On two continents, 6,600 kilometers away from their home countries – we found two guys who literally swapped their lives: one in America, the other in Germany. How does biking feel in each of their new worlds? Who finds the best trails? Who drinks the best beer? Hear their stories and follow their adventures as they hit the trails in their new worlds.

Those who search, find. This saying applies just as much to cool trails as it does to everything else in my life. Sometimes you just have to give lady luck a huge kick in the ass to release yourself from the confines of your small world. Coincidences are very rarely a coincidence.

It’s the middle of March and I’m waiting impatiently for the first rays of sun to break through and mark the start of the 2015 riding season. I still haven’t met anyone, but it’s surely going to change. Grassroots enduro races are massively popular in the USA, and often just announced on the Facebook pages of local groups. I stumble across one in Shenandoah Valley, the ‘March15 Shenduro’ race, set to take place in Harrisonburg. Despite months off the bike, I sign up, paying for my overambitious self-confidence with eight hours of suffering – but that’s a story for another day. I chat to riders from D.C. for the very first time and the guys want to know where I live. ‘Tysons Corner,’ I respond, and they greet me with the words: ‘Tysons Corner? Oh man, that sucks… but there is some nice trail riding around. Check out Lake Fairfax Park!’


Once I’ve sufficiently recovered from Shenduro, I think about the Lake Fairfax Park tip they gave me. My bike is clean and the sun is out; it’s one of those days when you tell yourself to just do it. It’ll do you good, you say. Hunting out trails in unknown places can be stressful. There’s no flow to the ride, and you constantly have to stop, work out where you are, where you actually want to go and if you’ll even find any decent trails. But once you do, nothing beats hitting the coolest trails and taking your first ride on them. The pioneer spirit pays off!

An American voyage of discovery

I choose the direct route to the park, duly confronted with a hair-raising, four-mile stretch of American freeway to ride along. No bicycle path, heavy traffic, even heavier trucks and lorries, this was my introduction to the Virginia State Route 7. And while ‘Share the road’ might be lawfully binding, I get the impression that no one gives a fuck. I’m pushed off the road, sworn at, honked at and even end up as the unsuspecting victim of a flying can of Coors Light – an empty can admittedly, but that was perhaps a blessing.


I turn off into a residential area and the scenery changes; tranquility and greenness prevail. These are the extravagant, luxury homes of wealthy Americans, with their lawns tended to by Latinos and their driveways home to kids playing basketball. The embodiment of the ‘American Dream’, or at least it is for the upper classes… not for me in this case as I search in vain for the entrance to the supposed Trail Park. I spot promising-looking treetops behind the villas, but I’m reluctant to get too close given the abundance of ‘no trespassing’ signs and Virginia’s notably lax gun laws. A lot of Americans take their right to own a weapon pretty seriously, so if you stray onto someone else’s property you run the risk of acquainting yourself with said weapon quite quickly. At the end of a cul-de-sac I finally come across an accessible bit of woodland and spot the first trail. Brown, flat, and steeped in mountain bike tire tracks. After 90 minutes I’ve finally made it to Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, VA.

‘Worlds colliding’

But even before I’ve ridden a single metre on this first trail, my iPhone starts to make obscure, never-heard-before sounds. Facebook Messenger pops up – an app I’ve barely set eyes on, and I’m bombarded with messages in English from some guy called Nave. “Are you in NOVA?” he begins. What’s NOVA, I wonder, and who is this Nave guy? Confused, I reply. I still can’t work out who he is, but have a look at the conversation:


Weeks ago I had sent an impromptu friend request on Facebook to ‘Nave’, but had soon forgotten it. I’d never normally add complete strangers, but an old friend sent me a GoPro video made by Evan – which is actually Nave’s real name. It showed him riding a brand new line on my old home trail in Stuttgart with some local riders. As the ‘kid’ was capable of some serious shredding, I’d asked the alleged ripper from Stuttgart to be my friend. ‘Nave’ accepted without a word and that was the end of that. I had no idea that he was actually American and happened to be from the very same part of the country where I was supposed to be building my new life. The fact that we happened to cross paths again at the exact moment that I was physically standing on his home trails was a slightly crazy, if not predestined coincidence. Since that day, Evan has flooded me with sensational info on trails and riding over here, showing me D.C. in a brand new light. It was perhaps inevitable that we would have bumped into each other at one point in our lives, but for it to happen on this exact day was a touch of fate.


After ending the conversation, the riding in Lake Fairfax Park was hands down better than anything I’ve ever ridden in Stuttgart. This trail check proved more than worth it. I can definitely live with having to ride Evan’s hometrails in Northern Virginia (hence the acronym NOVA, it transpires), and I feel more at home than ever. Less than 10 kilometres from Tysons, there’s kilometer upon kilometer of the best bench-cut singletrack trails I could imagine. They’re trails that make you hungry to go fast, your heart racing and your legs burning. No brutally steep and technical sections, but they’re constantly up and down with tons of flow, rock gardens and playful spots. It’s fun trail riding in loops here, well marked and divided up by difficulty level, built by an army of volunteers and M.O.R.E., a US mountain bike foundation with the delightfully simple motto of ‘Riding Bikes and Building Trails since 1992.’ – which is incidentally the same year I bought my first proper mountain bike, an American Manitou HT. Coincidences do happen I guess.

Enjoyed this story? Take a trip to the rest of the series: Introduction | Freiburg | Goodbye Germany | Stromberg | What a Small World it is

Words & Pictures: Steffen Gronegger

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