Interview: Ultra Romance visits Crete

09 Nov 2018

Ultra Romance is an unprecedented figure in world cycling scene. A metalhead, fisheries laborer and model – he has traveled extensively around US on a bikepacking mission if not crusade. He is now traveling with his partner, Vietnamese born TENZIN NAMDOL and they are the most popular bike touring couple. They have been lecturing on bike expos and conferences, as well as being involved in product developement projects for soft goods or hardware. Ronnie himself is riding a handmade Crust bike, developed especially on his recomendations. It is a special geometry for touring and bikepacking utilising a Ultra Romance dropbar style fitting dynamic.

Lately, Tenzin and Ronnie visited Greece and especially Crete, on a small tour they did in Europe. They didnt have any expectation from Greece. They climbed up Psiloreitis, criss-crossed the island a few times and experienced the freeform camping culture of Greece. Still an unregulated land where farmland and private property is open to travellers and sleeping under the stars is guaranteed under any given day. They were so kind to share with us some of the images they took in Crete and also answered a few of our questions.

Hey, its great reading your traveling stories on the screen and then I realised Ultra Romance is visiting our country. So, how did you ended up in Greece and particularly Crete?
If you want the short answer: YOGURT.  Sounds funny, but really, it’s my favorite food!  More specifically Greek style yogurt. Really, if your yogurt isn’t strained, it just dribbles all over your face and beard, making you look like you had a rough night. My second favorite food is olive oil.  So yeah, Greece is a no brainer.
Crete has always held a bit of magic in my heart, with the history and mythology.  I had heard it was also super easy to be a vegetarian there.  That was surely an understatement.  It really is the best place I have ever toured for the vegetarian foodie.  The incredible terrain was a bonus!

Crete is like a little miniature of Greece. Tall mountain, sea around it and lots of history and gothic pirate myths. Which route did you choose? What areas did you cover?
We hadn’t planned to stay for 2 weeks in Crete, but once we landed and had our first meal while taking in the mountainous views on one side, and the technicolor Aegean Sea on the other… we realised that we needed to stay on this island as long as we could.  We ended up criss crossing the island from north to south a number of times, but staying primarily on the wester half of the island.
The south west coast was amazing, and so remote once you pedalled/hike a biked just a kilometer away from where the tourists are.  So easy to escape and have entire beaches and mountain tops all to yourself.

What strike you the most about the countryside?
The accessibility to amazingly fresh seasonal food.  The olive oil, the honey, the wild greens, the sheep yogurt!  Traveling the countrysides in other parts of my own country and the rest of the world often means long stretches of nothingness, save for a occasional gas station stocked with 5 different flavors of Doritos.
Crete is known for being a “folksy” place, and the countryside did not disappoint as it would seem this is the side of their culture that is encouraged for tourism.
Maybe a good thing.  I think it is.

Locals in Greece are really into free camping in the summertime. Mostly close to a beach. Do you prefer the mountains or the sea for bike?
I always prefer the mountains for that very reason.  Its a lot harder to get into the mountains, so for the most part, those are the quite places that you can relax and camp without seeing anyone.  Also more spectacular scenery for the most part.  What surprised me about Crete were all the remote beach camping spots we kept finding ourselves in.  The beaches were not the muggy, buggy, bird poop messes that you find in other parts of the world, instead it felt as if we were camping on the side of a salty lake.
I tend to not enjoy the ocean too much, but Crete was an other experience all together.  So in Crete, I’m all about beach camping, but in other places it is less than ideal, and usually a bad idea (unless you are into that muggy buggy salty sticky feeling, and having all your things covered in sand).

When choosing a bike spot to camp: is there any tips, technique or advise that you would like to share?
Private property is a real deal gun in your face kinda thing in my country.  Because I learned to camp in a place like this, I always make sure I am very well hidden, no matter where I am.  Always camp under something.  If there is a tree, sleep under it.  It will keep the morning dew off of you and your things.  Avoid meadows for this reason.  Use our red lights on our headlamps at night.  This keeps you well hidden, and also keeps you from shining an obnoxious bright light in your friend’s face.  If you are gonna have a fire, dig a hole to have it in.  That way when you want to put it out, you just kick the dirt over the top.  This also helps you leave no trace.  Im all about leaving every camp spot better off than when I found it. 

A lot has been said about bike touring lately, give us a top list of the places you want to bike tour in?
Thats good news for my career!  Haha, yeah, I think bike touring is really the ultimate bicycle experience.  Especially when you ad in the distant places to travel and tour in.  To be honest I would be quite content just touring around the mountainous regions of theMediterranean.  Still need to hit up mainland Greece, and spend a good amount of time in theDolomites.  A summer in France would be charming as well.  We have all this amazing terrain and open space to tour in out own country, that it is sometimes difficult to justify leaving, but once you get to the older worlds, it becomes apparent that you’ve made a good decision.   

Hey your hair is truly #1, is Specialized sponsoring you with a hairdresser and facial hair groomer?
My hair IS having a good day today, thanks for noticing. Does it feel #1?  Hmmm… yeah, I guess it does!  Due in part from the support from my sponsors, I’ve been able to afford very high end hair care accouterments. Thanks Specialized! 

You can follow Ultra Romance here.
You can read a splendid article of their trip in Crete written by Tanzin on the Radavist, click.

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