Friday, May 19, 2017

Winter Cycling

We visited the 5. Nationaler Radverkehrskongress (5th National Cycling Conference) in Mannheim recently and both of us went to the forum on Cycle Tourism. Three of the four lectures were discussing fairly conventional aspects of e-bike touring and MTB activities by representatives of tourist information offices. One lecture was interesting though we could not work out beforehand what it was about: "Saisonverlängerung durch Winterfahrradtourismus" ("Lengthening the season through winter cycling.") It turned out there is a winter biking scene which is based in places where one gets snowy, frosty winters rather than the wet, dark, soggy seasons we in the Rhineland experience between December and February. Typical places are Minneapolis (MN), Montreal (PQ), St. Petersburg and Oulu (Finland). Our speaker, Pekka Tahkola came from the latter city. The activity is divided into two main areas:
  • Utility Cycling: Check for more information. This group is more interested in keeping roads cleared and getting to work than exciting days out on the fells. 
Winter Urban Cycling © Pekka Tahkola

  • Nature and Open Spaces: Most of the trails are made by grooming the trails by snow mobiles pulling a groomer. Thus most of these groomed trails are rideable for people of all ages. They are enjoyable to ride at slower speeds while enjoying nature, and are easy to ride for people with absolutely no experience of mountain biking. Of course it depends to a certain extent on weather conditions. Snow biking is often easier and safer than walking and is a great way to see the national park. Pekka has guided many people over 70 years old on the trails and there's definitely no danger of face plants. Then again, if one wishes to have more exciting and snow-diving experiences, there are trails for the young at heart too.

    Getting close to wildlife ©Pekka Tahkola

    Feeding a Siberian Jay © Pekka Tahkola

    By March the days are long and sunny © Pekka Tahkola

    Check out , and for a bicycle hotel in Syöte National Park, or

    Pekka as a cycling coordinator  is a good man to contact if you fancy trying this activity: pekka(dot)tahkola(at)navico(dot)fi. Unfortunately the parent Navico website appears to be written only in Finnish, which is not an easy language to read, but an email to him will get you sufficient information.

Friday, May 12, 2017

E-Bike and Special Needs Bicycle Hire in the Danube Valley

The range of bicycles and tricycles available to rent in Germany is growing year by year. We were interested to come across the e-bike-verleih-bogen at a recent bicycle touring fair in Frankfurt recently. Bogen is a small settlement near Straubing on the Danube, north east of Munich. The company offers not only good quality e-bikes, but also a range of vehicles for people who have difficulty with bicycles due to physical impairments. This range includes    

  • Electrically assisted Hand Bike with wheelchair seating (ProActiv NJ1)
  • The VeloPlus wheelchair transport bike designed to transport people, who remain seated in their own wheelchair, by cycle.
  • E-Trike therapy cycle for adults
  • Tandem
  • E-transport bike for children or of course for large dogs.

The company offers both bicycle/tricycle hire and touring holidays based in a hotel in Straubing with wheelchair access. The websites are in German: (Hire) and (Holiday) but offer photographs of the various bikes/trikes on offer. There is always Google Translator, of course. If you are interested in hiring a bike or two and don't speak or write German just send the company an email in English. In our experience German companies always have somebody on their staff who understands English. 


Friday, May 05, 2017

SPEZI Gemersheim 2017

This year we went to SPEZI much later than in previous years. I formerly argued that  the time to go was early on Saturday morning as most other people would be out shopping. It turns out that the busiest times at the ticket offices were early on Saturday, when visitors could wait up to an hour to get in. Visitors then hit the halls to see what was new or chat to the companies who had sold them the trike, the trailer or the folding bike to find out how to save an ounce or two, to buy mechanical or electrical or electronic components to build the dream e-power sociable or maybe to sell their idea to someone with some money. It's that kind of show. Enthusiasts and freaks talk to the enthusiasts manning the stands. The halls were full and getting to the most popular stands was like trying to weave one's way through the crowd to get a beer in a stadium at half time when Bayern München plays Real Madrid.

This year we could only get to the exhibition by Sunday afternoon at 14:00 (2pm). There were plenty of visitors as we made our way through the street around the halls. This area is blocked off to motorised traffic and so is used as an informal test track and exhibition area by the stands on the external exhibition area. It was a sunny day and the ice cream and dutch frites stand were doing great business judging by the queues.

A sunny day

Hall 3 was full of visitors but it is a small hall with some big stands and so there was not much space for the humankind in the aisles. We chatted to the editor of "Fahrradzukunft - Bicycle Future" a German language e-magazine which can also be obtained in print form. We are looking for an author or publisher competent in English to take over some or all of Bergstrasse Bike Books, our cyclist touring guides.

We returned to the informal test track outside and dodged the test pilots some of whom had more enthusiasm than caution to go to Halls 1 and 2 which is where most of the major players in the recumbent trike and e-bike business hang out. These halls had fair number of visitors but did not resemble a rugby scrum. To sum up our impressions fat tyred trikes are definitely in coming, cargo bikes, especially with e-power are now viewed as a serious possibility for deliveries in city centres to reduce air pollution and e-powered bikes and trikes are now mainstream. Carla Cargo build braked trailers with or without electrical power that convert to hand trailers for "last mile" deliveries through a pedestrian zone.  AZUB the Czech trike manufacturer, HP and ICE now offer fat tyre trikes.

A Carla Cargo powered trailer for inner city use.


Unfortunately common sense says we cannot buy a recumbent trike or bike as our bike garage is small and will just take two touring bikes and lawn mower. However when I am in day dreaming mode I think a Flevo GreenMachine would a great addition to our bike collective and in slightly more sensible mood a Anthrotech semi-recumbent trike would be easy to get on and off. I think it would be fun to ride as well. Anthrotech appear to no longer have a British agent, so if you want to buy one you will need to arrange transport.

We were interested to find a hat to fit over a cycle helmet on the EVARIA on top stand. They are stylish and manufactured in disabled workshops. You can look cool and help others. A great idea!

We found Monkey Mirrors on the HPV parts stand. These clip on the helmet, are stylish and can be swopped over when one crosses the English Channel. It's an interesting idea, but I already have a mirror and will stick by my present mirror which attaches to the arm of my glasses. A head mirror is a capital wheeze. It could save your life, especially in heavy traffic. They are light. You know what's happening on the road behind you.

In Hall 2 we were pleased to meet Juliane Neuß who runs Junik, a human powered bicycle manufacturer. She is an expert in the ergonomics of cycling, a book and magazine author and runs an interesting bike shop. Years ago she developed a kit to convert a Brompton folding bike to a recumbent. Junik HPV can modify a steel framed Brompton to take a Shimano 8 speed Nexus hub gear, offers proper touring and commuter bicycles for people of small stature and has developed the Sauseschritt and Sausi-Kid, a scooter with a seat for adults and children.

All of the occupants of the various stands (booths) listed above and our fellow Lancastrians on the  Advanced Vehicle Design stand that we visited seemed to have a good show and intended to come back next year.

If you can organise it it is worthwhile planning to get to SPEZI a little later, but even if you have to queue at 10:00 a visit to SPEZI is still worthwhile.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Genglish as she is writ

Both of us are amused and at times irritated by the German use of the English language, especially when English is dropped into German sentences. Why for example should the Germans use "Story" instead of "Geschichte" which means the same thing, I shall never know.  When we visit our local shopping centre/mall we look at the the English terms in the shop windows and giggle. (I know we should get a life,  but…) This has been going on for years, but we came across a new term today in the window of a shoe and handbag shop: "College lookbook". What does it mean? *

*It turns out that "lookbook" is term from the world of fashion and means a catalogue with photographs. It is new to us both.

Then our local brewery is offering courses in home beer brewing. According to the German description the course offers breakfast to start, snacks during the day, instruction, six beer samples and you can take your volume of fermenting beer home with you. In addition there is a "Handout". I thought it was a goody bag similat to the kind of thing one gets as an attendee at the Oscar ceremony, but no, according to the my wife this is a term used at teachers' conferences to describe printed literature that is handed out.

Friday, April 28, 2017

E-Bike and Bicycle Hire in Wertheim, Germany

Wertheim lies on three major German cycle routes: River Main, River Tauber and the Romantic Road, and the extensive Spessart Forest lies to the north. It is no surprise to find that two organisations in the town offer bicycles to hire.

Tourismus Wertheim GmbH
Gerbergasse 16, 97877 Wertheim
T: +49 (0) 93509,, eMail:
Opening times April to October:
Mo - Fr: 9:00 - 18:00, Sa: 10:00 -16:00, Sun: 13:00 - 16:00
The tourist information office offers e-bikes from Falter (Range 60km) and from Staiger Range 120km) to hire. Both companies build good quality bicycles. You should remember though that the range is shortened when one uses more power assistance to climb hills. The river routes are relatively flat so one can reach the maximum range, before one needs to pedal without assistance. The good news is that there are now a number of free charging stations in the hillier Spessart Forest: at the moment there only appears to be a Facebook page:, but a website is in preparation:
The Falter e-bikes cost:
Half Day: 10€
First Day: 18€
After 3 days: 17€ per day
After a week 15€ per day

The Staiger e-bikes cost:
Half Day: 14€
First Day: 23€
After 3 days: 20€ per day
After a week 17€ per day

Zweirad-Fachgeschäft Baumann
Neben-Neugasse 3-5
97877 Wertheim
Tel: 09342/1214

Opening times:
Mo - Fr: 9.00 - 12.00 and 14.00 - 18.00
Sa: 9.00 - 13.00 
At present we have no information about bikes, prices, etc.

Although this would be a good place to hire a bike to ride the Romantic Road, remember that you will need to return the bike to Wertheim at the end of the holiday. One possibility would be to take the Romantic Road Coach (bus) from Füssen to Wertheim Village, but this would mean stopping another night in Wertheim at the end of the holiday. If you decide to do this then take a side trip by bus or train to visit Würzburg which should not be missed.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hotel accommodation in Buhl-Lorraine near the Rhine Marne Canal

A hotel recommendation, if you are cycling along the Rhine Marne Canal between Nancy and Strasbourg, which is in itself much to be recommended. It is now part of the Pan-Europe Cycle Route Paris - Prague. Much of the canal towpath is now a cyclepath:

The former Cactus Hotel on a small industrial estate in Buhl-Lorraine which is near to the Rhine Marne Canal is now an Ibis Budget hotel. It has a bike garage which is available as long as you arrive early enough before the reception closes, otherwise there is an adequate fence to lock bikes to. The rooms are more than adequate if a bit on the tight side. You can book it via the Internet which saves fighting with the joys of the French language. There is a decent restaurant nearby called Le Cabane de Marie, just by the roundabout on the D45 road where you turn off left for the hotel, coming from the canal. As far as I remember the restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Knooppunt Navigation Nodes in Sauerland and Siegerland-Wittgenstein

Yet another tourist authority in Germany has set up a knooppunt sytem whereby cyclists cycle to and from numbered nodes rather than following lines of signposts across the country. South Westphalia has taken this courageous step. This is the area east of Dortmund stretching south. There is a downloadable app available for Android and iOS. More information can be found on, in German.

We have just been to the National German Cycling Conference in Mannheim and I chatted to executives from the Sauerland Tourist Authority. I asked how well the system has been received. It would appear that the Germans arrive and think what does this bring me? After one or two visits they are very enthusiastic about the system. The other main group of cyclists in the Sauerland are the Dutch. They come from the Netherlands and understand immediately how the system works. It is what they have at home. They too are very pleased.

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