Spree to Elbe

I’m a slow roller.  My tempo is typically 20-25 km/h which means that old people sometimes pass me on their clonkers.  For this reason I shy away from group rides – I don’t want to slow anyone down.  This weekend though I took the  plunge and tried to organize a ride using a local facebook group.  Well, that bore absolutely no fruits.  Lucky for me I had a backup plan and once I realized that no one was showing up I executed it.

Since we’ve had rather massive amount of rain in East Germany, the river Elbe has been overflowing and threatening the towns and cities around it.  The news has been all over this since weeks with massive humanitarian efforts by the military on German soil.  So I wanted to see the water and decided to ride down to the Elbe. Since this is a rather long river that never really gets close to Berlin, I picked a spot that looked doable – a historical town called Wittenberg.

Now, my touring antics could be defined as poor to non-existance.  I pick a spot on google map, tell google to take me there by clicking on the pedestrian (we don’t have bike routes yet in the google app in Germany) and hope for the best. This is clearly not a winning strategy.  It also has some real issues:

  • When the iPhone runs out of juice you’re stuck.
  • You can’t wear full gloves since you keep taking them off to be able to look at the map/use your phone.
  • Google has some very dated information marking gravel routes through the forrest as roads even if they have not been used since the the days of the republic.
  • When your sense of direction is challenged, you have to stop a lot to look at your phone.

I might have been 2 hours outside of the city when the battery reported 30%.  This was no good, but since at this point I was confident that there is only one direction to ride – south, I turned off the phone completely and only reactivated it to take pictures.  This actually worked well and I managed to return home with 9% battery left!

The ride was challenging for two main reasons: wind and heat.  Right before I left the city I received a message from my weather app saying that there is a strong winds warning in the area.  The wind was coming from the south which really sucked since I was heading that way.  It was like riding into a wall and continuing when you know that there is a wall there – what else was I to do?  I was also pouring with sweat since I started the ride at the hottest time of the day – 14:00.

Most of the ride took place on the road which is where Der Panzer is ok, but really does not shine.  As much as I adore the Bruce Gordon Rock’n’Road they are noisy on the street and probably add quiet a lot of friction.  Combine the fat threaded tires with a 13.25 kg bike and you have a slow roller.  So I’m trucking along in the forrest of the state that surrounds Berlin – Brandenburg, and I’ve already sweated my body weight and hunger is creeping up, but just then I get to a little town called Beelitz.  The town is well known in this area for producing the white German Asparagus that’s really only in season in May and the first half of June.  As I came out of a backroad I spotted a nice location that had outdoor sitting – the perfect solution for someone who does not ride with a bike lock.  I decided that it’s ok to treat myself to a meal centered around those white Asparagus stalks.

So yummy and only in season for 6 weeks.  Get 'em while you can.

With renewed energy I hit the road again.  For some reason I did not find it in me to refill my water supply.  This required another stop to get a bottle of water and refill.  Again what learned as we say in German.

I will be lying if I said that the ride was easy.  It was not.  The wind was fierce and at some point, right when I felt that my energy was in low supply again, the bike path started gradually climbing up.  In these situations I gain massive respect to real mountain climbers.  We know nothing of mountain climbing here and if I’d actually dare to find out the elevation I was “dealing” with I am bound to be more than disappointed, but with the heat and the wind, any road condition not flat was  a challenge.  Around the same time I realized that I was riding very much by myself – no other cyclists were anywhere to be seen.  The route was truly pleasant though with little forests and fields of Asparagus and other vegetation that the state of Brandenburg is known for.  I found that shouting loudly helped motivate me and propel me forward and with this realization I reached this sign.


I was elated.  I shouted yoohooo and jumped up and down a few times.  This sign meant that I was no longer in the state of Brandenburg, but have crossed over to the next state – Saxon-Anhalt.  This was a personal achievement as I have never ridden clear across a state before, especially not in 60 km/h head-winds.  This also meant that I was on the right way and that the destination was not far.

Indeed, a short time later I came across another sign that indicated that I was not just in the area of Wittenberg, but actually entering the city.  As it turns out Wittenberg is a sister city of Springfield Ohio!  You know who comes from Springfield Ohio?  The Simpsons!  Oh the irony.

Welcome to Wittenberg

From there it was a quick ride to get to the bike path beyond the old city and discovered that it goes into the water!  I pulled a few locals and asked if this was the Elbe and they said that this was the overflowing part of the Elbe and that the Elbe is actually further south, but one can not get there due to the water.  Mission accomplished!  Now it was time to find a train to take me home.  It was already past 19:00 and I had covered 85 km (50 miles).  As I rolled into the main train station I realized that there is only one ticket machine and that the train, that looked like it was suspiciously heading north, was about to leave.  I pulled next to the conductor who said that this was indeed the train to Berlin and that I have to get a ticket at the machine, the same machine that had several people queueing up behind it.  I asked when the next train to Berlin is and he answered in two hours.  WHAT?  I must have looked devastated as he concluded with “na ja, get on the train.”  Oh the kindness of strangers.

This was a truly great day with targets met and new personal victories achieved.  It was also a day in which I realized that shaving off weight from the bike will possibly increase the fun and that the current saddle I’m using, a Fizik Pave CX, is somehow not designed for my behind.  I can not find a comfortable place to rest  my seat bones on – I always have to choose between numbness and pain and after about 50 km or so the only sensation that’s there is pain  Since FIzik does not display this on their collection, I suspect that this was not a well received .  This will be a fun new topic to investigate and my ass is bound to be thankful.


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