Text: Konstantin Maier, Fotos: Daniel Fuchs
In the forest, there are things you could lie in the moss for years thinking about.
The imposing dark green outline of the Palatinate Forest looms over the vineyards of the German Wine Route: it boasts a wealth of mindful experiences and physical activities. Different mottos to the usual "faster, higher, further" have been adopted here for a long time already. You sense that there is a more sophisticated culture of cycling here – one that is particularly in harmony with nature. Nowadays, cycling is afforded much more importance in the sense of its vision and cultural potential. Your average mountain biker has long since ceased to be interested purely in gruelling ascents, steep slopes and fast times. The bike has become synonymous with freedom and independence: an object of the moment and a perfect fusion of yourself and the world around you. Heads are cleared and senses sharpened in the quiet murmur of the Palatinate Forest. The smell of undergrowth, pine resin and composting leaves rises to your nose, while rays of dappled sunshine permeate the thick branches above. A narrow path here, a windy descent there.
The trail itself has long since become the goal, and biking the meaning of it all. There is a very human dimension to conquering these routes in the fresh air and using the power of your own muscles. Meditatively riding from one clearing to the next viewpoint, you can discover the world anew. Nature is a primal force and makes you fully aware of this fact. Silence, tranquillity, mindfulness: the forest doesn't demand, it inspires. It's no coincidence that Einstein came up with his theory of relativity while he was cycling. Time, space and leisure to take a breather are becoming ever rarer commodities in our fast-paced, future-oriented society. The result is that many people constantly feel exhausted. It's not as if we don't know that there is strength in tranquillity; we just need to remind ourselves of this more regularly.
It almost seems unnecessary to mention that physical activity in the fresh air is healthy. In 1982, Japan's state forestry commission started to encourage citizens to take trips into the forest as part of a healthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, Japanese scientists have discovered through numerous studies that time spent in the forest has an almost aromatherapeutic effect with inherent health benefits. "Shinrin-yoku" – or "forest bathing" – has since been promoted as a recognised stress management method.
Biking as a nature experience
Mountain biking is a combination of natural relaxation and sport – these two aspects reach out to visitors in the Palatinate Forest's "Mountainbikepark Pfälzerwald". The network has been extended and brought closer to the edge of the Haardt hills and the German Wine Route. From there, the route leads through almond groves, past fig and chestnut trees, Mediterranean pines, cypresses and onwards and upwards into the forest. There are over 900 kilometres to explore there. These routes lead bikers past unique rocky landscapes, down winding paths and along impressive panoramic trails. Tricky descents merge into demanding climbs in turn. This is truly a place to find inner peace while giving your body a full workout.
Nestled in the idyllic landscape of the German Wine Route, the Tannenwald bike factory operates out of a garage in Roschbach. Stefan Lichtner and Rüdiger Kupper have been mountain biking for as long as they can remember. The bike factory combines material quality, design, craftsmanship and passion. Together, they have succeeded in resurrecting the use of steel on the mountain bike market. Faster, higher, further – these are not necessarily the duo's watchwords. "We both grew up surrounded by nature," explains Rüdiger. After all, it's no surprise that people start to explore this environment on two wheels at an early age.
The frame is the bike`s soul
Rüdiger and Stefan discovered their love of cycling at an early age. Both men have already notched up quite a few metres in altitude. Their experience in the saddle allows them to read the trails more effectively – in other words, the routes which have been especially set up for mountain bikes. "This is very different to just steaming over every obstacle with your full suspension and integral helmet, letting your bike absorb everything," Stefan adds. It wasn't long before their passion led them to their current vocation. "It was clear to both of us what we wanted: sturdy craftsmanship, sustainability, a regional focus and also quality design in step with the times." That's when they had their brainwave with the steel frame.
At that point, the market for steel-framed mountain bikes was practically dead. Together, they tinker with plans, constructions and ideas. "With steel, you have this strong connection to craftsmanship; that creative moment in which a bike emerges from a few steel tubes with the application of some effort and skill. Everything is important, it's all about the tiniest details. Our customers are looking for a bike with some soul," Rüdiger explains. And their customers don't mind waiting. It's the little things that count in this case, such as how the brake cables are attached, whether the geometry suits the customer's body – these are all-important details. For the two frame-makers, the most wonderful moment of all is handing over the finished products. "The customer is involved from the very first welded seam," says Rüdiger. "It is often the case that others are on the way to church while I'm still polishing a bike in order to send the photos to the customer. We do occasionally get the feeling that we're utterly mad. Which we are – but in a good way!"
The mountain bike park is a far-reaching network of trails spread over the entire nature park. The course markings are good for the orientation. The various levels correspond to the color coding of ski slopes and took into conditional and technical driving conditions. They range from blue (light) to red (exacting) to black (difficult). A good overview is given by the bicycle inform boards or the webpage.
'Classic steel frame construction - interpreted in a modern way. Honest and real craftsmanship. No attached brand image, no marketing- oriented superlatives.' Behind are Rüdoger Kupper and Stefan Lichtner from 'Tannenwald- Bikes'. Their long experience in the bicycle business allows them to devote their full attention to the bikes of their small manufactory.