Day 2 of our tour started with a slightly cloudy sky but no sign of rain.
Breakfast at the hotel started officially at 9am, which was a bit late as we were both up and dressed by 7:30 and keen to get going as we had 150km to ride today. So instead we packed everything up and then did a bit of maintenance on Millie (fixing the movement alarm to the boom). Various other guests came out to talk to us, and several others said how annoying it was we had to wait till 9 for breakfast.
Then I noticed, at 8:15, that several people were in the dining room – they had opened early. So we went straight to breakfast and enjoyed tea/coffee as well as a reasonable selection of food. No eggs, although the egg cups were there; I guess perhaps eggs are from 9am!
We eventually set off on our journey at 9:15, heading south towards Koblenz, which would be our first planned cake stop at 50km.
We had two crossings of the Rhein planned for today, the first at Rolandseck.
It’s not too expensive for a bike and person!
After this crossing we were back onto the west side of the Rhein, riding down through very familiar names as I have ridden this stretch multiple times. Andernach, Bad Breisig, Remagen, Neuwied. This time, though, we were using a different track; rather than following the Rhein Radweg we were using a route used by Hajo, another velomobile rider. It turned out to be a mix of good main roads (fast) and some better bits of cycle path. All in all it was a much better route that we had taken in the past with the trikes, at least as far as average speed goes.
At one point going through a section of cycle path with fields either side, a salamander/lizard ran across the road in front of me. He was really fast! I managed not to run him over.
We stopped briefly at Remagen to look at the bridge,, or at least remains of the bridge. here they are behind Emily’s hood.
We were soon approaching Koblenz and after a slight detour we found our way across the Mosel and then to Deutsches Eck for the obligatory photo.
Whilst faffing about there a chap came to talk to us. He said someone in his village also has a velomobile – this turned out to be Roland who did a record ride across Germany two years ago. The world is small. I pointed out that he has the same Velomobile as me, only his goes an awful lot faster!
We then rode into Koblenz itself and stopped at a café for the first cake of the day.
After about an hour’s break it was time to continue on. The way out of Koblenz on the main road (rather than the meandering cycle path) had rather a lot of traffic lights, but eventually we ended up passing Rhens, but this time on the other side of the railway – on the main road rather than the appallingly-cobbled cycle path. A big improvement!
We had fast stretches on the main road (cycling between 30 and 40 km/h) interspersed with slower sections on various cycle paths. We had to go a lot slower on the cycle paths of course, although there weren’t too many people about today considering it was a dry Sunday. We saw a lot of bike tourers! They can’t tell by looking at us that we are touring too as we don’t have visible panniers.
Klaus mostly rode ahead on the cycle paths as he had a working horn. I had to regularly shout ‘Vorsicht!’ When going past as it’s surprising how some people wobble across the road with no warning.
We were now on the Mittelrhein section which is a UN World Heritage Site. It’s the section of the Rhein where you have pretty much always got at least one castle in sight. It’s also quite packed with main road (B9), cycle path and railway all sharing a very narrow space, so mostly the cycle path was just along the side of the B9. This was quite good for us.
We had planned to stop for another piece of cake at Oberwesel but it was a bit happening so we carried on, ending up in Bacharach which is where we will overnight on the way back. We enjoyed some apple cake but found the cars clattering their way up narrow cobbled streets rather spoiled the sitting outside.
After Bacharach Klaus and I had a variation in navigation but we met up again in due course and then sailed into Bingen, where we would cross on our second ferry of the day, this one to Rüdesheim.
This ferry cost a bit more too!
From Rüdesheim our route was parallel to the B42 so decent quality but not too busy. I presume the B42 was built as a bypass for the roads we were on at some point. Anyway, we made good progress heading east towards Mainz until we arrived at the town of Erbach where there was a Happening of some sort.
This meant roads were closed and although you can usually get through by bike, our way was blocked by revellers, bouncy castles, beer tents etc. We eventually found our way around the blockage, although this involved going through at least two patches of broken glass on the road. But we survived with our tyres unscathed!
My occasionally-troublesome knee was hurting a bit now so I used less power with my pedalling and turned the motor up. I had run it on 1 or 2 today (out of 5) but did the last 20km or so on number 3 which, with very light assistance from me, allows me to keep up with speedy Klaus and Emily.
Finally we arrived in Walluf and went to our hotel, where I have stayed at least four times and Klaus once before. The bikes were stored out of the way at the back and we, after the shower and clothes washing tradition, walked across the road to Rhein Pavillon for some food.
Washed down by a nice panna cotta.
I was pretty pooped after today – 145km is quite a lot on such variable terrain. We had lots of brick path surfaces, some evil cobbles, some lovely smooth tarmac, some impressive kerbs and potholes, some patches of glass, sand, dirt, mud… but we enjoyed our ride very much and it is impressive to cover so much ground now we are Rhein touring in velomobiles rather than trikes. On trikes our average was about 15 km/h, with the velomobiles it is 25 or more.
Tomorrow we head to Speyer, just 100km (so a nice relaxed day). I’ve stayed in Speyer many times and it’s somewhere Klaus remembers well from his youth, so we are looking forward to it. I will write all about it tomorrow!
Long in planning (I think the first tracks were prepared in January), our first day of the tour would be a trip along the Rhein to Drachenfels, just south of Bonn and on the other side of the Rhein.
We posted a list of our day stages on the Velomobilforum and fellow rider Klaus said he could ride some of the way with us. Then the whole thing developed some more and it turned out that the month meeting of the Rhein/Sieg Velomobile group would join us.
Klaus from Köln sent us an updated route which he said would be nicer, and agreed to meet us near Grevenbroich at 11:30am, so Klaus and I set off from home just before 10 and made our way southwards.
I actually had to stop after just 300 metres as there was a weird rubbing sound from the back of Millie. I adjusted my bag which I had stuffed into her luggage area behind my motor’s battery, and then the issue was fixed. Onwards.
Here is the route we rode today:
The night before we left it had rained a lot, but the rain seemed to have stopped by the time we left. However, as we cycled around St Tönis the rain started again; however, it wasn’t heavy enough to trouble us.
We had a ride of an hour and a half to the meeting point with Klaus from Köln and we were seven minutes early – he was already waiting!
Once we joined Klaus the route was more countryside but with views from afar of Köln Cathedral. But mostly our views were of fields and clouds.
We were also riding quite near to the giant hole in the ground (Braunkohl mining) and the related power stations were to be seen on the horizon belching out smoke.
We stopped at one point because I could hear a slightly weird noise at time. Klaus told me that the gaffer tape I had placed over the open area for the rear gears (usually covered with a plastic cover but mine had broken) was hanging down. The reason became clear fairly quickly – my waterproof jacket (packed away in its little bag) had fallen down from the space behind my head and into the area near the rear gears. So I pulled the gaffer tape off and discovered some interesting metal shavings – very thin aluminium – stuck to the gaffer tape. No idea where that come from on Millie but could be interesting in the future.
We carried on and that noise had gone but another new noise developed – when going over bumps. Something seemed to be banging and crashing, so I decided it was probably my new bike alarm, which had already come loose from its Velcro. I had placed it on the floor of Millie and I guessed it was being noisy. I would sort it out at the cake stop.
I hadn’t entirely paid attention to the plan for today and thought that the cake stop was at Strommel, which we reached fairly quickly. But then we carried on… ah, Strommel was just the place where the track we had was being ignored for a new track that Klaus from Köln had created. I wasn’t sure if the end of this track was the cake stop – but it was. Hurrah, as I fancied a break and some tea and cake after 75km.
My cake (above) was a Bienenstich. Klaus had the pink one below.
Several velomobile riders were at the café when we arrived, and the bikes were all squeezed in around the cars. Fortunately three of the parked cars soon left (although an 80 year old lady driver reversing her car around these expensive bikes was a bit scary!) and we were able to tessellated all 10 velomobiles into the space taken previously by three cars.
It was nice to have a chat with everyone, and of course to enjoy tea and cake, but soon it was time to head to Bonn.
We were a large group so cycled mostly on the cycle paths, which were bumpy. Annoyingly my banging noise was continuing, so it wasn’t my alarm after all. I wondered if it could perhaps be my tool bag which has plastic clips, perhaps these were rattling against the side of Millie. I had the problem that we were in a large group so I couldn’t really stop, so I carried on riding wincing at the banging sounds that came over empty bump.
Here is a pic that Hajo took of me:
You can see there were some threatening clouds but we avoided getting rained on, fortunately.
We did a lot of riding beside busy roads with lots of traffic lights – this was necessary to get round Köln – but in the end we found ourselves in a more country area. I liked this field of poppies.
We were now riding on the Rhein cycle path through Bonn and I found myself getting more and more irritated by the banging sound. So I asked the informal leader Josef if we could stop and have a look what it was. So he stopped and it very quickly became clear what the source of the noise was – why was my bicycle hooter sitting in the right hand footwell? It is supposed to be fitted below the headlamps!
Klaus climbed under Millie to have a look, but it was tricky to see anything. So we laid her on her side.
Klaus could take hold of the horn but there was nothing to fix it to (its mounting had snapped and it was only held in place by the two wires). Another rider supplied a cable tie but it became clear this wouldn’t actually help as the thing would rattle.
Hajo then had a look, and either accidentally or on purpose amputated the horn! So I now have it in my tool bag and the rattling has gone; but I also cannot hoot my horn until it is replaced.
After this delay we had just 10km to the beer garden Blauer Affe that Josef had suggested. We all arrived and caused quite a stir with the other guests!
There was lots of chatting about velomobiles. A bit later two more velomobilists arrived and one was the guy who had fitted Millie’s motor – and her horn! I said the horn had broken, but of course there was nothing to be done about it there.
I didn’t want to hang around for too long as I wanted to get showered. The rain at the beginning of the ride had made my clothes a bit smelly! So Klaus and I said goodbye to everyone and headed off.
It was just 12km further to Drachenfels. We had stayed there before on our SPEZI tour in 2015 when riding with Simon and Joyce as well. It was as we remembered, but this time the bikes weren’t parked in the ballroom but under our balcony outside.
The view from our balcony was the vineyard with Dragon’s Rock at the back.
And the view under our balcony… a Quattrovelo!
We had ridden 125km in total so I was keen for a shower. And of course as we are on a tour of two weeks we have to wash our clothes each day in the shower.
We then walked towards Rhöndorf for food. Konrad Adenauer lived here and his presence still looms large in photographs hung on walls and street names. Here we are looking back towards the Dragon’s Rock.
We found a restaurant and ate a simple Schnitzel and then walked to the ice cream parlour afterwards for an ice cream.
It took us a while to find a restaurant that wasn’t super-expensive so our track looks a bit meandering!
We were back in our room by 8pm. There is a kettle in the hallway outside but unfortunately no mugs so I cannot make a cuppa. The main reception area was open when we left for our dinner (and I saw some mugs there) but unfortunately when we got back it was closed. So I will have to go without my cuppa this evening. Which is tough!
Tomorrow we have our longest day of the tour at 150km. We are again staying in a hotel we have used before, this time in Walluf which is a very quiet town on the Rhein near Wiesbaden. Tomorrow we will be riding along too. It was fun to have so many cycling with us today, so thanks to all who came along!
As mentioned in my blog post from May 2019, Klaus and I planned to take part in the Grensland Tour organised by the Dutch Grensrijders on the 1st June.
The tour would start from Posterholt in the Netherlands which is about 50km from home. We decided this was a bit far in one day, as the tour itself was planned as 60km, and so thought it would be good to book a Vrienden op de Fiets (cycling B&B) somewhere near Posterholt. It seems many other participants of the Grensland Tour had had the same idea, but a bit earlier than us, so we had to try several Vrienden op de Fiets hosts before we found somewhere that could have us. That somewhere was in Swalmen-Boukoul, just 40km from home and 15km from Posterholt.
So on the Friday afternoon, Klaus escaped from work early and we ended up leaving home at about 15:30. Our host AnneMarie said that she would be out at 6pm so we wanted to get there beforehand to meet her properly (otherwise she would just leave us a key hidden).
The ride from home to Swalmen seems to be mostly downhill and includes some wonderful fast bits!
The section from Brüggen to the border of NL is VERY fast. I spun out at 58km/h, Klaus managed 69.
Total distance was 42km and you can see the other statistics from the ride here:
We arrived at our Vrienden op de Fiets and met out host, Annemarie. We were staying in a Granny Annexe attached to the house, although having looked on Google Earth I assumed we would be in the garden shed that you see in this picture. No, the shed was a proper shed, but we parked our bikes beside it.
Our mini apartment had a lounge with kitchen corner, a bedroom and a bathroom. The hosts were obviously keen practitioners of yoga so there were books on yoga everywhere as well as a little buddhist altar and lots of colourful decoration. The garden was lovely to look out onto.
For our first evening we decided to walk to the local pizzeria in Swalmen. This was 3km away but we are getting good at walking now.
The pizzas that we chose were both very good prices, and then on the way back we had an ice cream from the ice cream parlour as it was pretty warm!
The 3km walk back was less good for Klaus who had a pretty nasty blister on his heel. I fortunately had a small plaster with me but it wasn’t enough to prevent the blister getting worse and I think it was pretty painful for him. But soon we were leaving Swalmen and approaching Boukoul.
We arrived back at our apartment for a cup of tea and a relax. Although we had not cycled far, it was a warm day and we had had a long walk so were both pretty tired.
We planned to leave at 9 the next morning to get to Posterholt with plenty of time to relax and have a cup of tea first.
We slept well and the next morning helped ourselves to the breakfast which had been left for us in the fridge. It was the typical Dutch breakfast of soft rolls and bread, cheese and ham, spreads, fruit, orange juice. It would keep us going!
We contacted Ralf who was riding from home to Posterholt and suggested he came via Swalmen and met us. He agreed to this and at twenty to nine our three velomobiles were outside the house in Boukoul. We set off for Posterholt following a track I had created which turned out to be pretty good. The only odd moment was the totally drunk man who slurred to us in Dutch and then English, asking for 5 Euro for us to pass. We didn’t pay up, but were briefly worried he might fall onto one of the velomobiles as we rode past. But fortunately he didn’t totter right onto us.
We arrived at Vurenhof in Posterholt and saw that we were not the first.
Chum Oliver was organising and he took subs from us all for the lunch. Once we had paid up we sat in the sunshine with a cup of tea and watched more friends and acquaintances arriving.
At 10:30 on the dot it was time to head off on our tour.
Oliver was leading the way on his recumbent two-wheeler. Unfortunately he had been in an accident in his Quattrovelo (someone at a roundabout had driven into him when he had priority and rolled it) so it was in for repair. This meant that the speed was very comfortable and the group stayed largely together.
The route took us to Selfkant, the smallest section of NL, and also to the most westerly point in Germany.
We went up quite high at one point where there were lots of windmills and I took the chance to pull over and take some photos.
After 35km we arrived at our lunch stop. We had reserved tables which had cakes on!
I chose the rice cake.
After the cakes we had rolls with cheese and ham (breakfast revisited really). We were on a table of mostly Germans and had a good chat.
We stayed at the lunch stop for about an hour before heading off again.
We rode, still all together apart from a couple who got punctures, and eventually returned to Vurenhof where we had an ice cream.
Most people stayed there as we were also going to cycle to Swalmen to the spot where Erwin de Vries died last year just before Oliebollentocht when he cycled into a barrier in the dark. The barrier had no reflectives on it and was right across the cycle path through a forest. He was in hospital for two weeks as a result of facial injuries and then very sadly he died as a result of these injuries.
Since that time the Grensland Rijders have been sticking reflective strips on all such poles that they find. We were all going to ride together to the spot to remember Erwin, especially as it would have been his birthday that day.
What seemed like almost the entire group then headed off together towards Swalmen, passing the place Klaus and I were staying.
We arrived at the area which is just next to a restaurant. The velomobiles all parked in the car park and the people sitting outside at the tables were watching us. I guess they had no idea what was going on.
Some words were said to remember Erwin and then a bouquet of flowers was laid.
This event was a reminder to us that all transport has its dangers, and that velomobiles, being an unusual size/shape, are not considered by cycle infrastructure planners. We need to be careful, but we need to ensure that the cycle paths that we are obliged to use in the Netherlands are also safe for us.
Klaus and I then road back with the group as they headed to Boukoul and stopped at our Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation.
In total our ride was 97km, and here is the route:
And here are the figures:
You can see we had a much slower average speed. This always happens in group riding as you can’t easily find your rhythm. At the end of the day my fingers were aching from constantly pulling the brakes!
Klaus’s blister was causing him trouble still but I fancied a walk so I walked to the Italian restaurant (the same as yesterday) and Klaus cycled. The walk was lovely again to stretch the legs, with half of it along a woodland path.
Klaus overtook me five minutes before I arrived, and he was sitting with a cold drink (and had ordered one for me) when I arrived. We enjoyed our dinner and then he headed back home, eschewing the ice cream. I treated myself to a larger ice cream this time!
We were both pretty tired, partly from the heat of the day. It had been very warm and we probably hadn’t drunk enough.
The next morning was our ride home, but we weren’t going the direct route but taking a detour to Wegberg.
We were ready to leave at 9am after having breakfast and washing up. We said goodbye to our hostess AnneMarie, we had very much enjoyed our time with her.
This was our route for the day:
As you can see, it was rather an indirect route back!
And here are the statistics:
First we headed to Sint Odilienberg which is a lovely town with a very impressive church.
Whilst we were out stretching our legs we heard a noise like thunder – another velomobile! It was a green Quest which we had seen on the tour yesterday. He didn’t see us.
After Sint Odilienburg we headed towards Wegberg where we planned to stop for some cake. This involved riding through the Meinweg National Park (but a different sector than we usually use) and just as we came out of the park there was a really steep hill at Dahlheim-Rodgen. I switched my motor onto maximum and trundled past Klaus as he was winching Emily with all our luggage up the hill. I stopped at the top and Klaus seemed to be taking a very long time, so much so that I fired up the tracker app on my phone to see where he was. Then he appeared behind me, with the news that his Schlumpf Mountain Drive had failed so he had no low gears, the pedals were just spinning. He had initially thought it was a broken chain and had to get out (which is tricky in a 7% hill as the brakes aren’t keen to hold the weight) and push it up the hill. When he got to the top and looked inside he realised the chain was still in place. It was the Schlumpf Drive.
He changed the Schlumpf gear back to the high gear and that worked, but it made some slightly unhealthy noises. What with his visor coming unstuck yesterday, the mystery squeaking noise from the free hub which he is concerned about, plus another deflation of the air suspension balls later in the ride today, he is getting quite concerned about Emily’s reliability. Humphrey before her wasn’t great either. I think there will be some serious thinking about whether or not to continue with the Quattrovelo experiment because of all the breakages and failures; compare this with the Milan which is supposedly less well built and the Quattrovelo fares very badly. My only Milan issues have been with the electrical wiring (indicators failing) and spokes breaking (from wheels that I bought from Velomobiel.nl). Millie is very reliable, and Emily should also be the same. We will think about it.
Klaus was now stuck only in the high gears and our terrain was slightly rolling at times. Despite the grinding noises from the front bottom bracket we headed on, stopping as planned at Wegberg for cake and tea.
My Velomobile alarm went off during our cake. As they were parked out of sight round the corner Klaus went to have a look. It seems that a loud motorcycle passing had vibrated the velomobile enough to make the alarm sound!
I asked Klaus if the grinding noise from the gears was getting any worse but he said no, so we carried on. He was restricted to only the high gear ranges so that meant it was a bit more effort for him pulling away at some junctions, but overall Emily was running very well at the speeds that we were able to maintain. She zooms along over 45km/h. I run out of pedalling speed (my chainring is too small and my cadence too low) so Klaus and Emily were out of sight ahead sometimes.
After Wegberg we headed towards Mönchengladbach, going around many of the small hamlets surrounding it. Then we finally got back to somewhere that I know – Dülken. As it was very hot it seemed time for an ice cream.
From Dülken we headed north to Bistard and then joined the Bahnradweg at Lobberich. Our original plan was to ride through Kempen but as there was a running race on we decided to give Kempen a wide berth and we rode past Abtei Mariendonk.
We arrived home feeling very hot and quite thirsty, but having enjoyed our ride. We also had a nice message on the family blackboard!
All in all we really enjoyed the Grensland Treffen. It is always good to speak to other Velomobile riders, and to get to know new people as well as meeting up with old friends. The weather was very good too, although perhaps a bit too hot. We also picked up some very interesting information, that the Milan will in future be sold by Intercitybike in Dronten and also Beyß in Straelen – he is just 20km away. This has started me thinking about a new Milan next year…
Thanks again to Oliver Piper for organising the Grenslandtreffen, along with his supporters and also especially Chris for doing all the original planning and organising. Chris had an operation last week so was unable to ride with us, but we wish him a quick recovery and that he is back riding his Quattrovelo soon. And, of course, we remember Erwin de Vries.
This month I have felt very fit which has given me more enthusiasm for riding. This has included bagging ’tiles’ with Veloviewer, which is a Strava add-on which shows where you have ridden, overlaying it with a 1km squared grid. If any part of your ride goes through that square tile, then you have ‘bagged’ this tile. Veloviewer will show you your maximum square, as well as max cluster etc.
This offers an opportunity to ride new roads to make sure you pass through all the squares locally. This was my square in mid-April, a square which was 6×6 in size:
By the end of May I had made quite a lot of progress with a 13×13 square and quite a lot of opportunity to increase it further with one long ride out to the west.
We had an interesting afternoon with a chap Norbert who got in touch with me through a friend who had read my blog. He was interested in velomobiles so came over one Saturday afternoon to have a look at our stable of velomobiles (four at the moment). He said he found that they were much better in real life than in pictures, and we spent a long time chatting. As well as having a good look at Emily and Millie, we also took him to our other garage to see Celeste and Bertie. He was really enthused, went on a visit to Dronten a few days later and has now ordered a velomobile.
In showing Celeste to Norbert we discovered that her paint has cracked some more.
This seems to be a result of the repair which was done last autumn – it seems that the job wasn’t done entirely successfully. Klaus has been in contact with Velomobiel.nl who did the repair and we have said we will take Celeste to them later in the year for them to put her right.
We also arranged to visit Velomobiel.nl in early June, the last weekend before our bike tour starts, as Emily is making a strange creaking noise when under load but not being pedalled. Klaus thinks it might be something to do with one of the rear free hubs and wants to get it checked out before we head off on our tour to Bodensee. So we will have a tour to Dronten over the weekend (leaving Friday afternoon) and staying at the Vrienden op de Fiets in Vaassen again. This time I will cycle up with Klaus (unless the weather is appalling) and I am thinking about perhaps getting Millie serviced as well while I am there. We shall see.
One Sunday Klaus and I decided to go for a ride to Uerdingen to enjoy a cake at the Markt Café there. We also invited Ralf, who would have to join us a bit later.
Klaus and I decided we would visit the grave of Liegender Robert on the way and pay our respects.
We of course travelled there by velomobile in his honour.
After spending a short amount of time at the grave, we carried on to Uerdingen where we were soon joined by Ralf.
Christi Himmelfahrt or Ascension Day was at the very end of May. The Thursday of Ascension Day is a public holiday but Klaus had to work on the Friday. Grensland Rijders (the Roermond-based Velomobile group) had arranged a tour for Saturday 1 June, and we had registered for this. Rather than riding the 45km to the start in Posterholt, then doing the 70km tour, then riding 45km back (as Klaus did for Oliebollentocht in the winter) we decided instead to make a weekend of it (of course!) and travel to somewhere near Posterholt on the Friday night after work.
It seems the other velomobilists had had the same idea as the local Vrienden op de Fiets were all booked up, but eventually we found a space in Boukoul which is near Swalmen, just 40km from home. The plan is to cycle there and bag some Veloviewer tiles on the way!
I will write a separate blog post about the Grensland Tour.
Once again, I had some lovely scenes on my walk to work.
This month I changed my work hours from 08:00-13:00 to 07:00-12:00. This works better with my job-share as it means someone is in the office earlier (the production area starts at 06:00). However, it means I would have to leave home at 6:10 at the latest if I walked to work, so I thought that might mean the end of my walks. Fortunately Klaus agreed to drive me to work one day, so I still had my walk home. I have now done this three times, and it is a good chance for me to still get my walking in. It also confuses my colleagues when my Velomobile isn’t parked outside so they think I haven’t turned up!
This month Poppy went on holiday to Berlin with Lars, the son of my landlord and landlady. He had visited for a week and would be back in three and a half weeks’ time and asked to take Poppy back to Berlin with him. As we know she loves the time with him, and likes travel, we agreed. But we really missed her – I came home to this note on our communal message blackboard:
It was great to welcome her back at the end of May, although she had to have a haircut straight away as she looked too much like a teddy bear, plus warm weather was coming, so she wasn’t too pleased with me.
I had a lovely long walk one day where I did a much longer circuit (10.56km) and ended up in Kreis Kleve – a walk Poppy would have really enjoyed, if she hadn’t have been in the nation’s capital at the time!
I walked up past the little stream which I think is the Eschel.
I then crossed under the A40 motorway and was in Kreis Kleve. Where we regularly cycle, but I had not walked there before.
I was very quickly away from the Landstrasse onto some lanes, which were all pretty nicely surfaced, although I didn’t see any cars. There were loads of benches to sit and relax on.
Before long I was approaching Stenden, with its interesting church in view.
I was also pleased to see these visitors returning again.
I then had to walk along the road through the village for a short way before heading over the bridge over the A40 and joining back with one of our usual walking routes. It was a really nice walk, and I treated myself to some strawberries from the farm shop on my way past.
The local strawberry/asparagus place also has some baby goats (kids) that wander around and are very sweet!
And quite a few other animals too!
I have tried to keep up the walking despite Poppy not being around and have been reasonably successful in this. I tend to want to do a walk each day, if I don’t go out I feel a bit cooped up!
Over the last few months I have shown screenshots of my VO2 Max reading as measured by my Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch. I started off with a ‘very poor’ VO2 Max reading for my age (which is 47) but it has been steadily improving due to all my walking (it is only measuring it through walking, not cycling). This month the improvement continued, and it seems I am now a 20-year-old in fitness terms!
The European Elections
I don’t want this blog to become too political as I am just so tired of it all. But readers will know that I very much support Britain remaining in the European Union – not just because that is to my benefit as someone who has exercised my right of freedom of movement, but also because I believe it is better for the UK and the rest of Europe.
I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t get a chance to vote in the European Elections as a UK citizen. I had to decide whether or not to vote in Germany (I had this option); I had to register at the Rathaus by a certain date if I wanted to vote in Germany. This date was before Britain had decided whether or not we would be taking part, but my hunch was that we would, and that I wanted to vote in England rather than Germany. So I held fire from registering in Germany and waited for my vote to come.
Finally, seven days before the vote, my documents arrived.
I filled it in immediately.
Klaus also had a postal vote as he had expected to be in Korea for work on the day of the election (although in the end that was postponed). His ballot paper was interesting and rather different than the British one which had, if I remember correctly, 7 parties:
There were also some interesting people on the German ballot, where you have to give some personal info (unlike the UK one)
We had both completed our ballots in about ten minutes and then I had to purchase the 3,70 € postage to send it back to England. I really hope the post was quick enough for it to arrive in time – a week is not that long for international letters if you are unlucky.
Of course, I was much luckier than a lot of people in France who apparently didn’t receive their postal ballots, plus of course so many of the European citizens in the UK who were denied their right to vote due to councils failing to send them a form or process it in time.
The elections are over and in Germany the results were good (in my opinion). Clearly in the UK the Brexit muddle continues. But there is nothing I can do about it now I have cast my vote, I just have to watch and wait and see.
A trip to Mannheim
More than a year ago, a WhatsApp group of Klaus’s former classmates from his secondary school/Realschule started discussing having a Klassentreffen or Class Reunion. Eventually they fixed on a date and Klaus said he would like to go. This would of course also give him an opportunity to visit his father who moved to Mannheim a few months ago.
The Klassentreffen was on a Saturday evening so we booked a hotel for Saturday. We arranged to meet with Klaus’s friend Martin after lunch on Saturday, and it was good to spend time with him. We then headed to our hotel in Lorsch which was just 2km from the bar where the Klassentreffen would take place. I dropped Klaus off at the bar at 17:00 and headed back to our hotel.
I had decided to have a mini explore of Lorsch which has in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site in its Abbey.
After doing a bit of sightseeing I stopped and had a piece of cake which was actually slightly disappointing (a bit dry). A disappointing cake is unusual in Germany!
The shops were all closed in Lorsch (Saturday afternoon is apparently not a great time for shopping!) so I went back to the hotel and then went out for a longer walk. I dropped in on Klaus’s Klassentreffen as I was round the corner and said hello, and then left him to it. He eventually rolled into the hotel at 2am, having had a really good time.
The next morning we had quite a bit of time as we had arranged to see Klaus’s father after lunch. So we went for a bit of a walk up some hills to one of Klaus’s favourite places to sit and relax. He used to mountain bike up the hills behind Heppenheim, and showed me some of the steep tracks he cycled up. We walked up ’em.
We walked back down again and then went for a coffee in Heppenheim. This is a lovely small town where Klaus lived many years ago, and the Rathaus opposite was where he got married.
After our walk around Heppenheim we headed to Mannheim. We were still early so went for a very long walk alongside the Rhein in Mannheim, another of Klaus’s favourite places where he often goes to. We walked 8km with an ice-cream stop in the middle at an outdoor swimming place.
Klaus’s father had of course made a cake for us, so we enjoyed a couple of slices of the Erdbeerboden and a good chat before heading home again. Mannheim to Kempen is just over three hours’ drive, which is not bad but we do tend to feel a bit tired after these weekends.
One of the main two purposes of the visit, the Klassentreffen, was a real success and they are already talking about doing it again. I guess Klaus will be very happy to go again!
Cakes this month
As usual, here is the gallery of cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed eating this month! For the avoidance of doubt, I have NOT eaten all of these myself.
The month of June will be very busy as we have the Grensland Tour, the ride to Dronten and then also our two week summer Velomobile tour to Bodensee. The Bodensee Tour will have separate blog posts, as will the Grensland Tour, so keep an eye out for those – no need to wait until the end of June! And, if you haven’t done it before, you can register for email updates when I write a new blog post; just put your email address in the “Subscribe to my Blog” box on the top right of this page. Your email address isn’t shared or used for anything except for emailing you when I publish a new post. I hope you enjoy them enough to want to read more!
We had slept really well in our aircraft hangar. Cycle tours are wonderful for tiring you out!
The B&B had suggested breakfast at 09:00 (not earlier) so we had a leisurely walk before breakfast where we went to the fence surrounding the Deelen airfield. We couldn’t see a lot really, but gather it is a really large site.
We walked for about 2km before returning to the aircraft hangar.
We seemed to be the only people awake, apart from the two cats who had apparently had a bit of a fight in the night. We heard lots of yowling and then the Movement Alarm on Emily sounded, so one of them must have knocked against her. This was at 3am!
Breakfast was very impressive!
In the past we have found food in NL very disappointing. However, on this trip both breakfasts and evening meals were very good. Lunches less so, and of course the cakes are a bit of a catastrophe, but it seems at least we are improving our luck with Dutch food. Perhaps our experience is leading us to make better choices!
After a leisurely breakfast and a couple of cups of tea, we packed our things and readied the velomobiles. We said goodbye to the excellent host and her dog – we would very much like to come back again to this B&B.
Our planned route for today was this:
We had posted in the Velomobilforum that we expected to be at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof at around 2pm or perhaps a bit later, if anyone wanted to join us there. We had not received any responses (a bit late notice) when we set off.
Our route started off by going downhill to Arnhem. And it was pretty hilly, so we had some high speeds on some open roads and then when we actually got into Arnhem we had some short, sharp climbs as we made our way through the outskirts of the city. My motor was again doing sterling work!
In Arnhem we crossed the John Frostbrug again, as a few weeks ago, and were now on the Radschnellweg/Fast Bike Route between Arnhem and Nijmegen. It’s an excellent route which is almost entirely on separate cycle infrastructure with not too many main road crossings. We zoomed along.
Soon we were approaching Nijmegen, which is also a bit hilly – we rode downhill to the river (and saw a fantastic cockapoo puppy in the town centre – if I’d had a chance I would have stopped to give it a cuddle, but we were going too fast on a main road!)
Almost immediately we were on a quiet country lane, despite being in the thick of Nijmegen just 600 metres ago. Impressive! We had an issue with two horses where we had to stop and wait for the young boy holding one horse to be rescued by his mum. We weren’t happy to pass with just the boy holding the horse as they can be so frightened of us.
We went through Persingen and then as we approached Wercheren there seemed to be dozens and dozens of race cyclists whizzing along on the relatively narrow cycle path. They were overtaking us at speed which is a bit scary in a velomobile as we have very limited opportunity to dodge hazards. They all disappeared up a steep slope which is where we should also have gone but we overshot. We needed time to work out the best way to get up there with all the race bikes.
In the end, we approached from the other side and it was fine as there was a brief lull in the cyclists. We were waved across the road by Marshalls and congratulated (they clearly thought we were part of this race) and then we passed a field where the racers were all collecting after their race. I think there were several hundred in the field, men and women. Some major event! I didn’t see any portaloos though! This was La Ronda de Nijmegen, as we later discovered.
We carried on of course, with a few race cyclists also going our way (after the finish, going home?). And we realised that we were back in Germany – I spotted the cycle route signs in the familiar German style. We were in the village of Zyfflich and two people on recumbent bikes waved at us, but we were moving at some speed and didn’t stop.
From Zyfflich we went through Niel and then Düffelward. We saw no cars, just a few other cyclists. Sunday morning and Kreis Kleve is really dead (apart from the thousands of cyclists back in NL and then another huge bunch we met in Düffelward, who were on the 160km La Ronda de Nijmegen route, it seems).
From Düffelward we were cycling on the dike on bricks so it was a bit bumpy. We then crossed the Spoykanal and turned south towards Kellen. We then skirted around Kleve, although we briefly considered riding into Kleve to find a café. But Kleve is big and hilly and I thought we would find somewhere to stop on our route. Although I was wrong!
We rode around Bedburg-Hau which was back on fairly familiar roads. And then we headed to Louisendorf which is a village founded by people from the Kurpfalz where Klaus hails from, so it’s like a mini homecoming. We stopped at the church in the centre of Louisendorf and stretched our legs a bit as I was feeling a bit cramped. We had done 65km without a stop and my legs were complaining a bit.
We then discovered that at 9:30 one of our velomobile acquaintances who lives in Kleve had asked where we were crossing the Rhein as he would join us for a short while, but we were already way past and he didn’t have time to come all the way to Winnekendonk where we were headed. It was a shame, but there you go.
It was just 25km from Louisendorf to Winnekendonk and includes a fantastic downhill run where I hit 60 km/h before I started to consider the approaching t-junction and bottled out. I was ahead at this point as we had had to go up a hill first and I had used my motor on maximum; Klaus was having to use leg-power alone, poor chap, plus he had all the luggage. But Emily is good and stable and he didn’t seem to mind.
From this point on we were on roads that we have regularly ridden so for me it felt like we were almost home. And then Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof hove into view – finally a chance for a cup of tea and some cake, 90km after leaving Arnhem.
As usual, it had to be the Mandarinen Schmand Kuchen. It is a real highlight of German Cakiness!
We enjoyed the relaxation, had two cups of tea and the one slice of cake each and rested a bit. I had been interested to see that my heart rate seemed to stay really low again today, as it did yesterday – averaging 95 at this point. That’s really unusual for me, I usually have a heart rate around 130. This has happened before and it seems to be related to me having a very carb-heavy breakfast, which I only do on tour.
However, after we left Winnekendonk things were a bit different. We really put the pedal to the metal, and Klaus (who was a bit quicker) rode the final 31km home at an average of 38.5 km/h. This is with a Quattrovelo which probably weighed close on 50kg with all the luggage and tools. Very impressive, although his legs were complaining about it (and not having had a warm down) the next day. I followed him at a slightly more sedate pace back (average about 36 km/h, I think), and warmed down for the final 2km or so.
In total today’s ride was just under 120 km.
The heart rate data is also interesting, as after the cake stop my heart rate returned to its ‘normal’, i.e. average of 130, with peaks around 160 bpm. You can see here the heart rate trace for the first 90km of the ride (at the beginning the heart rate monitor didn’t work, and it also stopped briefly in the middle where it appears as if I am dead on the trace):
And then we stopped for cake… After that point the heart rate hugely increased. Here is the trace for the post-cake sector:
And what can we conclude from this? I seem to ride better after cake! Good thing we had cake after 50km on the 210km ride on Friday. I have suggested to Klaus that we need to schedule in cake stops earlier on rides than 90km. I hope he will agree.
We arrived home, having remained dry despite some threatening clouds following us from Arnhem. So it seems the poncho that I purchased did its job of chasing off the rain – just 15 minutes of light drizzle over a weekend which originally forecast 6mm of rain. We were once again very lucky with the weather on our tour.
So our mini tour was at an end. Klaus has already planned the next one (we are turning a day group ride with the Grensland Rijders to a three day tour again).
Here is the Veloviewer Wheel to show you where we went on this tour:
457km is not bad for three days. Once again, thanks to my riding partner and pack mule Klaus who carted my clothes, shoes, iPad, battery charger etc around the Netherlands in his voluminous velomobile boot, whilst I just carried the rain-defying poncho as extra ballast. We had a great tour, he really enjoyed his birthday, and we visited some places that we will want to return to again.
Keep an eye out for my reports on the next tour in just a fortnight’s time…
We had already arranged to cycle some of the way with chum Alex (who originally sold me Penelope the Versatile, and then bought friend Gabi’s Quest XS). He would be very near Leiden that morning so we would arrange to meet somehow. Klaus had planned a route, Alex planned another, then Alex amended Klaus’s route and so we had a choice of three. The expectation was that we would do the Klaus Route with Alex Amendments.
The plan was for Alex to arrive at 9:30 in the morning, having overnighted just down the road as he had some reason to be there. In the end, his plans didn’t work out so he had already cycled 40km from Rotterdam when he arrived at our Birthday Castle. Here is Lewwie (the Little White Whale, Alex’s Quest XS) with Millie and Emily.
As we only had 120km to ride today we were feeling relaxed about things. Alex was having a few issues with his Wahoo Elemnt GPS as for some reason the route today wouldn’t load. Klaus was relaxing on his birthday.
We didn’t actually get to look at the Castle at all, another problem with arriving late in the evening. We stayed at a castle but only saw the reception area, dining room and our bedroom.
In the end Alex concluded he wouldn’t be able to get the track onto his GPS so he would try and remember the route. Although Klaus and I both had the route, if someone who knows the area is in front it is much easier as they know where to cross the road for the cycle path, which path to take when they split etc. So although I started off ahead, Alex took the lead position fairly soon after we were underway.
Lewwie seems quite quick at accelerating. Alex was whizzing off ahead (although presumably he wasn’t weighed down by quite as much luggage as we were!) and Klaus and I were still warming up. Then we realised that Alex had missed a turn on the track and he was ahead. I hooted my horn but he didn’t hear it (he has the removable hood on the Quest and this makes it harder to hear), and he disappeared into the distance.
Klaus and I stopped as it was for us safer to stick to the route, in case we failed to see a turn later on when blindly following Alex. We sent him a message to say he was Off Course and we were waiting. After a few minutes he replied to say he would join up with our route, so we turned round and followed the route.
It turned out (as we later saw with Strava Flyby) that Alex was back on the route ahead of us, when we thought he was behind us. So we periodically stopped and waited (and checked the phone for messages) whilst he was pushing on ahead.
So it was fairly slow going, although a lovely route through Buitenkaag, Huigsloot and then to Oude Wetering, where Klaus had a very annoyed motorist give sustained hooting as we went over the bridge on the road not cycle path (there was no way we could have done the corner to the cycle path). This sort of bad tempered behaviour by drivers when we are on the road for 100 metres or so leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
At this point also my hat blew away but Klaus was able to scoop it up from the road, hooray!
We also had a mini ferry crossing which took less than 1 minute. This was very cool, and only 90 cents per velomobile!
After Oude Wetering we had a fast bit of road towards Nieuwveen. Alex was somewhere ahead of us (and looking at Flyby later we saw he took a different route quite a lot of the time) so we pushed on a bit faster, agreeing to meet in Nieuwveen. Eventually we caught up with him – right by a bit of an obstacle, some Drängelgitter.
All three bikes were safely through in due course.
We were riding now at a fairly good speed alongside a busier road, but the path was set a little bit to the side so was reasonably pleasant. We were fast, of course, being in velomobiles, but were at one point overtaken by a little car (one of the special ones that are allowed on cycle paths – how do they press the button for the traffic lights?) as well as a motor scooter.
We rode through Vinkeveen, I was pulling ahead in the riding as Millie is so efficient and a good shape for the headwind we had. Yes, yesterday we had a headwind as we were heading west (wind was WNW) and today, heading east, the wind had also shifted and was ENE. Alex is quick in Lewwie but the Quest XS’s shape clearly limits the top speed. It is wide and short, and the Quests are also known to be sometimes a bit temperamental in strong side winds.
Finally we were away from the busy road and riding down a rather lovely cycle path. It would have been lovelier if the surface was a bit better – there were quite a lot of ruts and bumps which is sub-optimal with velomobiles.
We were heading towards a lunch stop (Alex had some ideas where) but Klaus was feeling peckish and thought we should stop for some of the cake we had brought from Germany yesterday. So we did. But first I took the opportunity for some photography of Millie and Emily for the header for this blog.
We had no plates or knife for the cake, but Klaus’s toolkit provided the all-purpose knife.
The Streuselkuchen was shared out amongst the three of us, and we nearly lost it to a passing Dobermann who fancied it. Fortunately Klaus mounted a successful defence of the Streuselkuchen!
We stopped for quite a while, enjoying the better weather and watching two storks wheeling about in the air across the canal. We also saw lots of trains going past, including a Deutsche Bahn ICE train.
We then carried on and the bridge at Mijnden was closed when we arrived.
We only had to wait a couple of minutes and then it slowly lowered again and we continued on.
We were now on a lovely bit of road with some really posh houses along the side. Alex explained that the old Amsterdam Traders used to have a posh house in this area for the weekend, and they certainly looked lovely and generally immaculately kept. I guess a bit like the Russian Dachas.
We got to another bridge and Alex took us off-route and we crossed the bridge to have some food. We had a burger and chips seated outside in a nice pedestrian square in a place called Breukelen. Which is pronounced ‘Brooklyn’. Earlier we had seen signs to Haarlem.
We had a very leisurely lunch and then it was time for us to press on and for Alex to return home. We said our goodbyes – it had been great to see him again! Alex sold Penelope my first Velomobile to me and our lives intersect regularly it seems.
On the way out of Breukelen we had another bridge that was open.
And then we were back on fast, easy roads. Having had a decent bit of food we had some more energy and rode on well, passing through Westbroek, Nieuwe-Wetering (skirting to the north of Utrecht), Den Dolder, the edge of Zeist and then we followed a main road past Austerlitz. The road was climbing here as we approached the Hoge Veluwe national park, and we had a little downhill after Austerlitz. A chance for the velomobiles to fly! I hit my max speed of 52 here but Klaus was a bit braver and went to 58 km/h.
We rode through Woudenberg and then Scherpenzeel and Renswoude. We crossed the A30 motorway and then found ourselves to the north of Ede. After Ede the National Park began in earnest, with a long climb followed by a most fantastic downhill. Not as fast as the one after Austerlitz but it went on a long time!
At the bottom our track told us to turn left, but we found ourselves in a car park with a woodland track leading in the direction our track suggested. We didn’t fancy that but I could see an alternative on the main road which would rejoin the track, so we took that way. Last-minute route changes with 10km to go can be rather annoying! Especially as we had lost all our speed from the downhill for this unnecessary left turn.
We crossed the A12 and then the A50 motorways and then turned north, away from Oosterbeek and Arnhem, towards Schaarsbergen where our B&B was.
Our B&B was up an old, brick road. As you can see from the photo below, there was a house and behind it a large barn. The barn had an interesting pointy roof…
And as we arrived, we saw there would be no issues with velomobile parking.
The owner and her dog came out to meet us and said of course we could store the velomobiles in the barn. We could store them right outside the door to our rooms, which were in the barn.
But this wasn’t actually a barn, it was an aircraft hangar!
And not just any aircraft hangar! It was built in WW2 by the Germans, and was the largest aircraft hangar in Europe at the time (although we may have remembered this wrongly).
The hangar is here because Deelen airfield was in the woods behind us. Deelen was the largest airfield in NL and was used by the Germans in WW2, although the Dutch had built it in 1913.
The structure of the hangar was amazing. Super-thick walls, the wooden beams were actually laminate, everything was original and really solid. Klaus thinks the pointy roof was so that from above it looked like a farm building, not an aircraft hangar, so perhaps this was to disguise it from British bombers.
“The airbase was used by the RNLAF without changing much of the original German buildings. As a result, it is one of very few places in Europe where the German “Heimatschutz Architektur” is well preserved. This is why the Dutch Ministry of Culture put the entire complex and its surrounding complexes -a total of 251 objects- on a heritage protection list. Its sheer size makes the Air Base the largest National Cultural Monument in the Netherlands.
The “Heimatschutz Architektur” meant that bunkers and hangars were camouflaged to make them look like Dutch farms. In fact: some of the off-base buildings are in use at farms today. Only if you inspect them up close you will notice walls are a meter (3 feet) thick, windows and doors are actually painted on walls, hatches are made of thick steel, and German texts can still be found all over the air base.
The Germans did make a mistake though: instead of using the local Gelders traditional style of building they used the Holland style. For the purpose it did not matter: the camouflage worked.”
Whatever, this was a fascinating place to stay! And for Klaus, whose birthday it was and who has a real interest in history, it was the icing on the cake!
Here are my statistics from Garmin for the day.
In the evening we walked to a pizzeria just five minutes away. Some of the old airfield buildings are being converted to homes or other purposes and there was a very nice pizzeria there. The service was a bit laid back (it was good that we weren’t in a rush!) but the pizza was tasty!
On our return Klaus took some pictures of Millie and Emily in the evening light.
We can very much recommend B&B Adelaerthoeve, as the rooms were great (we had a mini kitchen) and of course there is loads of history!
Although today was not as far to ride as yesterday, I was still pretty tired and so happy to have an early night. Klaus enjoyed his birthday – what better way to celebrate the new year of life by having a cycle ride and eating some German cake!
Months ago Klaus said what he would really like to do for his birthday is a bike tour. So we decided to do one!
As usual, our initial plans snowballed a bit, and we ended up with a three day tour, including a very long first day (a Friday). He wanted to cycle to the coast in NL which is a good 200km away. I was a bit nervous about this, but as in my family the Birthday Boy or Girl gets what they want on their birthday, I would go along with it.
We wanted to find somewhere nice to stay and I found a rather nice-looking castle just outside Leiden. So somehow the name of this tour became “Klaus’s Birthday Castle”.
Rather than riding the 200km back home again the next day (his actual birthday), we decided to ride to Arnhem and stay overnight there, then ride back home on the third day. We found a rather posh B&B in Arnhem too.
So this was the plan. We watched the weather forecast for the week beforehand. Rainy, not too warm. Then the rain became more – 16mm on the Saturday. Argh! I bought a rain poncho and then the forecast improved a bit. I had even considered taking Millie’s hood (I don’t like cycling with it that much) but the forecast improved enough that I decided to do without. 4-6mm rain over the day isn’t too awful – I had a day on a trike tour where there was 60mm of rain!
Klaus had prepared the route for day 1, from home to Leiden/Poelgeest.
The day before I had been off work (using up overtime) and I pumped up Millie’s tyres, oiled her chain, ran a wet cloth over her to remove the worst of the bird/bee poop, and of course made sure that my battery was charged up 100%. I had previously ridden the battery for 200km but I wasn’t sure if it would really last that long, particularly if there were lots of stops and starts in NL (as there can be). Of course I can pedal Millie without the battery, but who wants to do extra unnecessary effort?? As a small help I put a normal velomobile battery into Millie for her lights, rather than using the main motor battery for lighting as well. That ought to give me another kilometre-or-so’s motor power at the end!
I packed my clothing as well, bearing in mind the rainy forecast (showers and drizzle on the Friday and Saturday, about 4mm per day). I had my rain poncho of course, which I hoped would do the expected job of frightening off the rain. I tried it on in the house and it was so amazingly static that my hair stood on end; I reckon I can use it to recharge the motor battery if it gets a bit low. I had the great luxury of packing a sports bag with all that I wanted as Klaus will carry it in the Quattrovelo which has space for loads of luggage. He is very kind like that!
When Klaus got home from work we went outside to do a bit more bike preparation.
Klaus stowed his spare tubes and tyres in the storage areas at the front (which we don’t usually use as they are hard to get at). This was to allow extra space for all my luggage perhaps!
We were ready to roll. It would be a short tour (maybe 450km in total) but as it was a three day tour we had the same amount of luggage that we would need for a three week tour (3 x cycling kit, 1 x normal kit, off-bike shoes, wash kit, chargers, iPad). So it is very handy that we have the huge storage capacity of the Quattrovelo at our disposal. All I would be carrying was my normal bag with phone, purse etc, my spare shoes and the charger for Millie”s battery. So perhaps an extra 2kg of weight. Aren’t I lazy!
Friday morning I woke up at the usual time (05:30) which meant I had plenty of time to get ready. I made us a breakfast of scrambled eggs, and we were out of the house by 07:45, on the road.
Our planned distance was 198km. Klaus was a bit concerned about the cake situation in NL so suggested popping first to St Hubert and buying the Streuselkuchen from the local Stinges bakery. So we set off on our 200km tour, riding in precisely the wrong direction for the first 1.5km.
As we came out of the bakery it started to rain. The most recent forecast had suggested we might be lucky and stay dry, but our hopes were dashed.
However, as we headed north to Stenden it dried up, and we didn’t have any more rain for the next 120km.
I had decided only to use my motor on setting 1, the lowest of 5, for the whole tour, in order to eke out my battery. However, at the very beginning Klaus was riding gently to warm up, and Emily was very heavily-laden so harder to accelerate. This meant that I was sometimes pulling ahead so periodically I turned the motor off and rode under my own power for a Kilometer or so.
We usually ride the route to Siebengewald (NL border south west of Kleve) on Sunday morning when there is no traffic. This is our café-visiting route of Stenden, Pont, Walbeck, Twisteden, Weeze and then Siebengewald (2 excellent cafes on this route). We discovered that there isn’t really more traffic on Friday mornings either! It was a bit tough to ride past Winthuis, with their fantastic cakes, knowing we were heading for the cake desert of NL, but it was too soon in the tour, plus I think they wouldn’t have been open yet.
These roads are fast and we were at Siebengewald, 50km in, in good time. I suggested to Klaus that we stop after 70km for something to eat but as we arrived in the centre of Gennep we saw a bakery and decided to stop anyway, at 60km.
The bakery was empty but large. They had a huge choice of bread rolls, 2-3 different doughnuts and some muffins. Not a single creamy cake. So we both went for Milka muffins.
We had a drink too, used the loo, and headed of again after about half an hour.
The centre of Gennep was rather nice actually. I hadn’t been there before, we always seem to cycle round the edges, but it seemed to have some nice shops and had a paved, pedestrianised centre. We followed our Garmins through this centre, following an official cycle route until… some Drängelgitter!
We both had to get out of our velomobiles to get through here. Annoying.
Then, about 500 metres further on our Garmin route tried to send us down an unmade road. I had turned off the main road of course, before seeing that it was a rough, rutted track, so we had to do a 10-point-turn and then accelerate onto a busy road again. Two bad bits of Velomobile-unfriendly routing in 1km suggested that we might have some more issues on this ride. Which we did. It had been prepared with the Dutch Fietserbond website, set for a race bike, but this clearly assumed race bikers don’t mind off-road.
In this case we could just follow the main road and it joined up with our track soon enough, just a couple of hundred metres extra in distance.
We rode past Milsbeek and then through Mook, which is a name we see on the A73 motorway when driving to Dronten but we had not previously visited.
We crossed over the Maas-Waal Kanaal at Molenhoek/Heumen and then left the Maas and went north west towards Wijchen, bypassing Nijmegen on this ride.
We rode through Wijchen and, once again, were reminded why cycling in NL towns is not great for velomobiles. There are speed bumps everywhere, and the very steep ones can be tough for Millie’s foot bump. The sound of scraping is very familiar, plus you have to slow down to walking pace to reduce the crash. Constant stopping and starting is very tiring!
We rode through Bergharen and then Ito Puiflijk, where our route was faced with this:
The driver was playing on his phone and didn’t look up until I had done some sustained hooting. He climbed out, came to see me and said he had to stay there as we was waiting for the farmer to finish something in the field. He wouldn’t move.
There was a gravelly path to one side and a passer-by said we could take that, but we weren’t too enthused. However, with no alternative we gave it a go. However, at the end was a pair of gates (Drängelgitter) that were too narrow too get the velomobiles through, so we had to push them round the side – where there was a steep drop to some water. Klaus and I carefully guided Millie and Emily round, lifting up their noses to get them back onto higher ground when round the obstacle. I would not have managed this on my own, and I think we lost at least 15 minutes to this obstruction. But the truck driver didn’t seem to care!
We saw trucks parked blocking the road, but we saw lots of good things too! Lots of lambs in the fields, also kids (baby goats), and we saw several storks too. I saw one on a nest (Klaus saw two), one in the air and one standing in a field. They are huge and majestic birds! I also saw a very large heron who seemed to be only a few metres away, standing like a statue as I whizzed past along the dike.
When the road surface was good we made the most of it, cruising at around 32 km/h. Our speeds in towns were much less, and our overall average for the day was slowly reducing. When we crossed into NL at Siebengewald our average speed had been 27 km/h but by the end of our ride it was 24.4, and this was mostly because of the slow riding in towns. But not just that…
We had some more routing issues. Some were our faults, when we had misread the track. Such as here, where I went wrong not once but twice:
Part of the problem was that our track was 200km long in a more-or-less straight line and the Garmin takes a long time to rotate the map when it is so long. So you go round a corner and the map is not rotated to the ‘track up’ position for several seconds. So you don’t realise you needed to make a second turn, perhaps. I had found this out years ago but had forgotten about it, or perhaps thought the newer Garmin Edge could cope. But in the future I will cut tracks of this length into two.
Another issue that we had with the track was its expectation we might like to carry two heavily-laden velomobiles up a long flight of concrete steps.
Funnily enough, we decided we didn’t really fancy doing this, so had a 2-3km diversion back the way we had come to find our way to the bridge.
However, experienced velonauts such as Klaus and I are used to these issues and we were able to plot an alternative route on the fly.
As we were cycling along beside a canal, Klaus noticed a yellow DF Velomobile cycling on the other side.
The clouds were getting a little heavier but overall it was still dry. We wanted to find somewhere to stop for lunch but our track didn’t go past any food establishments at all!
We were going at a reasonable speed but weren’t passing any towns. We did pass a golf course which I guess might have had a café but I didn’t fancy that.
In the end we struck lucky at a diner beside a ferry river crossing.
Klaus and I were able to charge up our Garmins. The Edge 1000 has an internal battery and although I had bluetooth switched off, because of the route following and the length of the route it was rather draining power. We were able to charge both Garmins whilst eating our “12 o’clock”.
I considered also charging the battery in Millie but I decided I wanted to see if it would really last the 200km so left it in place.
There were some clouds amassing whilst we were eating.
And indeed, as we joined the queue for the ferry crossing, it started to rain. Not such an issue for Klaus’s head with the covering on the Quattrovelo, but he got a slightly cold and damp chest where the water dripped off the visor. He didn’t put the Schaumdeckel on in support of me with no rain hood!
We crossed on the ferry and set off in the rain. The rain wasn’t too heavy fortunately but was still rather irritating and Klaus found he was getting a bit chilly.
Our route went over a lock near Wijk bij Duurstede and then, lo and behold, there was another error with the route as we should then cycle underneath a main road… which had no tunnel underneath it. We were able to find an alternative route on the main road which got us back to our official route, although we had to double back on ourselves a bit. And, when we finally got on the correct route, we found that our suggested path was actually a track with grass up the middle. No way were we taking that! So we retraced our steps again, rejoined the main road we had just left, and pootled on.
Fortunately the rain eased off after half an hour and we didn’t have any further rain that day (or, indeed, the rest of the tour).
After this detour we then found ourselves on a very bad quality road surface. It was inlaid bricks as the road surface but it had really degraded. This was several kilometres along a canal and it was tough work – the vibration buzz from the bricks is uncomfortable, plus there were a lot of dips in the road. Riding behind the Quattrovelo it was interesting to see the air damper suspension working as Klaus seemed to pogo a bit after each bump (although it was no issue for him within the bike). Millie coped fairly well, but with 28mm front tyres at 100psi (8 bar) it wasn’t the smoothest ride I have experienced. The rough surface of course slowed us down as you cannot ride at high speeds with all the bumps and weird dips and slopes.
Clearly our distance to ride today was being extended because of all the detours, route issues and our occasional mistakes on reading the routing too slowly. Time was also marching on a bit too much for my liking as it seemed we would get to our hotel quite late. We had arranged to eat in the hotel at 7pm but that was looking a bit too much of a challenge.
We rode through Nieuwegein, Montfoort, Linschoten and Woerden. The route was a bit faster now, we were cycling along some high quality lanes and past some rather nice houses.
We got separated crossing a level crossing (I was ahead and then the gates went down) so I waited the other side for Klaus, only to receive a text message “puncture”. So I headed back.
This was a quality puncture as the cause was… a lady’s earring!
Disappointingly it was costume jewellery rather than some super-expensive diamond gold item.
Tube replaced and tyre reinflated, we were back on the road again after ten minutes.
We zoomed through Nieuwerbrug aan den Rijn (which had a lovely bridge, but I didn’t get a chance to stop and photograph it) and then Bodegraven. Then we went through Alphen aan den Rijn,, and around this time we saw another velomobile, a yellow and white Quattrovelo, although the rider didn’t stop. It was a fiddly road around Alphen and we were slowed down a lot by drempels again.
Leiden was getting closer, fortunately. We were clearly going to be much later than expected, and when we got into Leiden itself this was even worse as we were routed through back streets which had huge, steep drempels which scraped Millie’s underside each time. I was feeling pretty tired by this point – not so much physically but mentally. When riding a velomobile on the cycle path you have to be constantly vigilant, checking no cars are coming out of side roads, dog walkers or runners stepping out in front of you. You have to avoid potholes, sticks and stones. Because of the higher speed of a Velomobile, and the difficulties in turning it sharply, you have to take a different line in many corners, which means thinking further ahead with regard to road positioning. You are of course constantly watching out for the car driver who is playing on his phone rather than looking where he is going. And at the same time you have to follow the track on your Garmin through a strange city. I was mentally bushed, and asked Klaus to take over the lead through Leiden. Both our Garmins were running low on charge too, so each detour (which caused it to recalculate the route) was draining the battery further. I wanted to get to our hotel, have a shower and relax!
The final 4km through Leiden seemed to take ages because of all the stops and starts, we had to take some alternative routes, and had also to contend with a kid in a hoodie who seemed entirely oblivious of me cycling past him when he set off. I had to shout at him to “LOOK!” And he kept up with us for the next two kilometres, still not able to see around him because of the hoodie. I was very concerned he would crash into us.
The last 1.5km were fortunately on a decent cycle path beside a fast road, and at last the stop/start riding was over. And then we rolled into the grounds of the castle Oude Poelgeest, and eventually found our way to reception. It was already past 7pm so we were late for our meal, but the receptionist said we could eat at eight.
Millie’s battery had indeed lasted the 109km that I rode today:
Please note that the wheel size setting doesn’t have many options and so as I have low profile tyres it slightly under-reads the distance. I had indeed done 208km, not 199.6. Also, although it says 26 per cent battery remaining, that is because the bike was stationary when I took the photo. When using it, it read about 18-19 per cent. I would not have wanted to have too much further to ride! But still, it did an excellent job.
After a shower and freshen up we went for a very nice three course dinner in the restaurant. We weren’t given a menu, just told the waitress any foods we didn’t like and the Chef chose for us. He chose well!
I was pretty tired after the riding as it was a long day – 208.64km (with about another 500 metres which didn’t record when my Garmin crashed right at the beginning). Moving time was 8 hours 38 minutes, average speed 24.2 km/h and calorie burn was 2,466! So I deserved the nice evening meal.
I also said to Klaus that I felt 200km in one day on a tour was too much because of the amount of time it takes. We left home before 8 in the morning but didn’t reach our hotel till after 7pm, which meant we had no relaxation time there, and had to eat the meal and then go straight to bed. I am more of a fan of relaxed touring, with maximum 130km in a day. I am not sure if Klaus agreed to this – time will tell!
Our room was actually quite small, but the hotel allowed Millie to be kept in the lobby overnight so she was out of the rain (if there were to be any). I had to switch the tracker vibration alarm off, though, as each time someone went out the door banged and it set off the alarm. But all was well with Millie and she seems to have enjoyed her overnight in a Castle – as did we!
I ended last month with the cliffhanger… what would happen at my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) with regard to Brexit?
Of course, Brexit was delayed from its original date of 29 March 2019, thus meaning that when I arrived for my appointment at the Kreishaus Viersen on 1 April (I had lived exactly five years in Germany at this point) I was still a European citizen.
The lady with whom I had an appointment said she had expected me not to show up, as Brexit hadn’t happened! However, I said to her that I would like some kind of documentation to show that I had now lived in Germany for five years as an EU citizen so was theoretically entitled to remain permanently. Unfortunately Kreis Viersen doesn’t offer the usual document for EU citizens (because they don’t need it, because they are EU citizens so have the right to remain anyway!) so all she could do is prepare the documents for me for after Brexit. I had already found this document and filled it in as much as possible, so she said they would hold it on file so I would be one of the first processed after Brexit (whenever it comes, hopefully never).
This involved taking my fingerprints, a copy of a photograph of me for the future ID card, and evidence of my employment income (I had the last few payslips with me). My huge folder of documents, including bank statements, education certificates, rental contract etc etc was not needed.
I asked her if I could have some kind of document to prove that I had attempted to gain my Niederlassungserlaubnis because I felt rather unsure of the situation when Brexit came. How quickly would I be able to get an appointment, for example. She discussed with a colleague and in the end provided me with a letter which basically just shows that I have put in an application for a right to remain, and that I am currently allowed to remain in Germany.
I don’t suppose this document is worth very much really but at least it is something, and Germans do like their pieces of paper!
So after all the preparation for this appointment, gathering together all my documentation over the last 4-5 months, it was a bit of a damp squib. But at least I have now handed in my application for the Aufenthaltserlaubnis (leave to remain) so hopefully that will all be accepted when the time comes.
Cycling this month
Here is where I went this month:
And here is the list of rides:
A large distance this month was of course the tour that Klaus and I did in the Netherlands following his Dronten trip. You can read a separate blog post about our Easter NL Tour here.
I of course continued to cycle to work, the 4.2km each way taking just under ten minutes. It’s no quicker by car. And I get some lovely morning views across the fields.
In addition to our Netherlands Tour, Klaus and I also had a longer ride in NL one Saturday.
This ended up as a 120km tour. Our plan was first to go to Café Schafstall in Twisteden for some cake, and then ride to the Netherlands, returning back via the Reuver/Kessel ferry.
We enjoyed a slice of cake at Schafstall…
And then headed downhill into NL, crossing the river Maas on a bridge at Knikkerdorp.
We were going really well as it was nice weather and we zoomed south, heading towards Kessel. We decided to stop for lunch at Grubbenvorst, and parked next to another interesting vehicle!
We had a lunch of soup and then headed on, zooming our way through Venlo and down to Kessel. The velomobiles were both flying!
We crossed the ferry at Kessel/Reuver and then rode home up the hill at Weissen Stein. I have to say, it’s much more fun now I have a motor in the velomobile!
This wasn’t our only long Sunday ride into NL. At the end of April we did another trip, this time with Ralf. I had so enjoyed the slice of Erbeer Baiser Kuchen at Winthuis on our way back from our Easter NL tour that I suggested we went there the following Sunday. Ralf agreed to come too!
Ralf came to our house at 9am. We had agreed to check the weather in the morning as there was some rain threatened but in the end it was nicer than expected and we didn’t get rained on at all.
This was our track for the day:
The route to Winthuis is one that we regularly do with Ralf – we love these fast roads heading north-west from Kempen. We ride first through Kerken, then bypass Geldern by heading to Pont, then Walbeck (on a major road but it has a wide side strip we can use), then towards Weeze going through Twisteden. This always gives us an option for another decent Bauerncafé!
We arrived at Winthuis and I initially thought it was closed as there didn’t seem much going on. I said if that were so then we could just go back to Twisteden and Café zum Schafstall but Ralf was running out of energy (he had ridden an extra 20km and had not done so much cycling over the last few months due to a short hospital stay). Fortunately the café was indeed open.
I ordered the Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen of course, but Klaus went for a Black Forest Gateau
and Ralf for a Käse Sahne Torte.
They were great of course, and we enjoyed the relaxation after working fairly hard to get to Weeze.
We then headed off to the Netherlands.
The clouds were massing but fortunately we avoided the rain.
This ride ended up at 76km in total for us, quite a bit further for Ralf who stayed with us until Wachtendonk. I had assumed he would peel off for home in Straelen, but I think he was enjoying being part of this speedy Velomobile train! Our average speed ended up at 29 km/h.
One other cycling event this year was the Spezi Radmesse. Klaus and I went together and spent about three hours there as we had an afternoon appointment. It was great to meet up with many friends again, and also to see what is going on in the world of velomobiles and recumbents.
A lot of our friends cycled there. We were quite envious of them for the ride, but it’s a long way (we did it four years ago by trike!). We were disappointed not to bump into Andrew Allen and John Williams, two Brits who were there. We hope maybe to catch up with them when we are in the UK in September.
As well as cycling, I have also continued my walking in the month of April. I have walked 130km in total in April, including at least one day per week walking the 8.2km round trip to work and back. However, my working hours have now changed so I am starting at 7am rather than 8am which might put paid to the commuting by walking (I would need to leave the house around 6am which is a trifle early!)
A side-effect of the walking is that my Vo2 Max has continued to improve.
As a reminder, when I first bought my Garmin smartwatch it calculated my VO2 max as “Poor or very poor”, 29 on the scale, and that my fitness age was 53 years old. Seeing as I am 47 and a regular cyclist that was a bit surprising!
However, over the time with all the walking my VO2 max has gradually improved.
So that at the end of April it was at a rather pleasing 38, so my fitness age is 26!
My Garmin only measures my VO2 max when walking, not cycling; if I had a power meter on Millie it would measure it during cycling and would probably provide a different measurement because the two sports are different, although I guess with my electric motor it wouldn’t work anyway!
And another beneficiary of the walking is…
Poppy the dog is getting very fit now, as she gets walks from me/us each day, plus walks from Gudula. Gudula also takes her inline skating, and came to visit me at work one day with Poppy (at least a ten kilometre round trip).
She seems not to have entirely given up her aspirations to car driving though.
Poppy often gets evening walks with us, now that it stays light until nearly nine pm.
And during my afternoons free from work, if the weather is nice, we go for a longer walk too.
The scenery where we live is lovely, although Klaus suffered from hayfever this month.
An interesting thing about hay fever… in the UK there are three different tablets commonly available in supermarkets/chemists: Cetirizine hydrochloride, Loratadine and Acrivastine. The first two are cheap as chips, the Acrivastine is harder to find and about three times the price. They all have different ways of working. We stocked up big time on the first two and bought one packet of Acrivastine when in the UK last September as antihistamines cost about ten times as much in Germany.
Last year on our summer tour we both got itchy skin rashes from the Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars and I had read that Cetirizine antihistamines can help with this; of course, on that occasion we had the Loratadine with us. We know for our next summer tour!
Anyway, this year the Cetirizine wasn’t helping Klaus, nor was the Loratadine. I had one box of the more expensive Acrivastine and he tried that for the first time and it worked for him, although the tablets are only for eight hours (rather than the full day of the others). Which made them even more expensive… It was £7 for 24, whereas the others are about £2.30 for a pack of 30.
Anyway, as he only had the one packet of 24 Acrivastine we started seeing about getting some more. And as I had been warned by friend Babs, it seems Acrivastine is not available at all in Germany. How odd! So my next cunning plan was to cycle to NL and buy some there; however, I soon saw that there are very few Apotheeks/chemists compared to the number in Germany. I wanted to go to Arcen (a nice ride from here) but they had none. Venlo had several chemists but I am less keen on cycling there, I wanted to check the tablets would be available. I couldn’t tell, so I asked Dutch chum Alex who told me Acrivastine is only available on prescription in the Netherlands. So no luck there.
Fortunately the hay fever time had passed before we ran out of Acrivastine, but we know to stock up again as soon as we are in the UK. And how strange, that despite the European Union the authorisations for these tablets are so different. (Medications are massively cheaper in the UK than in Germany so we buy paracetamol and ibuprofen when visiting the UK too).
Back to walking now! My work walking commute is also still fun.
Still eating Keto
The Keto diet continues. I have now lost 17 kg since January, and not been hungry during that time. I allow myself a slice of cake during a cycle ride but try not to do that too often as then I would slip too far out of ketosis and start getting hunger pangs/sugar cravings again.
Here are some more pics of the Keto food that we eat. All prepared freshly, with fresh vegetables, meat from the local butcher, lots of cream and butter and cheese. Wonderful!
It seems this month my cooking has tended more to traditional British food. I also made a lovely butter chicken curry. Klaus has also cooked as well, of course – he is the expert with pork steaks. We are both eating really well, and enjoying our daily strawberries from the Asparagus grower down the road.
I also finally managed to make a decent Keto bread. It has almond flour, chia seeds, quark and a few other bits and bobs.
Cakes this month
Of course my blog cannot be complete without the gallery of cakes this month. These have been shared by Klaus and I. Good thing we are also doing lots of cycling!
May will be a busy month. Klaus celebrates his birthday and of course we will go on a bike tour for it (NL again!) He also has to go to Korea for work for a week which is not such fun. We have a couple of bank holidays which is nice, as we also did in April. And we possibly have the European elections too (I decided to vote with my UK postal vote rather than in Germany, as I want to be a pro-European Brit).
The Easter long weekend of 2019 turned out to have a rather good weather forecast. Rather good for bike touring!!
Unfortunately, before the thought of touring had had much of a chance to get established, Emily (Klaus’s Quattrovelo) broke yet another weld in her rear suspension/axle/frame whilst we were out on a ride together. It made the back end very swimmy and we rode home very carefully.
We needed another trip to Dronten to get it welded. We hoped this could be done soon, and so contacted Velomobiel.nl who said they could do it on Easter Saturday.
This looked like curtains for our tour, except I managed to work out a cunning plan!
Plan was, that we would (once again!) steal friend Ralf’s Sprinter and drive Emily up to Dronten. I would then drive straight home again, leaving Klaus there, return the Sprinter to Ralf, drive home to Kempen and then jump in Millie and ride north. Klaus, after Emily was fixed, would ride south and we would meet somewhere in the middle to start our tour.
We decided to use Vrienden op de Fiets again, and after quite a lot of phoning around I found accommodation for the two nights (Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday) that we planned to be away.
So on Good Friday late afternoon we collected the Sprinter from Ralf and installed Emily, ready to leave early the next morning. We needed as much time as possible as we each had 90km to ride to our evening accommodation and I also had 450km to drive in total.
We arrived at Velomobiel.nl in Dronten just after they opened and disgorged Emily. Allert started straight away doing the repair – this was a known issue, the manufacturers in Romania had switched from the specified 4mm metal for the weld to 3mm. Allert was now replacing them with 5mm to be sure.
The rear axle assembly thingie was out very quickly.
It was at this point that I headed off home again, knowing I had nearly three hours of driving till I was home again and then had to head off in Millie to meet Klaus between Doesburg and Doetinchem. So I waved goodbye to the guys at Velomobiel.nl, and Klaus of course, and headed back to Germany.
I passed the amazing display of tulips along the road from Dronten to Zwolle. Klaus fortunately was able to photograph it later when he rode past.
Sprinter refuelled and returned to Ralf, five minutes fuss and attention to his two lovely doggies, and then it was time to head home. I didn’t bother to have any lunch but changed directly into my cycling gear and fished Millie out of the garage. I had already packed all my stuff yesterday to save time. And I was this time carrying all my own luggage – usually I have Klaus as my pack mule but I wanted to see if I could carry touring luggage for a long tour now my battery for the motor is taking up a lot of space, as I am vaguely formulating plans to do a solo tour in July (when Klaus is away).
Anyway, the good news is that all my luggage fit perfectly week. For a three day tour I needed pretty much the same amount of luggage as for a three week tour (three sets of cycle clothing, one set of normal clothes, a change of shoes, charging cables and gadgets). The only thing I didn’t take with me that I usually do is my iPad. I regretted that choice as it’s no fun reading the entire internet on a small phone screen.
This was my route for my solo tour to Wehl (between Doetinchem and Doesburg):
As you see, the route is mostly in Germany, it was just the final 30km which was in the Netherlands. I followed our normal route to Rees am Rhein and from this point onward used a track that Klaus has used on his trips back from Dronten which he said was a really nice route. He was right!
My original plan was to ride to Rees and there eat some cake or ice cream. However, having not had any breakfast or lunch, and being concerned about the detour into Rees and the slow roads around there, I decided instead to make a 5km detour on my way to visit our favourite café for cake, Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This was after just 31km of my 90km route, but I thought it was still worth it!
Büllhorsthof had my favourite Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen which I enjoyed very much.
Millie was parked alongside lots of other e-bikes (yes, she is now an e-bike of course), but also this rather fetching trike.
After enjoying my cake in the relaxing surroundings, it was time to head onward. Klaus was already on his way, and had in fact left Dronten before I had returned to Kempen, so I knew he was probably ahead of me on the tour. But this was fine, we could arrive any time in the afternoon. No pressure!
I headed onward, enjoying the ride and giving it some gas. With the motor I have the opportunity to choose how much assistance I want – lots, little, none. The motor also switches off after you reach a certain speed and I was riding faster than the switch-off speed for quite a lot of my ride today. I worked quite hard in the end, enjoying the effort and knowing that if my knees started to complain I could dial back my efforts and let the motor take the strain.
With about 10km to go I received a message from Klaus saying he had arrived and it was ‘beautiful’. We knew we were staying in some kind of Garden House (we always choose that with Vrienden op de Fiets as it means there is likely to be a large enough garden to store the velomobiles!), but as I rolled past (remembered the wrong house number and overshot!) it seemed not so much a shed as a… house. A four-bedroom house with kitchen, lounge, range-style six burner cooker, everything you need… and for 22,50€ each per night including breakfast. What a bargain!
Klaus had been there about half an hour and had a good chat with the hosts. I had my shower and freshened up. I had cycled 91.36km at an average speed of 28.9 km/h.
We were about 3.5km outside of Wehl so decided to take the bikes to look for food, rather than walking, and soon found ourselves at a pizzeria. We parked outside – along with all the other guests who seemed to have arrived by bike too.
We sat outside and enjoyed our pizzas before returning home for a nightcap of a cup of tea and an Easter present… some genuine Dairy Milk chocolate my Mum had brought with her from England and I saved for Easter. My first milk chocolate since the beginning of the year (because of Keto).
The next morning was Easter Morning and I took a short walk to enjoy the peacefulness of the country setting.
The bikes had spent the night out-of-doors but seemed to cope OK. We found a peacock looking at them later on.
We were treated to an excellent breakfast, and the lady said we could make sandwiches out of things that were left over (and gave us sandwich bags for them), so we were able to sort out our lunch too.
As you can see from the breakfast, this was not exactly Keto (very low carb)! We put the Keto way of eating aside when on bike tours as it’s just too hard to find the right food otherwise!
We had a leisurely breakfast and then got ready to go. We headed off at about 10 as we knew we only had 90km to do and the next hosts would not be available until 16:00.
My original plan was to skirt around Arnhem but as we had more time I suggested we went into Arnhem and visited the museum for the Bridge Too Far. I had visited it about 10 years ago and fancied another look (it is a very small museum). So we plotted a detour to take us through Arnhem.
We set off on very quiet roads, a wonderful route on quiet roads which mostly avoided cycle paths.
We arrived in Arnhem and stopped outside the museum, which looked a lot different than I remembered. It seems it must have been completely rebuilt. I had a quick look around, used their loo, but there wasn’t much to see really. Slightly disappointing.
As we had so much time on our hands we cycled a little way towards the centre and stopped for a cup of tea in a large open square. We relaxed there for nearly an hour, and then decided to head off again. We asked a guy on the next table how to get onto the bridge as a cyclist, and he suggested our route. We set off and were crossing the John Frost bridge and quickly out of Arnhem on some very good cycle paths.
Our route soon joined the dike where the path runs along the top, and this was a wonderful and fast bit of cycling. Slow sweeping curves, not too many cars, great views, various bridges.
The motorbikes were a bit kamikaze at times, as were the other cyclists who pootle along at normal bike speeds and don’t perhaps realise how speedy the velomobiles are, but it was a really enjoyable stretch of route with lots to look at.
We stopped at a bench and ate our sandwiches and had some water whilst soaking up the nice weather.
We carried on, and started thinking that an ice cream might be a nice idea. As our radar to find cakes or ice creams in NL isn’t very effective (unlike in Germany), we decided to stop at a McDonalds when we saw one for a McFlurry.
Suitably refuelled, we headed on again.
Our route (planned using the online software brouter and set for Velomobile) was generally pretty good, but it let us down slightly as we came to the bridge to cross the Waal at Beneden-Leeuwen…
We arrived up the slope where the car is in the photo and then the track sent us round this circle and up the narrow (and VERY steep path) on the bottom right hand side. Needless to say, this would not have been a wise idea in a velomobile. Some people were waiting on the top of the bridge (from where I took this photo later) and they did some hand signals to show us the correct route, which we duly followed and arrived on the bridge in a more elegant fashion.
We had a ferry crossing of the river Maas a little later on, where it is pretty narrow.
We were still a bit early as we would probably arrive before 4pm so decided to stop for a cup of tea in Lith, with just 10km to go to our destination. We stopped at a café looking over the river although it was a bit downmarket; when we headed off half an hour later we passed several nicer-looking cafes in the centre of the town. Oh well! We had our drinks and the chance for the loo.
The final sector from Lith to ‘t Wild (part of Maren-Kessel) was on inland roads which were rather a rough surface and with drempels (speed bumps) but few cars. We cruised along and soon arrived at the house. The owners came out to meet us and helped us to move the velomobiles to the garden. It turned out I hadn’t put their correct email address in the confirmation email I sent them so they didn’t get it and wondered if we would actually be coming; fortunately they decided we would!
Our accommodation this time was a granny annexe they had built for when they were perhaps a bit older. It was wheelchair-accessible, including a shower, and everything was really high quality. All the fixtures, fittings, tiling etc. When the next morning we went into their part of the house for breakfast we saw the same attention to quality there. It was all very nice.
We had a cup of tea and the hostess offered to book us a table at the restaurant 1.5km away along the dike. This was most handy, so we asked for a table at 6:30pm and that was fine. We showered and then walked along the dike to the restaurant where I had lamb and Klaus steak. Very nice!
The walk back was as the sun was low in the sky and it was all rather beautiful.
Our total distance for today was 85.56km which we rode at an average of 25.6km/h. Interestingly, my average heart rate was 99, so this suggests I was being very lazy today and letting the motor take most of the strain! Usually my heart rate average is 130-140. However, the massive influx of carbohydrate at breakfast, which I am not used to, might also have played a part!
Here is the map of where we went with the white markings above the blue showing how little effort I was actually expending. If you look at the map from the previous day, you can see my effort/heart rate showing in lots of colours!
After a good night’s sleep it was time for our return leg, but first I decided to go for a bit of a walk before breakfast.
A short lap around the block including along the dike, just 1.5km but still a nice bit of refreshment before sitting all day in a velomobile.
Breakfast was great!
Again, not very Keto, and Klaus and I were slightly feeling the digestive effects of all these carbohydrates, but it’s tricky to eat low-carb for breakfast anywhere really.
Our route home today was 115km. We had decided we would stop at Bauerncafé Winthuis just outside Weeze (back in Germany) and posted on the Velomobilforum to ask if anyone would like to join us. We thought we would be there around 2pm.
We thanked our hosts again and said goodbye, heading off into wind this time, and in fact we had a headwind pretty much the whole way.
Our route today was also not quite as nice – more bumpy roads and also a fair stretch on a cycle path beside a main road. Each time you have a roundabout or a junction there is a curve which can be tricky for a Milan, plus sometimes visibility is poor. Our average speed was fairly low for this section, and my heart rate too didn’t want to raise at all. We pootled along.
Our routing was mostly OK except for yet another random off-road section, such as we had yesterday. Again, to get onto a bridge. Obviously the local mountain-bikers do the shortcut up the bank of the bridge but this is not suitable for velomobiles.
We hadn’t particularly discussed our strategy for a break but apart from a pee break behind a tree for me, we didn’t see anywhere suitable to stop. And then we were getting close to roads we know well and so we just pressed on. In the end we rode 80km non-stop, then arriving at Bauercafe Winthuis where we rewarded ourselves with cake.
The strawberry cake is so wonderful, I think it classes as the nicest cake I have ever eaten!!
The opportunity was too good to miss, so Klaus and I had another round of cakes whilst we chilled out waiting to see if any of the Velomobilforum readers might turn up (they didn’t)
We stayed about an hour and a half, enjoying the relaxation and of course the cakes. And then it was time to head home, just 35km along some of our favourite fast roads.
What was also very noticeable was that after I had the cake, I was able to increase my power and my heart rate went right up. You can see from the graphic below where the cake stop was (at 80km).
We absolutely zoomed home, looking forward to a cup of tea and a bit of a chill out after our really enjoyable short trip away. In the end we did 116km with an average speed of 26.1; our average was hovering around 24,5 whilst in NL but we were able to speed up a lot once we got to Germany again.
This was a lovely little break and we were really thrilled by the quality of the Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation. It’s a very fair price and it is nice to meet the hosts; mostly these places aren’t in the centre of cities (which would not have space for our velomobiles anyway) but are in the countryside but we are fine with that, we like being in the peace and quiet.
Our next NL tour is in just a couple of weeks, as we are touring to Leiden and celebrating Klaus’s birthday on that trip.
And summary of the velomobiles performance? Once Emily was fixed, all was fine. No repairs needed, no punctures, easy touring with loads of luggage space in the Quattrovelo, good cooling whilst riding so we didn’t overheat in the 25 degree temperatures. I finished each day’s riding with about 80% battery left, 90% on the first day (when I pushed more myself). The battery should be fine for the 190km to Leiden in the next few weeks. And touring with Millie with her motor shows me that, once again, it was a great choice for me. I still have enough space for my luggage (although Klaus carried it for me on the second and third days, but that’s because he is gentlemanly), Millie’s handling hasn’t changed in any way the worst, and she is still a brilliant velomobile for me.
I am writing this on 31 March. Until a few days ago I assumed I would no longer be an EU citizen on this date. But, hurrah, that is not the case! Tomorrow is my visit to the Ausländerbehörde, the Foreigners Office, in Viersen; hopefully there I will be able to get some kind of documentation for the fact I will have lived 5 years in Germany. This time five years ago I was heading to Harwich on my way to the ferry to start my new life (not that I knew at the time it would be my new life!) So much has happened in those five years, but it has been very good!
Cycling this month
Here is where I went this month by bike:
And here is the list of rides. This totalled 298km by bike, but I also walked 97km too!
Long term readers of my blog will remember Celeste, Klaus’s Strada velomobile. This had been damaged by some vandals and then repaired, but had been stored in our next door neighbour’s workshop as we didn’t have space in our garage at the house and we weren’t happy with the security at the other rented garage (where Celeste was vandalised).
Some months ago we met Inge and her husband Frank, as well as her brother (also called Frank) and talked a lot about velomobiles. She was very interested in trying out Celeste to see if it would suit, so we extracted Celeste from the neighbour’s garage and Klaus cycled her to Inge’s.
Before Celeste went to Inge’s, however, Poppy had to have a little go…
Inge had to buy some SPD shoes of course, but otherwise we didn’t need to do much to Celeste at all as Inge’s leg length seems to fit with the chain length in Celeste.
We have been out for a couple of rides with her and Celeste, it is funny to follow that celeste-coloured shape again after a full year of Quattrovelo following!
We are letting Inge use Celeste for several weeks before she has to decide whether or not to buy her. Celeste is an ideal velomobile for most uses and a bit easier to maintain than the Quattrovelo or Milan, plus she is very quiet. So far Inge seems to be enjoying using her!
Millie’s brake and spokes repair
This month saw (finally!) the repair to Millie’s sticking brake.
The brakes in the Milan (as in most other velomobiles) pass through the plates where the steering rods are attached. The Milan brake cable makes a 180 degree turn in order to go inside the front suspension and up to the brake drum. You can see a picture here.
I had ordered a new brake sheath (the metal bit at the end) from the UK as I couldn’t find this type in Germany. It took a couple of weeks to arrive but eventually came. I didn’t have an opportunity to do the repair, and then wanted to ride Millie one Friday afternoon. It was impossible, the brake was constantly stuck on and squealing. So the next day it was a definite job to do!
First of all, we laid Millie on her side on the garden table. Here you can see both wheels still in place.
Then it was time to remove the right hand wheel (although we needed to do both, as there was also a broken spoke on each wheel).
This had previously taken us hours but Frank had a convenient tool that we could use. He was originally going to help me but ended up not being available so Klaus and I had to have a go on our own.
On the left hand wheel we also had to unscrew the speed sensor for the Bafang motor, which was cable-tied to the bunged-up brake cable.
We managed to get the wheel off after about 10 minutes.
And were left this this arrangement inside the wheel well.
Klaus is holding onto the brake cable in that photo. The idea was to just pull the metal brake noodle thingie off. But would it come off? No!
More and more pulling… unsuccessful
The problem was that the brake noodle thingie was getting caught on the end of the brake cable which was a bit split. We had no success so in the end Klaus resolved to cycle to a bike shop and buy a new brake cable and we would cut this one off.
We were then able to pull out the entire brake cable. Which involved some fiddling on the tiller too…
So off he went to buy a brake cable or three (I suggested two spares as well!) and I replaced the broken spoke on the wheel.
Klaus returned, having invested 15 Euros in some decentish cable (Shimano rather than No-Name).
We would now have to feed the new cable into the old sheath. The possibility had been to change the sheath too, but as everything is rather hidden away around the tiller I didn’t fancy that, although it probably would not have been as bad as I had feared.
The new cable ran nicely down inside the cable sheath until right at the end… where it was presumably still full of a bit of gunk which had caused the issue before. We sprayed some teflon fluid down it but no luck. In the end Klaus just cut the bottom 5mm off the cable and then it was fine, we were able to attach the new noodle.
Then the really tricky bit started! Getting the new cable the right length to work the brakes, without having actually measured the correct length of cable.
There is very little room to work in Millie’s wheel well and we had to mostly replace the wheel (except for the final fine positioning) to gauge the length of the cable. I think this took us at least an hour, but finally the brake was working. Klaus did the fine-tuning on the tiller and the brakes are now perfect – don’t pull to one side, release easily, run smoothly. It’s a real improvement!
We then removed the second wheel so I could replace the spoke on that one. This didn’t take too long, fortunately. I also added new washers to the top of the suspension arms for each front wheel as the old ones had rather perished. They are what you see when inside the cockpit of the Milan.
So Millie is now running very nicely with definitely improved braking control!
A second minor repair also used a brake cable, but this time the outer…
I had ridden Millie to work on a really windy day and at one point in the morning the wind blew her lid/deckel open. This is held in place with some stiff cable which had been getting a bit rusty/grotty over the last couple of years, and finally the cover was pulled off the end of the cable and it ripped out of Millie. There was no way to feed this frayed metal nightmare back through the small hole between cockpit and lid!
As I was at work I asked the Schlosser (Handyman) if he had a suitable bit of replacement cable. He did, but it was too flexible (and turned out to also be too wide), but he recommended screws and washers instead. So he did a quick repair but it was clear to me that the screws/washers option didn’t allow enough flexibility for the movement required for the lid.
When I got home I had a look around for a bit of suitable wire, and in our box of Miscellaneous Bike Bits I found two spare brake cables. This was clearly the right thing! I wasn’t able to cut the cable so it is rather longer than needed, but hopefully at some point I will find someone with a suitable cable cutter and have it the right length, but in the meantime the lid is now properly affixed again. And if anyone needs an emergency brake cable outer I have one!
More walking again
I am really enjoying doing a lot more walking, and aim to walk to work and back at least once per week. In the last week of March I managed it twice in one week! The journey on the route I take is 4.2km so that is about 50 minutes of walking for me.
And I see such lovely sights on the walk…
On the days I don’t walk to work I take Poppy out for around an hour each day. It is interesting to see how my fitness is improving, at least according to my Garmin Vivoactive Smartwatch. It measures VO2 Max; I have no idea how accurate it is, but I guess its readings may give me a bit of a clue… and I am finally younger than my actual age (47 3/4)
A visit to Vaessen and a visit from my Mum
I had a lovely week with my Mum, who booked to come over two weeks before Brexit to avoid any potential travel issues if she came in the more usual April/May time.
We were to collect her on Sunday morning from the Hoek van Holland. Klaus had booked to have Emily checked in Dronten the day before as there were some things that needed doing and it was the only suitable time.
The original plan was for us both to cycle part of the way there on the Friday evening and stay in a Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation on Friday night. Klaus would then cycle to Dronten on Saturday, get the work done and return to the same Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation Saturday afternoon. I would ride home on Saturday to be ready to pick Mum up Sunday morning.
We had loved our visit to Vaassen last time and contacted the Vrienden op de Fiets host, but this time unfortunately (for us) he had friends visiting who were staying in the accommodation. But he recommended two other options and I contacted the first who said yes, we could stay.
Looking at the weather forecast in advance it looked like it would not be good weather for Millie (too rainy), so I made the decision to go by car. I checked first with the Vrienden op de Fiets hosts and they said that was fine. Klaus was coming by bike after all.
He came home from work just after lunch and set off on the 135km ride to Vaassen. I left home a couple of hours later and had a motorway run which is very familiar – the route to Dronten!
I arrived about 20 minutes before Klaus (he has a tracker in Emily so I could see where he was). We were in a ‘Garden House’ which in this case was a shed that had been built as a separate accommodation area and was really nice.
Klaus rolled in shortly after I had made a cup of tea and he parked in the carport – his Insignia could cope with being out in the rain and wind, we thought!
After he had showered we walked into Vaassen, about 2km, to the Turkish restaurant we had eaten in before (we were aiming for something else but nothing else tickled our fancy). After a good meal we walked back again in the dark, periodically using our phone lights to signal our presence to the occasional car drivers who whizzed along this narrow road.
The next morning we had the traditional Dutch breakfast (best not to say much about that) and then Klaus headed off to Dronten and I returned to Kempen. He had a reasonably successful time in Dronten although didn’t get everything done, and I made final preparations for Mum’s visit.
I left home at 6am on the Sunday morning to head for the Hook of Holland. Mum arrived just as I did, and we headed to Dechi Beach for breakfast. This is a beachfront café which does a very nice breakfast, in fact the only decent breakfast I think I’ve had in the Netherlands! It wasn’t really beach weather though.
But we enjoyed our breakfast and the chance to relax before the 2 hour drive back to Germany.
I had the week off work so Mum and I had a lot of time together. Unfortunately the weather was awful so we didn’t get out as much as we’d like, but we did visit a Garden centre, did a bit of shopping in Kempen, had a few cakes and Mum even came with us to visit Inge when Klaus delivered Celeste. Poppy really enjoyed having her Oma visiting too!
It was sad to wave goodbye to Mum, but we will see her when we visit the UK in September… by bike!
Here are a few miscellaneous items I experienced this month…
Cakes this month
As usual, here are the cakes that I or my cycling companions enjoyed this month…
And not just cakes. We have (despite the cakes) continued with eating Keto. I have now lost 14kg in the last three months and feel really good with it, as I am almost never hungry and don’t have any energy dips.
Here are a few photos of the food that we have cooked for ourselves this month:
And what’s next…
With Brexit, who knows! I woke up yesterday and was still a European Citizen, which I had not necessarily expected. Tomorrow at the Ausländerbehörde I will find out what options are open to me as a UK national who has been resident in Germany for five years. As the Germans say, ‘es bleibt spannend…’