And so the second part of our Tour began!
We had two days at home after the first three touring days, during which we washed our cycling gear and I collected Millie from friend Ralf’s where she had been staying.
My initial feeling when riding Millie was “wow, she is so easy and fast!” and the fact she is also a lot quieter than Humphrey was also fairly noticeable.
This was a chance to see if my difficulties with Humphrey were because of my fitness rather than his form. It was also a chance for me to rest my tired good arm and to enjoy a bit more cockpit space!
We decided that on the first day we would ride to Maastricht and so began the search for hotels which had room for velomobiles. We did lots of searching and didn’t find any very good options, so decided instead to join Vrienden op de Fiets and see if there were options to stay in Maastricht.
For those who don’t know, Vrienden op de fiets is a Dutch organisation where people can offer to host cyclists and the cyclist pays 19,00 EUR per night including breakfast. It costs only 10 EUR to join and then you have access to the database of hosts.
There were several in Maastricht and Roermond (for the next day) but in the end only one in each place was available. You are of course staying in people’s private houses and if they have something else on then it’s a no-go. Anyway, we had a place booked with a lady in Maastricht and with a chap in Roermond and thought we’d give it a go.
Klaus had planned the route this time, and this was our first day’s route:
It was planned to go past Ralf’s house as he thought he might be able to join us for some of the ride but in the end he wasn’t able.
We set off at 10:30am having packed everything into our velomobiles (I had to remember how to best utilise Millie’s limited space) and we headed off on very familiar roads at first.
It was a grey day and the weather forecast was for clouds all day but at least the temperatures were warmer than at the start of the first part of this tour – when it was snowing and minus four degrees! We were also happy to know that the forecast was improving for the next two days.
Unfortunately Klaus had an altercation with a dodgy driver after just 3km. Approaching a red traffic light the chap did an incredibly close pass on Klaus and then stopped at the light and jumped out and started remonstrating with Klaus. Klaus was about to get out of his velomobile (at which point he would have been seen to be considerably larger than this chap!) and the chap got back in his car and drove off when the lights went green. This wasn’t a very pleasant start to the tour, and especially not in Kempen which is Really Above That Kind Of Thing. The altercation happened 50 metres from the ‘Fahrradfreundliche Stadt’ sign (Bicycle-friendly city).
However, I guess all cyclists have these experiences from time to time, and we just have to suck it up and get on with our ride. Which we did.
At the roundabout onto the road to Grefrath we transition from the road to the cycle path and it’s a bit of a bumpy corner. Klaus was ahead and I noticed something black bouncing around in his wake. I cycled past it and it was a large black plastic circle. I couldn’t think where it came from on Celeste… and then after about 100 metres I suddenly realised it was a rolled-up inner tube. So I stopped and went back and indeed it was one of Klaus’s spare tubes that had bounced out of the luggage storage space at the front of Celeste. It was a Schwalbe one so that was a good 5 Euros saved!
Along the road to Grefrath we suddenly found ourselves riding over a couple of broken bottles. We stopped and immediately cleaned the tyres as best we could – I didn’t fancy getting a puncture, especially as I hadn’t had one since 1 January 2017!
As we headed into Lobberich I realised I was pretty desperate for the loo. I knew there were loos at Café Floral so we agreed to stop there. You can pay to use a loo if you aren’t a customer in Germany but in the end we decided to stop and to share a slice of cake, we chose this very nice cherry meringue cream confection.
We also had a cuppa each and enjoyed warming up a bit. But we realised that stopping after 17km on a 105km day was perhaps not the best distribution of breaks so it was time to ride on.
We rode past Breyell and then as we were heading to Boisheim I noticed Millie felt a bit rough. Soon enough that regular bump-bump-bump feeling intruded – clearly a puncture. Not only was it the first in fifteen months but I had had the same tyres on the whole time (which were pretty worn out). I used to use Duranos on Millie and had a puncture a week; since fitting Durano Pluses I had been puncture-free. They are heavier tyres so you pay a little with speed/efficiency but it is worth it as tyre changing is a pain in the neck.
It was cold where we stopped to change the tube and tyre and the cold wind whistling past us wasn’t nice. We put the new Durano Plus on and saw a very impressive flint that had got the whole way through the Durano Plus; the tyre was absolutely peppered with other pieces of stone and glass but they had all been stopped by the puncture-resistant band. I am very impressed with how these tyres have performed, and they had done 9000km too.
Our tyre changing provided a small amount of entertainment for the locals, as did pumping up a tyre to 8 bar (110 PSI) with a small hand pump, but we managed it between us and set off again.
We were approaching slightly less flat territory and I found myself on the road doing 61km/h at one point. I ended up with a Strava Queen of the Mountains for this so that was a bonus!
Klaus had routed us to the Meinweg National Park as we have ridden this great, smooth cycle road in the other direction but never going towards NL. Just before we crossed into the national park, whilst till in Germany, we had to have a pee stop behind some trees. This is very illegal in the Netherlands although apparently it is OK in Germany, so we made the most of the opportunity. I had also realised that if we were to make the time our host requested (between 17:00 and 17:30) we probably wouldn’t be able to have another stop – and had 70km to ride! This was a bit of pressure!
So we set off, riding separately at our own pace. Klaus had great fun with Celeste, managing to hit 71 km/h. I was a bit slower but enjoyed the downhills. We were now in the Netherlands.
We now followed Klaus’s track through some very nice countryside indeed, with lots of quiet lanes. Most of the photos below are taken by Klaus (as you can probably tell by the colour of the velomobile nose in shot!)
Following the pre-prepared Garmin track is very easy and means that we could relax and just enjoy the pedalling. There were a few trickier bits, such as finding the way onto the cycle track to cross this bridge. We were crossing a canal that runs a little way away from the Maas.
Most of our route was very good cycle paths, with some quiet B roads as well. We were making good progress, Millie was much easier for me to ride and the warmer weather also helped. Because we were following the canal and also later the Maas river we crossed from one side of the dyke to the other quite regularly and this included some short, steep climbs to get onto the dyke. At this point I discovered that Millie’s Schlumpf really doesn’t sound very healthy when in its low gear. Having now ridden Humphrey, who also has a Schlumpf, I know how it should feel and sound – and Millie’s is not well. I am making plans to either replace it or to put a normal double chainset on there, and also to reduce the size of the large chainring to assist me with hill starts etc. When riding along one has plenty of time to plan these things…
We crossed the Maas river with a ferry at Berg and then found ourselves in Belgium, so this was a 3 countries tour again.
As you can see, the road surface was pretty rough in Belgium, but it was a nice ride along the top of the dyke for quite a few kilometres before we turned and rode alongside the canal towards Maastricht.
We had ridden from Maastricht to Lanaken on our previous tour in this region and this time we approached Maastricht in the reverse direction, arriving where there were a lot of roadworks but we were waved through. The cycle path was still mostly in place!
Klaus photographed this former church which is now a gym. He had previously told me about a church in Maastricht which was now a bookshop, so they are obviously repurposing some redundant buildings!
We rode straight to our Vrienden House and arrived at the right time, having ridden the 70km non-stop. We met our hostess, Anke, who was very friendly and spoke very good German. Although I had sent her links to internet pages about velomobiles when checking she had room in her garage, she was a bit surprised how large they were. However, we did manage to fit them in her garage (she had recently had to empty her deceased mother’s house of belongings so they were stored in the garage too).
We had a good chat to Anke and our room was very nice. She had to go out in the evening but we said we wouldn’t do much, just go out for food, so we walked just down the road to a pizzeria we had noticed. It was very high quality food and I noticed they also had a Pizza Celeste!
We very much enjoyed our pizzas (we are off the low-carb diet when touring) and it was then time for bed. I am always pooped after a long cycle ride, particularly without many stops! In the end I went to bed at 20:15 so this is really showing my age! But we were very encouraged by our first experience of Vrienden op de fiets and already started discussing whether we could use this for our summer tour around the Netherlands in June.
Today’s ride was 106km and here are my statistics, the average heart rate is lower than on the first day of the tour with Humphrey but still pretty high.
We had purposely planned a shorter day the next day, just 55km to Roermond, but it was great to be touring again, even just for three days, and great to be in Millie again with the more comfortable cockpit for me.