#rideFAR was the slogan of the day: When the alarm clock quietly rang at 6:35 a.m., I was immediately awake. Outside it was already daylight, the sun had just risen. I got up quietly and hurried past the cats – competing for attention – into the bathroom. My clothes were already prepared, so after a quick, refreshing shower I could slip right in. I was a little excited, but also in joyful anticipation of the day. It was going to be a very long one – one that would challenge me not only physically, but above all mentally.
#rideFAR – a Orbit360 Winter challenge of a 180 or 360 km ride
Maybe some of you remember my report from last summer? I was with some friends in Brandenburg on an off-road route of over 300 km that had been planned as part of the Orbit360 gravel race series. A great route that we didn’t finish, bitten by mosquitoes and having a good time on the road. However, we didn’t see it as a race, but as route inspiration. There is to be another Orbit race in 2021 and much more! The kick-off, starting on 27 February, was a very special challenge, which is what this article is about. Under the motto #rideFAR and #rideforareason, Raphael Albrecht, initiator of the Orbit series, called for a winter challenge.
The goal of #rideFAR
#rideFAR – Cycling while raising funds for the Bikeygees cycling initiative, which teaches refugee women to cycle, and the Ghana Bamboo Bike Initiative. All participants donate a contribution of their choice with their registration. Sponsor komoot supports the good cause with 10% of the rider donation for all finishers. If you want, you can ride the whole thing as a race and compete with other participants in the ranking. But you can also leave it alone and just ride the route.
How does #rideFAR work?
- The #rideFAR Challenge runs until 31.03.2021. Simply register on the Orbit360 website in the Solo or Duo category.
- Pay your desired donation.
- Plan your own 180 or 360 km route and ride it in one go.
- Record the route continuously and upload it to komoot at the end of the ride, rename it and mark the Orbit360 account.
Ok, that sounds easier than it really is. Because depending on your fitness level and preparation, that’s a distance you can’t just ride down. And that’s exactly what it’s all about in the end.
180 km was the distance I knew I could cover, because I had done that before. The difference with #rideFAR was that the challenge took place in winter and in the months before I had ridden my bike once a week at most, if at all. The tours had often been shorter than 60 km and otherwise, thanks to a home office and little motivation to leave the house, I had only really moved on the office chair and for a few walks.
So much for the physical preparation for this long distance. So it was clear to me from the start that I was in a completely different state than in summer, when I had already done a few rides and my legs were “warmed up”.
Why should I challenge myself that way, anyways?
Because I was longing to travel again, to be on my bike, to have a destination in mind and to explore my surroundings. The winter already seemed so endless and I missed being outside for so long. So with the #rideFar Challenge, I had finally found a reason and could set myself a real goal. If it wasn’t a local one, at least it was one with the right purpose!
I wanted to complete this distance to contribute to a high fundraising target, but also to show myself that I could still do it.
I really wanted to leave my tight comfort zone again!
And what did my body say? Well, you’ll see… To get you in the mood for the article, I have summarised a few impressions of the tour in a short video. Maybe there will be something longer on my YouTube channel soon.
So how does a woman cycle 180 km in one day? I already wrote it on Instagram: That’s a lot really! And I certainly didn’t want to take it lightly. So a little preparation was essential to set off with a reasonably good feeling! The most important thing for me was to plan an exciting, varied and well rideable route. Unlike the Orbit360 race tours, the planning for #rideFAR was entirely in my hands. Only conditions:
- rideFAR: 180 or 360 km route
- Start and finish in the same place (Orbit= ride round)
- Ride clockwise
- Doesn’t matter what the surface is.
As usual in the last months, I created my tour with komoot. I was looking forward to finally getting out of my familiar radius around the Berlin city limits due to the length of the route. Since I often tend to head north, I planned to head towards the Schorfheide nature reserve and the Uckermark. Water is always good too, so why not cycle along the Havel for a bit? I noticed how many locks there were around Zehdenick and further north. So I tried to set myself a little task and integrated many locks together with a few lift bridges into the planning.
So I put the route together, checked the asphalt part, put the route a bit into the forest, tried to avoid main roads without cycle paths and also to leave out the very narrow paths that were often overgrown.
I also made sure that I passed through a town now and then where there were possible places to eat or even a train station. I didn’t want to carry too much food as I ate very little most of the time on the road, but knew that I should still encourage myself to take in enough nutrients so as not to sag. So I decided in advance where I wanted to stop for lunch and afternoon break (Zehdenick after about 68 km, Bredereiche after about 100 km and Zerpenschleuse after about 135 km) and also get something to eat. Of course, petrol stations were always a bonus in case there was nothing else. So here it is, my #rideFAR route. 184 km of the finest roads through the north of Brandenburg:
Here you can see the route I took in the end. However, I planned it a little differently and, especially at the end, with much less asphalt. Instead of continuing along the road towards Berlin in Wandlitz, the original plan was to turn off towards Liepnitzsee and cycle through the Basdorfer Wald forest and past Schönower Heide through Hobrechtsfelde and the Liegnitzgraben nature reserve. This would have been mostly fine forest road and gravel, so highly recommended if you want to retrace parts of the route.
Bicycle, equipment and clothes
Here we go? Not quite yet. As I knew I would be riding a lot of asphalt, I prepared my Veloheld Icon X, as I had only put 40mm wide tyres on there. My 8bar MITTE with the 50mm tyres was rather meant for rougher terrain and mountains and was therefore allowed to stay at home this time. It will be used often enough this year :-). I prepared my bike, checked the tyre pressure, the chain and packed my food in the form of bars and an apple. My navigation device was loaded and the route prepared. A spare inner tube, tools and pump also went into the frame bag. I also took a first aid kit, a small power bank and my Go-Pro.
On the eve of the tour, I checked the weather forecast again and prepared my clothes for the next day. In the morning it would still be cold and just below 0 degrees. That meant dressing warmly! I couldn’t expect more than 4°C during the day, but I knew that the sun and my exercise would keep me warm in addition to my clothes. Before I set off, I took the precaution of squeezing the butt cream tube to prevent any problems with the seat. I also spontaneously decided to put the disposable SOS soles I had bought by mistake into my cycling shoes. It must have been a good idea, because they ensured that I didn’t get cold feet until nightfall and after more than 8 hours. For next year, however, I will finally need winter cycling shoes!
My apparel for a 184 km ride in Winter
- long thermal cycling leggings (adidas)
- breathable baselayer made of synthetic fibres (Löffler)
- two layers of merino long-sleeved shirt (simply because I don’t have thick merino, but knew that two thin layers also worked like one thick one)(chapeau)
- winter cycling jacket with Primaloft details (mavic)
- met-allround helmet
- winter cycling cap (lmnh)
- two multifunctional scarves (1x merino/ 1x bamboo fibre blend)
- a pair of thin wool liner gloves (Giro)
- a pair of warm thermal gloves to put on (no name)
- merino thermal socks (dhb)
- Vaude Pavei MTB shoes plus neoprene overshoes (dhb)
Tip: For such a long distance, it is worth estimating how long you will be on the road. Komoot already calculates how long it will be based on the planned average speed. Of course, you also have to take breaks. With at least 9 hours on the bike, this meant getting up earlier for me so that I didn’t have to ride too long in the dark and cold. To make sure everything runs reasonably smoothly in the morning, I lay out my clothes the day before and also check the bike beforehand. That way I have less stress in the morning and can start right after breakfast.
184 km – via tarmac roads, forest and field trails
I had planned to do the #rideFAR Challenge on 8 March, International Women’s Day, a public holiday in Berlin. For me, this day was perfect for such a challenge, and the weather outlook was great, except for the cold. Phew, here we go…
I was excited but also in high spirits when I started my sat nav around 07:30 and did the first pedal strokes away from the front door. Maybe it would have made sense to warm up and stretch a bit too. Why am I always so impatient? I just wanted to get going! Not that anything was going to get in the way now.
The streets were pleasantly empty on this Monday bank holiday and there were no pedestrians in the green areas yet. Why exactly do I always leave so late? Oh yes, morning laziness and the desire for an extended breakfast^^. On this 8th of March, however, everything went smoothly and I set off on time. Small clouds of steam formed in front of my mouth with every exhale. The sun was already visible in the bright blue winter sky, but the temperatures were around -2°C. No matter, I warmed up very quickly while riding and I was sufficiently dressed that the cold hardly bothered me.
In a zigzag course I left the city via side roads and approached the outskirts near Malchow for the first time: finally the first dirt road. How beautifully the frosty ground and damp grass glistened and shone in the morning light. Delighted, I pedalled and kept glancing at the speedometer. I had it in my head that this was not a good idea, as I would constantly put pressure on myself by how far I had already come and how fast I was going. But I couldn’t really let it go. It was only in the course of the next hour that I relaxed a bit and followed the line on the navigation device rather than the stress in my head. Good idea.
Even the first 20 km were very varied in terms of surface. While I still frequently rode along cycle paths through settlements on the outskirts of the city, the next special off-road moment came near one of Berlin’s highest elevations, the Arkenberge in the north of the city. A narrow path along the railway tracks finally encouraged me to get out of the saddle a bit and follow the ups and downs of the trail. Huuuui, that felt good!
#rideFAR: Off to Brandenburg
Now I had finally left Berlin and was approaching the first section of forest. Not far from Summt lies not only the beautiful Tegeler Fließtal, but also the dreamlike Briesetal. On this day, however, I left both to the right and left and drove through the middle of the forest. Because it was really beautiful there, too.
Really now, cobblestones?
Happily, there was a narrow sandy path next to it, which I could make good use of for the most part, and then we finally got onto proper forest paths. The air was so fresh and cool, the low-lying shadows of the morning and the sun’s rays between the trees bathed everything in a very special light. A flagstone path across a field followed and then forest again.
I noticed my smile getting wider and wider as I whizzed up and down the small bumps of the forest track, almost feeling like I was on a pump track. A deer darted across the path, alarmed, and I saw a few more standing in the thicket, looking at me excitedly. I quickly kept going and refrained from turning off shortly afterwards so as not to alarm the animals further. Instead, I simply took a path further ahead. Opportunities were plentiful here, fortunately.
As I had looked at my #rideFAR route very carefully in advance, I also knew roughly what would come next. In order not to take a major diversions, I included a very short path, knowing full well that any kind of underground could be waiting for me there. But I had deliberately taken the gravel bike in order to remain as flexible as possible… Well, these approx. 200 m of overgrown forest path, which should lead me to a perfectly asphalted cycle path in the middle of the forest, were a bit more demanding than expected. Surely there had once been a path, but these few metres had already been very successfully reclaimed by nature.
Cautiously, I tried to drive past the branches and vines of some bare blackberries. Again and again I got my things caught on them. In a careless moment I felt a sharp pain in my face and the dragging sound of thorns on my clothes. Ouch! Stop. I took off my gloves and felt my mouth. There was definitely blood on my fingers. Carefully I pulled four blackberry thorns out of my lip and then cleaned myself with a tissue. Oh well, no one said it was going to be easy….
The reward followed directly a few metres further on and I was whizzing through the forest on the finest tarmac.
#rideFAR break no. 1 – fries please!
Liebenwalde. I admired the pretty harbour and the old railway bridge, but quickly left the place again to continue cycling on the route and along the Vosskanal: A very beautiful cycle path, part of the Berlin-Copenhagen long-distance cycle path, by the way. This led me over several kilometres to Zehdenick. I had already eaten two bars and still felt that I needed a few minutes’ rest. My calves started to pull. I have to admit that I wasn’t used to this, as my legs usually didn’t let me know until quite late on long tours. In a way, however, I was expecting it that day. I hadn’t been moving enough in the months before.
In Zedenick I wanted to take a lunch break. Around 11:30 that was already in, I found. I quite liked the village’s lift bridge and after a few photos there, I scurried into the centre of town to stop at the first visible kebab takeaway and order fries: I ate the “small” portion (which was more like medium) comfortably sitting on a bench at the market square together with a bottle of multivitamin juice. Keep the sugar and calories coming^^. Hach, so I could continue my journey after all.
Half-time and the small goals
I soon followed the Berlin-Copenhagen cycle path along the Havel again. It was a really beautiful stretch there. Fragmentary memories of my first time on this cycle path came up. That was in 2014. Near the Mildenberg Brickworks Museum, we ate homemade energy bars and put our feet in the water. Now it was definitely too cold for that, despite the now single-digit temperatures!
My next destination was Bredereiche! There I would have completed half of my day’s distance. I tried to set myself small goals on this big route. Because these seem much more achievable, than always just looking at the big picture and the total distance. My path now followed a country road between fields. It had become hilly and a fresh wind was blowing towards me. Ok, I didn’t need that right now. I longed to be back in the forest, away from the roads and the country wind.
I had become quite warm. A pair of gloves went into my jacket pocket. At last, Bredereiche. Another lock. The place itself seemed deserted. The ice cream parlour was closed, of course, and the mini-market was on lunch break. Ok. So there was no supply of drinks or food here, but a pretty windmill without wings.
Loneliness on the heath
I knew I should start eating again. All right, half a cereal bar. That was all that went in. I was actually looking forward to the following section, as it was going to be the loneliest of the whole tour. I now cycled on very sandy paths into the Kleine Schorfheide nature reserve. The path leads through the middle of the forest. On the left, heath land lies behind the trees, on the right the water of the Havel, which I rarely saw. It was hilly here. A queasy feeling spread through me, because here was clearly another of Brandenburg’s former military zones.
Every few metres, signs and sometimes the white and red barrier tapes announced that leaving the path here could be very dangerous. The terrain looked as if collapsed buildings or bunkers were hidden under the thicket. I find it hard to put into words why it felt so strange. Maybe because it was so lonely here at the same time? Again and again I stopped briefly. It was still 35 km to Zerpenschleuse, the next place on my #rideFAR route, to take a break and possibly buy something to eat. Why did that just feel so far away?
Winter, sun and sand
The beauty of the landscape around me cheered me up a little. I was enjoying the sun, watching a few animals in a wildlife enclosure as I cycled past, and at the same time paying attention to the uneven, very sandy ground. And then the sandy path suddenly ended in water. Literally. A wide ford with wonderfully clear water ran right across the road. On the left, there were a few stones that made it possible to walk across without getting wet. But where was the fun in that? So then, off I went: I eased over the fine, stony bottom of the ford a little too slowly and tried to avoid the larger stones. Whoo, wobbly! After all, my wheels were covered with water up to the spokes. But I finally managed to get to the other side dry. Wonderful, these little challenges!
With my spirits high, I continued on and shortly afterwards came to a bench with a table and a beautiful view of the Havel and the surrounding nature. If that wasn’t the perfect place for an apple break, I don’t know what was. Such silence. Only the rustling of the wind in the trees could be heard. Otherwise just…nothing. I felt myself relaxing, some pressure falling off my shoulders. I had made almost no progress at all in the last half hour. It was getting late. But I tried hard to stay positive. Yes, I wanted to do this #rideFAR challenge. But not at any price!
Not for nothing had I tried to include as many off-road parts as possible. It was almost always much more scenic than riding on cycle paths or roads. And that’s what often motivated me to keep going, the challenges of the terrain, the special nature around me. All this made me experience this cycling trip much more intensively.
The thing about being hungry and moving on
Well then, I still wanted to get on. So back on the bike. Oh look, a lock! At some point I was back on the same level as Zehdenick, only on the other side of the Havel in the forest. I was feeling my legs more and more. Stop, keep going, stop, keep going. I felt powerless. At this point, it was tempting to look for a station and break off the tour after about 120 km. But there were still a few kilometres to the railway. I could also ride this stretch in the right direction, couldn’t I? So I gritted my teeth, added another bar and cursed more than once because I had apparently overlooked the cobblestones again in the route planning. On through the forest. Kilometres of cobbles and a sandy path next to it. A dirt road. Sand. Sand.
Was I making any progress at all? When was Zerpenschleuse finally coming? And why was it now already 4pm? At some point I stopped and sobbed something to myself. Why was I doing this at all? My legs hurt, I finally needed fresh water. Just don’t get a crying fit now! So I stood there for a moment, in the middle of the forest, cursing to myself, sobbing. And then I got the hell back on my bike and rode on. I had to make it to Zerpenschleuse. And then everything would get better again!
And as I dragged myself the last few metres over a lock bridge to Zerpenschleuse, I felt a renewed surge of motivation. I had made it this far! Just under 45 km to go! So I really should still be able to do that! I looked for the next petrol station, got myself an apple spritzer, water, Snickers, a pretzel stick with cheese and a coffee. Half of the bar went into my jersey pocket with the Snickers. I had trouble eating anything at all. But the warm coffee and sugar from the spritzer did so much good. My plan stood. But now I was more familiar with the area, Klosterfelde, Wandlitz, Basdorf – Berlin was not far away. However, it would definitely get dark before I should be back in Berlin.
On asphalt towards Berlin
Now I just wanted to ride home quickly, even if that meant having to drive a few kilometres on the main road to Wandlitz. The alternative route through the forest was just a bit too much for me at this point. But it would certainly have been nicer. I also changed my planned #rideFAR forest route via Basdorfer Wald and Hobrechtsfelde. From Zerpenschleuse to Schönerlinde, I only wanted to follow the road and the cycle paths. That meant mainly going straight ahead on asphalt. But after the break, things started rolling again. My motivation returned. It was dawn and the sunset was beautiful. The horizon turned light blue-pink.
In with the one Snickers half, another sip of apple spritzer and on we went!
It was getting dark, I began to sing. My light was shining brightly across the lonely cycle path parallel to the road. Here again there were a few cars on the road. Another small village. The section on the road from Schönerlinde to Buch was very dark and without a cycle path. It didn’t matter. I sang, enjoyed the clear, starry night sky and at the same time could literally feel the proximity of the big city. My fear of riding in the dark outside the city was somehow blown away. My legs pedalled hard. Buch. Suddenly I was back in the traffic of a city, meandering from traffic light to traffic light, letting buses go ahead and hopping back and forth from street to bike path to street – as the infrastructure allowed.
Side streets, a dark dirt road. Never mind. Give it to me. I sang loudly and liberated, feeling a mood high as clear as the morning I had set out. Berlin, hallelujah Berlin!
The last 3 kilometres my energy was then used up. The legs were struggling again. But I knew I was about to make it. I really did it. I could have shouted out loud with pride. No, the difficulties of the day were not forgotten. But the joy of having managed this whole distance, especially with my will, the strength of my legs, which were very tired at the end, and my bike, was almost endless.
184 km. 9:36 h on the move on the bike. 12:38 h recorded by my navigation device in total.
Now off into the hot tub! For at least an hour. What a day!
What I learned from the #rideFAR Challenge!
Such a day on the bike can feel very long when you’re not feeling well. But it can also fly by when the experiences and impressions engage and entertain. I know that it wasn’t necessarily the best idea to ride a long distance completely without training or regular touring beforehand. However, as I mentioned before, I also knew that I had already completed this distance once, and that was with baggage on the bike. So I was very optimistic this time too. It was perhaps not entirely unselfish to announce on Instagram the day before that I wanted to take part in the #rideFAR Challenge. This gave me an extra push to actually do it. Overcoming the inner bastard and all that…
I left all doors open for myself. The railway had usually been within a few kilometres, there were always places I cycled through. My motivation from the beginning was to ride this track and have as nice a tour as possible. The idea of racing was not important to me. And yet I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about my own speed. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t my main focus either.
180 km in one day by bike is not unimaginable – but definitely a big challenge! I sometimes tend to forget what a feat the body does in the process and see too many kick-ass, trained people in my cycling bubble who are capable of far more. But that’s just it:With training, regular rides and above all else, the right mental attitude, so much is possible! At the same time, it makes no sense to compare oneself with people who are significantly more active and do a whole lot to achieve such performances far above the “simple”, occasional ride. Because there is a lot of work with one’s own body behind it. I can admire these people, be motivated by them, but I certainly shouldn’t compare myself!
I still feel that this distance is a lot. Because it is a lot. But with each of my tours I learn what is possible – with the right mindset, often with the right company. I discover what my legs are capable of, what I can be capable of.
Is the length of the distance you ride important?
Is it great to challenge yourself every now and then, to motivate yourself and push your limits?
So and the next tour will definitely be another leisurely cake tour! Where was the cake or ice cream on my #rideFAR challenge anyway?