Category Archives: Cycling in Germany

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – July 2018 (Month 52)

The observant among you may have spotted that the title of this month’s report is a little different… More about that later!

Cycling this month

July was a good month for cycling, despite Germany sweltering under mega temperatures.

I think we were above 30 degrees for almost every day of the month, and I saw a temperature of 39 degrees at one point. That is hot!

It also means that the afternoons are just spent hiding in the house with the shutters down and my new best friend, an oscillating tower fan, doing its thing!

So this meant that most of my cycling was on Alfie the trike (out in the fresh air!), except for a few longer rides.

Here is the list of rides:

The green rides are Alfie, the red ones are Velomobiles (Millie or Humphrey, almost entirely Millie).

And here are the year statistics:

As you see, I did 896km in July which was OK.

And here is my Wheel for the places I have been in July.

If you looked closely at the list of rides or the wheel you might have noticed something slightly interesting on Sunday 15 July.

My first 300km ride

Klaus is now riding much more than me, including regular commutes to work (a 94km round trip). For example, I’m typing this on 3 August and he cycled to work today (Friday), as well as on Tuesday and Wednesday. Impressive stuff!

Anyway, he had started toying with the idea of attempting a 300km ride. His highest previous distance in one day was 220km, mine was 215, but we both felt that more was possible. He started thinking through how to do it – he knew his risk was to go out too fast and get tired, and he also knew he would have to ride this on his own as trying to accommodate to someone else’s speed makes you more tired.

Klaus had arranged a week’s holiday with his daughter in Austria and I started to think about what I would do during the week he was away, particularly the first weekend. About three weeks before he went, I got the idea that I could try for a 300km. But the one thing I didn’t want to do was tell anyone (except my Mum!) beforehand as I didn’t want any pressure at all. If the weather was good, I would try for the distance. If I felt bad partway through I would stop.

A week before, when the weather forecast looked good (although mega hot!) I checked with Gudula that she could look after Poppy for the whole day as I knew I would be out for a very long time. I estimated my average speed would be about 25 km/h over such a long distance, which meant twelve hours’ cycling time. I would also need time for breaks, food, loo etc. Gudula was happy to look after Poppy, so my plans were moving on.

The day before, on the Saturday, I ended up driving for nearly six hours (more below) in Ralf’s Sprinter. As I delivered it back to him, I  decided to tell him what I was planning for the next day as he, Klaus and I often rode together on Sundays and I thought he might like to ride with me. He said he would quite like to meet me for a short part of my ride so I told him I would send him my planned GPS tracks and we would communicate the next morning and arrange a meeting spot. I did warn him that I would have to go my own pace and couldn’t wait around a lot.

The whole time that Klaus and Ralf had been talking about doing a 300km ride I, too, had considered how I might do it. It was clear to me that I would need to ride in Kreis Kleve, north of where we live, as it has open roads, few traffic lights, not many cars and – also important – several nice Bauerncafé. Of course, Kreis Kleve isn’t 300km in a straight line so I decided to plan several loops that I could ride – of different distances so I could choose how far to go. Each loop went past a nice Bauerncafé (of course!). One was 90km, one 70 and one 45km.

I also knew I would have to leave early in the morning to give myself enough time. This is partly because in the evening my cycling speed slows a lot, but I am OK with early mornings. So at 06:13 I was in the garage getting into Millie after freshly pumping up her tyres. I had two 500ml bottles of water with me but that was my only extra preparation.

Here is the map of my ride today – three major loops and some smaller ones:

It’s pretty hard to see where I actually rode so I have included images of the individual loops.

So I set off on loop one, which was the 90km one past Weeze airport and then up to Siebengewald (NL) before returning along Ceresweg to Arcen. This is a route we have done loads of times and I know it’s fast and easy roads – well, the German section anyway. NL is not so good but I fancied a bit of NL and Ralf would meet me in Straelen at the end of that loop.

I started off a bit slower than I expected but this is often the case in the early morning. I had eaten a breakfast of scrambled eggs with bacon to give me energy for the first 100km which I wanted to do without a proper stop, if at all possible.

I followed the traditional route up to Kerken, then along Eyll towards Winternam, then going past the prison in Pont and heading towards Twisteden. From there I hugged the NL border going north west past Weeze and then enjoyed the fast road to Siebengewald.

At Siebengewald (48km) I stopped to put my feet down and have a drink. I also sent Ralf a message – he said he was on his way and would meet me in Straelen. I pedalled on.

I had unfortunately forgotten how bad the road surfaces can be in NL. Well, I had sort-of remembered but decided they couldn’t be as bad as I remembered. My memory had been correct! I lost about 3km/h speed because of the rough surface. I was making sure I was just cruising along the whole time, not using much power at all, so that I could last the full 300km. So I just accepted the slower speed and resolved not to do this loop again.

The hill up from Arcen is one of the easier ways of getting up into Germany (Germany is uphill from NL where we live), and as I was approaching it I exchanged messages with Ralf (who was already in Straelen eating his breakfast) and Klaus (who had just woken up in Austria and had no idea I was doing a long ride).

I rolled into Straelen just as Ralf was finishing his breakfast. Rather than stopping for a cake at Hoenen’s bakery in Straelen I said to Ralf I would prefer to go to Café Winthuis near Weeze which has fantastic cakes and was just another 25km. He thought this was fine, so after a sit down on a chair for five minutes I headed off again with Ralf behind me. He rode the whole time together with me tucked in behind so I didn’t have to concentrate on keeping up with him, I could just ride my own pace. No doubt a very leisurely pace for Ralf!

Here is loop 2:

We arrived at Winthuis at 95km ridden (you can see the little stick on the left hand side halfway up the track in the image above), got out of the bikes and I realised I had left one of my two water bottles on the table in Straelen. Annoying! Oh well!

The next annoyance was that Winthuis was “Geschlossene Gesellschaft” (private function) that day so we couldn’t have cake. I said to the woman “I’ve cycled 95km without a break!” but this didn’t sway her so off we went again. I suggested to Ralf that we continue to follow my Loop 2 (which I was now on) as it went past Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk. As the crow flies this was only about 7km away but my loop went much further north first so in the end it would be 29km. He said that was fine, although he had a bit of a deadline to get home for lunch with some neighbours. But off we went.

The day was warming up a lot now, already in the low thirties. My speed had increased to an average of 26 km/h now, as I always find I am faster in warm weather. But my lack of water (only a 500ml bottle) was troubling me a little. I would need to ensure that whenever I stopped I drank plenty.

As we were passing Weeze we saw lots of signs for “Parookaville” which is apparently a festival (Ralf’s daughter has attended). Fortunately it wasn’t this weekend but I made a note not to ride that way the following weekend. As it was, we were a bit later heading through Twisteden towards Weeze and there were a lot more cars. We had a couple of bad overtaking experiences from stupid motorists on the stretch from Straelen towards Goch.

Eventually we arrived at Büllhorsthof and Ralf and I chose cake and drinks.

It was nice to have a break after 125km, and I drank several bottles of water in the loos of the café to replenish some fluids. It was a hot day and I was sweating a lot (which is usual with velomobile riding).

Ralf and I discussed his route home as he had the appointment, and I said that I would amend my Loop 2 to return to Straelen with him so he could easily ride home from there. I thought it’d be a bit tight on time but he seemed relaxed about it, as always.

After a break of about 45 minutes we set off again, me looking forward to reaching the halfway point of my ride. It’s always nicer to know you have a shorter distance to ride than you have already completed.

The ride back to Straelen with Ralf seemed pretty speedy. I had no aches and pains except for my feet felt a little uncomfortable in my cycling sandals. I had worried about my right knee which often gives me issues on longer rides but this time I was riding at exactly my pace, not trying to keep up with Klaus and Ralf who are stronger riders, so everything was fine.

At Straelen I waved goodbye to Ralf and hoped he got home in time (he did, two minutes before his curfew!)

Now it was time for Loop 3, and for this one I decided to go a bit more to the east on the Kengen route that Klaus and Ralf had ridden the previous Sunday (when I was in bed with a lurgy). They said the road had been resurfaced in places and was really fast.

So I went back almost to my start point in Kreis Kleve at Kerken and then rode along the busy B9 (on a decent cycle path) for a short distance until I could take the road up towards Rheurdt. We would normally ride through Stenden here but they seem to be permanently digging up the road so you never know when you will meet a blockage.

I enjoyed the ride north again towards Issum as these roads are fast although there was a whopper of a pothole (well, more of a pot-trench across the road) which Millie crashed across. This is the kind of situation which might give me a puncture but I got away with it.

It was hot hot hot and I had soon drunk all my water that I had filled at Büllhorsthof. But my route would take me back to Büllhorsthof before too long so I kept going.

The road from Issum to Winnekendonk is one of the roads that I love – great surface, fast, no cycle path so you don’t get annoyed motorists hooting at you, and of course low numbers of motorists, although there were more than normal (as I was now riding on a Sunday afternoon). It turns out Sunday afternoon motorists will hoot at you even if there is no cycle path – but hey, they also regularly say they can’t see me (a giant white thing the size of a fridge freezer on the road… they need to get their eyes tested!) so I don’t pay much attention to motorists.

I was enjoying myself, my average speed was around 25 km/h now and I felt just as strong at 190km when I arrived at Büllhorsthof for the second time than I had at 20km. I also knew I was almost two thirds of the way round. Klaus had worked out what I was doing and was sending me supportive messages.

I was very parched when I got to Büllhorsthof so immediately drank about a litre of water (refilling my bottle from the tap in the ladies loos) and then had a cup of tea and a Grillagetorte which is a mixture of ice cream and cake.

I sat inside where it was a bit cooler and found a room that was empty and sat there. I desperately needed to take my sandals off to give my feet a bit of a break from Shimano Sandal Shape, but I was pretty smelly from my sweat and also a bit from my feet. A brave couple came and sat in the same room as me whilst I was there.

I had decided to give myself a reasonable break and was there for another 45 minutes, recharging the battery on my Garmin and exchanging messages with Klaus and Ralf. The Grillage went down very well. I am not entirely sure that fuelling my entire ride on 4 eggs, 1 Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen and 1 Grillagetorte was ideal but I didn’t feel like anything else. On long rides your digestion tends to shut down a bit anyway and my guts were slightly complaining. I was a bit annoyed with myself for failing to bring any nuts with me to snack on – we have packets of them in our cupboard (low-carb lifestyle that we have at home) but I failed to bring any. Numpty.

Despite drinking loads of water I was still thirsty, but I couldn’t do much about that as there is only so much you can drink at one sitting. The lack of water was the only real issue on this ride, and I suppose I could have stopped at a petrol station to buy another bottle, but I hadn’t actually passed any petrol stations so far, and as this was Sunday all the other shops in Germany were shut.

I was originally planning to do Loop 2 in reverse but decided instead to go off-plan and head towards Uedem and from there to Goch as it looked like there was a nice straight road. So off I went, on what turned out eventually to be a road I had never cycled before. All was well until I noticed the road went over a huge flyover which looked very steep. I don’t like hills and was avoiding them as much as possible so took the opportunity to detour through an industrial estate instead, hoping to work my way round to the road I needed back towards Siebengewald. This worked, mostly, although I did have to go up a bit of a hill coming into Goch, and I also had to use a rather badly repaired cycle path which was a bit bumpy and slowed me down quite a lot.

From Goch to Siebengewald was easy, and then it was back on roads I knew well but was this time riding in reverse (this had been Loop 1).

It was baking hot and I stopped from time to time in the shade of some trees to rest my feet and to drink my rapidly-dwindling water supply. I decided I would stop for proper food in Straelen, I thought a take away pizza would be good. I needed to fuel with something other than cake really.

I zoomed down through Twisteden, keeping my regular speed and with my knee still not really complaining. I was feeling very proud of myself now, with 250km completed. I had known from about the 140km mark that I would manage the 300km, I just had that feeling that all was going well. Millie was faultless as usual – no issues at all with her, although I didn’t use the new shifter for my front chainrings (more on this below) in case it didn’t work properly and I unshipped the chain. I took no chances with anything!

From Twisteden I dropped down to Straelen and stopped for a pizza at a tiny pizzeria take-away in a side street. They had a couple of plastic chairs and a table outside so I could sit and eat. I only ordered a small pizza as my digestion wouldn’t want any more. What this place didn’t have was a customer loo or bottled still water or even pure orange juice. As they couldn’t supply either of the two drinks I actually drink, I asked for a glass of tap water. They gave me a really small glass, which I drank instantly, and then asked them to fill my bottle. I drank that immediately and asked for another refill, which they did, but I got the impression this was my last chance.

From Straelen I knew I had to do some extra loop in order to get enough kilometres.

I headed off on familiar roads and rode past Landcafe Steudle (which was closed as it was now 18:30). From here I rode through Hartefeld and then along to the Witchy Roundabout as I call it in Sevelen. From Sevelen I took the fast road south – in the distance I could see a fire burning. My colleague Alex told me the next day that it was a hay store.

Because of the lack of water I decided to go home and drink plenty (and use the loo) before my final mini loop. I got home with 25km still to ride, and resolved to spend just 10 minutes at home (in case laziness overtook me). I drank plenty of water, ate some nuts and used the loo, then it was off again for my final loop.

This was my first real bit of riding in Kreis Viersen – it’s less suitable for long-distance velomobiling because of the traffic lights and more general traffic. I rode around Kempen, then headed towards Grefrath and then north past Zur Fluchtburg and to Abtei Mariendonk, which seems to be a place where most cycle rides somehow go past!

You can see the long shadows… it was approaching nine pm now.

At 298km I had to stop for a couple of minutes whilst a very nervous horse and rider made their way past me. It was a lovely feeling knowing I had almost reached my goal, and so I pootled the last three kilometres (I wanted to do at least 1km extra in case Strava or Garmin clipped some of my ride, which sometimes happened). And then finally I was back home with 301 on the clock!

Here are the statistics of the ride from Strava:

I felt great – no knee pain, no backside pain, I didn’t even feel massively tired. I just felt a bit dehydrated despite gallons of water and absolutely desperate for a shower. I had been dreaming of a cool shower for the last 100 kilometres!

The next day I rode Alfie to work and all was fine, I had no body issues at all although I also had no great desire to go out on long rides, so just commuted with Alfie for the rest of the week.

My conclusion – an old fat woman can ride 300km in under 15 hours total (12 hours moving time) with the massive help of one of the fastest velomobiles, a Milan GT, and also good weather. I am happy to know I can manage this distance, but I have to say I have no great need to do it again. Not because I don’t want to put my body through it, but because it’s a bit boring riding for that long in a day. How people do the massive audaxes of 1400km in five days I don’t know!

Auntie Helen buys YET ANOTHER Velomobile!

Oops, I did it again! I now have thirteen wheels in Germany (3 x Millie Milan, 3 x Alfie ICE Sprint, 4 x Humphrey Quattrovelo and 3 x ….)

Well, after lots of consideration about the situation with velomobiles and car, something needed to be done.

I have given away my car to my landlord and landlady; I can use it on occasion if I need, but it is generally not available to me. And definitely not for my morning commute in winter as that’s when it is being used by Gudula.

The plan was to use Humphrey for winter commutes as he’s mostly waterproof. This was a very good plan up until I realised I couldn’t ride him long-term because of my disability. The plan is to sell him in September/October when Klaus’s Quattrovelo arrives.

I started looking at perhaps leasing or hiring a car for the winter months, as that would probably be cheaper than buying a car that sits all spring, summer and autumn doing nothing. But it still means an extra car taking up space on the roads, not something I really wanted. I considered the option of just getting very wet on a few commutes each year by using Millie, and had almost got to the point of thinking this was the best option. And then I saw a Versatile offered for sale for 2000€ on the Velomobilforum, and not so far away (in Hagen, which is about an hour and a half’s drive away).

This was clearly worth a visit, so Klaus and I made arrangements with the seller to go and visit. We had just seen a couple of photos before this – it was a yellow Versatile with some crash damage that was partly repaired but the spares required were apparently all there, just not yet fitted.

When we arrived I asked the owner Stefan what number Versatile this was (serial number). He said he didn’t know, so I took a quick look on the metal crosspiece behind the rider’s head where the number is stamped – it was number 17, so younger than Penelope but still pretty old.

We had a good look around the bike. The crash had damaged the rear and bent the metal frame slightly. This had been re-straightened by the current owner although the lid didn’t open very smoothly at all. There were scratches on the yellow paintwork at the side.

We checked the underneath and it all looked good.

There was clearly work to be done on the ball joints for the steering mechanism. But this Versatile had to be at least 8 years old so it was not too surprising. We noticed that the rear wheel rim was damaged, and also noticed a couple of missing spokes on the front wheels.

I also noticed that it had the strengthened area where the steering track rod goes through the bodywork. I remember Peter van Heul, who delivered Penelope to me four years ago, explaining that he had this done on his Versatile as the bodywork could be too weak here.

We gave the Versatile a test ride. It rode very well (once we had managed to get the lid shut). The pedals were in the forward position compared to Penelope which gives more luggage space behind the seat but the seat is then a little differently positioned in terms of getting out, but it was fine. The Rohloff worked well which was important as we doubted it had been serviced for a long time. The guy who now owned it had bought it from someone in Belgium but he was a bit vague about how much that person had ridden it.

The electrics weren’t functional and there was no battery anyway. It looked like we might need to do a complete rewire job which wasn’t a terribly pleasant though. One of the front lights was missing, the other was a type that I didn’t recognise. Poor lighting at the front was a real issue with Penelope so this was a job that needed to be done.

I felt that it rode well enough for my 4.6km commute in winter, but didn’t fancy doing some of the bodywork repairs so decided to phone Gerrit Tempelman to see if he was interested. I thought he also might know some of the history of this bike.

And indeed he did! I told him it was number 17 and yellow and he said “I think this is the one that belong to Peter van Heul that he crashed”. Peter is of course the chap who delivered Penelope to me. The world is very small!

Gerrit went on to explain that after the crash the Versatile was written off by the insurance company and sold to a car breaker’s yard for 750€. Gerrit had bid for it but a lower amount as he wasn’t too keen on repairing the bent frame, so he didn’t win the auction. He didn’t know where it had been in the intervening eight years. His advice was to check that it was running OK, but that he would not be able to fix the bent frame. I explained that this seemed already to have been done, and that lots of spare parts were already waiting to be fixed (Gerrit remembered these had been bought from him). I asked Gerrit if he would give it a service and a once-over if I bought it and he said yes, so I went ahead and agreed to buy it with the seller after discussing with Klaus. We know its faults, that the frame has been bent (and is therefore a little weaker), but for my short commute we really couldn’t see a downside.

Once the deal was done I said I would try to collect it in a week or two, would BACS the money to the seller when I got home (which I did), and Klaus and I set off home again. Once at home I emailed Peter van Heul and said I thought I had just bought his old Velomobile. Which indeed I had, he was the original owner of Versatile 017 until the crash. He sent me photos of it…

You can see the bent frame on the side here. A car hit him broadside and knocked him on his side where he slid until being stopped by a post.

In my photo above of the Versatile that I bought you can see a panel on the side where this sticker below with the lions was!

The back section is completely broken and my seller had a new one that he had started to paint yellow.

The interior looks OK. The main front/back chainlink was unaffected.

So two weeks later I had an opportunity to collect the Versatile. I arranged to borrow Ralf’s Sprinter again and set off to Hagen very early. This was because I would then drive it straight to Dronten to Gerrit Tempelman before returning home, a journey of nearly 600km on the first day of the school holidays in NRW when there would be lots of traffic (including Klaus driving to Austria with his daughter). This was the day before my 300km ride so spending up to six hours driving wasn’t ideal but it was the best opportunity to pick up the Versatile. I also planned to take Millie in the Sprinter to get her front chainring shifter changed to a trigger shifter from a grip-shift in the hope that my disabled arm could work this a bit better.

I left home before 8am so I was in Hagen by 9:30 and loaded the Versatile into the Sprinter next to Millie. I then set off towards Dronten, trying to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic; as I crossed the border into NL there was a huge motorway queue but Google Maps gave me a very decent cross-country alternative which I took and I was soon back on the motorway past the blockage.

I parked first at Velomobiel.nl as I wanted them to have a chance to start the work on Millie. As I arrived I noticed a familiar face…

This is Alex who sold me Penelope originally and since then bought the Quest XS which formerly belonged to chum Gabi. More of the Velomobile Small World syndrome. It was very fitting that Alex helped me unload my new Versatile from the Sprinter!

I handed Millie to Velomobiel.nl and then wheeled the Versatile round the corner to Ligfietsshop Tempelman.

In this picture you can see the back is open – the yellow thing on the right hand side is the new rear cover. This will be fitted after the electrics and other things are done.

I asked Gerrit if he might be able to do the electrics for me and he cobbled together a suitable battery and lo and behold it seems that the electrics are actually OK (except for the headlamps). He would replace the headlamps with some decent ones, change the battery connectors to the same ones we have on our other velomobiles, and would also service the Rohloff and change the ball heads on the steering mechanism etc. There were lots of other small jobs to do but the spare parts that the previous owner had bought were mostly the wrong ones, according to Gerrit. I trust him absolutely to do a good job so I left it up to him how much he did.

This is the only picture I have taken of the new velomobile. As you can see, it is very yellow. I am now on the search for a good name for it; at the moment I am considering giving it some black stripes in a vinyl wrap to make it look like a bee, seeing as the house we live in is called Bienenstock (Beehive) and therefore it needs a name starting with B. I am considering Boris, Bertie or Brian. I will wait to see what name best suits when I have him back sometime in August/September. There was no hurry for the work to be done, and Gerrit Tempelman has holiday in August, so I asked him to fit in the work when he felt like it and I would collect when it is ready.

When I returned to Velomobiel.nl Millie’s shifter was changed and the broken spoke I had picked up on our NL tour was fixed. I have since used the shifter a bit and I am still struggling with it; it’s better than the previous grip shift but it is still very difficult for me to change back up to the big ring as I am not strong enough to push the lever really hard which it seems to mean I have to go up and down the gear for a minute or so before it finally works. I have asked Klaus to see if he can do it better and work out what the knack is and that might give me a hand. Really a Schlumpf Mountain Drive would be the best option for me but my previous one was faulty and new ones are just too expensive. That’s life, but at least living in Niederrhein I very rarely have to use my Granny Ring!

I look forward to reporting when I collect the yellow Versatile and how I get on with it.

A visit from Bobb

When I lived in the UK I was part of a very loose cycling group based in Witham in Essex who used to do evening rides, and occasionally I would join them (usually car-assisted as Witham was a fair way away). One of the riders there was Rob (known as Bobb) and I had him as a Facebook friend.

He was on a very long bike tour from Spain back to the UK via France (including some of the big mountains), the Rhine valley and then NL. I realised he would be fairly near Kempen on his way through so offered for him to stay one night with us (rather than camping).

That fitted in very well with his plans and so we arranged for him to stay the night with us and I offered to ride to meet him somewhere on the way. This was on a Thursday so a work day so I checked with him where he was once work finished and we agreed to meet in Willich. I rode there in Millie and sat at an Eiscafé to enjoy an ice cream on a sweltering day!

Bobb arrived five minutes later on his very laden Surly Long Haul Trucker (here is a picture outside our house later).

We rode a scenic 25km ride back at a leisurely pace.

Once we got home it was Bobb’s time for a velomobile test ride.

We rode a short loop around our hamlet, it was a very different cycling experience for Bobb!

We had a pizza in the evening and then a good chat. It was very interesting from Klaus and I to hear of Bobb’s touring experiences, especially as he went over some real mountains in the pyrenees with his heavy bike. Respect!

I plotted a good route for his next day and we googled a good campsite, so he set off the next morning early as I had to take Poppy to the vets to have her teeth cleaned. Congratulations again Bobb on your impressive tour!

A new skill – soldering!

Three of Millie’s four indicators have had to be changed since I owned her, and Klaus has wielded the soldering iron for this. On our NL tour the left side indicators stopped working so I had to use hand signals for indicators. However, I decided to check what had caused this one afternoon and a quick peer inside Millie’s cabin showed me the problem…

I had some spare LEDs from when we had previously repaired it, so I wondered about whether I could try the soldering myself. I would also solder an extension to the cable as it was too short inside Millie, which was one of the issues (the cable could easily be kicked by my foot during pedalling and it was under strain).

My main issue was to ensure that I had the terminals the right way round, so I took a photo…

I had my first ever soldering experience and it went very well – I was able to solder the cable onto the new LED very neatly which would make it easier to fit in place in Millie’s nose. Soldering the new cable onto the old was not so easy as I needed three hands but I eventually managed it. And the new LED worked!

When Klaus got home from work we put Millie upside down in the garden and fixed the LED in with silicone sealant as usual. This worked really well for the first three weeks but then the hot weather released the gaffer tape which was holding the cable to the side and I caught it with my foot and pulled the LED and cable out of the silicone holder. The silicone was just too soft from the heat. The LED still works, it’s just attached to a long cable hanging loose inside the velomobile! I will fix it in place again when the weather is a bit cooler so that the silicone sticks (hopefully) and we will also find a better cable fixing option. But I am very proud of a new skill – soldering! – and this at the advanced age of 47.

Other news

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Stage 1

I am absolutely gutted about Brexit of course, I think it is a complete disaster and hope against hope it can be prevented. I want to stay a citizen of Europe with the right to live in Germany!

However, I have to plan for the worst, and I did the first stage of this… changing my Driving Licence to a German one. I had held off doing this as you lose a lot of the entitlements with the German licence. I took my UK licence to the Stadthaus in Viersen and had to fill in a form, supply a photograph and pay them 28€ and I should receive a new German licence in due course.

I took a photo of the categories I am allowed to drive on my UK licence. We will see when the German one comes what I still have. I think it will probably only be B1, B and C1. No way will I have C1E or D1E on my German licence.

Poppy’s dentist experience!

Poppy ended up having to have her teeth cleaned as she had very bad scale on them. This has to be done under a general anaesthetic of course.

Rather different to the UK, I was there when they put her under and they also made sure I was back before they woke her up. They said this is less stressful for the dog, which I can believe. In the UK you just hand your dog over and have no idea what happens.

Anyway, when I returned after an hour to see if she was waking up, they told me that they had had to remove seven teeth!

These were mostly teeth from her upper jaw although the two at the front of the bottom jaw were also gone. They woke her up whilst I was there and she was obviously very woozy and not too happy. She would not be allowed toys or dry food for ten days as she had stitches in her gums (she could have moistened dry food but I decided to buy her some upmarket wet food instead, which she really loved!)

Whilst she was under I had asked them to clip the hair on her belly which we are not allowed to do and which had got long and matted. They completely shaved her belly and this actually caused her problems with itching as her skin is clearly sensitive and was constantly irritating her. She would scratch it with her back legs and make it red and sore. She got really upset by this and wouldn’t settle, she was often hyperventilating, so on the Monday morning I took her back to the vets for an injection which was like an antihistamine and this did the trick. But she had a very uncomfortable weekend before! I must remember not to have a procedure done on a Friday as there is no vet surgery at the weekend! She hasn’t seemed to mind missing her teeth, but she is disappointed that we have not continued with the wet food which she absolutely loved. It’s a very expensive habit to get into though!

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month!

July has been a swelteringly hot month and the beginning of August has continued the trend. This is tiring, and a bit noisy as we have to sleep with a fan running, but it looks as though August should become a little cooler. We all hope so!

Thanks for reading, any comments greatly appreciated as always!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Ten Wheels in Germany – June 2018 (Month 51)

Cycling this month

This month was a very good month for cycling because of our Helen and Klaus round NL tour. Here are the total distances I have ridden (green = recumbent trike):

And this is where I went (mostly round the Netherlands and a few commutes)

 

There were a number of events on this month for cycling. The Stadtradeln started on 2 June and this is a competition between various towns to get more people cycling. We had an ADFC Kempen team with Hartmut, Klaus, me, Jochen, Ralf, Rolf, Uli and several others, and over the 21 days of Stadtradeln our average distance was just under 1000km (and two of the 11 members rode under 16km in total!). Hartmut managed an amazing 2100km as he set himself a challenge to ride 100km a day. Well done Hartie! Klaus, Burkard and I took the next places, and in fact the first six were all over 1000km I believe. It was good fun!

We also went out on a cycle ride at the beginning of the month with Hartmut and Ralf.

Ralf and Hartmut had been visiting various towns which were having events to start off the Stadtradeln. Ralf was given a flower which he attached to the Cookie Monster velomobile.

There was a ride going from Grefrath but we decided not to join it as velomobiles are too much of a different speed. Instead we rode separately to Landcafé Bruxhof in Klixdorf for some very nice cake!

The Return of Celeste!

As mentioned in a previous blog, Celeste the Strada was damaged by vandals who steamed through a local farmer’s garages/sheds and then set alight his hay barn. We were storing Celeste and a few other bits and bobs in one of his garages and Celeste was damaged by the vandals; they sat on her, breaking her nose, pulled out some wiring and stamped inside.

Anyway, we delivered her to Velomobiel.nl a couple of months ago and they would repair her. Klaus had a message to say that she was ready and could we collect her sooner rather than later as they had so many velomobiles in their shop at the moment.

Klaus had long hatched a plan to cycle her home and so he started putting this into action. I would drive him to Venlo railway station and from there he would catch a train to Dronten (we had a train ticket courtesy of my Mum who didn’t use it, and it would be valid for the trip) and then cycle home. All good, the date was picked.

Then a couple of evenings before, Ralf phoned up. When we were driving up to collect Celeste, could we take his DF? He had broken the chain and was having front shifter problems and wanted it fixed by Intercity Bike in Dronten. All good, except Klaus wanted to ride back! The obvious solution was that I drove up with Ralf’s DF and Klaus, and Klaus cycled home and I drove home with the DF once it was done. Plans all agreed, we collected Ralf’s Sprinter van with his DF on the Friday evening so we could make an early start on Saturday. Ralf had no time to travel to Dronten himself as his daughter was having her Uni graduation ball.

Klaus and I set off at 7:15am and were at Velomobiel.nl by 9:30. There was already lots going on there with several people having bikes repaired/adjusted. We also saw loads of Quattrovelos there, including the gold/yellow one belonging to Ingrid (wife of Gert) who we visited during our NL tour. She wasn’t sure how the colour scheme would work, I personally am not convinced but a colleague at work, to whom I showed the photo, thought it was wonderful. It’s probably a Marmite colour scheme but as long as Ingrid loves it then it’s great!

And then we were reunited with Celeste.

They explained that it had been hard to get a decent colour match. The paint they ordered was totally wrong so they got a local car paint shop to make up the colour and respray the entire top, which they did. The match is very close; not perfect, but good enough! The repair was excellent, we could see no traces of the damage.

Klaus rode her around the block to check everything (he said she felt very different than Humphrey), fitted the cadence sensor and then set off.

I then did the 1.5km journey to Intercity Bike to hand over Ralf’s DF.

Ralf had discussed with Ymte and decided to have the front 2 chainrings replaced with a Schlumpf Mountain Drive. This is partly as a result of our recommendations, and it helped that Ymte had a second hand one that had done just 5000 miles that was an excellent price.

It was Peter who was working there today and he told me that as the chain was broken and one half had disappeared inside the innards of the DF it would take a bit longer to fix, maybe up to 3 hours (as they also had a couple of visitors coming for test rides). He recommended I headed to Kampen for a walkabout and a cuppa, so off I went.

Klaus and I had stayed in Kampen when having servicing done on Millie and Celeste last year and we had had a little walk in the town but I had much longer this time and got to see plenty of it – once I had parked the Sprinter of course. Such a long van isn’t easy to park and I ended up in a normal car park, hoping I wouldn’t get a ticket for being one and a half car lengths long. Fortunately the car park was only half full.

I walked into the main centre of Kampen on what was a very hot and sunny day.

I enjoyed my walk around in the sunshine, looking at the different cafés and restaurants to see where I should have my lunch. In the end I stopped for a Flammkuchen (very thin pizza) at one place and drank a fresh orange juice too. After this I walked around a bit more, bought a pair of shorts, then it was time to stop again for cake and cuppa as I had 25 minutes until my parking ticket ran out.

I stopped at a coffee place that advertised cakes and they had something which turned out to be similar to Lemon Meringue Pie in the UK. I had this cake and a cup of tea using my teabag.

We spent two weeks touring the Netherlands in June and one of the big negatives was the price of the food (and also, to some extent, its quality). This smallish piece of cake and the tea cost me 7,50€. To put that into perspective, the next day in Germany Klaus and I had two large slices of cake, a tea and a Latte Macchiato, and that was 8,20€. If you want good value and large cakes, best to stick to Germany!

Whilst I was sitting down eating this cake (which did taste fine), I had a message from Fritz who is touring Scotland with his partner Brigitte and their two DF Velomobiles. You can see some pictures of his tour on their Facebook page @Tandemontour.

Anyway, a week ago whilst in Scotland they had bumped into Woollypigs and Peliroja, cyclist acquaintances of mine who were on holiday with their dog. Woolly borrowed my old trike years ago. Anyway, Woolly spoke to them and asked if they knew me and of course they did. But now I had another message from Fritz as you can see below:

Joyce, or Mrs Miggins, toured with her husband Simon, me, Klaus and Tigerbiten on our Spezi Tour three years ago. And she bumped into some Velomobile owners in Scotland whilst on holiday and of course they knew me. The world can be so small! It was lovely to have this connection.

It was time to walk back to the van and this time, as I walked past the church tower, some people were hauling life-size models of cows up on giant cables whilst a film crew recorded. I have no idea why.

The cows nearly at the top…

An everyday Saturday in NL?

I drove the 10km back from Kampen to Dronten and Ralf’s DF was now ready. I had a chat with Peter about it, and about velomobiles in general. It’s good to know that ICB are also working on new velomobile models and improvements/enhancements.

Peter helped me fix the Cookie Monster into the Sprinter.

And then it was time for me to drive home. I guess I left at about 2pm.

Meanwhile, Klaus and Celeste had been making their way along a lovely route, originally given to us by the late Robert Frischemeier.

The beginning of this route goes through the Veluwe National Park which is lovely.

It was a really hot day and Klaus was having a relatively gentle ride as he had not ridden Celeste for months and didn’t need to overdo it.

He stopped for drinks and ate food he had brought with him (banana, figs etc).

Because this route was developed by a velomobile rider it is much more suitable for our transport than if we just tried to make a route ourselves. There’s a lovely long section along a canal and Klaus was having a really good ride.

I half planned to ride somewhere to meet him but it was clear from his messages that he was making such good progress I would be too late. I drove the Sprinter directly back to Ralf’s house and helped him unload the DF. After a short chat I drove home again in Klaus’s car that we had left there, going via Aldi as we needed some food. As I was coming out of Aldi Klaus sent me a message to say he was in Issum so only 15km or so away!

By the time I got home from Aldi and unloaded the shopping Klaus was in Aldekerk. He suggested we meet in Kempen for ice cream so I hopped onto the trike and zoomed into Kempen to meet him, arriving to discover there was some big event on in Kempen with lots of people. Klaus arrived five minutes later and we found a seat at one of the bars on Buttermarkt where I had an ice cream and Klaus replaced some fluids and electrolytes with an Alkoholfreies Weizen or two.

We rode home together and he ended up with 190km with an average of 25.7 km/h.

So how was Celeste after her repair? Absolutely fine, but in the intervening time Klaus has ridden 4,000km in Humphrey and has got used to him. Given the choice of only having one of the two, he says he would choose the Quattrovelo. He finds it somehow uses less energy, particularly in windy days, and also seems to find the riding position more comfortable (although this could be changed in both). Here is his report in German from this ride:

Mal ein kurzer Bericht von meiner Heimfahrt. Bei der Streckenführung haben wir uns von unserem leider verstorbenen Velomobilisten Robert Frischemeier inspirieren lassen. Das erste Mal bin ich diese Strecke im Dezember 2016 nach dem OBT gemeinsam mit Helen gefahren. Die Strecke führt grob durchs Veluwe bis Apeldoorn, dann entlang des Canal Zuid bis Dieren, bei Rees geht es über den Rhein und dann ist man schon fast zu Hause.

Die ersten Kilometer waren schon ein wenig ungewohnt aber das gab sich recht schnell. Wie bereits erwähnt, die Strecke ist ein echtes Highlight, Wälder und Heidelandschaften auf den ersten 50km. Nach Apeldoorn hatte ich die erste Pause am Kanal und ich merkte schon irgendwie, dass mein Körper in der letzten Zeit ein anderes Velomobil gewöhnt war. Keine massiven Probleme, aber dennoch spürbar. Was schon nach wenigen Metern festzustellen war; die Ruhe in der Hülle. Das ist schon ein bemerkenswerter Unterschied. Sicherlich kommen da mehrere Dinge zusammen… Die Reifenwahl, Elastomerdämpfung vorne und der Aufbau ansich. Auch die Pflastersegmente in den niederländischen Innenstädten sind mit den F-Lites wesentlich angenehmer zu fahren. Die gestrige Windsituation war auch nicht unbedingt Strada zuträglich. Bei Seiten wind muss ich doch etwas mehr arbeiten. Nichts desto trotz es hat Spass gemacht und die Zeit verging wie im Fluge. Ich freue mich schon auf die nächste Tour.

Im direkten Vergleich QV/Strada muss ich dem QV den Vortritt lassen. Trotz der bekannten Nachteile ist das Reisen weniger anstrengend. Der Kraftaufwand scheint sich gerade auf den längeren Strecken bemerkbar zu machen. Heute (1 Tag später) war ich mit dem QV 170km unterwegs und ich fühle mich wesentlich ausgeruhter. Mal sehen wann mein QV kommt; ich freue mich. Eventuell behalte ich Celeste als Backup. Wir werden sehen.

It’s good to have Celeste back, except she has been returned to the same garage where she received her vandalism. We have no other storage option at the moment. However, she has a more powerful tracker installed which will notify us if someone so much as touches her, and we will zoom straight round there in that case! We need to probably work out some alternative for the future if we keep her as the ‘spare’ velomobile, but we need a bit of time to think about it all. The Velomobile Stable is regularly changing, after all! We were notified in Dronten that Klaus’s new Quattrovelo (to be called Emily) will be ready in August/September so he will have another trip to collect her and once he is happy with her, we will sell Humphrey. If anyone is interested in a 6 month old Quattrovelo with currently 5000km on the clock, let me know!

Searching for some new Landcafés/Bauerncafés.

Since we have been riding velomobiles we have increased our daily riding distance. When we rode the trikes, a ride of 60km was an expenditure of energy and 100km was pretty impressive. With the additional speed and efficiency of the velomobiles, we have effectively doubled our range for the same effort and level of tiredness.

We visited many cafés and restaurants over the years in places like Straelen, Geldern, Wachtendonk, Grefrath, Kaldenkirchen. But these places are all around 20km away or less; we were now on the hunt for a good destination for a ride around the 35-40km mark which naturally could offer good cake.

We already had Landcafé zum Schafstall in Twisteden on the list, Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk, and cafés in Xanten, Bislicher Insel etc, but we needed some more. So I had a bit of a google and found a few places to visit which looked nice and were at least a 70km round trip.

Reichswalder Dorfcafé.

One of these was right to the north of Kreis Kleve just outside the town of Kleve (Cleeves) itself. I plotted a route there and Klaus and I set off on a ride on a pretty warm day.

The ride ended up at 154km for me and 200km for Klaus (he extended it a bit), and we visited 3 Bauerncafés and an Eiscafé.

It was a fair distance to Kleve so on our way we stopped at Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk to just have a drink (no cake!).

We then continued on during a pretty hot day to reach our planned new Bauerncafé. This was the Reichswalder Dorfcafé which is in a small residential area south of Kleve right next to a large green area and then the border with NL.

They had cake!

We had ridden fairly speedily there so spent quite a long time relaxing enjoying the cake. In fact, we ended up then sharing a slice of Grillagetorte as we were there so long!

But then it was time to ride home. We were so near NL it would be rude not to do a diversion, so we headed to Ottersum in NL and then south to Siebengewald where we returned to German roads.

We headed south on roads that we now know quite well, and then felt it was time for another drink. We had hoped to find somewhere to have a drink or ice cream in Twisteden itself but there was nothing so we did a mini detour to our third café of the day, Café zum Schafstall, and I had a pancake with strawberries and cream (which I forgot to photograph!)

We set off again, suitably refreshed, and decided to do some mini detours to increase the distance. We ended up in Kempen for an ice cream.

After this I wanted to go home as my knees were hurting but Klaus fancied a bit more riding so our ways parted and I headed back for the 154km, he continued to 200km.

Landcafé Binnenheide

As I am now working just two days a week, I decided I ought to do some riding on my own on my days off. As it was so warm in June this didn’t end up happening very much, but one day I did manage to get out to visit a new Bauerncafé in Winnekendonk. There is already one there that we visit, Büllhorsthof, but I thought I would try the other, which is a little south of the village near the river.

It turned out to be a little trickier to find than I had expected as my Garmin kept routing me down narrow roads which petered out into farm tracks.

I ended up retracing my route a couple of times to get back to proper roads but found the Bauerncafé in the end, although I suspected I approached it from an unusual direction. I saw no signs giving directions on the roads I took, so I wondered if the place would be empty, especially on a Wednesday afternoon in June. But clearly other people knew about it, as it was pretty busy when I arrived.

This was the entrance – they obviously do an awful lot of gardening and decorating of their buildings. It was very country café and pretty.

The cake was called a Frieslander.

In the ladies loo there was an encouraging blackboard message about cake consumption!

(The more you weigh, the harder it is to kidnap you. Protect yourself and eat cake.)

I wasn’t the only strange vehicle parked outside.

It was a very nice café and I will bring Klaus and Ralf there one day to visit, although I will have to work out a slightly better route.

Here is my track for the whole ride:

It was a 72km ride at an average of 27km/h. And fun!

Bauerncafé Winthuis

Ralf appeared on the first Sunday in July (yes, this should be in next month’s blog really, but it’s the third of our “New Café” trips) as this was the day of the Niederrheinisches Radwandertag, the Niederrhein Bike Touring Day. Apparently you could get some document stamped if you visited multiple places and get some kind of prize. It was all a bit hazy, but Ralf knew of a café in Goch that was taking part and we should go there.

He wasn’t terribly sure of where it was or the name, but when he arrived at our house at 9am we Googled it and discovered it was called Bauerncafé Mönichshof and it didn’t open till 14:00. As Ralf needed to be home by around 3, and it was 50km away, this wasn’t going to work. But I spotted on my Google Map another Bauerncafé which we hadn’t previously visited and which said it would be open – Bauerncafé Winthuis. So we headed off towards Weeze (it was between Twisteden and Weeze) and hoped to be able to navigate to the waypoint on my Garmin when we got close.

Sunday mornings are such a great time to ride as there seem to be almost no people in Kreis Kleve. They are all still in bed I guess, but we enjoyed having the roads to ourselves – right until we made our way through Twisteden when there seemed to be more cars than normal. And then we found ourselves in a traffic jam – which turned out to be for Irrland, a children’s play area/destination thingie. I’m not really sure what it is but most of Germany and half of NL wanted to go there today, so there were queues of cars. Fortunately this section of road has a cycle path so we hopped onto that and queue jumped very enjoyably.

After we had got away from Irrland the number of cars rapidly reduced again and we were on our own. Well, there were lots of cyclists about – the Radwandertag had lots of group rides and painted routes for people to ride on their own and it seemed to be very well attended.

We found Winthuis easily enough, although just before we got there we passed a group of cyclists including a lady who had clearly had an accident and was lying in the road. Klaus and Ralf offered help but the group around her said they were OK.

Winthuis turned out to be lovely with that rare treasure, excellent customer service!

And the strawberry cream meringue cake I had was possibly one of the tastiest cakes I have eaten in Germany. And I have eaten a lot!!!

Whilst sitting in Winthuis we had a message from Uli to say he was manning a stand at the Radwandertag event in St Tönis. This was 50km away but naturally we felt we ought to go and support him, so we sent him a message to say we would come and set off back towards Kreis Viersen.

It was a really hot day and for the last 15km or so I was really losing energy, as was Klaus (who had ridden 190km in Celeste the day before). But eventually we made it to St Tönis and Obstgut Tackheide, which turned out to have a café that I had not previously visited, despite it being only 10km from home!

The place was full of bikes and had marked bike parking too.

We helped Uli, Petra and Marlies clear up their stand as they had finished (they had in fact stayed open longer as they were waiting for us) and then we all went to get some cake.

Marlies kindly gave me a bottle of water to drink as I was really thirsty. We had ridden fairly speedily on a very hot day on a ride that ended up 97km for me, so I needed more water!

At Tackheide there was a Stempelstation where I could get my card stamped for the Radwandertag. But I didn’t have a card, and hadn’t visited any other stations, so I couldn’t actually get my badge or whatever the prize was, despite my pretty good distance!

After the cake I decided to go straight home and Klaus once again did an extra loop. He ended up with 167km, which brought his weekend total to almost 350km in two days. Not bad!

So four new cafés were discovered this month, including one in Kreis Viersen. There are still a few more to check out so I guess I won’t get bored (or thin!)

Life in General

Life carries on as normal! Obviously a two week bike tour makes a bit of a difference, as does reducing my working hours. The fact I am only in the office two days a week is probably good as my two colleagues Annette and Alex both are wonderfully slim and yet eat constantly – cakes, sandwiches, chocolate. And they both put on no weight at all! The consequence of this is that we often have pastries in the office…

This second selection of pastries was to give us all energy when we had a visit from my Russian customer for an inventory. This lasted 3 days, and two of those days were full time plus evening meals, so I was barely in the house (and earned a nice amount of overtime!). My Russian contact Julia bought me some gifts…

And as she comes from Moscow, we talked about the World Cup:

And in fact, one evening it was just she and I who went out to eat. It was the day of the England Belgium match so we watched it together after our meal outside a café in Buttermarkt.

Everyone else was cheering for Belgium, but they are a direct neighbour of Germany.

For the World Cup I am of course supporting England (as Germany have gone out). I don’t have an England flag but our house is proudly flying the Union Jack. Which is of course deeply embarrassing for all the other members of the house!

And another local event this month, our little hamlet of Escheln received its first Stolperstein which is a brass plaque on the floor that remembers a victim of the Holocaust where they lived or worked. Here is a news report in German about it.

June was a busy month but I hope you have enjoyed reading all about it!

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

NL2018 Day 5: Groningen to Harlingen

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Here was our planned track for the day:

We had a good night’s sleep in our caravan but the washing that had been hanging in the bathroom had not dried unfortunately. I put my items in a plastic bag to try to dry them this evening, Klaus put his wet clothes on!

We had a very tasty breakfast:

This seems to be the traditional Dutch breakfast of lots of rolls, cheese and ham, one egg and also jam and marmalade and chocolate sprinkles (we don’t eat the latter).

Our bikes had had a very comfortable night in storage:

We checked out and were on the way at 9:15.

After about 1km our route suddenly changed and the bike path we had been on beside the road changed to a very narrow path, barely the width of a Velomobile, and a bit uneven and bumpy. We kept going along this as there wasn’t really an alternative.

After about 2km this bumpy path turned onto a bridge over a small canal and we were back to decent roads again, hurrah!

Today was a day of lovely views again. I liked these house boats, some were just like square houses.

We were lucky enough to see another stork, and this time I even managed to take a (very grainy) photo of it!

As well as the stork, today we have seen hundreds of swallows. They sometimes fly incredibly close to the Velomobiles but always get out of the way in time. I love to watch their acrobatics!

Today’s road surfaces were mostly good (no 12km of brick paving like yesterday!) and this meant we could cruise through the countryside in a very relaxed manner. Here in there in the landscape we saw windmills.

As we were leaving Kommmerzijl we rode along a section of road where the hedges were being cut. This is a very familiar experience for me from my cycling years in the UK, although the hedges are cut much later in the year there after the birds have finished nesting. But it is a classic time for a puncture, and lo and behold a couple of kilometres later:

This was the first puncture on the road with Humphrey and in the Marathon Greenguards at the back.

We found the culprit and unsurprisingly it was a thorn from the. Hedge cutting. We found a second thorn trying to work its way into the front left tyre so removed the really sharp shard of that too. Reinflating two tyres to 6 bar (100 PSI) keeps you warm!

The puncture was dealt with and we carried on. We had ridden 25km and knew that our main lunch stop would be at the 50km mark in Dokkum. We doubted we would find anything before that and because of the chance to stretch our legs with the puncture repair we didn’t need to stop again.

Clouds were gathering over the landscape as we trundled our way towards Dokkum into what was becoming a pretty stiff headwind.

In due course we arrived in Dokkum and found a restaurant where we had tomato soup and then a sandwich. We are eating a lot of bread on this tour – we don’t normally eat it!

One thing we noticed is that passers by seem less likely to touch the velomobiles than in Germany. We are able to relax a bit more as people seem to have more respect for our property! In Germany people often seem to ignore the fact that these bikes are private property!

After a leisurely lunch we set off again with 55km to ride.

Our route started along the N356 which has a decent cycle path beside it but they were renewing sections of the cycle path so we had quite a lot of mini detours. We ended up going through the villages of Foudgum, Brantgum and Waaxens rather than past them!

We then turned westwards parallel to the sea but we couldn’t see it at all because of the dikes.

We were on the main road to Leeuwarden but at Hallum we turned off on a quieter road that headed a bit more north. This was a lovely road with very little traffic and some lovely views (photo by Klaus)

This road was fairly fast and we were making good progress through villages with names like Oudebildtzijl and Nij Altoenae despite a very gusty and strong head/sidewind. The road ran along the top of a dike and there were houses most of the way along, but no shops, restaurants or Cafés. We had thought to stop for a cuppa but no chance.

At Westhoek we were finally near the sea (although we couldn’t see it) and the road became rather more agricultural.

We saw only a few cars, almost no people – but lots of sheep!

We realised we wouldn’t find any cake until we arrived in Harlingen. This meant we had ridden a 25k stretch without a single cafe or bakery. That would be extremely unusual in Germany!

Harlingen has lots of industry on the outskirts, mainly relating to wind turbines and fishing. The town itself was very pretty with a nice central street.

We found a cafe and ordered some cakes.

Once again, like other cake experiences in NL, my cake looked better than it tasted.

Our B&B was in a residential area 2km outside the main town. The host was very friendly and they offered to wash our cycling kit which was great!

We rode back into Harlingen for an evening meal at a pizzeria. It was nice enough but much more expensive than in Germany.

When we came back we stowed the velomobiles in the back garden. It was a tight squeeze to get Humphrey round a corner and he seems to have picked up some new scratches in his paintwork as a result which is a bit of a shame. We really must have a go with the colour touch-up stick!

One very bad discovery was that the battery charger we had packed to charge the velomobie batteries (for the lighting) did not work. This was a brand new charger that we had received with Humphrey but never used as we had Celeste’s charger at home. We left Celeste’s charger and I just put the new one, Humphrey’s, into the packing. But it appears that it doesn’t work at all. Both Millie’s batteries are completely flat and Humhrey’s Battery Number 1 is at about 20%. We have two spare batteries so I have one that I must eke out for another 10 days. With my large LED brake light this is not possible, so we have emailed Velomobiel.nl and asked them to post a replacement to Alex in Rotterdam who we will see on Sunday. Let’s hope that works, but if any readers know of an alternative option please let us know!

Today’s ride was 107.2km with fairly strong headwind a lot of the way. Our average speed was 20.9 km/h and my average heart rate was 115 bpm. My average cadence. was 62 so you can see it was a super comfortable cruising day.

Tomorrow I ride the Afsluitdijk again but this time in a Velomobile. I hope there will be fewer insects landing on me this time too, we are only just beginning to see improvement in our Oak Processionary caterpillar rashes!!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 2: Nijmegen to Haaksbergen

Sunday 10 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

In fact, even before we set off from Kempen we had adjusted today’s route slightly. This is because cycling chum Gert who lives near Haarksbergen told us that there were roadworks and road closures and sent us an alternative track; this was 2km longer so would give us 107km for the day, so one of our longer days.

We slept well and breakfasted with Roef before heading off at about nine in the morning. He took a couple of pics of us as we were leaving:

It was pretty quiet outside (it was a Sunday morning) and we made our way through Nijmegen without too much trouble but it was slow. This is partly because we weren’t always sure where to go with the cycle paths, whether to cross the road etc, but mainly because it is extremely difficult to reach the traffic light button for bikes when sitting in a Velomobile.

So it was slow going through Nijmegen; our average speed was probably around 18 km/h for the first ten or so kilometres. This kind of riding is very tiring for me as I find accelerations hard work. I felt my knees today!

We joined the cycle route to Arnhem which Klaus had ridden a couple of months ago. It’s great!

And a view down to the river Waal and looking back at Nijmegen.

From my perspective as a Milan rider the Dutch cycle paths are a mixed blessing. They are mostly OK, but they can make life tricky as they assume you are riding a normal bike with a standard turning circle but if you’re in something like a Milan with a 14 metre turning circle it’s not always possible to get around the corners that they force you to do with kerbs either side of the narrow path. We had several occasions today where I had to shuffle back and forward to get around a corner.

But then at other times you have ten kilometres of bike paths like this:

Another issue with touring in the Netherlands is that my cake radar which is very effective in Germany just doesn’t work in the Netherlands. This means that if I feel it’s about time for a tea and cake stop, I might have zero success finding somewhere suitable. In Germany I can pretty much always find something.

We hadn’t passed any open cafes at all, even passing Arnhem. Then as we came down from a dike I noticed the Golden Arches. Not my favourite, but at least with McDonalds you can get some tea and cake and a loo. So we headed that way.

As I arrived it looked awfully familiar. Yes, once again I had arrived at Hotel Gieling in Duiven. I had visited this for work years ago (and at that time the McDonalds was shut as it had burned down in a fire!) and then on my Berlin to London trip I couldn’t find a hotel in Arnhem and ended up being sent to one which turned out to be Gieling (and they still had my details on their database). Once again I was next door, although I didn’t stay in the hotel this time!

We refreshed ourselves suitably, including lots of water as it was 25 degrees outside and we were thirsty after 35km.

Then it was time to continue, suitably fortified.

We were heading east now, no longer on cycle paths but this time on quiet country roads. Now we were able to speed up a bit as it takes me a while to wind my speed up to 30 but can sit at that speed relatively comfortably. Continual stop and start kills me! We had nice long roads with 5km before a junction, so we were going well and really enjoying the scenery. There are lots more dairy cattle in the Netherlands, quite a lot of goats and sheep, and of course lots of birds.

Our speedy progress reduced a bit as we went round the outskirts of Doetinchem. Here we had a minor navigational issue which meant we struggled to get onto the cycle path and ended up stuck in the middle of a road trying to cross it. My nose was right forward into the path of the cars and they just swerved round me rather than stopping to let me go across; in this situation in the UK the generally bike-unfriendly cars would let me go, a surprising difference.

It took a while to clear Doetinchem and my knees were discussing the issue with me a bit but eventually we popped out the other side and were able to increase the speed again.

We started thinking about food when we arrived in Zelhem at one o’clock as there were lots of cafes with people sitting outside. I felt I could ride on a bit longer but we realised we didn’t know if we would find any other lunch stops on our route so decided to stop and eat there. My Mum always says “never pass an oasis” (although she is usually referring to loos) so we stopped at what turned out to be a very pleasant eaterie.

We had a leisurely lunch as we had just 43km to go and were meant to arrive after 5pm. I contacted our Vrienden op de Fiets host, saying we might be half an hour earlier, and they said that was fine, we could come when we wanted.

So we set off in the warm afternoon sunshine.

It was again easy riding as we were mostly on quiet lanes rather than cycle paths beside busy roads. We made good progress, riding at between 27 and 30 for most of the time.

The final 500 metres was surprisingly semi off-road. There was a bike path of compacted earth which was just wide enough for us but a bit bumpy. We were glad we didn’t have several kilometres of this, but we soon arrived at our Vrienden op de Fiets host and discovered we had our own little granny annexe with bedroom, lounge/kitchen, bathroom and patio outside. It was most handy to have a washing line outside for our cycle clothing after we had washed it in the shower.

The total distance for the day was 106.6km at an average speed of 22.1 km/h.

We had had a decent lunch so we didn’t need to have much in the evening. This is because we were going to visit Gert, who lives just 7km away from where we were staying. I have met him several times, including LEL and HBKH audaxes where I was helping, plus at Dronten when he was working on his new Quattrovelo.

Gert had sent us a route so we just had to follow the purple line until we arrived at his house. We had a look at his Quattrovelo (the version with a child seat) and he looked at Humphrey. He discussed additional ways of soundproofing and then spotted that something was loose in Humphrey’s innards so he and Klaus got out their tools and fixed whatever it was.

When all was completed we sat down for a cup of tea and a chat.

As with most velomobilists, the conversation soon turns to tyre choice. It is always interesting to get the opinions of audaxers as they certainly test tyres significantly. Gert swears by the Scorchers but at 60 euros a pop they’re not exactly a bargain option! He also gave advice on the suspension settings on the Quattrovelo.

It was lovely to catch up with him again, and to meet his wife and children, and to spend a relaxing evening in the garden. Gert has also supplied us with a small alternative to our routing tomorrow which misses out the slow and awkward bit going through Enschede; my knees will be very grateful!

We were back to our lodging by 9:30pm. The washing wasn’t quite dry so we had to move it indoors and rigged up our washing line between two dining rooom chairs. Cycle tourists can be resourceful!

Tomorrow we are heading to Hardenberg and will go very close to Germany in the Nordhorn area. It’s another 100km day but hopefully on good roads again, and the weather is a bit cooler so that should make it more comfortable. But we’re really enjoying ourselves!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Netherlands Tour 2018

Ten Wheels in Germany – May 2018 (Month 50)

The fiftieth month of my life in Germany!

Cycling this month

This month has been good for cycling.

Here is where I have been (Green = using Alfie the trike with motor):

And these are the individual rides:

Regular readers of this blog will notice that the listing of rides looks rather different. This is because there have been a few technical changes around here over the last month, which included a new computer and, consequently, a new rides tracking software. More on this below.

As you can also see above, Humphrey was used very seldom by me. This was mainly because Klaus was using him as Celeste was out of action following the vandalism last month.

We delivered Celeste to Velomobiel.nl for repair and in the meantime Klaus is really enjoying using Humphrey as he awaits the production of his own Quattovelo which may now be ready earlier than expected, perhaps after September. Klaus is getting a blue and cream one that will be called Emily.

A Velomobile Comparison in Zons

There has been much discussion on the German Velomobile forum about the Quattrovelo and how best to optimise it. Most owners seem very happy with them, but a few owners have made comments that made me realise I was not entirely alone with the problems I had found. Many mentioned the noisiness of this Velomobile and were trying to work out the source of the noise.

Friend Jupp/Josef, who has one of the earlier Quattrovelos and lives in Bonn, suggested a Sternfahrt (an arrow ride) where we met in Zons which is roughly halfway between us and tried out each others’ velomobiles. This sounded like a great plan, and although the idea was first mooted early in April the first date we could all make was early in May.

So Klaus and I set off, Klaus riding Humphrey and I in Millie. We were returning to the cafe in Zons where we had visited last year and I had been chilled to the bone. This time the opposite problem was possible – it was a very hot day!

This was the route we took:

Klaus and I gave ourselves plenty of time to get there. Klaus had plotted a route and it went through the middle of Neuss. As we had lots of spare time we decided to stop for a cuppa in Neuss.

We had just drinks, no cake, and of course found ourselves being asked about the velomobiles by various other cafe customers. This is both a good thing about velomobiles and a drawback. If you want to just drink your tea in peace it isn’t always very easy!

We rode on to Zons, once again being caught out by some roadworks which meant we had to get out of the velomobiles and push a short distance under a bridge. We had the same issue the year before, so work to fix it is not exactly speedy!

Jupp was already there when we arrived. We parked Humphrey and Millie near his blue and white Quattrovelo.

First order of business was more tea and a piece of cake.

As we sat, more and more people arrived. We had publicised our meeting on the Velomobile forum but were very surprised how many other people were able to make it. More velomobiles kept rolling up to join us.

We sat for a couple of hours so a waffle was also consumed.

We were generally chatting with chums but in due course the time came to compare the two Quattrovelos. Jupp’s Quattrovelo is the same specification as Humphrey; in other words, it has a Schlumpf mountain drive and the standard rear luggage cover, not the Alienhaube that extends over the rider’s head. Klaus and Jupp hopped into each others’ velomobiles and set off on a short ride.

They returned about ten minutes later with the conclusion… that Humphrey was MUCH quieter than Jupp’s QV. I wonder how Jupp can stand the noise levels in his QV if that really is the case, but different things affect people differently. He loves his QV and gets on with it really well.

So it was a very worthwhile day as we discovered that Humphrey runs normally for a QV and is quieter than some. His initial slowness seems entirely to have been down to the weather, the fact he was new and not run in and possibly the tyre choice. Klaus finds that he runs fine, smoothly and fast.

Thanks to Jupp for organising the Sternfahrt. It’s starting to become a rather nice tradition! We enjoyed our 114km ride at an average of 23 km/h.

Hartmut’s maiden VM Sunday Morning Cake Run

Having been longing for a Velomobile for years, Hartmut finally got one for his 60th birthday, as mentioned in a previous blog. It was now time to induct him in the traditional Sunday Morning Cake Run that Klaus, Ralf and I had developed as a habit.

As usual we planned to meet at our house earlyish on a Sunday and make our way to one of the excellent cake emporia in Kreis Kleve. This time I had planned a route to Bullhorsthof where Klaus and I had enjoyed a very nice cake previously.

This was our route for the day:

This ride was the day after the Sternfahrt to Zons so Klaus and I both had some kilometres in our legs, but we felt good and the open roads were calling.

So off we went at a cracking pace. I started us riding at around 30 km/h and the others pulled ahead a little. It is 31 kilometres to Bullhorsthof and we made it in exactly an hour, so the speed calculation isn’t tricky! It is a perfect route for velomobiles and we enjoyed it immensely.

We also, of course, enjoyed the cake.

Hartmut had mentioned a friend in Xanten so we had decided to ride on to there afterwards. We zoomed along to Uedemerbruch and then Marienbaum, following the old Alleenradweg into Xanten. It’s a perfect route for Velomobiles.

As we arrived in the central market square of Xanten a load of classic cars were pulling in too. They were some kind of gathering from Wuppertal, and when a British Racing Green Triumph Spitfire parked near where we were sitting we had to take Humphrey to have a look.

Humphrey’s British Racing Green is metallic so actually quite a different colour.

Whilst watching all the goings-on we fortified ourselves with ice creams.

The route back was not quite as nice and we had a snarky car driver as well, plus a bit of off-road which we decided not to use. Ralf also unshipped his chain and to put it back on has to remove the inspection cover on the nose of the DF which takes a little while. This gave us a great opportunity to make ribald remarks about his choice of Velomobile. He has had shifting issues on his front changer and needs to get it sorted.

In total we rode 97km at an average of 27 km/h. Hartmut was well and truly inducted into the Sunday Morning Velomobile Cake Experts.

Ralf’s birthday ride

Ralf is one day older than Klaus and so the Christi Himmelfahrt public holiday would be very busy. Ralf’s birthday was on the Thursday (Ascension Day) and Klaus’s on the Friday. Klaus and I booked his birthday off work and decided to have a mini tour.

But first, Ralf’s birthday. He had invited us all for breakfast at Landcafe zum Schafstall in Twisteden which is one of our favourite cafes. His wife and daughter would come by car and the rest of us (Klaus, me, Ralf, Jochen, Hartmut) by Velomobile. We arranged to meet at our house at 9:30am which should give us plenty of time to get to Twisteden by 11:00.

This excellent plan failed at the first moments when Hartmut rolled up. His WAW was making weird noises and he said this had started the night before when he lost the chain from the front chainring in the dark and had to somehow put it back on again. It hadn’t been right since and he had cycled several kilometres on it.

With four experienced velomobilists on hand we all took a look.

The interesting thing about the WAW is that you can disassemble it rather effectively. We took the back and the front off so we could see what was happening. It’s surprisingly short with the back off!

It involved lots of peering inside and scratching of heads, as the chain was almost completely jammed.

In the end we decided to split the chain and see if we could work out what was happening. Of course, the last thing you want when splitting the chain is for it to disappear inside the chain tunnel of the Velomobile so Frank provided a bit of metal to bend around the end of the chain.

It’s dark inside the Velomobile so the torch was necessary.

In the end we discovered that the chain was lying on its side going through two of the idlers which didn’t do it or the idlers any good. The chain itself hadn’t got in a knot, it had just twisted inside the chain tunnel. Opening the two halves helped us to see what was happening and it was fixed after 15 minutes.

We put the WAW back together again and then set off on the ride, knowing we were running late.

It’s a lovely fast run to Twisteden though so we ended up only being 10 minutes late. We enjoyed a very tasty breakfast with Ralf’s family and then it was time for Klaus and I to continue our trip for our mini weekend away… all of 6km further.

We decided we would do a bit of a detour to get to Weeze and Ralf said he fancied coming with us a little way. The detour into the Netherlands developed into a bit more of a detour as Klaus overshot the turning to return to Germany so we carried on anyway, up to Siebengewald, and then headed back on brilliant roads to Weeze. Our 8km trip had become 25, but that’s half the fun of velomobiling!

I remembered a couple of years ago I had found a nice cafe in Weeze so we went searching for it. In due course we found the Market Cafe opposite the church and stopped there for some cake.

It was time for Ralf to head home with Jochen and Hartmut. It was only 2 o’clock which seemed a bit early for Klaus and I to go to our hotel, which was a mere 1.6km away, so we decided to ride with them a bit more, heading south along the B9 and riding as far as Kevelaer before we turned eastwards to Winnekendonk and then round to Weeze again.

Today’s tour was 85km at an average of 25 km/h. However, with our huge breakfast and then the cake I suspect we didn’t burn off the calories we took on.

Klaus’s birthday trip to St Hubert via St Hubert

Klaus and I had booked to stay in a castle, Schloss Hertefeld. It is the oldest inhabited ruined castle in Germany and the family who own it have a very interesting history. We had read up about them before we stayed, of course.

Here are some pictures of the castle and its surroundings and our rather posh room.

We had a lovely comfortable room with a view of the ruin out of our window.

The Velomobile parking was very spacious.

The next morning we enjoyed a great breakfast and then when it was time to leave did a bit of photography.

We had planned a route home which would take us through St Hubert in the Netherlands.

This was our track for the day:

We headed first towards Gennep and then more west towards St Hubert. We had to do some photography at the sign of course.

At this point we were looking for somewhere to have a tea break but didn’t find anything in St Hubert. However, shortly afterwards we found a bakery that was opened and stopped for tea and cake.

We were having a good day’s cycling and so pottered on, not going particularly fast but enjoying the fresh air and the time off work.

As we rode into Deurne at almost the most south part of our trip we spotted four velomobiles outside a cafe. Of course we stopped… these were people going to the Grensrijders tour from Roermond the next day. We were considering doing this tour too, so it was good to meet them.

We were on the final section to home which included going through America and then eventually Venlo. We made our way home on really familiar routes and our total distance was 119km at an average of 22.5km/h. We have learned that average speeds are much slower in the Netherlands than in Germany because of the cycle paths. We hold this in mind as we are doing a two week tour of the Netherlands in June and so have reduced the daily distance to about 100km.

The Grensrijders

As mentioned above, the Dutch group Grensrijders who are a Velomobile gathering including friends Oliver, Chris and Jean, had organised a weekend tour from Roermond. On the Saturday they were riding to Kessel/Reuver and then Brüggen which are both within comfortable cycling distance from here so I decided to join them on the ride at Kessel/Reuver. Klaus was breakfasting with his daughter that morning so would come along later.

This was my route for the day:

I had the track of where they would ride and a rough guide as to what time they expected to be in Kessel/Reuver. I set off, giving myself plenty of time but once again underestimating the faffing time that you need when cycling in NL, especially through Venlo. But eventually I made it to Reuver and had just sat down in a cafe when I saw a lot of velomobiles arriving. I hadn’t been sure where they were stopping for lunch, but it was fairly easy to spot 30 velomobiles in a small town so I went and joined them.

It was lovely to see chum Gabi again who I hadn’t seen for ages, and Rolf, Chris, Oliver, Jean and Roef were all there too, as well as the chaps we met in Deurne the day before.

After lunch Oliver shot this pic of me leaving:

And here are some of us on the ferry crossing the Maas. We didn’t all fit on one ferry!

The pace was quite quick and they didn’t stop to let stragglers catch up so we were quite strung out by the time we got near to Brüggen. I peeled off to go home, expecting to see Klaus but he had continued to Elmpt with them as that was where my Garmin track went to (that had been my original stopping point). He soon caught up with me in Brüggen though and we had an ice cream before heading home.

My total ride was 87km but at just 21km/h. I was being a bit careful as I had a broken spoke on my front wheel, which was fixed the next day at Jochen’s (he is good at wheel repairs). Getting a front wheel out of a Milan is a bit of a challenge but he and Klaus managed it!

Anyway, the ride with the Grensrijders was very good, especially as there were so many of them, but I did feel as someone at the back and not so fast that I was having to work really hard to keep up as no-one was waiting to mark junctions or corners. I was glad I had the track.

To Rees via Weeze

In English this ride title looks like it rhymes. In German it doesn’t, as it’s actually “To Rhays via Vay-Tsuh”, but I call it Weeze/Wheeze anyway.

May is an excellent month in Germany because we have lots of public holidays. We had the two days of Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension), Pfingsten (Whitsun) and then also Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi). For Pfingsten Klaus was busy on the Saturday but we had Sunday and Monday free so this was long enough for a short bike tour, and as Klaus and I had nothing to do we decided to stay overnight in Rees again where we had previously stayed. We liked the hotel so much we decided to return, especially as the weather forecast was great (last time it had snowed on the way there).

Here is our track for the day.

Ralf said he could ride with us for a little way on the Saturday morning so we headed off to go to Weeze for a cake.

We had made good time so Ralf decided to ride a few more kilometres with us. I thought Goch was about 12-15km away so he said he would come with us, along the old railway cycle route which I had done once before.

My memory was a bit faulty and it turned out that Goch was only 7km away! It was still worth stopping for an ice cream though.

We waved goodbye to Ralf and then continued on towards Bedburg-Hau going through Pfalzdorf which has links with Klaus’s home territory in the Kurpfalz. Some people from Kurpfalz who wanted to travel to America weren’t allowed into the Netherlands so settled in Kreis Kleve and eventually this village, along with Louisendorf, grew up.

We arrived in Rees in brilliant sunshine and then went to our room. We’d chosen a bit more upmarket one – we had a floor-to-ceiling window which looked over the Rhine. We had the windows open all night to watch the barges going past.

We wandered around Rees again and had an evening meal which was very nice. Such relaxing rides are really good fun and it is lovely to spend time in other towns in Niederrhein. We had ridden 95km to get there at a very comfortable 25 km/h.

The next morning after a good breakfast we headed home but this time following the Rhein to Wesel. Here is the track for the return journey.

We stopped in Wesel for a cuppa and then continued on, crossing the Rhein at Orsoy/Walsum. It was very busy with cyclists on such a warm day!

Our ride was 83km in total at an average speed of 24 km/h. It was a very successful weekend and reminded us again how lucky we are to live in Niederrhein with such great cycling territory all around us.

Alex and the Little White Whale

Sometimes the world seems small. The world of velomobiles is very small, but was made even smaller this month.

Four and a half years ago I bought my first Velomobiel, Penelope the Versatile, from Alex in Rotterdam. We kept in touch and he sent me a message recently asking if I was considering selling Millie as he had a hankering for another velomobile. I said no, I was definitely keeping her, but a Quattrovelo might be available. He then said he was actually really looking for a Quest XS but there aren’t many of them.

Now I happened to have a friend who had a Quest XS which wasn’t getting used much as she had a new one. Gabi was the person who first introduced me to Velomobiles, long long ago before LEL 2013. I contacted her and asked if she were considering selling her old Quest XS. She said she had begun to think about it so I put her and Alex in contact and lo and behold the deed was done within two weeks. Alex bought the Little White Whale as this Quest was affectionately known and would ride her home from Bonn to Rotterdam.

This is too far to ride in one hit, especially if you don’t have recumbent legs as Alex didn’t, so I offered that he stayed overnight with us. He agreed and we said we would come to meet him on his journey from Bonn to Kempen. Gabi provided him with a track and we followed it in the reverse direction to meet up with him.

We met him and then all rode together back along the track, stopping in Schiefbahn for some food as time was marching on. Alex hadn’t had the easiest of rides as it was a baking hot day (28 degrees) and he had struggled to keep hydrated, plus had hit a kerb and damaged a wheel rim and a tyre. But he managed the 100km in comfortable style.

Here is the track where we rode to meet him, 70km for us:

We took a more scenic route back as we could guide Alex and he enjoyed seeing some of our countryside and a lot of wildlife too at 8pm.

The plan was for us to ride with him some of the way the next day. Unfortunately Klaus’s hay fever/allergy really attacked him in the night so he felt he shouldn’t come along, but Alex and I prepared to head out. He had 200km in front of him to get to Rotterdam, I thought I’d go as far as the German/Dutch border with him.

When Alex fetched the Little White Whale out of our garage he noticed she had a puncture, the same wheel that had been damaged when he collided with the kerb yesterday. So it was time for a bit of wheel rim repair and I supplied him with some spare tyres (we have loads).

Poppy was of course helping!

Alex had wanted to get going really early as he had so far to ride but because of the bike maintenance we weren’t on the road until past nine o’clock.

Here is my route for the day:

We rode pretty much non-stop to the border at Siebengewald where I had originally planned to turn back but my legs were feeling good so I decided to carry on a little further with Alex. Just as we were approaching Gennep we were on the road (rather than cycle path as I had not seen the path was there) and I noticed on the cycle path a Quattrovelo in yellow and light blue colours coming the other way. Amazingly he didn’t spot us!!

When we got to Gennep I decided to turn around as the going was much harder in the Netherlands and I was much slower. So Alex and I said our goodbyes and he headed off to Rotterdam (he arrived safely in the evening) and I headed back, doing a more scenic route home via Weeze (for a sandwich) and then  Landcafe Bullhorsthof so I could have some cake.

I was going so well that I thought I would do some extra loops to increase the mileage, only stopping this when there were rather a lot of electric storms on the horizon. My ride ended up as 136km at an average speed of 24.5 km/h.

Humphrey and Celeste

We delivered Celeste to Velomobiel.nl to have her repaired. Interestingly they had in stock a gelcoat lid in almost the same colour, but we decided to go for the proper repair instead.

We also talked to Velomobiel.nl about the noise coming from the transverse beam across the back. We had identified the problem as the ball heads which make a horrible clacking sound under load.


(Photo from Velomobiel.nl, it’s not that Humphrey is red inside!)

They said they now have new ones that they are fitting on new Quattrovelos so gave us a pair and we swapped them. Here are old (below) and new (above).

That fixed this problem, although the clacking of the ball heads has now started on the two suspension arms too. We have contacted Velomobiel.nl to find out the part number of the replacements so we can get four of those too. But in the meantime Klaus is riding a velomobile that’s got rather noisy again, unfortunately. Whenever you fix one noise issue another one pops up!

My issues with Humphrey have led to a lot of thinking. What should I do with him?

The main drawbacks for me are as follows:

  • It’s not very easy for me to get in and out and it puts a strain on my arm if I do it too often
  • In the rain it’s almost impossible for me to get out as my hand slips
  • I have ripped two work shirts getting out – they get trapped under the lip
  • It’s too noisy for me and it is strangely tiring for me riding with such a noise from behind the whole time
  • The Milan is more comfortable and easier to get in and out of. I would choose the Milan instead of the Quattrovelo in all but the most appalling rain weather circumstances

So what is the solution? Sadly, I think my difficulties with Humphrey mean that he is not the right Velomobile for me and I am planning to sell him once Klaus receives Emily and so no longer needs to use Humphrey.

For the winter commute, I am considering either getting another car (which I really don’t want) but would be a lot cheaper than Humphrey, or perhaps buying another Versatile/Orca which I can use as the bad weather commuter. That’s currently the favourite option but I have many months before I have to decide.

Life in Germany

A trip to the beach

The last of our Public Holidays in May, Fronleichnam, coincided with mega hot weather and thunderstorms in Germany. Klaus was really suffering from his allergy, finding breathing quite hard work with the close air. He said he would love to go to the beach somewhere for some fresh air, so we decided to drive to NL. We looked at the weather forecast and it looked as if Zaandvort west of Haarlem ought to be free of storms until later in the afternoon. As we would take Poppy with us we needed a dog-friendly beach and there weren’t many on that coast but Bloemendaal a bit north of Zaandvort said dogs could go. So we set off on the two and three quarter hour drive there with Poppy in the boot and the air conditioning on.

We arrived at a lovely beach which was fairly empty. This was because of the massive thunderstorm heading to us which duly dropped gallons of water on us 5 minutes after our arrival. We left it a bit late to walk back to the cafe above the beach so were drenched when we got there, and our towels were in the car which was too far away in that weather. So we slowly dripped dry and eventually got a table to sit down and have some cake.

The cake was OK but the price for two slices of cake, a Latte Macchiato, a cup of tea and then a cup of milk (which should have been a tiny amount of milk for my tea but ended up a glass of milk) cost 18 euros. Very steep!

But by the time we had finished our lunch the thunderstorm had cleared and the beach was lovely again.

Klaus played ‘fetch’with Poppy who really enjoyed running about. She’s almost eight years old but still likes a run on a beach. She had a great time!

The beach air was wonderful for Klaus’s lungs and he felt really good there. We drove back through more thunderstorms and his allergy started immediately again after we got home, but at least he had enjoyed a refreshing day!

An expensive month for gadgets.

February was an expensive month for Velomobiles (I bought Humphrey) but May turned out to be an expensive month for gadgets.

A MacBook Air

My trusty iMac 28″ which I have had for nine years (and was a year old when I bought it) was struggling rather after an ill-advised update to High Sierra operating system. I wouldn’t normally have risked the update but my banking software required it because they stopped supporting currency conversions in the old software (Banktivity 5) and as my transactions are in both pounds and euros this was hopeless. So I updated to High Sierra and could use Banktivity 6 (which I like a lot) but unfortunately various other programmes were really struggling.

Still, ten years old for a computer… it doesn’t owe me anything. I decided it was time to replace it.

Clearly I would replace with a Mac, but for the first time I went for a MacBook Air (a laptop) rather than a desktop machine. I can actually use my old iMac as a separate monitor with the MacBook and have been doing so. But overall I love the convenience that I can use the MacBook sitting on the sofa, and the smaller screen isn’t too much of an inconvenience.

So anyway, Banktivity 6 worked really well, but when I loaded Ascent the cycling tracking software all seemed fine until I tried to change the set units from Miles to Kilometres. It crashed every time, and I couldn’t get this fixed at all. Ascent had stopped being supported about seven years ago, so I realised there would be no help on this one so I needed to find something else.

There aren’t that many Mac programmes for this. Klaus uses SportTracks on the PC but I find it looks super-cluttered like many PC things and was more powerful than I required. After some research I ended up with RubiTrack which, despite its silly name (which is almost as bad as Banktivity, and indeed the Warehouse software I chose for my workplace which is called WeClapp) seems to be a very good option. All this year’s rides are on it now and it is performing well.

As is the MacBook. It took me a while to get settled in with it as I just don’t find buying new computers interesting anymore, it’s just a pain as you have to copy things over, remember mail settings etc. But now everything seems to be working fine and the old iMac is just functioning as an additional monitor. The last job is to see if I can load my Adobe Creative Suite 5.5. First Klaus had to fetch a portable CD drive that he had so I have a chance of loading the disks, but I haven’t yet started this job as there’s no crushing need. When I next need to use Photoshop or Indesign or Illustrator I guess I will finally get round to it!

A OnePlus 6 phone

And the second gadgety purchase this month was… a new phone.

I have had iPhones since I started with Smartphones and of course they fit well with my Apple environment (2 iPads, MacBook Air, iMac), but I have been one of the users afflicted with battery issues with all my iPhones. The current one, an iPhone 6 which is two and a half years old, really drains the battery if you do a lot. In consequence I have to carry around a battery pack and in cold weather I can almost guarantee it would shut off. There was the possibility I could get the battery replaced but I decided I was fed up with this issue and no doubt the new battery would soon start failing so I would go for something completely different.

Actually, you have to go for something completely different if you’re not having an iPhone as there’s nothing else comparable. In other words, I had to switch to Android.

I bought a OnePlus 6 as the reviews were good, the price was pretty decent and it fitted my requirements. The things that are less good on it are not important to me (no inductive charging – I don’t need this; not waterproof – I have never had this; etc etc).

It arrived and was easier than I expected to set up. I had prepared the way, transferring my iCloud stuff to Google Drive. Just like with the MacBook I was pretty unexcited about the whole thing; the phone is a tool for me, rather than something to get really excited about, but I have to say I have warmed very much to the phone and I like it a lot. I still haven’t worked out which ringtones mean what and I find them all very quiet (and of course I am hard of hearing so miss a lot of the notifications) but all in all I think it was a good choice, and the battery lasts for ages!!!

Two trackers

One thing we learned from Celeste’s vandalism was that the Trackimo tracker on her would have helped if Klaus had been around when the tracker went off. I decided that it is a very small investment to make and so bought two different trackers, one for Millie and one for Humphrey.

The one for Millie is fairly small so needs to be recharged once per week.

The one for Humphrey is much larger (about four times the size) and the battery could last for 90 days, although because it sends out a location every 5 minutes when moving, and Humphrey has been moving a lot this month as Klaus has done lots of riding, it actually lasted three weeks instead. But that’s still fine!

I bought separate SIM cards for both of these trackers with two different German companies in order to make the most of their special offers. One trackers uses GPRS mostly, the other just SMS messages.

An unexpected side benefit is that when Klaus is out riding on his own I can see when he is nearing home and put the kettle on for him. I guess it will also help if in the future we get lost when riding together. We just have to phone the tracker’s number and it sends an SMS with a Google Maps location. It works well so far.

Of course I now have two more Pay-As-You-Go phones to keep topped up, but the cost should be about 3 Euros per month each which is OK. The damage to Celeste is expected to be about 500 Euros so that would cover an awful lot of tracker time if having the tracker prevents vandalism, and if it enables us to find a stolen Velomobile then all the better.

The larger one on Humphrey has a movement/vibration alarm which is extremely sensitive and shows me if anyone has so much as touched the Velomobile. This is good, but I expect will make for quite a lot of false positives on our bike tour when people are looking at the Velomobile. The smaller one doesn’t have this feature in such a convenient way, I have to set it if I want a vibration alarm, but it’s not something I should need too often. If I were buying again I would get another of the larger ones as the battery life is really useful.

Other news

In other news, my customer where I work has reduced their orders with us. This is just after a new member of staff was taken on to help as I was so overwhelmed. She has other duties too and so I offered to reduce my working hours so that we didn’t end up sitting around with nothing to do. My boss agreed to this, so from 1 June I am working just two days per week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. It will be nice to have a bit more spare time in the summer!

It’s maybe not a bad thing to be away from the office a bit more as my lovely colleagues keep bringing in cakes to share…

Here’s another cake that I had in Tönisvorst…

And here is a little reminder of my life now in Germany… Klaus has been living with me for almost a year, and our blend of German and British works pretty well for us two!

Next month I will only be working four days in total as I have two weeks off for a cycling tour around the Netherlands with Klaus. Watch this space for daily reports!

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

Ten Wheels in Germany – April 2018 (Month 49)

April is a busy month in the world of Velomobiles as it is when the annual SPEZI Special Bike fair takes place, and once again I visited.

First things first, here are my list of rides this month:

And here is where I went:

The green rides are E-bike rides on Alfie.

Celeste, Humphrey and Millie

Each of our velomobiles has had a bit of rebuilding/maintenance/body shaping activity this month, but unfortunately for Celeste she was the one who drew the short straw…

Celeste gets a visit

It all started one Sunday afternoon when Klaus was driving to Hannover to take part in the Hannover Show. There were a lot of sirens going past and then our road had a visit from a friend of Gudula and Frank who came round in his Amphicar:

What can you spot in the background of the last photo? A fire engine, one of the 11-12 that were visiting the farm buildings about 400 metres away (this one was here for the water hydrant). Next to the farm there is also a house with some garages and we use one of the garages to store our spare bikes and spare car tyres. As it happened, only Celeste was in there (as Millie was at Emvelomobiel.be being serviced and Alfie was in the garage next to our house as I was using him to commute rather than Humphrey).

I had a call from the owner to ask if I was out riding my ‘Seifenkisten’ (Soap crates) but I said no. He suggested I come to check but the fire brigade had closed the road – I looked from afar and could see that the fire wasn’t that near our garage fortunately.

Klaus arrived in Hannover and phoned me to say that his tracker on Celeste had detected movement two hours ago but it was still showing as in the garage so presumably hadn’t been burnt to a crisp. I told him that the fire appeared to be far enough away and we shouldn’t worry.

The road was closed the entire afternoon and evening and so I couldn’t go and check. The local newspaper informed us that there were four lads between 12 and 14 years old who had set fire to the hay barn, which indeed was what was burning. There was a gas tank not far away which was causing them some concern and thus so many fire engines keeping it cool.

The fire was out the next morning so on my way to work I popped into the garage – no sign of fire there, so all good. I went on to work.

On the way back from work the fire had started up again, no surprise with a barnful of straw. It was out again a couple of hours later.

I spoke with Klaus again and said Celeste looked fine, no sign of fire, but I was surprised he had draped the spare tyre over her side. He said he hadn’t.

Uh oh.

So I whizzed round there again. The tyre was hanging off the side as the young lads had steamed through the garages (it turned out later), damaged the contents of many of them, smashed windows, farm machinery etc.

And here was Celeste, undamaged by fire but…

It looks as though they had sat on her.

They had also jumped inside with very muddy feet, stood on the tiller and also ripped out the tacho (although this is minor damage).

They had also punched a couple of holes in one of the wheel covers.

Klaus’s jacket that had been inside was chucked in a corner of the garage, but otherwise Celeste seemed OK. The wheels were all OK. We had her locked which is presumably why they didn’t go for a joyride.

Poor Klaus was devastated, and also was miles away in Hannover and unable to do anything about it. He first had a chance to see Celeste five days later.

I reported it to the police. The young people had all been arrested but it would be exceptionally difficult to get the cost of the repairs from them so we will just have to cover the cost of repair ourselves. Celeste is not insured under the house policies as she is so far away. The tracker did its thing and told us when she was disturbed by the lads but this doesn’t really help us. It’s such a shame.

Klaus checked her over the following Saturday when he returned and found nothing else damaged. We popped out the bump in the nose and some more of the gelcoat cracked off. We have had a rough estimate from Velomobiel.nl for the repair and will take her to them as soon as possible to get her fixed.

In the meantime, Klaus is using Humphrey. We are so disappointed that this stupid vandalism happened, but at least the value of the damage to us is not very great. For the farmer whose hay store was completely destroyed it is another story, and the parents of these young people will presumably be paying for their damage for some time to come.

Humphrey gets a service

As described in detail in my previous blog post about Humphrey, there were a number of issues with him that we wanted to get solved if possible, so we arranged for a trip to Velomobiel.nl to look at this.

1. Very swimmy rear suspension

2. Lack of comfort in the cockpit, partly because of no tiller hanger

3. Difficulties for me getting in and out

4. Fix the seat which moves a bit on one side.

We arrived at Velomobiel and talked about our issues. It turns out that they had very recently uprated the suspension dampers that they use at the back and that we still had the old ones, so Theo changed ours to the newer ones that are rated for more weight. Klaus had a mini test ride and said it was a huge improvement, and subsequent riding at home has shown this. Humphrey rides completely differently now, with a much more consistent feeling when going over bumps and kerbs at the back and he feels much safer. However, these new suspension dampers have a habit of unscrewing over rough ground and Klaus seems to have to screw them back together every couple of days. We will try something with Loctite in due course. We still also suffer from lots of loud noises at the back which are partly from the dampers and also from the transverse strut as part of the axle suspension structure. We have not found solutions to this yet.

The lack of comfort in the cockpit had become very significant for me on the ride from Nijmegen home at the end of our NL tour. We put the arm rests in which helped, but asked if Theo could fit a tiller hanger for us – which indeed he did. Which required him to dive headfirst into my velomobile.

We adjusted it a few times to find the right length cable and then tried it – also very good!

Theo had fixed a holder to the end of the boom nearest the seat and then used a brake cable to hold the tiller up.

He also filed off a sharp edge on the light adjustment lever on the tiller which kept catching my lycra trouser leg and had killed one seam.

The seat was fixed tighter, it wasn’t a crack in the carbon as we had feared, although this seems to have a tendency to come undone again.

We had a long talk about possibilities to help me get out of the Velomobile using my legs rather than just my arm to haul me out, but there really isn’t any suitable mounting point in the Quattrovelo for a foot rest which allows the knees to not get stuck behind the tiller/frame. So this was one we couldn’t solve.

Writing at the end of April Humphrey has now done over 2000km; I have ridden him 1049km and Klaus  1076km. Due to Celeste being out of action Klaus is now riding Humphrey all the time, and I am riding Millie who I finally got back two days after Celeste was damaged.

I also discovered when cleaning Humphrey that his maker left her name in the wheel arch:

Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!

Once the realisation dawned that Humphrey would not be a suitable velomobile for me for all purposes, because it was too painful for me to get out of him regularly because of my arm disability, I decided I needed to make Millie more user-friendly as I would keep her.

You can read all about it in this separate blog post here: Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover. Needless to say, this has been a huge improvement to Millie and I am loving riding her at the moment, although Klaus is faster in the Quattrovelo (when Klaus rides his Strada our speeds are broadly similar, but the QV gives him an extra 4 km/h).

Hartmut’s Birthday Bash

Friend Hartmut turned 60 and retired. He had been counting down to this date for several years and we had a date in our diaries for his celebration for at least six months. And at last the day arrived!

This was also a big day for Hartmut as he had awarded himself a velomobile for his 60th birthday (he is selling his car). He had spent a long, long time choosing what to have. He had borrowed Penelope but rolled her so this put him off. He tried the Strada and Quattrovelo but wasn’t keen. He loved the look of the Milan but wasn’t happy with the turning circle. In the end he chose a WAW from Flévelo and collected it a few days before his birthday bash.

His plan was for us to ride together to the café where we would celebrate with him and enjoy a buffet. We were all to meet in Buttermarkt in Kempen and then ride together to Hinsbeck where the party was.

We had all got t-shirts printed with pictures of our bikes/velomobiles, our names and then ’31’ which is a long-running joke with Hartmut which is too obscure to print here. We also got a shirt for Hartmut with his WAW on it.

I also got myself a new hat with a Milan which Poppy seemed to like:

Klaus and I arrived at Buttermarkt a bit early and stopped for a cup of tea. Then Hartmut arrived in his new WAW… with a flag on the back!

We headed off towards Hinsbeck, Hartmut going at a whopping pace which dropped all those on normal bikes. We had to tell him to slow down – I guess he was enjoying the velomobile speed feeling!

His wife was concerned about the visibility of the WAW and this was why he had the flag. It’s a bit of an aerodynamic killer though!

We had a great afternoon and evening in Hinsbeck. There were lots of Hartmut’s friends, many of whom we already knew (this was the gathering of his cycling freinds) and he got lots of presents, very many velomobile or bicycle themed of course! The food was also very good. It was great to show the velomobiles to lots of people who hadn’t had a close look before, and it was so lovely to know that Hartmut finally had his VM as he had wanted one for so long! We will undoubtedly do many rides together over the next months.

A search for a new Landcafé

Long-term readers of this blog know I have a knack of finding good cafés and good cakes in Germany (although this does not work as well in the Netherlands, unfortunately). Klaus and I like to do a Sunday morning ride for cake and we have our favourite places (zum Schafstall in Twisteden, Steudle in Geldern etc) but I felt that most of our good cafés were rather too close to home for a speedy summer Velomobile ride.

So a new plan was hatched – to experience cafés further afield. Maybe I will write a book on good cafés in Kreis Kleve.

I had a look on Google for ‘Landcafé’ and found a new one in Winnekendonk near Kevelaer, called Büllhorsthof. I  note that they were exceptionally quick-off-the-mark with the Internet as they have the following web address: https://www.bauerncafe.com/.

So off we went, on what turned out to be a 111km ride as it was such a good day and our legs were good.

When we arrived at the café the car park was full of Mercedes as there was some kind of historic Mercedes breakfast meet but they were actually leaving so we had the place almost to ourselves.

Bike parking is next to the Penny Farthing which also has an electric bike charging point (the old meets the new)

I had this very tasty peach cake.

We felt so good after our very relaxed cake eating we decided to ride further and ended up in Xanten via Marienbaum. We went around Xanten rather than through it as I wanted to ride on the Bislicher Insel again, where we stopped for a waffle.

And Klaus enjoyed a beer.

It was a really hot day and we both got a bit of colour! It was lovely to do a long ride again, although I did find Humphrey very hot in this weather as he doesn’t have as good airflow through the cockpit as Millie.

I must mention again though the convenient storage in the Quattrovelo. Here is a picture of Humphrey carrying 60 eggs and two glass jars of soup. All without any issues!

Alfie back in service!

We had a lovely spell of hot weather, with temperatures around 25 for over a week. This gave me the opportunity to fetch Alfie from the second garage (this was before the fire/vandalism) and use him with his most convenient electric motor for my commutes.

Klaus decided to ride Humphrey to work one Friday so we agreed to meet up in Moers on his way home (about 20km from home). I took Alfie, enjoying the fresh air but obviously not as fast. We met in Moers at Café Extrablatt.

It was time for ice cream!

We had a lovely leisurely time just watching the world go by and enjoying the sunshine.

A week later I rode Millie to Klaus’s workplace and then back with him (he had Humphrey) via Moers and we stopped for a pizza in the café next door to Extrablatt. This time the wind was blowing a gale and there were also heavy showers. The weather can certainly be different in April!

A visit from my Mum

This month my Mum came to visit for five days, which was lovely.

Unfortunately the situation with the fire, Celeste damage and police reports happened whilst she was here which changed our plans a bit, plus she came with me to collect Millie as we needed her back, but we managed to visit Kempen and Moers together and enjoy some cakes of course!

Klaus and I drove to pick Mum up from Hoek van Holland and stopped for breakfast on the beach there, the first time we had ever visited. It was a beautiful day with clear blue sky and as we had to wait until 9 for the café to open we had a bit of a walk along the beach.

The breakfast at Dechi Beach was very good!

I had to still work unfortunately whilst my Mum was here so in the mornings when I was slaving over a hot desk Mum took Poppy for walks, which Poppy was very happy about! In the afternoons we went on short outings.

I drove Mum back to Hoek van Holland via Maassluis where we stopped for dinner. Years ago I had my first Poffertjes experience there but we didn’t manage any this time.

SPEZI – Spezialradmesse

Once again I went to SPEZI, this time just with Ralf as Klaus was attending his daughter’s confirmation.

I didn’t take any photos there except of the pastries we had to fuel us before hitting the exhibitions.

For me, the purpose of visiting SPEZI has changed. At first it was so I could see what was available in the world of trikes and velomobiles, now it is really just a chance to catch up with friends as lots of our velomobile chums visit. I had a lovely chat with a couple who read this blog and said how encouraging it is for the lady, who also has a slight disability, to know of another velomobile-riding lady and the different experiences that I have as opposed to men’s experiences. She is right, the things that matter to men about velomobiles (mostly speed!) may not be quite the same for women who have usually less power. I think lots of women struggle to fit into the VMs because women are generally shorter; the Quest XS is a possibility but many other velomobiles are just too large. I am lucky in that I am tall and have long legs so can swap bikes with Klaus without any adjustment to pedal reach.

Anyway, it was good to be at SPEZI and meet up with lots of people. I also talked to Velomobiel.nl about Celeste’s repair, which we will have to organise in the next week or so. In the meantime I have ordered a second tracker (this time for Humphrey) as I think we now see the value of the tracker, and we are also looking at alternative garage options.

Some other random photos from this month

Here are some more photos from this month to give you a taste of life in Germany!

And a random event from this month too…

The company I work for shares a fence with Griesson de Beukelaer, the chocolate factory in Kempen. My 2 colleagues and I were sitting in our office pretending to work when a chap from de Beukelaer came round to ask if they could go through to one of the bits of fence as someone was checking it. We just had to get  a key for it, which we did. I said the chap “did you bring any chocolate with you?” and he laughed and said “no”. We ribbed him a bit about this, all very good naturedly.

He arrived back 10 minutes later with a large bag…

containing:

What a bonus! We are sharing the goodies around our colleagues.

Klaus and I are continuing with the low carb but are more relaxed about it at the moment, partly because of visits (my Mum, and he was at the Hannover show) where it is difficult to eat low carb. However we are back on the wagon now and are just allowing ourselves a piece of cake when we do a ride. After all, living here in Germany requires frequent cake eating in order to fully assimilate. I also make low-carb cakes that we have at home during the week.

Next month, May, has lots of public holidays (we have 3). plus several Brückentage (bridging days, when a public holiday is on a Tuesday or Thursday most companies shut on the Monday or Friday) so we have 3 weeks of just 3 working days. Klaus also has his birthday, as does Ralf, so we have bicycle and cake things planned. Watch this space!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Ten Wheels in Germany – March 2018 (Month 48)

So this month marks the end of my fourth full year living in Germany, and also the one year mark until Brexit, at which point my residence in Germany becomes more complicated, and my tax liability higher. Thanks, Brexiteers!

But away from politics, what happened in March?

Not a lot really, apart from work and of course cycling. So this report is all about cycling!

Cycling this month

This month ended up a much more successful cycling month, despite some fairly bad weather!

888km isn’t bad, although this did also include six days cycle touring that you can read about here: Rhein-Waal-Maas Tour 2018.

And here was where I actually rode to.

This month was also a busy month with the Velomobiles. I have a new velomobile, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, but as you can read in the tour report above, my first rides with him were not too successful.

Some DIY work on Millie

Klaus and I needed to repair the indicators on Millie and so we took a Saturday morning early in March to do this.

Friend Ralf had been storing Millie for us in his workshop and offered that we could use it to do the indicator repair because it was warm. March was freezing cold in Germany and we would have had to work outside if we did this at home – no fun at all!

So we had a nice heated workshop and Millie was laid on her side on a table so we could access her innards easily.

We had discovered some time ago that the quality of the cabling inside Millie is very poor and if you try to strip the sheath from the cable the entire cable breaks, so we had bought plenty of new cable to entirely replace the old.

The two indicators at the front had both failed, so we decided to replace all four so we only had to do this job once!

Pulling out the old indicators was easy enough – they were fixed in with silicon sealant though and it was almost impossible to remove this from the inside of Millie. I managed to excavate large enough spaces for the new indicators to sit (I hoped!) but there was still loads of silicon around. Perhaps warming it up with a heat gun would have helped but we were worried it would damage the paintwork on the outside.

Anyway, we soldered the first indicator onto the new wire to check it worked. It did!

Once the indicator was in place we then had to add silicon sealant to fix it. This was very tricky, especially as for the two front indicators we had to either work through the single foot hole or stretch our arms right to the front.

But we managed it! The rear indicator was easy, but we ran out of enthusiasm to do the final rear indicator so left it in place.

All four indicators worked and the new three seemed brighter. This was good news as this is a real safety issue!

Jochen has changed indicators on the back of his Strada and this turned out to be a really evil job; the job in the Milan wasn’t as bad although having a second foothole would help rather.

Ralf’s DF has shared its workshop with Millie for nearly a month, but she would soon be gone and the DF would have more space for itself!

After this we left Millie at Ralf’s for another couple of weeks before I fetched her for the second stage of our Rhein-Waal-Maas tour.

Getting to grips with Humphrey the Quattrovelo

During the tour I had a tough time with Humphrey. After the tour Klaus resolved to ride him and see if he could ‘run him in’ a little.

As the weather warmed up and Humphrey’s bits bedded in, he definitely improved in speed. Klaus found that he was faster now than the Strada and the noise levels inside reduced over time.

Another issue was my comfort inside the cockpit. We had bought a pair of armrests from Ralf (who had bought them with his DF but never needed to use them) and Klaus requested that we fitted them in Humphrey to aid comfort. I wasn’t sure that there would be room inside the cockpit but said he could try and in fact it made a real difference. The armrests meant that the tiller could more comfortably be supported and I felt more comfortable on longer trips.

For me, one of the issues with Humphrey will always be that he is harder to get in and out of. However, as long as I reduce the need to get out during rides this isn’t a complete hopeless issue. Losing more weight will help (I have shed 12.6 kg in the last three months).

However, we both have also noticed that Humphrey’s back end is very loose and liable to lose grip when going over small piles of mud, slight curbs, wet cobbles etc. When visiting EMvelomobiel.be (more later) we spoke to another QV owner who has different shock absorbers at the back and this is something we are going to speak with Velomobiel.nl when we visit them in early April for Humphrey to be checked over (we requested this as we felt Humphrey was underperforming, plus the seat may be cracked).

Klaus is enjoying riding Humphrey and I hope that his speed improvements continue. We will experiment with different tyres as Klaus feels that the Durano Plus are particularly bad in cold weather, although the forecast for April is looking much better anyway.

Humphrey is still a work in progress but at the moment it seems he will be staying…

Liegeradgruppe Ride

Each year the Liegeradgruppe Ruhr-Lippe do a Good Friday tour and this is very well attended. This year they decided to ride in our part of the world so the organiser, Günni, asked Klaus for some advice on a route. Klaus prepared a route leaving from Uerdingen on the banks of the Rhein which was 63km and we arranged to meet at 10:30 in Uerdingen.

Ralf, Jochen, Klaus and I all cycled together to Uerdingen on a rather chilly Good Friday morning. We warmed ourselves with a cup of tea and half a slice of cake in the Marktcafé whilst participants arrived. In the end there were about 30 people.

There were lots of different bikes on this tour, included 2-wheeled recumbents and lots of trikes too. We set off at an average speed of 15 km/h which is pretty tricky for velomobiles, especially for me in Millie as her gearing is so high.

We went along the dyke beside the Rhein. Here is a good photo by AndreasE from the Velomobilforum which shows the industrial bit of Uerdingen behind us.

before turning inland and riding along quiet roads with fields either side, with occasional stops for everyone to catch up (photo by AndreasE)

AndreasE got this pic of Humphrey and Millie together.

We headed towards Willich, where we stopped for a break at Café Streithöfe.

Humphey (who was being ridden by Klaus) hung out with fellow Quattrovelo belonging to Düssel.

Düssel has this laminated notice attached to his Schaumdeckel for when he leaves the velomobile.

We went inside and enjoyed a cuppa and I had a piece of Bienenstich.

After a break of just over an hour we headed off towards Hüls (near Krefeld), this time a bit slower as some of the riders were finding the pace a little fast. For the Velomobile riders it was very tricky so we stayed at the back, although Klaus was leading from the front.

Because Poppy was alone at home I headed directly home as we approached Hüls but Klaus carried on leading the group and they stopped in Hüls for an ice cream.

He then led them back to Uerdingen and then came home again.

Klaus’s ride was 107km, mine was 52km. This is the map of Klaus’s ride.

Pimp my Milan

Klaus and I have spent all March discussing Humphrey and what we do with him.

At first I thought I should probably sell him (and had already received two speculative offers for him) as I couldn’t get on with him, but wanted to give him more time to see if some of the issues could be ironed out, especially as we had our appointment in Dronten.

Klaus decided to use Humphrey himself to get another opinion and he started to get on pretty well with the Quattrovelo.

But one thing was clear, I would definitely be keeping the Milan for the near future, and would possibly use it for our two week summer tour.

This meant that I thought it was worth making some improvements to Millie.

Having used Humphrey’s Mountain Drive it is clear that Millie’s is really not up to much, and I made the decision to have it removed. I didn’t want to buy a new one (which is very expensive), I thought it made more sense to put back the old 2 chainrings and maybe change the gear ratios a bit. I didn’t want to do this myself so decided to contact EMVelomobiel in Belgium, who were very highly recommended by friend Oliver, to see if they were interested in doing some work on Millie. The chap Etienne said yes, so we arranged to deliver Millie to him on Easter Saturday and talk through what we would like.

We borrowed Ralf’s Sprinter again and as we were looking after Poppy that day she also had a trip to Belgium.

We talked to Etienne about the gears and it seems likely that he will change both the cassette on the back and also add a different chainring at the front. This is because my rear cassette is a very narrow range (13-30) which means I can have low gears or high gears but not both, and the front is currently 65. I will have a 38/56 on the front and on the back 11-36 which should give me much more range and should be more comfortable on hills.

We discussed some other items that I wanted for Millie:

  • a brake light
  • a handle for lifting her at the back
  • covering for the chain and the idler under the seat
  • raising the seat slightly
  • a chain tube for the chain going to the front chainring (I always get an oily right trouser leg)
  • servicing of the brakes

So it’s quite a lot of work but should make a huge difference, and Millie is worth the investment!

Etienne had a DF and Klaus decided to have a go… this one was very much set up for speed not comfort and had been rolled so wasn’t looking 100% tip top but Klaus enjoyed his ride, although his feet brushed the inside of the shell with each pedal stroke. He won’t be ordering a DF anytime soon though (fortunately!)

You can see a few more Velomobiles in this shot than just Millie. Some of our cycling friends from the Dutch Grensrijder group popped in during a tour so we had a good chat with them.

Poppy the dog really enjoyed the attention.

There were two more Quattrovelos there, belonging to Chris and Jean, and we had a very interesting conversation with Jean about Quattrovelo suspension and he has given us some tips for Humphrey.

They headed off on their ride and we stayed just a few more minutes speaking to Etienne about what we wanted for Millie. Then the gate opened again and chum Rolf from Germany appeared. He had come to buy some inner tubes and to book in his velomobile for a service; he was out of luck as I had just blocked off the next spot! It was lovely to see Rolf again, and was a reminder how small the Velomobile world is as we met two separate groups of people we knew whilst in Belgium and none of us come from Belgium!

Now Millie is being pimped and Humprey will also be looked at next week I hope I can get my velomobiles ready for a spring/summer of lots of fun kilometres. I have felt quite unfit this winter and have struggled over the first few months of this year but things are looking up and I hope to enjoy many more kilometres, alongside Klaus, in our great stable of velomobiles.

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 6: Roermond to Kempen

Day 3 of the second tour.

We had another good night’s sleep at the Vrienden op de fiets house in Roermond and were treated to a very good breakfast.

The bikes had spent the night safely in the garden.

Our hosts had to leave at 10am so we said goodbye to them at 9:30 and set off on our last stage of the tour.

We did quite a lot of this route just two weeks ago when I rode Humphrey to Roermond with Klaus and Ralf, and the route is very pleasant with lots of quiet roads. There were a few speedbumps which are not quite as comfortable in Millie as in Humphrey.

We saw this beautiful church underway.

We stopped for a short break and to enjoy the sunshine and chatted to a dog walker (who is rather unfortunately rendered in the photo below). I took the photo below because Millie was nicely reflected in Celeste!

This is what Klaus could see from his vantage point!

We enjoyed the quiet roads, although there were lots of leisure cyclists out as well, but we often had the whole road to ourselves!

Our plan was to stop in Venlo for some lunch/cake but as we came over the bridge into the town there seemed to be an awful lot of cyclists and walkers. As we reached the town it was clear something was going on – I have never seen so many bikes parked in one place. They were everywhere! There were sound stages and people dressed as runners… it was Venloop which is an annual half marathon. We knew it would be pointless to try to stop somewhere for food, plus we couldn’t really ride anywhere as it was all so packed. Instead we stayed on the roads and tried to make our way to the east so we could get on the road to Germany but road closures made it pretty tricky. We got lots of cheers from spectators – it was great to see that pretty much every Venlo resident was there, hanging out of the windows or cheering from the pavement.

We finally got across the main road into Venlo and could head towards the glider airfield. On the way we saw this very impressive bunting with the balloon runner!

We stopped for a while to watch the gliders and then discussed where we could go for cake. We both knew of, but had not visited, a café/restaurant not far away down an unmade road. We gave it a go and the unmade road was fine and the cake at Birkenhof was very tasty!

We were home fairly early after our ride of 61.62km which we cycled at an average speed of 18.7 km/h (very relaxed). My average heart rate for this ride was now a super-low 120 bpm.

We really enjoyed both our mini tours, although we were blessed with better weather for the second one. A tour of 3 days can be a very rich and exciting experience so we are considering whether we can manage more in the future by just taking one day off work. We shall see!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 5: Maastricht to Roermond

The second day of our second mini-tour.

We slept well and as agreed went down for breakfast at 8 o’clock. Anke had provided us a very good spread of breakfast items.

She talked to us a little about some of the cycle tours she had done.

Anke had to leave at 9 so we were gone before then. We decided to visit Maastricht itself and cycled over the bridge and through the pedestrian zone a little.

We found ourselves in a large square with lots of buildings around it and a large church.

Klaus took this interesting pic of Celeste!

And also this Panorama view of the square.

Here is Millie in front of the church.

Klaus had talked several times about the bookshop in a church so we googled it and discovered it was just around the corner. As I pulled up outside I noticed Millie rather nicely reflected in the doors!

We parked outside.

It was a beautiful building inside with very clever design for the bookshelves on three levels.

There was also a café where the altar used to be and so we stopped for a cuppa.

We set off again after a nice relaxing time in the bookshop and wended our way through Maastricht town on a Saturday morning. There was lots on as the weather was good. Klaus stopped to take a picture of a building and Millie photobombed him!

We then crossed the river and looked back at the town (photo by Klaus).

It was lovely to just stand in the sunshine, warm enough to be outside the velomobiles without jumpers/coats on.

However, we were on a bike tour so it was time to set off towards Roermond.

Our route today was as follows:

On the way to Maastricht we had ridden on the west side of the river/canal, this time we were going up the east side.

We had plenty of time for the 60km day so decided we would stop for a leisurely cake halfway if we could find somewhere. There were lots of interesting places along the way.

Here I stopped for a photo of a lovely church:

And at the same time Klaus was also photographing it from further back – you can see Millie in his shot.

You can tell from the skies in the above photos that it was turning into a really lovely day. The temperature was about 10 degrees but inside the velomobiles we were toasty warm.

It’s a very nice route that we were riding although surprisingly quiet for a Saturday, except for lots of MAMILs riding in chain gangs.

At about halfway we started looking for somewhere to stop for a cuppa but couldn’t find anything. Finally, just past Berg an de Maas, we discovered a restaurant with lots of signs saying ‘Open’ so stopped, only to find that the door was locked. We rang the bell but no response came. As we were waiting two more cyclists came and sat down.

We started checking on our phones to see if there was anywhere else open not too far away when a car arrived and two people got out carrying parcels from a bakery. It was the owners of the restaurant and they had cake. A bit odd they hadn’t put a sign up to say “back in 5 minutes” or something, but anyway, we got our tea and slice of cake.

Although they spoke no German or English and we spoke no Dutch we managed to communicate perfectly well.

In Maasbracht we saw this very pretty view whilst we were riding down a bit of a hill (photo by Klaus)

And we stopped to look at this windmill. Some passers-by said “hello” to us and they turned out to be Brits.

We continued on and eventually arrived in Roermond at 3 o’clock. I phoned the Vrienden op de fiets host but got no reply so we decided to go to the riverfront and eat something. We had originally said we expected to be there at 5pm so being two hours early meant perhaps they were out.

We ordered a bit of food

And Klaus relaxed with a bit of sun worship

We received an email from the host saying they were at home, possibly in their back garden, so we headed off there.
It was a retired couple with a lovely quaint house with lots of wood panelling (I reckon the chap used to be a joiner or something similar). This was our room:After we had showered Klaus got in touch with his friend Istvan who lives in Roermond to see if he was free. He and his wife invited us for dinner, so we hopped into the Velomobiles and rode the 3km to Istvan’s house, where we had a very tasty meal and lots of very good conversation. Istvan and his wife Ingrid were really interesting people and it was great to get to know them. Klaus met Istvan through a photography forum and had known him for ten years or so.Istvan has a very good coffee machine…We also had some cake!We were all pretty tired so headed off at 9:30pm through Roermond, which was a really lovely ride in the dark on the good cycle paths.The total ride today was 58.52km at an average of 18.4 km/h.Here are the statistics, note that the average heart rate is a very relaxed 120.Once again we were really happy with the Vrienden op de fiets accommodation. The velomobiles were in the garden under an awning and well away from prying eyes. We slept very well after our cycling and socialising!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 1: Kempen to Rees am Rhein

Day 1 of the Tour

We had seen the weather forecast and consequently planned a short day (under 60km) for today. My original route had been less direct and 20km more but with lots of snow and ice yesterday, and continuing light snow this morning meant we definitely wanted to limit the distance. It was minus 3 outside so we faffed around at home in the morning waiting for the snow to clear.

It didn’t, there were still periodic white flurries, but it wasn’t settling so we decided to set off anyway.

Yesterday we had pumped up the tyres and given the bikes a once-over, plus added my Garmin speed sensor to the rear axle and cadence sensor to the crank. Today we just hopped in and set off – once I had got my new Garmin to recognise the cadence and speed sensors, as well as the heart rate monitor. This was the work of moments, the whole thing extremely easy. Top marks to Garmin!

I have never previously ridden with a cadence sensor so today’s ride would be an interesting learning experience.

This was our route for today:

So we set off with flakes of snow swirling about. In this photo I tried to get some snowflakes but I don’t think I was successful!

We both chose to ride with the Schaumdeckel (foam cover) but underneath that we each just had one long-sleeved cycling top; you don’t need lots of layers inside a Velomobile as you generate your own warmth.

We planned to ride to Xanten first and stop there for lunch. Xanten is somewhere we ride to fairly regularly so we knew the way very well, but this time we were largely cycling on the cycle paths rather than on the road. This was because we were slower due to the weather. There were some icy patches so we had to take care.

We took the normal roads to Stenden, then Sevelen; we love the road to Sevelen as it is 7km of dead straight road with hardly any junctions (= Velomobile fun!) but when you are riding slowly and there is a bitter side wind buffeting you about it seems quite a lot longer!! We were not quick, but that was to be expected as it was very cold!

One thing that disturbed me a little on this ride was the wind noise whistling over the front of the QuattroVelo. I don’t know if it’s the sound of the wind on the visor, on the mirrors or just generally on the front, but at times it was a real banshee shrieking and it was very annoying. This  noise was louder than the gear noises! It seems to be related to side winds as when we changed direction it reduced, but it was very annoying. Klaus says he has it too on his Strada.

After cycling for an hour it was time to stop to put our feet down. When riding Velomobiles you can get cold feet and also lose the sensation in your toes a bit, so it is good to stop and take your feet out of the clipless pedals and let the blood flow back into them. Klaus especially has problems with cold feet when it is less than 10 degrees outside, and it was definitely that today! We stopped in a lay-by just after Issum for a five minute break.

We set off again, this time with me in the lead and on the road (no cycle path). This was a faster stretch and the snow had stopped, but it was still really cold! We wended our way towards Xanten and I also began to get very cold feet. The QuattroVelo has two large openings for the feet and they let the cold air in, and when the wind blew from a particular side angle it blew cold air up my trouser leg!

We had to go over a couple of motorway bridges and I noticed that my heart rate was very high on these slight inclines – reaching 190bpm. In fact, this year my heart rate has generally been very high when cycling (although my resting heart rate has reduced to 60 bpm) so I wonder if this has anything to do with the low carb diet. My average heart rate for the whole ride was 162, whereas Klaus’s was 133, which is where mine used to be. Perhaps it is just a sign of my lack of fitness.

There wasn’t much traffic about as we rolled into Xanten. We stopped at our usual cafe and ordered some hot soup and a hot cup of tea.

Klaus tried to thaw out his feet but it took a long time!

We sat in the cafe for about an hour, enjoying the break and the hot food. Klaus’s feet slowly began to regain some sensation, but we knew we would be pedalling in the cold again soon. Whilst we were waiting the skies cleared of snow and we saw some blue at last!

We set off out of Xanten taking a different route than normal. We usually take the Alleenradweg which goes to Marienbaum but this time we stayed closer to the Rhein, again staying on the cycle path. We had the fun of having to press some traffic light buttons which is not very easy from within a Velomobile with the Schaumdeckel on!

Part of this route goes along the Rhein flood dykes and this was great fun with a tailwind, comfortable cruising. The QuattroVelo isn’t fast but once it gets going it rolls nicely, and it is definitely smoother over rough roads than the Milan.

It was just 18km to Rees and the time passed quickly. We rolled over the bridge and then headed for the town, finding our way easily to our hotel, Rheintoreins.

We checked into the hotel, storing the Velomobiles in a locked garage, and then Klaus photographed himself in a ball whilst I was filling in the paperwork…

The room was very nice and we each had a much-appreciated hot shower and a cuppa as we warmed up a bit.

We went out in search of food and Klaus took these pictures of Rees.

We cycled over the bridge in the distance.

And proof of which river we were visiting today:

We found an Italian restaurant and had a pizza (carbohydrates!) as we fancied one after all our riding, then returned to our hotel.

The weather forecast is a bit better for tomorrow – cold still, but perhaps 3-4 degrees warmer than today, and with a slightly reduced wind. We hope to have slightly warmer feet during our riding. We have a bit further to go, 77km, but should have the wind more at our backs which will help.

And the statistics for my ride today, from Garmin Connect:

As you can see, I have a very low cadence (pedalling speed). We knew this, but it is interesting to now measure it. I cannot pedal any faster, this is my comfortable speed and has served me well for a decade.

Anyway, we are pleased to be on tour again despite the Siberian weather, and hope for another good day tomorrow.

And here is Klaus’s report for the day:

Wir sind erst gegen 12 Uhr losgefahren, um dem Schnee zu entgehen… naja hat nicht ganz geklappt. Ein ordentlicher Wind aus Nordost hat uns noch ein paar Flöckchen um die Ohren gehauen. Eigentlich ist es im VM schön kuschelig, aber die Fusszehen sind mir nach 2h fast abgefroren. Nach 1h Pause in Xanten hatte ich dann wieder etwas Gefühl in den Zehen. Die letzten 18 Kilometer waren einfach zu cruisen, da der Wind von schräg hinten kam.

Tomorrow we will cycle along the Nederrijn to Arnhem and will then rejoin the Rhine as it has become the Waal at Nijmegen. We are looking forward to it!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Rhein-Waal-Maas 2018