The reason is obvious once you grab a map and have a look at the geomorphology of the island. A mind-blowing dense road network in the flat land full of olive trees, vineries and sandy beaches covers the East side while the West side consists of a mountainous spine with a fine mixture of tarmac and gravel roads, cliffs and valleys covered with pine trees and bushes.
So I find myself depending on the weather, the mood, the company and the thirst for exploration to decide where to ride! Yeap, exploration and adventure…even though it is not a huge island, it always surprises me when I ask myself the most simple question “Ok…where does this gravel road end?”…and believe me there are plenty of them that lead to magical places to relax or even stay overnight!
During the winter, beside the road spins or climbs with friends around the island I enjoy having micro-adventures in the mountainous areas of the island. Trying to avoid the Greek psychopath F1 car drivers (#fuckcars) I don’t take the main roads to lead me to the first gravel ascents after Machairado village. Though more of a hill than a mountain, Mt. Vrahionas has very steep uphills around it that last 8-10 km. All around the top (700m) there are plenty of gravel roads inside the pine forest or the high bushes. The view of almost the whole island is magnificent there…and you can enjoy it all the time during the climb!
When the temperature is not very low so I can move my fingers I carry my banjo with me, a light tent, dry seeds and traditional sweet rusks made with wine (you have to taste them with espresso coffee!!!) and start exploring the places through the gravel roads even paths, having tons of fun riding and searching for great spots to stay overnight under the stars! Very rarely it snows…but when that happens…riding in the snow is unbelievable especially in the region around Yperagathos monastery!!!
This year I was really lucky. Going down again to the flatland and getting rid off the heavy loaded panniers, a Greek cyclocross apocalypse is going to be revealed in the olive groves of Planos and Tragaki villages…which is my latest discovery! Numerous bad fresh opened muddy roads opened by local farmers feel like CX tracks…with the fallen branches of the olive trees and the stones of old destroyed walls acting as obstacles…
Let’s make it clear…cycling in Zante during the summer is mostly about reaching the deep blue beaches!!! I hate the crowdy sandy beaches full of beach bars and umbrellas…so everyday I clip on my bike and start chasing the beaches where silence and isolation are the main elements in addition to the crystal clear water. Although Gerakas sandy beach attracts dozens of people doesn’t have beach bars and noise cause is one of the main beaches of the National Marine Park. The road from town to the beach offers a quick spin with low elevation gain and a lot of turns. The challenge here is the tourists on quads that usually drive like crazy…but the golden sandy beach is going to ease your previous thrill.
Other days, when i feel my legs strong…I drink a coffee at “34” in town…and start riding towards the West, full of cliffs, side of the island. There you can find rocky beaches…or passages to the sea to be honest…with blue caves and great deep cold water…and mainly a poetic simplicity. Korakonisi is one of them…but be sure to have a compact crankset on your bike cause it is a killer ascent…and you have to climb it twice…remember it is a mountainous spine. If you want to go down West…you have to climb the mountain once on your way there and once returning.
You can imagine that this is a tiny part of the island’s treasures described here…the bike rambling never ends!
Words and photos by Gutter Case (aka George Tsoukalas).
Follow Gutter Case on instagram here: @gutter_case_cycloblues