My friend has started planning a bike trip for summer. I mean, really planning it. He’s printed out a Google map with a route to Mannheim along the Neckar valley and then back overland to Stuttgart and he’s confident we can do the lot in about 5 days. I’m less confident: the total distance is just under 400km and we’ll have four nights and five days travelling to do it in. I’ve pointed this out, but he’s one of those breezy optimistic types and says that because the Neckar goes downhill from Stuttgart we’ll be able to do that bit really fast. There’s some truth in this because the Neckar pops out if the steep valley just north of the city, and loafs about in the rolling hills of the plain beyond, which means that whereas to the south we had to wriggle up and down the side of a really narrow defile just to track the river, to the north we can generally expect the going to be easier, and even if we cut the corner a bit than it will only be a fairly manageable climb before we come back down.
Or at least that’s how it looks to just beyond Heilbronn. Then we hit hills again, and the river is winding like a snake on steroids. That’ll be day two. Heilbronn to Mannheim is about 60km in a straight line. The river takes over 100km.
I’m hoping for at least a glimpse of where the Neckar and Rhine meet but Mannheim is an industrial city, so I expect we’ll not spend long there: besides we’ll have a schedule to keep. We need to go south, and apart from that we’ll need to spend the night somewhere.
After that we have a steady but gentle climb along the Rhine to a point north of Karlsruhe and then overland following the Google map. The map shows us travelling west-east, and crossing a lot of rivers going north-south. The final day would see us arrive on the western edge of Stuttgart, which fortunately isn’t a massive city, and home.
He reckons we’ll be doing 80-90 km a day. I reckon we need to negotiate.

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