Diepholz to Zeven

Distance: ~121.89km Time: ~06m58m

Map

I woke up this morning at 7am to the sound of pouring rain. The bed was comfortable but I felt exhausted and my head hurt. I got up and looked in the mirror, I had bags under my eyes. Yesterday was a hard day. Today would be much better, but I didn't know it yet.

Breakfast was served from 7 and I went down at half past, the lady was already there and had prepared my place. I had asked her the night before if she could prepare a vegetarian breakfast, and I got the standard breakfast without meat: an egg, cheese, jam, two bread rolls and a big jug of coffee. It was a good breakfast and cost comparatively little, just €5.

I went upstairs and packed my stuff away, left the key in the door and went down to bike, it was raining mildly and I dug out the cycle computer which I had canibalised from my racer in Berlin. I wripped the old one off (I didn't have the computer unit for it) and put the new one on, then I realised I didn't steal the accompanying wheel-magnet from the Racer, but luckily the existing one worked (as you would expect, with it just being a magnet, but I'm sure I have had problems before, maybe to do with strength and sensor sensitivity). I calibrated it to my 26" wheel, I hope. Otherwise my distances will be wrong.

I set off. As already mentioned I didn't feel great, but was better for the breakfast. Pretty soon my legs and hips started aching, and it got gradually worse for about an hour and I wondered if I would even make it to Bremen. If I stopped the bike and put weight on my right leg it would seize up painfully.

I noticed that the pain happened most significantly when my leg extended, and the seat was quite high, I lowered it and it was immediately better. Over the subsequent hour it got gradually worse but then it just got better again.

As with yesterday, it alternated between rain and wind and sun. Occasionally I would feel a warmth run though my body and I thought that this was my immune system (or something) kicking in - maybe it decided that this level of exertion wasn't going to stop, so it did something about it. Whatever happened I was soon at a self-sustaining level and 3 hours after I started I knew I would have any more problems. I am now sitting in the campsite and my legs feel fine.

The route was mostly flat today, which accounted for my good time, I managed to keep an average speed of around 20kmph, my overall average is lower because I cycled through Bremen.

It was about 65km to Bremen from Diepholz and I was there at around 12:30 in time for lunch. I was looking for places to sit down, got to the toilet and buy a drink. Its usually quite to rare to find all three of these things together (and I have often postponed my lunch by hours just looking for two of them) so I was happy when I encountered the banks of the Weser. There were many benches (with back rests) all the green, grassy, banks. There was a mobile toilet (good because I could keep my bike close), and a kiosk.

River Weser

River Weser, Bremen

I went to the loo, got a Club-Maté drink (€1.80 - pretty expensive) and sat down and cracked open a can of baked beans and the stale bread buns I had bought the day before.

I cycled through the center of Bremen, and saw the Bremer Dom (Bremen Cathedral) and the Alte Rathaus (old town hall). Very gothic looking structures. I also saw a strange large tower, and I wondered if it was Europes tallest Minaret - but it was the Fallturm (literally fall tower) in which 9 seconds of weightlessness can be produced apparently).

I would have liked to have stayed longer in Bremen, but this trip is all about getting as far up the west coast as Norway as possible in a month.

Not wanting to be stuck for accommodation again I had downloaded the offline map Lower Saxony which includes POIs (Points Of Interest), among which are campsites. There was a campsite in the town of Zeven which I guessed would be around the 100km mark, so that was my destination.

I rolled past the 100km barrier and felt good. Probably could have kept going all the way to Hamburg, but again maybe a bit too early in the tour for really long distances.

The cycle network in Germany has been really good, I haven't cycled on a single busy road, there are always cycle paths, and most of them are pretty good.

In Zeven I have found a great campsite (Camping Sonnencamp). It cost €10 (showers included) and I have pitched my tent next to a shelter with a picnic table inside, and there is a power outlet. It is peaceful and the sun is out.

Camping Office

Camping Office, Sonnencamp, Zeven

Bielefeld to Diepholz

Distance: ~95km Time: ~7h

Time and distance are estimates as I still haven't hooked up my cycle computer.

Bielefeld to Diepholz Route

Very rough map

I am sitting on the bed of my room in the hotel Strangmeyer in Diepholz. I had planned to make it to Bremen today. I estimated it to be 135km, I would head north west and join the D7 cycle route which would take me first to Bremen and then I thought I would carry on the next day to Hamburg. I didn't make it to Bremen, I only made around 95km and there is still another 70km to go to Bremen.

I knew that this first journey would be an experiment - I have done no training at all - the last time I rode any significant distance was in August last year. My journey lasted for about 7 hours. My legs were resisting and became sore. My bum is also sore. These are to be expected, but I didn't expect pain in my fingers and wrists.

The third finger of my right hand has some muscle problem now (due to pulling the break lever) and I noticed early on that my left wrist became quite painful from being constantly engaged on the handlebar. I had this issue once before a years back and it crippled me for a week or so. So I took precaution to not put any more unnecessary pressure on it.

I woke up in the Bielefeld campsite this morning at about 7:00am and made myself a coffee using my Italian coffee maker (the first time I have used one for camping) and put the contents into my thermos mug. I then started chucking all of my gear out the tent onto the grass so that I could pack it up.

The bike was on the back of my brothers Land Rover, I haven't seen it in over a year. My father has been riding it in that time and mentioned that the breaks and rear tire would need replacing. Luckily I had 2 sets of spare break pads in my bag from my last tour, so I set to work replacing and adjusting them. It started raining.

The weather forecast was ominous. Four days of rain.

Break pads were replaced but the breaks still were not working very well, I made a personal engineering breakthrough when I realised that the reason they didn't work well was because the v-breaks had no tension and were loose. The v-break has a spring which pulls it away from the frame, the spring is hooked through one of three holes in different positions. The breaks were in the middle position, I moved them to the third and they were much better (I guess the springs are not as good as they used to be).

So happy that now my breaks are better they have been for years.

This took me some time and it was raining constantly and I was exposed. When I finished I jumped into the land-rover and woke my brother up (he was sleeping in the car and his friend in the tent). I was feeling a bit dizzy and shaking. I made a peanut-butter sandwich and finished my coffee and made to leave.

The previous night we had all sat down in the campsite's biergarten and eaten pizza and drank a few beers. It turns out we had left the shower keys (you use the coupon and get charged after the fact) in the biergarten. But they found them and were happy to give my brother new ones.

I said goodbye to my brother and cycled out of the campsite. Wondering if I had forgotten anything. The weather improved, the sun came out. But it would alternate between gusty rain and sunshine all day.

The campsite was located south of Bielefeld (over the Bielefeld Berg[1], or the Teuton burger Forest). And I cycled over the Bielefeld Pass. In Mitte (center) I went to the bakery and got 2 chocolate cookies and set off.

The path was not clear to me at all, and there was no direct route, so I ended up zig-zagging my way up to Bad-Essen - which explains the extra distance.

I tried reciting my memorised poetry collection (I had 6 poems, including The Waste Land and The Raven). I tried 5 and couldn't finish any of them, I think they will come back to me though. It's a good resource to have and I could keep myself occupied for an hour or more when I could remember them all.

The breaks were replaced, but I still needed a back tire, it was smooth, there was no tread left on it at all. When the Schwarbe Marathon tires ware down too much they reveal a green color, which I think means "replace me now". There was much green.

In Bad-Essen I found a pretty large cycle shop, and immediately found the required tire. I asked if I could replace the tire in the shop, and they were good enough to replace it for me. The bike was outside and the mechanic insisted that the baggage be removed (I just wanted to give the wheel). They put my baggage outside in the street, it wasn't many people and it was a small town but this worried me, while I didn't want to be awkard by moving it all inside the shop. I waited and guarded my luggage for about 20 minutes while the wheel was replaced. It cost about €54 including puncture repair patches and a water bottle.

I still need to get tire levers and some gloves.

It was cold at points today too, when it was raining and the wind was blowing at me my hands were going numb. I have gloves and will dig them out tomorrow.

For lunch I pulled into a forest track and sat down on a log. I had a bread roll, peanut butter and assorted nuts. Shortly afterwards I found a bakery and topped with with an apple cake and a fizzy drink,

At around 16:00 I realised that I wasn't even half way to Bremen (I started at around 10:30) and that I could realistically be there if I carried on until 22:00 - but my body was suffering, I could have pushed through but would have caused myself damage one way or another. Epic 10 hour rides will have to wait.

I decided to stop early, my current waypoint was where I am now, Diepholz, I hoped to find a campsite, but when I got to the center, the nearest was another 10km away, and in the wrong direction. I must have been looking lost because a man asked me if he could help, I said I was looking for a campsite, he suggested "Dümmer See" - but again it was 10km in the wrong direction. I asked about hotels.

"Do you know any hotels in this town" "Yes, but I don't know the prices", he was thinking, "there is a guesthouse / pension Strangmeyer"

I didn't understand all of what he said but got the directions and followed them. When I entered there was lots of people eating in the restaurant and the owner was very busy attending to them, but she managed to give me the key for the room and let me put my bike around the back.

They were serving food, but I thought I would try my chances in the town - oddly all the restaurants seem to stop serving at 20:00, and I was confused when I asked in an Italian restaurant "We start serving at eight" - "but it is eight" "No we stop serving at eight" and he looked at me like I was a mentally challenged (my German still sucks).

I ended up eating a simple Falafel Dürum from a Turkish Imbiss. I crowd of young kids were hanging around outside. The Dürum only cost €2 and it was slimmer than the ones I'm used to in Berlin (less salad). But it was good.

Now I need to plan where I will go tomorrow, passing surely through Bremen. Hoping there will be a campsite at around the 100km mark.

  1. I climbed over this "mountain" the evening before with half of my touring equipment, it was heavy work and probably explains some of the issues I had today.

Cyclotourist without a Cycle

A prerequisite for a cycle tour is having equipment, and bags to carry it all in. So I started the day by picking up the last missing items in Berlin. My large rear pannier did not turn up, so I bought a new one (€75) and tried to find a solar powerbank, but couldn't find the one I wanted, so I picked up a 20000ma standard powerbank, which should be enough to keep my phone going for a week or so.

The commute to Berlin HBF (main train station) was not straightforward, I had to change because of maintenance work, and got off at the wrong stop. I thought I had less time then I would have liked, but I made it to the station all the same with 15 minutes to spare.

The train to 3.5h journey to Bielefeld journey was uneventful, my brother reported that he would be 2 hours late due to heavy traffic

I left the train and descended the steps to the underpass looked left and the right. Both ways were equidistant and led to stairs to the above world, I didn't know which way to chose, but one had more sunlight so I walked that way and alighted in a commercial area with bars and restaurants and a hotel (€53 euro per night).

I looked at my map and the camp site was to the south of the city. I checked my compass, it has been a while since I last used a compass. I aligned North to South and started walking to what I understood to be South. I then checked my phone and realised I was walking North. Seems you can forget how to read a compass.

I started to walk to the campsite, but then realised that it would be far better to loiter in the city center, and found an Irish Pub and sat down for an expensive beer (€4.25). Then I heard my brother would be delayed for another hour and I decided to walk to the campsite which he and his friend had already chosen.

.. Robbie and Kieran are in Germany by coincidence to see the tennis tournament in near-by. And they have literally just arrived as I am typing this. They are parking up the land rover and we are going to get some food. ..

There were two ways to the campsite, one by road and the other by a trail which ran over the "mountain", or rather a somewhat mountainous hill of 350m. The hill route was significantly shorter and significantly more hilly. It was a good quiet walk through forest roads and paths. I encountered a few other walkers on the way. I was carrying half of my touring equipment which was heavy and I had to stop at intervals to re-adjust the position the heavy sack was resting on my shoulder and I padded the contact point with a T-Shirt to stop it digging in.

I was relieved to get to the campsite, but the walk 1.5 hours forest walk was definitely worth it (it would be a great place to live for running). I checked in and got a beer, 15 minutes later Robbie and Kieran arrived and we had pizza and drank more beers.

We have now set the tents up and I am sitting in the Land Rover typing this blog post while Robbie and Kieran are behind me talking quietly and drinking wine.

My hips are aching after hauling the heavy gear over the mountain and midges are battering against my head lamp.

Tomorrow I will aim to cycle to Bremen - 135km by one estimate and hilly. I haven't done any cycling in almost 1 year.

The frogs are chirping and a long slow train sound churns softly and a fly bats intermittently between the tent sheets.