An Indian Summer In the Moravian Karst
An Indian Summer In the Moravian Karst

Everyday, we get up earlier than most, we test our comfort zone and see just how far we can go, for no other reason than because we love to ride. Sure, people might not get why – but that’s fine. As grandpa always says, “Well then, more for me.” For Jirka, time spent on the bike is time spent liberating and restorative. It’s because he rides that he’s able to excel off the bike. Here, he shares more about his riding as he takes us through his backyard, the Moravian Karst.

Words: Jirka Parizek, MAAP Ambassador

Photography: Petr Milde

The Punkva Caves

The plan today is a solo ride to the Punkva Caves, in the heart of the Moravian Karst. Unfortunately, my legs are more like concrete blocks than they are ready to take on the day, acting out in absolute protest from my weekly training.

Here are the details — Strava Route

  • Route: The Kras
  • Distance: 100km
  • Elevation gain: 986m

Staying on top of my training while also bringing fresh ideas to the table as a graphic designer and being a compassionate partner and father can be… tricky. It’s all interconnected, I believe. However, it’s a balancing act. I'm feeling the push to ride and pull of life today more than usual. Which is why I'm heading out solo – sometimes, you have to make time for yourself in order to create quality time for the things and people that are most important to you.

I’ll get home after covering 130 km, for example, and my son Daniel is standing in the doorway and shouting "Daddy, can we go for a bike ride?" Let's be honest, you cannot say no to that! As tired as I might be from the ride, it’s because I rode that I’m more present and connected when I’m back home or at the office.

So, it's time to get going!

An Indian summer in The Moravian Karst.

When you’re asked to think about an incredible climb or route, what comes to mind?

Unless you’re from the Czech Republic, I’m guessing the Moravian Karst wasn’t on your list? That’s okay. You might’ve been thinking about the Alpe d’Huez in France, Grimsel Pass in Switzerland or Passo Stelvio in Italy. All of which are very worthy of their global fame.

However, with no cars on a lot of the roads, and diverse range of challenging routes, the Moravian Karst is a playground for cyclists. It’s no wonder that a lot of professionals such as Jan Hirt (CCC), Jan Bárta (BORA Hansgrohe) and Leopold König (BORA Hansgrohe) train here.

The unique geography and microclimates in the southern Moravia area create a cooler riding environment during peak heat in the summer. In autumn, I spend most of the time on a cyclocross bike. It’s a popular time of year, so it’s perfect for exploring lesser trafficked routes, places where the paved roads don’t go. It’s definitely the most beautiful part of the year to ride. In the winter, the weather turns. A lot of roads, especially those that are not maintained, are buried under snow and ice, which makes for really difficult riding conditions.

Today, it’s a classic autumn day in the karst. I'm up early. My son always gets up before the day officially starts, so it’s normal for me to get up ahead of the sunrise. The weather is clear and the temperature is going to rise from a crisp 5º celsius to a more comfortable 18º. With the lurking mist in the valley beginning to disappear, it’s going to be a day to treasure before winter officially kicks in.

In the heart of it all.

Riding up through the rocky valley in the karst, the asphalt turns into gravel and cars are replaced with a wall of trees. The path is lined with caves and neck-straining rock cliffs on both sides. The road is about 7km, without any cafes, shops, or houses. It’s the perfect place to go to escape. It’s mystical, the sound of the forest and the silence.

The history of the Moravian Karst adds to the draw of the route. It’s more than a unique landscape with wild geological features that belong on another planet. Here, there are towering old factories abandoned after the revolution, roads that have been closed for decades, and bridges being enveloped by their natural habitat. I love how the more you explore your backyard, the more you respect it.

The Macocha Gorge

On the way back, I swung by the Macocha Gorge.

It’s stunning. For good reason, this place is among the most visited places in the Moravian Karst. Looking down the gorge can be disorienting, there’s no end. At the top, there’s a sweeping view of the surrounding forests. With the exception of winter, the gorge is alive with interest, constantly buzzing with people and tourists and locals alike.

Today, though, I’m just passing by.

The Ice cream is amazing in Krtiny! Maybe next time.

The way home is the ultimate test of fitness.

There’s a rich mixture of fast descents and steady climbs leading back towards Brno. First, a quick 5km descent, with the last 2km featuring a collection of tight turns down a sharp 12% grade, leads to the village of Křtiny. The ice cream at the cafe here is amazing. It’s a great place to stop during summer training rides with friends. Not today, though.

Ahead of me is a 5km false flat where you can really punch it.

Locked in and driving to the top.

Locked into my big ring and somewhere in the middle of the cassette, I dropped my head here and drove hard to the top.

It’s a beautiful feeling, when everything around you fades away and you enter a state of total flow. By now, the concrete wrapping my legs at the beginning of the ride has fully cracked away. I was flying. Right as my lungs were about to pop, I hit the top. Relief!

Sitting at the top of the climb at 500m above sea level, I took a minute to catch my breath and take in the sweeping landscape of forest across the karst. It never ceases to amaze me how one can get lost in their own backyard. It’s why I love it here.

Known as the Moravian Switzerland

The Moravian Karst is a small area with a huge potential for cycling.

With incredible canyons and gorges all throughout the karst, it feels like you’re riding through Narnia. Most of the roads snake through hilly terrain and are hidden underneath deep dark forests. There’s an endless number of gravel roads interwoven throughout the area, which are perfect for escaping crowds and traffic.

There’s something for everyone here, especially if you’re up for riding on roads less traveled. The karst might not be on your list just yet, but when it is you know where to find me.

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