Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Arnhem to Kempen

Day 3 of our tour, and the last day.

We had slept really well in our aircraft hangar. Cycle tours are wonderful for tiring you out!

The B&B had suggested breakfast at 09:00 (not earlier) so we had a leisurely walk before breakfast where we went to the fence surrounding the Deelen airfield. We couldn’t see a lot really, but gather it is a really large site.

We walked for about 2km before returning to the aircraft hangar.

We seemed to be the only people awake, apart from the two cats who had apparently had a bit of a fight in the night. We heard lots of yowling and then the Movement Alarm on Emily sounded, so one of them must have knocked against her. This was at 3am!

Breakfast was very impressive!

In the past we have found food in NL very disappointing. However, on this trip both breakfasts and evening meals were very good. Lunches less so, and of course the cakes are a bit of a catastrophe, but it seems at least we are improving our luck with Dutch food. Perhaps our experience is leading us to make better choices!

After a leisurely breakfast and a couple of cups of tea, we packed our things and readied the velomobiles. We said goodbye to the excellent host and her dog – we would very much like to come back again to this B&B.

Our planned route for today was this:

We had posted in the Velomobilforum that we expected to be at Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof at around 2pm or perhaps a bit later, if anyone wanted to join us there. We had not received any responses (a bit late notice) when we set off.

Our route started off by going downhill to Arnhem. And it was pretty hilly, so we had some high speeds on some open roads and then when we actually got into Arnhem we had some short, sharp climbs as we made our way through the outskirts of the city. My motor was again doing sterling work!

In Arnhem we crossed the John Frostbrug again, as a few weeks ago, and were now on the Radschnellweg/Fast Bike Route between Arnhem and Nijmegen. It’s an excellent route which is almost entirely on separate cycle infrastructure with not too many main road crossings. We zoomed along.

Soon we were approaching Nijmegen, which is also a bit hilly – we rode downhill to the river (and saw a fantastic cockapoo puppy in the town centre – if I’d had a chance I would have stopped to give it a cuddle, but we were going too fast on a main road!)

Almost immediately we were on a quiet country lane, despite being in the thick of Nijmegen just 600 metres ago. Impressive! We had an issue with two horses where we had to stop and wait for the young boy holding one horse to be rescued by his mum. We weren’t happy to pass with just the boy holding the horse as they can be so frightened of us.

We went through Persingen and then as we approached Wercheren there seemed to be dozens and dozens of race cyclists whizzing along on the relatively narrow cycle path. They were overtaking us at speed which is a bit scary in a velomobile as we have very limited opportunity to dodge hazards. They all disappeared up a steep slope which is where we should also have gone but we overshot. We needed time to work out the best way to get up there with all the race bikes.

In the end, we approached from the other side and it was fine as there was a brief lull in the cyclists. We were waved across the road by Marshalls and congratulated (they clearly thought we were part of this race) and then we passed a field where the racers were all collecting after their race. I think there were several hundred in the field, men and women. Some major event! I didn’t see any portaloos though! This was La Ronda de Nijmegen, as we later discovered.

We carried on of course, with a few race cyclists also going our way (after the finish, going home?). And we realised that we were back in Germany – I spotted the cycle route signs in the familiar German style. We were in the village of Zyfflich and two people on recumbent bikes waved at us, but we were moving at some speed and didn’t stop.

From Zyfflich we went through Niel and then Düffelward. We saw no cars, just a few other cyclists. Sunday morning and Kreis Kleve is really dead (apart from the thousands of cyclists back in NL and then another huge bunch we met in Düffelward, who were on the 160km La Ronda de Nijmegen route, it seems).

From Düffelward we were cycling on the dike on bricks so it was a bit bumpy. We then crossed the Spoykanal and turned south towards Kellen. We then skirted around Kleve, although we briefly considered riding into Kleve to find a café. But Kleve is big and hilly and I thought we would find somewhere to stop on our route. Although I was wrong!

We rode around Bedburg-Hau which was back on fairly familiar roads. And then we headed to Louisendorf which is a village founded by people from the Kurpfalz where Klaus hails from, so it’s like a mini homecoming. We stopped at the church in the centre of Louisendorf and stretched our legs a bit as I was feeling a bit cramped. We had done 65km without a stop and my legs were complaining a bit.

We then discovered that at 9:30 one of our velomobile acquaintances who lives in Kleve had asked where we were crossing the Rhein as he would join us for a short while, but we were already way past and he didn’t have time to come all the way to Winnekendonk where we were headed. It was a shame, but there you go.

It was just 25km from Louisendorf to Winnekendonk and includes a fantastic downhill run where I hit 60 km/h before I started to consider the approaching t-junction and bottled out. I was ahead at this point as we had had to go up a hill first and I had used my motor on maximum; Klaus was having to use leg-power alone, poor chap, plus he had all the luggage. But Emily is good and stable and he didn’t seem to mind.

From this point on we were on roads that we have regularly ridden so for me it felt like we were almost home. And then Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof hove into view – finally a chance for a cup of tea and some cake, 90km after leaving Arnhem.

As usual, it had to be the Mandarinen Schmand Kuchen. It is a real highlight of German Cakiness!

We enjoyed the relaxation, had two cups of tea and the one slice of cake each and rested a bit. I had been interested to see that my heart rate seemed to stay really low again today, as it did yesterday – averaging 95 at this point. That’s really unusual for me, I usually have a heart rate around 130. This has happened before and it seems to be related to me having a very carb-heavy breakfast, which I only do on tour.

However, after we left Winnekendonk things were a bit different. We really put the pedal to the metal, and Klaus (who was a bit quicker) rode the final 31km home at an average of 38.5 km/h. This is with a Quattrovelo which probably weighed close on 50kg with all the luggage and tools. Very impressive, although his legs were complaining about it (and not having had a warm down) the next day. I followed him at a slightly more sedate pace back (average about 36 km/h, I think), and warmed down for the final 2km or so.

In total today’s ride was just under 120 km.

The heart rate data is also interesting, as after the cake stop my heart rate returned to its ‘normal’, i.e. average of 130, with peaks around 160 bpm. You can see here the heart rate trace for the first 90km of the ride (at the beginning the heart rate monitor didn’t work, and it also stopped briefly in the middle where it appears as if I am dead on the trace):

The 90km to Büllhorsthof Cake. Max 125, average 95 bpm.

And then we stopped for cake… After that point the heart rate hugely increased. Here is the trace for the post-cake sector:

Average 134 for the final 31km, post-cake

And what can we conclude from this? I seem to ride better after cake! Good thing we had cake after 50km on the 210km ride on Friday. I have suggested to Klaus that we need to schedule in cake stops earlier on rides than 90km. I hope he will agree.

We arrived home, having remained dry despite some threatening clouds following us from Arnhem. So it seems the poncho that I purchased did its job of chasing off the rain – just 15 minutes of light drizzle over a weekend which originally forecast 6mm of rain. We were once again very lucky with the weather on our tour.

Rain-scaring poncho.

So our mini tour was at an end. Klaus has already planned the next one (we are turning a day group ride with the Grensland Rijders to a three day tour again).

Here is the Veloviewer Wheel to show you where we went on this tour:

457km is not bad for three days. Once again, thanks to my riding partner and pack mule Klaus who carted my clothes, shoes, iPad, battery charger etc around the Netherlands in his voluminous velomobile boot, whilst I just carried the rain-defying poncho as extra ballast. We had a great tour, he really enjoyed his birthday, and we visited some places that we will want to return to again.

Keep an eye out for my reports on the next tour in just a fortnight’s time…

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Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Leiden to Arnhem

Today was Klaus’s birthday.

We had already arranged to cycle some of the way with chum Alex (who originally sold me Penelope the Versatile, and then bought friend Gabi’s Quest XS). He would be very near Leiden that morning so we would arrange to meet somehow. Klaus had planned a route, Alex planned another, then Alex amended Klaus’s route and so we had a choice of three. The expectation was that we would do the Klaus Route with Alex Amendments.

The plan was for Alex to arrive at 9:30 in the morning, having overnighted just down the road as he had some reason to be there. In the end, his plans didn’t work out so he had already cycled 40km from Rotterdam when he arrived at our Birthday Castle. Here is Lewwie (the Little White Whale, Alex’s Quest XS) with Millie and Emily.

As we only had 120km to ride today we were feeling relaxed about things. Alex was having a few issues with his Wahoo Elemnt GPS as for some reason the route today wouldn’t load. Klaus was relaxing on his birthday.

We didn’t actually get to look at the Castle at all, another problem with arriving late in the evening. We stayed at a castle but only saw the reception area, dining room and our bedroom.

In the end Alex concluded he wouldn’t be able to get the track onto his GPS so he would try and remember the route. Although Klaus and I both had the route, if someone who knows the area is in front it is much easier as they know where to cross the road for the cycle path, which path to take when they split etc. So although I started off ahead, Alex took the lead position fairly soon after we were underway.

Lewwie seems quite quick at accelerating. Alex was whizzing off ahead (although presumably he wasn’t weighed down by quite as much luggage as we were!) and Klaus and I were still warming up. Then we realised that Alex had missed a turn on the track and he was ahead. I hooted my horn but he didn’t hear it (he has the removable hood on the Quest and this makes it harder to hear), and he disappeared into the distance.

Klaus and I stopped as it was for us safer to stick to the route, in case we failed to see a turn later on when blindly following Alex. We sent him a message to say he was Off Course and we were waiting. After a few minutes he replied to say he would join up with our route, so we turned round and followed the route.

It turned out (as we later saw with Strava Flyby) that Alex was back on the route ahead of us, when we thought he was behind us. So we periodically stopped and waited (and checked the phone for messages) whilst he was pushing on ahead.

A phone-checking stop beside the ubiquitous canal and windmill. We are in NL after all!

So it was fairly slow going, although a lovely route through Buitenkaag, Huigsloot and then to Oude Wetering, where Klaus had a very annoyed motorist give sustained hooting as we went over the bridge on the road not cycle path (there was no way we could have done the corner to the cycle path). This sort of bad tempered behaviour by drivers when we are on the road for 100 metres or so leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

At this point also my hat blew away but Klaus was able to scoop it up from the road, hooray!

We also had a mini ferry crossing which took less than 1 minute. This was very cool, and only 90 cents per velomobile!

After Oude Wetering we had a fast bit of road towards Nieuwveen. Alex was somewhere ahead of us (and looking at Flyby later we saw he took a different route quite a lot of the time) so we pushed on a bit faster, agreeing to meet in Nieuwveen. Eventually we caught up with him – right by a bit of an obstacle, some Drängelgitter.

All three bikes were safely through in due course.

We were riding now at a fairly good speed alongside a busier road, but the path was set a little bit to the side so was reasonably pleasant. We were fast, of course, being in velomobiles, but were at one point overtaken by a little car (one of the special ones that are allowed on cycle paths – how do they press the button for the traffic lights?) as well as a motor scooter.

We rode through Vinkeveen, I was pulling ahead in the riding as Millie is so efficient and a good shape for the headwind we had. Yes, yesterday we had a headwind as we were heading west (wind was WNW) and today, heading east, the wind had also shifted and was ENE. Alex is quick in Lewwie but the Quest XS’s shape clearly limits the top speed. It is wide and short, and the Quests are also known to be sometimes a bit temperamental in strong side winds.

Finally we were away from the busy road and riding down a rather lovely cycle path. It would have been lovelier if the surface was a bit better – there were quite a lot of ruts and bumps which is sub-optimal with velomobiles.

We were heading towards a lunch stop (Alex had some ideas where) but Klaus was feeling peckish and thought we should stop for some of the cake we had brought from Germany yesterday. So we did. But first I took the opportunity for some photography of Millie and Emily for the header for this blog.

We had no plates or knife for the cake, but Klaus’s toolkit provided the all-purpose knife.

The Streuselkuchen was shared out amongst the three of us, and we nearly lost it to a passing Dobermann who fancied it. Fortunately Klaus mounted a successful defence of the Streuselkuchen!

We stopped for quite a while, enjoying the better weather and watching two storks wheeling about in the air across the canal. We also saw lots of trains going past, including a Deutsche Bahn ICE train.

We then carried on and the bridge at Mijnden was closed when we arrived.

We only had to wait a couple of minutes and then it slowly lowered again and we continued on.

We were now on a lovely bit of road with some really posh houses along the side. Alex explained that the old Amsterdam Traders used to have a posh house in this area for the weekend, and they certainly looked lovely and generally immaculately kept. I guess a bit like the Russian Dachas.

We got to another bridge and Alex took us off-route and we crossed the bridge to have some food. We had a burger and chips seated outside in a nice pedestrian square in a place called Breukelen. Which is pronounced ‘Brooklyn’. Earlier we had seen signs to Haarlem.

We had a very leisurely lunch and then it was time for us to press on and for Alex to return home. We said our goodbyes – it had been great to see him again! Alex sold Penelope my first Velomobile to me and our lives intersect regularly it seems.

On the way out of Breukelen we had another bridge that was open.

And then we were back on fast, easy roads. Having had a decent bit of food we had some more energy and rode on well, passing through Westbroek, Nieuwe-Wetering (skirting to the north of Utrecht), Den Dolder, the edge of Zeist and then we followed a main road past Austerlitz. The road was climbing here as we approached the Hoge Veluwe national park, and we had a little downhill after Austerlitz. A chance for the velomobiles to fly! I hit my max speed of 52 here but Klaus was a bit braver and went to 58 km/h.

We rode through Woudenberg and then Scherpenzeel and Renswoude. We crossed the A30 motorway and then found ourselves to the north of Ede. After Ede the National Park began in earnest, with a long climb followed by a most fantastic downhill. Not as fast as the one after Austerlitz but it went on a long time!

At the bottom our track told us to turn left, but we found ourselves in a car park with a woodland track leading in the direction our track suggested. We didn’t fancy that but I could see an alternative on the main road which would rejoin the track, so we took that way. Last-minute route changes with 10km to go can be rather annoying! Especially as we had lost all our speed from the downhill for this unnecessary left turn.

We crossed the A12 and then the A50 motorways and then turned north, away from Oosterbeek and Arnhem, towards Schaarsbergen where our B&B was.

Our B&B was up an old, brick road. As you can see from the photo below, there was a house and behind it a large barn. The barn had an interesting pointy roof…

And as we arrived, we saw there would be no issues with velomobile parking.

The owner and her dog came out to meet us and said of course we could store the velomobiles in the barn. We could store them right outside the door to our rooms, which were in the barn.

But this wasn’t actually a barn, it was an aircraft hangar!

And not just any aircraft hangar! It was built in WW2 by the Germans, and was the largest aircraft hangar in Europe at the time (although we may have remembered this wrongly).

The hangar is here because Deelen airfield was in the woods behind us. Deelen was the largest airfield in NL and was used by the Germans in WW2, although the Dutch had built it in 1913.

The structure of the hangar was amazing. Super-thick walls, the wooden beams were actually laminate, everything was original and really solid. Klaus thinks the pointy roof was so that from above it looked like a farm building, not an aircraft hangar, so perhaps this was to disguise it from British bombers.

From the website on Forgotten Airfields:

“The airbase was used by the RNLAF without changing much of the original German buildings. As a result, it is one of very few places in Europe where the German “Heimatschutz Architektur” is well preserved. This is why the Dutch Ministry of Culture put the entire complex and its surrounding complexes -a total of 251 objects- on a heritage protection list. Its sheer size makes the Air Base the largest National Cultural Monument in the Netherlands.


The “Heimatschutz Architektur” meant that bunkers and hangars were camouflaged to make them look like Dutch farms. In fact: some of the off-base buildings are in use at farms today. Only if you inspect them up close you will notice walls are a meter (3 feet) thick, windows and doors are actually painted on walls, hatches are made of thick steel, and German texts can still be found all over the air base.


The Germans did make a mistake though: instead of using the local Gelders traditional style of building they used the Holland style. For the purpose it did not matter: the camouflage worked.”

Whatever, this was a fascinating place to stay! And for Klaus, whose birthday it was and who has a real interest in history, it was the icing on the cake!

Here are my statistics from Garmin for the day.

In the evening we walked to a pizzeria just five minutes away. Some of the old airfield buildings are being converted to homes or other purposes and there was a very nice pizzeria there. The service was a bit laid back (it was good that we weren’t in a rush!) but the pizza was tasty!

On our return Klaus took some pictures of Millie and Emily in the evening light.

We can very much recommend B&B Adelaerthoeve, as the rooms were great (we had a mini kitchen) and of course there is loads of history!

Although today was not as far to ride as yesterday, I was still pretty tired and so happy to have an early night. Klaus enjoyed his birthday – what better way to celebrate the new year of life by having a cycle ride and eating some German cake!

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Klaus’s Birthday Castle Tour – Kempen to Leiden

Months ago Klaus said what he would really like to do for his birthday is a bike tour. So we decided to do one!

As usual, our initial plans snowballed a bit, and we ended up with a three day tour, including a very long first day (a Friday). He wanted to cycle to the coast in NL which is a good 200km away. I was a bit nervous about this, but as in my family the Birthday Boy or Girl gets what they want on their birthday, I would go along with it.

We wanted to find somewhere nice to stay and I found a rather nice-looking castle just outside Leiden. So somehow the name of this tour became “Klaus’s Birthday Castle”.

Rather than riding the 200km back home again the next day (his actual birthday), we decided to ride to Arnhem and stay overnight there, then ride back home on the third day. We found a rather posh B&B in Arnhem too.

So this was the plan. We watched the weather forecast for the week beforehand. Rainy, not too warm. Then the rain became more – 16mm on the Saturday. Argh! I bought a rain poncho and then the forecast improved a bit. I had even considered taking Millie’s hood (I don’t like cycling with it that much) but the forecast improved enough that I decided to do without. 4-6mm rain over the day isn’t too awful – I had a day on a trike tour where there was 60mm of rain!

Klaus had prepared the route for day 1, from home to Leiden/Poelgeest.

From Kempen to Leiden, 198km planned route

The day before I had been off work (using up overtime) and I pumped up Millie’s tyres, oiled her chain, ran a wet cloth over her to remove the worst of the bird/bee poop, and of course made sure that my battery was charged up 100%. I had previously ridden the battery for 200km but I wasn’t sure if it would really last that long, particularly if there were lots of stops and starts in NL (as there can be). Of course I can pedal Millie without the battery, but who wants to do extra unnecessary effort?? As a small help I put a normal velomobile battery into Millie for her lights, rather than using the main motor battery for lighting as well. That ought to give me another kilometre-or-so’s motor power at the end!

I packed my clothing as well, bearing in mind the rainy forecast (showers and drizzle on the Friday and Saturday, about 4mm per day). I had my rain poncho of course, which I hoped would do the expected job of frightening off the rain. I tried it on in the house and it was so amazingly static that my hair stood on end; I reckon I can use it to recharge the motor battery if it gets a bit low. I had the great luxury of packing a sports bag with all that I wanted as Klaus will carry it in the Quattrovelo which has space for loads of luggage. He is very kind like that!

When Klaus got home from work we went outside to do a bit more bike preparation.

Pumping up the four tyres of a Quattrovelo
Cleaning Emily
A clean Milan
A clean Quattrovelo
Milan and Quattrovelo ready for the off

Klaus stowed his spare tubes and tyres in the storage areas at the front (which we don’t usually use as they are hard to get at). This was to allow extra space for all my luggage perhaps!

We were ready to roll. It would be a short tour (maybe 450km in total) but as it was a three day tour we had the same amount of luggage that we would need for a three week tour (3 x cycling kit, 1 x normal kit, off-bike shoes, wash kit, chargers, iPad). So it is very handy that we have the huge storage capacity of the Quattrovelo at our disposal. All I would be carrying was my normal bag with phone, purse etc, my spare shoes and the charger for Millie”s battery. So perhaps an extra 2kg of weight. Aren’t I lazy!

Friday morning I woke up at the usual time (05:30) which meant I had plenty of time to get ready. I made us a breakfast of scrambled eggs, and we were out of the house by 07:45, on the road.

Our planned distance was 198km. Klaus was a bit concerned about the cake situation in NL so suggested popping first to St Hubert and buying the Streuselkuchen from the local Stinges bakery. So we set off on our 200km tour, riding in precisely the wrong direction for the first 1.5km.

As we came out of the bakery it started to rain. The most recent forecast had suggested we might be lucky and stay dry, but our hopes were dashed.

However, as we headed north to Stenden it dried up, and we didn’t have any more rain for the next 120km.

I had decided only to use my motor on setting 1, the lowest of 5, for the whole tour, in order to eke out my battery. However, at the very beginning Klaus was riding gently to warm up, and Emily was very heavily-laden so harder to accelerate. This meant that I was sometimes pulling ahead so periodically I turned the motor off and rode under my own power for a Kilometer or so.

We usually ride the route to Siebengewald (NL border south west of Kleve) on Sunday morning when there is no traffic. This is our café-visiting route of Stenden, Pont, Walbeck, Twisteden, Weeze and then Siebengewald (2 excellent cafes on this route). We discovered that there isn’t really more traffic on Friday mornings either! It was a bit tough to ride past Winthuis, with their fantastic cakes, knowing we were heading for the cake desert of NL, but it was too soon in the tour, plus I think they wouldn’t have been open yet.

These roads are fast and we were at Siebengewald, 50km in, in good time. I suggested to Klaus that we stop after 70km for something to eat but as we arrived in the centre of Gennep we saw a bakery and decided to stop anyway, at 60km.

The bakery was empty but large. They had a huge choice of bread rolls, 2-3 different doughnuts and some muffins. Not a single creamy cake. So we both went for Milka muffins.

We had a drink too, used the loo, and headed of again after about half an hour.

The centre of Gennep was rather nice actually. I hadn’t been there before, we always seem to cycle round the edges, but it seemed to have some nice shops and had a paved, pedestrianised centre. We followed our Garmins through this centre, following an official cycle route until… some Drängelgitter!

We both had to get out of our velomobiles to get through here. Annoying.

Then, about 500 metres further on our Garmin route tried to send us down an unmade road. I had turned off the main road of course, before seeing that it was a rough, rutted track, so we had to do a 10-point-turn and then accelerate onto a busy road again. Two bad bits of Velomobile-unfriendly routing in 1km suggested that we might have some more issues on this ride. Which we did. It had been prepared with the Dutch Fietserbond website, set for a race bike, but this clearly assumed race bikers don’t mind off-road.

In this case we could just follow the main road and it joined up with our track soon enough, just a couple of hundred metres extra in distance.

We rode past Milsbeek and then through Mook, which is a name we see on the A73 motorway when driving to Dronten but we had not previously visited.

We crossed over the Maas-Waal Kanaal at Molenhoek/Heumen and then left the Maas and went north west towards Wijchen, bypassing Nijmegen on this ride.

We rode through Wijchen and, once again, were reminded why cycling in NL towns is not great for velomobiles. There are speed bumps everywhere, and the very steep ones can be tough for Millie’s foot bump. The sound of scraping is very familiar, plus you have to slow down to walking pace to reduce the crash. Constant stopping and starting is very tiring!

We rode through Bergharen and then Ito Puiflijk, where our route was faced with this:

The driver was playing on his phone and didn’t look up until I had done some sustained hooting. He climbed out, came to see me and said he had to stay there as we was waiting for the farmer to finish something in the field. He wouldn’t move.

There was a gravelly path to one side and a passer-by said we could take that, but we weren’t too enthused. However, with no alternative we gave it a go. However, at the end was a pair of gates (Drängelgitter) that were too narrow too get the velomobiles through, so we had to push them round the side – where there was a steep drop to some water. Klaus and I carefully guided Millie and Emily round, lifting up their noses to get them back onto higher ground when round the obstacle. I would not have managed this on my own, and I think we lost at least 15 minutes to this obstruction. But the truck driver didn’t seem to care!

Drängelgitter and truck in background
A minor detour but a lot of time lost

We saw trucks parked blocking the road, but we saw lots of good things too! Lots of lambs in the fields, also kids (baby goats), and we saw several storks too. I saw one on a nest (Klaus saw two), one in the air and one standing in a field. They are huge and majestic birds! I also saw a very large heron who seemed to be only a few metres away, standing like a statue as I whizzed past along the dike.

When the road surface was good we made the most of it, cruising at around 32 km/h. Our speeds in towns were much less, and our overall average for the day was slowly reducing. When we crossed into NL at Siebengewald our average speed had been 27 km/h but by the end of our ride it was 24.4, and this was mostly because of the slow riding in towns. But not just that…

We had some more routing issues. Some were our faults, when we had misread the track. Such as here, where I went wrong not once but twice:

Part of the problem was that our track was 200km long in a more-or-less straight line and the Garmin takes a long time to rotate the map when it is so long. So you go round a corner and the map is not rotated to the ‘track up’ position for several seconds. So you don’t realise you needed to make a second turn, perhaps. I had found this out years ago but had forgotten about it, or perhaps thought the newer Garmin Edge could cope. But in the future I will cut tracks of this length into two.

Another issue that we had with the track was its expectation we might like to carry two heavily-laden velomobiles up a long flight of concrete steps.

Funnily enough, we decided we didn’t really fancy doing this, so had a 2-3km diversion back the way we had come to find our way to the bridge.

It seems you can’t get onto the bridge from the riverside unless you fancy walking up steps.
Waal bridge from the dike

However, experienced velonauts such as Klaus and I are used to these issues and we were able to plot an alternative route on the fly.

As we were cycling along beside a canal, Klaus noticed a yellow DF Velomobile cycling on the other side.

The clouds were getting a little heavier but overall it was still dry. We wanted to find somewhere to stop for lunch but our track didn’t go past any food establishments at all!

We were going at a reasonable speed but weren’t passing any towns. We did pass a golf course which I guess might have had a café but I didn’t fancy that.

In the end we struck lucky at a diner beside a ferry river crossing.

Klaus and I were able to charge up our Garmins. The Edge 1000 has an internal battery and although I had bluetooth switched off, because of the route following and the length of the route it was rather draining power. We were able to charge both Garmins whilst eating our “12 o’clock”.

I considered also charging the battery in Millie but I decided I wanted to see if it would really last the 200km so left it in place.

There were some clouds amassing whilst we were eating.

And indeed, as we joined the queue for the ferry crossing, it started to rain. Not such an issue for Klaus’s head with the covering on the Quattrovelo, but he got a slightly cold and damp chest where the water dripped off the visor. He didn’t put the Schaumdeckel on in support of me with no rain hood!

We crossed on the ferry and set off in the rain. The rain wasn’t too heavy fortunately but was still rather irritating and Klaus found he was getting a bit chilly.

Our route went over a lock near Wijk bij Duurstede and then, lo and behold, there was another error with the route as we should then cycle underneath a main road… which had no tunnel underneath it. We were able to find an alternative route on the main road which got us back to our official route, although we had to double back on ourselves a bit. And, when we finally got on the correct route, we found that our suggested path was actually a track with grass up the middle. No way were we taking that! So we retraced our steps again, rejoined the main road we had just left, and pootled on.

Fortunately the rain eased off after half an hour and we didn’t have any further rain that day (or, indeed, the rest of the tour).

After this detour we then found ourselves on a very bad quality road surface. It was inlaid bricks as the road surface but it had really degraded. This was several kilometres along a canal and it was tough work – the vibration buzz from the bricks is uncomfortable, plus there were a lot of dips in the road. Riding behind the Quattrovelo it was interesting to see the air damper suspension working as Klaus seemed to pogo a bit after each bump (although it was no issue for him within the bike). Millie coped fairly well, but with 28mm front tyres at 100psi (8 bar) it wasn’t the smoothest ride I have experienced. The rough surface of course slowed us down as you cannot ride at high speeds with all the bumps and weird dips and slopes.

Clearly our distance to ride today was being extended because of all the detours, route issues and our occasional mistakes on reading the routing too slowly. Time was also marching on a bit too much for my liking as it seemed we would get to our hotel quite late. We had arranged to eat in the hotel at 7pm but that was looking a bit too much of a challenge.

We rode through Nieuwegein, Montfoort, Linschoten and Woerden. The route was a bit faster now, we were cycling along some high quality lanes and past some rather nice houses.

We got separated crossing a level crossing (I was ahead and then the gates went down) so I waited the other side for Klaus, only to receive a text message “puncture”. So I headed back.

This was a quality puncture as the cause was… a lady’s earring!

Disappointingly it was costume jewellery rather than some super-expensive diamond gold item.

Tube replaced and tyre reinflated, we were back on the road again after ten minutes.

We zoomed through Nieuwerbrug aan den Rijn (which had a lovely bridge, but I didn’t get a chance to stop and photograph it) and then Bodegraven. Then we went through Alphen aan den Rijn,, and around this time we saw another velomobile, a yellow and white Quattrovelo, although the rider didn’t stop. It was a fiddly road around Alphen and we were slowed down a lot by drempels again.

Leiden was getting closer, fortunately. We were clearly going to be much later than expected, and when we got into Leiden itself this was even worse as we were routed through back streets which had huge, steep drempels which scraped Millie’s underside each time. I was feeling pretty tired by this point – not so much physically but mentally. When riding a velomobile on the cycle path you have to be constantly vigilant, checking no cars are coming out of side roads, dog walkers or runners stepping out in front of you. You have to avoid potholes, sticks and stones. Because of the higher speed of a Velomobile, and the difficulties in turning it sharply, you have to take a different line in many corners, which means thinking further ahead with regard to road positioning. You are of course constantly watching out for the car driver who is playing on his phone rather than looking where he is going. And at the same time you have to follow the track on your Garmin through a strange city. I was mentally bushed, and asked Klaus to take over the lead through Leiden. Both our Garmins were running low on charge too, so each detour (which caused it to recalculate the route) was draining the battery further. I wanted to get to our hotel, have a shower and relax!

The final 4km through Leiden seemed to take ages because of all the stops and starts, we had to take some alternative routes, and had also to contend with a kid in a hoodie who seemed entirely oblivious of me cycling past him when he set off. I had to shout at him to “LOOK!” And he kept up with us for the next two kilometres, still not able to see around him because of the hoodie. I was very concerned he would crash into us.

The last 1.5km were fortunately on a decent cycle path beside a fast road, and at last the stop/start riding was over. And then we rolled into the grounds of the castle Oude Poelgeest, and eventually found our way to reception. It was already past 7pm so we were late for our meal, but the receptionist said we could eat at eight.

Millie’s battery had indeed lasted the 109km that I rode today:

Please note that the wheel size setting doesn’t have many options and so as I have low profile tyres it slightly under-reads the distance. I had indeed done 208km, not 199.6. Also, although it says 26 per cent battery remaining, that is because the bike was stationary when I took the photo. When using it, it read about 18-19 per cent. I would not have wanted to have too much further to ride! But still, it did an excellent job.

After a shower and freshen up we went for a very nice three course dinner in the restaurant. We weren’t given a menu, just told the waitress any foods we didn’t like and the Chef chose for us. He chose well!

I was pretty tired after the riding as it was a long day – 208.64km (with about another 500 metres which didn’t record when my Garmin crashed right at the beginning). Moving time was 8 hours 38 minutes, average speed 24.2 km/h and calorie burn was 2,466! So I deserved the nice evening meal.

Statistics from this ride

I also said to Klaus that I felt 200km in one day on a tour was too much because of the amount of time it takes. We left home before 8 in the morning but didn’t reach our hotel till after 7pm, which meant we had no relaxation time there, and had to eat the meal and then go straight to bed. I am more of a fan of relaxed touring, with maximum 130km in a day. I am not sure if Klaus agreed to this – time will tell!

Our room was actually quite small, but the hotel allowed Millie to be kept in the lobby overnight so she was out of the rain (if there were to be any). I had to switch the tracker vibration alarm off, though, as each time someone went out the door banged and it set off the alarm. But all was well with Millie and she seems to have enjoyed her overnight in a Castle – as did we!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Klaus's Birthday Castle Tour 2019, Recumbent Trikes

Nine Wheels in Germany – April 2019 (Month 61)

I ended last month with the cliffhanger… what would happen at my meeting at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office) with regard to Brexit?

Of course, Brexit was delayed from its original date of 29 March 2019, thus meaning that when I arrived for my appointment at the Kreishaus Viersen on 1 April (I had lived exactly five years in Germany at this point) I was still a European citizen.

The lady with whom I had an appointment said she had expected me not to show up, as Brexit hadn’t happened! However, I said to her that I would like some kind of documentation to show that I had now lived in Germany for five years as an EU citizen so was theoretically entitled to remain permanently. Unfortunately Kreis Viersen doesn’t offer the usual document for EU citizens (because they don’t need it, because they are EU citizens so have the right to remain anyway!) so all she could do is prepare the documents for me for after Brexit. I had already found this document and filled it in as much as possible, so she said they would hold it on file so I would be one of the first processed after Brexit (whenever it comes, hopefully never).

This involved taking my fingerprints, a copy of a photograph of me for the future ID card, and evidence of my employment income (I had the last few payslips with me). My huge folder of documents, including bank statements, education certificates, rental contract etc etc was not needed.

I asked her if I could have some kind of document to prove that I had attempted to gain my Niederlassungserlaubnis because I felt rather unsure of the situation when Brexit came. How quickly would I be able to get an appointment, for example. She discussed with a colleague and in the end provided me with a letter which basically just shows that I have put in an application for a right to remain, and that I am currently allowed to remain in Germany.

I don’t suppose this document is worth very much really but at least it is something, and Germans do like their pieces of paper!

So after all the preparation for this appointment, gathering together all my documentation over the last 4-5 months, it was a bit of a damp squib. But at least I have now handed in my application for the Aufenthaltserlaubnis (leave to remain) so hopefully that will all be accepted when the time comes.

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month:

My Veloviewer Wheel for April 2019

And here is the list of rides:

April 2019 cycling, only 16km in Bertie

A large distance this month was of course the tour that Klaus and I did in the Netherlands following his Dronten trip. You can read a separate blog post about our Easter NL Tour here.

I of course continued to cycle to work, the 4.2km each way taking just under ten minutes. It’s no quicker by car. And I get some lovely morning views across the fields.

In addition to our Netherlands Tour, Klaus and I also had a longer ride in NL one Saturday.

Schafstall, Kessel Tour

This ended up as a 120km tour. Our plan was first to go to Café Schafstall in Twisteden for some cake, and then ride to the Netherlands, returning back via the Reuver/Kessel ferry.

We enjoyed a slice of cake at Schafstall…

And then headed downhill into NL, crossing the river Maas on a bridge at Knikkerdorp.

We were going really well as it was nice weather and we zoomed south, heading towards Kessel. We decided to stop for lunch at Grubbenvorst, and parked next to another interesting vehicle!

We had a lunch of soup and then headed on, zooming our way through Venlo and down to Kessel. The velomobiles were both flying!

We crossed the ferry at Kessel/Reuver and then rode home up the hill at Weissen Stein. I have to say, it’s much more fun now I have a motor in the velomobile!

This wasn’t our only long Sunday ride into NL. At the end of April we did another trip, this time with Ralf. I had so enjoyed the slice of Erbeer Baiser Kuchen at Winthuis on our way back from our Easter NL tour that I suggested we went there the following Sunday. Ralf agreed to come too!

This was the goal… a fab Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen (Strawberry cream and meringue cake)

Ralf came to our house at 9am. We had agreed to check the weather in the morning as there was some rain threatened but in the end it was nicer than expected and we didn’t get rained on at all.

This was our track for the day:

The route to Winthuis is one that we regularly do with Ralf – we love these fast roads heading north-west from Kempen. We ride first through Kerken, then bypass Geldern by heading to Pont, then Walbeck (on a major road but it has a wide side strip we can use), then towards Weeze going through Twisteden. This always gives us an option for another decent Bauerncafé!

We arrived at Winthuis and I initially thought it was closed as there didn’t seem much going on. I said if that were so then we could just go back to Twisteden and Café zum Schafstall but Ralf was running out of energy (he had ridden an extra 20km and had not done so much cycling over the last few months due to a short hospital stay). Fortunately the café was indeed open.

I ordered the Erdbeer Baiser Kuchen of course, but Klaus went for a Black Forest Gateau

and Ralf for a Käse Sahne Torte.

They were great of course, and we enjoyed the relaxation after working fairly hard to get to Weeze.

We then headed off to the Netherlands.

The clouds were massing but fortunately we avoided the rain.

This ride ended up at 76km in total for us, quite a bit further for Ralf who stayed with us until Wachtendonk. I had assumed he would peel off for home in Straelen, but I think he was enjoying being part of this speedy Velomobile train! Our average speed ended up at 29 km/h.

One other cycling event this year was the Spezi Radmesse. Klaus and I went together and spent about three hours there as we had an afternoon appointment. It was great to meet up with many friends again, and also to see what is going on in the world of velomobiles and recumbents.

Lots of jellybeans

A lot of our friends cycled there. We were quite envious of them for the ride, but it’s a long way (we did it four years ago by trike!). We were disappointed not to bump into Andrew Allen and John Williams, two Brits who were there. We hope maybe to catch up with them when we are in the UK in September.

Walking

As well as cycling, I have also continued my walking in the month of April. I have walked 130km in total in April, including at least one day per week walking the 8.2km round trip to work and back. However, my working hours have now changed so I am starting at 7am rather than 8am which might put paid to the commuting by walking (I would need to leave the house around 6am which is a trifle early!)

A side-effect of the walking is that my Vo2 Max has continued to improve.

As a reminder, when I first bought my Garmin smartwatch it calculated my VO2 max as “Poor or very poor”, 29 on the scale, and that my fitness age was 53 years old. Seeing as I am 47 and a regular cyclist that was a bit surprising!

However, over the time with all the walking my VO2 max has gradually improved.

So that at the end of April it was at a rather pleasing 38, so my fitness age is 26!

My Garmin only measures my VO2 max when walking, not cycling; if I had a power meter on Millie it would measure it during cycling and would probably provide a different measurement because the two sports are different, although I guess with my electric motor it wouldn’t work anyway!

And another beneficiary of the walking is…

Poppy the dog is getting very fit now, as she gets walks from me/us each day, plus walks from Gudula. Gudula also takes her inline skating, and came to visit me at work one day with Poppy (at least a ten kilometre round trip).

She seems not to have entirely given up her aspirations to car driving though.

Poppy often gets evening walks with us, now that it stays light until nearly nine pm.

And during my afternoons free from work, if the weather is nice, we go for a longer walk too.

The scenery where we live is lovely, although Klaus suffered from hayfever this month.

An interesting thing about hay fever… in the UK there are three different tablets commonly available in supermarkets/chemists: Cetirizine hydrochloride, Loratadine and Acrivastine. The first two are cheap as chips, the Acrivastine is harder to find and about three times the price. They all have different ways of working. We stocked up big time on the first two and bought one packet of Acrivastine when in the UK last September as antihistamines cost about ten times as much in Germany.

Last year on our summer tour we both got itchy skin rashes from the Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillars and I had read that Cetirizine antihistamines can help with this; of course, on that occasion we had the Loratadine with us. We know for our next summer tour!

Anyway, this year the Cetirizine wasn’t helping Klaus, nor was the Loratadine. I had one box of the more expensive Acrivastine and he tried that for the first time and it worked for him, although the tablets are only for eight hours (rather than the full day of the others). Which made them even more expensive… It was £7 for 24, whereas the others are about £2.30 for a pack of 30.

Anyway, as he only had the one packet of 24 Acrivastine we started seeing about getting some more. And as I had been warned by friend Babs, it seems Acrivastine is not available at all in Germany. How odd! So my next cunning plan was to cycle to NL and buy some there; however, I soon saw that there are very few Apotheeks/chemists compared to the number in Germany. I wanted to go to Arcen (a nice ride from here) but they had none. Venlo had several chemists but I am less keen on cycling there, I wanted to check the tablets would be available. I couldn’t tell, so I asked Dutch chum Alex who told me Acrivastine is only available on prescription in the Netherlands. So no luck there.

Fortunately the hay fever time had passed before we ran out of Acrivastine, but we know to stock up again as soon as we are in the UK. And how strange, that despite the European Union the authorisations for these tablets are so different. (Medications are massively cheaper in the UK than in Germany so we buy paracetamol and ibuprofen when visiting the UK too).

Back to walking now! My work walking commute is also still fun.

Still eating Keto

The Keto diet continues. I have now lost 17 kg since January, and not been hungry during that time. I allow myself a slice of cake during a cycle ride but try not to do that too often as then I would slip too far out of ketosis and start getting hunger pangs/sugar cravings again.

Here are some more pics of the Keto food that we eat. All prepared freshly, with fresh vegetables, meat from the local butcher, lots of cream and butter and cheese. Wonderful!

Keto roast dinner – roast chicken, celeriac roast ‘potatoes’, other roasted veg
Keto chicken pie. We had some other veg out of shot to accompany it.
Keto burger and chips, with 90-second mug bread which worked really well for the bap. The chips are made of celeriac and taste great!
Keto fish ‘n chips (celeriac chips). I breaded the fish myself with some almond flour, garlic and egg.

It seems this month my cooking has tended more to traditional British food. I also made a lovely butter chicken curry. Klaus has also cooked as well, of course – he is the expert with pork steaks. We are both eating really well, and enjoying our daily strawberries from the Asparagus grower down the road.

I also finally managed to make a decent Keto bread. It has almond flour, chia seeds, quark and a few other bits and bobs.

I make it in small springform tins
Here it is, out of the tins after 50 minutes’ cooking
And inside – chia seeds visible. My phone has made the colour a bit weird, it’s white inside!

Cakes this month

Of course my blog cannot be complete without the gallery of cakes this month. These have been shared by Klaus and I. Good thing we are also doing lots of cycling!

May will be a busy month. Klaus celebrates his birthday and of course we will go on a bike tour for it (NL again!) He also has to go to Korea for work for a week which is not such fun. We have a couple of bank holidays which is nice, as we also did in April. And we possibly have the European elections too (I decided to vote with my UK postal vote rather than in Germany, as I want to be a pro-European Brit).

See you next month!

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

Easter 2019 Netherlands Tour

The Easter long weekend of 2019 turned out to have a rather good weather forecast. Rather good for bike touring!!

Unfortunately, before the thought of touring had had much of a chance to get established, Emily (Klaus’s Quattrovelo) broke yet another weld in her rear suspension/axle/frame whilst we were out on a ride together. It made the back end very swimmy and we rode home very carefully.

We needed another trip to Dronten to get it welded. We hoped this could be done soon, and so contacted Velomobiel.nl who said they could do it on Easter Saturday.

This looked like curtains for our tour, except I managed to work out a cunning plan!

Plan was, that we would (once again!) steal friend Ralf’s Sprinter and drive Emily up to Dronten. I would then drive straight home again, leaving Klaus there, return the Sprinter to Ralf, drive home to Kempen and then jump in Millie and ride north. Klaus, after Emily was fixed, would ride south and we would meet somewhere in the middle to start our tour.

We decided to use Vrienden op de Fiets again, and after quite a lot of phoning around I found accommodation for the two nights (Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday) that we planned to be away.

So on Good Friday late afternoon we collected the Sprinter from Ralf and installed Emily, ready to leave early the next morning. We needed as much time as possible as we each had 90km to ride to our evening accommodation and I also had 450km to drive in total.

We arrived at Velomobiel.nl in Dronten just after they opened and disgorged Emily. Allert started straight away doing the repair – this was a known issue, the manufacturers in Romania had switched from the specified 4mm metal for the weld to 3mm. Allert was now replacing them with 5mm to be sure.

The rear axle assembly thingie was out very quickly.

Part of the rear axle assembly. The broken weld is visible at the top right hand side.
From another angle. This is the complicated gubbins for a two-wheel-drive system in the Quattrovelo, plus all the weld strengthenings that have been put in place over the last months due to other breakages.
And a close-up of the broken region.

It was at this point that I headed off home again, knowing I had nearly three hours of driving till I was home again and then had to head off in Millie to meet Klaus between Doesburg and Doetinchem. So I waved goodbye to the guys at Velomobiel.nl, and Klaus of course, and headed back to Germany.

I passed the amazing display of tulips along the road from Dronten to Zwolle. Klaus fortunately was able to photograph it later when he rode past.

Sprinter refuelled and returned to Ralf, five minutes fuss and attention to his two lovely doggies, and then it was time to head home. I didn’t bother to have any lunch but changed directly into my cycling gear and fished Millie out of the garage. I had already packed all my stuff yesterday to save time. And I was this time carrying all my own luggage – usually I have Klaus as my pack mule but I wanted to see if I could carry touring luggage for a long tour now my battery for the motor is taking up a lot of space, as I am vaguely formulating plans to do a solo tour in July (when Klaus is away).

Anyway, the good news is that all my luggage fit perfectly week. For a three day tour I needed pretty much the same amount of luggage as for a three week tour (three sets of cycle clothing, one set of normal clothes, a change of shoes, charging cables and gadgets). The only thing I didn’t take with me that I usually do is my iPad. I regretted that choice as it’s no fun reading the entire internet on a small phone screen.

This was my route for my solo tour to Wehl (between Doetinchem and Doesburg):

From Kempen, Germany, to Wehl, Netherlands

As you see, the route is mostly in Germany, it was just the final 30km which was in the Netherlands. I followed our normal route to Rees am Rhein and from this point onward used a track that Klaus has used on his trips back from Dronten which he said was a really nice route. He was right!

My original plan was to ride to Rees and there eat some cake or ice cream. However, having not had any breakfast or lunch, and being concerned about the detour into Rees and the slow roads around there, I decided instead to make a 5km detour on my way to visit our favourite café for cake, Bauerncafé Büllhorsthof. This was after just 31km of my 90km route, but I thought it was still worth it!

Büllhorsthof had my favourite Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen which I enjoyed very much.

Tea and cake on a beautiful warm day – impossible to beat!

Millie was parked alongside lots of other e-bikes (yes, she is now an e-bike of course), but also this rather fetching trike.

After enjoying my cake in the relaxing surroundings, it was time to head onward. Klaus was already on his way, and had in fact left Dronten before I had returned to Kempen, so I knew he was probably ahead of me on the tour. But this was fine, we could arrive any time in the afternoon. No pressure!

I headed onward, enjoying the ride and giving it some gas. With the motor I have the opportunity to choose how much assistance I want – lots, little, none. The motor also switches off after you reach a certain speed and I was riding faster than the switch-off speed for quite a lot of my ride today. I worked quite hard in the end, enjoying the effort and knowing that if my knees started to complain I could dial back my efforts and let the motor take the strain.

Strada info on my ride – speed, estimated power (ignore, completely wrong!), heart rate (spot the higher rate after the cake at 31km) and cadence.

With about 10km to go I received a message from Klaus saying he had arrived and it was ‘beautiful’. We knew we were staying in some kind of Garden House (we always choose that with Vrienden op de Fiets as it means there is likely to be a large enough garden to store the velomobiles!), but as I rolled past (remembered the wrong house number and overshot!) it seemed not so much a shed as a… house. A four-bedroom house with kitchen, lounge, range-style six burner cooker, everything you need… and for 22,50€ each per night including breakfast. What a bargain!

Our accommodation was the house at the front. The newer house at the back was where the hosts lived. Along with their three dogs, peacocks etc…
The lounge of our accommodation

Klaus had been there about half an hour and had a good chat with the hosts. I had my shower and freshened up. I had cycled 91.36km at an average speed of 28.9 km/h.

The blue line is my route, the colours to the right of it show my effort (heart rate). White/light blue is not very much, warmer colours (orange and red) are higher effort. As you see, I gave it a bit of welly around Rees as I was on a Bundesstraße/Landstraße

We were about 3.5km outside of Wehl so decided to take the bikes to look for food, rather than walking, and soon found ourselves at a pizzeria. We parked outside – along with all the other guests who seemed to have arrived by bike too.

Pizzas in Wehl

We sat outside and enjoyed our pizzas before returning home for a nightcap of a cup of tea and an Easter present… some genuine Dairy Milk chocolate my Mum had brought with her from England and I saved for Easter. My first milk chocolate since the beginning of the year (because of Keto).

The next morning was Easter Morning and I took a short walk to enjoy the peacefulness of the country setting.

The bikes had spent the night out-of-doors but seemed to cope OK. We found a peacock looking at them later on.

We were treated to an excellent breakfast, and the lady said we could make sandwiches out of things that were left over (and gave us sandwich bags for them), so we were able to sort out our lunch too.

As you can see from the breakfast, this was not exactly Keto (very low carb)! We put the Keto way of eating aside when on bike tours as it’s just too hard to find the right food otherwise!

We had a leisurely breakfast and then got ready to go. We headed off at about 10 as we knew we only had 90km to do and the next hosts would not be available until 16:00.

My original plan was to skirt around Arnhem but as we had more time I suggested we went into Arnhem and visited the museum for the Bridge Too Far. I had visited it about 10 years ago and fancied another look (it is a very small museum). So we plotted a detour to take us through Arnhem.

Our route from east to west along the Maas/Waal

We set off on very quiet roads, a wonderful route on quiet roads which mostly avoided cycle paths.

We arrived in Arnhem and stopped outside the museum, which looked a lot different than I remembered. It seems it must have been completely rebuilt. I had a quick look around, used their loo, but there wasn’t much to see really. Slightly disappointing.

A bridge too far, with the museum on the left
Millie and Emily parked at the museum

As we had so much time on our hands we cycled a little way towards the centre and stopped for a cup of tea in a large open square. We relaxed there for nearly an hour, and then decided to head off again. We asked a guy on the next table how to get onto the bridge as a cyclist, and he suggested our route. We set off and were crossing the John Frost bridge and quickly out of Arnhem on some very good cycle paths.

Our route soon joined the dike where the path runs along the top, and this was a wonderful and fast bit of cycling. Slow sweeping curves, not too many cars, great views, various bridges.

The motorbikes were a bit kamikaze at times, as were the other cyclists who pootle along at normal bike speeds and don’t perhaps realise how speedy the velomobiles are, but it was a really enjoyable stretch of route with lots to look at.

We stopped at a bench and ate our sandwiches and had some water whilst soaking up the nice weather.

We carried on, and started thinking that an ice cream might be a nice idea. As our radar to find cakes or ice creams in NL isn’t very effective (unlike in Germany), we decided to stop at a McDonalds when we saw one for a McFlurry.

Suitably refuelled, we headed on again.

Our route (planned using the online software brouter and set for Velomobile) was generally pretty good, but it let us down slightly as we came to the bridge to cross the Waal at Beneden-Leeuwen…

We arrived up the slope where the car is in the photo and then the track sent us round this circle and up the narrow (and VERY steep path) on the bottom right hand side. Needless to say, this would not have been a wise idea in a velomobile. Some people were waiting on the top of the bridge (from where I took this photo later) and they did some hand signals to show us the correct route, which we duly followed and arrived on the bridge in a more elegant fashion.

We had a ferry crossing of the river Maas a little later on, where it is pretty narrow.

We were still a bit early as we would probably arrive before 4pm so decided to stop for a cup of tea in Lith, with just 10km to go to our destination. We stopped at a café looking over the river although it was a bit downmarket; when we headed off half an hour later we passed several nicer-looking cafes in the centre of the town. Oh well! We had our drinks and the chance for the loo.

The final sector from Lith to ‘t Wild (part of Maren-Kessel) was on inland roads which were rather a rough surface and with drempels (speed bumps) but few cars. We cruised along and soon arrived at the house. The owners came out to meet us and helped us to move the velomobiles to the garden. It turned out I hadn’t put their correct email address in the confirmation email I sent them so they didn’t get it and wondered if we would actually be coming; fortunately they decided we would!

Our accommodation this time was a granny annexe they had built for when they were perhaps a bit older. It was wheelchair-accessible, including a shower, and everything was really high quality. All the fixtures, fittings, tiling etc. When the next morning we went into their part of the house for breakfast we saw the same attention to quality there. It was all very nice.

We had a cup of tea and the hostess offered to book us a table at the restaurant 1.5km away along the dike. This was most handy, so we asked for a table at 6:30pm and that was fine. We showered and then walked along the dike to the restaurant where I had lamb and Klaus steak. Very nice!

The walk back was as the sun was low in the sky and it was all rather beautiful.

Our total distance for today was 85.56km which we rode at an average of 25.6km/h. Interestingly, my average heart rate was 99, so this suggests I was being very lazy today and letting the motor take most of the strain! Usually my heart rate average is 130-140. However, the massive influx of carbohydrate at breakfast, which I am not used to, might also have played a part!

Here is the map of where we went with the white markings above the blue showing how little effort I was actually expending. If you look at the map from the previous day, you can see my effort/heart rate showing in lots of colours!

After a good night’s sleep it was time for our return leg, but first I decided to go for a bit of a walk before breakfast.

View of the Maas early morning

A short lap around the block including along the dike, just 1.5km but still a nice bit of refreshment before sitting all day in a velomobile.

Breakfast was great!

These were little egg cup thingies with a layer of bread to make the shape, then egg and bacon inside. Very tasty!

Again, not very Keto, and Klaus and I were slightly feeling the digestive effects of all these carbohydrates, but it’s tricky to eat low-carb for breakfast anywhere really.

Our route home – spot the only darker effort markings once we are back in Germany near Kevelaer

Our route home today was 115km. We had decided we would stop at Bauerncafé Winthuis just outside Weeze (back in Germany) and posted on the Velomobilforum to ask if anyone would like to join us. We thought we would be there around 2pm.

We thanked our hosts again and said goodbye, heading off into wind this time, and in fact we had a headwind pretty much the whole way.

Our route today was also not quite as nice – more bumpy roads and also a fair stretch on a cycle path beside a main road. Each time you have a roundabout or a junction there is a curve which can be tricky for a Milan, plus sometimes visibility is poor. Our average speed was fairly low for this section, and my heart rate too didn’t want to raise at all. We pootled along.

Our routing was mostly OK except for yet another random off-road section, such as we had yesterday. Again, to get onto a bridge. Obviously the local mountain-bikers do the shortcut up the bank of the bridge but this is not suitable for velomobiles.

We hadn’t particularly discussed our strategy for a break but apart from a pee break behind a tree for me, we didn’t see anywhere suitable to stop. And then we were getting close to roads we know well and so we just pressed on. In the end we rode 80km non-stop, then arriving at Bauercafe Winthuis where we rewarded ourselves with cake.

Klaus’s Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
My strawberry meringue cream cake (Erdbeer Baiser)

The strawberry cake is so wonderful, I think it classes as the nicest cake I have ever eaten!!

The opportunity was too good to miss, so Klaus and I had another round of cakes whilst we chilled out waiting to see if any of the Velomobilforum readers might turn up (they didn’t)

I had to have another Erdbeer Baiser as it was so wonderful!
Klaus then went for a peach strudel

We stayed about an hour and a half, enjoying the relaxation and of course the cakes. And then it was time to head home, just 35km along some of our favourite fast roads.

What was also very noticeable was that after I had the cake, I was able to increase my power and my heart rate went right up. You can see from the graphic below where the cake stop was (at 80km).

The red line is my heart rate – mostly under 100 until we reach Germany (at 70km) and the fast roads start, then helped by two cakes!

We absolutely zoomed home, looking forward to a cup of tea and a bit of a chill out after our really enjoyable short trip away. In the end we did 116km with an average speed of 26.1; our average was hovering around 24,5 whilst in NL but we were able to speed up a lot once we got to Germany again.

This was a lovely little break and we were really thrilled by the quality of the Vrienden op de Fiets accommodation. It’s a very fair price and it is nice to meet the hosts; mostly these places aren’t in the centre of cities (which would not have space for our velomobiles anyway) but are in the countryside but we are fine with that, we like being in the peace and quiet.

Our next NL tour is in just a couple of weeks, as we are touring to Leiden and celebrating Klaus’s birthday on that trip.

And summary of the velomobiles performance? Once Emily was fixed, all was fine. No repairs needed, no punctures, easy touring with loads of luggage space in the Quattrovelo, good cooling whilst riding so we didn’t overheat in the 25 degree temperatures. I finished each day’s riding with about 80% battery left, 90% on the first day (when I pushed more myself). The battery should be fine for the 190km to Leiden in the next few weeks. And touring with Millie with her motor shows me that, once again, it was a great choice for me. I still have enough space for my luggage (although Klaus carried it for me on the second and third days, but that’s because he is gentlemanly), Millie’s handling hasn’t changed in any way the worst, and she is still a brilliant velomobile for me.

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon

Nine Wheels in Germany – March 2019 (Month 60)

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

Cycling this month

Here is where I went this month by bike:

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

Celeste again

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

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

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

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

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

Emily and Celeste
A view in Emily’s mirror

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

Millie’s brake and spokes repair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And were left this this arrangement inside the wheel well.

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

More and more pulling… unsuccessful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More walking again

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

And I see such lovely sights on the walk…

Asparagus fields

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

A visit to Vaessen and a visit from my Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

Here are a few miscellaneous items I experienced this month…

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

And what’s next…

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

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

Nine Wheels in Germany – February 2019 (Month 59)

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

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

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

February’s cycle rides

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

And this is where I rode this month

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

Bertie undercover

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

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

Put your best foot forward…

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

A few longer rides

To Kevelaer

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

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

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

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

To the Radfahrer Kaffeeklatsch

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

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

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

Xanten over three mountains

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

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

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

A small Velomobile meet in Rees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had another stop to pump up the tyres.

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

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

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

More on Millie’s motor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using the velomobile for shopping again…

Garmin Smartwatches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dog is getting lots of walkies!

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

We even go for walkies in the dark…

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

(Spot the pink dot on the left… Poppy)

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

One man and his dog, striding forth…

Keto food again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous

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

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

How cool do I look?

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

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

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

And some more cakes…

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

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

and… Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Nine Wheels in Germany – December 2018 (Month 57)

Cycling this month

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

And here is where I actually rode:

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

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

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

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

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

A visit to Aalst in Belgium

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

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

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

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

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

Other events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in the UK

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

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

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

Christmas morning was frosty but clear and beautiful.

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back on 2018

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

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

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

This is what Klaus wrote as his year summary:

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

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

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

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Oliebollentocht 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We very slowly rolled out of the car park.

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

To me they looked like a load of jellybeans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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