Sunday, January 22, 2017

Cheaper by train from Stuttgart to Berlin

Deutsche Bahn - DB (German Railways) face little competition in the field of long distance passenger transport. There have been attempts by companies other than Deutsche Bahn to run long distance trains across Germany, but only one has remained and this offers a reduced service in comparison to the start of service: HKX between Köln and Hamburg.

A new service from Stuttgart to Berlin via
  • Berlin
  • Wolfsburg
  • Hannover
  • Göttingen
  • Kassel
  • Fulda
  • Hanau
  • Frankfurt
  • Darmstadt
  • Heidelberg
  • Vaihingen (Enz)
  • Stuttgart
has just started on 15 December 2016: Locomore. This is cheaper than Deutsche Bahn, German Railways. Fares are planned to be under the cost of a standard DB fare with a half price BahnCard 50. Heidelberg - Berlin costs between 20 and 65€. The standard DB fare is 136€ (68€ with a BahnCard 50), though with luck and early planning one can buy a DB ticket for 29€. Locomore tickets can be bought online, per telephone or directly in the train. Tickets bought in the train are the most expensive. The long distance bus fare Heidelberg - Berlin (Flixbus) costs from 19€ but at popular times like Christmas customers are looking at prices above 50€.

The trains are comfortable and reasonably fast: the Heidelberg - Berlin journey with Locomore takes 5h 48m whereas DB ICEs take 5h 15m, The bus takes at least eight hours. The Locomore trains take bikes. Bike must be reserved in advance.

More information under Will it be a success? Who knows? The company has some teething problems at the moment and is only offering a service four days a week until 6 April 2017, but passenger levels appear to be as expected.

Friday, January 13, 2017

World Bicycle Relief a great idea!

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." 
HG Wells
If you read cycling magazines or scan the web for news of the latest road and mountain bikes you will rapidly notice that modern high quality bicycles are built of materials and using technology that would not be out of place in aerospace construction. The prices charged for these lightweight wonders also resemble the prices charged by aeromanufacturers. Although these bicycles are a triumph of modern design and manufacturing, I would like to suggest that the 300,000 heavy (24kg) steel  framed single geared utility Buffalo Bicycles supplied by World Bicycle Relief (WBR) bring more happiness into the world than all the high-tech wonders. 
Buffalo Bicycles are durable with steel alloy frames, forks and spokes and a rear carrier capacity rated to 100kg. Weighing in at 5kg (a complete bike is 24kg), the weight of the steel frame is not a hindrance but evidence of the bicycle’s strength. WBR is committed to using high-quality, well-designed parts. This improves the bicycle’s functionality, reliability and strength, and keeps  Buffalo Bicycles on the road.
WBR has since organised programmes to provide specially designed, locally assembled bicycles for students, health care workers and entrepreneurs across Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. The bicycles help students travel farther to school, help health professionals see more patients a day and farmers and market traders find new markets and increase their carrying capacity. WBR has also created new economic opportunities by training field mechanics and employing bike assemblers to support their localprogrammes. WBR has developed an efficient, innovative and scalable model to successfully address the need for reliable, affordable transport in rural areas of developing countries. WBR works with a number of third world development aid charities and NGOs.
If any bicycle club or organisation is looking for a charity to support World Bicycle Relief should be high on the list of candidates.
A Buffalo Bike at the City of Mannheim's Annual Reception for its citizens January 6 2017

Friday, January 06, 2017

River Cruising coupled with bicycling

River Cruising is a fast growing tourist activity in Europe and several companies specialise in combined cycling and cruising holidays with a wide range of prices. As usual you get what you pay for. Some companies offer barge trips wheres other companies have larger cruise ships.
A sample of the type of trips available:
Aktieve Vaarvkanties offers barging and biking tours in the Netherlands / Bavaria, Germany  / Lorraine, France on a converted barge that takes eighteen people in nine double cabins with ensuite facilities. 
Aktieve Vaarvkanties
Barend Visserstraat 9
8861 HB Harlingen 
T: +31 6 22418892 

Arosa offers bicycle day excursions (surcharge) on its river cruise ships:

Bicycle Tour Europe offers barging and biking tours in the Netherlands / France / Belgium on a converted barge that takes sixteen people in eight double cabins with ensuite facilities. | P/O Bo 1097, Postalcode 1000 BB, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Bike & Barge Holland Tours offers barging and biking tours in the Netherlands / Germany (Bremen-Berlin) on a converted barge that takes twenty-eight people in fourteen double cabins with ensuite facilities.

13440 179th Ave NE
Redmond, WA 98052-1103, USA

European Waterways Ltd offer barges for charter by small groups.
European Waterways Ltd 
The Barn, Riding Court
Riding Court Road, Datchet
Berkshire, SL3 9JT
United Kingdom

Bicycle-Tour-Europe offers week long trips in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours has partnered with Trek Travel to offer guests bicycle tours on Europe itineraries.
Guests aboard the seven-night, all-inclusive Bike & River Cruise sailings will be able to enjoy Trek Domaine 5.9 carbon road bikes on explorations that range from 15 to 60 miles with daily route support and experienced bicycling guides. These tours come in addition to those which Scenic already provides and are available from May to September on the Gems of the Danube and Rhine Highlights itineraries.
Gems of the Danube, aboard Scenic Amber, allows cyclists to ride through Furth and Erlangen, sampling local beers, the vineyards of the Wachau Region, the Vienna Woods, and Budapest’s Buda hills and its architecture. Non-cycling tours include a walking tour of Cesky Krumlov or Salzburg, a Budapest city tour or thermal baths, and spa experience and a Scenic-exclusive concert in Palais, Liechtenstein. Prices start at $6,499 per person per double with departures on May 10, 22, and 31, June 26, July 26, and August 30.
The Rhine Highlights, aboard Scenic Jewel, visits four countries. Highlights for bicyclists include cycling through the Alsace wine route for tastings of Rieslings and Pinot Gris, the Rhine Gorge with its scattered castles and vineyards, the bike trails of Cologne, and Amsterdam’s countryside for a cheese-tasting tour. Non-cycling tours include a Scenic-exclusive private tour and classical concert at the Baroque-period Mannheim Palace, a “Sweet Tastes” tour of Heidelberg, and a trip to the fairy tale town of Cochem. Priced from $6,599 per person per double, departures take place on June 12, August 16 and September 13.
Scenic Space-Ships offer private butler service, unlimited complimentary beverages and spirits, full-size private balcony staterooms, Scenic Tailormade handheld GPS guided tour systems provided to every guest, and up to six dining options.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bike Hire on the lower Rhine in Germany

Because of this blog and our website we regularly receive enquiries from people who wish to hire a bicycle in one town and leave it elsewhere. Unfortunately we often need to reply that if you hire a bike in one town that is where you need to return it.  There were a few exceptions:

  • You can hire a bicycle in Passau and drop it off in Vienna. 
  • You can hire a bike in Berlin and drop it off in Copenhagen.  

There is now a new series of possibilities. The RadRegionRheinland (Rhineland Cycling Region) has set up Radstation, a series of cycle centres offering bicycle repair, parking and hire.
The Radstation in Bergisch Gladbach, Bonn, Brühl, Köln (Cologne), Grevenbroich, Dormagen, Neuss and Düsseldorf offer the possibilty of hiring in one city and returning to a Radstation elsewhere in the system for an extra charge of between 2 and 8 Euros.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Back to Karl Drais and how would he crack the problem of motorised traffic clogging city streets?

We both have an annual regional season ticket from our regional transport authority. There is a bus stop around the corner that during the week offers a service every quarter of an hour until 20:00 to the light rail service into Heidelberg, Mannheim and Weinheim. The bus service is half hourly at weekends. It's not perfect. The buses follow a circuitous route and the connection time to the light rail service is often a minute which can mean waiting ten, twenty or thirty minutes for the next tram if the bus is delayed in traffic. There is also an hourly free pre-bookable taxi service in the evening when the buses stop running, but the light railway offers a half hourly service. This means we might need to wait in Mannheim for an extra half hour. What this means is that if we are going to Mannheim on a Sunday or will be returning after 20:00, we take the car to the local shopping centre/mall ten minutes away by and park it there. The centre features a cinema and so there is no move to offer time limited parking on the British pattern. The snag is that if we just drive the car for ten minutes, its fuel consumption is higher than when it is warm and its exhaust gases are dirtier. 
What we could do is cycle to the shopping centre. We often do when we are shopping. There are bike racks available. There is a snag though. If a bike is left at the tram stop for a few hours there is a chance that some misguided individual will try to steal it or just jump on it to reduce to a pile of scrap. One idea that would improve matters would be lockable bike storage boxes. They need not be free. Put a few of these near every park and ride facility and more of us would cycle to the railway lines. This is not utopian or even rocket science. Some of the S-Bahn (suburban railway stations) in Rhineland Palatinate have banks of these boxes.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Bicycles in the Hull City Museum

The Hull Streetlife Museum has a good collection of bicycles including a Drais Hobby Horse and penny farthing bicycles.

Hull Culture & Leisure
High Street

Friday, December 09, 2016

Ten days on an e-bike

For a number of reasons we decided recently to hire e-bikes to follow the Rhine, Moselle, Marne-Rhine Canal, Rhine loop we have christened the "Riesling Route". There were three of us all on sturdy touring e-bikes hired from Bellorange in Edenkoben, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany.

Sturdy touring e-bikes
One of our number had never seen the Rhine Gorge or visited Trier, Nancy or Strasbourg. Our time was limited so we took a train from Mannheim to Mainz. We booked all accommodation in advance, becausr the Moselle Valley is a popular tourist destination in early autumn, due to the wine festivals and the grape picking. In addition it is more difficult to find rooms for three people than one room for a couple.
We felt it was better to take a steamer through part of the Rhine Gorge. Sightseeing is easier.
After Boppard, cycling again.
We also took some time off in Trier. Germany's oldest city needs more than a quick half hour's rubbernecking. To make up the time taken we took a train to Perl to enable us to get to Thionville before dark, where we'd booked a room. The Moselle Cycle Path is excellent and well signposted between Schengen and Arnaville. After Arnaville a rough canal towpath can be followed as far as Plagny sur Moselle where we took the train to Nancy. The recommended cycle route to the city follows the main road and is not pleasant to cycle. Taking the train meant we also had time to look at Nancy.
One of the better bits of the towpath
We cycled along the towpath of the Marne-Rhine Canal without difficulty, much of the towpath has been sealed and tarred. On the next day we climbed over the Vosges on quiet local roads and dropped down the Vallée des Éclusiers - the lockkeepers' valley - past 17 locks and lock keeper's houses. The lower part of the route involves cycling on a viaduct laid in the dewatered canal. Good fun! We reached Strasbourg in the early evening. It was a long day about 80km, but easy because of the electrical assistance and a smooth towpath. The next morning we spent in Strasbourg looking the cathedral and the old city, before following the Euro15 cycle route to Lauterbourg, where we caught a train, free for us as owners of a regional pensioners' season ticket, to Ludwigshafen. The city was chosen as destination as we knew that the lift on Mannheim HBf on our arrival platform was not functioning. The plan was to take the lift at Ludwigshafen Mitte station down to ground level, cross the Rhine and cycle home. The best laid plans do 'gang awae', unfortunately. We found that the lift on our platform was defect and we had to carry the bikes downstairs.
The stairs!
The disadvantage of these e-bikes is their weight. We found the bikes were heavy to lug on and off a ship, but we have become experts at looking helpless and were helped by the crew. All of the trains we took were low level loading, roll on, roll off, so the weight was not really a problem at least as far as the platform. At the majority of stations lifts were available if required.
On the plus side we were not as tired in the evenings as if we'd pedalled a tourer all day. If we met a headwind at the end of the day we turned up the assistance a notch or two. Whether we were much faster is difficult to assess. We were exploring the route for the first time in ten or so years and we spent much time, of necessity, scratching our heads looking at maps. We found on rough towpaths the e-bikes are about as fast as our normal tourers, but I for one was wary of putting the pedal to the metal or turning up the power when a minor mistake could have landed me in the drink. Would we hire e-bikes again? Yes, in the mountains! Would we buy a pair of e-bikes? Probably not! We live on the Rhine Plain and there are few local hills unless we go looking for them.

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