Friday, June 26, 2015

Where Marmots dare

We have had several requests to republish "Marmots" our guide to Swiss Route 3. It has been out of print for some years. The route is covered in slightly less detail in "Cycling in Switzerland" From Cicerone, along with all the other Swiss National Cycle Routes. Finally we gave in to the requests and we updated the accommodation, bike shop, bike hire and transport sections; checked the route cartographically and modified the page layout of the book to produce an e-book. It is available for US$ 8.99 from Smashwords. We will also produce a version for Amazon, one of these days. Kindle users too should remember that one can download a Kindle compatible formated file from Smashwords.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cycling commuters, a rant in a minor key

We recently took part in a Mannheim ADFC tour. The ADFC is a German cycling club - similar to the CTC or the League of American Bicyclists, campaigning for better cycle facilities and organising tours of various difficulty. Our tour was on a Wednesday morning, so the majority of the riders were old fogeys, like us. We had four e-bikes amongst the dozen or so riders. It was fine day and it was good cycling through the centres of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen through heavy traffic. There were no problems motorists driving both cars and heavy trucks treated us with respect. We cycled north along a series of lakes and arrived at our destination an Italian restaurant at a tennis club. Lunch was taken and enjoyed. In many ways Italian restaurants in Germany offer the best of both worlds: good Italian food and German beer. What could be better? Well fed and replete, at peace with the world, we cycled round the edge of Frankenthal and swung south along cycle paths next to the B9 federal road into Ludwigshafen. At the start we cycled parallel to the B9. We could hear it but it was two or three hundred metres away. As we approached the dreaming spires of the BASF plant, we found ourselves on a narrow cyclepath almost rubbing elbows with 18 wheeler trucks. We still had no problems. We nipped through Ludwigshafen's centre like a hot knife through butter and climbed up the approach road to the Konrad Adenauer Bridge. There were roadworks for the fossil-fuelled on the bridge, so we passed them on the cycleway, feeling to be not only on the high moral ground, but on a more sensible means of transport. The group split up in Mannheim and we followed a series of cyclepaths along the Neckar, through a Schrebergarten (allotments) and through a former US Army residential area until we reached a cycle path along the edge of the Viernheim Forest adjacent to a busy road, but separated from the road by a thick hedge. The path is narrow and bushy and shortly after crossing the border from Mannheim the path gyrates a little swings left and right over a hummock. It is place we take care, because cyclists can come the other way. We were pleasantly gruntled. We were almost at the end of our first tour of the season, had cycled 60km in good weather, seen a few mates, heard the odd joke and eaten garlicky spaghetti, then this idiot  on a mountain bike dressed in gear more suitable for a downhill race in the Alps or a bank job with face mask shot up behind us, realised that the road narrowed, because of the aforementioned 'S'-bend, braked hard and very noisily, swerved round us out into the possible path of anyone coming the other way, pushing us towards the hedge, almost giving me a heart attack and accelerated away to cries of "Idiot" from my Mrs. I have no objection to getting a move on, but at the same time it is necessary to cycle taking account of the road conditions. We were definitely disgruntled. Under German Law cyclists should have a bell on their bikes and even if the idiot had taken his bell off his velocipede he still had a voice unless his face mask made conversation impossible. I wonder what he will do do with the microsecond he saves, write the doctoral thesis hat will deliver a cure for the common cold or a solution for world peace. Typical that the only impolite expletive-deleted idiot we met on this very pleasant day was from the ranks of the cyclists, our people. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

From Weizen-Bier to vino rosso: Over the Alps from Munich to Venice by bicycle and train

Obviously you can, if you want,  swing your leg over your mountain bike at Munich Airport, tighten your rucksack and set off on stony trails toward Italy across the Alps, risking life and limb on MTB routes, but the good news is that you don't have to bounce around on single track trails to get from Munich to Venice by bike. There is a signposted road and cycle path route with the option of taking the train up the Brenner Pass by train or bus. This means that all of us have the option to make what may well be the trip of lifetime through three countries, with two languages and through three climate zones. It is 560km (350 miles) from Munich to Venice via Innsbruck and the whole trip can be cycled in about a week though you may want to take more time. There is information available on:
  • The English version of the website does not mention the Munich - Venice route at all, however the German version has downloadable gps and gpx tracks bottom right.
  •, but the English language portion is largely in German. Persevere and you can get some information. You could also use Google Translator to get more information. 
  •  This website is the best laid out of these three websites and gives you all you need to know about the route. It is a commercial site for companies offering guided and self-guided tours. You can book the whole trip for about 800 Euros per person from Munich to Venice for an eight day trip. This is the comfortable option.
You may choose to use the information on the websites to organise your own trip. There are youth hostels and B&Bs along much of the route, which could cut your costs considerably.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Draisine/Pedal Trolley

We invited a friend along to today on a Draisine trip in the Pfalz. It was our and her first draisine trip. A draisine is small open pedal-powered railcar that runs on former branch or industrial lines. It would appear it is known as pedal trolley in US English.  In this case the line ran from Bornheim near Landau to Westheim about 12km. It crosses a number of minor roads on in part traffic light controlled crossings. Unlike normal railway lines we did not have right of way over the majority of roads and so had to switch on the red light for road users, lift a barrier and push the draisine across the road. We pedalled to Westheim, ate an excellent lunch in a local Italian restaurant and pedalled back. What we did notice was that the seating position was fixed unlike on a bike where you shift the bottom about. If we do this again I think we will wear padded underpants. The 24km there and back were quite hard on the bottom. It was good fun with lots of wildlife - birds of prey, storks and worth trying.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Hiring bikes in Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Fulda, Giessen, Wiesbaden

To mark the European Day of Cycling;
We have updated the Frankfurt page of the Cycling/Useful stuff/Bike Hire/Germany chapter on
We have written new pages for Darmstadt, Fulda, Giessen and Wiesbaden in the Cycling/Useful stuff/Bike Hire/Germany chapter on

Monday, June 01, 2015

Thoughts on High Speed e-Bikes

Friends of ours have recently spent a week or so tootling through the hills in the middle of Hesse on hired e-bikes. It is a seriously hilly district and our friends were very pleased to be able to cycle in comfort without having to get off and push or arriving at the summit of a climb out of puff, unable to speak. We have ourselves been thinking if we are ever asked to update our "Cycling in Switzerland" book from Cicerone that we'd try to scrounge or hire a pair of e-bikes to check the routes. However I don't think we wish to own an e-bike as long as the floor of the Rhine Valley in our part of the world stays flat.

I am less than gruntled though about the proposals for a Radschnellweg (High Speed Bike Path) in various conurbations in Germany, especially in combination with the desire to run High Speed e-Bikes with maximum speeds up to 45 kph. The bikes are selling like hot cakes in the Netherlands. In Germany these can be used, but are treated as mopeds. The "drivers" of these bikes need a moped licence, must wear a helmet and the bikes themselves have a licence plate. These vehicles can only be ridden on bike paths where mopeds are allowed. I am pleased about this because we normally cycle around 15 to 16 kph and the vision of sharing a bike path with vehicles going three times as fast is not a happy one.

I have heard recent comments that these restrictions will delay the development of high speed e-bikes in Germany. I can only say thank goodness!

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