This page was last updated Thu 05 January 2017.

Contents: Tours (19)    Nongeographical bicycling information (1)   

Reports by Thomas Driemeyer

All descriptions are in English, unless otherwise noted.

Tours

Oregon Cascade Mountains and Pacific Coast
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started August 2004

Although August is still considered high season, campgrounds are mostly completely empty. Campgrounds here are designed for RVs exclusively, and have RV hookups but no amenities beside a pit toilet and a well with a hand pump that dispenses wonderful cold water to fill my bottles. Well water is safe to drink; river or lake water is not. I normally want a hot shower in the morning and evening, so I got more and more desperate checking out one primitive campsite after another, until some friendly campers told me that the Lava Lake resort campground has showers and groceries. Although it's a RV campground, I highly recommend it - the sites are large and secluded, and the showers are great. Also, it has the first grocery store, or in fact any store, I have passed since Chemult. I am writing this sitting on the campground's boat pier, looking at the sun setting over the mountains all around me.

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Napa Valley, Redwoods, Coast to San Francisco
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started July 2002

In the city of Napa, there is a friendly tourist info downtown on 1st. Stock up on food here because I haven't seen another grocery store for the rest of the day. I decided to take Silverado Road north, because unlike highway 29 it has a wide bike lane and is more scenic. There are beautiful vistas of vineyards and hills all the way. I was warned that both can be dangerous because the Napa valley is California's wine country, which means lots of drunk drivers, but I saw no evidence of that. I cut back to 29 on Bale St, and stayed in the Bothe-Napa State Park. One night costs $1 (like in all State Park campgrounds except the Bicentennial which was free), plus showers, and they never turn cyclists away.

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Clear Lake
Bicycle Tour: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started June 2002

Poland and the Baltic states have not yet been discovered as a tourism destination, so we decided to discover the place for ourselves before the inevitable hordes of German package tourists do. We read up a lot on it, primarily from the Lonely Planet guides (not very helpful except for Gdansk and Riga) and the web. We also brought ``Polen per Rad'', volume 1, ISBN 3-932546-11-3, a German-language bicycle guide for Poland that proved essential to find all the sleepy and very scenic and quiet side roads in Poland. Recommended if you understand German - or even if you don't, just for the route maps!

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Riga
New England loop
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started August 2001

I spent the next day and a half in the White Mountains, which were the highlight of this tour. The main east-west road through the White Mountains is route 112, called the Kancamagus highway after an Indian chief. The first half of route 112 to Lincoln is mostly flat, but the second half is moderately steep at about 9%. There are only occasional views of the valley. The pass is about 600m higher than Conway, with a vista point. (Observed there: car stops, fat lady bounces out, leaving the motor running, regards the panorama for three seconds, emits a little squeal of delight, jumps back into the car and drives off.)

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Barn near Palmer
Central France: Massif Central
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started May 2001

Alès is a quiet town at the southern edge of the Massif Central, France's central mountains. We stayed the night in Alès and entered the mountains the next morning. The ride from Alès to Le Puy on D906 was clearly the highlight of the entire tour. (Also, as it happens, my birthday.) The road winds its way through the deep narrow valleys of the mountains. There is very little traffic, and gorgeous views at every bend of the road.

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Umbria and Toscana (Tuscany)
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started May 2000

A lively report, with many fine pictures. It touches some of the most beautiful places in Italy I have had the chance to see so far: Ancona - Ascoli - Norcia - Spoleto - Foligno - Assisi - Perugia - Passignano - Cortona - Siena - Firenze.

Ascoli Piceno is an almost perfectly conserved medieval town. The buildings are ancient, and many roads are narrow, winding, cobblestoned paths. [We] walked through [Cortona] all evening and enjoyed the beautiful views in all directions. It is a small town with many narrow and steep roads, and as always all buildings were hundreds of years old.

Siena was packed with tourists, but it still manages to remain a nice and friendly place, and not as overwhelming as Florence. I like Siena a lot [...] We had plenty of time to visit the beautiful cathedral, and the one wall they managed to put up for a much bigger cathedral, until the bubonic plague put a stop to their plans in the 14th century. We visited the museum, which allows climbing up all the way to the top of that wall, providing a tremendous view.

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Crossing the Appennini
Marche, Umbria, Toscana
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started May 2000

Ascoli Piceno is an almost perfectly conserved medieval town. The buildings are ancient, and many roads are narrow, winding, cobblestoned paths. We stayed at the youth hostel, which is an 11th-century tower. We were the only guests. The picture on the right shows the hostel tower. (Trust me, it's not easy to make good pictures of tall structures from narrow winding streets.)

This sets the theme for most of the towns and villages we visit for the rest of the tour - they are all incredibly charmingly ancient and authentic, unspoiled by tourism and past centuries and, in some cases, millenia. It's like people living in big living monuments of the past, and making it look as if it were the most normal thing in the world. I don't think you can find this anywhere else in the world; even the French are much quicker mingling old with new.

None of this, of course, stops the Italians from hurtling through their charming cobblestoned streets with noisy little automobiles or deafening two-stroke motorcycles.

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Crater Lake to San Francisco
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started August 1999

Crater Lake is almost circular with a small island. There used to be a volcano there long ago, but its top blew off and left a very scenic lake. Due to its depth it is incredibly blue. In the summer (we rode in August) it is possible to ride around all around the lake; in the winter this road is closed. At the western side there is a mountain with a great view of the lake; the teaser image at the top of this page was taken there. Even in August there is snow there, and the path up the mountain is too rough to ride with road bikes.

After a day at Crater Lake, we followed highway 62 towards Medford. The ride was an exhilarating downhill through dense forest, sometimes alongside lakes or white water rivers and creeks. The area is almost completely unpopulated, and there was suprisingly little traffic (this was on a Wednesday, I expect it would be worse on weekends). We stayed one night in a campground in the Valley of the Rogue, and continued the next morning to Medford.

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Berlin/Brandenburg
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started July 1997

Berlin is an island in Brandenburg, one of the sixteen Länder that make up Germany. Brandenburg is part of former East Germany, while two thirds of Berlin were part of West Germany. Both were separated by the Berlin Wall, which ensured that urban development was limited. Today the wall is gone, and Berlin enjoys an almost complete absence of urban sprawl. Although the first part of this tour skirts the Berlin/Potsdam area, which is more heavily built up than most of the rest of the Berlin border, the change from city environment to countryside seems almost abrupt.

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Eastern Europe
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started July 1997

The border to Slovenia is just a few km behind Gorizia. They still actually have border guards there even though Slovenia has recently become an EU member, but they just wave everybody through. Route 444 follows the freeway but is very quiet and pleasant, far more than the roads in Italy that led us here. At Ajdovscina we took route 207 and 621, which turned out to be more hilly than we thought - we gained 750 meters in one long and relentless climb, with little shadow. Very scenic though, with many views of the valleys. Near Podkraj a windy but exhilarating descent began, and after Logatec the second half of the descent was perfect, with safe long curves and no traffic. The last few km to Lubljana were busy though, as usual when entering a large city.

I used to have this mental image of Slovenia as one of those Socialist paradises, with gray people living in gray cities and trees growing in the potholes. Quite the opposite! Friendly clean cities, very good roads, and on a warm Saturday evening like this one the streets and cafes are bursting with people enjoying themselves. This country has definitely arrived in the 21st century. Ljubljana has a very pleasant old town, although much of the rest isn't very pretty.

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Danube bike path
Berlin to Hamburg in one day
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started May 1997

At 300 km, this is an exceptionally long day tour. I try to do this once a year, if the conditions are right: it must be sunny, there must be no headwind, and it must be mid-summer with fifteen hours of daylight. Pure riding time is 11 or 12 hours (at an average speed of 26 or 27 km/h), but with rest stops and lunch it takes more like 14 hours. This means leaving early, before six o'clock in the morning.

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Venice to Naples
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started July 1996

Our tour started at the Venezia airport. Naturally the first destination was Venice downtown. It is somewhat hard to find the two-kilometer bridge that connects old Venice with Mestre, we had to use some very congested freeway-like bridges and roads. In Venice, no bicycles or cars are allowed (or practical), the road ends at Piazzale Roma. To park the bicycles, make a U-turn when reaching the piazza and ride down a steep driveway just before the first of the two small bridges, right across from the parking garage building. Then walk back to the piazza and take the vaporetto (shuttle boat) #82 north (south is much more scenic but requires switching boats at San Marco) until the Zitelle station, which is one block south of a very pleasant youth hostel.

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San Pietro
Mountainbiking tour on Mt. Marmolada
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started May 1995

Mt. Marmolada is in the central Alps. Before I first went there I had this mental image of snow-capped peaks and vertical cliffs that could not possibly allow any reasonable bicycle riding. I found this is wrong, it's in fact fairly easy - if exhausting - to ride in the Alps because all the roads and trails avoid the really steep mountains and remain in the valleys and lower and less steep mountains. Riding in the Alps means rarely riding on either level or really steep roads, 4 or 5% is typical but it can reach 10% or more in places. Roads usually wind their way up or down in serpentines. I live in Berlin, which has only very minor hills, and I am a poor climber, but I found that I can manage a pass or two a day in the Alps without too many problems. The reward of the trouble is awesome scenery.

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Mountainbike excursions at Lake Garda
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started 1995

There are two major roads out of Riva, towards Monte Brione to the east, and south towards Monte Tremalzo and others. Monte Brione is good for short but difficult tours; this hill is roughly elliptic, with the west side nearly on level with the lake and the east end sloping up and then dropping sharply. It looks like a large cylinder buried at an angle. There is a Worldcup trail along the steep east edge and plenty of single trails. A road leads up and ends at a large bunker near the top. Monte Brione was crowded with mountainbikers when we were there, it has terrain for everybody.

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San Francisco to Los Angeles
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started 1995

Although Highway 1 closely follows the coast, which means constant postcard motives to the right, it is still hilly because the cliffs vary considerably in height. They are no problem for riding because none exceeds 250 meters, and most days we didn't have more than two of these. Of course, the downside to untouched beauty is that there aren't any grocery stores to stock up on water or bananas either. The Big Sur coast is not completely devoid of human civilisation. There are small ``towns'' like Lucia (population 3 according to the Bikecentennial map) and Gorda with grocery stores and restaurants, but they are few and far in between. Stock up on food whenevr you can, and you'll love the rugged untouched beauty of this section of the Pacific coast. The picture was taken in the town of Gorda. I once ate better fish-and-chips there than in London.

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Touring in Egypt
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started 1995

``First, this was not a bicycle tour. It could probably be done by bicycle but I used trains, boats, and buses. And camels, of course. My excuse to put it here that I rented a bicycle in Luxor and rode through the desert to the Valley of the Kings.'' The previous Trento Bike manager, Andreas Caranti, is particularly sympathetic, as he did the same as a young man: his first off-road experience! (And the new manager is the guy on the camel.)

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Riding a camel at the Cheops pyramid.
Seattle to San Francisco
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started August 1994

Riding in Washington was easy. The roads mostly have wide shoulders and there wasn't much traffic. We had several tunnels, like the one shown in the picture. These tunnels had a button at the entrance for bicyclists to press that turns on flashing lights and warns motorists that there are bicycles in the tunnel and they might perhaps consider driving carefully. We were lucky and always had downhill tunnels, and didn't meet any logging trucks in a tunnel. A logging truck is a huge truck loaded with logs, and can be rather frightening when passing at high speed. They are more indigenous to Oregon though.

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Paris - Loire - Bretagne
by Thomas Driemeyer, tour started 1993

Paris can very quickly lose its charm when you leave the center and enter the ``Banlieue'', the suburbs, but eventually we left Paris at the Porte d'Orl´ans, and rode south towards Orl´ans. After the difficulties crossing Paris we didn't quite make it all the way to Orl´ans, and stayed in a hotel.

This turned out to be a very memorable decision. I am not talking about a motel. This was the house of a family operating some fruit orchards, very old and unremarkable from the outside. We were welcomed by an old lady who led us to a simple but comfortable room upstairs. They had three of these, but we were the only guests. Dinner was served in their large poorly-lit living room. The old lady asked what we would like to eat, and then proceeded to her kitchen to prepare the food. It was delicious. I wish I had written down the name of the village.

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St. Malo, Bretagne
Holland, Normandie, Bretagne
by Thomas Driemeyer

Many of the towns in the Normandie have unusually large cathedrals. Eu was no exception. The cathedral is built on a hill. There is a youth hostel built into the base of the hill under the cathedral. It was more expensive than average (FF 93) but definitely worth the price. The picture to the right shows the hallway leading to the rooms, each with a vaulted ceiling and its own bathroom. Recommended.

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Nongeographical bicycling information

Bicycle Maintenance Guide and Riding Tips
by Thomas Driemeyer, , submitted 24 May 2007

A manual of bicycle maintenance and riding tips, for those who want to repair their own bicycles, and ride effectively in traffic and on tours.

  • Wheels - fixing punctures, building wheels, adjusting spokes...
  • Steering: handlebars, headset, adjustment and repair
  • The drive train: brakes, shift levers, chain repair, pedals, shoes, derailleurs, saddles
  • Bicycle computers: computers, heart rate monitors, GPS navigation, taking good pictures
  • Riding: in town, long distance touring, group rides
  • Travel tips: packing list, airlines, shipping bicycles, panniers
  • Accidents: what to do

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