Protected: Holten Ride – explanation see post below

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An Inspiring Ride: Retro Classic Holten

Quick trigger warning before I start: The post above, which is set on private, is by no means meant to exclude anyone, only it contains photos on which faces are visible and riders can be recognized. What with all the recent humdrum about new data protection regulations, and press coverage about bloggers possibly being fined for showing faces and not being in possession of written consent by everyone in those photos, I thought it wise not to make them public. The password for this post is obtainable from either me or the owner of the retrokoers website. I would like to say, though, that the private nature of the post means that only people who took part in the ride should write in for the password, sorry about that.

And what was that – the blog wasn´t visible at all for nearly a week – very sorry about an error I committed. When trying to set the photos mentioned above on private, I hit the wrong button, the whole blog vanished, and I didn´t notice at first as don´t read my own blog too often 🙂 When I did notice, internet illiterate me had no idea off hand how to make the mistake good again, so it took a few days.

But now, here we go.

 

Any ride must be great if you can lean your bike onto a bronze pig before the start

and if there´s another one to look on even.

As you don´t get that in too many places, Holten it was again, after a few years of not going to the great KNWU Toertochten that start in the area, see post of yore. This time it was to be a retro ride, of which the Netherlands and Belgium have had that many recently that you can lose oversight. The retrokoers website, which some years ago was still very quick to read now is a really long list of rides all over the Netherlands and Belgium. This is a great development, of course, but if it comes to travelling from the North West of Germany to the South of the Netherlands or even to Belgium, things quickly become difficult. If you then see a ride advertised which is only about 130 kms away from where you live, it´s relatively unavoidable that you go, right?

And it was a good decision, what with the weather being wonderful, attendance high, and the route well planned. We met in the middle of the town, in a place called Smidsbelt, at a café, where the organizers, the tourist office of the town, had erected two long racks onto which riders could hook their bikes for safe storage either with the handlebars or the saddles of their bikes.

Not too many riders came by car, but in any case parking space was ample, and as my son and I were very early, we had the prime parking space – if that matters. So we set about assembling the bikes (and hiding some marvellous vinyl records we had bought in a fleamarket on the way). We had brought my son´s 1952 Miele Sports bike, and my ca. 1982 RIH. We thought we´d be fine with that choice, and while I was, the RIH being a really great bicycle to ride, my son was hard pressed on his relatively heavy tourer when it came to the run over Holterberg with no holds barred and the group dissolved for a few miles. He coped admirably, though, and the great atmosphere of friendly rivalry saw to everybody being included in the spirit. On a personal note, I may add that my recent intensive training had led to me not being the slowest by far after basically 18 months of absence from riding, so that was good too. I battled it out with a group of riders among which there was one to ride a beautiful red Ko Zieleman, a real marvel of a bike.

Start was at 10.30 for the group which was led by Theo de Rooy, a former Pro and a very friendly man indeed. We had met before in some ride or other, and he remembered me and we were greeted with a handshake, which created a familiar atmosphere right away.

The first round of riding was about 35 slowish (25kph) kilometers, with lots of great conversations possible, and everybody in good mood. I talked to the only other RIH rider a lot, brushing up my Dutch, and finding out once more that the frame number of my bike doesn´t match with the usual numbering system employed in the day – four digits, starting with the expected two digit year code, but then one digit is missing.

While it has to be admitted that not every bicycle in use there was a prime museum piece, the group including also some low range cycles, they all were in very good nick technically, so only two punctures occurred, for the mending of which the group waited, making good use of the time by taking photographs, chatting even more, and looking at each other´s bikes. Here´s a quick photo bomb of the headbadges and -transfers I was able to catch, and as you can see, many bicyces were of fascinating provenance.

So, after about 90 minutes we were back for a round of coffee and cakes at the café. Again, bicycles were scrutinized, and some I found fascinating, some others shocking, like this 1920s machine which had obviously been involved in a bad crash some time in its long history. You could see that something was wrong with the angles from just looking at it, and this was the reason:

Ripples under the top tube, right behind the cable clip, and one big bulge under the down tube. Luckily, steel is forgiving, but it´s not nice in any case.

After the break at the café, or, for those who had brought their own sandwiches, on a round bench under a tree, on we went for the next round of riding, roughly the same distance again, but over Holterberg. The peloton again was moving forward at a moderate pace until we came to said hill, and we met again after it, so te group arrived back at Smidsbelt in more or less one batch. Riding in the group was pleasurable in all, discipline prevailed, no dangerous situation occurred, but all those colourful old jerseys made for a really bright outlook.

Two more interesting bicycles:

One, only represented here in details, a Peugeot randonneuse I have portrayed before, with some gold anodized Simplex accents and some nice transfers:

And the other Theo de Rooy´s bike, one he rode in the day when being a pro, and the only cross bike in the group. Great bike, really, but look at the rear dropout and the seat saty top – are those hairlines in the paintwork also cracks in the metal? Let´s hope not, but they look like it, don´t they?

Is this a cracked seat stay tube?

  After a few hours it was packing up again, and back home, but it was very much worth it. I´ll certainly be back next year.

Time Flies

On April 29, it was Stalen Ros time again, one more year over. So we went to Deurne again, second time already that the event hasn´t taken place in Neerkant anymore, and had a great time. Many visitors, much metal to see, a few bits to buy – as I said before, the quality of the items offered for sale in the numerous stalls isn´t exactly increasing.

Still, many visitors came.

The organisers had requested people who brought expo bikes to have a special focus on RIH, the Amsterdam builder and one of Holland´most famous ones, so there ways a huge number of unusual bikes by that brand to be seen.

Great stuff.

Bicloun from Paris had a really rather special bicycle for sale, a Dilecta showing most features of a good tourer, but equipped with a cheaper version of the Osgear Super Champion derailleur – very unusual also the top tube gear lever which has the cable exit at a 90 degree angle. Else, nice brazing everywhere, and a super original condition, even the alloy cap of the Osgear tension arm spring is still present. However, the little cage that circles the chain under the tension arm roller to keep the roller on the chain in rough riding is not.

Here´s a few uncommented photos to show the high quality of this mid-range bike. I´m lucky enough to own a four speed pro version of that derailleur, so I wasn´t tempted.

Two cars will also have to be mentioned here: One, my old Volvo who had a huge breakdown on the way back home (con rod failure at 3.500 rpm and 466.000 kms; going from super smooth sailing on the motorway to clanking horror in less that 20 seconds),

here parked next to a Dutch registered 940, and this beauty, a team car based on a Citroen CX 2nd series Break, just look at it. Dream car, I´d say.

So until next month hopefully. Coming to Holten on June 3, anyone?

Just a Few Photos This Month

This month´s post is about me. Having written about so many other people, bicycles, books and what have you, it´s my turn now.

You might remember posts about century rides, about rides to meets, and so on – no such luck today. Today, however, marks a special day as it was the first time in 18 months that I sat on a road bike, and literally. A spate of phases marked by utter work overload, an accident damaging my foot, infections (for instance the genuine flu) and other illnesses (among them a recent one leading to me losing 8 kgs of body weight in three weeks) has kept me off the bike for that long. Not nice.

Now that things seem to possibly look up again (touch wood) I´ve tried very slowly to get myself re-accustomed to cycling, which is bloody hard work. In the past weeks I went out on the bike whenever the opportunity opened itself, and I was out quite a bit.

Starting out from our small town

I cycled over hills, from the distance looking at a nearby ice cream cone factory (not joking here),

and also a few trees,

and old houses.

I rode over canal bridges

and even overtook a Harley on the way.

I first used my trusty, sturdy Rohloff equipped KFS.

Today I upgraded to one of the best road bikes I so far have had the pleasure to own, my NR equipped RIH:

But would you believe that I´m still walking hills I didn´t even notice were there two years ago? Or that I wasn´t half as tired two years ago after a day of 150+kms on a heavy, 1956 Miele roadster, resplendent with a three speed hub, than I was today after 45kms (taking nearly THREE hours) on the RIH?

Will I ever get back to the shape I was in two years ago, I wonder, or will the 56 year old fart that I am have to be content with walking shallow inclines? Looks like the latter right now.

Not My Kind of Bike, not My Kind of Ride

Weekend before last there was this bicycle and travel fair at a local VW dealership. The VW people cleared most of their vast exhibition hall and made room for dozens of stalls by regional tourist offices, cycles shops, big cycle makers and some charity stalls too.

Coach companies showed off their latest bicycle trailers.

Why did I go? Looking at it with hindsight – no idea. What did I expect? The manisfestation of the return to classic bike culture? Ha.

Take these, for instance:

Electric, superfat tires, superfat frame tubes, if you can call them that, hard if not impossible to service at home, defined life expectancy, and a price tag that made me swoon:

I´m not a fan of DIY superstore bicycles, and I´ve always tried to have more expensive bicycles than cars, but this is just over the top, sorry.

And things go on. Yes, there are a few steel frames bikes, two I think, but of course they need gimmicks to induce planned obsolescence, like Pinion bottom bracket gearboxes and so on. Nothing, BTW, I saw in that fair which was praised as the dernier cri did not have some sort of precursor as far as 110 years ago, not even the bamboo bicycle with its super cheap kit.

Useful as a strong carrier rack may be, but the Belgians learned that a brazed/welded on rack does have its disadvantages as far as servicability is concerned. Now these racks seem on their way back.

What with Germany always being a bit skeptical as far as useful bicycle developments are concerned, we actually are discovering the advantages of a Dutch bakfiets (box bike) now.

One of the few occasions in the fair I had a hearty laugh also was on the bakfiets:

I think I have to administer some antidote now before it´s too late. Gimme this

and this

and this

and framebuilding like this

anytime. Please.

A Little Ray of Sunshine

 

One major attraction at Marten´s December open day was the presence of a Marston Sunbeam in good original condition and with some great extras like the two speed chainwheel gear. I´m not very familiar with these bikes, so I took a couple of photographs and let them speak for themselves.

This is not a 1920s cruise control but a blocking mech that facilitates any operation in which a non-moving front fork is needed – like repair, storing, or carrying.

A special fitting for the chainstays. Amazing.

The way the two speed lever is attached to the top tube.

 

The attention to detail in this bike is amazing and should attract the artist´s eye as much as the craftman´s. It´s not for nothing that Sunbeams were regarded as a brand apart, and among the best bicycles available anywhere in the day.

Car Eat Countryside

Today nice weather coincided with a couple of hours of free time, so I decided to hop on the bike, and for want of a better idea where to go, I decided to repeat a short trip I had taken quite exactly four years ago to snap the changes that major roadworks have wrought upon the landscape near our small town.

About 40 years ago planning started for an intergalactic bypass. It seems that nothing was good or expensive enough, so plans were made for a road which legally is not a federal highway (Bundesautobahn) but a notch below that, a Bundesstraße. However in reality it will completely look like an Autobahn, save the yellow roadsigns in place of blue highway ones. This of course means a huge loss of contryside, a huge expenditure of money, and I as a cyclist can´t help feeling cheated.

The Osnabrück area isn´t exactly known for its cycle friendliness, only a few months ago I had a potentially dangerous accident damaging my cycle (see red replacement front fork) because of what I see as unbelievably bad planning of cyclepaths in the city, and the new bypass will be forbidden for cyclists – matter of fact, the cycle route to Osnabrück will be less easy to use after the roadworks will have been finished. No way anything really helpful is planned as far as cyclists are concerned – there is talk of a “Fahrradautobahn”, a cycle highway, more or less alongside the new bypass, but to my mind that´s just an alibi. Drastic measures that would be so necessary are not tackled at all. That´s why I´m feeling cheated when looking at the construction site.

Now for my short cyclerides, today and four years ago.

I approached the site from its Eastern end, and even from several hundred meters away the yellow sand on it was clearly visible in the sun, behind the trees.

 

The next two views are taken from the hill in the background of this pic, looking left, basically.

The new road really eats ito the conuntryside.

Thses are two of the bridges visible in the pics above.

Carrying on further, the site today looks like this:

Four years ago this was the view one had:

 

Even worse, this little copse

and this slope

were completely taken away, the level of the ground being lowered to this

and this.

Turning round 180 degrees, four years ago this was what one beheld:

And now it´s like this, at a slightly different angle:

The little copse of five pictures above was roughly alongside the bridge on the excavator side of it, only nearly ten meters above 2018 road level. That much hill has been taken away. The number of trees having been felled is amazing too.

All in all, I´m not impressed. Traffic planning is, to my mind, still riding on mid-20th century tracks, and in the wrong direction.

 

A Bike with a USB Plug, a Car with a Bicycle Bell, and a Smoking Gun

All of that was to be found on or near Marten´s latest edition of Tubes and Coffee, which was really nice again despite taking place on a day on which there was a lot of black ice on the roads, and so sadly not too many people attended. We had our usual three people in the car

and it took us more than two hours to cover the 180 kms to Marten´s place. Suffice to say that the turbo engine wasn´t asked too much on the German Autobahn that morning.

However, once there, we were very well rewarded by Marten´s hospitality. His traditional apple crumble

looked like this minutes after our arrival:

And what was that simmering on the wood stove?

Indeed, the rightfully famous vegetarian groentesoep, vegetable soup.

But really we hadn´t come for neither cars not soup, but to marvel at more machines, in and outside the workshop. One is the Phil spoke machine, which cuts too long spokes and rolls new threads in them in one go. Marten says that its the single most expensive piece of machinery in his workshop, but well worth it. Here it is:

You insert the spoke into a little hole

crank the lever

and the machine cuts the spoke to the pre-set length and rolls a new thread in seconds.

But this marvel also contains the smoking gun: Who believes that Phil is US made?

Me no longer 🙂

And some more bits and pieces:

Like this candlestick cleverly made from wrecked SON parts:

Or other SON items like this demonstrator or special new equipment:

It´s all quite fascinating, but with Marten being the SON importer for the Netherlands, he´s just the chap to ask for viewing things like that.

More nice items, like this derailleur demonstrator use in sleutelcursussen, repair classes for members of a long distance cycling club. Marten made the demonstrator himself, and I just love it.

You can take the lever and the cable off in seconds, and everything is super well made and clear for beginners.

However, Marten is also involved in the history of great bicycles, and here we had the opportunity to scrutinize an early and famous titanium frameset:

Books – there were some quite exciting ones to be leafed through.

And of course visitors brought some rather nice bikes. The Copenhagen Pedersen is Marten´s, but the Koga was ridden from Groningen:

As M-Gineering also sell Airnimals, there was a very nice specimen on display too.

More examples of Marten´s raw materials and what he makes of them:

One last look at a really, really nice bike a customer brought, the one with the USB plug, actually,

and then we had to take our leave for another year, driving along the straight canal, drawn with a ruler into the flat landscape.

 On the way back we chanced upon this apparatus:

Here´s the car with the cycle bell. And: Does anyone have any idea what the flap in the bonnet is for?

So here we are, stuck with another year´s worth of waiting for the 2018 edition of Tubes and Coffee.

A New Bike!

Yes, after 8 years, I´m going to have another custom frame built. No photos of it yet, not British this time, but a few explanations to start off with.

What´s the background?

I´ve had custom frames made off and on for the last 30 years, and I´ve never rued any of those actions – financial, organisational, time wise a custom frame is a real action, but its advantages grow with each Centimetre of frame height, and I need between 65 and 67 of them.

I started with my Mercian, a tourer as nice as they come, and not much in use nowadays as I´ve moved away from loaded cycletouring. I was quite inexperience then, so dealing with the people in Derby was an eyeopener; see my blog post on the matter. Just enter “Mercian” in the search box top left, and there you go. Matter of fact, you can enter the names of all bikes I´m going to mention this way, if you like. I used the Mercian to go all over Europe.

Then, in 1991, I had Dave Miller build me a curly Hetchins track frame, which also was great. I did some track training at the time, and loved it, now the bike is a fixed with a three speed Sturmey. Luckily, Dave suggested at the time that I order mudguard clearance and some braze ons like a classic road/track layout. I´ve even used the Hetchins for century rides, actually, and it´s not bad at all.

After that, there was a 2nd hand custom frame – yes, something like that exists. Our dream at the time was a George Longstaff expedition tandem which we couldn´t afford new. One day in 1995, a small add showed up in the Tandem Club Journal, and off I went to the UK to pick up a bike which was absolutely our dream machine, down to the choice of colour. No mean feat if you consider that we need 65/51 frame size in a Tandem. The machine has given the family endless satisfaction, not least with our son as the stoker, progressing through all stages of kiddy cranks and so on. It actually got our son into cycling.

During my son´s and my century riding we met a rider from a place near Dortmund who was foolhardy enough to swap his wonderful custom made Rickert for a carbon framed machine – so another huge coincidence delivered a 2nd hand Rickert custom road bike to my doorstep, again perfect down to the colour. I must admit I have not used it much, but it belongs in the group of bikes which are my size and which I would have or actually did order according to my wishes.

Next, some years after my son and me had started century riding in earnest, my son going through a procession of machines which I built from all sorts of frames and parts, me riding an old bike which had changed roles so often I had lost track, my son´s growing came to a foreseeable end, and we ordered randonneuers from Ellis Briggs in Shipley because Doug Fattic had recommended them to us. I had spent the precending season (2007) taking notes after each ride and thinking about the machines, and Andy at EB got them just right. We have enjoyed them hugely ever since finishing them in 2009.

Why now?

Of course I´d be able to carry on with the bikes I´ve got. But, shortly after I had started riding the EB, Jan Heine´s influence had grown important enough to re-popularize 650B wheeled bicycles. (Which reminds me, BTW, that I have to take out another subscription of BQ.) At first it wasn´t clear if 650B was a fad or if it would last, but from the start it was clear that 23 mil wide tires are tougher to ride than 42 mil ones, and my back hasn´t been very kind to me, or vice versa, I don´t know, so this summer my decision grew that I had to have a 650B bike. I had played with the thought for some time, but now, due to my job situation and other things, I also felt I could do with a reward for some very hard work which had kept me out of the saddle for the whole season.

Also, there is this factor that my EB randonneur is not replaceable now. When Andy was still around, we could always send a damaged frame to Shipley (as we did twice) and we could count on the repair being perfect. Paul of course also is a great framebuilder as I have heard, but Andy has passed away, so I feel that I should give my EB a less hard time. I now treat it less than a bike but more as a monument to the marvellous craftsman who built it. That´s not just talk; after nearly 40 years of cycling I have recently for the first time crashed and damaged a frame. Nothing spectacular, but still.

What sort of bike?

I decided to get a 650B shod road bike, all the rage now in the US, it seems. The French would have called it a sportif in former times. No lights, no mudguards yet, but clearance for all eventualities, just a decaleur in front. The funny coincidence that triggered that decision was that an acquaintance of mine who does house clearances offered me an old beat Trek 2300 road bike dirt cheap, and I quite came to like it because it´s much livelier than the EB, more lightweight and far easier to transport in a car too. It is a bit small for me, but hols in France and Belgium using it were very enjoyable. So the bike that was used as a working basis to start from actually was alloy framed with a carbon fork and Shimano Ultegra parts. Who´d have thunk.

How far has it progressed?

Well, given the fact that a frame builder has been found, lots of decisions about the frame have been taken, and a number of spares have already found their ways to my box, I think the bike has progressed quite far, but of course there is nothing to view at the moment besides a few documents and said box.

Also I have decided to get a friction shifted bike once more, for that I found Suntour bar ends and a pair of threaded Phil hubs in my box. Also there´s a 27.2 Campag seat post, a Regina block of sprockets, and outside the box there are already a bar and a pair of wide non-Ergo Campag brake levers. In the plastic bag there is a set of very nice CLB cantis.

Also due to the great kindness of a fellow Classicrendezvous member a 1st gen Suntour GT rear derailleur and a Vx front have arrived, so that the Shimano in the box now will be replaced by something much more stylish and historical. Oh yes, some Stronglight 100 lx cranks are also somewhere outside the pic. Also I will not be able to withstand cracking an all but invisible joke: I hope to use a Phil bottom bracket bearing together with the hubs.

Who will be the frame builder?

That question actually didn´t really pose itself; I didn´t shop round or send off long enquiring emails to all corners of the world, I asked Marten Gerritsen because over the last few years my fascination with his work has grown and I found the thought of riding an M-Gineering frame intriguing.

I spent a very enjoyable afternoon with Marten, not only talking bike and filling in forms, measuring and taking decisons, but also being invited to dinner and going for a cycleride too, during which Marten watched my cycling habits, which to him, the former race team mechanic, will have looked very amateurish I´m sure. The whole experience was very enjoyable and I felt taken very serious. Also I hit the limits of my Dutch which I found a bit embarrassing.

Now dig this: My beloved EB randonneur frame on which I have spent more than 40.000 happy kilometers and which fits me like a glove was built by a man who, when asked what features he, from his own cycling experience, could recommend additionally, just answered in a Yorkshire accent “I don´t ride a bike”.

Marten has since emailed a very detailed and professional sheet on which all angles, lengths and other measurements are mentioned.

tony

Further developments?

I´ll keep you posted.

Neerkant Revisited – Randonneurs

It might not have escaped your attention that I have a predilection for randonneurs. To me they seem to be the pinnacle of cycle construction, uniting light weight, practicability, comfort and a high degree of individuality. Also you need a very good Constructeur to build you that lightweight bike which incorporates a great number of custom made peripheral structures such as décaleurs, racks, lighting installation, brake cable stops, mudguard eyes and clearance, and what not. After all, even if you don´t go for PBP, the average (or below average, like me) rider wants a bike which will help him or her to attain the longest possible ride distance with the least discomfort. Add to that personal touches like special lugs, and there you are: Not to be surpassed.

Rivendell

So, about eight years ago (yes, it´s that long ago), I was lucky enough to have a custom made randonneur made for me by Ellis Briggs in Shipley (see Work in Progress post). At the time I thought one would see a big renaissance of steel framed, constructeur made randonneurs, but it seems I was mistaken, so whenever I see one, I have a good look, as in this year´s spring Stalen Ros meet. The first bike I found to be quite nice was a US made bike, a Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen – strange name, great bike. In theory I was familiar with the brand, I had read a number of Rivendell Readers, even before Grant Petersen and Jan Heine fell out over rolling resistance of tires,

so I knew that they made nice lugs

and artsy headbadges, too. I used to say that I only wanted to ride bikes with metal headbadges, but I wonder if that can be continued nowadays. Anyway, Rivendell Bike Works still have them:

And here´s the bike in full:

Some nice details:

Personally, I´m not so sure about asymmetrical lugs, but that´s a matter of taste, I assume, as long as certain limits are not exceeded. I just love the lugged extension, that´s true, although my taste for fantasy literature is underdeveloped.

Batavus

There was another really wonderful bike, hard to be photographed, sorry to say, so there´s just a few snaps. Based on an elderly Batavus frame, the rider had made a great long distance bike, changing tire size to 650B on the way, and incorporating such features as remotely controlled directional lighting, reminding me of the 2nd series Citroen D-models.

 

So the former down tube gear lever is now attached to the brake lever body and actuates the Edelux swivel mech. Great stuff.

Lastly for today, these two nice touches: