Discover the amazing riding in Saarland, the Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Thuringia
The further you get from the cities of northern Germany – the conurbation of Dortmund-Essen, Cologne, Bonn and the rest – the better the riding gets. Partly this is because the hillier landscape lends itself to forests and farming more than cities and industry, but mostly because tighter contours always means twistier roads.
So much of Germany is covered in forests that it’s hard to comprehend if you’re used to Britain, and especially England, where farmland dominates the landscape and our surviving woodland tends to be a modest rarity. It’s a massive contrast with the vast swathes of forest that proliferate between central Germany and the borders with France and Luxembourg.
Of course, you do emerge from the woods to find a rich landscape of well-tended farmland and quaint villages. With the Moselle and Rhine rivers cutting through this corner of the country, it’s wine country so it’s not just endless fields of wheat. It makes the riding in this corner of Germany one of contrasts, while being consistently good.
Where to stay
This town on the Moselle is a popular tourist stop – but it’s so well-placed for exploring the surrounding region (and so much smaller and friendlier than Koblenz) that it makes an ideal base for a tour. Hotel tip: Am Hafen
If you’re staying in the Pfalzerwald, chances are you won’t be in a city. We chose Gollheim almost at random but fell in love with its small-town charm… and the comfy hotel.Hotel tip: Landgasthof Goldenes Ross
OK, the historic home of the Brothers Grimm is a big, sprawling city – which has its benefits in terms of things to see off the bike (Wilhelmshöhe castle and park, Löwenburg, the museums and galleries). It’s also well-sited for exploring the roads of Hesse. Hotel tip: Ibis Kassel
What to see
Nice historic town complete with huge schloss, town walls, half-timbered buildings. Makes a good stop or alternative base for exploring the region.
The darker aspects of history haven’t been brushed over, with memorials at the Buchenwald concentration camp, just north of Weimar. Sobering, but well worth a visit.
You will rarely see more castles – or more impressive castles – than around the Moselle and Rhine rivers. Perhaps the most impressive is Burg Eltz but the Reichsburg in Cochem and the Schönburg outside Boppard (now a hotel) or the truly spectacular Marksburg give it a run for its money.
There are castles everywhere – most are well worth a visit. Most towns will have one, cities may have more than one, even villages like Nürburg have them and sometimes they’re just out in the middle of nowhere, being impressive. Try Braunfels castle or the ruined Burg Are.
Limburg an der Lahn
Limburg an der Lahn is a beautifully preserved town with a spectacular cathedral (St Georg’s) and a lovely central square (Fischmarkt). Lovely small-town Germany feel.
There are two Nürburgrings: the modern short circuit, which used to feature in World Superbikes, and the Nordschleife – the fastest toll-road in the world. It’s not open to the public all the time, you won’t be insured to ride it and it’s either the most exhilarating thing you can do on a bike or the scariest…
Frankfurt am Main’s old town square (Römerberg) is crammed with beautiful buildings, but none so impressive as the Römer itself, a huge pink medieval museum. The whole of Frankfurt is worth exploring, though.
Alright, it’s another castle… But this Thuringian fortress on its crag above the town of Eisenach is where Martin Luther translated the Bible into German.
Weimar is not just the seat of a doomed German republic in the 1920s but also a city famed for its culture. A beautiful place to wander for an afternoon. Visit the Schloss Belvedere and the market.
16 Cochem castles
A short day packed with great riding – and great sites. Burg Eltz, Burg Schönburg and the Reichsburg: three magnificent castles. Just choose the one you want to explore; you might be able to visit two if you make an early start.
Distance: 95 miles
Riding time: 3 hours
The crowning glory of the heavily wooded Rhineland- Palatinate is the Pfalazerwald – so much quieter than the more famous Black Forest, but every bit as glorious to ride. Our route passes through Frankenstein – and it’s a monster of a ride.
Distance: 170 miles
Riding time: 5.5 hours
18 Rhön Orbital
The Rhön mountains (think Peak District with trees) are crammed full of twisty roads and spa towns, like Bad Orb which serves as our base for this circular ride.
Start/finish: Bad Orb
Distance: 190 miles
Riding time: 5.5 hours
19 King of Kassel
Kassel is a big city – a contrast to our other base towns – but one that’s packed with things to see and do. The riding around it is equally memorable, with miles of laid-back, swooping roads making it great for relaxed two-up riding.
Distance: 180 miles
Riding time: 5 hours
Thuringia is another heavily wooded, hilly province and this full days’ ride explores the almost deserted mountainous forest of the Thuringerwald, passing castles, waterfalls and ski stations along the way.
Distance: 200 miles
Riding time: 6 hours