Friday, October 30, 2015

Bike repair for schoolchildren

The Heidelberg branch of the ADFC, the German cycling club offers weekly repair sessions every Monday where young people can learn to carry out simple repairs on their bicycles. These free sessions - Schüler-Radwerkstatt on Mondays between 15:00 and 18:00 are led by four youngsters and the training officer of the ADFC Heidelberg.  These sessions give young people the chance to repair their bikes under instruction and thereby learn to carry out simple repairs to their bicycles. It strikes us as a good idea that could be taken up by bike clubs and youth groups elsewhere.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Rhone Cycle Route - Valence

I have written before that the French have discovered the advantages of cycle tourists for the hotel and restaurant trade. We recently stopped overnight near Valence in one of the B&B chain hotels which are normally slightly out of town centres. We decided in the morning to cycle into Valence and took the Rhone Cycle Route. I don't how the rest of the route is, but if this stretch was typical for a conurbation then the French have cracked cycle touring. It was initially on a footpath/cyclepath along the Rhone bank and then followed quiet well signposted roads into the city centre. The town did not seem to be as old as Avignon, Nimes or Orange, but it made for a pleasant morning, swanning round the town on our Bromptons, peering in a number of very odd shops. Napoleon was a member of an artillery unit there before his rise to power. There is a life sized statue of him reading some military tome much favoured by the selfie types to add a little spice to their photographs.

Good clear signposting

Frequent clear information boards

Judith caught me looking over Boney's shoulder.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cycle touring in Provence around Mont Ventoux

Every time we go to France I notice the growth in cycle routes and cycle touring facilities. Gone are the days when the only technique, which was a good one, for the cycle tourist was to follow the white roads on the Michelin maps. It still is a good way for cyclists to get about, because France is a big largely empty country, but these days there are many cycle circuits and  signposted long distance routes available to the cyclist.
We were in Malaucène recently. This village sits at the start of one of the routes up Mont Ventoux often a make or break climb on the Tour de France.  Its bars, shops and streets are filled with the Lycra® clad. We did, by chance, have our Bromptons with us in the back of the car, but since the hill has been conquered by not just one, but several dozen Bromptoneers

and because we were visiting non-cycling friends, we decided not to bother shocking the Lycra®-clad and spent our time travelling about the area, eating large meals, etc. The kind of thing many of us do in France.
As conscientious bloggers we investigated the cycling possibilities of the area in various tourist offices and found piles of pamphlets describing circuits on the south side of Mont Ventoux. These are available in digital form on the Provence Cycling website: (
A sunny day near Mont Ventoux

Friday, October 09, 2015

Cycling in the Autumn along the Carp Route

There is much to recommend waiting until the shorter days before setting off along the Carp Cycleway: Fewer people, hotels still open and welcoming, autumn colours to see, carp harvesting and the opportunity to eat them.
We first came across the Karpfen Radweg (Carp Cycle Trail) as we were late cycling out of Feuchtwangen to our hotel in the nearby village of Thürnhofen. "It is easy, not steep, avoids the main road and takes you right past your hotel", advised the guy in the tourist office.
Since then we’ve returned many times, to walk or cycle past the many carp lakes dotted around Feuchtwangen and Dinkelsbühl. Carp ponds were a feature of local life as monasteries flourished here some 800 years ago. The monks were required to eat fish on Fridays or during fasting and as the monasteries began so towns and traders followed. It seems carp prefer to live in sluggish or dammed streams, feeding on plants, worms or crustaceans close to the mud floors. After about three years in the ponds they were big enough to harvest, by netting or draining the ponds. In early days, before refrigeration they were only eaten in certain months, after capture and being stored alive in clear running water to cleanse them. Now you can eat them at almost any season, since they can be frozen, though they still taste a bit muddy in our opinion. After the monasteries were secularised by Napoleon, many of the carp ponds probably began to silt up and disappear. However business in carp, a Christmas delicacy in many parts of Europe, now seems to be booming and the Karpfen Radweg extends from Dinkelsbühl to Erlangen some 210 km distant along river valleys and through picturesque villages and towns. En route you will find hotels and guest houses, restaurants and hundreds of carp ponds in the folds of the landscape. The route lies mostly on quiet roads, well signposted and past other cultural landscapes like the Obstwiesen, often ancient apple, pear and plum orchards. Go at the right time and you can gather walnuts too.
This is secret, leisurely Franken, away from the madding hordes in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, across old river bridges over the Altmühl, a Danube tributary and bypassing the towers of Nürnberg. The route could be pleasantly completed in a week, and there are others following on from Nürnberg if you wish. More information is available on the Romantic Franken website: Some of the pages are in German so use a translator app.
Excellent signposting
A mediaeval protein factory

The trees are old and the apples often too sour to eat…

Friday, October 02, 2015

VW and the diesel engine exhaust software fiddle mess

So the big news of this week which has largely pushed the refugees off the pages of the German press is VW's fixing of the software used to control diesel motors, so that under test conditions the car used up to 5% more fuel per mile, but emitted less nitrogen oxide. In normal operation the motor did not meet the values laid down by legislation. VW will in all probability modify the software controlling the motor so that it uses more fuel in future, but emits less nitrogen oxides. This could well mean that VW owners in Britain and elsewhere probably will have to pay 5% more fuel costs and maybe more tax, as the amount of pollution put out by the car often determines the road tax paid by the owner.

To make one thing clear. I am horrified by the actions of VW. I am also amazed. My experience of German engineers after 30 or so years working in German industry has been that they are pernickety in the extreme and thus not always easy to work with, but I have never had any reason to doubt their honesty, at least at work, apart from filling out travel expense forms.

VW diesel car owners are faced with the prospect of ca. 5% higher fuel costs.

If you have a diesel engined car what do do when the costs rise? A few answers:
  • Get on your bike. Up to 5 miles distance a bike is as quick as car especially when you don't have to find a parking spot. 
  • If the cycling possibilities in your neighbourhood are restricted or even life threatening join an organisation like the CTC in Britain or the League of American Bicyclists in the USA to press for improvements. The day that the CTC or the League has as many members as the motoring organisations is the day when politicians will really sit up and listen.
  • Walk. Think about buying a pensioner Ferrari, i.e. a shopping trolley. Use your local shops.
  • We do most of our shopping on foot or by bike. We buy less but we still have enough to eat. We throw less stuff away though. 
  • If there is any, take public transport. It helps if it is electrically powered like a tram or Bombardier's clever induction charged battery buses
  • Plan your trips so that you don't need to drive as far.

A cycle museum on the Rhine

The Rheinhessisches Fahrradmuseum, Schloß Ardeck, Schlossgasse 12, 55435 Gau-Algesheim between Mainz and Bingen on the left bank of the Rhine is a small bicycle museum. It is open on public holidays and Sundays between Easter and the second Sunday in October from 11am to 5pm. The website gives details of arranging a tour outside of opening hours. It has four departments: The bicycle in Rhine-Hessen, the bicycle as a means of transport, the bicycle in art and cycle sport. Entrance is free, but there is nothing to stop you giving a donation. in German.
It'll be open this  year in 2015, on 3, 4 and 11 October 2015, so if you are planning a Rhine tour it's worth organising it, so you can visit the Schloß. We don't mention the Schloß and its museum in our two Rhine guides, but I will put them in shortly. The Rhine guides are available as e-books from Smashwords and your local branch of Amazon: “The Rhine End to End part 2: Basel to the North Sea", "Following the Rhine gently upstream Rotterdam to Basel. A Cycle Tourist's Guide".

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