It is fair to say that not only is Austria a land of mountains, rivers and lakes, it is also a bike-lovers paradise.
From cruising along the country’s numerous rivers, past historical landmarks and famous beauty-spots, to mountain-biking and road-racing, there is certainly something to fit the bill for anyone who has ever learned the simple joy and freedom granted by learning to defy gravity through knowledge of some basic physics-principles and a simple mechanical apparatus.
The country is well-situated in the heart of the EuroVelo network, which encompasses over 10,000km of paved bike-routes, criss-crossing the entire land. In the city of Wien alone, there are some 1,300km of bicycle paths: all clearly marked, maintained well and kept clean from street-debris…. the shard of glass being the cyclist’s favourite early-morning encounter.
Naturally along with the purchase of a bicycle, there are a few minor responsibilities which must be taken into consideration: a few pieces of basic kit, proper maintenance and knowledge of the rules of the road should all accompany your two-wheeled partner in crime. But these are nothing in return for the opportunities afforded to one through ownership of this humble means of transport.
Of course, if you are not staying in Wien long enough to commit to buying a bicycle or simply do not want the hassle of taking anti-theft measures etc., then there is the wonderful option of using Vienna CityBikes. For a small one-time registration fee, and a very modest fee for every hour of use thereafter, this scheme is quite useful for quickly getting from A to B within the city and is fool-proof. With 121 stations scattered across the city from which to pick-up and return your bike, all manner of people avail of the service: students and tourists; business-men and bankers; mothers and children; older persons who want to get to their destination in a more-efficient fashion – it is certainly not limited to the typical image of a death-defying city cyclist! Then there are any number of guided bike-tour options available: from quick hour-long tours through the city, to cruises down the Danube or out to the Heurigers in the vineyards. Find your style and there surely exists an option for you to stretch
What I personally find the most helpful facet of cycling-culture in Austria is the fact that it is a smooth and straightforward process to bring one’s bike on trains: the carriages are set up for this express purpose and by paying only a small additional fee, you can take your bike with you on the rail network. This opens up an infinite number of more exciting possibilities, of being able to go further afield across the country, which mightn’t otherwise be possible, especially if one is restricted by time on the weekends, days off etc.
Underway with your silver-steed, the possibilities are endless and grant a freedom which cannot be enjoyed travelling by foot. So the next Saturday you find yourself at a loose end, rise early; borrow your flatmate’s bike or nab one from your granny, hop up and away you go! Relive the simple experience of childhood, the delight of whizzing along on two wheels and the country is yours to discover – you only need to get out there and begin!