Haarlem, Second Helping

People have been wondering what has happened to my blog, not having had any news for more than a month. No, I´m not throwing in the towel, it´s just that I can´t remember having been swamped with work to such an extent as during the last six weeks or so. Things are clearing up now, or so I hope, and especially the many Dutch people who have visited my blog since last Sunday may now lean back – here´s my short verslag on the second issue of the Tour d´historique. I still can´t find any time to ask the organizers for participant figures or a decent interview though, sorry. Next year.

Before I start I´ll do something rather unusual: I´ll insert a short commercial for a promising blog which I hope will become more and more interesting over the next year. No bikes, but travelling: A year long trip to New Zealand starting on June 30. Here´s the URL which I hope you all will visit frequently: travelnewzealand2014.wordpress.com . No, I´m not taking off myself – the blog´s written by a former student of mine. But now, at long last, back to our regularly scheduled programme.

What were the three most important signposts of the meet?

Definitively this one:


For practical reasons, this one:

TourBordjeBut sadly, this one too:

SlechtWdeckLast year, my son and myself hadn´t gone on the longer route because the wind really got us down; maybe you´ll remember. There´s a post on last years´s meet further down somewhere. This year we registered for the longer ride again and really were bent on covering all of the 90kms; on my son´s mid-seventies Raleigh, described some time ago, and my bought-new-in-the-eighties Mercian – look further down too, or in the search box. A bike I bought new which is now a classic – good gracious. What is that old saying? You´re as old as the bike you feel? Doesn´t bear thinking about.

The day that would hold a nasty surprise started very promisingly about four hours before the start. We packed the bikes in our now nearly 23-year-old Volvo and set off, cruising over near-empty motorways in Germany and Holland, our course only disrupted by a drawbridge being opened right on the highway. That´s something that can happen only in very few places in the world, I guess. We saw another one later that day in the centre of Haarlem:

BridgeUnpacking was followed by encounters with many friends and acquaintances. The venue was the same as last year – look it up in the old post.


TrianglesGrupettoStartBefore it came to this (the start), there were some great bikes to be marvelled at. Not much comment needed, I think.

ColnChainwhl Colnfront Colnfull Colnrearder Colnseatcl Colnseatpin ColnshiftleversThis much to placate the italianates among you. Here´s something for the francophiles:

Peugbelplaatje Peugfront Peugfull PeugStickertjesAnd last year´s beauty was present again.

FrenchRandfront FrencjRandAnd for the Americans:

FordTruckOops, not at the start, that one we saw later en route. Rare and nicely done.

Some Dutch bikes,

RIHPairSprimngfchromeseatcl Springfchrbb Springfchrfront Springfchrome SpringfdttransfSpringfield being a local brand.

Then off we set. First, the whole bunch stayed together, shepherded by three MG Bs, and paid a visit to beautiful Haarlem city centre. It was the Sunday of the Haarlem Stripdagen, the Comic Strip Days, so there were stalls everywhere, literally, and hundreds of them. Luckily I´m not overly interested in comics, leafing through the offerings would have taken days. That´s why it´s called Comic Strip Days, I guess.

Stripdboxesft Stripdboxesside StripdstallBut there also was the Town Hall to be smothered in bikes, riders and MG sports cars, so we set to it.

HaarlemTownhallTownhallsmallgpWe cycled out of Haarlem,


and after this, we set off in earnest.

We found that again the organization was perfect, with well-appointed food stalls on the way (ontbijtkoek, yummy), very friendly company, the weather was wonderful with hardly any wind, the route was signposted clearly, but soon we saw what Slecht wegdek can mean. I guess it´s hard to select 90 kms of picturesque, trafficless and perfectly surfaced roads in the Randstad, the huge Dutch conurbation stretching from Amsterdam all the way down to Rotterdam. Many kilometers were great, with my favourite being a narrow path winding its way through a forest.

Schiph747We also felt that we never quite left the flightpath of Schiphol airport. There was a constant stream of starting aircraft, peaking in this huge KLM 747. I didn´t mind that at all as there always are interesting panes to be watched near an international airport.

However, my son and I soon found that many participants in the meet were out-and-out racers, and as such completely oblivious to the state of the roads. The thing is that for health reasons I can only stand so many recklessly ridden bumps and ruts a day, and having to go slow (and having lost the way on one occasion) we were soon dropped by all available groups on the fast 90 km lap. Also because of the combination of nearly three decades of use and the bad roads my bike suffered a minor breakdown, and that was when we decided to leave the route and to do what we like better than rushing behind an ever further vanishing gruppetto: Discover the countryside.

First, we retraced our steps to Spaarndam, a very pretty town where the first refreshment point had been set up earlier, right in the centre in a pavillion. We also were able to watch a lock being opened and closed, very Dutch.


SpaardamSluis SpaardamSluisclose

SpaarndamSluisclosed Spaarndam2cv Spaarndamgroup SpaarndamPavil I then felt quite content with myself being able to ask a very old and distinguished looking gentleman the way, in Dutch, with what I think is all the necessary finesse, and understanding what he said, but a few meters on was given a rude awakening when encountering this statue:

SpaarndamJeugdIt is dedicated to “our youth” to honour a boy who symbolizes Holland´s constant struggle against the water. Ah. Don´t adults too fight the water? What´s the boy doing? What is he looking at? Where´s the water? Goes to show that I´m quite a way away from a satisfactory understanding of the Dutch culture. By the way, the text is given in perfect American English, too.

On the way we also saw some typical examples of modern Dutch architecture.

ModhouseThese flats for instance overlook a lake (well, what else).

Two unavoidables:


Nasty surprise, I hear you say, where´s the nasty surprise you promised? Soon after I took this snap my son cycled slower, and still slower, until he fell ill, right there in the middle of the road, luckily within easy cycling distance of the car. As a consequence we had a very slow drive home, 270 km, with some stops to give him a rest.

Before we started on the return journey, though, we took a first long break and while my son recovered somewhat, at least sufficiently to be able to sit in the car, I had another look at some bikes. Again, no comment needed.

CheapoChainwhRihBaddownttransf RihBadSeatcl

Torpadochainwh Torpadofront Torpadorearder TorpadoseatclCotterPinShimAXped ShimAxRearderSuntourAxShLevVreemdDingetje1 Vreemddingetje2 VreemddingetjefullSo, would I come again? Definitively. Tour d´historique must be one of Europe´s great gatherings for old race bike lovers. That said, I still haven´t made it to the Rommerskirchen meet, this year because it was our Club´s RTF/Century/Sportif day today, and I was up to my elbows in jam and chocolate cake at the 100 km control post when the boys and girls set off for the run in Rommerskirchen.

But anyway, Haarlem is a ride not to be missed.


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