Into the dark
Into the dark

Words by Patrick Laprell - Pictures by Mike Vlietstra


When did you leave home the last time without planning a track? We are used to always navigate with google maps, smartphones or GPS computers. Even daily routes are planned and tracked like that. What happens if you stop? Go and just ride. Will you end up in the dark? Or will you find a new adventure by losing your routine? 

We are asking you to join us and start an adventure just in front of your door. Five of us already did it. We are sharing their story with you. And we would be happy if you share your stories with us! 

Bikepacking with the ATLAS
Bikepacking Bikepacking

This is a story about five friends riding their bikes. As ordinary as this sounds - it was maybe our biggest adventure in 2020. The goal was to ride from Basel to Stuttgart within three days. No plan, no digital navigation - only a map and a compass to point us in the right direction. As we needed a bike to handle all terrains and ready for bikepacking we took the new ATLAS.

Is winning really the highest motive in cycling?

Before we did grab our gravel bikes we asked ourselves one major question: Is winning really the highest motive in cycling? We’ve learned that we should always strive to be the best, that we ride to become stronger. That we need to follow a strict training plan and that beating others is the only proof we’re succeeding.

Map Basel Stuttgart
But what happens if we leave all of this behind?

Does it change how we ride our bikes? Can we still enjoy the process? Or does it maybe make it even better? Heck, we might even learn a lesson or two about life itself.

That was the base of our experiment: Showing ourselves that there are so many good reasons not to have a plan. Not knowing what’s next - where to ride, where to sleep or where to eat. Could it even give us a sense of freedom?


We packed our bikes with tents, food, water and everything else we might need for crossing the black forest in October. We booked a train ticket to Basel and rolled out of the train station. It didn’t take too long to understand that we needed to head north. We figured our way out of the city into the forest where we followed the same principle. We established a democratic voting routine at intersections. An absolute majority decided for left or right. 
Of course, this strategy might not always lead us through the easiest paths, and definitely added some extra climbs and loops. But overall it was the only way we were sure to get closer to home with each pedal stroke.

Made to lose

During the ride time, progress and distances became less relevant. We rode up and down, talked to each other and enjoyed whatever came across our path. We stopped worrying about what would come next and started living more in the present moment. This was when we started to feel a little more free than on usual rides. Free of expectations towards our ride and towards our achievements.

Focus Team Focus Team
Focus Team Focus Team

We spent our first night at around 1000 m above sea level after a whole day of riding bikes loaded up to around 20 kg in total. Luck was on our side and we found a nice hut in the black forest. Not only was it warmer, but it also provided shelter from the heavy rain at night. 

After a loud and pretty uncomfortable night, the coffee the next morning was like a kick starter. It gave us the energy to start the day even in weather conditions we normally wouldn’t want to ride in. Just above 0°C, rain and fog. 

Being lost in this case didn’t mean being lonely.
Focus Team Focus Team

We took the proven strategy: following the compass North and shouting out a quick vote at each intersection. The weather became worse and gave us some heavy showers on a long climb up to Kandel. Freezing cold and soaking wet, we tackled the downhill after we enjoyed the magnificent view and the first glance of sunshine after hours of rain. 

Moments of being mentally at the bottom followed by emotions going through the roof were shared. This gave us enough confidence and made it irrelevant where we were physical. Being lost in this case didn’t mean being lonely. 

A bit of comfort

Since the outlook for the night wasn’t any better, we decided to comfort ourselves by sleeping in a small hotel. A warm shower, a proper meal and a cosy bed helped to charge our batteries for the next day. 


With good spirits, we started our ride accompanied by a few rare rays of sunshine. There was a special atmosphere, a combination of trees covered in low lying clouds, steaming tarmac and blue sunny sky. These are magical moments you can only hope for and are impossible to plan.

When we started the ride, we agreed to be home with our families in the early evening.

As this was already our last day, we decided to do some GPS routing at midday to the next train station. 

Surprisingly, we were already close to Freudenstadt which is not too far away from Stuttgart. 

So the final 2 hours we followed our trusty GPS devices over the final 1200 m pass, and down the most beautiful descent of the whole trip through the dense pine forest. 

Funnily enough, we missed a turn somewhere on the way, and noticed that for the first time on this trip we knew exactly where we were, but also actually felt ‘lost’. 

We hopped on a train exhausted but satisfied and arrived 1h later in Stuttgart. 


As this was already our last day, we decided to do some GPS routing at midday to the next train station. 

Happy, tired and maybe a little smelly we enjoyed the train ride home. There were no regrets (except for Patrick who lost two GoPros), no sadness about missed opportunities and no “what ifs” of climbs or routes we didn’t take. We were happy about our adventure, and with the directions, our compass guided us in. 

This ride changed our mentality, it taught us that small actions sometimes matter. It doesn’t take much to leave your ordinary comfort zone. You just need friends and a bike. What you don’t need is a plan!

In the end, we succeeded by not succeeding. We didn't make it all the way home in time. Nevertheless, it feels we learned more from this ride than from any other one last year. 

Sometimes you need to lose yourself.

Don’t worry, you will come back.


"Riding your bike is a compressed version of life. Sometimes we are afraid of the unknown, so we make plans, set goals and think of next steps. We secretly admire people who let all this go. There are always too many good reasons why we stick to the known and proven paths, but now I found a reason not to do so as well. That was the biggest realization I had during this trip."