This week’s (penultimate) installation of the Ultimate Trip 2018 comes from Jon Zahedieh and his touring buddy, Jon.
The two Jons had never been bike touring before riding much of the length of the River Rhine last summer, but earned a place in our Top 10 with their tale of this perfect 'entry-level' bike tour.
German food and drink, great weather and flat riding
When to go
Why is it Europe's best?
|'Traffic free. Flat. Beautiful river scenery.'
Both Jons have long loved Germany - did you know that they make ok beer? - and started with some research about some cycle touring routes through the German countryside. With flat, quiet roads and beautiful scenery the Rhine Eurovelo 15 route ticked all of the boxes for a first multi-day two-wheeled adventure.
In terms of a bike to take with you, the route follows mainly tarmac roads but covers some stretches of gravel and dirt cycling tracks so a good all-rounder is a good idea.
Jon Z took his commuter-set-up road bike with an additional pannier rack and the other Jon took a cyclo-cross bike. Both were definitely up to the task but the other Jon's cyclo-cross had space only for a saddle bag - slightly limiting his packing for a two-week trip. Luckily he had Jon Z's panniers for some extra luggage room!
The route itself is well signposted, so navigation is a doddle, but there are plenty of interesting towns and villages to explore along the way so be sure to throw your Beeline into your saddle bag for some off-the-beaten-track side excursions.
If you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of international cycle touring, this might just be the one for you.
Setting off from the Swiss city of Basel, Jon and Jon straddled the Franco-German border for their first day with a 75km leg to their first stop near Freiburg im Breisgau.
From there, they headed back across the border for a day on the western French side of the river and a night in Strasbourg. Hopping back over into Deutschland they continued past Heidelberg to Mannheim and then to the city of Mainz.
Here they entered the most beautiful part of the ride - the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Middle Rhine Valley. What was endless flat countryside on either side of the river becomes steeply terraced vineyards, stunning gorges and forty hilltop castles constructed over the course of the last 1000 years. How about that for a spot of culture?
Emerging from the valley at Koblenz, the two Jons followed the meandering river northwards through Bonn, Cologne (where they stumbled upon a very jolly Pride celebration) and Düsseldorf.
Carrying a tent with them, the pair mainly stayed in campsites next to the river but also ventured into the bigger town-centres where they spent the night in hotels. The route is well-worn by cyclists and there was great cycling camaraderie at the campsites.
The one not-so-great day of the trip was spent stuck in the tent sheltering from heavy rain in the Dutch town of Arnhem. Even that was rescued by a delicious meal - the best of the trip - at the nearby Landgoed Hotel.
Having crossed into the Netherlands, the two Jons had just a couple more days in the saddle as they made their way to the ferry port at the Hook of Holland to hop on a ferry back to Harwich in the UK.
Their advice for anyone thinking of riding the Rhine? Go, go, go for it! But beware of German beers and pot-holes; they're not the best mix.