After a short cycle, we spent yesterday morning at Rose Biketown Bocholt while the nice mechanics fitted a new bit of kit to Bruce’s bike to charge his phone from the hub Dynamo on the bike. Bruce has his phone fixed to the handlebars for navigation. I’m too nervous to try this myself but it is very handy (joke, laboured variety: the German word for a mobile phone is das Handy).

Biketown is enormous. It’s a hypermarket of all things to do with bikes on four balconied floors, with an information desk, a workshop, a bike parts counter where things are fetched from rows and rows of shelving and a mini cafe if you need a sit down to recover from retail overload. I am very glad we arrived with limited carrying capacity as it would have been easy to go completely mad. As it was, I bought some gloves with better padding and a much more breathable waterproof jacket to replace the one I have with me, which has a dodgy zip. I spent a while looking at all the amazing panniers and luggage in every shape and size, but inevitably we were many miles away in our hotel in Duisburg when the handle on one of my current panniers snapped. The cafe was good, though.

It was lunchtime when we finally emerged, blinking, back into the daylight. We had a picnic lunch in a lovely park and set off to Duisburg, which is on the Rhine. We had a hard 10 miles or so through farmland cycling to Wesel into a fierce headwind, then a great run for the next ten on a track following a main road where we finally got up a little speed and then a few miles after Dinslaken we were plunged into a built up area and were slowed right down. The last 10 miles must have taken an hour and a half, partly due to losing our way but mainly due to traffic and pedestrian congestion, and traffic lights at every junction. Not good for the nerves for either of us, as we were both by that stage longing to get to the hotel: my eyes had been irritated by the wind and the dust, Bruce had a sore ankle and we were both keen to get out of the saddle.

This area around the Rhine is a major industrial zone so it is busy. Duisburg is a big enough place to have an underground rail network, but our hotel is in the centre so we didn’t try it. Traditional German food being not ideal for vegans, we wound up in a lovely Asian restaurant doing an all-you-can-eat Mongolian barbecue. We were very hungry post-cycling, so I don’t think they made a lot of money from us. Thinking back on it, we didn’t see much in the way of traditional German restaurants, but there were several branches of McDonalds and Burger King.

We plan to head up river from here to Düsseldorf and then to Cologne, and trying to follow the Rhine path some of the way. The cycle routes through rural areas are great – signposted, scenic and on a mix of paths and quiet roads. The in town cycle routes yesterday, with the honourable exception of Bocholt, were not up to Dutch standards but very good indeed compared to Edinburgh.

I also plan to take some photos to try to liven up this blog (on the advice of him indoors, who has been blogging for ages). Onwards!

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