Monday, December 05, 2011

Electrobike website

If you read German or can put up with Google translator's attempts then it is worth having a look at for advice on buying an e-bike, technical aspects and information about the latest models.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cycling in Denmark

Since its capital city, Copenhagen, is rated as one the best, if not the best city in the world to cycle, Denmark is obviously a good place for cycle touring. We were very pleased to discover a new route planning website for the country: on a recent visit to Copenhagen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Changing trains in Hamburg

If you need to travel a long way with Deutsche Bahn German Railways you will more than probably need to change trains. Trains in Germany often work on the hub principle beloved of US airlines. If it is just a case of walking from one side of a platform to the other this is no problem, but if you need to get from one side of a major station to the other then it can be difficult.  One of the ideas that would help the progress of the human race would be a chart of actual change times at various railway stations. 
We changed trains in Hamburg Hauptbahnhof last night. Theoretically our train to Mannheim left 8 minutes after our train from Copenhagen arrived. Our train was four minutes late arriving, so we had four minutes to ascend to the connecting bridge, run over approximately eight platform widths, descend to the departure platform and get on our train, and all this with two folded Bromptons and two quite heavy hand held bags. In addition there were a number of folk with immense hard shell cases who were not sure that this was their train, so needed to stop on the stairs, at the bottom of the stairs and by the train door to enquire and reflect. We fell onto the train soaked in sweat and in urgent need of a beer. 
There is a way round this problem. When you use the German Railway timetable website:, you can adjust the Duration of Transfer when you set up your journey. Quarter of an hour or twenty minutes for changes is not a bad idea.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Powering along. With electrobikes on holiday

Electrobikes are losing their image as OAP-Ferraris as their price and weight fall, and range and reliability improve. In continental Europe two trends are particularly obvious and encouraging: Fixed centre hire and touring.
Fixed Centre Hire
More and more bike hire firms and day tour operators are offering electrobikes to rent for day trips or for the holiday duration. Alpine resorts, in particular, wish to market not only the peace, quietness and possibilities of contact with nature for their area, but also its air quality. Heavy road traffic has negative effects on all of these. A group of resorts in the Alps has gone so far as to offer “Soft Mobility', low carbon footprint sustainable tourism. These are known as the Alpine Pearl resorts ( Here guests are encouraged to take car-free holidays, to travel to the resorts by public transport, i.e. rail and leave the car at home or at least parked whilst in the resort. Holiday makers are offered subsidised public transport and facilities for human powered activities. The electrobike fits in well with this concept and currently eight of the 20 Alpine Pearl communities offer electrobike hire: Bad Reichenhall in Germany, Berchtesgaden, Werfenweng in Austria, Arosa and Interlaken in Switzerland, and Tiers, Welschnofen and Deutschnofen in the semi-autonomous province of South Tyrol in Italy. 
Many other resorts too have learned to appreciate the value of electrobike hire. These resorts offer cycle and even MTB trails that can be used by the electrically assisted cyclist. Typically the organisers set up a number of battery exchange or charging centres across the area in beer gardens, monastery breweries or cafes where the thirsty can recharge both their bike's batteries for 1-2 cents an hour and their own batteries for the cost of a beer and roast pigs' legs or coffee and cake.
Interestingly Switzerland and Japan are world leaders in electrobike ownership and about 70% of the electrobikes in Switzerland are Swiss Flyers. 
Tour companies are offering electrobikes as an extra to encourage people who have not ridden a bicycle since Adam was a lad to take part in their holidays. In this way weaker members of the group can keep up with members of the Charles Atlas calf brigade. The tour companies hope to widen their customer base and make their customers' holidays a little less strenuous.
NB The prices shown in the tables are not written on tablets of stone and can vary, but should be taken as a guide. At the time of writing the pound was worth about 1.15 Euro and 1.4 CHF, but if we knew what was going to happen in the money markets we would not be writing this, but be down the bank changing our savings. There is too a distressing tendency for foreigners to insist on writing their websites in foreign languages, The cure is to use Google Translator, Babel Fish or similar translation program, or send the company or tourist office an eMail in English. They will reply in English. Absence of a resort or tour company just means that we haven't seen their names on various Internet lists, but not that electrobikes are not on offer. In our experience most of the members of a guided cycle group will be able to speak English and they will be overjoyed to practise it.
Fixed centre hire
Burgundy Electrobikes to rent from the tourist office in Auxere:

Between Rapperswill on Lake Zurich, Walenstadt on Walensee and GlarusTourismus Amden-Weesen
Dorfstrasse 22, CH-8873 Amden,
eMail: Flyer ?
Emmental (Emme Valley) between Bern and Lucerne Gemeindeverwaltung Trubschachen, CH-3555 Trubschachen, (in German), Flyer 25 Flyers (CHF40,-/day) Three tandems (CHF70,-/day)
NW of Lucerne, Willisau-Hasle-Rüegsau Reisezentrum Willisau, CH 6130 Willisau, eMail: Flyer 2 Battery exchange stations

East Switzerland Appenzell Appenzellerland Tourismusmarketing AG Schäfligasse 12
CH-9050 Appenzell Telephone +41 (0)71 788 08 18 
eMail:  Flyer At least 40 bikes and 20 recharging stations
Engadine SE Switzerland Albula Valley (Bergün), Lenzerheide, Davos 15 Hire stations with about 40 electrobikes and 20 battery charging stations Flyer Between CHF 30 and 40 per day, depending on length of hire
Engadine SE Switzerland near St Moritz Flying Cycles GmbH 
Tolais (opp. station) l, CH-7504 Pontresina
250 eBikes all over Switzerland at the railway stations in 
Airolo, Andermatt, Basle, Bern, Biel, Disentis, Fiesch, Illanz, Interlaken West, Locarno, Lucerne, Meiringen, Murten. Neuchâtel, Noiraigue, Oberwald, , Romanshorn, Saignelégier, Samedan, Willisau Rent a Bike AG, Merkurstrasse 2, CH-6210 Sursee (In German and French, English language promised) Flyer Daily hire costs between CHF 42 and 50. Bikes can be returned to other railway stations.
Southern Switzerland, Locarno, Ascona, Lago Maggiore Electrobikes are widely available from 32 centres, e.g. from hotels, the information desks of the Ente Turistico Lago Maggiore (Tourist Offices) in Locarno, Ascona and Brissago amongst others. Flyer 
Switzerland: Erstfeld on the Gotthard Pass railway line. Velo Infanger, Gotthardstrasse 107, CH 6472 Erstfeld (300m from station) Flyer  
North Germany, Cuxhafen Mietrad, T. Larschow, Schillerstr. 45, D-27472 Cuxhaven Flyer Between 30 and 15€/day

Bavarian Alps/Austria Salzgammergut Movelo GmbH ( offers over 50 electrobikes in SE Bavaria around Berchtesgaden and near Lake Chiemsee at about a dozen hire stations ( Flyer 

Bavarian Alps Three companies in and around Bad Tölz SE of Munich offer electrobike hire with 11 charging points:  Flyer 

Germany Schwäbisch Alb Kurverwaltung (Tourist Office) Bad Urach, Flyer 30-40€ daily
Italy: South Tyrol Tiers/Tires, Welschnofen/Nova Levante and Deutschnofen/Nova Ponante ( Flyer 
Austria Danube Valley, Styria, Switzerland Lausanne St Gallen ROTALIS - Reisen per Rad, D-85604 Zorneding, Modified hire bike 140€ extra per trip (about a week)
Austria Danube Valley Passau Vienna Colditzer Reisebüro Töpfergasse 5 D - 04680 Colditz, Germany Flyer About 700 € per person for seven nights bed and breakfast with baggage transport. An electrobike costs about 90€ a week. 
Switzerland All nine Swiss National Routes SwissTrails GmbH Chlupfstrasse 8, CH-8165 Oberweningen Flyer
Switzerland Jura Saignelégier to Neuchâtel via Mont-Soleil, Tête de Ran and Couvet. Goût & Région Case postale 131 CH 2108 Couvet (Only in French and German) eMail: Flyer About CHF 370 to CHF 500 per person with baggage transport for two nights bed and breakfast. 
Switzerland Meiringen, Grosse Scheidegg, Grindelwald, Interlaken, Kandersteg, Brig, Rhone Valley, Grimsel Pass, Meiringen Alpavia GmbH, Bahnhofstrasse 35, CH-3700 Spiez eMail: Flyer A trip round the Jungfrau and Eiger. Good value for money at CHF 1280 for 6 nights HP. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Unexpected Hazards

When cycling past a line of parked cars in Germany, it's obviously necessary to watch for folks opening car doors to avoid being "doored", but German motorists have invented a variation that makes life even more difficult for the innocent cyclist abroad: It is usual in Germany to put small children in car seats behind the driver on the left hand side of the car. When the car is parked, the driver will get out, open their own door even wider or the rear door to get little Hans or Edeltraud out of the back seat. This brings with it three potential dangers:
The parent  is only concentrating on getting the child out and does not notice the two wheeled technicolor dream bearing down on the car.
When Hans or Edeltraud are freed from their seat they spring out into the road.
If this activity is happening on the other side of the road passing motorists can swerve out to avoid the open car door and/or little Hansi or Edeltraud.
All we can do is advise cyclists to do is keep a watchful out when passing parked cars, but you do that anyway, don'tcha?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Avoiding a faux pas in a German pub

This definitely applies to Bavaria: When you walk into a country pub/restaurant you will notice that although there are tablecloths/ cutlery on most of the tables, one biggish table will be bare. This is the Stammtisch, where the regulars sit. There is no restriction on sitting there, but we advise you not to sit there, even if the landlord/lady lets you. It is not done. You only sit there if you are invited.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guided Cycle Touring

We, like Tim Burleigh of, do not lead multi-day tours in Germany or anywhere else. We offer advice about where to cycle, how to cycle etc. with our books ( and website, and Tim with his website. Judith and I have experienced both sides of guided touring. (Judith and I have organised a day tour for the local group of the ADFC over most of the last few years. If any of our readers wish to come on the next club tour we organise, drop us an eMail, but be warned we do live a long way south of London town.)

We worked as member of a tour leader team for an American organisation and as customers with a Geman tour company. The former was superbly well organised with back up van, directional signs painted on the road and well maintained hire bikes including spares. It was expensive, but value for money.  The customers had to pay for a driver and two guides. 

We paid serious sums of money to join a German tour group last year. It was advertised an easy trip for beginners. The less said about the trip the better, but we found that many of the members of the group including the leader saw the whole trip as a sporting exercise. We had been looking forward to a leisurely few days in the autumn, but found ourselves struggling having to race up hills.

If you are going to travel on a group tour enquire about its aims, so that you don't find yourself bored out of your mind because the group wants to cycle 30 or 40 Km a day or you're struggling to keep up the whole time. Be prepared to remind the leader about this. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cycling across Strasbourg

It strikes us that cyclists are often interested in cycling through a city, but not that bothered about seeing the sights or at least spending a lot of time doing it. This is quote from our new eBook: "Following the Rhine gently upstream, Rotterdam to Basel, a cycle tourist's guide" showing how to cross Strasbourg.
It starts in la Wantzenau just north of the city.

In la Wantzenau turn off left towards la Robertsau and Strasbourg through the village and then turn left into the woods. The route through the woods is delightful, allows easier access to Kehl and avoids finding one’s way through the maze of streets that is central Strasbourg. 
Once out of the Robertsau Woods follow the route through a posh suburb to reach the Quai Jacoutot and the Marne Rhine Canal. Cross the canal, turn left along a cycle path on the canal bank. It is easier to cross the road to the left hand side before the bridge and cycle on the footpath across the bridge. Follow the path along the edge of the canal by Rue du Général Conrad to Rue du Général Picquard
To reach Kehl turn right along Rue d’Ostende. It is signposted. Left along Boulevard d’Anvers to cross Anvers Bridge. Swing right at the end of the bridge to follow Route du Petit Rhin to Route du Rhin. Follow this to the left signposted Kehl/Allemagne to cross the Europa Bridge to reach Kehl.
To reach the Vélo Rhin route south towards Marckolsheim (and Basel), carry straight on along the Quai des Belges under the Anvers Bridge to reach the Quai des Alpes, Quai du Général Koenig, Quai Fustel de Coulanges and Quai Louis Pasteur. Turn left to cross the bridge and then right to reach the Vélo Rhin cycleway to Illkirch-Graffenstaden (signposted). 

Without wishing to be trivial, the two highlights that tourists visit in Strasbourg are the Minster and Petite France, an area of half-timbered houses and narrow canals. Following our route around the centre of Strasbourg it is possible to visit both tourist highlights: 
Strasbourg Minster At the second bridge carrying trams look right. You will see the Minster, turn right to follow Rue de la Première Armée Française towards the church. It is difficult to miss. There are a number of cycle shops on Rue de la Première Armée Française.
Petite France Return to the same route and follow the canal side cycle path along Quai Louis Pasteur toward Illkirch-Graffenstaden. Just before crossing the bridge turn left across the canal to join the towpath, then dive off left to cycle under the bridge and then follow the towpath right to reach the edge of Petite France.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Fest

Yet again apologies for the length of time that it has taken us to sort out the new book: "Following the Rhine gently upstream, Rotterdam to Basel, a cycle tourist's guide". It is finally finished and is on It is available in just about every form for every type of reader that Smashwords can think of.  Why it took us so long we don't know and we are still fighting to set up the Kindle version for sale on Amazon, but readers can buy a version for Kindle from Smashwords.
The next issue of atob Magazine will feature an article by us about travelling by rail with bicycles in Italy and we were asked to write something new about ourselves. One of the lines we used to describe the Rhine Valley was "where the Fest is a way of life…" The magazine's copy editor, Peter Henshaw was troubled by the term "Fest" and asked us to explain it. We are using the term to describe the ability of the Germans to organise an event with lots to eat and drink and much jollity to celebrate almost anything. This weekend, for example, there is an Oktoberfest on two evenings with a marquee, Bavarian beer and food in Mannheim; there are two nights when the multicultural Jungbusch area of Mannheim (read Soho) celebrates between 20:00 and 02:00 with live music on stages set in the street, classical concerts in the churches and food from all over Europe and the Near East; the local power from waste incinerator is having an open day on Saturday with, of course, eating and drinking, games for the kids and a visit by the Mannheim ice hockey team and there is a week long annual fair starting next weekend in nearby Speyer. Viernheim's annual Kerwe ( a fair to celebrate the founding of the church.) looms. The Town Hall car park is closed from next week. In addition we received an invitation in the post this morning to visit the 50th anniversary of the founding of our local electrical goods shop with fun and games for children, special offers, cooking demos and the odd item to eat or drink. We learned today that one of the local annual German-American Volksfests will continue even when the US Army leaves the area in 2012.
What this means for the touring cyclist: As you travel along the Rhine Valley on a Saturday or a Sunday you are likely to pass tables and benches where folks are sitting nibbling on a pig's leg and sipping beer, wine or lemonade, listening to  live music anything from Country and Western  through swing to an oompaah band. Get off your bike and join them. You will be made welcome.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Mannheim hard done by yet again?

First of all an apology for the lack of blogs since August, but we are trying to finish our new Kindle e-book "Rhine Upstream". As well we needed to find some photographs of railways in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for publication in "AtoB" ( This was a more difficult job than either we or David Henshaw, the editor of that august publication imagined. We cracked the problem and this had the added advantage that we were better prepared to source photographs for the next country in the list: Italy.
Mannheim can lay claim to being very important in the development of individual mobility. Karl Friedrich Freiherr Drais made the world's first "bicycle" trip in June 1817 on his velocipede or hobby horse, a kind of simple bicycle between the centre of Mannheim to the Schwetzinger Realaishaus,  a pub. Drais was born in Karlsruhe and the citizens of Karlsruhe claim that really Karlsruhe should be considered the site of the start of the age of mass individual mobility. (There is however a Drais bike route in Mannheim.)
Then in 1886 Carl Benz was awarded the first patent for a vehicle with gas engine drive. Two years later his wife Bertha undertook the first car trip in the world and drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim. (Somewhat of a kick in the pants for chauvinistic male drivers. Not only are women reputedly safer drivers, but one of them was the first driver in the world.) The route she took can be followed:, including seeing the first filling station in the world, a chemist's shop in Wiesloch where she bought ligroin. However at the same time Gottlieb Daimler was building similar machines in Stuttgart. The HQ of the company the two founded in 1926 is in Stuttgart, so we Mannheimers have the impression that the role of Mannheim yet again is being diminished for the greater glory of one of Stuttgart's sons. The company's name no longer reflects the role of the Carl Benz since 1998 when Daimler - Benz AG absorbed the Chrysler company and since 2007 when the Chrysler operations were divested, it is just called Daimler AG.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Between the Rhine and the Odenwald Hills Part II

Ried Club Run Cycling distance 70 km
The weather forecast for July 14 2011 suggested that early sunshine would give way to cloud and probably thunderstorms by the afternoon, but our group was 18 strong as we left Bensheim Station, close up against the Odenwald edge. First along cycleways, quiet roads past a war cemetery where not only combatants but also forced labour camp victims were buried, then into the shady forest bearing gradually northwest. We sped along on gravel tracks heading for Maria Einsiedel, a pilgrimage church and our first contact with the Geopark route. The signs are so discrete that several members of our party did not see them until we had passed at least 10 of them!
Now out in the Ried proper, the former marshes have been drained and the loams and clays aided by modern fertilisers are fertile. We followed country roads, often on cycle ways through farming settlements like Allmendfeld with its half-timbered buildings and flower gardens passing by fields of wheat, barley, oats and maize, interspersed with potatoes and sugar beet. We dodged great sprays of irrigation water jetting over the crops, including a whole field of chives. This had just been mowed as we passed by on our pre-tour ride, the aroma was wonderful and made us hungry! We were cycling over a natural gas storage reservoir, which uses porous rocks from which oil has already been extracted, its existence marked only by occasional fenced off head works. In the little town of Riedstadt, an elderly local caught our group up and insisted we visited the museum just on the corner. It was well worth it, if only for the remains of a Bronze Age 'Lady of the Sands', a fully 5'10'' tall young female complete with bracelets and earings (picture). She was found nearby in 1994 as a field was being ploughed.

We pressed on to Stockstadt, where the Romans probably had a harbour on an old meander of the Rhine. We had passed the shadowy remains of a Roman road on the way here, revealed from the air by crop marks. In Stockstadt we had our picnic, on the southern edge of Kühkopf, a large nature reserve, with a visitor centre complete with huge tabletop models of the whole area. Oil was produced here too, comparatively recently. Kühkopf is well known to most local Germans and has a well founded reputation for its biting insects. We kept out on this occasion. Here, during WW II a wooden decoy model of Mannheim was constructed but many Allied bombers went on to destroy large chunks of that city.
Lunch over we swung in and out of Stockstadt to pick up our route along the high dam of the meander cut off to the Rhine itself, at the spot where the Hesse engineer Krönke had a 7 m trench dug in March 1828 to straighten the river. With the next high water the Rhine widened the trench greatly and the meander was history. The short section south along the river bank was a little hazardous because of families walking and noisy with jetboats. Hmm...getting deafened while metaphorically ripping up 50€ notes isn't my idea of fun, but each to his own. The local historians had been busy weaving the route past fish ponds, now haunted by many herons and waterbirds, locating vanished villages and the old farmsteads and mills as the regions life and working patterns changed. Many sections of Rhine embankment had been seeded with wild flowers and even riding past by bike it was easy to see butterflies, hear the birds and the bees. We turned inland a little making for the large numbers of storks wheeling overhead close to the bird park in Biebesheim am Rhein (picture). Clearly the breeding programme established a few years ago has been a great success. Time for snacks, drinks or large portions of cake at the little cafe there.
As we left the clouds were gathering up and we hastened through the grain mill and harbour town of Gernsheim along the busiest section of road on the trip. Cars and cyclists waited for the Rhine ferry here but we headed along the river for a final short stretch before turning away through Klein Rohrheim. The old village street is lined with tiny cottages end on to the road, some renovated, some apparently dating back before 'Schinderhannes', a robber and thug whose real name was Johannes Bückler. He was hanged after killing a policeman in a brawl in a tavern here. He was evidently the kind of man mothers of the time (1802) frightened their children with...'if you don't stop asking for sweeties, I'll tell Schinderhannes!'
We made our escape by the railway underpass and over the fields to Maria Einsiedel back towards the blue Odenwald Hills to the circuit start. Maria Einsiedel? Well you will have to find that out for yourselves - all the notice boards throughout the Geopark have sections in English. Use the link to access information about bikes and trains in Europe.
Our group seemed satisfied with the gentle scenery along good trails and claimed to have learnt a few things, as we made it back to Bensheim just as the first threatening drops fell. Within 20 minutes the streets were awash as we headed for home, the bikes safely in the car. Our normal train to Bensheim does not operate on Sundays.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Between Rhine and Odenwald Hills Part I

This year our 'Backyard' cycling has focused on the right bank Rhine plain - locally known as the 'Ried', the marshland. It stretches north of Mannheim in a 15 km wide band, bounded to the east by the straight line of the Odenwald, the clear indication of the Rhine Rift Faults. As the Ice Age ended, the Rhine flowed again but as a braided stream like many Icelandic rivers today. Sometimes great floods washed away recent deposits and the river flexed its muscles across the whole plain. In dry conditions windblown sands created a long dune chain, roughly parallel to the river, mostly left as forest today and the home of rare plants and wildlife. Along the edge of the Odenwald the early Neckar meandered slowly to join the Rhine near present-day Mainz. Early settlers lived here in remote communities, the first woods were full of wildlife including bears and only recently has more than speculative information come to life about these settlers. As elsewhere in the Rhine valley, Celtic groups were displaced by Romans, who left both written and much physical evidence behind them. They were replaced by farmers, fishermen and by religious foundations beset by wars, famines and gradual change until the industrial revolution brought rapid alteration. More wars, including those of the twentieth century have also left their mark on this apparently gentle and rather unremarkable part of the Rhine Valley.

As newcomers we often learn our history 'on the hoof, or perched on a bike'. Until the local section of the Odenwald became a UNESCO Geopark most of the small town and rural history, geography and geology was known only to a relatively small number of enthusiasts. Scenically it is easy on the eye, the old towns pretty, the vineyards and orchards stepping away into the distance (see picture) but it is NOT dramatic, no Rhine Gorge, no Neuschwanstein round the corner. However UNESCO status, visitor centres, guided walks and signposted trails have increased numbers of local and far flung visitors which have had a spin-off into the marshland regions sloping towards the Rhine. These farmlands, nature reserves, little towns with hidden corners are ideal places for cyclists to stray into away from the well ridden banks of the Rhine itself.

On the other hand there are some extensive unbroken forest regions, a couple of major autobahns, a few rail lines and a plethera of local and regional cycle trails, often with few directions and we've sometimes mislaid our route. We were delighted to find that the Geopark office in Lorsch, 10 km away on a known trail through the Viernheim woods, had planned and waymarked a bike route through the Ried. This would make a great club ride from Bensheim, around which town most of our members live.

Getting around Viernheim by bike

Viernheim is not ranked amongst the biggest cities in the world. With about 30 000 inhabitants it is tiny. It is however a great place to cycle. Within 15 minutes we can each almost any point of the town. On arrival we can always park the bike which cannot be said for the motor car. When we say this to people,  they nod and agree, but we are still regarded as being eccentric by these very same people. We were both at our dentists this morning and both us were asked by our dentist and his staff whether we had come by bike, even though they agree that it is the best way to come. Our dentist too is a fan of mountain biking.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What a difference 5 km can make.

We are planning to cycle to Basel (Basle, Bâle) as soon as it stops raining. Once we are there we will need return by rail to Viernheim. Basel has three railway stations, belonging to three different organisations: Basel SBB, the Swiss station, Basel Badischer Bahnhof, the German station and Bâle SNCF, the French station. The platforms of the latter two are legally German or French, but the buildings themselves including ticket offices etc. are on Swiss soil. This means if you pay by credit or debit card that the tickets will be slightly more expensive.
However what amazed me was the price difference between travelling from Basel SBB and Basel Bad to Mannheim. As long as you are prepared to travel on regional trains fairly slowly the trip between Basel Bad and Mannheim costs 29 Euro for up to five people plus 4.50 Euro per bike for the bicycles, i.e. 38 Euro in our case. Travelling between Basel SBB and Mannheim via Basel Bad will cost you 63.30 Euro plus ten Euros/bike for an International bicycle ticket, i.e. well over twice as much. The five minute ride from Basel SBB to Basel Bad will cost over 40 Euro.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cycle touring as a mainstream activity

We have written recently that cycling has become a normal feature of holidays offered by German companies. I was still surprised to read that Nicko Tours carry a fleet of hire bikes on one of their ships: MS Wolga travelling from Passau along the most famous section of the Danube cycleway. On most of the eight days of the trip cyclists can borrow a bike and cycle between 40 and 70 km along the cycleway. This would help work off the meals that one is offered on the ship. Of course, if it rains, you can sit in your cabin and watch the scenery going by at cyclists' speeds. The same company offers a return trip from Ruse to Vienna or Passau, so cyclists on the lower reaches of the Danube could possibly come back with the company by ship. Thee are a couple of snags: the price 1000 Euros plus and a week of sitting watching the scenery go by and eating large meals.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fines for cyclists in Germany

Germany has a traffic code which allows the police to impose on the spot fines for minor infringements of the traffic laws, so if you are touring in Germany it worth knowing what you shouldn't be doing as a cyclist.
You can be fined 5 Euros for cycling on the pavement (sidewalk).
You can be fined 15 Euros for cycling in the wrong direction on a cycleway.
You can be fined 25 Euros for using a mobile phone when underway on a bike.
You can be fined 45 Euros if you jump a red traffic light.
You can be fined 10 Euros for cycling in a pedestrian zone.

Friday, July 08, 2011

How times have changed or is it just old age?

We want to cycle the last kilometres to Basel along the Rhine from Ludwigshafen to be able to finish off our planned electronic cycle touring guide. As usual before we start I run up a quick spreadsheet to decide where are the best place to stop overnight. To do this I need distances and so this morning I fired up the Mac to google "Rhine Cycleway". I found a number of hits and then saw our own website. This reminded me that down in the cellar we have a number of printed cycle touring guides which contain all the info I need. Nowadays however the first move I make when I am looking for information is to turn on the mac. Odd really.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Cycling information from a motor club?

It is still surprising to realise how mainstream cycling is in Germany. Our local brewery is giving away a cycling map with every crate of beer sold in August. What surprised me most of all, the ADAC the German equivalent of the AA or the AAA announced recently that it is selling an iPhone app through the Apple App Store that can be used to find and follow over 1500 cycle tours in Germany.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Youth Hostels

We stopped in Youth Hostels as children and young adults and then gave up as we found the rules about being back by 10:00pm too onerous. In recent years we have started visiting them again. Their quality is much improved and their rules much less. We have noticed there are a number of other mature, i.e. grey haired, adults without children and/or grandchildren using them as well. We try to avoid peak periods when people with families would be likely to using them. We feel by visiting them in slack periods we are helping the organisation. I did not realise how normal using a Youth Hostel had become for many pensioners until I glanced at the classified advertisements in the German YHA magazine last night and found a number of the advertisements from people about our age seeking partners for expeditions and presumably a little more.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The hire bike problem

We are in the middle of our once a decade chuck out of pamphlets and paper. The danger is that one stops to read the stuff that is being thrown out and then you are doomed. However I found a piece of literature today that it struck could be an answer to the hire problem. BikePoint in Frankfurt, a bike workshop offering employment for the young longterm unemployed sells general reconditioned bikes for between 30€ and 200€. If you are going to do a longish tour - the Danube for example, you could set off from Frankfurt, cycle to Donaueschingen on to the Black Sea and leave the bike there. Then come back without worrying about finding a train to bring you and your steed back.The advantage over a hire bike is that you don't have to return to Mainhattan to return the bike.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Back on the bikes again

This is a article written by Judith earlier in the year that had got mislaid.
Our increasingly oppressive summer temperatures have been followed by cold, snowy winters with roads and pavements left as icy skid pans for weeks at a time. Finally spring seems well on the way and we’ve dusted off most of our bikes and pumped up the tyres. Our trusty Bromptons get used almost everyday as soon as the ice melts, for shopping trips or local errands, but those for longer trips take a winter break. Then we start to re-explore our local woods and trails across the fields, gradually extending our range ready for touring. Even to ourselves we do not usually admit this is to check whether we can still ride or whether our ageing joints have finally seized up, more proposing a trip to buy an English paper or to collect compost by trailer. A longer tour had to be postponed when the ‘workmen’ at last decided that temperatures were warm enough to renovate and seal the join between house and terrace - a long and tiresome saga.
That completed, we were free to think about continuing our journey along the Rhine, upstream from where we abandoned it after being washed out in autumn deluges. We decided to continue our training programme with the Worms to Ludwigshafen section, which we could do from home.
In the Viernheim woods only the merest suspicion of spring greens could be glimpsed and the Spargel (asparagus) fields of Lampertheim to the northwest were fully shrouded in black plastic. There were no headscarfed figures bent double, wielding their sharp knives to liberate the ‘queen of vegetables’ and we had the quiet roads almost to ourselves. The sun was shining and the hills either side the Rhine Rift Valley clearly outlined against a deepening blue sky. Worms, with its bridge tower and the prongs of its cathedral drew nearer to the northwest. We negotiated the bends and ramps of the cycle/footway over the new road bridge and paused to check the progress on rebuilding the old bridge with the massive and photogenic bridge tower. Once customs were levied here on goods crossing the Rhine from one statelet to another. Winter high water probably slowed work but there were men dangling over the water, scaffolding and machines buzzing on the embankment.
Mothers with young families and the usual gaggle of pensioners were checking on the landing stage and the restaurants on the Rheinland-Pfalz shore, the left bank of the river.
We steered our 20 inch Dahon folders under the bridge and south, through a cluster of old pumping station and market buildings, now evidently occupied by some metal-working activity. Soon we were bowling along the high water embankment, past fields and old orchards with black thorn and cherry trees dwarfed by ancient willows and alders along the river. Around a corner suddenly we came across a large industrial complex, complete with delivery trucks, seemingly producing car body parts. We were quickly back into a rural landscape, sometimes close to the Rhine, sometimes separated by a couple of fields and occasionally the cycle way swung us alongside the B9, a north/south major highway. It was noisy for a few minutes and then our trusty Rhine cycleway golden man sign pointed us back riverwards.
On the Rhine itself, the upturn in industrial output is clearly noticeable in more shipping, carrying sand and gravel, oil, LPG gas, also Mercedes truck units and John Deere agricultural vehicles. The Ro-Ro container port south of Mannheim also probably loaded some of the container barges we saw.
After crossing under the Autobahn bridge we found a bench to eat our sandwiches while watching volunteers from the Pfalzerwald walking club tidy up their clubhouse for the spring. They seemed to have a major mole infestation in the picnic area. There is a walkway/cycleway in the middle of the Autobahn bridge, but it is a breathless climb up several flights of steps inside the bridge abutments. The ride across the bridge is not for the faint-hearted, though there are big concrete slabs separating you from the traffic.
However we wended our way south into Ludwigshafen and found the new Rhein Gallerie shopping area which has opened up a stretch of the Rhine bank formerly occupied by warehouses allowing good views of Mannheim. There is a Migros, the Swiss supermarket, there, but we decided to press on and cross the Rhine into Mannheim to cycle back to Viernheim on familiar trails.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Into the green jungle

In the depths of winter, our town environmental officer asked me to plan a ‘Nature Tour’ around the town. I agreed, May or June 2011 seeming very far away and under the impression the tour was for a group of interested but ‘ordinary’ citizens. Suddenly the time is near and the group has evolved into local bigwigs, who may know far more than me. Fortunately we met up by bicycle with some real experts last week and set off on little used trails along the town boundary. Viernheim occupies a relatively tiny area, bounded on three sides by another state and I wanted to stay in Hesse on the tour. Almost immediately we were in a quiet world of mixed woodland running below the crest of Viernheim’s relict sand dunes (dating from the last ice age). A bird trilled off to our right and Dr. D, our guide, identified it as a nightingale, the first I had knowingly heard. We progressed along the edge of a newish golf course, laid out against considerable local opposition but whose margins now provided habitats for various relatively rare plants and orchids with attendant insects including several butterflies. Deeper into the woodland which includes Scots pine and many species like sweet chestnuts and North American wild cherries that have been sown by birds rather than the foresters, we were in a shady cool jungle. Another bird call was identified as a wryneck, a small woodpecker-like bird that is shy and rarely seen. I looked it up later in a bird book and it is a tawny brown with a few stripey bits, certainly not easy to spot flitting about in woodland. We reached the old boundary road, a sand and gravel route along the crest of the old dunes, still in Hesse but with Baden Württemberg on our left. In a Federal country, such as Germany, this is important since many environmental and educational activities may vary and be differently funded in each state.
After a short distance one of our companions became very agitated as we passed recent and ongoing forestry activities. Although certain parts of the old sand dune system are officially protected areas and the whole region is part of an extensive water gathering ground, forests have to pay their way and be managed. Certainly the timber extraction, ploughing and subsequent replanting with deciduous trees has apparently damaged the landscape irreparably, (Photo bottom) but as long as the young trees can survive the current 8-week drought, I expect all will be well in about 5 years. Our Nature Friends have a duty to check excess exploitation and to aid landscape and species protection, but I think this is something I would want to play down on a tour with local politicians.
We continued, leaving the sandy trails behind and enjoyed the vast number of greens and browns of the woods, the cries and occasional glimpses of buzzards reminding us that nature, left to itself is a battleground for survival. Our route turned right, over a bridge across the Autobahn, another interruption, another boundary for sure, but also the edges make good hunting grounds for kestrels and living spaces for mice and other small species that are their food. Partly because the forest must be managed, there are bridges and wide access to the woods intersected by major rail and road links. The woods ended suddenly at a wide blaze. Along the centre march electricity pylons, then a major gas pipeline and then a dead straight gravel road before the trees begin again on the northern side. The road replaced the rail link to Lampertheim and was for many years used for tank driving between various US bases nearby. It is known as the Panzerstrasse (tank road, photo middle. Warning notices are still located at the ends and many military vehicles use the road to access shooting ranges nearby. The foresters say that there is disturbance to wildlife, particularly from noise and dust but relations between the civil and military authorities are generally good. Along this road and many of the gravel trails are rectangular, clay lined hollows every hundred metres or so. When it rains they fill with water for wild pig, deer and other creatures. That day we met a forester underway with a tank full of water, for in the forest on our left, unseen to us were ‘nests’ of young pigs, watched over by their mothers. They use the hollows gouged out by the US tanks now reclaimed by grass and bushes as good spots to shelter on hot days. When we redid the route the following day some of the water dips were lined with tiny and big hoof prints. A lack of predators and plenty of food has led to a wild pig population explosion, here and throughout Germany.
We followed the tank road back towards town and then turned off through the allotments, a riot of rose blossom and suspiciously green grass. The neat little houses are very unlike the tumbledown, makeshift sheds most Brits equate with allotments. Nearby is a small lake, complete with wild fowl, permanent inhabitants or just passing through. Beyond the allotments we sped off on a rough track, over tree roots and mixed woodland to the base of a ‘hill‘ adjacent to our town compost and domestic waste recycling depot. The hill is man made, the sealed and planted remains of the waste landfill site (Photo top). There are no convenient holes in the ground here in the Rhine Valley, so before more domestic waste was converted into power by incineration, artificial hills were created. This mound is now the highest point in Viernheim, some 11 metres higher than the ice age sand dunes over to the southwest. We braved attack by ticks to reach the new viewpoint, with 360 degree panorama over the Rhine Rift Valley and its eastern faulted edge of the Odenwald. Up to now our Nature Tour had been mostly concerned with micro landforms, flora and fauna but George Everest would probably have appreciated our glimpse of Southern Germany’s 200+km long macro landform. We had been away from home about 2 hours and returned home, windblown and slightly sunburnt, well pleased with our new discoveries.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011


Amazing the title is spelled correctly.
We have finally delivered almost all of the AtoB Guide about putting your bike on a train in Europe, well actually Europe without the UK, fourteen countries in all. We still need to look at eastern Europe, but it's summer and we can go cycling.
This is a kind of Twitter blog, short and sweet. Our wine merchants and grocers to the carriage trade, ALDI Süd are offering bikes next week: 28" trekking bikes for 229€. We are ourselves will not buy Aldi bikes, not because they are not well equipped and cheap. ALDI has found the secret of offering good quality, low priced items. However many German bike shops will not repair them. However for a month's trip these would be cheaper than flying them in from the USA or hiring, even if you left them at the airport when you departed these shores. Problem is they are only on sale next week.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Last Sunday the Kurpfalz was home to the three mass cycling events: Car free days on the Bergstraße and on the B9 between Worms and Oppenheim, and the BASF Cycle Tour through parts of South Hessen, North Baden and Rhineland Palatinate. The Germany may not be as active as the Dutch when it comes to daily cycling, but in leisure events they are world beaters. All three events were well visited in spite of the weather - cold and damp.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bike Hire in Heidelberg and Weinheim

Vbl Heidelberg is a project to offer employment and training to disabled people, long term unemployed and as the Germans say, people with a migration background, i.e. foreigners. The latter have difficulty in getting jobs because often their German is perceived to be bad. One of the activities of this organisation is in the bike business. The company offers bikes for hire from 6€ a day to 30€ a week. These are reconditioned touring and trekking bikes with gears and lock, fitted with a basket. The address in Heidelberg: Bike im Bahnhof, Hauptbahnhof Heidelberg/Platform 1 b. Tel: +49 (0)6221 8 93 73 45, eMail: The address in Weinheim is: Bike im Bahnhof, Am Hauptbahnhof 1, 69469 Weinheim, Tel: 06201/2 55 69 53. Both workshops are on the main railway station in the two cities.

If you need a bike for a week or two in northern Baden-Württemberg or Southern Hessen, these are good people to hire from. The prices are very fair. The bikes are in good nick. You are helping with the recycling of bicycles. You're helping others get desperately needed training that will help them get out of the unemployment trap. It is a win win situation and you can fit your helmet over your halo!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Budget Eating in Europe

It has happened to most of us despite our good intentions and rapid forays into bakeries or stores before we leave the railhead, it pours with rain, the temperature plunges and the picnic on the trail is just going to be miserable. Or it can be that you simply have no food with you. In the UK we know that Garden Centres often incorporate excellent cafes and are located on the edges of towns. Reading through various cycling publications makes it clear that these are a boon to the cycling fraternity, since many older teashops have disappeared.
In Germany we’ve found that many supermarkets boast both bakeries and coffee shops, with savoury snacks and all manner of cakes. Discounters and similar outlets have sprung up here too, often on the margins of towns or marked by their signs and flags visible from the cycleway along the river or canal. Well-known furniture stores and other emporia have cafeterias, open from morning until 7 or 8 pm, which offer a great range of dishes, hot and cold, with salad and fruit options to suit almost every taste. OK it is NOT Haute Cuisine, but it is certainly not chips with everything or even ‘portion control’. Prices for a main dish will range from 7-10€, whilst drinks range from about 2.50€ for a normal coffee to a little more for the exotic variety. Beer or wine too, if you fancy them, but don’t forget a bike is a road vehicle like a car and 0.5 is the limit.
Leave your bikes outside, well locked up in the racks and grab a shopping trolley to stick your panniers in and take it with you, there are usually parking areas around the seats. No one will bat an eyelid if you are in complete ‘Tour de France’ gear or in T-shirt and your Dad’s old plus fours. We saw a young man, black singlet, baggy trousers and bare feet sipping a coffee shop latte a few weeks ago, when there was snow on the ground and the temperature close to 0 C. Chacun a son gout and why not!
Within shopping malls there is a choice of many eating styles and foods, some where you stand or perch, where you can have assembled a rocket sized baguette of this or that, collect a great hunk of tasty pizza, plus the usual fast food eateries we know and love or dislike. It will be warm or air conditioned cool inside, usually dry apart from the odd fountain and much more comfortable than the alternative bus shelter or overhanging eave of a barn and its nearby dung heap. It won’t break the bank either. If you are really not keen on waste you can eat your picnic in the evening, as long as your sandwich is well protected from the downpour. We know, we have done all of these things.
We have eaten in the Co-op and Migros chains in Switzerland, where the Swiss Franc goes further and in many French shopping complexes. With what you save you can afford a special meal, candlelight tete a tete, plus the local tipple later on in the trip. A recent feast in Tounus, Burgundy (Bresse chicken pate in pastry, roast hare, and a lemon dessert, plus several little appetisers) was truly delicious but the cost somewhat eye-watering!
Hospitals (Krankenhäusen or Klinik) too are often outside towns and have eating places open to the public, probably intended to mean patients and visitors, but we do know people who eat in hospital cafeterias at least once a week. Many staff and visitors cycle to hospitals here, wearing cycling there really is no choice between freezing to death under a hedge at lunchtime or parking your bike and finding the hospital cafe. The hospital folks might get a bit upset if a huge party of tourers appeared, but a friendly group of four or so would be unlikely to be noticed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Royal Wedding

You may well ask yourself what the wedding of Kate Middleton and William Windsor has to do with cycle touring? Unfortunately unbeknown to the British Crown, Spezi, Europe's biggest and best, probably only special cycle exhibition will be held in Germersheim, Rheinland Pfalz near Speyer on April 30 and May 1 this year. It's the mecca for folding bikes, trikes, tandems and work bikes in western Europe. You could use the bank holiday to nip over to drool over some lovely hardware, meet interesting people (me and her) and taste the local wines and beers.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Trends in Local Cycling

Similarly to the pothole service offered nationally in the UK by the CTC, German cities offer reporting services to let cyclists tell the appropriate authorities when a road or cycle path is blocked by rubbish or needs repairing. In Mannheim the city council offers a cyclists' hotline. Across the river in Rheinland-Pfalz Speyer and Worms have volunteers as interface to the various departments. The more rural counties in the Rhein-Neckar metropolitan area have yet to create these positions or find a volunteer, but according to the Südhessen Morgen of 11th March 2011 moves are afoot to increase the importance of cycling as a means of commuting and some mechanism will be set up to allow cyclists to report deficiencies. This all to the good, especially when cyclists use the hotlines to report deficiencies rather than moaning on Stammtische as they are given to do.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You know you're a touring cyclist when

you judge restaurants on the quality of the paper serviettes to clean your bike!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Is it a wise decision?

We read the SMo (Südhessen Morgen) newspaper every day and I was amused recently to read recently that the popularity of that cycle touring holidays is growing and shortly afterwards that the new double deck long distance trains ordered by German Railways for delivery in 2013 will have capacity for 10 bicycles. The ADFC, the German cycling club pointed out that this less than the 16 places the present generation of single deck InterCity trains offer. One does wonder at times whether German Railway's prejudice against bicycles will not cost them customers in future?

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