Today we rode 39.21 km from Koblenz to Koblenz and from Bonn to Bonn and we took a couple trains too! Let’s just say it was kind of a confusing travel day.
We woke up, packed our bags and bikes and headed out of Koblenz. We rode through center city and North across the Moselle.
We wound our way through the northern part of the city and East to a path along the edge of the Rhine. It started sprinkling. I could feel a “bump” in my rear wheel. I was afraid that even with the spoke replacement the wheel was out of true. If the spoke tension was really off, that could be bad with the massive amount of weight I was carrying.
As we crossed into the industrial outskirts of town, a steady rain began. We were wet. We rode for a while and then took shelter under the awning of a nearby building to discuss our options.
Jette’s rain poncho was useless and Jette and Mila were not keen on riding all day in the cold rain. We were also running out of time on our visas, and given our current pace, we would not have time to make it to the North Sea before our visas expired. So we decided to go back to Koblenz and take the train to Bonn, and perhaps further.
I also took a look at my rear wheel. I spun the wheel and looked at the gap between the rim and the frame. I expected to see a “wobble” and a change in the gap, but I didn’t. That meant that the “bump” I was feeling was either my imagination or something else. The tire? I checked the tread and there was nothing stuck in it. Hmm…
We began to retrace our steps in the rain. As we passed through the ugliest, most industrial area we’ve seen we hit 1,000 km on the odometer. That’s not our “mileage” since Lindau, but rather our total kilometers ridden since I installed the odometer on my bike a week or so after we got them. Not bad!
We crossed back over the bridge, but before we went to the train station, we stopped by the bike shop again.
I unhooked the trailer and pulled the bags off the bike and rolled it into the shop. I told the mechanic about the “bump” and that it seemed like the wheel was not true. He shook his head “yes” and together we looked at the wheel. He spun the pedals, looked at the gap between the rim and the frame and looked confused. Then he checked the spoke tension with his fingers, squeezing spokes, spinning the wheel and squeezing again.
“It’s not the wheel” he said.
That left the tire. We spun the tire and looked at it. There was the slightest wobble. He took a allen wrench and held it right next to the tire so close it almost touched and spun the pedals. The wheel turned and sure enough, once per revolution the tire just touched the wrench.
He looked really surprised and said, “It’s the tire. But these are good tires!”
“I know,” I said,”they’re Schwalbe.”
“Yes, Schwalbe” he said.
(The tires are Schwalbe Marathons, a German tire known for quality, durability and puncture resistance. The kind of tire you want on a trip like ours and the kind of tire that isn’t supposed to do this).
There was no damage visible on the outside of the tire but it was now obvious that there was some kind of internal damage or failure and the tire was forming a sort of bump or bubble in one spot. It would have to be replaced. I think we were both surprised.
On a Dutch style bike with an internally geared hub and full chain case removing the rear wheel to replace a tire or tube is not trivial. It’s not especially difficult, it just takes some time. Removing the wheel requires disconnecting the bellcrank of the shifter, removing the chain case, loosening the two chain tensioners and the two lug nuts of the axel, disconnecting the brake arm for the coaster brake. Reinstalling the wheel is essentially all of that in reverse and adjusting the shifter if necessary. I didn’t want to be the one to do it, so once again we left the bike at the shop for an hour or so.
While my bike was getting a new tire we went for a hot tea to dry off and warm up.
While we were having tea, another group of touring cyclists came in to warm up and escape the rain.
After the tea, we decided that we should grab a quick lunch before we picked up the bike and headed for the train station.
After lunch we picked up my bike, rode to the train station, and caught the train to Bonn.
It wasn’t long before we arrived in Bonn. The plan was to visit the Haribo gummy bear factory, then catch a later train on to Arnhem, The Netherlands.
Given our slow pace and the limited time before our visas expire, we decided to train through the industrial part of Germany to Arnhem and pick up the trail again from there. At least that way there was a chance of us riding to the end and dipping our toes in the North Sea.
Mila and Jette had been reading about tours of the Haribo factory in Bonn and were exited to visit. We got off the train at the Bonn Central Station and searched Google Maps for the Haribo factory. It turned out that there were no tours of the Haribo factory, but that there was a Haribo factory store. The bummer was that it was in the Southern suburbs, very close to the Bad Godesberg train station we passed before we got off at Bonn Central Station! We decided that we would ride back South about 7 km to the Haribo Factory Store then get on a train to Arnhem at theBad Godesberg station so we wouldn’t have to ride back to Bonn Central Station.
Bonn seemed like a pretty city and felt very different than other German cities we’ve visited. Some of the streets felt like Brooklyn or Washington D.C.
Somehow it looks like it used to be the capitol.
Once we navigated through a few city streets there was a long, straight path that paralleled the train tracks all the way South to the Haribo Factory Store.
A sugary oasis in a the land of carbs:
There were too many kinds of sugary treats to count and we spent hours, days, maybe even weeks exploring them all.
When we were done with Haribo, we rode to the Bad Godesberg train station and bought a ticket to Koln (Cologne) from a grumpy and very unhelpful ticket agent. Tickets in hand we soon discovered that the only way to get to the platform was up and down two giant flights of stairs:
There was no way that I was going to unload the bikes and make a hundred trips up and down those stairs with heavy bikes and bags. No way. We thought that there must be another way and asked how people in wheelchairs got to the platforms. We were told that they had to take the stairs. Nice. Still no way, so we decided to ride back to the Bonn Central Station and catch the train to Koln from there.
Apparently we made it back to the Koln station about the time that rush hour started because there were so many people on the platform and the trains were so full and stopped for such short time that it was three trains and about as many hours before we could get our bikes onto one!
When we finally arrived in Koln, the sun was setting and it was raining again. We didn’t have a hotel and my phone suddenly decided to stop working. We had mapped some hotels on the train, so we rode to where we thought we saw a bunch of hotels on the map. Somehow we ended up in the “Bermuda Triangle” surrounded by hotels, but with none nearby and no clue which way to go.
After some time I got my phone working again and we found our way to one of the closer hotels. They were full and said that most of the hotels in the city were full because of “The Expo” whatever that is. We rode through the dark, cold and rain to another nearby hotel. Again, sold out. The man behind the desk suggested three more nearby hotels… In the end we found an overpriced hotel with a room available and took it. What is it with German cities and sold out hotels?! We unloaded the bikes, locked them up on the street and carried the bags up to our funky but serviceable 1970’s room. At least it offered an internet connection for one device, and at 1980’s speeds!
Our bags safely stashed in the 70’s, we walked two blocks to an empty but surprisingly good Thai restaurant for a quick dinner.
After dinner, it was finally time for bed and some well-earned rest!