Friday, June 23, 2017

Cycling in Alsace

The French are gradually installing touristic cycle routes across France. For many years if you saw a tourist cyclist in France he or she would be a foreigner. The French either used a rusty ladies bicycle from the 1920s to cycle beret-wearing to the boulangerie pick up a baguette or two, or they wore a helmet, sausage skin shorts and Lycra® tops on a road bike in an attempt to get fit enough to recreate the glory days of Le Tour, when the French won, i.e. sometime ago.  French cycle route planning was to issue maps put out by central government showing where it was intended to have cycle routes with no timetable for completion. Alsace was always somewhat of an exception to this as the Germans came over the border to cycle and enjoy a French way of life - very strong coffee, eclairs and vin rouge in an area where many people understand German, Alsace has also benefited from this discovery that cycle tourists are a good source of tourist euros and new routes have had signposting, etc. installed. For many years the only route that was signposted was the Rhine Route on the left bank of the Rhine between the French border in Lauterburg/Lauterbourg and the Swiss border in Basel/Basle/Bâle. Nowadays the Marne Rhine Canal towpath from Strasbourg towards Sarrebourg, the Saar Coal Mines Canal from Gondrexange north towards Saarbrücken, the Alsatian Wine Road Cycle Trail and the Rhone Rhine Canal from Mulhouse to Belfort are well signposted. There is more information on in English. The Alsatian Tourist authorities produce an excellent printed map of Alsace which includes lists of firms offering bicycling holidays and bike hire. Drop a postcard to Comité Régional du Tourisme d'Alsace, 20 A rue Berthe Molly, 68005 Colmar, France or an email to crt(at)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Beer soft drink mixtures for cyclists

Many continental beers at 5% alcohol content are stronger than British draught beers at 2% alcohol. As in Britain it is usual for cyclists especially to dilute their beer with lemonade. However what do you ask for? Asking for a shandy in a Munich beer hall will get you some funny looks and no shandy.

Here is a list of the names that various dilute beer mixtures are called:

The easy one  for our American cousins in Britain is Shandy, a mixture of about 50% beer and 50% lemonade. It would appear that our US friends drink Shandygaff which is the same thing. One of the most refreshing drinks of this type is a Ginger Beer Shandy, which could well become an export hit in post-BREXIT Britain. This too is a 50:50 mixture, but note it is a Ginger Beer not Ginger Ale. Since most beer lemonade shandies come pre-bottled these days Ginger Beer Shandy is not easy to find.

In southern Germany you ask for a Radler - a cyclist and in the north you ask for an Alsterwasser if you want a beer lemonade mixture - the Alster is the lake in the centre of Hamburg. However in some parts of Bavaria, but do not ask me where, a Radler is known as a Russ. On the River Elbe the familiar beer lemonade mixture is called  Ententeich or Entenpuhl - duckpond. On the River Weser in the northwest of Germany the beer lemonade mixture is called Fliegerbier - Pilot's Beer. In and around Münster in Westphalia the locals drink a beer orangeade mixture called Wurstwasser - sausage water. Why, I don't know. I drank it once on a very hot day in the winegrowing area of the lower Mosel Valley. It was all the pub had. I suppose it was really twice - for the first and last time.  If you are in Berlin in summer ask for a Berliner Weisse (German: Berliner Weiße) mit Schuß which is a cloudy, sour, white beer of around 3% alcohol which is coloured with a shot of Himbeer raspberry or Waldmeister green artificial woodruff cordial. In north-eastern part of the former German Democratic Republic a beer raspberry flavoured soft drink mixture is known as a Potsdamer.

In Austria you ask for an Almradler a mixture of beer and Almdudler. The original Almdudler is a sweetened carbonated soft drink made of herbal extracts. Almdudler is the "national drink of Austria". In the western Austrian province of Vorarlberg you need to specify whether you want your beer diluted with lemonade Süsses Radler or with mineral water Saures Radler.

Dutch cyclists drink Sneeuwwitje - Snow White, a beer lemonade mixture but don't ask me how you pronounce it.

The Belgians around Antwerp call for a Tango - a beer with cola when they wish to dilute their excellent beers.

In Switzerland and in Luxembourg one asks for a Panaché (from the French panacher meaning to mix). If you wish to dilute your beer with cola then add the word "coca"- Panaché coca. In the Saarland, the German province, where French is the first foreign language taught in schools, one asks for a Panasch to obtain a lemonade beer mixture.

One can, of course, use non-alcoholic or low alcohol beers instead of a full strength beer. If you are not taken with the flavour of alcohol-free beers, this is an excellent way of disguising their too hoppy flavour.

These days a lot of German breweries like those in the UK pre-mix Radler. You'll get a bottle of Radler rather than a mixture of lemonade and draught beer.

If when you are touring in hot weather you hit a wall of tiredness we find a quick lift is offered by a cola-orangeade mixture known in most of Germany as a Spezi, but in Mannheim and district as a Kalter Kaffee - cold coffee.

Friday, June 09, 2017

NSU Bicycle Museum Neckarsulm Germany

Somehow we've missed the Deutsches Zweirad und NSU-Museum near Heilbronn in the past. I supect we were put off by the NSU connection. NSU built bicycles, motor cycles and cars including those with Wankel motors. The museum features however 400 exhibits in 2000 square metres. The bicycles exhibited range from the 19th Century to the present day, from the hobby horse to the e-bike.
The address: Deutsches Zweirad und NSU-Museum, Urbanstraße 11, 74172 Neckarsulm. The museum is signposted from the entre of the town. It is a short walk from Neckarsulm railway station through the park to the former Deutschordensschloß. The website in German offers an impression of the museum:
Entrance costs 6 € for adults, 5 € for seniors and 3 € for students. Children under 6 get in free. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 until 17:00. It is also open on public holidays if they fall on a Monday.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Bikes for high schools

We written before about the Albertus-Magnus-Schule in Viernheim here. The school took part in a competition organised by the Integrierte Verkehrs- und Mobilitätsmanagement Region Frankfurt and the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Nahmobilität Hessen (two local government organisations in the field of mobility) last year. Both staff and schoolchildren were encouraged to cycle as far as possible. The school was second in the competition for the most kilometres and first in the competition for the most participants. It won 1250 Euro and invested this in five new bikes for the school bike pool. The bikes can be borrowed in case a class is going to baths in the centre of town or one of the club sports facilities. Already the bikes are well used. Congratulations are due to the school.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cleaning your bike

I worked for many years for an engineering society that organised the world's largest chemical engineering exhibition. I was on the society's stand at the exhibition and I noticed, in addition to the guests who wandered from stand to stand collecting information, there were always guests carrying a briefcase packed with brochures who wished us to be interested in their ideas. During the bicycle parade after the recent 5. Nationaler Radverkehrskongress (5th National Cycling Conference) in Mannheim, I cycled next to another delegate who had a bag full of brochures and we discussed automatic bike washing. It turns out he has connections to a small company that has developed a bike wash.
The bike is put in a box 2.3m x 0.8m x 1.3m which is equipped with rollers to take the bicycle. The bike wash needs a source of mains electrical power and water. During the wash cycle dirt is loosened by ultrasound. A wash takes about 0.1L of water. The wash cycle takes three minutes. This would suggest it would take about five minutes to wash a bicycle. The bike wash comes on four wheels and can be easily moved. I have no idea how much the device costs either to buy or to rent. One needs to contact the manufacturer to find this out, but assuming it is reasonably priced it strikes me it would a capital wheeze if say

  • an event organiser for MTB, cycle cross, bike parade or even road race events, 
  • a political party such as the Greens, 
  • a bigger bike shop
  • a national bike club such as Cycling UK
  • or a city council 

could lease or buy a bike wash they could trot out on various occasions. In the case of a bike shop it could be an added plus that each and every bike would be washed before inspection or repair.
The manufacturer's website is It is a German company, but the website is in English and German.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Winter Cycling

We visited the 5. Nationaler Radverkehrskongress (5th National Cycling Conference) in Mannheim recently and both of us went to the forum on Cycle Tourism. Three of the four lectures were discussing fairly conventional aspects of e-bike touring and MTB activities by representatives of tourist information offices. One lecture was interesting though we could not work out beforehand what it was about: "Saisonverlängerung durch Winterfahrradtourismus" ("Lengthening the season through winter cycling.") It turned out there is a winter biking scene which is based in places where one gets snowy, frosty winters rather than the wet, dark, soggy seasons we in the Rhineland experience between December and February. Typical places are Minneapolis (MN), Montreal (PQ), St. Petersburg and Oulu (Finland). Our speaker, Pekka Tahkola came from the latter city. The activity is divided into two main areas:
  • Utility Cycling: Check for more information. This group is more interested in keeping roads cleared and getting to work than exciting days out on the fells. 
Winter Urban Cycling © Pekka Tahkola

  • Nature and Open Spaces: Most of the trails are made by grooming the trails by snow mobiles pulling a groomer. Thus most of these groomed trails are rideable for people of all ages. They are enjoyable to ride at slower speeds while enjoying nature, and are easy to ride for people with absolutely no experience of mountain biking. Of course it depends to a certain extent on weather conditions. Snow biking is often easier and safer than walking and is a great way to see the national park. Pekka has guided many people over 70 years old on the trails and there's definitely no danger of face plants. Then again, if one wishes to have more exciting and snow-diving experiences, there are trails for the young at heart too.

    Getting close to wildlife ©Pekka Tahkola

    Feeding a Siberian Jay © Pekka Tahkola

    By March the days are long and sunny © Pekka Tahkola

    Check out , and for a bicycle hotel in Syöte National Park, or

    Pekka as a cycling coordinator  is a good man to contact if you fancy trying this activity: pekka(dot)tahkola(at)navico(dot)fi. Unfortunately the parent Navico website appears to be written only in Finnish, which is not an easy language to read, but an email to him will get you sufficient information.

Friday, May 12, 2017

E-Bike and Special Needs Bicycle Hire in the Danube Valley

The range of bicycles and tricycles available to rent in Germany is growing year by year. We were interested to come across the e-bike-verleih-bogen at a recent bicycle touring fair in Frankfurt recently. Bogen is a small settlement near Straubing on the Danube, north east of Munich. The company offers not only good quality e-bikes, but also a range of vehicles for people who have difficulty with bicycles due to physical impairments. This range includes    

  • Electrically assisted Hand Bike with wheelchair seating (ProActiv NJ1)
  • The VeloPlus wheelchair transport bike designed to transport people, who remain seated in their own wheelchair, by cycle.
  • E-Trike therapy cycle for adults
  • Tandem
  • E-transport bike for children or of course for large dogs.

The company offers both bicycle/tricycle hire and touring holidays based in a hotel in Straubing with wheelchair access. The websites are in German: (Hire) and (Holiday) but offer photographs of the various bikes/trikes on offer. There is always Google Translator, of course. If you are interested in hiring a bike or two and don't speak or write German just send the company an email in English. In our experience German companies always have somebody on their staff who understands English. 


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