Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Are we too cautious for our own good?

We have snow. Judith slipped on our way to our twice weekly walk in the woods yesterday and sprained her ankle. Although we normally either walk or cycle to do our local shopping, etc., it's not on at the moment and yesterday I needed to brush the snow off the car, help Judith into the vehicle and we set through the grey, greasy streets of downtown Viernheim to visit the GP's surgery and the local cottage hospital. I was amazed to see people on bicycles. The streets of Viernheim were slippery either because of a thin layer of dirty grey slush or because of a thicker layer of hard packed snow. The cyclists were slithering uncertainly around. Sensible motorists were driving at 20kph rather than the 30kph allowed, well we were. It takes about 40 minutes to walk from one side of Viernheim to the other, so although a bicycle offers a speed advantage when the weather is reasonable, there is little advantage in risking a broken collarbone or even death to save a few minutes.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Folded bikes on German trains

It used to be the case in Germany that when travelling with a folded bike on a German train where there was a charge for bicycle transport that folders needed to be put in a bag. I was once threatened with a bicycle charge for the seven minute journey between Bensheim and Weinheim unless I popped the folded Brompton in its cover. There are Jobsworth everywhere. This is no longer the case and one even sees naked Bromptons on ICEs. Cumbersomes, nonfolding bicycles are an absolute no no these trains.
In many ways the pendulum has now swung too far the other way and full sized folders can be transported free of charge on ICs as long as they are folded. They must however be folded. This is waste of time since some bikes are almost as big folded as unfolded.
Swwn on an IC in souther Germany

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bicycle Hire in Hanover (Hannover in German)

10 Bikes and various "fun bikes" for events. The organisation's definition not ours. This is another organisation offering training to unemployed young people. The opening hours are not exactly user-friendly: Tuesday to Friday 1:30pm to 6pm. In addition 10:30am to 12:30 pm on Wednesdays. In 2014 the shop was closed for two weeks in August.

Fahrradstation am Hauptbahnhof 
(Bicycle Centre at the Central Railway Station) 
Fernroder Straße 2, 30161 Hannover 
Tel.: 05 11/ 3 53 96 40 
Fax: 05 11/ 35 39 64 10 
Opening Times: 
Mo. - Fr. 6am - 11pm; Sa., Su. and public holidays 8am - 11pm 
E-Mail: fahrradstation(AT)step-hannover(dot)de 
Internet: http://www.step-hannover.de/startseite/angebote/radstation/ 
60 newish bikes including children's bicycles
In addition:
800 slots for short term- und long-term bike parking. This is obviously a good place to leave your bike if you want to play the tourist in Hanover. There are lockers for your luggage nearby, in the central railway station, for example. 
Bicycle Repair

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bike Sport Hotels in Germany

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed we are fans of the hotels and B&Bs on the  ADFC’s Bett und Bike list. The club has recently added a new category to its lists: Bett und Bike Sport hotels. These are more upmarket hotels offering features in addition to those normally offered by Bett und Bike accommodation:
  • Tour suggestions and/or guided tours for mountain bikers, road racing types and even common or garden tourists like us two.
  • A very secure bike storage room so you don’t have to sleep with your 10 000 Euros worth of carbon fibre and Campag gears.
  • Mountain and road bike hire.
  • Good drying and washing facilities for you, your clothing and your bike, but not all the same room.
  • A workshop and information about nearby dealers who can help you when need help.
  • Maps, printed guides, energy bars etc.
  • If you want to cycle on your last day, you can arrange to take a shower in the afternoon before you depart for home, which saves you having to climb mud-encrusted into the BA or Lufthansa machine home.
These hotels are to be found in the southern Black Forest, in the Sauerland a mountain biking and winter sport area SE of Dortmund and in the Hunsrück W of the Rhine around Hahn airport. There is more information including a list of hotels to be found on a flyer obtainable via a link on http://www.bettundbike.de/. Don’t go for the English version, because although there is more information available about the concept, there is no link to the flyer. The flyer, of course, is in German but there are links to the hotel websites and these are more often than not in a sensible language, i.e. English.  A quick survey of the flyer suggests that the hotels are reasonably priced and some offer package deals for a week's or long weekend's holiday.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmas Markets in Germany

We are not going to write about cycling this week, but about something that is a major part of German life, a major export item: Christmas markets. After a recent study trip lasting two days the three of us,  Judith, I and a friend came to the conclusion that there are three types of Christmas market in Germany:
Big and Commercial
These are to be found in the big cities. Of course, they feature professional caterers' stands selling Glühwein (mulled wine) and variations on Bratwurst (grilled sausage). However the majority of stands sell Christmas trifles like Father Christmas hats, tree decorations and shiny glass globes. Most of the stalls are run by market tradespeople. This is normally the type of Christmas market found abroad, outside of Germany. I have not been to a German Christmas market in Britain for ten or so years, so I cannot comment on them, but in Germany in between the stands selling bling and Bratwursts there are a few craftsman selling items they made themselves. Cologne, Düsseldorf and Rothenburg ob der Tauber are typical of these. The latter town has the advantage shops are open on Sundays in Advent. Some of these shops sell interesting hand crafted items of clothing. 
Medium sized and full of craftsmen and -women.
If you are interested in picking up interesting items made by artists and craftsmen then look at smaller places like Dinkelsbühl on the Romantic Road where craftspeople predominate though there is no shortage of stands selling hot wine and sausages. The food stands are more often that not run by local clubs.
Village Christmas markets
These are the most fun and the most ethnic. We went to Feuchtwangen on the Romantic Road on Saturday night. It had gone dark when we arrived. We walked through the dark cobbled medieval streets of the small town, down narrow alleys, across the market square and then turned in to the space between the town's two churches. It was an oasis of light in the darkness from the brightly trees strewn with lights on both sides. We stood at a table chatting to locals in a mixture of German and English drinking Glühwein (the rest) or hot cordial (me). The food was locally sourced and home made. The items on sale are simple handicrafts or foods. The profits went to charities, churches and local clubs from the Boy Scouts to the Model Railway Club. We had a very successful evening and in addition managed to visit a choral concert in the protestant church on the square. (On this evening I was the Designated Driver (DD).  I was not drinking, so Glühwein did not cause me to see the world through blurred rose coloured lenses.)
If you wanted to experience the spectrum of Christmas markets in Germany contact the Tourist Office in Feuchtwangen (www.feuchtwangen.de, touristinformation@feuchtwangen.de) or the Romantic Road Tourist Authority: www.romantischestrasse.de for more information. Both organisations will be pleased to help you up with hotel bookings and trips to  Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. You would probably need a taxi or a hire car, though the latter brings with it the DD problem. The German police don't have warm Christmas feelings about driving over the limit. Glühwein gets you there quite quickly, before you notice.  Unfortunately public transport in this part of Bavaria is very sparse.
Disclaimer: We were not supported by any tourist organisation. We paid all our own expenses.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cyclist- and bicyclist-friendly accommodation in Europe

We wrote about the German Cycling Club's BettundBike.de/en website earlier, in 2013. It is an excellent website offering lists of cyclist-friendly accommodation (Hotels, pensions, guest houses, youth hostels camping sites) in Europe. The idea has spread into neighbouring countries.

In addition there are other sources of information in websites listing cyclist-friendly accommodation:
  • Austria Vienna Wien.info has 130 cyclist friendly hotels/pensions/guest houses on its books.
  • Belgium 
  • Croatia There seems to be no specific information available on cyclist friendly hotels but on the other hand we suspect that all the hotels in Croatia are cyclist-friendly.
  • Denmark The http://cyclistic.dk/en/ website has lists of cyclist-friendly accommodation in Denmark.
  • France In our experience all French hotels are cyclist-friendly and with one exception over about 35 years of cycling in France, we've always had somewhere to lock our bikes away, in the countryside in sheds and in the cities conference rooms or unused offices. 
  • Netherlands The http://www.allefietserswelkom.nl/kaart shows a map of the Netherlands with accommodation marked. By clicking on the map one links to the hotel and hostel websites. The website is in Dutch, but the accommodation websites often offer an English version. 
  • Poland There seems to be no specific information available on cyclist friendly hotels but on the other hand we suspect that all the hotels in Poland are cyclist-friendly. There are links to accommodation on http://www.poland.travel/en/cycling/cyclist--environmentalist/
  • Switzerland Check out http://www.veloland.ch/en/accommodation.html

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bicycle Hire in Travemünde

Travemünde is the port of Lübeck and lies on the German Baltic coast. There are many cycling routes and a lot of cyclists so it is a safe place to cycle. The area is relatively flat. Across the River Trave on the other side of the hamlet of Priwall is the border with Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, one of the new German provinces. Until 25 years ago the Iron Curtain ran here. To the east there are miles of little developed beaches to swim from and sunbathe on. They are not developed because the former GDR government discouraged access to the Baltic to prevent people escaping the country. However being Germany there are a number of kiosks along the cycle route set back from the beach selling snacks, beer and coffee. The cyclepath, a former DDR border police track, runs along the coast to the northwest of Travemünde linking a number of small seaside resorts. We were in Travemünde recently and found two cycle hire shops one in the town and one across the river in Priwall.

Fahrradverleih Bruders, Mecklenburger Landstraße 14 23570 Travemünde/Priwall Tel: 04502/5340

Hire bike per day  6.00€
1 week                  25€
2 weeks                 45€
Children's bikes     Half price
Bollerwagen         3€ per day

Das Fahrrad  -  Moorredder 15  -  23570 Lübeck- Travemünde  -  @Mail: Fahrrad-Spuida@web.de  Telefon/ Fax: 04502-3550

Hire bike per day     6.00 €
1 week     35.00 €
2 weeks  60.00 €
Child's bike 18" - 24"      4.00 €
Child's seat         2.00 €
Tandem            12.00 €
Bollerwagen*     2.00 €
Pedelec 18.00 €

*Bollerwagen are small, rubber tyred, four wheeled wagons to take all the family needs to the beach:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Why should I ride a bike regularly and leave the car at home?

There are all sorts of reasons:

  • Financial Reasons: Bike riding is cheaper. An expensive bike costs five thousand Euros. You can purchase a new reasonable bike for between five hundred and a thousand Euros. A decent two or three year old second hand car will cost you a lot more. 
  • Cycling is as quick: Bike riding is as quick as a car over shorter distances, if not quicker, if you take the time to find a parking space for your four wheeled vehicle in to consideration.
  • Health Reasons: Bike riding is healthier. 
  • Environmental Reasons: Bike riding is better for air quality because you are cleaning the air rather than filling it full of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitric and nitrous oxides, lung clogging unburnt tar particles, etc. etc. However you should then try to get out of town now and again to give your respiratory passages a chance to recover.
  • Patriotic Economic Reasons: Motor cars and bikes need oil to power them. Although Britain does still have North Sea oil, it has imported more oil than it has exported since 2003, so if the country can reduce its appetite for oil, it will spend less money abroad and so improve the balance of payments. Cyclists don't use much oil, so every kilometre you can ride on a bike or walk instead of sitting in a car is good for the nation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

German cycle route signposting, an apology!

Over the years I have complained about the German habit of putting small square shields with an arrow and a bike logo at right angles to the direction of travel as intermediate signposts on cycle routes. It is not always possible to decide which route these signs refer to or which direction you are following. However we recently cycled across a local forest in the dark and it was pitch black. It was very spooky with odd souls (walkers) and dogs with glowing eyes appearing suddenly out of the gloom.  We have decent lighting and could follow the path, but was it the right one? We were both very pleased to see the bike logo and arrow signs shining brightly in our headlamps at junctions.

Ground Effect yet again!

The regular reader of this column will have noted that we are fans of Ground Effect, a Kiwi bike clothing company. I was amused by their image film on their first twenty years. Click on http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/video/259/products-that-bombed to check it out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Safer tram lines part II

VBZ, the Zurich transport authority has carried a long term test on its tramline modification to make tramlines safer for cyclists in operation for about a year now and has found that the rubber inserts work well, but they are not stable enough for long term use. (See our blog from 9 November 2013.) Further work will be carried out to develop a more stable filling.

Friday, November 07, 2014

What to do in Berlin: Cycling the Mauerweg (Berlin Wall Route)

The route is 160km (100 miles) long. It mainly asphalt and therefore good for cycling. The route has been divided into fourteen stretches between seven and twenty-one kilometres long. A city tour leads from the Eastside Gallery via Checkpoint Charlie to Potsdamer Platz and then via the S-Bahn (suburban railway) to the Berlin Wall Memorial in the Bernauer Straße. People who witnessed the wall and its building lead tours with "Berlin on bike".
Links: www.visitberlin.de, www.berlinonbike.de

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hangload baggage system now on sale in shops in Berlin

We wrote about Hangload at the end of March. This is a baggage rack that lets cyclists carry rucksacks, boxes or shopping bags safely at the rear of the bike. One of these coupled with a normal pannier would be a good way to carry baggage gear when cycle touring if you were going to do some walking as well. 

The company has now started to manufacture these. They can be ordered online from the company or picked up from various shops in Berlin:

  • Bagjack handmade in berlin (Ten Twenty Berlin): Torstraße 39, 10119 Berlin, Germany -Opening times: 2:00 – 20:00 
  • Radmutter: Petersburger Straße 93 10247 Berlin, Germany - Opening times: Mo: 11:00 - 17:00, Tu: 10:00 - 20:00, We: 10:00 - 20:00, Th: 11:00 - 17:00, Fr: 10:00 - 19:00, und Sa: 11:00 - 15:00.
  • Radhaus Kreuzberg: Yorckstraße 77 10965 Berlin, Germany - Opening times: Mo.-Fr.: 10:00-13:00 und 14:00-19:00 & Sa.: 10:00-16:00. 
  • fahrradstation:
  • Charlottenburg: Goethestraße 46, 10625 Berlin, Germany - Opening times: 10:00 – 19:30.
  • Kreuzberg: Bergmannstraße 9, 10961 Berlin, Germany - Opening times: 10:00 – 19:00.
  • Prenzlauer Berg: Kollwitzstraße 77, 10435 Berlin, Germany - Opening times: 10:00 - 19:30.
  • Mitte: Auguststraße 29a, 10119 Berlin, Germany - Opening times: 10.00 - 19.30.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Mannheim Altrhein ferry

As you cycle along the Rhine Cycle Route north of Mannheim you need to cross one of the former loops of the Rhine, now cut off by the Tulla straightening in the 19th century. For five or six months of the year you can take the hourly ferry from the Friesenheimer Insel towards Sandhofen. This chain ferry will be modified this winter with solar panels with a Diesel motor back up to power the electric motor driving the chain. The ferry runs from April to September. Cost is 50 Cents for a cyclist and rider.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cycling the Oxford Canal Towpath Sustrans Route 5

SUSTRANS signpost by the junction of the Oxford Canal and Dukes Cut.
We went canal boating in England recently. It was 50 years since Judith left her alma mater and she decided to take part in an alumni weekend. Rather than travel there and stop in a hotel or B&B over the weekend we decided to take a houseboat along the Oxford Canal. We moored at Kidlington just north of Oxford and Judith cycled into the city on a Brompton. She found that even within the urban area that the towpath was not easy to follow on 16" wheels. A day or two later while heading north we noticed a pair of mountain bikers following the towpath. They too had difficulty and got off to walk on several occasions. It is a pity that SUSTRANS cannot improve the towpath. It is not its responsibility unfortunately and the Canal and Rivers Trust (CRT) the charity responsible for English waterways is probably more interested in keeping the locks and bridges along the canal well maintained. It could be argued that as one of the CRT's missions is to offer leisure activities on the canals and rivers that better cycling facilities should be made available.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Klickfix Variorack

One of the most useful items one can use on a utilitarian bike is a basket. Fling a rucksack in it or a shopping bag and you can cycle off. There is a minor disadvantage that what is easily popped in can be easily taken out. Maybe one should fasten the bag in with a lock or a bungee net. Having found the Klickfix Variorack I suspect this would be better. It looks cooler as well, not so house wifely, not that this worries me one way or the other. I was looking for a bar bag to carry an iPad when I came across the Variorack. It is a multifunctional rack for transportation of bags, laptop cases and backpacks on the bike, 21x32x17cm, 450g weight. It fits into a KLICKfix handlebar adaptor. Obviously you can remove it dead quick in seconds when it is not needed. It can be positioned in 2 different heights on the adapter front or back, though I would be tempted to put at the front so I can keep my eye on the bag when the rack is loaded. It might be an idea as well to have the Variorack attached to the bike with a lockable adaptor. The rack comes with a strap and I suspect if her indoors needs a hint what to buy me for Christmas, I might well be tempted to suggest a Variorack.

I decided not to buy a iPad bar bag. When we are touring I can pop the iPad in a Ziplock style plastic bag to keep it dry and stuff it down between clothes in the panniers to protect it against vibration. We have four bar bags of the simple variety already and that's enough.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Cycle Routes in East Germany

Shortly after reunification of the two German states the federal government decided to add a temporary extra tax to income tax to improve the infrastructure of the new formerly DDR federal states: Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Some of this money has been invested in cycle routes. Eastern Germany is now a paradise for touring cyclists:

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Black Forest Mountain Bike Crossing

This route is known in German as "Bike Crossing Schwarzwald". It runs from Pforzheim to Bad Säckingen  and is 445km (278 miles) long with 16200m (58500') height difference. Technically it appears not be that difficult as much of the route is along forest roads that are at least 2m wide. There is, however, the odd stretch of single track to give the route some pep. Cycling the route will probably take seven to ten days. It is like crossing the Alps so you need to cut down on your gear to get it into a six to seven kilo rucksack. The route has the advantage over the Alpine crossings that cycle from village to village and so you can wash your stuff in the evenings as well as stocking up on victuals  every day. The Black Forest tourist organisation (service@schwarzwald-tourismus.info) will book hotels and organise baggage transfer in case you feel that pajamas are an essential you cannot do without. There is some information under http://www.blackforest-tourism.com/discovery/sports/Bike-Crossing-Schwarzwald.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bicycle Leasing in Germany

A number of major German companies have latched onto the concept of offering their employees a company bicycle rather than a company car. The employees can use the bicycle as though it is their own, keep it at home, commute to work and use it for shorter trips for the company. This has been made possible by changes in German taxation law in 2012. The company leases the bicycles from dealer or from an agency that sources the bicycles from one or more dealers. The employee pays a monthly leasing rate, which is taken from his salary before he or she pays tax, unemployment or health insurance, i.e. he pays less tax and social insurance. After three years he or she can buy the bike for 10% of its original price. Over three years this yields a saving of over 40% of the original price of the bike.
The advantages for the employer are:
    • It has been found in studies in the Netherlands, that employees who cycle to work enjoy better health than those who commute by car or public transport.
    • It improves the green image of the company.
    • It is cheaper than a company car, but at the same time it makes for a cool image, especially these days where employees who live in city centres have difficulty parking cars.
    • There is less need to provide car parking which can be expensive to provide and maintain.
    • In cities a bicycle is fast, if not faster than a car up to about 5km, because there is no need to find a parking slot at the end of the journey which cuts down wasted time.
Over 400 German companies some of which are blue chip companies offer their employees subsidised bicycles:
    • DHL, logistics
    • Bayer, chemical industry
    • Deutsche Telekom
    • Allianz, insurance
    • Weleda, a multinational company that produces both beauty products and naturopathic medicines. Both branches design their products based on anthroposophic principles.
    • LBS, building society
    • Commerzbank
In addition many local utilities, town councils and tradesmen take advantage of the schemes.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bicycle Hire in Bonn, Germany

The Radstation in Bonn near the main railway station is operated by Caritas, a Roman Catholic social mission. It employs and trains people, young and old who have difficulty finding employment to become bicycle mechanics. One can hire refurbished bikes there. One day's hire costs €10. The price drops to €7 a day for longer hire periods. It is possible to return the bikes to other Radstation in North Rhine Westphalia, but this costs extra.
The Radstation is near the Bonn Hauptbahnhof (Main railway station) on Quantiusstraße, opposite numbers 6-8 in a blue container, 53115 Bonn, Tel (0228) 9814636. It also offers secure bike parking and repair.
Website: www.radstationbonn.de

Monday, September 01, 2014

Commuter Bikes

There was an article in the "Guardian" on Saturday on the Money pages about saving money by buying a bike to commute to work. We both found this an interesting article because we've been to Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where a third or so of inner city journeys are made by bike. One sees all sorts of bikes underway there. The article was intended for London readers. Even the "Guardian" now seems to believe that life in the rest of the UK is not possible. The Guardian's approach seemed to be buy a sporty road bike, perhaps even with dropped handlebars. You get there quicker. Your bike is cooler than anybody else's. Fortunately before I crumpled the paper in a ball and flung it in the waste paper bin*, the author did recount that most of the bikes did come without mudguards/fenders and that these were very important.

We both feel quite strongly that for inner city cycling a sit up and beg bike with mudguards/fenders and a luggage rack and/or a basket at the front is a lot more use. The majority of the bikes in Amsterdam and Copenhagen are of this type. They may not be "sexy", but they are comfortable to ride, you can carry stuff without wearing a rucksack and you see what's going on round about you. Defensive cycling, looking out for danger strikes us as sensible, especially in cities. When your nose is almost touching the front wheel, this is difficult.

There is another aspect to the buying of sexy bikes. Some years ago, a friend of ours in her 40's had a road bike built by the best local frame builder. She picked it up and decided to cycle round the block. As she passed the high school next door, she heard one boy say to another, "Check out the old bat on the cool bike!"

 *This would have been difficult as we read the Kindle edition.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bicycle Tours in Luxembourg.

Somewhere in our researches at travel, outdoor and cycle shows this spring, we picked up a brochure from FEEL! Luxembourg bike tours. The organisation offers a number of half  and full day tours through Luxembourg City for adults and for families and out in the surrounding areas, including two tours to  vineyards with tasting sessions. You can hire a bike or take your own. There is much more information available on www.feel-biketours.com


Friday, August 22, 2014

Disadvantages of e-bikes

We are both over the biblical age of three score years and ten. We have just  bought a couple of touring bikes. When we announce this, our friends and acquaintances all ask the same question: "An e-bike?". They are often surprised to hear that the answer is, "No, a staid normal touring bike with an eight speed hub gear".
"Why not an e-bike?"
Two answers:
  • An e-bike would not fit into our mode of cycling. We often take a train somewhere and then cycle on. It is important to us that we can easily lift our bikes onto trains. An e-bike weighs around 26kg. Our touring bikes weigh 14kg. In the two minutes that Deutsche Bahn allows to get our bikes onto a train the extra weight makes a big difference.
  • We store our bikes in our cellar. It is difficult enough carrying a 14kg bike down a tight curving staircase. A 26kg e-bike would be impossible.
If we lived in a hilly area then matters might well be different, but we live on the Rhine plain. This does not rule out hiring an e-bike in a mountainous area in future.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't ride in Danish pedestrian zones

We were in Nykobing this morning and as we were due to ride into the pedestrian zone, I asked a policeman whether we could. He shook his head and said that it would cost us 700 Danish Kroner, i.e. about £80. Watch out when in Denmark as it is too easy to enter a pedestrian zone without noticing.

Friday, August 15, 2014

New improved BVA ADFC 1:150 000 cycling maps of Germany

BVA have brought out improved versions of some of the ADFC cycling maps. They are water and tear resistant. They come without the booklet with the ADFC Bett and Bike info which normally end up being deep sixed at least in this house. However there is a website listed on the cover with cycling and travel information. The disadvantage is however they are more expensive and now cost €7.95. I suspect the whole series will be upgraded as required.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Paneuropa Cycle Route Paris to Prague

Maybe you have not decided where you want to go on holiday this year, but if not, or you want a long term dream route with a taste of Europe then take a look at the Paneuropa Cycle Route*. It runs from Paris to Prague via Châlons en Champagne, Nancy, Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Nürnberg (Nuremberg) and Plzen, about 1500km in total.
The route exists only on paper in France except for a few km at the start and the last 100 or so kilometres into Strasbourg. From what we have heard and read recently the French government has other more pressing problems other than putting up signposts for cycle tourists. There are however GPS downloads and excellent 1:100 000 IGN maps available covering the French portion of the route  (http://www.ign.fr). 
Signposting is much improved in Germany. From Strasbourg you can use the excellent ADFC-BVA 1:150 00 cycle maps. We would suggest you do not follow the suggested  Paneuropa route over into Germany in Strasbourg, but follow the Rhine Route on the left bank to cross into Germany by Wörth. Then cycle on to Speyer with its cathedral, technical museum and excellent cafes before crossing the Rhine to wander across the fields to reach, first Schwetzingen, where Mozart played in the chateau and Heidelberg. The French cycle route of the left bank of the Rhine is tarred whereas the route on the right bank is an untarred river bank maintenance road. The Paneuropa route follows the Neckar Valley, crosses to Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the Romantic Road and on to Nuremberg before climbing over low hills into the Czech Republic. 
The cycle routes in the Czech Republic seem often intended for mountain bikes rather than touring bikes in our limited experience, but according to the authors of a report in www.crazyguyonabike.com the route does improve nearer Prague. 

*The website is officially available  in Czech, English, French and German, but only the titles are available in English, the content is in German, so use Google Translator.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Success breeds problems as well - changes in rolling stock needed!

The Mannheimer Morgen reported 2 August 2014 that the City Council was debating the funding of new rolling stock for the VRN the regional passenger transport authority because of the growing numbers of bicycles, prams, baby carriages and wheeled zimmer frames being used by passengers. It is true to say that at weekends and on Wednesdays the S-Bahn (suburban trains) to and from the Pfalz west of Mannheim have  problems in providing enough capacity for bicycles, in spite of offering about 28 places per train unit. Many of the S-Bahn trains have two units coupled together. In urban areas the problem is made worse by kindergardens, who often use kinder-buses, super large buggies that can accommodate up to six children.

Friday, August 01, 2014

At long last, Knooppunts, Navigation Nodes migrate into the Rhineland, Germany

If you think of a node system as a system of linked points, then you are not so far from the truth. A node system is an advanced system of signs for cyclists. We have written about this before. 
This system widely used as Knooppunt in the Benelux countries will be deployed in the RadRegionRheinland (Rhineland Cycling District) in North Rhine Westphalia. A total of about 430 numbered nodes will be created.  We have written about this type of signposting several times in our blog, in our website and in our books.

As a cyclist you can use this system for your tour. For example, you simply list all the nodes on your chosen route: say 4-6-3-5-15-4. The node system is regarded as a supplement to the existing signage and will not replace it. At each node an overview map will be installed, where you can quickly and easily see where to find where the next node is. So you can decide spontaneously depending on your mood and the weather, which way via which node you will travel.

The installation of the hub system in the RadRegionRheinland will be carried out bit by bit, during the year 2014. This is very good news.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hire a bike in Berlin and drop it off in Copenhagen

If you hire a car in Madrid and wish to drive to Oslo, you can leave it in Oslo at a branch of the company. It will cost you a few pounds/dollars/euro/krone more, but you can do it. Normally it is not possible to rent a bike in one place and return it somewhere else. We have written about this problem recently.

We are planning a tour along part of the Berlin-Copenhagen cycle route and by chance I discovered that you can rent a bicycle in Copenhagen and return it in Berlin or vice versa. 
Fahrradstation (a Berlin bike hire company) in collaboration with MTB-Tour (Værløse, Copenhagen) offers the opportunity to rent a reliable bicycle in Berlin to ride this beautiful and famous international cycle route and then easily return it in Copenhagen. As well as the other way round!  You can enjoy a one-way ride without worrying about returning the bike to the starting point.

Choose your two-wheeler among a range of:
  • trekking bikes
  • mountain bikes
  • e-bikes
but also childrens' bikes and tandems!
Bike7 Days10 Days14 Days
MTB€ 199,-€ 229,-€ 259,-
Trekking Bike€ 199,-€ 229,-€ 259,-
E-Bike€ 299,-€ 349,-399,-
Child's Bike
€ 169,-

€ 399,-
For any further information and for reservation, contact Fahrradstation  at berlincopenhagen@fahrradstation.de.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Refreshing non alcoholic drinks for touring cyclists.

If you are lucky enough to come to Germany this summer, you will be faced with a wide range of beers to try. However at lunchtime bear in mind that a typical German beer has an alcohol content of between 4.5 and 5.5%. Half a litre of beer can fill your legs with lead when you set off.  You find that the hills are steeper than they were before lunch and the fields you pass get every more inviting. Alcohol is an excellent diuretic and you might find yourself nipping off into the bushes too often. It's probably better to lay off the booze at lunchtime. So what do you drink? If like us you are not a cola fan and you want a cold drink, you can order a water, but be prepared it'll be a mineral water and not free. The economics of a German restaurant are such that the customer receives expensive mineral water and not free tap water. Sorry, that's how it is. Try ordering a nicht-alkoholisches Weizenbier. This is a cloudy, very low alcohol wheat beer (less than 0.5%) and it tastes much like a yeasty normal Weizenbier. Try it. A lot of cyclists drink it not only at lunchtime.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bike Hire in the Rhine Valley between Ludwigshafen and the border with France on the left bank and between Mannheim and the Black Forest on the right bank.

We have been asked a number of times about hiring a bike at the start of a trip and dropping it off at the end. Although this idea is common enough in the motor car hire industry, it appears to be a concept that is too difficult manage in the bicycle hire industry. Basically if you want to hire a bike choose a circular route like round Lake Constance. Otherwise you will need to return the bikes to your starting point. Having said this there are exceptions:

  • Luxembourg, but as the country is only a little bigger than a postage stamp, this is not much of an advantage.
  • Rheinhessen between  Mainz and  Worms.
  • The Niederrhein Region between Düsseldorf and the Dutch border.
  • Switzerland, if you hire a bike for  two days or longer.
  • You can hire a bike in Berlin or Copenhagen and drop it off in the other city.
All of the above areas will let you hire a bike in one town and return it to a hirer in another town, but in comparison to hiring a car in Copenhagen and dropping it off in Madrid it's small beer. 

We have found another local company, bellorange® ( www.bellorange.com) that hires bikes in 15 small towns and villages between Ludwigshafen - Mannheim, the French border by Wissembourg and into the northern Black Forest. They offer a wide range of bikes, e-bikes and tandems. The website is only in German, but it features an interactive map which makes it very easy to use. This is odd because the company has a brochure in German, English, French and Spanish.

Friday, July 11, 2014

All over Rain Suit for Cyclists: Bikesuit

We have been using Rainlegs over-breeches for some years and found then to be a good way of keeping off the worst of the damp when it rains (http://www.rainlegs.com). Rainlegs cover the upper portion of the thighs and leave the rest of the leg free. This means that you are not bathed in sweat after a few kilometres in the rain - the problem with over-trousers. They are especially useful in showery weather when they don't need to be taken off once it stops raining.
We have just ordered a replacement set of Rainlegs and I noticed on the website that the company is about to sell an all-over garment resembling a multi-zipped boiler suit with a hood and feet cover in a waterproof, breathable fabric called the Bikesuit. This will be introduced to the world at the Eurobike Exhibition in Friedrichshafen, Germany in August. This is all we know. How much it weighs? How much will it cost? We do not know. There is a video of the garment in use on http://bit.ly/bikesuitpress.
The one thing we are not taken with are the partial feet covers as these tend to get holed when the rider puts his feet on the ground. It would be better if you could use the garment for walking in the rain.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Value for Money Cycle Tourists' Hotel in Passau on the Danube Cycle Route

By chance we found and stopped in the Rotel Inn in Passau recently. It's on the Danube Cycle Route. We can recommend it. The beds are 2.50m wide as are the rooms. The rooms are not ensuite but the facilities are across the corridor.  Fifty Euros for a double room or 30 Euros for a single plus six Euros each for breakfast. The hotel is clean, comfortable and the breakfast is value for money. It is five minutes from the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station). There is WLAN/WIFI if you ask for it at the desk.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Cycle touring. Booking accommodation in advance.

We decided on a recent week long tour following the Inn Valley Route to book all our accommodation in advance. Some of our nights were spent in youth hostels. In our experience it is very difficult to find a double room with or without shower in a youth hostel just by turning up at the door.

We also used booking.com to book accommodation on several nights. This site avoids problems with landlords who would normally bar touring cyclists because they only wish to stop for one night. Single night book bookings are accepted. I presume the other websites offering booking are similar.

The great advantage is that the room is booked and guaranteed. There is no need to flog yourself into a heart attack to get to the hotel by 18:00, say, in case the owner decides you are not coming.

There are a few problems however with these systems:
  • These websites do not always have all the accommodation in a city, town or village on their books. This means if you don't find a hotel on one site it pays to check one of the other booking sites.
  • Check exactly where the hotel or guest house is. We just booked ourselves into a hotel about 200m (about 650') above and 3km away from the cycle route. It was a long walk pushing a heavily laden touring bike.
  • Another snag is that these organisations fill your email in box with offers afterwards.
  • In our experience there do not appear to be many B&Bs on these websites' lists. There are however special websites offering B&Bs. Feed B&B and the name of the country or the area you are interested in into your favourite search engine.
  • Make sure you know how to get to the accommodation. Use one of the map apps to download the exact position. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Aldi's cycling gear: The vest

They are superb and keep one warm once the temperature falls.

"Cycling the River Rhine from Basel to the North Sea"

The book is finally there,  on Smashwords.com or on your local Amazon site. The book costs US$8.99.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Train travel with bike in Germany

Long distance train travel with a bicycle in Germany normally means changing trains more often than you would do without a bike.  It can be stressful and hard work. Few long distance trains in Germany take bicycles because the "Fat Controllers" of Deutsche Bahn (DB) are worried about the time it takes for cyclists to remove their steeds from ICE - high speed trains and the space bicycles take up. Bicycles are not allowed on these fast trains, which make up the majority of long distance trains in Germany. Some slower long distance trains do take bicycles, as do regional trains. The latter are specified and subsidised by provincial governments who are interested in encouraging cycle touring, so most German regional trains take bikes. When you book your ticket with DB the route seems to be  planned so you travel the maximum distance on DB long distance trains. What this means is that unless you are lucky, a cross country journey will not be the most direct route, but involve hopping from regional to long distance trains and back again. Fortunately DB issues you with a detailed plan of where to change and from what platform. (http://www.bahn.de/i/view/DEU/en/index.shtml) However this list omits to tell you how to get from one platform to the next, usually within five to ten minutes. Obviously if you just have cross from one side of an island platform to the other, it is easy. OK you might have to run from one end of your train to the other end of your connecting train, but see this as a little morning exercise, provided free of charge. If you have to change, say, from platform 1 to platform 3 you will need to cross the lines, i.e. descend to an underpass or climb a bridge. In larger stations there are lifts/elevators, but these can be very narrow and cause long queues of impatient cyclists, pram pushers, wheelchair users. In smaller stations or if the queue is too long the only option to descend to the underpass is via a flight of steps. This can be difficult, if the train was full of other passengers hurrying to catch their connection and the cyclist is not a well trained weight lifter. A laden touring bike is difficult to carry down and up a flight of steps. There is a cure to the problem and German station designers only have to travel to Switzerland to experience this. Swiss railway stations have ramps to the platforms. They are simple and effective and they don't break down. Why few ramps in Germany? Too low tech or maybe they might take up space that could be used for yet another cafe, hamburger joint and  shop selling pots and pans. The next problem comes when the train arrives. You have two minutes to get yourself, bike and baggage on the train. Sometimes other cyclists are descending. Sometimes you need to carry the bike up a flight of steps resembling the Eiger North Wall. It pays to take your panniers off the bike and if you are not on your own, work as a team. Once you get on board, you need to find your bike slot where you might have to hang your bike from a hook or slot the front wheel over a lower hook. Fat MTB tyres can be a problem in both cases.

Although there are some stressful aspects to travel with trains, on the other hand you meet other cyclists who are very helpful in our experience. It is an all hands to the pump situation.  In our experience German Railway employees are also  helpful as well.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Do you need a waterproof, windproof cycling coat for the winter that you can wear to the office or theatre - Mooi Cycling Coats

We went to the Radsalon - a bicycling event in Mannheim on Saturday - to work on the ADFC stand, As we left I did a quick survey of the other stands and discovered Mooi coats which are made of synthetic fibres which resemble wool (http://mooi-diemaentel.de/en/index.html). The coats are stylish, for both men and women.  The designer has set up a crowd funding site on www.startnext.de/mooie-die.maentel and you can subscribe to buy a coat for what seems to me to a reasonable 195 Euros. People from outside of Germany will need to pay a little more for postage. Contact the designer via the website.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Booking a self-guided cycling tour on the continent (Europe) with a local company

Several British companies offer self-guided cycle trips, but it is worth thinking about booking with a  European based company as some British companies use these foreign companies to organise their trips. Why pay two sets of agency fees? The disadvantage in booking a trip with these organisations is that you do not get ABTA protection if the company goes down the pan. However Eurobike, an Austrian company (http://www.eurobike.at/en) has been around for some time. The company has an interesting website and offers a wide range of holidays.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Winterize your bike

Seen in Heppenheim last weekend but one. Thanks to musician friend Reinhard for taking the photos. Check out his website on http://www.maibauer-gleisner.de/reinhard/

Monday, June 09, 2014

Tour de Karl 2014

The city of Mannheim organises an annual cycle ride for school classes to commemorate the first trip on a bicycle by Karl von Drais on his hobby horse invention from the centre of Mannheim to a pub on the then outskirts of Mannheim in Neckarau in 1817. The aim is to encourage cycling to school and remind children of von Drais's ride. This year it was held on the European Day of the Bicycle: 3 June rather than on the anniversary of Herr von Drais's trip, because this falls on a public holiday this year. Four hundred school children accompanied by a police motorcycle escort, some of their teachers, volunteers from the ADFC, the German Cycling Club and a sag wagon - a bus from the local bus company cycled about 7km from the centre of Mannheim down to a school in Neckarau. Judith and I were amongst the volunteers. We pumped up tyres and adjusted brakes before and after the event. A good time was had by most. Only four children needed the services of the sag wagon.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Low life in Dordrecht

On our recent research trip for the new edition of Rhine 2 from Emmerich to Hoek van Holland we had noticed that our maps were out of date and so I nipped into the VVV information centre in Dordrecht to buy more up-to-date maps to check the routes when we finally finish the book. While I was away Judith chatted up a bicycle policeman and asked him about bike theft. He replied that Dutch roadsters were a favourite of Dutch thieves. "Odd or special" bikes like our Bromptons were not of interest to the bike thieves. They were too difficult to get rid of. The reverse is true in London.  Bromptons are standard bikes there and seem to be very high on thieves' hit lists.
Judith experiences the long arm of the law.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Deliveries by bike in city centres.

Two light delivery vehicles block a street in Orléans, France.
Older city centres and many residential areas were not designed with modern traffic or goods deliveries in mind. Traffic delays are inevitable. These delays increase carbon dioxide output and reduce air quality because motors run for longer. This is as true for Germany as for anywhere else. The Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (BMU - German Federal Environmental, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety Ministry) has set up a programme to assess reducing the use of motor vehicles by courier companies in major city centres in the hope of reducing congestion, and hence lowering the emission of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. It is thought that up to 85% of local small deliveries at present made by small vans could be made by a pedelec cargo bikes. This “Ich ersetze ein Auto” - (I am replacing a van) programme is part of the National Climate Initiative where environmental and economic interests go hand in hand. The project supports use and development of new technologies in companies based in Germany, to increase competitiveness and create and secure jobs. The German government has clear aims when assisting industry.
The Austrians have stolen a march on the Germans: Grocery deliveries in downtown Vienna, Austria.

The aim is to answer the following questions during the two-year project:

How effective is the replacement of light delivery vehicles by pedelec cargo bikes in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and environmentally damaging traffic in major cities?
Which urban courier services offer the greatest potential for this transport?
What percentage of light van courier services could be carried out by couriers on pedelec cargo bikes?
What opportunities will arise from the use of pedelec cargo bikes for urban courier services and their clients?
What are the factors influencing the switch to an pedelec cargo bike by self-employed couriers and messenger bike riders?

The project 

The project is a very typical German government supported research programme involving government money, a project involving customers and manufacturers and a research organisation to manage the whole thing.
The environmental ministry, i.e. the German taxpayer is coughing up the cash.
The customers are courier services. Independent and employed couriers and bike messengers in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Dusseldorf, Leipzig, Nuremberg and Bremen have agreed to use the pedelec cargo bikes in their daily work. Both car and bike couriers are interested in the project: The electrically powered project vehicles and major potential savings for car couriers make switching to an electric cargo bike an interesting alternative. The pedelecs are cheaper to buy, to operate and offer major savings on parking tickets. For the bike messengers, the electric motor provides direct competition in the market for car courier jobs. This means: Heavier goods can be transported over long distances, which generates more revenue for couriers with pedelec cargo bikes.
DLR, the German national aeronautics and space research centre is responsible for project management and assessment. During the evaluation of the electric cargo bikes’ potential, order records and the routes followed are analysed. In addition, couriers, technicians, dispatchers and customers are being interviewed to gain information about the general acceptance. All the vehicles have the same appearance, including the logo "Ich ersetze ein Auto" (“I am replacing a van”) to raise the interest of further potential customers and users.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Aldi to sell special offer cycling gear just before le Tour hits Yorkshire

According to the editor of "Cycle" the CTC bimonthly magazine, Aldi UK is having a sale of cycling gear on 29 June. British cyclists should get ready to to get queueing.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bicycle Rental in Luxembourg City

Vélo en Ville Asbl
8 Bisserweg 1238 Luxembourg
T: +352 47 96 23 83
Bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes and trikes rental service
(Whether the trikes are HPV or converted motor bikes is not clear.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cycling in the Netherlands

If you would like to read a description of one of our typical research trips to prepare a new cycle guide, then check out  http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Rainydays.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bicycle Hire in Dordrecht, Netherlands

The bike shop at the bike parking facility at the NS railway station in Dordrecht hires bikes. Single gear bikes cost 7.50 Euros a day. Three gear bikes 9.50 Euros a day. E-bikes cost 20 Euros a day. More details on the website. The hire information is in English.
Bike Totaal Zwaan, Stationsplein 6,  T: 078 635 6830,  www.czwaan.nl

Maia Ligfietspunt
Stevensweg 79a
3319 AJ Dordrecht
T: 078 - 616 63 02,  06 – 209 28 962
E: info@maialigfiets.nl
This company offers a wide range of recumbents, recumbent trikes, tandems, bakfiets cargo bikes and even conventional bikes for hire. The website http://maialigfiets.nl is in Dutch. Look for "verhuur".

The VVV Zuid-Holland Zuid Tourist Information has e-bikes for hire. Spuiboulevard 99, T: 078-632 2422,  www.vvvzhz.nl

Monday, May 19, 2014

Carrying rucksacks, panniers and cardboard boxes on bicycles

I am amused/horrified by cyclists who need to carry heavy loads. A favourite is on their backs, rather than letting the bicycle frame carry the load. Another approach is to pop a rucksack or briefcase in a basket on the rear of the bike (better!) but then hold it down with one hand.
Some riders have to wear their load as they use road bikes to tour and commute. Road bikes are useless for anything except as a way of going fast and getting fit. They do not normally come with lugs to attach a carrier.  Others do not have any convenient way of attaching a bag to the bike rack. The standard way to attach a bag is to buy a couple of cheap and cheerful bungees.  These give me the willies. When I stretch them I have a vision  of a skewered eyeball when the hook slips. I have just come across a set of straps with a safer design: ROK Commuter Straps (http://www.rokstraps.com). You loop the strap onto the bike rack, click the buckles together and  tighten the strap around the bag.
As soon as we can find a dealer they will be bought.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Roadside emergency services for cyclists

We found an article in the Denver Post (Denver, Colorado, USA) recently: 

"Cyclists, rejoice: AAA Colorado has expanded its roadside assistance program to cover bicycles, which means members whose bikes break down during a ride can now call for help.
Under the expanded program, AAA will retrieve members and transport them and their bikes to the destination of their choice for no extra charge , AAA Colorado spokeswoman Wave Dreher said. "*

I think it is a capital wheeze, but whether it is applicable to Europe I don't know. Whether the AA, the RAC, the ADAC, ACE, etc. have the extra capacity to supply more services is debatable, although some of them do charge serious sums of money for their services, for their insurance. 
The Dutch motor club, ANWB does offers a bike roadside assistance insurance scheme (translated from Dutch): 
Bicycle Breakdown 
Roadside Bicycle Service is roadside assistance for your (electric) bike, road bike or cargobike. 
24/7 roadside assistance in the Netherlands. 
If the bike cannot be repaired on the spot. The ANWB will bring you to your destination or to a bicycle shop. 
The service costs 24 Euros annually. There are discounts. There is more information on the ANWB website: http://www.anwb.nl/wegenwacht/fiets in Dutch only, but it translates well with Google Translator.
If your bike  breaks down, there is also a chance that a passing cyclist will offer to help you. It does happen, but not always as our experience in Mainz shows (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/13861).

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Monday, May 12, 2014

It makes my heart beat faster.

Das Museum der Arbeit (The Museum of Work) in Hamburg has an exhibition "THE BICYCLE, Culture, technology, mobility " until 1 March 2015. The 600 sqm exhibition has over a hundred iconic historic bicycles of the past 200 years. It details the technological development, the design, the diverse bicycle scene, and mobility aspects of present and future - from the "hobby horse" to the Hamburg "StadtRAD" and the penny farthing of dandies to today's cargo bike bicycle couriers. We will try to spend an afternoon there on our way to Denmark later in the summer.

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