top of page

1986 Tandem completes a 500 mile trip to Germany

In 1996 myself and Audrey bought a second hand tandem and cycled to South Africa. An odyssey that took 17 months, traversing 17 countries, and raised £10,000 for VSO and Sustrans. In the ensuing years, we joined the Tandem Club and bought kiddyback tandems so that our growing children could enjoy the fun in a very sustainable healthy way. Summer holidays often involved trips to far flung places to international tandem rallies and this year as the pandemic recedes we thought we would restore 'Big Jack' as we called 'him' (it was built by tandem specialists Jack Taylor brothers in Stockton-on-Tees), sail across the North Sea to Ijmuiden (Amsterdam) and then cycle across the flat lands, with unbelievable infrastructure to the International Tandem Rally at Tecklenburg, Germany.

About to set off - I think our cat Luna isn't very happy!

Cycling to the ferry, whilst an easy distance, is very urban and isn't much fun on a tandem when there are many stops and starts. However we arrived in time to visit the cafe 'The Lock' near the ferry terminal and to be recommended. A high pressure system meant a calm sailing and we enjoyed the delights of a good evening's meal in the Explorer's kitchen. We filled up on pastries and set off in the morning, slightly delayed as we had to wait for our section to be lowered before we could get off the ferry. At the customs we had our passport stamped (first time since Brexit) and very soon we were enjoying the smooth tarmac and segregated cycle ways of Holland. After a short ride on an empty train to take us out of Amsterdam we arrived at our host in Arnhem. That night we were booked with a warmshowers host (a cycle hospitality network ( who regaled us with her stories of cycling over all the cols of France. We won't be doing that on a tandem

The next day we were off to the Rhine, a route that was suggested by Lieke, our warmshowers host. This is the bridge over the Rhine which we were told is known as the Pink Panther bridge due to its colour but as you can see it is being refurbed so more like strawberries and cream! It wasn't a bridge too far(you'll see that at Arnhem) as we were soon at our second night with old friends, Carla, Willum and his children. A glorious afternoon of talking, eating, drinking and walking around the cloister village of Marienthal near Hamminkeln. In the morning various folk tried having a go on the tandem which was very amusing!

Willum thinks it is hilarious not to pedal and I'm concentrating too much

We then had a long ride to the rally site, some 70 miles of which c50miles was really flat. We put in a solid performance trying to maintain over 13mph stopping every hour or so for refuelling purposes. A few hills slowed us down and the arrival at the Teutoburger Wald involved quite a strenuous uphill to the Tecklenburg campsite. We had a lovely little 'Hollihaus' booked for the week, no camping for us on this trip - in our 1996 expedition we camped over 500 nights! It meant the bike was much lighter, useful when age is against you.

Ken outside the HolliHaus on the Tecklenburg Regenbogen campsite

The tandem rally has been organised for many of the 50 years that the tandem club has been in existence and over the week consists of 6 days of cycling with three route options per day, short, medium long from 25 miles to 65 miles. A day off on Wednesday and a series of activities in the evening with BBQ on the last night with musik is the norm. We went out most days and chose the short route preferring to potter and amble, stop for Kaffee und Kuchen, and generally take it easy rather than slog it out every day. On Thursday evening was the tandem games which we attempted but failed miserably. Our tandem is too clumsy and heavy, but at least we had a go at the slow race and also egg and spoon.

No disgrace but we fell before the finish in the slow race

Far too quickly the week had gone and we were off back to the ferry, our summer holiday was over. We had three days of +50miles but fortunately most of this was flat and on tarmac, staying in two lovely hotels. Even through the forested areas we were amazed to find really good paths in Holland rather than rough tracks for mountain bikers. But then we read a report about cycling there and their largest group of cyclists are in the +65 age group, so they want easy cycling on clean tarmacced paths. Mind you many of them (c 60%?) were on e-bikes and we did ponder whether the health of the nation will be reduced in 20 years time. Coming through Amsterdam was a doddle and although we have seen it so many times, it is always amazing to see so many bikes parked up - this was near Centraal Station in Amsterdam.

Thousands of bikes in Amserdam

Back on the ferry and another totally calm evening. We joined the queues for the evening meal, celebrated with a couple of pints and a good game of scrabble. We even went out on deck to re-enact the Titantic scene!

K n A do the Titantuic thang!

So that's it folks - well done for getting to the end. Here's a few more photos for posterity sake......

Tandemmists galore at Westekappelen

Perfect cycle ways in Nederlands


Crossing water on ferries is common in Nederlands

Meeting my Conversation Exchange friend, Christine in Osnabruck

Interesting gabled houses

Unsurprisingly the 2020 Dornfelder Spaetburgunder Trocken wein was popular!

Refuelling with pannkuchen in Holland - lekker!!

You always meet the nicest people when cycling - this is Markus from Osnabruck!

300 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Excellent blog Ken, sounds like you had a great trip and looking good for an old un (ref the tandem of course)! You'll be having a go at the NC500 next...

bottom of page