Self-Guided Tours?

We noticed this article about a new electric bike store in Franklin, TN. Electric bikes are great and really seem to finally be coming into their own. They have the potential to be a huge contributor to solving transit and gridlock issues, especially in cities like Austin.

It looks like tours of downtown Franklin will be offered soon. But, here’s what really caught our eye, “For those who want to take their time, she said, she’s aiming to develop a self-guided tour app.” We’ve been thinking about this idea recently and haven’t yet seen a real city bike tour app. Sure, there’s all manner of MapMyRide, Strava, and some distance touring support apps. But so far, we’re not aware of an app for a city tour. (Well, maybe, this one is close: http://www.bikecityguide.org/app/ )  But, it certainly makes sense for an on-demand, labor/cost saving move for local bike rental shops (or even bike share). More tour options should be possible. And flexibility would prevail, riders could make side trips or even break a tour up across multiple days. For that matter, the tour app itself could be flexible and configurable: “What would you like to do next, see the Eiffel Tower or stop for a coffee?”.

But, is there a downside? One or two riders using an app would miss out on the group camaraderie and the charm of the tour guide. Smaller groups using a device could be less safe, focusing on a device and losing the visual impact to drivers of a larger group of cyclists. And what of the apres-ride chat about that great restaurant or club?

What do you think?  We see a place, maybe in smaller towns, for tour apps.  But we don’t want to lose the traditional city bike tour.

(Red e) 2 Ride in Jax

Somewhat to our surprise, the city of Jacksonville has a solid bike tour company at (Red e)2Ride Bike Tours . Their logo is a red colored e…well, you can figure it out from the picture. E2ride currently has four regular tours and three speciality, by-request tours. There’s definitely a historical focus to go with the fun. Their website includes nearly 100 customer reviews as well as many more at Tripadvisor.

We don’t get to Jax very often, but that might need to change. Be sure to check out the individual tour details and scroll through their photos. “Bring your own bike” is a welcome option and they are “well behaved” kid-friendly too.

Urban Restaurant Tours in Tampa

Florida Bike Tours is currently running monthly Urban Restaurant Tours for the low-low price of $15.  The tours are BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike).  The tours are on the last Thursday of every month and feature a different area of town each ride.  Apparently the last tour sold out at 100 riders!  Small plates at the featured restaurants and a raffle ticket are included in the registration fee.  Seems like a bargain and great way to have some fun on a Thursday night in Tampa.

Mike’s Bike Tours of Munich – Classic Tour

This past September, we traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest.  Yes, THE Oktoberfest. We were meeting a small group with plans for a couple of group visits to the Wiesn fairgrounds, a tour of the Erdinger Brewery and the Andechs Monastery.  With only one free day before the rest of our group arrived, a bike tour was a perfect plan to reacquaint with a city I’d visited once, years earlier.

There are a couple of tour providers in Munich.  We chose Mike’s Bike Tours of Munich based on a friend’s recommendation and concerns about getting a reservation during the busiest time of the year.  Mike’s seems to be the biggest tour company, by far.

We met our group at the Altes Rathaus, located a couple of blocks from Mike’s shop.  There were at least 40-50 people and I was really concerned about how ungainly our group size would be.  Four guides met us there and provided a short talk about the old government building, while I continued to imagine this group of 50 plus riders and guides trying to ride around central Munich.

Fortunately, my fears were quickly allayed.  As the group walked to the shop, the guides broke us up into smaller groups of a dozen or so, each lead by one guide.  Each guide led his group to a different staging area with bikes ready to go.  (Side note, the back door to the Hofbräuhaus is across the street from Mike’s shop and they were very accommodating about a few dozen riders using their restroom facilities, pre-ride.

Our guide was Basti, who bills himself as “probably one of the few, half Bavarian, half New Zealanders out there“.  Before we rolled, Basti asked for a volunteer.  As I raised my hand, I realized (from having read some Tripadvisor reviews) that I’d just volunteered to be the “Ass Man”.  The Ass Man’s job is to bring up the rear (so to speak) of the group and make sure no one was left behind or separated from the group.  It’s a smart and simple way to track of the group.  There were a couple of inexperienced riders with us and it would have been impractical for Basti to try to herd the entire group.

The tour wove through central Munich, stopping briefly at the Hofbräu (the front door this time), the Bayerische Staatsoper,  the Residenz, a short walk around the Odeonsplatz area, through the Hofgarten and past the Bayerische Staatskanzlei.  From there we entered the Englischer Garten, riding past the nudist meadow, picnickers and informal soccer games. At the Chinesischer Turm, we parked the bikes and stopped for lunch and a beer or two.  In addition to refueling, it was a good opportunity to meet our fellow riders, including three young ladies from Australia wearing AFY T-shirts (don’t ask) and a couple from Austin (small world!).  Basti shared some ideas on less touristy beer halls than the Hoffbrau and some restaurant recommendations.

Our tour then continued through the garden to the Eisbach Standing Wave, where surfers challenge a dangerous standing wave blocks from central Munich.

From there, we rode on past the Bayerisches Staatsministerium, eventually turning south along the Isar River at the golden Angel of Peace statue.  The stretch along the Isar was a wooded bike/walking path with one or two very moderate hills.  We turned back across the Isar on the Maximilian Bridge after stopping at the Maximilianeum building.  After a short stop overlooking the massive Deutsches Museum, we cycled up Tal Strasse to complete our tour.

Here’s the approximate route.

As with many tours, you pay at the conclusion of the tour.  It’s a good opportunity to tip the guide.  Mike’s shop had some T-shirts/hats/merchandise for sale as well as some handy pocketable maps (complimentary).

Here’s our group, with the Ass Man award:

With the lunch/beer stop, our tour lasted about four hours.  The pace was easy and mostly flat. Highly recommended. 

Also, check out Alexandra’s detailed review at Speaking Denglish, with tons of photos.