Cycling trip: from Poznań to Zakopane in 3 days!

Three days of riding, two wheels, and one unforgettable experience. My report from a trip full of adventures, eaten bananas, and beautiful sights!


About the cycling route

I’ll begin with a brief route summary:

I’ve included GPX files at the end of the post. The route is suitable for a road bike as every included road is paved with asphalt, typically of excellent quality. The trip is 500 km long and features 3000 m of elevation. I’ve rode it in 3 days and included accommodation around the 200 km and 375 km marks. The tour can be improved by avoiding the Upper Silesian Industrial Region (GOP) due to unpleasant riding conditions.

Time for the interesting part: the trip report :)

Route stages

Poznań - Wieluń

Distance Elevation Waypoints
200 km 640 m Środa Wielkopolska, Miłosław, Kalisz

Report from the first day

We’ve set off from Poznań with a half-hour delay at 5 AM. Michał and Mateusz started the trip with me from the Marcinkowski park and Daniel joined us near the Tysiąclecia neighbourhood. The sun quickly rose above the horizon and blessed us with a warm temperature of 20-26 C. The wind was blowing in our backs, so we could gradually increase the pace - starting from 21,5 km/h through 23 km/h to a final speed of 24 km/h.

The route was very quiet and scenic. We drove mainly through smoothly paved roads with no cars around us. On the 65th kilometer we had a ferry crossing en route through Nowa Wieś Podgórna. We’ve talked briefly with a man who turned out to be the village’s Facebook page administrator. He took some photos, we’ve crossed the Warta rived and we got back on our bikes.

In Kalisz we’ve stopped for a hour-long rest near the 123rd kilometer. We used the nearby gas station’s facilities and shopped in a Dino just a few meters away. While we were shopping, Maciej had joined us after setting off from Kościelec near Koło.

We haven’t encountered any major adventures nor adversities except for two dangerous situations. Despite riding in a closely packed formation, drivers occasionally overtook us into oncoming traffic. The first time it happened, a truck with a long trailer attached almost pushed me off the road. I moved to my right and was left with the tiniest strip of asphalt.

The second time, a truck driving from ahead suddenly started honking and turned on its high beams. Instinctively I drove as close to the edge of the road as possible and prepared for a possible escape into the ditch. After just a few seconds, a speeding passenger car overtook us, passing the incoming truck by a few centimeters. Situations like those show that you should always keep a slight safety margin on your right. This way you’re able to react to a dangerous maneuver, fewers drivers will attempt one, and you will also avoid most of the cracks in the pavement.

Finally we’ve reached Wieluń around 3:40 PM after being in the saddle for 8h 50 minutes. We’ve stopped in Zajazd Boryna, which turned out to be an excellent choice due to its 24-hour reception, spacious rooms of good quality and its low cost. We had two rooms at our disposal and there were no problems with storing our bicycles inside. I can definitely recommend this hotel. We ended the day by going out for pizza and shopping at Biedronka. Overall, the first day had surprised us very positively!

Wieluń - Grojec

Distance Elevation Waypoints
173 km 860 m GOP, Katowice, Oświęcim

Report from the second day

I’ve started the second day with a 20 minutes read about bike fitting. The covered distance invoked mild Achilles tendinitis and caused minor discomfort in the middle part of my knee. Based on articles and my personal notes, I was able to reach a conclusion and make minor adjustments. I’ve lowered my saddle by a few mm, moved my feet forward on the pedals by about a cm and minimally rotated them towards the frame. As a consequence, the generated power would now be transferred more from the middle part of my feet.

At first the position was really unnatural, but the pain had quickly stopped. I rode the rest of the route without any discomfort, so the changes turned out to be accurate. The basic saddle adjustment principles came in handy as well for the rest of the crew. I’ve followed a simple algorithm that solved the vast majority of issues. Knee pain in the front? Raise the saddle. Knee pain in the back? Lower the saddle. Gradual few mm changes at the first signs of discomfort helped - it’s better to prevent than to cure.

We’ve hit the road half an hour late (classic :)) at 6:40 AM. The weather once again blessed us with favorable wind and temperature. It seemed like we would once again arrive ahead of the schedule, so we didn’t have to rush. Every few dozen kilometers we stopped at shops and gas stations.

The route became significantly worse as we reached the Upper Silesian Industrial District (GOP). We drove in traffic for around 70 kilometers, having to maintain special caution. Riding was no longer smooth due to red lights, pedestrians jumping out from behind parked cars, and due to pedestrian crossings hidden behind corners. At times it was hard to glance at the navigation, forget drinking or eating while driving.

While we were exiting Katowice at the 132nd kilometer, the traffic finally got a little lighter. Barely any pedestrians were around and there was a slight traffic jam at a red light. As I approached the intersection, I took out a tube of condensed milk from my frame bag, reduced the gear, started pedaling and suddenly… KRRRRK! A loud noise from my now suddenly braking bike. Thankfully I wasn’t going fast, so we pulled over onto the sidewalk to take a look.

A slightly misadjusted screw in the rear derailleur caused the chain to drop between the rear cassette and the wheel. To be more precise, it caused the chain to get stuck. It got wedged into the hub, on the other side it got locked by the cassette, and the spokes made the access really difficult. The torque was so great that the chain also popped out of a jockey wheel. We got lucky, as a nearby resident happened to be passing by and offered to help us by bringing us tools, most notably a cassette tool we didn’t bring.

The situation was initially really stressful. The first few repair attempts were unsuccessful - we tried to yank the chain, use a wrench as a lever and also remove the wheel. After a few deep breaths, I noticed that the chain was stuck in de facto two places. I removed a jockey wheel and unlocked one of the stuck chain parts. Meanwhile, the helpful citizen returned with tools and leaned over the bike intending to remove the cassette. After putting on gloves, he managed to yank the chain out! We installed the dismantled jockey wheel and got back on our bikes after spending an hour on the Katowice sidewalk.

GOP turned out to be even more unfriendly to cyclists than before. We rode on a dual carriageway for definitely far too long. As it was early afternoon, there was a lot of traffic overtaking us. The road seemed like it would never end. Finally we turned into a single-lane road, getting closer and closer to leaving the city. We hit a traffic jam and were slowly approaching towards a red light, when I suddenly heard a voice behind me: “Maciej, stop!”.

I stopped. At the 150th kilometer, the previously mounted jockey wheel fell off. It turned out that the thread holding its screw had worn out. This was my fault, as 20 km earlier I had ignored that the bolt would not fully tighten. Once again we asked ourselves: what should we do?

We spent another 2 hours on the sidewalk. During that time, the rest of my crew called to the local bike shops and repair points and I worked out the logistics in case the bike couldn’t be repaired. We didn’t get as lucky as in Katowice. Not a single person asked us if everything was OK, despite many puzzled looks from pedestrians. The only nearby repair point wasn’t able to fix the issue, but fortunately advised us which components should we buy from a construction store. The solution was very simple: a slightly longer bolt and a nut to hold it together.

Mateusz and Michał went on an expedition for the parts and successfully repaired my derailleur. After the forced break we hopped back on our bikes and managed to finish the second day of the tour. We reached Grojec next to Oświęcim at around 7:20 PM, covering a distance of 173 km. Less than 8h in the saddle, but over 4,5h of additional breaks - 3h of which were caused by my bike. We were spending our night at Grojecka Ostoja, which is a good place for a short-time stay.

The sun was already setting over the horizon once we arrived, so we had to keep the pace up. We quickly went over to the nearby Lewiatan store, dropped the groceries off and immediately looked at my bike. After a few short looks it was possible to assess that the screw should hold up the rest of the trip and there would be no sudden braking in the event of a failure. After eating sandwiches for dinner we took a deep breath and checked the weather forecast. We got lucky - previously forecasted downpour replaced itself with a chill cloudy day. The side wind wouldn’t also get into our way - a true sigh of relief. Fighting against the nature was no longer in the plan, so we could catch a good night’s sleep. We set our alarm clocks, wondering what tomorrow will bring us.

Grojec - Zakopane

Distance Elevation Waypoints
120 km 1600 m Wadowice, Sucha Beskidzka, Nowy Targ

Report from the third day

On the third day we’ve set off at 8:30 AM, once again with a half hour delay. Coats came in really handy, as it was a bit chilly outside. We started the trip with a stop in Wadowice (hometown of John Paul II) at the 28th kilometer. After taking some photos and recharging our batteries with kremówkas we were ready to tackle the mountain stage. 1600 meters of elevation were ahead of us with barely 120 km to go.

The last day had no unpleasant events. Riding in the mountains was fun and delivered some really beautiful sights. I’ve learned the hard way how a cassette can be unsuitable for steep terrain. Mateusz rode a 12-21T old-school cassette, while my bike was equipped with a 12-25T one. Climbs of gradient up to 5-6% were pleasant and possible to do in the saddle, at 8% it started getting hard, and 10-11% was my limit, above which legs gave out and couldn’t maintain the high torque. The last climb was by far the hardest, with its gradient reaching up to 20%. We had no other options but to push our bikes with the rest of our strength.

The climbs were followed with occasional long descents. The rest of my crew took advantage and enjoyed the speed, but I was forced to constantly apply the brakes. Bags increased my lateral area and strong sudden gusts of wind kept coming from the open fields. As I have lightweight wheels, this meant that the wind could suddenly push me to the side even at low speeds. Letting go of the brakes for 2 s momentarily accelerated the bike to over 40 km/h in the hoods. I decided to take it safe and not risk it with the trucks. On the final stretch, the route took us through a busy national road, which we tried to avoid by riding through nearby towns.

At 6 PM the Zakopane sign had greeted us!

Group photo in front of the Zakopane sign
Tired, but happy

During the third day we spent only 6,5h in the saddle with additional 3 hours spent on stops. In Zakopane our friends, who arrived by car, had joined us. We spent our stay exploring the town and hiking in the mountains. We managed to reach the Morskie Oko lake faster than a horse-drawn carriage! (which by the way is abusing the poor animals). The days flew by quickly - we arrived on Wednesday (August 31, 2022), and we had to leave on Sunday.

Zakopane - Kraków

Report from the last day

We decided to return from Zakopane via Kraków, so we had to cycle once again. This day was easy with 950 meters of elevation and 104 km to go. Leaving at 8:30 AM (half an hour late :) ) allowed us to avoid traffic on the busy national road. Thanks to the descents we were able to crank out a 30 km/h average in the early stages, making the trip go smoothly. Overall we spent 4h 30 minutes in the saddle with an hour of breaks. We had train tickets bought for 9 PM, so we had time to explore Kraków and enjoy a cup of coffee.


Many thanks for the tour to Daniel, Maciej, Michał, and Mateusz.
Thanks also to Kasia, Adam, Kuba, Kuba, and Maksym for the time spent together in Zakopane!

The tour was my first long multi-day trip for me and for the rest of the crew. Don’t give up on your dreams! Your current bike is almost surely good enough to experience a worthwhile adventure. And if you don’t know how to pack your stuff, I’ve wrote an article about budget bikepacking bags (shameless self-promotion :D).

Bikes in the train
Coming back to Poznań

GPX trail and Strava activities

Below I’ve attached GPX files of individual stages. For your convenience I’ve also created a GPX file for the Poznań -> Zakopane route.

Route GPX file Strava link
Poznań -> Wieluń Download View on Strava
Wieluń -> Grojec Download View on Strava
Grojec -> Zakopane Download View on Strava
Zakopane -> Kraków Download View on Strava

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