"Playful King of the Mountains"

Ever Spring we are lucky enough to spend a week in the North Eifel, which is an area of Germany that has a number of things to recommend it , including that it is hilly, it is full of orchids and it is only 2 1/2 hours drive from Wageningen. I have written before about Andreas Meyer and Tobias Mommer's excellent book of mountain bike routes in the area. Route number eight in the book is called 'Verspielte Bergwertung', which you could translate as 'Playful King of the Mountains". They give the route four out of five points for both technique and condition, but is coded red (not the more demanding black), so I was curious to see how difficult it would be.  Although 'only' 30 km long, it does have almost a thousand meters of climb, which makes 30 km quite enough.  The route was cleverly chosen so that the long, steep uphills were mostly on tarmac and the downhills were virtually without exception wonderful singletracks through some really beautiful woodland.

Broadleaf woodland in the EifelNormally I'm not so keen on tarmac, but in this case it did make going up the long hills more practical. At least it was not as bad as taking the ski lift. I noticed that there were some parallel tracks to the road, so probably if you wanted, you could manage to do some of the uphills off road as well. For instance the photo below was taken after a long (albeit beautiful) pull up on a road (to the left), but there was also a track running up the other side of the valley. I guess that was one of their criterion for making it a red route.

Tour 8 Verspielte_Bergwertung

At the top of the hill there were some quite spectacular views (mostly, sometimes you were in the woods, so no views to be seen). Of course, the knowledge that you have cycled over the hills in the distance makes them even more spectacular!

Verspielte Bergwertung

At the bottom of the hills you come out of the typical flat-bottomed valleys of the Eifel.  The rivers have cut through the soft chalk, leaving a plateau at the top, steep side (unsuitable for agriculture, so covered in trees) and the farmland at the bottom. Fortunately, this is mostly not too intensive, but either wildflower meadows, or at least grassland filled with dandelions, buttercups and sometimes oxlips.

 Verspielte Bergwertung

The nature of the landscape means that you can virtually guarantee that here will be some quite challenging downhill slopes. The photo below shows one that would have been quite impossible if I had not put my saddle right down. As you can clearly see, it was very wet and slippery.  What you cannot see so well (a bit if you look hard at the top of the photo), is that parts of it were incredibly steep, so that only by hanging right over the back of the saddle (or by putting it right down), could you possibly hope to get down without tumbling over the handlebars. And at the bottom, Veronica beccabunga, a lovely chalk-stream flower (albeit not yet flowering).  What more could you want?

 Verspielte Bergwertung