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!
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.
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