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.
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.