I am a member of the German Velomobilforum.de – the people on there were very helpful when I was trying to find out if I could ride a velomobile.
It just so happens that once a year they organise a weekend away camping for recumbent riders – and the 2014 event was taking place in Schwalmtal, just 30 miles from where I live. How handy!
I don’t camp but as I lived so near I decided I could cycle across for a couple of events and maybe come in the car for a few others.
Wednesday 28 May
A few people had arrived earlier in the week for a longer camping holiday. Several more were coming over on Wednesday so I headed over in the car with the dog to say hello for a couple of hours.
It was good to meet several people (and see Günni again, I met him at SPEZI but failed to recognise him this time!) and I was given my own name badge.
I chatted to several people, admired some bikes and then the dog and I went home again for our dinner. Unfortunately on the way home I got flashed by a speed camera (first time that’s ever happened) at what turns out to be a well-known difficult spot (downhill round a corner into a town). We’ll see if they work out that my car is British and send me a fine.
Thursday 29 May
Today was the public holiday of Christi Himmelfahrt which gave me the opportunity to cycle to meet everyone for lunch. I couldn’t be out of the house for more than about five hours as my landlady was away and I couldn’t leave the dog alone for much longer than that.
Fortunately the Thursday ride was having a lunch stop 32km from my house so I decided to cycle over to meet everyone there, have lunch and then cycle back (their ride was going in the other direction).
When I arrived it was clear that the other velomobile riders were already there!
The organiser of Trike Treffen had told me he expected them to be at the café at 14:30. I had arrived 15 minutes earlier and the other velomobile riders told me they had been there for half an hour. They had taken a slightly different route to the other recumbents (the other recumbents were doing some off-road which isn’t good in a velomobile).
After about another half an hour the rest of the party arrived.
It was interesting to see the mixture of recumbents, including some two-wheelers.
There were a lot of Steintrikes trikes – including the Mungo and Wild One. I’ve never seen these in the UK but they are very popular in Germany (they come from Austria). There were also a good number of HP Velotechnik Skorpions.
There were some more unusual trikes as well though!
We all enjoyed various lunches.
I had some poffertjes – so they are available in Limburg, although these ones weren’t freshly made.
It was good to meet up with Oliver (who visited me earlier in May) again and also to see lots of other recumbent riders, including Klaus who lives in Viersen (so I may bump into him when I am riding around).
This was a rather unusual mudguard variation!
After a stop of an hour and a half or so it was time to go, having had a good chat with various people about trikes and velomobiles.
The velomobile owners had to wait for the trikers to move their vehicles before we could escape!
So the Thursday ride was an enjoyable 64km for me, although not actually riding any of it in company with the others. I also reached my maximum speed so far on Penelope – 54km/h.
Friday 30 May
The ride today gave me the option of riding with the others as it was passing through Grefrath (12km from here) and continuing on to Kaldenkirchen (20km from here). It seemed like a good plan to ride over and be with everyone for that section before returning home to the dog.
Here’s the track of my day’s ride which shows it ended up a little more complex than that!
I arrived at the Pancake House to discover none of the others were there yet.
I had a cup of tea (and discovered that I had, rather unfortunately, forgotten to put more teabags in my cycling kit so this was the only cup of tea available for me today) and waited. Günni had estimated that they would reach the pancake house at midday and I was there ten minutes early. At ten past 12 I texted him to find out if they were reasonably near – I’d talked with the owner and he would open the gate for us so we could park round the back.
Five minutes later a text came back from Günni – they still had 10km to do.
Knowing that the pace was probably quite slow (often a feature of group rides!) I decided to cycle along their track to meet them – I guessed after about twenty minutes. So I finished my tea and headed off.
Although I’ve done loads of cycling round the Grefrath area I hadn’t been on these particular roads so it was good fun heading off into the countryside south of Grefrath. All the time I was looking out for a large bunch of recumbent cyclists but it was a surprisingly long time until I saw them! I pulled in, let them all go past and then turned round and tacked on the end.
I’ve got to say, riding in a queue of 45 or so weird bikes is just brilliant!
The velomobiles were all at the back when I met everyone but there was a huge snake of brightly-coloured flags ahead of us.
What I also hadn’t realised is that riders were blocking the roads to oncoming traffic so we could cross roads safely. I think technically this isn’t legal but they seem to get away with it.
It was also explained to me later that there are different rules for groups of cyclists if there are more than 15 of you. A group this size or larger functions as one long group, like a bus, and as long as you stick together then you can all go through traffic lights together, even if they turn red when you are halfway through. You can also ride on the road in a large group.
I suspect a couple of motorists were annoyed at the slight hold up but generally we must have looked such an amusing sight I hope not many people minded!
We arrived back at the pancake place at 1:15 so a fair bit later than originally planned! Our bikes were variously distributed about the garden area at the back and we sat down for some drink and food.
I had a rather interesting bowl of onion soup.
It was tasty but there wasn’t actually that much soup. The bread (I ate it all) was very welcome though for the energy.
At lunch I asked for advice about the rules on riding on the road in Germany. I thought I had heard somewhere that if you had a three-wheeler you could ride on the road and this was confirmed. Someone even had a printout of the information.
At this point Oliver also produced his printout of the relevant rules in the Netherlands.
I will prepare a bit of paper with both of these in case I get stopped by a policeman! It’s good to know that I do have the option of the road at times, though, as sometimes the cycle paths are too bumpy/narrow/crowded.
After a very leisurely lunch we set off again, at 3:30pm. I was getting a little concerned about time as the dog was at home alone but decided to continue to Kaldenkirchen as I had been to the café the week before and the cakes were great!
Once again it was great fun being behind a long, long snake of bicycles.
As we approached the outskirts of Kaldenkirchen we went through a kind of industrial estate.
An HGV driver was hooting his horn at us as we went past – I choose to believe it was in friendliness, not frustration!
We had had a bit of a hill to climb (Glabbach/Hinsbeck) after our pancake house stop so had burned a few calories. But we were soon at the Hofcafé Alt Bruch which offers up absolutely enormous slices of cake so I’m not sure enough calories were burned!
I had my cake and then decided I ought to go straight home to check on the dog, so I waved goodbye to everyone and set off on my wonderfully fast, straight run home along the Bahnradweg. A 64km day’s ride for me, and the dog seemed reasonably happy when I got home.
Saturday 31 May
My original plan for today was to just join everyone in the evening for the barbecue and I’d signed up for this with Günni, the organiser. However during the two rides previously I’d wondered about coming on this one with the dog. Initially I thought I could bring her for the entire ride – 60km – but when I saw the weather forecast, which was sunshine and 21 degrees, I felt that this would probably be too much for her in the bike basket. So I checked with Oliver (who was leading today’s ride) what time he thought they would be back, as I could drive to Hariksee with the trike and dog in the car and ride out to meet them.
Oliver wasn’t sure of the time but said he’d send me an SMS when they were leaving their lunch stop, with 26km to go at that point, which he duly did.
I had already put the trike in the car so it was just a matter of gather the dog and a change of clothes (in case it got cooler in the evening) and then I hopped into the car to head off to Hariksee.
I wasted about half an hour as my Satnav was, unbeknownst to me, aiming for the wrong bit of lake. I realised I was in the wrong place when I got there and had to try to remember where I’d gone on Saturday – and the route there involved going down some roads I don’t think I was really supposed to, they were mainly for access for farm vehicles etc, but eventually I arrived at the camping place.
I put the trike back together, put the basket on the back and installed Poppy and off we went.
Here is a track of my ride there and back.
As you can see, I had a slight route misreading at the beginning but soon found my way. Once I had moved away from the lake I let Poppy out of the basket and she ran alongside my trike the 5km until we reached the section beside the motorway. Halfway along there I put her back in the basket as she was getting pretty tired – it was a hot day! It was nice to ride Alfie the trike again, he feels very lightweight compared to the velomobile.
I began to wonder why I hadn’t met the others yet as it had now been two and a half hours since they left the lunch stop and they only had twenty five kilometres to ride. I had a sudden panic that they had already been at the campsite when I got there and so I was heading off on a wild goose chase. A quick text to Günni solved the mystery – they had stopped to repair a puncture but were just 1km from where I was. So I continued on and sure enough a few minutes later I saw Oliver’s yellow Mango rounding a corner.
He was followed by the huge stream of trikes – I tucked in behind the first major bunch.
Unfortunately Poppy the dog decided she didn’t like being in the middle of a group of trikes and started barking. She occasionally barks when in the basket, which is a sign of excitement with her and not that she doesn’t like the basket, but it’s extremely loud in my ear.
You can see in that photo the head-rest and her head is a couple of centimetres from it. No wonder I’m half deaf!
Anyway, after a couple of kilometres I felt the barking was rather destroying the relaxed atmosphere of the ride so decided to drop to the back in the hopes that her woofing wouldn’t put people off too much. The view from the back is largely that of the velomobiles who tend to stay behind the trikes.
I like all the different colours and varying designs of the selection of velomobiles we had along for the ride, including several Quests, three Mangos (with different colour schemes), a Strada, a Leiba Classic, a Milan and the dark red one at the back in these photos which I think is a Leitra with half a fairing.
The journey back seemed fairly quick, and as before it was fun to cross roads which had been blocked by other riders and see the cars waiting for us to pass through.
Here’s a video taken by Oliver’s wife of everyone leaving the lunch stop today (before I met up with them).
When we got back to the campsite it was time to give Poppy a drink of water and let her out of the basket.
And also a chance to get a closer look at a rather unusual machine that hadn’t been on the previous rides. Initially I thought it was an Elliptigo but no, it had two wheels at the front and a much larger rear wheel. It’s a kind of moving cross-trainer/elliptical trainer and I had a bit of a chat with the owner about it. He said it’s pretty hard work and he can’t get much above 30km/h. However he was keeping up with our ride fine.
Various people decided to try it out whilst we were sitting around waiting for the barbecue – this lady was the next. It took her ten metres or so to get the hang of the steering as she was weaving about a bit to start. It looked good fun anyway!
I have been amazed at the organisation for this event. Not just the rides but the camping has been brilliantly arranged. Günni seems to have thought of everything! And that everything includes a large marquee for food – here is the dog’s eye view of that!
Günni also had a whole trailer filled with beer. Whenever people took a bottle they marked on a sheet that they had taken one and there would be a final reckoning for costs. We all paid for our evening barbecue as well – there was masses of food!
When we returned from the ride people generally sat around chatting, we talked to each other about the bikes and more. This is Poppy’s view of some of the random bike parking.
Notice the lady on the phone in that picture has a rather nice pink windproof jacket. That would match Penelope rather well… the lady said she got it from Aldi so I’m not sure I’ll have any luck finding one. A shame!
It was good to chat to some more people today although by the end of the day my German was starting to rather desert me. Poppy really enjoyed everyone making a fuss of her – lots of people thought she didn’t like being in the bike basket because of the barking. I had to explain that no, she was just excited!
And more random bike parking with tents.
A closer look at this interesting flevobike three-wheeler with front wheel drive and an articulated body so it leans around corners. You could fit a dog comfortably in that box at the back!
This is where a lot of the people will be sleeping tonight. Some others have caravans or motorhomes; some others, like me, are sensibly sleeping at home in comfortable beds!
I said goodbye to people at about 8:30pm as it was time to take a very tired Poppy home and I was looking forward to a cup of tea!
Overall Trike Treffen 2014 has been very enjoyable. I particularly like cycling in a big group with recumbents and velomobiles as it’s just such a visually weird experience! And I think it gives passers-by and motorists plenty to laugh at.
Thanks to Günni for his amazing organising, and to many others who helped him (with barbecue cooking and more). If they have another one next year somewhere near here I will definitely be attending!