Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spezi Germersheim 2016 Initial Impressions

Our first feeling was that there were too many people attending the 21st Spezi Special Bikes Show in Germersheim this year. It was very difficult to take photographs in the halls. It could have had something to do with the weather. It was brass monkey weather and wet with it, at least on Saturday, so the outdoor exhibitors definitely had to stamp their feet to keep them warm. We spent some time wandering around the three halls but I have never run round the outdoor stands as quickly.

My second feeling was why  the Germersheim Stadthalle administration cannot organise fitting fresh roller towels in the male WCs. There are four machines but in my experience over the years only one will have a wet wrinkled tail of towel hanging from it.

SPEZI is the world's largest show for recumbents, recumbent tricycles, quadracycles, folding cycles, tandems, family cycles, velomobiles, transporters, electrical bikes, special needs bikes, adult kick scooters, child and load trailers, customised designs and accessories. Our feeling was that it is still a show for the type of bike or trike that causes onlookers to ask questions. The show has got a bit slicker over the years, but it is still down to earth and you can easily spend half an hour or so chatting to chief engineer of a bike or trike company. There aren't many salesmen or -women in suits knowing little about the products only how to sell on the stands. My feeling is that we visitors are all trike/folder/cargo bike fans/freaks/nerds together with family and friends looking at vehicles for disabled or vertically challenged members or mates. The market for disabled folk plays a major role. I was surprised but I read today that Transport for London has found that around 15% of disabled people in London actively cycled for transport in 2014, compared to 18% of non-disabled people.The other trend I felt was important was city centre logistics and transport for craftsmen using cargo bikes and e-bikes. There were even four British bike or trike manufacturers represented.
 
Over the next few days we will write about the exhibition, but here is a photograph of the Schwalbe stand. I wanted to ask whether one could buy a 16" JUMBO JIM tyre (on the right below) for a Brompton but my nerve failed me at the last minute.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Henty Wingman

If you need to take a suit to work and you want run or ride there by bike or motorbike to arrive at work with a suit that looks presed and not like you have slept in it, then check out the Wingman from Henty: http://henty.cc/. It's a suit bag that wraps round an inner bag which you can wear as messenger bag or strap it on the bike. I have not seen the gear and the nearest stockist is in Frankfurt. Anyway I am a pensioner and have stopped going to work. From the YouTube film I've seen it looks well made and is an excellent idea, albeit very speciaised for a limited range of uses. It will take the stuff for the office like the suit, shirt, tie, shoes and socks. It will take a tablet. If you want to use anything else, like a laptop I think you will need to buy the Wingman Backpack which resembles a tubular rucsac.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Do you need an excuse to avoid the London Marathon?

In case you wish avoid taking part in or watching the London Marathon on 24 April 2016, then consider going to the Special Bike Show in Germersheim, Germany on 23 and 24 April 2016. More interesting I suspect as well and the beer is cheaper. See you there.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

A Brompton saves the day

German public television offers a fictional police procedural programme on one or other of the channels every evening. Last night (8 April 2016) we watched the latest episode of "Der Alte" on ZDF about a murder squad in Munich. The main suspect was visited by two detectives primarily to unsettle her and to what see she did next. Outside another detective waited in a large BMW to follow the suspect when the other two left. They left. Suspect comes downstairs. She climbs on a fashionable training bike, one of those mudguardless fixies and flashes off. The detective realising he cannot follow her by car, opens the boot, produces a Brompton, which he unfolds rapidly in a professional manner and nips off to follow her to the flat of a witness. The suspect intended to silence the witness for good, but the Brompton riding detective was able to arrest her and the case was almost solved.
I wonder if a Brompton is standard issue in all of the big BMWs driven by the Munich Police on TV? Will we see more of our beloved bicycles in future? The series has just come to an end at the moment, so we will have to wait a few months to see.

Friday, April 08, 2016

E-bikes for the over 60s

As we wrote recently, we borrowed two e-bikes over the Easter weekend to take part in a course for whiteheads in Mannheim organised by the Police at the Jugendverkehrsschule (Road Safety Centre for Children). We spent the Easter weekend cycling with electrical assistance around the neighbourhood. On Tuesday afternoon nine e-bikers met and listened to a policeman who himself has no car and uses an e-bike for transport on:
  • legal aspects of e-bikes in Germany, 
    • e.g. maximum allowed speed, 
    • pedal assisted rather than electrically propelled
    • no need for a licence plate or insurance placard 
    • helmet not proscribed but very highly recommended
  • motor position
  • Most useful of all for us was the statement that if one hires an e-bike as one leaves the hire station one should securely mount the bottom on the saddle and both feet on the pedals before starting pedalling to keep control of the bike. It is difficult to keep control of the bike standing up with one foot on a pedal.
  • discussion on helmets and the Swedish head airbag system.
The police officers then checked the positioning of our helmets on our heads -
  • one finger between eyebrow and front of helmet
  • the down straps should be vertical
  • maximum two fingers space between chinstrap and neck. 
We went out to the test track where he cast an eye over the various bikes. The Road Safety Centre has a model road layout with roundabout and we were soon pedalling round the track weaving our way through slaloms, cycling tighter and tighter circles and braking to order. This went on for three quarters of an hour before we retired to the classroom again to drink a cup of coffee and do the written road safety test normally done by school children. We passed the test.
We then got on our bikes for a half hour ride round very quiet suburban roads with a policeman front and back.
We can recommend this type course highly especially if one has not cycled for some years. If your local or regional police do not offer this course then check out your local bike shop or the local cycling club to encourage them to organise this type of course.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Changing trains in Augsburg Station and enjoying the odd snack

Augsburg Hauptbahnhof - Central Railway, or if you insist, Train Station has long been a bête noire where we were concerned. It is one of the few major German railway stations without lifts/elevators and so if you are going to change trains here give yourselves plenty of time. You need to walk and carry your plus baggage down a steep flight of steps to the tunnel running under the lines and then up another steep flight to get to the platform you need. If you cycle to Füssen along the Romantic Road, for example and wish to take local trains back to the main lines then Augsburg is one place you can change to a long-distance train. The good news is that lifts/elevators should arrive in 2021 or 2022. Until then it is probably better to travel via Munich.
This is a pity because you will miss a snack bar called URBAN Fu:D in the Augsburg Hauptbahnhof which offers an excellent range of freshly made snacks, muffins, coffee, tea, etc. It is opposite the bookshop in the entrance area of the station.

Monday, March 28, 2016

First impressions of an e-bike

We are on reasonable terms with the owner of our local bike bike shop. He has invested heavily in quality e-bikes - Flyer, Kalkhoff and Reise und Müller, to name just a few. He has three or four slightly older Flyers that would-be customers can borrow. The police road safety department in Mannheim our nearest big, well biggish, city offers short e-bike training courses for seniors. We signed up for one and have borrowed two of the Flyers from the bike shop for the course, which is on the Tuesday after Easter. The shop was closed from Good Friday until Easter Monday. We picked the bikes up on Thursday along with a pair of spare batteries. The batteries were old and somewhat ropey with a range of about 40 or so km using a mixture of standard and eco settings. We had a few days to acquaint ourselves with the bikes.

The bikes are eminently sensible hardtail city bikes with adequate baggage racks, hub gears, step over frames and an upright cycling position. They are a wolf in a sheep's clothing. They look like and are as practical as a grannie bike, however once underway one reaches 25kph very quickly even using the eco setting. The bikes are great. Continuous speeds of 20 or even 25 kph are possible against a head wind that would have us travelling at half this speed on a solely human-powered bike. They are eminently suitable for longer local trips.

Will we buy two? Not at the moment.  We have developed a mobility concept that fits our lifestyle well. We walk or cycle within Viernheim, mainly on our Brompton folding bikes or use the local bus. We both have pensioners' travel cards that give us free travel over a wide area once we have purchased them. They cost about €400 annually. For day walks we use our pensioners' travel cards to give us cheap travel into the Odenwald or the Palatinate Forest. Once in the hills the provision of local bus and trains there is good enough to allow us enough flexibility to enjoy linear walks. For multi-day bicycle tours we can use our touring bikes or even our Bromptons.  We do use the car occasionally to travel to places that cannot be reached easily by train or bus, e.g. Dinkelsbühl to talk to the Romantic Road Tourist Authority and for our annual trip to Britain.

We see at least two major problems:

  • The bikes are heavy to push or carry on to trains.
  • Where would we store them? At the moment our normal bikes are stored in the cellar and I can  just about manage to stagger up and downstairs with them, but Judith finds it just about impossible. We would like to install a bike garage at the front of the house, but we need planning permission for this.   

At the same time I think we will hire e-bikes when they make sense. If we were to write another cycle touring guide an e-bike would be a godsend.

  • If Cicerone, the best known British outdoor guide publishers ever asked us to update our Swiss Guide we would only take on the work if we could hire e-bikes.  It is eight or nine years since we wrote the last guides and neither Judith's or my pins have got stronger in this time.
  • As we wrote recently the Romantic Road has been extended to include Wertheim and we should investigate the route between Würzburg and Wertheim once the signposting has been redone. In which case I would be tempted to take local train to Würzburg from Mannheim and hire e-bikes there for day.

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