A season kick-start - or training camp - in form of a Bikepacking tour! I've had this thought for a long time and this year I finally dared to do it. A week in March on a bikepacking tour. It was still very cold from time to time, but I couldn't have been luckier with the weather. It went off for me Heidelberg until after Hamelin, sometimes on Hard Core MTB routes and sometimes on beautiful river cycle paths. For me the perfect start to the season and I can only recommend it to you.
Mallorca or on the doorstep
Always at the beginning of the season, many other cyclists follow Majorca, or in another region where it is already warm in March. Every year I look enviously at the photos of the others, but I've never really felt the urge to fly to a training camp like this. My reasons:
- I like to cycle alone, or at least not in large groups
- I like to ride my own bike
- I now love gravel more than road
- I still have so many dream destinations in the vicinity
- Bikepacking is simply my retreat
When I last fall my three days Black Forest Cross I stopped in Heidelberg and decided to return there. The Black Forest was so beautiful and I had of Odenwald and Spessart heard something similar. That's why my goal for March was clear early on.
I tried my best this winter to some extent regularly to be on the road with the Gravel Bike. To be honest, I've been a little busier than usual this winter, but only a little. In numbers it means that I had about 400km in my legs before the trip. Not much, but enough to cycle around the world relaxed. As the saying goes: The rest comes on the tour!
I had already put on thicker tires for off-road use last year, and now another one followed MTB cassette for the mountainous terrain. Before I left I ordered a Shimano XT cassette with 11-42 teeth after doing some web research. A new Dura Ace/XTR chain and a tool box with all the bike tools were also included.
- Cassette 90 EUR
- Tool case 60 EUR
- Chain 50 euros
As always, I ordered the parts from Bike Components, and I am very satisfied (only experience, no sponsoring). I hadn't changed either the chain or the cassette myself, but Youtube will fix it. Everything went smoothly, so I won't go into it any further at this point. Now it's time to travel...
You can find the Komoot Collection for my trip here: Collection at Komoot.
Start in Heidelberg
We (Marcus and I) took the train from Hamburg to Heidelberg on Saturday afternoon so that we could spend the night there and be fresh on the routes on Sunday morning. We stayed in a hotel near the center and left early the next morning.
When we left it was still about -3°C, but we were prepared for that and so the cold didn't bother us. At least it shouldn't rain today and there should only be a little wind, but since we planned to drive almost exclusively through the forest, it wouldn't have been too bad.
Departure in Heidelberg and first along the Neckar
Here we go. until Neckar it was only 3 minutes and the route first left the city, always along the banks of the Neckar.
Off to the forest
After 6 km it went off into the forest and quite steeply uphill. On the next 3 km we made 300 hm on forest floor. We had planned our first stage on Komoot in MTB mode and we were not disappointed 😉 MTB routes can be so merciless!
Once you are at the top, you drive on beautiful forest highways. Our way led us to a beautiful castle (unfortunately I didn't pay attention to the name here).
After the castle, it went a long way along a panoramic hiking trail above the Neckar. That was really a very nice section, until we left the Neckar at Eberbach and drove into the Odenwald.
After about 70 km we reached our hotel above Amorbach. That was a very hard-earned 70 km just through the forest today. Beautiful but tough.
Off through the Spessart
While the frost was still covering the meadows, we had breakfast in peace. The temperature differences were already quite intense in March. In the morning -2°C at noon up to 20°C, so the onion principle applied.
Before we started we pushed our bikes into the sun and packed them in peace. Today we wanted to cross the Spessart and chose the route a little more relaxed than the day before, i.e. a little more gravel and fewer MTB tracks. The weather got better quickly and we were lucky enough to enjoy a spring in March all week.
The inn in the Spessart
That was an intermediate goal for the day and actually the starting point of the trip Tavern in the Spessart. The older semesters among you may still know it because your parents tormented you with the film with Liselotte Pulver. Of course, I had already found and installed the location for Wirtshaus im Spessart in advance. The Mespelbrunn moated castle, where the film was shot, was unfortunately still closed in the pre-season and I was only able to take a photo over the fence.
It was Monday and we actually wanted to have our lunch break here, but unfortunately it was the whole region on Monday closed. We drove quite a bit further, but we couldn't find anything. After we had eaten our bars and biscuits, we at least found a small supermarket to buy the essentials.
Destination for the day Gemünden am Main
Now we continued through the beautiful forests of the Spessart until we came to the banks of the Main. From there it went flat to today's destination Gemünden am Main.
Gemünden am Main was a nice little town and we had a hotel right in the center, it was just a small town. The flows into Gemünden Franconian halls we wanted to go up the Main and the Franconian Saale the next day.
From the Spessart to the Rhön
Although it was still cold this morning, we quickly realized that it would now be much warmer. I went for a short ride for the first time from noon on that day, what a feeling! This time we found a supermarket after 30 km and stocked up on new food there.
The catering situation on this tour was actually a bit more difficult than expected. In the low season, many inns and small shops were closed all the time, but I'm good at buying food 😉
Somewhere in the forest we probably crossed the border into the Rhön, who knows. In any case, it was a very nice tour to our current hotel in the middle of the forest. By the way, the hotels were all almost empty. I don't think there were more than four rooms in any hotel, and we weren't often the only guests. Of course it was still the off-season, but the consequences of the pandemic were still being felt everywhere.
Fulda cycle path
From this dreamlike place we should go to the Fulda today and we left the hills behind us. We had now planned mostly bike paths along the rivers. First to the Fulda and then to the Weser, that was our plan. The cycle paths along the Fulda are very nice, except for the sections past Bad Hersfeld.
Our goal today was Melsungen and even if the river cycle paths are of course beautiful, I don't feel as happy in my stomach as I do when riding through the forest.
Komoot had added a small highlight to our route: a ferry that you have to operate yourself. Unfortunately for us the ferry was closed. So we had to take a small detour via the country road.
In the afternoon we reached Melsungen. standard program
- take a shower
- Freshen up
- little tour of the place
On the Weser to Bad Karlshafen
Today I liked the stage a little better. From Melsungen it was about 30 km to Kassel, where we had a short coffee break. I didn't know Kassel was so beautiful.
The Fulda cycle path also had a lot to offer on this section. Most of the cycle paths were off-road and asphalt was not poured everywhere.
Where Werra and Fulda kiss, ...
Of course you all know where we took our lunch break: In Hannoversch Münden. Somehow it keeps bringing me back to this place, I don't know why. Probably because so many of my childhood memories hang from this place. This kiss is where Werra and Fulda have to pay for their names. The beautiful Weser river!
At least that's what it says on the Weserstein in Hannoversch Münden.
Down the Weser
Now we went along the Weser, down the river, to our destination for the day Bad Karlshafen. The upper section of the Weser is particularly beautiful. Everything is cute and idyllic here. The many small ferries across the Weser and all the small towns, where there are always small churches or remains of fortifications, make a trip on the Weser cycle path to a real pleasure experience.
On a Bikepacking trip, you never know exactly where you will arrive in the evening. we had each other Bad Karlshafen selected for this day. Our hotel was right on the Weser and the place even offered a little gastronomy, so that we could eat with a delicious Italian in the evening. The place itself is special because a small port was built and the prince at the time probably had big plans for the place. You can read the exact story at Wikipedia read, very interesting!
Last leg to Hamelin
Today we should go on the last stage from Bad Karlshafen to Hamelin. A relaxed last stage along the Weser before we wanted to take the train back to Hamburg the next day. We only added a small hill to the stage to make it a little more interesting.
Of course, a path on this section was closed due to forest work, so we took a small detour. But the change was very good. Along the river is nice, but I just love the forest and the mountains.
We took a short break at a ferry before we went through to Hamelin and ended our tour with it.
The six stages were very varied. As always, beautiful and less beautiful sections are part of a good tour. I personally found the first stages through the Odenwald, Spessart and the Rhön the most beautiful. Things got a little better along the Weser, but eating up kilometers is no longer my thing.
In general, I have to say that at the end of the day I no longer look at the kilometers driven, but at the driving time and my heart rate or the calories burned. Kilometers simply do not say anything about what you have accomplished in the day. I prefer to ride over hill and dale and then push in between if it gets too steep for me and my gravel bike or the surface just doesn't allow riding.
So far I have only used Komoot to plan my trips and there is simply no working gravel mode. MTB is very demanding in the mountains and the gravel mode always sends you on the same routes as with the racing bike. The bike mode fits best with gravel, but very often sends you onto paved bike paths. In the BTG podcast I have now heard that he plans Gravel with the CBX route planner, it works for him. I'll probably try the CBX route planner!
I hope I was able to inspire you a little and wish you a lot of fun on your journeys!