Dear Prospective riders of BTG 2019!

In this second newsletter we want to share a few thoughts on which type of bike is the best for BTG. Looking at the bike setups that you sent in with your registrations and from our experience with previous editions we find that two bike categories are on top of the list of possible setups:

•     29” hardtail MTBs with or without front suspension

•     Gravel Bikes

Especially the group of gravel bike supporters is growing by the year and might reach a record high this year. Two questions that we hear very often when we get contacted by prospective riders are:

•     Is BTG a gravel route?

•     Can it be ridden on a graveller?

Our answers are basically:

•     No, it is a mountainbike-route.

•     Yes, but be aware of possible consequences.

Obviously we are living in the age of the Graveller and nobody is mountainbiking anymore ? Which is ok for us but we a have a somehow old-school attitude and are not really convinced that the gravel-routes that keep on popping up over here in Europe are really gravellers in the way that the initiators of this type of routes in the US had in mind when they came up with it. But this might be a philosophical discussion…

Let’s get to the point and give you a few hints on what you might encounter when you ride the BTG on a gravel bike:

  • BTG holds some really steep hills. Especially the hill range ‘Schwäbsiche Alb’ (between Route kilometer 170 and 450) holds some which will be a real challenge with the gear ratios of a mountain bike, but will be unrideable with a typical Graveller gearing. Those sections are short (1 or 2 km in a row) but can be frustrating if you have to push your bike.
  • BTG also has some technical sections. The majority of them is also concentrated in the Alb. They can be difficult or even dangerous in wet conditions because they run along a steep slope. A mountain bike adds to your safety in those sections. Please refer to the report at the end of this post by one of our first gravellers on the route from 2017, Rene Fischer. He opted to push his bike on these sections. The longest of them is about 4 or 5 km.
  • We were really lucky with weather conditions in 2018. It was a summer of record temperatures, the track was dry, firm and fast: A racetrack for gravel bikes. From our own scouting experience we know that there are sections that are prone to get very muddy after sustained rainfalls. These sections are no fun in wet conditions on a MTB but even less on a Graveller. They are not long but can be 3 or 4 km in a row in some areas
  • The dry conditions last year also had a negative impact on skinny tires: The section through Brandenburg (roughly between km 1100 and 1400) holds some sandy patches which were difficult for everybody, but you get the idea: The skinnier the tires the more frustrating these sections get. Again these sections are only 1 or 2km in a row but there are a few of them. In Brandenburg you virtually have all the climbing behind you and everybody was set to roll smoothly towards the Baltic Sea. With this mindset the Brandenburg sand can be a bad surprise.

If you want to get a good impression of what kind of terrain and tracks waits for you we highly recommend a series of videos recorded by our 2018 participant Sven B.:

That’s it for the moment. If you questions regarding this subject pls. send us an e-mail or even more recommended: Join our Whatsapp Group and discuss it with your fellow racers. We are both members of this group and from time to time we chime in.

Happy training miles & best regards, Achim & Thomas

René Fischer – My experience with Bikepacking Trans Germany on a Gravel Bike:

The most difficult decision that I had to make before the start of the BTG was the choice of bike: Can I ride the BTG with my gravelbike?

After 1650 km and 20.000m of climbing I can say: Yes, it works! But…

I already had some experience riding gravel in long distance races. The last one was a Non‐Stop ride in late April, Candy B. Graveller (650km, 6000m of climbing).

My bike, a VPACE T1ST Titanium, built with SRAM Force 1×11 (38×11‐42), hydraulic disk brakes and WTB Nano 40 TCS tubeless. SON Hub‐Dynamo + Forumslader USB‐charger and some bikepacking specific equipment.

… I loved it on the fast rolling streets and gravel roads, I had lots of fun in easy off‐road‐terrain and on forest roads. I cursed on it on the slippery single trails along the river Rhine, pushed it a lot across the wet roots on the so called Albtrauf (a long section of technical singletrail in southern Germany). I didn’t have any fun on the rocky trail descents in the Chech Republic and I hated it in the sandy deserts in the German states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg (in Eastern Germany).

After all, taking into account all the highs and lows, I had a lot of fun. In some sections I really suffered hard: The lack of suspension and the stretched position on the bike cause some real suffering the longer the race lasts. Even weeks after the race I struggled with numb fingertips. Quite a few times I yearned for my mountainbike with its upright seat position and suspension.

I was also lucky with the weather with only one day (the first) of rain. The rest of the time the track was dry and easy rideable. With 3 or 4 days of rain the whole picture would have changed completely.

I don’t give a recommendation here. I am just sharing my experience. If I come back in 2018 I will think a bit harder about which bike I take. I think my 29er fully rigid MTB with WTB Nanos 2,1” would be a good choice or even my Specialized Epic?

Maybe you can put it like this: If you want maximum fun while still riding fast, ride a mountainbike, maybe even with full suspension. If you’re just aiming for the fun, go for a Fatbike or a Singlespeed. If you really want to race it and are ready to suffer, go for a lightweight and fast MTB or a Gravelbike to be in for a sub‐7‐day finish.

Have fun and ride safely! Best regards, René

PS: Here is the link to my album: