Heavy transport - 180 KM in pairs on a cargo bike
This is a guest post by Carolin Lorenz. We are very happy that Caro shares her experiences with us!
In March, Caro cycled 180 kilometres around Munich with her partner Andi as part of the Orbit ride FAR. On a cargo bike, the two of them. You can read about it here.
First, I have to admit something: I’m lazy. Eating up kilometres is not my thing. Neither is regular training according to a plan. I don’t have the time or the inclination – and yet I’m somehow ambitious. And maybe also a bit narcissistic.
Would you like an example? Two years ago I cycled up the Stilfser Joch on the car-free Bike Day. It took ages, but in the end I made it to the top. On a road bike I would have been about as slow, I guess. But people wouldn’t have shouted “Respect!” over my shoulder as they casually overtook me. Hach, that goes down like oil!
It was also a good Insta-story, the pictures of Dolores, my red cargo bike, at the pass. I feel a bit awful about it myself, but that’s the way it is, what can I say.
I want to show what cargo bikes can do. What women on cargo bikes can do! I want to take up space and take away other people’s fear of the big wheels.
So when the opportunity for a hasard-like action presents itself, I strike!
THE PREPARATION OF THE CARGO BIKE CHALLENGE
In winter I read about Ride for a Reason on the Instagram profile of @orbit360_: Sign up, donate, cycle at least 180 kilometres unsupported a self-planned route, duos are possible.
That’s when I remembered the Resolution Race of the women from Adventure Syndicate, who rode four on two cargo bikes from Edinburgh to Copenhagen on New Year’s Eve 2020: One as the driver, one as the human load on the front – and always taking turns.
At first I had a friend in mind as a duo partner. Until I realised: the woman weighs about 30 kilos less than me – that would be harshly unfair for her to drive me.
Luckily, I have a partner who takes part in all the action and weighs about the same as me. Couple Goals!
SITTING PROPERLY ON THE CARGO BIKE: FROM PLASTIC CHAIR TO ALUMINIUM THRONE
So we – Andi and I – tried out a bit how best to sit in the front of the truck. We are both over 1.80m tall and not exactly snake people.
The sawed-off plastic chair-throne wasn’t it after all… The idea of sitting on the loading area without any body tension and then toppling over like a wet sack – nope, not good.
Instead, it was an aluminium basket, a wooden board with a mat pad across it and two wooden slats as footrests – for two possible sitting positions: Looking forward and looking at the person riding.
We didn’t really try out the setup for its long-distance suitability beforehand. It’ll be fine – and if need be, it won’t break our crown when we have to take the S-Bahn home, we thought.
Facts, figures and provisions for the Freight Bike Challenge
When planning the route, our motto was: as few metres in altitude as possible. In the end, it was an economical 530 metres in altitude, spread over 181 kilometres around Munich. The northernmost point of the tour was Freising.
On Dolores, my cargo bike, I’ve had a mountain-compatible chainring and sprocket set since the action on the Stilfser Joch: 36/24-36/11 – that’s what they say, right? Well, in any case, I can shift down very far.
While we’re on the subject of numbers: Our team was heavy. The bike weighed 25kg, the two of us about 90 kilos each.
We also had sleeping gear with us, just to be on the safe side, in case we needed a break in between: Two normal sleeping bags and two light sleeping pads.
The advantage of a cargo bike is the storage space: the pack size is usually irrelevant.
And that is also the disadvantage: there is a lot of space to fill up with heavy and superfluous stuff.
So we loaded up on provisions in quantities that would have allowed us to survive the zombie apocalypse: 4 litres of water, lots of cheese sandwiches, banana bread, eggs, energy balls, vegetable sticks, apple slices….
It’s a simple fact: my biggest fear on a tour is getting hungry and not being able to satisfy it promptly. And it was Sunday. And Corona!
Well. We brought about half of the food back home with us – the falafel from Freising was more nutritious than we thought. And the courgette pancakes. And the chips. The end of the story: no hunger, but heartburn. I wonder when I’ll learn to eat on tour. If anyone has any tips – let me know!
Our estimated total weight: 215kg. Heavy transport!
With this, we also exceeded the recommended total weight of the bicycle manufacturer, which is 180kg. You always read on the internet: The frame of the cargo bike can take more, but if it does, the rims will go down. So here, too, the motto was: it’ll be fine. After all, we don’t ride on trails.
Riding the cargo bike in twos
Our tour mode was very fair: we took turns driving every nine kilometres.
At the beginning we were still like: “Oh, the nine kilometres are over, come on, I’ll ride until the junction up ahead, we can change well there!” Towards the end, at the nine-kilometre point, we put in the spike and wordlessly got off the saddle in the middle of the road, regardless of whether the spot was favourable or not.
When changing, there was always a change of clothes: those who had ridden had to wrap up warmly so as not to sit sweaty in the wind. Those who had sat in the front had to peel off several layers again so as not to melt while riding.
So it went, 9-kilometre tidbit by 9-kilometre tidbit. At the beginning through a forest and along the beautiful little river Würm. A little morsel of useless knowledge: The Würm flows out of Lake Starnberg, which was therefore also called Würmsee until 1962.
The first half of the tour was really fun: we were still fresh, we met people, the route was nice.
The second half of the tour from Freising was rather boring – a concession to the route, which was supposed to be as flat as possible. After 120 kilometres, the absurd situation of being very close to home, but having to take a miserable diversions to fill up the kilometres. The last few kilometres through the city at night in the dark dragged on. Stop and go is simply no fun after more than a hundred kilometres with a heavy lump on the back…
But the more you swear during the tour, the more legendary the memories are afterwards. Or are they?
Good mood, bad mood – photos by Andreas Lindl & Carolin Lorenz
The end went through the forest, by then it was already dark and late. In fact, at that point I was glad that there were two of us. The forest gives me the creeps, mainly because of the animals that just live there. I can’t judge them as well as I can humans. I seem to be a city kid after all.
All in all, we worked very well as a team!
Our estimate was that we could do ten kilometres per hour. That’s why we planned 18 hours for the 180 kilometres. We made it through without any breakdowns or other failures and were faster than expected: After 16:44 hours we were back at the starting point!
The insights into the cargo bike tour in loose order.
- I like the minimalist approach to bikepacking, that you have to limit yourself to the bare essentials and learn to appreciate multifunctional equipment. And who needs deodorant? But: I’m not an ultralight fetishist. For one thing, I’m not ultra-light myself. And: ultralight stuff is expensive. Actions like the heavy transport prove it: It doesn’t take the lightest equipment and the most trained body in the world to have a cycling adventure. It is possible to test your own limits with borrowed, used, heavy no-name equipment!
- The cargo bike has endured. We have persevered! And yes, we both cycle practically every day. Only rarely in a sporty way. A certain basic cycling fitness is there. But – and this is what I love about long tours – at some point it’s the head that’s the deciding factor. OK, and whether or not you drive yourself crazy.
- The necessary basic trust in each other was there. Only in the beginning we both almost threw each other off once because of emergency braking. Sitting with our backs to the direction of travel was only strange at first, but then it worked. But with all my love: the view to the front is simply more exciting!
- Sitting in front of the bike is also exhausting and puts a strain on the back, especially on gravel sections.
Once the bike gets going, it’s easier to ride than expected, despite the heavy load. Except on hills. And “mountain” also means: motorway overpass, dam, bridges… But a thank you goes out to my smallest gear – without you none of this would have been possible!
- Once again the realisation: you can also get far slowly. According to Komoot, our average was 14.3 km/h.
- The cycling infrastructure in the countryside is often very poor.
- Best experience: Two adults on a cargo bike put a smile on people’s faces! “Yes, that’s how I let it go!” “Yes, that’s how I can stand it!” These were the most frequent comments. “But we take turns!” our response. Only a few young people probably found us mega embarrassing. I don’t get it, we were wearing super cool outfits and everything.
It is possible for two people to ride 180 kilometres on a cargo bike. The bike can do it, and so can the people, with the right setup and adapted speed. Bikepacking is also possible without ultra-light equipment. And the action attracts attention!