December in Greece – as good a time as any to grab a quick break and explore this marvellous country. Discovering it has a lot more to offer than blue seas and white washed houses. Tom’s link to Greece is a family connection, but he’d never explored it his own way – with one of the new DSS2 bikes and only the most essential items of camping gear. This trip was about testing the bikes capabilities, as much as it was about enjoying the stunning landscapes and remarkable hospitality.
The ride took Tom through some challenging scenery – not just up hill and down dale, but traversing extremely taxing and varied surfaces, from snow-covered tracks to gravel pathways and dirt trails. The versatility of the DSS2 is one of its greatest strengths as a bike and it took all the challenges presented by the terrain in its stride.
Stopping in villages along the way, the offers of melomakarono, a traditional cake made during the festive period are frequent and insistent. As are the looks of surprise when the locals find out just how far Tom has come.
Heading northwest from Athens, the route brushes the coast of the Gulf of Corinth, before ploughing on towards the ancient city of Delphi – supposedly ‘the navel of the earth’ – and the Vardousia Pass beyond that.
The descent of Sinani proved to be one of the most testing sections of the trip – a narrow track, treacherous ice patches and tight corners demanding constant alertness. Then a group of bear tracks in the snow. All of a sudden there was more than just the chance of falling to worry about. Tom says he sang to himself, loudly, to let any ursine creatures in the area know that he was coming – the only thing worse than riding round a corner to find a bear, he tells us, is finding a surprised bear round a corner!
Throughout the journey, Tom’s DSS2 stood up to the task of navigating any terrain it was pointed at – proof of its fearless versatility and remarkable toughness. It wasn’t all a brutal slog though, along with the tough climbs and descents, there were also high-mountain meadows and the glittering azure blue of the Ionian sea to lift the spirits.
Distance: 215 miles
Time: 3 days
Elevation gain: 23700 ft
Max grade: 26.6%
Surface: Road, gravel, snow, ice
All pictures taken by Tom on his old 35mm SLR and as always, much thanks to Pannier.cc for their support – the online resource for your touring or bike packing adventure.