Lets Go Ride the Hanse Gravel - Kinesis Bikes
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Lets Go Ride the Hanse Gravel

Lets Go Ride the Hanse Gravel

Words by 'Emma Osenton' onboard the Kinesis 'Tripster ATR'

As the clocks spring forward and the evenings begin to grow, longer adventures begin to appeal, well at least to me. I love adventure but I also love being comfortable, and yes, I think the two are possible.

Friends in Germany told me about a new bike packing event this coming April starting in Hamburg and winding along the Hanseatic trade mute into Szczecin just over the Polish border. Hansegravel.com

Ideal territory for the Kinesis Tripster and with the distance being a manageable 600km it also makes for the ideal starter into bike packing. I messaged a few friends to see if anyone had the free time and fancied joining me.

Fellow Tripster lovers Paul and Mathieu raised a tentative hand. Neither having done a bike packing event before they were full of questions about how to plan and what they might need. We thought that others might find it useful to read the questions they came up with. This is just a guide, there is no definitive answer, it's all personal.


Q. How do we get to the start?

A. For Hanse Gravel it's quite easy, Hamburg has a really nice airport close to the centre of the city with easy access to trains. When flying in to a bike packing event you have a few options with how you pack your bike. If you're flying out of the same airport then it's worth checking if the airport has luggage lockers, then you can build your bike in the airport and stash the bike bag for your return. If you're flying out of a different airport then it's cardboard box time (some, although rare, sell boxes to fly inside the airport), finding a skip to lose the box after can be a challenge after you've built your bike but once that's done you can just ride off.

Q. What should I wear on the plane/ in the evening when I'm not riding?

A. This one is tricky, it could be freezing at home but sunny and warm where you're headed and you don't want a great pile of kit with you. A few options here, if you used a luggage locker then you can stash those clothes there and then they're reasonably fresh for your return flight. Another option is to post them to your end location or ask kindly and post them to a bike shop at end. This only works if your trip is long enough for the post to safely arrive. The other option is you travel in your evening wear and a mix of your cycle kit. You do risk being a bit stinky for your return flight. I've done all of the above, however been slightly caught out by posting my kit and not having evening wear, fine if you're going to sit in your cycle shorts to eat dinner but if you're riding with company it's best to throw in some light shorts for modesty sake!

Q. Where am I going to sleep? Bivy? Tent? 5* hotel?

A. This one really is personal, my preference is a mix of tiny tent and hotels/B&B’s/AirBnB. There is a reasoning behind this, insects love me, like really love me, if it has teeth it will bite me and I react badly. The thought of a bivy and getting eaten alive fills me with fear. For a couple of nights I don’t mind just the tent, but for longer I will mix it up with alternate nights in accommodation. As much as anything, it’s nice to have a shower and do some laundry. As for what tent to buy? Don’t spend a fortune for your first trip, there’s some great deals about for kit to get you going. If you equate the purchase to the cost of nights in a hotel, just get something to start that costs the same as one night, then if you hate it you’ve not really lost out on much. The other thing to consider is where you will be staying, if you’re out in the wilds then finding a place to pitch a tiny tent is quite easy, however if you’re passing through a city then you might find bricks and mortar a bit easier.


Q. Do I need to take a stove and cooking equipment?

A. Again, it depends how much you want to rough it, I know I’m not a morning person, and less so with no coffee. With that in mind I think a tiny stove is essential. I use a tiny pellet burning stove, one pellet makes two mugs of coffee, I measure the coffee, filter papers (then add an emergency brews worth) and just carry what I will use. I prefer to use shops and bars for food so I’m not worried about carrying more substantial cooking kit. I know some people don’t bother and rely on finding an early cafe. I’ve tried that, I was very grumpy! Should the weather take a turn and you get cold and wet then taking shelter and making a hot drink can really make a difference.

Q. What food should I carry and how and what meals should I plan or buy whilst I'm riding?

A. This often comes down to where you’re planning to ride and how remote it is. Carefully planning or examining the route you’re following and working out how far you will travel each day is key. Pushing on when it’s late and leaving civilisation is lovely, unless you don’t have dinner with you or have not packed some breakfast. For Hanse Gravel it looks like we pass though plenty of towns, however having ridden the former east German border last year I know that the DDR removed plenty of the towns and villages at the edges and many that are left are rather sparse. I prefer to carry a little extra food, I’ve been caught out with no food and it makes for poor judgment and can make everyone grumpy. When I’m riding distance I prefer real food over sugary snacks and sports foods, it’s good to get you body used to riding in this way as you can’t always guarantee what you will find. It’s worth thinking about calorie and fat dense foods which don’t take up much space. If you can tolerate drinking milk then remember, it’s both food and drink in one. Luckily we’re in Germany, home of the mighty Pretzel, one of the greatest ride foods with its chewy salty loveliness. Also, don’t forget to eat fruit and vegetables, your digestion will thank you. Carrying a musette for food storing for longer durations without shops is handy, they fold small when not in use too.

Q. How many pairs of cycle shorts do I take? How do I wash my kit?

A. I travel with two sets of kit, one to wear, one to carry. I have tried going for a weekend with one pair but if I’m honest, I can’t cope with feeling grubby and I really like clean shorts every day. If I stop in a hotel I wash everything, this is where that extra pair of evening wear shorts comes in. It’s either that or go to dinner in your long sleeve base layer and a hotel towel. I spent a long time considering soap, essentially a bar of soap is a bar of soap, you can wash you and your kit with the same bar of soap, if you have the misfortune to come off that same bar of soap can be used to clean up a wound to stop infection. One of those little mini soaps goes a long way. I also carry a tiny micro towel, half a water bottle and some soap and you can feel almost clean and the towel will dry overnight. The mini towel is much better than wet wipes, both for your skin and for the environment. One thing I did learn on my last trip to Germany was that ‘Natural’ means it’s sparkling, I found this out by having a princess sparkling wash one evening.


Q. How should I navigate? Maps or GPS?

A. I am a self confessed map geek, I love nothing better than thinking with paper maps spread out all over the floor, I often use a highlighter pen to mark them up and make notes on the sides, however this isn’t practical for long distance bike packing trips. Here I rely on carrying my Lezyne GPS, it’s one of the new ones with the crazy long battery life. I also like to have all the routes loaded into Komoot (if they’re not routes that I’ve plotted there already) so that I can use the bigger screen on my phone from time to time to check where I am in relation to other places, for example if I needed to come off the route to find a shop of garage.
This may sound a bit repetitive, but that’s exactly the point, the more times in my head I go over the route, the more familiar I become with it.

Q. How do I charge my phone and GPS?

A. I’m not lucky enough to have a fancy dynamo set up so I carry a Anker power pack, even with a meaty battery in my phone and gps it gives me three days worth of power. That includes taking plenty of pictures and video along the way and makes another fine excuse for that night in the hotel to do your laundry and charge everything up. It’s also worth having a good scan of every cafe and bar that you stop at for plug sockets and plug in at every opportunity.

Q. What happens at the end of the ride? How do I get my bike safely home?

A. Again, planning here helps. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling to somewhere where you already know people then you can ask them for a help with finding a cardboard box but if not then remember most bike shops have them and are usually happy to part with them (sometimes for a small fee). It’s worth contacting a bike shop in advance of your trip to save any last minute panicking. If you’ve made contact early then they may let you post your clean clothes to meet you at the and and if you’re really lucky the shop has a shower too. If not then you’ll have to spray some nice testers in duty free to save your plane companions the festering bike packer pong!


Emma's kit list to follow.

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