Saturday 28 July 2018

Events and high temperatures. Keep cycling through it all.

July has been warmer and drier than usual for the Netherlands, starting off warm and slowly heating up until the last couple of days in which we've seen 37 C locally and slightly higher temperatures further south. Cycling of course continues through all weather, hot and cold. Here's a round-up of what's been going on in Assen over the last month.

The TT
More than anything else, Assen is famous for the TT racing circuit. This brings a huge number of visitors to the city - visitors outnumbering the locals 2:1 for a few days at the end of June (not July, but under a month ago at the time of writing). Luckily, motoring events no more create a motorcycle culture resulting in everyone travelling by motorbike than cycling events can create a cycling culture so Assen's cycling is safe from the influx of motorcycling enthusiasts.

People pick their mode of transport based on what is convenient and safe. Assen, like most Dutch cities, has high quality cycling infrastructure which makes cycling convenient and safe. Choosing to cycle is easy for everyone. That is why cycles are used for more journeys than any other mode of transport in Assen.

This year, a pop-up museum displayed historic motorcycles ridden in previous TTs.

The older the motorbikes were, the more they looked like bicycles with engines strapped on. That, of course, is exactly what motorbikes were in the beginning. There is a very long history of people who think that bicycles can be improved by making an engine or motor do most of the work. It happened with the very first motorbikes, with mopeds and it's happening again now with electrically assisted bikes. Most people, for most purposes, simply don't need a motor.

Outside the museum: most visitors had arrived by bicycle, which is just what you'd expect in Assen.

Supermarkets in Assen also go motorbike mad during the TT week. This supermarket had no less than six motorbikes dotted around displays of produce. I'm not sure what the connection is between tomatoes and motorbikes, but someone decided it was marketing genius.

Motorbikes and beer seem a more normal combination as it's clear that plenty of beer is consumed at the campsites around the TT track.

Outside the supermarket, but within the shopping centre. As usual, the majority of shoppers have arrived by bicycle.
But of course you don't read this blog to see pictures of motorized bicycles. I'll stick to human power from now onward.

Haren-Haren tocht
The last night of the TT festival was on the 30th of June and the music stopped at 5 am on the 1st of July. My alarm went off at 6 am so that I could make a good start in July by taking part in the Haren-Haren ride ("De Ultieme Wielerklassieker"). It's a very well organised sociable ride from Haren in the Netherlands to Haren in Germany and back again and this was the third time I took part. The route and distance both vary. This year there were different route options: a 30 km route for hand-bikers, a 105 km route which turns at one of the refreshment points within the Netherlands and the full route of 165 km length.

7:56 am: 25 km from home, I join the queue for "Velo Koffie" in Haren

Almost everyone rides a racing bike for this event. Recumbents and velomobiles are also permitted.

The route is very well signposted, with arrows like this showing which way to go at every junction and often in-between, which is a great help on long stretches.

The route mostly uses the extensive network of excellent cycle-paths in this area, which cope perfectly well with a thousand fast cyclists following the same route together.

Cycle racers gain a huge aerodynamic advantage by riding in a group. I have my own personal aerodynamic advantage when riding singly in a velomobile, but the difference in bicycle shape means I can't profit from riding in the middle of a group.

Germany. See flag and the different style of buildings which appear immediately after we cross the border. Naturally there's nothing else to note. A seamless border within the EU.
The furthest point was a stop at a small airfield just short of Haren (DE). Cake and sport drink were served. Then we rode back to the Netherlands.

A section of country lane in Groningen on the way back to Haren (NL). Roads like these do not function as useful through routes for drivers so there are very few cars to contend with. Cyclists so far as the eye can see.
As ever with rides like this some preparation is required. In particular it's a good idea to make sure your bike is in good condition. Because punctures are not amusing at all when you're a long way from home I don't use "fast" tyres but instead go for reliability. Schwalbe Marathon tyres pumped up to their maximum rated pressure are perfect.

Preparation also means sun block and a hat, and it's also important to take care of what you eat and drink. Hummus and salad sandwiches are my usual staple for lunch, augmented with nuts and crisps, snacks and a banana. In additional to a couple of bidons of water I also took a bidon of energy drink and had cartons of soy milk and fruit juice stashed away. I find that what seems appealing before or at the start of the ride isn't necessarily what you want to eat by the end of it so variety is important so you can find something that you like. Short distance cycling doesn't require eating anything more than usual, but on longer distances you do need to eat: This ride consumed about 4000 calories.

In total I rode 215 km in slightly over six and a half hours which is good enough for me. I was home, had a shower and was sitting in the garden with a book by mid afternoon. A very enjoyable day.

Regular weekend / midweek rides
Quite apart from our daily cycling for utility purposes, Judy and I try to get out for rides on the weekend and sometimes also mid-week

Wide cycle-paths mean sociable cycling.

There's a butterfly garden a few kilometres away which we visited on one of our recent rides. No butterflies stood still long enough to get a decent photo, but this dragonfly posed nicely for a photo.

An oddity on the cycle-path network of Drenthe: This kink in the cycle-path seems ideally designed to allow display of a classic car.

Watched by a horse while stopped for a snack.

Tractors are sometimes quite horrible to follow because of their exhaust fumes. They're usually limited in speed, in this case the tractor was limited to 30 km/h making it not difficult to race. We were rewarded with fresh air to breath.

One of the joys of living in a rural location is being able to buy fresh vegetables while cycling. These courgettes for sale at 40 cents each were actually quite large marrows. I bought one of them and it fed us for three nights.

Plenty of space for cyclists on the cycle-path along the canal

Unfortunately, there's not always fresh air to breath. Boats like this burn twice as much fuel per passenger kilometre as Concorde. Because no-one ever checks their emissions they get away with producing horrible clouds of smoke, yet local governments invite them into city centres just when they should be trying to reduce such pollution, especially near where people live.
Dutch lessons
I've mentioned in the past about how children not only cycle to and from school in the Netherlands, but schools also take children on trips by bicycle. That's something that doesn't happen so much elsewhere because of worries about liability but it's very normal in the Netherlands.

School trips by bike are not only for children. I signed up for a new course of Dutch lessons at the start of this year and our end of year activity was, of course, a cycle-trip. A few weeks ago we rode about 30 km one evening to a nice location in the countryside where we shared a picnic.

My fellow students and our teacher somewhere near the front .
Making deliveries
"Free delivery by velomobile" is a service which you won't find offered by many companies.

We offer local customers the option of free delivery by bicycle, which we normally say is within the city. However sometimes the sun is shining and I could do with a bike ride and I'll go further. One customer 25 km away who ordered a tyre and inner tubes this month received his parts by velomobile. A 50 km round trip through Drenthe is always tempting.

We don't only write about cycling and about bicycles, we use them every day and we sell parts which work for everyday cycling.

Parts for the customer - a tyre and two inner tubes.
Stopped for lunch on the return journey
Colour change in cycle-paths
When it's not rained for a while the cycle-paths of Assen change colour due to tyre wear. Particulate pollution isn't something to celebrate, but at least there is far less as a result of bicycles in comparison with cars.
Particulate rubber as a result of thousands of bicycles on dry asphalt. It's washed away by even quite light rain.
The much larger problem resulting from a few cars demonstrating performance during an event during the TT festival a whole month ago. There are orders of magnitude more rubber dust here: at the time of the photograph, this evening, this had survived several downfalls of rain.
Bicycles as Pollution
Assen's new railway station, built to replace the old station which dated from 1989, has now opened. With it, the temporary station's cycle-park has been closed. Owners of bicycles which had been parked there were warned weeks in advance that they had to remove their bikes. Most of the bicycles were removed, but these are the bicycles which were left at the station and which have been collected for scrapping. The blue shed is full and there are more bikes on the other side of it:

A small part of the temporary cycle-park a few days before closure. Most bikes had been removed.
But a month later these bicycles, extending into the blue shed and beyond, could be found near the town dump waiting to be scrapped. They're not all wrecks. Bicycles as pollution.
Self-destructing cycle-paths
The heat has taken its toll on some of the cycle-paths locally. I came across this a few days ago: A concrete cycle-path which had cracked spectacularly. This happens occasionally when the expansion gaps become full of solid objects such as small rocks. Luckily, there was a work crew already fixing the problem.
Heat damage to a concrete cycle-path

By the time I found this damage it was already being fixed
In order to avoid damage to asphalt cycle-paths which could melt, salt is applied in exactly the same way as it is in winter.
For the last 53 years, Assen has hosted a Fietsvierdaagse. It's a four day cycling event in which 11000 people took part this year. I rode on just one day, Thursday, and entered to ride the 100 km route rather than the more popular (and slower) 40 km route.

I've enjoyed the fietsvierdaagse routes, short and long over different years since we've lived here but I think it's a mistake that they've stopped putting up arrows for the longer routes as that makes them much less fun to follow. GPS on a bike isn't really my thing: I don't want to have to stare at a screen when cycling.

People arrive at 8:00

The fietsvierdaagse is about gezelligheid, not speed.

While the shorter routes are way-marked, the longer routes are not. Following a not very well printed map without GPS and often finding myself riding on the same paths as people taking part over much shorter distances was impractical so after going along half the distance on approximately the route as I was supposed to I made the rest of the journey along familiar routes back home on which I could keep up a sensible speed.

Another delivery
All the parcels we send out to mail order customers begin their journey on one of our bikes, most on our cargo bike. Customers within Assen either collect from us or we deliver and use it as an excuse to ride a bit further. This morning, delivery to a customer 2 km away turned into an 18 km ride. Not a long distance, but a nice way to start the morning.
I made another delivery this morning, taking an oversized chainwheel to a customer just 2 km away from home in a new suburb of Assen.

In total, this delivery to a customer 2 km away resulted in an 18 km cycle-ride. Part of the journey back to Assen was along this dead-end (to cars) country lane which serves half a dozen farms. It is being improved with safer edging.
Assen now has a rainbow zebra crossing. I'm all for recognizing diversity in all its forms. Something notable about this particular crossing is how it has been created. Some rainbow coloured crossings are not legal zebras because of their design but in this case the white stripes comply to the regulations for a standard zebra contrasting to the surface underneath, which can be any colour. Unfortunately, they've dropped the advisory cycle-lane broken white line through the rainbow section, and this is right in a location where drivers enter the cycle-lane regularly because its on the inside of a corner. The paint looks nice, but this change doesn't fix several other problems of this junction either.

This evening in Assen. My town bike among the others parked near a cafe.

Continuing a theme from above, the spearmint in our garden attracted dozens of bees today.

Thus far, all the cycling I've done this month on all the bikes I've ridden adds up to about 750 km.

The Tour-de-France ends tomorrow. Competing cyclists will have ridden 3351 km in the last three weeks, somewhat exceeding my efforts.

The finishing line
However, even more impressive and happening as I write this, Nici Walde is attempting to break the human powered 24 hour cycling record which currently stands at 1219 km as well as the women's record which stands at 1012 km. She started at 10 this morning and will continue to ride until 10 tomorrow morning and she'll have to maintain an average speed of better than 50 km/h for 24 hours. At the time of writing Nici has covered 602 km in the first 12 hours. Already awesome. Good luck Nici.

Update: Nici Walde rode 1088 km in 24 hours, easily breaking the previous women's record. That is the absolute limit of human power as of the 29th of July 2018.

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