For the first time in a decade, we travelled somewhere without our Bromptons. Why would we do such a thing? Well, we were in Cologne (Köln) for a work trip, and knew we wouldn’t have much time for sightseeing, so it didn’t seem worth it to bring our bikes. Also, with the dubious state of air travel right now, not having to check bags (bikes) was a relief.
Still, the best way to get around Cologne is obviously by bicycle! Like a chump, I (Heather) walked to the conference centre for the first three days. It took 35 minutes each way. It’s a doable walk, but just so slow!
By day four, I couldn’t stand it anymore and went back to the train station where we’d seen this bike rental place, Radstation.
We rented two bikes – heavy, clunky, and clearly abused by tourists who don’t know how to shift internal hub gears – but they rolled! I was SO happy! It took only 10 minutes to get to Koelnmesse (the conference centre).
The bike gave me the freedom to quickly get back and forth across the river. Rather than killing time between my last business meeting and the start of a work dinner, I could bike back to my hotel, rest and relax, and bike over again.
And on our final day in Cologne, we got to sightsee! Of course, we went for a bike ride down the Rhine and didn’t let the intermittent rainstorms stop us…
Our hotel was right in the heart of Cologne’s old city (the “B” on the map above), on the west side of the Rhine River between the famous Hohenzollern Bridge (covered in love locks) and the Deutzer Bridge. We searched Komoot for route suggestions and picked an easy loop south.
We began in the Rheinauhafen (harbour) district, cycling past the random ferris wheel outside of the Chocolate Museum and under the trio of buildings called the “Kranhäuser” (crane towers) – they’re literally shaped like the bygone hoisting cranes that were used to load cargo on and off ships.
From there we did a mini-loop around Köln Sud (Cologne South).
Most of the route was just painted bike lanes or side streets, but we didn’t feel unsafe.
We soon arrived in Friedenspark which has an old fort in it.
When we exited the park, across the street and the railway tracks was the Rhine River — and a washroom! Public facilities are not plentiful in Cologne. We didn’t spot a single water fountain on our ride! Also note, public toilets cost 50 cents, and if you only have 1 euro coins, the machine will not give you change.
At least the washroom was clean.
From here we headed south on the multiuse path that runs alongside the Rhine River.
It wasn’t long before we came to the Rodenkirchen Bridge, where we’d cross the Rhine River and continue following the path south on the other side.
If you stick to the left, you’d continue on the path along the west side of the river. But we wanted to go over the bridge, so we went right, crossed the road and continued straight. (The signs are a little off-kilter so it was a bit unclear where they were actually pointing; we went left at first and had to double back.)
The Rodenkirchen Bridge is big and old, but there’s this newish sound barrier on it which is really nice! We definitely appreciated not being deafened by the passing trucks.
Campgrounds & Cafés
At a leisurely pace (about the only speed possible on the rental bikes!), we cycled alongside the river, noting all the campgrounds, to the town of Porz. Here we stopped in the square for a snack and took a photo of the yellow church.
Then we headed back, our sights set on avoiding the worst of the rain by stopping at Wiesenhaus, a cute campground with a café and tiny houses for rent.
Perfect timing — it poured while we ate that waffle! Satiated, we continued cycling back to Cologne…
…until we were at the Hohenzollernbrücke, the bridge that I trekked across every day to get to the convention centre.
In total, the ride was an easy 30km and it was barely mid-afternoon, so we decided to visit the local Brompton bike shop.
Bike Shop Visits
This is such a tiny but packed shop! Thomas was busy serving a customer when we arrived, so we looked around at the bikes and bags before getting a chance to say “Hi!” and take a selfie.
Then we toured around Cologne for a bit and suddenly… Vello bikes! Pier spotted them in a store window. We don’t have Vellos in Canada, so we had to stop and take a look.
Look at how ridiculously excited I am about taking this Vello bike for a test ride! This is the electric belt drive model. They didn’t have an acoustic belt drive demo bike. Still, I got the idea.
While I was test riding the Vello, Pier chatted with the enthusiastic bike mechanic at MaBrad. Turns out he’s also a folding bike aficionado! He’s even ridden a Strida. And, of course, a Brompton. We bonded over one day being able to afford a Moulton (not technically a folding bike, but a take-apart mini velo — still part of the “weird little bike” club). We talked about how I bought a Tern because it was the only belt drive folding bike I could buy in Toronto, Canada. But the Vello would have been my first choice, if I could have gotten my hands on one!
So that was fun!
Back near our hotel, we parked our rental bikes to a pole. There aren’t a lot of bike racks in Cologne, so bikes are simply locked to poles or each other. We were a bit apprehensive about leaving the bikes outside overnight, but they were still there in the morning.
If I end up going to this conference again, I’ll bring my Brompton. Cologne is very much a cycling city. We saw so many bikes — cargo bikes, omafiets, hybrids, road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes, folding bikes (including a ton of Bromptons) — just sitting in our hotel window above the Rhine River path.