Friday, February 17, 2017

Another event has been suggested to celebrate 200 years of the bicycle

I read recently that further suggestions were being considered by the City of Mannheim to be included in the festivities celebrating Karl Drais's pioneering hobby horse run in June 1817. The suggestion that caught my eye was a naked bicycle ride. OK, Mannheim is usually hot enough in summer to allow cycling in light weight clothing. In fact it is often too hot. If it is put on the official programme which I cannot see, I won't be taking part in this event. On the one hand I am over 70 and my body is no longer a thing of beauty and on the other hand the thought of my naked lower regions coming into contact with a Brooks' leather saddle does not appeal.
Preparations for an earlier clothed mass cycle ride in summer in Mannheim city centre

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Deliveries in cities

We ordered and took delivery of  BioHort bicycle garage recently.

It comes knocked-down in two boxes weighing about 90kg. The two boxes were delivered in a 38ton lorry. We were obviously the last customers on this run as the load area was empty apart from a number of pallets. It struck me that using a diesel powered 38ton vehicle to deliver 90 or so kg was overkill. The same can be said of DHL, Hermes, UPS etc. who deliver smaller packages daily in diesel powered vans with a capacity of up to 14 cubic metres and a payload of two or so tons. 
Air pollution largely due to diesel powered vehicles is a major problem in cities. Air pollution is a problem taken very seriously by city governments all over the world. Two examples of the many programmes suggested:
Our small German town, Viernheim, is part of a three province conurbation based around Ludwigshafen, Mannheim and Heidelberg with a number of smaller towns and villages in between. DHL distributes packages from a central office. It would ease air pollution if packages were then distributed by lorry to a centre in each town where local deliveries could be made by cargo trikes such as the Musketier (http://www.radkutsche.de in German) which can carry a maximum load of 300kg or the powered or unpowered Carla Cargo bicycle trailers (http://www.carlacargo.de/en/). Most of the settlements have letter distribution centres where the packages loaded on a pallet could be picked up.

UPS has pioneered low polluting deliveries in city centres for some years. In cooperation with the city of Hamburg, only e-transporters have been used  since 2012, and in the inner core there is the package delivery of four mobile parcel depots on foot, with a sack truck, a bicycle and pedelec. Each day, pollutant-free deliveries over ± 800km of were made. The concept is now much in demand and has been adapted to Offenbach am Main, Herne and Oldenburg.
This concept may well involve higher costs, but on the other hand blocked up lungs and heart problems due to pollution are not cheap to treat.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Nightjet Overnight Sleeper trains across Europe

The good news is that OeBB, Austrian Railways have taken over the activities of CityNightLine, a DB German Railways subsidiary company and intend to continue offering them. The bad news is that fewer services are offered, but lots more than would have been offered if CityNightLine had stayed in business.
There is now an overnight Zurich Hamburg train which now travels via Basel, Frankfurt am Main and Berlin. The even worse news is that the train does not carry bicycles except between Zurich and Basel. Why bother? Practically every Swiss train takes bikes, but an overnight link  between south Germany and Hamburg for me and my bicycle would be a thing of wonder.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Tern Cargo Node Folding Bike A good idea whose time has come, I hope

Some years ago we when the National Lottery was set up in Britain we would talk to friends over dinner what we would do if we won a million pounds. At that time, a long time before a million quid was the price of a lockup garage in East London, this was a serious sum of money and so it was actually a good way of organising thought experiments about what one wanted to do. A new house always seemed to be priority. After the house came the car. What kind of car would one buy? In our case we'd keep the one we'd got and talk was of what bike/s would we buy: a sporty trike like the Windcheetah (http://bit.ly/2jq8zVU), a long john cargo bike like the Bullit or the renovated version of the vintage Claude Butler we lusted after in our youth. We do save money by not buying lottery tickets, but it is not the way to suddenly accumulate a pile of money, but even if we were suddenly stone-rich, as the Germans say, we don't have any more room in our cellar in addition to the six bikes we are keeping down there - two touring bikes, two Dahon tourers and a pair of mountain bikes. We could build a cellar extension but would need to add a new back door into the garden as carrying bikes down the curving staircase into our cellar is not getting easier as the years go by. 
This scenario has tended to rule out new bikes although I still lust after a cargo bike, but they are big, heavy and unwieldy. The game changer could maybe be the Tern Cargo Node which I came across by chance. It is a full-sized cargo bike that folds. We could fit one in the cupboard that takes the Bromptons in the hall. When folded the chain is on the outside unlike the Brompton. However it can carry 160 kg of cargo as well as a rider, even a fairly plump one weighing 115 kg, has good braking, mudguards and decent lighting. It also has a sensible twin legged kickstand for stability when stationary. More details can be found on the Tern website, but it is not (yet?) available in Germany, but unfairly in the USA and the UK and even in France, so maybe we will have to wait or nip over the border while we still can. 
Whether I can justify buying a £1700 bike will not be easy. Maybe, if we got rid of the car?

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. Bikes must be reserved in advance.

More information under https://locomore.com/en/. 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
info@actievevaarvakanties.nl http://www.boatandbike.eu/ 

Arosa offers bicycle day excursions (surcharge) on its river cruise ships: https://www.a-rosa.de/en/river-cruises/index.html.

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.
www.Bicycle-Tour-Europe.com | 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.

Address:
13440 179th Ave NE
Redmond, WA 98052-1103, USA
Phone:
425.636.8071
800.437.4771

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
http://www.gobarging.com/cycling-cruise

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.
Visit www.scenicusa.com

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