Due to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic in Germany, many bike events had been canceled. But, this didn’t mean the end of cycling. The organiser of Orbit360, Raphael Albrecht, and his team saw it as a new beginning: They wanted to share the best routes in Germany with the cycling community. From that moment on, Orbit360 was born, the first unsupported gravel adventure series where riders can compete against each other – safely and in an exciting new format!
Riders can choose their Orbits out of 18 different routes and collect points. The race window will be open for ten weeks and riders can start at whatever time and location along the Orbit they want. Tracking via Komoot, completed Orbits will be listed in the virtual leaderboard that will determine the season rankings.
Raphael was able to convince me to do eight tracks of the Orbit series and so I started planning which routes I would ride
My first orbit was the SPIN SPARK in the Ruhr area with 156 kilometers and 2.200 meters of climbing. For this orbit, I traveled by car for almost three hours and started at a forest parkside near Ratingen. The SPIN SPARK Orbit had many trail sections with roots and steep descents and was sometimes very muddy. But also many fast slopes at the end of the tour made up for the exhausting sections. I finished in under eight hours and after this ride, returned home.
One week later I began one of the hardest Orbits, the Komoot Cosmos in the Taunus with 186 kilometers and 3,770 meters of climbing. With humid temperatures, it was picturesque high in the vineyards and along the river Rhine. I went over fast slopes on a plateau down to the river Lahn. At a fuel station, I filled 1.5 liters of Coke in my bottles, and was ready for the remainder of the track. The end of the track was a demanding muddy trail down to Wiesbaden. I was unexpectedly quick and was able to complete the route in under 10 hours.
I rode my third Orbit, the Votec Warp on the Swabian Alb. After the start in Balingen, the first climb is extremely steep. This path is not rideable and difficult to walk. The rest of the track compensates for the early effort. Over beautiful white gravel slopes – looks like the Toskana (like Tuscany in Italy) – it goes to the “Zeller Horn”, from here I have a fantastic view of the old “Hohenzollern Castle”. Then I’m in the gravel paradise of southern Germany. The ride continues like a dream over the white gravel roads to the south. First over a plateau, then along a railway line and along a small river. In Sigmaringen I reach the river Danube.
Now it’s up the river on the bike path, sometimes on gravel, sometimes on trails. Near Fridingen it was planned to cross the river Danube over large stone blocks. But the water level is too high and the current too strong. After a little detour, I’m back on the track. The last third of the route is again very hilly – but I can finish in less than 8 hours with 178 kilometers and 2.425 meters of climbing.
The fourth orbit that I ride as a conclusion in the first half of the series was the Eleven Earth in the Odenwald. Since my chosen starting point is only an hour away from my home, I have decided to leave at 5 a.m., because it will be a long day in the saddle. The weather outlook is relatively unfavorable, a high temperature around 30 degrees Celcius (close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit). I chose my starting point so that I ride the toughest climbs near Heidelberg right at the beginning.
After these first two mountains, there are 16 more categorized climbs waiting for me. I can’t gain a lot of time on the descents, it’s very often technical on narrow trails into the valleys. On the way, I have to refill my bottles three times because the temperatures are making staying hydrated a tough proposition. As always, I don’t take any breaks and only stop briefly to refill water or take a nature break. Nevertheless, I manage to be back after almost 11 hours. In these conditions, more was simply not possible after 200 kilometers and 4.385 meters of altitude.
At the completion of the first four orbits, I have a total ride of over 700 kilometers and over 13,000 meters of climbing in my legs. I am curious about what awaits me at the next orbits!
You can read more about this series on the Orbit360 website.