This is Month 36 of my time in Germany. On 31 March 2014 I left the UK for my new life in Germany. The three years have gone really fast!
Cycling this month
Cycling statistics this month
As you see, a better total for March but I am still behind my target of 10,000km for the year. Oh well, the summer is on its way!
And here is where I have cycled this month. Mostly commutes and just a couple of longer rides.
A long ride for a great downhill
Last August I did a long ride in Penelope via Kleve which included a very fast downhill which was great fun. I had thought for a while it would be good to try in with Millie and see which speed I could reach, and Klaus was very keen to come along, so we planned to enjoy a really long ride one Sunday including this hill, but also going via Xanten and back through the Netherlands.
This is our track for the day:
The weather forecast was good although not particularly warm. We set off at about 9:30am and rode very quickly to Xanten, where we stopped for the obligatory cake.
We then headed along the former railway (now cycle path) towards Marienbaum, heading north-west towards Kleve.
Once we were back on the main road the route became very slightly rolling and as usual in these situations I got left behind on the uphills – my hill climbing is very poor. I was pleased that my Schlumpf had successfully worked on the hill climb towards Xanten (where last time it had started slipping inside the Tretlagergehäuse which ended up with me having a new one fitted). However, as I was cresting one of the hills and tried to switch the Schlumpf back to high gear, nothing happened. There was no longer a button on the left hand crank spindle! Oh no!
I had remembered 2km back hearing a weird noise – I put this down to rolling over a bit of metal or something – but now gloomily realised this was probably my Schlumpf gear button falling off. But I was delighted to see that it had fallen sideways and was actually nestled in my right-hand-side footwell (the left hand side is open so I was lucky it hadn’t fallen straight downwards).
I got on the radio to Klaus and told him my Schlumpf wasn’t working and he headed back. Here is the offending button.
There is a small thread in the middle and when Klaus had a look he decided it should be fine to just refit it and tighten it by hand. Which he did, although reaching the pedals in Millie is not so easy! Good thing he has long arms.
The Schlumpf now worked properly so we carried on. Problem solved, at least short-term.
We were riding on a Landstraße between Xanten and Bedburg Hau/Kleve and this was lovely and fast so we were making great progress. I had told Klaus about the wonderful downhill but that there was an awful uphill first to get to the top of the Kleve mountain. He reached the top first, of course, but only had to wait a couple of minutes for me to arrive.
We decided that I would go first down the hill as I had ridden it before and Millie is a bit faster downhill. Off I set, very quickly reaching 70km/h (which was the speed limit on that section of road) and I got up to 72km/h for a good half kilometres. Klaus wasn’t quite as fast and unfortunately had a couple of cars behind him but they couldn’t overtake as he was almost doing 70. Despite it being a blustery day Millie felt very stable and I was able to pedal up to about 65km/h; at higher speeds than that my legs wobbled the tiller too much so I cruised down the hill, only pedalling occasionally to keep the speed up. It was brilliant fun!!
What was very pleasing was that when we got home and uploaded our tracks we discovered that we had both posted the fastest times on the downhill for our genders – I got the QOM (Queen of the Mountain) and Klaus the KOM (King of the Mountain) on Strava.
Anyway, once down the hill to the west of Kleve it was time to turn southwards and head for home. We had a very lovely section through some woodland where the cycle path beside the road was decent so we used that. We found ourselves crossing the Niers, which is a river very local to us, so stopped to photograph it – much larger here, although still pretty small.
We hadn’t stopped for any food since our cake in Xanten but saw a large restaurant beside the road and so decided to grab some soup.
After refilling our water bottles, using the loo etc we headed back to the road and enjoyed cycling along the Netherlands’ roads and cycle paths.
The final 35km of the route was the oft-used Ceresweg which heads to Arcen. It’s a lovely long road with little traffic but the road surface is a bit rough and that really slows me down. If they resurfaced it with German-quality asphalt it would be a perfect route!
We climbed the hill to Straelen and then decided it was time to stop for another bit of refuelling as the nice Café Krone in Straelen was open.
After some tasty Grillagetorte we headed home, Klaus doing a small extra bit at the end to get 150km, I finished up with 144.85km at an average speed of 25.8km/h. I burned over 3000 calories which was a bonus too!
The Schlumpf Button makes a more successful bid for freedom… and other tales of Velomobile problems
Following this ride I thought I ought to do something about the Schlumpf button. I mentioned it to Frank and he said he had some threadlock-type-stuff I could use. I thought I would have a look at the weekend.
A couple of days later Klaus and I went out for an evening cycle, just a short 40km loop to Hinsbeck and Lobberich. Unfortunately as we were approaching De Witt See I noticed my lights flickering… We stopped immediately and I got the battery and holder out to check. The connection was dicky. We fiddled a bit more and lo and behold the cable snapped right where it joins the holder. It was cheap cable (we had replaced some other bits) but there was no way we could fix this in the dark in the middle of nowhere without a soldering iron and spare cable.
People always say you should have backup lights for your velomobile and indeed I have a battery rear light on Millie all the time. Since I bought Millie I have carried around a Busch & Müller Ixion front light which had not seen a charger since Autumn and I had never attempted to mount it onto Millie’s bodywork before. I suppose I vaguely thought it would be best as a head torch – but I had no fixings for that.
One option was to fix it to my Lichtkanone behind my head but the mount was entirely the wrong way for that. The only other option was to strap it to one of my mirror mounts and hope that did the trick. Indeed it did, although it cast a weird shadow across Millie – on left turns I couldn’t see very much at all. I stayed behind Klaus and we rode a direct route home but on routes with very little traffic. You get used to good quality lighting and when you find yourself with rather less satisfactory illumination it really slows you down!
We were pootling along the Lobberich Bahnradweg and I heard a sound which I realised almost immediately was identical to the sound I had heard on Sunday when my Schlumpf button bounced off. I immediately changed the Schlumpf gear down, and then tried to change back up again – but indeed the button to switch to the higher gears had once again disappeared. I stopped immediately and looked in the footwell – no luck.
Klaus (who was quite a way ahead) returned to find me walking up and down the path with my hand torch (being used for its second purpose in one evening, rather a record) trying to look in the ditches and leaves for the button. I also needed the torch to pick my way past all the frogs who had chosen this evening to wander all round. They were very sweet but we had had to slalom our way on most of the last 2km to avoid them and with my reduced light this was harder.
Anyway, despite covering the ground twice I failed to find the button. Damn.
I was now stuck in the low gears so we decided to see if we could change up for me. We had heard an Allen Key is what you need and Klaus had to fiddle around for quite a while before it worked, but fortunately I was back in my ‘normal’ gear range and so was able to ride on without difficulty, except on uphill starts.
The next evening was a bit of bike maintenance to fix my lighting.
Klaus soldered a new decent bit of cable into the battery holder and then discovered that it was rather hard to close it as it needed the thinner cable. After a lot of persuasion it finally closed and so the wiring was ready. Hurrah! During this procedure Jochen arrived to show us that he had just punched a hole in the carbon fibre shell of Endeavour, his Velomobile, after sliding at low speed into a sharp metal piece of scaffolding. He now has a letterbox-sized air intake in front of his left wheel. He was gutted – and will have to learn carbon fibre layup over the next months to fix it.
Anyway, we were all in the garage commiserating with Jochen for his new air vent and trying to get my electrics working. They just kept flickering on and off and in the end it was clear that the battery holder thing, which is designed for a camcorder battery charger rather than velomobile-specific, was just not really up to the job. A little metal pin that needs to make contact with the battery kept sliding away so in the end Klaus fixed it with a tiny amount of solder metal holding it in place.
Since then it has worked OK but we decided one job was to change the battery and connectors to the normal Velomobile system. As my batteries are 7.4V instead of the normal 12V this would involve fitting another power regulator (like we did to Penelope) so I have purchased all the required bits and pieces and we will fit it some time next month once we have bought the batteries from Velomobiel.nl when we visit at the end of March. Here is the power step-down gadget thingie in its protective case:
I have also ordered a battery level meter as I don’t have one at the moment and it can cause some issues as I don’t always realise my battery has run out.
As for the Schlumpf button, I contacted Velomobiel.nl (as we would be visiting them) and they provided me with two buttons but of the newer design so I am not sure if they will stay attached.
I initially contacted Liegeradbau Schumacher who fitted the Schlumpf and they asked for a photo of the relevant part (as they varied) and then sent me one in the post a week later, which was very kind of them.
Millie is fairly sparsely-outfitted with very few extras (no brake light, no audible indicator warning etc) but she does seem to be struggling a bit at the moment. I also discovered a week later that the back wheel has gone slightly out of true, it seems that one spoke has slightly deformed the rim, so I guess I will be ordering a new rear wheel before too long. But I will wait until next month’s pay cheque for that one!
Every so often a meeting is arranged for recumbent riders and velomobile owners in the Düsseldorf and surrounding region (into which Kempen just about fits). These are often organised by a chap called Norbert who has previously invited us to the care home where he lives where he and his wife can hire a room for us all to have food in before going for a ride. He’d arranged another of these for the third weekend in March and we were incredibly lucky to have an excellent weather forecast.
Klaus and I had said we would go but Jochen was originally going to be doing a long ride the day before, but eventually due to man-flu he wasn’t fit enough for that ride so said he would come with us.
We arranged to leave my house at 9am and head first to Uerdingen for some cake. Uerdingen is where Jochen had his mini velomobile accident that cut a chunk out of Endeavour but he bravely decided to revisit the scene of this trauma.
Because Jochen was still recovering from man-flu he said he would be slower than normal. Of course, at my even slower speed I did not notice this!
We did a nice relaxed route to Uerdingen and stopped there for some very nice cakes.
Both Jochen and I are supposedly doing low-carb but we’ve both been more lax this week so enjoyed our sweet treats!
From Uerdingen to Büttgen where Norbert lives is a very pleasant 25km with some very fast roads. I did the trip between Uerdingen and Büttgen once before and that time I was actually too fast for Klaus (he was having a slow day). This time he kept up no problem, and in fact pulled ahead to chase a cyclist on tri-bars, but commented again that i am really quick on this sector. I guess it’s the cake fuel from Uerdingen.
I had made some shortbread biscuits to bring with me (with the help of Klaus’s daughter Lara the day before), but they weren’t really necessary as several people had brought cakes with them too!
We chatted and enjoyed the food for a couple of hours, meeting some people for the first time but also catching up with old friends.
At 2 o’clock we set off on a ride which ended up on one of our regular stomping grounds near Neersen. There were 11 velomobiles and 7-8 trikes so it was a good group!
Klaus from Köln took some wonderful photos and here are just a few of them (featuring me and/or Millie of course!)
Klaus started having some strange noises from his suspension so when we were having a short stop he had a look.
And I absolutely love this photo – can you tell what is going on?
Basically I had been informed that my back wheel wasn’t quite true so Klaus and Stefan decided to have a look – I had to lift Millie up and spin the wheel. Conclusion was that yes, it was slightly out of true. More on that next month!
We rode for about 25km in total and then returned to Norbert’s place, at which point we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes.
Jochen, Klaus and I stopped for some food in Kempen on the way back – the Buttermarkt was packed with bicycles.
And when we got back to my garage Klaus decided to check out why his suspension had started being noisy – it turned out he just needed to oil the elastomers in the suspension a bit. It only took him about 5 minutes to fix the problem so they are proving to be a really good option for him.
It was really great to ride with other velomobile owners (although it is not always so easy riding in such a group) and of course great to chat with people who share our hobby. We look forward to the next meet up!
Some months ago Uli started to organise cycle visits to cafés for cake with his friends from the amateur radio world, as well as cycling chums. This is becoming a regular event and when it’s not too far from my house I can get there after work without too much difficulty.
One week we were at Wingertsches Erb which sells very nice cakes although is quite pricey.
A couple of weeks later we were at Café Kornblume which is just 4km away. Gudula came with me this time, as did Poppy running the whole way. But as it was such a nice sunny day I took Alfie for that al fresco experience!
We sat outside enjoying the cake and sunshine. Poppy too!
Here is a picture of us all with me looking remarkably spaced-out.
Life in general
The first of April marked 3 years since I arrived in Germany and also the first anniversary of my father’s funeral, so lots of thoughts around that time. Brexit was officially started as well which of course is something I am very disappointed about. But life continues to be very good here in Germany and I don’t regret for a second making the move to come and live here.
Cakes this month
Despite the low-carb diet, I have been a bit more relaxed this month following my holiday in Tenerife. This means that when I am on a cycle ride I allow myself a cake now and again.
These are the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month.
My low carb diet was officially from 3 January until 31 March but I am continuing it (perhaps a bit less strictly) as it has been so successful. I have lost 11kg and feel much better for it. I also have more energy on the bike and don’t tend to fade in my power over time. It’s not always particularly easy, especially when eating out (you tend to have to almost always have a salad) but it is definitely healthy and I hope to continue it reasonably successfully. We shall see!
On the last day of March I went to Dronten with Klaus for some velomobile maintenance courtesy of Velomobiel.nl. They worked on Celeste on the Friday and then Millie on April Fool’s Day, so I will write about this trip next month.
Anyway, it’s a shorter report for this month, I have been busy with work and various things but I hope to write a bit more next month – and perhaps not just about velomobiles. We shall see!!