Category Archives: Cycle Tours

Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 6 – Roermond to Kempen

So the last day of the tour had arrived, just as the good weather had finally found us!

We had decided not to have breakfast at the B&B and instead, as in the previous two days, get something on the road.

We set off at eight in the morning, knowing that it was a relatively short day – just 42km for Klaus and Claudia, about 60 for me.

Here is my track for today’s ride:

Today's track

After a short ride through Roermond we were out into countryside and once again enjoying the beautiful landscape in the Netherlands. Including the obligatory windmill!

We were lucky to have sunshine and blue skies and also the route mostly to ourselves – it seems that the Netherlanders are still asleep in bed at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.

Claudia had now ridden more in five days than in the entire year to date and she was definitely getting stronger in her riding and finding it less effort to maintain the pace. This shows that you can ride yourself into fitness and she was doing a really good job of cycling with heavy luggage.

The trike she was riding was making some odd squeaking noises from the back (possibly the swing-arm), but after several rainy days of cycling the Trice Q probably wanted a bit of oiling here and there. Klaus’s Wild One was making a slightly strange noise from the chain tubes or idler as well, but as we had such a short distance we didn’t bother fiddling with it whilst underway. The trikes could have a bit of attention some time in the future.

Between Roermond and Viersen is an excellent cycle route called the Meinweg. This is a bikes-only stretch of route which runs right to the German border. It’s rolling terrain with a few uphills (up to 4% so nothing dramatic, but hilly for this bit of the Niederrhein) and I have ridden it a couple of times and enjoyed it. I had planned our route for today and sent us along this route as part of it.

This is what we see – a road as wide as a normal road for cars, but only for bikes.

Long and mostly straight, with views to the side of fields with wild ponies, it’s a lovely place to cycle and very peaceful. Of course at other times it’s busy with road cyclists aiming to improve their Strava Segment placing but today we had it mostly to ourselves.

I took this short video of us cycling along.

At the end of this section which is several kilometres long we crossed into Germany and after a few more kilometres found ourselves at a bakery for breakfast.

Suitably refuelled we carried on for the final 20km to Klaus and Claudia’s house, arriving there at 11:30.

I wanted to get straight home so waved goodbye to my touring companions outside their house and then set off at speed back to Kempen, being caught out by the roadworks on the Kempener Außenring which meant I had a diversion of about 5km. Oh well, I was home just after midday.

Here are all the statistics for the tour:

Tour statistics

And here is a visual summary of the whole tour, including the relevant heights (as you see, we went downhill as we followed the rivers).

Tour Wheel

This was my first proper bike tour since the Ruhrtal Tour with James last September and it served as a reminder of how I find cycle touring an ideal holiday – fresh air, exercise, ever-changing views, interesting smells, wildlife, good food, meeting people to chat on the way, never boring… what more could you ask for? I look forward to my next touring opportunity! And thanks again to Klaus and Claudia (and to Alex and Oliver) for their company on the journey.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 5 – Boxmeer to Roermond

The penultimate day of our tour dawned rather too early again – I seem to always wake up at 6am even if I have had a later night. And last night had its moments as I was kept awake by a mosquito which I was unable to catch. It got me several times in the night.

We had decided not to have breakfast in the hotel as it was quite expensive but that we would find something underway. It was agreed to meet at 8am in the lounge and I was there half an hour early as I was up and ready. I ate an apple and had a cup of tea whilst I waited for the others.

I saw this rather lovely facsimile of an old map on the wall – lots of place names I recognise.

Klaus and Claudia arrived at eight and decided to have a pre-ride cup of coffee too.

Walking through this hotel it was lovely to see reminders of its past as a convent – I particularly liked this flagstone on the floor in a corner engraved with this date.

We collected our bikes from their overnight home in the Innenhof. The bikes have been outdoors every night so far on this tour, which is very unusual as I can’t remember when Alfie has had a night on the tiles on a previous tour.

This was our track for the day, a nice ride south via Venlo to Roermond. Of course the wind was coming from the south today!

The forecast was for cloudy sunshine today with the possibility of a rain shower at two o’clock. We set off under grey skies and were soon at yet another ferry crossing at Vierlingsbeek to Bergen.

Klaus and I had been on this ferry before, with Jochen and Uli on my birthday when we were cycling to Overloon. This time it was three trikes rather than two velomobiles.

On my birthday ride we had liked the town of Nieuw Bergen so decided to stop there for our breakfast. In due course we found a bakery and took a table inside as it wasn’t yet that warm.

I had a croissant to start with.

Then a piece of Rice Cake. This seems to be a Limburg speciality and I find it very tasty!

My cup of tea also came with a little chocolate and a tiny piece of streuselkuchen.

After a leisurely breakfast we continued on, this time on roads that Klaus and I had ridden before. The road down from Nieuw Bergen to Arcen is great – long, straight, very little traffic… Ideal Velomobile road although a bit more boring on the slower trikes.

The road to Arcen is great fun and was more interesting as lots of historic MGs were driving past – there must have been some kind of rally somewhere. We waved at the drivers and they waved back.

Friend Oliver was going to meet us in Roermond for a meal but I got a message from him saying he planned to come to Venlo to meet us there, so we organised a rough time and place and kept in contact with our estimated time of arrival.

In the end we arrived first and looked for a suitable place to eat in Venlo, finding a small café that I had visited before. Whilst we sat there a huge rain storm deluged the area but we were under a large umbrella so survived.

Oliver arrived about twenty minutes later, this time on his Sinner Recumbent Bike (unfortunately his Mango Velomobile is currently at the repairers after a car drove into it).

After an enjoyable lunch we set off again, on roads that have been travelled by us many times. It felt like we were going much faster through the landscape although our average speed was similar – perhaps it’s just that in better weather it feels less like hard work!

We were once again following the Maas, glimpsing it through the trees as the path occasionally headed further inland.

Here is Claudia underway.

Klaus saw I had my camera out so tried to zoom ahead…

Oliver rode alongside me briefly and then when we were overtaken by roadies he had to keep up with them – and did. A chap in normal clothes on a weird bike who was as fast as three skinny Lycra MAMILs on carbon machines…

The landscape here was different than that of previous days. It has been noticeable on this tour that despite us not covering vast distances we can see the differences between these areas of the Netherlands.

There were occasional threatening clouds… Here over the town of Kessel where we would cross the Maas again.

In the queue for the ferry I spotted a trike motorbike with a Welsh flag as well as a Union Jack. So when we were both on the ferry I had a chat to him. He was a British man with Welsh roots living in NL.

This was his hood ornament.

And this bulldog.

Once we had crossed and were in Beesel Klaus mentioned a very nice terrace café which we would go past… So of course we decided to stop for more cake.

Claudia decided to have an ice cream… But Klaus had misunderstood and ordered her a cake so he had to eat both. A real hardship.

We had just 12km to go to Roermond and were enjoying our relaxing riding and cake eating but eventually extracted ourselves from the café and headed off again.

Oliver took this photo of us all wending our way through the streets of Beesel which was preparing for some kind of Dragon Festival (which looks like it will be well worth a visit).

We arrived in Roermond at five and Oliver led us to the Bed & Breakfast. The owner had said via email that we could store our bikes in his house so we went round the corner to the address he gave us and our bikes were filling up the hallway of his house, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Once we had showered it was time to head off for some food…

We enjoyed our burgers in the main market square of Roermond.

As the B&B had tea and coffee facilities we headed back there after our meal and took a selfie of us all.

Oliver then headed home and we decided on a relatively early night. Tomorrow we will leave at eight (again without breakfast as it’s a bit pricey) and Klaus and Claudia should be home by midday; I will have a further hour’s riding.

We were lucky with the weather today as it does make the journey less tiring somehow. Claudia has ridden herself into fitness over the last five days and 350km and is doing really well with the trike, although it is making some strange squeaking noises from the rear swing arm so I will need to take a look at it when we are back. Riding so many days in the rain does take its toll on older bikes!

Alfie has performed brilliantly and I have enjoyed having my electric motor to give me a bit of a push up hills and to help me with the head wind. I usually have it on setting 2 out of 9 so perhaps a 40 watt assist but it is a nice feeling and means I have been less tired at the end of the day than I otherwise might have been. Or, as Klaus says, I have been ‘cheating’. Although of course I have ridden more than 80,000 kilometres without an electric motor on my trikes. You decide!!!

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 4 – ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Boxmeer

Today the weather forecast was at last for a relatively dry day, a much nicer prospect than the seemingly-unending drizzle or rain of the last few days.

Our hotel had a very expensive breakfast (nearly 15 Euros each) so we decided not to bother with that but to get something whilst on our way.

Here is our track for today – you will see a little stick at the bottom which was our detour to Overloon. More later.

We set off at about nine after I did a small bit of maintenance to my left hand brake which had decided to stop working the day before. All easily fixed and we were on our way in dry weather – my waterproof jacket was packed away in my pannier at last!

Klaus had planned this route to follow the Waal a little way before we headed south towards Boxmeer, and almost straight away we found ourselves on a diversion as a bridge we wanted to cross was closed. This was not a bad thing as the route that continued on our side of the river was rather lovely, a high quality track and almost no traffic.

It included a few off-road sections which were fine in the trikes on a dry day but do use more energy!

Eventually we came to another bridge and were able to cross after our diversion.

As we had cycled nearly 20km and the plan for the day was just 58 it seemed like a good time to stop for some cake. So we headed off our route to the town of Heeswijk-Dinther, crossing this excellently-named stream on the way…

The first bakery we stopped at had no seating and no hot drinks so we continued on and found a café that had an interesting selection of cakes.

We ordered hot drinks and cakes and I also decided to have a croissant for my breakfast.

I chose this nutty creamy cake thing.

Klaus and Claudia had these strawberry and cream tart thingies.

After a decent break of half an hour or so it was time to carry on, riding to intercept our original route which of course didn’t go 100% to plan so we did a slight bit extra. We are getting used to this!

Klaus’s back wheel was behaving a bit oddly so he thought he might need to tighten up the axle so we had a quick pit stop for bike maintenance.

In fact the axle was fully tight and he couldn’t get to the bottom of it so just carried on.

I loved these silvery leaves which were shaking in the wind. Fortunately today the wind was mostly behind us, a nice change from yesterday’s killer headwind!

We now had a section which was very off-roady but was worth it as we were cycling past the Military Airfield Volkel and saw a couple of Eurofighters in the air earlier.

This photo shows the Airfield control tower.

We continued on and I took this photo of the Trikes next to the runway landing lights.

We waited around for a bit hoping to see a plane or two coming in to land but nothing seemed to be happening and then a young family passing in a car told us the planes wouldn’t fly again for an hour. So it was time to carry on.

We were doing very well time-wise with only another 18km to do and it wasn’t yet one o’clock. I then had a brainwave – why not visit Overloon? I had gone there by bike on my birthday with Klaus, Uli and Jochen but we hadn’t looked around the war museum as we didn’t have time; Boxmeer (our hotel stop) was probably only 10km from Overloon and we would arrive in Boxmeer stupidly early with nothing to do, so the decision was made to divert to Overloon and visit the museum.

This did mean that unfortunately we didn’t pass through the village of St Hubert which Klaus had especially routed us through with the original route to Boxmeer. But I photographed the road sign. Home from home!

We were now following my Garmin which plotted us a direct route to Overloon which meant on cycle paths next to main roads. But, as is to be expected in the Netherlands, these were very good paths.

I saw this windmill and realised I hadn’t seen very many on this trip. It seems I must just be particularly in observant at the moment as Klaus says he has seen several over the last few days.

My companions couldn’t work out why I had stopped to photograph this shop sign. I assume most English readers will understand why!

We arrived at Overloon at two o’clock and left our luggage in the reception area for the museum. We had a lunch of baguette and some drinks before paying our 15 Euro admission to the exhibition.

There is lots to see in this museum, including a large array of military vehicles from the Second World War and beyond. They had a Spitfire, a B=52 and a V1 Rocket as well. But I was extremely moved by this Churchill tank.

One of the poppy wreaths was in memory of ‘Dad’ and there was a document beside the wreath explaining that one of the tank crew had been in this particular tank when it had been damaged and his fellow crew were injured or killed. The soldier came regularly to Overloon Museum to pay his respects to his dead crew-mates before his death. A reminder that these aren’t just exhibits in a museum but that they have their own stories to tell of the sadness and destruction of war.

I was extremely impressed by this huge amphibious vehicle. The tyres were taller than I was!

We stayed at the museum until closing time as they had lots of other exhibits which made for very interesting reading. The two hours we had there wasn’t enough so it will be definitely worthwhile to come for another visit sometime.

We had just under 10km to our hotel in Boxmeer and so set off along some quiet lanes, eventually arriving at Klooster Elsendael. Which was a lovely former convent.

My room.

This was its name – I am guessing this means Sister Constansia

We wandered into Boxmeer dodging a rain shower to find some food for the evening and ended up in a good value pizza place.

On our return Claudia and I had a look around the chapel.

This is a beautiful hotel and also very good value – I think my room is 62 Euros (without breakfast).

There is a large lounge area where I am sitting to type this report and there are lots of little touches that give reminders of the past for this building.

We had cycled 76km today (instead of the planned 58) but it had been a lovely ride with different landscape than some of the previous day’s, plus the advantage of not seeing it through the rain.

Tomorrow is a longer day, more than 80km to Roermond, with some rain forecast as well but hopefully all will go smoothly. We’ve ridden the route in bits and pieces before and know that it’s good so it should be an enjoyable penultimate day’s ride.

The visit to Overloon did change our mood somewhat to a more sombre feeling. I was extremely moved by what I read there and realising that we were cycling all over landscape that saw battles, death and destruction in World War Two makes us for grateful that all we have as a result of the sacrifices of others.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 3 – Nijmegen to ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Today’s plan was a 68km ride from Nijmegen to ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch) and chum Alex who lives in Rotterdam and sold me Penelope said he would join us for some of the ride.

After a delayed breakfast (there was a problem with the rolls, apparently) we set off from the Boat\Circus\Funfair at nine in the morning. It started raining as we fetched our bikes from their storage area and this was the theme for the day.

We saw this rather wonderful bike as part of the Fair, with a prow of a boat on the front. Can’t say I’ve seen one of those before!

Here is a map of where we rode today, following the Waal river and then joining the Maas.

Within 500 metres of our start point we were on a very high quality bike route which was to take us over the river on a bridge, although it took us a little while to work out how to get onto this elevated path.

As we passed onto the bridge over the water we went through these posh towers.

The track that Klaus had prepared had us leaving the bridge down what turned out to be steps so we gave that a miss. It looked as though there were some new paths and we ended up missing a turning (my fault) and although it looked as though our route would join up with the planned route it didn’t so after a 4 kilometre detour we were finally on the correct route. You can see this in the map below.

This was an impressive bridge over the Waal. I do like the Dutch bridges, they are beautiful as well as functional.

I had been exchanging messages with Alex to let him know our progress and it looked as though we would reach our planned meeting point at the Waal crossing at Druten before him. The rain and strong headwind had sapped our strength a bit so it was definitely time for a cuppa, but first we needed to cross the river…

This was the jetty or landing stage for the ferry but the ferry didn’t come. After reading the notice to check the ferry was running today (it was) I phoned the number and spoke to someone who didn’t seem to understand English but got the message as the ferry started to head towards us.

This ticket was much more colourful than the one in Germany at Rees…

We asked the ferry operator if there was somewhere good for food and he said yes, behind the church. So we went to the church that we saw when heading into town and there was no food place behind it, so we asked a lady watering her front garden and she said there was another church, and indeed there was and it had several cafes behind it. We stopped at a likely looking one!

The choice was very good and the food very tasty. I had a curry soup.

Followed by this Goats Cheese and Walnut Baguette

After we had finished the soup Alex appeared, having ridden over from Rotterdam on his upright bike. He had some soup too and a coffee and we had a great chat.

After about an hour it was time to go on and Alex would ride with us. The rain began again as we left the café and we set off along the streets of this sleepy town. As Alex and I were faster Klaus said we should head off on our own as we all had the same track as it was tricky to keep to the right speed. So we rode ahead enjoying a good chinwag.

I loved looking at the landscape and hearing lots from Alex about the history of the area, how the Waterships are organised and more. He is a fount of knowledge!

With about 20km until ‘s-Hertogenbosch we decided it might be time to stop to wait for the others and we saw two chaps sitting on a bench with touring bicycles so decided to stop and talk to them.

Giovanni and Joyce (named this as his father was a fan of James Joyce) were from Italy and they chatted to us about their tour so far, from Switzerland and finishing in Amsterdam. They were interested in my trike and I told them also about Penelope, saying that Alex had sold her to me.

Giovanni had a selfie stick and so we took a picture of us all.

Here is Giovanni looking at our bikes.

And here was his rain protection which he laid over the handlebars and the panniers at the back as extra waterproofing.

He also had a rather novel form of overshoes…

Giovanni took this picture of me contemplating the rain clouds…

We exchanged Facebook details and Joyce wrote the following about me (at least I think it is!!!!):

In una delle poche pause incontriamo Helen, una ragazza cicloviaggiatrice, che nonostante la sua disabilità continua a viaggiare con una speciale bicicletta. Il tempo di scambiare quattro chiacchiere con lei ed il suo amico e ripartiamo. Anche la pioggia ci concede una pausa.

Alex had fetched me a hot water for tea and we sat and drank and chatted to the chaps before they decided to move on. Barely a minute later Klaus and Claudia hove into view, it was a real shame they had missed meeting the Italians.

They were keen for a break from the rain and evil headwind so we went into the café where Alex had bought my hot water and this time had some apple cake.

Hot drinks were also helpful to thaw Claudia out a bit as she was finding the rain was rather chilling her.

Before we set off we took a selfie of us four – no selfie stick this time, just my reasonably long arm.

Once again Klaus and Claudia suggested that Alex and I rode on ahead so we did, enjoying the challenge of the headwind and maintaining a reasonable pace for the remaining 20km. Which included another ferry.

This one a bargain at 80 cents each…

Crossing this relatively narrow bit of river, the Maas now.

Today’s hotel was a former convent and had apparently only been open for five weeks. When new arrived I did the initial check-in and then said goodbye to Alex who was heading home (mostly by train as he had already done over 150km in the rain and with lots of headwind). He had also had a close encounter with a sheep on his way to meet us which resulted in a fall and this rather grazed knee. But he survived to tell us about it!

This was the most expensive hotel so far with my bill for a single room at 105 Euros. But we had some free meringue thingies called “Nuns’ Kisses”. Hmmmm

This is the exterior of the hotel.

A bit of exploring and I found one of the former chapels…

Which was now repurposed as a meeting room. With gallery above, which was cool!

Klaus and Claudia had arrived by the time I finished my shower and clothes washing. We decided to eat in the restaurant here which was a set meal of Paprika soup followed by pork. It was very tasty and well laid out.

Of course we couldn’t resist the dessert of lemon cake with blackberry ice cream!

After the meal I went for a short walk around the lake to work off some of the calories. Den Bosch seems rather nice and the cycling infrastructure as we came into the town was amazing – special bicycle-only bridges over the motorways and always segregated paths. The Netherlands is an excellent place to cycle – as long as you don’t mind headwinds on days like today!

Despite having rain pretty much the whole day I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed seeing the landscape, riding against the wind and chatting to my friends. Cycling touring is always relaxing and enjoyable and it was a great day all in all. Tomorrow should be shorter and drier which is a relief! We will be heading back eastwards to Boxmeer.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 2 – Xanten to Nijmegen

After a good night’s sleep it was time for breakfast – and what a breakfast!

Everything beautifully displayed and set out – and tasty too!

Today’s ride was shorter, a planned 68km along the Rhein to Nijmegen. Here is our track for the day.

We set off at about 9am, heading past the Harbour where we had walked yesterday and then around the Xantener Südsee. Here is a view back at Xanten – the cathedral and also the windmill which was turning.

We passed this information board with its history of a bomber that crashed locally.

I had ridden around this area with the Trike Treffen during Christi Himmelfahrt but then it was very hot and sunny and so the dust kicked up by the bikes on the sandy track was notable. This time, in the drizzle, the bikes remained reasonably clean!

After the Xantener Südsee we went around the Xantener Nordsee and saw some lovely posh houses which fronted onto the lake. Most salubrious!

We then rode along the Rhein Radweg on the left hand bank of the Rhein. The track we had prepared stayed on this side but as we were riding we decided to cross over and go to Rees (which is lovely) and then ride along the other side to Emmerich am Rhein. I had done this route on my solo tour earlier.

I had visited Rees a few times and each time taken the busy bridge over the Rhein. However as we were heading towards Rees Klaus noticed a sign to a ferry – we thought that was definitely worth a look so cycled along the path over the Deich and arrived at the ferry landing stage.

All looked rather unoccupied and I assumed the ferry wasn’t running but the information board said it was indeed working today and sure enough the boat moored at the other side of the river started making its way over to us.

As we waited another cyclist appeared with lots of luggage – he was riding from Neuss to Rotterdam.

Watching the ferry cross the Rhein was rather interesting as it careered across at high speed. “I’d better make sure I fix my bike safely too the boat,” said the chap with the normal bike. Our trikes would of course be safe on their three wheels.

the fee for the crossing was 2 Euros each.

Off we went, crossing Vaterrhein.

When we arrived in Rees we saw lots and lots of statues – all over the place, very amusing. Here is Claudia posing for a shower with one chap.

…and sitting on another…

Whilst Klaus pretended to ignore the two women made of bronze hanging on the railings by the river.

Having cycled for at least 18km it was time to stop for cake, so we went to a café I knew of in the centre of Rees and treated ourselves (except Claudia was still full from breakfast so she just had a drink).

Klaus had this cheesecake.

I had this rather yummy Black Forest Gateau.

We then cycled along to Emmerich am Rhein. I had ridden between Rees and Emmerich in Penelope a few months ago and it didn’t feel like a very long way but on the trikes in the rain with the headwind it seemed much harder work!

Eventually we arrived in Emmerich but didn’t stop as Klaus and I weren’t hungry after our cakes (Claudia was a bit peckish but said she could wait). They asked how far Millingen aan de Rijn was and I said I thought half an hour; in retrospect this was because I had been in Penelope on a fast day but we didn’t realise this at first.

This is the bridge back over the Rhein from Emmerich.

the other side of the Rhein was windy again (as it had been before) and the drizzle continued. It wasn’t so heavy as to make us really wet but it was a bit annoying as we were never totally dry.

After the half an hour had passed I realised we were still a long way away from Millingen so each time we reached a village we diverted to it to find a bakery or food establishment – and failed. There were none. Eventually we were just 2km before Millingen when we saw a sigh to a Biergarten with Terrasse so headed up the side road to it and had a light lunch of soup and salad with the very friendly landlady chatting to us.

We headed off again in the rain, crossing the border into NL and passing the hotel that I stayed in a few months ago. After this point the route was unknown to me – so we just followed the purple line that Klaus had planned.

We rode along the Deich enjoying views of the Rhein and of the wildlife, including lots of storks.

I also had to photograph this sign as when I first saw it I read it as an English coarse expression!!!

We rode through a nature reserve where the trail was sand and gravel which is hard work on trikes.

The rain started coming down more heavily and so it was good to know that we weren’t far from Nijmegen, riding mostly along the Deich and past small villages and single houses.

I had booked as our accommodation rooms on a boat moored at Nijmegen. As we arrived at the place there seemed to be a circus or fair on next to it which didn’t bode well for a peaceful night’s sleep. Walking along the metal walkway and then up damp wooden steps can be slightly interesting with click shoes (with cleats) but I managed to find a lady to ask where we were to park our bikes. The answer was backstage to the fair under a tarpaulin.

This all seemed a bit sub-optimal but the lady told us that the fair wasn’t noisy during the week and when we got on the boat and saw our rooms they were characterful and interesting. This is mine – I will be sleeping in a boat!

After a shower and washing my clothes (which I think are unfortunately unlikely to dry) we met in the breakfast room where we could help ourselves to drinks and also look at some museum-type exhibits about the boat.

After I spent some time writing my blog and drinking tea we decided to go for food.

I have often found that it is pretty expensive to eat in the Netherlands and this was the case for our evening meal on the deck of a boat rafted up against our one but the food was tasty!

After the meal we chatted for a bit and then the others went to bed and I wrote more blog. I also chatted through Facebook with Alex who sold me Penelope – he’s going to cycle out to meet us tomorrow which will be great fun. It will be lovely to see him again, even if I’m on Alfie and not Penelope.

Today we rode 72.7km in total at an average speed of. 15.8 kilometres per hour. Although that’s not particularly far and fast it was quite tiring in the rain, but cycle touring is always great fun and I enjoyed the riding very much. We’re hoping for better weather tomorrow for our ride to ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 1 – Viersen to Xanten

So my first long tour for almost a year has started!

Originally planned as a tour from Berlin to Viersen, but shortened as Claudia didn’t feel confident tackling that distance, Klaus had organised a route taking us through some interesting cities in NL (Nijmegen, ‘s Hertogenbosch, Boxmeeer and Roermond) but our first night would be in Germany, in Xanten. This tour would be six days and would cover 400km in total.

Because Claudia doesn’t have a Velomobile (she uses my old Trice Q) we would all be on trikes for this tour. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the six days got steadily worse as the Tour approached and it seemed very likely we would get quite wet. Oh well; I love cycle touring, even in the rain.

At 9am they arrived at my door having cycled the 20km from Viersen. After a quick loo stop we set off, a trio of trikes with various flags (I have Great Britain and Germany, Claudia has Germany and the Union Flag and Klaus has the Kurpfalz flag (where he hails from) as well as Germany and the British flag. Of course they only have the British flag in deference to me, and are too polite to remove them I think!

My Garmin doesn’t communicate with my iPad so I can’t upload the tracks until I am at home but fortunately Klaus’s Garmin Edge 1000 talks to his phone and so he has uploaded the track to Strava and here it is (he rode further of course as he started in Viersen).


The start of the tour was heading to Moers, a route I have regularly cycled recently in the Velomobile. We arrived in Moers at about 11:30am which seemed rather like cake time so we stopped at a bakery. I had a walnut pastry and a cup of tea and we sat and watched the world go by.

Suitably fortified we set off again, leaving the rather off-road track we had been using (a former railway converted into a cycle path) and heading out on quiet roads.

Klaus’s plan was for us not to ride directly to Xanten but to join the Rhein at Rheinberg and then follow it along to Xanten. We approached the Rhein at Orsay which has this rather large power station.

We were then cycling along the Deich (dyke) which is the flood protection for the Rhein. The cycle path isn’t on the top of the dyke but lower down so we actually didn’t really see the Rhein much at all, but the large chimneys that show its continuing industrial importance were often visible to our right as we headed north.

We spotted a lot of what seemed like milestones but they didn’t seem to be heading to anywhere specific with the distances and in fact we saw lots of different ones around the 10 or 15 mark whilst riding today. This one was not 11.2km from Rheinberg or from Duisburg so I am none the wiser.

The weather had forecasted rain in Xanten at 14:00 and this looked increasingly likely as we spotted some ominous clouds on the horizon. Here we are approaching Wesel (the Wesel bridge is visible to the right of the photograph), finally riding on the top of the Deich so we could see the river.

The wind was a pretty strong westerly which you notice on the trikes but the sun had been out a fair bit so we were relatively warm – normal cycling jerseys kept us warm enough, no coat required.

We hadn’t eaten except the pastry in Moers so when we reached a nice Rhein Terrace we decided to stop for some food, particularly because it looked like the rain was on its way. I wheeled my trike onto the terrace under some shelter but the lady told me not to park there. We were the only guests, there was a vast amount of room, but that’s German customer service for you. So the trikes were left out at the mercy of the rain that was surely coming.

We sat at a table and Mrs Sour Waitress told us that there was no hot food, only cake. As we had all had cake in Moers we didn’t want anything sweet so just settled for tea or coffee. My cup of hot water was in a really small coffee cup, really just one mouthful, but I didn’t have to pay for it which was a small consolation!

Whilst we sat and drank our hot drinks the heavens opened.

Claudia felt inclined to stay there until the rain completely stopped but I reckoned that would be a couple of hours so encouraged us to carry on. So we put on our waterproof jackets and sat on our wet seats and set off in the rain. I rather wished I had Penelope with me!

Our route was along the Bislicher Insel where I cycled with the Trike Treffen people at Christi Himmelfahrt. At this small lake we saw, standing in a row, a heron, a stork and a white heron. I don’t think they’re clear enough to see in this photo though.

The rain was falling reasonably heavily so we were wet but fortunately it was still warm so not too bad.

We arrived in Xanten just after four in the afternoon and found our way to our Bed & Breakfast which was built into the walls of the city and very nicely appointed.

After a shower and washing our clothes to dry on the heated towel rail in the bathrooms we met at 6 o’clock to find some dinner, first going to the Cathedral for a look around but unfortunately it was closed as a service was taking place. We ended up at an Italian restaurant in the main pedestrian centre of Xanten.

We all had tomato soup to start.

And then I had this tasty pasta meal with turkey and mushrooms.

After a very leisurely meal we left the restaurant and found our way to an ice cream parlour.

As it was only eight in the evening we decided to go for a little walk. I had seen some signs to a Hafen (Marina) so we followed those, going first through this tower.

then past this Windmill

And then past the large Roman Museum just outside the town wall of Xanten. There was a ‘Selfie Point’ where you could photograph yourself outside the museum. I photographed mine and Claudia’s feet!

When we arrived at the Marina Klaus went to the children’s playground and tried out the hammock. He had complained about having to walk so far, “I’m a cyclist, not a walker!”

I had a closer look at the boats in the harbour.

Then it was time to walk back. On the way back Klaus regaled us with the story of Siegfried (who has something to do with Xanten) which was considerably lubricated by his two glasses of wine with dinner. The moral of the story seemed to be that everyone was stupid, and be careful of women from Iceland. Or something.

Xanten is a lovely place and very quiet as cars aren’t allowed in the centre, although the crows were making a racket as the sun was setting. Tomorrow we are heading off (in the rain) to Nijmegen, which I have driven past many times but never visited, so I am looking forward to that!

For me today’s ride was 70km at a very leisurely 15.5km per hour. This is a relaxed tour after all!

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Ruhrtal Tour – Day 4: Hattingen to Kempen

Wednesday 9 September 2015

So this was the last day of the tour – James and I had cycled further each day than we originally estimated so it looked as though we would be back in my Wohnung this evening.

We went down to breakfast which was very pleasant but the view outside wasn’t exactly the sunshine we had been expecting.

Alfie and James’s Aravis Bike had enjoyed their night in the bike shed, nestled up close to an Ice Cream freezer. A few more bikes had arrived overnight so there were a couple of extra guests it seemed, but the hotel was pretty quiet.

I mentioned on Day 1 that a bolt on Alfie’s rack sheared and we fixed it as best we could with cable ties. Here you can see the problem – the right hand side pannier is much closer to the axle than the left.

  

In fact it is so close that I have a feeling it might bang against the axle when going over bumps – this is sub-optimal so I’ll have to expedite a fix.

Fortunately I usually use my Sidepods which don’t sit on the rack rather than the panniers which are just for touring or shopping.

Anyway, here is our route for today which ended up as 96.69km at an average of 15.8km/h.

Wednesday map

We have been remarkably consistent (and slow!) in our average speeds for the three full days of this tour – 15.4 on Monday, 15.6 on Tuesday and 15.8 today. I guess if we had extended another day we might have made 16km/h!

Anyway, we were all checked out and underway by 9:15am, retracing our journey over the bridge to the north side of the Ruhr and riding along the river. We were on a path called Leinpfad which I believe was previously a towpath for horses when barges were pulled along the river by horses.

We crossed the river again after a couple of kilometres and this was the view from the bridge – we had to ride through the cow field.

Here is James’s bike which has been very reliable and comfortable for him.

Yesterday we saw some hydroelectric projects on the river and there were many more today too, also various other water features such as this weir.

 

Despite the fact that I suppose technically we were in the Ruhrgebiet where it is known for being industrial, the view along the river was almost always rather lovely.

James and I found the various warning signs along the river very amusing. I like the chap’s mouth in this one:

The river was at times quite fast-flowing and other times very placid. It also had some much shallower sections.

I decided I ought to dip my toe in the water (I had already put my hand in).

 

James decided to take his bike for a swim.

I decided Alfie’s wheels needed a wash too.

 

Today’s route had generally very good path quality but there were a few exceptions – this one nearly rattled half of my teeth out!

I think that parts of this route were an old railway as this bridge seemed oversized for pedestrians and bikes.

We were technically in the Essen region here (although quite a way from Essen’s centre) and there were just a couple of visual reminders of the industrial past.

 

Just past the rather nicely-named Kupferdreh we found that the river had widened considerably into a lake called the Baldeneysee. This was absolutely beautiful – and the path around it was also brilliant so is definitely a section I’d like to ride again!

 

Unsurprisingly there was also a hydro plant.

We’d covered nearly 40km so it was definitely time for a cake so we stopped in the town of Werden and my bakery-radar worked as effectively as usual and we found somewhere.

  

What was a bit peculiar here was that I had to work a bit hard to get my Teewasser (hot water for tea). This is because they said I couldn’t buy just the tea water, I had to also have their teabag. I was worried they’d put it in the water so said I didn’t need it, I knew I would have to pay, but I wanted to use my own teabag. After some mumbling and grumbling they let me have just the tea water (and charged me the full tea price).

After our stop in Werden we had a nice fast section on good quality track. James had looked at the Bikeline book and noticed that where the route crossed the river at Kettwig the track then became on-road and with bad quality surfaces (indicated by a dashed red line on the map) but there seemed to be an alternative route on the north side of the Ruhr that was solid line (better quality). So we decided to do this instead and not cross over at Kettwig.

This turned out to be an excellent choice as the route was the whole time alongside the river with good views and not too many other cyclists (we had noticed the general route being much busier today – we had seen very few other cycle tourists before today).

We cycled under the impressive A52 motorway bridge.

  

We were now approaching Mülheim an der Ruhr (which I have cycled to before from home) and, once again, the Ruhr river seemed very un-industrial and instead scenic.

The route didn’t actually take us through Mülheim as we stayed on the left hand side of the river (west, in this case), and it took an interesting route through parks and on some elevated bridges. We stopped briefly to look at Schloss Broich.

And after this went through a park with various water features which was rather lovely, although there did seem to be more graffiti around than you normally see.

Here we are looking back at Mülheim from a bridge.

This was a good quality bridge again ‘just’ for cyclists and pedestrians.

Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians

We also passed this water tower which is now an aquarium. That lift looks incredibly complicated!

It was three o’clock so time for some more food so we popped into a bakery attached to a small shopping centre just outside Mühlheim.

 

Amazingly I had to have the same argument about using my own teabag (“it’s not allowed. You aren’t allowed to bring your own food here.”) When I protested she said “it’s the rules from the boss” and other such comments. But once again I was firm and said I just wanted hot water, would pay the full cost of the tea, and she backed down. But twice in one day!!!

What was also interesting was that there was no public toilet although this was a sit-down café. I believe that this is against the law (as it is in England), in that you have to provide a loo if you provide seating with food service. But I just crossed my legs for the rest of the ride.

James and I both commented that we had probably seen more industrial views when riding on the river Main or Rhine than the supposedly-industrial Ruhr. But as we approached Duisburg we finally found some of what I thought we’d see much more of…

This was the view about 2km from the mouth of the Ruhr where it joins the Rhine.

And this was the final time that we crossed the Ruhr on our tour – I reckon we’ve done at least 30 crossings this trip.

And here is where the Ruhr meets the Rhein.

James cycled right down to the point of the confluence (I didn’t as it was too off-road).

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And there was one of the Rhein kilometre markers too – we had seen smaller versions of these on the Ruhr today but hadn’t noticed them on previous days.

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We waved goodbye to the Ruhr, crossed the Rhine and then had a 25km ride home through Moers. It wasn’t a particularly scenic route, it was direct and fast, and I was pleased to be heading home as my knees were hurting a bit. These routes have lots of very short, sharp climbs to go over bridges and round obstacles and I have used my Granny Ring (and indeed my first gear) more on this tour than in the last two years put together, I think.

Anyway, we had a great time. We cycled 285.99km and took over 25 hours to do it! I burned 6,610 calories over the four days so you can decide whether my cake consumption was offset.

I thought I had forgotten my battery charger for my NiMhs for my Garmin so had to buy some AA batteries in Aldi; when sorting out my bike tools this morning I spotted the charger at the bottom of the pannier. But neither of us needed any tools except cable ties for my broken rack and both bikes performed very well indeed. Alfie is indeed an excellent touring machine although is hard work on the hillier tours such as this one. It might help if I had slightly less luggage and slightly less personal lard.

We both carried iPads with us and these are surprisingly heavy. They both survived the journey well – but I dropped mine getting out of the car on the way back from choir and cracked the glass on the front. Rather ironic considering it was bumped around in panniers for four days on the trike, over cobbles and railway lines, and with a dodgy rack which meant it could bash against the axle. But it took a trip to the supermarket to buy some milk to cause damage. Not too bad, fortunately, so it lives to fight another day – and hopefully to do another tour sometime soon!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the trip. I can very much recommend this as a route, as long as you don’t mind hills on the first day. The Ruhr may be seen as the industrial heartland but it is also beautiful, scenic and friendly (as long as you don’t need to use your own teabags).

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Ruhrtal Tour – Day 3: Arnsberg to Hattingen

Tuesday 8 September 2015

This was our track for today’s ride.

The forecast today was a bit of drizzle at 11am and after that sunshine. Sadly the forecast was mistaken and we had drizzle and cloudy skies all day – didn’t really see the sun at all! But that is getting ahead of this report… first of all breakfast!

James is looking a bit bleary today as he twisted his back a bit yesterday sitting wonkily on the bed and had to do quite a lot of stretching and have a hot shower this morning to try to loosen up a bit.

We paid the hotel and were underway by 9:30am. James had packed his panniers carefully so that they were equal weights as he’d been struggling a bit to push the bike when it was loaded; despite this it was still a bit awkward and he was being careful of his back. The rack pack he had was a bit of weight higher up which perhaps didn’t help but was useful for storing all the valuables in so he could take it easily off the bike.

We headed first to the bank in Arnsberg for me to get some cash out. Some workmen standing near the bank were saying to each other “that bike has an electric motor” so I was pleased to tell them otherwise. Just leg muscle power for me!

We headed out of Arnsberg past this interesting sculpture.

Fairly soon we arrived at what was a very steep wooden bridge. I got halfway up the slope and then slipped backwards down again – clearly I’d have to walk it. This was tricky with cleats on as the wet wood was very, very slippery.

Here is the view down the way we came. James had also walked up and also struggled with slippery cleats on shoes.

Because of a sharp bend at the bottom of the bridge on the day down James descended VERY carefully. I went a bit faster but was being wary of my brakes as I rather wore them out on yesterday’s fast, wet, muddy descents. I need to fit some more brake pads when I get home.

Here is the view looking back at Arnsberg. Our hotel was next to that big tower.

Quite a lot of today’s route was in rather lovely riverside woodland areas, although these often had Schotter/loose gravel rather than asphalt, as here.

At Hüsten (part of Arnsberg) we discovered some Roman-style ruins. They were actually rather new-looking and I think part of some children’s group project from a few years before (there were four concrete paving slabs with children’s names etched in).

We stopped for five minutes for James to refine his pannier packing in the hopes that his bike would be a bit easier to manoeuvre when wheeling it.

Despite the weather forecast, as mentioned above, the reality was dark clouds and occasional drizzle or rain. James kept putting his waterproof trousers on and then removing them again 15 minutes later when it dried out again.

We had stopped at this station on the train on the way to Winterberg – I love its name!

We were starting to feel peckish so decided to stop for tea and cake at Fröndenberg. We found a café with nice pastries.

Fröndenberg was a rather lovely little town but we had 100km to do today and were only at 38km so needed to press on.

We made good progress after this point (fortified by cake?) and zoomed along a section which was easy to follow and generally good quality road surfaces.

Just after Dellwig we stopped for this sign – it’s the halfway point of the Ruhrtal Radweg.

We had a very long fast section through fields with occasional crossings of the Ruhr which was now getting much wider and seemed quite still at times.

We passed round the outside of Schwerte, a fairly large town. After that we had a diversion which we knew about (it was on the Ruhrtal Radweg website that I had seen last week). The diversion has been in place for a few years as it is also marked in our book – something to do with a collapsing cliff I believe.

Anyway, the diversion involved riding on two rather busy roads, the L637 and then the L675, which wasn’t particularly nice. We then passed through the industrial estate near Hagen at a place called Bathey, not very scenic for a few kilometres but we were soon back at the river and things looked nicer again.

At this point the Ruhr has considerably widened into a lake rather than a river – the Hengsteysee. Built into the hillside is the Speicherkraftwerk Koepchenwerk, a huge pumped hydroelectric plant.

Here is Alfie posing in front.

A little way around the corner near Herdecke we crossed the river again, this time on a bridge which also had railway tracks.

There was a sensible warning for cyclists – although I don’t think I can go over the handlebars like that on Alfie!

  

It was 3:30 and we were feeling peckish so stopped at the first place we could find – a random Biergarten which served Bratwurst and Baguette

And Frikadelle and baguette

I have to say I was expecting more than two pieces of Baguette – I was expecting a whole one!

James had a Radler but didn’t finish it so tipped it into his bidon (which still had the remains of a berry electrolyte drink). Apparently it tasted OK!

At Herdecke there was this wonderful viaduct.

This is the view towards Wetter from Herdecke – we had a long ride around the Harkortsee (which is the wide bit of the Ruhr river) enjoying the view and the smooth surface.

We had another 25km to go and time was marching on a bit so we put the pedal to the metal and covered the ground well, although my right knee (which occasionally complains) was giving me a few twinges. So I kept going steadily and didn’t over-exert myself on the uphills.

Near Vormholz we had a ferry crossing with a brand new electric-powered ferry which just had a tin for donations (we put 2 Euros in).

We passed a wonderful nature and wellness area (with a swimming pool with lots of flumes etc) which included smooth cycle paths as well as paths for inline roller skating. We passed a lady on an eletric Kettwiesel trike too – and passed her again after we stopped for this photo.

I nearly made it to Gibraltar!

We were now riding along the Kemnader See and once again h ad some lovely views. At Stiepel the river narrowed again and we saw lots of people out canoeing.

There were still a few challenges on the route, such as these gates (to keep cows in two connecting fields).

At our food stop I had phoned one of the hotels we’d researched last night to book a room – it was on the outskirts of Hattingen and looked good. As we crossed the road bridge into Hattingen we had a good view over the maize fields into the distance. The hills of the Sauerland have now gone and we just saw lower, rolling hills.

And we also got a good view of our hotel – An Der Kost.

We checked in with a very friendly proprietor and he showed us to our room, decorated in heavy red colours but with an excellent shower (with jets for your back and waist and hips – great for James’s back).

An Der Kost is in the middle of nowhere so we ate in the restaurant after our showers – we seemed to be the only guests here.

We had ridden 101.5km at an average speed of 15km/h which wasn’t bad with our heavy packs. Tomorrow we have just ninety kilometres back to Kempen but will be riding through lots of the very interesting industrial culture of the Ruhrgebiet. And the forecast is sunshine all day, so fingers crossed!!!

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Ruhrtal Tour – Day 2: Winterberg to Arnsberg

Monday 7 September 2015

After a good night’s sleep we woke up to a rather rainy view. 

The breakfast was good and we were on our way by 9:30am, dressed in our waterproofs. Well, James had normal trousers on but I had gone full waterproofs due to the forecast of a day of rain.

The forecast was correct – we had rain or drizzle for probably 75% or so of the day, but it didn’t matter as we had a very good day’s riding, 70km in total. Here is our track for the day.

 
German chum Olaf had warned me that the beginning of this ride wasn’t very recumbent-friendly. I wasn’t sure if this was because it was hilly (which it was) or if it was because it was off-road (which it was), but we decided we had to really ride the entire Ruhr route so had to find our way to the source… which was up a hill.

  
This involved some exciting off-road, both ups and downs. The ups were VERY slow for me, the downs sometimes scarily fast. But we made it to the source and here we are.
   

 This tiny channel, about 30cm wide, contains the river Ruhr. We dropped a stick in it to try for Pooh Sticks – perhaps we will find the stick at Duisburg in a few days time.
 And just a few metres on the Ruhr crosses the cycle path and so we both forded it. Remaining dry (apart from the rain).
   

 The rain was steady most of the time with occasional extra rainy moments. We were both getting a bit damp despite the waterproofs and there was a lot of muck thrown up onto our bikes despite the mudguards. I have to mention here that James had made some extra-long mudguard flaps (out of a bit of the plastic packaging that my venetian blinds came in) and they worked really well at reducing the water that flicked onto his shoes from his front wheel.

This bit of the route was quite steep downhill which was interesting for James with rim brakes in the wet. I pulled ahead on the downhills, he was always way ahead on the uphills, so for this section we weren’t generally riding together as it was pretty much always either up or down.

As we passed a mill on the way into Niedersfeld I spotted some tail fins of aeroplanes visible over a fence. We went for a closer look – it was an exhibition of soviet-era planes that you could pay 1€ to visit (going through a turnstile). Of course we only had 2€ coins so paid double but decided it would make an interesting break in our ride.

   
    
    
    

I was amused by this misspelling!

After half an hour or so looking around the aeroplanes (which were rusting away quietly but still interesting for all that – the Russian and Czech planes looked remarkably agricultural!) we continued on in the drizzle.

We caught regular glimpses of the Ruhr which was rapidly getting bigger. We also crossed it regularly on a series of different little bridges. There were lots of sharp downhills as well as uphills. The uphills reminded me of why I love living in the Niederrhein area – it’s flat! I am SLOW up hills, particularly with luggage and in the rain.

Some of the downhills were surprisingly steep!

 

This one, into Assinghausen, was great fun – I reached 52.17km/h but had to use the brakes as I approached the town. Going at that speed and then braking a heavy trike with heavy rider meant that there was a very strong eau-de-disc-brake-pad wafting around for the next few kilometres.

After Assinghausen we went through Wulmeringshausen and then had to cross the railway at a level crossing on the way into Olsberg and it was a bit of a challenge!

There were more ups and downs after Olsberg and Bigge. We passed a town that James originally read on the map as ‘Nutter’ but disappointingly it was actually Nuttlar. Eventually we arrived in Bestwig where several tributaries join the Ruhr. We went over the bridge and had a nice view down to a church.

After Bestwig we rode past Velmede and then arrived at a section on the map which had a chevron in bold type – we soon realised why! It was so steep that James had to walk up and I was in first gear (out of my choice of 33).

At the top we were rewarded with some views over Sauerland.

The scenery was very reminiscent of when I rode the Sauerlandradring last year. Although we hadn’t ridden as far north that time the climbs and descents were familiar!

There was some interesting writing on the path on the way into Meschede but I couldn’t read it well enough to make sense of it.

At Meschede we stopped for lunch. It was pouring as we got into the town centre so we were dripping wet when we walked into the bakery. We were restored by a baguette, hot drinks and a shared cake.

We stopped for about an hour in Meschede. This had originally been a possible overnight town if the previous riding had been too hard but we felt able to continue the 25km to Arnsberg as it was only two in the afternoon.

After Meschede we had some rather off-road sections.

There were also a few slight amendments to the route as displayed in our Bikeline book and on the GPS track that I had downloaded from the official Ruhrtal Radweg website. There was decent signage generally, including this one that I had to pose beside.

As we rode through Freienohl I spotted this rather unusual decoration on this building – a boat!

The boat had the marks where a label had been removed – Dehler. We realised pretty quickly that this must have been the factory for these yachts – James sails with several people who have Dehlers but the company obviously stopped production here. In the yard beside the factory we saw lots of moulds just lying outside getting ruined. Hanse now own Dehler and have their factory in Griefswald on the Baltic.

We were amused by this sign – is it to warn you of sea monsters? Or not to fly a spinnaker-sized kite?

In Oeventrop we passed a huge glider centre and there was also some kind of artwork thing going on in the village with decorated wooden chairs hanging on fence posts – here are just a few of them.

We arrived in Arnsberg in yet another rainstorm, having waited for 10 minutes under a tree in the hope that it would subside but got bored and rode on eventually.

We hadn’t pre-booked a hotel but had researched a little bit last night and headed for Altes Backhaus which turned out to be in the pedestrian zone up a VERY steep cobbled road which James had to walk up and I did lots of wheel spinning on the way up.

Here is the rather attractive hotel.

After hanging up our wet things to dry (the room now looks like a bomb has gone off) we went for a meal in the hotel which was very pleasant.

Our plan for tomorrow is to ride to Hattingen which is near Essen and almost exactly 100km away. The weather looks to be a bit better which is a relief – just a small amount of drizzle around midday. It will be nice to cycle without a waterproof jacket on!

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Ruhrtal Tour – Day 1: Journey to Winterberg

Sunday 6 September 2015

It’s a long time since the SPEZI Tour, which finished on 1st May, and as James planned to visit me for a couple of weeks we thought it would be nice to do a short tour together – and the Ruhr valley seemed like a good option as the Ruhr flows into the Rhine just 30km from my Wohnung.

The source of the Ruhr River is near Winterberg so we decided to get the train to Winterberg and ride back.

The summer has been pretty hot in Germany but the forecast, as the holiday approached, looked considerably more autumnal. In fact as this morning dawned the maximum forecast temperature for Winterberg was 9 degrees. That’s chilly, when we had 31 degrees last Sunday! So James and I packed our colder weather gear and set off to ride the 14km to Krefeld from where we would catch the train.

Here’s James and his bike and Alfie as we are about to set off.

And this was our route to Krefeld main station.

We arrived in plenty of time but I needed plenty of time to fight with the Ticket Machine which is remarkably slow and objected to one of my debit cards (fortunately the other worked).

As you can see, the bikes are much cheaper than the humans!

We also then discovered that the lift at Krefeld Station is too short for Alfie so I had to carry him up the stairs to the platform.

The train arrived and we found the bicycle area. There was a chap sitting on one of the folding seats in the bike area and he didn’t move when I clearly needed to put Alfie there (no room elsewhere) so in the end I asked him fairly firmly to move – and he did.

We needed to change trains once on this journey, at Dortmund, and had 45 minutes between the trains. Our train was a bit delayed so the 50 minute journey ended up about an hour and five minutes. When we got to Dortmund we discovered there were no lifts, only an escalator, so once again I had to carry Alfie down the stairs from the platform and then back up again to the new platform. But I am used to this and it was OK.

The train from Dortmund to Winterberg was a little diesel one which was full by the time the train left. I had had to put Alfie on his side to squeeze him into the bike area but once he was in place it was fine and I sat on a chair and watched the world go by.

Winterberg is in the Sauerland which is a series of mountains/hills. Kempen is about 23 metres above sea level but Winterberg is 630ish and we noticed the train was steadily climbing, alongside the Ruhr river a lot of the time. We caught occasional glimpses of the cycle path.

We arrived at Winterberg at 3:15 and stepped out of the train into a cold and drizzly environment. We headed off to find our hotel which we overshot initially – this is the track to the hotel.

It is worth noting that this section of the ride was almost entirely uphill so very slow (we averaged 10 km/h and it was me keeping us to that slow speed, James can ride uphill much faster).

 

The Hotel was very nice – we were the only guests and had a comfortable room with a huge bathroom. They also provided us with teapots for our tea.

The wifi was rather flaky though which meant I had a lot of issues trying to add photos to this blog so there are far fewer than normal (this is because the WordPress App doesn’t work on my phone so I have to wait for the photos I take to arrive on the iPad through Photostream before I can add them – and it was being very finicky).

Anyway, here is the view from our balcony…

As you can see, Winterberg is a winter sports area with ski slopes and more. In summer it is a mountain biking and walking place. At this time of year it was very quiet and felt autumnal!

I have allowed myself one luxury on this tour – as we’ll probably only be away for four nights I have packed enough clothes that I only have to wash one pair of cycling trousers during the whole trip! What luxury to be able to shower without then having to wash your clothes. James is less fortunate as he came to Germany by bike so couldn’t bring that much luggage… so he’s still doing the clothes washing chore.

We decided to go for a short walk to have a closer look at the Bob Bahn (bobsleigh track) which had been the venue for the Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships earlier this year…

We didn’t explore too much as it was perishingly cold. We retreated to a restaurant for food.

I had a Currywurst as you can see above. This is traditional food in Essen which we went past on the train today, so I’ve had it a bit early. But it was tasty!

We walked back and enjoyed the scenery despite the cold!

Unfortunately we had noticed whilst on the train that part of Alfie’s rack had broken – a bolt had sheared on one of the rack supports.

Part of the bolt was still in the rack metalwork.

 

This was on the side that had the heavier pannier and I surmise that the ride through Krefeld, which has lots of bumpy tree roots across the Radweg, might have caused this problem.

So anyway it was time to try to repair it. It looked like an ideal candidate for a Cable Tie Repair…

Hopefully the cable tie will hold until I get home again when I’ll have to hope that Frank can drill out the old screw and we can molish something else.

Tomorrow the plan is to ride (in the rain) to Arnsberg which is about 70km away. The first couple of kilometres will be uphill to the Ruhrquelle (the source of the Ruhr) and some of it is rather off-road so it might be hard work, but after about 20km it’s pretty much all downhill for the rest of the ride. Phew! The weather seems to be looking better from Tuesday onwards which is also good.

Our rides today were as follows:

Home to Krefeld: 14.46km at 17.52km/h.
Winterberg railway station to hotel: 3.17km at 10.07km/h

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Ruhrtal Tour 2015, Six Wheels In Germany