Friday, September 19, 2014

The Black Forest Mountain Bike Crossing

This route is known in German as "Bike Crossing Schwarzwald". It runs from Pforzheim to Bad Säckingen  and is 445km (278 miles) long with 16200m (58500') height difference. Technically it appears not be that difficult as much of the route is along forest roads that are at least 2m wide. There is, however, the odd stretch of single track to give the route some pep. Cycling the route will probably take seven to ten days. It is like crossing the Alps so you need to cut down on your gear to get it into a six to seven kilo rucksack. The route has the advantage over the Alpine crossings that cycle from village to village and so you can wash your stuff in the evenings as well as stocking up on victuals  every day. The Black Forest tourist organisation (service@schwarzwald-tourismus.info) will book hotels and organise baggage transfer in case you feel that pajamas are an essential you cannot do without. There is some information under http://www.blackforest-tourism.com/discovery/sports/Bike-Crossing-Schwarzwald.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bicycle Leasing in Germany

A number of major German companies have latched onto the concept of offering their employees a company bicycle rather than a company car. The employees can use the bicycle as though it is their own, keep it at home, commute to work and use it for shorter trips for the company. This has been made possible by changes in German taxation law in 2012. The company leases the bicycles from dealer or from an agency that sources the bicycles from one or more dealers. The employee pays a monthly leasing rate, which is taken from his salary before he or she pays tax, unemployment or health insurance, i.e. he pays less tax and social insurance. After three years he or she can buy the bike for 10% of its original price. Over three years this yields a saving of over 40% of the original price of the bike.
The advantages for the employer are:
    • It has been found in studies in the Netherlands, that employees who cycle to work enjoy better health than those who commute by car or public transport.
    • It improves the green image of the company.
    • It is cheaper than a company car, but at the same time it makes for a cool image, especially these days where employees who live in city centres have difficulty parking cars.
    • There is less need to provide car parking which can be expensive to provide and maintain.
    • In cities a bicycle is fast, if not faster than a car up to about 5km, because there is no need to find a parking slot at the end of the journey which cuts down wasted time.
Over 400 German companies some of which are blue chip companies offer their employees subsidised bicycles:
    • DHL, logistics
    • Bayer, chemical industry
    • Deutsche Telekom
    • Allianz, insurance
    • Weleda, a multinational company that produces both beauty products and naturopathic medicines. Both branches design their products based on anthroposophic principles.
    • LBS, building society
    • Commerzbank
In addition many local utilities, town councils and tradesmen take advantage of the schemes.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bicycle Hire in Bonn, Germany

The Radstation in Bonn near the main railway station is operated by Caritas, a Roman Catholic social mission. It employs and trains people, young and old who have difficulty finding employment to become bicycle mechanics. One can hire refurbished bikes there. One day's hire costs €10. The price drops to €7 a day for longer hire periods. It is possible to return the bikes to other Radstation in North Rhine Westphalia, but this costs extra.
The Radstation is near the Bonn Hauptbahnhof (Main railway station) on Quantiusstraße, opposite numbers 6-8 in a blue container, 53115 Bonn, Tel (0228) 9814636. It also offers secure bike parking and repair.
Website: www.radstationbonn.de

Monday, September 01, 2014

Commuter Bikes

There was an article in the "Guardian" on Saturday on the Money pages about saving money by buying a bike to commute to work. We both found this an interesting article because we've been to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where a third or so of inner city journeys are made by bike. One sees all sorts of bikes underway there. The article was intended for London readers. Even the "Guardian" now seems to believe that life in the rest of the UK is not possible. The Guardian's approach seemed to be buy a sporty road bike, perhaps even with dropped handlebars. You get there quicker. Your bike is cooler than anybody else's. Fortunately before I crumpled the paper in a ball and flung it in the waste paper bin*, the author did recount that most of the bikes did come without mudguards/fenders and that these were very important.

We both feel quite strongly that for inner city cycling a sit up and beg bike with mudguards/fenders and a luggage rack and/or a basket at the front is a lot more use. The majority of the bikes in Amsterdam and Copenhagen are of this type. They may not be "sexy", but they are comfortable to ride, you can carry stuff without wearing a rucksack and you see what's going on round about you. Defensive cycling, looking out for danger strikes us as sensible, especially in cities. When your nose is almost touching the front wheel, this is difficult.

There is another aspect to the buying of sexy bikes. Some years ago, a friend of ours in her 40's had a road bike built by the best local frame builder. She picked it up and decided to cycle round the block. As she passed the high school next door, she heard one boy say to another, "Check out the old bat on the cool bike!"

 *This would have been difficult as we read the Kindle edition.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bicycle Tours in Luxembourg.

Somewhere in our researches at travel, outdoor and cycle shows this spring, we picked up a brochure from FEEL! Luxembourg bike tours. The organisation offers a number of half  and full day tours through Luxembourg City for adults and for families and out in the surrounding areas, including two tours to  vineyards with tasting sessions. You can hire a bike or take your own. There is much more information available on www.feel-biketours.com

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Disadvantages of e-bikes

We are both over the biblical age of three score years and ten. We have just  bought a couple of touring bikes. When we announce this, our friends and acquaintances all ask the same question: "An e-bike?". They are often surprised to hear that the answer is, "No, a staid normal touring bike with an eight speed hub gear".
"Why not an e-bike?"
Two answers:
  • An e-bike would not fit into our mode of cycling. We often take a train somewhere and then cycle on. It is important to us that we can easily lift our bikes onto trains. An e-bike weighs around 26kg. Our touring bikes weigh 14kg. In the two minutes that Deutsche Bahn allows to get our bikes onto a train the extra weight makes a big difference.
  • We store our bikes in our cellar. It is difficult enough carrying a 14kg bike down a tight curving staircase. A 26kg e-bike would be impossible.
If we lived in a hilly area then matters might well be different, but we live on the Rhine plain. This does not rule out hiring an e-bike in a mountainous area in future.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't ride in Danish pedestrian zones

We were in Nykobing this morning and as we were due to ride into the pedestrian zone, I asked a policeman whether we could. He shook his head and said that it would cost us 700 Danisch Kroner, i.e. about £80. Watch out when in Denmark as it is too easy to enter a pedestrian zone without noticing.

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