Fabio and I love riding bikes. He’s a courier in Bern, I’m just a daily rider and we had the idea for a bikepacking tour. The plan was to visit friends in Germany, too.
A few weeks after our final examination we had all our stuff together and we were ready to squeeze them into our bags. Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, two t-shirts, one pair of trousers, some tools, a few jerseys and bibs and of course a little bit of food. That had to be enough.
At 6am we met at the train station in Bern. In Basel our journey began. Our first destination was Cassel, around 550 km away from Basel. We felt a little bit queasy, but after the first kilometres it was an amazing feeling and we were happy that we were on our way. The first few hours we flew over the gravel road.
On the left side was the Rhine, which we would follow for the next two days.
The weather was awesome. Something about 30 degrees and more or less cloudless.
We tried to follow the signposting of the Rhine Cycle Route, but either we were blind or too fast, but we missed so many signs that we had many detours. That was a little bit annoying.
At kilometre 125 we had to change to the French side with a ferry.
On the other side there were no signs at all, so we rode on the country road to Strasbourg. Many cars were faster than we were comfortable with it and it wasn’t much fun when they overtook us.
After a little break in a village, where we bought some baguettes (of course) and enough water (the supermarkets in France are freezing cold), we accidentally cycled on the motorway. Oops! Wrong way! Luckily a police car stopped right next to us and they helped us to get off.
They drove backwards on the slip road and we walked in safety behind their car back on the road where we are allowed to cycle. After that, they also told us where we would find the cycle route. Very nice of them!
After a few more kilometres in France we finally reached Kehl in Germany.
It is a little city on the other hand of Strasbourg and the Rhine. Since Basel we had cycled 170km. We were really tired. France was busy!
We fell on the grass and refreshed ourselves in a fountain and chilled for about an hour. That felt good!
After a look on the bike-computer we realised that we'd actually cycled 35km worth of detours..
Meh! It would have been good if they'd been beautiful detours, but sadly they weren't.
We decided to use a GPS for the next day to avoid something this happening again and find the direct way to our next stop.
But first we had to find a good spot to put our tent. The cycle route after Kehl was pretty nice. It was on a dam next to the Rhine with smooth gravel. It was beautiful to watch the sunset while riding.
We were really pleased about that after the roads in France.
Pretty much back in the nature and its silence, we looked for our camp spot.
We found an old forest aisle, who was good enough. Mosquitos were our best friends. It seems that they were very hungry : )
Haribo was our first dinner and so our first night began.
Fabio slept well, me not. The French seemed to have a party with music and firework and people were walking through the forest whistling or with barking dogs.
But after a good breakfast of dry baguette, chocolate buns and cheese, we went back on the track.
Ouch! That’s hurts. Back on the saddle, we noticed the last day.
We weren’t accustomed to be on the saddle this long, and so our asses : )
Planning the day on maps were much easier for the navigation and we were getting forward fast on nice cycle routes.
Then Fabio felt a strong pain in his achilles, which wasn’t a good sign.
The last time this happened, he had to break up his tour.
We reduced the pace, he took a pain killer and he came in the slip-stream right behind me.
It was a tough day. We noticed that we weren’t as fit as we were the day before. We had to stop every 20 – 30 km to refill our bottles and get something to eat. It was around 35 degrees, the sun was burning and every time you went out of the shade you’d want to go back.
But otherwise we had fun, because riding is fun. So we made the best of our situation. On kilometre 60, I think, Fabio signalled that we had to stop. The pain in his achilles got too bad to ride further.
At times like these it is very important to listen to your body. Of course our goal was to ride all the way to Cassel by bike, but it was the best thing to take the train and so we did.
We took a train to my grandma's. She lives in a village where I grew up. That had many advantages over the tent. A hot shower, tea and a soft bed. That was good.
The next day Fabio felt a little better, so we decided to cycle the last part, around 83 km to Cassel.
Fully packed and well fed up, we started at 9 am.
We were no longer following the Rhine. The Fulda would show us the way to Cassel and our friends for now.
The cycle way was excellent. Through forests, fields, over bridges and hills and even with a hand-operated lift over the river. It was really fun and with good music even better.
An amazing feeling flowed through our body when we passed the road sign for Cassel. We did it!
Here we would stay for the next four days before starting to our next destination, Jena. But first we enjoyed the days without cycling with our friends. We ate a lot of kebabs and we can definitely recommend a fresh peach nectar after a stressful day ;)
We went hiking, or we sat at the river and did picnics together. We had an awesome time.
After four days in Cassel it was time to continue the adventure. To continue meant 210 km to Jena.
At 9am we met my big brother at the train station. He lives in Jena.
He specifically came to ride with us. It was nice to ride in a threesome. My brother gave us slip-streams and haribos : ) and took some photos for this blog too : )
The ride was very intense, but also really beautiful.
We rode on gravel roads through forests, on cycle routes far away from the streets, on lonely streets though cornfields and sometimes through extinct villages, over cobblestone sections or busy roads.
In short, it was very diverse, except for the heat. Every bit of shade was a big gift!
All in all, the day was fun.
At 9 pm we arrived in Jena very tired. Luckily the last bit was downhill. At home some vegetarian burgers were waiting for us and then a comfy sofa to relax.
Jena is a town in the east of Germany. Universities and students emboss the city. That means you noticed the left-wing political orientation. We liked that. And it has a pretty hinterland, too.
It’s really nice to ride. My brother and I did that a few times while Fabio was driving further to Leipzig to visit a friend.
As he arrived there, he let us know that the pain in his achilles got stronger again and that couldn’t ride back to Switzerland. This were sad news, because he had the big desire to ride back too, but his body didn’t let him.
Later he took the train back to Bern, our hometown.
So that meant I would ride back alone. A little bit of discomfort came up in me, but anticipation for the upcoming time, too.
But first I enjoyed a few more days with my brother before getting back on the road.
Packed up again I lined up the return path with the first rain since our trip had started.
Again I cycled through beautiful scenery and ended up on a lonely country road in a valley surrounded by deep forests.
Every now and then a truck or a car passed. In between came little villages with many abandoned houses.
This region didn’t seem very attractive to live and I was glad to leave the valley at the end of the day with a steep climb to a village, called Lauenstein. It was totally worth it.
Up there on a wide grassland, I found a little lake with a wooden shed. The perfect campspot for today.
I don’t know why but the fish in the lake were jumping all the time, even at night.
And that’s why my first night alone was not very calm and I didn’t sleep very much. All the sounds of the night were making me crazy.
But the morning was stunning instead. I could watch the sunrise directly out of the tent. Totally alone with the nature and the sun. That gave me a big motivation for the day.
The first hour I was riding overgrown paths along the old border of Germany, which went between East and West Germany. I noticed that I didn’t sleep much last night, but with enough breaks it went well anyway. Meanwhile I was riding in the state of Bayern. You can notice the differences very well between the states. The cycle routes were being well signed out and you got way more possibilities to buy food and stuff.
In more or less every bigger village people were preparing for a festivity. And in one of that villages I stopped for lunch. I sadly forgot the name of it, but they had excellent beer.
In Bern it isn’t easy to find a good currywurst. That’s why I couldn’t miss the opportunity to order one.
After this, the ride took me 100 km over different roads. The geography was a little bit annoying. After every village it went up on a hill and then back down in another village. And that again and again. Later I luckily met the Main, a river, which went straight in the direction I had to go. With this direct way and loads of gummy bears the time passed quickly, which I love in cycling.
I let a few bigger cities behind me after buying some food and water for the upcoming night and searched a spot to sleep. I couldn’t find anything better than going back into a forest, after it got darker. I found a place, which wasn’t visible for anyone. This night Iistened to some music with headphones, so I slept a little better than the night before.
In the early morning I was woken by a shot and the screams of an animal. I think it was a deer. This was the sign for me to leave the forest as fast as possible. I didn’t want to get detected by the hunter.
While packing up I noticed that my second dry bag slightly got ripped. The first already broke at home when I plugged my sleeping bag in it.
I tried to fix it with the last bit of electrical tape. Should be good for the last days.
At 7.30 am I sat on a bench in a village and ate some bread. In the afternoon I wanted to visit friends where I could stay at night. They were living around 110 km away from may current location. So I had a lot of time.
I took a closer look around while riding and drove through a few pretty, little villages. In an old city I had a longer break in a park right behind the old castle walls of the town. Behind me was a wooden bridge over the old moat. This pretty place definitely invented to stay longer. There was so much to discover.
After another two hours of riding I reached the final destination for today. Until then I took the wrong way many times or my gps directed me over impassable paths.
And then I lost one of my slippers which I had fixed onto the bag on one of that bumpy roads. So I had to ride back to search them. Luckily I found them in a forest, but it cost me a lot of water. My throat was dry as hell when I arrived at the friend’s house.
It was great to meet them. We talked the whole evening and ate delicious, self cooked meals.
And at last a self-made herb schnapps. Very good!
For the last day of our bikepacking tour I decided to take a train near to the border to Switzerland and to ride the last 120 km back to Bern. I met a few other riders who were on a group ride. We had a little talk together and it was nice to share adventures and experiences.
It was a great feeling to cross the border.
And right after it I saw something which we missed a lot while riding in Germany. A fountain!
We only found two fountains with drinking water. That’s sad because everyone could use them to refresh, drink or refill their bottles.
Now, on the last day I never had to buy water. Almost in every town or village it has at least one fountain. Or even on the land at the farms.
It was very refreshing to dip the head and the arms under the water. It was around 35 degrees again with pure sun and clear sky.
The happiness about arriving at home was really strong and so my legs felt.
I enjoyed it very much. Even a road bike rider had no chance against me : )
I had a little down 30 km before Bern. But when you notice that you're riding back on roads you know, and you see mountains and hills you remember, your body gets all the energy back and you feel like someone at the Tour de France on his last kilometres before finish.
Faster, faster, faster… aaand yes! Back in Bern!
And that was it! My first bikepacking tour.
It was a great experience and we so had much fun. I definitely recommend it to everyone.
It was sad that Fabio wasn’t able to ride back to Bern. But it was really cool anyway and we met so many cool people.
A great deal of this experience was the equipment, too.
We didn’t have one puncture or any problems with our bikes.
And the bags we had were made it very comfortable.
I’m a new big fan of this art of bikepacking and looking forward to the next and bigger adventure next year. 3 months of bikepacking. I’m stoked!
A big thanks to Restrap for letting me write this blog!