Monthly Archives: March 2018

Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 6: Roermond to Kempen

Day 3 of the second tour.

We had another good night’s sleep at the Vrienden op de fiets house in Roermond and were treated to a very good breakfast.

The bikes had spent the night safely in the garden.

Our hosts had to leave at 10am so we said goodbye to them at 9:30 and set off on our last stage of the tour.

We did quite a lot of this route just two weeks ago when I rode Humphrey to Roermond with Klaus and Ralf, and the route is very pleasant with lots of quiet roads. There were a few speedbumps which are not quite as comfortable in Millie as in Humphrey.

We saw this beautiful church underway.

We stopped for a short break and to enjoy the sunshine and chatted to a dog walker (who is rather unfortunately rendered in the photo below). I took the photo below because Millie was nicely reflected in Celeste!

This is what Klaus could see from his vantage point!

We enjoyed the quiet roads, although there were lots of leisure cyclists out as well, but we often had the whole road to ourselves!

Our plan was to stop in Venlo for some lunch/cake but as we came over the bridge into the town there seemed to be an awful lot of cyclists and walkers. As we reached the town it was clear something was going on – I have never seen so many bikes parked in one place. They were everywhere! There were sound stages and people dressed as runners… it was Venloop which is an annual half marathon. We knew it would be pointless to try to stop somewhere for food, plus we couldn’t really ride anywhere as it was all so packed. Instead we stayed on the roads and tried to make our way to the east so we could get on the road to Germany but road closures made it pretty tricky. We got lots of cheers from spectators – it was great to see that pretty much every Venlo resident was there, hanging out of the windows or cheering from the pavement.

We finally got across the main road into Venlo and could head towards the glider airfield. On the way we saw this very impressive bunting with the balloon runner!

We stopped for a while to watch the gliders and then discussed where we could go for cake. We both knew of, but had not visited, a café/restaurant not far away down an unmade road. We gave it a go and the unmade road was fine and the cake at Birkenhof was very tasty!

We were home fairly early after our ride of 61.62km which we cycled at an average speed of 18.7 km/h (very relaxed). My average heart rate for this ride was now a super-low 120 bpm.

We really enjoyed both our mini tours, although we were blessed with better weather for the second one. A tour of 3 days can be a very rich and exciting experience so we are considering whether we can manage more in the future by just taking one day off work. We shall see!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 5: Maastricht to Roermond

The second day of our second mini-tour.

We slept well and as agreed went down for breakfast at 8 o’clock. Anke had provided us a very good spread of breakfast items.

She talked to us a little about some of the cycle tours she had done.

Anke had to leave at 9 so we were gone before then. We decided to visit Maastricht itself and cycled over the bridge and through the pedestrian zone a little.

We found ourselves in a large square with lots of buildings around it and a large church.

Klaus took this interesting pic of Celeste!

And also this Panorama view of the square.

Here is Millie in front of the church.

Klaus had talked several times about the bookshop in a church so we googled it and discovered it was just around the corner. As I pulled up outside I noticed Millie rather nicely reflected in the doors!

We parked outside.

It was a beautiful building inside with very clever design for the bookshelves on three levels.

There was also a café where the altar used to be and so we stopped for a cuppa.

We set off again after a nice relaxing time in the bookshop and wended our way through Maastricht town on a Saturday morning. There was lots on as the weather was good. Klaus stopped to take a picture of a building and Millie photobombed him!

We then crossed the river and looked back at the town (photo by Klaus).

It was lovely to just stand in the sunshine, warm enough to be outside the velomobiles without jumpers/coats on.

However, we were on a bike tour so it was time to set off towards Roermond.

Our route today was as follows:

On the way to Maastricht we had ridden on the west side of the river/canal, this time we were going up the east side.

We had plenty of time for the 60km day so decided we would stop for a leisurely cake halfway if we could find somewhere. There were lots of interesting places along the way.

Here I stopped for a photo of a lovely church:

And at the same time Klaus was also photographing it from further back – you can see Millie in his shot.

You can tell from the skies in the above photos that it was turning into a really lovely day. The temperature was about 10 degrees but inside the velomobiles we were toasty warm.

It’s a very nice route that we were riding although surprisingly quiet for a Saturday, except for lots of MAMILs riding in chain gangs.

At about halfway we started looking for somewhere to stop for a cuppa but couldn’t find anything. Finally, just past Berg an de Maas, we discovered a restaurant with lots of signs saying ‘Open’ so stopped, only to find that the door was locked. We rang the bell but no response came. As we were waiting two more cyclists came and sat down.

We started checking on our phones to see if there was anywhere else open not too far away when a car arrived and two people got out carrying parcels from a bakery. It was the owners of the restaurant and they had cake. A bit odd they hadn’t put a sign up to say “back in 5 minutes” or something, but anyway, we got our tea and slice of cake.

Although they spoke no German or English and we spoke no Dutch we managed to communicate perfectly well.

In Maasbracht we saw this very pretty view whilst we were riding down a bit of a hill (photo by Klaus)

And we stopped to look at this windmill. Some passers-by said “hello” to us and they turned out to be Brits.

We continued on and eventually arrived in Roermond at 3 o’clock. I phoned the Vrienden op de fiets host but got no reply so we decided to go to the riverfront and eat something. We had originally said we expected to be there at 5pm so being two hours early meant perhaps they were out.

We ordered a bit of food

And Klaus relaxed with a bit of sun worship

We received an email from the host saying they were at home, possibly in their back garden, so we headed off there.
It was a retired couple with a lovely quaint house with lots of wood panelling (I reckon the chap used to be a joiner or something similar). This was our room:After we had showered Klaus got in touch with his friend Istvan who lives in Roermond to see if he was free. He and his wife invited us for dinner, so we hopped into the Velomobiles and rode the 3km to Istvan’s house, where we had a very tasty meal and lots of very good conversation. Istvan and his wife Ingrid were really interesting people and it was great to get to know them. Klaus met Istvan through a photography forum and had known him for ten years or so.Istvan has a very good coffee machine…We also had some cake!We were all pretty tired so headed off at 9:30pm through Roermond, which was a really lovely ride in the dark on the good cycle paths.The total ride today was 58.52km at an average of 18.4 km/h.Here are the statistics, note that the average heart rate is a very relaxed 120.Once again we were really happy with the Vrienden op de fiets accommodation. The velomobiles were in the garden under an awning and well away from prying eyes. We slept very well after our cycling and socialising!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 4: Kempen to Maastricht

And so the second part of our Tour began!

We had two days at home after the first three touring days, during which we washed our cycling gear and I collected Millie from friend Ralf’s where she had been staying.

My initial feeling when riding Millie was “wow, she is so easy and fast!” and the fact she is also a lot quieter than Humphrey was also fairly noticeable.

This was a chance to see if my difficulties with Humphrey were because of my fitness rather than his form. It was also a chance for me to rest my tired good arm and to enjoy a bit more cockpit space!

We decided that on the first day we would ride to Maastricht and so began the search for hotels which had room for velomobiles. We did lots of searching and didn’t find any very good options, so decided instead to join Vrienden op de Fiets and see if there were options to stay in Maastricht.

For those who don’t know, Vrienden op de fiets is a Dutch organisation where people can offer to host cyclists and the cyclist pays 19,00 EUR per night including breakfast. It costs only 10 EUR to join and then you have access to the database of hosts.

There were several in Maastricht and Roermond (for the next day) but in the end only one in each place was available. You are of course staying in people’s private houses and if they have something else on then it’s a no-go. Anyway, we had a place booked with a lady in Maastricht and with a chap in Roermond and thought we’d give it a go.

Klaus had planned the route this time, and this was our first day’s route:

It was planned to go past Ralf’s house as he thought he might be able to join us for some of the ride but in the end he wasn’t able.

We set off at 10:30am having packed everything into our velomobiles (I had to remember how to best utilise Millie’s limited space) and we headed off on very familiar roads at first.

It was a grey day and the weather forecast was for clouds all day but at least the temperatures were warmer than at the start of the first part of this tour – when it was snowing and minus four degrees! We were also happy to know that the forecast was improving for the next two days.

Unfortunately Klaus had an altercation with a dodgy driver after just 3km. Approaching a red traffic light the chap did an incredibly close pass on Klaus and then stopped at the light and jumped out and started remonstrating with Klaus. Klaus was about to get out of his velomobile (at which point he would have been seen to be considerably larger than this chap!) and the chap got back in his car and drove off when the lights went green. This wasn’t a very pleasant start to the tour, and especially not in Kempen which is Really Above That Kind Of Thing. The altercation happened 50 metres from the ‘Fahrradfreundliche Stadt’ sign (Bicycle-friendly city).

However, I guess all cyclists have these experiences from time to time, and we just have to suck it up and get on with our ride. Which we did.

At the roundabout onto the road to Grefrath we transition from the road to the cycle path and it’s a bit of a bumpy corner. Klaus was ahead and I noticed something black bouncing around in his wake. I cycled past it and it was a large black plastic circle. I couldn’t think where it came from on Celeste… and then after about 100 metres I suddenly realised it was a rolled-up inner tube. So I stopped and went back and indeed it was one of Klaus’s spare tubes that had bounced out of the luggage storage space at the front of Celeste. It was a Schwalbe one so that was a good 5 Euros saved!

Along the road to Grefrath we suddenly found ourselves riding over a couple of broken bottles. We stopped and immediately cleaned the tyres as best we could – I didn’t fancy getting a puncture, especially as I hadn’t had one since 1 January 2017!

As we headed into Lobberich I realised I was pretty desperate for the loo. I knew there were loos at Café Floral so we agreed to stop there. You can pay to use a loo if you aren’t a customer in Germany but in the end we decided to stop and to share a slice of cake, we chose this very nice cherry meringue cream confection.

We also had a cuppa each and enjoyed warming up a bit. But we realised that stopping after 17km on a 105km day was perhaps not the best distribution of breaks so it was time to ride on.

We rode past Breyell and then as we were heading to Boisheim I noticed Millie felt a bit rough. Soon enough that regular bump-bump-bump feeling intruded – clearly a puncture. Not only was it the first in fifteen months but I had had the same tyres on the whole time (which were pretty worn out). I used to use Duranos on Millie and had a puncture a week; since fitting Durano Pluses I had been puncture-free. They are heavier tyres so you pay a little with speed/efficiency but it is worth it as tyre changing is a pain in the neck.

It was cold where we stopped to change the tube and tyre and the cold wind whistling past us wasn’t nice. We put the new Durano Plus on and saw a very impressive flint that had got the whole way through the Durano Plus; the tyre was absolutely peppered with other pieces of stone and glass but they had all been stopped by the puncture-resistant band. I am very impressed with how these tyres have performed, and they had done 9000km too.

Our tyre changing provided a small amount of entertainment for the locals, as did pumping up a tyre to 8 bar (110 PSI) with a small hand pump, but we managed it between us and set off again.

We were approaching slightly less flat territory and I found myself on the road doing 61km/h at one point. I ended up with a Strava Queen of the Mountains for this so that was a bonus!

Klaus had routed us to the Meinweg National Park as we have ridden this great, smooth cycle road in the other direction but never going towards NL. Just before we crossed into the national park, whilst till in Germany, we had to have a pee stop behind some trees. This is very illegal in the Netherlands although apparently it is OK in Germany, so we made the most of the opportunity. I had also realised that if we were to make the time our host requested (between 17:00 and 17:30) we probably wouldn’t be able to have another stop – and had 70km to ride! This was a bit of pressure!

So we set off, riding separately at our own pace. Klaus had great fun with Celeste, managing to hit 71 km/h. I was a bit slower but enjoyed the downhills. We were now in the Netherlands.

We now followed Klaus’s track through some very nice countryside indeed, with lots of quiet lanes. Most of the photos below are taken by Klaus (as you can probably tell by the colour of the velomobile nose in shot!)

Following the pre-prepared Garmin track is very easy and means that we could relax and just enjoy the pedalling. There were a few trickier bits, such as finding the way onto the cycle track to cross this bridge. We were crossing a canal that runs a little way away from the Maas.

Most of our route was very good cycle paths, with some quiet B roads as well. We were making good progress, Millie was much easier for me to ride and the warmer weather also helped. Because we were following the canal and also later the Maas river we crossed from one side of the dyke to the other quite regularly and this included some short, steep climbs to get onto the dyke. At this point I discovered that Millie’s Schlumpf really doesn’t sound very healthy when in its low gear. Having now ridden Humphrey, who also has a Schlumpf, I know how it should feel and sound – and Millie’s is not well. I am making plans to either replace it or to put a normal double chainset on there, and also to reduce the size of the large chainring to assist me with hill starts etc. When riding along one has plenty of time to plan these things…

We crossed the Maas river with a ferry at Berg and then found ourselves in Belgium, so this was a 3 countries tour again.

As you can see, the road surface was pretty rough in Belgium, but it was a nice ride along the top of the dyke for quite a few kilometres before we turned and rode alongside the canal towards Maastricht.

We had ridden from Maastricht to Lanaken on our previous tour in this region and this time we approached Maastricht in the reverse direction, arriving where there were a lot of roadworks but we were waved through. The cycle path was still mostly in place!

Klaus photographed this former church which is now a gym. He had previously told me about a church in Maastricht which was now a bookshop, so they are obviously repurposing some redundant buildings!

We rode straight to our Vrienden House and arrived at the right time, having ridden the 70km non-stop. We met our hostess, Anke, who was very friendly and spoke very good German. Although I had sent her links to internet pages about velomobiles when checking she had room in her garage, she was a bit surprised how large they were. However, we did manage to fit them in her garage (she had recently had to empty her deceased mother’s house of belongings so they were stored in the garage too).

We had a good chat to Anke and our room was very nice. She had to go out in the evening but we said we wouldn’t do much, just go out for food, so we walked just down the road to a pizzeria we had noticed. It was very high quality food and I noticed they also had a Pizza Celeste!

We very much enjoyed our pizzas (we are off the low-carb diet when touring) and it was then time for bed. I am always pooped after a long cycle ride, particularly without many stops! In the end I went to bed at 20:15 so this is really showing my age! But we were very encouraged by our first experience of Vrienden op de fiets and already started discussing whether we could use this for our summer tour around the Netherlands in June.

Today’s ride was 106km and here are my statistics, the average heart rate is lower than on the first day of the tour with Humphrey but still pretty high.

We had purposely planned a shorter day the next day, just 55km to Roermond, but it was great to be touring again, even just for three days, and great to be in Millie again with the more comfortable cockpit for me.

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 3: Nijmegen to Kempen

Day 3 of the tour

Despite being on holiday I still woke up at 6 am. Oh well, it gave me a chance for a cup of tea and some reading.

Our plan this morning was to go to Roef’s for breakfast when he told us he was ready (he had to work a little in the morning first), we expected at about 10:30. As we were up and ready to ride much earlier we decided to head down to the riverfront for a cup of tea.

And it was very much DOWN, through lots of cobbled streets, with the velomobiles bouncing around and making lots of rattling noises. But we made it to the bottom and stopped outside Humphrey’s namesake bar:

Unfortunately it, and the neighbouring café, were both closed, but someone told us we could find some open cafés back up the hill again. Uphill. Oh well, we set off.

Humphrey has a Mountain Drive which is a gear system which reduces the gear ratio significantly (three times lower). What this means is that when you are using the normal gear range the lowest gear is OK for setting off on level ground or climbing very gentle slopes but anything steeper you need to ‘schlumpf’ which means suddenly you have an extremely low gear and have to pedal like mad to make any speed. As I am entirely unable to pedal like mad, I just slowly pootle my way up the hill in great comfort but at a low velocity. This enables Klaus to set up a nice photo though!

At the top of this hill there was indeed an open café so we stopped and had a cup of tea. Very shortly afterwards we heard from Roef that he was now free and we could come over for breakfast.

Roef had supplied us with a route to his place and it was yet another of these fantastic Dutch cycle ways. About 80% of the route was entirely segregated from all other traffic and was fast. There were very few road crossings. We zoomed along beside the railway line in our little pink-tarmacked world and thought again how wonderful the Dutch cycling infrastructure can be and how disappointing it is that few other countries manage this.

We arrived at Roef’s and put our velomobiles in his garage.

As you can see, he has an orange Strada. Klaus and I had very significant garage-envy, especially knowing that this garage is warm (as it is underneath the apartments).

Roef had arranged a very good breakfast for us, including porridge, croissants, rolls, yoghurt etc. We enjoyed chatting to him whilst we ate and then organised ourselves very leisurely to set off back home again. Roef would accompany us as far as Gennep.

Before our tour I had planned three separate routes back from Nijmegen to home. Of course, we didn’t use any of them in the end! It makes much more sense to follow the local who has much more experience of the environs, plus later on I discovered the Garmin Connect route planning software had done some weird things and we had to scrap one of the possible routes.

This was our actual track:

We were very lucky in that the weather was significantly better today than the last two days. It wasn’t hugely warm but the biting wind had subsided and when we were in the sun it felt very good. I suppose the temperature was about 10 degrees overall so much, much better.

The little procession of 2 Stradas and a Quattrovelo headed along the Maas towards Cuijk and Gennep.

The speed was comfortable for me in the Quattrovelo, which was running a bit better than yesterday. Well, I guess I must conclude that the problem lies mostly with the rider rather than the velomobile, but warm weather definitely helps me!

We were alongside the Maas at some times, at other times we moved a little away, but were largely on quiet roads that ran parallel to the main road and so had very low traffic.

We were cruising fairly well, staying close together as the speed worked for us all.

As we came into Gennep we decided to look for a café for a cup of tea as we had been riding for 30km in total. We found a café and of course the three velomobiles outside created a bit of a stir.

Although Klaus and I follow a low carbohydrate diet, we had decided that on this tour we wouldn’t keep to it as it’s a bit trickier with hotel breakfasts etc. And I have to say, I did fancy one of these desserts.

The Schwarzwälder Kirsch Meringue Gebak (at least three languages in that one name!) seemed like an excellent choice, and indeed it was! It was a kind of black forest roulade.

Klaus had the apple pie with cream.

I had been interested in what the ‘Speckkoek’ was, as it sounded like a bacon cake. I didn’t choose it, but after we had finished our cakes the waitress brought us a very small piece to try. It was OK (no actual bacon in it) but I preferred my black forest meringue thingie.

We had a very leisurely break as we felt there was no urgent need to push on. When  you don’t have to check into a hotel but are simply going home you aren’t under so much time pressure.

But eventually it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes to Roef, having really enjoyed the time spent with him. You can read his blog here: Roef’s Blog.

From Gennep we started off following the route that chum Rolf had sent us which goes to the west of the Maas but the plan was to then switch to Klaus’s route which would take us to Arcen. However, I did some last minute course changes when I realised that Garmin Connect had mucked up Klaus’s route and it was just sending us straight down the main road to Venlo. This would not be very scenic! So we continued to follow Rolf’s route and I could see the point where I needed to turn off it to continue to Arcen. Klaus just followed behind me, trusting I wouldn’t get him too lost!

Rolf had a slightly better route between Bergen and Nieuw-Bergen so that was good, and we were very soon on Ceresweg, the road that runs along the border between the Netherlands and Germany. It’s a lovely long road with minimal traffic and great scenery but the road surface is pretty hard which can be wearing over time. We made good progress though, and in this case the Quattrovelo’s suspension was kinder than Millie’s would have been.

Usually this section seems very fast but it felt to me like it was going on for quite a long time. I suppose with the Quattrovelo being slower, and also me being rather tired, it was harder work than I had thought. But eventually we were climbing the hill out of Arcen towards Germany and Straelen, and we then rode one of our standard routes home going the more scenic way for a couple more kilometres.

When we got home I felt really, really physically tired. It was 93km in total and not particularly fast (average 20.5) but I was still pooped. My arms were also complaining a lot. The main issue is that there isn’t much elbow room in the cockpit of the Quattrovelo so my arms are squashed against my side and also against the side of the QV. The cold air wicks through the carbon and straight into your bones! Also I have to support the tiller and this involves muscle power, especially as my disabled arm can only hang off the tiller, so the good arm is not only holding the tiller up but also supporting the weight of the disabled arm pulling down. My Milan has a tiller limiter thingie which attaches to the boom and ought to be possible with the QV, I am rather disappointed it is not an option. I will see if I can fit something, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of the too narrow cockpit.

Getting out of the QV was a challenge once we got home as my arms were cold and tired, but I managed it and enjoyed a lovely hot shower!

Here are my statistics for the ride today:

We had originally discussed perhaps heading off to Maastricht the next day for a short break but I realised I needed some time to rest and recover, so the plan was shifted a bit. I will collect Millie and then consider whether I do the Maastricht trip in her. Watch this space!

But in conclusion, we had a very good tour and visited some lovely towns. The cycling routes were mostly very good and some of the infrastructure in the Netherlands was brilliant. The weather was not particularly kind to us though, and I think we need to recognise that touring when it is below freezing is maybe not the best option!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 2: Rees am Rhein to Nijmegen

Day 2 of the tour, and another freezing one!

We slept really well and enjoyed a very leisurely breakfast in the morning. The day dawned with clear blue skies but it was still very windy and cold.

We got our bikes out of the garage and then I checked my seat as I had heard a few creaking noises from it. Lo and behold the left hand side fixing to the frame of the QuattroVelo had some wobble in it. Klaus tried to tighten the nuts that hold it in place but it was very tricky and he wasn’t entirely successful as there was still some wobble. He also got very cold working outside on my bike. We will have to look more closely at this when we get home.

We wrapped up again before we set off, with hats, buffs and with the Schaumdeckel on. The first kilometre was a bit challenging for me as I had to keep adjusting my mirror as it wasn’t quite right but couldn’t get my arm back inside the Schaumdeckel without stopping.

We rode alongside the Rhine heading west, fortunately with the wind mostly from behind us. Our speeds were a bit better than yesterday but still not anything special.

It was still very cold and I discovered, like yesterday, that I get very cold arms where they are jammed against the side of the QuattroVelo because it is narrower than most other Velomobiles here. The cold of the carbon really wicks into your bones (or, in my case, my titanium bone).

The banshee whistling had stopped as the wind was from behind but I found now that the noise from the gearbox was disturbing me more. The QuattroVelo seems altogether to be a very noisy machine!

Our route merged onto the cycle path beside a busy road. We remembered this road from before and worked out a small diversion to take us away from it, which we duly did. This was a lot nicer.

The route then went up onto the dyke and rather than tarmac we had bricks. The QuattroVelo rolls OK on rough surfaces, definitely better than the Milan, so this didn’t slow us down too much.

At one point there was an apparent short cut which meant we didn’t have to go back to the busy road. Klaus had already headed off to the main road but I decided to give the short cut a go.

Very soon there was yet another closed gate but with a narrow opening to the side. We had already ridden through four or five of these, but I noticed this one needed a very sharp turn to the left once you were through it as there was a big ditch straight ahead. Really it would be best to get out and walk through but getting in and out is very difficult for me, especially with the Schaumdeckel, plus it was so cold and windy. Instead I shuffled forward and back to get through the gate and do the sharp turn straight afterwards.

but…. disaster! There was a scraping noise!

I reversed back – there was a wooden post that I had not been able to see because of the long nose of the QV (it had been out of sight when I first headed for the gate). I felt sure Humphrey had a scratch on his nose now.

Once through I pootled along and Klaus soon joined up with me again, having done his alternative route which avoided scratches but involved some off-road. He said he could see a scratch on Humphrey.

We rounded a corner and realised that we were at the border between Germany and the Netherlands so stopped. Klaus got out and I was going to but realised how cold it was and changed my mind.

Klaus was braver and got out to take a pic.

We continued on pretty quickly as standing around will make you cold!

I was seriously considering doing the shorter route (not going via Arnhem) as I felt so tired and slow. Interestingly, my heart rate was much lower than yesterday, but I felt that I had even less power than before.

Klaus and I started looking for somewhere to have a spot of lunch but couldn’t find anything. We took the ferry between Pannerden and Doorenberg over the Nederrijn river and when we got to Doorenberg I said we needed to find a cafe and have a discussion about what to do next as this was where the track direct to Nijmegen split off.

We found a bar that did tea and coffee but no food, but as we needed to warm up it was worth it! I got out of Humphrey and looked at the scratch damage – argh!!!

Ouch and aua!

Oh well, there was nothing to be done about it for now. Maybe I can buy some touch up paint.

We had a leisurely drink and discussed why I was finding the riding so hard today. A summary of our points is as follows:

a) I find it tough riding in cold weather

b) The QuattroVelo is heavier than I am used to

c) I probably overdid it yesterday (see high heart rate) and have not yet recovered

d) Velomobiles need to be run in a bit before they are their most efficient. I have always bought used Velomobiles in the past

I think the first point is very valid; we couldn’t remember if I had ever ridden in such cold conditions in Millie. Oliebollentocht 2016 was pretty cold and I was not quick on the 180km ride home. Maybe I am just not designed for cycling in the cold. As it is, my power band is very limited and so if there are some additional things that take power that has a noticeable effect on me.

Whatever, I had not enjoyed my ride today, even before the scratch on Humphrey, so I decided to take the direct route to Nijmegen and save another 18km. Klaus fancied the Arnhem trip so went off on his own, which was fine by me.

I headed off on the direct route to Nijmegen and at last had a really decent road with a strong tailwind and I actually found myself cycling at 24km/h.

This section along the top of the dyke was fab, although it would have been a horrible grind the other direction into wind!

I could see some of the bridges of Nijmegen from a long way back and so could see where my destination  was. The cycle tracks were good and I very soon found myself at the hotel, where I was shown to my parking place.

Klaus was on his way back and although delayed by a puncture he arrived just after I had showered and had a cuppa.

He took this photo of the Waal.

And a reflection in Arnhem.

And saw this shop, which might be worth a visit one day!

Here is my track for the day:

And here is Klaus’s track:

Here are my statistics for the day:

Distance was 58.47km, average speed 18km/h which is very poor!

Notice ny max heart rate today is similar to yesterday’s average.

Here is Klaus’s report:

Der heutige Tag unserer Tour war wettermäßig wesentlich angenehmer als der gestrige. Gut…kalt war es immer noch und mächtig gezogen hat es auch, aber die Sonne lachte vom Himmel.

Die ersten Kilometer aus Rees waren noch ganz schön, aber dann ging es in Richtung Emmerich entlang der B8 nicht gerade berauschend. Irgendwo mittendrin haben wir uns dann seitlich verdünnisiert. Raus aus Emmerich würden wir über teilweise abenteuerliche Wege geschickt. Hier hat sich Helen auch noch den ersten Kratzer ins VM eingefahren…das tut weh. Insgesamt war es heute für Helen verdammt schwer. Keine Ahnung ob es am VM, am kalten Wetter oder an der Gesundheit hing, aber sie kam heute überhaupt nicht auf Touren. Nach einer längeren Aufwärmpause entschied sie für sich, dass sie eine Abkürzung nach Nijmwejn fährt, während ich wie geplant über Arnhem fahre. Die 17km nach Arnhem waren schnell abgespult. Der Wind hat ein wenig nachgeholfen. In Arnhem bin ich noch ein bisschen durchs Zentrum gerollt, bevor ich auf dem Radschnellweg nach Nijmwegn abgebogen bin.

Dieser Radschnellweg ist wirklich ein Gedicht. Mit teilweise über 40 ohne Hindernisse; meist Vorfahrt… Herrlich. Kurz vor Nijmwegn hatte ich in Rechtskurven ein komisches Geräusch… kurzer Stopp… Fingerprobe… Plattfuß. 5 Kilometer vor dem Ziel. Schlauch wechseln und gleich den Shredda noch entfolgt. Mit über 7000 km sieht die Lauffläche nicht mehr ganz so fit aus. Aus den Schnitten habe ich einiges an Glas und Steinen herausgepuhlt. Nach 15 Minuten ging es dann weiter. Noch ein paar Extrarunden bis ich das Hotel gefunden hatte. Auspacken… Duschen… Fertig.

We had been in contact with a Velomobile rider who lives in Nijmegen, Roef, and Roef had offered to make us breakfast tomorrow. Roef ended up coming to dinner with us in a restaurant in Nijmegen and there was lots of talk about Velomobiles. On our walk to the restaurant Klaus took this photo of the church:

We enjoyed our burgers followed by Apfelstrudel but then it was time to go back to the hotel as I was very tired.

Tomorrow we ride home following the Maas river some of the way. The weather forecast is finally looking a bit better, it should be up to six degrees with only a small amount of snow expected tonight.

Tomorrow is another day to get used to Humphrey and his strengths and weaknesses. I hope to have a bit more energy for the ride!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 1: Kempen to Rees am Rhein

Day 1 of the Tour

We had seen the weather forecast and consequently planned a short day (under 60km) for today. My original route had been less direct and 20km more but with lots of snow and ice yesterday, and continuing light snow this morning meant we definitely wanted to limit the distance. It was minus 3 outside so we faffed around at home in the morning waiting for the snow to clear.

It didn’t, there were still periodic white flurries, but it wasn’t settling so we decided to set off anyway.

Yesterday we had pumped up the tyres and given the bikes a once-over, plus added my Garmin speed sensor to the rear axle and cadence sensor to the crank. Today we just hopped in and set off – once I had got my new Garmin to recognise the cadence and speed sensors, as well as the heart rate monitor. This was the work of moments, the whole thing extremely easy. Top marks to Garmin!

I have never previously ridden with a cadence sensor so today’s ride would be an interesting learning experience.

This was our route for today:

So we set off with flakes of snow swirling about. In this photo I tried to get some snowflakes but I don’t think I was successful!

We both chose to ride with the Schaumdeckel (foam cover) but underneath that we each just had one long-sleeved cycling top; you don’t need lots of layers inside a Velomobile as you generate your own warmth.

We planned to ride to Xanten first and stop there for lunch. Xanten is somewhere we ride to fairly regularly so we knew the way very well, but this time we were largely cycling on the cycle paths rather than on the road. This was because we were slower due to the weather. There were some icy patches so we had to take care.

We took the normal roads to Stenden, then Sevelen; we love the road to Sevelen as it is 7km of dead straight road with hardly any junctions (= Velomobile fun!) but when you are riding slowly and there is a bitter side wind buffeting you about it seems quite a lot longer!! We were not quick, but that was to be expected as it was very cold!

One thing that disturbed me a little on this ride was the wind noise whistling over the front of the QuattroVelo. I don’t know if it’s the sound of the wind on the visor, on the mirrors or just generally on the front, but at times it was a real banshee shrieking and it was very annoying. This  noise was louder than the gear noises! It seems to be related to side winds as when we changed direction it reduced, but it was very annoying. Klaus says he has it too on his Strada.

After cycling for an hour it was time to stop to put our feet down. When riding Velomobiles you can get cold feet and also lose the sensation in your toes a bit, so it is good to stop and take your feet out of the clipless pedals and let the blood flow back into them. Klaus especially has problems with cold feet when it is less than 10 degrees outside, and it was definitely that today! We stopped in a lay-by just after Issum for a five minute break.

We set off again, this time with me in the lead and on the road (no cycle path). This was a faster stretch and the snow had stopped, but it was still really cold! We wended our way towards Xanten and I also began to get very cold feet. The QuattroVelo has two large openings for the feet and they let the cold air in, and when the wind blew from a particular side angle it blew cold air up my trouser leg!

We had to go over a couple of motorway bridges and I noticed that my heart rate was very high on these slight inclines – reaching 190bpm. In fact, this year my heart rate has generally been very high when cycling (although my resting heart rate has reduced to 60 bpm) so I wonder if this has anything to do with the low carb diet. My average heart rate for the whole ride was 162, whereas Klaus’s was 133, which is where mine used to be. Perhaps it is just a sign of my lack of fitness.

There wasn’t much traffic about as we rolled into Xanten. We stopped at our usual cafe and ordered some hot soup and a hot cup of tea.

Klaus tried to thaw out his feet but it took a long time!

We sat in the cafe for about an hour, enjoying the break and the hot food. Klaus’s feet slowly began to regain some sensation, but we knew we would be pedalling in the cold again soon. Whilst we were waiting the skies cleared of snow and we saw some blue at last!

We set off out of Xanten taking a different route than normal. We usually take the Alleenradweg which goes to Marienbaum but this time we stayed closer to the Rhein, again staying on the cycle path. We had the fun of having to press some traffic light buttons which is not very easy from within a Velomobile with the Schaumdeckel on!

Part of this route goes along the Rhein flood dykes and this was great fun with a tailwind, comfortable cruising. The QuattroVelo isn’t fast but once it gets going it rolls nicely, and it is definitely smoother over rough roads than the Milan.

It was just 18km to Rees and the time passed quickly. We rolled over the bridge and then headed for the town, finding our way easily to our hotel, Rheintoreins.

We checked into the hotel, storing the Velomobiles in a locked garage, and then Klaus photographed himself in a ball whilst I was filling in the paperwork…

The room was very nice and we each had a much-appreciated hot shower and a cuppa as we warmed up a bit.

We went out in search of food and Klaus took these pictures of Rees.

We cycled over the bridge in the distance.

And proof of which river we were visiting today:

We found an Italian restaurant and had a pizza (carbohydrates!) as we fancied one after all our riding, then returned to our hotel.

The weather forecast is a bit better for tomorrow – cold still, but perhaps 3-4 degrees warmer than today, and with a slightly reduced wind. We hope to have slightly warmer feet during our riding. We have a bit further to go, 77km, but should have the wind more at our backs which will help.

And the statistics for my ride today, from Garmin Connect:

As you can see, I have a very low cadence (pedalling speed). We knew this, but it is interesting to now measure it. I cannot pedal any faster, this is my comfortable speed and has served me well for a decade.

Anyway, we are pleased to be on tour again despite the Siberian weather, and hope for another good day tomorrow.

And here is Klaus’s report for the day:

Wir sind erst gegen 12 Uhr losgefahren, um dem Schnee zu entgehen… naja hat nicht ganz geklappt. Ein ordentlicher Wind aus Nordost hat uns noch ein paar Flöckchen um die Ohren gehauen. Eigentlich ist es im VM schön kuschelig, aber die Fusszehen sind mir nach 2h fast abgefroren. Nach 1h Pause in Xanten hatte ich dann wieder etwas Gefühl in den Zehen. Die letzten 18 Kilometer waren einfach zu cruisen, da der Wind von schräg hinten kam.

Tomorrow we will cycle along the Nederrijn to Arnhem and will then rejoin the Rhine as it has become the Waal at Nijmegen. We are looking forward to it!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Rhein-Waal-Maas 2018

Auntie Helen buys *another* Velomobile – Humphrey the Quattrovelo

A long, long time ago I ordered a Quattrovelo. Then I received this birthday cake celebrating it…

But then I had second thoughts about my ability to get in and out due to my disability and bought a second hand Milan instead. My place on the order list for the Quattrovelo was handed over to chum Detlef who duly received his Quattrovelo.

However, last April when visiting Velomobiel.nl to get Millie and Celeste serviced I had a trial sit in a Quattrovelo again and found it was fine to get in and out of. So, once again, I appeared on the orderlist.

When you have a Milan, why buy a Quattrovelo?

This is a good question! However, I did have my reasons.

Firstly, the negative points about the Milan GT.

  • It is very low-slung which means you scrape the bottom on most kerbs.
  • It has a very wide turning circle (something like 14 metres) which means lots of cycle tracks are off-limits.
  • Storage space for luggage isn’t very easy to access.
  • In my Milan the chainline isn’t protected so you end up with an oily left leg most days
  • If there is a rear puncture that’s a half hour job and not much fun at all as you have to take off the entire back wheel (this has only happened twice, fortunately)
  • The rear gears would be a complete nightmare if I had to replace anything. It doesn’t bear thinking about if something broke such as the gear hanger.
  • And, the real biggie for me, it is decidedly unwaterproof, even with the Haube (hood). This meant that if rain was forecasted I tried to avoid using the Milan as I would get a wet backside when getting in and out, wet legs from the rain that channels over the bridge and then my leggings soak it up over my thighs, and even wet feet from the rain coming in the holes for the lights. Also rain on my lap from the Naca duct.

The positive points about the Milan GT are legion, but include:

  • Looks fab!
  • Very comfortable riding position
  • Easy to get in and out – as long as your hips aren’t as wide as mine (the phrase “cork in a bottle” springs to mind)
  • Fast, fast, fast. Even for an overweight woman like me, Millie is very fast. With sidewinds she is even faster. I can keep up with Klaus when riding Millie and he is lighter, fitter and male. She evens out the disadvantages I have being female, underpowered and overheavy.

And what can the Quattrovelo offer that the Milan can’t?

  • The Quattrovelo is not a direct competitor to the Milan. It’s definitely not as fast but it has many other advantages, the main ones being excellent luggage space, easier access to rear wheels and gear gubbins and it is pretty waterproof.

So anyway, I decided to go back onto the orderlist for the Quattrovelo as I felt that having a second option of velomobile for my regular commute and maybe for touring too would be good. I sold Penelope so there was space in the second garage…

The waiting list is long…

Quattrovelos are relatively new and the waiting list was about 10 months. This gave me plenty of time to choose my colour and other specifications.

I had decided on a green colour and then when visiting Velomobiel.nl we saw a two-tone QV, dark green bottom with cream top, and I decided that would be for me, except not such a dark green.  I spent the next six months looking at different car colours until I fixed on British Racing Green as it appears on the BMW Mini.

I also decided for a Schlumpf Mountain Drive as I have in Millie, the standard open cockpit (not the Alienhaube or covering hood as it made me feel a bit claustrophobic).

And then finally:

I received an email with the above photo attached. My Quattrovelo had arrived in Dronten and was being prepared.

So two weeks later Klaus and I set off to Dronten, having borrowed friend Ralf’s Sprinter van so we could transport both velomobiles back (Celeste was going for her annual service), and here I am at my first meeting with Quattrovelo number 74:

When I test rode the Quattrovelo last spring I was 15kg lighter so was a bit worried if I would be able to get in and out of my QV. In worked OK…

Out was a challenge but possible if I opened the rear luggage space so I could put my arm there to brace myself as I lifted out.

Whilst we were at Dronten a couple of friends from Cologne popped in to collect a repaired velomobile and Klaus from Köln took several photos of QV74.

In the photo above you can see a reflection of other velomobiles that were being worked on. And in the picture below, a very elongated Quest!

In the photo above you can see the ‘boot’ is open. This is usually fixed shut by means of a velcro strap. However, I was unable to remove this strap whilst sitting in my seat and, as mentioned above, I needed to open the boot to put my hand behind me to get out.

Allert, Klaus and I discussed this and the best option seemed to be some cord that holds the boot shut but runs through eyelets so I can have the end in the cabin with me. Theo found some random pink and white cord to use, which isn’t exactly a matching colour scheme but does the job! Allert welded a couple of eyelets and fixed them inside the boot:

And then to an area behind my right shoulder to help the cord go round the back of the seat.

This cord was to hold the boot closed when travelling (not to close it, I do that with my hand, but the cord prevents it opening in strong winds).

When the boot is open the cord is loose behind my right shoulder on the rear wheel arch.

On the end of this rope was some sticky velcro which I could affix beside me when the boot is shut and it is an easy job to just unstick it if I want to open the boot. I can reach round and pull it tight and then fix it on the side of the QV to my right.

The system works well and in fact Klaus thinks he might have it on his Quattrovelo which should arrive early next year.

Here are some more of Klaus from Köln’s pictures:

Allert spent quite a long time getting my seat positioned correctly. Initially it was too far forward, I needed it further back as I have long legs. Moving the seat back made it easier to get out in some ways, but then the angle of seat recline had to change so that my shoulders didn’t bump on the sill around the opening and this made it harder again to get out. But I tried several times to get in and out and it worked, although not elegantly.

Once the seat position was decided Allert adjusted the chain length. Klaus and I both rode around the block and all seemed OK so the handover was completed with various other bits and bobs (pump for the tyres, pump for the air shocks for the rear wheel, spare battery etc etc). Then Klaus and I spent half an hour trying to squeeze Celeste and the QV into the Sprinter. It was not easy as the QV is so wide! In the end we had to build up a false floor where the step is for the side door so that Celeste could rest one wheel on that. We managed in the end, but not before poor Klaus had put his back out lifting Celeste.

We drove home (Klaus feeling very uncomfortable with his back) and unloaded the Sprinter before Klaus retired to bed with a hot water bottle at his back and I just put the QV in the garage, it was too late to have another ride.

First impressions of the QV

How it looks

The Quattrovelo looks great! I am extremely pleased with my colour choice and it has lots of different shades in the sunlight.

One of my first jobs was to fix some reflective blue and red tape to the mirrors for my Union Jack theme (after all, I had to Britishfy this velomobile otherwise no-one would know it was mine!). I did this job in the garage in the freezing cold without removing the mirrors so it was rather inexpert but was a start and I planned to do it again properly once I had discovered how well the tape stuck.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the lovely colour of my QV, this time parked outside my office.

How it rides

My first ride with the QV was to join the ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride from the ADFC to Wachtendonk. I had to ride first to Kempen where we were gathering before setting off to Wachtendonk. The ride to Kempen seemed quite slow and also very noisy – the cassette of gears is just behind the rider’s seat and the first three gears are pretty noisy.

I ended up being slightly late because the journey to Kempen had taken longer than expected so they were just setting off as I got there.

Off we headed in quite strong wind and I found it very tough going. The Quattrovelo felt slow, heavy and generally tough. There were times when I found it difficult to catch up with people on upright bikes – and these were people on Dutch bikes cycling in jeans and jumpers!

We stopped at Wachtendonk for tea and cake and then it was time to head back. I adjusted the seat position slightly (more reclined) for the ride back. The side of the Quattrovelo bends in and I found that my right elbow rubbed against the side of the velomobile, I wondered if I would end up with a weal after a long cycle ride, but seat adjustments couldn’t really help this. Losing a lot more weight would help, but that’s not exactly a quick fix!

By the time we got back to Kempen I was worn out and decided not to stay for a cuppa with the other riders but go straight home. I was actually rather disappointed with the Quattrovelo, but assumed I was just having a bad day.

The next day I rode it to work. Again it was hard work and noisy, and my average speed was 16.9 km/h. This was Penelope speed levels – Millie is usually 22-24 for my direct commute. My colleagues asked me how I liked it and I said I was rather disappointed.

I commuted the next day too, very slightly faster at 17.8 km/h. That evening was my choir in Kempen so I decided to ride there. I set off and after 1km the lights went out; the battery was flat and I had forgotten to put a spare in! So I had to ride back in the pitch black, trusting only to street lights and my reflectives on the bike. I ran upstairs to get the battery, completely out of breath because of riding the heavy, slow Quattrovelo. I fitted the new battery and rode to choir – I was late because of all this. My average speed ended up at 18.6 km/h, again Penelope territory rather than a faster velomobile.

When I got home I said to Klaus that I was really fed up. I was finding the Quattrovelo really slow and I didn’t want to go back to Penelope speeds and always be struggling to keep up with people. I didn’t know whether to keep the Quattrovelo – if it were going to be this slow there was no point. Millie was in storage at Ralf’s workshop waiting for her indicators to be fixed – I wanted her back to remind myself what speeds I could do!

Klaus counseled that it was super cold outside (-7 degrees for my commute) and that the velomobile was brand new and had to be run in. He also checked the wheels and noticed that the front right was binding – the brake had not been correctly adjusted. We corrected this in under a minute and then at least that wheel could run freely, although this would have only had a very minor effect. We have heard several tales of velomobiles collected by their new owners showing issues with the preparation – including two quite serious issues, so this is something to watch.

Millie was out of reach and needed new indicators anyway so I kept going with the Quattrovelo (which was always my plan anyway). We were discussing the bike tour we had planned for the middle of March – I said I couldn’t imagine cycling those distances in the Quattrovelo, it would kill me. Our plan was to cycle around the Pfalz region to see some of the almond blossoms but in the end we decided we would spend the week just doing tours from home or staying overnight a couple of times not too far from home, so I could ride as much as felt comfortable. This eased my mind a bit as I was very scared of consecutive 100km days in the Quattrovelo.

The horrendously cold temperatures gradually eased and with it the speeds crept up on the QV. Below is a screenshot of all my commutes which were direct (i.e. not going via the supermarket) so the speeds can be compared. The improvement becomes relatively clear.

Getting in and out, and comfort in the cockpit

I haven’t really got any better at getting in and out of the QV, and in fact my arm has started being a bit painful where I lean on it to hoist myself up, but these sort of things are fairly normal when adjusting to a new velomobile.

The Milan has a cable on the tiller so you can fix the maximum angle that it will hang down; the Quattrovelo doesn’t have this, the tiller can lie on the seat, so this meant for me that the tiller is resting on my belly. For gear changes I have to get my thumb behind the tiller. I found this position less comfortable but could not hold the tiller up with my hands as it was too much effort (as I am using my strong hand to hold up the disabled one). I will see if I can invent something to prevent the tiller from lying fully flat on my belly.

The Quattrovelo is waterproof though and this is a real bonus! It has meant I am happy to ride it to work even in the rain. Yes, you get a wet head (although if I had chosen the Alienhaube I wouldn’t even have that) but you get a bit of a wet head going by car anyway as I have to walk to my car. I am perfectly happy with how warm and dry I stay once in the VM.

A couple more test rides

It was several days before Klaus was able to ride with me because of his back, although he did take the QV out for a quick spin when I returned from choir because he didn’t think it could be that slow. His conclusion after this 15km ride was “it is about the same speed as a Strada” – which is much slower than it should be! We asked friend Jupp/Josef for advice as he had also suffered from a slow Quattrovelo at first and he gave us some ideas of what to do, such as cleaning the chain, oiling the Mountain Drive, checking tyre pressures etc.

Anyway, the following Saturday it was time for us to go for a ride together. I pumped up the tyres to 110psi (8 bar) which is usual for Durano Plus, although I had to lie the Quattrovelo on its side to pump up the tyres as otherwise I couldn’t wiggle the pump head into the right position without all the air leaking out. This is undoubtedly a situation where my technique will improve but was pretty annoying as I had to pump up one tyre 3 times.

Anyway, we set off to Geldern at a gentle pace. We went to the bridge over the A40 motorway and decided to do a roll test. This is where you hold the velomobiles on the brakes and then release the brakes and see which is fastest/goes the furthest.

The rolltest was interesting as Celeste accelerated much faster than the QV but by the end we were at about the same speed and travelled about the same distance. Millie always wins these rolltests by miles so it was yet another sign that the Quattrovelo was definitely in a slower bike league!

Riding along the cycle path the Quattrovelo was rolling better, although there was a mysterious loud noise which I eventually identified as the freehub in the back wheels.

When you roll over gravel or pieces of stick and they jump up into the wheelboxes it can be pretty noisy. I am used to this in Millie with the front wheels but the Quattrovelo has double the opportunity for pinball in the wheelboxes, but this is again something which I will get used to.

We enjoyed the ride to Geldern, taking it at a reasonable pace. We stopped for a cup of tea in Geldern and lots of people inspected our bikes.

I had to pop to the bank after this and Klaus took this pic. A bit of a shame I left the boot open!

We rode home fairly fast again and the average speed for the 50km was a respectable 22.9 km/h. The warmer temperature helped, as did oiling the chain I expect.

The following week I rode the Quattrovelo to work every day and got more used to it and its foibles. The speed was definitely improving so the bike was getting run in, and sometime during this week I decided that I would keep it. I still hadn’t bonded properly with it so hadn’t chosen a name, I was waiting to see what felt right.

The following Saturday we fixed the indicators on Millie at Ralf’s workshop. I had hoped to ride her home but it got too late so she stayed at Ralf’s. Klaus was of the opinion it was better that I didn’t have a chance to ride her as the contrast with the QV would be so strong that I might give up on the QV. I was not blind to the good points of the Quattrovelo though – luggage space, non-oily, very secure rear wheels (although it does some strange shimmies when you go over uneven ground at the back, but it is all very controlled).

The day after the indicator repair we decided to ride with Ralf on a longer tour. We decided to go to Roermond and to meet up with a couple of chums there too. We cycled to Ralf’s first to pick him up and then headed towards Roermond.

After only about 1km a very loud rattle developed in the Quattrovelo and I stopped and rummaged around in the boot in case something was rattling (although it felt like it was actually from the gears). I couldn’t find anything so carried on but stopped almost immediately again – the rattle was still there. Klaus tried the QV but wasn’t sure what I meant. We continued on but after another 500m I stopped as it sounded like I was doing serious damage to something!

Ralf and Klaus took the entire contents of my boot into their velomobiles so I had no luggage at all to rattle. Off we went, and the noise was still there, but I decided now I would have to live with it as we would be late to meet the others if we stopped any more.

After another 3km the noise gradually faded away, coming back a little when I changed gear but then disappearing again, and it was 6km before it had completely gone away. It didn’t come back, but I am none the wiser what it was. Odd.

We then had the lovely swoopy downhill road to Swalmen. Ralf went ahead in his DF, I pedalled as much as I could but the lower gearing meant I ran out of pedal power at 40 km/h. Ralf was a dot in the distance and Klaus was also ahead, but this downhill was fun for me too, although I kept thinking how brilliant it would be in the Milan.

The Quattrovelo’s gearing is lower than the Milan’s. This means I am faster to accelerate from stationary (as Millie’s lowest gear is actually pretty high and needs a lot of power) but I spin out with the Quattrovelo at 40 km/h whereas I can still pedal Millie at 60. But as I am unlikely to reach these speeds in the QV that’s not much of an issue.

We got to Roermond and met up with Oliver and Chris. Chris also has a Quattrovelo and showed us some of the things he has done, including putting acoustic foam around the gears to reduce the noise (I have now ordered some). We had lunch together, a good chat and then it was time to ride home. Chris and Oliver accompanied us for a short distance and then peeled off and the three German residents carried on towards Venlo.

Ralf and Klaus have both commented that the rear lights on the Quattrovelo are very good. I am also relieved to have a brake light; I don’t have one of these with Millie and I think it is a very important safety addition, particularly when riding in velomobile convoys which I do surprisingly regularly!

We crossed the Maas at Beesel/Reuver on the ferry.

We crossed back again at Steyl

Whilst riding through Steyl we took the cycle path which had lots of 90 degree bends. I remarked to Ralf afterwards, “I could never have done this in Millie!” Despite the Quattrovelo also having enclosed wheels, the turning circle is significantly better which is a real help.

In total I rode 101km in the Quattrovelo at an average speed of 21.4 which was an improvement on my earlier speeds (it was also a much warmer day).

Pimp my velomobile

I had been pondering over a name for the Quattrovelo for some time. It looks very like an owl so was working on owl-themed names (see the photo below for the owl similarities) during the long, long wait after my order was placed.

Klaus was keen on Athene as her familiar was an owl but I felt the QV was male. I was leaning towards some old English names for chaps who might have been racing British Racing Green cars in the 20s and 30s, so thought of Montmorency, Humphrey, Quentin… At Christmas I discussed this with my Mum and then we came up with the name Merlin which had an owl link and was a cool name. That was the top of my name choice before I met the Quattrovelo, but I knew I would have to wait until I met my actual one.

For the first two weeks I didn’t bond enough to name it, but then on the way over the hill in Grefrath whilst riding to Ralf’s for our Roermond trip I decided on the name for the Quattrovelo. I suppose it was at that point that I decided I liked it enough to keep and so I started to bond with it. And despite assuming before I collected the Quattrovelo that I would choose Merlin for the name, I actually decided at the end that Humphrey was a better choice. So Humphrey he is!

I had of course decorated the mirrors with a Union Jack (which I have subsequently redone with better quality reflectives) but I also felt it would be good to include my blog address as well, so I had ordered some lettering from eBay as well as a little flag and I fitted them.

Klaus and I rode to Kempen for a talk about Hans Jonas and Josef Goebbels, two sons of Mönchengladbach, and he took some excellent photographs of Humphrey after the event.

Another change I made was actually a rather expensive one. I have used a Garmin Oregon for the last 6-7 years (I am on my second one) and I really like it. On Millie the Oregon mount fits on the top of the tiller and it is therefore in an ideal position to see and also if I need to zoom in on the map or anything.

With the Quattrovelo, the tiller can be stashed behind the Süllrand/opening in a special area and in fact has to be in order for me to get out. However, it is impossible to fit the Oregon mount onto the tiller and still fit it behind the little tiller holder thingie.

Here is the tiller stashed behind the Süllrand:

There is very little clearance, it only just fits, thus the very thick Garmin mount had no chance.

A friend Stefan said he could 3D print me a mount to have on the right hand side front wheel arch and I said this would be great. However he was ill and didn’t have a chance to print it for a while and in the meantime I gaffer taped the Oregon mount to the relevant area and realised it was just too far away for comfortable vision, plus I had to take my eyes off the road to see it. It wasn’t a very satisfactory position.

Klaus has a Garmin Edge 1000 which has a different (very flat) mount and this fits fine on Celeste. He had a spare mount and fitted it to Humphrey so he could use his Edge when he took Humphrey out for a spin,

Here is the tiller with the Edge mount on – as you can see, it is very much flush with the grips.

It became clear to me that the only worthwhile option was to upgrade to an Edge 1000 too. So I ordered it and it arrived and I am very pleased with it so far. I will sell my Oregon as it works brilliantly and is in great condition.

Quattrovelo by sunset

I have to say, the Quattrovelo is a very good looking velomobile. As is the Milan. I pride myself on my choice of attractive velomobiles!

And here I am heading off into the distance (an unusual sight!)

Notice that this is a fairly rough road (a Wirtschaftsweg). The Quattrovelo definitely rolls more comfortably over potholey or cobbled roads compared to Millie.

My conclusions after 2 weeks of Quattrovelo ownership

I am writing this post two weeks after I collected Humphrey and having ridden 350km in him. And these are my main thoughts:

PROS

  • Very attractive velomobile; as the Germans would say, a real Hingucker
  • Good rain protection
  • Very well organised cockpit with trays both sides for  your possessions (this is part of the structural rigidity of the QV but is also handy, although needs non-slip matting)
  • Build quality seems good
  • Excellent stability at the rear, corners well and feels safe
  • Single-sided axles on all wheels so tyres can be changed without dismounting the wheels
  • Huge boot – you can chuck the kitchen sink in there and forget about it (assuming it is a lightweight kitchen sink)
  • Excellent lighting
  • Very good access to front and rear gubbins if something goes wrong (two footholes at the front and a removable panel underneath, rear gears just covered by a plastic cover – which will have soundproof foam added very soon!)
  • Gearing range is suitable for me (with a 75 tooth chainring at the front with a Mountain Drive, at the rear I have an 11 speed cassette)
  • Trigger shifter for the gears which works well
  • Drum brakes at the front (larger ones, 90mm) seem to stop me perfectly adequately. I do not regret not ordering the optional rear disc brakes
  • Schaumdeckel/foam cover keeps you warmer when riding and is also excellent to stop people getting into the velomobile when you leave it parked somewhere

CONS

  • Relatively heavy for this price level of velomobile (apparently it is 36kg and cost me just under 9000 EUR)
  • Lots of noise from the drivetrain just behind the seat
  • Also apparently noisy hubs on the back wheels (this may quieten down over time)
  • Reports of new Quattrovelos not being completely checked out before going to the customer so there are issues (my binding brake was a very minor version of this)
  • Narrows at the waist between the front and back wheels which gives much less arm space inside
  • Nothing to hold the tiller up
  • Required an additional Garmin purchase by me!
  • Strange wind whistling noise around the front visor when the wind is blowing from a certain direction
  • Front wheels throw mud on the sides just before the rear wheels. Most photos of Quattrovelos have a dirty section here.
  • When sitting in the QV it is not possible for me to get something out of the boot, such as the Schaumdeckel/foam cover or my purse.

There are obviously lots more things I could say but I will need to ride Humphrey a bit more to get a better view. However, after my 2 weeks of riding I felt that Humphrey will be a very good addition to the velomobile stable, but I will not be selling Millie just yet. If we want to have a fast ride on a nice summer’s day without carrying a lot of luggage then Millie would be the better choice. I am very lucky to have such a choice!

Next week Klaus and I are doing some touring as we have a week’s holiday from work so I will get a lot more kilometres under Humphrey’s belt and can give some reports on how I found him as a touring velomobile. Millie was a very pleasant surprise when we toured with her before, but Humphrey is a very different kettle of fish. We shall see!

An update after our tour.

We went on tour when it was minus 3 outside and slightly snowing. This isn’t ideal touring weather, but the three days and 230km gave me a good chance to get more acquainted with the Quattrovelo.

Unfortunately this tour didn’t teach me to love the Quattrovelo more. Its drawbacks (weight and narrow cockpit) become more and more irritating the more you ride. I was exhausted after relatively short rides as I just don’t have the power to propel a very heavy velomobile with a very heavy Helen in it at great speed.

What became more of an issue on the longer day rides was the lack of space for my elbows and arms. They were squashed against my body but at the same time rubbing against the sides of the velomobile. The cold was wicking through to my bones/titanium and the constant rubbing of my right elbow was getting sore. When I got back in the Milan again after the tour it was such a relief to have my arms in a comfortable position supported by the armrests (for which there is no room in the QV for me) and also the tiller being fixed higher so it does not have to be held up by me. Supporting the tiller with my right hand whilst the left (disabled) arm hangs off it leads to a lot of arm pain after a few hours.

The turning circle of the Quattrovelo was useful on the Netherlands cycle routes and the luggage capacity meant it didn’t take long each morning to stow my stuff, but these benefits were vastly outweighed by the fact it was slow and heavy and uncomfortable. It seems that my seat may also have broken (but I have to check this further).

The day after the tour I collected my Milan from Ralf’s where it has been stored for a month. What a fantastic feeling to ride in it again – fast, nimble, not quite as noisy and overall so much more comfortable for the rider. The drawbacks (low front so you scrape, massive turning circle) are not that dramatic and are far outweighed by the positives of speed and comfort.

The Quattrovelo has now been put into my other garage (500 metres away) and I will use the Milan for the next few days. When the rain comes I will swap back to the Quattrovelo, but for a dry day it seems to this rider at least that the Milan is a much better option.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Ten Wheels In Germany – February 2018 (Month 47)

Cycling This Month

The observant amongst you may have noticed that the filename of this blog post is no longer “Six wheels in Germany” but is instead “Ten wheels in Germany”. Why? Because I have now received my brand new Quattrovelo velomobile.

I will write much more about the Quattrovelo in a post soon as I am still running it in and getting used to it, but I will put a few photos here to whet your appetites.

And no, it doesn’t yet have a name. I have a longlist of 5 and a shortlist of 2 but I am not yet decided and need to bond with it a bit further before I properly decide. Watch this space!

Oh, and as for Millie. Several people contacted me and asked about her as they were interested in buying her, including one guy who visited and said he would indeed purchase her, only to change his mind the next week. But at the moment I am happy to keep her as an alternative velomobile as I get used to the Quattrovelo. Klaus and I have to repair her indicators but are waiting for warmer weather to do this, although conveniently Ralf has offered us the use of his warm workshop and in fact Millie is already there waiting for our attention!

February was another washout in terms of distance, largely due to awful weather and also as I hurt my back (more later).

However, I still had a few chances to go riding.

This included one of our usual Sunday morning rides but this time meeting up with a chap who had contacted me some months ago. I believe Oliver reads this blog and has recently moved to Kerken which is just up the road (and through which we regularly cycle). He happened to see us when driving his car and so asked if we fancied a joint ride.

We arranged to meet between Stenden and Eyll and also asked Ralf if he would like to come, to which he agreed. The plan was for us all to meet in Stenden/Eyll but Klaus and I had a minor problem with a road closure so got to the meeting point a couple of minutes late. It didn’t matter as no-one else was there. We then heard from Ralf, that he had just put ‘Dorfstraße’ in his Garmin. It just so happens that Dorfstraße in Stenden is the longest village in NRW:

Straßendörfer sind eigentlich eine für den Niederrhein untypische Siedlungsform. So überrascht es, dass Stenden zusammen mit seiner nordwestlichen Fortsetzung im Ortsteil Eyll bei einer Länge von über 10 km wohl das längste Straßendorf Nordrhein-Westfalens darstellt.

So Ralf was at the wrong end of the village, plus there was a road closure in the middle so he would have to do some creative routing. We decided to send Klaus to pick Ralf up and I would wait for Oliver. Klaus headed off and then it began to snow, which is lovely when you are sitting stationary in a Milan without the hood.

I had a call from Oliver, he had unshipped his chain and so was just fixing it and would set off in a few minutes. We agreed that we would ride towards him and meet somewhere on the way (our meeting point was halfway between our two homes).

Klaus and Ralf returned through the snow after 10-15 minutes and we all set off towards Eyll and Nieukerk, spotting Oliver very quickly coming the other way.

He has a Milan SL (the smaller, faster version of Millie) in the most wonderful colour:

Strangely, Ralf had been really slow on this ride. We wondered if he was struggling to cope with the cold weather (he doesn’t eat many pies so doesn’t have too much insulation) but that would seem surprising. Whatever, we were constantly dropping him and having to slow down to wait. I know how awful it is when you are having a bad riding day and your compatriots disappear over the horizon. Not that we could see the horizon in the snow!

It’s a lovely ride through Eyll and then towards Nieukerk. Plan was to go to Landcafé Steudle for coffee/tea and we needed it as it was perishing cold and snowy. The snow wasn’t settling but it was still wet.

Ralf got slower and slower, then someone noticed he had a front wheel puncture. Aha! We had just 3km to go to Landcafé Steudle so he decided to ride on (it wasn’t completely flat) so we could sit somewhere warm whilst he repaired it. So going VERY slowly (maybe average of 16 at this point) we made our way to Steudle and stopped for a much needed warming cup of tea.

As Klaus and I are on low-carb we didn’t have cake but Ralf did.

We warmed ourselves through and then Ralf went out to have a look at repairing the tyre. He realised that he had not properly screwed tight the valve on his inner tube (he has a Presta or SV) and so put some air in and hoped it would hold (which it did). That was much more fun than changing a Durano Plus outside in the snow.

We rode back a different way and Oliver came with us all the way to our house (where I took the above photos of the two Milans). It was very nice to meet him and we were very impressed by his Milan. The build quality has improved (at least in terms of the looks of the carbon inside) and, as I mentioned before, the colour was fab!

It is of course great to have met a new velomobile rider in our locality and it’s always good to chat about our experiences.

I also had some messages from the new owner of Penelope. He’s been pimping her a bit and sent me the following images of new vinyl wrapping:

The colour isn’t my cup of tea but I am glad to see he is making Penelope his own (she is still called Penelope which is nice!) He has also done some more with the electrics. I hope he is enjoying riding her as much as I did!

Klaus also said goodbye to Killer his trike this month. Friend Ralf (he of the DF velomobile cookie monster fame) said he was interested in a trike so had a go on Klaus’s and decided to buy it for some fun summer riding. He came and picked it up in his van and gave Klaus some nice green pieces of paper in return.

And while I think of the Cookie Monster, I will include an amazing image that Auke van Andel did following Oliebollentocht last December. He spent hours watching various videos to work out how many velomobiles were there and to sort them by type. You can see the British flag on Millie, the Cookie Monster on Ralf’s DF and even that Klaus is wearing a white snowboarding helmet in Celeste!

Velomobile riding is fun and we meet lots of friends. But February was also an incredibly sad time as fellow Velomobile ride Robert Frischemeier (Liegender Robert) died suddenly following an infection. His illness ran its course over just one week and we were all so shocked to hear of his death, a super fit man of just 58 who commuted 90km per day to and from work and did lots of longer tours for fun. It was tragic news to hear we had lost him.

His family invited his velomobile friends to come to the funeral in all our cycling colourfulness and then to accompany Robert’s urn on its final journey to the cemetery. Of course we wanted to go!

We offered our couch to anyone coming long distance but in the end it was early on the Friday morning that our ‘guest’ arrived. She was looking for somewhere to park and then to ride her Leitra with us the 22km to the church for the funeral. Klaus and I had taken the day off work, as had Jochen and Ralf and Hartmut, so it was a group of 5 velomobiles and 1 upright bike that set off eastwards to Duisburg at 8:30 in the morning on a Friday. Ute’s Leitra is a fairly slow velomobile but due to the strong wind Hartmut was having a tough time on his upright bike. It was a beautiful clear day but bitingly cold with a strong wind, which would make us feel cold pretty much the whole day!

We arrived at the church and went to the room set aside for us with hot drinks and croissants/Brezel. People had cycled from all over to be there. Ymte came from Dronten in NL, TimB and Christoph from Bodensee (by car with folding bikes in the back) and there were many others from Bonn, Cologne etc. In total I counted 25 velomobiles which was a lovely tribute to Robert.

The funeral service was enlivened by Robert’s granddaughter walking around but was overall a very sombre occasion. Robert’s daughter said some incredibly moving words.

After the funeral it was time to cycle in convoy to the cemetery.

There was another short service by the priest and then we walked to where the urn would be buried. In such freezing cold temperatures it was tough to stand outside in cycle clothing but there were some rays of sun to warm us a little.

After the burial some of us decided to cycle to a café in Uerdingen which was just 4km away. Our group ended up being about 8 people, although once we got to the café two carried on. We went into Marktcafé (where Klaus and I often visit) and sat down. A few minutes later the contingent who had cycled to the funeral from Köln and environs stopped as well and they joined us. It was another good opportunity to speak about Robert, how we knew him and how his death had affected us.

Eventually it was time to ride home. The group had now shrunk to Klaus, me, Ralf and Ute and we wended our way back to my flat where Ralf helped Ute put the Leitra in her trailer and then rode home; we spent some time chatting with Ute who we had seen at a few other events. More thoughts again about Robert, dying at such a young age, and that we should not put off things that are really important to us as no-one knows how much time they have.

My condolences once again to the family and friends of Robert Frischemeier; he was a very special man who will be sadly missed.

Other events this month

Klaus and I went on another away weekend for some culture.

This time we decided to go to Regensburg despite it being a very long way away (6 hours’ driving at least) as we fancied having a look around and maybe listening to the cathedral choir there.

Unfortunately the afternoon before we left I somehow pinged my back which meant it was very painful. I sat around with hot water bottles and hoped that the Regensburg trip would be OK. We set off and the heated seats in Klaus’s car were great, but each time we stopped for a break it was almost impossible for me to get out of the car. When I did, and started walking towards the motorway service station, my back would painfully lock up for a few seconds. I was like a very old woman!

The journey was fairly fast with no major traffic hold ups so we arrived in Regensburg at 6pm. We checked into the hotel which was basic but nice. I couldn’t face walking any distance so we just went downstairs to the Indian restaurant under the hotel. The meal was OK but not as special as some!

I had a very bad night’s sleep but the next morning I could move marginally better. We had breakfast in the hotel but this was not very good for the low carb diet (two boiled eggs each and a yoghurt, except I didn’t like the yoghurt). We had paid extra for the breakfast so asked to cancel it for the following two days – we would find some scrambled egg in a café somewhere.

After some paracetamol my back unfroze enough that we could have a bit of a walk around but it was very painful.

Regensburg is a lovely old city that had relatively minor damage in the war, and it is a very popular tourist destination in Germany. Fortunately in mid-February with a bit of snow on the ground it was not too heaving with people.

We visited the Dom (Cathedral) and had a look around, it was lovely. Opposite the cathedral was a hat shop and we went in there (I like hats and am searching for the perfect winter hat as my 25 year old one is a bit mangy) but the prices were a bit exciting. We weren’t allowed to handle the hats ourselves, a sales lady chose for me and put them on my head, but the cheapest I tried on was 170 EUR which is a bit steep for a hat. Especially as the one I was wearing (a black felt number) I had bought a few weeks before from Accessorize reduced from 30 EUR to 3 EUR (bargain!).

We bought Klaus a couple of jumpers in Kaufhof and then stopped for lunch at a very nice restaurant. We looked at the cakes but had soup and salad which were very nice. We considered going there for breakfast the next morning but they were only open at 10 and I wanted to go to the Mass in the Dom at 10am to hear the Regensburger Domspatzen (choir).

We walked to see the Donau but my back meant it was too tricky to walk much so we had a fairly relaxing day overall.

In the evening we both fancied a steak so Klaus googled somewhere to eat and we ended up walking to a very nice Spanish restaurant. The food was excellent and they provided us with additional vegetables instead of potatoes which was great. It had a very good atmosphere and we really enjoyed it.

On the way back Klaus took this very nice photo of the Dom behind some other buildings.

We had decided to check out of the hotel the next day and go home early (Sunday, rather than the planned Monday) because my back was really limiting what we could do.

The following morning we headed off to find breakfast – which was surprisingly tricky! In Regensburg on Sunday mornings nothing much is happening and we walked around for quite a while before we found an open café. Even the bakeries were shut! I guess this is a Bavarian thing. Anyway, we found the café Charlotte and had some scrambled egg there. Klaus stayed drinking his coffee whilst I went off to the Mass to hear the choir.

I sneaked into the back of the cathedral and found a seat but ended up only staying for half an hour as it was so cold in there, and the seat was also freezing cold, that my back was complaining more, even though it had definitely improved. So I left (having not heard the choir do a solo piece, but there were only 12 or so of them there anyway) and Klaus walked back with me to the hotel. We collected the car and headed off, having an incredibly smooth and easy journey without a single traffic hold up.

The hotel were very nice and refunded us the cost of the night we didn’t stay there. Regensburg was nice and we might visit again but it is a bit of a long way away!

Randomness

On Valentines Day Klaus and I went for a meal in our favourite restaurant in Wachtendonk, called Buskens. The landlord is always very chatty and we talked a lot about skiing (he was about to go on a ski holiday) and too much traffic in Wachtendonk centre.

There happened also to be a British couple from somewhere in the north of England in the restaurant so we chatted to them. When they left the chap said to us “I imagine you haven’t had these in Germany” and handed us a Creme Egg each!

Creme Eggs don’t really work for the low carb diet so they are still in the cupboard. My Mum is visiting in April so I think she might get lucky!

My assistant at work, Nasim, has been providing cakes (through a friend) which have made occasional appearances in my blog. Our boss had his 65th birthday and we had a meal at a restaurant for all the colleagues (also a delayed Christmas meal) and Nasim had arranged two cakes for Thomas…

My colleague Dorothee had a birthday also and another cake was organised for her too!

She bought in some cakes too. I had a tiny, tiny corner of the Frankfurter Kranz – my piece fitted on a teaspoon!

Although cakes are off the menu at the moment (except for my Keto Cake, see below!), Gudula and Frank invited us to a Raclette evening. This is not something I had seen in the UK – you have a heated grill and have little shovels that you can put food on, then cover in special Raclette cheese and it slowly cooks, whilst you cook some meat on the top. There was a large variety of things to cook and we had a very nice evening!

Keto Recipes

I have been trying to find some good Keto (low carb) desserts and have tried an awful lot of things that I don’t like, but here are my recipes for two things that seem to work well.

Keto Käse-Sahne Torte

Ingredients for 8 portions:

For the base

  • 90g almond flour (Mandelmehl) or finely-chopped almonds
  • 10g 85% dark chocolate
  • 45g butter
  • 15g Stevia or Erythrit sweetener

For the topping

  • 500g Quark
  • 200g whipping cream (Schlagsahne)
  • 40g Stevia/Erythrit sweetener
  • 9g/1 sachet powdered gelatine
  • Vanilla essence
  • Lemon juice

Method

  1. Line with baking parchment and grease a small springform tin. I use one that is 16cm diameter.
  2. Slowly melt the butter and chocolate together.
  3. Stir in the almond flour and sweetener
  4. Press into the tin and put in the fridge to set.

Then for the topping (preferably after an hour or so, so the base has set)

  1. Make up the gelatine as per instructions (for my gelatine it is 4-6 dessert spoons of cold water and the gelatine mixed and then very slowly heated until it all dissolves)
  2. Mix the Quark, Stevia, vanilla essence and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  3. Whip the cream until it is stiff.
  4. Once the gelatine has dissolved, add 1 large spoonful of the Quark mix into the gelatine and stir until it is mixed in, then add everything back into the Quark mix and stir thoroughly until it is all mixed through.
  5. Fold the whipped cream in carefully.
  6. Spread on top of the base in the springform and chill for at least 4 hours.

This is very tasty and when divided into 8 portions is just 4g net carbs and 293 calories per slice.

I am afraid I haven’t taken a very good photo of it – this is what it looks like after half the cake has been eaten and I took it out of the springform a bit early (it hadn’t absolutely set):

Mascarpone Mousse

We eat this all the time and it couldn’t be easier!

Ingredients:

  • 40g mascarpone
  • 40g whipping cream
  • 5g Stevia sweetener
  • Lemon to taste if desire, or 2g cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until stiff. Then eat!

This is 2g net carbs and 300 calories and is very tasty, also with raspberries, blueberries or strawberries.

Seen on the Internet

I like spotting long German words in the wild and here is another on the Velomobilforum:

And this is a classic! I should probably try to get lots of friends to say this, it sounds almost impossible to British ears.

The last week of February was appalling weather with temperatures of -7 when I cycled to work (in the Quattrovelo) but I am happy to be back riding (now I have a waterproof velomobile) and look forward to the better weather which should come soon.

We have a one week bike tour later in March and haven’t yet decided entirely where we are going, perhaps pootling northwards in Germany, perhaps a bit of NL, who knows. We will take it easy as we are both unfit!

I will continue working on my Quattrovelo blog post and will publish that soon.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany