Cycling This Month
The observant amongst you may have noticed that the filename of this blog post is no longer “Six wheels in Germany” but is instead “Ten wheels in Germany”. Why? Because I have now received my brand new Quattrovelo velomobile.
I will write much more about the Quattrovelo in a post soon as I am still running it in and getting used to it, but I will put a few photos here to whet your appetites.
And no, it doesn’t yet have a name. I have a longlist of 5 and a shortlist of 2 but I am not yet decided and need to bond with it a bit further before I properly decide. Watch this space!
Oh, and as for Millie. Several people contacted me and asked about her as they were interested in buying her, including one guy who visited and said he would indeed purchase her, only to change his mind the next week. But at the moment I am happy to keep her as an alternative velomobile as I get used to the Quattrovelo. Klaus and I have to repair her indicators but are waiting for warmer weather to do this, although conveniently Ralf has offered us the use of his warm workshop and in fact Millie is already there waiting for our attention!
February was another washout in terms of distance, largely due to awful weather and also as I hurt my back (more later).
However, I still had a few chances to go riding.
This included one of our usual Sunday morning rides but this time meeting up with a chap who had contacted me some months ago. I believe Oliver reads this blog and has recently moved to Kerken which is just up the road (and through which we regularly cycle). He happened to see us when driving his car and so asked if we fancied a joint ride.
We arranged to meet between Stenden and Eyll and also asked Ralf if he would like to come, to which he agreed. The plan was for us all to meet in Stenden/Eyll but Klaus and I had a minor problem with a road closure so got to the meeting point a couple of minutes late. It didn’t matter as no-one else was there. We then heard from Ralf, that he had just put ‘Dorfstraße’ in his Garmin. It just so happens that Dorfstraße in Stenden is the longest village in NRW:
Straßendörfer sind eigentlich eine für den Niederrhein untypische Siedlungsform. So überrascht es, dass Stenden zusammen mit seiner nordwestlichen Fortsetzung im Ortsteil Eyll bei einer Länge von über 10 km wohl das längste Straßendorf Nordrhein-Westfalens darstellt.
So Ralf was at the wrong end of the village, plus there was a road closure in the middle so he would have to do some creative routing. We decided to send Klaus to pick Ralf up and I would wait for Oliver. Klaus headed off and then it began to snow, which is lovely when you are sitting stationary in a Milan without the hood.
I had a call from Oliver, he had unshipped his chain and so was just fixing it and would set off in a few minutes. We agreed that we would ride towards him and meet somewhere on the way (our meeting point was halfway between our two homes).
Klaus and Ralf returned through the snow after 10-15 minutes and we all set off towards Eyll and Nieukerk, spotting Oliver very quickly coming the other way.
He has a Milan SL (the smaller, faster version of Millie) in the most wonderful colour:
Strangely, Ralf had been really slow on this ride. We wondered if he was struggling to cope with the cold weather (he doesn’t eat many pies so doesn’t have too much insulation) but that would seem surprising. Whatever, we were constantly dropping him and having to slow down to wait. I know how awful it is when you are having a bad riding day and your compatriots disappear over the horizon. Not that we could see the horizon in the snow!
It’s a lovely ride through Eyll and then towards Nieukerk. Plan was to go to Landcafé Steudle for coffee/tea and we needed it as it was perishing cold and snowy. The snow wasn’t settling but it was still wet.
Ralf got slower and slower, then someone noticed he had a front wheel puncture. Aha! We had just 3km to go to Landcafé Steudle so he decided to ride on (it wasn’t completely flat) so we could sit somewhere warm whilst he repaired it. So going VERY slowly (maybe average of 16 at this point) we made our way to Steudle and stopped for a much needed warming cup of tea.
As Klaus and I are on low-carb we didn’t have cake but Ralf did.
We warmed ourselves through and then Ralf went out to have a look at repairing the tyre. He realised that he had not properly screwed tight the valve on his inner tube (he has a Presta or SV) and so put some air in and hoped it would hold (which it did). That was much more fun than changing a Durano Plus outside in the snow.
We rode back a different way and Oliver came with us all the way to our house (where I took the above photos of the two Milans). It was very nice to meet him and we were very impressed by his Milan. The build quality has improved (at least in terms of the looks of the carbon inside) and, as I mentioned before, the colour was fab!
It is of course great to have met a new velomobile rider in our locality and it’s always good to chat about our experiences.
I also had some messages from the new owner of Penelope. He’s been pimping her a bit and sent me the following images of new vinyl wrapping:
The colour isn’t my cup of tea but I am glad to see he is making Penelope his own (she is still called Penelope which is nice!) He has also done some more with the electrics. I hope he is enjoying riding her as much as I did!
Klaus also said goodbye to Killer his trike this month. Friend Ralf (he of the DF velomobile cookie monster fame) said he was interested in a trike so had a go on Klaus’s and decided to buy it for some fun summer riding. He came and picked it up in his van and gave Klaus some nice green pieces of paper in return.
And while I think of the Cookie Monster, I will include an amazing image that Auke van Andel did following Oliebollentocht last December. He spent hours watching various videos to work out how many velomobiles were there and to sort them by type. You can see the British flag on Millie, the Cookie Monster on Ralf’s DF and even that Klaus is wearing a white snowboarding helmet in Celeste!
Velomobile riding is fun and we meet lots of friends. But February was also an incredibly sad time as fellow Velomobile ride Robert Frischemeier (Liegender Robert) died suddenly following an infection. His illness ran its course over just one week and we were all so shocked to hear of his death, a super fit man of just 58 who commuted 90km per day to and from work and did lots of longer tours for fun. It was tragic news to hear we had lost him.
His family invited his velomobile friends to come to the funeral in all our cycling colourfulness and then to accompany Robert’s urn on its final journey to the cemetery. Of course we wanted to go!
We offered our couch to anyone coming long distance but in the end it was early on the Friday morning that our ‘guest’ arrived. She was looking for somewhere to park and then to ride her Leitra with us the 22km to the church for the funeral. Klaus and I had taken the day off work, as had Jochen and Ralf and Hartmut, so it was a group of 5 velomobiles and 1 upright bike that set off eastwards to Duisburg at 8:30 in the morning on a Friday. Ute’s Leitra is a fairly slow velomobile but due to the strong wind Hartmut was having a tough time on his upright bike. It was a beautiful clear day but bitingly cold with a strong wind, which would make us feel cold pretty much the whole day!
We arrived at the church and went to the room set aside for us with hot drinks and croissants/Brezel. People had cycled from all over to be there. Ymte came from Dronten in NL, TimB and Christoph from Bodensee (by car with folding bikes in the back) and there were many others from Bonn, Cologne etc. In total I counted 25 velomobiles which was a lovely tribute to Robert.
The funeral service was enlivened by Robert’s granddaughter walking around but was overall a very sombre occasion. Robert’s daughter said some incredibly moving words.
After the funeral it was time to cycle in convoy to the cemetery.
There was another short service by the priest and then we walked to where the urn would be buried. In such freezing cold temperatures it was tough to stand outside in cycle clothing but there were some rays of sun to warm us a little.
After the burial some of us decided to cycle to a café in Uerdingen which was just 4km away. Our group ended up being about 8 people, although once we got to the café two carried on. We went into Marktcafé (where Klaus and I often visit) and sat down. A few minutes later the contingent who had cycled to the funeral from Köln and environs stopped as well and they joined us. It was another good opportunity to speak about Robert, how we knew him and how his death had affected us.
Eventually it was time to ride home. The group had now shrunk to Klaus, me, Ralf and Ute and we wended our way back to my flat where Ralf helped Ute put the Leitra in her trailer and then rode home; we spent some time chatting with Ute who we had seen at a few other events. More thoughts again about Robert, dying at such a young age, and that we should not put off things that are really important to us as no-one knows how much time they have.
My condolences once again to the family and friends of Robert Frischemeier; he was a very special man who will be sadly missed.
Other events this month
Klaus and I went on another away weekend for some culture.
This time we decided to go to Regensburg despite it being a very long way away (6 hours’ driving at least) as we fancied having a look around and maybe listening to the cathedral choir there.
Unfortunately the afternoon before we left I somehow pinged my back which meant it was very painful. I sat around with hot water bottles and hoped that the Regensburg trip would be OK. We set off and the heated seats in Klaus’s car were great, but each time we stopped for a break it was almost impossible for me to get out of the car. When I did, and started walking towards the motorway service station, my back would painfully lock up for a few seconds. I was like a very old woman!
The journey was fairly fast with no major traffic hold ups so we arrived in Regensburg at 6pm. We checked into the hotel which was basic but nice. I couldn’t face walking any distance so we just went downstairs to the Indian restaurant under the hotel. The meal was OK but not as special as some!
I had a very bad night’s sleep but the next morning I could move marginally better. We had breakfast in the hotel but this was not very good for the low carb diet (two boiled eggs each and a yoghurt, except I didn’t like the yoghurt). We had paid extra for the breakfast so asked to cancel it for the following two days – we would find some scrambled egg in a café somewhere.
After some paracetamol my back unfroze enough that we could have a bit of a walk around but it was very painful.
Regensburg is a lovely old city that had relatively minor damage in the war, and it is a very popular tourist destination in Germany. Fortunately in mid-February with a bit of snow on the ground it was not too heaving with people.
We visited the Dom (Cathedral) and had a look around, it was lovely. Opposite the cathedral was a hat shop and we went in there (I like hats and am searching for the perfect winter hat as my 25 year old one is a bit mangy) but the prices were a bit exciting. We weren’t allowed to handle the hats ourselves, a sales lady chose for me and put them on my head, but the cheapest I tried on was 170 EUR which is a bit steep for a hat. Especially as the one I was wearing (a black felt number) I had bought a few weeks before from Accessorize reduced from 30 EUR to 3 EUR (bargain!).
We bought Klaus a couple of jumpers in Kaufhof and then stopped for lunch at a very nice restaurant. We looked at the cakes but had soup and salad which were very nice. We considered going there for breakfast the next morning but they were only open at 10 and I wanted to go to the Mass in the Dom at 10am to hear the Regensburger Domspatzen (choir).
We walked to see the Donau but my back meant it was too tricky to walk much so we had a fairly relaxing day overall.
In the evening we both fancied a steak so Klaus googled somewhere to eat and we ended up walking to a very nice Spanish restaurant. The food was excellent and they provided us with additional vegetables instead of potatoes which was great. It had a very good atmosphere and we really enjoyed it.
On the way back Klaus took this very nice photo of the Dom behind some other buildings.
We had decided to check out of the hotel the next day and go home early (Sunday, rather than the planned Monday) because my back was really limiting what we could do.
The following morning we headed off to find breakfast – which was surprisingly tricky! In Regensburg on Sunday mornings nothing much is happening and we walked around for quite a while before we found an open café. Even the bakeries were shut! I guess this is a Bavarian thing. Anyway, we found the café Charlotte and had some scrambled egg there. Klaus stayed drinking his coffee whilst I went off to the Mass to hear the choir.
I sneaked into the back of the cathedral and found a seat but ended up only staying for half an hour as it was so cold in there, and the seat was also freezing cold, that my back was complaining more, even though it had definitely improved. So I left (having not heard the choir do a solo piece, but there were only 12 or so of them there anyway) and Klaus walked back with me to the hotel. We collected the car and headed off, having an incredibly smooth and easy journey without a single traffic hold up.
The hotel were very nice and refunded us the cost of the night we didn’t stay there. Regensburg was nice and we might visit again but it is a bit of a long way away!
On Valentines Day Klaus and I went for a meal in our favourite restaurant in Wachtendonk, called Buskens. The landlord is always very chatty and we talked a lot about skiing (he was about to go on a ski holiday) and too much traffic in Wachtendonk centre.
There happened also to be a British couple from somewhere in the north of England in the restaurant so we chatted to them. When they left the chap said to us “I imagine you haven’t had these in Germany” and handed us a Creme Egg each!
Creme Eggs don’t really work for the low carb diet so they are still in the cupboard. My Mum is visiting in April so I think she might get lucky!
My assistant at work, Nasim, has been providing cakes (through a friend) which have made occasional appearances in my blog. Our boss had his 65th birthday and we had a meal at a restaurant for all the colleagues (also a delayed Christmas meal) and Nasim had arranged two cakes for Thomas…
My colleague Dorothee had a birthday also and another cake was organised for her too!
She bought in some cakes too. I had a tiny, tiny corner of the Frankfurter Kranz – my piece fitted on a teaspoon!
Although cakes are off the menu at the moment (except for my Keto Cake, see below!), Gudula and Frank invited us to a Raclette evening. This is not something I had seen in the UK – you have a heated grill and have little shovels that you can put food on, then cover in special Raclette cheese and it slowly cooks, whilst you cook some meat on the top. There was a large variety of things to cook and we had a very nice evening!
I have been trying to find some good Keto (low carb) desserts and have tried an awful lot of things that I don’t like, but here are my recipes for two things that seem to work well.
Keto Käse-Sahne Torte
Ingredients for 8 portions:
For the base
- 90g almond flour (Mandelmehl) or finely-chopped almonds
- 10g 85% dark chocolate
- 45g butter
- 15g Stevia or Erythrit sweetener
For the topping
- 500g Quark
- 200g whipping cream (Schlagsahne)
- 40g Stevia/Erythrit sweetener
- 9g/1 sachet powdered gelatine
- Vanilla essence
- Lemon juice
- Line with baking parchment and grease a small springform tin. I use one that is 16cm diameter.
- Slowly melt the butter and chocolate together.
- Stir in the almond flour and sweetener
- Press into the tin and put in the fridge to set.
Then for the topping (preferably after an hour or so, so the base has set)
- Make up the gelatine as per instructions (for my gelatine it is 4-6 dessert spoons of cold water and the gelatine mixed and then very slowly heated until it all dissolves)
- Mix the Quark, Stevia, vanilla essence and lemon juice in a large bowl.
- Whip the cream until it is stiff.
- Once the gelatine has dissolved, add 1 large spoonful of the Quark mix into the gelatine and stir until it is mixed in, then add everything back into the Quark mix and stir thoroughly until it is all mixed through.
- Fold the whipped cream in carefully.
- Spread on top of the base in the springform and chill for at least 4 hours.
This is very tasty and when divided into 8 portions is just 4g net carbs and 293 calories per slice.
I am afraid I haven’t taken a very good photo of it – this is what it looks like after half the cake has been eaten and I took it out of the springform a bit early (it hadn’t absolutely set):
We eat this all the time and it couldn’t be easier!
- 40g mascarpone
- 40g whipping cream
- 5g Stevia sweetener
- Lemon to taste if desire, or 2g cocoa powder
- Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until stiff. Then eat!
This is 2g net carbs and 300 calories and is very tasty, also with raspberries, blueberries or strawberries.
Seen on the Internet
I like spotting long German words in the wild and here is another on the Velomobilforum:
And this is a classic! I should probably try to get lots of friends to say this, it sounds almost impossible to British ears.
The last week of February was appalling weather with temperatures of -7 when I cycled to work (in the Quattrovelo) but I am happy to be back riding (now I have a waterproof velomobile) and look forward to the better weather which should come soon.
We have a one week bike tour later in March and haven’t yet decided entirely where we are going, perhaps pootling northwards in Germany, perhaps a bit of NL, who knows. We will take it easy as we are both unfit!
I will continue working on my Quattrovelo blog post and will publish that soon.