Old trails, old friends, new challenges

Kickelhahn Ilmenau

Downhill on the Goethewanderweg to Ilmenau

What a week so far, and the big adventure hasn’t even begun. What started a bit dodgy last Saturday with the bike coming of the rack, has turned into a good time catching up with good friends and riding the trails I learnt mountain biking on. Riding them with a singlespeed cross bike now is a new challenge, but also shows the progression I have made since I last rode here in 2007. I will post more detailed stuff soon, as I was spoilt on Monday riding a short loop around the Dieteröder Klippen next to my family’s home in Schwobfeld, and then again on Tuesday with cruising along the Werra to Hörschel and riding the first bit of the Rennsteig, which for me is one of the best kept secrets when it comes to long distance trails suitable for cross and mountain bikes. As much as I love riding in Scotland and New Zealand, I truly believe again that this part of Germany has so much on offer, so if you need a break away from the stuff you would normally choose on the continent, try the Thüringer Wald, it’s worth every moment.

Riding on a singlespeed cross bike with rigid fork and drop bars was challenging, but the pushing uphill bits gave me some more time to enjoy the beauty even more, and prove some solid technical skills riding downhill. Hoping to pack all of those recommendations in a feature as soon as I am back, I’d love to do my bit promoting my home trails, so watch out.

Back in Ilmenau I went out with my old buddy Martin aka Yoda, with whom I crossed the Highlands in 2006. We don’t know how we did it, but we ended up finding a proper bush wracking trail while following a river uphill, not much riding here but a whole lot of fun. Up on the hill there was some sweet forest road waiting for us to the Auerhahn. From there we retraced Goethe’s steps up the Kickelhahn, and were properly surprised to find some new structures up there, things change over the years. Back down to Ilmenau I couldn’t wait to tackle the steep stuff, while remembering all the bits where I had come off years ago, whether walking, biking or sledging down here for the seven years I studied here. It was true magic, and with the sky clearing up it was even more picturesque than usual (see picture). Sealing the day with a visit to the famous Shirtschleuder (which doubled up as my place for coffee and hotel), I am now the proud owner of the first T-Shirt of the new Scottish Swimming Merchandise collection, thanks to Lars. A bier at bc club and good old friends gave me some really positive energy, which I need to cycle back to Scotland, in less than 3 days.

Scottish Swimming Lion

The Lion Rampant, watch out for me on the boat

Thanks to DFDS I am already looking forward to my sea view cabin on the boat to Newcastle, the biggest challenge will be getting there though. The plan is simple: I will set off in the early morning hours of tomorrow (Friday), heading westbound through Germany to the Dutch border towards Amsterdam and to the port in Ijmuiden. If you are interested in the route and have some coffee to cheer me up on the way, click here. The rough plan is to reach the Dutch border before the sun sets, and then ride overnight to arrive in Amsterdam in the early morning hours. It sounds a bit crazy, but I have done this twice now (overnight through Belgium and down from Inverness to Edinburgh), and with the temperatures improving slightly, it should be an enjoyable night. I will board the ferry in the afternoon, and then head off to Newcastle, to make it to the Scottish Capital on Sunday. I will post details on this closer to arriving in Newcastle, as it will depend on my legs which route I will take up there, preferably along the coast this time. If you are interested in the progress, keep following me on Twitter @reizkultur and watch this space for more updates. And a special thnaks to DFDS for booking me on the boat with sea view free of charge, something to look forward to while cycling the long leg to Amsterdam.