Dinner with Velomobiles

Eight days ago I found myself having breakfast with a bunch of velomobiles and a recumbent bicycle on their way to LEL2013 (cycling from London to Edinburgh and back to London again in four and a half days).

I saw two of the riders at the Great Easton control on the way back from Edinburgh, Rolf and Morten, but Gabriele went through in the middle of the night and Bas had an injury which prevented him from completing the ride.

I’d been in contact by SMS with Morten who was going to stay overnight somewhere near Harwich tonight, so I sorted him out a room in The Crown pub/B&B in Manningtree. And last night I had a text from Gabriele saying they were riding back from London today and would love to meet up with me if that were possible on their way through.

I was going to be in Colchester early this afternoon to visit once again Chavasse VC House, the Colchester Personnel Recovery Centre for wounded servicepeople for which I raised money on my Berlin to London ride last year. However it was likely that the cyclists would be coming through Colchester after that so I suggested Gabriele texted me when they were about an hour from Colchester.

So I rode to Colchester and met my parents for lunch at a pub where I very much enjoyed a choc nut Sundae.

Ice Cream Sundae

We then went on to Chavasse VC House and had a really good look around (the first time my parents had seen inside). In the support staff office they have copies of all the fundraising cheques on the walls – and I found my one (the second one down in this picture) I’ve since raised over £1000 more.

Help For Heroes Cheque

We had a good look round, enjoyed a cup of tea and then I had a phone call from Gabriele to say they were about half an hour away from Colchester. So after a bit more chatting I decided to head off to see if I could intercept them as their route passed only about two miles from where I was.

I said my goodbyes to my folks and headed off to Shrub End Road, the road that goes out of Colchester towards Chelmsford (eventually).

I pulled in to a pub to wait for them, not knowing how long they would be. Bas had injured his achilles tendon which is why he had been unable to complete LEL so they might well be going very slowly on account of this.

After just five minutes I saw them all trundling towards me! I pulled out and joined the stream of traffic of weird vehicles.

I took them a short-cut through Colchester which included going down the High Street – an amusing sight for all the Saturday shoppers. We had a few climbs out on the Harwich Road but Bas seemed to be riding without too much difficulty and we were going at a very reasonable pace.

This was my view for some of the ride – there’s a metal ring on the back of Gabriele’s velomobile. I was rather tempted to put some rope through it and get her to pull me along!

Chasing Gabriele

We rode for about eight miles together before reaching the outskirts of Manningtree and the fantastic Cox’s Hill. This is a great downhill and I told Gabriele to enjoy it, except that there’s a roundabout at the bottom so you’ve got to be able to stop. I did my best to follow her down but couldn’t keep up. I did 40mph, she said she got up to 72kph. Great fun!

We rolled into The Crown at Manningtree (where we had our breakfast last week) and parked our five weird bikes, managing to fit them all in one car parking space!

Five weird bikes

We settled down with some drinks and Gabriele and Morten showed us their LEL Medals.

They come in a very nice bag.

LEL Medal Bag

Gabriele reported some problems when night riding with cyclists behind her shining their lights in her rear-view-mirrors, they could be quite dazzling. Morten pointed out that one of these bags, upside down over the mirror, would fix the problem. However, Gabriele has two mirrors, so she’d have to do another LEL; she didn’t seem too keen on that idea at this point!

Inside the bag, the medal!

LEL Medal Side 1

And the other side has the vague shape of the UK with the sames of the controls (although I notice the St Ives is placed where the Cornwall one would be and the St Ives on LEL was in Cambridge!) Also Great Easton has inexplicably moved south of London. But all in all it’s a really nice memento!

LEL Medal Side 2

Bas decided that despite his gammy ankle he’d have a go on my trike and whizzed down the road in it.

Bas On Alfie 1

Note the Dutch registered car behind him. We were sitting chatting on the tables outside the pub and there was a Dutch couple on the next table. They joined in with our conversation on the merits of Poffertjes and how to cook them yourself, and more. Everyone was very friendly!

Can you spot the difference between Gabriele’s Quest (centre) and Bas’s (right)?

Three velomobiles

Bas offered for me to have a go in his Velomobile as I have to say I’ve been rather taken by these contraptions over the last week. However, when he showed how you get in and out it was clear that I probably wouldn’t be able to get out on my own due to my arm disability (I could only pull myself up with one arm and Bas said he definitely needed both to get out). Oh well, I suppose it’s saved me the expense of buying one of these (and the trickiness of explaining to my husband why I really do need yet another weird bike).

And let’s not forget Morten’s Saki. There was another one of these on LEL as well.

Morten's Saki

Here we all are with our dinners.

Dinner at the Crown

It was time for those getting tonight’s ferry (the three Velomobiles) to head off, so we said our goodbyes. They had an hour’s ride on reasonably gentle roads to get to Harwich so hopefully all went well.

Velomobiles leaving

And as an amazingly generous parting gift, Bas handed me two Schwalbe Kojak tyres, spares he had for his velomobile. He said that his achilles problem would probably stop him riding for two months so I might as well have them. I wasn’t previously aware that these things go ‘off’ that quickly (!!!!) but I’d been thinking of trying some out so this was a wonderful gift and I am very grateful!

But how to get them home? Bas showed me the correct way of stowing spare tyres on a trike (apart from my usual place which is round my middle!)

Alfie with Kojaks

They were held on with a bungy which worked really well and I rode home, leaving Morten with his extra Cheesy Chips at the Crown. He’s feeling hungry after all that cycling!

How to carry two spare tyres

It was a very enjoyable day, it’s great fun riding with other recumbents as your speed profile is similar. In other words, on uphills and downhills you tend to keep together whereas riding with upright bikes I get ahead on the downhills and left behind on the uphills.

Even better, I mentioned wanting to visit SPEZI (the German weird bike exhibition) in Germany in April as I will be living there by then but wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. It turns out Rolf was planning to drive down for the day and I think I should be able to cadge a lift with him (he lives very close to where I will be living in 2014). Bonus!

It was great to meet Rolf and Bas and Gabriele and Morten and I hope they’ve enjoyed their brief stay in England and bits of Scotland. They’ve cycled the length of it, after all!


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