Riding a Brompton on the Mittelland Route (D4 Fernradweg): Day 5

Day 5: Niederhausen to Lützel, 25 km (plus 50 km by train and 5 km for a meal)

The first sunny day! But not long after beginning the ride, I came across a sign that warned of a lack of safe tracks and that the major roads were not recommended. I will show them, I thought, so I set off into the hills, sweatily hauling my bicycle into the forest. Even there was the same sign …. The Germans seem to have everything covered, or at least want to give the impression. So I took the train to Niederschelderhütte and rode into Siegen. There again, I faced a similar problem, so I opted to take the rail motor to Lützel, where I stayed at the small Pension Vogt – the only person there. But what to do about food? They did not serve an evening meal and the only place was out in the forest, more than 2 km away, I ended up walking about 5 km there and back for the sake of a meal.

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Riding a Brompton on the Mittelland Route (D4 Fernradweg): Day 4

Day 4: Bad Godesberg to Niederhausen, 79 km

I crossed from the province of North Rhine-Westphalia into the Rhineland-Palatinate today. It rained yet again, with swollen rivers and some flooding (ducks were the only ones who could use the bicycle path at some points). I rode along the Rhine for a little while and somewhat longer along the Sieg. But I am not so much a fan of the river routes, since even in August they tend to be full of people. Much better are the quiet mountainous routes, where I am often the only person on the track and the only person in the pension or gasthaus. Speaking of which, Landhaus im Kühlen Grunde was simply an amazing place. 27 euro for the night, a large room, sumptuous food downstairs. To find it on a quiet country road after a long, long day in the rain was pure delight.

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Riding a Brompton on the Mittelland Route (D4 Fernradweg): Day 3

Day 3: Heimbach to Bad Godesberg (Bonn), 73km.

Another wet and cold day, with an early haul up a muddy track in the forest. I was still getting used to the bicycle, but I felt as though I was beginning to settle into the ride. Today, I realised that I had used up all my phone credit (German simcard) while in Belgium … so an urgent top-up was needed. I also found that while Germany has ample places to buy beer and baked goods, they are remarkably spare with toilets. But with their great emphasis on nature and the need to enjoy its simplicity, this problem was easily solved. I stayed at the intriguing A&S Ferienwohnung, but it was to be my last stay in a city, even on the outskirts. From now I would seek out villages.

Riding a Brompton on the Mittelland Route (D4 Fernradweg): Day 2

Day 2: Aachen to Heimbach, 65 km

The day began and ended with rain, with flooding threatening. On the D4 proper, I encountered a mixture of village roads, dirt tracks through the forest, quiet bicycle paths and farm tracks. The mingling of these forms would become quite standard throughout the ride, and indeed is characteristic of Germany bicycle routes away from the popular rides. Parts of today’s ride went along a swollen Rur River, and most of it was spent in the Province of North Rhine-Westphalia. After a rainy day, the site of Pension Dobrunz in Heimbach, with its large and warm room, was welcome indeed. So muddy was the bicycle, I gave it a brief shower.

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Riding a Brompton on the Mittelland Route (D4 Fernradweg): Day 1

Introduction

I will have longer accounts about this ride in due course, but initially some photographs and a few comments on each day. Between 9 August and 26 August, 2017, I rode the Mittelland route, or the D4 Fernradweg (long distance bicycle route) across Germany. Actually, I began in Liège/Luik, Belgium, which added a day to the ride. The German route runs between Aachen, near the Dutch border, to Zittau, on the Czech-Polish border.

The route runs through the centre of Germany, an area called Die Mittelgebirge, or central mountain range. Although there is some river riding (Rur, Elbe, Spree), most of it is the hills and mountains. Thus, each day entailed climbing and dropping a total of between 500 metres to 1500 metres.

The whole route took me 16 days of riding, plus 2 rest days – 1137 km in total.

The following map is the official route between Aachen and Zittau (from biroto.eu), which you can find on a number of sites. As is the way with long rides, I varied it somewhat. Apart from adding a day between Liège/Luik and Aachen, the section between Coelbe and Oberaula (Hessen) had a major detour due to roadworks, which added 40 km to the day. And the 200 km or so before Dresden has virtually no signposts. Elsewhere, the route was generally well indicated.

Whole route

I rode a Brompton fold-up bicycle, with 6 gears. I had a 10-kilogram pack on the front and a slightly smaller one strapped to the rack on the back. Since it was a relatively new bicycle for me, the ride also entailed becoming familiar with the workings of the Brompton, maintenance, fine-tuning and so on. As one would expect with such a unique bicycle, it has its appealing quirks (it hates cobbles!). But it stood up very well: from muddy forest tracks to occasional busy roads, up steep climbs and breath-taking drops. An extremely well-made bicycle that I will take again and again on such rides. Apart from everything else, the beauty of it is that at the end of a day’s ride, I could simply fold it up (about 10 seconds) and carry it into my room for the night.

Speaking of accommodation, I opted mostly for country pensions and landhauses. Many of these are not on the internet booking sites, so you need to find one on arrival. In the parts I rode and at the time of year – away from the crowds – a cheap room with a grand country breakfast was not difficult to find.

Day 1: Liège/Luik to Aachen: 67 km

After some frustrating efforts to follow bicycle routes in Wallonia, I soon headed for the Maas/Meuse, which I followed into southern Limburg. Here the hills are enfolded with well-laid out bicycle routes, going from one ‘knooppunt’ to the other and with a map at each point. Perhaps a little too easy, but a delight after getting lost a few times in Belgium. In the centre of Aachen, I stayed in the simple but clean A&O Hostel, by the bahnhof.

The images were initially posted daily on my wechat account: