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FINISHER #11

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Name: Stefan Henschke 

Residence: USA

Bike: Salsa Cutthroat

Riding period: August to October (2022)

Most favourite part:

For this entire late-summer route, I carried 2L of water. Never had issues except a couple times in the south. No worries showing up to camp dehydrated, more incentive to make friends. Once you leave Scandinavia, you’ll no longer have access to free (and ridiculously comfortable) charging in Ica, bathrooms in all businesses, smiley water bottle fill ups, and public libraries galore. From here on out you’ll have to fight tooth and nail to meet your basic needs. There were times when French cafe owners must have mistook my request for tap water with one for their first born child. Remember the less you carry, the longer your bike and your back will last. Seems obvious, though the gifted glass jar of honey I carried over 1500km suggests otherwise. Wild camping is a cinch until you reach Germany. There, it gets a little trickier and the locals remind you of your questionable legality. Warmshowers is, however, rad in Germany and certainly makes up for the rather banal farmland. After Kaiserslautern, wild camping becomes much, much easier all the way through the rest of the trail to Sagres. 

Most favorite part: Start in Kirkenes. The north is austere and endless and the lonely gravel roads left plenty of time to pull my Achilles when I realized I was woefully under conditioned. Andy Cox calculates 99% rideability in kms not time. You will spend time walking. Screaming optional. I spent many days, bike hucked over the shoulder, searching for cloud berries and drooling over off-limit reindeer steaks; I kid, majestic creatures. Though they can be aloof, I nearly hit one on a sketchy loose downhill somewhere in Finland. Sweden is flat, wild, and will prepare you both mentally and physically for sleeping on park benches in the rainy Catalonian hills. 24 hrs of sunlight and days of what feels like remote backcountry only to be offered a smorgasbord from Swedish families on holiday in the countryside. Spain is dry, but the elevation change and monoliths in the Sierra Cazorla are magnificent. 

Random thoughts: 

ake your time. A retractable fishing rod would have been nice. Thongs are a must. 2.3in tires were heavenly in the south but overkill for the north.

The dogs of Marmelete are vicious. They drink blood and know bikepackers have dense calves. 

“No le puedes gustar a todo el mundo. No eres croqueta.”

You’ll puke a few times, I did. People say you ought to eat more than just imported Tillamook cheese in Norway. People also say this trail is 99% rideable. 

Get excited, 95% of your diet in the northern section could consist of day-old cinnamon rolls if you don’t pack a stove. 

Wear your helmet into the store that way everyone’ll know you’re headed to Portugal.

Take a multivitamin. Once you’ve shotguned your first flan, vegetables seem pointless. After all, the only edible ultralight food is ice cream.

Keep in touch with the few other riders you meet along the way. When you get to the finish line exhausted and alone, they’ll be there for you. 

Stefan’s trips in pictures


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