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31 May 2011

Race: Trias

Normally, I use my ankle joints in an active way when I cycle. My calves are busy all the time and act as a 'boost' when I accelerate. Problem is that my right ankle still remembers me of my ride to Spezi. I can pedal, but without my usual 'mild ankling'. Can you race with that? Yes, sort of. I tried it yesterday on my favourite track, Trias The Hague, where I arrived after a 4 hour journey by train and Fuego. A cup of coffee was just what I needed.

With seven participants we had more than enough room on the track. I did my warm-up laps and inspected the track. There where a few small branches right on my apexes, which I removed. Within a few laps, my confidence was back and my cornering speeds rapidly grew. I needed that for the first thing scheduled, a single fast lap.

Attacking every corner, utterly concentrated, and struggling on the straight, this wasn't an easy lap. The head wind on the long straight made that the problem with the ankle was even bigger. Still, it was reasonably fast. Two seconds slower than last year, but fast enough to win with an average of just over 43kph.

The second thing on the list would take longer. The 45 minute criterium would also be slower. I kept up with the winner for a lap or two. After that, I found a pace that suited me, especially on the straights. Near the end a rider I'd lapped once began to push a little. Big fun! Now I had someone to race with. My corners where tidy again and I went a tiny little bit less slower on the straight. In the final lap I overtook him again and decided to leave him behind me. I did 37kph in the long corner in the middle of the track after that. Usually, that is 35kph. That 2 kph extra on the cyclometer surprised me half way that corner. I kept my cool and didn't run out of asphalt. That I finished 2nd doesn't say much. My avg. of 38.6 does show me that I won a lot in the bendy parts of the track. And that's nice.

Lets not talk much about the second criterium. I ran out of steam. My legs had to work in a different way today. The corners where fun though. I finished third in this race, that's midfield as this race had five people on the starting grid. Right after I'd decided to take it easy, but keep riding proper corners, I missed one. Luckily, there was a run-off area and I could continue without falling.

In the end, everybody received a price. Cookies of various kinds where our reward. I said goodbye to everyone and rode back to the train station. At Schiphol I ate some good food from Toko Togo. You don't feel like burgers or fries after a race, you want something light, Asian. After Amersfoort I had a conversation with another 'bentrider. The train was more than full, but the atmosphere was relaxed. I was home just before 22:00h. (the results of the races are not online, yet)

A quick shower, more food, and a DVD. My oldest brother had recorded the Monaco GP for me. Staying up 'till one past midnight was worth it.

Like in almost every race, I'd brought my camera and edited a video with the material it made. On of the things it shows how good rear suspension can be on a racer.
Niels made photos, have a look here.

28 May 2011

Radical Design Velomobile bag

In the past I had two homemade 'velomobile bags'. The 'old jeans 5 pocket' model was used for quite some time. The 'simple tunnel with a zipper' was a lot lighter, but less practical. Now, I've found what I was looking, the ideal velomobile bag.

What now follows is not a long story about how I came up with an ingenious idea, while riding through the night, somewhere between far away and home. Based on what I'd heard and seen I decided to buy the real Velomobile bag. I was on my way to Radical to buy a different bag, when I did that.

I'd called the worlds largest recumbent bag manufacture earlier that day and asked If they had a Backbone in stock. They had, and 2 hours or so later I was at their headquarters. The Backbone is a backpack, that can also be used as a bag on your rear rack. I thought it would be a good addition to my Pioneer. Turned out, it really is.

For both bags I had the choice between 5 colours. Red would be excellent for a Red Edition Mango. Black for the Backbone would suit every 'bent. I quickly found out how well thought out the Velomobile bag is. It stays in place, offers a spot for my phone and MP3 player/radio, camera and food for a day. There's foam in it to stop content from rattling. You don't even think about when you use it. It just slides into your velonautic live, like it has always been there.

Something completely different: next week a post about tomorrows race at my favourite track, Trias :-)

17 May 2011

Chain lube: Green Oil

A lot of cyclist have their favourite chain lube. It took a while for me to find mine, but a few months ago, I did. When I'd decided to buy a TC idler for my Mango, my order at Icletta was only one item. One item with, a reasonable, €10,00 or so shipping costs. I wanted to spread those costs over more items and that's why I browsed through the webshop.

There I found Green Oil. It looked like an interesting product. To be know more about it's quality, I quickly scanned some online reviews. Not only was it 'green', it also was described as a good lubricant. (and that it smells pleasant)

Well, after a few months I can agree with those reviews I read. It sticks to the chain, survives rain and doesn't get messy. I even use it on my Fuego's chain. Since that a good weather bike, that's an easy job for a chain lube. The Pioneer does get used in wet weather and has chain tubes. Also under those not so lube friendly circumstances, Green Oil does the job.

Problem here is that there's no local retailer for it. To be sure I'd have enough for quite some time, I asked Kirk from Icletta if he could bring some of it for me to Spezi. He did and now I have 3 bottles, more than plenty to make it past Spezi 2012.

So, when you see at a local retailer, or when you buy something from Icletta, buy some. I recommend it.

Green Oil has a website too...

9 May 2011

Das Evo K

For getting from A to B, German cycle path are far below the Dutch standard. If you want to go fast in a velomobile, you won't be using them much. The main road than is a far better place to ride. Almost every road, not cycle path, I've ridden on during my 540km ride in Germany, had a tarmac surface. A bump here and there, but certainly no brick stones, like here in the Netherlands. Another thing I didn't see, not that I remember, are speed bumps. So to ride comfortably as a cyclist, I needed big wheels and suspension. For a velomobile, raw speed only may have preference.

And this is how I finally understood the Evo models. They may still lack inside chain covers and some other practical items, but as a concept, they should work quite well I think. Practical items can be installed as an upgrade, or will finds it way to the production models soon, I guess.

At Spezi 2011, the 'K' was presented. The first head-out Evo. A good move as transparent canopies fog up and do silly things with light and sight in the dark, especially when it rains. I had a good look at it. Sadly though, I didn't had the chance for a mini test ride. But even so, I can say a couple of things about it.

It looks fabulous! The interior finishing is very basic, but of high quality. Everything is there to be light, fast and strong. The shape is very sleek. It's so narrow, that it actually fits me. Getting in even was a bit of a struggle for me. Practice naturally takes away those entry difficulties. When it comes to build quality, nothing comes close. Some of the competition might be very good, this is on a whole different level. The speed potential is too. Things like: '54kph at 200W' are utterly impressive. It also gives me the impression that cornering should be good too. Open wheel arches, a low centre of gravity and side stick steering, should be fun to ride eh. The weight of all this is less than 18kg. Even with things that I see as necessary for a velomobile, it should be sub 20kg.

Because the one at Spezi had no: indicators, headlight, tail light, rear suspension, inside chain covers and granny gear. All that is, if I remember correctly, available as an option. You should add that to the €11.000 price tag. (edit 2011-05-10: I just learned that there also a €7000,- (glasfibre?) version possible)More 'bad news' is that it has very limited front suspension movement. To be honest, I don't know how it behaves on real Dutch road.

Concluding I'd say that this beauty can't replace my Mango R.E. Jenease. It would involve a complete change in riding behaviour, moving to Germany would help. Would I like it? Yes, sure, it wickedly fast, should handle great and looks fantastic. As a 2nd velomobile perhaps? In reality though, there is no such thing for me as choosing between these two. Both are completely different, like apples and oranges. And 11k, is a bit of of my price range. A poster would be nice, but a test ride would be fine too ;-)

If you want to know more, follow the velomobile forum.

8 May 2011

Spezi, the weekend

It's just before 9 in the morning on Saturday when I ride to Germersheim. Only 5km or so, that's wasn't too much for my ankle. I spend most of this day at the test ride area, working. Every half an hour a new group of people is allowed on the track. They've often waited quite some time, and are eager to try out as much 'bents as possible. Some know exactly what they're looking for. Others don't have a clue. Some just want fun. The level of experience varies from absolutely zero (even below that), up to being an experienced dealer.

I saw 130kg man trying to ride a 'bent set up for 1.6m short females. Seeing short people trying to climb onto a obviously way too tall and big bike is also no exception. The scary category doesn't know how derailleurs work. Some people better stay away from bikes in general. But, in the middle of this mayhem, good things happen. People find the bike of their dreams, or successfully ride for the first time, and really enjoy that. On the photo you (could) see a Pioneer.

Near the end of the day I did a quick check of what was to see at the rest of Spezi. Walking was a problem, so I didn't go for long. Like in 2010, I bought something to eat at the food stand. Russian Pelmeni are worth becoming a tradition for me.

For me, there just wasn't enough time to see everything. I missed the Rotovelo. I didn't ride in the Evo K. (drool....) So maybe, I should ride to another special bike show. Preferably less than 600km from Assen. With time to see and try everything. Now I'd 'done' Spezi in under an hour.

Speaking of riding 600km, I wasn't able to ride back home. Luckily, the 'bent world is a small world. A man from Challenge Recumbents had some space left in his van, enough for a big red Pioneer. He gave me the hint to ask Radical Design if they had a spare seat for me. They had :-) My ride home was arranged. One worry less that was. Going home by train was possible, yes. But that would have cost me dearly, and would have been quite an expedition too. The Nazca van already was full with bikes and other luggage.

On Saturday evening, I had dinner with a whole group of 'Aussteller'. I choose patatoes with asparagus and melted butter. Conversations jumped in all directions. It's good to talk about something different after a whole day at an exhibition. Dessert was something I'd been waiting for half a week, chocolate-milk with icecream and whipped cream.

Sunday starts with breakfast, just like every other day. The rest of the day was new. I gave Lobbes to the man with the van, Dirk. I'd re-unite with my Pioneer on Wednesday, in the outdoor shop where Dirk works. I spent most of Sunday in the Nazca stand in hall 2. Answering, explaining questions and things, talking with people I know. No easy task, but I managed, I think. German is my 3th language and I rarely have the need to use it.

The little spare time I had where spent in hall 1 mainly. I visited Sinner and admired the Evo K. I sat in it. The only thing that doesn't suit me is the €11.000 price tag. That machine is definitely worth a blog post. At Icletta, i said hello to Kirk, bought some Green Oil and a Cage Rocket. Meeting some fellow 'bentriders is always nice, especially when you don't expect them. Wim and Frank dropped by and, more important, Willemijn too. And in between everything going on, some other stand holders found time to drop by as well.

At 6, Spezi ended, and the big exodus began. I couldn't carry stuff. I'd arranged a pair of crutches to get around today. Luckily a, if all goes well, near future customer helped us out. One member of the Nazca team had been sick all day, and didn't leave his hotel room all day. And with one man down, not many where left.

I left Germersheim just after 7. Together with the people from Radical Design. We had dinner in a good roadside restaurant. My right foot was on a pile of bags to keep it high. We arrived at Radical hq. at 2:30am. After a glass of milk and the brushing of my teeth, I went to sleep. They had a spare bed. At this time, just a blanket would have been enough for me.

The original idea was to cover the final 20km homewards by buss. Judging the size of my ankle, I was offered a drive home. Not before I paid a quick visit to the sewing studio, where a lot of special recumbent bags are made. With that, a remarkable weekend had come to an end. So I was home 3 days early. That felt odd. All I could do now was rest, type and wait.

more photos here.

4 May 2011

Late report: Recumbent Easter meeting

There only was one day between the meeting and my ride to Spezi. That's too little time to write a blog item. I spent that Tuesday preparing for the 3 day trip.

Well than, it started at Friday morning. I rode to work with my Cruiser and everything I need for a long weekend of camping. I thought it would be fun to make the journey on a classic and basic machine. The minor tailwind was enough to get there while cruising at 28kph or so. The conditions where good too when I left the little int. hq. at half past four. The fun always begins after Apeldoorn. First some uphill, than mostly downhill. Top speed was 55kph on a slightly bendy cycle path, fun!

I arrived at the Harskamperdennen campsite precisely on time. Camp Peter was set up and I walked to Maarten and Maaike who where so kind to prepare some extra food. It was around 9 now and I tend to have a good appetite after 95km of riding. Dinner was excellent. Lot's of veggies, great taste, exactly what I need after a long day. A good base for a good night of sleep.

Saturday is the day that I do very little. I went to the supermarket, twice. First just for breakfast, the second time for more. More and more people arrived at the campsite. The atmosphere was good, the weather was almost too warm. It actually was so dry, that the usual Saturday evening campfire wasn't build.

Sunday, to day of the GPS puzzle ride. I was in a clever group. We first answered all questions and than had a nice tour behind the only man with a GPS, who just knew how to use it. I had to brake a little for a pretty Fujin SL2 Rohloff on a downhill section. Me and Yoska wanted to go faster than the 59.5 the man in front wanted. In all circumstances my nearly 12 year old bike with only 8 gears had what was needed. Full suspension, good handling, a well engineered chainline and 35mm Kojak tires. Except for a part with loose and rough gravel. I needed more rubber for that. I managed, but very slowly.

We'd been riding fairly slow and social for most of the ride. I felt like doing the final part at a substantial higher pace. More felt that way. The fastest three can be seen in action near the end of the video I've made.

Like on most evenings, I prepared my own dinner in front of my tent. It was when I did the dishes that I met a fairly unique person in the world of 'bents. Let me say we (or just I) need more of those. The music used in the video gives a hint.

After that, I said hello to my parents, who where enjoying their first Easter meeting. They didn't camp, but had rented small accommodation, elsewhere on the campsite. Mom rides a 24" Gaucho, Dad a 2004 Cruiser.

Monday, time to say goodbye and head home. Now with a headwind. Time to take it easy. Good to practice riding at a slower than usual pace. Excellent preparation for the Spezi ride. This long weekend was good for 330km.

More photos can be found here .

3 May 2011

The ride to Spezi

After Spezi 2010, I decided to ride there the next year. And so I did. I knew that proper cycle paths are almost exclusively a Dutch phenomenon, so I took my 'bent with the biggest wheels and the most comfortable ride on any surface possible, my Pioneer. Far from the fastest and without weather protection. But the weather would be good (I just knew that) and I had time. It was my first multi-day long ride ever.

With hotels booked, food for a day, a little too much luggage I set of on Wednesday morning. The location of each hotel was a waypoint in my Dakota GPS. I had a vague idea of the route. A list of places I would ride through was what I had prepared. I started following the GPS after 130km, that's when I ran out of signs to follow. I'd sometimes followed a cycle route when that was in line with my route and/or I was tired of riding on the road with motorized traffic. But, 99% of German motorist are patient and amazingly respectful to cyclist. However, you hardly see any other cyclists on roads with a speed limit of over 70kph. Riding there is allowed though, and it get's you there when you got the guts.

Cyclepaths had became short, narrow, bumpy for most of the ride after 61km. That was when I crossed the border between the Netherlands and Germany. Sure, our big friendly neighbour has nice routes, but those are mostly of a touristic nature. With about 200km per day, the fast route has preference.

Day one was mostly flat and I relatively easy completed the 220km to the hotel in Hamm. M√ľnster was the only big city I crossed. Countless traffic lights and rush hour traffic. A big 'bent and a GPS become your best friend in such situations. I arrived at the Herzog Hotel in just under 10 hours of riding. The meal at an Italian restaurant was good. The staff spoke with a strong accent at Italian speeds. Back at my hotel room I showered, watch television and slept 8 hours straight.

Day two, 2 hours of mild rain after a good breakfast. This would be the toughest day. Climbing was new to me and most of this day would be through the Sauerland. The busy roads did lead me to beautiful sights and quiet trails. Up and down hills, with 10% gradient, things that all where new to me. I saw a 14% slope warning sign for the first time. Hairpin corners limited my top speed to 66kph. The GPS followed some narrow and unpaved roads. Again, my choice of bike proved itself right. It was slow, but fun.

I thought I'd left the hills behind after 130km. Wrong I was, very wrong indeed. Another 40km followed, and I decided to walk to two times to reach the top without putting too much strain on the legs. Fewer luggage and a lower granny would have helped for sure. 30-32 with a 50-559 wheel is too high for these circumstances. I'd sometimes feel funny and stopped to let that feeling go away. The last 30km was relatively easy, mostly downhill.

At half past 8, I was tired, with leg muscles protesting and a right ankle feeling strange. A night of rest solved most of that. It was almost 9 'o clock when I had dinner at the hotel in Diez. Yes I was utterly tired after my hardest day of riding ever, but I felt proud that I'd made it. 200km, through the Sauerland, on my own, with my 9 year old bike, with hills, traffic and zero climbing experience.

Day three started a little later. This would be such a long day, 170km or so. And just when I thought it would easy from now on, 35km of hills came in sight. I completely had it with the big roads to crawl up hill and fled into the woods for a few kilometres. But when I reached the end of the final real climb, at 512 metres, having a wide road in front was really necessary.

My heart had been in overdrive after 26km because of the climbing, forcing me to an early break. Now the blood pressure went up for a whole different reason. 9%, downhill, 2.8km, no corners, lorry's must gear down. Down I went. Faster and faster. Lightweight 'bentrider on big bike with luggage on the rack. Throw in some wind from the right to make it more exciting. 60 was nothing, 70 was easily past. 76 was when I stopped accelerating. Trucks going up hill had their engines going at full power.

With hot brakes and rims I entered Wiesbaden. I hopped to the side of the road to take a deep breath. Not for long though. I was on my way to the river Rhein. Following that was easy. Flat, very little traffic, with good signs. I said 'hello' to another 'bentrider, also on his way to Spezi.

After 102km, I had a cappuccino at a bakery. That is also the moment to buy bread for the next day. Problem was that my right ankle had suffered from the climbing and needed rest. From here on, with 70km left to go, I had to take it easy. And so I did, most of the time. Bumps hurt, bridges too. Having 2 legs is handy in these situations. My left leg was doing the hard work now.

So, with almost 600km in three days, I felt good, except for the ankle sadly. I'd achieved something, seen many things, rode for almost 30 hours. I shared my final kilometres to Lingenfeld with a Quest rider. It was almost 8 in the evening when I stumbled into the hotel lobby. Tired and hungry for food and more riding.

More about Spezi later on...