Category Archives: Bertie the Velomobile

Nine Wheels in Germany – June 2019 (Month 63)

Cycling this month

This month has been very successful for cycling as we had our two week Velomobile tour to Bodensee.

My total distance cycled this month was 2,300km and that brings the year’s total to 5,500km cycling and 480km walking.

And here is where I cycled this month – from the North Sea to the Bodensee…

The Veloviewer Wheel includes walks as well, so that is why the total figure is a bit higher.

But the main cycling this month was our Bodensee Tour and you can read the various posts about it here:

Day 1: Kempen to Drachenfels
Day 2: Drachenfels to Walluf
Day 3: Walluf to Speyer
Day 4: Speyer to Appenweier
Day 5: Appenweier to Bamlach
Day 6: Bamlach to Koblenz (CH)
Day 7: Koblenz to Konstanz
Day 8: Konstanz to Tettnang
Day 9: Tettnang to Bad Buchau
Day 10: Bad Buchau to Eislingen
Day 11: Eislingen to Gündelbach
Day 12: Gündelbach to Viernheim
Day 13: Viernheim to Bacharach
Day 14: Bacharach to Drachenfels
Day 15: Drachenfels to Kempen

A quick trip to Dronten

As mentioned in last month’s blog, Klaus had some issues with Emily and wanted to get her checked out by Velomobiel.nl before our two-week cycle tour in the second half of the month of June. This was proved even more necessary when Klaus’s Schlumpf Mountain Drive gave up the ghost when riding up a steepish hill on our way back from the Grensland Tour.

Our trip to Dronten was very necessary!

As has now become customary, our idea was to cycle as far as Vaassen (near Epe) after work on Friday, a journey of 140km or so. We would then cycle the next morning the 44km to Dronten, have the work done, then cycle back to Vaassen where we would stay for a second night. We would then ride home at our leisure on the Sunday.

On the Friday it was tricky for me to get away from work as it was so super-busy, but when I got a call from Klaus to say he was on his way home from work I had the excuse to go. After a quick lunch we headed off on our bikes northwards towards Vaassen.

From Kempen via Sevelen, Rees, Anholt, Doetichen, Dieren and Apeldoorn to Vaassen

We set off at 13:30 and headed northwards, with a cracking tailwind behind us. In fact, it was really rather windy, and and quite a blustery wind at that. Fortunately the Milan is excellent in winds, and the Quattrovelo was also very good.

We were really putting the pedal to the metal and ended up with an average speed to the German/Dutch border of 34 km/h. Not bad at all!

You can see the split times here. Lap 1 was home to Rees, Lap 2 was Rees to the border, Lap 3 was NL to our burger stop near Apeldoorn, and Lap 4 was the final push to Vaassen.

So we rode very fast most of the way. Despite Emily’s many problems (screeching noise from rear axle, mountain drive only in the high gear, missing fixing for visor and periodically-deflating air ball suspension), she was also going well. She was laden with all our luggage for the three day tour (which is almost the same amount as we have for a three week tour), which must have made the accelerations more work, but she cruised nicely. Emily benefits more from the tailwind than Millie as she was a wider backside.

Just before the border in Anholt we stopped for a piece of cake at the bakery attached to a REWE supermarket.

After finishing our cake and hot drinks we headed onward, this time with a bit more of a sidewind than tailwind.

We were soon in NL and onto roads that I had ridden once before but for Klaus were very familiar. He has made an awful lot of trips to Dronten!! I tucked in behind him, following him as he was more familiar with the route. We were still going very fast.

We stopped for chips and a burger at a place he has stopped at before, just off the cycle path near Apeldoorn.

The bikes were parked just off the cycle track.

Once we stopped I noticed that I had developed my leg heat rash again. I get this each year on the first few really hot rides – it’s hot and itchy and a bit painful, but indeed it had gone down again after two days. I think it is some kind of sweat rash, and interestingly this time was only on my bare leg, not on my thighs which had cycling shorts on.

The good news is that once this rash had gone down after a couple of days, I didn’t get it again on the longer Bodensee tour starting the next weekend. I have also had a heat rash on my arms but again managed to avoid this on the Bodensee tour by being very careful to wash the sweat off regularly.

We had a bit of a wait for our burger and chips but after we ate these we headed on fairly quickly. We didn’t want to be too late as we were both tired after a busy working week.

We soon arrived in Vaassen and made our way to our Vrienden op de Fiets Garden House again. The lady Ank who is our host is very friendly and we soon settled in. The bikes had pride of place in the carport, sheltered from the wind which was increasing.

The next morning we were up early, ate our breakfast and then it was time to head north to Dronten.

The wind was really strong now, with branches blowing around in the wind and sticks and leaves skidding over the road surface. Our route for today took us over the Veluwe National Park which had lots of trees – we thought this might be a bit interesting in this weather!

There were some very blowy sections as we had expected, and Klaus had to stop at one point to remove a branch blocking the way.

But overall the ride was fine, and we made good progress again with an average of about 30 km/h to Dronten.

When we arrived at Dronten our ways parted. I went to Intercity Bike as I had asked them to service Millie, and Klaus went to Velomobiel.nl for Emily’s works.

I arrived at Intercity Bike to meet again some people who had been on the Grensland Tour last week. The lady had also brought some cake (as it was actually her birthday that day!) so she shared that, which was very kind.

Right in the entrance way was a brand new Milan SL. It turns out that Intercity Bike will become Milan dealers in the near future. This is very interesting information!!

We had a good chat as Peter was working first on her bike, trying to source a mystery squeak/rattling sound.

After he finished with her it was time for Millie to have her service.

First I removed all my luggage and then Peter took her for a test ride. His conclusion: the tiller was too loose (which I had thought), one of my wheels seemed bumpy so perhaps a dodgy tyre (I thought it was the rim as I had had this issue despite changing the tyre) but apart from that all was well, the gears were great etc, although he needed to adjust the brakes a bit.

So it looked as though he only really needed to do the tiller and check the wheels and brakes. Not too bad!

Peter removed a block thingie from the bottom of the tiller which he said can get worn, and replaced it with a new one.

Here is the old one:

And here is the tiller separated without this part:

It was all put back together very quickly.

He then looked at the wheel and adjusted the brakes, not at the tiller end but at the end which attaches to the wheel. This is always a real pain for Klaus and I to do but Peter seemed much more adept and managed it in ten minutes or so.

He then checked whether the wheel was round – and lo, as I had suspected, it wasn’t. There was a slight bend as the wheel rotated. He decided to adjust the spoke tightness a little to try to repair this, and after the first turn of a spoke key a spoke broke! So after his lunch he replaced this spoke (I had spares with me) and then the wheel was much better, although still not 100% true.

I put all Millie’s gubbins back in her and said thanks to the guys at Intercity Bike, and then it was time to head over to Velomobiel.nl where they were still working on Emily.

When I arrived they were replacing the rear axle. There had been some damage to the axle and Allert had replaced some parts.

After this the Schlumpf was removed and a new one put in place.

Klaus has written a summary of what was involved:

Hier die Checkliste 


– Hinterachse wurde getauscht, da eingelaufen
– Lageraufnahmen wurden nachgearbeitet, da die Lager teilweise stramm oder zu stramm saßen. 
– Einige Lager der Hinterachse wurden getauscht, da diese nicht mehr optimal liefen. Die waren auch die Ursache für das Geräusch von der Hinterachse
– Schlumpf Mountaindrive wurde getauscht
– Ventileinsatz an der Luftfederung getauscht, da undicht
– Visierhalterung nachgearbeitet

Wie sich jetzt die Ursachenkette zusammensetzte kann ich nicht sagen. Ob nun die zu engen Lageraufnahmen Ursache für die defekten Lager und die eingelaufenen Achsen waren…who knows.
Hauptsache jetzt ist Ruhe und ich kann ruhigen Gewissens unsere Sommertour angehen.


Ich muss ehrlich gestehen, manchmal nagen schon Zeifel, ob das Quattrovelo das richtige VM für mich ist. Die Fahrt nach Dronten hat mir mal wieder gezeigt, ob der ganzen Probleme das QV passt für mich. Das Strada war schon gut. Der Milan ist schnell. Aber das QV vereint die wichtigen Aspekte beim VM für mich ein ein Konzept.


Also weiter geht’s. Drückt mir mal die Daumen, damit ich nicht allzu häufig nach Dronten fahren muss.

After all this Emily was working very well again. We had a cup of tea with the guys at Velomobiel.nl and Eva had even brought some Apple Streusel so we enjoyed a piece of that!

Klaus had a test sit in the new Alpha 7 velomobile, although found the entry extremely narrow, and he also had a close look at the model for the new Quest.

At about 4pm everything was finished and we headed off. The wind was still strong but the sky was nicer and our route back via Elburg and Veluwe was lovely.

Just after I took this last photo we suddenly got rained upon, but it only lasted five minutes. We had been skirting rainclouds on the ride up till that point and had been very lucky, and so a short drenching wasn’t too bad.

We headed straight into Vaassen itself to a supermarket and bought ourselves salads and other goodies for dinner, which we ate in our Garden House. Neither of us felt particularly the need to go out to a restaurant.

Our total for the day was 93km at an average speed of 28.2 km/h.

The next morning was our ride home. We took the same route as we had used for the outward journey, but this time I took some more photos!

As we reached Dieren my need for the loo was such that we stopped at an ice cream place – which also did cake.

We then rode non-stop to the town on the border with Germany (the last NL town) where we stopped for Klaus to have a paracetamol as he had a headache, and for us to drink some water. I had also made some rolls out of the remainders of breakfast so we had a little to eat.

Although the wind had died down a lot compared to the previous two days, we still had a reasonable headwind which made the going a little slower. But we were very soon on familiar roads and we did a minor detour to Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof for their much-beloved Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen.

It was pretty warm outside so we found a shady table under a tree.

From here it was only 31km home and we zoomed along.

Our total distance was 138.77km and the average speed was 29.9 for me and 30.0 for Klaus.

Emily was running really well after her repairs, and Millie also had better brakes and her tiller felt more precise. On smooth roads the fact that my wheel was a bit more round was also noticeable.

All in all, we had a very good trip. The distances per day were about what we would do on our summer tour, so it was good to know that we were both getting into our summer fitness. Well, I am of course assisted by my motor, but still I work a bit too, burning around 1000 calories per day from the cycling alone.

Thanks to the guys at Intercity Bike and Velomobiel.nl for the bike maintenance work.

Repairs to Millie’s Deckel/Lid

Millie the Milan has white bodywork but the lid/Deckel is red. This was resprayed for me by Ludwig when I bought Millie from him.

Unfortunately in some high winds last month, whilst parked at work Millie’s Deckel flew open and banged against her bodywork and the paint was cracked. It started to flake.

I considered having it resprayed but this seemed like a lot of money. In the end I decided to see if I could disguise the paint chips/flakes, at least in the short term. So I decided to have another go at doing the vinyl wrapping.

It was much easier this time as I could bring the area I was working on into the house!

As it was already red, I only needed to add white and blue. First of all I marked out where the red bits would stay.

You can see in the bottom right quadrant the section with the bad paint. I had sanded it off a little, but the entire topcoat was lifting. Here it is zoomed in a bit:

Now I will remind my readers here that I am not very good at the vinyl wrapping. It requires patience and two strong arms/hands, and both of these are slightly lacking in me. However, the first section went well!

This was, of course, the easiest bit. I had a hairdryer to warm the vinyl first which made it easier to move around. But I had a mini disaster on the second wedge, over the paint cracked area; I didn’t lay it straight and tried to lift it up again – and it took loads more paint with it! In the end I managed something but it wasn’t as good as the first wedge.

Basically, the curvy bits of Millie are hard to wrap. So in the end I did it with two white lines and then filled the blue in; for the first wedge the entire section was white, and then with the blue on top, so it looked smoother.

But I managed it in the end, and although no great work of art it’s not too bad from afar!

You can see that the vinyl is quite reflective.

And here it is in situ on Millie.

My feeling is that this is actually a bit too much Union Jack, and that I might need to take it off again and just return to the red sometime, but we shall see.

Miscellaneous

This month, as mentioned before, I had to work much more than normal as my colleague was on holiday. She is full-time and I work 5 hours per day usually, so I ended up working some 12 hour days. This is pretty exhausting for me as I am not used to it. My Garmin smartwatch tracks my stress during the day, and here is what a normal working day looks like:

And here is what one of my working days that week looked like:

It was a relief to have two weeks off for the cycle tour and my colleague was working flat-out the whole two weeks. I still have a lot of outstanding holiday as I have done so much overtime so will visit my Mum for a few days next month and may also take a few random days off to enjoy the summer.

Cakes this month

Most of this month’s cakes were consumed on our tours so the photos have already been uploaded, but here are a few which didn’t yet make it onto one of the blog posts.

After two weeks touring eating normal food (high carbohydrate) we are returning to our low-carb/ketogenic ways, so may have to be a bit stricter for a few weeks while we readjust. So perhaps there will be fewer cake photos next month. Watch this space to see!

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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 – May 2019 (Month 62)

The year is almost halfway through already! Shocking!

Velomobile stuff

Of course and as usual, velomobile riding is an important part of our lives.

Here is the list of rides that I have done this month, excluding the ride on 31 May (I am publishing this post on 30 May). That will be in a separate blog post about the Grensland Tour.

A total of 1,218km this month

And here is where I actually went. Green items are walks, red are cycle rides.

As you can see, there was a long ride this month into the Netherlands. That was our Klaus’s Birthday Castle tour and I have written separate blog posts about that: Kempen to Leiden; Leiden to Arnhem; Arnhem to Kempen.

This month I have felt very fit which has given me more enthusiasm for riding. This has included bagging ’tiles’ with Veloviewer, which is a Strava add-on which shows where you have ridden, overlaying it with a 1km squared grid. If any part of your ride goes through that square tile, then you have ‘bagged’ this tile. Veloviewer will show you your maximum square, as well as max cluster etc.

This offers an opportunity to ride new roads to make sure you pass through all the squares locally. This was my square in mid-April, a square which was 6×6 in size:

By the end of May I had made quite a lot of progress with a 13×13 square and quite a lot of opportunity to increase it further with one long ride out to the west.

We had an interesting afternoon with a chap Norbert who got in touch with me through a friend who had read my blog. He was interested in velomobiles so came over one Saturday afternoon to have a look at our stable of velomobiles (four at the moment). He said he found that they were much better in real life than in pictures, and we spent a long time chatting. As well as having a good look at Emily and Millie, we also took him to our other garage to see Celeste and Bertie. He was really enthused, went on a visit to Dronten a few days later and has now ordered a velomobile.

In showing Celeste to Norbert we discovered that her paint has cracked some more.

This seems to be a result of the repair which was done last autumn – it seems that the job wasn’t done entirely successfully. Klaus has been in contact with Velomobiel.nl who did the repair and we have said we will take Celeste to them later in the year for them to put her right.

We also arranged to visit Velomobiel.nl in early June, the last weekend before our bike tour starts, as Emily is making a strange creaking noise when under load but not being pedalled. Klaus thinks it might be something to do with one of the rear free hubs and wants to get it checked out before we head off on our tour to Bodensee. So we will have a tour to Dronten over the weekend (leaving Friday afternoon) and staying at the Vrienden op de Fiets in Vaassen again. This time I will cycle up with Klaus (unless the weather is appalling) and I am thinking about perhaps getting Millie serviced as well while I am there. We shall see.

One Sunday Klaus and I decided to go for a ride to Uerdingen to enjoy a cake at the Markt Café there. We also invited Ralf, who would have to join us a bit later.

Klaus and I decided we would visit the grave of Liegender Robert on the way and pay our respects.

We of course travelled there by velomobile in his honour.

After spending a short amount of time at the grave, we carried on to Uerdingen where we were soon joined by Ralf.

Grensland Treffen

Christi Himmelfahrt or Ascension Day was at the very end of May. The Thursday of Ascension Day is a public holiday but Klaus had to work on the Friday. Grensland Rijders (the Roermond-based Velomobile group) had arranged a tour for Saturday 1 June, and we had registered for this. Rather than riding the 45km to the start in Posterholt, then doing the 70km tour, then riding 45km back (as Klaus did for Oliebollentocht in the winter) we decided instead to make a weekend of it (of course!) and travel to somewhere near Posterholt on the Friday night after work.

It seems the other velomobilists had had the same idea as the local Vrienden op de Fiets were all booked up, but eventually we found a space in Boukoul which is near Swalmen, just 40km from home. The plan is to cycle there and bag some Veloviewer tiles on the way!

I will write a separate blog post about the Grensland Tour.

Miscellaneous

Once again, I had some lovely scenes on my walk to work.

Klaus took this lovely pic of the other kind of Poppy!

This month I changed my work hours from 08:00-13:00 to 07:00-12:00. This works better with my job-share as it means someone is in the office earlier (the production area starts at 06:00). However, it means I would have to leave home at 6:10 at the latest if I walked to work, so I thought that might mean the end of my walks. Fortunately Klaus agreed to drive me to work one day, so I still had my walk home. I have now done this three times, and it is a good chance for me to still get my walking in. It also confuses my colleagues when my Velomobile isn’t parked outside so they think I haven’t turned up!

This month Poppy went on holiday to Berlin with Lars, the son of my landlord and landlady. He had visited for a week and would be back in three and a half weeks’ time and asked to take Poppy back to Berlin with him. As we know she loves the time with him, and likes travel, we agreed. But we really missed her – I came home to this note on our communal message blackboard:

It was great to welcome her back at the end of May, although she had to have a haircut straight away as she looked too much like a teddy bear, plus warm weather was coming, so she wasn’t too pleased with me.

I had a lovely long walk one day where I did a much longer circuit (10.56km) and ended up in Kreis Kleve – a walk Poppy would have really enjoyed, if she hadn’t have been in the nation’s capital at the time!

I walked up past the little stream which I think is the Eschel.

I then crossed under the A40 motorway and was in Kreis Kleve. Where we regularly cycle, but I had not walked there before.

I was very quickly away from the Landstrasse onto some lanes, which were all pretty nicely surfaced, although I didn’t see any cars. There were loads of benches to sit and relax on.

Before long I was approaching Stenden, with its interesting church in view.

I was also pleased to see these visitors returning again.

I then had to walk along the road through the village for a short way before heading over the bridge over the A40 and joining back with one of our usual walking routes. It was a really nice walk, and I treated myself to some strawberries from the farm shop on my way past.

The local strawberry/asparagus place also has some baby goats (kids) that wander around and are very sweet!

And quite a few other animals too!

I have tried to keep up the walking despite Poppy not being around and have been reasonably successful in this. I tend to want to do a walk each day, if I don’t go out I feel a bit cooped up!

Over the last few months I have shown screenshots of my VO2 Max reading as measured by my Garmin Vivoactive 3 smartwatch. I started off with a ‘very poor’ VO2 Max reading for my age (which is 47) but it has been steadily improving due to all my walking (it is only measuring it through walking, not cycling). This month the improvement continued, and it seems I am now a 20-year-old in fitness terms!

The European Elections

I don’t want this blog to become too political as I am just so tired of it all. But readers will know that I very much support Britain remaining in the European Union – not just because that is to my benefit as someone who has exercised my right of freedom of movement, but also because I believe it is better for the UK and the rest of Europe.

I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t get a chance to vote in the European Elections as a UK citizen. I had to decide whether or not to vote in Germany (I had this option); I had to register at the Rathaus by a certain date if I wanted to vote in Germany. This date was before Britain had decided whether or not we would be taking part, but my hunch was that we would, and that I wanted to vote in England rather than Germany. So I held fire from registering in Germany and waited for my vote to come.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, seven days before the vote, my documents arrived.

I filled it in immediately.

Klaus also had a postal vote as he had expected to be in Korea for work on the day of the election (although in the end that was postponed). His ballot paper was interesting and rather different than the British one which had, if I remember correctly, 7 parties:

German postal vote form – 40 parties to choose from, including 4 Tierschutz (animal care) parties

There were also some interesting people on the German ballot, where you have to give some personal info (unlike the UK one)

Check out number 10, Die Partei, and the names…

We had both completed our ballots in about ten minutes and then I had to purchase the 3,70 € postage to send it back to England. I really hope the post was quick enough for it to arrive in time – a week is not that long for international letters if you are unlucky.

Of course, I was much luckier than a lot of people in France who apparently didn’t receive their postal ballots, plus of course so many of the European citizens in the UK who were denied their right to vote due to councils failing to send them a form or process it in time.

The elections are over and in Germany the results were good (in my opinion). Clearly in the UK the Brexit muddle continues. But there is nothing I can do about it now I have cast my vote, I just have to watch and wait and see.

A trip to Mannheim

More than a year ago, a WhatsApp group of Klaus’s former classmates from his secondary school/Realschule started discussing having a Klassentreffen or Class Reunion. Eventually they fixed on a date and Klaus said he would like to go. This would of course also give him an opportunity to visit his father who moved to Mannheim a few months ago.

The Klassentreffen was on a Saturday evening so we booked a hotel for Saturday. We arranged to meet with Klaus’s friend Martin after lunch on Saturday, and it was good to spend time with him. We then headed to our hotel in Lorsch which was just 2km from the bar where the Klassentreffen would take place. I dropped Klaus off at the bar at 17:00 and headed back to our hotel.

I had decided to have a mini explore of Lorsch which has in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site in its Abbey.

Carolingian Gatehall
Inside the Gatehall looking towards the Abbey

After doing a bit of sightseeing I stopped and had a piece of cake which was actually slightly disappointing (a bit dry). A disappointing cake is unusual in Germany!

The shops were all closed in Lorsch (Saturday afternoon is apparently not a great time for shopping!) so I went back to the hotel and then went out for a longer walk. I dropped in on Klaus’s Klassentreffen as I was round the corner and said hello, and then left him to it. He eventually rolled into the hotel at 2am, having had a really good time.

The next morning we had quite a bit of time as we had arranged to see Klaus’s father after lunch. So we went for a bit of a walk up some hills to one of Klaus’s favourite places to sit and relax. He used to mountain bike up the hills behind Heppenheim, and showed me some of the steep tracks he cycled up. We walked up ’em.

Looking down to the Rhein
Vineyards
Sitting on a bench to rest after walking uphill!

We walked back down again and then went for a coffee in Heppenheim. This is a lovely small town where Klaus lived many years ago, and the Rathaus opposite was where he got married.

After our walk around Heppenheim we headed to Mannheim. We were still early so went for a very long walk alongside the Rhein in Mannheim, another of Klaus’s favourite places where he often goes to. We walked 8km with an ice-cream stop in the middle at an outdoor swimming place.

Klaus’s father had of course made a cake for us, so we enjoyed a couple of slices of the Erdbeerboden and a good chat before heading home again. Mannheim to Kempen is just over three hours’ drive, which is not bad but we do tend to feel a bit tired after these weekends.

One of the main two purposes of the visit, the Klassentreffen, was a real success and they are already talking about doing it again. I guess Klaus will be very happy to go again!

Cakes this month

As usual, here is the gallery of cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed eating this month! For the avoidance of doubt, I have NOT eaten all of these myself.

Next month…

The month of June will be very busy as we have the Grensland Tour, the ride to Dronten and then also our two week summer Velomobile tour to Bodensee. The Bodensee Tour will have separate blog posts, as will the Grensland Tour, so keep an eye out for those – no need to wait until the end of June! And, if you haven’t done it before, you can register for email updates when I write a new blog post; just put your email address in the “Subscribe to my Blog” box on the top right of this page. Your email address isn’t shared or used for anything except for emailing you when I publish a new post. I hope you enjoy them enough to want to read more!

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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 – 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 – 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 – 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