A Bike Odyssey in Greece
354 Mi.(570 KM)
Gypsy by Trade
The Bike Odyssey is a multi-day stage race held in June, including one prologue stage in Laista and seven transit stages which begin and end in different villages. The total distance of the route is about 400mi (600km) with lots of climbing. The route connects about 80% dirt roads and 20% pavement and is entirely rideable. Greek dirt roads are most commonly is good condition, with little to no traffic. A few sections are modestly technical, typically due to steep grades, loose rocks, and erosion. The mountainous paved roads all feature extremely low traffic.
The version of the route which we followed deviates from the route scheduled for 2015. I suspect our GPS track dates from an earlier version of the race, although the first four days are mostly unchanged. We rode the route in October 2014. A 200m section of road was washed out in the Pindos National Park, but was easy to hike. Also, the GPS track indicates a few wrong turns which are easy to spot, as mostly no road or trail exists in the direction they suggest. In such cases, the main dirt road is usually the intended route. At many junctions along the route, Bike Odyssey directional placards are present along with red painted arrows and red and white plastic marking tape. Base maps from openmtbmap.org are recommended for Greece and most of Europe.
- High quality dirt roads, alpine scenery, quiet small towns.
- Fantastic camping and abundant water sources.
- Greek coffee.
- Daily descents.
- There is a lot of climbing. Each day is typically punctuated with one or two large climbs, in excess of 3000ft.
- The quality of the road surfaces is generally quite good.
- Greece can be hot in the summer, although lowland city-dwellers escape to these mountains, so the heat will be manageable.
- The route should be enjoyable from spring through fall (est. late March-November).
- Camping is possible almost anywhere. Greece is exceptionally safe and the countryside is very quiet with few fences. Ask in villages for a place to camp, if you need. We camped next to a church one night. Otherwise, the highlands are extensively grazed by sheep and goats and camping is possible anywhere…
- Although beware of the sheep dogs. They are big and well-trained to protect the sheep. A shepherd typically accompanies the herd, and will help keep the dogs back. A handful of rocks may help.
- Late in the fall, we chose to camp up high to ensure the sun would reach us early in the morning. Mid-summer, it may be best to do the opposite.
- Water is abundant from public roadside springs, also found in towns near the center.
- Food is more challenging to find than one might think, considering how many towns you will visit. Many people have moved to the cities over the years, leaving a few old men in the villages. Cafes may be open, and limited supplies may be available if you ask.
- Best to stock up at the start of the route (Konitsa is the nearest city), and resupply in Metsovo and Karpenissi.
- Pack olives and feta. Orzo is a common pasta variety, and cooks quickly. Figs and walnuts ripen on the trees in the fall.
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