Velopacking in WAW velomobile
- As a co-organizer and brevet rider for the Czech Republic under Audax Club Parisien (randonneuring) the overall form of the event was very similar, only the route was not fixed and neither were the time windows at the checkpoints. This meant more freedom and less stress for me as a rider.
- The route promised interesting places of the Czech Republic, most of them I have not visited yet. However, I have chosen the 900 km route, with regard to the time of my vacation and the ride to the start.
- Due to finishing my lightweight WAW brevet velomobile last year and testing it sufficiently even on hilly brevets, I finally have a vehicle capable of doing this type of route (the previous velomobile has 15 kg more).
- Finally, my physical condition was also at a relatively higher level compared to previous years, considering my training inconsistency.
- Other parameters, that I set myself, were mainly to test the configuration of the velomobile from the point of view of long distance traveling, i.e. to carry everything that I need with me (not to use the possibility of transporting packages to the Tušť camp etc.), to test the usability of the tracker brouter.de with the Velomobile (fast) profile and finally cycle to the start and back home, because I need to transport only myself and WAW to the start (I own a car, but its use was not necessary, another 2x 225 km can be cycled with some extra time).
Route planned in brouter.de
Elevation profile according to brouter.de (total values are not correct)
The physical preparation was a bit time consuming with regard to my work, but I managed to do regularly at least 200 km per week, with the addition of our Brnobent Brevet Series and the nearly 400 km and 600 km brevet routes from previous years as part of my training. The rest of the preparations were hectic as it usually is. I was tuning my equipment until the last minute and in the end used everything that was packed (except tyvek). In the end I packed the following into the WAW:
- Sleeping: thin foam mat, bivy sack, polyester liner, large tyvek sheet
- Pedaling: 2x complete set of clothes (one on me): ¾ bibs, merino short shirt, briefs, medium thick socks, short retro jersey, arm warmers, neck warmer, 1x gloves
- Other clothing: ¾ pants, 2x shirt, waterproof jacket, reflective vest, long bibs, 2x socks, knee warmers, feather jacket, Specialized shoes, Giro helmet (WAW without roof, only cover), running cap
- Electronics: a Garmin Etrex 20 (yes archaic, but 2x AA bat. means 20 hr. of life including recording), Samsung Xcover + mapy.cz offline, 10 Ah powerbank (for mobile), cables and charger for mobile, Li-pol batteries 2x 5 Ah + 1x 3.25 Ah (total approx. 1000 g = approx. 26 h of light at night) + simple Li-pol model charger, 6x AA (Etrex) and 6x AAA batteries (rear flash light, was permanently on and consumes a lot)
- Others: Children’s umbrella, Crocs, small towel, toiletries (I don’t carry painkillers and I don’t take them when riding to finish), 2x large dry bag, 1x small dry bag, dioptric glasses and cycling glasses with dioptric insert, 3 l canister + hose (for water)
- Tools and spare parts: complete set of tires (2x durano 20″ and 1x kojak 26″, I can’t find them along the route), 2 sets of tubes for each wheel, spare parts for handlebar and saddle grip (experiment), 2x pump, set of keys, 2x Multi Tool
- Rider = 78 kg (loss of cca 2.5 kg after 7 days)
- WAW = 25 kg
- Everything that was packed inside WAW = 15 kg
- Food + water approx. = 3-3.5 kg (I usually carried 2 l of water, 0.5 l of Coke)
- Gears 34/53 + 11-42, Sram 10s, Sora 153 mm cranks, Sturmey-Archer 90 mm brakes, 20″ (406) sprung front wheels, 26″ (559) fixed rear wheel
Everything could be optimized for even less weight, but with a noticeable reduction in comfort, versatility and it would not be within my set of parameters. Furthermore, given the altitude and checkpoints, the route is not quite ideal for velomobiles which have the biggest advantage on flat and downhill sections. However, up the hills it is a relatively heavy trike, but then again you do not need to balance it (part of the mental brain fatigue is resting compare to standart bike) and unless you are constantly wasting energy breaking down the hills it doesn’t come out so bad energetically. These bikes have a much different speed profile, but also energy expenditure up hills.
I apologize for the long introduction, now I’ll get to the description of the event.
For me, it actually started on Friday 19.8. I was leaving Brno at 8:30 am, because of packing, so I slept about 4 hours and told myself that I would sleep more in Žacléř. I didn’t want to give out all of the energy on first day so the pace was not fast and taking into account the use of mapy.cz when of course road bikes have no problem with cobble stones and riding through the forest on the former overgrown gravel, I made it to Žacléř only at 21:30. So registration was moved to Saturday. With the help of my already accommodated fellow riders (thanks again), WAW even managed to get into the hallway of the Kindergarten building and I went to bed after a shower. Unfortunately I had forgotten my earplugs, which would have really come in handy (not only the snoring fellow riders, but also the three hornets in the morning were a bit too much for a comfortable sleep).
I got up quite early for registration around 7 am, packed everything, put on my previously worn cycling clothes and went to the start on the city square. Here everything was already running. It was a bit cold and foggy, but it looked like it wasn’t going to rain. Registration and breakfast went smoothly in close sequence, then the wait for the start. The WAW had raised quite some interest and I gladly explained to everyone interested what it is and how it works. The 10 am start was on time and I rode in the middle of the peloton, making sure not to endanger anyone.
Start: Žacléř, Rýchorské náměstí, Sat. 20.8.2022, 10:00 am (credit: facebook Okolorepubliky.cz)
The first slight navigation botch came soon when the route according to the brouter was closed. Of course, I could have prepared myself, but I figured I would deal with the closures on the road. So I rode with the others and then noticed that after Trutnov the route I was taking (the final route from Friday) would merge with the planned one in the brouter, so no panic and in Trutnov I already returned to the planned route. I have to confess, if I take a long route with the gps navigation, I don’t keep track of which towns I pass through, but we were in Turnov this year in July and I remembered some places. Then I have come to the gradual approach to Ještěd. I was here on vacation not so long ago. The combination of landscape and architecture is really well done there. Only the weather got worse and worse with altitude. The traffic lights were a bit of a trouble as I wasn’t able to make it up the hill with my pace and the road was very narrow sometimes, luckily in the end it worked out without a problem. I also tried to climb the last section but the combination of wet tarmac a relatively lightly loaded rear wheel and low pedaling frequency meant rear wheel slippage, so I pushed for some km to the top which is not ideal for WAW but it’s doable. I was at the checkpoint just after 6 pm. Took a few photos and rode straight down, it was pretty grim and my estimation of the wind speed at the gate (tunnel) to be cca 100 km/h.
CP1: Ještěd, Sat. 20.8.2022, 18:03
The downhill was fast to the point that I got the brakes pretty hot. I could even smell them burning a bit so I was forced to let them cool down for 20 min. Waiting at the beginning of the stoplight of the road closure definitely helped. I continued on towards Česká Lípa, Děčín and in Usti nad Labem. I stopped at the MOL gas station just after midnight. Here I met my co-rider Darek and we tried to sleep on the benches under some sunshades in the rain. Unfortunately there was still a lot of traffic and quite a few people passing through, the result was that after 2 hours we gave up. His information on which way to go to the second checkpoint was very valuable as there was a closed road ahead again. After about an hour’s ride in Modlany the rain level was so high that I decided to stay there. I didn’t want to get outside so I stayed in the WAW. I pulled out an umbrella to cover the opening of my Waw and tried to sleep intermittently. Since it was relatively warm I alternated between sleeping, eating and waiting for the rain to pass for about three hours. At 5:30 am it was again bearable weather so I went on to Teplice, Lom and Litvínov.
Here I diverted to the recommended route to Hora Svaté Kateřiny and started to climb the hairpins after 8 am. The climb was long, but quite ok. Just before 11 am I reached Rozhledna Hláska, before that I had to detour on the way around a section that was impassable for me. Here 5 of us gathered and had hot soup, tea and we warmed up a bit in a restaurant.
CP2: Hora Svaté Kateřiny, Rozhledna Hláska, Sun. 21.8.2022, 10:53 am
After 50 minutes of rest I set off further to Jirkov and Chomutov. In Chomutov there was the only mistake of the brouter during the whole event. In attempt to lead me on the side roads to route number 13 it led me through a very rutted gravel road marked as a cycle path, but not rideable for me. I turned around and navigated through the main roads to route 13 by myself, in some places it looked like I was on the highway, but there was no sign of bike restrictions. I stayed on route 13 through Klášterec nad Ohří to Ostrov where I was around 17:30.
Cycling on such main road has its pros and cons, in the case of a velomobile and if the gradually descending direction from the mountains is chosen (which brouter does) it is possible to ride on a “wave” and use the aerodynamics of the machine to the maximum, so I go downhill even over 70 kph. I pedaled the counter hills so that my average speed does not drop too much. I don’t ride like cars, but the difference isn’t that huge, kind of like a small motorbike versus a car. I can’t do it all day but few hours in a day is fine. It also depends on the type of road, but mostly there were wide roadsides. It’s more demanding on concentration and also on energy, but it’s doable and the level of risk is acceptable. I have to point out that I flash my rear lights all the time and at higher speeds and in cities I also use my headlights (I also use turn signals). My velomobile is white, but my helmet is intentionally warning green (not that I like it, but I think the contrast is necessary for best visibility).
Then I continued to Nejdek, Dolní Rotava and Kraslice. Just before Kraslice It was around 22 h and I decided, due to tiredness, to try again to get some sleep directly in the velomobile. This time, however, the temperature was much lower, also considering the altitude of about 500 m. So I put on a warm jacket and other layers on my legs and slept intermittently (including doing 30 squats in the middle of the sleep to warm up) for about 4.5 h. At 02:45 am I started to pedal towards the third checkpoint Bleiberg where I was at 04:22 am, with the use of back roads. Even so, I had to push a short impassable section through the forest before the summit. I took some photos and headed back down to Kraslice where I celebrated it with coffee and croissants at the MOL gas station at 05:32 am.
The route took me to Sokolov, Kynšperk nad Ohří, Planá and Bor to Horšovský Týn. The beginning of this section was quite tiring, the narrow hilly road with traffic where it was impossible to take a break was exhausting. However, the closer I got to the checkpoint Rozhledna Šibeniční vrch, the more pleasant the road was, gradual hills on the “waves” with much less traffic. Here I was at 13:21, took photos again and continued. Next I headed to Klatovy, Nalžovské Hory, Horažďovice and Strakonice. It was already dark and it wasn’t going well again and I found a small path by the track and pond near Sudoměř. Here again I prepared myself for sleep in WAW at about 23:17 and this time the altitude was 398 m, so again quite cold with the necessity to warm up with squats after putting on sleeping layers. I slept 1+1+2 h sequentially, but this time I was more careful about the proximity of all limbs to minimize heat losses. It was raining again, so the umbrella came in handy. At 04:26 I set off in the direction of Tušť camp. Considering the cold and the rain that reappeared and accompanied me almost all the way to the campsite, I added another layer (partly sleeping clothes). I headed to Protivín, past Vodňany, passed Hluboká nad Vltavou and Třeboň. The last 30 km before the campsite I rode under an hour, the road was flat and because it was really raining and I wanted to be warm (I also found that when I ride above 35 km/h the drops from my glasses travel away by themselves and I can see better).
CP5: Suchdol nad Lužnicí, Kemp Tušť, Tue. 23.8.2022, 10:57 am (credit: facebook Okolorepubliky.cz)
I arrived at the camp Tušť at 10:57 am. Here I warmed up with tea and soup and distracted myself from missing energy with friendly conversations with participants and members of the event support team. My first thoughts about continuing were to cycle to Slavonice and home to Brno. Due to the incessant rain, the need to recharge at least one main battery of WAW lights and the general tiredness I lay down after a shower and slept for about 2 hours. After that the mood to continue was completely different, no mechanical problems, no harm on my body so I decided to continue, but the battery was not charged, the weather looked like it could change in the morning so the decision was made to go for pizza with another participant Miloš. We warmed up nicely at the meal and decided to continue sleeping and make up for the sleep deficit. In the meantime other participants arrived, sorry I don’t remember the names but the debates with them were very nice. I don’t remember when I went to bed, but I set my alarm for 03:00 am. In one hour I packed everything and put on the last remaining dry set of clothes. At 04:13 I was already pedaling towards Žacléř. It was of course dark and foggy, but the outlook was more positive. Breakfast took place at the nearest open gas station in daylight, where I was I have no idea. I headed towards Jindřichův Hradec, Žirovnice, solved some fine detours and kept on progressing. In Pelhřimov there was one last bit of rain, but in Humpolec the sun was already shining! So again I had drier clothes and the cycling was also much better on the dry roads. Then my route led to Světlá nad Sázavou, Čáslav, Přelouč, Hradec Králové. Here there were sections on more busy roads, but the reward was the flat parts and the opportunity to go at a higher speed again. There were only a few gas stations, but I found one and for the first time it was so warm again that I had a popsicle to cool down. I continued on to Jaroměř and Trutnov. Here I, the idiot, again did not check the route and rode directly to the road closure. Fortunately, I had a detour route to Žacléř in Etrex from the ride to the start and therefore it was enough to open it and connect to it. I was already riding at quite high tempo, but suddenly the elevation and hills before Žacléř were not so high and my legs were spinning nicely for the 900+ km. I was still dealing with a minor navigational detour to the finish, Bobr 111, where I arrived at 20:17.
At the finish I got a medal, a t-shirt, tea, soup and of course congratulations from the organizers and fellow riders. Big thanks to all
Finish: Žacléř, Bobr 111, Wed. 24.8.2022, 20:17 (credit: facebook Okolorepubliky.cz)
In total, I cycled 1025 km for the whole event route with the elevation gain a bit over 12 km. Total time was 106 h 17 min. I spent 51 h in WAW by cycling. I slept in WAW for about 16 h. I spent a total of 17 h at the Tušť camp and the rest of 22 h was spent on other things (sleeping preparations, short sleeping stops, food breaks, etc.).
However, my journey did not end at Žacléř. After a shower and recharging the main battery of the WAW lights, I went to bed with the intention to get up early and cycle to Brno. I slept quite well despite the light and some wake-up calls, got up again at 06:00 am and packed everything up and headed for Brno at 07:00 am. I managed to exchange a few words with Miloš, who had just arrived and thus also successfully completed the short route. I was in Brno just after 20:00. This time I felt more legs, but again the hills were quite minimal and I paused a bit more when things were not going well.
All in all, it gave me a total of 1470 km in 7 days.
I have only dealt with 3 mechanical problems. Firstly, a puncture to the front right wheel – a gritted stone stuck in my tire when braking, when both front wheels went into a skid because I was overlooked by an oncoming car turning left, thus crossing my path, not even braking. Secondly, the chain fell off after crossing a large pothole, the derailleur has no brake, hence the need to disassemble the tail (this has happened twice in 5000 km so far). Thirdly, I have dealt with gentle left wheel braking, which looks like a bad brake lever or bowden adjustment barrel. Just a small note, my WAW is an experimental version very custom built, hence the components are not stock and everything is still in the fine tuning phase.
That is all.
Jan aka nink