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The Relaunch of the Deutschland Tour

For a country that has produced some of the strongest riders in the pro peloton, from Marcel Kittel to John Degenkolb, Tony Martin, Jens Voigt, André Greipel, and Berlin’s own Simon Geschke, Germany has not hosted a national tour in over a decade. Prior to the country’s high-profile doping scandals that rocked the cycling world in the mid-2000s, the Deutschland Tour was Germany’s biggest multi-stage race, attracting pro riders from the Bundesrepublik and beyond since its inception in 1911.

With the dust of controversy now settled, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the organizing body for the Tour de France and other UCI Pro races, is teaming up with Germany’s cycling federation — the Bund Deutscher Radfahrer (BDR) — to resurrect the Deutschland Tour later this year with a new concept: a holistic cycling lifestyle for all. From August 23–26, 2018, the four-stage, 2.1 UCI classification race will snake through Western Germany, from Koblenz via Bonn to Stuttgart over a total of 743 km (461 miles).

Scaled down from its previous nine-stage format, this year’s Deutschland Tour will also host a number of amateur cycling events accompanying each stage of the pro race, dubbed “Deine Tour”. For children and casual cyclists, the Ride Tour and Mini Tour offer the chance to roll down car-free city streets and learn fundamental cycling skills.

For more ambitious riders, the Jedermann Tour will take over the roads in and around Stuttgart before the pros start the fourth stage on Sunday, August 26. With multiple routes of varying distances and difficulties, the Jedermann Tour lives up to its name with offerings for riders at any level of cycling discipline. For the more regimented athletes, the NewComer Tour will test amateur racers’ stamina and grit along the pro course — to the victor go the spoils of fame and glory that only the country’s biggest cycling event can offer.

A contemporary of the original Tour de France, the Deutschland Tour remained the country’s most important cycling event throughout the early 20th century. The 1911 edition of the Deutschland Tour stretched a grueling 1500 km (932 miles) over Germany’s multiple territories and kingdoms. However, with no consistent organization or sponsorships, the tour saw little interest over the next 20 years, with multiple gaps separating race installments until 1931. That year signaled the beginning of the official “Deutschland Tour” and marked the start of its widespread support from the German populace. The tour remained a favored spectacle until European geopolitics at the start of World War II disrupted the tour’s organization.

In subsequent years, the tour’s acclaim was largely dictated by the success of German riders, peaking after Jan Ullrich bested French favorite Richard Virenque to become the first German cyclist to win the Tour de France in 1997. Ullrich’s victory shifted cycling’s popularity into Germany’s mainstream consciousness and brought newfound enthusiasm for the Deutschland Tour in 1999.

Watching the cycling landscape through the pink-tinted lenses of Telekom and T-Mobile’s team branding, Berlin finally played host to the national tour that year, which ran 1227 km (762 miles) to Bonn. The tour’s timing in May and June proved to be an ideal primer for the Tour de France in July despite simultaneously competing with the Giro d’Italia. While Jan Ullrich was unable to crack the leaderboard, his fellow Telekom teammates Erik Zabel secured first place in the sprint category while Jens Heppner won the overall classification.

Berlin would host the tour again the following year, when race organizers flipped the previous year’s course. After 2000, the tour would return to Germany’s western states for its longest uninterrupted run until its cancellation in 2008.

On October 16, 2008 UCI officials announced that the 2009 edition of the Deutschland Tour would be cancelled after doping allegations damaged the sport’s reputation. For German fans, the sense of shame felt most acute when Jan Ullrich, Erik Zabel, and other members of team Telekom/T-Mobile tested positive for blood boosting CERA, a third-generation form of EPO. Multiple organizations pulled their sponsorships in response, and marketing chiefs ultimately declared that they were unable to finance the Deutschland Tour. German cycling, it seemed, was headed for a long winter of condemnation.

ASO now plans to capitalize on Germany’s resurgent interest in pro cycling — particularly after the 2017 Tour de France Grand Depart in Düsseldorf — to usher in multiple new editions of the Deutschland Tour in the coming years. Doubling down on promoting an active cycling lifestyle for cyclists of all ages and disciplines, the revamped tour will either rediscover its footing in Germany’s cultural zeitgeist, or be once again tossed aside like an empty bidon flung from the peloton.

1st May 2018 0 comment
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Want to rent a bike? Check out our guide to bike rental in Berlin

Bike rental in Berlin.

Deciding to rent a bike is not always as straightforward as it seems, given the sheer number of options available to you. Berlin has a plethora of different bike rental schemes and systems available, and the choice of bikes runs from humble, well-used bikes to high-end dream machines.

(Disclaimer: this is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the bike rental options available).

You might be visiting the city for a few days and keen to explore on two wheels, or you might be hosting people who want to get out on a bike, but don’t have a spare one to lend them. Either way, even if you’re in the city for only a couple of days, cycling is the best way to explore and Berlin has a range of options for bike rental.

Luckily, the days of crappy rental bicycles are (mostly) gone. Our guide to bike rental in the city will show you a range of options together with some tips to make the whole process easier.

(One thing to note: Berlin doesn’t have an ‘official’ bike sharing system similar to London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ – now sponsored by Santander – or Paris’s Vélib’).

​1. Ask at your hotel/hostel:

Price: free to very cheap

These days, the majority of decent hotels and hostels have a fleet of bicycles available for their guests. At more expensive hotels, the bikes are often pretty good, and invariably free. Obviously, the quality and number of the bikes on offer varies massively depending on where you’re staying.

If you don’t see the bikes parked outside your hotel or hostel, ask if they have any available or can recommend a good rental shop.

​2. Bike rental shops:

Price: between €5 and €15 for 24 hours

There are hundreds of places offering bike rental: from dedicated shops, to the bikes available to rent from outside your local Späti (booze/cigarettes/snack shop). Googling ‘Berlin bike rental’ or ‘Berlin Fahrradverleih’ will provide you with a long list of companies. If you walk down any busy Berlin street you’re also bound to come across a rental shop. We cannot personally vouch for any company, so your best bet is to read reviews on google and find somewhere near where you’re staying.

Prices can be very cheap: we’ve seen them for as little as €5 for 24 hours and very rarely more than €12. Bring your ID to the rental shop. Most firms have their own policy for returning the bikes, but you usually have to drop it off during shop hours.

3. Deutsche Bahn Call-a-bike/Lidl bikes:

Price: €3 annual registration fee, then the first half hour €1.50, each additional half hour €1 upto a maximum of €15 for 24 hrs (€12 for concessions)

The cheap and cheerful discount supermarket giant Lidl has recently started offering bikes for hire, partnered with Deutsche Bahn’s Call a Bike system. The bikes are more or less the same robust and heavy machines that you see in bike sharing systems the world over.

Disappointingly, no English information is available on Lidl’s (or DB’s) bike rental website or app, so here’s how it works: to rent a bike, download the app and register. Find a nearby bike on the map and when you get to the bike, enter the unlock code provided.  You have to return the bike within the Berlin S-bahn ‘ring’, otherwise you’ll be fined €10. You also get a 50 cent bonus for returning it within 25 metres of one the 350 designated return zones – you can find these zones on the map.

​4. Nextbike:

Price: €1 for the first half hour, €1,50 for each additional half hour minutes up to €15 per day. Alternatively, a €3 daily pass with unlimited 30 minute rides free and every additional 30 minutes €1.

Another similar system is Nextbike, offering sturdy bikes available in many cities around Germany (and Europe). You can access your Nextbike in 4 different ways:

One, use the app to locate and access a bike. This works much the same as Lidl’s system: download the app, enter the bike number, get the 4-digit access code and unlock the bike. Two, send off for a customer card and unlock the bike by touching your card to the sensor. Three, phone their customer service for the unlock code and four, enter your customer information on the Nextbike terminal and get the unlock code.

You can return the bike by either slotting its front wheel into a lock at the terminal, locking it manually on a main street or at a ‘station’ by slotting the lock cable into the front hub and confirming the return via the app.

5. Donkey Republic:

Price: €10 per day.

A start-up founded in 2015 in Copenhagen, Donkey Republic offers yet another spin on the familiar bike sharing template. Their easily-recognisable orange bikes have started to become more commonplace around Berlin and they are available in a handful of European cities.

The system works something like a bike version of car2go: download the app, register, find a bike on the map. The lock will then be remotely unlocked after you enter the unlock code on the app and remotely locked when you return it at a drop-off location.

Donkey Republic have partner bike shops you can visit should you have a problem with the bike.

6. Mobike/Byke/other station-free bike sharing systems:

Price: Mobike: deposit then the first 30 minutes free, subsequently charged in 30 minute slots, price depending on frequency of use.

Byke: no deposit, 50 cents per 30 minutes. For €3, you can use the bike 12 times of up to 30 minutes within a 24-hour period.

In recent months, there has been a proliferation of colourful, station-free rental bikes appearing around the city. The bikes work in a similar way to aforementioned systems: download the app, reserve a bike, get a verification code, find the bike, unlock it and use it, simply locking it and leaving it somewhere within a designated zone when you’re done with it. ‘Best practice’ guides available on the companies’ websites advise you the best way to go about ‘locking up’ the bike once you’re finished with it.

​7. I want to rent a really good bike. What are my options?

Not everyone is content tanking around the city on sluggish, ugly 15 or 20kg rental bike. Luckily, help is at hand, although at the moment it seems you only have a few options.

Starting at €50 per day, Berlin Racing Bikes offer high-end Canyon road bikes for rental if you want to explore Berlin and its surrounding areas in your lycra.

​The impressive Steel Vintage Bikes store on Wilhelmstrasse near Potsdamer Platz also offers a range of more luxury bikes from fixed gear to steel and carbon road bikes. Prices start from €17 per day. More here: (https://www.steel-vintage.com/bicycle-rental-berlin/)

​You could also pop in to 8bar bikes in Kreuzberg, who we featured in our 5 Berlin bike manufacturers feature. They have many of their cool bikes (single speed, urban & adventure bikes) available for rental, starting at 20 euros for 24 hours. So, if riding a stylish, well-made bike is important to you, check them out: (https://8bar-bikes.com/rent-a-bike/)

What do we think?

The more traditional process of going into a shop and getting a bike in person appeals to many: you will, theoretically, be provided with the ‘right bike’, fitted to it while also having the pleasure of interacting with someone in the process. These shops usually offer the cheapest bike rentals, although spend a little time reading google reviews of various bike rental shops and you will read dramatically different feedback regarding the quality of the bikes, often extremely bad: pick wisely.

It seems that every other week a new bike sharing system appears, often with the bikes discarded, lying on the floor somewhere. The more modern app-based bike sharing systems can require a little more brain power when accessing and returning a bike, and are often not so simple nor intuitive for less technologically au fait individuals. Support is usually available in case of problems.

11th February 2018 0 comment
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