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July 2005

Easy Rider

Take to the hills the leisurely way!

A bike tour in the Bavarian countryside is an inviting proposition. However, with the Alps looming near, it’s also a daunting one—at least it was before the invention of the Elektro-bike. And, no, you don’t even need to buy your own. The 240-watt contraptions are now available for rent, just down the road in Bad Tölz. I couldn’t resist putting one to the test…

“The concept is similar to Deutsche Post bicycles that have a motor-assist mechanism,” explains Ulla Schneiders, owner of Stadt-Land-Luft in Bad Tölz, where full or half-day rentals are available. “You can feel the power when you start; it is great fun to ride.” In anticipation of my journey, I had visions of pedaling when I wanted, then resting my elbows on the handlebars while being pulled uphill. Don’t be fooled, the bike is a bike and, unlike a moped, it needs to be pedaled for power. The electric motor assists the rider, doubling the amount of human pedal wattage. This provides extra torque when starting from a dead stop; the motor also engages when climbing hills. A full battery can provide pedal power for up to 50 or 60 kilometers, depending on the terrain.

The original Elektro-bike was introduced in 1995 to help riders with back and leg problems and to give people a way to continue biking in their later years. Over the past 10 years, the Elektro-bike style has developed along with its technology.

At Stadt-Land-Luft, I received basic instructions on how to operate the bike—simply a matter of turning on the battery and pedaling—and was then shown a variety of routes and destinations. Bad Tölz, like most areas in Bavaria, has an abundance of scenic bike paths. There are numerous circuits to ride and different sites to visit. Since I was renting for only half a day, I decided to head for Reutberg monastery. The 26-kilometer-long round trip would be enough to give me a feel for the bike and allow me to get back before my parking ticket ran out. I set off with a silent boost of electric acceleration but, after reaching a convergence of paths under the trees along the Isar, I realized that I had already taken a wrong turn. Unable to understand the directions thoughtfully supplied by a German-speaking biker I had flagged down, I carefully studied my map and managed successfully to make my way to the monastery.

With the battery pack right above the pedals and controls on the handlebars, the bike does look a bit strange—I certainly received a few peculiar looks. As I pedaled up the last incline, I wondered how much juice was left and whether it would get me home. It turns out that I had plenty of it and, if power had been low, there were a dozen or so places to recharge along the way.

These recharging locations are partners with the bike rental companies and are equipped with chargers and even extra batteries if needed. In true Bavarian tradition, many of these partner recharging stations are conveniently located at restaurants, cafés and beer gardens. A full battery recharge takes up to one and a half hours, which is plenty of time to soak up the wonderful Bavarian scenery and imbibe an energizing beer for the trip back.

Elektro-bikes are available for purchase, but I would suggest a test drive before plunking down € 2,740 for one. For further information contact Stadt-Land-Luft in Bad Tölz (, Tel. [08041] 794 34 58). Information is also available from Ramgraber in Birkerfeld (, Tel. [08024] 472 40) and from Twike in Benediktbeuern (, Tel. [08857] 89 99 61).


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