I have spent many a pleasant hour or so reading "Crazy Guy on a Bike" - a website run as a place where cyclists can recount their adventures and pick up advice where to stop, cycle, eat or find the best beer in town (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com). Recently I was looking for information on cycling in the Netherlands and North Germany. Various of the articles mentioned difficulties with finding accommodation, somewhere to eat, shopping and the weather. I suspect there a few steps to take and a few facts to realise before you swing your leg over your bike and set out for the European Continent.
- Accommodation: Check out accommodation before you go. Either use a search engine to find tourist office websites along your route, try to go to a tourism fair, check out our "Cycling in Europe entry" entitled "Cyclist- and bicyclist-friendly accommodation in Europe" or drop a line to the national tourist office of the country of interest.
- On the web you may well need to wade through a number of hotel booking websites to find an official tourist office website, where you can also find B&Bs and or holiday flats. You can also try using Name of City.de or .dk or .fr, etc. which will lead to the official sites. There are also regional tourist offices. Checking these sites will give you a feel for the average price of accommodation in the towns and villages on route.
- If you are writing to the national tourist offices, once you get the addresses of the regional or city offices write to them. Normally you will be showered with information. Read it all. As an example, we found some years ago that the average price of hotels in a string of French towns could vary by up to 50%. This will also give you a feel for how much accommodation is available. This will help you save time when looking.
- Once you are underway, if you are not booking ahead, try to start looking for somewhere to stop at 16:00 (4 o'clock). You will rarely find anything at a reasonable price much later.
- Eating: If you find a place way out in the country that is super remember you might want to eat in the evening and if the house concerned is 5 or 10km from the near restaurant or inn, that's what you will need to cycle to get some food. It might be worth enquiring whether your landlady can prepare you an evening meal.
- Public Holidays: These are taken more seriously than in the UK. Shops and tourist offices will be closed on these days. Public transport will still run, but may be with a restricted service. It is definitely not like the UK where shops are open on public holidays, so make sure you have enough supplies. Public holidays do not match those of your country.
- The weather: It can be as cold and wet in the Netherlands as it is in East Anglia, so take appropriate gear. The wind is your constant companion in the Netherlands, Denmark and much of Northern Germany. If you are cycling in hilly country you are unlikely to climb more than a few thousand metres per day, i.e. hills come to an end sometime, however a continental head wind can last several days and can easily reduce your normal speed by 20 or 30%. The prevailing winds come from the west. Bear this in mind when you are route planning. Just as an example if you want to cycle along the Elbe then cycle upstream with the prevailing wind behind you, rather than cycling downstream. The major continental rivers have few gradients along much of their routes.