Story and photos by Kat Nickola
“It’s freezing!” my son yelled as he dipped a toe in the wassertretbecken (water treading pool). Soon he was knee-deep in the cold clear water of the small pool beside a bike trail in Katzweiler. It was one of many stops we made along the 41km/25.5mi bike loop we pedaled one sunny weekend.
Lots of Scenery and Plenty of Breaks
Our route began out of my front door in Kaiserslautern. We followed local bike lanes through town, and stopped to learn about the city’s synagogue memorial. North of town, we hopped on the Lauter Radweg (radweg means bike path in German) – a 40km/25mi bike trail along the valley between here and the town of Lauterecken. We stopped to splash in the river, play at playgrounds, pet horses, and take that cold foot plunge.
In Hirschorn village, we looped westward along the Pfalzerland Radweg, which follows another quiet green valley. We kept to the trees, stopped for snacks and visited the Celtic burial in Rodenbach village. Here we joined a third trail – the Barabarossa Radweg – which led us back toward Kaiserslautern. The final leg was mostly forested. We rode past the animals in the zoo, and we stopped for some ice cream and pommes (french fries) at the imbiss (snack bar) near a small series of lakes called Hammerwoog.
It took us all day, but the many stops and snacks and “look more cows!” kept my kids motivated and happy to be out. Also, ice cream near the end is a huge motivator.
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy the trails:
Take advantage of the bike trails while you are in Germany. There is no need to find a specific trail, or do a special route. Those are fun, but one of the most rewarding experiences is finding out where you can go from your house. The trails are well signposted with mileage to nearby sights or towns.
- Bike touring trails can be paved, hard-packed dirt, or stone. Most named trails include some of each.
- Trails are intended for a touring or hybrid bike; mountain bikes will also be fine. Gears are highly recommended. If you’ve got a child on a single-speed, it’s ok to let them walk up hills.
- You will be biking on roads while in a town. The trails seem to dump into the villages and pick up again on the other side. There are usually designated biking streets. Follow the bike signs. These routes tend to have very little traffic, but it is still important that everyone knows to stay single file and follow the rules of the road.
- Pack food and water, but now that coronavirus numbers are down you don’t need to overdo it. There are springs to refill water bottles and small imbiss’s along the routes for your snack cravings.
- It is helpful to have a bike with some kind of storage– whether a basket, panniers, or – my favorite – a milk crate bolted to a rear rack. A backpack will always work, too, but you may find it cumbersome and hot on longer rides.
- Workout clothes are the most comfortable. The kids and I wear padded bike shorts, which make the distance less noticeable. A small packable rain jacket is also a good idea to bring along. Don’t forget helmets.
Using Apps Can Help
There are so many bike trails around Germany, it can be a bit overwhelming if you want to plan a long route ahead of time. I have used many outdoor apps, but I consistently find the free RLP tourism app (also called the Rheinland-Pfalz Gold app) the most accurate for planning bike trips in the Kaiserslautern area. Being a tourist app, it has sightseeing spots and points of interest accurately labeled and updated by the organization. I have also used the well-loved Komoot to compare its routing suggestions; Komoot is updated by users.
Detours Happen; Roll with it
With any route planning, however, be prepared to make different choices along the way. When in doubt, follow the bike signage instead of any app.
During our big day out there was a detour at the beginning of the Lauter Trail. It is being upgraded between Kaiserslautern and Otterbach. It was well-signed with “Radweg Umleitung” (bike path detour) signs, and quite a pleasant trail away from the busy road.
Later in the day, we passed a second wessertretbrecken between Weilerbach and Rodenbach, and our hot feet didn’t balk at the temperature. We all dipped our legs to cool off.
“Mom,” my daughter said, “maybe next weekend we can bike to the pool.” What a great idea.
For More Information
Lauter Trail Brochure: www.kaiserslautern.de/mb/themen/tourismus/lautertal_radweg.pdf
Rhineland Pfalz Tourist site (RLP Tourism app): www.tourenplaner-rheinland-pfalz.de
Lauter Trail: www.tourenplaner-rheinland-pfalz.de/s/tN9x
Barabarossa Trail: www.tourenplaner-rheinland-pfalz.de/s/kTwe
Pfalzerland Trail: www.tourenplaner-rheinland-pfalz.de/s/tPbv