The Grenzstein Experience Part 1

By Paul Errington

The Grenzstein Experience
“A Political border does not take into consideration the topography of the land which it crosses, the surface upon which it travels or the need of a rider to eat and drink”.. Paul Errington, 2011

I couldn’t find a quote which summed up my feelings towards the 2011 Grenzstein Trophy course so I quoted myself ;)

The short story to this adventure is I went to Germany .. I started the event.. I rode 700km in 3.5 days .. I called it a day and came home.

For those that need more detail than that it went like this…

I flew out to Germany and met up with fellow Grenzstein rider and an American living in Germany ..Phil Fogg .. Phil is an awesome guy that even though we had never met went out of his way to help me out with this trip ... Huge thanks first of all to you Phil.. I can see many more adventures for us in the future .. also thanks to Phil’s son Eric for helping with both the drive to the start and my lift from where my Grenzstein ride ended.

After the long drive up to the north of Germany to the start in Priwal we met with other riders at a pre race dinner ... we soon realised our 8 day time limit was going to be a stretch with most guys shooting for 10 days plus ... from the start we had our work cut out.

The next morning saw some group photos being shot on the beach before a 9am start. We started on the beach with some pre race pics of the riders later than we would have liked but we were at last underway and the relaxation of if I had forgotten anything now it was too late so why worry… myself and Phil seemed to be on the front of the pack… the 2 singlespeed riders setting the tempo for the geared boys until an error in GPS reading saw us back in the comfort of the middle of the pack.

The first few days of the Grenzstein we were told were pretty flat so plan of attack was to knock out some big miles.. sorry Europe… kilometre’s in the first few days to take the pressure off when the course got hilly.

200km seemed a realistic target for the first day so that’s what we went for. The first few km’s of day one were as expected, nice wide gravel track with sections of sand to keep you on your toes but then we fired straight into singletrack, an unexpected surprise, the riding was good, the temperature was hot… happy days.

We rode mainly gravel and some tarmac but also got our first taste of the infamous Grenzstein Trophy tank plates… these concrete sectional plates laid to allow tanks to patrol the border… each section a few metres in length.. each plate punctuated with brick size holes which were orientated length ways on the flat and across on steep slopes… riding had to be done on the flat strips between these holes or a teeth rattling vibration would be produced.

One thing that was immediately apparent on this route was that opportunity to replensih food and water without going a way off route was limited… in fact as we were mainly reliant on a GPS route we had no idea if venturing off into nearby towns would bear fruit ... so when we could we stopped and stocked… this meant our first stop came at 140km when a small town bakery provided some welcome breads, cakes and drinks and a 10 minute time out from pedalling… the flatter nature of these initial days were tough on singlespeeders as we were having to turn a pretty high cadence to keep the few faster geared boys within touch.

After our late afternoon break we no longer had any riders in sight in front or behind so could settle into a more natural pace on the bikes… wasn’t long before the ‘flat’ first day got a little hilly with a section of steep rolling hills within a forest which were a push up and then pedal as much as possible on the backside to allow you to gain the most amount of distance up the next climb… this went on for a few km’s.

As the evening drew in we took dinner at a burger place, this is where my introduction to the drink Vita Malz was made… alcohol free beer of sorts, extra sugary and everything a rider needs after 12 hours plus of riding.

After burgers we made a final 7km section to a campground, 195km ridden, 5km short of the target but the opportunity of toilets etc was too good to pass up. As we settled into the bivvi bags for the night the mosquito’s descended. I was using a head net but the noise of the little fellas buzzing around my face was keeping me awake… then as a light rain started I saw Phil get up dragging his sleeping set up off in the direction of the toilets… no more than 20 minutes later I set off in search of his hideout.

I circled the toilet block… confused to not find him in the warm shower block as that would of been my spot of choice. I shone my headtorch into the communal recreation room but couldn’t see anything… as I opened the last door to try into the communal kitchen area I found Phil startled looking like he had just been busted :) ... good find by Phil and it at least allowed some sleep away from bugs and rain.

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