Category Archives: Cycling in Germany

6 Wheels In Germany – September 2017 (Month 42)

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

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

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

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

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

A visit to the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily he sent me photo updates throughout the morning…

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

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

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

Work continued throughout the morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new couch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is in pride of place:

And here is my celebratory piece of chocolate cake!

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

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

A trip to Greetsiel

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

Greetsiel is lovely!

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

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

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

There was cake!

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

Life in Kempen

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

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

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

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

6 Wheels In Germany – August 2017 (Month 41)

Cycling this month

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

Notice I have not ridden Penelope once this month!

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

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

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

I won a prize!

…and so did Klaus.

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

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

A Sunday ride with Podbiker

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

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

Klaus took a couple of action shots underway…

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

Uli’s birthday party

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

And here am I explaining tyres to Hartmut and Ralf.

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

Life in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andreas Scholl Concert and a trip to the Bergstraße

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

In England

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

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

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

3 Days, 3 Cities, 3 Countries Tour

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

3 Days
3 Cities
3 Countries
3 Wheels
300 kilometres

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

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

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

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

Here was our planned route for the three days:

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

Day 1: Three Wheels to Aachen

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

Here was our planned track for the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the cathedral with a sandpit installation in front.

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

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

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

Here is Klaus’s brief commentary on the day:

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

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

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

Day 2: Three Wheels from Aachen via Liège to Maastricht

Here is our track for the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very soon we arrived at the Belgian border.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was like something out of Brideshead Revisited!

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

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

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

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

Here was the view from our bedroom window.

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

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

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

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

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

Day 3: Three Wheels from Maastricht to Kempen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Wheels In Germany – July 2017 (Month 40)

Cycling this month

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

And this is where I rode:

Local velomobile meet

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

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

3 Wheels 4 France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting Luxembourg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events this month

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

6 Wheels In Germany – June 2017 (Month 39)

Cycling this month

Cycling Statistics this month

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

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

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

Apart from this most of my rides were commutes.

Helen’s birthday ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there were some very nice cakes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

6 Wheels In Germany – May 2017 (Month 38)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month I did a bit better with my distance but I am still not riding as regularly as I used to do (excluding work commutes). This is because life is busy and has been changing quite a lot recently! But it’s all good.

And here is the ‘wheel’ of where I went, including my 3 day tour to Bad Bentheim and Soest.

Millie in the news

I was interviewed by the Westdeutsche Zeitung and they wrote two articles on me, and here they are…

They are great articles and I have already been recognised by one reader of the newspaper!

Cycle Tour – Trike Treffen

I have written a separate blog post about my short tour to Bad Bentheim, Soest and back with Klaus. You can read about it here: Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Events this month

Visit of my Mum

My Mum came to visit me for just under a week and we had a really good time.

On the Saturday Klaus drove us to Monschau, a beautiful town in the Eifel. On the way we stopped off at the Giant Hole In The Ground at Garzweiler near Jackerath. This is where they are currently re-routing the Autobahn as they will be digging coal from where it currently runs.

Then we drove on to Monschau and had a look around.

Monschau lies on the River Rur (not Ruhr, that is a different one) and I had cycled there with Klaus once.

There is a Rur Radweg but it’s not suitable for Veloombiles so we might try it on the trikes on day but it’s quite off-road.

Klaus, Poppy and I climbed up the hill behind the town and looked down on it – you get to quite an impressive height.

Another cake!

This month Klaus celebrated a round birthday so I organised him a cake from our local bakery, Café Poeth. I sent them some photos and they did an excellent job!

His actual birthday was on the day of the Fahrrad Stammtisch so that worked rather well for cake-sharing. Cycling chum Ralf was 50 the day before and was also at the Stammtisch so it was a great celebration.

Once the cake was all eaten we kept Mini Celeste and I decided to see how she compared to Big Celeste. Very similar!


I have cycled to work most days this month and am often treated to lovely skies but this one was a cracker!

Cakes this month

This month I enjoyed rather more cakes than I should have, although some in this collage were consumed by Klaus rather than me. But they were all yummy!!

From tomorrow I will be off on my bike tour so expect daily blog posts. The forecast for tomorrow is thunderstorms and 12mm rain which is rather sub-optimal with leaky Millie, but we will survive! I am a Brit after all and used to rain.

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

Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Despite having toured long distances on my trikes over the last nine years, I have only done one multi-day tour in a Velomobile which was my two day trip to Millingen aan de Rijn in Penelope two summers ago.

However, this state of affairs is very much changing within three weeks, starting with a four day tour over the Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) break and then after a six day break (one week of work) then a two week tour to Usedom and Berlin and back. Almost 1700km in total. 

So, Christi Himmelfahrt. Klaus and I decided a short tour would be good, especially as the Trike Treffen was taking place in Bad Bentheim, 130km to the north. That seemed like a plan.

Trike Treffen involves camping and despite not having camped for 31 years, I decided to give it a go. So over the months leading up to the tour I purchased an isomatte (sleeping mattress), sleeping bag, super lightweight towel etc. I also bought a selection of Karrimor dry bags to help fit my belongings in Millie who isn’t exactly designed as a touring Velomobile.

We decided to extend the riding a bit so after one night at the campsite to ride to Soest, a beautiful old town to the east, and stay in a hotel there. Klaus has a good friend who lives there so we could visit him. For the journey back we planned to split it in two at Haltern am See, camping again.

Thursday 

The day dawned with a fantastic weather forecast, 23 degrees for the Thursday but quickly rising to 28 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

We managed to fit everything in the Velomobiles without any difficulty. We set off, heading first of all towards the Rhine bridge at Wesel but this involved going over the mega hill Tönisberg (20 metres!!) within 5km of the start. A rather rude warm up!!

Here is the track for the day:

We had a really enjoyable ride, the extra weight in the Velomobiles only really noticeable when we were pushing them around before getting in (especially noticeable with Millie as she has no handle at the back). With the warm weather and despite the headwind the bikes covered the ground very well.


We found the roads fairly empty of traffic and enjoyed the weather and scenery as we made our way towards the Rhein on familiar roads.

In order to cross the Wesel we needed to get into the Rheindeich… and this involved a pair of Drängelgitter that we couldn’t negotiate awheel.

However, a short break for walking is not a bad thing!

We then had the difficult entry onto the Wesel bridge with two hairpins which I cannot manage in one go with Millie’s turning circle but was able to shuffle back and forth and get round without too much inconvenience. The view as we crossed the bridge was lovely.

and here is the view looking down on the Rhein.

Now we had crossed the river we were heading into less explored territory. I was also tending towards needing the loo but we didn’t see many open bakeries. When we eventually found one it didn’t have a loo so we decided to ride further.

After 5-6 kilometres Klaus spotted a Biergarten beside the long, straight and fast B70 we had been zooming along so we decided to stop for a piece of Apricot Streusel.

We enjoyed our cake and tea/coffee and water and the chance to relax for a bit as we had been making good progress.


There was a group of motorcyclists there and they asked us how fast we rode as they had passed us in Wesel and were very surprised how quickly we had caught them up.

It was lovely to sit, relax and enjoy the sunshine, but the road was calling so after 45 minutes or so we got back into the Velomobiles and pushed on.

We left the B70 after about 10km and headed onto a quieter Landstraße which took us through Homer and then around the edge of Borken.

I saw signs to some familiar places – Südlohn and Stadtlohn. I remembered these place names from my Berlin to London tour many years ago.

In Stadtlohn I wasn’t paying attention and went the wrong way, which involved cobbles and pedestrian areas before I managed to catch up with Klaus again.

We were now heading to Ahaus and when we arrived it was time for some lunch (it is always time for lunch in Helenworld). We found cafe Muse and left the Velomobiles outside. It had interesting decor!


I enjoyed a schnitzel and salad but then found it impossible to resist a strawberry Schnitte – after all, fruit is healthy!

We were sitting inside as it was cooler and we needed a break from the sun. You are very much exposed to the sun in a Velomobile and so we were wearing hats and sun cream etc. Klaus had slightly pink upper arms so we wielded some sun cream again.

From Ahaus we cycled along the Landstraße L573 for a long time, sometimes on the cycle path but often on the road. The cycle paths beside the road weren’t bad in this sector but sometimes you can go faster on the road and there wasn’t much traffic.

This road took us all the way to Ochtrup where we turned more north and crossed the border out of Nordrhein-Westfalen into Niedersachsen. The last few kilometres to Bad Bentheim had slight hilly tendencies but we were soon at the campsite between Bad Bentheim and Suddendorf.

When we arrived we found the trike Treffen area but there were only a few people there – most were still out on the group ride. Klaus set out to put up the tent.

Once the tent was up I had a much-needed shower and then fashioned a Heath Robinson washing line between the two Velomobiles. Celeste has a handle on the back which I used but with Millie I had to fix the line to the Lichtkanone on the top. Not the best idea but it worked ok in the end.


After about an hour the rest of the people arrived and we talked to lots of acquaintances. We had signed up for the barbecue where the food was provided but hadn’t realised that was just the meat, so our dinner was two pork steaks each cut up with the knife on Klaus’s multi tool and eaten off a plate we borrowed from someone. A real low carb meal!

After Dinner I was so tired that I went into the tent and tried to get to sleep. However, I discovered why people said you need ear plugs when camping – the conversations of others kept me awake. I also found it difficult to get comfortable in terms of temperature – I think actually I was a bit dehydrated. Anyway, I didn’t have a brilliant night’s sleep but will be better prepared next time!

The total day’s distance was 143.64km at an average speed of 25.5km/h and I burned 2,671 calories.

Friday

We were awake and ready to leave by 8:30am with the tent packed away. Our washing was still damp (mainly from dew) so we packed it away in plastic bags and set off towards Soest. First plan of the day was to find somewhere for breakfast.

This proved trickier than expected as there were only very small villages on the beginning of our ride. However, when we arrived at Wettringen we found a supermarket with a bakery attached and managed to find something to keep us going…

There was a man siting outside chatting to everyone who passed and we had a good conversation with him. Of course he talked to me about Brexit – the flag on Millie rather gives away my nationality.

We set off after a leisurely stop and headed towards Emsdetten. There were some long stretches which meant we could get the speed up nicely – what I have noticed with Millie is that she is definitely better in the long distances. Because I only really have one power setting, it takes me a while to get up to speed, but Millie rolls so well that once I am up to 35km/h I can sit at that speed without expending much effort.

At one point when going over a bumpy bit I heard a pinging sound as if a stone had jumped up through the foothole and was crashing around a bit inside. I didn’t think much of it, but then during a lovely downhill when I was in my top gear the chain suddenly jammed. This was very annoying as I had to stop. It soon became apparent that my Schlumpf button had fallen out again – and it was the one from the other side! I walked back down the road but couldn’t find it.

Then Klaus, trying to free the chain, realised the button was actually stuck in my chain tunnel and rescued it. I was relieved to still have it (as I didn’t have the spares with me) but without its mini allen bolt it wouldn’t stay in for very long. So for the time being I put it in my bag for safekeeping and carried on, hoping not to have to experience too many steep hills.

The day was warming up but when you ride with enough speed the Velomobiles create enough draught that it is cooling. With Millie, anything above 25 km/h provides plenty of cooling, especially as I have a Naca duct (air intake). However, hills at a slower pace mean it heats up quite a lot inside, as does sitting waiting at traffic lights.

Again the roads were pretty clear and we were whizzing along. It was getting towards time to stop to refresh the water supplies so when we arrived in Sendenhorst, a reasonably-sized town, we decided to go off route and find somewhere to eat. We found a Greek restaurant and stopped, laying our wet washing on the velomobiles to dry in the sun.

The staff in the restaurant were super-friendly, chatting to us about the bikes and photographing them, sending the pictures to relatives in Greece. They also offered some very nice food – I had this great cold platter.

I asked to buy some cold still water and they gave me water that came from Greece. Because I was thirsty I tried to buy some more but in the end he gave me three bottles completely free of charge, which was very sweet of him. The whole cost of our lunch stop was extremely reasonable – Klaus’s litre of coke was about 2 Euros.

Once we had finished our lunch we discovered our clothes were pretty much dry so we packed everything away and headed off again towards Soest.

We skirted around Hamm and then started heading towards Soest on roads that were a bit more rolling. I had decided to screw my Schlumpf button back in and decided to keep checking it was done up – I really needed the extra gears and it wasn’t doing me any good in my bag. So I was able to Schlumpf for the hills on the way to Soest but they weren’t too bad. Klaus was a bit nervous I think about my speed when the hills start as he knows I don’t like them but with the high speeds we were riding it was mostly OK and I enjoyed it.

Just as we were going down the hill into Soest my Schlumpf button popped out again but it landed in the foodwell and I grabbed it. We found our way to the hotel which was the oldest guest house in Nordrhein-Westfalen, from 1307. Hotel Pilgrimhaus had really friendly staff.

I realised I was pretty dehydrated from the heat so spent the next few hours drinking lots of water but having very little output. This was a reminder that when riding velomobiles you maybe don’t feel the heat as much but the wind is wicking away moisture all the time. I resolved to be better with my drink planning the next day.

There was no storage space for our velomobiles but this wasn’t a problem as Klaus’s friend said we could store them in his garage so we rode there after our showers and he drove us back (it was just a mile), joining us for dinner at Hotel Pilgrimhaus.

Here are our bikes in his very roomy garage:

The total day’s distance was 129.21km at an average speed of 23.8km/h and I burned 2,429 calories.

The food at Hotel Pilgrimhaus was fabulous but I didn’t remember to photograph it (I was too keen on eating it!) except for the dessert, a white chocolate Panna Cotta. Lovely!

I was really really tired after my poor night’s sleep the day before so went to bed early and left Klaus chatting with his friend Dirk for a couple more hours. I went out like a light, enjoying a comfortable room and the peace and quiet without lots of other campers talking!

Saturday

Our original plan for today was to ride to Haltern am See and camp there for the night. However, due to my less than ideal camping experience on Thursday night, the weather forecast (super-hot), and the fact that 82km seemed way too short for a day’s ride, we considered riding all the way home instead, 162km. We didn’t know how we would feel riding in 30 degree heat but decided to give it a go. We would stop between 2pm and 5pm when the temperature is highest and would also ensure that we regularly drank lots of fluids whilst riding.

Here is our track for the day – as you can see, we did end up riding the whole way home.

We enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the hotel and checked out by 9am. Dirk was there to collect us and take us to his garage where we collected the bikes. Then it was time to head towards Haltern and maybe home.

The route out of Soest was absolutely beautiful – rolling hills, everything very green, few cars. I had been a bit concerned that I still wasn’t peeing much after my dehydration yesterday so I drank a litre of water just before we set out. Clearly by this point I had actually replenished my water stocks as after riding for about 10 minutes I was desperate for the loo. Klaus was far ahead and I had forgotten to get my radio ready and I couldn’t wait till I could catch up with him so nipped into a side road and made the most of rather sparse tree cover. Fortunately no-one came along!

Klaus waited for me a bit further on and I ensured I had my radio on after that. We had a lovely ride, really enjoying the scenery and the great road quality, except for one very disappointing downhill. It was curvy and fast but suddenly the road surface became awful! I had to brake from 50 to about 20 as it was so rough. Klaus, who was ahead, wanted to get on the radio to warn me but needed both hands on the tiller to hang on for dear life! We made it to the bottom, amazingly with my Schlumpf button still in place, and decided to stop shortly after for a scheduled drink spot. I had decided to ensure I drank a bottle of water every 25km.

We stopped at a car park area which happened to be at a cemetery so Klaus found some fresh water after we had drunk ours. I also found a convenient hedge for a loo stop again. It wasn’t too fiercely warm yet but the sky was blue and we could see we would soon be feeling the heat.

We went on, riding mostly on the roads as there were few cycle paths. It was a beautiful day.

We were keeping to our drinking schedule and going well. The plan was to ride to the campsite at Haltern am See but we realised that was a bit of a detour so could cut off about 5-10km if we decided to push on to Kempen. I had radioed Klaus to say I wanted to stop for water at about 60km but we were on such a lovely road I kept going – cruising at 35km/h you cover so much ground it seems a shame to stop! He had slowed a couple of times for potential stops but I kept going.

When we turned off the fast road I said we could now have our drink stop but Klaus’s Biergarten radar spotted something just up the road so we found ourselves at a campsite with beer garden near Datteln. We stopped and had a cuppa and a piece of cheesecake each.

We had 100km to go from this point and we discussed whether we should stay there for the heat but it was only midday so I thought it worth riding a bit further (the main heat hits at 2pm), plus I wanted to be more than halfway when we did our long stop. So we continued on after a good break, having refilled our water and eaten some salty peanuts to refresh our electrolytes.

The route followed the Lippetal canal and was very interesting. We weren’t on our official track because of the detour to shorten the route but soon joined back up with the official route at Haltern.

We were now looking out for our longer stop location as it was 2 o’clock and very hot, but didn’t find a suitable looking place. We went through the village of Lippramsdorf which had some hotels with garden terraces but Klaus kept going. Halfway between Haltern and Dorsten he spotted a sign for a Hofcafé – and really hit the jackpot!

This was a brand new cafe with some wonderful cakes and nice comfy seats outside with sunshades. The lady serving us was very nice and we spent two hours there, eating an enormous slice of Käse Sahne torte and drinking tea/coffee, watching the other guests (including a big group of bikers) and generally enjoying the peace and relaxation.

However our plan to stay there till 5 or 6 seemed a bit of a waste of time as it wasn’t getting any cooler so in the end we left at 16:15, ready to get back on the road and complete the final 75km to home. With refilled water bottles we set off again, riding through Dorsten (which was rather traffic-lighty) and then through Kirchhellen which had the most wonderful downhill towards Dinslaken. At this point our average speed for an 8km stretch was over 30km/h!

From Dinslaken we headed to Duisburg-Walsum where our Rhine crossing (a ferry) awaited us. Klaus began to feel he had low energy so we stopped at a Netto for him to buy some supplies – a bread roll each and he had a litre of buttermilk which he drank neat and it gave him his energy back. Whilst he was in Netto lots of the locals were asking me about the bikes – they had never seen anything like them before.

From Walsum it was a short ride to the ferry and we ate our bread rolls during the short Rhein crossing. Once on ‘our’ side of the river we were definitely on the home stretch and zoomed towards Moers, Neukirchen Vluyn and then round Siebenhäuser back to St Hubert, averaging 29km/h for the last 22km.

We got back at 19:15, unpacked the bikes and then Klaus tipped a whole bottle of water over his head to cool down! Gudula and Frank were having a barbecue so we ate with them which was very handy as I had no food in the house, not expecting us to be back until tomorrow!

Today’s distance was 161.72km (that’s a shade over 100 miles) with an average speed of 26km/h and I burned 2,627 calories.

All in all it was a fabulous tour. Millie is a much better touring velomobile than I had expected and her speed really eats up the distance. I need to fix the Schlumpf button before we start the Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen tour in a week’s time but I will sort something out – worst case scenario I will use threadlock or superglue on the current button.

With velomobiles you can ride a lot further each day which increases the visiting distance. I would like to do some more two day tours, perhaps with camping, in the Netherlands and north of here, so we can see some new places and ride some new roads. It’s all such fun!

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Filed under Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017, Cycle Tours, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

6 Wheels In Germany – April 2017 (Month 37)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here is my total for the month – as you can see, not very impressive!

And here is where I cycled to this month.

A trip to Xanten and Wesel

At the beginning of April Klaus and I decided to do our long ride (Strava Gran Fondo) in the direction of Xanten and Rees.

We were very lucky as it was a sunny day and we flew along to Xanten, this time my Schlumpf behaved perfectly (the previous two visits to Xanten had involved ‘issues’). We arrived at the Stadtcafé as usual and stopped for a cuppa and piece of cake.

My planned track took us to Rees on the other side of the Rhein and then back via Goch. We headed off to Rees along the disused railway towards Marienbaum; it’s a great route although was a bit busier today because of the good Sunday weather.

We arrived in Rees after a very short time. This had been my plan for a lunch stop but we were still full from cake so I just got us each an ice cream whilst Klaus looked after the bikes and answered questions from the very many passers-by.

I had a classic question from one chap – “is that a boat?” I haven’t been asked that one before!

I had been thinking about our track and thought returning via Goch would be a bit dull – maybe we should investigate this side of the Rhein towards the east, so we had a quick look on the Garmins and it looked as though we could ride to Wesel and then cross back to ‘our’ side of the Rhein there.

With just a couple of waypoints on my Garmin we headed off. I missed an early turning which kept us on the road rather than the busy cycle path on the Deich. Our view was less interesting as we couldn’t see the river but I think there was rather a lot of bike traffic on the actual route so perhaps it was for the best.

We had a rather scary moment when I needed to turn right and Klaus was close behind me and of course didn’t realise I was using the brakes and couldn’t see my indicators (because they are rubbish). He very nearly went into the back of me, I aborted the turn as I was going too fast (had not realised it was so soon), and eventually got myself turned round and rejoined Klaus at the offending junction. The emergency stop he had done had taken years off his life and also meant he had to start in top gear – not easy! This made me resolve to do something to solve the problem of my stealth indicators.

Nevertheless this route was actually rather nice – not many cars, not much of anything really, just pretty fast roads and occasional glimpses of the Rhein. However, as we approached Wesel, our planned lunch stop, we discovered the world and his wife were there. It seems there was some kind of event on in Wesel centre and it was heaving with people. It was clearly not a good option for food so we pressed on, neither of us wanting to have to deal with all the attention on the velomobiles from the masses, some of whom seemed a bit rowdy.

The bridge across from Wesel isn’t very nice really with a bit of a climb and a bad cycle path surface. There also turned out to be a very sharp corner which I couldn’t manage in Millie; Klaus had got ahead and stopped so he came and picked Millie’s back end up (with me still in her) to turn her round. Saved a lot of effort getting out!

Once back on the left bank of the Rhein we were in familiar territory from a couple of rides including the Trike Treffen last year and our August trike tour. We stopped once again at the café on the Rhein with the very poor customer service and once again the customer service was awful, but the cake was OK!

Here are the velomobiles enjoying their rest by the Rhein.

The route back from here wasn’t so interesting but was fast, along the straight road to Neukirchen Vluyn, and we got up some good speeds.

We eventually got back with 132km on the clock at an average of 23.1 which is fine for a touring pace. We were so lucky with the weather too, and two cakes always makes it a bonus!

Used bicycle market in Kempen

On one sunny Saturday I helped out at the Used Bike Market in Kempen. This is run by the ADFC and is a great opportunity for people to bring their no-longer-needed bikes to a central point and sell them.

It is interested to see the variety of bikes, mostly between the 100-150 EUR mark. They were mostly standard Hollandräder (sit up and beg bikes) or other basic bikes, but there were a few interesting items such as a unicycle, a tandem and a very nice Fahrradmanufaktur bike with Rohloff hub for 1000 EUR. I went in Millie and had a few queries as to how much she would cost but I said she wasn’t currently for sale!

Velomobiltreff in Zons

On the Velomobilforum various people suggested meeting in Zons on Easter Saturday. Zons is 60km away so this seemed like a good plan, and Jochen was also able to come along, so Klaus, Jochen and I headed off on a rather chilly day towards Zons, which is near Dormagen (south of Düsseldorf).

It started to rain on the trip and as Millie is not very watertight at all I started to get quite damp. Klaus always has vision problems in the rain (because of his glasses) but despite these inconveniences we enjoyed the ride to Zons.

We arrived with 40 minutes in hand so settled down on the chairs outside and ordered some cake. Well, Klaus and I ordered cake, Jochen went for ice cream.

And then more people started to arrive.

A lady, Karspeed, arrived in her wonderful colour Milan SL. This light blue is really a beautiful colour!

In fact, there was very much a blue and white theme going on (Endeavour, Jochen’s Velomobile, is out of shot but is white with red and grey decals).

Jupp appeared in his new QuattroVelo which you see parked beside Millie in the photos above, and Düssel arrived on his first long trip in quite a while (he broke his arm). He expects to collect his new QuattroVelo shortly… and his QuattroVelo is what was going to be mine (see below for explanation).

It was very cold outside and although there were blankets on the chairs which I wrapped around me I started to get really, really cold and a bit shivery. Clearly it was time to head off and warm up again, after two hours sitting around in wet clothes in a cold wind. I really was perished!

So Klaus, Jochen and I set off homewards on a slightly different route. I had warmed up reasonably after 15 minutes but poor Jochen had to stop to fix a puncture beside a horribly busy road on an elevated section so probably got perished then too!

We were riding through Schiefbahn and I thought it might be good to stop for food, but then promptly failed with my sense of direction to find the very nice Italian restaurant and we ended up in Willich at that other famous restaurant…

We ended up with 126km on the clock at an average of 22.9. It was a fun trip and it was great to meet Karspeed and her chap for the first time. I really love the colour of her Milan! It is worth also noting that her Milan is much more watertight…

A trip to Velomobiel.nl

Velomobiel.nl is the company in the Netherlands which makes the Strada, Quest, Quattrovelo and formerly also the Mango. Klaus’s velomobile is a Strada and he wanted to have Celeste serviced as she was now 1 year old and he needed the rear gear cable changed, plus a general checkup. We would normally change the rear gear cable ourselves but were unable to loose the screws holding it on at the tiller (this is a known thing – turns out you need to use a British imperial allen key, not a metric one, oddly!)

However, this service was not the entire point of the visit. I had also decided that I needed to get some better brakes on Millie as I had experienced rather a lot of brown trouser moments when the brakes did not work well enough for me. It was partly as they were not adjusted to pull strongly enough, and if I adjusted them myself then the cable was too short to allow me to use the parking brake (which you need to get in and out), but mostly because Millie has 70cm drum brakes rather than the beefier 90mm brakes for heavier riders.

To change the brakes I would need to change the wheels too as the drum brake is built into the wheel, so I got a couple of quotes and decided to let Velomobiel.nl do it for me as I am impressed with their service. So I ordered new wheels and mentioned a couple of other bits that I would like done, including fixing properly the Schlumpf button to my left hand gear changer (it is the world’s smallest allen bolt and Velomobiel.nl said they had the right tool).

Rather than hiring a van my company kindly said I could borrow their van so when I finished work on Friday I drove straight home where Klaus was waiting, having left work early, so we could get on the road to the Netherlands and get as much done as possible on Friday. We had booked a hotel for Friday night as we knew we would need a couple of hours on Saturday for Millie’s wheel change.

Here are the velomobiles in the van.

The cardboard box belongs to Jochen who had two wheel rims to return to Velomobiel.nl which turned out not to be the right things when he ordered them. We were saving him some postage costs!

When we arrived we unloaded both velomobiles and brought them inside the workshop.

Theo was working on a QuattroVelo and on the rack above him you see several new QuattroVelos. The white one would soon belong to cycling acquaintance Achim and the black (with blue above, which you can’t see in the photo) belongs to Düssel, a friend of ours who cycles in our area. That velomobile would also, technically, have been mine as I was on the order list and then gave my place to Düssel as I decided the Milan would be a better option.

The floor of the workshop was also filled with velomobiles, both new and under repair.

One chap was working on a Quest which had been opened right up.

Once Theo had finished his particular task on the orange QuattroVelo he moved it off the platform and Celeste went on instead. He gave her a general check over and replaced the gear cable, checked a few bits and bobs and all was well.

Klaus had also ordered a new rear tyre which he took the opportunity to fit.

This tyre seemed absolutely massive and I wasn’t sure it would fit but eventually it did – at which point it was noted that the tyre was in the wrong rotation direction so he had to take it off to turn it round again!

Whilst there we were chatting to a chap, Gert, I have bumped into a couple of times when involved with Audaxes. Gert has a black Strada and I met him on LEL and again during the Hamburg Berlin Köln Hamburg audax (I was helping at both, not actually riding them); this time he was there to help with the fitting of various lights to his new QuattroVelo, also in black. It was very good to talk to him again!

It was the end of the working day by the time Celeste was finished so Millie would have her time in the spotlight the next morning. She spent the night locked up in Velomobiel.nl’s workshop with Celeste.

Whilst driving the van to Kampen where our hotel was booked it started bleating about wanting some Adblue and the engine warning light came on. I wasn’t sure how desperately urgent this was but it was a little troubling.

The next morning we arrived at Velomobiel.nl at 9:30am ready for Millie’s new wheels.

Here she is up on the operating table:

It was relatively quick work for Theo to remove the front wheel, although the different routing of the brake cable caused him a few puzzled moments to start with.

Here are the wheel boxes without the wheel – very muddy, but it’s almost impossible to clean this with the wheels in place. I had a go and made it rather worse, ending up with muddy water inside the velomobile a few weeks ago.

We weighed the old wheel – 760 grammes. We weighed the new wheel – 1250 grammes. That’s quite a difference, but it was also clear looking at the two side-by-side that they are made for different purposes. The old wheels were race wheels, super-lightweight with knife spokes and milled drum area to save weight. The new wheels have metal eyelets for the rims, stronger rims, normal spokes and of course the larger drums.

Once the old wheels were out and we had a look at them we noticed that one of the two had a damaged rim with the spokes pulling the rim out of shape. This has also happened to my back wheel (and I have ordered a new back wheel to be built by a local bike shop). This is the issue with race bikes built for lightness and speed but not for everyday touring on bad quality roads. Although you save weight with these super-light wheels they aren’t really the right choice for me – having more solid wheels with much more effective brakes is a very worthwhile investment for me!

The new wheels were fitted whilst Millie lay on her side like a beached whale.

After this Theo fitted the new button to my Schlumpf and then drilled a couple more drain holes around the chain tunnel (Millie isn’t very waterproof and the existing drain holes aren’t in quite the right place with my tyre selection).

We had a demonstration of some tyre milk to reduce punctures and bought some of that, plus I also bought two batteries and a charger and cable connector so that I can change the electrical system in Millie for one that hopefully is more reliable.

During the staff’s tea break we headed off to a garage to buy some Adblue for the van.

Disappointingly the warning lights stayed on after this 2 litre dose. Apparently the warning lights have to be disabled by a garage (it’s a usual service item). Still, this meant I was slightly nervous as to whether the van might play up on the 220km drive home.

After all Millie’s things were completed it was time for one of the other purposes of our trip – test riding a QuattroVelo.

I wanted to have another go at a QuattroVelo, knowing that I was getting much more expert at getting in and out of Millie. Klaus was also very interested to try one as he likes the idea of a four-wheel option for the extra safety.

This lovely red QV was our test vehicle.

It has the cover that goes right over your head. Klaus really liked this but I found it made me strangely claustrophobic (not something I have ever experienced before) so I would definitely be more for open air riding!

Celeste in the mirror here…

The QuattroVelo has a very different front view than most velomobiles. With this (rather dark) photo I think it looks like Thomas the Tank Engine (which is also apparently a thing in Germany, but with a different name – which I have forgotten at the moment).

We both had test rides in the rain. For Klaus it was a real speed improvement over his Strada although he found it quite a lot noisier – this is partly due to the hood thingie which makes the sound echo rather. I found it only slightly harder than Millie to get in or out so that was a great discovery – I got in and out three times without any difficulty. I then thought I’d try the Strada again to see if I was just having a bad day the time I got stuck in Jochen’s velomobile but no, I couldn’t get out at all – I use my right arm behind me to lever me out and the Strada has bodywork in the way; with the QuattroVelo that space is clear for my hand so it worked really well, although (as with Millie) I do have to stand on the seat to get right out.

And what was the result of this test ride…? I am once again on the order list! The plan is that if I find I get on well enough with the QV (which won’t be ready till December probably) it would work as an all-round velomobile for me and I can sell Penelope and Millie. Klaus would also use it so we will order two different hoods – the covering one that he liked and the open one for me. And as for colour… we had talked about British Racing Green and then we saw one of the QV’s ready to go to a customer… what a great colour…

So I have ordered green and cream. The exact shade of green might change a bit as I found this one maybe a tad dark, but the general colour scheme is lovely. And I think I will see if I can get Union Jack flags on the mirrors…

Thanks again to Theo and Allert for their excellent service!!

Minor Millie maintenance

Millie is turning out to be a bit of a thoroughbred and less of a workhorse, which means she needs attention. I had noticed her drivetrain getting more and more noisy and it was noticed that my chain idler at the front seemed damaged so I have ordered a new one to see if that reduces some of the noise. Idlers are consumables and Millie has done 15.000km.

As mentioned above, not only did I buy two new front wheels this month but I also ordered a new rear wheel from the very good bike shop Siegers in Korschenbroich. Here is Mr Siegers having a look at my existing wheel (which I transported there in the car!) – we spent a good half hour discussing what I wanted for a replacement and after his two week Easter holiday he would build it for me.

One big issue with Millie is her rear indicators, which are virtually useless – no-one can see them from behind unless it is really dark. They are bright, but flush with the bodyshell and at a very oblique angle. I was trying to work out how to improve them when someone suggested some kind of lens on top to distribute the light. Of course Ebay has that kind of thing and for a few Euros I received 10 small plastic lens thingies. I thought I would get lots of spares as undoubtedly they would fall off periodically.

Anyway, I superglued them on and they work really well! I don’t feel quite so nervous when a large truck is behind me now and I need to indicate to turn left…

As mentioned above, Millie needed a new battery system so I ordered all the bits and bobs from eBay to accompany the 12v batteries from Velomobiel.nl. Millie currently runs on 7.2V so the plan was to get a voltage regulator, which is exactly what we did with Penelope two years ago. The gadget was ordered and Klaus made a start on testing it.

Unfortunately we couldn’t get the output voltage to change. An email exchange with the seller suggested we needed to actually have some kind of load on it in order for it to work so that will be the next plan. I have also bought a battery life indicator (which Millie doesn’t currently have – you don’t know your battery is flat until it goes dark or your indicators stop working). We will have to find the optimum location to fit this gadgetry which is rather something for a rainy day but I am sure we will achieve something before the bike tours.

SPEZI Radmesse

The last day of April was my day to visit SPEZI Radmesse, this year (as last year) by car. Hartmut offered to give me a lift and he and a chum Felix picked me up at 8:30 on the Sunday morning to head to Germersheim (near Speyer), about 3.5 hours’ drive away. Poppy also came along for the trip.

We stopped at the motorway services next to the bridge over the Mosel for a cuppa. I have to say, seeing this landscape makes me want to go touring there again, and it’s really best on a trike. I am starting to work out a way of doing a car-assisted long weekend Mosel & Rhein tour on the trike…

Poppy ate her breakfast and I had a muffin.

We arrived at SPEZI and started looking around. I went straight to the ICE Stand as usual and this time Neil Selwood, one of the directors, was there. He has been my contact for advice and technical/maintenance items over the years and I know his voice very well (and he mine) but it was the first time we had met in the flesh. It was gerat to chat to him, even though I am not really riding my trike these days.

Outside the main hall I spotted the QuattroVelo in green and cream that we had seen at Velomobiel.nl a couple of weeks ago. This is the colour that I have nominally ordered, but I think the green is too dark so will probably choose a slightly lighter one. It was good to see it in bright daylight though!

There were lots of velomobiles around of course, including this DF with amusing decals!

There were a string of them parked together.

Amongst these was the Milan belonging to TimB who bumped into me at the ICE stand again and we had another good chinwag. He told me to look at the Milan on the Räderwerk stand as the build quality was excellent. These are now built in Romania and I went to have a look – he was right, very impressive!

I also visited the Steintrikes stand as Klaus’s chain idler was rather worn and I thought I would see if I could order another one for him. Very fortunately they had a couple of spares on the stand and gave one to me after they heard it was for Klaus (Thomas Seide remembered him), so that was very kind of them.

I bumped into several other people, one of whom, Christoph, said “I see your interval between purchasing Velomobiles is reducing). He is right! Between Penelope and Millie it was 2.5 years, between Millie and the QuattroVelo it will be 1.25 years… hmmmm.

After a good look around we headed back home to Kempen. It was a good day out as always, and thanks to Hartmut for the driving. Poppy was shattered after such an exciting day and slept on my lap the whole way home.

Life in Germany

There’s been quite a lot going on this year. This month saw another connection to the UK disappear – my house in Colchester was sold. This means that I don’t now have a home back in the UK – when I visit the UK now I will stay with my Mum. James and I had been selling the house for over a year and the buyer took 5 months to get to completion but the house was finally sold at the end of April – the end of my ten year connection with Great Bromley/Colchester but it was definitely time.

Another big life event this year has been a change in my domestic circumstances. Klaus separated from his wife in January and we are now together. His velomobile Celeste is living in my garage as he has no garage/storage space in his flat south of Kempen, and his trike has also made its way to my spare garage as part of a possible plan to sell it (as he barely uses it).

We have some tours planned – a four day tour as part of the Trike Treffen over Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) at the end of March and a two week tour from Kempen to Usedom, then Berlin and then back to Kempen in June. It will be fantastic to be out touring again, and for me the first touring in Millie which may provide its own challenges, mainly in terms of storage space for touring luggage. We have been preparing by buying a few bits and bobs such as dry bags to store my things in and I am hoping to bodge together some kind of chain baffle to stop my storage rubbing against the chain as it is wont to do.

A visit from my sister and two nieces

Another great event this month was the visit of my sister Anna and her two younger daughters, Hari (16) and Ceri (13). Klaus drove me to the Hook of Holland to collect Anna and the girls after their overnight ferry trip and we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds before heading to Kempen. Klaus headed off then for some time with his daughter and I took Anna and the girls to St Hubert for some lunch in Café Poeth. Hari and Ceri chose filled rolls but Anna and I, showing sibling tendencies, both had cakes…

They were staying at the Ferienwohnung round the corner, Müllers Hof, and I visited with Poppy, who very much enjoyed hanging out with her English relatives.

Anna had bought some vital supplies from England for me…

In the late afternoon we went to Kempen for a walk about and then had a meal in Ela, my favourite restaurant there. But before the evening meal we had an ice cream.

The next day the plan was to visit Düsseldorf. It was a lovely sunny day and we drove there, finding a reasonable parking place and then walking along the river towards the Media Hafen.

Whilst we were there the Pulse of Europe march was taking place.

We had a burger for lunch and then after a bit more walking headed home via St Tönis where we stopped at the Water Tower for some cake/food. I had a crepe.

The next day was what I think they had been most looking forward to – a visit to CentrO, Europe’s largest shopping centre. We had lunch there in the food court and had plenty of time to nose around the shops. Anna and the girls managed to buy things, finding that most sales assistants spoke enough English for them to work it all out.

We had some very nice ice creams there, if all rather a similar colour scheme.

On their last day we wandered around Kempen and had lunch in Café Peerbooms. My lunch was of course a slice of cake.

Poppy was with us hiding under the seat and she discovered a slight gap in their cleaning regime…

We walked around the outside of Kempen’s walls enjoying the scenery.

We then headed back to my flat to collect their luggage and I drove them back to the Hook of Holland and after a nice meal at the Torpedo Lounge they got onto the ferry and I drove home again.

It was very enjoyable to see them and also interesting for them to visit Germany – the first time for Hari and Ceri and I think probably at least 33 years since Anna was last there, although she did actually live in Germany for 3 years as a baby. She said she could see very much why I had moved to the Kempen area and that the lifestyle was great. I think she liked the cakes and shopping too!!

Cakes this month

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

6 Wheels In Germany – March 2017 (Month 36)

This is Month 36 of my time in Germany. On 31 March 2014 I left the UK for my new life in Germany. The three years have gone really fast!

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

As you see, a better total for March but I am still behind my target of 10,000km for the year. Oh well, the summer is on its way!

And here is where I have cycled this month. Mostly commutes and just a couple of longer rides.

A long ride for a great downhill

Last August I did a long ride in Penelope via Kleve which included a very fast downhill which was great fun. I had thought for a while it would be good to try in with Millie and see which speed I could reach, and Klaus was very keen to come along, so we planned to enjoy a really long ride one Sunday including this hill, but also going via Xanten and back through the Netherlands.

This is our track for the day:

The weather forecast was good although not particularly warm. We set off at about 9:30am and rode very quickly to Xanten, where we stopped for the obligatory cake.

We then headed along the former railway (now cycle path) towards Marienbaum, heading north-west towards Kleve.

Once we were back on the main road the route became very slightly rolling and as usual in these situations I got left behind on the uphills – my hill climbing is very poor. I was pleased that my Schlumpf had successfully worked on the hill climb towards Xanten (where last time it had started slipping inside the Tretlagergehäuse which ended up with me having a new one fitted). However, as I was cresting one of the hills and tried to switch the Schlumpf back to high gear, nothing happened. There was no longer a button on the left hand crank spindle! Oh no!

I had remembered 2km back hearing a weird noise – I put this down to rolling over a bit of metal or something – but now gloomily realised this was probably my Schlumpf gear button falling off. But I was delighted to see that it had fallen sideways and was actually nestled in my right-hand-side footwell (the left hand side is open so I was lucky it hadn’t fallen straight downwards).

I got on the radio to Klaus and told him my Schlumpf wasn’t working and he headed back. Here is the offending button.

There is a small thread in the middle and when Klaus had a look he decided it should be fine to just refit it and tighten it by hand. Which he did, although reaching the pedals in Millie is not so easy! Good thing he has long arms.

The Schlumpf now worked properly so we carried on. Problem solved, at least short-term.

We were riding on a Landstraße between Xanten and Bedburg Hau/Kleve and this was lovely and fast so we were making great progress. I had told Klaus about the wonderful downhill but that there was an awful uphill first to get to the top of the Kleve mountain. He reached the top first, of course, but only had to wait a couple of minutes for me to arrive.

We decided that I would go first down the hill as I had ridden it before and Millie is a bit faster downhill. Off I set, very quickly reaching 70km/h (which was the speed limit on that section of road) and I got up to 72km/h for a good half kilometres. Klaus wasn’t quite as fast and unfortunately had a couple of cars behind him but they couldn’t overtake as he was almost doing 70. Despite it being a blustery day Millie felt very stable and I was able to pedal up to about 65km/h; at higher speeds than that my legs wobbled the tiller too much so I cruised down the hill, only pedalling occasionally to keep the speed up. It was brilliant fun!!

What was very pleasing was that when we got home and uploaded our tracks we discovered that we had both posted the fastest times on the downhill for our genders – I got the QOM (Queen of the Mountain) and Klaus the KOM (King of the Mountain) on Strava.

Anyway, once down the hill to the west of Kleve it was time to turn southwards and head for home. We had a very lovely section through some woodland where the cycle path beside the road was decent so we used that. We found ourselves crossing the Niers, which is a river very local to us, so stopped to photograph it – much larger here, although still pretty small.

We hadn’t stopped for any food since our cake in Xanten but saw a large restaurant beside the road and so decided to grab some soup.

After refilling our water bottles, using the loo etc we headed back to the road and enjoyed cycling along the Netherlands’ roads and cycle paths.

The final 35km of the route was the oft-used Ceresweg which heads to Arcen. It’s a lovely long road with little traffic but the road surface is a bit rough and that really slows me down. If they resurfaced it with German-quality asphalt it would be a perfect route!

We climbed the hill to Straelen and then decided it was time to stop for another bit of refuelling as the nice Café Krone in Straelen was open.

After some tasty Grillagetorte we headed home, Klaus doing a small extra bit at the end to get 150km, I finished up with 144.85km at an average speed of 25.8km/h. I burned over 3000 calories which was a bonus too!

The Schlumpf Button makes a more successful bid for freedom… and other tales of Velomobile problems

Following this ride I thought I ought to do something about the Schlumpf button. I mentioned it to Frank and he said he had some threadlock-type-stuff I could use. I thought I would have a look at the weekend.

A couple of days later Klaus and I went out for an evening cycle, just a short 40km loop to Hinsbeck and Lobberich. Unfortunately as we were approaching De Witt See I noticed my lights flickering… We stopped immediately and I got the battery and holder out to check. The connection was dicky. We fiddled a bit more and lo and behold the cable snapped right where it joins the holder. It was cheap cable (we had replaced some other bits) but there was no way we could fix this in the dark in the middle of nowhere without a soldering iron and spare cable.

People always say you should have backup lights for your velomobile and indeed I have a battery rear light on Millie all the time. Since I bought Millie I have carried around a Busch & Müller Ixion front light which had not seen a charger since Autumn and I had never attempted to mount it onto Millie’s bodywork before. I suppose I vaguely thought it would be best as a head torch – but I had no fixings for that.

One option was to fix it to my Lichtkanone behind my head but the mount was entirely the wrong way for that. The only other option was to strap it to one of my mirror mounts and hope that did the trick. Indeed it did, although it cast a weird shadow across Millie – on left turns I couldn’t see very much at all. I stayed behind Klaus and we rode a direct route home but on routes with very little traffic. You get used to good quality lighting and when you find yourself with rather less satisfactory illumination it really slows you down!

We were pootling along the Lobberich Bahnradweg and I heard a sound which I realised almost immediately was identical to the sound I had heard on Sunday when my Schlumpf button bounced off. I immediately changed the Schlumpf gear down, and then tried to change back up again – but indeed the button to switch to the higher gears had once again disappeared. I stopped immediately and looked in the footwell – no luck.

Klaus (who was quite a way ahead) returned to find me walking up and down the path with my hand torch (being used for its second purpose in one evening, rather a record) trying to look in the ditches and leaves for the button. I also needed the torch to pick my way past all the frogs who had chosen this evening to wander all round. They were very sweet but we had had to slalom our way on most of the last 2km to avoid them and with my reduced light this was harder.

Anyway, despite covering the ground twice I failed to find the button. Damn.

I was now stuck in the low gears so we decided to see if we could change up for me. We had heard an Allen Key is what you need and Klaus had to fiddle around for quite a while before it worked, but fortunately I was back in my ‘normal’ gear range and so was able to ride on without difficulty, except on uphill starts.

The next evening was a bit of bike maintenance to fix my lighting.

Klaus soldered a new decent bit of cable into the battery holder and then discovered that it was rather hard to close it as it needed the thinner cable. After a lot of persuasion it finally closed and so the wiring was ready. Hurrah! During this procedure Jochen arrived to show us that he had just punched a hole in the carbon fibre shell of Endeavour, his Velomobile, after sliding at low speed into a sharp metal piece of scaffolding. He now has a letterbox-sized air intake in front of his left wheel. He was gutted – and will have to learn carbon fibre layup over the next months to fix it.

Anyway, we were all in the garage commiserating with Jochen for his new air vent and trying to get my electrics working. They just kept flickering on and off and in the end it was clear that the battery holder thing, which is designed for a camcorder battery charger rather than velomobile-specific, was just not really up to the job. A little metal pin that needs to make contact with the battery kept sliding away so in the end Klaus fixed it with a tiny amount of solder metal holding it in place.

Since then it has worked OK but we decided one job was to change the battery and connectors to the normal Velomobile system. As my batteries are 7.4V instead of the normal 12V this would involve fitting another power regulator (like we did to Penelope) so I have purchased all the required bits and pieces and we will fit it some time next month once we have bought the batteries from Velomobiel.nl when we visit at the end of March. Here is the power step-down gadget thingie in its protective case:

I have also ordered a battery level meter as I don’t have one at the moment and it can cause some issues as I don’t always realise my battery has run out.

As for the Schlumpf button, I contacted Velomobiel.nl (as we would be visiting them) and they provided me with two buttons but of the newer design so I am not sure if they will stay attached.

I initially contacted Liegeradbau Schumacher who fitted the Schlumpf and they asked for a photo of the relevant part (as they varied) and then sent me one in the post a week later, which was very kind of them.

Millie is fairly sparsely-outfitted with very few extras (no brake light, no audible indicator warning etc) but she does seem to be struggling a bit at the moment. I also discovered a week later that the back wheel has gone slightly out of true, it seems that one spoke has slightly deformed the rim, so I guess I will be ordering a new rear wheel before too long. But I will wait until next month’s pay cheque for that one!

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf

Every so often a meeting is arranged for recumbent riders and velomobile owners in the Düsseldorf and surrounding region (into which Kempen just about fits). These are often organised by a chap called Norbert who has previously invited us to the care home where he lives where he and his wife can hire a room for us all to have food in before going for a ride. He’d arranged another of these for the third weekend in March and we were incredibly lucky to have an excellent weather forecast.

Klaus and I had said we would go but Jochen was originally going to be doing a long ride the day before, but eventually due to man-flu he wasn’t fit enough for that ride so said he would come with us.

We arranged to leave my house at 9am and head first to Uerdingen for some cake. Uerdingen is where Jochen had his mini velomobile accident that cut a chunk out of Endeavour but he bravely decided to revisit the scene of this trauma.

Because Jochen was still recovering from man-flu he said he would be slower than normal. Of course, at my even slower speed I did not notice this!

We did a nice relaxed route to Uerdingen and stopped there for some very nice cakes.

Both Jochen and I are supposedly doing low-carb but we’ve both been more lax this week so enjoyed our sweet treats!

From Uerdingen to Büttgen where Norbert lives is a very pleasant 25km with some very fast roads. I did the trip between Uerdingen and Büttgen once before and that time I was actually too fast for Klaus (he was having a slow day). This time he kept up no problem, and in fact pulled ahead to chase a cyclist on tri-bars, but commented again that i am really quick on this sector. I guess it’s the cake fuel from Uerdingen.

I had made some shortbread biscuits to bring with me (with the help of Klaus’s daughter Lara the day before), but they weren’t really necessary as several people had brought cakes with them too!

We chatted and enjoyed the food for a couple of hours, meeting some people for the first time but also catching up with old friends.

At 2 o’clock we set off on a ride which ended up on one of our regular stomping grounds near Neersen. There were 11 velomobiles and 7-8 trikes so it was a good group!

Klaus from Köln took some wonderful photos and here are just a few of them (featuring me and/or Millie of course!)

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Klaus started having some strange noises from his suspension so when we were having a short stop he had a look.

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

And I absolutely love this photo – can you tell what is going on?

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Basically I had been informed that my back wheel wasn’t quite true so Klaus and Stefan decided to have a look – I had to lift Millie up and spin the wheel. Conclusion was that yes, it was slightly out of true. More on that next month!

We rode for about 25km in total and then returned to Norbert’s place, at which point we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes.

Jochen, Klaus and I stopped for some food in Kempen on the way back – the Buttermarkt was packed with bicycles.

And when we got back to my garage Klaus decided to check out why his suspension had started being noisy – it turned out he just needed to oil the elastomers in the suspension a bit. It only took him about 5 minutes to fix the problem so they are proving to be a really good option for him.

It was really great to ride with other velomobile owners (although it is not always so easy riding in such a group) and of course great to chat with people who share our hobby. We look forward to the next meet up!

Radler Kaffeeklatsch

Some months ago Uli started to organise cycle visits to cafés for cake with his friends from the amateur radio world, as well as cycling chums. This is becoming a regular event and when it’s not too far from my house I can get there after work without too much difficulty.

One week we were at Wingertsches Erb which sells very nice cakes although is quite pricey.

A couple of weeks later we were at Café Kornblume which is just 4km away. Gudula came with me this time, as did Poppy running the whole way. But as it was such a nice sunny day I took Alfie for that al fresco experience!

We sat outside enjoying the cake and sunshine. Poppy too!

Here is a picture of us all with me looking remarkably spaced-out.

Life in general

The first of April marked 3 years since I arrived in Germany and also the first anniversary of my father’s funeral, so lots of thoughts around that time. Brexit was officially started as well which of course is something I am very disappointed about. But life continues to be very good here in Germany and I don’t regret for a second making the move to come and live here.

Cakes this month

Despite the low-carb diet, I have been a bit more relaxed this month following my holiday in Tenerife. This means that when I am on a cycle ride I allow myself a cake now and again.

These are the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month.

My low carb diet was officially from 3 January until 31 March but I am continuing it (perhaps a bit less strictly) as it has been so successful. I have lost 11kg and feel much better for it. I also have more energy on the bike and don’t tend to fade in my power over time. It’s not always particularly easy, especially when eating out (you tend to have to almost always have a salad) but it is definitely healthy and I hope to continue it reasonably successfully. We shall see!

On the last day of March I went to Dronten with Klaus for some velomobile maintenance courtesy of Velomobiel.nl. They worked on Celeste on the Friday and then Millie on April Fool’s Day, so I will write about this trip next month.

Anyway, it’s a shorter report for this month, I have been busy with work and various things but I hope to write a bit more next month – and perhaps not just about velomobiles. We shall see!!

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

6 Wheels In Germany – February 2017 (Month 35)

A cold and wet February but I managed 447km. A rather paltry total but I did also fly off somewhere warm for a holiday over the end of February which reduced cycling days.

Anyway, here is where I rode in February.

And here are the individual rides listed.

As you can see, I managed a 100km ride – to LaPaDu and then to Geldern with Klaus. Most of the rest of my rides were just commutes though. I am really looking forward to the better weather!

Metric Century – to LaPaDu and Geldern

Klaus and I both signed up for the Strava Gran Fondo challenge for February which was to ride a 100km tour. Not that difficult but the weather wasn’t really that great, but we spotted a chance and decided to start off by riding to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg).

We rode via the Orsoy ferry and I reminisced about meeting Olaf there nearly three years ago when he brought me a British potato peeler all the way from John Lewis’s in London by bike 🙂

It was cold and a bit drizzly when we got to LaPaDu, having ridden through Marxloh which is the most deprived area of Germany. It has no end of bridal shops there which is a bit random! We parked our bikes which as soon as we left became a magnet for people to look at.

We parked and then went into the café which is a very interesting room – an old electricity substation I think.

Because I am doing the low-carb thing I watched Klaus eat an enormous slice of cake and nursed my black tea.

Except then I had to try a tiny piece…

Although the forecast was for a lot of rain it seemed OK so we decided to try for the 100km. From Duisburg the only really safe (= flat) direction to go is west so we headed off towards Moers.

We maintained a very good average speed on the fast roads and decided then to go further to Geldern, where we arrived along with some more rain so put the bikes under an awning outside the restaurant.

We had some nice warming soup and then headed back, completing our 100km Gran Fondo ride. This was the only ride over 50km I did during the entire month. Shocking!

Millie needs an electrician

I was out on a ride with Klaus one day and he commented that my indicator was slightly flashing on, even though I didn’t have the indicators on. That seemed odd, but it fixed itself when I got home and jiggled some cabling about.

Then a day later we rode to Arcen together and I really enjoyed the downhill… until I realised that my Lichtkanone was no longer lighting up the way ahead. We stopped at Arcen, realising we would have to ride directly back if we couldn’t fix it as dusk was on its way.

Fortunately Klaus managed to do a quick repair with a penknife and some insulating tape but we knew it was time to do a proper repair – the cabling between the battery and Millie’s electrics was a bit dodgy, using cheap chockblocks to join bits of wires together.

So we decided to have a Bike Maintenance Day the following Saturday and invite Jochen round too as he is permanently fixing his Strada and could give us a hand.

Klaus and I went round Obi (like B&Q or Homebase) and bought some cable and other bits and bobs, as well as velomobile cleaning and waxing materials to try to improve the muddy state of our bikes (except we haven’t actually done anything with these items yet, but at least buying them makes you feel like you have made a start).

So on the Saturday Jochen popped round in Endeavour and we moved Millie and Celeste round to the back garden.

Klaus needed to change the batteries in his cadence and speed sensors and as Jochen is so familiar with the Strada he did this whilst we were doing Millie’s electrics.

For Millie’s electrics we increased the cable length between the battery and main wiring to give us more room to move, took away the chockblocks and soldered the joins instead. (I say ‘we’ – all I did was held two ends of cable together whilst Klaus soldered them and attempted not to burn my fingers). The whole lot was much neater when we had finished and hopefully the dicky connectors will be a thing of the past.

My second job was to replace the peeling-away cheap Velcro for the armrests in Millie with the decent-quality large Velcro patch I had bought. We warmed the adhesive up with a heat gun before sticking it and that worked well.

Klaus then replaced the weak velcro for his sun visor with my better velcro.

Jochen had meanwhile changed the batteries of the speed and cadence sensors and he and Frank had had a good look at Klaus’s rear gear cable. Jochen has been very successful in snapping these when underway and it’s a mega-fiddly job to fix them by the roadside. Jochen’s prognosis was that the gear cable was rather worn and as he had a spare he was going to replace it… but they then discovered the small bolts holding it in place on the tiller were so soft that the allen key used to try to unscrew them had stripped the heads. They would probably need to be drilled out so we stopped there before doing any more damage and Klaus decided he would expedite his trip to Dronten to get Celeste serviced and ask Velomobiel.nl to change the cable there.

It started to spit with rain so we decided not to bother with the bike washing but had achieved the main goals so it was a relatively successful bike maintenance day. But we really must clean them up, Millie is probably 3kg heavier with crusted-on mud!

A new home for Millie and Alfie

Alfie the trike had been living under my Grand Piano in my lounge for six months and this seemed a sub-optimal place to store him when the summer came and I might want to ride him. Having Millie and Penelope fills up the garage so I asked a couple of neighbours if they had garage space to rent and they said no, but my landlord thought that one of the local farmers might have some space – and indeed he did! So I am renting a large garage about half a kilometre from my house and Alfie and a velomobile are staying in there (depending which velomobile I am using). Klaus’s Celeste is also now in the garage at my house so it is most handy to have the new garage space – which now also has my summer car tyres and the summer tyres of my landlord and landlady too. When you have the space you have to fill it up of course!

Events this month

Zeche Zollverein, Essen

February, despite being cold and windy, had a couple of nice days and on one of them I visited the Essen Zollverein which is a retired mine and cokery (is that a real word?) which has now become a space to visit and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It has the highest escalator in Europe. These are the stairs between the two escalators.

It’s a quite bleak site in some ways but also really interesting.

A holiday in Tenerife with Mum

At the end of February I flew out from Düsseldorf to Tenerife, meeting my Mum at the airport in Tenerife before we headed off to our Apartment.

We had a 2-bed apartment with kitchen and a bathroom each so it was rather luxurious, although the Wifi didn’t work which is a pain. Here was the view from our balcony.

The next morning was Sunday. We had a breakfast with the food that was already in the apartment and then decided to go food shopping to find me something low-carb for lunch. We found an open small supermarket but had been warned it would be expensive – and it was. This lot cost over 20 Euros!

I took the food back to the apartment and then met Mum back at the beach where we walked to the marina which had some very interesting boats – a submarine here, with a Viking boat behind it.

On the way back from the Marina I saw this amusing signwritten van. Can you spot the man’s name if you call him (small print on the rear door)!

Although I was on islands off the coast of Africa it seemed as though I was back in the UK for the food!

We returned to the hotel after a really good walk about and I took this photo of the pool area – it looks like a photo from a holiday brochure!

Back in our apartment we ate our evening meal and then watched the sunset from the balcony.

We did quite a lot of walking over the week, going twice to Los Cristianos which has a lovely sandy beach (with sand shipped in from the Sahara).

Our local beach was rather more volcanic.

However the sea was still beautiful and blue, although the water too cold for swimming.

The Tuesday that we were there was Shrove Tuesday and lo and behold…

Despite the low-carb diet I decided I really ought to have a pancake. So I did!

It was very tasty! I also had a couple of ice creams over a few days – after all, I was on holiday – and had lost 10kg in two months so thought I was allowed to have a little break from being very good with my food choices!

There was a bookcase with books people could take and return so I did a lot of reading, relaxing by the pool.

I also did a little bit of swimming – not much as it is bad for my disabled arm, but the outdoor pool was slightly heated and it was lovely to have a 10 minute swim each day.

Mum and I had been travelling around on the local buses to get to various places but I decided to do a proper excursion one day to the Teide National Park with the Mount Teide volcano. Mum stayed behind on that day so I set off alone on the coach tour up the mountain via the village of VilaFlora where people stopped for tea and cake (but there was nothing low-carb so I just enjoyed the fresh air outside).

We went first to an interesting rock formation which is actually the stack of various volcano vents where the surrounding rock has been eroded by wind/weather etc, with an impressive view of Mount Teide in the background.

Then it was to the Cable Car station where we had a short queue before boarding our booked cable car ride up to just below the summit.

On the top it was noticeably cooler and the air was thinner (we were at about 3500 metres or 12,000 feet high), and there was also some snow lying.

The views from the top were glorious.

I went down again in the cable car and then we carried on visiting a few places in the Teide National Park, including the site of the most recent volcanic eruption in 1909 (the darker patches on the mountain are the fresher lava flows).

It was a very interesting tour and good value too. It is impressive to see a volcano up close and personal – especially one which is still officially active!

Mum and I went out for an Indian meal that evening as I love eating Indian food and don’t find it very often in Germany. I also ate (mostly) low carb, starting with a chicken Tikka salad

Then a lamb balti

With cauliflower bhaji (no rice).

The next day we had a Chinese buffet at lunch time and I did eat a bit of rice there, but it was our last full day and it did look tasty!

Mum and I both bought a pair of sandals in Los Cristianos, and I saw (but didn’t buy!) this present for my Velomobile.

On the way back from Los Cristianos I treated myself to a meringe cake thingie. Very nice!

On the day we were due to leave we waited in vain for the bus to take us to the airport. After it hadn’t appeared despite being 20 minutes late we took a taxi.

My check-in queue was very long so Mum and I said goodbye at the check-in area. She was flying back to Southend, me to Düsseldorf.

I had a good flight back, watching lots of TV programmes on my iPad and enjoying the bag of nuts I had brought with me for mid-flight fuelling. Klaus collected me from Düsseldorf airport which was nice as it was raining and cold and my coat was packed in my suitcase so good that I didn’t have to wait for a bus…

It was a lovely holiday, having sunshine every day for a week is really good in the depths of winter. It was of course also great to spend time with my Mum. I definitely like the idea of a holiday somewhere warm in February, I shall have to think about it again next year!

Cakes this month

My two cakes have been included above. That’s three slices of cake in two months. Shocking!

The plan is to do low-carb until the end of March and then consider further what I do. I think I will probably introduce more carbs from April, but probably only cakes when out cycling (I will try not to go back to bread and pasta and rice except on special occasions). Despite eating well on the holiday, after 3 days back in Germany I had returned to my pre-holiday weight.

I am also making plans for some bike tours over the summer, starting with a short tour to the Trike Treffen over the Christi Himmelfahrt long weekend in May. This year the Trike Treffen is north of here, in Germany but near the Dutch border at Entschede, so about 140km away. It’s always fun meeting other trikers and velomobile riders and I have been to two of the last three Trike Treffens so am looking forward to it again.

I am hoping that March will be less rainy than February and I can do some more cycling kilometres. Watch this space!

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