The original article was posted on the 3T Bike blog in September 2020 as part of 3T’s ambassador program.

There were plenty of ideas for the Berlin edition of the City Exploro. A night ride along the famous former border of East and West Berlin, teeming with architectural highlights and rich historical milestones, was initially planned. But somehow, it didn’t feel right. For some reason, trying to piece together a route through Berlin didn’t bring me the joy and thrill I usually have when going on a spontaneous ride northbound out of town.

I spent most of my childhood outdoors, either roaming the forest and plains nearby or going fishing in the lakes and backwaters near the Baltic Sea, where I grew up. After high school, I bought my first 35mm film camera, which quickly developed into another passion of mine, and enabled me to combine two things I love – shooting analog and digital and the great outdoors. From kayak trips in the Andalusian mountains to remote rivers and lakes in Japan to a road trip covering the entire length of Texas from east to west, I have spent the last decade finding the moments that matter through a lens.

I’ve been riding bikes my entire life but viewed cycling more as a means to get from A to B within the constraints of a city. But this changed when I decided to replace my classic singlespeed steel ride with a gravel bike. The Exploro became mine in February of this year, and I have never looked back since then. I began to enjoy longer distances, and the outdoors seemed much more attainable, thanks to my trusty new steed. More importantly, it brought me back to the fields of my youth, and I found myself increasingly opting to ride more and more off-roads.

My love of photography has also leaped to new heights as a result. Gravel riding has shown me a new way of being active outdoors, and by avoiding the beaten tracks, I’ve been able to capture scenes and lights you wouldn’t find in the middle of a busy city. Going out of my way to avoid the hustle and bustle, and having a speedy machine that instills the feeling of freedom and independence, has meant that I’ve been able to stay sane during COVID-19. I’m thankful I discovered this riding for myself just in time.

I would love for you to experience the same the next time you visit Berlin with a bike. If you pedal just a few kilometers out of the city limits, you’ll find a wealth of surfaces and terrain with beautiful tracks that will make for pleasant rides and healing forest bathing. Depending on what time you kick off in the morning or afternoon, you’ll catch the sun streaming through the trees as a beautiful accompaniment to the bright blue sky. Let’s test one out together, shall we?

Today’s track starts in a park close to where I live in Pankow. The borough is named after the Panke River, which we will follow during the first kilometers of our ride and covers the northeast region of Berlin. After about 7 kilometers of mixed surfaces, we hit the first long stretch of gravel paths lined by trees and smaller lakes.

One can already feel the temperatures dropping by a few degrees on a hot summer afternoon, and the city’s noise suddenly dies. Considering that our ride started just a few stations away from Berlin’s pulsating eastern city center, the sudden change is remarkable.

The next few kilometers are a blast to ride: a network of good gravel roads without any cars and only the odd group of people enjoying a walk between green fields and cottonwood and pine trees. After crossing a minor road, a labyrinth of paths opens up and offers plenty of options to explore unknown territory. All this can be done spontaneously, as you’ll never quite know what road you’ll be on next, which is half the fun.

After passing another paved road with occasional traffic, we arrive in the forest of Brandenburg – the state that surrounds Berlin’s national capital and city-state. Brandenburg is a fantastic place to explore by bike. There are countless routes alongside lush meadows and crystal clear lakes hidden in deep, almost mystical woods. If you look carefully, you’ll find deer, wild boar, and breeding birds all around you.

No matter what kind of riding you have in mind, you can (almost) have it all, minus any semblance of steep climbs, because this neck of Germany is as flat as a pancake. But as compensation, you’ll find fantastic gravel in all shapes and conditions, picture-book trails through woods and fields, and the occasional stretch of single track around a lake’s bank to test your technical skills.

I could write all day about landscape and scenery’s different characteristics and charming attributes. But all of this is best explored by yourself, ideally on a bike that allows you to do anything and go anywhere your heart desires. This is why I enjoy riding the Exploro so much – it feels more like an extension of my body than a particular vehicle or means of transportation. It has become a catalyst for the joy I feel when I escape the city, searching for the wild, exploring unknown and remote places near and far while discovering something new.

Find the route on Komoot.