Michal Kawalec has been a Senior Software Engineer at X-Team for many years. In the spirit of Keep Moving Forward, he recently completed a spectacular multi-day Transalp bike journey that took him across the Alps. In this interview, we discuss why he did it, how it went, and what he would recommend to other cyclists who want to do the same.
How did you come up with the idea to go on a massive mountain bike journey across the Alps?
I had read about the Transalp Race and had seen some people doing Transalps on YouTube. So I decided a Transalp journey would be a great way to break my mountain bike hiatus that had happened because of the pandemic.
An excellent idea! What was your itinerary?
I got in the car on the 23rd of July, drove to Landeck in Austria, left the car there, took a bus to Nauders, and started mountainbiking from there the following day. The first day was briefly in Austria. The rest of the trip was in Italy.
The whole trip took a week and I slept in random hostels along the way. On the last day, I took a train from the finish location back to Landeck to retrieve my car.
What was your favorite experience during the trip?
Coasting down a mountain pass after climbing 1600 meters while passing marmots and horses. That mountain pass on the first day was unreal.
I can imagine! And what didn't go according to plan? Were there things that surprised you?
I had allocated a day for getting to my starting location, but that went all sideways. Five highway crashes caused me to arrive four hours late, only forty minutes before the last bus to Nauders.
Then I decided, for good measure, to clean my brake rotors with a chain degreaser. But the degreaser had some chain lubricant in it and it completely trashed my brake pads. Thankfully, I had a few spare brake pads and I found a bicycle repair shop early on the first day that lent me some isopropyl alcohol.
What about your legs? Was it physically tough?
Extremely tough. To be honest, I was completely unprepared for how tough it ended up being 😀. I decided to do the trip two months before the start date and trained by riding three eighty km rides a week. But the area where I live (Poznań, Poland) is almost completely flat. The highest hill is only sixty meters high.
So even though my training distances were fairly long, I was not prepared for the amount of energy I'd need to ascend two thousand meters in a day. Ultimately, I ended up riding half the route and taking the bus for the other half 😀.
Two thousand meters a day with little hill training must've been extremely tough. What equipment did you take? What type of bike, gear?
I have a Kross Soil Ex full suspension bike with a lot of parts swapped out. The brakes are Magura MT7, which are wonderful if somewhat tricky to align properly. The dropper post is a BikeYoke Revive. And I run CushCore inserts in my tires.
The tires were a Maxxis Minion DHR II/Rekon combo. I usually run Schwalbes, but they are hard to come by because of the pandemic and I was due for tire changes. But I loved these Maxxis Minion tires and can highly recommend the combo.
I also had a 35-liter backpack with all the clothes, bicycle repair gear, and a camera. I followed this checklist (in Polish) with some modifications. The whole backpack weighed just shy of eight kilos.
Pretty lightweight for such a heavy trip. What's the one thing you'd recommend to other people who want to do the same?
This trip really convinced me of the advantages of electric mountain bikes. I would want to repeat the trip, but I'd most likely do it on an electric bike instead. There are just too many beautiful sights in the Alps and only finite energy in my legs.
Do you want to join a company where you work with people who push themselves out of their comfort zones like this? You can! X-Team is always looking for experienced developers. Send through your application today.