|HG Wells is quoted as saying: "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." If he'd have been in Germersheim at SPEZI, the Special Bicycle Show, over the last weekend in April he would have been giggling with joy. Perhaps I have the wrong idea but I have the impression that the big bicycle shows like Eurobike, Taipei International or Interbike are where the suits meet to talk business to create "comprehensive trade platforms" or "manufacturers, retailers, media & more conduct the business of cycling". SPEZI is where the real freaks come. I read a comment by a representative of HP that SPEZI is
"back to the roots". It is where the
companies get to meet people who are prepared to dig deep and want
decent answers. People with disabled family members who still want to cycle together or who want them to learn to cycle. People whose vision of towns and cities is without motor cars and diesel powered delivery trucks. It is where the garage-based inventors come to show off new ideas or rejuvenate old ones. Fans check out bicycles or tricycles that cost more than newish secondhand family saloons. In a word, it is wonderful. |
The two day exhibition covers three halls, an outdoor area and three test tracks (children's bikes and trikes, adult bikes and trikes, electrobikes and trikes). These are our impressions of the show. We did not see everything. We could only visit the show on one day this year.
AccessoriesRecently we wrote about assembling a pair of gloves that could be used as direction indicators at night. If knitting a pair of gloves and assembling the electronic bits and pieces is too much work, then check out GTC Germany Ltd who offer gloves with a built in lighting feature. (http://www.blinkerhandschuh.com/) OK, it's a gimmick, but it could well be a gimmick that saves your life on a dark night in city traffic. Anything that makes you more conspicuous is a good thing.
Two other possible life savers are a Hubbub helmet mirror sold by Junik (www.junik-hpv.de)
and a mirror to fit a glasses arm sold by Pedalkraft (http://www.pedalkraft.de/spiegel.htm).
In addition to the trike pickup models, long john etc. , we noticed a well designed trailer from Hinterher.com. This was so popular with visitors that we could not take a photograph as we couldn't get near enough.
The outdoor exhibition area had a number of cargo bikes on show:
|Maderna.MCS Trucks (www.maderna.at)|
|Radkutsche Rapid cargo bike as a transporter for children|
|A Radkutsche Muskatiere as a mobile home (http://www.radkutsche.de)|
- Race This replaced the Saturday afternoon trike race that stopped two years ago. Participants had to move a number of car tyres and empty beer barrels across a short course. It sounds like it is good fun and we will try to be there next year on Saturday afternoon to watch it.
Integrating people with disabilitiesIt is heartening to see the efforts to integrate disabled people into the cycling world with the Hase Pino as a good example. There are a growing number of companies offering human powered and electrically assisted bikes, trikes and vehicles for the ever growing number of older people who want exercise but not take part in the Tour de France.
EnthusiastsAlthough over the years SPEZI has lost some of its home made bike builders, there are still thankfully courageous pioneers who want to offer a different approach to cycling. We had a long talk to Christoph Lenz on the Maynooth Bike stand (http://maynoothbike.com). He has designed and constructed a semi-recumbent bicycle where rather than turning the drive wheel the rider pumps the pedals up and down. It looks like a lot of fun and should make an effective comfortable, city and shopping bike. It would also be helpful for amongst others people who have not cycled for some years, as one can put one's feet down quickly. The problem we see is that not only are engineers and cyclists very conservative, but also the conventional bicycle has over one hundred years development behind it. It will take a lot of effort on Christoph's part to persuade the cycling community to change its ways. We wish him well in his efforts.
|The Maynooth Bike|
|A foot braked Maynooth Bike for a customer who has difficulty using their hands.|
A velomobile built out of wood, carbon fibre and a plastic or fabric skin to very strict design rules by two Frenchmen in London and Valence (http://mosquito-velomobiles.com/index.htm).
A electro velomobile design based on the post second world war Messerschmitt Kabinroller (www.veloschmitt.de). These are on sale for about five or six thousand Euro.
FitnessThere seemed to be more interest in fitness bikes this year:
Elliptigo showed its stand up bicycles which use a cross country skiing motion to propel the bike at a rate of knots. It is probably very invigorating.
Both the Ruder-Rad and Varibike let the cyclist use their hands in addition to their legs to power the bike. This gives you a whole body workout. You need to move the Rudi-Rad handlebars backward and forward in a rowing action. (www.ruder-rad.de) The company builds recumbents, city bikes and tandems with and without electrical assistance.
|A rowing and pedalling recumbent from Ruder-Rad|
On the ICE stand we saw the trike that Maria Leijerstam cycled from the edge of the Antarctic to the South Pole in 2013.
|An amazing effort|
We were interested to hear on the HP stand that one of their trikes is now offered with 8cm higher seats, as OAPs like ourselves have difficulties getting up from near the ground. We noticed too that most manufacturers now offer an upright pole as an accessory to aid owners of rheumaticky limbs in getting up. This has been a feature on Anthrotech trikes for many years.
There is a definite trend towards building folding bikes and trikes. This is not so much to make the bike or trike small enough to carry on a train when commuting, but more to load it in to a car or store it easily at home. Both HP and AZUB had folding trikes on offer. Gobiidae Trikes from Barcelona, a new company for us has three models, one of which is a folding model (http://www.gobiidaetrikes.com/).
| Anthrotech trike seats are high above the ground anyway. |
PedalPower one of the growing number of bike fabricators in Berlin had a folding tandem on its stand.
PedlPower folding tandem.
MiscellaneousIn the outdoor area one could try a Quattrocycle, a Dutch built four wheeled four passenger human powered and/or electrically assisted rig that would be ideal to bowl along a promenade on a sunny day. (http://www.quattrocycle.com/uitvoeringen/quattrocycle/index.php). Although all four passengers can pedal in whatever gear they wish or not pedal at all, only one steers and brakes. It appears to be a somewhat complex matter, though from the serious discussions between family and hire company taking place:
The British government is trying to encourage manufacturing rather than high finance and so we were pleased to see Union Flags on Airnimal, Bromptons, Circe Tandems, ICE trikes, KMX trikes and (virtually) AVD's Windcheetah trikes. We would be even more pleased if Her Majesty's Government would invest more than fine words to cut down cyclists' accident rates, in cycle paths, e.g. and worked out a way of encouraging more folk to invest in industry rather than bricks and mortar. It is apparent from the experience of both Berlin and Copenhagen that investment in cycle ways spurs development of a bicycle building industry.
We were somewhat surprised on the AVD stand to be accused of being from Yorkshire as we are both Lancastrians, but the next time we are in Bolton we will try to nip up to Darwin to observe production there.
We are always pleased to visit SPEZI, because Voss, the German Brompton importer, sells spare parts that are difficult to find elsewhere without paying p&p for mail order. Both our Bromptons are pushing 20 years old and it is not surprising that the elastic cords on the baggage rack for example, have given up the ghost.
- e-Bikes I am afraid our tea addiction drove us home at this point.
- There are airports in Frankfurt, Hahn, Strasbourg, Baden and Stuttgart, if you must fly.
- Good high speed train connections from London to Strasbourg via Paris and Mannheim via Paris or Brussels.
- Good regional train services from Karlsruhe and Mannheim. Connections from Strasbourg via Lauterbourg and Wörth.
- There is plenty of free car parking space available, but you might have to walk for ten minutes.
- Tickets can be ordered in advance about two to three weeks beforehand with payment using SEPA and picked up on the door. Getting in is less of a problem than it used to be. Then are now four ticket sales points at the main entrance, one at the back of Hall 2 and one in Hall 3.
- Lots available locally. Talk to the town's tourist office.
- Excellent. If you don't fancy the three course menu for €12.50 in the restaurant, there's a cheaper self service area downstairs or you can walk into town to eat in a pub there.
GermersheimGermersheim is a town set in the remains of 19C fortifications. It is an interesting little place. It is set in Rhineland Palatinate whose southern portion was part of Bavaria from 1814 to 1946. Germersheim's Bavarian rulers started to build a fortress in 1831. It was completed in 1855, although excavations for underground passages continued until 1861. By this time, however, the fortress was outdated, as artillery had improved greatly in the thirty years since work began. The fortress was destroyed in 1921/22 under the Treaty of Versailles. Some parts still exist. As you approach SPEZI you pass a number of 19C buildings that were part of the fort. The town is home to the University of Mainz Institute of Translation.
|A memorial to to some of the Bavarian units that were stationed in Germersheim.|