Category Archives: Velomobiles

NL2018 Day 1: Kempen to Nijmegen

Saturday 9 June 2018.

Here was our planned route for the day:

I had spent quite a while planning this tour, including the track (using suggestions from Dutch friends Roef and Alex) and where we would stay overnight (a mixture of Hotels/B&Bs and Vrienden op de Fiets). The accommodation proved not so easy at times. The hit rate with Vrienden op de Fiets is not high (maybe 1 positive for 8 enquiries) and I had real trouble with Den Haag. In this case, we didn’t want to book a hotel for those two nights as that would be over 400 euros for the cheapest. Fortunately I eventually found a Vrienden op de Fiets host.

Anyway, Saturday 9 June arrived, the weather forecast for the next week was pretty good (sunny, warm but not boiling, minimal rain), but the tour couldn’t quite start yet.

Last night Klaus and I rode with Jochen to Wachtendonk for ice cream and a chinwag. As we were preparing to return home I was checking my lights and noticed that the Lichtkanone wasn’t working. A bit more experimentation showed the front lights and indicators were working but the brake light not. Bummer.

I carry spare front and rear lights so fitted a rear light and we rode home. Neither of us wanted to fight with the Velomobile wiring that evening as it’s a bit of a nightmare. Millie is an expensive Velomobile but the quality of the wiring in her is very cheap.

So this morning, day 1 of the tour, the first job was to fix the cable.

We guessed a connection had come adrift somewhere and the likely culprit for this would be the wiring within the switching box. So we opened it and did indeed find a broken solder joint (see the end of the orange cable at the bottom left).

So Klaus fetched his soldering iron and it was soon together again.

And lo and behold the lights worked! Hooray! A bit of heat shrink over the joint and Millie lives to fight another day!

We didn’t have too much pressure for today’s ride as we would be staying with chum Roef in Nijmegen so we knew where we were going. Besides, it was only 80km and the first 50 are really fast (and with several good cake options!).

In the end we didn’t end up leaving home until past eleven o’clock. There are lots of dull jobs to do before a two week holiday (put the bin out, empty the fridge) and we were taking it easy because it was a hot day. But eventually it was time to go and we said goodbye to Poppy, Gudula, Frank and Lara and got the bikes ready.

Klaus’s halo is shining very brightly as he agreed to carry my luggage. This is because the Quattrovelo has that wonderful large boot and Millie’s stowage space is a bit harder to access. I had a standard sports bag and it fitted in easily. As Klaus was being the pack mule I had packed three sets of cycling clothing and two of normal  clothes. A real luxury on a  bike tour!!!!

What this meant was that Humphrey was much heavier than usual. We estimate Klaus was carrying an additional 15kg and Humphrey was noticeably down at the back. Perhaps we should have pumped up the air suspension ball thingies but we couldn’t be bothered to go upstairs again so we decided to live with it. We have a couple of opportunities to pump them up during the tour, one of which is tomorrow as we are visiting another Quattrovelo owner who has also appeared previously on this blog. More about that tomorrow!

Anyway, we headed off on roads that we know really well. We usually ride these routes on Sunday morning and noticed a significant difference in the traffic on a Saturday – many more impatient car drivers, particularly near to Weeze airport. One guy shouted at Klaus to ride on the cycle path (we were doing almost 40 km/h at the time so that would not be a good idea anyway. Then the guy drove off ahead, stopped his car in the middle of the road, got out (leaving the door wide open) and then stood in Klaus’s way as he was cycling towards him. There was a bit of a verbal altercation and the guy said he wanted to drag Klaus out of the bike, so Klaus said he would stop at the next roundabout and they could talk about it. Klaus rode on, the guy then did a really close pass and disappeared into the distance. Nice.

I saw all this from about 50 metres behind. It’s so frustrating when you have car drivers who cannot be patient for just a minute to wait for a good overtaking place, but instead feel it necessary to scream out of the window at you, give rude hand gestures etc.

I  had a couple of motorists hooting their horns aggressively at me as well. This isn’t that common when riding this route on a Sunday, so it was interesting to see the difference in behaviour.

It is 40km to Weeze which is halfway for the day’s tour so we went to Markt Café as usual and stopped for cake and tea.

Whilst we were in the café we had a message from Roef, with whom we would be staying this evening, to say he and friend Ed were riding to meet us. They were following our track but would stay in NL.

Klaus had a quick helping of yoghurt and strawberries that we had brought with us outside the church in Weeze.

We headed towards Siebengewald which is the border with NL. It’s a lovely fast road between Weeze and Siebengewald and we were enjoying ourselves when we saw a combine harvester coming towards us. It was massive, wider than one lane of the road, and on the front it had a giant scoop and in that were sitting a woman in a wedding dress and a chap in a suit. It was very cool to see, they were smiling and waved to us. As we passed the combine harvester we saw that it was trailing a couple of oil drums, presumably their version of tin cans!

Various messages were exchanged between us and Roef and we knew he was waiting for us just outside Otttersum. We duly spotted two more Velomobiles lurking beside the cycle path and stopped to say hello!

With Roef in the lead setting the way we headed off towards Nijmegen. He took us on a much more scenic route as he knew the area well…

This included the Cuijk ferry.

Here is the view of the Maas from the ferry.

It was a very hot day and I was getting really thirsty so we stopped for a banana split.

We had just five kilometres back to Roef’s house. We easily fitted all four Velomobiles in his large garage.

After a shower and a freshen up we ordered pizzas and had a very nice evening chatting with Roef and Ed whilst the washing machine did its magic so we have fresh cycling kit again. So much nicer than having to wash the clothes in the shower!

Tomorrow we head to Haaksbergen and Roef will probably accompany us for some of the way. We’re hoping it will be slightly cooler as it was pretty warm today. We have had a relatively easy cycling day with just 87km at a average of 24.2 km/h but I definitely noticed how it was harder to ride in the Netherlands because of lots of stops, starts and directional changes on the cycle paths. But it is brilliant to be on tour again and we look forward to many interesting experiences over the next two weeks. Thanks again to Roef for hosting us.

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Netherlands Tour 2018

Ten Wheels in Germany – May 2018 (Month 50)

The fiftieth month of my life in Germany!

Cycling this month

This month has been good for cycling.

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

And these are the individual rides:

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

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

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

A Velomobile Comparison in Zons

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

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

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

This was the route we took:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hartmut’s maiden VM Sunday Morning Cake Run

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

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

This was our route for the day:

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

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

We also, of course, enjoyed the cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ralf’s birthday ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klaus’s birthday trip to St Hubert via St Hubert

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

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

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

The Velomobile parking was very spacious.

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

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

This was our track for the day:

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

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

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

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

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

The Grensrijders

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

This was my route for the day:

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

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

After lunch Oliver shot this pic of me leaving:

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

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

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

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

To Rees via Weeze

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

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

Here is our track for the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex and the Little White Whale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poppy was of course helping!

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

Here is my route for the day:

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

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

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

Humphrey and Celeste

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

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


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

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

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

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

The main drawbacks for me are as follows:

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

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

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

Life in Germany

A trip to the beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

An expensive month for gadgets.

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

A MacBook Air

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

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

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

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

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

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

A OnePlus 6 phone

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

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

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

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

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

Two trackers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other news

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

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

Here’s another cake that I had in Tönisvorst…

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

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

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

Ten Wheels in Germany – April 2018 (Month 49)

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

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

And here is where I went:

The green rides are E-bike rides on Alfie.

Celeste, Humphrey and Millie

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

Celeste gets a visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh oh.

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

And here was Celeste, undamaged by fire but…

It looks as though they had sat on her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humphrey gets a service

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

1. Very swimmy rear suspension

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

3. Difficulties for me getting in and out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!

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

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

Hartmut’s Birthday Bash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A search for a new Landcafé

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had this very tasty peach cake.

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

And Klaus enjoyed a beer.

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

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

Alfie back in service!

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

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

It was time for ice cream!

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

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

A visit from my Mum

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

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

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

The breakfast at Dechi Beach was very good!

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

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

SPEZI – Spezialradmesse

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

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

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

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

Some other random photos from this month

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

And a random event from this month too…

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

He arrived back 10 minutes later with a large bag…

containing:

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

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

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

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

Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!

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

When you just have one car/bike/boat/plane you have nothing to compare it with. When you get a second you suddenly notice all the things that aren’t so good in your current one. Thus with Millie, after Humphrey appeared on the scene, particularly with regard to her gearing. Something had to be done!

The problems were as follows:

1. The Mountain Drive doesn’t work at all well

2. The gear packet at the back, a 13-30 cassette, is very close together which means in order to have a suitable high gear my low gear is not low enough and hurts my knees if I have to do lots of stop/starts

3. A brake light is a very good safety item and when you don’t have one it can be a bit scary when riding with other cyclists or on the road

4. Moving Millie around involves gripping her flanks with my hand to lift her. Some kind of lift handle would make life much easier.

5. I always end up with an oily leg as the chain going to the pedals is uncovered.

6. I often end up with oily luggage as the chain under the seat is uncovered, as is the idler, so anything that slides across her floor gets oily.

So Klaus and I took her to emvelomobiel.be in Belgium, an hour’s drive away, and left her there for Etienne to do his best.

After we discovered the damage to Celeste I contacted Etienne straight away to ask to collect Millie as we now needed her if we were to each ride a velomobile. Fortunately she was ready!

And here is what Etienne had done.

Mountain drive changed to double chainrings, and rear cassette changed

When I first bought Millie she had two chainrings at the front, a 53 and a 38. The 53 was much too small for my cruising speeds, and I couldn’t turn the twist grip to get to the 38 because of my weak left side arm/hand.

Below is a graphic that shows the theoretical gear ranges and speeds that I can manage with my 65 cadence (but please note with the small chainring only the first couple of gears were actually possible as the chain ends up too long for gear 3 and upward)

The yellow ones are overlapping gears, but I would use the large chainring in preference to the small one so really the yellow ones should be 5-9 in the small chainring.

From this you can see that my lowest gear was 2.57 metres and highest 8.28 metres, and I maxed out pedalling at 32.3 km/h.

I had this changed to the second-hand mountain drive with a 65 tooth chainring (a big increase to the 53).

This meant that my actual gear ranges were as follows:

(Please note that the original graphic here was wrong when I first published my post, I had used Humphrey’s 75t chainring, not Millie’s 65t. This is now corrected. Thanks to reader David Sharp for pointing this out!)

Notice no overlapping gears in this arrangement, but the lowest gear without Schlumpfing was 4.4 metres. My highest was now a whopping 10.15 metres, which meant I could pedal comfortably at 40 km/h.

Using the Schlumpf was something I avoided as firstly the button kept falling off when I used it, and secondly when I used the Schlumpf gear it was so low (2 metres) that I could only comfortably pedal to 8 km/h. I then had to Schlumpf up again, suddenly to the massive gear of 5.08 metres. You see the problem!

Etienne put my old 38 chainring back on, as well as a new 57 for the front (as the 53 was too small). He reused the old short cranks as I had kept everything, so this undoubtedly saved some money. He had to buy a new 57 tooth chainring for me, and also a sprocket packet for the back. This packet was a 12-36; I don’t know the individual sprocket sizes in between so the website has automatically calculated them, and we end up with this:

My lowest gear in the big chainring is now nice and low at 3 metres so I can use this for pretty much all my riding. I might only need to change down to the 38 tooth chainring on a mega hill. Again, I can only use the first 2 gears in the small sprocket because of the chain length, but that is fine. My second gear in the big chainring is lower than the first gear used to be, which is good to know.

My top gear is a better 37.6 km/h which is obviously not as fast as the 40 km/h but is pretty close! I only got the other speeds on downhill runs.

Etienne had obviously oiled or greased the grip shifter so I was able to manage it to change gears (although not very easily, it must be said!) so I will be able to work with that as I will hardly ever use it. He did buy a trigger shifter that he could fit if necessary, so we will see how I do over time.

Brake light and lift handle

Etienne also had the great fun of fitting a brake light. To reach inside the back of the Milan you need an arm about 2 metres long, so he said he managed to do it with a metal pole. Fortunately I have ventilation holes right at the back so he was able to poke the wiring through there.

For the lift handle, there was no way to fix anything inside as you cannot reach so I recommended what I had seen in other Milans, a hole drilled through and lined. He did this too, although said it was incredibly tricky to glue and is not sure whether the glue will hold. Lets hope so, if not we may need to think more laterally.

Obviously my next job is to redo the flag – this time I will get a professional to do it!

Chain covering

To avoid Oily Leg Syndrome Etienne fitted a very simple chain tube over the chain that goes up to the pedals.

For the chain cover inside the body of the Milan he was able to cut down a spare one from a Quest to fit.

He had to raise the seat up slightly to do this, and ended up mounting it on rubber blocks that are about 8mm high, and this had the unexpected side benefit of providing a little more suspension and removing the previous creak-creak-creak noise of the seat base grinding against the bottom of the velomobile with every pedal stroke. This is a real benefit!

It was a wonderful feeling to get into Millie again because I feel so much more comfortable in her cockpit rather than Humphrey’s. She’s more agricultural, the weave of her carbon fibre is less pretty, she’s got muck and gunk built up over the years so she never looks really clean inside and out, and she makes some rattling noises from time to time, but overall she is much quieter than the Quattrovelo because there isn’t that awful noise from the gears behind the seat, and she goes like the wind. She’s faster than the Quattrovelo with me riding at least, and I find her comfortable and reliable too.

She has her remaining downsides – complicated rear wheel axle which means a puncture is a pain, ludicrously wide turning circle, low-slung foot cover which means you scrape on the slightest of speed bumps/kerbs and of course a distinct lack of waterproofing which means when it rains you get wet – over your whole body. But despite this, if I could only keep one velomobile out of my two, it would be Millie. I am simply more comfortable riding her, it is more of an enjoyable experience because it is quieter and feels more alive. And I am in the very lucky position not to have to make that choice, I can keep both velomobiles so I can ride Humphrey in the rain and if I have a lot of grocery shopping to do, and Millie the rest of the time.

Oh, and important to mention here – I was very pleasantly surprised by Etienne’s bill for the work he did. It was about half what I was expecting, and I even thought it might cost three times as much and that would have been OK. So great service from emvelomobiel.be, although he’s not the quickest worker (due to only being part time with the velomobile work), but I shall definitely take Millie back to him next time she needs work that I don’t feel able to do, assuming he can face it!

This summer we will be riding around the Netherlands on a two week bike tour and it will be Milan and Quattrovelo which gives us both a chance to swap bikes if we need it, and of course Millie’s inconvenient luggage stowage is fixed by Humphrey (powered by Klaus) taking all the luggage with him. Hurrah!

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Filed under Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Velomobiles

Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 6: Roermond to Kempen

Day 3 of the second tour.

We had another good night’s sleep at the Vrienden op de fiets house in Roermond and were treated to a very good breakfast.

The bikes had spent the night safely in the garden.

Our hosts had to leave at 10am so we said goodbye to them at 9:30 and set off on our last stage of the tour.

We did quite a lot of this route just two weeks ago when I rode Humphrey to Roermond with Klaus and Ralf, and the route is very pleasant with lots of quiet roads. There were a few speedbumps which are not quite as comfortable in Millie as in Humphrey.

We saw this beautiful church underway.

We stopped for a short break and to enjoy the sunshine and chatted to a dog walker (who is rather unfortunately rendered in the photo below). I took the photo below because Millie was nicely reflected in Celeste!

This is what Klaus could see from his vantage point!

We enjoyed the quiet roads, although there were lots of leisure cyclists out as well, but we often had the whole road to ourselves!

Our plan was to stop in Venlo for some lunch/cake but as we came over the bridge into the town there seemed to be an awful lot of cyclists and walkers. As we reached the town it was clear something was going on – I have never seen so many bikes parked in one place. They were everywhere! There were sound stages and people dressed as runners… it was Venloop which is an annual half marathon. We knew it would be pointless to try to stop somewhere for food, plus we couldn’t really ride anywhere as it was all so packed. Instead we stayed on the roads and tried to make our way to the east so we could get on the road to Germany but road closures made it pretty tricky. We got lots of cheers from spectators – it was great to see that pretty much every Venlo resident was there, hanging out of the windows or cheering from the pavement.

We finally got across the main road into Venlo and could head towards the glider airfield. On the way we saw this very impressive bunting with the balloon runner!

We stopped for a while to watch the gliders and then discussed where we could go for cake. We both knew of, but had not visited, a café/restaurant not far away down an unmade road. We gave it a go and the unmade road was fine and the cake at Birkenhof was very tasty!

We were home fairly early after our ride of 61.62km which we cycled at an average speed of 18.7 km/h (very relaxed). My average heart rate for this ride was now a super-low 120 bpm.

We really enjoyed both our mini tours, although we were blessed with better weather for the second one. A tour of 3 days can be a very rich and exciting experience so we are considering whether we can manage more in the future by just taking one day off work. We shall see!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 5: Maastricht to Roermond

The second day of our second mini-tour.

We slept well and as agreed went down for breakfast at 8 o’clock. Anke had provided us a very good spread of breakfast items.

She talked to us a little about some of the cycle tours she had done.

Anke had to leave at 9 so we were gone before then. We decided to visit Maastricht itself and cycled over the bridge and through the pedestrian zone a little.

We found ourselves in a large square with lots of buildings around it and a large church.

Klaus took this interesting pic of Celeste!

And also this Panorama view of the square.

Here is Millie in front of the church.

Klaus had talked several times about the bookshop in a church so we googled it and discovered it was just around the corner. As I pulled up outside I noticed Millie rather nicely reflected in the doors!

We parked outside.

It was a beautiful building inside with very clever design for the bookshelves on three levels.

There was also a café where the altar used to be and so we stopped for a cuppa.

We set off again after a nice relaxing time in the bookshop and wended our way through Maastricht town on a Saturday morning. There was lots on as the weather was good. Klaus stopped to take a picture of a building and Millie photobombed him!

We then crossed the river and looked back at the town (photo by Klaus).

It was lovely to just stand in the sunshine, warm enough to be outside the velomobiles without jumpers/coats on.

However, we were on a bike tour so it was time to set off towards Roermond.

Our route today was as follows:

On the way to Maastricht we had ridden on the west side of the river/canal, this time we were going up the east side.

We had plenty of time for the 60km day so decided we would stop for a leisurely cake halfway if we could find somewhere. There were lots of interesting places along the way.

Here I stopped for a photo of a lovely church:

And at the same time Klaus was also photographing it from further back – you can see Millie in his shot.

You can tell from the skies in the above photos that it was turning into a really lovely day. The temperature was about 10 degrees but inside the velomobiles we were toasty warm.

It’s a very nice route that we were riding although surprisingly quiet for a Saturday, except for lots of MAMILs riding in chain gangs.

At about halfway we started looking for somewhere to stop for a cuppa but couldn’t find anything. Finally, just past Berg an de Maas, we discovered a restaurant with lots of signs saying ‘Open’ so stopped, only to find that the door was locked. We rang the bell but no response came. As we were waiting two more cyclists came and sat down.

We started checking on our phones to see if there was anywhere else open not too far away when a car arrived and two people got out carrying parcels from a bakery. It was the owners of the restaurant and they had cake. A bit odd they hadn’t put a sign up to say “back in 5 minutes” or something, but anyway, we got our tea and slice of cake.

Although they spoke no German or English and we spoke no Dutch we managed to communicate perfectly well.

In Maasbracht we saw this very pretty view whilst we were riding down a bit of a hill (photo by Klaus)

And we stopped to look at this windmill. Some passers-by said “hello” to us and they turned out to be Brits.

We continued on and eventually arrived in Roermond at 3 o’clock. I phoned the Vrienden op de fiets host but got no reply so we decided to go to the riverfront and eat something. We had originally said we expected to be there at 5pm so being two hours early meant perhaps they were out.

We ordered a bit of food

And Klaus relaxed with a bit of sun worship

We received an email from the host saying they were at home, possibly in their back garden, so we headed off there.
It was a retired couple with a lovely quaint house with lots of wood panelling (I reckon the chap used to be a joiner or something similar). This was our room:After we had showered Klaus got in touch with his friend Istvan who lives in Roermond to see if he was free. He and his wife invited us for dinner, so we hopped into the Velomobiles and rode the 3km to Istvan’s house, where we had a very tasty meal and lots of very good conversation. Istvan and his wife Ingrid were really interesting people and it was great to get to know them. Klaus met Istvan through a photography forum and had known him for ten years or so.Istvan has a very good coffee machine…We also had some cake!We were all pretty tired so headed off at 9:30pm through Roermond, which was a really lovely ride in the dark on the good cycle paths.The total ride today was 58.52km at an average of 18.4 km/h.Here are the statistics, note that the average heart rate is a very relaxed 120.Once again we were really happy with the Vrienden op de fiets accommodation. The velomobiles were in the garden under an awning and well away from prying eyes. We slept very well after our cycling and socialising!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 4: Kempen to Maastricht

And so the second part of our Tour began!

We had two days at home after the first three touring days, during which we washed our cycling gear and I collected Millie from friend Ralf’s where she had been staying.

My initial feeling when riding Millie was “wow, she is so easy and fast!” and the fact she is also a lot quieter than Humphrey was also fairly noticeable.

This was a chance to see if my difficulties with Humphrey were because of my fitness rather than his form. It was also a chance for me to rest my tired good arm and to enjoy a bit more cockpit space!

We decided that on the first day we would ride to Maastricht and so began the search for hotels which had room for velomobiles. We did lots of searching and didn’t find any very good options, so decided instead to join Vrienden op de Fiets and see if there were options to stay in Maastricht.

For those who don’t know, Vrienden op de fiets is a Dutch organisation where people can offer to host cyclists and the cyclist pays 19,00 EUR per night including breakfast. It costs only 10 EUR to join and then you have access to the database of hosts.

There were several in Maastricht and Roermond (for the next day) but in the end only one in each place was available. You are of course staying in people’s private houses and if they have something else on then it’s a no-go. Anyway, we had a place booked with a lady in Maastricht and with a chap in Roermond and thought we’d give it a go.

Klaus had planned the route this time, and this was our first day’s route:

It was planned to go past Ralf’s house as he thought he might be able to join us for some of the ride but in the end he wasn’t able.

We set off at 10:30am having packed everything into our velomobiles (I had to remember how to best utilise Millie’s limited space) and we headed off on very familiar roads at first.

It was a grey day and the weather forecast was for clouds all day but at least the temperatures were warmer than at the start of the first part of this tour – when it was snowing and minus four degrees! We were also happy to know that the forecast was improving for the next two days.

Unfortunately Klaus had an altercation with a dodgy driver after just 3km. Approaching a red traffic light the chap did an incredibly close pass on Klaus and then stopped at the light and jumped out and started remonstrating with Klaus. Klaus was about to get out of his velomobile (at which point he would have been seen to be considerably larger than this chap!) and the chap got back in his car and drove off when the lights went green. This wasn’t a very pleasant start to the tour, and especially not in Kempen which is Really Above That Kind Of Thing. The altercation happened 50 metres from the ‘Fahrradfreundliche Stadt’ sign (Bicycle-friendly city).

However, I guess all cyclists have these experiences from time to time, and we just have to suck it up and get on with our ride. Which we did.

At the roundabout onto the road to Grefrath we transition from the road to the cycle path and it’s a bit of a bumpy corner. Klaus was ahead and I noticed something black bouncing around in his wake. I cycled past it and it was a large black plastic circle. I couldn’t think where it came from on Celeste… and then after about 100 metres I suddenly realised it was a rolled-up inner tube. So I stopped and went back and indeed it was one of Klaus’s spare tubes that had bounced out of the luggage storage space at the front of Celeste. It was a Schwalbe one so that was a good 5 Euros saved!

Along the road to Grefrath we suddenly found ourselves riding over a couple of broken bottles. We stopped and immediately cleaned the tyres as best we could – I didn’t fancy getting a puncture, especially as I hadn’t had one since 1 January 2017!

As we headed into Lobberich I realised I was pretty desperate for the loo. I knew there were loos at Café Floral so we agreed to stop there. You can pay to use a loo if you aren’t a customer in Germany but in the end we decided to stop and to share a slice of cake, we chose this very nice cherry meringue cream confection.

We also had a cuppa each and enjoyed warming up a bit. But we realised that stopping after 17km on a 105km day was perhaps not the best distribution of breaks so it was time to ride on.

We rode past Breyell and then as we were heading to Boisheim I noticed Millie felt a bit rough. Soon enough that regular bump-bump-bump feeling intruded – clearly a puncture. Not only was it the first in fifteen months but I had had the same tyres on the whole time (which were pretty worn out). I used to use Duranos on Millie and had a puncture a week; since fitting Durano Pluses I had been puncture-free. They are heavier tyres so you pay a little with speed/efficiency but it is worth it as tyre changing is a pain in the neck.

It was cold where we stopped to change the tube and tyre and the cold wind whistling past us wasn’t nice. We put the new Durano Plus on and saw a very impressive flint that had got the whole way through the Durano Plus; the tyre was absolutely peppered with other pieces of stone and glass but they had all been stopped by the puncture-resistant band. I am very impressed with how these tyres have performed, and they had done 9000km too.

Our tyre changing provided a small amount of entertainment for the locals, as did pumping up a tyre to 8 bar (110 PSI) with a small hand pump, but we managed it between us and set off again.

We were approaching slightly less flat territory and I found myself on the road doing 61km/h at one point. I ended up with a Strava Queen of the Mountains for this so that was a bonus!

Klaus had routed us to the Meinweg National Park as we have ridden this great, smooth cycle road in the other direction but never going towards NL. Just before we crossed into the national park, whilst till in Germany, we had to have a pee stop behind some trees. This is very illegal in the Netherlands although apparently it is OK in Germany, so we made the most of the opportunity. I had also realised that if we were to make the time our host requested (between 17:00 and 17:30) we probably wouldn’t be able to have another stop – and had 70km to ride! This was a bit of pressure!

So we set off, riding separately at our own pace. Klaus had great fun with Celeste, managing to hit 71 km/h. I was a bit slower but enjoyed the downhills. We were now in the Netherlands.

We now followed Klaus’s track through some very nice countryside indeed, with lots of quiet lanes. Most of the photos below are taken by Klaus (as you can probably tell by the colour of the velomobile nose in shot!)

Following the pre-prepared Garmin track is very easy and means that we could relax and just enjoy the pedalling. There were a few trickier bits, such as finding the way onto the cycle track to cross this bridge. We were crossing a canal that runs a little way away from the Maas.

Most of our route was very good cycle paths, with some quiet B roads as well. We were making good progress, Millie was much easier for me to ride and the warmer weather also helped. Because we were following the canal and also later the Maas river we crossed from one side of the dyke to the other quite regularly and this included some short, steep climbs to get onto the dyke. At this point I discovered that Millie’s Schlumpf really doesn’t sound very healthy when in its low gear. Having now ridden Humphrey, who also has a Schlumpf, I know how it should feel and sound – and Millie’s is not well. I am making plans to either replace it or to put a normal double chainset on there, and also to reduce the size of the large chainring to assist me with hill starts etc. When riding along one has plenty of time to plan these things…

We crossed the Maas river with a ferry at Berg and then found ourselves in Belgium, so this was a 3 countries tour again.

As you can see, the road surface was pretty rough in Belgium, but it was a nice ride along the top of the dyke for quite a few kilometres before we turned and rode alongside the canal towards Maastricht.

We had ridden from Maastricht to Lanaken on our previous tour in this region and this time we approached Maastricht in the reverse direction, arriving where there were a lot of roadworks but we were waved through. The cycle path was still mostly in place!

Klaus photographed this former church which is now a gym. He had previously told me about a church in Maastricht which was now a bookshop, so they are obviously repurposing some redundant buildings!

We rode straight to our Vrienden House and arrived at the right time, having ridden the 70km non-stop. We met our hostess, Anke, who was very friendly and spoke very good German. Although I had sent her links to internet pages about velomobiles when checking she had room in her garage, she was a bit surprised how large they were. However, we did manage to fit them in her garage (she had recently had to empty her deceased mother’s house of belongings so they were stored in the garage too).

We had a good chat to Anke and our room was very nice. She had to go out in the evening but we said we wouldn’t do much, just go out for food, so we walked just down the road to a pizzeria we had noticed. It was very high quality food and I noticed they also had a Pizza Celeste!

We very much enjoyed our pizzas (we are off the low-carb diet when touring) and it was then time for bed. I am always pooped after a long cycle ride, particularly without many stops! In the end I went to bed at 20:15 so this is really showing my age! But we were very encouraged by our first experience of Vrienden op de fiets and already started discussing whether we could use this for our summer tour around the Netherlands in June.

Today’s ride was 106km and here are my statistics, the average heart rate is lower than on the first day of the tour with Humphrey but still pretty high.

We had purposely planned a shorter day the next day, just 55km to Roermond, but it was great to be touring again, even just for three days, and great to be in Millie again with the more comfortable cockpit for me.

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 1: Kempen to Rees am Rhein

Day 1 of the Tour

We had seen the weather forecast and consequently planned a short day (under 60km) for today. My original route had been less direct and 20km more but with lots of snow and ice yesterday, and continuing light snow this morning meant we definitely wanted to limit the distance. It was minus 3 outside so we faffed around at home in the morning waiting for the snow to clear.

It didn’t, there were still periodic white flurries, but it wasn’t settling so we decided to set off anyway.

Yesterday we had pumped up the tyres and given the bikes a once-over, plus added my Garmin speed sensor to the rear axle and cadence sensor to the crank. Today we just hopped in and set off – once I had got my new Garmin to recognise the cadence and speed sensors, as well as the heart rate monitor. This was the work of moments, the whole thing extremely easy. Top marks to Garmin!

I have never previously ridden with a cadence sensor so today’s ride would be an interesting learning experience.

This was our route for today:

So we set off with flakes of snow swirling about. In this photo I tried to get some snowflakes but I don’t think I was successful!

We both chose to ride with the Schaumdeckel (foam cover) but underneath that we each just had one long-sleeved cycling top; you don’t need lots of layers inside a Velomobile as you generate your own warmth.

We planned to ride to Xanten first and stop there for lunch. Xanten is somewhere we ride to fairly regularly so we knew the way very well, but this time we were largely cycling on the cycle paths rather than on the road. This was because we were slower due to the weather. There were some icy patches so we had to take care.

We took the normal roads to Stenden, then Sevelen; we love the road to Sevelen as it is 7km of dead straight road with hardly any junctions (= Velomobile fun!) but when you are riding slowly and there is a bitter side wind buffeting you about it seems quite a lot longer!! We were not quick, but that was to be expected as it was very cold!

One thing that disturbed me a little on this ride was the wind noise whistling over the front of the QuattroVelo. I don’t know if it’s the sound of the wind on the visor, on the mirrors or just generally on the front, but at times it was a real banshee shrieking and it was very annoying. This  noise was louder than the gear noises! It seems to be related to side winds as when we changed direction it reduced, but it was very annoying. Klaus says he has it too on his Strada.

After cycling for an hour it was time to stop to put our feet down. When riding Velomobiles you can get cold feet and also lose the sensation in your toes a bit, so it is good to stop and take your feet out of the clipless pedals and let the blood flow back into them. Klaus especially has problems with cold feet when it is less than 10 degrees outside, and it was definitely that today! We stopped in a lay-by just after Issum for a five minute break.

We set off again, this time with me in the lead and on the road (no cycle path). This was a faster stretch and the snow had stopped, but it was still really cold! We wended our way towards Xanten and I also began to get very cold feet. The QuattroVelo has two large openings for the feet and they let the cold air in, and when the wind blew from a particular side angle it blew cold air up my trouser leg!

We had to go over a couple of motorway bridges and I noticed that my heart rate was very high on these slight inclines – reaching 190bpm. In fact, this year my heart rate has generally been very high when cycling (although my resting heart rate has reduced to 60 bpm) so I wonder if this has anything to do with the low carb diet. My average heart rate for the whole ride was 162, whereas Klaus’s was 133, which is where mine used to be. Perhaps it is just a sign of my lack of fitness.

There wasn’t much traffic about as we rolled into Xanten. We stopped at our usual cafe and ordered some hot soup and a hot cup of tea.

Klaus tried to thaw out his feet but it took a long time!

We sat in the cafe for about an hour, enjoying the break and the hot food. Klaus’s feet slowly began to regain some sensation, but we knew we would be pedalling in the cold again soon. Whilst we were waiting the skies cleared of snow and we saw some blue at last!

We set off out of Xanten taking a different route than normal. We usually take the Alleenradweg which goes to Marienbaum but this time we stayed closer to the Rhein, again staying on the cycle path. We had the fun of having to press some traffic light buttons which is not very easy from within a Velomobile with the Schaumdeckel on!

Part of this route goes along the Rhein flood dykes and this was great fun with a tailwind, comfortable cruising. The QuattroVelo isn’t fast but once it gets going it rolls nicely, and it is definitely smoother over rough roads than the Milan.

It was just 18km to Rees and the time passed quickly. We rolled over the bridge and then headed for the town, finding our way easily to our hotel, Rheintoreins.

We checked into the hotel, storing the Velomobiles in a locked garage, and then Klaus photographed himself in a ball whilst I was filling in the paperwork…

The room was very nice and we each had a much-appreciated hot shower and a cuppa as we warmed up a bit.

We went out in search of food and Klaus took these pictures of Rees.

We cycled over the bridge in the distance.

And proof of which river we were visiting today:

We found an Italian restaurant and had a pizza (carbohydrates!) as we fancied one after all our riding, then returned to our hotel.

The weather forecast is a bit better for tomorrow – cold still, but perhaps 3-4 degrees warmer than today, and with a slightly reduced wind. We hope to have slightly warmer feet during our riding. We have a bit further to go, 77km, but should have the wind more at our backs which will help.

And the statistics for my ride today, from Garmin Connect:

As you can see, I have a very low cadence (pedalling speed). We knew this, but it is interesting to now measure it. I cannot pedal any faster, this is my comfortable speed and has served me well for a decade.

Anyway, we are pleased to be on tour again despite the Siberian weather, and hope for another good day tomorrow.

And here is Klaus’s report for the day:

Wir sind erst gegen 12 Uhr losgefahren, um dem Schnee zu entgehen… naja hat nicht ganz geklappt. Ein ordentlicher Wind aus Nordost hat uns noch ein paar Flöckchen um die Ohren gehauen. Eigentlich ist es im VM schön kuschelig, aber die Fusszehen sind mir nach 2h fast abgefroren. Nach 1h Pause in Xanten hatte ich dann wieder etwas Gefühl in den Zehen. Die letzten 18 Kilometer waren einfach zu cruisen, da der Wind von schräg hinten kam.

Tomorrow we will cycle along the Nederrijn to Arnhem and will then rejoin the Rhine as it has become the Waal at Nijmegen. We are looking forward to it!

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Auntie Helen buys *another* Velomobile – Humphrey the Quattrovelo

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

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

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

When you have a Milan, why buy a Quattrovelo?

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

Firstly, the negative points about the Milan GT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The waiting list is long…

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

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

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

And then finally:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First impressions of the QV

How it looks

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

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

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

How it rides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting in and out, and comfort in the cockpit

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

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

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

A couple more test rides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We crossed back again at Steyl

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

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

Pimp my velomobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the tiller stashed behind the Süllrand:

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

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

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

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

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

Quattrovelo by sunset

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

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

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

My conclusions after 2 weeks of Quattrovelo ownership

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

PROS

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

CONS

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

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

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

An update after our tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Wheels In Germany – February 2018 (Month 47)

Cycling This Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other events this month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Randomness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keto Recipes

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

Keto Käse-Sahne Torte

Ingredients for 8 portions:

For the base

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

For the topping

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

Method

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

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

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

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

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

Mascarpone Mousse

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

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

Seen on the Internet

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

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

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

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

I will continue working on my Quattrovelo blog post and will publish that soon.

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