Poland is a country that doesn't have mountains such as the Alps, Pyrenees, or Dolomites within its borders. But its scenic mountain ranges can be incredibly charming.
What characterizes these areas is the diversity of nature and landscapes. Each massif has a unique and individual character. Here you will find long scenic climbs, sharp and challenging hills, unspoiled areas, as well as heavily-urbanized tourist areas.
I want to introduce you to the Beskidy: green and wild alike. You can find sections with perfect tarmacs, but also places where you should get off the bike.
The Silesian Beskidy is the second largest mountain range in Poland, its rich culture is a constant attraction to tourists. These are the mountains that are closest to my heart, where I spent a large part of my childhood. I come here very often as it’s a proverbial stone’s throw away from my home.
I know pretty much every road here, so the route I have created is based on a compromise between difficult climbs and places with little traffic. There will be quite a lot to ride, with a distance of 130km and 2000m of elevation gain. But believe me when I tell you that this is a only a small piece of what you can experience here.
My day starts early: I am at the start in the Wisla area before nine o'clock – determined by the need to avoid a lot of the early-morning traffic. In order to sense the atmosphere of the mountains right away, I’ve planned the route so that the start is quite demanding, with an immediate climb of 300m. And going uphill was never my specialty.
The terrain is typically Beskidian: forests stretching all around, no spectacular views but rich in luscious greenery. I’m halfway to the summit when it starts getting darker, as the rain comes in. By the end of the climb I am accompanied by a warm and soothing drizzle.
After the first climb, I cycle into small Beskid towns and begin to experience the culture of the place where I am. Riding downhill, passing colorful houses, wooden sculptures, and highlanders grazing sheep.
I reach Koniakow, the start of the climb to Ochodzita. This is the longest and second most difficult hill of the route – ending with a local restaurant and a nice view. However, the summit is no place to stop. Koniakow is the capital of Polish lacework, and the museum located halfway up the driveway is certainly a stop worth visiting.
The building is decorated with beautiful mosaics, and inside there are unique exhibits of lacework and the history told by remarkable old photos.
Reaching the summit, I make sure capture the panorama of the Beskidy Mountains. Next up: almost 30 kilometers of gentle downhill on winding paths. The quality of the roads is very good. The tarmacs are smooth and without potholes. The only downside is that there’s a lot of car traffic, so you have to stay fully focused. Driving culture in Poland still leaves much to be desired.
The kilometers pass in a flash, and along the way I come across some picturesque towns such as Laliki, Rajcza and Milowka. From this point on, the road begins to climb, and the monotony is interrupted by two challenging but short hills.
After riding down the section, the route becomes more attractive, as the road runs along Zywiecki Lake. I'm quite lucky, because at the moment I'm taking this route, a new road is being built, so traffic for cars is closed. On a daily basis, you can expect a lot of flow here, as most people go to their summer cottages located around the lake. The road winds among the trees, which occasionally revealing a panorama of the lake.
After the smaller towns, it is time for Szczyrk. The second largest city in the region. Of the many locations to choose from here, I’ve selected the SKI & BIKE cafe. This place has a unique atmosphere, also sharing a love for bicycles.
While drinking my coffee, I talk to the owner about cycling and the history of the cafe. About his passion for bicycles, building his own constructions. I see many of the exhibits with my own eyes.
I drag drinking coffee out for as long as I can. The reason is simple: Ahead of me is the last and most difficult climb, the Salmopol Pass. The section itself is more than 7.5 kilometers of uphill riding with an average gradient of 5.6%. After 100km already covered, this hill can be quite a challenge.
The climb starts smoothly and gradually becomes more of a challenge.
While riding up, I’ve got time to reflect on the fact that just a year ago, it would never have crossed my mind to plan and ride this route. I had always avoided the significant elevation gain and going to the top was a torture. What changed my approach is that I realized that my life has always been around mountains. As a child it was hiking, then I ran ultramarathons, and the missing piece was simply cycling in the mountains.
I approached the process gradually: Starting with small hills and over time increasing the level of difficulty by adding more and more elevation. This is how you can truly enjoy riding in the mountains, you just have to like it and prepare to it. Done reflecting, I now find myself at the top of Salmopol Pass. This place is commonly called the White Cross and I must disappoint you, there are no spectacular views at the top, only a parking lot for cars.
I put on my windbreaker and descend in direction of Wisla. The descent is easy and pleasant, ending below the ski jump. In fact, I'm already at the finish line, all that's left is the straight road to the city.
It was a beautiful day spent on the bike.
If you have not yet been to the Beskydy Mountains, prepare to be charmed by the intensity of their greenery and the diversity of their landscapes.
You will find areas without people, but also agglomerations with a lot of car and tourist traffic. The quality of the roads is good, and the climbs are not steep, just long and challenging.
If you would like to try other routes, I would recommend the classics:
Little Beskid Loop 102km/ 1680m of elevation gain
Great Beskid Loop 141km/ 1320m of elevation gain
My name is Jacek Thomann, I live in Poland and am obsessed with bikes, engineering, and photography. Being able to combine these things and explore my homeland is a dream come true.