Sunday, April 29, 2012


The expression "SMIDSY" is often heard in England as an abbreviation of "Sorry mate, I didn't see you", normally heard when a motorist cuts a cyclist up or turns without warning, causing the poor innocent cyclist to make one of those rolling dives across the bonnet of the car, beloved of American detective film chase scenes. I have long thought that motorists subconsciously just don't take cyclists into account. I tend to cycle accordingly and had the impression that other urban cyclists would do the same, at least the ones that are still alive.
Yesterday I realised that this is not the case. We wanted to meet friends at the SPEZI Special Bicycle Exhibition in Gemersheim and to be sure that we caught the 0904 train from Mannheim, decided to cycle to the station there. At about 0800 we left home and cycled along the cycleway adjacent to Viernheim's western bypass. The cycleway crosses another cycle route leading from the town to a sports area, a popular spot for Nordic Walking. As we approached this crossing, Judith was about a hundred metres in the lead. As she passed the crossing, a large lady on a sit up and beg conventional lady's bike approached from the left, i.e. my right of way and blithely ignored my presence  causing me to break hard and swerve round the rear of her bike. At which she said "'schuldige, ich hab Sie nich gesehe" - SMIDSY in Viernheim dialect.
We made it to the 09:04 train and enjoyed a jolly day at SPEZI. Electrobikes are definitely the trendsetters though other trends we noticed were the gradual reduction in the price of trikes as production moves away from one-off  and the realisation by trike manufacturers that some degree of folding eases transport of these cycles by train or car. The Weber trailer company showed a towable caravan that unfortunately was too small even for the likes of us.

This year as well we watched the Trike Racing for the first time and were impressed by how tough these races are on cyclists, trikes and the straw bales used to mark the course.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lake Constance to Lake Königsee

One of the problems for many Brits and English speakers in general about cycle touring in Germany is the language. For many Brits French was the first foreign language until it was replaced in schools by the concept that if the foreigner does not understand what you say then shout, slowly in English. It's not always that easy to find a German let alone an English speaker in deepest, darkest Bayern (Bavaria).
There is a way round the problem of organising hotels, baggage transfer and bicycle hire and that is to book a self-guided tour. One tour we would be tempted to do is along the Bodensee-Königssee Radweg way down south in Bavaria. This is a mind boggling cycle route from Lindau on Lake Constance, through the foothills of the Alps to Füssen and Schwangau for Ludwig II's fairytale castle, to the Chiemsee where Ludwig spent a few bob building Herrenchiemsee yet another Schloß - chateau and ending at the crystal clear deep green waters of the  Königssee not far from Berchtesgaden. If the vision of climbing 13 000 feet and descending 12 000 feet in 260 miles over seven to eleven days puts you off, you can hire an electrobike. The cost for eight nights bed and breakfast: - a reasonable  €490 in 2 to 3 star hotels. The website is in German, but that is why you have Google Translator on your computer.

More information:
SpOrtive Reisen by Feuer und Eis Touristik GmbH
Tel.: +49 (0)8022 -54 20

Friday, April 13, 2012

e-Bikes in Saarland

The tiny German province of Saarland stuck on the far west of the country is a great place to cycle, but it has one disadvantage in that goes up and down a lot. It is a hilly province. It borders on the French region of Lorraine,  Luxembourg and the German province of Rhineland Palatinate. There is a lot to see not only in the Saarland itself,  but also in its neighbours.  It is great place to tour, but the hills make hard work. The tourist authority in the Saarland has encouraged the founding of an eBike  network with rental stations, battery changing facilities and transport services all over the province.

Rental costs for e-Bikes:
Half day EUR 12
One day EUR 20
Weekend all-inclusive price EUR 35 (from Friday 1 pm to Monday 1 pm)
For seven days: EUR 110
To order a free of charge folding map with cycling tour suggestions, rental stations and other useful information, please call the tourist authority on 0049 (0) 681 927200 or email or check Saarbrücken the starting point for many of the suggested tours is easy to reach via its own airport and Luxembourg and Hahn airports. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bike Hire on Lake Constance

The bigger Swiss railway stations and some youth hostels hire out city, touring and mountain bikes with free helmets and children's seats for about CHF 25 day. If you hire for than a couple of days you can return bike to another Swiss raiway station. Details from: Rent a Bike AG, Merkurstrasse 2, CH-6210 Sursee, Tel: +41 61 41 925 11 70, Fax: +41 61 726 92 11, E-mail:, Homepage:
CH 9322, Egnach, Gemeinde Egnach, +41 (0) 71, T: 477 2070
Egner-2Rad-Center GmbH, Bahnhofsplatz 6, T: 4700506, F:4700507 offers tandems. We have hired from here and wobbled alarmingly initially, but ended up being capable but very careful tandemeers. However the stoker (Mrs. F) found the lack of vision very frightening so I doubt that we will be doing it again, until one or the other of us suffers from knee problems. The large almost traffic-free space outside is excellent for the initial wobbly phase. Once you gain confidence you can burn up and down the Bodenseeradweg. 
A 6900, Bregenz, +43 (0)650 
Fahrradverleih Bregenz, Benjamin Wieser, Seepromenade, T: (0) 664 3417907,, Adult bikes and tandems. Bicycles cost between €5 and €10 day depending on the length of the hire period
D 78476, Allensbach, +49(0) 7533
Radhaus Allensbach, Von-Steinbeis-Str. 2, T: 12 18, F: 42 51,,, Bike: 1 day €8, 1 week €50.
D 88097 Eriskirch +49 (0) 7541
Moritz Fahrradverleih Aspenweg 25, T: 8737 ‎
D 88045 Friedrichshafen, +49(0)7541
Zweirad Schmid, Ernst-Lehmann-Str 12, T: 21870, F: 24880, Trekking or city bikes €10.50 on first day, €7.50 /day for more than one day.Tandem: €20-25 / day. Open Mo-Fr 08:00 to 12:30, 14:00 to 18:00, Sa 09:00 to 12:30.
D-88709 Hagnau +49 (0)7532
Hubert Ehrlinspiel, Langbrühl 4, T: 62 88, F: 56 93,,
D 78462 Konstanz, +49(0)7531
Rad und Roller Rocco, Fürstenbergstr. 84, 78467 Konstanz, T: 78004, ,, 1 day: €10.00, 1 week: €60.
Kultur-Rädle (Fahrradstation am Hauptbahnhof-bicycle centre in the main railway station), Bahnhofsplatz 29, T: 27310, F: 916326, (in English), Bike: 1 day €12, 1 week €68. 
Velovital Der Radmarkt, Rudolf-Diesel-Str. 1, T: 955240,, West of the centre on the way out to Reichenau.
Zweirad-Wagenknecht, Reichenaustr. 14b, 78467 Konstanz, T: 61979, F: 61956,, Bike: €10 per day.
D 88085, Langenargen, +49 (0) 7543
ZWEIRAD FILO,  Kirchstraße 3, T: 912910, F: 913033,,, Trekking bikes: €8/day, tandems €20/day 
D 88131 Lindau, +49(0)8382
Unger’s Fahrradverleih, Inselgraben 14, T: 943688,, Mountain bikes and 21 gear trekking bikes €8 Euro a day, Tandems cost €15 a day. Children’s bikes, seats and trailers available. Reductions in daily hire rate for periods of more than a week. Open Mo-Fr 09:00-13:00, 15:00-18:00, Sa, Su and public holidays: 09:00-13:00
Radgeber GmbH, Wackerstraße 11, T: 98 93 400, F: 98 93 402, ,, Bike 1day: €10, 1Week €50. 
D 78315 Radolfszell, +49(0)7732
Rad & Tat, Scheffelstr 10A, T: 55522, F: 979402,
Andreas Joos, Schützenstr 14, T: 82368-0,,, Bike: €6-8 per day. 
Friedemann Mees, Höllturm-Passage 1, T: 2828, F: 57042
D 88069 Tettnang, +49(0)7542
Bike-Studio, Montfortstr 2, T: 951078, F: 951079,,
Sahnewind Bikes & Boards, Olgastr. 7, T: 939373, Fax: 939772 
D 88142 Wasserburg, +49(0)8382
Unger’s Fahrradverleih, Halbinselstr 49, T: 888496, Mountain bikes and trekking bikes 8 Euro a day, Tandems cost 11 Euro a day. Childrens’ bikes, seats and trailers available. Reductions in daily hire rate for periods of more than a week. Open Mo-Fr 09:00-13:00, 15:00-18:00, Sa, Su and public holidays: 09:00-13:00

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cyclists as an economic force

We have decided to produce our next version of "High Gear",  our Lake Constance cycling guide as an e-book and are revising the book at the moment. Checking a long list of bike shops is somewhat of a drudge, but from time to time we are cheered up by the improvements we notice. Just as an example, the gardens on the island of Mainau used to offer minimal security for cycle tourists who wished to visit these impressive gardens. There was a row of bike stands at the main gate. What one could do with one's bags was not clear. In the 2004 version of our guide we wrote that we felt that one could do more for the touring cyclist in view of their numbers and the costs of visiting the gardens. I doubt very much whether our words had any effect on the management of the gardens, but the number of cyclists visiting the gardens obviously did. I was pleased to read recently on the Mainau website:

"Getting to Mainau Island by bicycle is very easy and environment-friendly as the Lake Constance cycle path runs right by the wonderful Flower Island. We’ve a modal modern cycle parking area for you to leave your bicycles or bicycles with trailers as well as lockers for your personal possessions at the mainland car park. We’ve also tools which you can use to make small repairs to your bicycle." 

Wonderful. We will definitely visit the gardens the next time we are in the area. We can heartily recommend the visit.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Biking through an abandoned mine in Austria

Occasionally we come across odd items that probably don't reach the British and American cycling press, so we like to pass them on to you. A MTB tour company in the South of Austria just east of Klagenfurt offers a number of tours through an abandoned mine on the Austrian-Slovenian border. The basic seven km tour is not for sufferers from claustrophobia, but two guides, pit helmets and lamps ensure safety.

After the trip underground there is a downhill trip to a mining museum and the option of cycling back to the start or taking a minibus. Cost is between €49 and €69. Hire bikes are available.

The area is a hot bed of mountain biking.

The websites shown below are all in German, but you can always use Google translator.

Sportcenter Klopeinersee, Christian Pongratz, Ostuferstrasse 9, A - 9122 St. Kanzian, EMail:
Tel: +43 4239 3245, Fax: +43 4232 89579, Mobil: +43 676 344 499 9

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Viernheim Table and the soft drink bottle deposit

Viernheimer Tafel (Viernheim Table) is a social project organised by the Catholic Church and the town of Viernheim. The organisation collects groceries that are just about to go out of date and otherwise unsaleable but edible food from local supermarkets and distributes this to people living on Hartz IV, the basic long term unemployment and social security payment in Germany. One of us helps occasionally as a collector of, for example, yesterday's vegetables,  bread and bakery products, Easter eggs from next Tuesday (This blog is being written on Gründonnerstag/Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday.) and in one case broken packets of soft drink bottles. A few days ago we wrote about people collecting bottles left by others to supplement their Hartz IV income. See "Deposits on soft drink and beer bottles in Germany". The supermarkets (Aldi, Lidl, Penny, REWE, Alnatura) and wholesalers concerned give the goods to Tafel free, gratis and for nowt, but the organisation has to pay the wholesaler, at least for the cost of the deposits on the bottles. Whether the recipients of the soft drinks pay for their bottles, I have yet to find out.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Lake Constance on a bike, a tandem or a trike

We are rewriting our Lake Constance book - "Only in High Gear" as an e-book on Smashwords and on Kindle. It really is a superb place for a family cycling holiday:
Almost no hills.
If a day goes on too long there are ships aplenty to climb on.
Every lakeside community offers swimming beaches.
Three countries to choose from.
What we have noticed though is that the cosy world of cycle touring is not immune to financial trends. The high cost of the Swiss Franc means that the Swiss hotel trade has been hard hit as tourists stay away. We have noticed that some hotels have closed. We try to suggest ways round the cost of holiday making in Switzerland in the guide - where to eat and where to stay.
We hope the book will be in the electronic bookshops in about a month.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Exploring the Moselle and the Saar Valleys

We recently came across a couple who organise bicycling holidays using a Dutch hotel barge as base with unisex bicycles on the Moselle as  far as Nancy and the Saar to Saarbrücken. You don't need to take your own bike. The owners' website is unfortunately only in German and Dutch, but the owners assured me that they can speak English and they would be glad to have English speaking passengers on board. Contact for more information.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Deposits on soft drink and beer bottles in Germany

If you spend any time on a German railway station you will probably see somebody going through the Verpackung rubbish bins, pulling out plastic or glass soft drink, mineral water and beer bottles or cans to pop in a large plastic bag. Yes, the Germans even sort their garbage on the railways. The collectors are people on small incomes - the long term unemployed who get about €400 plus rent a month or pensioners who may receive a little more, but not much.
German soft drink, water and beer bottles and some cans have Pfand (deposits) on them. These can be up to 25 or 30 Cents, but glass beer bottles are only worth 8 Cents. Shops must take these bottles back and return the deposit to you. You don't have to return the bottle to same shop. You can pop into the next supermarket and pop your bottle end first into the hole of the machine standing near the door, push the green button when you've finished loading the machine and you will be issued with a chit that you can use to pay off your bill at the till. Fruit juice containers don't have a deposit, neither do similar bottles from Austria, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. It does mean there are fewer bottles littering the forests and cycle tracks. It is a pity there is not a similar system on paper handkerchiefs. The system, although complicated does seem to work and there are fewer plastic bottles littering the countryside than in France or the UK.

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