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23 Jun 2010

From dusk 'till dawn and more

The first time I tried to ride 300+km in one ride, something went wrong. Wrong food, horrible weather and a lack of fresh air made me feel sick and miserable during the last 75km. I made it, simply because that's the only way to get home but the final 75km took over 7 hours, including 2 hours sleep in Yavixa. Not really a success, to put it mildly, and that's why I wanted to do a 2nd attempt. This time I wouldn't have a goal to ride to like to social ride  attended back in September. The weather should be good, the route easy and I should get enough fresh air. Riding on 2 wheels or without foam cover should be ideal. Just me and Yavixa, on our own. No hurries, just enjoying the ride.

Monday morning the idea came up to go for it. I felt alright and following RAAM and seeing Barbara Buatois win probably was a good inspiration too. The nights are at their shortest this time of year, but you do need lights.  Fuego's headlight had some problems, so I'd be riding in the Mango. With a temperature below 10 degrees C, that wasn't such a bad situation anyway. I oiled her chains, I set the tyres to the right pressure. 6 bar in the Racers up front, just over 4 in the PM at the back. The original route I'd came up with was a little short, so I added a few loops to cross the 300km mark.

I started my ride at a quarter past 6, Tuesday evening. The first 123km to Almere was a route I'd done many times before. Fuel was a mixture of bananas, cookies, sirup waffles, sport drinks, some coffee, and a Snickers. Its was just past 11 when I approached the most Southern part of my ride. That's where Yavixa's odometer exceeded 25,000 kilometre.  From there one I went East to the, in the Dutch recumbent community well known, 'Vogelweg' (Bird road). A few longs stretches of proper cycle paths in a totally deserted landscape. No along running does to see like I saw between Lelystad and Almere. Only windmills and continuously working irrigation systems. The sky was clear and I felt like owning the road. Legs felt smooth. Velomobile was in her element.

Harderwijk was the point where I entered the more populated parts of this country again. Although everything is densly populated compared to the 'polder'. Hard work was being done on the complete infrastructure. Most of all very nice wide and smooth cycle paths. But since they weren't done yet, some signs where missing. My Garmin Dakota 20 guided me towards the next part of the route, the N302 road. I saw a fox on this on this stretch of road, and I'd never seen one of those before.

Near Apeldoorn I climbed a hill, quite a big one for Dutch standards, 98 metres above sea level. Than I raced downhill into Hoog Soeren and took a left turn to get back to Apeldoorn. It was on that fun, elevated and twisty stretch of cyclepath that I saw 2 wild boars. They saw something approaching at 40kph with a lot of light on it and ran into the forrest. Most of the time my speed was around 27kph. I averaged 25.1

Apeldoorn was followed by Zwolle. I successfully found my way around some roadwork. Two is the number of cars I saw on this 25km long road. By 4 in the morning, it wasn't that dark anymore. Zwolle was quickly crossed and I headed for Meppel. After more than 10 hours of riding, I was getting a little bored. That feeling went away quite fast. Low hanging fog drifting over from water to land gave a mysterious sight.

With just over an hour left to go I eventually did put the foam cover on. The legs where getting cold, and the power output started to suffer from that. I had my nose sticking out above the foam like a dog nose sticking out of a car window. Raising the temperature made the legs happy again. More revs, more power, more speed. Close to 30kph again with over 270km done felt very satisfying.

Sleepy and satisfied I was back home at 7:23am. I had reached my goal, there was 306 kilometre on the Cat-eye. A shower, a baguette, a pancake, some yoghurt. It was a welcome variation on 13 hours of cycling food. I slept 2 or so to day. Typing costs more energy than usual. There's a concert down town I want to attempt around 10 this evening. So the next night will be one with long, and deep sleep. Thursday brings some post to deliver and a visit to my local velomobile dealer, Ligfietsgarage Groningen. That's another 60km round trip :-)

20 Jun 2010

The Cruiser is ready

It took a while, but the result is worth it. Today I made the first serious ride on my "99 Cruiser, and she rides very good. Between this first ride and buying the bike lays a lot of work. It all started 3 weeks ago. This post reports on that.

A day after I got the yellow 'bent it was completely dis-assembled. Everything that was worn down was thrown away. That included the chain, sprockets, pedals and rear shock. Than I started cleaning all re-usable parts. The front fork was taken apart and given a clean and lube job. The frame had some rust and scratches and needed quite some work. The grinding, sanding and paint preparation took a couple of days. In between that work I also did some extra work on the seat. The seat was put on drilling machine diet, reducing the weight with 400 grams or so.

Last October I did a full re-built on the Pioneer, and I used a brush the paint that bike. The Cruiser was done in a very different way, with spray gun connected to my compressor. That gives a way better result and goes about six times as fast.

The actual re-building itself took about a day. That might look long, but you're also busy adjusting and polishing old parts. Working with old and used parts takes a lot of time. The first test ride did made clear that I needed a new rear dérailleur. The old Alivio's shift spring wasn't strong enough anymore to reach the higher gears. I thought I had a replacement, but I quickly found out that a road bike Tiagra can't handle a 11-30 cassette, you something mtb-ish for that. The top of the cage simply gets stuck behind the larger sprockets when you use a road bike shifting device.

So I got myself a replacement the next day at the little int. hq. A cheap (free actually) and second hand Alivio again. Doesn't last long in the more serious conditions, but that doesn't matter for this bike. The dérailleur originally was black, and I wanted something with a shiny metal look. A little sanding wheel and a mini grinder took care of that. I built it up as a quick, basic 8-speed fast simple tourer. I mounted the seat a bit more reclined and left out several accessories like fenders and rear rack. Originally, Cruisers didn't have a chain idler. Since 2010 they do have one and mine also got a little wheel to improve pedalling efficiency. And that really makes a difference. Pedalling feels direct and I couldn't trace any effect in the suspension under serious hammering. The exact position of such an idler is critical. A wrong placed idler has no effect, or increases the hopping.

Like most of my other bikes, also this one got a name. During my work as a mailmen, a name came up in my mind, spontaneously. A few minutes later I did realize that it looks like a mixture of the names of two persons, pure coincidence. One being the name of the hottest girl at school in the years 1999-2001. The other one the name of a fellow recumbent rider, a good guy. The name that popped up into my,  sometimes confused, brain is Yoska.

Photos of Yoska's re-built can be found here. Todays ride showed a head wind cruising speed of close to 30 and a close to 40 when I had a tailwind. Top speed was just over 50kph, not bad for a first attempt. So for a basic humble 8-speed tourer, it's pretty fast. She handles fine and is comfortable too. Narrowed handlebars and fast tyres clearly contribute to this character. A good engine probably also contributes ;-) Mission accomplished.

13 Jun 2010

CV2010, the 6 hour race

Two velodrome races, a good meal, and 2 aspirins made for over 9 hours of deep sleep. The 2 little pills where needed to kill a small headache. So I woke up all fresh and happy, ready for the big race. I ate 5 slices of bread and drunk a big cup of fruity yoghurt. Yivalté only needed a the external fuel tank strapped on to the back of the seat. Only thing left to do, when it comes to preparing, was to pack all my stuff back into the Cyclone trailer.

Just after ten, the grid is loaded with all kind of machines. From 'naked' to fully faired, just over 50 people will give it a go at riding as far as possible in 6 hours. My goal was 200km, my dream was to average 35km/h. Should be possible, with a good drafts throughout the race.

Right after start I form a duo with Corinne. A 'low' heart rate suggests that I'm taking it easy, but I'm already doing 35-36. Corinne finds a good spot right behind me and I'm fine with that. Our group grows as we team up with 2 Thijs rowing bikes. My average starts to rise, the group grows. The long back straight is so relaxing in the group, that I feel like taking a little nap. The viaduct right after start/finish keeps me sharp.

Than, after about fifty minutes I'm lapped by a small fast group of three. That group now is a quartet. Riding with 38 on the speedo is that difficult. This group still was small, so a the loss of only one could make it quite fragile. Luckily, the M5 boys ride by. The group grows to six and speeds up. I find time to eat a banana. During this race I consumed 2 bananas, 3 powergels, 2 biscuits, and just over 2 litres of fluid with added powders.

The average rises even further. It was 40.5 tops. Each lap, for a continuing three hours, we'd reach more than 50km/h racing down the little viaduct. I'd be doing 30 on top of it, most of the time, than do 5-6 up-shifts within a few seconds, and plummet down, trying to keep up with the big guys. At one moment, I lost my concentration, and tipped the fender of the guy in front of me. We lose some time on the others, but I manage to quickly close to gap to the others. Quite an exciting experience to tip a fender whilst being in top gear.

My heart rate never really got very high. Every time to guys speed up, I could keep up. An amazing feeling. Feeling that the power is there when you need it. Good fuel helps! I'd see 160 on my heart monitor for the first part of the lap. That number most of the time went down to 150 on the back straight.

An important moment was my 'riding re-fuel'. I threw my empty water bottle into the small crowd whilst yelling: 'Jos! Fill it!' And on lap later, on top of the viaduct, the slowest part of the track, Jos handed it back to me, filled with fresh water. Great thing was that I quickly made it back to my group, because this had only cost me two seconds or so.

But, after 4 hours, I made a precautionary stop. A stop just before the engine would give problems. A moment to cool down, refill the bottle, stretch the legs. I got back on the Fuego within two minutes. I had a slow pace, 30 or so. I saw my fast group appearing in my mirror, and was back in the game. Yes, I lost a lap on them, but my average still was amazingly high. This than went on for another 35 minutes. Speeds were high, but not as high as they used to be. Still, I did overtake my fellow Huneliggers one more time.

Between 4.5 and 5 hours, I took a big break. Slowing down to give the legs the rest they needed. I adjusted the seat angle and ate the biscuits to relax my stomach. The last hour was spent with the group I had started the race with. With one important addition, one of the M5 guys. He had totally had it. This 'slow' group was the fastest he could ride with. With about 15 minutes left to go, everybody is tired. We even had some rain, and that had made everything dirty. I was riding on auto-pilot. The legs were doing the work, the body just followed.

With on lap to go, one rider left the group, and I wasn't going to let that happen, so I did one final fast lap. I finished with a dream average of 38.7km/h. My distance covered was 232.5 kilometre. There was a garden hose that I used to spray myself clean with. I put on some fresh clothes, had some coffee.

A friendly fellow racer who lives close by me, offered me a ride home with him and his family. A true blessing that saved me dragging my tired body to the train station. The Magnum ice cream was delicious.

A graphic representing my race.
Some photos I shot during the weekend.
Race results.

10 Jun 2010

Cycle Vision 2010, Saturday, day 1

I was woken up by the sun after a very good night. A light breakfast is all I need now. There's no need to hurry, my first start this day isn't until 10:21am. Nazca has just arrived when I come by to pick up the Gaucho. Pedals are swapped, water bladder is mounted and just before the start, I lengthen the boom 5 millimetre or so.

It still is quite early for this engine, so my heart rate doesn't go that high and so does my power output. Nevertheless, I do a steady, reasonably fast 1 hour individual. I manage to do 39.1km, which is .1 km higher that I'd thought I would do. It does become clear to me that at this higher speeds, the aerodynamics start have effect, meaning that my Fuego is faster at speeds like this. Still, up to 35km/h, the Gaucho 28" is a quick bike. And the way it handles rough roads is impressive. So for daily use, it's faster. For higher speeds, the seat angle should be more reclined. But naturally, that has known side effects.

I use to 2 hours between the 1 hour and the velodrome race to eat a little and to relax. Yivalté get's her pedals back, and I also mount my start number, transponder and water bladder. The semi final I'm about to race already looked challenging on paper. The first 8 out of 14 riders will make it through to the finale. The video will explain most of the story. What you don't hear is the support I got from the infield. And that really helps when you start to see little flashing brightly coloured dots after 25 minutes of going round and round. I finish 9th in  very strong field.

There was an up-side to the rather disappointing result, I had quiet a change at winning the loser, or turtle, final. And that's exactly what I did. I lead the entire race, without any serious thread from the competition. It was nice to 'own' the track like that. I could ride around in a fairly relaxed manner. Although I did speed up in the end, just to make sure that number 2 wouldn't un-lap himself. I won a t-shirt and got to stand on the podium :-)

The big finale, the one I'd liked to do, is an impressive sight. I mounted my camera to Robert's bike. He the man you see looking over his shoulder during the semi-final, to see if I could keep up. But, as you saw, I ran out of gears and steam. He rides a strong race, with a fabulous final lap.


I spend the rest of the day relaxing, eating, and chatting. The 2 velodrome races really took the best of me today. It was before half past 10 that I switched of the lights.

9 Jun 2010

Cycle Vision, Friday, day 0

Friday morning, just after 7. I'm pulling a fully loaded trailer behind my Fuego. She's in race set-up. As low as I could get her, with a little 'hack'. Seat angle just over 20 degrees, no rack, a neck rest and the chain cleaned and oiled. With all that racing coming up, my legs have a day off. So my average is below 24km/h

Work goes well. Mr. Nazca is adding the final details to the bike I'll be doing the 1 hour on, a 28" Gaucho. I do the usual thing, quality controls on bikes. This is a short day, Pjotr leaves the int. hq. at 2:20pm. That turned out to be just in time, because the train was spot on time, and I just made it. That's very much not like me.

I get out of the train station of Schiphol airport, close to Amsterdam. Finding your way out of Schiphol as a cyclist took a lot of my own creativity. In some sort of way, I found a road, quickly followed by a cycle path. The route included half a car park. Most of the airport is surrounded by buss lanes.

My GPS knows the way to the event, so that goes pretty smooth. The atmosphere at the campsite typically 'recumbent event'. I see a lot of people I know. My first Cycle Vision wish comes out as I find a spot in the shade to pitch my tent. The rest of the evening is spent socializing and chatting. And eating of course! Thanks to my mp6 player I could watch the 8 o'clock news, just like I was at home. Just before dark, the sleeping bag is zipped. Time for a good night of sleep. Saturday won't exactly be a relaxing first half of the weekend.

2 Jun 2010

Nazca #32 from 1999

It was on last Sunday evening that I was doing one of my regular quick surfs over the big web. Those rounds also include a check of if there are any interesting recumbents for sale on Markplaats. Think of that as a Dutch craigslist. This time, my scanning eyes stopped on a 1999 Nazca Cruiser. Price was alright, low, and it needed some tlc. Picking it up wouldn't be to much of a hassle. Why not on a late afternoon, this week? I'd do a full re-build on it and sell it to a friend. So I send out an e-mail to the seller and waited.

An answer was send that same evening, and read by me the next morning. Monday after 5pm would be fine. I left Assen on the 2:02pm train and arrived in Purmerend at 4:46pm. It was a short walk, 2.3km, to the sellers address. The exact place was easy to find. My GPS had found a nice route and the bike was parked in front of the house. It looked pretty good at first sight. Much better than my big ol' Pioneer did was I first saw him. The owner came outside and turned out to be a typical 'bentrider'. Good company and working at a school. He was the first owner and had used the bike for more than ten years, five to six thousand kilometres each year. Now he felt like buying something different. He'll won't stop riding recumbents, he still had an Optima Baron.

We sat down at the table and talked a bit about this and that. He offered me some soup. And you guessed it right, I can't refuse good food. It was a delicious leek soup. After that I did a little test ride, although I'd already decided to buy it. The Cruiser handled fine, and everything sort of worked. The chain was more than worn out and the rear suspension didn't do anything, but those are just small things to solve. Before seeing this bike my idea already was to get rid of the rust and give it a fresh layer of yellow.  I could sense that the owner did had a bond with this bike, which wasn't strange. This was his first 'bent and together they'd done between 50 and 60k kilometre. Just before riding back to the train station I gave him the money. We road there with the four of use. A Cruiser, a Baron and two riders. That was when I came up with the idea to keep this bike stock and to keep it, this bike with frame number 990032. No fancy parts, just replacing what is necessary. That does mean that I have to find a pair of 1999 or so spd pedals...

I watched some TV on my new gadget while waiting for the train. I recently bought a portable mp6 player with build in dvb-t receiver . Dvd meaning Digital Video Broadcasting. As cheap as possible, acap, straight from China. Saves me 45% or so on the local retail price!

Back home at 10pm. The question came to me. What to do with this bike? I felt like keeping it, but my total number of bikes shouldn't go up anymore, six is enough. So, I'll sell the nowadays hardly used Dahon. This will be my classic back to basic nimble tourer. Smooth fast tyres and efficient dérailleur drive train. She still has no name, but I have an idea to base a name upon.

The bike was completely dis-assembled yesterday. All the components are clean and in working condition again. Drive train, rear fender, rear shock and pedals are in the bin. The frame will be taken care of next week. Removing the rust and preparing it for a new coat will take a day or two, followed by two days of painting, and a day of rebuilding after that.

More photo's, here.