161 Mi.(259 KM)
% Rideable (time)
Joshua Meissner, a German-Canadian from Berlin, intuitively documents his world with the eye of an engineering mind. Find more of his photo work on his website at JoshuaMeissner.de or on instagram @justjoshm. Constantin Gerlach is a professional photographer and graphic designer based in Berlin. His passion is telling authentic stories with natural light. Check out his portfolio constantingerlach.de and follow him on instagram @der_gerlacher.
With additional photos by Constantin Gerlach
This route showcases the excellent off-pavement riding that is directly accessible from the urban island that is Berlin. Exiting the metropolitan area via park trails, urban forest paths and dedicated cycle ways, this route puts you on track of a 260km loop through the sparsely populated area of Märkisch-Oderland in the federal state of Brandenburg to the north-east of Berlin. You’ll encounter sights characteristic of this area in Eastern Germany – dusty double tracks bounded by blooming fields, cake stops in quaint towns, derelict rural architecture, waning remnants of the socialist GDR regime and – above all – sprawling dry pine forests thriving in the sandy soil interspersed by tiny lakes.
This true multi-surface trip can be approached as an exercise in external appreciation, favoring those with a keen sense for the subtle changes in the surfaces traveled and the unique local details of hidden urbanity. Interpreted this way, the route offers a firm bikepacking rebuttal to the notion that Brandenburg is in any way boring or even topographically flat. It is designed as a fast and light two-day overnighter due to the lack of major elevation changes in the Northern German Plain. With wild camping permitted in this part of Germany, it opens up the possibility to ride at a more leisurely pace in three days with little additional planning.
Difficulty: As a flat two-day loop requiring moderate fitness, the route rates at a difficulty of 3/10. The terrain is overwhelmingly non-technical and rideable 99% of the time. The road surface is predominantly dirt, sand, and smooth gravel, with some gentle single track sections and a sufficient amount of cobblestone roads. The start/end point in central Berlin is easily accessible via public transit. Options for water and food are regular along the route but might require a short detour. Technical difficulty: 2/10, Phyiscal Demand: 5/10, Resupply & Logistics: 2/10.
- The route kicks off for real at Kilometer 29 with an epic gravel “Waldautobahn” (what we call these smooth wide tracks through the forest), setting the tone for the next hour of travel.
- The town of Buckow is a local tourism hotspot with a cute and bustling town center, multiple excellent bakeries and shopping opportunities. Load up on cake and chill out for a bit at the lake shore. It’s also worth exploring the glorious forest tracks in the nature preserve bordering the east of the town, especially if you’re riding the route in three days. An optional small loop is provided in the .gpx file.
- In the remote small towns of Brandenburg, curious vestiges of the GDR can be found everywhere – in architecture, vehicles and signage.
- The Schiffshebewerk (ship lift) in Niederfinow is a steel civil engineering marvel built in the 1930s and still in operation to this day. If you‘re lucky, you might just see the behemoth in action lifting a cargo barge.
- Go for a refreshing dip after a long hot day out in the crystal clear Parsteiner See.
- The “Hofladen” organic food shop located in the farming community of Brodowin offers lunch and cake for hungry cyclists and is open daily in April-November.
- Explore the early gothic architecture of the ancient monastery in Chorin. Peek through the wrought steel gates or take an inexpensive guided tour through the buildings.
- Open fire is prohibited in or near forests due to the dry conditions in summer
- Anticipate fallen trees blocking the route. A detour through a parallel forest track is usually possible due to the dense network of paths.
- The loop is comprised of about 65% non-asphalt surfaces, but there is at least 15-20 additional kilometers of rough, rutted, or cobbled back roads (think Flanders). 10% of the route runs on narrow straight-ish paths through the forest.
- The route can be ridden year round, but April-October is recommended since certain food establishments along the route may be closed in the off-season.
- The GPS route starts and ends in central Berlin right by the S-Bahn train station Treptower Park (easily accessible on the S-Bahn Ring line). Urban park trails and dedicated cycle paths along the major Müggelsee lake offer safe passage out of the city segregated from car traffic. The actual off-road route begins at Kilometer 29 in Erkner, which can be easily accessed as the final stop of the S3 S-Bahn line.
- The towns of Wriezen, Bad Freienwalde, Niederfinow, and Eberswalde offer a bail-out option back to Berlin via their connection to the regular RB60 regional train line every 1-2 hours.
- The route is rideable on any cyclocross, gravel or touring bike with tires in the 40mm range, although monstercross tires 2.1-2.2” wide are certainly an advantage for the sandy sections and cobblestone roads.
- Modern compact gearing (34-32 as an easiest gear) is sufficient, but 1:1 or easier is recommended for some steeper ramps.
- A little known fact, wild-camping for one night is legal for cyclists and hikers in Brandenburg, barring national parks, nature preserves and where locally explicitly prohibited (codified in paragraph 22 of the wonderfully German BbgNatSchAG 2013 (Brandenburgisches Ausführungsgesetz zum Bundesnaturschutzgesetz). LNT principles and courteous behavior if questioned are of particular importance here. Setup late and strike early.
- At Kilometer 50, the Maxsee lake offers an ideal wild-camping opportunity for those tackling the route in three days.
- The path on the shore of the Parsteiner See offers multiple opportunities for wild-camping and is particularly recommended as the stopping point of a fast two-day trip.
- There is an inexpensive campsite on Parsteiner See (KM 135) suitable for bike tourers with tents. It’s recommended to call ahead of arriving during the summer season to avoid any surprises.
- Top up your drinking water in between major towns from the public faucets available in cemeteries which you’ll find along the way. Non-exhaustive list of such water sources: Hoppegarten KM 52, Harnekop KM 92, Herzsprung KM 146, Leuenberg KM 205. Although it’s not necessary for surviving this route, water from lakes and streams is safely filterable, as there is no major industry.
- On this route through rural Brandenburg you‘re never more than a couple of kilometers from a minor population center. Erkner, Buckow, Eberswalde mark major towns along the route. Note that grocery stores are generally closed on Sundays, while cafés remain open (in the summer months at least).
- The first half of the route, particularly between Buckow and Parsteiner See, is the more challenging part of the loop both in terms of trail surface and elevation changes. It is possible to split it up into two parts by wildcamping somewhere before Buckow, recommended is the Maxsee lake.
- The second half is a fairly relaxed spin over mellow gravel and dirt roads back into Berlin and can be easily done in one day.
Official tracker of the current forest fire risk (1-5, 5 is the highest risk): Link Here
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