Instead of a three-month bike trip to the North Cape, our collaborator Thierry Joerin made a three-week trip through Germany, during which he covered more than 2,000 kilometers in the saddle. In this blog post, the passionate but not poisoned cyclist describes his impressions without make-up. It became clear faster than desired that bikepacking does not always mean just enjoyment as from the bike catalogue. Still, he doesn’t want to miss a minute of his trip. How intense the journey was for the spirit is shown by the fact that he dreamed of cycling for several more nights after his return. But read for yourself!
(Picturegallery at the end of the post do not miss!)
By Thierry Joerin. Bikes are on everyone’s mouth due to the corona crisis. You almost get the feeling that everyone has come to the taste of cycling. But the new trend of bike packing has already made a mention of itself. That’s how it happened to me and last year I set myself the goal of riding from Zurich to the North Cape. A minimum of luggage, three months of time and a little willpower, then that will happen. Shortly after the idea, the purchase of my new Argon 18 Dark Matter was sealed, bags borrowed or bought from Ortlieb, persuaded a friend and tested the whole setup in a 5-day bike trip through Switzerland. A year ago I imagined it a little too easy.
Three weeks instead of three months
Half a year later in January of this year, the planning phase for the long trip to the North Cape began and at the same time the Corona Crisis began. It quickly became clear that the planning phase and the journey had to be cancelled in the initial form. My holidays were cut from several months to three weeks and I had only a vague idea of where to go until the start of the trip. The only thing I knew was what I wanted to take with me. So on the first day I set off for the north with a tent, cooker, few clothes and spare materials.
Difficult start of the trip
The first days were difficult, despite good weather, varied scenery and little wind. But my equipment hit my mind. The two Panier bags and also the other not really light bags affected my riding feeling and the agility on the several single trails and deep gravel paths in the south of Germany. The first three days were mentally, but also physically a challenge, because I am used to sit on the bike, but not with all the luggage and not every day for several hours in a row. The pain in the joints and muscles was always present and when the pain in the neck came to an end, it reappeared in the knee. After three days I changed my route settings in Komoot from mountain bike to gravelbike. The effects of this setting were less altitude meters and technically easier ways.
Pleasure still arises
And then it got better and the next few days were more pleasant. The body quickly gets used to physical work and with some changes at the sitting position, the stressed areas can be spared a little. In addition, I was lucky not to travel alone for a few days and to take two rest days in four days to recover from the first hard week. In a few days my girlfriend and I drove to the east of Germany via Jena, Dresden, Cottbus as far as Berlin. This scenic route showed me the beauty of travelling by bike.
The longer the mentally more difficult
In Berlin came the end of my after day 3 already changed plan and I was on my own again. I planned the way from Berlin back to Zurich day by day. So I took day after day and soon realized that the days were getting longer and longer. Every day I rode from village to village, everything looked very similar and the heat increased. At the same time, motivation and strength decreased, because my not very accurate planning caused the rest days to be cancelled. It was just a matter of getting back to the start. The many days alone on the bike made it clear to me that planning, weather luck with wind and heat, but also overnight accommodation on the way can contribute a lot to motivation. So it happened that despite many villages I had no more water, because the villages were like extinct. Or I had to extend my route by 40 kilometers, because there was no campsite, hotel or other accommodation on the way.
Almost back in Switzerland, I was able to enjoy accompaniment again. My parents did ride with me for the last three days and I have been able to benefit from the draft. It wasn’t until the second half of the tour that I became aware of the sailing effect of the Panier setup. With headwinds and a little incline, it feels like you’re faster on foot. Through the draft of my fast companions, the last three days flew by, despite long monotonous but beautiful routes along the Rhine to Zurich.
Still riding in the dreams back home
With a few days away from the trip and several dream nights, which I spent on the bike, I was able to gain a certain distance from the tour. All in all, the tour in Germany probably did not come close to Scandinavia in terms of landscape, but Germany showed itself as a bikers paradise. Ninety percent of the route could be riden on bike lanes or side roads with little traffic and otherwise one felt safe as a cyclist.
Some things about the setup, but especially in the approach and the length of the day distances I would change for future trips. On the way back, the days felt like competitions. The stress level increased and the motivation decreased, actually what I wanted to avoid. The heavy setup showed me that I would rather forgo a little comfort on the next tours and would be on the road with a more aerodynamic setup, for example a saddlebag.
With only three flat tires and no mechanical problems, my bike fits for such tours. In the three weeks I didn’t lack any material other than water. The days with accompaniment felt easier in the planning, but also during the riding. So I would immediately go on a trip by bike again, but preferably with shorter distances and accompanied.
Due to the circumstances of the Corona Crisis, the trip to the North Cape had to be cancelled. However, the three weeks on the bike showed me that the bike is the most varied and therefore the most beautiful means of travel for me to spend longer holidays and explore new places and paths.