Munich, for many, is reduced to Oktoberfest, Lederhosen and beer. But what’s the truth in this bad rep and is it time it got rehashed? We’re told the Isar trails are boring, the residents are snobby, and the city just isn’t as cool as Berlin! We’ve enlisted the help of Pro rider Rob Heran to refute these claims and find out exactly where to go.

Hawaii, Bali, Nepal, Morocco, the USA and South Africa: you name it, Rob has probably ridden there. But destinations aside, Munich is his adopted hometown, where he spends time planning his next trip, takes his kids to kindergarten, meets mates for a beer and, naturally, hits the local trails on his bike. Tired of bearing the brunt of his city’s image, Rob took a sidestep from his regular Syncronicles adventures and took us to visit Munich’s coolest cafes and bars, an amazing pump track, and some secret gems of the Isar trails.

The best way to start the day

Rob’s place is ideally situated in the centre of Munich, just a stone’s throw from the university campus. As expected, finding a parking place is as exhausting as taking a PHD in astrophysics. I’m greeted by fresh coffee, clearly made by someone who knows their roasts. Rob confirms that I’d be hard pushed to get a better coffee elsewhere in Munich – the confidence of his statement is backed up by the methodology of his actions, I realise. My double espresso from his La Marzocco Linea Mini, he explains, is weighed and timed for the perfect extraction (20.5 g of beans in this case). What’s my verdict? Well, I’m on the fence. If you’re into something mild with a creamy, full-bodied taste then this probably won’t be to your liking. It’s distinctive, powerful, and spicy. In short, it’s pretty provocative–exactly like Rob’s reaction as our chat strays onto E-MTB territory. “Are we likely to see you on one soon?” I ask tentatively. “No way,” he replies firmly, “I mean, E-MTBs are definitely not a bad thing; they’re constantly improving and they’ve got appeal for a lot of people, but they’re not for me.” Rob’s staunch principles meant that looking for sponsors last year wasn’t made any easier, but pairing up with Evil was a great shout.

  Build your bike, call your mates, then hit the trails.

Trails in the heart of the city

Munichers don’t need to complain about the shackles of the urban jungle when they’ve got trails that start directly in the heart of the city. On both sides of the Isar river you’ll find a sprawling network of trails that kick off just after the Hellabrunn zoo (incidentally, this also doubles as the ideal meeting point for any ride), and heads upstream towards Schäftlarn. Don’t expect any major climbs but there are definitely fun, lumpy sections with stepdowns, jumps and roots galore.

Don’t forget the infamous ‘Rohr der Angst’, aka the Fear Tube, which will raise the hairs on the back of any rider’s neck the first time it’s ridden – no matter how good you reckon you might be. The Isar trails are a fine demonstration of the faster you ride, the techier and more fun it gets, so if you’re really not feeling them then one might suggest you’re too slow, or just unfit! The trails can, and should, be ridden in both directions just to bulk up your riding and keep it diverse. Head over to Strava to check out Rob’s post-work loop.

  Get Airborne! The Isar trails are always game for a bit of airtime, even if you don’t have any major vert!

The city’s best bike shops

Not everyone has the luxury of a fully kitted-out, at-home workshop like Rob, so it’s fortunate that at least a couple of Munich’s many bike shops know their bottom brackets from their bottoming out. Two shops in particular are worth mentioning for the tool-wielding skills of their mechanics and the know-how of the sales staff: Rocky Mountain & Friends; and Mborg, which should be anyone’s port-of-call after a filthy ride thanks to its tidy hose set-up outside the shop.

Munich’s colourful side

Not every occasion calls for sausage and beer, so we headed over to scope out the edible wares at the Viktualienmarkt after riding the Isar trails. It’s a really practical spot where you can grab something quick and easy while keeping a careful eye on your bikes. The Sababa Imbiss takeaway has outgrown its crown of being an ‘insiders’ tip and is now a super popular haunt for delicious pita bread with falafel and a pick-your-own salad. For dessert we had our eyes on ice cream, so sauntered past one of Munich’s most indiscreet sex shops and a gender-neutral pedestrian crossing to Gärtner Platz square where you’ll find Café del Fiore.

Sick trails are only a fragment of the pro lifestyle

“Eat, ride, sleep, repeat!” sounds like a dream but like any routine, the shine can wear off. On days when Rob is need of a recharge, he points us in the direct of Giesing, a neighbourhood in the city with a really well-made pump track that Rob habitually pays a visit to. If he’s still feeling pent-up then he’ll dip down into the basement at BKLYN Athletics for a functional workout that mixes cardio, yoga and body weight training in the right balance for the bike. This isn’t just your average plank session either; Rob considers this sort of training more important than just donning some protective garb. It keeps him in shape, his reflexes get trained, and his stability and flexibility get honed. In winter he’ll do two sessions per week on average.

Middle-class delis and the best drinks in town

Come on, we’re Germans that have landed in our beloved Munich so can you blame us for tucking into a hearty Schnitzler for dinner at Café Hüller? A real institution in the city, it’s a wholly unpretentious restaurant in what was the city’s once predominantly working class neighbourhood. If you’re looking to double-up and do back-to-back Schnitzel meals, then we’d suggest Restaurant Süßmund for your second evening in the city.
Almost exactly in the middle of both those restaurants is where you’ll find our final port-of-call: the Zephyr Bar. As you cross the threshold you’ll notice a ubiquitous aroma of herbs in the air, and it’s reflected in the enticing drink’s menu. The choice is vast and unlike anywhere else – stuck for choice, just ask the bar staff to surprise you. You won’t be disappointed.

As much as Rob loves packing up his T3 bus and driving to far-flung corners of the Earth, he’s just as stoked when he pulls of the Autobahn and heads into Munich. It might not have the same dizzying excitement you get from sleeping under the stars in Morocco, but there are other draws – it’s a city that’s down-to-earth yet packed full of contradictions to keep you on your toes. For riders, it’s an untapped gem. And even Rob, who’s so hooked on his travel, thinks it rocks too.

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