Category Archives: Cycle Tours

Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Arnhem to Kempen

Day 3 of our tour, and the last day.

We had slept really well in our aircraft hangar. Cycle tours are wonderful for tiring you out!

The B&B had suggested breakfast at 09:00 (not earlier) so we had a leisurely walk before breakfast where we went to the fence surrounding the Deelen airfield. We couldn’t see a lot really, but gather it is a really large site.

We walked for about 2km before returning to the aircraft hangar.

We seemed to be the only people awake, apart from the two cats who had apparently had a bit of a fight in the night. We heard lots of yowling and then the Movement Alarm on Emily sounded, so one of them must have knocked against her. This was at 3am!

Breakfast was very impressive!

In the past we have found food in NL very disappointing. However, on this trip both breakfasts and evening meals were very good. Lunches less so, and of course the cakes are a bit of a catastrophe, but it seems at least we are improving our luck with Dutch food. Perhaps our experience is leading us to make better choices!

After a leisurely breakfast and a couple of cups of tea, we packed our things and readied the velomobiles. We said goodbye to the excellent host and her dog – we would very much like to come back again to this B&B.

Our planned route for today was this:

We had posted in the Velomobilforum that we expected to be at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof at around 2pm or perhaps a bit later, if anyone wanted to join us there. We had not received any responses (a bit late notice) when we set off.

Our route started off by going downhill to Arnhem. And it was pretty hilly, so we had some high speeds on some open roads and then when we actually got into Arnhem we had some short, sharp climbs as we made our way through the outskirts of the city. My motor was again doing sterling work!

In Arnhem we crossed the John Frostbrug again, as a few weeks ago, and were now on the Radschnellweg/Fast Bike Route between Arnhem and Nijmegen. It’s an excellent route which is almost entirely on separate cycle infrastructure with not too many main road crossings. We zoomed along.

Soon we were approaching Nijmegen, which is also a bit hilly – we rode downhill to the river (and saw a fantastic cockapoo puppy in the town centre – if I’d had a chance I would have stopped to give it a cuddle, but we were going too fast on a main road!)

Almost immediately we were on a quiet country lane, despite being in the thick of Nijmegen just 600 metres ago. Impressive! We had an issue with two horses where we had to stop and wait for the young boy holding one horse to be rescued by his mum. We weren’t happy to pass with just the boy holding the horse as they can be so frightened of us.

We went through Persingen and then as we approached Wercheren there seemed to be dozens and dozens of race cyclists whizzing along on the relatively narrow cycle path. They were overtaking us at speed which is a bit scary in a velomobile as we have very limited opportunity to dodge hazards. They all disappeared up a steep slope which is where we should also have gone but we overshot. We needed time to work out the best way to get up there with all the race bikes.

In the end, we approached from the other side and it was fine as there was a brief lull in the cyclists. We were waved across the road by Marshalls and congratulated (they clearly thought we were part of this race) and then we passed a field where the racers were all collecting after their race. I think there were several hundred in the field, men and women. Some major event! I didn’t see any portaloos though! This was La Ronda de Nijmegen, as we later discovered.

We carried on of course, with a few race cyclists also going our way (after the finish, going home?). And we realised that we were back in Germany – I spotted the cycle route signs in the familiar German style. We were in the village of Zyfflich and two people on recumbent bikes waved at us, but we were moving at some speed and didn’t stop.

From Zyfflich we went through Niel and then Düffelward. We saw no cars, just a few other cyclists. Sunday morning and Kreis Kleve is really dead (apart from the thousands of cyclists back in NL and then another huge bunch we met in Düffelward, who were on the 160km La Ronda de Nijmegen route, it seems).

From Düffelward we were cycling on the dike on bricks so it was a bit bumpy. We then crossed the Spoykanal and turned south towards Kellen. We then skirted around Kleve, although we briefly considered riding into Kleve to find a café. But Kleve is big and hilly and I thought we would find somewhere to stop on our route. Although I was wrong!

We rode around Bedburg-Hau which was back on fairly familiar roads. And then we headed to Louisendorf which is a village founded by people from the Kurpfalz where Klaus hails from, so it’s like a mini homecoming. We stopped at the church in the centre of Louisendorf and stretched our legs a bit as I was feeling a bit cramped. We had done 65km without a stop and my legs were complaining a bit.

We then discovered that at 9:30 one of our velomobile acquaintances who lives in Kleve had asked where we were crossing the Rhein as he would join us for a short while, but we were already way past and he didn’t have time to come all the way to Winnekendonk where we were headed. It was a shame, but there you go.

It was just 25km from Louisendorf to Winnekendonk and includes a fantastic downhill run where I hit 60 km/h before I started to consider the approaching t-junction and bottled out. I was ahead at this point as we had had to go up a hill first and I had used my motor on maximum; Klaus was having to use leg-power alone, poor chap, plus he had all the luggage. But Emily is good and stable and he didn’t seem to mind.

From this point on we were on roads that we have regularly ridden so for me it felt like we were almost home. And then Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof hove into view – finally a chance for a cup of tea and some cake, 90km after leaving Arnhem.

As usual, it had to be the Mandarinen Schmand Kuchen. It is a real highlight of German Cakiness!

We enjoyed the relaxation, had two cups of tea and the one slice of cake each and rested a bit. I had been interested to see that my heart rate seemed to stay really low again today, as it did yesterday – averaging 95 at this point. That’s really unusual for me, I usually have a heart rate around 130. This has happened before and it seems to be related to me having a very carb-heavy breakfast, which I only do on tour.

However, after we left Winnekendonk things were a bit different. We really put the pedal to the metal, and Klaus (who was a bit quicker) rode the final 31km home at an average of 38.5 km/h. This is with a Quattrovelo which probably weighed close on 50kg with all the luggage and tools. Very impressive, although his legs were complaining about it (and not having had a warm down) the next day. I followed him at a slightly more sedate pace back (average about 36 km/h, I think), and warmed down for the final 2km or so.

In total today’s ride was just under 120 km.

The heart rate data is also interesting, as after the cake stop my heart rate returned to its ‘normal’, i.e. average of 130, with peaks around 160 bpm. You can see here the heart rate trace for the first 90km of the ride (at the beginning the heart rate monitor didn’t work, and it also stopped briefly in the middle where it appears as if I am dead on the trace):

The 90km to Büllhorsthof Cake. Max 125, average 95 bpm.

And then we stopped for cake… After that point the heart rate hugely increased. Here is the trace for the post-cake sector:

Average 134 for the final 31km, post-cake

And what can we conclude from this? I seem to ride better after cake! Good thing we had cake after 50km on the 210km ride on Friday. I have suggested to Klaus that we need to schedule in cake stops earlier on rides than 90km. I hope he will agree.

We arrived home, having remained dry despite some threatening clouds following us from Arnhem. So it seems the poncho that I purchased did its job of chasing off the rain – just 15 minutes of light drizzle over a weekend which originally forecast 6mm of rain. We were once again very lucky with the weather on our tour.

Rain-scaring poncho.

So our mini tour was at an end. Klaus has already planned the next one (we are turning a day group ride with the Grensland Rijders to a three day tour again).

Here is the Veloviewer Wheel to show you where we went on this tour:

457km is not bad for three days. Once again, thanks to my riding partner and pack mule Klaus who carted my clothes, shoes, iPad, battery charger etc around the Netherlands in his voluminous velomobile boot, whilst I just carried the rain-defying poncho as extra ballast. We had a great tour, he really enjoyed his birthday, and we visited some places that we will want to return to again.

Keep an eye out for my reports on the next tour in just a fortnight’s time…

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Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Leiden to Arnhem

Today was Klaus’s birthday.

We had already arranged to cycle some of the way with chum Alex (who originally sold me Penelope the Versatile, and then bought friend Gabi’s Quest XS). He would be very near Leiden that morning so we would arrange to meet somehow. Klaus had planned a route, Alex planned another, then Alex amended Klaus’s route and so we had a choice of three. The expectation was that we would do the Klaus Route with Alex Amendments.

The plan was for Alex to arrive at 9:30 in the morning, having overnighted just down the road as he had some reason to be there. In the end, his plans didn’t work out so he had already cycled 40km from Rotterdam when he arrived at our Birthday Castle. Here is Lewwie (the Little White Whale, Alex’s Quest XS) with Millie and Emily.

As we only had 120km to ride today we were feeling relaxed about things. Alex was having a few issues with his Wahoo Elemnt GPS as for some reason the route today wouldn’t load. Klaus was relaxing on his birthday.

We didn’t actually get to look at the Castle at all, another problem with arriving late in the evening. We stayed at a castle but only saw the reception area, dining room and our bedroom.

In the end Alex concluded he wouldn’t be able to get the track onto his GPS so he would try and remember the route. Although Klaus and I both had the route, if someone who knows the area is in front it is much easier as they know where to cross the road for the cycle path, which path to take when they split etc. So although I started off ahead, Alex took the lead position fairly soon after we were underway.

Lewwie seems quite quick at accelerating. Alex was whizzing off ahead (although presumably he wasn’t weighed down by quite as much luggage as we were!) and Klaus and I were still warming up. Then we realised that Alex had missed a turn on the track and he was ahead. I hooted my horn but he didn’t hear it (he has the removable hood on the Quest and this makes it harder to hear), and he disappeared into the distance.

Klaus and I stopped as it was for us safer to stick to the route, in case we failed to see a turn later on when blindly following Alex. We sent him a message to say he was Off Course and we were waiting. After a few minutes he replied to say he would join up with our route, so we turned round and followed the route.

It turned out (as we later saw with Strava Flyby) that Alex was back on the route ahead of us, when we thought he was behind us. So we periodically stopped and waited (and checked the phone for messages) whilst he was pushing on ahead.

A phone-checking stop beside the ubiquitous canal and windmill. We are in NL after all!

So it was fairly slow going, although a lovely route through Buitenkaag, Huigsloot and then to Oude Wetering, where Klaus had a very annoyed motorist give sustained hooting as we went over the bridge on the road not cycle path (there was no way we could have done the corner to the cycle path). This sort of bad tempered behaviour by drivers when we are on the road for 100 metres or so leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

At this point also my hat blew away but Klaus was able to scoop it up from the road, hooray!

We also had a mini ferry crossing which took less than 1 minute. This was very cool, and only 90 cents per velomobile!

After Oude Wetering we had a fast bit of road towards Nieuwveen. Alex was somewhere ahead of us (and looking at Flyby later we saw he took a different route quite a lot of the time) so we pushed on a bit faster, agreeing to meet in Nieuwveen. Eventually we caught up with him – right by a bit of an obstacle, some Drängelgitter.

All three bikes were safely through in due course.

We were riding now at a fairly good speed alongside a busier road, but the path was set a little bit to the side so was reasonably pleasant. We were fast, of course, being in velomobiles, but were at one point overtaken by a little car (one of the special ones that are allowed on cycle paths – how do they press the button for the traffic lights?) as well as a motor scooter.

We rode through Vinkeveen, I was pulling ahead in the riding as Millie is so efficient and a good shape for the headwind we had. Yes, yesterday we had a headwind as we were heading west (wind was WNW) and today, heading east, the wind had also shifted and was ENE. Alex is quick in Lewwie but the Quest XS’s shape clearly limits the top speed. It is wide and short, and the Quests are also known to be sometimes a bit temperamental in strong side winds.

Finally we were away from the busy road and riding down a rather lovely cycle path. It would have been lovelier if the surface was a bit better – there were quite a lot of ruts and bumps which is sub-optimal with velomobiles.

We were heading towards a lunch stop (Alex had some ideas where) but Klaus was feeling peckish and thought we should stop for some of the cake we had brought from Germany yesterday. So we did. But first I took the opportunity for some photography of Millie and Emily for the header for this blog.

We had no plates or knife for the cake, but Klaus’s toolkit provided the all-purpose knife.

The Streuselkuchen was shared out amongst the three of us, and we nearly lost it to a passing Dobermann who fancied it. Fortunately Klaus mounted a successful defence of the Streuselkuchen!

We stopped for quite a while, enjoying the better weather and watching two storks wheeling about in the air across the canal. We also saw lots of trains going past, including a Deutsche Bahn ICE train.

We then carried on and the bridge at Mijnden was closed when we arrived.

We only had to wait a couple of minutes and then it slowly lowered again and we continued on.

We were now on a lovely bit of road with some really posh houses along the side. Alex explained that the old Amsterdam Traders used to have a posh house in this area for the weekend, and they certainly looked lovely and generally immaculately kept. I guess a bit like the Russian Dachas.

We got to another bridge and Alex took us off-route and we crossed the bridge to have some food. We had a burger and chips seated outside in a nice pedestrian square in a place called Breukelen. Which is pronounced ‘Brooklyn’. Earlier we had seen signs to Haarlem.

We had a very leisurely lunch and then it was time for us to press on and for Alex to return home. We said our goodbyes – it had been great to see him again! Alex sold Penelope my first Velomobile to me and our lives intersect regularly it seems.

On the way out of Breukelen we had another bridge that was open.

And then we were back on fast, easy roads. Having had a decent bit of food we had some more energy and rode on well, passing through Westbroek, Nieuwe-Wetering (skirting to the north of Utrecht), Den Dolder, the edge of Zeist and then we followed a main road past Austerlitz. The road was climbing here as we approached the Hoge Veluwe national park, and we had a little downhill after Austerlitz. A chance for the velomobiles to fly! I hit my max speed of 52 here but Klaus was a bit braver and went to 58 km/h.

We rode through Woudenberg and then Scherpenzeel and Renswoude. We crossed the A30 motorway and then found ourselves to the north of Ede. After Ede the National Park began in earnest, with a long climb followed by a most fantastic downhill. Not as fast as the one after Austerlitz but it went on a long time!

At the bottom our track told us to turn left, but we found ourselves in a car park with a woodland track leading in the direction our track suggested. We didn’t fancy that but I could see an alternative on the main road which would rejoin the track, so we took that way. Last-minute route changes with 10km to go can be rather annoying! Especially as we had lost all our speed from the downhill for this unnecessary left turn.

We crossed the A12 and then the A50 motorways and then turned north, away from Oosterbeek and Arnhem, towards Schaarsbergen where our B&B was.

Our B&B was up an old, brick road. As you can see from the photo below, there was a house and behind it a large barn. The barn had an interesting pointy roof…

And as we arrived, we saw there would be no issues with velomobile parking.

The owner and her dog came out to meet us and said of course we could store the velomobiles in the barn. We could store them right outside the door to our rooms, which were in the barn.

But this wasn’t actually a barn, it was an aircraft hangar!

And not just any aircraft hangar! It was built in WW2 by the Germans, and was the largest aircraft hangar in Europe at the time (although we may have remembered this wrongly).

The hangar is here because Deelen airfield was in the woods behind us. Deelen was the largest airfield in NL and was used by the Germans in WW2, although the Dutch had built it in 1913.

The structure of the hangar was amazing. Super-thick walls, the wooden beams were actually laminate, everything was original and really solid. Klaus thinks the pointy roof was so that from above it looked like a farm building, not an aircraft hangar, so perhaps this was to disguise it from British bombers.

From the website on Forgotten Airfields:

“The airbase was used by the RNLAF without changing much of the original German buildings. As a result, it is one of very few places in Europe where the German “Heimatschutz Architektur” is well preserved. This is why the Dutch Ministry of Culture put the entire complex and its surrounding complexes -a total of 251 objects- on a heritage protection list. Its sheer size makes the Air Base the largest National Cultural Monument in the Netherlands.


The “Heimatschutz Architektur” meant that bunkers and hangars were camouflaged to make them look like Dutch farms. In fact: some of the off-base buildings are in use at farms today. Only if you inspect them up close you will notice walls are a meter (3 feet) thick, windows and doors are actually painted on walls, hatches are made of thick steel, and German texts can still be found all over the air base.


The Germans did make a mistake though: instead of using the local Gelders traditional style of building they used the Holland style. For the purpose it did not matter: the camouflage worked.”

Whatever, this was a fascinating place to stay! And for Klaus, whose birthday it was and who has a real interest in history, it was the icing on the cake!

Here are my statistics from Garmin for the day.

In the evening we walked to a pizzeria just five minutes away. Some of the old airfield buildings are being converted to homes or other purposes and there was a very nice pizzeria there. The service was a bit laid back (it was good that we weren’t in a rush!) but the pizza was tasty!

On our return Klaus took some pictures of Millie and Emily in the evening light.

We can very much recommend B&B Adelaerthoeve, as the rooms were great (we had a mini kitchen) and of course there is loads of history!

Although today was not as far to ride as yesterday, I was still pretty tired and so happy to have an early night. Klaus enjoyed his birthday – what better way to celebrate the new year of life by having a cycle ride and eating some German cake!

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Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Kempen to Leiden

Months ago Klaus said what he would really like to do for his birthday is a bike tour. So we decided to do one!

As usual, our initial plans snowballed a bit, and we ended up with a three day tour, including a very long first day (a Friday). He wanted to cycle to the coast in NL which is a good 200km away. I was a bit nervous about this, but as in my family the Birthday Boy or Girl gets what they want on their birthday, I would go along with it.

We wanted to find somewhere nice to stay and I found a rather nice-looking castle just outside Leiden. So somehow the name of this tour became “Klaus’s Birthday Castle”.

Rather than riding the 200km back home again the next day (his actual birthday), we decided to ride to Arnhem and stay overnight there, then ride back home on the third day. We found a rather posh B&B in Arnhem too.

So this was the plan. We watched the weather forecast for the week beforehand. Rainy, not too warm. Then the rain became more – 16mm on the Saturday. Argh! I bought a rain poncho and then the forecast improved a bit. I had even considered taking Millie’s hood (I don’t like cycling with it that much) but the forecast improved enough that I decided to do without. 4-6mm rain over the day isn’t too awful – I had a day on a trike tour where there was 60mm of rain!

Klaus had prepared the route for day 1, from home to Leiden/Poelgeest.

From Kempen to Leiden, 198km planned route

The day before I had been off work (using up overtime) and I pumped up Millie’s tyres, oiled her chain, ran a wet cloth over her to remove the worst of the bird/bee poop, and of course made sure that my battery was charged up 100%. I had previously ridden the battery for 200km but I wasn’t sure if it would really last that long, particularly if there were lots of stops and starts in NL (as there can be). Of course I can pedal Millie without the battery, but who wants to do extra unnecessary effort?? As a small help I put a normal velomobile battery into Millie for her lights, rather than using the main motor battery for lighting as well. That ought to give me another kilometre-or-so’s motor power at the end!

I packed my clothing as well, bearing in mind the rainy forecast (showers and drizzle on the Friday and Saturday, about 4mm per day). I had my rain poncho of course, which I hoped would do the expected job of frightening off the rain. I tried it on in the house and it was so amazingly static that my hair stood on end; I reckon I can use it to recharge the motor battery if it gets a bit low. I had the great luxury of packing a sports bag with all that I wanted as Klaus will carry it in the Quattrovelo which has space for loads of luggage. He is very kind like that!

When Klaus got home from work we went outside to do a bit more bike preparation.

Pumping up the four tyres of a Quattrovelo
Cleaning Emily
A clean Milan
A clean Quattrovelo
Milan and Quattrovelo ready for the off

Klaus stowed his spare tubes and tyres in the storage areas at the front (which we don’t usually use as they are hard to get at). This was to allow extra space for all my luggage perhaps!

We were ready to roll. It would be a short tour (maybe 450km in total) but as it was a three day tour we had the same amount of luggage that we would need for a three week tour (3 x cycling kit, 1 x normal kit, off-bike shoes, wash kit, chargers, iPad). So it is very handy that we have the huge storage capacity of the Quattrovelo at our disposal. All I would be carrying was my normal bag with phone, purse etc, my spare shoes and the charger for Millie”s battery. So perhaps an extra 2kg of weight. Aren’t I lazy!

Friday morning I woke up at the usual time (05:30) which meant I had plenty of time to get ready. I made us a breakfast of scrambled eggs, and we were out of the house by 07:45, on the road.

Our planned distance was 198km. Klaus was a bit concerned about the cake situation in NL so suggested popping first to St Hubert and buying the Streuselkuchen from the local Stinges bakery. So we set off on our 200km tour, riding in precisely the wrong direction for the first 1.5km.

As we came out of the bakery it started to rain. The most recent forecast had suggested we might be lucky and stay dry, but our hopes were dashed.

However, as we headed north to Stenden it dried up, and we didn’t have any more rain for the next 120km.

I had decided only to use my motor on setting 1, the lowest of 5, for the whole tour, in order to eke out my battery. However, at the very beginning Klaus was riding gently to warm up, and Emily was very heavily-laden so harder to accelerate. This meant that I was sometimes pulling ahead so periodically I turned the motor off and rode under my own power for a Kilometer or so.

We usually ride the route to Siebengewald (NL border south west of Kleve) on Sunday morning when there is no traffic. This is our café-visiting route of Stenden, Pont, Walbeck, Twisteden, Weeze and then Siebengewald (2 excellent cafes on this route). We discovered that there isn’t really more traffic on Friday mornings either! It was a bit tough to ride past Winthuis, with their fantastic cakes, knowing we were heading for the cake desert of NL, but it was too soon in the tour, plus I think they wouldn’t have been open yet.

These roads are fast and we were at Siebengewald, 50km in, in good time. I suggested to Klaus that we stop after 70km for something to eat but as we arrived in the centre of Gennep we saw a bakery and decided to stop anyway, at 60km.

The bakery was empty but large. They had a huge choice of bread rolls, 2-3 different doughnuts and some muffins. Not a single creamy cake. So we both went for Milka muffins.

We had a drink too, used the loo, and headed of again after about half an hour.

The centre of Gennep was rather nice actually. I hadn’t been there before, we always seem to cycle round the edges, but it seemed to have some nice shops and had a paved, pedestrianised centre. We followed our Garmins through this centre, following an official cycle route until… some Drängelgitter!

We both had to get out of our velomobiles to get through here. Annoying.

Then, about 500 metres further on our Garmin route tried to send us down an unmade road. I had turned off the main road of course, before seeing that it was a rough, rutted track, so we had to do a 10-point-turn and then accelerate onto a busy road again. Two bad bits of Velomobile-unfriendly routing in 1km suggested that we might have some more issues on this ride. Which we did. It had been prepared with the Dutch Fietserbond website, set for a race bike, but this clearly assumed race bikers don’t mind off-road.

In this case we could just follow the main road and it joined up with our track soon enough, just a couple of hundred metres extra in distance.

We rode past Milsbeek and then through Mook, which is a name we see on the A73 motorway when driving to Dronten but we had not previously visited.

We crossed over the Maas-Waal Kanaal at Molenhoek/Heumen and then left the Maas and went north west towards Wijchen, bypassing Nijmegen on this ride.

We rode through Wijchen and, once again, were reminded why cycling in NL towns is not great for velomobiles. There are speed bumps everywhere, and the very steep ones can be tough for Millie’s foot bump. The sound of scraping is very familiar, plus you have to slow down to walking pace to reduce the crash. Constant stopping and starting is very tiring!

We rode through Bergharen and then Ito Puiflijk, where our route was faced with this:

The driver was playing on his phone and didn’t look up until I had done some sustained hooting. He climbed out, came to see me and said he had to stay there as we was waiting for the farmer to finish something in the field. He wouldn’t move.

There was a gravelly path to one side and a passer-by said we could take that, but we weren’t too enthused. However, with no alternative we gave it a go. However, at the end was a pair of gates (Drängelgitter) that were too narrow too get the velomobiles through, so we had to push them round the side – where there was a steep drop to some water. Klaus and I carefully guided Millie and Emily round, lifting up their noses to get them back onto higher ground when round the obstacle. I would not have managed this on my own, and I think we lost at least 15 minutes to this obstruction. But the truck driver didn’t seem to care!

Drängelgitter and truck in background
A minor detour but a lot of time lost

We saw trucks parked blocking the road, but we saw lots of good things too! Lots of lambs in the fields, also kids (baby goats), and we saw several storks too. I saw one on a nest (Klaus saw two), one in the air and one standing in a field. They are huge and majestic birds! I also saw a very large heron who seemed to be only a few metres away, standing like a statue as I whizzed past along the dike.

When the road surface was good we made the most of it, cruising at around 32 km/h. Our speeds in towns were much less, and our overall average for the day was slowly reducing. When we crossed into NL at Siebengewald our average speed had been 27 km/h but by the end of our ride it was 24.4, and this was mostly because of the slow riding in towns. But not just that…

We had some more routing issues. Some were our faults, when we had misread the track. Such as here, where I went wrong not once but twice:

Part of the problem was that our track was 200km long in a more-or-less straight line and the Garmin takes a long time to rotate the map when it is so long. So you go round a corner and the map is not rotated to the ‘track up’ position for several seconds. So you don’t realise you needed to make a second turn, perhaps. I had found this out years ago but had forgotten about it, or perhaps thought the newer Garmin Edge could cope. But in the future I will cut tracks of this length into two.

Another issue that we had with the track was its expectation we might like to carry two heavily-laden velomobiles up a long flight of concrete steps.

Funnily enough, we decided we didn’t really fancy doing this, so had a 2-3km diversion back the way we had come to find our way to the bridge.

It seems you can’t get onto the bridge from the riverside unless you fancy walking up steps.
Waal bridge from the dike

However, experienced velonauts such as Klaus and I are used to these issues and we were able to plot an alternative route on the fly.

As we were cycling along beside a canal, Klaus noticed a yellow DF Velomobile cycling on the other side.

The clouds were getting a little heavier but overall it was still dry. We wanted to find somewhere to stop for lunch but our track didn’t go past any food establishments at all!

We were going at a reasonable speed but weren’t passing any towns. We did pass a golf course which I guess might have had a café but I didn’t fancy that.

In the end we struck lucky at a diner beside a ferry river crossing.

Klaus and I were able to charge up our Garmins. The Edge 1000 has an internal battery and although I had bluetooth switched off, because of the route following and the length of the route it was rather draining power. We were able to charge both Garmins whilst eating our “12 o’clock”.

I considered also charging the battery in Millie but I decided I wanted to see if it would really last the 200km so left it in place.

There were some clouds amassing whilst we were eating.

And indeed, as we joined the queue for the ferry crossing, it started to rain. Not such an issue for Klaus’s head with the covering on the Quattrovelo, but he got a slightly cold and damp chest where the water dripped off the visor. He didn’t put the Schaumdeckel on in support of me with no rain hood!

We crossed on the ferry and set off in the rain. The rain wasn’t too heavy fortunately but was still rather irritating and Klaus found he was getting a bit chilly.

Our route went over a lock near Wijk bij Duurstede and then, lo and behold, there was another error with the route as we should then cycle underneath a main road… which had no tunnel underneath it. We were able to find an alternative route on the main road which got us back to our official route, although we had to double back on ourselves a bit. And, when we finally got on the correct route, we found that our suggested path was actually a track with grass up the middle. No way were we taking that! So we retraced our steps again, rejoined the main road we had just left, and pootled on.

Fortunately the rain eased off after half an hour and we didn’t have any further rain that day (or, indeed, the rest of the tour).

After this detour we then found ourselves on a very bad quality road surface. It was inlaid bricks as the road surface but it had really degraded. This was several kilometres along a canal and it was tough work – the vibration buzz from the bricks is uncomfortable, plus there were a lot of dips in the road. Riding behind the Quattrovelo it was interesting to see the air damper suspension working as Klaus seemed to pogo a bit after each bump (although it was no issue for him within the bike). Millie coped fairly well, but with 28mm front tyres at 100psi (8 bar) it wasn’t the smoothest ride I have experienced. The rough surface of course slowed us down as you cannot ride at high speeds with all the bumps and weird dips and slopes.

Clearly our distance to ride today was being extended because of all the detours, route issues and our occasional mistakes on reading the routing too slowly. Time was also marching on a bit too much for my liking as it seemed we would get to our hotel quite late. We had arranged to eat in the hotel at 7pm but that was looking a bit too much of a challenge.

We rode through Nieuwegein, Montfoort, Linschoten and Woerden. The route was a bit faster now, we were cycling along some high quality lanes and past some rather nice houses.

We got separated crossing a level crossing (I was ahead and then the gates went down) so I waited the other side for Klaus, only to receive a text message “puncture”. So I headed back.

This was a quality puncture as the cause was… a lady’s earring!

Disappointingly it was costume jewellery rather than some super-expensive diamond gold item.

Tube replaced and tyre reinflated, we were back on the road again after ten minutes.

We zoomed through Nieuwerbrug aan den Rijn (which had a lovely bridge, but I didn’t get a chance to stop and photograph it) and then Bodegraven. Then we went through Alphen aan den Rijn,, and around this time we saw another velomobile, a yellow and white Quattrovelo, although the rider didn’t stop. It was a fiddly road around Alphen and we were slowed down a lot by drempels again.

Leiden was getting closer, fortunately. We were clearly going to be much later than expected, and when we got into Leiden itself this was even worse as we were routed through back streets which had huge, steep drempels which scraped Millie’s underside each time. I was feeling pretty tired by this point – not so much physically but mentally. When riding a velomobile on the cycle path you have to be constantly vigilant, checking no cars are coming out of side roads, dog walkers or runners stepping out in front of you. You have to avoid potholes, sticks and stones. Because of the higher speed of a Velomobile, and the difficulties in turning it sharply, you have to take a different line in many corners, which means thinking further ahead with regard to road positioning. You are of course constantly watching out for the car driver who is playing on his phone rather than looking where he is going. And at the same time you have to follow the track on your Garmin through a strange city. I was mentally bushed, and asked Klaus to take over the lead through Leiden. Both our Garmins were running low on charge too, so each detour (which caused it to recalculate the route) was draining the battery further. I wanted to get to our hotel, have a shower and relax!

The final 4km through Leiden seemed to take ages because of all the stops and starts, we had to take some alternative routes, and had also to contend with a kid in a hoodie who seemed entirely oblivious of me cycling past him when he set off. I had to shout at him to “LOOK!” And he kept up with us for the next two kilometres, still not able to see around him because of the hoodie. I was very concerned he would crash into us.

The last 1.5km were fortunately on a decent cycle path beside a fast road, and at last the stop/start riding was over. And then we rolled into the grounds of the castle Oude Poelgeest, and eventually found our way to reception. It was already past 7pm so we were late for our meal, but the receptionist said we could eat at eight.

Millie’s battery had indeed lasted the 109km that I rode today:

Please note that the wheel size setting doesn’t have many options and so as I have low profile tyres it slightly under-reads the distance. I had indeed done 208km, not 199.6. Also, although it says 26 per cent battery remaining, that is because the bike was stationary when I took the photo. When using it, it read about 18-19 per cent. I would not have wanted to have too much further to ride! But still, it did an excellent job.

After a shower and freshen up we went for a very nice three course dinner in the restaurant. We weren’t given a menu, just told the waitress any foods we didn’t like and the Chef chose for us. He chose well!

I was pretty tired after the riding as it was a long day – 208.64km (with about another 500 metres which didn’t record when my Garmin crashed right at the beginning). Moving time was 8 hours 38 minutes, average speed 24.2 km/h and calorie burn was 2,466! So I deserved the nice evening meal.

Statistics from this ride

I also said to Klaus that I felt 200km in one day on a tour was too much because of the amount of time it takes. We left home before 8 in the morning but didn’t reach our hotel till after 7pm, which meant we had no relaxation time there, and had to eat the meal and then go straight to bed. I am more of a fan of relaxed touring, with maximum 130km in a day. I am not sure if Klaus agreed to this – time will tell!

Our room was actually quite small, but the hotel allowed Millie to be kept in the lobby overnight so she was out of the rain (if there were to be any). I had to switch the tracker vibration alarm off, though, as each time someone went out the door banged and it set off the alarm. But all was well with Millie and she seems to have enjoyed her overnight in a Castle – as did we!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Klaus's Birthday Castle Tour 2019, Recumbent Trikes

Easter 2019 Netherlands Tour

The Easter long weekend of 2019 turned out to have a rather good weather forecast. Rather good for bike touring!!

Unfortunately, before the thought of touring had had much of a chance to get established, Emily (Klaus’s Quattrovelo) broke yet another weld in her rear suspension/axle/frame whilst we were out on a ride together. It made the back end very swimmy and we rode home very carefully.

We needed another trip to Dronten to get it welded. We hoped this could be done soon, and so contacted Velomobiel.nl who said they could do it on Easter Saturday.

This looked like curtains for our tour, except I managed to work out a cunning plan!

Plan was, that we would (once again!) steal friend Ralf’s Sprinter and drive Emily up to Dronten. I would then drive straight home again, leaving Klaus there, return the Sprinter to Ralf, drive home to Kempen and then jump in Millie and ride north. Klaus, after Emily was fixed, would ride south and we would meet somewhere in the middle to start our tour.

We decided to use Vrienden op de Fiets again, and after quite a lot of phoning around I found accommodation for the two nights (Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday) that we planned to be away.

So on Good Friday late afternoon we collected the Sprinter from Ralf and installed Emily, ready to leave early the next morning. We needed as much time as possible as we each had 90km to ride to our evening accommodation and I also had 450km to drive in total.

We arrived at Velomobiel.nl in Dronten just after they opened and disgorged Emily. Allert started straight away doing the repair – this was a known issue, the manufacturers in Romania had switched from the specified 4mm metal for the weld to 3mm. Allert was now replacing them with 5mm to be sure.

The rear axle assembly thingie was out very quickly.

Part of the rear axle assembly. The broken weld is visible at the top right hand side.
From another angle. This is the complicated gubbins for a two-wheel-drive system in the Quattrovelo, plus all the weld strengthenings that have been put in place over the last months due to other breakages.
And a close-up of the broken region.

It was at this point that I headed off home again, knowing I had nearly three hours of driving till I was home again and then had to head off in Millie to meet Klaus between Doesburg and Doetinchem. So I waved goodbye to the guys at Velomobiel.nl, and Klaus of course, and headed back to Germany.

I passed the amazing display of tulips along the road from Dronten to Zwolle. Klaus fortunately was able to photograph it later when he rode past.

Sprinter refuelled and returned to Ralf, five minutes fuss and attention to his two lovely doggies, and then it was time to head home. I didn’t bother to have any lunch but changed directly into my cycling gear and fished Millie out of the garage. I had already packed all my stuff yesterday to save time. And I was this time carrying all my own luggage – usually I have Klaus as my pack mule but I wanted to see if I could carry touring luggage for a long tour now my battery for the motor is taking up a lot of space, as I am vaguely formulating plans to do a solo tour in July (when Klaus is away).

Anyway, the good news is that all my luggage fit perfectly week. For a three day tour I needed pretty much the same amount of luggage as for a three week tour (three sets of cycle clothing, one set of normal clothes, a change of shoes, charging cables and gadgets). The only thing I didn’t take with me that I usually do is my iPad. I regretted that choice as it’s no fun reading the entire internet on a small phone screen.

This was my route for my solo tour to Wehl (between Doetinchem and Doesburg):

From Kempen, Germany, to Wehl, Netherlands

As you see, the route is mostly in Germany, it was just the final 30km which was in the Netherlands. I followed our normal route to Rees am Rhein and from this point onward used a track that Klaus has used on his trips back from Dronten which he said was a really nice route. He was right!

My original plan was to ride to Rees and there eat some cake or ice cream. However, having not had any breakfast or lunch, and being concerned about the detour into Rees and the slow roads around there, I decided instead to make a 5km detour on my way to visit our favourite café for cake, Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This was after just 31km of my 90km route, but I thought it was still worth it!

Büllhorsthof had my favourite Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen which I enjoyed very much.

Tea and cake on a beautiful warm day – impossible to beat!

Millie was parked alongside lots of other e-bikes (yes, she is now an e-bike of course), but also this rather fetching trike.

After enjoying my cake in the relaxing surroundings, it was time to head onward. Klaus was already on his way, and had in fact left Dronten before I had returned to Kempen, so I knew he was probably ahead of me on the tour. But this was fine, we could arrive any time in the afternoon. No pressure!

I headed onward, enjoying the ride and giving it some gas. With the motor I have the opportunity to choose how much assistance I want – lots, little, none. The motor also switches off after you reach a certain speed and I was riding faster than the switch-off speed for quite a lot of my ride today. I worked quite hard in the end, enjoying the effort and knowing that if my knees started to complain I could dial back my efforts and let the motor take the strain.

Strada info on my ride – speed, estimated power (ignore, completely wrong!), heart rate (spot the higher rate after the cake at 31km) and cadence.

With about 10km to go I received a message from Klaus saying he had arrived and it was ‘beautiful’. We knew we were staying in some kind of Garden House (we always choose that with Vrienden op de Fiets as it means there is likely to be a large enough garden to store the velomobiles!), but as I rolled past (remembered the wrong house number and overshot!) it seemed not so much a shed as a… house. A four-bedroom house with kitchen, lounge, range-style six burner cooker, everything you need… and for 22,50€ each per night including breakfast. What a bargain!

Our accommodation was the house at the front. The newer house at the back was where the hosts lived. Along with their three dogs, peacocks etc…
The lounge of our accommodation

Klaus had been there about half an hour and had a good chat with the hosts. I had my shower and freshened up. I had cycled 91.36km at an average speed of 28.9 km/h.

The blue line is my route, the colours to the right of it show my effort (heart rate). White/light blue is not very much, warmer colours (orange and red) are higher effort. As you see, I gave it a bit of welly around Rees as I was on a Bundesstraße/Landstraße

We were about 3.5km outside of Wehl so decided to take the bikes to look for food, rather than walking, and soon found ourselves at a pizzeria. We parked outside – along with all the other guests who seemed to have arrived by bike too.

Pizzas in Wehl

We sat outside and enjoyed our pizzas before returning home for a nightcap of a cup of tea and an Easter present… some genuine Dairy Milk chocolate my Mum had brought with her from England and I saved for Easter. My first milk chocolate since the beginning of the year (because of Keto).

The next morning was Easter Morning and I took a short walk to enjoy the peacefulness of the country setting.

The bikes had spent the night out-of-doors but seemed to cope OK. We found a peacock looking at them later on.

We were treated to an excellent breakfast, and the lady said we could make sandwiches out of things that were left over (and gave us sandwich bags for them), so we were able to sort out our lunch too.

As you can see from the breakfast, this was not exactly Keto (very low carb)! We put the Keto way of eating aside when on bike tours as it’s just too hard to find the right food otherwise!

We had a leisurely breakfast and then got ready to go. We headed off at about 10 as we knew we only had 90km to do and the next hosts would not be available until 16:00.

My original plan was to skirt around Arnhem but as we had more time I suggested we went into Arnhem and visited the museum for the Bridge Too Far. I had visited it about 10 years ago and fancied another look (it is a very small museum). So we plotted a detour to take us through Arnhem.

Our route from east to west along the Maas/Waal

We set off on very quiet roads, a wonderful route on quiet roads which mostly avoided cycle paths.

We arrived in Arnhem and stopped outside the museum, which looked a lot different than I remembered. It seems it must have been completely rebuilt. I had a quick look around, used their loo, but there wasn’t much to see really. Slightly disappointing.

A bridge too far, with the museum on the left
Millie and Emily parked at the museum

As we had so much time on our hands we cycled a little way towards the centre and stopped for a cup of tea in a large open square. We relaxed there for nearly an hour, and then decided to head off again. We asked a guy on the next table how to get onto the bridge as a cyclist, and he suggested our route. We set off and were crossing the John Frost bridge and quickly out of Arnhem on some very good cycle paths.

Our route soon joined the dike where the path runs along the top, and this was a wonderful and fast bit of cycling. Slow sweeping curves, not too many cars, great views, various bridges.

The motorbikes were a bit kamikaze at times, as were the other cyclists who pootle along at normal bike speeds and don’t perhaps realise how speedy the velomobiles are, but it was a really enjoyable stretch of route with lots to look at.

We stopped at a bench and ate our sandwiches and had some water whilst soaking up the nice weather.

We carried on, and started thinking that an ice cream might be a nice idea. As our radar to find cakes or ice creams in NL isn’t very effective (unlike in Germany), we decided to stop at a McDonalds when we saw one for a McFlurry.

Suitably refuelled, we headed on again.

Our route (planned using the online software brouter and set for Velomobile) was generally pretty good, but it let us down slightly as we came to the bridge to cross the Waal at Beneden-Leeuwen…

We arrived up the slope where the car is in the photo and then the track sent us round this circle and up the narrow (and VERY steep path) on the bottom right hand side. Needless to say, this would not have been a wise idea in a velomobile. Some people were waiting on the top of the bridge (from where I took this photo later) and they did some hand signals to show us the correct route, which we duly followed and arrived on the bridge in a more elegant fashion.

We had a ferry crossing of the river Maas a little later on, where it is pretty narrow.

We were still a bit early as we would probably arrive before 4pm so decided to stop for a cup of tea in Lith, with just 10km to go to our destination. We stopped at a café looking over the river although it was a bit downmarket; when we headed off half an hour later we passed several nicer-looking cafes in the centre of the town. Oh well! We had our drinks and the chance for the loo.

The final sector from Lith to ‘t Wild (part of Maren-Kessel) was on inland roads which were rather a rough surface and with drempels (speed bumps) but few cars. We cruised along and soon arrived at the house. The owners came out to meet us and helped us to move the velomobiles to the garden. It turned out I hadn’t put their correct email address in the confirmation email I sent them so they didn’t get it and wondered if we would actually be coming; fortunately they decided we would!

Our accommodation this time was a granny annexe they had built for when they were perhaps a bit older. It was wheelchair-accessible, including a shower, and everything was really high quality. All the fixtures, fittings, tiling etc. When the next morning we went into their part of the house for breakfast we saw the same attention to quality there. It was all very nice.

We had a cup of tea and the hostess offered to book us a table at the restaurant 1.5km away along the dike. This was most handy, so we asked for a table at 6:30pm and that was fine. We showered and then walked along the dike to the restaurant where I had lamb and Klaus steak. Very nice!

The walk back was as the sun was low in the sky and it was all rather beautiful.

Our total distance for today was 85.56km which we rode at an average of 25.6km/h. Interestingly, my average heart rate was 99, so this suggests I was being very lazy today and letting the motor take most of the strain! Usually my heart rate average is 130-140. However, the massive influx of carbohydrate at breakfast, which I am not used to, might also have played a part!

Here is the map of where we went with the white markings above the blue showing how little effort I was actually expending. If you look at the map from the previous day, you can see my effort/heart rate showing in lots of colours!

After a good night’s sleep it was time for our return leg, but first I decided to go for a bit of a walk before breakfast.

View of the Maas early morning

A short lap around the block including along the dike, just 1.5km but still a nice bit of refreshment before sitting all day in a velomobile.

Breakfast was great!

These were little egg cup thingies with a layer of bread to make the shape, then egg and bacon inside. Very tasty!

Again, not very Keto, and Klaus and I were slightly feeling the digestive effects of all these carbohydrates, but it’s tricky to eat low-carb for breakfast anywhere really.

Our route home – spot the only darker effort markings once we are back in Germany near Kevelaer

Our route home today was 115km. We had decided we would stop at Bauerncafé Winthuis just outside Weeze (back in Germany) and posted on the Velomobilforum to ask if anyone would like to join us. We thought we would be there around 2pm.

We thanked our hosts again and said goodbye, heading off into wind this time, and in fact we had a headwind pretty much the whole way.

Our route today was also not quite as nice – more bumpy roads and also a fair stretch on a cycle path beside a main road. Each time you have a roundabout or a junction there is a curve which can be tricky for a Milan, plus sometimes visibility is poor. Our average speed was fairly low for this section, and my heart rate too didn’t want to raise at all. We pootled along.

Our routing was mostly OK except for yet another random off-road section, such as we had yesterday. Again, to get onto a bridge. Obviously the local mountain-bikers do the shortcut up the bank of the bridge but this is not suitable for velomobiles.

We hadn’t particularly discussed our strategy for a break but apart from a pee break behind a tree for me, we didn’t see anywhere suitable to stop. And then we were getting close to roads we know well and so we just pressed on. In the end we rode 80km non-stop, then arriving at Bauercafe Winthuis where we rewarded ourselves with cake.

Klaus’s Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
My strawberry meringue cream cake (Erdbeer Baiser)

The strawberry cake is so wonderful, I think it classes as the nicest cake I have ever eaten!!

The opportunity was too good to miss, so Klaus and I had another round of cakes whilst we chilled out waiting to see if any of the Velomobilforum readers might turn up (they didn’t)

I had to have another Erdbeer Baiser as it was so wonderful!
Klaus then went for a peach strudel

We stayed about an hour and a half, enjoying the relaxation and of course the cakes. And then it was time to head home, just 35km along some of our favourite fast roads.

What was also very noticeable was that after I had the cake, I was able to increase my power and my heart rate went right up. You can see from the graphic below where the cake stop was (at 80km).

The red line is my heart rate – mostly under 100 until we reach Germany (at 70km) and the fast roads start, then helped by two cakes!

We absolutely zoomed home, looking forward to a cup of tea and a bit of a chill out after our really enjoyable short trip away. In the end we did 116km with an average speed of 26.1; our average was hovering around 24,5 whilst in NL but we were able to speed up a lot once we got to Germany again.

This was a lovely little break and we were really thrilled by the quality of the Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation. It’s a very fair price and it is nice to meet the hosts; mostly these places aren’t in the centre of cities (which would not have space for our velomobiles anyway) but are in the countryside but we are fine with that, we like being in the peace and quiet.

Our next NL tour is in just a couple of weeks, as we are touring to Leiden and celebrating Klaus’s birthday on that trip.

And summary of the velomobiles performance? Once Emily was fixed, all was fine. No repairs needed, no punctures, easy touring with loads of luggage space in the Quattrovelo, good cooling whilst riding so we didn’t overheat in the 25 degree temperatures. I finished each day’s riding with about 80% battery left, 90% on the first day (when I pushed more myself). The battery should be fine for the 190km to Leiden in the next few weeks. And touring with Millie with her motor shows me that, once again, it was a great choice for me. I still have enough space for my luggage (although Klaus carried it for me on the second and third days, but that’s because he is gentlemanly), Millie’s handling hasn’t changed in any way the worst, and she is still a brilliant velomobile for me.

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon

NL2018 – Thoughts on Velomobile touring in the Netherlands

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

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

Helen’s Report

The Milan GT Velomobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quattrovelo Velomobile

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

Garmin Edge 1000 GPS

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

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

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

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

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

NL hotels, B&Bs and Vrienden op de Fiets

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

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

NL food and customer service

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

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

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

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

NL Landscape

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

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

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

NL cycle infrastructure

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

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

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

 

Klaus’s Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

Das Land:

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

Die Leute:

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

Die Fahrradinfrastruktur:

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

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

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

Das Essen:

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

Die Tour:

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

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

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

Das Material:

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

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

Fazit:

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

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NL2018 Day 15: Nuth to Kempen

Saturday 23 June 2018

Here is our planned route for the day:

And here is the actual route we rode:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Brüggen we stopped for cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NL2018 Day 14: Maastricht to Nuth

Friday 22 June 2018

Three weeks ago I planned our route for the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klaus’s Report

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Back together again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NL2018 Day 13: Weert to Maastricht

Thursday 21 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

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

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

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

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

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

At Wessem we crossed the Maas.

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

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

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

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

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

And now my turn…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NL2018 Day 12: Tilburg to Weert

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Here is our planned track for the day:

Today was planned as another shorter day at 80km.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NL2018 Day 11: Roosendaal to Tilburg

Tuesday 19 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A view across to Belgium:

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

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

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

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

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

A sign on the pavement explains it in Dutch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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