Friday 28 May 2010

Fietselfstedentocht - a jolly ride through the countryside

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.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic film, David. I felt like I was there (and I wish I were)!

I see that the Dutch can be trusted to wear helmets when appropriate (on such a tightly packed ride - perfectly reasonable to prevent cuts/scrapes in a fall). We Australians apparently can't be trusted... having to wear one even when cycling 100m to buy milk!

A few questions about the Mango:
Is it particularly noisy on rough surfaces (not that you have many there I suspect...) - ie. does it act like an amplifier or does the suspension minimise this?

Also, how do you store items behind you without them becoming entangled in the mechanics? I'd love to see some more 'interior' images on the Ligfietsgarage site.


Dr Paul Martin
Brisbane, Australia

David Hembrow said...

Hi Paul, people were asked by the organisers to wear helmets for the ride. The racers tend to do so anyway as it's part of the uniform. Not everyone wore a helmet, and not all the time. I agree, though, it's not completely unreasonable for a crowded event in which some number of collisions are almost a certainty.

The Mango body inevitably does to some extent work as a sounding board on cobbled surfaces (quite common on roads in town centres), however the suspension helps a lot with this. A velomobile without suspension on all three wheels would be very noisy. Past a certain speed there is more wind noise than anything else.

There is plenty of room in the back without anything getting tangled up in anything else. We have covers over the oily bits. I just tried to take another photo to illustrate this, but black things on a black background simply don't show up so that you can see them. You'll have to take my word for it until I can get a decent photo. It works very well. Nothing got oily, even though I'd gone a bit overboard with oiling my chain a few days previously (add a few drops of oil every 500-1000 km and the chain will last for tens of thousands of km).

What with the Elfstedentocht on Monday and riding to work four days this week, I'll have ridden over 650 km in my Mango this week.

Mark W. said...

What a great video David! I think it captures the atmosphere of the event beautifully.
I had to laugh out loud about the two in costume on the tandem! And the 'Frisian Flag' hot pants were striking too!
And at least I now know where all the lycra went that weekend! It was scarce in the south of the Netherlands.
It does seem you stood out in the crowd, but the reactions to your mango that you captured were all very positive.

Anonymous said...


You might find some pictures here:

Harry Lieben said...

Hello David, you were simply to fast to see any of the other recumbents. Most of them overtook Marjon and me at about a third of the route, so they started a bit later than we did. Very nice video BTW, Harry.

David Hembrow said...

Harry, I passed some. I think there were two different M5s with tailboxes, a couple of challenge hurricanes or similar models and one of the Flevobike rug-aan-rug tandems. I also saw Jolanda in her Mango (without Russell the velo-dog). I would have taken a photo, but my camera was playing up at that point.

Wilfred Ketelaar said...

Next time I wish I could ride. The last 3 years we compete in a hitchhiking contest from our improvtheatreclub. It's good fun (just take a look here, but maybe I'll try riding this thing next year. It's only 240 km.

Zyzzyx said...

Looks like a grand time.

I'd be quite interested in a post detailing your solar charger, especially the regulator. I've been thinking something like that would be quite handy, especially during the winter, commuting with the lights on both ways. And thinking farther out, would be nice, as you say, for touring. Specifically, I'm thinking of the Roll Over America in 2011.

Adam said...

Hi David,

I too rode for the first time with my dutch friend. What a great day it was. Like you said the wind did can get a bit tough in sections but the long flat sections make up for it.

Coming from Australia i was amazed at how normal cycling was to everyone. It was great to see people of all ages getting involved either by participating in the race or just simply sitting in their front gardens with their neighbours watching cyclists go by. The whole area seemed very proud of their event.

Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Belle said...

Hi, I'm very interested in your solar panel. I like to fit one on my velomobile Quest XS as well. Could you help me with what did you buy and/or who installed it? If you did it yourself, what components did you use and how did you connect it? Thank you for your info.

David Hembrow said...

Hi Belle, I designed the electronics myself. I have a 6 V electrical system in my Mango (the best arrangement IMO because this is the voltage of dynamo lighting) but this could also easily be made to work with a 12 V system. The solar panel continuously charges the battery and the battery runs everything just as usual. Therefore the solar panel contributes power for the lights, interior lighting, indicators, horn etc. Note that small panels are all that are practical and that they don't generate much - especially in winter when you need the lights most. But over a few days in the summer if the Mango is outdoors and in sunlight rather than shadow the battery is kept topped up reasonably well.

At some point I'll either decide to try to make a commercial product of this or I'll publish the design. Either way, the biggest problem is finding suitable good quality flexible solar panels. I managed to buy exactly three of them when I first did this and have been looking for a non military-oriented supplier from whom to buy more from ever since then.