After I finished my first long ride in October plans were quickly made for an overnighter with some friends at the end of May. In the mean time I upgraded and swapped parts on my 1978 Koga Miyata that I have now baptized… the Budget Rando!
Because (a) I want to do randonneuring and long distance cycling, but (b) I don’t have that much money to spend. Anyway, 2020. Some trips were made, wheels were built and then we all know what happened in March. Things got a bit unsure, were we able to have our trip (yes or no?) luckily for us the first corona wave wasn’t that big of a deal anymore and rules in Germany got a bit more relaxed again.
We planned to ride for a day, spend the night in a small wooden shelter in the Eifel National park south west of Cologne and ride home the next day. We ended up with a party of three. All Dads who welcomed the idea of spending two days on the bike and a night somewhere in a forest away from their spouse and kids. We planned the route together and everyone came up with a 50 km part which turned into a beautiful day of riding.
As the planned weekend got closer, weather conditions were said to be bad… lots of rain (not really a Problem at 25 °C) and thunderstorms (which is pretty dangerous when out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fields). As it is with these kinds of warnings, most of the time it is not that bad after all. Which was also the case this time. We set off on Saturday morning around 6:30 am and kept a relaxed pace. This would be the case throughout the day. We only had to cover 150 km’s, we had the whole day and daylight until around 10 pm, plus the restaurant where we planned to have dinner was only 3 km away from the hut.
Riding due south west out of Cologne we quickly landed in the typical countryside of cropfields, strawberrry stalls and little towns that appear to have not a single living soul in their houses. Sadly I was suffering pretty hard from lower back pain. Luckily it wasn’t that bad while riding, but standing around during small breaks was a torment. I packed a few Ibuprofen into my map compartment in the last minute and they kept staring at me until at around noon when I couldn’t take it anymore. I think I also eat wrong (too much) because slowly the back pain started to get company from a stomach ache. Really nice start of the weekend! Not.
The Ibuprofen did help, though not for long 😦
First landmark on the route was the Bruder Klaus Field Chapel near Mechernich. It is designed by Peter Zumthor and built in 2007, make sure to look it up! https://www.archdaily.com/106352/bruder-klaus-field-chapel-peter-zumthor]
Around midday we bought some snacks at a small bakery. My first pain killer started to wear off and I could feel the back and stomach pain creeping into my lower body again. I was hungry, but not in the mood for sweet pastry stuff. Luckily André and Jörn were also pretty hungry so we took a small detour to a local “restaurant“. More of a big food stall at a parking lot, but they had fries 🙂 That’s all we needed in that moment!
By the time we pulled up to the little establishment, my back pain and stomachache was now replaced by a real hunger. Thank god, I knew that when I feel hungry just eating something will help to get rid of the pains and give a moral booster and boy did those fries and the ice cold coke work. We took our time here and after an hour we rode back to our route and continued onward. After a small climb we were rewarded with a very nice but steep descent. Having never really ridden with luggage I was surprised by how fast the bike pricked up speed now that I had 8 kg of stuff strapped to it. Focusing on the speed and the road, Jörn and André missed a turn and dove down further into The Valley. The original planned track went to the right, along the hill a bit long before that road also descended into the same Valley where we met again. Turned out to be a nice photo opportunity though!
The sun came out and we cruised through some very stunning views moving up along some grassy hills. With the packed bike and a not so optimal gearing I had to take a walk a few times, but the views made it all worth while! Lush green grass roads, the sun was out, our bellies full with food, all was good. We rode on, through some other small towns I cannot remember the name of.
Just before we would head onto normal roads again Jörn decided it was time for some coffee. Initially I wanted to ride on, and make some coffee further down the road, but sometimes it’s better to listen to your friends. The extra caffeine-kick was welcomed! We found a small shelter in the woods and tried out an Aeropress for the first time. Never had coffee from one of those, but I would also take a normal drip coffee. Could’t really make out any difference.
The last few hundred meters of these great gravel roads took us to the top of a wide descending main road. When it has a sign at the top, to warn motorists about the coming descent, you know this is going to get fun. And it was. Blasting down the winding road on perfect tarmac was a welcome break from the uphill graveling we’d had to do before. We landed in the valley of the river Urft in a town called Gemünd. From here we had some easy km’s riding alongside the Urft and then the Ruhrtalsperre (Ruhr dam). Jörn and I took a small dip in the Rur lake. I am not a fan of cold water, but Jörn did not seem to mind. I was glad to wash off the sweat and dirt from my legs, arms and head though.
After this welcome cool down, our route followed the Rur lake for another 12 km’s. We headed north, away from the lake and up the hills again. This part of the route was planned by a friend who sadly couldn’t join us (because of the sudden opportunity to move into a bigger apartment) A bit more important that an overnighter!
Anyway, he missed out on a solid gravel descent. I had to check, but all in all it was a bout 10 km’s of downhill forest roads. Our bikes got a serious workout, but we all made it without any mechanical problems (It was only when we arrived at the shelter that night that it became clear to me I had put my first homemade wheel set to a real test, which it passed with flying colours!).
We had one last hill to climb and then we arrived in the town of Nideggen. This was almost our final destination and from here it was only 3 km’s to the shelter at the top of a hill. It was around 7pm and we were all pretty hungry again. At the large roundabout in the center of the town we saw a big pizzeria with a large terrace. We packed our bikes up against the wall and got a place outside. Maybe because the weather was that good, or maybe just because we were all dusty, sweaty and smelly. I guess we’ll never know?
Anyway, we enjoyed the salad, the pizza and the large non-alcoholic weiss beers (which happens to be isotonic, so it is all really healthy after a days riding!) We took our time and made small stop at a supermarket on the way to the shelter. The last mile was through the forest and uphill. We arrived at the shelter, which was luckily deserted and not occupied by either campers, or people enjoying their Saturday night with beer and a certain herb to smoke. We unpacked, prepared our beds and had a last small beer when suddenly a pair of headlights came towards us, through the forest. We looked at each other and already thought we might be having to find another place to sleep because now the forest ranger will send us away.
We could now see it was a Land Rover, but out stepped two man, two firemen in plainclothes. They were just checking the surroundings and telling us it was prohibited to make any sort of fire, smoke, or turn on a stove of some kind. As it turned out, the night before there were lightning strikes and it started a wild fire which then took out a large part of the woods. They had just finished extinguishing some last small fires. We reassured the fireman we only had some headlights, no cigarettes and would leave our stoves packed away. They wished us good night and left us in the dark. We all changed into something more suitable for the night and rolled into our sleeping bags. It took me a while to find sleep and doze off, but I luckily had a fairly good night sleep.
The next morning we got up early, rode down back into town and got us some coffee and sandwiches at a bakery, across the way from the restaurant where we loaded up on carbs the night before. This time we wouldn’t need that much because we were taking the train back to Cologne. Jörn wanted to be back home quick, because they would leave for their Summer holiday later that day and André also had other stuff planned. Initially I planned on riding back to Cologne by bike, just the quickest route, but since my back pain was still there I opted for the train ride too. The whole ride took about an hour and being back home that quick felt a bit weird… What it also felt like, was that this trip was not the last overnighter I would do!
At this point I’ve expanded the Budget Rando project into something more like Budget Bikepacking. I scored a pair of Carradice Super C panniers and bought me a Chinese ultra light tent from AliExpress. So, expect some more trips in the future! Maybe even some longer ones…
Words – Pim Rakers
Pictures – Jörn Brummelhop, André Kniepkamp and Pim Rakers
you can follow Pim’s further adventure’s here @pimrakers