Saturday, March 30, 2013

If we buy two new bikes then at least two old ones have to go.

As ever there is an additional problem. We have nine bicycles sitting in our cellar and in the cupboard in the hall: 
  • Three "Bahnhof's bicycles" we can leave at the tram station in the town and be sure that there are more attractive bikes about in the bike parking area at the tram station. 
  • Two Dahon tourers.
  • Two mountain bikes.
  • Two Bromptons.
The first five would be favourites to pass on, but of the two Bahnhof's bikes one is a historic Peugeot Cologne tourer and the other is the first bike that Judith ever bought new. In both cases it would be like putting down a family pet.
The Bromptons are in use most days of the week. 
It looks like the Dahons would be favourites. One of the Bahnhof bikes can be donated or flogged off for €20.
I suspect we will leave things as they are for while and not buy new bikes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cycling in the Italian lakes

We received an eMail from the Province of Varese with a link to its cycling/hiking website in a cheerful mix of English and Italian. It offers information, GPS tracks and links about road biking, mountain biking, cycle paths, pass storming (if it turns you on), bike hotels, campsites and lots of practical information. We have cycled there and in the Swiss canton of Ticino next door and found very enjoyable.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bike Theft Locks

The German consumer testing organisation has recently tested bike locks and to put matters succinctly the organisation is not impressed. By far the majority of the locks did not stand up to the treatment handed out by a group of determined "bike thieves". What this means I suspect one needs to check around before handing over your hard-earned cash for a lock. I cannot give you the results of this test which is in German anyway because the test organisation would like €2.50 to release the results and would not like me to give it away for free. However there is a summary in German on

  • However one piece of advice from the article that I can give readers for free is that bike thieves in Germany specialise in one particular type of lock, so it pays to use two types of lock when you lock your bike up.  
Our advice would be in addition:
  • Keep your bike somewhere parked in the open in view during the day. 
  • At night lock the bike away in a closed room. In addition try to run the locks through all the wheels. Do you really want loose your high quality wheels? 
  • Lock the bike to a solid piece of street furniture. Otherwise the thief can pop your bike in a van and it's goodbye bike.
  • If you are travelling in a group lock all the bikes together. The bike rustlers will find it difficult to put a package of four or five bikes into the back of white van. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Buying a new bike

One of the advantages of an old-fashioned bike shop over the big shed variety of bike supermarket that are springing up in Germany is that if you visit the shop at the right time the owner has time to talk to you and gives advice to help you rather than just improve his sales figures at any cost. I was very impressed last week when we wandered in to our local bike shop to say hello to the owner. I have been thinking about buying two new touring bikes, because I would like slightly faster bikes than the 20" wheel Dahon TRs we use at present.  I had already noticed that the ancient diamond framed Peugeot tourer I have used in the past seems to have grown and swinging my leg over the saddle, especially when the bike is carrying two panniers, is getting more difficult with the passing years. I think it is time I bought a step through unisex or ladies' bike, rather like our beloved Bromptons.

We checked out the bike brands on offer at our local bike shop on the internet and defined a number of parameters. We often follow sandy, unsealed tracks and we are not big on cleaning the bikes, so a hub gear is better idea than a derailleur. I have used a Mountain Drive on my Brompton for some years to extend the range on offer, but it does suffer from the disadvantage that changing gear from the lowest gear in the top range into the bottom means rapidly changing both gears. This can be difficult. Unfortunately we also need to climb hills, so the wider the range of gears the better. This points at a Rolhoff or an Alfine 11 hubgear. That seemed to be the problem solved: We needed two unisex/ladies' tourers with hubgears.

We arrived at the bike shop. It was a quiet afternoon. We looked around and discovered another problem: Aesthetics. I could quite fancy a bike from the Riese and Müller Avenue/Culture/Hommage range. Judith was not impressed. She does not like the design. We prefer to tour with both of us riding the same model. It makes for easier maintenance. So that was that. We will not buy those. Andreas, the shop owner, appeared and I explained the problem to him. He defined our choices: a mixte frame, a swan neck ladies' model (the bike not the lady) and a 'Y' frame.

  • Mixte frames, he suggested were almost tall enough so that it is easier to swing the leg over the saddle. In which case we could buy a diamond frame.
  • Swan neck ladies' models are a bit too much wicker basket and to quote George Orwell, 'Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist'. They were out.
  • We ended up agreeing the Y frame Campus Bike would be the one. (
Another problem then arose, weight. Not so much the weight of the bike when we are trying to pedal them, what about getting them on trains? Fortunately the Alfine 11 hub gear is not the heaviest hub gear made by Shimano, but as Andreas said we will need to make sure the other components are as light as possible. We are researching the weight at present.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Backwards and forwards across the Danish German border

The 130 km long Deutsch-Dänische Grenzroute (German Danish Border Route) from  Højer (DK) to Flensburg (D) is based on two interlinked routes on both sides of the Danish German border: Danish Nationalroute 8 and Nord-Ostsee Radweg. During the trip east from the North Sea to the Baltic one crosses the border thirteen times. It is possible to cycle a circular route which is over 200 km long. It looks like an interesting route. It is on our list of possibilities in case we have a week to spare this summer. However I suspect would be easier to cycle from Flensburg to Højer and back again, if you wish to travel by public transport to your starting point. The city is on both the Danish and German main line railways. The website gives all the info you need to cycle the route.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

GPS, iPad, iPod, iPhone maps

BVA,  Bielefelder Verlag the German Cycle guide and map publishers have converted a number of their regional ADFC maps (1:50 000 or 1:75 000) for the iPad, iPod or iPhone. Other regional maps are in  process of being converted. The app can be downloaded from the iTunes. We don't know when and if the company is going to offer an app for Google phones and produce digital version of the smaller scale ADFC touring maps. We have enquired by eMail at BVA, but have not received an answer.

Friday, March 08, 2013


We both enjoy cycling along national borders, crisscrossing from one country to the next. For us Britons it is fascinating that within a metre that laws, language, coffee flavour and cakes change completely. In Britain one needs to cross over or under the sea to experience this change. We are also fascinated by the concept of the enclave, an island of one country in another. The Vennbahn cycle route from Aachen (D) to Trois Vierges (LUX) offers the chance to experience slightly artificial enclaves and frequent border crossing on a former railway line, i.e. with very few steep hills. The enclaves arose because two German counties were annexed by Belgium in 1920 under the Treaty of Versailles. In addition Belgium was granted the Vennbahn railway between Aachen and Luxembourg. At the time the line connected the Ruhr coal mines and steelworks with the iron ore and steelworks in Luxembourg. It was of commercial and military importance. Unfortunately the line ran in part to the east of the border of the new Belgian cantons and so a number of German villages found themselves to be enclaves, because it was necessary to cross the railway line back in to the Fatherland. This gave rise to interesting smuggling activities, coffee, for example after WWII when coffee was very expensive in Germany and cheaper in Belgium.
We are hoping to cycle the 125 km route from Aachen to Luxembourg later in the summer. The problem in the moment is what do we do once we arrive in Luxembourg. Although there is an extensive network of cycle routes in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg the routes in the north are steep if memory serves correctly. More research is required. We could take a train from Trois Vierges to Trier and go home cheaply on a Rheinland-Pfalz ticket, but it seems to be a lot of railway for a little cycling.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Holidays in Emsland

We've mentioned the value of booking self-guided touring holidays in Germany before. It saves serious amounts of work. We noticed today that the Emsland region in NE Germany on the Dutch border offers a number of value for money tours which crisscross over into the Netherlands and back. The tourist office does the hard work books the hotels, etc. and you can enjoy the cycling. I cannot find any information in English on the website, but a note to the tourist office at info‎‎‎@‎ should yield information.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Black Forest Panorama Cycle Route

The Southern loop we wrote about yesterday is a family route. At one point does the going get tough and you can get on a train. However the Black Forest Panorama Cycle Route  is slightly longer and a lot hillier. The description uses the word challenging from time to time. The first day is 75 km long with a climb of about 500 m. In this case there is a let out and you can take the the Sommerberg Funicular Railway 300m uphill which chops 25 km off your day. The day after on your way to Villigen, the 70 km are easy. On day 3 you cycle 52 km and climb to the highest point of the trip at 1084 m. The day after, on the final day cycling is easy, mainly downhill to Waldshut and the railway station. If the vision of long climbs is not your idea of fun, then you can hire e-bikes to ease the pain.

The Black Forest Tourist Authority offers organised self guided tours with B&B, luggage transfer and lunch packets starting at around €400 for a four or five night trip. Contact for more details.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Southern Black Forest Cycle Route

Cycle touring on holiday is offered by all the major German holiday companies. I was pleasantly surprised recently to see cycle touring holidays in a brochure put out by ALDI, the German discounter. It is therefore no surprise to find that the regional tourist authorities have planned and executed cycle routes and that one can book self-guided holidays.

The Southern Black Forest Cycle Route or as it is known in German Südschwarzwald-Radweg is a fairly gentle circular 240km long route around the edges of the higher regions of the southern Black Forest. The main route crosses the Rhine into Switzerland and goes through Basel/Basle. After Basel you can also visit the French nature reserve "Petite Camargue" in southern Alsace, before crossing the Rhine again to return to vineyards and picturesque villages of Markgräflerland to reach Freiburg and return to the Black Forest heights. There is a rail link between Kirchzarten and Hinterzarten. There is no shame in taking the train. If the vision of the odd slight climb is too much you can also hire e-bikes. This is an ideal route for families.

There is more information in German about trips of up to a week from the following companies:

Original Landreisen AG
The company is based in Hinterzarten. Price per person sharing a double room range from € 289 to € 949 for up to a week depending on the quality of the accommodation and the length of the holiday.

Radissimo GmbH
This company is preparing information in English. It is based in Freiburg or Hinterzarten. Price per person sharing a double room is from €429 for up to a week. If the photographs of the Black Forest Cherry cakes shown on the website are anything to go by you may end weighing more after a few days cycling than before you started.  

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