The following pages include a documentary of one of my recent bike trips to Europe. This trip was one through Germany from the Frankfurt Airport to the town of Langenbach, very close to the Munich Airport.
I found my cycling partner for this trip, Tom Jolliffe from within the ranks of the same cycle club that I ride with: the London Cycle Club. Tom would be in France with his wife for three weeks before flying out to meet me in Frankfurt for the start of our journey. We both had new touring bikes that we had purchased in the last year, however we decided to take our "trusty" old steeds instead. Mine was a four year old Cannondale H-400 hybrid, while Tom's was a five year old Raleigh hybrid. The real reason we took these bikes is that we wouldn't cry as much if the airlines damaged them in transit. I like to try to cycle from beginning to end, with very little reliance on local sources of transport. While researching this trip, I tried to find out if it was possible to cycle directly from the Frankfurt Airport (one of the busiest in Europe) without being impaled on somebody's Volkswagen Jetta.
Some of the people I corresponded with thought I was crazy: "German drivers are too aggressive," or, "... there are nothing but autobahns around the Frankfurt Airport." However, I had made up my mind to find out if this was true. I finally found a web site put up by an American cyclist, Boyd Simmons, who had done almost the same trip I had planned, only a year earlier. And he had cycled directly from the airport. This gave me a great deal of encouragement. However, Mr. Simmons did not include a whole lot of detail, so my quest continued. I came upon another web site specifically set up with information of cycle touring around the world, with emphasis on taking your bike on airplanes, etc. Through this web site I got in touch with David Alexander, a teacher from Alberta, Canada who had also cycled from Frankfurt Airport. With his detailed instructions, we found our way out of the airport with exceptional ease. His instructions are paraphrased in a link on Day 1 of our trip. During our eight day cycle trip we discovered a few things:
- First, pack light! I had intended to take only enough "stuff" to fill my two rear panniers, leaving the front ones empty for various purchases along the way. Unfortunately, I got a bit carried away, and filled them all to capacity. I found there were several items I really didn't need. For example - rain gear. I took rain pants as well as booties for my shoes. What I found is that I sweat more than the rain made me wet. So leave the rain pants and booties at home. Besides, after 8 hours in the rain, not much stays dry anyhow. I did see many locals riding with ponchos - these would seem to be cooler, and might not be a bad idea. The camera I took was my old reliable Canon A-1 - a great camera, but it weighs in at probably 3 pounds ... about 5% of the total weight of my panniers. Get smart, go out and buy a portable camera, or get a disposable one.
- Put a green garbage bag inside each of your panniers, then put all of your carried items inside them. Pack your clothes in large freezer bags (Ziploc), then put the bags inside the garbage bag. I did this and even after riding through eight hours of rain, and plunging through some flooded cycle paths over 9" deep, everything remained perfectly dry.
- Do install fenders on your bike! These things will not only prevent you from looking like a skunk with a big black stripe down your back, but if you ride in a group, your partner who is chasing your tail will thank you immensely. Unless, of course, he likes eating mud! In case you are wondering, no we didn't have them. And yes, we ate a lot of muck!
- Interesting books for the trip: I like to have a bit of background about the country I am travelling in before I set out. I also like to have a look at the maps I need before I depart so I can plan the trip, and have an idea on how long the trip will take before I leave. That being said, I would recommend cycling shorter distances in Germany on a daily basis. Tom and I had several days over 100 km. long. While we enjoyed the cycling part, and relished the spectacular scenery enroute, we failed to really enjoy the towns we stayed in. Sometimes we found that we arrived at 6:00 p.m., ate dinner, had a few beers, and went to bed, only to do it all over again the next day. Remember, the Romantic Road is very historical in nature, and includes many sites that involve more than just a cursory glance. Take your time!!! Here are some of the books we used for this trip, and can recommend:
Maps: It was hard to find cycling specific maps for Germany prior to leaving Canada. I found that the Michelin series road maps were satisfactory for the most part, however they missed many of the cycle routes that cycle maps did include. Once in Germany almost without exception, every bookstore carried cycle touring maps. We even found them in gas stations as well as the Frankfurt Airport. They were very expensive, at about 11 DM for a map that would cover roughly two days worth of cycling, but they were well worth it.
- Europe by Bike -18 Tours Geared for Discovery, Karen and Terry Whitehill. Published by the Mountaineers, 1001 SW Klickitat Way, Suite 201, Seattle, Washington 98134.
- Germany The Rough Guide, Gorden McLachlan. Published by Rough Guides Limited, 1 Mercer Street, London, U.K. WC2H 9QJ. Rough Guides on the Internet: http://www.roughguides.com