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“It’s a great
challenge. I will have to carry the bike in places
“It really helps to get rid of any stress, and you come to work really happy.”
In the German state of Hesse, near Frankfurt am Main, is a small mountain about 900 metres high. Named Großer Feldberg, it is popular with walkers and cyclists – including Lutz Kalthoff, head of European cash equity trading at Allianz Global Investors.
Kalthoff is an avid enthusiast of mountain biking, and regularly leads groups of intrepid cyclists on the mountain trails. In the region of Großer Feldberg, there are 11-12 people from Allianz Global Investors that cycle the mountains. The wildlife found in these mountains include foxes, rabbits, wild boar and deer.
“I like most the challenge to ride the difficult parts without falling, showing my skills to others and helping them to do it, it’s just in the mind,” he said. “One of the things I enjoy is helping the other riders. For example, if there is a jump, and one of the riders is not feeling it today, maybe next time, it’s OK. If one day he does it, I’m really happy.”
The trails into the mountains run for miles, and cover a variety of terrain, much of which is forested. The contours of the ground take the rider over rock and root, over mountain and meadow, and provide a fantastic view over the surrounding scenery of the German state of Hesse, of which Frankfurt is the largest town.
Intrepid members of the Early Bird club volunteer to join Lutz in a morning ride up the mountain, reaching the summit at around 06.00 local time, before riding downhill in the sunrise towards Frankfurt and Allianz Global Investors’ office.
“When you’re up on the mountain, there is no stress, not even one thought. You have to focus on the ride, because it’s challenging. The scenery is incredible. It’s you, your bike and the mountain,” he said. “It really helps to get rid of any stress, and you come to work really happy.”
Lutz was introduced to the sport by Eric Böss, global head of trading at Allianz Global Investors. In 2005, by coincidence Kalthoff spotted Böss on his way to the mountain, with his bike. In 2008, they began to make plans for a crossing of the Alps by bike. In 2009, they set out from southern Germany, near Stuttgart, crossing the Alps over the next six days and finishing up in Italy near Lake Garda.
“I came to biking through Eric,” said Kalthoff. “At that time he was head of derivatives and I was head of equities, so we were equal. Now, he’s my boss. But in biking, it’s the other way round. Now he likes to follow me. Because I’m an explorer, finding new tracks and new routes. I enjoy organising the trip and planning a route. He always says he likes riding with me.”
Similar in some respects to skiing, mountain biking can involve jumps, which vary from one metre to 10-15 metres. Kalthoff’s group focuses mainly on the smaller jumps, just a few metres. All routes are carefully planned by Kalthoff to take account of the different people on the ride and their skills and abilities.
“We regularly do trail camps. For example, we book a nice hotel for five days. Next weekend, we are going to Rheinland Pfalz, 110km from here and we will do a 1,600 metre climb in a one-day trial. You can do 700 metres in a few hours.”
Kalthoff has been mountain biking in Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, Germany, Indonesia. “I try on every holiday to do at least one ride,” he said. On the upcoming ride in Germany, he says part of the appeal is the scenery.
“It’s the biggest forest in Germany. There are places you can go where you don’t see anyone. The forest goes for miles. There are some food huts where walkers go near the main entrances, but if you venture out further than that, there are very few people.”
The next challenge is always on the horizon. At the moment, Kalthoff is considering one of his most ambitious ideas yet, involving a special kind of mountain bike with extra-thick tyres, which is used in winter conditions and especially crossing areas with thick snow.
“I’m thinking to do a crossing of the Alps in winter on the fat bike,” he said. “In the fresh snow, you can ride in 15 to 20 cm of snow. It’s somewhat like surfing. I’m thinking to visit the Alps in January. It’s a great challenge. I will have to carry the bike in places where the snow is too deep.”
Good luck Lutz Kalthoff, we salute your bravery and wish you well on your adventures!
Finding new routes
head of European cash equity trading, Allianz Global Investors
Head of Global Buy-side Research