Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 3: Nijmegen to Kempen

Day 3 of the tour

Despite being on holiday I still woke up at 6 am. Oh well, it gave me a chance for a cup of tea and some reading.

Our plan this morning was to go to Roef’s for breakfast when he told us he was ready (he had to work a little in the morning first), we expected at about 10:30. As we were up and ready to ride much earlier we decided to head down to the riverfront for a cup of tea.

And it was very much DOWN, through lots of cobbled streets, with the velomobiles bouncing around and making lots of rattling noises. But we made it to the bottom and stopped outside Humphrey’s namesake bar:

Unfortunately it, and the neighbouring café, were both closed, but someone told us we could find some open cafés back up the hill again. Uphill. Oh well, we set off.

Humphrey has a Mountain Drive which is a gear system which reduces the gear ratio significantly (three times lower). What this means is that when you are using the normal gear range the lowest gear is OK for setting off on level ground or climbing very gentle slopes but anything steeper you need to ‘schlumpf’ which means suddenly you have an extremely low gear and have to pedal like mad to make any speed. As I am entirely unable to pedal like mad, I just slowly pootle my way up the hill in great comfort but at a low velocity. This enables Klaus to set up a nice photo though!

At the top of this hill there was indeed an open café so we stopped and had a cup of tea. Very shortly afterwards we heard from Roef that he was now free and we could come over for breakfast.

Roef had supplied us with a route to his place and it was yet another of these fantastic Dutch cycle ways. About 80% of the route was entirely segregated from all other traffic and was fast. There were very few road crossings. We zoomed along beside the railway line in our little pink-tarmacked world and thought again how wonderful the Dutch cycling infrastructure can be and how disappointing it is that few other countries manage this.

We arrived at Roef’s and put our velomobiles in his garage.

As you can see, he has an orange Strada. Klaus and I had very significant garage-envy, especially knowing that this garage is warm (as it is underneath the apartments).

Roef had arranged a very good breakfast for us, including porridge, croissants, rolls, yoghurt etc. We enjoyed chatting to him whilst we ate and then organised ourselves very leisurely to set off back home again. Roef would accompany us as far as Gennep.

Before our tour I had planned three separate routes back from Nijmegen to home. Of course, we didn’t use any of them in the end! It makes much more sense to follow the local who has much more experience of the environs, plus later on I discovered the Garmin Connect route planning software had done some weird things and we had to scrap one of the possible routes.

This was our actual track:

We were very lucky in that the weather was significantly better today than the last two days. It wasn’t hugely warm but the biting wind had subsided and when we were in the sun it felt very good. I suppose the temperature was about 10 degrees overall so much, much better.

The little procession of 2 Stradas and a Quattrovelo headed along the Maas towards Cuijk and Gennep.

The speed was comfortable for me in the Quattrovelo, which was running a bit better than yesterday. Well, I guess I must conclude that the problem lies mostly with the rider rather than the velomobile, but warm weather definitely helps me!

We were alongside the Maas at some times, at other times we moved a little away, but were largely on quiet roads that ran parallel to the main road and so had very low traffic.

We were cruising fairly well, staying close together as the speed worked for us all.

As we came into Gennep we decided to look for a café for a cup of tea as we had been riding for 30km in total. We found a café and of course the three velomobiles outside created a bit of a stir.

Although Klaus and I follow a low carbohydrate diet, we had decided that on this tour we wouldn’t keep to it as it’s a bit trickier with hotel breakfasts etc. And I have to say, I did fancy one of these desserts.

The Schwarzwälder Kirsch Meringue Gebak (at least three languages in that one name!) seemed like an excellent choice, and indeed it was! It was a kind of black forest roulade.

Klaus had the apple pie with cream.

I had been interested in what the ‘Speckkoek’ was, as it sounded like a bacon cake. I didn’t choose it, but after we had finished our cakes the waitress brought us a very small piece to try. It was OK (no actual bacon in it) but I preferred my black forest meringue thingie.

We had a very leisurely break as we felt there was no urgent need to push on. When  you don’t have to check into a hotel but are simply going home you aren’t under so much time pressure.

But eventually it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes to Roef, having really enjoyed the time spent with him. You can read his blog here: Roef’s Blog.

From Gennep we started off following the route that chum Rolf had sent us which goes to the west of the Maas but the plan was to then switch to Klaus’s route which would take us to Arcen. However, I did some last minute course changes when I realised that Garmin Connect had mucked up Klaus’s route and it was just sending us straight down the main road to Venlo. This would not be very scenic! So we continued to follow Rolf’s route and I could see the point where I needed to turn off it to continue to Arcen. Klaus just followed behind me, trusting I wouldn’t get him too lost!

Rolf had a slightly better route between Bergen and Nieuw-Bergen so that was good, and we were very soon on Ceresweg, the road that runs along the border between the Netherlands and Germany. It’s a lovely long road with minimal traffic and great scenery but the road surface is pretty hard which can be wearing over time. We made good progress though, and in this case the Quattrovelo’s suspension was kinder than Millie’s would have been.

Usually this section seems very fast but it felt to me like it was going on for quite a long time. I suppose with the Quattrovelo being slower, and also me being rather tired, it was harder work than I had thought. But eventually we were climbing the hill out of Arcen towards Germany and Straelen, and we then rode one of our standard routes home going the more scenic way for a couple more kilometres.

When we got home I felt really, really physically tired. It was 93km in total and not particularly fast (average 20.5) but I was still pooped. My arms were also complaining a lot. The main issue is that there isn’t much elbow room in the cockpit of the Quattrovelo so my arms are squashed against my side and also against the side of the QV. The cold air wicks through the carbon and straight into your bones! Also I have to support the tiller and this involves muscle power, especially as my disabled arm can only hang off the tiller, so the good arm is not only holding the tiller up but also supporting the weight of the disabled arm pulling down. My Milan has a tiller limiter thingie which attaches to the boom and ought to be possible with the QV, I am rather disappointed it is not an option. I will see if I can fit something, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of the too narrow cockpit.

Getting out of the QV was a challenge once we got home as my arms were cold and tired, but I managed it and enjoyed a lovely hot shower!

Here are my statistics for the ride today:

We had originally discussed perhaps heading off to Maastricht the next day for a short break but I realised I needed some time to rest and recover, so the plan was shifted a bit. I will collect Millie and then consider whether I do the Maastricht trip in her. Watch this space!

But in conclusion, we had a very good tour and visited some lovely towns. The cycling routes were mostly very good and some of the infrastructure in the Netherlands was brilliant. The weather was not particularly kind to us though, and I think we need to recognise that touring when it is below freezing is maybe not the best option!

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