Category Archives: Netherlands Tour 2018

A cycle ride by velomobile anticlockwise around the borders of the Netherlands

NL2018 Day 6: Harlingen to Egmond

Thursday 14 June 2018

Following our issues with the battery charger yesterday I sent an email to asking them to send a replacement charger to Alex in Rotterdam (we would be seeing him on Sunday). They said that was no problem but I was still a bit nervous (don’t know how reliable the Dutch postal service is) so I decided to ride today without using the battery. I would need it tomorrow when riding in Den Haag as indicators and brake lights are very important in a city. Today we would be mostly on cycle paths outside towns.

Here is our planned track for the day:

This route would take us over the Afsluitdijk which I rode a couple of years ago on the trike with Kajsa Tylén when she was doing her Guinness World Record year. I remember it as very insecty and windy!

It’s a very impressive engineering feat but at almost 30km long it’s actually a bit dull to ride across.

But first we had to get there. It was just 10km from Harlingen to Zurich where the Afsluitdijk starts.

The wind was very strong and we knew some rain was forecasted later. When we actually got onto the dike and were exposed to the full force of the headwind, our main thoughts were with the few cyclists that we passed. Riding an upright bike in that wind?????

Here you can see Millie’s tail reflected in Humphrey’s tail.

Although it would have been nice to whizz along the Afsluitdijk, with a 40 km/h headwind that wasn’t really possible. We managed around 23-25 km/h overall.

At that speed you see quite a lot. There were kite surfers doing tricks, Klaus had a cormorant fly alongside him, we passed a few cyclists clearly on tours with heavy bags. They were struggling when going in our direction, the other direction was obviously very easy!

You can see the sea to the left of the cycle path, on the right it’s just a large green dike with sheep grazing.

Here is a Video I took. It’s not that good but gives you an idea of the windiness!

About three quarters of the way across there is a monument to Mr Lely who built it.

At the other end of the Afsluitdijk is Den Oever. I had been here before looking for food and found one so this time we had already planned to cycle to the next town, Hippolytushoef which looked larger so would hopefully have somewhere for our lunch stop.

A bit of on-the-fly navigation when I missed a turn didn’t work out quite as well as expected!

We were soon out of Den Oever and riding through countryside which looked remarkably English. Tree and hedge-lined roads which were narrow and without road markings. It was also very slightly rolling, not the pan flat that we have been used to so far. However, there were hardly any cars so this was less like an English country lane!

At Hippolytushoef we did indeed find somewhere to stop for lunch after asking at a coffee shop (which had no food except light biscuits so not enough for the halfway stop for hungry cyclists!) We ended up at a nice cafe where we started with soup.

And then had a cake course.

We had several drinks too. When cycling into a headwind it seems to really dry you out and you need to keep hydrated. Although the day was much cooler (16 degrees) we were still thirsty.

As we left the cafe there were a few spots of rain but nothing much to trouble us.

Shortly after this we were crossing our next dike, separating the Amstelmeer and called the Amsteldiepdijk. It was much shorter, only a couple of kilometres, but equally windy!

We were now heading south west towards the strangely-named town of Anna Paulowna, at which point we turned off the main road and did a bit of cross-country. We passed this lovely thatched windmill.

We soon made our way to the coast where we had dunes to the right, flatlands to the left and a huge headwind in front of us. We were struggling to ride at more than 20 km/h at times. It was very tiring and we couldn’t begin to imagine how awful it would have been if we weren’t in velomobiles.

As we passed Sint Maartensvotbrug we saw a campsite reception and stopped there to see if they had a cafe. I needed the loo and we fancied another short stop before the last 30km to Egmond. Not only did they have a cafe, but for the first time in NL my tea was free! I also topped up the energy with a Magnum.

We were on the road again before long. At Petten the route we wanted to take wasn’t possible – there was no cycle path beside the road and the road had very firm No Cycling signs. So we had to reroute on the fly and ended up going inland and along the N9 for a while. This was actually fine as the wide cycle path was separated from the road by 10 metres or so.

The wind was incredibly strong and gusty now though. Velomobiles are very stable but we were getting pushed from side to side. It was good that the road surface was reasonably smooth as that at least helped us to keep up a speed of 23 km/h or so. The rain had started and raindrops hitting you whilst being whipped by the wind are quite painful!

At Schoorl it was time to rejoin our original track. The rain was set in now, we were both feeling a bit damp but it was otherwise OK. I kept thinking I should plug in my lights as the rain made everything gloomy but never got round to stopping to do so. We were on cycle paths some of the time, the road a little too.

We went round the edge of Bergen which looks like a nice town except they have either brick as a road surface or the cycle path has lots of roots making it bumpy. But we survived!

Shortly afterwards my Garmin showed we had reached Germany!

The final five kilometres from Bergen Binnen to. Egmond aan den Hoef were on a nice smooth cycle path with trees either side. We rolled easily up and down the rollers on this track; the only disadvantage with slight hills is that rain drops onto my legs from the hinge area of my entry flap on the Milan.

At Egmond aan den Hoef we turned back towards the sea at Egmond aan Zee and soon found our apartment.

I had emailed saying that if there was nowhere to store the velomobiles could he tell us. It turned out that he had emailed a reply saying they didn’t have a garage but I hadn’t received it. Oh well, we were able to leave them in a small seating area in front of the apartment and I used Millie’s new cover to keep the rain off her. One disadvantage with the rain and wind was that Humphrey’s tracker detected movement alarms every few hours; we could see him if we leaned out of our window and there was never anyone there.

I felt rather tired after the ride and had a little sleep. I didn’t feel like going out for a meal so Klaus walked to the supermarket down the road and bought us some salad, fruit salad and some chocolate. We had a meal in our Apartment (we have a small kitchen) and kept out of the rain.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for sunshine and 20 degrees so that is an improvement! We will be riding to Den Haag where we will have a rest day on Saturday. Alex will hopefully deliver the battery charger on Saturday too!

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NL2018 Day 5: Groningen to Harlingen

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Here was our planned track for the day:

We had a good night’s sleep in our caravan but the washing that had been hanging in the bathroom had not dried unfortunately. I put my items in a plastic bag to try to dry them this evening, Klaus put his wet clothes on!

We had a very tasty breakfast:

This seems to be the traditional Dutch breakfast of lots of rolls, cheese and ham, one egg and also jam and marmalade and chocolate sprinkles (we don’t eat the latter).

Our bikes had had a very comfortable night in storage:

We checked out and were on the way at 9:15.

After about 1km our route suddenly changed and the bike path we had been on beside the road changed to a very narrow path, barely the width of a Velomobile, and a bit uneven and bumpy. We kept going along this as there wasn’t really an alternative.

After about 2km this bumpy path turned onto a bridge over a small canal and we were back to decent roads again, hurrah!

Today was a day of lovely views again. I liked these house boats, some were just like square houses.

We were lucky enough to see another stork, and this time I even managed to take a (very grainy) photo of it!

As well as the stork, today we have seen hundreds of swallows. They sometimes fly incredibly close to the Velomobiles but always get out of the way in time. I love to watch their acrobatics!

Today’s road surfaces were mostly good (no 12km of brick paving like yesterday!) and this meant we could cruise through the countryside in a very relaxed manner. Here in there in the landscape we saw windmills.

As we were leaving Kommmerzijl we rode along a section of road where the hedges were being cut. This is a very familiar experience for me from my cycling years in the UK, although the hedges are cut much later in the year there after the birds have finished nesting. But it is a classic time for a puncture, and lo and behold a couple of kilometres later:

This was the first puncture on the road with Humphrey and in the Marathon Greenguards at the back.

We found the culprit and unsurprisingly it was a thorn from the. Hedge cutting. We found a second thorn trying to work its way into the front left tyre so removed the really sharp shard of that too. Reinflating two tyres to 6 bar (100 PSI) keeps you warm!

The puncture was dealt with and we carried on. We had ridden 25km and knew that our main lunch stop would be at the 50km mark in Dokkum. We doubted we would find anything before that and because of the chance to stretch our legs with the puncture repair we didn’t need to stop again.

Clouds were gathering over the landscape as we trundled our way towards Dokkum into what was becoming a pretty stiff headwind.

In due course we arrived in Dokkum and found a restaurant where we had tomato soup and then a sandwich. We are eating a lot of bread on this tour – we don’t normally eat it!

One thing we noticed is that passers by seem less likely to touch the velomobiles than in Germany. We are able to relax a bit more as people seem to have more respect for our property! In Germany people often seem to ignore the fact that these bikes are private property!

After a leisurely lunch we set off again with 55km to ride.

Our route started along the N356 which has a decent cycle path beside it but they were renewing sections of the cycle path so we had quite a lot of mini detours. We ended up going through the villages of Foudgum, Brantgum and Waaxens rather than past them!

We then turned westwards parallel to the sea but we couldn’t see it at all because of the dikes.

We were on the main road to Leeuwarden but at Hallum we turned off on a quieter road that headed a bit more north. This was a lovely road with very little traffic and some lovely views (photo by Klaus)

This road was fairly fast and we were making good progress through villages with names like Oudebildtzijl and Nij Altoenae despite a very gusty and strong head/sidewind. The road ran along the top of a dike and there were houses most of the way along, but no shops, restaurants or Cafés. We had thought to stop for a cuppa but no chance.

At Westhoek we were finally near the sea (although we couldn’t see it) and the road became rather more agricultural.

We saw only a few cars, almost no people – but lots of sheep!

We realised we wouldn’t find any cake until we arrived in Harlingen. This meant we had ridden a 25k stretch without a single cafe or bakery. That would be extremely unusual in Germany!

Harlingen has lots of industry on the outskirts, mainly relating to wind turbines and fishing. The town itself was very pretty with a nice central street.

We found a cafe and ordered some cakes.

Once again, like other cake experiences in NL, my cake looked better than it tasted.

Our B&B was in a residential area 2km outside the main town. The host was very friendly and they offered to wash our cycling kit which was great!

We rode back into Harlingen for an evening meal at a pizzeria. It was nice enough but much more expensive than in Germany.

When we came back we stowed the velomobiles in the back garden. It was a tight squeeze to get Humphrey round a corner and he seems to have picked up some new scratches in his paintwork as a result which is a bit of a shame. We really must have a go with the colour touch-up stick!

One very bad discovery was that the battery charger we had packed to charge the velomobie batteries (for the lighting) did not work. This was a brand new charger that we had received with Humphrey but never used as we had Celeste’s charger at home. We left Celeste’s charger and I just put the new one, Humphrey’s, into the packing. But it appears that it doesn’t work at all. Both Millie’s batteries are completely flat and Humhrey’s Battery Number 1 is at about 20%. We have two spare batteries so I have one that I must eke out for another 10 days. With my large LED brake light this is not possible, so we have emailed and asked them to post a replacement to Alex in Rotterdam who we will see on Sunday. Let’s hope that works, but if any readers know of an alternative option please let us know!

Today’s ride was 107.2km with fairly strong headwind a lot of the way. Our average speed was 20.9 km/h and my average heart rate was 115 bpm. My average cadence. was 62 so you can see it was a super comfortable cruising day.

Tomorrow I ride the Afsluitdijk again but this time in a Velomobile. I hope there will be fewer insects landing on me this time too, we are only just beginning to see improvement in our Oak Processionary caterpillar rashes!!

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NL2018 Day 4: Hardenberg to Groningen

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Here was our planned track for the day:

But first, a couple of things I forgot to mention in my blog yesterday.

We were lucky enough to see a stork flying overhead as we were on our way to Nordhorn. On our ride today we saw a pole with a stork nest on the top and it looked like someone was sitting on there.

We were also surprised to see another Velomobile yesterday, a mango in white with a red top. We waved and the chap waved back but we didn’t stop.

What particularly struck Klaus was when we were cycling behind a large group of schoolchildren. There were probably thirty kids with an adult at thee beginning and the end of the line. They were riding towards Nordhorn along a busy road, crossing that road later (and all oohing and aahing at our Velomobiles). What was noticeable was that not one of these kids or adults had bike helmets. It’s not usual in NL as it’s not necessary and cycling is seen for what it is – a safe hobby which is part of daily life; your bike is your mode of transport.

Anyway, back to today. We slept really well and then went down to an excellent breakfast prepared by our host family.

We ate most of it as we were preparing for a longer day – 120km was planned.

However, first we had to do something about our itching. My neck had come out in more red dots and Klaus’s arm was looking very impressive:

What we could see now is classic Oak Processionary Caterpillar hair weals. What is also interesting is that where we have these marks shows which Velomobile we ride. In the Milan my body is completely enclosed, but my neck and head are above the parapet so to speak. So my neck got most of the trouble; I had sunglasses on and don’t think anything got on my face, but I have a ring of red around my neck.

Klaus rides often in the “Doppel Manta” position, which means both elbows out and arms resting on the side of the Velomobile. Consequently he was able to have the airborne hairs attack his arms. He also has some on the sides and back of his neck and a few in the crook of his knee (these will have come up through the footholes).

We decided to get some cetirizine antihistamine as it is supposed to help, so cycled to the nearest Apotheker/Chemist.

It seems that the Netherlands chemist situation is similar to that in the UK. In the UK you can buy paracetamol, antihistamines etc in supermarkets so they are very cheap. In Germany you can only buy them in an Apotheke and they are priced very highly. For example, we saw Ibuprofen tablets in NL for 69 cents for 10. Klaus says that in Germany it is 7-8 euros for 10. I buy all my tablets in the UK (30 paracetamol for under 50p, for example) and had two packets of cetirizine back in Kempen but nothing suitable with us.

We also asked for some kind of salve to take away the itchiness and they provided us with a cream. It doesn’t seem to have any active ingredients, I think it is just a cooling option, but we put it on and took an antihistamine each and then set off.

We were using Roef’s track as far as Emmen and then we had a track provided by Alex which would take us along the Aa valley.

Our ride started off very well – open roads, not much traffic, scenery great. It was fairly cloudy and quite cool, around 16 degrees, so we were a little more comfortable in the velomobiles. I still had my sunglasses on though to avoid more Oak Processionary Caterpillar airborne hairs.

There were still a few route surprises though. Our road was closed at a bridge but we were able to squeeze through!

We had followed signs to Coevorden for the first 12km but only went around the outskirts of the town which included lots of oil companies. We also liked the road names, but I guess in ten years young people won’t know what a Modem is!

We carried on, trundling along at around 22km/h. It was a very easy day and we weren’t pushing hard. We had a reasonable distance to cover and I wanted to keep it relaxed.

I knew there weren’t too many places to stop for food on the route so as we reached the outskirts of Emmen we detoured into the centre a short way. We saw a Café and a Lidl so stopped for a tea break

After our tea we went across the road to Lidl to buy a few nuts. It was the largest, poshest Lidl I had ever been in!

We were now using Alex’s route and I noticed a difference in the route planning from the start. Alex had chosen perhaps more minor roads which cut through fields and gave a more scenic outlook, although the surfaces were sometimes a little rougher.

We rode along this lovely avenue.

We passed a field with a handful of sheep in which was being used for border collie training.

We had done 70km and I realised we ought to stop for a decent lunch as we might not find anywhere else. We were approaching Rolde which was a reasonable size town, so we deviated from the track in search of a restaurant. We found one just as dark clouds were rolling in. If it were going to rain, I would be inside!

We ordered a decent lunch as we were expecting to just eat snacks tonight. I ordered a Dutch dish called 12 o’clock.

Klaus went for a salmon salad.

Whilst we were eating we heard someone on another table mention cheesecake; yes, they had cakes here – so we ordered a slice of cheesecake and a slice of passion fruit cream cake.

We spent quite a long time over our lunch, drinking plenty too as although it wasn’t particularly hot, the wind still dries you out a bit when riding.

We left Rolde and the usual road surface of paved brick didn’t cease after we passed the tow sign. We were on red bricks that just kept on and on… and were bumpy with some dips and ridges too!

The bricks finally ended after 12km. This had considerably slowed us down; I had contacted the B&B where we were saying to give an expected arrival time of 17:00 but that was assuming we would ride at 23 km/h and we were only managing 18 over the bricks. But at last we were back onto normal tarmac.

One thing we noticed today was the vast number of thatched houses. These were by no means old houses, in fact lots of them were brand new. It must be a thing in this region. I saw one house with a mixture of roof tiles, brand new thatch (a yellow colour rather than brown) and another section of roof with solar panels.

Here are just two random houses I photographed which are thatched. New, too.

We were following Alex’s route and then suddenly came to this sign when in Zuidaren.

Klaus tried to fid an alternative route but I saw a chap from the roadworks and asked him where to go and he explained a route. Klaus returned and we did that together.

Just a few minutes later we found ourselves in front of another road closed sign. We checked our Garmins again and found an alternative but had no idea what the road surface would be like. It wasn’t ideal!

I took these photos because I was stuck in the sand and had to get out and push Millie.

And this is the mini section of track with the two detours.

We stopped at Haren as we saw an Aldi and had decided to buy some salads to eat in our B&B in the evening rather than going out again. They also had English fudge!

From Haren onwards there were bicycles everywhere. We soon found ourselves riding through Groningen which was very hard work in velomobiles. You need to be agile and able to change direction quickly and that isn’t the velomobiles’ strong suit. We were slow through the city as you have to ride at normal bike pace. The stops and starts weren’t ideal for me either.

Eventually we were through the centre of Groningen (next time we’ll go round the edge!) and were about to cross the river.

Our B&B was just a kilometre from the bridge, and it was very interesting! We were staying in a caravan.

This is the bedroom area:

The bikes were stored in a huge barn.

We ate our dinner sitting outside on a picnic table watching the rabbits playing in the vegetable patch. There are ponies and alpacas in the fields around. It’s lovely and peaceful and quirky/quaint. Tea and coffee making facilities are in the caravan which of course is important.

Our total ride today ended up at 117.3km with an average speed of 20.7 km/h. For this ride my average heart rate was 118 which is a big improvement since the first day when it was 140. It’s all that cycling it’s really good for the cardiovascular system!

Tomorrow we have 108km to Harlingen and will see the sea at the north coast of the Netherlands for the first time!

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NL2018 Day 3: Haaksbergen to Hardenberg

Monday 11 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

But we actually ended up doing this route:

As you can see, the route changed to pass south of Enschede (route supplied by Gert) and then we did a unplanned diversion to Nordhorn in Germany.

We didn’t sleep brilliantly despite our lovely accommodation because there were flies and mosquitoes that were buzzing right by our heads as we were trying to sleep. We managed to swat a few but the majority escaped our murderous tendencies.

This meant we woke up with lots of new bites. I had developed a rash on my neck; this is a new one to me, although when touring I often get a rash on my right arm where it touches the side of the Velomobile and on my legs. It seems I am a bit allergic to sweat. Anyway, the neck rash was new and super-itchy and Klaus was also suffering in the crook of his left elbow.

Breakfast had been in our fridge when we arrived yesterday and it was a selection of bread, cheese, ham, salami, egg. There was also peanut butter and other condiments, pure orange and tea. We ate well and then it was time to get the bikes out of the garage.

They had had a luxurious night in such a large garage!

We left just after nine in the morning. The planned route was 95km with the Enschede diversion. Fortunately only the first 500 metres were this ‘off road’ Fietspad.

Today’s roads were almost all easy and fast. We probably rode for half of the time on a dedicated cycle path beside the road and the other half on the road as it was a quiet country lane. We started at a fairly leisurely pace; I found 22 km/h was comfortable but not much more – I needed to warm up! It was a cooler day too which was a bonus. Later in the day our cruising speed increased to 28-30.

We were rolling well and didn’t need to stop until about 45km when we spotted a Biergarten that was open. It turned out to be only half open, in that they were only serving tea and coffee and no cake, so we had a tea and a coffee and then hit on the idea to do a 10km diversion to Nordhorn in Germany to find some proper cake. I also needed to get some cash out and would have to pay a fee in NL but could find a German cash point for free, hopefully!

So we headed to Nordhorn, stopping off on the way at one of my suppliers at work to say hello. My contact was most surprised to see me at his office and dressed like a cyclist! We asked him to recommend somewhere to eat cake and he gave us directions, so we were soon on our way.

We had a sandwich each first, and then the cake course. I haven’t yet had a piece of cake in NL on this trip!!

We weren’t in a hurry but did have a further 60km to ride so after stopping a bank to get some cash we headed back to the Netherlands.

From this point on the route was great – country lanes where we barely saw any cars, fast cycle lanes beside busier roads, a few villages.

We were a bit surprised by a hill between Ootmarsum and the excellently-named Nutter. I winched myself up the long, gradual climb and had a drink at the top.

The scenery was very green, once again lots of fields of cows and sheep.

We also saw these bands around lots of trees along our route. They are a warning of the Oak Processionary caterpillar

We saw a lot of these trees and as our rashes (my neck, Klaus’s elbow) became more itchy we put two and two together and realised that we must have been exposed to some of the caterpillar hairs while riding. I guess if they are airborne they could have landed on my neck, and Klaus rides with his arms out in Humphrey quite a lot.

Apparently an antihistamine of the Cetirizine variety will help a lot with the itching. We have two packets of these back at home in Kempen but not with us; we saw them in a Dutch supermarket at a pretty high price but will probably get some tomorrow as the itching is no fun. Klaus had this on his legs during his solo tour two summers ago and it took two weeks before the itching stopped.

This was of course a minor inconvenience. The day itself was great, especially as it wsn’t so hot. It was about 21 degrees in the afternoon which is pretty perfect.

Here are a couple of Klaus’s photos:

We stopped at a supermarket 20km from our destination and had a magnum/yoghurt drink before the last section to Hardenberg which was fast and fun, although there were quite a lot of other cyclists on the paths.

Our hosts were a very pleasant couple who made us a cuppa and looked after us well, including washing and hanging out our clothing.

We went for a meal in Hardenberg which was OK but not spectacular. I actually got a bit chilly as it was quite windy where we were sitting and it is definitely getting cooler.

Tomorrow is our longest planned day at 121km to Groningen. We are staying at a B&B rather than Vrienden op de Fiets.

Today’s ride ended up at 111,8km at an average of 21.3 km/h. We both really enjoyed the route today and are hoping for similar tomorrow.

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NL2018 Day 2: Nijmegen to Haaksbergen

Sunday 10 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

In fact, even before we set off from Kempen we had adjusted today’s route slightly. This is because cycling chum Gert who lives near Haarksbergen told us that there were roadworks and road closures and sent us an alternative track; this was 2km longer so would give us 107km for the day, so one of our longer days.

We slept well and breakfasted with Roef before heading off at about nine in the morning. He took a couple of pics of us as we were leaving:

It was pretty quiet outside (it was a Sunday morning) and we made our way through Nijmegen without too much trouble but it was slow. This is partly because we weren’t always sure where to go with the cycle paths, whether to cross the road etc, but mainly because it is extremely difficult to reach the traffic light button for bikes when sitting in a Velomobile.

So it was slow going through Nijmegen; our average speed was probably around 18 km/h for the first ten or so kilometres. This kind of riding is very tiring for me as I find accelerations hard work. I felt my knees today!

We joined the cycle route to Arnhem which Klaus had ridden a couple of months ago. It’s great!

And a view down to the river Waal and looking back at Nijmegen.

From my perspective as a Milan rider the Dutch cycle paths are a mixed blessing. They are mostly OK, but they can make life tricky as they assume you are riding a normal bike with a standard turning circle but if you’re in something like a Milan with a 14 metre turning circle it’s not always possible to get around the corners that they force you to do with kerbs either side of the narrow path. We had several occasions today where I had to shuffle back and forward to get around a corner.

But then at other times you have ten kilometres of bike paths like this:

Another issue with touring in the Netherlands is that my cake radar which is very effective in Germany just doesn’t work in the Netherlands. This means that if I feel it’s about time for a tea and cake stop, I might have zero success finding somewhere suitable. In Germany I can pretty much always find something.

We hadn’t passed any open cafes at all, even passing Arnhem. Then as we came down from a dike I noticed the Golden Arches. Not my favourite, but at least with McDonalds you can get some tea and cake and a loo. So we headed that way.

As I arrived it looked awfully familiar. Yes, once again I had arrived at Hotel Gieling in Duiven. I had visited this for work years ago (and at that time the McDonalds was shut as it had burned down in a fire!) and then on my Berlin to London trip I couldn’t find a hotel in Arnhem and ended up being sent to one which turned out to be Gieling (and they still had my details on their database). Once again I was next door, although I didn’t stay in the hotel this time!

We refreshed ourselves suitably, including lots of water as it was 25 degrees outside and we were thirsty after 35km.

Then it was time to continue, suitably fortified.

We were heading east now, no longer on cycle paths but this time on quiet country roads. Now we were able to speed up a bit as it takes me a while to wind my speed up to 30 but can sit at that speed relatively comfortably. Continual stop and start kills me! We had nice long roads with 5km before a junction, so we were going well and really enjoying the scenery. There are lots more dairy cattle in the Netherlands, quite a lot of goats and sheep, and of course lots of birds.

Our speedy progress reduced a bit as we went round the outskirts of Doetinchem. Here we had a minor navigational issue which meant we struggled to get onto the cycle path and ended up stuck in the middle of a road trying to cross it. My nose was right forward into the path of the cars and they just swerved round me rather than stopping to let me go across; in this situation in the UK the generally bike-unfriendly cars would let me go, a surprising difference.

It took a while to clear Doetinchem and my knees were discussing the issue with me a bit but eventually we popped out the other side and were able to increase the speed again.

We started thinking about food when we arrived in Zelhem at one o’clock as there were lots of cafes with people sitting outside. I felt I could ride on a bit longer but we realised we didn’t know if we would find any other lunch stops on our route so decided to stop and eat there. My Mum always says “never pass an oasis” (although she is usually referring to loos) so we stopped at what turned out to be a very pleasant eaterie.

We had a leisurely lunch as we had just 43km to go and were meant to arrive after 5pm. I contacted our Vrienden op de Fiets host, saying we might be half an hour earlier, and they said that was fine, we could come when we wanted.

So we set off in the warm afternoon sunshine.

It was again easy riding as we were mostly on quiet lanes rather than cycle paths beside busy roads. We made good progress, riding at between 27 and 30 for most of the time.

The final 500 metres was surprisingly semi off-road. There was a bike path of compacted earth which was just wide enough for us but a bit bumpy. We were glad we didn’t have several kilometres of this, but we soon arrived at our Vrienden op de Fiets host and discovered we had our own little granny annexe with bedroom, lounge/kitchen, bathroom and patio outside. It was most handy to have a washing line outside for our cycle clothing after we had washed it in the shower.

The total distance for the day was 106.6km at an average speed of 22.1 km/h.

We had had a decent lunch so we didn’t need to have much in the evening. This is because we were going to visit Gert, who lives just 7km away from where we were staying. I have met him several times, including LEL and HBKH audaxes where I was helping, plus at Dronten when he was working on his new Quattrovelo.

Gert had sent us a route so we just had to follow the purple line until we arrived at his house. We had a look at his Quattrovelo (the version with a child seat) and he looked at Humphrey. He discussed additional ways of soundproofing and then spotted that something was loose in Humphrey’s innards so he and Klaus got out their tools and fixed whatever it was.

When all was completed we sat down for a cup of tea and a chat.

As with most velomobilists, the conversation soon turns to tyre choice. It is always interesting to get the opinions of audaxers as they certainly test tyres significantly. Gert swears by the Scorchers but at 60 euros a pop they’re not exactly a bargain option! He also gave advice on the suspension settings on the Quattrovelo.

It was lovely to catch up with him again, and to meet his wife and children, and to spend a relaxing evening in the garden. Gert has also supplied us with a small alternative to our routing tomorrow which misses out the slow and awkward bit going through Enschede; my knees will be very grateful!

We were back to our lodging by 9:30pm. The washing wasn’t quite dry so we had to move it indoors and rigged up our washing line between two dining rooom chairs. Cycle tourists can be resourceful!

Tomorrow we are heading to Hardenberg and will go very close to Germany in the Nordhorn area. It’s another 100km day but hopefully on good roads again, and the weather is a bit cooler so that should make it more comfortable. But we’re really enjoying ourselves!


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 1: Kempen to Nijmegen

Saturday 9 June 2018.

Here was our planned route for the day:

I had spent quite a while planning this tour, including the track (using suggestions from Dutch friends Roef and Alex) and where we would stay overnight (a mixture of Hotels/B&Bs and Vrienden op de Fiets). The accommodation proved not so easy at times. The hit rate with Vrienden op de Fiets is not high (maybe 1 positive for 8 enquiries) and I had real trouble with Den Haag. In this case, we didn’t want to book a hotel for those two nights as that would be over 400 euros for the cheapest. Fortunately I eventually found a Vrienden op de Fiets host.

Anyway, Saturday 9 June arrived, the weather forecast for the next week was pretty good (sunny, warm but not boiling, minimal rain), but the tour couldn’t quite start yet.

Last night Klaus and I rode with Jochen to Wachtendonk for ice cream and a chinwag. As we were preparing to return home I was checking my lights and noticed that the Lichtkanone wasn’t working. A bit more experimentation showed the front lights and indicators were working but the brake light not. Bummer.

I carry spare front and rear lights so fitted a rear light and we rode home. Neither of us wanted to fight with the Velomobile wiring that evening as it’s a bit of a nightmare. Millie is an expensive Velomobile but the quality of the wiring in her is very cheap.

So this morning, day 1 of the tour, the first job was to fix the cable.

We guessed a connection had come adrift somewhere and the likely culprit for this would be the wiring within the switching box. So we opened it and did indeed find a broken solder joint (see the end of the orange cable at the bottom left).

So Klaus fetched his soldering iron and it was soon together again.

And lo and behold the lights worked! Hooray! A bit of heat shrink over the joint and Millie lives to fight another day!

We didn’t have too much pressure for today’s ride as we would be staying with chum Roef in Nijmegen so we knew where we were going. Besides, it was only 80km and the first 50 are really fast (and with several good cake options!).

In the end we didn’t end up leaving home until past eleven o’clock. There are lots of dull jobs to do before a two week holiday (put the bin out, empty the fridge) and we were taking it easy because it was a hot day. But eventually it was time to go and we said goodbye to Poppy, Gudula, Frank and Lara and got the bikes ready.

Klaus’s halo is shining very brightly as he agreed to carry my luggage. This is because the Quattrovelo has that wonderful large boot and Millie’s stowage space is a bit harder to access. I had a standard sports bag and it fitted in easily. As Klaus was being the pack mule I had packed three sets of cycling clothing and two of normal  clothes. A real luxury on a  bike tour!!!!

What this meant was that Humphrey was much heavier than usual. We estimate Klaus was carrying an additional 15kg and Humphrey was noticeably down at the back. Perhaps we should have pumped up the air suspension ball thingies but we couldn’t be bothered to go upstairs again so we decided to live with it. We have a couple of opportunities to pump them up during the tour, one of which is tomorrow as we are visiting another Quattrovelo owner who has also appeared previously on this blog. More about that tomorrow!

Anyway, we headed off on roads that we know really well. We usually ride these routes on Sunday morning and noticed a significant difference in the traffic on a Saturday – many more impatient car drivers, particularly near to Weeze airport. One guy shouted at Klaus to ride on the cycle path (we were doing almost 40 km/h at the time so that would not be a good idea anyway. Then the guy drove off ahead, stopped his car in the middle of the road, got out (leaving the door wide open) and then stood in Klaus’s way as he was cycling towards him. There was a bit of a verbal altercation and the guy said he wanted to drag Klaus out of the bike, so Klaus said he would stop at the next roundabout and they could talk about it. Klaus rode on, the guy then did a really close pass and disappeared into the distance. Nice.

I saw all this from about 50 metres behind. It’s so frustrating when you have car drivers who cannot be patient for just a minute to wait for a good overtaking place, but instead feel it necessary to scream out of the window at you, give rude hand gestures etc.

I  had a couple of motorists hooting their horns aggressively at me as well. This isn’t that common when riding this route on a Sunday, so it was interesting to see the difference in behaviour.

It is 40km to Weeze which is halfway for the day’s tour so we went to Markt Café as usual and stopped for cake and tea.

Whilst we were in the café we had a message from Roef, with whom we would be staying this evening, to say he and friend Ed were riding to meet us. They were following our track but would stay in NL.

Klaus had a quick helping of yoghurt and strawberries that we had brought with us outside the church in Weeze.

We headed towards Siebengewald which is the border with NL. It’s a lovely fast road between Weeze and Siebengewald and we were enjoying ourselves when we saw a combine harvester coming towards us. It was massive, wider than one lane of the road, and on the front it had a giant scoop and in that were sitting a woman in a wedding dress and a chap in a suit. It was very cool to see, they were smiling and waved to us. As we passed the combine harvester we saw that it was trailing a couple of oil drums, presumably their version of tin cans!

Various messages were exchanged between us and Roef and we knew he was waiting for us just outside Otttersum. We duly spotted two more Velomobiles lurking beside the cycle path and stopped to say hello!

With Roef in the lead setting the way we headed off towards Nijmegen. He took us on a much more scenic route as he knew the area well…

This included the Cuijk ferry.

Here is the view of the Maas from the ferry.

It was a very hot day and I was getting really thirsty so we stopped for a banana split.

We had just five kilometres back to Roef’s house. We easily fitted all four Velomobiles in his large garage.

After a shower and a freshen up we ordered pizzas and had a very nice evening chatting with Roef and Ed whilst the washing machine did its magic so we have fresh cycling kit again. So much nicer than having to wash the clothes in the shower!

Tomorrow we head to Haaksbergen and Roef will probably accompany us for some of the way. We’re hoping it will be slightly cooler as it was pretty warm today. We have had a relatively easy cycling day with just 87km at a average of 24.2 km/h but I definitely noticed how it was harder to ride in the Netherlands because of lots of stops, starts and directional changes on the cycle paths. But it is brilliant to be on tour again and we look forward to many interesting experiences over the next two weeks. Thanks again to Roef for hosting us.

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