Penelope the Versatile moves to Germany

Today was the day, long awaited, when Penelope the Versatile Velomobile came to live with me in Germany.

As mentioned on previous blog posts, I bought Penelope from Alex who lives in Rotterdam but realised it wasn’t a good idea to bring her back to the UK as she doesn’t fit in my car. Alex agreed to look after her in his garage so I could collect her when I arrived in Germany and was only 120 miles away and not across the North Sea.

I then started thinking of various ways to get her here including the train (probably not allowed), cycling (wouldn’t have anywhere to keep the dog whilst doing it), hiring a van etc. At that point Peter, who also has a Versatile and who had been giving me lots of helpful information and advice, offered to collect Penelope from Alex a week before I came to Germany, to check her over and then to bring her to me in Germany on his trailer. I accepted his super-kind offer, and so today was the day that Peter was venturing from Woerden in the Netherlands to Kempen in Germany.

I had a phone call from Peter to say he’d got slightly lost as it turned out his Satnav only had maps for the Netherlands and Belgium and not Germany so it gave up at the border. He actually went past the apartment as he was trying to find it but the numbering of the road is very odd around here and he didn’t realise that a side road was still the same name, Escheln. Anyway, I was soon able to find him and he followed me back to my Ferienwohnung.

We had a cup of tea first – this was the view out of my lounge window.


After the tea and a little chat it was time to go and see Penelope.


She was well secured on the trailer.



We were very impressed with Peter’s adaptation of his small boat trailer to carry a velomobile. James took lots of measurements of the wooden frame as he thinks he might be able to build a similar frame to go on our car roof rack for when Penelope moves to England.


And a close-up of the trailer woodwork.


James hadn’t seen Penelope before. Once she was on the ground with her roof fitted James had a go. Note the track pump – Alex kindly left this for us. There’s loads of room in the Versatile so it can be stored just behind the seat.


We had promised Peter two things as a reward for delivering Penelope – a go on my ICE Sprint and some German cake. So he changed his shoes for SPD ones and cycled on Alfie to Café Poeth in Sankt Hubert for some cake. I rode Penelope, James rode Gudula the landlady’s bike again.

The cakes were rather nice!


Peter was a mine of useful  information about Versatiles – he’s had two, done about 75,000km in them and written one off. It was great to hear his opinion of Penelope – he thought she was in excellent shape and he didn’t believe I could have found another one in that good condition. Even though she’s an old one (number 6, Peter has number 76) she has only done about 4000 miles so is pretty much pristine. Plus a previous owner, Wilfred, did lots of upgrades on the lighting. I think Peter was a bit envious of the lighting that I have on Penelope!

At about 2:30pm it was time for Peter to go. It had been brilliant to finally meet him and the time spent with him was really useful for advice about maintenance on Penelope, etc. I handed him a bag of choccies from the chocolate factory down the road and some petrol money and we waved goodbye to him as he headed off back to the Netherlands and the maps on his TomTom!

I thought I ought to have another quick ride on Penelope so it was a trip to the other local supermarket, Edeka. I parked in the bike parking area.


When we got back it was time to fix on the signwriting that I had made up in the UK in the week before I left. It was very useful to have James here to do this as he’s done a similar procedure on his boat so knew what to d.

First we positioned the signwriting with some tape.


Then James peeled the backing paper off and started to smooth the vinyl onto the paintwork, using a handy Co-op Loyalty Card.


Ready to start peeling the front paper off now!


The web address appears…


At this point my phone ran out of charge so wouldn’t take any more photographs. However, this was Penelope the following morning after we had also fitted the Union Jack stickers that I brought with me.


Today, the first full day of Penelope living in Germany, we decided to go and ride up the local hill (there’s only one really), Tönisberg (well, there’s also Hülser Berg but I think that’s the same general thing, just a bit more south-east).

First of all I popped out to the local strawberry place. You will see from the photo I have also fitted the little windscreen to see how it works (I think it works OK for me – Alex said it wasn’t a good option for him).


Back again – here is Penelope outside the apartment. Alfie is the other side of the garage door, probably feeling a bit miffed at all the attention now going elsewhere.


View from the front with the windscreen. I have also removed the additional rear view mirror that Alex used when riding with the trailer.


We walked the dog and then had a visit from Anja, a local lady who has invited me to join the choir she attends. She came round with lots of pressies including choccies (yum!), a chew for Poppy and some magazines including the German ADFC magazines (the ADFC is the German equivalent of the CTC, i.e. the national cycling organisation). Plenty of reading material! We had a good chat with Anja – it was good to meet her again (I’d seen her at the choir practice a year ago).

We got ourselves organised then for our trip to Tönisberg. I’ve visited it before but that was on Alfie – he ‘only’ weighs 18kg, Penelope is over 40kg, so it would be an interesting test of my stamina. I wore my heart rate monitor to see how much effort it was. This is a link to my previous visit:

Of course the beginning of the journey, on local roads, is wonderful and flat with good tarmac and almost no traffic. Here’s the view from the cockpit.


Yep, this is fun!



This is a video that James took whilst cycling along behind me.

And another

We were approaching the hill which has this old headframe over a mining shaft – Förderturm Tönisberg Schacht 4. Sadly you can’t get that close to visit it – James was hoping to get a good look.


The hill began and it really wasn’t that awful. The hilliness was comparable to some of the hills around where I live in Essex (like New Road in Manningtree or Hythe Hill in Colchester) so not as steep as some. It helped that the cycle track beside the road was decent, smooth tarmac.

At the very top is a lovely old windmill. I knew the drive up to it was steep but it was a trifle steeper than I remembered! I got almost to the top before stopping to ask James for a bit of a push as I didn’t want to overdo it. He took this pic first – see how steep it is!


The pic below gives the real steepness – still pretty nasty!


By the time I got to the level area at the top I was really warm so was pleased to open Penelope’s lid and stretch my legs a bit in the fairly chilly air up on the hill.


The windmill.


James climbed up to see the view. It was rather hazy so he couldn’t see some of the wind turbines we know are there, nor was Krefeld visible although it wasn’t that far away.


We liked these different tractor tracks on the field adjacent to the windmill – rather interesting designs!



We decided to return via a different route, checking out the location of an Italian restaurant that we’ll be going to for dinner tomorrow evening (with Anja and her husband). This involved a short descent, another ascent and then a long and fast descent. I enjoyed speeding back down again but wasn’t sure where the road junction was and didn’t want to overcook my brakes so kept off the gas. I did 44kph so that wasn’t too bad.

James also had a go on Penelope!



The view from above (sort of!)


It was an enjoyable ride and we stopped off at Sankt Hubert’s Aldi to buy some vegetables for our evening meal. Tomorrow is Sunday so most shops are closed so we needed to ensure we wouldn’t starve before our evening meal!

When we got back it was time to do a couple of little jobs on Penelope that Peter or we had identified.

The first was to stop the Rohloff gear changing cables from hanging so near to the ground. You can see the problem here in this photo:

Penelope dangling cables

This was an easy fix, recommended by Peter, which involves cable-tying them together (there are two Rohloff cables) and then attaching them to one or two of the screws holding the underplate onto the velomobile.

We needed to roll Penelope on her side so lifted her into the front garden so she had soft grass to lie on rather than the driveway.

Here she is on her side – not looking very elegant! You can see the Rohloff cables moving from the right hand control to the left hand side of the swing-arm in front of the rear wheel.


And this shows again the issue. Note the holes for my feet to push the velomobile backwards if I need to!


James added two cable ties and the screws holding down the bottom plate gripped them.


Job done!


The second job is one I’d been wondering about for a while – how to mount my Garmin GPS.

Penelope had the original Topeak Panoram cycle computer which has lots of information. Unfortunately its pickup from the wheel was very erratic and although we fiddled with it a bit while Peter was here we couldn’t get it to work reliably. I decided that I would prefer to have the Garmin there.

But how to mount it? The Garmin mounts onto a stem, the Panoram mounting was screwed onto a flat metal plate.

We took the Panoram unit off its mount, so the plastic mount frame was still there, and realised it would probably hold the Garmin mount in place. Which it did! (Sorry for the fuzzy photo, the camera focused on the parking brake rather than the Garmin mount)


Frank the landlord donated us two decent black cable ties – the ones I had were a bit thin.

Here is the Garmin in situ.


With everything done and tidied up we put Penelope to bed beside Alfie who is probably doubly fed up now that his Garmin mount has been stolen. I shall have to buy another one to put on him for when I use him – probably in the heights of summer when a velomobile is just too hot.

Tomorrow we take Penelope to church in the morning (well, I suspect she will stay outside) and then for an evening ride to the Italian restaurant which will include a ride back in the dark. I have charged up all four battery packs that Alex provided and so it’ll be interesting so see how much power a five mile ride in the dark uses. Penelope holds two battery packs at once which is plenty of power.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Translate »