A normal weekend in a cycling culture

Cologne Dom behind the Rhein River, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

We reached out to friends and family and asked them to send photos of them or others out and about riding their bikes. The weather was not bike friendly at all in South Germany, so no luck there. The rest of Germany did what you often do in a well established cycling culture: they grabbed their bikes and hit the road sometime during the weekend.

Bike holiday in Usedom by Rolf Stahnke, Ostseebad Zinnowitz
Bike holiday in Usedom by Rolf Stahnke, Ostseebad Zinnowitz

I also asked the riders to answer two questions: 1. Why do you love cycling? 2. Would you move to a country or city that was almost entirely dominated by cars or motor vehicles? The latter question was answered with a resounding: “No, definitely and absolutely not! I would never move to a place that had no bike culture.”

The first question got all the well known benefits associated with cycling: health, fitness, fun, gentle exercise, strengthening muscles after an injury, being close to nature, etc. 

Ralf Bucholz in Langerwehe, North Rhine-Westphalia, close to Bonn and Cologne, photo by Marion Abt
Ralf Bucholz in Langerwehe, North Rhine-Westphalia, close to Bonn and Cologne, photo by Marion Abt

Now, obviously, the people who have replied have been lifelong cyclists, and you could argue that this is a skewed result and not a snapshot of a cultural ‘normal’. Out of experience, I beg to differ. In a country where riding to school, the shops, uni, work, and the cinema is something you just simply do, going for a ride on the weekend is part of the lifestyle.

Marion Abt in Langerwehe, North Rhine-Westphalia, close to Bonn and Cologne, photo by Ralf Bucholz

Ralf and Marion are true cycling enthusiasts. My friend Günter Gareis says they are decidedly crazy about cycling; Ralf says that “life accelerates after a near death experience.” He needed to build up his muscles again and has ridden over 7000 km in the last four years. Cycling has become part of him.

Another friend sent photos from his cycling holiday in Usedom, which is close to Poland. Rolf calls riding a bike ‘an intensive course with nature’, and reckons it is much faster to get around compared to walking, but still slow enough to absorb all the beautiful impressions.

Cities like Cologne have a great bike infrastructure along the Rhine but you will also see the locals ride to the shops on the weekend. Cordula Kee-Soon Jäger tells me that these are typical impressions around the Cathedral, which is the beginning of the pedestrian area.

My uni friend Lucy sent me photos from their ride around Steinbach am Taunus. The photo next to the end of 70 km sign gives an impression of the dedicated cycling commuter route between Steinbach and Eschborn and Frankfurt.

Last Monday Franci Brock and her two friends Martina and Andre Schollbach rode from Jena to Gera with their normal bikes – a whopping 70 km. That is pretty impressive!

Ralf Mielich has been riding his bike since he’s been three and says: “It’s fun, good for the mind and the body, keeps you healthy, and is not a sport that is limited by age.” He tells me that cycling has a bright future, and that Münster and Bocholt, which is situated 4 km south of the border with the Netherlands, are the best cycling cities in Germany. I didn’t know that!

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