Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Rural Ride

Last Sunday my son and I went on a ride which has been one of our favourites for as long as we´ve been riding together. Also it was one of the first rides my son did at age 11. It´s not the landscape which is as flat as can be, and usually there´s a lot of wind to boot so we rarely go for a long distance, but it´s the really friendly people we keep meeting each time we go, riders as well as organizers. Also it´s a ride with very few participants, 180 this time, which gives a cozy atmosphere, and the people from Aschen cycling club stage the ride twice a year.

So twice a year, after about 45 minutes drive, we arrive in Aschen in our Volvo 745, nearly 22 years old and with roughly 367,000 km on the clock by now.

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It´s been the same routine for years, several dozen times each season: My bike goes flat on the floor, my son´s leans to it, and the gear is in a plastic box with panniers and handle bar bags interspersed. There´s a big old blanket on my bike, the front wheels rest on this.

Once the bikes are reassembled, there´s registration, and more often than not some interesting bike shows up, too. This time it was what I think is the frame and some other bits of a 1973 Peugeot PX10.

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There´s not much original equipment on it now, only the Stronglight chainset, but the paintwork is quite nice.

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The mudguard stay seems to be riveted to the dropout end.

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It was nearly time to set off when I saw this Claud Butler tandem – a rare bird indeed in Germany.

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Then there was the start, and right away we were able to enjoy the sun – one of the few times this year so far as it was a very long winter. As the kilometers passed, we met a number of riders for chats about bikes and cycling. It was not all bikes, though, as the area is very much influenced by energy production, and the oil production facilities which provide enough oil for about three per cent of Germany´s consumption always attract some attention. The wind also is rather dependable, which cyclists aren´t so happy about, so yesterday´s and tomorrow´s energy sources meet.

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You also find a great number of rather well-off looking farms. The area is Germany´s first and foremost region for the industrial production of animals;

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something I as a vegetarian feel entitled to complain about. I remember the title of a TV feature from some years ago which was Und ewig stinken die Felder (“Beyond Stink the Fields”) which is a pun on the German title of Trygve Gulbranssen´s 1933 Novel Und ewig singen die Wälder (Originally Og bakom synger skogene, English “Beyond Sing the Woods”). The liquified outpourings of the millions of pigs and chicken have to go somewhere, so they are spread on the fields, indeed causing an olfactory challenge at times.

Of course, many farmers being rich, you see something like this

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and this

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quite frequently on the way, with many farms having some sort of Disneyland appeal.

Not everything is well-kept, though, like this torso of a windmill:

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And, of course, there are war memorials dotting the landscape, a few of the about 100,000 in all of Germany. The Aschen memorial is unusual in a number of aspects. Firstly, it is large and extremely well looked after.

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XADenkmrot

Also the resting lion is somewhat unusual to appear on a WWI war memorial; mostly there are martial symbols like praying soldiers, eagles or the like, but nearly always in poses of mourning or heroic defeat. Symbols of victory, like obelisks, soaring eagles or lions, were employed on memorials for the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/1. This makes me think this monument was erected even during WWI, when misguided so-called patriots were believing that the war could still be won, and that losses would be relatively light.

Also the typeface would have been considered oldfashioned in the twenties, and the space available on the memorial wasn´t sufficient to accomodate all the names of the perished. Whereas there are hardly any inscriptions of those killed or missing on the large monuments in towns or cities, smaller communities usually list the names of their dead, letting sadness emerge even after so many decades.

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When all dams broke the neighbouring chapel on the cemetary received six lists of names, three for the Great War and three, visible here, for WWII.

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After the two wars, there couldn´t have been too many men left.

BTW, an interesting book about the times when so many war memorials were erected is Der schwarze Obelisk (“The Black Obelisk”) by Erich Maria Remarque, the protagonist of which works as a gravestone and memorial salesman. The book is set quite close to Aschen.

The ride is nearing its end. One specialty of the Aschen tour is that the riders who feel fit enough to battle the wind for 155 km have to be mentally strong, too, as they already are back in Aschen, less than a kilometer from the finish, when they see this

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and have to turn off for another 40 km.

My son and myself were not in the mood for this, in fact not even for the 110 km. 75 was all we were prepared to ride that day, so we packed the Volvo and returned home.

P.S.: When checking some facts for this post, my favourite search engine gave me this result:

DenkmalEbay

Gefallenendenkmal is one of the German words for “war memorial”, and it not only seems that Ebay sell genuine German do it yourself memorials (“Deutschland schraubt”) and that they are cheaper than anywhere else, but that 153 people have followed the advice that “war memorials are bought at Ebay´s” and given feedback. Is there a word for this?

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Neerkant III – On the Route-ns

And the last bike I snapped in Neerkant. This is just wonderful and needs no explanations. It´s all a French Randonneuse from the classic period should be, although the chocolate colour isn´t my idea of attractive, and I´d have bought alloy cranks if it had been mine to choose in 1940-something, but there you go.

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Neerkant II – Penny Farthing

Here´s one more bike I was able to marvel at. Ever since I found what could easily be the remains of the oldest surviving motorpaced bicycle about 20 years ago (see my Allright post, use the search box in the top l/h corner of the screen) I have a soft spot for those weird machines. This one even has a documented race history – problem is, I forgot what it was.

Perhaps the machine´s owner could contact me and remind me. So many impressions in Neerkant, so little space on my built-in biological hard disk drive.

So just try to enjoy the photos as much as possible, despite my near complete lack of photographic prowess.

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Close clearances.

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The chainwheel isn´t exactly what one would expect on the crank – and I doubt that this construction ever saw the track as it certainly wouldn´t have passed the scrupulous inspection by safety conscious technical marshalls taking place before many races.

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Dürkopp hub (I think) laced up with tied and soldered spokes.

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The Not So Low Countries

There we were, panting away on an ascend that would not feel wrong in a country more renowned for its hills than the Netherlands. OK, some of my panting stemmed from the fact that it was the first serious ride in the season, but the Holterberg hill was there, no question, all 59.5 meters above sea level of it.

It´s the Sallandse Heuvelrug (Salland range of hills) National Park which gives cyclists the pleasure of some moderate climbing in the Low Countries. It´s not big, but very nice, and even has a brand new visitors´ centre, including an observatory. The other attraction of the Park is the last Dutch grouse population. No, grouse do not wear red windbreakers.

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The Holterbergtour is organized each year by Wielervereniging Holten, the local cycling club, as part of the Dutch, Belgian and German Interland Trofee (International Randonneuring Trophy) and if the weather is as nice as it was this year, hundreds of cyclists from the Netherlands and neighbouring Germany take part. This year, participants numbered exactly 1,000. Here is a quote from a communication by Jan Scheperman of Holten Cycling Club:
80 km – 463 x
110 km – 431 x
150 km – 106 x
Totaal precies 1000 fietsers.

Never having tried the ride before, I decided to this time, and even better, cycling friends Oscar Casander of Peugeotshow fame and Marten Gerritsen (m-gineering) also liked the idea. So we met at about eight in Holten, ´t Mossink gym, to get our passes and soon set off. At first there was one degree Centigrade below freezing, and not too many people had shown up.

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It was, however, not to be misunderstood that this was the Netherlands.

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As we set off I felt rather cold in the brass monkey weather, despite Oscar´s brisk pace. He had extracted his 1975 Peugeot PX 60 sportif from his stable, and what with all the improvements made over the years it has nearly reached PY status and is quite a fast bike. This is it, in its all French glory, c/w Berthoud front bag and various Mafac, Simplex and other goodies.

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ZholtPeugPedal  ZholtPeugFtlight

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Something else I spotted at the start was a wonderful Koga Miyata Jubilee frame. Sadly the bike was parked in a fashion which kept me from taking more than a few detail shots, but it´s not hard to guess what a high quality frame this is. The crispness of the slender fleur de lys lugs is amazing.

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And, of course, here are a few photos I took of Marten´s bike, one of the very few frames ridden by its builder, and one of the more beautiful ones, too. Marten says it was a try at an economy version, but it seems a very capable bike nevertheless, and looking at the fork crown detail it is great value.

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Luckily there was not much wind. The winding roads, nearly devoid of motorized traffic, led us to the first control at about 50 km, and there were delicious Dutch cookies plus ice cold orange squash. The squash was hardly any warmer than the air surrounding it, and was pumped straight from a huge stainless tank on a massive trailer – there must have been hundreds of liters, but by then there was a sure sign that there were hundreds of riders, too: We never were alone on the road, fast men (and women) were overtaking all the time, and we actually overtook a few riders ourselves. It now says on the WVH website that the total number of riders actually approached the 1,000 figure. After a refreshing break we set off, the sun came through and suddenly the whole ride became even more enjoyable, to develop into one of the nicest I have ridden so far.

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After 20 more kilometers there was another rest at a pub; however, there was no free food, but the passes were stamped, something that had to be omitted at the first control for want of the forgotten stamp. The general feeling was that a stamp doesn´t get you up the hills, whereas cookies do, and that Germans are known to carry their own stamps anyway, so everyone was fine. The pub at the second control is a typical Dutch affair, and also there was a rather nice Raleigh parked outside.

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Medium quality, admittedly, but quite unmolested and kitted out with the most fascinatingly ugly speedo. Besides I love tall frames, riding something between 65 and 67 cm c/t myself.

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The weather became even nicer and warmer as time approached noon, allowing us to shed some of our onion like layers of clothing. The landscape had its attractions, for instance cycling along the river Regge over a number of wooden bridges and passing some picturesque farms on the way. Rather unusual for the beginning of April – no leaves at all on the trees; a consequence of the coldest March since 1881, as I read in our local newspaper, and if anything the winter in the Netherlands was still colder than in our nick of the woods.

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There are houses with thatched roofs everywhere in this part of the Netherlands; mostly farmsteads, of course, but you even find some in towns. If it weren´t for the cars, you sometimes could think you had been translated into the 19th century.

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The organization was perfect, the route was signposted painstakingly with the help of little red and white signs,  there were friendly faces everywhere, and there were even signs thanking riders for participating as a farewell after a wonderful ride.

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So, in all, a thoroughly enjoyable 110 km for our little group.