DN75 (National Road 75)
In the day prior to reaching transfagarassan, we rode the DN75 deep into the heart of Transylvania. It was again hot, dusty and ripped up in places but when we were moving it was fantastic. for the first time, the terrain became seriously mountainous. The road was full of steep switchbacks with sheer drops on one side. I tried to keep looking ahead rather than at the view to avoid getting vertigo again! After sometime we passed the convoy of French caravans from the previous campsite. I guess there’s only really one road through the mountains so it’s not surprising. After overtaking, we immediately pulled into a view point for pictures and, of course, they overtook us right back!
An accidental (90 minute) detour down route 74 was very rewarding, despite taking us in the wrong direction. We pulled into the campsite around sunset and to our amusement, there were the entire convoy of French Pensioners…AND they beat us there! We chatted with them briefly in Frenglish about our travels. We also met some KTM riding Germans who had spent the previous day riding Transfagarassan and could not rate it highly enough.
Transfăgărășan – National Road 7C
Featured in Top Gear and dubbed the ‘best road in the world’ by Jeremy Clarkson, our expectations were high. The first 10 or so miles on the 7C were cruisy, much as the previous days ride. There was slow traffic to contend with as we ascended at around 30-50km/h. We made a few overtakes and managed to break free of the traffic, for a few minutes at least, until we came to the first view point.
We both thought we had reached the top as there were lots of parked cars and a cable car – how wrong we were! As we rounded the next bend the road and the view opened up into the truly spectacular ‘best road in the world’ kind of thing we were hoping for.
The outside of a few bends seemed to have disappeared leaving nothing but a crumbly tarmac edge and some hastily spray painted warning lines between us and a two hundred foot drop, on a 8000 ft mountain. This time we had legitimately peaked.
The top of the pass was a strange arrangement of unexpected market stalls, lakes, walking trails and a small hotel leading into an impossibly dark tunnel through the final few hundred feet of mountain peak. I guess at this point it was a case of ‘cant go under it, can’t go over it, got to go through it’.
We stopped for a healthy plate of two pork and polenta – which was delicious – served up in the BBQ marquee! When we tried to get going again we noticed the subtle difference between the carbureted Bonneville T100 and the electronic fuel injection SE: the EFI wouldn’t start! Actually, it wasn’t that dramatic, with a bit of choke it got going soon enough. It definitely didn’t perform as well at altitude though. So, if you are trying to decide between the two, make sure you ask yourself how often you plan on taking your Bonnie above 2500m.
We were keen to get down the other side as by this point we had had to put on a couple of extra layers. The ride down seemed to go on forever, but it warmed up quickly. The gradient wasn’t so steep and with a big lake at the bottom there’s plenty of extra distance to travel on the southern side.As we didn’t punch our producer in the face (we don’t even have a producer) we’re not qualified to say whether or not it is the best road in the world BUT it was the best road we have ever ridden and definitely lived up to our expectations. With the sun slipping towards the horizon we were welcomed into our next campsite by a ferocious mountain lion and a well deserved beer.