Thursday 6 December 2012: A trip to a crater on Mars and a visit to a recumbent tricycle shop!
Today was my last full day in Mönchengladbach and I had nothing at all on the schedule. The morning’s weather forecast looked very favourable – a good day for a cycle ride!
I had previously noticed a strange blank area on the map of the Niederrhein area – the paper map just shows a couple of crossed tools as an icon and the words “Tagebau Garzweiler I”
I had mentioned this to Babs when I saw her on Tuesday and she explained it was an open cast mine. The area on the map is larger than the town of Mönchengladbach so I thought it worth going to have a look, to see what something so enormous looks like.
The plan was to go south to visit this mine – one of my prearranged GPS tracks went along this way so I thought I’d follow it as far as the mine workings and then do something different. My ‘different’ was originally a vague plan to cycle across to Düsseldorf for lack of any other inspiration until I received an email from Chris aus MG who has been commenting on my blog and he said:
I came accross your blog through a recumbent trike handler in Willich, Liegeradbau Schumacher, after asking if anybody had built a trike using the Schimano Alfine 11 Hub. ICE sent him a link to your blog.
Well if ICE have been mentioning me to this bike shop I really ought to pay a visit, I thought. The factory/unit is up to the west side of Willich which is of course entirely the other side of Mönchengladbach to the open cast mine but it would give me a bit more cycling to do so I thought it would be fun to go up there.
Anyway, I set off in beautiful bright sunshine. It was very cold though – there had been a few flakes of snow overnight and my car windscreen was very frosty when I extracted Alfie and put his seat back on ready to go.
I crossed over the A46 motorway and knew that dead ahead was this mine area so I stopped the trike and walked over to a small earth bund to see what was the other side. Here is Alfie – check out his wheeltracks!
What I saw when I looked over the earth bund was just amazing. Like a crater on Mars, Germany’s own version of the Grand Canyon (but not quite as deep), with a weird mist rising off it all as the frost defrosted. It was an awesome sight.
Here I tried a few shots to get Alfie in as ICE are running a little competition on their Facebook page for photos of your trike in interesting places. I’m not sure which of these pics is the best really.
I crossed under the A46 again and entered the town of Jüchen. It must be a bit weird to live there with that huge hole in the ground just a stone’s throw away. Anyway, I was now heading north and boy was it cold – the wind was very chilly and I was on extremely open ground a lot of the time. I tried to ride a bit faster to warm up some more, but it was mainly my hand getting cold when I had to fiddle with my phone to mark a waypoint on the ‘trackmytour’ app (can’t use my phone with gloves on, unfortunately).
I headed in to the bakery to warm up and also ate a Nuss-Striesel (although an Austrian friend has told me it can’t be called that so I must have misremembered it).
I was now following my Garmin’s selected route to Willich from Giesenkirchen and it all started off OK until I reached the fast road through Korschenbroich which is signposted no bicycles and doesn’t have a cycle lane beside it. This caught me out a couple of days ago when riding back from the Streithöfe so I had to do some planning on the Garmin to work out a route to avoid this road (which really is the obvious route to take to get to Willich from Korschenbroich!)
In the end I worked out a route taking some very quiet lanes, some of which are really just cycle paths, and I headed off through Herzbroich, passing this interesting metal bicycle outside someone’s house.
As I was approaching Schiefbahn I turned off the road cycle path onto a cycle track called the Fietsweg (or something similar – definitely had ‘Fiets’ in it which is Dutch for bicycle). This was a long, straight road heading west alongside the A52 motorway but far enough away that you can’t really hear or see the road.
From there I went under the motorway and then pootled along very quiet roads in horsey country, also going along a former railway track which has turned into a cycle route (there’s a very similar one near Nettetal – in fact it could be a continuation of the same railway, the one from Nettetal to Grefrath) and then back to country lanes again. It was a very nice route and a bit more sheltered so I didn’t feel quite as cold.
I was now on about 32 miles cycled and was relieved when the road magically turned into a posh industrial estate – this was now the outskirts of Willich where Liegeradbau Schumacher had their unit.
I found Liegeradbau Schumacher with all the doors closed. I knocked on the door and lo and behold a roller shutter opened and I stepped in to a building full of recumbent trikes (mainly ICEs and HP Velotechnik Skorpions).
I had a really good chat with the chaps there, one of whom seemed very keen to sell me an ICE Adventure HD (this is for the heavier, wider person which a wider track and a wider seat – what does this say about how lardy I was looking???) He was also keen to show me how many different ways they were able to fit electrical assist and I was able to test how possible it is to pick up the trikes when they have electric assist. They’re manageable but pretty darned heavy – the battery etc weighs 7kg. The chap said they get a lot of people buying electric-assist trikes as they are getting elderly, can’t cope with a normal upright bike but haven’t the energy to ride a long way without assistance. I think this is why he also sells far more Adventures than Sprints as the Adventure is much higher up than the Sprint so easier to get on or off.
They also make their own trikes but ship in ICE’s seats for them as they are the most comfortable seat (said the chap).
I spent half an hour chatting with the chaps at Liegeradbau Schumacher, including talking about the Alfine and the Rohloffs they fit, complaining about rattling mudguards and more. It was all very interesting and, apart from Kevin at D-Tek, has the most trikes I’ve ever seen in one place.
It was half past one when I left and I was feeling pretty hungry. I decided to ride back to the north of MG where there is a large restaurant Kastanienhof (which was another option to meet Babs on Tuesday so I knew it would be OK). I’ve passed it twice before on my travels and it looked fine so I headed off towards Neersen, passing through and then arriving at the Kastanienhof around 2pm.
There were two weird things about the Kastanienhof (which was otherwise very pleasant).
The first is that when I arrived they gave me this card with loads of tiny holes punched into it. When I ordered food the chap punched extra holes to tot up the amount. Everything on the menu was in multiples of 50p.
When the time came to leave I had to hand this in at a till at the door and then pay. I think the theory is you can pay with an automated system and credit card but as there were only a few other people in the restaurant at the time they had plenty of staff!
The second weird thing, and this was most decidedly peculiar, was that in the ladies toilets there was a vending machine for a disposable vibrator. You don’t see that kinda thing very often.
It was five miles back to the flat but I decided to take a very minor detour to a bike shop (Bike-Center Pfennings) that Chris aus MG had recommended to me. It was just a couple of miles to the west of my flat and so I headed directly there.
I managed to come out without buying anything, which was a bonus.
I then headed home, feeling pretty tired now.
Alfie is now back in my car ready for our journey back to the UK tomorrow. We’re leaving here around 9am and heading off to the Hoek van Holland for the 2:30pm ferry sailing (I’m giving myself loads of time in case of a slow, snowy journey like on my drive here on Monday). I took the car to fill up with petrol when I got back and, rather a bonus, the price had dropped by 3 cents per litre since yesterday! I also took the opportunity to pick up a few bottles of beer for James. I haven’t bought anything for Poppy the dog – I did pop into Fressnapf (like Pets At Home) yesterday and was very tempted by some woolly jumpers but she doesn’t really like that kind of thing and so I will come home to her empty handed. Mind you, she’s apparently been sleeping on my side of the bed whilst I’ve been away (rather than in her crate) so she’s already had her Holiday Bonus I think!
I’ve really enjoyed my time here in MG and have been amazingly lucky with the weather. I expected it to be rain and snow the whole time and yet I’ve barely had any bad weather whilst I’ve been out on the bike. I’m glad I’ve got some decent Roubaix trousers though to keep me warm (mostly). I’ve also cycled almost 140 miles over these four days which means sometime next week Alfie will cross the 10,000 mile mark!
And best thing of all is that I’ve found somewhere suitable for my year over here and I look forward to making more plans for 2014/5 in Kempen.
Statistics for today
Distance travelled: 40.71 miles
Time taken: 4 hours 2 minutes
Average speed: 10.1mph
Maximum speed: 23.7mph