Interview with the founders of the Vegan Gravel Camp, February 24th, 2021, 8:30 p.m.
Originating from a crazy idea - the Vegan Gravel Camp. From 26.-30. May 2021 the world's first vegan gravel camp will take place in Oderbrück in the Harz Mountains. 4 days of delicious vegan food, lots of nature, a few meters of climbing and the finest unpaved paths under your tires. Sounds like a paradise for anyone who loves to ride gravel.
David lives in Hamburg, has been vegan since 2007, is an avid runner and used to play bike polo. Since 2019 he has been hooked on gravel and has been exploring the Harz Mountains and the paths around Hamburg on his Bombtrack Hook Ext.
Elke lives in Berlin, eats mostly vegan and also comes from a running background. She runs a lot on trails and the road. In 2020 she wanted to buy a road bike, but Corona unfortunately thwarted her plans and so it became a gravel bike - the Cinelli Zydeco.
David: We actually met through friends last year in May on a 25 km trail run in the Harz Mountains and have been a couple ever since.
Elke: And funnily enough, that exactly 2 days before my gravel bike was due to be delivered. I proudly told him all about it. He was already totally stoked on riding gravel back then.
The Gravel Club: what a coincidence! That all sounds pretty great. How did it come about that you’d host a gravel camp?
Elke: The idea came about with a mutual friend who was also part of the trail running scene in the Harz Mountains at the time. Traveling abroad has become difficult due to Corona and many gravel camps are abroad or in the south of Germany. We rode around here and thought it would be really cool to organize a camp in the middle of Germany. That makes it easily accessible for everyone and there is also good food. The Harz Mountains are perfect for it! Because the region can be reached in 3-4 hours from almost all directions, you can also arrive after work, you are more flexible and don't have to spend a lot of travel time, like if you had to go to southern Germany, for example.
The Gravel Club: Yeah, that’s true! Above all, you have the chance to address more people with it. You only offer vegan meals. Weren't there any concerns that it might have a "deterrent" effect and that fewer people would be interested as a result?
David: The participants don't have to be vegan to take part in our camp. Whether vegetarian, currently in transition, omnivore or anything in between: everyone is welcome. To a certain extent, it's about trying something new that you may not yet know. Get out of your comfort zone. All participants are free to choose what they eat but from our side there will be vegan food.
"Our biggest budget buffer is for good food."
The Gravel Club: Every event succeeds or failds with good food. Why did you decide to only offer vegan meals?
David: Most (gravel) events nowadays do have vegan options but unfortunately these are often not great meals to look forward to or there is simply far too little of them. We want to be the counterweight to the events until now. Veganism shouldn't be neglected and always just be that extra thing or after-thought. We got to know a lot of people through riding graveland and found that most people in the scene are very open-minded about the vegan diet.
The Gravel Club: Who will be preparing all the delicious food and what can the riders look forward to?
David: Our lovely chef Sarah from Vegan Guerilla in Hamburg will cook for us. Sarah is a long-time friend of mine and it was clear that when we decided to do this camp, that she would be the perfect fit. Sarah also has a blog (veganguerilla.de), has written already 2 cookbooks and is also a cyclist herself. She knows how to satiate a hungry stomach after a long day on the bike. It was important to us that there wasn't just a mountain of noodles, but variety and cool cuisine with fresh ingredients.
Elke: There will be breakfast and dinner included and everyone can take fruit with them when they are out and about along with tasty and delicious sandwiches. Then there’s a little one in the afternoon Snack. The menu plan is already in place. It will be very tasty, but of course we will not reveal that yet.
The Gravel Club: We are excited! Speaking of revealing, you already have the routes for the rides planned and what did you consider when planning?
Elke: Not yet final, but we know our way around the Harz Mountains thanks to trail running and we know which routes are busy and when, as well as which are the most popular. These, of course, won’t be included.. There will definitely be 2 different routes per day - 1 shorter and 1 longer. There won’t be a race pace and no pressure to perform. Having fun is the most important goal! We’ll also ensure that there is the possibility to refill water on the route at gas stations or inns but everyone should at least be able to accommodate 2 bottles on their bike.
The Gravel Club: We'll definitely keep our fingers crossed that the weather will be good. What will the accommodations look like?
David: We’ll spend the 4 days in the middle of the national park in Oderbrück in “The Cabin”. A hut with 15 single and double rooms. Super cozy! If the weather is good, you can sit outside and socialize around the campfire in the evening. There is also a bar with a beer tap in the house.
Elke: Oderbrück is in the middle of nowhere. There are just a few houses around it and the wifi is not particularly good. So, it is better to download the routes beforehand. We will be in the middle of nature, riding lots, drinking beer and just having a great time!
The Gravel Club: Sounds kinda like a digital detox. Not wrong with that either. In closing, we’d like to cover the specifics. How many riders can sign up, what does the 4 days cost and what happens if it fails due to Corona?
Elke: The Cabin’s hygiene concept is based on 26 participants plus both of us, Sarah and her assistant designed. There are single and double rooms and a maximum of 2 households are allowed to be in one room. 4 nights in a double room costs €470 and If you travel by bike or train, we also give you an additional € 20 car-free discount.
David: We hope that Corona doesn't throw a wrench in the gears, but at any rate reserve the right to require a negative corona test of all participants. If the camp should fail completely, the money will be refunded, but we also have an alternative date in autumn.
The Gravel Club: Well, we hope that you won't need the alternative date. Our fingers are crossed. We’re looking forward to May!
The interview was conducted by Sarah and Sascha from The Gravel Club.