The Crimson Trail, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany

Day 25. Despite a somewhat late arrival in Sarajevo, I woke up early to have more time for sorting out the tyres. The friendly hotel staff called Cavallino Motosupport, the only bike tyre specialist I had found in Sarajevo. Luckily they had at least the front tyre, but little options for the rear. The C-02 rears lasted forever, so I was not worried about it and settled for the front tyre.

The place was just a few blocks away and the Mitas C-17 front was soon replaced by a fresh one. The service at Cavallino was fantastic and I ended up hanging around, just chatting with the guys. Apparently the owner had worked on over 3000 bikes, so he knew his stuff.

Arriving back at the hotel, I immediately got to work with the usual routine of backups, photo postproduction and updates. The day soon turned into night and I ordered some food from room service while packing up my gear for an early morning start. Despite spending two nights in Sarajevo, I had seen none of it. This was typical as I usually preferred maintenance work over tourism.

Day 26 started with another early morning, as I had agreed to meet some friends over dinner in Austria, which was three border crossings away. The ride started off nicely on good tarmac in the cool morning. As the day progressed, it grew uncomfortably hot and progress slowed down as the dual carriageway shrunk into a normal road. It became frustrating in the heat as I rode through village after village, stopping in traffic lights. My frustration quickly turned into pure instincts as a rust bucket I was overtaking turned left into my path without indication. I locked both brakes for a second and then swerved left across oncoming traffic and onto the safety of the shoulder. I had been very lucky and it was over before I even realised what could have happened.

The border crossing to Croatia went smoothly and I was soon back on a dual carriageway. I was happy to be moving fast again, but my good mood quickly evaporated as I felt the back of the bike feel more like a jet ski at 120 kmh. I steered the bike onto the shoulder and found the rear tyre deflated, as expected. Words cannot describe the pure contempt I felt for the tyres. After the fifth time, the joke wasn’t funny any more. To make matters worse, it was 37 degC with no shade. There was a bridge over the motorway just over a hundred meters ahead so I started power walking the bike towards it. After ten metres the tyre came off the rim and I had no other option than to work right there in the heat of the unforgiving sun.

Replacing the tube went without incident, but I was starting to feel overheated in my MX armour and boots. My arms felt heavier and heavier and I became dizzy with even the slightest exertion. I knew I had to cool down fast so I hastily packed up my gear and hit the motorway. The airflow offered a little relief, but my water was spent. I stopped at the next petrol station and emptied a large bottle of chilled water under my body armour and filled my boots, as other customers looked at me quizzically. I finally started to cool down and drank another full bottle before refilling my CamelBak and hitting the road.

The rest of the ride went without incident and I eventually arrived at my friend’s house in Villach. The scenery on both sides of the Slovenian/Austrian border had been incredibly beautiful and it was nice to be back in the mountains. After getting cleaned up and somewhat presentable, we ventured out for dinner. As it was Friday night, the town was bustling as people were enjoying the warm August evening. It also marked the definite end of the adventure. Roadside cafes and camping were now over and only the long ride to Berlin remained. There would be no detours or small adventures on the way.

Day 27. The morning started off with another tyre change. The friendly staff of the local KTM dealer, Motec, had agreed to replace my rear tyre despite the fact that it was a public holiday. I was very grateful as having a fresh tyre gave a lot more confidence for the ride back home. Soon I had a Heidenau K60 on the rim and on the bike.

I had just over 900 km to ride from Villach to Berlin. I hadn’t decided whether to stop somewhere on the way for the night or ride in one go, so I was in no rush to leave. Instead we did some sightseeing and stopped for coffee before heading back to the house. Hanging around with friends in civilisation was very enjoyable, and I didn’t pack up and leave until late in the afternoon.

The road north pushed though incredibly scenic mountains and I was soon in Germany. As night fell, I could see lightning flashing, illuminating the horizon in the north. I knew well enough what was ahead and put on my rain gear. Soon I was battered by the falling water but remained dry underneath my Klims. Luckily the storms didn’t last long and I was back on dry tarmac.

I love the long overnight rides. Watching the road markings sway hypnotically in the headlight, surrounded by only darkness, is mind numbingly monotonous. The mind has no stimuli to attach to, so there are no distractions to long and complex thought processes. The only downside is that there is no way to document any of it. As the road beneath passes into oblivion, so do the thoughts and conclusions. Leaving only a shadow of a memory.

I arrived in Berlin just after four in the morning. It had been 950 km and twelve hours of riding so I was pretty tired. Stripping the luggage off the bike felt symbolic and the thought of the following days felt me with dread. The ride was now completely over, but another challenge had just begun; readjusting to the static world. It was always difficult for me, especially after solo rides. I locked the bike to a light post and slung the luggage over my shoulder. Walking into the building I turned around and had one last look at the bike. The faithful companion had performed flawlessly as always and I felt it was ungrateful and reckless to park it on the street. Walking in, I wondered if it would be there in the morning.