Europe: Nice, Stuttgart, and Munich

Hey all! I’m planning a vacation to Europe in early November, and I’m wondering if anybody has experiences or tips? I’m a relative newbie so nothing epic, and I can’t bikepack (family).

A few things I’d like to know about: can’t-miss rides (Col de la Madone!), gear to take (pedals, shoes, kit obviously), logistics of transporting or renting a bike, safety, weather, and anything else!

I’m spending 4 days in Nice, France; 5 days in Stuttgart, Germany; and 2 days in Munich.


@Kicikacsa lives in Germany, he might be able to help with this! @miffedoldpizza has just gone through all of the challenges of transporting a bike and deals with fluctuating weather too!!

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Couple of notes. I flew from Denver into Munich, via rental car to Italy.

Bought a bike box (aehm, “SCICON AEROTECH EVOLUTION X TSA BIKE CASE”, … there is some money to be saved). I do own a bike bag as well (right, the Scicon AcroComfort whatever). Turns out that some airlines only keep their promised insurance if the bike is in a hardshell.

Gear to take. I got a light weight travel pump (“LEZYNE CNC TRAVEL FLOOR DRIVE”), a leight weight torque wrench (“PRO BIKE TOOL Adjustable T Torque Wrench”), a set of allen keys (staddle, stem, pedals, deraileur), and a flathead/phillips screw driver. As spare only the deraileur hanger (which is impossible to find at a random bike store). For a bike box you have to deflate the tires, take off the pedals and seat, and losen up the handlebar. So there is a minimum set of tools required. Tricky part is to keep the bike box at or under 50lbs (or 23kg), hence the “light weight” above. Of course tubes, spare tires, carbon paste, lubricant, chain wax. Theme for me is to not depend on a bike shop to do the basic things.

In terms of clothing, 2 full kits (shoes, socks, bibs, base layer, jersey, gloves). Chances are you’ll get rained out once, and then not having to wait an extra day for everything to dry up is good.

Arm warmers (2 sets perhaps), gilet (lightweight vest), and/or a thermal vest plus a lightweight water proof jacket, and a more thermal jacket, full finger gloves (water proof), perhaps also full thermal gloves. Weather changes a lot in the mountains, and the descents get cold quickly. I am a big fan of shakedry jackets combined with a thermal vest. For the Haute Route Dolomites I did end up using all of the upper selection … but I guess all of that is personal. The weather forecast was miserable, so in addition to the normal kit (base layer and jersey), also had a goretex infinium jersey with me. Good for a longer ride in a drizzle without overheating.

Safety. Italy requires now a rear light. Got a Lezyne Strip Drive Rear, a tad heavy, but never let me down on 9 or 10 hour rides. Not sure about the front light requirements. Got a computer mount that also has the gopro mount, so easy to add front light. Something to consider.

Logistics wise, ended up with the bike box, and all the rest of the cycling stuff in a carry on. Easily doable.

Bike rentals. I have zero idea. Tried to rent in the US before, and always ended up with ill fitting crap (wrong size, too long stem without spares to change). Friend of mine had rented over in France (for the Alpe and for Ventoux), and while getting a quality bike, on each occasion the frame size was wrong (yes, they pre-ordered, and yes they supplied the measurements, and yes they asked for the proper fame size). If you end up renting a bike, take your pedals and take your saddle with you.

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I love it, comprehensive! And an excellent point about the saddle. I’m sort of leaning toward getting a rental. My bike isn’t a hero, just a carbon Trek Domane. So it might be nice to get a hero or aero carbon setup.

Did you get insurance, especially for damage during flights? I’d hate to crack open the box and discover my frame has been destroyed.

Also, is it practical to take a bike box on a train? There’s at least one of those in the trip.

Rental. No matter how crappy your bike is, you know it well. If you rent a bike, it will be different. The handling will be different, the geometry will be different. Perhaps rim vs. disk. So for a 6 hour day in the saddle, how much will that affect you ? I don’t know. Kind of faced my self exactly with that question. Rim brakes in the rain for alpine descents (vs. what I have in Colorado) suck. I cannot justify to shell out the money for a disk brake bike that would match what I currently have. So rent something for the next event, or have the better setup and live with the known disadvantages.

I did not get extra insurance. Lufthansa / United will cover up to $10k (please recheck, it might vary based upon your frequent flyer status). A separate insurance was about the same amount as buying a hardshell bike box. Overall I was impressed how careful the airlines handled the bike box. Only a few scuffs here and there. Fundamentally 50lbs is too heavy to be massively thrown around. Having said that, I cannot imagine how your frame would get cracked in a box, unless the box is utterly destroyed.

Suppose a bike box along with a larger duffel on wheels is practical. Having more than 2 pieces of luggage that you need to roll around is not practical. I have not used a train for ages (I am from Germany, and all my early life did depend upon trains). But everywhere where you can take a bike, you can take a bike box. Only consideration I’d have is the size of rental car. The issue I did run into is that the larger wagons were not allowed to travel to Italy. So we ended up with a small sized SUV.

One thing you could do is to only use the bike box for air travel, and store the box somewhere, and then just leave the bike as is. Perhaps a bike sock for the hotels. I can always get my bike into the back of a Subaru CrossTrek, upright, wheels removed with all seats up (just as a point of reference), while a bike box requires a the back seats down in a Volvo XC60 / VW Tiguan (again, just for reference).

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Not being as coordinated as should be this morning. Renting. There are 2 more items to consider that I blanked on. Computer mount. Some rentals do come with one some don’t. For the ones that don’t you need to make sure you have something that fits the bar shape (if it’s one of those integrated ones). And then we got the power meter. I am a climber, my power meter is on the crank. The lightweight solution. Most rentals do not have power meters … Hence for me that would mean getting power meter pedals … somewhat expensive …

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@miffedoldpizza Awesome and comprehensive. I do have power meter pedals personally, for nerd reasons.

I thought of another question: any issue at customs? Theoretically you’re transporting thousands of dollars worth in the form of a bike, did they want to charge you for it? Or are there exceptions of some sort?

Living between Munich and Stuttgart, I can advise you to pack really good gloves and really warm overshoes. It can get nasty cold in November and if you are unlucky you can even run into snow. Where in Germany do you want to ride? Stuttgart is not known to be cycling friendly. I recently raced a sportive there and I only did it because it was in closed roads.

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I don’t know much about hiring bikes in Germany. I also live in southern Germany like Chris. There are lots of point to point rides you could chose if you fancy that e.g. riding down the Danube, or the Romantic Road from Wurzbrug down to the alps. Just outside Stuttgart is lots of great riding in the Black Forest. Even riding from Stuttgart to Munich would provide some interesting roads.

A couple of general things about riding in Germany - generally the roads are far safer for cyclists than anywhere else that I have ridden in Europe. There are masses of bike paths but their make up varies widely from wide smooth asphalt to gravel tracks and there usually isn’t much indication of what they are going to be like.

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