Monday, March 28, 2016

First impressions of an e-bike

We are on reasonable terms with the owner of our local bike bike shop. He has invested heavily in quality e-bikes - Flyer, Kalkhoff and Reise und Müller, to name just a few. He has three or four slightly older Flyers that would-be customers can borrow. The police road safety department in Mannheim our nearest big, well biggish, city offers short e-bike training courses for seniors. We signed up for one and have borrowed two of the Flyers from the bike shop for the course, which is on the Tuesday after Easter. The shop was closed from Good Friday until Easter Monday. We picked the bikes up on Thursday along with a pair of spare batteries. The batteries were old and somewhat ropey with a range of about 40 or so km using a mixture of standard and eco settings. We had a few days to acquaint ourselves with the bikes.

The bikes are eminently sensible hardtail city bikes with adequate baggage racks, hub gears, step over frames and an upright cycling position. They are a wolf in a sheep's clothing. They look like and are as practical as a grannie bike, however once underway one reaches 25kph very quickly even using the eco setting. The bikes are great. Continuous speeds of 20 or even 25 kph are possible against a head wind that would have us travelling at half this speed on a solely human-powered bike. They are eminently suitable for longer local trips.

Will we buy two? Not at the moment.  We have developed a mobility concept that fits our lifestyle well. We walk or cycle within Viernheim, mainly on our Brompton folding bikes or use the local bus. We both have pensioners' travel cards that give us free travel over a wide area once we have purchased them. They cost about €400 annually. For day walks we use our pensioners' travel cards to give us cheap travel into the Odenwald or the Palatinate Forest. Once in the hills the provision of local bus and trains there is good enough to allow us enough flexibility to enjoy linear walks. For multi-day bicycle tours we can use our touring bikes or even our Bromptons.  We do use the car occasionally to travel to places that cannot be reached easily by train or bus, e.g. Dinkelsbühl to talk to the Romantic Road Tourist Authority and for our annual trip to Britain.

We see at least two major problems:

  • The bikes are heavy to push or carry on to trains.
  • Where would we store them? At the moment our normal bikes are stored in the cellar and I can  just about manage to stagger up and downstairs with them, but Judith finds it just about impossible. We would like to install a bike garage at the front of the house, but we need planning permission for this.   

At the same time I think we will hire e-bikes when they make sense. If we were to write another cycle touring guide an e-bike would be a godsend.

  • If Cicerone, the best known British outdoor guide publishers ever asked us to update our Swiss Guide we would only take on the work if we could hire e-bikes.  It is eight or nine years since we wrote the last guides and neither Judith's or my pins have got stronger in this time.
  • As we wrote recently the Romantic Road has been extended to include Wertheim and we should investigate the route between Würzburg and Wertheim once the signposting has been redone. In which case I would be tempted to take local train to Würzburg from Mannheim and hire e-bikes there for day.

Friday, March 25, 2016

It's almost 200 years since the first bike ride

A von Drais hobby horse
On 12 June 1817 Karl von Drais left Mannheim to travel down to "Schwetzinger Relaishaus" (a coaching inn in Rheinau, a suburb of Mannheim) for a quick refreshment. He cycled, he scooted or he pushed his hobby horse or draisine on Baden's best road which is why he went to Rheinau. It was less than 5 miles. The round trip took him little more than an hour, but it was the "small step for a man and a big step for mankind". It was the start of individual horseless transport. It was the first bicycle.
Although Mannheim is better known as the birthplace of the motor car due to Karl Benz, the city is going to celebrate the 200th anniversary of this ride in a big way.
  • There will be a major exhibition on the bicycle in the provincial museum of science and industry: Technoseum from 11 November 2016 until 25 June 2017 - Zwei Räder 200 Jahre Two wheels 200 years. The exhibition will show original hobby horses, historic bicycles and special developments along with social aspects of the bicycle's development and its changing image over the centuries.
  • From May to September 2017 films are going to be shown in unusual spots all over Mannheim. The audience will supply the power via bike dynamos.
  • Tour de Karl On 2 June 2017 children from classes 4 to 6 will follow the route taken by Karl Drais from Mannheim city centre to Rheinau.

Tour de Karl 2015 Waiting around for the start

  • Monnem Bike - das Festival Three days of bicycle events from 10 - 12 June 2017 including hobby horse racing, the recumbent bicycle world championships and a World Klapp event - racing on modified or original Klapprads.
  • Monnem Bike - die Show The Finale is an event with theatre and music in the courtyard of the Mannheim Schloß on 16 September 2017.
Mannheim is lies in the middle of good cycling country and is not far from Germersheim, home of the SPEZI Special Bicycle Show, so next year would be a good year to visit SPEZI and get new design ideas by reviewing the history of the bicycle.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ways of encouraging cycling to work

We are thinking of building a bicycle box for the front of the house and came across the Velo-Boxx which is manufactured in Belgium. It would appear that Belgian tax laws are very cyclist friendly:

Pursuant to article 64 (b) of the Belgian Income Tax Code (WIB of 1992; assessment year 2010), the Velo-Boxx is a 120% deductible expenditure;
ー all costs incurred or borne that relate specifically to encouraging employees to cycle to and from work to the extent that any such costs have been incurred or borne in order to:
- Acquire real estate, to build or renovate a facility for parking cycles during the
working hours of the employees; or
- Provide sanitary conveniences or changing rooms, with showers as appropriate.

An excellent idea.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A hotel porter for cyclists or where can I hang my panniers?

We as sensible cyclists use Ortlieb panniers. They are very waterproof and fit on most bikes easily, but when they are half empty they are floppy and look untidy. You often need to scrabble about on the floor to pack them. This is true for most panniers using lorry/truck covering sheets. The owner of the Hotel Neuhaus in Neuhaus near Cuxhafen on the Elbe Cycle Way* noticed this and fitted hooks to take panniers on the walls or radiators of his rooms.
On a bike underway panniers are utilitarian and you can forget about them. However if you need to carry your panniers up to your room using the loops on top of the bags you shortly notice that the blood circulation in your fingers is seriously restricted. It is not pleasant. The owner of said Hotel Neuhaus has developed a trolley on which you hang your panniers to transport your bags from the bike storage area to your room. He is investigating patenting the device. The hotel sounds like a good place to visit. The owner also offers baggage transfer for groups. The hotel's website is The big snag it's in German, so use Google Translator.
*BTW it is better to cycle up the Elbe rather than downstream as the prevailing wind is from the west.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Bicycle and e-bike hire in the upper Rhine Valley (Southern Rhineland Palatinate, North Baden) in Germany

Bellorange Fahrradverleih offers a range of hire bicycles in the South of Rhineland Palatinate and North Baden (Black Forest) for both short and long periods. The website is in German, but you can check the location of the bike stations, look at prices "Preise" on the website or ring the company on +49 6323 957 423 1,  where you can chat in English. Bikes can be picked up in:

  • Edenkoben.
  • Bad Bergzabern.
  • Wörth.
  • Speyer.
  • Bad Dürkheim.
  • Bad Wildbad.
  • Enzklösterle.

Bikes can be returned to other locations. Many hotels in the area offer this company's bikes for hire. Many of the hire sites only have a few bicycles and so, it is necessary to book, at the latest, a few days in advance. For the busy periods, school holidays, public holidays and the like, for example, it is better to book as soon as you can.

There are two sites in Edenkoben, one of which is the company's central warehouse. This is near to the railway station. Bike hire here is at the time of writing 10% cheaper than in the other locations. Need we say more? Information about rail travel in Germany can be found on and local public transport (bus, railway and ferries) in Rhineland Palatinate and Northern Baden-Württemberg  can found on

Prices are reasonable. There are serious discounts for multi day and for group hire.
The company offers:
  • Touring bikes with 8 gear hub gears and a back pedal brake.
  • Touring bikes with 24 gear derailleur gears.
  • Premium touring bikes with 30 gear derailleur gears.
  • Mountain bikes.
  • Pedelecs (e-bikes). As long as all goes well we hope we can hire at least two of these bikes to follow the Rhineland Palatinate Route, mentioned last week.
  • Trailers for drink crates, dogs and children. Not all at the same time.
  • Helmets.
  • Gloves and other oddments. 
  • Extra batteries for e-bikes.
We have yet to hire from the company, but from our written contact it seems to be well organised. We will report after our trip later in the year.

Blog Archive