Category Archives: Six Wheels In Germany

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – October 2018 (Month 55)

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

But first, here is where I cycled this month:

And these are the distances I rode, largely commuting:

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

Humphrey leaves home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before too long his friend in the DF arrived.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily and Bertie arrive!

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

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

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

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

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

Emily looked good!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He took these photos on the way.

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

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

Inside was very quaint!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 inch tyres:

  • 2 Schwalbe Kojak

20 inch tyres:

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

26 inch tyres:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Orca at Rose Biketown

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

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

 

Cakes this month

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – September 2018 (Month 54)

Cycling this month.

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

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

And here is where I went:

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

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

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

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

A trip to Heidelberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A trip to the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shared a cream tea with my colleagues on Monday.

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

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

Cakes this month.

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – August 2018 (Month 53)

Cycling this month

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

And here is where I went this month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the exit route is not exactly Velomobile-friendly!

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

————-

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

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

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

A visit to Dronten for a Humphrey repair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were four QuattroVelos and a Quest on the truck:

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to the work on Humphrey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allert put the swing-arm back into Humphrey.

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

A visit to Leeuwarden

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

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

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

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

The door to our cell:

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

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

The view out of the barred window:

And the door has now closed behind us…

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

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

Within Blokhuispoort was this rather interesting artwork.

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

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

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

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

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

The canal was very beautiful in the morning light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balloon chasing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

A quick visit to Mannheim

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – July 2018 (Month 52)

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

Cycling this month

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

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

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

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

Here is the list of rides:

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

And here are the year statistics:

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

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

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

My first 300km ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is loop 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the statistics of the ride from Strava:

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

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

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

Auntie Helen buys YET ANOTHER Velomobile!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We checked the underneath and it all looked good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A visit from Bobb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new skill – soldering!

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

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

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

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

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

Other news

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Stage 1

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

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

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

Poppy’s dentist experience!

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

Thanks for reading, any comments greatly appreciated as always!

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

Ten Wheels in Germany – June 2018 (Month 51)

Cycling this month

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

The Return of Celeste!

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

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

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

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

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

And then we were reunited with Celeste.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cows nearly at the top…

An everyday Saturday in NL?

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

Peter helped me fix the Cookie Monster into the Sprinter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Searching for some new Landcafés/Bauerncafés.

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

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

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

Reichswalder Dorfcafé.

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

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

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

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

They had cake!

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

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

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

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

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

Landcafé Binnenheide

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

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

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

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

The cake was called a Frieslander.

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

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

I wasn’t the only strange vehicle parked outside.

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

Here is my track for the whole ride:

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

Bauerncafé Winthuis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life in General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Wheels in Germany – May 2018 (Month 50)

The fiftieth month of my life in Germany!

Cycling this month

This month has been good for cycling.

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

And these are the individual rides:

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

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

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

A Velomobile Comparison in Zons

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

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

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

This was the route we took:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hartmut’s maiden VM Sunday Morning Cake Run

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

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

This was our route for the day:

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

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

We also, of course, enjoyed the cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ralf’s birthday ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klaus’s birthday trip to St Hubert via St Hubert

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

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

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

The Velomobile parking was very spacious.

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

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

This was our track for the day:

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

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

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

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

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

The Grensrijders

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

This was my route for the day:

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

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

After lunch Oliver shot this pic of me leaving:

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

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

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

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

To Rees via Weeze

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

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

Here is our track for the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex and the Little White Whale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poppy was of course helping!

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

Here is my route for the day:

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

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

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

Humphrey and Celeste

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

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


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

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

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

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

The main drawbacks for me are as follows:

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

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

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

Life in Germany

A trip to the beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

An expensive month for gadgets.

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

A MacBook Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

A OnePlus 6 phone

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

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

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

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

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

Two trackers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other news

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

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

Here’s another cake that I had in Tönisvorst…

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

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

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

Ten Wheels in Germany – April 2018 (Month 49)

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

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

And here is where I went:

The green rides are E-bike rides on Alfie.

Celeste, Humphrey and Millie

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

Celeste gets a visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh oh.

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

And here was Celeste, undamaged by fire but…

It looks as though they had sat on her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humphrey gets a service

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

1. Very swimmy rear suspension

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

3. Difficulties for me getting in and out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!

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

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

Hartmut’s Birthday Bash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A search for a new Landcafé

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had this very tasty peach cake.

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

And Klaus enjoyed a beer.

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

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

Alfie back in service!

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

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

It was time for ice cream!

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

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

A visit from my Mum

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

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

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

The breakfast at Dechi Beach was very good!

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

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

SPEZI – Spezialradmesse

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

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

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

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

Some other random photos from this month

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

And a random event from this month too…

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

He arrived back 10 minutes later with a large bag…

containing:

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

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

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

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

Ten Wheels in Germany – March 2018 (Month 48)

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

But away from politics, what happened in March?

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

Cycling this month

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

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

And here was where I actually rode to.

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

Some DIY work on Millie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to grips with Humphrey the Quattrovelo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liegeradgruppe Ride

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

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

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

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

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

AndreasE got this pic of Humphrey and Millie together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pimp my Milan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We discussed some other items that I wanted for Millie:

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

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

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

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

Poppy the dog really enjoyed the attention.

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

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

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

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Auntie Helen buys *another* Velomobile – Humphrey the Quattrovelo

A long, long time ago I ordered a Quattrovelo. Then I received this birthday cake celebrating it…

But then I had second thoughts about my ability to get in and out due to my disability and bought a second hand Milan instead. My place on the order list for the Quattrovelo was handed over to chum Detlef who duly received his Quattrovelo.

However, last April when visiting Velomobiel.nl to get Millie and Celeste serviced I had a trial sit in a Quattrovelo again and found it was fine to get in and out of. So, once again, I appeared on the orderlist.

When you have a Milan, why buy a Quattrovelo?

This is a good question! However, I did have my reasons.

Firstly, the negative points about the Milan GT.

  • It is very low-slung which means you scrape the bottom on most kerbs.
  • It has a very wide turning circle (something like 14 metres) which means lots of cycle tracks are off-limits.
  • Storage space for luggage isn’t very easy to access.
  • In my Milan the chainline isn’t protected so you end up with an oily left leg most days
  • If there is a rear puncture that’s a half hour job and not much fun at all as you have to take off the entire back wheel (this has only happened twice, fortunately)
  • The rear gears would be a complete nightmare if I had to replace anything. It doesn’t bear thinking about if something broke such as the gear hanger.
  • And, the real biggie for me, it is decidedly unwaterproof, even with the Haube (hood). This meant that if rain was forecasted I tried to avoid using the Milan as I would get a wet backside when getting in and out, wet legs from the rain that channels over the bridge and then my leggings soak it up over my thighs, and even wet feet from the rain coming in the holes for the lights. Also rain on my lap from the Naca duct.

The positive points about the Milan GT are legion, but include:

  • Looks fab!
  • Very comfortable riding position
  • Easy to get in and out – as long as your hips aren’t as wide as mine (the phrase “cork in a bottle” springs to mind)
  • Fast, fast, fast. Even for an overweight woman like me, Millie is very fast. With sidewinds she is even faster. I can keep up with Klaus when riding Millie and he is lighter, fitter and male. She evens out the disadvantages I have being female, underpowered and overheavy.

And what can the Quattrovelo offer that the Milan can’t?

  • The Quattrovelo is not a direct competitor to the Milan. It’s definitely not as fast but it has many other advantages, the main ones being excellent luggage space, easier access to rear wheels and gear gubbins and it is pretty waterproof.

So anyway, I decided to go back onto the orderlist for the Quattrovelo as I felt that having a second option of velomobile for my regular commute and maybe for touring too would be good. I sold Penelope so there was space in the second garage…

The waiting list is long…

Quattrovelos are relatively new and the waiting list was about 10 months. This gave me plenty of time to choose my colour and other specifications.

I had decided on a green colour and then when visiting Velomobiel.nl we saw a two-tone QV, dark green bottom with cream top, and I decided that would be for me, except not such a dark green.  I spent the next six months looking at different car colours until I fixed on British Racing Green as it appears on the BMW Mini.

I also decided for a Schlumpf Mountain Drive as I have in Millie, the standard open cockpit (not the Alienhaube or covering hood as it made me feel a bit claustrophobic).

And then finally:

I received an email with the above photo attached. My Quattrovelo had arrived in Dronten and was being prepared.

So two weeks later Klaus and I set off to Dronten, having borrowed friend Ralf’s Sprinter van so we could transport both velomobiles back (Celeste was going for her annual service), and here I am at my first meeting with Quattrovelo number 74:

When I test rode the Quattrovelo last spring I was 15kg lighter so was a bit worried if I would be able to get in and out of my QV. In worked OK…

Out was a challenge but possible if I opened the rear luggage space so I could put my arm there to brace myself as I lifted out.

Whilst we were at Dronten a couple of friends from Cologne popped in to collect a repaired velomobile and Klaus from Köln took several photos of QV74.

In the photo above you can see a reflection of other velomobiles that were being worked on. And in the picture below, a very elongated Quest!

In the photo above you can see the ‘boot’ is open. This is usually fixed shut by means of a velcro strap. However, I was unable to remove this strap whilst sitting in my seat and, as mentioned above, I needed to open the boot to put my hand behind me to get out.

Allert, Klaus and I discussed this and the best option seemed to be some cord that holds the boot shut but runs through eyelets so I can have the end in the cabin with me. Theo found some random pink and white cord to use, which isn’t exactly a matching colour scheme but does the job! Allert welded a couple of eyelets and fixed them inside the boot:

And then to an area behind my right shoulder to help the cord go round the back of the seat.

This cord was to hold the boot closed when travelling (not to close it, I do that with my hand, but the cord prevents it opening in strong winds).

When the boot is open the cord is loose behind my right shoulder on the rear wheel arch.

On the end of this rope was some sticky velcro which I could affix beside me when the boot is shut and it is an easy job to just unstick it if I want to open the boot. I can reach round and pull it tight and then fix it on the side of the QV to my right.

The system works well and in fact Klaus thinks he might have it on his Quattrovelo which should arrive early next year.

Here are some more of Klaus from Köln’s pictures:

Allert spent quite a long time getting my seat positioned correctly. Initially it was too far forward, I needed it further back as I have long legs. Moving the seat back made it easier to get out in some ways, but then the angle of seat recline had to change so that my shoulders didn’t bump on the sill around the opening and this made it harder again to get out. But I tried several times to get in and out and it worked, although not elegantly.

Once the seat position was decided Allert adjusted the chain length. Klaus and I both rode around the block and all seemed OK so the handover was completed with various other bits and bobs (pump for the tyres, pump for the air shocks for the rear wheel, spare battery etc etc). Then Klaus and I spent half an hour trying to squeeze Celeste and the QV into the Sprinter. It was not easy as the QV is so wide! In the end we had to build up a false floor where the step is for the side door so that Celeste could rest one wheel on that. We managed in the end, but not before poor Klaus had put his back out lifting Celeste.

We drove home (Klaus feeling very uncomfortable with his back) and unloaded the Sprinter before Klaus retired to bed with a hot water bottle at his back and I just put the QV in the garage, it was too late to have another ride.

First impressions of the QV

How it looks

The Quattrovelo looks great! I am extremely pleased with my colour choice and it has lots of different shades in the sunlight.

One of my first jobs was to fix some reflective blue and red tape to the mirrors for my Union Jack theme (after all, I had to Britishfy this velomobile otherwise no-one would know it was mine!). I did this job in the garage in the freezing cold without removing the mirrors so it was rather inexpert but was a start and I planned to do it again properly once I had discovered how well the tape stuck.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the lovely colour of my QV, this time parked outside my office.

How it rides

My first ride with the QV was to join the ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride from the ADFC to Wachtendonk. I had to ride first to Kempen where we were gathering before setting off to Wachtendonk. The ride to Kempen seemed quite slow and also very noisy – the cassette of gears is just behind the rider’s seat and the first three gears are pretty noisy.

I ended up being slightly late because the journey to Kempen had taken longer than expected so they were just setting off as I got there.

Off we headed in quite strong wind and I found it very tough going. The Quattrovelo felt slow, heavy and generally tough. There were times when I found it difficult to catch up with people on upright bikes – and these were people on Dutch bikes cycling in jeans and jumpers!

We stopped at Wachtendonk for tea and cake and then it was time to head back. I adjusted the seat position slightly (more reclined) for the ride back. The side of the Quattrovelo bends in and I found that my right elbow rubbed against the side of the velomobile, I wondered if I would end up with a weal after a long cycle ride, but seat adjustments couldn’t really help this. Losing a lot more weight would help, but that’s not exactly a quick fix!

By the time we got back to Kempen I was worn out and decided not to stay for a cuppa with the other riders but go straight home. I was actually rather disappointed with the Quattrovelo, but assumed I was just having a bad day.

The next day I rode it to work. Again it was hard work and noisy, and my average speed was 16.9 km/h. This was Penelope speed levels – Millie is usually 22-24 for my direct commute. My colleagues asked me how I liked it and I said I was rather disappointed.

I commuted the next day too, very slightly faster at 17.8 km/h. That evening was my choir in Kempen so I decided to ride there. I set off and after 1km the lights went out; the battery was flat and I had forgotten to put a spare in! So I had to ride back in the pitch black, trusting only to street lights and my reflectives on the bike. I ran upstairs to get the battery, completely out of breath because of riding the heavy, slow Quattrovelo. I fitted the new battery and rode to choir – I was late because of all this. My average speed ended up at 18.6 km/h, again Penelope territory rather than a faster velomobile.

When I got home I said to Klaus that I was really fed up. I was finding the Quattrovelo really slow and I didn’t want to go back to Penelope speeds and always be struggling to keep up with people. I didn’t know whether to keep the Quattrovelo – if it were going to be this slow there was no point. Millie was in storage at Ralf’s workshop waiting for her indicators to be fixed – I wanted her back to remind myself what speeds I could do!

Klaus counseled that it was super cold outside (-7 degrees for my commute) and that the velomobile was brand new and had to be run in. He also checked the wheels and noticed that the front right was binding – the brake had not been correctly adjusted. We corrected this in under a minute and then at least that wheel could run freely, although this would have only had a very minor effect. We have heard several tales of velomobiles collected by their new owners showing issues with the preparation – including two quite serious issues, so this is something to watch.

Millie was out of reach and needed new indicators anyway so I kept going with the Quattrovelo (which was always my plan anyway). We were discussing the bike tour we had planned for the middle of March – I said I couldn’t imagine cycling those distances in the Quattrovelo, it would kill me. Our plan was to cycle around the Pfalz region to see some of the almond blossoms but in the end we decided we would spend the week just doing tours from home or staying overnight a couple of times not too far from home, so I could ride as much as felt comfortable. This eased my mind a bit as I was very scared of consecutive 100km days in the Quattrovelo.

The horrendously cold temperatures gradually eased and with it the speeds crept up on the QV. Below is a screenshot of all my commutes which were direct (i.e. not going via the supermarket) so the speeds can be compared. The improvement becomes relatively clear.

Getting in and out, and comfort in the cockpit

I haven’t really got any better at getting in and out of the QV, and in fact my arm has started being a bit painful where I lean on it to hoist myself up, but these sort of things are fairly normal when adjusting to a new velomobile.

The Milan has a cable on the tiller so you can fix the maximum angle that it will hang down; the Quattrovelo doesn’t have this, the tiller can lie on the seat, so this meant for me that the tiller is resting on my belly. For gear changes I have to get my thumb behind the tiller. I found this position less comfortable but could not hold the tiller up with my hands as it was too much effort (as I am using my strong hand to hold up the disabled one). I will see if I can invent something to prevent the tiller from lying fully flat on my belly.

The Quattrovelo is waterproof though and this is a real bonus! It has meant I am happy to ride it to work even in the rain. Yes, you get a wet head (although if I had chosen the Alienhaube I wouldn’t even have that) but you get a bit of a wet head going by car anyway as I have to walk to my car. I am perfectly happy with how warm and dry I stay once in the VM.

A couple more test rides

It was several days before Klaus was able to ride with me because of his back, although he did take the QV out for a quick spin when I returned from choir because he didn’t think it could be that slow. His conclusion after this 15km ride was “it is about the same speed as a Strada” – which is much slower than it should be! We asked friend Jupp/Josef for advice as he had also suffered from a slow Quattrovelo at first and he gave us some ideas of what to do, such as cleaning the chain, oiling the Mountain Drive, checking tyre pressures etc.

Anyway, the following Saturday it was time for us to go for a ride together. I pumped up the tyres to 110psi (8 bar) which is usual for Durano Plus, although I had to lie the Quattrovelo on its side to pump up the tyres as otherwise I couldn’t wiggle the pump head into the right position without all the air leaking out. This is undoubtedly a situation where my technique will improve but was pretty annoying as I had to pump up one tyre 3 times.

Anyway, we set off to Geldern at a gentle pace. We went to the bridge over the A40 motorway and decided to do a roll test. This is where you hold the velomobiles on the brakes and then release the brakes and see which is fastest/goes the furthest.

The rolltest was interesting as Celeste accelerated much faster than the QV but by the end we were at about the same speed and travelled about the same distance. Millie always wins these rolltests by miles so it was yet another sign that the Quattrovelo was definitely in a slower bike league!

Riding along the cycle path the Quattrovelo was rolling better, although there was a mysterious loud noise which I eventually identified as the freehub in the back wheels.

When you roll over gravel or pieces of stick and they jump up into the wheelboxes it can be pretty noisy. I am used to this in Millie with the front wheels but the Quattrovelo has double the opportunity for pinball in the wheelboxes, but this is again something which I will get used to.

We enjoyed the ride to Geldern, taking it at a reasonable pace. We stopped for a cup of tea in Geldern and lots of people inspected our bikes.

I had to pop to the bank after this and Klaus took this pic. A bit of a shame I left the boot open!

We rode home fairly fast again and the average speed for the 50km was a respectable 22.9 km/h. The warmer temperature helped, as did oiling the chain I expect.

The following week I rode the Quattrovelo to work every day and got more used to it and its foibles. The speed was definitely improving so the bike was getting run in, and sometime during this week I decided that I would keep it. I still hadn’t bonded properly with it so hadn’t chosen a name, I was waiting to see what felt right.

The following Saturday we fixed the indicators on Millie at Ralf’s workshop. I had hoped to ride her home but it got too late so she stayed at Ralf’s. Klaus was of the opinion it was better that I didn’t have a chance to ride her as the contrast with the QV would be so strong that I might give up on the QV. I was not blind to the good points of the Quattrovelo though – luggage space, non-oily, very secure rear wheels (although it does some strange shimmies when you go over uneven ground at the back, but it is all very controlled).

The day after the indicator repair we decided to ride with Ralf on a longer tour. We decided to go to Roermond and to meet up with a couple of chums there too. We cycled to Ralf’s first to pick him up and then headed towards Roermond.

After only about 1km a very loud rattle developed in the Quattrovelo and I stopped and rummaged around in the boot in case something was rattling (although it felt like it was actually from the gears). I couldn’t find anything so carried on but stopped almost immediately again – the rattle was still there. Klaus tried the QV but wasn’t sure what I meant. We continued on but after another 500m I stopped as it sounded like I was doing serious damage to something!

Ralf and Klaus took the entire contents of my boot into their velomobiles so I had no luggage at all to rattle. Off we went, and the noise was still there, but I decided now I would have to live with it as we would be late to meet the others if we stopped any more.

After another 3km the noise gradually faded away, coming back a little when I changed gear but then disappearing again, and it was 6km before it had completely gone away. It didn’t come back, but I am none the wiser what it was. Odd.

We then had the lovely swoopy downhill road to Swalmen. Ralf went ahead in his DF, I pedalled as much as I could but the lower gearing meant I ran out of pedal power at 40 km/h. Ralf was a dot in the distance and Klaus was also ahead, but this downhill was fun for me too, although I kept thinking how brilliant it would be in the Milan.

The Quattrovelo’s gearing is lower than the Milan’s. This means I am faster to accelerate from stationary (as Millie’s lowest gear is actually pretty high and needs a lot of power) but I spin out with the Quattrovelo at 40 km/h whereas I can still pedal Millie at 60. But as I am unlikely to reach these speeds in the QV that’s not much of an issue.

We got to Roermond and met up with Oliver and Chris. Chris also has a Quattrovelo and showed us some of the things he has done, including putting acoustic foam around the gears to reduce the noise (I have now ordered some). We had lunch together, a good chat and then it was time to ride home. Chris and Oliver accompanied us for a short distance and then peeled off and the three German residents carried on towards Venlo.

Ralf and Klaus have both commented that the rear lights on the Quattrovelo are very good. I am also relieved to have a brake light; I don’t have one of these with Millie and I think it is a very important safety addition, particularly when riding in velomobile convoys which I do surprisingly regularly!

We crossed the Maas at Beesel/Reuver on the ferry.

We crossed back again at Steyl

Whilst riding through Steyl we took the cycle path which had lots of 90 degree bends. I remarked to Ralf afterwards, “I could never have done this in Millie!” Despite the Quattrovelo also having enclosed wheels, the turning circle is significantly better which is a real help.

In total I rode 101km in the Quattrovelo at an average speed of 21.4 which was an improvement on my earlier speeds (it was also a much warmer day).

Pimp my velomobile

I had been pondering over a name for the Quattrovelo for some time. It looks very like an owl so was working on owl-themed names (see the photo below for the owl similarities) during the long, long wait after my order was placed.

Klaus was keen on Athene as her familiar was an owl but I felt the QV was male. I was leaning towards some old English names for chaps who might have been racing British Racing Green cars in the 20s and 30s, so thought of Montmorency, Humphrey, Quentin… At Christmas I discussed this with my Mum and then we came up with the name Merlin which had an owl link and was a cool name. That was the top of my name choice before I met the Quattrovelo, but I knew I would have to wait until I met my actual one.

For the first two weeks I didn’t bond enough to name it, but then on the way over the hill in Grefrath whilst riding to Ralf’s for our Roermond trip I decided on the name for the Quattrovelo. I suppose it was at that point that I decided I liked it enough to keep and so I started to bond with it. And despite assuming before I collected the Quattrovelo that I would choose Merlin for the name, I actually decided at the end that Humphrey was a better choice. So Humphrey he is!

I had of course decorated the mirrors with a Union Jack (which I have subsequently redone with better quality reflectives) but I also felt it would be good to include my blog address as well, so I had ordered some lettering from eBay as well as a little flag and I fitted them.

Klaus and I rode to Kempen for a talk about Hans Jonas and Josef Goebbels, two sons of Mönchengladbach, and he took some excellent photographs of Humphrey after the event.

Another change I made was actually a rather expensive one. I have used a Garmin Oregon for the last 6-7 years (I am on my second one) and I really like it. On Millie the Oregon mount fits on the top of the tiller and it is therefore in an ideal position to see and also if I need to zoom in on the map or anything.

With the Quattrovelo, the tiller can be stashed behind the Süllrand/opening in a special area and in fact has to be in order for me to get out. However, it is impossible to fit the Oregon mount onto the tiller and still fit it behind the little tiller holder thingie.

Here is the tiller stashed behind the Süllrand:

There is very little clearance, it only just fits, thus the very thick Garmin mount had no chance.

A friend Stefan said he could 3D print me a mount to have on the right hand side front wheel arch and I said this would be great. However he was ill and didn’t have a chance to print it for a while and in the meantime I gaffer taped the Oregon mount to the relevant area and realised it was just too far away for comfortable vision, plus I had to take my eyes off the road to see it. It wasn’t a very satisfactory position.

Klaus has a Garmin Edge 1000 which has a different (very flat) mount and this fits fine on Celeste. He had a spare mount and fitted it to Humphrey so he could use his Edge when he took Humphrey out for a spin,

Here is the tiller with the Edge mount on – as you can see, it is very much flush with the grips.

It became clear to me that the only worthwhile option was to upgrade to an Edge 1000 too. So I ordered it and it arrived and I am very pleased with it so far. I will sell my Oregon as it works brilliantly and is in great condition.

Quattrovelo by sunset

I have to say, the Quattrovelo is a very good looking velomobile. As is the Milan. I pride myself on my choice of attractive velomobiles!

And here I am heading off into the distance (an unusual sight!)

Notice that this is a fairly rough road (a Wirtschaftsweg). The Quattrovelo definitely rolls more comfortably over potholey or cobbled roads compared to Millie.

My conclusions after 2 weeks of Quattrovelo ownership

I am writing this post two weeks after I collected Humphrey and having ridden 350km in him. And these are my main thoughts:

PROS

  • Very attractive velomobile; as the Germans would say, a real Hingucker
  • Good rain protection
  • Very well organised cockpit with trays both sides for  your possessions (this is part of the structural rigidity of the QV but is also handy, although needs non-slip matting)
  • Build quality seems good
  • Excellent stability at the rear, corners well and feels safe
  • Single-sided axles on all wheels so tyres can be changed without dismounting the wheels
  • Huge boot – you can chuck the kitchen sink in there and forget about it (assuming it is a lightweight kitchen sink)
  • Excellent lighting
  • Very good access to front and rear gubbins if something goes wrong (two footholes at the front and a removable panel underneath, rear gears just covered by a plastic cover – which will have soundproof foam added very soon!)
  • Gearing range is suitable for me (with a 75 tooth chainring at the front with a Mountain Drive, at the rear I have an 11 speed cassette)
  • Trigger shifter for the gears which works well
  • Drum brakes at the front (larger ones, 90mm) seem to stop me perfectly adequately. I do not regret not ordering the optional rear disc brakes
  • Schaumdeckel/foam cover keeps you warmer when riding and is also excellent to stop people getting into the velomobile when you leave it parked somewhere

CONS

  • Relatively heavy for this price level of velomobile (apparently it is 36kg and cost me just under 9000 EUR)
  • Lots of noise from the drivetrain just behind the seat
  • Also apparently noisy hubs on the back wheels (this may quieten down over time)
  • Reports of new Quattrovelos not being completely checked out before going to the customer so there are issues (my binding brake was a very minor version of this)
  • Narrows at the waist between the front and back wheels which gives much less arm space inside
  • Nothing to hold the tiller up
  • Required an additional Garmin purchase by me!
  • Strange wind whistling noise around the front visor when the wind is blowing from a certain direction
  • Front wheels throw mud on the sides just before the rear wheels. Most photos of Quattrovelos have a dirty section here.
  • When sitting in the QV it is not possible for me to get something out of the boot, such as the Schaumdeckel/foam cover or my purse.

There are obviously lots more things I could say but I will need to ride Humphrey a bit more to get a better view. However, after my 2 weeks of riding I felt that Humphrey will be a very good addition to the velomobile stable, but I will not be selling Millie just yet. If we want to have a fast ride on a nice summer’s day without carrying a lot of luggage then Millie would be the better choice. I am very lucky to have such a choice!

Next week Klaus and I are doing some touring as we have a week’s holiday from work so I will get a lot more kilometres under Humphrey’s belt and can give some reports on how I found him as a touring velomobile. Millie was a very pleasant surprise when we toured with her before, but Humphrey is a very different kettle of fish. We shall see!

An update after our tour.

We went on tour when it was minus 3 outside and slightly snowing. This isn’t ideal touring weather, but the three days and 230km gave me a good chance to get more acquainted with the Quattrovelo.

Unfortunately this tour didn’t teach me to love the Quattrovelo more. Its drawbacks (weight and narrow cockpit) become more and more irritating the more you ride. I was exhausted after relatively short rides as I just don’t have the power to propel a very heavy velomobile with a very heavy Helen in it at great speed.

What became more of an issue on the longer day rides was the lack of space for my elbows and arms. They were squashed against my body but at the same time rubbing against the sides of the velomobile. The cold was wicking through to my bones/titanium and the constant rubbing of my right elbow was getting sore. When I got back in the Milan again after the tour it was such a relief to have my arms in a comfortable position supported by the armrests (for which there is no room in the QV for me) and also the tiller being fixed higher so it does not have to be held up by me. Supporting the tiller with my right hand whilst the left (disabled) arm hangs off it leads to a lot of arm pain after a few hours.

The turning circle of the Quattrovelo was useful on the Netherlands cycle routes and the luggage capacity meant it didn’t take long each morning to stow my stuff, but these benefits were vastly outweighed by the fact it was slow and heavy and uncomfortable. It seems that my seat may also have broken (but I have to check this further).

The day after the tour I collected my Milan from Ralf’s where it has been stored for a month. What a fantastic feeling to ride in it again – fast, nimble, not quite as noisy and overall so much more comfortable for the rider. The drawbacks (low front so you scrape, massive turning circle) are not that dramatic and are far outweighed by the positives of speed and comfort.

The Quattrovelo has now been put into my other garage (500 metres away) and I will use the Milan for the next few days. When the rain comes I will swap back to the Quattrovelo, but for a dry day it seems to this rider at least that the Milan is a much better option.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Ten Wheels In Germany – February 2018 (Month 47)

Cycling This Month

The observant amongst you may have noticed that the filename of this blog post is no longer “Six wheels in Germany” but is instead “Ten wheels in Germany”. Why? Because I have now received my brand new Quattrovelo velomobile.

I will write much more about the Quattrovelo in a post soon as I am still running it in and getting used to it, but I will put a few photos here to whet your appetites.

And no, it doesn’t yet have a name. I have a longlist of 5 and a shortlist of 2 but I am not yet decided and need to bond with it a bit further before I properly decide. Watch this space!

Oh, and as for Millie. Several people contacted me and asked about her as they were interested in buying her, including one guy who visited and said he would indeed purchase her, only to change his mind the next week. But at the moment I am happy to keep her as an alternative velomobile as I get used to the Quattrovelo. Klaus and I have to repair her indicators but are waiting for warmer weather to do this, although conveniently Ralf has offered us the use of his warm workshop and in fact Millie is already there waiting for our attention!

February was another washout in terms of distance, largely due to awful weather and also as I hurt my back (more later).

However, I still had a few chances to go riding.

This included one of our usual Sunday morning rides but this time meeting up with a chap who had contacted me some months ago. I believe Oliver reads this blog and has recently moved to Kerken which is just up the road (and through which we regularly cycle). He happened to see us when driving his car and so asked if we fancied a joint ride.

We arranged to meet between Stenden and Eyll and also asked Ralf if he would like to come, to which he agreed. The plan was for us all to meet in Stenden/Eyll but Klaus and I had a minor problem with a road closure so got to the meeting point a couple of minutes late. It didn’t matter as no-one else was there. We then heard from Ralf, that he had just put ‘Dorfstraße’ in his Garmin. It just so happens that Dorfstraße in Stenden is the longest village in NRW:

Straßendörfer sind eigentlich eine für den Niederrhein untypische Siedlungsform. So überrascht es, dass Stenden zusammen mit seiner nordwestlichen Fortsetzung im Ortsteil Eyll bei einer Länge von über 10 km wohl das längste Straßendorf Nordrhein-Westfalens darstellt.

So Ralf was at the wrong end of the village, plus there was a road closure in the middle so he would have to do some creative routing. We decided to send Klaus to pick Ralf up and I would wait for Oliver. Klaus headed off and then it began to snow, which is lovely when you are sitting stationary in a Milan without the hood.

I had a call from Oliver, he had unshipped his chain and so was just fixing it and would set off in a few minutes. We agreed that we would ride towards him and meet somewhere on the way (our meeting point was halfway between our two homes).

Klaus and Ralf returned through the snow after 10-15 minutes and we all set off towards Eyll and Nieukerk, spotting Oliver very quickly coming the other way.

He has a Milan SL (the smaller, faster version of Millie) in the most wonderful colour:

Strangely, Ralf had been really slow on this ride. We wondered if he was struggling to cope with the cold weather (he doesn’t eat many pies so doesn’t have too much insulation) but that would seem surprising. Whatever, we were constantly dropping him and having to slow down to wait. I know how awful it is when you are having a bad riding day and your compatriots disappear over the horizon. Not that we could see the horizon in the snow!

It’s a lovely ride through Eyll and then towards Nieukerk. Plan was to go to Landcafé Steudle for coffee/tea and we needed it as it was perishing cold and snowy. The snow wasn’t settling but it was still wet.

Ralf got slower and slower, then someone noticed he had a front wheel puncture. Aha! We had just 3km to go to Landcafé Steudle so he decided to ride on (it wasn’t completely flat) so we could sit somewhere warm whilst he repaired it. So going VERY slowly (maybe average of 16 at this point) we made our way to Steudle and stopped for a much needed warming cup of tea.

As Klaus and I are on low-carb we didn’t have cake but Ralf did.

We warmed ourselves through and then Ralf went out to have a look at repairing the tyre. He realised that he had not properly screwed tight the valve on his inner tube (he has a Presta or SV) and so put some air in and hoped it would hold (which it did). That was much more fun than changing a Durano Plus outside in the snow.

We rode back a different way and Oliver came with us all the way to our house (where I took the above photos of the two Milans). It was very nice to meet him and we were very impressed by his Milan. The build quality has improved (at least in terms of the looks of the carbon inside) and, as I mentioned before, the colour was fab!

It is of course great to have met a new velomobile rider in our locality and it’s always good to chat about our experiences.

I also had some messages from the new owner of Penelope. He’s been pimping her a bit and sent me the following images of new vinyl wrapping:

The colour isn’t my cup of tea but I am glad to see he is making Penelope his own (she is still called Penelope which is nice!) He has also done some more with the electrics. I hope he is enjoying riding her as much as I did!

Klaus also said goodbye to Killer his trike this month. Friend Ralf (he of the DF velomobile cookie monster fame) said he was interested in a trike so had a go on Klaus’s and decided to buy it for some fun summer riding. He came and picked it up in his van and gave Klaus some nice green pieces of paper in return.

And while I think of the Cookie Monster, I will include an amazing image that Auke van Andel did following Oliebollentocht last December. He spent hours watching various videos to work out how many velomobiles were there and to sort them by type. You can see the British flag on Millie, the Cookie Monster on Ralf’s DF and even that Klaus is wearing a white snowboarding helmet in Celeste!

Velomobile riding is fun and we meet lots of friends. But February was also an incredibly sad time as fellow Velomobile ride Robert Frischemeier (Liegender Robert) died suddenly following an infection. His illness ran its course over just one week and we were all so shocked to hear of his death, a super fit man of just 58 who commuted 90km per day to and from work and did lots of longer tours for fun. It was tragic news to hear we had lost him.

His family invited his velomobile friends to come to the funeral in all our cycling colourfulness and then to accompany Robert’s urn on its final journey to the cemetery. Of course we wanted to go!

We offered our couch to anyone coming long distance but in the end it was early on the Friday morning that our ‘guest’ arrived. She was looking for somewhere to park and then to ride her Leitra with us the 22km to the church for the funeral. Klaus and I had taken the day off work, as had Jochen and Ralf and Hartmut, so it was a group of 5 velomobiles and 1 upright bike that set off eastwards to Duisburg at 8:30 in the morning on a Friday. Ute’s Leitra is a fairly slow velomobile but due to the strong wind Hartmut was having a tough time on his upright bike. It was a beautiful clear day but bitingly cold with a strong wind, which would make us feel cold pretty much the whole day!

We arrived at the church and went to the room set aside for us with hot drinks and croissants/Brezel. People had cycled from all over to be there. Ymte came from Dronten in NL, TimB and Christoph from Bodensee (by car with folding bikes in the back) and there were many others from Bonn, Cologne etc. In total I counted 25 velomobiles which was a lovely tribute to Robert.

The funeral service was enlivened by Robert’s granddaughter walking around but was overall a very sombre occasion. Robert’s daughter said some incredibly moving words.

After the funeral it was time to cycle in convoy to the cemetery.

There was another short service by the priest and then we walked to where the urn would be buried. In such freezing cold temperatures it was tough to stand outside in cycle clothing but there were some rays of sun to warm us a little.

After the burial some of us decided to cycle to a café in Uerdingen which was just 4km away. Our group ended up being about 8 people, although once we got to the café two carried on. We went into Marktcafé (where Klaus and I often visit) and sat down. A few minutes later the contingent who had cycled to the funeral from Köln and environs stopped as well and they joined us. It was another good opportunity to speak about Robert, how we knew him and how his death had affected us.

Eventually it was time to ride home. The group had now shrunk to Klaus, me, Ralf and Ute and we wended our way back to my flat where Ralf helped Ute put the Leitra in her trailer and then rode home; we spent some time chatting with Ute who we had seen at a few other events. More thoughts again about Robert, dying at such a young age, and that we should not put off things that are really important to us as no-one knows how much time they have.

My condolences once again to the family and friends of Robert Frischemeier; he was a very special man who will be sadly missed.

Other events this month

Klaus and I went on another away weekend for some culture.

This time we decided to go to Regensburg despite it being a very long way away (6 hours’ driving at least) as we fancied having a look around and maybe listening to the cathedral choir there.

Unfortunately the afternoon before we left I somehow pinged my back which meant it was very painful. I sat around with hot water bottles and hoped that the Regensburg trip would be OK. We set off and the heated seats in Klaus’s car were great, but each time we stopped for a break it was almost impossible for me to get out of the car. When I did, and started walking towards the motorway service station, my back would painfully lock up for a few seconds. I was like a very old woman!

The journey was fairly fast with no major traffic hold ups so we arrived in Regensburg at 6pm. We checked into the hotel which was basic but nice. I couldn’t face walking any distance so we just went downstairs to the Indian restaurant under the hotel. The meal was OK but not as special as some!

I had a very bad night’s sleep but the next morning I could move marginally better. We had breakfast in the hotel but this was not very good for the low carb diet (two boiled eggs each and a yoghurt, except I didn’t like the yoghurt). We had paid extra for the breakfast so asked to cancel it for the following two days – we would find some scrambled egg in a café somewhere.

After some paracetamol my back unfroze enough that we could have a bit of a walk around but it was very painful.

Regensburg is a lovely old city that had relatively minor damage in the war, and it is a very popular tourist destination in Germany. Fortunately in mid-February with a bit of snow on the ground it was not too heaving with people.

We visited the Dom (Cathedral) and had a look around, it was lovely. Opposite the cathedral was a hat shop and we went in there (I like hats and am searching for the perfect winter hat as my 25 year old one is a bit mangy) but the prices were a bit exciting. We weren’t allowed to handle the hats ourselves, a sales lady chose for me and put them on my head, but the cheapest I tried on was 170 EUR which is a bit steep for a hat. Especially as the one I was wearing (a black felt number) I had bought a few weeks before from Accessorize reduced from 30 EUR to 3 EUR (bargain!).

We bought Klaus a couple of jumpers in Kaufhof and then stopped for lunch at a very nice restaurant. We looked at the cakes but had soup and salad which were very nice. We considered going there for breakfast the next morning but they were only open at 10 and I wanted to go to the Mass in the Dom at 10am to hear the Regensburger Domspatzen (choir).

We walked to see the Donau but my back meant it was too tricky to walk much so we had a fairly relaxing day overall.

In the evening we both fancied a steak so Klaus googled somewhere to eat and we ended up walking to a very nice Spanish restaurant. The food was excellent and they provided us with additional vegetables instead of potatoes which was great. It had a very good atmosphere and we really enjoyed it.

On the way back Klaus took this very nice photo of the Dom behind some other buildings.

We had decided to check out of the hotel the next day and go home early (Sunday, rather than the planned Monday) because my back was really limiting what we could do.

The following morning we headed off to find breakfast – which was surprisingly tricky! In Regensburg on Sunday mornings nothing much is happening and we walked around for quite a while before we found an open café. Even the bakeries were shut! I guess this is a Bavarian thing. Anyway, we found the café Charlotte and had some scrambled egg there. Klaus stayed drinking his coffee whilst I went off to the Mass to hear the choir.

I sneaked into the back of the cathedral and found a seat but ended up only staying for half an hour as it was so cold in there, and the seat was also freezing cold, that my back was complaining more, even though it had definitely improved. So I left (having not heard the choir do a solo piece, but there were only 12 or so of them there anyway) and Klaus walked back with me to the hotel. We collected the car and headed off, having an incredibly smooth and easy journey without a single traffic hold up.

The hotel were very nice and refunded us the cost of the night we didn’t stay there. Regensburg was nice and we might visit again but it is a bit of a long way away!

Randomness

On Valentines Day Klaus and I went for a meal in our favourite restaurant in Wachtendonk, called Buskens. The landlord is always very chatty and we talked a lot about skiing (he was about to go on a ski holiday) and too much traffic in Wachtendonk centre.

There happened also to be a British couple from somewhere in the north of England in the restaurant so we chatted to them. When they left the chap said to us “I imagine you haven’t had these in Germany” and handed us a Creme Egg each!

Creme Eggs don’t really work for the low carb diet so they are still in the cupboard. My Mum is visiting in April so I think she might get lucky!

My assistant at work, Nasim, has been providing cakes (through a friend) which have made occasional appearances in my blog. Our boss had his 65th birthday and we had a meal at a restaurant for all the colleagues (also a delayed Christmas meal) and Nasim had arranged two cakes for Thomas…

My colleague Dorothee had a birthday also and another cake was organised for her too!

She bought in some cakes too. I had a tiny, tiny corner of the Frankfurter Kranz – my piece fitted on a teaspoon!

Although cakes are off the menu at the moment (except for my Keto Cake, see below!), Gudula and Frank invited us to a Raclette evening. This is not something I had seen in the UK – you have a heated grill and have little shovels that you can put food on, then cover in special Raclette cheese and it slowly cooks, whilst you cook some meat on the top. There was a large variety of things to cook and we had a very nice evening!

Keto Recipes

I have been trying to find some good Keto (low carb) desserts and have tried an awful lot of things that I don’t like, but here are my recipes for two things that seem to work well.

Keto Käse-Sahne Torte

Ingredients for 8 portions:

For the base

  • 90g almond flour (Mandelmehl) or finely-chopped almonds
  • 10g 85% dark chocolate
  • 45g butter
  • 15g Stevia or Erythrit sweetener

For the topping

  • 500g Quark
  • 200g whipping cream (Schlagsahne)
  • 40g Stevia/Erythrit sweetener
  • 9g/1 sachet powdered gelatine
  • Vanilla essence
  • Lemon juice

Method

  1. Line with baking parchment and grease a small springform tin. I use one that is 16cm diameter.
  2. Slowly melt the butter and chocolate together.
  3. Stir in the almond flour and sweetener
  4. Press into the tin and put in the fridge to set.

Then for the topping (preferably after an hour or so, so the base has set)

  1. Make up the gelatine as per instructions (for my gelatine it is 4-6 dessert spoons of cold water and the gelatine mixed and then very slowly heated until it all dissolves)
  2. Mix the Quark, Stevia, vanilla essence and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  3. Whip the cream until it is stiff.
  4. Once the gelatine has dissolved, add 1 large spoonful of the Quark mix into the gelatine and stir until it is mixed in, then add everything back into the Quark mix and stir thoroughly until it is all mixed through.
  5. Fold the whipped cream in carefully.
  6. Spread on top of the base in the springform and chill for at least 4 hours.

This is very tasty and when divided into 8 portions is just 4g net carbs and 293 calories per slice.

I am afraid I haven’t taken a very good photo of it – this is what it looks like after half the cake has been eaten and I took it out of the springform a bit early (it hadn’t absolutely set):

Mascarpone Mousse

We eat this all the time and it couldn’t be easier!

Ingredients:

  • 40g mascarpone
  • 40g whipping cream
  • 5g Stevia sweetener
  • Lemon to taste if desire, or 2g cocoa powder

Method:

  1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until stiff. Then eat!

This is 2g net carbs and 300 calories and is very tasty, also with raspberries, blueberries or strawberries.

Seen on the Internet

I like spotting long German words in the wild and here is another on the Velomobilforum:

And this is a classic! I should probably try to get lots of friends to say this, it sounds almost impossible to British ears.

The last week of February was appalling weather with temperatures of -7 when I cycled to work (in the Quattrovelo) but I am happy to be back riding (now I have a waterproof velomobile) and look forward to the better weather which should come soon.

We have a one week bike tour later in March and haven’t yet decided entirely where we are going, perhaps pootling northwards in Germany, perhaps a bit of NL, who knows. We will take it easy as we are both unfit!

I will continue working on my Quattrovelo blog post and will publish that soon.

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