Field Team Member Heidi Kumm

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Cycling Croatia With the Field Team

Posted by Field Team Member Heidi Kumm

Apr 11, 2018 1:24:03 PM

I am a trail runner, not a cyclist or mountain biker. The one time I did own a bike it was a mountain bike + it lived on the trails with me. Riding a bicycle in traffic is terrifying to me -- I don’t trust that the people behind the wheels of all the cars will be paying enough attention to guarantee my safety. Not to mention the fact I don’t necessarily trust myself atop a bike. I’m far more comfortable in my running shoes with only thin rubber between me + the ground.

All of these fun facts were ignored when I decided to cycle the coast of Croatia...in July...for nearly a month...on a cobbled together bike...with my life strapped to the frame.

My game plan was to cycle from northern Croatia to southern Croatia over the course of about four weeks. I needed to venture out of the Schengen Region of Europe to stay within the regulations of my visitor visa + I wasn’t about to just hang out on a beach. I wanted something more, something exciting + something hard. So when it was suggested I cycle the coast of Croatia I jumped all over the chance to take on adventure.

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Instead of thinking about how much was stacked against me I focused on how much fun it was going to be. Not to mention how miserable it was going to be. I was looking at about 400 miles of cycling in the heat of a coastal country’s humid summer sunshine. Needless to say, I’ve had better ideas.

 

Nite Ize to the Rescue!

I mentioned this idea to the crew at Nite Ize about two months before I took off + they were even more stoked about it than I was! They asked how they could support my crazy. Nite Ize specializes in outdoor gear gadgets + some pretty spiffy bicycle accessories. Of course I wanted their help + support! It was a perfect fit! They supplied me with some awesome gear that came in incredibly handy when I was packing up my gear + decking out my new-to-me bike.

The bike lights were amazing + made my bike incredibly visible, which alleviated a lot of my stress about being visible on the highways. I strapped the INOVA STS Reachargable Headlamp to the front of the bike + the LED TwistLit to my back fender. This covered the basic requirements for bike safety, but I wanted more. I love color + what’s more colorful than multi-colored SpokeLits to spice things up?! Yea, no one was going to miss me on the road! But for good measure I packed along bright colors + reflective gear, because safety first!

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Another great product that Nite Ize has created for cyclists is the HandleBand mount for your GPS/phone. It straps to your handlebars + keeps your phone right in your view. I quite literally depended upon this gadget! Since my route was created as I went it was integral to have my phone with Google Maps in front of me at all times. I even rigged up some Gear Ties to hold a battery pack to my bike frame so I’d always be able to check my route.

The Gear Ties also came in handy to strap my tent poles to my bike frame + keep all of my cords intact [yup, I took along electronics -- that’s the life of a digital nomad!]. I also found nearly a million uses for the CamJam XT Cord Tightener, which could be paired up with paracord to become a bungee or clothesline or...whatever else you could possibly need with adjustable paracord. We washed our clothes in campground sinks, so we put the CamJam clothesline to good use!

They were also kind enough to send along a cycling jersey to make me feel legit! I am not a cycling short convert, but the jerseys are rather incredible with their back pockets! It’s the little things in life I tell ya.

Adventure Bound // Cycling Coastal Croatia

I arrived in Rovinj, Croatia via bus after more than 24 hours of travel. I drug my bagged up bike over to a tiny park near the bus station, unpacked it + put it all together. Within about 30 minutes of getting off the bus I was on the road, following my phone’s GPS toward a campsite about 10km away. The sense of accomplishment I felt when I arrived at the campground + managed to set up camp without incident was glorious. I did it! I rode a touring bike + didn’t fall over [at least not entirely!]. I had remembered enough of my gear to at least set up my tent. Boom...I had this! I was going to do this!

This all changed the next day when I spent the entire afternoon sprawled out in the shade, willing myself not to vomit everywhere. In my excitement to ride I had forgotten to eat or drink for the entirety of a very hot, very sunny 20km/13mi jaunt. By the time I arrived at camp I was trashed. My ego was crushed...I am an ultra trail runner, I was supposed to be smarter than this!

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Later that day my friend, Sophie, arrived via plane with her touring bike in tow. We were planning to spend the next few weeks cycling together. She knew cycling, I knew suffering. It seemed fool proof.

It definitely wasn’t a fool proof plan. It was a plan made by fools. We knew we were pushing our limits, but we were optimistic. Over the next few days we learned exactly what our limits are + how unprepared we were. Phew. Did you know Croatia is crazy hot + insanely humid in mid-July?! Well, it is. Heat + humidity are brutal, especially for a mountain girl [me!] + a girl from the United Kingdom [Sophie!]. The conditions ate us alive + eventually we gave in. Or, in my mind at the time, we gave up. We rented a car.

 

The car was barely large enough to fit our tire-less bikes into it, but it came with air conditioning + a motor. That’s exactly what we needed in that moment. It took some time for me to accept the feeling of failure that came with this tiny European car, but in the end it was definitely a worthy decision. The car took us inland where we were able to explore Plitvice Lakes National Park + Krka National Park. Both were incredible + would not have been possible with our bikes + schedule.

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We spent a week in the car, then returned it for a few more days of cycling once we arrived in southern Croatia. It actually felt good to get back on my bike as I rode along a nearly empty road leading from Dubrovnik, Croatia to Hercig Novi, Montenegro. It was freeing + calming. I loved it more with every pedal turn. After a few too many days of wishing my bike tires would just fall off I was now plotting how I would take it back home with me.

 

I will always identify as a trail runner first...but at my core I am happy to get outside, however I can. Even atop a bicycle that I learned how to put together in the days before a four week adventure.

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Between the bikes + the rental car we were able to visit Pula, Zadar, Split, Makarska, Plitvice Lake NP, Krka NP + Dubrovnik in Croatia. From Dubrovnik I head to Herceg Novi + Kotor, Montenegro while Sophie ventured north to Munich, Germany. I closed out my Croatian adventure with a stop in Zagreb, then met up with Sophie before we both returned to the mountains of Switzerland.

You can read up on more of the adventure over on my website: Heidi Kumm // Oversharing Life. You’ll find the full story, a run down of the logistics + the details of how I packed my life into a few pannier bags. I learned a lot while roaming + exploring on a bike...so much so that I’m fairly certain I will be acquiring a new bike this summer. While the bike I used in Croatia did come back to Colorado with me there’s a very high chance I’ll be popping my colorful SpokeLits on another new-to-me bike. One created for trails, to mesh a bit more with my trail running ways.

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Topics: Bike, Adventure, Commuting, Visibility and Safety, Field Team, "travel"

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