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25 May 2012

The Hague, my favourite track

On the 13th of May we had the 1st race of the Dutch recumbent summer competition. Held at the challenging curvy track of Trias in The Hague. It takes me well over 3 hours to get there by train, but it's worth it.

The asphalt still is very good since it's renewal 3 years ago. You do have to look out for a small twig here and there. After 5 to 10 laps, I knew how to take the corners at a fast enough speed again. It is for races like this that I keep a Stelvio tire. Maybe it's just me, but I highly prefer that model for cornering over Duranos or Kojaks and even my daily Fuego tyre, the magnificent Minits Lite. Luckily, Nazca has a few 'NOS' in stock, I hope/thought/must check....

Anyway. These afternoons start with a single fast lap. And as far as I can remember, this was the first year it had a standing start. I wasn't completely confident in the corners yet, so I maybe lost 3kph more than necessary in the 3 most challenging corners.  Looking at the competition I'd say that my 4th place was satisfying.

Than the bigger question. How would the engine perform, after a 2 week cycling vacation, in a 45 minute criterium? Not bad at all. I could ride together with Jos for the 1st halve of the race, but I felt somewhat lightheaded. So I let him go and soon all instruments where in the green again. During an overtake in a wide 180 degrees righthander, I must have leaned in a tiny bit too much. That, or I rode over something. My front wheel shortly lost grip and slid to a few centimetres to the left. Scary. I managed, I kept it under control. But it did take a few laps to regain confidence.I finished with an average of 39.9kph. That felt quite good. Though it did became harder and harder to maintain a decent speed on the small elevations of the track. More stamina needed.

If one criterium isn't enough, Trias always has a 2nd, the other way around. Nearly did 'we' succeed in getting that one down to 30 minutes. But seconds before the start the race leader (valuable volounteer!) decided it would be the usual 45. Now that is just a little bit too much for me. I agreed with myself that I'd keep a decent pace, but would complete the day without feeling miserable. That ended up being my best '2nd criterium ever'. Not a high average, but not low either.

Thanks to my 4th place for the fast lap, I also became 4th overall. This pleasant little suprise was followed by Surinamese dinner in the front garden of a fellow 'bentrider's sister. An all new to me and delicious and nutritious combination of ingredients, that was a good start to a long evening with the nations railway company. Because of an accident, somewhere on the tracks, it all took an hour or so longer, and with less space to breath than desirable. 

Full result can be found here.

Within not too many days, there will be a video online from how I rode the track in the 2nd criterium.

18 May 2012

Spezi, the weekend

8 velomobiles and a Pioneer is what rode from Lingenfeld to Germersheim on the evening before Spezi. I could keep up, sort of. We went to a meeting of the German forum. I had a beer.

The group I went back to the campsite with, was smaller. I knew how to get back, well, I had a GPS and lead the way. As I approached the viaduct outside of Germersheim, I saw my shadow on it's greyish walls, projected by the light of Ymte, LeeW and Wilfred. 3 metres high it was, and moving from left to right, and back again. I took my task as leader serious, but didn't hesitate to guide use over the narrow and steep bridge over the railways. On the last 2 km back to camp, the other 2 youngsters sped of in to the darkness. I kept my cool and so did the blue Q's velonaut. He just rolled past me when we descended to the gate of 'Bagger See'. Aerodynamics in the real world at work that was....

The next morning, around 10, I parked the Pioneer against the fence of the outside exhibition. So much to see, so many people to talk with. I wandered, I guessed and I tried. Because some of the things I saw, really made no sense to me. And I tried 2 rides too.

After I'd spoken with a man from Ice, I went to the test track to ride an Ice, the Vortex. Now I don't know much about trikes. Carrying an extra wheel, with out it being a velomobile, only makes sense to me on a steep hill or on ice. But, I liked this one. No pedal or brake steer, and it cornered pleasantly at low and higher speed. Also, the quality and the way Neil talks about designing trikes gets 'thumbs up' from me. We both could not understand how some manufacturers put 'bents on the market with obvious design flaws, and get away with it. Don't others do any research with different geometries?

Ice once built the B1. I never saw one in real live, but their quality combined with a folding 2-wheeler sounds like a combination I'd like.

The 2nd test ride was on a Carbon Recumbent. Despite having no suspension, this 10kg 'bent felt pretty comfortable over cobble stones and the annoying kerbs you find in German cycle paths. The build quality was fine too, and the drive train felt stiff. To test this I selected the granny gear and gently pulled the brakes. No movement to see at the boom, nice. Up hill was funny easy compared to my Pioneer. I was less happy with the handling at low speed, a bit like M5. So many 'bent manufacturers do not get this right! Once you've tried a Nazca, you know how good a 'bent can handle, at any speed. Good thing is that the price of just over €3000,- is alright for the quality and low weight.

I also spoke with the owner of Evo K #5 and had a look at his K. He'd made a clever cover from neoprene, fixed with Velcro and bathroom suction cups. Another man, Rudolph, visited Spezi for his first look at the recumbent scene. I showed him around a bit and gave him some advice.

At the Gingko stand I looked at their latest offerings. They're a small company that specialize in light weight, yet reasonably priced parts, mostly for velomobiles. With some of their parts, my Fuego for instance could loose another halve a kilogram.

A silly thing I did was only take a tiny amount of chain oil with me, for a two week vavation. So I bought a bottle of my favourite oil at Icletta and enjoyed a cup of their delicious coffee. There I noticed that sell handle bars in different widths, and with different angles. Important stuff when you want to build up a bike exactly as you want it.

In hall 3 I met the Slovenian Nazca dealer. Together with 2 others, he started up a company in recumbent clothing. I bought a pretty blue shirt with long zipper. The collar is low at the front and the backside is a bit longer. It fits nicely and has little recumbents printed on it.

On Saturday evening I ate at an Italian restaurant together with Wilfred and his 'Roamies'. I didn't take part in ROAM, but had bought a t-shirt and am, I guess, accepted as an 'ok guy' in 'our' recumbent world. On Sunday I prepared dinner for two again at camp Bagger See.

Spezi is not complete with a visit to the test track and a portion of 'Siberischen Pelmeni'. At the track I rode the Vortex, a Giro and a kick bike. Furthermore I looked around a bit more. Being surprised of what I saw.

Sunday ended  quite early. Monday was planned to start at 06:00h.

10 May 2012

The ride to Spezi 2012

Wilfred came over to my place on Sunday. Together we left early Monday morning. He in his Mango+ and I with my Nazca Pioneer. For this day, I knew the route for a large part. First 100km or so without GPS, later on I followed a track. Our first stop was near Aalten on a small, very neat campsite. (recommended) We had dinner in a small cafeteria next to the border with Germany. Their lasagna and salad tasted good after 180km.

Day 2, our destination was Cologne. Wilfred followed the track I made with a website, and I followed the Mango. A website that produces tracks for cyclist, on 2 wheels. Tiny problem is that Germans can't built cycle paths, and sometimes put gates on them, that make them un-accesable with a velomobile. Luckily, a by-pass is always easily found. Some stairs (!) where impossible for me too.

It is these kind of things that made me ride to Spezi with the Pioneer, (and that it's high and very comfortable) instead of with the K. I'm somewhat spoiled perhaps by the Dutch infrastructure. Next year, I'll know better routes and the K get's a triple. Than the occasional rain 'flurry' we had will be even less of a problem, and head winds won't be there anymore.

In German towns it's recommended by me not to use the cycle path. They're narrow, twisty, bumpy and dangerous. The main road is a much better place if you actually want to get somewhere.

In Cologne we met a Milan SL rider on a Dahon. And that was posted in the 'spotted' thread on the German forum. After 150km we arrived at a campsite next to the Rhine river. Clean and good enough but close to a busy main road. However, sleeping never is a problem after a a long ride. So I slept well, on my 6cm air mattress from Thermarest.

Day 3 was longer than expected. We had to navigate a lot. Well, mostly Wilfred did that. And he did that well. There was a house next to the Rhine with the Maple Leaf. Apparently, long rides make me more emotional. I sang Oh Canada out loud, and it felt really good.

On the Southern part of day 3, we did ride on a good cycle path. And it was a long stretch too! Around St. Goar we started to realize how little bumps and obstacles we'd had for an hour or so.

Our campsite was next to the Rhine, (again) 2 rail roads and 2 roads. All 5 being used 24/7. Some freight trains made so much noise that the end of the world seemed near. But, since I'd ridden close to 150km, again, I slept well. The good food Anne had served us in Trechtinghausen must have contributed to that as well. Asparagus with potatoes and a schnitzel.

Day 4 promised to have a few hills. There was some change in elevation, yes, but nothing compared to what I'd deal with in week 2. Nice was that we got away from large cities. Only small towns you could easily ride through. Like every day, we stopped at a bakery for something delicious. I always had a cappuccino, Wilfred drank tea.

The campsite, that I found with LeeW's GPS location, was close to Lingenfeld, and a nuclear facility. We arrived nicely on time after not much more than 120km. I prepared dinner for the 2 of us. Spaghetti with broccoli, spiced tomato sauce and cheese.

I spent Friday doing very little. Washing, relaxing, got some groceries. During the day, more Spezi 'bent riders arrived. The weather now was sublime. By now I'd ridden about 600km, and felt great.

Next post: Spezi, the weekend.

photo 1: at the top of the Tiger & Turtle hill.
photo 2: somewhere during day 3, I think.