Friday, April 18, 2014

Protecting your banana

Like a lot of cyclists and walkers we enjoy eating bananas when underway.  They give a quick boost of energy, are fibre rich and less sugary than energy bars as well as being a good source of potassium, although there are better sources: See ( Surprisingly these include squash, potatoes, beans and dates. However eating a baked potato or a plate of beans on the road might be difficult when powering over the Alps.
The big problem with bananas is that the although they come ready packed, the packaging disintegrates under pressure. You are quite likely to end up with a soggy mess at the bottom of a rucksack or in the rear pocket of your expensive cycling jersey. Protection is called for and the best banana packaging we have found is called Banana Guard ( Banana Guards are plasticiser-free and dishwashable. There are retailers all over the world. We bought ours from Lakeland Plastics in the UK:
The one thing we don't understand is that the Banana Guard company is Canadian and can only think that it is so difficult to grow bananas in Canada that somebody felt it necessary to develop protection methods for the fruit.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bike Hire in Provence (France) near Mont Ventoux

If you are planning a holiday in Provence and would like to cycle up Mont Ventoux or wander round the lanes thinking about climbing the hill, rather than taking a bike with you, you could hire one from VELO RELAX DU VENTOUX, T: 04 90 11 72 65 / 06 27 33 05 55,  N°2 Le cours, 84570 VILLE SUR AUZON (FRANCE), (in French)
The shop offers e-bikes, road bikes, touring bikes and children's seats for hire, has a repair shop and sells bicycles and accessories. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 12 am and 2 pm to 6 pm. It is open Sunday mornings. Bikes can be reserved but only if you are hiring for more than one day. There are reductions for groups. The shop will deliver to local hotels and holiday flats at a cost of €1 per km.
  • E-bikes (v.a.e) cost €35 per day and €180 per week. Returnable deposit is €750.
  • Road bikes (Route) cost €30 per day and €170 per week. Returnable deposit is €300.
  • Touring bikes (v.t.c.) cost €20 per day and €80 per week.  Returnable deposit is €200.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bike hire in Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Teuta travel agency, Trumbićev put 3, 20210 Cavtat, T: +385 20 479 786 & +385 91 882 5797, E:, hires Trek bicycles for €15 a day with reductions for longer term hire.
Cavtat is between Dubrovnik and Dubrovnik airport and can be reached by bus or boat from Dubrovnik. The first days hire includes a shuttle up hill to the start of the local cycling trails, which sounds a bit ominous. Check for more details.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

You are paying a pound for a bottle of drinking water? Are you off your trolley?

If any teacher had told us at school 50 or so years ago that people would pay serious money for the stuff that came out of the tap for almost nothing we would not have believed them. It now happens all the time in Germany. Even people on basic social support payments (Hartz 4) buy the stuff at the start of the month when they have been paid. The mind boggles. We went on a two day course last weekend and most of the group slurped commercially bottled water for much of the time. Some of these bottled waters are just filtered tap water, anyway. Why one needs to drink so much water when sitting about listening to a lecture on First Aid we have no idea. We were not powering up Mt Ventoux in summer and in urgent danger of dehydration.
Then it seems that a plasticiser used in many of these bottles to improve their flexibility, can leach out into the water. This compound resembles a hormone. The long term health effects of absorbing synthetic compounds that resemble hormones has yet to be established. It is however probably better to avoid them if possible. There are plastic bottles available that do not contain plasticiser, such as water bottles from Dopper, Klean Kaktean, and Sigg, for example.
We were much impressed by the Dopper water bottles we saw at VELOBerlin. These are stylish, plastic or steel bottles that come with an integral drinking beaker. Two sizes are available: 500ml (plastic) and 800ml (stainless steel and plastic). The plastic used is inert without the addition of plasticiser. Unfortunately the stand only had  the 500ml variation on offer and these are too narrow to fit in a bike water bottle holder. They are ideal for a rucksack or even to carry on a belt while jogging. They normally cost €12.50. The steel bottles cost €27.50 which is about par for quality steel water bottles. We like the concept of the integral cup which means that one can offer others a drink without them slurping our bugs down or adding to the bugs in the bottle.
The other thing we liked about Dopper is that these guys are serious about water. They support a Dutch charity in Nepal bringing clean water and decent sanitation to a particular region and have also set up a foundation to try to educate people about the misuse of plastics and the problems of plastic litter in the oceans and lakes of the world. Having both helped in our town's annual volunteer clean up of the woods and roadsides we think a German foundation would be an excellent idea as well. When we return to the UK we notice unfortunately that as in the slogan of our youth: "The litter lout is still about!". Much of this litter in the UK is plastic drink bottles.
Price wise the quality bottles in steel are much of a muchness. I reckon around €30 buying them mail order. A thought experiment suggests that if you go out on club runs at weekends and have a two week cycle touring holiday you will probably get through at least 32 750ml bottles, i.e. 24L annually. Bottled water bought from supermarkets costs between 20 and 50 cents a litre. Bottled water from a kiosk or bakery on a railway station will cost at least €1 for 500ml. Within two years your steel water bottle filled with tap water will be saving you money and will continue to do so.
Dopper offers an app to help you find a source of drinking water when travelling. What the app does not mention is that most villages in Switzerland have drinking water fountains in the main street. We also look for public toilets, in cemeteries and sports fields in France and Germany, where the wash hand basins have water taps. The words to look out for are Kein Trinkwasser (Germany, Switzerland) or eau non potable (France) - Not Drinking Water. Obviously Trinkwasser and eau potable are drinking water. What we often do as well is fill our bottles in the toilets/restrooms of cafés after we have had coffee there.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Guided cycle touring in Germany

I was pleased to find the website today. The company offers guided and self-guided tours all over Germany and Austria. It is well worth checking out if you would like to tour by bicycle in either of these cyclist friendly nations.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Over the Hills of Rheinhessen on a hired E-Bike

Rheinhessen is a wine growing area of Germany south and west of the Rhine knee near Mainz. It is an area of rolling hills with smooth roads through the vineyards which makes it ideal for tours made easier using an e-bike. We put a route through the area in our book "Following the Rhine gently upstream, Rotterdam to Basel, a Cycle Tourist's Guide" available from Amazon and Smashwords. It was hard work surveying the route and so we were pleased to read that the local utility company EWR together with Riese and Müller, the bicycle manufacturer, the Rheinhessen tourist authority and three cycle shops have organised an e-bike hire system to take the hard work out of cycling through the vineyards of Rheinhessen along one of the ten regional cycle routes with a total length of about 600km:

The pedelecs used are Blue Label Swing from Riese & Müller, fully sprung with hydraulic brakes and a range of about 70 km. Chargers are on the e-bikes, so that the battery can be charged during lunch. The new rental system now allows a ' one way rental', - so you can rent the e-bike at any rental station and return it at any other rental station. Costs are  EUR 21.00 per day or EUR 15.00 for a half day, 

More details available from: 
Rheinhessen-Touristik GmbH
Friedrich-Ebert-Str. 1755218 Ingelheim am Rhein
Telephone (06132) 44 17 0
Telefax (06132) 44 17 44

Monday, March 31, 2014

An easy way to carry shopping and loads on a bicycle

Two of the many things that cause my blood pressure to rise are seeing people riding a bike with a heavy rucksack or trying to steer while clutching one two heavily laden shopping bags. To be fair it is not always possible or convenient to use panniers while shopping or you may not want to buy shopper pannier bags or a trailer. We were both pleased to find a sensible device at the VELOBerlin bike show last weekend that modifies a normal baggage rack to carry shopping bags, rucksacks, IKEA blue carrier bags and almost anything else safely.
Copyright: Darius M. Hajiani

It's simple to build yourself either in cardboard, in metal or in metal/plastic sheet. There are plans to manufacture and sell the product or offer licences to manufacturers. Check It would be quite useful for touring especially when camping too. It is a good, simple, cheap idea that brings flexibility to load carrying.

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