Day 4: Münster to Höxter

 The Stats:

  • Distance: 152km
  • Average Speed: 20.5km/h
  • Legs: 😕 — But I’ve no idea how my legs should feel after 611k in four days
  • Undercarriage: 🙂 — prophylactic application of SudoCrem did the job
  • Bike: ☹️ — see later
Münster at 7am

I’d like to say that the day dawned bright and clear but in fact it was dull and rainy.  This was supposed to be a “heads-down, non-nonsense, mindless boogie cycle but it didn’t look like it was going to be.

For some reason, cycling all day doesn’t mean I sleep all night and so I was up at 6am and banging on the breakfast salon door at 6:30.  Showing superhuman self-control I didn’t know I possessed, I avoided the fried pork products and had 3 cheese and ham rolls.  With four cups of strong coffee.  Caffeine is known to help one metabolise fat although during the course of the day but the other biological effect of caffeine would come to the fore as I disappeared behind a tree 6 or 7 times on the way to Höxter.

I will say this about Germany: it’s pretty empty and so there’s lots of opportunities for “nature wees” which is not the case in Holland. Every time I stopped for a comfort break in Holland Johann Cruyff or the King of the Netherlands would be looking over a hedge mutely asking me to stop despoiling their country.

There’s a certain rhythm to cycling 150km in a day.  The first 5k are just trying to get out of whatever town you’re in.  This is always a terrifying dash across junctions where you have no idea where you’re going.  Then the next 25k are checking out how your body is feeling and how the bike is going.  “Oh, the vision of loveliness bruise on my knee is better”.  “What’s that funny scraping noise from the rear mech?”.  “Bit of a twinge in the shoulder-blades.  Wonder if I’m having a heart attack?”.  There’s also a lot of obsessive Garmin fiddling.  “Is it really 130k to go?  Look at all the climbing still to go.  JESUS CHRIST, that was close!”.  This last one is when you’re too busy fiddling with your Garmin to see the junction between the bike path and the main road coming up at speed.  However, mostly there weren’t any junctions and it all looked a bit like this

Lots and lots of this

I’d been rained on a bit over the course of the first 30k so I thought it was time for some more caffeine intake.  I asked for a large coffee and when it arrived, the coffee cup was big enough to bathe a kitten in. Not that that would be a good thing to do with a kitten I suppose.
Without the giant kidney bean, that would be a good looking bike.

Once I left Warendorf, I was on the 30k to 75k stretch.  Always a difficult stretch because there’s still more to go than the distance you have been.  As Warendorf sputtered to an end in a confusing maze of industrial parks and retail monstrosities, the skies opened. I thought it was raining before.  It wasn’t.
This is how wet it was.  For two hours.

It rained and rained and rained.  It’s August!  In Central Europe.  What’s going on? 

My super expensive and lightweight Rapha shell kept my body dry but the rest of me was soaked as bout 3cm of rain fell in 2 hours most of which ended up in my shoes.  As I rode along, a rhythmic squelch sound joined the mildly worrying scrapes and grinding from the chain and gears and by Augustdorf I was miserable, wet and worried about the bike.
There was a lot of stopping under trees

I passed through the magic 75k line which allowed me to (miserably) sing 🎶Wo-ohh we’re half way there, wo-ohh, livin’ on a prayer🎶.  The 75k mark is normally a little psychological boost but everything was dirty and wet.  

These calves and these socks were pretty clean this morning

The first hill came at 90k and it hit hard.  The bean of desolation had performed pretty well and I suspected the kicking I gave it yesterday encouraged some good behaviour.  It had acted as a heavy yet serviceable rear mud-guard so the back of my shorts weren’t ruined but, once the road kicked up, it was back to wrestling the hippo and loudly casting aspersions about the marital status of the death-bean’s parents as it rolled and wobbled underneath me.  It became apparent that 600k in my legs in three and a half days was too much.  No power, no stamina and any gradient more than 3% left me wishing for an even smaller granny gear.

Even though it was raining, the twinkly old couples on their e-bikes were still out and I cursed them roundly as they effortlessly zoomed past me on the hill.  I tried using the selfie-stick that I’d carried all the way here but it was broken for some reason so I couldn’t do an action-misery shot on the road.

100k came and went.  The is normally a moment of celebration (🎶Wo-ohh we’re two thirds of the way there🎶) but not today.  Another coffee stop and I had 50k and two climbs still to do.  It seemed like it would be a good idea to take some fuel on board so I stopped in some nameless town and found the bakkerie.  I was in dire need of a cheese sandwich and a cake but unfortunately I was behind a bloke with his three kids who took 10 minutes to decide which cakes to choose.  My righteous anger raised my core temperature enough to stop shivering.  When I finally got the food, and another coffee naturally, my eyeballs were vibrating with the lack of food...or maybe it was the coffee.  Anyway, I shot some pointed looks at the indecisive family and stuffed cake into my cake-hole.

My AirPods had run out of juice and while waiting for them to charge up, I cycled towards the second hill. The bike was making a terrible noise which I hadn’t noticed due to the banging tunes playing in my ears. I realised that I hadn’t lubricated the chain since Cambridge. Doh!  I normally oil my chain every two or three rides but, of course, it’s about distance, not the cardinal of the rides. I’d done 550k before I realised that I needed to oil the chain. Normally that would be 150k. In addition, the rain had washed off the high performance “dry weather lube” I have. A stop for some roadside chain lubing sorted out most of the scrapes and rattles. 

The second climb was through a military training area festooned with warnings in four languages about the danger of death were you to leave the road but to be honest, there was a danger of death on the road too.  The angry kidney bean was misbehaving, the road was one of those ones made out of concrete blocks and my shuffled cycling playlist was throwing up all the wrong songs at all the wrong times. I was so dispirited and tired, I couldn’t even work out how to shift the songs on to the next one when the wrong type of song came up.  I climbed to Tom Waits groaning and just made do with insulting Ed “bloody” Sheerhan as he moaned his songs out.

The descent was steep and hairy.  Wet roads and cold hands are a not a good combination and descending at 60km/h with a kidney-bean-of-death induced road wobble is seriously scary.  But, since the downhills are “free” kilometres, you feel you have to take them.

I’d started to notice a certain lack of purpose to the route in the final 50k.  There was a lot of wiggling around on quiet farm tracks gazing balefully at maize fields the size of Belgium.  Why would we take the long route between these two towns?  At length it became clear that the cursed EuroVelocrats were to blame.
I see that R1 sign!

Garmin’s popularity routing algorithm had locked onto the Eurovelo route (R2 joins with R1 at this point) and so I was being treated to a nice countryside wanderfor people who really like maize fields.

However, it’s fair to say that the roads were very nice.  Rolling (grr) but nice.  Some of the downhill bits of the rolling hills were made a lot more scary by these little bastards which fall from the fruit trees which line the farm roads.
You little bastard

These unripe crab-apples drop from the trees and are about as hard as a ball bearing. The first time my front wheel hit one, I had a moment of white knuckled terror.  The bike bucked under me, the front wheel skidded, the kidney-bean prepared to make recovery impossible and…somehow it all came back together.

I don’t know much German but this sign up the final climb didn’t look good.
“Berg”.  Hmmm.

It wasn’t good.  It had stopped raining but I was out of energy and I didn’t even have the energy to swear at Ed “bloody” Sheerhan who was inserting his baleful presence into my playlist again.  I just ground up the hill at 8km/h feeling like I was dead and rather hoping that I was going to be soon.

Every sport has its miracle moments...the moments when everything goes freakishly well.  That night you were on the pool table at the Dog Bother’s Arms all night and even the tricky double shots came off.  That one game of tennis where every first serve went in.  At the top of the final climb, the sun came out and I started one of the most enjoyable 20 minutes I’ve had on a bike. A gradient of 1% down for about 10k on a fresh tarmac cycle path which wound down through woods.  Apple Music had banished Ed “bloody” Sheerhan and I listened to AC/DC as a swooped round the corners sticking my inside knee out like those blokes on motorbikes.  The descent just went on and on and, when it became flat, there was my hotel.

The hotel is a perfect example of a lovely little family hotel which has grown larger over the years.  I didn’t realise that it’s on both sides of the road and so after going down to the 2nd basement and walking through a tunnel and back up again, I met the receptionist who had literally just walked over the road. “You like our elevator Mr Kirk?” the receptionist said. I felt like an idiot. 

There are two things which make a long distance self-supported cyclist happy in the evening.
First thing: A heated towel rail.
I washed everything.  This resulted in a certain “commando” element to going out to dinner but who knew when I’d find another towel rail with an “extra-hot” mode?
Be still my beating heart.

Unlimited all you can eat Chinese buffet is the perfect meal.  No need to use Google Lens to translate the menu, just go up to the buffet and pile your plate up with the stuff that looks good and then go and pile it up again.  The staff at the restaurant looked a little sad that their profits for the night were walking out in my stomach.  They definitely didn’t make money charging me €13.50 for the meal but I guess they made it back on the, now traditional, two giant beers.

I’m going to do a shorter day tomorrow.  There’s only 105k between here and Goslar but there’s 1250m of climbing.  On my current form, that’s going to be enough.

Weather looks better for tomorrow and my shorts, top and socks are going to be lovely and dry.  

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