Author Topic: Bavarian 1000km audax  (Read 1683 times)

Bavarian 1000km audax
« on: 27 June, 2023, 06:48:53 pm »
2023 Bavarian and Bohemian 'Biere und Bader' Brevet
This was my fourth 1000km+ ride, but my first DNF.  If you are thinking about doing this ride here are a few recollections that you may find useful.  If you have it in your sights you will already have seen the ARA Munchen website at where the route and controls are described, so I won't repeat that information.

The main thing to note is that this is not a super-sanitised event like PBP or LEL.  Not only are there no manned controls but the road surfaces, elevation and intricacy of the route add massively to the challenge.  For someone whose only previous continental riding had been PBP and a bit of social riding from French countryside campsites, this one came as a bit of a shock!  Normally, I am towards the back of the pack on UK audaxes and with hindsight, I am simply not fast enough for this ride.  Don't expect a massive field - a few dozen, mostly from the Munich area.

The co-organiser is Jorg Kurze and he is very helpful and prompt to communicate by email.  On the version I did, he also rode and finished with plenty of time in hand - a very accomplished rider indeed.

The route has a pretty easy (on paper) first run East from Munich across to Linz in Austria.  The only problem we had was that it was the hottest day of the year up to then (in Munich) and there was a strong easterly headwind.  At the Linz control a significant portion of the riders pack due to the heat and wind.  Personally, I felt as though I managed the hydration, fuelling and general hot weather preparedness, but checking the forecast is especially important.  One thing that  slowed me down, other than my weakness into a strong headwind, was the use of cycle-ways.  It might have been just my perception, but I felt that the other (more local) riders had a much better instinct for when to jump on and off these.  It was quite common for me to make the wrong decision at junctions and roundabouts and either getting delayed whilst I crossed a busy lane of traffic or ended up on a rough cycleway where the road would have been a better option.  Note that street view does not work in Germany but it does cover a lot of the rest of the route.

The end result was that after 300km I had only generated about 2 hours of spare time.  This might not have been too bad, but the wind shifted to the North as I headed North and into the big climb over from Austria into Czechia.  At about 400km in Budweis I was on the edge of the time limit and by about 430km I had made the decision that the next control was unreachable inside the time limit.  Obviously, headwind and climbs are issues we overcome on many rides, so why not this one?  I think the answer for me was that I was leaching time on the Czech road surfaces and the urban sections (lots of turns/junctions/lights etc).  The riders who succeeded were able to ride fast enough on the decent bits to make up for those delays.  On UK audaxes we sometimes get rough roads and slow sections where we traverse an urban area, but these did seem to be more prevalent.

I can't comment on the section after about 430km through Blatna, Plzen and Karlovy Vary, but talking to other riders it got harder not easier!

For myself, I caught a train to Plzen and decided to ride West to pick up the route at Tachov as it headed South to Svatana Katerina.  This involved missing out the top 250km of the ride and replacing it with about 40km of hacking across country.  Unfortunately I chose unwisely and opted for a signed cycle route instead of using the main road with the HGVs etc.  As it happened the cycle route degenerated into a very rough track which made for some very hard going indeed.

On rejoining the route, the roads seemed to be better and the German border (and decent German roads!) was reached without too much trouble.  The final 250km of the ride are fairly benign and I guess it is all about your ability to manage the contact points and other issues that crop up on 1000km rides.  I'd expect anyone trying this to have a few under their belts!

By Munich I had done a tad under 800km but had ridden slowly at a gentle touring pace towards the end.

Practical matters. 

The controls are virtually all 24hr fuel stations.  The normal method of control is by e-brevet on a mobile phone, traditional or photographic methods are also used.  Even if your German is crap, it is worth downloading the e-brevet and using it.  Some of the routing takes you to the controls by convoluted routes through the historic parts of cities.  All very atmospheric, but I did find that a bit frustrating due to the way it leaches time.  Sneaking across town via a shortcut is not permitted.

Getting food and water.  In the UK we seem to have lots of late night supermarkets and well stocked shops in fuel stations that are open all hours.  Over there virtually everything shuts mid-evening so be prepared to stock up.  I carried up to 1.5 litres of fluid on the bike and would not have liked to have had less.  In Bavaria there are allegedly a lot of 'trinkswasser' fountains in villages but I only saw one!  Personally I suffer with hotfoot and if that affects you, be warned that there are very few easily accessible streams etc to dip ones feet.

Sleeping.  On the ARA website it says not to expect too much in the way of 'audax hotels' but I did not find this to be the case.  There were quite a few bus shelters, overhanging roofs on retail parks/supermarkets and the like on all the sections I rode.  The first night, going into Czech, I did not sleep.  The second night I think I was a bit crestfallen and having given up on the brevet, slept for over 6 hours using a thermarest and a survival bag.  Ideally one should have a very lightweight sleeping bag but I didn't!  The third night I did not really sleep properly, but did lie down for much of the dark hours.  If I had been within time, that would have been much reduced.  I'm not fast enough to do the booked hotel thing.  I think the norm is to have a good shower and sleep on the second night and bivvy a couple of hours on nights one and three.

Money.  Virtually everywhere takes contactless debit cards and I took no Krona at all and just a few euro.

Bailing out.  The Czech trains seem to be fantastic from my limited experience.  Packing at any of the major towns should be relatively simple and not too expensive.

Toilets.  In the UK it is pretty simple to go to the loo in whatever McDonalds or Tesco etc that you happen to be passing by.  Over there I would be prepared to nip into the woods.  Enough said about that.

Kit.  I took the usual spares etc for a long unsupported ride - spare folding tyre included.  Other than that, I had summer riding kit, plus arm/leg warmers, a rain jacket and reflective gillet (mandatory).  As it turned out I could have done with some warmer gloves (due to my crap circulation) and a winter-weight long sleeve top (which I had rejected at the last minute on grounds of bulk/weight).  The nights got colder than advertised!  I had the routesheet laminated and on my bar, but I was unable to follow it completely and was quite heavily reliant on the eTrex.  I used the routesheet as a reference and for the additional information it provides over and above a line on a screen.  See above for bivvy kit.

Flying with a bike box.  This was relatively straightforward to set up via the Lufthansa website/booking system and I found a normal heavy duty cardboard bike box from a local shop to be comfortably within their permitted dimensions at no extra cost.  I carried my pannier as hand luggage and used my helmet, shoes and other bits and bobs as packing in the box (together with an amount of bubble wrap and a few bits of cardboard packing/support).  What I did not realise was that at the German end the special baggage collection involves a considerable wait - if you are planning your journey times allow half an hour for baggage claim.  Back in the UK they just put the bikes through the normal system, which caused a blockage and all the bags and bikes ended up being chucked through into a big pile (rolling eyes emoji).  The other thing to be aware of is that as you move from train/bus/airports there is not always a trolley, nor are some of the doors big enough to get through easily.  In some places I had to carry the box and panniers up or down flights of stairs.  If using a UK train, book a bike space but tell the station staff that your box is a bike - I assumed they would recognise it and they did not, resulting in a bit of a mess.  In Munich it is fine to take your bike on the S bahn and the city buses.  They have a combined ticket system - one ticket gets you from the airport to the city, then on a bus to wherever you are going.

Cultural.  The Bavarian countryside is lovely, but with the exception of the big river areas and the hopfields in the latter stages, it can seem rather similar everywhere you pass through.  Austria was new to me and seemed much like Bavaria though not quite as neatly trimmed and prosperous.  The Czech Republic (more properly called Czechia) was also totally new to me and is an interesting mixture of modernity, tired looking 'iron curtain era' infrastructure and classic architecture from the days of the Habsburgs.  The area through which the ride passes is what was Bohemia - hence the full title of the ride).  I believe Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) is the jewel in the crown but I never made it!  The Czechs seem more at home with English rather than German - lucky us.  To my shame, I went with zero Czech.  My German is poor, sub-GCSE, basic sentences, but I did take the trouble to learn the routesheet words and a few road signs.

In summary, a great adventure and the trip worked out well for me despite not getting the brevet, but to succeed only strong riders need apply!  If you are having a go, please feel free to message me.