Category Archives: Six Wheels In Germany

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2019 (Month 63)

Cycling this month

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

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

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

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

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

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

A quick trip to Dronten

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

Our trip to Dronten was very necessary!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bikes were parked just off the cycle track.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the old one:

And here is the tiller separated without this part:

It was all put back together very quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

Klaus has written a summary of what was involved:

Hier die Checkliste 


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repairs to Millie’s Deckel/Lid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see that the vinyl is quite reflective.

And here it is in situ on Millie.

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

Miscellaneous

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

Grensland Tour, May/June 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two languages – Dutch and the local dialect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I chose the rice cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are the figures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was our route for the day:

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

And here are the statistics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – May 2019 (Month 62)

The year is almost halfway through already! Shocking!

Velomobile stuff

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

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

A total of 1,218km this month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We of course travelled there by velomobile in his honour.

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

Grensland Treffen

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was also pleased to see these visitors returning again.

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

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

And quite a few other animals too!

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

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

The European Elections

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

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

And waited.

And waited.

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

I filled it in immediately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A trip to Mannheim

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

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

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

Carolingian Gatehall
Inside the Gatehall looking towards the Abbey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

Next month…

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – April 2019 (Month 61)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month:

My Veloviewer Wheel for April 2019

And here is the list of rides:

April 2019 cycling, only 16km in Bertie

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

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

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

Schafstall, Kessel Tour

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

We enjoyed a slice of cake at Schafstall…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was our track for the day:

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

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

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

and Ralf for a Käse Sahne Torte.

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

We then headed off to the Netherlands.

The clouds were massing but fortunately we avoided the rain.

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

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

Lots of jellybeans

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

Walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

And another beneficiary of the walking is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still eating Keto

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

See you next month!

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – March 2019 (Month 60)

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

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month by bike:

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

Celeste again

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

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

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

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

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

Emily and Celeste
A view in Emily’s mirror

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

Millie’s brake and spokes repair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And were left this this arrangement inside the wheel well.

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

More and more pulling… unsuccessful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More walking again

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

And I see such lovely sights on the walk…

Asparagus fields

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

A visit to Vaessen and a visit from my Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

Here are a few miscellaneous items I experienced this month…

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

And what’s next…

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – February 2019 (Month 59)

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

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

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

February’s cycle rides

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

And this is where I rode this month

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

Bertie undercover

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

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

Put your best foot forward…

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

A few longer rides

To Kevelaer

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

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

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

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

To the Radfahrer Kaffeeklatsch

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

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

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

Xanten over three mountains

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

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

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

A small Velomobile meet in Rees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had another stop to pump up the tyres.

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

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

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

More on Millie’s motor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using the velomobile for shopping again…

Garmin Smartwatches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dog is getting lots of walkies!

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

We even go for walkies in the dark…

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

(Spot the pink dot on the left… Poppy)

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

One man and his dog, striding forth…

Keto food again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

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

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

How cool do I look?

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

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

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

And some more cakes…

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

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

and… Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – January 2019 (Month 58)

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

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

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

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

Millie gets a tiller cover

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

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

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

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

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

So here was the tiller before the cover went on.

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

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

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

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

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

Snowy January

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

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

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

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

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

And the same day I rode home with fresh snow

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

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

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

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

Rides with friends

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

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

Also regularly joined by Hartmut and his WAW

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

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

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

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

Poppy in the snow

Of course, our dog finds the snow very interesting!

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

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

Keto again

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

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

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

Choir 2019 – Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem

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

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

Einbürgerungstest

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – December 2018 (Month 57)

Cycling this month

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

And here is where I actually rode:

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

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

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

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

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

A visit to Aalst in Belgium

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

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

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

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

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

Other events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in the UK

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

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

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

Christmas morning was frosty but clear and beautiful.

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back on 2018

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

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

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

This is what Klaus wrote as his year summary:

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

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

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

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

Oliebollentocht 2018

Each year on 28 December there is a gathering of velomobiles for a group ride. I attended Oliebollentocht in 2016 in Dronten, 2017 in Rotterdam and then this year’s was just round the corner in Roermond. So of course we had it in our diaries for months!

Klaus and I were joined by Fritz and Biggi (www.tandemontour.de) who stayed with us the night before Oliebollentocht as they had a 3 hour car journey to get to Roermond. They arrived with their two DFs on a trailer.

I had already arranged to borrow Ralf’s Sprinter (once again!) and Biggi decided she would be happy to come with me in the Sprinter to the start of Oliebollentocht. Klaus and Fritz would ride to Ralf’s where they would collect him, Hartmut and Thomas, a Quest rider from Kleve and then all ride the 30km to Roermond.

The Sprinter was packed with Millie and Biggie’s DF, called the Little Bat. Klaus and Fritz set off at 7:15 and as Biggi and I were ready we decided to drive to Ralf’s to say hello to everyone as they gathered.

We then drove to Roermond, where everyone was gathering in a sports centre. There was lots of parking which was handy as the place was full of cars with trailers with velomobiles on top. Others had cycled the day before to a location where the organisers had arranged sleeping quarters. There was lots going on!

Here is a row of velomobiles including Klaus’s Quattrovelo Emily.

Klaus, Ralf, Fritz, Hartmut and Thomas arrived not long after Biggi and I had unloaded our Velomobiles and registered.

I bumped into chum Klaus from Köln who is always very handy with a camera and asked him if he would take some photos of Millie – and he of course obliged. Most of the photos below were taken by him.

We had some introductory remarks by various people – the event was being sponsored by several organisations including the EU! Then it was time for us all to get in our velomobiles and try to make our way out of the car park and onto the 66km route that had been planned for us.

Ahead of me in this picture is the black and white DF belonging to Lincoln, who I met last year at Oliebollentocht. He comes over from Australia for the event (and also other things, I think!) so that is very impressive! He wins the competition for furthest distance travelled to Oliebollentocht.

We very slowly rolled out of the car park.

The route that had been chosen had quite a few switchbacks and corners – and this made for a wonderful sight! I was actually in about the first third of the velomobiles but still saw this long series of velomobiles in front of me (the picture below was taken by me).

To me they looked like a load of jellybeans!

Here are some of Klaus from Köln’s pictures, including the hot air balloon which took off just in front of us. The people in the balloon must have got some wonderful shots of all the velomobiles!

The route wended its way around Roermond and then headed towards Germany, taking in mostly quiet B-roads and farm tracks. But soon we were heading up the main road towards Brüggen and crossed into Germany.

And eventually we arrived at our lunch destination in Niederkrüchten. There were velomobiles parked all over the green beside the chapel.

Klaus and I found a seat and enjoyed the lunch of bread rolls, meat, cheese, scrambled egg and drinks. The place was full, as it turned out there had been 150 velomobiles!

The lunch stop was just the right length, as we were finishing with our cups of tea and coffee it was time to move on again. It had been a good opportunity to talk to some friends.

We set off again, first having to queue to get back into our long line which must have stretched nearly a kilometre.

I was fairly near the head of the string of velomobiles and the drivers of the cars that had stopped to let us past were still smiling and waving. I think as they realised there were rather a lot of us their grins probably turned into rather more of a grimace. There were some long hold-ups, although we kept the group together pretty well.

And for this I have to thank Oliver Piper and the organisation team from Grensrijders. I had struggled a bit on the previous Oliebollentocht rides as the speed was too great for me, and people didn’t wait. I ended up riding large chunks on my own, which I felt rather defeated the object of a group ride. I had talked to Oliver about this earlier in the year, and I said I thought it would be good to offer a shorter route (which indeed he did, although I don’t know if anyone used it), and he definitely took more care to keep us together. Oliver led from the front and there weren’t any large gaps apparent to me, as he kept the speed constant and manageable. I know another rider said to me it was a bit fast for them, but as I had my motor this year it was pretty easy for me. So thanks again to the Grensrijders for all their wonderful planning for the event, and for making it all run so smoothly.

When we got back to the Leisure Centre we collected our goodie bags which included t-shirts (we had earlier all been given rather nice fleecy hats!). We were given soup and of course the eponymous Oliebollen…

There were some speeches which included a short time of silence to remember Robert Frischemeier, Liegender_Robert, who died in February. We were also extremely sad to hear that a rider Erwin, who I know from his Velomobile Tante Lies, had suffered a serious accident on his way to Oliebollentocht the day before when in the dark he hadn’t seen a horizontal barrier across the road and had hit it hard with his head. The last we heard he was in a coma with many broken facial bones and had already had his first operation. We all hope that he makes a full recovery.

After a couple of hours it was time to head home, Biggi and I in the warm Sprinter, Klaus and the rest in their velomobiles. Klaus ended up with a 170km day, Biggi and I had the 66km, which we enjoyed very much.

Biggi and Fritz stayed another night with us and then headed off with their bikes on the trailer the next morning.

Oliebollentocht is a really impressive experience. Where else do you see 150 velomobiles in one place? We were also extremely lucky with the weather as, although rather cold (2 degrees), it was dry and clear.

Thanks again to the organising team, and to Klaus from Köln for letting me use lots of his photos. There are lots of YouTube videos of OBT2018 which you can search for if you want to see all the different velomobiles, although this year seemed to be the Year of the DF.

Friend Jupp shot a great video of the event – you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/toAyorIf0ec

Next year, December 28, Oliebollentocht will be in Utrecht. I can’t wait!

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

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

Electric motors in recumbents

Some time ago I electrified my ICE Sprint recumbent trike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So which is the right motor?

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

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

Bimoz: https://bimoz.ch/

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

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

The Q-factor

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

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

Vivax

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

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

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

Bimoz

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

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

The French option

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

Here is the description in French from their website:

Description du produit:

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

Le kit se compose :

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

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

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

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

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

Bafang motor

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

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

Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A visit to Akkurad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collecting the Milan with Motor

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

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

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

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

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

And here is the connector between battery and cabling

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

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

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

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

Q-factor again

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

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

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

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

My feet got stuck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a slightly different view.

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

Strange new noises

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

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

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

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

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

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

A test ride

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

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

So how does it all look

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

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

And here is my new tiller area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riding with the motor

What is it like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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