Three Go Dutch: The Trike Touring Tale of a Touring "Noob"
By Danny Clarke, AtomicZombie builders forum
Left to Right, Danny Clarke, John Price, Paul Needham.
This "trip report" cannot truly convey the sheer fun that I had on this my first ever cycling tour in the wonderful cycling heaven that is Holland.
It had been casually mooted between us (John Price (Sandman) and me (DannyC)) in conversation during the 2015 Zombie-Fest that we could be brave and take our home-made trikes across to Holland for a long-weekend for some fun in the world's most bike-friendly country which seemed like a good idea, so we made plans accordingly.
As the due date got closer and word of our intention spread to more northern reaches of the UK (where men wear flat-caps and keep racing pigeons and small racing dogs), a third AZ member, Paul Needham, (Stormbird) enquired whether there was any room for an additional person to join the party. Hardly had the word “Yes” been uttered when a follow-up question, "Wouldn't it be better to go for longer to make the most of all the costs involved?" arose.
Subsequently, I found myself explaining to my wife that what I had sold to her as a "long-weekend" was now an eight-day adventure.
Our ferry crossing from Harwich to Hook of Holland was to be a morning departure at around 9 a.m. on June 3, 2016 with arrival in Holland at around 5 p.m. the same day. John drove up from Brighton the day before and spent the night at my place as I only live about 55 miles from Harwich. Paul drove down through the night from his home in Mansfield and planned to sleep in a day-cabin for the majority of the crossing.
And, so it was that three men in their 60s all converged and met together for the very first time in a cold and windy car park at Harwich railway station at around 7 a.m. on June 3 in a light drizzle of rain.
It took us some time to decant our trikes and trailers and all of our equipment from our three cars so that we could set off for the ferry terminal itself, but soon enough we were off and away.
Anyone seen my passport?
We followed all of the bikers down to a surprisingly empty queue-line complete with barrier and kiosk where one presents one's ticket and passport, but were sent back to re-join the rear of the other queues by a grumpy official. Somehow, in this little sideshow my passport managed to slip out of my pocket and fall to the ground.
It was while we were waiting to be processed by passport control that I realised it had disappeared. I was in a panic. Where had I dropped it in these vast acres of queuing Tarmac?
Luckily, Paul spotted the breeze riffling the pages of my passport as it lay open on the ground some 50 yards away. Quickly, I cycled over and scooped it up before it got run-over and destroyed or blew away in the wind. Phew! What a relief. My journey had almost ended before it had begun.
Hello, I'm Aunty Helen
Having negotiated passport and ticket control we were marshalled into another "pre-boarding" waiting area. While we dismounted huddled together in our little trio and discussed the weather, our experience thus far and other trivia when a lady approached us and announced that she was the renowned triking/velomobile blogger "Aunty Helen
" and that she was intrigued to see three recumbent trikes in the boarding queue and felt the need to come over to ask us about our trip and our machines.
She did indeed spend some time with us and took photos of our trikes while we explained that they were homemade and had been inspired by our membership in the AtomicZombie community.
True to her word, we appeared in her blog for June 2016.
The ferry and the crossing
The MV's Hollandica and Brittanica are purposely built for the UK-to-Holland route. They are large capacity ferries in order to make them economical, and they certainly make the cross channel ferries I have travelled on seem very small by comparison.
The weather for our crossing was dull and overcast and the sea itself was very calm and smooth. Our eight hours on board passed uneventfully, although some "spoof" video footage suggesting otherwise was created for fun. The ships are so large that they have casinos and cinemas, as well as bright modern cafeterias.
The "Full English" breakfast was enjoyed by John and I while Paul (who had driven through most of the night) retreated to a day-cabin he had hired for some much-needed rest.
We arrived in the Hook of Holland at about tea time and the journey to our first campsite was fairly short. Our tents were pitched seemingly in no-time.
"Beer O'Clock" had arrived, so we rode our trikes a fairly short distance to a local bar-restaurant called the Oasis Pavillion.
The Dutch are a wonderfully friendly nation and we were engaged in conversation by the bar staff as to our "mission" in Holland. We were allowed (indeed encouraged) to sample a wide variety of the available beers.
Call us "stick-in-the-muds" if you must, but we all settled on burger and chips as our main course. John and I had the meat variety while Paul opted for the excellent veggie burger. Common to all was a really tasty caramelised onion sauce/dressing.
It had been a really early start and a pretty tiring day, so we returned fairly early to our tents for some much-needed sleep.
Dude! What's this fog all about?
Our first morning and a damp chilly one it was too. A "Sea Fret" had installed itself overnight, and the day was cold and hazy with heavy dew on the grass of the campsite and a discernible mist. Every surface was laden with beads of moisture. It was not the most promising of starts for our adventure, I thought.
An unhurried bacon and eggs breakfast was enjoyed by John and I, while Paul stuck to his morning oatmeal porridge as fuel for the morning's exertions.
It didn't take us too long to prepare for a day out and about on the trikes. Pretty soon we were all heading out of the campsite and on our way to Den Haag via a little place called Münster where we hoped to tour a fully working windmill. I was a little disappointed in that the "Sea Fret" was still all-pervasive and the sun was making no impression on the day. It was gloomy and damp.
Unfortunately, when we arrived the windmill was closed with a little sign telling us that it would be open that afternoon and what the hours of opening were.
And, so we pressed on northwards along the coastal LF "Dune-route" towards den Haag (The Hague).
I have to say I was incredibly surprised that there were so many people out and about exerting themselves either leisure-biking, racing in little pelotons of lycra clad speedsters, or (strangest of all) jogging around staked out tracks in the dunes. I could not help thinking to myself that the Dutch were an incredibly "fit" nation (compared to what you might see in a typical seaside English town).
As the day wore on, the sun at last began to burn through the mist and we found ourselves bowling along in some truly lovely weather. Warm jackets came off and were stowed away in saddlebags. We were down to t-shirts.
This is a fairly long clip (more than 7 minutes), so be prepared to skip through it.
Continued in the next issue: Onwards to Den Haag (The Hague)
Bike Builders Tip
Welding - Flux or Gas Shielded?
"I recently got a welder which has the ability to do Flux Core or Gas Shielded. I do not own a bottle for gas yet (Expensive :-)) but the flux core wire is almost double what the solid core wire is. Another issue I have been having is burning through the 16 guage steel for the bike I am building.
What do most people on the thread use? Flux core or shielded gas? Is the cost upgrade to buy a gas bottle worth it for a hobby welder?" ~ jrich
"I welded for a living for about 15 years, certified in stick and mig at one point in time. I also did a little tig, flux-core, ran mig is spray transfer and welded sub-arc. Good for me, right...lol. I'm still in the welding business (sort of) since I manage a factory with various welders (robotic, mig, tig).
Go for the gas shielded. Flux-core is for outdoors and farms, in my opinion."
Read more about this tip @ the AtomicZombie bike builders forum.