I'd long planned to do a multi day bikepacking [see footnote at the end] tour and these last few days in my June vacation it finally happened. Planning wasn't so great, but it all worked out in the end.
So the idea was to do the first part of the D-Route 11 in reverse. This is an official long-distance cycling route from the Baltic Sea to Upper Bavaria, but my plan was to start in Freilassing, next to the Austrian border and go as far as I have time.
One huge problem was that I got some sort of flu three weeks before starting and basically spent two weeks in bed, from a "how am I feeling every day?" point of view it was even worse than when I had Covid and then I did a city trip just before this, that also meant no time for preparation.
At first I planned to do some camping on the way but then in the end decided to just use hotels as this was the first multi-day trip and maybe a bed and a shower were amenities I could use, also the Decathlon tent I was eying (the only one at around 1kg, the Forclaz Trek MT900) would have cost me around 170 EUR anyway. I used Booking.com for all my hotel research and booking.
So, in the end I settled on a 5 day trip and staying on the route as much as possible.
While this page has the complete GPX track, the overall presentation is kinda horrible, so I mostly used this page, in German, because I could download the single day partial tracks and it has some data on altitude change etc.
The plan was:
- go to Freilassing by train from Munich
- day 1, Freilassing to Rosenheim, 95km
- day 2, Rosenheim to Munich, 63km
- day 3, Munich to Landshut, 78km
- day 4, Landshut to Kelheim, 78km
- day 5, Kelheim to Hilpoltstein, 99km
- continue to Weißenburg, where we had booked a vacation home
- some days later, go home by train again
I'd been hemming and hawing about getting a Gravel Bike for a while but only did some window shopping and didn't really want to spend 2000 EUR on a new bike, but luckily Pascal wanted to get rid of his old one anyway and after some scheduling problems we managed to let me test it on the day before I was supposed to leave and it felt good and so I was able to take it along that day. Which reminds me that I still need to pay. Oops. (Wrote most of this on the weekend and have since paid for it :P)
I also went to the local big bike shop for some last minute stuff: a top tube bag, 2 bottle holders, a chain tool, maybe some good Ortlieb or Vaude panniers.
In the end I bought a cheap top tube bag, 2 bottle holders, fingerless gloves, a gel for emergencies, some power bars, a chain tool, and no panniers.
I was packing extra light, one of the reasons was that I was going to be home at the end of day 2 and be able to grab stuff I was missing. I didn't grab anything except refilling my bottles and bars, just as I would have somewhere else, which was nice. Packing list below.
As usual, Deutsche Bahn let me down by not letting me book my ticket one day in advance. The search form on the website let me filter by available bike space on a train, to only tell me then that the available Railjets to Salzburg were not available after all, and the regional trains would not let me book a ticket for the bike, at all. So getting up early it was. In hindsight I am still a little confused why you can't buy a bicycle day ticket for the next day (or at all?) online, you can buy one for the next day at the ticket machine.
Day 1 - Freilassing - Rosenheim
Got up at around 4:30, final preparations, cycled to the central station, got there at around 5:15, grabbed a ticket for me and for my bike, took the train to Freilassing at 5:55 and had a nice chat with two other bike travellers.
Got off at 7:45 and started my way towards Rosenheim, only stopping for a second breakfast in Traunstein and made it to Chiemsee around noon but did not really have any luck finding a restaurant I liked, so had a Currywurst with fries at Döner-Kebap-Haus in Bernau. As this was the first day and it was hot and I hadn't really ridden a bike a lot the last weeks I crashed pretty hard around 3-4 in the afternoon and was looking for a shop or gas station to get something cold to drink, but nothing was open in any vicinity of my route. At some point I decided to veer off my route and try to get to that one grocery store that Google Maps showed as open in a somewhat close village and that was the first and only time I had to get off the bike and walk, uphill. Of course Maps was wrong and the store only had been open until noon but there was a restaurent next to it and so I ordered two drinks and rested for half an hour, then could continue my journey for the last 90 or so minutes. Hotel was a bit of a letdown, had to wait 15 minutes for someone at the reception to arrive (while hardly being able to stand anymore after 10h on the bike, minus breaks), room wasn't great or overly clean and the couple that arrived just after me didn't get their booked room and got an address for an apartment. I suppose they'd been given my room if I had been 15 minutes late and on any other day I'd happily tried to sort something out but I was just so glad to be able to take a shower. They were back the next morning when I went for breakfast so maybe the did get my room after all as they seemed to be staying for longer. Also the guy at the reception made me pay via card and one day later booking.com also charged via PayPal, so I had to sort that out later, but didn't take too long to fix. Went to an Italian restaurant (Da Giuliano) around a kilometer from the Hotel, adjacent to some sports club and had some excellent pizza and a very noisy and annoying neighboring table.
In hindsight I noticed that I hardly slept the night before. Stressed out because of the train, a bit overexcited and because I hadn't anticipated that I wouldn't really sleep I went to bed too late (or I had had 2h more of trying to sleep) - maybe the day would have been easier if I had been well-rested.
Daily kilometers: 109
Total kilometers: 109
Day 2 - Rosenheim - Munich
Wasn't looking forward too much to this route, as I had gone the opposite way already last September (Munich to Rosenheim, then to Wasserburg and home by train) but it's part of the route. First you go along the river Mangfall past Kolbermoor, then Bad Aibling and Bruckmühl until Feldkirchen and then you're already close enough to Munich that there's an S-Bahn station nearby. Had lunch at the Ayinger Bräustüberl around 12:30 and then was routed through a part of Munich I hardly knew so that was interesting as well. Arrived home at around 16:00, and spent the evening recovering and doing some things I'd not gotten to, like preparing the route for the next three days...
Surprisingly my legs were completely ok, but my shoulders hurt a lot at the end of day 2, I guess that's because of the new bike, new position with the different cockpit, and just cycling for so many hours. Also the route turned out to be slightly different than the one I used last year, so overall a good day still.
Also I noticed that one of clamps on my cheap bike panniers had broken, so I decided to use the other one from the set for the second part. Other than that, nothing had failed or misbehaved.
Daily kilometers: 78
Total kilometers: 187
Day 3 - Munich - Landshut
The first leg of this tour was again something I'd seen, along the Isar towards Freising is a trip I've done several times wholly or partially on my hardtail as a day trip. That day I learned the difference that a front suspension makes on certain types of gravel, ouch. The trip was uneventful, except for struggling to find a place for lunch again, in the end I settled on "Gasthaus und Hotel Forster am See" in Eching, mostly because I was riding past at 13:00, had mediocre Käsespätzle with a good salad. And a light shower that made me switch tables, good timing though. Apparently this leg was a bit short because I arrived at the hotel at around 15:00. The hotel was in Ergolding, not Landshut proper, so just a bit past it, from my starting point.
This was some "no reception, check in at an ATM" thing that mostly seemed to house construction workers, but it was cheap and seemed ok. Only downside was not having an elevator and my room on the 2nd floor. Not a huge problem but when I arrived I would have used it.
I wanted a burger for dinner, but couldn't find any place that looked decent and I kinda felt fresh (and cocky) enough so I decided to add a little detour to Wörth an der Isar after an hour long break at the hotel, that would be another 15km to get there and 15 to get back. When I arrived in Wörth I checked Maps again and saw a place where someone had posted a photo of a burger, so I went there (La Dolce Vita, again next to a sports club) and the burger was excellent (although I've been told everything tastes better after 100km a day). Got a scoop of ice cream on the way back and went to bed early, as usual. While I usually like riding along the Isar (on my hardtail), for this long trip, and day 3, it was a bit boring at times.
Daily kilometers: 113
Total kilometers: 300
Day 4 - Landshut - Kelheim
This leg had me go through Ergoldsbach, Neufahrn in Niederbayern, Pfeffendorf, and Schaltdorf and again I wasn't sure where I would get lunch or whether I'd find something at all. Luckily I found "Bei Mario" in Rohr in Niederbayern and had a really good pizza and even got my Espresso for free and my water bottles refilled. Thank you, Mario!
Onwards to Sallingberg, Offenstetten, Abensberg and Saal an der Donau, where I had my second ice cream of the trip in a weird cafe, but it tasted good enough. Saal would have been the official end of the leg, but I continued to Kelheim (where my hotel was) along the route.
This was the second "check in via machine" hotel without a reception and every step of the process seemed to take ages and in the end it errored out, but luckily still printed my room code. Apartment was huge and cheap for the size, but the bed wasn't great. Also got an email later that the processing had failed although the printed recipe showed me paying so something I needed to sort out when I was back. It's been resolved meanwhile and they were very polite about it.
Research for dinner yielded "Little Budapest" which sounded nice, where I had some kinda good Hungarian beer (Soproni) and a tasty and spicy meal.
The worst thing about the hotel was that the power outlets next to the bed were unreasonably high up the wall so when I plugged in my phone at night I broke my charging cable (still mostly my fault) and had no backup. Luckily I'd already done some research for the next day but was still panicking a bit. At least it had happened on a Sunday evening with shops open the next day, the problem would just be to find one.
Daily kilometers: 82
Total kilometers: 382
Day 5 - Kelheim - Hilpoltstein
This leg was supposed to be a long one, first along the river Altmühl. So getting up very early was a fun challenge with a switched off phone, but I just hoped I'd wake up at some point during the early morning hours and then be able to switch on my GPS and set an alarm. That worked, but I still ended up waking up at 6:15 just before the alarm. Grabbed my stuff to stand ready at 6:50 when the bug grocery store opened, but unfortunately they didn't have any charging cables and the electronics store wouldn't open until 9.
Anyway, no use delaying and so the route went to Essing, Prunn and in Riedenburg I saw a sign for a store that sounded like it was worth a shot, unfortunately it was way up a hill, so I decided to walk. They were open and very nice, but unfortunately they only had lamps and washing machines and TV cables, but no USB ones, but referred me to an electronics store in Dietfurt (or the one in Kelheim where I came from). So off to Dietfurt along my planned route, and there I first stopped at another big grocery store, mostly to get a drink but they actually had USB-C cables and I didn't need to search for the electronics store, yay. Hooked up my phone to my power bank and continued to Beilngries, Kinding and Greding, where most restaurant were closed and I had to take the open one with the worst ratings, but the waitress was nice and let me charge my phone inside, and the food was actually ok as well. Just after lunch I arrived in Thalmässing, the last bigger town before the planned end of the leg, Hilpoltstein.
Here I was to decide if I'd stop the D-11 route and go straight to the vacation home or finish the leg and go from there. As it was kinda early in the day, I felt reasonably fresh and able I decided to push to the end. There is supposed to be a somewhat easy way between the two towns and there was the route on my GPS which was kinda brutal, those last 20km really took a while and it was the first time where I pushed the bike up a 15% hill, as part of the originally planned route (the other two were when I had left the route to detour to a shop), but in the end made it to Hilpoltstein where I planned to sit in a cafe and have some coffee and a slice of cake maybe, but in the end I sat in the shade in the REWE parking lot, chugging drinks, refilling my bottles and making the cashier look at me funny when I came in back to buy 2 more bottles just after I'd left buying 4 bottles.
After that I took on the last 30km of the tour and made it to Weißenburg, only to be defeated by the vacation home being on a hill that I did not have the energy to pedal up, after 125km that day.
Anyway, got some decent dinner and that was the first bikepacking trip.
Five days, just a bit more than 500km, four of our seven Bavarian governmental districts, and 5 of 22 legs of the whole D-11 route done.
Not sure if it will work out, but I'd love to continue where I left off later this year, maybe doing 3-4 days over a long weekend, which would be just past the Bavarian border, with the day trips I chose.
Daily kilometers: 127
Total kilometers: 509
Attached to the bike:
- GPS, Garmin eTrex 20x
- one old gym bottle with 50% Fanta, 50% water or just water
- one bottle of Gatorade or Fanta
- Five Ten MTB shoes
- Fingerless padded gloves
- padded bib shorts
- MTB shorts (no, I'm not that spandex guy)
- normal socks
Backpack (Deuter Race X 12L with 3L water bladder):
- spare AA batteries for the GPS
- bike lock
- keys (lock + home)
- power bank
- Buff neck scarf thingy (U)
- cloth handkerchief (U, Z)
- pack of handkerchiefs
- Hand disinfectant (U, Y)
- wet wipes (U, X)
- plastic spoon (U)
- Foldable shopping bag (U)
- glasses case (U, Y)
- bike tools
- pump (U)
- spare tube (U)
- meds, bandaids, magnesium pills
Pannier (a cheap "bikemate" one from Aldi, old and never used before):
- padded bib shorts
- MTB shorts
- one pair of socks
- rain jacket
- toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel
- thin long-sleeve hoodie (U)
- normal pants
- wall plug for charging
- small pouch with: (U)
- sewing kit
- ear plugs
- 2 small carabiners and some zip ties and rubber bands
So, basically a 2nd set of what I wear cycling, plus t-shirt + underwear + pants for going out for dinner. The stuff I wore every day (minus the MTB shorts) I rinsed under the shower, then packed into a towel and rolled it, then patted it dry and let it dry in the hotel room over night. Works fine with synthetic fibres and just barely with normal socks, not with a cotton t-shirt for example. I could have avoided the normal pair of pants (some hiking ones with detachable legs at the knee) and just used the pair of shorts I hadn't used that day but it wasn't a huge deal either way. I did use them most days though.
Makeshift army shop pouch used as a handlebar bag:
- wind breaker jacket (U)
- quick snap ultralight unsafe-ish bike lock (U)
- extra elastic strap (U)
- in-ear headphones (U)
Top tube bag:
- energy bars
- energy gel (U)
- dextrose candies
- gummy bears
- phone unless it was in my pants pocket
So while the list is pretty long I didn't use a lot of space.
I am reasonably sure my backpack is the 12l model and the pannier is around 13l, going from the dimensions. The extra pouch I had is maybe 1l, so is the top frame bag. So all in all I guess it's just below 30l, aka one of the bigger panniers by the usual suspects.
Some explanation of the footnotes:
- U - Unused
- X - Expired, should've checked
- Y - In hindsight I should have left those at home
In total I am quite happy with my choices. Nearly all the things I brought and did not use fell under the "emergency" category and nearly all of them were pretty lightweight (handkerchief, 1 gel, wind breaker, straps and bands) or so important that weight didn't matter too much (spare tube, pump, tools, rain jacket).
I usually bring a hard case for my glasses, but I guess as I was only having my old beaten up sunglasses I could have saved that. Also the hand sanitizer... where I went to eat I could usually wash my hands, or still had them clean from the hotel room when buying breakfast. Not totally useless I guess as I never had to make a toilet break during the day once (yay sweat). And my wet wipes were completely dry after many years in my bag, need to double check that next time.
The quick-snap lock I had bought for a couple of euros a while ago seems a little useless, I'd imagined it as some "I need to fix the bike to a pole or railing in a few seconds while having to step away really quickly, and no time to take out the lock from my back pack", but that never happened. But I guess it's like 50g (like a zip tie with a metal core, with a special plain key) so not much lost, except those couple euros :P
The weather was really nice so I didn't need to change on a whim.
The list of things I should have taken and did not is pretty short:
- second USB charging cable (it broke, and it's small and light)
- wound disinfectant spray (scratched my leg at some point)
I pondered about taking a lightweight pair of shoes but that seemed very much not needed, as I was wearing "normal" MTB shoes without cleats.
- a new (used) bike :P
- some 100 EUR of missing bike equipment (tools, tubes, gloves, bags)
- Rosenheim: 80 EUR
- at home: free :D
- Landshut (easy sleep Apartmenthotel): 61 EUR
- Kelheim (greenpartment Boardinghousehotel): 80 EUR
- Bike: 2x 6 EUR
- Munich to Freilassing: 34 EUR but I don't know why, should be 27 EUR
- Treuchtlingen to Dachau: 24 EUR
- USB charging cable: 7 EUR
Food is hard to gauge as I didn't really pay attention here. I usually had lunch and dinner, meals ranged from 8 to 16 EUR, usually with one or two drinks on top - but I usually did choose a cheaper menu option. Breakfast was usually from a bakery, only on day one I had a "proper" one in a cafe for 8 EUR. Then 2-3 coffees, a scoop of ice cream here and there and a lot of mostly half litre bottles of Fanta/Water/Gatorade in supermarkets, so not that bad - only on Sunday I needed to stop at a gas station twice and paid a premium.
But I did avoid having to buy panniers or anything really costly just for this trip, as my bike clothes and equipment were in solid shape. I guess by not paying for a single room but a double for two people you can cut costs, the next thing would be to only have dinner at a restaurant and take some stuff with you for lunch. I planned to stop at McDonalds once but it didn't work out with the route. Can't beat the cost/kcal ratio there I guess, but I don't think I wasted a lot of money.
Very fun, would do it again any time. Needs a bit of prep work and a proper bike. I could have used my hardtail, but without any panniers it might have been hard to put all the stuff in. Many people prefer to go without a backpack, but mine is fine for me as long as I don't make it too heavy. The suggested 80-100 km per day seem ok for someone who usually uses a bike a lot but hasn't really started the season with doing longer trips. A day with up to 800m of climbing was mostly doable, the day with 1800 was hard. My stop at home in the middle was a nice safety net, but completely unneeded, although I did of course plan around it a bit, for example only taking one spare tube for the first two days and not two of them, or less energy bars, and brought breakfast with me when leaving for the second time.
I also guess I was overly cautious and now I know better how much I can manage to do in one day. I was not skipping a meal, I was not only drinking water - I guess you can wing it a lot more.
Regarding camping with a tent, that would absolutely mean taking a second pannier and as you're not allowed to camp out in the wild in Germany I tried to do a little research regarding camping sites but their websites are mostly terrible and I wasn't confident I'd have a place to sleep every night. Guess I should try that some other time when it's not a huge trip, just a weekend where if bad comes to worst you can improvise.
- I know some people might take offense that by sleeping in hotels and not in a tent it's not bikepacking, but bicycle touring but I honestly don't care. I did plan to go with a tent but it didn't work out. Maybe next time.