After Spezi 2010, I decided to ride there the next year. And so I did. I knew that proper cycle paths are almost exclusively a Dutch phenomenon, so I took my 'bent with the biggest wheels and the most comfortable ride on any surface possible, my Pioneer. Far from the fastest and without weather protection. But the weather would be good (I just knew that) and I had time. It was my first multi-day long ride ever.
With hotels booked, food for a day, a little too much luggage I set of on Wednesday morning. The location of each hotel was a waypoint in my Dakota GPS. I had a vague idea of the route. A list of places I would ride through was what I had prepared. I started following the GPS after 130km, that's when I ran out of signs to follow. I'd sometimes followed a cycle route when that was in line with my route and/or I was tired of riding on the road with motorized traffic. But, 99% of German motorist are patient and amazingly respectful to cyclist. However, you hardly see any other cyclists on roads with a speed limit of over 70kph. Riding there is allowed though, and it get's you there when you got the guts.
Cyclepaths had became short, narrow, bumpy for most of the ride after 61km. That was when I crossed the border between the Netherlands and Germany. Sure, our big friendly neighbour has nice routes, but those are mostly of a touristic nature. With about 200km per day, the fast route has preference.
Day one was mostly flat and I relatively easy completed the 220km to the hotel in Hamm. Münster was the only big city I crossed. Countless traffic lights and rush hour traffic. A big 'bent and a GPS become your best friend in such situations. I arrived at the Herzog Hotel in just under 10 hours of riding. The meal at an Italian restaurant was good. The staff spoke with a strong accent at Italian speeds. Back at my hotel room I showered, watch television and slept 8 hours straight.
Day two, 2 hours of mild rain after a good breakfast. This would be the toughest day. Climbing was new to me and most of this day would be through the Sauerland. The busy roads did lead me to beautiful sights and quiet trails. Up and down hills, with 10% gradient, things that all where new to me. I saw a 14% slope warning sign for the first time. Hairpin corners limited my top speed to 66kph. The GPS followed some narrow and unpaved roads. Again, my choice of bike proved itself right. It was slow, but fun.
I thought I'd left the hills behind after 130km. Wrong I was, very wrong indeed. Another 40km followed, and I decided to walk to two times to reach the top without putting too much strain on the legs. Fewer luggage and a lower granny would have helped for sure. 30-32 with a 50-559 wheel is too high for these circumstances. I'd sometimes feel funny and stopped to let that feeling go away. The last 30km was relatively easy, mostly downhill.
At half past 8, I was tired, with leg muscles protesting and a right ankle feeling strange. A night of rest solved most of that. It was almost 9 'o clock when I had dinner at the hotel in Diez. Yes I was utterly tired after my hardest day of riding ever, but I felt proud that I'd made it. 200km, through the Sauerland, on my own, with my 9 year old bike, with hills, traffic and zero climbing experience.
Day three started a little later. This would be such a long day, 170km or so. And just when I thought it would easy from now on, 35km of hills came in sight. I completely had it with the big roads to crawl up hill and fled into the woods for a few kilometres. But when I reached the end of the final real climb, at 512 metres, having a wide road in front was really necessary.
My heart had been in overdrive after 26km because of the climbing, forcing me to an early break. Now the blood pressure went up for a whole different reason. 9%, downhill, 2.8km, no corners, lorry's must gear down. Down I went. Faster and faster. Lightweight 'bentrider on big bike with luggage on the rack. Throw in some wind from the right to make it more exciting. 60 was nothing, 70 was easily past. 76 was when I stopped accelerating. Trucks going up hill had their engines going at full power.
With hot brakes and rims I entered Wiesbaden. I hopped to the side of the road to take a deep breath. Not for long though. I was on my way to the river Rhein. Following that was easy. Flat, very little traffic, with good signs. I said 'hello' to another 'bentrider, also on his way to Spezi.
After 102km, I had a cappuccino at a bakery. That is also the moment to buy bread for the next day. Problem was that my right ankle had suffered from the climbing and needed rest. From here on, with 70km left to go, I had to take it easy. And so I did, most of the time. Bumps hurt, bridges too. Having 2 legs is handy in these situations. My left leg was doing the hard work now.
More about Spezi later on...