The history of cycle tourism began at the start of the 20th century with the emerging youth movement which popularised cycle touring. Added to this was the popularity of cycle racing and the growth of recreational cycling in the labour movement of the time ("fellowship among cyclists", "nature-lovers"). In the 1950s and 60s it was above all young people who went on cycle tours, staying at youth hostels or campsites along the way. From the 1970s onwards cycle touring began to change. Now it was increasingly middle-aged and older people who went on cycle tours lasting several days with the aim of immersing themselves in the natural world and its landscapes and getting healthy exercise at the same time. Since then cycle tourism has taken off in Germany.
Cycle tourism today
Nowadays cycle touring is becoming more and more popular. Cycle tourism is a boom sector of the German tourist industry which is enjoying continuous growth. And Baden-Württemberg in particular with its beautiful, varied landscapes, its fascinating towns and cities as well as its cultural and culinary attractions has lots to offer – both for those who want to enjoy cycle tours at a leisurely pace and those who are seeking a more athletically challenging form of cycle touring.
Baden-Württemberg's cycle tourism network consists of a total of 19 long-distance cycle trails as well as numerous regional tourist cycle routes. Seven of the long-distance cycle trails have already been recognised as ADFC-approved cycle routes. They include the classic "Liebliches Taubertal" (Charming Tauber Valley) route – one of only two cycle routes in the whole of Germany to be awarded five stars.
A wide range of tours and services are offered by tour operators which have specialised in cycle tours. Similarly, many hotels, guest houses and other accommodation providers have adapted to the special needs of cyclists.
Today in Baden-Württemberg alone 14 million people go for a day's outing on their bike each year, and cycle tourists pay for 3.2 million overnight stays. They generate a net economic value of roughly 860 million euros per year.
Special hospitality and catering industry services
Germany's hotel and restaurant industry is increasingly catering for the needs of cycle tourists. There are special cyclists' menus and Bed+Bike hotels/guesthouses which don't just provide the standard parking facilities, they also provide tools, easy-to-use pumps, battery charging points, a dedicated cycle storage room, and drying rooms for wet clothing. Many businesses also provide hire bikes for guests who are travelling without their own bike. ADFC certification of the quality of cycle touring facilities started many years ago.
Promotion of cycle tourism and leisure cycling
The state of Baden-Württemberg is implementing various measures to promote cycle tourism. As well as supporting and expanding the infrastructure, it is also helping the regional organisations to market the long-distance cycle trails and to classify cycle routes. The state administration has also set up the interactive RadROUTENPLANER cycle route planning website, which does of course include the 19 long-distance cycle trails covering a total distance of roughly 4,500 kilometres.
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) (publ.) (2009): Grundlagenuntersuchung Fahrradtourismus in Deutschland – Langfassung (Basic investigation into cycle tourism in Germany – unabridged edition). Berlin
VSF Service Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH) (2015): Summary report "Daten zur Fahrradwirtschaft in Baden-Württemberg" (Data relating to the Cycling Economy in Baden-Württemberg) – as part of the state administration's RadSTRATEGIE cycling strategy. Aurich
Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club e. V. (ADFC) (2016): ADFC-Radreiseanalyse (ADFC Analysis of Cycle Journeys) 2016. Presentation – unabridged version Berlin