Finally, holiday and finally out again. I can’t complain, because during the height of the pandemic I got out on my bike again and again. But a change of scenery is something different.
Last autumn we discovered the Harz mountains for ourselves. And so, without further ado, we booked a holiday home in this beautiful low mountain range again for this summer. In St. Andreasberg, in the West Harz, which still has the charm of the 70s of the FRG. In parts, it is also reminiscent of the last years of the GDR. If you like lost places, you’ll find plenty here between Goslar, Clausthal-Zellerfeld and Bad Harzburg.
Independent of this, however, is the Harz and the still impressive natural and forest landscape. Not to be hidden is the frightening large-scale forest dieback. A mixture of climate change, drought and bark beetles. Different forests are now being created there, fewer conifer trees and more mixed forest.
Off on holiday!
So 14 days in the Harz Mountains lay ahead of me, a mixture of a family holiday with lots of hiking and some training on the bike. Of course it was clear that I would cycle to St. Andreasberg. It’s 270km, which makes it an ideal training session for the Silk Road Mountain Race.
For the route, I didn’t plan for beauty, but for functionality. Less through forests and fields and more on cycle paths along the roads. But that was completely ok and quite beautiful. I set off from Hamburg at 5 a.m. in the shade of 24 degrees, cooled off briefly in the old Elbe tunnel and then sweated my way south through the country for 240 km. Fortunately, there was wind from the front, which sometimes had a pleasant cooling effect.
But then the Harz mountains came and I had to climb. After a few hours of pedalling and given the temperatures, it was quite exhausting. If I had taken a closer look at my route, I would have seen that I was going directly via the village of Torfhaus. It’s about 800 metres above sea level and a good starting point for tours of the Brocken.
Of the 1,700 metres in altitude on the entire tour, I was able to climb 1,200 metres in the Harz alone. Starting at the border to the Harz Mountains, I changed from the road to the forest and had to cope with many ascents on good gravel and rutted forest paths. In return, however, I rode through wonderful nature.
From Torfhaus it was not far to St. Andreasberg, but my destination is on a mountain (as the name suggests), so after a short descent I had to climb again. Before that, however, I crossed the Harz Mountains along an old raft canal, next to which a beautiful hiking trail now runs.
Sweaty but happy, I arrived at the holiday home. Wonderful this peace and quiet after the wild ride, on which I drank 10 litres. Fortunately I had pizza straight away.
Training with ups and downs
Of course, I also used the time in the Harz mountains for some training rides. The area around St. Andreasberg lent itself quite well to altitude metres, as many of the trails had decent gradients.
I had previously put together a home route for myself, which offered between 860 and 1,000 metres of altitude difference over 40 km. It took me through the dense Harz forest to Braunlage and then back again in a circle. In between there were a few climbing sessions.
And of course there were mishaps: once my tubeless valve broke (probably due to icing up from a CO2 cartridge) and I had to put in a tube.
For this I chose the Schwalbe Aerothane, which I will take with me as a spare tube in the Silk Road Mountain Race. It is extremely light and is supposed to be very durable. But after 80km a stone had taken away from this promise and I had to change again. However, I rather suspect the Teravail Sparwood tyres that I am currently riding. I had heard a lot about these tyres and wanted to try them out. But unfortunately, they are not really good. They offer hardly any traction off-road, no matter what air pressure. If it is too dry, they slip. If it’s too wet or damp, they slip. And they don’t offer me any safety when riding. On the other hand, they are fast on asphalt and the normal gravel-forest highways. But they also wear out quite quickly. I simply repaired the Aerothane later with an appropriate adhesive patch. And the Sparwoods will now be exchanged for the Vittoria Mezcal anyway.
In addition to my home route, I also put together a longer 75km ride to Osterrode. This one had 1,600 metres of altitude gain and that was quite a challenge. But the landscape compensated for the effort and I also noticed that I was getting better at climbing. I even enjoyed it.
And so I pedalled through the Harz mountains, past Osterode, through Herzberg, Babis and Bad Lauterberg before climbing back up to St. Andreasberg. A really nice tour, well worth retracing.
A highlight of the holiday was the visit of Salsalette South, Tobias, who cycled up from Würzburg for a short training stay. Together we wanted to ride up the Brocken.
I had roughly planned a route for this, 50km with around 1,300 metres of altitude difference. But it turned out to be a ride over hill and dale, through clear-cut areas and on harvester tracks.
The first kilometres were therefore more pushing than riding. But the weather was good and the mood was great, until I had another breakdown. My drivetrain was increasingly saying goodbye (which is ok for chain and cassette after 6,000 km) and on top of that there was a flat tire.
But then it worked and via the perforated plates and the Brocken road we rolled almost comfortably up the Brocken. The mountain itself is not a highlight, but for a cyclist it is definitely a good destination.
At the top, we took the obligatory photo of the summit before descending again, following the tracks of the Brocken railway for a while before the Lochplatte accompanied us for a while.
A short visit to the historic Oderteich dam before we headed back up to St. Andreasberg.
Bye bye Harz Mountains
Then the family holiday came first and after 14 days it was unfortunately time to say goodbye. I went by bike, of course.
The days before were rather rainy and cold. So it was still quite fresh when I set off at 5 am on Saturday morning. But the Harz Mountains rewarded the early worm with a beautiful sunrise and this bathed the land in an almost magical light.
I cycled back to Torfhaus, from where it was basically all downhill to the Elbe River. The 270km back were quite scenic, although again functionally planned along the main roads.
Unfortunately, my freewheel body broke 100km before the finish. I was able to put it together in a makeshift way, but now it has had its day and will be replaced. Fortunately, it happened now and not in Kyrgyzstan.
All in all, I rode 780km on this holiday and filled my legs well with altitude metres and endurance.
And of course I can recommend a few days in the Harz to each and every one of you – whether for hiking or cycling. A great landscape!