Danube River Cycling Trip-13-20 September 2017
by Rob Verfurth
Serena and I flew into Prague a couple of days early so we could go visit Cesky Krumlov, an old medieval town in the South Bohemia region of the Czech Republic, and relax in Prague, one of our favorite cities. The trip was a cycling event with Backroads and AmaWaterways combining resources. There were about 140 cyclists of all ages, mostly 50 years and up couples, on a full cruise ship run by AmaWaterways. The group met in Prague and took buses down into southern Germany where we started our riding in Tittling, Germany. The lengthy bus ride provided time for the Backroads guides to cover all the safety and procedure details of the week ahead.
After a huge Oktoberfest type German lunch, we all got ready to ride. The 140 riders were divided up into 7 groups of 20 riders, each with their own color code; we were the blue group. Most of our group, who were friends before the trip, were medical professionals from the Spokane, WA area, led by my Oral Surgeon buddy, Mark Paxton. The other blue group riders were a family of adult couples who graduated from either Notre Dame or St. Mary’s; they were a bit older than me but we had some fun chats at dinners. With such a large group of diverse ability riders, things spread out quickly as we departed in waves and rode at a fun pace. There were e-bikes and tandems, along with a few Specialized Roubaix carbon bikes that were ordered special for riders who wanted to pay even more, but most us rode the standard Titanium bike with Ultegra components provided by Backroads.
The bikes never got onto the boat. We picked them up in our group color corral and dropped them in a similar location at the end of each day of riding. The shore crew from Backroads moved the bikes down along the river in vans while we sailed along each night. Our riding was mostly along the Danube River bike trail with side routes through small towns along the way. Our first day of riding got us to Vilshofen, Germany where we saw our cruise ship for the first time. The ship was low in the water to get under the bridges and through the locks as we sailed mostly east on the Danube River. Serena and I had a very nice cabin where we could unpack once for the week and not have the constant bag drags full of wet riding clothes. The food was awesome and constantly there. I had to ride lots just to keep the weight off. AmaWaterways put out a high quality product, first class accommodations, food and service.
During the week I rode just under 275 miles, selecting the longest and hardest ride option each day. There were usually three routes planned each day with options to go less or not ride at all if you wanted. Backroads gave us maps and Garmin GPS devices with routes loaded in turn by turn; it would have been hard to get lost. The young ride guides from Backroads were awesome, they all rode bikes well, were very friendly and lots of fun. Think about it, get paid to ride your bike for a week and party with a bunch of middle-aged guests, not a bad gig. They were from all over the world and most spoke multiple languages. The guides made the week even more enjoyable. I found a handful of other riders that wanted to ride a Descenders pace each day. I usually met up with Serena for our lunches in castles or in town squares. We rode together many days, regrouping as I took the longer loops or riding hard in the morning and then riding with Serena after lunch. There were some hills during the week, but a week of riding along a river valley did not provide tons of elevation options. My seven days of riding shows about 12,000 feet of elevation gain; an easy weekend for a Monster Climb trip. It was still enjoyable and beautiful riding.
We rode through the towns of Passau, Linz, Melk, Vienna, Bratislava, Esztergom, Vac and finally finished in Budapest. This got us from Germany to Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. When not riding we toured all the towns and sights; lots of history and culture. The weather was not San Diego sunny, but we expected lots of rain and dressed accordingly. It was wet or rainy on 5 of the 7 ride days, but that did not dissuade Serena and I from riding every day. We made the most of our cycling adventure. The old and new friends were awesome, a memorable week for sure. I highly recommend cycling weeks in Europe, a cruise down the Danube is just one of the many great options to consider. The link shows the week in cycling and all the sights and towns from the week.