It’s almost 2 months ago since my last blog post after my break off in Basel due to knee problems. A lot has happened in these last eight weeks and even if it had not worked as desired, I’m now looking positively towards the future of this project.
After a total of three weeks taking care of my left knee and after the doctors okay, I enthusiastically loaded my bike again on Sunday the 3rd of February and slowly pedalled towards the German / French border. Then the time has finally come, I left my home country, looking forward to the adventure, new countries, cultures and people. In my mind, I said goodbye to Switzerland with the intention of being away for a long long time.
Basel to Strasbourg
With the handicapped knee in mind, I cycled slowly as a precaution. As slowly, thanks to strong headwinds, that I could have almost pushed the bike, it wouldn’t have made a difference.
Unfortunately, after two hours of cycling, the reality caught up with me. The pain was back, in a strength I could never have imagined after a break of three weeks. So here I was, facing the difficult decision of breaking off again after just one day on the road or trying to continue.
I opted for the second option as I found no plausible reason how the pain could be back that quickly. My hope was that the pain will be less bad or even disappear after some days of slowly and continuous cycling. I wanted to try everything I could to avoid some more days lying in a bed, staring through these windows and dreaming about adventure. So I continued!
On this first, very windy day, I cycled along the Rhone-Rhine Canal on the French side of Rhine river towards Strasbourg. This stretch was known to me cause I already cycled it twice, the first time on my very first bicycle tour. This route is exclusively flat and easy to ride, which was certainly beneficial regarding recurrent pain.
As the sun began to set and after cycling past some densely overgrown forests and fields, I finally found a forest aisle with some short grass near Volgelsheim as a perfect first wild camping spot on this journey. This particular night was a pretty cold one with -10 degrees or lower. Though thanks to my warm down sleeping bag, I had a very comfortable sleep and was ready to jump out of the tent early in the morning to take some pictures when the sun began to rise.
After that, I was ready to start the day and brew some coffee with the water I had left from the day before.
LESSON LEARNED An insulated bottle won’t help you anything when the bottle is lying on the ground outside the tent in these temperatures!
Life goes on, even without a morning coffee! 🙂
I packed everything together and made my way through the small Alsatian villages to find a place to buy food & water, which did not turn out so easily.
Arrived in Strasbourg I’ve set up my tent at a camping place where I shared a three-hectare big park with its 105 pitches with an older couple from England. After staying for one more night to look after my knee, I then crossed the border again into Germany and rode my bicycle to Karlsruhe where my Warmshower Hosts Ute and Ecki awaited me.
After three days in the tent and even though I absolutely love camping, I was looking forward to spending a night inside, to have some company and meeting new people!
To my astonishment, the pain actually decreased that day and in the afternoon I found myself almost cycling without any pain in my left knee. Hope was back and because even the sun showed up, this day turned out to be the best so far.
If you then can spend the evening with a super friendly couple, having great food and good talks, it will be one of these days and reasons why I am doing this trip!
Hope dies last
The next day I continued cycling in the state „Rheinland Pfalz“ on the left side of the Rhine river to Ludwigshafen, where I was going to meet my next Warmshowers Hosts. Due to the fact I barely had any problems with my knee after midday the day before, I was optimistic and looking forward to this stretch. The route did not change a lot in comparison to the last day, what changed however was that suddenly both knees began to hurt a lot after half an hour on the bike.
I continued at a slow pace and in the afternoon the pain seemed to disappear again. Ironically in the last two hours to Ludwigshafen I cycled without any pain at all. At this point, I still hoped to recover completely after some more days on the bike, at this point I did not know what it would feel like the next day!
In Ludwigshafen I was warmly welcomed by Joanna, a Swedish teacher and her lovely family. We shared some stories about travelling and life and I was rewarded with a delicious dinner and some fantastic desserts made by Joanna’s daughter Emma.
It is how it is
As mentioned, the surprise came the next morning. After a few minutes on the bike, I hardly couldn’t cycle anymore. Even though I decided to move on and cycle to Mainz to meet my third Hosts Benjamin and Julia. „Why did I have an improvement regarding the knee problems the last two days an now this?!“ I asked myself again and again. I couldn’t believe it.
This day there was no improvement, the pain got worse and worse during the day and this 70km felt like 150km. I was relieved but angry at the same time as I arrived in Mainz, cause I suspected that this was probably the last day on the bike for a while.
Because of the circumstances and this pretty bad day so far, I was more than happy that I ended up with Benjamin and Julia in Mainz, my Warmshowers Hosts for that night. This great couple has just returned from a year-long bicycle tour and they were happy themselves to welcome me as their first Warmshowers guest. These two had many great stories to tell and when I heard that knee problems have been also an issue for them, I knew that I was definitely at the right place!
It showed me once again how precious it is to meet such amazing people on this journey. When you had a good day, meeting new people makes the day even better and when you had a bad one, they are the ones that will cheer you up and those who motivate you. Next to the places, it’s a lot about people!
Thank you Benjamin, Julia, Joanna, Steffen, Emma, Ute and Ecki for the great German hospitality!
The day after, I had to break off again. I could have added one or two more days but finally, I had to accept again that it’s not gonna work that way. It was not just about the pain, the hardest part was the constant change between hope and disappointment.
Though I invested a lot of time in planning and training or spent a lot of money for special equipment for this winter cycling challenge through northern Europe, Scandinavia will still be there and I’m looking forward doing this chapter at a later time.
Now, five weeks later, I know that it was the right decision. After a week of rest, I started to train again and continued with a week of daily hiking up hills / hiking in the mountains. In the last three weeks, I spent 500+ kilometres on the bike in which I slowly increased the weight of the luggage and in this way the intensity.
In the last days, I was able to cycle 80km on several days in a row with the fully loaded bike. I did not have any complaints and I’m glad to continue this journey very soon!
So, for all of you who are at a similar point as I was, no matter if it concerns cycling or something else: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! As difficult as it may be, sometimes a step back is more than two steps forward.
Howdy! I'm Fabian, a Swiss adventurer, photographer / filmmaker who loves exploring and capturing our beautiful planet. From March 2019 - April 2020 I cycled 20'000km from Bern Switzerland to the pacific coast in Vietnam, trying to inspire others to do the same, to travel more, going outdoors, enjoying nature and get to know our amazing planet wi live on.