Oliebollentocht is an annual gathering of Velomobiles, usually in NL (where most of them are built). It is named after Oliebollen which are Dutch spherical doughnut thingies, similar to Quarkbällchen or Pufferkes in Germany.
I heard about Oliebollentocht in the summer and it sounded like it might be interesting, so when a list was started for people to register I put my name down. This year it would be in Dronten, where many of the Velomobile shops have their base.
I decided that I wouldn’t be able to cycle there and back and so hired a van. I realised that I had two spaces for other velomobiles so mentioned it to several local friends and in the end Klaus and Stefan (Podbiker) bagged the two spare places we calculated were available.
We had to do a fair bit of planning as it looked like it would be quite tight to fit a Milan, a Strada and a DF-XL in the Citroen van that I had hired, but both Stefan and I separately worked it out and decided that they would fit – just. Phew!
As the day approached I wondered about trying to cycle back rather than take the van. Klaus was also very keen on this idea as most people would be staying overnight afterwards. Stefan had to get home to his family and said that he was willing to take the van back alone and leave us in Dronten. So everything was organised.
I travelled back from England the day before and the drive back from Hoek van Holland to Kempen was very hard work as unfortunately I had hurt my thigh/back in England and I was very stiff and moving like an old woman. I wasn’t too sure how well I would cope with riding Millie but always had the option to go back in the van with Stefan if I felt I couldn’t ride the 170km home the next day.
I also worried a bit about punctures on such a long ride back in the cold (forecast was for 4 degrees for the journey back) and so decided to fit Durano Plus tyres that I had bought for the front wheels. The first one went on OK but the second one was a colossal struggle, not helped by my bad back which meant I had to keep standing up and walking around. I think it took 45 minutes to fit the tyre and I was a bit worried I might have pinched the tube. But the air stayed in and I had no more energy to check it further.
The plan was for us all to meet at the van hire place in Kempen, for Stefan and I to show our driving licences and then to load the velomobiles and head off. The van rental opened at 8am and the Oliebollentocht tour started at 10:30 so this was pretty tight for time (it’s about a 2 hours 15 minutes drive to Dronten) but it was possible and we had the routes for the tour on our GPSes so could potentially catch up with them or take a short cut to the coffee stop.
A short ride to pick up a van
I woke up with a slightly improved back – hurrah, I thought I would be able to cycle! I also woke up two hours early and so ended up deciding to leave home at 7:15 which would give me 45 minutes to get to the van hire place (15 minutes away). Hopefully I would be ready and waiting if the staff arrived early and gave us the key.
Millie’s two new tyres still had air in, hurrah, so I wheeled her out of the garage in the pitch dark and frost and stuffed my overnight bag in her storage area behind the seat. I was travelling light as Millie doesn’t have as good stowage areas as Penelope, but it turned out I could have brought more along without any problems.
I settled into Millie and then headed off up the road. The tiller seemed to be shaking in an unusual manner, and then I felt the regular bump-bump-bump of the valve of a flat tube contacting the ground. Oh no, a puncture!
At this point I should have turned round and cycled back to my garage but for some reason early morning brain meant I carried on for another half kilometre before I decided what to do. I only had one spare tyre which was a normal Durano, not a Durano Plus, but would have to change to that. As I was on a lane next to open fields in the freezing cold I decided to carry on to St Hubert and stop outside the Stinges bakery where there is plenty of light. In fact I saw a light on in the house of a friend of my landlady so stopped there, she came out and offered for me to shelter in their garage whilst I changed the tyre. Unfortunately they didn’t have a track pump I could use, I would have to use my hand pump.
And then I discovered the second problem with Durano Plus… they are extremely hard to get off! I just wanted to do a quick tube-and-tyre change but it took me almost 15 minutes and very painful thumbs and fingers to get the old tyre off. Putting the new tyre on (a standard Durano) was the work of a moment, pumping it up with my hand pump was OK and at five to eight I was rolling down the road towards Kempen. I phoned Klaus and told him I would be late.
When I arrived at five past eight Klaus and Stefan were already loading the van.
I had dropped off some cardboard the day before which we put around the velomobiles to protect them as they were tight against the sides, plus some blankets and my bag of spare clothing. In the end all three fitted in very snugly and were strapped in place. I think if Millie had been more than 4cm longer we wouldn’t have been able to close the van doors!
My short ride of 4.5km took 40 minutes and left me with mismatched tyres, one of which was underinflated. Oh well!
The Oliebollentocht Ride
The roads were clear and Stefan drove us confidently to Dronten. We certainly knew when we had arrived – the road was full to bursting with velomobiles. I had never seen anything like it!
And another, with the DuoQuest (two person velomobile) in the foreground:
We parked the van around the side and started unloading. Various familiar faces came past, including Rolf who lives near us in Schwalmtal.
Once we had unloaded we realised the others were leaving so didn’t have time to pump up my tyre, or even use the loo, we just jumped straight into the velomobiles and set off at the back of the queue.
The route was all on cycle paths and we were fairly quickly out of the Dronten Industrial Estate and on a path beside a main road. It was very misty so that visibility wasn’t too great, and I also found the pace pretty high for me. My back wasn’t too bad but my left thigh muscle had also been affected by my back and it was complaining. I was having to work quite hard to keep up – velomobiles are fast!
After about 5km we all stopped as there was a choice of routes – long or short. I opted for the short as I knew I needed to take it easy because of my back. At the point where we divided the Short route all bunched up waiting for everyone to be ready… and a chap called Paul van Roekel took this wonderful photograph, which I also used for the header for this page.
This is what it is like when there is a traffic jam of velomobiles on a cycle path
We rode on, I was dropping towards the back due to my lack of speed but occasionally overtaking people who had stopped for a nature break or TimB to fix a puncture and the family with two QuattroVelos with children in the back to let the children stretch their legs.
Here are two tweets with Millie featured. That Union Jack was a great idea!
It was brilliant seeing all the different velomobiles and their riders, and passing cars were clearly amazed. One guy parked his car in a side road, holding up traffic behind him, as we cycled past and he filmed it with his camera.
Soon we arrived at our lunch spot, Flevonice which is an ice rink. The velomobiles were scattered everywhere and the people queuing to get into the ice rink were clearly amazed at this huge plague of carbon fibre weird bikes…
Lunch at Flevonice
Someone had counted the velomobiles – there were 209. This is by far a new record of velomobiles all in one place, no wonder people were staring!
Here is a picture taken by Crummel which shows them all very well:
The event this year was organised by Intercitybike in Dronten who make the DF velomobile as well as selling others. They had arranged for tea, coffee and cake to be laid on. I went straight to a comfy chair to sit down to relieve my back and was joined by TimB who sold me the Haube for Millie some months ago and who I usually have a long chat with at SPEZI. He went fairly early to get himself a coffee and most kindly returned with some tea and cake for me – thank you Tim!
The room was filled with familiar and unfamiliar faces and it was great to chat to old friends and get to know new people. Lee Wakefield who has a Milan and lives in the UK was introduced to me. He thought initially I was in the UK (due to the Union Jack flag) so thought there was another Milan there; I had to say that I was actually in Germany. He had some suggestions for me to optimise the load carrying in Millie by making a chain baffle and showed me how he had done that in his Milan SL.
I had brought along some biscuits and shared them around. It was nice to be in the warm and to have a chance for the loo. I was a bit worried about my low speed and decided I really had to pump up my replaced tyre before we set off again as that must be slowing me down. As I had used a Schraeder valve (Autoventil) I wouldn’t be able to borrow a track pump from any fellow velomobilists as they all seem to use Presta (SV), so I had to use my hand pump some more, but it definitely improved matters.
The ride back to Dronten
The route back to Dronten also had a long or a short option and I once again took the short one. It was cold and my back was hurting, but it was still such fun to travel in such a big group. I got dropped at one point and found myself cycling along completely alone in the fog – a weird feeling! I then found myself overtaking an orange QuattroVelo… the rider was Rob Hague, an Englishman, who had collected his brand new Velomobile a couple of days before. I asked if he was OK; he said yes, but he thought the pedals were too long for him and it was taking some getting used to. I kept with him as I wasn’t sure he had the track and might get lost, although I led us wrong at one point where we should have taken an underpass but ended up having to do a U-Turn on a main road. Oh well! We survived!
We arrived back at Dronten before 4pm and I saw Gerrit Tempelman directing traffic. It was good to see he was also involved.
We parked our Velomobiles all over the place and then went and warmed our hands and feet round a fire in a metal bin, before heading into the hall for the Oliebollen and soup.
Here is Millie parked amongst friends (four DFs in fact – she is the odd one out).
The hall was a huge space with lots of picnic tables and benches, now filled with cyclists drinking coffee and tea and chatting away.
Here is a photo taken before we all arrived
We helped ourselves to tea and coffee and sat chatting. And then the Oliebollen arrived…
Here we all are in the hall enjoying our Oliebollen.
And also some vegetarian/vegan bean soup!
It was all very tasty and the seating arrangement meant you could easily move around and go and chat to other people.
Here is one of my three Oliebollen (they are very filling!)
I also took the opportunity to buy two new tyres (Duranos) from Ymte who runs Intercitybikes as I was worried about the journey home – if I got a puncture, I wouldn’t be able to get the Durano Plus on in the cold, and that was now my only spare. Convenient to have the tyres I wanted directly available. This meant I actually had 7 tyres with me (3 on Millie, one spare rear tyre, one spare front Durano Plus and two spare front Duranos) which is possibly more than necessary – but a better feeling than having none!
Several people talked to me about my Schlumpf fitting, including Theo from Velomobiel.nl and Rolf, who was in fact having a Schlumpf fitted in his Quest the next day. KLKöln had one fitted and showed me photos of what it is supposed to look like (narrow, and with a torsion arm). Looks very different to mine! Oh well, we live and learn!
AfFter the Oliebollen and soup we were very full and as it was starting to get dark we decided to head off to the guest house – both Klaus and Rolf were staying in the same place as me so we rode there together, 17km in the fog and dark. When we arrived there was an apple turnover each too!
Stefan drove the van home and in fact gave a lift to another Velomobile rider who lives fairly near us who had experienced knee issues on the way up.
It was a truly enjoyable day and I can’t wait for the next Oliebollentocht – I will definitely be there!
Several people have produced videos of the day, and here are some of them:
This video from Belle includes Klaus riding past at 8:49. Millie at 8:52 and again at 16:10.
Here is a second one with a brief shot of Millie’s nose but it gives a better impression of the vast number of velomobiles there.
The Kempener Bummelzug
The journey up to Oliebollentocht by so many velomobiles meant that various groups were organised where people travelled together. The Rumeln Express, organised by Liegender_Robert, started in Rumeln, a part of Duisburg, and was a fast group (they average 30kph).
TimB had (foolishly?) decided to join this group and had to set off from Bonn at 5 in the morning to get to Duisburg at 9. They were in Dronten by 17:00 the day before Oliebollentocht. Tim was feeling the effects of such a long ride the next day so he took the shorter routes, as I did, but with far more justification!
Anyway, the route that the Rumeln Express were taking had been available to download so I used that route as a base for the journey back to Kempen for Klaus and I the next day. Of course, if we started before the Rumeln Express return journey they would overtake us – I knew I had zero chance of keeping up with them and it would probably have been a bit much for Klaus too. In the event they left at 8am so almost two hours before us – we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast chatting with Rolf and hoping the fog would clear.
Rolf had a trailer on his car with which he had transported his Quest. It was having the Schlumpf fitted and then he was driving home again. Millie had spent the night in the trailer with the Quest to keep her out of the cold (there was only enough room in the bike shed for Klaus’s Celeste), and as Rolf and Klaus were lifting her out I thought how nice it would be to have a warm, comfortable ride home in Rolf’s car. I was quite tempted!
But then I decided to man up (woman up?) and ride it – after all, on this ride I would hit my year’s goal of 12,000km. And so what if the temperature is minus 3, that’s why I have a Velomobile!
So Klaus and I set off at 9:40am, following the route of the Rumeln Express which was a very different route from that we had used when we rode back from Dronten in March. Not least that it was 30km shorter.
The route goes over a large hill which appears to be a country park. We had been warned by Rolf that it wasn’t the best quality surface and could be quite narrow but it turned out to be OK and I would take that route again.
I didn’t take any photographs of it but here is one taken by Hajo, part of the Rumeln Express, as they passed through earlier in the day.
Klaus and I were both suffering from frozen feet so stopped for a walkabout (by him) and for me to put my feet down inside the velomobile (I didn’t want to get out because of my back). I also loosened the laces of my shoes which helped a lot with blood flow. It was probably minus 5 but all that was really cold were our feet – the velomobile keeps the body mostly warm and we had decent headgear.
After a five minute break it was time to move on. I was briefly celebrating hitting my 12,000km for the year target too!
This is the route we took.
After the country park we headed through Apeldoorn – the first of two towns of this name on our journey (we later went through Appeldorn in Germany). This was a bit fiddly and faffy, plus we had to watch out for glass on the cycle paths as it was quite a busy town. We stopped for Klaus to buy some bottled water and nuts and then headed on, soon out of the town and following the Kanaal Zuid all the way to Dieren. This was a lovely stretch of the route with smooth, fast cycle path with no-one else on it. The fog was still there, the day was still freezing, we both had very cold feet, but it was lovely to trundle along, enjoying the sunbeams filtering through the trees, the frost on the fields and more.
When we got to Dieren we were feeling hungry so decided to go off-route and try to find a café. Now I always have a very high success rate in Germany to find a bakery or café but this does not work so well for me in the Netherlands, and again this was the case. Dieren just seemed to be a dormitory town with no shops. I asked a lady walking past but she gave some very vague directions and didn’t speak much English. In the end we just followed the main road and eventually it joined up again with our GPS track we were following, at which point we found a nice-looking café and stopped.
It was lovely and warm in this café and so I laid my scarf, hat, buffs and gloves on the radiator to dry.
We had some warming soup and some hot drinks and I also had several glasses of water. I felt that I wasn’t drinking enough and despite the cold day I was still losing moisture through sweat and breath. It is a problem I do seem to have.
It took a bit of willpower to leave the confines of the nice warm café and head back out into the cold. We still had a long way to go, we were only just halfway, and it was already three o’clock. Oh well, we had plenty of time. I had the option to overnight at Rees and had checked hotel availability in the morning (lots of cheap rooms) in case my back protested too much at the 170km ride. But I could decide that later.
The road from Doesburg/Dieren then went to Eldrik and then through Doetinchem where we changed direction to a bit more south and found the landscape and buildings looking more German. We still had a little way to the border but once again we had experienced that feeling that you get on a long ride, that you are covering so much ground that the landscape and styles of buildings is changing.
We crossed into Germany at Netterden and then almost immediately found our route to cross the A3 motorway had a diversion that added about 4km to our ride. It also meant that motor traffic was stuck behind us on narrow roads for longer than they probably liked. But eventually we rejoined our route.
At a roundabout in the middle of nowhere we stopped to eat some peanuts and drink some water as the energy levels needed topping up. Then it was onward to Rees through the village of Bienen which included a sharp downhill which seemed very frosty indeed. The sun had set and it was getting dark and cold – the skies were clear and we could see the stars.
We approached Rees and I went straight onto the bridge over the Rhein, bypassing my option for a shorter ride and a night’s sleep. It was only 50 miles to home which shouldn’t take more than two and a half hours.
I seemed to be maintaining my speed OK over the whole ride. It wasn’t fast – we tended to ride between 18 and 22km/h depending on road surface etc. It was getting colder though, and when I had to get out to change my battery for the lights (which is behind the seat) it was very chilly indeed!
After Rees I had planned a new route which avoided the awful hill Totenhügel and the road around Uedem was quite good, although both Klaus and I had no real idea where we were. We decided we would like some food once it got to seven in the evening so we made a brief detour to Kervenheim but cycled fruitlessly through the town centre looking for a restaurant. We found a bar but they were only serving drinks. “No restaurants here,” the chaps nursing their pints said, “you have to go to Kevelaer”. I said we were heading next through Winnekendonk and they said we would find food possibilities there too, so we headed off. It was strange that Kervenheim was so empty – we didn’t pass a supermarket or anything. It’s about the size of St Hubert which has 3 bakeries, 9 or 10 restaurants, two supermarkets etc etc.
Winnekendonk was just four kilometres away and Klaus, who was in the lead, espied a pizzeria so we stopped and ordered. As we were on long rides our appetites had reduced so we each ordered a small pizza. My hawaiian was very nice – this photo seems to have picked up the weird colour lighting from above. I promise my cheese wasn’t purple!
After Winnekendonk we went through a couple of small villages and then we arrived in Geldern – back on very familiar roads! The route from Geldern to home I could do in my sleep… and I have to say I was feeling tired! I made a last-minute route adjustment to avoid the bridge over the A40 but instead go under the A40 on the main road – entirely due to laziness!
Klaus waved goodbye to me where my road diverged from his route back through Kempen and I did the last 1.5km alone, really looking forward to my nice hot shower.
In the end the total distance for my journey back was 170.14km and moving time was 8 hours 49 minutes, which is an average of 19.3km/h. Slow, but it was cold! Total door to door time was almost exactly twelve hours. Klaus got home about half an hour later, having done 186.8km. He was much fresher than me, I think; it’s hard to tell if it was my Durano Plus tyre (and possibly underinflated tyres), various minor aerodynamic reductions (Millie has a muddy underside), my post-Christmas lardiness, the cold weather… but anyway, the 170km were not particularly easy. When I compare this ride to my 215km ride a few months ago, that was much easier, and faster, and longer. But I guess that’s the effect of weather for you.
And if you’d like to see a video of my ride viewed from the air, here it is!
But as an overall event, Oliebollentocht was a fantastic experience. The group ride with 208 other velomobiles, meeting and chatting to friends old and new, and then a challenging but very rewarding ride back. It was all great and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!
Other blog posts on Oliebollentocht
This is of course not an exhaustive list but is blogs that I have seen.
https://oldenburger-liegeradgruppe.jimdo.com/aktuelles-2016/ under Mekka der Velomobile (short report)
I will add more to this list as I am notified of them.
In short, if you are a velomobile rider, make sure you come to next year’s – it’s worth it!!!