As mentioned in my blog post from May 2019, Klaus and I planned to take part in the Grensland Tour organised by the Dutch Grensrijders on the 1st June.
The tour would start from Posterholt in the Netherlands which is about 50km from home. We decided this was a bit far in one day, as the tour itself was planned as 60km, and so thought it would be good to book a Vrienden op de Fiets (cycling B&B) somewhere near Posterholt. It seems many other participants of the Grensland Tour had had the same idea, but a bit earlier than us, so we had to try several Vrienden op de Fiets hosts before we found somewhere that could have us. That somewhere was in Swalmen-Boukoul, just 40km from home and 15km from Posterholt.
So on the Friday afternoon, Klaus escaped from work early and we ended up leaving home at about 15:30. Our host AnneMarie said that she would be out at 6pm so we wanted to get there beforehand to meet her properly (otherwise she would just leave us a key hidden).
The ride from home to Swalmen seems to be mostly downhill and includes some wonderful fast bits!
The section from Brüggen to the border of NL is VERY fast. I spun out at 58km/h, Klaus managed 69.
Total distance was 42km and you can see the other statistics from the ride here:
We arrived at our Vrienden op de Fiets and met out host, Annemarie. We were staying in a Granny Annexe attached to the house, although having looked on Google Earth I assumed we would be in the garden shed that you see in this picture. No, the shed was a proper shed, but we parked our bikes beside it.
Our mini apartment had a lounge with kitchen corner, a bedroom and a bathroom. The hosts were obviously keen practitioners of yoga so there were books on yoga everywhere as well as a little buddhist altar and lots of colourful decoration. The garden was lovely to look out onto.
For our first evening we decided to walk to the local pizzeria in Swalmen. This was 3km away but we are getting good at walking now.
The pizzas that we chose were both very good prices, and then on the way back we had an ice cream from the ice cream parlour as it was pretty warm!
The 3km walk back was less good for Klaus who had a pretty nasty blister on his heel. I fortunately had a small plaster with me but it wasn’t enough to prevent the blister getting worse and I think it was pretty painful for him. But soon we were leaving Swalmen and approaching Boukoul.
We arrived back at our apartment for a cup of tea and a relax. Although we had not cycled far, it was a warm day and we had had a long walk so were both pretty tired.
We planned to leave at 9 the next morning to get to Posterholt with plenty of time to relax and have a cup of tea first.
We slept well and the next morning helped ourselves to the breakfast which had been left for us in the fridge. It was the typical Dutch breakfast of soft rolls and bread, cheese and ham, spreads, fruit, orange juice. It would keep us going!
We contacted Ralf who was riding from home to Posterholt and suggested he came via Swalmen and met us. He agreed to this and at twenty to nine our three velomobiles were outside the house in Boukoul. We set off for Posterholt following a track I had created which turned out to be pretty good. The only odd moment was the totally drunk man who slurred to us in Dutch and then English, asking for 5 Euro for us to pass. We didn’t pay up, but were briefly worried he might fall onto one of the velomobiles as we rode past. But fortunately he didn’t totter right onto us.
We arrived at Vurenhof in Posterholt and saw that we were not the first.
Chum Oliver was organising and he took subs from us all for the lunch. Once we had paid up we sat in the sunshine with a cup of tea and watched more friends and acquaintances arriving.
At 10:30 on the dot it was time to head off on our tour.
Oliver was leading the way on his recumbent two-wheeler. Unfortunately he had been in an accident in his Quattrovelo (someone at a roundabout had driven into him when he had priority and rolled it) so it was in for repair. This meant that the speed was very comfortable and the group stayed largely together.
The route took us to Selfkant, the smallest section of NL, and also to the most westerly point in Germany.
We went up quite high at one point where there were lots of windmills and I took the chance to pull over and take some photos.
After 35km we arrived at our lunch stop. We had reserved tables which had cakes on!
I chose the rice cake.
After the cakes we had rolls with cheese and ham (breakfast revisited really). We were on a table of mostly Germans and had a good chat.
We stayed at the lunch stop for about an hour before heading off again.
We rode, still all together apart from a couple who got punctures, and eventually returned to Vurenhof where we had an ice cream.
Most people stayed there as we were also going to cycle to Swalmen to the spot where Erwin de Vries died last year just before Oliebollentocht when he cycled into a barrier in the dark. The barrier had no reflectives on it and was right across the cycle path through a forest. He was in hospital for two weeks as a result of facial injuries and then very sadly he died as a result of these injuries.
Since that time the Grensland Rijders have been sticking reflective strips on all such poles that they find. We were all going to ride together to the spot to remember Erwin, especially as it would have been his birthday that day.
What seemed like almost the entire group then headed off together towards Swalmen, passing the place Klaus and I were staying.
We arrived at the area which is just next to a restaurant. The velomobiles all parked in the car park and the people sitting outside at the tables were watching us. I guess they had no idea what was going on.
Some words were said to remember Erwin and then a bouquet of flowers was laid.
This event was a reminder to us that all transport has its dangers, and that velomobiles, being an unusual size/shape, are not considered by cycle infrastructure planners. We need to be careful, but we need to ensure that the cycle paths that we are obliged to use in the Netherlands are also safe for us.
Klaus and I then road back with the group as they headed to Boukoul and stopped at our Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation.
In total our ride was 97km, and here is the route:
And here are the figures:
You can see we had a much slower average speed. This always happens in group riding as you can’t easily find your rhythm. At the end of the day my fingers were aching from constantly pulling the brakes!
Klaus’s blister was causing him trouble still but I fancied a walk so I walked to the Italian restaurant (the same as yesterday) and Klaus cycled. The walk was lovely again to stretch the legs, with half of it along a woodland path.
Klaus overtook me five minutes before I arrived, and he was sitting with a cold drink (and had ordered one for me) when I arrived. We enjoyed our dinner and then he headed back home, eschewing the ice cream. I treated myself to a larger ice cream this time!
We were both pretty tired, partly from the heat of the day. It had been very warm and we probably hadn’t drunk enough.
The next morning was our ride home, but we weren’t going the direct route but taking a detour to Wegberg.
We were ready to leave at 9am after having breakfast and washing up. We said goodbye to our hostess AnneMarie, we had very much enjoyed our time with her.
This was our route for the day:
As you can see, it was rather an indirect route back!
And here are the statistics:
First we headed to Sint Odilienberg which is a lovely town with a very impressive church.
Whilst we were out stretching our legs we heard a noise like thunder – another velomobile! It was a green Quest which we had seen on the tour yesterday. He didn’t see us.
After Sint Odilienburg we headed towards Wegberg where we planned to stop for some cake. This involved riding through the Meinweg National Park (but a different sector than we usually use) and just as we came out of the park there was a really steep hill at Dahlheim-Rodgen. I switched my motor onto maximum and trundled past Klaus as he was winching Emily with all our luggage up the hill. I stopped at the top and Klaus seemed to be taking a very long time, so much so that I fired up the tracker app on my phone to see where he was. Then he appeared behind me, with the news that his Schlumpf Mountain Drive had failed so he had no low gears, the pedals were just spinning. He had initially thought it was a broken chain and had to get out (which is tricky in a 7% hill as the brakes aren’t keen to hold the weight) and push it up the hill. When he got to the top and looked inside he realised the chain was still in place. It was the Schlumpf Drive.
He changed the Schlumpf gear back to the high gear and that worked, but it made some slightly unhealthy noises. What with his visor coming unstuck yesterday, the mystery squeaking noise from the free hub which he is concerned about, plus another deflation of the air suspension balls later in the ride today, he is getting quite concerned about Emily’s reliability. Humphrey before her wasn’t great either. I think there will be some serious thinking about whether or not to continue with the Quattrovelo experiment because of all the breakages and failures; compare this with the Milan which is supposedly less well built and the Quattrovelo fares very badly. My only Milan issues have been with the electrical wiring (indicators failing) and spokes breaking (from wheels that I bought from Velomobiel.nl). Millie is very reliable, and Emily should also be the same. We will think about it.
Klaus was now stuck only in the high gears and our terrain was slightly rolling at times. Despite the grinding noises from the front bottom bracket we headed on, stopping as planned at Wegberg for cake and tea.
My Velomobile alarm went off during our cake. As they were parked out of sight round the corner Klaus went to have a look. It seems that a loud motorcycle passing had vibrated the velomobile enough to make the alarm sound!
I asked Klaus if the grinding noise from the gears was getting any worse but he said no, so we carried on. He was restricted to only the high gear ranges so that meant it was a bit more effort for him pulling away at some junctions, but overall Emily was running very well at the speeds that we were able to maintain. She zooms along over 45km/h. I run out of pedalling speed (my chainring is too small and my cadence too low) so Klaus and Emily were out of sight ahead sometimes.
After Wegberg we headed towards Mönchengladbach, going around many of the small hamlets surrounding it. Then we finally got back to somewhere that I know – Dülken. As it was very hot it seemed time for an ice cream.
From Dülken we headed north to Bistard and then joined the Bahnradweg at Lobberich. Our original plan was to ride through Kempen but as there was a running race on we decided to give Kempen a wide berth and we rode past Abtei Mariendonk.
We arrived home feeling very hot and quite thirsty, but having enjoyed our ride. We also had a nice message on the family blackboard!
All in all we really enjoyed the Grensland Treffen. It is always good to speak to other Velomobile riders, and to get to know new people as well as meeting up with old friends. The weather was very good too, although perhaps a bit too hot. We also picked up some very interesting information, that the Milan will in future be sold by Intercitybike in Dronten and also Beyß in Straelen – he is just 20km away. This has started me thinking about a new Milan next year…
Thanks again to Oliver Piper for organising the Grenslandtreffen, along with his supporters and also especially Chris for doing all the original planning and organising. Chris had an operation last week so was unable to ride with us, but we wish him a quick recovery and that he is back riding his Quattrovelo soon. And, of course, we remember Erwin de Vries.