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One bike, one man, one dog

Martin and his dalmatian Sancho are a perfect team. Martin, who started off as a mountain biker, loves every facet of cycling. He doesn’t have a car, choosing instead to run errands with his capable cargo bike. Martin familiarized Sancho with cycling at an early age…Sancho loves accompanying Martin on spirited “full-gas rides” and is everything you could ask for in a trail dog. Both agree that nothing strengthens the bond between human and canine more than adventure.

And so, in the spirit of bonding, Martin and Sancho set off for their first overnighter. The plan was to take the train to the Sauerland region of Germany, departing from the town of Brilon. From there, they would follow a gravel-bike-friendly variant of the Rothaarsteig to Winterberg hiking route, overnight in a hut and loop back the following day. When Martin pitched the idea to us, we were all-in: we set him up him with a brand-new Nicolai Argon GX Pinion gravel bike for his tour.

Find out what the Martin and Sancho experienced along the way, and what made this the most fulfilling, most challenging, and most beautiful experience for this pair of adventurers.



Did you know that the Sauerland region of Germany is also referred to as the land of 1,000 mountains? Martin explained that this “Mittelgebirge” region (think rolling hills, or highlands) is absolutely packed with of prime gravel riding. For his two-day bikepacking adventure with his dalmatian Sancho, Martin opted to ride a gravel-bike-friendly variant of the Rothaarsteig hiking trail, a 150 km route connecting Brilon to Dillenburg.

Martin put together a route of 70 kilometers and almost 2,000 meters of elevation, with surfaces that were easy on his four-legged friend. Accommodation would be in the form of a basic hut found at the 40-kilometer mark: a small wooden shelter with a roof and an open front, under which Martin and Sancho could set up camp for the night.

Packing for the overnighter presented Martin with a challenge. In addition to warm clothing, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, minimalist tools and an emergency kit, he also needed a Sancho’s blanket and enough dog food to keep the active 20+ kg dalmatian fueled for the duration of the ride.



As the pictures reveal, Martin and Sancho had chosen two magnificent late-summer days in September for their bikepacking première. The thermometer climbed to just under 20 degrees during the day, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. After the warm sun set and the first stars appeared over the horizon, the temperature dropped quickly to near freezing.

As soon as the sleeping pad was inflated and positioned in the shelter, Sancho laid claim to his new-found bed and settled in comfortably. Martin had to make it clear to his furry friend this small strip of insulation would have to accommodate them both. The two arranged themselves (awkwardly) and Martin tried his best stay as still as possible: even the slightest movement woke up Sancho, along with his growling, guard-dog instincts.

„By the time the sun rose, I had had one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life, but at the same time one of the most beautiful!“

One can surmise that on a night like this, both man and beast longed for the comforts of home…but these are the experiences that bind pairs together…



After a cold night outdoors and with such little sleep, Martin experienced distinct lack of motivation to get back on the bike. That morning, however, Sancho was being that dog. Even before the sun came up, the four-legged explorer took it upon himself to check out the hut’s surroundings with surprising vigor.

Sancho’s positivity was contagious, convincing Martin to get on the saddle and enjoy the first rays of sunshine. The soft light, majestic misty valleys, sweet morning dew and pure riding pleasure let the discomfort the previous night fade into oblivion. The tour continued to wind its way through gentle ups and downs, through the shady forests and open meadows that are so typical of the Sauerland. At the source of the river Ruhr, Martin took the opportunity to fill his water bottles, as a summit climb awaited: the Kahle Asten, at 842 m, is the second highest peak in the Land of 1,000 Mountains. The pair pushed on and mastered the peak in no time. The last few kilometers from Winterberg flew by, as if Sancho sensed that the train station was close by. Even though this doggy bikepacking adventure was the first of its kind for Martin and Sancho, we have the impression that it won’t be their last…



The Nicolai Argon GX is based on a lightweight, hand-welded aluminum frame. The geometry is typical Nicolai, sporting a comparatively long top tube, slack steering angle, and longer chainstays. These characteristics, in addition to with the balanced center of gravity of the Pinion gearbox, provide a smooth and stable ride, especially on unpaved roads. It is worth noting that Nicolai offers several build options for Pinion/Gates Carbon Drive equipped bikes. If you plan to use your Argon GX as a touring bike and carry a lot of gear on the bike or with a trailer, you can choose the P1.18 transmission for finely spaced gears and an optimal cadence. If you plan to use the bike as a daily commuter or dedicated gravel bike you can outfit the Argon GX as Martin did, with a lightweight Pinion C1.12 gearbox.

Martin’s thoughts on the bike: “A sporty gravel bike is cool, but when a bike like this can do so much more, it becomes really interesting. This is a bike that is just as suitable for a quick after-work lap as it is for extended tours with frame-bags or panniers, day trips, or overnighters. The Argon covers a wide range of riding possibilities. As someone who does not own a car and does pretty much everything by bike, I always put a lot of emphasis on the suitability of a bike for everyday riding. My free time is precious, so the combination of the Gates belt drive and the Pinion transmission is extremely practical, since virtually no maintenance is required.“



„Admittedly, as an old-school
mountain Biker I am a Nicolai fan!
Everything is 100% “Made in
Germany” and inherently
sustainable. The Argon GX Pi
is a versatile, well thought-out
and robust gravel bike. I had a
really good time on it!“



Martin’s bike came with drop handlebars, brake levers from TRP and the Pinion DS2 shifter. Nicolai offers drop or flat handlebar options for Pinion bikes through their custom program. If you decide to use a drop handlebar (like Martin), it must be divisible so that the Pinion shifter can be mounted as shown. The manufacturer Cinq offers an alternative with the Shift:R Road shifters.

“In all honesty, a twist shifter on drop handlebars isn’t the most elegant solution. I wasn’t totally happy with it. I admit there were even a few moments in the hills when tried to push on shifters that just weren’t there. I am so used to braking and shifting from the hoods, but these are brake-only while the Pinion twist-shifter is located on the flat section of the bars. Still, once you get used to the shifter position, it works quite well!“ – Martin Donat



“It quickly becomes clear that as versatile, easy to maintain and fun as Nicolai’s Argon GX is in “adventure mode”, it also proves itself particularly practical in everyday use. It is such a pleasure to be able to rely on such a care-free system. No derailleurs to go out of adjustment, no annoying chain that squeaks for the whole ride because you forgot to lube it. And – a small detail, but a huge plus – no more oily streaks on your pants because you forgot to put your sock over your good jeans before getting on your bike to run errands. It gets even more convenient when the bike is equipped with a dynamo hub and light, so you never have to charge batteries or worry about riding in the dark. On my bike there was only a front light, but it would be easy to add one in the rear. In the winter months, when it gets light late and dark early, this is something you’d never want to give up after trying it out.”




© All pictures and videos credit LifeCYCLE Magazine.

„During an Overnighter you are in the middle of nature and can enjoy the most beautiful time of the day to the full.“