Ride Report: Greffelründsche 2020

Posted By Gravel Union On 21 October 2020

Timo Rokitta, our roving gravelly reporter in Germany reports back from his highlight of 2020

The highlight of my 2020 gravel season was undoubtedly the Greffelründsche (the name comes from German dialect and means "Gravel around Frankfurt"), a 303km long gravel race around the city of Frankfurt am Main. Almost 100 participants were registered for the event, although due to the Covid19 pandemic, the process was changed slightly in advance.

The organiser described the event as “303kms of mind boggling singletrack, gravel trails, footpaths, bridges, avenues and sections that defy any categorisation, put together to form something that feels like a feverish dream.”

One minute you are riding a piece of singletrack that winds through a forest, then it spits you out onto a sandy construction site, back onto gravel, before you navigate your way through a labyrinth of allotments, fences and parks and land again on overgrown trails.

You ride far and yet hardly leave the city. There is little asphalt, but countless changes of direction and it is guaranteed not to be boring. No chance to take a deep breath. A little bit of everything. A lot of it. The skyline is always in view from all directions, when you least expect it. In the background the Taunus (a small range of hills to the north of the city) and lots of motorways. Until you completely lose your bearings.

But it doesn't matter, just follow the zigzag on your cycling computer. Turn off your sanity and choose to blindly follow the route. I promise, it will take you to places that you didn't know existed in Frankfurt. The definition of ride everywhere. Although it's not about the finish, but the route itself, it feels damn special to return to the heart of Frankfurt after many hours in the saddle. As if you then know something about the city like no other.

The start time on October 24th, 2020 could be chosen freely. Only the starting point of the track and the destination were given. There were no refreshments on the way and you had to take care of food and drinks yourself on the way. The positions of the drivers could be followed via Racemap.

I started properly at 6.20am under the Ignatz-Bubis bridge directly on the river Main. The organizer, Ken, greeted me in a friendly way and then we set off, alongside the water for the first 25 kilometers in the dark. The illuminated skyline of “Mainhattan” was particularly impressive. At Oberrad the route turned into the forest. Here the path led over fast rolling terrain. Suddenly I heard a loud hiss from my front tyre - the tubeless milk splashed on my fork and sealed the hole. Luckily, I could ride on without stopping.

This was followed by the Langener-Waldsee-Trail and the well-known, scenic route around the airport, including Lindensee, Mönchbruchsee and the perennial ponds. A few kilometers further on, hills and narrow singletrack trails alternated permanently. A herd of deer crossed the path near Frankfurt Airport.

Suddenly I noticed that my front tire was becoming more and more spongy. I stopped for a moment and realized that I had lost a lot of air. I rode on carefully. In the forest, I avoided all the roots, I didn't want to destroy my carbon rim. In the corners the tire buckled suddenly and I thought I would have to abandon the race. I rolled to the small ferry on the river Main at the end of the first section. The ferryman told me during the crossing that there was a petrol station 500 meters away. There I refilled air and luckily, the tyre stayed inflated until the finish.

The paths were now narrower and muddy, I had problems with the Byway slick tires here. On the small river Nidda, things went faster again. After crossing some beautiful parks, I passed under a highway. At the rest stop there, we went down a steep staircase and then continued on fast concrete trails. In Bad Vilbel at km 200 I originally planned to take a break in a cafe. However, there were a lot of people there, so I just kept going. I refilled my water bottles in a cemetery.

Shortly after 6pm it was getting dark and I turned on the light. Now the route became more demanding. It went up and down all the time. The paths, only 1 meter wide, led through allotment gardens and were sometimes very rough.

Here I met two other gravellers with whom I planned to ride to the finish line. After one of them had a little fall and briefly stopped to repair their saddle, we got going again and headed along the river Main at a fast pace.

After exactly 14 hours and 20 minutes I was at the finish in Frankfurt. As a reward, I looked closely at the illuminated city skyline. The fastest participants crossed the finish line after 12 hours and the slowest after 23 hours. The gravel season 2020 its now over for me. Many thanks to the organiser for this hell ride.

You can find out more information about the event here

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