Category Archives: Penelope the Velomobile

Six Wheels In Germany – October 2017 (Month 43)

Cycling this month

October was better than September but still nothing to write home about in terms of distance!

The weather was a bit better on a few occasions so I had a chance for a couple of longer rides.

One Sunday morning I went for a ride with Klaus and we planned to meet Ralf (who was cycling home from Goch to the north). We agreed to meet at Café zum Schafstall near Twisteden as they do very good cakes.

Klaus had done a 200km ride the day before (I was at the all-day practice for my choir) but his legs were still good. Mine were surprisingly good too so we made very fast time and ended up extending our route before arriving at the Café as we would have been 45 minutes early. We ended up passing Ralf on his way there so slowed down to ride with him – and as he was on a heavy upright bike with panniers it was slowing down by about 12km/h. This will all change now as he has just collected his new DFXL Velomobile (more on that later).

We rode with Ralf to the café and had a nice piece of cake. Ralf had brought along his Garmin Oregon 700 which he doesn’t use any more. I was thinking about upgrading (because you can upload tracks via bluetooth and don’t need to plug into a computer) so he is letting me borrow it for a few weeks to see how I like it.

We were having a nice chinwag and it seemed rude not to have a second round of cakes so we did so. This triggered our rule that you have to ride 50km per slice of cake so Klaus and I knew we would have to detour on the way home again to make the 100km, but this was pretty easy. We rode back with Ralf at what was for us a very leisurely pace (20 km/h) but which was a real workout for him with his heavy bike. He will be leaving us for dust within a few weeks of course…

Two days later I took myself out for an afternoon ride and headed to Xanten, not following my pre-prepared track but just seeeing what looked interesting on the Garmin. I chose to ride along the Römerstraße which is an old Roman Road which I thought would be straight (mostly) and flat (sadly not). It was enough of an incline that I could test my Schlumpf Mountain Drive repair from Klaus (brand new buttons) and hurrah, it seems to have done the trick!

Here is the view along that road.

I stopped for cake in Xanten but felt a bit odd sitting on my own at a café. It’s much more fun with my usual riding partner!

Poor Jochen had a bit of misfortune this month. On Friday 13th his wife warned him to be careful on his ride to work (bad luck etc) so he used more cycle paths than normal and was exceptionally unlucky to be hit by a cyclist Geisterfahrer (someone riding on the wrong side of the road). There were cycle paths both sides of the road and she was on the wrong one and when she suddenly saw Jochen she swerved the wrong way and crashed into him!

He almost immediately popped the crashed bit out again and then gaffer taped it to hold it together.

It is now at Velomobiel.nl being repaired and Jochen is having all the fun of insurance surveyors for bikes that no surveyor really knows about! We hope Endeavour will have her nose remodelled soon so he can get back on the road.

Open day in Dronten

There was an Open Day at Intercitybike in Dronten where the DF Velomobile is built. Klaus and I went with Hartmut; our friend Ralf was also there with Jochen (to deliver Endeavour for her nose job). Ralf had the opportunity to inspect his new DF a week before he actually picked it up.

Hartmut also took the opportunity to try out some other Velomobiles as he’s still trying to decide what is best for his retirement. Intercitybike were opening their new Velomobile Museum which includes a Sinclair C5 (smaller and more plasticky than you would think), a Leitra, an Alleweder A4, a Versatile (Penelope’s green sibling) and a Quest, as well as other bits and pieces to look at. Interesting stuff. Especially interesting that my velomobile appears to be a museum piece!

Life in Germany

Now the new kitchen is complete Klaus and I have been doing much more cooking at home, including experimenting with new recipes. He is a very good cook and comes up with ideas for sauces and seasonings just from his head – and they have so far all been successful. I tend to follow recipes and my creations lean more towards the sweet/cake end of the spectrum.

Here is Klaus’s Zwiebelkuchen (a kind of quiche containing onions and with a bread rather than pastry crust):

I made a pineapple upside-down cake

I tried my hand at bread rolls with seeds – they were pretty good!

And also cookies – very crunchy!

However, we also had some hassles with the kitchen. After two weeks we discovered the floor was a bit wet and traced the leak to under the new sink. I asked Möbel Dahlmann to come and have a look the next day and they sent a chap who told me the problem was with the Eckventil (the bit that comes out of the wall with the pipes) and he wasn’t allowed to do anything with it. The problem was with our water installation, not what the kitchen fitters had done. This seemed remarkably unlikely to me, but he insisted I had to ask my landlord to have a look and went home again. Frank said on the phone he would sort it and in the meantime we wrapped towels round it and I was relieved to see that not too much water was coming out.

Frank had a good look on his day off two days later and discovered immediately that the problem was not with our bit of pipework but the divider pipework thingy that Dahlmann had fitted for the dishwasher/sink water supply. There were two washers in there rather than one – a real newbie mistake.

Unfortunately the water had left a stain as it hadn’t been visible under the special metal cupboard base and the base of the cupboard was swollen and bumpy.

Klaus and I went to Dahlmann in person to complain about this. Firstly that they hadn’t fitted it correctly and secondly that the chap who came out to look washed his hands of all responsibility within about five minutes and left me with a dripping water installation.

They offered to put a layer of fresh wood over the base of the unit and to give us a 200 Euro voucher for their shop. After consultation with Jochen (who works for a kitchen firm) we said that was not an acceptable option as there may well be problems with mould in the future as the cupboard carcass has had water ingress. No, we want an entirely new cupboard. This will clearly be quite a lot of work but I was very unhappy to think that after two weeks my kitchen was damaged through their bad fitting and I had pretty much worthless compensation (we weren’t planning on buying any more furniture).

Anyway, not sure when it is being fitted but at the moment everything has dried out OK and we are continuing to really enjoy the kitchen!

A short road trip holiday to Berlin and beyond

Klaus and I decided to take a couple of days off for a trip to Berlin as we both love it so much. We booked the time off work and then I realised that the following Tuesday and Wednesday were bank holidays (to celebrate 500 years since the Reformation) so we just needed to take Monday off to have a week’s holiday. so we did.

The place we had booked in Potsdam for Thursday to Sunday didn’t have availability for Monday onwards so we decided to do something different – and travel on to Usedom. We planned to stay one night there and then make our way slowly back west to Kempen, staying at Wismar and Mölln near Lübeck on the way back. We would also be collecting Poppy from Berlin on Sunday morning as she would be staying with Lars, having been delivered there by Gudula and Frank who had a short trip to Berlin just before us.

To Potsdam via Hannover

We set off after I finished work on Wednesday afternoon. I had lunch at home, sorted out a few things and then drove to Klaus’s office in Mülheim an der Ruhr where I transferred the items from my car boot to his. The items were my suitcase and various things for Lara who has recently moved to Berlin and had just moved into her own flat. Naturally it’s expensive kitting out a flat so we and her parents gathered up various bits and bobs such as plates, glasses, mugs, blankets, a small bin and – most importantly – a corkscrew, and we would deliver them to her on Saturday afternoon.

Her parents had visited the weekend before and brought large items of furniture, we were just supplementing with the small things she had forgotten.

Our plan was also not to drive all the way to Berlin (a minimum of 6 hours, often up to 10) but to go halfway, to Hannover, and stay there for the night. So we left Mülheim at 15:30 and headed east on the Autobahn, ending up stuck in a traffic jam for an hour and a half where the Autobahn was closed. That was fun.

We arrived in Hannover at 20:00 so were very relieved we had not planned to drive all the way to Berlin, we were staying in a hotel where Klaus’s company always stay during the Hannover Messe so he knew it well.

After a relaxing evening meal (with a pumpkin theme) it was nice to retire to our room and rest a bit before the journey to Berlin the next day.

After a very lavish breakfast we set off at 10:00 towards Berlin (well, Potsdam actually, we that was where our Guest House was). But we had decided to stop on the way at Tangermünde which we had visited on our Velomobile tour in June. We found the Kaffeerösterei there which was lovely and Klaus wanted to replenish his stock of coffee!

On the way we passed the town of Gifhorn which seemed to have an awful lot of windmills – we counted six when waiting at these traffic lights!

We also then passed an amazing building, the Glockenpalast, which would be worth a visit some other time!

We approached Tangermünde from the opposite direction than our bike tour and got to see more of the town – which was really lovely!

I saw this sign which  made me think of chum Hartmut!

A UK cycling chum had stayed in Tangermünde before and told me that there was a shop selling items from the former East. It was still there.

We had a good wander around and then it was time for the coffee shop!

Klaus had the nougat cake and I the Himbeer. We enjoyed our cakes very much and then Klaus bought another pack of coffee beans which should tide him over for another month or so. The company do deliveries too so he will order in the future.

After our cake we went to visit the Elbe river and have a look. We sat on a bench with our back to the river and you can see how high they built the town – necessary because of periodic river floods. There was a high water mark at well over 1 metre 50 in the gatehouse.

I was 14:30 when we set off and as we didn’t need to get to Potsdam in a major hurry we drove cross country rather than the Autobahn which was much nicer. Many of the roads were ones we had taken on our tour, including passing the large monastery at Jerichow and the Concentration Camp Memorial near Genthin.

We arrived at Guesthouse Villa Fritz in Potsdam and checked into our apartment which was on two levels with a spiral staircase down to the kitchen  and bathroom. After a short rest we walked down the road to Lidl to buy some breakfast (cereal, milk, yoghurt) for the next day as there was no breakfast included with our Guest House. We also ate a bit of apple cake which I had brought with me; it had been given to me by Jerzy, a chap from Poland who is working with us at the moment in my company to do Quality Assurance on products for my customer. Jerzy has been corrupted into our cake-eating ways so brought me something from a Polish  bakery. It was a very well-travelled cake as it went from Poland to Kempen to Potsdam…

That evening we walked to an Italian restaurant about 1.5 kilometres away which was very pleasant. On the way back we walked through the Dutch Quarter.

The next morning we decided to visit Schloss Sanssouci and the Neues Palais which are major landmarks in Potsdam.

We both needed haircuts and spotted a hairdresser that could fit us in so popped in there. I had this large doggie lying by my feet whilst my hair was being cut!

We walked on to Schloss Sanssouci. It was a bit of a grey day with spots of rain, and my photography is very poor here, but the castle was very impressive because of its terraced gardens.

We walked up the steps and discovered the castle is single storey!

After sitting down for a while watching the world go by, and marvelling that tourists still use Selfie Sticks, we walked on to the Neues Palais.

This was actually a pretty long way and our feet were hurting so we jumped on a bus back to Potsdam centre and stopped for a lunch of soup and cake.

This was my cake (not really a pie):

 

And Klaus went for his usual favourite, a Käse-Sahne Torte.

We walked along the pedestrian area and ended up looking in a few shops. Klaus bought a great winter coat and a hat, I got a couple of t-shirts so it was pretty successful.

Our feet were very tired by the time we got home so we rested for a bit with a cup of tea before heading out to an Indian restaurant for dinner. Indian restaurants seem rather thin on the ground near Kempen but there were several in Potsdam so we decided to give one a go.

It was a definite success!

All this plus puppodums and chutneys and drinks and Onion Bhaji came to less than 40 Euros so was excellent value.  I very much recommend Indian Garden in Potsdam!

we ended up walking 12.9km for the day so that was rather unusual for us. Cycling long distances yes, walking no…

A day in Berlin

The following day we had two planned events – meeting cycling acquaintances Clare and Duncan in Berlin near Alexanderplatz and seeing Lara’s new flat and taking her to dinner.

We left Potsdam about about 11 after a relaxing morning. It is interesting to drive through Berlin as the route took us along some of the roads we had cycled in June.

We parked at Alexanderplatz and went in search of a loo and some lunch. We then headed to Clare and Duncan’s hotel, passing a long line of Trabants and Wartburgs waiting in Karl-Marx-Allee.

We met Clare and Duncan and walked with them to the Nikolaiviertel, Klaus giving them a bit of info about Berlin and things we saw. At a cafe overlooking the Spree river we had some cake.

I saw this sign and was amused by the spelling of ‘mulled’, it gives rather a more negative connotation!

After a good chinwag we headed back to our car and set off to visit Lara in her new flat near Frankfurter Tor. We had various bits and bobs from home for her which she unpacked and Klaus had a look at her new washing machine to see if it could be plumbed in (no, she needed a longer set of hoses and would have to order them). After a cup of tea we set off to Potsdamer Platz for a dinner to celebrate Lara achieving her degree. We settled on an Australian restaurant which had kangaroo and crocodile on the menu but we chose more normal fare.

I was surprised by the beer mat though!

Here is Lara with her chum Gereon who was also visiting from Kempen with the lights of Potsdamer Platz behind.

Klaus ordered the steak pie and it was a real triumph!

We headed home in the car with Lara and Gereon making their way back east by train.

The next morning we would reunite ourselves with Poppy the dog!

From Berlin to Usedom – with an extra passenger

We duly checked out the next morning and drove to Charlottenburg (just half an hour away) where Lars lives. We were a bit early so he was still in bed when we arrived but his partner Lukas made us a cuppa and we had a good chat whilst Lars got dressed. Lars had been trying to persuade us to let him have Poppy for a bit longer but there wasn’t another convenient opportunity to collect her so we said no. She did seem pleased to see us, despite how much she loves Lars!

It was pouring with rain outside and super windy (storm Herwart) but we took Poppy for a short stroll for her to use the loo.

We had delivered a parcel of paintings for Lukas from Gudula and were given a box of cutlery and a fleece to take home to her. It was useful we were arriving by car just a week after their visit to pass on the forgotten items to Lars, Lara and back to Kempen.

The storm meant that the wind buffeted the car and we knew it was forecasted to be stronger on Usedom but felt it was safe enough to drive further.

it’s mostly a motorway route to Usedom but with intermittent mega rain we had some slower speeds.

There were occasional signs of blue sky up ahead and the forecast suggested it would be dry in Usedom and indeed the windscreen wipers were off as we crossed the bridge onto the island. We had cycled this route in the opposite direction so it was interesting to travel it by car.

Rather than going directly to the hotel we stopped at Wasserschloss Mellenthin for a short break. Klaus had suggested stopping there on our bike tour but I had said no as it was too early in the day at that time, but it was very convenient now as we hadn’t had lunch and the time was now 3:15.We had made a brief stop on the motorway but the food was so ridiculously expensive (5 Euros for a bag of crisps!) I had just bought a bread roll.

Wasserschloss Mellenthin had cakes!

The second cake there is a Sanddorntorte which contains a fruit/berry from Usedom. Translating Sanddorn we get ‘sallow’ or ‘sea buckthorn’ which doesn’t help me much, but he said it was ‘lecker’. My cake was a Schlossherrentorte but eating it didn’t make me a chatelaine.

After a nice relaxing break, and a chance for Poppy to stretch her little legs after being in the car boot for the journey, we set off for the final half hour drive to our hotel in Zinnowitz.

We checked in and relaxed for half an hour. Poppy was very tired!

We arranged to meet friends Rebecca and Henry in Ahlbeck at 19:30 so drove there and enjoyed an Italian meal before walking a few doors down to the wine bar where we met Rebecca and Henry last time.

We had a lovely evening chatting to them, although Henry’s very strong Usedom accent makes it a bit harder for me to understand him. Klaus enjoyed some wine and grappa and Poppy enjoyed a sleep on the table…

It was really windy of course but there were still some people walking about although very few cars on the road. I drove back, enjoying Usedom without traffic jams as it really does have an issue with tourists and cars in the daytime!

I was a bit cheesed off to see that Facebook had activated its Safety Check feature for the storm in Germany. Come on, storms are regular occurrences and Germany is big…

From Usedom to Wismar

The next morning the wind was still strong but the skies were wonderfully clear. We took Poppy for a morning walk along the seafront with a quick trip to the beach although the blowing sand was a bit much for Poppy so we only stayed there for a minute or so.

The roar of the waves was impressive!

And there were a few more branches lying on the floor.

We arranged to see Klaus’s friend Tim in his hotel in Zinnowitz at 11 o’clock so checked out and gave Poppy a bit of a walk before sitting with Tim in the lounge and having a great chat whilst Poppy listened.

It was lovely for me to meet Tim and for Klaus to catch up with his old chum again.

Before heading off to Wismar we decided to take a walk in the beautiful woodland next to Tim’s hotel and Poppy enjoyed it too.

We set off at about 14:00 but rather than driving straight to Wismar we did a short detour so I could see Peenemünde where the V2 rockets were developed I  WW2. It’s an impressive site with huge buildings.

There is also a Russian submarine at Peenemünde.

So this was a very interesting diversion for me!

We drove directly from Peenemünde to Wismar which was just over two hours’ driving with a small detour on the A20 motorway where some of the structure has collapsed. The road authorities have discovered the wrong size foundation stones were used so these kind of building bodge jobs can happen in Germany too!

We arrived at Wismar at 17:00 and checked into our room. I had a walk around with Poppy and discovered that Wismar is a lovely fishing town. It’s a Hanse Stadt and also is where the shop Karstadt came from. Tomorrow we will have a look around, plus visit a coffee shop that Klaus really likes.

We ate our evening meal in the restaurant and it was very good. Klaus had his first ever cup of Earl Grey tea and liked it! We have discovered that our food tastes are similar but our drink preferences very different!

With a final walk for Poppy it was time to sleep before our next day’s travel.

From Wismar to Schwerin to Mölln

After a hearty breakfast we packed up the car but left it in the hotel car park as we wanted to walk around Wismar. Which turns out to be a lovely town indeed.

Wismar is a Port where previously items such as peat were delivered. There seemed to be a fair amount of building work taking place. It was a public holiday in Germany so the shops were shut (except for restaurants etc) but still lots of people were out walking.

This was an interesting church. It was damaged in the war and the main body of the church could not be repaired (the foundations are there to see) so just the tower remains. Lots of the buildings in Wismar are in red brick.

The fronts of these buildings are very typical.

We stopped at a cafe overlooking the central square for some cake.

We had planned to go to the Kaffeerösterei that Klaus had previously visited but he didn’t open until 2pm. Despite the fact he was open when we arrived at 11:45 – but this was just for the cleaning lady apparently. So we had to find somewhere else – not too difficult in a city like Wismar which has loads of cafes.

Although it was cold we decided to sit outside which is a bit easier for Poppy. Klaus was happy to have his new hat and coat!

I had this chocolate cake and Klaus a sanddorn cake.

After our cake and tea we returned to the car and set off.

Klaus suggested we visited Schwerin which wasn’t far down the road, so we headed there. It turned out to have a rather impressive castle which is actually the local government building (Landtag) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwerin_Palace. Rather amazingly we were able to park free about 100 meters from the castle!

It is on the list to become a UNESCO World Heritage site and you can see why!

It was a grey day when we visited with some drizzle but we could imagine how it would look with some golden autumn sunshine such as we had on Usedom.

I liked this golden cupola.

There was also a man-made cave area as we walked around the grounds. In winter it is a roost for bats, but I attempted a James Bond-style photo of Klaus. But failed.

The Poppy one was equality unsuccessful.

We walked the whole way around the castle on its island. It was lovely!

We then decided to walk into the Schwerin shopping area to get a spot of lunch. This was just 100 metres from the castle and we walked around doing a bit of window shopping until the rain was a bit heavier and we decided to find a cafe.

Klaus had a warm drink from Sanddorn and some Gulaschsuppe.

I had tea and a waffle.

We walked a little more after our food and then returned to the car for the final 60km to Mölln.

Mölln is sort-of in the middle of nowhere, south of Lübeck. On our drive today we were checking out the cycle paths and they are very good. We are making plans to drag chum Ralf on a week’s Velomobile holiday riding around this region as it is so lovely and there isn’t too much traffic.

We crossed the border from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to Schleswig-Holstein and noticed the sign on the border reminding us that Germany had been divided for so long.

A short time later we arrived in Mölln but the navi suggested we had to drive another 2km to our hotel. Which turned out to be in the middle of a wood on the side of a lake, and our ‘room’ was actually a suite with lounge, two bedrooms, kitchen and balconies. Here is the view from one of the balconies as dusk was approaching.

It was incredibly peaceful and quiet.

We had a very tasty meal in the restaurant, Wildragout mit Rotkohl und Spätzle

Poppy sat quietly under the table during our meal. She has been such a good doggie on this trip!

The drive home – from Mölln to Kempen

All good things must come to an end and this included our holiday.

We had a very relaxed breakfast and after checking out and putting our luggage in the car we took Poppy for a walk along the side of the lake. It was lovely!

We returned to the hotel to jump into the car. This is it – for 95 Euro for the night it was amazing value. The lady said they are already fully booked for Fridays and Saturdays in 2018 for weddings, which I can understand.

With Poppy installed in the boot we set off, heading towards Hamburg and the motorway.

There were the usual traffic jams around Hamburg which lost us a lot of time, as did a suggested detour at Bremen which seemed to take longer than the traffic jam on the motorway would have done (according to Google Maps anyway). But such is life travelling on the busy German Autobahnen.

After four hours it was time to stop for Poppy to have a pee, and we also felt like some lunchtime cake.

These were actually not bad, 2,99€ each and my hot water for tea was free. Klaus chose another Earl Grey tea, and I commented that I have returned from this holiday with a hat-wearing Earl Grey-drinking chap. Where has the old Klaus gone? The new Klaus is nice too though!

After a half hour break we were back on the road, heading to Mülheim to Klaus’s workplace to pick up my car. All was well with my Roomster and we drove home in convoy, arriving back st 6pm to an empty house. Everyone else was out, which rather disappointed Poppy.

It was nice to be home but we have had a brilliant holiday. And the good news is that in two weekends’ time we will be having another trip, this time a weekend in Dresden. I am already looking forward to it.

And another note, Poppy the dog is a great holiday companion. She is amazingly low maintenance and gets lots of pats and cuddles from people we meet on the way.

Cakes this month

Here is the montage of cakes this month that haven’t appeared in the images above. I think I have had less than half of these, lots of them were eaten by Klaus or other chums. Honest!!

I hope you have enjoyed this month’s report. As always, comments are welcome.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Penelope the Velomobile, Trikes & Velomobiles

For Sale: Penelope the Versatile Velomobile

For Sale: Penelope, Versatile 006

Under 6000km completed before I bought her almost 4 years ago, I have ridden 15500km, so 22000km in total, or less.

As I am no longer riding her (due to Millie the Milan) and my new Quattrovelo will arrive early next year, it’s time to find a new home for Penelope.

Here is her specification:

Rohloff 14 speed
16.5 cm cranks
SPD/combi pedals
70mm drum brakes
Panzerlenkung
Versatile seat
Versatile roof
12V lighting system
3 batteries
Battery charger
2 x B&M 60 Lux lights to the front (upgrades) + one rear light
LED strip red/white lights on the sides.
Mats for the floor
Hooter/horn
Mount for Garmin (currently for Oregon but can be changed for other Garmins)
Front wheels have Schwalbe Shreddas, rear wheel has Schwalbe Marathon Greenguard.
British flag can be easily removed!!!

Last maintenance April 2015 at Ligfietsshop Tempelman: Rohloff, swing-arm, transmission cables, general check-over. Penelope has not really been used over the last year since I bought my Milan, she has been sitting in a garage, therefore I have decided to sell her.

Bodywork in very good condition for a Velomobile of this age, just scratches on the sides and a small crack on the side towards the nose (repaired from inside and covered with the vinyl wrap). As she is an early model the panel fit isn’t brilliant but she is pretty waterproof in normal usage with the Versatile Roof.

Approximate weight with normal luggage (toolkit, spare tyres etc) 45kg. She is pretty quiet in normal usage (although you do hear the noisy Rohloff gear ratios) and you never get anywhere near the chain, it is completely encapsulated, so you don’t end up oily at all. It is not possible to fit an electric motor to this Velomobile.

In February 2015 we added a vinyl wrap to cover the scratches on both sides (from rolling onto her side) and then also LED lights across the sides. http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk/penelope-gets-a-makeover/

There is lots of other information available about Penelope on my blog: http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk/penelope-the-velomobile/ with vast amounts of pictures, discussion on maintenance etc.

Location: Kempen in Niederrhein (2km from Junction 5 of the A40).

Cost: 3000 EUR.

If you are interested please send a message through this blog (on the right hand side under ‘Contact me directly’.

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Filed under Penelope the Velomobile, Trikes & Velomobiles

6 Wheels In Germany – April 2017 (Month 37)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here is my total for the month – as you can see, not very impressive!

And here is where I cycled to this month.

A trip to Xanten and Wesel

At the beginning of April Klaus and I decided to do our long ride (Strava Gran Fondo) in the direction of Xanten and Rees.

We were very lucky as it was a sunny day and we flew along to Xanten, this time my Schlumpf behaved perfectly (the previous two visits to Xanten had involved ‘issues’). We arrived at the Stadtcafé as usual and stopped for a cuppa and piece of cake.

My planned track took us to Rees on the other side of the Rhein and then back via Goch. We headed off to Rees along the disused railway towards Marienbaum; it’s a great route although was a bit busier today because of the good Sunday weather.

We arrived in Rees after a very short time. This had been my plan for a lunch stop but we were still full from cake so I just got us each an ice cream whilst Klaus looked after the bikes and answered questions from the very many passers-by.

I had a classic question from one chap – “is that a boat?” I haven’t been asked that one before!

I had been thinking about our track and thought returning via Goch would be a bit dull – maybe we should investigate this side of the Rhein towards the east, so we had a quick look on the Garmins and it looked as though we could ride to Wesel and then cross back to ‘our’ side of the Rhein there.

With just a couple of waypoints on my Garmin we headed off. I missed an early turning which kept us on the road rather than the busy cycle path on the Deich. Our view was less interesting as we couldn’t see the river but I think there was rather a lot of bike traffic on the actual route so perhaps it was for the best.

We had a rather scary moment when I needed to turn right and Klaus was close behind me and of course didn’t realise I was using the brakes and couldn’t see my indicators (because they are rubbish). He very nearly went into the back of me, I aborted the turn as I was going too fast (had not realised it was so soon), and eventually got myself turned round and rejoined Klaus at the offending junction. The emergency stop he had done had taken years off his life and also meant he had to start in top gear – not easy! This made me resolve to do something to solve the problem of my stealth indicators.

Nevertheless this route was actually rather nice – not many cars, not much of anything really, just pretty fast roads and occasional glimpses of the Rhein. However, as we approached Wesel, our planned lunch stop, we discovered the world and his wife were there. It seems there was some kind of event on in Wesel centre and it was heaving with people. It was clearly not a good option for food so we pressed on, neither of us wanting to have to deal with all the attention on the velomobiles from the masses, some of whom seemed a bit rowdy.

The bridge across from Wesel isn’t very nice really with a bit of a climb and a bad cycle path surface. There also turned out to be a very sharp corner which I couldn’t manage in Millie; Klaus had got ahead and stopped so he came and picked Millie’s back end up (with me still in her) to turn her round. Saved a lot of effort getting out!

Once back on the left bank of the Rhein we were in familiar territory from a couple of rides including the Trike Treffen last year and our August trike tour. We stopped once again at the café on the Rhein with the very poor customer service and once again the customer service was awful, but the cake was OK!

Here are the velomobiles enjoying their rest by the Rhein.

The route back from here wasn’t so interesting but was fast, along the straight road to Neukirchen Vluyn, and we got up some good speeds.

We eventually got back with 132km on the clock at an average of 23.1 which is fine for a touring pace. We were so lucky with the weather too, and two cakes always makes it a bonus!

Used bicycle market in Kempen

On one sunny Saturday I helped out at the Used Bike Market in Kempen. This is run by the ADFC and is a great opportunity for people to bring their no-longer-needed bikes to a central point and sell them.

It is interested to see the variety of bikes, mostly between the 100-150 EUR mark. They were mostly standard Hollandräder (sit up and beg bikes) or other basic bikes, but there were a few interesting items such as a unicycle, a tandem and a very nice Fahrradmanufaktur bike with Rohloff hub for 1000 EUR. I went in Millie and had a few queries as to how much she would cost but I said she wasn’t currently for sale!

Velomobiltreff in Zons

On the Velomobilforum various people suggested meeting in Zons on Easter Saturday. Zons is 60km away so this seemed like a good plan, and Jochen was also able to come along, so Klaus, Jochen and I headed off on a rather chilly day towards Zons, which is near Dormagen (south of Düsseldorf).

It started to rain on the trip and as Millie is not very watertight at all I started to get quite damp. Klaus always has vision problems in the rain (because of his glasses) but despite these inconveniences we enjoyed the ride to Zons.

We arrived with 40 minutes in hand so settled down on the chairs outside and ordered some cake. Well, Klaus and I ordered cake, Jochen went for ice cream.

And then more people started to arrive.

A lady, Karspeed, arrived in her wonderful colour Milan SL. This light blue is really a beautiful colour!

In fact, there was very much a blue and white theme going on (Endeavour, Jochen’s Velomobile, is out of shot but is white with red and grey decals).

Jupp appeared in his new QuattroVelo which you see parked beside Millie in the photos above, and Düssel arrived on his first long trip in quite a while (he broke his arm). He expects to collect his new QuattroVelo shortly… and his QuattroVelo is what was going to be mine (see below for explanation).

It was very cold outside and although there were blankets on the chairs which I wrapped around me I started to get really, really cold and a bit shivery. Clearly it was time to head off and warm up again, after two hours sitting around in wet clothes in a cold wind. I really was perished!

So Klaus, Jochen and I set off homewards on a slightly different route. I had warmed up reasonably after 15 minutes but poor Jochen had to stop to fix a puncture beside a horribly busy road on an elevated section so probably got perished then too!

We were riding through Schiefbahn and I thought it might be good to stop for food, but then promptly failed with my sense of direction to find the very nice Italian restaurant and we ended up in Willich at that other famous restaurant…

We ended up with 126km on the clock at an average of 22.9. It was a fun trip and it was great to meet Karspeed and her chap for the first time. I really love the colour of her Milan! It is worth also noting that her Milan is much more watertight…

A trip to Velomobiel.nl

Velomobiel.nl is the company in the Netherlands which makes the Strada, Quest, Quattrovelo and formerly also the Mango. Klaus’s velomobile is a Strada and he wanted to have Celeste serviced as she was now 1 year old and he needed the rear gear cable changed, plus a general checkup. We would normally change the rear gear cable ourselves but were unable to loose the screws holding it on at the tiller (this is a known thing – turns out you need to use a British imperial allen key, not a metric one, oddly!)

However, this service was not the entire point of the visit. I had also decided that I needed to get some better brakes on Millie as I had experienced rather a lot of brown trouser moments when the brakes did not work well enough for me. It was partly as they were not adjusted to pull strongly enough, and if I adjusted them myself then the cable was too short to allow me to use the parking brake (which you need to get in and out), but mostly because Millie has 70cm drum brakes rather than the beefier 90mm brakes for heavier riders.

To change the brakes I would need to change the wheels too as the drum brake is built into the wheel, so I got a couple of quotes and decided to let Velomobiel.nl do it for me as I am impressed with their service. So I ordered new wheels and mentioned a couple of other bits that I would like done, including fixing properly the Schlumpf button to my left hand gear changer (it is the world’s smallest allen bolt and Velomobiel.nl said they had the right tool).

Rather than hiring a van my company kindly said I could borrow their van so when I finished work on Friday I drove straight home where Klaus was waiting, having left work early, so we could get on the road to the Netherlands and get as much done as possible on Friday. We had booked a hotel for Friday night as we knew we would need a couple of hours on Saturday for Millie’s wheel change.

Here are the velomobiles in the van.

The cardboard box belongs to Jochen who had two wheel rims to return to Velomobiel.nl which turned out not to be the right things when he ordered them. We were saving him some postage costs!

When we arrived we unloaded both velomobiles and brought them inside the workshop.

Theo was working on a QuattroVelo and on the rack above him you see several new QuattroVelos. The white one would soon belong to cycling acquaintance Achim and the black (with blue above, which you can’t see in the photo) belongs to Düssel, a friend of ours who cycles in our area. That velomobile would also, technically, have been mine as I was on the order list and then gave my place to Düssel as I decided the Milan would be a better option.

The floor of the workshop was also filled with velomobiles, both new and under repair.

One chap was working on a Quest which had been opened right up.

Once Theo had finished his particular task on the orange QuattroVelo he moved it off the platform and Celeste went on instead. He gave her a general check over and replaced the gear cable, checked a few bits and bobs and all was well.

Klaus had also ordered a new rear tyre which he took the opportunity to fit.

This tyre seemed absolutely massive and I wasn’t sure it would fit but eventually it did – at which point it was noted that the tyre was in the wrong rotation direction so he had to take it off to turn it round again!

Whilst there we were chatting to a chap, Gert, I have bumped into a couple of times when involved with Audaxes. Gert has a black Strada and I met him on LEL and again during the Hamburg Berlin Köln Hamburg audax (I was helping at both, not actually riding them); this time he was there to help with the fitting of various lights to his new QuattroVelo, also in black. It was very good to talk to him again!

It was the end of the working day by the time Celeste was finished so Millie would have her time in the spotlight the next morning. She spent the night locked up in Velomobiel.nl’s workshop with Celeste.

Whilst driving the van to Kampen where our hotel was booked it started bleating about wanting some Adblue and the engine warning light came on. I wasn’t sure how desperately urgent this was but it was a little troubling.

The next morning we arrived at Velomobiel.nl at 9:30am ready for Millie’s new wheels.

Here she is up on the operating table:

It was relatively quick work for Theo to remove the front wheel, although the different routing of the brake cable caused him a few puzzled moments to start with.

Here are the wheel boxes without the wheel – very muddy, but it’s almost impossible to clean this with the wheels in place. I had a go and made it rather worse, ending up with muddy water inside the velomobile a few weeks ago.

We weighed the old wheel – 760 grammes. We weighed the new wheel – 1250 grammes. That’s quite a difference, but it was also clear looking at the two side-by-side that they are made for different purposes. The old wheels were race wheels, super-lightweight with knife spokes and milled drum area to save weight. The new wheels have metal eyelets for the rims, stronger rims, normal spokes and of course the larger drums.

Once the old wheels were out and we had a look at them we noticed that one of the two had a damaged rim with the spokes pulling the rim out of shape. This has also happened to my back wheel (and I have ordered a new back wheel to be built by a local bike shop). This is the issue with race bikes built for lightness and speed but not for everyday touring on bad quality roads. Although you save weight with these super-light wheels they aren’t really the right choice for me – having more solid wheels with much more effective brakes is a very worthwhile investment for me!

The new wheels were fitted whilst Millie lay on her side like a beached whale.

After this Theo fitted the new button to my Schlumpf and then drilled a couple more drain holes around the chain tunnel (Millie isn’t very waterproof and the existing drain holes aren’t in quite the right place with my tyre selection).

We had a demonstration of some tyre milk to reduce punctures and bought some of that, plus I also bought two batteries and a charger and cable connector so that I can change the electrical system in Millie for one that hopefully is more reliable.

During the staff’s tea break we headed off to a garage to buy some Adblue for the van.

Disappointingly the warning lights stayed on after this 2 litre dose. Apparently the warning lights have to be disabled by a garage (it’s a usual service item). Still, this meant I was slightly nervous as to whether the van might play up on the 220km drive home.

After all Millie’s things were completed it was time for one of the other purposes of our trip – test riding a QuattroVelo.

I wanted to have another go at a QuattroVelo, knowing that I was getting much more expert at getting in and out of Millie. Klaus was also very interested to try one as he likes the idea of a four-wheel option for the extra safety.

This lovely red QV was our test vehicle.

It has the cover that goes right over your head. Klaus really liked this but I found it made me strangely claustrophobic (not something I have ever experienced before) so I would definitely be more for open air riding!

Celeste in the mirror here…

The QuattroVelo has a very different front view than most velomobiles. With this (rather dark) photo I think it looks like Thomas the Tank Engine (which is also apparently a thing in Germany, but with a different name – which I have forgotten at the moment).

We both had test rides in the rain. For Klaus it was a real speed improvement over his Strada although he found it quite a lot noisier – this is partly due to the hood thingie which makes the sound echo rather. I found it only slightly harder than Millie to get in or out so that was a great discovery – I got in and out three times without any difficulty. I then thought I’d try the Strada again to see if I was just having a bad day the time I got stuck in Jochen’s velomobile but no, I couldn’t get out at all – I use my right arm behind me to lever me out and the Strada has bodywork in the way; with the QuattroVelo that space is clear for my hand so it worked really well, although (as with Millie) I do have to stand on the seat to get right out.

And what was the result of this test ride…? I am once again on the order list! The plan is that if I find I get on well enough with the QV (which won’t be ready till December probably) it would work as an all-round velomobile for me and I can sell Penelope and Millie. Klaus would also use it so we will order two different hoods – the covering one that he liked and the open one for me. And as for colour… we had talked about British Racing Green and then we saw one of the QV’s ready to go to a customer… what a great colour…

So I have ordered green and cream. The exact shade of green might change a bit as I found this one maybe a tad dark, but the general colour scheme is lovely. And I think I will see if I can get Union Jack flags on the mirrors…

Thanks again to Theo and Allert for their excellent service!!

Minor Millie maintenance

Millie is turning out to be a bit of a thoroughbred and less of a workhorse, which means she needs attention. I had noticed her drivetrain getting more and more noisy and it was noticed that my chain idler at the front seemed damaged so I have ordered a new one to see if that reduces some of the noise. Idlers are consumables and Millie has done 15.000km.

As mentioned above, not only did I buy two new front wheels this month but I also ordered a new rear wheel from the very good bike shop Siegers in Korschenbroich. Here is Mr Siegers having a look at my existing wheel (which I transported there in the car!) – we spent a good half hour discussing what I wanted for a replacement and after his two week Easter holiday he would build it for me.

One big issue with Millie is her rear indicators, which are virtually useless – no-one can see them from behind unless it is really dark. They are bright, but flush with the bodyshell and at a very oblique angle. I was trying to work out how to improve them when someone suggested some kind of lens on top to distribute the light. Of course Ebay has that kind of thing and for a few Euros I received 10 small plastic lens thingies. I thought I would get lots of spares as undoubtedly they would fall off periodically.

Anyway, I superglued them on and they work really well! I don’t feel quite so nervous when a large truck is behind me now and I need to indicate to turn left…

As mentioned above, Millie needed a new battery system so I ordered all the bits and bobs from eBay to accompany the 12v batteries from Velomobiel.nl. Millie currently runs on 7.2V so the plan was to get a voltage regulator, which is exactly what we did with Penelope two years ago. The gadget was ordered and Klaus made a start on testing it.

Unfortunately we couldn’t get the output voltage to change. An email exchange with the seller suggested we needed to actually have some kind of load on it in order for it to work so that will be the next plan. I have also bought a battery life indicator (which Millie doesn’t currently have – you don’t know your battery is flat until it goes dark or your indicators stop working). We will have to find the optimum location to fit this gadgetry which is rather something for a rainy day but I am sure we will achieve something before the bike tours.

SPEZI Radmesse

The last day of April was my day to visit SPEZI Radmesse, this year (as last year) by car. Hartmut offered to give me a lift and he and a chum Felix picked me up at 8:30 on the Sunday morning to head to Germersheim (near Speyer), about 3.5 hours’ drive away. Poppy also came along for the trip.

We stopped at the motorway services next to the bridge over the Mosel for a cuppa. I have to say, seeing this landscape makes me want to go touring there again, and it’s really best on a trike. I am starting to work out a way of doing a car-assisted long weekend Mosel & Rhein tour on the trike…

Poppy ate her breakfast and I had a muffin.

We arrived at SPEZI and started looking around. I went straight to the ICE Stand as usual and this time Neil Selwood, one of the directors, was there. He has been my contact for advice and technical/maintenance items over the years and I know his voice very well (and he mine) but it was the first time we had met in the flesh. It was gerat to chat to him, even though I am not really riding my trike these days.

Outside the main hall I spotted the QuattroVelo in green and cream that we had seen at Velomobiel.nl a couple of weeks ago. This is the colour that I have nominally ordered, but I think the green is too dark so will probably choose a slightly lighter one. It was good to see it in bright daylight though!

There were lots of velomobiles around of course, including this DF with amusing decals!

There were a string of them parked together.

Amongst these was the Milan belonging to TimB who bumped into me at the ICE stand again and we had another good chinwag. He told me to look at the Milan on the Räderwerk stand as the build quality was excellent. These are now built in Romania and I went to have a look – he was right, very impressive!

I also visited the Steintrikes stand as Klaus’s chain idler was rather worn and I thought I would see if I could order another one for him. Very fortunately they had a couple of spares on the stand and gave one to me after they heard it was for Klaus (Thomas Seide remembered him), so that was very kind of them.

I bumped into several other people, one of whom, Christoph, said “I see your interval between purchasing Velomobiles is reducing). He is right! Between Penelope and Millie it was 2.5 years, between Millie and the QuattroVelo it will be 1.25 years… hmmmm.

After a good look around we headed back home to Kempen. It was a good day out as always, and thanks to Hartmut for the driving. Poppy was shattered after such an exciting day and slept on my lap the whole way home.

Life in Germany

There’s been quite a lot going on this year. This month saw another connection to the UK disappear – my house in Colchester was sold. This means that I don’t now have a home back in the UK – when I visit the UK now I will stay with my Mum. James and I had been selling the house for over a year and the buyer took 5 months to get to completion but the house was finally sold at the end of April – the end of my ten year connection with Great Bromley/Colchester but it was definitely time.

Another big life event this year has been a change in my domestic circumstances. Klaus separated from his wife in January and we are now together. His velomobile Celeste is living in my garage as he has no garage/storage space in his flat south of Kempen, and his trike has also made its way to my spare garage as part of a possible plan to sell it (as he barely uses it).

We have some tours planned – a four day tour as part of the Trike Treffen over Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) at the end of March and a two week tour from Kempen to Usedom, then Berlin and then back to Kempen in June. It will be fantastic to be out touring again, and for me the first touring in Millie which may provide its own challenges, mainly in terms of storage space for touring luggage. We have been preparing by buying a few bits and bobs such as dry bags to store my things in and I am hoping to bodge together some kind of chain baffle to stop my storage rubbing against the chain as it is wont to do.

A visit from my sister and two nieces

Another great event this month was the visit of my sister Anna and her two younger daughters, Hari (16) and Ceri (13). Klaus drove me to the Hook of Holland to collect Anna and the girls after their overnight ferry trip and we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds before heading to Kempen. Klaus headed off then for some time with his daughter and I took Anna and the girls to St Hubert for some lunch in Café Poeth. Hari and Ceri chose filled rolls but Anna and I, showing sibling tendencies, both had cakes…

They were staying at the Ferienwohnung round the corner, Müllers Hof, and I visited with Poppy, who very much enjoyed hanging out with her English relatives.

Anna had bought some vital supplies from England for me…

In the late afternoon we went to Kempen for a walk about and then had a meal in Ela, my favourite restaurant there. But before the evening meal we had an ice cream.

The next day the plan was to visit Düsseldorf. It was a lovely sunny day and we drove there, finding a reasonable parking place and then walking along the river towards the Media Hafen.

Whilst we were there the Pulse of Europe march was taking place.

We had a burger for lunch and then after a bit more walking headed home via St Tönis where we stopped at the Water Tower for some cake/food. I had a crepe.

The next day was what I think they had been most looking forward to – a visit to CentrO, Europe’s largest shopping centre. We had lunch there in the food court and had plenty of time to nose around the shops. Anna and the girls managed to buy things, finding that most sales assistants spoke enough English for them to work it all out.

We had some very nice ice creams there, if all rather a similar colour scheme.

On their last day we wandered around Kempen and had lunch in Café Peerbooms. My lunch was of course a slice of cake.

Poppy was with us hiding under the seat and she discovered a slight gap in their cleaning regime…

We walked around the outside of Kempen’s walls enjoying the scenery.

We then headed back to my flat to collect their luggage and I drove them back to the Hook of Holland and after a nice meal at the Torpedo Lounge they got onto the ferry and I drove home again.

It was very enjoyable to see them and also interesting for them to visit Germany – the first time for Hari and Ceri and I think probably at least 33 years since Anna was last there, although she did actually live in Germany for 3 years as a baby. She said she could see very much why I had moved to the Kempen area and that the lifestyle was great. I think she liked the cakes and shopping too!!

Cakes this month

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

6 Wheels In Germany – March 2017 (Month 36)

This is Month 36 of my time in Germany. On 31 March 2014 I left the UK for my new life in Germany. The three years have gone really fast!

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

As you see, a better total for March but I am still behind my target of 10,000km for the year. Oh well, the summer is on its way!

And here is where I have cycled this month. Mostly commutes and just a couple of longer rides.

A long ride for a great downhill

Last August I did a long ride in Penelope via Kleve which included a very fast downhill which was great fun. I had thought for a while it would be good to try in with Millie and see which speed I could reach, and Klaus was very keen to come along, so we planned to enjoy a really long ride one Sunday including this hill, but also going via Xanten and back through the Netherlands.

This is our track for the day:

The weather forecast was good although not particularly warm. We set off at about 9:30am and rode very quickly to Xanten, where we stopped for the obligatory cake.

We then headed along the former railway (now cycle path) towards Marienbaum, heading north-west towards Kleve.

Once we were back on the main road the route became very slightly rolling and as usual in these situations I got left behind on the uphills – my hill climbing is very poor. I was pleased that my Schlumpf had successfully worked on the hill climb towards Xanten (where last time it had started slipping inside the Tretlagergehäuse which ended up with me having a new one fitted). However, as I was cresting one of the hills and tried to switch the Schlumpf back to high gear, nothing happened. There was no longer a button on the left hand crank spindle! Oh no!

I had remembered 2km back hearing a weird noise – I put this down to rolling over a bit of metal or something – but now gloomily realised this was probably my Schlumpf gear button falling off. But I was delighted to see that it had fallen sideways and was actually nestled in my right-hand-side footwell (the left hand side is open so I was lucky it hadn’t fallen straight downwards).

I got on the radio to Klaus and told him my Schlumpf wasn’t working and he headed back. Here is the offending button.

There is a small thread in the middle and when Klaus had a look he decided it should be fine to just refit it and tighten it by hand. Which he did, although reaching the pedals in Millie is not so easy! Good thing he has long arms.

The Schlumpf now worked properly so we carried on. Problem solved, at least short-term.

We were riding on a Landstraße between Xanten and Bedburg Hau/Kleve and this was lovely and fast so we were making great progress. I had told Klaus about the wonderful downhill but that there was an awful uphill first to get to the top of the Kleve mountain. He reached the top first, of course, but only had to wait a couple of minutes for me to arrive.

We decided that I would go first down the hill as I had ridden it before and Millie is a bit faster downhill. Off I set, very quickly reaching 70km/h (which was the speed limit on that section of road) and I got up to 72km/h for a good half kilometres. Klaus wasn’t quite as fast and unfortunately had a couple of cars behind him but they couldn’t overtake as he was almost doing 70. Despite it being a blustery day Millie felt very stable and I was able to pedal up to about 65km/h; at higher speeds than that my legs wobbled the tiller too much so I cruised down the hill, only pedalling occasionally to keep the speed up. It was brilliant fun!!

What was very pleasing was that when we got home and uploaded our tracks we discovered that we had both posted the fastest times on the downhill for our genders – I got the QOM (Queen of the Mountain) and Klaus the KOM (King of the Mountain) on Strava.

Anyway, once down the hill to the west of Kleve it was time to turn southwards and head for home. We had a very lovely section through some woodland where the cycle path beside the road was decent so we used that. We found ourselves crossing the Niers, which is a river very local to us, so stopped to photograph it – much larger here, although still pretty small.

We hadn’t stopped for any food since our cake in Xanten but saw a large restaurant beside the road and so decided to grab some soup.

After refilling our water bottles, using the loo etc we headed back to the road and enjoyed cycling along the Netherlands’ roads and cycle paths.

The final 35km of the route was the oft-used Ceresweg which heads to Arcen. It’s a lovely long road with little traffic but the road surface is a bit rough and that really slows me down. If they resurfaced it with German-quality asphalt it would be a perfect route!

We climbed the hill to Straelen and then decided it was time to stop for another bit of refuelling as the nice Café Krone in Straelen was open.

After some tasty Grillagetorte we headed home, Klaus doing a small extra bit at the end to get 150km, I finished up with 144.85km at an average speed of 25.8km/h. I burned over 3000 calories which was a bonus too!

The Schlumpf Button makes a more successful bid for freedom… and other tales of Velomobile problems

Following this ride I thought I ought to do something about the Schlumpf button. I mentioned it to Frank and he said he had some threadlock-type-stuff I could use. I thought I would have a look at the weekend.

A couple of days later Klaus and I went out for an evening cycle, just a short 40km loop to Hinsbeck and Lobberich. Unfortunately as we were approaching De Witt See I noticed my lights flickering… We stopped immediately and I got the battery and holder out to check. The connection was dicky. We fiddled a bit more and lo and behold the cable snapped right where it joins the holder. It was cheap cable (we had replaced some other bits) but there was no way we could fix this in the dark in the middle of nowhere without a soldering iron and spare cable.

People always say you should have backup lights for your velomobile and indeed I have a battery rear light on Millie all the time. Since I bought Millie I have carried around a Busch & Müller Ixion front light which had not seen a charger since Autumn and I had never attempted to mount it onto Millie’s bodywork before. I suppose I vaguely thought it would be best as a head torch – but I had no fixings for that.

One option was to fix it to my Lichtkanone behind my head but the mount was entirely the wrong way for that. The only other option was to strap it to one of my mirror mounts and hope that did the trick. Indeed it did, although it cast a weird shadow across Millie – on left turns I couldn’t see very much at all. I stayed behind Klaus and we rode a direct route home but on routes with very little traffic. You get used to good quality lighting and when you find yourself with rather less satisfactory illumination it really slows you down!

We were pootling along the Lobberich Bahnradweg and I heard a sound which I realised almost immediately was identical to the sound I had heard on Sunday when my Schlumpf button bounced off. I immediately changed the Schlumpf gear down, and then tried to change back up again – but indeed the button to switch to the higher gears had once again disappeared. I stopped immediately and looked in the footwell – no luck.

Klaus (who was quite a way ahead) returned to find me walking up and down the path with my hand torch (being used for its second purpose in one evening, rather a record) trying to look in the ditches and leaves for the button. I also needed the torch to pick my way past all the frogs who had chosen this evening to wander all round. They were very sweet but we had had to slalom our way on most of the last 2km to avoid them and with my reduced light this was harder.

Anyway, despite covering the ground twice I failed to find the button. Damn.

I was now stuck in the low gears so we decided to see if we could change up for me. We had heard an Allen Key is what you need and Klaus had to fiddle around for quite a while before it worked, but fortunately I was back in my ‘normal’ gear range and so was able to ride on without difficulty, except on uphill starts.

The next evening was a bit of bike maintenance to fix my lighting.

Klaus soldered a new decent bit of cable into the battery holder and then discovered that it was rather hard to close it as it needed the thinner cable. After a lot of persuasion it finally closed and so the wiring was ready. Hurrah! During this procedure Jochen arrived to show us that he had just punched a hole in the carbon fibre shell of Endeavour, his Velomobile, after sliding at low speed into a sharp metal piece of scaffolding. He now has a letterbox-sized air intake in front of his left wheel. He was gutted – and will have to learn carbon fibre layup over the next months to fix it.

Anyway, we were all in the garage commiserating with Jochen for his new air vent and trying to get my electrics working. They just kept flickering on and off and in the end it was clear that the battery holder thing, which is designed for a camcorder battery charger rather than velomobile-specific, was just not really up to the job. A little metal pin that needs to make contact with the battery kept sliding away so in the end Klaus fixed it with a tiny amount of solder metal holding it in place.

Since then it has worked OK but we decided one job was to change the battery and connectors to the normal Velomobile system. As my batteries are 7.4V instead of the normal 12V this would involve fitting another power regulator (like we did to Penelope) so I have purchased all the required bits and pieces and we will fit it some time next month once we have bought the batteries from Velomobiel.nl when we visit at the end of March. Here is the power step-down gadget thingie in its protective case:

I have also ordered a battery level meter as I don’t have one at the moment and it can cause some issues as I don’t always realise my battery has run out.

As for the Schlumpf button, I contacted Velomobiel.nl (as we would be visiting them) and they provided me with two buttons but of the newer design so I am not sure if they will stay attached.

I initially contacted Liegeradbau Schumacher who fitted the Schlumpf and they asked for a photo of the relevant part (as they varied) and then sent me one in the post a week later, which was very kind of them.

Millie is fairly sparsely-outfitted with very few extras (no brake light, no audible indicator warning etc) but she does seem to be struggling a bit at the moment. I also discovered a week later that the back wheel has gone slightly out of true, it seems that one spoke has slightly deformed the rim, so I guess I will be ordering a new rear wheel before too long. But I will wait until next month’s pay cheque for that one!

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf

Every so often a meeting is arranged for recumbent riders and velomobile owners in the Düsseldorf and surrounding region (into which Kempen just about fits). These are often organised by a chap called Norbert who has previously invited us to the care home where he lives where he and his wife can hire a room for us all to have food in before going for a ride. He’d arranged another of these for the third weekend in March and we were incredibly lucky to have an excellent weather forecast.

Klaus and I had said we would go but Jochen was originally going to be doing a long ride the day before, but eventually due to man-flu he wasn’t fit enough for that ride so said he would come with us.

We arranged to leave my house at 9am and head first to Uerdingen for some cake. Uerdingen is where Jochen had his mini velomobile accident that cut a chunk out of Endeavour but he bravely decided to revisit the scene of this trauma.

Because Jochen was still recovering from man-flu he said he would be slower than normal. Of course, at my even slower speed I did not notice this!

We did a nice relaxed route to Uerdingen and stopped there for some very nice cakes.

Both Jochen and I are supposedly doing low-carb but we’ve both been more lax this week so enjoyed our sweet treats!

From Uerdingen to Büttgen where Norbert lives is a very pleasant 25km with some very fast roads. I did the trip between Uerdingen and Büttgen once before and that time I was actually too fast for Klaus (he was having a slow day). This time he kept up no problem, and in fact pulled ahead to chase a cyclist on tri-bars, but commented again that i am really quick on this sector. I guess it’s the cake fuel from Uerdingen.

I had made some shortbread biscuits to bring with me (with the help of Klaus’s daughter Lara the day before), but they weren’t really necessary as several people had brought cakes with them too!

We chatted and enjoyed the food for a couple of hours, meeting some people for the first time but also catching up with old friends.

At 2 o’clock we set off on a ride which ended up on one of our regular stomping grounds near Neersen. There were 11 velomobiles and 7-8 trikes so it was a good group!

Klaus from Köln took some wonderful photos and here are just a few of them (featuring me and/or Millie of course!)

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Klaus started having some strange noises from his suspension so when we were having a short stop he had a look.

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

And I absolutely love this photo – can you tell what is going on?

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Basically I had been informed that my back wheel wasn’t quite true so Klaus and Stefan decided to have a look – I had to lift Millie up and spin the wheel. Conclusion was that yes, it was slightly out of true. More on that next month!

We rode for about 25km in total and then returned to Norbert’s place, at which point we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes.

Jochen, Klaus and I stopped for some food in Kempen on the way back – the Buttermarkt was packed with bicycles.

And when we got back to my garage Klaus decided to check out why his suspension had started being noisy – it turned out he just needed to oil the elastomers in the suspension a bit. It only took him about 5 minutes to fix the problem so they are proving to be a really good option for him.

It was really great to ride with other velomobile owners (although it is not always so easy riding in such a group) and of course great to chat with people who share our hobby. We look forward to the next meet up!

Radler Kaffeeklatsch

Some months ago Uli started to organise cycle visits to cafés for cake with his friends from the amateur radio world, as well as cycling chums. This is becoming a regular event and when it’s not too far from my house I can get there after work without too much difficulty.

One week we were at Wingertsches Erb which sells very nice cakes although is quite pricey.

A couple of weeks later we were at Café Kornblume which is just 4km away. Gudula came with me this time, as did Poppy running the whole way. But as it was such a nice sunny day I took Alfie for that al fresco experience!

We sat outside enjoying the cake and sunshine. Poppy too!

Here is a picture of us all with me looking remarkably spaced-out.

Life in general

The first of April marked 3 years since I arrived in Germany and also the first anniversary of my father’s funeral, so lots of thoughts around that time. Brexit was officially started as well which of course is something I am very disappointed about. But life continues to be very good here in Germany and I don’t regret for a second making the move to come and live here.

Cakes this month

Despite the low-carb diet, I have been a bit more relaxed this month following my holiday in Tenerife. This means that when I am on a cycle ride I allow myself a cake now and again.

These are the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month.

My low carb diet was officially from 3 January until 31 March but I am continuing it (perhaps a bit less strictly) as it has been so successful. I have lost 11kg and feel much better for it. I also have more energy on the bike and don’t tend to fade in my power over time. It’s not always particularly easy, especially when eating out (you tend to have to almost always have a salad) but it is definitely healthy and I hope to continue it reasonably successfully. We shall see!

On the last day of March I went to Dronten with Klaus for some velomobile maintenance courtesy of Velomobiel.nl. They worked on Celeste on the Friday and then Millie on April Fool’s Day, so I will write about this trip next month.

Anyway, it’s a shorter report for this month, I have been busy with work and various things but I hope to write a bit more next month – and perhaps not just about velomobiles. We shall see!!

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6 Wheels In Germany – February 2017 (Month 35)

A cold and wet February but I managed 447km. A rather paltry total but I did also fly off somewhere warm for a holiday over the end of February which reduced cycling days.

Anyway, here is where I rode in February.

And here are the individual rides listed.

As you can see, I managed a 100km ride – to LaPaDu and then to Geldern with Klaus. Most of the rest of my rides were just commutes though. I am really looking forward to the better weather!

Metric Century – to LaPaDu and Geldern

Klaus and I both signed up for the Strava Gran Fondo challenge for February which was to ride a 100km tour. Not that difficult but the weather wasn’t really that great, but we spotted a chance and decided to start off by riding to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg).

We rode via the Orsoy ferry and I reminisced about meeting Olaf there nearly three years ago when he brought me a British potato peeler all the way from John Lewis’s in London by bike 🙂

It was cold and a bit drizzly when we got to LaPaDu, having ridden through Marxloh which is the most deprived area of Germany. It has no end of bridal shops there which is a bit random! We parked our bikes which as soon as we left became a magnet for people to look at.

We parked and then went into the café which is a very interesting room – an old electricity substation I think.

Because I am doing the low-carb thing I watched Klaus eat an enormous slice of cake and nursed my black tea.

Except then I had to try a tiny piece…

Although the forecast was for a lot of rain it seemed OK so we decided to try for the 100km. From Duisburg the only really safe (= flat) direction to go is west so we headed off towards Moers.

We maintained a very good average speed on the fast roads and decided then to go further to Geldern, where we arrived along with some more rain so put the bikes under an awning outside the restaurant.

We had some nice warming soup and then headed back, completing our 100km Gran Fondo ride. This was the only ride over 50km I did during the entire month. Shocking!

Millie needs an electrician

I was out on a ride with Klaus one day and he commented that my indicator was slightly flashing on, even though I didn’t have the indicators on. That seemed odd, but it fixed itself when I got home and jiggled some cabling about.

Then a day later we rode to Arcen together and I really enjoyed the downhill… until I realised that my Lichtkanone was no longer lighting up the way ahead. We stopped at Arcen, realising we would have to ride directly back if we couldn’t fix it as dusk was on its way.

Fortunately Klaus managed to do a quick repair with a penknife and some insulating tape but we knew it was time to do a proper repair – the cabling between the battery and Millie’s electrics was a bit dodgy, using cheap chockblocks to join bits of wires together.

So we decided to have a Bike Maintenance Day the following Saturday and invite Jochen round too as he is permanently fixing his Strada and could give us a hand.

Klaus and I went round Obi (like B&Q or Homebase) and bought some cable and other bits and bobs, as well as velomobile cleaning and waxing materials to try to improve the muddy state of our bikes (except we haven’t actually done anything with these items yet, but at least buying them makes you feel like you have made a start).

So on the Saturday Jochen popped round in Endeavour and we moved Millie and Celeste round to the back garden.

Klaus needed to change the batteries in his cadence and speed sensors and as Jochen is so familiar with the Strada he did this whilst we were doing Millie’s electrics.

For Millie’s electrics we increased the cable length between the battery and main wiring to give us more room to move, took away the chockblocks and soldered the joins instead. (I say ‘we’ – all I did was held two ends of cable together whilst Klaus soldered them and attempted not to burn my fingers). The whole lot was much neater when we had finished and hopefully the dicky connectors will be a thing of the past.

My second job was to replace the peeling-away cheap Velcro for the armrests in Millie with the decent-quality large Velcro patch I had bought. We warmed the adhesive up with a heat gun before sticking it and that worked well.

Klaus then replaced the weak velcro for his sun visor with my better velcro.

Jochen had meanwhile changed the batteries of the speed and cadence sensors and he and Frank had had a good look at Klaus’s rear gear cable. Jochen has been very successful in snapping these when underway and it’s a mega-fiddly job to fix them by the roadside. Jochen’s prognosis was that the gear cable was rather worn and as he had a spare he was going to replace it… but they then discovered the small bolts holding it in place on the tiller were so soft that the allen key used to try to unscrew them had stripped the heads. They would probably need to be drilled out so we stopped there before doing any more damage and Klaus decided he would expedite his trip to Dronten to get Celeste serviced and ask Velomobiel.nl to change the cable there.

It started to spit with rain so we decided not to bother with the bike washing but had achieved the main goals so it was a relatively successful bike maintenance day. But we really must clean them up, Millie is probably 3kg heavier with crusted-on mud!

A new home for Millie and Alfie

Alfie the trike had been living under my Grand Piano in my lounge for six months and this seemed a sub-optimal place to store him when the summer came and I might want to ride him. Having Millie and Penelope fills up the garage so I asked a couple of neighbours if they had garage space to rent and they said no, but my landlord thought that one of the local farmers might have some space – and indeed he did! So I am renting a large garage about half a kilometre from my house and Alfie and a velomobile are staying in there (depending which velomobile I am using). Klaus’s Celeste is also now in the garage at my house so it is most handy to have the new garage space – which now also has my summer car tyres and the summer tyres of my landlord and landlady too. When you have the space you have to fill it up of course!

Events this month

Zeche Zollverein, Essen

February, despite being cold and windy, had a couple of nice days and on one of them I visited the Essen Zollverein which is a retired mine and cokery (is that a real word?) which has now become a space to visit and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It has the highest escalator in Europe. These are the stairs between the two escalators.

It’s a quite bleak site in some ways but also really interesting.

A holiday in Tenerife with Mum

At the end of February I flew out from Düsseldorf to Tenerife, meeting my Mum at the airport in Tenerife before we headed off to our Apartment.

We had a 2-bed apartment with kitchen and a bathroom each so it was rather luxurious, although the Wifi didn’t work which is a pain. Here was the view from our balcony.

The next morning was Sunday. We had a breakfast with the food that was already in the apartment and then decided to go food shopping to find me something low-carb for lunch. We found an open small supermarket but had been warned it would be expensive – and it was. This lot cost over 20 Euros!

I took the food back to the apartment and then met Mum back at the beach where we walked to the marina which had some very interesting boats – a submarine here, with a Viking boat behind it.

On the way back from the Marina I saw this amusing signwritten van. Can you spot the man’s name if you call him (small print on the rear door)!

Although I was on islands off the coast of Africa it seemed as though I was back in the UK for the food!

We returned to the hotel after a really good walk about and I took this photo of the pool area – it looks like a photo from a holiday brochure!

Back in our apartment we ate our evening meal and then watched the sunset from the balcony.

We did quite a lot of walking over the week, going twice to Los Cristianos which has a lovely sandy beach (with sand shipped in from the Sahara).

Our local beach was rather more volcanic.

However the sea was still beautiful and blue, although the water too cold for swimming.

The Tuesday that we were there was Shrove Tuesday and lo and behold…

Despite the low-carb diet I decided I really ought to have a pancake. So I did!

It was very tasty! I also had a couple of ice creams over a few days – after all, I was on holiday – and had lost 10kg in two months so thought I was allowed to have a little break from being very good with my food choices!

There was a bookcase with books people could take and return so I did a lot of reading, relaxing by the pool.

I also did a little bit of swimming – not much as it is bad for my disabled arm, but the outdoor pool was slightly heated and it was lovely to have a 10 minute swim each day.

Mum and I had been travelling around on the local buses to get to various places but I decided to do a proper excursion one day to the Teide National Park with the Mount Teide volcano. Mum stayed behind on that day so I set off alone on the coach tour up the mountain via the village of VilaFlora where people stopped for tea and cake (but there was nothing low-carb so I just enjoyed the fresh air outside).

We went first to an interesting rock formation which is actually the stack of various volcano vents where the surrounding rock has been eroded by wind/weather etc, with an impressive view of Mount Teide in the background.

Then it was to the Cable Car station where we had a short queue before boarding our booked cable car ride up to just below the summit.

On the top it was noticeably cooler and the air was thinner (we were at about 3500 metres or 12,000 feet high), and there was also some snow lying.

The views from the top were glorious.

I went down again in the cable car and then we carried on visiting a few places in the Teide National Park, including the site of the most recent volcanic eruption in 1909 (the darker patches on the mountain are the fresher lava flows).

It was a very interesting tour and good value too. It is impressive to see a volcano up close and personal – especially one which is still officially active!

Mum and I went out for an Indian meal that evening as I love eating Indian food and don’t find it very often in Germany. I also ate (mostly) low carb, starting with a chicken Tikka salad

Then a lamb balti

With cauliflower bhaji (no rice).

The next day we had a Chinese buffet at lunch time and I did eat a bit of rice there, but it was our last full day and it did look tasty!

Mum and I both bought a pair of sandals in Los Cristianos, and I saw (but didn’t buy!) this present for my Velomobile.

On the way back from Los Cristianos I treated myself to a meringe cake thingie. Very nice!

On the day we were due to leave we waited in vain for the bus to take us to the airport. After it hadn’t appeared despite being 20 minutes late we took a taxi.

My check-in queue was very long so Mum and I said goodbye at the check-in area. She was flying back to Southend, me to Düsseldorf.

I had a good flight back, watching lots of TV programmes on my iPad and enjoying the bag of nuts I had brought with me for mid-flight fuelling. Klaus collected me from Düsseldorf airport which was nice as it was raining and cold and my coat was packed in my suitcase so good that I didn’t have to wait for a bus…

It was a lovely holiday, having sunshine every day for a week is really good in the depths of winter. It was of course also great to spend time with my Mum. I definitely like the idea of a holiday somewhere warm in February, I shall have to think about it again next year!

Cakes this month

My two cakes have been included above. That’s three slices of cake in two months. Shocking!

The plan is to do low-carb until the end of March and then consider further what I do. I think I will probably introduce more carbs from April, but probably only cakes when out cycling (I will try not to go back to bread and pasta and rice except on special occasions). Despite eating well on the holiday, after 3 days back in Germany I had returned to my pre-holiday weight.

I am also making plans for some bike tours over the summer, starting with a short tour to the Trike Treffen over the Christi Himmelfahrt long weekend in May. This year the Trike Treffen is north of here, in Germany but near the Dutch border at Entschede, so about 140km away. It’s always fun meeting other trikers and velomobile riders and I have been to two of the last three Trike Treffens so am looking forward to it again.

I am hoping that March will be less rainy than February and I can do some more cycling kilometres. Watch this space!

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6 Wheels in Germany – January 2017 (Month 34)

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Well, the first month of 2017 is now over, and it’s been a somewhat quieter month than usual. This is partly because of some very cold weather that meant I didn’t do much cycling, and also because my riding partner Klaus had the man-flu and was also out of action for three weeks. So my usual 1000km per month on the bike was dramatically curtailed! I hope to do better next month.

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here is the Wheel image from Veloviewer of all the places I cycled this month. As you can see, not very many varied trips – the majority of my riding was my regular work commute.

And here is the list of individual rides from my software. My work commute is 8.61km…

But I did do a couple of rides, including an evening trip to Zur Fluchtburg near Grefrath for a cuppa whilst Millie waited outside.

As usual each month we had the Fahrrad Stammtisch on a Thursday evening in Kempen.

I also decided to re-fit the Durano Plus tyres on Millie after having yet another front puncture on a cold day. Which isn’t very much fun.

Knowing how hard the Schwalbe Plus tyres are to get on the rims, and the difficulties I had had just before Oliebollentocht when trying to fit them, I prepared sensibly – keeping the tyres on a hot radiator for a day!

In the end they went on OK and – cross fingers! – I haven’t yet had a puncture with them. They aren’t too much slower either – but the cold weather really slows me down anyway, whatever tyres I have.

Life in Germany

As I said above, it’s been a very quiet month. I have been at work of course – it’s interesting having to get up at 6:30am and to cycle to work in the dark (I start at 08:00), but as the month wore on the mornings were lighter and lighter. I experienced some beautiful scenes on my journeys to work.

And for a few days we had snow on the ground, although it was still fine to ride in Penelope.

A couple of days running I rode in with temperatures of -7 Celsius but was always warm enough with just a fleece over my work shirt, as long as I had a hat and buff on to keep my head (which is rather exposed) warm.

One day at work my boss had left a book on my desk for me to read. It’s very interesting, but possibly also a veiled swipe at me for only working 5 hours a day and going home at 13:00 whereas the rest of them toil on much longer. But life’s too short to work full-time!

I have joined a Gospel Choir that is based in Wachtendonk so very convenient. They are a very friendly group and we meet on Tuesday evenings for a two hour practice. Most of the songs are at least vaguely familiar to me and they have a Dropbox link with all the music scores so I am able to have them on my iPad and sing along.

We also had a guest for a week who was definitely not to Poppy’s taste. Maila the Bernese Mountain Dog (8 months old) came to stay and that put Poppy’s nose out of joint rather badly. By the end of the week Poppy was tolerating her and it was mostly OK, but Poppy definitely prefers to be the only dog!

Friend and neighbour Christine invited me to come to a concert in Kevelaer on one icy night. Her husband drove us there and we ended up sitting in the front row because it was so full! It was theatre music and done extremely well – they had a real range of singing talent for solo pieces, as well as some very short acting pieces to link the songs. It was great fun.

Cakes this month

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you – this was the only slice of cake I had this month.

Why?

Well, I decided to try eating low carb for the first three months of this year to see if it improved my stamina when cycling (I tend to lose energy and have to stop for cake) and so unfortunately low carb means no cake.

I did decide to try to bake a low-carb cheesecake and followed a recipe. I invited Jochen round to sample some (he is also doing Low Carb at the moment) so he came round in Endeavour.

Although the cake looked good it tasted a bit strange and Jochen and I only had one slice each. However Lara who lives here liked it and ended up polishing off the whole lot for me over a couple of days.

My normal lunch is a salad like this:

Evening meal will be a stir-fry with cauliflower rice, or something similar. Here is a curry I cooked which was rather tasty.

Dessert tends to be joghurt or a Mascarpone Mousse Creme thingie that I make out of mascarpone and whipping cream with blueberries on top.

Anyway, over the month of January I stuck very well to the diet and managed to shed 7kg so it is a good start. We will see how it pans out over the next two months, as I have committed to doing this diet for that time at least. Afterwards I will see how it goes – but may return to a few cakes here and there when on long rides!

So a very short report for January, but I have some plans in place for the year including some cycle tours, maybe to Berlin. I’m looking forward to the better weather and doing some longer rides in Millie with Klaus, and am also looking forward to a visit from my sister and her children around Easter time.

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6 Wheels In Germany – December 2016 (Month 33)

The end of the year!

Cycling this month

Despite the rather chilly December we have experienced in the Niederrhein region, I did manage almost 900km.

ascent-statistics

And this is where I went this month. You can see the long ride back from Oliebollentocht, which is a separate blog post.

december-wheel

And Veloviewer also produced a graphic for the year which is rather interesting.

veloviewer-summary-2016

And from Strava, a short video of my year.
My Year in Sport from Strava

And click here for my Strava Heatmap which shows the routes I have travelled the most over the year.

My Metric Century A Month challenge was completed this month – not only did I manage to ride a metric century every month this year, I also managed an Imperial Century (100 miles or 162km) in February, March, August (twice), October and December.

I also achieved my cycling goal of 12,000km for the year. I had initially set the goal at 10,000 but realised in about August I was quite ahead so increased the target to make it harder.

It is interesting to compare my yearly distances and average speeds since I have been riding my recumbents/velomobiles:

2008 – 4082 km at 18.9 km/h
2009 – 19,450 km at 18.77 km/h
2010 – 12,885 km at 16.89 km/h
2011 – 8,170 km at 16.45 km/h
2012 – 12,922 km at 17.64 km/h
2013 – 13,304 km at 18.28 km/h
2014 – 10,203 km at 17.6 km/h
2015 – 10,096 km at 16.86 km/h
2016 – 12,151 km at 20.62 km/h

Total cycling distance 103,267km at an average speed of 17.98 km/h. That’s 3,110 rides.

And for this year, I have ridden more in company with other people than on my own.

My main riding partner has of course been Klaus, with whom I have cycled 6,231.75km in 99 rides.

I have also ridden with the following people:

Andreas – 50km
Claudia – 694km
Dirk – 171km
Frank – 233km
Gudula – 205km
Hartmut – 1029km
Herbert – 179km
Jochen – 1070km
Kajsa Tylén – 109km (she managed over 50,000km this year for her Guinness World Record!)
Olaf – 142km
Petra – 433km
Uli – 553km

Rather amusingly, on 19 December Klaus noticed that we were both on the same mileage for the year to date, a shade under 12,000km. You can see the side-by-side Strava comparator here (Klaus is the first column, I am the second).

strava-ride-comparator

What is rather noticeable is that Klaus had achieved his rides in a slightly shorter time. The additional 300 metres that I had ridden had taken me 72 hours 5 minutes!!!

By the end of the year Klaus had smashed all his previous records, having achieved a fantastic total of 12,514km. Well done!

I also featured in the Niederrhein Tourismus Magazine Auszeit am Niederrhein. They interviewed me before I bought Millie and we also had two photoshoots. The results are here:

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_1

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_2

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_3

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_4

All in all, it was a very good year for cycling, although I would have liked to do a bit more overnight touring. I have plans for next year!

Cycle rides this month

Liegeradtreff Duisburg

The Velomobilforum has lots of local groups who arrange rides for recumbents and velomobiles and there is one such group that meets once every two months in Duisburg. I’ve been once before, but one Sunday Jochen said he was going so I decided to come along too, as did Klaus at the last minute. They met outside my house, wrapped up against the cold.

jochen-and-klaus

We rode first to Duisburg along a route that I have ridden many times when heading towards Mülheim. However, we were making good time and Klaus was feeling a bit peckish so we detoured for a slice of cake and a coffee in Moers-Kapellen. We weren’t actually sure if anyone would be at the Treff anyway, but in the end we arrived there pretty much dead on 11am. And were the only ones there – except for the pedestrians wandering around the Christmas Market.

endeavour-and-millie-1

It was cold and a bit rainy so we put the bikes under an overhanging shop front and then some other people started to arrive, including Tom on his ICE Sprint who I have met several times at various events.

We stood around and chatted, causing a significant interest amongst the Duisburgers who came and chatted to us a lot.

As you can see from the pictures, Millie was also sporting some new tail decals. I had an idea what I wanted but everything was very expensive, and then I saw these decals for a Mini and thought they would fit. They were very cheap (£20 the pair) so I went ahead and fitted them. The quality of the vinyl is rather poor and the colours seem likely to run a bit, but as a test they are working well. And I like them! They were very useful for Oliebollentocht too, with 209 Velomobiles it is useful to be able to stand out!

endeavour-and-millie-2

endeavour-and-millie-3

Anyway, this Treff usually involves a group cycle ride. Jochen, Klaus and I decided that rather than riding straight home we would detour to Kaiserswerth to make it a bit more interesting, not that any of us had a route there. Tom gave me some waypoints and I put them in my Garmin ready to head off. A final check of Millie – oh! she had a front puncture!

This was a relatively quick tyre change (maximum 10 minutes I think), and it was helpful to be able to use Klaus’s track pump. I was not too surprised about the puncture as there was a fair bit of glass around on the paths.

As we set off one of the other Liegerad chaps, forum name Hirsch, on a 3-wheeler Hase Lepus said he would come with us a little way.

This is the track for my route for the day.

liegeradtreff-track

We headed south from Duisburg along some rather grotty streets until we reached a long canoeing lake that Tom had told us about – with a cycle path beside it. This was very good and nice to ride away from the traffic for a bit. We started looking for food as we approached Kaiserswerth but didn’t have much success, the one restaurant we stopped at was ridiculously expensive (9 Euro for soup!) so we carried on, ending up in the café in the centre of Kaiserswerth for cake. I have eaten there before. It was right next to a Christmas Market with plenty of people walking around so leaving the velomobiles unattended and out of our sight wasn’t ideal but we couldn’t do much about it.

After a nice lunch of quiche and soup and sandwiches we said goodbye to Hirsch who rode home and we went for the Rhein ferry, crossing back to ‘our’ side of the Rhein.

We returned on the route that skirts to the south of Krefeld, ending up at Jochen’s house. Our original plan was to do some bike maintenance but we ended up a bit late so just had a cup of tea at his house instead. I liked the row of Velomobile bags in his hall… and you can see we have walkie talkies to communicate with each other too!

velomobile-bags-1

Klaus went straight home but I decided to do a slight extra ride rather than going directly home as I wanted to get my 100km for the month, so I did a minor detour towards Grefrath with Jochen for company before heading home again, ending up with 100.3km at an average speed of 20.3km/h. It was fun to ride with the other two although I obviously slow them down a lot, but cycling in company brings lots of other benefits and it was good to meet up with the Duisburg lot, although I have no particular desire to ride in Duisburg again as I always get a puncture there!

The ADFC Nikolaus Tour

Hartmut organises the Fit Durch den Winter series each winter and the December one of these rides was also the Nikolaus tour where we were to dress up and to decorate our bikes too. I stuck some Christmas lights onto Millie, and Jochen wore a most fetching hat!

jochen-and-hat

Hartmut was towing Santa’s sleigh:

nikolaus-tour-1

Klaus was able to ride before the tour so we met in Grefrath and rode to Wachtendonk, discovering that the coffee machine at the bakery there was out of order so we headed straight back to Kempen to wait for the others, fortifying ourselves with cake and tea/coffee in Kempen. By the time 11am arrived there were quite a lot of people in Kempen, standing in front of the Christmas Market with the nativity scene in the background (including a dromedary camel!)

nikolaus-tour-people

Of course, three Velomobiles standing in a busy pedestrian zone means lots of people are talking to you and we hadn’t quite realised Hartmut was setting off until the group of people began to shrink. We got in the velomobiles and set off but the others were out of sight and we didn’t know what route they were taking (although we did know that they were heading to Hülser Berg, although on a scenic route). Trying to phone Hartmut failed, the radio with Uli wasn’t great either, so in the end the three velomobiles and upright cyclist Ralf had to give up and make our own way to Hülser Berg.

Here is our track for the day.

nikolaus-tour-track

Klaus, Jochen, Ralf and I went the fairly direct route to Hülser Berg. Poor Ralf, riding a very nice upright bike, found the difficulty of maintaining pace with velomobiles as our speed profiles are so different. They all whizzed up the Hülser Berg (which is a very steep mountain!) and I climbed my way up slowly, pleased to discover that my Schlumpf Mountain Drive was working perfectly!

We parked our bikes at the top. You can see Millie’s Christmas light chain on the photo below except I had turned the lights off before taking the photo.

nikolaus-tour-jochen-and-hat

Klaus headed off back home again and the rest of us went inside the restaurant at the top of Hülser Berg. The owner is a very keen cyclist and always comes to chat with us. Although there were lots of heaters I started to feel rather cold. After about half an hour the rest of the tour arrived and we all enjoyed some lunch (currywurst and chips in my case). I was getting very cold so was glad when we all set off, although I took the direct route home (well, nearly direct – I took the Siebenhäuser route as the road is so much nicer and it’s only a couple of extra kilometres).

The ride total for me was 65km and it was good fun to have my Christmas lights on Millie but I took them off the next day – there are some blue lights on there and the police might not take very kindly to that if they saw me!

A visit to a bicycle exhibition

One chilly Sunday morning I visited a bike exhibition which traced the history of cycling in Germany.

bikes-old-and-new

The exhibition wasn’t just about bike frames, although there were many of those, it was also about bicycle accessories, such as this rather wonderful speedo (and clock?) from the company VDO who still make bike computers today.

early-vdo-bike-computers

The same bicycle also experimented with indicators, which periodically get reinvented in IndieGoGo or other Crowdfunding sites – although their value on a normal bike is very debatable!

bicycle-indicators

The Germans also experimented with three-wheelers quite early on, this was a Penny Farthing Trike.

penny-farthing-three-wheeler

A Düsseldorf company designed the SNOB Bike Engine – not a brand that works so well in English!

snob-bike-motor

Although small, the exhibition was interesting and I had a long chat with one of the staff there as they had an exploded diagram of a Rohloff hub, as well as various other old-fashioned front lights. The first English lights had red and green lights on each side – presumably Port and Starboard!

Other events this month

Doggy training

Gudula my landlady had the idea to train Poppy as a hospital or Old People’s Home visiting dog. Previously I had a labrador who visited a hospital in Tunbridge Wells every week with me for about two years – it’s a very rewarding thing to do as people appreciate so much having a chance to pat or cuddle a dog when they are separated from their own pets.

For Ben the labrador to qualify as a Pets as Therapy dog he had to visit a vet for a health check and be assessed by someone from the charity who checked him over for about half an hour and then he was deemed suitable. We joined the charity which provided the liability insurance and then were able to visit the hospital. Now I am in Germany things are a trifle different. First of all Poppy had to go to a course for 1.5 hours once a week for four weeks, just to see if she would be suitable. This cost 90 Euros. At the end of this course she was deemed suitable, and we were informed she would have to do the Hundeführerschein (Dog Driving Licence!) which includes a written test (which I am guessing the owner, rather than the dog, completes). After this she would need an additional test to be a visiting dog. Estimated time nine months, estimated cost 600 Euros. This seemed a crazy amount so we are still thinking about it, and have found another option in Krefeld which may mean we can finish earlier and is much cheaper. I was a bit unsure of the value of a lot of the training and the cost was very high. But someone who definitely enjoyed the first four weeks was Poppy – here she is with Gudula sitting nicely awaiting a treat.

doggy-training

So perhaps in the New Year Poppy will start her Hundeführerschein… but we will see. To do voluntary work it seems like rather a lot of barriers (financial and time), but we both think Poppy would make an excellent visiting dog and would really enjoy it herself.

The Bonn English Singers Carol Service

Last year I went to the Bonn English Singers 9 Lessons and Carols service with Christine and it was wonderful. This year there were several different concerts by the Bonn English Singers but Christine and I, joined by Gudula, went to the one in Beuel again. It was so lovely to sing English Christmas Carols – people were singing with great gusto and the choir were excellent again.

After the concert there was tea and mince pies… and I noticed they were selling packets of Tetley Teabags, 4 Euros for 80 teabags. I had already placed an order with my Mum for two packs of 280 teabags so didn’t need to avail myself of this offer.

bonn-carol-service

Christmas in England

christmas-in-witnesham

This year’s Christmas would undoubtedly have its sad moments as it would be the first Christmas following the death of my father. But in the event it was a joyful and peaceful occasion and it was good to see family and also to go to the midnight service at my church in Colchester and see old friends again.

On Christmas Day Mum and I travelled with her friend Stephanie to visit some other friends in Norfolk in a village where Mum and Dad had a holiday cottage. Hans and Hilda had a 95-year-old neighbour with them too and she was wonderful – full of interesting stories and totally ‘with it’.

Hans used to be a chef and he and Hilda provided a wonderful meal.

For the non-Brits who read my blog, here is an example of a UK Christmas Dinner (on the 25 December, of course).

A herring salad starter (not so usual for the UK)

christmas-starter

Roast turkey with all the trimmings

christmas-main-course

A cake with cream etc.

christmas-dessert

Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake are traditional but not everyone likes them (including me!) so it was nice to have something else for a change.

Hans had also made some Swedish Biscuits with God Jul on them.

god-jul-biscuits

Their dog Kasper enjoyed lying in front of the fire and watching in a vain hope that we might drop some food for him. It was too tasty to give to a dog!

kasper-and-fire

The next day my sister, her husband and two of her daughters came, bringing their Christmas leftovers so we had Christmas Dinner Mark 2, which was also lovely! Anna had made the traditional Swiss Roll Yule Log which she has always made – a real reminder of my childhood!

yule-log

Her daughter Ceri and I fought for possession of the piece with the flake in it and I was awarded this as flake’s aren’t available in Germany. Bonus!

yule-log-2

Oh, and earlier in the month I had seen a Facebook recipe for Nutella Christmas Trees and I made a few and gave them to colleagues at work. Here’s one of them – they look nicer than they tasted!

nutella-christmas-tree

I headed back to Germany on the evening of Boxing Day, ready for Oliebollentocht two days later. It was lovely to spend time with my Mum and sister and her family, it’s great to visit England again although the roads all seem so narrow and hilly!

Visting England now is a bit strange as my roots are being pulled up. James and I were divorced in November and he is now engaged to a new lady, someone we both knew at University. Our house is in the process of being sold, we are just going through the paperwork with the buyer, and then I will no longer have a home in Colchester. My life has very much transferred over to Germany and I feel that this is now my home, but it is always lovely to catch up with old friends in the UK and events such as the Bonn Carol Service give me a lovely warm feeling as it is the remembrance of decades of Christmases in the UK.

New Year’s Eve

I am writing this at 10pm on New Year’s Eve. I went to our next door neighbour’s New Year’s Eve party with Frank and Gudula – when Frank was invited he said we could come for an hour or so but then had another invitation – and we were most surprised when the front door opened that our neighbour was in a wedding dress. They had got married at 11am this morning and the New Year’s Eve party was actually a wedding party! This was a real surprise to us but it was lovely to be part of their special day and to meet some of their friends and family. We came away after an hour and a half as Frank and Gudula went to their other party and I stayed at home to look after Poppy who is not that keen on fireworks.

So the year is almost ended – I am writing this at ten o’clock so two hours to go. My third New Year’s Eve in Germany. Next year, 2017, is in a way a blank sheet – I can make of my life what I will. I have already planned to do a cycle ride from Rostock to Copenhagen and back to Kiel with some ladies from the Velomobilforum and will also be joining a new Gospel Choir in Wachtendonk now that I am not part of the Süchteln one. I will also be singing Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s “Paulus” with the Willicher Musikprojekt and Anja and I plan to resurrect our piano/flute duets. There is plenty to look forward to, not least more cycling and hopefully increasing my range and decreasing my belly a bit! However, the Cake Montage will probably continue.

cake-montage

2016 has had some difficulties and the political situation with Brexit and Trump fills me with gloom, but there are always positive things to be thankful for and I hope that we will all start 2017 with hope and looking forward to the good times. I wish all my readers a Happy New Year!

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

Six Wheels In Germany – November 2016 (Month 32)

A short report for this month (phew, you say!!)

Cycling this month

Cycling Statistics this month

November was not such a good month for cycling for me. This is mostly due to the weather – it was very rainy for several days, and very cold for a couple of weeks, and with my job it means I have to make an effort to ride straight after work if I want to cycle in daylight. Which I sometimes manage, but not always.

Anyway, my total distance for November was 726km so half of what I managed the previous month.

november-figures

And here is where I rode to:

veloviewer-wheel-nov-2016

Metric Century a Month Challenge

After last month’s statement from me that this challenge was really rather easy now, I found I had to eat my words almost straight away as the ride for this month was tricky.

xanten-kalkar

Klaus was able to ride with me so we planned to go to Xanten and see where we fancied going after that. We met in Kempen where there was an ADFC Light Check stand so we put in an appearance there for an hour and talked to the police and the local bike shop chappie with our velomobiles proving a bit of a draw. But it was cold just standing around so we were pleased to get back into the Velomobiles and ride. We set off for Xanten following a route that Klaus had prepared which took us up a bit of a hill on the approach to Xanten. And it was at this point that I discovered I had a bit of an issue with my Schlumpf gearing in my bottom bracket. It seemed to be slipping!

As I was pedalling only a small amount of the pedal stroke transferred to the wheel, the rest of the time it just slipped. So I had to very quickly go down the gears to first gear which was very slippy and when I reached a slightly steeper bit of slope I was pedalling but getting no forward motion. Oh no!!

I changed the Schlumpf up into the high gear (no reduction gear) and it worked OK but my lowest gear in this configuration is very high – I think about 3.8 metres per pedal stroke – so my knees were really complaining. I got to the top of this long slope and said to Klaus that I needed to avoid hills after this until I could work out what was wrong with the Schlumpf.

I very much enjoyed my restorative slice of cake in Xanten and of course my cup of tea. The Christmas Market was taking place in the large square in front of the café so there were people everywhere and the two velomobiles make a very interesting picture too, but I had to bang on the window when one man decided to open up Millie’s flap and look inside. People can look, but not touch!

After the cake and tea it was time to carry on and we decided to ride towards Kalkar along a former railway line to Marienbaum which is now a cycle path. It was suitable for Velomobiles too so we pootled along – pootling because my knee was complaining and I needed to rest it a bit and also let it warm up slowly. It was a cold day for cycling and I still had summer-weight cycling trousers on (normally OK in velomobiles).

We reached Kalkar and decided to carry on to Goch. On our way to Goch we went through what turned out to be a very large village called Pfalzdorf. Klaus comes from the Kurpfalz area of Germany and it turns out that some people from the Kurpfalz region had wanted to emigrate to America but had only got as far as the Dutch border and been turned back, so they settled near Goch in Pfalzdorf. Apparently they still speak the Mannheim dialect there too, although we didn’t see anyone to speak to – just experienced an unexpected hill which was No. Fun. At. All in my high gears.

We rode through Goch where I had hoped to stop for cake but Klaus had to be home so we carried on, but unfortunately I was running out of energy so in the end suggested he rode directly home and I would stop for some food in Straelen. I arrived at Café Krone which I like very much, waved goodbye to Klaus and had this very tasty pumpkin soup in a Kilner jar.

soup-straelen

It gave me more energy back and I rode home much more quickly, arriving home with 126km on the clock. Klaus ended up with 142km.

I have spoken to Liegeradbau Schumacher about the Schlumpf and it seems that the boom end on the Milan is of rather thin metal so that they couldn’t tighten the Schlumpf enough and it rotates inside the bottom bracket because of the very high power when in the low gears. They have ordered a new, normal-thickness bottom bracket shell from Tempelman in the Netherlands and will fit it to Millie when it arrives. In the meantime I am riding just with my high gears and doing even more hill-avoidance than normal!

Bike maintenance

The Milan is a pain in the neck if it gets a rear wheel puncture as you have to take out the back wheel to fix it (unlike most Velomobiles). I had practised this when I first got Millie but discovered one day when I was getting Penelope out of the shed that Millie had a puncture. At least this meant I could fix it at a time of my choosing.

Anyway, I did a reasonable job which took just 45 minutes but the tyre had a bad cut so I decided I would buy a new one. I also decided to change to AV tubes (Auto ventil, car valve) rather than the Französische (Presta) valves which I find a bit awkward. So I ordered some tyres and tubes, including a wider Marathon tyre for the rear wheel for winter. It will be slower but much more puncture resistant. A puncture in the dark and the rain is no fun at all!

bike-spares

Klaus had reported that he had a puncture on one of his solo rides and had an AV tube which didn’t fit through his wheel rim. This caused a brief panic for me as I had just bought 4 new AV tubes but I tested one in the front wheel of Millie (without completely removing the old tube – no need for extra effort!) and it worked fine.

checking-valve-holes

I have ridden Millie to work a couple of times recently – she looks amusing in the car park. She is longer than the Smart Car I parked beside!

bike-at-work-1

bike-at-work-2

Starting work at 8am means I cycled through some wonderful sunrises in November.

sunrise-1

sunrise-2

sunrise-3

Velomobiletreff

Rolf once again organised his Velomobile Meet in Schwalmtal, although this time it ended up with just Jochen and I visiting due to illness or busyness from the other velomobile riders.

Here are Millie and Endeavour side by side.

velomobiletreff

And here is the very tasty soup Rolf made for us, most welcome on such a chilly day!

rolfs-soup

Non-cycling events!

Messiah Concert

As in the previous two years, I have spent the entire year practising with the Willicher Musikprojekt for a big concert in November. The first year was Beethoven’s Messe in C, last year was Elias by Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and this year was the Messiah by Handel (but in German).

In the previous years we have had just one concert but this year two were planned, one in Krefeld and one in Anrath (where we normally have the concerts). The Krefeld church is a very large Evangelisch church which seats 1000 people and in which the group had not previously sung.

Here was our final dress rehearsal…

krefeld-church-concert

We had to work out where we would all sit as to get 100 singers on the staging is challenging!

The rehearsal was on a Friday night and the concert on the Sunday evening. Here is a selfie taken just before…

before-the-concert

There were a lot of people out there in the audience!

krefeld-orchestra-and-audience-2

krefeld-orchestra-and-audience

The concert went well although we noticed a few mistakes and I am not sure how good the acoustics were for those in the audience at the back. But it was lovely to sing after all our hard work together.

The second concert was the following Friday in Anrath, which has excellent acoustics.

selfie-anrath

As we had already sung the whole thing through once five days before we did a better job with this one I felt, although the audiences seemed very happy with both concerts. I really enjoyed singing it and look forward to starting our new project in January, Paulus by Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Miscellaneous

Other events this month included the Fahrrad Stammtisch, an ADFC ride where I just met them for lunch, I continued providing Nachhilfe (tutoring) in English to a lad in St Hubert, and I attended three dog training sessions with Poppy. This is because Gudula wants to get Poppy registered as an official Visiting Dog so she can visit old people’s homes or homes for disabled people. This involves first of all a four week course at a dog training centre 10km away but Gudula could only make two of the four sessions as she and Frank were on holiday, so I agreed to go to the other two.

It was interesting to see the dogs and what they do – but I had lots of problems hearing in the large, barn-like hall. It was also very cold! I think all the other dogs had done their initial dog training there so knew specific things that they had to do whereas some of it was entirely new to Poppy but she seemed to really enjoy it and clearly has the temperament for a visiting dog, although she needs to have some more training.

For the last session I went with Gudula as we had to decide what to do in the long term. Rather shockingly, Poppy will need another six months training before she can do the exam (yes, they have an exam!) and I am not 100% sure if we want to do it as Gudula has to work shifts so may not be able to make all the sessions and it isn’t something I particularly want to do at the moment. Plus it’s expensive (500 Euro in total). But we are still considering.

With the change in weather from warm to very cold, and of course the clocks changing at the end of last month, winter is most decidedly on its way.

Decorating houses for Christmas seems to start rather early in Germany. Some people seemed to have already put up lights and baubles etc in mid-November. For me, the first day of Advent is maybe a bit early…

Anyway, one day I came into work and discovered a Christmas decoration on my desk.

christmas-decorations-at-work

I have now been in my job for four months and am getting the hang of it. I speak about 50% German and 50% English, and some of my colleagues now speak to me in English to practise it. I also work closely with a chap from Denmark who speaks Danish, English and German, but my main contact is with a Russian customer so the mutual language is English. It’s very interesting to be dealing with people from many countries although that also has its challenges!

Cakes this month

And here are the cakes that I, or my companions, have eaten this month. Yummy!

cake-collage

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

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

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, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles