My recent trip on a Hase Gravit Dust Gravel Cargo Bike (longest name for a bike?) took me past plenty of great places to ride a gravel bike. In Britain the Lammermuir Hills and the Yorkshire Coast offered amazing riding. But Mainland Europe has plenty on offer for all types of bikes, with the added benefit of great infrastructure to connect the various regions. If you spend more time in Germany, then consider the Deutschland-Ticket. With that you can travel conveniently throughout Germany by all means of local public transport for just 49 Euros per month!
Here are five of the places that will surprise you on a bike – in a good way!
This is where I was born and bred. For a long time it never struck me that this is one of the best places in Germany to ride a gravel bike. But each time I visit, I am amazed about how much variety there is to be found here. Add to this a good chunk of interesting history, the region used to be divided by the former Iron Curtain into two. This makes the Eichsfeld interesting when stepping off the bike as well.
A good base is the small town of Heiligenstadt. If you are on a workation, you can make use of Co-Working Eichsfeld, a fabulous co-working space right in the heart of the town. Most of the riding is in Thuringia, which offers free bike travel on regional trains, as well as pretty good access rights for cyclists. As long as you stick to existing paths, there are no limitations on where to ride.
Wild camping is not allowed in Germany, but if you are looking for a great bike-friendly place to stay – check out the Wiesenglück. Their tiny houses come with panorama windows and hot tubs. And if you left your bike at home, you can hire an e-bike as well. Stage 2 of the Iron Curtain Gravel Trail provides good inspiration to plan your own adventure here.
Equally steeped in history is the Teutoburg Forest, a vast paradise for gravel riders. When I rocked up in Scherfede at Hotel Wulff in December I not only got a warm welcome, but also had the place for myself. This will be different in peak season, as the hotel is popular with gravel riders up until the end of October.
Here you can gravel in the tracks of history, this is where the Battle of the Teutoburg took place. It is one of the most important defeats in Roman history, dissuading the Romans from their ambition of conquering Germania, and is thus considered one of the most important events in European history.
I cycled most of it by night, which with a (almost full) moon made it even more special!
One of the most populated regions in Germany might not be the most obvious place to ride a bike. But the home of the Schwalbe Gravel Games, Europe’s largest gravel bike festival, which will enter its fourth round in 2024, is perfect for off-road adventures. Right in the heart of the Ruhr area, on the site of the former Ewald colliery in Herten, everything revolves around gravel biking for two days.
Outwidth the festival there are plenty of tour suggestions for gravel bikes on their website radrevier.ruhr. What makes this area unique is the rich industrial heritage, which comes with abandoned heaps, dreamy for gravel cycling. While the west of Germany is certainly not mountainous, it’s not flat either. The area offers a combination of paved sections, beautiful gravel and dirt roads, tricky passages through the forest and demanding ascents up to heaps.
Hase Bikes, makers of the Gravit Dust and Pino, have their flagship store in the Zeche Waltrop, and right across the road are the headquarters of Manufactum, the right place if you’re after sustainable artisan products.
This town is home to the Green Divide architect Erwin Sikkens, who recently joined me on a test ride on a new route in Yorkshire. Check out his routes here on Komoot. Arnhem was a welcome surprise when I cycled across the Netherlands. Despite popular opinion that the country is flat, you will find hills to cycle up here!
The ascents and descents are not huge here, but it’s exactly what makes Arnhem special. I enjoyed some fast flowing singletrails right at the edge of one of the larger cities of the Netherlands. Anyone visiting from the UK will be amazed by the sheer endless amount of separated bike lanes, but you’ll find those everywhere in the Netherlands.
What makes the city and the surroundings special is the sheer diversity of landscapes. You can gravel through woodlands and over moraines, or encounter wide, open views across marshes and heathland. Arnhem is part of the province of Gelderland, with more than 5,000km of cycle paths it’ll take a long time to cycle everywhere!
If you are after flat, fun and fast trails, Lelystad is the perfect choice. Close to Amsterdam and with good opportunities to hire bikes, this is the part of the Netherlands which is built on the seabed of the former Zuiderzee. The land here is sinking: Over 6,500 years ago, long before gravel bikes existed, the wetland was above high tide level and inhabited
The Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) was the main transport route from Amsterdam to the North Sea and the Hanseatic League cities, so Leleystad is nowadays home to the National Centre for Maritime History, a museum, which hosts a replica of the Batavia, the ‘world’s worst shipwreck’.
The gravel tracks around Lelystad are anything but a nightmare, and there are plenty of forests that provide shade in the summer. If you are lucky, you can spot otters, storks, wild boar, moose, and European bison in the Nature Park Lelystad. And Anthony Gormley’s Exposure sculpture is a great stop for pictures.
Inspired to take your gravel riding further a field and making a trip abroad? Make sure that you have Yellow Jersey cycle travel insurance in place which will cover emergency medical expenses, trip cancellation, trip curtailment, trip abandonment, liability cover and much more. Yellow Jersey also offer bicycle insurance which is designed to cover your bike for crash damage and theft anywhere in the world.