BRM 400 Stuttgart+ Audax Suisse

May 20, 2022


It was after Paris-Brest-Paris in 2019 that Thomas from Audax Suisse had the idea of letting the participants of the brevets contribute their own routes. Since it is always hard to find the secret hidden tracks and scenic highlights along the route, involing locals sounded like a great plan. Since I was still living in Stuttgart at this time, we had the idea to offer a 400km brevet from Buch (home town of Audax Suisse) to Stuttgart and back. With Danube Valley, Swabian Alb, Neckar Valley and the Schoenbuch Forrest along the track, there should’ve been plenty of hightlights along the way to make this an unforgettable event. And so it all started. Several GPS tracks later with 2 years of Covid in between and lots of route scouting, the BRM 400 Stuttgart was finally on the schedule at Audax Suisse… here is my post on how it feels like to ride a brevet that you co-designed.

“Some day they gonna murder me for my route planning…”
Thomas - organizer

Re-union in Buch & bike setup

After I managed to overcome some train schedule issues and made it to Buch by car, I was first of all very glad to meet with some friends from previous brevets. Since I still recovered from a Covid infection only 2 weeks earlier, my plan was to go slowly and try and not over-pace on this rather hilly track.

The gang today

The gang today

The gang 3 years ago before PBP 2019

The gang 3 years ago before PBP 2019

The weather forecast was not too good for the night (thunderstorms and rain), so first decision to be made was which clothes I should pack. I decided for the following set:

  • rain jacket with hoody
  • short arm jersey
  • t-shirt as a second layer
  • short bibs
  • armlets & leg warmers

Since all this was fitting in my frame pack and top tube pack, I left the saddle bag in my car and instead installed an ass saver to prevent me from getting too wet on the saddle despite the expected rain.

My bike setup with a frame pack and the top tube pack

My bike setup with a frame pack and the top tube pack

The tire setup was also a bit challenging. Since my frame only allows for 30mm tires, I chose some left-over G-One Speed that I still had from last year (looking at current prices for all bike-related spare parts, you don’t wanna buy new ones unless you realy realy have to do so… don’t you). I kept the 28mm Conti GP 5000 at the front and mounted both of them tubeless. It turned out to be a good setup, although wider tires would have added significantly more comfort on the more than 60km of gravel passages along the route.

“So if your tubeless setup survived those “killer descents”, I’ll seriously consider tubeless next time I change tires.”
another participant who had suffered a flat tire

Some last instructions and off into the night

During the last 5 minutes before the start - which was planned for 20:00 - Thomas shared some beta on the route and made us aware of dangerous sections and things to watch out for. Afterwards all the ~50 participants headed out into a perfectly warm night, actually it was the first night where the forecast promised mild temperatures throughout the night.

At the beginning, the tempo was quite high. I settled for a moderate speed behind the first group and enjoyed the drafting. As I mentioned before, I didn’t want to push myself to the limit since I still was afraid of Corona after effects since my Covid infection was only 2 weeks back. We first followed some gravel paths through Singen and once the route started to get hillier, I let go the group and watched out for some fellows who seemed to ride with a decent speed. One of them was Daniel, whom I knew very well from the BRM 600 in 2019 and a good friend of his. Daniel and I rode together for the rest of the brevet and made a great team!

And then there was the weather lightening on the horizon. Close enough to create an impressive atmosphere and fortunately far enough away to not be really dangerous. What a perfect scenery for a night ride!

Our first stop happened to be in Sigmaringen where we enjoyed some late night food before climbing up the Swabian Alb. It started to rain 3 times, the first time it was only some drops of rain and we didn’t need to wear our rain clothes. The second and third time was more severe and we immediately put on the rain jacket and a warmer layer. It was just warm enough to feel comfortable without long bibs or leg warmers.

“This is like SPA - others pay lots of money for it”
Daniel - regarding the rain

Around 2:15 at night we reached the first check point in Marbach - a famous horse stud. Check points at night are always a thing, because all of a sudden, even if you haven’t met any other rider for a long time, there is suddenly a crowd of riders - all busy with their stuff and trying to move on as quickly as possible.

Descending to Neckar Valley

Thomas did a great job in finding lonely, not too steep ascents and nice gravel sections that connected the paved roads and allowed us to follow a straight line across the Swabian Alb. With the prospect of a quick downhill, we easily managed the last shorter climbs after Marbach and soon reached the “Albtrauf”, that is where the Swabian Alb ends and the Neckar Valley starts. But we have made the calculation without Thomas’s sent for gravel roads - the downhill was even blocked by a barrier and at first we were not sure whether we took the right road. So instead of speeding down a paved road we somehow struggled to stay on our bikes while passing coarse gravel and trying not to damage our tires or ourselves. Hell yeah!

With Nuertingen ahead of us, we only had to climb this one last ramp which gave a nice taste of the climbs ahead of us in the second section of the route. But first we arrived on the Neckar river and could relax from all the climbing while passing one of the very few flat sections of the trip. Unfortunately Christoph had a little accident in Nuertingen and we needed some time to fix his bike. Right after this little shock, we had our first breakfast of the day and gathered back some energy.

Reaching the turn-point in Stuttgart

The climb from the Neckar up to the TV Tower in Stuttgart - which made a perfect turn point after exactly 200km - was again mentally challenging, since it was a flat climb that lasted for many kilometers. And - you guess it - with some steep gravel parts, just to make sure you don’t fall asleep.

Since Christoph had some severe issues with his knee we decided to take a longer rest there and all of us immediately fell asleep for 30min. The route around Stuttgart followed some of my old home trails and brought back good memories. Only 16km later, we arrived at CP 3 at the Solitude Castle. Thomas chose a scenic route that connected Stuttgart with Tuebingen and allowed us to mainly go on cycling paths and gravel roads while avoiding the main roads alltogether. So after passing the Schoenbuch forrest, there was only one last battle to fight: climbing up the Bettelweg.

Betteleweg - or Battleweg - last climb before Tuebingen

Betteleweg - or Battleweg - last climb before Tuebingen

In Tuebingen, Christoph decided to scratch because of severe knee issues and us running out of time. So after a decent lunch with some pizza and plenty of drinks, he went to the train station while we headed out for Hechingen. The temperatures climb into the 30s and I got very very tired. That is when the hardest part of the whole trip started for me. Just behind Tuebingen, my Wahoo computer did what it tends to do all the time after one of the last updates and it crashed after 270km. And as usual it took him 5min to recover. Lucky enough, I knew the track by heart at this section and Daniel was riding along who had a backup.

Only 5 more climbs to go…

To get back some energy we took another food stop and had plenty of Coke together with another 10min powernap. After that I felt refreshed again and it was going a lot easier.

With longer climbs rather than hilly sections the characteristics of the route changed in the second half. Once we left Balingen, there were only 5 more climbs to go, each of them between 150 and 300m of climbing. For me that made it a lot easier, since when the climb is longer you are not tempted to punch it - like getting of the saddle and push hard until you reach the top. You rather adapt your speed and go slower right from the start.

After climbing the Lochenpass we were rewarded with a long, paved downhill and the kilometers were just flying by. Moments like those are important for your moral, since you get the impression that you have the chance to make it on time.

The last test piece of the route was the Gosheimer Rampe - an 18% slope that sucked the last bit of energy from our legs. Thomas had a grin on his face when he talked about this segment in his introduction speech… we only found back the grin in our face once we made it to the top. But at this time we knew for sure we made it - since there was only one last climb left after Tuttlingen which was quite easy.

And with a descent gravel downhill to Danube valley, a last food stop in Tuttlingen and a loooooong downhill to Singen, we arrived back in Buch just around 22:00 at night with 26hrs in the saddle. What a ride! Buch after 26:15 hrs of cycling

The last km back to Buch

The last km back to Buch

Thank you Audax Suisse

Again the event was perfectly organised, the food was super delicious and the whole crew as friendly as always… even when asking for something to eat at 11 at night. A big thank you to the organisers from Audax Suisse - most of all the “Küchenfee” (kitchen fairy) and the whole crew around Thomas that again made this event possible. I was proud and happy to have contributed to the route and will definitely hone my skills in route planning.

“I paid 45 bugs for 27 hours - why should I arrive any earlier?”
Another participant who made it just in time…

Thomas already announced that there will be another iteration of this tour in next year’s program… so potentially it will become my BRM 400 qualification for PBP2023 - let’s see.

Some statistics…

Since my Wahoo crashed, the vertical climb up is wrong - 4710m should be accurate.

You can also find this tour on my Strava account.

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