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Wintery river rides — from the Ruhr to the Elbe

Foto: Martin Donat

Wintery river rides — from the Ruhr to the Elbe

Bike Touring Collection by komoot

11-23

days

3-6 h

/ day

696 mi

21,225 ft

21,250 ft

The air is so cold that you can watch every exhalation dance around your helmet. The ground beneath your tyres creaks, while every so often a mild splash reminds you of the river’s presence. As you cycle alongside once busy cycle paths, the peace is palpable, punctuated only by the occasional shriek of a bird overhead and the hypnotic song of flowing water. Out here, there’s nothing but you and the road—and there’s never been a better opportunity to bask in the beauty of the wintertime.

During summer, these are routes that many cyclists prefer to avoid because they are too crowded and busy. Bike paths that wind along rivers tend to be a magnet for those seeking some rest and relaxation, especially during the warmest months of the year. In winter, however, when the sun retires earlier and the temperature drops, these rolling river landscapes get to reveal their true face—raw and uninterrupted. And the result is truly mystical.

River bike paths are truly special in winter, which is why we put together this Tour for you. Being easy to follow, you can set the pace yourself and decide on how you complete the whole ride, whether that be in multiple stages or all in one go—especially if you’re up for a chilly challenge. If you’d prefer to take it easy, divide up the route into stages, take a break and consider booking a room overnight. Either way, we guarantee you will enjoy the experience—and leave feeling enriched because of it.

The Tour starts in the West on one of the most varied river bike paths in Germany: the Ruhrtalradweg. A mix of industrial heritage, urban attractions and amazingly pristine riverine meadows, the area is an impressive one to bike through, which makes it all the more fascinating to ride alongside the force that shaped the entire region. Heading east, you’ll follow several smaller rivers until you reach Thuringia, where you’ll make your first stop in the university town of Ilmenau. Once you get going again, the following stage will bring you right to the Saale river and—for those with some strength leftover—afford the opportunity to experience a truly unique highlight: an underground mountain bike ride through an old, disused mine. From there, the Saale Cycle Route will take you past castles, vineyards and historic brine works and bring you gently to another river: the Elbe. The finale of this Collection is then formed by two sections of the Elbe Cycle Path which, through the wetlands, will bring you safely back to city life and into the arms of Hamburg.

The nature of the trails on this Tour is very varied. You will cycle along many different paths and the occasional public road. You'll also be required to complete a few detours on gravel or forest trails, which might prove too much for your road bike. Therefore, we recommend completing this Tour on a gravel, cross or touring bike—and making sure to pack a few extra inner tubes.

Each stage starts and ends at a train station (with two exceptions where you have to pedal a little bit more). Therefore, you can always start and end each day by train if you’d rather complete each section as a standalone day trip, or reserve accommodation at any of the carefully selected selected stage destinations to make it a multi-day Tour. Duisburg and Hamburg are great and, above all, practical starting points that have great rail links to anywhere in Germany.

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Flussradwege im Winter (von der Ruhr bis zur Elbe)

671 mi

20,550 ft

20,600 ft

Last updated: December 1, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    07:40
    74.2 mi
    9.7 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,600 ft
    Ferry
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    This tour is actually a classic. The Ruhrtal cycle path leads from the Ruhrquelle to its confluence with the Rhine along the river, which gave its name to an entire region and which decisively influenced its development in industrialization. For this reason alone, every Ruhr pottier must have driven

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  • Difficult
    08:44
    77.3 mi
    8.9 mph
    3,300 ft
    1,550 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Part two of the Ruhr Valley Cycle Route from the mouth to the source. After you have touched in the first part of the big cities of the Ruhr Valley, it is now becoming more rural. And steeper and steeper. Finally you drive to Sauerland to Winterberg.

    

    The route becomes quieter and thus the opportunities

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  • Difficult
    07:51
    78.0 mi
    9.9 mph
    3,900 ft
    5,375 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    On this tour you do not follow a huge river. Rather, it is small "creek" that you see here on your ride right through the "Red Riding Hood country" - which makes them no less beautiful. On quiet routes, partly old railway tracks or dirt roads, the route leads, inter alia, over the Linspherradweg from

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  • Difficult
    08:16
    71.0 mi
    8.6 mph
    5,175 ft
    4,250 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may be unpaved and difficult to ride.

    To get out of Bad Hersfeld, you first cycle a short distance along the main road. But as stressful as it gets, it will be so quiet once you have passed the huge potash production in Philippstal, which somehow reminds of the coal mining in the Ruhr area.

    

    It follows a picturesque piece along the Werra

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  • Intermediate
    03:07
    30.8 mi
    9.9 mph
    875 ft
    1,600 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today you can take it a little easier. This tour is a whopping 51 kilometers long. From the university town of Ilmenau we start along the Ilm, the end is in Kamsdorf, where you cycle along the river Saale.

    

    This tour does not end at a train station. Because you are not finished after a long time! The end

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  • Difficult
    08:09
    83.5 mi
    10.2 mph
    2,275 ft
    2,825 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Saale is over 400 kilometers long. 134 of them you will scrutinize on this tour. The route takes you over beautiful bike paths along the Saale in the middle of dreamy villages where time seems to have stopped. Along the vineyards and industrial heritage sites of the brine production.

    

    You can simply

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  • Difficult
    07:43
    81.2 mi
    10.5 mph
    1,550 ft
    1,725 ft
    Ferry
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    In fact, on this tour, you are blasting two river cycle paths: the Saale Cycle Path and, towards the end, the Elbe Cycle Route. In any case, this tour offers a lot of variety. Great, lonely river meadows, old bridges and a ferry that invites to an entertaining break. At the end you will drive over the

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  • Difficult
    05:41
    60.2 mi
    10.6 mph
    775 ft
    850 ft
    Ferry
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    Magdeburg will be your last contact with a big city for the next few hours. A few miles later, it is very quiet, at least in the dark season.

    

    You follow the Elbe Cycle Route (elberadweg.de), which gives everything here to really impress you. Misty river meadows and plenty of wildlife and winter birds

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  • Difficult
    07:21
    71.2 mi
    9.7 mph
    775 ft
    750 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    You can not say much about this tour. And that's good! If you like nature and do not feel like going to the city, this is the place for you.

    

    Slowly, you come closer to civilization again: the destination Hitzacker is not only a nice place to break, but also has a train station with good connections to Lüneburg and Hamburg.

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  • Difficult
    06:26
    69.0 mi
    10.7 mph
    675 ft
    725 ft
    Ferry
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    On this tour you will experience some contrasts. You start in Hitzacker directly with a ferry ride over the Elbe. Remember: Check the travel times and keep your change ready. elberadweg.de/Faehre/faehre-bitter-hitzacker-keine-kfz

    

    It remains surprisingly long rural, although you head straight for the Hanseatic

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    10
  • Distance
    696 mi
  • Duration
    70:59 h
  • Elevation
    21,225 ft21,250 ft

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Wintery river rides — from the Ruhr to the Elbe

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