Friday, October 17, 2014

The Mannheim Altrhein ferry

As you cycle along the Rhine Cycle Route north of Mannheim you need to cross one of the former loops of the Rhine, now cut off by the Tulla straightening in the 19th century. For five or six months of the year you can take the hourly ferry from the Friesenheimer Insel towards Sandhofen. This chain ferry will be modified this winter with solar panels with a Diesel motor back up to power the electric motor driving the chain. The ferry runs from April to September. Cost is 50 Cents for a cyclist and rider.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cycling the Oxford Canal Towpath Sustrans Route 5

SUSTRANS signpost by the junction of the Oxford Canal and Dukes Cut.
We went canal boating in England recently. It was 50 years since Judith left her alma mater and she decided to take part in an alumni weekend. Rather than travel there and stop in a hotel or B&B over the weekend we decided to take a houseboat along the Oxford Canal. We moored at Kidlington just north of Oxford and Judith cycled into the city on a Brompton. She found that even within the urban area that the towpath was not easy to follow on 16" wheels. A day or two later while heading north we noticed a pair of mountain bikers following the towpath. They too had difficulty and got off to walk on several occasions. It is a pity that SUSTRANS cannot improve the towpath. It is not its responsibility unfortunately and the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) the charity responsible for English waterways is probably more interested in keeping the locks and bridges along the canal well maintained. It could be argued that as one of the CRT's missions is to offer leisure activities on the canals and rivers that better cycling facilities should be made available.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Klickfix Variorack

One of the most useful items one can use on a utilitarian bike is a basket. Fling a rucksack in it or a shopping bag and you can cycle off. There is a minor disadvantage that what is easily popped in can be easily taken out. Maybe one should fasten the bag in with a lock or a bungee net. Having found the Klickfix Variorack I suspect this would be better. It looks cooler as well, not so house wifely, not that this worries me one way or the other. I was looking for a bar bag to carry an iPad when I came across the Variorack. It is a multifunctional rack for transportation of bags, laptop cases and backpacks on the bike, 21x32x17cm, 450g weight. It fits into a KLICKfix handlebar adaptor. Obviously you can remove it dead quick in seconds when it is not needed. It can be positioned in 2 different heights on the adapter front or back, though I would be tempted to put at the front so I can keep my eye on the bag when the rack is loaded. It might be an idea as well to have the Variorack attached to the bike with a lockable adaptor. The rack comes with a strap and I suspect if her indoors needs a hint what to buy me for Christmas, I might well be tempted to suggest a Variorack.

I decided not to buy a iPad bar bag. When we are touring I can pop the iPad in a Ziplock style plastic bag to keep it dry and stuff it down between clothes in the panniers to protect it against vibration. We have four bar bags of the simple variety already and that's enough.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cycle Routes in East Germany

Shortly after reunification of the two German states the federal government decided to add a temporary extra tax to income tax to improve the infrastructure of the new formerly DDR federal states: Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Some of this money has been invested in cycle routes. Eastern Germany is now a paradise for touring cyclists:

  • Havel Cycle Route follows the River Havel from its source north of Berlin, south to Berlin and Potsdam and then west to join the Elbe (371km). www.havel-radweg.de  (in German)
  • Oder-Neisse Cycle Route from Nova Ves in the Czech Republic along the German-Polish border to Ahlbeck on Usedom. www.oderneisse-radweg.de (in English, German and Polish)
  • Luther Route in Saxony in a loop east of Leipzig, passing through Colditz amongst other places (550km). www.lutherweg-sachsen.de (in English and German) 
  • Much of the Elbe Cycle Route lies in the former DDR from Lauenburg to the Czech border (1260km). It is better to cycle upstream because of the prevailing wind. http://www.elbe-cycle-route.com/start.html
  • Cycle Tour Oder-Spree a loop between Berlin and the River Oder (250km) www.seenland-os.de (in German and Polish)
  • Thuringia http://www.thuringia-tourism.com/travel-hotel-holiday-tour/cycling-127964.html (in English)

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

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