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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!