Script:

#RU2AM - a 1000 km bikepacking trip from RUed to AMsterdam

It was a awsom bikepacking tour from my hometown Schlossrued in the wonderful RUEDERTAL (aka Paddle Valley ;-)  - all the way up to the the bicycle capital of the world - AMSTERDAM.(#RU2AM).

From the satrting point in Switzerland, I first went to Germany, before crossing the French boarder. After 2 days I arrived in in Luxembourg. Shortly after I cycled on Belgian soil and then the Netherlands as final destination of the trip.

Click > HERE to see the zoomable route

Short recap of the adventure


Find below the daily logs and some impressions of the adventure.

Log DAY 1 - Schlossrued > Strasbourg

Took off shortly after 10am and made it to Strasbourg (200km) just with the dark. The headwind gave me lemons but the nice places I passed compensated everything. It is colder than expected so Ian happy I bought a warm sleeping bag a week ago. Lay back and enjoy the nice pictures.

Distance: ~ 200 km
Elevation: + 850 m



Log DAY 2 - Strasbourg - Saarbrücken - Luxembourg

The bad thing about a warm sleeping bag is, that it’s damn hard to get out of it when it’s cold. I had to kick myself hard but finally got it at 4:30 am. Crossed Strasbourg and share the city with lots of Party people on their way home - funny and strange. Nice sunrise but suddenly a drop to freezing temperatures froze my ass of. After serious navigation issues to find my my way out of Saarbrücken, it finally warmed up so I had a nice ride to the famous Saarschlaufe and then Luxemburg. Legs are fine and stomach back in shape. The hardest part ( at least on paper) will be tomorrow, nearly 3000 m elevation gain on 170km.

Live is beautiful!

Distance: ~ 240 km
Elevation: + 2000 m

Log DAY 3 - Luxembourg > Liége (Lüttich)

Luxembourg gave a unexpected surprise to say good bye (must watch attached movie). Rain started just when I took of and then kept fighting with the sun and strong winds till I arrived in Liege (aka Lüttich) well know for its classic road bike race. There were a lot of steep hills and some real mountain biking sections. With a high of only 8C and lots of leafs on the ground it felt like fall arrived.

Distance: ~ 180 km
Elevation: + 2400 m

Log DAY 4 - Liége (Lüttich) > Eindhoven > Rotterdam

After about 2 h sleep I woke up and checked the weather forecast. As they announced rain and heavy winds in the morning I left Liége at 2 a.m. The rain started just when I crossed the boarder to the Netherlands at 7 a.m and did not stop till 4 p.m. Arriving in Eindhoven for breakfast and as I was so good in time, I decided to add Rotterdam instead of of going straight to Amsterdam. 240 km is a poor distance for approx 14 hours riding but with the headwind and rain I’m happy it’s over for today. Tomorrow I will ride to and along the beach towards Amsterdam, the finale destination of my so far incredible journey.

Distance: ~ 230 km
Elevation: + 660 m

Log DAY 5 - Rotterdam > Delft > Den Haag > Amsterdam

Exactly 4 days after I left sweet home I heard the braking waves of the northern sea. I cycled along the beach, stopped to reflect all the things I experienced and enjoyed the moment. The rest of the day I strolled towards Amsterdam, eat fish salad and had a few well deserved beers, I therefore arrived a bit to late to find a room. So the adventure continues...

Distance: ~ 130 km
Elevation: + 250 m

Log DAY 6 - Amsterdam

The adventure of last night had nothing to do with cycling but rather to find a place to sleep. All hotels were either booked out, ridiculously expensive or asked me to leave my OSPA out on the streets of Amsterdam. No way - both or none was the obvious response. As a consequence I had to find a place, what turned out to be a real challenge but finely worked. Today I toured around and visited several bike shops to find new bike stuff/gear. For tonight I have aproper room/bed and tomorrow 6:30 am the train leaves to Switzerland.

Distance: ~ 25 km
Elevation: + 50 m

A video with a short review of the Additiv Bike Bag V2 and the Camelback Chase Vest I tried out during this tour will follow.

TORTOUR - 1000 km - non-stop - team of 4

From 16th-19th of August 2018 me and my 3 bike bodies from work at andrion raced the TORTOUR as a team of 4. 

TORTOUR is the biggest multiday nonstop ultra cycling event in the world. The race which started and finished in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, was demanding a great deal of us cyclists and our crew. Riding non-stop, day and night. The event kicked off with the prologue at the Rhine Falls, the largest waterfalls of Europe.

We cycled the 1,000 kilometres route over several Alpine passes in 37 hours. 

Mastering this challenging adventure took blood, sweat and tears – but the unique cycling experience and feeling of achievement were worth it.

ITALY DIVIDE 2018

My second bikepacking race ever was the ITALY DIVIDE, a 935km self supported non-stop adventure with 15’000m difference in altitude. It follows fast rolling gravel roads with quite a few technical MTB trails (Via degli Dei/Monte Baldo).

I explored the wild and remote Italy with a nice mix of history along the trail. During this adventure starting at the historical centre of Rome, I cycled through Siena, Florence, Bologna, Verona, Mantova and finally arrived in Torbole on the shore of lake Garda after crossiing two big mountains. 

 

Highlight I

The countless nice places I passed.

Highlight II

The great Italian food -  in restaurants or on the bike ;-)

Highlight III

The contrast of remote, lonesome biking and then crossing the  nice historical cities.

Highlight IV

A lot of nice bkepacking collegues I met before, during and after the race.

Highlight IV

The hospitality of the Parparo Vecchio team cooking great food and offered dry place to sleep when I arrived late in the night. At 3 a. m. I was just ready to jump on the bike a storm passed and I had to wait 4 hours longer than planned. After checking the position of the ohter riders, I realized, that two Czech colleagues I met so many times before, were freezeing in front of the door. I let them in and we waited till the storm passed. 

Highlight V

Cycling in the night and early mornings is like being on drugs - absolutely addictive. 

 

Lowlight I

Navigating with my GARMIN Oregon 720 was a real nightmare.

1. Due to very similar color of the actual track and some roads I I got lost several times and had to make big detours. This is very frustrating and a real flow killer. 

2. I had to change batteries minimum every 4 hour.

I returned the device back to GARMIN, they did a warranty exchange, I paid some extra so I have a new Garmin Edge 1030 for the next tour :-)

 

Lowlight II

The side effect from extrem long riding is that I get numb fingers and tows. It is way better than after the NAVAD 1000 last year, but still, it takes months to be back in original condition.

Another health issue are the bloated feets/legs and the blisters on my ass, but furtunately this is healing pretty quickly.

Lowlight III

I had a head-on collision with a biking woman coming on the wrong side around a corner shortly before Bologna. Beside some minor scratches, a broken break lever and grip nothing serious. After a repair stop in a nice bike shop I was able to continue.

IMG_4388.JPG

 

Lessons learned

  1. Find my speed, listen to my inner voice instead of trying to follow others.

  2. I hate power gels (aka robo food) but sometimes its better than to run out of energy.

  3. Always take an extra litre of fresh water with you, running out of water is about the worst thing that can happen.

  4. Enjoy the highs and overcome the lows.

SQLab Innerbarends 411 - Review

I tested the SQLab Innerbarends 411 during entire 2017. I rode approx. 7000km and used them in very different conditions and versatile disciplines. From Cyclocross to XC races, from Bikepacking to 24h competitions and then countless commuting rides to work.

SQLab-IBE-411.png

Barends are known since the very beginning of mountain bike and are usually mounted to the end of the handlebar. From an ergonomic point of view, a very good idea. Over time, as the straight handlebars became less and more elevated handlebars, the barends disappeared. Now handlebars have become flatter and much wider again, the barends suddenly make sense again.

Conscious or in unconscious, we all start changing the positions of our hands after some time and especially when doing extra long rides, that’s where the innerbarends come into play and offer a different position while still having the brakes on your fingertips.

I found them a comfortable alternation while riding but also discovered some unexpected but positive side-effects.

1.       The innerbarends protect the navigation device and light mounted or the handlebar if you need to flip your bike upside down during inevitable repairs e.g. flat tires.

2.       They are much better to push the bike in extreme uphill, this is a common activity on most Bikepacking trips and especially during the NAVAD 1000 (www.navad1000.ch), I participated back in June.

SQLab-Logo.jpg

Facts & Figures

Wight: 107 grams
Price: € 39 / CHF 43 / US$ 47

A muddy challange - for man and material...

Last weekend I participated on a MTB XC race during the Bike Days in Solothurn, btw the largest bycicle festival in Switzerland. Originally I even planned to pedal the 65 km to the event, visit the expo, join the race and then pedal back home, what seemed to be the perfect training for my upcoming challanges. Fortunately the weather was to nasty so I decided to drive there with my camper. As it was nearly constantly raining for the last 24 hours, start area transformed to a truly mud pit. Nevertheless it is always a special honor to race on the same course where world champions and olympic heros as Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon have raced just one day. Watch the reace documentary from Swiss TV to get an impression.

After only 5 minutes in the race I remembered how much these short and fast races can hurt when one is out of practice. But first things first.

 Good to meet André Effe from Pinion (technical sales & distribution). He providing technical details in exchange of my front experience with the brand new C1.12 gearbox. 

Good to meet André Effe from Pinion (technical sales & distribution). He providing technical details in exchange of my front experience with the brand new C1.12 gearbox. 

As I spent to much time at the expo chatting around I had only time to inspect part of the race course before the start.

 Crossing the muddy jungle of Solothurn.

Crossing the muddy jungle of Solothurn.

Most of what I saw (beside the earlier mentioned mud pit) was asphalt so I expected a fast and mostly flat race, what turned out to be wrong. About 30% of the race cours is in a normally nice hill behind the city of Solothurn. In the present condition it turned into a slipery and energy spoiling nightmare, partly unable to cycle. The following downhill, with 2 breath-taking decents should be fun in dry conditions, with limited view due to dirty glasses rather an infernal and dangerous ride, at least during the first of four laps.

The result a almost crash, bruised rips and loss of my mobile phone. Completely exhausted I started chasing my race mates and catched them shortly before passing the start/finish area. This procedure I repeated for 3 more laps except the the ungentle reunion of the saddle and my left rips ;-). While most of my competitors started having problems with their derailleur and chains my Pinion C.12 gearbox in combination with the Gates carbon belt one more time prooved to be the best choice in terms of reliability in really harsh conditions.

The oversize tires rolled very well on the pave but were a bit too large in the mud what resulted in uncontrolled sliding. While the Lauf fork was again the plain eye-catcher I missed some travel in the rough downhill part.

Resume: 
A cool event with great people and an exceptional experienc that I will remember much longer than the convalenscence of my rips. I'll be back next year ;-)

Why must holidays always begin with stress?

Holidays are actually meant to recover from everyday life and work, but every of my holidays begin with even more stress than any other day.

Ok travelling with my family and gadget (3 girls and OSPA) is not the ideal setup to sink the level of adrenalin, but to be frank, its not really much better when I am travelling on my own. So it has probably something to do with my resistance to plan very much in advance. While my job requires enough structure and providence, I keep telling myself that should also give a break to my narrow-minded lifestyle when going on holiday, but this is probably rather an excuse than reality.

However, for this time, a good nice week in Mallorca, I decided to bring the OSPA bike with me. Mallorca one of the best cycling spots in spring. When I first came here about 20 year ago, only some hotels were open, the guests mainly bicycle maniacs trying to pump as many kilometers in their legs as possible, the ideal preparation for the upcoming bike season. Nowadays approximately 25% of the hotels are already open and depending on the location still mostly cyclists but more and more also families with their kids.

As usual I pass at my bike shop (www.marquart-radsport.ch) to get a box for shipping the bike, but this time, I forgot that my OSPA is slightly bigger than a normal bike, what raised my blood pressure about 2 hours before we intended to leave to the airport. 
For one time I was thankful I watched countless of these Macgyver movies, so with some additional carton and a role of duktape I extended the box and added some extra space for the front wheel.So finally we made it to the airport in time and everything went easy. A highlight was our rental car with the big box in the trunk.

Today I assembled my OSPA bike and luckely there were no screws left ;-) I really like the measures on my Syntace seatpost and the SQLab handlebar, they allow to reassemble and adjust everything 100% as it was before.

After a acclimatization day with the family I went for a first short ride just behind our hotel, as I found a nice trail I just kept going uphill and finally rached top of the small hill with a fairly nice view over the bay.

OSPA_Mallorca-201720170407_183155.jpg

I plan to do some nice rides over the next days and will surely post some insights of my journey on the island.

Wish you all a nice spring time and strong legs, Mark

Tortour Cyclocross - review of a remarkable race weekend

Last weekend the me and the OSPA bike successfully participated at the Tortour Cyclocross 2017 – a three-day event with a prologue on Friday plus two crispy stages on Saturday and Sunday.

I participated with my best bike body Nello, we always enjoy to race in a team of 2, having a lot of fun and support each other when it gets difficult. As Nello races with a typical cyclocross bike we have a very different setup, while his strong suit are the fast flats and slight speedy ascents, I can profit from my big tires when the ground gets really loos, in steep uphill and especially in technical descents.

 

Prologue – Friday 10. February 2017

Characteristics: 8 laps with total 24 kilometres and 680 m elevation gain
Highlight:            Nice to pass the finish line 8 times
Lowlight              Very fast, so we suffered the first 3 laps, due to insufficient warmup. We arrived a bit late before the race (I came directly from a week skiing with my family in Austria.
Ranking               10 of 21

 

Stage 1 – Saturday 11. February 2017

Characteristics 85 kilometre with 850 meters’ elevation gain
Highlight:            Nello started fast and lead us to a fast group that we could race with and finally overtake. Good mood during the race, excellent teamwork and great finish.
Lowlight:             No lowlight – it was partly colder than expected, but no problem.
Ranking:              7 of 22 (yeapheee… in the first 30% - that’s always our goal ;-)

 A nice capture of our strongest section during the weekend - Nello in front (aka "the locomotive")

A nice capture of our strongest section during the weekend - Nello in front (aka "the locomotive")

Stage 2 – Sunday 12. February 2017

Characteristics: 76 kilometres with approx. 1500 meter elevation gain
Highlight:            arriving in Glattfelden – nice landscape and the snow on around the “Lägere”. The final 20 km Nello was our locomotive – unbelievable how strong he was after the hard time he had in the hills before.
Lowlight:             We knew it would not be Nello’s day, as he was suffering from a cold and didn’t sleep well. Already in the first ascent we couldn’t keep up with the teams we had around us the last days. Our team mates from Radsport Marquart came to watch the race, but they missed us on three occasions, so we only learned from some of our competitors that we had the biggest supporting group on the track.
Ranking: 11 of 21

 Bird's eye view of us riding on a beautiful trail along the Rhine

Bird's eye view of us riding on a beautiful trail along the Rhine

Summary

Overall ranking 9 of 21
It was a great weekend, but me and my team mate Nello were very happy it was over. The Sunday was extremely exhausting, we are tired and need some rest. The event as such was extremely well organized and the nice bunch of local, national and international riders create a extraordinary atmosphere. It’s very easy to get into contact with other riders and the support for each other during the race is cool.

The OSPA bike was an exotic apparatus and received a lot of compliments. I was really surprised, how well the big Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires (27.5+ / 2.8) worked in the fast parts. Ok, I was unable to make speed for my race mates, but could follow in the slipstream. This was extremely important, not loose contact. I was afraid, that the total weight of the bike would waste too much of my energy but I felt good on the bike at all times. The Pinion gearbox turned out to be a real treasure, I always had the 100% right gear, especially important while pushing Nello with my left hand in the last ascents, where I could smoothly change the gear with my right hand. The Lauf fork worked extremely well on the course and is probably the best fork for any race of this kind. I doubt to ever build or buy a real Cyclocross bike but if, the Lauf fork (www.laufforks.com) would definitely be my first choice.

The next Tortour Cyclocross (www.tortour.com/cyclocross) will take place in June 2018 in Gstaad, Switzerland. I hope to see you there.

Impressions and video-casts

5 minutes before the start of the prologue

After the prologue

Stage 1 – before the race…

Stage 1 – successfully completed…

Preparing for Stage 2

Bye bye Tortour Cyclocross 2017

Image gallery