The Black Forest to the Tirol Alps

24-30 June ~ Karlsruhe to Au, Austria

Total distance ~ 535km

Total elevation ~ 4,828m

Max speed ~ 50km/h

This week I hadn’t covered as much distance as I’d hoped to, but also knew that my legs (and mind) needed to get into the swing of a lot of steep riding coming up!

I’d cycled through 3 countries, encountered more generous hospitality and had cycled through and lots of lakes, rivers, forests and mountains. So here’s a summary of my second week!

The Great

The Black Forest – oh wow, you have definitely got a piece of my heart now. After riding on flats and passing towns for many days, it was incredible to go into the endless forest with its serenity and peace. Plus I stumbled upon the only bike shop I’d seen in a long time and treated myself to new cleats, an ace jersey and some second skin cream (to stop the bum chafe!).

After leaving the forest I also encountered some others wonderful sights; Rhein Falls, the largest water falls in Europe, Stam am Rhein, Meersburg and Hagnau, all stunning places in their own way.

When I arrived in Switzerland I was greeted with open arms by Donal and Mirila Harman, my friend Rachael’s, dads cousin who said they would host me. It was a wonderful stay and lovely to have company. I left knowing a lot more about the Swiss way of life, with a belly full of food and drink, all of my clothes (and sleeping bag) cleaned AND to top it off a Swiss Army knife so I could ditch my plastic spork, what treatment! I can’t thank them enough.

After leaving Switzerland and making my way back into Germany, I then followed Lake Constance around until I hit Bregenz and Austria. Feels so good when you cross the border into another country when you know you’ve done it all human powered 🙂

I arrived in Au, Austria to camp for the night and was kindly greeted by the camp site lady giving me free tokens for the shower – I needed it after climbing steeply from Lake Constance further into Austria.

The next morning I was met by a fellow camper who was intrigued about where I was cycling too. She said she was inspired and wanted to do a bike packing trip one day. She wished me well and gave me her details in case I ever came back to Lake Constance as she wanted to host me, and believe it or not, her name was…drum roll Mieke! I couldn’t believe it, she is only the second Mieke I’ve ever met in my life, what are the chances.

I pressed on from Au and towards Innsbruck, hitting the Tirol region very quickly and experiencing endless steep climbing, I was spent after the first hour! Still I feel like I am getting stronger with each day. The region was breath taking, could spend all day taking photos.

I passed by towns that had ski lifts and maps, something I’d experienced before on winter ski trips but never in the summer cycling, made me feel proud of being up so high! It was also a highlight seeing lots of other cyclists – mountain and road, and made me feel less mad about what I was doing.

The Challenges

Finding somewhere to sleep every night has been a challenge. I’ve not yet ‘wild camped’ but there have been quite a few occasions where campsites have been sporadic.

Food and water has been difficult, particularly as the weather is getting hotter and the steeper climbs mean I sweat more and burn more calories!

My cleats, my cleats. I think there’s something wrong with me. I’m wearing them down one pair a week on average and my last pair took an hour to take out as they had loads of dirt stuck in, I was using a knife for about an hour before I could put the Allen key in 😦 they are either too loose or too tight and today I spent the whole day in the mountains with just my right cleat in as the left one is so stiff and I’m worried I can’t clip out – what an idiot!

Wisdom toothache – never before have I had it this bad but I had to have it on a full day’s riding in the Black Forest, made me very grumpy indeed but at least it was better than being stuck at work with pain!

The ascents and descents have been terrifying at times, think I’m getting a bit more used to it now but it’s still nerve wracking when you don’t know the area, how long it’ll last or where the hair pin bends are – plus the Austrian drivers are the worse I’ve experienced so far, super speedy. I can imagine it might get worse in Slovenia and Italy (so I’ve been told!).

My total distance since I left is 1,206 in 14 day’s and counting. Next I travel a little more in Austria, perhaps taking in a train journey to speed things up as I am a little behind schedule and hope to soon be in Slovenia!


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