Ride Report: Bohemian Border Bash 2020
Gravel Union On
01 October 2020
We sent our intrepid reporters, Erwin Sikkens and Stefan Haehnel from the Shimano Gravel Alliance to the recent Bohemian Border Bash event and this is their story
After a summer where the majority of gravel events didn’t take place, Erwin and Stefan had ridden their fair share of solo gravel rides in recent months, like the Orbit 360 and Dirty Kanzelled. But as September arrived, it was time to go out and finally visit a genuine gravel event again. In the Czech Republic, just across the German border, they met up at Bohemian Border Bash.
For Erwin the eight hour drive proved well worth it when looking at the landscape upon arrival. Although Stefan had visited the event the year before, for Erwin it was his first time. The Bohemian Border Bash is set in the Bohemian Swiss border region and national park, known for its giant boulders and rock formations sticking out of the ground, as well as its ancients forests and most importantly for us, a network of amazing gravel roads.
Bohemian Border Bash is more than just a gravel ride. It’s a genuine multi-day event with multiple riding options. When riding the whole weekend there is the choice of riding two separate one day rides, or one big one. First, on Friday there is the 80km Blind Bash ride, followed by the 160km long main ride The Bash on Saturday. True tough kids can choose to ride the Big Bash, a self-supported 300+ km long ride, to be ridden in two days sleeping out somewhere in the wild. Of course, if you really want there’s also the option of riding the Big Bash in one go finishing deep at night. This year it was done by ex-pro peloton rider Laurens ten Dam, but he was one of the few, as most people ride the Blind Bash and The Bash combination or at least sleep when riding the Big Bash!
Stefan even topped Laurens’ ride last year by riding the Big Bash first on Friday, finishing late at night, only to top it off with the full The Bash ride the day after. A Bohemian Border Bash that sums up to approximately 460 km of gravel in 2 days with loads of climbing. One year ago, his goal was to ride fast and collect as many bohemian kilometers as he could ride after an already amazing season, riding Paris-Brest-Paris and other long distance rides. This year he followed the advice from his friend and race organizer Ondrej: “This is not a race“, leaving room for some well-deserved beers and chats by the fire as well.
The event starts and finishes in a tiny bungalow park, where you can either sleep in a tent or in one of the many picturesque wooden shacks spread across the terrain. With room to spare and loads of nature around, CV19 rules were easily respected as most of the event happened out in the open to begin with. Mornings started with the ritual of sleepy people with tiny headaches from the night before, gather round for a good cup of coffee to get them started. After breakfast ,and the washing of the plates and tin cups everybody brought themselves, all the riders got dressed for the group start that every ride has. From there on the event presents itself as self-supported, which is only partially true. Yes, you’ll need to patch up your own flat tires and bring some food for the ride, but an impressive four feed stops stocked with food and drinks awaited the riders during The Bash, making you feel well looked after.
This also goes for the beautiful landscapes and all the amazing gravel roads, grassy paths and forest tracks, that are carefully selected by Border Bash organizer Ondrej. Most of them are easily rideable, with some nice challenges along the way. Clearly, he put a lot of love into creating the route that takes you through a beautiful variety of different landscapes. From hills and valleys, to crossings of the Elbe river and beautiful rock formations sticking out of the ground high above your head when riding. Along the way, the ride proved to have quite the bit of climbing in it, and the 160 kilometers weren’t going to be conquered easily.
Stefan and Erwin were joined by an ever changing group of great riders, such as Jon from Amsterdam and Votec Gravel Fondo organiser Alex a.k.a. ‘Gravel Jesus’, who was a recent guest on one of the Gravel Union Talks. Since September days aren’t the longest of the year, a bit of calculation at the start told the group quite early on that they would be finishing in the dark, making the ride all the more special. It’s good to bring your lights when coming to the Bash!
A long day in the saddle brought the guys back to camp. A long day with some of the most beautiful gravel roads out there in central Europe, combined with some lovely steep forest climbing and descending and the occasional hike-a-bike that everybody loved. Because let’s face it, no gravel adventure is really complete without a good hike-a-bike, Erwin truthfully said.
Back at camp the riders were faced with a great warm welcome by the campfire. Big beers called Pivo were poured and meat right off the bone was eaten. The perfect ambiance for sharing the adventures gathered by many, while being out for a great day in the saddle.
The night was long and the party after the ride was at least as fun as the ride itself.
Looking back at the event, for Stefan his second Bohemian Border Bash proved to be just as good as the first edition. Even with the quite different approach in comparison to last year. He rode the event the ‘normal’ way, riding with his buddies and totally loved the social aspect that came with it. Meeting old and new friends from nearby as well as from abroad was a nice compensation for all the solo-covid-kilometers done in 2020.
For next year though, Stefan already revealed some self-supported long distance Bohemian Border Bash racing plans again, as he looks forward riding the BBB Race, an all-new gravel racing event coming to the Gravel Union calendar in 2021.
“Bohemian Border Bash is one of those events that’s up there on the Gravel Union calendar and you don’t quite know what it’s about exactly. All you know is that it’s a cool party that you just have to go and visit when you have the opportunity and find out what it’s all about” Erwin said. “I wasn’t disappointed. It’s one of the special ones up on that calendar for sure, and I will definitely revisit the event when I get the chance.”
Text and images by Erwin Sikkens and Stefan Haehnel