For 2014, look in the Wiki for more detailed information.
Sometimes it can be a hassle to travel with your bike when not riding it, but it’s totally worth it! Trains, buses and ferries all over the world often accept a bike as a baggage, you should check your luggage dimension restrictions, and sometimes you will have to pay for extra luggage.
What you have to do is pack and protect your bike and other things to prevent them from being damaged – especially the deraillers for the gears. Sometimes you will have to dismantle your bike, front or both wheels, just so it can fit in the baggage area. Make sure you’ve got the right tools with you! A good tip is to pack your bike in a cardboard box which you can usually get free from bike shops that sell new bikes (just go and ask). There are also special large bike bags available too but these are quite expensive, you can make ones yourself or improvise with large bags, tarps or whatever you find…
As a general rule high speed trains in Europe often require you to make reservations and sometimes even to put your bike in a ‘bag’ but local trains most of the times let you walk right on with one. The Website of German Railways is quite good at letting you know which trains allow bikes (all over Europe) so you may use it to check your route, but sometimes the local info diverges, so also check with the railway company that you are using. If there is no train which allows bicycles on your route there is still the possibility to talk with the conductor of the train and get it on. Sometimes, if you take of the wheels, it doesn’t officially count as a bike. Not in all regions of Europe the railway system is well developed, sometimes buses are more frequent, and possibly faster and/or cheaper. You will have to talk to the bus drivers, sometimes they will want to charge you a fee which you can negotiate. Some bus companies have a special offer for bikes. On CheckMyBus you can search for coach connections throughout Europe (select “Europe” on the top right to switch to English).
Hitch-biking is also a really cheap and fun option, some participants successfully did this in previous years!
Usually there is a rota, a plan that lists all the tasks that need to be done where people can sign themselves in. Most tasks last for one day and are done in small groups, although the exact details are decided by consensus on the actual tour. Signing up for a task is voluntary, so depending on your energy levels you can decide what and how much you want to do.
We have noticed in the past that people tend to sign up for the tasks that they feel most comfortable with, so people who enjoy cooking mostly signed up for the food team, people who are experienced in reading maps signed up for the route team, and people with strong legs signed up for pulling the trailers. Gender dynamics also played a role in this. The Biketour aims to be a place where people can grow and learn, so we try to create a space where people share their skills instead of displaying them and where it is not necessary that everything is always done in the most efficient way, so that people have the opportunity to become confident and experienced at tasks that they have no prior experience with.
We have noticed some people travelling with just one gear, but if you want to have a less painful trip (and avoid pushing your bike up hills), you should be sure to have at least some light gears. Maybe you want to take a look at the topography of the region where you are planning to join the biketour and think about whether you want to take a bicycle with racing, touring or mountainbike gears. Remember that there are always hilly parts as well!
Ecotopia Biketour is a not-for-profit, DIY activist community run by volunteers. All the money that we collect from our participants during the tour, is used to cover the costs during the tour, (such as: food; donations to project hosts; first aid equipment; bike tools; printing flyers / materials) but also some money is saved for the following year to cover some of the organisational costs (such as: office hire/donation; office equipment; phone / internet costs; trailer parts; cooking pots)
We want to make participation inclusive – also in regard to money. For this reason, our money is periodically collected (e.g. for one or two weeks) as an anonymous, suggested donation of 3 – 5 EUR per day (or equivalent in other currencies).
In the past, Biketour has already used other methods of ‘solidarity economy‘ in order to finance the basic needs; e.g. it used Ecorates, an alternative currency system designed by EYFA in 1989 for the first Ecotopia Gathering.
It is important for the Biketour to directly try out and employ examples of alternatives to/within capitalism, by providing different kinds of social safety nets and by recognising economic inequality.
The average amount of daily/weekly biketour costs are hard to estimate, because currencies fluctuate, economic circumstances change every year and we cross regions with very different cost and income levels. If the suggestion for the donation had to be corrected, this would happen through a consensus decision with participants during the tour.
Most people don’t have time for 2-3 months in summer – that’s not nice, but it is alright with us ;)
That is why many people don’t join for the whole trip.
However, joining just a couple of days is something that has proven problematic on previous biketours: In bigger groups, people need time to get to know each other. And joining participants need time to adjust to the group and learn about the processes.
We therefore aks you to stay with us for a minimum of 1-2 weeks!
On our trailers we put all things that our Biketour group needs and cannot be distributed by the participants: Some food, cooking pots, stoves, flyers and other equipment. They can load up to 35kg. We take turns to carry them and everybody can do it, if you want you can also share it for a day with someone else and change half-way.
The Biketour owns two bob-trailers who have only one wheel. Thus they are slimmer but not as stable as 2-wheel trailers. They are fixed with a quick-release skewer, so in order to be able to pull them you need to have such an axle on your back wheel.
In previous years the biketour also often had a borrowed two-wheel trailer, we are trying to get one again for this year, maybe the one we had last year, which was very easy to mount, also on bicycles with nuts and not quick release and lightweight to ride.
The most important thing to keep in mind for safe cycling with a trailer is the stability – pack the weight as low as possible and ride carefully, especially downhill and in curves – the trailers don’t have brakes and their weight can get you off-balance. Let someone show you how to securely attach the trailer to your bicycle including the security pins.
A day-by-day plan for the route will be planned and published on the website before the tour starts, so you can have an idea which place you have to travel to. If you need more detailed information than is given is the day-by-day plan, you can contact the organisation team using one of the mechanisms described on the Contact page. The people who are cycling on the actual tour will also check those e-mails every now and again, but oftentimes, there is no possibility to access the internet for a couple of days. There is always one communal mobile phone being carried during the tour. The number is published on the front page of the website, and might change as we cross national borders. It is advisable to contact the tour shortly before your arrival, as sometimes slight changes to the route are made on the way.
No. Ecotopia Biketour is a DIY tour – this also involves repairing one’s own bikes. There is always somebody that knows a bit more about bike repairs and that will be glad to teach and help.
You may be cycling in small groups, so you should bring your own basic tools and ask somebody beforehand to show you how to solve common problems that you will have – then you can pass on that information, too.
- As you carry all things by yourself you should think twice about what you bring (“I always bring too many clothes!”).
- It’s helpful to bring with you some basic first aid medicine, sun protection and a hat.
- Prepare your bike as much as possible and try to use it, fully loaded, a few times before the start of Biketour as that’s how you will avoid pain in the muscles in the first days.
- Bring front and back lights – in the countryside there is often no street lighting.
- If you feel more safe wearing a helmet bring it.
- Try to cycle with people who cycle same pace as you, or who are more experienced.
- Don’t cycle at the edge of the road but more than one meter away from it, that’s how drivers will notice you in good time and you will always have more time and space to run from those who don’t.
- Learn how to signal to others what you intend to do and how to use roads safely. Find road safety tips here.
- Bring a bike bell or horn, you will need it for many things.
- It’s good to always keep some snacks with you and some warm clothes.
- When carrying a trailer ride particularly carefully – don’t underestimate how much it can get you off-balance in curves and/or down-hill.
- Pack the weight in a low position both on your bicycle and especially on the trailers, this will give you better the balance and thus easier/safer riding.
- Maintain your bike: Check your brakes and brake pads, pump up your tires and oil your chain regularly.
One of the good things about a bike is how easy it is to fix it. Flat tires and broken spokes are the most common problem. Within the biketour community, we are carrying some parts, which can be communally used.
Try to bring things in any case, which your bike requires: correctly sized inner tubes, spokes and brake shoes, pump and basic tools for your bike.
Other things highly recommended: chain oil, bike lock (don’t forget the key!), rain protection for you, the bike and your equipment on it, lights (front and rear), water bottle holder.
Ecotopia Biketour is not just about cycling for the sake of it – bicycles are also our sustainable mode of transport to get from one place to another. Although we seem to cover a lot of ground over the months we will be cycling for, you do not need to join the tour for the entire time and people can go at their own pace. It is certainly not a race and some days there will be no cycling at all. On an average cycling day, we will cycle around 50–70 km. In our experience, almost everyone gets used to this after a couple of days. People have joined us who haven’t cycled for 20 years, people who don’t do any sports in their daily lives, people whose physical abilities are impaired due to a recent accident. Everyone has adapted to the cycling after a couple of days, and for many it was a very empowering experience to find out that they can do it! Apart from that, many people have also successfully hitchhiked the daily route (taking their bikes!) when their bike broke down unfixably. Some people have even joined the tour hitchhiking without a bike.
The whole group almost never cycles together, people usually cycle in small groups or on their own and decide based on personal preference how early they want to depart, how fast they want to cycle and how many breaks they want to take. Usually, there is a “tail”, a couple of people who stay behind everyone else and have tools and a first-aid kit with them in case someone gets stuck on the way.
There is also no obligation to be with the group every night – if you need a break, feel free to spend the night somewhere else and take your time to catch up.
Yes! In that case you should write to the organising team well in advance. We will put you in contact with the local bikekitchens or ask the projects we will visit for a bike for you. If you have the time to arrive early enough, there are some in most big cities where you can try to build a bike cheaply or for a donation. In the past some participants have built their own bicycle out of recycled parts and gave them away at the end of the tour.
On previous years some people bought cheap-crappy bikes and later the group had to help them out a lot. A used bike is in most cases better than a new one.
It is also possible to share one bicylce between two or more persons along the route: Maybe someone takes the tour from point A to B, so that you could arrange to take over the bike from point B to C. For that you should register and write to the mailing-list you will be added to.
The Biketour is definitely open for children, but whether it is suitable for your child will depend on the specific needs and personality of your child and of you. Keep in mind the following things:
- On cycling days, daily distances are usually around 40–70 km. For most young children, this is probably too much to cycle on their own, but it may also be too long to just sit on a seat or in a trailer. See below for some suggestions.
- Children are not joining the Biketour very often, so it is rather likely that there will be no other children to play with.
- People speaking all kinds of languages are joining the Biketour. English is spoken by most participants and is often the common language. If your child does not speak English, there can be a language barrier with many participants.
- We often wild-camp in nature in places without running water (although we do have a few water canisters filled up for cooking and cleaning).
If these circumstances are compatible with the personality of your child, the Biketour can be a very interesting and educative experience. If your child is afraid of strangers and/or adults, the Biketour might not be very enjoyable for them.
Although it hasn’t happened very often, children of all ages have participated in the Biketour over the years. Babies were travelling in their own trailer, and children who could already cycle joined on their own bike – when the distances got too long, their parents would just pull their bikes using a rope. Here are some suggestions how a child can join the ride:
- A bike seat can be attached on top of the rack (example image) or on the top tube of the bike frame (example images). These should fit for a small child, but might be difficult to combine with your luggage and might get uncomfortable and/or boring on a long ride.
- 2-wheel bike trailers for children are attached to the axle/skewer of the bike and can usually fit 2 children with up to 45 kg in total (example images). These can easily be found second hand for little money or even for free. They usually have an attachable rain cover.
- A so-called “tagalong” is a child’s bike without a fork and front wheel that is instead hooked to the seat of the adult’s bike and dragged behind (example images). The child can choose to pedal or not.
- There are plenty of types of cargo bike that are suitable for carrying children (example images). Buying these is usually quite expensive.
- Some tandem bikes have a small seat in the front (for the child), the person in the back is steering (example images, example images with recumbant seat). Buying these is usually quite expensive.
Anything can be imagined on the Biketour. If you need any advice, feel free to Contact Us.
It should also be noted that the additional work that comes with taking care of a child should not be something that keeps you off joining us. We are a solidarity community and try to support each other in any way that we can. There is no pressure about participating in communal tasks – everyone is free to do as much as they are able to. Also, be aware that we normally don’t cycle all at once. Some people go ahead in the morning and mark the route with chalk arrows on the road. So if you and your child take a bit longer, that’s not problem at all! No one will be forced to wait, but many people would surely be happy to.
All you need is a rack and panniers (bike bags) attached to the bike. Two separate panniers are much better than just a big one (it is easier to take them off, and we need to do it every day). There’s also the possibility to carry four – two at the back and two at the front.
Bike Panniers which are separate, light weight, waterproof and a good shape, can be pretty expensive. On the web you can find several DIY projects on how to make your own from (recycled) material (e.g.: here).
Some people take a trailer instead of a rack and panniers, this is to your personal choice. However, first of all you will never get a day off from riding with a trailer (which makes riding different in sharp turns, downhill etc.) and secondly it prevents you from carrying the communal trailers, a task which we would all like to share. If you do so maybe you could think of volunteering to carry some food or material on your rack instead sometimes.
The second thing is: don’t take too much personal stuff. Try to put everything into panniers and check the weight: they shouldn’t weigh over 15kg for the 2 panniers together.
Last but not least: maintain your bike regularly. You will notice quite a big difference after properly inflating your tires and oiling your chain. On every bike tire, there is a pressure recommendation written. Even for cheap tires, the maximum recommendation is usually between 3,5 and 8 bars (depending how thick the tires are), which is far more than most people would assume is safe to put in. Inflating your tires to the maximum pressure will not only make the luggage be pulled much more easily, it will also make your tires last much longer under weight.