After having pedalled nearly 6,500 KM in four months we made it all the way to southern Germany. That’s a lot of pedalling and it was high time to change a few bits on the bike. We tried to do this in Norway but we were unable to find the right parts so we cleaned the gears, chains and hubs as best as we could and rode all the way through Germany with fairly squeaky transmissions that needed oiling every other day. But we made it to Tübingen where our friend Tom had all the shiny new parts we needed.
Tom worked a full day tearing the bikes apart and installing new cassettes, chain rings and chains on both bikes, as well as changing over some tires as Jan had been riding on one of our spares since southern Norway. A good tire but a little skinny for a long tour.
We bought two folding Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires from a friend of Tom’s (only slightly used) and installed one on Jan’s rear wheel and kept the other as a spare. Now both our bikes have 45 mm (1.75 inch) Marathons on the front and Jan’s a 50 mm (2 inch) Mondial on the rear and my bike already had the monster Mondial on the rear wheel since buying it from a fellow cyclist in Iceland. It is 55 mm (2.15 inch) wide, good for the big load I’m carrying. Tom also checked all the bolts, the bottom brackets, the rear hubs and greased everything. The brakes were adjusted, as well as the shifting. And all the spokes in all four wheels were checked and tensioned, and he made sure the wheels were true.
Over the last while, both our Supernova E3 headlights got moisture inside due to a leaky seal, probably around one of the wires. The USB charger, The Plug from Tout Terrain, on my bike stopped working somewhere in Norway. As luck would have it, both companies reside on the same street in Gundelfingen, a town on the outskirts of Freiburg, southwest of Tübingen. Tom phoned both and explained the situation and was told we could drop by during business hours and they would have a look.
We did manage to have a look around Tübingen while Tom did some last-minute tweaking of the bikes at his place of work. Tübingen is a lovely old city with a large university attracting about 20,000-plus students every year.
Tom joined us on our ride south from Tübingen. We rode about 20 Km south to Rottenburg where his friend Wolfi has a little “Hacienda.” Wolfi and his two young daughters received us with open arms. We barbequed some sausages and washed them down with – what else! – some beer. We spent a great night together around the fire swapping stories and solving the world’s problems.
In the morning, we cycled along a lovely route through the Black Forest following the Neckar River. We ended up in Schiltach, about 80 km southwest of Tübingen. The map showed a hut and grillplatz (BBQ place) just out of town up a hill, our chosen place to spend the night, rather than a campground.
The only problem was that the climb up was about 1.5 KM with an average grade of 14 % and some pitches up to 17 %. A very steep incline. But at the top was a hut with picnic tables, a playground and a fire place. In other words: a perfect place to spend the night. The hut was locked but it had a large covered porch which served as our sleeping room.
After a nice night sitting by the fire and a good sleep we cycled down the crazy-steep hill and further south to Gundelfingen where we stopped at Tout Terrain and Supernova, and within minutes we had two new headlights and a new wiring harness for The Plug. The man at Supernova was very apologetic and said this should not have happened. Great service from both companies. It’s nice when people stand behind their products.
With Tom, we continued south to Schliengen, a small town on the Rhine, where his friends Thomas and Alexandra live. Thomas and Alexandra welcomed us into their beautiful home and treated us like family. We ordered in a heap of Chinese food and ate it with a variety of lovely beer and local white wine. This southwestern part of Germany is where a lot of very good white wines are produced. Wish we could have tried some more.
In the morning, Tom and I installed the new headlights and The Plug, and made some final adjustments on the bikes to make sure they were ready to go for the next few months. By the time we finished it was a bit late to get on the road and Thomas and Alexandra extended their welcome another night.
Tom and Thomas went to the store to buy a selection of weiß bier, a favourite of ours. Upon their return Jan and I treated the gang to dinner at a local winery as a thank-you for the great hospitality and all the help with the bikes.
Back at the house, we began sampling the weiß bier. Some of the breweries have been making this stuff for 1,000 years and they have got it down. It was great to go through the different varieties and taste the subtle differences. I think the consensus favourite was the Gutmann, a lovely hefeweizen. To make sure we had another.
This was a fitting end to the Germany chapter of our trip: great hospitality and great beer. Tom and Thomas accompanied us in the morning to the Swiss border, with a quick visit into France to pick up some baked goods. We said our farewells at the Dreiländerbrücke – the Three Country Bridge, i.e. Germany, France and Switzerland – as Tom and Thomas headed back to Schliengen and Jan and I turned our wheels to Basel, and our next country filled with its own discoveries and challenges.