21st century travel in Europe. Part 2, bicycles.

My wife and I do a fair bit of travelling and over the years we’ve come to the realisation that most travelling involves sitting around passively in various forms of transportation for long periods of time.

Last year when we went to Europe we thought it would be a good idea to take some folding bicycles with us to extend our range out of the car and to get some exercise. We bought 2 very cheap Chinese folding bikes ($200 AUD each) from Aldi and we found them to be perfect on our trip.

The great thing about having folding bikes is that they are easily transported on aeroplanes and in cars. The bikes we bought were a bit on the heavy side, weighing in at about 18 kg (40 lbs) each, which used up our luggage allowance on the flight over, but we were able to take enough clothes on board as cabin baggage.

One can spend serious money on a folding bike but we bought cheap ones because we didn’t want to worry about them getting stolen or damaged. Another factor is that we both aren’t serious cyclists and we’re more interesting in just tooltling along at an easy pace, taking in the scenery and chatting.

Europe is a great place for cycling. There are a multitude of very easy long distance paths that follow old disused train tracks in Spain, paths along canals in France and of course there’s cycling along rivers. All the cycle paths I’ve just mentioned are so easy because they travel along fairly flat ground without steep hills.

As with most of the rest of the world, traffic congestion in Europe makes it a bit dangerous and unpleasant to cycle in the major cities. The exception to this general rule is Amsterdam which is a very bicycle friendly city.

Although it is possible to rent bicycles just about anywhere in Europe we were glad to have taken our own as we could just pull them out of the car and use them when and where we liked. It’s a fantastic feeling to park the car and just hop on your bike.

Because cycling is so effortless it greatly increases one’s range and it’s possible to see so much more while getting some exercise instead of getting on and off buses etc. Where bicycles really come into to their own is in medium sized cities where things are a little too far to walk to but too close to drive. Cities like Ljubljana in Slovenia (a really lovely place), Nimes in France, Verona in Italy, Valencia in Spain and Brugge in Belgium are perfect examples of the kind of cities that are great places to explore on a bicycle.

There are two accessories I’d recommend to take with a bike to Europe and they are a cable lock and a rack. The cable lock will stop anyone from just grabbing your bike and scooting off with it but it won’t stop someone who is more determined and better equipped and for that that reason I wouldn’t recommend leaving your chained up bike unattended for too long (this goes for anywhere in the world). The rack is great for strapping on things like shopping, water or raingear.

A nice way to travel, is with a few days clothes in a small bag strapped to your rack, down the paths that follow rivers (we went along the Mosel in Germany), eating the local food that is in season and stopping at little pensions over night.

Bliss! 

6 thoughts on “21st century travel in Europe. Part 2, bicycles.”

  1. OK, you both took enough clothes for three months in one carry on each?? No other checked bags just the bikes??

    Holy God, that’s impressive. I think the next post is how to pack for a three month trip just using a carry on suitcase. Actually, the NY Times just did an article about how stewardesses and flight crews pack and I was amazed what a difference rolling your clothes made rather than just laying them flat.

  2. Pat

    The trick is to think about how many clothes you need for about 8 days and just wash them when you need to. Which means about 5 shirts, 3 trousers and a change of underwear for each day. Extra clothes can be bought as you need them (like when I left half my clothes in a hotel and didn’t realise it after we left a few days later).

    Most of our shirts are made from knitted fabrics and they don’t need to be ironed (I wouldn’t anyway, no matter what). Our trousers were made of a microfibre and latex blend. Very breathable, comfortable and fast drying.

  3. I enjoyed this and your last post, razzbuffnik. Informative and good ideas all around. I think for bicycling, the presence of paths reserved for bicycles (and perhaps pedestrians) is essential — especially in places like St. Croix where there are no shoulders on the narrow roads; and traffic laws, signs, road markings and the like are largely treated as optional suggestions. Plus, we all drive left-hand drive cars on the left side of the road so it is impossible to see around even a gradual left hand curve. Bicyclists here take their life in their hands on each ride.

  4. Donald

    Thanks. One of the great things about Europe is that they don’t mind bicycles. here in Oz, cyclists are hated and it can be a real drag cycling on the road here. I found the US pretty good for cycling.

    Years ago when I was in St Thomas and St Johns, I did notice that the locals thought it was hillarious to run people off the raod.

  5. What handy little bikes to get around on & to take with you on a plane. Great idea. That’s an amazing 2nd photo.
    The theft issue made me remember seeing the remains of a stolen bike in the Queen St Mall in Brisbane when we lived there. Someone had chained their bike to a bike rack by the front wheel, that’s all that was left, the front wheel from a racing bike which had a quick release wheel nut setup. I still can’t imagine that someone would have the nerve to undo the front wheel & walking off through the mall with it.

  6. Tony

    The folding bikes were great and I’d really recommend them to anyone going over to Europe.

    As for the bike theft, I guess we can take it as a given, that there are some cheeky sods out there that rely on the rest of us turning a blind eye.

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