Author Archives: Auntie Helen

6 Wheels In Germany – September 2017 (Month 42)

This month has been appalling for cycling – I have managed just 33km, which is four commutes by bike.

This is firstly because the weather was less good, I spent some time in the UK, we had our new kitchen fitted so much less spare time (we had to prepare everything) and also I had a cold which gave me a lingering cough and I did my best to keep warm. But still, this is my lowest month’s distance ridden since I started recumbent triking/velomobiling. But sometimes these things just happen.

This means that for once this blog post won’t be boring you with velomobile tales (except to say I have attempted to fix my malfunctioning Schlumpf Mountain Drive with a new switch button but will need to test it on longer rides to see if the fix is permanent).

So… not much to say about bikes. What’s next? Cakes?

Cakes will come later, as usual. But there are still some things to report about September this year.

A visit to the UK

I had my annual visit to hospital in the UK to check out my arm prosthesis. These visits to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital are always on Thursdays so Klaus and I drove via Eurotunnel on Wednesday evening, arriving at my Mum’s house at 11pm.

Mum lives in a small village north of Ipswich in a lovely 16th century cottage.

Klaus really enjoyed staying in such a wonderful English cottage, although we both have to duck to pass through the doorways on the ground floor.

On Thursday we drove to Walthamstow where we parked the car and then got the Tube into central London. After checking in and having my x-ray we popped out of the hospital to the Tesco Express around the corner to buy some lunch. Klaus was very pleased to discover a German sandwich!

We were seen very quickly at the hospital and had the usual conversation about taking care of my prosthesis and not doing any dangerous activities, and then it was time to leave. It’s always a feeling of relief and so we stopped at a Caffe Nero for coffee and cake.

The quality of cakes in large chains like this isn’t great and I did notice a definite difference between the tastiness of the cakes I usually have in Germany!

That evening we went out for a proper British curry (at my request). The curry house in Ipswich does a 5-course meal for £11 each which is good value.

We also had ice cream for dessert (not exciting enough to photograph!)

The next day we had a visit from my sister and two of her children, and the following day my oldest friend Lindsay. We also found time to pop to Marks & Spencer for me to buy some jeans, winter boots, the obligatory smalls, and Klaus also had some success with trousers and jumpers. Here he is with my Mum surveying M&S, the expat’s favourite haunt when back in the UK…

Once we walked out of M&S in Ipswich we saw another coffee shop and as we still had plenty of time on our pay & display parking ticket we took Mum for coffee and cake.

Once again the cakes were slightly disappointing. I know some great cafés for cake in North Essex/Suffolk but they are generally not to be found in main high streets of towns.

We left on Sunday morning and drove back to Folkestone for Eurotunnel, meeting my chum Charlotte at Trosley Country Park for cake and coffee on the way. It was lovely to see Charlotte again, but as we set off back onto the M20 there had been an accident and we had to do a diversion. We missed our Eurotunnel train but fortunately were put on the next one so it was only a slight delay.

We arrived back in Kempen at 7 in the evening on the Sunday. Driving the long way round takes quite a long time (8 hours door-to-door) but is considerably cheaper by car than taking the Harwich-Hook of Holland ferry but I do prefer the latter and we have decided to use that for our visit over Christmas.

The new kitchen

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the kitchen in my flat was very basic and once Klaus moved in with me and we decided to do a lot more interesting cooking we found the limitations of the existing kitchen very frustrating. So we ordered a new kitchen from the local furniture place (as well as a new couch) and then had a six week wait.

This was actually a good thing as we had lots of preparatory work to do. Last month I detailed the electrical works that we did to prepare for the new kitchen, including increasing the number of power sockets from 3 to 14 and making the 3-phase supply reach the other wall so the hob could be moved.

This month saw the rest of the work. This involved having the contents of the kitchen spread about the flat which was quite tricky at times as to make a cup of tea you had to find the fridge in the spare room, the kettle in the kitchen and the teabags in the lounge.

I ordered a new fridge freezer and that arrived two weeks before the kitchen was due. We had to hang the door the other side and this was something we did ourselves. It went very well and we only had this item left over at the end:

Our electrician who is a family friend said he could come over and complete the wiring one evening during the week so he duly arrived with some high-quality sockets etc and went about fitting them.

We hadn’t fixed a couple of the socket bases in place as they were where the tiles had been (which had been removed after the electrician had last visited) but he said he would like them to be anchored with plaster/filler so Frank set about that straight away.

The electrician had done a fantastic job and he left us with the sockets for the items Frank had just plastered as that would need to dry; Klaus and Frank could wire them up themselves.

Big thanks go to Peter who gave up several evenings to do our kitchen work and regaled us with tales of his Amphicar rally in Bremen recently. He’s a top chap!

We had to give up the second weekend in September to further Kitchen preparation. On the Saturday Klaus spent the day wallpapering

and on the Sunday I painted the walls and ceiling (the ceiling required 3 coats in places) whilst Klaus lay in bed with the man-flu. His cold knocked him out for a week and he was still coughing 3 weeks later. I caught it after 2 weeks of course.

The following Saturday the old kitchen was removed by some more friends of Frank and Gudula – it would be going to a new flat owned by the son of one of their friends and he had arranged a couple of friends to help dismantle it and move it out.

We would have to survive two days with no oven or sink – but of course tea can always be made with the kettle in the bathroom and the microwave was still in action.

Once the kitchen was removed Frank and Klaus wired up the remaining sockets as the plaster had now dried.

With a few more bits of touch-up paint by me and a small additional area of wallpapering by Klaus we were ready for the kitchen delivery!

Here is a panorama of the whole room ready for the new kitchen.

Klaus had taken three days off work to oversee this. I went to work at 7:30 in the morning on the Monday morning, wondering what I would find when I returned home!

Luckily he sent me photo updates throughout the morning…

As it was slowly being built up Klaus took the opportunity to put the plaque behind a floor unit.

We had discovered this plaque when removing the old kitchen – with the first date from 2010 on it.

I showed it to Frank and he took it away; he returned it a day later with the new kitchen date on it so we could hide it behind the kitchen again. And you can just make it out here!

Work continued throughout the morning.

The wall cupboards were more tricky because of the cabling that went all through the walls – in the end the chaps fitted rails which they then hung the cupboards from.

When I got home at half past one they had made very good progress and they finished for the day at about 4pm with probably only two more hours to do.

We enjoyed a cup of tea in our kitchen and, of course, using the dishwasher for the first time!

The next morning I went off to work again and when I returned everything was finished!

Klaus had also tested all our pans; unfortunately only three worked with the induction hob:

So I knew we would have to buy a few more, especially a larger one. But that is life!

Klaus went out for a much-needed cycle ride as he had been stuck at home for days and I baked my first cake, a lemon drizzle, which was reasonably successful but a bit over-browned.

It took a while to stow all our food and other kitchen items which were distributed all around the flat but we have plenty of room and are getting used to where everything is. It’s a very easy kitchen to use with everything to hand and of course the dishwasher is a mega bonus! I am really pleased we went to the effort of getting it done and we are already enjoying cooking together.

I did buy a couple of good quality induction pans. One of them, the Titanium Wokpfanne, had a rather unfortunate description on my receipt!

I invited friend Babs round to celebrate the new kitchen with cake and made a Käse-Sahne Torte. Then the next day I had some work colleagues round too and made a Victoria Sandwich Cake and a Banoffee Pie for them.

I have had rather a lot of cake over the last few weeks as my colleague Birgit had a birthday and gave us all a slice of this fantastic cake.

And Rohallah the young man who lives here also made his first ever cake, a cheesecake.

Klaus has already cooked up some very impressive meals and we are really enjoying choosing together what to eat and experimenting a bit with food ideas. Which will not help the waistline, but life is short!!

The new couch

When I went to the furniture store to buy the kitchen my original plan was just to buy a couch but I got distracted.

Anyway, we had decided to buy a new couch as the two old ones that we had in the lounge weren’t ideal. The old black leather one wasn’t comfortable for anyone was wasn’t a small dog and the larger red one which I liked was a hand-me-down with room for only one person to stretch out in comfort. Now there were two of us we needed something that we could both lounge on.

So wandering round the local furniture store I bowed to the inevitable and ordered what almost all Germans have – an Eckcouch or corner sofa. It was from a quality brand called Musterring and we got to specify the size of the two halves, the feet, how high it was, whether it had an armrest that can fold down to be a pillow etc. It’s quite hard choosing a sofa in Germany as you have so many options! This also means it also took 6 weeks to come after ordering. But come it did, a week before the kitchen was fitted.

It came in two halves but the first of these was very large and the chaps had great difficulties getting it from my hallway into the lounge.

There were mirrors on the doorframe to this door and they warned me they might be damaged. I said this was OK as we had already removed the mirrors from the other doorframes and had planned to do these ones in due course too. So they pushed and pushed and the sofa went through with two chips out of the mirrors in the doorway.

…and, as I discovered despite the delivery chaps trying to hide it by leaving the packaging material lying on it as long as possible, the couch had also been sliced open.

This was very disappointing but they told me they had warned me. I thought the warning was just about the mirrors, but there you go. The couch was only covered with light plastic, not even cardboard. One of the chaps did a repair with a sewing kit and staple gun and because of where the rip is (right on the base, not under any load) it shouldn’t matter – but it was rather disappointing for my expensive new sofa!

Here it is in pride of place:

And here is my celebratory piece of chocolate cake!

A week after the couch was here the kitchen had also been fitted and we were able to sort out the lounge a bit more (it had been full of old kitchen stuff). We still need to get rid of the old red couch which may go to Lara who has a new flat in Berlin but in the meantime it is in a corner of the lounge. But pride of place in the lounge is my new rug…

I tried to resist it for a month but when Klaus said he had no objection then it was clear it would end up on my floor… It matches the new couch perfectly you see!

A trip to Greetsiel

The following Saturday I was still too coldy to cycle so we decided to do a day trip to Greetsiel on the North Sea. This is a three hour drive (which ended up 45 minutes longer because of an accident) but I was nice and warm in Klaus’s car and it was enjoyable watching the world go by.

Greetsiel is lovely!

There are huge dykes built all the way around – and from this post with high water marks you can see why!!!

Poppy had come with us on this trip and she really enjoyed smelling all the smells of a new town.

After a walk around we decided to find some cake. Most places were rather full or didn’t allow dogs but we ended up going to the café in this windmill.

There was cake!

The journey home was easier and we had a good day out. This sort of trip would be better if we stayed overnight but I had to play my flute in church the next morning so it was just a day trip but really relaxing and enjoyable.

Life in Kempen

The local farm has made his pumpkin caterpillar again. It’s great!

And I loved this vehicle parked in the local Aldi car park. A local no doubt popping in for his shopping…

Part of the reason for not cycling so much at the moment is that my work is really busy. I am non-stop from when I arrive at about 7:40 in the morning until I leave at just past 1pm. It’s quite stressful having full-on work the whole time and not being able to complete all my tasks (the customer I am responsible for has hugely increased their work with us) but I look forward to a two week break at Christmas, plus Klaus and I are having a short break in Berlin in October and probably a weekend in Dresden in November too, so there is much to look forward to. I must get out on my bike again soon!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

6 Wheels In Germany – August 2017 (Month 41)

Cycling this month

Here are the statistics for my rides this month. Not included is my work commute on 30 August but I had to write this blog before then – that gives me another 8.2km.

Notice I have not ridden Penelope once this month!

Klaus is now way ahead of me for his riding for the year as he has commuted to work 11 times. That’s a minimum of 90km for the route, often longer if he does a diversion on the way home. He was well over 1100km for August.

And here is my ‘wheel’ to show the roads I have ridden in August.

The mega hills in the first few days are our tour to Aachen, Liege and Maastricht which you can read about here.

I won a prize!

…and so did Klaus.

We took part in the Stadtradeln action which was a 3 week cycling challenge. It happened to be partly when we were on our summer tour to Usedom and Berlin so we both had quite a high mileage, but that wasn’t actually the reason we won the prizes – I think it was actually just luck. Anyway, we received our prizes (along with 10 others) in the Kempen Town Hall, with the Bürgermeister (mayor) handing them over.

Klaus got a Buff and I got a voucher for a sauna at the local fitness club.

A Sunday ride with Podbiker

Klaus and I received a message from Stefan (Podbiker) who asked if we fancied a ride the next day (a Sunday) as he was free, so we arranged for him to come to us for 9am and we would ride somewhere nice. We ended up in Xanten, riding home via Bislicher Insel. This is a lovely route and three velomobiles certainly cause a stir!

Unfortunately there were rather a lot of people who insisted on touching the velomobiles and one guy even lifted up Celeste at the back. When Klaus shouted at him he said “I only wanted to know how heavy it is!!” Klaus commented that he could have asked, and that we didn’t really like people touching our private property, at which point the man said that if we didn’t want people touching the bikes then we shouldn’t park them here. Not a good attitude.

Klaus took a couple of action shots underway…

I ended up with 99km for the day. Klaus did the extra 1km but my calves were really tight after our longish stop for food most of the way home, partly as a result of my hill walking the day before (see below), so I was lazy and ended up with only 2 100km rides this month.

Uli’s birthday party

Cycling chum Uli turned 70 and invited loads of friends and relations for breakfast at the restaurant near De Witt See (a breakfast which finished at about 16:00). He asked Klaus, Jochen and I to come in our Velomobiles so of course we did!

And here am I explaining tyres to Hartmut and Ralf.

We had a lovely day celebrating with Uli and eating and drinking way too much!

Life in Germany

<3>A new kitchen! Well, preparations for it anyway

August has been another busy month, but this time busy due to rather mega works in my flat on the kitchen.

I decided after Klaus moved in that living without a dishwasher when having to do the washing up for two people is really a step too far, and so we decided to upgrade the kitchen. When I moved into the flat it had a small kitchen without any wall cupboards as it was just for a holiday let – people don’t have a lot of food or utensils for a week’s holiday. However, I had very quickly filled up the cupboards and wanted something a bit more spacious, also a larger fridge as for two of us the one I had was a bit small.

I ordered the kitchen last month from the local kitchen shop (and ordered a new couch at the same time! an expensive day!) but it wouldn’t be delivered till mid-September. This almost 2 month wait hasn’t been a bad thing as it turned out we had to do quite a lot of preparation of the room, including wiring.

First of all we had to take out the removable furniture – the fridge/freezer, a narrow floor cupboard, an Ikea storage unit, a wheelable set of shelves, a cutlery and crockery wall unit.

Once these items were out, all that remained was the single stretch of worktop with sink and hob and the cupboards underneath, with one small area of worktop.

The flat has a number of mirrors as decoration and there was a large area of wall mirrors that had to be removed. Klaus and I wandered round Self, the local DIY store, and bought some special gloves that are resistant to glass as he had to pull this lot off by hand with the help of a chisel, as well as safety glasses.

After this we had to remove the wallpaper which took us two evenings to do successfully.

Then it was time for the electrical work, which was done by an electrician who is a friend of Frank’s but with significant help from Frank and Klaus. The three of them worked really hard for two evenings and laid in the new cable for the hob and dishwasher and increased my number of wall sockets from 3 to 14.

What was tricky was that the special cable for the cooker and hob had to end up on the other side of the room but couldn’t go via the floor (tiles) or over the ceiling (tiles) so they routed the cable along the wall, through the Rollladenkasten (boxes for the shutters) and then out the other side. They did a great job!

And here are the finished walls. They had to work around a previous cable which was in a nice swooping bow shape rather than vertical or horizontal. We had to fit our horizontal/vertical cables around and behind this. Building norms were different 50 years ago when the house was built!

There were also some tiles that had to come away and friend Ralf (who has just ordered a velomobile so finds Klaus and I very useful to chat to!) happens to have a tiling company so he came along one evening after work and removed the tiles for us.

Once the tiles were gone he put in some plasterboard in the gap.

Now we had some big gaps to fill in where the cables were, and this was a job for Frank and Klaus.

Frank mixed up some plaster and with Klaus’s help with the mixing and preparation he filled all the gaps.

After a few days it had dried and shrunk a bit so Frank did another go over whilst Klaus and I were away for a couple of days. He did a perfect job of smoothing the walls, filling all the little holes for screws and rawlplugs and a few areas where the surface had crumbled. Everything was ready for us to wallpaper and then paint.

The rest of the work won’t happen until September, however, so you will have to wait for the next instalment of Auntie Helen’s Kitchen Transformation!

Andreas Scholl Concert and a trip to the Bergstraße

I have long been a fan of Andreas Scholl and regularly used to travel to Germany to attend his concerts. Since I have lived here I haven’t actually been to many concerts, but I found out about one in Kloster Eberbach (near Wiesbaden) in August so got a couple of tickets.

As it is a three hour drive home Klaus and I decided it would be better to stay overnight after the concert somewhere near Wiesbaden and then the next day visit Klaus’s old stomping ground near Mannheim.

So we booked into the hotel Zum Neuen Schwann in Walluf where I had stayed previously on one of my bike tours. It was just a short walk across the road to the Rhine.

There was a huge electric storm whilst we were eating our evening meal but fortunately the worst of the rain had stopped as we arrived at Kloster Eberbach. We had arrived an hour before the concert was due to start and this was a very good thing as there were what seemed like thousands of cars trying to park… we got a reasonable spot and then went into the shelter of the cloister buildings to wait the hour until the concert started.

We had the cheapest seats in the side aisle without a view of the stage but it just so happened I could see Andreas Scholl between two pillars as he was singing – but nothing else really. It was, of course, wonderful!

During the interval Klaus took this great photo of the period instruments on the stage – they did not appreciate the high humidity after the thunderstorm and had to be tuned every ten minutes or so!

The next day after a leisurely breakfast we set off towards Mannheim. We took a more scenic route rather than the Autobahn the whole way and Klaus showed me lots of the areas he used to cycle – and we passed Frankenstein and Reichenbach!

He suggested we go for a short walk on a hill he used to ride up which sounded nice, but it was a hot day so I said I would need to buy a hairband or something to keep my hair off my neck so we stopped in Bensheim for tea and cake (of course) and I bought a hairband in a local shop. All the various German political parties were out canvassing – but of course I am not able to vote in these elections.

We left Bensheim and headed towards this hill for our walk… which turned out to be a former volcano, Melibokus, and it is 517 metres high (ground level at the bottom is 100 metres). Fortunately the car park was half way up.

First we walked to a very impressive castle Auerbach which is a ruin but was being used for a wedding reception – they were just doing the initial preparations so we were allowed to look around. The views from the top were excellent despite the haze. There had been clouds a couple of hours earlier so we were very happy to be able to see this much.

We were looking across at the Melibokus which was clearly higher. Interesting.

Klaus asked if I fancied the walk and I said “why not”? So we set off.

It was 4km to the top of Melibokus with a steady gradient all the way. We were passed by lots of mountain bikers and a few roadies – this is a regular route for cyclists as the road is tarmacked the whole way (the US Army had a radio station on the top).

We had a lovely walk despite the heat which meant we were sweating loads and had just one bottle of water between us. But the view at the top – and the sense of achievement – was well worth it!!

We walked down again (it was this that gave us both aching muscles two days later!) and enjoyed the air conditioning in the car as we drove to visit Klaus’s parents who lived nearby. We had tea and cake with them (Klaus’s father reads my blog so knows about my cake-eating ways) and it was good to meet them. Then it was time to head off home, this time taking the scenic route along the Rhine with some diversions due to closed roads that took us up into the hills. Fun!!!

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of the cakes that I, or my friends, have enjoyed this month!

In England

As this blog post is published I am in England for my annual hospital visit to check my arm prosthesis. As the appointment is on a Thursday and I have another medical appointment the next day we are also staying for the weekend and will catch up with some of my friends as well as empty the supermarkets of teabags, Quaker Porage Oats (for my boss), Rich Tea biscuits (for friend Christine), paracetamol and antihistamines (stupidly expensive in Germany), Walkers Crisps for Babs and more… We are driving over via Eurotunnel so that will be a bit tiring but it is the easiest way for the two of us, our luggage and all the things we need to bring back to Germany!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this month’s report. There’s not so much new stuff to say now, but I can confirm life in Germany is still great!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

3 Days, 3 Cities, 3 Countries Tour

On the first weekend in August Klaus and I decided to do a short cycle tour, which ended up having the theme of ‘3’

3 Days
3 Cities
3 Countries
3 Wheels
300 kilometres

The Wednesday before we realised that we had the weekend free of appointments and so thought it would be good to tour. I suggested we visit Liège and Maastricht, but that didn’t really work distance-wise for 3 days (we would go after work on Friday), so I added in Aachen to the mix as I knew that was somewhere Klaus wanted to visit.

I vaguely knew Aachen was up a bit of a hill but hey, who cares?!

Our plans came together. I booked hotels in Aachen and outside Maastricht and made preliminary GPS tracks, which Klaus then spent more than an hour refining. He was trying to reduce the cumulative ascent for the Aachen region as it was hilly.

He ended up having the Friday off work so when I returned from work at 13:00 he had a salad lunch ready and then it was time to set off with a last-minute pumping up of my bicycle tyres.

Here was our planned route for the three days:

And this is the download of actual distances travelled (the three days are highlighted in blue)

Day 1: Three Wheels to Aachen

We left at 14:15 with 98km to ride and some hills.

Here was our planned track for the day.

And here is the actual elevation data from that day. As you can see, there was a bit of a hill at the end!

But first of all we were riding our familiar roads westwards towards Grefrath under grey skies but with a pretty much ideal temperature of 21 degrees.

From Grefrath we took the Bahnradweg to Lobberich and then headed south to Boisheim, Dilkrath and then on less familiar roads to Wegberg.

From this point on it became noticeably hillier. Regular readers of my blog will know that I am not very keen on hills, they definitely don’t suit my cycling style (I am too heavy, I have too slow a cadence and I only have one power level like a diesel engine). But if we wanted to go to Aachen I would have to go up the hills, so I just had to get on with it.

We slowly started climbing, watching the wind turbines racing around. It was a very gusty windy day with either headwinds or sidewinds periodically buffeting us. The Milan is one of the best velomobiles in a sidewind which was good for me but Klaus has experienced previously that the Strada is a little more affected, although it wasn’t so bad this time.

We were onto more open roads with town and village names on signs that I had not seen before – a real clue that we had ventured outside our usual cycling territory! We were maintaining a comfortable average of 27kph.

At this point I will mention that I was actually carrying MORE luggage than for our 2 week Baltic Sea tour last month. This was because I had remembered to bring a third jersey so I had three sets of clothing. Normally we wash our clothing each day but on a 3 day tour I thought I could just bring 3 sets of clothing and not have to do any washing. Bonus! Everything else you need is the same for 3 days or 3 weeks – wash kit, tools, iPad, chargers, Garmin, shoes, normal clothing, food rations etc.

I was noticing the hills more now but it was still OK.

We approached Hückelhoven and just before we passed the town’s welcome sign there was a fantastic view down over the valley. This gave us warning that we were about to do our first significant descent, which was great fun but also a test of the brakes. Drum brakes can overheat on long downhills. I didn’t really know at what point this would happen as I don’t have experience of drum brakes withing Velomobile closed wheel boxes so I took it carefully but the brakes didn’t fade so all was OK.

We crossed the Rur river (not the Ruhr which is elsewhere in Nordrhein-Westfalen). We would cross this river again on our final day of the tour as it flows into the Maas at Roermond.

It was definitely time to stop for cake after 54km so we found an open bakery in Hückelhoven although it was just a Stehcafé (only standing tables, no seats – and no loo!) and the cake choice was a bit thin but we shared a large piece of Streuselkuchen which hit the spot!

Whilst we were inside that café various locals inspected our bikes.

We continued on after a break of about 25 minutes and headed further south, continuing our good progress and speed.

On a nice, smooth and wide road we had a really nasty close pass by a lady in a black BMW. Klaus was behind me and thinks she passed within about 20 centimetres of his elbow. I was ahead and she cut really close to me too. I shook my fist at her but I guess she was the sort of driver who doesn’t look in her rear view mirror. The other side of the road was completely empty of traffic so she could have overtaken us with metres to spare. Sigh.

The countdown to Aachen and the big hill was always on our minds and 25km before Aachen in Aldenhoven we spotted a McDonalds so stopped for a cold drink and to use their loo. I only had a 500ml bottle of water with me which wasn’t really enough, I tend to drink 1 litre every 25km on a hot day. The orange juice was refreshing!

After McDonalds we went straight onto another Bahnradweg (former railway line, now cycling track) and it was a very good surface mostly and gave us a very slight uphill over many kilometres, the ideal way for me to climb. If the ascent is less than about 3% I can ride it at pretty much my usual speed so we were travelling along at over 20km/h. This was looking positive!

At Warden the Bahnradweg ended and we crossed the A44 motorway and started climbing, making our way up to 200 metres in height. I was watching the elevation readout on my Garmin as I knew our maximum height was supposed to be 311 metres today; it was only later that I discovered the calibration between the GPS track and my Garmin are not all that similar!

The roads were quiet (chosen on purpose by Klaus because he knows how slow I am at climbing) and we worked our way up, past Aachen-Merzbrück Airport, crossing over the A44 again before going through an Industrial Park and shopping area before reaching the outskirts of Aachen properly. There were decent bike lanes marked on the road so we found ourselves able to make good progress apart from the usual traffic lights.

We zoomed our way towards the centre of Aachen, focussing on the purple line on our Garmins as we navigated an unfamiliar city. I had visited for a weekend about ten years ago but that was by train and I had no real recollection of how Aachen is laid out.

Our track took us to the front door of the hotel Benelux and we checked in.

The bike parking was in a Tiefgarage (underground garage) which we initially couldn’t find but the reception chappie helped us and Millie and Celeste would be undercover during the night which was good as the rain we had had off and on today was forecasted to be much heavier overnight and the next morning.

We had cycled 98.02km in just over four hours at an average of 23.9km/h. I had burned 2,403 calories which was a bonus! My average heart rate was quite high at 154 which I guess is explained by the hillier terrain.

We had a pretty small room in the hotel and the décor was very seventies but the customer service was brilliant. I asked if a cup of tea was possible and the guy gave me a kettle and some mugs, helped me with the lift and then ran upstairs to open the lift door for me on my floor as my hands were full of kettle etc. This is a level of customer service which is not so common in Germany, at least from my experience, and I think it explains why the hotel had a very good review score on Booking.com. It was also very reasonably priced.

I was peckish so popped to the Kebabbery just down the road and got a Döner Tasche. They were also selling Baklava which I love so bought some of those. Klaus had said he wasn’t hungry but after I had eaten my Döner and he had had a bit of a lie down he sprung into action and wanted to go for a walk into town. I was initially a bit reluctant as my right knee was complaining after all the hill climbing but he persuaded me so we walked from the hotel to the centre, only 500 metres or so.

Here is the cathedral with a sandpit installation in front.

We sat outside the Rathaus and Klaus had some soup. We then shared this waffle for dessert with our tea/coffee.

It was very interesting watching the passers-by. Aachen is a student town and this was very apparent, with huge numbers of young people. It was a lovely atmosphere with lots going on, lots of people sitting around enjoying food and drink, and watching the light changing on the Rathaus and the night drawing in.

We walked back to the hotel after 10pm, agreeing to have a bit of a lie-in the next morning as the weather forecast was for mega rain until about 11am. We would leave later to avoid the worst of the rain hopefully.

Here is Klaus’s brief commentary on the day:

1. Tag unserer 3-Ländertour. Was soll man machen, wenn man mal 2 Wochen am Stück durch Deutschland geradelt ist? Nun ja es gibt ja tolle Ziele am Niederrhein, aber im Hinterkopf hatte ich meine Todo-Liste und da stand Aachen und Maastricht drauf; 2 Ziele, die man mit einer Tour zusammen besuchen könnte. Ziemlich kurz entschlossen haben wir eine 3-Tagestour zusammengestellt und Lüttich, als Bonus mit hinzugenommen.

Das erste Etappenziel war Aachen. Helen musste noch bis Mittags arbeiten und so kamen wir erst gegen 14Uhr los. Auf bekannten Wegen ging es durch Grefrath und Lobberich gen Süden. Ab Wegberg war es für uns mehr oder weniger neues Radelterrain. Im Großen und Ganzen war das alles gut auf Kreis- und Landstraßen zu fahren. Der Wind blies aber teilweise recht böig aus westlicher Richtung, aber das ist im Velomobil eher ein kleineres Problem. 15 Kilometer vor Aachen ging es dann stetig Bergauf. Aber was heißt Bergauf…es waren letztendlich 150 Höhenmeter. Das ist noch keine wirkliche Bergetappe.

Nach exakt 5h (4h Bewegungszeit) sind wir an unserem Hotel, sehr Zentral in Aachen gelegen, angekommen. Die VM wurden sicher in der Tiefgarage verstaut und wir haben den Tag mit einem Stadtbummel ausklingen lassen. Morgen geht es nochmal ein Stückchen höher und dann herunter nach Lüttich.

Day 2: Three Wheels from Aachen via Liège to Maastricht

Here is our track for the day:

And here is the elevation profile. Notice the large climb right at the beginning!

We were woken by rain, lots of it. This was the view from our hotel room window at 9am.

The satellite view on our weather apps showed that the rain should ease from 11am so we had a very slow breakfast and then chilled in our room trying to wait it out. However, in the end we wanted to get a move on as we had 98km to ride and lots of hills, so we collected our bikes and eventually left at 10:30am.

Initial confusions with the one way system meant the first kilometre we rode solo, meeting each other back at the hotel but the right side of the one way system after a few minutes. A less than auspicious start!

There was no mercy at the beginning of this ride – it was straight up a hill after the first 200 metres of the ride and it just kept going up and up!

The rain was persistent but not too heavy; it meant I had to regularly wipe my glasses although I also had a baseball cap on. The roads were quiet but the rain was annoying. We went uphill, and more uphill.

We finally got to the top, hurrah! There should be great views. Oh.

Very soon we arrived at the Belgian border.

At this point two things happened. Firstly the road surfaces became much worse – rougher, more rutted with more potholes. We have suspension but velomobiles can be noisy and rattly and we were being jiggled about a bit. The second thing was that I discovered that my map for my Garmin was not, as I had thought, a Benelux map, but was in fact just a Netherlands map. This meant I had no map for Belgium.

In a way this shouldn’t have been a problem as after all we were just following the purple line on our pre-planned track. But actually in order to safely follow the purple line it helps to see when there is a junction rather than just a corner in the road etc, and of course if you need to do a diversion having no map is most unhelpful. Needless to say we had multiple diversions today!

Klaus did have a Belgium map (hurrah!) so I tended to follow him most of the time rather than sometimes riding ahead for the change in scenery but it was a little unsettling for me to never know if we were approaching a town, a junction, crossing a railway etc. I shall ensure I always have the correct maps loaded in future!

We were slow. Well, more accurately, I was slow and Klaus was gentlemanly. After 1 hour we had covered 11.5km, after 2 hours 30km. This was going to be a loooooong day!

Klaus’s route took us mostly off main roads onto quieter B-roads or farm tracks, unfortunately some were very poor quality. There were lots of short steep climbs and unfortunately my Schlumpf Mountain Drive started malfunctioning again.

Basically the Mountain Drive is a gearbox that sits in the chainring/pedals. It has a button each side of the bottom bracket which you push with your heel to change gear. Right heel = engage low gears (reduction of 2.5x), left heel return to ‘normal’ gears.

After the second-hand Schlumpf was fitted I had a problem with the button on the left hand (high gears) side falling off and getting lost. A new button was sourced, plus I bought two additional ones, and after that it was only ever the right hand side (low gears) button that popped off. As I almost never Schlumpf (use the low gears) this has not been a problem for the last few months but today every time I engaged the low gears the button popped off after about a minute. I got used to the sound it makes bouncing around inside the carbon fibre shell of Millie and I would stop, find it and screw it back in. I have the special allen key attached to my Tretlagermast in Millie so I can theoretically tighten the tiny allen bolt inside but nothing happens, it just spins round and round. I have a nasty feeling that part of one of the bolts has sheared inside so that is probably Game Over for this Schlumpf.

Anyway, I was getting used to hearing the noise of the button bouncing off, stopping, finding it and then putting it in my bag or screwing it back on (depending on whether I thought I needed to change to the low gears any time soon). When you are riding up hill very slowly, having to stop is not good at all but I couldn’t just ride on in case the button bounced out of the foot hole or did what it has done before and get jammed in the chain tunnel. But this was a real pain!

Liège was at about 50km on our route but we had all the hills before that and it was time for a break. The rough roads slowed me down a lot, as did the hills and Schlumpf issues, so when we whizzed downhill into Clermont which looked like a large town (my Garmin told me nothing about it of course!) I shouted to Klaus to find somewhere for a break.

Clermont seemed to have something happening though. There were marquees everywhere although not many people about. We sat under a marquee and ordered some tea (there was no food available).

I remembered my Baklava I had bought last night so we enjoyed those.

And then people started arriving – adults and children dressed in orange with balloons and tridents and all sorts of odd things.

I was a bit concerned with the mysterious orange goings-on that our exit from the town might get blocked if they closed some roads so we headed off, passing a load of people in red on the way out. A mystery!

There was a downhill to the next town which had another event on with lots of barriers on roads. Nothing orange or red here, there were oodles of cars with bikes on racks and advertising. Clearly some kind of cycling race.

Unfortunately our route went up a road which was closed – not for the race but for building work. The signage told us an alternative route (of course, back up the hill we had whizzed down) but Klaus spotted on his Garmin a Bahnradweg that might do – it went over our heads on a bridge over the road. But how to join it?

I had seen what I thought was a Bahnradweg crossing 1km up the road so we went back and it was indeed a place to join this route. Unfortunately it wasn’t asphalted but was instead packed earth which was quite muddy following the rain. Hard going again, I wasn’t able to ride much more than 12km/h.

I had refitted the Schlumpf button at the beginning of the Bahnradweg and noticed that it seemed to be sitting further in the slot than usual, there was very little visible to bang my heel against. So I tried it – no I couldn’t change gear with my heel. I could do it with my finger, but this is not exactly something you can do underway. Oh well, at least I could still change gear in an emergency!

As we crawled along the Bahnradweg (which appears to be called the RaVel 5) we found ourselves passing a huge concrete bunker, then another, then some other earthworks. This was the Fort de Battice which was one of many forts built to protect Liège and was in a 12 day battle during the second world war.

The rain had mostly gone away now and we just had a wet and grey day. It was disappointing not to have seen some of the very beautiful countryside in better weather but it couldn’t be helped. I kept my phone dry inside the Velomobile so didn’t take many pictures.

The ups and downs were hard for me, especially with my Schlumpf woes, plus we had some additional unexpected detours due to roadworks where Klaus had to find us an alternative, but finally finally we were on the downhill that we knew would lead us to Liège.

This was a descent of 150 metres over a couple of kilometres. I was on and off the brakes to try to keep them cool and Klaus could hear them squealing so although he was behind me and I have no brake lights he was able to safely follow, knowing when I was braking. My hearing loss means I couldn’t hear these sounds at all!

We were now back to ground level (well, our usual ground level in the Niederrhein region) and I hoped not to have too many hills as my knees were hurting because I had not been using the Schlumpf optimally.

On our way into Liège there was another road closure and we ended up riding around a rather dodgy estate of high rise buildings with loads of kids running towards us yelling. We made a hasty retreat.

Liège had random one way systems and cobbles but finally we found ourselves near the centre, passing a big demonstration or something with police everywhere. We stopped soon after at a Brasserie (called Brittanique!) near the Opera.

You can see from this picture that there were some well-dressed people about. That was my impression, that the men and women of Liège were taking care with their clothing, but we found the city noisy and too busy with cars and motorbikes and not very relaxing.

We ordered a warm lunch – I had lasagne, Klaus chose Spaghetti Bolognese.

Whilst we were there a storm blew up with more rain and mega wind. We gave up trying to sit outside, paid our bill having finished our food and decided to leave Liège after just being there one hour. We neither of us were particularly keen on staying longer in Liège, especially as someone had tried to climb into Millie!

However, the route out was a big improvement! We found ourselves on a path along the Maas and it was decent.

We were on this path the whole way from Liège to Maastricht, which was about 25km, and made good speed, averaging around 25 km/h. There were other cyclists which slowed us down a bit, as did a few too tight bends in the path for bridges etc (there had been an appalling one of these in Liège with a hairpin bend, and Klaus lifted me round it so I didn’t have to get out which was very kind). We went past lots of dogs in back gardens who enjoyed barking at us as we zoomed past. We also had another detour because of roadworks which we didn’t initially notice because a car had parked in front of the road closure sign. Fortunately we only had to retract our path a short distance.

As we got closer to Maastricht our speed had to reduce as there were lots of sleeping policemen on the riverside cycle route. These are a real pain for Millie who is very low-slung. I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard that familiar scraping noise from the sacrificial strip of plastic on the bottom of her footwell.

We arrived in Maastricht to discover lots going on, metal barriers all over the place… it turns out there was to be an Iron Man competition the next day. We were able to find some space to park at a brasserie on the riverfront.

I enjoyed this very nice rice cake and Klaus had an apricot cake.

What was not so relaxing was the number of passers-by who touched the velomobiles. I shouted at one child who tried to climb in Millie and the parents looked at me as if I were a monster. Then a group of lads went past and one tried to jump into Celeste – so I shouted at him again. Several other people touched them and one lady banged on Millie’s nose, I guess to see what she was made of. Sometimes I think I should get a remote control klaxon alarm which I could press when people touch; I can’t understand why adults do this, surely they know these things belong to other people? I can more understand children wanting to touch, but their parents should stop the children, not just look at it all with total indifference.

This was surprisingly unrelaxing, not helped by the fact I was feeling really tired, my knee hurt and I had also managed to drop a chairleg on my toes – and I was wearing sandals! Maastricht looked like a really nice place and we would like to visit again, but maybe the Velomobiles should stay out of the way as they are too much of a draw!

Our route from Maastricht to our hotel was just 6km and mostly along the river again.

Poor Klaus fell victim to a bad bump in a bit of Dutch cycle path – his wheels hit at just the wrong angle which bounced him up in his seat and his fingers banged against the edge of the opening for Celeste where she is sharp – it was right across the joints of his fingers. There were lots of mystery German expressions of ouch being said for the next few minutes.

And then we were back in Belgium, just for one kilometre until we reached our hotel. And our hotel was fab!

It was like something out of Brideshead Revisited!

Kasteel Pietersheim had been opened as a hotel just three months before and the staff seemed very young but extremely helpful and friendly. Here’s a Wikipedia page on it in Dutch: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasteel_Pietersheim

We had asked for secure bike storage and this was no problem, but we had to get the bikes up the steps. No difficulties there, they would help us!

They were stored in the conference room and the chaps at the hotel were very interested about the velomobiles so we had a good chat.

Our room was very nice – Klaus said they mentioned to him that they had upgraded us, perhaps because of our cool bikes!

Here was the view from our bedroom window.

Although we hadn’t thought we would feel hungry of course we did after we had been relaxing for a while so we went downstairs to the bar for a cup of tea. I loved the way they supplied the milk for my tea!

And we ended up having dinner too – I had some soup, Klaus a salad.

It was very peaceful and quiet at Kasteel Pietersheim which was a very good way of finishing off what turned out to be quite a tough day.

Our total riding time today was 5 hours 35 minutes and the overall average speed was 17.5km/h. Interestingly my average heart rate was much lower than the day before, this time it was 121 for the 97.77km we rode, and I burned 2,192 calories (= cake allowance).

We both said after we left Liège that we don’t think we need to visit Belgium again, but we are making an honourable exception for Kasteel Pietersheim as we would very much like to visit again!

Day 3: Three Wheels from Maastricht to Kempen

After a great night’s sleep it was breakfast time and then a leisurely start to the day. We had 105km to ride today but pretty much all on the flat, and half of it had been ridden by us a few times before. We were visiting Roermond and Venlo on our way home to Kempen.

We left at about 10:15 after spending some time photographing the velomobiles in front of the house (the pictures at the end of yesterday’s report). Then it was off again, heading north east, enjoying the sunshine.

It would be a largely flat day but there were still a couple of hills in the shape of road or river bridges. I managed most of them without Schlumpfing but my knees felt it by the end of the day.

I stopped at the top of one bridge as I had spotted the British Flag flying… because of a tank.

We were making very good time as the route was easy. After 27 minutes we had covered the same distance as took us an hour yesterday and after two hours we had covered almost the 50km to Roermond. On the way we had found ourselves with some other cyclists who were clearly doing some kind of sportive or other ride. We had crossed a bridge behind a guy pedalling like mad on a singlespeed and whilst descending the other side we overtook a unicyclist whose legs were going mad at that speed. Just a few kilometres further on we passed three more unicyclists.

We were being photographed by various people along the route so clearly they assumed we were part of this race, more weird bikes to liven things up!

The roads were mostly lovely and empty, it being Sunday morning. As we were back in the Netherlands they were also largely smooth and pothole-free although still with quite a lot of drempels (sleeping policemen) which can be a bit scrapey with Millie. But I was enjoying the sunshine so a few dozen graunching scrapes were survivable.

We arrived in Roermond for lunch, aiming again for the burger place that we often eat at.

Celeste was here reflecting Millie’s cool flag. Klaus was not impressed.

Whilst getting my jumper out from my bag in Millie I noticed that the plastic cover on her underside near the rear wheel (which covers the gap where the rear wheel gets taken in and out) was hanging low. I looked further and could see something red sticking out… I pulled it out and lo and behold my mini toolbag, which was previously red but was now red-and-black-oil-coloured, came out. It must have fallen past my Isomatte baffle to stop things falling into the chainline, so no doubt I had been rubbing oil on it with every pedal rotation. I think the bag is a write-off but I am really glad I had not lost all my tools, including my second example of the world’s smallest allen key for the regularly-disappearing Schlumpf buttons. I will have to pack the drivetrain-side more carefully in future.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch and Klaus endeavoured to drink more. He had a headache today and thought it could be because he wasn’t drinking enough. It seems to me that I drink twice as much as him and I still felt a bit dehydrated. Anyway, it was a good excuse to share a bottle of still water and relax in Roermond before the final 55km home.

We set off again on a route we have done several times but which is always nice. We crossed the river Maas by chain ferry at Beesel arriving in Reuver where I had to use my Schlumpf to get off the ferry and of course had to stop 100 metres later to catch the Schlumpf Button after it had made a bid for freedom. However this was the only time I had to Schlumpf in the afternoon which was a relief.

The path to Venlo was very busy with other cyclists so we had to weave around a bit and weren’t able to go as fast as we might otherwise have done, but soon we were in Venlo. Klaus’s headache was worse so he just had a drink but I enjoyed a waffle with ice cream.

We pushed on after a relatively short stop and soon were climbing the hill out of Venlo and then again the hill around Hinsbeck. I managed both of these without Schlumpfing but my knee complained a lot by the end. I am sure it will settle down in a few days.

We reached home with 105km on the clock with a ride time of 4 hours 18 minutes. Our average for today was 24.4km/h and my calorie burn was rather lower at 1,689. Not enough hills!

The total distance ridden was 300.19km so that added another 3 to our list of threes for this tour. We enjoyed it very much and learned a lot too; we learned that our brakes are OK for the sort of hills in our bit of Germany; we learned that I really need to do something about my Schlumpf, which may end up with me having to buy a new one; we learned that Belgian drivers are as bad as we had suspected with close passes; we learned that Customer Service can be very good in some of these places for those who are used to German levels of customer service (often very low!), and we had reinforced (we had learned it long ago) that velomobiles are great bikes to tour with!

Thanks to Klaus for being my riding partner and waiting for me at the top of the hills, also for planning the tracks so well for the maximum hill-avoidance possible considering we were riding in a hilly area. We both say we would like to go back to Kasteel Pietersheim someday, so perhaps we will indeed set foot or tyre in Belgium again!

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Filed under 3 Days 3 Cities 3 Countries Tour, Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Trikes & Velomobiles

6 Wheels In Germany – July 2017 (Month 40)

Cycling this month

This month I didn’t cycle as much as normal, whereas Klaus had a very impressive month’s total 1533.83km. As you can see from the screenshot of my rides below, I only managed 733.32!

And this is where I rode:

Local velomobile meet

There are more and more Velomobiles making their home in our part of the Niederrhein and one day Johannes who lives in Vorst sent round a message to various Velomobile owners saying if they wanted to meet at his house for a beer after work we should come along.

In the end it was a good gathering with Johannes, Klaus and I, Jochen, Stefan (with the Celeste DF), Liegender_Robert (with his green DF) and Andreas who rides a Go-One Evo R.

3 Wheels 4 France

3Wheels4France is a 3 week velomobile tour around France. No, I didn’t take part – I am nowhere near fast enough and good at hill climbing to ride with the 21 chaps who set off – but Klaus and I decided to wave them off from Trier one Sunday morning in July.

We drove to Trier, had lunch there and visited the Porta Nigra, as well as having a short walk along the Mosel.

We then drove to Igel where we checked into our hotel.

Igel was where the campsite for the Velomobilists was, and our hotel was next to the notable local landmark, the Igeler Säule, a Roman Monument.

After checking in we headed to the campsite in Igel where they were staying the night before. It would be a chance to see some friends again and have a relaxing chat whilst they arrived ready for the off the next morning.

There were many familiar faces and some new ones. Lots of shiny velomobiles with a very strong bias towards the DF.

At 18:00 there was a rider’s meeting about the event.

Klaus and I went back to the hotel at this point for our evening meal, agreeing to meet everyone at 9am the next morning for the off. It was lovely to walk alongside the peaceful Mosel.

Hajo’s wife was also staying at the hotel so we breakfasted together the next morning and then walked together to the campsite to discover… almost everyone had already left at least an hour before!

Hajo and Daniel Fenn had stayed behind to see us so we chatted to them before waving them off.

The tour has been extremely well organised by Josef (Jupp), who Klaus and I breakfasted with in Berlin a month or so ago. He had also arranged for there to be a Broom Wagon which even included a spare velomobile, a DF.

If you want to read about the tour there is a website http://3wheels4france.eu/ and a very long thread in the Velomobilforum with pictures from the tour.

Visiting Luxembourg

We knew we would be finished with the 3Wheels4France crew by 9am so decided as we were right on the border with Luxembourg to visit it – I had never been there. My godfather, who I had not seen since I was 4 years old but with whom I had been in contact since the death of my father, lives in Luxembourg and offered for us to visit and for him to show us around and his wife Clara to cook us an Italian lunch (she is Italian).

We gratefully accepted these invitations and had a really lovely day with Stephen and Clara.

First of all, after the obligatory cup of tea for me and proper Italian coffee for Klaus, Stephen took us on a tour in the car to see the major sights of Luxembourg which include of course many European institutions where he had his career as a translator.

Our lunch was very tasty with Italian specialities and finished off by a Luxembourg cake

We then went into Luxembourg again and walked around some of the main parts.

It’s a very interesting city as it is well fortified and built on very steep hills beside two rivers.

The Grand Duke’s palace is right amongst the shopping streets.

We had a final cuppa before heading home. Klaus took this photo of me with Stephen and Clara and their cat too!

It was a busy but really enjoyable weekend, but it felt very odd travelling for such a long time in the car. We would have both preferred to go by bike!

Events this month

This will be a short blog post as not that much has happened this month really. Work does rather cut into my cycling time!

I moved into the new office at work and my boss had a birthday so all the staff members were invited for some Bratwurst and rolls and cake one afternoon.

I was impressed by this cupcake which was almost Celeste colour!

Cakes this month

Talking of cakes, here are the cakes and I and my chums have enjoyed this month.

I hope to write a bit more next month – life in Germany continues to be great, but there are not so many new things to talk about!

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

6 Wheels In Germany – June 2017 (Month 39)

Cycling this month

Cycling Statistics this month

This month was one of my highest distance months ever ridden:

And here is where I went – from the Netherlands to Poland and back via Berlin.

This is of course my tour Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen, for which I wrote a blog post every day. If you haven’t seen it then you can read the tour reports here.

Apart from this most of my rides were commutes.

Helen’s birthday ride

However, the day after we returned from our long bike tour was my birthday. So how should I celebrate it but a cycle ride!

Unfortunately Klaus had to drive to Berlin that day for a work conference so he was unable to ride with us – instead he arranged to meet us at the café and drive straight on to Berlin from there.

I had invited various friends and a plan was hatched to meet in Straelen. My host family Gudula, Frank, Nils and Lara would meet us there, along with the new family member Rohallah, a refugee who is now living with us. This was because Rohallah wasn’t keen on cycling the 60km round trip, having only a few weeks ago received his own bicycle. Plus it was Ramadan so he was fasting so a long ride on a very hot day was not such a good idea.

Anyway, Jochen came round to my house and he and I cycled together to Straelen where we met Uli who had ridden straight there.

Due to various elements of disorganisation we didn’t actually leave Straelen until 45 minutes after the scheduled leaving time, partly because of a flat tyre on Gudula’s bike too, so that Klaus arrived alone at the café and sat Billy-No-Mates on a table set for 10. But eventually we got there, having cycled on a very hot day. Well, not all of us had cycled – Lara and Nils were on their inline skates, so the 16km to the café was a fair distance.

We sat on the long table and ordered our cakes/drinks.

And there were some very nice cakes!

As my second slice of cake I decided to go for a pancake.

Gudula, Lara, Nils and Rohallah played mini golf but the rest of us sheltered from the heat under the umbrella and enjoyed our drinks. We were at Café zum Schafstall which I have visited a few times before and which I really like. It’s in the middle of nowhere though so it would be vastly unlikely for someone to stumble upon it by accident (although that is in fact what Klaus and I once did, but we were on a ride to NL).

Klaus headed off to Berlin and then Uli had to leave. After a very pleasant 3 hours at the café it was time to ride back to Straelen.

When we got to Straelen it seemed like a good idea to have some ice cream.

Our velomobiles were causing great interest. Nils had left his skates in front of them too – his feet were rather hurting!

Jochen had to go off somewhere else for a barbecue so I ended up riding home on my own. I really pushed, feeling very fit after my tour and well-fuelled with cake, and managed a 35.9km/h average for the ride home which felt good.

I enjoyed my birthday very much and it was good to share the day with friends and my German ‘family’ here too.

After Klaus returned from Berlin we gave the velomobiles a good clean and service.

The really good news is that my new back wheel performed really well on the tour and has made a huge improvement in terms of noise (the freehub in the old wheel was super-noisy when freewheeling). I did discover the rear wheel was slightly loose one day – Millie felt a bit funny when pulling away from a standstill – but I tightened it up and all was well again. I will have to watch that as a loose rear wheel is sub-optimal.

Klaus and I decided to go out for breakfast cake the Sunday after my birthday. But we have made a new agreement that we are only allowed cake if we cycle more than 50km, so we had to take quite a detour home after eating this at 17km…

Life in Germany

This month was super-busy at work following my two week break as the customer I look after has hugely increased the amount of items they produce with us. The new contract of course started on the first day of my holiday so my colleagues had to take care of everything; it will take me a couple more weeks to get on top of it all.

Into all the business was added the bonus that I moved office into the new part of our building. This is very nice and an open office, sharing with a colleague instead of being on my own but in a much airier and more spacious room. I also have a view of everyone coming and going and there is a special parking place for Millie out the front.

Not only did I move office on 30 June but it was also another important moving day – it was the day that Klaus moved in with me. He handed back the keys to his flat and is now making his home with Poppy and me. He and Poppy have already bonded very well!

This is a shorter blog post due to half the month already having been written about in detail! More next month…

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

Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 15: Rheine to Kempen

Our last day of the tour!

This was our planned route, except we would be starting 8km east of Rheine so the total distance would be 152km.

The forecast for today was a bit cloudy but otherwise dry. We truly have been incredibly lucky with the weather on this tour!

As you can see from the photo below, it wasn’t particularly sunny for most of the day and it was a bit cooler than previous days but it was still fine cycling weather.

The first 8km took us along very quiet main roads to Rheine, where it was a bit busier and hillier. I am quite glad we didn’t stay overnight in Rheine otherwise the first kilometre of our ride this morning would have been quite a hill. At least this way we were warmed up for it!

From Rheine we rode around the edge of Neuenkirchen and then through Bilk on the main road. It was a good fast route and we were rolling well.

We then cycled around the side of Ochtrup and started seeing place names on the road signs that we had cycled on our outward journey.

Yesterday I found I had a painful left foot (I think related to the cleat position on my sandals) and it was flaring up again after 20km. I thought I would  have to stop and have a walk around but I kept on and it periodically subsided a bit before coming back again. I scrunched up my toes, shifted my feet around in the shoes, tried to push the pedal at a different angle, but none of this made a real difference, I just had to grit my teeth and keep pedalling.

After Heek we crossed the A31 motorway and then were on the final stretch to Ahaus, which we reached with 49km on the clock, so definitely time for a cake stop.

As usual lots of people were asking us about the bikes, but as we were about to leave and were both sitting in the velomobiles Klaus was accosted by a real classic chap. He knocked on the side of Celeste to see what she was made of, and when I told him not to touch her he bashed the tyre to see how that felt too. Klaus asked the chap if he would like us to hit his car but he didn’t seem to make the link at all with what he had done and remained cheerful and unrepentant.

After Ahaus we turned off the L572 and took a quieter road. Although there was a reasonable cycle path we decided to ride on the road as it was faster and there was almost no other traffic. I did nip onto the cycle path to take this photo of windmills old and new.

We were back on the road and pedalling at a steady 38km/h when I noticed a police car overtaking us. He had wound down the window and said something into a PA system but I couldn’t understand it because of the wind noise, the rubbish amplification and the foreign language. The policeman dropped back and said something to Klaus and I decided to pull in at the next road on the right hand side, which turned out to be what he had asked us to do.

We both stopped and he stopped behind us. I got out of Millie (I had rolled quite a long way forward) and when I reached Klaus the policeman was asking him if we had a document allowing us to use our vehicles on the road. Klaus pointed out that they were bicycles, so the policeman asked us why we weren’t using the ‘benutzungspflichtig’ (mandatory) cycle path. We explained these cycle paths are not mandatory for velomobiles, and I said I had a document which explained it and went to Millie to extract my piece of paper I have carried around fruitlessly for three years.

This is what the document says:

Die vorgegebenen Maße für die lichte Breite beziehen sich auf ein einspuriges Fahrrad. Andere Fahrräder (vgl. Definition des Übereinkommens über den Straßenverkehr vom 8.11.68, BGBL, 1977 II S.809)

wie mehrspurige Lastenfahrräder und Fahrräder mit Anhänger werden davon nicht erfasst. Die Führer anderer Fahrräder sollen in der Regel dann, wenn die Benutzung des Radweges nach den Umständen des Einzelfalls unzumutbar ist, nicht beanstandet werden, wenn sie den Radweg nicht benutzen.

Unzumutbarkeit bei schnellen Fahrten:

Die Benutzung unzumutbarer mit den Zeichen 237, 240 und 241 gekennzeichneter Radwege wird nicht verlangt (vgl. OLG Oldenburg, VBI 1953, 190; OLG Düsseldorf, NZV 1992, 290; OLG Köln NZV 1994, 278; Bouska, NZV 1991, 129).

Die Unzumutbarkeit kann z. B. unter folgenden Umständen gegeben sein: Schlaglöcher, fehlende
(zu geringe, scharfkantige) Bordsteinabsenkungen, Längsrillen in Pflaster oder Asphalt, hochstehende oder tiefliegende Hydrante, Vermessungspunkte oder Gullydeckel, Überwucherungen durch Gebüsch oder Brennesseln, Verwerfungen des Belags durch Wurzeln, Glasscherben, Schneedecken im Winter.

Umstände, die die Benutzung des Radwegs erheblich erschweren, reichen (OLG Oldenburg VBI 1953, 190).

It also has another section in Dutch which is the sort-of equivalent:

verheid.nl, Reglement verkeersregels en ver- keerstekens 1990 (RVV 1990) Hoofdstuk UU Verkeersregels, §1 Plaats op de weg, Artikel 5

1. Fietsers gebruiken het verplichte fietspad of het fiets/bromfietspad.

2. Zij gebruiken de rijbaan indien een verplicht fietspad of een fiets/bromfietspad ont- breekt.

3. Zij mogen het onverplichte fietspad gebruik- en. Bestuurders van snorfietsen uitgerust met een verbrandingsmotor mogen het onverplichte fietspad slechts gebruiken met uitgeschakelde motor.

4. Bestuurders van fietsen op meer dan twee wielen die met inbegrip van de lading breder zijn dan 0,75 meter en van fietsen met aanhangwagen die met inbegrip van de lading breder zijn dan 0,75 meter mogen de rijbaan gebruiken.

The three years of carting this piece of paper around finally bore fruit! The policeman read the whole thing (half a side of A5) and then told us we could carry on. Here is Klaus looking relieved once the policeman had left. Phew!

We carried on cycling on the road and soon found ourselves whizzing down the hill to Stadtlohn. We had ridden through Stadtlohn on both the Christi Himmelfahrt tour and also our outward trip to Usedom so these were now familiar roads, which always makes you feel that you are nearer home. We zoomed south to Südlohn and then past Borken, through the amusingly-named Homer, maintaining a very speedy pace (I got a Queen of the Mountains award for it on Strava, 7.3km at an average of 33.2km/h).

We took a slightly more scenic route past Marienthal where we were on quieter roads as we headed into Wesel, rather than taking the B70. We made our way to the centre of Wesel for lunch, having to avoid hordes of rockers who were at some kind of festival. We stopped for a burger lunch but had to deal with rather a lot of people looking at the bikes which isn’t always restful!

The bench in front of Millie’s parking pace had a set of pedals so of course I tried them out!


The pedals were too near the bench for me, I like to be more reclined. They were also harder work than Millie!

From Wesel to home was just 43km and we rode quickly, mostly on the road until Issum. At Issum Klaus went onto the cycle path and I followed him on it, but then saw a good downhill was ahead so popped back on the road (and had a lovely fast descent and maintained the speed for many kilometres). Klaus found himself doing an emergency stop as the cycle path suddenly stopped with no warning and a high kerb blocking the road. Not fun!

We were now on the road between Issum/Sevelen and Kerken, a road we regularly ride, and we were well warmed up so zooming along. From Kerken we took our usual relaxed route through Stenden, coming to my house on the final few kilometres through quiet local roads. We made it back at 4 o’clock and Poppy the dog heard us arriving and came to greet us.

Here is my Strava upload for the day:

And if you want to relive the ride as you fly over the ground following my track, here is the link: Relive

This is Klaus’s report for the day:

Tja…das war sie unsere große Sommertour Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen 2017. In 15 Tagen sind wir einmal quer durch Deutschland von den Niederlanden bis nach Polen und wieder zurück. In Summe 1840km, 4575 Höhenmeter, 67 Stunden und 52 Minuten. Es eine tolle Zeit mit vielen wunderbaren Erlebnissen.

Die Umgebung mit allen Sinnen zu erfassen ist etwas Einzigartiges. Wir haben während der Tour viele nette Menschen getroffen. Alte Bekannte und viele Interessierte.

Obwohl die Routen über Landstraßen und auch Bundesstrassen geführt wurden, haben wir im Großen und Ganzen kaum haarige Situationen erlebt, nun gut “Spinner” gibt es immer wieder. Die Unterkünfte waren alle in Ordnung und da wo es Probleme gab wurden diese gelöst. Technische Ausfälle hatten kaum zu beklagen. Ich habe mir meinen Umwerfer vorde etwas verbogen und konnte so nicht mehr vernünftig schalten. Das muss ich mir nochmal in Ruhe anschauen. Am letzten Tag ist mir noch ein Draht an meinem Ersatzakku gebrochen. Das wars…keinen Platten weder am Strada oder am Milan. Besten Dank an die beiden Hersteller Velomobiel.nl und Räderwerk.

Das Erlebte muss natürlich noch verarbeitet werden und vieles wirkt auch noch nach. Lieben Dank an Alle, die unsere Tour mit verfolgt haben. Und ganz lieben Dank an meinen “Cycling Partner” Helen. Es ist wunderbar entspannend mit ihr durch die Gegend zu radeln. Sie strahlt die Ruhe und die Zuversicht eines erfahrenen Tourenradlers aus. Es hat einfach nur Spaß gemacht. Und wo geht’s jetzt hin??? Keine Ahnung aber wir werden mal schauen, welches Ziel für als Nächstes in Angriff nehmen werden.

We unloaded the bikes and took everything into the house. I took the opportunity to weigh my toolbag which contained everything I might need for this trip in terms of repairs and spares. I had three spare tyres in total, two are in the bag and you can see one on the top, four spare tubes, puncture kit, allen keys and spanners, cable ties, spare Schlumpf buttons, multitool, insulating tape and more. The whole lot weighed 2062g, so over 2kg.

And this is what I used… one 1.5mm allen key which weighs so little my scales (which weigh in multiples of 5g) did not register it.

Still, it is always important to be prepared!

Klaus also wrote on Facebook his report on the policeman stopping us and impressions of the cycle paths that we encountered and I include that here (in German of course):

Kurz nachdem wir dieses Bild geschossen haben, hat uns die Rennleitung angehalten. Auf die Frage, ob wir eine Berechtigung hätten dieses Fahrzeug auf der Straße zu fahren, antwortete ich, dass dies Fahrräder sind. Kurzes Nachdenken des Polizisten und danach die Frage, warum wir nicht auf dem benutzungspflichtigen Radweg fahren würden. Meine Antwort…viel zu gefährlich und es gibt ja auch eine Verwaltungsvorschrift, die Mehrspurer von der Benutzungspflicht befreit. Helen hatte den Auszug griffbereit. Nach längerem Studium durften wir mehr oder weniger Kommentarlos weiterfahren.

Die Tour hat es mal wieder gezeigt…. das Drama mit unseren Radwegen. Ich möchte gar nicht von den innerstädtischen Wegen sprechen…die laufen außer Konkurrenz, aber was sich so in freier Wildbahn bietet ist schon abenteuerlich.

1. Die Qualität…Oberflächenbeschaffenheit ist manchmal unterirdisch. Wurzelaufbrüche, Ablenkungen, Flinken etc. machen jede Fahrt zur Hölle. Reinigung der Wege… Fehlanzeige…Äste, Tannenzapfen, Steine…das sind potentielle Stolperfallen.

2. Die Wegführung…ich habe keine Ahnung was sich so mancher Radwegbauer so gedacht hat. Die begleitende Landstraße ist topfeben. Der Radweg daneben fordert alle Sinne und Kraftreserven des Radlers. 90°Grad Verschränkungen und damit es nicht langweilig wird streuen wir auch mal eine 13% Steigung ein. Der Pedelec Antrieb muss ja auch was zu tun haben. Auf der anderen Seite kann sich der Radler dann todesmutig in Schlucht stürzen, in der Hoffnung, dass in der Senke keine Kurve auf ihn wartet. Wenn ich einem Radweg folge, dann darf ich doch eigentlich erwarten, dass dieser auch schön brav bei seiner Landstraße bleibt…neiiiiinnnn. gerne führen wir den Radler auf irgndwelche Pfade weg von seinem eigentlichen Ziel. Da es keine ausreichende Beschilderung gibt, landet man dann irgendwo im Nirwana. Auch immer gerne genommen… wunderbar ausgebauter Radweg man rollt tiefenentspannt durch die Gegend und plötzlich…. Ende, aber nicht einfach Ende….neiiiin…da machen wir noch ein schönes Drängelgitter hin. Übrigens, der Radweg geht dann an der anderen Straßenseite weiter. Man muss nur die stark befahrene Bundesstraße queren (natürlich ohne Querungshilfe). Wenn mir noch mal irgend Jemand erzählt, dass Radwege sicher sind, dann schleppte ich ihn eigenhändig an diese Stelle. Usedom hat hier einige Paradebeispiel zu bieten. Und noch eine bitte… wäre es vielleicht zu viel verlangt auf Radwegen eine übliche Beschilderung anzulegen. So könnte man sich auf einige Hindernisse einstellen.

3. Ampelanlagen….warum muss ich als Radfahrender Linksabbieger mich immer um mindestens 2 Ampelanlagen manövrieren (manchmal gehen auch mehr)? Und warum stellt man die Drücker gefühlt 10m neben den Radweg. Gut nicht jeder fährt Velomobil, aber es gibt auch noch Rollstuhlfahrer oder andere gehandicapte Verkehrsteilnehmer. Manchmal steht der Pfosten gefühlt in einem Naturschutzgebiet, dann heißt es einfach bei rot drüber oder aussteigen und hinlarschen in der Hoffnung das man danach keine Hundescheisse in den Cleats hat. Ich werde vor Ampeln zukünftig immer auf die Straße wechseln, in der Hoffnung, dass die Induktionsschleife meinen Carbonrenner erkennt

Der Polizist der uns heute herausgewunken hatte, hat uns Kommentarlos weiterfahren lassen. Gerne hätte ich dabei gehabt, als uns 5 Kilometer vorher knallhart die Vorfahrt genommen wurde. Wenn sich die Zustände nicht ändern, werde ich weiterhin die Radwegbenutzungspflicht großzügig zu meinen Gunsten auslegen. Und sollte ich mal Geld dafür zahlen müssen…so what…so viel ist mir mein Leben alle Mal wert.

So, here are the total statistics for the trip from my Ascent software:

30,000 calories burned so that is good news!

And here is the wheel image of where we have been which takes its data from Strava (which is slightly different than Ascent, above, although they use the same files from my Garmin)

And now I must sign off my reports from Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen and get back to real life. Work on Monday, but tomorrow a short (60km) cycle ride to share cake with some friends as it will be my birthday. Klaus has to drive to Berlin tomorrow for work – back in the car, back into the work groove, but with some great memories of a fantastic cycle tour and our two great velomobiles!

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Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 14: Steinhude to Rheine

Today was our penultimate day of the tour and the first where the weather forecast suggested some rain might appear. In fact we had rain for one minute over the whole day so our luck held!

After a good breakfast we were ready to leave at 08:30, heading out of Steinhude and towards Wunstorf.

Here is the original planned route for the day, but we would now be stopping 8km earlier in Dreierwalde.

It was much cooler as we started this morning without much blue sky in evidence.
We passed this impressive mountain (Kaliwerk Sigmundshall) which is the leavings from a salt mine. It’s a bad photo taken whilst cycling but I guess you can get the idea.

Here is a better pic from the internet


The first section of this ride was really nice, with quiet roads wending their way through villages and towns. We ended up on a Landstraße which became a bit busier as we rode along it. At 40km the track took us off the main road and we crossed a bridge next to a power station. This was the Schleusekanal, a short cut for the Weser river.

We stopped for a drink and Klaus changed his radio batteries. They have been lasting very well on this tour – about 8 days’ usage before the battery gets too weak. They are so useful with Velomobiles as it’s hard to talk to each other otherwise when you are 500 metres ahead.

Shortly after this stop (where I had to walk around a bit as my feet were complaining) we crossed the Weser river.

Straight after this bridge the cycle path made us leave the main road – and this was such a steep descent that we walked down. Klaus had ridden down first in Celeste but suggested he helped me wheel Millie down. She was quite tricky to hold back as she wanted to launch herself down the slope…

We followed the cycle path which took us through a park and we had to cycle over some grass, so off-roading again. At this point we decided as we had lost the cycling rhythm we would stop for some cake.

We were not too sure about how nice it would be to ride on the L770 Landstraße now as it had been pretty busy on the bridge over the Weser. Looking at our Garmins we saw there was a road parallel and so we took that for the next 10km. It then brought us back to the original Landstraße and we joined that road.

Fortunately there was a wide hard shoulder on the road which cyclists are allowed to use and this Seitenstreifen was great quality and enabled us to keep riding at a steady tempo, despite riding into a headwind. We had a sector of 25km at an average speed of 33km/h whilst whizzing along the road past Espelkamp. This is good fun in Velomobiles and we enjoyed ourselves immensely, covering the ground at great speed.

We were approaching Osnabrück but then our route took us off this fast road and on the L766 north towards Haldem.

There was a real hill in front of us and I had a horrible feeling we might need to climb it but fortunately the route turned west again, although we did have to climb a little bit which slowed me down a lot!

Past Drohne we saw roadworks signs and diversions. We hoped we could get through the road closure but sadly not, and we had a couple of abortive routefinding attempts before we got on a lovely stony track which would get us around the road closure.

As we had slowed our pace and warmed down a bit we thought we could stop for lunch – we had ridden 100km. We looked first in Hunteberg for somewhere to eat but the Eiscafé was closed. We rode on.

The next quite long section of road, the Lutterdamm, was in rather a bad state of repair. If we rode down the middle it was ok but when cars came the other way or wanted to pass us and we had to keep right it was very bumpy indeed! And of course no food places came into sight.

I looked ahead on Google Maps and 6km further, in the village of Lappenstuhl, there was a restaurant and also a pizzeria. Hurrah!

When we arrived in Lappenstuhl the restaurant was closed. Never mind, we rode on to the Pizzeria. We arrived at the spot on Google Maps and it was just a normal residential house. So no food in Lappenstuhl.

We headed back onto our track, knowing that Bramsche wasn’t far away and Klaus had eaten food there on his solo tour! Although that was a McDonalds!

Whilst riding here we saw lots of signs for the Varusschlacht. I had no idea what this was but it was actually a decisive battle in Roman times and Klaus started quoting various phrases (in German). There is a Wikipedia explanation here: Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

After a few more kilometres we arrived in Bramsche and stopped at the first restaurant we saw, a Turkish place, where we had Turkish pizza which is pretending to be a wrap.

We had about another 45km to go and set off through Bramsche, with Klaus getting a bit ahead. At Hemke I turned off the main road, following the track along the K102. I was surprised I didn’t catch Klaus up as there was a very strong headwind and he hadn’t been that far ahead. Then I got a text message – he had missed the turning at Hemke and was behind me. He also wanted to slow down a bit as the cappuccino he had drunk had rather elevated his heart rate. He suggested I rode ahead at my own speed but I waited for him – we were riding this tour together!

We crossed the Mittellandkanal twice within a few kilometres. 


We rode at a comfortable pace, mostly on the cycle path beside the road as these were pretty good quality. The final kilometres were disappearing behind us and we crossed back into Nordrhein-Westfalen. We had first crossed into NRW early in the day but then had been back into Niedersachsen for quite a while.

Finally we arrived at the hotel in Dreierwalde and were met by the hotel owner who was about to take his dog for a walk/bike ride. She was a Weimaraner – I used to have one and I love these dogs! Our room was fine and we showered and washed the other; even though we didn’t really need to I didn’t want to have smelly damp clothes to transport tomorrow, I would rather have washed and dried cycling gear!

Here is Klaus’s Strava upload for the day:

And here is Klaus’s short report of the day:

Vorletzter Tag unserer Tour. Vom Steinhuder Meer 150 Kilometer gen Westen. Nach der gestrigen Tour durch Wolfsburg und Hannover konnte es heute eigentlich nur besser werden. Das Gewitter war ja schon gestern abend durchgezogen und es war kein Regen angesagt. Das Steinhuder Meer war am morgen etwas “aufgeregt”. Wahrscheinlich gekitzelt durch den ungestümen Westwind, der uns den ganzen Tag stramm ins Gesicht blasen sollte. 

Nach ca. 35km hatten wir die Weser bei Petershagen überquert…Zeit für einen ersten Stopp…Philadelphia-Schnitte. Der nächste Schlag ging dann 70 Kilometer bis nach Bramsche. Die Landschaft ist recht abwechslungsreich und die Route war im Großen und Ganzen gut befahrbar. In Bramsche haben wir dann unser verdientes Mittagessen zu uns genommen. 

Och weiß nicht so recht warum und weshalb. Aber kurz nachdem wir losgefahren waren fühlte ich mich plötzlich nicht so gut. Ein eigenartiges Gefühl, wenn man plötzlich das eigene Herz spürt. Eventuell war es der Cappuccino. Ich habe kurz Helen Bescheid gegeben, dass ich die nächsten 45 Kilometer das Tempo etwas rausnehme und sie ruhig ihren eigenen Speed radeln könnte. Sie blieb aber trotzdem immer an meiner Seite. Es ist beruhigend eine zuverlässige Partnerin an der Seite zu haben. 

Die letzten Kilometer bin so durchgerollt und habe den Puls immer schön unter 130 gehalten. Eigentlich hätte ich so noch weiter rollen können. Morgen kommt die letzte Etappe und irgendwie möchte ich nicht aufhören. Das Leben ist so schön einfach und man kann es mit all seinen Sinnen aufnehmen. Man verpasst zu viel im Alltagstrott. Wir werden auf jeden Fall in Kürze mit der Planung für nächstes Jahr beginnen

We decided to eat dinner in the hotel and it was very nice, and good value too!


We are both a bit gloomy that the tour is almost at an end but, as Klaus said above, we are already planning the next one!

Tomorrow is 140km back to Kempen, returning via Ahaus, Stadtlohn, Südlohn and Wesel, so roads we have done twice already in the last three weeks. It is a fairly fast route too. And the weather is looking kind again. Hurrah!

[EDIT] It has been pointed out to me that my photo of Klaus and Josef in Berlin is in the Guardian newspaper. Josef tweeted the photo and it was picked up by the Guardian. You can see it here: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jun/16/we-shared-the-road-our-hopes-and-visions-a-week-of-cycle-conversations

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Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 13: Grafhorst to Steinhude

Today was a tough one, in fact the only really tough day of the Tour so far.

It was not the longest day, we ended up with 133km (the longest day was 156km)

It did not have the most climbing, we ended up with 305 metres (the most climbing was 598)

It was not on the fastest roads (other days used more Bundesstraßen)

However, it was the busiest day for traffic and we went through the most built-up sections. We also experienced lots of bad driving.

But it was a day cycling so it was good!

Breakfast at the hotel was from 06:00 on weekdays and Saturdays and 07:30 on Sundays and Public Holidays. As today was the public holiday of Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi) we didn’t get up particularly early. But I was peckish, and it suddenly occurred to us that not everywhere has Fronleichnam as a public holiday. Mr Google helped us to discover that for Niedersachsen it isn’t a day off, so we went for breakfast at 7am and it was open…

After breakfast we extracted the bikes from the garage. Yesterday I had adjusted my parking brake to make it a bit firmer and that had worked well.

Earlier in my tour reports I showed pictures of all the luggage in Millie but I realise I didn’t show pictures of the items I have with me, so here is one.


It’s a light blue dry bag which is very long and I can stuff that past Millie’s suspension and into the void at the back. The darker blue rucksack with iPad in goes into th dry bag once it is in place. The shoes go on top, then the seat is in place and nothing can be seen. (My red tool bag was still in Millie for this photo). I have a Velomobile bag (triangular shape) each side, and the water bottles each side. Works well.

Here is our planned route for the day:


We left Grafhorst at 08:30 and there was lots more traffic on the road than had been when we arrived last night. We were heading towards Wolfsburg, home of VW, and indeed the vast majority of cars on the road were VWs.

I was riding ahead as we left Danndorf on the approach to Wolfsburg at Reislingen. We had both been riding on the cycle paths but I decided to pop onto the road for a short stretch and whizzed ahead over a traffic light crossing. I rolled on a bit further, waiting for Klaus as I knew he had been caught by the lights. I had rolled round the corner so couldn’t see well but he didn’t appear. I tried calling him on the radio but got no response. 

I was about to phone him when he appeared. He had been on the cycle path which forced him to turn up the L290 towards Vorsfelde, so turning right, rather than going straight across. He wasn’t able to turn round for quite some distance but eventually joined me.

Just a few minutes later a similar thing happened – I was ahead and realised Klaus was no longer behind me. Again I had to wait for a while before he appeared. More cycle path problems (I was being bolshy and using the roads).

We were now approaching the centre of Wolfsburg, home of the car. It really is, although it did also have a random white giraffe.

We were mostly using the cycle paths now but they weren’t great. Car is king in Wolfsburg and cyclists and pedestrians are much less important. But seeing a place like Wolfsburg makes you realise how dangerously dependent this whole region is on VW. If something happens to VW then this whole city would collapse. 

We finally escaped the clutches of Wolfsburg and rode through Fallersleben, Sülfeld, Allerbüttel and Calberlah. Klaus suggested we stop for a cake in Calberlah as he was feeling really fed up with the traffic and cycle infrastructure and needed a break, even though we had only ridden 35km. But I was happy to stop too as I needed a drink.

We found a bakery and had tea/coffee and cake.

We had a half hour stop and then it was time to get going again. We followed lots of signs to Gifhorn but headed further west past Isenbuttel through Leiferde, Hillerse and then Edemissen which was our original plan for the first stop (although at 55km that would have been a bit too far I think).

We continued on, the day was warming up and as we approached Lehrte Klaus said he wanted to stop to buy some drink. Lehrte is where the name Lehrter Bahnhof for the Hauptbahnhof in Berlin comes from – it was the station for Hannover, although it is a surprisingly long way from Hannover!

Anyway, we found a Penny Markt and I bought an ice cream and Klaus some water. After a brief stop we continued on.

We had some sectors where we could ride faster but others where we struggled with the traffic and found we had to use cycle paths. We were going round the outskirts of Hannover now and it was a big sprawl of buildings, roads and again lots of traffic.

It was very warm and I wanted to stop for lunch as it was 13:00 and we had ridden for 95km so we stopped at an Eiscafé near a bridge over the Mittellandkanal. 

Klaus had a yoghurt ice cream thingie and pulled a face to show what he thought of the traffic situation today.

I had a very nice piece of cheesecake!

Then it was time to continue on the final 38km but boy was the first 10km of this hard. I guess we didn’t average more than 18km/h as it was fiddly cycle paths which kept crossing the road, traffic lights, cones and bollards…

There were some fast stretches of road but there was so much traffic we felt we really had to stick to the cycle paths. We both saw some very bad overtaking manoeuvres when we were riding on the road and felt it wiser to slow down our pace and take the cycle paths but they were very bumpy and rattly and annoying.

We rode south of Hannover Airport and then finally left the busy main road and made our way onto quieter roads to Osterwald Oberende, Osterwald Unterende and Frielingen. Finally we could push a bit and increase the speed.

At Bordenau we crossed the river Leine and then rode through the excellently-named Poggenhagen where we waited at a level crossing for a train. We were out in the countryside now at last, but were hot and tired after our tricky ride.

We passed a large airfield and then were on the final stretch to Großenheidorn and then Steinhude. We found our hotel and were so relieved to be there!

Here is Klaus’s Strava update for the day.

I thought I would also include this picture of Klaus’s impressive cyclist tan!

We planned to have a short walk around Steinhude before dinner but there were clearly thunderstorms on the way so we decided to eat early after just a short look at the lake.


We found a restaurant and enjoyed our meals outside under the giant umbrella although had to move inside when the wind really started blowing.

I had Spargel with Schnitzel as it is almost the end of asparagus time.


Klaus was feeling pooped so went to sleep after dinner. I felt the need for chocolate but didn’t have any in stock so resolved to walk to Lidl. I realised it would close in 10 minutes so had a very brisk walk but was pleased to be able to restock the M&M supply (don’t melt in the bags in hot weather).

I was treated to a beautiful sunset over the lake.


Tomorrow is a longer day, originally 160km to Rheine but it will be 5km shorter as we have changed hotels (due to no bike storage) and will be staying in a small village before Rheine. Once again we have been incredibly lucky with the weather today and the forecast suggests we might just stay dry tomorrow too!!

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Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 12: Brandenburg an der Havel to Grafhorst

As suspected, the noise of cars on cobbles outside our room last night was a bit loud so we closed the window and then it was OK. Our experience of Brandenburg is that it is a lovely town but really spoiled by all the cars. And cobbles may slow cars down but they are very noisy (and irritating for velomobilists).

Breakfast was a little unusual in this hotel as it was ready-filled rolls, yoghurt and fruit but nothing hot. The landlady had indeed also brought some pastry slices for us, but I missed having my scrambled egg and felt this was not such good value as lots of the buffet breakfasts we had enjoyed.

Various people came in for breakfast who were not hotel residents. This included (as we discovered later) the hotel owner and also a chap dressed super smartly. We wondered if he was the mayor but found out later that the mayor is a woman so obviously not.

There were lots of other cyclists and breakfast and when it was time for us to leave (we were packed and ready to go by 08:00) they all assembled in the Innenhof and watched us manoeuvre the bikes out of the garage, then asking lots of questions.

Here’s Klaus explaining about Velomobiles.

And here is the audience as we talk a bit about Millie.

They wished us safe travels and we eventually got underway at a quarter to nine.

This was our planned route for the day.


The first section was threading our way carefully around the tram tracks in Brandenburg. We were soon outside the town and onto a Bundesstraße (major trunk road) which as usual is not particularly relaxing but does allow us to get up some speed.

As we approached Genthin we saw a sign than the road was closed up ahead and there was a diversion. We didn’t know if the road closure would affect bikes but decided not to risk it so we did the diversion which was actually on rather nicer roads, albeit with a couple of cobbled sections.

We got back onto our route with just 1.5km extra ridden and were ahead of Kevin our Garmin training partner so this was fine.

We were back on a Bundesstraße again which meant being overtaken by HGVs and skip lorries and the like, but the motorists were generally much friendlier than in some other areas of Germany we have experienced.

We went through the town of Jerichow which had the oldest brick building in Germany (I think that was what the plaque said!) which was a beautiful monastery and church. However I was whizzing past at 40km/h so couldn’t get a photo of it sadly. Wikipedia gives more info:

Built in the Late Romanesque style, it is one of the oldest brick buildings in northern Germany and a prime example of the Brandenburg style of brick architecture. 

Here is a photo from the web:


I assumed the name was biblical but Wikipedia says otherwise:

Jerichow is not named after a certain city in the Holy Bible of the Christians. Jerichow was actually an Old Slavic word meaning, “riverside settlement of the dominant one”.

Anyway, we sailed past and continued pedalling on. 

We used the cycle path when it was suitable and it was sometimes rather lovely, set away from the road.

I checked the route and just after 50km was the town of Tangermünde which looked large enough to have a decent bakery. First we crossed the river Elbe on a very tall bridge.

Then we headed into Tangermünde, going off track for a couple of kilometres. But it was definitely worth it!

Tangermünde is a lovely town chock full of old buildings. Here is just one example:

We spotted a coffee shop and decided to stop there. Klaus does love a good coffee!

I ordered tea (of course) and Klaus chose a coffee. 

We also ordered cake, and my slice of chocolate torte turned out to be the tastiest cake I have enjoyed on this trip. It was really fab!!

Whilst we were drinking the cafe owner came over and chatted to us about all things coffee. He explained about his shop, differences in roasting requirements, lots of stuff that Klaus really loved learning about. They import their own coffee beans.

Klaus used to order coffee beans from somewhere in Berlin but bought a small 250g bag from here to try and may switch his allegiance to this Rösterei. He loves these little interludes, meeting random people and chatting to them about different subjects.

It was time to hit the road again so we did the 2km ride out of Tangermünde and rejoined our track, which diverted away from the Bundesstraße and onto quieter roads, but almost immediately we were faced with this:

We had no idea how long this section of road was but it could be quite a long way. The alternative was going back on the Bundesstraße which neither of us fancied so we decided to carry on.

This bit of track turned out to just be about 2km and we were soon back on asphalted roads, although not as smooth as some. We headed through the small villages of Langensalzwedel, Charlottenhof and Bindfelde before joining busier traffic within Stendal where we had to ride twice over a railway (this meant two hills for the railway bridges!) within 1km. Hill climbing from a flat start is not my favourite occupation!

We then joined the Bundesstraße 188 again, crossing the railway again (more hills) and then when we once again returned o the railway the cycle path didn’t take us up over the railway but beside it, leaving the Bundesstraße route. I was a bit worried this was another of those ‘disappearing cycle path with no warning’ experiences but actually it was an improvement as we got to go under the railway through an underpass and had had a blessed 2km away from the Bundesstraße. 

We had stopped for a drink as the day was warming up and we had been going pretty quickly. We decided to stop for lunch (a late one) at Gardelegen which would be at 110km ridden. Because of our detours the route distance had increased to 150km according to the Garmins.

After the railway we were again on side roads. Käthen was very cobble indeed and we tried to ride on the narrow pavements instead (which were brick) but this was not 100% successful as it was bin day and the big wheelie bins were periodically blocking the path. About half my teeth were rattled out by the time we made it onto firmer asphalt.

We rode through the sleepy villages of Klinke, Wollenhagen and then Linstedterhorst where we discovered they were doing road repairs with loose chippings. This made for noisy progress and the thought that we might have sticky tarry stones stuck to our tyres.

That was preferable to the next stretch of road, between Linstedt and Kassieck, which had been newly surfaced. Somehow the chippings in the asphalt acted like a huge brake, I thought I was either (a) riding through treacle, or (b) suffering from three simultaneous flat tyres. It was like cycling in the UK again, slow road surfaces with a horrendous buzz through the steering which gives you repetitive strain injury.

After Kassieck the road returned to normal and we were soon on the outskirts of Gardelegen. Klaus headed straight for the centre but I didn’t see he had turned off the track and carried on round as I had been planning to go to the centre from north side. I got a phone call to ask where I was and I said I would meet him at the church. Five minutes later we were both waiting at churches – but different ones! With the marvels of phone communication we found ourselves together again outside a restaurant so stopped for lunch.

After lunch I said I wanted to find a bike shop to pump up my tyre and we found one just down the road. They were happy to lend us a track pump and I checked Millie’s from tyres – down to 6 bar both sides. I increase them to 8 bar and then it was time to head off after a friendly chat to the bike shop people who were very surprised to hear we had started this morning in Brandenburg. So far away, and it wasn’t even 3pm yet!

On the way out of Gardelegen I commented to Klaus that Millie felt a bit faster now she had harder tyres. I was right too!

Very soon we were back on the Bundesstraße 188 and we zoomed along. Strava tells us that we did 10km with an average speed of 38 km/h and 5km with an average of 40.2!. We were working hard to keep up the pace as we were sharing the road with heavy lorries again. Also speed is addictive!

We stopped on the cycle path for a drink and a short rest with 10km to go, and then pushed on, finding the track went away from the Bundesstraße at last at Weddendorf. We worked our way northwards through Wassensdorf and then Breitenrode before turning south west and arriving at Grafhorst.

Our hotel was fine and there was a large garage for the bikes.

Here is Klaus’s Strava data for the day. The average of 28.6 is impressive as there were some really slow sections on cobbles. He was 200m short of 150km but my Garmin registered 151.2, so my detour in Gardelegen was significant. 

Here is Klaus’s report for the day:

Der 12. Tag unsere Usedom-Berlin führte uns von Brandenburg an der Havel nach Grafhorst an der Aller, eine kleine Gemeinde an der Grenze von Sachsen-Anhalt zu Niedersachsen. Über 140 Kilometer waren geplant und die sollten vornehmlich über Bundesstraßen führen. Das ist zwar nicht immer malerisch aber gerade mit den Velomobilen kann man gut Strecke machen.

Nach ca. 50Kilometern hatten wir bei Tangermünde die Elbe erreicht. In der Innenstadt haben wir eine kleine Kaffeerösterei ausfindig gemacht. Ich liebe solche kleinen Läden mit ihrem eigenen Charme. Mit dem Besitzer, ein wahrer Kaffee-Enthusiast, habe ich mich länger unterhalten. Mal sehen, ob ich mir hier demnächst meinen Cafe bestellen werde. 

Weiter ging es über Bundesstraßen, aber immer mal wieder unterbrochen durch Abschnitten auf kleineren Strässchen. Nach knapp 100 Kilometern haben wir unsere Mittagspause in Gardelegen eingeplant. Helen hat in einem Fahrradladen den Luftdruck der Vorderreifen kontrolliert. 

Die letzten 40 Kilometer haben wir es richtig fliegen lassen. Helen hat mich über die Strasse gehabt, immer zwischen 35 und 45. Zum Schluss stand dann ein fast 29er Schnitt auf dem Tacho. 150km in etwas mehr als 5 Stunden. Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass wir ein solches Tempo vorlegen können. Morgen geht’s weiter über Wolfsburg und Hannover ans Steinhuder Meer… diesmal weniger Bundesstraßen.

After showering and washing cycling clothes I decided to go out for a walk to go back to the border crossing just 1.5km from the hotel. We had zoomed through on the final stretch in the bikes but I wanted to have a more considered look again.

This sign is all that is there to remind you of how it was 26 years ago. Grafhorst was in West Germany but the border was less than 50 metres from the village church. And the people the other side in Breitenrode had such a different life.

Grafhorst lies on the small river Aller which was rather pretty.

And here is the little Evangelische Kirche. And spot the stork nest on the chimney of the house beside it.

The best from the other side with a stork’s head just visible.

There were lots of lovely houses in this village.

I thought I would photograph an everyday sight which will be a bit unfamiliar to Brits. This road marker.

These appear regularly on German roads and give you the road number on the left (B244, yes another Bundesstraße but a quiet one!) and the number top right is the distance in metres between two junctions and the arrow shows in which direction it is counting until the next junction. You don’t see things this organised on UK roads every 100 metres!!

After my walk it was time for our evening meal, which we ate at the hotel (there were no other food establishments in Grafhorst, it has only 1000 residents).  The food was good!

Tomorrow is a slightly shorter day, 130km to Steinhude, and has fewer sections on major roads. The weather is forecasted to be much hotter (27 degrees) and with possible thunderstorms late afternoon. It looks like we may get a bit wet on Friday, our penultimate tour day, but we have been incredibly lucky to stay dry so far when riding.

Klaus is already thinking about where to go on next summer’s tour as we’re having such a great time with this one…

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Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 11: Berlin-Spandau to Brandenburg an der Havel

We were super-early out of the door this morning, checking out at 7am. This was to give us time to cycle to Alt-Moabit for breakfast. We had to pay 8€ per night for our Velomobile parking in the Tiefgarage. To leave the garage we had to pull on a rope thingy but it was a bit high up – Klaus managed it eventually!


We headed off to Konditorei Buchwald which had been recommended to us by fellow Velomobilist Josef and it turned out he would be able to join us there, which was a bonus.

We actually arrived 15 minutes early as the 10km cycle from Spandau was pretty fast, despite it being rush hour.


(Photo by Klaus)

Josef arrived on a red Brompton shortly after we got there and we settled down to a very tasty breakfast!

It was really great to chat to Josef again.

He rode with us to the Brandenburg Gate.


Josef posted some pictures to Facebook with an amusing commentary:

Drama at the Brandenburg Gate. Dark clouds gathering over Berlin as two velomobiles appear at the gate out of nowhere. What does it mean? Is the end near and who will come to the rescue?

All of the sudden, a blue and white striped knight enters the scene on a Bordeaux red Brompton war horse, taming the wild creatures in their strange contraptions. Berlin has survived, the city is safe, again.


We said goodbye to Josef who had to go to work and set off on our route to Brandenburg.

We followed the road to Potsdamer Platz, at which point I realised my battery had run out so I changed it.

We passed through the former American sector with the Kurfürstendamm shopping street with the bombed church the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche and a more recent memorial to the Christmas Market terror attack.

We were soon in leafy and upmarket Zehlendorf but had to deal with a cobbled street.

We rode through Wannsee and then had to climb the hill on the way to Potsdam, but as Josef had said the cycle path was fine.  I reached 62km/h on the way down and then we crossed the Glienicke Brücke, the Bridge of Spies.

We made our way into Potsdam centre and decided to stop for cake.


It was cooler today with some grey clouds but still very good cycling weather and after our leisurely stop we were happy to carry on. Our average speed was pretty low because of all the stopping and starting in Berlin and Garmin training partner Kevin was miles ahead but that didn’t matter, we were enjoying the day.

From Potsdam we cycled alongside the Templiner See until we reached Caputh, where we crossed on a ferry to the other side at Geltow.

From this point we were riding on the roads rather than the cycle paths (when available) as traffic was light and we wanted to speed up a bit.

We rode through Werder and Phöben, at which point the route turned more directly west and straight into a bit of a whopping headwind.

I had been riding behind Klaus most of today but with the strong headwind the form difference between Millie and Celeste came into play again and I overtook Klaus as Millie wanted to run with the wind. I ended up quite far ahead and Klaus was working hard with the blustery sidewinds and headwinds. I waited for him at the next river ferry at Ketzin, once again crossing the Havel.

Fortunately once we had crossed the river our direction changed enough that the wind wasn’t so energy-sapping.

However, with 80km covered I was feeling a bit peckish so told Klaus I would stop at the next food establishment. I spotted the restaurant in Brückenkopf too late and sailed past but couldn’t be bothered to turn around; we would stop at the next one.

The village of Roskow had two restaurants but they were both boarded up so we continued.

Klaus got very excited as he saw a crane (Kranich) in a field beside the road. I clearly didn’t look in the right direction as the bird I saw looked like a grouse or ptarmigan, although I doubt either of these are hanging around in the Havel region.

The next village, Weseram, also had no food places so we stopped beside the road in a quiet area and I ate some of the nuts I had with me. That was enough to keep me going for the final 12km to Brandenburg. We were happy to finally overtake Kevin, we had left it very late. He hadn’t done the detour to the nice breakfast cafe though.

The final kilometres through Klein Kreutz and then the outskirts of Brandenburg flew by and we were soon at our hotel. 

Here is Klaus’s Garmin update for the day:


And this is his summary:

Das erste mal mit dem Rad durch Berlin. Ehrlich gesagt, ein wenig Respekt hatte ich schon, aber im Endeffekt gab es keine Probleme. Angefangen haben wir mit einem leckeren Frühstück. Wir haben uns im Cafe Buchwald in Alt-Moabit mit Josef, einem begeisterten und erfahrenen Velomobilisten, getroffen. Er begleitete uns noch bis zum Brandenburger Tor. Da gab es natürlich ein großes Hallo und wir waren sofort von Touristen umzingelt. Schnell noch, das obligatorische Foto vorm Tor und dann haben wir Josef zu seiner Arbeit entlassen. Wir durften noch einige Hotspots abradeln. Den Potsdamer Platz haben wir links liegen lassen und sind gerade zu in Richtung Tauentzin/Kurfürsten Damm gefahren. Ein kurzer Halt an der Gedächtniskirche…und innehalten am Mahnmal des Terroranschlags vom vergangenen Dezember…. warum nur???

Auf der Busspur kann man entspannt den KuDamm entlangradeln. Irgendwann sind wir abgebogen und sind in Richtung Wannsee weitergerollt. Hier hatten wir die Bergprüfung eingestreut… 40Höhenmeter waren zu bewältigen. Runter ging es zur Glienicker Brücke…62 in einer 50er Zone. In Potsdam habe wir dann den regulären Kuchenstopp eingelegt. Die restlichen 54km gingen dann, vorbei ein malerischen Seen, immer in Schlafdistanz zur Havel. Zwischendurch waren immer wieder dunkle Wolken zu sehen, aber ein kräftiger Westwind blies diese von uns weg. Wäre nicht schlecht, wenn der Wind morgen etwas nachlassen würde… 150 Kilometer brauche ich das Gepfeife nicht in meinem Ohr.

The hotel was a lovely old building and there was a courtyard out the back with garage for the Velomobiles. Here is Millie on her way there.

And the garage filled up with other bikes after we had installed ours. 


And this is our room.

After showering and washing our clothes we were shown around by the landlady who introduced us to the drinks area – including a kettle, hurrah! She said that we are welcome to make some filled rolls at breakfast and take them with us for the journey, which is very kind of her! I said “we usually eat cake at lunchtime” and she said “I will have to get cake then.” That’s an excellent attitude!

Our hotel was right beside the main Street in Brandenburg which was fairly noisy with the car tyres on the cobbles outside. We like to sleep with the window open so it will be interesting to find out if the noise disturbs us tonight.

We needed to restock our food supplies (nuts and chocolate for me, Haribo Sauere Pommes and Gummibärchen and TUC biscuits for Klaus) so we decided to walk to a supermarket. 

We walked west, so the direction we will ride tomorrow, and saw some tram tracks. We will have to be super careful of those tomorrow.

Brandenburg an der Havel obviously has a lot of history. Not only old buildings, like this tower, but also memorials to the war and also a plaque about freedom as the Stasi had some offices here.

We walked to see the Havel river that we had crossed several times today.

After a good Greek meal we went for another walk and had a look at the Rathaus.

In front of it was this fountain with bronze pug with antlers.

In the background of the above photo you can also see two men on a bench. One is sitting on a wooden carved figure which seemed familiar to Klaus.

Here is a photo I found on the web of a similar bench figure but the one we saw wasn’t painted:


Then Klaus remembered – the figures are from Loriot. It turns out the creator of Loriot comes from Brandenburg. Here is a close up of the pug – yes it has bronze poops too!!


Brandenburg an der Havel seems like an interesting place!

Tomorrow we ride for 146km to Grafhorst which is just east of Wolfsburg. It should be a relatively flat day and the weather forecast is cloudy but dry, so fingers crossed!!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Kempen Usedom Berlin Kempen 2017, Millie the Milan GT Carbon