Make it your 24 hours!

24 hours endurance racing. Not your thing? Never say never! 

As a young boy were bedazzled by the racers at Spa, Le Castellet and Le Mans. Time and time again we were asking ourselves: “How can these people physically endure this non-stop racing?” The riders, the mechanics, the spectators… They all seemed to have superhuman powers.

It wasn’t until the day that we started with endurance races ourselves that we got acquainted with 'the drive'. As eager bike travellers we soon discovered – while doing too many kilometers a day - a similar kind of energy. After many kilometers – too many - we often found ourselves in the ‘zone’, a mental state close to zen. A state of mind that could keep us going.   

Eager to live the ‘the zone’ experience again, we set out a route to the Bol d’Or race that can be covered in 24 hours. Starting point? Berlin. You’ll find the full trip in the link at the bottom of this page; we’ll be making four more trips like these, with different starting-points, allowing you to ride your own 24 hours to Bol d’Or.

 

We are all Berliners.

More or Less 1750 km. Quite a stretch from Berlin to Le Castellet, using the scenic roads. That makes an average of 73km/h in 24 hours. Feasible, we thought, so off we went.

There is no other city in Europe with the same vibe as Berlin. Relaxed, stress less, friendly people with a beautiful combination of the contemporary and history, cool cafés, sporting events, pedestrian zones, …

    Our aim was to start at the Brandenburger Tor, but upon arrival just before 12 p.m. we found the 17th June street to be completely closed off up to the Tiergarten roundabout. Brilliant planning, PJ! Shooting footage on the 17th of June Boulevard was not the best idea. Better do some thinking next time.

    The main issue with this roadblock was however that we had to search for another location to shoot the start scene of our ride. Spinner Brücke café - just outside Berlin – was a perfect alternative. A busy biker café with a full terrace and loads of bikes to look at, friends to be found and hamburgers to be eaten.

    Unfortunately, we did not have time to make new friends. It was close to 3 p.m. We had to start moving. We mounted our GPS, checked the fuel tank and were ready to go. Our bike of choice? A Yamaha YZF-R1. Yeah, we’re full of good ideas.

    Bye, bye Berlin.

    15 minutes after leaving Berlin we find ourselves amidst green fields and villages. The contrast between the buzzing, creative city and the rural surroundings is striking. We were on a calm, cool and slightly curvy ride. The sun is out and the landscape invited us to keep going. Forests, lakes, trees, flowers…it is all there. We cross the Elbe in Wittenberg. Further to the South-West – lakes galore - we avoid Leipzig by taking the A9. We were not to keen on motorways, but hey, we want a moment full throttle! We opened the R1 and reach - legally - 299 (speedo). Our WM70 only went to 232 auf der Autobahn recently. Seeing the number 299 does make a big difference.

    We’re close to Naumburg when we leave the A9. We made up some time. Next served are bends and corners.  The B88 past Jena has plenty of those. Past Schwarzburger we choose smaller roads and have our first ‘gespert’ encounter. A blocked road. Strasse gespert. Look for Umleitung = deviation. The first of many, so it seemed.  We have to improvise. Ignoring the GPS is another message. Interpreting purple lines and directions becomes a habit. From our detours we remember: the L1112, Schwarzatal, the L1145 to Neuhaus am RennWeg. Am Rennweg, our limited German knowledge made us smile. 

    We try to keep a straight line between Berlin and Marseille. The shortest way between two points.  Luckily the great German roads - we mean great in the sense of almost perfect – allow us to keep a good tempo. We were on a good run. Between Untermerzbach and Ebern we come across a group of local bikers racing up and down their favorite corners. Great. But, guys, really, spikes in knee sliders are really so eighties!

    Further south the chosen roads are a little less important, but the surface stays almost perfect. The landscape is nice, friendly and keeps us going. Gomadingen, Engstingen, Gammertingen. The 313 is a fantastic road. Fast and flowing. We are heading to the Swiss border. The sun is gone. It’s the 21st of June, the longest day of the year. When we got to the border we read: 882 km. The time: 11 p.m.

    Brain like Swiss cheese

    The night ride through Switzerland is tiring. The Furka in the dark a bit tricky. We encounter many road works even when we choose the main roads, so we’re not really making ground. The sky starts to clear at the exit of the MontBlanc Tunnel . The little St. Bernard is as good as deserted. On the Col de L’Iseran we need a break. The day temperature of an average 34°C and a cold night in the Alps (7°C) are beginning to break our bones. We need some sun to warm us. And Coffee. We also expected the Isoard to be re-asphalted – as 2 years ago they were working on it - but unfortunately they mended only half of the road two years before.

    We have breakfast in Bonneval sur Arc. It’s 9 a.m. We did 1267km. Because of the road works everywhere we have some extra miles on the speedo. Still 6 hours left for the last 500KM. The Galibier is great, every hour of the day. Lac de Serre-Ponçon and the D954. Wonderful. We loved it. The same goes for the D900 taking us closer to our destination. Leaving Digne we’re in lavender country. We see hundreds of tourists trying to get the perfect picture. We’re moving on. Riez, Bras, Signes. We made it.
     

    24 hours: what a trip. 

    Some things we would like to clear out: the trip as described above was not done  by us in 24 hours. 1788 km in a day is possible, sure, but we had a movie to make, pictures to take… We’re not looking for excuses, but one has to be realistic.

    We also don’t recommend making this trip in one go, but it’s feasible. However we think a trip like this should be enjoyed to the fullest. You really should take your time to stop to inhale the beautiful landscapes.

    We had a fantastic team following us in the car so we were cool with luggage and fuel, but still we did this trip in several days. We found some great places to stay on our route.

    We stayed in Gasthaus Hoffman close to Bamberg, Gasthaus Am Bauerenhof just outside Zurich and the Chateau de Picomtal in France. Upon Arrival we stayed in the Maison Rouge, about one hour from the circuit of Le Castellet.

    We did do the full ride ourselves on the YZF-R1 and we had a total of 2448km (Yes, you have to ride back and forth a lot for the movie). The bike has a wonderful engine and the front goes where you point it. Is 200 horses too much for the road? We don’t think so. We used B mode, and C mode in the pouring rain (huge storm coming down from the Gallibier). Mind you, we are not going to choose this bike next time (at least not during the hottest week of the year) as the heat from the engine combined with the hot air made us sweat more than usual. Also the luggage possibilities are rather limited. There was no space for a camera; a backpack is possible, but it’s a hassle to take the camera out every time, so we just swung it over our shoulder.

    The tire change in the video is staged. We could have done another 3000km on the R10 from Bridgestone, honestly. 

    Finally! A really big thumbs up to Fausto (sweep car), Javier (Camera) and Crisitina. Also a big  thanks to Florence and Philippe from Trail-Rando for the warm welcome upon arrival in Le Castellet.
     

    As we know you’re not all living in Berlin we have created trips from 5 different venues, so depending where you come from you can chose one of them or use it partly. Enjoy!!

    See our trips & download GPX below:

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