Monday, May 20, 2019

Touring Lake Constance

Somewhere in the last few months we were at a tourism or cycling exhibition and I stuffed a postcard from the Vier Länder Region Bodensee (Four nation region Lake Constance) into a one of those useful free cloth shopping bags you find at continental trade fairs. I am just in progress of emptying the bag out and filing a lot of the information material in the round file. The postcard has a link to where you can find tours, a route planner with GPS download and accommodation suggestions for cycling, walking and canoeing trips in the Austrian, German, Liechtenstein and Swiss parts of the region. The website is an excellent place to start planning a trip to this cyclist-friendly scenic region. It has the great advantage that the tours are international and do not end at the border which is a typical snag for information issued by tourist offices.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Brompton on Brocken

While we were at SPEZI this year we picked up a leaflet in German about a Brompton event in the Harz Mountains in Germany in October. The idea is to climb  to the summit of Brocken (1142m) the highest hill in northern Germany, where, as legend has it, witches meet on Walpurgis Night. The ascent will take place somewhat later in the year on Friday 4 October 2019. The plan is to arrive in Schierke (600m) the day before, i.e. on 3 October, a public holiday in Germany. Dine together in Schierke. Spend a night in the Youth Hostel (or hotel, for those who do not have a IYHA card).  Breakfast together (wherever) and meet at 11 o'clock at the barrier on the Brockenstraße (the road up Brocken) at the Naturschutzhaus. Gently climb up the 500 ± metres or 1625 ± ft to the Brocken summit with breaks and walking/pushing passages for those who do not have that much puff. At the top lots of souvenir photos and then a fast descent. (Just make sure your brakes are in good nick.) Then coffee and cake in Schierke and everyone goes home when he or she feels like it or stays a bit. The group is basically German, but there are visitors from other European countries and the organiser would be glad to welcome visitors from the island, as the Germans call the UK.
There is a lot to see and do in the Harz Mountains: half-timbered villages, raging torrents, forested hills, a castle, several national or nature parks, witches and narrow gauge steam trains. There are a number of cycle routes. The beer is drinkable as well.

You will need:

Brompton (mandatory)
Witches broom (at least Nimbus 2000 or higher,
mandatory, but the imagination knows no bounds)
Ravens on handlebar (optional)
Bro-o-Bro T-Shirt (can be ordered in advance, will be redesigned every year) Attention: collectors' item!)
Registration with a fee of 15€ (10€ share for the T-shirt and 5€ to finance the Bromptonauten website with a further donation if you want)
Good weather has been ordered. You have to bring your own
good mood.
For more details contact Juliane Neuß on info(at) 

DB German Railways ( and the Harz Narrow Gauge Railway ( will get you to and around the Harz Mountains. "Around" if you don't fancy pedalling after climbing Brocken.

2018's T shirt: 

Monday, May 06, 2019

SPEZI Special Bike Show 2019

SPEZI, the annual Special Bike Show held in the last weekend in April 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 ( Fortunately for us it is held in Germersheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany about an hour and a half away from home by tram and train. We visited the show for many of the 24 years it has been held including this year.
We always make a point of visiting the Junik-hpv stand ( This year two items caught our eye: a modified Brompton designed to be ridden by midgets: the Bromptolino 
and a Brompton equipped with a Velospeeder (, a friction e-drive that can be used for short periods when support is needed.
The Bromptolino

A few yards away in Hall 2 (or should we write metres) we visited the Sporthopeo stand ( offering what could well be a lifesaver for cyclists who due to illness or accident can no longer keep their feet on the pedals. It’s basically a pair of magnets that can be strapped on bicycle or even tricycle pedals to secure the feet to the pedal. A twist of the feet will free the legs in case of need. The system offers more ease of use than conventional click pedals which take some getting used to, in my opinion even on a trike where you are not trying to balance and pedal at the same time.

We popped on to the Voss Stand (German Brompton distributors) and tried to talk a possible customer in to buying a Brompton. Our argument was that the bikes may be expensive but well made. We have had ours for twenty years. We have cycled over the Alps on them and they are in good shape. (I wish I was in such good shape.) One of these days I suspect I will apply to Brompton to pay us a premium😎.
We are seriously interested in buying two trikes. One of my concerns about buying a trike is getting the thing on a train. I know I am going to buy it to cycle and not to take it for trips on the railways, but we would like to travel slightly farther away from home and want to travel fairly quickly without using a car. I popped on to the Hase stand and asked about  the company’s Lepus trike which has been offered in a folding version since 2016. The employee I talked to suggested that folded trikes could be put on DB German Railways regional trains but not on long distance trains. He also said there could be problems with Jobsworths - employees who would love to help you “…but it it’s more than my job’s worth”. The Hase employee had a cargo bike and found it was possible to travel by train with this bike, but from time to time he’d had problems. This was a honest answer.
Our next conversation was with an employee on the HPVelotechnik stand. Delivery times for the Gekko models is about 8 weeks at the moment. This is good news for HPVelotechnik, but it means we will have to wait when we get round to buying a trike.
We were amused to see a further advantage of a recumbent trike on the TRAIX stand (German distributors of KMX trikes): If the self service restaurant is full, take your dinner back to the trike and use the trike as an armchair:
I found the velo spring sprung handlebar grips which are made of nut tree wood an interesting concept ( Judith was less impressed. Old rubber grips after two or three years use are not things of beauty. These polished walnut grips which are internally sprung will stay good-looking for longer.
There is definitely a lot of interest in e-cargo-bikes and -trikes in view of inner city congestion, lack of car parking spaces and restrictions on diesel and petrol engined vehicles causing air pollution .
Radkutsche Musketier ( - one of many cargo bikes on show.
It could be that growing provision of high speed cycle routes has yielded dividends for the sales of velomobikes - cycle cars - enclosed body work for trike or quad bikes. The ecVelo Challenger ( with its rather neat body work on an AZUB TriCon trike caught our eye:
Add caption

One matter that was of interest was the fact that our local regional paper the Mannheimer Morgen finally noticed after well over 20 or so years that a major cycle event had happened in the area. Unfortunately another velomobile worth 16 000€ was stolen from outside a pub in Germersheim early on Monday morning after the event.
The stolen green velomobile
This theft was reported in the Mannheimer Morgen . I suspect the problem is that the Mannheimer Maimarket, a regional ideal home consumer show starts on the same day as SPEZI, and there is little desire on the part of the Mannheim paper to suggest visitors should attend an event other than the Maimarkt.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Triking on the German Baltic Coast or Murphy lives!

Unfortunately a recent bout of illness means that if I am going to cycle in future I should use a recumbent with electrical support. As my sense of balance is largely in the bucket, as the Germans say, it looks as if three wheels would be better than two. I do want to cycle in future, so we plan to slaughter the piggy bank and will triking around the cycle paths and minor roads of Baden Württemberg, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate with a grin on our faces.
Being cautious souls before handing over a wadge of coarse notes to our Local Bike Shop (LBS) we decided to hire a pair of trikes for a few days to be sure that trikes are as much fun as their protagonists make out. We decided to hire from Ostsee3rad, Olaf Reinike, Lindenweg 41, 23974 Alt Farpen, Tel: 0049 (0)151 50589799, Website: (in German, use Google Translator). We had cycled through Mecklenburg-Vorpommern along the Baltic Coast four or five years ago and had enjoyed it greatly. This time however we decided to stop in one place and take day trips, rather than touring. If we were not up to touring it could be awkward if we had to cycle 50 to 80km to reach our next hotel. All the hotels were full in August so we waited until our next appointment-free week in early October. We arrived in Groß Strömkendorf near Wismar on 1 October. The cycle hire company had recommended this hotel as it has a lockable garage. The trikes cost around five thousand Euros each, so it is worth chaining them up at night in the dry. 

Places on railway lines or bus routes in this area, have reasonable connections especially during term time, but  bus and train routes are thinly scattered. On Tuesday  Herr Reinicke collected us from our hotel on his Ruhetag (rest day) when the shop is normally shut and were driven 8 or 9km to Farpen. We were very impressed with his trikes and his professionalism. He has a good hire fleet: a number of KMX trikes, two Hase TRIGO trikes, an ICE Full Fat trike, two ICE Adventure trikes and several conventional bicycles. Some of the trikes are pedelecs. Farpen is not visited regularly by bus and the nearest railway station is 5km away, so we were glad of the lift. His workshop, is a brick and timber barn dating in part from the 13th century. We were both given ICE tadpole machines. Judith's was an ICE Adventure HD, so that we could  both ride the same ICE tadpole machines. Herr R Rapidly twiddled the seat and width of the handlebars were changed to fit Judith's cross section. The previous hirer must have been well fed.  The boom on Judith's trike was shortened to fit her lack of inches. She was then sent off to ride gingerly round the block.
I was assigned an ICE Adventure pedelec fitted with a Pendix electromotor. I had taken shoes for click pedals and after adjusting the boom to fit me, Herr Reinicke changed the pedals. I was lent a Hase TRIGO Up - a delta trike - fitted with a Shimano Steps motor to play with while this was going on - very enjoyable. It is a pity the Hase company does not offer a folding version of this trike, because it ticks almost all the boxes and I think we'd buy one, but DB - German Railways and other German railway operators do not allow unfolded trikes on their trains.

Finally Herr Reinicke was finished, after about an hour thoroughly checking the bikes and explaining how everything worked. He lent us a waterproof map, a tool kit, a puncture repair outfit, panniers and showed us where the trike rain covers and the lock were to be found. We fitted the trikes or they fitted us, so we set off after I had managed to click my feet into the pedals. This took some time and it was even somewhat of a problem two days later, after getting on and off the trike a number of times. Notice the look of concentration:
"Get in, you so and so!"

Both trikes were in excellent condition and well maintained. They both had a 3x8 SRAM Dual Drive hub gear/derailleur system with twist gear grips mounted on the steering bar ends. In my case the trike was fitted with a Pendix brushless electromotor and a Pendix battery ( The Pendix is a German designed and built system, often used as a bolt-on modification for a unpowered bike. I found it excellent and very smooth in operation contrary to the one review I saw of the motor. The feature I found slightly odd was the on/off and power controls mounted on the battery. We are more used to a combined controller, battery charge level meter and speedometer mounted on the steering. Although there is an app that we could have used to control the power output of the motor, we did not download it. On the last day I pedaled some way before I realised that the motor was not switched on.

We cycled off towards the hotel initially following quiet roads. The weather forecast for the day was basically "Build your Ark, Noah!". It was windy but dry as we followed a local road to Blowatz where we turned south west into a gale. Fortunately we were sitting down and offered a lower profile to the wind than if we had been on road bikes, but this didn't stop us getting wet as the forecast rain arrived. We cycled back to the hotel, locked the bikes up and retired to our room to wait out the storm. You probably know the story:
"Cheer up. It could be worse." 
I cheered up and matters got worse. 
This was very true in this case. 

It was not cycling weather, so we took a bus to Wismar to look at the Altstadt (old town) and buy various essentials. Just to make matters clear, we are both prepared to cycle in the wet if we need to get to our next booked hotel or catch a train. We've been there, done that. If there is no need to cycle why run the risk of getting wet through?

On Wednesday, the German Day of Reunification we intended to spend the day cycling to one of the coastal villages between Travemünde and Wismar to meet a friend. He decided however that it was too cold and windy to cycle so he drove over from Lübeck by car. I had another rehearsal of fitting my shoes into the click pedals followed by a short five or six kilometre tour in the morning before our friend came. We spent the rest of the day on foot playing the tourist in Wismar, which is well worth doing, but it wasn't cycling.

The town was Swedish for about 150 years until the start of the nineteenth century. Gradually the older houses and the churches in the centre left unrepaired for the better part of 40 years in the German Democratic Republic have been restored. The town is historic and charming. 

On Thursday morning we had a good Mancunian drizzle and decided to wait an hour before leaving. We set off across the cyclepath on the causeway to the Insel Poel (Island of Poel). We crossed to Kirchdorf and found a NETTO supermarket to stock up on emergency chocolate and then through the village to reach the harbour. Beyond the village we picked up the excellent cycleway again and cycled over gentle hill and dale to Timmendorf Strand, a small resort on the outer edge of the island. We enjoyed Kaffee und Kuchen there watched by two pairs of eyes willing us to drop crumbs.

We then set off on agricultural roads through fields of Brussel Sprouts to follow the route near the shore north.  Brussels are a speciality of the area, much loved by local children, according to an informant. We dropped down into the hamlet of Am Schwarzen Busch, cycled along the sea shore on unmade forest tracks to reach Gollwitz before turning south towards Fährdorf and the causeway back to our hotel. Herr Reinicke was due to pick up his trikes at 17:00 Hours.

Judith's trike was a little too wide for the typical German Democratic Republic two concrete strip agricultural roads north of Timmenorf Strand. Notice the large legible signposts on the right.

Gulls following the plough. Truly rural
To sum up we were very satisfied with the trikes. This an excellent cycling area with good cyclepaths and signposting. There is no shortage of cafes and accommodation, but one needs to book ahead in the summer season. There are plenty of good beaches and enough pleasant rolling hills to add interest for cyclists, especially for those with electrical support. J says that despite initial worries she found the trike easy to handle and the gears adequate, even able to have a five minute conversation, on a hill, while sitting in the driving seat.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Fashion and the cost of bikes and trikes

For a number of health related reasons, I am thinking of acquiring a recumbent e-trike. If you look at the catalogues of the four major recumbent trike European manufacturers (AZUB (CZ), Hase (D), HPVelotechnik (D), ICE (GB)) you quickly realise that these vehicles are not cheap. It is not surprising since the trikes are hand built and in very small numbers. If you are looking for a fully equipped e-trike you can expect to shell out at least 7000 Euros, maybe a thousand or so more. If you take delivery of a trike and then tell the neighbour that you've just coughed up the price of a newish secondhand car for a funny little vehicle, he will think you are off your trolley. We have a car we bought secondhand when it was 4 years old. It cost us 8000 Euros some years ago.
However if you look at the prices of high end bicycles, that are built in similar numbers their prices are similar to trikes. The TITICI Gravel bike frameset, i.e. just a frame, no wheels, no cranks, no gears, no brakes, etc costs about 4000 Euros in the UK and I suspect even without buying diamond studded cranks converting the frameset into a bicycle will cost at least 1000 Euros if not more. However if you buy this Italian handbuilt frameset your neighbours will think not that you have more money than sense, but that you are a man who knows his own mind, a man of distinction, who is prepared to spend money to get what he wants. It's a funny old world. (BTW the way I have used the male form, because I think men are much likely to spend this kind money on this kind of bike.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Is riding an e-bike as good for you as riding a normal bike?

There is an article in today's Mail Online ( that reports on work done at the University of Basel in Switzerland that has shown similar improvements in fitness amongst overweight unfit patients riding e-bikes as those riding normal bicycles. The addition of the motor allowed longer rides.
The only niggle I would have with the article is that the photograph accompanying the article shows a man pedalling a non-electric Klapprad.

Monday, July 23, 2018

An interesting article about e-bikes

Slight plug to start with. We wrote a book on cycling in Switzerland some years ago now. It was published by The Cicerone Press in Northern England. Cicerone originally published books about hill walking and mountaineering. Later the company branched out additionally into books about cycle touring and fell running. The company produces a digital newsletter for which we have contributed the odd article. I was just sent the latest version of the newsletter in which there is a article on e-biking in the Alps. Paean of praise would be a better description. We are in process of buying e-bikes or maybe e-trikes so I found the article: an excellent introduction into using e-bikes. If the £2000 to £3000 price tag of a decent e-bike puts you off buying an e-bike, do not forget that you can hire e-bikes reasonably cheaply in just about all tourist areas on the continent which cuts out the problems of transporting the bikes from home.

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