Author Archives: Auntie Helen

Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2020 (Month 75)

Don’t miss my reports on our Kylltal and Mosel Trike Tour this month!

Cycling this month

Here is where I cycled this month:

Here are my cycling statistics for this month.

534km, but more using the trike than the velomobile

As you see from the top of this post, we did a bike tour early in June. But first of all we had to do a shakedown ride for Klaus’s new trike so headed to Bauerncafé Jacobs on the border with the Netherlands as it’s about 22km away.

We had nice cakes!

Another evening we went out to do some photography of the trikes and happened to find outselves at the great Eiscafé in Kempen.

This was the early days after the easing of lockdown so there weren’t that many people around.

I had a tasty Sundae!

And then afterwards we cycled around Kempen to take some trike photos.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

I bought some new mirrors and a new bell for Alfie my trike but didn’t get round to fitting them before we went on tour and I seem not to have managed it yet.

Klaus on the other hand bought quite a few bits and bobs for Malcolm, his new trike, and these were fitted. This included the Radical Sidepod bags, SPD pedals, a bell, mirrors and also a tool to remove the bottom bracket which was a bit wobbly.

He set to work doing some of these jobs before we went on tour. The bottom bracket would have to wait until we returned as he needed an additional tool – the one we had didn’t fit the bottom bracket he has.

I was doing some animal-watching in the garden. Saw this mouse which was very friendly and didn’t run away at all (presumably it was either very ill or extremely stupid). I got lots of photos of it, and it kept coming towards the phone when I was trying to take close-ups.

Bearing in mind we live in a house with a dog and you can probably work out what happened the next morning. And then a few days later. Dog 2, mice 0.

Just before we went off on our holidays we decided to take Klaus’s daughter Lara to Bauerncafé Jacobs as she hadn’t been there before. So we all enjoyed nice cakes.

And then afterwards we walked to the border with the Netherlands (about 30 metres away) and stepped over briefly. The borders have only just opened and it was the first time I had been in NL this year, I think!

Poppies on the way to work

Berlin

Klaus and I had originally planned a week in Berlin in mid-May to celebrate his birthday. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic we cancelled this holiday and instead stayed at home. However, when the lockdown in Germany started to lift, and after we had already cancelled our 2 week velomobile tour, we decided we might try the Berlin trip in June – celebrating my birthday whilst we were there. This was the week after we did our Kylltal and Mosel cycle tour – we were at home for one day between the two holidays (where we did three loads of washing!)

We had originally planned this holiday by train and had booked first class tickets a long time in advance with Deutsche Bahn. The tickets were non-transferable so when Covid19 came along we thought we would lose the money but fortunately Deutsche Bahn said we could use the tickets any time before the end of July. So we were able to take advantage of the first class train journey to and from Berlin in June.

Frank kindly drove us to Duisburg main station where we could get directly on our ICE train, having bought a few supplies for the journey. We had to wear masks in the station and on the train.

We had one suitcase between us and two rucksacks for a week.

The train journey was very relaxing and we had good wifi and were able to stream TV shows. This is one of the benefits of First Class as second class Wifi is throttled.

We arrived at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and then it was time to get the S-Bahn to Friedrichstraße.

From Friedrichstraße we took the U-Bahn one stop (although going through a new station on the way, which was not yet opened) and we arrived at Französische Straße. Our Apartment was just up the road in Behrenstraße – and it was a cracker!

It was very large with a large bathroom, a separate wardrobe room, sofas, bed, kitchen area and even a mini balcony. The balcony was built inside but you could open the windows for fresh air, although it was also very warm!

Here I am catching up with the world!

Photo by Klaus

After a cuppa we decided to walk further along Behrenstraße to see what we saw – and within a couple of hundred meters we were in Bebelplatz where the Nazis did the book burning.

Photo by Klaus
Site of the book burning

And of course just round the corner from here is Gendarmenmarkt with the two cathedrals and the concert house in between.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We had never seen the roads around Mitte so empty, or indeed Gendarmenmarkt. We could walk across the road without any problems as there were almost no cars. And very, very few tourists. We heard mostly German spoken with very occasional English.

We walked along to Potsdamer Platz and on the way saw this European Union bear. Those were the days when Britain was still a member!

Although not every Brit feels British!

Rather fortuitously I was wearing my pro-Europe t-shirt “Better Together”

We arrived at Potsdamer Platz… but where was everyone?

Photo by Klaus

It was very eerie so we purchased some pastries and went home to eat them on the balcony with a cuppa.

We had found a local Edeka which was open in Friedrichstraße and rather amazingly they had McVitie’s biscuits. I have never seen these in Kempen! Klaus also bought some wine gums.

As you can see, for this holiday we had decided not to try to stick to Keto.

Our first full day in Berlin started with a longish S-bahn ride to Schlachtensee as I knew it was a nice walk around (5km).

The lake itself was very beautiful and the temperature was very pleasant for walking around, about 25 degrees.

Klaus noticed some terrapins or turtles on this log!

After we had walked around the lake we wandered into the town and had a pastry and cake at a bakery whilst watching a road crew trying to lay some pipes. There were about 8 workers, including one lady (who just spent the whole time drinking from her water bottle) and three vehicles and a trailer. It was very entertaining to watch all those people and very little action!

But there was cake/pastry action so that was the main thing.

We got out at Unter den Linden on the way back – the station for the Brandenburger Tor.

…and then went back to the apartment for a glass of wine for Klaus.

Later that day we went for a bit of a walk again.

I rather liked this road name, “Behind the Catholic Church”. You see below the e-scooters that are everywhere in Berlin.

Around the back of Bebelplatz I saw this lovely door and doorframe.

We wanted to have a look at the new Stadtschloss – it is almost complete.

One side of it is the Humboldt Forum which is a completely flat facade.

From here we walked up towards Museumsinsel and on the way saw yet another road sign which has some kind of cork and wire figurine on it. We saw four or five of these in different places but don’t know what they are about.

It is lovely walking along the Spree river.

Photo by Klaus

It was time for an ice cream so we found one in Hackescher Markt.

Photo by Klaus

And then we carried on walking along by Museumsinsel.

The photographer at work and, below, his photo!
Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

As you can see, it was a beautiful evening for photography. Berlin is such a lovely city with many attractive buildings and you can walk around them easily enough. The lack of tourists made things very relaxed, but we also both felt that Berlin was somehow losing a bit of its vibrancy due to the lack of tourists.

The next day we decided to visit a couple of WW2 historic sights and, for a change, to go there by bus. Klaus spent a long time planning our bus route in order to get to the Schwerbelastungskörper and from there to the Flakturm Humboldthain. This is a screenshot of his planning:

So we set off on our first of many buses.

First destination was the Schwerbelastungskörper.

The Schwerbelastungskörper (German: “heavy load-bearing body”; a.k.a. Großbelastungskörper – GBK) is a hefty concrete cylinder located at the intersection of Dudenstraße, General-Pape-Straße and Loewenhardtdamm in the northwestern part of the borough of Tempelhof in Berlin, Germany. It was built by Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer to determine the feasibility of constructing large buildings on the area’s marshy, sandy ground. Erected between 1941–1942 it was meant to test the ground for a massive triumphal arch on a nearby plot. The arch in the style of the Nazi architectural movement was to be about three times as large as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was one component of a plan to redesign the center of Berlin as an imposing, monumental capital reflecting the spirit of the Nazi Germany as envisioned by Hitler.

The Schwerbelastungskörper was built by Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG in 1941 at a cost of 400,000 Reichsmark. At the fixed exchange rate of 4.2 ℛℳ per USD, 400,000 ℛℳ was worth $95,200, which is equivalent to $1,270,000 in 2018. It consists of a foundation with a diameter of 11 m (36 ft) that reaches 18.2 m (60 ft) into the ground and contains rooms which once housed instruments to measure ground subsidence caused by the weight of the cylinder, which was estimated as equivalent to the load calculated for one pillar of the intended arch. On this foundation a cylinder 14 m (46 ft) high and 21 m (69 ft) in diameter weighing 12,650 tonnes was erected at street level. The entire construction puts 1.24 MPa (180 psi) of pressure on an area of 100 m2 (1,100 sq ft). If it were to sink less than 6 cm (2.4 in), the soil would be deemed sound enough for further construction without additional stabilisation. The cylinder itself was to be subsequently buried under an artificial hill upon which the triumphal arch was to be erected, enabling a panoramic view down a new wide north-south axis to a huge assembly hall to be constructed near, and dwarfing the Brandenburg Gate.

Work on the new capital was soon discontinued because of World War II and measurements at the cylinder ceased in June 1944. An analysis of the meticulous measurements only took place in 1948, revealing that the cylinder had sunk some 19 cm (7.5 in) after two and a half years. The arch as conceived by Speer could only have been built after considerable prior stabilisation of the ground.

Removal of the cylinder was considered after the war to create new building sites, but because of its mass as well as nearby train tracks and apartment buildings the structure could not be safely demolished with explosives. Measurements of the subsidence were resumed and continued until 1977 under the auspices of the Technical University of Berlin as part of a project to compile data about the city’s geologic foundation. Since 1995 the monumental cylinder has been protected as a historic monument. It is open to the public for viewing and guided tours.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwerbelastungsk%C3%B6rper

We arrived but unfortunately it was only open from 2 in the afternoon and we had got there at 11am so we decided we would go on to our next site (via several more buses), the Flakturm.

Flak towers (German: Flaktürme) were eight complexes of large, above-ground, anti-aircraft gun blockhouse towers constructed by Nazi Germany in the cities of Berlin (3), Hamburg (2), and Vienna (3) from 1940 onwards. The towers were operated by the Luftwaffe to defend against Allied strategic air raids against these cities during World War II. They also served as air-raid shelters for tens of thousands of local civilians.

Flakturm III – Humboldthain, Berlin
The third of the first generation flak towers was built at Humboldthain The G-Tower was partially demolished after the war; one side remains visible. The interior can be visited. The L-Tower was partially demolished after the war; some walls remain visible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flak_tower#Flakturm_III_%E2%80%93_Humboldthain,_Berlin

And in German, with some slightly different information:

Volkspark Humboldthain
Von Oktober 1941 bis April 1942 wurde ein weiterer Flakturm (unter Einbeziehung zahlreicher Zwangsarbeiter) im Volkspark Humboldthain mit zugehörigem Leitbunker gebaut. Diese wurden nach dem Krieg bis Mai 1948 von den französischen Truppen ebenfalls mehrfach gesprengt und mit Trümmern überdeckt. Da die am Berg vorbeiführende Bahnstrecke der Ringbahn nicht beschädigt werden durfte, ist der nördliche Teil des Bunkers aber noch heute sichtbar und im Rahmen einer Tour des Vereins Berliner Unterwelten begehbar.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berliner_Flakt%C3%BCrme#Paar_3:_Volkspark_Humboldthain

This involved a walk through a rather lovely park with a rose garden. I saw this squirrel watching me.

We seemed to be on fairly flat land but of course the Flak tower was built on a hillock – which loomed in front of us suddenly through the trees.

We had to go up a lot of steps but then suddenly found ourselves with a view to the north over Gesundbrunnen (directly below us).

This plaque was in the centre of the highest tower. Made me think of a Star Trek badge.

There was lots of graffiti around which is disappointing, but also lots of random people just visiting.

We could look down onto the rose garden.

We went to the local Gesundbrunnen railway station to buy some lunch and then decided to do some more bus and tram journeys and ended up in Bernauer Straße where there is a very extensive Berlin Wall memorial.

I was very impressed that they already had an information section on borders in the time of Corona.

And the info board below had this thought-provoking quote:

Wir überlassen 20.000 Menschen der Hölle von Moria, wo sie frierern, dürsten und hungern. Aber wir holen 40.000 Menschen aus Rumänien, damit unser Spargel nicht verrotet.

https://www.twitterperlen.de/die-wuerde-des-spargels/

My very poor translation of the above is: “We abandon 20,000 people to the hell of Moria [a Greek refugee camp], where they are cold, thirsty and hungry. But we fetch 40,000 people from Romania so that our asparagus doesn’t rot.”

The former route of the wall has a lot of these metal poles to mark it out.

Although there are still some sections of wall remaining.

It was now time for a tea and cake break.

It was an interesting day doing lots of bus and tram travel. You see a lot more than when you use the underground, and the buses come very regularly (we rarely had to wait more than five minutes) but it can sometimes be a challenge to find the correct bus stop!

We went back to our hotel for an evening meal – we ate in the apartment on three evenings, partly to save money and also because we had eaten so much during the day we didn’t need a full meal. Here we are having salad half al-fresco.

But after our evening salads in our apartment we went out for ice cream. And photography.

There was a lot more security at the Reichstag than when I was there last time.

We walked along the Spree and saw glass panels which have the German Grundgesetz (constitution/basic law) etched onto them.

Klaus found this extremely moving, reading the basic laws of the country, and remarked how privileged we are to live in a country with this as its basic law.

Here are two of them, for those who have not read it, which especially spoke to me:

Artikel 1: (1) Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt.(2) Das Deutsche Volk bekennt sich darum zu unverletzlichen und unveräußerlichen Menschenrechten als Grundlage jeder menschlichen Gemeinschaft, des Friedens und der Gerechtigkeit in der Welt. / (1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority. (2) The German people therefore acknowledge inviolable and inalienable human rights as the basis of every community, of peace and of justice in the world.

Artikel 3: (1) Alle Menschen sind vor dem Gesetz gleich.(2) Männer und Frauen sind gleichberechtigt. Der Staat fördert die tatsächliche Durchsetzung der Gleichberechtigung von Frauen und Männern und wirkt auf die Beseitigung bestehender Nachteile hin.(3) Niemand darf wegen seines Geschlechtes, seiner Abstammung, seiner Rasse, seiner Sprache, seiner Heimat und Herkunft, seines Glaubens, seiner religiösen oder politischen Anschauungen benachteiligt oder bevorzugt werden. Niemand darf wegen seiner Behinderung benachteiligt werden. / (1) All persons shall be equal before the law. (2) Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist. (3) No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.

We walked back fairly near to the British Embassy which was in a road which is now closed off to through-traffic and with police standing guard.

There were also Police outside the Russian embassy on Unter den Linden which we walked past several times.

We stopped for an ice cream.

One morning I decided I would like for us to visit Mall of Berlin again – we had visited on our last trip to Berlin and it was a huge place. Then it had been really busy, but this time it was like the Marie Celeste!

There were hardly any visitors. Several shops were being boarded up (clearly gone out of business) and we were reminded again how Covid-19 has been ruining many businesses.

After several days of walking Klaus’s back was complaining a bit so we decided to be sit-down tourists and go on a Spree River cruise. We chose a boat which was a solar-powered catamaran, bought our ticket in advance and then refuelled with cake to prepare us for the voyage.

There were about 15 people in total on the boat, including a couple with a cockapoo dog. We sat around the sides of the boat suitably socially-distanced and watched Berlin slide past.

Oberbaumbrücke
I wouldn’t fancy standing at the edge of this building
The Fernsehturm reflected in the windows
Hauptbahnhof – when I first visited Berlin there was nothing at all here
Water reflections of a strange black and white building
Another very modern building near the Reichstag

We enjoyed our cruise, seeing Berlin from a different angle. We had travelled through a lock and past the East Side Gallery where there was vast amounts of building work being done.

We decided to walk back from the boat landing stage near Museumsinsel. I liked this message on several of these bikes – “travels with 100% currywurst power”.

As we walked back through Bebelplatz we saw lots of people standing around and heard singing.

A closer look – there are eight opera singers standing in the windows singing along to a backing track.

This made us think how performers such as singers must so much miss the responses of the audience – this was a way of getting that feeling back, although the acoustic must have been incredibly tricky! Later on we saw a lady busking – she was an opera singer, singing to a track in an earpiece (we only heard her voice) and she had an amazing voice. She looked like she was in her fifties or sixties.

Later that day we went to Alexanderplatz to meet up with Lars and Lara, son and daughter of our landlord and landlady, to share an evening meal at a Mexican restaurant.

It was lovely to see them both again, And the food was good!

We watched the sunlight fading around the Fernsehturm.

And the Rotes Rathaus in the Blaue Stunde.

As we were walking back Klaus saw a message to me at the Staatsoper!

Because the next day was my birthday!

It started with some breakfast entertainment, watching a lady cleaning the windows outside the building opposite. She was abseiling and someone inside the building was periodically handing her clean cloths.

We went back to Alexanderplatz for a look around. We went to Decathlon and got a few bike bits that Klaus needed, such as gloves and a windproof, and I got a couple of clothing items in C&A. Because of Corona we haven’t been clothes shopping in ages.

We stopped for some tea and cake in Einstein Kaffee. This was, I suppose, my birthday cake this year. Rich and tasty.

We were observed by a large seagull who wandered around without any fear of the humans.

When we got back to the hotel we had this note:

Klaus did well out of that as I don’t drink alcohol!

We then decided to go for a walk to the East Side Gallery that we had seen from the other side on our boat cruise the day before.

We walked along the Oberbarmbrücke.

And then ended up getting a bus back to the railway station.

My birthday evening treat was another visit to Sticks & Sushi, a wonderful Sushi restaurant near Potsdamer Platz.

We had a lovely corner to ourselves on the first floor and Klaus experimented with some Japanese beer.

Look at the wonderful food we had!

And the desserts were heavenly!

The next day we decided to go out of central Berlin and headed to Wannsee for a bit of a walk. We wanted to walk to the beach there, which is actually a couple of kilometres from the railway station.

We passed this garage with an impressive painting on it.

When we got to Strandbad Wannsee it was closed! Corona again.

So we had some lunch at a café round the corner and then headed back on the train. We decided to visit Tempelhof Airport as there is an exhibition within it which opened at 2pm. Last time we walked around the Airport grounds but the exhibition had been closed.

The head of the Eagle which used to be on the plinth on the top – as a whole Eagle
Photo by Klaus

It was an interesting exhibition, showing all the different stages in the life of the airport. So much history there – one of the first concentration camps was just outside the airfield grounds, then the whole WW2 situation, then the Berliner Luftbrücke, and then the eventual closure of Tempelhof. My father flew into Tempelhof in his light plane about three weeks before it closed for good.

It was definitely time to refuel with cake and a bit of googling showed a likely looking café. And wow was that a good choice!

These cakes were enormous, and very tasty!

The guy persuaded me to try some of his German black tea (which was a waste as it didn’t taste good, so he swapped it for some hot water for me so I could use my teabags). We will definitely go there again to experience some more of the cakes!

Then we decided to visit the hat shop which was the base for a Christmas Market stall we visited in Mannheim last year (when we bought two hats). “Hut und Vino” turned out to be a very small shop but with very friendly staff. We tried on a few hats but didn’t end up buying anything.

Good hat and only 20€ but sadly too small and they didn’t have the next size up

On the bus again!

Notice everyone wearing masks. It seems normal now.

On the way back we did our shopping at the Edeka in Quartier 205 as we decided to eat a salad for our evening meal again. The Quartier 205 and Quartier 207 shopping areas (on Friedrichstraße) are a bit more upmarket than most other areas with a large Galeries Lafayette and some interesting design.

This was our last evening in Berlin.

The next day we packed up our things and headed to the Hauptbahnhof by S-Bahn and bus. Here is our ICE train waiting for the second half of the train to join it.

After four hours we were in Duisburg where we changed for a train to Krefeld and from there another train to Kempen and a taxi home.

The end of a really enjoyable week in Berlin, a city we both love and have visited over many many years.

Bertie finds a new home

After two years and just 790km it was time for Bertie to find a new home. My plan had been to use him on rainy days (as the Milan lets rather a lot of water in) but as he was kept in the other garage, 500 metres away, the reality was that I rarely bothered to go and get him. So I decided he should go to someone who would like to use him.

I put him up for sale at a bargain basement 2.500€ and had interest but as the Corona lockdown had happened. However, once the lockdown had lifted I had a few more enquiries, plus I dropped the price by 100€.

One chap registered on the Velomobilforum to ask about Bertie, and arranged to come and visit. This was quite an undertaking as he was coming from Jutland in Denmark, 600+ km away. We agreed a Saturday evening for him to visit and if he liked Bertie he would take him away with him.

That day Klaus and I drove to Gerrit Tempelman in Dronten to hand over Alfie my trike for a service and for some battery replacement, and then we came home and awaited our visitors. One is never sure if people from the internet will actually come, especially such a long way, but in due course Martin and his wife Amy arrived.

Bertie was the first velomobile Martin had ever seen. He then saw Millie and Emily so has now seen 3! We had a pizza and then he had a bit of a ride. It was late in the evening so there wasn’t too much time, but he managed to ride a circuit or two with me alongside in the Milan. He was surprised at the weight of the velomobile for acceleration – he had done a lot of research but you don’t really understand how weight affects your riding until you actually do it. However, on a longer straight he was able to pedal up to 32km/h and he didn’t have SPD shoes on or any recumbent muscles, so I guess he won’t be slow.

It was getting late so Martin and Amy went to their hotel and arranged to come back the next morning.

The next morning they arrived – yes, they wanted to buy Bertie. So we set about fitting him in the Citroen Jumpy they had hired in Denmark. This was a slightly unusual hire van as it had no internal load hooks – we struggled to find anything to attach Bertie to, but in the end managed to work out a way of securing him, and padded his nose with foam and an old t-shirt of Klaus’s.

There really were only millimetres left to fit Bertie in. It was a close thing as they really would not have wanted to do the huge round trip again!

Amy, Martin, Bertie and Klaus

They headed off back on their mammoth drive, having handed over some cash and received from me an official sales document. I hope that Martin has many happy hours using Bertie – both Klaus and I expect this is just the first in a selection of Velomobiles, but the Versatile is a great choice for a first VM to enable you to (cheaply) know what you might find important in your next velomobile.

A visit to court

Two years ago Klaus’s velomobile Celeste was damaged after some vandals ran amok in the garages where we were storing her and then set fire to the local farmer’s hay storage barn. We had twelve fire engines to put out the fire and stop the gas tank exploding and at the end the entire hay store was gone. I wrote about it all in my blog at the time.

Fast forward two years and one of the four young people alleged to have set the fire had a court case and I was called as a witness. I had a letter from the court inviting me to visit and saying if I didn’t turn up without a good excuse I would be fined 1,000€. So I turned up of course!

I have to admit a certain amount of nervousness about leaving my velomobile out in the open, knowing that the young lads allegedly were those who damaged Celeste. But as I have no car and it was too far to walk from work in the time I just did it!

I had to go through a metal detector and x-ray and then sat outside the court waiting to be called, as my letter had instructed me. Initially I was on my own but eventually three young lads were there with their parent(s) and also the local farmer.

The flickering LED lighting and this floor pattern gave me a bit of a headache!

We all had to wear masks of course.

After an hour’s wait I was called in… to be told they didn’t need me after all and I could go home. So I did.

I don’t know the result of the court case, but my main feeling was sadness at the destruction caused and shock at how young the boys looked, two years after the event.

Cakes this month

Here are some other cake pictures from this month.

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

Kylltal & Mosel Day 7: Koblenz to Cochem

This was the last day of our tour and would be the shortest at around 45km.

We breakfasted and then made ourselves ready. Once again we left for our morning’s ride around 9am – we have been very consistent about this!

I was relieved to find that my motor did indeed work this morning, that the battery was still functional despite a loose metal pin.

Here is our route for the day.

We had of course ridden this way yesterday. Well, it was not all the same as yesterday we did a section on the other side of the river and today we would stay on the left hand side. But that meant that 70% was just retracing our steps/wheeltracks.

But travelling in the other direction does show you some new things. It helped that the weather was a bit warmer today.

Here is the section on the way to Winningen where we are sandwiched between the railway on the left and some rocky walls on the right.

And here’s what it is all about… the grapes! A bit early for them, but there is some promise showing.

A few times on our tour we have seen the ADAC helicopter which is some kind of rescue helicopter I believe (like an air ambulance). We saw it set down in a very small field – there can’t be that many flat landing places in the Mosel valley!

I find it very interesting considering the age of the terraces which we were riding past. The Mosel has been used for viticulture for ever, and sometimes you come across something like these steps made out of stone which could be hundreds of years old.

The Mosel is, of course, a castles and wine river. Here is Klaus with a castle in front and some vineyards to his right.

On our journey to Koblenz yesterday we whizzed past this small area which had been planted for the bees. As we were going uphill to it today we stopped and had a look.

At Löf we stayed on the same side of the Mosel rather than crossing over and so had a short section with some new impressions. I liked this tower – I of course started quoting “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” and it turns out the German pronunciation of Rapunzel is quite different.

Here is a pic Klaus took of me. Notice I just have one pannier at the back – travelling light, the other pannier was in his car in Cochem.

Photo by Klaus

We decided to stop for cake after 35km in Treis Karden. We found a nice café and had a Schmandkuchen with a nut base. This is slightly more Keto than all the food we had eaten so far on this holiday! It tasted good, too!

We were looking across at this pretty church whilst enjoying our cake. The church had a sign saying it had been built in 1699.

Photo by Klaus

From Treis-Karden we had just 10km back to Cochem, although we had a couple of dodgy cyclists to contend with. One was a time-trialler doing at least 40 km/h on the cycle path (normal maximum is 15 km/h) and it was a path we were joining after crossing under the railway so visibility was bad. I think we gave him a bit of a shock but he should have been on the road, he was way too fast for the cycle path. We also had an idiot chap who just wheeled his bike across the path, blocking it – I think he had forgotten it was a cycle path in use and just thought it was part of the parking area where he was standing. Fortunately we have good brakes and Klaus can sound authoritative in German!

And then we arrived back in Cochem which was REALLY busy. The car park which had been almost empty yesterday morning was full now – presumably with visitors for the bank holiday weekend. In the final 5 metres of the tour, when Klaus had to ride up a steep slope to get to the car, he managed to put so much power through the pedals that he twisted the boom around. Clearly the boom quick release bolts weren’t quite tight enough. He was then stuck as he couldn’t get up from the bike as his brakes probably wouldn’t hold him, so I came to the rescue and stood behind the bike so he could get up.

We disassembled the bikes and managed to tetris them into the car again. I managed to get oil all over my hands and some on my face too, but this is normal.

We headed away from Cochem through the crowds of tourists. I don’t imagine there will be another June opportunity to tour the Mosel without hordes of other cyclists. We had noticed more every day as it was, and this reminded us why we prefer to ride in less-busy places. We are both a bit misanthropic!

Here are the statistics for the day.

And here is the map of the whole tour.

We rode in total 343km and enjoyed ourselves very much! Klaus is already planning future tours, with an eye to the Romantische Straße and also some 1-2 day tours in the Eifel. Of course, I need to get my upgraded batteries before that!

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 6: Cochem to Koblenz

Today we would be back on the road again, but a shorter day than the previous ones at around 60km in total.

But first we took the opportunity to offload some more unnecessary items to the car at Cochem Long Term Parking.

I made a last-minute decision to keep my rain jacket as the weather seemed greyer than the forecast yesterday had suggested.

Then we set off.

Today‘s motor plan was to ride on number 4, using number 5 for any inclines that slowed me down too much. I would try and keep to a relatively consistent speed. Klaus wanted to stay behind me again today to try to match his speed to mine.

I had issues with my squealing brake again (the disc rotor is slightly fouling the brake gubbins, but this will be a bit of a fiddly job to repair). I also had to adjust my seat. But it was OK for Klaus to wait for me to faff about taking off my jacket, etc, as the views were good!

We passed a lot of castles today but the light wasn‘t great for photography. But here is one!

There was quite a strong headwind at times today but then we would round a curve and it would be gone. This mini harbour at Hatzenport had incredibly still water.

We were making good progress today, averaging about 17km/h, and my motor was performing well on number 4. I was also giving a bit more Helen Power to the pedals as I felt more rested and energetic after our day off yesterday.

The route is largely alongside a road but we crossed over to the right hand bank of the Mosel at Treis-Karden for 15km or so. After we crossed back across the river at Löf we headed through Kattenes and then the cycle path crossed under the railway and went up a narrow path the other side of the railway to the road. This was much more scenic but the road surface was pretty rough too.

At another short faffing stop we were overtaken by a big bunch of leisure cyclists so we stayed put for a bit to give them a chance to get ahead so we didn‘t have to overtake them again.

Here we saw lots of the little metal bogies for the viticulture. Apparently they can go up slopes of up to 60%!!

We were making good progress but had been on the bikes for a couple of hours so decided to stop for cake at a likely-looking café in Kobern.

Cheesecake for both of us!

We carried on, crossing under the A61 motorway which is our usual choice of route when visiting Klaus‘s father or other places in the south.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

After the bridge we started climbing a little up the side of the hill on the way to Winningen. We watched gliders being launched from Winningen Airfield; my father once flew there with my Mum for a holiday (he was a private pilot).

I wasn‘t sure of the significance of this giant snail shell!

The route takes you down a steep hill in Winningen and at the bottom we saw a lady nearly fall off her ebike. It seemed that the act of turning a sharp corner in it was too much for her!

Along a road in Winningen we saw this amazing building with individual letters formed out of sheets of plate about 1 metre squared.

Photo by Klaus

Very posh for a wine shop!

We arrived in Koblenz-Güls where our hotel for the night was located. I asked if I could drop off my pannier, which was fine – the hotel took it. I said we would be back in about three hours.

From the hotel it was just six and a half kilometres to Koblenz. Klaus and I got split up twice, once when he fell foul of some unhelpful traffic lights and a second time when he chose not to go through the road closed sign that the rest of us cyclists did and ended up on a wild goose chase around Koblenz. But we both knew our destination, Deutsches Eck, and we were both there soon enough.

Photo by Klaus

This meant for Klaus he had joined up 3 river tours – Kylltal, Mosel and Rhein. There are lots of other rivers we need to add to our repertoire though!

The v-shape in the middle is our current tour. We need to join up from the Vennbahnradweg (south of Aachen) to Gerolstein. I have also ridden from Mainz to Frankfurt am Main but for some reason the GPS track is missing.

We decided it was time for some more food so stopped at the café Wacht am Rhein where we stopped on our velomobile tour. I had crepes and Klaus had Apfelstreusel.

Whilst we were there it began to rain so we had chosen a good time to sit under an umbrella! The rain eased off before we decided to head back to our hotel.

This time Klaus followed me through the Road Closed section as it was actually a lovely smooth new surface.

It felt like just a few minutes before we were back at the hotel in Güls.

We took our luggage off and then when I disconnected the battery from the motor cable – Disaster!

That little metal spike should not still be in there!!! There are four holes in the connector in the photo below, and one is missing its metal widget inside.

Was this Game Over? Klaus said that if necessary tomorrow he would cycle to pick up the car and fetch me, but I decided I would at least try to make a start on the ride back. It would probably be slow but I can ride 45 kilometres without motor assistance, just the Winningen hills would be a pain! I had resolved that I would give Klaus the pannier and the heavy stuff to carry.

I put the battery on charge just in case it would work after all. We then went out for our dinner in the restaurant next door to the hotel, and we had some good food. Klaus enjoyed his last glass of Mosel white wine on the Mosel.

Güls seems to be a bit of a ribbon development along the river but it is good to be close to the water.

When we got back from dinner the battery had fully charged. The suspense was killing me so I decided we would try it out tonight so that I would know if the motor would work for me tomorrow. I was most relieved, after carefully plugging it in, to see the battery was indeed providing power to the motor. We will see if that will be the case for the whole of tomorrow‘s 45km. But we have hope!

We have really enjoyed this tour. We have been lucky with the weather and also it is much less crowded than normal due to Coronavirus. I don‘t suppose the Mosel will ever be as empty again in June, so I am very pleased we have had the chance to see it like that.

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 5: Cochem

We both slept really well, starting to recover from a few difficult weeks at work. It is good to feel rested again!

Yesterday the WiFi was being tricky (we had to use a phone hotspot) so I didn‘t manage to include some photos that Klaus took of Cochem, but here they are now.

Cochem Castle by Klaus
Cochem by Klaus
Painted Stairwell in the bridge by Klaus

We had a leisurely breakfast knowing that we didn‘t have anything planned for today. We talked a lot to the Guest House landlord who was discussing all the ebikes and the problems they can cause. We saw this yesterday – many people riding ebikes who perhaps haven‘t ridden much for many years. They have quite a lot of speed and power available to them and tend to often ride on a very high power setting but with a very low cadence. We were regularly overtaken by ebikes and I am riding one myself. Probably we are more careful with energy usage as our journeys are longer – over 80km yesterday, for example.

After breakfast we did a bit of judicious packing for a bag we would leave in the car today. The weather forecast is improving so we don‘t need so much wet weather clothing. As we will just be riding to Koblenz and back over two days, about 110km in total, we don‘t need much with us. We had a full bag which we carried with us to the car park in Cochem where Klaus‘s car has patiently been waiting since last Saturday. It won‘t be moving again until Friday afternoon/evening. We will go tomorrow morning to buy parking for the next two days and I may well drop off my mudguards then too as they are annoying and rattly and if there isn‘t any rain then I would rather leave them. Klaus will probably keep his on as they are as yet rattle-free.

I also took the opportunity to telephone Gerrit Tempelman of Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten. He is the chap who always serviced my Versatile Velomobiles but is also an ICE dealer and has over the last few years developed a new side of the business which is electric motors for recumbents. As I needed a new battery or two (following the discussion between Klaus and I yesterday) but also really wanted my trike serviced (dodgy brakes), it seemed wise to take it to one place.

Gerrit was, as usual, very helpful. He can offer me two batteries that will work with my Bafang motor, although changing to a better socket system (the one for my battery is a bit tricky and I am always afraid the cable will break or bend badly, whereas the one for my Milan seems pretty bulletproof). I also explained that it is really hard to adjust the brakes with the Bafang electronic brake thingie and this is a known issue with these brake levers (with a motor cut-out sensor) and Avid BB7 disc brakes – there is simply too much travel on the brake lever. Gerrit can offer a gear sensor for the motor which is a much better idea (and which I have on Millie‘s motor).

Gerrit has a lot on but we booked for me to deliver Alfie to him in July and he will do a service, provide me with two new batteries, possibly provide me with a seat-mounting system for the batteries (rather than me using the sidepods, although I am happy with that option), add the gear change sensor, change back to my original brake levers (which I still have), provide me with batteries and new cabling for them… and also the basic service. Alfie will enjoy the attention! Hopefully having two good-size batteries means that I can go a bit faster on the longer rides with Klaus and we can maybe tackle some hillier routes too.

It wasn‘t raining so we decided to go out and deliver the bag of things to the car. We found the car undisturbed in its parking place and said a brief hello. We‘ll be back tomorrow to feed another 10 Euro to the parking meter.

We then sat on a bench looking at the Mosel for a bit. Looking behind us and to our right was Cochem castle and it didn‘t look like too high a hill… perhaps we could climb up and have a look.

So we set off walking through the town and up steeper and steeper cobbled roads until we found ourselves at two schools, perched high on a hill. Quite a tough walk to school for the kids! Past the schools was the route to the castle.

Photo by Klaus

It wasn‘t a difficult walk but neither of us are used to hill climbing, living as we do in the flatlands, so it was definitely a bit of effort!

At the top a gateway, we had to wear masks from this point.

The view from the top was worth it!

There was a terrace café but there was a big queue for it, so we decided to walk back down for our cake lunch.

This sort of sign was not around 10 years ago! No drones.

We decided to go down a different way, which took us past a little chapel built in the 1400s.

We were soon walking down steep cobbled streets again.

Photo by Klaus

Cochem is a nice town with lots of pedestrian areas although they also allow cars for residents so you do tend to have to dodge a lot of cars.

We found somewhere to sit for some cake!

Whilst we were enjoying our tea and cake it started to rain, but wonder of wonders we had accidentally managed to sit under a large umbrella so we stayed dry. We watched the people go past for quite a while before heading back to our Guest House for a rest (and for tea and blog-writing for me).

I popped out a bit later in the day to buy a new home card for someone, and a stamp, and managed to blag a free pen as I didn‘t have anything to write with. Card written, we then decided to go out for dinner and did a bit of googling for decent places as last night‘s Italian had been very disappointing. There was a place just down the road from our Guest House which looked good so we went there. I had a very tasty steak and Klaus had a schnitzel. We also had dessert of course!

Eistorte (known as Grillage Torte in the Niederrhein)
Weincreme

I‘m contemplating using just my sidepods for our 2 day trip to Koblenz and back. I did a test pack and it is just possible to fit everything I need to take just in the sidepods, which means I can leave my two 25 litre panniers in the car, but it also means the battery will be a bit squashed and, as mentioned above, I think the connector is a bit weak. I will decide tomorrow if I will risk it, but it would be nice to ride without panniers on the back. And of course the mudguards which I will take off as we have no rain forecasted. In fact, the forecast is for sunshine, up to 27 degrees in Koblenz on Friday.

Today has been a nice rest day and it was good to walk around Cochem. Back to the trikes tomorrow!

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 4: Bernkastel-Kues to Cochem

We woke to rather grey skies with misty hills in the distance – perhaps w would have a wet cycle ride today.

Here is a picture from my bedside table – charging station for phone, iPad Mini, Garmins etc, and some biscuits that Klaus bought yesterday. They worked well dunked in tea first thing in the morning!

Breakfast was served in a lovely room overlooking the hills. Because of Covid-19 the hotels are not allowed to supply a buffet breakfast, instead they deliver everything to your table. This Guest House had everything very nicely set out.

We went back to our room, packed everything and then retrieved the trikes from the garage. I needed to tighten my mudguard again as it keeps coming loose, and Klaus needed to tighten up his seat.

I forgot to mention in yesterday‘s blog that I had noticed part of the general cabling for the Bafang motor had slightly separated apart. I pushed the two sockets back together again and lo and behold my left brake motor cutout was magically working again. That was a relief!

Talking of the motor, I had a comment on my blog yesterday from regular reader antc1946 who said he has the same motor and he uses the 9 levels option, riding mostly on level 3. That means the battery lasts well. So I decided to switch from my 5 levels back to the original 9 levels and try riding on 3 as antc1946 suggested.

So we set off, again pretty much at 9am, assuming it would take us quite a long time to get to Cochem as it was 82km away and I would be using less battery power.

It was a bit grey as we started and we had our jackets on but not our coats as it was warmer than previous mornings.

Today‘s scenery was largely vineyards and there was quite a lot of activity going on as well – we saw lots of people walking amongst the vines, tractors in the vines, people using the funny little railway bogeys and even a helicopter spraying (see the photo below).

We crossed under this very impressive bridge, the Hochmoselbrücke, which carries a Bundesstraße across it.

You can see from the two photos above that the sun had come out and the sky was blue. When stopped to take these photos I took the opportunity to remove my jacket and socks.

It‘s really impressive to see where the vintners are able to place their vines – this area was particularly steep and they squeezed the vines in every nook and cranny.

Whilst on the ride today I reached a mini milestone with Alfie – 3,000km cycled using the motor. I was quite surprised it was that much as I only did a 3 day tour before with Alfie, the rest must have been lots of commuting and leisure rides.

When checking out the route last night Klaus had noticed that we could do a shortcut across the hill which avoids Zell on a river meander. However, the route planner showed it was a mighty hill and we didn‘t fancy it! You can see below the very narrow section we would have needed to cross.

However, we went the long way round, pootling around Barl. There was a sort section which wasn‘t asphalted and which had a couple of roller-coaster ups and downs.

As you can see from the above map, after we arrived at Zell we crossed the river was was our original plan, but you can see our track stops and we have to retrace our steps. It turned out the cycle path beside the road was blocked for bikes. There had been some signs showing diversions but it was not clear that the entire route was blocked.

Klaus and I had ridden up rather a hill to join the cycle path, only to discover it was still blocked at this further point. Here we are in a mirror at the top of the hill.

Looking at the road closed sign.

We ended up crossing back into Zell and then heading up the right hand side bank of the river, which was actually quite nice although the block paving needed to be repaired as there were lots of very lumpy bits due to tree roots.

We also failed to find somewhere for cake. We had been riding for 50km or so but all the places we saw were wine sales shops/cafes. I am a lifelong teetotaller so wine isn‘t anything for me, and as we were cycling anyway Klaus didn‘t want any. However, I know that the Mosel has loads of cafes so we would find one eventually.

After about 7km on the other side of the Mosel to our original plan we crossed back on this impressive double-decker bridge near Alf.

The scenery was still great of course – rolling hills, vines, water…

Fortunately we eventually found somewhere to stop for some food – an Italian which also did ice cream and strudel. Klaus chose the Strudel.

I went for a large ice cream.

We headed off again after half an hour with only about 30km to go. As the battery in my motor was doing much better than yesterday I increased the assistance level from 3 to 4, sometimes going up to 5. This was a very good thing as we had been rather too slow before this point, averaging about 14.5 km/h. Klaus had stayed behind me all day to try to match his speed to mine as I had been rather pooped yesterday trying to keep up with him, but it was very slow for him. My battery will not allow me to travel more than about 60km with lots of assistance. So I was experimenting with Level 3 today, which certainly gives me more range but isn‘t really enough help for me to ride at a useful pace. It seems clear I need to get a second battery so that we can do some longer rides at a faster pace.

I saw this impressive ruin on the other bank, not sure what it was!

With about 15km to go we saw some very heavy clouds in the distance and expected we would get rained upon.

However, we were lucky and the wind blew it round a corner. We managed to stay dry on the entire journey, with the rain starting heavily in Cochem about two minutes after we arrived.

About 200 metres from our Guest House I stopped to buy some cake for us to have when we arrived. It was very tasty!

Our guest house is pleasant with quirky furnishings and decor, a kettle in the room (which isn‘t functioning 100%, I have to hold the button down to get it to boil, but it does heat the water with this assistance!) and friendly staff. Our trikes were safely put in the garage.

After the traditional washing of clothes and unpacking we had a few cups of tea and then went out for a meal. As we like to sit outside (because of Covid-19 ) the choice of places wasn‘t that high but we found a generic Italian restaurant. The food was rather mediocre but that‘s often the case in tourist traps. We had a view of the river from where we sat and we were served fairly rapidly.

After the meal we had a short wander around Cochem.

We have a day off tomorrow so will probably spend some more time exploring and if the forecasted rain holds off we might do a short ride too. The following day (Thursday) we will head to Koblenz, staying overnight just outside Koblenz, and then will return to Cochem and our car on Friday and head straight home.

And here are the details of our ride today:

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 3: Trier to Bernkastel-Kues

We woke up a bit early – this is the disadvantage of a hotel in a city next to a supermarket. The deliveries for the supermarket come early and there is lots of banging and crashing of trolleys etc. But it was OK as we had had a fairly early night.

Breakfast was at 7:30 in the morning which worked out well – time for a bit of a chill out and to investigate possible hotels for tonight in Bernkastel-Kues.

We extracted our bikes from the bicycle storage room, I did a bit of maintenance on Alfie‘s left disc brake (which is squealing rather) and then it was time to roll, almost exactly 9:00 again, the same as yesterday.

We had a shorter and flatter ride today, only 65km rather than yesterday‘s 90, but I was pleased about this as I felt rather pooped yesterday after the riding with all the hills and an easier day would be good.

We had made a route out of Trier on the right bank of the Mosel (the official cycle path is on the left bank) as we had ridden 10km on the left bank on our way to Trier yesterday and it wasn‘t particularly attractive. After 11km the official cycle route would cross over to join us.

The first 3km coming out of Trier weren‘t particularly attractive either, we were on main roads with Monday morning traffic, but we made good progress and soon found ourselves on a separate bike path.

You can see here the beginnings of the vineyard valley sides which are so typical of the Mosel. And, of course, the river itself!

We were now bumbling along nicely. Interestingly, in order to keep up with Klaus I had to have my motor on number 3 (out of 5), whereas yesterday I had mostly been using number 2. We had a shorter day so I thought that would be OK. If I switched down to number 2 Klaus kept disappearing off into the distance, and if I was ahead and switched down to number 2 he would very quickly overtake me and disappear off into the distance. So Number 3 it was.

The scenery is lovely – lots of vineyards perched onto rocky hillsides, lots of weird machinery to tend the vines (little engines which pull up on almost vertical rails) and we saw lots of tractors spraying stuff; these are extra-narrow tractors which pass between the vines and which presumably have very grippy tyres!

I told Klaus before we started on this holiday that one of the delights of Mosel touring is watching the locks. Sure enough we arrived at Detzem and knew that about 10 minutes behind us was a barge, the Eentracht from Dordrecht. So we decided (well, I decided and Klaus didn‘t demur) to wait for it and watch the lock in action.

Looking downstream:

While we were waiting we did some photography… or Klaus did anyway (my pics of the bikes were no good)

Malcolm X, the ICE Sprint X

The barge came into view and the lock gates on the far side disappeared under the water…

We watched them tie the barge to the wall of the lock with just one rope to hold all that weight! And then the lock started emptying below our feet on the bridge over it.

It‘s surprising how quickly all the water is let out and the barge continued. We saw him again just as we reached our evening destination and had seen him right at the beginning of our time along the Mosel so it was interesting to compare our progress. I don‘t think he stopped for cake and photos as often as us!

Talking of cake, it seemed about the right time half an hour after the Lock experience so we stopped at a café which had a sign outside saying „Kuchen“. This was in Leiwen. The café was up some stairs with a view over the hills and the river.

With shade, too, which was welcome as the day had warmed up enough for us to remove our coats and at this point I even removed my socks (so I just had sandals on=.

The cake arrived – it was an extremely tasty cheesecake!

We had a very good leisurely break but eventually it was time to move on. We had done 30 of our 60 kilometres for the day.

In Neumagen-Dhron it started to rain. Not very heavily but enough that we eventually stopped under a tree and I put my waterproof jacket on. More for warmth than to keep the rain off. We carried on a few minutes later and the rain eased off.

One we went, and as we arrived in Piesport I saw a decent location to take a photo for the header for these blog pages.

At Piesport Klaus phoned the Guest House that we had chosen as our favourite option for tonight, and they said that they had a room free. We said we would be there in about an hour and a half.

In Mintrich there was a new cycle facility. I actually remembered having to cross a busy road and then cycle up a hill to get into Mintrich, but this time I saw the track on the Garmin was a bit different – they had built a bridge over the road. How nice of them.

Except… at the end some bright spark had put two planters together as a speed reduction method for bikes. But it was impassable for me with panniers on, I had to get off and shove the bike round the corner. It would be no fun with a trailer either. There must be a better solution!

Klaus was also doing some photography underway. He took this selfie…

And he also took this photo of the vines.

I was suffering rather with range anxiety now. The display on my Bafang controller was flickering down from 2 bars to 1 (from 4). Now I know that the display tends to overestimate the remaining juice, so I was really getting low. We had 15km to go. Riding at Number 3 all day had taken its toll, despite being a flat ride today.

I warned Klaus that my battery was running low and tried to conserve it as best I could, which is tricky when trying to keep up with a speedy trike rider. As we came into Bernkastel-Kues it was showing 1 bar all the time – a bad sign. I resigned myself to possibly having to ride up the hill to the hotel without a motor. Not an enticing thought.

And that is indeed what happened – about 500 metres from the hotel the battery was dead. I was on my own with my own muscle power, which wasn‘t much today as I rather overdid it yesterday. I crawled up the hill, eventually arriving at the hotel where Klaus was waiting for me. I was feeling a bit grumpy as I had to work a bit harder than I wanted – we discussed it later and we will go slower tomorrow, especially as we have 80km to ride rather than 65!

Our Guest House is really nice. We have our own room with a patio and a view over the Mosel. It gave us a great opportunity for a washing line art installation too!

After the usual shower, washing of clothes, cup of tea etc it was time to walk into Bernkastel-Kues for a bit of sightseeing and eventually our dinner.

It‘s a lovely quaint town.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We had a Schnitzel dinner and Klaus enjoyed some local wine.

We shared a dessert!

On the walk back to our Guest House across the river the light was lovely. Here is the Burg.

And here, although not a great photo, you can see the sunlight playing on the contours of the wine terraces.

All in all it was a very nice day, with some grey skies at time and a few minutes of rain but lots of sunshine and great views.

And here is where we went (track up, not north up)

We have looked at the weather forecast and although our ride to Cochem tomorrow looks dry, it seems the following day will be rain the whole time. So we have booked a hotel for two nights, as neither of us wants to cycle in the rain. We have the unusual advantage that Klaus‘s car is in Cochem so if we want to go somewhere else on the rainy day we can leave the bikes in the hotel garage and take his car for a spin!

The plan is the following day to ride to Koblenz and then back again to Cochem the next day, from where we will drive home. So it will be a six day bike tour which is a nice amount of time.

Klaus is now bonding well with Malcolm his trike and is learning again how trikes differ from Velomobiles. He has clearly chosen well, and although there are a few bits and bobs we need to do to Malcolm (and also to Alfie), they are both basically well-built and reliable machines. Alfie has done 45,000km, Malcolm 250, but they will both have a lot more miles on them by the end of this summer I think!

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 2: Gerolstein to Trier

We slept very well and then went down at 8am to a very good breakfast – served at our table rather than buffet-style due to Covid-19. However, they needed to give us a larger table really!

We unlocked the bikes and then put all our luggage on. This was the first real opportunity to check we had our handlebars in the right place, etc.

And then we were off!!!

We had been told by some friends that the Kylltal Radweg was very nice and they were correct! It weaves its way beside the river, crossing it regularly on bridges built especially for cyclists or walkers.

We had gone just one kilometre when Klaus, who was behind me, said „You‘ve lost something!“ He noticed that my British Flag was missing. Oh no, it must have blown away!

As we had only been riding a very short distance, and this was the beginning of several days of touring, I turned round to try and find it.

Phew, I found it! I attached it with a very tight cable tie and hoped that would do.

Onward we cycled, generally in very green surroundings. There was the odd castle or church to be admired.

The nice thing about trike touring is you are slower than in the velomobile and you tend to see more are you waft along. I was really impressed by this large carved bird, simply carved into a tree trunk beside the cycle path.

The path tended in a downhill direction but there were quite a lot of short, sharp inclines. This coincided with the brake motor cutout on my left hand brake on Alfie stopping working. This is an electronic cut-out so if I use the brake, the motor switches off. I have to dab on the brake before changing gear so that the motor doesn‘t damage the Alfine hub; I brake with my left hand and change gear with my right. However, the left hand brake cutout wasn‘t working so I had to brake with my right hand and then do the gear with it – this often didn‘t work well (I forgot which order to do things) and so I had some gear changes where I lost a lot of speed. Not much fun in sharp inclines and no fun for Klaus if he was following me – he ended up stuck in a high gear at one point having had to come to a complete halt as I had ended up stationary.

It worked best if Klaus rode in front in the rolling bits, so he did so a lot of the time.

We rounded a corner and passed an old factory with this most wonderful chimney. The Leaning Chimney of Usch.

It was an impressively tall chimney but everything was very derelict.

And here below is Alfie posing beside the Kylltal Radweg signage.

What was cool on this tour was that we went through two railway tunnels (there would have been a third but there was a detour on the route so we missed it). They are impressive constructions, presumably with two rail lines originally going through them, now single track which leaves space for a bike lane.

The tunnel was cool and dark inside and we discovered that Alfie doesn‘t have many reflectives on the back – Klaus said all he could really see of me was the tiny red LED light from my motor wheel sensor at the back!

We then reached Kyllburg – the name ‚burg‘ gives a bit of a clue, as it means fortress which is usually built on a hill. Kyllburg was indeed hilly.

We winched our way slowly up a long, long slope and near the top I saw this lovely wicker stork with a mask on his beak!

We had a very long, slow climb out of Kyllburg which was hard work! The battery in my motor was clearly taking a beating and was showing a rather lower energy reserve than I would like. We both got really hot by the time we got to the top of the 2km climb.

The view at the top was worth it though!

What goes up must come down… and so we shot down the other side of the hill and I ended up with my highest trike speed for a while – 65km/h. My brakes weren‘t brilliant so after this downhill I fiddled about with the disk pads and things improved a bit, although they were still a bit uneven.

We had decided we would divert to Bitburg for lunch as it is a major town in this region, although was a 4km detour from the Kylltal Radweg. The detour started with a nice bridge.

But then continued with a long, long slow climb. Bitburg, too, is at the top of a hill, and we were grinding our way up slowly. I knew we weren‘t even halfway on our route for the day so I had a bit of range anxiety with my battery.

We arrived in Bitburg and there wasn‘t much open (it is a Sunday) but we did find the Prinz Café with its very friendly proprietor who was keen to speak to me in English.

He also kindly took my battery and put it on to charge whilst we had our cake.

We had a good chat with him and he recommended a few places to visit on our tour.

After about an hour we headed back towards the Kylltal Radweg, this time enjoying a downhill run instead of the tough uphill on the way in.

We were in a quite leafy and green section with lush grass, quite a lot of insects, interesting birds (I saw a greater spotted woodpecker) and more. We saw this chap wheeling around above us – I think he might be a kite (Milan in German)

We were also impressed by a lot of the buildings we saw. This image below shows the railway station building for a small village!

We were mostly riding beside the river on asphalt, but there were a couple of bumpier sections, including a couple of kilometres where it wasn‘t asphalt just forest path. These were OK on the trikes, although I had to tighten up my mudguards a couple of times as they start to swing about with the bumps. There were a couple of more bumpy concrete-type surfaces, such as in the photo below.

Although our mega climb of the day out of Kyllburg was behind us, there were still lots of little ups and downs. And some of the downs were quite steeply down!

And then we would round a corner and see a lovely bridge, or house, or scenery.

Klaus kindly stopped in the middle of this mini ford for the photo below, and then couldn‘t get traction to get out again. I zoomed across and then came and helped him with a good push.

Then it was time for another tunnel, very similar to the first.

After a while the route seemed flatter as we were making our way down from the Eifel. We had the path to ourselves most of the time, as you can see from the photo below. That‘s Klaus in the distance.

At Kordel I felt a bit peckish and we saw a Guest House that looked like it might be open. I rang the doorbell and the lady said she would come, so we sat outside in the sunshine. The grey morning in Gerolstein had improved into a sunny afternoon nearing Trier and we were shedding layers throughout the day.

The lady said she could provide tea and coffee but no cake. That was fine. But then she came out with a slice of Black Forest Gateau and said „something for the lady“, and for Klaus she provided some Rosinen Brot.

She said to us a bit later on that it was actually a slice of cake she had bought for herself, so we were very grateful. It tasted really good!

The lady warned us that the cycle path down to the next town was closed and we would have to go on the main road, so we knew what to do when we reached the closed path sign and took the main road. There was no cycle path and we were of course much slower than the 70 limit but I found the car drivers very courteous and not bullying. A nice change!

And then we were at the point where the Kyll flows into the Mosel. We couldn‘t actually see the point, but it was behind this shrubbery here.

We now had about 15km to go to reach our hotel, but on pretty much entirely flat terrain as we are in the Mosel valley.

We faffed around the Trier harbour area and then eventually crossed the Mosel and made our way slowly through the pedestrian zone to our hotel which was just behind the Porta Nigra.

They had some good secure bike parking for us.

And we had a mini balcony to dry our washing!

After a short rest we went for a walk around Trier, of course having another look at the Porta Nigra.

We had an evening meal of a burger and Klaus enjoyed a beer (although not a Bitburger).

We loved looking at the beautiful buildings in Trier.


And finished up with an ice cream. I hope you can see Porta Nigra in the background!

And our route for today?

And here are the statistics:

90.4 km at an average speed of 17 kph. Total riding time 5:19:06.

And a few more details:

Tomorrow the plan is to cycle along the Mosel to Bernkastel-Kues and see if we can find a nice hotel there. Weather looks good too!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Kylltal & Mosel 2020, Recumbent Trikes

Kylltal & Mosel Day 1: Kempen to Gerolstein

One week ago Klaus bought a new trike. Today we set off for a cycle tour with this trike (and mine).

Klaus had yesterday off work and he spent some of the time doing a bit of trike maintenance, such as fitting a holder for his Garmin GPS, fitting bar tape onto his handlebars to replace the rather grotty foam ones and also fitted two new mirrors. Malcolm the Sprint X was ready to roll.

When I got home from work yesterday we put both trikes in the car – choosing a rather unsuitable time to do it, as we had a massive rainstorm. But we both wanted to get the job done so we managed to load the bikes only getting a little wet in the process.

To load two ICE Sprints in an Opel Insignia is not actually too difficult as it‘s such a large car. We put the back seats down and then pushed Alfie folded up to behind the front seats, then turned him round so his nose was pointing at one back window and his tail the other, and then we could put Malcolm in behind him in the boot proper. We stuffed the luggage in the back seat footwells.

We had been watching the weather forecast for a few days as it wasn‘t ideal – the warm May weather was turning cooler and rainier. But we were putting ourselves under no pressure, if the weather is awful one day we won‘t do any riding. Simple.

Saturday morning dawned rather grey and rainy-looking. We said goodbye to Poppy and set off at about 9:15 on the two hour drive to Gerolstein in the Eifel hills range.

We went through some mega rain storms on the journey to Gerolstein which meant we were slower on the motorway in places than normal. But we arrived safely at the hotel at 11:30am so very early, but I had pre-warned them that we would be delivering the trikes.

The receptionist was very helpful and friendly and showed us where we could park the trikes, in their covered parking area. It‘s not a locked parking area but we were not worried about this – Klaus had a lock for the trikes and they aren‘t as interesting to try out as Velomobiles.

We unloaded the car and rebuilt the trikes, fitting their mudguards as well due to the rainy forecast.

We then took our luggage to the hotel room (Klaus also took Malcolm’s seat with him) and then it was time to me to head off.

I was driving to Cochem to park the car at a possible finish point of our tour. Cochem is easy to access by train so if we don‘t end up there we can easily pick up the car via train. We had also found a very good value parking area – 15 € for a month. I headed off there.

My journey was along a lot of winding roads around the volcanic Eifel region. There were some good views and some sunshine and blue skies as well as more mega rain. I was briefly on the A1 motorway and saw a nasty-looking accident on the other carriageway. This was in a very heavy rainshower and we all slowed down some more after seeing that!

I arrived in Cochem at 12.48 and the bus was due to leave at 13:13. It was one bus every two hours so I didn‘t want to miss it. But first, the parking.

Strangely the parking signs had a different amount to the 15€ for a month. They said 5€ per day, but a maximum rate for 20 days of 20€ if you had a Cochem (COC) number plate. Which we did not. So for the 5 days I estimated was a sensible amount for our tour, we would need 25€.

The problem was… I had 2 x 10€ notes and 2 x 50€. And the machine did not give change. I didn‘t want to pay 50€ for a 25€ parking charge, so decided to walk to the bus stop to buy my bus ticket and so get change of a 50€ note.

The walk to the bus stop turned out to be longer than I thought as there wasn‘t a cut-through towards the railway station so I had to walk three sides of a rectangle instead of the short side. I arrived at 13:03 and saw a bus waiting at the stop – without any destination written on the front and with the driver eating his lunch.

The bus had a sign on the front door saying you couldn‘t go in that way and couldn‘t buy tickets from the bus driver. OK, so where do I buy the tickets? There was no machine near the bus stop and I went into the railway station and only saw a Deutsche Bahn ticket machine. I had investigated the Deutsche Bahn tickets on the Internet and it displayed the bus route (number 500) but doesn‘t give a price or the possibility to buy the tickets. I had found the price online, 10.80€, but there was no option on that website to buy a ticket.

So I went to the bus door and did an „Entschuldigen Sie“ to the driver, who opened the door for me. I asked where could I buy a ticket for the bus to Gerolstein. He said „not from me“. I said I was aware of this, but where was a ticket machine. He said he had no idea where I can buy them from, but I could just get on the bus if I wanted.

I said I needed to go and pay for my parking and I would see if I could find a ticket machine too. He said he would leave at 13:13.

I went into the café next to the railway station and ordered a bottle of water, simply to break up my 50€ note. I didn‘t actually want to drink anything as it looked as though I had no chance of the loo and had a 90 minute bus journey ahead of me! But now I had some change for the parking ticket machine.

So I went back to where the car was parked and put in my 25€.

So we had to either finish our tour by Thursday lunchtime or at least go past Cochem and buy a couple of days more if we were going to extend it. 5€ a day is a fair price though.

So now I needed to get back to the bus and buy a ticket somehow. Time was marching on, so I semi-jogged back from the car park to the railway station/bus stop. I am no runner/jogger!

I got back to the bus at 13:12. No time to play with the Deutsche Bahn ticket machine in the hall, instead I got on the bus to see if there was a ticket machine inside it (like there often are in trams). No.

So I then asked the people on the bus „where can I buy a ticket?“ They all shrugged their shoulders.

The driver heard this and said „I can‘t sell you one because of Corona“ (which I knew). But then he said „Take a seat.“

I said I would try to download the App and then buy a ticket.

There was a sign right in front of me with the logo of the ticket company:

This VRT is the Trier public transport company. And they had an App!

So I started downloading it (signal wasn‘t great) and we set off about 30 seconds after I had sat down, first driving along the Mosel. It was good to see it – my last Mosel tour had been 10 years ago.

The App eventually downloaded. It seemed I could only buy tickets for bus journeys in the future (not ones I had already started) but I assumed the ticket would be valid for all journeys. So I found it, bus number 100.

„Price not available“. No chance to buy a ticket. Great.

I was unable to buy a ticket from the driver, from a machine on the bus, from the app, and from the non-existent ticket machine at the bus stop. So I gave up. I would be a Schwarzfahrer. I have a suitable colour face mask for this highway robbery.

I did wonder how many other passengers actually had a valid ticket as no-one seemed to know how to buy one. There were 5-6 other passengers on board and we were all wearing face masks. One guy had one he had made out of a cut up face flannel with a bit of string.

The journey was very scenic, climbing steeply up the valley side of Cochem with some great views down to the Mosel. Then it was up and down around the volcanic Eifel region, through towns and villages. The bus driver was very skilled and it was a comfortable journey.

At one point we met the 500 bus coming the other way down a very narrow bit of road and the two buses stopped and the drivers had a five minute chat. All very friendly. These busses were also towing a trailer with a rack to hold up to 10 bikes – there were no bikes on either bus. The cycle tourist season is not going well due to Corona.

We were soon nearing Gerolstein and the rain cleared away to leave blue skies and sunshine. We passed a huge volcano caldera (Maar) and I think there are several others in this region. I think the volcanoes of the Eifel are technically only dormant, not extinct, so we could be in for a surprise on this tour!

I arrived back at the station in Gerolstein, got off the bus and then walked to the hotel. When I got there Klaus wasn‘t there, he had walked to meet me at the bus stop and somehow we had missed each other. I was very pleased to see him as I needed to go up to the room for the loo and he had the key!

After I had had a few minutes to chill out we went out for a very late lunch in Gerolstein which was a bowl of soup for me, a salad for Klaus, and then a crepe as a dessert (Klaus had a chocolate cake).

This was a very late lunch, nearly 4pm, but we still wanted an evening meal a few hours later so walked to a Pizzeria. We had a book with vouchers for 10% off the meal but of course we forgot to take the voucher with us!

And when in Gerolstein…

We walked around Gerolstein a little, including visiting the fountain outside our hotel.

And just around the corner was the river Kyll, which we will follow down the valley to Trier. It‘s not very wide or deep here!

We also saw a huge storage area with bottles of Gerolsteiner Water.

A great German word on this signpost!

And a German false friend. „Shooting“ with your whole family isn‘t generally considered a good thing in English!

Our Hotel Garni am Brunnenplatz is very nice, I can definitely recommend it. The room is pleasant, the staff very friendly and helpful, and we also have breakfast in our room rate too.

Tomorrow we will set off on the Kylltal Radweg. This heads to Trier and is 70km long, with 10km then along the Mosel to Trier. This is a manageable distance in a day on a trike but if the weather is bad we may have a shorter day stage. Trier is a nice place to visit, I have stayed there a couple of times before, and phoned this afternoon to book a hotel near Porta Nigra. We don‘t want to just whizz along, we want to stop and see the scenery – one of the great benefits of the trike over the Velomobile – but we have plenty of time so that should be no problem.

We were both pretty tired by 9pm, not just the driving but also the excitement of starting a tour and also we have both had a fairly tough few months at work. It is good to have a break!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Kylltal & Mosel 2020, Recumbent Trikes

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!

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – April 2020 (Month 73)

Corona continues. It hasn’t affected me closely (a relative in the UK has had it but recovered), but of course the lockdown and other effects are making a difference to all our lives. I am still working normal hours but as I share a smallish office with another colleague we are staggering our work hours and also working at home to avoid both being in at the same time. I initially was only working at home but it became clear I had to be in the office sometimes to keep up with everything. But it is also good to see some different faces at work – apart from this I am staying at home, venturing out just to do some grocery shopping, walk the dog (which often includes buying strawberries from our local asparagus farmer) and do some longer cycle rides for exercise.

Cycling in April 2020

From the image below you can see that I managed over 1,000km on the bike this month.

And I also happened to notice that my lifetime cycling is now over 130,000km – that’s in 12 years, all on three (or four) wheels. And over 3 million calories apparently – all eaten back in cake deliciousness!

Veloviewer statistics for cycling history

Here are all the cycle rides this month.

And here below is the same list from Veloviewer with more information.

As you can see from the list above, the words ‘cake’ and ’tile-bagging’ pop up quite a few times. As I know many of my loyal readers enjoy seeing the cake pictures I have written some short descriptions of the rides (and the cakes).

We had the week before Easter off (we were supposed to be holidaying in Scotland) and so Klaus decided to challenge himself to ride every day. I accompanied him for lots of these rides, and we managed to find cake whilst out and about too.

I had discovered that our favourite cafes all had Facebook pages which informed you when/if they were open for cake take-away. The rules in our part of Germany at this time of Coronavirus was that restaurants and cafés can provide take-away but people must move at least 50 metres from the restaurant/cafe.

So here are some quick summaries of our rides.

Easter Challenge – Büllhorsthof 1

My favourite café in Germany is Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This is because it is in a great location (Winnekendonk, 31km from home by the most direct route), just outside the village. It has a lovely garden with seating and also a nicely-decorated interior. The staff are very friendly and helpful (they always give me my hot water for tea with no issues) and the cakes are wonderful! The only slight negative is you can sometimes have to wait a bit at busy times, but this is a very small disadvantage. After all, when going out for cake you are rarely in a rush.

We zoomed up the road as normal and soon found ourselves parked outside the café. We had notified them through Facebook that we were coming.

There was actually a bit of a queue (I think three sets of people in front of us) which was good to see – I want the cafes to still be here after the lockdown has finished!

She wrapped up our cake and we headed down the road about 150 metres to the picnic table for our cake picnic.

This time we had gone for the standard Pfirsich Schmand. It tastes as good as it looks!

A man stopped to chat to us while we were there and said he had put the flowers there in a pot and if we had any water left over perhaps we could water them (which we did). As you can see from the photo of Klaus on the bench, I had my tea with me in a flask.

Bauerncafé Winthuis near Weeze

The next day it was time to visit my other favourite café. In fact, the day before I had discussed with the lady at Büllhorsthof that her Pfirsich Schmand was my second favourite cake because Winthuis in Weeze do the absolute favourite – Erdbeer Baiser. So I thought I ought to go and check it out again, especially as they said on their Facebook site that it would be in stock.

We took a more scenic route than normal, just for fun. This was taking quieter country roads with more twists and turns, so slower but more scenic. When on main roads we tend to ride on the cycle paths now as there is less traffic so they are not as dangerous for us and keep the motorists happier.

We arrived at Winthuis with the sign “Kuchen zum mitnehmen”. Good news!

We had a nice chat with the chap selling them and then realised that we didn’t have any plastic spoons with us. Fortunately he gave us some, and also let me use the loo.

We rode up the road a little until we found a bench.

Not only had I brought my flask of tea along but also a mug to drink the tea from!

I had the Erdbeer Baiser, Klaus had a normal Käse Sahne Torte.

Interestingly, the Erdbeer Baiser, although extremely tasty, wasn’t quite as great as I had remembered. I wrote a message to the Büllhorsthof lady that evening and sent her some photos of the cake (she had asked about it), but I said that overall her Pfirsich Schmand was better!

Southwards – to Viersen

The next day Klaus decided we should ride in the other direction – back to his old stomping ground in Viersen. He plotted a route which picked up some Veloviewer tiles for him and off we went.

We stopped to buy a slice of cake on the way but didn’t eat it beside the noisy road, we kept on as we knew we would soon be on the cycle path to Waldniel. We stopped there for our short break.

Photographer in shot on the left, taking the following photo
Photo of Emily and Cake by Klaus
Cake with a view!
Oma Helene’s Blechkuchen (no, I am not a grandma!)

From here we went along the top of Mönchengladbach including Windberg (which is a bit hilly) before returning to more familiar territory. It was a nice day’s ride on a sunny day.

Good Friday at Schafstall

When I eventually write my book on The Best Cafés In Kreis Kleve I will include Café zum Schafstall in the top three (along with Büllhorsthof and Winthuis). So it seemed fair to visit Schafstall on this week as we had been to the other two. Once again I was able to contact them on Facebook to say that we would come.

Klaus had plotted us the route this time and off we went, enjoying the sunshine. I like the windmills along the route up past Saelhuysen/Kengen/Rheurdt.

The last 300 metres to Café zum Schafstall have very rough gravel and Klaus had his fast but thin Nutrak tyres on. We hoped he would survive puncture-free – which he did fortunately.

Very well organised with disinfection spray. They also let me use the loo which was a bonus!

The strawberry cake was very nice.

We cruised home, arriving back with a pretty decent average speed.

Another successful cake-finding ride!

Orsoy Tile-Bagging

Remember the tilebagging? This is a never-ending challenge from the Veloviewer.com website where you can ride in every square kilometre around you. My square was 25 x 25 in 2019 but I decided I would try to slowly increase this in 2020. There were a couple of missing tiles out to the north east so Klaus agreed to have a ride in that direction – and of course a cake.

We set off heading up to Saelhuysen although Klaus missed a turning and rather than turning Emily round, he did an extra 1km until he caught up with me. I stopped and waited just outside Stenden – look at the flat terrain in the photo below. If I had taken the photo from the other side of the velomobile you would have seen our local mountain (a small moraine).

We rode up to Orsoy and stopped at a bakery there to buy some cake, riding further to the church in the centre of the town to eat it.

I chose the mandarin cheesecake.

Klaus went for this orangey layery thing which I think may have looked a bit better than it tasted. I tend to find these complicated cakes are often a slight disappointment.

I didn’t get a chance to check it out myself though as Klaus ate the lot!

We then headed off, getting a random tile which meant we had to double back on ourselves afterwards, and pedalling our way through some residential areas around Moers to get tiles. We passed two very good looking Konditorei which were open so I now know another oasis if ever needed.

I was just ahead on the final bit after Siebenhäuser when I noticed Klaus wasn’t in my rear-view mirror. It turns out he had had an impressive blowout of a front tyre! BANG!

The Nutraks had only done about 200km, but the damage was impressive.

Klaus had said over the previous couple of days that he thought one of the tyres wasn’t quite right, didn’t seem entirely smooth, so I guess this issue was there at that point. He changed the tyre without any issues but somehow lost one of his favourite tyre levers, although there was nowhere for it to have gone! We looked everywhere but it had simply disappeared. So unless it falls out of the chain tunnel one day it will remain a mystery.

A relaxing 65km at 28 km/h.

Büllhorsthof again

I wanted to go back to Büllhorsthof as I like it there so much and they were open on Easter Day. Klaus had some tile-bagging to do as well so off we went, following a route he had planned which was 102km.

This alternative route was rather lovely, a bit quieter than our normal roads. We also found a lovely path heading south into Kevelaer which was well-used by bicycles but we had not been on it before.

There was also this underpass under a railway. We travelled through it and then made the turn that you can see to cross the road. But as we were about to go through it a car came though – as you can see from the signs it’s pedestrians/bikes only. But the woman came through in a car. Mad!

After bagging Klaus’s Kevelaer tiles we headed to Büllhorsthof.

As we had a 100km ride on total we allowed ourselves another half slice of cake each, so had a full Pfirsich Schmand slice and another slice of Oma’s Apfelkuchen to share.

Conclusion – one and a half cakes is actually a bit too much. One is enough! My stomach was a bit gurgly on the way home.

Another Büllhorsthof trip

Easter Monday was our last day of the long weekend/long ride options, and as we had been blessed with wonderful weather we wanted to make the most of it.

I requested another visit to Büllhorsthof, Klaus picked a new route, more laney again.

It’s lovely to try out some new routes and enjoy the sunshine. I also liked this tree decoration in a tiny hamlet.

This time when we got to Büllhorsthof Klaus decided to try a different cake – Himbeer. He liked it very much!

Büttgen and Neuss Tile-Bagging

The third week in April was when originally my Mum was coming to visit. Of course she was not able to come but my company asked that we keep to holiday plans where possible, so I had some days off (in the end only 2 as there was too much to do and my colleague was also off sick).

On one of these days I decided to bag some irritating tiles to the south. I am much happier riding north into Kreis Kleve than south into the more built-up areas, but I planned a ride I thought would be OK.

I rode first of all to Schiefbahn which is a familiar route (my choir meets there), but after that it was less familiar roads, heading to Büttgen where one of our cycling chums Norbert lives. I didn’t visit him due to social distancing of course.

I rode through the town of Grefrath. There is one of these about 10km from us but this was a different one!

After Grefrath I had to go through Neuss which is not too much fun. I am less keen on riding in unfamiliar busy towns, although I was mostly skirting the real centre.

However, when doing a complicated turn at a traffic light to pass under the railway my Garmin Edge 1000 GPS suddenly switched off. I turned it back on again and it was complaining about low battery – I had started with a full battery about an hour and a half before.

I had noticed it being a bit weird with battery so fortunately had a powerbank and cable with me, so I stopped and fixed them on. However, the cable was a tad short (I had to tuck the powerbank into my shorts waistband so the cable would reach the tiller where the Garmin was mounted) and it was also tricky to plug it into the Garmin when attached to the tiller, but I couldn’t fix the Garmin onto the tiller with the twist action if it was already plugged in (cable fouled the tiller).

I managed to get it charging up in the end but the cable was rather in the way of my thumb when braking. Not dangerous but not comfortable. I resolved to do something about the Garmin!

I carried on riding and fortunately had the track to follow as I was in very unfamiliar territory. I stuck to the cycle paths in busy areas but of course had to deal with all the usual cycle path nonsense such as this – fortunately I just squeezed through!

I got home, pleased to have ticked off a lot of tricky tiles. I was still on 25×25 but had at last got to the point where just a few more tiles should get me up to 26×26. They were all in the Wesel area.

Wesel tile-bagging

So of course it was time to go and finally get up to 26×26. I agreed with work I would ride in the morning and work in the afternoon and so I set off on a quite long ride to Wesel, and rather than crossing back at Orsoy/Walsum I would ride further south to get some tricky tiles – if I could – and then go back over the motorway bridge for the A42.

The trip up to Wesel via Alpen is very nice. I take the country route through Saelhuysen/Kengen etc, which is a route we always enjoy. Very quiet and lots of windmills!

There’s a railway crossing which has a signpost at the top – I don’t think I needed to go to Sevelen in Switzerland, it’s a bit far away!

Eventually the route ends up on the main B58 which goes from Geldern to Wesel, but the cycle path alongside this is good so I was pootling along comfortably. Near Büderich my Garmin conked out again. This time I was better organised with a longer cable so the power bank could be on the floor of the velomobile, so normal service was resumed. Except when I went over bumps the USB socket on the power bank was a bit temperamental and my Garmin would peep “external power lost”, then “charging”, then “external power lost”… every second until I poked about at it. This was annoying and I resolved to either replace the Garmin or buy a new battery when I got home.

Here is the Wesel Rhine bridge hoving into view.

The other side of the bridge I went the same route as we did last month to go to Tetrion (bike shop) and saw the same annoying chicanes on the bike path. This is to stop cyclists going too fast past a building site. Why don’t the lorries just look carefully!

As I rode through Walsum I saw a bakery so stopped to pick up my fuel. There was quite a queue so I had to wait for about 10 minutes without being able to see what cakes were there. The choice was actually a bit disappointing but I plumped for a mandarin cheesecake.

I didn’t eat it there (not allowed of course!) but rode on, following my track which wound its way through a very industrial section.

There were very impressive steelworks and, as you can see from the track above, I had a bit of a dead end. My track showed a way which turned out to be a narrow footpath through nettles, but I had seen some other cycling signs which suggested a path onto the dike and there was indeed a way up. So I rode along beside the Rhein, stopping for my cake at a convenient bench.

Looking back at the Thyssen-Krupp steelworks
The Rhine heading south

I carried on, enjoying the sunshine and the quiet route. There were loads od dogwalkers out and other cyclists too.

I crossed over on the motorway bridge back to my side of the Rhein and then wended my way home through Moers.

This isn’t the most attractive bit of cycling territory but you can’t expect everywhere to be lovely when we are right at the mouth of the Ruhr river!

Over 100km I felt quite tired when I got home. One cake was perhaps not enough!

Ice cream in Moers

Klaus managed to cycle to work on one Friday and so I decided to meet him on the way back for an ice cream or cake. We had heard that ice cream (and perhaps cake) were available in our usual café in Moers so I headed there.

The ice cream was open but not the cake – that’s just weekend. Klaus isn’t such an ice cream fan so he did without but I bought some take-away ice cream and we rode around the corner into a park where I ate it. And got an ice cream headache. Well, it was my first Eis of the year!

Two tiles and cake

The good weather became a bit less reliable (a rainy Saturday) but Sunday looked good so it was time for another ride.

This time it was some tile-bagging for me, two missing ones right up on the border with NL near Weeze. I plotted a route that remained in Germany but if we had stopped the bikes and crossed the road at a few points we would have been in NL.

We had to stop for the Kempen train as we headed out from home. It’s a rarely-spotted thing these days, less than one an hour I believe.

I took us on a fast route up to Weeze, where we then took the road that circles round the airport. I wasn’t sure if one of the tiles was possible as it seemed to be up an unmade track but the website rideeverytile.com showed that one other person had done it in the past. I just hoped it wasn’t on a mountain bike!

We got there and it was manageable.

Klaus didn’t follow me the 150 metres up this track as he’s not so desperate for these tiles yet! He may regret it in a few months though.

After my 150 metres I turned around and came back again, tile duly bagged.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

The two required tiles in the bag, the next stop was Bauerncafé Winthuis.

Photo by Klaus
Stachelbeer Baiser
Himbeer Schmand

And then a speedy ride home, fuelled by cake.

This was the last of the April rides in great weather. However, we did have a couple of shorter trips with Lara, the daughter of our landlord and landlady.

Collecting Lara and taking her training

She was coming to visit bringing her new race bike (she’s a triathlete). She was travelling by train but had a rather large bag with her so we said we would pick her up from the railway station so Klaus (and Emily) could transport her bag.

We ignored our usual plan of avoiding Krefeld like the plague and instead arranged to meet Lara at Krefeld Hauptbahnhof, although on the quieter south side.

The problem with riding to Krefeld is when you stop, lots of dodgy-looking locals come and ask you about the bikes and try to poke at them. This is ignoring the trauma of the Krefeld cycle path system which is a recipe for broken suspension and angry cyclist. However, we survived our journey there and Lara appeared a few minutes later. We agreed we would just ride back along the B9 (main road) rather than faffing about as the road was much safer than the cycle path.

Lara is very competitive and as we were leaving Klaus said to her “do you want us to give you a real challenge”. She said yes as she thought, “how fast can they be?” Especially knowing Klaus had about 10kg of Lara’s luggage in his already-heavy velomobile.

So we zoomed along the B9 heading out of Krefeld. Lara rides really well and was comfortable keeping with us till about 35 km/h but it was when we accelerated to over 40 that she really had to work! We could drop her at 42, and she couldn’t maintain the really high speeds for very long.

When we got home she admitted she was pretty pooped and she hadn’t expected us to be so fast. Even uphill! (Of course, I was cheating with my motor, but Klaus was doing it all with pedal power).

More Lara training

Despite half-killing her she asked to go out riding with us the next day. Her competitive nature I guess!

We took her one some nice lanes around Kempen but there were also a couple of long, straight sections where she could get down onto the tri-bars and do her stuff. Here she is riding at 40 km/h on a cycle path.

We enjoyed riding with Lara and she found it a good challenge to keep up with the velomobiles. At low speeds she had much more of a power/acceleration advantage but as soon as wind resistance came into the equation we were better off. It was fun!

Tiles bagged…

And… at the end of the month, my Max Square on Veloviewer was 26×26 but I should very easily be able to get to 28×28.

Repairing the Garmin

Having an unreliable Garmin was most annoying.

What was also annoying is that the Garmin Edge 1000 is no longer available. It has been replaced by the Edge 1030 which is the best part of 400 Euros. I didn’t fancy that! The Edge Touring was a lite version of my current Edge 1000 and a possibility but it was missing some features.

I did some googling and it seems that you can replace the battery. I ordered a new battery, as at 14 Euro I thought it was worth a punt. I had the option for another 8 Euros to buy a toolkit for it but I was pretty sure we had everything. My tame electronic engineer would fit the new battery.

Except… we didn’t have a small enough Torx screwdriver. So we went out on Saturday morning to the local Obi and eventually, after about 5 minutes of looking, found one – 4.99€ so better value than the toolkit I didn’t order.

We came home ready for the job. Klaus got out his soldering station and we watched a YouTube video about how to do the battery replacement.

Basically you undo the 8 Torx screws and open up the casing. It looks like this.

Klaus carefully removed the battery (it was stuck on with adhesive that slowly gave way) and the green tape is released, and then he had to cut two wires to the loudspeaker. The old battery was now out, and he soldered the new battery wires to the loudspeaker. We had no adhesive to stick the battery in place but it was a tight fit and seemed OK when we closed the case again.

We turned it on – it worked!!!

However, it doesn’t do any pings anymore, the loudspeaker seems not to want to work, but as I don’t really need the noise prompts this doesn’t worry me too much. Klaus opened it up again to see if the solder had failed but no – it’s a mystery why it doesn’t work.

I have tested it and it seems to have fixed the battery problem, but I have had a couple of weird buggy things (screen lock randomly going on and I couldn’t switch it off, course suddenly stopping) but I assume this is just Garmin protest about being opened up and having surgery and it should settle down. The total repair cost of 19€ isn’t too shocking.

And more technology

Having saved the 400 EUR as I didn’t need to buy a new Garmin Edge 1030, I bought myself an Apple Watch instead. I liked my Garmin Vivoactive 3 very much but I missed the integration with my phone and there are a lot of benefits with the Apple Watch.

I’ve been using it for a few days now and I like it, but it has a different purpose than my sports tracker Garmin Vivoactive 3 so I am getting used to that. The battery life is also rather poor (which I knew about) so it has to be charged every day, and if you are using the GPS then you have to take that into account. The Apple Workouts app seems fine and I can integrate to Strava and also (although slightly more long-winded) to Garmin. We will see how I get on with it long term but my Vivoactive 3 is now up for sale.

Other items

April has had beautiful weather – lovely for dogwalking!

I have tried to get out every day with Poppy for at least 15 minutes but most of our walks are around 45 minutes.

I walk almost every day to buy fresh strawberries from our local Asparagus farm.

They have also created an asparagus drive-through because of Coronavirus.

And talking of coronavirus, my boss gave us all an Easter gift – toilet roll and 10 face masks. As well as a chocolate Easter bunny. Who would have thought, 4 months ago, that the loo roll and face masks would be more appreciated than the Lindt chocolate?

Klaus and I also had some Easter Bunnies on Easter day. We don’t generally eat milk chocolate as we are Keto but we made an exception on Easter Day. I have to say though, it doesn’t taste as good as I remember.

By the end of April the mega weather had subsided a bit but we still had some beautiful sunsets.

Cakes this month

There are rather a lot of cake pictures earlier in this blog, but here are a couple that weren’t included (mostly home-made)

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