Sunday 1 May 2011

Rolling with the Golden Oldies

Today, May 1, I had originally considered doing a bike marathon in the Eifel Mountains but given the signals my body sent last week in the Ardennes, I thought it might be better to work up towards other rides in Berlin and Bonn later this month and in June. The weather has been cooperative and today I took the opportunity to drag my not-unwilling colleague, Henri, who has been equipped to ride the Chesini Olimpiade with clipless pedals, along for his second ride on a racing bicycle. The tour of choice was the monthly Klassikerausfahrt, featuring an approximately 50 km ride at a reasonable speed, a great deal of cake, old steel bikes and good company.

We rolled into the Ricci-Sports shop around 10:30 and there was already a good crowd. Taking advantage of the excellent weather (which has gone on now for several weeks in a row), our numbers were pretty big. There were a lot of interesting bikes, along with the old favourites like Klaus’ Bottechia and Carsten’s Peugeot. There were three Dutch Gazelles, as well as Konrad’s lovely red RIH from Holland, a Puch from Austria, a tricolori Faggin, along with other samples of the Italian builder’s art from Benotto, Chinetti, Gios and Cinelli, as well as my own Basso and the Chesini. I was particularly drawn to a Rickert Spezial, a locally-built bike from Dortmund, an example of which I would love to have in my own collection. Hugo Rickert brazed the Reynolds 531 tubes and his wife painted the bikes, including the lovely lug outlines on this dark blue bike. A feast for the eyes and no Hangar Queens in the bunch. All these bikes are meant to be enjoyed on the road. And it was encouraging to be joined by two youngsters, also riding steel frames, and, for a change, more than a single woman!

After the customary croissants and coffee, the 30 or so riders organized themselves into an untidy mess of a line and headed off into the parade of traffic lights that marks our progress out of Düsseldorf. We rode along the Rheinufer past the Altstadt and reassembled in dribs and drams at the base of the Rheinturm television tower. One rider already fell victim to a mechanical as he hit some glass leftover by careless drunk people celebrating the traditional “Tanz in den Mai” the night before. And a bit further down the road, Henri had an issue with the back wheel jamming a bit on the Chesini but that was just a matter of readjusting the position of the wheel, although the new position meant that we could hear his brake pads whenever he slowed down for a while. I think that he also became apprehensive about shifting after this incident so we have to work on this a bit more.

After crossing the Rhine, we followed some of the same path that I had taken on Carsten’s Sunday ride two weeks ago although I noticed a few details, such as a reconstructed Roman watchtower I had overlooked before. It was good to be out in the country and besides the yellow dandelions we saw some lovely purple flowers adding colour to the green fields. The crops are filling in compared to two weeks ago.

At the furthest point out, in Wevelinghoven, we took a short break for a drink and then continued along the nicely paved field roads that are such a feature of Germany. Surprisingly, things began to happen at this point: a flat, a crash, some riders going the wrong way and even a pedal that fell off! But eventually everybody got back on track and we crossed the Erft once again and headed through ugly Neuss (which only seems to consist of main roads) before getting back into Düsseldorf.

Things became hilarious here. Richard rides like the wind on his singlespeed bike and he was cutting a path for Henri and me through the crowds of Sunday cyclists on the bike path along the river. We were tearing along at a good speed (watching out for roots and small children), when we were overtaken by four very fast riders. Richard knew them and took off and I made a big effort to try and keep up, without hitting any baby carriages or dogs. He told me that the group of four included three pros (local matador Sven Teutenberg among them) and a very fast amateur.
In gratitude for his guidance skills, Richard is presented with a really cheesy handlebar bag

We climbed the big bridge into the Media-Hafen, slowed down by a couple of mountain bikers who were pushing (!) their bikes up but we were able to thread our way through the crowds although the Altstadt was pretty full at this point and all returned to the shop without any further incidents. There was cake and lots of bike talk and another successful Klassikerausfahrt was over.

Henri and the racing bike of his dreams

Henri and I rode back to my apartment and enjoyed a beer and some popcorn seasoned with white truffle oil on the sunny balcony. 59 kms ridden, 150 meters of climbing and a pleasant Sunday was had by all.

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