So here is a first installment of the middle Rhine. Everything I bitched about for the Lower Rhine forget and go to the middle. The castles are so plentiful I have a sore neck from constantky looking around, I have stopped so many times to look in awe at where they built the things. On top of that there are the churches, natural landscape and humourously translated descriptions of why the area is significant.
I am still a little low as settling back into solo riding and long days of either rain or burning sun (seriously i want a refund from my skin’s designer) but rhe scenery is amazing and the track has mostly been away from main roads which has helped a lot.
I have been avoiding writing this post for a few months because everyone writes one, and I have been super happy with my gear (a few part failures excepted) that it seemed like a redundant activity,however as I leave summer (ish) touring behind it seems like a good time to do this. Beware it will be edited!
Tent: Exped Venus 2 Extreme
I bought this tent for the trip on yhe basis it could be free standing if need be, was four season but still fairly light. So far everything has been great. I broke a tent pole in the first week of touring through laziness by not making sure the new poles were fully home, and both poles are now notably bent thanks to an early autumn storm in the Icelandic Highlands that was ripping almost everyone other tent to shreds (think 6ft star pickets being ripped out of the ground while they attempted to hold down a marque). The ability to take down the inside of the tent while the shell is still standing has been a godsend and has meant i have had a dry tent inner to sleep in every night.
Sleeping Mat: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Extra Large.
In summary, I have been sleeping on a plush king single matress for the whole trip. It is comfortable, lighter than my old thermarest was and so so big! An exped schnozzle bag makes it super easy to inflate and hugging the bag is a nice comfort each night in a weird way. It is funny the little routines you get into.
Sleeping Bag: Mont Brindabella
This bag is super warm, I’ve only zipped it up fully twice. Once because it was genuinely cold,and the second time because all my clothes were damp and I wanted to wear them dry.
Handle Bar Bags: I have a conventional Ortlieb handbar bag hanging off the front of the bike which is great as always, but on this trip I have also been using an Oveja Negra top tube bag and a Bike Bag Dude chaff bag. The tt bag holds my battery cache, and the chaff bag holds a water bottle, snacks or Niew Vine depending on the day. It has really made a difference, particularly on the days with strong wind where reach down into the frame triangle is a little hairy.
Bike etc is all super normal otherwise. A Surly Bike, Ortleib panniers, Optimus stove etc etc.
Generic Thought: Mould
This trip has been wet, constantly raining or heavy dews or any number of other things and I have noticed a few items going a bit mouldy. My sleeping bag developed a small mould patch near the feet which is the bot of the bag that often has damp dirty feet plus is also stuffed into the sleeping bag first and rest up against the end of the tent so I am not at all surprised.
More surprising is that my rain coast is going mouldy whilst I wear it. It has been on and off every day of the trip, bit has been washed a few times so there you go. A little spotty but all good!
The Rhine is long. It is roughly divided into three parts, so I’ll blog each section as I ride it and as I am starting from Utrecht which is no where near the end it won’t be complete but I think the bottom 250km that I didn’t ride were probably much like the 400km I have ridden.
First let me get this out of the way. It is boring.
Now let me get onto why. Firstly it is flat. I am going to hate myself for writing this ince I get into the alps I am sure, but it is a ling hard slog riding 80+km a day on flat ground with or without a headwind. Now I am riding a decently heavy bike with silly tyres and although i hold it is the most comfortable tourung rig out there I won’t deny the rolling resistance is noticable. Also flat ground is hard work as you never get a break which is why I am having a half day today 6 days after leaving Utrecht and having covered 420km. The temptation to push on/faster has strained a few muscles I think I need to take care of for the next 7 weeks.
Next, the Rhine is industrialised. Up until Bonn the Rhine ias basically a continuous band of factories and power stations with farming on the opposite bank, then there are the boats and trains. Whilst corn fields, canals and cows are scenic and the indusyrial works make my inner engineer impressed it is a bit wearing. Also the noise is constant so bring your ear plugs, seriously!
Finally campsites on the lower Rhine are few and far between. As soon as you reach Bonn and the middle Rhine they are everywhere but until then theu can be hard to find or are often a long way from the river. This adds distance and means at the end of the day you have to navigate country lanes hoping to find a campsite that accepts tents as a lot don’t. My illusion based on other blogs of millions of options (as long as you accept the odd nudist camp site) has been dashed!
That said I don’t want to deter anyone. As a wise well travelled cyclist explaindd the reason you ride the Rhine from the mouth up is so when you do reach the middle Rhine you really appeeciate it. It is worth it people! I got to the middle Rhine and was gobsmacked and it is getting better as I go.
A week ago I arrived in continental Europe after my three months in the UK and Iceland to sunny skies and a whole lot of hope about what the next two months had in store for me.
The first weekend proved a massive success and I have been riding on a bit of a high ever since thanks to good company, four nights in a row in beds and a swim at the beach. For any non-aussies reading this post it is easy to under estimate just how important salt water and swimming is to the average Australian, and I am certainly no exception so the swim did me a world of good.
Anyway after that great weekend the weather set in and it has been raining ever since. I have been wearing my full rain gear (helmet cover, jacket, pants, overshoes, GTX shoes) the entire time and I am still getting wet occasionally. Yesterday the weather was so bad that on my way to Thomas’ house I had to stop twice to poor the water out of my shoes.
I am now in Utrecht staying with Thomas the slightly crazy dutchman who I met while cycling in Tasmania, and who stayed with me in Sydney and Brisbane as he rode around the country. In the next few days I will finish the replacement of my brake pads, chain and front chain ring and then I am off to finish this little tour of mine with a 1600km slog through to Vienna along the Rhine and Danube (if I don’t change my plans).
For now though here are some stats on my trip so far.
Distance: 3,113.26 km
Time: 216:47:08 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 30,991 m
Avg Speed: 14.4 km/h
Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, everything in between – it is all hills! Big hills, long hills, steep hills, country hill, urban hills and then you get to the mountains.
For the past week I’ve been riding with Will and Ollie from Gloucester in England, down to the bridge over the Severn and up through every single hill to Bangor (next to Menai) (but not in the shire). To say it has been hilly would be an understatement, to say it has been amazing would be a downright crime against how beautiful this place is. Wales has been the first place in the UK where it has felt remote or like you aren’t just riding between villages. The mountain passes have been high and covered with flowering heather while in the cold valleys on the northern sides of the mountains the trees are showing their autumn leaves.
It has been such a great week I can only relate a few highlights and challenges, so here is an attempt at daily highlights.
Friday – riding along a rough canal path, getting my second puncture of the trip while with two mechanics and then discovering the puncture occured 500m from a pub with a beer deck where there was sunshine!
Saturday – getting to the top of a very large hill and finding ourselves dragged into a local’s birthday party, being fed and watered. Oh and my only 100km day of the trip.
Sunday – group photos in an abandoned priory and cresting our first major pass
Monday – dropping in on a local agricultural show to see golden sheep, eat local beef and lamb burgers, watch a demonstration of wood chopping and then watch dogs herd ducks.
Tuesday – finding a spare £4 pedal in a junk shop after mine seized, climbing the steepest pass I’ve seen and then riding at sunset down the rail trail beside the tidal estuary to Aberdovey Bar (location not venue)
Wednesday – another long day topped off with 20 odd kilometers of rail trail after some massive and brutal climbs that had me wondering if we could make it.