Tag Archives: Biking

A Short Story about my Bike.

15 Aug

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This is my Bike. It’s a Raleigh, a mountain bike. It’s the oldest item in my life that I still use on a regular basis, it’s older than my oldest Mac – and I bought 6 Macs over the last 20 years. I got my Raleigh in 1995 for approximately 1500 DM. There’s still a sticker on the Bike: Zweiradhaus Ehrig. It dates back to the days of double digit postal codes: 2000 Hamburg 67.

I rode 10,000s of kilometers all over Germany and it still makes me tremendously happy to feel the warm breeze through my hair when riding on rare, real summer days like these lately. I feel alive. Precisely, there are few things in life that bring me so much joy. It’s a pure kind of joy you know from your childhood days.

I tend to forget about the joy that riding my Bike brings, though, in the cold winters and autumn season, but once the real summer takes over there’s almost nothing like taking a 50+ km kilometer ride along Elbe River or through the countless green valleys, incredible nature parks, forests and creeks that make Hamburg such a special city.

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I ride. And I still love the sound of a clicking pedal as if it was the first time.  A great ride is like a great trip. Holidays for a day. It’s the best travelling ever. You see so many things passing you by. It clears your mind. Quite often, I get new ideas on the Bike.  After a 4-5 hours of riding, you feel like you have achieved something.

We have come a long way together. My Bike has seen the good times, when you felt you never wanted to touch the handlebars again, the happy times, it has seen the bad times as well, the ugly times when I kept going for hours in the rain, just kept riding without a goal, without a route, just to get away. Moving is living, you know.

It has always been that way: I kept on floating, exploring, not knowing where things will lead me – quite often like in life itself. My happinest rides where in pre-iPhone age. You start, you follow your guts, you don’t know where it takes you, there was no Google Maps on your mobile before 2007, just your inner-GPS – and that didn’t even fail in the darkest forests of Bavaria.

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My Bike is a lot like me. We ride. We fail. We turn. We ride again. I’ve discovered almost everything in Hamburg through my Bike, and probably the beauty of this discovery kept me ‚til this day from taking a driver’s license. (I even wear for some very un-German reasons a jersey of Discovery Channel, but that’s a different story and the 2003 Tour de France plays a major role in it – see below.)

I guess, I must be considered a difficult Biker. I mostly like to bike alone at my own pace. I never bike for things to the next supermarket. I never bike 5 km to meet friends. I ride tours – or I don’t ride at all.  I don’t consider my bike a Fortbewegungsmittel, a vehicle – it’s rather a travel companion. Like in so many other times in life, I’m all or nothing when it comes to biking. Meaning: A full packed 40+ km km tour or nothing at all. I don’t get a kick out of cruising along the Alster at runner’s pace. In the end, a great ride is an adventure. I always felt that way.

The last summer before moving out I spent with my brandnew Raleigh at Tunneltal, which is kind of an inside thing and you will not find in a travel guide. It has its own magic if you grew up in the area of North-East Hamburg.  Of course, my Bike took me countless times all along the Elbe where I still prefer meandering through the Vier- und Marschlande at the lower part, starting at Mittlerer Landweg, than taking a ferry over at the other end and crusing through Das Alte Land.

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My favorite ride, though, is always the one home through the underrated North-East of Hamburg where I grew up: starting at the Ohlsdorf cementary – Europe’s biggest park cemetery actually –, rolling all along the Alsterwanderweg heading in a big circle to the Alster spring bordering to Schleswig-Holstein, ending at Volksdorf. Or even better: Taking the high road from down South up North starting from Bergedorf along the Bille through the grove ‚til Reinbek, Glinde, Stellau and Stapelfeld, returning home via Rahlstedt.

When riding through kilometer-long wheat fields accompanied by the chirping cicadas, I feel like in a Springsteen song: With a wide open Country in my Eyes. And these romantic Dreams in my Head.  In the end, nostalgia always gets me. There is no feeling like coming home.

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For quite some time I wanted to trade my Raleigh for a hot, lean, mean Bianchi tracking bike. I was ready to order and spend some 3K on it, but it never happened. One season, my desired model wasn’t available, the other season I moved to Munich.  And then, two years later, I had the crash of my life in the Italian Alps with a rented bike those brakes were as sharp as scissors. It me hit with 40 km/h on a stony path when a dog tried to bite me – panic is always the wrongest impulse.

One stone ended up in my chin, another one in my elbow next to the bone. Until this day, I never knew these different stages pain could bring. I still have the scar on my chin, it’s quite visible until today. ‚Every winner has scars‘, an Austrian friend of mine used to quote on her Facebook. I like that quote.

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While the crash didn’t kill my passion, it killed kilometers. Like crashes at the stock market, I couldn’t get this thing out of my head. A season later I failed hitting the 1000 km mark which I easily took the last five years. The other season again. The next season I stopped counting. Nowadays, I’m happy for two back-to-back 50 km rides. I get older, you see.

I always dreamed of going up Alpe d’Huez, but once I rode up by car, I knew it would be a dream forever. (It’s ok to leave some dreams for later, I told myself that day.) I never went for the light racing bikes, I was always an explorer, that’s why a mountain bike did it for me. (Hamburg and mountains, you get the idea.)

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That might explain why I was obsessed with mountains. I followed Le Tour, in the heyday of Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong. I cheered for Jan, of course, and ‚til this day can’t understand how he lost the Tour in 2003.  With this comeback, Armstrong got me, though: this 15th stage up to Luz Ardiden might be one of the biggest comebacks in sports history.

With Ullrich and Armstrong out, I stopped following. I frankly don’t care about Nibali, Froome, Wiggings or Contador. Four years ago, I finally made it to Champs-Elysées, watching Cadel Evans win his meilleur jaune. While I didn’t care much about Evans either, it felt good finally visiting the last meters of Le Tour that once meant so much to me.

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But my love for biking and my Bike has never vanished. For me, to some extent, biking is living. You see: My Raleigh has never disappointed me. About whom can you say that after 20 years?

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