These are our tips for a successful bike tour in not just Germany but
in Western Europe as well.
Tips on riding bikes in Germany. Click on these links to go directly to discussions
of any of these topics: German Holidays,
credit versus debit cards,
cash, do's and don'ts,
Showers, towels, sheets,
soap, school vacations,
packing light, how to launder your
clothes, short cords, first
aid kits, balancing your load,
ergonomics, and tips on bike
riding, polite behavior, Tools,
fixing flats, proper
tire inflation, riding in groups,
length of daily rides, guidebooks
and maps, how to properly wear your helmets, and finally
room reservations. In short, a hodgepodge of
acquired knowledge that you do not have to follow.
Hotels and Zimmer, Ferienwohnungen (FeWo), and hostels are
covered completely in our page titled Overnight
As in any country, not all holidays are celebrated by everyone in every state or
link will take you to a website that lists all the holidays and school breaks.
If you want to look at different years, there are options on the
website. Keep in mind the format for dates is European, Day/Month, rather than
American of Month/Day. So, May 7 is expressed as 07.05. If you plan on being on
an unsupported bike holiday or bicycle tour, consider making advance reservations.
Credit versus debit cards: From personal experience, we know that Visa and MasterCharge
credit cards are not much good in Germany. Instead, bring your debit cards and remember
your PIN number and make sure you have enough money in your account. Most hotels
will take credit cards, including American Express but only a few Pensionen
or Privat Zimmer take any cards and if so, it will be a MasterCard. Individual
people who advertise Zimmer Frei (vacant rooms) take only Euros in cash
: Do not bring non-Euro
bills to Euro Zone countries. Banks will not cash them for fear of counterfeiting.
If you bring Euro bills larger than €50.00 they too may be only a little more easy
to cash, again because of fear of counterfeiting. Perhaps you will be sent to a
special bank that can be found only in larger cities. It is best to bring your debit
card instead (remember to have some money in your checking account and know your
PIN). This advice is valid only in Germany; France, we are told, is quite different.
Do expect to have fun and do not bring an attitude. You are probably in a foreign
country unless you are a German in Germany. We foreigners attract attention because
we look and talk funny. Be polite, accommodating, and observant. Let me repeat,
be polite, accommodating, and observant - it is important. You do want to be invited
For example, observe the local table
manners and eating habits; try to emulate them. We have observed Americans who
make Dagwood sandwiches out of German Kaltteller instead of eating things
separately on a slice of bread like the natives. And hamburgers, unlike a Hamburger
(a citizen of Hamburg or a product originating in Hamburg), are not native to Germany.
If you want one go to McDonald's or Burger King; they are not native either
but they are readily found. OK, some restaurants do serve hamburgers but they are
mainly for the kids. That said, some of those "kids" grew up with McDonald's and
Burger King and now they want Hamburgers. Man, what is the world coming to?
If you use the trains, study, do not just skim, my
German Trains page; it contains important tips
and information. Also, check out the German Bicycle
I do not mean rain
showers, I mean the type of shower you step into to soap off. Several years ago,
the standard was to have the showers and toilets (WC) in the hall, not
in the room. As time past, tourists began paying more for the rooms with one or
both showers and toilets in the room. The industry responded by accommodating these
wishes where possible. Today, it is easy to find rooms with both conveniences in
the room or at least exclusive use of the facilities. Private rooms are frequently
advertised, “Zimmer Frei mit Dusche und WC.” Dusche is sometimes
abbreviated as "Du."
In the last few years, rooms that were too small or impossible to plumb for a
shower have installed an ingenious self-contained shower/water heater/pump device.
These are beautiful for the property owner because all you need to install them
is a cold water supply line and a small drain line that does not have to go through
the floor, in fact, the drain line can go back up to the ceiling.
These devices, unfortunately, require an advanced degree in electronics and mechanical
engineering to operate. Or a little experience will suffice too. One must turn on
the mechanism about 5 minutes before use to heat the water. Just before use, turn
on the pump. Step in and fiddle with the handles. On one model, one handle will
control the temperature; the other will turn the water on or off (after a few seconds
delay). On another model – undoubtedly made because few of us were smart enough
to operate the first type – the handles work like we have come to expect, one hot,
the other cold and the more you crank them, the higher the pressure. However, in
both cases, the water pressure is low.
Back to the top
Only in Youth Hostels (Jugendherbergen) do you need your
own towels and sheets nowadays. And in the hostels, you can normally rent or purchase
them (a few hostels provide sheets and towels but you may have to make your own
bed). Hostels sell paper sheets good for one or two uses.
Soaps are a hit and miss thing. To be belt and suspenders safe, bring your own
soap, shampoo, etc.
Like in the USA, the tourist industry revolves around school vacations. If you are
headed for a vacation spot during a school vacation, it might be wise to make reservations.
To give you an idea, here is a sample schedule for some schools (OK, OK, so it might
not be for this year - I know, but with a little interpretation, you can apply it
to this year): Note: The following dates are in Europe Speak. For example April
3, 2011, is express thus in the USA 4/3/2011, but in Europe, they will write 3.4.2011.
These are the main holidays but there are of course others too numerous to mention
because they are not always celebrated and if so, differently by different German
All paths have hills, at least small ones. So, the lighter you pack the better the
hill climbing. Ladies, no one will fault you for not bringing along a hair dryer
(unless you can get your partner to carry it).
In Germany, it rains. That’s why the country is so green and beautiful. On average,
it rains at least once a day on twenty days in an average month. Sure, in the wet
months it rains (or snows) as much as 23 days a month but even in July and August,
it rains 18 days a month. With that fact established, you should know that it may
only be a short shower and it may occur at night. We have ridden thousands of miles
in Germany and I can count on one hand the number of times we have been thoroughly
drenched. (OK, sure, we have been sprinkled upon many times but if I don’t put on
a raincoat, it hasn’t rained.) We both carry raincoats and even rain pants. I think
the rain pants are overdoing it but they also work as a windbreaker when it gets
cold. We have been known to ride as early as May and as late as October. It is possible
to get into some chilly weather when gloves, ear protection, and windbreakers are
nice things to have.
Take along a clothesline type cord of about 15 to 20 feet, a few clothespins and
a small amount of laundry soap. Wash your biking clothes every night if possible.
If not possible, that is why you should have two sets of bike wear. Wash your clothes
in the sink without splashing too much water on the floor. Rinse twice in lukewarm
water (depending upon the fabric instructions) and wring dry in a dry towel. Hang
on your clothesline. Be careful when stringing your clothesline not to attach it
to something that can be pulled from the wall or damaged with the pressure from
the loaded clothesline - tie both ends to something solid. If you have a balcony
and if it is not raining, clothes will dry best outside. You might ask your host
or hostess if they have a clothesline or a Wäscheleine or a drying rack
Short cords frequently come in handy on the train or other public
transportation. You can tie your loaded bike to almost anything to keep it from
tipping over in a curve or when the conveyance stops suddenly. They don’t have to
be any more than ¼ inch in diameter and not more than 10 or so feet long. It has
many uses. One is to extend your clothesline if necessary; you never know how long
you will need to stretch between anchoring points. Also, before I purchased a rain
cover for my panniers I carried a large plastic garbage bag and draped it over my
panniers in wet weather and secured the bag with my cord.
Back to the top
am a klutz. I keep falling over. I fell one day while traveling over 18 mph just
because my front tire slipped off the side of the pavement briefly. I was avoiding
a shallow rain puddle. If you are like me, you will need a first aid kit and some
extra large Band-Aids for “road rash.” Consider carrying some spray-on disinfectant,
some Benadryl or some insect bite treatment. We also carry a little aspirin or similar
in case we have pain or swelling.
If the load is balanced front, rear, and side-to-side, handling your bike will be
much easier and safer. I know some experienced riders who swear that front panniers
are a necessity (I do not use them all the time even though I think they have a
A reader wrote me that she broke
her leg stepping down from a rental bike that was a bit too big for her. The problem
of balance is exacerbated by using backpacks instead of panniers. The problem is
the center of balance with backpacks is probably just below your shoulders, while
the center of balance with panniers is at your knees. So, two lessons to be learned;
use a bike that fits you, and use panniers rather than backpacks.
This is the same in Taiwan as anywhere in the world. (The idea to provide this item
came from a reader from Taiwan.) Those of you in the Over-Fifty-with-Bad-Knees Club
probably prefer upright riding positions. Quite different than the guys in the Tour
de France who are so bent over you can count their vertebrae. Some of us older folks
have bellies that just will not allow us to bend over like that. I do not like to
bend over any longer than it takes to tie my shoes in the morning.
the saddle so it is tilted ever so slightly forward. That will take some of the
weight off your reproductive organs (interior and exterior and for both genders).
Have a slightly forward upper body, which transfers a little weight from your butt
to your hands. If you get tingly hands (from pressure on your carpal tunnel nerve)
you can sit vertically for short distances and shake your hands. Maxa is always
shaking her finger at me and I just assume she has carpal tunnel syndrome in her
index finger. (I am lucky that she does not have it in her middle finger.)
Adjust the seat height so that when your heel is on the pedal and the pedal is
at the bottom of its stroke, your leg is fully extended (or you could lock your
knee and unlock it with no effort). Ask someone you know to watch your butt as you
pedal away from them. You should not wiggle in the saddle. If you do, your saddle
is too high so lower it a centimeter and keep lowering it until you stop wiggling.
Keep the balls of your feet on the pedal, not your arches; it gives you some
spring and prevents your toes from contacting the wheel in tight turns.
While pedaling, move your knees straight up and straight down - like a piston.
Do not let them swing out to the side. That sideways motion wastes energy that you
will wish you had by the end of the day.
If you have a handlebar that allows for it, change your hand position frequently
to prevent fatigue in your hands, neck, and shoulders. Also, try consciously to
relax your neck and shoulders as you ride.
When you stop, unseat your butt. Do not try to be able to put one or certainly
both feet on the ground while remaining seated. Straddle the bike forward of the
Lastly, and most importantly spin, spin, spin! What is spinning? Notice how fast
professional bicyclists pedal. They probably average 100 strokes (revolutions or
just "revs") per minute, exceeding 140 or more at times. Why? They need
to conserve as must energy as possible for the long race. A classic comparison is
Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong. Jan won the Tour de France once but Lance won it
seven times. Lance spins, Jan does not. It simply takes fewer calories to pedal
faster with less torque on the pedals than to slower with more torque. I find if
you keep your revolutions at or above 80, you will reduce stress on your knees and
reduce leg fatigue. To keep your revs up, shift frequently, especially as you ride
uphill. You can easily count your revs. Count each time your right foot goes past
the bottom of the cycle for 15 seconds, then multiply that number by four. Less
than 60, you have a problem. Over 80, you are almost a pro. Over 95, you will be
a pro. I have the hardest time convincing people of this simple technique. Nowadays,
I do not even mention it until the third day when they start complaining of sore
knees and weak thighs. Then, as politely as I know how (and Maxa says I need work
on politeness), I suggest spinning. I get strange looks because it seems counter-intuitive
that to save work, you pedal faster. But if they try it for a few days, they thank
I mentioned shifting often. A fellow cyclist once told me that he had no problem
with his knees just because he always shifts back and forth to maintain comfort
and reduce stress on his knees. Another cyclist, a goal setting ex-Marine named
Steve, insists that one gear, a high one, is all a person needs. He is destined
to have knee problems.
Back to the top
Meeting other bikers or walkers along the way, one frequently bids them a nice day.
In German, you would say "Morgen" (short for Gutenmorgen)
before noon, "Tag" (Gutentag) after noontime and until
about 8:00PM, "n'Abend" (short for "Gutenabend")
from then on until morning. "Gutenacht" is for when you go to bed (or
go home to bed). Other common greetings depend upon where you are in Germany. For
example, north in East Friesland, you might hear "Moin Moin"
almost any time of the day. In Schleswig-Holstein, you would hear just "Moin"
(my brother-in-law says they are too lazy to say Moin Moin). In Bavaria,
you hear "Grüss Gott" all day long. You also might hear someone
wish you "Mahlzeit" around noon in the south; it means about
the same as "have a good lunch." Sometimes, you just hear "ein
Guten," (short for guten Appetit). That is most of the greetings
but I keep expanding my vocabulary in this area.
Another tip on polite behavior deals with taverns (Kneipe) and a few
restaurants. If you notice an empty table close to the front or way in the back
with several seats (more than 4) and it may have a small sign that says "Stammtisch."
Do not sit there unless you are invited to do so by someone already sitting there.
A Stammtisch is a table reserved for the regulars of the establishment.
The regulars are typically a group of friends who have lived nearby for years and
have an expectation of sitting at the Stammtisch and enjoying the company of other
friends or community members.
Even groups of two, always keep the cyclist behind you in site. If the rider ahead
of you follows this rule, you will also be able to see him or her too. If all else
fails, and someone goes way ahead, the rule is to wait at the sign announcing the
name of the next community. Failure to obey this fallback rule means the offender
has to buy beer for the whole group.
Everyone is responsible for their own safety. If the rider in front of you calls "Clear"
when crossing a road, .
They may want you to be hit by a car, you never know. I'm just saying.
In 2016 we met Ron, another reader, who was riding through Kassel. He and Noreen
were experienced cyclists. We discussed joining a cycling club and Ron pointed out
the difficulties in riding in groups:
- You must always follow the rules of riding in groups, e.g., do not bump
into another bicycle.
- Forget about meeting anyone not already in the group. If you want to talk
to the locals, you will not have a chance, locals view any group as a self contained
unit therefore not worthy of even a head nod.
- Always watch the cyclist ahead of you. We reminded him of the view the different
dogs in a dog sled team have; i.e., "Unless you are the lead dog, your view
is identical to all the other dogs, the rear end of the dog in front of you."
- You probably have to pay to join and you probably have to reach consensus
to do any useful planning, even where to stop and rest or take a photograph.
- On the positive side, in Germany they have many cycling groups. Perhaps
the most popular is the ADFC (loosely translated, "General German Bicycle Club").
One of their benefits is bicycle theft insurance. There are others too.
I carry tools galore
with me because we frequently ride with bikes that other people maintain; or more
accurately, fail to maintain. So, when I pass someone who is currently engaged in
some type of on the spot bicycle maintenance, such as changing a flat tire, I stop
and ask if they have all the tools (Werkzeuge) they need. That might be
carrying the cross an extra mile but others have stopped to help me on occasion
so I just return the good deed. Seldom am I asked to help or lend a tool. For a
list of tools that I recommend the leader carry, see our
What to Bring Along page.
Since we are on the subject of tools, be sure to bring,
or purchase in Germany, an extra tube to fit your bike and at least two tire irons
for bike tires. The step by step on how to repair a flat is
most important part of that is checking inside the tire with your fingers to find
the thorn or piece of glass that caused the flat - if it is there. And, when reassembling
the tire to the wheel, once both beads are inside the rim but before you inflate
the tire, push the valve stem up briefly to be sure that the fat part of the valve
stem is above the beads.
While I am on the subject of tires, a word about proper inflation. I have had bicycle
shop owners tell me a tire should be inflated at slightly less than the minimum
pressure stamped on the sidewall of the tire because you will get a softer ride.
That is pure bunk! it might be OK if you are riding on paved roads to the store
for groceries. However, if you are riding long distances with loaded panniers, inflate
your tires to the maximum stamped on the sidewall. In the case of my favorite tire,
Schwalbe Marathon Plus, that
is 85 lbs. or 6.0 bar. You will find pedaling easier and avoid puncture flats caused
by compressing the inner tube against the rim of the wheel.
Why do I like Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires? Because they have a built-in protection
pad against punctures causing flat tires. Sure, there are competitors but I have
not tried them. I did switch all of my 7 bicycles to Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires
and the only flat I have had was caused by a twisted inner tube. Oh, I should mention,
do not twist the tube when you reinstall it after fixing a flat. That is just one
of the lessonsI learned after I should have known it.
Maxa and I are now over sixty (but under 70), so we enjoy riding about 35 to 45
miles per day at a leisurely speed, stopping for sights and bakeries (can you tell
from my side profile?). Some of our readers are younger and/or more athletic. They
can ride 50 to 100 miles per day though I do not know why they want to. Other readers
are a little older and may be happy with 15 to 25 miles per day. One reader had
a great idea of renting a station wagon, staying in a vacation apartment or a hotel
and riding out, and then taking the train or other public transportation back to
their accommodation. Then after that area was explored, they would pack up and move
everything to the next accommodation and do it all over again. I like that idea
and we will no doubt be doing that before we hang up the bikes for good.
On our What to Bring along page, we discuss panniers
(bike bags), maps, tools, bike locks, plastic bags, rain covers, spare inner tube,
bicycle tire pump, clothing and raingear, first aid kits, and a bunch of other items.
Bicycles are a normal part of traffic. When you are on a road or
street you must obey the traffic laws. On the a bike path, try to pass on the left
and meet on coming traffic on the right side of the trail - just like cars on the
road. This common sense is not as common as I would like it to be. You cannot depend
on children having a clue. If you have to get off and push up a hill, do so on the
right side of the trail. For a detailed iteration of
German laws affecting bicycles see our page
on the subject.
You must obey any speed limit signs and stop signs, even on a bike. The police
will ticket you and fine you if they catch you speeding or acting the scofflaw.
Any traffic from the right has the right-of-way unless you are on a main street
(Hauptstrasse - marked with yellow diamonds). Lastly on traffic laws, in
Germany, they do not turn right at a red light, not even after a full stop. Right
turns on red are strictly verboten! (If you wonder who I am trying to convince,
it is me, myself. I keep making that mistake and one day, my number will be up as
far as a fine goes.) Also, see German Bicycle
Back to the top
several companies but we have depended upon two publishers, Esterbauer and BVA.
If you want to order a map or a guidebook from Esterbauer's bikeline
series, you can do so by going online to German Amazon. You must use the German
version of Amazon. The website is http://www.Amazon.de
. However, on our link to Amazon Store, we list
most of the bikeline series and if you purchase them through this website, we get
a small commission, so we invite you to do so as small compensation for the work
that we put into this website.
A word of warning before you get too excited: These guidebooks are expensive
to order online because of the delivery charge. The cost of the book alone varies
around €12. However, outside Germany, you will pay a delivery charge of €13 (exchange
rate is about €1:$1.3) plus €2.50 per item. Inside Germany, the delivery charge
is €3.00 but delivery is free if the order is over €20.00. Most larger bookstores
sell the books for the same price listed in Amazon and they frequently have a large
selection. Especially, if you are planning a ride around Frankfurt, for example,
the bookstore probably carries all of the rides in that part of the county.
Once at the Amazon.de website, here are some translations and steps you may need:
At the top of the screen, find the “Schnellsuche box and type in “bikeline
Radtourenbuch.” Schnellsuche means Fast Search. bikeline Radtourenbuch
means bikeline Bicycle Tour books. Click on “Los,” which means, “go.” You
will find yourself in “Deutsche Bücher (Reise & Sport)” section or,
German books, Travel and Sport, and three or so options will appear to choose from.
Now click on the option “Alle 124 Suchergebnesse …,” which translated means,
“all 124 instances of the search result. Or, you might see the choice “Alle
124 Treffer für bikeline Radtourenbuch” which similarly means “all 124 instances
that meet the search criteria:”
At the bottom of the screen, you may see a “Weiter” button. It means,
“continue.” Also, for your information, “Brochiert” means “brochure.” You
will see the price for Neu Bucher “new books” and “Gebraucht”
or, “used books.” I advise you to stick with the new books because used books may
not be available and the shipping cost will be the same in any event. Do you want
someone’s notes in German on the margins? Maybe so. Choose one or more books by
clicking their underlined link. Once the book appears on its own page, on the right
side of the screen where it says, Jetz kaufen,” click the “In den Einkaufswagen”
button. That means you are putting that item into your shopping cart. The next screen
you will see includes a box on the left side of the screed that has your selection
or selections in it.
At the top of that box is a button that says “Zur Kasse gehen.” That
means to take your cart to the checkout counter. (By the way, if you wonder what
Einkauf fortsetzen means, it simply means to continue your purchasing.)
After you click, “Zur Kasse gehen,” you will see a form appear. First,
I assume you are not already a customer of German Amazon (different from American
Amazon.com), so simply put your email address in the box that says “Geben Sie
Ihre E-Mail-Adresse ein.” And choose “Ich bin ein neuer Kunde,” or
“I am a new customer.” Next, put your first and last name in the box that says,
“Vor- und Nachname.” Then if you want, your company name in the box that
says, “Firmenname.” Next, put your house number and street name in the
box, “Strasse und Hausnummer.” And now your zip code into the box that
says “Postleitzahl.” Now, put your city into the “Stadt” box and your state
or province in the “Bundesland/Kanton” box. Now, put your country into
the “Land” box. Lastly, your phone number goes into the “Telefonnumer für Rückfragen,”
in case they need to call you with questions. In Germany, the syntax of addresses
is quite different than we are used to in much of North America. It’s OK, they will
figure it out.
At the bottom, you will find a question that wants you to confirm that your billing
address is correct. It asks the question, “Ist das auch Ihre Rechnungsadresse?”
or is the address given also your billing address?” It asks you to choose from yes,
Ja, or no, Nein. You are on your own if you choose to bill to
another address. There is a limit, after all. Click “Weiter” and you will
see a screen that asks if you want the order held until all items are assembled
prior to shipping (it will save you shipping costs). I recommend accepting the default,
“Kompletversand.” You have one more chance to review the items in your
order before you click Weiter again to go the to screen where they collect
your credit card number. First, they ask you for a password and then you have to
repeat the password in the next box. Then you have to give them a credit card type,
number, valid-through date, and the name on the card. Remember, shipping is expensive.
Shipping cost outside Europe = €13.00 plus €2.50 for each item. (Inside Germany,
the whole cost is €3.00 but free if the order is over €20.00) Bookstores are my
preferred venue. Good luck.
We see many more
people with helmets nowadays compared to 15 years ago. Of course, wearing is a good
thing, wearing helmets that are properly adjusted is even better. The first tip
is not to strap the helmet on the back of your bicycle
like many Germans (Europeans?) do. Wear it on your head and adjust the chin strap
so that there is no slack under your chin but not uncomfortably tight. Do not wear
it on the back of your head like a cap tipped up, wear it evenly on you head as
if it were a protection device, not a fashion statement. Also, and this is a key
thing, the two side catches that hold the straps from the front and back of the
helmet should be secured under your ears, not next to the catch that connects both
side straps under your chin. You want your helmet to protect you when you crash.
It will do a better job of protecting your head if it is properly adjusted with
those side catches under your ears rather than under your chin. Of course, if the
helmet is on the back of your cycle, you could be brain damaged in an accident.
Try raising a family or having a full life while you are brain damaged. Our advice;
on your head, wear a quality helmet that is properly adjusted. Happy cycle trails.
We seldom make room reservations in advance but here is a tip if you feel the need
to do so before of your bicycle holiday or bike tour. On the
they have a map link that opens a Google map and it shows all the Bett and Bike
locations in Germany. Go to their website and then click the link under the small
picture of a map where it says, "Lagekarte anzeigen." When the
map opens, by using the map controls in the upper left corner of the map, zoom out
until you see the area where you want reservations, then zoom in until the orange
symbols for the Bett & Bike establishments, then click on one and you will see
the address and contact information for that establishment.
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