Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Deutsche Bahn High Speed Trains

Amazing! Deutsche Bahn German Railways has fought against putting bicycles on ICEs, their high speed flagship trains since they were first introduced more than 20 years ago.  The fat controllers have changed their minds in a big way. The latest class, the ICE4, will take at least 8 bikes, probably in summer. It is a miracle. I hope that we can use them when the trains come into service in late 2017.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Bicycle expressways in and around Heidelberg, ludwigshafen and Mannheim

The German Fedral Government plans to invest in new cycle freeways. These will be designed to take bicycles and e-bikes with a maximum speed of about 19mph, which means no pedestrians crossing the road, no junctions and lighting when dark. These routes are not designed for day rambles out into the country, but for commuters. The Mannheim region is planning to apply for financing for several routes:

East West: Heidelberg Mannheim Ludwigshafen and farther west in to Rhineland Palatinate.
A vaguely North South rout from Mannheim to Darmstadt.
A southern route towards Karlsruhe.

I am a little dubious about the design speeds. It does not sound like much fun to ride for the slow moving like Judith and I. I just just hope I can see them before I have to hand in my bicycle clips for ever.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Kalmit Klapprad 2016

We went to the annual Kalmit Klapprad meeting for the first time in 5 years on September 3rd. Quite why we've missed it in between we don't know. For those that don't read this blog the Kalmit Cup is a Klapprad bicycle race up hill to Kalmit hill (400m climb over 6km) from Maikammer a village on the edge of the Rhine Plain in the south of Rhineland Palatinate. A klapprad is a pre Brompton folding bike, maybe sitting dusty and unloved at the back of the garage. We travelled there by train with our Bromptons (5 and 10 gear models) and followed two race participants on single gear Klapprads from the railway station to climb about 100m to reach the starting line. They disappeared up the road as if I was standing still and I was half dead by the time I reached the line.
It is a serious race. The winner (male) took just over 19 minutes to reach the top. The fastest signora took somewhat over 24 minutes. However there are also prizes for the best costumes. The theme this year was Italy, so we spectators were treated to a cycling leaning Tower of Pisa, Roman Centurians, pizza delivery vans, Chianti bottles, ice cream cones and, of course, the Mafia. All good fun. This year the requirement that the riders have a mustache was dropped, but registration was only possible if the rider could give their start number in Italian!

Anyone for pizza?

Pizza trike followed by 2 gondolas

"Ben Hur" meets ""Death in Venice"

Bellisimo! The essence of Italy, the flag, the Romans, Pisa, Chianti, the Mafia

Friday, September 02, 2016

Packing for touring

We have just spent a few days touring along the Kocher-Jagst Cycle Route on the edge of the Swabian Alb and saw a modest number of other touring cyclists. What struck us was the amount of baggage carried by some groups with in some cases trailers. If you are camping then you do need a lage amount of gear, but over the years we have gradually reduced the amount of stuff we take with us to one set of evening gear, a spare set of cycling gear, not forgetting waterproofs, maps, guides, water bottles/s, something to read in the evening, a first aid kit and enough tools to repair a puncture as well as a spare inner tube all packed in waterproof bags - think Ortlieb. That's about it. That's all you need.
Don't forget though that if your bags are so tightly are so tightly packed that there is no room for anything like a lunchtime snack this could lead to problems. If you leave home in wet weather it is possible to forget that you will need somewhere to pack your wet weather gear when the sun shines. It is easy to do. I have done it and ended up buying a new rack pack on the next day to take my jacket and overtrousers.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Finding a room when touring in Germany

A few thoughts on the matter:
Firstly when planning your route either aim to book rooms or if you are travelling without booking then make sure that you are going to stop overnight in communities that have more than one organisation offering accommodation. This might mean that you have the odd shorter day, but this is better than spending the night in a bus shelter or having to cycle on or back for another 10 or 15km after a 100km day.
Secondly if you are using the compromise system whereby you book a hotel by phone at lunchtime, it is worthwhile checking how the accommodation looks on its website. If you don't, you could well have a surprise when you arrive.
Thirdly do not forget that you need to eat in the evening. If the accommodation lies a few kilometres from the next community and does not offer evening meals, you might well have a long walk or ride to get your evening meal.
Fourthly we have started to use booking websites, because one can book online, but be observant, these sites run on the assumption that one is travelling by car so a distance of 20km can be assumed to be nearby. The sites often only list a part of the accommodation available, so it is worth looking at other booking sites or even the hotel website itself as more and more are offering online bookings.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Bicycles in the Stoewer Museum in Wald-Michaelbach

Stoewer was a small motor manufacturer in Stettin (now Szczecin in Western Poland). The company is best known for its technically advanced cars. However it also built sewing machines, typewriters and bicycles. Examples of all these can be seen in the Stoewer-Museum, Michelstraße 1, Wald-Michelbach, Hesse, Germany. The museum is only open between 2 and 5 pm on the first Sunday of each month. Wald-Michelbach can be easily reached by car or by bus from Weinheim, Bergstraße. More information is available under www.stoewer-museum.de .

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Questions to ask a bike hire company

If you are planning to hire a bike or an e-bike for a touring holiday then it is worthwhile checking the following points:
  • Saddle:  
    • Can you take your own saddle with you and fit it before you leave? 
    • Can you leave the hire company's saddle with the hire company?
  • Pedals:
    • If you normally cycle in clip pedals then check whether you can take your own with you and fit them before you leave? This is not as silly as it looks. A friend of ours hired a bike in Ireland some years ago and was surprised to see on arrival that the hire bike had the curved steel rod cranks often fitted to children's bicycles.
  • Bags: 
    • Does your favoured bike have a rack? Try and avoid carrying a heavy rucksack on your back.
    • Will it take your brand of panniers?
    • Do you need a pannier? You can always buy bungees or straps to attach a small bag to the rack.
    • Can you attach a bar bag to the handlebars? This is often not possible with e-bikes.
  • Locks:
    • Does the hire company offer locks free of charge?
    • Are they just the rear wheel frame locks beloved of cycling midwives, as seen on TV?
    • Can you hire a better lock so that you can attach the bike/s to a fixed object?
  • Mudguards/Fenders:
    • It does rain in summer in much of Western Europe in spite of the brightly coloured photographs in the tourist office brochures. I realise that bikes with mudguards/fenders don't look as cool as those without, but muddy legs don't look cool either.. Obviously this does not apply if you are going mountain biking and are used to showering with your bike and your clothes after a day out in the hills.
  • Helmet:
    • Helmet wearing in Europe is not compulsory. In fact in countries with heavy use of bicycles as a means of transport, e.g. Denmark, the Netherlands, it is unusual apart from keenie-beanie road men and women. If you wear a helmet when touring in these countries you run the risk of being thought a German. Some hire companies throw bike helmets in with the deal others charge you a Euro or so a day to hire.
  • Punctures:
    • It is worth enquiring what to do in case of a puncture? Does the hire company supply a tool kit, a pump and a puncture repair outfit? Bigger supermarkets will sell cheap spanners and puncture repair kits.
  • Spare batteries for e-bikes:
    • Hire e-bikes see some kilometres in a season, so it is worthwhile trying to pin the hire bike companies down to find out what the typical range of their batteries is to decide whether to hire a spare battery. A spare battery weighs more than a kilogram.
  • Water Bottle
    • Does the hire bike come with a bottle or a holder? 
    • If it's just a holder would your bottle fit in it? 
    • Does your pannier and/or rackpack take a bottle?



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