I biked the Berlin Velothon 2011

My main goal in the Skoda Velothon Berlin 2011 was not to be picked up by the “Besenwagen”. I’m not sure what it is, but it doesn’t sound good. It’s some kind of vehicle that drives after the bicyclists and picks up those who are too slow for the race. I suspected I might be one of those. A police officer on a motorbike even asked me before the race: “Are you gonna bike on that?” Referring to my Stevens Randonneur, a touring bike. Almost all other participants had road bikes.

So I’m an amateur. But I love biking, and I love biking fast. Especially, I love biking on roads – I hate the bumpy bike paths that prevent you from using the road. In fact, only a week before the race, on my second test ride, another police officer admonished me to use the bike path. So for me, biking the Velothon was partly a way to reclaim the roads, so to speak.

I hated that second test ride, not least cause I had to take a detour through the woods which totally destroyed my bike (and my Nikes) – think wet sand, needles and leaves in all orifices. And cars everywhere – I must remember to always bike on Sundays from now on, that’s when the streets are the most empty. So the second test ride wasn’t much of a training. In general, I had trained very little, because I had so much to do in other areas of my life.

So I was very pessimistic about the race.

Remember my first test ride? It took 2:50 h in total, 2:30 when only counting the rolling time. My average speed was 26,4 kph (16,4 mph). And I was exhausted to the verge of collapse afterwards.

Ok, last Sunday was the race, Europe’s second biggest event of the kind: 15,000 bicyclists, 5,000 of whom would bike the short round (60 km/37 miles) with me.

We started out fast. I gave everything in the beginning, gazing nervously at my bicycle computer that told me we hadn’t even biked 5 kilometers yet. Would I hold out to the end? Well, I did! I used some downslopes to rest a bit, and I was careful to drink water and iso-drink every now and then. I didn’t stop a single time.

Among the 4,273 male bicyclists in my race I ended up on place 1,571. I biked the whole round in 1 hour and 50 minutes, giving me an average speed of 35 kph (22 mph). All according to the official measuring (the actual route was a bit longer than 60 km).

I’m immensely proud of those results, especially considering my bike, my condition, and the fact that it was my first race – I’m really not the sporty type.

Racing was so much fun! Imagine lots of other bicyclists riding at the same high speed as yourself. We were riding the same streets that I often ride in my everyday life, although this time there were no cars around and we didn’t have to care about traffic lights. I was filled with happiness at many points in the race. I want to do this again – as soon as possible!


Next year I’ll use a road bike. With SPD pedals. I also want another thing: A team. Stay tuned for that …

Here’s a picture that some photo company took of me (I don’t care to buy the high resolution version) – I’m the one in the green-yellow jersey:

Berlin Velothon test ride

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I’m thinking about whether I should participate in Škoda Velothon Berlin on 22nd May, 2011. The registration deadline is tomorrow. So today I took a ride along the shorter distance, 60 km, to see if I would be able to meet the requirement of a minimum average speed of 23 kph (14,3 mph). That turned out to be no problem – my average speed was 26,4 kph (16,4 mph). Okay, my bicycle computer only counts the speed while I’m rolling, not during the stops, which amounted to 20 minutes in total, mostly due to traffic lights. But on the other hand, during the real race there would be no stops.

  • Total time: 14:00 – 16:50 = 2 hours, 50 minutes
  • Biking time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Distance: 65,8 km (40,9 miles)
  • Average speed: 26,4 kph (15,8 mph)
  • Max speed: 52,6 kph (32,7 mph)

Plus I didn’t count my trips to and from Brandenburger Tor, where the start and goal was. So if you add those 14 km I actually biked 80 km today. It was quite tempting to leave the route as I passed just 800 meters from my home, being in the last 10 kilometers and very tired. Biking to Brandenburger Tor almost the same route as I had done earlier in the day. I was really tired in the end. But of course I endured!

Jesus, Google Maps is so extremely buggy! Have been trying to add this route to my bike tours map for half an hour now without success. Or rather, the line grows thicker every time I try, so I probably added it three times on top of itself, but despite that it doesn’t fucking show up on the fucking map. And now I’ve got a headache! So I’ll leave you at that while I drink some more water and Apfelschorle and watch some anime.

No photos today – cause I was biking! 🙂 This was my first long trip this year. It’s nice to be back on the saddle!

Bike tour from Berlin to Potsdam and back

I was out to shoot sculptures yesterday, and I caught them all – always a happy surprise. Biked west of the lakes on my way to Potsdam, and east of them on my way back.

Too many bike paths: They’re always bumpy and they often only exist for like 500 meters, after which you’ll have to cross the road and continue on the other side. On my way back it was almost tragic: The tour’s only long downhill slope (the landscape here is very flat) and the bike path so bumpy (from roots, mainly) that there were even warning signs saying it was bumpy. I find this sad! Won’t choose this route again.

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  • Total time: 13:00 – 19:30 = 6,5 hours
  • Biking time: 3 hours, 37 minutes
  • Distance: 85,6 km (53,2 miles)
  • Average speed: 23,7 kph (14,7 mph)
  • Max speed: 51,0 kph (31,7 mph)

1970s sculpture.

Unexpected find at Falkenseer Platz – from 1960.

Glienicker Brücke – famous for its spy swaps during the cold war.

Under the bridge.

Schlosspark Glienicke (the rest of the photos too).

Bike tour from Bad Saarow around Scharmützelsee and then to Erkner

Yesterday I was woken up at 11 am (after only 4 hours sleep after my Saturday night out) by my friend Georg, who said he for some reason had a free double room for two nights at a spa in Bad Saarow. Now I’m not the spa type, but it sounded fun, so one and a half hour later he came by and we biked to the train station, me veeery tired. And another hour later we arrived at a luxury hotel and spa. There are lots of spas in Bad Saarow, situated on the northern and western shore of the lake Scharmützelsee.

The station house in Bad Saarow.

The view from our room: Lake Scharmützelsee.

We took a guided tour through the 3,500 square meter spa, but I didn’t see the point with swimming in a pool when there’s a lake just outside your door and it’s in the middle of the summer. A massage would have been nice though, but we never came to that. The first evening, we tried out the sauna department after dinner. It included a hot and a cold pool and three different saunas. But guess what, they were all too cold for a Swede like me. The dry sauna was for some reason supposed to be only 65 degrees centigrade. So I got out and tried the stone sauna, which was a bit hotter, and then finally settled for the steam sauna. Where I almost froze, despite it was the hottest one of them.

As I sat there, all alone, I looked at the stars in the ceiling and the dark blue mosaic tiles on the walls and realized that the sauna was hexagonal in form. That made me think of an octagonal Turkish bath, which was probably the point. But for me it just highlighted how far away I was from a real Turkish bath. Take Kiraly Fürdö in Budapest for example. The stars in the ceilings there are real holes that let in the sunlight. The water is hotter and the saunas almost unbearably hot. The contrast! I suddenly felt like I was at Disneyland, enjoying the family version of a Turkish bath. As to confirm this, the wall behind me gave way just a little when I despondently leant back my head against it – it must have been a plasterboard.

I must emphasize though, that this description doesn’t say much at all about the spa. It’s rather a description of the way I see things, which in turn has a lot to do with my mood. No one else would think plasterboard and I’m sure my spa type friends would have loved the spa, not to mention all the oils and lotions you could buy.

Yesterday (Monday) I did some biking, after a good night’s sleep at the hotel. It’s the lower line going around the lake and then up left:

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Monday morning. I got up at 7 and had the most delicious hotel breakfast of my life – it was even better than the one at Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal in Budapest. There were seven – seven! – kind of sprouts.

Then I biked around the lake and stopped at two beaches to take a bath – in the nude both times since I was all alone. The first beach was a private one, belonging to one of the biggest spas – the only one bigger than ours, I think. I ended up there through the woods, and on my way back to the road I realized that the whole area was blocked by at least a dozen turnpikes, each with its own surveillance camera. Gardeners were watering the plants along those roads. I didn’t like it – I got the feeling I was in Thailand, where the contrast between “hotel nature” and ordinary nature, between rich and poor, is huge.

And what about private beaches – is it even allowed in Germany? Do they have a price? In Sweden, the “beach law” prohibits land owners to build anything within 150 meters from the shore line. Also, that stretch must not be blocked, but open to everyone. There are exceptions of course, but the basic rule is that all beaches must be accessible to everyone, since, I guess, you can’t just produce a new one once they’re sold out.

I wasn’t supposed to be here, but I was anyway.

So picturesque you can die!

I had the pier (is that what it’s called?) in Diensdorf-Radlow all to myself.

Monday afternoon. After some time in the hotel room, I took Georg with me to the beach in Diensdorf-Radlow. It wasn’t empty anymore, but soon people left and I could do some FKK again.

He only smiles when I tell him not to.

Monday evening. For some private reasons I decided to go home the same day. I had planned to bike back to Berlin, but it was getting late and I decided to only bike to Erkner and take the train from there, not the least since I had already “paved” the rest of the way from there since it’s the same way that goes to Müggelsee.

It was so hard to get out of Bad Saarow – i biked the wrong way several times. But I eventually found my way. The road to Kolpin was lovely, but so small I couldn’t draw the line there on the map. Small yet paved – the way I love it. (That’s not the road pictured below though.)

At Erkner, I had maximum luck in catching a RE train back to Berlin; the time between me reaching the platform and entering the train was about 7 seconds – just enough to validate my tickets (one for me and one for the bike).

Love these smaller roads with little traffic and no bike paths.

Sunset in Fangschleuse.

And here are the stats – first time I break 50 kph on this bike:

1. Morning ride around lake Scharmützelsee:

  • Total time: 8:55 – 12:25 = 3,5 hours
  • Biking time: 1 hour, 16 minutes
  • Distance: 29,6 km
  • Average speed: 23,2 kph
  • Max speed: 49,6 kph

2. Afternoon ride to the beach with Georg:

  • Total time: 15:00 – 17:30 = 2,5 hours
  • Biking time: 1 hour, 6 minutes
  • Distance: 18,9 km
  • Average speed: 17,2 kph
  • Max speed: 50,6 kph

3. Evening ride from Bad Saarow to Erkner (Berlin):

  • Total time: 19:00 – 21:00 = 2 hours
  • Biking time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
  • Distance: 42,0 km
  • Average speed: 24,8 kph
  • Max speed: 41,6 kph

Making a total distance of 90,5 km (56,2 miles) in one day. The energy never dies …

Bike tour from Friedrichshain to Müggelsee

Hello bike lovers! I took a little improvised tour to Müggelsee and back today. I biked quite fast; the average speed of only 25 kph comes from the fact that I also biked slowly on the little forest road by the lake, plus on bike paths.

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I hadn’t seen Müggelsee before. It was a dark yet shallow lake, and the bathing experience wasn’t very angenehm. Where I swam, seegrass constantly caressed my body – it was like swimming through a swamp. And there were 12 swans coming closer. Okay, that might not mean much to you, but for someone who was attacked by a swan as a kid, it was 12 swans too many. Trauma! So I got up pretty quickly and dried FKK with the old gay men on the little beach. About 90 percent of them were nude. And then I biked home to Friedrichshain again.

Today’s stats:

  • Total time: 14:45 – 17:15 = 2,5 hours
  • Biking time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
  • Distance: 39,2 km (24,4 miles)
  • Average speed: 25,1 kph (15,6 mph)
  • Max speed: 44,6 kph (27,7 mph)

There’s so much to explore in the area around Berlin and in Brandenburg, and the bike is the perfect way to do it. But I must also admit that I get a bit depressed by Berlin’s surroundings – it’s always a nice feeling to be back in the city.

Müggelsee is just on the left – so this photo was taken on my way back.

A phallos by Müggelsee.

There’s so much decay in the east.

Do people really live in this building?

It wasn’t so much the building itself that got me depressed, but the fact that …

… this was just across the street. Soma, anyone?

Bike tour from Bernau to Liepnitzsee

I’m sure many of you are upset and wonder: What kind of blog is this really? Two bike posts in a row. This is perverse! You’ve exposed your “real you” to us, Karl! Well, I think there’s a bike tourer in all of us, so here we go:

Yesterday I lent my old bike to a friend and we took the s-bahn to Bernau. From there we biked to the little lake Liepnitzsee, where we found a little boat that took us to the island Liepnitzinsel in the middle of the lake. This last part is not shown on the map since cars can’t go there:

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This was a nice and slow ride. Sometimes we led our bikes for long sections since the ground was too sandy – that’s why the average speed is so low:

  • Total time: 10:30 – 22:30 = 12 hours
  • Biking time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
  • Distance: 27,7 km (17,2 miles)
  • Average speed: 11,9 kph (7,39 mph)
  • Max speed: 29,9 kph (18,6 mph)

Liepnitzinsel turned out to be the perfect destination, or as a German magazine put it: “Sweden is just a few miles away!” I can’t say they were wrong – I felt very much at home in the breathtakingly beautiful nature, which Germans apparently associate with Sweden. The FKK (Freie Körperkultur) remains a German phenomenon though. It was a liberating experience to see how some people preferred to bath and walk around in the nude, while most people wore swimwear.

Yeah, we found the most charming little beach on the cape of the island. Some of the people there had come with the ferry, like us, and some were “islanders”, meaning long term inhabitants of the island’s campings. I swam over to the beach on the mainland, and the difference was huge: I saw no nude people there, but a non-negligible number of tribal tattoos. In addition to cars, music and a bar. In comparison, the island was full of low-tech, nature-loving hippies. Which to my surprise appealed more to me. Ok, enough of blabbing, here are some pics:

A sculpture of a woman in Bernau, from 1958 (East Germany).

Sculpture of a man carrying a goat in Bernau.

Reaching Liepnitzsee was like entering a giant adventure bath …

… or Sweden, apparently. By the way, isn’t that Chucky?

The ferry that took us to Liepnitzinsel – I still haven’t digested the turquoise colour of the water!

The island café Insulaner Klause, where I had two beers to my tomato salad with feta cheese (the only vegetarian dish).

The cape of Liepnitzinsel.

I spy with my little eye …

Bike tour from Berlin to Frankfurt

A week ago I bought a new bike: Stevens Randonneur. It’s a German brand, made (or at least assembled) in Hamburg.

I love my Randonneur. Despite it isn’t a road bike it’s extremely fast. Almost too fast. Last Tuesday, just three (3) days after I bought it, I crashed into a BMW and had to repair my new bike for lots and lots of money. But I’m okay and the money is “lerngeld” – it was mostly my fault, you see. Not that I did anything technically wrong or against the law, but sometimes speed alone is enough. (That’s why I’m never gonna buy a motorbike – know thyself.)

Anyway, last night I had an idea to bike from Berlin to Frankfurt. Well not that Frankfurt, the other one of course, on the Oder. Only problem is it’s too hot. I wouldn’t normally call that a problem, but for biking it is indeed a problem. Hot days with temperatures over 30 degrees centigrade (86 Fahrenheit) are better for hanging around in parks or taking a swim. But I wanted to bike! So I figured: What if I get up really early? Before the heat has become unbearable? So I did some research and prepared a bag just in case. Yeah, just in case I would wake up really early. Haha, you silly boy, I said to myself when I went to bed at 2 in the morning. Have I ever woken up before 9 in the last months?

But guess what. At 6.28 my eyes opened. 6.28! Let’s see, I thought. The Regionalbahn train would leave at 6.59 from Ostbahnhof. That train would give me a head start on my tour by taking me to Erkner. Incidentally, that’s the very station I went to on my bike tour from Stockholm to Budapest in 2002. (I didn’t mention that one? Oh, gotta fill you in sometime.) So I got up. No shower, but a breakfast as thorough as I had time for – breakfast means everything when you bike. I packed the last things and left my apartment at 6.45. The train departed in time at 6.59, and at 7.20 I was set to start my trip in Erkner. Yiiihaaaa!!!

It turned out to be an excellent idea to bike in the morning. A Sunday morning at that – meaning almost no cars disturbed me, which in turn meant I could use the road instead of the bumpy bike path on its side. (But I must admit my heart broke when I saw how many bike paths the Land Brandenburg has built, and how they had cut the grass around them. So much work. So little appreciation from me.)

The first two hours were perfect temperature wise, as I had expected – it was “only” about 23 degrees (73 F) in the beginning. The heat was still bearable when I rolled into Frankfurt an der Oder at 10:45, but after I had taken the train all the way back to Berlin, it was almost unbearable to bike the last kilometer from the station to my door. So happy I got out early enough to enjoy my new Randonneur!

Anyway, this was today’s trip, as drawn on my new bike tour map:

[iframe http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?doflg=ptk&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=104573036128440175131.00048a8f841ab732c1c51&ll=52.422523,13.892212&spn=0.334992,1.604004&z=9&output=embed 585 200]
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And here are the stats:

  • Total time (the hours between which I was out): 7:20 – 10:45 = 3 hours, 25 minutes
  • Effective time (time spent on the saddle, rolling): 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • Distance: 69,4 km (43,1 miles)
  • Average speed: 21,9 kph (13,6 mph)
  • Max speed: 46,8 kph (29,1 mph)

I hardly took any pictures since it destroys the rush of constant pedalling, but I’ll let you guess what this is:

Na, what do you think it is? As you can see, both weather and traffic was great.

The reason I went to Frankfurt Oder was that I wanted to document this sculpture for my ongoing outdoor art project. (This photo by Sicherlich, shared through a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.) However, I didn’t find him.

Instead, I found this empty socket. But it doesn’t seem to be the same socket, does it? I have e-mailed the city of Frankfurt to ask what happened to the boy.

Update 5 July 2010: I already got a reply from Frankfurt. The sculpture is still there – I just didn’t find it!

After my unsuccessful mission in the park (so many of them), I went to Café Central for lunch. On my way there, I asked a man why the main street was closed for traffic. He said there would be a road bike competition for boys and girls that day. He said they would start at 11:00. I looked at my watch: 10:59. When God closes a window he opens a door, or whatever:

Wow, did I really take that picture with my crappy camera? Click to zoom!