Notes from the Netherlands



Recently, our correspondent in Assen has been working with recumbents and getting up some speed in a Mango velomobile …

The recumbent scene here is really funny. We get all types of people riding recumbents, not predominantly bearded sandal-wearing blokes with beer bellies like myself.

Working at the ligfietsgarage (recumbent shop) has been a real eye-opener. We had a 15-year-old boy bring his really ancient flevobike to the shop this week. Virtually everything is worn out – because for a few years he’s been riding it daily 30 km in each direction to get to and from school.

The Challenge Hurricane recumbent (with attached dog basket).
Image as described adjacent

A couple of weeks ago we had a woman come in with a Challenge Hurricane. They’re very popular with women, it turns out. I think it’s because they’re small and nice to ride. Like so many of them this was fitted with flat pedals, as she’s not ‘a cyclist’ but just someone who has a comfy bike to ride, and enormous panniers, as obviously aerodynamics are not as important as getting plenty of shopping on the bike. Her particular request was for new, higher, handlebars. The standard ones were becoming a bit restricting as she is pregnant, so she needs a bit more room. Once the new handlebars were fitted she rode it away. In Britain that sort of bike is considered to be a fast low-racer. Here it’s as likely to be ‘Mum’s taxi’. No doubt in a few months she’ll want a child seat on the back…

At the moment the Jeugdtour is in town. It’s the biggest youth cycling race in the world, held every year in Assen. We’ve youngsters who will be in the tour in the next few years racing around on closed roads. At the end of August the Vuelta comes to town – the first time in its history that it will be starting outside Spain, and they’ve chosen to start here in Assen.

Testing the Mango velomobile.
Image as described adjacent

I’m on the waiting list for a Mango. The things are simply too marvellous to ignore. I have borrowed one for my commute a few times and have covered the 30.5 km distance in just 47 minutes door to door.* That’s an average of 39 km/h, and requires sustaining a speed above 40 km/h for virtually the whole distance. You can do that with cycle paths like we have here, but there would be no chance if I had to stop at all the traffic lights on the road.

David Hembrow

*You can see a video of David testing the Mango at http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2009/06/borrowing-velomobile.html