Tips for routes in Baltic States, Russia, Belarus
Friends accounts of travelling by bike in the Baltics:
I took an unconventional route in some places. I discovered Poland's bike routes are all made of sand, so avoid those. Lithuania was tricky--some sand, some deep gravel (just across the border from Poland), some busy highways (I took a horrible route into Klaipeda). It was also tough to get in and out of Vilnius--I recommend doing that early in the morning. In Latvia and Estonia, I was often on Eurovelo 11 & 13, which are well-developed--surprisingly, getting into and out of Riga was really easy! I ran into my usual trouble finding accommodation because the campgrounds were still closed, but I think they all open by June, and there are a lot along the coast (don't recall seeing any inland). The entire Baltic coast (that I saw) is gorgeous, but built-up enough that wild camping as a group will be difficult. I took a national road through the centre of Estonia and ran out of food. The distances were shorter in Latvia and Lithuania, but it could be hard to find supplies if you take a weird route.
I have route maps and more details in my journal: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/nomoretaxis You can also read other people's journals, just search for the country names in the Journals section.
Lat/Lith/Est were all lovely to ride through though. Definitely no record of where I rode, but it was almost along the coast from Tallin down to Riga. Then I think I just went cross country on relatively major roads to Kaunas, before getting a bus to Warsaw where I was meeting someone. Sorry, not much to report - I mostly wanted to cover the ground rather than go anywhere particularly lovely. At least a bit of the coastal cycle track/road between Parnu and RIga had been washed away (a nightmare: I had to carry bike over a couple of miles of beach/rocks). Otherwise all was happy. I never had any problem finding a lovely wood to camp in, and getting food, etc, was always easy.
A cycling journal from a guy who traveled around the world. He biked from Russia south through Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius Warsaw and even went to Belarus for a short trip. https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=tS&doc_id=12784&v=23d#335398
Information from Olek:
Last time I cycled in Lithuania (2008), there were good maps showing very precisely the surface of the road. I used an earlier version of this atlas (1:200 000): http://www.kartes.lv/?wp=10&lg=4&p=0&sid=403 and it was very accurate and helpful. The publisher is Latvian, so probably it is possible to get the same kind of maps for Latvia.
The thing you want to avoid whenever possible is called in Lithuanian "zvyras" or "zvyro danga" (translated to "gravel", but you should not mistake it with the nice gravel found for example in Scandinavia). This is a horrible mixture of sand and small hard bumps, unsuitable for cycling, but OK for heavy traffic: http://wrzutnia.zm.org.pl/pub/fot/P7280156.jpg
Often it is better to take "gruntinis kelias" (unimproved road) if asfalt is not available.
Low population density - not so many shops, drinking water sources etc.
The best cycling routes can be found here: http://loodusegakoos.ee/where-to-go/search-options
It's the safest and most beautiful route (away from big roads). Little hint also - it´s allowed to make fire and camp anywhere on this route (in marked places), but it´s quite popular and a bit crowded in the summer.
There is a website in Russian made by Minsk Cycling Community: http://eurovelo.by which has useful information about cycling in Belarus.
A map with the Eurovelo route marked down: http://eurovelo.by/map-2/
- Since there are almost no private properties it is very easy to wild-camp in Belarus.
- In cities you may not cycle on roads. You have to use sidewalks instead, otherwise you might get fined by the police. But it is not so strict in small towns.
- The countryside roads are generally of a good quality. It is not recommended to cycle on M class roads (especially M2-M6 and M9) because of heavy traffic. The roads through fields without proper coverage should be avoided.
- Not all border crossings are available for cyclists. This map has all the border crossings: http://eurovelo.by/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/pogran_perehod_2016_2319.png A green marker means it is possible to go on a bicycle.
List of border crossings for cyclists (data from Jan, 2016): POLAND: Białowieża/Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Bruzgi, Berestovitsa, Domachevo break. LITHUANIA: Kotlovka, Kamenny Log, Benyakoni, Privalka, Losha. LATVIA: Grigorovshchina, Urbana.
Some experiences from cyclists:
"Camping in Belarus - very easy. Just make sure your a few km out of any town or settlement and there are no empty bottles near your spot. VERY cold at night though even in August so bring warm clothes and a sleeping bag.
The roads in Belarus - main ones are all asphalt, although not the best quality and not particularly smooth. If you want to deviate and visit small villages, some of the roads are dirt. You can easily avoid these if you want to just stick to the main towns though. As for traffic, even on the Vilnius - Polotsk highway I passed about one car every ten minutes."
A more detailed OpenStreetMap with some added small paths and POIs: http://mapa.ump.waw.pl/ump-www/index_en.html