Saturday, July 23, 2016

Questions to ask a bike hire company

If you are planning to hire a bike or an e-bike for a touring holiday then it is worthwhile checking the following points:
  • Saddle:  
    • Can you take your own saddle with you and fit it before you leave? 
    • Can you leave the hire company's saddle with the hire company?
  • Pedals:
    • If you normally cycle in clip pedals then check whether you can take your own with you and fit them before you leave? This is not as silly as it looks. A friend of ours hired a bike in Ireland some years ago and was surprised to see on arrival that the hire bike had the curved steel rod cranks often fitted to children's bicycles.
  • Bags: 
    • Does your favoured bike have a rack? 
    • Will it take your brand of panniers?
    • Do you need a pannier? You can always buy bungees or straps to attach a small bag to the rack.
    • Can you attach a bar bag to the handlebars? This often not possible with e-bikes.
    • Try and avoid carrying a heavy rucksack on your back.
  • Locks:
    • Does the hire company offer locks free of charge?
    • Are they just the rear wheel frame locks beloved of cycling midwives, as seen on TV?
    • Can you hire a better lock so that you can attach the bike/s to a fixed object?
  • Mudguards/Fenders:
    • It does rain in summer in much of Western Europe in spite of the brightly coloured photographs in the tourist office brochures. I realise that bikes with mudguards/fenders don't look as cool as those without, but muddy legs don't look cool either.. Obviously this does not apply if you are going mountain biking and are used to showering with your bike and your clothes after a day out in the hills.
  • Helmet:
    • Helmet wearing in Europe is not compulsory. In fact in countries with heavy use of bicycles as a means of transport, e.g. Denmark, the Netherlands, it is unusual apart from keenie-beanie road men and women. If you wear a helmet when touring in these countries you run the risk of being thought a German. Some hire companies throw bike helmets in with the deal others charge you a Euro or so a day to hire.
  • Punctures:
    • It is worth enquiring what to do in case of a puncture? Does the hire company supply a tool kit, a pump and a puncture repair outfit? Bigger supermarkets will sell cheap spanners and puncture repair kits.
  • Spare batteries for e-bikes:
    • Hire e-bikes see some kilometres in a season, so it is worthwhile trying to pin the hire bike companies down to find out what the typical range of their batteries is to decide whether to hire a spare battery. A spare battery weighs more than a kilogram.
  • Water Bottle
    • Does the hire bike come with a bottle or a holder? 
    • If it's just a holder would your bottle fit in it? 
    • Does your pannier and/or rackpack take a bottle?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

English is a simple language, nicht wahr?

Our local paper the German language "Mannheimer Morgen" has problems with the English language. Homophones like "boarder" for "border" are very common. However the editorial team has excelled itself in an article about the new waste heat and electricity plant in the Plymouth Royal Dockyard - designed and run by the MVV, the Mannheim utility, opened by Prince Charles this week, when it described the plant as being in the "Royal Duckyard". 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cycling in Latvia

An area that has not been explored by cyclists much, as yet, is the Baltic Coast and we came across a website offering information and a map of cycle routes in Latvia. One can buy printed maps but also download a pdf file. Latvia is crossed by the Iron Curtain Trail.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Adopt a Signpost!

We were cycling back from Ladenburg yesterday when I noticed that a signpost south of Heddesheim directing cyclists left towards Viernheim had disappeared. This is a problem because strangers to the area would cycle straight on into Heddesheim. There it is necessary to talk to the locals to find the way out of the town. Cycling left brings one on to a well signposted trail through the streets of Heddesheim. 
A missing or disfigured signpost can thus make life very difficult for cyclists. Signposts make good souvenirs for the study wall. I was very pleased to read that the Duchy of Lauenburg in Schleswig Holstein has a campaign to check the 850 signpost sites, clean signposts where necessary, repair or replace them. The signposts have been fitted with a serial number so that if a tourist rings up a tourist office staff will know where the questioner is and can give accurate directions. Staff will also know where defective signposts are to be found. Local cyclists and others can adopt a signpost keeping it clean, etc. It strikes us as an excellent idea. It has of course already been done by the Dutch. Local cycle clubs and shops adopt a number of the excellent knooppunt signs and check them a couple of times a year. 
It wouldn't do any harm for many of us to unofficially adopt a signpost or two and keep it clean and make sure it points in the right direction. It'll be more use than moaning anyway.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bike Hire in Wismar

The following companies offer bike hire in Wismar:

Buddha Bike´s
Owner: Martina Fritz
Dankwartstraße 49
23966 Wismar

E-Mail: >>>

Telephone: +49 (0) 3841 – 4 73 62 02

Fahrrad Wulf
ABC-Straße 13
23966 Wismar
T:+49 (0) 3841 282787
Fax: +49 (0) 3841 213448

Both websites are in German. The word for Bike Hire is Fahrradverleih.

Friday, June 24, 2016

How you celebrate the invention of the bicycle?

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Mannheim will celebrate 200 years of cycling next year. One of the suggestions made to celebrate this is that downtown Mannheim should be car free for the weekend of 11 and 12 June. This idea was suggested by the Green Party and is backed by the SPD, the German centre-left party. The reaction of the local shopkeepers could be summed up in the phrase, "Are you off your trolley?". The centre-right CDU suggested a car free Sunday. The Greens want a car free weekend and the shopkeepers pointed out with some force that 60 or so % of their turnover for the week is on Saturdays. Eighty % of the customers come from the Umland, from the region. Most of these come by car. Some shop keepers have responded by threatening to close their shops on the Saturday. One suggestion is that the roads leading to the multistorey carparks should be kept open, which does not find favour with the Greens. I personally am not that worried about a car free day, especially as trams and buses would be running normally. I do wonder what all the fuss is about. I don't think a car free day will encourage people to cycle thirty or so km into Mannheim.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cycling the Camino's Aragon Route Part I

We have recently walked the Aragon Route of the Way of St James: Somport Pass - Jaca - Sangüesa - Puente la Reina. I had been asked by a friend for information on the possibilities of following the trail on a mountain bike, so we kept our eyes open. 
The Aragon arm of the Camino is not the main route. It is much quieter. We saw ten other pilgrims/walkers and four cyclists in the ten days we were walking the Aragon Route. We joined the main trail for a few km on our last day. We saw about 40 pilgrims and 2 cyclists in the hour we walked down into Puenta la Reina. I suspect the Aragon Route is a lot wilder and more mountainous than the main trail. There is little information about cycling available from Tourist Offices. I enquired whenever I had chance. 
The “Camino de Santiago en bicicleta” is a club dedicated to cycling the Camino. Most of its info is in Spanish, including maps. People do cycle the route. There is a guide in Spanish available from the “Camino de Santiago en bicicleta”. The Kompass 1:100 000 walkers’ map struck us as being useless for cyclists from what we could see. 

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