My children bought me a bike for my 60th birthday. A proper Miss Marple whicker-basket-on-the-front type bike that means you can sit upright and nose into other people’s gardens with ease as you drift along. Somewhere deep down it makes me feel like a kid again, or like one of the Famous Five but with liver spots.
It was time to venture further and to try a cycling holiday. I’d wanted to cycle along the Danube ever since I saw a photo of it looking flat as a pancake and so where better to start?
Passau to Vienna is properly adventurous as a cycling jaunt goes – 7 days and an average of 40 km a day, with some seriously lovely places to see on the way. It may be flat, but that’s a lot of cycling for a newbie like me – so I decided to try an e-bike.
First thing to say about e-bikes is they’re heavy, you can’t turn on a sixpence if you decide to stop and take a photo, the thing takes a bit of lugging and propping up and I wouldn’t want to drop one on my leg. Second, they are incredibly easy to use.
There are 4 modes. The first mode you can use it just as a bike with no power, the second one is ‘eco’ which gives you a little boost and gets your speed up, the third is ‘power’ which means oh yes you really do get some speed up, and the fourth is ‘sport’ which sends you up hills like Chris Frome.
On Day One I was a bit shy of using the power at all and mostly did it on manual. It was fine, but by the end of 4.5 hours my legs were feeling it. Basically I think I was peddling harder than the people on ordinary bikes since it was so heavy and next day my thighs told me as such.
On Day 2 we made the mistake of having a large lunch before a big afternoon ride – so I tried the odd bit of power. Suddenly your destination feels so much more achievable. Cycling down the Danube is indeed very flat and very gorgeous hugging the river with mostly paths and routes which are traffic free but there are obviously hills and so on Day Three I thought I’d really give put the bike through its paces and while others put their bikes away for the day I went off-piste to explore some of the castles and monasteries on high. Now power mode really came into its own. But I say that with some reservation because – yes you do wizz up them but not from a standing start – getting the thing going up a steep hill is impossible unless you can take a run at it, and even then with a proper hill you are peddling hard to get up it. But you do get up it. And that my friends is the advantage. I think it means I could tackle most things. I mean not the Alps, don’t be stupid but I could tackle most cycling jaunts and how liberating is that!
No article about a cycling holiday can fail to mention two important things, namely rain and undercarriage issues. All-day rain is pretty challenging. Unless you’ve packed a change of clothes in your day pannier (which might be an idea actually) you are soaking and cold down to your shoes and socks and bear in mind that you might get to your hotel and find that the luggage has not arrived yet. This is when an e-bike can come in to its own. You can power on to the hotel and even if your luggage is not there you can get in the bath and get warm. Result.
The undercarriage is an ongoing problem, even with a gel saddle that I brought from home to cushion the problem.
Five days of cycling from Passau to Vienna featured a lot of Savlon (apparently what the Olympic team use in great volume) and the all important hideous padded cycling shorts.
Let’s just say not a holiday if you’re on the pull, but hugely good fun.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Inghams.