Gravel Culture: Travel Gravel - The island of Usedom

Posted By Gravel Union On 22 October 2020

Timo Rokitta heads to the island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea in search of gravelly adventures

Usedom is an island located in the Pomeranian Bay of the Baltic Sea. It’s roughly 80% German and 20% Polish. With around 1900 hours of sunshine a year, Usedom is the sunniest region on the Baltic Sea coast. The fashionable Baltic Sea resorts have been described as white pearls strung along a 42 km long sandy beach, but it’s the hinterlands with their mysterious forests and quaint fishing villages that interest me most as a gravel rider. The sunny island of Usedom is a land of charming contrasts - beach and sea, nature and idyll.

The island offers the perfect off-road environment for a gravel bike, so as an end-of-summer highlight, I fancied circumnavigating the island so headed up there to see what I could find.

I start my gravel adventure on the promenade in Bansin, one of the old fashionable imperial spas found on Usedom. In addition to Bansin, there have been many other beautiful spa towns created directly on the Baltic Sea since the beginning of the last century. As I ride the first kilometers towards the Polish border I enjoy the fresh, cool sea air that blows into my face from the east. Shortly before the Polish border, the path branches off to the right and heads into the forest. I ride on old GDR “Panzerplattenweg” armoured path - not the most comfortable surface to ride on with a gravel bike!

After the brutal cobbles, the trail heads steeply uphill in a dark forest. On a sandy forest trail, I circle the Wolgastsee and shortly after stand at the Polish border post in the forest. In Morgenitz, the center of Usedom, I ride over the worst cobblestones I’ve ever found! The trail varies constantly as next I discover concrete slab paths heading through the forest. In Grüssow I find a quaint little cafe where I have an early breakfast.

With a full stomach and energy levels topped up, I pick up a narrow trail that heads along the top of a dike for a long time. I pass through many small typical ex-GDR villages. After Suckow, my route continues to the right on a sandy forest path. A little later I'm in Usedom.

I come back to the mainland over the Zecheriner bridge. I ride on more armored trails linking together numerous small towns - places which look like time has stood since the 1950s. A 10kmlong bumpy country road takes me through wooded avenues. On a sharp left bend, my trail turns right and off through fields and so I reach Wismar. After 112 kilometers I take a break in Wismar and eat delicious marzipan cake. I ride over the bascule bridge from Wismar to the island of Usedom.

Along Peenestrom, my route speeds past old bunkers from the Second World War. This is where the V2 rocket was built and tested by the Nazis. An old Soviet submarine lies in the port of Peenemünde. The submarine U-461 belongs to the Soviet-owned Project 651. It is the last remaining boat of this class and was the largest conventional underwater missile cruiser ever built. Developed as a weapon against US aircraft carrier combat groups, the boat was built in the early 1960s and entered service in 1965 under the designation K-24, later renamed the B-124. The diesel-electric powered submarine was on its training and patrol trips in the North Atlantic with four cruise missiles and torpedoes. The submarine had to emerge to fire the cruise missiles.

The entire forest near Peenemünde is a restricted area. Countless bombs and ammunition from World War II and from the Soviet national guideline troops are still stored here. Back to the trail and I’m now on fast, good paths that pass close to Karlshagen and Trassenheide. In Zinnowitz I'm back on the Baltic Sea. Here you can dive 11 meters into the sea with a diving gondola.

The following route is a real gravel dream. The trails undulate constantly and are dry and fast. There are always beautiful views over the Baltic Sea. After the descent to Bansin, I eat a delicious fish sandwich on the beach right by the sea to end my gravel adventure.

After 6 hours of driving time and 160 kilometers of riding, I think I’m earned myself a rest before I head home!

Words and images by Timo Rokitta & Mandy Rodriguez
If you would like to follow Timo & Mandy’s route, you can find it here