Daily Archives: Sunday 31 May 2020

Nine Wheels in Germany – May 2020 (Month 74)

Cycling this month

Here are my cycling statistics for this month.

You can see the last ride in May was on the trike. More about that later!

And here is where I rode this month

Velomobile rides in green, trike ride in red

Tile-bagging at Düsseldorf Airport

It has to be said, Düsseldorf Airport doesn’t seem like the optimal destination for a cycle ride, unless you are flying somewhere with your bike. However, to move further ahead with my Veloviewer Max Square I needed to do a ride that not only included the airport but actually went pretty much right to the Arrivals/Departures doors.

I had visited Düsseldorf Aiport many times by car. It‘s a concrete jungle with roads, flyovers, an elevated train and more.

From the photo below you can see the tiles I was missing (the ones I have bagged have a red or yellow fill colour)

You can see the relevant tile on the left hand side of the runway… some red dots… There is a closer-up image below.

So somehow I needed to get to Terminal A/B to get that square.

There is a website rideeverytile.com which shows when other people using Veloviewer and as part of this club have managed to collect this tile. I saw that there were 5 people who had got it and looked at their linked Strava tracks. The first had clearly flown to Düsseldorf and set off from there (no help to me) but the next one had done it on a tile-bagging ride. So I looked at where he had ridden and planned myself a route which used the same roads. Hopefully it would work!

I said to Klaus that bagging this tile would only be possible during the Coronavirus time (as there is not much air traffic) and only really on a Sunday morning (not much general traffic). He agreed, and so we set off at 8:30 in the morning…

I had plotted us to catch 4 tiles at the aiport and another 5 a bit further north at Ungelsheim, Huckingen and Buchholz (I had never heard of these places before and guess I am unlikely to visit them again!)

The beginning of the ride was simply heading directly south to Willich and then heading east to Meerbusch Osterath where we would cross the Rhein on a bridge.

My first error was a basic one – I had forgotten to charge up the battery in Millie. I usually top it up before a long ride and just use it without recharging for all my commuting. I try not to charge it full as that is not so good, I just put another hour on here or there, and make sure I put a bit more on when I am doing a long ride. I had planned to put 2 hours of charge on after my last work commute before the weekend – but ended up taking Klaus‘s car (it was raining) and completely forgot about Millie‘s battery.

So I wheeled her out of the garage, turned on the electronics and noticed battery said 98%. Uh oh.

That sounds OK, but Millie‘s battery isn‘t a very linear scale. When fully charged it stays at 100% for about 70km and then starts counting down. It drains pretty speedily when it gets below 20%. Now I know that a full charge in summer on Level 1 assistance gives me 210km at least, but I wasn‘t sure how much charge I actually had, and it was also a cold morning (battery is less efficient). So I decided to only use the motor on level 1. After all, if it did completely conk out I can ride without the motor, I would just have to let Klaus disappear off on his own as I would be too slow.

Range anxiety is a real thing. Although I had 98% battery showing, which should be good for 100km (and the planned ride was 89), I felt rather nervous as it seemed to be counting down rather speedier than I expected. It also flickered up or down 4-5% depending on whether I was going uphill or coasting… I found myself rather focussed on it.

Once we got to Willich I was at 86% but we had ridden 20km so it was clearly reducing at a lesser rate than the kilometers being ridden. This was a bit of a relief. As the day was warming up a bit the rate of drain also seemed to reduce, plus the inside of the velomobile was also warmer which probably helped. I was riding with assist level 1 (which is 15 watts) so was working a bit harder than normal (I am usually on 2 or 3 when riding with Klaus, although he was also taking it easier today).

Just before arriving beside the Rhein we took a short cycle path which had a set of gates or a horizontal pole. The gates looked tricky for velomobiles but the barrier pole looked like we might just be able to limbo under it. Klaus went first, with me alongside saying „slowly, slowly“ but eventually he went under with about 4cm clearance. It was my turn next and it was easier as Millie is a couple of centimetres lower than Emily. I too went under unscathed. Klaus told me that Dirk, to whom he sold Celeste, had discovered he cannot get under there with his light tower so uses a different route when coming this way.

We had a short ride along the Rhein and then it was time to cross on what I previously called the Helter-Skelter Bridge.

This was good fun, even though I didn‘t increase the support from my motor (range anxiety). And then it was a ride across the bridge, where the cycle path kindly shares its space with the A44 motorway.

Once across it was not far to the airport. I had followed the route this other chap had taken, but we had an early problem due to the route going over a high pedestrian bridge with impassable gates.

I asked a lady if there was an alternative route to the airport for bikes which didn‘t involve this bridge and she gave us some directions. These mostly worked, although we had to be a bit creative.

We had an exceptionally narrow bit of cycle path beside a road, where there were high concrete barriers separating the road from the cycle path but there were regular lamp posts and poles for signs, plus trees, along the path. Klaus was ahead in Emily and I knew if he could get through then so could I, but there were some very tight squeezes. This was a slow, slow section as we were crawling past these lamp posts or trees every 30 metres or so.

We then popped out into a long term parking area of the airport. And, boy, was it spooky. There were no cars. There was signage everywhere (Car park 28. Row B) or whatever, but acres and acres of concrete with not a car to be seen. The grass was growing up between the brick paving so everything had a green tinge. Most odd.

We pootled on, expecting to be stopped by security any time. It was not always clear where we should be riding, although we used the cycle paths when they were available. They were bumpy and rutted and not always easy to see. At other times we used pavements, thinking they were maybe a bit easier than the road.

You can see below the route that we took – quite squiggly!

We had wanted to take some main roads (which were on my track) but they had no cycling signs so we had to work out some alternatives. It looks as though the guy whose track I used was a bit of a naughty boy when he rode it!

It was a bit of a shame at times, though, as there were some four lane roads which were completely empty of cars and would have been great fun to ride on. But we were being good.

We followed a bus through some road works which was handy as it was hard to see where the official road was heading. We were on the road now as the cycle path and footpath were closed for the road works. We found ourselves right in the middle of all the airport roads, going through areas which previously had barriers and ticket machines for short-term parking but all the machines were switched off and with covers over. We could ride right along these roads.

We saw an Airport Security van and also two police cars but no-one stopped us to ask what two velomobiles were doing riding around an airport. But we were not too surprised as we saw loads and loads of cyclists on our trip – who knew that a great location for a Sunday morning ride is an airport?

We had to stop a couple of times to consult our Garmins and I also double-checked on my phone as we hadn‘t managed to get right to the arrivals area and I was worried I wouldn‘t have the tile – I wouldn‘t be coming here again. So we made our way a bit further out of the rings of roads and pulled to a stop somewhere that looked rather Terminally.

We stopped here for a few minutes, Klaus used the vending machine to buy a drink and I decided that we had, indeed, bagged the tile. Which we had, phew!

Next question – how do we get out again? We now wanted to go north but I thought it best that we returned the way we had come as at least we knew that worked and could then join the rest of our track fairly soon.

That worked surprising well and we were soon heading towards Kaiserswerth, where we happened to know there was a decent café. So we stopped for the obligatory cake (I hadn’t had any breakfast today and we were doing lots of stopping and starting, plus I was expending more energy with the pedalling).

Of course we‘re not allowed to eat the cake at the café so headed off along our track, deciding we would stop when the time was right.

The time was right when we followed the Garmin routing suggestion which took us to a narrow slope onto a railway platform, rather than taking the underpass under the railway line. As we had to turn the bikes round we stopped here for our piece of cake each.

The cakes were very nice and it was very peaceful where we had stopped. There were just a few bikes coming past.

We headed back, crossed under the railway line and then found ourselves in a rather lovely quiet country area with horses galore. That is of course an issue with velomobiles as horses can be afraid of us, so we had to pass them very slowly. There were lots of riding stables and loads of people out on horses, plus cyclists. It was a lovely bit of country life sandwiched between the A52, the A524 and the A44 motorways.

We did a bit of a loop to bag some tiles and then headed back to the Rhein to cross over the bridge near Uerdingen.

The 20km home from Uerdingen is something we have done a lot and we were going a bit faster now. My battery was still showing 50% so I felt more confident giving myself assistance level 2 instead. We cruised our way back to our home, I ended up with 44% left on the battery after 92km. So it seems as though 1% is good for about 2km.

When we got home we noticed that Emily had had an extremely accurate bird strike on one of her headlamps!

But the main thing was… I had bagged all the tiles I needed!

My Veloviewer chart now showed that I had multiple overlapping 26×26 squares, so if I got some tiles to the north east or the south west I would increase my max square. You can guess where my next rides were heading!

Tricky tile at Javelin barracks – and goodbye to the Cookie Monster

Some very sad news this month. Our chum Ralf has decided as he uses his velomobile so little it was time to sell it (he still uses upright bikes which work better with his motorhome anyway). So the Cookie Monster or Krümelmonster went up for sale and a few days later someone had visited, tested it and decided to buy it. That someone was Thom who Klaus has occasionally seen cycling along the RS1 cycle route in Mülheim (where he works) and who I met at the Trike Treffen four years ago in Xanten. Thom has a Mango velomobile which he uses for his 20km commute from the far side of Essen to Mülheim.

Ralf suggested that we came to wave goodbye to the Cookie Monster and we agreed. Klaus also said he would ride back with Thom to Mülheim to show him the way, as this was unfamiliar territory to Thom. He was pleased to take Klaus up on the offer but I’m not fond of that route and as I had some tiles to bag a bit further on than Ralf’s house I decided to do those separately.

As it was Ralf’s birthday the next day Klaus and I walked with Poppy in the morning to buy some cake and as we were halfway back got the message that Thom was on his way to Ralf’s, a little earlier than originally planned. So we walked briskly back home and then set off in our velomobiles to Ralf’s place 22km away.

When we arrived Thom was just finalising the adjustments to the chain length (he had to move the boom a bit inward as he is shorter than Ralf), he did a couple of test rides, and all as set.

Old and new owner

We shared the cake and some hot drinks and then it was time for the Cookie Monster to leave. Thom’s wife had driven him to Ralf’s so she headed off in the car with the spare tyres and other things and Klaus headed off with Thom towards Essen.

It was my time to head off on my own to bag some tiles.

The problem I had was that some of the tiles were within the former Javelin Barracks area in Elmpt, right on the border with NL. This is one of the many former British army/RAF areas around here, and I didn’t know if it was possible to go into it or not. Google Maps allowed me to plot routes along the roads, but one never entirely knows.

In total I was aiming for 7 different tiles. Tiles 1-5 were all on normal public roads so I knew they should be OK (well, 5 was a bit tricky, but looked possible). However, it seemed that 6 and 7 required me to be within the former Javelin Barracks area.

It was 10km from Ralf’s house to the beginning of my tile-bagging, tile number 1. That was fine, and then I rode along the road beside the motorway bagging tiles 4, 3, 2 and 5 at great speed (swooping downhill, riding at about 40 km/h). At the end of my run I had to turn round otherwise I would have been in the Netherlands (not allowed!)

I had passed both entrances to Javelin Barracks and the one that I planned to take, just above the number 6 in my map above, was the one I wanted to take. I had seen a security post there with a couple of guys standing around. I didn’t know if I would be successful.

So I cycled into the barracks and stopped beside this guard post thingie. It was Germans there, two chaps – a young Turkish chap and an older German. We had a bit of a chat as I said “am I allowed to ride in here” and they said “no.” Ah.

I explained the tile-bagging (or at least tried to) and they said it was the Brits who didn’t want the general public visiting the barracks. It was clear, despite me attempting to charm them, that they would not let me in. So we just had a nice chat for 15 minutes, they took a photo of Millie, and then I turned round and went back to the main road.

I pulled in to the main barracks entrance (tile 7 above on my map, tile 6 was a washout) but there I clearly wouldn’t be allowed further as there were complicated buildings to check over your car for bombs etc. So I took a photo of Millie outside and decided this was probably the end of my chances of tile-bagging to the south west now.

I was a bit disappointed but cheered myself up with a large ice cream. I had to buy it as take away (Coronavirus measures) so rode for about 5 minutes out of Brüggen and stopped by a small quiet path and ate half of it there.

As I had bought four scoops of ice cream that was actually too much in one go so I wrapped it up again and then rode for another 20 minutes, eating the rest (well, partly drinking by this point) next to the church in Schaag.

And then I pootled home, uploading my ride to see how my tiles looked.

Nightmare – I was incredibly close. The two white tiles below are 6 and 7 from my image above. I could see that where I stopped at the security checkpoint I was right on the gridline for the next tile.

Zoomed in even more below – looks like I missed it by about 5 metres!!!

The thing is, I guess the security guys would have let me cycle another 10 metres further as they could have seen me the whole time and there was a parking area there. I just didn’t realise the tile was so close! Bad preparation.

I had a look on rideeverytile.com and one cyclist has done exactly what I did, just kept going that extra 10 metres. Another cyclist who saw my post on Facebook moaning about this suggested to me that I might be able to nab this tile from the south. It’s really hard to know what area is barracks and what is public areas, but I planned a track to get just these two tiles. I would be a 90km round trip so rather a time and energy investment but I decided I would definitely give it another go!

A second attempt at Javelin barracks

So, as you might have guessed, I couldn’t leave it long before having another attempt to get the tricky tile at Javelin Barracks in Elmpt.

This was the situation before I set off, on the last day of our short holiday around Klaus’s birthday (he was visiting his daughter as it was her birthday). There were actually three tiles it would be helpful for me to get, right on the border with NL.

Tile 2 was actually fairly easy as I could see on the map a road which cut the bottom right corner of this tile, then it was marked as a track (dotted lines) and went to Auf dem Overschlag and Am Huelsgen and Am Puckel. I hoped that I would be able to take the road within the grey section towards Am Vogelsberg and get my tile 1 here.

The satellite view didn’t help much, except for showing that there is a whacking great runway in the middle.

One issue with using Veloviewer is that the maps it uses are not the same maps as used with Garmin Connect, which I use to plan routes. So sometimes it’s a bit tricky to know where I am planning to go. But I made a one-way ride which took me (hopefully) to all three tiles. I would give it a go! Below is my Garmin track image, which hopefully would take me to Tile 1.

It was a fairly cool and cloudy day but I had the bit between my teeth and wanted to bag the wretched Tile 1. So I cycled the most direct route to Elmpt, which was 37km, and then it was time to hit the southern side of the track.

I crossed the A52 motorway and went through a small hamlet, then I started on the road which heads south west towards my first tile, Tile 2, marked with a purple flag on the map above.

This was OK, I bagged this tile, so it was one of the two definitely needed ones. Hurrah!

But the next tile, next to the 44km marker, was the tricky one. I had to follow along the road and then turn more northwards, and Garmin Route Planning had been a bit difficult about this. I soon discovered why.

I needed to be the other side of this fence

You can also see that the road surface is sub-optimal. Bumpy, dusty, covered in pine cones that constantly ‘pong’ed into my wheel arches and made a racket.

I caught occasional glimpses through the trees of huge buildings, earthworks, pillboxes, bunkers… all very military-looking but with nature taking over again.

The further I rode (and I knew that to get Tile 3 I needed to actually go quite a long way), the worse the road quality became. I was regularly disappearing into gullies in the road which is always very noisy in velomobiles as the bottom scrapes over rough ground. Not to mention you get shaken around inside. I was crawling along at 10km/h, trying to steer around the larger craters.

And then suddenly I found myself at the top of a steep hill. I didn’t want to ride down it (as maybe I would have traction issues riding up again) and as my Garmin suggested Tile 3 was only about 100 metres away I got out, picked up my Garmin and walked with it down the hill.

The other side of the fence (within the barracks, where I needed to be) was a golf course. See below in the photo the lovely bit of tarmac – how i wished I were that side of the fence!

There were two chaps playing golf and they were German speaking. They seemed completely unsurprised by the Union Jack-clad lady in a rocket taking photos through the fence.

But I had reached the end of the line – no chance to get tile 1 from the south. I would have to go back again to the security checkpoint on the north side and see if I could charm myself a bit further into the facility.

So I turned round and started the slow ride back…

Very noisy again, I was a bit worried I might get a puncture, as I was a long way from home and the rims aren’t the easiest to get a tyre on. However, I have to say I am very pleased so far with the Continental Contact Speed tyres as they handled it all well.

Eventually I was back on the proper roads again and I headed round to the west, to the road parallel to the A52, where the access point to the barracks was.

I hoped that the same two chaps were there as on Friday as they were friendly and, I felt, persuadable. I had some screenshots on my phone of where I needed to go, as I thought that would help my case.

But unfortunately it was a different chap and he was absolutely definite. I could not pass the 3 cones on the road (there had been no cones on Friday, just two chaps). I said I only needed to cycle about another 10 metres but he said “sorry, not allowed.”

Let me just remind you, dear reader, how close I came last time:

But clearly it was not to be. The chap was doing his security job properly.

So I sighed and said “OK, but I’ll have to get out to turn around as I have such a bad turning circle.”

He replied, “I will move this cone and you can turn around over there, I will avert my eyes.” ‘Over there’ was the required 10 metres further on…

I was very grateful and so crawled off slowly, arranging it so that my cornering was badly judged and I had to shuffle back a little to make it round in 2 goes. I had definitely gone a bit further south towards the tile but was I far enough? I returned through the remaining two cones and headed out onto the main road, kicking myself that I hadn’t picked up my Garmin and held it as far behind me as I could whilst at the most southern point, to give an extra metre or so. What a numpty!

Had I done it??

Here is the screenshot after my journey.

Hooray! Tile was bagged!!!!

And here is the relevant section, showing all three tiles now bagged.

You can see here why the lower route didn’t actually get up into the tile with the left hand side of the airfield in it. So it was very good I managed to get the tile at the guard’s gate. So now my Max Square was 28×28.

As you can see, the total ride was nearly 90km so I decided I had earned some cake (officially 1,133 calories burned) so I stopped at Café Poeth in St Hubert to get a slice for Klaus and I.

I am pretty much at my limit to the south west now as the Netherlands is there (restrictions on riding there due to Coronavirus) so my next tile-bagging would be to the north east, over the Rhein in the Voerde area.

The end of Tile-Bagging?

There was another tile-bagging run for me in May. This was across the Rhein to the north east again.

This was to pick up some random odd tiles near Dinslaken and Voerde. Klaus came with me on this trip.

He was nearly taken out in the first 5km when a Sunday driver overtook him and then pulled in and braked. It was a close thing and as I was behind I saw it all happening… We actually overtook the guy who pulled in and then Klaus stopped a little further on as he had to let the adrenaline go a bit. The man stopped beside us (blocking a main road in Tönisberg) and started trying to justify his appalling driving but Klaus told him just to drive on. Clearly the guy was too old to be driving his large Mercedes safely but you can only separate a German from their large Mercedes at gunpoint.

This naturally started the ride off on a bit of a sour note but things improved after our Rhein crossing when the Orsoy/Walsum ferry turned out to be free. Maybe this was because it was a Sunday, I don’t know, but we usually pay.

We pootled around various places bagging tiles (13 in total) but there were often signs in the background that we were near the industrial Rhein/Ruhr area.

What was an absolute shocker about this trip was that we had agreed to have a cake after the halfway point – but we found NO OPEN BAKERIES! So we did the entire 96km with no food (I had also had no breakfast but that is usual for me because of the keto diet and I wasn’t hungry or lacking in energy).

When we got home I checked my Veloviewer Tiles and I now have a tile 30×30. The tiles turn out not to be 1km square, they are more like 1.5km. So that’s quite an impressive distance. However, I am now stuck at the bottom left and the top right so will probably have to call it a day on a reasonably impressive 30×30.

A new café in Kreis Kleve

Several times recently we have passed signs to “Das kleine Gartencafé” in Hamb and thought it worth trying it out on a cool and overcast Sunday.

The café is actually in the back garden of a couple who open it up on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays from 13:00. We ended up arriving 20 minutes early as we had a mega tailwind on the way.

Fortunately they let us in! We sat in the garden which has cat decoration everywhere.

The cakes are all home-made and they have a lactose free, gluten free and vegan option too. I took the gluten-free as it has a nut base, so it is a bit more Keto than most cakes.

Gartencafé Kuchen

Klaus took a different option which he said was very tasty.

It was nice and relaxed sitting there and the cakes were great. We will undoubtedly return sometime!

Other uses for a velomobile

The Quattrovelo has a flat area where pizzas can be safely stored. I guess if Klaus got bored of the electronic engineering he could become a pizza delivery driver.

A new member of our bicycle stable/Fuhrpark

Exciting news! We have a new bike in our household!

For some time now we had been talking about going back to trike riding. This was after our experiences with the velomobile tour to England when we had to hire a van to get back. Velomobiles can be complicated and although they are fast and you can travel long distances, they have disadvantages too.

I realised I was hankering after a slower touring pace – not zooming along main roads but sticking to the cycle paths along rivers, things like that. With the chance to stop when you see something interesting – with a velomobile you are 200 metres past it by the time you decide you should stop for a look.

I of course still have a trike, Alfie, but Klaus had sold his Wild One. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, he and I went to look at ICE trikes at Tetrion near Wesel as he was planning to buy a new one but we were underwhelmed with Tetrion as a shop and then the Corona situation put things on hold.

However, with the lockdown easing we started talking about it again. Klaus had been looking at new trikes as he new the specification he wanted but we had also talked to chum TomTom about his Sprint X, and there was also one for sale in the Velomobilforum. Tom’s was an excellent specification and he offered it to us at Mates Rates with a really generous offer, especially as it had a Rohloff. However, Tom’s Sprint had the 20 inch rear wheel and Klaus really wanted the 26 inch. Plus Klaus likes derailleur gears and wasn’t fussed about a Rohloff.

The Sprint X on the Velomobilforum didn’t have front suspension and neither trike had drum brakes (which he wanted) but instead had hydraulic discs, but we decided it was worth looking at the 26 inch rear wheel trike on the Velomobilforum, so Klaus got in contact with the chap and we arranged to go and have a look.

Klaus knew that if he liked the trike we would take it away with us so we cleared out the boot of the car. It would be a 7 hour round trip but as we would not be far from his father we would also go for a visit there to make more of the journey! And as we were visiting Opa Lara, Klaus’s daughter, came along too.

So we set off at 8am on the Saturday morning, heading for Göllheim which is vaguely near Mannheim. We arrived at the chap’s shop at 11:15 and it was immediately clear that his Sprint X was a very tidy example.

Klaus and he had a long chat. The chap had changed the gearing from the supplied groupset to Ultegra 11 speed, and had also done something to the front gears. It had originally been supplied by Icletta, as most of the German ICE trikes are, and had only done about 500km.

Klaus had a good look and had a test ride. The bottom bracket was a bit wobbly (not correctly installed?) and the right hand side brake was squealing (new pads needed?) but the structure was all fine and the price was fair. So Klaus went ahead and bought the ICE Sprint X, now to be called Malcolm (as in Malcolm X).

Whilst he was doing the sales contract etc Lara and I walked around Göllheim in search of a bakery. We found one eventually, although the town seemed really dead. We couldn’t go empty-handed to see Klaus’s father, you see!

We loaded Malcolm into the back of Klaus’s car and he amazingly fitted without the back seats being down (useful as Lara was sitting in the back and we also had some cakes we were trying not to squash). Klaus has an Opel Insignia and the boot is cavernous.

We then drove to Mannheim and spent a couple of hours sitting outside with his Dad (keeping a correct social distance) and sharing cake.

We set off for home but poor Klaus got a mega migraine so I ended up driving home with Lara in the passenger seat and Klaus slumped on a pillow in the back seats. He bought a burger king Whopper and couldn’t eat it so Lara and I shared it (having had our own meals). We concluded that 1 fast food takeaway is enough and an extra half portion just sits in the stomach feeling gloomy. We also had a bit of a challenge finding an open toilet as some of the services were closed – on the third set of motorway services we found one with a loo we could use. It seemed I was giving Lara a tour of motorway service stations whilst her father hid his head under a pillow in the back seat.

Fortunately once we got home the worst of his migraine had passed. It had been a lot of driving in the morning and standing around in the sun, then sitting in the sun, so who knows if this had a part to play. Anyway, I was happy to drive home as the Autobahn wasn’t too busy, considering it was Saturday afternoon.

Malcolm’s first ride

So of course the next day would be Malcolm’s first ride. Klaus had quite a lot of bike maintenance to do first, mainly removing unnecessary weight.

Klaus had already decided that he wanted to keep Malcolm light – take off all unnecessary gadgets and keep him simple.

So first the weighing – 21.5 kg

He hoped to be able to trim a kilo or two.

He removed the extra gadget holders on the handlebars (you can see them against his arm on the photo above), some water bottle holders on the frame that will foul the Radical Side Bags that he has ordered, the mudguards and a few other bits and bobs.

He re-weighed Malcolm and he weighed the same, so we decided our scales are no good outdoors.

He then spent a long time indexing the gears at the back. We cannot see that they had ever worked well as he had to do a lot of work to get all gears accessible and changing smoothly.

There was a lot of noise in the lower gears and it was eventually identified as the terracycle idler at the back (this is an extra that Icletta add, ICE do not supply this) and the nose of the metal part the keeps the chain on the idler wasn’t best positioned. Once Klaus worked this out and adjusted it things were much better.

Whilst Klaus was doing this I was doing the long-postponed oil change on my Alfine hub.

I don’t think I’ve done this for at least four years, but then I have barely used Alfie. The oil came out black, went in green, came out black again and went in green again – so situation normal. You have to wait around for gravity to work on draining the oil out so I was able to help Klaus with pedalling and changing gear as he was adjusting his rear groupset. In the end the Alfine oil change was complete before Klaus had got his gears indexed in but finally he was successful and they are now working well.

I used some of the bits he had taken off Malcolm to improve the holder for my motor controller on Alfie. I have a few more adjustments to make, with the issue always that the wiring is a bit short on the Bafang so I can’t always put things where I want, but it is a better holder system and I will order a couple of new mirrors too which should fit better (Zefal Spin, the same as I have on Millie).

After a spot of lunch it was time to go out for a test ride and – of course! – to buy some cake!

We know that our speed with the trikes is much, much less than with the velomobiles. A tour of about 40km is about right. So we set off to head to the Hofcafé at St Tönis where they make the heavenly Himmelstorte.

Off we went on a beautiful day.

Klaus had remembered to put on sun cream and I had managed to find a spare baseball cap for him. We are not used to riding in the open air!

Malcolm was riding well – quick and responsive, and much lighter than the Steintrikes Wild One, although the missing front suspension was noticeable sometimes.

I was following behind, taking it easy, working out how to adjust my motor power to Klaus’s speed.

The ride to this Café is usually about 25 minutes in the velomobiles but it took us 43 minutes in the trikes. But it was no race, we were enjoying the relaxed pedalling – and the silence of the trikes (velomobiles are noisy and Emily the Quattrovelo is particularly loud)!

Trikes parked

We parked up and then it was time for cake.

It is noticeable that we aren’t such an interesting sight for other cake eaters – normally people come to talk to us about the velomobiles, or go and look at them, but the trikes were pretty much ignored.

We took a longer route back, using lots of the cycle paths which we eschew with the velomobiles as they have too many gates or pinch points. It reminded us that there are some great routes in Kreis Viersen, they just aren’t good for velomobiles.

As we were approaching home Klaus realised that his factor 50 sunblock appeared to be rather less than factor 50 has he had red knees from the sun. His legs have barely seen the light of day for months and now they suddenly were in full sun for two and a half hours. So it is with trike riding, we must remember that!

All in all though it was a fun trip. We will not ride as far or as fast but we can use some different routes and the plan is to take the trikes in the car to some new places and do some rides from there. We may even be doing this in June, watch my blog for more details!

Daily life

My ride to work has lots of wildlife (birds of prey, hares, pheasants) and it is also very interesting to watch all the agriculture that goes on. Fields tend not to be enormous here, and even large fields are split into 2-4 different crops. I like to watch the growth of the potatoes on my commute, although once they start laying hoses across the road for the watering that gives me issues with my Milan.

One morning on the way to work I saw a field with hares and leverets

Another time Klaus and I were out riding and we saw a hare very close up.

Walkies

As usual, I haven’t just been cycling this month. I’ve also been walking with Poppy a lot.

Lots of Poppies

On our walks we see lots of wildlife of course, including this stork, sharing a field with three herons.

Poppy has also had a bonus on one walk, when she disappeared into the undergrowth and returned with half a cheese roll.

She was so proud of it that she didn’t eat it but carried it around for about 15 minutes before she obviously got too peckish and decided to eat it.

And we not only share our home with a dog, but we also have a couple of new guests.

Our letterbox, now occupied by some robins

As I went to the letterbox I noticed a bird flying out of it. It became clear that someone had been preparing a nest in there (see the grass peeking out of the bottom). So we put up a sign to stop the postman putting letters in. It went quiet for a day but then Gudula saw birds flying back in there (through the tiny hole near the top) and said it is robins. How lovely!

Although we didn’t see much activity, Klaus had seen three eggs in there and then one morning on my way to work I peered in and saw a bird face looking back at me. They were indeed sitting on the eggs!

I of course improved the signage at that point so the postman didn’t disturb them. My hand-written note was fading a bit but I didn’t want to get so close to the nesting area now.

Over the time we watched the letterbox and it was often empty but occasionally Robina was there. In the end she laid 7 eggs, you can just see them here.

After she had laid 7 she then started sitting on the nest a lot more. We can just about see her orange breast when we look at the letterbox from a foot away. She seems not to mind the garage opening and shutting, fortunately.

However, after about 10 days we realised we had not seen her, and she did not come back to the nest at all. We regularly checked, no sign of Robina. The eggs are still sitting there, all alone.

It’s very sad as we had hoped to watch a bit of nature on our doorstep. We will give it another week and then we will clear out the letterbox.

Klaus’s birthday

Klaus celebrated his birthday this month. We had originally planned to be in Berlin for a week (travelling by train) but this had to be cancelled due to Corona. However, the good news was that the lockdown was partially lifted on his birthday so Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof would be open for afternoon tea and cake. So we went!

We shared the cake etagere.

Birthday Boy quite happy about the cake selection

…and then there were none left

It was great to be able to sit down in comfort and eat the cakes with tea/coffee. According to the local rules we had to put down our names and phone numbers which will be kept for a month, in case we have to be contacted for contact tracing. Let’s hope not!

Father’s Day

Christi Himmelfahrt or Ascension Day is also Father’s Day in Germany. So his daughter Lara and I decided to take him out to breakfast at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof as they advertised on Facebook that they were doing breakfasts. It was a lovely warm day so it was great to sit outside in the sunshine.

The remains of breakfast

Of course, we couldn’t go home without getting some take-out cake too.

Other cakes this month

Himmelskuchen – heavenly cake. Correct description!
A work colleague made this for us! A lovely Baklava.

This has been quite a cakey month but thanks to the keto diet I have not put on any weight. Now the trike season has started and any bloated stomach is visible to all I may have to reduce the cake intake. No, don’t be silly, life’s too short for that!

We have two weeks off in June and will be having a week in Berlin but may also fit in a small bike tour around the Mosel with our trikes. We are looking forward to these breaks!

Leave a Comment

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