New destination: North Cape

After a lot of pondering and researching, I have decided that the 2021 fundraising project for zis is going to take me from Luebeck (Travemuende) via Malmö to the North Cape. The ferry is scheduled to leave on June 16.

As I am writing this, the border to Norway is still closed due to the Covid situation. However, I am remaining hopeful that I will be able get an exemption for this charitable project. Let’s keep fingers crossed.

Who says cycling is not political?

I just came across this great article by Adam Ruggiero and wanted to make it available to my readers. Please meet the All-Black 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps who cycled 1,900 miles across the dirt roads of the US back in 1897 on 55 pounds heavy bikes with no “granny gears”.

January 18, 2016 | By Adam Ruggiero

In June of 1897, the all-black company of the 25th Mobile Infantry, under command of a white lieutenant and accompanied by a medic and a journalist, embarked on a journey across America’s heartland — from Fort Missoula, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri — to “test most thoroughly the bicycle as a means of transportation for troops.”

Their trek would span 41 days and 1,900 miles and pit the men against sandhills, the Rocky Mountains, rain, snow, poison, and more. Decades before Dr. King had his famous dream, these men were sweating together, bleeding together, and biking together as a team

You will find the full article here:

https://gearjunkie.com/25th-infantry-bicycle-corps?fbclid=IwAR3K_UYZWUk9xSeMkTNOxq7RYEIC5ERhIitouqqvbm2GLfGZgykepdQyDx0

Epilogue: What have I learned?

After 22 days in the saddle, 3 countries (Germany, Poland and Czech Republic) and 2,451 kilometers on the road, I arrived back at home last Saturday.

Here is a glimpse of what I have learned on this tour.

General Insights

  • It is amazing what everyone can achieve when you set yourself a goal and put some discipline and hard work behind it.
  • We take stability, peace and prosperity way too much for granted. It is only a bit over 30 years ago that we were on the edge of nuclear warfare.
  • The end of the separation of Germany and Europe in 1989 without major violence or warfare was one of the biggest humanitarian achievements in modern history.
  • Germany is has very different regions and landscapes but it is really beautiful everywhere.
  • There is something like structural poverty in some remote parts of Eastern Germany which is shocking for me
  • The further you go East, the more infrastructure becomes an issue (availability ot jobs, state of roads, availability of shops, look and feel of villages)
  • Cyclists everywhere should all make an effort to connect, help and support each other more.

Bike setup

  • The Böttcher Randonneur (www.boettcher-fahrraeder.de) is a really nice and reliable bike with a good geometry for long distances. It also is very beautiful, I find.
  • There are a couple of weak spots however:
    • The mechanic disc braking system is too weak for the system weight. Probably, larger rotators would be needed to achieve more leverage.  I had some really critical situations because the brakes would not work effectively enough. Also, I needed to adjust the position of the brake shoes in hilly terrain multiple times per day to ensure effective enough braking.
    • Probably because of the long wheelbase, the entire bike goes into an oscilation alongside the longitudinal axis starting at 30 km/h when fully packed. This gets really disturbing at higher speeds. I had not observed that behavior when preparing for the tour with full gear but less load before. Maybe it has also to do with weight distribution left vs. right and front vs. rear.
    • The fact that the screws of the saddle post broke away and that the chain was ruptured has more to do with components than with the actual bike.

Bike Equipment

  • Bags
    • Handlebar: Ortlieb Ultimate Six Classic 5
      Perfect to keep all your valuables close to you.
    • Front: Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic 12.5 l
      Very good bags. One did get a puncture though.
    • Toptube: Apidura Expedition 0.5 l
      Love it. Perfect space for my battery packs.
    • Inframe: Apidura Expedition Frame Pack
      2 separate bags one for tools, one for rain gear. Perfect.
    • Rear:  Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic 25 l
      Very good bags. Especially I like the organizer bags that you can order with your paniers.
  • Water supply:
    • Adventure Hydration CrankTank4
      Love it. Holds 4 l of water. It took a while to attach it in a way so that the chain
      does not interfere with the tank.
  •  Tools
    • Bike Multi-Tool: BBB Cycling PrimeFold Extra-Large
    • Next to “Panzer-Tape” and cable ties of course …

Trekking Equipment

  • Tent: Outdoorer Trek It Easy 2
    Very nice tent for summer trecking. Great interior space. Would not recommend it for cold seasons since not enough protection from wind.
  • Matrace: Thermarest Prolite
    Love it. Just perfect for me and really comfy.
  • Sleeping bag: Deuter Exosphere -6° L
    Highly recommended. Perfect for the cause.
  • Outdoor stove: Primus Essential Stove Set 1300ml 2018
    Was even a bit over engineered. Does the job perfectly.
  • Seat: Uquip Three Sixty Three leged stool
    Love it. Just perfect.
  • Table: Uquip Folding Table Liberty
    It was defenitely worth the extra weight.

Tour details

Based on this tour, I can confirm that 120 km per day are doable for me with this setup.
However, a second break day would probably have been better.

Date   Distance Elevation
  Sum 2451 16258
  Avg 111 739
10.07.2020 1 124 1669
11.07.2020 2 130 1376
12.07.2020 3 80 822
13.07.2020 4 141 861
14.07.2020 5 116 581
15.07.2020 6 132 1040
16.07.2020 7 122 406
17.07.2020 8 119 264
18.07.2020 9 147 191
19.07.2020 10 132 425
20.07.2020 11 83 315
22.07.2020 12 114 485
23.07.2020 13 100 608
24.07.2020 14 138 282
25.07.2020 15 109 618
26.07.2020 16 47 127
27.07.2020 17 135 677
28.07.2020 18 118 996
29.07.2020 19 111 1085
30.07.2020 20 103 1535
31.07.2020 21 81 966
01.08.2020 22 69 929

Day 22: Walldürn to Mönchzell

Distance: 69 km

Elevation: 929 m

Today, I finally reached home after 22 days in the saddle and 2,451 km on the road!

I got up early and prepared breakfast. An early jogger and a lady walking her dog greeted me friendly yet slightly irritated.

The camp spot had not been ideal in hindsight as I found many better spots a couple of kilometers along the way even one with access to a lake. But it had been late yesterday, I was tired and I needed to make a decision.

The road was nice and the weather was warm. As this was the last day, I felt exhausted and needed to push my bike up a couple of hills.

Finally, I arrived at the river Neckar which was a sign of coming home for me. The last hills were really steep and long climbs but eventually, I reached our house around 2 pm.

After the initial welcome, I could not do much talking. I sat on the stairs of our wooden patio and just glanced around for an hour or so. Carolin and Tabeas friend Sam did the talking and I chipped in a couple of thoughts every now and then.

It will take a while before I will be able to grasp the deeper meaning of all the different colorful events, impressions and encounters of the last weeks.

I am very thankful for this trip and that I returned healthy and in good spirit. This tour was really intense, both physically but also from an emotional standpoint.

For now, sleeping, eating and NO CYCLING are big items on my agenda.

Day 21: Mittelhammer to Walldürn

Distance: 81 km

Elevation: 967 m

The morning started rather chilly. After breakfast I did my washing up in the river Regnitz. Visitors from the Czech side came over to visit the three-country-corner and this time, I showed them around.

After a bit of chatting how sleeping in a tent in nature is illegal, they invited me for a Slibovitz: “Nastrovje!” We drank to health and world peace. A schnaps right after breakfast is a bit unusual for me. Again, the entire scene was pretty surreal.

I packed up and cycled to Hof in Bavaria where I boarded a train to Würzburg. Being confined in a box called train for three hours felt a bit claustrophobic after this long time outdoors.

When I started cycling in Würzburg, it was around 36 degrees and the road went only uphill it felt. I simply could not drink enough and water supply was a real issue.

Also this part of Germany has some steep roads and I needed to push my bike quite a bit. Another factor next to the heat was that my body is simply tired after 21 days on the bike. But in contrast to other parts of Germany, people talked to me, asked if I was ok or needed some help. I appreciated that a lot and have learned that this is not necessarily the norm everywhere.

I took a risky approach and aimed for a camping site far away. Maybe it was a bit too risky. However, due to the elevation, I did not make it and ended up around 9 pm on a field near Walldürn. No river with fresh water this time. I will have to deal with my own supplies. Next level of outdoor life.

Tomorrow, I will reach home.

Day 20: Bad Blankenburg to Mittelhammer

Distance: 103 km

Elevation: 1.535 meters

The day started with a cup of coffee with Maggie and Tilman, both teachers for kids with special needs. I knew that this last day was going to be tough – potentially with the highest elevation of the entire tour – so I procrastinated a little.

At the beginning, I followed the river Saale for a while. Not long into the day, I had my first flat tire. That’s ok after 2,300 km given the conditions of many “roads” which I travelled on the last weeks.

What was absolutely not ok, was that during my repair at least 10 cyclist and also pedestrians passed by and not a single one of them asked if help was needed or made any other comment for that matter. That deeply disturbed and disappointed me. Why was nobody ready to help or show compassion?

The rest of the day was brutal as I was crossing the mountains of Thuringia. It was way over 30 degrees and in my memory, there was no single meter of flat horizontal road – I swear 😉

The small roads went either uphill with a gradient of 12% or more (partially on gravel) or it went downhill with similar slope. I suffered a lot, used swear words but kept on going.

While the roads and trails were rough, the landscape was absolutely gorgeous. The longer I cycled, the more rural and remote it got. Because of the steep elevation, I covered only little ground and it got later and later. I had no plans for the night yet which is pretty untypical for me.

Around 9 pm I finally arrived in Mittelhammer. Here the borders of Thuringia, Bavaria and the Czech Republic meet in one spot. This place is a symbol for the separation of Germany and Europe until 1989. It also marks the official end of my tour.

The spot where the borders meet is very hidden and far away from any roads. To my surprise a local woman kind of “awaited” me there. She greeted me and showed me around in this place. I asked if it would be ok to set up my tent there for the night and she kind of invited me to stay with her. She showed me a grave of a German soldier who was killed here in World War II (with his helmet still on top of the cross) and a sign to beware of poisonous snakes. “Do you really want to sleep HERE?” she repeatedly asked.

I confirmed since I did not consider staying at her place as an option. I had pondered sleeping outdoors in nature since the entire tour. It is illegal but in the case there was also no camping site around.

So eventually she showed me a place where I could set up my tent and where I could wash myself in the nearby river Regnitz. It was all pretty surreal.

After she was gone, I had my first official “shower” in a river. It was just awesome! I ate dinner and waited as long as I could with setting up my tent. The silence and the sounds of nature were breathtaking.

A sudden single gunshot, probably fired towards a deer, let my adrenaline level rise. After I went to bed, I laid stiff avoiding any possible sound for long. But eventually I relaxed and had a good sleep.

What a day! What a tour!