GRVL braxony - Around Brandenburg By Gravel bike
With the Gravelbike once around Brandenburg? After the Race through Poland was cancelled in May, Steffi and Marie were highly motivated to ride their gravel bikes from refuge to refuge.
Here you can find out how the low-budget tour, despite heat, sand, temperature drops and rain, was one of the most beautiful breaks for the two cyclists in a long time; and what you should keep in mind when you’re on the road in self-catering mode in Brandenburg forests.
GRAVELN ONCE ALMOST AROUND BRANDENBURG - WHY?
With travel restrictions and incidences in mind, Steffi and Marie agreed that they needed an adventure on their doorstep, so they decided to ride their gravel bikes around Brandenburg and Saxony.
Sleeping in shelters, as well as the Sunday and holiday, would provide the adventure feeling; with the goal of avoiding civilization as much as possible (spoiler: in Brandenburg, this is already going very well).
Originally, all in all, 1500 km of gravel riding fun should come together in a week – the distance that they would have covered approximately at the Race through Poland. In the end, also thanks to challenging road conditions, only 950, but very intense and unforgettable kilometers.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
BRA....XONY? WHY ONLY BRANDENBURG?
One day before the tour start, Steffi and Marie learned that the Saxon refuges were closed due to incidences and not open for overnight stays. Crap, but the incidences were also from a health point of view another point that spoke against a Saxon gravel adventure.
So relatively promptly, on day 1 or 2, the two decided that they would simply circumnavigate Brandenburg. A Brandenburg super duper orbit, so to speak.
PLANNING AND EQUIPMENT IS EVERYTHING
The Braxony route around Brandenburg was planned by Steffi. With the help of Komoot, a first draft was quickly clicked together. As landmarks served somewhat larger places along the Brandenburg border. These should be alternatively approached or circumnavigated.
ROUTE PLANNING WITH KOMOOT
Then scaled: according to interesting places, sections, nature reserves, etc.. Since the tour was covered by gravel bike, “Gravelbike” was always selected in Komoot during planning. Nevertheless, there were also sections that were less optimal or rather led over unspectacular bike paths. So at the end of the individual route planning, the gravel-fun ratio still had to be checked: how much of the good gravel is actually there? Finally, supermarkets and sporadic first shelters were added. But these stops were mostly “on the fly” and dependent on hunger pangs – so they were only roughly scheduled.
Steffi left out the possibility of planning the route in multi-day stages, as that didn’t seem entirely practical for the project and the two started the tour with a lot of courage to be flexible. Since everyone loves riverside trails very much (we just claim now), Steffi built in some great and rooty riverside sections that provided some neat technical fun. Also beautiful forest paths, which gave shade on the hot days, could not be missing, of course. Altitude meters were rather unimportant. Let’s be honest, they really had to look for it in Brandenburg! The most beautiful areas of Brandenburg, such as the Havelland, the Uckermark, the Spreewald and the Fläming were of course included.
Towards the second third of the tour, the two spontaneously rescheduled because of Ascension Day. They avoided larger places. So they managed to stay mostly spared from drunken Herrentagsgruppen. Towards the end, the two, plagued by the Brandenburg sand hell, were increasingly on asphalt bike paths.
Loose gravel: 181 km
Solid gravel: 30.4 km
Pavement: 41,9 km
Road surface: 133 km
Asphalt: 526 km
Unknown: 15.4 km
Here you can find the route, optionally with
Start in Berlin and Leipzig
All in all, the two were totally in love with the route. At the end of the 8 days, they looked back on quiet, dusty, rainy, cold, beautiful days filled with warm memories and had learned: Sometimes it only takes a week off from your own doorstep to discover something new.
This is what they would do differently the next time
Next time Steffi and Marie would plan more oriented to nature reserves and refuges. Now they had more Brandenburg towns on their route; that didn’t have to be the case. However, this was also due to the plan of the Brandenburg circumnavigation. And: in the end, on Sunday and on the holiday, it proved convenient to end up in a bigger city, after a long day on the bike, to tuck into the much longed for Pizza Vegetaria without cheese (“Really without cheese?” “Yes without cheese” “Ok, I really don’t put cheese on it at all!”) to bite into.
SHELTERS AND BIVOUAC SITES - SLEEPING CLOSE TO NATURE
For Marie, the preferred way to protect herself from the weather and animals is the shelter. They come in many designs: Completely closed (luxury), with pitched roof, laid out as a terrace, or classic and most common in Brandenburg, closed on three sides, with open entrance.
How to find shelters
Consider shelters in planning
Marie and Steffi have found shelters via the Komoot planning point “add more points”. There you simply click on shelters. Depending on how far you zoom in or out, a certain number of shelters will be displayed. Sometimes, however, these can also be simple shelters and picnic areas. Steffi and Marie had to learn this when they looked for a shelter in the immediate vicinity during an approaching storm and only found a picnic shelter (the shelters are also only called “shelter” in Komoot, it is best to additionally secure yourself via maps). In this case, however, the two were ultimately lucky. The next shelter they found after the picnic shelter disaster was on a private property and the owners were kind enough to let them sleep in their safe and warm smoker’s lounge – true GROAD Magic!
RECOMMENDED APPS FOR THE REFUGE SEARCH
Marie and Steffi have searched for suitable sleeping places with Schutzhütten & Biwakplatze in addition to Komoot. Unfortunately, this app is currently not available in the Play Store. You can switch to the app Camp Wild. Here there is still relatively little selection of shelters, but they are shown directly with a picture – a really nice feature and definitely highly recommended, if more shelters are entered in the future.
Google Maps is also helpful, in addition to Komoot, in the search for refuges. Here you can sometimes even zoom in and see the refuges directly.
Please note that you always leave the shelters and nature as you found them and keep quiet on site. So your night in a shelter is undisturbed for all <3
THE A&O: EVERYTHING FOR BIKEPACKING EQUIPMENT
Now we come to the most beautiful thing in the bikepacking world: the packing, more precisely, the clever packing, so that one lacks nothing and the days can be savored even in rainy weather.
- Bike: 8Bar Center
- Tent: MSR Hubba Nx 1
- Camping Pad: Northpeaks Pro
- Sleeping bag: Decathlon Forclaz 500
- Light Inlet: Vaude Inlet Mummy
- Bags: Ortlieb
- Bike: Veloheld IconX
- Bivy bag: Salewa waterproof
- Sleeping pad: THERM-A-REST NeoAir XLite
- Sleeping bag: Deuter Dreamlite
- Bags: Apidura Expedition
When you call your bike home for a week, the first thing to do is pack smart, being prepared for any eventuality. The question should also be: What do I want to do? Do I sleep in a hotel, do I completely take care of myself? Do I take my time or do I drive against the clock and stop only to refill water?
Either way, the number one rule is now: Tools always belong close at hand and not at the bottom of the saddle bag.
A sensitive topic is sleeping outside. So Marie a sleeping bag in the bivouac is enough (and in the best case a shelter. Steffi had a tent with her and felt safest that way.
Before they decided on this setup, there were many rehearsal nights outside to explore their own comfort zones.
Tip: Before heading out into the wide world, it helps to sleep close to home. If in doubt, you can simply break off and continue sleeping in your own bed.
Once the basic questions about the equipment have been clarified, it’s time to pack. Steffi and Marie would have packed differently if they had ridden in Race through Poland mode. For sure, the gas stove and the prepared food portions would have stayed at home. Steffi would have done without a spare jersey.
If you have only a small budget for bikepacking trips, we can recommend the sleeping pad, sleeping bag and jacket from Decathlon. These things have been tested by the collective under various conditions and are quite suitable for bikepacking. Marie rode last year with the Decathlon Isomatte and slept well on it for over 2 weeks. This year, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite could be tested in various weather conditions and kept warm even on cold surfaces from below. The Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad is particularly good insulator and a solution for people who freeze quickly. Alternatively, a rescue blanket helps against the cold as an isomat pad. This also protects against damage from stony and uneven ground.
Steffi and Marie were similarly equipped in terms of setup. Only for the night Steffi had a 1-person tent from MSR and Marie had a bivy sack from Salewa available.
THE GOOD FOOD - EATING ON THE ROAD
If you don’t want to just eat buns with cream cheese for a week on the road, it’s a good idea to bring a gas stove.
We had our bags packed with salty, roasted nuts, various bars (Mr. Tom and Nucacao defy the heat and make you happy), bread, falafel, salt, oat milk (is available from oatly also in small), 1 x apple, 1x banana, oatmeal.
Here we have written down our 3 favorite camping recipes. They taste simply heavenly at the end of a long day on the bike and make you full – the secret is simply to replace any fresh product with the dried version. You can get the ingredients at any supermarket. Reusable ziplock bags are perfect for carrying the food. Try it out – the recipes are vegan and have a long shelf life!
Did you know that the ready-made powdered mashed potatoes from the discount store are mostly vegan? Marie got this tip in advance from Sandra and it really changed everything.
- Mashed potatoes, salt, fried onions
- on the way just pour water over it
- Zack: ready!
- dried onions, dried herbs, dried mushrooms, dried tomatoes, salt or broth, mien noodles.
- Bring to the boil, infuse
- Yummy, yummy!
- oat flakes, coconut flakes, dried apple, banana and mango slices
- Pour with hot water
- Let it steep: Yummy!
Otherwise, here are some inexpensive insider tips that are vegan and delicious.
- Baked Beans – very tasty and a staple in Steffi and Marie’s food bikepacking routine. But beware: not everyone:r tolerates beans equally well.
- Vegetable ravioli – are quite inconspicuous in Lidl; in general, the vegan assortment at Lidl, Rewe & co is getting bigger and bigger!
- Vine leaves filled with rice – you can find them everywhere. Real bikepacking delicacies!
- delicious vegan and vegetable pesto is cheap at Rewe and also at Norma; by the way, the vegan assortment at Norma can really be seen!
STAY CLEAN! HYGIENE LIFEHACKS FOR ON THE GO
Baby wipes are the must-have of any bikepacking trip. Best unscented and with 99% water content. The only drawback: most conventional wet wipes are not biodegradable. But even here there are now good solutions in the common drugstores.
Let’s face it, you rarely pass a sink in the woods, so it’s not just in Covid times that it’s helpful to have a disinfectant gel handy (even if it’s just for feel and you can still roll dirty sausages).
To be able to save the last 20g of equipment, it is a good idea to shorten your toothbrush a bit and use solid toothpaste. Solid toothpaste is available at DM and is really practical. However, Steffi would only use this for shorter trips and not for tours over several weeks, as the brushing performance does not seem to be 100%.
Marie has been taking Ajona toothpaste in travel size with her for years. A pea-sized amount is enough for a decent freshness feeling with Ajona, so even the small tube is really productive.
An all-round shower gel, with which you can clean everything from head, tent, bicycle chain to cooking utensils, is available at Decathlon, for example. We make sure that these are biodegradable and leave no nasty traces in nature. Definitely saves space in your bags, in your wallet and protects the environment. For Marie, the Seba-Med Sport Shower Bath in mini size is essential on the go.
Free on the bottom? We made Margarete Stokowski’s book title our camp mantra. As soon as we found a place to sleep, we aired out our bottoms. It’s no secret that long days in the saddle, at high temperatures, leave their mark. If you want to have longer joy on the bike, there must be just times proper air. A light, airy short (under) pants of course also serves the purpose and seems more appropriate in many situations.
You do not want to do without certain products / creams or are even dependent on some? Here again, DM is a good place to start. There are of course travel sizes, only the selection there is usually not terrific and covers only limited individual needs. On the other hand, there are small jars with screw caps in the same corner, which are ideal to fill, for example, Chamois cream, zinc ointment, toothpaste, etc. in smaller portions.
We highly recommend the sports sunscreen from DM at this point. You can also get it in the practical travel size, so you can always replenish sunscreen on the go!
As menstruating people, we had menstrual cups with us. On the subject of bikepacking with a menstrual cup, Sandra has dealt in detail and described her experiences. It’s worth reading.
Steffi’s Hygiene Packing List
- Solid toothpaste
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Allround shower bath
- Chamois cream
- Zinc ointment
- Sun spray SPF 50
- Toilet paper & baby wipes
- Insect spray
- Disinfectant gel
- Travel brush otherwise knotted hair
Marie’s Hygiene Packing List
- Ajona toothpaste
- Seba-Med sports shower bath 10 ml
- Kaufmann’s skin and children cream (for everything)
- Sun spray SPF 50
- Wet wipes
- Mosquito spray
- Baking soda (as deodorant)
- Disinfectant gel
- menstrual cup
- small travel toothbrush
Why wander off into the distance? Look, the good is so close.That really says it all. Steffi and Marie recommend a vacation on your own doorstep. There is so much to discover, home is never far away and you learn to optimize your overnight and bikepacking skills. Would they do such a trip again? But hello! In the meantime, the two can’t imagine a nicer way to travel and stay overnight within Germany. Try it out – you can find the “The Women All Ride”-tested route on Komoot 🙂 Würden die beiden so einen Trip wieder machen? Aber Hallo! Mittlerweile können die beiden sich keine schönere Fortbewegungs- und Übernachtungsart mehr innerhalb Deutschlands vorstellen. Probiert es aus – die “The Women All Ride”-getestete Route findet ihr auf Komoot 🙂