Gravel roads in the high fens - Dirty Kanzelled

Dirty Kanzelled 200 – Graveln in the Eifel

The Gravelbikes are in the trend is not only known since yesterday. Events can be found almost everywhere and in the foreground is something that connects us all – the fun of driving. The spectrum is huge and so cyclists with more or less wide tires get together to explore remote roads, field and forest paths.

The Dirty Kanza 200 stands out in this regard. Already since 2006 it goes here over gravel and sharp-edged flints in the middle of the USA. However, due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, this event will also have to be cancelled this year. Inspired by ex-professional Laurens ten Dam we decided to participate in the Dirty Kanzelled. The idea is simple. Alone or in pairs, you plan a tour of your surroundings as a representative of the event.

Dirty Kanzelled – The route planning

After a short consideration the basic idea for our tour was set. We wanted to connect and descend the dams in the region North Eifel / Belgian Eifel / High Fens. We had no idea how much this was going to shape the tour.

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Komoot makes route planning easy

With the route planner Komoot the route was more than simply provided and stood after the optimization of some fine points. We used the bicycle setting, because the route planner does not yet offer a gravel-specific setting. We decided on a length of 200 kilometres (compared to 200 miles/320km in the original). 55 of them on unpaved roads over gravel and dirt – very Dirty Kanzelled style. All in all we had to overcome an altitude of about 2700m.

The preparation

Anyone who has ever planned a long day trip knows that there is also some preparation involved. Accordingly, we checked the gears, brakes and tires thoroughly the day before the tour in order to be as defect-free as possible on the Dirty Kanzelled.

Our gravel bikes are made by OPEN from Switzerland and are equipped with WTB ByWay tires for this tour. Even though a detailed report will follow, one thing can be said in advance – we are more than satisfied with the UP / UPPER.

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Our setup for the Dirty Kanzelled 200

In addition, the following could not be missed:

  • Air pump
  • Minitool
  • Tyre lever
  • Squirt chain wax
  • Spare tubes (yes – we are actually not tubeless yet)
  • Bike computer (with heart rate belt)
  • Drinking bottles
  • Sufficient bars, gels, waffles, etc.
  • Camera
  • Frame and/or saddle bag

With the food it depends of course strongly on whether and how many stops one has planned. In the same way, experience shows that you have to refill the bottles every now and then on a long tour.

The Day of Days – Our Dirty Kanzelled

With a day’s delay, but all the more motivated, we started our gravel tour Dirty Kanzelled on Whit Sunday. After a hearty breakfast that filled the energy stores for the day once again, we left at quarter to 10.

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After a good hour we have reached the first intermediate destination. The Dreilägerbach dam in Roetgen. Here also the first somewhat longer gravel sector started. This led in the shade of the forest over the Dreilägerbach to high in the Wollerscheider Venn.

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With road bike shoes it is sometimes uncomfortable – what kind of pedals do you use?

Next we went to the Kalltalsperre. On the way down there, however, a surprise awaited us. A steep and partly technical descent had to be mastered. A mountain bike with a lowerable seat post would have been a pleasant change here.

Shortly after we were rewarded with the second dam.

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After a short but steep ascent we went over forest roads to Schmidt. There we briefly enjoyed the beautiful view over the Rursee and could already see our next destination, the Rurtalsperre. With short interruptions, the longest section away from paved paths began here and, with views of the lake, also one of the most beautiful.

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Along the lakeshore the route led to the Paulushof dam in Rurberg and then up to the Urft dam. Unfortunately, there were quite a lot of hikers on this section, but with the fantastic weather this could not be avoided.

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The Urft dam

The steep ascent to the Ordensburg Vogelsang has an average gradient of 13% over approx. 800 metres. Another ramp followed shortly after. On loose, quite slippery gravel the 1.4 kilometers at an average of 8% were a real challenge. But we were rewarded for that. The idyllic view on the Dreiborn plateau is unparalleled.

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A hearty “Torture yourself, pig!” would probably have helped us up here, too.

The next intermediate destination was now a little further away. On gravel roads the route led us along the Rur via Hammer to Konzen. With meanwhile empty drinking bottles we would have better left the track here shortly. But our way led into the fens. On fast gravel roads have not only made good distance but also enjoyed the scenery.

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Endless gravel roads lead through the idyllic Venn – a true gravel paradise

By now deep in Belgium, we joined the Vennbahntrasse (RAVeL L46) at Sourbrodt. More and more often we looked to the left or to the right to find a gas station or a chip shop. But we didn’t find anything.

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When we arrived after 126 kilometres at the Bütgenbach reservoir, we were sure to find what we were looking for, as we met many walkers. But here too we were disappointed. Slowly the lack of fluids clouded our mood and fitness a bit, but we had no choice but to continue.

The rescue – unexpected often comes

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The next time we will definitely plan enough gas stations etc.

After almost 8 hours of driving, 140 kilometers and temperatures up to 29 degrees we discovered a vending machine at the roadside. The last time I used one of these must have been ages ago, probably on a school trip, but whatever. We quickly invested our change in Coke and water and drew new strength from it. A little later we pass an open chip shop where we strengthen ourselves briefly and fill up the bottles now also.

After a short detour into the Belgian Fens around the Signal de Botrange, a long descent followed to the next and thus already penultimate stopover of the tour.

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A 13.5 metre tall sandstone lion towers over the Gileppe

The route leads through the Weser valley to the last stage point of the route. In Eupen we strengthen ourselves again with a coke for the last kilometers.

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The Wesertalsperre marks the end of our tour

On the last meters home we enjoy the weather. We especially liked the section through the High Fens – there is certainly still a lot to discover here.

With the WTB ByWay we have placed our bets on exactly the right card. On the road it is almost as fast as a road bike tire and also on gravel the tire convinces with grip and a good rolling behavior. I ran the tire in the 47mm x 650B Tanwall version at 2.2 bar (v/h). Due to the additional volume, the tire absorbs small impacts safely and pleasantly.

All in all, our Dirty Kanzelled 2020 was a success. We enjoyed the tour for the most part without any defects (we only have to work on the planning of food stops).

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