(editor’s note: the following is the charming diary of five young people from Birmingham who approached us to support their charity ride from Birmingham to Berlin to raise money for Cancer Research UK. A video of this adventure is soon to follow.)
DAY ONE – BIRMINGHAM TO LONDON
August 2nd, 8am. Matt’s house was a hive of activity: family and friends came to see us off and take some photos, and Neil, Tom, Dan, Ash and Marcus came to join us for the trip down to London, which of course was great.
We set off at around 8:45, all kitted out in our shiny new jerseys, and each with around 15-20kg worth of luggage. The bikes were so heavy that we began to keep tally of the amount of times Jess fell over with hers. I won’t say how many it was, but it was below 16 and above 14.
We headed south (as that’s where London is) and made it as far as Warwick before our first technical stop. Ed’s rack mount bolts had shifted into a position where they were blocking his chain from changing gear. He could use the highest 3 on two front rings, but no more. To fix the problem we needed to take the wheel off, but Ed was happy to carry on with the limited gearing, so after meeting up with Sarah too, who also joined us, we pushed on passed Warwick and the next stop was Banbury for lunch!
We found a great pasty shop, and the guy even gave us some free pasties which came in very handy later in the day. A kind woman and her daughter also donated some money to the charity and then went home and joined our Facebook page.
We were full again, and although a bit tired, knew that we still had around 80 miles to go.
Sarah and Tom left us in Banbury and headed back to Birmingham, and the next stop Bicester is where Dan left us and kindly went home to confirm our route to Dover the next day.
We had done this route before, and really enjoyed the descent that followed the infamous Chinnor hill. The hill crosses the Chilterns with a 14% incline up through the trees, It’s a struggle, but the 10 mile descent into high Wycombe makes it all worthwhile.
Dyfan had begun to have problems with his rack. The two stays at the top had both snapped, and were being held on by tape. This was going to have to be sorted in London. Luckily Ash offered to donate a rack he had at home, and said he would bring it the next morning! What a guy!
We got into London outskirts from the West at around 8:30pm and thanks to the help of Marcus and Ash riding up front, we made our way to Highgate and to the pub just in time for them to say that last orders had past, and that we wouldn’t be getting a beer! Devastated! However we were given a few cans by somebody that flew down. We were all tired, and as our original host had already left the pub, we were now also homeless.
Then Xander stepped up to save us, and the best part was, that he only lived 500 metres down the road in a great apartment. We split up, over the basement floor and ground floor bedrooms, and after some pasta and pre-bed prep we were fast asleep.
Total miles: 131
Total time: 14h 30m
DAY TWO – LONDON TO DOVER TO BOURBOURG.
After only 4 hours sleep, it was tough to get up wanting to ride again. We all got showers at Xander’s and collected our washing from the tumble drier. The panniers were packed again by half 7, and we left north London, heading for Greenwich.
We were meeting Dan, Simon and Ash there, and also grabbed a McDonalds Breakfast and swapped Dyfan’s rack for the one Ash had donated before setting off again. Dan handed the Garmin to Matt, and he left us, Neil also headed back to the train station, bound for Birmingham again, so there were 7 of us now heading south out of the capital and towards Kent.
This was one of the nicest routes I’ve ever seen in the UK. Rolling hills everywhere, and beautiful countryside. It was also one of the hottest days EVER, and after pausing at the top of a fairly big hill, we were approached by a family walking their dog who asked what we were doing and then offered to fill up all our water bottles!
They also donated ￡10 to the charity before saying goodbye, and stocked up with H20 we set off again!
We stopped for lunch in a small place just outside of Maidstone, then continued up and down, up and down, and up and down the rollercoaster roads of the south downs. Simon helped keep the pace up at the front, and left us shortly after Maidstone to get the train back to London, Ash carried on until Ashford.
Our next sop was Dover.
When we got to the white cliff town we were hungry. We began searching the town for food, and in the process, whilst climbing a ramp next to some steps, Matt managed to snap the top section of his stem!
This was a very low point. The only bike shop in Dover (actually) was only just opening, and had no stock for sale! The only option was to find a place on the other side of the water, so after a greasy burger snack, we walked onto the ferry, and taped up the stem as best we could.
The ferry crossing was a good chance to relax and have a nice (expensive) beer! The crossing was 2 hrs so we got down to some planning for the next day. We decided that we would make an attempt to get to Bourbourg (10 miles) and to the campsite.
As soon as we got off the ferry I tried to ride the bike, but the bars were still really shakey. Andy offered to ride for a bit too, and as he did, the stem snapped completely, and he flew off into the road! Now we were in trouble. It was 20:30 or 21:30 French time, and we had nowhere to sleep!
Ed and Dyfan rode off in search of a bed for the night, and came back after checking us in at a B&B down the road. We all stayed in one big room, and they let us use the internet and lock our bikes up safely.
The next day we would have to find a bike shop to grab a new stem, we also messaged Marc (in Bruges) to let him know we would be arriving a little late the next day.
After a bowl of pasta, and a couple of coffees/teas each we went to sleep, in some comfy B&B beds.
Total miles: 70
Total time (including ferry): 11h 30m
DAY THREE/FOUR – DUNKERQUE TO BRUGES/IN BRUGES
We woke up to a message back from Marc in Bruges, who said he was on his way down to meet us and to collect Matt’s bike. He said he would take it back to Bruges to be fixed, and in replacement would be bringing one of his own bikes. This was a complete godsend and would save us lots of time roaming around northern France looking for bike shops.
Ed and Andy rode up to the supermarche, and picked up breakfast for us all, whilst the rest of us packed up the equipment and waited for Marc. Marc arrived at around 10am and after a quick bike swap and a final confirmation of his address, we left the b&b and attempted to get out of Dunkerque – not an easy task.
Marc had brought down his commuter; a town bike perfectly suited to rolling around Bruges rather than pushing 57 miles through the rain. We also swapped the saddles over as we had now reached the illusive 200 mile mark (apparently the point a brooks saddle will be broken in)
It was great to be riding in mainland Europe, and suddenly it felt like we had come further than 200 miles. The scenery was really nice as we approached the Belgian border, and we decided that after another 10 miles we would stop for lunch.
As we were riding along the coast for the only time on the trip we thought we should visit the beach, and whilst Dyfan got over his fear of sand, we searched for somewhere to shelter from the rain and eat.
After lunch we set off again, and as we were riding down the busy streets Dyfan swerved to miss some pedestrians and ended up getting his front wheel jammed in the tramlines, he tried to control the bike but ended up slamming into the road. A crowd quickly gathered and helped him back onto his bike, one guy even grabbed the bike as if it was the tour “Go On!” he shouted.
It rained all afternoon, and the last 20 miles were pretty grim. We were cycling alongside the canal though which led straight to Bruges, and about 7 miles out we crossed a bridge which took us through the windy suburbs and towards our destination.
When we arrived in Bruges we struggled to find Marc’s road. We knew the area, but decided to ring him. He came out to meet us and, soaked from head to toe, we followed him back to his house.
We joked about how excited we were for warm showers and warm food, but we didn’t expect the incredibly warm welcome we received!
Marc and Carine were cooking up a pasta dinner, and gave us some beer and wine too. We were shown to our room with hot showers and comfy beds, exactly what we needed after 60 miles in the rain.
Marc had also picked up a new quill stem so my bike could be up and running again the next day. Luckily for us the next day was a rest day!
We woke up the next morning and went downstairs to fresh coffee and a continental breakfast before being taken into the city centre for a tour and some lunch.
Then in the evening the guys took us for a few games of bowling and a stone grill dinner which gave us all the energy we would need for tomorrow’s 70 mile trip to the Belgian capital.
DAY FIVE – BRUGES TO BRUSSELS
After an emotional farewell with Marc, we set off for Brussels via the canal paths. We anticipated bad weather again but the sun came out and we enjoyed the countryside route. Heading towards Gent (a medieval city), we lost the path several times but were re-directed by some helpful local cyclists, even beating one in a friendly road race to the next cycle path!
We stopped for lunch in Gent and admired the beautiful architecture including the Gravensteen castle. After a quick saddle adjustment for Jess because she was in a lot of pain, we headed South-East on a very long straight main road towards our final destination. We battled with the wind and had to negotiate roadworks and traffic but were rewarded with the bizarre sight of Birmingham in capital block letters at the side of the road!
We stopped to check it out and discovered a nice little bar which had once been visited by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham and had our coat of arms on the wall! As we were making good progress, we decided to stay for a celebratory pint of Belgium’s finest.
On arrival in Brussels, we headed to the home of our friend Morti from Brussels Bike Polo who we had met previously at the London Open tournament. We dropped off our bikes, washed our kit and headed downtown on foot to find some well-earned dinner. Just as we were discussing how lucky we had been with the weather, the heavens decided to open and drown us whilst we were walking home! We made impromptu raincoats from black bags and ran all the way back to the house to play Uno and listen to soft jazz hoping that the worst of the rain would be over by the time we had to get back on our bikes. Thankyou to Joaquin and Morti for their hospitality, it was much appreciated.
DAY SIX – BRUSSELS TO BEST
To be riding out of a big city like Brussels at 8am on a quiet Sunday was really cool. The wide streets were empty, so we could ride 5 a breast down the long sloping hills towards the river.
The first shock of the day however, came at the bottom, when the entire road turned into cobbles. Probably 2 miles of cobbles. Once we got to the river though, it became a smooth bike path where we reached speeds of around 22 mph, which was great.
The way out of Brussels was heavily industrialised. We kept comparing the huge bridges and motorways that hovered above to something from War of the Worlds.
The hard streets inflicted some damage, mainly in the shape of a rusty old nail sticking right out of Andy’s tire. This was to be a bad day for Andy. We stopped on the side of the road, changed over the tubes and started rolling once again.
We carried on along the well-thought-out Belgian cycle paths, cutting our way through some surreal suburbs and green countryside. We were doing well to avoid oncoming cyclists also using the path, until two roadies came spinning towards riding side by side. The one made a late attempt to duck in behind his friend, but it forced Andy off the cycle path and onto the grass. He tried to get back onto the path but ended up getting his front wheel caught in a small ditch and slammed down on the pavement!
After some anti-septic wipes and a sit down we were ready to go again. The cyclist who caused the crash had glanced back, but didn’t stop.
We stopped for lunch in a small town called Herentals, but being a Sunday, nothing was open. We asked a local woman and she directed us to a bakery which sold bread and pastries as well as sandwich fillers.
After lunch we were probably only 15 miles from the border with the Netherlands. The sun was out and the roads we nice and flat. We were riding really well as a group this day, and at one point, kept a speed of 18mph over about 5 or 6 miles, taking it in turns to brave the wind at the front. The scenery was amazing too, and the campsites we kept passing with lakes and forests were becoming more and more tempting.
Getting to Best was a bit of a chore. We arrived in Eindhoven at around 5pm, and had to negotiate our way through the busy city, onto the ring road and out the other side.
We stopped off at a super market to get some food for the campsite, and Andy’s bad day got worse as Jess kicked over and smashed one of his beers!
We reached the suburb of Best at 7pm, struggled to find the right road, but eventually came to the campsite at 7:20pm.
The barking dogs and woman who refused to get out of her chair were not very welcoming. The price was good though, and they had hot showers and a friendly cow in the field.
We cooked up pasta for dinner, with pesto, bread and a beer each. The sun set behind us and we pitched the tents ready for our first night camping.
Total miles: 91
Time in the saddle: 6h 34m
Total time: 11h 30m
DAY SEVEN – BEST TO THE BORDER
We awoke to the sound of rain at 3am which continued throughout the early morning hours until 6am when we finally got out of bed. Hot showers and porridge helped warm us up before we began to pack away our soggy tents.
We attempted to take shelter and wait out the rain but it didn’t seem to be stopping. After two and a half miles Andy experienced a second flat tire. Three miles later the rain became so severe that visibility was limited and we could barely see the bike in front of us.
We took shelter in a cafe, and enjoyed a 45 minute latte break before the rain clouds finally calmed down and we were able to set off once again. The use of free WiFi in the cafe helped us plan our route out of Best which was slow and wet to say the least.
A break in the poor weather let us clock up a few miles before stopping in a petrol station to stock up on essential energy food and to get some lunch. By this point in the trip we were all beginning to realise just how much food we needed to make it through each day!
After a long section of straight and boring roads, Ed and Andy spotted a BMX track hidden behind some trees and couldn’t wait to test out their road bikes on it. Unfortunately, they hadn’t taken into account that their kit wasn’t cut out for the bumps and jumps that they attempted and lost a few items along the way!
Although the bad weather and dirt track had slowed our progress, we still wanted to make it to the German border before it got dark. We pushed on for around 35 miles before seeing the sign “Willkommen in Deutschland”.
We had made it through 3 countries in as many days, but we were now running out of time with no campsite planned!
We stood looking at a map, but it gave us no help. We then stopped a jogger and (in Andy’s best German) proceeded to ask if she knew a place we could camp. She said that she couldn’t help us. In fact she didn’t know of any campsites within 10km. We had already been impressed by the kindness of strangers on the continent, but were impressed further when the woman offered to go back to her house and get her English speaking son to print us off a map to a campsite and also explain the directions.
The campsite they directed us to was 12km away in a small border town called Goch. The campsite was in the middle of the woods and was closed. Luckily for us Ed had noticed a few caravans turning off the main road 10 minutes earlier, so we headed back down to find out if there was a campsite we could stay at. We found a council run caravan site, which appeared to be caravans only. We only suspected this as all the people staying there were staring at us out their windows.
We didn’t have to pay for the site though in the end, as the office was closed, which was a plus! The site also had no toilets or showers though, which wasn’t good. Jess had to make a short trip back into town to get some painkillers and use the toilet as she wasn’t feeling very well. We made spaghetti for dinner before the rain started again and we had to retreat to our tents.
Total miles: 56.07
Time in the saddle: 4h 22m
Total time: 12h
DAY EIGHT – THE BORDER TO BAD BENTHIEM
We woke up to more rain in the morning. The caravan park was bleak, the bikes needed to be packed, and the wet tents had to be folded away. Everybody quietly got ready and we left at around 7:30.
We went into the main high st in search of coffee and breakfast. We found a nice coffee shop, but they didn’t open til 8, so we waited outside. We took out the map and started to sort out the crib sheet for the day.The rain had forced us to alter the route, so now we were scrolling down the page looking for anywhere within 100 miles east of us beginning with a ‘b’. The place we found was called Bad Benthiem, so we decided to head there. After coffee and postcards home we moved on to a bakery which had now opened, serving sandwiches and croissants. We made use of their toilets too.
Weirdly, the kind lady who had helped us find a campsite the night before walked into the bakery and asked how we slept! This was a rare coincidence as she lived 12 miles away, and it was 8am.
We left the border town at around 9, and head northeast in the direction of Bremen. We ideally wanted to get there within 2 days, but the weather was slowing us right down and we were still 220 miles away.
We passed through a number of dull German towns (notably entering ‘The Kingdom of Pleasure’ in one instance) before crossing the border back into The Netherlands as we snaked our way over the landscape. The rain was on and off today, not as bad as the day before, but still enough to slow us down a bit.
We stopped for lunch in a small place called Isselburg, then carried along through the borderlands. We had to cross a huge river, which cost us lots of miles trying to find a bridge, and in fact the mileage for the day was double what it was supposed to be in the end. Goodbye to the idea of reaching Bremen in two days.
Once we crossed the border for the third time that day we were back in The Netherlands, and annoyingly would be spending the night there as now it was getting late too. The location was really nice, lots of woodland and peace and quiet. It did mean however that we had to ride about 5 miles of dirt track which wasn’t very smooth going.
We found a campsite by a lake and struggled with a newspaper which said London on the front and had a big picture of fire.
The campsite had hot showers, a washing machine and WI-FI. so we were pretty comfortable there although a bit overlooked by the neighbours. We sadly hadn’t made it to Bad Benthiem, but we did choose a campsite called Berkelhook! we were now 141 miles from Bremen, and 395 miles from Berlin.
Total miles: 72
Total time: 10h 45m
DAY NINE – BERKELHOOK TO BIPPEN/FURSTENAU
The weather seemed quite good when we awoke on the morning of day nine. We packed up our stuff as usual and, although it did rain in the night, the tents were drying well and we left the campsite at around 9am. We were splitting the trip from here to Bremen into two days as the rain started once again, and we were still 140 miles from the city.
We headed northwest through Vreden and then Ahaus (we couldn’t get the Madness song out of our heads for hours.) and then the rain started. It didn’t last too long however, so we kept moving.
We were used to the flat roads now, and were working well as a group again. We mounted the camera to the front and to the back of the bike, so we got some decent footage for the video too!
At lunchtime we stopped in a small city called Rheine (ironically the river that passes through is the Ems) The city was nice, it was packed full of people and we had our first Currywurst of the trip. It was from a van and it tasted awesome.
We had a quick scout round to buy each other a 1 Euro gift. We also nearly bought Dyfan a huge wool saddle cover, but he said he wouldn’t use it. So Ed brought him a small plastic windmill for the front of his bike instead.
We set off out of the city, and into a vast expanse of farmland, around 25 miles of field after field, and because of this grid-like layout the roads we very straight and dull – the weather was good though so we kept turning the cranks until the sun started to drop in the sky.
We were heading for Bippen, and on the way dropped into a super market to get some dinner. When we asked the staff, they told us that there was no campsite in Bippen… It was getting late, but luckily they pointed us towards one in the village 3Km away called Furstenau.
It took us a few attempts, but when we got there the place was very quiet, and the receptionist kept laughing at us. She was friendly though, and she led us to our pitch. We passed loads of caravans and (un) mobile homes. All of which were empty.
The campsite had a nice bar and, after being chased by a big goose, we decided to get the second Currywurst of the day and sit back with a beer.
Tomorrow we would make it to Bremen.
Total miles: 65.2
Time in the saddle: 4h 15m
Total time: 9h 20m
DAY TEN – BIPPEN TO BREMEN
Day Ten was one of our best riding days of the trip. We covered 80 miles in exactly 5hours, giving us an average speed of 16mph.
We set off from the campsite at around 8am, and went into town to grab some breakfast and snacks for our jerseys. Then we pushed off down the cycle paths that ran parallel to the country roads. The riding was flat and smooth, as it had been for most of mainland Europe.
We hadn’t managed to find a map (anywhere) for this day of the trip. All we had to rely on was a crib sheet that we had put together the night before in the campsite. It turns out we added 9 miles to the day using this crib sheet instead of a map, but it worked. We had to get to a small place called: Bassum, here we would be met by Joey (Our host during our stay in Bremen) and he would help guide us into the city.
The roads were easy today, perhaps it was the excitement to get to Bremen, or the breakfast we had, but something made us fly.. We didn’t stop for lunch as we were meeting Joey at 13:00, 20 miles from Bremen. We were a little late, but met Joey at 13:15 on the road between Bassum and Syke. We all introduced ourselves, then followed our host through the last 30Km of countryside before the city.
Matt had been having some trouble with his brakes for the last two days, and was hoping to get them fixed in Bremen, but on the way in they gave up completely and Matt wrapped himself and his bike around a streetlight. It looked more dramatic than it was and we were only 3km from a bike shop.
Joey had told us that this bike shop would be fixing our bikes free of charge! This was just one of the many kind things that Joey organised for us, but also another example of the kindness shown to us by complete strangers. We dropped the tired bikes off and headed back to Joey’s apartment. It was awesome, beer and pasta awaited us, as well as a hot shower.
After dinner we went back to the shop to pick up the bikes. We couldn’t believe how nice the shop was, old track and racing frames everywhere, some vintage jerseys and caps, as well as modern parts too. The guys in the shop had fixed Matt’s brakes, changed the bars, the bar tape, shifted the levers to a better position and swapped the rounded off bolt in the front brake for a brand new one. We were so grateful for this, and still can’t believe it!
Joey had also organised the local press to come and take pictures of us for the paper. One more thing we were excited about in Bremen was polo! Although the rain had started up, we were all cycling through the city and picking up polo players along the way. We got to the car park of Werder Bremen football club and the guys started setting up the goals and cones.
We played on our road bikes which was tough, and Dyfan and Ed had a go too. they both picked it up well, but Dyfan fell off and got tangled in his bike. The rain was hammering down, so we were humbled by the fact these guys had come to play. We left polo at around 9pm and had a quick (wet) tour of the old city before going back to the apartment to dry off and drink some more beer.
We wanted to say a huge thank you to all the people in Bremen who helped us out, kept us busy/fed/dry and to the guys who fixed our bikes. It really gave a fantastic impression of the city.
Total miles: 81
Time in the saddle: 5h 4m
Total time: 7h
DAY ELEVEN – BREMEN TO BUCHOLTZ
We had now camped in the wet for the last 4 days so it was great to wake up again in a warm dry bed. We had set the alarms for 7am, and breakfast was served at 7:30. We had toast, jam, cheese, eggs and meat. A great way to begin another day in the saddle.
We used a hairdryer to dry our shoes as they were still wet from the night before. It seemed a fruitless task though as the weather forecast for day looked bad, and it was already spitting outside. (Ironically the website we used to check the forecast was called www.wetter.de). With our rain coats on we headed out the door and said goodbye to Joey.
(editor’s note: this is much what life is like for the bike messenger)
We were using carrier bags in our shoes to try and slow the water getting in, but after a while they begin to serve no purpose other than to make you look silly, especially squelching through a supermarket.
After sheltering from (what we thought was) the worst of it in a bus shelter we found a super market to get the usual daily dosage of cereal bars and other sugar rich goodies. We also grabbed a coffee and a toilet break before leaving again.
The roads out of Bremen were really good. With the exception of one dirt track, we sailed across the smooth tarmac. We were soaked through but had a lot of fun singing Bohemian Rhapsody among other songs as we passed through some very sparse farmland. We stopped for lunch in Rottenburg, and had trouble finding our way through the towns and villages of Otter, Ottersburg and Ottermoor, but eventually reached a supermarket in Handeloh to grab dinner and ask after a campsite.
The guy who worked there was incredibly helpful. He gave us his map and let us keep it. He pointed out that the next campsite in a place beginning with ‘b’ was 7km north in Bucholtz, or ‘Bucholtz In De Nordheide’ to use it’s full name.
The campsite was huge! The usual hot showers and restaurant, but this time an enormous lake too! We set up the tents and had a beer and some food before taking a walk around. We saw some people swimming in the lake and decided that we should go in too!
It was freezing cold and full of massive fish, but a lot of fun.
We all made use of the hot showers after this, and then a few of us went and sat out by the lake. The full moon lit up the water, and it was nearly completely quiet, probably one the nicest nights of the trip. Above all else it was dry!
Dyfan ingeniously strapped our shoes to the tree with bungee cord to dry them over night and we settled down for night five in the tents.
Total miles: 65
Time in the saddle: 4h 50m
Total time: 10h 15m
DAY TWELVE – BUCHOLTZ TO BREESE
We woke up to another wet morning, some of us resisting the 6am wakeup call for as long as possible! Ed and Dyfan rode ahead to find somewhere nice to get breakfast whilst the rest of us finished packing up – I swear the amount of stuff we were carrying had multiplied…
After some pastries and strong coffee, we had a quick look at a map in a local shop and set off towards Luneberg (our lunchtime destination). We passed through lots of small villages, one in particular caught our eye as there were many horse-drawn carriages passing by us and using the cycle route which meant we cycled mainly on-road.
The weather was looking good and we were setting a good pace, especially Jess who’d found a burst of energy from somewhere and was flying up the hills en route. That was until… A PUNCTURE! At the top of the next hill, Matt also realised he had snapped a spoke, Andy was trying to true his slightly bent rear wheel and Jess was replacing her inner tube. We stopped for around 20 minutes and had an audience of German children heckling us as we worked!
We made it Luneberg in good time and rewarded ourselves with a traditional German fish and chips for lunch! Whilst we tried to eat we were accosted by an elderly gentlemen who tried to tell us that children in the UK were rioting because they weren’t free enough and were too controlled by their parents. It was a very awkward one-sided conversation. After lunch we sat down for coffee in the town square and noticed two touring cyclists with extremely packed bikes. They came over and we found out they were Canadian and aiming for Berlin too and would be cycling the same route as us for the next day or two. They left Luneberg just before us but we would see them on the road several times again that day.
Coming out of Luneberg was a little confusing and at one point we almost ended up on the autobahn (motorway)! After a water stop a few towns along we bumped into the Canadians again who bought us an Ice Cream each. The sun was boiling hot and we desperately needed to top up our sun lotion too – our tan lines were interesting to say the least!
The next stretch of the day’s journey was very scenic, at least twenty miles of national park stood between the towns of Dahlenburg and Dannenburg and we enjoyed the rolling hills through the forest. Sadly, this wasn’t to be Jess’ day and during one climb her rear derailleur gave up and refused to change gear. Despite our best efforts it was clear that it was beyond adjustment and because it was getting late and the next day was Sunday we also wouldn’t be able to find an open Bike Shop. Jess decided to ride off ahead as she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep up a good pace riding in one gear on the hilly path.
It was going to take too long to get to Breese so we carried on through the last few miles of the day, and decided to finish in Dannenburg. We found a campsite after we picked up food and beer. The reception was over the road in the public swimming pool, so as we set up the tents Ed and Andy went to book us in. They were very excited when they returned. They had bumped into the Canadian guys from earlier, and had invited them back to the campsite to stay with us. We ate dinner and played cards and other games before we headed in for bed. It was great to have some international company.
Total miles: 66.2
Time in the saddle: 4h 45m
Total time: 9h 45m
DAY THIRTEEN – DANNENBURG TO BEHRENDORF
It was a slow start today. We all got packed up, had showers, did some sit-ups with the Canadians and finally left the campsite at 10:30am. It was good to compare our route with somebody else, and so getting out of the town was easy. We got back onto the cycle path and said goodbye to our new friends for what would be the last time.
We were supposed to be reaching Berlin today as it was only 121 miles away. We made a decision in the morning though to split the journey up. Jess was still riding single-speed, so Matt and Andy decided to join her in the same gear for the last two days. After a couple of hours we reached the town of Gartow, and wanted to push on to the appropriately named Schnackenburg to stop for lunch… But then the rain started!
It had been sunny all morning, and we were slightly kicking ourselves for not leaving earlier. Being a Sunday too, nowhere was open. After a search around the town we noticed that one place was open. We left the bikes outside, covered the saddles and went to grab a seat under the shelter. We got a pizza each which was really tasty, and then we had some fancy ice-cream too. We ended up sitting in the cafe for 2 hours, drawing pictures of each other and dragging out our drinks.
By the time we left it was 3pm and we had only done 20 miles. Luckily we hadn’t planned a destination for the day, we said we would just push on as far as we could. The rain stopped and we pedaled hard to try and recoup some mileage.
The road ran parallel with the river, which meant it was flat albeit windy. We had one ferry crossing we could see on the map, it was 34 miles away near a place called Behrendorf. Behrendorf was “Behren” to say the least, nobody was there! The only campsite on the map was over the water in Havelberg. We had been stopping and starting all afternoon, and at about 7pm the rain started again, we took shelter under a tree as it lashed it down around us. The clouds dissappeared after 12 minutes and we finished the last 6 miles to the ferry crossing.
When we got there however, there was nobody to be seen. The boat was there, but the sign read ’06:00h – 20:00h’ It was now 20:12. We had missed it by 12 minutes. We were devastated, we had no food, water or campsite.
We looked around, and behind us was a huge stretch of woodland that we had just passed through. This was gong to be our best bet. Jess and Andy cycled back 5km to try and fill up the water bottles whilst Ed, Matt and Dyfan found a good spot for us to sleep and started to rummage through the bags for some food. We managed to pull together a tin of fruit, two sachets of porridge oats, one pasta, one Cous Cous and a small amount of bread. We had also collected 5/6 apples and a handlebar bag full of plums earlier in the day
When the others returned with water, Andy and Matt fetched all the dry wood they could find and everyone set up the tents. We built a frame to hang the kettle on and had fruit salad with porridge to start. Then a small amount of pasta each. it was enough though and we all felt full.
We dried our shoes next to the fire and watch the huge trees swaying above us. This was by far the best camping night, in the woods, by ourselves. The fire died down and the mosquitoes picked up. The first ferry was at 6am. Tomorrow we would be arriving in Berlin!
Total miles: 52
Time in the saddle: 3h 51m
Total time: 9h 42m
DAY FOURTEEN – BEHRENDORF TO BERLIN
So after months of planning, nearly two weeks of cycling, a BBQ, a visit to Brooks, broken bikes, fixed bikes, newspaper interviews, polo and a huge amount of money raised we were finally closing in on Berlin.
We were just 70 miles from the German capital on the morning of the 15th and we woke up to beautiful sunshine breaking through the trees. It had stayed dry all night, and better still we could see that the ferry was running. We hopped aboard, paid our two Euros and then cycled the 5km into the town of Havelberg. As we had eaten all our food the night before, we stopped to grab a pastry and a coffee each. After this we found some bathrooms to wash our faces and brush our teeth.
Jess was in a lot of pain after the mosquitoes in the woods, in fact we were all bitten quite a bit. Andy was also in some pain, but that was because Matt had persuaded him to put deep heat in his shorts!
We rode for about 20 miles before the total mileage count reached the elusive 900 miles. We congratulated each other, and pulled in for a celebratory beer.
We still had 50 miles to go though. So we jumped back on the bikes and set off again. We all had our jerseys on again today, it being the final day.
We passed through the village of Friesack, then stopped for lunch in Nauen. 10 miles, and one more river later, and we were in outer Berlin. Dyfan stopped to buy a pair of jeans and trainers (as he cleverly saved weight by not bringing any) and we set off again.
The road into Berlin was a great cycle path passing under the motorway a few times before cutting through some nice rural landscapes. With about 10 miles to go until our destination we met with the traffic again (although still on a separate path).
It was rolling hills all the way into the city, but it was all enjoyable. We were shaking hands and hugging on the bikes, it nearly got teary too! We stopped to use the Garmin once we were near the centre. Then Jess got another puncture! We sat by the road fixing her tube and chatting to a guy from Bradford.
Just five more miles and we were at Matt’s flat. It was a great feeling to be putting the bikes down and taking off the panniers and racks. We got showered and changed, then Matt took us out to get dinner and some celebratory beers! We had made it. 980 miles, 5 punctures, 1 snapped stem, 3 crashes, 1 broken rack, wet shoes, early mornings, cobbles and tired legs…
Total miles: 71.2
Time in the saddle: 5h 16m
Total time: 10h 6m
A Final Note
One of the most humbling things to come out of this ride has been the kindness shown to us, not just by friends and family, but also by complete strangers. The trip would not have been half as successful and enjoyable without the help of these people. Besides having a great deal of fun on the ride, its core purpose was to raise money and awareness for a cause that is very close to our hearts, Cancer Research UK. We have so far raised £6,000. A total which is still rising. The money will go directly into research that will help people who are struggling with the effects of living with Cancer.
In the future we have plans to turn the ride into a race that anybody can get involved with. The race would cover a similar route, would involve checkpoints and again would be used as a way to raise money for a few selected charities. This may be next summer, but to keep up-to-date with our progress you can visit our site and social media pages in the links listed below. We are currently working on the video of our adventure, which will be online very soon.”