Review. Everyday Bicycling: How to Ride a Bike for Transportation, by Elly Blue
In June 1992, with my bicycle I boarded a jet to Germany, leaving my home, Portland, OR behind. In Portland, my bike was both transportation and recreation. It continued that way for a couple of years in Germany until pressures from work and home required me to get a car. Bicycling became an on and off recreation and fitness valve for me until this year when I left Germany and moved to the Netherlands.
I am not a fast biker. Mostly because I am busy looking around at my environment to take pictures, so I am not concentrating on pace. In the end I get passed regularly. Right now it appears to be by groups of bikers in club uniforms, so I just shrug it off.
I always try to have my GoPro cameras running. Yesterday, I got passed by an an old lady which one of my GoPros decided to film. Usually fog or dirt or battery prevents any good shots.
I added the jet sound, but you can hear in the background comments made by a a person in a biking group (they were just getting ready to start). that I was passing as the old lady passed me.
Sunday mornings have rapidly become my opportunity to explore by bicycle the scenery, the sites and routes in and around the area I live. It has the advantage of less traffic and great lighting for pictures. I get up at first light which right now is at about 0745 and just ride a random 15-20 mile loop. My goal is to stay on the country roads and not the main roads. While the main roads all have bike paths on them around here the scenery is just not as interesting.
All week, we have had 60-70 F weather (13-20 C) with a bit of fog in the morning, so it was a pleasant morning ride. I headed East and South which took me through Aalbeek, Nuth, Klimmen and Hulsberg.
Harvest is in full swing now so the roads and paths are rough with farm debris, which makes for a dirty bike at the end of the ride. Along the ride I saw piles of harvested sugar beets and potatoes. Naturally all over there are the fall colors on the trees.
Along the ride I came across the pictured castle, outside of one of the little farm villages. It looks like it has a couple of towers and a moat with a stone bridge. The castle appears to be converted into a restaurant. Unfortunately pedaling early, I am not able to explore the grounds as it is closed up, but nice to look at from the road.
This area that I live in and ride through is fascinating to me as I run into castles everywhere and is littered with history predating the US. My personal interests lie in I like biking, history and exploring new places combining all three makes its a great ride. If there was coffee involved it would have been a perfect ride.
I guess I will have to come back another day to Castle Rivieren for a coffee!
Last week was pretty tough to get out and about. It basically rained during the day and stopped only at night. The one time I did get out, I got drenched. The weather reminds me a lot of where I grew up, Portland, OR. The gear that I own basically for bicycling is targeted for living in the Oberpfalz of Bavaria where I lived for the last six years, with its three weather options: bitter cold, bitter cold and wet, and warm. Warm for me in Bavaria was 45-50 F weather that feels hot because of acclimation to the bitter cold.
I have been working and ordering new gear that is lighter weight and water resistant, so I can get out and about. I have greatly appreciated the recommendations from “All Seasons Cyclist” in targeting my gear search. When the gear arrives via APO (US Army Post Office), life in the drizzling rain on bicycle I think will get better.
The rain did break on Sunday, so I was able to get out and about. Early Sunday when I was out riding/exploring I found a cute town called Wijnandsrade, Google Translate gives me the idea that it means wine country. On the south end of town is a castle Kasteel Wijnandsrade. The castle is pretty cool. On the grounds is a cafe Chateau Gilbert. I was out too early in the morning to check out the cafe.
On Wednesday, I rode back to Kasteel Wijnandsrade and Chateau Gilbert for more recon. The castle grounds are gorgeous with a castle, moat, several gate house, bronze statues, and ducks. It is quite a find. I have a feeling it will be a nice afternoon destination for Crystal and I to pedal to.
The castle appears to be a family agricultural products business selling locally produced wines, jams, and spices. The cafe appears to use the local products in the menu and it has outdoor seating. There was an older lady working the cafe/store. She didn’t speak a drop of English. (Note to self: I have got to learn Dutch). So I wasn’t able to communicate well. She resorted to speaking French to me. Not sure why, but I smiled and ordered a coffee from her. When it came, the coffee was great! more than espresso by volume but less than a cafe americano. In previous travels to France from past experience I would call it a cafe creme. Yum!
For me this place is great. It is a triple: bicycle destination, indoor/outdoor cafe with great coffee and on a castle grounds.
On Sunday I had both my GoPros on my Bike so I was able to get some good footage of the the castle and on Wednesday I brought my Canon EOS 60D to take pictures.
This is the video I cobbled together. It is a little choppy because of the cobblestones (stabilization did a little of mitigation through iMovie:
Today I ran out of coffee beans for my automatic coffee maker. While living in Germany, I knew where to get good quality coffee beans. In the Netherlands I haven’t a clue. Our local DECA (Commissary) only has ground coffee, so I don’t even have Starbucks off the DECA shelves until I can figure out the places to by good espresso beans.
Actually one of my great motivators to bicycling is finding cafe’s, coffee shops, local coffee bean sources…..
So, I pedaled over to the local grocery store C1000. Not surprisingly it decided to start raining on my ride over.
I am not sure what a C1000 it would be equivalent to in the States. In Germany it is like an Edeka. In essence it is a basic grocery with fresh produce, bakery, in store butcher and simple food goods. They also have some coffee.
The coffee shelf in the store is dominated by pod and instant coffee (blech on both). There is a limited coffee bean selection.
The choices are limited to the C1000 brand and the brand Douwe Egberts. Douwe Egberts is a Dutch brand, I see their advertisements on local Dutch TV and I would equate them to like the German brand Jacobs. Most of the coffee shops I have visited are serving their coffee in the Netherlands.
Douwe Egberts offered three types of beans, Rosso, Dark and Extra Dark. The packaging did not say the mix of Arabica to Robusto just some grading on the roast (pictured on the right on the bottom of each package) and some adjectives to describe the the taste. Not reading dutch I not really sure what to buy, so I bought all three different kinds.
Tomorrow I am going to try the red package “Aroma Rosso” described in Dutch as “Evenwichtig & Rond”, Google translate says that means “Even and Round” more likely I would guess it means balanced and smooth.
I guess my new goal in my rides is to find a good local source for coffee beans.
It has been about a week since I completed the ride. Recently I have been immersed in transitioning details to our new residence in the Netherlands. Internet access has been dodgy at best, so maintaining this blog and other net based communications have been difficult.
I have started to feel like I have mostly recovered from the ride. I am back out jogging in the mornings.
Here are the things I learned:
Google Maps is both hero and villain in my trek. I utilized google maps to plot out my ride as a series of towns that I should check point through instead of printing off maps. This was intended to coincide with the way Germany uses direction markers to indicate which towns you are heading toward as opposed to following street names. It mostly worked. Google Maps failed to synchronize well with the conditions on the ground. Example one of the towns I should have gone through was Bischofsheim as indicated on Google Maps, however the traffic signs noted it as Frankfurt-BF (or something like that). Until I figure out the discrepancy, I did a lot of turning around. It happened a lot on the ride between Seligenstadt to Montabaur.
iPhone Google Maps doesn’t differentiate between paved, gravel and mud roads. When I would get to a point that I was not sure which direction to go as the German traffic signs indicate several possible routes, I would consult iPhone Google Maps. More than once I ended up on sand, gravel or mud as I pedaled. I was truly grateful I did not have a flat tire.
Topography. I need to do a better job of researching the topography. I know in hind sight that most of the hills (small mountains) I climbed were probably avoidable. There were only two points where I think I could not avoid huge climbs – Out of the Rhein and over the Spessarts. Climbing the Spessarts was an issue of limited time to follow the Main river valley from Wuerzburg to Seligenstadt would have added an additional day that I did not have. The climb out of the Rhine to get into the Eifel and then to the NL additionally was unavoidable, but not as significant as the Spessarts.
Gear. I am not sure if I brought too much gear or not enough. I think using BoB (my bike trailer) was the right thing to do. I was much more stable without a lot of gear heaped on my back rack.
Lodging. The lodging met the need except in Montabaur. I stayed at a castle there that doubled as a huge conference/symposium/campus where business and universities would meet for retreats. It was quite nice.
I used booking.com and my criteria was availability and customer rating/review. The other places I stayed ended up being on the edges of town so it was not easy to get into town and explore a bit. I think I will try TripAdvisor next time. They spam my Facebook account enough to deserve a chance.
The Ride itself was great. I am glad I did it. In fact as look back on it, I find it a bit unbelievable that I did.
If I did it again or something along those lines, I think I would have broken the daily distances down to about 50-60 miles. At 60 miles I would have only added one day and at 50 miles it would have added two maybe three.
The advantages of shorter distances would have allowed a little more exploration of the towns I visited, more time to take pictures, take impromptu stops, and take a more leisurely pace. In all truth, I usually had the first forty miles of each day done by 1300.
That is about all I have to say about the trip. Would I do it again? Probably not. Not because it was too long or anything like that, but if I was to plan another 400 mile trip, I would explore somewhere else. Along those lines I am thinking England or France for the next big tour. Anyone up for joining me? You can put some of your gear in BoB.
I finished the final 35 miles to arrive in The Netherlands.
Here are the quick statistics:
Total Travel Distance 35 Miles
Total Travel Time 3.25 Hours
Total Pedal Time 4 Hours
Killer Uphills 0
Killer Downhills 1*
* Hill was so good that I missed my turn and had about a mile corrective detour.
I am physically fatigued, however the biggest issues are my stiff fingers from holding the handle bars. Typing this is extremely problematic. I am glad there is automatic spell check. I guess I will have to change out glove brands.
It was nice to to see my wife once I got to the Hotel.
Overall, I am glad I did it. I had been wanting to do something big for a while. And I was not sure what I was waiting on, so I just went and completed the ride.
Not sure what is next for trips: I am thinking something by foot in October. Any Suggestions?
For the immediate future:
1. Move into new house tomorrow
2. Unpack when our belongings arrive (mid August?)
3. Write up my lessons learned on the tour and come up with next steps.
I completed the last long leg of my tour. It took me from Montabaur to Dueren. I made some modifications to my route that added distance but killed hills and time. Out of Montabaur, I went south to the Rhine instead of west through the hills to the Rhine. I think it was a wise decision.
I rode along the Rhine for about 30 Miles and along a Rhine tributary (not sure the name) for another 10 miles. From there I headed NW to Dueren through the Eifel. Here are the stats:
Total Distance 85 Miles
Total Travel Time 11 Hours
Total Pedal Time 9 Hours
Killer Uphill 1 (Out of the Rhine into the Eifel)
Killer Down Hill 1 (to the Rhine – Best guess about 4 Miles)
I had mechanical difficulty throughout the day. First off, my rear wheel was totally deflated at one point. I pumped it back up no problems. Will likely toss the tube when I am at home.
My chain became bone dry and I had no oil. My travelling tool kit was packed at our old house (long angry story) so I was running a quick PX purchase of tools. I finally found a bike shop in Sinzig, right before my climb out of the Rhine valley Bought some oil and put it on the chain. What a huge difference. While I was doing that the owner of the shop started asking about my route. He suggested that I reroute through Cologne as it would be faster and no hills. It would have been an addition 10-15 miles of biking. Fortunately I did not take his advice the “killer hill” out of the Rhine valley was nothing more than the hills around the Oberpfalz where I used to live.
The last mechanical difficulty came with BoB. The axil holding BoB on my bike came loose. At first I was not able to tighten the quickrelease so BoB and the rear wheel would stay in the bike frame. I had to do an extended roadside repair. Fortunately I was able to tighten the Axil up, but I am going to have to monitor it. Probably will just purchase a new one.
The ride itself was gorgeous. Along the Rhine I got pedal through vineyards and cross the river by ferry. It went fast so was only able to get a shot of me and my bike and a church (below).
The ride through the Eifel was mostly farmland and rolling hills. There were fresh fruits and vegetable available in every little town. I am sucker for those things and wanted to stop several times, but could not figure out how to keep them until I got to the NL. Maybe today.
The other Picture is of the castle I stayed in at Montabaur (Day 3).
Day Five is my last day only about 30 miles with a border crossing. That is good I am fatigued and my fingers and hands are tired from holding the handle bars so tight while climbing through the hills. I think my high school typing teacher would be upset as I have basically thrown out the home row as I am typing this Blog.
Now to ride
I finished my first day of my five day ride from our old house in Thansuss to The Netherlands.
My ride was originally planned to be about 85 miles. It ended up being 101 miles. I missed two significant turns. Unfortunately the corrections involved climbing two significant hills. One out of Grafenberg to get on road to Forcheim the other out of Hoechstadt to get back on the road to Mulhausen.
I ran my “map my ride” app on my iPhone but it kicked out on while uploading. I will plot it out and update this post. Here are the basc statistics that I remember from right before the crash.
Trip Distance 101 Miles
Pedaling Time 10 Hours
Travel Time (with breaks) 12 hours
I maintained the pace I had expected 10 miles – 1 hour. I was dragging once I got to the hotel in Schwarzach. Surprisingly the lady at the hotel remembered me from the Maintal Bike tour I conducted with Crystal and several friends last year.
An unintended consequence was that this trip actually and inadvertently became a tour down memory lane. i pedalled past several amusement parks I used to take students to in my Wuerzburg days. I actually bike past several former houses of friends Dave, Hank and a few others, so it was a bit melancholic as I remembered good times and so good.
After I got to the hotel I met up with my longest running friend (1992) Otter and his significant other Jules (she is quite nice). We ate dinner and talked about old times, antics and other bad behavior from our times in the 90’s in Wuerzburg. It was great and sad at the same time. He pointed out that I am riding out on my 20th year in Bavaria. I told him it is not likely that I return.
In the end it was a good day. I was glad to sleep.
I have attached a couple of photos