The Easter long weekend of 2019 turned out to have a rather good weather forecast. Rather good for bike touring!!
Unfortunately, before the thought of touring had had much of a chance to get established, Emily (Klaus’s Quattrovelo) broke yet another weld in her rear suspension/axle/frame whilst we were out on a ride together. It made the back end very swimmy and we rode home very carefully.
We needed another trip to Dronten to get it welded. We hoped this could be done soon, and so contacted Velomobiel.nl who said they could do it on Easter Saturday.
This looked like curtains for our tour, except I managed to work out a cunning plan!
Plan was, that we would (once again!) steal friend Ralf’s Sprinter and drive Emily up to Dronten. I would then drive straight home again, leaving Klaus there, return the Sprinter to Ralf, drive home to Kempen and then jump in Millie and ride north. Klaus, after Emily was fixed, would ride south and we would meet somewhere in the middle to start our tour.
We decided to use Vrienden op de Fiets again, and after quite a lot of phoning around I found accommodation for the two nights (Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday) that we planned to be away.
So on Good Friday late afternoon we collected the Sprinter from Ralf and installed Emily, ready to leave early the next morning. We needed as much time as possible as we each had 90km to ride to our evening accommodation and I also had 450km to drive in total.
We arrived at Velomobiel.nl in Dronten just after they opened and disgorged Emily. Allert started straight away doing the repair – this was a known issue, the manufacturers in Romania had switched from the specified 4mm metal for the weld to 3mm. Allert was now replacing them with 5mm to be sure.
The rear axle assembly thingie was out very quickly.
It was at this point that I headed off home again, knowing I had nearly three hours of driving till I was home again and then had to head off in Millie to meet Klaus between Doesburg and Doetinchem. So I waved goodbye to the guys at Velomobiel.nl, and Klaus of course, and headed back to Germany.
I passed the amazing display of tulips along the road from Dronten to Zwolle. Klaus fortunately was able to photograph it later when he rode past.
Sprinter refuelled and returned to Ralf, five minutes fuss and attention to his two lovely doggies, and then it was time to head home. I didn’t bother to have any lunch but changed directly into my cycling gear and fished Millie out of the garage. I had already packed all my stuff yesterday to save time. And I was this time carrying all my own luggage – usually I have Klaus as my pack mule but I wanted to see if I could carry touring luggage for a long tour now my battery for the motor is taking up a lot of space, as I am vaguely formulating plans to do a solo tour in July (when Klaus is away).
Anyway, the good news is that all my luggage fit perfectly week. For a three day tour I needed pretty much the same amount of luggage as for a three week tour (three sets of cycle clothing, one set of normal clothes, a change of shoes, charging cables and gadgets). The only thing I didn’t take with me that I usually do is my iPad. I regretted that choice as it’s no fun reading the entire internet on a small phone screen.
This was my route for my solo tour to Wehl (between Doetinchem and Doesburg):
As you see, the route is mostly in Germany, it was just the final 30km which was in the Netherlands. I followed our normal route to Rees am Rhein and from this point onward used a track that Klaus has used on his trips back from Dronten which he said was a really nice route. He was right!
My original plan was to ride to Rees and there eat some cake or ice cream. However, having not had any breakfast or lunch, and being concerned about the detour into Rees and the slow roads around there, I decided instead to make a 5km detour on my way to visit our favourite café for cake, Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This was after just 31km of my 90km route, but I thought it was still worth it!
Büllhorsthof had my favourite Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen which I enjoyed very much.
Millie was parked alongside lots of other e-bikes (yes, she is now an e-bike of course), but also this rather fetching trike.
After enjoying my cake in the relaxing surroundings, it was time to head onward. Klaus was already on his way, and had in fact left Dronten before I had returned to Kempen, so I knew he was probably ahead of me on the tour. But this was fine, we could arrive any time in the afternoon. No pressure!
I headed onward, enjoying the ride and giving it some gas. With the motor I have the opportunity to choose how much assistance I want – lots, little, none. The motor also switches off after you reach a certain speed and I was riding faster than the switch-off speed for quite a lot of my ride today. I worked quite hard in the end, enjoying the effort and knowing that if my knees started to complain I could dial back my efforts and let the motor take the strain.
With about 10km to go I received a message from Klaus saying he had arrived and it was ‘beautiful’. We knew we were staying in some kind of Garden House (we always choose that with Vrienden op de Fiets as it means there is likely to be a large enough garden to store the velomobiles!), but as I rolled past (remembered the wrong house number and overshot!) it seemed not so much a shed as a… house. A four-bedroom house with kitchen, lounge, range-style six burner cooker, everything you need… and for 22,50€ each per night including breakfast. What a bargain!
Klaus had been there about half an hour and had a good chat with the hosts. I had my shower and freshened up. I had cycled 91.36km at an average speed of 28.9 km/h.
We were about 3.5km outside of Wehl so decided to take the bikes to look for food, rather than walking, and soon found ourselves at a pizzeria. We parked outside – along with all the other guests who seemed to have arrived by bike too.
We sat outside and enjoyed our pizzas before returning home for a nightcap of a cup of tea and an Easter present… some genuine Dairy Milk chocolate my Mum had brought with her from England and I saved for Easter. My first milk chocolate since the beginning of the year (because of Keto).
The next morning was Easter Morning and I took a short walk to enjoy the peacefulness of the country setting.
The bikes had spent the night out-of-doors but seemed to cope OK. We found a peacock looking at them later on.
We were treated to an excellent breakfast, and the lady said we could make sandwiches out of things that were left over (and gave us sandwich bags for them), so we were able to sort out our lunch too.
As you can see from the breakfast, this was not exactly Keto (very low carb)! We put the Keto way of eating aside when on bike tours as it’s just too hard to find the right food otherwise!
We had a leisurely breakfast and then got ready to go. We headed off at about 10 as we knew we only had 90km to do and the next hosts would not be available until 16:00.
My original plan was to skirt around Arnhem but as we had more time I suggested we went into Arnhem and visited the museum for the Bridge Too Far. I had visited it about 10 years ago and fancied another look (it is a very small museum). So we plotted a detour to take us through Arnhem.
We set off on very quiet roads, a wonderful route on quiet roads which mostly avoided cycle paths.
We arrived in Arnhem and stopped outside the museum, which looked a lot different than I remembered. It seems it must have been completely rebuilt. I had a quick look around, used their loo, but there wasn’t much to see really. Slightly disappointing.
As we had so much time on our hands we cycled a little way towards the centre and stopped for a cup of tea in a large open square. We relaxed there for nearly an hour, and then decided to head off again. We asked a guy on the next table how to get onto the bridge as a cyclist, and he suggested our route. We set off and were crossing the John Frost bridge and quickly out of Arnhem on some very good cycle paths.
Our route soon joined the dike where the path runs along the top, and this was a wonderful and fast bit of cycling. Slow sweeping curves, not too many cars, great views, various bridges.
The motorbikes were a bit kamikaze at times, as were the other cyclists who pootle along at normal bike speeds and don’t perhaps realise how speedy the velomobiles are, but it was a really enjoyable stretch of route with lots to look at.
We stopped at a bench and ate our sandwiches and had some water whilst soaking up the nice weather.
We carried on, and started thinking that an ice cream might be a nice idea. As our radar to find cakes or ice creams in NL isn’t very effective (unlike in Germany), we decided to stop at a McDonalds when we saw one for a McFlurry.
Suitably refuelled, we headed on again.
Our route (planned using the online software brouter and set for Velomobile) was generally pretty good, but it let us down slightly as we came to the bridge to cross the Waal at Beneden-Leeuwen…
We arrived up the slope where the car is in the photo and then the track sent us round this circle and up the narrow (and VERY steep path) on the bottom right hand side. Needless to say, this would not have been a wise idea in a velomobile. Some people were waiting on the top of the bridge (from where I took this photo later) and they did some hand signals to show us the correct route, which we duly followed and arrived on the bridge in a more elegant fashion.
We had a ferry crossing of the river Maas a little later on, where it is pretty narrow.
We were still a bit early as we would probably arrive before 4pm so decided to stop for a cup of tea in Lith, with just 10km to go to our destination. We stopped at a café looking over the river although it was a bit downmarket; when we headed off half an hour later we passed several nicer-looking cafes in the centre of the town. Oh well! We had our drinks and the chance for the loo.
The final sector from Lith to ‘t Wild (part of Maren-Kessel) was on inland roads which were rather a rough surface and with drempels (speed bumps) but few cars. We cruised along and soon arrived at the house. The owners came out to meet us and helped us to move the velomobiles to the garden. It turned out I hadn’t put their correct email address in the confirmation email I sent them so they didn’t get it and wondered if we would actually be coming; fortunately they decided we would!
Our accommodation this time was a granny annexe they had built for when they were perhaps a bit older. It was wheelchair-accessible, including a shower, and everything was really high quality. All the fixtures, fittings, tiling etc. When the next morning we went into their part of the house for breakfast we saw the same attention to quality there. It was all very nice.
We had a cup of tea and the hostess offered to book us a table at the restaurant 1.5km away along the dike. This was most handy, so we asked for a table at 6:30pm and that was fine. We showered and then walked along the dike to the restaurant where I had lamb and Klaus steak. Very nice!
The walk back was as the sun was low in the sky and it was all rather beautiful.
Our total distance for today was 85.56km which we rode at an average of 25.6km/h. Interestingly, my average heart rate was 99, so this suggests I was being very lazy today and letting the motor take most of the strain! Usually my heart rate average is 130-140. However, the massive influx of carbohydrate at breakfast, which I am not used to, might also have played a part!
Here is the map of where we went with the white markings above the blue showing how little effort I was actually expending. If you look at the map from the previous day, you can see my effort/heart rate showing in lots of colours!
After a good night’s sleep it was time for our return leg, but first I decided to go for a bit of a walk before breakfast.
A short lap around the block including along the dike, just 1.5km but still a nice bit of refreshment before sitting all day in a velomobile.
Breakfast was great!
Again, not very Keto, and Klaus and I were slightly feeling the digestive effects of all these carbohydrates, but it’s tricky to eat low-carb for breakfast anywhere really.
Our route home today was 115km. We had decided we would stop at Bauerncafé Winthuis just outside Weeze (back in Germany) and posted on the Velomobilforum to ask if anyone would like to join us. We thought we would be there around 2pm.
We thanked our hosts again and said goodbye, heading off into wind this time, and in fact we had a headwind pretty much the whole way.
Our route today was also not quite as nice – more bumpy roads and also a fair stretch on a cycle path beside a main road. Each time you have a roundabout or a junction there is a curve which can be tricky for a Milan, plus sometimes visibility is poor. Our average speed was fairly low for this section, and my heart rate too didn’t want to raise at all. We pootled along.
Our routing was mostly OK except for yet another random off-road section, such as we had yesterday. Again, to get onto a bridge. Obviously the local mountain-bikers do the shortcut up the bank of the bridge but this is not suitable for velomobiles.
We hadn’t particularly discussed our strategy for a break but apart from a pee break behind a tree for me, we didn’t see anywhere suitable to stop. And then we were getting close to roads we know well and so we just pressed on. In the end we rode 80km non-stop, then arriving at Bauercafe Winthuis where we rewarded ourselves with cake.
The strawberry cake is so wonderful, I think it classes as the nicest cake I have ever eaten!!
The opportunity was too good to miss, so Klaus and I had another round of cakes whilst we chilled out waiting to see if any of the Velomobilforum readers might turn up (they didn’t)
We stayed about an hour and a half, enjoying the relaxation and of course the cakes. And then it was time to head home, just 35km along some of our favourite fast roads.
What was also very noticeable was that after I had the cake, I was able to increase my power and my heart rate went right up. You can see from the graphic below where the cake stop was (at 80km).
We absolutely zoomed home, looking forward to a cup of tea and a bit of a chill out after our really enjoyable short trip away. In the end we did 116km with an average speed of 26.1; our average was hovering around 24,5 whilst in NL but we were able to speed up a lot once we got to Germany again.
This was a lovely little break and we were really thrilled by the quality of the Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation. It’s a very fair price and it is nice to meet the hosts; mostly these places aren’t in the centre of cities (which would not have space for our velomobiles anyway) but are in the countryside but we are fine with that, we like being in the peace and quiet.
Our next NL tour is in just a couple of weeks, as we are touring to Leiden and celebrating Klaus’s birthday on that trip.
And summary of the velomobiles performance? Once Emily was fixed, all was fine. No repairs needed, no punctures, easy touring with loads of luggage space in the Quattrovelo, good cooling whilst riding so we didn’t overheat in the 25 degree temperatures. I finished each day’s riding with about 80% battery left, 90% on the first day (when I pushed more myself). The battery should be fine for the 190km to Leiden in the next few weeks. And touring with Millie with her motor shows me that, once again, it was a great choice for me. I still have enough space for my luggage (although Klaus carried it for me on the second and third days, but that’s because he is gentlemanly), Millie’s handling hasn’t changed in any way the worst, and she is still a brilliant velomobile for me.