feeling like riding with my eyes
covered. Also with those batteries I was always wondering if on any
particular evening the light just appeared to be so low or if by any
chance the batteries were running out.
Then I ordered the CatEye HL-EL540 (actually the HL-EL540RC with rechargeable
batteries) through Giannis bike shop in Naxos town. Now that is a
totally different story. [Warning, cheap pun ahead...] man, I saw the
Continue reading "CatEye HL-EL540 - Night Riding Light"
27 September 2013
Back in the city
So I'm back in the big city since a few days. Yesterday in a crowded subway train, I thought that I should write a few lines about the experience. I've been away for almost 3 months. While during August the island was "full", that is no comparison to how many people there are around me in Athens now. And the few last weeks, it was quiet in the little village on the island. I happened frequently that I would bring out the garbage at night and not see a single person, not even in a car passing by.
Coming back was a bit... not of a shock, but stressy. Moving around by bus and metro, in droves of people. Lots of noise. Lots of time spent going from here to there. The feeling of being in this heap of people is sometimes difficult to stomach after all that quiet. I will go back to moving around by bicycle soon (which is faster than public transport), but then it will be another contrast to riding on the quiet island streets.
On the upside, seeing friends, talking with friends face to face. Working together in a cafe. Seeing neighbors and my neighborhood. Too bad my usual lunch place is closed for some works, but hey, we're in the big city so we were able to go to a restaurant around the corner.
20 September 2013
I still have something to say...
... but then, it's bubbles
Hey there, so, I'm still here. Here on the weblog and here on Naxos. I've been working, biking, and occasionally swimming. The work is going fine. I've got interesting stuff to do, and with the team that works for one of my customers we will soon have another sprint week, here on Naxos.
The cycling is going fine too... obviously, since I'm in a great environment for cycling. I've bought a big, freakin' bike light, so I can head out in the late afternoon and continue riding well into the night. I'm considering writing a review on that thing.
Also there is the swimming. This year during August I didn't go much to swim. For one thing I was cycling. Then, due to the main tourist season I didn't much like to go out on crowded beaches. Now that it's September, it's much more relaxed. The sea is still warm, the sun is still shining and it's nice to enjoy it all a few days more.
08 August 2013
The Cycling Summer is here
The cranks on my bicycle turn like a broken record too
Wow, it's been some time since I wrote a post. So, I'm back to work.
Which works out fine. I'm also back to Naxos, after a brief stopover in
Athens. Here I can work in a much cooler temperature and environment,
and I can combine my programming work with photography walks in the
evenings and... cycling. Yepp, I tend to sound like a broken record in
here, but the truth is, I ride my bicycle a lot lately. At least the one
bicycle I have here on the island with me.
A while back I used to ride either in the early morning or late afternoon.
For now I've switched to "early morning only" - it's tougher to get up,
and I get less of the "reward at the end of a work day" feeling. But then,
since we're now in the main tourist season here, in the early evening
the streets are full of cars. Or at least much fuller than I like. I
kind of got used to having really empty streets in the last months.
Early morning is better, the tourists don't get up so early. The bad part
is that if I'm delayed I run into the heat, while in the evening I'd run
into the darkness. You can deal with the darkness with good lights, but
the heat always has the upper hand. Still, on our Sunday rides with the
local bike gang, we get pretty much into the noon hours. I'm ok with that
if it doesn't happen too often it seems.
We did some really interesting rides. Not going to list them all here,
but "going to Moutsouna for coffee" was certainly fun. Last Sunday's
excursion to Liona and then climbing back up from there, was certainly
"interesting" - it just happens to be a Category 1 climb. Tough ride,
that one, I was happy when I was up. The picture is from a simpler morning ride, when I was riding through what I call the "fairy tale mountains" of Naxos (taken near Kinidaros),
13 July 2013
Vacations II - Return to Bike Island
Sometimes the sequel gets it right too
That week on Amorgos was great. Only thing I would change on the next
time: I'd definitely walk everywhere. No more bus to the beach (it's an
easy walk anyway, and then you can go any time and come back when you
want). They also have a good set of ancient walking paths, connecting
all the villages together. So I'd do the sightseeing by walking too.
Even in summer, with the wind and being high up on the mountains, it is
ok to walk there. Just bring enough water. I definitely recommend staying
in the Hora - it's by far the nicest village, and one of the nicest
village of all the Aegean islands.
Now I'm back on Naxos, and after 2 days of half-working, I'm back to
another week of vacation mode. It's quite different, as I have net
access. Mostly I cycle and I go for swims. Sometimes both of these
things combined, ride to the beach and back.
Since it's summer, the idea for cycling is to use either the morning
hours or the evening hours, when things are a bit cooler. For going to
swim, evening hours work better for me. Otherwise, both systems are
great, since I love the landscape both in the early morning and late
afternoon/evening light. What doesn't work so well is the really long
rides: when you want to do more than 4 hours, either you start to run
into the mid-day heat, or the night. I'm thinking about ordering a
stronger bike light and see how night riding works out.
08 July 2013
Hausgemachte Limonade im Ilios
Geniessen auf Amorgos
Jeden Morgen hier auf Amorgos sind wir ins Cafe Ilios gegangen. Dort haben wir auf dem grossen Platz unter einer Pinie, einer Platane und einem Eukalyptus gefrühstückt.
Heute sind wir zu Fuss zum Kloster, auf dem alten Pfad - den Rest der Woche waren wir eher faul mit dem Bus unterwegs. Das Kloster ist eindrücklich, es hängt in den Felsen. Innen kann man eine Kirche besichtigen. Die Treppe dorthin gibt einen Eindruck, wie eng, steil und verwinkelt es im innern des Klosters sein muss.
Nach dem Kloster sind wir zu Fuss zum Strand und von dort auch wieder rauf zur Chora. Vom Strand waren wir 53 Minuten unterwegs. Jetzt sitzen wir wieder im "Ilio" und trinken hausgemachte Limonade. ξ
06 July 2013
Back to work... on my tan
Ρεμάλι μ' είπες μια βραδιά...
I'm sure there are a lot of interesting places to find on this island, hidden gems of places to discover - but I'm not having any of it. I'm trying hard to get the maximum slacking I can fit into my vacations and work only on my tan. Besides, the Hora of Amorgos (where we're staying) is really beautiful, both in spirit and looks.
Yesterday evening we happened on a festival of young musicians from the Kyklades and Dodekanissa. We got a table close to the stage at the cafe where we have our breakfast, listened and watched. Some very good music.
In other news we've been to the place in the picture every day. It's the Agia Anna beach (down below the little church). Behind that rock at the top lies the famous Monastery. Those clouds you see there were moving across the sky at great speed, quite the spectacle to watch while laying on the rocks, sunbathing. I think you can see how clear and blue the water is.