It’s been more than 2 years since we started hiking in this area. Not quite surprisingly, there have been numerous suggestions about cycling. Every time, I strongly opposed the idea for the following reasons:
It makes no sense to have a large group because anyway you cannot talk to more than one or two people while cycling.
There can be technical problems with bicycles (in which case the organizer, i.e. me, might have to fix the problems)
I hate to cycle with people who cycle next to me, or right behind me.
However, I suggested a short cycling trip on the last day of the Easter weekend last week, which I organized only because I needed a ticket for Xanten, which has a few campsites nearby, and it is in an extremely flat area, which made me think no one would want to join me if I say hiking. And there, I saw that not only I was quite okay with novice cyclists, but also it is actually really nice to cycle in this flat area. If you are not really familiar with the situation in the VRR area, here’s what it looks like: there are a few mountains in the south of the VRR area, more or less between Solingen and Hagen. Then there are a few hills along the Ruhr. That’s it. All the rest, especially the zone near the Netherlands is completely flat, which makes it almost impossible for us to visit that area. So, if we can organise cycling events in that area, we will fully exploit the VRR tickets. Isn’t it beautiful?
Also, the heatwave of last year is forecast for this year. And I remember the hardship that we underwent while hiking there. If we are cycling, we can at least enjoy the breeze. It might not be perfect, but probably we’ll prefer it.
Still, I wasn’t so sure to do it directly on CS. So by taking advantage of Labour day, I decided to organise it with more people internally. Despite the rather insipid weather, we were 7 people. It’s not quite comparable with the hiking events on CS, which nowadays attract up to 80 people, but it gave me the first insight.
The RE 5 that went from Düsseldorf to Wesel in the morning was rather empty, so that there was no problem with having 7 bikes inside the train. Even though it is certainly not possible to put 100 bikes there, we can probably put maybe 50 bikes. Of course, this is valid only if the train is relatively empty. If there’s another group of cyclists it might get complicated.
The semester tickets inside the VRR region allow to carry one bike per ticket on the train. Ticket 2000 and YoungTicketPlus as well. One confusing thing was that Vitesh’s semester ticket from the university of Aachen did not cover the bike. Even though it’s just 5€ for the entire day, I guess it’s gonna be important to know exactly which tickets cover the bikes on the train.
Even though there were only 7 of us, it was extremely stressful to get out of Wesel. When I organise a CS session, I really have to think about the starting point, favourably a small station with not much civilisation.
But it was only at the beginning that it was stressful. When we started cycling along the Rhine, it was way nicer. Maybe because of the cloudy weather, maybe because there are simply so many different cycling paths, but there were not many people on the trail. We could fully enjoy the freedom.
My phone was attached to the bike handle and was connected to my power bank all the time. The navigation was therefore actually easier than during hikes. When I cycled from France to Japan a few years back, I had an converter that allowed to charge the phone directly with the dynamo. Maybe I’m gonna need something like this for the future sessions. (PS: I ordered the same converter the next day).
“Enjoying the freedom” as I wrote above was not quite as literal though. There were indeed scenes where cycling and talking did not quite get along, so that we might have gotten into trouble with other cyclists. At least today, nothing happened. Probably we’ll have to try it out several times to see how it carries on.
It is anyway amazing to see how much we can do by bike. Within less than one hour, we did more than what we can hike in a day. I’m already amazed to see the areas that we visited on hikes when I look at the map, but we’ll be able to cover way more than that with much less sessions by cycling.
After short break at Rheinberg, we carried on until we arrived at Duisburg, as indicated on the map above. And just as stressful as it was at Wesel, it wasn’t very comfortable to cycle through Duisburg to go to the central station either. In the end, we continued up to the Düsseldorf airport, where we took a train back home.
So, as I found out today, it wasn’t as stressful as I had expected a cycling session to be. But the problems that I mentioned above may or may not occur, we never know. Moreover, there’s another question that emerged: can we really have so many bikes on a single train? This is especially an issue when we go to a city like Wesel, because there’ll be only one train per hour, and literally everyone will have to take the same train, because it’s unlikely that someone comes from a different direction (at least after Duisburg). This being said, it’s maybe feasible if we start from Duisburg, which allow us to choose between S-Bahn and regional bahn, and people from the Ruhr region (like Essen, Bochum or Dortmund) will not have to take the same train to get there as those coming from Düsseldorf. Anyway, the first session is now planned for one of the long weekends in June, when there’s the street food and music festival at Moers. We’ll cycle from Düsseldorf and see how it works!