Going Backwards

Going Backwards
Posted af
Alicia Heyburn

I feel like a fish swimming upstream. I'm headed to Berlin, but the vast majority of cycle tourists are headed to the city I departed from three weeks ago, Copenhagen. København. Kopenhagen.

Just because the guidebook is titled Radfernweg (cycle path) Berlin-Copenhagen, is that why they all ride south to north? I wanted to start at the top, then the rest of the trip would be downhill, right? Well most of the route is flat, so that theory didn't hold water. I've discovered I've got a left/right, top/bottom, back/front dislyxia too as I try to use my guidebook book starting with the last page.

A Couchsurfing host in Neustralitz said that about 90% of the cyclists originate in Berlin. A Swiss cyclist at my hostel last night (a former concentration camp, quite a place to be after dark) gave me a better clue. "So, the logistics must be very difficult to get your bike to Denmark from America and then back home again from Berlin?"

Uh, no. It's simple. There are partnering bike shops in both cities. I rented it in Copenhagen and drop it off in Berlin.

"Oh, a rented bike? Were you not worried about the fit or what type of bike it would be?"

Nope. I have a month to go 800k, so even if it was a terrible bike I don't have to be on it very long each day. (But it's great, as are the Ortlieb panniers and handlebar bag I rented for an extra 50euro for the month).

Anything goes seems to be the attitude of many people I see on the trail, if it has wheels and can carry a body and some gear, it's ready for a tour! I have seen about 40-50 cycle tourists each of the last few days heading north. Where else does could one find such schooling masses of cycle tourists?

Two days ago I encountered a trio of twenty something's at a round-about. We were all holding various maps or gps and turning them about to see which way to go, comparing map to signs, and back again. A local on the street pointed me in the right direction, so I passed on the tip to the boys and joined their pack. We peddled together for about an hour sharing stories. They were grade school mates on holiday. They decided to do this trip two weeks ago. One was manager of an apartment building and scavenged three bikes from abandoned belongings of departing tenants.

One was in pretty good shape, and had a sturdy rack although it was fixed gear. Another had lots of gears, but the seat post was stuck at a setting for a 10 yr old, and the third looked like it had spent the last decade in a swamp. But they were having a great time, rotating bikes every 20k to even out the hardship.

Other rides I've seen: several tandems including a recumbent+regular frame, tons of Burley kid trailers (with kids), tag along with kids peddling, more tag alongs with kids not peddling, impressive kids on heavily loaded bikes, lots of grey hair (many have a single pannier and are probably on a supported tour), mother daughter/ father son groups, and a few solo gals like me - but they are ALL heading the other way.