Bicycling through Ukraine

May 22nd and 23rd, Budapest

Budapest, without bicycles
Budapest, Bert and Jean at the hotel
It is a long way from Fort Collins to Budapest. Budapest was my destination to start another bicycle trip, this time five weeks crossing Ukraine and part of Russia.

Things were hectic at work, both the weeks before and also day of leaving. Not the ideal time for a vacation, but I had planned this a while ago. I left midday and drove to Denver International Airport. I checked in three large items: my Trek 520 bike in cardboard box, my brother’s folding bike in large suitcase and all my panniers combined in a duffel. Seemed like a lot of weight, so worried both about having brought too much and having forgotten something.

Flight was uneventful. Overnight to Frankfort with just a few hours sleep. Air traffic control had us circle a few times and we were 45 minutes late arriving – so only 45 minutes connect time instead of an hour and a half.

Flight to Budapest was on smaller plane. On arrival, went through immigration and waited for luggage. The large pannier duffel arrived but both bicycles were missing. Presumably missed the connection. Sigh. Filled out the missing luggage report and went outside to wait for Bert and Jean who were flying in at other terminal.

Budapest, cargo van
Met up and drove into the city in small cargo van they had rented. I sat in back on the luggage. We had a nice walk through some of the city, subway ride and good hungarian meal close to the river. On way back, stopped briefly where Bert and Jean had lived and met with a neighbor before walking back for sleep after a long day. Unfortunately, no luggage yet but were promised it would be there the next morning.

May 24th, Uzhgorod

Ukraine border
Ukraine border
No bikes when we awoke, but promised before 10am. So wait, wait and wait. Fortunately, bikes arrived a little before 10am. Unfortunately, my headset had come undone. I had several pieces and not 100% certain of how they were assembled. I did the best I could and hoped I got it right.

A little before 11am as we set off for the border in our delivery vehicle. Nice M3 motorway. Bert and I alternated sitting in the back. A brief meal in Zahony before setting off.

Border crossing was an interesting experience. First was leaving Hungary. They had to make sure vehicle papers were in order. Border guard made some fuss about three people and only two seats but we feigned missunderstanding and he let us go.

Uzhgorod hostel
Entering Ukraine was a more drawn out experience. First 30 minutes delay slowly crossing the bridge in no-mans land. Finally arrived at control. They vehicle paperwork checked again. We completed two copies of migration cards. All this needed to be laboriously entered in their computer system. All the while soldiers wearing uniforms with their blood types sewn on carefully watching everything. We knew it was going well as they remarked about needing good tires to cycle roads to Russia.

Just past border station we assembled last of the bikes and set off! Yeah, finally rolling. Bert’s tire wobbled from the start. We figured it was a torn tire and risked it for now. Slight headwind, cool temps and ok traffic as we rode.

Within the first two kilometers we came upon Jean twice. Police pulled her over twice to check her documents. Police then said go, but was all a bit unnerving. Welcome to Ukraine!

First 25km to Uzhgorod was uneventful cycling as we passed through a few small villages. A small shoulder and not too much traffic. We passed several large concrete apartment blocks and came to large church in center of town.

Where to the hostel? We found nearby internet cafe. It was filled with kids playing video games. They were helpful but directions were complex, so plan was to hire a taxi and follow him.

Nice hostel room. A suite with separate bathroom and shower. We walked into center of town for delicious meal (cost $5 per person) and finished a long but satisfying day. 26 km cycled.

May 25th, Rozhluch

Jean along the route
Nice first full day of riding. No hot water for showers today (didn’t realize until later that hot water comes at 8am). Breakfast at 8am and we set off not
much later. Bert had replaced his tire, so no wobble.

First few kms were through town, before becoming more rural. Road surface occasionally had rough parts but usually ok. Small farm plots but also trees. Fairly flat as went on to Perechin for our first stop. These towns had small center but mostly houses.

At km 32 we were crossing railroad tracks when Bert’s rear panniers caught. Bent several spokes and broke one on the drive side. We trued things as best we could, loosened the brakes and went to find our SAG vehicle.

At the SAG, decided to continue with wheel for now. A slow climb as the road followed the river and went through small villages. A brief stop at 45 km in Malyi Bereznyi. Here we decided we’d stop for lunch in next village.

The next village had no restaurant, nor the one after that or after that. We had nice riding along river but no food places. By 75km a climb over small hill. These villages had many people out. Some on bicycles, some walking or talking along front of their home. They’d watch us go by with an occasional Ukrainian “good day”. The road surface was also more rough than before.

Around 85km a brief paperwork check from soldiers who were also interested in checking panniers. Not much later the steeper climbing started. A slow steady climb with some good views of valley below.

Beautiful views
Beautiful views
I was leading in the climb and came to the top first. There was a barrier placed across the road and another set of soldiers manning the control point. I sat and waited for Jean and Bert to arrive.

The soldiers from control point saw me and walked over and requested documents. They asked when I arrived and how long plan was to be in Ukraine. There seemed to be some sort of problem. They asked again. Finally it became apparent that Ukraine entry stamp from yesterday said May 14 not May 24. I pointed out departure from Hungary stamp on May 24th and arrival in Hungary the day before. By now, Bert and Jean had arrived and we had further discussion, phone calls and checks. Ukrainian bureaucracy at work.

Finally we were allowed to leave. As we crossed the pass, we left a region formerly part of Hungary/Chechoslovakia into a former Polish region. Road surface was marginal but views were spectacular. While we expected to decend into valleys we instead stayed along the hill tops. This made for tougher riding but prettier views.

Along the way we passed multiple sets of people tending a few cows as the grazed the grasses along the road. Seems to be common though poor existence. As we reached 112 km we started to descend off the hills to Tourka below. Though after 7pm perhaps a chance for the skipped lunch or even place to stay. Alas, no hotel in town, but locals told us about lodge in Rozluch some 15km further.

Our Ukraine
We decided to pack bikes in the van and drove. Along the way another control point to check papers. The first place we checked was closed but found a nice lodge just past town. Long ride of 117 km but a nice start into Ukraine.

May 26th, Lviv

Rural roads
Breakfast not until 9am so we decided on a before breakfast ride. We drove back to Toruk and started cycling back. A small hill to climb but mostly downhill. Nice to see what I had missed in the van yesterday. More herders out with their cows today. Pretty rolling countryside.

After a good breakfast, we continued towards Lviv. More rolling hills but generally downhill and downriver made for good progress. Road surface was still rough, but light traffic meant we could occasionally pick smoothest parts of the road. Still some occasional livestock to watch for as well.

We went through some villages and slowly came to more populated regions. At 41 km was Ctarie Cambip with busy streets including a street market. At 59 km was
Cambip itself. By now the road was busier and also better texture.

Rain shower
Hostel in Lviv
We wandered around Cambip and had lunch at the cafe. In general, not too many cafes here, presumably people can’t afford eating out. Also a busy market with produce and knicknacks. Some old buildings and nice churches. Along these sections of road were also occasional religious shrines.

After Cambip, the route became flat. The road was fairly good with occasional problems along the shoulder. We were making reasonable time. Bert ran over large piece of glass and punctured a rear tire. Oops. As we were fixing it, a cold wet rain.

After replacing the tube, we slowly continued. We had off and on showers in this next stretch. Some slight hills. Made reasonable progress as road got busier into Lviv. At junction of E30 we got into the delivery truck for final 10km into Lviv. A nice dinner and nice to get to our first destination. Tomorrow bike investigations.

May 27th, Lviv

Looking for bike repair
A rest day today to get bicycle parts and explore Lviv. Slept in and then walked to the bread shop to get breakfast. Not too difficult since one can point at what you want.

After breakfast, we found our way to place that sells bicycles. Unfortunately still closed when we arrived, but next door was internet cafe. Person at internet cafe knew a good repair place, though it was out of town and a little difficult to explain the directions.

Town hall

Town hall
Town hall
With new directions we set off and headed to outskirts of town. Here it took several tries of the likely street with garage for repairs. Looks like we struck out.

For try number two we went to place reported to sell bike parts. We found matching spokes, and also device to remove the gears but no chain whip. Decided to perhaps buy a spare wheel, when they suggested a repair person that could come to fix things. He came by shortly and picked up the bike.

Now off sightseeing. Saw perhaps 20 brides today in white wedding dress. Must be lucky day for getting married as they came through downtown buildings and statues to have their photos taken, ride in horse drawn carriages, pray at the virgin Mary status, visit churches, etc. Also decorated cars and wedding parties wandering around.

WeddingWedding carMore bridesMore brides
Lviv has a surprising amount of old stately stone buildings. There is reconstruction going on around the old town hall to put in sewers and restore the old mansions. I’m also amazed at the number of satelite TV antennas I see, even on the old buildings. There is definitely a restoration and renewal at work here. Expect more tourists eventually as well.

Prices of things are interesting. Basic foods like bread or restaurant foods seem to be 25% of normal. Mobile phones seem to be cheap and universal. Gasoline is about same price as US. Luxury items like an ipod device seem to be more expensive.

At two we were back. Bike wasn’t ready. Explaination was needed help from someone with a bigger wrench (yikes!). However shortly thereafter wheel came back and wheel was trued up again.

Next found train station to get train pass for next portion of the trip. Dinner at a restaurant with food from Caucus region.

May 28th, Ternopil

Relay race in Zolochiv
A day to try riding the major national highway – M12. On our maps this road was larger than we had ridden before but overall was still reasonable road. Occasional rough surfaces and some narrow shoulders but also wider smoother parts.

My stomach had been unsettled overnight, so not much in way of breakfast. We rode the van 6km out of center, in the way avoiding cobblestones and most confusing routes. The road went through forest here and climbed slightly.

At 4km we crossed the ring road and were now on major road leaving Lviv. Still small villages every now and then, but also larger machine cultivated fields with bright yellow color. Road markers every kilometer or so. Some truck traffic and also a number of minibuses. In a country without as many private cars, these buses seem to be an important transport mode.

Oblast boundary
Jean would skip ahead and wait for us as we slowly rode along. Not too many hills and we made good progress. Around 11am we came to our half way point Zolochiv. There was a bypass but we took small road into town. More orthodox churches here (compared to Uniate Catholic before).

Zolochiv was small town with center with few shops. A relay race was in progress. There was nice small cafe where we had good lunch. Fortunately my stomach was recovering from night before.

Even these smaller towns will have some concrete apartment buildings. Apparently housing built from 1950s and 1960s.

Light rain for much of rest of the ride. The road got a little wider even and also slightly more traffic. Still rural farming areas. One town Ozera had many combines on outskirts. Couldn’t tell if they were displayed or being sold.

Ternopil was smaller town and not too difficult to navigate around. We went to a few hotels before settling on the one west of the lake. Nice ride overall of 122km. From here, Jean returns to Budapest, so we lose her company and also now need to carry our gear.

May 29th, Ternopil

Train station
Bert and Jean left early this morning. Plan was for Bert to accompany Jean to the Ukraine/Hungary border where Jean would continue to Budapest and Bert would take the train back to Ternopil. So I had a day alone to explore Ternopil. I was hoping to find an Internet cafe and to send out a postcard or two.

Slept in and then did some laundry with woolite I had brought. Breakfast typically doesn’t start until later and here it was 8am. This was a typical breakfast with bread, cheese, tomato, eggs and tea.

I walked along the lake and set out to explore town. There was a small center including pedestrian area. In front of large government building was some form
of official speech. Stores tended to open around 9am or 10am. Several nice churches where people would duck in for quick prayer.

Internet cafe was off a side street. Again, mostly teenagers playing computer games. The browser settings default to Ukrainian so end up with curious mix of Ukrainian words and english words.

I walked over to train station and also supposed site of the post office. I didn’t see any form of post card, nor clear indications that particular windows were for mailing letters instead of buying train tickets. Will have to try elsewhere later.

I walked down the hill to large supermarket. Wow! It was a large two story building. Top floor was a mall type area with many smaller shops. Bottom floor had some department store items and then very large food section with supermarket that would compare to those in US. A brief lunch at the mall before returning to the hotel.

Public ceremonyCity streetHotel
Second forray into town was later in the afternoon. Still no success at finding postcards. Walked past similar places and also observed people walking and shopping in town.

In the evening, I went down to the restaurant. They said it was closed. It wasn’t quite clear when it might open so I walked back to town and had dinner at restaurant inside the supermarket. On return there was a polish tour bus tour group eating in restaurant. Expect Bert to arrive late on the train. (Postscript: later reports indicated it took Jean 13 hours to cross the border. No unique problems, just a very slow process).

May 30th, Khmelnytkyi

Oblast boundary
Horse drawn cart
First day cycling loaded. We sent some things back with Jean, but still had four fully loaded panniers. The bike handled a bit sluggish, particularly on the cobblestone road at start and climbing out of town. Fortunately, got better hang of it later.

Skies were mixed but became overcast. By midday we had some strong cold south winds followed by drizzle. A bit of an arctic front passing through, though haven’t had much need for sunscreen yet.

The first 40km were along area of open fields with occasional descent and climb to cross a creek. A few small villages along the way. Road conditions were pretty good – with four lane road for a while starting. Traffic still somewhat light, though these roads could become crowded if more own cars in next years.

Without too much difficulty, found our way to 40km and Oblast boundary. We were looking for Oblast maps since these had symbols for motels in town. No luck here.

Motorcycle club
not much English spoken here
The road starting at next Oblast stayed open and exposed to cold wind. This was followed by cool rain. Somewhat cold and wet we pulled into Vitivitsi. There was a fairly new motel here along with a cafe. A large collection of motorcycles outside. Apparently a “blue lightning” club doing a motorcycle ride through eastern Europe.

After lunch, less rain and eventually dry. Also some more trees to shield the wind, meant we made ok time into Khmelnytski. Even found a map just before entering town. Looked through and found a motel and end of a 117 km day. More drizzle as we found restaurant and made end of a good day cycling.

May 31st, Liubar

Beautiful country
Food stop
Plan was to get an early start. We awoke at 6am to rain pouring down with grey skies all around. “Looks like a rain day”, I said. Bert concurred, so we settled in for a rainy day. At 7am Bert went down to arrange for another day of bicycle storage.

By 7am the rain had stopped an in another hour and a half we could see blue sky! Wow, perhaps not a rain day after all. We started off on a delayed and hopefully dry day.

We were on edge of town and quickly left the city. Road here was four lane divided highway but not much traffic. Several rolling hills as the route crossed from drainage to drainage. Tailwinds, hooray glorious tailwinds. Bert noticed his left pedal flopping at bit loose at 10km, but decided to continue.

At 26km a brief stop where road went off to Krasyliv. By now it was single lane each way. At 40km a stop at small shop for a cola. Everyone from the shop came out to see the bicycles. Perhaps one of the more unusual things passing through that day.

We see occasional bicycles. Frequently one speed bikes, but also some mountain bikes with gears and suspension. For a country with this few cars I’m surprised we don’t see more of them. Most of these small villages have a bus shelter on the main route and see a number of mini-buses go by.

Around 50km we came through Starockostiantyniv (this and other place names are from my German map, so in latin script not cyrillic). Seemed like a good place for lunch. We’re a bit careful with loaded bikes being a theft target so didn’t see a real good place.

almost there
We continued out of town, stopping at several small village cafes. Nothing quite suitable. Here we also saw more young people dressed up: girls with white lace in hair, boys with suits and both genders with sashes. Apparently a graduation clothing. Later we also saw groups of youngsters blocking the road, apparently blocking cars and asking for money. We were able to cycle by these without too much trouble.

Our road through villages was pretty small. Apparently, we were off the main highway. Not too much later we found it, and shortly there after a cafe. Solianka soup, yum! One of my favorites so far.

After lunch the terrain was flatter and we had some stretches with strong tailwinds. Saw some more war memorials in this area. More graduating students blocking the road. At 89km we came on the oblast boundary and sign for 9km to Liubar.

Last stretch was flat and quick to ride. At junction of side road was sign for Liubar and also a large building with turret. Had to ask, but were able to bring bike inside. Nice riding today after all despite a rainy outlook at first. 100km today.

June 1st, Skvira

small cafe
quiet roads
A long pretty ride through not very populated countryside. We got off the national roads onto next size smaller, “P-32” from Liubar most of the way to Bila Tserkva.

It was nice to see sunshine as we awoke. We’re at almost 50 degrees north latitude, so nice long days of sunshine. Put on sunscreen for first time this trip. We had a usual breakfast of some bread and cheese and set off around 7:15am. First through a little piece of Liubar and then into the countryside.

Not much traffic at all and a smooth road starting out. Terrain was fairly flat so we made good time. My left pedal started making a metallic tick each revolution. This continued for 60km and stopped almost as quickly as it started. Bert’s left pedal is worse as it visibly sags down.

After 46km we came to intersection with cross road P-36. A gas station and cafe here. Afterwards back through countryside and to next intersection at 76km. There was a police post here. Policeman recommended hotel at Bila Tserka, unfortunately this would be another 112 km.

Skvira apartment building
From here there was more traffic on the road. We stopped once to fix a flat on Bert’s rear tire and then into Koziatin for nice lunch. This cafe had outdoor place so we could watch the bikes. After lunch fixed another flat on Bert’s bike and then a long ride to Rushin.

Rushin was supposed to have hotel, though we didn’t see one. Anyways still early and we were fresh so on to Skvira. Some of this road was pretty rough, so I was happy to see the Kiev Oblast boundary as it also coincided with smoother road.

We asked a few times in Skvira about the hotel. Locals helped us find where it would be but also weren’t too positive about it. Local taxi driver recommended place at edge of town which we found. Shower is broken, but otherwise good basic accomodation.

Walked back to town to get breakfast supplies and dinner. Many of the buildings around town were empty. Looks like some of these rural centers are losing population.

We’re getting this cycling routine figured out. 156km riding today.

June 2nd, Kiev

road side milk
first Lenin statue
A long ride today into Kiev. We started optimistic by putting on sunscreen. Unfortunately, overcast skies became steadily heavier. For first 50km, we decided to take back roads on a short cut to Fastiv. After 6km we left the normal road for smaller back roads. These turned out to work quite well. Not much traffic and surprisingly good surfaces. We passed planted fields and then through a small village or two. There seem to be more stray dogs out here to chase cyclists but none too ferocious. The road wound up and down a few hills and was just a generally delightful back road.

At 50km we were in outskirts of Fastiv as it started lightly raining. We took a small road to the center, and then through middle of town. A few of the turns were complex here but using the map and occasional bystander questions we found our way.

At about 64km, Bert had another flat tire. Unfortunately, cause for this one was a broken spoke on the rear. We patched the tire and repacked things to discover, my patch didn’t hold. Sigh. Everything off and this time a spare tube. More troubling was this broken spoke, particularly after replacing them in Lviv.

We started again, this time careful on back wheel as we went over a few hills. At 78km, a nice place at top of hill for lunch. Cost us $2.60 for two of us. Today I noticed more places along the way where eggs, potatoes and other items placed out front. Presumably for passerby to purchase.

war memorial
busy traffic
After lunch we started going slower. There was a bit of a headwind and the hills and two long cycle days were taking their toll. Fortunately, the mileage markers were counting down. The road was getting busier, though it was surprising that it wasn’t until ~15km from Kiev ring road (110km) that it got quite busy.

Passed a few suburbs at 118km and then made it to the ring road at 123km. This was an extremely busy road with three lanes of traffic each direction. The road was pretty full, though fortunately there often was a wide right lane. Also traffic wasn’t moving much faster then we were. As we got to overpass over the railroad tracks, it got narrow – so I sped up and claimed a lane to keep up with traffic. A bit harrowing, but made it to exit just past railroad.

We were now ~3km north of road with the hotels, and decided to try back streets. What a contrast! Instead off three lane busy highway we were now on small rutted sand/mud path. Bert rode, but I decided to walk the bumps.

Eventually this back alley became larger, and even paved. It kept getting bigger until we hit a major road. It took a bit of sorting out here with map and help from passerbys to find a hotel at 135km.

Bad news, first hotel had no place to keep bikes. Also bad news as I noticed Bert’s bike had a second broken spoke. There was another place 2km away, though I suggested we walk, rather than ride the wheel with two broken spokes.

Next hotel, also no place for bikes. So we decided to walk further. The third place also didn’t have place for bikes though suggested car parking behind. A little nervous about locking up good bikes outside but otherwise hotel was good location and reasonable price. By time we checked into our room, it was 9:45pm, so end to a long day of 140km. The restaurant was a bit of a shock with prices ~50x what we paid for lunch. We got two salads for $21 total and skipped drinks or anything else.

Nice to get to Kiev, now need to figure out bike repairs.

June 3rd, Kiev

bicycle sales
bicycle repair
Nice to make a rest day after several days riding. Also necessary as we needed to fix the back wheel. How to find bicycle repair in a city of two million?

We took the wheel with broken spokes and carried it with us. Our travels last night had taken us to hotel that was very near end of one of the subway lines, so we rode subway into middle of the city. Now start asking people. First person wasn’t sure, perhaps they sold bikes on second floor of the BMW building.

The BMW building wasn’t open, but guards there said no, but gave other ideas. We decided to start walking into middle of the city. Saw two people on reasonable Ukrainian bikes. They gave us location on other side of the city, that sounded promising.

downtownOrange revolution gone commercialstreet performersdowntownMcDonaldsIndependence Square

Independence SquarePotato house
The metro has some deep tunnels. These trains are quite frequent, perhaps every 3 minutes or so. Also, fairly crowded. After crossing the river, into the market district and eventually found someone who could repair the wheel. Yeah! We dropped off the wheel and went to different sport place to buy inner tubes. The wheel was done. We rode subway back to the hotel, first mission accomplished. The wheel still looks somewhat out of true, but hopefully can ride there tomorrow and get things fixed up and look after pedals as well.

In afternoon another subway ride, this time to downtown. The main street had been closed to motor traffic. It had a festive atmosphere to it. Street performers, political speeches, people selling wares and lots of people walking around.

Downtown Kiev has a mixture of grand old stone buildings, some large Stalin style buildings and many monuments. Pedestrian underpasses under the busiest streets with shopping in some of these underground places. These is also informal commerce with people selling strawberries, clothes and other stuff. Also many handing out commercial fliers. With all the street festivities and commerce, pretty different from communist stereotypes of 15 years ago.

for sale
We found an internet cafe and caught up on communications. Also went out and did some walking up and down people watching and looking at street performances. The young women’s style here includes more heels, short dresses, stockings and a sexier look. Pointy shoes and some fishnet stockings seem to be in. There is a surprising amount of clothing with English on it as well.

For dinner we walked back a bit and found a “potato house”, a Ukrainian version of a TexMex type restaraunt. Complete with a make your own burrito (spelled in cyrillic of course). After that a subway ride at end of an easy rest day in Kiev. 0 km today.

June 4th, Kiev

bike repair
Another easy day in Kiev. We checked out of our hotel before going to pack things back on the bikes. First fix a flat on Bert’s back wheel. We’d gone barely 400m when we stopped and fixed a second flat on that same wheel.

Now an early Sunday morning ride over a few hills and then across the Dnieper River to the other side. From here around near bicycle market to find a hotel. First hotel looked a bit dubious, on 7th floor of a large apartment building. Next choice was a pretty nice hotel. They had baggage room for bikes, though mine had to stand on end.

We took Bert’s bike to the bike repair place. They finished truing the wheel, replaced brake pads, pedals and got everything in good order. We got some more glueless patches, and spare brake pads and pedals. Looks like things were well fixed up.

Back to hotel and then into town. We took subway to Chernobyl museum. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked carefully and it was closed on Sundays. Nice restaurant for lunch and then walk back towards town, before taking subway to Independence Square area.

upscale market
Stopped at internet cafe and wandered through streets before returning back on subway to town. These subways can make it pretty easy to get around. 13 km today.

June 5th, Pryluky

Welcome to the Hotel California. A hotel by this name may be found in Pryluky, Ukraine. Rooms on the second floor with a bathroom down the hall. We reached this nice small town after a sometimes windy ride from Kiev.

We started early and pretty quickly got on the main M01 motorway that goes north from town. The motorway was wide with high speed traffic. I discovered my odometer wasn’t working anymore. Most likely think the battery ran down after something leaned against it in the baggage room at the hotel. Fortunately, enough road mileage markers to keep track.

We tried finding our way to a smaller back road, but were told that this road quickly turned to sand, so were back on the motorway until the main P01 road branched off. There was a strong southwest wind, mostly a cross wind but with a slight tailwind component. After 20km we reached turnoff, and signs already indicating Sumy.

small store
storm damage
This road was smaller, but with reasonable surface and less traffic. After 40km, we made a brief stop at a store in Gogoliv. From here the road was pretty rural and villages were small. We meant to find something in Nova Basan, but were past the main town before we realized it. Fortunately, the road turned slightly to the north, and we had much more of a tailwind here.

We also got sections of ugly concrete road. Every 3m or so, there would be a crack. Thump, thump, thump. I worried a little about new spokes and make sure wheels and all made it. After 108km there was a turnoff to Pryluky. This road went to south and hence directly into the strong wind. The road sometimes had branches in it, and right as we came into town, my right front pannier caught one of these branches. Before I knew it, the front wheel twisted around and the bike went down. At the same time, I lept, and cleared the bike. Other than handlebars twisted around, all looked ok.

hotel California
bicycle in the room
As we asked about hotels, we were told to find the “Hotel California”. Pryluky was a nice small town with a center with some stores and several streets. It has some similarities “midwestern small town” in America. Here too was a large board that showed pride of the city, including photos of notable people from the town. 117 km today.

June 6th, Romney

Sumy oblast
food stop at store
Shorter ride today. Less wind, more hills and generally better roads. We left the concrete highway and cracks behind.

We checked out early from Hotel California and made our way back to the main road. Concrete road for a bit, but that fortunately ended within 10km. News articles say the number of automobiles in Ukraine has gone up 10x in the last decade, but I suspect that is more true of Kiev than the countryside. While we saw occasional cars, traffic was generally light.

Flat terrain from yesterday was replaced by occasional hills. It looked like some fields were planted with crops, but also some just pasture lands. In general, less planted here than east of Kiev. There were occasional turnoffs to small villages. Bike was riding fine until I heard “pow!” and my front tire quickly went flat. It had a 1 centimeter cut in sidewall.

Replaced the tire with my folding spare. We stopped in next village to get some juice to drink. A local came over and wanted the whole story: where we were from, where we were going, etc. He then told others as well. He couldn’t tell us much about Romney hotel since he wasn’t from that Oblast.

We looked for turnoff to Sribne, but it was gravel road. So kept going with short snack break at 60km. We crossed into our last Ukraine Oblast and took photo of the large signs they place here. From here a fairly straightforward ride into Romney with one last hill coming in.

As we asked about where to find the hotel, a young man rode over on a fancy Cannondale bike. He was from the area but had worked in Germany, so tried German first. He was enthusiastic about helping us, and led us to local hotel. Pretty nice accomodations here.

We were early and so walked around town. Bert got a hair cut and we also found local internet cafe. The market was already closed but other shops still open. Overall, a nice ride into Romney. 83 km today.

June 7th, Sumy

stork with two chicks
Made it to Sumy! After three days of cycling towards signs to the city, nice to arrive. The first part of the day was flat, but we had some good rolling hills at the finish.

Left Romny early as it was still cool. One or two hills and then it became flatter. Until Sumy, the road surfaces were smooth. There was a steady increase in traffic as we got closer to the city.

First stop, Nedryhaliv after 30 km. The small town was already bustling with activity. There was a good store here and chance to refuel. This morning it was crackers and juice.

I noticed more crops in the fields and also more smaller sized plots with people working them with hoes. Many villages have houses set back a ways from the road and in the gap in between are chickens, geese, goats, cows and other livestock.

With good cycling weather, we made steady progress to Sumy. As we got closer there were several smaller ravines to descend and then climb up the other side. On outskirts of town we went right and took the road past the airport. This was a rougher road but not too bad.

Velo Sumy
A little past where the city began, Bert noticed a cyrillic sign, “Velo Sumy”. We parked and intended to make a quick stop. I showed them my 700×35 tire with a gash, and asked if they had a replacement. Pleasantly surprised to find they had a 700×38 that would do well as a spare (I still also have a folding tire).

Bert now showed them where he had some difficulties with bottom bracket in some gears. They looked at it and measured the chain stretch (showing us it was a US made measuring device). Suggested it was the chain. This was replaced, but things still skipped a bit. We took their suggestion, and replaced the cassette as well.

Our bikes were an interesting spectacle as several from the shop examined them. In process, it was discovered that Bert had another broken spoke, this one on non-drive side. So one more repair as we fixed spokes again.

By now we spent a few hours outside the shop as a succession of repairs and adjustments were done. Had some interesting conversations with folks at the shop about cycling. Also useful to know they are able to order some of the same Shimano and other bike components in towns like Sumy.

Last request was to tell us where to find a hotel. This was a bit complicated, so one of the mechanics led us there on the bike. While we had been careful to obey lights, our guide showed us cyclists can run lights in all countries.

Hotel was on the 6th floor and the elevator was small. We made multiple trips. The most complex was fitting my bike on end in the small elevator.

Nice to finally get here to Sumy after a reasonable ride and then few hours learning a bit more about Ukrainian bike shops. We walked a bit through the city in search of lunch/dinner combination. This city has at least as many large apartment block buildings as others of its size we’ve passed through. Here we also found internet cafe and learned unfortunate news, my maternal grandmother had passed away (at age 96).

Tomorrow plan will be to cross the border into Russia. 103 km today.

forward to Russia


2006: Bicycling through Ukraine — No Comments

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