sunnuntai 25. syyskuuta 2016

Vilnius: Urban cruising and MTB fun

What a gorgeous morning on Vilnia river!

Before telling you about our awesome Sunday morning ride, I want to write down my notion of cycling in Vilnius to fulfill the errand of those retrieving facts in rather a hurry.

City life on two wheels


An office hipster cruising his Vanmoof over the bridge to work, in some of the new glossy skyscrapers. A woman in her forties grabbing a citybike to reach easily her destination wherever it is. 

Pay attention to the bus, too.

There are a lot of bike lanes in the city center, and in many places the cyclists are separated from the pedestrians, which means safer and faster riding. Also, people really paid attention to the traffic lights obediently. And yet another thing pro cycling culture compared to Helsinki: riders use bike lights more in Vilnius.

As many of the roads are paved with cobblestone (or with more modern stone block pavement) and there are a lot of holes and bumps, one should take a bike with wide tyres. The road surfaces and traffic environment, and partly the driving style is not so developed than in Helsinki. So, one must pay attention to what is happening around.

Belmontas: The Leisure Center


I rented a bike from Velotakas. Even if one has the address A. Stulginskio 5, it's easy to be left wondering where it is hiding. Go inside the West Express travel agency and ask staff – it's there.

As I wanted to have fenders and a rather big frame, their only option was a hybrid. It sufficed for easy riding in the city, and it was good enough even for my leisurely Saturday ride. If you do hills or slippery trails, you need at least better tyres with raised lugs that provide grip on loose soil.

After two and half conference days, I was free to ride some hours on Saturday. I decided to follow the "Belmontas" Strava ride found here. It was a bit difficult to trace, so I stayed more on the roads. As skies cleared and sun came out, I spent an hour at Belmontas taking photos, like the one of the fountain.

It is a picturesque place: old mill buildings, a river with rapids / small falls, hiking paths, restaurants etc. Reminds me a lot of Gërmia Park in Pristina, Kosovo.

In the afternoon we went there with my wife and our dog. The nature and the scenery are definitely worth visiting. The restaurants of the "Leisure and Entertainment Center" maybe not so much.


Riding Belmontas area


The best part of my Vilnius rides was still ahead. Avitalis, the owner of the bike rental, messaged me if I wanted to participate their group ride on Sunday. Sure I wanted! 

At eight in the morning we gathered in front of the office. Avitalis gave me a real Scott 29er equipped with tyres suitable for serious trail-marking. 

We rode about the same 'hoods as I did on Saturday, but now we spent a lot more time on forest trails. Twisting, turning, up, down. Resting on scenic hills... It was absolute fun! 


Dmitrij leading the pack, Avitalis coming second (orange-white jacket).

Avitalis had chosen a rather easy trail. No roots, rocks, nor slippery slabs of rock as it usually is back at home. Some uphills, where all but Avitalis himself started to breathe audibly :)

Velotakas has the attitude right. Avitalis had checked out Strava to see where I had been riding, and he saw that I hadn't visited the great scenic Pūčkorių atodanga, the steep hill where the first photo of this entry is taken. So, he decided to lead us there. The picture shows how perfect timing we had with the morning mist.

Only a 1.5 hour ride but provided great plenty fun stuff, like a half day journey. Definitely recommended activity for a leisure Sunday!

Three points on cycling in Vilnius

  1. Vilnius is so compact that you can do your sightseeing or commuting by bike 
  2. Velotakas and Avitalis take care of you. If you have the opportunity, go to their MTB tours 
  3. Go East. Belmontas and surrounding woods offer nice scenery and trails that even a road cyclist can manage

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