Cycling this month
Cycling statistics this month
Here is my total for the month – as you can see, not very impressive!
And here is where I cycled to this month.
A trip to Xanten and Wesel
At the beginning of April Klaus and I decided to do our long ride (Strava Gran Fondo) in the direction of Xanten and Rees.
We were very lucky as it was a sunny day and we flew along to Xanten, this time my Schlumpf behaved perfectly (the previous two visits to Xanten had involved ‘issues’). We arrived at the Stadtcafé as usual and stopped for a cuppa and piece of cake.
My planned track took us to Rees on the other side of the Rhein and then back via Goch. We headed off to Rees along the disused railway towards Marienbaum; it’s a great route although was a bit busier today because of the good Sunday weather.
We arrived in Rees after a very short time. This had been my plan for a lunch stop but we were still full from cake so I just got us each an ice cream whilst Klaus looked after the bikes and answered questions from the very many passers-by.
I had a classic question from one chap – “is that a boat?” I haven’t been asked that one before!
I had been thinking about our track and thought returning via Goch would be a bit dull – maybe we should investigate this side of the Rhein towards the east, so we had a quick look on the Garmins and it looked as though we could ride to Wesel and then cross back to ‘our’ side of the Rhein there.
With just a couple of waypoints on my Garmin we headed off. I missed an early turning which kept us on the road rather than the busy cycle path on the Deich. Our view was less interesting as we couldn’t see the river but I think there was rather a lot of bike traffic on the actual route so perhaps it was for the best.
We had a rather scary moment when I needed to turn right and Klaus was close behind me and of course didn’t realise I was using the brakes and couldn’t see my indicators (because they are rubbish). He very nearly went into the back of me, I aborted the turn as I was going too fast (had not realised it was so soon), and eventually got myself turned round and rejoined Klaus at the offending junction. The emergency stop he had done had taken years off his life and also meant he had to start in top gear – not easy! This made me resolve to do something to solve the problem of my stealth indicators.
Nevertheless this route was actually rather nice – not many cars, not much of anything really, just pretty fast roads and occasional glimpses of the Rhein. However, as we approached Wesel, our planned lunch stop, we discovered the world and his wife were there. It seems there was some kind of event on in Wesel centre and it was heaving with people. It was clearly not a good option for food so we pressed on, neither of us wanting to have to deal with all the attention on the velomobiles from the masses, some of whom seemed a bit rowdy.
The bridge across from Wesel isn’t very nice really with a bit of a climb and a bad cycle path surface. There also turned out to be a very sharp corner which I couldn’t manage in Millie; Klaus had got ahead and stopped so he came and picked Millie’s back end up (with me still in her) to turn her round. Saved a lot of effort getting out!
Once back on the left bank of the Rhein we were in familiar territory from a couple of rides including the Trike Treffen last year and our August trike tour. We stopped once again at the café on the Rhein with the very poor customer service and once again the customer service was awful, but the cake was OK!
Here are the velomobiles enjoying their rest by the Rhein.
The route back from here wasn’t so interesting but was fast, along the straight road to Neukirchen Vluyn, and we got up some good speeds.
We eventually got back with 132km on the clock at an average of 23.1 which is fine for a touring pace. We were so lucky with the weather too, and two cakes always makes it a bonus!
Used bicycle market in Kempen
On one sunny Saturday I helped out at the Used Bike Market in Kempen. This is run by the ADFC and is a great opportunity for people to bring their no-longer-needed bikes to a central point and sell them.
It is interested to see the variety of bikes, mostly between the 100-150 EUR mark. They were mostly standard Hollandräder (sit up and beg bikes) or other basic bikes, but there were a few interesting items such as a unicycle, a tandem and a very nice Fahrradmanufaktur bike with Rohloff hub for 1000 EUR. I went in Millie and had a few queries as to how much she would cost but I said she wasn’t currently for sale!
Velomobiltreff in Zons
On the Velomobilforum various people suggested meeting in Zons on Easter Saturday. Zons is 60km away so this seemed like a good plan, and Jochen was also able to come along, so Klaus, Jochen and I headed off on a rather chilly day towards Zons, which is near Dormagen (south of Düsseldorf).
It started to rain on the trip and as Millie is not very watertight at all I started to get quite damp. Klaus always has vision problems in the rain (because of his glasses) but despite these inconveniences we enjoyed the ride to Zons.
We arrived with 40 minutes in hand so settled down on the chairs outside and ordered some cake. Well, Klaus and I ordered cake, Jochen went for ice cream.
And then more people started to arrive.
A lady, Karspeed, arrived in her wonderful colour Milan SL. This light blue is really a beautiful colour!
In fact, there was very much a blue and white theme going on (Endeavour, Jochen’s Velomobile, is out of shot but is white with red and grey decals).
Jupp appeared in his new QuattroVelo which you see parked beside Millie in the photos above, and Düssel arrived on his first long trip in quite a while (he broke his arm). He expects to collect his new QuattroVelo shortly… and his QuattroVelo is what was going to be mine (see below for explanation).
It was very cold outside and although there were blankets on the chairs which I wrapped around me I started to get really, really cold and a bit shivery. Clearly it was time to head off and warm up again, after two hours sitting around in wet clothes in a cold wind. I really was perished!
So Klaus, Jochen and I set off homewards on a slightly different route. I had warmed up reasonably after 15 minutes but poor Jochen had to stop to fix a puncture beside a horribly busy road on an elevated section so probably got perished then too!
We were riding through Schiefbahn and I thought it might be good to stop for food, but then promptly failed with my sense of direction to find the very nice Italian restaurant and we ended up in Willich at that other famous restaurant…
We ended up with 126km on the clock at an average of 22.9. It was a fun trip and it was great to meet Karspeed and her chap for the first time. I really love the colour of her Milan! It is worth also noting that her Milan is much more watertight…
A trip to Velomobiel.nl
Velomobiel.nl is the company in the Netherlands which makes the Strada, Quest, Quattrovelo and formerly also the Mango. Klaus’s velomobile is a Strada and he wanted to have Celeste serviced as she was now 1 year old and he needed the rear gear cable changed, plus a general checkup. We would normally change the rear gear cable ourselves but were unable to loose the screws holding it on at the tiller (this is a known thing – turns out you need to use a British imperial allen key, not a metric one, oddly!)
However, this service was not the entire point of the visit. I had also decided that I needed to get some better brakes on Millie as I had experienced rather a lot of brown trouser moments when the brakes did not work well enough for me. It was partly as they were not adjusted to pull strongly enough, and if I adjusted them myself then the cable was too short to allow me to use the parking brake (which you need to get in and out), but mostly because Millie has 70cm drum brakes rather than the beefier 90mm brakes for heavier riders.
To change the brakes I would need to change the wheels too as the drum brake is built into the wheel, so I got a couple of quotes and decided to let Velomobiel.nl do it for me as I am impressed with their service. So I ordered new wheels and mentioned a couple of other bits that I would like done, including fixing properly the Schlumpf button to my left hand gear changer (it is the world’s smallest allen bolt and Velomobiel.nl said they had the right tool).
Rather than hiring a van my company kindly said I could borrow their van so when I finished work on Friday I drove straight home where Klaus was waiting, having left work early, so we could get on the road to the Netherlands and get as much done as possible on Friday. We had booked a hotel for Friday night as we knew we would need a couple of hours on Saturday for Millie’s wheel change.
Here are the velomobiles in the van.
The cardboard box belongs to Jochen who had two wheel rims to return to Velomobiel.nl which turned out not to be the right things when he ordered them. We were saving him some postage costs!
When we arrived we unloaded both velomobiles and brought them inside the workshop.
Theo was working on a QuattroVelo and on the rack above him you see several new QuattroVelos. The white one would soon belong to cycling acquaintance Achim and the black (with blue above, which you can’t see in the photo) belongs to Düssel, a friend of ours who cycles in our area. That velomobile would also, technically, have been mine as I was on the order list and then gave my place to Düssel as I decided the Milan would be a better option.
The floor of the workshop was also filled with velomobiles, both new and under repair.
One chap was working on a Quest which had been opened right up.
Once Theo had finished his particular task on the orange QuattroVelo he moved it off the platform and Celeste went on instead. He gave her a general check over and replaced the gear cable, checked a few bits and bobs and all was well.
Klaus had also ordered a new rear tyre which he took the opportunity to fit.
This tyre seemed absolutely massive and I wasn’t sure it would fit but eventually it did – at which point it was noted that the tyre was in the wrong rotation direction so he had to take it off to turn it round again!
Whilst there we were chatting to a chap, Gert, I have bumped into a couple of times when involved with Audaxes. Gert has a black Strada and I met him on LEL and again during the Hamburg Berlin Köln Hamburg audax (I was helping at both, not actually riding them); this time he was there to help with the fitting of various lights to his new QuattroVelo, also in black. It was very good to talk to him again!
It was the end of the working day by the time Celeste was finished so Millie would have her time in the spotlight the next morning. She spent the night locked up in Velomobiel.nl’s workshop with Celeste.
Whilst driving the van to Kampen where our hotel was booked it started bleating about wanting some Adblue and the engine warning light came on. I wasn’t sure how desperately urgent this was but it was a little troubling.
The next morning we arrived at Velomobiel.nl at 9:30am ready for Millie’s new wheels.
Here she is up on the operating table:
It was relatively quick work for Theo to remove the front wheel, although the different routing of the brake cable caused him a few puzzled moments to start with.
Here are the wheel boxes without the wheel – very muddy, but it’s almost impossible to clean this with the wheels in place. I had a go and made it rather worse, ending up with muddy water inside the velomobile a few weeks ago.
We weighed the old wheel – 760 grammes. We weighed the new wheel – 1250 grammes. That’s quite a difference, but it was also clear looking at the two side-by-side that they are made for different purposes. The old wheels were race wheels, super-lightweight with knife spokes and milled drum area to save weight. The new wheels have metal eyelets for the rims, stronger rims, normal spokes and of course the larger drums.
Once the old wheels were out and we had a look at them we noticed that one of the two had a damaged rim with the spokes pulling the rim out of shape. This has also happened to my back wheel (and I have ordered a new back wheel to be built by a local bike shop). This is the issue with race bikes built for lightness and speed but not for everyday touring on bad quality roads. Although you save weight with these super-light wheels they aren’t really the right choice for me – having more solid wheels with much more effective brakes is a very worthwhile investment for me!
The new wheels were fitted whilst Millie lay on her side like a beached whale.
After this Theo fitted the new button to my Schlumpf and then drilled a couple more drain holes around the chain tunnel (Millie isn’t very waterproof and the existing drain holes aren’t in quite the right place with my tyre selection).
We had a demonstration of some tyre milk to reduce punctures and bought some of that, plus I also bought two batteries and a charger and cable connector so that I can change the electrical system in Millie for one that hopefully is more reliable.
During the staff’s tea break we headed off to a garage to buy some Adblue for the van.
Disappointingly the warning lights stayed on after this 2 litre dose. Apparently the warning lights have to be disabled by a garage (it’s a usual service item). Still, this meant I was slightly nervous as to whether the van might play up on the 220km drive home.
After all Millie’s things were completed it was time for one of the other purposes of our trip – test riding a QuattroVelo.
I wanted to have another go at a QuattroVelo, knowing that I was getting much more expert at getting in and out of Millie. Klaus was also very interested to try one as he likes the idea of a four-wheel option for the extra safety.
This lovely red QV was our test vehicle.
It has the cover that goes right over your head. Klaus really liked this but I found it made me strangely claustrophobic (not something I have ever experienced before) so I would definitely be more for open air riding!
Celeste in the mirror here…
The QuattroVelo has a very different front view than most velomobiles. With this (rather dark) photo I think it looks like Thomas the Tank Engine (which is also apparently a thing in Germany, but with a different name – which I have forgotten at the moment).
We both had test rides in the rain. For Klaus it was a real speed improvement over his Strada although he found it quite a lot noisier – this is partly due to the hood thingie which makes the sound echo rather. I found it only slightly harder than Millie to get in or out so that was a great discovery – I got in and out three times without any difficulty. I then thought I’d try the Strada again to see if I was just having a bad day the time I got stuck in Jochen’s velomobile but no, I couldn’t get out at all – I use my right arm behind me to lever me out and the Strada has bodywork in the way; with the QuattroVelo that space is clear for my hand so it worked really well, although (as with Millie) I do have to stand on the seat to get right out.
And what was the result of this test ride…? I am once again on the order list! The plan is that if I find I get on well enough with the QV (which won’t be ready till December probably) it would work as an all-round velomobile for me and I can sell Penelope and Millie. Klaus would also use it so we will order two different hoods – the covering one that he liked and the open one for me. And as for colour… we had talked about British Racing Green and then we saw one of the QV’s ready to go to a customer… what a great colour…
So I have ordered green and cream. The exact shade of green might change a bit as I found this one maybe a tad dark, but the general colour scheme is lovely. And I think I will see if I can get Union Jack flags on the mirrors…
Thanks again to Theo and Allert for their excellent service!!
Minor Millie maintenance
Millie is turning out to be a bit of a thoroughbred and less of a workhorse, which means she needs attention. I had noticed her drivetrain getting more and more noisy and it was noticed that my chain idler at the front seemed damaged so I have ordered a new one to see if that reduces some of the noise. Idlers are consumables and Millie has done 15.000km.
As mentioned above, not only did I buy two new front wheels this month but I also ordered a new rear wheel from the very good bike shop Siegers in Korschenbroich. Here is Mr Siegers having a look at my existing wheel (which I transported there in the car!) – we spent a good half hour discussing what I wanted for a replacement and after his two week Easter holiday he would build it for me.
One big issue with Millie is her rear indicators, which are virtually useless – no-one can see them from behind unless it is really dark. They are bright, but flush with the bodyshell and at a very oblique angle. I was trying to work out how to improve them when someone suggested some kind of lens on top to distribute the light. Of course Ebay has that kind of thing and for a few Euros I received 10 small plastic lens thingies. I thought I would get lots of spares as undoubtedly they would fall off periodically.
Anyway, I superglued them on and they work really well! I don’t feel quite so nervous when a large truck is behind me now and I need to indicate to turn left…
As mentioned above, Millie needed a new battery system so I ordered all the bits and bobs from eBay to accompany the 12v batteries from Velomobiel.nl. Millie currently runs on 7.2V so the plan was to get a voltage regulator, which is exactly what we did with Penelope two years ago. The gadget was ordered and Klaus made a start on testing it.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get the output voltage to change. An email exchange with the seller suggested we needed to actually have some kind of load on it in order for it to work so that will be the next plan. I have also bought a battery life indicator (which Millie doesn’t currently have – you don’t know your battery is flat until it goes dark or your indicators stop working). We will have to find the optimum location to fit this gadgetry which is rather something for a rainy day but I am sure we will achieve something before the bike tours.
The last day of April was my day to visit SPEZI Radmesse, this year (as last year) by car. Hartmut offered to give me a lift and he and a chum Felix picked me up at 8:30 on the Sunday morning to head to Germersheim (near Speyer), about 3.5 hours’ drive away. Poppy also came along for the trip.
We stopped at the motorway services next to the bridge over the Mosel for a cuppa. I have to say, seeing this landscape makes me want to go touring there again, and it’s really best on a trike. I am starting to work out a way of doing a car-assisted long weekend Mosel & Rhein tour on the trike…
Poppy ate her breakfast and I had a muffin.
We arrived at SPEZI and started looking around. I went straight to the ICE Stand as usual and this time Neil Selwood, one of the directors, was there. He has been my contact for advice and technical/maintenance items over the years and I know his voice very well (and he mine) but it was the first time we had met in the flesh. It was gerat to chat to him, even though I am not really riding my trike these days.
Outside the main hall I spotted the QuattroVelo in green and cream that we had seen at Velomobiel.nl a couple of weeks ago. This is the colour that I have nominally ordered, but I think the green is too dark so will probably choose a slightly lighter one. It was good to see it in bright daylight though!
There were lots of velomobiles around of course, including this DF with amusing decals!
There were a string of them parked together.
Amongst these was the Milan belonging to TimB who bumped into me at the ICE stand again and we had another good chinwag. He told me to look at the Milan on the Räderwerk stand as the build quality was excellent. These are now built in Romania and I went to have a look – he was right, very impressive!
I also visited the Steintrikes stand as Klaus’s chain idler was rather worn and I thought I would see if I could order another one for him. Very fortunately they had a couple of spares on the stand and gave one to me after they heard it was for Klaus (Thomas Seide remembered him), so that was very kind of them.
I bumped into several other people, one of whom, Christoph, said “I see your interval between purchasing Velomobiles is reducing). He is right! Between Penelope and Millie it was 2.5 years, between Millie and the QuattroVelo it will be 1.25 years… hmmmm.
After a good look around we headed back home to Kempen. It was a good day out as always, and thanks to Hartmut for the driving. Poppy was shattered after such an exciting day and slept on my lap the whole way home.
Life in Germany
There’s been quite a lot going on this year. This month saw another connection to the UK disappear – my house in Colchester was sold. This means that I don’t now have a home back in the UK – when I visit the UK now I will stay with my Mum. James and I had been selling the house for over a year and the buyer took 5 months to get to completion but the house was finally sold at the end of April – the end of my ten year connection with Great Bromley/Colchester but it was definitely time.
Another big life event this year has been a change in my domestic circumstances. Klaus separated from his wife in January and we are now together. His velomobile Celeste is living in my garage as he has no garage/storage space in his flat south of Kempen, and his trike has also made its way to my spare garage as part of a possible plan to sell it (as he barely uses it).
We have some tours planned – a four day tour as part of the Trike Treffen over Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) at the end of March and a two week tour from Kempen to Usedom, then Berlin and then back to Kempen in June. It will be fantastic to be out touring again, and for me the first touring in Millie which may provide its own challenges, mainly in terms of storage space for touring luggage. We have been preparing by buying a few bits and bobs such as dry bags to store my things in and I am hoping to bodge together some kind of chain baffle to stop my storage rubbing against the chain as it is wont to do.
A visit from my sister and two nieces
Another great event this month was the visit of my sister Anna and her two younger daughters, Hari (16) and Ceri (13). Klaus drove me to the Hook of Holland to collect Anna and the girls after their overnight ferry trip and we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds before heading to Kempen. Klaus headed off then for some time with his daughter and I took Anna and the girls to St Hubert for some lunch in Café Poeth. Hari and Ceri chose filled rolls but Anna and I, showing sibling tendencies, both had cakes…
They were staying at the Ferienwohnung round the corner, Müllers Hof, and I visited with Poppy, who very much enjoyed hanging out with her English relatives.
Anna had bought some vital supplies from England for me…
In the late afternoon we went to Kempen for a walk about and then had a meal in Ela, my favourite restaurant there. But before the evening meal we had an ice cream.
The next day the plan was to visit Düsseldorf. It was a lovely sunny day and we drove there, finding a reasonable parking place and then walking along the river towards the Media Hafen.
Whilst we were there the Pulse of Europe march was taking place.
We had a burger for lunch and then after a bit more walking headed home via St Tönis where we stopped at the Water Tower for some cake/food. I had a crepe.
The next day was what I think they had been most looking forward to – a visit to CentrO, Europe’s largest shopping centre. We had lunch there in the food court and had plenty of time to nose around the shops. Anna and the girls managed to buy things, finding that most sales assistants spoke enough English for them to work it all out.
We had some very nice ice creams there, if all rather a similar colour scheme.
On their last day we wandered around Kempen and had lunch in Café Peerbooms. My lunch was of course a slice of cake.
Poppy was with us hiding under the seat and she discovered a slight gap in their cleaning regime…
We walked around the outside of Kempen’s walls enjoying the scenery.
We then headed back to my flat to collect their luggage and I drove them back to the Hook of Holland and after a nice meal at the Torpedo Lounge they got onto the ferry and I drove home again.
It was very enjoyable to see them and also interesting for them to visit Germany – the first time for Hari and Ceri and I think probably at least 33 years since Anna was last there, although she did actually live in Germany for 3 years as a baby. She said she could see very much why I had moved to the Kempen area and that the lifestyle was great. I think she liked the cakes and shopping too!!
Cakes this month