Why actually "Going Home", when we start at home in Hamburg?

Quite simply, like so many people in the world, we have drastically reduced our social contacts over the last 1.5 years. Video calls with friends became the new normal. But face-to-face contact with our families suffered the most as a result. After all, they weren't skilled at using technology and all the modern communication options.

But since our families live 100-300 km away from us, and we both do not drive, there was only the possibility to go to them by train. As long as we and our families were not fully vaccinated, we did not want to take any risks and possibly introduce the virus.

Over time, Björn also developed a certain fear of infecting himself. That alone was difficult to deal with. During this time, however, one thing helped us over and over again to clear our heads and enjoy some normality: getting out into nature by bike.

When we were finally all vaccinated, it was relatively quickly clear that we wanted to visit our families. By bicycle. Ideally, family members lived spread out so that it was good daily stages for us. So it was going to be our first bikepacking trip. A trip on which we would also rediscover places of our respective pasts together.

The fact that the decelerated journey by bicycle was at the same time to become a kind of slow return among people was not really clear to us beforehand, but already became apparent with the relaxation that spread among us after the first kilometers. The stress of everyday life had disappeared from our minds, we were not thinking about the pandemic. We were just looking forward to the adventure together.


Our bikes are packed and ready to go. Waiting for the ferry in Neumühlen.

It is day 1 of our GOING HOME adventure. We have planned to ride 140 km from Hamburg to Bremen, where my father lives.

When the alarm clock rang at 4 a.m., Björn had already been awake for an hour. He hadn't had a particularly restful sleep, as he had been suffering from back pain for two days. Also, our cat seemed to suspect that we were leaving, because she kept coming to bed with us and demanding some attention. So we gave her a few more strokes before we had to leave.

The night before, we had already packed the bikes, and after a delicious breakfast, we faced the first challenge of the day: How do we get the fully loaded bikes down from the 4th floor? Or do we take the bags off again and put them back on at the bottom? Nah, we left them on and hauled the bikes down that way. Not ideal, but it worked.

F no, a flat tire! Fortunately, not. However, it felt that way when we got on our packed bikes and started riding. After a few meters, though, we quickly got used to it. I hardly felt the weight on the road compared to the less packed bike, but even more when I took off the bags later.

Oh, Hamburg, we will never get tired of this sight.

At 5:55 we took the first ferry of the day to Finkenwerder and crossed the Elbe. While waiting for the ferry, we once again admired the beauty of the port at night. The play of light from the cranes is simply breathtaking. Oh, Hamburg, we will never get tired of this sight.

When we left the ferry, the actual ride finally began, and full of excitement, we pedaled off. It wasn't long before we were soaking wet, not from rain or sweat; no, the humidity was a whopping 95 %. Björn felt transported back to the rainforest of Costa Rica.

Although the air was very humid, it was still pleasant. Already on the first kilometers we left everyday life (and our worries) behind us.

Unfortunately Jana's brake started to squeak ....

After a few kilometers we find ourselves in the middle of a meadow. There is no path to be seen. Oh, Komoot, are you drunk again? Still, we rolled roughly in the right direction, taking our bearings from the windmills, at least what we could make out of them. It was pretty foggy out there.

Due to last night's storm, the paths were partially flooded or covered with sand. But at least the thunderstorms had passed. We hoped that it would stay that way ...

And fortunately it was so. The fog and humidity accompanied us for quite a while, but the temperatures rose and the sun slowly appeared. Back to Jana's brake. She squeaked, the brake. It wasn't because it was wet all over from the rain, because luckily it wasn't raining at all. No, the problem was homemade. It wasn't such a smart idea on Jana's part to change the brake pads before a 3-day tour AND not test ride and possibly readjust them. Unfortunately, bad weather and a sinus infection just before our trip threw plans for that out the window. Dismantle the bike and check what could be the problem? That would have been possible, but in the middle of nowhere we wanted to avoid that. So we just persevered and kept going.

Along the beautiful roads through fields and meadows, our path was regularly framed by cornfields. On the left a cornfield, on the right a cornfield. The corn season is in full swing, and so the cornfields will accompany us not only on the first 140 km, but for quite a while.

"Where is all this blood coming from? And more importantly, why am I pedaling so strangely?" Björn had chafed both thighs on his top tube bag. It obviously looked worse than it was, though. And that damn brake was still squealing. And if that wasn't annoying enough, it was getting louder and louder. Luckily, though, it did brake.

While we're on the subject of nerves, we had to take a 2km detour for a 100m construction site, as German traffic planners have little regard for cyclists. But we had unfortunately no choice to avoid this detour. A bit further on we took a break and Jana tried a new bar called "spinach pirate" and spit it out right away. Yuck! To calm down, we then had another delicious chocolate protein bar.

Not far from our destination for the day, we were approached by a nice road cyclist who curiously asked us what we were up to, so we asked him for a bike store in Bremen that could help us with the squeaky brake: He confirmed our fears, inconveniently: on a Saturday afternoon, all small stores in the area were closed.

When we arrived at my father's house, we were greeted with a refreshing shower, followed by a non-alcoholic beer and a large baguette. We were knackered, tired, but very happy and glad to have survived the first day so well. But we still had the problem with the brake ...

We removed the front wheel, put it back in, put the brake pads in and took them out again. After an hour of back and forth, loosening the caliper and screwing it back on helped. The noise was gone. Fortunately, because otherwise we wouldn't have made the next 130 km the next day. Björn saw the continuation of the trip already endangered, because in between the front wheel did not move at all. Fortunately, this problem was solved after a long 11 hours on the bike.

Exhausted, we fell into bed, but not before planning a fry break for the next day ...

Our lesson from this day: schedule a break to eat something real. Dry pretzel sticks and bars alone are okay, but nothing that really comes close (not that fries are anything real), but at least they kept us motivated. So we planned a fry stop for the next day. Since our route took us past Lake Dümmer, it just made sense to use this lake as an occasion for a break. Especially since we planned to be there around noon, about halfway along our route. Finally, we charged all the important equipment and closed our eyes to also charge our batteries for the next day.


Agenda for today: 136 km from Bremen to Osnabrück. Half of our route and the home of Jana's twin sister.

Day 2 of our Going Home Tour was long. Longer than the first day and had a few more meters of altitude. These were waiting just before our destination for the day and unnecessarily delayed our time in the saddle. But let's start at the beginning.

Every day the groundhog says hello. In our case this means: Alarm clock ringing at 4:43 am. Since we didn't want to wake anyone up and sneak away quietly in the dark, we exceptionally started without a coffee. And without breakfast. For Björn there was a round of yoga to prepare his back for the day on the bike. Thanks to Jana's father we had vegan spread and vegan cheese with us, Jana had vegan chili mayonnaise in her bag already on the first day (you never know). Now we only lacked the rolls for a breakfast. Our plan was to leave in the dark and stop at the first bakery to have breakfast. Since it was Sunday when we left at 6:20, we still had a little way to go before breakfast was within reach ... (Why do bakeries in small villages open so late?).

We left Bremen in the dark, through foggy forests and over land, it was colder than the day before, but we made good progress. Thirty kilometers later, the time had come. In a small town called Bassum and the first local bakery we could find, the long-awaited breakfast was served. A small "travel park" just outside Bassum offered us a bench and we took the opportunity. And again a lesson learned: have a multi-purpose knife with you on the next tour. But this time it worked without. Strengthened by breakfast, we could tackle the next 100 km.

In order to find a rhythm for our breaks, we decided that a longer stop every 30 km would be nice, so Björn set his Wahoo for laps of 30 km to have a reminder. (Very smart of him!). Slowly it got warmer and warmer, we fought strong headwinds but were glad for the warmth of the sun. We were able to take off arm warmers and leg warmers. After about 90 km, we were able to take the long-awaited fries break at Lake Dümmer. The snack bar welcomed the "bikers" (with and without engine). A portion of fries and a cold sugary drink were exactly what we needed now. To strengthen and as motivation.

We drove a short distance along the lake, which was a bit overwhelming after 1.5 days with almost no people. On a sunny Sunday at lunchtime, many people were spending time at the lake. A few too many for us. Slowly we noticed that our butts were sore and sitting in the saddle became very uncomfortable. On we went with a headwind. One of the most annoying things about this day. There was a lot of headwind and for those of you who don't know: Headwind is Jana's ultimate nemesis. Headwinds take a lot of energy. Nevertheless, we were in a good mood, even though we slowly noticed how our butts were hurting more and more and our muscles (and unfortunately Björn's knees) were demanding a longer break.

So we now regularly sought out "quiet" spots along the way, not only to pee and refuel with water, but also to apply new Chamois cream. After all, we still had at least 1.5 days in the saddle ahead of us. At some point Björn began to sing. For each keyword he thought of a suitable song. Unfortunately it was not very nice. But at least it kept our spirits up. The beautiful late summer weather also helped. That there were only a few more kilometers to Osnabrück was a deceptive thought. After all, the last 30 km on our route seemed interminably long and the landscape in front of us was getting hillier and hillier. Björn berated the hilly landscape, but that (surprisingly) didn't change anything.

Our progress was slower and slower. The hills and inclines just before our destination took their toll and sapped the last of our strength. When we had the finish in sight, we pushed our bikes up the last hill, because after all those hours in the saddle we were no longer ready to take on this last challenge.

In front of Jana's sister's front door, we roughly cleaned the dirt off our bikes so that they could spend the night with us in our apartment, dragged the bikes upstairs and were provided with a woodruff spritzer. We showered, ordered pizza and Björn cooled his knee. He pondered how the aching knee would survive the third day. After all, we still had a 120 km day ahead of us. Meanwhile, Jana cut her sister's hair until fatigue caught up with us. Off to the sofa bed. Whether we would manage our planned kilometers on the third day was still unclear.


The last 120 km of our journey were ahead of us, on to Björn's mother.

"Beep, beep, beep." 4:43 a.m., and the alarm clock rang. Hello, day three. Today we had fresh coffee from the French press, Jana's sister had gotten up with us, so we had breakfast together and all sat at the table with a cup of coffee. We now had a decision to make. Would Björn's knee make it through the 120 kilometers we had planned? What alternatives did we have? We wanted to do some cycling around Werne in the next few days, which of course is not possible when your knee is completely shot. So what was our best option?

After a round of yoga and some decision making, we carried our bikes down the stairs fully loaded. Outside it was already light, since we had taken more time. And it was colder than the last days. After about 3 kilometers we reached the train station of Osnabrück. We took a train to Münster, so we could shorten 80 km and cycle the remaining kilometers to Werne. We hoped that Björn's knee would be less stressed this way and we still wouldn't have to give up cycling completely. Of course, our bikes could not be properly secured on the train, so Jana had to get up and hold her bike at every stop. What a relief we were when we arrived in Münster and could get back on our bikes!

A few kilometers later, our stomachs demanded food. We were hungry. Luckily, we had some pizza left over from the day before and served it to ourselves on a bench next to, well, cornfields, what else? Passing dozens of cornfields, our path led us to the garden of a moated castle. This was Westerwinkel Castle, which we planned to visit a few days later. A nice surprise, because we hadn't noticed it on the map when we changed our route this morning. We enjoyed the sight, took a few photos and set off for the last few kilometers.

When we finally arrived in Werne, we made our way to the city center. First we got a few things at a pharmacy, then we went to Björn's favorite fruit and vegetable stand. We bought bananas and plums from the region. "You didn't come all the way from Hamburg by bike, did you?" an old friend of Björn's working at the organic fruit and vegetable stand. Staring at us in disbelief, he started shaking his head. He gave us carrots for the longest bike ride of the day.

When we arrived at Björn's mother's house, we were greeted effusively by her dog. We didn't expect anything else, but for me it's always a bit too much. I like our quiet cat better after all. In the afternoon it was time for a shopping trip in the city center. During the trip we had thought about doing something good for our bodies and decided to visit the local natural brine bath. For this, however, we had no clothes with us, so we had to get them spontaneously.

After three days on the bike and a total of 320 kilometers, our bodies were a little sore, but we were very happy to have completed this adventure, almost as planned. We were so happy and excited that we were already making plans in our heads for the next bigger bikepacking tour.

One thing we will definitely take away as a lesson is to consider shorter stages, maybe around 80 kilometers, to have more time to enjoy different places and not just sit in the saddle all day. Combined with photography, this is already very time consuming. But the most important question is: When will we do the next bikepacking adventure?