I’ve never really been one for traditions. I place a high value on the ability to be spontaneous, so I struggle with the idea of an annual fishing trip or Las Vegas weekend, or whatever. Any given year, I like the idea of not knowing where I will be next year.
I have however, recently stumbled into something that resembles a tradition: The Easter Weekend Bike Adventure©. This tradition has only survived two years at this point, so it might be a bit early to call it a tradition, but maybe writing about it will make it stick! Year one featured a more traditional four-pannier touring trip down the Rhine from Koblenz to Heidelberg, Germany. In its second year, the Easter Weekend Bike Adventure© made its way into the mystical and ever-changing realm of off-road bikepacking.
Bikepacking involves strapping all of your gear to the frame of your bicycle instead of using traditional racks and panniers. People have been doing it for ages, but it has recently exploded with a slew of manufacturers producing niche bags. One of the main benefits is the ability to use mountain bikes without braze ons or any potential for mounting racks. There were some bags laying around at Canyon so my friend Will and I decided to put them to use. We grabbed the essentials – Sriracha sauce, tortillas and a coffee-making-device – and aimed our bikes towards the nearest hills!
Our general plan was to ride off-road, first to the nearby Lake Maria and fan-favorite Vulkan Brewery, and then to make our way into the rolling Eifel region. After filling our bellies with Käsespätzle, we made a B-line for the forest!
We had a late start due to me being an idiot and accidentally letting all of the oil out of a dropper post, but could rest easy knowing that via road, our ultimate destination was very close (30 km). However, the goal was to stay away from the roads. This resulted in the occasional hike-a-bike, but was mostly successful in delivering fun trails and double track.
OK, so we rode some roads, but the stoke was high and the light was dreamy.
Portrait within a portrait.
After some fairly successful exploration riding, we started to run out of daylight and decided to rely on Google Bike to get us to the lake faster. This is a mistake I have made time and time again. Honestly, the amount of times I have opted to follow Google Bike on touring trips and ended up in someone’s driveway or in the middle of a field without even a discernible path is shocking. It’s almost like I have amnesia. Anyways, we did that and like clockwork Google Bike led us into private property and through fields and creeks. Fortunately, this time we were on mountain bikes so the whole experience seemed more fun than it was on the Easter Weekend Bike Adventure©: Part 1. To save you the hassle of reading through that whole post I will quote something I wrote over a year ago. ‘If I can learn anything from history, it is that following Google Bike with any degree of caution is a lesson that I will never learn.’ It seems that I was right about me.
River crossin’ courtesy of Google Bike routes.
Once the sun began to set, the sky started to put on a show for us. Fun fact: The yellow plant that in the US is called canola, is called raps in Germany and rape seed in England.
After overcoming Google’s shenanigans, we made it to the maybe-world-famous Vulkan Brauerei. It has the deepest beer cellar in the world and it was dug out of the volcanic rock that the brewery is named after. More importantly, it is the only brewery in the entire region that brews pale ales and porters. We indulged in a second round of Käsespätzle and poured some frisch gezapftes pale ale on top. As the saying in Germany goes, ‘Two Käsespätzle a day keeps the doctor away!’
We then rode to the lake under the cover of darkness and found a spot to guerilla camp.
The next morning we broke down camp, broke out the Bialetti and caffeinated ourselves for the cold rainy day to come.
“If I have killed you, I will burn you and plant you” – Idiot
Originally, our plan had been to ride all the way to the Eifel National Park, but due to a whole lot of cold wind and rain and a long period of time hunkered against an embankment eating tortillas full of Uncle Ben’s rice, cheese and Sriracha, we decided to call an audible.
We opted for Plan B: to camp in a coworker’s backyard a good bit short of the National Park and then ride back to Koblenz the following day.
We rode on through bucolic valleys spotted with villages and churches to Bad Munstereifel. After warming up, eating and drinking a few beers at the local Brauhaus, we stayed the night with our colleague Mario!
After a grateful night’s sleep on Mario’s floor (temperatures dropped below freezing that night), our host-with-the-most cemented his MVP status with an excellent breakfast and the offer to take us for a wee shred around his home trails.
We got a little #SlowAndLoose and had a blast trying to chase down Mario on his full-suspension bike while we hobbled along on our weighted-down hardtails. The gear from Apidura and Ortlieb stayed secure and, aside from the feeling of having a slightly higher center of gravity, didn’t affect riding too much.
A pastoral photoshoot with my lamb friends.
Beer gardens. Beer gardens everywhere.
After thoroughly wearing ourselves out, we bid adieu to Mario and started on the road home via the Ahr river – returning to the familiar steep and stoney faces of the Riesling vineyards that the region is famous for. We stopped at the Cafe and Hotel zur Post in Altenahr and had the worst coffee I’ve ever had. If you find yourself in Altenahr (you won’t) don’t go there. You’ve been warned.
On a more positive note, the small town of Bad Neuenahr has a huge beautiful Kloster that you can go visit if you’re into that sort of thing.
As with the last Easter Weekend Bike Adventure©, one serious benefit of doing these kind of tours in a place like Germany is that if you run out of time or the weather turns on you, you can always go to the nearest train station and hop on the next train home. Already excited for next year. You’re all invited.