Novi Sad (and MTB!)
Sounds funny just saying it: Novi Sad and mountain biking! If you have been to the Vojvodina region of Serbia, you will have seen it is as flat as a pancake!! You can see this from this picture from Google Earth. Novi Sad (plenty about Novi Sad on the Internet – try
the official Novi Sad site for starters, find the English tab) is the general sprawl on the right-hand side, and you can see that the area around seems to extend to an endless, flat horizon! Not much to offer the mountain-biker you may think. That would be very true, were it not for the green area you can see extending diagonally across the picture to the left (south) of Novi Sad.
That, my fellow velocipedists, is Fruška gora, the nearest thing to a mountain within 100 miles of Novi Sad! It is actually a long hilly area – I hesitate to call it a mountain at a maximum of around 540m (1770ft) – stretching from the Danube river just outside Novi Sad, all the way to the Croatian border for a length of around 80km (50 miles). It is about 15km across at its widest, is a national park, and mountain bikers from Novi Sad call it… home!
Check out the Wikipedia entry for more info.
It has a limited number of tarmac roads criss-crossing it: the busiest consists of two one-way routes which give traffic a major shortcut from Novi Sad to Sremska Mitrovica which would otherwise take a couple of hours around. Unfortunately, this means LOTS of heavy lorries trundling up the hill at a snail’s pace and polluting the lovely clean air of the park. On the plus side, you can sometimes latch onto trucks if you are feeling lazy, and get pulled up. Also, this route (up to the Iri�ki venac) is quite a hard climb – around 4km of constant climbing up to a height of around 510m and is great for training. I have done it in 17 minutes on my clunky old bike, but it can be done a LOT quicker than that, and I aim to next summer! The icing on the cake is a breakneck descent back down from the Iriški venac, where you can race cars down the two lane forest road (I’ll upload a film one of these days :)).
Much more interesting for bikers, though, are some of the other road routes, like the Partizanski put which runs along the crest of the entire hill. You can basically join it at a number of points and leave it at several points too, so if you want, you can hitch a lift (or cycle, though you are best off taking the north side of the Danube up to the ferry at Futog and crossing there – far more pleasant) West along the Danube, almost to the Croatian border, and then cycle up onto the Partizanski put and follow it East for the 80km or so, almost to the Danube, which has curved round by that time, and descend again. This is perfect for a relaxing summer ride – traffic is very light along there as it doesn’t really lead anywhere, though you still need to have a certain level of fitness to cope with the constant climbing and descending at the top.
For the “real” MTB experience though, you need to hit the forest trails. There are actually 100’s of km of marked forest routes, used and maintained mostly by the dedicated members of the local “mountaineering” societies (and descended upon by hordes of day-trippers on national holidays – brrrr….) There are currently no rules limiting the riding of bikes through the woods as there are really very few bikers around – not enough to make an impact on the environment. In any case, environmental awareness is still unfortunately at a fairly low level here, and in my opinion, the Forestry Service do FAR more damage with their tractors and tree-cutting.
You can pretty much head anywhere into the woods and navigate most of the park using only forest trails, and likely meet very few people. There are a lot of steep climbs, though, so be prepared, and the north side of the mountain can be very wet for most of the year round – only in July-August does it really dry out. But the Fru�ka gora is a godsend to any mountain bikers itching to get out into the “wild” and get into training for some “real” mountain biking. There are also a number of mountain biking events during the year, the first of which is the Fanatic MTB Marathon, which covers some similar routes to the popular walking marathon usually held a week or two before. I entered for fun in 2006 (doing the shortest, 35km route) on my famous, 100 EUR bike, described elsewhere on these pages and was pretty proud to come 44th, which was about halfway down the field. Not bad for a rank amateur, I reckon! Roll on the 2007 marathon – I fancy going for the full 80km course this time..!
All in all, Novi Sad has more potential for mountain biking than might be expected, given its unfortunate flatlands location. Fru�ka gora, we love you! However, after cycling the length and breadth of Novi Sad’s very own mountain, the keen biker feel the urge to seek out wilder terrain, of which Serbia has much, and that is what this blog is about…
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