Planning a cycling tour along the Rhine

Rhine waterfall

Like all good stories, my story starts on Google search. Actually, no, it starts with friends. More specifically, Dan and Alex. The bicycle touring duo. They came back to fill my ears with stories of how amazing the Rhine is. As fate would have it, another friend asked me; would I like to go on holiday in August and what would I like to do?

That is how the plan was conceived to pedal from Basel in Switzerland, through France to Mainz in Germany. Taking in a large section of the River Rhine. Here’s how I’ve been planning so far. All tips are welcome!

What part of the Rhine should I cycle?

Googling “Rhine cycling route” was helpful to get an overview of where the Rhine actually is. Apologies to my previous geography teacher for not knowing this by heart. But which part of it to cycle? My friends blogged about how from Koln onwards, industrial sights gave way to rolling countryside and picturesque villages.

Currently, as I mentioned, we plan on doing the section slightly further down and from South to North in order to end the trip in style in Frankfurt for a few days.

What bicycle?

I was hoping to take the Trek Madone road bike. However, due to the rough road surface at places and the lack of space to fit pannier racks on a road bike, it is not suited to the job.

Instead, I’ll be taking my trusty Marin hybrid bike. The puncture proof tyres, space for panniers and general toughness should be exactly what is needed. Although, I do plan on fitting some drop handlebars so I can vary the position that my hands rest on.

Where to stay?

Hostels.

How are we getting the bikes there?

After looking at Easyjet, British Airways and Lufthansa all the airlines seem fairly easy going when it comes to bikes. BA even transports bicycles for free.

In terms of how to safely pack the bikes I believe the best option is a plastic bike bag with plenty of bubble wrap.

Quick tip: When searching for a cheap flight I’ve yet to find a website to rival Momondo.com for excellent prices.

What are we taking with us?

The packing list for our Rhine cycling tour so far is:

  • GPS
  • Panniers
  • Lights
  • Locks
  • Pump
  • Repair kit
  • Water bottle & cages
  • Lighters

  • Base layer
  • Padded bike shorts
  • Flip-flops
  • Padded cycling gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain jacket
  • Waterproofs
  • Baby wipes
  • Toiletries
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Charger
  • Mobile phone
  • German plug converters
  • Passport


Why not just book a tour?

This was our first thought. However, the distances the Rhine tour companies covered each day seemed short for our ability and we were looking for flexibility. Although, we’ll definitely miss out on having our bags carried by someone else.

How awesome will it be?

Rhine route

There’s definitely a lot of excitement at the prospect of cycling through gorgeous scenery, discovering tiny towns along the Rhine and enjoying the challenge. Therefore a ten on the awesome scale!

That’s where we currently are on the planning stages. If you have any tips I welcome them!

See also:

Image sources: Rhine waterfalls and River Rhine

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18 Responses to Planning a cycling tour along the Rhine

  1. Hein Bloed 20/07/2011 at 10:26 am #

    I guess there’s loads of information available for planning a tour along the river rhein. Here’s what I would suggest:

    - As it’s a pretty long river the “usual suspects” for tour planning and map coverage in Germany have devided their offer into various parts:
    From Andermatt to Basel
    (http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/books/detail/-/art/Bikeline-Rhein-Radweg-Teil-1/buchnum/104582383)
    From Basel to Mainz
    (http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/books/detail/-/art/Bikeline-Rhein-Radweg-2/buchnum/103235285)
    From Mainz to Rotterdam:
    (http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/books/detail/-/art/Bikeline-Rhein-Radweg-3/buchnum/104582384)
    - In addition to that you can get the corresponding maps from Publicpress:
    Rhein-Radweg 2 Bodensee – Basel
    Rhein-Radweg 3 Basel-Speyer
    Rhein-Radweg 4 Speyer – Köln
    Rhein-Radweg 5 Köln – Rotterdam
    I’m not really sure, why there is no “Rhein-Radweg 1″.

    Furthermore the ADFC (http://www.adfc.de) might have additional information, but that depends from where you’re going to ride eventually.

  2. Mike 20/07/2011 at 10:55 am #

    If the landscape is anything like that between Mainz and Bonn you’re in for a treat. I cycled from Mainz to Cologne a few weeks ago, staying in campsites, and the scenery is very nice indeed. Particularly the section between Bingen and Koblenz, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was cycle paths pretty much all the way, and excellent signposting. I’m sure it will be the same further south. Enjoy the tour.

    • Andreas 20/07/2011 at 11:31 am #

      Hey Mike, good suggestion. We’ve altered our trip a little take make sure we are taking in Bingen and KOBLENZ. Unesco can’t be missed!

  3. Chippo 20/07/2011 at 11:15 am #

    Here is another great tip for the cycling traveler
    http://www.cyclingtipsblog.com/2010/03/vietnam-cycling-trip-lessons-learned/

    • Andreas 20/07/2011 at 11:43 am #

      Love the Cycling Tips Blog and I’m having another read of that article. Thanks for pointing out

  4. beardydaly 20/07/2011 at 11:49 am #

    At Mannheim, take the River Neckar and head off to Heidelberg, about 30km. Beautiful university city, gorgeous Cathedral. There is a Hostel out by the Zoo, about 4km from the center, Tiergartenstrasse 5,
    Vetters Brauhaus in the Altstadt is well worth checking out.
    Bring a tent, there are loads of great campsites along the Rhine.
    Basel is very expensive and, IMO, not really worth visiting.
    Freiburg is a much better bet, about an hour by train from Basel.
    Anyway, enjoy, we did.

  5. Tom 20/07/2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Hi Andreas, love the blog. I’ve always found the best way of transporting my bike by air is to blag a cardboard bike box off my local bike shop. It’s free and you can throw it away (or recycle) when you get to your destination, rather than carrying a plastic one around. You will of course need to blag another one when you return, but I’ve never found that to be a problem. Don’t forget tyre levers and a spare inner tube in case you get a puncture. Finally – I always take lots of socks as they don’t take up much room. If you get caught in heavy rain your feet can get soaked and there’s nothing worse than long rides in wet socks! Have a great trip!

    • Andreas 20/07/2011 at 6:18 pm #

      Agreed – plenty of socks are going in there. Really hope our weather will be mild, that’s what I’ve read about the Rhine at least.

  6. Andrea 21/07/2011 at 6:11 pm #

    I did Koln to Basel last year, in August. Fully loaded with camping and cooking gear.
    Rode to Victoria Sta.. Got bike box from Evans (I called them in advance to keep me a nice big one and they did).
    Dragged it all to the Gatwick Express platform where I packed bike (brown tape from WHSmithy as I forgot free one from work). Put box on trolley at Gatwick and checked it in (Easyjet half price for bikes compared to Ryanair) with one more piece of luggage. Kept one hand bag for cabin (usual size limit but no weight limit on Easyjet!) and kept mat and sleeping bag. Slept in airport because of silly hour flight (no problem but get earplugs) and to start getting in adventure mode!
    Reassembled bike outside Koln airport and off to the mighty Rhine…
    Cycling in Germany is fantastic and beautiful too along the Rhine… oh… and flat!!!
    If I did South to North I wouldn’t have had to pedal at all cos of the wind
    Koblenz was highlight as I had a three day unplanned party over the Rhein im Flammen (spelling aside – Rhine in Flames) weekend. You might want to plan for that cos it was amazing!
    Basel was also great and everything in between like Strasbourg and smaller towns.
    I got three days of pouring rain but otherwise it was well over 30 C. (i wore flip flops when shoes and socks were soaked)
    I did not have a map as there are poster maps often and many people (with maps) to ask.
    Some bits are boring but you always have the barges to race… !
    I swam all along the Rhine and I still have one nose, two eyes and three ears.

    In Basel I did the same and got bike box from shop near Airport bus stop. They actually gave me the full size bike box. Just turn the handlebars and remove pedals… brilliant!

    Last night in Basel, I stayed with a member of Warmshowers.com and it was another great experience. Check it out!

    Have fun and report back!

    • Andreas 21/07/2011 at 8:06 pm #

      Wow, thanks so much for this Andrea. It’s really encouraging to read your account – makes me excited to get out there! I like the sound of your experience, your timing was amazing for the Fireworks. Also sleeping in the airport! Very hardcore, I’ve done that before and was smart enough to have music in my ears to drown any noises.

  7. skippy 24/07/2011 at 10:48 am #

    Riding “Conti tyres” these past few years i have had little need for the 3 spare tubes constantly in the back pocket of my cycling shirt , then 5 km from St Flour the first flat then after checking for the cause a km further the second !

    Obviously race pressure was not achieved by my pump but 160 strokes still makes the tyre hard enough for most possibilities . Carrying the wrappers of a few ” energy bars ” covers the possibility of a tear in the tyre when a flat occurs !

    Notice the “lighters(lights?) ” but a small stove for warming fluids or cans can solve the expense of ” Take aways ” or shops closed .

  8. rcycles 27/07/2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Andreas – you should certainly be getting to the Rhine with a sustainable travel plan!

    Train and Boat for instance.

    Have you researched the Euro Velo Route 6 which I am pretty sure consitutes the Ride you plan and this supported by ‘Cycle Hotels’

    I hope to go that way one day to arrive at the Black Sea

  9. Bob 10/09/2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Good information. Is there a travel guide Mainz to Rodderdam in english? Is there a website for buying maps?

  10. chris 11/04/2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Try The Rhine Cycle Route – From Source to Sea, by Mike Wells

  11. Julia 30/04/2014 at 8:58 pm #

    Hi there looking at the dates this cycle trip must have been done and the nexted planned, however my sister and I plan to cycle the whole way on road bikes does anybody know if this is a daft idea or not. We are not camping and plan to fit good quality tyers.

    Any feed back would be great.

  12. Alec 10/06/2014 at 11:03 pm #

    Hey All. Bodensee to Koblenz this coming Monday. Road Bike + Tent etc. In your experience what are the main difficulties I should expect to encounter. (I’ve read Dirt Tracks) slightly concerned for the Cannondale 105 CAAD 10 I’m riding?

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