Max Ritter | Adventure Journalism
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Old Worlds

Let's call this a little side project...

After living in Boulder, CO for the last five years, I was in need for a change of scenery. What better idea than to pack everything I owned (or at least wanted to keep) to go explore that mystical place across the big pond, Euroland? Two years have passed since my last visit, let’s see what has changed.

First Rides: 8. 6. – 11.6.2016

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I have no idea how I found myself in the Pacific Northwest. Didn’t I get off a plane in Frankfurt yesterday? Oh wait, yeah. It’s been raining for two weeks straight here, and the Germans have these crazy lush forests too. Wälder, as they say. I have two hard days in the saddle behind me, my lower parts really hurt, but I only want more. It’s too awesome. Let me introduce you to the hands down the best singletrack I have ever ridden. I made the wise decision to finally bring a bike to the region I visited every summer growing up: the lower Mosel Valley, a few kilometers upstream from Koblenz. The river valley is a picturesque dichotomy of steep (I mean steeeeeeeeep) vineyards and the blue waters of the Mosel River, punctuated by the odd medieval castle perched high above. Well, normally blue; right now they are a muddy brown, a mix of Mississippi and poop.

Like I said, it’s been raining here. Unfortunately the weather has taken a toll on the locals, with extensive damage from a hailstorm and flooding a few nights ago. Everyone is cheery though, and looking forward to the influx of tourists in a few weeks. Tourists=money=happy locals.

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22 years ago, I was born in Koblenz, the city at the end of the valley, but never really lived here. That made it interesting, only seeing the place once of twice a year while visiting Oma and Opa. The towns along the river lived from two things: wine and tourism (maybe that's really just one thing?). Literal caravans of Dutch families came to the area every summer to drink all the wine away and hang out at the campgrounds near the river. It must be nice to see something other than flat ground and tulips every now and then, huh?

These days, things have changed a little bit; the area’s economy is now fully invested in tourism. Every town has a bunch of waterfront cafes and restaurants. The aforementioned castles are now all booming tourist attractions with beergardens and medieval-themed costume shows and games. The merits of this I will leave up to discussion, but one thing is certain: the Riesling still tastes good.

Anyway, back to these trails. Three years ago, construction began on a network of trails with options for easy day hikes from each village, called the Traumpfade. The word roughly translates to “dream trails”. Fitting. Nearly every town has one, and they reach from 10km to over 20km in length, but are designed so one can comfortably hike one in a day. A few hours on the bike are a very realistic prospect.

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The trails are hands down the best thing to happen to this area. I mean they are better than any trail I have ridden in Colorado, New York, or Utah: a perfect combination of flow, tech, scary exposure, and breathtaking scenery. The elevation difference from valley to peak is a healthy 200-300 meters, and riding up and down this a few times on each trail definitely left the legs burning.

Funny thing is, I had no idea these things even existed until halfway through my first day of riding. I set off thinking I would ride up a few roads towards the Burg Eltz, a magnificent castle up a small valley I was familiar with from years past. I started following the signposts marked with a unique new logo, which led deeper and deeper into the forests along singletrack that grew ever-flowier the further I rode. All of a sudden, the trail spat me out onto a wide gravel road leading directly to the castle’s walls. I guess that's what it felt like to storm one of these things centuries ago. Ha, me a knight on an iron horse.

Bikes are chill.