Friday, September 08, 2017

Beer soft drink mixtures for cyclists Part II

We spent a week in Oberstdorf way down south in Bavaria recently and I tried a Russenhalbe. This is a mixture of Weizenbier and lemonade. Avoid it like the plague. It is dreadful.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Reducing air pollution in city centres. Finding room for cycle ways in cities.

Mannheim like many German, nay, European cities is looking to the bicycle as a way to reduce air pollution levels. The idea is to reduce the number of not only diesel powered vehicles on the road in the city centre. New cycle ways are planned, both in city streets and as bike-bahns, bicycle super highways. There are a number of new cycle ways in Mannheim and those that are in city streets take up room that could be utilised by motor traffic, shock horror! Opposition to these measures normally fall in to two classes, either suggesting a different, more inconvenient route along quieter city streets running parallel to a direct route or the end of civilization as we know it argument, that the measures will make shopping in the city centre so inconvenient, that customers will go elsewhere. The latter argument falls down when one notices that many people, us two for example, use public transport to visit the city to buy clothing and outdoor gear. If we decided to buy furniture or white goods - fridge or washing machine we'd have it delivered.
The one thing that most of the petrol heads miss is that although they might be slightly delayed driving their status symbol into Mannheim to find a parking spot or coughing up the tram fare to park the beast, there will be 10 or 15% fewer cars on the road. This will mean the delay will be less. Considering the air quality in cities all the world there are going be restrictions on the use of cars and we might as well get used to it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Vacation Medical Insurance for Trips to Great Britain

This note was triggered by meeting two US Americans on our walking trip through Northumberland. They had been cycling, but one of them had an accident and had injured her knee. She refused to go to the local National Health Service hospital to have the knee examined and skyped her Dr. in the USA to have a long distance investigation. The couple had several weeks more vacation to "enjoy". We enquired and were told treatment would then follow in the USA, but the lady was in  pain.  Whether the two had something against socialised medicine or whether they had no vacation medical insurance so were worried about the cost of treatment we didn't enquire.
We have known cases where visitors from outside of Europe have come to Germany without medical insurance and it can be quite expensive. Treatment in Britain is cheaper, but… Cyclists visiting Britain from outside the EU, however should take out a vacation medical insurance. If anything happens it is cheaper than being without an insurance. British public hospitals charge non residents which wasn't formerly the case, but these days the hospitals want to see an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a credit card. Just don't ask about dentists, who are largely private in the UK. An ankle or knee injury could well make a serious hole in £500. Short term medical insurance cover costs less than this.
Visitors to Britain from countries either in or associated with the European Union can receive an EHIC which gives the holder medical treatment in the various countries of the EU under the same terms as an inhabitant of the country they are in. At the moment this applies to UK citizens as long as the country is in the EU. What will happen after BREXIT is not clear.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Free cargo bike loans in Mannheim, Germany

Following the example of other German cities Mannheim now has a number of cargo bikes that one can borrow. Details in German on www.lastenvelomannheim.de“. It's a chance to use one occasionally or try one out before buying one.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Changing trains in Hamburg, Germany

If you are travelling south from Hamburg by train rather than using the main railway station, Hamburg Hauptbahnhof consider using the Dammtor station just to the north. The Hauptbahnhof is very busy, whereas Dammtor is much quieter. Just check that your train does stop there before heading south using www.bahn.de. Especially if you are going to put a bicycle on the train Dammtor is much easier to use.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Bicycle of the week?

We subscribe to a digital version of the "Observer", a British Sunday newspaper. The newspaper features a Bicycle of the Week. More often than not these are expensive thin tyred road bikes without such luxuries as mudguards or baggage racks meaning they are useless as commuter bikes although they are often described as such. The "Observer" is not alone in this. Most newspapers review motor cars that are outside the financial comfort zones of their readers. I think I should stop reading these bicycle reviews. It will be better for my blood pressure.  For some reason unknown last weeks bicycle of the week is a motor bike, OK without a petrol engine, but fitted with an elecric motor: a Neematic FR/1. This ticks all the newspaper boxes: it's expensive, Price: £7,075. It probably needs a motor bike licence to ride it, at least in Germany with its top speed of 50mph (80kph). It's basic purpose in life is to be popped on the back of a car and ridden offroad skidding round forest tracks as though one is in the Utah backwoods. It's heavy though, 50kg. There are no points where one can fasten a bag, so you need to carry your gear on your back. 
What worries me is that at the moment about all these electric mountain bikes is that we spend a modest amount of time hill walking in the Odenwald and in the Pfalzerwald, where the Germans who consider that one is roughing it, if there is no chance to munch a sandwich, drink a Weizenbier, a cider or a glass of wine once one has ascended the summits, have built inns and mountain huts on the tops. In the past one saw the odd mountainbiker up the top, as  it was hard work climbing three or four hundred metres from the plains, but with electric oomph there are more and more bikers in the restaurants. Even if they lay off the Dornfelder Rosé and most off them do, they can still let the pig out on the way down as though they were taking part in the Trans Provence race. This is what mountain bikers do and it bothers me. Normally the rules are that the mountian bikers should follow the wider more gradual forest roads, but for some of them it's more fun to transfer to the paths that we walkers use. OK if I am walking uphill, I can keep my winkers open to spot any would be downhiller barrelling down the narrow paths, so I can shout "BIKE!" and jump into the bushes, hoping that she who must be obeyed has heard me and followed suite. Walking downhill is more difficult. One needs to look round like a WWII fighter pilot in a dog fight. Matters aren't helped by the advertising for the Neematic which shows a mountain biker skidding around corners burning off adrenaline. It does not encourage responsible cycling in woods packed full of families and pensioners rambling uphill and down dale.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Mudguards/Fenders

Recently I have come across three examples of bikes that in my opinion are not fit for purpose as touring and commuter bikes: two hire bikes used by a pair of US Americans in Scotland; a bike offered as a prize in competition to celebrate 200 years of the bicycle and "The bicycle of the week" in a British Sunday newspaper. I checked the bicycles of the week feature and realised that over 90% of the bicycles shown were without mudguards although they were intended to be used for commuting and/or touring. I am sorry to tell you this but in Britain it rains a lot, not as much as is popularly thought, but one can normally reckon with wet roads from time to time even in summer. Your tyres will then spray mucky water at you and your bike. If you are a fair weather commuter or tourist, or even just use your bike as a fitness machine then a bike without mudguards does give you a sportier image, but if you are going to use your bike as a means of transport then think seriously about mudguards.

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