Category Archives: Alfie the Trike

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – July 2018 (Month 52)

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

Cycling this month

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

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

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

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

Here is the list of rides:

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

And here are the year statistics:

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

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

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

My first 300km ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is loop 2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the statistics of the ride from Strava:

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

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

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

Auntie Helen buys YET ANOTHER Velomobile!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We checked the underneath and it all looked good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A visit from Bobb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new skill – soldering!

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

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

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

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

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

Other news

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Stage 1

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

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

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

Poppy’s dentist experience!

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

Thanks for reading, any comments greatly appreciated as always!

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

Ten Wheels in Germany – April 2018 (Month 49)

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

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

And here is where I went:

The green rides are E-bike rides on Alfie.

Celeste, Humphrey and Millie

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

Celeste gets a visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh oh.

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

And here was Celeste, undamaged by fire but…

It looks as though they had sat on her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humphrey gets a service

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

1. Very swimmy rear suspension

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

3. Difficulties for me getting in and out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!

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

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

Hartmut’s Birthday Bash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A search for a new Landcafé

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had this very tasty peach cake.

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

And Klaus enjoyed a beer.

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

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

Alfie back in service!

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

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

It was time for ice cream!

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

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

A visit from my Mum

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

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

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

The breakfast at Dechi Beach was very good!

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

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

SPEZI – Spezialradmesse

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

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

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

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

Some other random photos from this month

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

And a random event from this month too…

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

He arrived back 10 minutes later with a large bag…

containing:

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

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

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

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

Six Wheels In Germany – August 2016 (Month 29)

Cycling this month

August has been an exceptionally good month for me for cycling mileage – as you can see I’ve done over 1,761km, that’s over 1000 miles. And enjoyed every one of them!

Cycling Statistics this month

Statistics August

And here is the Wheel with where I have gone (excluding a trip I did near Hannover).

Wheel

Rhein-Maas Cycle Tour

At the very beginning of August I undertook a trike tour along the Rhein, Waal and Maas rivers with Klaus and Claudia. You can read the reports of this tour here.

Jochen’s birthday breakfast

Jochen had his birthday in July but as various chums were away his Birthday Breakfast Celebration took place early in August, the day after I returned from my cycle tour with Klaus and Claudia.

The plan was to meet in Kempen and then ride together to Landcafé Steudle near Geldern for breakfast. So bright and early we gathered in Kempen – three velomobiles and five normal bikes.

Waiting in Kempen to start

It was a beautiful day for cycling and the route (provided at the last minute by Herbert – Jochen thought that Klaus or I would plan a route, and we thought that he would…) was very scenic although not 100% ideal for Velomobiles.

Here is the track for our 50km ride from Kempen to Steudle and back to Kempen.

Track Steudle

Here we all are underway.

Ride to Steudle 1

Ride to Steudle 2

Ride to Steudle 3

Ride to Steudle 4

When we arrived we sat outside and enjoyed the buffet breakfast, although Klaus just had a slice of cake and coffee as he had to get home as he was driving to the Baltic Sea for a family holiday later that day.

Here we all are.

At Steudle 1

At Steudle 2

We had a very pleasant few hours at the café before deciding it was time to head back to Kempen.

This hen seemed very interested in us.

Chicken and VMs

And in Penelope. A good place to lay an egg?

Chicken and Penelope

We rode back to Kempen and settled onto the picnic benches outside the Markt Grill. Kempen was just awash with cyclists.

At Buttermarkt 2

At Buttermarkt 1

We whiled away the afternoon very pleasantly drinking beer (or water in my case) and trying not to get too worried when people were peering into the velomobiles. As Jochen is a new VM owner he hasn’t quite managed to affect the nonchalance that you never feel when a kid with an ice cream is diving headfirst inside your bike.

4 chaps in Kempen 1

As many beers had flowed, and indeed some Ouzo or similar clear liquid made an appearance, lots of grand plans were made about cycling events over the next few months. One involves using a pistol to shoot more ventilation holes in Jochen’s velomobile, another a massively hilly weekend tour in the Mosel valley where I was unexpectedly invited (I am famous for my hill-avoidance); I expect Hartmut will think better of that invitation once he has sobered up else they’ll be riding till midnight as I winch my way slowly up the hills – and that would mean they didn’t have much time to sample the wine. Who knows!

But all in all it was a very enjoyable birthday celebration for Jochen. And thanks to him for inviting me!

The Duisburg Liegeradtreff… and a Milan!

Klaus and I set off on our usual Sunday ride but he had the whole day rather than just the morning. The original plan was to ride to the German Cemetery in Ysselsteyn, NL, which is near Venray, but then I hit upon the idea to visit ReneF in Duisburg as he has a Milan velomobile and I fancied trying one out, for reasons which will become clear later in this blog.

René said we were welcome to visit and to sit in his Milan and so Klaus and I headed off on what is his normal work commute as far as Duisburg Innenhafen.

Duisburg Treff

We arrived and had a chat outside René’s house. René has lots of very useful information on velomobiles as he has done lots of audaxes in the past. He had a go of Penelope and was a bit shocked at how heavy she is and how much she rolls in the corners.

He then mentioned that the Duisburg Liegeradtreff was just up the road and would we like to go, so we said yes and followed him the short distance to the pedestrian area where we met several recumbent bikers and trikers and caused great interest to the good burghers of Duisburg on a Sunday morning.

3 VMs 1

3 VMs 2

And in due course I managed to squeeze myself into the Milan SL (which is the small version). And yes, I look stupid in this photo – blame photographer Klaus.

Helen in Milan 2

And here I am with the lid on.

Helen in Milan 1

Klaus also had a go. Neither of us could actually pedal the thing as our knees hit the bodywork – we are not small enough it seems – but I was able to get in and out unaided which was an interesting discovery.

We decided to head to Landschaftspark Duisburg next and did a rather scenic route via the main docks where we stopped for a Currywurst for lunch. We then rode on to LaPaDu which was full of visitors.

I loved these symbols on the toilets!

Duisburg toilets

We rode through the park, which was very different in feel to when I had visited in winter when all the trees were bare and there was snow on the ground. This time it felt like nature was really fighting back.

Strada at LaPaDu

We get asked all sorts of questions when out in the velomobiles, and get lots of attention, but a lady at LaPaDu asked a question I have not previously heard in my 98,500km of recumbent riding… “Did you rent this bike?” No, I didn’t. But a random question!

After a short stop for some cake and to refill our water we headed off, deciding to ride back via one of the more northerly bridges. My initial Garmin-following led us down a footpath, then a set of gates we couldn’t pass through, then we gave up and took the main road (third time lucky). We had to pass through a closed road section although the cycle path was still functional but poor Klaus had a coming-together with a bit of road furniture which scratched the front of Celeste a little. It’s not very noticeable but still annoying.

We ended up riding on some of my favourite roads back, the route from Moers to Niep and then Siebenhäuser which is a lovely smooth but quiet road that goes round Tönisberg. It was a very enjoyable day’s ride, 82km in total at an average of 20km/h, not bad considering how slowly we crawled around LaPaDu.

A visit to Räderwerk

Having tried out the Milan SL and found it was possible to get out of it without needing a crane, I decided to visit Räderwork (the manufacturer) near Hannover for a test ride.

The fan for the air conditioning on my car decided to stop working so I was extremely lucky that Klaus said he would come with me – which meant we went in his company car (free diesel and, rather more vital at this point, functioning air conditioning).

You can only do a test ride on weekdays so we went on a Friday afternoon when Klaus was able to leave work earlier. It’s a long drive, three hours, to Siedenburg where the test ride would take place and we eventually arrived at about 5pm.

We met Jens with whom I had chatted a few times on the phone and he set the test Milan GT up for my leg length and after a few bits of fiddling about to get it right I set off.

Helen in Milan 1

Helen in Milan 2

Unfortunately the Tacho wasn’t working and as my Garmin was out of sight on the floor behind my seat I had no idea of what speed I was going, but my impression was not particularly fast. I had to get used to the tiller steering and the very wide turning circle (14 metres instead of Penelope’s 6 metres). But it was good fun and as the lid was missing there was lots of nice fresh air as it was 34 degrees outside.

Jens had told me to head for Asenburg which is about 10km away and I seemed to arrive there a bit sooner than I expected. I turned round and headed back along the same road, this time able to go a bit faster as I knew that all the corners were manageable. The Milan corners like it’s on rails, a totally different feeling to Penelope (who feels like she is teetering on the edge sometimes as she leans into the corners with her very soft suspension).

I got back to where Klaus and Jens were waiting and extracted my Garmin – 34.5 km/h average. Wow! My average for the same cycling power level in Penelope is about 22 km/h. That’s a 50% increase in speed!

So then it was time for Klaus to have a go. He was wearing his normal work clothes but had brought his SPD shoes with him so in jeans and a t-shirt he headed off up the road to Asenburg. He appeared back in half an hour – with an average speed of 40 km/h. He can do 35ish in his Strada so the increase in speed for him was not as marked, but it was still faster.

Klaus and Jens

I’m considering whether to order one of these as a companion for Penelope and when I want to do longer rides and faster rides but the Milan isn’t always as easy to live with as Penelope; punctures in the rear tyre are a complete nightmare, the lights are a bit low down for ideal visibility in night riding, water can come in where the flap thing shuts, they can be noisy around the back wheel (the test one was very noisy but it seems there might have been a fault with it), plus there’s at least a six month lead time once you order. But I am sorely tempted and am taking the opportunity to talk to some Milan owners and see what they think about them.

Metric Century a Month Challenge

Not only have I managed this twice this month, I have actually managed the Imperial Century (100 miles or 161km) twice too!!

A ride to Kleve and Nijmegen

I had a Sunday with absolutely nothing to do so clearly a long cycle ride was in order. Unfortunately rain was forecast but that was for mid-afternoon and perhaps I would be back by then.

Klaus said he could ride with me for a couple of hours in the morning so I planned a long route north via Kleve and Nijmegen, with several alternative shorter routes if my legs weren’t good, and told Klaus he could come to my house and cycle the first part with me. This seemed a good plan!

Here is my track for the day.

Nijmegen Track

We set off at about 8:30 under slightly grey skies but with a very comfortable temperature of about 18 degrees.

Heading to Geldern

My legs were good and we made decent speed to Geldern, arriving earlier than I had expected. I decided to have breakfast of a filled Fladenbrot to give me energy for my long ride ahead.

Geldern breakfast

Klaus enjoyed a cheesecake and then he set off home as I ploughed on northwards, next stop Kleve (Cleeves).

I was very lucky to have empty roads most of the way.

Riding on empty roads

I whizzed along at an average of 25 km/h, enjoying the long flat roads and lack of traffic lights! I rode through some quiet villages as I headed north. I liked this castle built of hay bales!

Castle of straw bales

As I arrived on the outskirts of Kleve I noticed it was rather hilly. I had to climb slowly up a hill to get onto the ring road and then as I headed round following my track I discovered I had to go over a veritable mountain. It’s visible in the elevation profile of my screenshot above. A real mountain (in Helen world anyway)!

What goes up must come down, so after a breather at the top I started my descent. And boy was that fun! I maintained between 57 and 60 km/h for the three kilometres before it flattened out a bit and I did 40 instead. Because of the gusty wind and Penelope’s relatively high stance I had to continually work to correct her direction on the downhill and probably looked a bit wobbly – none of the cars following me tried to overtake!

It was great fun but more of a hill than I generally like, especially in my velomobile which is heavy and only has 14 gears; the lowest gear isn’t low enough for mountains!

I pootled along, crossing the border into the Netherlands and then noticing up ahead a very large hill. My Garmin seemed to be suggesting I had to ride over it. Surely not?! Surely my route would go around it.

Nope. Mountain number 2 for the day. This one was harder. I had to have an emergency banana halfway up.

Banana up a hill

And when I got to the top I found a restaurant advertising Poffertjes!

Poffertjes

Whilst I was eating my poffertjes the rain started.

The downhill that came when I was back in Penelope was much slower than the last one. The rain was too heavy for me to ride without glasses (it was stinging my eyes) but with glasses it wasn’t always easy to see, so I had to go down pretty slowly, especially as it was a twisty descent. Disappointing!

I made my way to Cuijk for a Maas crossing.

Maas ferry Cuijk

I parked beside a couple of touring bikes and one promptly fell onto Penelope once the ferry started. There didn’t seem to be any damage to my velomobile, fortunately.

It was raining heavily so I just pushed on, still really enjoying myself but slightly regretting I didn’t have my Versatile Roof as that would have kept the area where my phone was lying a bit drier. I couldn’t take photos whilst the rain was this heavy!

I then arrived at the second ferry to take me back across the Maas. I had used this ferry on the trike tour with Klaus and Claudia at the beginning of the month.

Waiting for second Maas ferry

And a view of the Maas with very forbidding clouds!

Oppressive clouds

I arrived in Nieuw Bergen and it was time for some food and drink. I found a little bistro and settled my very wet self in one of their comfortable chairs.

Here’s the typical cyclist clobber – Garmin and smelly gloves!

Garmin and gloves

I enjoyed some hot soup and a cuppa.

Soup

I know the way home from Nieuw Bergen very well and as it’s familiar it seemed very quick, although I had 40 or so kilometres to go. I realised I wouldn’t quite make the Imperial Century with my current track so did a bit of a detour between Straelen and home, going via Aldekerk, which added enough kilometres to make the 100 miles or 163 km.

I arrived home wet but with a typical recumbent grin – what a great ride! I will have to do it again soon, but avoiding the two mountains if possible (I have already found a suitable route and it’s only 170km so a mere 12km detour).

I awarded myself a big chunk of this, my favourite chocolate, having ridden so far!

Milka Lufflee Caramel

My average speed was 22.4km/h and my average heart rate 146, max 175.

A ride to the German Military Cemetery at Ysselsteyn

Klaus had planned a route to the German Military Cemetery at Ysselsteyn (north west of Venlo) several weeks ago and we decided to ride there one Sunday morning.

Because the weather forecast was very hot (33 degrees around midday) and Klaus needed to be back in the afternoon we decided to ride out at ungodly o’clock, which meant leaving home at 6:15 for me, 6:30am for Klaus. We had planned to meet in Grefrath, a common meeting spot when we are riding together.

Here is the track for the day.

Track to Ysselsteyn

I wasn’t very fast when ! set off, averaging about 20 km/h (I have speeded up recently and tend to average between 22 and 25 now) but I think this was the early morning and lack of breakfast.

I did get to see a lovely sunrise though!

Sunrise

We rode to Venlo on familiar roads, then headed west on what was a new route for us and included the new greenway which has been developed for Venlo. It was a very enjoyable morning for cycling as the temperature was just right, around 22 degrees, and there were almost no cars.

I was most surprised to discover that, after just 40km, I had already reached America!

America

We rode on and soon arrived at the Cemetery.

Friedhof sign

Ysselsteyn info

The cemetery is on rolling ground which means when you first see the gravestones, all crosses marked with the names and dates of the soldiers and their ranks (Klaus was able to explain these to me), it just seems like a lot.

Graves 1

But then as you walk through you go over small rises and see more and more…

Graves 2

And then you realise over 31,000 German soldiers lie here. All soldiers who died in the Netherlands were moved to this site, including a few from the First World War.

Graves 3

The number of crosses marching across the grass is very poignant and I felt very emotional seeing all these young men who died.

Graves 4

And not just young men, there was a section with many women’s names, and also some babies and children (judging by the birth and death dates).

Graves women

We had to sit down a couple of times on the benches to try to digest all that we were seeing.

Graves on slopes

For me, as an Englishwoman, it was interesting that I felt just as much sadness seeing these graves, even though presumably some of these young men were happy to fight for the Third Reich, as I would seeing the graves of Allied soldiers. It’s the total futility and waste of war that comes across when you see these. I also found the vast number of these graves really sad – the families of these young men never knew what happened to them.

Unknown soldier

It was a sombre experience visiting this cemetery. I have not been to the Allied cemeteries in Belgium or France but it makes me want to perhaps do this one day.

All these wasted lives. So many young men wiped out.

Graves 5

It was with a very thoughtful mood that we rejoined our velomobiles and set off again.

Velomobiles

We had done 55km to get here and I had another 100km to go. I had brought 1.5 litres of water but had already drunk most of it so we thought it sensible to stop for some breakfast soon, but not straight away as we had spent a lot of time walking around the cemetery and could use another break later rather than straight away.

In the end we found ourselves in a village called Helenaveen 20km later and stopped at a food place that was serving cake.

Cake

Rather strangely I could only eat about half of it – I think the visit to the cemetery had rather dampened my appetite. So Klaus got some bonus Apple Cake. We refilled all our water bottles which was useful and set off towards Roermond.

Klaus had planned the route and it was very good but we were surprised by a fairly long stretch of off-road.

Off road

It was a lovely path along a canal with various other cyclists saying hello as we whizzed by, but we couldn’t ride as fast as normal because of the path so we were getting later and later.

We were riding through bits of countryside with names we had never before seen, a totally new stomping ground, but as it was the Netherlands the cycle paths were mainly very good although there were lots of sticks and small branches everywhere as there had been a wild storm last night. We had to weave around the larger branches but survived unscathed.

We arrived in Roermond and cycled through the centre. I caught sight of a Frites place and was feeling peckish (we had now ridden 100km) so I stopped and bought a small parcel.

Frites in Roermond

I was eating these as we made our way out of Roermond which involved a lot of traffic lights and also some uphill but we survived!

As we were heading out of Roermond a car parked in a layby up ahead and a man got out and started waving his arms at us. So we stopped and he told us he has a Quest and rides regularly with a friend with a Strada and he also knew our friend Oliver who has a yellow Mango. This chap had had all sorts of velomobiles in the past so we exchanged comments about them. I told him I was considering a Milan and he was less keen on that than the Strada but the Strada (and Quest and QuattroVelo) are too difficult for me to get out of because of my disability. We had a great chat though and he took lots of photos of us.

Klaus had plotted for us to do the Meinweg section of cycle route which is lovely wide asphalt just for bikes but it inconveniently has some hills. He was way faster than me up them but I enjoyed overtaking some elderly people on touring bikes – the only scalps I will ever get going uphill in Penelope.

Klaus was waiting at the top and as it was getting really late and he’s much quicker than me I suggested he rode home alone and I would take a different route. It would save him about half an hour. His original aim was to be home between 1 and 2 but it was likely to be 3:30pm before he got home if he went alone, and if he waited for me maybe another half hour (as the route was quite hilly), so he went off alone and I did my best to keep up, at least initially. I managed to keep up with him for at least ten metres!

I then wended my way through the villages started with B (Birth, Brüggen, Born, Bracht and Breyell), making fairly good speed. I was running low on water so when I got to Sassenfeld I stopped at a restaurant we have often visited and had a pancake (which I forgot to photograph!) and a cup of tea and also refilled my bottles. The people were amazed to hear I had already done 140 kilometres.

From here the route is very familiar but I decided I wanted to go for the Imperial Century so had to add another 10km or so, so when I got to Grefrath rather than retracing my route of the morning I headed north to Vinkrath and then to Abtei Mariendonk.

Unfortunately as I was leaving Grefrath Penelope’s suspension played up again – she did this a week or so ago, the suspension gets jammed fully down. It rides OK but the whole bike is leaning to the right, like riding with a very strong camber!

Here is what the dodgy side looks like on the left, the normal side on the right:

Low side

She had done it slightly earlier on the ride and I was able to fix it by pushing my fist between the wheel and wheel arch and extending my hand, but I couldn’t do it at all in Grefrath. Oh well, I just had to keep riding.

I got home and as I turned into the driveway whilst braking the suspension popped back up again. All was back to normal. But I decided this really needed to be fixed properly and as I would be travelling to England this week and so unable to use Penelope I would take the offending part off and post it to Gerrit Templeman in Dronten – I had already mentioned to him when it had gone wrong before and he said he could take it apart and have a look.

Last time Frank helped me but this time he just gave me the tools and I did it myself. Frank is like that, he assumes that you will learn how to do stuff and doesn’t assume that women are all incompetent. I really like that! Obviously it took me a bit longer to do it on my own but I managed!

Penelope without suspension

The next trick was to find a suitable-size box to put the suspension arm in and then post it to Dronten.

The ride was brilliant though, 161.9km at an average of 22.4km/h, average heart rate 138 and maximum 185. And if you would like to relive the ride as a video, here is your chance!!

https://www.relive.cc/view/692159923

A short ride – with a rainbow

Klaus and I arranged to ride together one evening and picked St Tönis as our meeting place. I thought we could ride to Uerdingen from there to take a look at the Rhein.

Anyway, Klaus was already there when I arrived. And barely thirty seconds later Jochen turned up in his Strada. He had cycled 160km already and had seen Penelope’s front lights when he was heading through St Tönis so went to investigate.

Jochen Klaus and Penelope

We asked if he wanted to join us and he said yes, so we all headed for Uerdingen.

Halfway there a sudden heavy rainshower started so we sheltered under some trees until the worst was over. Then we set off again and were treated to a lovely rainbow.

Jochen Klaus Rainbow

The rainbow was still in evidence when we arrived at the Rhein. We were at the ferry crossing (which was closed for the evening) and were probably disturbing the two young people in the car!

Rainbow over Rhine

We crossed over the small bridge past the Crefelder Yacht Harbour as night was falling.

Crossing bridge in Krefeld

We headed back from Uerdingen, once again trusting my Garmin to plot us a route on the fly. Now I have no trouble finding Uerdingen but have tried twice before to plot a route back whilst on the road and have found myself in a less-than-successful route. Klaus has enjoyed commenting about my suboptimal routefinding.

So this time I promised them I would do better. And it was all going swimmingly, we were going on roads that I recognised that went in the right direction (and not through the centre of Krefeld which happened last time) and then suddenly we were sent up a side road and onto a footpath.

We cycled gamely on, and then I became a bit concerned as the footpath had got to a very narrow path, only about 30cm wide, with grass either side. The chaps were brave enough to carry on though so after 500 metres of cycling on grass we got to a slightly more suitable road. And eventually onto more familiar routes which were somewhat better! And we were soon on the right road and cycled together to Hüls. From there Klaus took the direct route home and Jochen and I headed towards St Hubert.

It was lovely to bump into Jochen unexpectedly. He ended up with more than 200km for the day but he is using Endeavour all the time and achieving great distances and speeds for a newcomer to recumbent cycling.

Life in Germany

New job

I started a new job this month!

I am working at a mixing and packaging company and am slowly learning the ropes. My job is in administration and I am looking after a major client who is Russian. Communication language is mostly English but with some German involved, and of course in the office it’s mostly German but with occasional English bits.

There is a lot to learn and no real handover from my predecessor who left in July but hopefully I will get a grip on it all before too long. I will be picking up extra areas of work responsibility in due course but we are starting relatively slowly which is good.

A photographic shoot

Last month I was interviewed for Niederrhein Tourismus GmbH for an article entitled “The Niederrhein from the view of a recumbent triker” (but in German). They wanted to take some photos to go with the article but had to wait for the perfect weather – obviously the Tourist Board wants blue sky and sunshine!

That day came and the photographer contacted me. We met near Tönisberg and he explained to me what he wanted to achieve – firstly, photos from the Trike as he went down a hill, so he hopped on Alfie and headed off, camera in hand.

Photographer 1

We went to a couple of other locations, and then returned to my house and I collected Penelope and we took some more photos with her. I reckon he took maybe 300 photos in all, and in due course I will have access to them. If I can find one where I am not gurning I will post it on this blog!

Visit to England

At the very end of the month I headed to England for a few days for a hospital appointment and to visit my Mum. For once supplies of teabags in my kitchen are sufficient that I don’t have to panic about getting more!

My Mum is coming back to Germany with me for a week so it will be good to show her around a bit more. She’s visited me here twice before but this time will have more time on her own as I have to work from 8:00-13:00 every weekday. She and Poppy will probably enjoy pottering around in the garden!

Cakes this month

Cake August 2016

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 6 – Roermond to Kempen

So the last day of the tour had arrived, just as the good weather had finally found us!

We had decided not to have breakfast at the B&B and instead, as in the previous two days, get something on the road.

We set off at eight in the morning, knowing that it was a relatively short day – just 42km for Klaus and Claudia, about 60 for me.

Here is my track for today’s ride:

Today's track

After a short ride through Roermond we were out into countryside and once again enjoying the beautiful landscape in the Netherlands. Including the obligatory windmill!

We were lucky to have sunshine and blue skies and also the route mostly to ourselves – it seems that the Netherlanders are still asleep in bed at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.

Claudia had now ridden more in five days than in the entire year to date and she was definitely getting stronger in her riding and finding it less effort to maintain the pace. This shows that you can ride yourself into fitness and she was doing a really good job of cycling with heavy luggage.

The trike she was riding was making some odd squeaking noises from the back (possibly the swing-arm), but after several rainy days of cycling the Trice Q probably wanted a bit of oiling here and there. Klaus’s Wild One was making a slightly strange noise from the chain tubes or idler as well, but as we had such a short distance we didn’t bother fiddling with it whilst underway. The trikes could have a bit of attention some time in the future.

Between Roermond and Viersen is an excellent cycle route called the Meinweg. This is a bikes-only stretch of route which runs right to the German border. It’s rolling terrain with a few uphills (up to 4% so nothing dramatic, but hilly for this bit of the Niederrhein) and I have ridden it a couple of times and enjoyed it. I had planned our route for today and sent us along this route as part of it.

This is what we see – a road as wide as a normal road for cars, but only for bikes.

Long and mostly straight, with views to the side of fields with wild ponies, it’s a lovely place to cycle and very peaceful. Of course at other times it’s busy with road cyclists aiming to improve their Strava Segment placing but today we had it mostly to ourselves.

I took this short video of us cycling along.

At the end of this section which is several kilometres long we crossed into Germany and after a few more kilometres found ourselves at a bakery for breakfast.

Suitably refuelled we carried on for the final 20km to Klaus and Claudia’s house, arriving there at 11:30.

I wanted to get straight home so waved goodbye to my touring companions outside their house and then set off at speed back to Kempen, being caught out by the roadworks on the Kempener Außenring which meant I had a diversion of about 5km. Oh well, I was home just after midday.

Here are all the statistics for the tour:

Tour statistics

And here is a visual summary of the whole tour, including the relevant heights (as you see, we went downhill as we followed the rivers).

Tour Wheel

This was my first proper bike tour since the Ruhrtal Tour with James last September and it served as a reminder of how I find cycle touring an ideal holiday – fresh air, exercise, ever-changing views, interesting smells, wildlife, good food, meeting people to chat on the way, never boring… what more could you ask for? I look forward to my next touring opportunity! And thanks again to Klaus and Claudia (and to Alex and Oliver) for their company on the journey.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 5 – Boxmeer to Roermond

The penultimate day of our tour dawned rather too early again – I seem to always wake up at 6am even if I have had a later night. And last night had its moments as I was kept awake by a mosquito which I was unable to catch. It got me several times in the night.

We had decided not to have breakfast in the hotel as it was quite expensive but that we would find something underway. It was agreed to meet at 8am in the lounge and I was there half an hour early as I was up and ready. I ate an apple and had a cup of tea whilst I waited for the others.

I saw this rather lovely facsimile of an old map on the wall – lots of place names I recognise.

Klaus and Claudia arrived at eight and decided to have a pre-ride cup of coffee too.

Walking through this hotel it was lovely to see reminders of its past as a convent – I particularly liked this flagstone on the floor in a corner engraved with this date.

We collected our bikes from their overnight home in the Innenhof. The bikes have been outdoors every night so far on this tour, which is very unusual as I can’t remember when Alfie has had a night on the tiles on a previous tour.

This was our track for the day, a nice ride south via Venlo to Roermond. Of course the wind was coming from the south today!

The forecast was for cloudy sunshine today with the possibility of a rain shower at two o’clock. We set off under grey skies and were soon at yet another ferry crossing at Vierlingsbeek to Bergen.

Klaus and I had been on this ferry before, with Jochen and Uli on my birthday when we were cycling to Overloon. This time it was three trikes rather than two velomobiles.

On my birthday ride we had liked the town of Nieuw Bergen so decided to stop there for our breakfast. In due course we found a bakery and took a table inside as it wasn’t yet that warm.

I had a croissant to start with.

Then a piece of Rice Cake. This seems to be a Limburg speciality and I find it very tasty!

My cup of tea also came with a little chocolate and a tiny piece of streuselkuchen.

After a leisurely breakfast we continued on, this time on roads that Klaus and I had ridden before. The road down from Nieuw Bergen to Arcen is great – long, straight, very little traffic… Ideal Velomobile road although a bit more boring on the slower trikes.

The road to Arcen is great fun and was more interesting as lots of historic MGs were driving past – there must have been some kind of rally somewhere. We waved at the drivers and they waved back.

Friend Oliver was going to meet us in Roermond for a meal but I got a message from him saying he planned to come to Venlo to meet us there, so we organised a rough time and place and kept in contact with our estimated time of arrival.

In the end we arrived first and looked for a suitable place to eat in Venlo, finding a small café that I had visited before. Whilst we sat there a huge rain storm deluged the area but we were under a large umbrella so survived.

Oliver arrived about twenty minutes later, this time on his Sinner Recumbent Bike (unfortunately his Mango Velomobile is currently at the repairers after a car drove into it).

After an enjoyable lunch we set off again, on roads that have been travelled by us many times. It felt like we were going much faster through the landscape although our average speed was similar – perhaps it’s just that in better weather it feels less like hard work!

We were once again following the Maas, glimpsing it through the trees as the path occasionally headed further inland.

Here is Claudia underway.

Klaus saw I had my camera out so tried to zoom ahead…

Oliver rode alongside me briefly and then when we were overtaken by roadies he had to keep up with them – and did. A chap in normal clothes on a weird bike who was as fast as three skinny Lycra MAMILs on carbon machines…

The landscape here was different than that of previous days. It has been noticeable on this tour that despite us not covering vast distances we can see the differences between these areas of the Netherlands.

There were occasional threatening clouds… Here over the town of Kessel where we would cross the Maas again.

In the queue for the ferry I spotted a trike motorbike with a Welsh flag as well as a Union Jack. So when we were both on the ferry I had a chat to him. He was a British man with Welsh roots living in NL.

This was his hood ornament.

And this bulldog.

Once we had crossed and were in Beesel Klaus mentioned a very nice terrace café which we would go past… So of course we decided to stop for more cake.

Claudia decided to have an ice cream… But Klaus had misunderstood and ordered her a cake so he had to eat both. A real hardship.

We had just 12km to go to Roermond and were enjoying our relaxing riding and cake eating but eventually extracted ourselves from the café and headed off again.

Oliver took this photo of us all wending our way through the streets of Beesel which was preparing for some kind of Dragon Festival (which looks like it will be well worth a visit).

We arrived in Roermond at five and Oliver led us to the Bed & Breakfast. The owner had said via email that we could store our bikes in his house so we went round the corner to the address he gave us and our bikes were filling up the hallway of his house, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Once we had showered it was time to head off for some food…

We enjoyed our burgers in the main market square of Roermond.

As the B&B had tea and coffee facilities we headed back there after our meal and took a selfie of us all.

Oliver then headed home and we decided on a relatively early night. Tomorrow we will leave at eight (again without breakfast as it’s a bit pricey) and Klaus and Claudia should be home by midday; I will have a further hour’s riding.

We were lucky with the weather today as it does make the journey less tiring somehow. Claudia has ridden herself into fitness over the last five days and 350km and is doing really well with the trike, although it is making some strange squeaking noises from the rear swing arm so I will need to take a look at it when we are back. Riding so many days in the rain does take its toll on older bikes!

Alfie has performed brilliantly and I have enjoyed having my electric motor to give me a bit of a push up hills and to help me with the head wind. I usually have it on setting 2 out of 9 so perhaps a 40 watt assist but it is a nice feeling and means I have been less tired at the end of the day than I otherwise might have been. Or, as Klaus says, I have been ‘cheating’. Although of course I have ridden more than 80,000 kilometres without an electric motor on my trikes. You decide!!!

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 4 – ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Boxmeer

Today the weather forecast was at last for a relatively dry day, a much nicer prospect than the seemingly-unending drizzle or rain of the last few days.

Our hotel had a very expensive breakfast (nearly 15 Euros each) so we decided not to bother with that but to get something whilst on our way.

Here is our track for today – you will see a little stick at the bottom which was our detour to Overloon. More later.

We set off at about nine after I did a small bit of maintenance to my left hand brake which had decided to stop working the day before. All easily fixed and we were on our way in dry weather – my waterproof jacket was packed away in my pannier at last!

Klaus had planned this route to follow the Waal a little way before we headed south towards Boxmeer, and almost straight away we found ourselves on a diversion as a bridge we wanted to cross was closed. This was not a bad thing as the route that continued on our side of the river was rather lovely, a high quality track and almost no traffic.

It included a few off-road sections which were fine in the trikes on a dry day but do use more energy!

Eventually we came to another bridge and were able to cross after our diversion.

As we had cycled nearly 20km and the plan for the day was just 58 it seemed like a good time to stop for some cake. So we headed off our route to the town of Heeswijk-Dinther, crossing this excellently-named stream on the way…

The first bakery we stopped at had no seating and no hot drinks so we continued on and found a café that had an interesting selection of cakes.

We ordered hot drinks and cakes and I also decided to have a croissant for my breakfast.

I chose this nutty creamy cake thing.

Klaus and Claudia had these strawberry and cream tart thingies.

After a decent break of half an hour or so it was time to carry on, riding to intercept our original route which of course didn’t go 100% to plan so we did a slight bit extra. We are getting used to this!

Klaus’s back wheel was behaving a bit oddly so he thought he might need to tighten up the axle so we had a quick pit stop for bike maintenance.

In fact the axle was fully tight and he couldn’t get to the bottom of it so just carried on.

I loved these silvery leaves which were shaking in the wind. Fortunately today the wind was mostly behind us, a nice change from yesterday’s killer headwind!

We now had a section which was very off-roady but was worth it as we were cycling past the Military Airfield Volkel and saw a couple of Eurofighters in the air earlier.

This photo shows the Airfield control tower.

We continued on and I took this photo of the Trikes next to the runway landing lights.

We waited around for a bit hoping to see a plane or two coming in to land but nothing seemed to be happening and then a young family passing in a car told us the planes wouldn’t fly again for an hour. So it was time to carry on.

We were doing very well time-wise with only another 18km to do and it wasn’t yet one o’clock. I then had a brainwave – why not visit Overloon? I had gone there by bike on my birthday with Klaus, Uli and Jochen but we hadn’t looked around the war museum as we didn’t have time; Boxmeer (our hotel stop) was probably only 10km from Overloon and we would arrive in Boxmeer stupidly early with nothing to do, so the decision was made to divert to Overloon and visit the museum.

This did mean that unfortunately we didn’t pass through the village of St Hubert which Klaus had especially routed us through with the original route to Boxmeer. But I photographed the road sign. Home from home!

We were now following my Garmin which plotted us a direct route to Overloon which meant on cycle paths next to main roads. But, as is to be expected in the Netherlands, these were very good paths.

I saw this windmill and realised I hadn’t seen very many on this trip. It seems I must just be particularly in observant at the moment as Klaus says he has seen several over the last few days.

My companions couldn’t work out why I had stopped to photograph this shop sign. I assume most English readers will understand why!

We arrived at Overloon at two o’clock and left our luggage in the reception area for the museum. We had a lunch of baguette and some drinks before paying our 15 Euro admission to the exhibition.

There is lots to see in this museum, including a large array of military vehicles from the Second World War and beyond. They had a Spitfire, a B=52 and a V1 Rocket as well. But I was extremely moved by this Churchill tank.

One of the poppy wreaths was in memory of ‘Dad’ and there was a document beside the wreath explaining that one of the tank crew had been in this particular tank when it had been damaged and his fellow crew were injured or killed. The soldier came regularly to Overloon Museum to pay his respects to his dead crew-mates before his death. A reminder that these aren’t just exhibits in a museum but that they have their own stories to tell of the sadness and destruction of war.

I was extremely impressed by this huge amphibious vehicle. The tyres were taller than I was!

We stayed at the museum until closing time as they had lots of other exhibits which made for very interesting reading. The two hours we had there wasn’t enough so it will be definitely worthwhile to come for another visit sometime.

We had just under 10km to our hotel in Boxmeer and so set off along some quiet lanes, eventually arriving at Klooster Elsendael. Which was a lovely former convent.

My room.

This was its name – I am guessing this means Sister Constansia

We wandered into Boxmeer dodging a rain shower to find some food for the evening and ended up in a good value pizza place.

On our return Claudia and I had a look around the chapel.

This is a beautiful hotel and also very good value – I think my room is 62 Euros (without breakfast).

There is a large lounge area where I am sitting to type this report and there are lots of little touches that give reminders of the past for this building.

We had cycled 76km today (instead of the planned 58) but it had been a lovely ride with different landscape than some of the previous day’s, plus the advantage of not seeing it through the rain.

Tomorrow is a longer day, more than 80km to Roermond, with some rain forecast as well but hopefully all will go smoothly. We’ve ridden the route in bits and pieces before and know that it’s good so it should be an enjoyable penultimate day’s ride.

The visit to Overloon did change our mood somewhat to a more sombre feeling. I was extremely moved by what I read there and realising that we were cycling all over landscape that saw battles, death and destruction in World War Two makes us for grateful that all we have as a result of the sacrifices of others.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 3 – Nijmegen to ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Today’s plan was a 68km ride from Nijmegen to ‘s-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch) and chum Alex who lives in Rotterdam and sold me Penelope said he would join us for some of the ride.

After a delayed breakfast (there was a problem with the rolls, apparently) we set off from the Boat\Circus\Funfair at nine in the morning. It started raining as we fetched our bikes from their storage area and this was the theme for the day.

We saw this rather wonderful bike as part of the Fair, with a prow of a boat on the front. Can’t say I’ve seen one of those before!

Here is a map of where we rode today, following the Waal river and then joining the Maas.

Within 500 metres of our start point we were on a very high quality bike route which was to take us over the river on a bridge, although it took us a little while to work out how to get onto this elevated path.

As we passed onto the bridge over the water we went through these posh towers.

The track that Klaus had prepared had us leaving the bridge down what turned out to be steps so we gave that a miss. It looked as though there were some new paths and we ended up missing a turning (my fault) and although it looked as though our route would join up with the planned route it didn’t so after a 4 kilometre detour we were finally on the correct route. You can see this in the map below.

This was an impressive bridge over the Waal. I do like the Dutch bridges, they are beautiful as well as functional.

I had been exchanging messages with Alex to let him know our progress and it looked as though we would reach our planned meeting point at the Waal crossing at Druten before him. The rain and strong headwind had sapped our strength a bit so it was definitely time for a cuppa, but first we needed to cross the river…

This was the jetty or landing stage for the ferry but the ferry didn’t come. After reading the notice to check the ferry was running today (it was) I phoned the number and spoke to someone who didn’t seem to understand English but got the message as the ferry started to head towards us.

This ticket was much more colourful than the one in Germany at Rees…

We asked the ferry operator if there was somewhere good for food and he said yes, behind the church. So we went to the church that we saw when heading into town and there was no food place behind it, so we asked a lady watering her front garden and she said there was another church, and indeed there was and it had several cafes behind it. We stopped at a likely looking one!

The choice was very good and the food very tasty. I had a curry soup.

Followed by this Goats Cheese and Walnut Baguette

After we had finished the soup Alex appeared, having ridden over from Rotterdam on his upright bike. He had some soup too and a coffee and we had a great chat.

After about an hour it was time to go on and Alex would ride with us. The rain began again as we left the café and we set off along the streets of this sleepy town. As Alex and I were faster Klaus said we should head off on our own as we all had the same track as it was tricky to keep to the right speed. So we rode ahead enjoying a good chinwag.

I loved looking at the landscape and hearing lots from Alex about the history of the area, how the Waterships are organised and more. He is a fount of knowledge!

With about 20km until ‘s-Hertogenbosch we decided it might be time to stop to wait for the others and we saw two chaps sitting on a bench with touring bicycles so decided to stop and talk to them.

Giovanni and Joyce (named this as his father was a fan of James Joyce) were from Italy and they chatted to us about their tour so far, from Switzerland and finishing in Amsterdam. They were interested in my trike and I told them also about Penelope, saying that Alex had sold her to me.

Giovanni had a selfie stick and so we took a picture of us all.

Here is Giovanni looking at our bikes.

And here was his rain protection which he laid over the handlebars and the panniers at the back as extra waterproofing.

He also had a rather novel form of overshoes…

Giovanni took this picture of me contemplating the rain clouds…

We exchanged Facebook details and Joyce wrote the following about me (at least I think it is!!!!):

In una delle poche pause incontriamo Helen, una ragazza cicloviaggiatrice, che nonostante la sua disabilità continua a viaggiare con una speciale bicicletta. Il tempo di scambiare quattro chiacchiere con lei ed il suo amico e ripartiamo. Anche la pioggia ci concede una pausa.

Alex had fetched me a hot water for tea and we sat and drank and chatted to the chaps before they decided to move on. Barely a minute later Klaus and Claudia hove into view, it was a real shame they had missed meeting the Italians.

They were keen for a break from the rain and evil headwind so we went into the café where Alex had bought my hot water and this time had some apple cake.

Hot drinks were also helpful to thaw Claudia out a bit as she was finding the rain was rather chilling her.

Before we set off we took a selfie of us four – no selfie stick this time, just my reasonably long arm.

Once again Klaus and Claudia suggested that Alex and I rode on ahead so we did, enjoying the challenge of the headwind and maintaining a reasonable pace for the remaining 20km. Which included another ferry.

This one a bargain at 80 cents each…

Crossing this relatively narrow bit of river, the Maas now.

Today’s hotel was a former convent and had apparently only been open for five weeks. When new arrived I did the initial check-in and then said goodbye to Alex who was heading home (mostly by train as he had already done over 150km in the rain and with lots of headwind). He had also had a close encounter with a sheep on his way to meet us which resulted in a fall and this rather grazed knee. But he survived to tell us about it!

This was the most expensive hotel so far with my bill for a single room at 105 Euros. But we had some free meringue thingies called “Nuns’ Kisses”. Hmmmm

This is the exterior of the hotel.

A bit of exploring and I found one of the former chapels…

Which was now repurposed as a meeting room. With gallery above, which was cool!

Klaus and Claudia had arrived by the time I finished my shower and clothes washing. We decided to eat in the restaurant here which was a set meal of Paprika soup followed by pork. It was very tasty and well laid out.

Of course we couldn’t resist the dessert of lemon cake with blackberry ice cream!

After the meal I went for a short walk around the lake to work off some of the calories. Den Bosch seems rather nice and the cycling infrastructure as we came into the town was amazing – special bicycle-only bridges over the motorways and always segregated paths. The Netherlands is an excellent place to cycle – as long as you don’t mind headwinds on days like today!

Despite having rain pretty much the whole day I had a fantastic time and really enjoyed seeing the landscape, riding against the wind and chatting to my friends. Cycling touring is always relaxing and enjoyable and it was a great day all in all. Tomorrow should be shorter and drier which is a relief! We will be heading back eastwards to Boxmeer.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 2 – Xanten to Nijmegen

After a good night’s sleep it was time for breakfast – and what a breakfast!

Everything beautifully displayed and set out – and tasty too!

Today’s ride was shorter, a planned 68km along the Rhein to Nijmegen. Here is our track for the day.

We set off at about 9am, heading past the Harbour where we had walked yesterday and then around the Xantener Südsee. Here is a view back at Xanten – the cathedral and also the windmill which was turning.

We passed this information board with its history of a bomber that crashed locally.

I had ridden around this area with the Trike Treffen during Christi Himmelfahrt but then it was very hot and sunny and so the dust kicked up by the bikes on the sandy track was notable. This time, in the drizzle, the bikes remained reasonably clean!

After the Xantener Südsee we went around the Xantener Nordsee and saw some lovely posh houses which fronted onto the lake. Most salubrious!

We then rode along the Rhein Radweg on the left hand bank of the Rhein. The track we had prepared stayed on this side but as we were riding we decided to cross over and go to Rees (which is lovely) and then ride along the other side to Emmerich am Rhein. I had done this route on my solo tour earlier.

I had visited Rees a few times and each time taken the busy bridge over the Rhein. However as we were heading towards Rees Klaus noticed a sign to a ferry – we thought that was definitely worth a look so cycled along the path over the Deich and arrived at the ferry landing stage.

All looked rather unoccupied and I assumed the ferry wasn’t running but the information board said it was indeed working today and sure enough the boat moored at the other side of the river started making its way over to us.

As we waited another cyclist appeared with lots of luggage – he was riding from Neuss to Rotterdam.

Watching the ferry cross the Rhein was rather interesting as it careered across at high speed. “I’d better make sure I fix my bike safely too the boat,” said the chap with the normal bike. Our trikes would of course be safe on their three wheels.

the fee for the crossing was 2 Euros each.

Off we went, crossing Vaterrhein.

When we arrived in Rees we saw lots and lots of statues – all over the place, very amusing. Here is Claudia posing for a shower with one chap.

…and sitting on another…

Whilst Klaus pretended to ignore the two women made of bronze hanging on the railings by the river.

Having cycled for at least 18km it was time to stop for cake, so we went to a café I knew of in the centre of Rees and treated ourselves (except Claudia was still full from breakfast so she just had a drink).

Klaus had this cheesecake.

I had this rather yummy Black Forest Gateau.

We then cycled along to Emmerich am Rhein. I had ridden between Rees and Emmerich in Penelope a few months ago and it didn’t feel like a very long way but on the trikes in the rain with the headwind it seemed much harder work!

Eventually we arrived in Emmerich but didn’t stop as Klaus and I weren’t hungry after our cakes (Claudia was a bit peckish but said she could wait). They asked how far Millingen aan de Rijn was and I said I thought half an hour; in retrospect this was because I had been in Penelope on a fast day but we didn’t realise this at first.

This is the bridge back over the Rhein from Emmerich.

the other side of the Rhein was windy again (as it had been before) and the drizzle continued. It wasn’t so heavy as to make us really wet but it was a bit annoying as we were never totally dry.

After the half an hour had passed I realised we were still a long way away from Millingen so each time we reached a village we diverted to it to find a bakery or food establishment – and failed. There were none. Eventually we were just 2km before Millingen when we saw a sigh to a Biergarten with Terrasse so headed up the side road to it and had a light lunch of soup and salad with the very friendly landlady chatting to us.

We headed off again in the rain, crossing the border into NL and passing the hotel that I stayed in a few months ago. After this point the route was unknown to me – so we just followed the purple line that Klaus had planned.

We rode along the Deich enjoying views of the Rhein and of the wildlife, including lots of storks.

I also had to photograph this sign as when I first saw it I read it as an English coarse expression!!!

We rode through a nature reserve where the trail was sand and gravel which is hard work on trikes.

The rain started coming down more heavily and so it was good to know that we weren’t far from Nijmegen, riding mostly along the Deich and past small villages and single houses.

I had booked as our accommodation rooms on a boat moored at Nijmegen. As we arrived at the place there seemed to be a circus or fair on next to it which didn’t bode well for a peaceful night’s sleep. Walking along the metal walkway and then up damp wooden steps can be slightly interesting with click shoes (with cleats) but I managed to find a lady to ask where we were to park our bikes. The answer was backstage to the fair under a tarpaulin.

This all seemed a bit sub-optimal but the lady told us that the fair wasn’t noisy during the week and when we got on the boat and saw our rooms they were characterful and interesting. This is mine – I will be sleeping in a boat!

After a shower and washing my clothes (which I think are unfortunately unlikely to dry) we met in the breakfast room where we could help ourselves to drinks and also look at some museum-type exhibits about the boat.

After I spent some time writing my blog and drinking tea we decided to go for food.

I have often found that it is pretty expensive to eat in the Netherlands and this was the case for our evening meal on the deck of a boat rafted up against our one but the food was tasty!

After the meal we chatted for a bit and then the others went to bed and I wrote more blog. I also chatted through Facebook with Alex who sold me Penelope – he’s going to cycle out to meet us tomorrow which will be great fun. It will be lovely to see him again, even if I’m on Alfie and not Penelope.

Today we rode 72.7km in total at an average speed of. 15.8 kilometres per hour. Although that’s not particularly far and fast it was quite tiring in the rain, but cycle touring is always great fun and I enjoyed the riding very much. We’re hoping for better weather tomorrow for our ride to ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

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Rhein-Maas Tour: Day 1 – Viersen to Xanten

So my first long tour for almost a year has started!

Originally planned as a tour from Berlin to Viersen, but shortened as Claudia didn’t feel confident tackling that distance, Klaus had organised a route taking us through some interesting cities in NL (Nijmegen, ‘s Hertogenbosch, Boxmeeer and Roermond) but our first night would be in Germany, in Xanten. This tour would be six days and would cover 400km in total.

Because Claudia doesn’t have a Velomobile (she uses my old Trice Q) we would all be on trikes for this tour. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the six days got steadily worse as the Tour approached and it seemed very likely we would get quite wet. Oh well; I love cycle touring, even in the rain.

At 9am they arrived at my door having cycled the 20km from Viersen. After a quick loo stop we set off, a trio of trikes with various flags (I have Great Britain and Germany, Claudia has Germany and the Union Flag and Klaus has the Kurpfalz flag (where he hails from) as well as Germany and the British flag. Of course they only have the British flag in deference to me, and are too polite to remove them I think!

My Garmin doesn’t communicate with my iPad so I can’t upload the tracks until I am at home but fortunately Klaus’s Garmin Edge 1000 talks to his phone and so he has uploaded the track to Strava and here it is (he rode further of course as he started in Viersen).


The start of the tour was heading to Moers, a route I have regularly cycled recently in the Velomobile. We arrived in Moers at about 11:30am which seemed rather like cake time so we stopped at a bakery. I had a walnut pastry and a cup of tea and we sat and watched the world go by.

Suitably fortified we set off again, leaving the rather off-road track we had been using (a former railway converted into a cycle path) and heading out on quiet roads.

Klaus’s plan was for us not to ride directly to Xanten but to join the Rhein at Rheinberg and then follow it along to Xanten. We approached the Rhein at Orsay which has this rather large power station.

We were then cycling along the Deich (dyke) which is the flood protection for the Rhein. The cycle path isn’t on the top of the dyke but lower down so we actually didn’t really see the Rhein much at all, but the large chimneys that show its continuing industrial importance were often visible to our right as we headed north.

We spotted a lot of what seemed like milestones but they didn’t seem to be heading to anywhere specific with the distances and in fact we saw lots of different ones around the 10 or 15 mark whilst riding today. This one was not 11.2km from Rheinberg or from Duisburg so I am none the wiser.

The weather had forecasted rain in Xanten at 14:00 and this looked increasingly likely as we spotted some ominous clouds on the horizon. Here we are approaching Wesel (the Wesel bridge is visible to the right of the photograph), finally riding on the top of the Deich so we could see the river.

The wind was a pretty strong westerly which you notice on the trikes but the sun had been out a fair bit so we were relatively warm – normal cycling jerseys kept us warm enough, no coat required.

We hadn’t eaten except the pastry in Moers so when we reached a nice Rhein Terrace we decided to stop for some food, particularly because it looked like the rain was on its way. I wheeled my trike onto the terrace under some shelter but the lady told me not to park there. We were the only guests, there was a vast amount of room, but that’s German customer service for you. So the trikes were left out at the mercy of the rain that was surely coming.

We sat at a table and Mrs Sour Waitress told us that there was no hot food, only cake. As we had all had cake in Moers we didn’t want anything sweet so just settled for tea or coffee. My cup of hot water was in a really small coffee cup, really just one mouthful, but I didn’t have to pay for it which was a small consolation!

Whilst we sat and drank our hot drinks the heavens opened.

Claudia felt inclined to stay there until the rain completely stopped but I reckoned that would be a couple of hours so encouraged us to carry on. So we put on our waterproof jackets and sat on our wet seats and set off in the rain. I rather wished I had Penelope with me!

Our route was along the Bislicher Insel where I cycled with the Trike Treffen people at Christi Himmelfahrt. At this small lake we saw, standing in a row, a heron, a stork and a white heron. I don’t think they’re clear enough to see in this photo though.

The rain was falling reasonably heavily so we were wet but fortunately it was still warm so not too bad.

We arrived in Xanten just after four in the afternoon and found our way to our Bed & Breakfast which was built into the walls of the city and very nicely appointed.

After a shower and washing our clothes to dry on the heated towel rail in the bathrooms we met at 6 o’clock to find some dinner, first going to the Cathedral for a look around but unfortunately it was closed as a service was taking place. We ended up at an Italian restaurant in the main pedestrian centre of Xanten.

We all had tomato soup to start.

And then I had this tasty pasta meal with turkey and mushrooms.

After a very leisurely meal we left the restaurant and found our way to an ice cream parlour.

As it was only eight in the evening we decided to go for a little walk. I had seen some signs to a Hafen (Marina) so we followed those, going first through this tower.

then past this Windmill

And then past the large Roman Museum just outside the town wall of Xanten. There was a ‘Selfie Point’ where you could photograph yourself outside the museum. I photographed mine and Claudia’s feet!

When we arrived at the Marina Klaus went to the children’s playground and tried out the hammock. He had complained about having to walk so far, “I’m a cyclist, not a walker!”

I had a closer look at the boats in the harbour.

Then it was time to walk back. On the way back Klaus regaled us with the story of Siegfried (who has something to do with Xanten) which was considerably lubricated by his two glasses of wine with dinner. The moral of the story seemed to be that everyone was stupid, and be careful of women from Iceland. Or something.

Xanten is a lovely place and very quiet as cars aren’t allowed in the centre, although the crows were making a racket as the sun was setting. Tomorrow we are heading off (in the rain) to Nijmegen, which I have driven past many times but never visited, so I am looking forward to that!

For me today’s ride was 70km at a very leisurely 15.5km per hour. This is a relaxed tour after all!

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Six Wheels In Germany – May 2016 (Month 26)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here are my rides for this month.

Statistics for month

And here’s VeloViewer’s Wheel which shows where I have ridden (except for a ride I did in NL). However, the total distance is wrong on this wheel – no idea why as Strava has the correct data (and it gets the data from Strava).

Veloviewer Heatmap Wheel

A word about cycling apps… at the moment the Velomobile community is rather annoyed with Strava (where many of us track our rides) because of the following message we received:

Hello, I’m from Strava Support. Please note that any activity performed while using a velomobile should use the activity type “Workout” or be made private and can not be marked as a standard bike ride according to our policy and outlined in our article, which is linked to below. This policy is in effect to protect the integrity and fairness of our segment leaderboards. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/articles/216919507-Uploading-E-bike-motor-assisted-or-non-conventional-bike-data-to-Strava-Guidelines

Any activity that is marked as a ride, but performed in a velomobile is subject to being flagged. Continued violation of the above mentioned policy may lead to the termination of a Strava account. We appreciate your cooperation in advance. Please submit a support ticket if you have any questions about this policy.

In the future, we do hope to add an activity type for velomobiles although we currently have no plans to do so. Please feel free to add your votes and thoughts on that feature request to the forum linked to below. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/208837707-Support-Aero-Velomobiles-or-Rocket-bikes-on-Strava

Basically, if we mark our rides as ‘workout’ or ‘private’ they are not included in leaderboards with other riders and many other features are lost. Several people have left Strava because their rides are constantly flagged (even if just round the corner for a coffee, no speed records) so it seems we may move across to Garmin Connect as that seems to accept velomobiles at the moment.

One ride, two countries, three companions

Chum Oliver who rides a Mango velomobile had contacted me to ask if I’d like to meet up with him on his way back from a longer ride (back from Ede in NL to his home near Roermond). He said we could meet for a cuppa in Arcen and then ride together to Venlo or something. Of course I said yes as it would be great to catch up with Oliver again.

Sunday mornings is a time that Klaus often rides, starting early in the morning (7 or 8am sometimes) as he has to be home at midday for breakfast. We decided to ride together to Straelen and from there I would head to Arcen to meet Oliver and Klaus would ride home again.

1 ride 3 companions

So Klaus and I set off from my house and rode together the relatively short route to Straelen, doing a detour to Obereyll and Nieukerk on the way to stretch out the ride a bit, and because that section of road is fab (smooth, fast and empty).

I had to stop to take the photo of this amazing place name on the road sign – a clear mix of the local dialect of German-meets-Dutch.

Schpootenhuske

We arrived in Straelen and stopped at Hoenen bakery where I had their breakfast and Klaus had a piece of cake. We were very early as Klaus would need to head back by 11 at the latest and I wouldn’t need to leave for Arcen until midday, but I thought I could safely sit in a bakery for an hour on my own with no problems.

Just as I had finished my breakfast and Klaus his cake we spotted chum Uli cycling outside. He had seen the velomobiles so parked his bike and came in to see us.

Klaus and Uli

Helen Klaus Uli

He was on his way to Walbeck which was a bit further north to attend a Radio Ham Field Day. I know a bit about these as my father was a Radio Ham previously and went to a couple of these field days. Anyway, Uli asked if I wanted to come along as I had some time to kill so I said yes of course.

Klaus headed off home and Uli and I set off to Walbeck, about 10km further on than Straelen. There was some kind of event on in Walbeck that day which meant some of the roads were closed and traffic was a bit random but we found the field with the Hams in in due course – right next to this windmill.

Helen and Uli at Walbeck

The sights and sounds were familiar from my youth when my Dad did lots of radioing (before the Internet appeared).

Radio Field Day

The chaps there were impressed to know that I had experience of Ham Radio but seemed appalled I hadn’t got into it myself. But I find the internet rather easier and involves less equipment!

After half an hour there it was time to head off on my own to meet Oliver in Arcen, so I said goodbye to Uli and the other chaps and zoomed down the hill to NL, my second country of the day. I stopped at the usual café, sitting outside to wait for Oliver.

He was on a 200ish kilometre ride back from Ede and had given me a very vague estimated time of 12:30 but he was spot on – I heard the thunderous noise of his Mango rolling over the cobbles before I saw him. I waved to him and he stopped, parked near to Penelope and we sat down for some lunch together.

Helen and Oliver

After lunch we rode together to Venlo where we stopped briefly to watch what seemed to be a championship of Water Polo played with canoes. Great fun!

Venlo watersports

At Venlo we went our separate ways and I dragged myself up the hill back to Germany, reaching home with 75km on the clock at an average of 20.1km/h. A fun day out with three companions on my voyage to two countries.

Trike Treffen, Christi Himmelfahrt, Xanten

Two years ago, when I had just been in Germany a month, I attended the Trike Treffen at the Hariksee near Brüggen. This is organised by people in the velomobilforum.de and liegeradforum.de and was great fun. I met Oliver there, and met Klaus for the first time as well, and also got to know other people who I have subsequently seen again.

Last year the Treffen was miles away in the south but this year it was back in Niederrhein, in Xanten which is just 40km away, so Klaus and I hatched a plan to visit on the Thursday (a public holiday in Germany for Ascension Day). The group were going to do a cycle tour during the day and then meet back at the campsite; we decided because of the distance just to go to the campsite after they were back, so leaving my house at about 13:00.

On the day Klaus had to pull out for domestic reasons so I set off on my own in Penelope on a lovely sunny day to head to Xanten via the route Klaus had planned.

Trike Treffen Track

I started out riding the eastern side of the track which was a much more interesting scenic route, particularly when I got near to the Rhein and there was a lovely cycle path on a very quiet piece of land, the Bislicher Insel. The place was heaving with cyclists and the sun was shining and it was a lovely day to be out on a bike.

I stopped at a café for a waffle which was extremely good value at 3,50€ with a free cuppa.

Trike Treffen waffle

Here was my first view of the Rhein as I turned towards Xanten.

Rhein

The track Klaus had planned went round Xanten rather than through it (a wise move on a busy public holiday) and I was soon at the campsite which is marked with the little photo square on the map above.

It was impressive to see how many people were there with their tents and bikes.

Campsite 1

Campsite 2

Campsite 3

I walked around a couple of times looking at all the trikes and velomobiles. I loved this decoration!

Ladybird trike

And this Alleweder A4 had a Haribo dispenser on the side!

Alleweder with Haribo

A very friendly chap who I had met at the previous Trike Treffen made me a cuppa and I sat chatting with friends, including Detlef who lives not too far from me and has a WAW velomobile (he let Klaus try it out before he bought Celeste). It was good to catch up with some people I knew.

After a couple of hours I decided it was time to ride home so I headed off, avoiding the huge hill at Sonsbeck by going round it and then taking the fast roads home. It was a very good route back and I averaged 22.4km/h for the day’s ride and hadn’t felt like I was riding particularly quickly.

I woke up very early on Saturday morning so made a last-minute decision to join the Trike Treffen tour that day. The plan was to drive with Alfie in the car to the campsite and join them on their tour along the Rhein around Xanten. So I quickly downloaded the track for my Garmin and headed to Xanten in the car.

Trike Treffen route

It’s impressive seeing so many tents and recumbents.

Camping field 1

Camping field 2

We had a little introductory talk about the route and then set off in a big group of what turned out to be 62 bikes and riders.

Bikes on Radweg

The Rhein was in sight during lots of this ride.

Rhine bridge near Xanten

Weird bikes in normal town

Xanten lakes

Xanten lake 2

I was very impressed by this topiary!

Duck topiary

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to a Rhine ferry crossing. We parked our vehicles under a tree as it was a very hot day!

Alfie and friends

Unusual trike

Wooden trike

Leitra and two Mangos

Trikes under tree

The organisers of the Treffen had booked food for the participants but as I hadn’t put my name down to come I bought my food separately in the restaurant. I started with a piece of cheesecake.

Cheesecake

And then had a Flammkuchen (a very thin pizza)

Flammkuchen

It was a really hot day and I was thirsty so had to order a bottle of water (they wouldn’t give me tap water). Look at the price of it!!!!

Rheinfaehre Bill

It was a very good sociable ride and I had lots of chance to chat to people underway. The pace was very sedate – we averaged 14.2 km/h for the 78.62km ride.

Group underway

I’ve ridden around here a few times so recognised some landmarks – Xanten is always easy to spot with the double-steepled cathedral.

Across fields to Xanten

Most of the group stopped off at a supermarket on the way back but I whizzed straight back to the campsite as it was time to get back to Poppy and I felt like stretching my legs a bit (using my electric motor to help me over the hill to Sonsbeck of course!)

I enjoyed the day very much and it was good to catch up with acquaintances and meet new people as well. There’s a lot of organisation that goes into these events but as a participant you don’t always appreciate how much work it is, so thanks to Walter who did the organising this year, as well as the others who helped him.

A short Rhine tour – part of my Metric Century A Month challenge

May is a strange month in Germany as it seems to consist almost entirely of public holidays. It feels like every week has at least one day off – Christi Himmelfahrt, Pfingsten, Fronleichnam…

Anyway, Pfingsten (Whitsun) was a free Monday. On the Saturday I was going to a Eurovision party with Claudia and Gudula but Sunday and Monday were completely free so I decided I would do a short bike tour. I’ve done the Rhein south of here lots of times but not really north of Kempen so I decided to cycle northwards along the Rhein. And for it to be my first ever proper tour in the Velomobile (overnight tour I mean).

Interestingly, you need almost as much equipment for a one-night tour as for a three week tour. You need two sets of cycle clothing and one set of casual evening clothing, including shoes that aren’t SPD/clipless. I also wanted my iPad. You need tools, wash kit, phone chargers etc. The only things I left behind were the charger for Penelope’s batteries (they would last no problem for two days) and the charger for my AA batteries for my Garmin.

What is notable about a velomobile on a bike tour is… other people can’t tell you’re on a bike tour. All the luggage is stored in the velomobile so as far as they are concerned you might be cycling round the corner to visit a friend. On a normal bike the touring panniers are a dead giveaway.

This is what Penelope looked like from outside and inside during my tour.

VM for touring

VM for touring 2

I had planned a route there which went first to Xanten (or near it, past where the Trike Treffen had been the previous week) and then on to the Rhein, following the southern bank until Millingen. That was the plan, but I changed it a bit underway.

Screenshot to Millingen

Anyway, I set off northwards to Geldern where I partook of a breakfast in the café overlooking the market square. I had all day, plenty of time for the 84km, and so I thought I would take it very easy. Also because Penelope was pretty heavy with my luggage (shoes, lock and iPad add quite a bit of weight!)

After Geldern I headed towards Xanten via Sonsbeck on the route I had taken home from the Trike Treffen Thursday evening meet. This had an excellent hill-avoidance diversion so I didn’t have to haul myself up the hill between Sonsbeck and Xanten, just looked at it to my left as I pootled along on the flat. A much better option!

I cycled past the road to the camping place for the Trike Treffen and then continued north, through Marienbaum and then eventually to the Rhein.

But before I reached the Rhein I had my first obstacle… Drängelgitter

Draengelgitter

These are a pain in the neck with velomobiles as you have to get out, manoeuvre the bike through and then get in again. My velomobile routes always avoid them if possible but I didn’t know these were here. Fortunately they were the only ones I encountered on my tour.

Soon I was up on the Deich/dyke and able to see my river, the Rhein. I was having a very relaxed ride, not overdoing it and being careful about my knee which has had a few problems recently. With a heavy velomobile and unknown route it would be easy to go too fast so I was careful. Well, that’s my excuse as to why the day’s average speed was only 18.9km/h.

Then I found myself on a familiar bit of road that I had cycled with Hartmut first, and then Klaus on the way back from Dronten – the bit before the bridge to Rees. I had been considering the distance of my tour – only 84km. I wasn’t sure if I would have another opportunity for a 100km ride this month and thought it sensible to extend the ride so I could bag the Century. I thought therefore it might be nice to cross at Rees and head to Emmerich for tea/cake as that ought to add on up to 10km. So I decided to follow the cycle signs to Emmerich (rather than my Garmin), and found myself riding up an extremely steep slope up to the bridge. I almost didn’t manage the slope because of traction issues… when I had crossed the bridge with Hartmut and Klaus we had gone on the road. The cycle path was definitely less suitable although I managed it.

You can see here how narrow the bridge pedestrian/cycle section is.

Bridge to Rees

But of course a lovely view down the Rhein.

Looking down the Rhein

It was an extremely windy day and once I crossed the river and turned north west and west I was directly into wind and even in Penelope I noticed it. It was actually quite a cold day and I had chosen unwisely when I wore a short-sleeved cycling jersey – long sleeves would have been better. Thank goodness for my buffs too, to keep my head and neck warm too. We had had a week of very warm temperatures in Germany (27-28 degrees) and then suddenly overnight it had gone down to 14 degrees and I was not accustomed!

Anyway, I pootled on following the signs after Rees to Bienen (German for “bees”) and then eventually to Emmerich.

I rode through the rather deserted town centre not seeing any likely cafés for lunch but soon realised that they would all be facing the river and found a long strip of food establishments with masses of bikes parked outside.

Emmerich Rheinterasse

Rhein and bikes

The hardy Germans were sitting outside but I was still cold and so decided to sit inside. I chose a waffle…

Waffle in Emmerich

After a relatively short stop I carried on, heading for the bridge to cross back over the Rhein.

Emmerich bridge and statue

It was really windy going over the bridge and the lady cyclist in front of me was weaving all over the place. I was a bit worried about the wind blowing my phone away so I didn’t take any photos!

Once back over on the left hand side of the Rhein I rejoined my Garmin’s track and cycled into a howling gale, overtaking lots of other cyclists on upright bikes who were really battling the elements.

I had a wonderful display at one point of a huge bird circling around… and I realised it was a stork. It was trying to join two other storks on a nest but they seemed not keen on this idea and chased him/her away. Here are the storks on the nest.

Storks

Seeing these enormous birds flying is amazing!

As I got nearer to Millingen I realised I still wouldn’t hit the 100km, I would be six short. So at one junction I saw a likely-looking detour along some quiet roads which would take me south west (side wind instead of headwind) and then I could go north-east back a little way, doing two sides of a triangle. I guesstimated it would be about a 6km detour so should do the trick. So off I went.

There was a fringe benefit for this detour – this excellent road name!

Dingdung

And then I found myself crossing the border from Germany to the Netherlands directly at the sign for the town of Millingen.

Millingen border

I found my hotel which I had pre-booked. It was pretty cheap (57€ for a single room including breakfast) and seemed fine, although the restaurant menu proved too expensive for me so I went to the chinese restaurant round the corner.

I ordered satay chicken and rice and a pancake roll. The pancake roll was enormous and the rice had, rather bizarrely, two slices of ham on it. Very Dutch I suppose!

Chinese

I had completed 100.69km for the day with an average heart rate of 130bpm which is lower than normal. A nice relaxing tour and although my back was hurting at the end (I have had back trouble for a month now) it wasn’t too bad and my knee had held up well.

After my Chinese I went to bed, pretty tired after the cycling.

I slept 10 hours which is extremely unusual for me – but shows again that cycle touring is a very relaxing holiday!

My route back to Kempen was much shorter as it was more direct, going round Kleve but through Goch, Weeze, Kevelaer, Geldern and Stenden. I’ve ridden to Kleve before on Alfie so vaguely knew the route, but had decided to take a different route to Goch which seemed to go through some kind of forest/wood.

Screenshot home

Of course, what I had failed to notice during my planning is that this route took me over a mountain…

Mountain

Here it is in the distance as I pootled my way across the landscape which was subtly different to my bit of the Niederrhein (more trees perhaps).

Different scenery

The forecast was for rain today and I was followed by some menacing clouds quite a lot of the time. Today of course I had a rather good tailwind so I felt like it was much easier riding – which is evidenced by my overall average heart rate of 110 with the maximum of 148. My average is usually around the 140 mark.

I decided I would stop at Weeze or Kevelaer for cake and had decided to just press on for home today rather than do any sightseeing but my plans changed when I spotted an RAF flag fluttering through some trees, shortly followed by a light aircraft landing and glimpses of more planes. There was tape preventing people from parking on both sides of this main road but then I saw a chap in a fluorescent tabard sitting on a chair beside a road closure gate and decided to go and investigate. I cycled past this chap, and also past some people who had money belts on (I later discovered other visitors were paying to go to see the airfield! Oops!) and found myself at an airfield where there was some kind of Open Day taking place.

This plane was called the Red Baron and you could have flights for 60€. It turns out to be an Antonov AN-2T Albatros from 1957 so not the actual Red Baron plane…

Red Baron plane

There were lots of other small light aircraft there, a beer stand, Bratwurst stand, seating area in the hangar and various displays from local sponsors (banks etc). Although I have to say there weren’t that many people there, perhaps because of the unfavourable weather forecast.

Planes

This plane had a Union Jack flag attached to the propellor. It’s a Slingsby Sedburgh with Dutch registration so no idea of the UK link.

Slingsby Sedburgh

But the UK link was very obvious on this plane (rather zoomed in so sorry for the quality!)

BAE Hawk model

The announcer told us over the tannoy that this plane was a one-third scale model of a BAE Hawk which has all the features of the real Hawk except a pilot! He told the crowd that the Hawk was the Red Arrows plane, and would now do a display including the coloured smoke. So this was definitely worth hanging around to watch!

Here is a small collage of some of the photos I took during the display, which was great fun and felt really, really close. That thing flies brilliantly!

Model Hawk flying

I’ve seen the Red Arrows a few times at air displays and this was just like seeing one of them… the size wasn’t really noticeable when up in the air. But he flew just 50 feet above the airstrip at some parts of the show which was fun. Apparently the chap built it himself which is amazing, and it runs on proper jet fuel and weighs 25kg.

After watching this display I was getting very cold (again, I didn’t have the right clothes really for this tour) so decided to continue on. I rode through Goch and then found myself leaving it on the way to… who knows!!!

Goch to where

Again, the landscape felt different than Kreis Viersen; more forests and not so wide views. But nice.

More trees

When I arrived at Weeze I decided it was time to stop for cake as I realised my track didn’t go through Kevelaer but round the outside and I hadn’t visited Weeze for a while. So I found a nice café which offered me a good selection of cakes… and I chose this very light moussy number.

Cake in Weeze

Having dodged a few raindrops during my cake session it was time to set off for the last 30 or so kilometres, all very easy and relaxed.

I went around Kevelaer and made a couple of detours to keep me off the B9 road where there is no cycle path (previously I rode on the road but with some ramps over railways I was slow at times and it was a bit uncomfortable with the fast cars). And on one of these small detours I spotted this rather large bike!

Giant bike 1

It was on a trailer.

Giant bike trailer

I liked the Schwalbe sticker on the tyre.

Giant bike schwalbe

The white pipework is I guess some kind of lighting for winter.

Giant bike 2

I think I could have fitted my entire foot on this pedal.

Giant pedal

I think the chain needs a bit of work to be effective!

Giant bike chain

Here is Penelope again with her new friend.

Penelope and giant bike

It was a very cool bike and I would have loved to try to sit on the enormous saddle but of course it was Zutritt Verboten.

The rest of the route home was very familiar from my recent Sunday rides into Kreis Kleve and went quickly apart from my brief detour into Geldern where the circus had closed some of the roads which made things a bit slow. I was home nice and early for a hot shower and some warmer clothes!

My ride back had been 73.87km at an average of 18.7km/h but I only burned 1,069 calories as I wasn’t working hard at all.

My conclusion about touring with the Velomobile – it works well, you can cover ground quickly, you keep warmer and if it rains it would have been ideal, but it’s harder to manoeuvre to park and through gates and things and some really steep ramps for cycle paths on some of the official routes might defeat me.

Riding with Kajsa Tylén

I have mentioned in previous blogs that a cycling acquaintance Steve Abraham was going for the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAM’R) last year, which was over 125,000km. He broke his leg partway through the attempt after a drunken moped rider hit him so didn’t get the record but Kurt Searvogel from America did.

Anyway, this interest in the men’s record of 67,000 miles in a year also awakened interest in the women’s record, set by Billie Fleming (née Dovey) at 29,603.7 miles (47,642.5 km) which she set in 1938. There are currently three women undertaking this record, Kajsa Tylén from the UK, Amanda Coker from the USA and Alicia Searvogel (wife of Kurt who holds the men’s record) also from the USA.

Kajsa started her attempt first, on 1 January 2016, and has been very successful with updates to supporters on Facebook, plus articles elsewhere such as the BBC. She encourages people to ride with her, although as she is riding to Guinness rules she is not allowed to draft. Several UK friends have ridden with her and said it was a really good day out.

I noticed from her website A Year In The Saddle that she would be travelling from the UK to Sweden in May/June and wondered if I could intercept her.

So I sent her a message through her Facebook site as I saw that she would be in NL for a few days which might work for me. She replied that she’d love for me to cycle with her and after a bit of diary-checking I realised the only day I could do this would be a Saturday when she was riding from Delft to Dedgum in Friesland.

I initially thought I would get the train to ride with her but Dedgum is miles from any railway places so in the end I concluded I would have to do a there-and-back ride, driving to Dedgum and then riding towards Delft, hopefully bumping into Kajsa along the way. Fortunately she has a spot tracker which gives her position every 10 minutes or so which meant I would be able to know when to expect her. She had also sent me a GPX track of her route which she intended to follow (with possible diversions on the day if necessary).

So on the Saturday morning I loaded Alfie into the car and headed off to Dedgum, which was a three hour drive. I arrived at the campsite and fished Alfie out of the car.

Alfie and Roomster

Here is a map of NL (with Kempen off the bottom, just to the south west of Essen) which shows where I rode.

IJsselmeer

And this is a close-up of the track. (The boxes show where I have taken photos and uploaded them to Strava).

Afsluitsdijk

The forecast for Kempen was 25 degrees and sunny but I knew on the coast it would be cooler. It was probably around 19 degrees so I was glad I had my windproof jacket on. The sun wasn’t really breaking through and there was a lot of wind – these turbines were turning pretty fast.

Windmills

I set off without using any e-assist. Although I was riding into wind I thought I might need all my motor’s help for the way back with Kajsa as she’s a lot faster than me. So I had a pretty slow trundle to Zurich where I stopped for a very overpriced ham roll.

Zurich

I stopped here to prepare for the next 30km which would be on the Afsluitdijk, a causeway built in 1932 that separated off the IJsselmeer. It is an impressive engineering feat and I was keen to have a look and cycle over it – twice.

Afsluitdijk 2

My Garmin map was very blue!

Garmin

Looking back over both sides – the North Sea on the left, the IJsselmeer on the right.

Both sides

After about 5km there was a curve and I could see the causeway stretching out into the distance.

Curve in road

There were a couple of motorway service stations along the 30km route which were accessible by bike but I kept going.

What was less pleasant were the huge clouds of insects that I found myself cycling through. I had to ride with mouth firmly closed, breathing through my nose, and could feel them hitting my face… You can see on this photo lots of little black dots – the insects.

Insects

There were patches where there weren’t any insects but for most of the journey across they were annoying.

When I got to the other side and got off the trike there was a visible tide mark of insects on my seat where my legs had been…

Insect tide mark

Once I was across the causeway I found myself in Den Oever. Kajsa’s track headed away from the village through some woodland but I checked the tracker and saw she was 20km or more away so decided to stop for food as I didn’t know if she would want to stop on the way back and I hadn’t really passed anything suitable anyway.

So I wandered into Den Oever and found a burger café which did me a burger and chips for a reasonable price.

lunch

As the day was warming up I decided to have an ice cream and photographed my Magnum next to the village’s windmill.

Magnum and windmill

It looked as though Kajsa was now about 5km away so I decided to start riding in her direction – as this would get me another 100km for the day as I had already done 49.

The track went through some woodland and was rather pleasant.

Woodland track

I checked the tracker again and she was less than a kilometre away so I stopped at the top of a small rise and watched the track in front of me. Soon enough a small figure came very fast towards me…

Kajsa

I settled in to cycling beside her, impressed at how well she was going after 150km. I had my electric motor on now to adjust to her speed and soon we were riding side-by-side quite effectively. If there was ever a reason to single out I was either a long way in front of her (so she couldn’t draft me) or behind.

I warned her about the insects on the causeway which she clearly wasn’t looking forward to but the reality was they had all been blown northwards by the time we got there. We were fast across the causeway with the tailwind Kajsa had had all day helping us to an average of 25-26km/h. Over 25 my motor switches off so I was using my leg power too!

Here we are – I had ridden ahead to try to get a selfie.

Selfie on Dijk

And here is a pic that Kajsa took of me.

Helen cycling with Kajsa

We had a really good chinwag over the time we were riding. It was fascinating talking to her and hearing about this mammonth undertaking. I’d been watching her videos on Facebook over the year so it was also a weird experience seeing her in real life for the first time as I felt like I already knew her.

We whizzed along, soon off the causeway and back into the Frisian countryside.

Kajsa realised that she would arrive at the campsite with 196.4km on the clock so we clearly had to do another four. We agreed to divert just before the campsite up a road but turned a bit too soon so we needed to do another 500 metres. This involved riding into the village of Dedgum where we met a lady on a horse and Kajsa managed to photograph the moment the horse saw my trike and clearly wondered “whatever is that!!!!????”

Scared horse

I had only used half of the battery in my trike despite riding for 60km with it on level 7 or 8 (out of 9) so I was pleased with that, although it’s party explained by us riding at above 25km/h in some sections which means there is no e-assist.

We got to the campsite and Kajsa kindly offered for me to have a cup of tea and slice of apple pie with them. She had a quick sit on Alfie too but after a 200km day had no wish to actually ride anywhere, especially as she had the wrong cleats.

Sitting on trike

So they fortified me with apple pie…

Apple pie

Then I headed off for the three hour journey home.

All in all it was a great day, some interesting new scenery and the Afsluitdijk was really cool to ride over (twice), and 109.44km for me at an average of 18.4km/h.

Every couple of days Kajsa does a video diary and here is the one where she mentions riding with me:

ADFC Sternfahrt Mönchengladbach

The ADFC (German cycling club) periodically organises things called Sternfahrten (Star Rides) where people ride from lots of different directions to a central meeting point. Mönchengladbach, which is a rather car-overrun city, has had two before and the last one was very successful. So the Sternfahrt for this year was planned… and a couple of ADFC acquaintances asked me to come along with the Velomobile.

One of the feeder rides was starting in Kempen so I persuaded various people (Klaus, Gudula and Frank) to come with me and to first of all have breakfast of cake in Kempen. Which we did.

Jochen, who was leading the ride from Kempen, joined us at the café. He is currently seriously considering buying a velomobile, probably a Strada, so he and Klaus had a lot to talk about!

We set off at 11:30am from Kempen with a few other riders, having decorated our bikes with ADFC-coloured balloons (blue and orange)

Balloons on bikes

Here is the track of our ride.

Sternfahrt Track

The feeder ride stopped also in Vorst (Tönisvorst) and then Viersen where we picked up more people. At each stop Jochen could be seen looking at Celeste and talking to Klaus about velomobiles…

Jochen velomobile fixated 1

As we were quite early to Vorst we also had ice creams.

Sternfahrt Eis

Eventually we arrived in Rheydt where the ride would start.

At Rheydt
(In the above picture you can see Jochen gazing at Celeste again)

And here he is again..

Jochen fixated by Celeste 3

More and more people were arriving – as were the rainclouds. Rain had been forecast but we were lucky that it had so far held off. But then it started.

As everyone began to put on their waterproofs a small peloton of velomobiles and recumbents arrived… some people from the Velomobilforum including Düssel who Klaus and I have met several times.

VMs at Sternfahrt 1

At just past three o’clock it was time for the ride to start. There were several police vans plus police motorcyclists and cyclists who would close the roads for us – fun!

Velomobiles are quite hard to ride in groups so we decided to all go at the back for the ride. The ADFC Facebook site had this great photo of the ride though, and Gudula and Frank are visible in it.

Sternfahrt Gudula and Frank

And there was also a video taken – the velomobiles are in the last few seconds!

The ride was just 10km long and very slow because of all the bikes. It was also raining a lot as you can see from this shot I took whilst riding.

Ride through P's windscreen

It was fun being in a group with the other VMs.

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 1

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 2

Passers-by were standing watching and cheering and it was good fun except for a few dodgy motorists near the end. There was a near-accident with a bus (who got a good stern talking-to by a policeman) and Klaus witnessed a policewoman knocked off her bike and he had a close shave. Still, it was great fun and lovely to ride in such a big group with people of all different abilities and ages.

When we got back to the square we lined ourselves up for a photo.

A row of weird bikes

Sternfahrt VM noses

And at some point the semi-official photographer got a shot of Klaus and I… and of course Jochen gazing fixedly at Celeste again!

Helen Klaus Jochen

We then rode back in the rain and I was very glad to be dry and warm in the velomobile.

I ended up with 82km for the day which wasn’t bad and brought me to the brink of 4,000km for the year.

If the weather had been good they would probably had double the number of participants but it was still fun and I enjoyed catching up with cycling friends who I’ve met over the last two years. I look forward to the next Sternfahrt!

Some other ride pictures

Here are a few other pictures taken on rides this month.

This was Burg Linn near Krefeld early evening.

Burg Linn

And this was a beautiful morning scene on my way to work one day.

Landscape sky

And on my way home one evening

St Hubert by sunset

And here was a very interesting velomobile that whizzed towards where Klaus and I had stopped for some soup on an evening ride. The rider stopped and had a great chat with us about his Go-One Evo R. He lives in Kaldenkirchen so not so far away from us!

Evo 1

Look at the size of that chainring!

Giant kettenblatt

And you can use it as a knife if riding in reverse!

Sharp rear of Evo

It was very good to chat to the owner Oliver. He says it is a really fast machine but not particularly comfortable on long journeys – it’s a stripped-down racer without rear suspension.

3 VMs 2 chaps

3 VMs

Life in Germany

Just a quick note to say that after two years here I appear to be beginning to assimilate. I found myself buying a jar of Rotkohl to have with my Bratwurst one evening…

Rotkohl

A visit to the Oberhausen Gasometer

I had several days off work as there wasn’t enough for us to do and this coincided with both Gudula and Frank also having a day off so we decided to go on a trip to visit the exhibition within the Oberhausen Gasometer.

There exhibition was ‘the wonders of nature’ and consisted of lots of photographs of nature with accompanying text. Lots of the images were from the BBC’s Planet Earth series.

Gasometer

Gasometer 2

Gasometer 3

Inside were two huge floors with the picture and video displays and then the floor above was something else altogether (more anon).

Here are some views of the ground floor.

Ground Floor 1

Ground Floor 2

And the first floor which was crisscrossed by girders and beams, most of which had spongy material on them in case you bumped your head!

First Floor 1

First Floor 2

I spent about an hour and a half looking at these two floors and then it was time for the third floor… which turned out to be a real surprise!

It was a huge, huge space with a giant globe suspended from the room of the Gasometer onto which were projected slowly moving images of the earth taken from the ISS and other space expeditions. The images slowly changed from night to day with the earth very slowly rotating. It was beautiful to watch, especially as there were beanbags for you to lie on so you could look up at the globe in comfort.

Here are some of the photos I took.

Earth 1

Earth 2

Earth 3

Earth 4

And here I walked around a bit away from the stepped seating area which you can just see at the bottom of this photo.

Earth and steps

I watched the images for half an hour and then they restarted – it was a very impressive show and quite hypnotising.

I met back up with Frank and Gudula and they said we should take the lift up to the top. We had to queue but they said it would be worth it – and it was!

Firstly, it was a glass lift so we were able to watch as we went above the globe, almost to the very top of the gasometer.

Looking down on globe

The above picture looks a bit like a jellyfish but it is looking down onto the globe and then lower onto the lit steps where people sit to watch the globe.

At the top we are almost 105 metres above ground.

104.94 metres

There was a slight extra bit to climb to get to the very top of the structure.

Climbing up

Where there were some excellent views over the industrial areas.

View from Gasometer

View from Gasometer 2

And lots of evidence of landscaping by humans.

Hill

It was well worth a visit to the Gasometer and I will probably go back again to see the next exhibition as it was all so well displayed.

Fixing my CD Player

A long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth people listened to CDs rather than MP3s or streaming music. Because CDs only contain about 45 minutes of music you had to keep changing the CD in the player. Except Sony invented a CD player that, like a slide carousel, held 300 CDs in one machine and worked rather like a jukebox. I had one of these.

I bought it back in 1992 or thereabouts and have used it ever since as the sound quality is much better than an MP3 player. However, it had started making some strange noises when rotating the carousel or selecting the disk… and eventually it stopped working altogether, just making slight noises but not playing anything. It was also not possible to open the door to get the CDs out.

Clearly I would have to get it repaired but I had no idea how much this would cost and whether it would be possible. So after procrastinating for a month or so I decided I would take the lid off myself and have a look. After all, to transport it to a repair person I would need to take all the CDs out so they didn’t fall out and get stuck.

Here it is before I attacked it with a screwdriver

CD Player

And with the lid off – you can see all the CDs lined up inside.

CD player with lid off

And from the side (I have removed a whole bunch of CDs here to get a better look).

CD player side view

Aha! The problem becomes evident. A rubber band has fallen off the two spindles.

Rubber off spindle

Nils came to help me and we decided that we would attempt to get the rubber ring back on the spindle. Whether this was the main issue we didn’t know but it was worth a go. So we had to find the right tools for the job…

The right tools for the job

We had to remove a lot of the CDs so we had space to move, and then Nils did his surgery.

Nils does surgery

He managed to fit the rubber ring back on the spindles. We turned the machine on and things started to happen but it didn’t entirely work right and when we stopped it the rubber ring had fallen off the spindles again. Perhaps it was a bit perished and had stretched (after all, it’s over 20 years old). But we tried again, removing some of the grease from the rubber ring with our fingers (it had dropped into a grease reservoir).

And then, the second time, it was working perfectly! So we put the lid back on, I put all the CDs back in (which is rather time-consuming) and now it is back in pride of place working excellently.

Working again

Top marks to Nils and me for our engineering geniusness!

Buying a watch

My Dad was always keen on watches and clocks and so I decided to buy myself a nice automatic watch as a way of remembering him.

I obviously needed to do some research so wrote to some of the brands I liked asking for their catalogues. I got some amazingly posh catalogues back, including the catalogue from Sinn which was more like a really high-quality hardback book.

Watch catalogues

Eventually after lots of studying and thinking I narrowed down my choice to two different watches by the firm Mühle Glashütte. A jeweller in Kempen had some of their products so Gudula came with me to have a look. I rode Penelope, Gudula used Alfie.

Gudula on Alfie

I tried on several watches at this jeweller (they didn’t have the specific models I wanted but had others in the range) and decided which one I would go for. I had identified one in stock at a jeweller in Nürnberg and had negotiated quite a good discount so I ordered it and it arrived a few days later. It’s a Mühle Glashütte Antaria Tag Datum and very lovely!

Antaria Tag Datum

Cakes this month

Because this blog post is rather long and difficult to download I have gathered all the cake pictures together for this month into one image. Enjoy!

May Cakes

Friend Lara had her twelfth birthday and she and I made a Käse Sahne Torte the day before.

Lara's birthday kaese sahne

Her mother also made a Strawberry tart

Lara's birthday Sprudel

And a chocolate ‘Sprudel Cake’

Lara's birthday strawberry

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany