Sunday, September 30, 2012

Free Bike Hire in Zurich, Switzerland

From May to October, you can rent one of over 200 robust City Bikes in Zürich completely free of charge, seven days a week. Bikes can be picked up at the following locations by presenting valid ID and a returnable deposit of CHF 20.00. The bikes cannot be reserved in advance. It is intended that they are used for daily hire, nipping around the city out along the lake rather than trundling up an Alp or two for a couple of weeks. You can pick up the bikes at any hire station and return them to any other. Daytime hire is free, but an overnight hire costs 10 CHF. 

There are two hire stations opened all the year round by the Hauptbahnhof in Zurich: 
Bike Station North, Swiss National Museum: daily, 8am-9.30pm 
Bike Station South, Sihlpost: daily, 8am-9.30pm 

and a number opened in summer from May to October: 
Globus City: daily, 9am-9.30pm 
Bellevue: daily, 9am-9.30pm Bahnhof Enge: Mon-Fri: 10am-9.30pm, Sat-Sun: 9am-9.30pm Bahnhof Oerlikon, Swissotel: Mon-Fri: 12am-9.30pm, Sat: 9am-9.30pm, Sun: closed Im Viadukt: Mon-Fri: 11am-9.30pm, Sat-Sun: 9am-9.30pm 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Does our Mayor need to buy a Stetson?

There is a geological lens beneath Viernheim which might contain significent amounts of hydrocarbons - oil or gas. As the moment a team of specialists are carrying out seismic investigations and it was our turn this afternoon to watch the men at work. We should know sometime next year whether we will be shortly dancing under wildcat gushers. The earth definitely moved for us this afternoon.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bicycle Rental in and around Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf is the provincial capital of Nordrhein-Westfalen in north-western Germany. The city is a paradise for shoppers on the Kö, beer drinkers in the Altstadt (old city centre) with the longest bar in the world and good links into the Niederrhein area which like the Netherlands is ideal for cycling. It has an airport, good train connections with the rest of Germany and Europe and is a good place to start and/or finish a cycling holiday. As ever with the exception of the Nextbike system it is better to book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Nextbike offers a number of bicycle rental stations with standardised urban utility bikes on a 24 hour basis using mobile phones to log in. These bikes, similar to the schemes in London and Paris, are not intended as touring bikes, but as flexible addition to public transport. The website is in English but flips into German when you start to look at individual German cities. Google Translator solves that problem easily.

Unfortunately the excellent Niederrheinrad bike hire network does not have any hire stations within the city boundaries, though there are two hire stations in Neuss across the Rhine: 
  • Hotel Ibis Düsseldorf/Neuss. (Take a train to Neuss Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) and take a taxi.)
  • Hotel Fire and Ice, out of town by the all year round ski hall. (Take the S-Bahn to Neuss Hbf (Neuss central station). Leave Neuss Hbf through the exit “Further Straße” and follow the sign to “Bahnsteig Nr. 1” Take bus 843 toward “Grefrath” and get off at “Skihalle” after a ride of approx. 25 minutes.)

Fahrradverleih Price Düsseldorf, Duesseldorfer Str. 36, 40545 Duesseldorf, phone: +49-211- 5590635, mobile +49-1520 - 4697087, approx. 100 m / 320 ft from youth hostel, Bus 835 836 to bus stop Jugendherberge, Opening times: Mo.-Su. 9:00 - 11:00 and 16:30 - 18:30, Rates: € 10.00 per day ; € 40.00 per week

Zukunftswerkstatt Düsseldorf (ZWD) – Services for cyclists
The workshop, a training establishment for the long term unemployed, offers repair services, restored bicycles and second hand parts. It rents out 20 – 28" bicycles, helmets and children's seats. You can also leave your bike here in safety while you look at the city. There is room for 450 bikes. 

Radstation der Zukunftswerkstatt Düsseldorf
Willi-Becker-Allee 8 a, direkt behind the  Hauptbahnhof (Central railway station), 40227 Düsseldorf, Tel.: +49 (0)211/5 14 47 11,
Rental: €10 daily. Parking 70 cents a day. 

Sport-Freizeit-Center Cremers Fahrradverleih
Sport-Freizeit-Center Niederkassel is on the Rhine bank. You can hire 7 gear (hub)touring bikes, either for men, women or children.
Am Pappelwäldchen 92
40547 Düsseldorf
Tel.: +49 (0)211/57 26 00

Underground U70, U74, U75, U76, U77 to Luegplatz
Bus 834 to Niederkassel; 833 to Johannsenstraße
Komfort-Bike 2 hours: €6, 1 day €11, weekly: €49
Opening Times: March to the End of October. Mo 1 am to 8:30 pm, Tu to Fri 11 am to 8:30 pm, Weekends and public holidays: 10:30 am to 8:30 pm

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Common sense triumphs, amazing!

It appears to be believed in the upper floors of some railway administrations that as soon as bicycles need to be loaded on and off high speed trains there will be delays and the loss of five or six seats that are replaced by a bicycle compartment will ruin the economics of the trains. On Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish high speed trains bicycles except folders and bagged bikes are verboten. Common sense says that this belief is rubbish. Nobody bans mothers with prams or three children because they find it difficult to get on and off trains or they need room to put their Kinderwagen somewhere. Some of the French TGVs on the newer routes from Paris Gare de l'Est, for example take 8 bikes per train and seem to run profitably and punctually.
Not very often, but occasionally I am amazed that a common sense approach to demands from the travelling public has been taken by the Fat Controllers of railway organisations. Recently the ÖBB, Austrian railways announced that all 51 of their premium railjet trains will modified to include a compartment to take 6 bicycles with plugs allowing e-bike charging while underway. This work will be finished in 2013. More information can be found on
On the other hand, the new generation of German IC/EC trains, the ICx will offer 8 bike places, less than the dozen or so on offer at the moment. This model will also form the basis of the replacement ICE1 and ICE2 stock by the end of the decade. It could be possible to offer high speed transport for bicycles, but don't hold your breath. I have the feeling that the Fat Controllers believe that only "suits" with brief cases are the proper class of people to travel on ICEs.

Bicycle space on an IC at present.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dutch cycleway technology triumphs again!

Groningen is a town in the North of the Netherlands. Some of the traffic lights in the town have been equipped with rain or snow sensors, so that when it rains or snows cyclists do not have to wait as long for a green light. There does not appear to any complaints from motorists who have to wait longer. It is intended to equip more traffic lights in this way later. Unsurprisingly about 50% of all journeys in Groningen are made by bicycle.
Source: LVI-Info 86 2/2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bicycle hire in Paris, France

Paris has 200 km of bike lanes and 70 km of bus lanes which cyclists can use. In our experience it is a good place to cycle, at least between Gare de l'Est and Gare d' Austerlitz. If you want to hire a bike in Paris then the following addresses and links could be of use. They are in alphabetical order and we have not used any of these companies, so we cannot advise which are the best. The dialling code for France is +33 and you drop the first zero in the number when dialling from abroad.

Velib is run by the City of Paris. It was the first city bike hire company offering automatic pick up and drop off of somehow slightly frumpy bicycles from points in the street allowing almost spontaneous trips. With 20 000 bikes it is probably the biggest city bike hire organisation in the world. The bikes are low geared and you need to obtain a daily, weekly or annual card to use them. Details on the Velib website:

********** hires out a wide range of bikes including Bromptons and other folders.

2, rue Beauregard, 2ème arrondissement, Paris. T: 01 40 35 36 36,


Website: (In French, but you are in Paris. Hint  Bike Hire = Location de vélos)

GPS : Latitude : 48.8691762 - Longitude : 2.347784499999989
Métro : Station Bonne Nouvelle (Lines 8 et 9) et Sentier (Line 3)

The shop is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 7 pm. 


Bike About Tours

Le Peloton Cafe
17, Rue du Pont Louis Philippe 75004 Paris

Phone: +33 (0) 6 18 80 84 92

Metro: St Paul (Line 1)

Office Hours (& bike rental pick-up times):

Feb 15 - April 15: 9:00am -11:30am

April 16 - October 3:
9:00am -11:30am and 1:30pm- 4:00pm

Paris à vélo c'est sympa !

22 rue Alphonse Baudin
75011 PARIS
Between République and Bastille
Metro station:
St Sébastien-Froissart (8)
Richard-Lenoir (5)

Tél : +33 1 48 87 60 01

Opening hours from April to October:

Monday - Friday
9.30 - 13.00, 14.00 - 18.00

Saturday and Sunday
9.00 - 19.00

Closed on Tuesday afternoons

Paris Bike Tour offers two ways of renting a bike in Paris. You can either pick up a bike at the shop or have bikes delivered to a hotel (minimum of four). Complementary equipment, such as helmets, locks, raincoats or baskets are available on request and are free of charge. 

38 rue de Saintonge, 75003 Paris, open everyday from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm
Metro Filles du calvaire /République
T: + 33 (0)1 42 74 22 14


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bicycle Hire on the Lower Rhine (Emmerich)

It is often easier and cheaper to fly to a country without a bicycle. On the other hand a major disadvantage of bike hire is having to return the bike to the start point, especially if you wish to cycle along a linear route like a river. Niederrhein Tourismus, the tourist authority for the Niederrhein (Lower Rhine) an excellent cycling area northwest of Cologne have cracked this problem, by setting up a region-wide network of bike hire stations. You can hire from one station and return it to another. The bikes are popular. We saw several groups using them last week when we were cycling in this area.  With over 2000 km of signposted  cycle routes you will not be bored.

The bicycles cost €9 a day for the first two days, €8 a day between the third and fifth day and €6 a day after that. Returning a bicycle to a different hire point costs €4. You can reserve bicycles in advance on

The bicycles are sensible Dutch tourers manufactured by Koninklijke Gazelle and are ideal steeds for the flat Rhine plain. The bicycles feature:

Seat height is adjustable with quick release without tools
Tyres with puncture protection  
Gel saddle
Sturdy baggage carrier
Easy to use 7-speed hub gears
A coaster/back pedal brake
Hub dynamo

Bicycles are available in Emmerich from the infoCenterEmmerich (Tourist Office), Rheinpromenade 27
46446 Emmerich am Rhein

Tel 0 28 22 - 93 10 40

Opening Times

April - October  
Mo - Fr    10.00 - 18.00 (10 am - 6 pm)
Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays    11.00 - 17.00 (11 am - 5 pm
November - March   
Monday - Friday: 10.00 - 17.00 (10 am to 5pm)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bicycle hire on the Lower Rhine in Germany (Kleve)

It is often easier and cheaper to fly to a country without a bicycle. On the other hand a major disadvantage of bike hire is having to return the bike to the start point, especially if you wish to cycle along a linear route like a river. Niederrhein Tourismus, the tourist authority for the Niederrhein (Lower Rhine) an excellent cycling area northwest of Cologne have cracked this problem, by setting up a region-wide network of bike hire stations. You can hire from one station and return it to another. The bikes are popular. We saw several groups using them last week when we were cycling in this area.  With over 2000 km of signposted  cycle routes you will not be bored.

The bicycles cost €9 a day for the first two days, €8 a day between the third and fifth day and €6 a day after that. Returning a bicycle to a different hire point costs €4. You can reserve bicycles in advance on

The bicycles are sensible Dutch tourers manufactured by Koninklijke Gazelle and are ideal steeds for the flat Rhine plain. The bicycles feature:

Seat height is adjustable with quick release without tools
Special frame design for comfortable cycling
Tyres with puncture protection  
Gel saddle
Sturdy baggage carrier
Easy to use 7-speed hub gears
A coaster/back pedal brake
Easy-running hub dynamo

There are two hire stations in Kleve (Cleves): 

City Hotel Kleve***

Lindenallee 37
47533 Kleve
Tel 0 28 21 - 7 26 30

Open every day between 8 am and 8 pm.

The Rilano Hotel Cleve****
Tichelstraße 11
47533 Kleve
Tel 0 28 21 - 71 70
Open 24 h a day.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

By bike to the Floriade

The Netherlands is famous for its flower production and every ten years the country organises a world horticultural exhibition. This year it has been held in Venlo just over the border from the German province of North Rhine Westphalia. (If you fancy a quick trip to the Netherlands it still on until October 7. ) Judith is a keen gardener and so it was obvious that we'd should go. We went last week and decided to stop in Straelen just over the border in North Rhine Westphalia. We are rewriting our Rhine 2 guide and so it seemed a good idea to combine a trip to look at new types of garden forks, bird houses and rubber boots with an investigation of the cycle routes in the Lower Rhine region.

We had the bikes with us in Straelen and discovered that the town had laid out a cycle route to connect with a Dutch cycle route to the exhibition. Taking public transport to the exhibition and return using a collective taxi to the station in Venlo and the bus to the Floriade would have cost us €14 a piece, so taking the bikes was quite attractive. We followed temporary signposting into the Netherlands. Finding the the exhibition once we crossed the border was easy we just followed the signs painted on quiet country roads.

There was adequate free bike parking available:

Our guesstimate was about a thousand bikes:

The exhibition was excellent and we enjoyed our 32 km trip there and back.

Monday, September 10, 2012

E-bike development

We went out to dinner with friends on Saturday night and I was stopped short in my tracks by the former colleague who asked whether we had a pedelec. Do I look that old? We do have 9 bicycles, but I don't see any need at the moment for an electric bike. However it strikes me that if one is returning to cycling after a long period as a car driver and couch potato, maybe after heart problems have developed, then the new Kalkhoff system which monitors the rider's pulse and zaps up the power when the pulse rate gets too high could be the answer to worries about taking too much exercise:  The Kalkhoff Impulse Ergo Nuvinci 360 Harmony is the “exercise machine” for outdoors – This e-bike is an absolute world-first. In collaboration with the Institute of Sport Science and Sport Erlangen, (A department of the University of Erlangen) Kalkhoff has developed the unique Impulse Ergo System, which enables you to train in your chosen pulse range beyond the four walls of the gym or fitness centre. The bike is able to detect any pulse change of the rider and in turn increases or decreases the power of the motor.
(Taken from the Eurobike 2012 new items press release)

Sunday, September 09, 2012

This could save your life

I found this in the advice section of the German Motor Club (ADAC) magazine. This information was new to me. If you are cycling in flat country or at the top of a hill and are caught out in a thunderstorm, then get off your bike. Move away from it to a distance of several metres (yards). A lightening flash which strikes your bike could jump over to you if you are too near. The next piece of advice was given to me as a Boy Scout. So not lie completely flat but sit or kneel down so that you are a small target.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Cycle Route Planner for the Netherlands.

Although we are Luddites when it comes to GPS we have noticed in recent months that route planning software has improved greatly. We wrote about the North Westphalian Route Planner earlier this week. By chance while checking the links in "Cycling in Europe, Hints and Tips for the Touring Cyclist" our new free pamphlet, I found a Dutch Route Planner for the Netherlands and a few km over the borders: It is excellent. You have a choice of four languages: Dutch, German, Friesian and English. There is a bar across the top of the map with a "Languages" tab. Click on that to get the language you want. You can click on the map to set up the start and finish points, add intermediate points to adjust your route, see the location of the Knooppunt nodes, find all sorts of useful information for the tourist like cyclist friendly accommodation, bike shops, bike hire shops and even park benches (picnic spots?). It is quite wonderful and can offer hours of virtual cycling pleasures in the warmth of your living room when the icy wind is whistling off the frozen ponds outside. It could be even better if it connected to the North Westphalian Route Planner, but maybe one day…

Friday, September 07, 2012

More information on-the-spot fines for cyclists in Germany

Germany has a traffic code which allows the police to impose on the spot fines for minor infringements of the traffic laws, so if you are touring in Germany it is worth knowing what you should or shouldn't be doing as a cyclist. We wrote about this earlier, but some new fines have been established.

You can be fined €5 for cycling on the pavement/sidewalk, unless it’s allowed.

You can be fined €10 if your lights or brakes don’t work. 

You can be fined  €10 if you cycle in a pedestrian zone where cycling is not allowed. If you endanger others by doing this the fine rises to €20 and if your cycling in a pedestrian zone causes an accident you are liable to receive a €25 fine.  

You can be fined €15 for cycling in the wrong direction on a cycleway.

You can be fined €15 for cycling on the road next to a cycleway, i.e. not using s cycleway when one is available.

You can be fined €25 for using a mobile phone when underway on a bike.

You can be fined €45 if you jump a red traffic light when the red phase lasted for 1 second and €100 if it was longer. If you cause problems for others when you jump a red light the fine rises to €160 or €180.

If you cross a level crossing when the barriers are down, when red lights are showing you are liable to a €350 fine.

Any fine above €35 brings a point in the German Central Register which may also be transferable to other road traffic sin bin systems as well. 

Above a blood level concentration of 1.6 mg/l a cyclist is deemed to be absolutely unfit to cycle. In which case the happy drunkard is facing seven points in the German Central Register, a fine of a month’s wages after tax and deductions and probably immediate loss of his or her driving licence, at least until the case comes to court, which can be a year. 

However only once in 25 or so years of cycling in Germany have we seen police handing out tickets for one of the above offences, but you could be unlucky. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Improvements for German cyclists?

Politicians have an amazing ability to not think in a joined up manner. The best British example I know is the combining the aim of reducing carbon dioxide output while planning the building of new airports and runways. This type of thinking is also unfortunately true for Germany. The German Minister for Transport has just announced the new Radverkehrsplan 2020 (The bicycle in traffic plan 2020). This is basically a set of aims for the future, e.g. The aim is that cycling should make up on average 15% of all journeys up from 10% at present. Unfortunately at the same time the budget for cycleway construction and publicity will fall from €76 Mio this year to €60 Mio in 2013. How these two match is not easy to see.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Using the NRW Cycling Route Planner

The German province of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) has an online cycling route planner: This meshes in with the Hessian Route Planner offering bicycle routing down as far as Mannheim and Heidelberg. It offers a choice of languages: German, English, French, Dutch and Polish.

We are off to the Lower Rhine shortly to visit the Floriade horticultural exhibition in Venlo and check out a route across NRW along the Rhine as part of the research to update our book: "The Rhine End to End Part 2: Basel to Rotterdam". The guide will then be published as an e-book. We decided to use the online route planner to lay out our route and report on our experience.

Using the English version it is necessary to spell city names in German not in English, e.g. Köln not Cologne. The mode of operation of the English and German versions is different. In both versions one defines the start and finish points and calculates the route which is shown on screen.  There are preferences one can apply: ignoring hills or avoiding them; following any convenient route or road, the province's bicycle network, all the named routes (e.g. the 100 Castle Route) or a specific named route.
In the English version to modify the route you insert intermediate points in  order and then recalculate the route. You can have a problem if you need to modify a route early on as you will need to delete all the intermediate points to pop in the new ones. Zooming in and out means finding an intermediate point  and clicking on it. This all gives rise to a lot of work.

Unfairly the German version is a lot easier to use. Once you have set up the route in that you can add an intermediate point anywhere and the map immediately is modified. If you need to put an additional intermediate point in the middle of the field the other points renumber. Zooming is easier as well. There is a layout similar to that of Google Maps. In addition clicking any point on the route gives you distance from the start.

You can download GPS tracks, instructions or printed maps from both versions. I found the German version easy to use and very useful.

Red face avoided

Bauhaus is a major German chain of DIY shops. There is a branch on the Rhein Neckar Zentrum our local shopping centre. The shop has a fair to middling garden section and we decided to go today to pick up some grass seed to convert the moss patch in the garden (yard) into a lawn or, at least, that's the plan. It is much quicker to cycle there and so we took the Bromptons. When we arrived we could not see the minimal bike rack that has been there for years. The shop is forever having stands outside the entrance selling plants, so we decided that our bike rack had been sacrificed to mammon. We fastened the two bikes together and marched into the shop to the Information Stand. I had already started to work out a plan of action involving the local branches of the ADFC to shame shop managements in to giving us adequate bike stands. I explained to the young woman on the Info Stand that the replacement value of our bikes was about €2000 and I was not happy leaving them outside where they could be popped into a motor car as easy as winking. Could she tell management please? I was about to launch into my description of the forthcoming campaign, when she then told us that metal thieves had stolen the former bike rack, but steps had been taken to order a new rack cemented into the floor.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Kalmit Klapprad Race 2012

Last year we went to watch the Kalmit Klapprad Races which is held on the first Saturday in September.

Kalmit is one of the Pfalzerwald Hills in Rhineland-Palatinate and lies across the Rhine west of Heidelberg (Germany). The Kalmit road up to the hut near the summit climbs 1551 feet in 4 miles 22 chains, i.e. on average 1 in 15 or 7%. In the early nineties of the last century members of the local community organised the first race up to the summit of Kalmit on 1970s Klapprads from the village of Maikammer. The race is now traditionally held on the first Saturday in September ( Over the years the rules have crystallised to allow only single gear Klapprads or Klapptandems. Challenge Cups are awarded for the overall winner, the fastest lady, the oldest oldie, the largest family (Bring the appropriate paperwork!), the fastest tandem, the fastest youngster and three prizes for the best outfit and the most original folding bike. In view of recent royal marriages this year the race was held under the motto "Welcome to the Royal Klapp!” and participants were encouraged to dress accordingly. We felt it was our duty as British Subjects not only to visit the event to report to the far flung corners of the world and, of course to offer technical advice on matters appertaining to flying the Union Flag, clothing, dress and etiquette. We had no desire to see the Bolton Lifeboat called out because someone was flying the flag upside down.

It is an ill wind, of course that blows nobody any good and our original plan to visit a folding bike shop in Germersheim before going to watch the Kalmit race were stymied by the late arrival of our tram at Mannheim Central Station, so we were in Neustadt an der Weinstraße much earlier than expected. We decided to cycle the four miles to Maikammer rather than take the train. A great idea. The Weinstraße cycle route climbs and drops through the vineyards along the lower slopes of the Pfalzerwald Hills. On arrival we presented our credentials to the race administration but they were not accepted as earnestly as we had hoped. Freed of this role we had more time to observe and photograph.

The Klapprads fall into three groups - old and rusty, brought wearing the dust from the back of the garage; the majority that have been polished to improve wind resistance, tuned by sticking go faster tape on the frames and accessorised with teapots, horses’ heads, bouquets, amongst other items; and  completely rebuilt with disc brakes, hydraulic forks, new wheels and handlebars where only the frame is original. Which you use is a question of what cup you hope to win. The fastest up the hill are naturally on rebuilt hot rods and with fastest times under nineteen minutes they do not hang about. 
This area is a stronghold of Karneval, the pre-Lent celebrations when fancy dress is the rule rather than the exception, so Kalmit is another good chance to pop on the mother-in-law’s cast off floral polyester summer frock to cycle five miles. Normally this event is a paradise for cross dressers, but this year because of the British theme, kilt wearers were well to the fore. Large sticky out false ears were removed before the start of the race to reduce wind resistance. 

The results: Just over three hundred cyclists took part: 264 Kings, 25 Queens and eleven tandems. My dear left turner, the fastest gentleman up the hill took just over nineteen minutes; Lady Eve the fastest lady just under 25 minutes and the fastest tandem piloted by Kate and Pippa 27 minutes 20 seconds and Tail End Charlie just over an hour. A good time was had by all. After the race before the promised party started, weeping with emotion raised by repeated versions of “God save the Queen”, “Auld Lang Syne” and “Land of Hope and Glory”, we made our excuses and left.

This year? We missed it I am afraid. The race had a religious theme. We had an invitation to visit a former colleague of mine and wife in Frankfurt on that very day (1 September 2012) to look at their new son. However next year we will be there and if I can find a klapprad in Sperrmüll, I might take part. Course I might feel a need to swim the English Channel first.

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