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 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. ( 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 ( The coats are stylish, for both men and women.  The designer has set up a crowd funding site on 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 ( 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

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.

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