Return To The Rhine In 2019?

Welcome to Andermatt…

Back Camera

Alas I’m not there at the moment. Although if I were, I dare say it wouldn’t look like it did in August 2010 when the picture above was taken. I suspect it might be somewhat whiter.

I was, of course, en route for southern Italy – Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie – and had made an overnight stop in the small town 1,447 metres above sea level before the cycle over the cobbles of the fabled old road towards and over the Gotthard Pass.

That’s when the fun started… (read the book).

All this is relevant. Bear with me for a few moments.

Last year, I was contacted by a friend who works for an agency that books speakers onto cruises: would I be interested in speaking about my travels across Europe on a river cruise from Basel to Dusseldorf in June? Of course I would…

Both Basel, in Switzerland, and Dusseldorf, in Germany, are on the Rhine, a river that empties – in a somewhat meandering and complex fashion as it crosses The Netherlands via several channels of water – into the North Sea near Rotterdam.

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Travelling upstream and into Germany, the flow of the water is much tidier. Indeed in 2015 as I cycled from Tarifa to Nordkapp and as recounted in Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie, I followed the Rhine from Cologne to Dusseldorf. It was cycling day 44 and a ride of around 50km that, despite being very flat, was not without its frustrations. Again, full details in the book but here’s a clue:

Before arriving in Andermatt in 2010 I had also cycled a portion of the Rhine, on that occasion heading south from Strasbourg to Basel following the path of the Rhine Cycle Route or Eurovelo 15 as it now is. I remember finding it rather strange that, following the cycle route as I did, I didn’t actually set eyes on the Rhine until I was close to Basel itself.

Once in Switzerland, I left the Rhine and headed across country following Swiss National Route 3 in the direction of the Italian border at Chiasso via, of course, Andermatt and the Gotthard Pass.

Should I have chosen to do so – and because I was following the Eurovelo 5 at the time I didn’t – I could have continued to follow the Rhine as it headed east towards the shores of Lake Constance, then south along the border between Switzerland and Austria and then Switzerland and Liechtenstein and finally west, climbing the Alps in the direction of Andermatt.

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Andermatt is not marked on the map above, but Lake Tomo is. The distance between the two is only perhaps 5 km as the crow flies and away from paved roads, Lake Tomo – or Tomasee as it is known locally – is the primary source of The Rhine, some 1,230 km from the North Sea.

So The Rhine and I have history and, potentially, we have a future.

The river cruise ship upon which I have been booked to speak leaves Basel on Thursday 13th June. It is scheduled to arrive in Dusseldorf on Thursday 20th June and I have a tentative plan…

This is June 2019:

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IMG_3267According to the latest Cicerone Guide to the Rhine Cycle Route (such is the admirable eagerness of the publishers to get the facts right, the guide is regularly updated and in recent years I have been sent three updates; 2013, 2015 and now 2018!) 7-10 days of cycling would comfortably allow me to travel from close to the source of The Rhine at Andermatt to Basel with time to spare. I’m in no rush and the guide’s author, Mike Wells, has been very modest in creating stages that are only 50-60 km per day. Once disembarked from the boat in Dusseldorf, a further 320 km of cycling along The Rhine (according to the guide book) would await me. A more direct route to the Hook of Holland (where the Rotterdam to Hull ferry awaits) would be only 250km but after having followed The Rhine so slavishly for 1,000 km, would I really want to abandon it simply for the sake of 70 km? Probably not. That said, stretching the trip into a fourth week would be problematic with work. It would be a dash to the finish in order to be back on UK soil by the Monday morning. A detail about which to worry at a later date.

Aside from work issues, there are a couple of other obstacles that I would need to overcome in the next three months if I were to embark on such a cycling-boat-cycling trip along The Rhine:

  • I don’t currently have a touring bike that would be up to the challenge. The eponymous Reggie, the Ridgeback Panorama, has not been ridden for nearly two years and is currently in a state of retirement in my spare bedroom. I dare say he could be resuscitated, but it would take a bit of money. Money that might better be invested in a new touring bike that would set me up for the next ten years of cycling? The bike that I currently use, Dale, the Cannondale CAADX 105 is a decent bike but is a cross bike, not designed for touring. It cannot carry panniers (I briefly explored the ‘bike packing’ alternative only to discover the good reasons why cyclists have been using panniers since the invention of the bicycle itself) and has unforgiving gears. Regular reader of this website will be aware of my research into the purchase of a new touring bike; this Rhine / Eurovelo 15 plan could be the incentive I’ve been looking for… Read more hereย and indeed here. I asked a rather stupid question on Twitter recently and received a predictable answer:
  • It’s nearly four years since the last long trip and my level of fitness has dropped. Can I turn it around in 3 months? Although I would be following a path that is predominantly downhill or flat, all long-distance cycling requires a level of stamina to keep going not just after a few hours but day after day after day. Again, cycling the Rhine (or large sections of it), might be the incentive I need.

Much thinking needs to be done over the next few weeks. I suppose I don’t need to take a definitive decision until the cruise company contact me to make the travel arrangements to Basel and those from Dusseldorf back to the UK. There is also the risk that the speaking engagement gets cancelled; what would I do then? Another factor to ponder over is the timing of a trip to the Alps in early June. It was nice and sunny in early August in 2010 but two months earlier? I gave a talk last week at the local branch of the CTC / Cycling UK and got chatting with a chap called Carl. He arrived in Andermatt on May 19th 2015 and found this:

Carl’s thoughts were much welcome, as are yours. Please feel free to comment below…

1 reply »

  1. I do hope you get the speaking gig. I have only cycled the Rhine and the Waal and as you say its relatively flat. You are cycling regularly I thought so you should be OK, Go for it lad

What do you think?