Berlin By Bending Bicycle

Bycycle touring and some thoughts on ICT research and development collaboration with Europe

In late June 2004 I made a two week visit to Europe, starting at Cambridge and then trsvelling to Brussels, Berlin and Hamburg. This was to attend the wedding of a friend at Cambridge (England) and to have a holiday. As well I visited some people in the IT business along the way and rode around several cities on a small folding bicycle.

This is a technical travelogue, in the style of my my book Net Traveller. It combines both personal observations as a visitor and technical observations about the trip and details of the meetings attended. Some of the content from these, sligltly rambling, notes will be used for a seminar at the Australian National University on "ICT research and development collaboration with Europe" (Wednesday, 4 April 2004). Also some points may be used for lectures on Electronic Publishing.

Back from two weeks cycling around cities of Europe, Tom Worthington will give a technical travelogue of issues raised with his visits to the Microsoft Research Labs, the British Computer Society and University of Cambridge. Along the way Tom advised the European Commission on their web site (while drinking Belgian beer) and helped with networking at the newly established Go8 Australian Centre in Europe (while drinking German beer). He will give some informal suggestions on research collaboration with Europe, based on this experience.

From: "Department of Computer Science Seminar", ANU, 4 August 2004, URL:

How did I get here?

Date: Sat, 19 Mar 1994 09:22:37 GMT
Newsgroups: soc.culture.french, soc.culture...
From: (Tom Worthington)
Subject: Hi-tech tourist in Europe in April
Summary: What should an information technology tourist see in Europe?

Can you suggest any hi-tech related tourist activities for an Australian computer person in Europe in April? ... starting at Oxford ... London, Paris, Geneva, Avignon and Rome ...

From: "Net Traveller: Exploring the Networked Nation", Tom Worthington, ACS, 1999, URL:

Some overall thoughts:

  1. Europe does ICT, bit we don't hear about it much the popular press.
  2. Australian researchers are known and respected in Europe.
  3. Dealing with multiple languages is not a barrier to business (or research). ICT can help.
  4. There is still no substitute for meeting people.


Late in the organising of the trip I decided to my two folding bicycles. The larger of these had been as far as Brisbane, the other was purchased in Beijing. My travelling campanion is not such an enthuastic cyclist, but got into the spirit of things by making a carry bag for the smaller bicycle and having a custom seat cover made.

Before the trip I consulted several travel and cycling newsgroups about how hard it was to get a bicycle around:

Was going to take the folding bicycle to the UK on Tuesday by aircraft then Cambridge, Brussels, Berlin and Hamburg by train. Any issues or suggestions? ... If I put the bicycle in a carry bag I assume it can be taken as normal luggage ... The intention is not to go on long cycling tours, just short day trips around the city centre, with luggage left at a hotel. But here is still the problem of transporting the bicycle and luggage to and from planes and trains.

Issues with folding bicycles on European trains?, Tom Worthington, Newsgroups: aus.bicycle, uk.rec.cycling,,,2004-06-25 04:06:46 PST, URL:

This resulted in 39 replies, with useful general information about bicycles on european trains. A detailed discussion of exactly how to get accross London by "tube" then resulted. I thought this absurdly detailed until getting lost in the London Underground.

Luggage by Bicycle

The plan was to put each bicycle in a bag on top of a small wheeled cabin bag (with luggage in it) between aircraft and trains. The problem then was to transport the luggage longer distances on the bicycles. Strapping the bag to the top of the bicycle carrier and riding the bicycle was fine in theory, but did not work in pratice (top heavy). Towing the wheeled bag as a trailer behind the bike worked. The telesopic bag handle became the tow bar, attached to the bicycle carrier with an elastic strap. The hard bag wheels were noisy on all but the smoothest pavement and did not have a lot of ground clearance, but worked for a few kilometers.

wheeled bag as a bicycle trailer

Wheeled bag as a bicycle trailer, Tom Worthington, July 2004

Shopping trolley?

In Cambridge I noticed a shopping trolley with larger, softer tyres which might be suitable as a bicycle trailer:

45 Litre Shopping Trolley £35.00 Product code: T275770 ...
Large main compartment carries up to 20kg
Retractable multi height locking trolley handle with an adjustable drawstring closure
Quick release front fastener
Large front pocket
Internal zip purse pocket
Height: 60cm Width: 33cm Depth: 24cm Weight: 2.3kg

45 Litre Shopping Trolley, Marks and Spencer, URL:

At a display of suitcase production at the German Museum of Technology Berlin (Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin) there was a semi-rigid wheeled bag with larger soft rubber wheels (about 90mm), which looked ideal. These are waterproof like a hard case, but flexible and light like a cloth bag. There were similar bags from the company Bric's branded "Sintesis" on sale in a German department store for about 169 Euro (airline carry on size weighed 2.5 kg)If you think using a bag as a bycicle trailer is odd, there is a bathtub in a suit-case offered by one company.


At demonstration sessions visitors have the unique opportunity to watch the fascinating conversion of cardboard into suitcases. Our suitcase develops in approx. 20 work procedures. Come and take a look at Mr. Schweiss' workshop.

From: New exhibition "Suitcase Production", German Museum of Technology Berlin, Updated on: 26. September 2003, URL:


Lost on the banks of the River Cam

Clever Cambridge street: Cars one way, bicycles two ways.

Punts on the River

Ben Hayward Cycles carrying out repairs on my bike

Automatic Bollard outside King's College Chapel

At the Wedding in Kings

Microsoft Research Cambridge

Nick Craswell, Post-doc researcher, Information Retrieval and Analysis Group, Microsoft Research Cambridge.

In Cambridge I visited Nick Craswell, a web search expert previously from Canberra. Also I visited Natasa Milic-Frayling from the Integrated Systems Group of MSR Cambridge.


Cambridge University Library.

Also I visited Peter Morgan, Project Director, Dspace@Cambridge at the Cambridge University Library. Dspace software is also in use at the ANU.


Ben Cheung, Computer Systems Manager, Churchill College; Chairman, BCS East Anglia Branch at the St John's Innovation Centre.


European Parliament Building

European Parliament Sign


Eurostar in Brussels

Redesigning the EC Web Site over Lunch


Berlin artificial beach

Bauhaus-Archiv Museum

Berlin Trams

Berlin has a large fleet of modern trams (light rail). Some have five carriages. This photo was taken at Friedrichstrasse Station, which is more than 100 years old, on the river and was the main border control point on the Berlin Wall. Just over the river, where the trams are heading is the quirky Heart of Gold Hostel.

Zoo Station

On a more human scale the ICE stops at Zoo Station, which has low cost accommodation right next to the tracks at A&O Hostel am Zoo. They have a deck overlooking the tracks, which is good for train spotters, but a bit noisy for anyone else.

Australia Centre Europe

Kerrie Thornton, Australia Centre Europe, Go8 Office, Australia Embassy, Berlin

Networking in the ACE Office

Networking in Berlin

Cafe Barge Outside the ACE

Humboldt University, location for OOoCon 2004

Note: Australia Centre Europe has closed, but the Australian Landing Pad has opened at the coworking space "betahaus" in Berlin.


Hamburg Town Hall, ICE Train and Fountain

Airbus A380 Major Component Assembly Hall

See Also

  1. Cambridge cycle map
  2. Models of the Trains:
  3. Tom Worthington
  4. Building Arcadia Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success