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Europe’s Best Bike Routes In 2014

Posted January 23rd, 2014

It’s almost that time again, when the annual Fietsenwandelbeurs takes place in Amsterdam.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of going, let us explain. This is a huge two-day exposition, dedicated to everything for cyclists and hikers. We go every year to check out new gear, the latest bikes and of course to get inspiration for future bike tours.

Ahead of the fair, the Fietsenwandelbeurs nominates bike routes for the “Route of the Year” award. This year there are four nominees:

#1. The Pirinexus (through Spain and France)

The Pirinexus is a 350km loop, of which 280km are in Spain and 80km are on the French side of the Pyrenees.

Pirinexus Route

At the moment, it’s southern Europe‘s longest marked bicycle route. The route is mostly flat, taking in a part of the Costa Brava and former railway lines. That said, you will have to climb a couple mountains with peaks of 1,000-1,500 meters. The roads leading up these mountains aren’t too steep, however. Part of the Pirinexus also tracks EuroVelo 8 from Athens to Cádiz. Read more…

#2. The Tour de Manche (France and England)

The Tour de Manche is a bike route around the English Channel. Ferry services help you make the connection between England and France. In total it’s a route of 1,200km but there’s also a smaller version of 440km, which takes in the Channel Islands.

Tour de Manche

The Tour de Manche doesn’t always follow the coast. Sometimes it uses old railway lines and small tracks to cut across Normandy. The English section involves a few steep climbs. On the return leg, you get a wonderful view over the cliffs. You can also use the Tour de Manche route to hook up with the Vélodyssée, which runs down the coast of France towards Spain. Read more…

#3. Valsugana (Trentino, Italy)

The Valsugana route follows the Brenta river valley between Pergine Valsugana and Bassano del Grappa. It’s fairly short at just 80km. You bike nearly entirely on dedicated bike paths. The route climbs very gently (you’ll barely notice it). It the Western part you can take on some extra loops around local lakes.

The Valsugana Route

The Valsugana connects to the Adige (Etsch) cycle path from Austria to Verona and the Via Claudia Augusta, going towards the Adriatic coastline. Read more…

#4. Vennbahn (Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg)

The Vennbahn is a dedicated bike path that follows old railway lines from Troisvierges (Luxembourg) to Aachen (Germany). It’s 125 km long.

The Vennbahn

Leaving Aachen, the route climbs to 500 meters but the grade is never more than 2% so it’s a gentle climb. Save your energy! There’s a 10% climb just before the Luxembourg border. As far as the landscape goes, the bike path mostly goes through green areas and there are many signs of the area’s railway history. We’ll be cycling this route over Easter, so there’s more information to come! Read more…

Three Great Bike Touring Routes In Europe

Posted February 4th, 2013

Every February, thousands of cyclists come to Amsterdam for the Fietsenwandelbeurs. It’s a gigantic fair centred on everything of interest for bike tourists, hikers, campers and anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

As part of the event, 3 bike routes are nominated for ‘best bike route of the year’. Here are the 2013 selections.

1. Velodyssey – The Atlantic Cycling Route
The top choice of this year’s judges is Velodyssey: a 1,200km bike route that starts in Britain and runs all the way down the western coast of France to the Spanish border. It’s France’s longest waymarked bike path and connects up neatly with the Eurovelo 6 and Eurovelo 4 routes.

2. Burgundy By Bike (Tour De Bourgogne)
The Tour De Bourgogne sounds like a food-loving cyclists’ dream. It’s a 580km bike route (soon to be expanded to 800km) that passes through the gastronomic capital of Dijon and famous wine regions around Mâcon. The route is set partly along voie vertes, canals and disused railway lines, where no motorised traffic is allowed. Detailed route descriptions and a GPS track are available from the website.

Tour De Bourgogne

#3. The Vennbahn
At just 125km in length, the Vennbahn is the shortest of the three nominated routes. Unless you live nearby, it’s not likely to be a destination in its own right but could make a nice addition to a longer tour. It traces the path of an old railway line through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. The website has some good information about the route and the area, including intriguing stories about the coffee smugglers that roamed the border areas of Germany and Belgium after World War II.

Helpful Route-Planning Resources For Bike Touring In Germany

Posted March 7th, 2012

The question of how to best plan a bicycle route through Germany recently came up on our Facebook group.

Facebook Question

At first, we were stuck for an answer but after a bit of reflection we remembered a couple good resources.

#1.  Naviki

This website is relatively new but looks promising. The interface is easy to figure out and once you’ve entered a start point and an end point for your tour, it produces a GPS route that can be downloaded in a variety of formats. Naviki even has smartphone apps if you’re planning on touring with an iPhone or Android handset.

The only thing that’s not clear to us is exactly how Naviki chooses a route: do they include local bike paths or only smaller roads? It’s certainly a good starting point for planning your tour in any case and you can always refine the route as you go along.

#2. Radweit

This is a totally different kettle of fish from Naviki and takes more effort to figure out but www.Radweit.de is also incredibly rewarding, once you understand how it works. The website is entirely in German so use Google Translate if your German isn’t up to scratch.

When you first access www.Radweit.de you’ll find it’s not exactly an ‘online route planner’ in the modern sense. You can’t just plug in a starting point and an end point and expect a route to pop up. What you can do, however, is access and print bike routes and maps for all of Germany and many surrounding countries.

The maps are impressively detailed and the website creator has gone to a great deal of trouble to fit only the relevant sections on each map. In David’s case, he could find information for his trip from Kiel to Munich by going to the page on bike routes to and from Munich.

On that page, he’d find a link detailing options for Kiel to Hamburg and Hamburg to Munich (outlined in red in the image below), as well as an overview of routes in Germany running to and from Munich.

Radweit

When he clicks on any of the links, he’d get a map like this. At first, it looks incomprehensible but look closely and you’ll see that on one neat sheet of A4 paper you have an entire 150km bike route. Just follow the sections in order. The end of section 1 lines up with the start of section 2 and so on…

Radweit

You can print the maps in black and white or colour, in A4 size or on A3 paper. Handy! With a little time to go through the site, you can print maps for an entire bike tour across Germany and even into neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands. Best of all – it’s free!

There are, of course, other options for planning bike tours across Germany. Our friend Blanche from the World Cycle Videos group suggested these websites:

  • Fietsrouteplanner – The interface is in Dutch but there’s an explanatory page in English. Note, you have to zoom in on the map a few times to see city names and if you’re typing a city name into the search box, try the Dutch spelling. It often doesn’t recognize the English spelling.
  • Via Michelin – There is a bicycle option and we’ve used it in the past but as we were writing this post it wasn’t working. Let’s hope it’s back in service soon!

Do you have a website to suggest? Share it by leaving a comment!

34km Wallgau to Seefeld

Posted August 8th, 2007

Stuck in a tentThe pitter patter of rain falling on our tent woke us up this morning, just as it carried us off to sleep the night before. Usually the weather clears before long though, so we packed up all our bags, had our breakfast and started getting the bikes ready. Just as we were about to start taking down the tent, the skies opened and we crept back inside our shelter. We sat there for well over an hour and still the rain poured down. There was really nothing to do but to make a break for it so we dressed up in all our waterproof clothes and made a dash outside, pulling the tent down as quickly as possible and then pushing on down the road with water dripping down our noses. We saw a few other crazy cyclists out in the wet, but mostly we had the trails and roads to ourselves. On these cold, soggy days we try to make lots of stops so we first went for coffee, then groceries and to the tourist bureau. Every few minutes in the warm and dry is a boost to the morale. Our spirits got a real dash, however, when we checked the weather: four straight days of rain are in the forecast. It could be a wet week ahead! We did get the occasional break in the rain but mostly it kept true to the prediction. Wet, wet, wet. By the time we reached the mountain resort town of Seefeld we were fed up, tired and grumpy. With our tent soaked, we thought a campsite with a hot shower might be just the ticket. There’s only one in Seefeld and it’s a ritzy spot with prices to match but when the campsite comes with a sauna and heated TV room we can relax and eat meals in, it’s worth it.

66km Gartenberg to Wallgau

Posted August 7th, 2007

Wild boar!The foothills of the Alps gave our legs got a workout today and a good thing too since the truly lofty peaks aren’t far ahead. We’ve got at least one mountain pass in our path tomorrow and within the next few days we’ll have the chance to climb to nearly 2,800m to Italy‘s famous Passo di Stelvio. The weather and our mood will determine whether we make the hike but at the moment it’s a tempting thought. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good challenge and mountain climbs are always a thriller; for the view and sense of achievement at the top as well as for the eye-watering descents. For the moment, however, we are content to roll along the ups and downs of the tail end of Bavaria. We’ve continued to follow the Isar river and have stopped more than once to read on its banks and swim in the clear blue and very cold water. There were also plenty of local beer gardens in our path so we propped our bikes up against a fence and treated ourselves to a cool drink. When in Germany…. Despite the beer, we were making quite good time and hoped to cross into Austria today but rain set in late in the afternoon and instead we stopped for a final night in Germany, camping once again close to the Isar river.