Desflurane's Romaniacs Blog

Chronicle of My Participation in the World's Toughest Enduro Rally – Again…

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How-To-Guide

So You Want To Ride The Romaniacs?

Many riders out there in the U.S. dream of traveling to the far-away and mysterious land of Romania to participate in a legendary enduro known world-wide as one of the most demanding events motorcycling has to offer. But many questions need to be answered before embarking on such a grand adventure. What do I need to do to get ready? How do I get there? How do I get my bike there? What will it be like? These and many other questions make the dream of getting to Romania seem distant, if not out of reach to many.

I share the dream – and I’m here to tell you that it can be done!

I decided to ride in the 2011 rally. I made my preparations, found answers to my questions regarding the event and got essentially everything ready to go. Then three months before the event a crash in a local race resulted in a badly fractured left leg that brought my hopes of riding in Romania to a sudden halt. But airfare had already been paid for, reservations for a room had been made – my wife and I decided that we would go to Sibiu anyway!

The trip was fantastic! I spent five days watching the goings-on of Romaniacs up close and personal, rubbing elbows with the riders (both pro and amateur) and event staff. All of them were really great people who love to ride and are happy to share an amazing experience with fellow riders.

While I didn’t ride in the event, I did learn quite a lot about it and I’ll share with you what I have gleaned. Don’t take any of this as absolute gospel, adapt!

1. Decide Early
This is a big undertaking. It will require significant planning and resources. So give yourself plenty of time to make it happen. The 10th edition of Romaniacs (2013) is completely booked up, so unless you have already signed up and paid your entry fee – you are looking at 2014 at the earliest.

Romaniacs is generally held in or around June (June 12th-17th for 2012, July 2nd-6th for 2013). I think that at the absolute latest you should have made a firm decision to go by January 1st. That allows you six months to get ready – adequate time for training as well as time to save some money and get the other details squared away. If you happen to be a fabulously wealthy professional-level athlete who often does races in Europe, then you could delay your decision for quite some time (and you wouldn’t bother reading this document). The rest of us mere mortals need to get on the stick early if we are going to pull this off.

While six months is the bare minimum, a year in advance is not too long. That’s how far ahead I made my commitment and I could have used a little more time! I think I would have done just fine with the preparations I had made during that year, but more training and more money saved is always nice.

2. Train
No fooling…
Really…
Train hard!

To quote filmmaker Jeff Pakosta “If you want to ride Romaniacs, GET YOUR ASS IN SHAPE!”

I will defer to riders who have actually done the event on this topic, but it is certainly safe to say that the better your cardiovascular conditioning, the better off you will be during Romaniacs. I was focusing on interval training and weights, as well as mountain-biking, trail running, and (of course) riding my enduro bike as much as possible. Focusing intensely on your riding skills will also pay big dividends. I have been told (by guys who have ridden in Romanaics) to practice hills – a lot. They said to find the tallest, steepest hills you can. Practice riding up them, and down them. Also get used to “bull-dogging” your bike down hills too steep or treacherous to ride.

The first thing I noticed when I looked out the train window at the Romanian countryside was “Damn! Those hills are STEEP!” Get ready for them!

Other useful skills would include log-crossing, wheelie-turns, stair-step climbing and any other “trials” type tricks that would help you cross difficult, irregular terrain. Go to YouTube and search for videos of this year’s winner Graham Jarvis noodling around on his Husaberg 300. Watch them carefully. Accept the fact that you will NEVER be able to do any of that stuff! But it will give you an idea of the kind of skills you should strive to obtain.

It has been pointed out many times, but Romaniacs isn’t about riding flat-out for mile after mile. It is a lower speed race with high technical difficulty.

3. Save
Fluctuations in currency exchange rates aside, this is a rough approximation of the bare-bones costs involved in US dollars. These figures could change quite a bit depending on what you decide to do, and they include a bit of “padding” so that you should be safely covered if you plan on these amounts.

Race entry fee: 2100
Bike rental: 2000
Service Package: 1000
Airfare: 2000
Misc: 1000
Total: 8100

Could you do it for less? Certainly! I’ll discuss each of the above items in more detail and you can decide where a little penny-pinching or big-spending makes sense for you.

[Note: The Euro/USD exchange rate is a bit more favorable now (late 2012) than when I initially wrote this, things will be a little cheaper for you now, but I'll leave the old figures up - as a little additional "padding."]

4. Make Arrangements
A. Entry Fee
The entry fee for 2013 is 1480 Euro (roughly $1900 at current exchange rate). This may at first seem like a steep amount, but after closer inspection I think you’ll agree that it is not too bad, considering what you get for your money.

Included is your entry into the event, accommodations in the race hotel (downtown & bivouac) for six nights, mid-day and evening meals for five days (with a beer at the end of the day to boot!), fuel out on the track, live-tracking (your family can follow you in real time on a digital map), detailed tracks for your GPS device, world class medical assistance and security (even though the track is about 600km, partially in “the middle of nowhere”, the rescue teams have a response time of less than an hour), “sweeper” service to make sure everyone is safe in the evening, and don’t forget the legendary after race party 😉

Needless to say, there is a ton of press: camera crews and photographers there to report your adventures! You’ll be on the cover of every motorcycle magazine the world over – just think of it!

B. Accommodations
As previously mentioned nightly accommodations are included in your race entry fee. While you could purchase the non-accommodation package (1250 Euro) and book your own rooms during the event, it is unlikely that you will really be able to save yourself much money this way. Unless you have some special situation (such as close friends or relatives who happen to live in Sibiu) there really is no reason to even consider this option. Avoid the headache of trying to find a room in two different cities for different nights of the event – let the experienced Romaniacs staff take care of this for you. As a bonus, you get a room at the epicenter of the whole event within walking distance of anything race-related that you could want to see and the nightly rider’s meetings are held there.

For the 2013 rally the schedule has been changed from the usual Saturday thru Wednesday to Tuesday (July 2nd) thru Saturday (July 6th). This is HUGE! It allows you to do the whole event in a single week rather than spilling over two weeks. For working stiffs like me getting two consecutive weeks of vacation time can be a deal-breaking issue. No more! You can potentially fly out as late as Sunday June 30th do the rally and fly home on Sunday July 7th – arriving late the same day (that 10 hour time difference works in my favor here!)

C. Airfare
This is an area where you could potentially save yourself some money, or spend big – depending on how much of a hardcore globetrotter you are. United Airlines seemed to be the only US airline that could provide service all the way into Sibiu (yes, Sibiu has an airport!) The cheapest flights I was able to find for 2011 were in the $1900 range. This was about four months before the event. When I looked initially – almost a year ahead of time – tickets were going for as little as $1400. Bear in mind these were for Coach class, so the amenities would have been minimal. Since my wife was booking our flights, we ended up spending $3100 each for Business class and after that experience, it will definitely be hard to go back to the cheap seats! Being able to recline fully and get some real sleep during the trans-atlantic leg of the journey was HUGE! It minimized jet-lag both coming and going (remember Sibiu is 7 hours ahead of New York, 10 hours ahead of Los Angeles). I don’t think I could have slept much sitting in Coach. But for the hard-boiled, tough-as-nails Romaniacs racer, a mere 36 hours sitting in cramped jet-liners to get to and from should be a walk in the park…

Assuming that you have (wisely) chosen to go with the accommodation package, you have a place to stay in Sibiu beginning the night before the event starts through the night after it ends. Of course, if you have the freedom and resources, arriving earlier, doing a little sight-seeing and acclimatizing to Romanian time would be lovely. I doubt you will be much in the mood for traveling and touring after the event, but you never know.

Another consideration is how to get all your riding gear over there. Honestly I don’t have a lot of great advice for you on this topic (hopefully some past racers will chime in and give us all the low-down). Obviously the airlines are cracking down on overweight/oversized luggage and the number of items you can check (we are down to ONE checked bag and one carry-on now). You will need to be very particular in what you take along and how you pack it. Just don’t expect to be able to take several boxes full of parts and escape paying big fees at the ticket counter.

As of this writing (12/2012) United is charging $100 to check an additional normal size/weight piece of luggage. This charge applies each time the item is checked. Thus checking an extra bag for a trip directly to Sibiu will cost $100. If I were to fly into some other destination, stay for a day or two then continue on to Sibiu – I would get to pay the $100 fee again! The same principle applies for the return trip as well, so each extra bag will cost at minimum $200.

You could possibly leave some of your old, smelly riding gear at home and purchase slick european stuff when you get there. Ultra-cool Romaniacs riding jerseys were readily available in the HQ Ramada, for instance. More essential stuff such as boots, helmet, body armor and so-forth may be trickier to obtain. If you try this, just be sure to allow yourself enough time and cash to accomplish the deed.

D. Bike
Yes, you will need one! You have a number of options here:

1. Ship Your Bike Over To Romania
While definitely possible, I would NOT recommend this plan for most people. You would have to send your bike off some time (weeks?) before the event. Unless you have two bikes you lose your ability to ride during that time. There may be issues with customs getting your bike into another country, and it could be damaged in transit. Another thing to ask yourself is whether or not you want to subject your OWN bike to the kind of abuse Romaniacs will dish out?

I honestly didn’t research this option very thoroughly as I didn’t see it working well for me, so I’m not exactly sure what the cost is, but it seemed to be in the neighborhood of $1000+ to get a bike there and back.

I recently heard back from a shipping service that specializes in getting motorcycles to and from Europe, see addendum below.

2. Buy a Brand-New Bike Over There

To the best of my knowledge, this option has gone the way of the dodo several years ago – so don’t even worry about this plan.

3. Rent a Bike Over There
This is what I see as the most rational, simplest plan of all. For around 1500 Euros you are provided with a recent model bike – sometimes even a brand new bike (for more $$ of course) – to use during the event. Most of the time these bikes were set up with the bare essentials that you needed – skid plate, hand guards, etc. and could be fitted with whatever stuff you like – at a reasonable cost…

Final Word (in my opinion): Rent a bike there.
I believe you should have a really compelling reason to even think about taking one of the other options. Renting a bike is the way to go, for most.

E. Service Package
To me this is another no-brainer! Pony up the cash and get yourself a mechanic! Why not have somebody else wrench on your bike, so you can focus on the racing? For around 500 Euro they make themselves available to you before the event, have guys ready at service points along the track as you race, and in the paddock each night. They do whatever is needed to get your bike ready for the next day – repairs, tweaking, etc. Of course, you have to pay for any needed parts along the way. This is the reason I inflated the cost of the service package in my expense estimate. If you can ride the bike you get in its native form, and don’t break anything, some cash can be saved here.

For 2011 Golden Tyre also became a sponsor of the event and offered a nice package with tires and mousses for a reasonable price. Mousses come highly recommended by previous competitors. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the Transylvanian wilderness trying to change tubes now, do you?

F. Get A Racing License
Easy.

Well, sort of. You need to have an international racing license to participate in the Romaniacs. The AMA is the sole provider of such licensure in the USA. They are the affiliate of the FIM over here and for a somewhat reasonable fee they will issue you your license.

There are two parts to this deal:

1) Your international racing license – fill out the form and send it in with $100 and the license is yours!

2) Your race start permission – apparently you need the AMA’s “mother may I” to compete in the Romaniacs. An insurance policy is included and will set you back $130.

Ok, there are THREE parts to this deal…

3) There is a medical examination form that needs to be filled out by a physician – it provides evidence that you are healthy enough to travel overseas to try to kill yourself. This step doesn’t line the AMA’s pockets, but you may have to drop some coin to get a doc to sign off on your flabby carcass. The form contains spaces for the results of a stress EKG as well as an echocardiogram. Ignore these, you don’t need them (nor do you need to spend the money to get them done).

Go to the AMA website and learn more as well as find the needed forms: http://www.americanmotorcyclist.com/racing/internationalcompetition

G. Get Insurance
Ok, let’s be honest. This is a dangerous event. You COULD GET HURT!

I spoke to the guy who is in charge of the medics who are out riding the course each day. He is a doctor from Germany, and a really great guy. He told me that while there are numerous injuries each year, the vast majority are minor – bruises, cuts, the occasional broken finger. In 2011 one guy even broke his arm. Thankfully, that’s as serious as things usually get. Chances are great that you will come home from Romania unscathed, but a serious injury is within the realm of possibility. You need to think about it.

There is a mandatory insurance policy you pay for with the FIM license, but I would strongly recommend getting some additional coverage. Particularly some evacuation insurance that would pay to get you HOME after some kind of significant injury. Most policies will pay to get you to the nearest facility that can take care of you. They have a hospital in Sibiu… For around $50-100 I found a number of insurance policies that cover repatriation in the event of medical need. HOWEVER, almost all of them have very specific exclusions if you are injured in a “contest of speed,” and thus are probably not worth bothering with.

H. Money While You Are There
You will pay your entry fee, bike rental, service package and so forth in Euros a couple of months in advance. It will require wiring funds overseas to the respective banks of the parties involved. Plan on about a $50 fee for each overseas wire transfer, and keep them to a minimum.

Once you arrive in Romania the currency is the Romanian Leu. Not knowing this, we bought a nice little stack of crisp new Euros just before leaving Austria. They were next to useless in Romania. Romanians want Leu. Some will accept Euros, but life will be much easier if you just wait until you get there and buy a fistful of Leu with your credit card.

I didn’t get time to wander around the tents in the rider’s paddock area, but you may actually want some Euros on hand if you want to buy something from the vendors there, like a new tire, or a sweet, ultralight Airoh helmet for example.

I. Learn To Speak Romanain…
Just kidding!

Essentially all of the Romaniacs staff are fluent in English – and you will be amazed how many Romanians speak English – pretty decent English at that!

Every store, restaraunt, etc. that we went into had at least one employee handy who could speak to us. And they were quite nice about it too. For example, we sat down in a cafe where just two wait staff were employed. One of them didn’t speak English, the other did. Their menu was in Romanian only. The waiter took about fifteen minutes to read the ENTIRE menu to us in English!

Final Analysis
So that is more or less the deal.

Having been to Romania and having gotten a taste of the energy and excitement this incredible event offers, I can’t wait to get back over there! It was very organized and well run – I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism of all the staffers I had the pleasure to meet. These people know how to put an event together and make it run smoothly. I have no doubt that if you do your part to prepare, there will be no nasty surprises waiting for you – except for the ones you meet out on the track!

Remember that after putting in your time and effort to get ready, the fun of doing a race known the world over is a payoff you’ll treasure for the rest of your life – your grandchildren will talk about it! Don’t miss out!

As a final note, take a minute to read the article written by Dirt Rider Magazine editor Jimmy Lewis after he rode in the 2009 rally. It’s his take on the whole thing. Here is a link: http://www.dirtrider.com/news/race_reports/141_0909_red_bull_romaniacs_debrief/index.html
[ Note: This article’s formatting has gotten a bit messed up, every time I look at it the first few lines of text are clipped off, but the interesting part comes later on anyway. ]

Addendum:

This is excerpted from an email sent to me by Greg at http://www.shipmybike.com, there are other similar services out there, but this should be representative of what is involved in getting your bike over to Romania, should you chose to do so.

The rates for airfreight and seafreight are expensive into Romania for individual bikes …

For one bike to Romania – we would suggest sending to Germany or Austria and getting a GREEN Card ( insurance) from these countries.

1)  We do not suggest vacations/tours/races of less than 1 month because we can not guarantee arrival dates.

2) We offer airfreight service to Europe because it is a roll on/roll off service that allows you to ride from the airport , the costs are cheaper than sea, and a much faster time frame.

3) We recommend seafreight service from Europe because it is cheaper from Europe, there is no hurry on the return and can go crated.

4) For ease of travel and the cheapest cost:  Luxembourg or Frankfurt but we can go anywhere.

5) Our agents European Logistics Partners in Luxembourg and Knopf Tours in Germany are able to get you a GREEN CARD Riding Insurance policy for all of Europe. Please advise and we will get you their contact information.

Where does our Air Freight service leave from ?

Our service leaves from JFK Airport in New York due to TSA and FAA rules requiring freighter service and hazmat preparations.

How do we get it to JFK ?

a) You are welcome to arrange delivery to our warehouse.

b) We can set up a pickup with one of our enclosed “motorcycle only” trucks.
Estimate for standard motorcycles and choppers  -trikes additional

NYC area              : $150 to $400
– 300 miles            : $400 to $600
+  301 miles           : $600 to $800

What are the costs from JFK and where do we service?

Frankfurt Rates
For Luxembourg add $100.00

Under 300 cc       : $1,645.00
300cc to 699cc       : $1,745.00
700cc to 900cc       : $1,845.00
901cc to 1499cc     : $1,895..00
1500cc to 1699cc   : $1,925.00
1700cc to 1850cc : $1,995.00
Chopper (97″+)      : $1,995.00
Trike/Boss Hoss/ATV : TBA

What about the return costs ?

Depends on where you are coming from but estimate : $2500 to return via boat

Any other Charges ?

a) Gas must be drained, the battery disconnected/taped and the saddlebags unlocked.
ONLY IF NOT DONE there is a $150.00 fee

b) Insurance – see below.

c) Foreign Customs, taxes, duties, terminal charges, etc. are payable overseas and not to us.

What about insurance?

Airline: The airline automatically provides free coverage of $16,500.00.  This covers major scratches and dents, loss, fire,  and theft. If you need additional insurance the cost is 1.25% of declared value  – Covers  Damage – Fire – Theft – Loss  – deductible is $500.00
*note: any damage must be signed for at pickup*

Seafreight: The ocean line provides no insurance. We strongly suggest the additional insurance of 1.25% of declared value  – Covers  Damage – Fire – Theft – Loss  – deductible is $500.00.  *note: any damage must be signed for at pickup*

Trucking: The trucker automatically provides free coverage of $10,000.00.  This covers major scratches and dents, loss, fire,  and theft.
If you need additional insurance the cost is 1.25% of declared value  – Covers  Damage – Fire – Theft – Loss  – deductible is $500.00  *note: any damage must be signed for at pickup*

How do you prep the motorcycle ?

1) Gas Must be drained to 1/4 a tank
2) Battery disconnected and ends taped

** There is a fee of $150.00 if the above is not done

What documents are required ?

1) Original title is needed (If liens/loans – a bank release is needed with certified copies)
2) Original Bill of Sale (if being sold)
3) Keys — one set
4) Power of Attorney (will be sent to you)

When is payment required?

Prior to pickup –  we will send you an invoice, payment form, and dock receipt.

What’s the next step?

Simply reply and we will send you the required forms and set up the pickup.

Thanks and Happy Trails

12 Responses to “How-To-Guide”

  1. Mark said

    That is a superb guide, very detailed! Thanks for all the time you must have put into this.

  2. devin ferguson said

    good information, what class were you going to ride in

  3. devin ferguson said

    who did you contact when you were researching about buying a ktm for the race and them shipping it home after the race

  4. jon heerkens said

    Brandon, your “how to” guide made it to the romaniacs and Klaus posted it on FB, good job.

  5. Gelston said

    Devon, how much did Romaniacs end up costing?

  6. Devin said

    Brandon,
    It was still around 9k but I was there for 9 days. The biggest prob is nobody but the event people take euro, so u need to get Romanian money and we also had a lot of problems with credit cards. You definitely need to let them know you will be there and then over there they kept asking us for a pen # everytime we tried to use one. We ended up just getting cash out of the ATM at the hotel. The service guys I used did a great job. At every midpoint rest stop they were there, but the bike on the stand, go over the whole bike. At the end of the day they would wash, clean filter and check/repair any issues. You still had to but the parts but I was very easy on the bike, I didn’t even put a ding in the pipe. I will say this, given the terrain that I like to ride I would have enjoyed the expert course better. There was only one hill I had to have help on, I would get passed on the open parts of the course- double track and gravel roads and there were a lot of them. If you have other questions just let me know

    • desflurane said

      Devin,

      Thanks for the info! It’s like gold to get the low-down from somebody who has done it!

      As far as credit cards – I agree with you it’s CRITICAL to let the credit card company know you will be traveling abroad – to avoid having your card shut down when they start seeing crazy charges appear from Romania of all places! We also used atm’s to get Lei (as well as Euros while we were in Austria). As you point out (and as I did in my guide) Romanians don’t use Euros! They want Lei!

      Which service outfit did you go with? Sounds like you were happy with what you got!

      As far as Expert vs. Hobby class, do you think weather would change your mind there? Would drenching rain and mud have made a big difference? It certainly would increase the difficulty across all the classes.

      Was there anything you would NOT do again if you went back?

      Thanks again! And please chime in with any other insights you think might be worthwhile.

  7. Gelston said

    Hi Devin,

    I live on Kauai, Hawaii, the trails here are pretty hard core. I flew over to Romania in June to help flag the race course for Romaniacs. I wanted to get a feel for the terrain and scout out for the 2013 race. I’m having trouble deciding the best option for a bike (rent, buy, ship). Can you fill me in on what you decided to do for a bike?

    On a side note, we have a great hard enduro race here on Kauai every Labor Day. It’s a one day event through the mountains of Kauai. To finish the race is an accomplishment in itself, not many get to the finish line.

  8. Kelsey said

    Thank you for this article! We have a group going this year (5 riders from Colorado & Montana) and 4 of us spectating. These blogs are helping us out a ton on what to expect. Did you and your wife rent bikes to ride around? We are looking into that- for sight seeing & seeing the guys at their checkpoints

    • desflurane said

      Kelsey, I’m glad that somebody is finding my ramblings useful! We did not rent bikes when we went over in 2011 – I was still on crutches and my wife isn’t a dirt bike rider. I was solo when I returned to compete in 2013 – but I’m sure you could find some rental bikes to use while you are there. I’m assuming that you do not mean race bikes for the competitors in your group, but other bikes for “pleasure” riding.

      • Kelsey said

        Yeah, just pleasure bikes.. 2 of the guys will just rent bikes from the companies the racers are using & ride around with them the week before the race. I emailed a couple companies about a “girl” bike or an older bike for the 2 of us girls but they didn’t really have anything. We will just play it by ear once we get there. If you’re interested- you can check us out online- foreverweride.com & facebook.com/foreverweridemontrose . I try to keep it updated with the guys’ races.

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