Germany is such a vast country especially since the unification of East and West Germany. It has such a wide variety of landscape and terrain from the flat lands of the north to the alpine mountains of Bavaria. All of which can give good cycling.
Germany has vastly improved its cycle paths and cycle routes over the last few years and now has a extensive network of of well marked local and long distance cycle paths. The amount of people touring and recreational cycling has similarly increased. There are cycle paths on most main roads and these are mostly separate to the road itself, however in the towns and cities a lot of the cycle ways are just part of existing pedestrian paths. Therefore care has to be taken with pedestrians and in mounting curbs as you cross adjoining roads.
Cycling on the island of Amrum
Most of the cycle paths are well sign posted. In the Old East Germany we found that the roads are still not that good, the main roads are narrow but very busy and a lot of the country roads are still cobbled. This can make journey times significantly slower.
Germany has many long distance cycle routes, there are currently 200 which cover most of the country and are well marked, you can find a good interactive map and descriptions on the www.germany-tourism.de site. Also on this site there is a good route finder, that will suggest a route according to certain criteria that you put in and suggestions for routes if you like rivers or mountains or want a route suitable for children. An alternative route map site that shows the long distance cycle routes is www.radweit.de. This site has a side bar showing the routes which if you click on a link takes you to a page with strip maps of the route.
Campsites in Germany are not as numerous as in Holland or Denmark and therefore a little more care is needed in your route choice to make sure that you days are not too long. They are generally of a good standard and most are well equipped and prices vary according to the facilities offered. Most campsites are marked on the tourist maps. More information on campsites can be obtained from the Deutsche Camping Club, e-mail: email@example.com or their Web site: www.camping-club.de (In German).
Maps aren't that easy to come by in Germany except in the larger book shops in the towns and cities. The tourist information offices only seem to deal with accommodation and unlike the Dutch 'VVV's' do not sell maps. It might be worth your while to try and obtain your maps in Britain before you leave from some where like Stanford's or try contacting 'The Map shop', they hold a good selection in stock and are very helpful.
Cost @ €5
The most detailed maps available, they show all the cycle paths even showing which side of the road the paths is on!. They include a lot of tourist information symbols and on the back there is information on the places of interest (only in German). Because of there small scale you may need a lot of them!
Cost @ €6.8
The official map of the Allgemeinen Deutschen Fahrrad club (one of the German Cycling Clubs) Good detailed maps showing all the cycling routes. They have useful 'spanner' symbol to mark the towns or villages which have cycle repair shops. Be aware that in our experience some campsites marked on the maps haven't always existed!
Deutsche Radtourenkarte 1:100,000
Cost @ €7.9
These are produced by Haupka in conjunction with the B.D.R.(The Bund Deutscher Radfahrer e.V.- another of the German cycling clubs). These have good detail with the usual tourist information. And like the Radwanderkarte they have information on the places of interest (again only in German). They show all the cycle paths, including the national cycle routes ('Radwanderwegs').
- The Rough Guide to Germany - Published by Rough Guides ISBN 1-85828-128-8 A very useful guide to all things in Germany.
- Esterbauer publish a number of good cycle guides for a lot of the main cycle routes, they have good strip maps but the text is unfortunately all in German, check out their website www.esterbauer.com
- Bergstrasse Bike Books produce good cycling guides for some areas of Germany, currently - a circular route along the Rhine from Strasbourg to Koblenz, up the Moselle to Nancy and then parallel to the Rhine-Marne canal to Strasbourg and two volumes of the Rhine End to End: Andermatt-Basel and Basel-Hook of Holland. Now includes their latest guide for Lake Constance and the area roundabout.
Remember opening times are not as liberal as in Britain most shops stay open until 5:30 p.m. and some supermarkets in the bigger towns stay open later and very few shops are open on a Sunday. Most of the bigger campsites have campsite shops although these generally adhered to normal shop opening times in Germany.
It is perfectly feasible to take your bikes on the German trains and we have in fact used German trains on several occasions. There are a few things to take note of so please see our page 'Trains in Germany' to find out.
For more information on German trains contact the Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) for more details, they now have a very useful online booking service in English.
(Many thanks to Ingo Kirschnereit of www.cyclejakob.de a native German and a long distance cyclist, for sending us the information for this section.)
Local busses can carry up to three bicycles. Although it is not used very often (except at the coast or mountain areas) it is possible. It is a good way to get your bike to a bicycle dealer if you have a puncture or to get to a starting point of a trip. You must buy a bicycle-ticket, but it is very affordable
Long distance busses like Eurolines don’t carry bicycles but private coach companies do. Just ask in a travel agency! Often a tip addressed to the driver opens the trunk for your bike.
- The cycle paths in the towns and cities in Germany are often not purpose built and are partitioned parts of the existing pedestrian paths. You will need to be careful of pedestrians and the inadequate ramps on the curbs of roads that cross the paths.
- Cycle helmets are more acceptable in Germany and you will not get the funny looks that you do in Holland.
- Some campsites use a key system for the toilet facilities which requires you to pay a refundable deposit, if you intend to leave early you will have to make arrangements with the owners.
- Quite a few of the country roads in the old East Germany are still cobbled, a good sturdy bike and a good suspension seat post and a well padded or sprung saddle is helpful on the 'Derriere'.
- For information on the German cycling laws have a look at Tim and Maxa Burleigh's bicyclegermany.com site.
The German Tourist information Offices seem mainly to be geared up for organising accommodation for tourists rather than for providing information on places of interest in there local area. Unlike the Dutch they don't seem to sell maps of their local area.
Many thanks to Ingo Kirschnereit of www.cyclejakob.de a native German and a long distance cyclist, for sending us the information for this section:
In Germany the lighting of fires is only allowed on designated barbecue or fire places. The lighting of fires in the countryside can be punished by the police or the forest guards. The fine for lighting fires in nature reserves or state forests are very high and can rise up to 50.000 €. To avoid hassle it is much better to use a camping stove to cook your meals.
It is not easy to get information about stove fuel on the Internet. In Germany the most used type of stove is the Alcohol- or Trangia-Stove type. Methylated Alcohol (96 – 98 %) is called “Spiritus” and is available in every Supermarket in 1-Liter bottles of green or transparent colour. With a price of 3,00 € it is a very cheap fuel. You can find it in the detergent-departement, or as barbeque lighter in drugstores, building and gardening centres and sometimes at filling stations. It is made undrinkable and you shouldn't’t try it …
Petroleum and Omnifuel stoves can be used with lamp oil or barbecue lighter fuel which is petrol based. It is sold in nearly every supermarket in1-Liter bottles with transparent or black colour. The price is the same like spiritus.
Getting fuel for petrol or gasoline stoves. In larger towns you will find outdoor shops where you can buy “Coleman-Fuel” at a price of approximate. 7,00 € per litre. At filling stations you must bring an “appropriate container” and the minimum buy-off is 2-Liters. That’s what is written on every petrol-pump. In reality it depends on the filling station attendant. Just ask! Be sure, you have a funnel with you because the have none. In german petrol is called “Benzin”.
Another more expensive way to get the gasoline fuel are the tobacco shops. Here you can buy lighter fuel in 150 ml metal bottles at a price of 2,00 €. Sometimes they are sold at the counters of supermarkets as well.
Arnulf from Germany has contacted us to point out another source for petrol:
Each building supplies store (“Baumarkt”, e.g. OBI, TOOM, ů) sells “Waschbenzin” or “Reinigungsbezin”, typically in 1 liter containers. This is very clean petrol and is definitely of equal quality compared to Coleman Fuel and additionally considerably cheaper.
More cycle touring information
- Bicycle Camping in Germany ( South West) - Information from Grace in Australia.
- Wanderrad.de - Information on cycling around Lake Constance. Biking & Alpencross with images, descriptions and GPS data (it is in German but Google Translate does a reasonable job of translating it).
- ADFC - German Cycle touring Club.
- Radreise & Fernradler Forum - German cycle forum with a section where you can place posts in English.
- The German National Tourist Board - General tourist information on Germany with a good page on biking in Germany.
- Rhineland-Palatinate Tourist Board - General tourist information on the region in southwest Germany as well as details of the cycling routes in that area.
Other useful information
- DJH - Die Jugendherbergen - German Youth hostel association (in English)
- The Map shop, 15 High Street, Upton-upon-Severn, Worcs. WR8 0HJ England
Tel: 01684-593146 Fax:01684-594559