This was the last day of our tour and would be the shortest at around 45km.
We breakfasted and then made ourselves ready. Once again we left for our morning’s ride around 9am – we have been very consistent about this!
I was relieved to find that my motor did indeed work this morning, that the battery was still functional despite a loose metal pin.
Here is our route for the day.
We had of course ridden this way yesterday. Well, it was not all the same as yesterday we did a section on the other side of the river and today we would stay on the left hand side. But that meant that 70% was just retracing our steps/wheeltracks.
But travelling in the other direction does show you some new things. It helped that the weather was a bit warmer today.
Here is the section on the way to Winningen where we are sandwiched between the railway on the left and some rocky walls on the right.
And here’s what it is all about… the grapes! A bit early for them, but there is some promise showing.
A few times on our tour we have seen the ADAC helicopter which is some kind of rescue helicopter I believe (like an air ambulance). We saw it set down in a very small field – there can’t be that many flat landing places in the Mosel valley!
I find it very interesting considering the age of the terraces which we were riding past. The Mosel has been used for viticulture for ever, and sometimes you come across something like these steps made out of stone which could be hundreds of years old.
The Mosel is, of course, a castles and wine river. Here is Klaus with a castle in front and some vineyards to his right.
On our journey to Koblenz yesterday we whizzed past this small area which had been planted for the bees. As we were going uphill to it today we stopped and had a look.
At Löf we stayed on the same side of the Mosel rather than crossing over and so had a short section with some new impressions. I liked this tower – I of course started quoting “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” and it turns out the German pronunciation of Rapunzel is quite different.
Here is a pic Klaus took of me. Notice I just have one pannier at the back – travelling light, the other pannier was in his car in Cochem.
We decided to stop for cake after 35km in Treis Karden. We found a nice café and had a Schmandkuchen with a nut base. This is slightly more Keto than all the food we had eaten so far on this holiday! It tasted good, too!
We were looking across at this pretty church whilst enjoying our cake. The church had a sign saying it had been built in 1699.
From Treis-Karden we had just 10km back to Cochem, although we had a couple of dodgy cyclists to contend with. One was a time-trialler doing at least 40 km/h on the cycle path (normal maximum is 15 km/h) and it was a path we were joining after crossing under the railway so visibility was bad. I think we gave him a bit of a shock but he should have been on the road, he was way too fast for the cycle path. We also had an idiot chap who just wheeled his bike across the path, blocking it – I think he had forgotten it was a cycle path in use and just thought it was part of the parking area where he was standing. Fortunately we have good brakes and Klaus can sound authoritative in German!
And then we arrived back in Cochem which was REALLY busy. The car park which had been almost empty yesterday morning was full now – presumably with visitors for the bank holiday weekend. In the final 5 metres of the tour, when Klaus had to ride up a steep slope to get to the car, he managed to put so much power through the pedals that he twisted the boom around. Clearly the boom quick release bolts weren’t quite tight enough. He was then stuck as he couldn’t get up from the bike as his brakes probably wouldn’t hold him, so I came to the rescue and stood behind the bike so he could get up.
We disassembled the bikes and managed to tetris them into the car again. I managed to get oil all over my hands and some on my face too, but this is normal.
We headed away from Cochem through the crowds of tourists. I don’t imagine there will be another June opportunity to tour the Mosel without hordes of other cyclists. We had noticed more every day as it was, and this reminded us why we prefer to ride in less-busy places. We are both a bit misanthropic!
Here are the statistics for the day.
And here is the map of the whole tour.
We rode in total 343km and enjoyed ourselves very much! Klaus is already planning future tours, with an eye to the Romantische Straße and also some 1-2 day tours in the Eifel. Of course, I need to get my upgraded batteries before that!
Today we would be back on the road again, but a shorter day than the previous ones at around 60km in total.
But first we took the opportunity to offload some more unnecessary items to the car at Cochem Long Term Parking.
I made a last-minute decision to keep my rain jacket as the weather seemed greyer than the forecast yesterday had suggested.
Then we set off.
Today‘s motor plan was to ride on number 4, using number 5 for any inclines that slowed me down too much. I would try and keep to a relatively consistent speed. Klaus wanted to stay behind me again today to try to match his speed to mine.
I had issues with my squealing brake again (the disc rotor is slightly fouling the brake gubbins, but this will be a bit of a fiddly job to repair). I also had to adjust my seat. But it was OK for Klaus to wait for me to faff about taking off my jacket, etc, as the views were good!
We passed a lot of castles today but the light wasn‘t great for photography. But here is one!
There was quite a strong headwind at times today but then we would round a curve and it would be gone. This mini harbour at Hatzenport had incredibly still water.
We were making good progress today, averaging about 17km/h, and my motor was performing well on number 4. I was also giving a bit more Helen Power to the pedals as I felt more rested and energetic after our day off yesterday.
The route is largely alongside a road but we crossed over to the right hand bank of the Mosel at Treis-Karden for 15km or so. After we crossed back across the river at Löf we headed through Kattenes and then the cycle path crossed under the railway and went up a narrow path the other side of the railway to the road. This was much more scenic but the road surface was pretty rough too.
At another short faffing stop we were overtaken by a big bunch of leisure cyclists so we stayed put for a bit to give them a chance to get ahead so we didn‘t have to overtake them again.
Here we saw lots of the little metal bogies for the viticulture. Apparently they can go up slopes of up to 60%!!
We were making good progress but had been on the bikes for a couple of hours so decided to stop for cake at a likely-looking café in Kobern.
Cheesecake for both of us!
We carried on, crossing under the A61 motorway which is our usual choice of route when visiting Klaus‘s father or other places in the south.
After the bridge we started climbing a little up the side of the hill on the way to Winningen. We watched gliders being launched from Winningen Airfield; my father once flew there with my Mum for a holiday (he was a private pilot).
I wasn‘t sure of the significance of this giant snail shell!
The route takes you down a steep hill in Winningen and at the bottom we saw a lady nearly fall off her ebike. It seemed that the act of turning a sharp corner in it was too much for her!
Along a road in Winningen we saw this amazing building with individual letters formed out of sheets of plate about 1 metre squared.
Very posh for a wine shop!
We arrived in Koblenz-Güls where our hotel for the night was located. I asked if I could drop off my pannier, which was fine – the hotel took it. I said we would be back in about three hours.
From the hotel it was just six and a half kilometres to Koblenz. Klaus and I got split up twice, once when he fell foul of some unhelpful traffic lights and a second time when he chose not to go through the road closed sign that the rest of us cyclists did and ended up on a wild goose chase around Koblenz. But we both knew our destination, Deutsches Eck, and we were both there soon enough.
This meant for Klaus he had joined up 3 river tours – Kylltal, Mosel and Rhein. There are lots of other rivers we need to add to our repertoire though!
We decided it was time for some more food so stopped at the café Wacht am Rhein where we stopped on our velomobile tour. I had crepes and Klaus had Apfelstreusel.
Whilst we were there it began to rain so we had chosen a good time to sit under an umbrella! The rain eased off before we decided to head back to our hotel.
This time Klaus followed me through the Road Closed section as it was actually a lovely smooth new surface.
It felt like just a few minutes before we were back at the hotel in Güls.
We took our luggage off and then when I disconnected the battery from the motor cable – Disaster!
That little metal spike should not still be in there!!! There are four holes in the connector in the photo below, and one is missing its metal widget inside.
Was this Game Over? Klaus said that if necessary tomorrow he would cycle to pick up the car and fetch me, but I decided I would at least try to make a start on the ride back. It would probably be slow but I can ride 45 kilometres without motor assistance, just the Winningen hills would be a pain! I had resolved that I would give Klaus the pannier and the heavy stuff to carry.
I put the battery on charge just in case it would work after all. We then went out for our dinner in the restaurant next door to the hotel, and we had some good food. Klaus enjoyed his last glass of Mosel white wine on the Mosel.
Güls seems to be a bit of a ribbon development along the river but it is good to be close to the water.
When we got back from dinner the battery had fully charged. The suspense was killing me so I decided we would try it out tonight so that I would know if the motor would work for me tomorrow. I was most relieved, after carefully plugging it in, to see the battery was indeed providing power to the motor. We will see if that will be the case for the whole of tomorrow‘s 45km. But we have hope!
We have really enjoyed this tour. We have been lucky with the weather and also it is much less crowded than normal due to Coronavirus. I don‘t suppose the Mosel will ever be as empty again in June, so I am very pleased we have had the chance to see it like that.
We both slept really well, starting to recover from a few difficult weeks at work. It is good to feel rested again!
Yesterday the WiFi was being tricky (we had to use a phone hotspot) so I didn‘t manage to include some photos that Klaus took of Cochem, but here they are now.
We had a leisurely breakfast knowing that we didn‘t have anything planned for today. We talked a lot to the Guest House landlord who was discussing all the ebikes and the problems they can cause. We saw this yesterday – many people riding ebikes who perhaps haven‘t ridden much for many years. They have quite a lot of speed and power available to them and tend to often ride on a very high power setting but with a very low cadence. We were regularly overtaken by ebikes and I am riding one myself. Probably we are more careful with energy usage as our journeys are longer – over 80km yesterday, for example.
After breakfast we did a bit of judicious packing for a bag we would leave in the car today. The weather forecast is improving so we don‘t need so much wet weather clothing. As we will just be riding to Koblenz and back over two days, about 110km in total, we don‘t need much with us. We had a full bag which we carried with us to the car park in Cochem where Klaus‘s car has patiently been waiting since last Saturday. It won‘t be moving again until Friday afternoon/evening. We will go tomorrow morning to buy parking for the next two days and I may well drop off my mudguards then too as they are annoying and rattly and if there isn‘t any rain then I would rather leave them. Klaus will probably keep his on as they are as yet rattle-free.
I also took the opportunity to telephone Gerrit Tempelman of Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten. He is the chap who always serviced my Versatile Velomobiles but is also an ICE dealer and has over the last few years developed a new side of the business which is electric motors for recumbents. As I needed a new battery or two (following the discussion between Klaus and I yesterday) but also really wanted my trike serviced (dodgy brakes), it seemed wise to take it to one place.
Gerrit was, as usual, very helpful. He can offer me two batteries that will work with my Bafang motor, although changing to a better socket system (the one for my battery is a bit tricky and I am always afraid the cable will break or bend badly, whereas the one for my Milan seems pretty bulletproof). I also explained that it is really hard to adjust the brakes with the Bafang electronic brake thingie and this is a known issue with these brake levers (with a motor cut-out sensor) and Avid BB7 disc brakes – there is simply too much travel on the brake lever. Gerrit can offer a gear sensor for the motor which is a much better idea (and which I have on Millie‘s motor).
Gerrit has a lot on but we booked for me to deliver Alfie to him in July and he will do a service, provide me with two new batteries, possibly provide me with a seat-mounting system for the batteries (rather than me using the sidepods, although I am happy with that option), add the gear change sensor, change back to my original brake levers (which I still have), provide me with batteries and new cabling for them… and also the basic service. Alfie will enjoy the attention! Hopefully having two good-size batteries means that I can go a bit faster on the longer rides with Klaus and we can maybe tackle some hillier routes too.
It wasn‘t raining so we decided to go out and deliver the bag of things to the car. We found the car undisturbed in its parking place and said a brief hello. We‘ll be back tomorrow to feed another 10 Euro to the parking meter.
We then sat on a bench looking at the Mosel for a bit. Looking behind us and to our right was Cochem castle and it didn‘t look like too high a hill… perhaps we could climb up and have a look.
So we set off walking through the town and up steeper and steeper cobbled roads until we found ourselves at two schools, perched high on a hill. Quite a tough walk to school for the kids! Past the schools was the route to the castle.
It wasn‘t a difficult walk but neither of us are used to hill climbing, living as we do in the flatlands, so it was definitely a bit of effort!
At the top a gateway, we had to wear masks from this point.
The view from the top was worth it!
There was a terrace café but there was a big queue for it, so we decided to walk back down for our cake lunch.
This sort of sign was not around 10 years ago! No drones.
We decided to go down a different way, which took us past a little chapel built in the 1400s.
We were soon walking down steep cobbled streets again.
Cochem is a nice town with lots of pedestrian areas although they also allow cars for residents so you do tend to have to dodge a lot of cars.
We found somewhere to sit for some cake!
Whilst we were enjoying our tea and cake it started to rain, but wonder of wonders we had accidentally managed to sit under a large umbrella so we stayed dry. We watched the people go past for quite a while before heading back to our Guest House for a rest (and for tea and blog-writing for me).
I popped out a bit later in the day to buy a new home card for someone, and a stamp, and managed to blag a free pen as I didn‘t have anything to write with. Card written, we then decided to go out for dinner and did a bit of googling for decent places as last night‘s Italian had been very disappointing. There was a place just down the road from our Guest House which looked good so we went there. I had a very tasty steak and Klaus had a schnitzel. We also had dessert of course!
I‘m contemplating using just my sidepods for our 2 day trip to Koblenz and back. I did a test pack and it is just possible to fit everything I need to take just in the sidepods, which means I can leave my two 25 litre panniers in the car, but it also means the battery will be a bit squashed and, as mentioned above, I think the connector is a bit weak. I will decide tomorrow if I will risk it, but it would be nice to ride without panniers on the back. And of course the mudguards which I will take off as we have no rain forecasted. In fact, the forecast is for sunshine, up to 27 degrees in Koblenz on Friday.
Today has been a nice rest day and it was good to walk around Cochem. Back to the trikes tomorrow!
We woke to rather grey skies with misty hills in the distance – perhaps w would have a wet cycle ride today.
Here is a picture from my bedside table – charging station for phone, iPad Mini, Garmins etc, and some biscuits that Klaus bought yesterday. They worked well dunked in tea first thing in the morning!
Breakfast was served in a lovely room overlooking the hills. Because of Covid-19 the hotels are not allowed to supply a buffet breakfast, instead they deliver everything to your table. This Guest House had everything very nicely set out.
We went back to our room, packed everything and then retrieved the trikes from the garage. I needed to tighten my mudguard again as it keeps coming loose, and Klaus needed to tighten up his seat.
I forgot to mention in yesterday‘s blog that I had noticed part of the general cabling for the Bafang motor had slightly separated apart. I pushed the two sockets back together again and lo and behold my left brake motor cutout was magically working again. That was a relief!
Talking of the motor, I had a comment on my blog yesterday from regular reader antc1946 who said he has the same motor and he uses the 9 levels option, riding mostly on level 3. That means the battery lasts well. So I decided to switch from my 5 levels back to the original 9 levels and try riding on 3 as antc1946 suggested.
So we set off, again pretty much at 9am, assuming it would take us quite a long time to get to Cochem as it was 82km away and I would be using less battery power.
It was a bit grey as we started and we had our jackets on but not our coats as it was warmer than previous mornings.
Today‘s scenery was largely vineyards and there was quite a lot of activity going on as well – we saw lots of people walking amongst the vines, tractors in the vines, people using the funny little railway bogeys and even a helicopter spraying (see the photo below).
We crossed under this very impressive bridge, the Hochmoselbrücke, which carries a Bundesstraße across it.
You can see from the two photos above that the sun had come out and the sky was blue. When stopped to take these photos I took the opportunity to remove my jacket and socks.
It‘s really impressive to see where the vintners are able to place their vines – this area was particularly steep and they squeezed the vines in every nook and cranny.
Whilst on the ride today I reached a mini milestone with Alfie – 3,000km cycled using the motor. I was quite surprised it was that much as I only did a 3 day tour before with Alfie, the rest must have been lots of commuting and leisure rides.
When checking out the route last night Klaus had noticed that we could do a shortcut across the hill which avoids Zell on a river meander. However, the route planner showed it was a mighty hill and we didn‘t fancy it! You can see below the very narrow section we would have needed to cross.
However, we went the long way round, pootling around Barl. There was a sort section which wasn‘t asphalted and which had a couple of roller-coaster ups and downs.
As you can see from the above map, after we arrived at Zell we crossed the river was was our original plan, but you can see our track stops and we have to retrace our steps. It turned out the cycle path beside the road was blocked for bikes. There had been some signs showing diversions but it was not clear that the entire route was blocked.
Klaus and I had ridden up rather a hill to join the cycle path, only to discover it was still blocked at this further point. Here we are in a mirror at the top of the hill.
Looking at the road closed sign.
We ended up crossing back into Zell and then heading up the right hand side bank of the river, which was actually quite nice although the block paving needed to be repaired as there were lots of very lumpy bits due to tree roots.
We also failed to find somewhere for cake. We had been riding for 50km or so but all the places we saw were wine sales shops/cafes. I am a lifelong teetotaller so wine isn‘t anything for me, and as we were cycling anyway Klaus didn‘t want any. However, I know that the Mosel has loads of cafes so we would find one eventually.
After about 7km on the other side of the Mosel to our original plan we crossed back on this impressive double-decker bridge near Alf.
The scenery was still great of course – rolling hills, vines, water…
Fortunately we eventually found somewhere to stop for some food – an Italian which also did ice cream and strudel. Klaus chose the Strudel.
I went for a large ice cream.
We headed off again after half an hour with only about 30km to go. As the battery in my motor was doing much better than yesterday I increased the assistance level from 3 to 4, sometimes going up to 5. This was a very good thing as we had been rather too slow before this point, averaging about 14.5 km/h. Klaus had stayed behind me all day to try to match his speed to mine as I had been rather pooped yesterday trying to keep up with him, but it was very slow for him. My battery will not allow me to travel more than about 60km with lots of assistance. So I was experimenting with Level 3 today, which certainly gives me more range but isn‘t really enough help for me to ride at a useful pace. It seems clear I need to get a second battery so that we can do some longer rides at a faster pace.
I saw this impressive ruin on the other bank, not sure what it was!
With about 15km to go we saw some very heavy clouds in the distance and expected we would get rained upon.
However, we were lucky and the wind blew it round a corner. We managed to stay dry on the entire journey, with the rain starting heavily in Cochem about two minutes after we arrived.
About 200 metres from our Guest House I stopped to buy some cake for us to have when we arrived. It was very tasty!
Our guest house is pleasant with quirky furnishings and decor, a kettle in the room (which isn‘t functioning 100%, I have to hold the button down to get it to boil, but it does heat the water with this assistance!) and friendly staff. Our trikes were safely put in the garage.
After the traditional washing of clothes and unpacking we had a few cups of tea and then went out for a meal. As we like to sit outside (because of Covid-19 ) the choice of places wasn‘t that high but we found a generic Italian restaurant. The food was rather mediocre but that‘s often the case in tourist traps. We had a view of the river from where we sat and we were served fairly rapidly.
After the meal we had a short wander around Cochem.
We have a day off tomorrow so will probably spend some more time exploring and if the forecasted rain holds off we might do a short ride too. The following day (Thursday) we will head to Koblenz, staying overnight just outside Koblenz, and then will return to Cochem and our car on Friday and head straight home.
We woke up a bit early – this is the disadvantage of a hotel in a city next to a supermarket. The deliveries for the supermarket come early and there is lots of banging and crashing of trolleys etc. But it was OK as we had had a fairly early night.
Breakfast was at 7:30 in the morning which worked out well – time for a bit of a chill out and to investigate possible hotels for tonight in Bernkastel-Kues.
We extracted our bikes from the bicycle storage room, I did a bit of maintenance on Alfie‘s left disc brake (which is squealing rather) and then it was time to roll, almost exactly 9:00 again, the same as yesterday.
We had a shorter and flatter ride today, only 65km rather than yesterday‘s 90, but I was pleased about this as I felt rather pooped yesterday after the riding with all the hills and an easier day would be good.
We had made a route out of Trier on the right bank of the Mosel (the official cycle path is on the left bank) as we had ridden 10km on the left bank on our way to Trier yesterday and it wasn‘t particularly attractive. After 11km the official cycle route would cross over to join us.
The first 3km coming out of Trier weren‘t particularly attractive either, we were on main roads with Monday morning traffic, but we made good progress and soon found ourselves on a separate bike path.
You can see here the beginnings of the vineyard valley sides which are so typical of the Mosel. And, of course, the river itself!
We were now bumbling along nicely. Interestingly, in order to keep up with Klaus I had to have my motor on number 3 (out of 5), whereas yesterday I had mostly been using number 2. We had a shorter day so I thought that would be OK. If I switched down to number 2 Klaus kept disappearing off into the distance, and if I was ahead and switched down to number 2 he would very quickly overtake me and disappear off into the distance. So Number 3 it was.
The scenery is lovely – lots of vineyards perched onto rocky hillsides, lots of weird machinery to tend the vines (little engines which pull up on almost vertical rails) and we saw lots of tractors spraying stuff; these are extra-narrow tractors which pass between the vines and which presumably have very grippy tyres!
I told Klaus before we started on this holiday that one of the delights of Mosel touring is watching the locks. Sure enough we arrived at Detzem and knew that about 10 minutes behind us was a barge, the Eentracht from Dordrecht. So we decided (well, I decided and Klaus didn‘t demur) to wait for it and watch the lock in action.
While we were waiting we did some photography… or Klaus did anyway (my pics of the bikes were no good)
The barge came into view and the lock gates on the far side disappeared under the water…
We watched them tie the barge to the wall of the lock with just one rope to hold all that weight! And then the lock started emptying below our feet on the bridge over it.
It‘s surprising how quickly all the water is let out and the barge continued. We saw him again just as we reached our evening destination and had seen him right at the beginning of our time along the Mosel so it was interesting to compare our progress. I don‘t think he stopped for cake and photos as often as us!
Talking of cake, it seemed about the right time half an hour after the Lock experience so we stopped at a café which had a sign outside saying „Kuchen“. This was in Leiwen. The café was up some stairs with a view over the hills and the river.
With shade, too, which was welcome as the day had warmed up enough for us to remove our coats and at this point I even removed my socks (so I just had sandals on=.
The cake arrived – it was an extremely tasty cheesecake!
We had a very good leisurely break but eventually it was time to move on. We had done 30 of our 60 kilometres for the day.
In Neumagen-Dhron it started to rain. Not very heavily but enough that we eventually stopped under a tree and I put my waterproof jacket on. More for warmth than to keep the rain off. We carried on a few minutes later and the rain eased off.
One we went, and as we arrived in Piesport I saw a decent location to take a photo for the header for these blog pages.
At Piesport Klaus phoned the Guest House that we had chosen as our favourite option for tonight, and they said that they had a room free. We said we would be there in about an hour and a half.
In Mintrich there was a new cycle facility. I actually remembered having to cross a busy road and then cycle up a hill to get into Mintrich, but this time I saw the track on the Garmin was a bit different – they had built a bridge over the road. How nice of them.
Except… at the end some bright spark had put two planters together as a speed reduction method for bikes. But it was impassable for me with panniers on, I had to get off and shove the bike round the corner. It would be no fun with a trailer either. There must be a better solution!
Klaus was also doing some photography underway. He took this selfie…
And he also took this photo of the vines.
I was suffering rather with range anxiety now. The display on my Bafang controller was flickering down from 2 bars to 1 (from 4). Now I know that the display tends to overestimate the remaining juice, so I was really getting low. We had 15km to go. Riding at Number 3 all day had taken its toll, despite being a flat ride today.
I warned Klaus that my battery was running low and tried to conserve it as best I could, which is tricky when trying to keep up with a speedy trike rider. As we came into Bernkastel-Kues it was showing 1 bar all the time – a bad sign. I resigned myself to possibly having to ride up the hill to the hotel without a motor. Not an enticing thought.
And that is indeed what happened – about 500 metres from the hotel the battery was dead. I was on my own with my own muscle power, which wasn‘t much today as I rather overdid it yesterday. I crawled up the hill, eventually arriving at the hotel where Klaus was waiting for me. I was feeling a bit grumpy as I had to work a bit harder than I wanted – we discussed it later and we will go slower tomorrow, especially as we have 80km to ride rather than 65!
Our Guest House is really nice. We have our own room with a patio and a view over the Mosel. It gave us a great opportunity for a washing line art installation too!
After the usual shower, washing of clothes, cup of tea etc it was time to walk into Bernkastel-Kues for a bit of sightseeing and eventually our dinner.
It‘s a lovely quaint town.
We had a Schnitzel dinner and Klaus enjoyed some local wine.
We shared a dessert!
On the walk back to our Guest House across the river the light was lovely. Here is the Burg.
And here, although not a great photo, you can see the sunlight playing on the contours of the wine terraces.
All in all it was a very nice day, with some grey skies at time and a few minutes of rain but lots of sunshine and great views.
And here is where we went (track up, not north up)
We have looked at the weather forecast and although our ride to Cochem tomorrow looks dry, it seems the following day will be rain the whole time. So we have booked a hotel for two nights, as neither of us wants to cycle in the rain. We have the unusual advantage that Klaus‘s car is in Cochem so if we want to go somewhere else on the rainy day we can leave the bikes in the hotel garage and take his car for a spin!
The plan is the following day to ride to Koblenz and then back again to Cochem the next day, from where we will drive home. So it will be a six day bike tour which is a nice amount of time.
Klaus is now bonding well with Malcolm his trike and is learning again how trikes differ from Velomobiles. He has clearly chosen well, and although there are a few bits and bobs we need to do to Malcolm (and also to Alfie), they are both basically well-built and reliable machines. Alfie has done 45,000km, Malcolm 250, but they will both have a lot more miles on them by the end of this summer I think!
We slept very well and then went down at 8am to a very good breakfast – served at our table rather than buffet-style due to Covid-19. However, they needed to give us a larger table really!
We unlocked the bikes and then put all our luggage on. This was the first real opportunity to check we had our handlebars in the right place, etc.
And then we were off!!!
We had been told by some friends that the Kylltal Radweg was very nice and they were correct! It weaves its way beside the river, crossing it regularly on bridges built especially for cyclists or walkers.
We had gone just one kilometre when Klaus, who was behind me, said „You‘ve lost something!“ He noticed that my British Flag was missing. Oh no, it must have blown away!
As we had only been riding a very short distance, and this was the beginning of several days of touring, I turned round to try and find it.
Phew, I found it! I attached it with a very tight cable tie and hoped that would do.
Onward we cycled, generally in very green surroundings. There was the odd castle or church to be admired.
The nice thing about trike touring is you are slower than in the velomobile and you tend to see more are you waft along. I was really impressed by this large carved bird, simply carved into a tree trunk beside the cycle path.
The path tended in a downhill direction but there were quite a lot of short, sharp inclines. This coincided with the brake motor cutout on my left hand brake on Alfie stopping working. This is an electronic cut-out so if I use the brake, the motor switches off. I have to dab on the brake before changing gear so that the motor doesn‘t damage the Alfine hub; I brake with my left hand and change gear with my right. However, the left hand brake cutout wasn‘t working so I had to brake with my right hand and then do the gear with it – this often didn‘t work well (I forgot which order to do things) and so I had some gear changes where I lost a lot of speed. Not much fun in sharp inclines and no fun for Klaus if he was following me – he ended up stuck in a high gear at one point having had to come to a complete halt as I had ended up stationary.
It worked best if Klaus rode in front in the rolling bits, so he did so a lot of the time.
We rounded a corner and passed an old factory with this most wonderful chimney. The Leaning Chimney of Usch.
It was an impressively tall chimney but everything was very derelict.
And here below is Alfie posing beside the Kylltal Radweg signage.
What was cool on this tour was that we went through two railway tunnels (there would have been a third but there was a detour on the route so we missed it). They are impressive constructions, presumably with two rail lines originally going through them, now single track which leaves space for a bike lane.
The tunnel was cool and dark inside and we discovered that Alfie doesn‘t have many reflectives on the back – Klaus said all he could really see of me was the tiny red LED light from my motor wheel sensor at the back!
We then reached Kyllburg – the name ‚burg‘ gives a bit of a clue, as it means fortress which is usually built on a hill. Kyllburg was indeed hilly.
We winched our way slowly up a long, long slope and near the top I saw this lovely wicker stork with a mask on his beak!
We had a very long, slow climb out of Kyllburg which was hard work! The battery in my motor was clearly taking a beating and was showing a rather lower energy reserve than I would like. We both got really hot by the time we got to the top of the 2km climb.
The view at the top was worth it though!
What goes up must come down… and so we shot down the other side of the hill and I ended up with my highest trike speed for a while – 65km/h. My brakes weren‘t brilliant so after this downhill I fiddled about with the disk pads and things improved a bit, although they were still a bit uneven.
We had decided we would divert to Bitburg for lunch as it is a major town in this region, although was a 4km detour from the Kylltal Radweg. The detour started with a nice bridge.
But then continued with a long, long slow climb. Bitburg, too, is at the top of a hill, and we were grinding our way up slowly. I knew we weren‘t even halfway on our route for the day so I had a bit of range anxiety with my battery.
We arrived in Bitburg and there wasn‘t much open (it is a Sunday) but we did find the Prinz Café with its very friendly proprietor who was keen to speak to me in English.
He also kindly took my battery and put it on to charge whilst we had our cake.
We had a good chat with him and he recommended a few places to visit on our tour.
After about an hour we headed back towards the Kylltal Radweg, this time enjoying a downhill run instead of the tough uphill on the way in.
We were in a quite leafy and green section with lush grass, quite a lot of insects, interesting birds (I saw a greater spotted woodpecker) and more. We saw this chap wheeling around above us – I think he might be a kite (Milan in German)
We were also impressed by a lot of the buildings we saw. This image below shows the railway station building for a small village!
We were mostly riding beside the river on asphalt, but there were a couple of bumpier sections, including a couple of kilometres where it wasn‘t asphalt just forest path. These were OK on the trikes, although I had to tighten up my mudguards a couple of times as they start to swing about with the bumps. There were a couple of more bumpy concrete-type surfaces, such as in the photo below.
Although our mega climb of the day out of Kyllburg was behind us, there were still lots of little ups and downs. And some of the downs were quite steeply down!
And then we would round a corner and see a lovely bridge, or house, or scenery.
Klaus kindly stopped in the middle of this mini ford for the photo below, and then couldn‘t get traction to get out again. I zoomed across and then came and helped him with a good push.
Then it was time for another tunnel, very similar to the first.
After a while the route seemed flatter as we were making our way down from the Eifel. We had the path to ourselves most of the time, as you can see from the photo below. That‘s Klaus in the distance.
At Kordel I felt a bit peckish and we saw a Guest House that looked like it might be open. I rang the doorbell and the lady said she would come, so we sat outside in the sunshine. The grey morning in Gerolstein had improved into a sunny afternoon nearing Trier and we were shedding layers throughout the day.
The lady said she could provide tea and coffee but no cake. That was fine. But then she came out with a slice of Black Forest Gateau and said „something for the lady“, and for Klaus she provided some Rosinen Brot.
She said to us a bit later on that it was actually a slice of cake she had bought for herself, so we were very grateful. It tasted really good!
The lady warned us that the cycle path down to the next town was closed and we would have to go on the main road, so we knew what to do when we reached the closed path sign and took the main road. There was no cycle path and we were of course much slower than the 70 limit but I found the car drivers very courteous and not bullying. A nice change!
And then we were at the point where the Kyll flows into the Mosel. We couldn‘t actually see the point, but it was behind this shrubbery here.
We now had about 15km to go to reach our hotel, but on pretty much entirely flat terrain as we are in the Mosel valley.
We faffed around the Trier harbour area and then eventually crossed the Mosel and made our way slowly through the pedestrian zone to our hotel which was just behind the Porta Nigra.
They had some good secure bike parking for us.
And we had a mini balcony to dry our washing!
After a short rest we went for a walk around Trier, of course having another look at the Porta Nigra.
We had an evening meal of a burger and Klaus enjoyed a beer (although not a Bitburger).
We loved looking at the beautiful buildings in Trier.
And finished up with an ice cream. I hope you can see Porta Nigra in the background!
And our route for today?
And here are the statistics:
90.4 km at an average speed of 17 kph. Total riding time 5:19:06.
And a few more details:
Tomorrow the plan is to cycle along the Mosel to Bernkastel-Kues and see if we can find a nice hotel there. Weather looks good too!
One week ago Klaus bought a new trike. Today we set off for a cycle tour with this trike (and mine).
Klaus had yesterday off work and he spent some of the time doing a bit of trike maintenance, such as fitting a holder for his Garmin GPS, fitting bar tape onto his handlebars to replace the rather grotty foam ones and also fitted two new mirrors. Malcolm the Sprint X was ready to roll.
When I got home from work yesterday we put both trikes in the car – choosing a rather unsuitable time to do it, as we had a massive rainstorm. But we both wanted to get the job done so we managed to load the bikes only getting a little wet in the process.
To load two ICE Sprints in an Opel Insignia is not actually too difficult as it‘s such a large car. We put the back seats down and then pushed Alfie folded up to behind the front seats, then turned him round so his nose was pointing at one back window and his tail the other, and then we could put Malcolm in behind him in the boot proper. We stuffed the luggage in the back seat footwells.
We had been watching the weather forecast for a few days as it wasn‘t ideal – the warm May weather was turning cooler and rainier. But we were putting ourselves under no pressure, if the weather is awful one day we won‘t do any riding. Simple.
Saturday morning dawned rather grey and rainy-looking. We said goodbye to Poppy and set off at about 9:15 on the two hour drive to Gerolstein in the Eifel hills range.
We went through some mega rain storms on the journey to Gerolstein which meant we were slower on the motorway in places than normal. But we arrived safely at the hotel at 11:30am so very early, but I had pre-warned them that we would be delivering the trikes.
The receptionist was very helpful and friendly and showed us where we could park the trikes, in their covered parking area. It‘s not a locked parking area but we were not worried about this – Klaus had a lock for the trikes and they aren‘t as interesting to try out as Velomobiles.
We unloaded the car and rebuilt the trikes, fitting their mudguards as well due to the rainy forecast.
We then took our luggage to the hotel room (Klaus also took Malcolm’s seat with him) and then it was time to me to head off.
I was driving to Cochem to park the car at a possible finish point of our tour. Cochem is easy to access by train so if we don‘t end up there we can easily pick up the car via train. We had also found a very good value parking area – 15 € for a month. I headed off there.
My journey was along a lot of winding roads around the volcanic Eifel region. There were some good views and some sunshine and blue skies as well as more mega rain. I was briefly on the A1 motorway and saw a nasty-looking accident on the other carriageway. This was in a very heavy rainshower and we all slowed down some more after seeing that!
I arrived in Cochem at 12.48 and the bus was due to leave at 13:13. It was one bus every two hours so I didn‘t want to miss it. But first, the parking.
Strangely the parking signs had a different amount to the 15€ for a month. They said 5€ per day, but a maximum rate for 20 days of 20€ if you had a Cochem (COC) number plate. Which we did not. So for the 5 days I estimated was a sensible amount for our tour, we would need 25€.
The problem was… I had 2 x 10€ notes and 2 x 50€. And the machine did not give change. I didn‘t want to pay 50€ for a 25€ parking charge, so decided to walk to the bus stop to buy my bus ticket and so get change of a 50€ note.
The walk to the bus stop turned out to be longer than I thought as there wasn‘t a cut-through towards the railway station so I had to walk three sides of a rectangle instead of the short side. I arrived at 13:03 and saw a bus waiting at the stop – without any destination written on the front and with the driver eating his lunch.
The bus had a sign on the front door saying you couldn‘t go in that way and couldn‘t buy tickets from the bus driver. OK, so where do I buy the tickets? There was no machine near the bus stop and I went into the railway station and only saw a Deutsche Bahn ticket machine. I had investigated the Deutsche Bahn tickets on the Internet and it displayed the bus route (number 500) but doesn‘t give a price or the possibility to buy the tickets. I had found the price online, 10.80€, but there was no option on that website to buy a ticket.
So I went to the bus door and did an „Entschuldigen Sie“ to the driver, who opened the door for me. I asked where could I buy a ticket for the bus to Gerolstein. He said „not from me“. I said I was aware of this, but where was a ticket machine. He said he had no idea where I can buy them from, but I could just get on the bus if I wanted.
I said I needed to go and pay for my parking and I would see if I could find a ticket machine too. He said he would leave at 13:13.
I went into the café next to the railway station and ordered a bottle of water, simply to break up my 50€ note. I didn‘t actually want to drink anything as it looked as though I had no chance of the loo and had a 90 minute bus journey ahead of me! But now I had some change for the parking ticket machine.
So I went back to where the car was parked and put in my 25€.
So we had to either finish our tour by Thursday lunchtime or at least go past Cochem and buy a couple of days more if we were going to extend it. 5€ a day is a fair price though.
So now I needed to get back to the bus and buy a ticket somehow. Time was marching on, so I semi-jogged back from the car park to the railway station/bus stop. I am no runner/jogger!
I got back to the bus at 13:12. No time to play with the Deutsche Bahn ticket machine in the hall, instead I got on the bus to see if there was a ticket machine inside it (like there often are in trams). No.
So I then asked the people on the bus „where can I buy a ticket?“ They all shrugged their shoulders.
The driver heard this and said „I can‘t sell you one because of Corona“ (which I knew). But then he said „Take a seat.“
I said I would try to download the App and then buy a ticket.
There was a sign right in front of me with the logo of the ticket company:
This VRT is the Trier public transport company. And they had an App!
So I started downloading it (signal wasn‘t great) and we set off about 30 seconds after I had sat down, first driving along the Mosel. It was good to see it – my last Mosel tour had been 10 years ago.
The App eventually downloaded. It seemed I could only buy tickets for bus journeys in the future (not ones I had already started) but I assumed the ticket would be valid for all journeys. So I found it, bus number 100.
„Price not available“. No chance to buy a ticket. Great.
I was unable to buy a ticket from the driver, from a machine on the bus, from the app, and from the non-existent ticket machine at the bus stop. So I gave up. I would be a Schwarzfahrer. I have a suitable colour face mask for this highway robbery.
I did wonder how many other passengers actually had a valid ticket as no-one seemed to know how to buy one. There were 5-6 other passengers on board and we were all wearing face masks. One guy had one he had made out of a cut up face flannel with a bit of string.
The journey was very scenic, climbing steeply up the valley side of Cochem with some great views down to the Mosel. Then it was up and down around the volcanic Eifel region, through towns and villages. The bus driver was very skilled and it was a comfortable journey.
At one point we met the 500 bus coming the other way down a very narrow bit of road and the two buses stopped and the drivers had a five minute chat. All very friendly. These busses were also towing a trailer with a rack to hold up to 10 bikes – there were no bikes on either bus. The cycle tourist season is not going well due to Corona.
We were soon nearing Gerolstein and the rain cleared away to leave blue skies and sunshine. We passed a huge volcano caldera (Maar) and I think there are several others in this region. I think the volcanoes of the Eifel are technically only dormant, not extinct, so we could be in for a surprise on this tour!
I arrived back at the station in Gerolstein, got off the bus and then walked to the hotel. When I got there Klaus wasn‘t there, he had walked to meet me at the bus stop and somehow we had missed each other. I was very pleased to see him as I needed to go up to the room for the loo and he had the key!
After I had had a few minutes to chill out we went out for a very late lunch in Gerolstein which was a bowl of soup for me, a salad for Klaus, and then a crepe as a dessert (Klaus had a chocolate cake).
This was a very late lunch, nearly 4pm, but we still wanted an evening meal a few hours later so walked to a Pizzeria. We had a book with vouchers for 10% off the meal but of course we forgot to take the voucher with us!
And when in Gerolstein…
We walked around Gerolstein a little, including visiting the fountain outside our hotel.
And just around the corner was the river Kyll, which we will follow down the valley to Trier. It‘s not very wide or deep here!
We also saw a huge storage area with bottles of Gerolsteiner Water.
A great German word on this signpost!
And a German false friend. „Shooting“ with your whole family isn‘t generally considered a good thing in English!
Our Hotel Garni am Brunnenplatz is very nice, I can definitely recommend it. The room is pleasant, the staff very friendly and helpful, and we also have breakfast in our room rate too.
Tomorrow we will set off on the Kylltal Radweg. This heads to Trier and is 70km long, with 10km then along the Mosel to Trier. This is a manageable distance in a day on a trike but if the weather is bad we may have a shorter day stage. Trier is a nice place to visit, I have stayed there a couple of times before, and phoned this afternoon to book a hotel near Porta Nigra. We don‘t want to just whizz along, we want to stop and see the scenery – one of the great benefits of the trike over the Velomobile – but we have plenty of time so that should be no problem.
We were both pretty tired by 9pm, not just the driving but also the excitement of starting a tour and also we have both had a fairly tough few months at work. It is good to have a break!
28th December 2019 was Klaus and my fourth Oliebollentocht, a post-Christmas cycle ride for Velomobiles in the Netherlands that ends with Oliebollen (a kind of doughnut).
This year the event was taking place in Utrecht and over 160 velomobiles had registered.
We were lucky that chum Ralf had agreed to take us up there with our velomobiles in his trailer. So we set off from Kempen at a quarter to 7 in the morning, driving the two hours to Utrecht to the car park near the start.
We got our bikes ready and then cycled to the café where we could have hot drinks and biscuits and warm up a bit – it was just two degrees outside.
The official start was at 11am and so more and more people gradually arrived, many familiar faces from previous Oliebollentochts.
And of course, loads of velomobiles!
The plan was for us to cycle right through Utrecht so they had decided we had to go in groups of 10, rather than one whole long line, as otherwise we would cause all traffic in Utrecht to grind to a halt. So we each chose a number (Klaus, Ralf and I were number 4) and were to go in a group led by a velomobile with that number on. We started to get in line to head off, you can see me in the middle of the picture here with Klaus behind me and then Ralf.
The guy in front of me in the yellow Quest was not part of group 4 (although to his left, our chum Rolf, was) so I had to weave my way past him to get on the back of the rest of group 4 who were ahead up the road. And, as it happened, very quickly out of sight. Fortunately I had the track on my Garmin but this reminded me of the Rotterdam Oliebollentocht where if you didn’t have the route you ended up lost. I was a bit annoyed but after about 5km we were all together again and from that point on they were definitely waiting for us to keep the group together. It was not that we were slower, just that the back half of the group tended not to be able to make it across traffic lights in one phase.
Here was our track for the day’s ride. We rode clockwise.
Before arriving in Utrecht we rode over the Daphne Schippersbrug. This was a wonderful piece of bicycle infrastructure and there were several people filming or photographing us as we went over.
Here is the first video I have seen from the Dafne Schippersbrug:
And we also saw a drone filming us as we went over, and here is the result (although we aren’t in this footage):
The route through Utrecht was much better than we have experienced when riding through other Dutch cities in the past. And it was fascinating to be routed through the largest cycle parking facility in the world, a huge underground garage with thousands upon thousands of bikes parked.
In the photo below by De Fiestende Fotograaf, Bas de Meijer, you can see to the right of the picture lots of columns. These are separating the individual bike parking areas.
And here is an image of the individual parking areas (although no spaces for velomobiles!)
We rolled our way through, marvelling at the numbers of bikes. It was all very impressive!
Just a few minutes later we arrived at the Dom (cathedral) where we were stopping for some photos.
We all stood around and chatted, and lots of passers-by were talking to us too. I was also interviewed by a lady from a local newspaper who wanted to talk to women riders of the velomobiles (there were probably only 8-10 of us amongst the 160 riders).
Het merendeel van de ‘velomobielers’ dat zich op zaterdagmiddag op het Domplein verzamelt, is man. De Britse Helen Hancox (48) lijkt een uitzondering op de rest van de groep. ,,Er komen steeds meer vrouwen bij, maar een beetje een mannending is het wel”, zegt Hancox. Vol trots toont ze haar witte velomobiel, met daarop een felgekleurde, Britse vlag. Is zo’n klein voertuigje niet hartstikke krap? ,,No way, het is juist hartstikke comfortabel! Ik vind het een heerlijke hobby, je hoeft er ook niet ontzettend fit voor te zijn, of zo. Als je er nog maar in en uit komt”, zegt de Britse lachend. Ze heeft zin in het rondje Utrecht: vanavond gaat ze weer terug naar haar woonplaats in Duitsland. ,,Gewoon met de auto hoor – dat wel.”
And Google Translate offers the following:
The majority of the “velomobile riders” who gather on the Domplein on Saturday afternoon are men. The British Helen Hancox (48) seems to be an exception to the rest of the group. “There are more and more women, but it is a bit of a man thing,” says Hancox. She proudly shows her white velomobile, with a brightly coloured British flag on it. Isn’t such a small vehicle really tight? ,, No way, it’s just very comfortable! I think it’s a wonderful hobby, you don’t have to be incredibly fit for it, or something like that. If you can only get in and out of it,” the British woman says, laughing. She is looking forward to the tour of Utrecht: tonight she is going back to her home in Germany. “Just by car – that is.”
There was plenty for the spectators to see, including Jascha once again forgetting that his Quest isn’t actually a handbike!
Here am I giving Ralf a pat on the back with Klaus hiding in the background.
The cathedral had scaffolding on it but we noticed up above someone with a long lens. It seems that De Fietsende Fotograaf Bas de Meijer was doing very good work, as this photo from him was on Instagram. What a cracker!
Lots of the Dutch seemed to be eating their sandwiches whilst we were stopped. This seemed a bit surprising to me as we had lunch in about an hour, but their reasoning became clearer later!
We continued on in our small groups, working our way through Utrecht. This was still a pretty easy ride although there is still a lot of stop-start riding and some cobbled streets and tight corners. There were a few other Milans and one poor chap overshot at least twice and had to push himself backwards with his arms (no foot holes) which must have been inconvenient!
We started climbing a little (very gently!) and then found ourselves on a very open area called Soesterberg which turned out to be an airport with a disused runway. This was, of course, ideal velomobile territory!
Below is a wonderful photo taken by De Fietsende Fotograaf (which I have also used as the header of this blog post)
And here are two pictures of Klaus and me taken by chum Fritz.
You can see in these two photos that I am wrapped up warm. It was a very cold day and lots of us were suffering a bit from cold feet!
Klaus and I headed off early from the runway, wanting to get somewhere warm (the lunch spot). A few people followed us and we led a little troupe, eventually catching up with Hartmut, a fellow velomobile rider from Kempen. And then we arrived first at the lunch spot, so the Oliebollentocht 2019 in Utrecht was briefly led by three people from Kempen, Germany!
We arrived and parked, bagging a table early and starting on the coffee and cake.
This cake was reasonable but not a patch on the German ones.
We had also all ordered various lunch items. I had ordered a roast beef sandwich and a Pistolet Deluxe (I had no idea what that was), totalling about 7 EUR. Some others had ordered a “Lunchpack”.
My roast beef sandwich arrived, with my glasses to show the scale. It was VERY small with almost no roast beef in, on dry tasteless bread.
The Pistolet also arrived – a small roll, with a bit of egg and salad in. Very disappointing, after eating it in two bites I was still hungry. Now I know why the Dutch had their sandwiches at the Dom!
Klaus had the lunch pack which was a small squashed currant bun, an apple, snickers bar and a bottle of water. We definitely felt that the food was mega-overpriced. No complaint to the organisers as they can’t change the price, but a reminder again that we need to be more self-sufficient in NL with regard to food!
We didn’t feel the need to linger and decided to head back to the start as soon as we had finished eating. We were the first to leave the lunch place and saw the huge number of velomobiles parked in the car park, impressive!
We were parked in a section near the exit and got ready to leave.
The ride back was in more open areas without going through any major towns. It was nice as we rode together in a group, and gradually more people added to this group as faster people caught us up.
I noticed that I seemed to be having to work a bit harder with about 10km to go and sure enough Klaus reported that my front tyre was down. It was still rolling but I decided to stop to pump it up. Klaus helped, but I had issues again with the Presta valve. Have I explained enough yet how much I HATE presta valves and wish I could fit AV/Schraeder valves to this wheelset??? But sadly I have to use Presta as the holes are too small for Schraeder valves.
Klaus pumped the tyre up to about 60psi and then taking the head off the pump it let out loads of air, so he pumped it up again. I said we should stop before it had too high a pressure in case it leaked again, and so I set off again on a tyre that was still rather squashy. My plan was to ride back as fast as possible so that I hopefully only had to re-pump it a couple of times.
In the end I managed to get back without having to pump it up again, as although we had heard air escaping from the tyre it was clearly not too fast.
We got back to the van and trailer and dragged Ralf away from his pea soup to let us load up in the last of the daylight. Velomobiles safely stowed, we walked back to the café and had our pea soup and two Oliebollen.
We had a short chat with friends, including John Williams who had come over from England, and then it was time to head off. Klaus and I had paid for the evening meal but Ralf hadn’t and wanted to get home, and of course we wanted to go with him! Besides, the evening meal might have been a bit sparse for our taste. So we piled into the Sprinter and were home by 7:30pm.
Oliebollentocht is always a great experience as it is the only time that you really get so many velomobiles together. It is also a chance with us to catch up with friends – it was great to see Biggi and Fritz, Morten, Jupp, TimB, Roef, John Williams, Hajo, Theo and Allert from Velomobiel.nl, Ymte from Intercitybike, Jeroen, Ingo, Superbär and many others. The Velomobile world is small and we know a lot of people in it.
For anyone wondering about taking part next year, it will be in Roermond (just round the corner from us!) and should be another great experience. Put 28 December 2020 in your diaries now!
We had already arranged to cycle some of the way with chum Alex (who originally sold me Penelope the Versatile, and then bought friend Gabi’s Quest XS). He would be very near Leiden that morning so we would arrange to meet somehow. Klaus had planned a route, Alex planned another, then Alex amended Klaus’s route and so we had a choice of three. The expectation was that we would do the Klaus Route with Alex Amendments.
The plan was for Alex to arrive at 9:30 in the morning, having overnighted just down the road as he had some reason to be there. In the end, his plans didn’t work out so he had already cycled 40km from Rotterdam when he arrived at our Birthday Castle. Here is Lewwie (the Little White Whale, Alex’s Quest XS) with Millie and Emily.
As we only had 120km to ride today we were feeling relaxed about things. Alex was having a few issues with his Wahoo Elemnt GPS as for some reason the route today wouldn’t load. Klaus was relaxing on his birthday.
We didn’t actually get to look at the Castle at all, another problem with arriving late in the evening. We stayed at a castle but only saw the reception area, dining room and our bedroom.
In the end Alex concluded he wouldn’t be able to get the track onto his GPS so he would try and remember the route. Although Klaus and I both had the route, if someone who knows the area is in front it is much easier as they know where to cross the road for the cycle path, which path to take when they split etc. So although I started off ahead, Alex took the lead position fairly soon after we were underway.
Lewwie seems quite quick at accelerating. Alex was whizzing off ahead (although presumably he wasn’t weighed down by quite as much luggage as we were!) and Klaus and I were still warming up. Then we realised that Alex had missed a turn on the track and he was ahead. I hooted my horn but he didn’t hear it (he has the removable hood on the Quest and this makes it harder to hear), and he disappeared into the distance.
Klaus and I stopped as it was for us safer to stick to the route, in case we failed to see a turn later on when blindly following Alex. We sent him a message to say he was Off Course and we were waiting. After a few minutes he replied to say he would join up with our route, so we turned round and followed the route.
It turned out (as we later saw with Strava Flyby) that Alex was back on the route ahead of us, when we thought he was behind us. So we periodically stopped and waited (and checked the phone for messages) whilst he was pushing on ahead.
So it was fairly slow going, although a lovely route through Buitenkaag, Huigsloot and then to Oude Wetering, where Klaus had a very annoyed motorist give sustained hooting as we went over the bridge on the road not cycle path (there was no way we could have done the corner to the cycle path). This sort of bad tempered behaviour by drivers when we are on the road for 100 metres or so leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
At this point also my hat blew away but Klaus was able to scoop it up from the road, hooray!
We also had a mini ferry crossing which took less than 1 minute. This was very cool, and only 90 cents per velomobile!
After Oude Wetering we had a fast bit of road towards Nieuwveen. Alex was somewhere ahead of us (and looking at Flyby later we saw he took a different route quite a lot of the time) so we pushed on a bit faster, agreeing to meet in Nieuwveen. Eventually we caught up with him – right by a bit of an obstacle, some Drängelgitter.
All three bikes were safely through in due course.
We were riding now at a fairly good speed alongside a busier road, but the path was set a little bit to the side so was reasonably pleasant. We were fast, of course, being in velomobiles, but were at one point overtaken by a little car (one of the special ones that are allowed on cycle paths – how do they press the button for the traffic lights?) as well as a motor scooter.
We rode through Vinkeveen, I was pulling ahead in the riding as Millie is so efficient and a good shape for the headwind we had. Yes, yesterday we had a headwind as we were heading west (wind was WNW) and today, heading east, the wind had also shifted and was ENE. Alex is quick in Lewwie but the Quest XS’s shape clearly limits the top speed. It is wide and short, and the Quests are also known to be sometimes a bit temperamental in strong side winds.
Finally we were away from the busy road and riding down a rather lovely cycle path. It would have been lovelier if the surface was a bit better – there were quite a lot of ruts and bumps which is sub-optimal with velomobiles.
We were heading towards a lunch stop (Alex had some ideas where) but Klaus was feeling peckish and thought we should stop for some of the cake we had brought from Germany yesterday. So we did. But first I took the opportunity for some photography of Millie and Emily for the header for this blog.
We had no plates or knife for the cake, but Klaus’s toolkit provided the all-purpose knife.
The Streuselkuchen was shared out amongst the three of us, and we nearly lost it to a passing Dobermann who fancied it. Fortunately Klaus mounted a successful defence of the Streuselkuchen!
We stopped for quite a while, enjoying the better weather and watching two storks wheeling about in the air across the canal. We also saw lots of trains going past, including a Deutsche Bahn ICE train.
We then carried on and the bridge at Mijnden was closed when we arrived.
We only had to wait a couple of minutes and then it slowly lowered again and we continued on.
We were now on a lovely bit of road with some really posh houses along the side. Alex explained that the old Amsterdam Traders used to have a posh house in this area for the weekend, and they certainly looked lovely and generally immaculately kept. I guess a bit like the Russian Dachas.
We got to another bridge and Alex took us off-route and we crossed the bridge to have some food. We had a burger and chips seated outside in a nice pedestrian square in a place called Breukelen. Which is pronounced ‘Brooklyn’. Earlier we had seen signs to Haarlem.
We had a very leisurely lunch and then it was time for us to press on and for Alex to return home. We said our goodbyes – it had been great to see him again! Alex sold Penelope my first Velomobile to me and our lives intersect regularly it seems.
On the way out of Breukelen we had another bridge that was open.
And then we were back on fast, easy roads. Having had a decent bit of food we had some more energy and rode on well, passing through Westbroek, Nieuwe-Wetering (skirting to the north of Utrecht), Den Dolder, the edge of Zeist and then we followed a main road past Austerlitz. The road was climbing here as we approached the Hoge Veluwe national park, and we had a little downhill after Austerlitz. A chance for the velomobiles to fly! I hit my max speed of 52 here but Klaus was a bit braver and went to 58 km/h.
We rode through Woudenberg and then Scherpenzeel and Renswoude. We crossed the A30 motorway and then found ourselves to the north of Ede. After Ede the National Park began in earnest, with a long climb followed by a most fantastic downhill. Not as fast as the one after Austerlitz but it went on a long time!
At the bottom our track told us to turn left, but we found ourselves in a car park with a woodland track leading in the direction our track suggested. We didn’t fancy that but I could see an alternative on the main road which would rejoin the track, so we took that way. Last-minute route changes with 10km to go can be rather annoying! Especially as we had lost all our speed from the downhill for this unnecessary left turn.
We crossed the A12 and then the A50 motorways and then turned north, away from Oosterbeek and Arnhem, towards Schaarsbergen where our B&B was.
Our B&B was up an old, brick road. As you can see from the photo below, there was a house and behind it a large barn. The barn had an interesting pointy roof…
And as we arrived, we saw there would be no issues with velomobile parking.
The owner and her dog came out to meet us and said of course we could store the velomobiles in the barn. We could store them right outside the door to our rooms, which were in the barn.
But this wasn’t actually a barn, it was an aircraft hangar!
And not just any aircraft hangar! It was built in WW2 by the Germans, and was the largest aircraft hangar in Europe at the time (although we may have remembered this wrongly).
The hangar is here because Deelen airfield was in the woods behind us. Deelen was the largest airfield in NL and was used by the Germans in WW2, although the Dutch had built it in 1913.
The structure of the hangar was amazing. Super-thick walls, the wooden beams were actually laminate, everything was original and really solid. Klaus thinks the pointy roof was so that from above it looked like a farm building, not an aircraft hangar, so perhaps this was to disguise it from British bombers.
“The airbase was used by the RNLAF without changing much of the original German buildings. As a result, it is one of very few places in Europe where the German “Heimatschutz Architektur” is well preserved. This is why the Dutch Ministry of Culture put the entire complex and its surrounding complexes -a total of 251 objects- on a heritage protection list. Its sheer size makes the Air Base the largest National Cultural Monument in the Netherlands.
The “Heimatschutz Architektur” meant that bunkers and hangars were camouflaged to make them look like Dutch farms. In fact: some of the off-base buildings are in use at farms today. Only if you inspect them up close you will notice walls are a meter (3 feet) thick, windows and doors are actually painted on walls, hatches are made of thick steel, and German texts can still be found all over the air base.
The Germans did make a mistake though: instead of using the local Gelders traditional style of building they used the Holland style. For the purpose it did not matter: the camouflage worked.”
Whatever, this was a fascinating place to stay! And for Klaus, whose birthday it was and who has a real interest in history, it was the icing on the cake!
Here are my statistics from Garmin for the day.
In the evening we walked to a pizzeria just five minutes away. Some of the old airfield buildings are being converted to homes or other purposes and there was a very nice pizzeria there. The service was a bit laid back (it was good that we weren’t in a rush!) but the pizza was tasty!
On our return Klaus took some pictures of Millie and Emily in the evening light.
We can very much recommend B&B Adelaerthoeve, as the rooms were great (we had a mini kitchen) and of course there is loads of history!
Although today was not as far to ride as yesterday, I was still pretty tired and so happy to have an early night. Klaus enjoyed his birthday – what better way to celebrate the new year of life by having a cycle ride and eating some German cake!
Months ago Klaus said what he would really like to do for his birthday is a bike tour. So we decided to do one!
As usual, our initial plans snowballed a bit, and we ended up with a three day tour, including a very long first day (a Friday). He wanted to cycle to the coast in NL which is a good 200km away. I was a bit nervous about this, but as in my family the Birthday Boy or Girl gets what they want on their birthday, I would go along with it.
We wanted to find somewhere nice to stay and I found a rather nice-looking castle just outside Leiden. So somehow the name of this tour became “Klaus’s Birthday Castle”.
Rather than riding the 200km back home again the next day (his actual birthday), we decided to ride to Arnhem and stay overnight there, then ride back home on the third day. We found a rather posh B&B in Arnhem too.
So this was the plan. We watched the weather forecast for the week beforehand. Rainy, not too warm. Then the rain became more – 16mm on the Saturday. Argh! I bought a rain poncho and then the forecast improved a bit. I had even considered taking Millie’s hood (I don’t like cycling with it that much) but the forecast improved enough that I decided to do without. 4-6mm rain over the day isn’t too awful – I had a day on a trike tour where there was 60mm of rain!
Klaus had prepared the route for day 1, from home to Leiden/Poelgeest.
The day before I had been off work (using up overtime) and I pumped up Millie’s tyres, oiled her chain, ran a wet cloth over her to remove the worst of the bird/bee poop, and of course made sure that my battery was charged up 100%. I had previously ridden the battery for 200km but I wasn’t sure if it would really last that long, particularly if there were lots of stops and starts in NL (as there can be). Of course I can pedal Millie without the battery, but who wants to do extra unnecessary effort?? As a small help I put a normal velomobile battery into Millie for her lights, rather than using the main motor battery for lighting as well. That ought to give me another kilometre-or-so’s motor power at the end!
I packed my clothing as well, bearing in mind the rainy forecast (showers and drizzle on the Friday and Saturday, about 4mm per day). I had my rain poncho of course, which I hoped would do the expected job of frightening off the rain. I tried it on in the house and it was so amazingly static that my hair stood on end; I reckon I can use it to recharge the motor battery if it gets a bit low. I had the great luxury of packing a sports bag with all that I wanted as Klaus will carry it in the Quattrovelo which has space for loads of luggage. He is very kind like that!
When Klaus got home from work we went outside to do a bit more bike preparation.
Klaus stowed his spare tubes and tyres in the storage areas at the front (which we don’t usually use as they are hard to get at). This was to allow extra space for all my luggage perhaps!
We were ready to roll. It would be a short tour (maybe 450km in total) but as it was a three day tour we had the same amount of luggage that we would need for a three week tour (3 x cycling kit, 1 x normal kit, off-bike shoes, wash kit, chargers, iPad). So it is very handy that we have the huge storage capacity of the Quattrovelo at our disposal. All I would be carrying was my normal bag with phone, purse etc, my spare shoes and the charger for Millie”s battery. So perhaps an extra 2kg of weight. Aren’t I lazy!
Friday morning I woke up at the usual time (05:30) which meant I had plenty of time to get ready. I made us a breakfast of scrambled eggs, and we were out of the house by 07:45, on the road.
Our planned distance was 198km. Klaus was a bit concerned about the cake situation in NL so suggested popping first to St Hubert and buying the Streuselkuchen from the local Stinges bakery. So we set off on our 200km tour, riding in precisely the wrong direction for the first 1.5km.
As we came out of the bakery it started to rain. The most recent forecast had suggested we might be lucky and stay dry, but our hopes were dashed.
However, as we headed north to Stenden it dried up, and we didn’t have any more rain for the next 120km.
I had decided only to use my motor on setting 1, the lowest of 5, for the whole tour, in order to eke out my battery. However, at the very beginning Klaus was riding gently to warm up, and Emily was very heavily-laden so harder to accelerate. This meant that I was sometimes pulling ahead so periodically I turned the motor off and rode under my own power for a Kilometer or so.
We usually ride the route to Siebengewald (NL border south west of Kleve) on Sunday morning when there is no traffic. This is our café-visiting route of Stenden, Pont, Walbeck, Twisteden, Weeze and then Siebengewald (2 excellent cafes on this route). We discovered that there isn’t really more traffic on Friday mornings either! It was a bit tough to ride past Winthuis, with their fantastic cakes, knowing we were heading for the cake desert of NL, but it was too soon in the tour, plus I think they wouldn’t have been open yet.
These roads are fast and we were at Siebengewald, 50km in, in good time. I suggested to Klaus that we stop after 70km for something to eat but as we arrived in the centre of Gennep we saw a bakery and decided to stop anyway, at 60km.
The bakery was empty but large. They had a huge choice of bread rolls, 2-3 different doughnuts and some muffins. Not a single creamy cake. So we both went for Milka muffins.
We had a drink too, used the loo, and headed of again after about half an hour.
The centre of Gennep was rather nice actually. I hadn’t been there before, we always seem to cycle round the edges, but it seemed to have some nice shops and had a paved, pedestrianised centre. We followed our Garmins through this centre, following an official cycle route until… some Drängelgitter!
We both had to get out of our velomobiles to get through here. Annoying.
Then, about 500 metres further on our Garmin route tried to send us down an unmade road. I had turned off the main road of course, before seeing that it was a rough, rutted track, so we had to do a 10-point-turn and then accelerate onto a busy road again. Two bad bits of Velomobile-unfriendly routing in 1km suggested that we might have some more issues on this ride. Which we did. It had been prepared with the Dutch Fietserbond website, set for a race bike, but this clearly assumed race bikers don’t mind off-road.
In this case we could just follow the main road and it joined up with our track soon enough, just a couple of hundred metres extra in distance.
We rode past Milsbeek and then through Mook, which is a name we see on the A73 motorway when driving to Dronten but we had not previously visited.
We crossed over the Maas-Waal Kanaal at Molenhoek/Heumen and then left the Maas and went north west towards Wijchen, bypassing Nijmegen on this ride.
We rode through Wijchen and, once again, were reminded why cycling in NL towns is not great for velomobiles. There are speed bumps everywhere, and the very steep ones can be tough for Millie’s foot bump. The sound of scraping is very familiar, plus you have to slow down to walking pace to reduce the crash. Constant stopping and starting is very tiring!
We rode through Bergharen and then Ito Puiflijk, where our route was faced with this:
The driver was playing on his phone and didn’t look up until I had done some sustained hooting. He climbed out, came to see me and said he had to stay there as we was waiting for the farmer to finish something in the field. He wouldn’t move.
There was a gravelly path to one side and a passer-by said we could take that, but we weren’t too enthused. However, with no alternative we gave it a go. However, at the end was a pair of gates (Drängelgitter) that were too narrow too get the velomobiles through, so we had to push them round the side – where there was a steep drop to some water. Klaus and I carefully guided Millie and Emily round, lifting up their noses to get them back onto higher ground when round the obstacle. I would not have managed this on my own, and I think we lost at least 15 minutes to this obstruction. But the truck driver didn’t seem to care!
We saw trucks parked blocking the road, but we saw lots of good things too! Lots of lambs in the fields, also kids (baby goats), and we saw several storks too. I saw one on a nest (Klaus saw two), one in the air and one standing in a field. They are huge and majestic birds! I also saw a very large heron who seemed to be only a few metres away, standing like a statue as I whizzed past along the dike.
When the road surface was good we made the most of it, cruising at around 32 km/h. Our speeds in towns were much less, and our overall average for the day was slowly reducing. When we crossed into NL at Siebengewald our average speed had been 27 km/h but by the end of our ride it was 24.4, and this was mostly because of the slow riding in towns. But not just that…
We had some more routing issues. Some were our faults, when we had misread the track. Such as here, where I went wrong not once but twice:
Part of the problem was that our track was 200km long in a more-or-less straight line and the Garmin takes a long time to rotate the map when it is so long. So you go round a corner and the map is not rotated to the ‘track up’ position for several seconds. So you don’t realise you needed to make a second turn, perhaps. I had found this out years ago but had forgotten about it, or perhaps thought the newer Garmin Edge could cope. But in the future I will cut tracks of this length into two.
Another issue that we had with the track was its expectation we might like to carry two heavily-laden velomobiles up a long flight of concrete steps.
Funnily enough, we decided we didn’t really fancy doing this, so had a 2-3km diversion back the way we had come to find our way to the bridge.
However, experienced velonauts such as Klaus and I are used to these issues and we were able to plot an alternative route on the fly.
As we were cycling along beside a canal, Klaus noticed a yellow DF Velomobile cycling on the other side.
The clouds were getting a little heavier but overall it was still dry. We wanted to find somewhere to stop for lunch but our track didn’t go past any food establishments at all!
We were going at a reasonable speed but weren’t passing any towns. We did pass a golf course which I guess might have had a café but I didn’t fancy that.
In the end we struck lucky at a diner beside a ferry river crossing.
Klaus and I were able to charge up our Garmins. The Edge 1000 has an internal battery and although I had bluetooth switched off, because of the route following and the length of the route it was rather draining power. We were able to charge both Garmins whilst eating our “12 o’clock”.
I considered also charging the battery in Millie but I decided I wanted to see if it would really last the 200km so left it in place.
There were some clouds amassing whilst we were eating.
And indeed, as we joined the queue for the ferry crossing, it started to rain. Not such an issue for Klaus’s head with the covering on the Quattrovelo, but he got a slightly cold and damp chest where the water dripped off the visor. He didn’t put the Schaumdeckel on in support of me with no rain hood!
We crossed on the ferry and set off in the rain. The rain wasn’t too heavy fortunately but was still rather irritating and Klaus found he was getting a bit chilly.
Our route went over a lock near Wijk bij Duurstede and then, lo and behold, there was another error with the route as we should then cycle underneath a main road… which had no tunnel underneath it. We were able to find an alternative route on the main road which got us back to our official route, although we had to double back on ourselves a bit. And, when we finally got on the correct route, we found that our suggested path was actually a track with grass up the middle. No way were we taking that! So we retraced our steps again, rejoined the main road we had just left, and pootled on.
Fortunately the rain eased off after half an hour and we didn’t have any further rain that day (or, indeed, the rest of the tour).
After this detour we then found ourselves on a very bad quality road surface. It was inlaid bricks as the road surface but it had really degraded. This was several kilometres along a canal and it was tough work – the vibration buzz from the bricks is uncomfortable, plus there were a lot of dips in the road. Riding behind the Quattrovelo it was interesting to see the air damper suspension working as Klaus seemed to pogo a bit after each bump (although it was no issue for him within the bike). Millie coped fairly well, but with 28mm front tyres at 100psi (8 bar) it wasn’t the smoothest ride I have experienced. The rough surface of course slowed us down as you cannot ride at high speeds with all the bumps and weird dips and slopes.
Clearly our distance to ride today was being extended because of all the detours, route issues and our occasional mistakes on reading the routing too slowly. Time was also marching on a bit too much for my liking as it seemed we would get to our hotel quite late. We had arranged to eat in the hotel at 7pm but that was looking a bit too much of a challenge.
We rode through Nieuwegein, Montfoort, Linschoten and Woerden. The route was a bit faster now, we were cycling along some high quality lanes and past some rather nice houses.
We got separated crossing a level crossing (I was ahead and then the gates went down) so I waited the other side for Klaus, only to receive a text message “puncture”. So I headed back.
This was a quality puncture as the cause was… a lady’s earring!
Disappointingly it was costume jewellery rather than some super-expensive diamond gold item.
Tube replaced and tyre reinflated, we were back on the road again after ten minutes.
We zoomed through Nieuwerbrug aan den Rijn (which had a lovely bridge, but I didn’t get a chance to stop and photograph it) and then Bodegraven. Then we went through Alphen aan den Rijn,, and around this time we saw another velomobile, a yellow and white Quattrovelo, although the rider didn’t stop. It was a fiddly road around Alphen and we were slowed down a lot by drempels again.
Leiden was getting closer, fortunately. We were clearly going to be much later than expected, and when we got into Leiden itself this was even worse as we were routed through back streets which had huge, steep drempels which scraped Millie’s underside each time. I was feeling pretty tired by this point – not so much physically but mentally. When riding a velomobile on the cycle path you have to be constantly vigilant, checking no cars are coming out of side roads, dog walkers or runners stepping out in front of you. You have to avoid potholes, sticks and stones. Because of the higher speed of a Velomobile, and the difficulties in turning it sharply, you have to take a different line in many corners, which means thinking further ahead with regard to road positioning. You are of course constantly watching out for the car driver who is playing on his phone rather than looking where he is going. And at the same time you have to follow the track on your Garmin through a strange city. I was mentally bushed, and asked Klaus to take over the lead through Leiden. Both our Garmins were running low on charge too, so each detour (which caused it to recalculate the route) was draining the battery further. I wanted to get to our hotel, have a shower and relax!
The final 4km through Leiden seemed to take ages because of all the stops and starts, we had to take some alternative routes, and had also to contend with a kid in a hoodie who seemed entirely oblivious of me cycling past him when he set off. I had to shout at him to “LOOK!” And he kept up with us for the next two kilometres, still not able to see around him because of the hoodie. I was very concerned he would crash into us.
The last 1.5km were fortunately on a decent cycle path beside a fast road, and at last the stop/start riding was over. And then we rolled into the grounds of the castle Oude Poelgeest, and eventually found our way to reception. It was already past 7pm so we were late for our meal, but the receptionist said we could eat at eight.
Millie’s battery had indeed lasted the 109km that I rode today:
Please note that the wheel size setting doesn’t have many options and so as I have low profile tyres it slightly under-reads the distance. I had indeed done 208km, not 199.6. Also, although it says 26 per cent battery remaining, that is because the bike was stationary when I took the photo. When using it, it read about 18-19 per cent. I would not have wanted to have too much further to ride! But still, it did an excellent job.
After a shower and freshen up we went for a very nice three course dinner in the restaurant. We weren’t given a menu, just told the waitress any foods we didn’t like and the Chef chose for us. He chose well!
I was pretty tired after the riding as it was a long day – 208.64km (with about another 500 metres which didn’t record when my Garmin crashed right at the beginning). Moving time was 8 hours 38 minutes, average speed 24.2 km/h and calorie burn was 2,466! So I deserved the nice evening meal.
I also said to Klaus that I felt 200km in one day on a tour was too much because of the amount of time it takes. We left home before 8 in the morning but didn’t reach our hotel till after 7pm, which meant we had no relaxation time there, and had to eat the meal and then go straight to bed. I am more of a fan of relaxed touring, with maximum 130km in a day. I am not sure if Klaus agreed to this – time will tell!
Our room was actually quite small, but the hotel allowed Millie to be kept in the lobby overnight so she was out of the rain (if there were to be any). I had to switch the tracker vibration alarm off, though, as each time someone went out the door banged and it set off the alarm. But all was well with Millie and she seems to have enjoyed her overnight in a Castle – as did we!