A Cyclists’ Guide to Frankfurt am Main and beyond

Part 1

An exclusive playground for bankers, high-rises and boredom? I don’t think so. Try again: cake, white wine, pork chops, beer, and cycling − lots of cycling

Tell someone you’re moving to Frankfurt and you’ll probably be met with the same well-meaning response: “aw, poor you.” To be honest, I felt the same skepticism before moving there. But after having lived, worked and cycled in so many places across the globe, I can confirm that Frankfurt’s charm far outweighs its reputation, and its offerings are far more substantial than many are initially led to believe.

The training hills

Situated 20 km north of Frankfurt at the foot of the 990 meter tall Feldberg is the Waldtraut Taunus center. With a direct metro link from the city (U-bahn station Hohemark) and great road connections, it is the perfect training base to start exploring the roads and forest paths on weekends.

Whatever the time of year, this is the best area for training with an excellent mix of road and off-road options. There’s ample parking too, which makes it a prime meeting point.

Located at the foothills of the Taunus range, this area was once a key geological and historic crossing for trade and culture. The Celts originally settled here and it later came under Roman rule, meaning the landscape tells countless tales of fortified defenses and survival. Now there’s also excellent cycling with paths all over the area for off-road and road training.

Once you head north on the road bike and cross the main elevation range of the Taunus, you’ll find virtually traffic-free roads and so many route options (see ride files ‘The Training Hills No.2 / No.3 / No.4’).

The steep climbs are interspersed with longer, undulating hills all over the countryside and the further north you head, the more scenic the landscape becomes. Once the days are at their longest, I’d suggest riding further and heading out to Idstein or Weilburg on weekends for longer rides and loops − it’s worth the effort (see ride file ‘The Training Hills No.6’).

The view as you ride into Weilburg

Closer to home, the most well-known places are probably Königstein im Taunus, Schmitten, and the local tourist hotspot Freilichtmuseum Hessenpark towards the east. If you’ve never been to the outdoor museum on a school trip, then it’s certainly worth a visit − if anything, it has one of the best places for German bread and local produce from the region. Find somewhere to stow your healthy but heavy sourdough bread before heading back up the forest hills towards to the Fuchstanz or ‘Fox Dance’ crossing for some recovery electrolytes at any time of the year (see ride files ‘The Training Hills No.7 / No.8’).

Freilichtmuseum Hessenpark
Riding around the Feldberg and Altköning hills with the ‘Jäger−Hütte’ at the Fuchstanz crossing
Excellent German cakes after a nice climb up to Café Sachs in Treisberg

The Grosser Feldberg climbs are some of the longest in Germany... Ok, it is only 12 km, but that’s still pretty substantial. The surrounding hills, country roads and forest tracks are excellent training grounds for all types of outdoor sports. Road cyclists benefit from the excellent roads that link countless villages, letting you create a variety of undulating, scenic loops. Here are 3 loops starting from my favorite training base − Waldtraut Taunus. (see ride files ‘The Training Hills No.2 / No.3 / No.4’’).

For a really scenic ride, try following the Fischbach river from Rupertshein into the Lorsbacher Tal valley (see ride file ‘The Training Hills No.5’). For more open views head towards Glasshutten in the northwest or Anspach to the north. For a real hidden destination with excellent “Handkäse mit Muzi” (...a must-try local dish) pick a route that heads to the Eichelbacher Hof near Weilrod. Many of the villages in the Taunus area have typical old-style Fachwerkhauser buildings with their authentic wooden beams, nestled into tiny valleys and all home to great local produce such as fresh trout.

For a short but steep climb, try the Mammolshein into Königstein im Taunus, which is a yearly ritual that the pros tackle during the annual Rundum den Finanzplatz Race on 1st May (see ride file &rlquo;The Training Hills No.1’). Should you want to take it a little easier and take a break on route, check out these two excellent spots for kaffee und kuchen: Café Kreiner in Königstein im Taunus and Café Sachs in Treisberg (see on route in ride file ‘The Training Hills No.3’)

The best news is that your starting point for all these routes (namely the Waldtraut Taunus center) has excellent locally brewed beverages with top-notch indoor and outdoor facilities. And should you enjoy those beverages a little too much with the ‘Grie Soß’ (Frankfurt’s legendary green sauce), you (and your free-to-transport bike!) can always make your way back into Frankfurt city from the Hohemark U-bahn station right next door.

But whichever way you climb up to the radio tower, this sort of exertion and the ensuing views provide a great escape from the flats and the Frankfurt cityscape.

Waldtraut Taunus center: my favorite training base camp… for various reasons!
The top of the Grosser Feldberg at 990m

The flats

If you feel like some recovery rides on the flat there are plenty of options that you’ll find between the Feldberg (North) and Darmstadt (South). I’d recommend heading westwards out of the city on your road bike or simply head south on the river and into the forest if you’re on a cyclo-cross bike.

Exit the city via the Europa-Allee or cut up to the Nidda River from the Rödelheimerlandstrasse. The countryside has lots of designated bike paths and paved farm roads to ride here. The route will take you through the fields and I recommend heading to the Altes Rathaus Café in the Altstadt of Hofheim to refuel and use it as the turnaround point. From here, you can either keep north of the highway or take the leisurely, scenic route all the way back into town along the Main River (see ride files ‘The Flats No.1’ and ‘The Flats No.2’).

If you prefer to head out into the forest then the quickest routes go south, taking you across the river and into the forest that’s directly beside the city. While ‘gravel grinding’ might be a fairly new term, Germans have long dubbed this sort of thing as ‘the Waldautobahn’ − or, the Forest Highway. Although perhaps not strictly true to the concept, it won’t surprise you to hear that these paths are perfectly maintained… But whatever your preference, these well-manicured tracks are great fun for pushing higher speeds on a cyclo-cross bike. Crisscrossing the 60 square kilometers of forest area that lies underneath the flight paths of one of Europe’s (and the world’s) busiest airports, the sandy horse−riding trails certainly constitute a workout.

A few insider tips you might want to look out for are the ironically nicknamed ‘Monte Scherbelino’ (Mount Schard), which is basically a mound of WW2 rubble that’s hidden in the forest. Unfortunately, it has been off-limits for several years as otherwise it would make the ultimate addition to a cyclo-cross training loop with its steep climb. The other insider tip for a more relaxing pit-stop in the forest is the ‘Oberschweinstiege’, which serves good local cuisine in a very traditional setting (see ride file ‘The Flats No.3’).

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