28th December 2019 was Klaus and my fourth Oliebollentocht, a post-Christmas cycle ride for Velomobiles in the Netherlands that ends with Oliebollen (a kind of doughnut).
This year the event was taking place in Utrecht and over 160 velomobiles had registered.
We were lucky that chum Ralf had agreed to take us up there with our velomobiles in his trailer. So we set off from Kempen at a quarter to 7 in the morning, driving the two hours to Utrecht to the car park near the start.
We got our bikes ready and then cycled to the café where we could have hot drinks and biscuits and warm up a bit – it was just two degrees outside.
The official start was at 11am and so more and more people gradually arrived, many familiar faces from previous Oliebollentochts.
And of course, loads of velomobiles!
The plan was for us to cycle right through Utrecht so they had decided we had to go in groups of 10, rather than one whole long line, as otherwise we would cause all traffic in Utrecht to grind to a halt. So we each chose a number (Klaus, Ralf and I were number 4) and were to go in a group led by a velomobile with that number on. We started to get in line to head off, you can see me in the middle of the picture here with Klaus behind me and then Ralf.
The guy in front of me in the yellow Quest was not part of group 4 (although to his left, our chum Rolf, was) so I had to weave my way past him to get on the back of the rest of group 4 who were ahead up the road. And, as it happened, very quickly out of sight. Fortunately I had the track on my Garmin but this reminded me of the Rotterdam Oliebollentocht where if you didn’t have the route you ended up lost. I was a bit annoyed but after about 5km we were all together again and from that point on they were definitely waiting for us to keep the group together. It was not that we were slower, just that the back half of the group tended not to be able to make it across traffic lights in one phase.
Here was our track for the day’s ride. We rode clockwise.
Before arriving in Utrecht we rode over the Daphne Schippersbrug. This was a wonderful piece of bicycle infrastructure and there were several people filming or photographing us as we went over.
Here is the first video I have seen from the Dafne Schippersbrug:
And we also saw a drone filming us as we went over, and here is the result (although we aren’t in this footage):
The route through Utrecht was much better than we have experienced when riding through other Dutch cities in the past. And it was fascinating to be routed through the largest cycle parking facility in the world, a huge underground garage with thousands upon thousands of bikes parked.
In the photo below by De Fiestende Fotograaf, Bas de Meijer, you can see to the right of the picture lots of columns. These are separating the individual bike parking areas.
And here is an image of the individual parking areas (although no spaces for velomobiles!)
We rolled our way through, marvelling at the numbers of bikes. It was all very impressive!
Just a few minutes later we arrived at the Dom (cathedral) where we were stopping for some photos.
We all stood around and chatted, and lots of passers-by were talking to us too. I was also interviewed by a lady from a local newspaper who wanted to talk to women riders of the velomobiles (there were probably only 8-10 of us amongst the 160 riders).
The newspaper article is here: https://www.ad.nl/utrecht/150-banaanfietsen-uit-heel-europa-reden-vandaag-door-utrecht~aed5a1f1/?fbclid=IwAR0m34o0n9BdO8AzNuSMXpWKZ8hA2wXLvD5pgdpxSNQuV7T2vx5zbPcpvnY&referrer=https://www.facebook.com/ and the relevant section is as follows:
Het merendeel van de ‘velomobielers’ dat zich op zaterdagmiddag op het Domplein verzamelt, is man. De Britse Helen Hancox (48) lijkt een uitzondering op de rest van de groep. ,,Er komen steeds meer vrouwen bij, maar een beetje een mannending is het wel”, zegt Hancox. Vol trots toont ze haar witte velomobiel, met daarop een felgekleurde, Britse vlag. Is zo’n klein voertuigje niet hartstikke krap? ,,No way, het is juist hartstikke comfortabel! Ik vind het een heerlijke hobby, je hoeft er ook niet ontzettend fit voor te zijn, of zo. Als je er nog maar in en uit komt”, zegt de Britse lachend. Ze heeft zin in het rondje Utrecht: vanavond gaat ze weer terug naar haar woonplaats in Duitsland. ,,Gewoon met de auto hoor – dat wel.”
And Google Translate offers the following:
The majority of the “velomobile riders” who gather on the Domplein on Saturday afternoon are men. The British Helen Hancox (48) seems to be an exception to the rest of the group. “There are more and more women, but it is a bit of a man thing,” says Hancox. She proudly shows her white velomobile, with a brightly coloured British flag on it. Isn’t such a small vehicle really tight? ,, No way, it’s just very comfortable! I think it’s a wonderful hobby, you don’t have to be incredibly fit for it, or something like that. If you can only get in and out of it,” the British woman says, laughing. She is looking forward to the tour of Utrecht: tonight she is going back to her home in Germany. “Just by car – that is.”
There was plenty for the spectators to see, including Jascha once again forgetting that his Quest isn’t actually a handbike!
Here am I giving Ralf a pat on the back with Klaus hiding in the background.
The cathedral had scaffolding on it but we noticed up above someone with a long lens. It seems that De Fietsende Fotograaf Bas de Meijer was doing very good work, as this photo from him was on Instagram. What a cracker!
If you would like to see more of Bas de Meijer’s excellent photos you can visit his website https://basdemeijer.nl/afdruk/oliebollentocht-2019/
Lots of the Dutch seemed to be eating their sandwiches whilst we were stopped. This seemed a bit surprising to me as we had lunch in about an hour, but their reasoning became clearer later!
We continued on in our small groups, working our way through Utrecht. This was still a pretty easy ride although there is still a lot of stop-start riding and some cobbled streets and tight corners. There were a few other Milans and one poor chap overshot at least twice and had to push himself backwards with his arms (no foot holes) which must have been inconvenient!
We started climbing a little (very gently!) and then found ourselves on a very open area called Soesterberg which turned out to be an airport with a disused runway. This was, of course, ideal velomobile territory!
Below is a wonderful photo taken by De Fietsende Fotograaf (which I have also used as the header of this blog post)
And here are two pictures of Klaus and me taken by chum Fritz.
You can see in these two photos that I am wrapped up warm. It was a very cold day and lots of us were suffering a bit from cold feet!
Klaus and I headed off early from the runway, wanting to get somewhere warm (the lunch spot). A few people followed us and we led a little troupe, eventually catching up with Hartmut, a fellow velomobile rider from Kempen. And then we arrived first at the lunch spot, so the Oliebollentocht 2019 in Utrecht was briefly led by three people from Kempen, Germany!
We arrived and parked, bagging a table early and starting on the coffee and cake.
This cake was reasonable but not a patch on the German ones.
We had also all ordered various lunch items. I had ordered a roast beef sandwich and a Pistolet Deluxe (I had no idea what that was), totalling about 7 EUR. Some others had ordered a “Lunchpack”.
My roast beef sandwich arrived, with my glasses to show the scale. It was VERY small with almost no roast beef in, on dry tasteless bread.
The Pistolet also arrived – a small roll, with a bit of egg and salad in. Very disappointing, after eating it in two bites I was still hungry. Now I know why the Dutch had their sandwiches at the Dom!
Klaus had the lunch pack which was a small squashed currant bun, an apple, snickers bar and a bottle of water. We definitely felt that the food was mega-overpriced. No complaint to the organisers as they can’t change the price, but a reminder again that we need to be more self-sufficient in NL with regard to food!
We didn’t feel the need to linger and decided to head back to the start as soon as we had finished eating. We were the first to leave the lunch place and saw the huge number of velomobiles parked in the car park, impressive!
We were parked in a section near the exit and got ready to leave.
The ride back was in more open areas without going through any major towns. It was nice as we rode together in a group, and gradually more people added to this group as faster people caught us up.
I noticed that I seemed to be having to work a bit harder with about 10km to go and sure enough Klaus reported that my front tyre was down. It was still rolling but I decided to stop to pump it up. Klaus helped, but I had issues again with the Presta valve. Have I explained enough yet how much I HATE presta valves and wish I could fit AV/Schraeder valves to this wheelset??? But sadly I have to use Presta as the holes are too small for Schraeder valves.
Klaus pumped the tyre up to about 60psi and then taking the head off the pump it let out loads of air, so he pumped it up again. I said we should stop before it had too high a pressure in case it leaked again, and so I set off again on a tyre that was still rather squashy. My plan was to ride back as fast as possible so that I hopefully only had to re-pump it a couple of times.
In the end I managed to get back without having to pump it up again, as although we had heard air escaping from the tyre it was clearly not too fast.
We got back to the van and trailer and dragged Ralf away from his pea soup to let us load up in the last of the daylight. Velomobiles safely stowed, we walked back to the café and had our pea soup and two Oliebollen.
We had a short chat with friends, including John Williams who had come over from England, and then it was time to head off. Klaus and I had paid for the evening meal but Ralf hadn’t and wanted to get home, and of course we wanted to go with him! Besides, the evening meal might have been a bit sparse for our taste. So we piled into the Sprinter and were home by 7:30pm.
Oliebollentocht is always a great experience as it is the only time that you really get so many velomobiles together. It is also a chance with us to catch up with friends – it was great to see Biggi and Fritz, Morten, Jupp, TimB, Roef, John Williams, Hajo, Theo and Allert from Velomobiel.nl, Ymte from Intercitybike, Jeroen, Ingo, Superbär and many others. The Velomobile world is small and we know a lot of people in it.
For anyone wondering about taking part next year, it will be in Roermond (just round the corner from us!) and should be another great experience. Put 28 December 2020 in your diaries now!