Each month the ADFC (German cycling organisation) hold a ride called the ‘Tour des Monats in Kreis Viersen’ which is a leisurely ride of around 35km. I did this ride two months ago (last month I was in England) and really enjoyed it.
This month’s ride also sounded rather interesting, although we ended up doing it the other way round from this description:
Durchs Grüne zur Borussia
Radroute des Monats Juli startet am Schwalmtal-Dom
Die Radroute des Monats Juli startet an der Katholischen Pfarrkirche St. Michael, Schulstraße 33 in Waldniel. Die Grundsteinlegung des Schwalmtal-Doms fand im Jahr 1878 statt. Die neugotische Kirche beherbergt einen 84 Meter hohen Glockenturm. Vom Ortskern Waldniel führt die Tour zunächst nach Südwesten. Auf der Niederrheinroute führt der Weg über Ungerath und die A52 hinweg.
Dort biegt die Tour rechts ab auf den Schwalmtaler Rundweg. Der Waldweg führt den Lousberg hinab in die Schwalm-Niederung. Entlang des Wasserlaufs führt die Niederrheinroute Nr. 89 die Radfahrer in die Ortschaft Lüttelforst. Erstmalig urkundlich erwähnt wurde die Siedlung im Jahr 1255. Die Radler passieren die Kirche St. Jakobus. Über den Schürensteg überqueren sie die Schwalm.
Die Radfahrer kommen in den Kreis Heinsberg und erreichen dort die Knotenpunkte 67 und 68 auf der Niederrheinroute Rickelrath. Der Ort trägt den Beinahmen “Angerdorf” – die Häuser und Gehöfte gruppierten sich einst um eine große, ellipsenförmige Wiese, den Anger. Der Weg führt in Mönchengladbach auf die Niederrheinroute entlang des “Joint Headquarters” (JHQ), das ehemalige Hauptquartier der britischen Streitkräfte in Rheindahlen. An der Straße Rickelrather Peel passieren die Radler eine Wegekapelle.
Die Radroute des Monats biegt rechts ab und folgt der Niederrheinroute entlang der Straße Genhodderheide. Die Radfahrer erreichen das Knippertzbachtal. An der Rochusstraße biegt die Strecke links ab und verlässt die Niederrheinroute. Entlang der Broicher Straße geht es durch Broich und links in Richtung Gerkerath und Dorthausen. Die Radler erreichen Kothausen mit einer alten Fachwerkkapelle. Im Anschluss biegt die Strecke links ab. Kurz geht es entlang der Gladbacher Straße, dann links in die Ortslage Dorthausen.
Entlang der Straße Wolfsittard und rechts in den Rennbahnweg erreichen die Radler den Borussia-Park – die Heimspielstätte von Borussia Mönchengladbach. Der 1. August 1900 ist der offizielle Gründungstag des fünfmaligen Deutschen Meisters. Am 30. Juli 2004 ist die Borussia in den gleichnamigen Park im Nord-Westen der Stadt umgezogen. Das Stadion fasst rund 54.000 Zuschauer.
Entlang des Rennbahnweges führt die Strecke auf der Niederrheinroute zu den Ausläufern des Hardter Waldes. An einer Infotafel des Naturparks Schwalm-Nette fahren die Radler in den Wald hinein (Links-Rechts-Versatz). Entlang des Birkmannsweges und links ab auf dem Schlaaweg führt die Strecke durch den Hardter Wald. Wieder im Kreis Viersen angekommen, geht es über Hehler, Hostert und Berg. Nach rund 34 Kilometern erreicht die Tour wieder den Schwalmtal-Dom in Waldniel.
For those who don’t speak German, this is a route starting in Waldniel in Schwalmtal and visiting various sights along the way.
Waldniel is not exactly local to Kempen – it’s a 30km ride away. I realised that cycling there and back would give me a nice 100km ride so that seemed like a good idea, especially as the weather forecast was for another hot day with possible storms late afternoon. A trip for Alfie as it was way too hot for Penelope.
This is my track for the day.
My total mileage (or, I suppose, Kilometrage) ended up at 100.93 with an average speed of 17.2 but the ride was actually made up of four different sections with very different speeds.
I had invited fellow-triker Klaus to come along on this ride but in the end he decided just to do a short ride today – so we agreed that he would ride with me from Viersen to Waldniel and then go home again (a short 25km for him). So my first ride section, leaving home at 8:30am (yikes!) was from home to Viersen. I rode that at a leisurely 17.5km/h, knowing that I had a long day of riding. I also rode almost the entire way on the main road (not the cycle path), taking the most direct route through Kempen and then on the main road to Vorst. The cycle path alongside that road is in a very bad condition so I don’t usually go that way; there was so little traffic I thought it would be OK to ride on the road and it was. Just as I reached Vorst I headed off onto one of the many Bahnradwege (disused railway cycle routes) and rode comfortably towards Viersen. I am normally doing this section at what feels like 100 km/h trying desperately to stay on the wheel of a Steintrikes Wild One so it was quite nice to be able to ride it without feeling like I was about to expire. It was a nice, comfy 20km in reasonable temperatures.
Klaus was duly collected from home and he said he knew the way to Waldniel so I decided to follow his lead rather than my GPX track which I had made earlier not knowing the roads. We largely followed the route I had designed through Dülken and then through lots of open farmland towards Schwalmtal. At one point a huge tractor loomed from a side road – there was a young lad driving it with a phone to his ear. I was amused to see that he had his girlfriend with him in the cab – what a cool motor that chap had to impress her. That caused me to lapse into some reminiscences about life growing up in Southend (also known as Saafend), driving up and down the seafront and seeing all the souped-up Novas and Metros that the Essex Lads had stuffed to the gunnels with stereos and lights. Here in Niederrhein it seems your cool motor is a tractor.
We arrived in Waldniel quite early, despite riding at a relaxing 17.5km/h average. We got to the meeting point, the church, and were the first there.
It was only 10:20 and the ride’s official start was 11am so I suggested we repair to the rather nice café I had seen just before we reached the church for a cuppa. So we had a relaxed half hour sitting drinking tea/coffee and watching various cyclists riding past, trying to decide whether they would be part of the group or not. At one point Hartmut, the ride leader, whizzed past and I yelled at him so he knew I was there (he had probably spotted the trike anyway) and he waved back.
At two minutes to eleven we hopped back on the trikes and pootled to the church where a group of about twenty people had gathered.
I had a bit of a chat with Hartmut and he asked if I wanted to ride at the front or the back (I explained that Klaus wasn’t coming on the ride). I suggested I rode at the back as tail-end-Charlie as it’s quite easy to see me from up ahead so he would know if the group was together.
Hartmut gave a short introduction to the ride, announcing me as his ‘last woman’ (which caused some comments!) and off we went.
After about 50 metres we stopped – the guy at the back had a puncture. He had a brand new bike with brand new tyres and a huge nail had gone right through the Schwalbe Marathon tyres that he had on there. He had a brief and fruitless attempt to pump it up and then decided we should go on without him and his wife – maybe they’d meet us at the lunch stop. With these rides you are supposed to have a roadworthy bike and to be able to fix your own punctures but this chap had a bike with electric-assist which I think makes it much more complicated to remove the rear tyre and it would probably have taken quite a while.
So we continued on without him and at the top of the road waved goodbye to Klaus who headed off home. We headed through the hamlet of Berg and I settled into my job of tail-end-Charlie which involved staying at the back and keeping an eye on everyone. One thing I noticed is that, as per usual in Germany, lots of people had rather flat tyres. I also noticed that almost everyone had electric assist on their bikes – I didn’t, Hartmut didn’t and two other people didn’t. So I make that 16 E-assist bikes. It’s clearly a booming market.
Sometimes they rode along some narrowish pavements which I ignored, being a broad triker.
After just a few miles we stopped at Eschenrath to look at a building (behind fences) which had previously been a British school but had a much darker history before that. It was a hospital and during the time of the Nazis 1044 patients were transported elsewhere and some new-born disabled children had been euthanised – there was a graveyard there with some symbolic crosses. Here’s a page with the history (in German).
There was a plaque on the wall that gave some of the history.
Hartmut is a very good tour guide as he seems to know a lot of the history. He gave a good explanation of the site and further explanations later on. He seems to be very knowledgeable about history and dates and stuff.
From Hostert we rode through Hehler and then headed off through some woodland.
This sort of surface is rather uncomfortable on a trike so I found I was actually dropping off the back of the group a bit. The electro-motors seems to pull the other cyclists along (that’s my excuse).
A few minutes later I received a text and when I tried to turn on my phone to look at it, it wouldn’t let me swipe across the iPhone screen. Well, I could swipe but nothing happened. I tried several times, wiped my fingers, tried some more… no joy. Oh well, I’ll just switch the phone right off. But this requires you to swipe the screen, so I couldn’t turn it off. Oh dear.
I fiddled about with it for a bit, hoping it would start working again, but no joy.
We arrived at Borussia Park which is the stadium for the Mönchengladbach football team. Hartmut explained a lot of the history of the British Army in this area, although I think it’s pretty much all gone now – although I did notice two English-registered cars as we were riding around.
My phone issues continued – I was unable to get beyond the front screen, although I did discover that Siri worked a little, so I could open my iMessage app using Siri. Once the app was open I could type replies and the screen worked perfectly well there (so it wasn’t that the screen had broken somehow) but if I went to the home screen then I couldn’t press on any of the other app icons. The 3G signal wasn’t great in the area (and Siri needs that) so as iMessage was working I stuck with that. I messaged Klaus to say my phone was partly Kaputt as I realised that this could be a problem if I had an issue with my trike on the way home. No way to phone anyone, no phone numbers stored anywhere readable, etc. Klaus offered to come and rescue me in the car at the end of the led part of the ride but I thought it the height of feebleness if I could abandon a ride because of a non-functioning phone – and it seemed like I did have the iMessage option at least, assuming I had some 3G signal if I needed to start the phone up.
One issue was, of course, I had no way of taking photos which was a shame as there were some interesting sights, not least a bus stop whose name appeared to be ‘Weg nach Woof’. I may have to make my way down the Path to Woof one day to see what’s there.
We rode round Rheindahlen (somewhere I had visited when I stayed in Mönchengladback for a week with trike) and headed back westwards near Wegburg (which apparently has a famous road around it) and then across the Schwalm river.
We arrived at the village of Schwaam (slightly different spelling) which was our lunch stop, although I was quite delayed as one of the cyclists was struggling with the distance (and probably the heat) and we had only managed 9 km/h for a couple of kilometres. It was a good thing I had the track on my Garmin as the other cyclists were out of sight.
In Schwaam we stopped at Gasthof Timmermanns which I gather has a good reputation and I did enjoy my Waffle although service seemed a little slow. However it was nice to stop for a break and I sat with a few ladies and had a good chat. It is unfortunate that I was unable to photograph my waffle – I’ll have to go back another time to get a pic of one!
We had completed all but 10km of our journey so it was a relaxing lunch, except I was still having issues with my phone. It occurred to me that I didn’t have the phone number of the Roddays (where I live) if I needed rescuing, nor could they contact me if there was a problem with the dog. The only number I was able to access was that of Klaus (as there is a link to his record through the iMessage app) so I borrowed a pen from one of the ladies and wrote down his numbers on a beermat in case I got stuck in the middle of nowhere with a dead bike and and phone and needed to phone for rescue using some kindly passing German’s phone.
I then remembered that Hartmut lives in St Tönis (5km from Kempen) so asked him if he was riding back – he said he was and I asked if I could ride with him most of the way. He said of course, so that was a relief.
He gave a little explanation of the Node Point system for bike routes which is common in Belgium and the Netherlands but not particularly prevalent in Germany. The Schwalmtal area does have them, though, and he described the system on a sign conveniently placed where we had parked our bikes.
We continued on through Lüttelforst (which I have visited to bag its church previously) and then did a scenic and not-as-steep diversion through some woodland before crossing the A52 motorway back to Schwalmtal. Lots of people said their goodbyes on this last stretch as they had come from around the general area so by the time I arrived back in Waldniel there were only four riders left!
This section of the ride, 33km, had been at an average of 15.7 km/h, nice and leisurely and enjoyable although I was quite dirty from the dust and muck thrown up by normal bike rear wheels (mudguards don’t go low enough to keep the muck from recumbenteers).
Hartmut asked if I wanted to have a drink before we continued on but I thought it best to get going and perhaps stop for a drink a bit later. So off we went – and he went off at mega speed! Once again I was hanging on for dear life trying to keep up – we did the first 6 km at an average of 24 km/h which is pretty quick when you have 65km in your legs! I guess I could have asked him to slow down a bit but pride is a terrible thing…
The route out of Waldniel was slightly different than the route Klaus and I had ridden in as it took in a new Bahnradweg which was only newly opened (and which Klaus had discovered as he rode back earlier as well). It was another lovely smooth route between Waldniel and Dülken. At Dülken Hartmut asked which way I wanted to go – the Viersen way or the Grefrath/Lobberich way. As I’d ridden there through Viersen I thought it more fun to take the other route back so we headed off to the west, me trying to keep up with Hartmut. We had turned into a headwind which helped me a bit but we had a long section at almost 30 km/h. That’s fast for me! We passed the chapel at Lind which I photographed a while ago so I had a vague idea where I was but the scenery was flashing by so I couldn’t really work it all out!
We swapped bikes for a bit (in an attempt to slow Hartmut down, which worked reasonably) and I rode his Litespeed upright bike for about 3km before my arm became too painful and we swapped back. This seemed to have taken the edge off Hartmut’s speed, fortunately, as we continued on through Boisheim and Dyck at a more normal pace. Phew!
The day had been warm and sunny but some thick clouds were rolling in and soon there were some large spots of rain. I was quite looking forward to the refreshing rain but had to take out my hearing aid (they do not like getting wet) which made conversation rather difficult. Hartmut is quite softly-spoken so I find him tricky to hear anyway – without the hearing aid it was very hard. Not that we did much talking as the rain seemed to spur him on to greater speed again and as we were on a very slight uphill going around Lobberich I was slower. He was out of sight some of the time but I do generally know this route so felt reasonably confident I would find my way to the Bahnradweg.
We did one slightly different section which involved some loose gravel which really slowed me down as it was on an uphill and I lost a lot of traction. I made a mental note not to take that particular route again.
The rain was REALLY coming down now, impressive stair-rods which were almost becoming hail. It was brilliant fun, as was the lightning visible in my mirrors. Lots of other cyclists were standing under trees looking forlorn but we kept going and I was really enjoying myself.
We arrived at the Bahnradweg and then it was full pelt along there to try to outrun the rain. There were some quite deep puddles which splashed water from my wheels onto the sidepod bags which aren’t waterproof so I had to stop under a tree to pack away my phone and hearing aid inside a bag inside the sidepods. There was a fair amount of water about.
We whizzed on to Mülhausen at which point I had decided to take the main road back. Hartmut thought he would escort me the whole way round but at Mülhausen I felt OK on my own as I know the area very well and there are plenty of houses to call in on if I needed help. However we decided to stop for a drink at the old railway station bar in Mülhausen first so had a very pleasant half hour there drinking tea and beer and giving the other bar customers something to laugh at (two drowned rats looking very cheerful). I was able to send a few more iMessages to various people who had wondered where I was/how I was getting on, and even managed (through Siri) to get Whatsapp going to communicate with Lara and warn her my phone was misbehaving (she’d sent me messages which I hadn’t been able to reply to until now).
The final section of the ride was on my own, just 12km but in the pouring rain still. I initially felt a bit cold (which seems a miracle after the hot weather we’ve had) but soon warmed up as I rode quickly along the road from Mülhausen to Kempen. I stuck to the main roads as I was on my own now, taking Berliner Allee in Kempen and then up the main Kerkener Straße to Escheln. I had to do a small extra loop at Escheln to ensure I had 100km but arrived back, looking utterly soaked but feeling very cheerful (apart from the phone thing).
The average speed for the ride back with Hartmut and then on my own was 21 km/h which brought the entire day’s 101km average to 17.2 which isn’t shabby. I burned 2,589 calories and only ate a waffle too!
The phone is still not working but I am currently waiting for its battery to fully drain in the hope that when it switches itself off properly it might then work when recharged and restarted. If not I’ll have to have a visit to the Apple Store in Düsseldorf which is a dangerous place to visit with a loaded credit card. I have decided, though, to take my English mobile phone (a non-smart phone) with me on my rides in future, and to make sure I have all the relevant phone numbers in it too.
Thanks to Hartmut for leading a great ride, to Klaus for accompanying me to Waldniel and offering rescue services and to the other riders for being friendly and chatty to the weird Englishwoman on a trike who kept prodding her phone and looking annoyed at it.
UPDATE – Dad has told me you can also turn the phone off by pressing and holding the two buttons for 5 seconds, and it worked! And my phone is now functional again, hurrah.