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: