The bicycle history in the city of Mytilini.

Certainly a century ago the bicycle was the only way of transportation for citizens of Mytilene, since the car made its appearance, only in the last half of the century. Every Mytilene native back then had a bicycle. Men, women, young and old, perhaps also because of the economic hardship, filled the streets of the city with bicycles. This situation remained the same after WW2 until the mid-60s when the mass sale of motor vehicles began on the island. Even then, however, there were no gas stations on the island and the first motorists had to buy gasoline in tin cans, that were brought by the ferry boat. Despite that, the bicycle remained the main means of transportation for the population of Lesvos. They were heavy, made of iron, with only one gear, huge and very expensive (for the wages of that time) but reliable and economical.

The years passed and especially during the last 50 years, the main vehicle of transportation for the inhabitants of Mytilini became (unfortunately) the car. Bicycles became merely a toy of our childhood or a “tool” only for cycling athletes.

The most important part, that of urban mobility, entertainment and sports at all levels, had completely disappeared. Few and isolated were those who kept the pedal alive in the city. Of course, there are a lot of references to groups that, since 1977, took rides off road, dirt tracks and routes in forests, or took part in individual road races that took place on the island. At that time there were only 3 bike shops left that mainly focused on repairing the many bikes on the streets. The increasing number of cars on our roads didn’t take long to encroach on everything. Sidewalks, streets, parking lots, neighborhoods, squares… everything was filled with cars and motorbikes. The city roads were not able to accept so much “metal” simply for parking. The neighborhoods were emptied of bicycles, the streets were evacuated, the alleys were vacant. The advance of the car had banished everything in its path. Parents wouldn’t let their kids ride bikes in the neighborhood for the fear of cars. The streets were ruled by cars (not that anything has changed compared to today) and so the bicycle gradually disappeared from our lives.

Mountain biking as we know it today, began to become widespread in Mytilene in the late 90s. Many of those who are still cycling today started at that time. There are still isolated references of people at the beginning of the 21st century who took up cycling actions. Let’s not forget the successes of Giorgos Saraidaris, the first Lesvian who has not only distinguished in many Greek races and international events out of borders, but also brought the first Greek Championship in cycling to Lesvos. From then on, things started to change. The people from the island started to use the bicycle more, some for exercise, others for recreation, exploration, socialising, health or training … All this happening on the mountains of course, since the roads (even to this day) were inhospitable.

But the big change came with the construction of the website for mountain bike friends, the “Lesvos MTB”, which was created in 2010. Now with the help of the social network platform, the actions of the small group of cycling friends started to become known. In just a couple of years, Mytilene organized a protest bike ride (the pan-Hellenic) in 2012 with 274 bikes on the road. The bicycle began to gain popularity. Cycling on Lesvos had taken off. One successful cycling event followed the other… This in turn led to organising races (always mountain biking) and very soon an annual local championship, which continues to this day.

In 2014 the members of the “Lesvos MTB” team in the social media, from this small island, reached 1.600 members. The website is updated daily with news from races, actions, marches, gatherings, rides… Its appeal began to escape from the narrow island range and conquered a wider audience with readers from Athens, all around Greece and abroad, even from countries geographically distant from Greece. People from all over the world started contacting us through our site and visiting the island by bike. Some for tourism, others for trails, others for road routes. Along with mountain biking, a small core of people who used the bike on the road, began to emerge. At first for exercise (for the races) but later also for commuting to work in the city. Somewhere around 2015, the first thoughts for a Cycling Association on the island were shared, so that it could officially file formal requests for cycling paths and infrastructure to local authorities. In September of 2015, the “Lesvos Cycling Club” was officially created. The request for the first bicycle lane on the island started immediately and was finally delivered as a project in 2021, but remained incomplete and with issues until 2022!

The course of the Local Association, following its foundation, is beyond our imagination. In 2018, the Panhellenic Road Cycling Championship is organized by the club, admittedly one of the best and most well organized championships in Greece in the last 50 years. Club’s members exceeded 100, while since the first year, a team of athletes was formed and began to participate in the Panhellenic championship. Countless are the honors, recognition, awards, titles, and prizes of our athletes over the years with 2 Panhellenic Championships won in 2022, one in Marathon MTB with Asterios Nidimos and one in Eliminator MTB with Yiannis Giannoglou, sealing the club’s upward course.

Lesvos Cycling Club is a founding member of the newly established (in 2016) Hellenic Mountain Biking Association and the members of our club were among the first members of the Association, which is still the highest body in the field of Mountain Biking in Greece. For the last 6 years it has been organizing the Panhellenic Enduro MTB Championship in Greece. At this point it should be noted that the first race of the championship in 2017 took place in Olympos mountain of Lesvos and since then and until today it among the most favorite destinations of the contestants in the championship, with the participation in the Agiasos Race every year approaching the 200 athletes.

The Lesvos Cycling Club was a founding member of the “Hellenic Urban Cycling Federation”. “ΕΟΑΠ” is the highest body in Greece regarding urban cycling. Putting high pressure on the government for bike lanes, cycling infrastructure and everything that can make the life of the person who moves by bicycle in the city, better. From 2022, it has also taken over the organization of the great Pan-Hellenic Protest Bicycle Procession which takes place every year on the same day and time, in almost 30 cities around Greece.

In continuous collaboration with “IMBA”, we attended a seminar on the construction, maintenance and cleaning of paths. We are active and present in every annual event organized by the “International Mountain Biking Association”. Every year we are together on International Forest Day, Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day and Take Care of your Trails Day, which lasts for a month and records the trails that are cleared around the world so that everyone seeking paths from all around the world, can see our thumbtack over Lesvos!

“Trailforks” is another international trail database. The user in this platform can initially find trails around the world and be updated with detailed information on distance, descent, level of difficulty… He can also navigate with the data on the page on a path by himself, with the help of only his electronic equipment. The “Lesvos Cycling Club” has also managed to add the paths of our region to this large international website. One million kilometers, on 500 thousand paths, from 123 countries of the world. Lesvos has left its mark there too. Users from all over the world can see now that “something” is happening on our island. In Lesvos, the culture of maintaining our own paths is well developed. Pruning, maintenance, repairs, cleanings are in our monthly schedule and always in collaboration with the local authorities and especially with the “Lesvos Forest Department” who accompanies us in every maintenance effort. In general, the whole island of Lesvos is brimming with paths. Hundreds of people cross them, record them, and observe them every week. One of the largest trail recordings has been made in the area of Molyvos.

2019 Lesvos Cycling Club has started the creation of the first exclusively cycling path in Greece. A path with all the necessary specifications required by international organizations will be available in 2023 for every Mountain Bike rider, from all over the world. The websites promoting the big project around the world are now ready. That project will be a pole of attraction in the coming years for every cycling lover, but also the beginning of the development of cycling tourism, which the state has been ignoring for so many years. Lesvos has the ability to fully support this type of tourism and it is a shame that such an asset of our place remains unexploited. In Lesvos we have the land, the knowledge and the will, to achieve something like this. The “Lesvos Cycling Club” members have the know-how and the desire to offer it to every state body that needs it and asks for it.

In 2017, “Lesvos Cycling Club” signed a cooperation agreement with the “Civil Protection of Lesvos”, together with the “Volunteer Firefighters” and some other associations that can help in forest fires, disasters or rescue missions. We can offer our 100+ pairs of eyes that patrol the forests every day, inform the authorities directly, give information according to our excellent knowledge of our mountains and generally contribute in our way for the sake of the island.
Lesvos has a great love for mountain biking. The people who will go for a ride, even once a week, in the surrounding mountains of the city in 2022 may even exceed 200 riders. Those who will choose the asphalt for their ride, are about 30, while the appeal of the Lesvos MTB page now in social media broke the barrier of the 3.000 people during 2022. All these followers are informed directly, daily, timely and accurately with cycling news, local, national or international, since “Lesvos Cycling Club’s” missions in races outside the island are many, with the longest one until 2022, the participation of our athlete, Costas Karathanos, in Trans Madeira.

“Lesvos Cycling Club” will continue to work for the methodical raising and development of cycling sports of all kinds, the creation of a sports team and the production of cycling athletes who will participate in competitions of all forms of cycling. Its purpose is spreading, promoting and elevating all types of cycling and the creation of a cycling culture in Lesvos. It will continue to engage in any kind of sports activity related to cycling and will support, expand, organize and spread sports cycling events. It will intensify the efforts to create an extensive urban network of cycling paths in Mytilini and it will continuously interfere with the state in order to start the bicycle infrastructure projects.

In all our events we include traffic education classes for children and we are promoting any project that is able to reveal the cultural value of our place, raise the environmental awareness of our fellow citizens and highlight the natural beauty of the island.