I finally got myself together, assembled my bike, and went exploring. Obviously after I spent most of a warm, sunny Saturday inside reading it would be cold and rainy on Sunday, but it’s never actually been asserted by anyone that I make the best scheduling decisions.
To be fair though, in Philadelphia the weather forecasters are arguably not very good at forecasting. In Prague they take it to the next level and clearly just don’t give a damn, making up whatever they feel like. Today’s forecast as of this morning when I left was 65, sunny & clear all day. An hour later the actual weather was 50 and raining steadily. Such has happened on several occasions already.
Roads, Trails, Dirt
Riding in the downtown core of Prague itself is basically a ridiculous proposition. A long time ago some guys and I were kicking around Philly on a ride near Christmas. We hit Germantown Ave at Cresheim Valley and it was the most amazing fiasco—cobbles, trolley tracks, ice, snow, busy traffic patterns, angry holiday shoppers, chaos! Somebody half-fell into ice water, somebody rode into a car waiting at the light, I slammed my rear wheel into a parked car to correct, it was a disaster. For years that entire group would know exactly what you were on about if you yelled “Cycling apoc-a-lypse!”
The core of Prague puts that to shame. Forget Germantown Ave, every road here is cobbles, with multiple trolley tracks, all going in crazy directions. And it rains off and on all the time so everything’s crazy slick. Plus there’s the lack of interest among European city planners in stop signs, yield signs, etc., and the resounding support that attitude gets out of every driver.
Once you get out of the core though, it’s actually very ridable. Many of the roads that are more straightforward to navigate are somewhat busy, but they’re all in surprisingly good shape and traffic seems very accommodating. In general it also seems like the Prague area really empties out on the weekends, an observation corroborated by several guidebooks and websites I’ve read, which is perfect for long Saturday or Sunday rides.
The thing to watch though is that it’s real easy to go from a perfectly nice, smoothly paved local country road, to something much more amenable to a cyclocross bike, sometimes even a mountain bike. Similar could be said of many places in the states, say, in Vermont. The difference here is that dirt roads seem to not be differentiated on maps.
Similarly, there are actually a ton of fantastic bike paths around that go all sorts of places. They’re actually fairly impressive, the network is in most ways much more substantial and interconnected than any similar system I’ve seen in the states. But they’re super hard to follow at times as they co-exist temporarily through the occasional driveway or side street and it’s real easy to wind up off track or at a dead end. Signage is at a definite minimum and fairly inconsistent in its placement and conventions. Similarly to the local country roads, a lot of them also have significant gravel or dirt sections and there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell on a map.
Notably, that photo sequence is on bike route 3, where the classification scheme indicates “Single digit route: International, very long distance route.”
In many ways though the most nerveracking part of riding around is just not having any concrete idea what the signage is saying. Usually it’s pretty clear. This sign was a good guess to mean “Cyclists dismount,” which it does. But does it say more (it doesn’t)—that’s a lot of words for “Dismount!?!?!” At speed on bigger roads there’s an awful lot of “Wellppp, hope that didn’t say anything important…”
Heading out I had the loose goal of riding to Řevnice, a town about 20mi south of Prague. Poking around on Strava this seemed to have one of the larger road climbs in the area, most of which is slightly rolling but lacking in steep or long climbs. In general this has been by far the most interesting use of Strava for me, even back home, exploring areas for good places to ride. In this case the Explore view yielded a King of the Mountain segment in Řevnice. It seemed like a bunch of locals ride it often, so I went to check it out.
Without anything in the way of a “route” planned out per se, I was moderately surprised to actually make it there, especially after a couple dead ends, some gravel, the rain, and a brief but somewhat nervy ride on the local equivalent of US30 or 73.
In the end as I approached Řevnice I was rewarded with sighting the first two racing-oriented-looking roadies I’ve seen here. Neither acknowledged me, except the one guy had to when I pulled up right next to him at a blocked train crossing. It definitely seems to be the case that in a complete reversal from American protocols, runners here all wave while cyclists of all stripes steadfastly ignore each other…
The Řevnice climb itself was definitely worth the trip as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to find harder, it’s basically a twisty, ~3.5 mile version of Shawmont Ave, but definitely a really pleasant little forested climb on which a pretty good workout could be put on. I’m reasonably sure if I rode there fresh and was doing more than tooling around I could mount a credible challenge to the current Strava KOM. Beware, Frantisek Padour, beware!