A special ride:
Sand and stones on a fixed Pompino
Reiner De Weerdt
I live in Belgium, and I like to ride Brevets Randonneur Mondiaux, or BRMs. For most riders, randonneuring means long distances on smooth metalled roads. This summer I decided to try a different kind of BRM. It was designed to take in as many river towpaths as possible. The Belgian countryside is cut through by many small rivers, and the towpaths on their banks are flat as a pancake. Nevertheless, the rough surfaces of the paths make this an "offroad" BRM.
I was riding with my pals from Leuven, so the ride began at our usual gathering point. This is a marvellous pub in Holsbeek called "Het Kwadraat" (also known as x² to the math enthusiasts among us).
To make things harder on myself, I had decided to ride an On-One Pompino equiped with a 42x16 fixed gear. My friend Olivier was riding his Thorn Brevet with its eccentric hub and single 42x17 gear. That meant that there were two fixed gear riders in my bunch. That may not be a big deal in your country, but here in Belgium it's very rare to meet even one fixer on the road or singletrack. Meeting two of us together is like spotting a pair of dodos in the fields.
At 8am, Erwin led off towards the river Dijle, where the ride would begin.
Belgium is a small country, and riding 100% off-road is almost impossible. The route designers had been forced to take some shortcuts over pavement and tarmac. This is where the CX-style fixed Pompino really shines. It's a joy to roll over hardpack on my 700x35 Ritchey Excavaders, but sweet spinning for a few km over surfaced roads isn't hard to cope with.
After following the Dijle for a couple of hours we came to the city of Mechelen, a beautiful town amid misty countryside, quiet and beautiful in the early sunrise.
Leaving Mechelen, we followed the course of the "Vrouwvliet", a little canal, to Lier. Here Louis took the lead. Louis did an excellent job, leading us through country lanes, over singletrack and up the banks of the river Nete while we sweated in the delicious sunshine. At last we reached Westerlo, by the abbey of Tongerlo, and Louis' task was done.
Leaving Westerlo, a game of 'hunt the post' began. Belgium has a splendid designated cycle network, and a simple map is all you need to find your way from one end of the country to the other. But first, you need to spot the little numbered signs by the side of the road! We cruised steadily, enjoying the landscape and the curiosities like ancient windmills.
After almost 200km the river Dijle reappeared to our right, showing the way back to Holsbeek. Here we rested our tired legs and ate a well-earned plate of pasta. A Belgian beer made the day complete. You might say that riding fixed had made it harder, but the rewards after the ride were numerous.