recumbent riding in the Netherlands

I don’t think there is a better place to ride a fast recumbent (or any bike, for that matter).  It is interesting to note that, although a recumbent is still a looker no matter where you go, in the Netherlands there are more people who will say, “Hey, look, a ligfiets!” as you pass by, as opposed to saying/thinking, “Um, what IS that?”

We spent a couple of weeks in Zeeland, Schouwen-Duiveland.  Great place for riding.  I rode across the Neeltje Jans dam complex (allows the authorities to shut out storm surges at the Oosterschelde estuary) and cruised the flat agricultural lands with the family.

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cruising along the Saar

DSC00136, originally uploaded by sacratomato_hr.

It’s rare that I get pictures of myself on the recumbent. These were taken by a friend on a ride along the Saar.

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Magura, Rohloff, and Barack

DSC_0286, originally uploaded by sacratomato_hr.

Here’s quite a combination… I’m happy with all three of them.

Strong winds near Norddeich

DSC_0310, originally uploaded by sacratomato_hr.

As the flag indicates, I was enjoying one hell of a tailwind here. I reached speeds of 45 kmh with no real problems on the flats. Riding on — and/or in the wind shadow — of the dikes here is a great biking experience.

Uebler rack great for Speedmachine

DSC_0263, originally uploaded by sacratomato_hr.

Our summer trip to Greetsiel, up on the Wadden Sea near the Dutch border, was great for a recumbent rider. This rack from Uebler performed wonderfully. I removed the seat from the Speedmachine and added two conventional bikes, one of them for a child. The combination of bike types and sizes made things difficult, but the rack was able to handle it all. We’ll be buying an adapter when it comes time to take my son’s bike along as well.

Amateur sociology

I went out to Nalbach on Friday with a couple of friends…well, they rode with me to about mile 12 and then turned around.  It was a sunny day with strong winds — headwinds, to be exact…not as much of a problem on the Speedmachine, but still not that much fun.  After a couple of days of working in the yard, I returned on Sunday — 50 km out, 50 km back.  It was a great ride along the Saar; I love the protected bike paths.  Riding in the city and with car drivers is not always the most pleasant experience.  I have to plan my route carefully so that I am not darting out from behind parked cars or having to hop up onto the sidewalk quickly.

What I really noticed this time is what I might refer to as the results of my very pseudo-scientific sociological experiment: How is the bike accepted by other cyclists?  In many if not most cases, other riders are, to a certain extent, shocked to see a recumbent.  In many cases, I could actually see people clamming up and averting their gaze from the [gasp!] “different” bike approaching them.  Add this to the fact that I pass almost everybody on the road — never in an impolite or careless way, never without dinging my bell — and you find that many are simply taken aback by this, this, um, different bike.  Many Germans, at least down in these parts, do indeed seem to have a problem with “non-conformist” vehicles.  This is really a bit sad, for we recumbent riders and fans of course know what is great about such bikes…and we are of course so excited to be out on our machines whizzing through the air.  When I then notice this “fear” in the faces of the undereducated masses, it is actually a combination of pity and hatred that I feel for many of them.  Although this would piss off many German readers, I would indeed claim that one would get loads of comments on such a bike in the US (and, as a friend tells me, in Great Britain…and in many other parts, I’m sure).  I don’t even notice that many people smiling!  Little kids yell out, “Guck mal…das Fahrrad!”  Many teenagers smirk derisively, for they are often too cool to acknowledge that anybody else matters within a 10 meter radius of their own feet.  The few who might take pleasure in seeing such a vehicle are usually between 25 and 45, but I counted only one nod and one smile in two days and 100 km of riding…that’s a low total!  Only once was I actually asked how I liked my bike…and the two gentlemen in question used kind of a “yes-but-you’d-have-to-admit-that-it-is-weird” tone of voice.  Older people are generally worried as I approach…but are often the first to crack a smile and say hi if I say “Guten Tag” first.  Overall, it is fairly strange to think that so many people would be challenged by something that is indeed so cool, so “right,” so interesting… But one realizes fairly quickly what it means to be a “freak” in a place where freaks do not necessarily have special status.  It would seem that it is still not acceptable to “stand out” here.  Once again, please remember that these are the results of a “pseudo-scientific sociological experiment.”  I’m not a sociologist; I only play one on this blog.  No, I did not expect to hit the road and be interviewed by everyone out there…I am also not so self-centered to think that I’m the most interesting thing out on the trail.  But I also didn’t expect to be ignored in a way that suggests that I have bird flu.

So it was an interesting couple of days on the trail.  I would like to ride with friends more often so that I don’t stick out like a sore thumb…a relatively speedy thumb though it may be!  Riding in a group might grant me a certain level of respect; people might see that, yes, the freak on the sofa bike even has friends!

Last bit on the actual riding: In approaching Nalbach by way of Beckingen, I had to climb a couple of steep hills.  I would again say that, although it is not “fun” to tackle a steep hill on a SWB recumbent, I have been able to climb with ease…just takes me a bit longer!

Up on the Römerweg

I was able to get out for a 50 km + ride with a friend last weekend.  It was sunny and warm and quite windy.  Although I really felt the wind, I also thought that it was less of a problem than it might have been on my wedgie.  We cruised through the area to the east of Saarbrücken and south of St. Ingbert.  We had a non-alcoholic beer in Sengscheid at the well (pumping out water like you wouldn’t believe), bumped over rocks and through sand on the way to Reichenbrunn, and raced with car drivers on the main road into Niederwürzbach (scary but doable…most drivers showed us a measure of respect and gave us at least a meter and a half cushion).  Then we headed up to the Römerweg on the Biesinger Berg Str., a steep one.  I was in 1st gear, but I must say that hills are not a serious problem for me on the Speedmachine.  I had heard the horror stories from others, and, yes, it is indeed difficult, but it is manageable.  On a rocky/sandy trail or two, I have pushed the bike for a couple of minutes, but I’ve made it up all steep paved ascents I’ve faced so far (knock on wood).

The Römerweg is a beautiful bike and walking path.  We could see for miles and were treated with a tailwind, which aided me in reaching 47 kmh in a short burst.  We cruised past the airport, down into the Ensheimer Gelösch, and up into Bischmisheim, before dropping down into the Grumbachtal for our usual ride through Scheidt on the way home.

All in all, it was an interesting and diverse ride: wind, dirt, rocks, sand, speed, and sun.  I’m really enjoying myself on this bike.  Looking forward to a long tour along the Saar.