Hello and welcome to my 'What Bike For Prague' article. This is the 1st installment of 4 articles which aims to help you choose the right bike for riding in Prague. There are just a couple things that I wish to make clear from the very start regarding the article. Firstly, this article is probably most suited for the novice cyclist or cyclists who are looking for a new steed but aren't quite sure on what style of bike to use in Prague. If you have experience cycling in Prague you probably already know what's best for you (which I would love to hear about!) Secondly, yes I do own a bike shop which sells bikes, however, these articles are not intended as marketing devices or to push you towards buying certain brands/models of bikes. These articles intend to help the cyclist find the right bike for city cycling without focussing on brands and particular models. All the big bike brands produce bikes under the different categories that I will be reviewing, so please don't get caught up in the models. It's the categories that are key! I hope you enjoy the article and can take something from it.
Prague is a city steeped in beauty. The stunning bridges that cross the river Vltava and the beautifully designed buildings which line its banks make this cosy city a true visual wonder. The cities winding cobbled streets can somehow trick you into thinking you are in a small quiet fairytale town, only to lead and open you out to a breathtaking skyline of spirals and warm red roofs. Hundreds of thousands of tourists pass through Prague's cute streets, discovering the cities various beauty spots. But how do they get around? Prague has a fantastically well thought out public transport infrastructure. The trams, trains, buses and metros run like clockwork and can take you virtually anywhere in Prague - at ridiculously good value. Indeed, it is not just the tourists that rely so heavily on the transport system here. The vast majority of working warriors have their lives intertwined with the public transport system, with many of them not having a secondary mode of transport. But what about the people who wish to use pedal power instead? This is Europe after all, its cycling infrastructure will be just as good as its public transport system, right? Err, wrong!
When I knew I was moving to Prague I was so excited by the prospect of cycling there. I had visited many other European cities and had marvelled at their cycling infrastructures, cycle cafe cultures and volume of bikes. Perhaps out of ignorance I visualised that cycling utopia here in Prague. I imagined myself gliding along cycle paths in harmony with other enthusiasts and admiring the various sights of Prague from the comfort of my saddle. Unfortunately, upon my arrival it didn't take me long to discover that my cycling utopia dream was not quite to be realised.
Now don't get me wrong, of course you can cycle in Prague and I don't want to get too negative on the cities cycling network. There are some good routes in the city and when you travel outside of Prague there are never-ending cycling possibilities. However, for the purposes of this article I think it's important to discuss the real cycling obstacles within the city and how to work around them to make the most of riding your bike here. We cannot escape the fact that Prague is somewhat behind other cities in Europe for its cycling prowess so let's look at some of the reasons. Firstly, the cycle infrastructure just simply isn't here on the same level as many other cities, although I hear things are going to be changing - but lets stick with the now. Yes, there are some cycle-only lanes in the city, but they are few and far in-between and sometimes only span for 50 metres before merging back into traffic. This can really put off the novice cyclist as cars are extremely intimidating and sometimes the vulnerability is just not worth the risk for some people. Secondly, Prague is not typical of European cities in its landform. The city elevates from the river, which results in large parts of Prague sitting on the side of a hill. You'd be amazed at how such little inclines can put people off using 2 wheels. Lastly, TRAM LINES and COBBLES! The one down side to having an excellent tram network is that you have tram lines scattered everywhere, like spaghetti. I have had two altercations with them since I have lived here and I know plenty of other riders who have cycled into trouble thanks to them. The cobbles, although less likely to make you fall, just make for a generally unpleasant ride for certain types of bikes and with each shudder of the bike another strand of enthusiasm can slip off.
Solutions! Well unfortunately there are things that we can't control such as tram lines, cobbles, hills and a lack of cycle infrastructure. However, there are things that we can do to minimise these obstacles so we can get as much enjoyment from cycling in Prague as possible. The most effective thing you can do is choose the most suitable style of bike for the type of riding that you are doing and this article is of course focussing on City riding. Over the next 3 articles I am going to test and review 3 different styles of bike that are most likely to be suitable for Prague. I will take into account all that has been discussed above and give my honest opinion about what style of bike I feel is the most suited to this beautiful, yet slightly cycling awkward City!
I would love to hear your cycling tips and experiences regarding cycling in Prague. Please comment below.
Thanks for reading.