8bar Gravel Team at the Holy Gravel 2020
Shortly after 7:00 am the bikes were ready, loaded with almost everything we would need for the next 4-5 days. Everything had been stowed away neatly or stuffed with emphasis into the bike packing bags and strapped down. The excitement rose. Was the tire pressure right? Was the chain sufficiently oiled? Quickly check again! Were all technical devices enough loaded and the routes prepared for the navigation system? Okay? Then we could start! It was the first Saturday in August 2020 when we, Wiebke and Juliane, part of the still quite young 8bar Gravel Team* (more details below), got on our bikes together with friends and headed off to the meeting point, the starting point of Holy Gravel 2020. This is our travel report, written from Juliane’s perspective.
Holy Gravel 2020 – A bikepacking adventure
The Holy Gravel is a self-supported ride through the German North on gravel and forest roads mixed with paved lanes and road sections. Numerous paths and hiking trails with crisp climbs challenge the legs and technical cycling skills in the most entertaining way. The event took place for the first time in October 2019 in very harsh weather conditions and should now be reissued as a summer edition. Start and after a long, winding route through Schleswig-Holstein, end of the tour is in Hamburg. The Holy Gravel is not a race, but a gravel ride with like-minded people who are on the same track. This route was sent in advance by e-mail to all registered persons. During the trip we could decide whether it should be the shorter, almost 555km long or the long, approx. 740km track with a detour to the Baltic Sea island Fehmarn.
Wiebke and I had, besides a tent and other sleeping equipment, all things in our bikepacking bags, which we had strapped directly to the bike. Wiebke is riding an 8bar Bikes MITTE v2 in silver polished raw with 2×10 Shimano GRX parts, Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite in 40 mm width and DT Swiss G1800 rims. My gravelbike is an 8bar Bikes MITTE Steel v2 in deep sea blue metallic with 2×11 Shimano GRX parts, Schwalbe G-One Bite tires in 2″ and DT Swiss GR1600 rims. With this equipment we were well prepared for the coming days at Holy Gravel 2020.
Four days, 555 km, one team!
We chose the shorter, but no less varied route. The Holy Gravel 2020 should be a Gravelbike Adventure for us, which should challenge both of us in very different ways. We had never been on a bike trip together before. But we soon realized that despite different conditions and fitness levels, the basis was just right! After starting in Hamburg in the morning, we rolled out of the big city on beautiful paths along the Elbe river. We went on directly into the countryside over the first hills and trails. In the coming days in Schleswig-Holstein we should learn that the north of Germany is not quite as flat as they say… We often met other participants of Holy Gravel. Soon Wiebke and I joined a small, partly changing group with which we would spend the coming days. The team within the team so to speak. The first Franzbrötchen stop followed after just under 35 km. With almost 30°C it was not so easy to eat all the time. But for this demanding tour we needed extra energy and above all a lot of hydration. Furthermore, the route on the first day made it difficult for us to buy food on the way. Because we cycled past many small villages instead of through them and these often had no shops either. So in the afternoon we even made a detour off the route to have a well-deserved break in a café after about 100km.
The chain problem
While our 8bar bikes were running without any punctures so far, we watched some others who had less luck and got one flat tire after the other. Wiebke and I both had tubeless Schwalbe tyres and rode back to Hamburg without any problems.