Category Archives: Cycle Tours

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 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:

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!


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

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:, 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 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!


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

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:

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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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Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 9: Waldsee to Berlin-Spandau

Another good night’s sleep and then we went down to breakfast, where there was once again a great choice. The croissants were particularly tasty. 

After breakfast we paid the bill and then fetched the Velomobiles from the garage.

Whilst we were installing our luggage a lady with child came to speak to us. Her accent sounded familiar to Klaus – yes she was a British woman. We had a bit of a chat about Brexit and crazy politics and living in Germany, she had been here for 11 years and was married to a German so fairly confident she could stay.

Klaus took the opportunity to relax a bit before we headed off on our hilly 125 km route. He is growing a very scary beard on this tour!!! 😱

This was our original plan route for today.

However, because of the closed road yesterday we had taken the route that this track offered. This was the horrible sandy woodland track which I had to push Millie along. We didn’t fancy that again, and decided instead to do the hotels official detour via Goldenbaum and then Carpin and Neustrelitz. It would be further but we couldn’t quite tell how much.

We set off at just past nine and were pleased to see that the beginning of the track was asphalted. The woman at the hotel had told me it was cobbled so this seemed a surprise. But soon enough we realised she was right, we turned out of the long driveway of the hotel onto a main Kreisstraße and discovered that it was this road, 5 kilometres long, which was cobbled.

I didn’t have the energy to take a photo of this whilst being jiggled about but here is one I found on the Internet which looks very similar. You can see how much fun we had in our Velomobiles, although fortunately there was a strip to the side which was a bit smoother and we mostly used that. We did have to dodge a lot of potholes though.

This road we were was 5 km long but fortunately after about three kilometres the surface improved and became normal tarmac.

We rode through the village of Goldenbaum and Klaus spotted a stork on its nest. It watched us very closely indeed! (In this photo it is peering at Klaus).

Just a mile later, as I was ahead, I rounded a corner and saw a stoat running across the road. It was great to see yet another interesting piece of wildlife on this trip.

We then joined a Bundesstraße and had the fun of riding with quite a lot of traffic, despite it being Sunday morning. I initially tried to join the cycle path but each time it had sections that were so steep (Klaus saw 12% at one point) I had to use my Schlumpf gear. This meant I was crawling up really slowly and overheating as it was a very hot day. I also found that the path went through some woody areas with so many pine needles on the floor that I lost traction, as well as pinecones being launched from my wheels to the surroundings or Millie’s underside. Klaus was doing okay on the cycle paths but for me they were slowing me down a lot and tiring me out too, so I went on the radio to him to say I would stick to the roads from now on.

The roads were rolling up and down but I saw a maximum grade of 5% whilst road riding. We we were able to maintain a reasonable speed, although on the downhills I was faster than Klaus as he was on the cycle path and could not go as fast there is less room to manoeuvre at speed. At one point also he was having a nice run along the path and then it ended and launched him onto the road, but first of all he had to get out of the Velomobile to negotiate some Drängelgitter.

This detour started to seem like a really long way, but eventually we reached the town of Fürstenberg where our current route intercepted the original route. A rough calculation of our distance to destination from our Garmin showed that the detour had been more than 10 km extra. You can see it below, the original route went on the L341 and through Lychen.

You can also see a little dead end on the track. This was not a mistake, we decided to make a short 1.5km detour to visit Ravensbrück Concentration Camp memorial.

When we arrived I saw lots of bikes parked up by one of the buildings and headed over to join them. Klaus took a different route, heading towards the main exhibition building, and was accosted by a man who told him we both had to park out the back with the cars. He was a bit of a jobsworth as we pointed out that the other bikes were elsewhere. “Yes but this is a special case.” So we left our bikes out of sight with all our luggage in and had a short look around.

There was a room with a book with all the names of those who died at Ravensbrück and I found a name that will be familiar to many people, Betsy ten Boom. Her sister Corrie, who survived Ravensbrück, wrote a famous book ‘The Hiding Place’ about her wartime experiences.

I found this small memorial very moving.

When we got back to the bikes we discovered some mystery person had knocked the back light off the back of Millie. The batteries had fallen out and the cover was off but I put it together and it worked okay, fortunately.

We headed off, having completed just 40 km of our 140. We would originally have had a cake break around 5 km later but decided to ride further as we had had a long break at Ravensbrück. 

We were finally off the busy Bundesstraße and onto quieter roads but the surface was quite poor in some places and it was also pretty hilly. Still, we made good time and were rolling with the hills, riding at a steady 30 to 35 km/h.

At about 60 km ridden we saw a water mill which had a cafe attached and stopped for some cheesecake. 

We were sitting on comfy chairs in the shade so lingered and I had 2 cups of tea. A man came to talk to us about our bikes and also gave us an information booklet about Oranienburg where he lives. I have visited it previously as it is where Sachsenhausen concentration camp is.

The cake had given us more energy, plus the route was flattening out a bit, so we zoomed ahead and covered lots of ground. At one point we both overtook a lady on a racing bike but she stuck very close to us for quite a while before we pulled ahead on a downhill. At a long red traffic light (because of roadworks) she caught us up again, and stayed with us for quite a long time after that before we eventually lost her. The marvels of Strava flyby tell us that she was doing a 175km ride – impressive on her own and in that heat! And with an average speed of 28km/h.

For hot it was, the wind was like a hairdryer and the sun was beating down on our heads. I suggested to Klaus that an ice cream would be a good plan and fortunately after 105 km ridden we found a very nice cafe.

I had a banana split

He went for the cake option.

It was really hot so we had to re-apply suncream and also put Vaseline on our lips which were very dry and flaky now. We also topped up the water bottles as we knew we had not been drinking enough.

From here we had just 37 km to reach our destination. Normally riding in a city is slow but we found the whole route until about 2 km before our hotel really fast. It helped that we were staying in Spandau which is to the west of the main city of Berlin, and we approached through open countryside to the north.

Just after we passed under the Berliner Ring Autobahn (a bit like the M25!) a cyclist on a slightly unusual-looking fast bike drew up alongside Klaus. They proceeded to ride together and talk, sometimes at a speed of 45 km/h! This guy had previously made some recumbent bicycles himself, and was really thrilled to see some Velomobiles in the flesh.  When Klaus eventually left him behind the chap stopped and waited for me to pass, filming me with his phone and waving at me.

The final run into Spandau was great fun. There was a decent on road cycle path for the last 5 km and traffic was relatively light. We got stuck half a kilometre from the hotel as there was a street festival and the road was closed, but found an alternative route and soon arrived at our hotel.

Here is Klaus’s Strava upload for the day.

Here is Klaus’s summary:

Hier unsere Tour nach Berlin-Spandau. Am Anfang haben uns 10km Kopfsteinpflaster und schlechter Strassenbelag ziemlich ausgebremst. Danach könnten wir es aber wieder fliegen lassen. In Fürstenberg haben wir an der Gedenkstätte KZ Ravensbrück innegehalten. Etwas melancholisch fuhren wir weiter. Unterwegs gab es jede Menge “Gegend” zu sehen. Mir gefällt es hier unterwegs gaben wir eine Rennradlerin überholt. Sie ging unser Tempo sehr gut mit und wenn ich nach Strava gehe, ist sie heute 173km unterwegs. Kurz vor Berlin habe ich mich über einige Kilometer mit einem Rennradler unterhalten. Er ist total begeistert von den Velomobilen und ist früher selbst Liegerad gefahren. Die letzten Kilometer vergingen wie im Flug und so hatten wir am Ense einen 28er Schnitt trotz des “müden” Starts. aus den geplanten 123km wurden am Ende 139km…das war der Umleitung und dem Besuch des KZs geschuldet.

And this was our hotel… a very interesting building!

The view from our room on the 11th floor was pretty impressive too!

We put the velomobiles in the underground carpark, and will actually have to pay for the car parking space they are utilising. Considering the car park was almost empty that seemed a bit rich but that’s life. They will be safe.

We walked into the main part of Spandau which was just 500 m away and enjoyed an Italian evening meal.

It rained whilst we were eating our evening meal, once again rain occurring after we had finished riding for the day. We have been so lucky with the weather.

Tomorrow is another rest day. We have no main plans yet for the day but in the evening we will have a meal with Lars, son of my landlady, who lives in Berlin.

We feel really proud to have made it to Berlin by pedal power alone. We have ridden in total 1148 km at an average speed of around 28 km/h. We have another five full days of riding in order to get back to Kempen but the really hilly days are past us now so it should be easier, although it has been easier than I thought over the last two days. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our tour, we always appreciate comments left on the blog.


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

Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 8: Usedom to Waldsee

It rained a lot last night but once again by the morning it was dry and we had another good forecast for the day. 

Our Tour has made the news section of,

We went for breakfast and it was once again very tasty with lots of choice.

We had a good chat with the Guest House owners as they wanted to look at the bikes – they were so friendly. I would give Gästehaus Schulz a 10/10 rating.  They were friendly, helpful and the room was great; the location was also very good. 

We ended up leaving at 9:15 and this was our planned route for the day. 

ThIs would be our hilliest day to date by quite a large margin, and in fact the hills started rather early on… within 3km we were climbing and there were quite a lot of cars.

This was rather the theme for today. I guess Saturday is changeover day on Usedom and an awful lot of cars were trying to leave the island. So were we, and there weren’t always usable cycle paths for us, so we did hold up other traffic a bit. This seems to be one of our less positive take-home memories from Usedom – just simply too many cars there. 

Occasionally there was a good cycle path and one such was on the approach to the Zecheriner Brücke. I stopped to take some photos of the poppies – and Klaus took a pic of Millie.

And then suddenly he saw, across the road, a giant bird. It is a dot just above and to the right of the white post in the pic below. He recognised it as a Seeadler, sea eagle.

Seeing this bird really made our day and it was good to know that the stream of traffic leaving the island was not frightening the eagles away.

We crossed the bridge on the cycle path on the right hand side.

Directly after the bridge the path crossed to the other side. It took us ages to be able to cut across both lanes of traffic to get to the continuation of the path. They really should put a pedestrian crossing or central refuge or something in. There is no point in having cycle infrastructure if it introduces additional dangers to the user.

When we finally made it onto the path we found it was very good. It was built up separately to the road in a marshy area.

And very soon I realised there were lots of baby coots! They were really sweet.

As we reached the end of the marshy area we saw this thicket of dead tree trunks. According to Klaus they are dead because the cormorants land on them and their guano kills the trees. It was very odd-looking!

We were now on the mainland again and unfortunately sharing a very busy road with all the holiday traffic. The cycle paths disappeared and we had to ride on the road. We maintained a very high speed all the way to Anklam but Klaus paid the price for this as he wasn’t feeling so fit today and his heart rate was very high.

I missed a turning and ended up cycling part-way round a bypass of Anklam but found my way onto normal roads and headed to the town centre. Klaus was approaching from the opposite side of the square – our Cake Radar is well calibrated!!

The day was warming up nicely so we sat outside.

I ordered a piece of cake, some Frankfurter Kranz, and for some reason it was a tiny portion!!

Klaus wasn’t feeling 100% which for our hilly day was not ideal but we were ready to press on after half an hour.

From Anklam we changed from the main Usedom to Berlin road to a quieter one, although the traffic did slowly build up on this too. We found a few more hills also on the way, and also a lot of bad and impatient drivers.  Car drivers of Mecklenburg Vorpommern, please note that when there is no cycle path we have to be on the road. Hooting at us and overtaking in no-overtaking zones does not change that fact.

We rode through Friedland which is where a lot of doorbells in the UK come from, I think!

On some of these sectors I was faster than Klaus (very unusual) but he was trying to keep his heart rate a bit lower, and was also suffering from the performance difference between Celeste and Millie in side winds.

We had stopped for the small cake after 45km and at 94km we reached Neubrandenburg which seemed like a good place to stop for lunch. We saw a cafe built into the town walls and stopped there.

We ordered hot food from the menu the lady gave us but then she announced hot meals were only available from 18:00, but she did have cake. So we had some of that, although some soup or a jacket potato would have been better for energy.

We only had 36km to go after Neubrandenburg but Klaus had seen on his Garmin that we had some significant hills in that sector. And he was right, straight out of Neubrandenburg we had a mega hill which was a 50 metre increase in height over maybe 1.5km and he saw a 12% gradient at one point on his Garmin. I winched myself up the hill in my lowest gear, cheered on by a family who had seen Klaus ride past and were all watching me as I crawled by.

It was a good feeling to reach the top of this hill but there were many others to come and we were riding on roads with no cycle paths and the car drivers were being antisocial as before.

There were good moments too though, of course. After the Seeadler on Usedom and a super-friendly fledgling sparrow in Anklam we saw a stork nesting on a special nest pole in one village.

With about 5km to our destination the road levelled out a bit and we also turned onto smaller local roads so there were fewer aggressive car drivers. We were on our way to Jagdschloss Waldsee Hotel which was in the middle of nowhere. There had been no other choice when I booked our hotels, although this one was more expensive than all the rest. Anyway, they had emailed us a few days ago to say there were roadworks on one of the roads leading to the hotel but that it would be OK for bikes.

We arrived at the road closure with just 1.4km till the end of our track. There was no way we could ride along it, there was no tarmac only a deep layer of sand.

Plan B, after consulting the Garmin, was a detour of 4km but should do. For the first 1.7km it was ok but then we found ourselves on an off road gravel track. We decided to carry on as it wasn’t too bad.

Unfortunately very soon this turned into a forest track with lots of sand. It made for a very swervy journey but Millie also got bogged down several times and I had to get out and push.

Her front tyres are too narrow, they just dug in.

Klaus was mostly able to ride but I was doing a lot of walking and trying to fight off the mosquitoes at the same time. Hot, sweaty cyclist = tasty meal!!

Finally, finally, we arrived, both feeling pretty pooped. The hilly ride had worn us out enough so the off-road shenanigans were definitely unwelcome. I was a bit grumpy with the receptionist but kudos to her, she was always polite and friendly.

The Velomobiles were stored in a garage and then we went up to our room which was in an old country house style. It had this plaque on the wall.

A rather unusual feature was a glass wall between the shower and the main bedroom so if someone is in the shower you can watch them from the main room. I am not sure why they did this but hey ho.

The building itself is old, but with many newer buildings around it.

Here is Klaus’s Strava upload for the day. Despite the hills and him not having the best day we still averaged over 27! And this with me walking most of the final two kilometres.

Klaus’s max was 68.8km/h, I saw 72.1 on my Garmin,

Here is the elevation profile for today.

Here is Klaus’s short report on the day:

Nachdem Ruhetag war heute richtig Arbeit angesagt. Keine Ahnung an was es lag…gestern 2 Gläser Wein? …der Seitenwind? Jedenfalls musste ich heute beißen. Das Gelände war mir wohl bekannt

…vielleicht hatte mein Kopf einfach andere Ideen. Anyhow…ausser ein paar nervenden Autofahren und die unzumutbare Anfahrt zum Hotel (Celeste ist nun mal kein MTB). War es wieder ein toller Tag mit sehr schönen Eindrücken. Es ist immer wider spannend zu sehen, wie sich innerhalb wenigen Kilometern die Landschaft ändert.

This was our longest day riding, we weren’t up in our room until 17:30, so this meant that after the shower and clothes washing we went straight down to dinner in the attached restaurant. And it was very nice indeed!

Klaus finished off with a grappa.

He was asleep by 21:00, and I hope that he feels a bit more normal tomorrow. We have 120km to ride (plus a different and hopefully less sandy detour to leave this hotel, maybe another 6km) and it will be almost as hilly. But tomorrow evening we will be in Spandau, Berlin – hurrah!

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Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 6: Ribnitz-Damgarten to Usedom

After a good night’s sleep went down to check on the bikes. All was well and the weather had improved a great deal. We now had blue sky and sunshine.

The hotel owner had said breakfast was from eight, but there were several tables of people eating when I was there at 7:30 so we decided to go for our breakfast early as we were ready. We helped ourselves to some food and I noticed there was no hot water for tea, which was strange, just coffee.  Five minutes later the hotel owner arrived and said that breakfast was from eight, we were too early. It was provided earlier for the other people as they needed to leave sooner. She said it was not nice for her. Classic German customer service!

We were not particularly impressed by Hotel Perle am Bodden but it’s often a bit of a lottery when cycle touring and you can’t always find great options. 

This was our planned route for the day. 

At 08:30 we were extracting the bikes from their overnight resting place. The motorcycle cover that Klaus had lent me worked well to keep Millie dry. 

The forecast was dry for today and we had blue skies. We set off at a fairly relaxed pace – I tend to find I am not very strong for the first hour of riding. We started to increase the pace after 20km as we enjoyed fairly quiet roads. I managed to get a photo of the crash barriers round trees that I mentioned yesterday.

Today was very much a wander through the map of towns ending with the name ‘Hagen’. We had Weitenhagen, then a town named after Millie…

We also rode through/near Papenhagen, Hoikenhagen, Prützmannshagen, Bartmannshagen, Kreuzmannshagen, Levenhagen, Boltenhagen and Friedrichshagen. So quite a lot of Hagens!!

The roads were straight without too many crossings and junctions so our speed gradually increased. They had used rougher tarmac than some of the other roads which does slow me down a tad, but we weren’t in a massive hurry and were really enjoying the riding.

We had scoped out a café in the town of Grimmen and we arrived there after 50km. We parked the bikes in the town square and sat outside eating cake and drinking tea/coffee.

Whilst we were sitting outside a young man with a camera round his neck came to talk to us. He said he was a journalist for the Ostsee-Zeitung newspaper and would like to interview us about what we were doing here. He said his newspaper had received a phone call from a citizen to say that there were some weird bikes in town and he should take a look. We had a good chat with him and posed for a couple of photographs and low and behold the article appeared online this afternoon. It will be in the print edition tomorrow, apparently! Here is the online one.

And here is Klaus’s comment about our experience:

Naja…Grimmen ist jetzt nicht der Nabel der Welt. Da kommen zwei Plastikbomber in die Stadt und schon drehen alle durch…vor 30 Jahren fuhren da Trabbis durch die Gegend

  • Fast gleiches Material
  • Genauso schnell
  • Gleiche Reifenbreite
  • Gleiches Geräusch (bei Kopfsteinpflaster)
  • Ähnliches Raumangebot

Okay wir stinken nicht nach 2-Takt Gemisch und unsere Fahne ist nicht blau 😊

It was a bit fiddly getting out of Grimmen because of the cobbles and also a bit of a hill but it was a very nice town.

We were riding on some really fast roads now with virtually no traffic. This was especially the case when we arrived at a section of road works which said the way through to Neuendorf was closed. We thought we’d try it as we didn’t know a good alternativ and it was fine – we had brand new asphalt to ourselves for 5km.

At one point whilst I was cycling ahead Klaus came over the radio to say “look above you”. I looked but didn’t see anything – it turned out there had been a stork flying above me! We saw lots of storks today, including one in a field beside the road about two metres from me and another field with 7 or 8 standing around. They are impressively large birds!

We continued on, following our track through various Hagens, pedalling uphill and freewheeling downhill, loving the fresh air and freedom.

As we approached the town of Greifswald we were both on the road and pedalling really well. We were holding nearly 40km/h for long stretches and Klaus’s tracking software tells him that he maintained an average of 43km/h for a 7km segment. I was cycling just ahead of him for this segment so I assume I have similar numbers too. Cool! (I can only download my tracks from my Garmin when I am home again).

We had half a plan to stop for lunch in Wolgast but when we got there after 106km we didn’t feel desperate to stop and decided to carry on to Zinnowitz where Klaus’s friend Tim lives. However the Peenebrücke was closed so we had a short break waiting for the bridge to reopen and eating some crisps and nuts.

In due course the bridge was open to traffic and we rode across.

We were now on the island of Usedom!

Almost immediately we noticed a difference in the volume of traffic (lots) and cycle facilities (paths a bit variable). We road on the cycle path beside the road as there were so many cars but the cycle path wasn’t always suitable for Velomobiles.

We arrived in Zinnowitz and went to Tim’s hotel, the Baltic.

Sadly Tim had been called away for work purposes so we were unable to see him. We hope to catch up with him tomorrow. We had a cup of tea/coffee, rather amazingly eschewing the cake, and then headed off again.

We were on the cycle path on the way to Ahlbeck and it really wasn’t good for Velomobiles. It was a bit narrow with some sharp turns and one section was elevated on a Deich with sharp drops each side. With lots of traffic from bicycles it was a bit nerve-wracking negotiating it in a Velomobile.

When the opportunity presented itself we returned to the road, trying to cycle quickly enough not to annoy the traffic. This was not always possible but we pedalled hard and the final remaining kilometres until our destination gradually reduced.

Ahlbeck was also full of cars but fortunately our Guest House was up a quiet side road with only the noise of a cuckoo to disturb us.

Our room was lovely and the host was a very pleasant chap who showed us a place to put our bikes.

Here is Klaus’s Strava screenshot for the day.

And here are the bikes in their parking place.

After showering and washing our clothes it was time to visit the beach…

This boat picture was taken by Klaus.

The last picture is looking at Poland which is just a few kilometres away.

We have a rest day tomorrow and hope to visit Tim and another friend of Klaus’s in the next village and also set foot into Poland as I have never been. The weather forecast is perfect – 26 degrees and sunny.

We feel very proud to have reached Usedom after 6 days of cycling and 850km. We will enjoy our time here, and then on Saturday we are off to Berlin!

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Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen Day 5: Grevesmühlen to Ribnitz-Damgarten

Today was to be a new cycling experience for both of us. On Klaus’s last tour he had been to Lübeck and seen the Baltic Sea at Timmendorfer Strand but had not cycled further east. I have cycled to the UK from Berlin but had not cycled on the Baltic coast at all. This was our planned route for the day:

After another good night’s sleep we managed to find the breakfast room (on the top floor of the hotel) and ate a hearty meal before gathering our things together, extracting the Velomobiles from the garage and getting ready to leave. We were on the road at 8:20 and I turned my Lichtkanone on to see how many hours it would last with my new batteries. As I wrote yesterday, I was guessing about 2 hours.

Klaus felt his leg muscles since yesterday and wouldn’t have minded a rest day but that will not be until Friday. He said again he would probably ride a bit slower today – you can guess if he actually did! 🙄

Today’s route would take us early on through Wismar which is a very lovely old town. First of all, however, we had to ride there on the Bundesstraße B105. Without our muscles being warmed up and with lots of trucks on the road this wasn’t the most relaxing cycling but we managed it without too much stress. We were much slower than yesterday though, but I think this was also down to the slightly rougher road surface.

We arrived in Wismar and were following the track which would take us on a tour of the old town but we stopped that almost straight away because of the cobbles.

The cobbles look nice and they work well to slow down cars but with skinny tyres with 110psi (8 bar) and fairly firm suspension they aren’t very comfortable. Velomobiles can be noisy and rattle over bumps and Millie’s luggage also added to the cacophony so we turned around and did a small detour. Which was nice as it went past the harbour.

Today’s track was only 116km but we decided to keep to our schedule of the last few days of cake break after 40km and soup lunch after 80km. We weren’t sure where we would be at those distances, we decided to allow ourselves to be surprised with what we found.

We knew that after Wismar it would be hilly and indeed it was. However, these were mostly rolling hills so I was able to get up them at a reasonable pace. This has been the real discovery of this tour – I am not such an awful climber in a Velomobile, I just need to be going fast enough when I get to the hill. I was able to ride up a lot of these hills at around 25km/h. The downhills were great fun of course!

Fortunately after Wismar we were no longer on the B105 but this time the L12 (Landstraße) which had very little traffic and was in a reasonable state of repair. Up and down we went, travelling through Blowatz and Boiensdorf. And on some of the high points we could see the Baltic Sea.

I was riding almost entirely on the road but Klaus was using the cycle paths more, in order to keep to a more comfortable pace for him. For me the cycle paths can be problematic as they might have a very sharp turn that Millie can’t manage with her 14km (it is a supertanker) turning circle. (The 14km was a typo that I had to keep – it is really ‘just’ 14m. And Klaus added the supertanker comment). They also often have slopes for driveways and kerbs which can scrape on Millie’s underside. Celeste has a higher undertray. If I knew I was approaching a slow uphill then I would try for the cycle path but there wasn’t always one – we held up a few other members of traffic but such is life.

The tree in the photo below was leaning. This is not surprising as it was dead windy – but, hallelujah!, the wind was a tailwind for us. There were some buffeting sidewinds again but we were really relieved not to be slogging into this as a headwind as it would have been very hard work. As it was, Klaus’s average heart rate for the day was 144 and mine 129 which is probably accounted for by the different in windage for the two Velomobiles.

We headed into Neubukow at 42km so found ourselves a bakery and enjoyed some small portions of cake.

The name Neubukow displays the common feature to loads of place names in this region – ending with ‘ow’. This is not pronounced ‘ov’ as you might expect but more the English ‘oh’. Neubukow has a claim to fame – it is where Schliemann came from.

We were back on the B105 after Neubukow so this was speedy riding again and hoping not to have too many close passes.

One thing I noticed was that each tree directly beside the road had a crash barrier around it. It makes you wonder how many people had head on crashes into trees to make them build these ugly and presumably not cheap protective measures. 

After 9km we rode through Kröpelin which had the most appalling mountain to climb in the middle of the village. I somehow got to the top but it took a lot of energy! 

We carried on along the B105 to Bad Doberan where we turned off onto a quieter road again, phew! On the way into this town there had been a fantastic downhill where I was doing over 60km/h for at least half a kilometre. I look forward to uploading my track to Strava when I get home to see how fast I actually went!

Back on the L12 we skirted the coast, our destination for lunch as Cafe Röntgen in Warnemünde which had been recommended to us by someone from the Velomobilforum. In due course we found it and parked our bikes opposite.

You can see in this picture the signs that we hang on the bikes when we leave them in a busy place – “nur gucken 👀 Nicht erfassen ✋🏻”. And lots of people were looking.

It was a very nice cafe and we started with soup and then had a cake course.

We spent an hour relaxing at the cafe. I discovered that my calf muscles had got very tight again, this also happened yesterday when stopping after riding fast. This made it tricky to walk the first steps after standing up from the chair. But it soon loosens up and after five minutes of cycling all is well again.

We went to have a look at the Baltic Sea but it was quite cold and windy and I was a bit chilly with just my light cycling clothes on.

It looked like we might be caught by the rain as ominous clouds were visible in the distance. We set off out of Warnemünde which involved a small ferry crossing. The ferry had to wait for a giant cruise ship to go past.

After the ferry we had just a 30 km ride to Ribnitz-Damgarten and this was pretty much flat. The road quality was very good so we made good progress, apart from two bits of roadworks with traffic lights. The black rain cloud was chasing us but we managed to arrive at our hotel before the rain started.

The hotel was a bit tired inside and not as fresh-seeming as the others but our room would be fine for the evening and it was quite spacious. There was a parking area out the back for cars and we installed the bikes there but there was no cover so Klaus lent me his motorcycle cover for Celeste and he just closed her with the Schaumdeckel. 

Our dinner was at a fish restaurant just 100 metres away. We looked out onto the rainy marina as we enjoyed our food.

Klaus had salmon with pesto tagliatelle 

I had a very tasty fish ‘n chips

And then an extremely yummy banana split for dessert. 

The rain had stopped as we left the restaurant so we walked a bit closer to the boats for a look. Klaus took this atmospheric photo.

It has been yet another very enjoyable day. We look forward to arriving at Usedom tomorrow and will probably visit Klaus’s friend Tim who lives there.

Here is the Strava screenshot of Klaus’s ride today. He got two KOMs (means he is the fastest rider on that segment). As you see, our average was 27.4 which is very good considering we were slow riding around Wismar and Warnemünde. 

And here is his short report:

Tag Fünf unserer Tour. Der gestrige Ritt steckte mir noch ziemlich in den Muskeln. Die beiden Hauptdarsteller (meine Beine) begrüßten mich heute morgen mit einen “och nöö…nicht schon wieder…wir haben keinen Bock”. Aber was haben Beine schon zu melden😀. Ab in die Rappelkiste und flux nach Ribnitz-Damgarten radeln. 

And the Lichtkanone? Well, it was still shining brightly as we arrived in Ribnitz. It had been on for 5.5 hours so the battery is clearly lasting well. It does make me more visible so I think I will ride with it on in the future as I know it will last the day’s ride, and I do have a second battery if necessary.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is also now better than expected so if we’re lucky we will stay dry on our ride. Tune in to my report tomorrow to find out!!

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