What‘s the plan? This was the question I asked myself at the end of 2018 and during the early part of 2019. For me, the decision on what to work on is essential. I think you should never think about the ideas that you find just “ok“ or “interesting“. In my opinion, you should put all your energy into ideas that you find amazing.
For more than ten years I was involved in professional bike racing. Three times I wore the German national jersey for the UCI Mountainbike Marathon World Championships. While racing you are traveling through different parts of the world and always looked for the best performance during the race. It’s all about the race like hard work, endless hours, repetitions and a dream. At the end of 2018, I started thinking about something new. I thought about discovering the world by bike. Only me and my bike, no rush or hurry.
There were a lot of ideas. But the first plan was to ride across Europe and discover the beautiful landscape of this part of the world. Yes, for sure I would have to face huge, annoying, unexpected problems during this journey. The real intent was to come out of my comfort zone. I started my journey in Oslo and wanted to finish at home near Frankfurt. To conquer the Alps in Italy and ride alongside the river Rhine in Germany. It was on the 4th of June when my plane arrived in Oslo and I had to unbox my bike and rebuild it.
At half-past four, my first real bikepacking adventure began. Far away from home, missing my girlfriend Christina and my little dog Lena, it was a strange feeling. Sure, the first day is to check all the equipment and to find the flow. In my case, it was more like gaining my first ever experience with bikepacking in a foreign country. Straight from the airport, I rode to Oslo. A city where cars are infrequent and bicycles are the future mobility. In Norway, especially Oslo, the bicycle tracks are the perfect tool to reach your destination the fast way. There are fewer traffic lights and most of the time it is possible to ride the direct route due to an elaborated network of roads.
The next few days I rode from Norway to Sweden and crossed the first border. To cross a border is a privilege not all people around the world have. Here in Europe we feel free and travel from country to country like I did.
At home, I‘ve got my own coffee company with Lena’s Coffee Brand. We sell coffee beans around the world. So one of my main goals during the trip was to find the best coffee (bars) alongside my route. The first excellent coffee I found in Gotheborg. Cafe Husaren is a small coffee bar that is famous for its amazing cinnamon buns. These buns are almost as large as my wheels. It seems that the Swedish guys know how to make a bicycle rider from Germany happy, especially after roundabout 200 kilometers of riding with a strong headwind.
In Norway and Sweden most of the days started with rain. But after two or three hours the sun came out and made it a beautiful ride each day. Thanks to my waterproof Ortlieb baggage, all my stuff stayed dry. After some days I noticed that I carried too much useless stuff with me. Chain oil for example. If you ride through the desert or through a country without civilization, chain oil could be a nice relief. But in Europe every bike store gives you some help, so you don’t need any oil in your bag. Yes, it is my first bikepacking adventure, lesson learned!
One of the worthwhile things I carried across Europe was the ultralight backpack that I used for the daily grocery shopping after the “stage“. At this point, I have to thank my friend Kay Tkatzik for this advise. Helped me a lot. After leaving Sweden by ferry to Denmark, I got the next chance for a remarkable coffee stop at Cranks & Coffee in Copenhagen. Wow, the best coffee bar so far and nice people around. Worth it.
For my first bikepacking trip I planned to use B&B’s or hotels. But outside of Copenhagen, there was only one hotel, far and wide. 120 euro per night for a room, like a prison, was a lump of money but there was no choice. Lesson number two: learned! Next time I should check the accommodations in the rural parts before I start my ride in the pouring rain, with a headwind on an endless straight road…
The next days just flew by. Crossing into Germany, with a day of rest, was followed by a tasty coffee at Coffee Museum at Hamburg, I went for an extra loop to Berlin and Leipzig to visit some friends.
My first and only puncture I had during my side trip to the Czech Republic. A region full of steep climbs and fast descents. Straight from the Czech Republic, my next target was Munich. A town full of beautiful buildings, nice restaurants and the home of my friend Patrick and his girlfriend. I hoped for a good coffee in Munich while riding in the rain. But the coffee was definitely not one of the good ones. On the positive side, talking to Patrick and Svenja was a nice diversion after days on my own and some solitude.
From Munich to Sölden in Austria was a ride at peak time. Tailwind, sunshine and climbing the first big mountains like Kühtai near Innsbruck. With a chance of a good piece (or two) of pizza, I passed Passo Rombo and therefore the border to Italy the day after. The prize was two days off in Riffiano at then amazing hotel Hofrunn, full of wellness and awesome food.
With fully charged batteries and good legs, I began my 800 kilometer journey towards home. With 4,500 meters of altitude difference, thunderstorm at Passo Stelvio (2757 m.) and snow in Switzerland it was for sure the hardest day of my journey. Famished and tired I arrived at Davos. The grocery shopping stop had everything in bulk. My ultralight backpack was full of everything. My tip at this point from being a racer: Haribo Gummy Bears to restock your glucose level. I needed two big packs this day in Davos…
The next day started with pouring rain and ten degrees, one more time. From Davos to the lake of Zurich you have to survive a downhill of 40 kilometers. Not too funny in those circumstances. But it doesn’t matter if you know that a warm cup of coffee is waiting for you at Rare Street Coffee next to the Lake of Zurich. Founded by an interesting Swiss guy, it is the place to be if you are looking for a pleasant atmosphere and good coffee and cake. Yes, it was the best coffee bar I spotted during my trip from Oslo back home and I fell in love with this amazing cinnamon bun. So note that you have to visit Rare Street Coffee in Rapperswil if you are near Zurich, trust me!
With only two days to go, I grew a little sad thinking about the end of my journey, but on the positive, the anticipation of returning home. The last two days I could enjoy the whole ride. Sun and tailwind were with me and riding through the black forest was hard but really worthwhile. One more time I had the chance to accept amazing hospitality. During my trip, I learned a lot about this kind of welcome and was overwhelmed by such a huge amount of friends who gave me a bed and breakfast. At this point, thank you all so much. It was a great experience. I am deeply grateful.
After 18 days of riding with round about 3,000 kilometers I reached my home near Frankfurt safe and sound. It was the first big trip and for sure not the last one. I learned a lot about bikepacking, about me and breaking free of my daily grind.
In summary, I am able to tell you that I rode the perfect bike, the perfect tire and had the perfect bags with me. The trip was a needed impression for my next big event, the Torino-Nice rally. That’s a self-supported bikepacking race from Torino to Nice. I am really looking forward to this kind of challenge!
This article kindly reprinted with permission from Sebastian Breuer and 3T XPDTN – Original article appears here.