SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - Nice & Sleazy Does It!

Posted: Sunday, 9 March 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , , ,

On the first day of my trip to the Balkans, Alex told me that in three days I would be able to make his Avalanche Downhill Skibike dance. Today was day four on the snow, so I should have been up to Tango level by now, right?

Certainly Alex and Manos have all the right moves, their dance is one of the Macedonian highlands, all fast moves, fancy footwork and bottom wiggling. My dance is more that of the red faced and moderately inebriated tourist, but it is still a dance of sorts. I am surprised that, given my three days to become accustomed to this mighty steed, I can now flick the tail into a drift and hold it there, do a bit of a foot down carve to get me down the steep section of the black run and even hit the red run standing on the pegs.

Alex and Manos have all the right moves

On this last day I wasn't bothered about speed, my mission was to achieve accuracy and precision. Someone claimed recently on a public forum that they can tell how a skibike can perform just by looking at a picture of it. I might not have such super powers, but I am starting to work out the principles of skibike design. So I wasn't expecting precision control over a skibike with a high stance, long forks and vast amounts of suspension travel, frankly, I was expecting something that handled like a hovercraft.

Today, spotting a pine cone lying in the snow I swung around it like a slalom pole and left it sitting on the snow where it had fallen. Later I saw a carelessly dropped bottle of water lying on a slope, I knocked it with the front ski and sent it slowly tumbling down the fall line, I then met it with the back ski for the second knock and then beat it down the fall line to stop it with my foot. It hadn't been opened and the brand was called Devin, this is clearly a sign from a higher power.

The brand was called Devin - Holy water?

Going a bit too fast on the flat there was none of the nervous squireling that makes it necessary to always put in a bit of a carve on my own skibikes. The skis went from edge to edge nice and smoothly, with no clonky dead spot on all but the very hardest of snow.

I have to remind myself that this is only the "Barbie" model designed for a petite woman much smaller, lighter and prettier than myself. Avalanche Downhill Skibikes are not for crumbly pensioners or those wanting a lightweight cruiser to make their way around at a leisurely pace. But for a young, fit rider wanting to go fast and in good control whether on or off-piste, they are going to be a hard product to beat.
For residents of the European Economic Area, the absence of the import duties charged on American made products, will also make a not inconsiderable economic incentive to "buy local".

I have to remind myself that this is only the "Barbie" model

This trip has taken me well outside of my comfort zone, I was dreading that I was going to be stuck riding something unpleasant day after day, but on the final run I was sad to say good bye to Bucephalus, I was still hungry for more time on the snow and maybe that is the only fact you need to know.

The question everyone is asking on the web this week is "How Much"? The word from the horse's mouth (not Bucephalus's) is that the price will depend on the choice of ski type and components, such as the forks and rear shock. But €2000 would be a good budget for a moderate performance set up. If the cost is stopping you from taking this route and you have your own components, then discounts would be available for kit bikes. Delivery could be arranged in around a few weeks.

So what of Bulgaria as a skibiking destination? Before this trip I consulted my trusty "Good Skiing & Snowboarding Guide 1998", it had the following pearls of wisdom written on its tattered pages...
A turbulent and often tragic history of occupation by neighbouring powers has left the Bulgarian people at worst suspicious of foreigners, at best unsure of how to deal with them.

Nearly two decades later, it is obviously a country still going through a painful period of transition. Some will gain and some will loose, maybe this is why foreigners are sometimes treated with gruff disdain; that said, disdain is relative, you've not really seen disdain till you've asked for help in your best tourist French from a Parisienne and even French people will acknowledge that fact.

Bulgaria is still amazing value at the moment, this trip cost about half of the price of the equivalent in France, OK it's a bit rough around the edges with a "nice and sleazy" edge to it. But the riding is really good and the resorts have improved out of recognition since my trusty ski guide was written in 1998.

Furthermore, the mountains may not have the mind blowing overkill factor of say Chamonix, but  they do have their own unique charm in exactly the same way as the Cairngorms (Scotland), Pyrenees, Jura or Vosges do. Where the developments have been sympathetic to the environment, the villages have rustic beauty and did I mention the scale of the forests? My Macedonian travelling companions talked about this; but what do they know, they live in an arid seaside town. I now have to concur with them, I have never seen such fecund and verdant woodland outside the North American land mass.

I have never seen such fecund and verdant woodland outside America

As a technologist, I know that nature abhors a vacuum; so do market forces, postulated by Adam Smith in the 18th Century. Baring some form of major catastrophe, it is inevitable that Bulgaria will catch up with the rest of the European Economic Area. Both standards of service and prices will rise in direct relation to each other, so perhaps now is the best moment to enjoy Bulgaria before it becomes unaffordable to.

And finally... in tribute to a band who were a great influence in my formative years and also to those hard working Bulgarian "Food pimps", who with indomitable character, tried to extract Levs from our pockets to eat food and possibly more.... Ladies and Gentlemen, I present: "The Stranglers" and the aptly titled track "Nice & Sleazy". For anyone who doesn't understand the English accent, here are the lyrics...

We came across the West Sea
We didn't have much idea
Of the kind of climate waiting
We used our hands for guidance
Like the children of a preacher
Like a dry tree seeking water
Or a daughter
Nice 'n' sleazy
Nice 'n' sleazy does it
Does it every time.

An angel came from outside
Had no halo
Had no father
With a coat of many colours
He spoke of brothers many
Wine and women
Song aplenty
He began to write a chapter
In history
Nice 'n' sleazy
Nice 'n' sleazy does it
Does it every time.