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Romantische Straße – Königsbrunn to Meitingen

Monday 9 September

We awoke at eight to blue skies with white fluffy clouds, not the rain we were originally forecasted. Hurrah!

Before we went down to breakfast I received an email from Booking.com, the website that I used to book most of our hotels. As usual they were asking me to review a hotel we had stayed at (Hotel Christine in Füssen). However, I wasn’t sure exactly what category I fitted into.

Clearly I’m not a solo traveller (this time), family with older children or group of friends. But which of the other two options are we, being 42 and all…

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We had a hearty breakfast as usual, although James was slightly foxed by the hot water dispenser for the tea dispensing stone cold water. You had to ask the lady for hot water but the urn was out as usual so it wasn’t exactly obvious!

After breakfast we had a short rest for our food to go down. James was feeling a bit tired so we hung around a bit longer for him to get his energy up.

James has been using Nuun tablets for an energy drink on this tour and we have noticed something rather unusual about them. Here’s what they look like when initially made up (the one on the right has the Nuun tablet, the one on the left is just plain water).

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Here’s what they look like on the bike when we set off.
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And here we are at lunchtime – the Nuun bottle has gone almost clear in colour. It’s done this every day, it’s a kind of magic trick!
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After a good hour back in the hotel room we felt ready to go so we packed up our stuff and checked out.

Here is our planned route for the day.

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The weird baby sculptures weren’t the only bits of artwork outside our hotel – there was also a fountain. I decided to make myself part of the sculpture!

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Here I am sitting beside a young girl, copying her position!
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Here we are outside the Besthotel Zeller, ready to head off. We liked this hotel!
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We had diverted from the official route to get to Königsbrunn and so would need to retrace our route about a mile to get back to the official path. However, several months ago I had spotted an amusingly-named town just off route and thought that we really ought to visit there. We could do an easy detour and then rejoin the route later, so that’s what we did.

We returned to the Mandichosee which we cycled past yesterday but didn’t see (it was behind an embankment). This time we climbed up the bund to have a look and saw a rather lovely lake with windsurfers and kite surfers.
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There was also a very handy information board which told us about all the different hydroelectric schemes along this section of the river.
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Lots of interesting information here about peak usage times etc.
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We now ignored the signage for the Romantische Straße and headed off to Mering, passing this impressive roadside stall with lots of squashes/pumpkins.
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Here’s the choice. 7 Euros for a large pumpkin, for example.
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We had to do a bit of complicated navigation in Mering to cross under the railway line and road and it got a bit confusing but we soon found ourself on the cycle path beside the B2 at Sankt Afra heading northwards.
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We arrived at Kissing and I demonstrated…
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Then, most fortunately, we found ourselves passing a bike shop! I’d been looking for one for two days as my bicycle bell had broken on the train journey. This was a large bike shop and they had plenty of choice of bells.
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Here we are outside the amusingly-named bike shop.
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And here is my new bell. Rather than having a thumb hammer thingie that you ping (and that always breaks off for me as my bell has to be mounted upside down and is on the sticking-out bar end) this one has a round collar which you twist – this is easy for me to do whilst still keeping my hand on the handlebar. And it makes a loud enough noise to warn people I am approaching. Good value for 3 Euros.
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On the way out of Kissing we found a road sign and just had to try another self-portrait. We’re not too good at these though!
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And another!
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Well it is the Romantic Road!

After all that nonsense it was time to get pedalling and stop mucking around so much!

We had the option of going directly to Augsburg or doing the recommended detour to Friedberg. We were enjoying the ride so decided to do the Friedberg option which did involve a bit of a hill.

We passed a field where it looked as though the police were training the dogs with an obstacle course and then found ourselves about to head up a bit of a hill. This impressive series of signs on one post showed the various options around here.

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We had a short climb up a hill and then rode through some woodland. There were lots of children playing in the woods, presumably some kind of holiday club, and several of them peered at me with amazement as I trundled past. I suppose there aren’t that many recumbents around really (we saw one yesterday but that was it) so it was probably a new experience for them!

At a roundabout at the top of the hill in Friedberg we saw this sculpture.

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We entered the central part of Friedberg and came across this fantastic stripy church.

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The guide book explains:

The Stadtkirche St Jakob (Town Church of St James)… whose 56 metre high belfry is the most prominent feature of Friedberg’s skyline, for all that its Italianate form makes it an unusual, not to say incongruous, main landmark for a German mediaeval town. The Gothic church which formerly occupied the spot was gravely damaged in 1868 when the tower collapsed. Partly on grounds of cost, and partly in line with the artistic tastes then current in the Kingdom of Bavaria, it was decided to replace this with a new building based on the architectural principles of the early Christians. Thus the interior was modelled on the basilica of San Apollinare in Classe outside Ravenna, though it was the great Romanesque church of San Zeno in Verona which provided the inspiration for the exterior.

A downhill whizz from Friedberg led us to Hochzell and then a short section on a gravel track before we crossed the bridge over the Lech and headed for the centre of Augsburg, taking a route through the industrial estate. We saw various roads and buildings named after the Fugger family who were very important in Augsburg’s history, as were the Welser family who at one point owned the whole of Venezuela!

The official route does a bit of a scenic route through Augsburg centre but we cut the corner and headed straight to the main square for our lunch. Our outside seats were opposite the Augsburg Perlachturm:

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And the Rathaus:

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I had Gulaschsuppe and shared some of my roll with some very tame sparrows.

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James had Wurst and bread.

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We didn’t linger too long but headed out along Karolinenstraße, attempting to avoid the tram tracks laced along the cobbles we had to ride. This was difficult at times for me but we managed it unscathed in the end. We were slightly surprised that the official cycle route was put on a road with the risk of tram tracks.

We passed the Dom (Cathedral) on the way out.

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Here is part of city wall.

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We also went past the huge MAN factory. MAN stands for Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg.

We then crossed over to the east side of the Lech again.

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We were now unfortunately on a crushed stone track rather than asphalt so it slowed me down a fair bit. On this surface I was able to ride at about an average speed of 10mph, whereas on the asphalt yesterday we were averaging 15-16mph. James found it so bumpy that he put his gloves on to give his hands more padding.

We saw yet another hydroelectric plant.

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And then found ourselves approaching this enormous factory the other side of the river in Gersthofen.

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Here the track took a detour around a huge spoil heap and the official Romantische Straße signs disappeared. Fortunately our Bikeline book had the route, as did my Garmin, but I wonder if they have subsequently made a more direct route as we rejoined the Romantische Straße signage and saw that it seemed to be pointing a different direction from where we had come.

Unfortunately we had now joined a really awful track between Gersthofen and Langwied and there was no alternative available. The track got worse, ending up as two narrow lanes with grass in the middle. This is OK for bikes but terrible for trikes and I couldn’t average more than about 6mph for the three mile section of this surface. It was lots of hard work riding for little distance reward!

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Finally – finally! – we reached the end of this stretch at Langweid and turned westwards, crossing the Lech again. At this point we came across the Gedenkstein Via Claudia Augusta.

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Here’s the info board about it.

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We were feeling pretty pooped now, James especially, and he fancied a bit of a sit down. I spied some seats outside a bank so we stopped in what turned out to be a small open space with a fountain and a rather lovely wildflower border for the bees and other insects.

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We stopped here for fifteen minutes or so before continuing on, this time cutting a corner off the official route to save time (and avoid a hill). My chain was feeling a bit dodgy after all the riding on the grassy track – as if it had muck in it, although I couldn’t see anything. It’s a reasonably old chain but should have a bit of life left in it but it doesn’t feel quite right so I will have to have a good look at it sometime soon.

Our alternative route went straight from Langweid up the main road to Biberach, whose Wallfahrtskirche was clearly obvious on the skyline from a fair distance away.

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It was on a slight rise which caused my chain to make some unhappy noises!

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Around this time two Eurofighter planes in convoy went overhead. We’d seen a mystery fierce-looking helicopter earlier in the day, and a single Eurofighter, so there’s clearly a military airbase somewhere not too far away. We passed a runway yesterday on which James thought he could see some Hercules aircraft so perhaps they were from there, just north of Landsberg am Lech.

From here we could see another church and tower which we think were in the village of Markt.

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At this point we could see the quickest way to Meitingen on James’s map (which wasn’t the route I had plotted) so we sailed forth following Captain James, crossing under the B2 major road (more like a motorway) and then going over the railway in Meitingen. Our hotel looked very nice and although it was its Ruhetag (closed day) there was a chap there to give us the key and instruct us where to go.

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Here is the information from my Garmin today.

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We parked our bikes under the log store.
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James had a bit of a sleep whilst I wrote up some of the blog and then it was time to meet Melanie and Konrad, our friends from Munich who had driven up to see another friend in Meitingen and then us.

They took us to a wonderful restaurant/hotel in Thierhaupten which was a former monastery.

James had a local beer.

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Konrad had a Radler. Well, he is a cyclist!

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And just to make you jealous, here are pictures of our wonderful food!
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It was a lovely evening with our friends and it was just a shame that we were tired and couldn’t stay up later!

Tomorrow we have a forty mile ride to Harburg but there is a possible shortcut if James is still feeling a bit tired so we can decide on that during the day if necessary.

Again, not a single drop of rain landed on us on the bikes today. Tomorrow rain is forecast but we may – just may – be lucky again. Here’s hoping!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Romantische Straße, Trikes & Velomobiles

40,000 miles and a change of tyres

I’ve cycled a fair distance in the last five years – 42,000 miles – and have done the vast majority of that distance on one type of tyre, the ever-popular Schwalbe Marathon. But six weeks ago I decided it was time for a change, and time to fit the Panaracer Minits Tough tyres that I had bought two years ago after a recommendation from fellow trike rider John Eady.

Left to right: Panaracer Minits Tough; Schwalbe Marathon; Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Left to right: Panaracer Minits Tough; Schwalbe Marathon; Schwalbe Marathon Plus

The previous 40,000 miles hadn’t been entirely with Schwalbe Marathons though. The trikes were originally supplied with Schwalbe Marathon Racers (the ‘faster’ version) but I found they were puncture prone and swapped them for something a bit better after 1,000 miles on the original trike, especially as they were already down to the canvas at that point. My second trike kept its original Marathon Racers for 500 miles until I had two punctures in one ride on those and I took them off and swapped for Marathons.

I’ve also run Schwalbe Big Apple tyres (which are extra fat and comfy) on the old Trice Q for 1,000 miles but they, too, suffered from early wear and less puncture resistance and they were also really hard to get on the rims evenly – they often had buckles in the sidewall which were very awkward to get out.

After several people had recommended Schwalbe Marathon Pluses I also tried those.

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Never again! They may be virtually puncture proof (although I did get one puncture with them) but they are very hard to fit and the rolling resistance is awful – you feel like you’re cycling through treacle the whole time! They knocked a mile per hour off my average speed which was far too much, especially as a puncture repair only takes about ten minutes and I sometimes didn’t have punctures on normal Marathons for several months. The 1mph off my average speed for a month works out at nearly six hours of extra riding each month for the distances I was regularly doing!

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So anyway, I’ve done about 36,000 miles overall on the reliable and reasonably puncture-resistant Marathons. I like them!

After 3,000 miles of riding they can look like this though:

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Where I live we are ‘blessed’ with country lanes with millions of tiny flints. The Marathon tyres pick up the flints and embed them in the rubber but rarely let them right through, fortunately!

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However, if you do get a puncture it’s important to find the corresponding sharp spot in the tyre to remove the flint or thorn that is almost certainly embedded in the tyre else you will get another puncture immediately with your fresh tube.

The Advantages of Marathons:

  • Comfy – I buy the 1.5 inch wide versions which are narrower than some but they still give a comfortable ride
  • Fitting – they go on the rim fairly easily and don’t seem to get the awkward buckles that I get with the Big Apples, for example
  • Puncture resistant Greenguard – this is fairly effective.
  • Rolling resistance – not too bad, you don’t feel like you’re having to work too hard to get the trike moving.
  • Longevity – these tyres last for 3-4 thousand miles on my front wheels which is fairly good. Obviously in winter they get more cut up but in summer they do very well. The rear tyre lasts between 6 and 10 thousand miles usually (it has less weight/wear).

Still, it’s always nice to have a change and I’d heard a lot about how different tyres can help you to go faster. I’m more tortoise than hare so faster sounded good.

I had bought the Panaracers two years ago and immediately thought ‘they are too thin to provide any puncture resistance’ so had put them in the shed and mostly forgotten about them. However, we appeared to be in a bit of heatwave with no rain at all and I thought the sunny, dry conditions were ideal for fast racing tyres and so I’d give them a go.

What are the Panaracer Minits Tough like?

They look good!

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Note that there is no reflective sidewall detail so these would not work well for me in Germany (I’d have to buy some spoke reflectors instead if I wanted the trike to have these in the Fatherland).

They also run at higher pressures than the Schwalbe Marathons – between 65 and 100 PSI (4.5-7 bar).
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As a consequence the ride is harder and rougher but definitely quicker!

There was also a slight issue of failing puncture repairs at this high pressure. I usually patch my tubes over a dozen times before throwing them away – the patches generally work really well. However when I first fitted the Panaracers and pumped them up to 85psi it caused one of the patches to fail and I had to change the tube. This patch had worked perfectly well in the Marathons at 60psi.

They were 1.25″ wide rather than the 1.5″ of the Marathons, 1.75″ of Marathon Pluses and 2″ of the Big Apples. This meant I had to do a whole new lot of bike computer calibration to to Garmin satnav as my wheel diameter had changed!
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They were also significantly lower profile. This meant they looked pretty smart!

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However the low profile had both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage was in cornering as they cornered much better; the Marathons tend to squirm around a bit if you corner really fast on an adverse camber but these Panaracers felt more secure and solid. They were much sharper turning in and had less understeer – they made the trike feel more stable (not that it feels unstable usually).

The disadvantage was that I had more examples of heelstrike, something I get occasionally on the trike (my heel hits the floor during the pedal stroke because of a bump or something). This happened far more with the Panaracers. It’s never a real problem, as such, but can be a bit startling.

The Panaracers are very easy to get on and off the wheel rims. I can get them on just using my hands (I don’t need tools) and they are easy to get off using a tyre lever. Comparing this with various travails with Schwalbe Marathon Pluses was quite interesting!

One extremely noticeable difference between the two types of tyres was the noise. Finally my trike made that high-pitched whooshing sound rather than the deep rumble that normally followed me around. The slick tyres at high pressure with a hard rubber compound sounded utterly different – they sounded fast. They also sounded rather noisy, particularly when riding in situations were you could hear echoes (such as beside brick walls) and it was something it took me a long time to get used to.

The tyres were £22 each when I bought them two years ago so more expensive than the Marathons but I thought it worth a punt.

So overall I liked them and I particularly liked the increase in my average speed by 0.7mph. Over my average of 750 miles per month that’s a not inconsiderable time saving. It was great to go out on a thirty mile ride and to average over 13mph for the whole ride – when I started triking five years ago I would be lucky to average 10mph for that distance, so I was now saving nearly forty minutes on that distance.

However there was one big problem with these tyres, best exemplified by this photograph.

Flat Panaracer Minits 2

This was a very familiar sight, both in my shed (like here) and out and about on the roads.

In the dry the tyres were reasonable, getting punctures now and again but generally being reasonably reliable as long as I didn’t go off road or through gravelly patches, but as soon as it rained… pfffffffft, instant puncture! I’m writing this blog post on a rainy day when I had three punctures in 18 miles – that’s no fun at all!

One advantage of the tyres not having a puncture guard layer is that the flint or thorn or whatever causes the puncture isn’t usually in the tyre any longer when you go to change the tube so getting back on the road is quick, but today’s punctures two and three were caused by the same tiny flint, so it’s not always the case!

I also found that after just 1,203 miles (when I changed the Panaracers and put Marathons back on) that there were some pretty significant cuts on them.

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This deep slice had actually been on this tyre for three weeks and hadn’t caused a problem but the tyre is bulging a bit at this point and I expected it to fail in the near future if I hadn’t taken the tyres off.

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And the real evidence of the puncture situation is here, in my little spreadsheet of all punctures for Alfie the trike. Notice how the Panaracers seemed to struggle on the left hand wheel which is usually in the cleaner road surface. When I fitted them I’d had 2,488 miles without a puncture and I had an instant patch fail with the new tyres – the maximum distance I travelled between punctures was 399 miles – not good. I once did 6,200 miles between punctures on Schwalbe Marathons on the old trike.

Bike Spreadsheet - Alfie punctures

So despite enjoying my extra 0.7mph average speed with these tyres, as soon as the rain falls I end up at the side of the road changing the tube or (as happened today) phoning home for the Broom Wagon. The tyres are fast, good at cornering, easy to get on and off and a fair price but I feel that after 1,000 miles they have too many cuts and holes and that I want to be able to ride in drizzle or rain without being concerned that I’ll get yet another puncture.

So what for next summer?

A very kind Dutch velomobile rider gave me a set of Schwalbe Kojak tyres which are fast but look to have a harder and thicker compound. Next summer I shall try those and see how it goes. I won’t be buying the Panaracer Minits Tough tyres again.

I am also aware that Schwalbe now do the Tryker, a tyre especially for trikes. This is now the standard tyre that ICE fit when supplying their new trikes. I expect I’ll buy a pair of these to try out in the near future.

Oh, and throughout all this the rear tyre has stayed as a normal Marathon. I change the rear tyre every 6,000 miles or so and the current one’s been on since May (2,500 miles) and looks pristine.

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Trike maintenance, Trikes & Velomobiles

New touring luggage – Radical Banana Bags

In just under a month’s time I’m off on another long cycle tour in Germany – Konstanz to Koblenz – and, as most cycle tourers are, I’m always on the look out for things to make touring a bit easier. The other week I was idly perusing the most excellent blog of Dave McCraw (known on the yacf cycling forum as EdinburghFixed) and I came across his review of the Radical Banana Bags. I clicked, read the review and was immediately interested.

As much as I love my Vaude panniers which have given me excellent service over several years, there are some drawbacks to panniers on recumbents. Well, the drawbacks are the same on upright bicycles (you can’t reach into the panniers when travelling along), but on an upright you’ve usually got jersey pockets and a bar bag or tri bag to put things like phones into. On a recumbent you don’t have those options. In winter there might be forward-facing pockets on your winter jacket (I have three on my Altura Attack jacket which gives room for phone and gloves and keys) but in summer when you might just be wearing a jersey and shorts, there’s nowhere convenient to stash your phone whilst triking. If, like me, you regularly stop to take a photo, having to extract the phone from a pannier is a major pain. ICE trikes do have a small pocket in the seat but I find that my phone tends to drop down into it and it’s hard to extract, plus I might easily forget it and leave it on the trike when going into a restaurant or whatever.

Vaude Panniers 1

Vaude Panniers 2

The other thing about panniers is that they render the trike very difficult to move when not actually riding it. The centre of gravity is forward of the seat so with such a weight on the back it becomes very hard to pick up and wheel. I usually take the panniers off and stick them on the seat, but they have a tendency to roll off. They also make the rack wings creak a bit, as you can see from the angle.

Vaude Panniers 3

These panniers also slightly obscure my vision in my mirrors as they stick out so far.

When not on tour but doing general daily leisure cycling I tend to use my Radical Alfa sidepods, bought five years ago when I got my Trice Q. They are showerproof rather than waterproof but have never let rain in. They hang off the seat rather than the rack and – best of all – have zips that you can reach whilst riding so I can grab my phone if it rings. They can also be slung over your shoulder when leaving the trike so can be easier to carry than full panniers. They’re only 25 litres though (as opposed to 45 litres for my Vaude pannier set), which is enough for my usual daily rides to get bread and a few other groceries but not suitable for a bigger shop (when I take the panniers).

Radical Alfa sidepods

They attach to the headrest at the back of the seat although have a tendency to droop.

The view from the rear shows that they are much more sleek and give less wind resistance, plus the weight is on the seat so the trike is easy to lift by the rear rack and wheel around without any issues of weight.

Radical Alfa sidepods rear view

I had long been thinking that some much larger sidepods would be really handy for touring, but hadn’t actually done anything about it (like looking at Radical’s website). Dave McCraw’s excellent blog post spurred me into action and I visited Radical’s site. The Banana bags (larger versions of the sidepods) come in three sizes – Small, Medium and Large (there’s a surprise) – and the price differences between the three are surprisingly small. The Large bags are a whopping 70 litres – almost three times the volume of my current sidepods – so they looked like a great option for touring. I have always managed to fit everything in my 45 litre Vaude panniers for touring but a little more space might give more options for packing stuff.

Radical’s website did warn:

NB: Often too big for bikes with 2 x 20″ wheels.

(Interestingly, it’s only when copying this text to put in this blog I’ve noticed it specifies “two x 20 inch wheels”; I read it at the time as “bikes with 20 inch wheels” which could conceivably include a trike).

The bags looked great. A bit pricey but I get a heck of a lot of use out of this stuff. I was just a bit concerned whether they would fit my ICE Sprint. Dave McCraw’s review had been done with some bags loaned by his local recumbent bike shop, Laid Back Bikes of Edinburgh, about whom I have heard only good things. I thought I’d ring Laid Back and see if they still had the bags available and if they would fit. I had a good chat with David Gardiner there who kindly took some photos of the bags on a Sprint and sent me the pics. Yes, they fit, although without a great deal of ground clearance, but the bags he had in stock were now sold. We had a good general chat about recumbents, as one does, and I will definitely be recommending Laid Back Bikes to others again (and have indeed already done so to a friend looking for a recumbent).

So I decided to go ahead and order some bags from Radical in the Netherlands. In red, of course, to match Alfie’s paint job. The process was painless (well, as painless as spending 250 Euros can be) and my early birthday present arrived just a couple of days later.

They are Omnifit which means they fit hardshell or mesh seats as they have various adjustment options.

The straps were already fixed to one set of the plastic 3-bar slide buckles so I just slung the bags over the seat, tried to size the straps correctly and see where I got. I had to remove the flag to put the Banana bags on as they don’t have a click buckle thingie like the sidepods do.

Banana bags wrongly adjusted

Banana bags wrongly adjusted

You can see that the rearmost strap sits over the rack on the trike, rather than attaching to the seat. Despite doing this they were still very close to the ground and I was a little concerned about general ground clearance on tour – if they were going to be dragged through mud my belongings would not survive very well!

I was very pleased with the mesh pocket on each side but it was when looking more closely at the pocket that I noticed another set of 3-bar sliders outboard of the pocket. And when I opened the bag to have a look at the internal structure I pulled out a magic piece of paper.

Radical Bag Instructions

It would have been handy if I found this before I started! A clear explanation that I had to use the other set of slider buckles for a mesh seat (which I have).

So I quickly changed them round and things were much better.

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There’s much more ground clearance – and these bags are empty. When they’re full of touring kit/shopping they’ll be wider and a bit higher off the ground. I have lost access to those nice mesh top pockets though!

So they looked good and I have high hopes for touring. Except… the pesky requirement to remove the flag each time I take them on and off. My trike’s flagpole got run over by a car (when it unexpectedly flew off the back of the trike) and doesn’t separate into its three parts very well any longer. I try to just leave it be. These banana bags are missing the click fastener that their smaller brethren, the sidepods, have.

Here’s the strap sitting on the rack of the trike.

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You can see the arms of the rack holding the bags away from the back wheel, very handy.

Anyway, I had an uncharacteristic lightbulb moment! These straps are adjustable/removable, why don’t I put a click fastener in the middle of this strap?

So after spending the grand sum of £1.67 for six 3-bar sliders and £1.99 for two side release buckles (plenty of spares for if I got something wrong), and picking up the bit of 50mm webbing that had been lying on the road a mile from home (it appears to be the remains of a seatbelt) I was good to go. I had intended to buy a bit of webbing rather than cut up Radical’s one but my husband remembered seeing the discarded seatbelt and it was still there when he next went past. It’s a bit dirty and a bluey-grey rather than greyey-grey colour but that’s not a major issue!

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So anyway I got the kitchen scissors out and cut the webbing at its cleanest part, giving myself two lengths that my careful measurements had suggested would be about right. James then sealed the ends for me with his gas gun.

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And here is the result (with Radical’s original black webbing beside them)

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It was a matter of moments to assemble them correctly, attach them to the Banana Bags and then sling the whole lot over the trike seat, clipping in the rearward strap without having to remove the flag. Hurrah!

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Eh voilà – ready to go!

So it seemed sensible to do my first ride with these with a fair bit of stuff in the bags. I was due a trip to the charity shop to donate some unused clothing so I sorted out the clothing, put it in a plastic sack and stuffed it into the bag. It fitted easily – here you can see Alfie ready for the off.

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We headed to Colchester with a three mile ride to the charity shop. All seemed very easy, the bags weren’t noticeable as I rode along and didn’t obscure my view in my rear-view mirrors, even though the left hand side bag was fairly well stuffed.

One thing I do notice when riding with different panniers/bags is the change in road noise. On a trike with a 20 inch rear wheel your head is fairly near that wheel and you consequently get a fair bit of road noise from the tyre and mechanical noise from the gear/chain/derailleur/chain tensioner. Whenever I’ve been using one type of pannier for a while and switch to another I notice the change in noise. With the Radical Banana Bags I felt like overall noise was reduced (they buffer the noise from my chain tensioner) but that the noise that was reaching me came from a fairly narrow corridor (up the middle of the rack).

As I arrived at the charity shop I had to bump up a low kerb which I did at speed – and grounded the left hand side Banana Bag. This is obviously the disadvantage of them being low and also the weight wasn’t evenly distributed between the two so the left one had sunk a bit lower. There’s a slight scuff on the bottom of the bag now, nothing significant. If this happens more frequently I might put some duck tape on the bottom just to protect it.

It was very easy to get everything out of the bag as the zips open very wide. After giving the shop assistant the clothes I headed off to Aldi (it was Bike Stuff day). I wandered round, not buying much bike stuff but instead taking the opportunity to buy bulky items – lots of bags of puppodums, some big bags of crisps, popcorn, fresh bagged salad etc and a box of 36 Weetabix. It all fitted in just one side of the Banana Bags but mindful of the issue earlier with the heavier side slipping lower I evened out the weight a bit (Weetabix and bike bits and my tools on one side, food and phone etc on the other). The bags are lovely and easy to carry around when off the bike as there are two handles in the middle – the weight distribution is about right and I can carry them with one hand. I haven’t tried slinging them over my shoulder yet as hadn’t felt the need.

The trike is also easy to wheel around with the bags in situ. It’s not as light as with the Sidepods, which was to be expected, and if I took really big strides my knee might hit the banana bag, but it’s massively easier than wheeling the bike with panniers so that’s an excellent result.

I headed back home with my Aldi goodies. The combined weight wasn’t all that much and the trike didn’t feel any different than it did unladen (whereas pannier weight tends to be more noticeable) so I took a longer route home.

Here am I, back home with probably 40 litres worth of bags of popcorn, puppodums, salad and crisps.

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I did a small further adjustment to the middle strap of the bags when I got home – I shall probably do a couple of other fettles over time, but overall I’m happy with the bags and I think they’ll be really useful on tour. They wouldn’t be good for a winter tour when it’s likely to rain but I expect them to survive the odd shower OK and I will probably wrap my clothes in plastic bags when inside the Banana bags anyway.

For those who never carry large loads and tour with less kit than me, the 45 litre Medium size bags would probably be easier to manage (without the issues of them hanging low) but at only a 10 Euro saving over the Large bags I felt the Large were better value for money.

I’ll be off on my Konstanz to Koblenz trip in just over three weeks so the Banana Bags will get a real baptism of fire then – keep reading my blog to find out how I get on!

An update

The marvels of the internet means that, following the initial posting of this blog, a couple of recumbent cycling chums and I got into a discussion about how I could perhaps raise the lowest part of the bags so they don’t scrape on the floor again.

Of course, the obvious solution is to raise the bags up the seat by attaching them further back on the rack. So I thought about this a bit more and came up with the following idea, using parts that I already had – another 50mm buckle, 3 sliders and the original piece of webbing from Radical that I had taken off.

I attached either part of the clip buckle to a long piece of webbing, wrapped it around the rack and made sure it was fairly tight.

Mount without bags

What you can’t see from the photo above is that there are some bits of metalwork under the rack that mean the arrangement has to sit where it does (perhaps slightly further back than I would have liked).

Here is a view from the back so you can see how I’ve done it.

Mount without bags from back

And from the side.
Mount without bags from side

And now I am attaching the bag, which I can do one side at a time.
Clip removed one side

And here it is with the bags attached. It pulls a fair bit as the contraption is a bit further back than is ideal, but it’s a big improvement.
Clips in place

A view from ground level. The bag on the right hand side of this picture was full of stuff and is not that low.
trike from ground

And a side view.
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Interestingly I was able to use the pocket on the top of the bag with this arrangement. It was also noticeable that my arms slightly rested on the bags.

I have ordered 2 metres of 50mm webbing to see if I can let out the middle strap a bit more as I may be able to attach it to a different set of clips which could make things sit a bit more comfortably, but overall this seems to be working well and cost me precisely nothing! It is also quick to remove the gadget on the rack which I will need to do if I use the dog basket.

Edit after my first tour using these bags.

So I have now done a cycle tour using the new Radical Banana Bags and they don’t look as new any longer – mud, rain, grot and dust are all over them, which is to be expected. But how did they perform?

Overall I was reasonably happy. The large volume is very handy as I was able to bring back some cakes and chocolates on the last day which I could fit into the bags. They are definitely easier to ride with than panniers on the rack (the weight distribution is better) and the wind resistance issue also helps as they are tucked away more than normal panniers. I also found it handy that I could put my phone in the pocket and get it out again whilst going along (although it could be tricky to do up the zip).

Unfortunately my tour dates clashed with the heavy rains around Bodensee and there was a lot of driving rain and also some flooding. The fact that these bags aren’t waterproof was noticeable at the end of some days with water pooled in the bottom and the outsides of the plastic bags that I wrapped my luggage in wet. However the bags dried pretty quickly (always by the next morning).

The bigger issue was the fixing. Over the course of my 16 day tour I changed the fixing. In the end I found it best to fix the bags to the trike rack whilst empty (i.e. with no weight in) and I connected the straps directly to the rack. No quick-release, I had to thread the sliders manually, but everything stayed in place. Once it was tightly fixed I could put the contents in the bags. This meant, of course, that all my luggage was strewn about for people to see which wasn’t always ideal and would not have been possible in the rain. I didn’t sort this out until I’d ridden for about eight days so was struggling a bit before then with getting the rearmost strap tight enough to hold the bags up and away from the ground and floodwater.

More significantly, I noticed after about ten days that there were a couple of holes in the bags. The photos aren’t great but you can see a bit of daylight where daylight should not be!

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I was able to patch these with insulating tape once the bags had dried but it was rather disappointing.

I expect the holes developed through grounding or perhaps scraping against a stick or some other object on the cycle path (there was a fair amount of debris across the paths in places due to the flooding in central Germany).

I will be touring again in September and if the weather forecast is for mostly dry then I will take the Banana Bags but if there’s a reasonable amount of rain forecast then I will take my Vaude panniers. So these banana bags are a useful addition to my luggage library but are not the perfect solution by any means!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycle Tours, Cycling in England, Cycling in Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles