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Central Europe – Stage 2

18 June 2024

Words & Photos: Joe Houghton

Where to begin? I made it to Poland, had my first race, watched a kiwi stand on the top step, visited one of the world's darkest places, rode almost 500 kms to Vienna, broke my bike, detoured to Germany to get it fixed, stayed in a German town on the river, pedalled 200 km to Mainz and now sit on a train heading to Salzburg, ready to pedal to Leogang for the next round of the EDR World Cup Series via Munich which is potentially about to enter a state of emergency due to flooding. And did I mention it’s been less than three weeks since the last update?

Starting with getting to Poland… well that rather daunting task was sorted in about 50 words, all it took was asking. Bumping into Matthew Fairbrother (everyone's favourite enduro bikepacker) in Finale, after a brief chat the offer of a lift to Poland was on the table and I cannot thank him enough for it. With stopovers on the way in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Budapest (Hungary) what had been a rather daunting task turned into a mini holiday.

Poland was an experience in itself, with the tracks, racing and people blowing me away. It was always going to be tough going from the beaches, trails and obviously 'Ice Cream of Finale' but Poland will definitely be a place I try to get back to at some point. That race itself was pretty good, I learned a lot from racing again and have plenty of things to improve on moving forward, but that’s always the case isn’t it? Seeing Charlie Murray take his first win was awesome, backing up his P2 in Finale. The kiwis were certainly in good form at the after party.

After a day recovering and watching the DH semis, it was time to get back on the road. Rather than heading directly to Vienna and Leogang there was one place, a quick morning pedal away, that I felt I needed to see. Visiting Auschwitz was an eye opening experience, I won’t go into detail but I think it’s something that everyone should see at some point. It’s certainly a haunting experience that stays with you.

Back on the road and heading to Vienna, a few rather wet days were on the cards pedalling through Poland, Czechia and Slovakia. Before arriving in Vienna, ready for some tourist activities and not to mention schnitzel.

NOTE to self on provisioining: find out the difference between milk and yoghurt in different languages. When buying it for making overnight oats, I’ve only managed a 50% hit rate on getting plain milk. And it turns out what seems like a safe shout of butter milk (milk is in the name) doesn't make for a pleasant morning oats' experience.

Along the way I noticed a leak coming from my gearbox - the result of a rather large pedal strike in the Poland race. Found out a detour to Denkendorf was required to get it repaired at Pinion HQ. I toyed with the idea of pedaling there but thankfully I didn’t, given it turns out there are two Denkendorf’s in Germany and I was set to pedal to the wrong one, which I didn’t realise until I was already in Munich (via train). With the right Denkendorf locked in, I caught the train onto Stuttgart and pedalled out to Pinion’s HQ, where the legends they are were able to fit me in and get me back on the road.

Now rather off course in Germany, I needed to a new plan. Knowing a mate was going to be 200 km up the road in Mainz in a couple days time, I decided why not join him? Scoping the route I found a small river town called Neckargemünd which looked to have some MTB trail up in the hills and figured it’d be a good spot to stay along the way. The belief that I was in an obscure town that no one I knew would have ever been to was brought to an abrupt halt when a mate from high school, seeing I was there, asked if I needed a place to stay as he had mates who lived in Neckargemünd. What a small world aye?

Next, arriving in Mainz and linking up with a great mate and his family for a couple days of good food and sleeping inside, and not to mention a river tour up the Rhine because apparently I needed some ‘Culture’.

Which brings us back to present day, sitting on the train to Salzburg, which may or may not be underwater and what looks like a rather wet pedal ahead to Leogang. Followed by a week of potential thunderstorms, which last I checked weren’t a great combo when combined with chairlifts in the alps, so who knows how that will turn out.

2 Responses

David Leitch
David Leitch

19 June 2024

I have visiitd auschwitz and done some far more gentle cycle touring down the danube with the family on a couple of trips from Ulm to Vienna. It’s a wonderful cycling holiday although not to compare with a mtb enduro racing trek. The Moselle is also to be recommended. Of course cant beat staying with your mates but if you can manage the 4 star hotels and the proper boutiques it does greatly enhance the holiday aspect. Cycling in Europe represents some of my fondest holiday experiences.

Simon Noble
Simon Noble

19 June 2024

Hi Joe

I think you’re kinda nuts but in a really kiwi way. Good on you for lugging such a bike on a bike packing journey. Good on you for burning so little fuel too!

Kia kaha

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