Category Archives: Cycling in Germany

Millie goes electric! Fitting a Bafang electric motor to a Milan GT Velomobile

Electric motors in recumbents

Some time ago I electrified my ICE Sprint recumbent trike.

This was to enable me to keep up with Klaus on his trike, a Wild One. Klaus was a faster rider than me, despite the Wild One being 6-7kg heavier than the ICE Sprint; this is of course down to biology – the average chap has more power than the average woman, and I am also a very heavy woman.

Anyway, Alfie was electrified and our rides together were evened out for speed.

Fast forward two and a half years, and I’m in the same situation again. I have a very fast velomobile (a Milan GT) but Klaus has upgraded from his Strada to a Quattrovelo and has increased his speed. He has also become fitter this year, and I have lost some fitness. So what this means is that, once again, I have been struggling to keep up with Klaus.

When you start falling behind in rides, this is also not good psychologically and you ride less as a result. After all, if you are doing a short ride with a friend and you end up completely pooped and drenched in sweat, when they are barely breathing harder, this makes you feel bad. So you are less fit, fall further behind, use the car instead. So this year Klaus and I have ridden together much less than previously.

My average speed on rides alone has not actually changed that much, but I have been slower when riding with others when not able to ride at my optimum pace. I have also now measured my wattage which is 100W at the pedals on average, which translates to about 70W on the road after losses through the drivetrain etc. That’s not particularly high (although I can ride at that power for 12 hours/300 km). Most chaps are around 150-200W, really fast guys much more.

It is not possible for me to buy a faster Velomobile that I can ride/fit in, I have the best option with the Milan GT. Losing weight is extremely difficult and although would help would not make an enormous difference. So the third option was to fit a motor to Millie.

I thought about this for some time, as in some ways I feared it would spoil her. The velomobile is a wonderful bike as it’s actually fairly simple, it’s fast and it’s easy. The electric motor and battery would add weight, would add complexity, cabling, might be a lot noisier (although velomobiles are fairly noisy anyway, fortunately Millie isn’t too bad) and I would lose the purity of cycling entirely under my own power. Not to mention that when people ask me “is there a motor in it?” I would have to answer “yes!”

But the thought of riding Oliebollentocht without power assist, with 150 fast men riding at full speed and me once again falling off the back, riding alone, feeling really grumpy, girded me into making the decision to fit a motor.

So which is the right motor?

I spoke about fitting a motor to my velomobile with Velomobile.nl and with Ligfietsshop Tempelman. They suggested the following options:

Vivax: https://www.vivax-assist.com/en/product/vivax-assist/vivax-assist_4-0.php

Bimoz: https://bimoz.ch/

Moteur pédalier pour Vélomobile: http://www.declic-eco.fr/boutique/moteurs-pedalier/moteur-pedalier-pour-velomobile-detail

And of course the trust Bafang BBS01, such as I have fitted to Alfie the trike.

The Q-factor

The main issue with fitting a motor to a velomobile is the Q-factor, which is the width between the pedals. On a normal bike you have lots of space either side of the bottom bracket; in a Velomobile there is a carbon frame around it and for many velomobiles there simply is not room for a wider bottom bracket which most motors require. If the Q-factor is too wide then your feet scrape the side or indeed jam against the carbon shell. I discovered this with Millie when I had a standard-width Schlumpf fitted, rather than the velomobile narrow version… I had to adjust the cleats on my shoes so I could pedal without scraping the sides!

It’s actually hard to get any official information about the Q-factor of velomobiles. This is partly because people have their seats in all sorts of different positions, and as the noses of the velomobiles narrow towards the front, if your feet are further forward (because your seat is, or because you are tall and have long legs) and if your shoes are larger, then this can cause many issues. But generally, the Strada and Quest have space for a wider Q-factor, the DF is very narrow (although the DF-XL is a bit better), the Milan somewhere in the middle of these two. But not many Milan owners build motors into them.

Vivax

So the first option was to find a motor that doesn’t affect the Q-factor negatively. In the list above, the Vivax looked ideal. It’s a motor that fits in the down-tube of a normal bike and helps to turn the cranks. It’s also invisible on the bike (not an issue with a velomobile, but is something that apparently some cyclists have as secret help!). It is horribly expensive, at about 3000 EUR including fitting, but I thought it worth investigating.

Fortunately someone on the Velomobilforum had owned a Vivax, although he had taken it out of his velomobile and sold it on.

I contacted him and he gave me his phone number for a chat about the Vivax. And it became very clear straight away that this was not the best option for me. It wasn’t very helpful upon acceleration or hills, its main job was providing a small amount of motor support when riding at a regular speed. That’s the one aspect of riding that I don’t really need help with! It can only help up to a certain cadence, either 70 or 90, which would be OK for me but could be a deal-breaker for others, but the whole system would clearly not be a good option for me. Strike that one off the list!

Bimoz

The Bimoz looked really good but was still in the crowdfunding stage and it’s always a bit of a lottery as to when these things are ready.

Price for the full monty kit is $1,100 so not bad at all, but I suspected this would not be available for months if not years. From the images it looks like the Q-factor is not wide so it might be a good option for the future for other velomobile riders.

The French option

This is marketed as specific for velomobiles and the company have links with Cycles JV in France who are well-known velomobile suppliers. So far, so good!

Here is the description in French from their website:

Description du produit:

  • Kit moteur pédalier pour vélomobiles (waw, quest, mango, A4/A6, go-one)
  • Nouvelle version , un gros travail d’optimisation a été effectué , roue libre interne , carters latéraux ,support pour un double plateau ,support dérailleur ( non monté sur la photo ) …
  • Axe de pédalier en 128mm de large
  • Manivelles en 152mm
  • Moteur mis au point en collaboration avec la société  QBX
  • Un modèle est disponible pour essais chez Cycles JV Au Mans
  • Ce matériel  est non homologué usage réservé sur terrain privé .

Le kit se compose :

  • D’un moteur pédalier avec sa fixation spécifique pour vélomobile (utilisation du tube alu 40*40 commun a ces vélomobiles)
  • Contrôleur 36V/48V pour adapter la vitesse du moteur a la rotation des pédales du cycliste (80rpm en 36v 105 RPM en 48V)
  • Un accélérateur ou  capteur de pédalage
  • Un contact de frein a placer sur le guidon d’origine
  • Un capteur pour le dérailleur AV
  • Un dérailleur  spécifique
  • Un cycle analyst 2.3  en version direct plug-in pour permettre de régler ampérage et vitesse max

le kit ne comprend  pas les  plateaux pour permettre au client d’ajuster sa démultiplication en fonction de ses besoins.

And it looks like this: (images taken from the website linked to above)

You can see from these photos that this motor, like the others, needs some kind of special mounting for the Velomobile Tretlagermast (boom) as it is square. This is also ideally offset to the left to make space for the chainring, and these offset bottom bracket holders are made by Alligt in the Netherlands who offer them to the companies that fit motors into velomobiles.

What was also noticeable is that the company listed velomobiles that this system would fit – and the Milan was not one of them.

Bafang motor

I also spoke with Gerrit Tempelman who has a lot of experience at fitting Bafang motors to trikes.

His initial comment was that the Q-factor is too high. The Bafang motor is wider than the standard velomobile bottom bracket. But otherwise the Bafang is a great option – price is keen, they are everywhere so parts/replacement is easy, and they are a tried and tested solution which is reliable and relatively quiet in use. It’s just that pesky Q-factor.

Now what?

So it seemed I hadn’t had much success. The Vivax had looked great (although pricey) but wouldn’t suit me, the Bimoz might not exist for years, the French option probably wouldn’t fit, the Bafang might not fit.

So how wide COULD I go in Millie. With the current pedals I had a bit of room to the side.

I remembered with my Schlumpf (which had subsequently been removed) I had problems with the width but eventually it just fitted. But I didn’t actually know how wide my Schlumpf was, just that it was wider than the normal one. I read somewhere it was 180mm wide pedal-to-pedal. This is actually wider than the Bafang.

I also read lots of threads in the Velomobilforum with people fitting motors to velomobiles, mostly Quests and Stradas. But there was a lady with a DF-XL who had a Bafang, and the nose of that appears smaller than Millie’s nose. And then I read a post by a guy who commented that there’s a 70-year-old guy with a Milan GT who rides around with a Bafang in it.

So I tried to investigate this some more, and the chap Jörg said yes, this guy did exist, the fitting was done by the company Akkurad in Köln. This sounded most positive as Köln is only 70km away.

I phoned Akkurad and they said that yes, it should be possible. I asked about the Q-factor and they weren’t too sure and suggested I phoned Räderwerk (manufacturers of the Milan), which I did. I spoke to Helge, and he said that as long as I didn’t have the luggage holders at the front I should be OK. I assumed that having shoe size 43, so smaller than most chaps, should also be a benefit. Helge said I would have to have the straight cranks, not the usual ones that bend outwards, and would also need short cranks (155mm rather than the normal 170mm), but it should work.

A visit to Akkurad

The chap at Akkurad had told me that the motor is about 500 € and the fitting 450 €, roughly. I already had a battery from my trike. This all sounded very positive, could be a present from me to me at Christmas, paid for with my Weihnachtsgeld (Christmas Bonus) from work.

So I arranged to visit Akkurad with the Milan in tow and look through the options. I would leave the Milan there if we decided to go ahead, and they were likely to complete the work in a week or two. All good.

They’re not usually open on a Saturday but the guy would who do the fitting, Herr Zghibi, would let us in.

How to get a Milan to Köln? Using a trailer of course! This would be the second time we had hired the large trailer from our local trailer hire place, and it was cold and windy as we got everything together, but eventually we were on our way to Köln with our appointment at 11am.

It became clear as soon as we arrived in Köln that driving a 5 metre long car with a 3 metre long trailer in the centre of a busy city is not everyone’s idea of fun. I was so grateful that Klaus was doing the driving! We watched some crazy Ninja cyclists riding across red lights with no hands on the handlebars, just on their phones. City living.

We arrived at Akkurad a bit early and unloaded Millie. Herr Zghibi arrived and let us in, and spent a long time going over all the options with us. I decided very early on to get a battery from them as it was much better than the one I have. I also showed him where I would like the display unit, and we spent a long time working out where all the controls etc would go on the tiller. I would only have the single front chainring so my trigger shifter would go (a bonus!), and due to lack of space the bell would also have to go, so I arranged for them to fit a hooter for me, which would be much better anyway (no-one hears the bell). There is also a thumb throttle which powers the velomobile at full power up to 6 km/h and then stops. After that, there are five power levels which come in when you start pedalling and fade out at 25 km/h, stopping all assistance at around 27 km/h. My Bafang on the trike had a switch on the brake levers to cut the motor but this doesn’t work with velomobile brakes so there is no brake cut-out. Once you stop pedalling the motor switches off pretty quickly anyway. In order not to kill the gears, there would be a sensor built in to the gear cable which detects when you shift and quickly shuts off the motor.

Klaus and I were very impressed with Herr Zghibi who spent a lot of time showing us the options (we had to decide on which display unit, which format battery etc) and working out where things could best be fitted. There isn’t loads of space in a Milan, and I have velomobile bags both sides (which I left there, so he could see how much space was available for other stuff), so I asked if he could fit the battery behind the seat on the chain side, as I just store spare tyres there and nothing else. We would see.

He then prepared the quotation for all the work and I nearly fell of my chair when I saw it. The initial price over the phone of about 1000€ had ballooned to 2,400€. The battery was 700€ and the charger 70€, but the rest was basically all the little bits and bobs that you need.

This might be of use to other people so I will list the items:

  • 250 Watt 26 Volt Bafang 8Fun bottom bracket motor
  • Display C961 (upgraded to C18 which is colour and smaller)
  • Thumb throttle to 6 km/h
  • Controller unit with 5 buttons (on/off, light, info, Power Level Up, Power Level Down)
  • Battery – Standard 36 Volt battery, 16,5 Ah 600Wh LiIon 10S 5P
  • Battery charger 36V 2,35A
  • Gear sensor, cuts out power whilst changing gear with derailleur gears
  • Cable set for 8Fun motor (includes speed sensor, cabling between the units, etc etc)
  • Bafang cable from motor to battery with heavy duty battery connector
  • 12V horn/hooter
  • DC/DC step-down converter from 26-72 Volt to 12 Volt 10 A (installed in the nose under the lights)
  • Bafang pedals with additional thread boring for 155mm pedal length
  • Fan to cool motor when in use
  • Holder for the fan
  • Special bottom bracket holder adjusted to the side to fit Bafang to Velomobile
  • 57 tooth Bafang front chainring
  • Fitting everything into Velomobile

I was sucking my teeth a lot at the price as he was putting together the quote, and Herr Zghibi gave a few discounts here and there, including in the fitting into the Velomobile, and in the end the price reached 2430,32€. Which is a lot, but I felt that the fitting cost of 610€ was well worth it as I know how difficult it is to fix stuff into the Milan’s nose.

We had more of a conversation about the Q-Factor but knew that we couldn’t really know until the thing was done. So I said go ahead, Klaus and I left Millie there and had another challenging drive with the trailer out of Köln.

Collecting the Milan with Motor

My original plan was for Klaus to drive me to Akkurad when it was time to pick up Millie and I would cycle home, to avoid the trauma of a giant trailer through Köln. But in the end the weather was so cold, I didn’t fancy the 80km ride, especially in a bike that had had a lot changed. I might need some time to get used to it.

Klaus was game to have another go with the trailer but I felt that was something I had hoped we wouldn’t have to do again. Once again, Ralf came to the rescue with his Sprinter. We picked it up and then drove to Akkurad two Saturdays after we had dropped off Millie, this time to collect her. A little heavier, with some more cabling, but hopefully with a new lease of life.

Herr Zghibi was there and let us in to look at Millie. Of course, she looked exactly the same – from the outside you see nothing of the motor. Inside I saw instantly that the battery was not on the chain side but on the other side, where I store my luggage. I was rather disappointed by this but he said that in order to fit the battery holder he needed to use the left hand side behind the rider as the chain on the right hand side would foul the holder. So be it. I would still be able to put my luggage on top of the battery.

Here is the battery that Akkurad supplied, which is actually the smallest that they now offer, but it is the most lightweight and should be good for any daily distance I do with the level of support I need.

And here is the very solid socket for the cabling in Millie:

And here is the connector between battery and cabling

And here is the battery mount that he fixed to the yellow structure which is my rear swing-arm

The blue bag is my bag with emergency jumper and waterproof in case I break down somewhere. This bag is stuffed right in the back of the Milan as I don’t need to use it regularly, but it has to be available in emergencies. It can fit behind the battery OK.

Here is the battery in place, held in with a couple of restraining straps.

Once the battery was plugged in the fan for the motor started running. This always runs when the battery is plugged in, as do the lights on Millie. I can run the lights separately with the old battery system, but for simplicity’s sake Herr Zghibi had also made a connection for the lighting system to the main giant battery. Which is unlikely to run out!

Q-factor again

The moment of truth would come when I tried to pedal. I had been worrying about this for ages!

The cranks had the new thread and looked a bit like this (photo not of mine, but of some others that have previously been done by AntoineH on the Velomobilforum):

And this image (also from AntoineH) shows the difference that crank position can make to the Q-factor (top set have a narrower Q-factor than the bottom set)

It was time to get into Millie and see how pedalling would work.

My feet got stuck!

The right hand side couldn’t push the pedals around, the left hand side scraped a lot but was just about possible. Argh!!

Klaus says that my face was a real picture here. All this money invested and I can’t turn the pedals because they are now too widely spaced. Argh!!

I had worried about this the entire two weeks Millie was at Akkurad. But Klaus and I had already discussed what we could do if there was an issue with the Q-factor.

  • Move the pedals nearer to the seat
  • Move the seat itself back so the pedals can be brought further towards the back of the velomobile
  • Move the cleats on my shoe more to the outside of the sole to bring the foot towards the centre
  • Crumple into a heap crying

So we tried option 1. This was a good idea anyway as I had already decided the pedals were too far away from the seat and that I was too stretched out when riding. I have hyper mobile joints which mean my knees can bend backwards and although it’s comfortable for me to ride with straighter legs I decided, after I got Bertie with a different seat position, that more bend to my knees might be a better idea. I had been having knee pain when pushing on rides for a while, but with Bertie I could feel different muscles being used as the pedals are nearer the seat, and it felt like less pressure was going through my knees. On Millie the position of the pedals had been changed several times over the last two years with the fitting of my Schlumpf and then its removal, and I suspect that the most recent change left it slightly too far away.

Herr Zghibi moved the pedals about 2cm towards the back of the velomobile.

Another attempt to pedal, this time only the right foot scraped the side of the velomobile, the left shoe moved freely. This is partly because the cranks are offset as there is a chainring on the right hand side, which shifts the whole assembly slightly to the right.

We then tried option 2, I moved the cleats about 4mm to the outer side of the shoe which would mean my shoe is clamped on the pedal more towards the centre of the bike.

This helped a lot, there was almost no touching of shoe to the side of the bike. However, I now had the issue that with each pedal stroke my right knee touched the top of the Lukendeckel (the lid thingie that you can open on the Milan to get in and out).

So it was time for Option 3, moving my seat back. This is a fiddly job which Herr Zghibi did for us which was nice!

The new seat position was good, although it had made a difference to the amount of shoulder room I had, as the seat was further back but the backrest was in the same place, so I was more upright. I thought this might involve a bit more fiddling about in future.

As there was now a lot more room we also moved the pedals towards the back of the bike again, another 1cm or so, and this time my knee cleared the Lukendeckel and my feet were now not touching the sides of the Milan at all.

Here you can see the differences between each side.  Here is my right foot, where there is only 1mm or so clearance to the right of my shoe.

And here the left foot, with much more clearance although the cleat is in the central position, not in the outermost position.

I have to say, if my feet were larger than 43 it might still have been an issue, but I do have long legs which affects the boom position.

And I also have to say that the photos show the appalling gaffer tape nest inside Millie. You can’t see it as the rider! I will sort it out in the summer and find some better way of fixing the cables, but in winter it’s too cold to rummage around inside a velomobile, especially as you probably have to lie on a freezing cold garage floor to do it!

So this, at least, was now sorted. It took about an hour with all the moving about of pedals and seat and refitting of cable ties at the end in the new position. And this is how it looked at the end.

And a slightly different view.

This picture also shows that the pedals are screwed into the cranks in the second position, not at the end of the cranks, to enable the 155mm crank measurement.

Strange new noises

I hadn’t ridden Millie for several weeks really, but when we did the first test with Klaus holding the back up so I could pedal, it seemed very noisy. But it’s always hard to tell when in a different environment (inside a building, not out on the open road). I had also removed all my tools and spares and the Isomatte baffle that is between the gears/rear wheel and seat, so I knew it would be noisier.

However, on further testing this noise seemed to be from nearer the front, although it is always really tricky to pinpoint noise in velomobiles.

I checked that the Umlenkroller (idlers) were all in place, and they seemed to be OK. So why was it so noisy?

In the end Klaus wondered if there might be a stone caught under the bridge where the chain passes through the bridge; this has happened in the past and jammed the chain a couple of times. You can’t see it at all, you just have to stick your fingers in and see what you can find.

He stuck his fingers in and felt something in there, some piece of plastic. He couldn’t tease it out with his fingers so Herr Zghibi got a selection of tools and eventually removed… a Bafang wheel sensor! He said he had dropped it when fitting the motor to the Milan and couldn’t find it anywhere so he got another one. We now know where it was, although it had been rather chewed up by my chain so wouldn’t be being used on anyone else’s motor!

The chain was now much quieter, although it still seemed louder than normal. I would have to see if this is the ‘new normal’ for Millie or if more can be done.

A test ride

So now it was time for a test ride. I was actually rather nervous, as this would be the real test. Was all this expenditure worth it? Would I like it? Herr Zghibi had done a short test ride a couple of days before and said he had a hairy moment when a car cut in front of him, but otherwise it worked OK. So it was my turn… on a cold, windy, grey day I headed off into Köln for a 2km ride. Which went well! Millie was noisier but the motor worked well. It was clear that the chain was rubbing on the wheel box at the back, it was very noisy on left hand turns and in very low gears, but I had this to a lesser extent previously. It could be to do with the position of an idler/Umlenkrolle, but I decided not to fiddle with this till I got home.

Conclusion: it works well, it was time to take Millie home!

So how does it all look

I have to say, I am extremely impressed by the job that Akkurad did in fitting this motor.

As I mentioned, Herr Zghibi had fitted the controller in the small amount of spare space on the right hand side front wheel arch. The blue battery is my previous lighting battery, which can still be used on its own. The controller is the dusty (!!!) screen below it, which is currently also plugged into the main lighting circuit so the battery for the motor also powers the lights. This is a very nice easy-to-read screen.

And here is my new tiller area.

On the right is the grip-shift for my normal gears, 9 speed at the back. This has not changed.

On the left, to the right of my fingers is the thumb throttle. It’s easier to see in the second picture.

The metal bar towards the top of the screen is the brake lever, but between it and the metal pole of the tiller are the switches for the motor – on/off, backlight,  info, Up and Down.

You can see the thumb throttle a bit better here, and also the switches for the motor.

The tiny blue dot to the right of the motor switches is the new hooter, fixed onto the standard area of the tiller designed for this.

And this is what you see when you look into the Milan now. Rather more cabling than there used to be!

You can see it here – this is the left hand side wheel arch. I believe this is where the wheel speed sensor is fitted, as there was previously a hole here (for the old bike computer) and it has now been filled and sealed over! That must have been such a fun job in a Milan, fitting a speed sensor to the closed front wheel box!

This speed sensor measures the rotations of the wheel and feeds back what speed you are going. This is partly for interest (it’s shown on the display) but also works to switch off the motor when you go beyond the 25 km/h. Consequently the wheel size has to be accurate. Usually you can type in the circumference of the wheel in mm (on most trip computers) but surprisingly the Bafang Controller only allowed you to choose 20 inch wheel, or 21, or 19 etc.

Akkurad had programmed it with 20 inch wheel size but on my first rides it was clear that this was not giving the correct readings. My Garmin consistently showed I was cycling 2-3km/h slower than the Bafang controller thought, which meant I was only having assistance up to about 23 km/h. I experimented with this a bit and ended up discovering that if I set the wheel to 21 inch then it provides almost the correct speed measurements. I can only assume this is because they measured it for a 20 inch wheel with a standard tyre, such as a Marathon, whereas I am running very low-profile and narrow Durano Plus.

Once I got home I had a few test rides, although the weather was really bad (very cold) so I didn’t do as much as I expected.

I replaced the sound baffle at the back behind the seat, but the noise level has definitely increased from the back with Millie. Not sure why, I can live with it, but it’s one of those mystery things that happens.

The sound of the chain rubbing on the wheel box was much more noticeable and, as I had suspected, this is because the idler/Umlenkrolle gets pushed too much towards the centre of the bike. I assume this is to do with a slightly altered chainline because of cabling/fiddling with the bike. I can push the idler back into the better position, but if I use the motor on a high setting then it works its way back. When the weather allows we will try to put some kind of spacer/cable tie to stop the idler sliding along its holder.

One surprising thing I noticed in my test rides was that moving the seat back 1cm had a big knock-on effect for how I sit in the bike. My head is much higher and actually occludes my Lichtkanone front light at times. I also found that my neck and upper chest tended to get colder as they were now out in the wind! My shoulders where right under the edge of the frame and I think if I went over a bump then they could bang against the underside of the frame, I might get a few bruises.

There were a couple of options to fix this. Firstly, I could recline the seat more. This might work well, but I wasn’t sure if my head might then bump against the headrest thing at the back when I am riding, which doesn’t suit me. The easier experimental option was to take away the 3-thickness ventisit mat and replace the original mat that came with Millie which is just 1 thickness. It has the disadvantage that it has some sharp plastic bits that seemed to dig into my legs before, but as a first test I decided to go with this option. On a short ride of 6,5km it seemed to be an improvement and I didn’t have any needle-jabs into my thighs from the sharp plastic thingies but we shall see! Next ride will probably be Oliebollentocht which is a 66km ride (although I have plotted a shorter version at 44km which I may do on the day). That will be another good test!

Riding with the motor

What is it like?

I feared that it might be noisy – it isn’t. I detect no additional noise. Even the faint noise of the fan disappears in the road rumble as soon as you start moving.

I thought it might feel a bit unnatural – it doesn’t. I am only using it on the first power setting, so that is giving me a 15% assist, and it doesn’t really notice when it comes in to help. But help it definitely does, as Klaus noticed that I was accelerating much faster.

The thumb throttle is to help me move off straight away so that the motor doesn’t have to wait for the pedals to turn. I haven’t had much of a chance to use this, I have to remember to use the throttle! But I think it is a good option. It gives 100% assistance up to 6 km/h, which in reality is about 1-2 seconds then. Enough time for the pedals to take over and the motor to continue at 15%

For the local bridge over the motorway I switched the motor onto 5 (maximum) assistance and I breezed over there. I switched it straight back to 1 at the top so as not to get used to having too much help!

I did my 10km test ride when the wheel size was still wrong, so the motor started to fade out at 23 km/h, but I have to say the fade out was very good as it wasn’t really noticeable. The controller display shows how many watts the motor is using to help, and on most of the ride it was doing nothing as I was cruising at around 28-30 km/h. But it did help in the starts and in the bridge, and this was a great feeling.

A second ride showed that the new wheel size of 21 inch was close enough, and the assistance really isn’t that noticeable to me as a rider but makes quite a significant difference to the speed. I can kid myself that I’m really doing 99% with my own effort!

At the time of writing this I have cycled 35km with the motor. Interestingly, the display says the battery is on 100% still; I don’t know how true this is, but it is something I will track. As the temperatures in our garage have been 0 degrees or into the minus, I have been taking the battery out and keeping it upstairs in our apartment. This is apparently a good idea if the temperature dips below 5 degrees.

Conclusion

Firstly it is indeed possible to fit a Bafang BBS01 to the Milan GT. For very tall people or for people with big feet it might be a bit too difficult however.

It is a good feeling whilst riding, more of a support than taking over the machine. I was also pleasantly surprised that Millie doesn’t feel heavier when riding her, and also she still seems well balanced so when manoeuvring her by hand or lifting her in and out of a sprinter, she doesn’t seem any more difficult. My trike became quite awkward to fold up once it had its motor.

And I am so, so glad that I paid a proper company to do the fitting. Akkurad did an excellent job and I am really happy with all that Herr Zghibi did in terms of cabling and decisions about controls on the tiller etc. He really did listen to me and what I liked, and had a good understanding of velomobiles too. It’s good to know that if there is a problem I can take it back to a company who know about these things.

For me it was definitely worth it, despite the price. I look forward to more kilometres next year!

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – November 2018 (Month 56)

Cycling this month

I have continued with my rather low mileage… this will not be a great year for distance, but there are reasons behind that and I am no longer chasing kilometres.

Almost all my rides this month were commutes.

However there were a few other rides to stretch my legs a little.

Mini Velomobile meets

Klaus had helped to arrange a Velomobilforum.de meet at Streithöfe which is a farm café near Willich. Because of my cold I drove there (also taking the dog) but Klaus cycled in Emily.

We both arrived fairly early and so made a start on the cakes. I kicked off with a Käse Sahne Windbeutel.

Soon enough some more velomobiles arrived. Several familiar faces but also a new chap in a yellow Quest who had ridden from Kleve.

We spent a couple of hours in the café (and had a second round of cakes). These sort of meets are always good fun and it’s a great chance to talk to other velomobile riders and get ideas and information. Despite the rainy weather forecast almost everyone stayed dry on their way home too.

A second Velomobile meet also took place after Johannes, who lives 10km away, told me he was selling his Mango. My friend Inge had been interested in maybe buying a second-hand velomobile so we put her in touch with Johannes. Johannes suggested we invited some other velomobile people so in the end there were five – Klaus and Emily, me and Millie, Jochen and Endeavour (Strada), Hartmut and WAW and Johannes with his Mango. Inge and her husband came to have a look, along with her brother and his wife who were also interested. Cycling chums Uli and Herbert also put in an appearance.

This was Johannes’ first time meeting Emily.

Johannes had also baked a Weckmann (bread/cake) and another cake as well, plus I had brought some home-made chocolate chip shortbread, so we didn’t starve!

Inge’s brother and sister-in-law both tried out the Mango and liked it a lot. They are at the beginning of their velomobile journey so need to try some other things as well, but I think they have definitely caught the bug!

Bertie

As mentioned last month, Bertie came finally to live with us and to be my commuting bike.

As mentioned previously, he needed some work done by Gerrit Tempelman at Ligfietsshop Tempelman, and was still rather bruised and battered generally, but he has turned out to be a very decent commuting velomobile.

Bertie has a few issues relating to the original accident many years ago. One is that the lid does not open and close very smoothly. Gerrit improved this and now I have worked out the knack of doing it, it’s mostly OK. The parking brake lever also got a bit bent and lost its spring so it’s harder to fix it on, but again I am now getting the knack.

Bertie’s pedals were set much further forward than Penelope’s which means the seat is also further forward and over time I felt that this was actually less optimal for me. My thighs are jammed up right beside the wheelboxes and seeing as they are voluptuous lady thighs this is less comfortable than it could be. And, more importantly, I could sometimes switch off the front lights switch with my left thigh.

I asked Gerrit Tempelman how one can go about adjusting the pedal location as in the Versatile/Orca it is a different system than in most other velomobiles. He replied:

It is not mega complicated but a lot of work. It is easiest to put Bertie on his side. Then you can reach the pedals and mounting plate through the footholes. You will need to take the cranks off and then all the m6 bolts for the mounting plates. You will also need to take off the front plate of the chain well. Once you have undone all the bolts you can take the plates off. It is easiest to leave the chainring and axle in the bike. It is a hassle  to put the chain back on. You can then flip the plates around. Once put back with a few screws you have to check the alignment of the chainring. It has to be straight inline with the chain. If not, loosen the m6 (10mm) nuts on the bearing holders and adjust it. If correct put all the bolts back in and shorten the chain.

This sounded feasible, although I was a little concerned that Gerrit said it would take an hour and a half. An hour and a half for him probably translated to two days’ hard graft for me, but I girded up my enthusiasm to lay on the freezing cold garage floor over a weekend.

And then… saved!!! We would need to take a trip to Dronten and I could take Bertie with me and get Gerrit to do it. But why YET ANOTHER trip to Dronten?

Unfortunately Emily’s gear hanger broke. This happened to Humphrey and has also happened to three other Quattrovelos that we know about. This time, though, it happened in a very inconvenient way. Klaus was halfway to work, cycling in the middle of nowhere near Moers-Kapellen, when PING the entire gear system stopped working. It basically fell off. The chain was completely jammed and he could go no further.

So I received a phone call asking for rescue. Frank was at home that day but had no access to a trailer. Klaus had also phoned Ralf and Ralf’s Sprinter wasn’t available (understandably, as it was a work day and it is his work tool!). I gathered up some luggage straps and decided to drive to collect Klaus and maybe we could see if we could squeeze Emily into his car, although she would hang halfway out of the boot. We couldn’t think of any other alternative.

Frank helped find the luggage straps for me and I briefly considered taking my Skoda Roomster as it has a higher roofline than Klaus’s Insignia but it was way too short. I expected we would be leaving Emily in Moers. Fortunately Klaus had been able to push her down the road to a garden centre who were happy to store her for him.

So I drove towards the Ruhr area on a Monday morning with all the mega traffic including a traffic jam on the slip road from the motorway, but I eventually arrived and Klaus was able to hop into the car to get warm again (three cheers for heated seats) as of course he was wearing lightweight cycle clothing which is all you need in a velomobile. Emily was to stay at the garden centre until we could rescue her.

We would drive home and then he would take the car to work, so he would be late and had to cancel some meetings. Not very ideal really. He also rang work and asked if he could borrow the work’s van and they said yes, so we knew he could pick Emily up later in the day.

I ended up an hour late to work, Klaus two hours late, but he was able to collect Emily that afternoon and she was unloaded outside our house and wheeled into the garage.

So the following Saturday we would head up to Dronten. Rather than yet again bothering Ralf to borrow his Sprinter, we decided to try out the new towing hook on Klaus’s car and rent ourselves a trailer. Conveniently there is a rental place with 24 hour access at the filling station just 3km away. I went along in Bertie to measure up the trailer.

The perspective here makes the trailer look shorter than Bertie but it isn’t, it was 3.2m long and theoretically wide enough for both velomobiles. Which indeed it was!

Here we are in Dronten about to unload a poorly Emily.

Klaus took Emily into Velomobiel.nl and I wheeled Bertie round to Gerrit Tempelman who set to work on my pedals.

I have to say, having watched what he did, I am extremely glad that he did the job and not me!

There was a spring somewhere in the innards that broke so he had to just make the chain a bit tighter and said that Bertie might be a little noisier for a while, but actually he has seemed about the same and the pedals are definitely fitted better. Previously there was a kind of grinding feeling when pushing hard but now they are much smoother. Seat position and pedal position is all much more comfortable so this is a real improvement.

Bertie is now a pretty decent commuting bike and I find him more convenient than Millie. Firstly because if it rains I don’t get wet, but also because there is more luggage space for grocery shopping and it’s easier to get to.

Here is Bertie transporting 100 eggs without any issues!

With the seat in place you can barely see them!

I find my commutes aren’t that much slower because of the terrain I have to ride to work (sharp corners, stops) which don’t favour the Milan. He has a slightly sticky left brake so I am just braking on the right hand side at the moment until I can get that fixed, but I am waiting for better weather than cold and rainy – bike maintenance in those conditions is less fun.

Emily was duly fixed (more welding) and we hope that she will give trouble-free service now, although poor Klaus suffered with a cold for two weeks and was also away for work so didn’t get much chance to ride this month.

Millie gets some more pimping

Velomobile ownership involves quite a lot of maintenance and service. There’s always something that can be improved or fixed, and this month it was Millie’s turn.

Firstly, I noticed one day that the tiller hanger cable seemed to have been a bit peckish… as you can see here, the cable is eating through the aluminium tiller.

It was rubbing against the cable for the rear brake light too.

I did a temporary fix (cable tie and insulating tape!) and the issue will be fixed permanently along with some other work that is happening on Millie in Köln (more on this next month when I get her back).

But slightly more interestingly this month, I managed to measure my power when riding the velomobile.

Velomobiles are very efficient bikes of course, but as a woman and a very heavy one at that, I struggle when riding with men. Previously when Klaus had Celeste, a Strada, and I had Millie the Milan, our speed was broadly similar (he was a bit quicker than me, but in strong sidewinds or head winds I was faster). Since he has been riding the Quattrovelos Humphrey and Emily he is a lot faster. This means that when we ride together I am always working really hard to try to keep up and it’s exhausting.

I thought it would be interesting to know how much power I actually have when cycling the velomobile. Friend Gabi very kindly offered to lend me her Garmin Vector pedals which measure your power.

She posted them to me and I then had to buy some cheap cycling shoes on eBay that could take the correct cleats (Look KEO). I found some shoes with Look cleats and bought them; they were a size 44 (I am 44) but I thought that would be OK, and Klaus could probably just about squeeze into them too.

When the shoes arrived they were actually size 46 so I looked like I had clown feet when wearing them. Nevertheless, they would do. The seller gave me a 5 Euro refund for the size being wrong.

I had come down with a very bad cold so couldn’t do anything with the pedals for a week. The plan was for Klaus to try them first on Emily, but this failed at the first hurdle because the pedals on Emily were done up too tight. Klaus had no luck at all trying to undo them through the foot holes with our rather short spanner. Subsequent to this I have found a much better pedal spanner (longer) which I think should work reaching inside the velomobile from the seat direction which should allow a bit more force. We shall see.

Anyway, Klaus decided he would fit the pedals directly to Millie as he couldn’t get Emily’s pedals off, so we did this. They went on easily enough. I couldn’t test them due to my bad cold/cough.

A few days later, after Klaus had also come down with the cold, I decided to try out the pedals just for a very short 1km lap round the house, just to see what happened. I pulled on my clown shoes, got into Millie… and couldn’t clip in. Whatever I tried, no way. I couldn’t possible ride without being clipped in, and I was getting cold as I was just fiddling about trying to clip the pedals in, so I gave up, went inside into the warm with the shoes and looked at photos online of Look KEO cleats. What I had on the Clown Bike Shoes looked like KEOs but I couldn’t be sure. Whatever, they were pretty old and worn out.

So I ordered a new pair of cleats, cheap Look knock-off ones, but should theoretically be correct.

Three days later they arrived. They were definitely different to the cleats on the Clown Bike Shoes so they must have been SPD-SL. One learns something every day.

I went back down to Millie and hurrah! They clipped in straight away!

So it was time for my first little ride… a short 11.85km up to Stenden but back along the cycle path (rather than the road) because it was dusk and the road was busy. And it seems my average wattage at the pedals was 100. I found I accidentally unclipped several times which was a bit unnerving as there is a special pod thingy attached to these überexpensive pedals that might get accidentally kicked and that could be €€€, but fortunately the pods were unscathed.

For those who are interested, this is what Garmin thought of that ride:

As you can see, I was actually working quite hard (heart rate 151) for my fairly low speed (22.4). It’s winter and Millie runs Durano Plus tyres at the front which are more sluggish in colder temperatures. It was also interesting to see that my left leg provides more power than my right.

The next day I decided to do a longer ride, and to try and ride at a relatively comfortable pace for me. I had a planned route which I shortened a bit as I needed the loo and I can’t safely get in and out of the Milan with the Clown Bike Shoes as the heels have no grip at all and it is the heels I use to push myself out of the cockpit. It was pretty scary each time I had to get out, so I wanted to reduce the necessity as much as possible!

And here are the figures again,

Slower heart rate, similar average power. It looks like I am a 100watt woman.

The third ride was the next day and this time trying to follow Klaus (and not succeeding very well). I felt pretty pooped generally, after having done my longer ride the day before. This time my average power was only 89 watts for the 22km ride.

Because of the scary slippery shoes, and the expensive gadgetry, I removed the pedals after these three rides. We might try again to fit them to Emily so Klaus can have a go, but if we can’t get the pedals off Emily then we’ll just return them to Gabi with many thanks for the opportunity to learn a bit more about my cycling power.

I had learned what I had to. Which was that I average 100 watts or less at the pedals on shorter rides.

I then spent a little time looking at wattage calculators with drag coefficients for Velomobiles, tyre types, altitude, temperature etc etc. It seems that Millie loses up to 26 watts between pedals and where the back wheel hits the road. I am not sure if this is a realistic calculation but when I put all my info into the wattage calculator (including my weight etc) it suggests that to ride the speed I did for the distance I did, I should have been using 74 watts rather than 100. So perhaps this gives a clue as to Millie’s losses through dirty chain, chain tubes, idlers, tyres etc. It’s a very inexact science but it gives me some information at least… and that is that some extra watts would be very welcome. Let’s face it,  Klaus can probably put out 150-200 watts when riding as he’s a chap with good leg muscles and is less lardy. And I am trying to keep up with him in a velomobile which is maybe 5% faster than Emily.

One way of increasing wattage is to lose loads of weight, do lots of interval training, and generally have a miserable cake-free life. The other way is to build a motor into the crank area of the Milan to help with acceleration and hills. You can probably guess which option I have decided on…

More about the new powered Millie next month.

A trip to Kiel and Usedom

Usedom is a place that Klaus has visited loads of times over the last twenty or so years and he has a very special affinity with it. As there were a public holiday on 1 November, which was a Thursday, we decided to take the Friday off work and have a four day trip to Usedom (by car).

Usedom is a very long way away, 800km or so, so I suggested that we drove halfway there on the Thursday and then stayed somewhere overnight, before continuing on to Usedom. This was to reduce the driving for Klaus as he had to do a lot of driving at the beginning of the week too. We decided to visit friend Gerda who lives in Kiel and arranged to see her in the evening.

We drove to Kiel and as we were a little early for Gerda we decided to visit a submarine which is a museum display.

This submarine was sold after the war to Norway and was in use until 1962 as a training boat. In 1965 it was returned to Germany and once it was in Kiel it was returned to its wartime state and turned into a museum.

Having watched films like Das Boot over the last decades it was very cool to finally walk around a submarine and see how small it is and also how incredibly complicated with all those pipes and valves and wheels etc!

Above is the engine room, below the battery compartment.

The sub was full of these wonderful dials.

The radio room had lots of stations to listen to!

I liked the colour coding for the millions of wheels…

This is looking up to the hatch on the sail. In Das Boot people slide down the ladder – it was actually a long way!

Torpedo room with a torpedo, which was enormous!

It was really good looking around this submarine. You can read more about it on Wikipedia here.

We then went to our hotel to book in and soon after headed off into the centre of Kiel to meet Gerda at her apartment.

Andreas her former partner was also there. He and Gerda both have lots of Velomobile experience so we had some great conversation which carried on to dinner together that evening in a very tasty Mexican restaurant. We learned a lot from Gerda and Andreas, and he was particularly interesting with reference to structural issues on Velomobiles, it seems he is knowledgeable about this. We also heard a few horror stories about new Velomobiles being delivered with lots of faults.

Gerda had previously had a Milan GT velomobile in a wonderful blue colour but had recently sold it as she wasn’t using it enough and had had some issues with it when touring in Finland in the summer. It seems that there can be quite a lot of teething issues with Milans as well as with Quattrovelos!

Here are Gerda and I enjoying our Mexican meal.

After a lovely evening we drove back to our hotel. We would set out the next morning to Usedom.

We had a good breakfast in the hotel and as we were checking out we noticed some certificates on the wall of the hotel. The hotel owner and his wife had both received certificates for completing 60 years of service in the hotel industry. Not only that, the certificates were dated 2009! These people had been working for nearly 70 years! We were very impressed. You can only do this if you really love your job.

We had a short walk to see the Kiel Canal (or, as it’s called in German, the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) which was a few hundred metres from our hotel, and then we set off in the direction of Usedom. Rather than taking the main motorway we largely followed the route we took by velomobile in the summer of 2017, which brought back some great memories.

We were staying again at Gästehaus Schulz in Seebad Ahlbeck on Usedom, where we had stayed whilst on our Velomobile tour to Usedom. The owners remembered us and our excellent bikes and we had another wonderfully comfortable stay there.

Once we arrived we bought some salad and bread from the local Netto and just ate our evening meal in the room. We didn’t have too much energy after a lot of driving!

The view out of our window the next morning was rather lovely!

We had arranged to see friends Rebecca and Henry late afternoon, so as we had a bit of time we went for a drive around. Klaus wanted to show me some of the Feininger Cycle Route (Feininger was a celebrated artist who featured lots of Usedom scenes). This included going to the Achterwasser lake which is sometimes separated from the Baltic by just the thinnest strip of land.

As you can see, it was a little windy so there were some waves. As this was the beginning of November there weren’t many tourists but we weren’t entirely alone walking around at Kamminke, which is right on the border with Poland. As I didn’t have my passport with me, and as Brits don’t have any ID cards, we didn’t go to Poland this time as I would be in trouble if stopped by the police!

From Kamminke we drove just a kilometre or so to the Golm War Cemetery which is on the highest spot on Usedom island (69 metres). It is one of the largest war graves sites in Germany, but does not have the thousands of crosses; instead it has just a few, placed around the rolling ground and among the trees, to mark where many thousands are buried.

Visiting in autumn with bright sunlight made it a very moving experience.

This main memorial bears the inscription That never again a mother mourns her son., a line from the East German national anthem “Auferstanden aus Ruinen”.  The text was previously in copper, but that was stolen. So they replaced it with plastic letters, but they were again stolen. So now it is painted on. Unbelievable!

There had also been similar problems with the plaques on some of the grave areas, which are now replaced with plastic items as metal had been stolen. It feels so appalling that people do this.

There was also a small building which housed a compact but interesting history of the war at Swinemünde (just over the border in now Poland, now called Świnoujście). Swinemünde had been Prussian/German for hundreds of years but was heavily  bombed during the war. After the war the new border was created with Swinemünde now lying in Poland and the German residents were shipped westwards. The museum/exhibition focussed on just a few people – Germans, Dutch, Poles; soldiers, conscripts, civilians; and talked about how the war had affected them.

We walked back to the car and then drove on a little further for a fish lunch. Klaus remembered a nice little café where he had previously had a good fish bread roll… but as we arrived it had gone quite upmarket and was now a proper restaurant. We stopped and ate a proper lunch which was rather pricier than the expected Fischbrötchen but was tasty.

We walked along to look at the Achterwasser again after this – a different area without much wind so it was much calmer.

It was then time to meet up with Rebecca and Henry. We had a lovely evening in their usual wine bar, enjoying the tapas and Klaus the wine (I was on orange juice and tea of course!).

The next morning it was time to drive the 800km back home from Usedom, but first we had a chance to catch up with Klaus’s photography friend Tim who owns a large hotel on Usedom. We chatted to him and it was very pleasant to spend time with him again. Then we headed off back towards Kempen, stopping a couple of times on the way (including for some Motoway Service Station cake which isn’t quite up to the usual standard).

We were both pretty tired after the long drive and I have sort-of resolved not to do journeys this long in one day again, but the whole long weekend was very enjoyable, particularly catching up with friends again.

Choir concert

I sing with the Willicher Musikprojekt and we practice the whole year for two concerts in November. I was very lucky this year that I caught my cold early enough that I was mostly over it by the time we had our performances.

The first concert was in Anrath church which can have a slightly tricky acoustic but it went well this time.

The second concert was in the Friedenskirche in Krefeld and Klaus came along, as did two friends Inge and Frank. It’s nice to have an audience!

We sang Joshua by Handel which is not one of his better-known oratorios but which was very good.

Next year we are singing Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem which should be very enjoyable!

Cakes this month

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – October 2018 (Month 55)

Oh look, the title of this post has changed again! We are no longer in 13 Wheels but are now down to 9 wheels. This is because Humphrey has left us and gone for a new life in Düsseldorf.

But first, here is where I cycled this month:

And these are the distances I rode, largely commuting:

You can see on that list that I used three different Velomobiles: Millie (of course), Humphrey and also Bertie.

Humphrey leaves home

As I have probably mentioned before, Klaus had his own QuattroVelo on order since last December and he was using Humphrey after Celeste got damaged. We had seen Emily his new QuattroVelo arrive in Dronten but ended up having to wait almost two months for Emily to be prepared and to have the necessary adjustments and swing arm strengthening carried out.

As we knew the time that Emily would come to us was nearing, I decided to put Humphrey up for sale. I had several enquiries and one of which was from a chap in Düsseldorf who wanted to come and have a look. He wanted to come the following day, a Saturday, but I would be out at choir so Klaus said he would talk to the chap in my stead. This was all fine.

So Thomas arrived with his friend who has a DF and they both tested Humphrey and had a good chat with Klaus. I arrived whilst they were still there and we had some more chats and then started a minor bit of price haggling. We ended up both happy with our price (I hope!).

They wanted to pick Humphrey up as soon as possible, and in fact both had the day off work the following Monday. So we agreed they could come after I finished work on Monday. Thomas would get the train, his friend would cycle there in the DF, and they would ride back together. This was before Emily had arrived so Klaus was looking rather forlorn.

The day came. Humphrey was prepared. He had a change of tyres, all his odds and ends such as battery charger, touch up paint, etc were gathered together and a few minutes after I got home from work, Thomas was at the door.

He had a cup of tea and handed me some small green pieces of paper (Quattrovelos hold their value quite well) and then he started doing some final adjustments to the boom length, etc.

Before too long his friend in the DF arrived.

The DF rider had cycled through Krefeld on his way here which is a very bad idea, so I suggested they routed back via Traar, Uerdingen, the Rhein Deich and then Kaiserswerth. This seemed a good idea but as they didn’t know the route I offered to ride with them as far as Traar/Uerdingen as the route from there on was pretty simple. They were pleased with this idea, especially when we decided to go first to Kempen for an ice cream.

We all got into the velomobiles ready to head off for an ice cream… and Thomas said he just couldn’t clip his shoes into the pedals. He tried and tried, no luck. Most odd. He climbed out and showed me he shoes – he had the wrong cleats! When he had test ridden Humphrey on the Saturday he had brought different shoes, and they had the correct SPD cleats.

I remembered that I had an old pair of SPD cleats on my Shimano boots which I no longer use (feet don’t get very cold in velomobiles) so I fetched the boots and we then had the fun of removing rusted-on and muddy cleats from shoes to which they have been attached for many years. But we had success in the end!

Fortunately these cleats fitted, although the shoes Thomas had were also a bit bulky and he had some rubbing of the heels so will probably buy himself something a bit more compact. You don’t tend to need super warmth from shoes in velomobiles so normal summer shoes which are less bulky ought to be fine.

We rode steadily to Kempen as Thomas really started to get used to Humphrey. And as we parked he had the first experience of a Velomobile owner… a thousand questions from passers-by. But we eventually escaped and enjoyed our ice creams.

It was nice and relaxing and a beautiful day to be out on the bikes. But eventually it was time to head off to Traar/Uerdingen. As we returned to the bikes various passers-by wanted photos so Thomas and his chum posed.

We headed to Hüls but not taking the direct route (as the road isn’t so nice) but a slight diversion via St Hubert. It was all good practice for Thomas to get used to riding on roads. He followed me at a good pace, he had no trouble with putting the power down although he had not owned a velomobile before. We arrived in Traar and I decided at that point to wave goodbye as the route from there was clear. So we stopped beside the road and I said my goodbyes to Humphrey. I wasn’t sad as he hadn’t been the right velomobile for me and I am happy he is going to someone who will appreciate him much more.

In the time we have had Humphrey, since February 2018, I have cycled 1,145 km and Klaus had cycled 9,204 km so Humphrey had done just over 10,000 km. Not bad!

Emily and Bertie arrive!

Having seen Emily back in August, it seemed a long wait until she was ready to be collected. This process was speeded up a bit by me emailing Velomobiel.nl and telling them that Humphrey was sold and Klaus was rather missing having a Quattrovelo. He did ride Celeste a couple of times but found her harder work. He wanted his Quattrovelo!

Anyway, Velomobiel.nl were able to prepare Emily for collection the following weekend, and this would also be the opportunity for me to collect Bertie the Versatile from Ligfietsshop Tempelman, where he had been waiting for six weeks or so for me to come and get him.

We had borrowed Ralf’s Sprinter again, but this time the smaller one as we would only be bringing Bertie back in the Sprinter. Klaus wanted to ride home of course – this is velomobile tradition for him! Because we knew he probably wouldn’t set off till the afternoon we booked a Vrienden op de Fiets place just north of Apeldoorn in Vaassen. We would both have bikes there but I would actually be coming by Sprinter. I asked the host if that was OK and he said yes, fortunately (so I didn’t have to park the Sprinter somewhere and ride Bertie a km or so to the accommodation).

We arrived in Dronten at ten o’clock and Allert immediately started getting Emily set up for Klaus. This included seat positioning, which takes a while, and then also boom length. Klaus decided he wanted the boom slightly closer to his body as he had just begun to get some hip pain in Humphrey and wondered if this was because he was rocking his hips due to the stretch for his legs to the pedals being slightly too far.

As usual there was lots going on at Velomobiel.nl with people coming and going – it’s always interesting to be there and chat to people.

Emily looked good!

She originally had all Shredda tyres. He had ordered other tyres but not everything was available so the front tyres were changed to some Continental ones – by Klaus.

Allert also changed the ‘head out’ hood to the ‘Alien haube’ (covered one) as Klaus wanted to start out by using that. I would transport the other hood home in the Sprinter. Theo fitted a tiller hanger, and some other small jobs were done.

Then it was time to do a few circuits to check how everything was.

There were a couple more adjustments of the boom and seat before it was right, but it’s important to spend time on this.

Whilst Klaus was doing this, I went and collected Bertie from Gerrit Tempelman.

I did a couple of circuits too, whilst a couple of minor things were also done by Gerrit. It’s a very strange feeling being back in a Versatile.

It was time for Klaus to head off on his journey to Vaassen, and I would go first to Intercity Bike to collect a new battery and visor for Ralf. I had also picked up a carbon fibre repair kit for Hartmut from Velomobiel.nl.

Klaus headed off and had a great ride. He said that Emily made different noises to Humphrey – less banging and crashing at the back, more noises from the front drivetrain – but she went well and he really enjoyed himself.

He took these photos on the way.

During his journey he had the experience of being stopped by the Dutch police! This was because he had crossed from the cycle path to the road about 150m before he had to turn left, knowing that the cycle path would probably have too sharp an angle for the Quattrovelo’s turning circle. The police saw him on the road, not on the path, and stopped him. He unfortunately didn’t have the magic bit of paper which shows he is allowed to ride on the road (we now each have a laminated copy in our Velomobile bags, one side Dutch, one German) and they said they weren’t interested in his safety (it was safer to be on the road at that point), just in following the rules. They asked where he was cycling and he said to Kempen, so they said because he had such a long journey ahead they wouldn’t fine him. A bit random! But more encouragement to always have the piece of paper with the relevant laws printed on it so police can be persuaded we’re really not shocking criminals.

I drove directly from Dronten to Vaassen and arrived about fifteen minutes before Klaus. The Vrienden op de Fiets place was fantastic, we had an entire thatched cottage to ourselves!

Inside was very quaint!

The upstairs had six beds, but there was also a bedroom downstairs which we used. I didn’t fancy walking down those stairs in the night without a handrail!

After a bit of a relax we walked into Vaassen itself to find some dinner. Vaassen has a very nice castle!

We had a reasonable meal and then walked back again, enjoying the fresh air.

The next morning started with a fantastic breakfast which we enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Klaus then set off homewards and I hung around a bit longer as we planned to meet in Kalkar for cake and Klaus needed a bit of a head start. I had a very enjoyable hour and a half chatting to our Vrienden op de Fiets host who restores old cars.

Eventually I set off, heading for Kalkar. In the end Klaus arrived five minutes before me – he was much quicker than I expected!

We enjoyed a slice of cake each, and two cuppas.

Then Klaus headed off again and I spent ten minutes trying to find where I had parked the Sprinter. I then drove home, filling up the Sprinter as I reached Kempen. When I got home Hartmut had just arrived to collect his carbon repair kit, and I’d only just made him a cup of tea before Klaus arrived. Klaus seemed to have cycled the distance in only slightly more time than it took me to drive it in a Sprinter and then fill the thing up with Diesel. Velomobiles for the win!

Our plan was to deliver Bertie in the Sprinter to our second garage for the time being as I needed to do some things to him before I could ride him to work, and we didn’t have any time left that weekend – and we didn’t have space for him in the main garage. We also decided to take some of our spare bicycle tyres to the garage. We decided to keep a seat of immediate spares we might need over the next few months in the main garage next to our house, and put the rest in the second garage, so we chucked the extras in the Sprinter with Bertie. But first I took a photo so I could remember what we had:

18 inch tyres:

  • 2 Schwalbe Kojak

20 inch tyres:

  • 4 Durano Plus (2 kept as spares additionally in our main garage)
  • 2 F-Lites (Gocycle)
  • 1 Marathon Greenguard (3 kept as spares in our main garage)
  • 7 nu-traks (1 loose, 6 in a large cardboard box)
  • 2 continental Grand Prix

26 inch tyres:

  • 1 Schwalbe Kojak (1 Marathon as spare in the main garage)

It seems we don’t need to buy any tyres for a while.

We took Bertie, the tyres and the second hood for Emily to the other garage and unloaded everything.

We then took the Sprinter back to Ralf with thanks again for letting us use it!

All in all a very successful weekend with Emily and Bertie both coming to live with us.

In the eleven days since Klaus collected Emily he has cycled 600 km so you can see he’s getting on well with her! He’s also had his first puncture before heading to work in the dark at 6:30am which was less nice for him, that was in a rear Shredda tyre.

I have started using Bertie for my work commute and have ridden in him three times at the end of October.

It was particularly useful to ride him on a very windy and rainy day. I would have been soaked in Millie but was fine in Bertie.

Average commute speed is about 17.5 km/h to 18.5 km/h, so that’s about 3 km/h slower than in Millie. But in a 4km commute that only equates to a couple of minutes so no problem!

Having ridden Bertie with the pedals in the forward position I need to really shift them to the back position, as I had in Penelope, as that is more comfortable for me. I have the instructions on how to do it from Gerrit Tempelman; he says it’s not complicated but is rather fiddly. We will have to choose a warm weekend day when we haven’t go much else to do before we attempt it, as I think it will involve quite a lot of lying on the ground trying to do things through the footholes.

An Orca at Rose Biketown

Klaus wanted to buy some winter boots for his commutes so he cycled to Rose Biketown and I drove (lazy!). Outside we spotted an Orca!

Klaus and the owner had a good chinwag. This guy’s Orca has a motor but he seems to reach very impressive speeds, averaging around 30-31 on his commute.

 

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of delicious cakes which I or my companions enjoyed this month!

And, just as a note, there are some other reasons to visit cafes rather than just cake. Look at the view we found at one café!

And adding to the cake gallery, we have this month’s Cheddar finds.

Aldi used to supply vintage cheddar which is of course a basic food staple for Brits. Unfortunately they have now stopped stocking it. Oh no!

Fortunately a week later I discovered Lidl were doing a special offer on Cheddar and other British cheeses and stocked up.

I went back the next week to get some more and they had sold out! Fortunately we passed another Lidl a few days later and got the remainder of their Cheddar stock, including three blocks of 1kg. I guess this will last a week or two.

 

So that’s the end of this month’s report. Not much to say except bikes this month, but November is looking interesting as we’re taking another trip to Usedom on the Baltic Sea, plus I have my choir concert.

As always, I would love to receive any comments. Do get in touch!

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – September 2018 (Month 54)

Cycling this month.

This year continues with Klaus doing mega kilometres (he’s now on just about 11.000) and me doing significantly fewer.

My total for September was 352km and was almost all commutes except for a couple of longer rides. I used Humphrey for my work commute twice too, because of bad weather/need for large boot for shopping.

And here is where I went:

This month I put Humphrey up for sale in preparation for the arrival of Emily, Klaus’s Quattrovelo. We have had several enquiries but nothing firm yet.

This month I also ended up removing one of Millies front wheels to change a spoke. The spoke went ‘ping’ under heavy braking which was odd but I decided I’d tackle it myself as Jochen, the usual spoke-replacer, was unavailable. Klaus had gone out and I had a couple of hours before I had to leave for choir so I gave it a go.

It is a bit of a fiddly job as you have to undo some nuts with very little room but I managed it, replaced the poke and then fitted it all back together again.

I have decided life would be much easier if I had a shorter spanner so I will buy one and cut it down to size, I think, before the next spoke replacement.

A trip to Heidelberg

Klaus’s mother’s funeral took place on a Friday afternoon so as we had the day off work we decided to stay overnight in Heidelberg and do a bit of exploring.

I didn’t attend the funeral so as not to upset Klaus’s ex-wife so instead he dropped me off at Bensheim, a local town, and I wandered around a bit.

Bensheim is twinned with Amersham, and this twinning seemed to be pretty successful!

The plan was for me to take the train to Heidelberg and Klaus would join me later after the funeral.

It was lovely to be on a German train again – a reminder of all my bike tours and other visits over the last twenty years.

I arrived in Heidelberg and made my way to the hotel, which was situated right on the edge of the pedestrian zone in a narrow street.

Klaus was on his way to Heidelberg by car and had soon parked in a local car park and made his way on foot to the hotel.

After a bit of a relax we headed off to have a look around Heidelberg, including its famous bridge over the Neckar river.

Heidelberg has an impressive castle just a little way up the mountain.

That evening we enjoyed a lovely Italian meal and were joined by Klaus’s friend Martin for a good chinwag.

The next morning our plan was to visit the technical museum in Sinsheim but on the way we drove up to the Königsstuhl to have a look down on the town.

The Technical Museum in Sinsheim is the sister Museum to one in Speyer. What was interesting about the Sinsheim museum was its two rather impressive aircraft:

It also had a British plane outside with a rather suitable number plate for me:

The museum is great, with two large halls filled with different cars, planes, motorbikes and more.

It was interesting to be able to walk underneath Concorde, and also inside.

They also had the Tupolev T-144 (or Concordski)

Inside Concordski there was more room as it was wider. I liked this instrument panel!

And of course a big difference between the two, the canard.

It was interesting to see these two planes and it’s sad to think that we seem unable to make this technology cost effective now. It was also interesting to read how they managed to transport the planes here – mostly by barge.

It was lovely to see an Isetta in very good condition.

They actually had a lot of really valuable cars, and it looks as though some of them are still used.

We spent several hours looking around and then called in on Klaus’s father on our way home. An interesting weekend and a nice relaxing time as well, despite Klaus attending a funeral.

A trip to the UK

September is the month when I have my annual review at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. This is following the humerus and elbow replacement I had almost 25 years ago.

We always combine this with a few days on holiday in the UK with my Mum, and did the same this time, travelling overnight on the Tuesday night so that we had a couple of free days in the UK. We were also celebrating my sister’s 50th birthday.

The hospital visit went well as usual. A week before I had visited the Deutsches Museum in Bonn with Gudula and Frank and they had an example there of an elbow replacement so it was interesting to see.

This time I saw a lady Registrar and she said that they would discharge me as I had no change in my arm over the last ten years and everything was looking good. This tied in with Brexit really, so I wasn’t too disappointed (it is encouraging to be checked regularly by such an expert team). She said that if I have any problems I can phone them and they will recommend a suitable orthopaedic department in Germany. So it is the end of an era.

Whilst in England I also visited my father’s grave in the local church. The issue of graves and how they are maintained has been in our thoughts recently following the death of Klaus’s mother. The way that Britain and Germany do this is very different.

In the UK you can buy a burial plot and once you are buried you put up a headstone and that is that. The grave can be tended by you or not, as you wish. The church will probably keep the graveyard mostly tidy but it’s a higgledy-piggledy place with graves everywhere.

In Germany the graveyard is tightly managed and if your headstone starts to lean even slightly you will have to pay a stonemason to re-set it. They have millimetre-accurate measuring devices in the cemeteries and they will condemn your headstone and send you the bill for it if you don’t do anything. But this is only for 25 years anyway, after that point you are dug up (unless you pay for longer). Graveyards are well tended (generally) and everything is flat and level.

For the Germans amongst my readers who have perhaps not seen a UK graveyard, here are a few photos from the graveyard where my father is buried. Some of these graves are over 200 years old, perhaps more as the stones are so covered in lichen I can no longer read the inscriptions!

And what if you are cremated? In the UK the relatives are given the urn with the ashes and can have them buried or can scatter them somewhere suitable if desired. In Germany scattering of ashes is never allowed, but the urn can be buried – in a graveyard, at great expense, and for 25 years again. Once the 25 years is up the urn is dug up and thrown away. You cannot take possession of the urn itself, it has to remain at the undertakers’ or another official place at great expense. I am starting to think of ways of getting myself repatriated on death so I can be buried in a lovely calm churchyard like this, or my ashes scattered in woodland or something!

Klaus and I had a day visiting my relatives, including seeing my niece’s new puppy, a cross between a Dachshund and a Miniature Schnauzer. He (‘Chip’) was really sweet but rather intelligent and full of energy. His face looked remarkably like Poppy’s but I guess he will end up a little shorter than her. And probably never meet her. We celebrated my sister’s 50th birthday with an all-you-can-eat curry buffet at her local tandoori. It turns out that you can eat-more-than-you-should in such circumstances.

On the Saturday that we were returning to England we had a trip to Aldeburgh and walked along the beach (after having a cream tea). I also visited the Aldeburgh lifeboat station.

We were very lucky with the weather on this trip, having sunshine every day. Klaus and I also took the opportunity for some shopping – he bought two suits and a jacket, I bought M&S undies as usual, and we restocked the teabag, curry paste and Cream Tea supplies for the next few months.

I shared a cream tea with my colleagues on Monday.

We’ll be back in England for Christmas so I will see how well my 1400 teabags have lasted.

We arrived home on Sunday morning to a nice sunrise at Hoek van Holland.

Cakes this month.

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – August 2018 (Month 53)

Cycling this month

This month I cycled less than I might have expected for a summer month, but I am happy to ride just when I feel like it and not overdo it. Klaus is doing loads of riding as it makes him feel good, but I am taking it a bit more easily, as you can see from the information below about my rides.

And here is where I went this month:

The start of August continued really hot, and I decided eventually to use the heat to do a job I should have done a long time ago – replace the Union Jack sticker on the back of Millie. The sticker I bought two years ago was from a BMW mini and the quality was a bit poor (it was very cheap!) and the colour had been worn away where my fingers used to grip Millie’s rear to move her (before I had the lift hole put in).

Anyway, I had originally planned to get a local firm to do it but then I decided it would be worth trying myself, as a good sized roll of vinyl wrap is only 6 Euros. So I ordered blue and red (and also black for the Versatile when it returns from service) and chose a warm day (helps vinyl to be stretched and to stick) to do the job.

Firstly I had to take the old sticker off. It left most of the adhesive behind (of course!) so I used a lot of elbow grease. When I finished there were a couple of stubborn lines of adhesive where the edge of the sticker had been. I remembered I had some isopropyl alcohol upstairs and that cleared the adhesive in no time at all. If I had remembered it earlier I could have used it to avoid 2 hours of elbow grease. But never mind.

I didn’t have a great plan of how to do the flag on Millie, I decided to just see how easy it was to work the vinyl. The red stripes were really easy, it turned out.

I could only do one stripe before I had to return indoors to cool down, so the procedure was quite slow. I cut a template from a large sheet of paper and then used that to cut the vinyl.

The blue bits in between were easy below the middle but the upper section on both sides was horrendous due to the curved shape at the top. It took 6 goes on one side and 2 on the other, and I am not happy with either really. But I ran out of blue having wasted so much…

Still, it was a huge improvement over the old sticker and the blue is nice and shiny.

A couple of days later I took Millie inside our office building due to mega rain. I think she looks pretty good in our reception area!

———————

Celeste is now in Ralf’s Warehouse at his home so our second garage only had Alfie the trike in for this month. Which was rather handy, as there was renovation work going on and there was no chance to get to our garage! Our garage is the closed door between the two open doors in this photo.

And the exit route is not exactly Velomobile-friendly!

The owner is working on clearing everything away and it is just about possible to reach the garage now. I won’t need it for a few weeks yet, but fairly soon the new Versatile will appear so it will be used to store Millie or the Versatile at that time.

————-

One of our Sunday rides took us to Café Winthuis and from there we decided to pop to Weeze airport to have a look around. This used to be an RAF station and it turns out there is a museum there. It wasn’t open on Sunday morning but is open Sunday afternoons so I would like to go and have a look around sometime.

We watched a couple of Ryanair planes arrive, and lots of holidaymakers walk past, and then decided to head home via a different route. We managed to find a bicycle-only route out of the airport which went directly to the Netherlands, so we rode home along the oft-used Ceresweg route and then up to Straelen, where we stopped for a waffle.

We had to fight away the wasps a lot. It’s been a pretty waspy time in August.

A visit to Dronten for a Humphrey repair

Klaus and I were riding home from Moers after meeting for cake one evening when I challenged him to ride up the really steep hill to Tönisberg. Despite having worked all day and ridden to work and most of the way back (85km) he seemed game for the challenge and headed off up the very steep hill. I said I’d meet him at home and went on my way after watching him disappear over the brow of the hill.

When he arrived home he had some news – the gears had stopped working, they were constantly jumping and skipping around. He thought it was perhaps a broken gear cable, but when we looked we realised it was something worse – a crack in the aluminium frame that holds the sprocket hanger.

This view was not novel to us, as velomobile chum Gerd had had a very similar issue when riding the Hamburg Berlin Köln Hamburg a couple of weeks before:

We knew this meant a trip to Dronten to have the rear swing arm/axle disassembled and a new part welded, but fortunately Ralf had the Sprinter available to us and velomobiel.nl could fit us in for the repair.

Klaus had originally planned to do a 3 day cycle tour with a couple of other velomobile chaps to Zeeland in the west of the Netherlands (before Humphrey broke), and I had consequently arranged for a little trip myself to Leeuwarden, travelling by train and taking the dog as Gudula and Frank were away. I had booked myself a room in a most interesting hostel.

Once we realised Klaus would need to drive to Dronten, I suggested we made a weekend of it – that he stayed in Leeuwarden with me on the Saturday night and then, if he felt like it, rode Humphrey home on the Sunday. Klaus was still thinking about riding 300km and from Leeuwarden to Kempen is 270 so a good opportunity to do that long ride. So that was the plan…

We set off bright and early on the Saturday with Poppy the dog taking her turn as driver.

We arrived at Velomobiel.nl at ten in the morning, parked the van and then a large truck stopped behind us. The driver asked if we were leaving in the next few minutes as he had to make a delivery; we said no, we would be there a while (the repair to Humphrey was expected to take about four hours).

The truck driver told us he had driven from Romania. Aha! we thought. A delivery of new velomobiles… perhaps Klaus’s QuattroVelo is onboard. The guy opened the doors and…

Top right hand side looked rather like a blue and cream QuattroVelo. And when it was brought out of the truck, it was indeed Emily, Klaus’s new velomobile.

There were four QuattroVelos and a Quest on the truck:

There was also another British Racing Green QuattroVelo but with a white top rather than cream. Here is a picture with Humphrey on the right and the other on the left.

While we were there a guy turned up from Denmark to collect the British Racing Green and White Quattrovelo.

It was interesting to note that the green colour on this other QV was definitely more blue and less yellow than Humphrey’s, despite the fact it theoretically is exactly the same paint, bought from BMW Mini. What we also noticed was that the paint wasn’t as well done on the new QVs when they were two-tone, with the location of the join not always ideal. You can see on the photo below of Poppy and Emily, that the point of the paintwork on Emily’s nose is slightly to the right.

It was great to meet Emily and Klaus has clearly chosen an excellent colour!

Whilst we were there we also noticed a familiar-looking orange Strada arrive. Yes, it was Roef, coming for a repair to his rear light and a couple of other minor things. Small world!

Now on to the work on Humphrey.

Allert had to remove the entire rear swing-arm, which involves removing the rear wheels first. Once out, the entire rear area with the suspension gubbins was surprisingly empty!

The rear axle now had to be disassembled. I wasn’t watching this bit, I was out on a walk with the dog, but Klaus said it was rather complicated.

And then we could reach the broken bit on the axle.

Interestingly, the fault we had was not the same as that on Gerd’s Quattrovelo although the resulting break looked the same. Our seemed to be that there was an air gap between two pieces of aluminium where they should have been flush together. This enabled a small amount of movement that eventually caused the crack.

Whilst Humphrey’s swing arm was out, Allert added the extra welds that are being added to all QVs now due to a number of frame failures with earlier models.

This was all very exciting for Poppy so she needed a sleep. I popped her in the Sprinter and she found a decent pillow.

Allert put the swing-arm back into Humphrey.

Then it was just time for a test-ride (Klaus said all was fine – there were now different noises from the back but they were marginally quieter) and then we packed Humphrey into the Sprinter and headed off to Leeuwarden.

A visit to Leeuwarden

After we left Dronten we headed on the 110km drive to Leeuwarden.

As mentioned before, I had chosen the accommodation when booking just for myself coming by train. I like quirky things, and so couldn’t resist Alibi Hostel, which is inside a former prison!

There is a large series of buildings which have been converted into shops but also a section (Block H no less) has been retained in its prison form and is now the hostel.

The ground floor has shops, hairdressers etc. Floors 2 and 3 are the cells for the hostel.

The door to our cell:

And inside the cell. As it was a hostel we didn’t have en-suite bathroom and had to make our own beds up and strip them afterwards.

(Klaus is here making his one allowed phone call…)

The view out of the barred window:

And the door has now closed behind us…

We were asked if we wanted breakfast. I said yes of course, but was a little surprised that Klaus also agreed to it as he was planning his long ride the next day and breakfast didn’t start until 08:00. However, he knew he would need some fuel for the ride and there aren’t so many food options in NL on a Sunday morning.

We went out for an explore in Leeuwarden, dragging Poppy the dog along with us of course.

Within Blokhuispoort was this rather interesting artwork.

Leeuwarden is a very pretty town (as to be expected as it is the European Capital of Culture this year).

We found an Italian restaurant for our evening meal. As usual in the Netherlands, it seemed very expensive, but the food was OK and it was nice to sit and relax and watch the world go by.

We returned to the prison and settled down to sleep. Tomorrow was Klaus’s big cycling day!

The next morning we were ready very early so decided to go and extract Humphrey from the Sprinter which we had parked about 200 metres away. This meant Klaus would be ready to ride as soon as he had finished breakfast.

Humphrey seemed to have passed a reasonable night in a small car park behind some shops. We took him for a walk back to the Hostel.

The canal was very beautiful in the morning light.

We parked Humphrey outside the prison and went in for breakfast.

Breakfast was the usual – toast bread, boiled egg, a few slices of cheese or very processed ham, tea and coffee. Nothing very special but we ate plenty to prepare for the day – and to get the money’s worth from 7.50 Euros per person.

And then it was time for Klaus to set off. I had originally planned to hang around in Leeuwarden until the shops opened at 13:00 but decided very early on that was a waste of time as I had to check out of the prison by 11, so suggested to Klaus instead that we met for lunch in Elburg. He liked that plan!

After waving him off I stripped the beds as requested and chilled out a bit longer, before Poppy and I headed off to the Sprinter and to make our way to Elburg. Klaus had an hour and a half’s head start which wasn’t really enough as he had a four hour ride and we just needed one hour to drive. So when I was two thirds of the way to Elburg I stopped at a motorway parking place and checked on the tracker to see where Klaus was. Only 11km away! Very close to the motorway! So I decided to see if I could find him to give him some encouragement.

The tracker isn’t live unless you send it an SMS, it just sends a position every five minutes. So I headed to the last position, then when I was there I looked for the updated position and drove to that. I actually ended up doing lots of fiddly driving and I should have aimed a bit ahead of where Klaus seemed to be, but I didn’t have a copy of his route so didn’t know if he might suddenly unexpectedly strike off in a different direction. Every time I checked his position I parked the Sprinter of course, so it was a bit stop/start.

Eventually I knew he must be just around the corner – and he was, I caught sight of Humphrey who had just turned down a Wirtschaftsweg which is technically not for normal cars. But I drove down there anyway, and very quickly Klaus waved from Humphrey. He saw the giant blue Sprinter in his mirrors!

He stopped and we gave Poppy a chance for a sniff around.

After a five minute break I needed to turn the Sprinter round on what wasn’t a particularly wide road with a canal one side. I was rather hesitant during my 21 point turn, despite Klaus waving at me. The Sprinter felt a bit reluctant to roll  – the reason being the handbrake was slightly on, which I discovered once I was facing the right way and trying to drive off. Klaus went on his way and Poppy and I headed to Elburg.

We arrived in Elburg and had a little wander around, finding the least waspy café for lunch. I could see from the tracker that Klaus was about 10km away so I ordered an apple cake and a cuppa.

Klaus soon rolled into the centre of Elburg and was a brief distraction for all the diners. He had a sandwich and also a cake and took the time to really relax and drink. He said the route had been excellent, and he knew the rest of the route (apart from a stretch between Emmerich and Rees) was really good too. He was having a great ride!

After about an hour’s break Klaus headed on, with another 180km to home and perhaps an additional 30 required to make 300. Poppy and I drove straight to Ralf’s and swapped the Sprinter for Klaus’s car; I had wondered about hanging on to the Sprinter in case Klaus needed rescuing but Humphrey’s repair seemed to be fine and he was going well.

Klaus ended up riding 272km. About 15km from home in Sevelen he had to stop for 10 minutes as he had knee pain, and he had also had issues finding somewhere to eat and drink as the petrol station he planned on using in Doetinchem was closed and he had to carry on to Rees without much water. It was also dark for the final hour or so of his riding. In the end he decided to call it a day at the 272km when he reached home at 10:30pm – he had to get up at 5:30am the next morning for work so no point in riding for another hour and a half.

His total was 272.54km at an average speed of 25.5. He had purposely worked to keep his heart rate low and this had been successful with an average of 133 bpm. Contrast this with my 300km a few weeks before, when my average was 152 bpm.

It’s a lovely route and he would definitely like to do it again, but riding for 12 hours in a day is for Klaus, like me, a little too much. 200km is OK, but more becomes a bit dull as you always feel the pressure of time and can’t relax as much during breaks. But well done Klaus!

Balloon chasing

One Saturday morning Klaus and I were just bumbling about getting prepared for breakfast when we heard a strange sound. We quickly recognised it as burners from a hot air balloon, looked out of the window and saw a balloon really low overhead heading north. We watched it out of our kitchen window – it appeared to be coming into land. Klaus said, “Let’s chase it!”, so we threw on some cycling gear and headed off northwards towards Stenden. This reminds me of the balloon-chasing episode in Georgette Heyer’s novel Frederica, except we were riding velomobiles rather than a carriage with two horses.

Anyway, we soon saw that the balloon had landed just head of us, very near to the A40 motorway on a road next to a sweetcorn field.

Some cyclists had stopped in front of us as the path was blocked. We also saw the chase car arrive.

Klaus has previously had a balloon flight which he absolutely loved, and explained that you always offer to help with the balloon recovery, so we got out of the velomobiles and headed to be of some help. Well, with my disability I couldn’t really help, I just took photos, but Klaus got stuck in!

There were three passengers and the pilot in this small basket! Spot the velomobiles in the background!

The balloon had to be put into a huge bag. This involved lots of strength so they were probably very grateful that Klaus was there as the three passengers were all pretty elderly.

Once the balloon was in the bag they were allowed to sit on it to help reduce its size!

The last job was to heave the basket into the trailer.

After this they all had a drink and Klaus received a bottle of beer for his assistance and we chatted to them – mostly about velomobiles rather than balloons. The guy was very keen for Klaus to have another balloon flight and pressed his business card upon him.

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Preparations

I am really upset about Brexit and cannot believe what a mess it all seems to be. I am doing all that I can to prepare for a possible hard Brexit, although it’s tricky as there’s not actually much I can do about visas/permits to live here until the actual Brexit day.

But one thing I could do was change my driving licence for a German one. I had held off from doing this before as some of the things I am allowed to drive would be different, I had heard; I would have fewer categories of vehicles on my German licence. However, as I hadn’t ever really needed to drive these categories I thought it was OK.

I had to take my UK licence and passport to the Strassenverkehrsamt in Viersen where they took down details, took 20 Euro from me and said that I would be notified when the new licence was there.

Two weeks later I had a letter to say my new licence was ready and I would have to take my old one to give up. I cycled over there and picked up my new licence…

And here is an image of what I was able to drive on my old UK licence. As you see, I can drive most of these until I am 70 whereas the German licence only allows 5 years since the issue date of the UK licence it replaces (which was about two years ago). After that point I need a sight test and a medical approval to continue driving these classes of vehicle.

Still, the German licence doesn’t need to be renewed as often as the UK. Interestingly, there is no address on the German licence as they have the Ausweis for ID. I have had to explain to Germans several times than in the UK we use our licences as an unofficial ID card at times.

A quick visit to Mannheim

Klaus and I had an evening dash to his parents’ home near Mannheim on a Monday evening. This was because his mother, who had been very ill for some time, was reaching the end of her life. We arrived and Klaus spent some time with his mother, we talked to the palliative care nurse and then checked into a hotel. The following morning Klaus’s father rang him to say his mother had died at three in the morning. We will be returning to Mannheim so Klaus can attend the funeral in a few days’ time.

Cakes this month

Klaus and I have shared a fair few cakes this month, this is just a selection…

This is a low-carb Käse Sahne Torte which I made. Klaus liked it a lot, I was less keen (the sponge was a bit too hard). I am looking for a better recipe!

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