The unprepared tourist – a morning cycle ride in Friedrichshafen

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This gallery contains 3 photos.

I love bike hire, indeed any bike whatsoever if it gives me the chance of an unplanned ride in a new city. That shows up in “The unprepared tourist”, the title of one of the most visited posts on this … Continue reading

An “I love my job” kind of day – cycling, talking about cycling, looking at bikes – all in a great setting. Eurobike 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk2xaeXnxlM Photo Kevin Mayne

This is the first of a number of posts from my now annual trip to Eurobike, the massive bike show at Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance (the Bodensee).

I’ll pick out a few individual stories and of course my professional work at Eurobike is covered extensively on the ECF web site and other media like Bike Europe.

However I have to start with Tuesday.

Tuesday was an “I love my job” kind of day, combining as it did amazing settings, some cycling, a hell of a lot of talking about cycling and even a few moments to look at some bikes.

But first a little context. Some of my readers will have seen my write ups from the previous three Eurobikes so I may have given you an impression of the scale of this event. It is the world’s biggest bike show and by far the biggest event in the area each year so it scatters us far and wide across the region to find accommodation. The good news is that this means I have got so see some of the lovely parts of this attractive region as we sought out places to stay. In previous years this has meant a hotel hidden in the city walls or even a celebrated monastery.

This Tuesday I woke up to sunrise on a fruit farm, tucked away in a tiny hamlet near the Bodensee town of Kressbron.Photo Kevin Mayne

Still and quiet apart from birdsong and offering a 5 yard walk up to the trees to pick a just-ripe apple for breakfast.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Promptly at 6.30am we were collected by ECF President Manfred Neun to take us on the next stage of the day. The “Leaders’ Ride” was our event to get the top people in the cycling business to beat the traffic and commute the 5km from the Friedrichshafen station to the showgrounds on the edge of the city.

Pilot? Experiment? On the morning of one of their biggest events of the year would the captains of industry turn out for a simple bike ride? We didn’t really know until 7.30 am when they flooded into the square by the station – probably 200 by the time we counted them all. We gave out almost 60 hire bikes from Nextbike so determined were they to come along.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Remember that John F. Kennedy said “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride”? These folks don’t just ride the bikes, they own the companies and here we were putting huge smiles on their faces by having a short ride “to the office”.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Three days later they are still talking about the atmosphere and the networking and when Manfred announced we are going to do it again next year they all cheered! (He could have asked the rest of us first, but that’s the joy of Manfred)

Photo Kevin Mayne

The ride, press conference and photo call didn’t finish until 10ish, so second breakfast felt well deserved even if we had actually only ridden 5 kilometres.

First day of the show proper was then talk, talk, talk but of course I did sneak in a sideways glace at some of the exhibits, although the aisles were packed.

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne

To round the day off perfectly Manfred promised us that he would use his local knowledge to find us a restaurant by the lake on the way back to Kressbron. We actually overshot a little to get to the lovely island city of Lindau, the historic old town separated from the lake by a bridge. I first came here more than 30 years ago and I thought it was a lovely place then. In the golden hues of a late summer sunset with a tired but happy group of colleagues it was perfect.

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne

This gives me an excuse to end with one of my favourite songs of the last 5 years. Beautiful day

Celebrating cycling in Bruges

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This gallery contains 18 photos.

This post is a photo gallery of cyclists and cycling taken while I was wandering the streets on our recent visit to the lovely city of Bruges. My wife calls this sort of behaviour “stalking” and seems permanently worried that … Continue reading

Impressions of Bruges – beautiful canal city of Flanders

Photo Kevin MaynePhoto Kevin Mayne

I wrote recently about Belgium’s undiscovered gems of history and tourism. Bruges in West Flanders is not one of those, it is possibly one of the two or three best known places in Belgium to visit along with the WW1 battlefields and Brussels Grand Place, especially for the English speaking world.

I have previously been there out of the main holiday season when the cobbled streets, squares and canals were not over-run by fellow tourists so it was with a little trepidation that we booked to go to Bruges on an overnight visit in early August. We hoped past pleasures were not going to be swamped by the sheer volume of people, especially as we were introducing two friends to Bruges for the first time.

No need to worry. Despite the fact that it was much busier the town retained its charm, beauty and sense of history throughout the weekend. In fact just a few minutes from the hot spots around the main market square there were oases of peace and tranquility tucked away to delight the senses, and the camera.

Photo Kevin Mayne

That is helped by the fact that the city has very low traffic volumes and speeds. It isn’t quite car free, but here the pedestrian is king, closely followed by the horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and tour boats.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne

In visual terms there are some wonderful set piece locations that should feature in any montage, especially the views over the canals.

Photo Kevin Mayne

The open water area in front of the gate of the Beguinage is especially stunning at night.

(To see the photos below at their best click on any image in the gallery and it will appear full sized on your screen.)

But the best of Bruges also encourages me to look beyond the set piece, especially to look up above the heads of the tourists. There the Flemish stepped gables mingle with the grey rooves of the great churches and the coloured facades glowed in the sunshine of a bright day.

Of course while I was there I couldn’t help be drawn in by the fact that Bruges is one of Belgium’s top cycling towns, so in the next post I’ll post a little photo essay on the cyclists of Bruges, but for today I’ll just let these picture of the city speak for themselves Definitely one of my top recommendations for any tour of Europe, not just of Belgium.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Abbaye de Villers – peace and tranquility in another hidden treasure of Wallonia

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Just 40km south of central Brussels are the atmospheric ruins of the Abbaye de Villers, the largest set of church ruins in Belgium. It is the remnant of the great Cistercian Abbey whose lands once stretched right across Belgium, today … Continue reading

When I am warned that my bag is falling off my bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race

When you live in a foreign country one of the subjects that often comes up is “how to break the ice with the locals”, especially where language is a barrier.

I have found an unexpected source of conversation that lets me meet someone new almost every week.

My briefcase.

I use an Altura Urban 17 bike briefcase, a design that suit me because it is a big baggy number that can absorb laptop, papers, lunch, waterproofs and even a change of clothes.

To allow for its size it has one particularly distinctive feature – it is mounted on the pannier rack at 45 degrees to horizontal to give heel clearance. That is a really sensible adaption.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

I think it must be my second or third version of the bag and until I came here the angle hadn’t really crossed my mind. But it seems to have a really unsettling effect on passing Belgians, whether they be cyclists, pedestrians or even car drivers.

Hardly a day goes by in Brussels without someone approaching me with a look of real concern on their face and saying “your bag is coming unhooked”.  This includes behaviour like chasing me down the road even when I am thrashing along in my lycra and pedestrians rushing off the pavement waving.

Perhaps most unnerving of all for me is to be shadowed by cars and vans who hover just off my back wheel until they can pull up beside me, wide down the widow and gesticulate furiously until I recognise the magic words “sac” and “décroche” over the noise and realise I have found another good Samaritan, not a nutter.

Initially I was really surprised and slightly thrown because I don’t recall a single comment in the many years I rode with a similar bag in the UK and I really do not expect to be approached when riding. Perhaps us Brits don’t do that sort of thing, there are legends of two Englishmen castaway on a desert island who didn’t speak to each other for forty years because they hadn’t been introduced.

Now I have got used to it I am really rather charmed by the concern of the Belgians for my safety, and even the fact that they could look at a passing stranger in enough detail to notice the angle of my bag. It is a nice feeling that they care enough to make a real effort to look out for my welfare.

My alternative title for this post “Invisible cyclist? Get yourself a wonky bicycle bag.”