Tag Archives: Venlo

Alfie goes to the Maas River

The weather in Germany has turned hot.

Anything much over 22 degrees and it’s too hot for the Velomobile (at least for someone with as much personal insulation as I have).

So Alfie has been getting a few more rides recently, mostly in company with his new friend the Steintrikes Wild One (which seems, unfathomably, to not have a name).

A few exchanges of SMS yesterday morning with fellow-triker Klaus and a cycle ride was arranged for the late afternoon – with the Netherlands as our destination.

Once again I drove Alfie to Klaus’s house (he lives 20km away) so we could ride from there. It makes more sense than meeting up somewhere underway, especially as Alfie easily fits into my Honda Jazz with the back seats down. I have now also improved my skills at handling him when folding and didn’t end up covered in oil this time!

trike in car

Last Thursday evening I also rode with Klaus and on that occasion when I unfolded Alfie he had a few minor problems – partly related to his advanced mileage I think. This time, with my improved skills in lifting him folded, after I reassembled him he seemed unscathed. Which was good as this ride would also see him cross the 20,000 mile mark.

Klaus had plotted a route for me which is one he rides occasionally.

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 12.58.53

What I hadn’t noticed initially is that it goes up a pretty steep hill almost straight away. And boy was I slow – it was 29 degrees, I had spent all day at my desk working before heading out, and I am rubbish up hills anyway.

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 13.01.31

This was cycling across the Süchtelner Höhen, this very inconvenient moraine that is in the way if you want to go west from Viersen. There are lots of different routes across it of various steepness but Klaus sent us the Höher Busch route which is through some woodland so not asphalted. He took a wrong turn and we started going down a nettley path so had to turn round again – recumbent trikes and nettles and other similar vegetation do not mix well.

Anyway I was slow going up the hill – this is not news but previously I have blamed the fact that it is because I am on a recumbent trike (known for being slow up hills). When I am cycling with someone else on a recumbent trike and they are whizzing off into the distance when going up hills this rather shows that my slowness might be down to the rider rather than the machine!

However I am quicker downhill than Klaus. We had discovered this on a previous ride, that I freewheel downhill much faster, and had discussed a little whether this was because of differences between the trikes or maybe that the Wild One’s tracking wasn’t perfect. I had a great idea to do a test by swapping machines before a downhill and seeing if the ICE Sprint was still quicker.

The answer was no, with me riding the Wild One it went much faster down the hill after we crossed the A61 Motorway. The obvious reason would be that I have greater mass (= heavier) than Klaus but this would clearly be embarrassing for a lady so instead we have been trying to work out other reasons for this speed differential. We are currently working on the hypothesis that I am way more aerodynamic than him. I like to try to fool myself from time to time!

Anyway, having struggled up the side of the Süchtelner Höhen (and seen two other recumbent trikes going past but they didn’t stop for a chat) and had our race down the other side, we were now on flat territory rolling through Bistard, Boisheim and the unfortunately-named Schaag. There is a church in Schaag that I haven’t yet visited as part of my Churches in Kreis Viersen challenge but as we had 70km to ride and had only left Viersen at 5:15pm I thought it best not to delay us by stopping to photograph it.

I learned a few useful bits of information from my riding partner today when discussing the different roads. In the UK we have motorways, A Roads and B Roads (do we have C roads? I think not, I think they are just ‘unclassified’). Anyway, in Germany I have seen A roads, B, L and K but didn’t know exactly how these were specified. It turns out to be quite simple – A = Autobahn (I did know that), which is motorway. B = Bundestraße which is a national road. L is a Landesstraße which are the major main roads within a country and K are something to do with Kreis (district), I didn’t pick up the exact word. So the B, L and K roads are all of the quality and speed we would call an A road in the UK, but I guess different departments pay for maintenance/upkeep. Or something.

From Schaag we headed out into some very flat farmland towards Bracht which I have visited a few times (but from a different direction).

Whilst we were trundling along beside a road I suddenly realised that Alfie must have crossed over his magic 20,000 mile mark (unfortunately the mounting point for my bike computer wheel magnet thingie had snapped a few days ago so the trike’s trip computer wasn’t working, I only had my Garmin). So I stopped to take a photo of Alfie after his 20k miles – he doesn’t look too bad for having travelled that far in three years, all weathers.

Alfie at 20,000 miles

I’ll be writing a blog post about the 20,000 miles in due course.

Klaus made the mistake of saying to me that he doesn’t like riding in groups normally because it’s tricky to ride safely with other different bikes (a well known problem for recumbenteers – exacerbated by the fact that all you see in front of you are people’s backsides) but that he found it much easier to cycle with me. As we were riding side-by-side at that time I did a quick swerve towards him to see how he reacted. The answer was quickly, and nearly steered himself into a ditch. Oops! I wouldn’t have hit his trike (I am too sensible for that!) but clearly caught him out. Later in the ride he tried to do the same to me but I didn’t budge – I am made of sterner stuff (or more trusting?). Either that or I am now immune to this as yesterday I was cycling with an upright bike whilst I was in Penelope and there was a braking issue and the cyclist crashed into the side of Penelope. No harm done but after that I was feeling fairly invincible as of course I was entirely protected within the shell of Penelope. But the basic situation is indeed that two trikes riding together find it much easier than a trike with an upright bike (or even recumbent two-wheeler) as the speed and braking profiles/performances are much more similar.

From Bracht we crossed under the B221 and then headed through the hamlet of Heidhausen before entering the Brachter Wald. I feared we might find lots of mosquitoes but there weren’t any – it was probably too hot for them! The journey through the Brachter Wald is a long, slow downhill which gets steeper at the end until the border with NL where you have to do a 90 degree right turn through some traffic calming. I decided to see how fast Alfie would roll downhill with me on board – we managed to hit 47.9 km/h which was a bit disappointing (I did 60km/h when going down a short hill back in England a couple of weeks ago). I think it just isn’t hilly enough in Niederrhein to really get going. Which is actually a relief.

We crossed the border into the Netherlands at the De Witte Stein pub where we had been with the Trike Treffen group. There’s nothing obvious to make you realise you are in NL until you travel a bit further and come through the towns where you see different road signs and also slightly different designs in buildings.

I was now in a phone blackout though (I don’t use data when roaming) which meant all went very quiet on my phone – my husband is currently doing a sailing challenge of going round the British Isles (well, halfway round). He has just joined the boat in Oban in Scotland and they are making their way down the west coast. He’s been sending lots of iMessages to update his location and send photos of the amazing scenery – but once I crossed into the Dutch phone area it all went quiet. Which felt quite odd really.

We rode through Reuver and were soon at the Maas river, where we had to wait for a minute for the ferry.

Maas Ferry at Reuver

It is worth noting at this point that there was an ice cream van selling ice creams near the ferry point but I said nothing. Klaus’s last blog post suggested I kept whinging about lack of cake on our rides so I had resolved to be quiet about the fact he seems to ignore the need to refuel whilst underway. Which was mostly successful, in that I didn’t whinge, but an ice cream at that point would have been fab!

We rolled onto the ferry and the chap who came to take our 60 cents for the crossing had a good chat with us in multiple languages (a mixture of English and German, we couldn’t quite fix on what language we were going to speak).

Here are the trikes on the ferry as we have almost reached the other side. It was a chain ferry and the river is probably less than 100 metres wide at that point.

Trikes on Maas Ferry

We got off the ferry (I had an unexpected bit of heel strike due to the steep ramp, which might explain why the heels of my cycling sandals seem to be coming unglued) and then headed into the little village. There were several cafés and Klaus asked if I wanted to stop for a drink. I said no as we weren’t yet halfway round the tour and then checked on my Garmin – it said 25km to go, and we’d already done 29, so I changed my mind. Halfway point is a good time to stop.

Trikes at tea stop

We found a nice café with some shade (it was still really hot) and stopped. I ordered a cup of Teewasser/hot water for tea with milk and miracle of miracles, that is actually what I got! In Germany I usually don’t get any milk, despite specifically asking for it, and then have to wait for ages for them to remember. But I had my tea and then a glass of water and enjoyed a bit of a break from the sun.

It was time to get going again so we headed off on the road alongside the Maas. It’s not just a cycle path, there were some cars and quite a few mopeds whizzing along. There were also loads of roadie cyclists in packs. We weren’t overtaken that often though because we were riding at a decent pace. At one point I heard a nasty grinding noise from the back of my trike when rounding a corner – only to discover that I still had my parking brake on. It’s not a very effective parking brake but it does make you work harder if you ride for two kilometres with it on!

What was annoying was I could see that my light was flickering (I have a front light permanently burning on Alfie as it’s from the dynohub). I couldn’t tell if the fault was from the dynohub, the cabling or within the light itself but a bit of fiddling suggested that it might be the on/off/senseo switch which might possibly have experienced some water ingress in the last three years. It seemed to sort itself out after another 10km but it’s something I need to watch as I didn’t have a backup light with me – I will need to start carrying a torch as well in case something happens to the light.

The other thing I noticed was that my Garmin was counting up with the ‘distance to destination’ field. This is because we were doing the track the reverse way round than normal and I hadn’t realised this. So when we stopped with 25km to go that was actually false – we had another 35km to go. Well at least I had enjoyed my cuppa by the Maas.

I didn’t actually know where I was a lot of the time – just following someone else makes for very easy routefinding (unless they lose you!) but meant I kept asking where we were. This roundabout had a useful series of signs on it so I could tell roughly where I was.

Roundabout in NL somewhere

The section cycling along the Maas seemed to go really quickly for some reason – perhaps because it was a fairly fast, wide track. The views across the river were very nice and there were even some hills in evidence.

The plan was to cross the river again in Venlo on the motorway bridge (the A73). This is a shared motorway/bike bridge and is quite impressive.

Bridge crossing at Venlo

You feel well separated from the traffic which is good.

Trikes and traffic crossing Venlo bridge

From there Klaus wended a route through Venlo to the east and I was completely lost. I kept thinking I recognised sections but then was in unfamiliar territory again. I assumed we were heading to the Glider Airfield which is the route I always take out of Venlo but no, we were going by Leuth instead. We crossed back into Germany, passed another as-yet-unvisited church in Leuth and then headed towards the De-Witt-See, joining the Bahnradweg (which I cycle at least once a week) to head back.

This is such a great bit of cycle track – smooth, straight, wide enough for two trikes side-by-side (mostly) and not very busy at 9pm at night. We whizzed along, passing Sassenfeld where I had a week’s holiday in August 2012, then the top edge of Lobberich before heading towards Grefrath. Because our final destination was Viersen rather than Kempen we left the Bahnradweg before Grefrath and had to go up a bit of a hill – which seemed unexpectedly hard! – before heading to Hagenbroich, around Vorst and then to Süchteln on the Nordkanal route before arriving back at Klaus’s place. As usual he sped up for the last few miles (presumably thinking about home cooking and cups of tea and things like that) so it was all I could do to hang on. A booster rocket would be useful to help me keep up in these situations.

Alfie was packed away into the car in no time at all but I needed a few minutes’ breather before heading off as I felt really tired after the last few miles. I’d run out of water which probably didn’t help. By the time I had driven home I felt back to normal fortunately and had a very good feeling after such a good cycling workout.

Just under 70km for me and I burned over 2000 calories which was a bonus – and only had a cup of tea on the ride!

Klaus records his track with an iPhone App and I have here the two data files side-by-side when imported into my cycling software. The calories figure is wrong for Klaus’s side (the right hand side) – somehow my software is reading the wrong thing. His software gave him 1800 calories for the ride.

Distsance Data combined

And here is the elevation information – the iPhone app does not record this very well as you can see! (Again, my info is on the left, Klaus’s on the right)

elevation data

I was back at the car at 10pm so we were less than five hours on the road which wasn’t bad for a ride of this length and with a fairly good stop. Klaus usually rides these distances without stopping but I like having a loo break and a cup of tea if possible. I am still slightly amazed that I yet again didn’t manage to have a cake though!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

Penelope goes to Venlo

Today Penelope returned to her home country of the Netherlands.

Today is 1st May and in Germany it’s a public holiday – thus most of the shops are shut. So it seemed like a good day to visit the Netherlands (I had already checked and that was still open).

Yesterday I happened to pass the chocolate factory in Kempen and so wandered in to get a few things…

Choc Factory Visit 1

That lot cost me about £8 (9,70€)

I had to fit it all into the velomobile which already had lots of tools, a spare tyre, a large casserole dish, some maps, a water bottle, a heavy lock, some Gü Chocolate Cheesecake dessert Pots, a couple of bread rolls, an Apfeltasche pastry, a loaf of sliced bread and some other stuff too.

Choc Factory Visit 2

You can fit a lot of stuff in a Velomobile although I found the large free blue bucket that I was given by Self (a DIY shop) didn’t fit very well and I had to put it under my chin.

Anyway, 1st May seemed like a good day to take Penelope to Venlo, except I had to do some repairs first. Last night, when cycling back from choir in the dark, I realised that the lights weren’t working properly. A previous owner, Wilfred, had arranged it so I have two front light settings – Bright and Brighter. There’s also the option of flashing the front lights using a button on the handlebars. Last night it became clear that the Bright setting wasn’t working, nor was the flashing, although if I switched on the second front light switch (for Brighter) then there was some light, although not enough to cycle fast on unlit lanes.

Not only that, my car had been off the road for the last six days – the flat battery before I went to SPEZI was still not sorted. Frank (the landlord) had charged up my battery but it wasn’t working so he had brought a replacement from work today.

First things first, a dog walk.

As I stepped out of the house I noticed that the tree outside was decorated with streamers.

Decorated tree

It turns out that this is a May 1 tradition. As friend Olaf explained to me:

It’s a “Maibaum”, erected by young men courting a girl. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maibaum Have a look at “Liebesmaien”.

“In einigen Teilen Deutschlands, zum Beispiel im Rheinland, …. ist es üblich, dass männliche Jugendliche und junge Männer am Haus der Freundin oder Angebeteten einen Baum anbringen. Üblich sind vor allem mit buntem Krepp-Papier geschmückte Birken, wobei die Farbe der Bänder ursprünglich eine Bedeutung hatte. Am Baum wird ein sogenanntes Maiherz aus Holz oder festem Karton angebracht, in das der Name der Angebeteten eingraviert und in der Regel auch ein Spruch als Zuneigungsbekundung geschrieben wird.”

Clearly it was for Lara (or possibly for Penelope?) but Lara is, as yet, none the wiser as to the secret admirer. Rather fun!

Anyway, Pops and I went out for a good walk in the early morning sunshine. She took her stick with her.

Morning dogwalk

This is a view of Escheln, the hamlet where I live. Idyllic!

Morning view of Escheln

And here is the asparagus growing in the local Spargelhof (where I also get fresh strawberries most days).

Spargel growing

So back to the electric repairs on velomobile and car… with my electronic engineer husband in another country.

Last night Alex, Penelope’s former owner, had told me that it was probably just a plug that had come out through vibration and it’s a pretty easy fix. So I stuck my head in to look – sure enough, the black box which should have had two plugs in it only had one – and the other one was dangling in mid air.

Here’s a photo so you can see what I mean – a photo that was taken on 22 April, so over a week ago. Shows how observant I am that the light wasn’t working!

Penelope unplugged

This is all right in the footwell beyond the pedals so I had to go head-first into the velomobile in a rather inelegant fashion but I plugged the plug in and lo and behold the lights now worked!!

Success!

Buoyed by this, it was time to tackle the car (with Frank’s help).

Dead car

Frank put the new battery in and turned the key.

The engine seemed to turn over OK but it didn’t start.

Oh dear.

Frank then disappeared into the garage and returned with a selection of tools. He proceeded to remove the spark plugs from the car and had a good look at them. With them out he then tried to turn the car on again for a bit – it was all a bit smelly but of course it didn’t start. He then put the spark plugs back in again (he told me the German for them – something Kerzen (candles)), turned the key and lo and behold the car started!

Frank’s diagnosis – because the car had been sitting for a couple of weeks, some unburnt fuel which had been there had settled and got a bit mucky. He suggested I take the car for a 10 minute drive to clear out the pipes and that I would need to use it once a week to keep this from happening again. He said he would also recharge the original battery, put it back in and see if it’s OK.

So I drove my car up towards Stenden and then back again. It was good to have had a successful morning of mechanical repair (although Frank gets all the credit for the car fix). Whilst we were doing the car Gudula took Poppy for a walk. As my Dad said to me earlier, I’ve really fallen on my feet in this household with dog walkers, car menders and more. I’m going to take the family out for a meal in due course to say thankyou for the car fixing.

By the time I was ready to head out in Penelope it was 11:30. Gudula was in the front garden doing some pruning with Poppy helping so I asked her to hold on to Poppy as I headed off else Poppy would try to come with me. So Gudula picked Poppy up and talked to her while I headed off, following my Garmin’s route, towards the Netherlands.

After about half a mile I heard a weird noise – weird, but familiar. The sound of running paws. Sure enough Poppy had just caught up with me. I stopped, opened the lid of Penelope and Poppy jumped onto my lap. I turned round and headed back to Escheln, seeing Gudula coming round the corner in hot pursuit. She said Poppy had gone first one way, then the correct one, trying to catch up with me, the little rotter! Poppy was panting after all her running and probably glad to be carried back to the house.

I carried on another 200 metres or so and then stopped and waited for five minutes to check that Poppy didn’t reappear (she didn’t). Then it was full steam ahead to Venlo.

I had plotted different routes there and back, the route to Venlo would be the most direct one and the route back a scenic option, if I felt energetic enough to do it.

Today's TrackThe northernmost track is my outward journey, through Wachtendonk, Wankum and Herongen.

This is the elevation profile for the day as well – when the Garmin was switched off in Venlo for lunch it got its elevation a bit confused but it gives a general idea.

Elevation ProfileI headed on the familiar route to Wachtendonk which goes under the A61 motorway on some farm tracks. However, today being 1 May there were more unusual things to see – not just the decorated tree. You can just see ahead in this photograph a tractor towing a sort of caravan thing decorated with tree boughs. This caravan thing was full of young Germans shouting and being generally noisy (probably with beer in their hands) and every time it passed a house the tractor sounded its horn at length. People then came out to see what was going on.

Wachtendonk tractorA closer view – various arms were hanging out of the back window just before the branches at some points.

Wachtendonk tractor 2Eventually the tractor pulled over and a mini queue of cars (two, and of course me) went past. I was rather surprised to note that the tractor driver was a young girl – she can’t have been older than 20! It was all good fun and good natured.

After Wachtendonk I ignored all the cycle route signs (I’ve done this trip enough times now) and took the main road to Wankum. Couldn’t resist photographing this bus stop sign.

Bus stop near WachtendonkFrom Wankum (which was up a bit of a hill – was quite hard work) I headed to Herongen. Some young lady in Herongen also had an admirer!

Decorated tree in HerongenHerongen is right on the border with the Netherlands and I soon arrived at this sign, 1km to go to the border. There were two ladies taking photographs of themselves by the sign so I offered to take some photos of them together (which they were pleased about) and they then took this pic of me in return.

Almost in NLHere are the ladies who were out on a random ride from Krefeld just to see where they got to. They said they do quite a lot of inline skating in the general area of Krefeld so I might see them about now and again.

My new friends from KrefeldWhilst talking to this lady I noticed my Union Jack jersey was fantastically reflected in her glasses – unfortunately it hasn’t come out very well on the photo.

Lady with glassesAfter a ten minute chat we headed off towards Venlo. Here is Penelope being welcomed back into her country of birth.

Welcome to VenloIt was an easy ride along some reasonably main roads to the centre of Venlo. I was impressed by these bins for bicycle riders though – you could just chuck your litter into them.

Waste bin for cyclists 1

Waste Bin for cyclists 2Less impressive were the buttons for the traffic light crossings – they tended to be difficult for me to reach from the velomobile (the ones in Germany seem to be in a slightly easier position).

My original plan was to find some poffertjes (the little mini Dutch pancakes which I love) but I had failed to find them in Venlo twice before. However, this time I was a bit more successful in finding the pedestrian centre of Venlo, through which I cycled at least twice. No obvious poffertjes cafés. There was one café that said it did pannenkoeken but I asked the lady if they did pofferjes and she said no.

At one point two policemen were walking past so I stopped them and asked if they knew of anywhere that served poffertjes. They said no but looked at me as if I was bonkers – clearly you don’t ask policemen for directions in NL like you can in the UK.

In the end I gave up on the poffertjes quest (again!) and decided to just pick a random café to have lunch. As it happened I moved from the first one as the prices were really steep. I have noticed that in NL the cafés and restaurants don’t seem to have to display their menus outside so you don’t know what’s available until they bring you a menu. In Germany by law they have to display the menu outside the door of the building so you can check what’s what before you go in or sit down outside.

The second place I stopped at seemed nice and I had a good view of Penelope – she had already garnered huge attention as I rode very slowly through the pedestrian area, now she was parked up people constantly peered in or photographed her.

Busy Venlo pedestrian area

Checking out Penelope 1

Checking out Penelope 2I ordered onion soup and hot water for my tea as the other meals were quite expensive (relative to German prices). The onion soup came with a side dish of extra onions 🙂

Onion soupService was a bit slow but I wasn’t in a hurry particularly.

I was interested to note that almost everyone around me was German. I barely heard any Dutch spoken. I suppose it was a normal working day for Dutch people whereas it was a day off for Germans but it was amusing. I did all my ordering and talking with the waitress in German – seemed easier.

Another thing I noticed is that there seemed to be more fat people than I normally see in Germany (although they were probably Germans so perhaps they just don’t hang out in the Niederrhein area generally). It was also very noticeable, whilst sitting outside, that there are lots more smokers than in the UK. I kept getting smoke wafting past me – I don’t like it very much.

After an hour of lazing around with my food and generally people-watching it was time to head back.

I set my Garmin for my alternative route back (the longer, more scenic version) as my legs still felt reasonable.

I found myself passing an unexpected dinosaur.

Unexpected dinosaurAnd shortly after I was at Venlo station – I waved goodbye to James here three weeks ago.

Venlo stationThe route out of Venlo when heading for the Hinsbeck area (rather than Herongen) is quite a steep climb. I’ve done it several times before (I visited Venlo a few times when holidaying in Nettetal a couple of years ago) and I got it wrong most times. This time I had what I thought was a good route plotted but lo and behold a cut-through between two roads (which cuts out a longer stretch of road) was clearly not velomobile-friendly.

Cycle route goes off-roadSo I stuck to the main road and probably had an extra kilometre or so to ride – not a problem.

I was slow up the hill out of Venlo but not appallingly so. I think I’m getting slightly more accustomed to the weight of the Versatile – I am certainly spinning the pedals more (which is good). Wilfred, who owned Penelope before Alex, reckons I could gear her down a bit more with changing the sprocket on the rear wheel, maybe to increase it by two teeth, and still be within the allowed range of the Rohloff. It’s not necessary for this bit of Germany but if I take Penelope back to England then I will probably have to do this, or something similar, otherwise I’ll conk out on some of our impressive hills.

Anyway, I made it up the hill out of Venlo, riding on quiet residential roads so I wasn’t annoying any vehicular traffic.

I was soon going past the glider airfield – very familiar territory for me. And then it was time to take the traditional photo of the Grenzgänger bicycle…

I took this picture a couple of years ago of Alfie with a foot in both countries:

And here is Penelope in the same location:

Penelope on the border

And from the other side (better lighting).

Penelope as GrenzgängerHer front wheels are in Germany, the rear wheel is in the Netherlands.

This route is really familiar to me and I whizzed onward through the crowds of cyclists (they were everywhere – to be expected on a bank holiday I suppose!) It’s all asphalted track with no cars so is a great route for cycling.

I saw this lady with a sausage dog in a basket on the back and asked if I could take a photo (she said yes). Photo was taken whilst I was cycling at about 25kph…

Dog in large basketNow the route that I took was a bit weird – you may have noticed that if you looked at the map at the top of this blog post. Here it is again as a reminder:

Today's Track

You can see that once I cross into Germany I do a bit of a detour to the south when there looks like a much shorter route through Hinsbeck. The reason for this is highlighted below:

HillYes, my big detour was to avoid a hill. aren’t I lazy! I probably added about 5km to the distance to avoid going up and over Hinsbeck but I enjoyed the quiet cycle lanes and joined the Bahnradweg pretty much at its start and followed it right through to Kempen.

Not without stopping at Secretis, a restaurant/Eiscafé near Sassenfeld which I have visited before. It was a really warm day so time for an ice cream and, miracle of miracles, they provided me with real milk for my tea!

Ice Cream at SecretisAs I was heading off to leave after enjoying my ice cream the waitress and another customer came to talk to me about Penelope for ages. I have had lots of people asking me about her today, the most frequent question being whether she has electric assist. “Nur Muskelkraft” I reply.

I still tend to ride faster than everyone else around (despite being a pretty slow recumbenteer/velomobiler). I think that Germans tend to use their bikes for utility cycling and they often have big, heavy, slow bikes that just keep going. Well, half of them are also dealing with the weight of electric assist too. There were a few racers out today I noticed but they tended to be on the roads not cycle paths and didn’t acknowledge me, even if I grinned at them (I can’t wave as my hands aren’t visible).

The stretch from Lobberich back home is one I’ve done five or six times since I’ve been here so it’s becoming very familiar, and familiarity makes it seem a lot shorter. I whizzed back, although with so many people on the Bahnradweg I had to keep the speed down (only had a short stretch at 40kph). I used my useless hooter a fair bit and people didn’t hear it or realise what it was so I was reduced to shouting ‘Achtung!’ or ‘Vorsicht!’ instead which was marginally more successful.

Rather than doing the little ring road around Kempen I went through the centre so that I could stop at a bakery which always seems to be open. And it was! I bought myself a cake and provided some entertainment to all the people sitting at cafés in Kempen as I sailed past.

Healthy cakeWhen I got back Poppy was safely in the apartment (and hadn’t run halfway to Venlo) and I was pleased to see that my lights on Penelope were still working well. All in all a very enjoyable day’s ride but I still didn’t get any poffertjes!!

The figures for today’s ride as as follows:

Distance: 35.51 miles/57.14km
Time taken: 3 hours 15 minutes
Average heart rate: 133
Maximum heart rate: 186
Maximum speed: 25.6mph/41.2kph
Calories burned: 1,677
Moving average: 10.9mph/17.5kph

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Six Wheels In Germany

Ko2Ko – Kempen to Hoek van Holland and Great Bromley

My last day of my tour!!!

There are five bakeries in St Hubert and during my week long stay here in March I visited four out of the five. Now was my opportunity to get the full set by having breakfast in Café Poels.

The plan was to have a bread roll (standard German breakfast) but I was almost swayed by the display of cakes:

20130613-101738.jpg

And chocolate:

20130613-101744.jpg

But common sense won out and I had a Kleines Frühstück which is a cheese and ham roll and a cup of tea, pretty decent value for 2,40€.

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The café also had wifi which isn’t so common in Germany.

The plan was now to head for the Griesson de Beukelaer factory outlet shop on the outskirts of Kempen to stock up on some more chocolate. During this tour I’ve been rather underconsuming chocolate and thought it important to restock. There was a small amount of space left in my Banana Bags, after all!

So I headed off on the nice, smooth cycle route which nips under the main road and takes you into Kempen just a mile from St Hubert. The route by car is considerably longer!

The factory shop had rearranged itself a bit and had a quite different selection of goodies but still plenty that looked yummy.

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I managed to remain sensible and just bought two bags of chocs, one that had little balls a bit like Ferrero Rocher (they had some for you to taste test) and another of very mini chocolate fingers.

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The factory shop has a lot of plates of chocolate for you to test and even a coffee machine to help you browse!

When I got to the checkout and paid, there was also a box of milk chocolate biscuits left on the packing area of the till I was at. I said to the lady that these weren’t mine but were presumably the previous lady’s and she said that as that lady had gone I could take them. Bonus!

I headed back towards Sankt Hubert and my second stop for food shopping – the Stinges bakery. Once again they had the fab Streusel trays which are enough for about six portions (and freeze very well). I had cleverly picked up a strong cardboard box with a decent lid at the chocolate factory and, lo and behold, it was exactly the right size for the Streusel trays! I bought two and they sat nicely on top of each other in the box.

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I also bought a pair of Nuss Striezel (which just fitted on top, slightly squashed) to take home and share with James and an Amerikaner for me for this evening if I fancied something sweet and unhealthy on the ferry.

Then it was back to the Ferienwohnung in some slight drizzle. There was a pretty strong westerly wind which will make my ride to Venlo harder work, and presumably will also mean my ride from Den Haag to Hoek van Holland is a bit blowy.

Here is Alfie parked outside Ferienwohnung Bienenstock – with empty panniers. Soon to be crammed full of luggage and edibles.

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Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that when cycling into Sankt Hubert two young lads on bikes standing beside the road shouted at me “Are you part of the circus?” Not heard that one before!

Anyway, I took my time loading up my trike as eleven o’clock approached. I had the box of Streusel to fit in and wanted to try not to squash anything! Finally all was ready and I set off.

Here’s the map for the ride to Venlo:

Kempen to Venlo

This ride was done at a fairly leisurely pace. I didn’t think I was in much of a rush (apart from the issue of trains not carrying bikes after 3:30pm, and I would still be on the train at that point), so turned the pedals at only about 10mph for most of this ride.

I headed towards Wachtendonk, going through Voesch and then crossing under the motorway. The skies were quite fierce in the direction I was headed.

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The flat landscape was very familiar from my holiday here in March – I rode these cycle tracks several times but it was interesting to see it all with crops growing rather than snow on the ground.

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It was just outside Wachtendonk that I picked up the first sign to Venlo.

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From Wachtendonk I headed towards Wankum. I’ve done this route a few times but previously went on a narrower cycle track rather than along a road; that’s the thing with cycle path signage, it tends to give you lots of different options depending on your start point – which can also prove rather frustrating!

On the outskirts of Wankum I saw these straw people who looked very cheery.

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My route following the signs went a bit awry here and I (briefly) found myself cycling through a graveyard. I ended up on the main road and soon enough found more Venlo (NL) signs.

I had quite a delay trying to get round this chap – I had to wait for a crossing onto the road, cycle on the road round him and then it was a quarter of a mile before there was another crossing back to the cycle path. Still, good to see them cutting the verges of the cycle paths.

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At Herongen I had an issue with disappearing cycle path signs which means I did two sides of a triangle. This was frustrating, as was the fact that the bakery in Herongen had been shut (imagine that!) as I’d planned to get a filled roll from Germany for lunch. I then stopped at a weird mini food hall but they didn’t have any filled rolls, only huge cheeses, hams and giant packs of coffee. Within 100 metres I was in…

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I realised time was marching on a bit as I wanted to get the 13:50 train so pedalled a bit faster. I was slightly thwarted by some cycle path roadworks in Venlo and rather than taking the detour I just rode on the road (naughty naughty!)

I arrived at the station with 5 minutes until the train left – just enough time to buy my ticket and bicycle ticket and a tuna sandwich. Not time for the loo, unfortunately!

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The train pulled in and a lady with a bicycle started getting on my bicycle carriage. I asked her to wait for my trike as it needed to go in first, but I was talking German and she didn’t understand it. “Do you speak English?” she asked. I have to get used to speaking English again! Anyway, she moved her bike out the way so I could install Alfie and then her bike tucked in beside him.

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I settled myself down in the largely empty train carriage and was surprised to discover there is free wifi on the train

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I ate my sandwich and then still felt hungry so had to extract my Amerikaner from my bags to eat that as well! Sadly most of the icing had stuck to the bag.

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I arrived in Den Haag at 4:10pm which gave me an hour and twenty minutes before meeting Vince at the station (and we would then cycle to his recommended pancake restaurant in Scheveningen). After faffing reattaching my panniers and then putting my windproof jacket on (it was colder than I had expected) I set off ono the trike to the pedestrian area of Den Haag to find a café where I could have a cup of tea and chill out (and use a loo!)

Stadebrasserie De Ooievaer seemed to fit the bill so I stopped there for a tea and cake.

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The cake was very light and tasted fine but the bill came to 5,70€ as I was charged for the tea, something that tends to happen in the Netherlands and not in Germany. However I was able to sit there for an hour and use their wifi so I thought it fair enough to pay for the privilege!

As you can see it was quite grey outside so it was nice to be indoors in the warm – my ride to Hoek van Holland might end up a bit chilly!

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One thing I’ve meant to mention in one of these blog posts for days is to say that whenever I include a photo of someone I’ve talked to, I have always got their permission to post it on the blog. It’s polite and sensible to do so!

I cycled back to Den Haag Centraal station where I was to meet Vince.

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That short trip, just a quarter of a mile, proved that it had become quite chilly out and my legs (in shorts) were cold. I had some legwarmers at the bottom of my clothing bag (within two plastic bags to keep everything dry) but I decided it was worth the faff of getting them out as it would undoubtedly be cold on Friday morning riding back from Harwich.

Whilst I was putting the legwarmers on Vince arrived and we headed off to the pancake house on the seafront at Scheveningen.

Here’s the map of our ride.

Den Haag to Hoek van Holland

It’s much easier cycling on Dutch cycle paths in rush hour when you can follow someone who knows what they are doing!

The occasional blast of wind gave fair warning that the ride to the Hoek (Vince said he would accompany me) would be hard work!

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After a few miles we arrived at the seafront at Scheveningen and discovered a new meteorological situation for this cycle tour – a sandstorm. The sand was being whipped up by the strong wind and blowing right in my face. I was glad I had cycling glasses on and had to cover my mouth with my hand to cycle without getting a mouthful. We were shortly at the pancake house though so locked up the bikes and went into a tent-like structure at the front.

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We were given a menu but I saw no sign of Poffertjes (my favourite). Vince knew that they were available here though so asked and we discovered they were on the drinks menu (obvious, really!) I ordered poffertjes with strawberrries, cream and vanilla ice cream and Vince (proving he has gone native in Holland after 13 years there) ordered a pancake with cheese and ham.

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I really enjoyed my poffertjes and having a cup of tea, a sit down and a chat. Once we had finished we paid up and set off into the strong wind towards the Hoek van Holland.

I decided to extract one of my buffs from my bag of clothing which involved a lot of rooting about but was really worth it over the next 12 or so miles.

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We set off along the seafront, passing some really nice sculptures.

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It’s hard to describe the sand blasting but it was incredibly fierce, like little needles all over exposed skin, and the gusts took my breath away at times. People cycling the other way were flying past, we were working really, really hard just to hit 9mph on the flat. My heart rate was around 150bpm a lot of the time – to do 9mph. Crazy! There were loads of kite surfers out too – mad!

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A chap cycled past us with his surfboard horizontal across his body – and he was using it rather like a sail, not needing to pedal as the wind pushed him along. We also followed this chap cycling along with a second bicycle.

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When we got out onto the dunes the wind was even stronger and some of the mini hills seemed massive. Here’s a picture Vince took of me:

Auntie Helen in a sandstorm

The miles were counting down very slowly and it was hard to hold much of a conversation as the wind whipped your words away. People going past the other way were flying, we were grinding our way across this bit of the Netherlands.

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I realised that Vince was going to have the most marvellous ride back to Den Haag and kept reminding him of this fact – I was really rather envious. Whereas I was doing all this work into wind with no benefit!

Yes I look silly!

We arrived at Hoek van Holland at 8:30pm at which point we said our goodbyes and Vince headed off downwind for 15 miles – lucky chap!

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I realised I was rather hungry after all that effort and, as I had time, popped into the Hoek van Holland pizzeria and had a quick pizza to warm me through and replace some carbohydrate energy.

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I then headed straight to the ferry check in. I was distinctly surprised when the woman greeted me by name as I rolled up – I wondered if this meant I was the only cyclist (she didn’t say, but I did see some other bikes tied up on the ferry). Excellent service anyway!

The sun was setting as I looked behind – Vince ought to have a rather pleasant ride back with the sunset before him and the wind behind him.

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I took this picture of the Garmin trip computer whilst waiting for loading. By the time I had found my parking spot on the ferry it was on 40.00 miles exactly.

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Notice the elevation – 43ft above sea level. The photo of the Garmin trip computer at Meersburg shows it as 1,534 ft, so I have been on a nice downhill run overall (spread out of 781 miles/1,256 kilometres)

I found my cabin on the boat and then searched – in vain – for functional wifi. I think too many people were trying to use it!

I briefly went to the back of the ship for a photo of the sunset but it was so cold I only stayed outside for a minute.

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A close-up in the mirror of the cabin showed a light covering of sand all over my face and a gently sand-blasted appearance. As I said to Vince, people pay a fortune for this kind of dermabrasion and I’ve had it for free!!!

As the wifi wasn’t working I was unable able to write up and post this blog so I went to bed and slept through till the wake-up call at 5:30am.

When I returned to my bike on the Ferry (which was at the back) I saw that the ferry car deck was pretty full and it was absolutely heaving with old MGs, Rolls Royces and various Morris cards (minors, Travellers etc), all with Dutch number plates. There’s clearly some event going on in the UK and it was wonderful to see all the cars, some with old-fashioned leather suitcases strapped to the back.

We were out by 6:30 and I went through passport control and then it was time for the ride home, 15 miles or so.

I didn’t feel like taking the windy, fiddly and hilly NCN51 route (the National Cycle Route from Harwich) as it adds a bit of distance so decided to start off riding down the A120 dual carriageway. At 7am it’s not too busy with British cars although of course all the cars coming off the ferry, and the lorries, passed me. It was a great chance to see (and smell) all those classic cars going past.

I also discovered that, of the various nationalities, the Dutch pass far closer than any other cars, which I wouldn’t have expected. The Germans leave most room and the Brits are somewhere in the middle.

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant ride although was fairly fast and I was pleased when I got to Wix where I can come off the A120 although still be on a reasonably fast road. Unfortunately I’d forgotten that it had been recently surface dressed so the road was really bumpy with gravel chippings and not that comfortable to ride on.

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till, after twelve miles I saw a sign to Great Bromley, nearly home!

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And at 7:45 I rolled up to the front door (having stopped at the local pork butchers for some food for tonight) for the end of my journey.

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A rapturous welcome by the dog (and a reasonably rapturous welcome by James once he saw the Streusel and Nuss-Striezel I had brought him!), a cup of tea and a hot shower and it was time to settle down to work. Three weeks away meant that I had 385 emails in my inbox. Yikes!!!

Anyway, here is the total of all my rides on the Konstanz to Koblenz trip:

Ko2Ko Final Figures

I have also updated MyCyclingLog which lists my monthly goals and also two different yearly goals (One Mile Per Hour, i.e. 24 miles per day, and the slightly higher goal of 9000 miles in the year). Here they are side-by-side before and after I added the Ko2Ko trip.

Stats Before And After

And, finally, I take part in a little mini league amongst various cyclists on the YACF forum. I had slipped down the rankings somewhat during the tour (as I wasn’t posting the figures as I didn’t accurately have them till I got home) but you can see my ranking has rather dramatically improved now! Before is above, After is below.

Ticker

Thanks for reading and it’s been good to chat to lots of different people – please feel free to add a comment below or send me an email using the sidebar on the right hand side (which will be near the top of this page). I do appreciate hearing from readers!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Konstanz to Koblenz, Trikes & Velomobiles