The Rhine Route by tandem – overview

We are now back safely from our journey from Rotterdam to Basel along the Rhine. In all it has taken us 15 days. There are some general things to say about the journey before I describe some of the more personal elements of the journey – who we met and the places we visited (intentionally and unintentionally).

Firstly, the Rhine is an awesome river – long, powerful, wide and omnipresent. The human efforts to harnesss it and hold it back when it gets swollen are all there to be seen. They are equally awesome.

Secondly, the route is well signposted; however, good navigation skills are essential. There are countless detours (Umleitung), partly caused by the ongoing work on the banks and paths. There are also many industrial obstacles, not least aggregate wharfs (Kieswerke). Sometimes the path is through the site, others not. Moreover, navigating cities – particularly Utrecht – is challenging. We hit Utrecht at peak time (1700) and it was pandemonium. The signs are there, but not always obviously so. We had two pairs of eyes working for us and still missed them.

Thirdly, and particularly in the Netherlands, there are many of people willing to help. We enjoyed many unsolicited (and solicited) offers of help. We received lots of useful local knowledge as a result.

Fourthly, the surface is variable. There is plenty of asphalt, but there is also plenty of

Rhine route – sandy surface

shingle, gravel and sand. The sand is a particularly difficult surface in the rain as we experienced in the section from Breisach to Bad Bellingen (30 km north from Basel). Not only was it soft to ride on, but equally, the sand was loose and attached itself in volume to our bags and the tandem. This is not good for the machine.

Fifthly, there is plenty of accommodation along the route. We camped on 11 nights and took a room  in a hotel or house for the remaining four. Prices ranged from 10-19 Euros for the campsites and 50-140 Euros for the hotels. I’ll have more to say about the accommodation later.

Sixthly, one has the choice of two paths one on either bank. There are many ferries in the absence of bridges to get across. Particularly in the southern sections, this means crossing from one country into another; for example, Germany into France and vice versa. However, where there is a bad path on one side, there may be a better one on the other (though it may be not adjacent to the river).

Ferry crossing – Bingen to Ruedesheim

Penultimately, some of the more tourist oriented parts are very busy at the weekend in the summer. That said, the second half of August was optimal, particulary with respect to accommodation, weather and hours of daylight.

Finally, guides. We started the whole thing with John Powell’s book, Cycling the Rhine Route: Bicycle Touring Along the Historic Rhine River published in 2000. We relied, however, on 2 of the three guides called Rhein Radweg, published by Bikeline (Esterbauer Verlag, 2012). They are written in German but the maps are excellent – indispensible, actually). They are available in the UK, but also at bookshops in towns along the route.

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