Category Archives: Velomobiles

Nine Wheels in Germany – March 2019 (Month 60)

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

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month by bike:

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

Celeste again

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

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

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

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

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

Emily and Celeste
A view in Emily’s mirror

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

Millie’s brake and spokes repair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And were left this this arrangement inside the wheel well.

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

More and more pulling… unsuccessful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More walking again

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

And I see such lovely sights on the walk…

Asparagus fields

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

A visit to Vaessen and a visit from my Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

Here are a few miscellaneous items I experienced this month…

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

And what’s next…

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – February 2019 (Month 59)

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

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

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

February’s cycle rides

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

And this is where I rode this month

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

Bertie undercover

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

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

Put your best foot forward…

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

A few longer rides

To Kevelaer

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

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

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

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

To the Radfahrer Kaffeeklatsch

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

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

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

Xanten over three mountains

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

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

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

A small Velomobile meet in Rees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had another stop to pump up the tyres.

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

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

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

More on Millie’s motor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using the velomobile for shopping again…

Garmin Smartwatches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dog is getting lots of walkies!

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

We even go for walkies in the dark…

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

(Spot the pink dot on the left… Poppy)

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

One man and his dog, striding forth…

Keto food again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

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

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

How cool do I look?

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

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

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

And some more cakes…

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

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

and… Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – January 2019 (Month 58)

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

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

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

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

Millie gets a tiller cover

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

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

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

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

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

So here was the tiller before the cover went on.

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

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

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

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

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

Snowy January

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

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

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

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

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

And the same day I rode home with fresh snow

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

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

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

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

Rides with friends

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

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

Also regularly joined by Hartmut and his WAW

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

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

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

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

Poppy in the snow

Of course, our dog finds the snow very interesting!

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

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

Keto again

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

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

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

Choir 2019 – Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem

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

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

Einbürgerungstest

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – December 2018 (Month 57)

Cycling this month

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

And here is where I actually rode:

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

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

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

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

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

A visit to Aalst in Belgium

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

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

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

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

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

Other events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in the UK

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

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

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

Christmas morning was frosty but clear and beautiful.

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back on 2018

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

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

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

This is what Klaus wrote as his year summary:

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

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

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

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Oliebollentocht 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We very slowly rolled out of the car park.

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

To me they looked like a load of jellybeans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electric motors in recumbents

Some time ago I electrified my ICE Sprint recumbent trike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So which is the right motor?

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

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

Bimoz: https://bimoz.ch/

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

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

The Q-factor

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

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

Vivax

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

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

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

Bimoz

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

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

The French option

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

Here is the description in French from their website:

Description du produit:

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

Le kit se compose :

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

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

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

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

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

Bafang motor

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

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

Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A visit to Akkurad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collecting the Milan with Motor

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

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

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

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

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

And here is the connector between battery and cabling

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

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

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

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

Q-factor again

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

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

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

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

My feet got stuck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a slightly different view.

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

Strange new noises

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

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

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

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

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

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

A test ride

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

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

So how does it all look

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

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

And here is my new tiller area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riding with the motor

What is it like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – November 2018 (Month 56)

Cycling this month

I have continued with my rather low mileage… this will not be a great year for distance, but there are reasons behind that and I am no longer chasing kilometres.

Almost all my rides this month were commutes.

However there were a few other rides to stretch my legs a little.

Mini Velomobile meets

Klaus had helped to arrange a Velomobilforum.de meet at Streithöfe which is a farm café near Willich. Because of my cold I drove there (also taking the dog) but Klaus cycled in Emily.

We both arrived fairly early and so made a start on the cakes. I kicked off with a Käse Sahne Windbeutel.

Soon enough some more velomobiles arrived. Several familiar faces but also a new chap in a yellow Quest who had ridden from Kleve.

We spent a couple of hours in the café (and had a second round of cakes). These sort of meets are always good fun and it’s a great chance to talk to other velomobile riders and get ideas and information. Despite the rainy weather forecast almost everyone stayed dry on their way home too.

A second Velomobile meet also took place after Johannes, who lives 10km away, told me he was selling his Mango. My friend Inge had been interested in maybe buying a second-hand velomobile so we put her in touch with Johannes. Johannes suggested we invited some other velomobile people so in the end there were five – Klaus and Emily, me and Millie, Jochen and Endeavour (Strada), Hartmut and WAW and Johannes with his Mango. Inge and her husband came to have a look, along with her brother and his wife who were also interested. Cycling chums Uli and Herbert also put in an appearance.

This was Johannes’ first time meeting Emily.

Johannes had also baked a Weckmann (bread/cake) and another cake as well, plus I had brought some home-made chocolate chip shortbread, so we didn’t starve!

Inge’s brother and sister-in-law both tried out the Mango and liked it a lot. They are at the beginning of their velomobile journey so need to try some other things as well, but I think they have definitely caught the bug!

Bertie

As mentioned last month, Bertie came finally to live with us and to be my commuting bike.

As mentioned previously, he needed some work done by Gerrit Tempelman at Ligfietsshop Tempelman, and was still rather bruised and battered generally, but he has turned out to be a very decent commuting velomobile.

Bertie has a few issues relating to the original accident many years ago. One is that the lid does not open and close very smoothly. Gerrit improved this and now I have worked out the knack of doing it, it’s mostly OK. The parking brake lever also got a bit bent and lost its spring so it’s harder to fix it on, but again I am now getting the knack.

Bertie’s pedals were set much further forward than Penelope’s which means the seat is also further forward and over time I felt that this was actually less optimal for me. My thighs are jammed up right beside the wheelboxes and seeing as they are voluptuous lady thighs this is less comfortable than it could be. And, more importantly, I could sometimes switch off the front lights switch with my left thigh.

I asked Gerrit Tempelman how one can go about adjusting the pedal location as in the Versatile/Orca it is a different system than in most other velomobiles. He replied:

It is not mega complicated but a lot of work. It is easiest to put Bertie on his side. Then you can reach the pedals and mounting plate through the footholes. You will need to take the cranks off and then all the m6 bolts for the mounting plates. You will also need to take off the front plate of the chain well. Once you have undone all the bolts you can take the plates off. It is easiest to leave the chainring and axle in the bike. It is a hassle  to put the chain back on. You can then flip the plates around. Once put back with a few screws you have to check the alignment of the chainring. It has to be straight inline with the chain. If not, loosen the m6 (10mm) nuts on the bearing holders and adjust it. If correct put all the bolts back in and shorten the chain.

This sounded feasible, although I was a little concerned that Gerrit said it would take an hour and a half. An hour and a half for him probably translated to two days’ hard graft for me, but I girded up my enthusiasm to lay on the freezing cold garage floor over a weekend.

And then… saved!!! We would need to take a trip to Dronten and I could take Bertie with me and get Gerrit to do it. But why YET ANOTHER trip to Dronten?

Unfortunately Emily’s gear hanger broke. This happened to Humphrey and has also happened to three other Quattrovelos that we know about. This time, though, it happened in a very inconvenient way. Klaus was halfway to work, cycling in the middle of nowhere near Moers-Kapellen, when PING the entire gear system stopped working. It basically fell off. The chain was completely jammed and he could go no further.

So I received a phone call asking for rescue. Frank was at home that day but had no access to a trailer. Klaus had also phoned Ralf and Ralf’s Sprinter wasn’t available (understandably, as it was a work day and it is his work tool!). I gathered up some luggage straps and decided to drive to collect Klaus and maybe we could see if we could squeeze Emily into his car, although she would hang halfway out of the boot. We couldn’t think of any other alternative.

Frank helped find the luggage straps for me and I briefly considered taking my Skoda Roomster as it has a higher roofline than Klaus’s Insignia but it was way too short. I expected we would be leaving Emily in Moers. Fortunately Klaus had been able to push her down the road to a garden centre who were happy to store her for him.

So I drove towards the Ruhr area on a Monday morning with all the mega traffic including a traffic jam on the slip road from the motorway, but I eventually arrived and Klaus was able to hop into the car to get warm again (three cheers for heated seats) as of course he was wearing lightweight cycle clothing which is all you need in a velomobile. Emily was to stay at the garden centre until we could rescue her.

We would drive home and then he would take the car to work, so he would be late and had to cancel some meetings. Not very ideal really. He also rang work and asked if he could borrow the work’s van and they said yes, so we knew he could pick Emily up later in the day.

I ended up an hour late to work, Klaus two hours late, but he was able to collect Emily that afternoon and she was unloaded outside our house and wheeled into the garage.

So the following Saturday we would head up to Dronten. Rather than yet again bothering Ralf to borrow his Sprinter, we decided to try out the new towing hook on Klaus’s car and rent ourselves a trailer. Conveniently there is a rental place with 24 hour access at the filling station just 3km away. I went along in Bertie to measure up the trailer.

The perspective here makes the trailer look shorter than Bertie but it isn’t, it was 3.2m long and theoretically wide enough for both velomobiles. Which indeed it was!

Here we are in Dronten about to unload a poorly Emily.

Klaus took Emily into Velomobiel.nl and I wheeled Bertie round to Gerrit Tempelman who set to work on my pedals.

I have to say, having watched what he did, I am extremely glad that he did the job and not me!

There was a spring somewhere in the innards that broke so he had to just make the chain a bit tighter and said that Bertie might be a little noisier for a while, but actually he has seemed about the same and the pedals are definitely fitted better. Previously there was a kind of grinding feeling when pushing hard but now they are much smoother. Seat position and pedal position is all much more comfortable so this is a real improvement.

Bertie is now a pretty decent commuting bike and I find him more convenient than Millie. Firstly because if it rains I don’t get wet, but also because there is more luggage space for grocery shopping and it’s easier to get to.

Here is Bertie transporting 100 eggs without any issues!

With the seat in place you can barely see them!

I find my commutes aren’t that much slower because of the terrain I have to ride to work (sharp corners, stops) which don’t favour the Milan. He has a slightly sticky left brake so I am just braking on the right hand side at the moment until I can get that fixed, but I am waiting for better weather than cold and rainy – bike maintenance in those conditions is less fun.

Emily was duly fixed (more welding) and we hope that she will give trouble-free service now, although poor Klaus suffered with a cold for two weeks and was also away for work so didn’t get much chance to ride this month.

Millie gets some more pimping

Velomobile ownership involves quite a lot of maintenance and service. There’s always something that can be improved or fixed, and this month it was Millie’s turn.

Firstly, I noticed one day that the tiller hanger cable seemed to have been a bit peckish… as you can see here, the cable is eating through the aluminium tiller.

It was rubbing against the cable for the rear brake light too.

I did a temporary fix (cable tie and insulating tape!) and the issue will be fixed permanently along with some other work that is happening on Millie in Köln (more on this next month when I get her back).

But slightly more interestingly this month, I managed to measure my power when riding the velomobile.

Velomobiles are very efficient bikes of course, but as a woman and a very heavy one at that, I struggle when riding with men. Previously when Klaus had Celeste, a Strada, and I had Millie the Milan, our speed was broadly similar (he was a bit quicker than me, but in strong sidewinds or head winds I was faster). Since he has been riding the Quattrovelos Humphrey and Emily he is a lot faster. This means that when we ride together I am always working really hard to try to keep up and it’s exhausting.

I thought it would be interesting to know how much power I actually have when cycling the velomobile. Friend Gabi very kindly offered to lend me her Garmin Vector pedals which measure your power.

She posted them to me and I then had to buy some cheap cycling shoes on eBay that could take the correct cleats (Look KEO). I found some shoes with Look cleats and bought them; they were a size 44 (I am 44) but I thought that would be OK, and Klaus could probably just about squeeze into them too.

When the shoes arrived they were actually size 46 so I looked like I had clown feet when wearing them. Nevertheless, they would do. The seller gave me a 5 Euro refund for the size being wrong.

I had come down with a very bad cold so couldn’t do anything with the pedals for a week. The plan was for Klaus to try them first on Emily, but this failed at the first hurdle because the pedals on Emily were done up too tight. Klaus had no luck at all trying to undo them through the foot holes with our rather short spanner. Subsequent to this I have found a much better pedal spanner (longer) which I think should work reaching inside the velomobile from the seat direction which should allow a bit more force. We shall see.

Anyway, Klaus decided he would fit the pedals directly to Millie as he couldn’t get Emily’s pedals off, so we did this. They went on easily enough. I couldn’t test them due to my bad cold/cough.

A few days later, after Klaus had also come down with the cold, I decided to try out the pedals just for a very short 1km lap round the house, just to see what happened. I pulled on my clown shoes, got into Millie… and couldn’t clip in. Whatever I tried, no way. I couldn’t possible ride without being clipped in, and I was getting cold as I was just fiddling about trying to clip the pedals in, so I gave up, went inside into the warm with the shoes and looked at photos online of Look KEO cleats. What I had on the Clown Bike Shoes looked like KEOs but I couldn’t be sure. Whatever, they were pretty old and worn out.

So I ordered a new pair of cleats, cheap Look knock-off ones, but should theoretically be correct.

Three days later they arrived. They were definitely different to the cleats on the Clown Bike Shoes so they must have been SPD-SL. One learns something every day.

I went back down to Millie and hurrah! They clipped in straight away!

So it was time for my first little ride… a short 11.85km up to Stenden but back along the cycle path (rather than the road) because it was dusk and the road was busy. And it seems my average wattage at the pedals was 100. I found I accidentally unclipped several times which was a bit unnerving as there is a special pod thingy attached to these überexpensive pedals that might get accidentally kicked and that could be €€€, but fortunately the pods were unscathed.

For those who are interested, this is what Garmin thought of that ride:

As you can see, I was actually working quite hard (heart rate 151) for my fairly low speed (22.4). It’s winter and Millie runs Durano Plus tyres at the front which are more sluggish in colder temperatures. It was also interesting to see that my left leg provides more power than my right.

The next day I decided to do a longer ride, and to try and ride at a relatively comfortable pace for me. I had a planned route which I shortened a bit as I needed the loo and I can’t safely get in and out of the Milan with the Clown Bike Shoes as the heels have no grip at all and it is the heels I use to push myself out of the cockpit. It was pretty scary each time I had to get out, so I wanted to reduce the necessity as much as possible!

And here are the figures again,

Slower heart rate, similar average power. It looks like I am a 100watt woman.

The third ride was the next day and this time trying to follow Klaus (and not succeeding very well). I felt pretty pooped generally, after having done my longer ride the day before. This time my average power was only 89 watts for the 22km ride.

Because of the scary slippery shoes, and the expensive gadgetry, I removed the pedals after these three rides. We might try again to fit them to Emily so Klaus can have a go, but if we can’t get the pedals off Emily then we’ll just return them to Gabi with many thanks for the opportunity to learn a bit more about my cycling power.

I had learned what I had to. Which was that I average 100 watts or less at the pedals on shorter rides.

I then spent a little time looking at wattage calculators with drag coefficients for Velomobiles, tyre types, altitude, temperature etc etc. It seems that Millie loses up to 26 watts between pedals and where the back wheel hits the road. I am not sure if this is a realistic calculation but when I put all my info into the wattage calculator (including my weight etc) it suggests that to ride the speed I did for the distance I did, I should have been using 74 watts rather than 100. So perhaps this gives a clue as to Millie’s losses through dirty chain, chain tubes, idlers, tyres etc. It’s a very inexact science but it gives me some information at least… and that is that some extra watts would be very welcome. Let’s face it,  Klaus can probably put out 150-200 watts when riding as he’s a chap with good leg muscles and is less lardy. And I am trying to keep up with him in a velomobile which is maybe 5% faster than Emily.

One way of increasing wattage is to lose loads of weight, do lots of interval training, and generally have a miserable cake-free life. The other way is to build a motor into the crank area of the Milan to help with acceleration and hills. You can probably guess which option I have decided on…

More about the new powered Millie next month.

A trip to Kiel and Usedom

Usedom is a place that Klaus has visited loads of times over the last twenty or so years and he has a very special affinity with it. As there were a public holiday on 1 November, which was a Thursday, we decided to take the Friday off work and have a four day trip to Usedom (by car).

Usedom is a very long way away, 800km or so, so I suggested that we drove halfway there on the Thursday and then stayed somewhere overnight, before continuing on to Usedom. This was to reduce the driving for Klaus as he had to do a lot of driving at the beginning of the week too. We decided to visit friend Gerda who lives in Kiel and arranged to see her in the evening.

We drove to Kiel and as we were a little early for Gerda we decided to visit a submarine which is a museum display.

This submarine was sold after the war to Norway and was in use until 1962 as a training boat. In 1965 it was returned to Germany and once it was in Kiel it was returned to its wartime state and turned into a museum.

Having watched films like Das Boot over the last decades it was very cool to finally walk around a submarine and see how small it is and also how incredibly complicated with all those pipes and valves and wheels etc!

Above is the engine room, below the battery compartment.

The sub was full of these wonderful dials.

The radio room had lots of stations to listen to!

I liked the colour coding for the millions of wheels…

This is looking up to the hatch on the sail. In Das Boot people slide down the ladder – it was actually a long way!

Torpedo room with a torpedo, which was enormous!

It was really good looking around this submarine. You can read more about it on Wikipedia here.

We then went to our hotel to book in and soon after headed off into the centre of Kiel to meet Gerda at her apartment.

Andreas her former partner was also there. He and Gerda both have lots of Velomobile experience so we had some great conversation which carried on to dinner together that evening in a very tasty Mexican restaurant. We learned a lot from Gerda and Andreas, and he was particularly interesting with reference to structural issues on Velomobiles, it seems he is knowledgeable about this. We also heard a few horror stories about new Velomobiles being delivered with lots of faults.

Gerda had previously had a Milan GT velomobile in a wonderful blue colour but had recently sold it as she wasn’t using it enough and had had some issues with it when touring in Finland in the summer. It seems that there can be quite a lot of teething issues with Milans as well as with Quattrovelos!

Here are Gerda and I enjoying our Mexican meal.

After a lovely evening we drove back to our hotel. We would set out the next morning to Usedom.

We had a good breakfast in the hotel and as we were checking out we noticed some certificates on the wall of the hotel. The hotel owner and his wife had both received certificates for completing 60 years of service in the hotel industry. Not only that, the certificates were dated 2009! These people had been working for nearly 70 years! We were very impressed. You can only do this if you really love your job.

We had a short walk to see the Kiel Canal (or, as it’s called in German, the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) which was a few hundred metres from our hotel, and then we set off in the direction of Usedom. Rather than taking the main motorway we largely followed the route we took by velomobile in the summer of 2017, which brought back some great memories.

We were staying again at Gästehaus Schulz in Seebad Ahlbeck on Usedom, where we had stayed whilst on our Velomobile tour to Usedom. The owners remembered us and our excellent bikes and we had another wonderfully comfortable stay there.

Once we arrived we bought some salad and bread from the local Netto and just ate our evening meal in the room. We didn’t have too much energy after a lot of driving!

The view out of our window the next morning was rather lovely!

We had arranged to see friends Rebecca and Henry late afternoon, so as we had a bit of time we went for a drive around. Klaus wanted to show me some of the Feininger Cycle Route (Feininger was a celebrated artist who featured lots of Usedom scenes). This included going to the Achterwasser lake which is sometimes separated from the Baltic by just the thinnest strip of land.

As you can see, it was a little windy so there were some waves. As this was the beginning of November there weren’t many tourists but we weren’t entirely alone walking around at Kamminke, which is right on the border with Poland. As I didn’t have my passport with me, and as Brits don’t have any ID cards, we didn’t go to Poland this time as I would be in trouble if stopped by the police!

From Kamminke we drove just a kilometre or so to the Golm War Cemetery which is on the highest spot on Usedom island (69 metres). It is one of the largest war graves sites in Germany, but does not have the thousands of crosses; instead it has just a few, placed around the rolling ground and among the trees, to mark where many thousands are buried.

Visiting in autumn with bright sunlight made it a very moving experience.

This main memorial bears the inscription That never again a mother mourns her son., a line from the East German national anthem “Auferstanden aus Ruinen”.  The text was previously in copper, but that was stolen. So they replaced it with plastic letters, but they were again stolen. So now it is painted on. Unbelievable!

There had also been similar problems with the plaques on some of the grave areas, which are now replaced with plastic items as metal had been stolen. It feels so appalling that people do this.

There was also a small building which housed a compact but interesting history of the war at Swinemünde (just over the border in now Poland, now called Świnoujście). Swinemünde had been Prussian/German for hundreds of years but was heavily  bombed during the war. After the war the new border was created with Swinemünde now lying in Poland and the German residents were shipped westwards. The museum/exhibition focussed on just a few people – Germans, Dutch, Poles; soldiers, conscripts, civilians; and talked about how the war had affected them.

We walked back to the car and then drove on a little further for a fish lunch. Klaus remembered a nice little café where he had previously had a good fish bread roll… but as we arrived it had gone quite upmarket and was now a proper restaurant. We stopped and ate a proper lunch which was rather pricier than the expected Fischbrötchen but was tasty.

We walked along to look at the Achterwasser again after this – a different area without much wind so it was much calmer.

It was then time to meet up with Rebecca and Henry. We had a lovely evening in their usual wine bar, enjoying the tapas and Klaus the wine (I was on orange juice and tea of course!).

The next morning it was time to drive the 800km back home from Usedom, but first we had a chance to catch up with Klaus’s photography friend Tim who owns a large hotel on Usedom. We chatted to him and it was very pleasant to spend time with him again. Then we headed off back towards Kempen, stopping a couple of times on the way (including for some Motoway Service Station cake which isn’t quite up to the usual standard).

We were both pretty tired after the long drive and I have sort-of resolved not to do journeys this long in one day again, but the whole long weekend was very enjoyable, particularly catching up with friends again.

Choir concert

I sing with the Willicher Musikprojekt and we practice the whole year for two concerts in November. I was very lucky this year that I caught my cold early enough that I was mostly over it by the time we had our performances.

The first concert was in Anrath church which can have a slightly tricky acoustic but it went well this time.

The second concert was in the Friedenskirche in Krefeld and Klaus came along, as did two friends Inge and Frank. It’s nice to have an audience!

We sang Joshua by Handel which is not one of his better-known oratorios but which was very good.

Next year we are singing Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem which should be very enjoyable!

Cakes this month

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – October 2018 (Month 55)

Oh look, the title of this post has changed again! We are no longer in 13 Wheels but are now down to 9 wheels. This is because Humphrey has left us and gone for a new life in Düsseldorf.

But first, here is where I cycled this month:

And these are the distances I rode, largely commuting:

You can see on that list that I used three different Velomobiles: Millie (of course), Humphrey and also Bertie.

Humphrey leaves home

As I have probably mentioned before, Klaus had his own QuattroVelo on order since last December and he was using Humphrey after Celeste got damaged. We had seen Emily his new QuattroVelo arrive in Dronten but ended up having to wait almost two months for Emily to be prepared and to have the necessary adjustments and swing arm strengthening carried out.

As we knew the time that Emily would come to us was nearing, I decided to put Humphrey up for sale. I had several enquiries and one of which was from a chap in Düsseldorf who wanted to come and have a look. He wanted to come the following day, a Saturday, but I would be out at choir so Klaus said he would talk to the chap in my stead. This was all fine.

So Thomas arrived with his friend who has a DF and they both tested Humphrey and had a good chat with Klaus. I arrived whilst they were still there and we had some more chats and then started a minor bit of price haggling. We ended up both happy with our price (I hope!).

They wanted to pick Humphrey up as soon as possible, and in fact both had the day off work the following Monday. So we agreed they could come after I finished work on Monday. Thomas would get the train, his friend would cycle there in the DF, and they would ride back together. This was before Emily had arrived so Klaus was looking rather forlorn.

The day came. Humphrey was prepared. He had a change of tyres, all his odds and ends such as battery charger, touch up paint, etc were gathered together and a few minutes after I got home from work, Thomas was at the door.

He had a cup of tea and handed me some small green pieces of paper (Quattrovelos hold their value quite well) and then he started doing some final adjustments to the boom length, etc.

Before too long his friend in the DF arrived.

The DF rider had cycled through Krefeld on his way here which is a very bad idea, so I suggested they routed back via Traar, Uerdingen, the Rhein Deich and then Kaiserswerth. This seemed a good idea but as they didn’t know the route I offered to ride with them as far as Traar/Uerdingen as the route from there on was pretty simple. They were pleased with this idea, especially when we decided to go first to Kempen for an ice cream.

We all got into the velomobiles ready to head off for an ice cream… and Thomas said he just couldn’t clip his shoes into the pedals. He tried and tried, no luck. Most odd. He climbed out and showed me he shoes – he had the wrong cleats! When he had test ridden Humphrey on the Saturday he had brought different shoes, and they had the correct SPD cleats.

I remembered that I had an old pair of SPD cleats on my Shimano boots which I no longer use (feet don’t get very cold in velomobiles) so I fetched the boots and we then had the fun of removing rusted-on and muddy cleats from shoes to which they have been attached for many years. But we had success in the end!

Fortunately these cleats fitted, although the shoes Thomas had were also a bit bulky and he had some rubbing of the heels so will probably buy himself something a bit more compact. You don’t tend to need super warmth from shoes in velomobiles so normal summer shoes which are less bulky ought to be fine.

We rode steadily to Kempen as Thomas really started to get used to Humphrey. And as we parked he had the first experience of a Velomobile owner… a thousand questions from passers-by. But we eventually escaped and enjoyed our ice creams.

It was nice and relaxing and a beautiful day to be out on the bikes. But eventually it was time to head off to Traar/Uerdingen. As we returned to the bikes various passers-by wanted photos so Thomas and his chum posed.

We headed to Hüls but not taking the direct route (as the road isn’t so nice) but a slight diversion via St Hubert. It was all good practice for Thomas to get used to riding on roads. He followed me at a good pace, he had no trouble with putting the power down although he had not owned a velomobile before. We arrived in Traar and I decided at that point to wave goodbye as the route from there was clear. So we stopped beside the road and I said my goodbyes to Humphrey. I wasn’t sad as he hadn’t been the right velomobile for me and I am happy he is going to someone who will appreciate him much more.

In the time we have had Humphrey, since February 2018, I have cycled 1,145 km and Klaus had cycled 9,204 km so Humphrey had done just over 10,000 km. Not bad!

Emily and Bertie arrive!

Having seen Emily back in August, it seemed a long wait until she was ready to be collected. This process was speeded up a bit by me emailing Velomobiel.nl and telling them that Humphrey was sold and Klaus was rather missing having a Quattrovelo. He did ride Celeste a couple of times but found her harder work. He wanted his Quattrovelo!

Anyway, Velomobiel.nl were able to prepare Emily for collection the following weekend, and this would also be the opportunity for me to collect Bertie the Versatile from Ligfietsshop Tempelman, where he had been waiting for six weeks or so for me to come and get him.

We had borrowed Ralf’s Sprinter again, but this time the smaller one as we would only be bringing Bertie back in the Sprinter. Klaus wanted to ride home of course – this is velomobile tradition for him! Because we knew he probably wouldn’t set off till the afternoon we booked a Vrienden op de Fiets place just north of Apeldoorn in Vaassen. We would both have bikes there but I would actually be coming by Sprinter. I asked the host if that was OK and he said yes, fortunately (so I didn’t have to park the Sprinter somewhere and ride Bertie a km or so to the accommodation).

We arrived in Dronten at ten o’clock and Allert immediately started getting Emily set up for Klaus. This included seat positioning, which takes a while, and then also boom length. Klaus decided he wanted the boom slightly closer to his body as he had just begun to get some hip pain in Humphrey and wondered if this was because he was rocking his hips due to the stretch for his legs to the pedals being slightly too far.

As usual there was lots going on at Velomobiel.nl with people coming and going – it’s always interesting to be there and chat to people.

Emily looked good!

She originally had all Shredda tyres. He had ordered other tyres but not everything was available so the front tyres were changed to some Continental ones – by Klaus.

Allert also changed the ‘head out’ hood to the ‘Alien haube’ (covered one) as Klaus wanted to start out by using that. I would transport the other hood home in the Sprinter. Theo fitted a tiller hanger, and some other small jobs were done.

Then it was time to do a few circuits to check how everything was.

There were a couple more adjustments of the boom and seat before it was right, but it’s important to spend time on this.

Whilst Klaus was doing this, I went and collected Bertie from Gerrit Tempelman.

I did a couple of circuits too, whilst a couple of minor things were also done by Gerrit. It’s a very strange feeling being back in a Versatile.

It was time for Klaus to head off on his journey to Vaassen, and I would go first to Intercity Bike to collect a new battery and visor for Ralf. I had also picked up a carbon fibre repair kit for Hartmut from Velomobiel.nl.

Klaus headed off and had a great ride. He said that Emily made different noises to Humphrey – less banging and crashing at the back, more noises from the front drivetrain – but she went well and he really enjoyed himself.

He took these photos on the way.

During his journey he had the experience of being stopped by the Dutch police! This was because he had crossed from the cycle path to the road about 150m before he had to turn left, knowing that the cycle path would probably have too sharp an angle for the Quattrovelo’s turning circle. The police saw him on the road, not on the path, and stopped him. He unfortunately didn’t have the magic bit of paper which shows he is allowed to ride on the road (we now each have a laminated copy in our Velomobile bags, one side Dutch, one German) and they said they weren’t interested in his safety (it was safer to be on the road at that point), just in following the rules. They asked where he was cycling and he said to Kempen, so they said because he had such a long journey ahead they wouldn’t fine him. A bit random! But more encouragement to always have the piece of paper with the relevant laws printed on it so police can be persuaded we’re really not shocking criminals.

I drove directly from Dronten to Vaassen and arrived about fifteen minutes before Klaus. The Vrienden op de Fiets place was fantastic, we had an entire thatched cottage to ourselves!

Inside was very quaint!

The upstairs had six beds, but there was also a bedroom downstairs which we used. I didn’t fancy walking down those stairs in the night without a handrail!

After a bit of a relax we walked into Vaassen itself to find some dinner. Vaassen has a very nice castle!

We had a reasonable meal and then walked back again, enjoying the fresh air.

The next morning started with a fantastic breakfast which we enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Klaus then set off homewards and I hung around a bit longer as we planned to meet in Kalkar for cake and Klaus needed a bit of a head start. I had a very enjoyable hour and a half chatting to our Vrienden op de Fiets host who restores old cars.

Eventually I set off, heading for Kalkar. In the end Klaus arrived five minutes before me – he was much quicker than I expected!

We enjoyed a slice of cake each, and two cuppas.

Then Klaus headed off again and I spent ten minutes trying to find where I had parked the Sprinter. I then drove home, filling up the Sprinter as I reached Kempen. When I got home Hartmut had just arrived to collect his carbon repair kit, and I’d only just made him a cup of tea before Klaus arrived. Klaus seemed to have cycled the distance in only slightly more time than it took me to drive it in a Sprinter and then fill the thing up with Diesel. Velomobiles for the win!

Our plan was to deliver Bertie in the Sprinter to our second garage for the time being as I needed to do some things to him before I could ride him to work, and we didn’t have any time left that weekend – and we didn’t have space for him in the main garage. We also decided to take some of our spare bicycle tyres to the garage. We decided to keep a seat of immediate spares we might need over the next few months in the main garage next to our house, and put the rest in the second garage, so we chucked the extras in the Sprinter with Bertie. But first I took a photo so I could remember what we had:

18 inch tyres:

  • 2 Schwalbe Kojak

20 inch tyres:

  • 4 Durano Plus (2 kept as spares additionally in our main garage)
  • 2 F-Lites (Gocycle)
  • 1 Marathon Greenguard (3 kept as spares in our main garage)
  • 7 nu-traks (1 loose, 6 in a large cardboard box)
  • 2 continental Grand Prix

26 inch tyres:

  • 1 Schwalbe Kojak (1 Marathon as spare in the main garage)

It seems we don’t need to buy any tyres for a while.

We took Bertie, the tyres and the second hood for Emily to the other garage and unloaded everything.

We then took the Sprinter back to Ralf with thanks again for letting us use it!

All in all a very successful weekend with Emily and Bertie both coming to live with us.

In the eleven days since Klaus collected Emily he has cycled 600 km so you can see he’s getting on well with her! He’s also had his first puncture before heading to work in the dark at 6:30am which was less nice for him, that was in a rear Shredda tyre.

I have started using Bertie for my work commute and have ridden in him three times at the end of October.

It was particularly useful to ride him on a very windy and rainy day. I would have been soaked in Millie but was fine in Bertie.

Average commute speed is about 17.5 km/h to 18.5 km/h, so that’s about 3 km/h slower than in Millie. But in a 4km commute that only equates to a couple of minutes so no problem!

Having ridden Bertie with the pedals in the forward position I need to really shift them to the back position, as I had in Penelope, as that is more comfortable for me. I have the instructions on how to do it from Gerrit Tempelman; he says it’s not complicated but is rather fiddly. We will have to choose a warm weekend day when we haven’t go much else to do before we attempt it, as I think it will involve quite a lot of lying on the ground trying to do things through the footholes.

An Orca at Rose Biketown

Klaus wanted to buy some winter boots for his commutes so he cycled to Rose Biketown and I drove (lazy!). Outside we spotted an Orca!

Klaus and the owner had a good chinwag. This guy’s Orca has a motor but he seems to reach very impressive speeds, averaging around 30-31 on his commute.

 

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of delicious cakes which I or my companions enjoyed this month!

And, just as a note, there are some other reasons to visit cafes rather than just cake. Look at the view we found at one café!

And adding to the cake gallery, we have this month’s Cheddar finds.

Aldi used to supply vintage cheddar which is of course a basic food staple for Brits. Unfortunately they have now stopped stocking it. Oh no!

Fortunately a week later I discovered Lidl were doing a special offer on Cheddar and other British cheeses and stocked up.

I went back the next week to get some more and they had sold out! Fortunately we passed another Lidl a few days later and got the remainder of their Cheddar stock, including three blocks of 1kg. I guess this will last a week or two.

 

So that’s the end of this month’s report. Not much to say except bikes this month, but November is looking interesting as we’re taking another trip to Usedom on the Baltic Sea, plus I have my choir concert.

As always, I would love to receive any comments. Do get in touch!

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – September 2018 (Month 54)

Cycling this month.

This year continues with Klaus doing mega kilometres (he’s now on just about 11.000) and me doing significantly fewer.

My total for September was 352km and was almost all commutes except for a couple of longer rides. I used Humphrey for my work commute twice too, because of bad weather/need for large boot for shopping.

And here is where I went:

This month I put Humphrey up for sale in preparation for the arrival of Emily, Klaus’s Quattrovelo. We have had several enquiries but nothing firm yet.

This month I also ended up removing one of Millies front wheels to change a spoke. The spoke went ‘ping’ under heavy braking which was odd but I decided I’d tackle it myself as Jochen, the usual spoke-replacer, was unavailable. Klaus had gone out and I had a couple of hours before I had to leave for choir so I gave it a go.

It is a bit of a fiddly job as you have to undo some nuts with very little room but I managed it, replaced the poke and then fitted it all back together again.

I have decided life would be much easier if I had a shorter spanner so I will buy one and cut it down to size, I think, before the next spoke replacement.

A trip to Heidelberg

Klaus’s mother’s funeral took place on a Friday afternoon so as we had the day off work we decided to stay overnight in Heidelberg and do a bit of exploring.

I didn’t attend the funeral so as not to upset Klaus’s ex-wife so instead he dropped me off at Bensheim, a local town, and I wandered around a bit.

Bensheim is twinned with Amersham, and this twinning seemed to be pretty successful!

The plan was for me to take the train to Heidelberg and Klaus would join me later after the funeral.

It was lovely to be on a German train again – a reminder of all my bike tours and other visits over the last twenty years.

I arrived in Heidelberg and made my way to the hotel, which was situated right on the edge of the pedestrian zone in a narrow street.

Klaus was on his way to Heidelberg by car and had soon parked in a local car park and made his way on foot to the hotel.

After a bit of a relax we headed off to have a look around Heidelberg, including its famous bridge over the Neckar river.

Heidelberg has an impressive castle just a little way up the mountain.

That evening we enjoyed a lovely Italian meal and were joined by Klaus’s friend Martin for a good chinwag.

The next morning our plan was to visit the technical museum in Sinsheim but on the way we drove up to the Königsstuhl to have a look down on the town.

The Technical Museum in Sinsheim is the sister Museum to one in Speyer. What was interesting about the Sinsheim museum was its two rather impressive aircraft:

It also had a British plane outside with a rather suitable number plate for me:

The museum is great, with two large halls filled with different cars, planes, motorbikes and more.

It was interesting to be able to walk underneath Concorde, and also inside.

They also had the Tupolev T-144 (or Concordski)

Inside Concordski there was more room as it was wider. I liked this instrument panel!

And of course a big difference between the two, the canard.

It was interesting to see these two planes and it’s sad to think that we seem unable to make this technology cost effective now. It was also interesting to read how they managed to transport the planes here – mostly by barge.

It was lovely to see an Isetta in very good condition.

They actually had a lot of really valuable cars, and it looks as though some of them are still used.

We spent several hours looking around and then called in on Klaus’s father on our way home. An interesting weekend and a nice relaxing time as well, despite Klaus attending a funeral.

A trip to the UK

September is the month when I have my annual review at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. This is following the humerus and elbow replacement I had almost 25 years ago.

We always combine this with a few days on holiday in the UK with my Mum, and did the same this time, travelling overnight on the Tuesday night so that we had a couple of free days in the UK. We were also celebrating my sister’s 50th birthday.

The hospital visit went well as usual. A week before I had visited the Deutsches Museum in Bonn with Gudula and Frank and they had an example there of an elbow replacement so it was interesting to see.

This time I saw a lady Registrar and she said that they would discharge me as I had no change in my arm over the last ten years and everything was looking good. This tied in with Brexit really, so I wasn’t too disappointed (it is encouraging to be checked regularly by such an expert team). She said that if I have any problems I can phone them and they will recommend a suitable orthopaedic department in Germany. So it is the end of an era.

Whilst in England I also visited my father’s grave in the local church. The issue of graves and how they are maintained has been in our thoughts recently following the death of Klaus’s mother. The way that Britain and Germany do this is very different.

In the UK you can buy a burial plot and once you are buried you put up a headstone and that is that. The grave can be tended by you or not, as you wish. The church will probably keep the graveyard mostly tidy but it’s a higgledy-piggledy place with graves everywhere.

In Germany the graveyard is tightly managed and if your headstone starts to lean even slightly you will have to pay a stonemason to re-set it. They have millimetre-accurate measuring devices in the cemeteries and they will condemn your headstone and send you the bill for it if you don’t do anything. But this is only for 25 years anyway, after that point you are dug up (unless you pay for longer). Graveyards are well tended (generally) and everything is flat and level.

For the Germans amongst my readers who have perhaps not seen a UK graveyard, here are a few photos from the graveyard where my father is buried. Some of these graves are over 200 years old, perhaps more as the stones are so covered in lichen I can no longer read the inscriptions!

And what if you are cremated? In the UK the relatives are given the urn with the ashes and can have them buried or can scatter them somewhere suitable if desired. In Germany scattering of ashes is never allowed, but the urn can be buried – in a graveyard, at great expense, and for 25 years again. Once the 25 years is up the urn is dug up and thrown away. You cannot take possession of the urn itself, it has to remain at the undertakers’ or another official place at great expense. I am starting to think of ways of getting myself repatriated on death so I can be buried in a lovely calm churchyard like this, or my ashes scattered in woodland or something!

Klaus and I had a day visiting my relatives, including seeing my niece’s new puppy, a cross between a Dachshund and a Miniature Schnauzer. He (‘Chip’) was really sweet but rather intelligent and full of energy. His face looked remarkably like Poppy’s but I guess he will end up a little shorter than her. And probably never meet her. We celebrated my sister’s 50th birthday with an all-you-can-eat curry buffet at her local tandoori. It turns out that you can eat-more-than-you-should in such circumstances.

On the Saturday that we were returning to England we had a trip to Aldeburgh and walked along the beach (after having a cream tea). I also visited the Aldeburgh lifeboat station.

We were very lucky with the weather on this trip, having sunshine every day. Klaus and I also took the opportunity for some shopping – he bought two suits and a jacket, I bought M&S undies as usual, and we restocked the teabag, curry paste and Cream Tea supplies for the next few months.

I shared a cream tea with my colleagues on Monday.

We’ll be back in England for Christmas so I will see how well my 1400 teabags have lasted.

We arrived home on Sunday morning to a nice sunrise at Hoek van Holland.

Cakes this month.

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – August 2018 (Month 53)

Cycling this month

This month I cycled less than I might have expected for a summer month, but I am happy to ride just when I feel like it and not overdo it. Klaus is doing loads of riding as it makes him feel good, but I am taking it a bit more easily, as you can see from the information below about my rides.

And here is where I went this month:

The start of August continued really hot, and I decided eventually to use the heat to do a job I should have done a long time ago – replace the Union Jack sticker on the back of Millie. The sticker I bought two years ago was from a BMW mini and the quality was a bit poor (it was very cheap!) and the colour had been worn away where my fingers used to grip Millie’s rear to move her (before I had the lift hole put in).

Anyway, I had originally planned to get a local firm to do it but then I decided it would be worth trying myself, as a good sized roll of vinyl wrap is only 6 Euros. So I ordered blue and red (and also black for the Versatile when it returns from service) and chose a warm day (helps vinyl to be stretched and to stick) to do the job.

Firstly I had to take the old sticker off. It left most of the adhesive behind (of course!) so I used a lot of elbow grease. When I finished there were a couple of stubborn lines of adhesive where the edge of the sticker had been. I remembered I had some isopropyl alcohol upstairs and that cleared the adhesive in no time at all. If I had remembered it earlier I could have used it to avoid 2 hours of elbow grease. But never mind.

I didn’t have a great plan of how to do the flag on Millie, I decided to just see how easy it was to work the vinyl. The red stripes were really easy, it turned out.

I could only do one stripe before I had to return indoors to cool down, so the procedure was quite slow. I cut a template from a large sheet of paper and then used that to cut the vinyl.

The blue bits in between were easy below the middle but the upper section on both sides was horrendous due to the curved shape at the top. It took 6 goes on one side and 2 on the other, and I am not happy with either really. But I ran out of blue having wasted so much…

Still, it was a huge improvement over the old sticker and the blue is nice and shiny.

A couple of days later I took Millie inside our office building due to mega rain. I think she looks pretty good in our reception area!

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Celeste is now in Ralf’s Warehouse at his home so our second garage only had Alfie the trike in for this month. Which was rather handy, as there was renovation work going on and there was no chance to get to our garage! Our garage is the closed door between the two open doors in this photo.

And the exit route is not exactly Velomobile-friendly!

The owner is working on clearing everything away and it is just about possible to reach the garage now. I won’t need it for a few weeks yet, but fairly soon the new Versatile will appear so it will be used to store Millie or the Versatile at that time.

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One of our Sunday rides took us to Café Winthuis and from there we decided to pop to Weeze airport to have a look around. This used to be an RAF station and it turns out there is a museum there. It wasn’t open on Sunday morning but is open Sunday afternoons so I would like to go and have a look around sometime.

We watched a couple of Ryanair planes arrive, and lots of holidaymakers walk past, and then decided to head home via a different route. We managed to find a bicycle-only route out of the airport which went directly to the Netherlands, so we rode home along the oft-used Ceresweg route and then up to Straelen, where we stopped for a waffle.

We had to fight away the wasps a lot. It’s been a pretty waspy time in August.

A visit to Dronten for a Humphrey repair

Klaus and I were riding home from Moers after meeting for cake one evening when I challenged him to ride up the really steep hill to Tönisberg. Despite having worked all day and ridden to work and most of the way back (85km) he seemed game for the challenge and headed off up the very steep hill. I said I’d meet him at home and went on my way after watching him disappear over the brow of the hill.

When he arrived home he had some news – the gears had stopped working, they were constantly jumping and skipping around. He thought it was perhaps a broken gear cable, but when we looked we realised it was something worse – a crack in the aluminium frame that holds the sprocket hanger.

This view was not novel to us, as velomobile chum Gerd had had a very similar issue when riding the Hamburg Berlin Köln Hamburg a couple of weeks before:

We knew this meant a trip to Dronten to have the rear swing arm/axle disassembled and a new part welded, but fortunately Ralf had the Sprinter available to us and velomobiel.nl could fit us in for the repair.

Klaus had originally planned to do a 3 day cycle tour with a couple of other velomobile chaps to Zeeland in the west of the Netherlands (before Humphrey broke), and I had consequently arranged for a little trip myself to Leeuwarden, travelling by train and taking the dog as Gudula and Frank were away. I had booked myself a room in a most interesting hostel.

Once we realised Klaus would need to drive to Dronten, I suggested we made a weekend of it – that he stayed in Leeuwarden with me on the Saturday night and then, if he felt like it, rode Humphrey home on the Sunday. Klaus was still thinking about riding 300km and from Leeuwarden to Kempen is 270 so a good opportunity to do that long ride. So that was the plan…

We set off bright and early on the Saturday with Poppy the dog taking her turn as driver.

We arrived at Velomobiel.nl at ten in the morning, parked the van and then a large truck stopped behind us. The driver asked if we were leaving in the next few minutes as he had to make a delivery; we said no, we would be there a while (the repair to Humphrey was expected to take about four hours).

The truck driver told us he had driven from Romania. Aha! we thought. A delivery of new velomobiles… perhaps Klaus’s QuattroVelo is onboard. The guy opened the doors and…

Top right hand side looked rather like a blue and cream QuattroVelo. And when it was brought out of the truck, it was indeed Emily, Klaus’s new velomobile.

There were four QuattroVelos and a Quest on the truck:

There was also another British Racing Green QuattroVelo but with a white top rather than cream. Here is a picture with Humphrey on the right and the other on the left.

While we were there a guy turned up from Denmark to collect the British Racing Green and White Quattrovelo.

It was interesting to note that the green colour on this other QV was definitely more blue and less yellow than Humphrey’s, despite the fact it theoretically is exactly the same paint, bought from BMW Mini. What we also noticed was that the paint wasn’t as well done on the new QVs when they were two-tone, with the location of the join not always ideal. You can see on the photo below of Poppy and Emily, that the point of the paintwork on Emily’s nose is slightly to the right.

It was great to meet Emily and Klaus has clearly chosen an excellent colour!

Whilst we were there we also noticed a familiar-looking orange Strada arrive. Yes, it was Roef, coming for a repair to his rear light and a couple of other minor things. Small world!

Now on to the work on Humphrey.

Allert had to remove the entire rear swing-arm, which involves removing the rear wheels first. Once out, the entire rear area with the suspension gubbins was surprisingly empty!

The rear axle now had to be disassembled. I wasn’t watching this bit, I was out on a walk with the dog, but Klaus said it was rather complicated.

And then we could reach the broken bit on the axle.

Interestingly, the fault we had was not the same as that on Gerd’s Quattrovelo although the resulting break looked the same. Our seemed to be that there was an air gap between two pieces of aluminium where they should have been flush together. This enabled a small amount of movement that eventually caused the crack.

Whilst Humphrey’s swing arm was out, Allert added the extra welds that are being added to all QVs now due to a number of frame failures with earlier models.

This was all very exciting for Poppy so she needed a sleep. I popped her in the Sprinter and she found a decent pillow.

Allert put the swing-arm back into Humphrey.

Then it was just time for a test-ride (Klaus said all was fine – there were now different noises from the back but they were marginally quieter) and then we packed Humphrey into the Sprinter and headed off to Leeuwarden.

A visit to Leeuwarden

After we left Dronten we headed on the 110km drive to Leeuwarden.

As mentioned before, I had chosen the accommodation when booking just for myself coming by train. I like quirky things, and so couldn’t resist Alibi Hostel, which is inside a former prison!

There is a large series of buildings which have been converted into shops but also a section (Block H no less) has been retained in its prison form and is now the hostel.

The ground floor has shops, hairdressers etc. Floors 2 and 3 are the cells for the hostel.

The door to our cell:

And inside the cell. As it was a hostel we didn’t have en-suite bathroom and had to make our own beds up and strip them afterwards.

(Klaus is here making his one allowed phone call…)

The view out of the barred window:

And the door has now closed behind us…

We were asked if we wanted breakfast. I said yes of course, but was a little surprised that Klaus also agreed to it as he was planning his long ride the next day and breakfast didn’t start until 08:00. However, he knew he would need some fuel for the ride and there aren’t so many food options in NL on a Sunday morning.

We went out for an explore in Leeuwarden, dragging Poppy the dog along with us of course.

Within Blokhuispoort was this rather interesting artwork.

Leeuwarden is a very pretty town (as to be expected as it is the European Capital of Culture this year).

We found an Italian restaurant for our evening meal. As usual in the Netherlands, it seemed very expensive, but the food was OK and it was nice to sit and relax and watch the world go by.

We returned to the prison and settled down to sleep. Tomorrow was Klaus’s big cycling day!

The next morning we were ready very early so decided to go and extract Humphrey from the Sprinter which we had parked about 200 metres away. This meant Klaus would be ready to ride as soon as he had finished breakfast.

Humphrey seemed to have passed a reasonable night in a small car park behind some shops. We took him for a walk back to the Hostel.

The canal was very beautiful in the morning light.

We parked Humphrey outside the prison and went in for breakfast.

Breakfast was the usual – toast bread, boiled egg, a few slices of cheese or very processed ham, tea and coffee. Nothing very special but we ate plenty to prepare for the day – and to get the money’s worth from 7.50 Euros per person.

And then it was time for Klaus to set off. I had originally planned to hang around in Leeuwarden until the shops opened at 13:00 but decided very early on that was a waste of time as I had to check out of the prison by 11, so suggested to Klaus instead that we met for lunch in Elburg. He liked that plan!

After waving him off I stripped the beds as requested and chilled out a bit longer, before Poppy and I headed off to the Sprinter and to make our way to Elburg. Klaus had an hour and a half’s head start which wasn’t really enough as he had a four hour ride and we just needed one hour to drive. So when I was two thirds of the way to Elburg I stopped at a motorway parking place and checked on the tracker to see where Klaus was. Only 11km away! Very close to the motorway! So I decided to see if I could find him to give him some encouragement.

The tracker isn’t live unless you send it an SMS, it just sends a position every five minutes. So I headed to the last position, then when I was there I looked for the updated position and drove to that. I actually ended up doing lots of fiddly driving and I should have aimed a bit ahead of where Klaus seemed to be, but I didn’t have a copy of his route so didn’t know if he might suddenly unexpectedly strike off in a different direction. Every time I checked his position I parked the Sprinter of course, so it was a bit stop/start.

Eventually I knew he must be just around the corner – and he was, I caught sight of Humphrey who had just turned down a Wirtschaftsweg which is technically not for normal cars. But I drove down there anyway, and very quickly Klaus waved from Humphrey. He saw the giant blue Sprinter in his mirrors!

He stopped and we gave Poppy a chance for a sniff around.

After a five minute break I needed to turn the Sprinter round on what wasn’t a particularly wide road with a canal one side. I was rather hesitant during my 21 point turn, despite Klaus waving at me. The Sprinter felt a bit reluctant to roll  – the reason being the handbrake was slightly on, which I discovered once I was facing the right way and trying to drive off. Klaus went on his way and Poppy and I headed to Elburg.

We arrived in Elburg and had a little wander around, finding the least waspy café for lunch. I could see from the tracker that Klaus was about 10km away so I ordered an apple cake and a cuppa.

Klaus soon rolled into the centre of Elburg and was a brief distraction for all the diners. He had a sandwich and also a cake and took the time to really relax and drink. He said the route had been excellent, and he knew the rest of the route (apart from a stretch between Emmerich and Rees) was really good too. He was having a great ride!

After about an hour’s break Klaus headed on, with another 180km to home and perhaps an additional 30 required to make 300. Poppy and I drove straight to Ralf’s and swapped the Sprinter for Klaus’s car; I had wondered about hanging on to the Sprinter in case Klaus needed rescuing but Humphrey’s repair seemed to be fine and he was going well.

Klaus ended up riding 272km. About 15km from home in Sevelen he had to stop for 10 minutes as he had knee pain, and he had also had issues finding somewhere to eat and drink as the petrol station he planned on using in Doetinchem was closed and he had to carry on to Rees without much water. It was also dark for the final hour or so of his riding. In the end he decided to call it a day at the 272km when he reached home at 10:30pm – he had to get up at 5:30am the next morning for work so no point in riding for another hour and a half.

His total was 272.54km at an average speed of 25.5. He had purposely worked to keep his heart rate low and this had been successful with an average of 133 bpm. Contrast this with my 300km a few weeks before, when my average was 152 bpm.

It’s a lovely route and he would definitely like to do it again, but riding for 12 hours in a day is for Klaus, like me, a little too much. 200km is OK, but more becomes a bit dull as you always feel the pressure of time and can’t relax as much during breaks. But well done Klaus!

Balloon chasing

One Saturday morning Klaus and I were just bumbling about getting prepared for breakfast when we heard a strange sound. We quickly recognised it as burners from a hot air balloon, looked out of the window and saw a balloon really low overhead heading north. We watched it out of our kitchen window – it appeared to be coming into land. Klaus said, “Let’s chase it!”, so we threw on some cycling gear and headed off northwards towards Stenden. This reminds me of the balloon-chasing episode in Georgette Heyer’s novel Frederica, except we were riding velomobiles rather than a carriage with two horses.

Anyway, we soon saw that the balloon had landed just head of us, very near to the A40 motorway on a road next to a sweetcorn field.

Some cyclists had stopped in front of us as the path was blocked. We also saw the chase car arrive.

Klaus has previously had a balloon flight which he absolutely loved, and explained that you always offer to help with the balloon recovery, so we got out of the velomobiles and headed to be of some help. Well, with my disability I couldn’t really help, I just took photos, but Klaus got stuck in!

There were three passengers and the pilot in this small basket! Spot the velomobiles in the background!

The balloon had to be put into a huge bag. This involved lots of strength so they were probably very grateful that Klaus was there as the three passengers were all pretty elderly.

Once the balloon was in the bag they were allowed to sit on it to help reduce its size!

The last job was to heave the basket into the trailer.

After this they all had a drink and Klaus received a bottle of beer for his assistance and we chatted to them – mostly about velomobiles rather than balloons. The guy was very keen for Klaus to have another balloon flight and pressed his business card upon him.

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Preparations

I am really upset about Brexit and cannot believe what a mess it all seems to be. I am doing all that I can to prepare for a possible hard Brexit, although it’s tricky as there’s not actually much I can do about visas/permits to live here until the actual Brexit day.

But one thing I could do was change my driving licence for a German one. I had held off from doing this before as some of the things I am allowed to drive would be different, I had heard; I would have fewer categories of vehicles on my German licence. However, as I hadn’t ever really needed to drive these categories I thought it was OK.

I had to take my UK licence and passport to the Strassenverkehrsamt in Viersen where they took down details, took 20 Euro from me and said that I would be notified when the new licence was there.

Two weeks later I had a letter to say my new licence was ready and I would have to take my old one to give up. I cycled over there and picked up my new licence…

And here is an image of what I was able to drive on my old UK licence. As you see, I can drive most of these until I am 70 whereas the German licence only allows 5 years since the issue date of the UK licence it replaces (which was about two years ago). After that point I need a sight test and a medical approval to continue driving these classes of vehicle.

Still, the German licence doesn’t need to be renewed as often as the UK. Interestingly, there is no address on the German licence as they have the Ausweis for ID. I have had to explain to Germans several times than in the UK we use our licences as an unofficial ID card at times.

A quick visit to Mannheim

Klaus and I had an evening dash to his parents’ home near Mannheim on a Monday evening. This was because his mother, who had been very ill for some time, was reaching the end of her life. We arrived and Klaus spent some time with his mother, we talked to the palliative care nurse and then checked into a hotel. The following morning Klaus’s father rang him to say his mother had died at three in the morning. We will be returning to Mannheim so Klaus can attend the funeral in a few days’ time.

Cakes this month

Klaus and I have shared a fair few cakes this month, this is just a selection…

This is a low-carb Käse Sahne Torte which I made. Klaus liked it a lot, I was less keen (the sponge was a bit too hard). I am looking for a better recipe!

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