Friday, July 18, 2014

Refreshing drinks for touring cyclists.

If you are lucky enough to come to Germany this summer, you will be faced with a wide range of beers to try. However at lunchtime bear in mind that a typical German beer has an alcohol content of between 4.5 and 5.5%. Half a litre of beer can fill your legs with lead when you set off.  You find that the hills are steeper than they were before lunch and the fields you pass get every more inviting. Alcohol is an excellent diuretic and you might find yourself nipping off into the bushes too often. It's probably better to lay off the booze at lunchtime. So what do you drink? If like us you are not a cola fan and you want a cold drink, you can order a water, but be prepared it'll be a mineral water and not free. The economics of a German restaurant are such that the customer receives expensive mineral water and not free tap water. Sorry, that's how it is. Try ordering a nicht-alkoholisches Weizenbier. This is a cloudy, very low alcohol wheat beer (less than 0.5%) and it tastes much like a yeasty normal Weizenbier. Try it. A lot of cyclists drink it not only at lunchtime.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bike Hire in the Rhine Valley between Ludwigshafen and the border with France on the left bank and between Mannheim and the Black Forest on the right bank.

We have been asked a number of times about hiring a bike at the start of a trip and dropping it off at the end. Although this idea is common enough in the motor car hire industry, it appears to be a concept that is too difficult manage in the bicycle hire industry. Basically if you want to hire a bike choose a circular route like round Lake Constance. Otherwise you will need to return the bikes to your starting point. Having said this there are exceptions:

  • Luxembourg, but as the country is only a little bigger than a postage stamp, this is not much of an advantage.
  • Rheinhessen between  Mainz and  Worms.
  • The Niederrhein Region between Düsseldorf and the Dutch border.
  • Switzerland, if you hire a bike for  two days or longer.
All of the above areas will let you hire a bike in one town and return it to a hirer in another town, but in comparison to hiring a car in Copenhagen and dropping it off in Madrid it's small beer. 

We have found another local company, bellorange® ( that hires bikes in 15 small towns and villages between Ludwigshafen - Mannheim, the French border by Wissembourg and into the northern Black Forest. They offer a wide range of bikes, e-bikes and tandems. The website is only in German, but it features an interactive map which makes it very easy to use. This is odd because the company has a brochure in German, English, French and Spanish.

Friday, July 11, 2014

All over Rain Suit for Cyclists: Bikesuit

We have been using Rainlegs over-breeches for some years and found then to be a good way of keeping off the worst of the damp when it rains ( Rainlegs cover the upper portion of the thighs and leave the rest of the leg free. This means that you are not bathed in sweat after a few kilometres in the rain - the problem with over-trousers. They are especially useful in showery weather when they don't need to be taken off once it stops raining.
We have just ordered a replacement set of Rainlegs and I noticed on the website that the company is about to sell an all-over garment resembling a multi-zipped boiler suit with a hood and feet cover in a waterproof, breathable fabric called the Bikesuit. This will be introduced to the world at the Eurobike Exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany in August. This is all we know. How much it weighs? How much will it cost? We do not know. There is a video of the garment in use on
The one thing we are not taken with are the partial feet covers as these tend to get holed when the rider puts his feet on the ground. It would be better if you could use the garment for walking in the rain.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Value for Money Cycle Tourists' Hotel in Passau on the Danube Cycle Route

By chance we found and stopped in the Rotel Inn in Passau recently. It's on the Danube Cycle Route. We can recommend it. The beds are 2.50m wide as are the rooms. The rooms are not ensuite but the facilities are across the corridor.  Fifty Euros for a double room or 30 Euros for a single plus six Euros each for breakfast. The hotel is clean, comfortable and the breakfast is value for money. It is five minutes from the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station). There is WLAN/WIFI if you ask for it at the desk.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Cycle touring. Booking accommodation in advance.

We decided on a recent week long tour following the Inn Valley Route to book all our accommodation in advance. Some of our nights were spent in youth hostels. In our experience it is very difficult to find a double room with or without shower in a youth hostel just by turning up at the door.

We also used to book accommodation on several nights. This site avoids problems with landlords who would normally bar touring cyclists because they only wish to stop for one night. Single night book bookings are accepted. I presume the other websites offering booking are similar.

The great advantage is that the room is booked and guaranteed. There is no need to flog yourself into a heart attack to get to the hotel by 18:00, say, in case the owner decides you are not coming.

There are a few problems however with these systems:
  • These websites do not always have all the accommodation in a city, town or village on their books. This means if you don't find a hotel on one site it pays to check one of the other booking sites.
  • Check exactly where the hotel or guest house is. We just booked ourselves into a hotel about 200m (about 650') above and 3km away from the cycle route. It was a long walk pushing a heavily laden touring bike.
  • Another snag is that these organisations fill your email in box with offers afterwards.
  • In our experience there do not appear to be many B&Bs on these websites' lists. There are however special websites offering B&Bs. Feed B&B and the name of the country or the area you are interested in into your favourite search engine.
  • Make sure you know how to get to the accommodation. Use one of the map apps to download the exact position. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Aldi's cycling gear: The vest

They are superb and keep one warm once the temperature falls.

"Cycling the River Rhine from Basel to the North Sea"

The book is finally there,  on or on your local Amazon site. The book costs US$8.99.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Train travel with bike in Germany

Long distance train travel with a bicycle in Germany normally means changing trains more often than you would do without a bike.  It can be stressful and hard work. Few long distance trains in Germany take bicycles because the "Fat Controllers" of Deutsche Bahn (DB) are worried about the time it takes for cyclists to remove their steeds from ICE - high speed trains and the space bicycles take up. Bicycles are not allowed on these fast trains, which make up the majority of long distance trains in Germany. Some slower long distance trains do take bicycles, as do regional trains. The latter are specified and subsidised by provincial governments who are interested in encouraging cycle touring, so most German regional trains take bikes. When you book your ticket with DB the route seems to be  planned so you travel the maximum distance on DB long distance trains. What this means is that unless you are lucky, a cross country journey will not be the most direct route, but involve hopping from regional to long distance trains and back again. Fortunately DB issues you with a detailed plan of where to change and from what platform. ( However this list omits to tell you how to get from one platform to the next, usually within five to ten minutes. Obviously if you just have cross from one side of an island platform to the other, it is easy. OK you might have to run from one end of your train to the other end of your connecting train, but see this as a little morning exercise, provided free of charge. If you have to change, say, from platform 1 to platform 3 you will need to cross the lines, i.e. descend to an underpass or climb a bridge. In larger stations there are lifts/elevators, but these can be very narrow and cause long queues of impatient cyclists, pram pushers, wheelchair users. In smaller stations or if the queue is too long the only option to descend to the underpass is via a flight of steps. This can be difficult, if the train was full of other passengers hurrying to catch their connection and the cyclist is not a well trained weight lifter. A laden touring bike is difficult to carry down and up a flight of steps. There is a cure to the problem and German station designers only have to travel to Switzerland to experience this. Swiss railway stations have ramps to the platforms. They are simple and effective and they don't break down. Why few ramps in Germany? Too low tech or maybe they might take up space that could be used for yet another cafe, hamburger joint and  shop selling pots and pans. The next problem comes when the train arrives. You have two minutes to get yourself, bike and baggage on the train. Sometimes other cyclists are descending. Sometimes you need to carry the bike up a flight of steps resembling the Eiger North Wall. It pays to take your panniers off the bike and if you are not on your own, work as a team. Once you get on board, you need to find your bike slot where you might have to hang your bike from a hook or slot the front wheel over a lower hook. Fat MTB tyres can be a problem in both cases.

Although there are some stressful aspects to travel with trains, on the other hand you meet other cyclists who are very helpful in our experience. It is an all hands to the pump situation.  In our experience railway employees are also  helpful as well.

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