who needs gears anyway?

The last two days have been a cracker, with everything from pleasure to pain again. Today will be the final stage heading into Erfurt, should the weather forecast for tomorrow not change slightly. Looks like winter will be back stronger than ever in Thuringia and the last two days of thawing were only a temporary relief so far. I have also managed to upload more pictures as well, and chucked them all into a nice collection, so have a look here first.

All the gear including the bike lived up to their expectations so far, only two victims have to be moaned, my cycle computer and the rear light. Both stopped working two days ago, and so I have to measure distances with Google maps so far. According to my calculations I am sitting at roughly 1180 kilometres so far, well above the expected length of the trip. Considering the severe weather warning for tomorrow, I will swap my bike to my cross-country skies and keep my fitness with those instead. The final stage today will be slightly longer, packing Weimar in as well, so I should be finishing at roughly about 1250km cycled in 14 days, with one gear only, the highest point at 942m above sea level. For those who like some more stats for the moment, I am currently sitting at 6% body fat as well, which shows how demanding the trip has been. But it has been an amazing experience, partly due to the winter conditions I have faced so often.

Starting from Marburg on Tuesday I had the worst start imaginable. With about 15cm of fresh snow the road conditions in the morning were atrocious, with lorries and ambulances carrying snow chains. Being on a main road in those conditions seemed a bit hardcore even for me, but the cycle path that led out the town was once again covered with appr. 40cm of snow. Finally I managed to find an alternative route over the Lahnberge towards the east, and soon worked my way on a slightly less busier road out of Marburg, the street still covered with snow. From the I cycled through a winter wonderland, where everything was white and frosty, including me. But as the roads got clearer during the day, I was still hopeful to make it into Thuringia for the first time, despite the fact I had to cycle 125km at least, and the poor start. Cycling into Bad Hersfeld meant I was once again back in known territory, and with the clock at 3pm it was an ambitious but manageable goal for the day. Only problem was the missing rear light, so I finally fought my way through side roads and dark cycle paths to Bad Salzungen, to once again have a Youth Hostel for my own. the good news was that I had a supermarket and an inside space for the bike, which meant that I could finally carry out some maintainance. At 133km it was the longest day in the ride, and with a serious amount of climbing in between. The supermarket did hold some much-needed yogurt and dinner for me, to end the day in perfect fashion.

Yesterday was a near perfect day, despite the weather again. I had not seen any sun since Bonn now, and icy rain and fog lowered my chances of having the sun again. After a good and nostalgic breakfast I managed to set off early, snd despite other parts of the country that once again had to fight the icy rain, I was lucky this time and had almost clear roads. Can you imagine the sheer joy of having a tarmac road, even if it is around zero degrees and pissing down. It’s been almost like Christmas. After a short interview with Manu from Radio Top 40, the final one, I was off flying to Schmalkalden, to cross the border of the Thuringian Forest National Park and pay tribute to my favourite drink, Vita Cola. After that the climbing began, from about 300m above sea level to about 900m in Oberhof. You might imagine facing that challenge with only one gear, and I felt a wee bit anxious if I might have to push. But once again I had an interview lined up on the top, and therefore pushing was not an option at all. Having the last 7km of the road for myself, as it was closed for cars, I cycled through an absolutely amazing winter wonderland again, with more than a meter high snow walls on the side, trees that almost collapsed under the amount of snow on them, only the fog was a bit hideous.

I catched up with Stefan Gans from Antenne Thueringen for a nice Latte at Cafe Iglo, next to Oberhof’s impressive cross-country ski facilities, some of the world’s best. Once again I was treated with a warm welcome and German hospitality, and the friendly add on of Thuringian people. Having used that area up there for years as training ground, the last kilometres into Ilmenau were an amazing experience. The temperatures dropped below zero again, and once again I was back in a winter wonderland, with icicles longer than my bicycle hanging down from the roofs. Arriving at 942m above sea level soon before Schmücke, I was at the highest point of the journey, higher than some Scottish Munros, all climbed on a singlespeed. From there I raced the last kilometres down to Ilmenau to be there right at 3pm, to be greeted by Uwe from Freies Wort, for another final interview, and my friend Ben, who gave me a warm welcome. After hanging round at a Shirtschleuder, a friend’s printing business, it was time to end the day with a glass of red wine, for the first time since ages. And the awareness: who needs gears when one is just fine?