Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Touring
Reload this Page >

Riga to Tallinn or Vilnius, anyone cycled around there?

Notices
Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

Riga to Tallinn or Vilnius, anyone cycled around there?

Old 08-14-18, 01:52 PM
  #1  
jefnvk
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
jefnvk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Metro Detroit/AA
Posts: 8,212

Bikes: 2016 Novara Mazama

Mentioned: 63 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3634 Post(s)
Liked 75 Times in 45 Posts
Riga to Tallinn or Vilnius, anyone cycled around there?

So long details short, next year I'll have a week vacation to myself, due to differences in myself and the wife's busy times at work and how we can take vacation. It is not unlike how I ended up doing Iceland without her.

I'm looking for a cycling destination abroad I can reasonably do in a week, and is in no way attractive to her. Shes already shot down a half dozen ideas cause she wants to go, such as Flanders, the Dutch North Sea, Vienna-Prague, and anywhere English speaking, anywhere Spanish speaking. The Baltics don't seem to intrigue her, while I've always wanted to go. Short of some of the more southern war torn parts of the Balkans, or to Greenland or Svalbard where I'd have more day trips than actual touring, they look like my best options.

Has anyone cycletoured this part of the world, and do you have anything good or bad to say? Or any other ideas? I'd like to do Northern Finland/Norway one day, but I think the logistics are a bit tough for a 10 day trip. If nothing else, my backup plan is to finally do the Hudson Bay trip on a motorcycle, just figured I'd try to keep this yearly cycle trip to Europe thing going

EDIT: probably should add, to me a week is 250-300 miles, preferably with hostels/cheap lodging, but I don't mind camping if shes not with me.

Last edited by jefnvk; 08-14-18 at 01:59 PM.
jefnvk is offline  
Old 08-14-18, 03:22 PM
  #2  
mev
bicycle tourist
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Austin, Texas, USA
Posts: 1,889

Bikes: Trek 520, Lightfoot Ranger, Trek 4500

Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 289 Post(s)
Liked 80 Times in 62 Posts
It has been 11 years, but I cycled the Baltics as part of a ride from Amsterdam to Vladivostok. Here are journal entries for that part of my blog: Baltic States ? Amsterdam to Vladivostok

Overall, things I still recall:
- Relatively flat.
- Fairly far north with long hours of daylight
- Estonia in particular had some marked cycle routes. I didn't get a guide at that time, but suspect one might be able to find one.
- Friendly folks. In 2007 there was a definite contrast in being part of the EU instead of the Russian background. I expect your experiences with eastern Europe would be similar in being generational: older generations had more Russian speakers and newer ones a lot more English (and German). It was easier to get around for me than in (mostly German-speaking) parts of Poland. One of my more fun days (April 17th blog post), I met a local who showed my some back roads as well as visiting Rakvere Castle.
- I stayed in lodging and found it not too difficult.

It would still be on my recommend list.
mev is offline  
Old 08-15-18, 08:37 PM
  #3  
jefnvk
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
jefnvk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Metro Detroit/AA
Posts: 8,212

Bikes: 2016 Novara Mazama

Mentioned: 63 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3634 Post(s)
Liked 75 Times in 45 Posts
Thanks @mev! Seems to back up the small but almost universally positive reviews I've found of the region.
jefnvk is offline  
Old 08-16-18, 12:32 AM
  #4  
elcruxio
Senior Member
 
elcruxio's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Turku, Finland, Europe
Posts: 2,000

Bikes: 2011 Specialized crux comp, 2013 Specialized Rockhopper Pro

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 441 Post(s)
Liked 55 Times in 43 Posts
If you're going from Riga to Tallinn there's a few things you need to keep in mind.

The roads on the Latvian side are absolutely horrendous. I'd suggest a minimum of 50mm tires to even ride forwards and not push your bike. Honestly, some stretches are that bad. Essentially loose sand. The paved roads aren't much better but can at least be ridden with 37mm tires. So if you don't want to ride the Via Baltica, keep that in mind.
If you do ride the Via Baltica it's in good condition with wide shoulders but the downside is that ALL the truck traffic to and from northern Norway, Finland, parts of Western Russia travel through that road so it's pretty busy with heavy traffic. There aren't trains to alleviate the issue since the rail standards are different in the baltics from rest of Europe so there's a lot of trucks. Bring ear protection if you go through this route.

On the Estonian side you can ride smaller side roads and you definitely should. These aren't great and are paved with what I believe to be chip and seal but you know, better than the loose sand nightmares of Latvia. In Estonia camping is a breeze since the whole country is chock full of official free camping sites. Honestly, they're everywhere. Sometimes they are full of partying estonias but that's usually ok. If you go during the summer and camp at the seaside you need to be aware of the syanobacteria which can inhabit the ocean waters. They produce highly toxic chemicals so washing up in the ocean may not be possible. Showering after swimming is a must. This summer was particularly bad in terms of cyanobacteria and was the reason why we used hotels and camping grounds a lot. Detecting the stuff is pretty simple, but a good indicator is warm ocean waters. Read up on them.

Food in Estonia isn't expensive but it's not good either except in the larger cities, Tallinn mainly. When in Tallinn, go check out a restaurant called Ginger and get the fried eggplant as a starter. Other than the larger cities the food is pretty bland and sometimes just positively bad. Water also isn't great in many places. It's drinkable but just tastes really nasty. Think iron mixed with poo.

What you may wonder in the Baltics is hostile customer service at times. That's not because the people are bad, it's more of a cultural thing from the times of the Soviet Union.

There's not that much to see in Estonia, but the places you may want to visit are Pärnu ( really nice coastal city near the Latvian border, beautiful old town and nice beach), Saaremaa (an Island west of Estonia. There's a city in the south called Kuresaare which has an absolutely amazing castle which is also a museum and very well preserved), skip Hiiumaa (another island), there's nothing to see there. Haapsalu is nice and also has a nice castle. And from Haapsalu there's an old railway track converted to a bike path that goes 60km inland towards Tallinn. That's a fun ride. Before Tallinn visit a town called Saku and the brewery restaurant. They have pretty decent food and it's a nice place. In Tallinn be prepared to curse the world as it is the absolutely worst cycling city in Europe. Sometimes it feels like cycling there has been made difficult intentionally. But the Tallinn old town is really pretty, steer clear from restaurants in or near the main square. Usually it's a good bet in Europe to avoid restaurants which have pictures of the food in the menu and the menu in big plackards on the street. The smaller side streets have restaurants which are less touristy and nicer. But go check out that Ginger place, it's the bomb.

The TV-tower near Tallinn is pretty neat since in good weather you can see Helsinki from there. But in the end it's just a tall tower.
elcruxio is offline  
Old 08-16-18, 07:54 AM
  #5  
jefnvk
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
jefnvk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Metro Detroit/AA
Posts: 8,212

Bikes: 2016 Novara Mazama

Mentioned: 63 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3634 Post(s)
Liked 75 Times in 45 Posts
Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
Sometimes they are full of partying estonias but that's usually ok
Usually OK? Sounds like a big old check on the plus side to me

Good info in the rest, thanks! I'm sold on the destination, just gotta sort through my work obligations and when we're going to do our other summer vacation together, and see if the timing will end up making any sense. If I end up doing it, I was already planning on taking my MTB based tourer I took to Iceland, just from some of the other sources I read. It has 2" tires, and is getting a nice drivetrain upgrade from my Trek 520 project. If I do Riga-Tallinn or reverse, the city pair I'd prefer the most, I was planning on just following EV10 or 13. Not a lot to "see" is never an issue for me, when I travel I far prefer experiencing the intangible culture stuff, than looking at a building I can see in a book.

Speaking of EV, does anyone know of a site that gives good distance charts soecifically following EV routes?
jefnvk is offline  
Old 08-16-18, 10:40 AM
  #6  
elcruxio
Senior Member
 
elcruxio's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Turku, Finland, Europe
Posts: 2,000

Bikes: 2011 Specialized crux comp, 2013 Specialized Rockhopper Pro

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 441 Post(s)
Liked 55 Times in 43 Posts
You can use the Locus maps app on an Android phone. Then if you use either opencyclemaps or download openandromaps for the locus you can see the euroveloroutes and calculate the distances pretty dang exactly. Actually I'll do it right now.

So if you go from Tallinn through Saku and take the old railway made to bike path to the coast, head to Pärnu without going to the Islands and head straight down to Riga it's around 460 kilometers. That's actually a pretty decent week distance.
As to how to get to there, you can take a boat from Germany to Liepaja. I can tell you, that is an experience. But the food is good, there's plenty of it and alcohol is dirt cheap, which is good since there's nothing else to do than to drink. Then you can take a train from Liepaja to Riga which is also an experience because the train positively bounces on the tracks.
Or you can just fly. I suppose that's easier.
elcruxio is offline  
Old 08-16-18, 11:43 AM
  #7  
jefnvk
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
jefnvk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Metro Detroit/AA
Posts: 8,212

Bikes: 2016 Novara Mazama

Mentioned: 63 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3634 Post(s)
Liked 75 Times in 45 Posts
Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
it's around 460 kilometers. That's actually a pretty decent week distance.
...
Or you can just fly. I suppose that's easier.
Yeah, 90km a day would be right in the range I can actually enjoy, I realized most of the suggested routes between Tallinn and Riga were in that neighborhood.

I obviously need to work out logistics when I have a much clearer picture, but I'd probably fly into one city and out the other, and leave a day or two for each bookending the trip. It is how we did Brussels to Amsterdam, worked well. Both SAS and Norwegian Air fly from near me, and both serve both countries and have seemingly bike friendly policies. I'd also consider flying into Helsinki and just doing a tour of Estonia, or maybe doing one way and bringing a train back to Tallinn, if that would be acceptable to a wife who also wants to go to Finland. Not sure she'd trust I'd actually leave Finland tho
jefnvk is offline  
Old 08-17-18, 05:23 PM
  #8  
redbagsrambler
Senior Member
 
redbagsrambler's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2016
Location: East Carolina, USA
Posts: 83

Bikes: Trek 520, Bianchi Volpe and too many more to name

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 17 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 1 Time in 1 Post
I've toured in all three of the Baltic countries so have some experience riding there. It should be quite feasible to fashion a tour which would meet your expectations and fall within your time frame. Tallinn and Riga are both lively, fascinating cities and would make excellent bookends of a tour. If I was going to do a loop tour in only one of the countries, I would probably make a loop of Estonia trying to incorporate Tallinn, the university city of Tartu and the Baltic resort of Parnu.. Estonian roads are much better than the roads in either Latvia or Lithuania. I think Latvians are a little more outgoing, but Estonians are plenty friendly once you crack through their reserved crust (generally speaking, of course.) It seemed just about everyone in the larger cities could speak English very well, though some basic German would be helpful in the less populated areas.
redbagsrambler is offline  
Old 08-17-18, 09:51 PM
  #9  
jefnvk
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
jefnvk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Metro Detroit/AA
Posts: 8,212

Bikes: 2016 Novara Mazama

Mentioned: 63 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3634 Post(s)
Liked 75 Times in 45 Posts
Originally Posted by redbagsrambler View Post
though some basic German would be helpful in the less populated areas.
Das ist gut! Ich kann nichts gute Deutsch schreibe, aber kann Ich verstehen und sprechen so-so. Ich habe fur drei Jahren auf Schule studeiren
jefnvk is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Thread Starter
Forum
Replies
Last Post
esassaman
Touring
25
11-19-18 07:44 AM
Machka
Touring
38
08-29-14 07:09 AM
harihari
Touring
16
06-14-12 03:37 PM
al gordon
Touring
18
08-08-11 12:20 PM
safariofthemind
Touring
4
10-08-10 03:46 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.