Team Young Markof go HAM

I need more on the plugger blowout.

Utter devastation.
5 hours in the saddle had left me eager for the sweet relief of air flowing freely around my feet. The baking hot sun, the humidity from riding so close to the Elbe for hours… I was in desperate need of alternative footwear. Having carried a trusty pair of flip flops (or thongs, pluggers, havaianas - whatever your preference) on the pack from Prague to Hitzacker meant they were always a moment away. Until yesterday.

We arrived in Hitzacker and my feet ached. I needed out. My stomach was empty, there weren’t cold beers in our room and I was close to the edge. A hasty and cold shower, some fresh clothes and it was time to head out and secure our dinner. I dropped the thongs to the floor and slid my feet in. The cool touch of rubber on skin, the immediate difference to my cycling shoes… these were all rich and powerful sensations. I started for the door - POP! I felt it go and my heart followed, dropping broken on the floor. This was no ordinary blow out. This was disaster.
The piece between the toes hadn’t just pulled through at all - it had failed completely and broken. There was no coming back from this. After many summers in Australia, trips around the world and now ~800kms on a bike from Prague to Hitzacker - their time was over. I wasn’t prepared and it hurt me terribly. Steph was watching me and I quickly bottled my disappointment, my anguish and my pain. I tried to laugh it off. It seemed convincing though it felt as hollow as my soul. They were gone. And we were still over 100kms from Hamburg.
I knew I wouldn’t see their kind again. They were too good for this world. They’re in a better place now, where the sun is warm, the breeze is cool and the water is refreshing.

Plugger by -lukemarkof-

What a rollercoaster.

Edit: nominating that for Post of the Year.

Now it is euro trash

Pop the old plug out, push the toe divider through and pin it in place with a safety pin?

I’m wearing through the colour layers on my pluggers, expecting them to fail this summer. I can’t go to the park in them anymore as the bark mulch is sharp enough to spear through the paper thin rubber into my feet.

I sent them to Valhalla.
I couldnt stand the thought of them being a shadow of their former glory.

What Worked:
Well, a lot of stuff worked reallly well. Our bikes were the right choice. There was heaps that might have been OK on a roadie, however having a cross bike or drop bar gravel/tourer was the right call. Leaving Prague was mental and were on single track that tested both of us. Then coming into Hamburg we also were in some really rough gravel roads. Not to mention a mix of cobbles. So I can’t recommend comfy bikes and big tires enough. We rode on 35s (Marathon a green Guard) and we were stoked. They were comfortable enough, fast enough and grippy enough.
We thought about 38s however we’re very happy in our choice.
The Apidura stuff was perfect. Absolutely faultless. It’s easy, secure, weather proof and was absolutely enough space for what we took. I’m thankful for the Revelate top Tube bag I had - it was perfect for when I needed to consult maps or stow small items quickly. I felt like a dork, but I reckon it’s a handsome unit and it worked brilliantly.
The camera pouch from Andrew The Maker. What a fantastic piece of equipment. The only things about it were that it limited my hand positions on the bars (more on this later), was a bit too big for the LeicaQ and in pink it simply got grubby quickly.
Flash packing worked a treat. Steph scouted all our stays and ensured they were bike friendly. The only place we stayed that really wasn’t on the Elbe route was Schlos Eckberg in Dresden - however Dresden is so bike friendly, it didn’t matter. Not needing to worry about cooking gear or sleeping equipment made a huge difference. Our accommodations were almost all perfect. I can’t praise Steph enough here. She killed it.
The Elbe route worked for us. There were frustrations, particularly after we left Torgau, however it was very good to ride. It’s well signed, well advertised and generally well surfaced. The catch is where the route rolls away from the Elbe to send you through towns as opposed moving directly or simply. This is a minor quibble. The bigger issue was the diversions. These were a pain in the neck. The other thing is that the signs are usually through or an intersection or turn - not before them. This meant a lot of late turns, missed turns and momentum destroying stops. In all honesty, the yellow EuroVelo 7 signs were the best, however once we turned to the D10 cycle way and off the EV7, it did get more complicated. Watch for those signs!
Something else that worked really well for us, in conjunction with a local data only SIM card, was the website Waymarked Trails. The map feature in that helped us get clear on routes, river crossings, towns (a lot of signs indicated a town or two in certain directions instead of the major cities). When we used the Waymarked Trails view and compared to satellite maps, it meant we were able to quickly see where and how we needed to get somewhere.
The Swift Industries hip packs. Not for the Rock in the 90s or old folks - these worked well. We were able to strap them to the from the Apidura too. It made getting around cities a breeze and made life so easy.

What didn’t work.
In its own funny way, the Elbe route didn’t work. In hindsight we would follow the same route to Torgau and then turn south towards Zurich or Basel in Switzerland. Why? Because although there were patches of greatness after Torgau, getting there had been incredible, Afterwards there was a lot of lowland and agricultural areas and the ride simply wasn’t interesting. Also, with all the tacking to and from the river it meant we rode the roads more often. They were direct and often more interesting. Go figure.
The weather. It’s hilarious to complain about warm and clear weather - however the heat was so oppressive. We only slippped up once with sunscreen and got a little toasted. It also brought the humidity right up. It meant we rode earlier in the day and with less frequent breaks in order to beat the heat.
Also not working was the clothing we took. By this I mean we cared a bit too much about life off the bike and could have brought way less casual clothes. I think with some smarter choices and stricter packing we both could probably have gone without the front roll. This would simply have meant buying some clothes in Hamburg, however this seems like a worthwhile trade off for lugging the weight and baggage around Germany.
The camera pouch kinda didn’t work for me either. It was ace for taking the camera and meant I didn’t need a shoulder strap or to carry it in the sunlight all day. However it limited my hand positions on the bars and resulted in some sore hands after about the 700km mark. If I packed better and harsher, did away with the front roll and popped the camera pouch on the front, it would have been heaps better. Next time.
Also not working for me was trains to Copenhagen. That was hard. It’s a first world problem though so I can’t complain. German trains can accomodate bikes, but you have to hunt them down, make sure you’re in the right carriages and be mindful that they may not be travelling at convenient times. Just something to watch out for

What wouldn’t we do again?
Like I said, I think once we hit Torgau, we’d turn south. Our route simply became boring after that. Easy as that. The chance to ride south through the Black Forest would be amazing. We’d do that instead.
I wouldn’t take regular shoes for summer. Flip flops/pluggers/Havanaias would be sufficient. I wouldn’t bother with tshirts or anything (apart from shorts) I couldn’t wear on the bike.
I’d buy and take medication with me. Stuff like voltaren, ibuprofen, magnesium and hay fever medication. Particularly as I’m allergic to bee and wasp stings - which i sustained in the final 20kms into Hamburg. I was also bitten by a spider in the Hamburg train station. The anti histamine and ibuprofen helped massively with this.
I wouldn’t use a road saddle again. I need to find a more comfortable saddle for 600km plus trips.

What would we do again?
A big trip like this. It was amazing and we really felt incredible when we rolled into Hamburg. We rode into form, out of pain and it was ace. We drank beers, ate tons of food and felt amazing the whole time. Seeing a country like this and this way was pretty much perfect. It worked so well. We experienced such wonderful aspects of Germany and its people. We fell in love. We fell more in love with each other, in love with riding and in love with Germany. I can’t tell you how that feels. But I will say it’s amazing.
I would take mostly USB based charging solutions (specific to Europe) to minimise the amount of plugs and adapters needed. We charged using two plugs and televisions and never ran out of power. We also took a couple of small portable batteries with us that worked a treat.
We would absolutely do it again on our bike set ups. We might swap the gearing for more favourable set ups, but its a minor thing.
I would absolutely leave my jerseys and gloves and stuff behind again. Riding in shirts (semi open or fully open) was glorious. Steph enjoyed some light weight active wear type T-shirts. We both took a couple of pairs of knicks and that worked well.
Socks socks socks. Your feet and contact points are so important on a ride like this, you need to take care of them.
We’d ride Germany again too. It’s a quiet hero in terms of bike culture. They don’t shout about it, but they’re very good about it. Not as good as Denmark or the Netherlands.- but they’re excellent. We felt safe all the time with out our helmets. We had one truck driver a bit close, but no closer than inattentive drivers in Melbourne.
We’d finish somewhere relaxing like Copenhagen again. Gosh we had a lovely time here.
Our whole trip has taught us so much about ourselves, about each other and about how you can get “people infrastructure “ right - spoiler alert - Australia really sucks at it.
We’d write about it again too. We’d share it this way again. We’d take photos again. We’d have cheap accommodation and sketchy meals again. We’d mix it up with lovely pensions and hotels and big meals again.
Things like this really feel like once in a lifetime opportunities. If you get the chance - do it. Don’t hesitate. Go for it. You won’t regret it. Even if it sucks, you’ll have the best memories and stories.

Excellent write-up Luke.

Selection of my favorite snaps from the ride.

This makes me miss traveling. Great stuff Luke.

yep thanks luke

i enjoyed the writeup, thanks!
I think you’re right about clothing on this kind of trip as well, take the bare minimum and if you need more then plan to buy it along the way, it’s too easy to overpack otherwise

fucking ace luke, pics, words, sensations.

Thank you for sharing your stories, experiences, and photos with everybody here. I am so happy for you both to have had such an experience.

Nice work you two!

Sorry for the late response, but great write-up. Jealous for sure.