Sauerland long slow gravel ride, a TNR test

This weekend I went to Sauerland to visit family, the Schützenfest and to ride. Because, how can I not ride there? Altitude and an abundance of gravel paths to choose from, it’s a cyclists’ heaven.

Or it could be hellish.

For this ride, I planned to mock a TNR stage. With over 100 kilometres and more than 2.000 meters of altitude in one ride. It’s not hard to plan such a ride in this area, in fact, it’s hard to restrict it to these parameters. Before you know it, you’re well passed the 160 km and over 3.000 meters up.

Originally, my brother would join me for a part of the ride, and I made a figure 8 to accommodate a dropoff for him at home. I combined the Bikefestival gravel route near Willingen with a mixed route near Marsberg. Today’s ride would total 111 kilometres and 2.080 meters uphill.

The day before, we arrived in Stormbruch after massive delays in traffic. I was toast, but I wanted to change my tires for the ride anyway before heading to bed. Though I did watch the rotation direction of the tires, I forgot to pay attention to which tire I’d fit on which wheel. Because when I departed Saturday morning I immediately figured something was wrong with my bike. I know changing the tires from semi’s to more voluminous knobby tires, would slow me down a bit. After a while, it dawned on me that my front tire was in the back and it was very grippy.

I tried to let it go and ride on, focussing on the fantastic trails ahead of me. Some of the tracks I hadn’t ridden before. In fact, informed me I had ridden 53.83 new kilometres. A few bits I had ridden before, like the insane climb exiting Titmaringhausen. As soon as I turned the corner, I recognized the agonizing tarmac ahead of me. It was exactly 5 years ago I did that climb on my road bike. Here I was with fat knobby tires trying not to let it get to me. I mean, TNR will be worse and far worse for days on end.

The Pön Climb Continental Gravel Ride Bike Festival Willingen is 2,95km long, covering 209 meters uphill with an average of 7,1% (the steepest was 20%). I wasn’t done after 2,95 km though, it pushed on for another kilometre before a short descent. Actually, in my head, the whole stage before returning to Stormbruch was one big climb (in reality it was not, it just felt that way). Apart from the climbs, it was a truly great ride, I had a lot of fun and would ride it again.

Back home I had lunch and refilled my hydro-jacket (my choice for the TNR to hydrate whilst using a frame bag). I briefly considered staying home. Instead, my dad and I changed the tires and I got back on the bike for the second stage.

This stage I had ridden before for the most part. It’s the Diemelradweg following the Diemel river for a while. In Marsberg I left the Diemelradweg and followed the road through Essentho. To get to the nice bit of gravel, I needed to do quite a bit of climbing. This road was very exposed to traffic and I was climbing in the hot sun. No safe way to take a break, it was just a matter of pushing through to get off that road asap.

Though in Germany cyclists can ride on busy roads, it’s not something I like very much. I avoid it when I can and I will find an alternative for those climbs the next time. It might mean steeper backroad climbs, but at least there’s a lot less traffic.

I had anticipated this would be a “long slow ride”. The average of 14.4 km per hour was about what I expected but slower than I hoped. During my last Sauerland century with 2.107 meters uphill I was faster with 16.2 km per hour. But as long as I am able to keep at it for 7 days in a row, it doesn’t really matter. It will not be speed I need on the TNR, well a bit more would be nice, mainly I need to endure.

Endure going slow. Endure foreverness. Endure conditions I cannot control. Endure and persist. That’s all…