Two riders, two gravel bikes, one mission: to get from Görlitz to Usedom with just 100 euros in their pocket. Will they succeed?
‘Do you fancy a trip along the Baltic? I’ve got two new gravel bikes that might enjoy a good thrashing. Then there’s my other plan that we’ll survive on 100 euros for the whole trip. What do you reckon?” When Anatol, ROSE Bikes’ marketing manager, called me with his proposal, I was torn. The workaholic side of my brain protested: it’s the busiest time of the year, think of all those bike launches, the new projects you’re planning for this year, office obligations – it can’t happen. And why should you spend even more of your free time practising the life of austerity when you’ve worked so hard?
That was quickly countered by the better side of my brain: when else would I get the chance for such a trip? I drift off, envisaging the encounters I’ll have on the road, the fun times, and the added challenge of the bare-bones budget.
Will we sleep outdoors? Or knock at the houses of strangers and ask for a bed? Barter for a bite to eat, steal fruit from gardens, bathe in lakes? he possibilities seem endless. Sex, a bed, and breakfast – we agree that a Tinder date on the road would be akin to winning the lottery.
It’s clear that we’re both convinced. Adventures can’t be left hanging to over-ripen – I’m game!
Our plan: Minimal preparation but the right attitude. After all, the adventure isn’t simply about getting there, it’s about how we get there.
Everything is stripped-back for this trip, with packing that includes one riding outfit, one t-shirt, a pair of boxers, sun cream, a microfiber towel, sleeping bag and a roll mat. Energy bars are put back in the cupboard. We don’t jot down a plan for how we’ll budget each day, nor which route we’ll take. Adventures can’t be planned; they have to come to you.
Day 1 – Riding into the unknown
As neither of us had really done any multi-day trips like this before, we set off like textbook amateurs with our bikes and luggage. From Görlitz we follow the Oder-Neiße cycle path, leaving Germany’s most eastern town in our wake as we cruise up the German-Polish border on a pristinely tarmacked bike path. We’re struck by the immaculate yet oddly foreboding porches of the German houses, with menacing signs about guard dogs and surveillance. It is in stark contrast to the sight that greets us as we cross the border: the asphalt disintegrates (quite literally) into gravel, with tree roots breaking through and cracks forming.
The standoffishness and acrimony felt in Germany softens over the border, becoming more open and friendyl. The daughter of a grocery store owner greets us with genuine warmth, teaches us some basic Polish phrases and offers us a Coca-Cola and crisps. She tells us about working in a hotel in Germany, and about her mum, who she’s enthusiastically helping these days, as well as providing us with some route tips. Meeting new people? Check.
My adventure-mobile is the ROSE BACKROAD FORCE 1×11 – the brand’s all-road weapon. While mine was specced SRAM’s Force 1×11 drivetrain, Anatol preferred the 22 gears of the Shimano Ultegra R8000. Using ROSE’s online configurator you can spec the bike to your needs and preference.
The ROSE BACKROAD is a very precise and predictable bike, its stiffness showing its strengths predominantly on smooth surfaces. The predictability of the handling also helps when navigating rougher terrain, but when things get really bumpy, the direct riding characteristics come at the expense of comfort. The ROSE copes well with dirt tracks and gravel stages, as long as you choose your lines wisely and stay vigilant. The basic BACKROAD model starts at € 2,249. For those who prefer a single chainring, the SRAM Force 1×11 configuration is available for € 2,549. For as little as € 3,199, you’ll be able to get model with the ultra-precise and reliable Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain.
The contrast between the two countries accompanies us all day, and stays reflected in the road conditions. That pristine tarmac has given way to Paris-Roubaix style cobbles in disrepair, and on certain gravel sections we’re forced to carry the bikes. Ever mindful of the budget, we manage to convince a waitress to prolong service of the breakfast deal, even though midday has long passed. We’re still frugal, as there are several more days riding ahead of us. The breakfast arrives and our spirits sink: two eggs and a small bread roll. There’s no second course. Fortunately, Mother Nature clearly cares about our nutritional intake and we come across a blueberry bush, ripe for the picking. Worries about tapeworm infestations be damned!
After around 130 km and a not-so-glamorous stop at a Polish petrol station for dinner, we pedal into the border town of Gubin. The shores of Lake Deulowitzer offer a quiet spot for our sleeping bags and we sleep out under the stars. Account balance: € 87.63 remaining.