by Durant Imboden
The ConferenceBike, or "CoBi," is both a mode of transportation and a conversation piece: As you ride around on a seven-person, pedal-powered vehicle that looks like a group-therapy session on wheels, you'll enjoy the sights and become a sightseeing object yourself. (If you cringe at having strangers point their cameras at you, stick with a walking tour or the Gray Line bus.)
On a recent trip to Germany, I tried ConferenceBike tours in two cities: Dresden and Munich. Both experiences were fun--even for someone who normally prefers walking to bicycling--and it was easy to see how why ConferenceBikes are popular for sightseeing tours, bachelor and birthday parties, and even corporate team-building exercises.
How the ConferenceBike works
Velo.Saliko, the German manufacturer of the ConferenceBike, describes the tour experience as "seven people sitting in a circle around a table and riding a bike."
The vehicle (which costs as much as a small car) has a welded steel frame, four automotive-style wheels, and seven comfortable bicycle seats arranged around a circular handlebar.
The driver sits in the back, facing forward and operating the steering wheel and brake lever, while the six passengers (who face the center from different directions) have nothing to worry about except pedaling.
The ConferenceBike has only one gear and no coaster brakes, so a passenger who gets tired of pedaling can simply freewheel or take his feet off the pedals. (As Velo.Saliko puts it, the ConferenceBike is "not meant for racing but for fun moments in community," so don't feel guilty if you take it easy on downhill stretches.)
How to book a tour
ConferenceBike tours are geared to small groups, so the easiest way to arrange a tour is to get several people together (up to a maximum of six, or seven if you're doing the driving).
If you're traveling alone, it won't hurt to contact the local tour operator when you're in Munich or Dresden, just in case other solo travelers are also looking for a tour.
General ConferenceBike links
ConferenceBike by Velo.Saliko
ConferenceBike tour operators
The first two Web sites below are in German only, but the prices and contact information don't require translation, and you can request an English-speaking tour guide.
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