Monthly Archives: June 2018

NL2018 – Thoughts on Velomobile touring in the Netherlands

Having toured now for two weeks, we thought it would be good to give an update on some of the equipment we have used and our experiences in the Netherlands.

My report is first, then Klaus’s in German below.

Helen’s Report

The Milan GT Velomobile

The Milan is not a touring Velomobile. It is designed as a racing machine. I am using it outside its preferred milieu, especially bearing in mind that I am a heavy and low-powered female rider.

The Milan is comfortable. There is plenty of space for the rider in the cockpit, there is room for the Radical Velomobile bags both sides, and I can also fit touring luggage behind the seat. It would not be possible to carry a tent though.

As it’s a racing machine it’s very low slung and this is not good in NL with all the drempels and other bumps. Likewise, the 14 metre turning circle is OK if you are riding on roads but causes issues riding on NL cycle paths. But I managed a two week tour in NL with this unsuitable bike and it wasn’t such a problem that I wished I were in a different bike.

We were lucky we had almost no rain as I would have been wet. However, I was glad for the good airflow in the Milan on the hotter days. There is a fair bit of cooling when riding at decent speeds, and I think it is a fair bit cooler than the QuattroVelo.

The weight of the Milan is a real plus point as it’s relatively light, even with my tools and luggage. However, constant stopping and starting does not play to the strengths of this bike, or any velomobile really. They need to be cruising at around 25km/h before the aerodynamic shape can give its benefit. Ride a Milan at 30 and it gets blown along and is really easy to pedal. Getting it to 30 on narrow cycle paths is not easy.

I have front and rear suspension in the Milan GT and I find the suspension good enough for the road surfaces I experienced here, but my lack of power means that rough surfaces slow me down a lot, which has the knock-on effect of reducing the aerodynamic and making it harder to ride. A stronger rider would be able to push these speeds higher and probably have a smoother journey.

As mentioned in the blogs, I am unable physically to use the grip shifter for my front chainring so rode almost the entire holiday in my 56 tooth chainring at the front and with 9 sprockets at the back (12-36) and this was perfectly adequate except for the hill in Berg aan de Maas. When I changed down to the granny ring twice this helped me conquer the hill but led to significant problems changing back up again afterwards. If I possibly can I keep the bike always on the large front chainring.

The wiring on the Milan was of a poor quality, and although we have upgraded sections there were still some old bits that caused us an issue right before the tour and was possibly also the reason for my lack of indicators on the last two days. Millie probably needs a rewire but that’s a bit of a mega job that I will try to put off for as long as possible!

And finally, the white paint on Millie is very forgiving, both of dirt/bird poo and also scratches. The British Racing Green paint on Humphrey developed some new scratches and these are very obvious; the Milan is pretty battered in some places but it’s not all that visible.

The Quattrovelo Velomobile

For Klaus this was an ideal touring machine. It’s so nice to be able to just chuck your luggage in the boot without having to stow it carefully around you. The bike was stable and easy to use, despite the extra weight of all our belongings. He found Humphrey comfortable and reliable and not as tricky on the larger hills than he would have thought. The turning circle compared to his Strada was an issue with the NL cycle paths but overall the Quattrovelo was a good option for touring.

Garmin Edge 1000 GPS

I have had my Garmin Edge for a few months and generally I like it. Previously I had a Garmin Oregon and I was very happy with that, but it was too large to fit on the tiller of the Quattrovelo so I sold it and bought and Edge.

The Edge has limited battery capability (it has just an internal battery, the Oregon had AA batteries which you could change if necessary) but this has not affected me on this trip as my rides are short enough that its battery can last the whole ride time.

One issue I had with it is its speed at drawing the map when rotating. If you are following a track round a roundabout it can be very slow to rotate the map as you go round the roundabout, which meant that both Klaus and I occasionally took a wrong turn if there were multiple manoeuvres in a short time.

I also had issues uploading the day’s completed track to Garmin Connect from my Garmin via my android phone. I can only do this through WiFi as if I try with bluetooth then my phone goes completely bonkers (windows open and close, it flicks across screens, there is a mouse pointer symbol!!!!) and I can only get the phone to function again by switching off bluetooth and turning the phone right off. Not good. As I am not using Bluetooth I have set the Edge to use WiFi upload but it can be very reluctant to do this. WiFi download from Garmin Connect (for example, a new track) is also very unreliable. It took eight hours before it would download a new track one day.

But the main thing – it displayed the map and track of where I needed to go, and it recorded where I had been and what speed and heart rate and cadence I had. Those are its core purposes and it did them well enough.

NL hotels, B&Bs and Vrienden op de Fiets

We have had very good hotels and B&Bs except for the one in Egmond which was a bit sub-par. Cleanliness has been fine, they are usually fairly spacious and there have been some really lovely B&Bs in Burgh Haamstede, Groningen (the caravan), Weert and Nuth. Prices for accommodation seemed a bit keener than in Germany, but this was offset by the increased price of food so overall I think we spent more per day.

Vrienden op de Fiets has also worked well for us. We pay 20 Euros a night each and this includes breakfast. Sometimes the descriptions on the website weren’t 100% correct (in Maastricht and Den Haag the blurb said there was a separate bathroom for us but we shared the family’s bathroom), but we found this a very good option, especially in Den Haag. The hit rate was low, I wrote to about 8 hosts for each confirmed booking, but this could partly be explained by our large bikes needing a home too. We could of course have extended our search to AirB&B but that is not something I have used before. But generally the accommodation was fine.

NL food and customer service

Klaus and I both like German food. We find NL food rather dull and also overpriced. A pizza that would be 8 Euros in Germany seems to be 11 Euros in NL for the same or lesser quality. We also find the bread very tasteless compared to German bread. German breakfasts in hotels are much more to our taste! Cakes are also often a disappointment, although we have had a few nice ones. Choice is often fairly small. Apple cake is usually a safe choice but it’s not what I generally want.

Supermarkets are good although some of the items are expensive. We had three evenings where we just ate food we bought in a supermarket. Our impression was that there was more plastic packaging than in Germany as well. We also noticed once again the huge difference in price between the Netherlands and Germany for medication. Germany is hugely expensive for just basic things such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamines. The Netherlands has prices more like UK prices and sells these basic items in supermarkets.

However, a big bonus for me is the tea making. When I order tea (explaining I have my own teabag so just need hot water and a little milk) I get what I ask for without any further explanation. In Germany this is such a complex request that I usually end up with no milk. However, in Germany I probably only get charged for 1 in 3 teas, whereas in NL I was charged for all of them except 2 (so that’s probably 1 in 20 that is free!)

Customer service in NL is very good, much better than Germany which has a reputation for poor customer service which we often experience. The servers are friendly and helpful; you often get great waiters and waitresses in Germany but you also often get very sour people who can’t do anything even slightly away from the standard requirements. In NL it seems you often need to pay at the bar but that’s fine, you can usually get the bill settled quickly; in Germany you are often waiting ages for them to come to you to settle the bill.

NL Landscape

Most of our time in the Netherlands seems to be on the motorway heading to Hoek van Holland or to Dronten, and it all seems featureless and concretey (as you would expect on a road). Because I knew NL was flat I sort-off assumed it always looked pretty much the same, but this was decidedly not true! What has been really nice for us on this tour is seeing the wide variety of landscape around the Netherlands. It’s not just flat with windmills, there are very obviously different types of landscape including sandy dunes, woodland, arable and of course the canals and reclaimed land sections.

What I particularly liked were the houses. They are of a very different style than German ones. Firstly, the windows in Dutch houses are much larger which must make the houses brighter inside. The houses are often also more interesting designs – more like English houses, not just a flat block. I was very surprised about how many thatched houses there are, even including brand new houses. And when inside, even modern houses seem to have very narrow or steep stairs. In Germany it seems most houses have spiral staircases, in NL they are straight but steep.

We found the towns with pedestrianised centres were much nicer to sit and relax in. When we visited Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog our lunch was spoiled by all the cars and trucks driving past. Germany seems to have been a bit more organised in pedestrianising towns, or perhaps it was just an artefact of the route that we took.

NL cycle infrastructure

The NL cycle infrastructure is lauded throughout the world. Yes it is very good, has some excellent benefits but it is not always ideal for people in non-standard bikes. We in Velomobiles are a real minority and are not in the minds of cycle infrastructure planners, but we both feel that we would probably avoid NL for a longer tour again because of the difficulties of using the cycle paths with velomobiles and the drempels and cobbles. Adults on upright bikes are well catered for, short children and velomobilists can end up riding blindly into dangerous situations with road crossings. But we love the fact that bikes are everywhere, they are everyday transport, they are just normal.

We also like the fact that the Dutch don’t feel the need to poke at our otherwise touch our velomobiles. In Germany people seem to have a feeling of entitlement, their children may be touching this private property but they don’t stop them and get annoyed when we remonstrate. We felt more relaxed leaving the Velomobiles parked somewhere and sitting down for a cuppa when in the Netherlands.

Despite many of the VM manufacturers being in NL, most of the people we need haven’t seen a velomobile before. I suppose there are probably only 1000 or so in the Netherlands, but I did find it interesting that we met two velomobiles whilst riding although unplanned. So they are there in the wild!

 

Klaus’s Report

2017; Ostsee-Berlin; 1900k; 3 Länder… wie kann man so etwas toppen? Wir hatten einige Ziele in Erwägung gezogen wie beispielsweise die Voralpenregion oder auch eine klassische Flusstour. Wir haben uns dann aber letztendlich für die Tour Rund um die Niederlande entschieden.

Die Gründe für den Entschluss lagen zum einen im überschaubaren logistischen Aufwand, dem zur Verfügung stehenden rollenden Material und dem eigenen Fitnesslevel.

Nachdem wir mit eigenen Streckenplanungen schon angefangen hatten, haben wir uns dann schlussendlich auf eine bereits bestehende und velomobilgeeignete Tour aufgesetzt. Basierend auf der Strecke der Dutch Capitals Tour, die durch die Hauptstädte aller niederländischen Provinzen führt, haben wir unsere Tour geplant.

Helen hat wohlweislich, bedingt durch die zu erwartende niedrigere Durchschnittsgeschwindigkeit, die Etappenlänge auf  max. 120 Kilometer/Tag begrenzt. Obwohl ich anfangs nicht so sehr davon begeistert war, musste ich Verlauf der Tour feststellen, dass dies eine sehr gute Entscheidung war.

Die Vorplanung der Übernachtungen hat auch dieses Mal der Cheforganisatorin Helen übernommen, wie eigentlich auch die gesamte Tour von Helen geplant wurde. Ich muss sagen eine sehr entspannte Art des Tourens.

Jetzt, einen Tag nach Tourende ist natürlich noch die ganze Seele von den Eindrücken der letzten 15 Tagen erschlagen und ist kräftig am Verarbeiten, doch ich werde versuchen ein Resümee zu ziehen.

Das Land:

Wir haben natürlich die Niederlande direkt vor der Haustür und viele unserer Touren gehen auch ins benachbarte Ausland. Eigentlich denkt man, man hat schon Alles gesehen. Auf einer solchen Tour wird man aber sehr schnell eines Besseren belehrt. Die Niederlande sind eben nicht nur plattes Land, Nordsee und Amsterdam. Vielmehr ist die Landschaft äußerst Abwechslungsreich; Heidegebiete, Wälder, Alleen und kleine Dörfer und zu guter Letzt auch Berge.. Dutch Mountains.

Die Leute:

Im Großen und Ganzen (wenn man das so pauschalieren darf) ist der Niederländer ein recht entspannter, offener und freundlicher Zeitgenosse. Unsere Gastgeber ob bei Vrienden op de fiets, B&B oder Hotels waren sehr zuvorkommend und der Service, dann doch eine Klasse besser, im direkten Vergleich zu Deutschland. Diese Unkompliziertheit macht das Reisen schon wesentlich entspannter.

Die Fahrradinfrastruktur:

Die Niederlande gelten ja schlechthin als Fahrradnation und dem kann ich auch uneingeschränkt beipflichten. Überall fahren die Leute Rad und in den Großstädten kann man erahnen, wie eventuell die Zukunft aussehen könnte. Das ist schon sehr beeindruckend. Wir mit unseren Velomobilen passen allerdings nicht so ganz in diese Welt. Wir sind zu sehr abhängig von bester Asphaltqualität, gerader langer Strecken, wenig Stop and Go. Das bekommt man in den Niederlanden nicht überall geboten. Die Radwege sind teilweise eng geschnitten und die Kurven erfordern doch manches Hin-und Her-Manövrieren. Die Oberflächenqualität lässt meist auch sehr zu wünschen übrig. Pflastersteine in fast jedem Dorf oder Stadt (sind zwar nicht so schlimm wie deutsches Kopfsteinpflaster) reduzieren im erheblichen Maße die Durchschnittsgeschwindigkeit und zerrten an unseren Nerven.

Abgrenzungen mit Hecken haben auch so ihre Tücken, speziell wenn man mal wieder irgendwo über die Straße geschickt wird. Die Sicht auf den Verkehr ist gleich null. Jetzt könnte man behaupten, dass wir ja ziemlich niedrig sind und somit selbst Schuld tragen, aber es gibt auch Verkehrsteilnehmer die nicht auf einem Hollandrad 1,80m über Straßenniveau sitzen beispielsweise Kinder, Menschen in Rollstühlen etc.

An fast jeder Straße ist auch irgendwie ein Radweg angeflanscht. Das trägt natürlich wunderbar zu einem entspannten Leben zwischen Autoverkehr und Radverkehr bei auf der anderen Seite ist das natürlich auch ein enormer Landschaftsverbrauch. Die Niederlande zählen zu den dichtbevölkerten Länder und freies Land ist ein hohes Gut. Da stellt sich wirklich die Frage, ob man Alles zubetonieren muss. Just my two cents

Das Essen:

Ja wir haben in den letzten Tagen einige Highlights erlebt. Marieke und John Spijkers (ein Arbeitskollege) haben uns bei sich zu Hause für eine Nacht beherbergt. John zauberte am Abend ein leckeres Abendessen in deren formidabler Küche. Besten Dank nochmals für die Unterbringung und Verpflegung. Auch das letzte Abendessen in Nuth… sehr lecker. Ansonsten war das Essen nicht schlecht aber auch nicht gerade herausragend gut. Auch die Preise hatten es doch in sich. Besonders zu erwähnen…. Kuchen- und brottechnisch sind die Niederlande eher Entwicklungsland. Aber wir wussten auf was wir uns einließen; wir waren vorgewarnt. Also liebe niederländische Freunde… tolles Land, tolle Menschen das gute Essen beziehungsweise Kuchen müsst ihr uns noch beweisen.

Die Tour:

Größere Überraschungen und Herausforderungen waren nicht zu erwarten. Wir planen unsere Touren nicht als Abenteuer und man bewegt sich in einem Land mit perfekter Infrastruktur. Da kann fast nichts passieren und selbst wenn, ist man gut aufgehoben und versorgt.

Die 15 Tage waren wieder sehr erholsam für Geist, Seele und Körper (der Kontakt mit den Eichenprozessionsspinner lassen wir mal außen vor).

Wir sind beide sehr positiv die Tour beendet und planen die eine oder andere Region wieder zu besuchen.

Das Material:

Beide Velomobile sind ohne größere Schäden durch die Tour gekommen. Eine Speiche, ein Plattfuß, ein defektes Ladegerät und defekte Blinker, sind die einzig zu beklagenden Schäden (Humphrey hat noch an ein paar Stellen Lack abgeben müssen). Ich durfte Helens Quattrovelo bewegen (mein Strada ist derzeit in Reparatur) und konnte die sehr gute Reisefähigkeit dieses Velomobils erfahren. Gepäck für zwei Personen, Ersatzteile und Unterwegsverpflegung war problemlos unterzubringen. Das Fahrverhalten, trotz des Mehrgewichts, neutral und unspektakulär. Selbst die Bergetappe am vorletzten Tag war ohne Probleme, und zu meiner vollen Zufriedenheit, abgelaufen. Ein tolles Velomobil.

Nochmals besten Dank an das Team von Velomobiel.NL und Alex de Jong, die uns bei der Ersatzbeschaffung des Ladegeräts behilflich waren.

Fazit:

Tolle Tour. Es hat Spaß gemacht und wir sind schon am überlegen, wo wir nächstes Jahr hinfahren. Das Reisen mit den Velomobilen ist schon ein einzigartiges Erlebnis. Lieben Dank an meine “Wing Woman” Helen. Hervorragende Planung, liebenswerte, verlässliche und besonnene Reisebegleitung; was braucht man mehr.

2 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 15: Nuth to Kempen

Saturday 23 June 2018

Here is our planned route for the day:

And here is the actual route we rode:

We slept really well in the very lovely B&B de Pingerhoeve and enjoyed a tasty breakfast.

Our ride today would be just 90km so there was no major rush to get going. We packed the bikes up for the last time and were on our way at 10:15.

We actually stopped after about 200 metres as I had some weird noises at the back of Millie. I had completely rearranged a bag with some spare clothes and a rain Mac when packing everything in this morning so I shuffled that around a bit and the noise stopped. We carried on.

I had noticed from the track that there was a bit of a hill near the beginning of this ride, and it arrived very soon! It was so steep that I had to switch to my granny ring; this is fine, but I find it almost impossible to twist the grip-shift back to change to the big ring. I eventually managed it today but it was so tough I resolved to avoid doing it again. I end up weaving all over the road as I have to use my right hand to change the left hand shifter and so it’s not something I can safely do if there are any cars around.

Very shortly afterwards in the village of Puth there was another big hill. I decided not to change to the granny ring and Klaus very kindly rode just behind and to the side and gave me an occasional push to help me. It was tough going though as it was a long hill.

I stopped at the top for a breather – we could see a long way down to the Maas valley.

Cycling up hills can be hard work (particularly for me), but cycling down is just mega fun. And so was this!

We zoomed down… I ended up sitting at about 65 km/h for a fair distance; I used the brakes slightly to prevent me going much faster as I felt that the front tyres were a bit under inflated and didn’t want to go too fast on them, but Millie was stable and easy to steer. Klaus also had a great experience with Humphrey, finding him rock solid on the fast downhill.

I got a Strava QOM for this downhill as I cycled the 1.1km of this segment at an average of 57.8 km/h. Fun!!

We were slowly getting closer to familiar routes. Our track took us through Sittard which was OK but lots of traffic lights. I was ahead on the cycle path so had the job of trying to reach the button for the traffic lights. This provides a bit of an upper body workout!

After Sittard we headed to Susteren on a fast bit of cycle path. I was finding the cycling easier going today than yesterday and the day before.

After Susteren we continued along and ended up cycling through Echt again. We had ridden through Echt two days before.

As we were riding between Echt and Roermond we spotted a yellow velomobile coming towards us on the cycle path. Lo and behold it was chum Rolf from Schwalmtal. He was on his way to emvelomobiel.be to have some work done on his velomobiel; we also bumped into Rolf when we were at emvelomobiel.be some weeks ago. It is a very small world! We had a short chat but he had to get going as he was being collected from there by car; we will meet up with him soon again no doubt.

We were soon arriving at Roermond, 40km after we set out. We stopped for a cuppa at a cafe in the central market area.

There was a street market on so it was very busy. We were very near to Germany here and there were lots of Germans wandering around, and once again we found that people were tending to touch the velomobiles. We had had two blessed weeks of peace from that with the Dutch who seem to have more respect for others’ property.

We had decided not to have any cake as we wanted to experience some German cake instead. We had decided to do a slightly alternative route back, travelling up into Germany from Swalmen rather than Steijl.

We left Roermond and rode towards Swalmen, then turning onto the road that leads to Germany. This is a long, 9km ride to Brüggen, but the cycle path is smooth and the slight uphill barely registered.

And then we crossed back into Germany. It was a nice feeling, to know that we had cycled all the way around the Netherlands but were on our way home.

In Brüggen we stopped for cake.

Then we headed off and found ourselves round the corner from Ralf’s so popped in to see him and his wife and enjoy another cuppa.

The final stretch from Ralf’s to our house, 20km on smooth German roads, showed that the speed issues that I had with Millie are related to the riding conditions in the Netherlands and the way I become tired with all the stopping and starting. We were cruising at 30 km/h between Grefrath and Kempen and it was great fun. Klaus diverted to the supermarket in Kempen but I rode directly home as I had a bit of a headache and didn’t feel the need to tackle a German supermarket!

It was lovely to be home and greeted by Poppy the dog. The washing machine is now doing its thing and we are enjoying relaxing in our own home whilst watching Germany playing in the World Cup.

Today’s ride was 91km at an average of 21.2 km/h.

Here is the list of all rides on this tour, a total of 1,311km for me, 1,336km for Klaus:

And here is the ‘wheel’ which shows where we have been.

Now we’ve had a couple of weeks of touring in NL, we have a bit more experience of the suitability of our bike choices for touring in our Dutch neighbour country. Klaus and I are both writing an additional post that we will probably publish tomorrow with our thoughts about cycle touring in NL and the velomobiles and other equipment that we chose for it.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 14: Maastricht to Nuth

Friday 22 June 2018

Three weeks ago I planned our route for the day:

However, due to my broken spoke and dislike of hills, I decided to do an alternative much shorter route that avoided the worst of the hilly bits. Klaus wanted to try the original route. There will be a ride report from him on that below.

My route was planned using Garmin Connect on the iPad and then uploaded to my Garmin. This had its limitations. Below is the actual route that I rode.

We slept well and had breakfast at eight in the morning. This breakfast had the least variety of all the breakfasts so far, in that we just had standard Dutch brown bread (no rolls or croissants). It was OK but not that exciting.

We got the bikes out of the storage area and got them ready on the road. I was pointing one way, Klaus the other, as our routes were entirely different. I waved Klaus off and then checked everything on Millie. Some of the gaffer tape holding my cables in place over my left foot was hanging down again (the adhesive doesn’t seem able to cope with warmer weather) so I stuck it back and then got my hat and gloves on.

It was then time to test the lights (I always do this). No indicators on the left side. Damn! This was the side where we had replaced both indicators, and their cabling, but since then Etienne had done some more wiring and the cable going to the front LED is very tight and liable to interfere with my feet. Thus the gaffer tape that had been falling down. I don’t know if the gaffer tape adjustment meant something went wrong with the connector, or whether one of the LEDs has just failed, but this was not something that could be checked today. I would just have to ride without a left indicator, and we’ll have another Bike Maintenance day soon. At least it’s warm and summery and this is not in the depths of winter!

My route at the beginning was the reverse of the route we took yesterday, past Elsloo to Stein. Elsloo was where there was a horrible downhill on cobbles but Garmin had offered me a cycle path along the top of the dike instead. Hopefully that would avoid unnecessary hill climbing and cobbles, two things I don’t like.

I pootled off along this route, finding the going a bit easier than yesterday but I still wasn’t fast. I only had 36km to ride and Klaus had 60km and some mega hills so there was no hurry. The accommodation would let us in early which was nice, but I didn’t want to get there before lunch!

I made an early mistake by following the Garmin’s route which wanted me to cross a busy road rather than using the bridge we had ridden across yesterday. There was no way to cross the road, I had to find my way to the bridge and this involved a hairpin turn which took me about 6 shuffles-forward-and-back to manage. This is common with the Milan and it’s not a major issue, but when you are wearing sandals and sliding your foot through the foot holes it is possible to jab your toes on the sharp edges of the carbon fibre foot hole. Don’t ask how I know this.

Eventually I was up on the bridge and riding across, following generally decent cycle paths back to the north.

At Geulle the Garmin wanted me to leave yesterday’s track and go nearer to the canal so I followed this road which became a narrower track and then eventually petered out into a narrow footpath. So I turned round and went back again to our yesterday’s route.

At Elsloo I saw the route my Garmin wanted me to take – off the main road and onto a slightly unmade section where there were several workmen. However, if this were possible it would be a big improvement over the horrendous cobble hill. I asked the workmen if I could get through and the spokesman, who spoke no English, said some Dutch to me that sounded like I could. We had a mini conversation, neither of us really understanding the other, and then I rode on and he cheered.

Next obstacle was a giant excavator thingie which they moved out of the way so I could ride past… but the way ahead was very narrow and overgrown. I could almost guarantee that in 300 metres it would be down to gravel or packed earth. No thanks!

So I turned round and said to the chaps that the way was too narrow. They seemed to understand that and gave me lots of smiles. The Dutch guy made some noises in Dutch which sounded like he was asking if it was electric, so I said no, just muscle power, and he slapped his thighs and seemed to think this was very impressive. Smiles all round, I carried on.

Here is what I have been moaning about for days. See this small gully – it’s just the right size to collect my front wheels whilst the nose of the Velomobile slides noisily onto the cobbles. This happens the whole time when touring in the Netherlands and is noisy, uncomfortable and irritating.

And this was the hill I had been trying to avoid by taking the cycle path on the dike. I knew it was fruitless to ride up there so I wheeled the Milan up by hand which was OK, although of course the cobbles meant that the steering kept changing direction.

I made it to the top, got in and was about to pedal off but something was funny. Yes, the bumpy cobbles had meant that whilst I was pushing the seat pinged out of its mounting one side. That is the work of a moment to fix but getting in and out unnecessarily is annoying for me. Because I am lazy!

From Elsloo it was a short ride on faster road surfaces to Stein, where I diverted for the final time from yesterday’s route and headed more to the east.

I was riding beside a fairly busy road but the cycle path was nice and wide and smooth. I then turned right under a motorway and then past the Chemelot chemical works with lots of towers, railway sidings etc.

I was now riding round the outskirts of Geleen and this was a good cycle path but without priority at the road crossings, you had to stop and press the traffic light button. And here is an example of another issue with Velomobiles in NL – I could not reach this button on the right of this photo.

There is no way I could have cornered at the right angle to be able to press the button. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, the traffic lights detect you anyway, but in this case not. But this is NL, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait too long until another cyclist appeared, and after two traffic light cycles there was indeed a lady on the other side and she pressed the button so I could cross.

I had about 5km to ride to Nuth so thought I might stop if I found a cafe but wasn’t successful. I was also really angered by something that happened as I passed a large college; I saw a sign written van from that college driving extremely slowly beside me; the driver was filming me from his mobile phone, whilst driving. Great. He then pulled into the road I was crossing, still filming. I was so angry with this dangerous manoeuvre I considered riding into the college and reporting him, but then I decided not to bother. After all, Velomobile owners are used to seeing drivers filming or talking on their phones whilst driving. Who cares if they hit and kill and injure someone, it’s just important that they can have that conversation/take that photo when they want. They are drivers, they own the road!

I cycled on, discovering that I was entering a bit of a hilly region. I went through Spaubeek and there were lots of signs warning of a road closure. Of course, when you are a cyclist visiting from outside this doesn’t really help as I didn’t actually know which roads I was taken, I was just following the purple line!

But of course, the road that was closed was the one that I wanted to take. I stopped in front of the giant tarmac resurfacing machine thingy and asked the driver where I should go. He indicated a small path to the side which clearly went under the motorway and I wanted to stay on this side, but hey ho, I gave it a go. Fortunately I was able to cross back again at Nagelbeek just before Schinnen.

But then, very weirdly, the road I wanted to take (where the purple line went) had completely disappeared and was a pile of sand with various JCBs driving around on it, but a shiny new road which didn’t feature at all on my Garmin was there before me so I went on that. Nice, smooth asphalt. This was heading towards Nuth so I kept on this road, eventually turning off and crossing under the motorway again as I followed a cycle sign to Nuth. Once over the railway I saw a sign indicating Nuth for bicycles was down a narrow track. I preferred the option of the main road (which my Garmin was indicating) so I ignored that, carried on and then the cycle path disappeared and there was a ‘no cycles’ sign on the road. I couldn’t go further so I returned to the narrow track and went down it. It widened out and was OK.

I crossed under the Motorway again and found my way into Nuth. I wanted to find a cafe so headed towards what looked on my Garmin like the town centre. I was almost there when I saw a decent looking cafe so stopped for a cuppa and some lunch.

The tea came with a mini ice cream (and a mini portion of milk)

I ordered soup and something that sounded like chicken satay sandwich. The soup arrived in a mini tureen

And at the same tie the chicken satay ‘sandwich’ also arrived in an identical tureen. I had thought it was a sarnie but it was more like a stew with some mini prawn crackers.

It was tasty and warm though, so that was fine.

At one o’clock I decided to head to the B&B which was downhill in Nuth (which is a bit hillier than I generally like). The direct route wasn’t possible as I found myself at the top of a flight of steps, not ideal in a Velomobile, but a minor detour led me to B&B de Pingerhoeve. What a lovely room we had!

I had some entertainment as I arrived as they were putting up a giant tarpaulin/tent in the entire Innenhof as there would be a party there tomorrow.

I had my shower, put on the kettle and then thought I had better check where Klaus was. He had sent me pictures from the Drei-Laender Punkt (where Germany, NL and Belgium all meet) and then had been having some lunch. A look at the tracker – he was just 1km away! He had enjoyed a really good ride today and despite 800ish metres of climbing wasn’t that pooped.

Klaus’s Report

Nachdem sich eine Speiche bei Millie verabschiedet hatte, war eigentlich klar, dass ich die Tour zum 3-Länder-Punkt alleine fahren werde.

Freundlicherweise hatte Helen ihr Gepäck, welches ja von mir transportiert wurde, um ein paar Gramm erleichtert. Das half natürlich enorm beim Anstieg. Garmin errechnete ca. 620 Höhenmeter für die knapp 65 Kilometer und das Höhenprofil hatte mir auch keinen Angstschweiß auf die Stirn gezaubert. Also ging es dann kurz vor 9:30 in südlicher Richtung los. Die ersten 6 Kilometer waren schön zum eincruisen. Irgendwann bog der Track dann nach Osten ab und stieg dann sanft mit 4-5% an. Das Wetter war recht angenehm und das stetige Hochkurbeln bei mäßigen Prozenten liegt mir. Die erste Steigung war nach einer Stunde geschafft. Die erste Abfahrt war für mich auch die Frage, wie bewähren sich die Bremsen. Ich habe es nicht brutal laufen lassen und die höchste Geschwindigkeit betrug 66km/h. Jetzt ging es in einem Art Sägezahn weiter. Immer wieder Anstiege um die 8% und danach Abfahrten, die die gewonnen Höhenmeter gefühlt wieder vernichteten. Aber die Aussichten unterwegs waren ein Genuss. Jetzt weiß ich wieder was ich in den letzten Jahren Radeln am Niederrhein vermisst habe.

Die geschwungenen Landschaften und immer mal wieder ein kleines Dorf mit einem Kirchturm.

Nach der Kurve die nächste Rampe. Natürlich wurde ich von einer Menge Rennradler überholt. Strava King of the Mountain habe ich heute keine abgeräumt. Das war allerdings auch nicht zu erwarten mit einem 45kg Dickschiff.

Es war den ganzen Tag ziemlich windig und so wechselten die Wolkenstimmung sekündlich.

 

Auf den letzten Metern wurde ich noch von weiteren Rennradlern überholt (das war auch kein Wunder bei meiner Geschwindigkeit), aber letztendlich habe ich es doch gepackt. Beinahe hätte ich den 3-Länder-Punkt verpasst. Das obligatorische Beweißfoto wurde geschossen und dann war es Zeit für eine kleine Stärkung in einem der 1000 Restaurants habe ich mir eine Tomatensuppe und zwei Cola gegönnt.

Im Restaurant habe ich mich noch länger mit ein paar Rennradler über das Reisen und Radeln mit Velomobilen unterhalten. Die waren beeindruckt, dass ich mit dem Dickschiff hier hoch geradelt bin. Nach der Stärkung habe ich mich wieder in Humphrey hineingewunden. Zuvor habe ich noch dieses Bild geschossen. Im Tal sieht man Aachen.

Jetzt dachte ich, geht es nur noch bergab….weit gefehlt. Am höchsten Punkt hatte ich ca. 620 Höhenmeter. Auf dem Weg nach Nuth kamen nochmal 350 Höhemmeter hinzu. Das hatte ich irgendwie nicht so ganz auf der Rechnung. Und dabei war noch ein ganz fieses Ding 700 Meter lang mit 10-13% und vom Start faktisch mit 0km/h. Das zog dann doch etwas in den Muskeln. Aber das war es dann auch. Kurz vor Ende wurde ich noch mit einer rauschenden Abfahrt belohnt; über 82km/h und es hätten noch mehr werden können, aber der Seitenwind drückte recht heftig an der Karosse und so entschied ich doch vorsorglich den Bremshebel zu ziehen und kinetische Energie und Wärmeenergie umzuwandeln.

Was will ich sagen…Bergfahren macht Spaß. Solange ich meinen Rhythmus finde und die Steigungsprozente nicht allzu brutal werden, macht das richtig Spaß. Erinnerungen an meine längstvergangene MTB-Karriere wurden wach.

Back together again

As explained above, Klaus arrived much earlier than I expected.

Once the tent was up the two velomobiles could be stored in the Innenhof for the night. This was the view out of our window.

The B&B people were adding lights and other decoration for the party.

It’s a lovely place to stay, with occasional noises of aircraft overhead which we think are from Geilenkirchen US airbase.

We ate our evening meal in the restaurant attached to the B&B and it was the tastiest food we have eaten so far in the Netherlands.

Tomorrow we ride home via Roermond, a 90km day. It will be nice to be home again and to see Poppy the dog, but we have really enjoyed our tour and particularly meeting so many friends and interesting people.

2 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 13: Weert to Maastricht

Thursday 21 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

We had a good night’s sleep and then enjoyed an excellent breakfast in our little B&B. everything was really well presented.

We had contacted the Vrienden op de Fiets place where we would be staying tonight and they had said we couldn’t arrive before 5pm. As the distance for the day was planned as 70km we didn’t have any urgency to leave and so stayed until past ten o’clock.

But it was eventually time to head off towards Maastricht so we opened up the garage.

We had a nice chat with the landlady about velomobiles. We really liked B&B Piekoo Belloo and would recommend it to anyone staying in Veert – as long as you can cope with steep stairs (although you need to be able to cope with those for most houses in NL it seems!)

Having had lots of issues with cycle path quality yesterday, today’s route began as. A very big improvement. We had mostly very smooth cycle paths and they were wider than they often can be. Despite this we were riding at a very relaxed speed – I didn’t feel the need to rush and wanted the rest really. We rode to Stramproy, Haler and Ittervort on what seemed like really quiet roads.

At Wessem we crossed the Maas.

We thought we might stop for a cuppa in Maasbracht but ended up riding a bit further, to Echt, before we found a suitable stopping place.

Klaus was feeling more peckish so then had a spaghetti Bolognese. I had had a larger breakfast so didn’t need any food at this point.

We spent quite a long time in Echt and on our way out we stopped at an Aldi to buy some biscuits and chocolate.

After Echt we had a long climb up a ramp to cross the Julianakanaal on a bridge we have been over a few times before. This time on the downhill afterwards I rode on the cycle path but noticed too late that the hedges either side had recently been cut. I expected a puncture but was very lucky that I didn’t get one. Klaus had wisely ridden on the road here.

I did wonder if I had a puncture as I found the going very hard after this point. Klaus was up ahead and I had difficulties keeping up with him. We had a few interesting bits of routing, including the bridge below just for bikes (you can see Humphrey crossing it).

And now my turn…

The bridge had been put in for bikes to cross over some kind of construction area.

But just to keep us on our toes there was a ‘bicycle sluice’ to slow us down but Humphrey and Millie were able to squeeze through.

From here we were riding along quiet lanes through villages without much activity. And then we arrived at Berg aan de Maas, somewhere we have found ourselves many times. We were following the route from Roef and it took us up the massive hill in the centre of Berg. I had to change down to my Granny Ring to get up it (only the third time I have used this in the last 3 months) and found that once I wanted to change back up to the big ring I wasn’t able. This is due to my arm disability and the grip-shift which is very stiff. In the past I was able to use my right hand to change the gear with a bit of contortion but I couldn’t manage it this time for ages. Eventually I managed it but had been freewheeling down the street unable to pedal fast enough and with Millie’s lid half open so I could get my good hand onto the left side. I didn’t enjoy it at all. Etienne at EMvelomobiel.be has a trigger shifter in stock for me and one hope was for me to visit him tomorrow to get it changed. This absolutely confirmed that I couldn’t do the mountainous riding tomorrow though – if I can’t change into the granny ring then there’s no hope.

I had just got the chain back onto the big ring when I realised I had taken a slightly wrong turn and we were now going up another hill to a bridge over the canal, which was wrong! I was painfully slow up this hill and wanted to try to divert off this wrong route but there was no chance. Klaus who was right behind me got a close pass from a lady, who then proceeded to cut right in front of me, making me call out in fright.

Klaus overtook and we turned around in a side road, going back down into the town and back onto Roef’s route. This took us down some back roads and then we found ourself at some roadworks and there was no way through. We had to turn round again and clearly the best route was over the bridge over the canal and down the other side. So it was up the hill to the bridge again.

Once we got over the bridge and onto a side road I had to stop. I was completely exhausted. Having ridden the first steep hill, then had the stress with the gear change, then the hill to the bridge, then the close pass, then more fiddly routing, then turning round because of roadworks and over the bridge again, all within ten minutes, my energy had just disappeared. I have limited energy reserves for hills and need to have a chance to build them back up again, but this had all been too much.

I ate a biscuit (I wondered if not having lunch was a factor in my tiredness) and after a few minutes carried on, but I had no power at all. I was managing to ride at about 14 km/h.

After a few kilometres we reached Elsloo and I spotted a reasonable looking cafe. I felt it best to stop to try to give myself a rest so that I could manage the final 15km to Maastricht. I was completely pooped.

They had a decent cake – this would be called Stachelbeer Baiser in Germany.

We stopped for about half an hour and had a cuppa as well as the cake. We started talking again about fitting an electric motor to Millie to help me with this sort of situation (hills and acceleration from stationary).

When we set off again we had instant appalling road surface – really rough cobbles on a fast downhill with a sharp turn at the bottom. My teeth were nearly rattled out of their sockets!

We pootled on, on mainly quiet roads but with a few complicated road crossings. At one point I was overtaken by a guy on a loaded touring bike; clearly I was not riding at my best!

It was not completely flat where we were riding, there were a few very gentle inclines. In the background of this shot you can see a few of the hills around Maastricht.

Klaus will, on his ride tomorrow, have a fair bit of climbing and descending.

Because of my tiredness I also made the decision not to go to emvelomobiel.be tomorrow as I felt the 60km round trip, returning late in the evening (he only opens at 18:00) would not be a good idea. Fortunately the B&B that we will be staying at tomorrow is happy for me to arrive very early.

For today’s accommodation we had found a Vrienden op de Fiets in Heer near Maastricht. There was a good parking area for the bikes and the hosts’ daughter’s dog was very interested in them!

We had a room in the attic with a view over the Maastricht skyline. The blurb from Vrienden op de Fiets said we have a separate bathroom but this was not the case; however, they had a second room and a guest came at 9:30pm and her room did have a bathroom and also a mini kitchen. I am not sure why we were relegated to the lesser room!

We had a short walk down the road to a pizzeria – which was my first proper food since breakfast. I guess my tiredness is a mixture of food choices today, overall food (too many carbs, Klaus and I feel much better on low carb), the cumulative effect of drempels and cycle lanes and bumpy roads and perhaps just a bad day. I feel very tired which I don’t usually on a longer tour, I usually get fitter and fitter. We will see what tomorrow is like, but my actual route is only about 20km so I should have plenty of time to recover!

Tomorrow Klaus will brave the mountains around Maastricht. I hope that he will take some photos that I can include in the blog tomorrow. Watch this space!

3 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 12: Tilburg to Weert

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Here is our planned track for the day:

Today was planned as another shorter day at 80km.

After a good breakfast with John and Marieke we headed off at just past 9am.

Today was another day of mixed road surfaces. We had some fast roads but also lots of bumpy cycle paths.

There was one very long segment on a decent quiet road where a new cycle path beside the road was being constructed. This seemed to be a lot of work for a path where it wasn’t really required, in our opinion, although this road did have some kind of nature centre on it so perhaps they were hoping to attract younger children on bikes. Anyway, the area being constructed was at least 5km long.

And then suddenly an older cycle path appeared – which was wonky bricks and bumpy.

The problem with these bricks is that if you ride at a fast enough speed it changes from bumpy to buzzy but it is not comfortable for long. The velomobiles rattle and shudder and the Quattrovelo does lots of ghost shifting (changes gear). It needs more energy to ride on bumpy roads. On smooth asphalt today we were riding at 30-32km/h, on these bricks at 22km/h. That adds a lot of time to the journey!

And in this next picture you see the three road surfaces as we are waiting for the lifting bridge. I am on the bricks, then there are proper cobbles, then on the main road there are bricks in a different pattern (diagonal). All very irritating!

We were heading towards Belgium and would in fact have a few kilometres over the border as part of our ride. I noticed a familiar name on this road side – Kempen wood!

We had checked out the route before we left and decided to stop at 30km at Hapert as it looked large enough for us to find a bakery. After some minor explorations in the town centre we returned to a bakery Klaus had spotted on the main road going into the town and had some cakes which were actually pretty decent!

We were basically riding a large semicircle around Eindhoven and had very lovely views for most of the day, especially as the sun came out. In fact it ended up pretty warm by mid-afternoon, around 28 degrees, but when riding fast on decent road surfaces we had a good cooling breeze.

You can see below that we weren’t always on the brick road surface but this light-coloured surface was often fairly rough too. The suspension of the bikes smooths out most of the bumps but you do get a bit more noise in the velomobiles.

We crossed into Belgium at Saint Benedictus Abbey and rode along very pretty roads through woodland with lots of walking paths signposted either side. I don’t have any Belgium maps on my Garmin so took a wrong turn in Hamont but Klaus hooted Humphrey’s horn so I realised my mistake.

We had planned our lunch stop in Budel which was 65km into the ride so with only 15 to go. It was the only really decent sized town on the second half our of route. We found a pedestrianised centre area with several restaurants and sat down in the shade of a large umbrella outside one of them. It was hot!

I had another “Twelve O’clock” which this time had a mini jar of tomato soup too!

I had messaged the B&B to say that we were ahead of schedule and rather than being with them at 4pm might be an hour earlier. I got a message back to say that she wouldn’t be in until four, so we stayed a bit longer in Budel and had a cake each while we waited!

We set off at ten past three which gave us loads of time to get to Weert. Which was good as we had mostly rough road surfaces for this last sector. But we did see some interesting things – who knew Kempen had an airport?

The run into Weert was OK although there were a lot of other cyclists going very slowly which upsets the Velomobile cycling rhythm.

We arrived at our B&B which is really lovely (it has a rating of 9.8 on Booking.com). There was a large garage area for the velomobiles and the landlady proudly showed us the electric garage door. She closed it and it became clear – too late! – that the concrete markings on the floor for the garage did not correspond to where the door actually descended. The door landed on Millie’s rear end.

We shouted at the lady to stop the garage closing but she fumbled it a bit. In the end it was only the rear brake light which was knocked off; this is glued on so I guess it isn’t a major issue and we will fix it with gaffer tape for the time being. But this was a slightly inauspicious start.

However, the B&B is absolutely lovely! It’s very cosy with lovely decoration and furniture. There were some little slices of cake to welcome us.

Of course our stuff is everywhere making it look messy but it is very quaint and we feel comfortable.

We ate dinner at a Greek restaurant and then enjoyed a very nice ice cream on the way back; the queue out of the ice cream parlour was really long so we knew it would be good!

Klaus and I would be very interested to know what my Dutch readers think of the Netherlands cycle paths if they have velomobiles. Do you find them good? Would you rather ride on the road? Do you feel safe on the cycle paths? Would you normally prefer to use an upright bike rather than Velomobile for shorter journeys? Comments on this blog post would be gratefully received!

Tomorrow we have a mere 71km to Maastricht and cannot arrive at our Vrienden op de Fiets place until 17:00 so I expect us to have a more relaxed start and perhaps longer at cafes along the way!

8 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 11: Roosendaal to Tilburg

Tuesday 19 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

After a hearty breakfast we packed up all our belongings. Unfortunately the clothes we had washed yesterday afternoon hadn’t dried and overall our clothing is getting a bit whiffy. This isn’t the end of the world but it is one of the discomforts of cycle touring (I like clean clothes!)

Today we were heading to Tilburg to stay at the home of one of Klaus’s colleagues, John. As Tilburg isn’t that far away from Roosendaal we decided to go via Baarle Nassau/Baarle Hertog. More later. This made the journey 80km.

We fetched our bikes from the bicycle parking place – what a brilliant idea, I hope to see more of these in future! Then under heavy skies which threatened rain we set off again.

The way out of Roosendaal was a bit easier than our way in, but it was still a bit fiddly with various road crossings, drempels and rough surfaces. This turned out to be the theme for today which made the ride today rather harder than expected.

We rode south east towards Schijf and then back northwards again towards Breda. We had a mixture of road surfaces but our progress was reasonable. There wasn’t much wind and it was mostly behind us.

We had decided we would stop in Breda for a cuppa but weren’t exactly sure where to go as our Garmins had us just bypassing it. In the end we had a bit of a fiddly ride to try to cross a main road (eventually we found a bridge, having taken a wrong road that led us only to a hospital with no way into the town). We weren’t actually in the centre of Breda but inn Princenhage, but they had a chocolate milk drink for Klaus and I had a tea of course.

It was a bit warmer today so nice to sit outside and watch people walk past.

It was a more sticky day, so not particularly hot but I found it a bit sweaty riding. Yesterday I had worn some arm warmers to keep my arms away from the side of thee Velomobile (I keep getting a sweat rash, but the arm warmers didn’t help that much). Today I just had a buff over my right arm which worked better to reduce the irritation (no Lycra, I think I am slightly sensitive to it when mixed with sweat) but only one buff so the left arm was bare. But it seemed to be OK overall.

After Breda we headed south towards the Belgian border. At Strijbeek we were probably only a couple of hundred metres away. We had some good country lanes but also lots of slow and difficult riding through towns and villages. Brick paving, drempels, awkward cycle paths… But the countryside bits were very nice.

The landscape has changed again, there are more trees – and also some more warnings for the Oak Processionary caterpillar so Klaus was riding with his arms inside the Velomobile when we saw these. Fortunately our itches have mostly healed up, although Klaus is now suffering from sunburnt/windburnt lips.

A view across to Belgium:

We found ourselves on cycle paths which were much less well maintained than others on this trip. There were lot of tree roots which pushed up the asphalt and made it very bumpy and rattly. As well as this there were long stretches of wide tiles/stones which tend to end up undulating a bit so we were bumping in and out of dips in the road. Millie scrapes regularly in this situation and the sound is a bit unnerving. And of course there were more drempels, big ones that meant I scraped on the way up and on the way down again.

We ended up on a very long road from Chaam down to Baarle and this was a narrow-ish cycle path. It was better than the road beside it though; that was brick paving. Except after a while it wasn’t, it turned into sand. I began to worry that our nice smooth asphalt might turn into sand too, then we would have a long ride back again. Fortunately the asphalt continued right to the end at our planned lunch stop in Baarle Nassau in the Netherlands. Or was it Baarle Hertog in Belgium?

Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau is a very interesting part of the world as there are enclaves of Belgium within the Netherlands, and within these Belgian enclaves a few Netherlands exclaves. The picture below shows it – H is a Belgian enclave, N a Dutch one.

You can read about this in Wiki: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Hertog and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Nassau.

When we arrived we had to stop our bikes on the border. This was just outside the pancake cafe where we stopped for some lunch. As you can see, Millie’s nose is in Belgium in the town of Baarle-Hertog and her tail is in NL in Baarle-Nassau.

A sign on the pavement explains it in Dutch.

And here is a screenshot of Google Maps where we were sitting for lunch. In NL, but Belgium was about 20 metres south.

This is a tourist town because of these weird borders. THere are restaurants with some tables in NL and some in Belgium and the licensing rules used to be different so diners would move to another table if they wanted to stay later. There is also a house whose front door is smack bang on the border so the house has two numbers, one in Baarle-Nassau and one in Baarle-Hertog. I wonder how you decide which country you live in if your house straddles the border – presumably the one with the lower taxes!

Here you see a line of bricks zigzagging across the road; this is the border, with Belgium on the right. The person sitting at a table with a bike propped up beside them is in NL but the bike is actually in Belgium.

It was time for lunch so I had some soup and then followed it with one of my favourite bike touring treats – poffertjes!

We had noticed the menu also offered ‘Banoffee’ so ordered that and it turned out to be a Banoffee ice cream with popcorn.

It’s a fascinating town but what spoilt our time there was the large volume of traffic passing through the whole time. Huge HGVs were turning the sharp corner to take a different road right in the middle of the town where people were sitting outside eating lunch. There were also lots of cars. It’s noisy, spoils the air quality and makes it less relaxing. It’s a real shame they couldn’t pedestrianise it.

The route between Baarle and Tilburg is a former railway line that is now a cycle path. We had great hopes for this as our day had been difficult with some tiring riding. But we were actually a bit disappointed.

The cycle path diversion as they were building a new bridge wasn’t too bad – the gap was wide enough for Humphrey and Millie:

But the path quality was not great. It was very rough asphalt, not particularly wide and at every crossing of a road the cycle path had to give way. This seems very inefficient as there was lots more bike traffic than car traffic.

After the railway had closed a few businesses had built across the old route so there were a couple of diversions. These tended to follow the “add a 90 degree bend into the cycle path just before a crossing of a major road on a slight incline with a wide hedge beside it”. In other words, those of us in velomobiles with closed wheel boxes have to do a 6 point turn to get around the corner, at which point we can’t see if any traffic is coming and can only start very slowly as it’s uphill. Fun.

After 17 kilometres we arrived in the outskirts of Tilburg. At first this route was OK but as we got closer to the centre we had to do more stopping and starting again. This is tiring for me as Millie takes a bit of effort to get going. I was feeling tired despite the relatively short distance. The road surfaces today had doubled the effort required for this ride!

We went right to the centre of Tilburg on a cycle route and then moved past and to the north east where Klaus’s colleague John lived. The final 5km were a reasonable speed at last, and we arrived at our host’s house at 4:30pm. John and his wife Marieke welcomed us, gave us tea and let us shower and, most wonderful of all, washed ALL our cycle clothing! I was so relieved about this as I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable in it; my clothes were smelly and were irritating my skin a bit. Hurrah for a washing machine!

After we were showered and freshened up we had a lovely dinner that John cooked for us, an indonesian stir fry. Really tasty!

And then it was time for them to try Humphrey and Millie!

Marieke is a little short for the velomobiles and could only just see out.

John was a better height although his legs were slightly shorter than mine.

In conclusion, Marieke preferred Humphrey and they both though that he seemed more solid and comfortable. The extra 9kg are put to good use!

So it was really nice to have a cosy evening with chums. Tomorrow we ride to Weert which is just really a staging post on our way to Maastricht, but the B&B where we will stay has a 9.8 rating on Booking.com so that should be interesting!

And this is where we have ridden so far on our tour…

We only have a few more days of touring. We are really enjoying ourselves and are already discussing where we should go next year!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 10: Burgh Haamstede to Roosendaal

Monday 18 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

A short report for today as it’s my birthday and I want to enjoy a relaxing evening with Klaus!

We left our brilliant B&B at 9am and headed off in a light drizzle towards Burgh Haamstede itself and then further south towards Middelburg.

We had some more impressive dams/sluices/bridges for the day.

This one looked very complicated!

The only obvious place to stop in the first 50km was Middelburg, which at 30km was quite early but I needed the loo! We found a cafe where we just had drinks as it was too early for cake. Middelburg seemed very lovely, I saw this impressive row of buildings on the way out.

The rain had stopped and we were now on really fast bike paths so were zooming along at 30 km/h for long stretches.

We crossed more canals.

Saw more impressive bridges

And then decided to stop in Kruiningen for lunch and found a bakery/ice cream cafe/post office that was open.

They had sausage rolls!

I also had a cake as it was my birthday but once again it was a bit of a disappointment.

We carried on, keeping up a good speed and our average was creeping up too. Although today was a longer distance at 118km, which would normally be 6 hours at our NL speed, we realised we would arrive at the hotel a bit earlier than originally expected.

More bridges.

And this, dead ahead, is Antwerp. We are on the edge of Belgium.

We went down one street where the Belgian border was on our right hand side. We rode at a good pace except for a few bad cycle routes and brick paving in towns. I liked this road name!

Our average was at 23.5 km/h as we arrived in the outskirts of Roosendaal, at which point Klaus and I lost each other as I had a navigation issue due to a missing cycle path. But we met again outside our hotel which, despite having slightly singular proprietors, seems very nice. Our bikes were stored in one of two special bike parking areas which have someone watching the bikes. This is free of charge, it is just provided by the city, and was in a building in the main pedestrian precinct. Excellent!

We went out for a celebratory birthday dinner at a local Greek restaurant which is apparently the second best in the Netherlands. I enjoyed the meal very much but was a bit amazed at one of the dessert options (and which Klaus chose), which was Banoffee Pie. This Eastbourne dish has really travelled through Europe!

I had a Baklava as I love them!

Anyway, we had a good day although I’m feeling a bit tired now. Tomorrow we visit some Dutch/Belgian Enclaves and Exclaves and then will stay with a colleague of Klaus’s in Tilburg for the night. A shorter day but with plenty of interesting things to see. We are now heading eastwards with the wind either behind us or to our quarter, so the riding is easier and this is a sign that the tour is drawing to an end.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 9: Den Haag to Burgh Haamstede

Sunday 17 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

However, Alex had sent us an updated route a few days before that he thought might suit us better. Through the marvels of technology we were able to get this new route onto our Garmins.

We had an early start today so had the bikes out onto the street by 8am. We waved goodbye to our lovely Vrienden op de Fiets hosts and headed off from Den Haag towards the sea.

I used to ride my trike up from Hoek van Holland to Den Haag to catch a train so this was theoretically a familiar route but it looks different the other way round. The last time I rode it in this direction was during a mega wind which meant I was completely sandblasted, as was chum Vince.

The route out of Den Haag was relatively easy and included a rather nice track through some woodland.

We were soon in the dunes again within sight of the sea.

We then rode roughly south along the edge of the sea towards Hook of Holland, a place I have spent many hours in my time! It was a reasonable track so our speeds were fine, although there were some fairly nasty drempels too. But Millie is used to them.

As we arrived in Hoek van Holland we saw how close the Netherlands is to England!

I don’t think I’ve cycled in Hoek van Holland since they redid the main access road with a very good cycle path. It made it very easy to find our way towards the ferry.

And then we turned onto the cycle path that goes alongside the railway towards Rotterdam. Here is one of the lighthouses on the left and the two large Stena ferries on the right.

A closer view of the boat I have travelled on so many times – but never in a Velomobile.

From the Hook of Holland we now followed the Maas river inland. This was also following the old railway line which is now closed (which is a pain for people coming on the ferry as foot or bicycle passengers).

We passed the massive flood barrier:

Alex later explained that this was closed once last year, but if they close it for too long then Dordrecht floods.

The cycle path was pretty good here so we were making progress, although we had the obligatory bricks section where I slowed down a lot.

Our track crosses the river at Maassluis but we had arranged to meet Alex there so I went in search of a cafe for some cake. There was only one open that we found, and I had in fact breakfasted there before many years ago. Alex explained later that this area is very strongly Calvinist so no Sunday trading, even for food emporia.

Maassluis is very pretty, rather like Delft but with fewer tourists, particularly Sunday morning at 9:30am!


(Picture by Klaus)

We stopped at Monsieur Paul and had a cuppa and one of his special cakes which was very tasty!

Alex had arrived at the ferry crossing so made his way across to the centre of town where we were. We had another round of tea/coffee, enjoying the relaxing timetable of an early start and a shorter distance to ride.

We set off again in due course, straight to the ferry crossing.

As you can see from the photo above, the clouds were looking a bit threatening. There was a chance of rain on the weather forecast but we hoped to miss it, which in fact we did over the whole day. Result!

Once on the other side of the Maas in Rozenburg we had a bit of fiddling about to get out of the industrial area and over three more canals.

Eventually we found ourselves on the track variation that Alex had recommended which was a perfectly straight long run along a canal to Hellevoetsluis. This was great fun and fast, although of course we had a headwind the whole time. It seems in our circumnavigation of the Netherlands the headwind is following us round!

The ‘island’ we were on is connected to the next ‘island’ by a dam but just before that there is a restaurant called Quack-something-or-other. We decided to stop there for lunch and then Alex would head back to Rotterdam.

Whilst Alex and I faffed positioning the velomobiles for some photos, Klaus had a bit of a snooze.

Here’s Humphrey looking shiny. This is his good side, the other side has developed several scratches over the course of this tour. But that’s life.

Millie’s paintwork is more forgiving of scratches, dust, bird poo and dead insects.

We enjoyed our lunch and tea/coffee and then waved goodbye to Alex and the Little White Whale (now named Lewwie) and headed across the dam. Into a very stiff headwind. Those windmills were going round very fast!

We were riding along another very long dam.

And then had an unexpected off-road section, but it was a decent surface for the velomobiles so we kept on without much delay.

We were soon back on smooth asphalt, hurrah!

We passed Center Paris Port Zelande and then crossed over the main road the N57. It seemed the world and his wife were out kite surfing on this side of the dam!

There was a fantastic bike path up high on the dike but then suddenly it was blocked off and we had to go down a steep slope to reach a road at the bottom. We then found ourselves riding away from the main road down some lanes, knowing we had just 5km to go but not seeing any signs for Burgh Haamstede. We arrived at what turned out to be a really lovely and new B&B.

The velomobiles were put into a huge locked barn.

We have two double beds in our room (one is in a cupboard!):

a separate lounge and kitchen area:

We seemed to be the only guests. The hostess is really friendly and suggested where we eat tonight in Burgh Haamstede, as well as offering to drive us there. We had a lovely meal and then walked back, although the hostess came to collect us as she thought it was a bit cold (it wasn’t). We definitely recommend B&B Bouwmanshoeve, the lady host could not be more helpful!

Tomorrow we have a longer day again at 118km to Roosendaal but from the map it looks like the roads should be reasonably fast. We shall see! Tomorrow I am also celebrating my birthday.

1 Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 8: Rest Day in Den Haag

Saturday 16 June 2018

This was our first and only rest day on the tour. We probably didn’t actually need it as we were well into the rhythm of cycling and life is simple when you are on a bike tour – eat, sleep, ride – but we had planned to stop here and it would give us the chance to visit Delft. I had spent a night there on my Berlin to London trike tour many years ago and fancied a more leisurely look at the town, home of Vermeer (he of Girl with a Pearl Earring fame).

Our hosts told us how to get there and also explained the slightly complicated OV-Chipkaart system. It’s like a slightly more complicated London Oyster card. Our hosts had one card we could use (just paying for the trip we made) and Annet our hostess popped to the local supermarket and got us a second one so we could both travel. Very helpful!

We had a leisurely morning but set off at about half past ten, walking to the tram stop and then taking a tram to Den Haag Hollandse Spoor station and from there to Delft.

Once we arrived in Delft it was definitely cake time so we sat beside one of the many canals and enjoyed some Dutch cake. I had a Delftse Bol which was like a giant profiterole with a. Bit of confectioners’ custard in. We also drank tea and coffee of course.

After refuelling it was time for a wander around Delft which is a really pretty town, although heaving with tourists and with endless stalls with bric a brac and junk, and of course lots of Delftware painted ceramics.

It must be interesting to have your front door opening into a canal.

And with some baby coots living underneath your front doorstep.

We walked around a fair bit seeing the sights. It’s beautiful but also sad to see in almost every bit of canal we looked at there was a plastic bag floating. There were lots of cigarette butts around too – we watched a guy on a tour boat just chuck his lit cigarette into the water; five minutes before a coot had been feeding her three young from fishing at the bottom of the canal.

As it was lunchtime we stopped for some soup. This is mustard soup which seems to be a thing in NL as it has been the Soup of the Day twice so far. It was nice!

Whilst we were eating our lunch we had a message from Alex to say that the new battery charger for our velomobiles had arrived at his house and he would meet us in Delft. So we whiled away the time drinking tea and watching the birds on the water and the passers-by on their varied bikes.

Alex arrived and gave us our very special gift!

And here it is, once we got home, doing the right thing (orange light!)

Alex headed home fairly soon after. He had arrived on a hire bike via the train from Rotterdam. He explained the system to us, and that the bikes with blue front wheels were also hire bikes mostly used by students. He also explained to me why I had seen several rucksacks hanging from flagpoles outside houses – this signifies that someone has graduated from high school.

The school holidays have already started in NL so that’s almost a month earlier than in the UK, but they get longer holidays – I think he said twelve weeks.

Klaus and I got the two trams back and then stopped off at the supermarket to get some chocolate (important!) and cake (also important!)

Our hosts have to go out early tomorrow morning so we would have to leave before 8:30am so got everything ready. The bike trackers were charged up, I attempted to dry the rain cover for Millie (that I put away wet when we left Egmond) and we relaxed some more. I watched a BBC summary of the World Cup so far.

We walked to a very nice Italian restaurant for dinner and Klaus treated himself to some red wine.

On the way back we passed a mini filling station just in the street!

Tomorrow Alex will ride some of the way with us and will meet us in Maassluis. He had sent us a slightly revised route for the day which avoids an appalling Drempel and also improves a few routes. Tomorrow is a shorter day again so we can ride in a more leisurely style as it’s less of a rush and we are staying in a hotel. We have a longer ferry journey across the Maas to enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 7: Egmond to Den Haag

Friday 15 June 2018

Spotted by a friend this morning, our tour is mentioned on Ligfiets.net:

This was our planned route for the day:

We slept well and had a bit more of a lie in as breakfast didn’t start until 8:30. Although there were some odd things about the hotel, the breakfast was very good. We set off about quarter past nine.

Our Vrienden op de Fiets host for Den Haag said she had to go out at 16:30 so asked if we could arrive by then. this should of course be easy, it was only 87km.

However, the start of the ride was quite hard going. Getting out of Egmond was OK as we rode alongside a main road and then beside the N512 which headed towards Castricum. It was when we turned off at Castricum that the fun started – more brick paved road surfaces.

Riding among the dunes is very pretty and peaceful but we had a very long stretch on this surface. At the beginning of the ride I felt that something was wrong with my front right wheel; there was a small amount of play in it so I wondered if it was the bearing, but it was only really noticeable under braking load when it juddered. We stopped and had another look after 15km and realised the other wheel had the same level of play in it, so it probably wasn’t a bearings issue. We checked the steering arms etc and everything was tight. But it had improved with use so I think it was probably that the bike got wet and I kept the brake on overnight. Maybe it slightly seized/rusted.

Halfway along our first sand dune stretch we stopped to climb up for a panorama view.

Lots of green as far as the eye could see.

And two little velomobiles waiting patiently for us.

Here is Mr Grumpy enjoying the fresh air.

We carried on and it was more bumpy path. I can’t maintain a high speed on this sort of surface, I am lucky to be able to get up to 20 km/h.

We saw lots of birds, dragonflies etc but also some rather lovely cattle with impressive horns. They don’t seem to know the Green Cross Code so we had to verbally encourage them to get out of the way.

After Wijk aan Zee we were back on a decent road surface but now had the alternative issue of the cycle path changing sides and us not always knowing where to go. We rode around Beverwijk and then headed to Velsen-Noord. It was at this point that I took a wrong turn and realised after 10 metres and stopped. The road was too narrow to do a 3-point (or 12-point) turn so I was about to get out but Klaus said I should stay sitting as he would turn me round. We have done this before – he lifts the back of the VM and can turn me round 180 degrees.

Only this time… PING!!!

A familiar noise – I had heard it a couple of months ago. The sound of a spoke breaking. And indeed it was a broken spoke in my right front wheel now (previously it has been the left front wheel). Oh well, I rode the last tour with a broken spoke, it’s no major issue except… our penultimate day is planned to be mega hilly. I have to seriously consider whether I should ride this because of the load on the brakes for the downhills. I was a bit dubious about doing it anyway. We will see how things go, and undoubtedly when we get back to Kempen we will twist Jochen’s arm to change yet another spoke for me!

We were on the right path again which led us to a ferry crossing over the Binnentoeleidingskanaal that goes from Amsterdam to the sea. This ferry was free of charge, and unlike the ferries near we we live there weren’t steep ramps either side. It was virtually a level entrance and exit.

Another minor navigation error by Klaus after we left the ferry meant that we had a short tour of the parking area of a large college. It’s hard from the low down position of the Velomobile to see where the cycle paths go; we regularly have to trailblaze a new route, which almost always involves too-sharp corners for the Milan followed by multiple Drempels (sleeping policemen) where the Milan scrapes with a very expressive noise. I’ve lost count of the amount of time I have heard this noise on the tour.

Back on track again we were wending our way around Driehuis which involved bumpy cycle paths, drempels, awkward corners etc. This ride was hard work!

We passed Santpoort-Zuid and then found ourselves in Bloemendaal; we had visited here a couple of weeks ago by car with the dog. We were able to ride faster in Bloemendaal as the cycle paths were much better quality and there was quite a lot on the road anyway.

After Bloemendaal we arrived at Overveen where our route turned back towards the sea and the dunes.

I had been calculating our likely arrival time in Den Haag and it wasn’t looking good. Although 87km should not be too difficult, I calculated that it had taken us two and a half hours to cycle just 35km. Our average speed was around 19 km/h, it was all the stops and starts that were taking time. If we continued at this rate we couldn’t afford to stop for lunch.

At Overveen we had the choice to just follow the main road to Den Haag. Probably very unattractive but a bit less time-critical. We thought about it and decided to go for the dunes route. Both Gabi and Alex had told us it was OK and this was part of the route that I had really been looking forward to.

Decision made, suddenly the cycle path quality was really good and we zoomed along. Here is an impressive crossing for wildlife… I am on the cycle path, the road is on the right. We could cruise this path at 35 and started making up some time.

We reached Bloemendaal aan Zee and then zoomed along on a really decent cycle path/busway towards Zaandvoort. We were feeling much more relaxed about our schedule now, it seemed like we might manage it after all! Our average speed crept up to 22km/h.

At Zandvoort it was time to ride back into the dunes again. If this would be bricks again it would be a real effort for me. Fortunately it was instead a very decent surface, but they decided to put a little barrier in just to inconvenience us some more!

This was the view straight past the Draengelgitter… a cattle grid and then the open dunes.

So off we went, very quickly getting to a decent speed. At one point we overtook two lady roadies – on a slight incline! I was very proud of myself but had too keep ahead of them which involved a bit more effort than I usually make when touring.

Klaus was enjoying the speed, and we both liked the cooling of the air as we had been riding slow for so long and the day was warm. It was rolling dunes so the chance to build up some speed on the downhill and hope it was enough forward momentum to get to the top of the next climb.

This was a very long sector, I think over 20km, and although not too busy we were passing everyone going the same way as us and sometimes having to reduce to crawling speed when there was too much traffic coming the other way for us to overtake.

Then suddenly as we were rounding the Noordwijk Golf Club the road surface changed to packed gravel. But this was actually OK and we were able to maintain speed.

We arrived in Noordwijk aan Zee with just 25km to go to Den Haag and it wasn’t even 13:30. We had time for refreshment and picked an ice cream place.

I checked my phone and saw a message from Alex who was riding today and was just north of Noordwijk. He wondered where we were – I suggested he came for an ice cream, so after about 15 minutes he turned up in the Little While Whale (Quest XS). With our second round of drinks we got mini ice creams too!

Alex lives in Rotterdam but said he would ride back to Den Haag with us, so off we went, a group of three velomobiles, into the dunes again.

In checking the map to write this blog I notice we crossed the Rijn (Rhein) just before Katwijk aan Zee. I didn’t notice this at the time.

The road surface was mostly good and we rolled well, although Klaus had a bad attack of cramp in his foot which meant he couldn’t pedal hard for a little while. He soon caught up though.

And then we were back on brick paving AGAIN. Klaus and Alex were off ahead and I was struggling along on the bricks. This time they really slowed me down. I guess I was a bit undernourished too! I stopped to text our Vrienden op de Fiets host to say we were 10km away.

When we got to Scheveningen Alex went on his separate way home and Klaus and I had our first experience of riding a Velomobile in the city of Den Haag. Not too bad really, except for some roots that had lifted up sections of the cycle path. But we were able to make reasonable progress following the purple line on our Garmins.

And then we arrived!

Our host and her husband had cleared a section in their garage so we could fit the bikes.

First we got all our luggage out. Klaus is carrying everything except the black Velomobile bag on the left. He variously calls himself the Pack Mule or Sherpa. I think he is my hero for carrying my red bag with my 3 changes of cycle clothing (luxury!) And my stock of teabags.

The bikes fitted fine in the fantastic garage. It had everything in it!

We were given a lovely room on the top floor with a view out onto the road. Also a very useful place to hang our washing!

We had a kettle and fridge in our room but no milk so I popped round the corner to the supermarket to get some Kaffeesahne milk thingies. While I was there I bought some fruit and yoghurt for our dessert and then went across the road to the Indian takeaway and got a reasonable but expensive Saag (spinach) lamb curry with naan bread for us to share.

I had also bought a cake in the supermarket as we hadn’t had one all day. In fact, our only food on the ride was the ice creams.

Total distance ridden today was 86.9km at a final average of 20.9km/h. My average heart rate was higher at 130 which doesn’t surprise me as there were some tricky roads and lots of accelerations which really don’t suit my low power style of riding.

It looks like we are in a great place for the next two days as we have a rest day tomorrow. We will probably visit Delft by train (we will let the velomobiles have a day off!) and then on Sunday we will head south to Middelburg and Alex will probably accompany us on some of that route. We expect to see him tomorrow when the charger for the Velomobile lights hopefully arrives at his house – he will then deliver it to us and we will have electrics again! I rode today without brake light or indicators and although it is manageable I will be happy to have them available again.

3 Comments

Filed under Cycle Tours, Netherlands Tour 2018