Wednesday 8 June 2011

Cycling and New Friends

Tom, Tim, Rudiger (l to r)

Rudiger's Wild Ruhr Ride, May 14, 2011

One of the greatest pleasures I have derived from cycling is finding new friends to ride with, sometimes in quite unexpected ways. I have ridden with Chill in Switzerland and the Duck in North Carolina after becoming acquainted with them through their blogs; Mario first rode with me on an organized tour in Sicily; I met Nick through Facebook; the Badger checked into a room next to mine in at a dreadful EconoLodge the day before Mountains of Misery in 2003; Ricci’s bike shop is nearby but we share a common interest in classic lightweight bikes; and most recently I have ridden with some Awesome Ausländern (“Foreigners”), Tom and Tim, along with their local roadie pal Rudiger, as a result of Tom’s having read this blog and realized I lived close by.

After exchanging some e-mails, Tom invited me to join him and his friends on a ride from Ratingen, around 8 kms from my apartment, and I did so on May 4. It was easy to get there even if the roads were pretty major but as it was early in the morning they were also traffic-free. I was a bit puzzled about dealing with all the streetcar tracks in Ratingen but managed to find my way without too much trouble to the small bakery where I saw three racing bikes and their riders. Tom introduced me to everyone and we set off at a good clip to the northwest, heading towards Heilinghaus and constantly climbing, it seemed.

The course we did was through a lot of small back roads as Rudiger enthusiastically drew us deeper and deeper into darkest NRW. Anyone who thinks it is flat around Düsseldorf need only spend a few hours in this area to learn that there are hills a’plenty. Rudiger had selected some prime ones for us and at 33.6 kms we had a brutal climb for a short distance east of Wülfrath that tested us all somewhat. 12 kms further along another hard climb beckoned.

On the Ruhr

Rudiger’s Wild Ride then brought us close to the Ruhr, and at Kupferdreh, south of Essen, we managed to persuade Rudiger we needed a refreshment break. We stopped for some coffee at a little café directly on the Ruhrradweg. The bike path is a very popular one in the region and this Saturday already saw a lot of traffic, with plenty of older Germans riding the heavy heavy bicycles that they love so much. We then rode a flat stretch along a widening of the river towards Werden at a good speed and had to take care among the crowds but eventually we were clear of the river and a final bit of climbing brought us to Kaiserswerth on the Rhine and Tom’s place. 91.62 kms on the road, and over 900 m of climbing for a good Saturday’s workout.

Although we had enjoyed quite good weather, it now began to rain and Tom was kind enough to drive me home in his excellent little Ford Fiesta. He was impressed with my ridiculous collection of bicycles and we agreed to ride again soon.

From the Erft to the Urft RTF, May 28, 2011

After our first successful ride, Tom discovered that a local bike club not far from Bonn in Euskirchen would be hosting an RTF (Radtourenfahrt), which is the German tour for an organized "cyclotourist" ride. They usually offer a selection of distances, refreshments en route, and excellent roads. This would be in the Eifel region, west of where I rode with Nick when we had done the Erftradweg, which goes through Euskirchen. I was quite keen to do the 150 km version as it promise some outstanding climbing and would help me catch up with my training deficit.

Tom and Rudiger collected me in the team Ford Fiesta at 7:15 and we drove towards Cologne to pick up Tim. That was our plan, anyway, but things went awry when we ran into brutal traffic congestion on the A3, which was down to one lane in each direction due to the omnipresent construction. We eventually worked our way around the traffic jam and got Tim but it meant a fairly late start when we got to Euskirchen. The first thing was to find a parking spot, which was not so easy as this RTF is clearly very popular and there were already a lot of cyclists present or out on the road already. The longest course was over 200 kms, and those riders would have started three hours before us.

After signing in, paying 7 Euros and getting a race number, we headed out on the course. It was a lovely area, and the course was extremely well-marked, so we found our way without too much trouble, occasionally seeing other cyclists but generally on our own. The organizers were particularly proud of their local hills and as you began to climb each one there was a nice sign showing the distance and gradient, although this was sometimes a bit depressing.

The hills were not terribly long but were in places very steep. However, the extreme windiness of the day made the first part of the ride, to the west and south, unbearable as we rode into a brutal headwind of some 30 km/h. This made progress on the climbs exhausting and we soon realized that with our late start and the headwind, coupled with our slow speed, we were not going to ride the 151 km course today. We instead opted for the 110 km one and found the route easily thanks to the markings the club had put up.

Some of the roads were familiar from the Erft trip. I had loaded the GPS course for the long ride but it turned out to be incorrect somehow (although the first 20 kms were right, so perhaps it was the course from last year) but it didn’t really matter as there was not much danger in getting lost. Once we turned northwards, we enjoyed an excellent tailwind and some flatter roads. We lost Rudiger for a short while near Bad Münstereifel as he tore down the main street in a small town and passed the turn sign, which I luckily saw a moment later while trying to chase him. Tim and Tom were just behind me so at least the three of us stayed on course.

Having some distance in my legs now and a flat road, I felt much stronger and was able to join up with a small group of very strong riders, holding a steady 47 km/h, but this fell pretty quickly as we turned back into the wind. Then I tagged along behind an impressively large rider for a while to recover. We introduced ourselves and had a pleasant conversation; he is the IBM Germany manager in Düsseldorf and we will have a business lunch soon. So, road cycling really is the new golf!

Tom, kindly holding up my bike during a photo session

Our group arrived back in Euskirchen, where we turned in our numbers, getting our 1 Euro deposit back. We had had a tough ride of 117 km with 1200 m of climbing, averaging a surprisingly good 22.4 km/h. It was my second RTF ever (the first being a ridiculous thing up and down and up and down the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin in 1999) and the organization was first-rate, with sufficient refreshments, a good choice of roads, fine route-marking and great scenery. I would like to go back to try the longer course without the wind but riding on either side of Bonn, in the Eifel or the Bergishes Land, is well worthwhile for any cyclist. To ride it with good friends is the icing on the cake, of course.
Figuring out how to repack the team car
Rudiger, Tim, Tom (l to r)

Tired but happy: Sprocketboy, Tim, Rudiger (l to r)


Anonymous said...

That is some beautiful riding. I recently had the pleasure of riding in that area with our (now) mutual friend Tim.

Thanks for posting the stories and pics.
Pittsburgh, PA

Bowflex Reviews said...

Wow. Nice pictures. Looks like some fantastic riding there. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and long for the days than I can get back to riding my own bicycle.