Spurred on partly by Tim Krueger and few co workers, I decided to do Eurobike by bike with minimal gear. My goal was to fly into Europe and use pedal power as my main mode of daily transportation. My luggage would be a Revelate Designs seatbag and bar harness as well as an Osprey Escapist 30 backpack.
I did this because I often travel to beautiful places and end up in taxis, busses, and trains and don’t get to experience the beauty of the land. So, I flew into Zurich, Switzerland, built my bike in the airport, checked my bike box into long term bag storage, hopped a train to Konstanz, Germany, caught a ferry to Friedrichshafen and then rode to the rental apartment in Langenargen, Germany. This journey to get there would span a fairly intense 24-hour-plus period of transit. Was it worth it? Absolutely! What did I learn? Read on.
In preparation for this trip, I had a custom S & S El Mariachi produced. Taking a stock frame and having S & S couplers installed is no small task. I know folks that have used Bilenky to do this as they are super experienced and also provide paint service. Other coworkers of mine have used local Twin City’s frame builders and independent frame painters. In the end, this service costs several hundred dollars. Truth be told though, with three trips this fall using this bike, I have already paid for it in zero baggage fees. I decided to build this bike up as a flat bar singlespeed using a 2:1 ratio. Why singlespeed and flat bars? Because with a travel bike, simplicity is key and a singlespeed means fewer parts to damage in transit. Fewer parts and flat bars mean easier fit in the travel case and lighter weight, reducing the likelihood of exceeding the 50lbs airline weight limit before excessive airline baggage fees. I also thought it would be nice to simply ride whatever pace I was geared for and focus on experiencing the countryside.
I arrived in Langenargen in the early afternoon. Almost immediately, I knew my choice to experience Eurobike by bike was a good one. I picked up a bag of hand-picked plums for next to nothing and while waiting for my coworkers to return to the apartment, I sat by beautiful Lake Konstanz eating fresh plums. I would not have had this experience had I hopped the train, bus or taxi. Right there in that exact moment, my efforts were worth it.
Riding through the German countryside made it easy to forget why I was there. I was in Germany for Eurobike where Salsa had a tradeshow booth. We were there to exhibit some new product, support our German distributor Cosmic Sports as well as meet with media and other international distribution partners. It is easy to get caught up in this and feel burdened and stressed. For me, the 45 minutes of pedaling before and after the tradeshow each day made every minute of the Eurobike tradeshow better and more meaningful. I had reduced stress because I wasn’t worrying about bus, train or ferry schedules. I knew that each and every day would end with a wonderful ride through the German countryside. The historic towns, beautiful churches, apple and pear orchards and fields of hops made our 45 minute bike commute feel like minutes. In the end, I rode five straight days in Europe and as a result, it was my most memorable Eurobike tradeshow I’ve experienced. I came home not feeling completely lethargic. In fact, thanks to the bike I came home energized and I’m already thinking about next year.
I’ll leave you with some parting thoughts and things I learned for next time.
- Without a doubt, I will take a singlespeed again next year. I think I’d spend a bit more time setting it up with a cassette rear hub. This would allow two different gear ratios that if planned correctly, could easily be accommodated by our Alternator dropouts. I thought about using an Enabler fork with two rear wheels, but this combination does not fit in a hard shell bike case.
- Go to the airport early and find a scale. I ended up carefully adding stuff to get my box to 49 pounds. Once there, take inventory of what is in there. I now have a detailed list of what to include in the box resulting in carrying less on the plane.
- I carried my clothing, seatbag, and harness in a duffle bag. I did not want to use a bulky suitcase because once the bag was empty, I was able to put all packaging material and the duffle bag into the hard shell case. This allowed me to only check one bag into longterm bag storage. Note – Longterm bag storage was not cheap. It cost me $90 US for the week.
- I studied Google maps prior to leaving. I also found a few links to bike maps around Lake Konstanz. I was fairly prepared going in but if I had more time, I would have found a map with bike routes. One of my coworkers did purchase a map from the tourist info center in Langenargen. I’m sure they are available from other sources as well.
- Trains: Plan a bit of extra time here. The trains are set up for bikes, but I was informed that you need to reserve bike spots on the trains on day of departure and if the trains are full, I wouldn’t be able to get on. I gave myself enough time to catch two different trains so that I would not miss my flight out of Zurich. I had no problems, but be prepared.
- Fees: I already noted that the longterm baggage storage set me back about $90. In addition to that, both the train and the ferry required specific bike tickets. This cost me $18 Euro each way for the train and $4 Euro each way for the ferry.
- Flat pedals: I rarely ride in flats, but for this trip I decided I did not want to carry another pair of shoes. I was concerned about this, but had zero issues and would do it again next time.
- Lock: I carried a fairly sturdy and big U-Lock. While I did not need to carry a lock that secure for what I was doing, it is what I had. Take what you are comfortable with. My only note here is that on my flight home, my U-Lock was considered a security risk and I was flagged in Amsterdam. I ended up having to check my baggage and spend a little extra time in the security line.
- Rain gear: Always plan on having rain gear. I’ve been to Eurobike and Europe several times and I’ve always encountered rain on at least one day.
Lastly, for entertainment, here is a short 1 minute time lapse film of me packing my bike up in a dark hallway in the Zurich airport. In reality, it took me something like 16 minutes.
I encourage any of you reading this to consider travelling to Europe and using a bike as your primary mode of transportation. With some planning and a little extra effort, it all pays off and I bet you’ll have your most memorable European experience ever. I know I did.
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