Self-supported Bikepacking-Marathon

Who are we?

A bit about us to start with: We are software developers who are now getting on for thirty (Jannis) and forty (Karl). In the last few years, we’ve been really getting into cycling. This year, we were going to get together a combination crew, a wild mix of various cycling associations from Bremen, to take part in some amateur racing. After thorough preparation in winter, the season was supposed to get underway on a training camp in Majorca in midMarch. However, that and the rest of the annual schedule was cancelled due to lockdown. Suddenly, the training motivation was at rock bottom, languishing somewhere in the corner behind the box of corny jokes. With the competitive vibes gone, we were back in our old “combo”, a friends circle of cycling fans who hang out around the book- and record store "The Golden Shop". And this shop needed some help during the corona outbreak. It was shut, a dispatch service for ordered items had to be set up. It was just the right moment for us to help. The Golden Shop team did some couriering for a few weeks. Books and records can now finally be purchased in store again – and meanwhile we seek new challenges. The distances have been getting longer and our ideas about what to do next more ambitious. The notion of cycling from Bremen to Brocken and back in a day was quickly conceived and has since been spreading like wildfire.

The professional Bremen cyclist Carolin Schiff got us in touch with BBB in early May and the Bremen-Brocken-Bremen project fell on sympathetic ears. Now this was becoming serious business: we turned over the calendar. On the 31st May, we would put our plans into practice. Bremen – Brocken – Bremen in under 24 hours. During our workout rides together in May, Bremen – Brocken – Bremen was hot on the cards. We went wild, and spontaneously created a webpage titled before we even realised what we were trying to achieve. A target in view and wind in our noses – suddenly we had regained all the motivational resources we needed despite the corona epidemic, and we wanted to share it with others. Thus, it became an event – just within the constraining circumstances of a pandemic. Gradually, the ideas caught on with low-threshold ambitious ratings and the website filled up. At some point, the event became so well known that we even had the opportunity to approach sponsors who might be able to contribute prizes. We received lots of positive feedback and were gradually gaining the impression that the project came at just the right time. On the day before our experimental ride, everything was ready – we just needed to set off.

There we go!

The distance to cover was entirely feasible – but could we ourselves do it? We had sat on our bikes for 12 – 14 hours, now there was more at stake. We were anxious to see whether we could manage it and what covering such a distance could do to us. Are we seeing figures in the mist, close to madness, like a friend had experienced in the Race Across Germany? Will our legs, necks, and material hold? Would we dash against our own carefully placed yardstick? We started on Saturday morning at 5.10 am at Weserwehr when dawn was just breaking. It all began with a beautiful sunrise along the Weser from all perspectives. We quickly got used to carrying the luggage. After about 120 km, we stopped for breakfast of porridge, rolls, and cappuccino.

Then the journey continued up to Werningerode. It wasn’t particularly pleasant cycling through Peine. In Salzgitter, some of the cycle tracks were in a terrible state. Yet the landscape was gradually becoming hillier and more picturesque. From a mental perspective though, it was the hardest part. The 300 km distance we still had to travel wouldn’t shorten by itself, and time was ticking. The open strips in the rocky landscape helped us measure ourselves. The sandwiches helped us keep pedalling.

After leaving Werningerode, we took a break to eat our now widely travelled pasta salad. The portion sizes would have been difficult for us to manage on any other day. Now though, we were literally inhaling carbohydrates.

Halfway there!

From then onwards, it was a steady uphill course, until we began doing the mountain classification for the event. We decided to take it slowly. After 12 hours and three minutes, we reached the top, which meant we’d just about reached the halfway point of our allocated time. As usual, it was fresh and windy up on the summit, so we didn’t dawdle for too long. Just a few obligatory evidence photos and a chance to put on extra layers before beginning the descent between some boozed-up hikers. Finally, we were heading back! Now it was evident that we would do it in 24 hours.

After setting up, we went back up to Torfhaus, followed by a quick downhill to Bad Harzburg. At Salzgitter, we scaled the last few metres of climb and then only had 180 km left to do. With 8 ½ hours remaining, that would be easy. A few raindrops wouldn’t do the mood any harm, and the sunset we were riding into was heavenly. Towards 9.30 pm, dusk set in, our bottles were empty, and we passed a drinks shop in Peine that we noticed when coming the other way. So: get drinks, eat the last sandwiches, attach lights, and don warm clothes for the night. Euphoria was setting in: 6 h 45 m for 150 km flat terrain.

The night was clear and chilly (7-9 ° C), we started eating oat bars and veggie sausages and were making great progress. Better not stop in these temperatures. But ever so gradually, the cold was getting to us. Now and again, our eyes closed. 85 km up to Bremen, we passed a bank and indulged in a quick nap on the carpet in the heated (and publicly accessible!) counter hall. After having warmed up, we awoke. With filled-up bottles fixed by our wheels, we triumphantly rolled on home through territory that was getting more and more familiar. Really looking forward to bed, the roads getting more and more familiar, and at some point we feel as if we know every grain of gravel and finally roll past the sluice gate down into Weserwehr. At 4 am, we finished.In22 hours and 51 minutes.Nailed it! Tired and smiling, we go rolling home, shower and go to bed. What a dream.

We want to thank all our supporters, especially BBB Cycling, the GoldenShop, Caro, Jasmin, Lea.