Last weekend was the Fietselfstedentocht. This is a touring ride for 15000 people each riding 240 km in a day.
The first photo shows Marjon and I at the campsite near Sneek. I rode the Mango there from Assen with a tent, camping mat, sleeping bag, clothes and food for the three days stored inside. Everything went back in on Tuesday morning to ride back home, the trip each way adding another 160 km to the total.
Marjon and Harry were riding their back to back tandem. It's a great machine for sociable riding.
The ride is not a race, and in fact there is a maximum enforced average speed of 25 km/h. If you start at your allotted time and ride faster than that then you will be stopped at various timed points along the way.
However, it was clear that plenty of people actually do treat it as a race. If you have an early start card, but leave late, you don't have to wait to be stamped at the timed points.
As it happened, due to our getting to the start late my card appeared to be for someone who'd started an extra hour and a half earlier, which was just as well as I completed the ride in less than the expected time.
While many riders were of the sporty disposition, on expensive road bikes, others were dressed up for the occasion, and all types of bikes were ridden. There seemed not to be many recumbents involved in this event.
I was especially impressed by those who set off on delivery bikes, single speed tandems and such like, but can't help but think that those with nearly flat tyres would have been better off pumping them up before starting ! It's a long distance without having to do more work than necessary.
Along the way we were offered apples, which I very gratefully accepted, and also soup and a milky drink, neither of which were vegan, so I skipped those. In any case I carried enough food and drink with me for the entire ride.
And this is what I had by the end. All fifteen required stamps and a medal ! I started my bike computer a few minutes before the start and stopped it just after the end, 8 hours and 20 minutes later.
The organizers did a wonderful job with this ride, and the many volunteers stamping cards and directing traffic with the police also helped the whole thing to run (as far as I can tell) completely smoothly. Also I have to thank Marjon's parents for their hospitality at the campsite.
And how did the Mango get on ? Well, it got me there, got me back again and in-between it was a very comfortable and fast way of riding the tour.
I've been practicing trying to ride a bit slower for a few days in order that I'd not wear myself out. The 80 km ride to the camp-site had a headwind all the way, and I averaged only about 28 km/h over that distance, conserving energy for the next day. At first I kept the speed down on the event itself as well. I didn't want to push past where there was not really room. However, after about a third of the distance it was clear that I wasn't working too hard, and the crowd became somewhat less with only "serious" riders remaining. As a result, I built up speed where it was safe to do so and stopped taking video.
Quite a few km were covered at over 40 km/h, I had several people draft me for quite a long way, and one very fit young racer rode next to me at 43-44 for a number of kilometres. The Mango makes this balding grey haired old man as quick as a youngster.
The last quarter of the ride includes very stiff headwinds on a very exposed dijk next to the coast of Friesland, and at this point the Mango was embarrassingly quick, still cruising at over 30 km/h when many were feeling the wind. However, my speed was moderated by a few short but surprisingly steep climbs.
The very last five km or so are where youngsters who still have energy discover their sprinting muscles and really fly. At that point I was caught and passed by some that I'd recently passed.
After the end I rode the 16 km back to the campsite, ate a bit of dinner, and slept quite soundly until the morning.
The Fietselfstedentocht is really a great day out, however you want to ride it.
There are more details of the Fietselfstedentocht in my previous post, in which I mentioned that Harry wasn't going to be able to use his ticket. As you can see, he and Marjon did in fact take part, so I bought him a new ticket. Oh, and yes, I've fitted a small solar panel on top of my Mango. I designed a small charge regulator to go with it - it keeps the battery for the lights topped up. Ideal for touring.
Read my review of the Sinner Mango Velomobile.
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The less positive stuff What not to do if you want a cycling "revolution" - Long list of interventions and policies which are not helpful. Copy the best examples from the Netherlands - a short list summarising the above. Important to copy the best examples, not just anything "Dutch". Bear in mind that the Netherlands is not perfect. Shared Space - this much hyped idea simply does not work well. It disenfranchises the vulnerable and claims of safety are exaggerated. Don't confuse the concept with far more successful nearly car free streets. Shared Use Paths designed to be used by pedestrians and cyclists together. These rarely work well because the two user groups are too different and it leads to conflicts. They are not built in the Netherlands (but cycle access to pedestrianized zones is good). Strict (or presumed) liability - If you think this is an important part of why people cycle in the Netherlands then it is probably not what you think it is. Helmets - one of several ways of scaremongering about the supposed dangers of what is actually a very safe means of transport
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A cyclist in a cycling family living in the capital of the cycling province of the world's greatest cycling country.
I was born in the UK, lived for over 8 years in New Zealand and have lived in the Netherlands since 2007.
I organise cycling infrastructure study tours, run an online bicycle shop, arrange cycling holidays and write a popular blog about cycling.
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