Hello America! | Part #2 – Sending it to Freiburg
On two continents, 6,600 kilometers away from their home countries – we found two guys who literally swapped their lives: one in America, the other in Germany. How does biking feel in each of their new worlds? Who finds the best trails? Who drinks the best beer? Hear their stories and follow their adventures as they hit the trails in their new worlds.
There is a legend growing that the new mountain biking trail in Freiburg, Germany was built by a crew of Canadian trail builders. Most Germans know that before the shovels ever hit the dirt it takes years of navigating German laws and regulations to build a legal trail. This one is no exception. It was the combination of the local Germans support and background work and the fast, arduous work of these builders that turned the woods into an absolutely ripping trail. In their honor, the trail is now called the “Canadian” trail.
So who better to to do a spot check of the new Canadian trail in the Black Forest of Germany, than an American and a Brit? Driving two hours from Stuttgart on a mix of autobahn and mountain roads to hit up a new trail is no problem for me. The stereotype that Americans drive a lot is true. We drive everywhere – to work, to the store, to the subway, and even a few doors down to visit our neighbors. I picked up Andy, one of Enduro’s new photographers, at the magazine’s headquarters and headed out of town. Andy arrived in Germany only a week prior and was pumped to see the Black Forest for the first time. We also picked up Lukas who is one of the local Stuttgart rippers willing to send pretty much any feature we might come across.
My van is fast by American standards, but is simply a pig on the German autobahns. I still feel like a race car driver though as I push the van up towards 200 km/h. It is always humbling to get passed by someone going so much faster that I swear my speedometer must be broken. We spent the two hours getting to know each other and discussing the peculiarities of our homelands. It was all very highbrow stuff like, in which countries is it safe to eat at gas stations? Or, is it legal to actually have an open bottle of beer in the car? And, did you know that the Germans are allowed to urinate anywhere they want to?
Borderline and the Canadian are the two legal trails in Freiburg that are both without a doubt worthy of a trip. We decided to ride the Canadian trail first when we had fresh legs. The real challenge to riding these trails is that you can’t shuttle them. You either grind out the climbs on fireroads or you push your bike up. I know that some xc guys can probably sprint up these hills, but it takes me nearly an hour to get up either of them because you need to ascend about 500 vertical meters. These are massive climbs by my standards. Andy assured me that he would have no problem climbing with his backpack full of expensive and very heavy cameras, but he was fooled repeatedly by the false peaks and, even though he was 20 meters ahead of me, I could still hear him curse the mountain as he rounded each switchback to find another equally steep climb.
The Black Forest is really special and the praise for its beauty is well deserved. From the top of the trail, you sit in silence and stare into the darkness of the dense forest. I love the vibe of a parking lot at bike park with the cars, and people, and loud music, but this peacefulness is outstanding and you know that you and everyone else who rides this trail had to earn it. But, now it’s time to shred.
The Canadian trail is a work of art. It puts a smile on your face at the first corner and it keeps you grinning, giggling, hooting, and hollering all the way to the bottom. There is a proper mix of everything on the trail. You’ll find tight berms, rock gardens, jumps, drops, hips, gullies, and endless flow. Check out the pictures and watch some videos, because my descriptions won’t do it justice. Andy was committed to getting some great shots of the trail and paid for it by lying in a nest of red ants. Aside from the insect bites, the trail was pure fun.
We exchanged some high-fives, chugged some Gatorades, chomped on some Powerbars, and headed across the river to the Borderline trail. Borderline has an equally grueling climb to get to the trail head and once you arrive at the top there is a tower that you can climb to get above the trees and view the 360 degree expanse. To the east is the heart of the Black Forest and to the west is the Rhine river valley with France off in the distance. The historic city center of Freiburg, the vineyards, bikepark Todtnau, lake Titisee, and everything else nearby make Freiburg a terrific vacation destination, but once again it is time to pull the knee pads up and get ready for another downhill.
The Borderline trail is more of a traditional downhill bike track that was built before the new style flow trials like the Canadian. My Specialized Enduro takes a pounding out here and I am confident that trail is actually easier to ride fast than slow. Steep, dusty pitches with loads of water-bar step-downs make it a very difficult trail. Most of the jumping we did on this trail was gapping over sections full of totally exposed roots and rocks. There is a ton of braking, skidding, and guessing at each new turn but it is a blast and some recent upgrades to the trail have helped reroute drainage and keep you headed in the right direction as you descend. I saw a few people come through Borderline on full xc bikes with spandex and extremely high seats, so I know it is possible to ride it that way, but I prefer 165mm of travel and my dropper seat all the way down.
Borderline ends at the river so we swapped out some of our kit for a cooler full of beer at the car and rolled over to the edge of the water to cool down and enjoy the post-ride afterglow. I’ve heard people say that they don’t care for German food, but that’s just crazy talk. We went into the old town and had a outstanding dinner of flammkuchen and local specialties at the foot of the historic Freiburger Münster cathedral which dates back to 1200. Flammkuchen is an Alsatian version of a pizza with a light flaky crust and covered with crème fraîche instead of tomato sauce. If you haven’t had it, it is just another reason to come and visit this region.
Andy fell asleep quickly in the car. I’m not sure if it was the long drive, the two hours of climbing, the biting ants, or the terror of trying to ride clipped in on a new bike with the brakes reversed and several thousand dollars of camera gear on his back, but he was out like a baby. A proper nap during the car ride home from his first bike trip is a clear sign of success and we’ll surely be making this trip again soon.
For more info, visit: mountainbike-freiburg.com
This article is part of a series called ‘Hello America!’ – where two riders from opposite ends of the worlds coincidentally moved to each others home towns and started riding each others trails! Take a trip to the first article of the series: Introduction
Words: Evan Phillips Photos: Andrew Richardson