The area where I live in Central Europe is not mountainous, but it is hilly, to go beyond this I would need to visit the Harz where the Brocken stands at 1,141 metres or the Wurmberg at 971 (the latter an offroad cycling mecca).
Göttingen sits in the Leine Valley and is flanked to the west by the Hoher Hagan the highest point hereabouts at 480 metres. It was used by Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777/1855) as a datum point as he developed his theory of Trigonometry creating the tools to measure the world. On the Eastside, Mackenröde Spitze at 428 metres is the highest in the immediate vicinity to Gö.
We live in the most peaceful and affluent society ever and the remnants of past violence and insecurity can be found on much of the high ground or on prominent hills. To visit these often romantic echoes of harder times requires gaining height and the climbs to them come in many shades of torture. A simple up and over approach means a steep gradient, whilst a serpentine is longer in distance and gains height gradually meaning it is a lighter shade of ´grey´ (or Pale?).
Before I moved to Gö I was experienced in riding the often short, but steep climbs of the Kentish Weald and the North or South Downs. Downe Road, a climb close to Charles Darwin’s house touches 27%. Probably the oldest bike race in the World, the Catford CC Hillclimb is held nearby on Yorks Hill at 25%. Highlighting the different shades of ´greydient´, the BEC CC hill climb held on White Lane (A short distance from each other) isn´t that long in length and ´only´ has a 13% average ascent. Nonetheless although both hills are so different, they share a huge capacity to deliver pain and snap legs. The better known Box Hill isn´t really a tough climb.
To get up these hills I fitted to my ´gravel´ bike of the late 1990´s and 2000´s a triple mountain bike chainset (28/38/48) combined with a nine speed 13/26 cassette, this allowed me to scale some steep climbs when I pedalled a combination of sometimes forgotten asphalt roads and wild trails (Rough Stuff as we called it). I gave this up for a 46/36 double with a 13/26 cassette.
It was common back then for bikes to be made up with a mix of different brands with often curious variants such as in my case a Shimano LX triple chainset coupled to a Campagnolo Record road rear mech. A bike with a full groupset from one manufacturer would stand out. To further underline my deviant nature at one point I removed the outer ring on a triple carbon chainset, and this worked well. My current gravel machine follows its cyclo cross heritage although now with 11 cogs on the back. To be honest it can be hard work on the long steep ascents especially as I´m not as young as I was, and I might yet venture down the rabbit hole of going for a single chain ring with a ´dinner plate´ of cogs on the back.
Four of my ´gravel´ bikes 2000s and a wee bit earlier my 531c CX machine
On the High Ground
Gradient has played a large part in the routes I have recently ridden to scout a Göttingen castles asphalt tour: The Rusteberg and Gleichen Castles, then Grone, Jühnde and Berlepsch Castles were added. Since, I have also been working out an extension to my All Along the Watchtower gravel tour featuring castles.
My latest scouting forays included two visits to the Alte Niedeck by road and gravel bike and on this ride, I linked up Kerstlingeröderfeld, on the Gö Stadtwald above Mackenröde, to the Alte Niedeck and the Gleichen Castles.
In general, if a climb is on an asphalt road it will be less steep whilst on gravel it can be over the 20% mark on this tour, early on I hit one ascent that was 27.5%. Two castles and a warte were included which saw me engaging gradients both down and up: Down involved a 15% rocky descent from the Göttinger Stadtwald to Mackenröde and the climb to the Gleichen Castles reached over 24%. With extremes in my mind, it would be easy to dismiss the climbs of anything from 2 to 20% as being ´ordinary´, nonsense of course because cumulative climbs of lesser levels can tear your soul from your body.
The ride took me up and across the Gö Stadtwald, down to Mackenröde and up again skirting the Hengstberg to the Alte Niedeck (388 metres). Here, I shot down via Niedeck on a mix of gravel and asphalt to the Gartetalbahn cycle path to Benniehausen.
Then, it was the long climb (24% max) to the Gleichens at 430 metres where two castles once stood before riding some cool trails, including the Kopfsteinpflaster Carousel to eventually descend near to Benniehausen once more. The seemingly ´tame’ 12% ascent up to the Diemarden Warte took me toward home.
Check out the profile of the ride below.
P.S. I have never seen the film 50 Shades of Grey and my favourite use of this film title was a book called Fifty Sheds of Grey.
The Ride – 33km
Pictures in order of appearance