Touring to the Velomobile Meeting Giessen (Germany) 2001
The Velomobiletreffen is an international meeting, drawing velomobile owners from (so far) Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands. In 2001, a group of twelve Dutch riders rode to the meeting, starting in Wageningen, not far from Arnhem in Holland: Gathering
On a dark Wednesday evening, we gather at the ' Wielerbaan' campsite. Wielerbaan means 'velodrome': the campsite is built around the remains of an old cycle track. We chose this place because of where it is, but it is particularly nice to meet in a place with some cycle history.
The last velomobile rolls in at 10 in the evening - its owner was working until six, and then had 120km to ride. As usual, the vehicles arouse interest, and we are all invited in a caravan for a cup of tea.Our destination the next day is Hennef in Germany, about 220km away. On the way we visit the Beyss Kunstofftechik factory, where the Quest bodies are built, and home to the 'Go-one' velomobile.
Lunch at Beyss
We take a look at the prototype of the next-generation Go-one, but even more interesting after the 90km ride are the coffee and sandwiches! Unfortunately we cannot spent to much time here; still 120km to go and evening falls early this time of the year.
Driving in the city
After a while we leave the countryside and get into the towns of the Ruhr area. We experiment a little with different 'formations' It seems that the smoothest way to travel is in a compact group with two or three riders travelling abreast. This way we can pass through traffic lights in one group. On wider roads we travel in a long line, so that cars can pass on the same lane of the road. After Dormagen we leave the city for a while, and as the kilometres fly by on nice small roads along the Rhine, we are into Cologne before we know it. After we cross the Rhine we take a short break, and watch the sun sink over Cologne from a lovely riverside beauty-spot. But this means also we have to travel the last part in the dark on roads we do not know to well. Eventually we meet up with Dietrich Lohmeyer from Lohmeyer Leichtfahrzeuge, who takes us to his house for soup and bread. After that we spend the evening at his business partner Ulli Tiesler's place, talking about velomobiles and cycling late into the night. We are very grateful for this hospitality: imagine what it is like to have 12 hungry sweaty men to stay!
On the road
Departure from Lohmeyer Leichtfahrzeuge
The next morning we can give a little in return. A journalist takes a photo for an article in the local paper as we leave from the technical school where Lohmeyer has his workshop, and where our bikes were parked. We leave town along a small river, the Sieg. Riding upstream slows us up - only a little, but it gives the feeling that we are not really moving on. Around midday we take our lunch break, and have coffee and cakes at a bakery. Being on holiday makes you careless though: half an hour later the lady from the bakery catches up with us in her car: I had left my wallet and papers in the shop. There are still good people in the world.
Mark Burgers likes luxuary camping
The final leg to the velomobile meeting venue is on small farm roads through some lovely landscape, with small hills and woods - a nice change from the four-lanes roads we'd been on before. Scenic riding, but a pain in the legs after 150km.
We rijden stroomopwaarts langs het riviertje. Vals plat, we schieten niet echt op. Na een fikse klim naar bijna 500 meter dalen we af naar Herborn. De tweebaansweg wordt vierbaans de laaste 7 kilometer, met niet overal vluchtstroken. Omdat het bergaf lekker doorrijdt en een fietsroute nergens te bekennen is besluiten we toch maar deze weg aan te houden. In Herborn wachten German Eslava en Reinholt Schwemmer in hun Cab-bikes om samen met ons de laatste 25 kilometer te fietsen.
Käse und Würst
The accommodation for the Velomobiletreffen is at the Forsthaus (Forest Lodge) guest house, and when we reach it everyone is ready for the typical German evening meal with bread, cheese and sausages. One beer is enough to make us very sleepy, and tomorrow we have to ride again for a trip through the surroundings of Giessen.
Others have also arrived too, and a grand group of about 30 velomobiles rolls into the city of Wetzlar.
Invited in Palais Papius
We are invited into the 'Papal Palace' and are treated to a speech from a representative of the city council. The sparkling wine makes us want to take a rest, but we are in a furniture museum. Plenty of nice chairs, but it is strictly forbidden to sit on them… After lunch we divide the group in two. One group returns to the Forsthaus to go up the Dunsberg (490m) on foot, and the other half goes there by velomobile. We start the climb (8-10%) together, but some people have to make a race out of it. I feel challenged and arrive at the top first. Unexpectedly, it feels good to speed up a little after this day of slow sociable riding. On the summit we drink Federweissen (a local apple cider) and eat Zwiebelkuchen (some kind of onion cake): very good. By the time we return, even more guests have arrived, among them Carl-Georg Rasmussen from Leitra and (maybe not a velomobile, but a very nice trike) the Tripendo.
In the evening we have a discussion. Last year we had talked about a general information website. It has now been set up at velomobile.de, but for international use it will have to be changed to velomobile.info. But who is going to pay for it? I think it should give all interesting velomobile links, regardless of whether manufacturers pay. The discussion will continue.
Leitra rider Jurgen Eick had drawn up a long list of subjects. How can we make velomobiles more popular? Why are there so few of them? Do we need more marketing? Technical development? Personally, I think we what we need first is good 'hardware': reliable, affordable and available velomobiles. If we can make them, the velomobile will find its way via a small group of enthusiasts riders to a wider public.
Rain, no problem for Ger
Next morning, it's time to set off home. After riding about an hour we hear screaming from Ger in the Alleweder. He'd reached under his seat for some bread…but his hand touched a mouse instead! You wouldn't think that such a strong guy is so afraid of a little mouse. Lesson: never leave bread in your velomobile if you park it outside overnight!
In the afternoon we start riding downstream, and the gentle gradient helps us to travel at 40-50km/h without effort for an hour or so. The temperature rises, and some of us take a dip in the Sieg.
John and Boudewijn enjoy a fresh bath
Very cold, but also very refreshing. It gives us energy for the rest of the day, and just before dark we arrive at the campsite near the Rhine in Cologne.
After lunch the next day we split up, four riders going off to the east to take a shortcut home. The rest of us reach Wageningen in pouring rain that evening. Two more take their velomobiles home in the van they had parked there, three cycle on home (still with 80-100km to go) and three of us (myself included) stay with relatives in Wageningen to go on next day.
Back next year
We look back on a very nice trip. Travelling with different people, varying in age from 30 to 58, but sharing the same hobby. It proves velomobiles are practical, reliable and comfortable enough to travel even longer distances. And perhaps I haven't yet mentioned something very important: they are fun to ride.
There is a place on the road for velomobiles. Of course we got lots of attention from people on and along the road, but almost without exception it was friendly and encouraging. Most drivers were friendly and helpful. Sometimes on smaller roads we had to make a few stops to let trucks and cars pass, no problem.
Next year we'll go again, and hope for an even bigger group!
(translation: Peter Eland)