Category Archives: Six Wheels In Germany

Auntie Helen’s year in Germany with her Velomobile and Recumbent Trike

Nine Wheels in Germany – August 2019 (Month 65)

Cycling this month

I’m writing this two days before the end of the month as I will shortly be saying goodbye to my MacBook and heading off in the Velomobile to England. Here is where I cycled during the month of August, including the beginning of the England trip.

And here is where I went:

As it was very warm towards the end of August, I fetched Alfie out of the Summer Palace (our second rented garage) and used him for my work commute on a few days. The ride to work is fine temperature-wise, it was just the ride home at midday in temperatures of 33 degrees that was less inviting in a velomobile, plus I had to pop to the shops and get some groceries.

It’s always fun riding the trike, although it does feel slow! But the lovely morning sunrises have started.

As I am 48 years old and living in Germany I am allowed to wear socks with my sandals
Tile-bagging

Over the last few months I have written quite a bit about my tile-bagging, which is using the website at Veloviewer.com to show a grid of 1km squares and to award me the ’tile’ if I have cycled in any part of that 1km square. At the end of July/beginning of August my maximum square was 18×18 tiles

Tile-bagging gives a good purpose for a ride when you don’t have a specific reason to go somewhere, and it also means that you cover a wide area and visit places you might otherwise avoid. Such as Krefeld!

Tile-bagging Neukirchen Vluyn – 1 August

So I started August very well, as on the 1 August I did a quick 35km tile-bagging ride after work to get some missing tiles in Neukirchen Vluyn.

The route up to Neukirchen Vluyn is very nice (I had done a similar route with Klaus a couple of days before) and the roads round here are fast. This was easy, but the top right hand corner of my square is the easiest area as it’s still fairly close; as I get more tiles I have to travel further to get new ones, and will start heading into more built-up areas which is less appealing.

I am getting pretty good at planning my track too, and I use course points on my Garmin to show me each tile as I reach it. This gives a bit of encouragement on the longer rides, plus shows if there is somewhere that I can take a detour if necessary.

Tile-bagging in Krefeld – 2 August

One place that Klaus and I tend to avoid is Krefeld. This is partly because, despite being a fahrradfreundlicher Stadt, it is not very bike-friendly in our opinion. This is mainly down to the poor quality road surfaces which is of course related to the relative poverty of this town, especially when compared to rich Kempen just 10km away.

But I would have to ride through Krefeld to get the tiles, so I plotted a route (attempting to avoid the trams where possible) and headed out after work.

This was a very worthwhile route as it actually got me 24 tiles. It was also pleasanter than I thought as the route through Krefeld wasn’t too bad, although I had a 3km section on a road beside tram tracks; it’s not very relaxing riding between tram tracks and parked cars as you know if you are doored you will probably either break the nose of the velomobile on the car door or the suspension on the tram tracks. But I rode carefully and despite it being 3pm it didn’t seem too busy in Krefeld.

There was some fiddly stuff at the southernmost part of the track and I wasn’t sure if all the paths were asphalted but indeed they were, and I was able to return through Krefeld on a route which was also OK.

Klaus was cycling home from work which meant he wouldn’t be back till around 7pm so I had plenty of time on my ride. I stopped at a red traffic light and noticed a café beside the road so pulled in and awarded myself a slice of cake and a cuppa.

I actually really enjoyed my ride, despite having to go through Krefeld twice. Almost 61km but good fun on an afternoon after work. But I still had more Krefeld tiles to do!

Tile-bagging with Klaus in Repelen – 3 August

I was on a bit of a roll now with tile-bagging and Klaus also wanted to get some. I planned a route that would get me 7 tiles and these would probably also be new for him, as his square is a little smaller than mine. We set off at a comfortable pace and found ourselves on a few new roads, but the route was overall very good.

We decided we had deserved a piece of cake after this ride so headed to Kempen to café Peerbooms where there is always something suitable!

Tile-Bagging with Klaus near Venlo – 4 August

As it was the weekend (Sunday) Klaus had planned a longer route, to bag some tiles for him in Venlo. I had already done a very similar route to this so I actually would only get one new tile (near Arcen) on his original route, but I spotted that a slight detour of 100 metres north of Arcen would get us both a second tile. And in the end we got a third… via off-road means!

Klaus had originally planned the route boing anticlockwise, with a stop at Hofcafé Alt Bruch in Kaldenkirchen if necessary. However, I noticed that the route went past Jacobs Bauerncafé on the border with NL near Straelen and I wanted to show him their cake selection. So we decided to reverse the route, and also to set off a little later than normal as according to Google the Bauerncafé only opened at 14:00.

So after walking the dog we set off, riding directly to Kaldenkirchen on familiar roads (with a quick detour into Hofcafé Alt Bruch as I needed the loo!) and then we did some roads at the back of Kaldenkirchen which I had done a few weeks ago. From there we went into the Netherlands and this was on a different route than I had done.

Klaus had plotted a route which goes round a mini housing estate and then down a track, which was marked as no longer having asphalt about 100 metres before his Coursepoint, at which point his route turned around. We parked up at the end of the asphalt as he was trying to remember if we actually needed to go off-road to get the tile, or if he had put a good buffer in.

I checked with my veloviewer and saw that we did indeed need to go off-road, but that we did another 300 metres or so we could get another tile – one that I also needed. But the track looked even narrower so we didn’t know if it was passable.

We decided it was worth giving it a go, and set off. The first tile was easy as the surface under wheel was not too bad. But then we had to do a right turn, then another right to return to our original point.

At the first right turn we saw that the path was rather less rideable than the wide dirt track we had been on before.

But we decided to carry on – the prize of the tile was now only about 100 metres away!

And then we passed into the tile, and turned right again to go back to the road… whereupon the surface was even worse. But we struggled on, through long grass in places (but at least the velomobile body protects you from the stinging nettles) and eventually we popped back out into the housing estate. Success!

The route continued northwards and we ended up riding through Schandelo which I really liked when I rode there a week or two ago. There were some twists and turns on the route, plus some bits that we rode in both directions, but we ended up completing the NL tiles that Klaus had aimed for and then arrived at Bauerncafé Jacobs at a quarter past two.

Knowing that it opened at 2pm we were a bit astounded that it was so full – but the lady serving us said that Google was wrong and it opened at 10am. She said whenever they changed the info on Google someone changed it back. The service was very good as despite the large number of people we didn’t have to wait long at all for our cake and tea.

The final 25km goes by in a flash. This was a fun ride although I think I’m a bit more keen on the whole tile-bagging thing than Klaus, who tends to prefer more direct routes places.

Tile-bagging in Krefeld again – 7 August

Krefeld was an issue I had to ‘solve’ with the tile-bagging. Once it was done then I could always ride around it and wouldn’t have to risk cycling through. So I decided to get it sorted once and for all.

Klaus was seeing his daughter Lara after work so I had the evening to myself, so I decided to route for some Krefeld tiles and then end up at the Chinese noodle bar I like in Tönisvorst. So I did.

On this ride I went through some of the very nice bits of Krefeld – near Bockum, Linn, and then out into the countryside at Bösinghoven. I had been very brave and routed myself right through the centre of Krefeld on the way back, as there were some tiles I needed and I couldn’t be bothered to do a huge detour to avoid the city centre and still end up at Tönisvorst. But surprisingly the route was OK, except for Uerdinger Straße which had bumps in the cycle path which were like mini mountains!

I was riding through Krefeld in rush hour but it was actually OK.

I enjoyed my Chinese duck and vegetables and then popped to see friends Inge and Frank to pick up an invitation to a party they had for us – and they fed me some home-made plum cake.

Just under 60km got me another 9 tiles so that was also good going.

Tilebagging in NL Maasduinen – 12 August

I had planned myself a nice route to NL to get some pesky tiles, and decided to ride this one afternoon.

I was aiming for a bunch of tiles to the north west, one or two of which seemed rather tricky (no actual roads going through them, just footpaths/farm tracks). Still, it was worth a go, so I headed off…

I rode into the Maasduinen, and this is a great bit of NL to cycle in as you are allowed to cycle on the roads and they are mostly empty. But then I reached the ‘farm track’ section, and I discovered there was a wooden gate into a woodland area.

The gate was wide enough, it just needed 3 hands to hold it open and push the Milan through. I managed on my own, fortunately.

The other side of the gate were… lots of goats, with horns!

They didn’t seem that interested in me.

I needed to ride about 500 metres along this track, and it was OK initially, but then I had to turn right and the track changed from woodland to sandy heathland…

It’s very pretty but riding on a layer of sand is tricky in a velomobile, or any three-wheeler, as the back wheel tends to fishtail as you put power through it. I managed to make it to the magic point on my Garmin where I should have got the tile, and then turned round and went back again. This time at the gate there were some Dutch cyclists who helped me escape.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, but I got all the tiles I wanted and so it was a successful ride. And another reminder how much I like cycling in this bit of NL.

Tile-bagging in NL – Californie and more

I had a lot of random tiles still to get in NL and had idled away some time producing a route that got the lot of ’em in one big attempt. I decided if the weather and my legs were good, I’d give it a go one afternoon.

And I had luck! I rode down to Belfield at the bottom left of the map above and then picked up lots of tiles, also zigzagging northwards to get two columns of tiles. This involved riding along some really nice quiet roads but also some fairly narrow asphalted bike tracks next to unmade roads.

I had originally planned to stop for cake somewhere but in the end I just kept going, and did the 105km without stopping for more than a few minutes. I enjoyed it, and bagged 20 tiles.

Tile-bagging in Rheinberg – 21 August

The day after the Schlössertour in Münsterland I still had a bit of energy so decided to do a short ride and grab a few tiles to the north east.

I had to ride quite a long way before I could actually start on the tiles – they are all getting further away now! But I had a reasonably nice route which picked up 12 tiles altogether, and this time I awarded myself a tea and cake in Neukirchen Vluyn on the way back, with a view of one of the pithead machines.

Tile-bagging near Rheinberg again

I was making really good progress on my square now, but it seemed one of the easier areas to fill in some spaces was again to the north east, near Rheinberg.

What’s good about going this way is there is a direct road from Kerken to Rheinberg which is straight (Roman road?) and fast, so you can get to the start of the new tiles fairly quickly. My first tile was after 25km but I averaged 32 km/h to get there.

I had originally planned to do this route clockwise but then changed my mind as I wasn’t sure if I would want to do the two tiles near Issum (to the west of the above track) or shorten the ride and go home earlier. So I did the ride anticlockwise with the risk that I would go the wrong way down a one-way street! But this didn’t happen.

One tile was tricky, but I though it should be possible as Garmin’s cyclist-routing algorithm suggested it was possible. It was possible, and actually quite nice – an old stretch of road since bypassed and left to slowly fade away. There were just dog walkers on this road.

Klaus phoned me as I was cycling down this road to say he was leaving work. Although that meant he would be home before I was, I decided to continue on and do the two tiles near Issum as it was only an extra 15km. So I zoomed my way around some lovely quiet roads between Rheinberg and Issum and then made my way home. My average speed for today’s 72km ride was 32.3 km/h so you can see it was efficient – this was mostly as I cycled on the Landstraße to Rheinberg and back from Issum. On a Friday afternoon at 14:00 during school holidays there’s not so much going on.

After this ride I had just 5 more tiles to get in order to increase my max square from 21×21 to 23×23 – so I planned a route to get these five tiles, including one rather tricky one in NL (might involve walking), and persuaded Klaus that we could do this ride as our Sunday morning one, especially as that final tile is very close to Café zum Schafstall near Twisteden!

Tile-bagging around Twisteden

As mentioned above, I planned a route that just needed five tiles but would increase my max square significantly. On a sunny Sunday morning Klaus and I headed out on the ride.

We started fairly early as the day was due to be hot, plus we had some bike maintenance we wanted to do in the afternoon. We headed up to Geldern and then went further north than we usually ride, finding some lovely lanes. There wasn’t much going on (it was a Sunday morning after all) so we really enjoyed cruising around in our velomobiles.

In due course we arrived at Café zum Schafstall, where they are always very friendly and have a good cake selection!

We sat outside for quite a while, just enjoying the relaxing surroundings, before heading off to get the final tile.

This tile seemed a bit tricky as according to the map on Veloviewer there was no asphalted road going there. Here is the missing tile:

I identified the only really feasible way to get this tile was in the very top right hand corner.

I wasn’t sure what sort of a track this would be, if it would be possible for me to ride on it, but it was such a short distance (the square is 1km across, so to get to the square would probably be only 50 metres or so), I thought I would give it a go.

I didn’t actually check Google Maps beforehand – if I had, I would have seen that this track doesn’t show on Google Maps at all.

I have marked in blue where the track on the Veloviewer map is

And if you look at the satellite view, it just seems to be a turf field:

And I didn’t think to look at Google Streetview before going either. This is partly because Streetview doesn’t work in Germany so I don’t tend to think about it (but this tile is in NL so would have functioned). Streetview shows it is indeed a turf field.

When Klaus and I got there, it was just a turf field. No footpath really visible except for a really thin worn section right on the left of the field.

I then spent some time trying to get a closer look at the Veloviewer map on my phone but I didn’t have enough signal. I wanted to know how far I had to walk across the field (no way could I ride Millie on there). Klaus’s phone had more signal so I took a quick look on that, but he was very much overheating so I told him to ride on and I would catch him up. I decided I had to walk along the field edge, at least 100 metres, so I could get the tile.

So I set off in my click-shoes, walking beside the field. I got three quarters of the way along it and decided I must have bagged the tile, so turned and walked back. The proof would be when I got home on Veloviewer:

Yes, I managed it!!

It actually took me a long time to catch Klaus up, even though I switched my motor on to a higher setting, because he ended up chasing a bunch of roadies along the road and then up a hill.

When I got home my max square was now 23×23. I would have to make several trips to different areas to increase to 24 and then what I have as my mini target for 2019, to get to a 25×25 max square by the end of the year. It should be possible, although I can not go any further west as there are some unreachable areas in Brachter Wald, so I can only go north, east and south.

Mini-Treff in Xanten

Klaus fancied a trip to Xanten on a Sunday morning as we had only been there once this year, so we mentioned in the Velomobilforum that we would be at Market Café in Xanten at 11am and if anyone else wanted to join us we would be glad to see them.

Klaus planned a new route to Xanten which was a bit hillier than our normal one, but ended up being lovely.

We set off going northwards via Schaphuysen, where I stopped to photograph the huge building site that is the gas pipeline. These massive channels are being dug right across our cycling area, from Issum to Tönisvorst and beyond. Our rides regularly criss-cross the building works which run like a scar through the landscape.

As you can see from the photos above, it was a lovely day for cycling – not too warm and with a bit of a breeze but blue skies.

We arrived in Xanten half an hour early.

We hadn’t known if anyone else would come but saw that Thomas/Speedastir from Kleve had written on the Velomobilforum that he would arrive. As we were early we thought we should get the first round of cakes in.

After we had finished these and had a second round of drinks, Thomas arrived and then just a few minutes later another chap appeared – in a home-built wooden velomobile!

The amazing thing about this velomobile was that it only weighs 35km, so comparable with Emily! The builder, a Dutch chap, talked about how he made it (it also has quite a lot of carbon fibre bits in!), and we enjoyed relaxing outside in the sunshine.

There were lots of people in the market square so my velomobile alarm sounded a couple of times when kids poked too much at Millie, but generally it was very relaxed (in contrast to a weird argument we had with a chap last time who was very odd).

Klaus and I felt that, having had a slice of cake for breakfast, it was now lunchtime so we should have another cake slice.

This gave us the power to cycle over the Sonsbecker Schweiz (a bit of a mega hill) on our route back via Geldern. I bagged 4 tiles on today’s ride, but that wasn’t the main purpose of it of course.

It was good to see Thomas again, and also to meet the Dutch guy (whose name escapes me).

Riding with Josef on his trip home from Norddeich

We’re ridden a few times with Josef (nickname Jupp) in the past, including in Berlin and in Bonn, where he lives. He wrote in the Velomobilforum to say he would be cycling home from Norddeich (on the very north coast of Germany) and we knew his route passes very close to our house, so we suggested we intercepted him on the way and stopped for cake. He thought this was a good plan.

He started the day in Ahaus, where he had overnighted, leaving there before 9am. We had reckoned that we would be in Uerdingen for cake at midday and had posted this on the Velomobilforum in case anyone wanted to come, but had planned to meet Josef 12km earlier and to take him with us to visit the grave of our friend Robert Frischemeier.

Josef texted us when he was passing through Wesel and this was our signal to get riding too. We lay in wait just south of the A40 bridge in Moers-Schwafheim.

He arrived and we decided to go straight on to the Cemetery, so we rode together, a group of three now, and parked outside.

After a short visit at Robert’s grave we then headed towards Uerdingen for a much-needed slice of cake and cup of tea.

Photo by Josef (Jupp)

We arrived and parked outside, and just a couple of minutes later Norbert and Elke from the forum arrived too on their recumbent trikes!

Photo by Josef (Jupp)

We were able to sit outside (it was a very hot day) although Elke, Norbert and I were in full sun which got a bit much after a while. We ordered a variety of cakes:

Josef was keen to get home to Bonn so he headed off at speed (he’s a speedy rider) and Klaus and I had another drink. We said goodbye to Norbert and Elke who made their way home and then Klaus and I also headed back. I had got rather too warm sitting in the full sun and needed some shade!

It was lovely to be able to ride a short distance with Josef again – he accompanied us on our first day of our summer tour this year – and it’s impressive that he will have ridden the 411km home in less than 24 hours!

Millie gets pimped some more!

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will have noticed that in the 2.5 years/22,500km that I have had her, I have regularly done things to (a) make her slower, but (b) make her suit my needs more.

Basically, most people who buy a Milan buy it for SPEEEEEEEEEED!!!!! The Milan isn’t the ideal everyday velomobile – it’s low-slung so can get stuck on speed bumps/kerbs, it has a turning circle like that of a car (13 metres), it’s not overburdened with room for luggage, it isn’t very waterproof, it’s long so hard to store, and and and. However, the BIG benefit of the Milan to me is the easy entry and exit because of the Deckel. My choice of velomobiles that I can get out of without resorting to a crane is very small – and the Milan is actually the best option for me.

However, having bought an ex-racing Milan I have ended up ruining it by: (a) adding some strengthening carbon (more weight) around the entrance sill; (b) removing the foot hole on the left so I can go in reverse; (c) adding an electric motor (weight, and reduction of luggage space due to battery); (d) sticking vinyl wrap on it to make it look cooler although this adds weight; (e) changing all three lightweight wheels to stronger and heavier touring wheels; (f) fitting various chain tubes/covers to prevent me getting oily, (g) fitting larger drum brakes which are heavier but have better functionality, etc etc etc. Anyway, this month I did yet another shocking thing to Millie… I had another large hole cut in her!

In the photo above you can see that the left hand side foothole is open but the right side is closed. It has a sacrificial strip on it which is riveted onto the base, but this was now twisted and damaged which meant I was bottoming out on slight bumps.

I asked around amongst chums if anyone had the tools and the bravery to remove the footbump for me, but no-one felt quite up to the task. So I asked Andreas Beyß in Straelen (he manufactures the Go-One velomobiles) and he said he was happy to do it as it was an easy job.

So I rode the 20km to Straelen and helped Andreas turn Millie upside down onto a stand.

Because he would be cutting carbon fibre Andreas got a hoover ready.

He drilled a pilot hole with a drill, and then used an electric saw to cut out the shape. He just did this by eye.

The hole is now there!

He sanded off the edges of the hole. The photo below shows the piece that was cut out.

And the view from the interior now – two foot holes! The one on the right is a bit wider and doesn’t come back as far but that is partly because the mounting for the chain idler is there.

Interestingly, on my ride home I did notice a bit of a difference. Not so much the fact there is slightly more cooling air, but that there is a bit more light inside the velomobile when I look at my feet.

What will be very handy is if I need to do maintenance in the nose on that side I can now reach it much easier. The real test, of course, will be when I ride on some of my familiar routes where I used to bottom out. If this is not so noisy in the future it will be well worth the effort of riding to Straelen. Mr Beyß very kindly didn’t charge me for his work, which is very generous!

Battery woes?

This month Klaus and I did a weekend tour of castles in Münsterland (see my blog post here). During this tour I had to take the battery out of Millie overnight in order to charge it – when I am at home the battery is charged in situ as there is a socket in the garage next to where Millie is stored.

The last time the battery had been removed was our summer tour in June, but this time I noticed that the battery seemed to have slightly swollen.

You can just see in this photo, where I lined the battery up with a tile edge, that there is a slight swelling in the middle of the photo.

I didn’t know if this was a really serious issue, so I phoned the suppliers:

They suggested I brought the battery and charger to them in Köln so that they could check them out. So on a day when Klaus was cycling to work I nabbed his car and drove to Köln after work to visit Akkurad.

They had asked me to bring the charger as well as the battery, so I arrived and handed the battery to Houssem. He opened it up straight away and said everything was fine with the battery.

It seems that the bulging was just in the plastic of the case, perhaps it had got a bit warm. He tested the battery with a device and said the battery was OK, then also tested the charger and said that, too, was working fine. So with a clean bill of health my battery was screwed back into its box and I set off home again from Köln.

One last very useful bit of information though. I remembered Houssem saying, when I first got the motor, that the stages 1-5 weren’t evenly spaced. It is not that 1 is 20%, 2 is 40%, 3 60% etc… but he didn’t tell me at the time what the spacing is. Having used the motor for about 7,500km, usually just on number 1, I have got a bit of a feeling and that was that 4 and 5 were notably more powerful than 1-3, but I didn’t know much more than that. So Houssem gave me the percentages:

1 = 5%
2 = 15%
3 = 27%
4 = 65%
5 = 100%

This was really good news for me, as it shows that the level of support from the motor that I have is not soooooo huge (5% of 250 watts is 12.5 watts). The maximum I have needed to use on a group ride is setting 3 (I use 4 and 5 only when going up mega or mega mega hills). So this makes me feel good, that I am not needing as much power as I had thought to ride with my chums.

Preparations for our England trip

Klaus and I had planned to cycle to England in early September – it’s actually not that far, just 210km to Hoek van Holland and then 50km from Harwich to my Mum’s place north of Ipswich.

However, I reminded him about the bad roads in England and, more notably, the hedge-cutting season which starts early September.

He thought about it a bit and decided that his Continental tyres on the front of Emily and the GoCycles on the back would probably not be enough puncture-resistance. The best option would be Schwalbe Marathons. We thought we had a lot of these in stock but in fact they were mostly on our bikes – we only had 2 spares. So we robbed Alfie of his two Marathon front wheels, replacing them with Shreddas which we had lying around. Alfie may not be used again for the rest of the year so that doesn’t matter much.

And then Klaus had the fun job of replacing four tyres on the Quattrovelo and pumping them up, having replaced the tyres on Alfie and pumped them up too!

Emily goes barefoot

We later in the day did a test ride and one of them had a puncture; Klaus thinks he reused a holed tube as he had to go for SV6 rather than SV7 tubes and we found various ones lying about, but apparently one which needed repairing!

I did a few jobs on Millie too. I deflated both front tyres, checked them for stones and flints (not too many!) and then pumped them up again. I fitted a new tiller hanger – the one I had was a bit too short; I wanted to drop the tiller marginally lower now that my belly has reduced in size, but the end was too short. The tiller hanger is just a gear cable and we had a couple of spares so I fitted one and then cut it with plenty more length available if I want to drop the tiller further.

My third job was to replace the plastic wedge under my seat mounting. This had been fitted by Etienne at emvelomobiel.be a long time ago and he had warned that he didn’t know how well it would last. Well, it had lasted a year and a half which wasn’t bad (and six months longer than the one on the other side!). As with the left hand side seat raiser, I had a piece of old car/van tyre that Frank had supplied me with – so this is very strong reinforced rubber. Klaus had to drill two holes in it for the screws that come from the underside of the Milan, and then we just fitted the new seat mounting. All worked fine, and it works well. It adds a very minor bit of suspension too as the rubber has a tiny amount of give.

As I have got two more broken spokes (one in each front wheel) I bit the bullet and ordered a new set of front wheels from Gingko who are well-known in the velomobile world for wheels. Hopefully I will finally get some reliable wheels that stay round!

After this we took ourselves to Kempen for a test ride – this is when we discovered Emily’s puncture. After that was repaired (and Klaus had pumped up his seventh tyre of the day to about 6 bar/100 psi), we rode to Kempen and had an ice cream.

We are now ready for the England trip and really looking forward to it!

Other events

Redecorating of our study/spare room

Because of the hospitality we received from friends during our Summer Tour, which we said we would reciprocate, we realised we needed to get a proper guest double bed. Well, a sofa bed, as most of the time we wouldn’t have people staying. So with input from Klaus’s daughter Lara (who would probably also be using the bed) we visited IKEA and bounced up and down on some sofa beds and also did a lot of internet research. Because most sofa beds were too wide the choice wasn’t enormous, plus Lara was keen to have a boxspring bed for comfort, but in the end we found one we could all agree on and ordered it.

The spare room has a white carpet which has not worn well over the years and although I have several times hired a carpet shampoo machine, it was not possible to remove the stains. So I decided if we were going to have this room as a room for Lara/my Mum/other guests I needed to do something else. Either recarpeting the room (expensive) or, the easier option, buying a large rug to cover most of the dodgy bits. And I found a good rug which looked reasonably hardwearing and was the right size (3.5 metres by 2.5 metres).

The old sofa went out of the room and was taken away by the Kempen Sperrmüll – it was sad to see it go as I had had that sofa for five years. I then moved the desk as Mum said it would be better to have the bed in the corner where the desk currently was, and then I laid the rug out.

Poppy seemed to approve.

I ordered a couple of carpet runners to fill in the gaps where the shape of the room meant the rug didn’t cover the whole white carpet.

And then, several days later, the sofa was delivered. The delivery guys offered to built it (for a price) but we said no, we would do it ourselves. This was a good plan as actually it just needed six screws to fix it together! Here it is as a bed (it is a double, but with just a single duvet on it).

And here as a sofa.

The sofa is comfortable and the bed seems so, but we will have to ask Lara after her first night on it. She certainly liked it to sit on and test-lie on.

I rather liked this amusing note that came with the sofa – instructions to stroke it, and then it will be more attractive!

More dogwalking

My Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch encourages me to do my 8,000 steps per day and I manage it for about 28 days in 30. I even went out when rain was threatened – but got caught out and had to wait under a tree for a few minutes!

The dog is always grateful for a walk but otherwise she generally hangs out downstairs with Gudula and Frank as they are clearly more interesting than Klaus and I!

Cakes this month

As usual, here are the cakes that I enjoyed with friends and haven’t been featured above. The last one (with raspberries on) is a bad photo of a really tasty cake that my colleague Inna brought in for me early as her birthday cake. In Germany on your birthday you are supposed to bring cakes in for your colleagues (rather than them treating you!!) but as I would be on holiday in England when Inna brought her cake in, she produced something early just for me. It was really tasty!

2 Comments

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – July 2019 (Month 64)

Cycling this month

Last month was a very good month for cycling as we had our Bodensee tour, but this month wasn’t too shabby either, with a total of 766km cycled.

And I went here:

As there were some warm days I decided to get Alfie the trike out of storage and ride him a little. I always love riding my trikes, although it is of course much slower than riding a velomobile. I used him for my work commute for a week.

Alfie the Trike on work’s random parking space, only accessible if you can ride across grass or negotiate two 90 degree corners in the paving. Bizarre design, but works well for a trike!

Tile-bagging and other rides

I have mentioned my tile-bagging (Veloviewer Explorer Square) in previous blog posts. The image below is my Veloviewer Max Square on 1 July:

Veloviewer 13×13 Max Square, 1 July 2019

As you can see from this, I had completed lots of squares north or south of my central point but I needed to expand east and west. So that gave me a purpose for some of my rides over the month of July.

Below I have written a few short reports of some of these rides, most of which involved tile-bagging, at least tangentially.

Niederrhein Radwandertag

The first Saturday in July was the Niederrhein Radwandertag. This wasn’t something I had been particularly aware of, but when asking Ralf if he wanted to cycle (Klaus was away in Korea) he said that people were meeting in St Tönis so I said I might go there as part of a tile-bagging route. I then looked up what was happening and saw it was the Radwandertag.

My plan was to ride the route with Hartmut (he was leading a ride) but then I noticed that his route was going to Willich and that isn’t a route I particularly like, so I decided instead to go to Kempen first, get the card there (they stamp it if you visit one of the Stands) and then get a second stamp in St Tönis.

So I went to Kempen, got the card and a stamp, and also a booklet which had the routes. I decided not to follow the official route to St Tönis from Kempen as it had some stretches that weren’t so velomobile-suitable, I just rode directly there.

It was lovely to see Hartmut and Herbert at St Tönis and I took the opportunity to have a nice slice of cake!

I had planned a route from St Tönis towards Nettetal as then I could collect some more Veloviewer tiles on the west of Nettetal, heading to Herongen. I noticed that my route went through Grefrath-Oedt where there was a Niederrhein Radwandertag Stamping point so I might as well get that. The road was closed for a bit event in Oedt, mostly with the fire brigade, all as part of this special day. I managed to squeeze my way into the town centre and got my card stamped.

From Oedt I headed to Nettetal. I knew there was a stamping point there which was directly on my route (at the De Witt See information centre) so I might as well get that one. I passed a sign to Breyell, 1.5km away, and there was a stamping point there but as I wasn’t really doing this I didn’t bother. Which I then started to regret about 2km later as I though I could get several more, and I had only just missed Breyell. Oh well, too late!

I got my stamped at the Nettetal place and used their loo whilst also having a quick look around the wildlife information centre.

Now I was on my tile-bagging route and so I fiddled around a bit, as you can see from the map below of my whole ride. The western side is where I was tile-bagging – I needed tiles in Hinsbeck, Louisenburg and Herongen.

I noticed from the Radwandertag booklet that there were stamping places also in Wachtendonk and Kerken (although the Kerken one was actually in Stenden). Why not get those on the way home too? So I did!

I could have also gone to Geldern and got another one, but I was so annoyed about missing the Breyell one that I decided to stop at Kerken. I handed in my card there, and the lady said I had by far the most stamps.

All in all it was a 70km ride and I enjoyed it a lot. Good weather, good cake, some fast roads… what more can you ask for?

By the way, KK (the first stamp) is the German shorthand for Kempen, which is now on our number plates (we used to only be allowed VIE for Viersen but some of the older plate designations, that had been removed formerly, are now allowed again). KK was originally “Kempen und Krefeld”, when they shared a registration mark, but Krefeld has had its own (KR) for a long time now. Some wag decided that KK stands for “Königreich Kempen” (the Kingdom of Kempen) and you see that in lots of places – people have numberplate holders made with Königreich Kempen on them, also stickers etc.

Tilebagging – NL part 1

I had a second tile-bagging ride, this time 72km and mostly in the Netherlands. I managed to bag lots of tiles on this one, but had to do a very fiddly route to get them!

I rode first to Straelen via Kerken (good, fast roads!) and then headed down down a long, straight road which went towards the B9, crossing it briefly before I nipped into Herongen. From there it was into the Netherlands and following my Garmin to ensure I picked up the tiles. At one point I was riding on the road (although there was a cycle path available – naughty me!) and I was very pleased to be on the road as the cycle path went in a completely different direction and I would have missed my tile!

The route my Garmin had arranged around Venlo was surprisingly good and I was able to keep moving and the cycling infrastructure was very good.

I went north towards Arcen and got some tiles, then it was time to go east again and head home. I saw signs to Jagersrust which looked like some kind of café which indeed it was, and I stopped for an ice cream and a cuppa! It was a warm day and I had forgotten to take a bottle of water with me.

The ice cream was very good!


However, being NL this was pretty pricey (I think I paid 8 Euro in total for the tea and ice cream). And then when I left, I noticed about 50 metres up the road I crossed back into Germany and there was a rather nice looking Bauerncafé which undoubtedly sold good German cakes! I would have to return to check it out…

And two days later I did! As Klaus was away in Korea I had a lot of time on my hands and with the good weather I decided to bag some more tiles.

Tile-bagging NL – part 2

This ride was 76km and was back in a similar region to the last one.

I started via Kerken again and this time rode up to Walbeck. From here I followed the purple line on my Garmin (the route carefully prepared by me the night before to get all the possible tiles I could in the shortest distance!), then I headed across to Arcen. I would perhaps normally have stopped for cake in Arcen but I had planned my route to take me to the new Bauerncafé on the way back, so I kept on.

I rode straight down the main road between Arcen and Venlo, using the cycle path beside the road. This is a decent path and it is of course the law that we should use it. I just reached the outskirts of Venlo when my track curved round and started taking me back north again, to get another set of tiles.

When planning the route there was a very tricky tile to get, as there only seemed to be narrow farm tracks to get there. It wasn’t clear whether I would actually succeed, and when I got there (the black spot on the map below) I discovered a sub-optimal track ahead.

Oh dear, I definitely couldn’t cycle this!

I had climbed out of Millie and had a look around. It looked as though an asphalted track started after just 100 metres or so. There was no obvious alternative route on my Garmin so I just had to push Millie. She is low-slung so it was quite musical with all the plants and thistles rubbing on her underside, plus I have a minor paranoia about ticks (I was wearing sandals), but eventually Millie and I both made it through mostly unscathed.

The road surface was pretty bad for the next 2km but still way better than walking across bumpy grass! I visited some bits of NL I guess I will never visit again – really quaint hamlets, farms etc. But in due course I arrived at the Bauerncafé Jacobs and they did indeed have cakes, and they were indeed tasty!

After being fortified with this cake I headed home at super-speed, glad to have bagged some more tiles!

Tile-Bagging in Brachter Wald

Another long tile-bagging ride this month was an attempt to get into the former military manoeuvres area in Brüggen. This ended up as a 90km ride as I also added some more tiles near Venlo.

The problem is on the south-west corner of my track, the Brachter Wald.

Where the black blob is, is a gate. The Brachter Wald/Brüggener Wald are closed off to motorists with various gates. Years ago Klaus and I had major difficulties getting his recumbent trike through the gate at the bottom of the picture (near the Baggersee, where my track abruptly stopped).

August 2014, a Steintrikes Wild One does not easily fit through a turnstile gate

I knew that gate would be impassable for me, but wondered if other gates into the woodland would be perhaps of a different design. I had a backup plan, as there were two tiles available within about 500 metres of the gate, so if I couldn’t ride through I would walk through so at least I could bag these two tiles which would certainly help with my Max Square, although walking in SPD sandals isn’t ideal, plus leaving Millie unsupervised!

I arrived at the gate… and it was of a different style, hurrah! The gate that had caused us problems before was a turnstile-type, but this one was a bit different. I thought it might JUST be wide enough for Millie. I had a go – but I couldn’t get her nose moved when I was pushing her from behind. This was really a two-person job. Fortunately a cyclist appeared at the gate from inside the wood and he offered to help. He lifted Millie’s nose up and it just had to shuffle about 10cm to one side and then it worked. She was through!

I decided this meant I could get out OK this way if I had to, but I would try to ride right through in case they had changed the other gate. So you see from my track above, I cycled about 6km through the Brachter Wald, which is lovely – there are wild ponies there! The whole place has become a huge nature reserve, but with signs still of the former Army presence with giant concrete bunkers and silos which nature is slowly assimilating.

Ponies in the distance

(Those last three photos were taken when I visited with Klaus in August 2014, I didn’t take any pictures this time).

When I arrived at the gate at the south end of the Wald, I discovered it had not been changed in the last five years.

I had a bit of a try but there was no way Millie would get through there without having her sawn in half.

So I turned round and cycled the 6km back to the original gate.

This time I really struggled on my own to get through. There was no-one to help and although I had positioned myself at the nose end of Millie, it really needed two people as her tail needed to be shuffled across and this was very hard from her nose end. I watched the carbon fibre flanks of Millie being slightly compressed near her tail area as I slowly wiggled her through the airlock. Finally success, and she had no visible additional scrapes/marks on her (she already has quite a few so I am very phlegmatic about them anyway). So I counted that as a win, plus I bagged my five tiles.

What I did learn from this, however, was that Klaus would no way be able to get Emily through this gate. Not a chance. He will also need to do these tiles in due course. My suggestion to him was that we ride there with Ralf and then Klaus borrow’s Ralf’s DF (which is narrower and shorter than our velomobiles) to do the five tiles/6km ride in Brachter Wald. I mentioned this to Ralf and he told us that our friend Uli actually has a key to the lock to these gates (there is a large gate area which is padlocked but would allow a tank through). So we may have to tempt Uli to have a ride with Klaus through Brachter Wald sometime!

In total my ride on this day was 92km. The rest of it, after negotiating the Brachter Wald gates, was pretty easy; I did one short detour to bag a tile (at a former monastery south of Venlo) where I had to retrace my track after getting to that tile, but it’s not something I usually have to do as there are generally good through-routes. The tile is 1 kilometre square so there are usually several roads in each tile, even in the rural areas.

Cake with Ralf in Stemmeshof

My colleagues had given me a Voucher for a café in Nettetal for my birthday in June and so when Klaus was back from Korea and as he was fighting the jet lag I suggested we rode (with Ralf) to the café to use up the 20 € voucher. This seemed like a good plan, so we had a ride one day with Ralf, doing some tile-bagging.

It turned out also to be a day when we did some velomobile sub-aqua when Ralf led us through some water-filled gullies across some of the field tracks. Millie remained dry inside (and she is usually very leaky), but Klaus’s Emily sucked up rather a lot of water, both in the foot holes at the front and also somehow into the axle box at the back where the gears are. He had to lift Emily’s tail and then her nose to try to encourage the water out of the drainage holes.

After this we had definitely earned our cakes! We arrived at Stemmeshof; I had been there once or twice before but as we walked inside it became clear we could not sit down in there as the noise level was huge! This seems to be a thing with design of public spaces in Germany now – plain walls, tile floor, hard furniture… and it makes for a huge volume level as there are no soft furnishings to dampen the sound. Klaus with his jet lag definitely didn’t fancy a noisy cake so we sat outside although it was a bit cool.

We were a bit boring and all ordered the same cake!

Klaus was feeling really hungry though so he had another slice, this time of a different cake.

That would keep him going for the ride home!

In total this was a 76km ride but it was good fun and it was good to ride with Ralf again – we haven’t managed that so much recently.

Tile-bagging in Viersen

Klaus needed a haircut and he really likes the barber shop in Viersen (so do I). It’s 20km away so it seemed wise to cycle there.

As I had some missing tiles south of Viersen I asked Klaus if we could do a little detour after the haircut and collect them. Of course he agreed (he also needs the tiles!) so I planned a route that would collect several of them.

We passed close to Ralf’s house so dropped in to see him – he was doing some maintenance on his DF. This included the first time he had oiled the chain – after about 6,000km. But in velomobiles the chain is so well protected it doesn’t get that dirty.

We then headed into Lobberich to stop for cake.

Our ride was 71km in total, and Klaus came back with a very good haircut too!

Papperlapapp with Klaus

After our separate holidays (Klaus in Berlin, me in England) we went out for a cycle ride together to enjoy some cake at Papperlapapp. As rain was forecasted we chose Papperlapapp in Vorst because we knew there was a place to park which was undercover – this is the advantage of knowing all the cafes and cake establishments within a 40km radius!

We enjoyed a slice of cake each and just relaxing outside.

The threatened rain didn’t really arrive, just a few spots.

On the way home we rode through quite a different landscape that before our holidays as during this week the wheat had been harvested.

Tile-bagging Steudle

My final solo bit of tile-bagging for the month was an after-work dash around to pick up some tiles to the north (my favourite area to ride) and the north east.

I needed some tiles around Kamp-Lintfort and managed to organise a ride of 93km which bagged a whopping 22 tiles!

I hadn’t originally planned a cake stop but I knew that Landcafé Steudle in Vernum would be open on a Monday (most cafés are shut then) so I had it in the back of my mind, as it would only be a small detour. I wasn’t sure if I would do the whole track, or if I would stop once I had completed the Horstgen tiles (to the NE of the map) as then there was quite a long transfer to Geldern where the next batch of tiles started. I could have stopped halfway round if I didn’t feel like riding more.

However, my legs were good (as was my motor!) and so I kept going, enjoying the relatively quiet roads at three in the afternoon in Kreis Kleve.

There were roadworks in Geldern but I was very lucky and able to continue on my track through the roadworks; they were one way so if I had done this track the other way round I wouldn’t have been able to get a tile. I maintained a good speed for this ride too, with an average of 29.4 km/h for the 93km.

I had to put my foot down a bit towards the end as I suddenly couldn’t remember if Steudle was open until 18:00 or 18:30. I estimated I would arrive there at 17:45 and some German establishments start cashing up early and won’t serve you, even if they are still officially open! But it was fine, I arrived at 17:30 (I put the pedal to the metal a bit for the last hour) and had a lovely slice of cake.

Stelde is 19km from home but we ride this route so regularly that it feels like you are almost home and the journey home goes by in a flash! The only difficulty was crossing the B9 road during rush hour, so it took a bit longer before I was safe to cross to Winternam.

Tile-bagging for Klaus in Krefeld

On the last day in July Klaus suggested we did a ride to bag some of his tiles. His Max Square is smaller than mine, so he is bagging tiles that I have mostly got, but there were two available for me on this tour so it was a worthwhile 36km!

The funny detour out to the east from Niep was to enable me to get a missing tile; Klaus had originally planned the route directly down on the main road from Niep to Krefeld but I spotted there was a very small diversion of 2km to get a tile that we both needed. The planning of these routes is actually fairly complicated, if you try to get all tiles with minimum distance, and also because the maps on Veloviewer are not the same as Google Maps or the maps on the Garmin software, so it’s not always clear exactly where the tiles start and finish.

And this was my Veloviewer Max Square map by the end of July:

Veloviewer 18×18 Max Square

And, as a reminder, here’s what it looked like at the beginning of July, when it was 13×13

Doing the Veloviewer Max Square challenge is a really interesting way to ride new roads and visit new places. This is just the rides for 2019, my lifetime Max Square is 21×21 (also here in Germany, as my UK Max Square was limited by the Colne river which meant I couldn’t get several squares north east of where I lived unless I hired a boat).

A visit to England

Because I have been doing lots of overtime at work I have ended up with almost two weeks’ additional leave. So I decided to take a week when Klaus was in Berlin with his daughter Lara (and Poppy also went with them to Berlin but stayed with Lars for the five days) and visit my Mum in England.

Rather than make Klaus drive the 450km round trip to the Hoek van Holland the day before he had to drive all the way to Berlin, I decided to take the train. This used to be easy – Venlo to Rotterdam, Rotterdam to Hoek van Holland. Two trains, one change. However, things are now much more complicated!

As you can see, it is now three trains and a bus. It also costs 24 € for the train and 2,22 € for the bus. Things are much easier with an OV-Chipkaart (a bit like an Oyster card) so on one of my tile-bagging trips I went to Venlo station and bought the card in advance and put 55 € credit on it.

This meant Klaus just had to drop me off at Venlo on the Sunday morning. The return journey on Friday night was more complex as Klaus would probably still be driving back from Berlin, Gudula and Frank weren’t available so I investigated how much a taxi would cost. 55 € seemed very steep, especially as my two day ferry crossings only totalled 77 pounds! Fortunately my colleague Dorothee came to the rescue and said she would pick me up. Hurrah!

So Klaus drove me bright and early to Venlo and I got on the first train, the comfy double-decker.

I got off at Eindhoven and bought a cup of tea whilst awaiting the next train, which took me to Rotterdam. This was a single-decker train and not so nice, but still fine.

At Rotterdam I just needed to get a train to Schiedam. This was only a four minute journey but I had to wait a while for the train.

I got off at Schiedam and then had to follow the signage to the bus stop, bus 711 which goes directly to Hoek van Holland. It arrived after about 10 minutes and several people with suitcases – including me! – got on.

I went right to the back so I could leave my case on the floor.

This was an easy journey and I arrived at the Stena ferry with two hours in hand.

This was planned, as I knew I wanted to pop into the Albert Heijn supermarket in Hoek van Holland to buy food for the ferry journey. It’s 8 hours on the ferry with not much to do except read, play on the iPad (but no wifi, so I had downloaded some TV programmes) and eat. If you eat on the ferry it’s expensive so I went round Albert Heijn picking up things that I thought I fancied. This included salad, olives and feta, bottled water, houmous, but also a few non-Keto things such as a sandwich and a bread roll to go with my salad.

I managed to kill enough time that boarding was starting once I had walked back to the ferry terminal. The queue for motor traffic seemed to be 90% motorhomes!

I knew the ferry would be very busy and indeed it was. I went to the front end to look at the view.

It was way too noisy here though, right next to the big restaurant, so I took myself off to the quiet area near the stern of the boat and found a comfortable chair. I settled down for the long journey.

I watched a couple of TV programmes and finished a book I had brought with me. Then I went for a constitutional around the deck. I left my bag of food and my water bottle on my seat/table area so it was bagged as I didn’t want to lose it! But I had to take my iPad with me (I had checked in my suitcase).

It was a beautiful day for a crossing. We left Hoek van Holland at 14:00 and I sighted land in the UK an hour and a half before we actually docked – this is due to the route the ferry has to take due to the sandbanks around the East Coast waters. There were some lovely views though. That line on the horizon is Suffolk, where I was headed!

We disembarked at 20:00 UK time and Mum was there to collect me. It was great to see her again and to be back in the UK.

The next day was a mostly lazy day. It was going to be very warm in the UK but fortunately where Mum lives is a village at the top of a hill so there’s always a nice breeze.

I had my morning cup of tea in the garden.

Later on in the day I went for a walk to visit my Dad’s grave, and took the cross-country walk back. The gentle rolling hills of Suffolk have a very different view than Niederrhein.

The barley seemed a bit further ahead than in Germany.

In the afternoon we went for a cuppa with Mum’s neighbour and friend Stephanie. Stephanie rents her house and the landlord won’t let her plant things in the garden, so instead she has created an amazing flower garden in pots. It was beautiful!

The next day was set to be really warm – 34 degrees (very unusual for England although we get to that temperature quite often in Kempen). We had arranged to visit my cousin Moyna in the afternoon, but in the morning we headed into Ipswich by bus to do a few bits and bobs (I bought a new bag as the one I had with me on the way over started collapsing). The bus journey back was interesting as the bus conked out at the bus station but the driver found another one, although when we were underway he said it was gutless and there were some hills on the route. We made it back though!

In the afternoon we drove to Moyna’s. She lives in a beautiful thatched cottage called Holly Cottage.

As it was such a warm day we sat in the garden. Moyna has a fantastic garden!

We sat on the verandah of the summerhouse and ate scones with homemade jam and clotted cream.

And we looked across the fields to some of the rather nicer bits of Essex!

We had a really good chinwag with Moyna and plenty of cups of tea. I last saw her at the funeral of my father, over three years ago, so it was good to catch up again. I also enjoyed driving Mum’s car around the lanes fairly near where I used to live in Colchester.

Mum and I settled down in the evening to watch an episode of the series Chernobyl. I had ordered the DVD to be delivered to Mum’s in England and so we watched all five episodes whilst I was at her house. I had also brought along some Russian chocolates that my customer had brought for me at work; we ate the mystery Russian chocs whilst watching Chernobyl.

I also went to visit my sister one day and went out for lunch with her and my eldest niece, Gwenllian. In a spooky coincidence we were all dressed in white tops.

Helen, Gwen, Anna

We then proceeded to go out for a Chinese buffet meal and Klaus said I was bound to spill some down my white linen top. This is mainly because I usually spill food when I eat (I have to eat largely one-handed due to dodgy left elbow). Anyway, on this occasion I was very careful with my napkin and at the end of the meal I hadn’t spilled any but the other two had. Go me!

I also met my middle niece Angharad’s new kitten, Socks.

Gwen’s dog Chip was in the house and he was being very friendly to Socks, but Socks was not sure about Chip. As Chip can’t walk up the stairs in Anna’s house, Socks had learned to go up the stairs and look through the gap between the treads at what was happening below.

I had a lovely time with Anna and Gwen, and later also saw my other two nieces Angharad and Ceridwen, but was a bit shocked by the mug my sister gave me to drink my tea from:

Although Anna and I have a very easy-going relationship, and we agree on many things (Brexit being a disaster, etc), we clearly don’t vote the same way in General Elections!

The next day was my last full day and we had no specific plans, so decided to head to the beach (I had said to Mum I would like to visit the beach as we can’t really do that in Kempen as we are at least two hours away from the coast!)

We went to a beach in Suffolk called Shingle Street. We had been told there was nothing there, which was true, but it was lovely.

We walked past the artist and then found ourselves on a beach with only about 10 other people in sight.

A few people were swimming but they said it was very cold!

It wasn’t just the heads of swimmers we saw, there was also a seal in this cove area. We could just see his face peeping out of the water from time to time.

After an hour of simply sitting on the shingle and watching the ships go by (including the ferry I would be travelling on tomorrow), and also watching the swimmers and dogs frolicking in the water, we headed back via a pub for a pub lunch.

We stopped at the supermarket on the way back and bought me some more teabags. I bought about 2500 bags, carrying 840 home and leaving the rest in stock at Mum’s to collect when we come at Christmas with the car. I had actually misremembered how many teabags I had back in Germany and when I got home I counted them all up and it seems that I now own 5,000 bags. So that should keep me safe over the first few months of Brexit anyway.

In order to improve my tea drinking at Mum’s I bought myself a larger mug (I like big mugs). The choice was a bit slim but I liked this one’s shape and the message on it is acceptable (not sure if Klaus agrees).

Mum’s lovely neighbour Maureen brought round some slices of a coffee & walnut cake she had made so we enjoyed that with a cuppa.

In the evening Mum accommodated my request and we went out for an Indian meal as I do miss a good Indian here in Germany!

The following morning we left home at 06:30 for Mum to take me to the ferry, which would leave at 09:00. We had bought food for the journey yesterday, so I said goodbye to Mum, checked my suitcase and then headed to the quiet area again, where I got a better seat. I watched out of the window as we went past the many wind farms in the shallows around the East Coast.

The journey was fine – I read a lot of Michelle Obama’s book Becoming which I had purchased in the UK. I watched a film or two on my iPad, and then we were approaching the Hook of Holland.

I had the schedule for the return bus/train/train/train and annoyingly missed the first bus as we had to wait ages for our suitcases to arrive at Baggage Reclaim. When I caught the next bus I had to stand the whole way as it was full.

The train connection from Schiedam to Rotterdam was easy, and as I had a 20 minute wait for the next train I had an ice cream at Rotterdam.

I hopped on the train to Eindhoven, and had a message from Klaus to say he was already home from Berlin! He had made excellent progress with the driving. He had picked up Poppy from Lars in Berlin too so she was also home. I was able to tell my colleague Dorothee that she wouldn’t need to pick me up from Venlo, Klaus would.

Except it didn’t quite work like that. There was a huge electrical storm as my train approached Tilburg and when it got to the station it stopped. After half an hour people got on, and it was clear that this train was now going back to Rotterdam rather than continuing to Eindhoven. It was hard to get any information about the trains but I did hear an announcement saying passengers for Venlo should get the train to Nijmegen as no trains were continuing to Eindhoven because of the storm.

Nijmegen is definitely nearer home than Tilburg so I decided that was a plan. After a 20 minute wait a train arrived, which I got on. During this time I had been checking on the Dutch rail website ns.nl to see what trains ran from Nijmegen to Venlo – and it turned out none did! I could get multiple busses (6 in total to get to Venlo). This was completely hopeless so I phoned Klaus and he said he would set off straight away to drive to Nijmegen to pick me up. This, another 2 hours in total, after driving all the way back from Berlin!

I wrote a post on Facebook saying how annoying this was that there was no train from Nijmegen to Venlo and friend Oliver said that there is one, it just isn’t an NS train but is Arriva. I checked Arriva’s website (very poor!) and lo and behold there was! It travels via Cuijk, Boxmeer, Venray etc (familiar cycling territory). I phoned Klaus to ask if it helped him if I got the train to Cuijk or something but he said he was approaching Nijmegen. I only had to wait about five minutes before he appeared at the station to pick me up – what a hero! I eventually got home at 22:00, having expected to be home at 20:30.

I really enjoyed my time in England, it was very relaxing, and I don’t mind the travelling either, but it was good to be home. We’ll be returning to England at the beginning of September, but this time in our velomobiles!

Miscellaneous

As July has been very dry, the farmers have to water the potatoes almost constantly. They often have to lay giant hoses across the road. They are supposed to put blocks each side to let cars cross, but some are better than others. This was on my way to work one morning:

And you can clearly see from this photo why I got stuck!

I tend to always get stuck on the foot cover/bump, which I only have on the left hand side (as you look at this picture, the right hand side from inside) and I am seriously considering cutting this one out as well so that I have more ground clearance. It will also give more airflow which is positive in summer but probably negative in winter.

Same location, another day, another type of hose covering – although this one I actually managed to ride over without coming to a juddering halt!

I am now careful to choose a different route if I can see signs of watering on the potato field.

I walked back from work one day in July (Klaus gave me a lift into the office) and on the 4.2km route I spotted a few places where there were some nice blackberries so went back in the afternoon with a tub to collect ’em!

My working life is mostly OK. There are constant changes where I work but other things remain eternally static… I have some great colleagues and we work really well together, but there are also some very difficult issues to deal with at work. But things are looking up in some ways. At least I am having to do less overtime at the moment so I can enjoy the nice weather for all my bike trips.

I have effectively a job-share, where I work 5 hours a day and my colleague Alex full time, both looking after our key account. As an management-desired experiment she has been working from another office for the last two weeks. The logic of this is hard to fathom, but it does mean I get more exercise walking to her office to pick up paperwork etc; it’s a good five minute round trip! It also means lots of phone calls to discuss what we are doing, rather than the previous rotating my chair 10 degrees so I can talk directly to her where she sits a metre away. As is always the case, the Ways of Management are Unknowable.

I have noticed that our new photocopier/printer/scanner in the office speaks a rather weird version of Dutch.

Firstly, I am not entirely sure why our photocopier is speaking Dutch to us anyway (it’s a German company, although the touchscreen talks to us in German), but I also have a strong suspicion that’s not a real Dutch word…

Cakes this month

You have undoubtedly noticed lots of cake pictures scattered throughout the text of this blog, but here are some other cakes that were consumed this month by me or by companions.

And next month, August? We have a mini bike tour in the middle of August to visit some castles in Münsterland (we have taken the Monday off work so we can have a three day tour). We also leave for our tour to England at the end of August, riding through NL over two days to Hoek van Holland. But apart from that we have a fairly normal month with work and no doubt tile-bagging (although this is now getting harder as the tiles are further away!).

I really appreciate whenever my readers comment, so please let me know if there is anything you particularly like about my blog posts or if there are things I should talk about more. I guarantee I will continue to do some good cake testing on your behalf, should you ever find yourself in this part of Germany!

Leave a Comment

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2019 (Month 63)

Cycling this month

This month has been very successful for cycling as we had our two week Velomobile tour to Bodensee.

My total distance cycled this month was 2,300km and that brings the year’s total to 5,500km cycling and 480km walking.

And here is where I cycled this month – from the North Sea to the Bodensee…

The Veloviewer Wheel includes walks as well, so that is why the total figure is a bit higher.

But the main cycling this month was our Bodensee Tour and you can read the various posts about it here:

Day 1: Kempen to Drachenfels
Day 2: Drachenfels to Walluf
Day 3: Walluf to Speyer
Day 4: Speyer to Appenweier
Day 5: Appenweier to Bamlach
Day 6: Bamlach to Koblenz (CH)
Day 7: Koblenz to Konstanz
Day 8: Konstanz to Tettnang
Day 9: Tettnang to Bad Buchau
Day 10: Bad Buchau to Eislingen
Day 11: Eislingen to Gündelbach
Day 12: Gündelbach to Viernheim
Day 13: Viernheim to Bacharach
Day 14: Bacharach to Drachenfels
Day 15: Drachenfels to Kempen

A quick trip to Dronten

As mentioned in last month’s blog, Klaus had some issues with Emily and wanted to get her checked out by Velomobiel.nl before our two-week cycle tour in the second half of the month of June. This was proved even more necessary when Klaus’s Schlumpf Mountain Drive gave up the ghost when riding up a steepish hill on our way back from the Grensland Tour.

Our trip to Dronten was very necessary!

As has now become customary, our idea was to cycle as far as Vaassen (near Epe) after work on Friday, a journey of 140km or so. We would then cycle the next morning the 44km to Dronten, have the work done, then cycle back to Vaassen where we would stay for a second night. We would then ride home at our leisure on the Sunday.

On the Friday it was tricky for me to get away from work as it was so super-busy, but when I got a call from Klaus to say he was on his way home from work I had the excuse to go. After a quick lunch we headed off on our bikes northwards towards Vaassen.

From Kempen via Sevelen, Rees, Anholt, Doetichen, Dieren and Apeldoorn to Vaassen

We set off at 13:30 and headed northwards, with a cracking tailwind behind us. In fact, it was really rather windy, and and quite a blustery wind at that. Fortunately the Milan is excellent in winds, and the Quattrovelo was also very good.

We were really putting the pedal to the metal and ended up with an average speed to the German/Dutch border of 34 km/h. Not bad at all!

You can see the split times here. Lap 1 was home to Rees, Lap 2 was Rees to the border, Lap 3 was NL to our burger stop near Apeldoorn, and Lap 4 was the final push to Vaassen.

So we rode very fast most of the way. Despite Emily’s many problems (screeching noise from rear axle, mountain drive only in the high gear, missing fixing for visor and periodically-deflating air ball suspension), she was also going well. She was laden with all our luggage for the three day tour (which is almost the same amount as we have for a three week tour), which must have made the accelerations more work, but she cruised nicely. Emily benefits more from the tailwind than Millie as she was a wider backside.

Just before the border in Anholt we stopped for a piece of cake at the bakery attached to a REWE supermarket.

After finishing our cake and hot drinks we headed onward, this time with a bit more of a sidewind than tailwind.

We were soon in NL and onto roads that I had ridden once before but for Klaus were very familiar. He has made an awful lot of trips to Dronten!! I tucked in behind him, following him as he was more familiar with the route. We were still going very fast.

We stopped for chips and a burger at a place he has stopped at before, just off the cycle path near Apeldoorn.

The bikes were parked just off the cycle track.

Once we stopped I noticed that I had developed my leg heat rash again. I get this each year on the first few really hot rides – it’s hot and itchy and a bit painful, but indeed it had gone down again after two days. I think it is some kind of sweat rash, and interestingly this time was only on my bare leg, not on my thighs which had cycling shorts on.

The good news is that once this rash had gone down after a couple of days, I didn’t get it again on the longer Bodensee tour starting the next weekend. I have also had a heat rash on my arms but again managed to avoid this on the Bodensee tour by being very careful to wash the sweat off regularly.

We had a bit of a wait for our burger and chips but after we ate these we headed on fairly quickly. We didn’t want to be too late as we were both tired after a busy working week.

We soon arrived in Vaassen and made our way to our Vrienden op de Fiets Garden House again. The lady Ank who is our host is very friendly and we soon settled in. The bikes had pride of place in the carport, sheltered from the wind which was increasing.

The next morning we were up early, ate our breakfast and then it was time to head north to Dronten.

The wind was really strong now, with branches blowing around in the wind and sticks and leaves skidding over the road surface. Our route for today took us over the Veluwe National Park which had lots of trees – we thought this might be a bit interesting in this weather!

There were some very blowy sections as we had expected, and Klaus had to stop at one point to remove a branch blocking the way.

But overall the ride was fine, and we made good progress again with an average of about 30 km/h to Dronten.

When we arrived at Dronten our ways parted. I went to Intercity Bike as I had asked them to service Millie, and Klaus went to Velomobiel.nl for Emily’s works.

I arrived at Intercity Bike to meet again some people who had been on the Grensland Tour last week. The lady had also brought some cake (as it was actually her birthday that day!) so she shared that, which was very kind.

Right in the entrance way was a brand new Milan SL. It turns out that Intercity Bike will become Milan dealers in the near future. This is very interesting information!!

We had a good chat as Peter was working first on her bike, trying to source a mystery squeak/rattling sound.

After he finished with her it was time for Millie to have her service.

First I removed all my luggage and then Peter took her for a test ride. His conclusion: the tiller was too loose (which I had thought), one of my wheels seemed bumpy so perhaps a dodgy tyre (I thought it was the rim as I had had this issue despite changing the tyre) but apart from that all was well, the gears were great etc, although he needed to adjust the brakes a bit.

So it looked as though he only really needed to do the tiller and check the wheels and brakes. Not too bad!

Peter removed a block thingie from the bottom of the tiller which he said can get worn, and replaced it with a new one.

Here is the old one:

And here is the tiller separated without this part:

It was all put back together very quickly.

He then looked at the wheel and adjusted the brakes, not at the tiller end but at the end which attaches to the wheel. This is always a real pain for Klaus and I to do but Peter seemed much more adept and managed it in ten minutes or so.

He then checked whether the wheel was round – and lo, as I had suspected, it wasn’t. There was a slight bend as the wheel rotated. He decided to adjust the spoke tightness a little to try to repair this, and after the first turn of a spoke key a spoke broke! So after his lunch he replaced this spoke (I had spares with me) and then the wheel was much better, although still not 100% true.

I put all Millie’s gubbins back in her and said thanks to the guys at Intercity Bike, and then it was time to head over to Velomobiel.nl where they were still working on Emily.

When I arrived they were replacing the rear axle. There had been some damage to the axle and Allert had replaced some parts.

After this the Schlumpf was removed and a new one put in place.

Klaus has written a summary of what was involved:

Hier die Checkliste 


– Hinterachse wurde getauscht, da eingelaufen
– Lageraufnahmen wurden nachgearbeitet, da die Lager teilweise stramm oder zu stramm saßen. 
– Einige Lager der Hinterachse wurden getauscht, da diese nicht mehr optimal liefen. Die waren auch die Ursache für das Geräusch von der Hinterachse
– Schlumpf Mountaindrive wurde getauscht
– Ventileinsatz an der Luftfederung getauscht, da undicht
– Visierhalterung nachgearbeitet

Wie sich jetzt die Ursachenkette zusammensetzte kann ich nicht sagen. Ob nun die zu engen Lageraufnahmen Ursache für die defekten Lager und die eingelaufenen Achsen waren…who knows.
Hauptsache jetzt ist Ruhe und ich kann ruhigen Gewissens unsere Sommertour angehen.


Ich muss ehrlich gestehen, manchmal nagen schon Zeifel, ob das Quattrovelo das richtige VM für mich ist. Die Fahrt nach Dronten hat mir mal wieder gezeigt, ob der ganzen Probleme das QV passt für mich. Das Strada war schon gut. Der Milan ist schnell. Aber das QV vereint die wichtigen Aspekte beim VM für mich ein ein Konzept.


Also weiter geht’s. Drückt mir mal die Daumen, damit ich nicht allzu häufig nach Dronten fahren muss.

After all this Emily was working very well again. We had a cup of tea with the guys at Velomobiel.nl and Eva had even brought some Apple Streusel so we enjoyed a piece of that!

Klaus had a test sit in the new Alpha 7 velomobile, although found the entry extremely narrow, and he also had a close look at the model for the new Quest.

At about 4pm everything was finished and we headed off. The wind was still strong but the sky was nicer and our route back via Elburg and Veluwe was lovely.

Just after I took this last photo we suddenly got rained upon, but it only lasted five minutes. We had been skirting rainclouds on the ride up till that point and had been very lucky, and so a short drenching wasn’t too bad.

We headed straight into Vaassen itself to a supermarket and bought ourselves salads and other goodies for dinner, which we ate in our Garden House. Neither of us felt particularly the need to go out to a restaurant.

Our total for the day was 93km at an average speed of 28.2 km/h.

The next morning was our ride home. We took the same route as we had used for the outward journey, but this time I took some more photos!

As we reached Dieren my need for the loo was such that we stopped at an ice cream place – which also did cake.

We then rode non-stop to the town on the border with Germany (the last NL town) where we stopped for Klaus to have a paracetamol as he had a headache, and for us to drink some water. I had also made some rolls out of the remainders of breakfast so we had a little to eat.

Although the wind had died down a lot compared to the previous two days, we still had a reasonable headwind which made the going a little slower. But we were very soon on familiar roads and we did a minor detour to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof for their much-beloved Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen.

It was pretty warm outside so we found a shady table under a tree.

From here it was only 31km home and we zoomed along.

Our total distance was 138.77km and the average speed was 29.9 for me and 30.0 for Klaus.

Emily was running really well after her repairs, and Millie also had better brakes and her tiller felt more precise. On smooth roads the fact that my wheel was a bit more round was also noticeable.

All in all, we had a very good trip. The distances per day were about what we would do on our summer tour, so it was good to know that we were both getting into our summer fitness. Well, I am of course assisted by my motor, but still I work a bit too, burning around 1000 calories per day from the cycling alone.

Thanks to the guys at Intercity Bike and Velomobiel.nl for the bike maintenance work.

Repairs to Millie’s Deckel/Lid

Millie the Milan has white bodywork but the lid/Deckel is red. This was resprayed for me by Ludwig when I bought Millie from him.

Unfortunately in some high winds last month, whilst parked at work Millie’s Deckel flew open and banged against her bodywork and the paint was cracked. It started to flake.

I considered having it resprayed but this seemed like a lot of money. In the end I decided to see if I could disguise the paint chips/flakes, at least in the short term. So I decided to have another go at doing the vinyl wrapping.

It was much easier this time as I could bring the area I was working on into the house!

As it was already red, I only needed to add white and blue. First of all I marked out where the red bits would stay.

You can see in the bottom right quadrant the section with the bad paint. I had sanded it off a little, but the entire topcoat was lifting. Here it is zoomed in a bit:

Now I will remind my readers here that I am not very good at the vinyl wrapping. It requires patience and two strong arms/hands, and both of these are slightly lacking in me. However, the first section went well!

This was, of course, the easiest bit. I had a hairdryer to warm the vinyl first which made it easier to move around. But I had a mini disaster on the second wedge, over the paint cracked area; I didn’t lay it straight and tried to lift it up again – and it took loads more paint with it! In the end I managed something but it wasn’t as good as the first wedge.

Basically, the curvy bits of Millie are hard to wrap. So in the end I did it with two white lines and then filled the blue in; for the first wedge the entire section was white, and then with the blue on top, so it looked smoother.

But I managed it in the end, and although no great work of art it’s not too bad from afar!

You can see that the vinyl is quite reflective.

And here it is in situ on Millie.

My feeling is that this is actually a bit too much Union Jack, and that I might need to take it off again and just return to the red sometime, but we shall see.

Miscellaneous

This month, as mentioned before, I had to work much more than normal as my colleague was on holiday. She is full-time and I work 5 hours per day usually, so I ended up working some 12 hour days. This is pretty exhausting for me as I am not used to it. My Garmin smartwatch tracks my stress during the day, and here is what a normal working day looks like:

And here is what one of my working days that week looked like:

It was a relief to have two weeks off for the cycle tour and my colleague was working flat-out the whole two weeks. I still have a lot of outstanding holiday as I have done so much overtime so will visit my Mum for a few days next month and may also take a few random days off to enjoy the summer.

Cakes this month

Most of this month’s cakes were consumed on our tours so the photos have already been uploaded, but here are a few which didn’t yet make it onto one of the blog posts.

After two weeks touring eating normal food (high carbohydrate) we are returning to our low-carb/ketogenic ways, so may have to be a bit stricter for a few weeks while we readjust. So perhaps there will be fewer cake photos next month. Watch this space to see!

Leave a Comment

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

Grensland Tour, May/June 2019

As mentioned in my blog post from May 2019, Klaus and I planned to take part in the Grensland Tour organised by the Dutch Grensrijders on the 1st June.

The tour would start from Posterholt in the Netherlands which is about 50km from home. We decided this was a bit far in one day, as the tour itself was planned as 60km, and so thought it would be good to book a Vrienden op de Fiets (cycling B&B) somewhere near Posterholt. It seems many other participants of the Grensland Tour had had the same idea, but a bit earlier than us, so we had to try several Vrienden op de Fiets hosts before we found somewhere that could have us. That somewhere was in Swalmen-Boukoul, just 40km from home and 15km from Posterholt.

So on the Friday afternoon, Klaus escaped from work early and we ended up leaving home at about 15:30. Our host AnneMarie said that she would be out at 6pm so we wanted to get there beforehand to meet her properly (otherwise she would just leave us a key hidden).

The ride from home to Swalmen seems to be mostly downhill and includes some wonderful fast bits!

The section from Brüggen to the border of NL is VERY fast. I spun out at 58km/h, Klaus managed 69.

Total distance was 42km and you can see the other statistics from the ride here:

We arrived at our Vrienden op de Fiets and met out host, Annemarie. We were staying in a Granny Annexe attached to the house, although having looked on Google Earth I assumed we would be in the garden shed that you see in this picture. No, the shed was a proper shed, but we parked our bikes beside it.

Our mini apartment had a lounge with kitchen corner, a bedroom and a bathroom. The hosts were obviously keen practitioners of yoga so there were books on yoga everywhere as well as a little buddhist altar and lots of colourful decoration. The garden was lovely to look out onto.

For our first evening we decided to walk to the local pizzeria in Swalmen. This was 3km away but we are getting good at walking now.

The pizzas that we chose were both very good prices, and then on the way back we had an ice cream from the ice cream parlour as it was pretty warm!

The 3km walk back was less good for Klaus who had a pretty nasty blister on his heel. I fortunately had a small plaster with me but it wasn’t enough to prevent the blister getting worse and I think it was pretty painful for him. But soon we were leaving Swalmen and approaching Boukoul.

Two languages – Dutch and the local dialect

We arrived back at our apartment for a cup of tea and a relax. Although we had not cycled far, it was a warm day and we had had a long walk so were both pretty tired.

We planned to leave at 9 the next morning to get to Posterholt with plenty of time to relax and have a cup of tea first.

We slept well and the next morning helped ourselves to the breakfast which had been left for us in the fridge. It was the typical Dutch breakfast of soft rolls and bread, cheese and ham, spreads, fruit, orange juice. It would keep us going!

We contacted Ralf who was riding from home to Posterholt and suggested he came via Swalmen and met us. He agreed to this and at twenty to nine our three velomobiles were outside the house in Boukoul. We set off for Posterholt following a track I had created which turned out to be pretty good. The only odd moment was the totally drunk man who slurred to us in Dutch and then English, asking for 5 Euro for us to pass. We didn’t pay up, but were briefly worried he might fall onto one of the velomobiles as we rode past. But fortunately he didn’t totter right onto us.

We arrived at Vurenhof in Posterholt and saw that we were not the first.

Chum Oliver was organising and he took subs from us all for the lunch. Once we had paid up we sat in the sunshine with a cup of tea and watched more friends and acquaintances arriving.

At 10:30 on the dot it was time to head off on our tour.

Oliver was leading the way on his recumbent two-wheeler. Unfortunately he had been in an accident in his Quattrovelo (someone at a roundabout had driven into him when he had priority and rolled it) so it was in for repair. This meant that the speed was very comfortable and the group stayed largely together.

The route took us to Selfkant, the smallest section of NL, and also to the most westerly point in Germany.

We went up quite high at one point where there were lots of windmills and I took the chance to pull over and take some photos.

Klaus and Emily
A look behind
Why have we stopped?
There is some kind of hold-up ahead!
Ah! A water pipe across the road – impassable for velomobiles. Fortunately two of the recumbent bike riders at the front held the pipe up and we could squeeze under it and between the rubber blocks.

After 35km we arrived at our lunch stop. We had reserved tables which had cakes on!

I chose the rice cake.

After the cakes we had rolls with cheese and ham (breakfast revisited really). We were on a table of mostly Germans and had a good chat.

We stayed at the lunch stop for about an hour before heading off again.

We rode, still all together apart from a couple who got punctures, and eventually returned to Vurenhof where we had an ice cream.

Most people stayed there as we were also going to cycle to Swalmen to the spot where Erwin de Vries died last year just before Oliebollentocht when he cycled into a barrier in the dark. The barrier had no reflectives on it and was right across the cycle path through a forest. He was in hospital for two weeks as a result of facial injuries and then very sadly he died as a result of these injuries.

Since that time the Grensland Rijders have been sticking reflective strips on all such poles that they find. We were all going to ride together to the spot to remember Erwin, especially as it would have been his birthday that day.

What seemed like almost the entire group then headed off together towards Swalmen, passing the place Klaus and I were staying.

We arrived at the area which is just next to a restaurant. The velomobiles all parked in the car park and the people sitting outside at the tables were watching us. I guess they had no idea what was going on.

Some words were said to remember Erwin and then a bouquet of flowers was laid.

This event was a reminder to us that all transport has its dangers, and that velomobiles, being an unusual size/shape, are not considered by cycle infrastructure planners. We need to be careful, but we need to ensure that the cycle paths that we are obliged to use in the Netherlands are also safe for us.

Klaus and I then road back with the group as they headed to Boukoul and stopped at our Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation.

In total our ride was 97km, and here is the route:

And here are the figures:

You can see we had a much slower average speed. This always happens in group riding as you can’t easily find your rhythm. At the end of the day my fingers were aching from constantly pulling the brakes!

Klaus’s blister was causing him trouble still but I fancied a walk so I walked to the Italian restaurant (the same as yesterday) and Klaus cycled. The walk was lovely again to stretch the legs, with half of it along a woodland path.

Klaus overtook me five minutes before I arrived, and he was sitting with a cold drink (and had ordered one for me) when I arrived. We enjoyed our dinner and then he headed back home, eschewing the ice cream. I treated myself to a larger ice cream this time!

We were both pretty tired, partly from the heat of the day. It had been very warm and we probably hadn’t drunk enough.

The next morning was our ride home, but we weren’t going the direct route but taking a detour to Wegberg.

We were ready to leave at 9am after having breakfast and washing up. We said goodbye to our hostess AnneMarie, we had very much enjoyed our time with her.

This was our route for the day:

As you can see, it was rather an indirect route back!

And here are the statistics:

First we headed to Sint Odilienberg which is a lovely town with a very impressive church.

Whilst we were out stretching our legs we heard a noise like thunder – another velomobile! It was a green Quest which we had seen on the tour yesterday. He didn’t see us.

After Sint Odilienburg we headed towards Wegberg where we planned to stop for some cake. This involved riding through the Meinweg National Park (but a different sector than we usually use) and just as we came out of the park there was a really steep hill at Dahlheim-Rodgen. I switched my motor onto maximum and trundled past Klaus as he was winching Emily with all our luggage up the hill. I stopped at the top and Klaus seemed to be taking a very long time, so much so that I fired up the tracker app on my phone to see where he was. Then he appeared behind me, with the news that his Schlumpf Mountain Drive had failed so he had no low gears, the pedals were just spinning. He had initially thought it was a broken chain and had to get out (which is tricky in a 7% hill as the brakes aren’t keen to hold the weight) and push it up the hill. When he got to the top and looked inside he realised the chain was still in place. It was the Schlumpf Drive.

He changed the Schlumpf gear back to the high gear and that worked, but it made some slightly unhealthy noises. What with his visor coming unstuck yesterday, the mystery squeaking noise from the free hub which he is concerned about, plus another deflation of the air suspension balls later in the ride today, he is getting quite concerned about Emily’s reliability. Humphrey before her wasn’t great either. I think there will be some serious thinking about whether or not to continue with the Quattrovelo experiment because of all the breakages and failures; compare this with the Milan which is supposedly less well built and the Quattrovelo fares very badly. My only Milan issues have been with the electrical wiring (indicators failing) and spokes breaking (from wheels that I bought from Velomobiel.nl). Millie is very reliable, and Emily should also be the same. We will think about it.

Klaus was now stuck only in the high gears and our terrain was slightly rolling at times. Despite the grinding noises from the front bottom bracket we headed on, stopping as planned at Wegberg for cake and tea.

My Velomobile alarm went off during our cake. As they were parked out of sight round the corner Klaus went to have a look. It seems that a loud motorcycle passing had vibrated the velomobile enough to make the alarm sound!

I asked Klaus if the grinding noise from the gears was getting any worse but he said no, so we carried on. He was restricted to only the high gear ranges so that meant it was a bit more effort for him pulling away at some junctions, but overall Emily was running very well at the speeds that we were able to maintain. She zooms along over 45km/h. I run out of pedalling speed (my chainring is too small and my cadence too low) so Klaus and Emily were out of sight ahead sometimes.

After Wegberg we headed towards Mönchengladbach, going around many of the small hamlets surrounding it. Then we finally got back to somewhere that I know – Dülken. As it was very hot it seemed time for an ice cream.


Klaus is not as pink as he looks – this is a camera issue! But he has got mega brown arms already.

From Dülken we headed north to Bistard and then joined the Bahnradweg at Lobberich. Our original plan was to ride through Kempen but as there was a running race on we decided to give Kempen a wide berth and we rode past Abtei Mariendonk.

We arrived home feeling very hot and quite thirsty, but having enjoyed our ride. We also had a nice message on the family blackboard!

All in all we really enjoyed the Grensland Treffen. It is always good to speak to other Velomobile riders, and to get to know new people as well as meeting up with old friends. The weather was very good too, although perhaps a bit too hot. We also picked up some very interesting information, that the Milan will in future be sold by Intercitybike in Dronten and also Beyß in Straelen – he is just 20km away. This has started me thinking about a new Milan next year…

Thanks again to Oliver Piper for organising the Grenslandtreffen, along with his supporters and also especially Chris for doing all the original planning and organising. Chris had an operation last week so was unable to ride with us, but we wish him a quick recovery and that he is back riding his Quattrovelo soon. And, of course, we remember Erwin de Vries.

2 Comments

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – May 2019 (Month 62)

The year is almost halfway through already! Shocking!

Velomobile stuff

Of course and as usual, velomobile riding is an important part of our lives.

Here is the list of rides that I have done this month, excluding the ride on 31 May (I am publishing this post on 30 May). That will be in a separate blog post about the Grensland Tour.

A total of 1,218km this month

And here is where I actually went. Green items are walks, red are cycle rides.

As you can see, there was a long ride this month into the Netherlands. That was our Klaus’s Birthday Castle tour and I have written separate blog posts about that: Kempen to Leiden; Leiden to Arnhem; Arnhem to Kempen.

This month I have felt very fit which has given me more enthusiasm for riding. This has included bagging ’tiles’ with Veloviewer, which is a Strava add-on which shows where you have ridden, overlaying it with a 1km squared grid. If any part of your ride goes through that square tile, then you have ‘bagged’ this tile. Veloviewer will show you your maximum square, as well as max cluster etc.

This offers an opportunity to ride new roads to make sure you pass through all the squares locally. This was my square in mid-April, a square which was 6×6 in size:

By the end of May I had made quite a lot of progress with a 13×13 square and quite a lot of opportunity to increase it further with one long ride out to the west.

We had an interesting afternoon with a chap Norbert who got in touch with me through a friend who had read my blog. He was interested in velomobiles so came over one Saturday afternoon to have a look at our stable of velomobiles (four at the moment). He said he found that they were much better in real life than in pictures, and we spent a long time chatting. As well as having a good look at Emily and Millie, we also took him to our other garage to see Celeste and Bertie. He was really enthused, went on a visit to Dronten a few days later and has now ordered a velomobile.

In showing Celeste to Norbert we discovered that her paint has cracked some more.

This seems to be a result of the repair which was done last autumn – it seems that the job wasn’t done entirely successfully. Klaus has been in contact with Velomobiel.nl who did the repair and we have said we will take Celeste to them later in the year for them to put her right.

We also arranged to visit Velomobiel.nl in early June, the last weekend before our bike tour starts, as Emily is making a strange creaking noise when under load but not being pedalled. Klaus thinks it might be something to do with one of the rear free hubs and wants to get it checked out before we head off on our tour to Bodensee. So we will have a tour to Dronten over the weekend (leaving Friday afternoon) and staying at the Vrienden op de Fiets in Vaassen again. This time I will cycle up with Klaus (unless the weather is appalling) and I am thinking about perhaps getting Millie serviced as well while I am there. We shall see.

One Sunday Klaus and I decided to go for a ride to Uerdingen to enjoy a cake at the Markt Café there. We also invited Ralf, who would have to join us a bit later.

Klaus and I decided we would visit the grave of Liegender Robert on the way and pay our respects.

We of course travelled there by velomobile in his honour.

After spending a short amount of time at the grave, we carried on to Uerdingen where we were soon joined by Ralf.

Grensland Treffen

Christi Himmelfahrt or Ascension Day was at the very end of May. The Thursday of Ascension Day is a public holiday but Klaus had to work on the Friday. Grensland Rijders (the Roermond-based Velomobile group) had arranged a tour for Saturday 1 June, and we had registered for this. Rather than riding the 45km to the start in Posterholt, then doing the 70km tour, then riding 45km back (as Klaus did for Oliebollentocht in the winter) we decided instead to make a weekend of it (of course!) and travel to somewhere near Posterholt on the Friday night after work.

It seems the other velomobilists had had the same idea as the local Vrienden op de Fiets were all booked up, but eventually we found a space in Boukoul which is near Swalmen, just 40km from home. The plan is to cycle there and bag some Veloviewer tiles on the way!

I will write a separate blog post about the Grensland Tour.

Miscellaneous

Once again, I had some lovely scenes on my walk to work.

Klaus took this lovely pic of the other kind of Poppy!

This month I changed my work hours from 08:00-13:00 to 07:00-12:00. This works better with my job-share as it means someone is in the office earlier (the production area starts at 06:00). However, it means I would have to leave home at 6:10 at the latest if I walked to work, so I thought that might mean the end of my walks. Fortunately Klaus agreed to drive me to work one day, so I still had my walk home. I have now done this three times, and it is a good chance for me to still get my walking in. It also confuses my colleagues when my Velomobile isn’t parked outside so they think I haven’t turned up!

This month Poppy went on holiday to Berlin with Lars, the son of my landlord and landlady. He had visited for a week and would be back in three and a half weeks’ time and asked to take Poppy back to Berlin with him. As we know she loves the time with him, and likes travel, we agreed. But we really missed her – I came home to this note on our communal message blackboard:

It was great to welcome her back at the end of May, although she had to have a haircut straight away as she looked too much like a teddy bear, plus warm weather was coming, so she wasn’t too pleased with me.

I had a lovely long walk one day where I did a much longer circuit (10.56km) and ended up in Kreis Kleve – a walk Poppy would have really enjoyed, if she hadn’t have been in the nation’s capital at the time!

I walked up past the little stream which I think is the Eschel.

I then crossed under the A40 motorway and was in Kreis Kleve. Where we regularly cycle, but I had not walked there before.

I was very quickly away from the Landstrasse onto some lanes, which were all pretty nicely surfaced, although I didn’t see any cars. There were loads of benches to sit and relax on.

Before long I was approaching Stenden, with its interesting church in view.

I was also pleased to see these visitors returning again.

I then had to walk along the road through the village for a short way before heading over the bridge over the A40 and joining back with one of our usual walking routes. It was a really nice walk, and I treated myself to some strawberries from the farm shop on my way past.

The local strawberry/asparagus place also has some baby goats (kids) that wander around and are very sweet!

And quite a few other animals too!

I have tried to keep up the walking despite Poppy not being around and have been reasonably successful in this. I tend to want to do a walk each day, if I don’t go out I feel a bit cooped up!

Over the last few months I have shown screenshots of my VO2 Max reading as measured by my Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch. I started off with a ‘very poor’ VO2 Max reading for my age (which is 47) but it has been steadily improving due to all my walking (it is only measuring it through walking, not cycling). This month the improvement continued, and it seems I am now a 20-year-old in fitness terms!

The European Elections

I don’t want this blog to become too political as I am just so tired of it all. But readers will know that I very much support Britain remaining in the European Union – not just because that is to my benefit as someone who has exercised my right of freedom of movement, but also because I believe it is better for the UK and the rest of Europe.

I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t get a chance to vote in the European Elections as a UK citizen. I had to decide whether or not to vote in Germany (I had this option); I had to register at the Rathaus by a certain date if I wanted to vote in Germany. This date was before Britain had decided whether or not we would be taking part, but my hunch was that we would, and that I wanted to vote in England rather than Germany. So I held fire from registering in Germany and waited for my vote to come.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, seven days before the vote, my documents arrived.

I filled it in immediately.

Klaus also had a postal vote as he had expected to be in Korea for work on the day of the election (although in the end that was postponed). His ballot paper was interesting and rather different than the British one which had, if I remember correctly, 7 parties:

German postal vote form – 40 parties to choose from, including 4 Tierschutz (animal care) parties

There were also some interesting people on the German ballot, where you have to give some personal info (unlike the UK one)

Check out number 10, Die Partei, and the names…

We had both completed our ballots in about ten minutes and then I had to purchase the 3,70 € postage to send it back to England. I really hope the post was quick enough for it to arrive in time – a week is not that long for international letters if you are unlucky.

Of course, I was much luckier than a lot of people in France who apparently didn’t receive their postal ballots, plus of course so many of the European citizens in the UK who were denied their right to vote due to councils failing to send them a form or process it in time.

The elections are over and in Germany the results were good (in my opinion). Clearly in the UK the Brexit muddle continues. But there is nothing I can do about it now I have cast my vote, I just have to watch and wait and see.

A trip to Mannheim

More than a year ago, a WhatsApp group of Klaus’s former classmates from his secondary school/Realschule started discussing having a Klassentreffen or Class Reunion. Eventually they fixed on a date and Klaus said he would like to go. This would of course also give him an opportunity to visit his father who moved to Mannheim a few months ago.

The Klassentreffen was on a Saturday evening so we booked a hotel for Saturday. We arranged to meet with Klaus’s friend Martin after lunch on Saturday, and it was good to spend time with him. We then headed to our hotel in Lorsch which was just 2km from the bar where the Klassentreffen would take place. I dropped Klaus off at the bar at 17:00 and headed back to our hotel.

I had decided to have a mini explore of Lorsch which has in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site in its Abbey.

Carolingian Gatehall
Inside the Gatehall looking towards the Abbey

After doing a bit of sightseeing I stopped and had a piece of cake which was actually slightly disappointing (a bit dry). A disappointing cake is unusual in Germany!

The shops were all closed in Lorsch (Saturday afternoon is apparently not a great time for shopping!) so I went back to the hotel and then went out for a longer walk. I dropped in on Klaus’s Klassentreffen as I was round the corner and said hello, and then left him to it. He eventually rolled into the hotel at 2am, having had a really good time.

The next morning we had quite a bit of time as we had arranged to see Klaus’s father after lunch. So we went for a bit of a walk up some hills to one of Klaus’s favourite places to sit and relax. He used to mountain bike up the hills behind Heppenheim, and showed me some of the steep tracks he cycled up. We walked up ’em.

Looking down to the Rhein
Vineyards
Sitting on a bench to rest after walking uphill!

We walked back down again and then went for a coffee in Heppenheim. This is a lovely small town where Klaus lived many years ago, and the Rathaus opposite was where he got married.

After our walk around Heppenheim we headed to Mannheim. We were still early so went for a very long walk alongside the Rhein in Mannheim, another of Klaus’s favourite places where he often goes to. We walked 8km with an ice-cream stop in the middle at an outdoor swimming place.

Klaus’s father had of course made a cake for us, so we enjoyed a couple of slices of the Erdbeerboden and a good chat before heading home again. Mannheim to Kempen is just over three hours’ drive, which is not bad but we do tend to feel a bit tired after these weekends.

One of the main two purposes of the visit, the Klassentreffen, was a real success and they are already talking about doing it again. I guess Klaus will be very happy to go again!

Cakes this month

As usual, here is the gallery of cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed eating this month! For the avoidance of doubt, I have NOT eaten all of these myself.

Next month…

The month of June will be very busy as we have the Grensland Tour, the ride to Dronten and then also our two week summer Velomobile tour to Bodensee. The Bodensee Tour will have separate blog posts, as will the Grensland Tour, so keep an eye out for those – no need to wait until the end of June! And, if you haven’t done it before, you can register for email updates when I write a new blog post; just put your email address in the “Subscribe to my Blog” box on the top right of this page. Your email address isn’t shared or used for anything except for emailing you when I publish a new post. I hope you enjoy them enough to want to read more!

Leave a Comment

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – April 2019 (Month 61)

I ended last month with the cliffhanger… what would happen at my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) with regard to Brexit?

Of course, Brexit was delayed from its original date of 29 March 2019, thus meaning that when I arrived for my appointment at the Kreishaus Viersen on 1 April (I had lived exactly five years in Germany at this point) I was still a European citizen.

The lady with whom I had an appointment said she had expected me not to show up, as Brexit hadn’t happened! However, I said to her that I would like some kind of documentation to show that I had now lived in Germany for five years as an EU citizen so was theoretically entitled to remain permanently. Unfortunately Kreis Viersen doesn’t offer the usual document for EU citizens (because they don’t need it, because they are EU citizens so have the right to remain anyway!) so all she could do is prepare the documents for me for after Brexit. I had already found this document and filled it in as much as possible, so she said they would hold it on file so I would be one of the first processed after Brexit (whenever it comes, hopefully never).

This involved taking my fingerprints, a copy of a photograph of me for the future ID card, and evidence of my employment income (I had the last few payslips with me). My huge folder of documents, including bank statements, education certificates, rental contract etc etc was not needed.

I asked her if I could have some kind of document to prove that I had attempted to gain my Niederlassungserlaubnis because I felt rather unsure of the situation when Brexit came. How quickly would I be able to get an appointment, for example. She discussed with a colleague and in the end provided me with a letter which basically just shows that I have put in an application for a right to remain, and that I am currently allowed to remain in Germany.

I don’t suppose this document is worth very much really but at least it is something, and Germans do like their pieces of paper!

So after all the preparation for this appointment, gathering together all my documentation over the last 4-5 months, it was a bit of a damp squib. But at least I have now handed in my application for the Aufenthaltserlaubnis (leave to remain) so hopefully that will all be accepted when the time comes.

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month:

My Veloviewer Wheel for April 2019

And here is the list of rides:

April 2019 cycling, only 16km in Bertie

A large distance this month was of course the tour that Klaus and I did in the Netherlands following his Dronten trip. You can read a separate blog post about our Easter NL Tour here.

I of course continued to cycle to work, the 4.2km each way taking just under ten minutes. It’s no quicker by car. And I get some lovely morning views across the fields.

In addition to our Netherlands Tour, Klaus and I also had a longer ride in NL one Saturday.

Schafstall, Kessel Tour

This ended up as a 120km tour. Our plan was first to go to Café Schafstall in Twisteden for some cake, and then ride to the Netherlands, returning back via the Reuver/Kessel ferry.

We enjoyed a slice of cake at Schafstall…

And then headed downhill into NL, crossing the river Maas on a bridge at Knikkerdorp.

We were going really well as it was nice weather and we zoomed south, heading towards Kessel. We decided to stop for lunch at Grubbenvorst, and parked next to another interesting vehicle!

We had a lunch of soup and then headed on, zooming our way through Venlo and down to Kessel. The velomobiles were both flying!

We crossed the ferry at Kessel/Reuver and then rode home up the hill at Weissen Stein. I have to say, it’s much more fun now I have a motor in the velomobile!

This wasn’t our only long Sunday ride into NL. At the end of April we did another trip, this time with Ralf. I had so enjoyed the slice of Erbeer Baiser Kuchen at Winthuis on our way back from our Easter NL tour that I suggested we went there the following Sunday. Ralf agreed to come too!

This was the goal… a fab Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen (Strawberry cream and meringue cake)

Ralf came to our house at 9am. We had agreed to check the weather in the morning as there was some rain threatened but in the end it was nicer than expected and we didn’t get rained on at all.

This was our track for the day:

The route to Winthuis is one that we regularly do with Ralf – we love these fast roads heading north-west from Kempen. We ride first through Kerken, then bypass Geldern by heading to Pont, then Walbeck (on a major road but it has a wide side strip we can use), then towards Weeze going through Twisteden. This always gives us an option for another decent Bauerncafé!

We arrived at Winthuis and I initially thought it was closed as there didn’t seem much going on. I said if that were so then we could just go back to Twisteden and Café zum Schafstall but Ralf was running out of energy (he had ridden an extra 20km and had not done so much cycling over the last few months due to a short hospital stay). Fortunately the café was indeed open.

I ordered the Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen of course, but Klaus went for a Black Forest Gateau

and Ralf for a Käse Sahne Torte.

They were great of course, and we enjoyed the relaxation after working fairly hard to get to Weeze.

We then headed off to the Netherlands.

The clouds were massing but fortunately we avoided the rain.

This ride ended up at 76km in total for us, quite a bit further for Ralf who stayed with us until Wachtendonk. I had assumed he would peel off for home in Straelen, but I think he was enjoying being part of this speedy Velomobile train! Our average speed ended up at 29 km/h.

One other cycling event this year was the Spezi Radmesse. Klaus and I went together and spent about three hours there as we had an afternoon appointment. It was great to meet up with many friends again, and also to see what is going on in the world of velomobiles and recumbents.

Lots of jellybeans

A lot of our friends cycled there. We were quite envious of them for the ride, but it’s a long way (we did it four years ago by trike!). We were disappointed not to bump into Andrew Allen and John Williams, two Brits who were there. We hope maybe to catch up with them when we are in the UK in September.

Walking

As well as cycling, I have also continued my walking in the month of April. I have walked 130km in total in April, including at least one day per week walking the 8.2km round trip to work and back. However, my working hours have now changed so I am starting at 7am rather than 8am which might put paid to the commuting by walking (I would need to leave the house around 6am which is a trifle early!)

A side-effect of the walking is that my Vo2 Max has continued to improve.

As a reminder, when I first bought my Garmin smartwatch it calculated my VO2 max as “Poor or very poor”, 29 on the scale, and that my fitness age was 53 years old. Seeing as I am 47 and a regular cyclist that was a bit surprising!

However, over the time with all the walking my VO2 max has gradually improved.

So that at the end of April it was at a rather pleasing 38, so my fitness age is 26!

My Garmin only measures my VO2 max when walking, not cycling; if I had a power meter on Millie it would measure it during cycling and would probably provide a different measurement because the two sports are different, although I guess with my electric motor it wouldn’t work anyway!

And another beneficiary of the walking is…

Poppy the dog is getting very fit now, as she gets walks from me/us each day, plus walks from Gudula. Gudula also takes her inline skating, and came to visit me at work one day with Poppy (at least a ten kilometre round trip).

She seems not to have entirely given up her aspirations to car driving though.

Poppy often gets evening walks with us, now that it stays light until nearly nine pm.

And during my afternoons free from work, if the weather is nice, we go for a longer walk too.

The scenery where we live is lovely, although Klaus suffered from hayfever this month.

An interesting thing about hay fever… in the UK there are three different tablets commonly available in supermarkets/chemists: Cetirizine hydrochloride, Loratadine and Acrivastine. The first two are cheap as chips, the Acrivastine is harder to find and about three times the price. They all have different ways of working. We stocked up big time on the first two and bought one packet of Acrivastine when in the UK last September as antihistamines cost about ten times as much in Germany.

Last year on our summer tour we both got itchy skin rashes from the Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars and I had read that Cetirizine antihistamines can help with this; of course, on that occasion we had the Loratadine with us. We know for our next summer tour!

Anyway, this year the Cetirizine wasn’t helping Klaus, nor was the Loratadine. I had one box of the more expensive Acrivastine and he tried that for the first time and it worked for him, although the tablets are only for eight hours (rather than the full day of the others). Which made them even more expensive… It was £7 for 24, whereas the others are about £2.30 for a pack of 30.

Anyway, as he only had the one packet of 24 Acrivastine we started seeing about getting some more. And as I had been warned by friend Babs, it seems Acrivastine is not available at all in Germany. How odd! So my next cunning plan was to cycle to NL and buy some there; however, I soon saw that there are very few Apotheeks/chemists compared to the number in Germany. I wanted to go to Arcen (a nice ride from here) but they had none. Venlo had several chemists but I am less keen on cycling there, I wanted to check the tablets would be available. I couldn’t tell, so I asked Dutch chum Alex who told me Acrivastine is only available on prescription in the Netherlands. So no luck there.

Fortunately the hay fever time had passed before we ran out of Acrivastine, but we know to stock up again as soon as we are in the UK. And how strange, that despite the European Union the authorisations for these tablets are so different. (Medications are massively cheaper in the UK than in Germany so we buy paracetamol and ibuprofen when visiting the UK too).

Back to walking now! My work walking commute is also still fun.

Still eating Keto

The Keto diet continues. I have now lost 17 kg since January, and not been hungry during that time. I allow myself a slice of cake during a cycle ride but try not to do that too often as then I would slip too far out of ketosis and start getting hunger pangs/sugar cravings again.

Here are some more pics of the Keto food that we eat. All prepared freshly, with fresh vegetables, meat from the local butcher, lots of cream and butter and cheese. Wonderful!

Keto roast dinner – roast chicken, celeriac roast ‘potatoes’, other roasted veg
Keto chicken pie. We had some other veg out of shot to accompany it.
Keto burger and chips, with 90-second mug bread which worked really well for the bap. The chips are made of celeriac and taste great!
Keto fish ‘n chips (celeriac chips). I breaded the fish myself with some almond flour, garlic and egg.

It seems this month my cooking has tended more to traditional British food. I also made a lovely butter chicken curry. Klaus has also cooked as well, of course – he is the expert with pork steaks. We are both eating really well, and enjoying our daily strawberries from the Asparagus grower down the road.

I also finally managed to make a decent Keto bread. It has almond flour, chia seeds, quark and a few other bits and bobs.

I make it in small springform tins
Here it is, out of the tins after 50 minutes’ cooking
And inside – chia seeds visible. My phone has made the colour a bit weird, it’s white inside!

Cakes this month

Of course my blog cannot be complete without the gallery of cakes this month. These have been shared by Klaus and I. Good thing we are also doing lots of cycling!

May will be a busy month. Klaus celebrates his birthday and of course we will go on a bike tour for it (NL again!) He also has to go to Korea for work for a week which is not such fun. We have a couple of bank holidays which is nice, as we also did in April. And we possibly have the European elections too (I decided to vote with my UK postal vote rather than in Germany, as I want to be a pro-European Brit).

See you next month!

Leave a Comment

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – March 2019 (Month 60)

I am writing this on 31 March. Until a few days ago I assumed I would no longer be an EU citizen on this date. But, hurrah, that is not the case! Tomorrow is my visit to the Ausländerbehörde, the Foreigners Office, in Viersen; hopefully there I will be able to get some kind of documentation for the fact I will have lived 5 years in Germany. This time five years ago I was heading to Harwich on my way to the ferry to start my new life (not that I knew at the time it would be my new life!) So much has happened in those five years, but it has been very good!

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month by bike:

And here is the list of rides. This totalled 298km by bike, but I also walked 97km too!

Celeste again

Long term readers of my blog will remember Celeste, Klaus’s Strada velomobile. This had been damaged by some vandals and then repaired, but had been stored in our next door neighbour’s workshop as we didn’t have space in our garage at the house and we weren’t happy with the security at the other rented garage (where Celeste was vandalised).

Some months ago we met Inge and her husband Frank, as well as her brother (also called Frank) and talked a lot about velomobiles. She was very interested in trying out Celeste to see if it would suit, so we extracted Celeste from the neighbour’s garage and Klaus cycled her to Inge’s.

Before Celeste went to Inge’s, however, Poppy had to have a little go…

Inge had to buy some SPD shoes of course, but otherwise we didn’t need to do much to Celeste at all as Inge’s leg length seems to fit with the chain length in Celeste.

We have been out for a couple of rides with her and Celeste, it is funny to follow that celeste-coloured shape again after a full year of Quattrovelo following!

Emily and Celeste
A view in Emily’s mirror

We are letting Inge use Celeste for several weeks before she has to decide whether or not to buy her. Celeste is an ideal velomobile for most uses and a bit easier to maintain than the Quattrovelo or Milan, plus she is very quiet. So far Inge seems to be enjoying using her!

Millie’s brake and spokes repair

This month saw (finally!) the repair to Millie’s sticking brake.

The brakes in the Milan (as in most other velomobiles) pass through the plates where the steering rods are attached. The Milan brake cable makes a 180 degree turn in order to go inside the front suspension and up to the brake drum. You can see a picture here.

Highlighted is the brake cable with the metal flexible sheath over it

I had ordered a new brake sheath (the metal bit at the end) from the UK as I couldn’t find this type in Germany. It took a couple of weeks to arrive but eventually came. I didn’t have an opportunity to do the repair, and then wanted to ride Millie one Friday afternoon. It was impossible, the brake was constantly stuck on and squealing. So the next day it was a definite job to do!

First of all, we laid Millie on her side on the garden table. Here you can see both wheels still in place.

Then it was time to remove the right hand wheel (although we needed to do both, as there was also a broken spoke on each wheel).

This had previously taken us hours but Frank had a convenient tool that we could use. He was originally going to help me but ended up not being available so Klaus and I had to have a go on our own.

On the left hand wheel we also had to unscrew the speed sensor for the Bafang motor, which was cable-tied to the bunged-up brake cable.

We managed to get the wheel off after about 10 minutes.

And were left this this arrangement inside the wheel well.

Klaus is holding onto the brake cable in that photo. The idea was to just pull the metal brake noodle thingie off. But would it come off? No!

More and more pulling… unsuccessful

The problem was that the brake noodle thingie was getting caught on the end of the brake cable which was a bit split. We had no success so in the end Klaus resolved to cycle to a bike shop and buy a new brake cable and we would cut this one off.

We were then able to pull out the entire brake cable. Which involved some fiddling on the tiller too…

So off he went to buy a brake cable or three (I suggested two spares as well!) and I replaced the broken spoke on the wheel.

Klaus returned, having invested 15 Euros in some decentish cable (Shimano rather than No-Name).

We would now have to feed the new cable into the old sheath. The possibility had been to change the sheath too, but as everything is rather hidden away around the tiller I didn’t fancy that, although it probably would not have been as bad as I had feared.

The new cable ran nicely down inside the cable sheath until right at the end… where it was presumably still full of a bit of gunk which had caused the issue before. We sprayed some teflon fluid down it but no luck. In the end Klaus just cut the bottom 5mm off the cable and then it was fine, we were able to attach the new noodle.

Then the really tricky bit started! Getting the new cable the right length to work the brakes, without having actually measured the correct length of cable.

There is very little room to work in Millie’s wheel well and we had to mostly replace the wheel (except for the final fine positioning) to gauge the length of the cable. I think this took us at least an hour, but finally the brake was working. Klaus did the fine-tuning on the tiller and the brakes are now perfect – don’t pull to one side, release easily, run smoothly. It’s a real improvement!

We then removed the second wheel so I could replace the spoke on that one. This didn’t take too long, fortunately. I also added new washers to the top of the suspension arms for each front wheel as the old ones had rather perished. They are what you see when inside the cockpit of the Milan.

So Millie is now running very nicely with definitely improved braking control!

A second minor repair also used a brake cable, but this time the outer…

I had ridden Millie to work on a really windy day and at one point in the morning the wind blew her lid/deckel open. This is held in place with some stiff cable which had been getting a bit rusty/grotty over the last couple of years, and finally the cover was pulled off the end of the cable and it ripped out of Millie. There was no way to feed this frayed metal nightmare back through the small hole between cockpit and lid!

As I was at work I asked the Schlosser (Handyman) if he had a suitable bit of replacement cable. He did, but it was too flexible (and turned out to also be too wide), but he recommended screws and washers instead. So he did a quick repair but it was clear to me that the screws/washers option didn’t allow enough flexibility for the movement required for the lid.

When I got home I had a look around for a bit of suitable wire, and in our box of Miscellaneous Bike Bits I found two spare brake cables. This was clearly the right thing! I wasn’t able to cut the cable so it is rather longer than needed, but hopefully at some point I will find someone with a suitable cable cutter and have it the right length, but in the meantime the lid is now properly affixed again. And if anyone needs an emergency brake cable outer I have one!

More walking again

I am really enjoying doing a lot more walking, and aim to walk to work and back at least once per week. In the last week of March I managed it twice in one week! The journey on the route I take is 4.2km so that is about 50 minutes of walking for me.

And I see such lovely sights on the walk…

Asparagus fields

On the days I don’t walk to work I take Poppy out for around an hour each day. It is interesting to see how my fitness is improving, at least according to my Garmin Vivoactive Smartwatch. It measures VO2 Max; I have no idea how accurate it is, but I guess its readings may give me a bit of a clue… and I am finally younger than my actual age (47 3/4)

A visit to Vaessen and a visit from my Mum

I had a lovely week with my Mum, who booked to come over two weeks before Brexit to avoid any potential travel issues if she came in the more usual April/May time.

We were to collect her on Sunday morning from the Hoek van Holland. Klaus had booked to have Emily checked in Dronten the day before as there were some things that needed doing and it was the only suitable time.

The original plan was for us both to cycle part of the way there on the Friday evening and stay in a Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation on Friday night. Klaus would then cycle to Dronten on Saturday, get the work done and return to the same Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation Saturday afternoon. I would ride home on Saturday to be ready to pick Mum up Sunday morning.

We had loved our visit to Vaassen last time and contacted the Vrienden op de Fiets host, but this time unfortunately (for us) he had friends visiting who were staying in the accommodation. But he recommended two other options and I contacted the first who said yes, we could stay.

Looking at the weather forecast in advance it looked like it would not be good weather for Millie (too rainy), so I made the decision to go by car. I checked first with the Vrienden op de Fiets hosts and they said that was fine. Klaus was coming by bike after all.

He came home from work just after lunch and set off on the 135km ride to Vaassen. I left home a couple of hours later and had a motorway run which is very familiar – the route to Dronten!

I arrived about 20 minutes before Klaus (he has a tracker in Emily so I could see where he was). We were in a ‘Garden House’ which in this case was a shed that had been built as a separate accommodation area and was really nice.

Klaus rolled in shortly after I had made a cup of tea and he parked in the carport – his Insignia could cope with being out in the rain and wind, we thought!

After he had showered we walked into Vaassen, about 2km, to the Turkish restaurant we had eaten in before (we were aiming for something else but nothing else tickled our fancy). After a good meal we walked back again in the dark, periodically using our phone lights to signal our presence to the occasional car drivers who whizzed along this narrow road.

The next morning we had the traditional Dutch breakfast (best not to say much about that) and then Klaus headed off to Dronten and I returned to Kempen. He had a reasonably successful time in Dronten although didn’t get everything done, and I made final preparations for Mum’s visit.

I left home at 6am on the Sunday morning to head for the Hook of Holland. Mum arrived just as I did, and we headed to Dechi Beach for breakfast. This is a beachfront café which does a very nice breakfast, in fact the only decent breakfast I think I’ve had in the Netherlands! It wasn’t really beach weather though.

But we enjoyed our breakfast and the chance to relax before the 2 hour drive back to Germany.

I had the week off work so Mum and I had a lot of time together. Unfortunately the weather was awful so we didn’t get out as much as we’d like, but we did visit a Garden centre, did a bit of shopping in Kempen, had a few cakes and Mum even came with us to visit Inge when Klaus delivered Celeste. Poppy really enjoyed having her Oma visiting too!

It was sad to wave goodbye to Mum, but we will see her when we visit the UK in September… by bike!

Miscellaneous

Here are a few miscellaneous items I experienced this month…

Google Maps is a bit hazy on German spelling for Ausfahrt… but only if you are visiting Breyell it seems!
My proof-reading skills work quite well in German too. This would be a VERY solid sofa… (should be Polstergarnitur)
In the company where I work, an extra vowel has crept into the last word,
perhaps instead of the missing s…
(should be kommissioniert)

Cakes this month

As usual, here are the cakes that I or my cycling companions enjoyed this month…

And not just cakes. We have (despite the cakes) continued with eating Keto. I have now lost 14kg in the last three months and feel really good with it, as I am almost never hungry and don’t have any energy dips.

Here are a few photos of the food that we have cooked for ourselves this month:

And what’s next…

With Brexit, who knows! I woke up yesterday and was still a European Citizen, which I had not necessarily expected. Tomorrow at the Ausländerbehörde I will find out what options are open to me as a UK national who has been resident in Germany for five years. As the Germans say, ‘es bleibt spannend…’

1 Comment

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – February 2019 (Month 59)

Welcome to my February blog – the last before Brexit (or so it seems, we are not quite sure!)

As usual, there’s been some cycling, and in fact February was much more successful than January in terms of riding distance, helped by the fact we had some cracking weather!!

In total in February I rode 605km, a big improvement over January’s 224km.

February’s cycle rides

As you can also see, although there were a few rides in Bertie, the majority were in Millie. This is because the weather was very good so I could use my non-waterproof Velomobile!

And this is where I rode this month

The month started out rainy, and Bertie had to hide under his cover at home in the garden.

Bertie undercover

Fortunately most of the days were sunny, and on my rides (and walks) to work I was treated to some wonderful sunrises.

Not only did I cycle to work, but I also walked to work on two occasions. I really enjoyed the 4km walk, which took me about 50 minutes. I walked home again one day, and on the other Klaus picked me up from work as he had been in the Netherlands for work and returned early. I will hope to do more walking to work when the weather improves again as it’s a lovely way to start the day.

Put your best foot forward…

Klaus and I managed to do more weekend riding in February, although disappointingly not accompanied by Ralf who had a hernia which was repaired but means he’s off the bike for a bit.

A few longer rides

To Kevelaer

One Sunday morning we decided to ride to Winnekendonk to our favourite café, Büllhorsthof. Unfortunately when we got there the café was full with breakfasters and as it was too cold to sit outside we decided to head somewhere else. We phoned Café Binnenheide but they were also full, so we took our chances with a town and headed towards Kevelaer.

We have had some slightly weird experiences in Kevelaer with people poking our bikes (it is a pilgrim town and attracts unusual people). This time we found a café in a side street and could sit at the window watching the bikes outside.

Although Klaus and I are both eating low carb food, we decided on longer rides to reward ourselves with half a cake each. We agreed on the cheesecake…

This was a nice ride, and it was good to stretch my legs for 70km, my longest ride of the year so far.

To the Radfahrer Kaffeeklatsch

I attended one of the Friday Kaffeeklatsches, where cyclists meet at a café and chat and have cake. This one was in Tönisvorst at the Obsthof so I could manage to get there after work.

I cut my slice of cake in half and took the second half home for Klaus (aren’t I nice!)

There was also a Kaffeeklatsch in St Hubert so that time I walked there with Poppy… but had enough willpower to eschew a piece of cake altogether. Impressive!

Xanten over three mountains

We also had a ride to Xanten, and rather than using my traditional hill-avoidance route I took in three mountains, including one very sharp, short climb. Hallelujah for Millie’s motor!

So we rewarded ourselves with an entire slice of cake each.

This ride was 79km in total, and then we went out later that day by bike to see friends Inge and Frank so I ended up with 105km for the day.

A small Velomobile meet in Rees

With the wonderful weather Klaus posted in the Velomobilforum to say we would ride to Rees on a Sunday morning and would love to be joined by other velomobilists. In the end a few people said they would come, so we set off at 9:30am in lovely sunshine, riding through rural Kreis Kleve.

We arrived in Rees at 11:00 and sat down outside on the terrace of a café with a good view over the Rhine. And had cake of course.

We were pleased to be joined by Thomas (Speedastir) in his yellow Quest

And also two others, a guy Dirk who lives in Rees and rides a DF and another guy Uwe with a new (to him) eOrca who lives in Krefeld so had a similar distance to us to get to Rees.

We had a lovely chat over a couple of hours, although observed a chap in a motorised wheelchair crash into the back of Emily. The chap was severely disabled and unable to really communicate, but it was clear he wanted to try to make amends. We checked Emily and she just had minor scratches. It was clearly purely an accident and so we waved the chap on. These things happen.

Eventually it was time to head back. Klaus had developed a slow puncture on the way to Rees so pumped Emily’s tyres up before we headed back. The DF rider agreed to show us a slightly nicer route the other side of the Rhine, so we all followed him over the Rhine Bridge.

I had followed the Orca over the bridge and seen that he, too, had a bit of a flat rear tyre so we stopped for both Klaus and Uwe to pump up their tyres.

After about 10km the DF rider headed back to Rees and we kept going. The Orca guy Uwe said he would like to accompany us. I thought it might be a bit challenging for him as the Orca is heavy, despite the motor, but he kept up really well (although said he would not normally ride that fast!)

We had another stop to pump up the tyres.

The route back was lovely, the sunshine had really warmed the air and it felt like a late spring morning – but this was mid February.

Uwe came with us as far as Stenden and then headed off home to Krefeld. I am sure we will see him on a group ride again soon!

We got home with 115km on the clock, which was another good ride for me. I am slowly getting back into the swing of it!

More on Millie’s motor

Millie of course now has her motor, and I have ridden her a lot more with it. I now have got very used to it and really enjoy using it.

I did a test to see what distance the battery would last when riding under normal conditions. This was with the assistance level set at 1 (out of 5) but increasing to 3 at traffic lights/stops and for a few hilly bits.

I was delighted to see that the battery was good for well over 200km.

I also had a chance to do a bit of experimentation with what was causing some of the newer noises in Millie since the motor was fitted.

The main noticeable issue is that when the road has a fairly strong camber down to the right, there is a bit of a grinding noise at the back of Millie. I initially thought it was the chain but realised after a while it was something else, and eventually was able to reproduce a similar noise by flexing the cover for the back wheel. There is a wheel box built around the back wheel and the tolerances are very fine – it seems that when the bike is leaning to the right, there is a slight vibration in this area.

I did a second experiment, removing the heavy battery which is fixed on the left hand side of the velomobile but with its frame attached to the rear swing-arm. Lo and behold, without the battery the noise was not there. It seems that the weight of the battery (about 3.2kg) is ever so slightly moving the weight in the bike so that there is a tiny deformation and the wheel box is rubbing on the right hand slopes. It’s not an issue now I know what it is, and the noise only occurs on very cambered roads – it’s something I can live with,

Something that was trickier to live with was my left brake jamming up completely one rainy day. I rode to work with the brake squealing and the motor having to help me to push against its resistance. The bottom of the brake cable does a u-bend through the sheath and had obviously got full of grot.

Frank helped me to remove the wheel (in other words, he did it for me – super-efficiently!) as initially I assumed the drum brakes were binding around the axle.

Removing the wheel usually takes me about an hour – I was mega impressed to see Frank do it in about five minutes.

Anyway, we saw it wasn’t a problem with the actual drums and pads, but Frank noticed it was the brake cable not moving smoothly through the sheath. We oiled it a bit, and had to do it again a couple of days later. I ordered a spare brake noodle (which had to come from England, weirdly, as there were none of the right type on German eBay) and hope that Frank will be available again when it is time to replace the brake noodle.

What was less impressive was that when Frank and I were lifting Millie onto the garden table in order to remove her wheel, my sleeve caught on Millie’s brake light (a strip of LEDs) and pulled it off. It’s just held on with Superglue.

I attempted to repair it, by gluing again, but had to fix it with some unattractive red insulating tape until I can check it will stay in place.

Klaus has had a number of punctures this month, two in the rear tyres (Schwalbe Shreddas). The Shreddas roll really well but at this time of the year, with the tractors putting a lot of mud on the road, perhaps they are a little thin-skinned.

And on another note, once the rainy weather came I brought Bertie back from the other garage and used him to commute to work. Although I had been riding with a motor almost exclusively for three weeks, it was no problem riding the heavy bike without the motor and my speed was the same as usual for Bertie. The risk of having a motor was that I would become lazy; undoubtedly some of the time I make the most of having it and don’t push too hard, but other times I am riding using a lot of power. So I am hopeful to continue my cycling fitness, especially over the summer touring.

Using the velomobile for shopping again…

Garmin Smartwatches

I mentioned in last month’s blog that Klaus and I had both bought Garmin Smartwatches. He has a Fenix 3HR and I have a Vivoactive 3.

Klaus’s Fenix 3HR on the left, then Ralf’s Fenix 3 and my Vivoactive 3. Notice that the seconds displayed are different on all three watches, despite them all having GPS receivers!

These have turned out to be very good gadgets, encouraging us to do a lot more walking than we used to do. The dog is very much enjoying this too!

What has been interesting is seeing various measurements of fitness/general health which we previously didn’t know about. Both watches track sleep, although mine tracks REM sleep as well as Deep and Light sleep. Klaus’s only tracks Deep or Light sleep. However, the readings from mine cannot be right as I apparently get about 20 minutes’ deep sleep per night; if that were really the case I guess I’d be walking around like a zombie! But overall it shows us how many hours we are actually sleeping (although if you just sit in bed reading the iPad that gets registered as Light Sleep with my Vivoactive 3).

What I have found most interesting was the VO2 max reading. Now I don’t really know how it measures this, but it purports to provide this information each time you go for a walk of more than about 15 minutes and with the GPS on (rather than counting steps, it is actually measuring distance travelled). When I first noticed this feature it told me my VO2 Max was “Poor to Very Poor” at 29 on a scale from The Cooper Institute. It suggested my Fitness Age was 57, which is 10 years older than my real age! This was a bit startling as I think I’m actually reasonably fit for a lardy lady.

Anyway, this figure began to regularly increase and I got myself into the “Fair” category after a week or so. Then it went slightly downhill again and has stayed there since. Today’s reading told me I have a fitness age of 47. As I am indeed 47 I guess this is OK. It puts me in a category of 40-49 so although I am at the top end of this category, I assumes I am 44.5 I think, judging by the message at the bottom.

Because I walk around quite a lot at work (baby-sitting Russian supervisors during our production) my steps target for the day increased from the initial 7,200 steps to almost 12,000. If you reach your target, the next day it increases! I decided to fix it at 7,500 steps each day as that is a sensible target, just under 6km for me, and I don’t want to become a slave to the watch!

I have also given up with its counting of stairs climbed. It usually only awards me one flight of stairs for every three that I climb. On the other hand, when cycling over a railway bridge or travelling fast in the car it awards me with lots of flights of stairs! The set target was 10 and I reduced that to 5; I must hit this every day in reality but half of the time my watch says no. So I ignore it.

The dog is getting lots of walkies!

As mentioned above, due to the Garmin Smartwatches both Klaus and I need to walk quite a bit each day to meet our targets. Poppy has been a real beneficiary of this!

We even go for walkies in the dark…

And Poppy has a pink illuminated collar for the night walks.

(Spot the pink dot on the left… Poppy)

But mostly it’s just lovely to live in the countryside and to wander around the very quiet lanes and woodland. All these photos were taken in February a few minutes’ walk from our flat.

One man and his dog, striding forth…

Keto food again

Since 2 January I have been eating Keto and Klaus has been eating low carb. This basically means we are eating the same evening meals, but he is having a few more goodies such as an orange a day. Because I am back in Ketosis and therefore not hungry I am doing 16:8 fasting, which means I eat lunch at about 14:00 and dinner at 19:00 but no breakfast. It’s really easy not to eat breakfast when you’re not hungry!

The low carb meals mean no pasta, bread, rice, potatoes but fresh meat, vegetables and creamy/buttery sauces. Everything is very tasty! There’s lots of dairy but as we like that it is OK. Here are a selection of our meals from this month:

Keto lasagne
Cauliflower Cheese bake
Prawn salad
Roasted feta cheese with vegetables
Keto Broccoli and Butternut Squash Auflauf
Salmon and feta salad
Chocolate selection – 85% cocoa for me, 74% cocoa with orange for Klaus

As before, the Keto diet really suits me. I love the food choices, I find it reasonably easy to stick to, and it is such a relief not to be constantly hungry. When I eat Keto (that means in my case, eating less than 40g net carbs per day), I lose this overwhelming hunger that I usually have, which means I can eat sensible amounts of food in the day. I also do the 16:8 fasting which means I don’t eat breakfast except at the weekends.

Anyway, we have been enjoying this lovely food, all freshly prepared, with masses of vegetables, some high-quality meat and good fats (butter, olive oil, cream), and in the two months I have lost 10.5kg, which is 23lb.

As you have seen in the above reports, some cakes are still being consumed. This could be a slippery slope but I am trying my best to really limit these to times when I am doing a lot of riding (so I burn off the sugar/glycogen and go back to burning ketones). I have to watch this carefully, but the symptom of the return of hunger is quite noticeable so I will hopefully be able to keep track. I am lucky as a lot of Keto dieters need to keep under 20g net carbs; I can get away with much more.

My Mum is visiting next month and so we will be cooking some additional carbs for her (potatoes, perhaps pasta) and providing her with bread, but we will try to stick to our diet as much as possible. I am sure she will also enjoy eating our meat and vegetables with lovely creamy sauces!

The rate of weight loss will slow right down now, as the first month tends to be shedding lots of water, but my trousers are definitely looser and I feel great in myself. I felt great with Keto in 2017 and 2018 but didn’t manage to keep it going properly all year (although we managed 2018 with eating Keto at home, which meant I started 2019 4kg less in weight than I started 2018). We feel more confident about it this time, as we have got so used to the diet and we only have suitable food at home now.

Klaus is not eating Keto but low-carb (which means he allows himself a lot more carbohydrate per day, he is probably on around 100g carbs). He doesn’t need to lose any weight, but he likes the lack of hunger on low carb so is doing it for that reason. And to support me, of course. He is losing weight slowly so we will need soon to work out how he can increase his calories a bit as he doesn’t really need to lose much at all.

Miscellaneous

I realised my glasses were getting a bit long in the tooth so thought it was time for a visit to the optician. When I gathered together all my old prescriptions and other documentation I discovered my sunglasses were 11 years old and my glasses 9 years. Not bad!

So Klaus came with me to an optician in Kempen and I had a sight test and ordered a pair of glasses and sunglasses.

How cool do I look?

The glasses arrived in 10 days and seem fine so far. The price was pretty decent too, cheaper than the previous ones (although they had more costly lenses).

I discovered one of the delivery drivers around here had an ingenious way of delivering a small Amazon parcel to me when I wasn’t in. I was actually in the back garden and expecting the delivery of the charger stand for my Garmin watch, and then I had a notification on my phone that it had been delivered. With an image to help me know where…

Yes, this was a photo of Bertie… and indeed the chap had posted the small box through the gap between Versatile roof and Bertie’s side so it was on the seat. Interesting, but not really where these things should be left!

And some more cakes…

These are the cakes that we had on other occasions not mentioned above.

Apple cake with friends Inge and Frank
Käse-Mandarinen Kuchen that Klaus had with Inge and Frank
Landlord Frank made us some Apple Slices too
Plus when we visited Ralf in Hospital after his hernia repair we took him some cake… and of course I had a slice for me!

and… Brexit

So as I am writing this we have less than 27 days until Brexit… supposedly.

I have my appointment at the Ausländerbehörde on Monday 1 April in the morning so that I can try to get my permanent residency.

As part of this, I reported that last month I did the Einbürgerungstest or Citizenship test. I don’t yet qualify for citizenship (you have to have lived in Germany for 7/8 years and I have been here just under 5), but you also need it to get the Niederlassungserlaubnis (Permanent Leave to Remain/Settled Status).

I received the results of my test and wasn’t surprised to have passed as I felt I had got all the questions right on the day. You need 17 correct in order to ‘pass’, but it was nice that the certificate includes the fact I did indeed get them all right.

The next blog post I write will be the beginning of April. I wonder whether Brexit will have been delayed for a short time, or a No Deal Brexit will have taken place. I may still be an EU citizen for the next blog, or I may be a third-country national in need of a residence permit, work permit etc. As the Germans say, “es bleibt spannend…”

1 Comment

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – January 2019 (Month 58)

January isn’t generally a particularly high-mileage month, and this year was the same – also as I had the lurgy twice during that time, which included an entire week off work/no cycling. However, I managed to cycle to work every day that I worked, including a couple of very snowy days where it was a bit of a challenge to get through the snow. At the end I had 220km for January which was OK.

And here is the list of rides.
Here is the ‘wheel’ of where I rode this month – mostly commuting, just a couple of other short trips.

Almost all my rides were in Bertie this month, as you can see. During the weekend he is living in the garden with a motorcycle cover over him.

During the week he is sheltering in front of the garage so I can access him easily to get to work in the dark. This means when Klaus reverses his car onto the driveway he has a good target to aim for:

Millie gets a tiller cover

With Velomobiles there is always something that can be done to improve them. Most people are interested in improving their velomobiles for speed, but for me comfort is more important.

During Oliebollentocht, the first long ride in Millie since the motor was fitted, I kept catching the inside of my trousers on some cable ties around the tiller. The entire tiller arrangement was changed by Akkurad when they fitted the motor, and as usual the heads of the cable ties kept spinning round and getting in the way. They actually ripped a couple of small holes in my cycling trousers during Oliebollentocht.

This is a problem I have had before, and it’s a tricky one to fix. If you rotate the cable tie head round so it doesn’t connect with your trouser leg, after a kilometre or so the rubbing of my leg against the tiller will have rotated it back into scratching distance.

I moaned about this to Biggi when she was here and she told me that she has made a tiller cover for her DF, and would happily make me one. I looked at the one on her DF – it looked good! So she took some measurements of Millie’s tiller and a few days later I had a little parcel in the post.

Unfortunately, a bout of lurgy and some awful weather meant I didn’t have a chance to test it out, but after I had arisen from my deathbed it was time to try it out. Biggi had needed to carefully measure the tiller as there are various cables, the end of the tiller hanger etc which all have to be avoided.

So here was the tiller before the cover went on.

Tiller from the right side – the brake cables are free but the cable for the electric controller the hooter and the lights are held in place by three black cable ties
From the other side – you can see the sharp heads of the cable ties.

Biggi had made the cover with some velcro to hold it together, and it was a work of seconds to fit it in place.

Cover starts just under the tiller hanger cable and goes right to the tiller base
From the other side. All cable ties and other sharp objects are fully covered with a soft, leathery-feel fabric

It fitted very well, and when I was finally able to ride with it (a week or two later) it did its job admirably. No more scratching of trouser legs and destroying my lycra cycling kit. I even got out a needle and thread and sewed a rather ham-fisted repair on the damaged trousers. They should survive another season.

Thanks again to Biggi for so kindly making me this cover!

Snowy January

January 2019 was very significant for lots of parts of America with the freezing conditions. Here in Germany we had some snow, although it wasn’t too significant. There were a few days when it was icy underfoot and also some days where I had to cycle to work not only in the dark but also in the snow!

Bertie has very good lights, shown by this photo when I was ready to leave on the first snowy day.

It was a tough ride to get to work. With three wheels, each of which have their own track, you have to plough three furrows in the snow to make any progress. And the back wheel is apt to spin and so you lose traction. But I made it to work in the end!

The display on my Garmin shows the effort to get there – 3.83km at 8.5 km/h

The snow partially melted a couple of days later, and then it was very cold and icy. I had some slippery rides to work, especially as the melted snow refroze on my Versatile Roof overnight. I rode to work one day with lots of icicles in front of me:

And the same day I rode home with fresh snow

I also happened to notice, during the icy/snowy period, that the right hand side front tyre on Bertie was looking rather sub-optimal

I decided that a pretty urgent tyre change was called for, as I didn’t want a puncture on the way to work in minus 7 degree temperatures! Sadly we don’t really have a warm place to work on the bikes, but I managed to change both front tyres without completely freezing the next day. This was also a good opportunity to change from the Blitz Ventil in the front tubes, to the normal Autoventil (Schraeder valve). I am unable to pump the Blitz valves as it needs two hands which I don’t have available; I had to rely on Klaus to pump up the tyres for me and he was never around in daylight!

Anyway, Bertie had two fresh Marathon Greenguard tyres fitted to the front, plus two new tubes, so he was happy. Klaus also worked a bit on my non-functional front left brake and oiled/greased the pivots of the drum brakes and it now works properly, hurrah! Previously the brake would go on, but wouldn’t fully release once you stopped pressing the levers. Now all seems to be well. I have to say, it’s a bit improvement riding a 45kg bike on icy roads with more than one wheel with braking ability!

It wasn’t all ice and snow though – we had occasional glimpses of the sun!

Rides with friends

Despite the weather and various illnesses (both Klaus and I were ill twice in January), we managed to catch up with some friends and cycle with them.

Chief Cycling Companion is of course Ralf, with his Cookie Monster DF.

Also regularly joined by Hartmut and his WAW

And of course Klaus, my chief cycling companion – as well as my life companion.

Klaus finds the Alienhaube (the head covering rear section) on the Quattrovelo absolutely wonderful, and he has cycled in all weather this January. Here he is in Straelen on a rainy Saturday; he has cycled in snow (although if it is too deep then the wheels get bunged up), and on very slippery ice which was a bit challenging!

Millie and Emily have been shopping together too (Emily carries everything, Millie just looks good)

Klaus managed to ride 278 kilometres in January, despite being ill twice and having a very busy and stressful time at work. He sometimes comes home from work and just rides for an hour in the dark, doing a loop somewhere familiar, just to exercise out the stress of the work day. But he – and I – are definitely looking forward to the warmer (and drier!) weather.

Poppy in the snow

Of course, our dog finds the snow very interesting!

I took a second photo and realised I got her in mid-air, so I have zoomed in on it…

We live in a rural hamlet outside Kempen, and with the snow laying on the asparagus fields it was rather lovely.

Keto again

Last year Klaus and I followed the Ketogenic (Keto/Very Low Carbohydrate) diet for a few months and felt great on it. We decided to do it again this year, so started on 2 January. We didn’t have to change much as we had continued often eating Keto at home throughout 2018 but I wanted to be a bit more disciplined about it.

We also both bought Garmin fitness smartwatches (I have a Vivoactive 3, Klaus has a Fenix 3). These measure heart rate, steps, stairs, sleep, resting etc. It has been interesting using them for a few days to see how far we walk (I walk about 5-10km per day) and it has encouraged us to do some more walking. Poppy is pleased with this too!

After the first month on Keto I had lost 7kg without feeling hungry (which is the real benefit of Keto for me). This does mean no cakes at cafes, or only on special occasions, but this is OK in January when the weather is bad. When on holiday or visiting people we will eat ‘normally’, but want to try to stick to relatively strict low carb at home. We both just feel better eating like that and enjoy the meals that we create.

Choir 2019 – Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem

Each year I have sung with the Willicher Musikprojekt and this year the chosen piece is Ein Deutsches Requiem by Brahms.

This is a completely unknown piece to me, but I have listened to it now and I am sure it will be a wonderful musical event. Especially as friend Inge will be singing as well this year.

Einbürgerungstest

In order to be allowed to remain in Germany after Brexit, I will need to apply for a Niederlassungserlaubnis (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and as part of this, I have to show that I have adequate knowledge of the German state and system. Germany has a Citizenship Test, called the Einbürgerungstest, which is a selection of 33 questions from a field of 310, and with four multiple choice answers. You have to get a minimum of 17 answers correct in the test.

I was luckily able to sign up in time for the test at the end of January, so that I would hopefully get my results in time for my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) in Viersen on 1 April.

I was able to practice for the exam through an App and it was pretty easy – I generally only got one or two questions wrong from the 33, usually the technical ones about the structure of the German parliamentary system. They have lots of very similar-looking words for slightly different official jobs!

Anyway, the test happened on 30 January at six in the evening. I drove to the Language School in Viersen where I had registered and was let into a room where about 30 of us were taking the test. We had an hour to complete it, but could leave as soon as we had finished. I left after 9 minutes and I am pretty sure I have got all the answers correct. We will find out in due course when the results come (about six weeks’ time).

Cakes this month

Himbeer-Sahne Torte, eaten by Ralf not me (sadly)
Klaus and I shared this Käse-Mandarinen-Torte, my first piece of cake in 2019 (and it was in the last week of the month!)
This had pears and Eierlikör so I was happy to let Klaus eat it on his own.
Finally a good Keto recipe for brownies! I divided this into 16 portions and they were gooey in the middle and very tasty!

1 Comment

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – December 2018 (Month 57)

Cycling this month

This month has been a low cycling month due to a visit to the UK and also rather chilly weather!

And here is where I actually rode:

My total distance for the year was 7,522km and you can see below how it was divided up.

There have been some good rides this month however, including Oliebollentocht. I am getting used to riding Millie now she has a motor and I have changed the seat/pedal positions, but so far all is looking very positive.

I finally got round to putting the bee stickers onto Bertie. I had ordered two different designs of sticker from the Internet but neither were good enough, so in the end I photographed the Bee on the sign for the Holiday Home here (the house is called Bienenstock, or Beehive), cleaned it up in Photoshop and got it printed for Bertie.

There is a sticker on both sides. They don’t cover up all the scratches of course, but it is nice to have Bertie properly decorated!

Bertie is a useful load carrier. I now use him when buying eggs – as Klaus and I eat low carb we have scrambled egg for breakfast every day, which contains 7 eggs. So we need to buy quite a lot. I buy 100 at a time, and this was our egg situation recently, all collected by Bertie (each box holds 10 eggs):

A visit to Aalst in Belgium

I work a kind of Flexi-time at work and this meant that in December I had two Fridays off work. For one of these Fridays I decided to go with Klaus to Aalst in Belgium. He had to go there for a customer visit but we decided I would go with him and he’d drop me off in the town and then collect me at the end of his day.

Our original plan was to share a cuppa at a café before he went to his meeting but we were unable to find a café that was open (having navigated to three that Google Maps had suggested). We were running out of time so I got Klaus to drop me near the town centre and then he headed off. I walked around for a fair bit before I found a likely-looking café, but eventually struck lucky.

Aalst itself was a nice, small town with a large pedestrianised area with lots of shops.

I did a lot of wandering around looking for a wine-red scarf but failed to find one. I did find somewhere for lunch and then did some more walking. Eventually I received a message from Klaus to say he would be back in Aalst at the company offices in half an hour so I decided to walk there to meet him – it was about 2km away. On the way I popped into an electrical shop (was looking for a cable) and saw this fridge. Which I didn’t buy!

We met up at the Belgian office of Klaus’s company and had a chat before heading off past Gent on a Friday before Christmas. The traffic was so bad that Klaus ended up being late for his work’s Christmas party once he had dropped me off. The following week he went to Russia for the entire week and experienced temperatures of minus 25 and quite a few Vodkas.

Other events

I attended a concert in Krefeld where friends Inge and Frank were singing. Unfortunately Klaus wasn’t feeling too good on the day so he couldn’t come, but I went on my own (borrowing his car, as no-one wants to cycle to Krefeld). It was an interesting programme and they sang well.

My car had a bit of a tough month. It is used by Gudula my landlady most of the time, but Frank also occasionally uses it and I do too now and again.

Frank unfortunately had an accident when someone didn’t yield priority to him at a junction. The front bumper and headlamp were damaged. But then three days later, Gudula was shunted in the back whilst waiting in a queue of traffic. She suffered whiplash and the car was assessed as an insurance write-off.

Current plan is for us to buy the damaged car from the insurers and Frank will have a go at repairing the rear bumper and tailgate. Fortunately the underlying structure is fine. This seemed much easier (and cheaper!) than finding a new car.

Poppy was allowed to grow longer hair this month as everyone else likes her with long hair. She also managed to perfect the lugubrious expression.

She suffered a mega haircut from me just before New Year as we would be taking her to visit Klaus’s father on a rainy day and I didn’t want her to put muddy paws everywhere!

Christmas in the UK

We travelled to the UK a few days before Christmas to celebrate the season with my Mum. As Klaus had just got back from Russia he was badly in need of a rest so we didn’t do a great deal. We visited Thorpeness on the coast to see the sea but the tea room there was closed – fortunately we found an open tea room on the way home.

I went to the midnight service at my church in Colchester, Lion Walk United Reformed Church, and was really pleased to see that they had a “There but not there” figure. This is part of commemorations of the end of World War 1.

Staying up till midnight (which is 01:00 German time) was a bit of a challenge for me as I normally go to bed at 9pm! But it was good to be at the church again, although numbers were down this year due to illness.

Christmas morning was frosty but clear and beautiful.

We celebrated Christmas with my Mum and her good friend Stephanie. We enjoyed traditional British Roast Turkey with all the trimmings (including stuffing and bread sauce!) and of course Christmas Pudding.

On Boxing Day my sister and her three daughters and son-in-law came to visit for the day. And also my niece’s 6 month old dog, Chip, the Miniature Schnauzer/Dachshund cross. He was a real sweetie, full of beans!

In preparation for my visit my Mum had been buying teabags whenever she saw them on special offer. I think I’ve probably got enough to survive the first few months of Brexit, this is more than 3840 teabags!!!:

My sister also bought me some curry sauces, so we’re probably OK for a bit now.

Cakes this month

Klaus and I took these cakes with us to England to share with my Mum.

And while in England we also had English cakes. Klaus sampled this very rich chocolate sponge.

And I had Lemon Meringue Pie, not something you find in Germany.

Back in Germany, we cycled to Straelen one morning for cake.

And last but not least in the cake gallery, a rather amazing Strudel that Fritz made and brought with him when he and Biggi came to stay with us. This provided us with several meals’ worth of cake!

Looking back on 2018

We have both enjoyed 2018, although there have been some challenges, of course.

For me, the looming nightmare of Brexit causes me lots of worry. I sincerely hope that I will be able to get Indefinite Leave to Remain (Dauerauftenthaltserlaubnis) in Germany after Brexit so that I am able to stay and continue my life here. But we won’t know until we get there.

Klaus has had a great year with the Quattrovelos Humphrey and Emily and has ended up with 13,280km cycled which is really impressive, knowing that he has a full-time and stressful job! We are really enjoying our life together and our partnership in life and hobbies.

This is what Klaus wrote as his year summary:

Das war das Radeljahr 2018. Der letzte Ritt. Das Jahresziel von 10.000 Kilometer habe ich erreicht. Am Ende waren es 13.280 Kilometer. Es waren sehr schöne und ereignisreiche Kilometer und ich bin froh das ich eine ebenso velomobilbegeisterte “Wingwoman” an meiner Seite weiß. Mal sehen was 2019 bringt. Ich wünsche Euch allen einen guten Start ins neue Jahr. Wir sehen uns.

We are both thankful that we have our health, despite regular reminders that we are getting older! Our plans for 2019 are largely the same as 2018 – to enjoy our time together, to ride our velomobiles together, to meet up with friends and family, and of course to enjoy all the cakes that the Niederrhein has to offer (along with returning more strictly to our low-carb diet to attempt to offset the cakes!). We have a couple of tours planned in 2019 included a ride to Bodensee (Lake Constance) and back and we have also decided that our September trip to the UK will be with the velomobiles rather than in the car. Not much room for teabags, thus the large quantity brought back this month.

I wish all my readers an enjoyable, challenging and healthy 2019 and hope to meet a lot of you on the road sometime!

1 Comment

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