A quick return visit to Vienna. Cycling promotion at the FahrRadhaus and Radlager


Public bikes

Nice to be back in Vienna for a rapid visit after enjoying it so much in June. A bit rainy but in between showers lovely pre-autumnal temperatures which encouraged me out onto the city bikes. I was reminded by one of my hosts that I had been very rude about these bikes when I first used them last year. On one of the rides I did manage to pick up one of the original purple monsters with its huge over-gearing which made my dodgy knees ache but once I got the hang of it I learned that Vienna City Bikes are like a bag of sweets – pick them by the colour.  (Always take a yellow one).

Two places I didn’t get to see in June were the FahrRadhaus and the new location for the Radlager, a great retro cycle shop and café that I wrote about early in my blogging days, way back in May 2012.

City cycling office in Vienna

Radhaus is the City of Vienna’s official bike promotion centre which it has used as the base for Bike Year 2013 (Radjahre 2013). It as sign of the city’s commitment that this isn’t an unwanted cellar somewhere the wilderness, it is a nice piece of imperial architecture right next to the City Hall, the Rathaus (great wordplay in German Rad = bike, pronounced raat, the same sound as Rathaus, city or town hall )

I didn’t get a chance to come here during Velo-city so it was nice that my meetings for the two days I was in the city were in the Radhaus. It is a nice atmosphere, it doesn’t feel civil service, it feels like a promotional centre that gets cycling and cyclists. There are good displays of a wide range of city bikes and absolutely tons of printed matter, books, pamphlets, maps, guides, in fact almost anything you could want to take up cycling.

Fahrradhaus Wien
Vienna cycling office

Vienna cargo bike platformsThere are also mobile outposts of the Radhaus promoting cycling which seem to be transported by the biggest cargo bike platforms I have ever seen.

On my evening in the city I joined some of the cycling activists for dinner and then we rode city bikes around the city to the cycling quiz night.

Radlager WienSadly I arrived too late to take on the local talent but I looked around our venue and realised I was in a  nerds paradise, retro bike stuff and restored bikes all over the place amongst the beer and coffee. “Look like the Radlager” I said to my hosts, referring to one of the coolest bike cafés and bike shops I have ever been to in Vienna. (See previous post here)

“This is the Radlager” they said.


I hadn’t noticed the names and logos around the shop so I hadn’t realised that the café had moved to a new much more central location. Maybe I was confused by the fact that more Moultons than I can possibly recall seeing in a small shop had moved in among the Colnagos.Moulton cycles

I like it and it is now much more accessible to visitors so I do encourage any bike nerds going to Vienna to pay a visit to the Radlager as well as the Radhaus.

However I miss that gallery – it really was a great display.

I’ll treat myself to using that photo again. Enjoy.

Bikelager Wien

Schönbrunn Palace, summer palace of the Hapsburgs

Gardens Schonbrun Vienna Schonbrun Palace Vienna

If you read this blog regularly you might anticipate that all I did in Vienna on my is cycle, think about cycling, talk about cycling – and eat.

Not true! It is a pretty special city of course in its own right with an extraordinary heritage of the various versions of the Austrian empires. However I have always been so busy with the cycling blog posts I hardly get round to publishing the tourist photos.

Time rectify the balance a bit.

On the day after Velo-city my wife and I made our way out to Schönbrunn, summer palace of the Hapsburgs in the Vienna suburbs. According to Wikipedia it is the most visited attraction in Vienna, I went there last year as well and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was keen to go again which is quite unusual for me.The audio tour and other materials give a good feeling of the various royals who lived there and wrap them up with the history of this enormous empire at its peak. Inside it is just extraordinary opulence, outside it is all about scale.Gloriette Schonbrun Vienna

This time it was hot and sticky so the gardens and courtyards were blazing but the gardens looked great. No photography allowed inside so this post is just a short gallery of the outside including the views across the gardens to Maria Theresa’s Gloriette looking down on us and the more secluded spaces like the orange garden.

Oranges at Schonbrun Orangerie Schonbrun

Tour du Monde – unique historic bike exhibition in Vienna’s MAK design museum


Bob Jackson Super Legend

There are many special events in Vienna to celebrate its year of the bicycle.

Opening to coincide with our Velo-city conference two weeks ago was Tour du Monde, an exhibition at MAK, Vienna’s design museum.

It features the amazing bike collection of Viennese architect Michael Embacher which is normally kept privately but includes some of cycling’s design classics and some quite rare pieces.

We called in for the formal opening on the night of the mass bike ride at Velo-city (the Radcorso – story here). As even the German speakers told me the speeches were pretty dull I was glad I skipped them to take a wander round the collection.

Raleigh Roadster Chrome Export model

I am not really a bike technology buff but I really appreciate some of the classics and it was good to see them displayed well. They were hung as art from the ceiling and lit from above but the nice touch was that they were hung in sweeping curved lines which gave a nice feeling of movement in a static display. Almost like an aerial peloton perhaps.

Bates Flying Gate 1947Each bike had a short history on the wall too which brought them to life.

Embacher certainly has an eye for some interesting pieces, including famous racing machines and good old British steel. The post war Raleigh Roadster special edition export bike in chrome was pretty special, as was the Bob Jackson Super Legend with curly stays. (both above)

Gitane Enfant 1982

One I particularly enjoyed was the Gitane Enfant special edition road bike from the early 80s. I remember seeing them in magazines at the time, I was too old to have something that small but I remember thinking how cool it would have been to have been a French kid with a bike like that. Looking at it hanging in the exhibit it took me a moment to work out what I was seeing, it was this odd looking thing, but then it is clearer that it is a small bike with adult parts, more obvious when it was seen with its big brother beside it.

Gitane cycles Embacher collection

The exhibition is on until October – if you like vintage bikes or just good design it is well worth a visit and it is a rarely seen collection. Details here.

Another one of those diversions for the cycle tourist travelling Eurovelo 6 along the Danube this summer perhaps. To tempt you or if you cannot make it Embacher’s collection of over 200 cycles can be found here

Discount if you arrive at the MAK by bike too!

17 days in Slovakia and Austria – lots to catch up on

Austria, Salzkammergut, Upper Austria
Salzburg AustriaTomorrow the nine hour train journey from Salzburg to Brussels will mark the transition from holiday back to reality. The hotel wi-fi has enabled me to download the dreaded emails and the Salzburg weather has turned foul in celebration.

If I count all the photos and stories that are bubbling round in my brain I could be posting for two months but I am sure some of it will fade, sometimes an idea that just seemed right at the time turns to mush when confronted with a keyboard.

However stand by for a sequence which will include the unexpectedly delightful Bratislava old town, deep immersion into the cycling frenzy of Velo-city Vienna and then a week’s relaxation by the beautiful Attersee in the Upper Austria (Oberosterreich) region. It is part of a great tourism area marketed as the Salzkammergut and thoroughly recommended.

A great time, loads of cycle chat and some lovely images to share. Now I just need another holiday to write it all up!

Thanks Vienna – you were looking great for Velo-city #VC13

Thank you Vienna

Almost time to finish, but all the delegates seem to agree that they saw a new Vienna this week. Bike culture on the streets, but even the historic urban architecture was looking particularly spruce.

It was for me! Last time I was here we were swaddled up against late spring cold, now we saw an outdoor city, a lively city, stunning weather after the rain of the early week.


Radcorso – stunning night in Vienna with 5000 cycling friends at #VC13

Radcorso Vienna Photography team

Intrepid ECF photographer Chloe trusted me enough to let me pilot the cargobike around Vienna last night for a fantastic evening of bikes, of sights, of scenery and the fellowship of the wheel.IMG_1541

She captured hundreds of shots which will take some sorting, but suffice to say we had a ball. Over 1000 delegates were joined by nearly 4000 local riders for a great evening out, part festival, part bike ride.

Hard to believe it is almost over for another year, but there will be a rich repository of blog material for the next few weeks! (And lots, lots more on Twitter, follow me on @maynekevin and #VC13 for the Velo-city coverage)

IMG_1786 IMG_1825IMG_1817 IMG_1814 IMG_1808 IMG_1799 IMG_1792IMG_1783 IMG_1747

Vienna – centre of cycling cultures

An important focus for our hosts in Vienna was cycling cultures. This meant several things:

  • The heritage of Vienna as a cultural capital
  • A growing bike culture and counter culture in the city
  • A relatively newly elected city administration that is determined to build a cycling culture by all means possible
  • A parallel workshop at the ECF AGM for young volunteers from new cycling organisations – the VOCA programme

This element is so strong they decided to make it the theme of next year’s Velo-City conference and announced it while we were there.Velo-City 2013 theme

As a self confessed old git cyclist I have to say the best of this was being exposed to the new advocates group on the VOCA programme and counter cultures tour led by Alec Hager of campaigning group Radlobby IG Fahrrad and Gudrun of the Bike Kitchen.

Ending up in the Bike Kitchen late afternoon enjoying some food and a beer and hearing the enthusiasm of everyone involved was just refreshing. I felt a bit sorry for friend Doretta who thought she had signed up for a culture tour and ended up with a tour of workshops and bike shops, but I was really at home. And a big shout out for their inclusive, supportive, collective values – not much of that survives in a material society.

I wonder whether there is a point when the counter culture becomes the new orthodoxy because none of the elements on the tour were at all unique to Vienna, but I guess you can’t really describe a city as having a vibrant cycling culture without them so Vienna is making important strides.

My thanks to all the places that hosted our visits, here are a few photos of variable quality – and special thanks to Bikelager for outstanding coffee served amongst a gallery of classic bikes laid out like an art show. And of course the scene stealers were the fabulously painted Colnagos on the scalloped frames. At the time we just knew they would become classics.

Bikelager Wien

Bikelager Wien - coolest bike shop in town

Vienna Fixie - great paint job

Vienna Fixie - great paint job

Cargo fixie at Fix Dich

Cargo fixie at Fix Dich

Heavy Lifting Cargo Bikes

Heavy Lifting Cargo Bikes

Vienna bike workshop - build your own

Vienna bike workshop - build your own

Colnago frame feature

Colnago frames feature

Rant time – Austrian drivers

My big wake up call. I have never seen cars and buses routinely used for deliberate intimidation on the scale of my last four days in Austria.

I have cycled all over the world. Most of the time driver behaviour doesn’t worry me too much. I get annoyed by rank stupidity, unnecessary speed, impatience and incompetence, but so do drivers and walkers. Abuse comes, but the threat is minimal and not physical.

Four days ago in Vienna was the first time I saw a car driver partially overtake a group and then steer into the side of the group to force us out of the lane. I thought it was a mixture of incompetence and impatience, someone unable to realise that the group was 50 metres long.

But then several times more over the next three days, including hand gestures to make the intention quite clear. A city bus – like the hated bendy buses of London, but this driver deliberately trapped five riders against the kerb by pulling across us.

While most drivers waited politely to let our groups turn to the left across the traffic flow together yesterday there was a guy who sped towards the group to scatter it out of his way.

I wish I had the presence of mind to take photos or get the bus number, at least in Vienna. I think there would have been some local government embarrassment about intimidation of a visiting cyclists’ group, but the drivers clearly had no such fears.

Maybe I’m naïve – riding companion Vladimir from Moscow said he was not at all surprised by the drivers, but he felt safer in Russia because most roads had shoulders which the cyclists use and he did feel uncomfortable in a group out on the carriageway on rural roads. But I guess I expected Austria to be more benign, at least like Germany.

Most Austrian cyclists I met were positive about the direction of cycling in the country, and especially the potential for tourism with the stunning scenery and iconic routes like the Danube cycle route. Clearly their drivers have a lot of catching up to do and it would be a shame if this put visitors off.

Rant over – later I’ll follow up with some more positive Austrian stories.