Pop your helmet on, get that butt on the seat, and be ready to pedal. Germany has a load of Radwanderwege (bike paths and cycle-friendly back roads) to help you tour your way through its varied landscapes. Here are some of the best across the country.
With around 500 miles (800km) of cycle trails criss-crossing the landscape, pedal is the best way to strike out into Altmühltal Nature Park. Cycling trails are clearly labelled and have long rectangular brown signs bearing a bike symbol. The most popular cycling route is the Altmühltal Radweg, which runs parallel to the river for 103 miles (166km).
You can rent bikes in almost every town within the park, and prices are more or less uniform. Most bike-hire agencies will also store bicycles. Ask for a list of bike-hire outlets at the Informationszentrum Naturpark Altmühltal.
When the weather warms, there’s no better way to explore Bodensee (Lake Constance) than in a saddle. The well-marked Bodensee Radweg (Bodensee Cycle Path) is a 170 mile (273km) loop of Lake Constance, taking in vineyards, meadows, orchards, wetlands and historic towns. There are plenty of small beaches where you can stop for a refreshing dip in the lake. The Bodensee Radweg website has itineraries and maps.
Bike hire is available in most towns for between €10 and €20 per day. While the entire route takes roughly a week, ferries and trains also make it possible to cover shorter chunks, such as Friedrichshafen–Konstanz–Meersburg, in a weekend.
Fat Tire Bike Tours and Berlin on Bike offer guided cycling tours through Berlin and along the course of the Wall. If you’re feeling ambitious, rent a bike for a DIY tour of all or part of the 99-mile-long (160km) Berliner Mauerweg (Berlin Wall Trail), a signposted walking and cycling path that runs along the former border fortifications, with 40 multilingual information stations posted along the way.
The German stretch of the Baltic Coast cycle path through the northern edge of the country is a multi-day adventure all to itself, clocking in at 511 miles (823km). Running between Flensberg and Ahlbeck, there are some great stops such as seaside resorts, historic towns or detours to the islands of Rügen and Fehmarn. When you reach the border, don't be surprised if you want to keep going.
Several excellent cycling paths fan out around Speyer. The Kaiser-Konrad-Radweg links Speyer’s Kaiserdom with Bad Dürkheim’s Rathaus (20 miles/32.5km each way), on the German Wine Route; the 75 mile (120km) Salier-Radweg circuit also takes in Worms. Starting from Basel in Switzerland, the 260-mile-long (420km) Veloroute Rhein follows the Rhine north beyond Speyer to Worms. Tourist offices have cycling information; alternatively, visit Outdoor Active for downloadable links, maps and more.
Rolling hills and forest cover much of the Saarland countryside. Cycling paths include the 221 mile (356km), circular Saarland-Radweg and the 68 mile (110km) Saar-Radweg (VeloRoute SaarLorLux), along the (mostly) beautiful Saar River.
German Wine Route
One of Germany's oldest touring routes, the Deutsche Weinstrasse was inaugurated in 1935. It traverses the heart of the Palatinate (Pfalz) – a region of vine-covered hillsides, rambling forests, ruined castles, picturesque hamlets and, of course, exceptional wine estates. It's blessed with a moderate climate that allows almonds, figs, kiwi fruit and even lemons to thrive. Cycling here is a pleasure, thanks to a multitude of bike paths and cycle-friendly back roads, such as the Radweg Deutsche Weinstrasse. Tourist offices sell various excellent cycling maps and have details on bike rentals.
Romantic Rhine Valley
The Rhein-Radweg cycling route stretches for 766 miles (1233km) from Andermatt in Switzerland to the Hoek van Holland, near Rotterdam. Between Bingen and Koblenz it runs along both banks of the Rhine in the Romantic Rhine Valley. It links up with two other long-distance bike paths: the 79-mile-long (127km) Nahe-Hunsrück-Mosel-Radweg, which follows the Nahe River from Bingen southwest to Selbach, and the 193-mile-long (311km) Mosel-Radweg, which runs along the banks of the Moselle River from Koblenz to Traben-Trarbach, Bernkastel-Kues and Trier, and on to Metz in France.
Bicycles can be taken on regional trains, car ferries and river ferries, making it possible to ride one way (such as down the valley) and take public transport the other.
Elbe Cycle Route
The Elbe River Bike Trail or Elberadweg is one of Germany’s top cycling routes and wends its way some 534 miles (860km) west alongside the Elbe River, from the Czech border to Cuxhaven. The scenic 224 mile (360km) stretch in Saxony-Anhalt is particularly popular. Dessau-Rosslau is a good hub to consider staying at.
Danube Cycle Path
While the Austrian part of the cycle route is more popular, the German side still has plenty of strong points, and offers lots of spectacular scenery with fewer crowds. The Germany path is 370 miles (590km) from Donaueschingen to Passau near the Austrian border. The full map is available online. Cycling tours are also available if you don't want to go it alone.