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?

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