Thirteen Wheels in Germany – August 2018 (Month 53)

Cycling this month

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

And here is where I went this month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the exit route is not exactly Velomobile-friendly!

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

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

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

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

A visit to Dronten for a Humphrey repair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There were four QuattroVelos and a Quest on the truck:

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to the work on Humphrey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allert put the swing-arm back into Humphrey.

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

A visit to Leeuwarden

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

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

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

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

The door to our cell:

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

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

The view out of the barred window:

And the door has now closed behind us…

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

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

Within Blokhuispoort was this rather interesting artwork.

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

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

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

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

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

The canal was very beautiful in the morning light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balloon chasing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

A quick visit to Mannheim

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

Thirteen Wheels in Germany – July 2018 (Month 52)

The observant among you may have spotted that the title of this month’s report is a little different… More about that later!

Cycling this month

July was a good month for cycling, despite Germany sweltering under mega temperatures.

I think we were above 30 degrees for almost every day of the month, and I saw a temperature of 39 degrees at one point. That is hot!

It also means that the afternoons are just spent hiding in the house with the shutters down and my new best friend, an oscillating tower fan, doing its thing!

So this meant that most of my cycling was on Alfie the trike (out in the fresh air!), except for a few longer rides.

Here is the list of rides:

The green rides are Alfie, the red ones are Velomobiles (Millie or Humphrey, almost entirely Millie).

And here are the year statistics:

As you see, I did 896km in July which was OK.

And here is my Wheel for the places I have been in July.

If you looked closely at the list of rides or the wheel you might have noticed something slightly interesting on Sunday 15 July.

My first 300km ride

Klaus is now riding much more than me, including regular commutes to work (a 94km round trip). For example, I’m typing this on 3 August and he cycled to work today (Friday), as well as on Tuesday and Wednesday. Impressive stuff!

Anyway, he had started toying with the idea of attempting a 300km ride. His highest previous distance in one day was 220km, mine was 215, but we both felt that more was possible. He started thinking through how to do it – he knew his risk was to go out too fast and get tired, and he also knew he would have to ride this on his own as trying to accommodate to someone else’s speed makes you more tired.

Klaus had arranged a week’s holiday with his daughter in Austria and I started to think about what I would do during the week he was away, particularly the first weekend. About three weeks before he went, I got the idea that I could try for a 300km. But the one thing I didn’t want to do was tell anyone (except my Mum!) beforehand as I didn’t want any pressure at all. If the weather was good, I would try for the distance. If I felt bad partway through I would stop.

A week before, when the weather forecast looked good (although mega hot!) I checked with Gudula that she could look after Poppy for the whole day as I knew I would be out for a very long time. I estimated my average speed would be about 25 km/h over such a long distance, which meant twelve hours’ cycling time. I would also need time for breaks, food, loo etc. Gudula was happy to look after Poppy, so my plans were moving on.

The day before, on the Saturday, I ended up driving for nearly six hours (more below) in Ralf’s Sprinter. As I delivered it back to him, I  decided to tell him what I was planning for the next day as he, Klaus and I often rode together on Sundays and I thought he might like to ride with me. He said he would quite like to meet me for a short part of my ride so I told him I would send him my planned GPS tracks and we would communicate the next morning and arrange a meeting spot. I did warn him that I would have to go my own pace and couldn’t wait around a lot.

The whole time that Klaus and Ralf had been talking about doing a 300km ride I, too, had considered how I might do it. It was clear to me that I would need to ride in Kreis Kleve, north of where we live, as it has open roads, few traffic lights, not many cars and – also important – several nice Bauerncafé. Of course, Kreis Kleve isn’t 300km in a straight line so I decided to plan several loops that I could ride – of different distances so I could choose how far to go. Each loop went past a nice Bauerncafé (of course!). One was 90km, one 70 and one 45km.

I also knew I would have to leave early in the morning to give myself enough time. This is partly because in the evening my cycling speed slows a lot, but I am OK with early mornings. So at 06:13 I was in the garage getting into Millie after freshly pumping up her tyres. I had two 500ml bottles of water with me but that was my only extra preparation.

Here is the map of my ride today – three major loops and some smaller ones:

It’s pretty hard to see where I actually rode so I have included images of the individual loops.

So I set off on loop one, which was the 90km one past Weeze airport and then up to Siebengewald (NL) before returning along Ceresweg to Arcen. This is a route we have done loads of times and I know it’s fast and easy roads – well, the German section anyway. NL is not so good but I fancied a bit of NL and Ralf would meet me in Straelen at the end of that loop.

I started off a bit slower than I expected but this is often the case in the early morning. I had eaten a breakfast of scrambled eggs with bacon to give me energy for the first 100km which I wanted to do without a proper stop, if at all possible.

I followed the traditional route up to Kerken, then along Eyll towards Winternam, then going past the prison in Pont and heading towards Twisteden. From there I hugged the NL border going north west past Weeze and then enjoyed the fast road to Siebengewald.

At Siebengewald (48km) I stopped to put my feet down and have a drink. I also sent Ralf a message – he said he was on his way and would meet me in Straelen. I pedalled on.

I had unfortunately forgotten how bad the road surfaces can be in NL. Well, I had sort-of remembered but decided they couldn’t be as bad as I remembered. My memory had been correct! I lost about 3km/h speed because of the rough surface. I was making sure I was just cruising along the whole time, not using much power at all, so that I could last the full 300km. So I just accepted the slower speed and resolved not to do this loop again.

The hill up from Arcen is one of the easier ways of getting up into Germany (Germany is uphill from NL where we live), and as I was approaching it I exchanged messages with Ralf (who was already in Straelen eating his breakfast) and Klaus (who had just woken up in Austria and had no idea I was doing a long ride).

I rolled into Straelen just as Ralf was finishing his breakfast. Rather than stopping for a cake at Hoenen’s bakery in Straelen I said to Ralf I would prefer to go to Café Winthuis near Weeze which has fantastic cakes and was just another 25km. He thought this was fine, so after a sit down on a chair for five minutes I headed off again with Ralf behind me. He rode the whole time together with me tucked in behind so I didn’t have to concentrate on keeping up with him, I could just ride my own pace. No doubt a very leisurely pace for Ralf!

Here is loop 2:

We arrived at Winthuis at 95km ridden (you can see the little stick on the left hand side halfway up the track in the image above), got out of the bikes and I realised I had left one of my two water bottles on the table in Straelen. Annoying! Oh well!

The next annoyance was that Winthuis was “Geschlossene Gesellschaft” (private function) that day so we couldn’t have cake. I said to the woman “I’ve cycled 95km without a break!” but this didn’t sway her so off we went again. I suggested to Ralf that we continue to follow my Loop 2 (which I was now on) as it went past Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk. As the crow flies this was only about 7km away but my loop went much further north first so in the end it would be 29km. He said that was fine, although he had a bit of a deadline to get home for lunch with some neighbours. But off we went.

The day was warming up a lot now, already in the low thirties. My speed had increased to an average of 26 km/h now, as I always find I am faster in warm weather. But my lack of water (only a 500ml bottle) was troubling me a little. I would need to ensure that whenever I stopped I drank plenty.

As we were passing Weeze we saw lots of signs for “Parookaville” which is apparently a festival (Ralf’s daughter has attended). Fortunately it wasn’t this weekend but I made a note not to ride that way the following weekend. As it was, we were a bit later heading through Twisteden towards Weeze and there were a lot more cars. We had a couple of bad overtaking experiences from stupid motorists on the stretch from Straelen towards Goch.

Eventually we arrived at Büllhorsthof and Ralf and I chose cake and drinks.

It was nice to have a break after 125km, and I drank several bottles of water in the loos of the café to replenish some fluids. It was a hot day and I was sweating a lot (which is usual with velomobile riding).

Ralf and I discussed his route home as he had the appointment, and I said that I would amend my Loop 2 to return to Straelen with him so he could easily ride home from there. I thought it’d be a bit tight on time but he seemed relaxed about it, as always.

After a break of about 45 minutes we set off again, me looking forward to reaching the halfway point of my ride. It’s always nicer to know you have a shorter distance to ride than you have already completed.

The ride back to Straelen with Ralf seemed pretty speedy. I had no aches and pains except for my feet felt a little uncomfortable in my cycling sandals. I had worried about my right knee which often gives me issues on longer rides but this time I was riding at exactly my pace, not trying to keep up with Klaus and Ralf who are stronger riders, so everything was fine.

At Straelen I waved goodbye to Ralf and hoped he got home in time (he did, two minutes before his curfew!)

Now it was time for Loop 3, and for this one I decided to go a bit more to the east on the Kengen route that Klaus and Ralf had ridden the previous Sunday (when I was in bed with a lurgy). They said the road had been resurfaced in places and was really fast.

So I went back almost to my start point in Kreis Kleve at Kerken and then rode along the busy B9 (on a decent cycle path) for a short distance until I could take the road up towards Rheurdt. We would normally ride through Stenden here but they seem to be permanently digging up the road so you never know when you will meet a blockage.

I enjoyed the ride north again towards Issum as these roads are fast although there was a whopper of a pothole (well, more of a pot-trench across the road) which Millie crashed across. This is the kind of situation which might give me a puncture but I got away with it.

It was hot hot hot and I had soon drunk all my water that I had filled at Büllhorsthof. But my route would take me back to Büllhorsthof before too long so I kept going.

The road from Issum to Winnekendonk is one of the roads that I love – great surface, fast, no cycle path so you don’t get annoyed motorists hooting at you, and of course low numbers of motorists, although there were more than normal (as I was now riding on a Sunday afternoon). It turns out Sunday afternoon motorists will hoot at you even if there is no cycle path – but hey, they also regularly say they can’t see me (a giant white thing the size of a fridge freezer on the road… they need to get their eyes tested!) so I don’t pay much attention to motorists.

I was enjoying myself, my average speed was around 25 km/h now and I felt just as strong at 190km when I arrived at Büllhorsthof for the second time than I had at 20km. I also knew I was almost two thirds of the way round. Klaus had worked out what I was doing and was sending me supportive messages.

I was very parched when I got to Büllhorsthof so immediately drank about a litre of water (refilling my bottle from the tap in the ladies loos) and then had a cup of tea and a Grillagetorte which is a mixture of ice cream and cake.

I sat inside where it was a bit cooler and found a room that was empty and sat there. I desperately needed to take my sandals off to give my feet a bit of a break from Shimano Sandal Shape, but I was pretty smelly from my sweat and also a bit from my feet. A brave couple came and sat in the same room as me whilst I was there.

I had decided to give myself a reasonable break and was there for another 45 minutes, recharging the battery on my Garmin and exchanging messages with Klaus and Ralf. The Grillage went down very well. I am not entirely sure that fuelling my entire ride on 4 eggs, 1 Mandarinen-Schmand Kuchen and 1 Grillagetorte was ideal but I didn’t feel like anything else. On long rides your digestion tends to shut down a bit anyway and my guts were slightly complaining. I was a bit annoyed with myself for failing to bring any nuts with me to snack on – we have packets of them in our cupboard (low-carb lifestyle that we have at home) but I failed to bring any. Numpty.

Despite drinking loads of water I was still thirsty, but I couldn’t do much about that as there is only so much you can drink at one sitting. The lack of water was the only real issue on this ride, and I suppose I could have stopped at a petrol station to buy another bottle, but I hadn’t actually passed any petrol stations so far, and as this was Sunday all the other shops in Germany were shut.

I was originally planning to do Loop 2 in reverse but decided instead to go off-plan and head towards Uedem and from there to Goch as it looked like there was a nice straight road. So off I went, on what turned out eventually to be a road I had never cycled before. All was well until I noticed the road went over a huge flyover which looked very steep. I don’t like hills and was avoiding them as much as possible so took the opportunity to detour through an industrial estate instead, hoping to work my way round to the road I needed back towards Siebengewald. This worked, mostly, although I did have to go up a bit of a hill coming into Goch, and I also had to use a rather badly repaired cycle path which was a bit bumpy and slowed me down quite a lot.

From Goch to Siebengewald was easy, and then it was back on roads I knew well but was this time riding in reverse (this had been Loop 1).

It was baking hot and I stopped from time to time in the shade of some trees to rest my feet and to drink my rapidly-dwindling water supply. I decided I would stop for proper food in Straelen, I thought a take away pizza would be good. I needed to fuel with something other than cake really.

I zoomed down through Twisteden, keeping my regular speed and with my knee still not really complaining. I was feeling very proud of myself now, with 250km completed. I had known from about the 140km mark that I would manage the 300km, I just had that feeling that all was going well. Millie was faultless as usual – no issues at all with her, although I didn’t use the new shifter for my front chainrings (more on this below) in case it didn’t work properly and I unshipped the chain. I took no chances with anything!

From Twisteden I dropped down to Straelen and stopped for a pizza at a tiny pizzeria take-away in a side street. They had a couple of plastic chairs and a table outside so I could sit and eat. I only ordered a small pizza as my digestion wouldn’t want any more. What this place didn’t have was a customer loo or bottled still water or even pure orange juice. As they couldn’t supply either of the two drinks I actually drink, I asked for a glass of tap water. They gave me a really small glass, which I drank instantly, and then asked them to fill my bottle. I drank that immediately and asked for another refill, which they did, but I got the impression this was my last chance.

From Straelen I knew I had to do some extra loop in order to get enough kilometres.

I headed off on familiar roads and rode past Landcafe Steudle (which was closed as it was now 18:30). From here I rode through Hartefeld and then along to the Witchy Roundabout as I call it in Sevelen. From Sevelen I took the fast road south – in the distance I could see a fire burning. My colleague Alex told me the next day that it was a hay store.

Because of the lack of water I decided to go home and drink plenty (and use the loo) before my final mini loop. I got home with 25km still to ride, and resolved to spend just 10 minutes at home (in case laziness overtook me). I drank plenty of water, ate some nuts and used the loo, then it was off again for my final loop.

This was my first real bit of riding in Kreis Viersen – it’s less suitable for long-distance velomobiling because of the traffic lights and more general traffic. I rode around Kempen, then headed towards Grefrath and then north past Zur Fluchtburg and to Abtei Mariendonk, which seems to be a place where most cycle rides somehow go past!

You can see the long shadows… it was approaching nine pm now.

At 298km I had to stop for a couple of minutes whilst a very nervous horse and rider made their way past me. It was a lovely feeling knowing I had almost reached my goal, and so I pootled the last three kilometres (I wanted to do at least 1km extra in case Strava or Garmin clipped some of my ride, which sometimes happened). And then finally I was back home with 301 on the clock!

Here are the statistics of the ride from Strava:

I felt great – no knee pain, no backside pain, I didn’t even feel massively tired. I just felt a bit dehydrated despite gallons of water and absolutely desperate for a shower. I had been dreaming of a cool shower for the last 100 kilometres!

The next day I rode Alfie to work and all was fine, I had no body issues at all although I also had no great desire to go out on long rides, so just commuted with Alfie for the rest of the week.

My conclusion – an old fat woman can ride 300km in under 15 hours total (12 hours moving time) with the massive help of one of the fastest velomobiles, a Milan GT, and also good weather. I am happy to know I can manage this distance, but I have to say I have no great need to do it again. Not because I don’t want to put my body through it, but because it’s a bit boring riding for that long in a day. How people do the massive audaxes of 1400km in five days I don’t know!

Auntie Helen buys YET ANOTHER Velomobile!

Oops, I did it again! I now have thirteen wheels in Germany (3 x Millie Milan, 3 x Alfie ICE Sprint, 4 x Humphrey Quattrovelo and 3 x ….)

Well, after lots of consideration about the situation with velomobiles and car, something needed to be done.

I have given away my car to my landlord and landlady; I can use it on occasion if I need, but it is generally not available to me. And definitely not for my morning commute in winter as that’s when it is being used by Gudula.

The plan was to use Humphrey for winter commutes as he’s mostly waterproof. This was a very good plan up until I realised I couldn’t ride him long-term because of my disability. The plan is to sell him in September/October when Klaus’s Quattrovelo arrives.

I started looking at perhaps leasing or hiring a car for the winter months, as that would probably be cheaper than buying a car that sits all spring, summer and autumn doing nothing. But it still means an extra car taking up space on the roads, not something I really wanted. I considered the option of just getting very wet on a few commutes each year by using Millie, and had almost got to the point of thinking this was the best option. And then I saw a Versatile offered for sale for 2000€ on the Velomobilforum, and not so far away (in Hagen, which is about an hour and a half’s drive away).

This was clearly worth a visit, so Klaus and I made arrangements with the seller to go and visit. We had just seen a couple of photos before this – it was a yellow Versatile with some crash damage that was partly repaired but the spares required were apparently all there, just not yet fitted.

When we arrived I asked the owner Stefan what number Versatile this was (serial number). He said he didn’t know, so I took a quick look on the metal crosspiece behind the rider’s head where the number is stamped – it was number 17, so younger than Penelope but still pretty old.

We had a good look around the bike. The crash had damaged the rear and bent the metal frame slightly. This had been re-straightened by the current owner although the lid didn’t open very smoothly at all. There were scratches on the yellow paintwork at the side.

We checked the underneath and it all looked good.

There was clearly work to be done on the ball joints for the steering mechanism. But this Versatile had to be at least 8 years old so it was not too surprising. We noticed that the rear wheel rim was damaged, and also noticed a couple of missing spokes on the front wheels.

I also noticed that it had the strengthened area where the steering track rod goes through the bodywork. I remember Peter van Heul, who delivered Penelope to me four years ago, explaining that he had this done on his Versatile as the bodywork could be too weak here.

We gave the Versatile a test ride. It rode very well (once we had managed to get the lid shut). The pedals were in the forward position compared to Penelope which gives more luggage space behind the seat but the seat is then a little differently positioned in terms of getting out, but it was fine. The Rohloff worked well which was important as we doubted it had been serviced for a long time. The guy who now owned it had bought it from someone in Belgium but he was a bit vague about how much that person had ridden it.

The electrics weren’t functional and there was no battery anyway. It looked like we might need to do a complete rewire job which wasn’t a terribly pleasant though. One of the front lights was missing, the other was a type that I didn’t recognise. Poor lighting at the front was a real issue with Penelope so this was a job that needed to be done.

I felt that it rode well enough for my 4.6km commute in winter, but didn’t fancy doing some of the bodywork repairs so decided to phone Gerrit Tempelman to see if he was interested. I thought he also might know some of the history of this bike.

And indeed he did! I told him it was number 17 and yellow and he said “I think this is the one that belong to Peter van Heul that he crashed”. Peter is of course the chap who delivered Penelope to me. The world is very small!

Gerrit went on to explain that after the crash the Versatile was written off by the insurance company and sold to a car breaker’s yard for 750€. Gerrit had bid for it but a lower amount as he wasn’t too keen on repairing the bent frame, so he didn’t win the auction. He didn’t know where it had been in the intervening eight years. His advice was to check that it was running OK, but that he would not be able to fix the bent frame. I explained that this seemed already to have been done, and that lots of spare parts were already waiting to be fixed (Gerrit remembered these had been bought from him). I asked Gerrit if he would give it a service and a once-over if I bought it and he said yes, so I went ahead and agreed to buy it with the seller after discussing with Klaus. We know its faults, that the frame has been bent (and is therefore a little weaker), but for my short commute we really couldn’t see a downside.

Once the deal was done I said I would try to collect it in a week or two, would BACS the money to the seller when I got home (which I did), and Klaus and I set off home again. Once at home I emailed Peter van Heul and said I thought I had just bought his old Velomobile. Which indeed I had, he was the original owner of Versatile 017 until the crash. He sent me photos of it…

You can see the bent frame on the side here. A car hit him broadside and knocked him on his side where he slid until being stopped by a post.

In my photo above of the Versatile that I bought you can see a panel on the side where this sticker below with the lions was!

The back section is completely broken and my seller had a new one that he had started to paint yellow.

The interior looks OK. The main front/back chainlink was unaffected.

So two weeks later I had an opportunity to collect the Versatile. I arranged to borrow Ralf’s Sprinter again and set off to Hagen very early. This was because I would then drive it straight to Dronten to Gerrit Tempelman before returning home, a journey of nearly 600km on the first day of the school holidays in NRW when there would be lots of traffic (including Klaus driving to Austria with his daughter). This was the day before my 300km ride so spending up to six hours driving wasn’t ideal but it was the best opportunity to pick up the Versatile. I also planned to take Millie in the Sprinter to get her front chainring shifter changed to a trigger shifter from a grip-shift in the hope that my disabled arm could work this a bit better.

I left home before 8am so I was in Hagen by 9:30 and loaded the Versatile into the Sprinter next to Millie. I then set off towards Dronten, trying to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic; as I crossed the border into NL there was a huge motorway queue but Google Maps gave me a very decent cross-country alternative which I took and I was soon back on the motorway past the blockage.

I parked first at Velomobiel.nl as I wanted them to have a chance to start the work on Millie. As I arrived I noticed a familiar face…

This is Alex who sold me Penelope originally and since then bought the Quest XS which formerly belonged to chum Gabi. More of the Velomobile Small World syndrome. It was very fitting that Alex helped me unload my new Versatile from the Sprinter!

I handed Millie to Velomobiel.nl and then wheeled the Versatile round the corner to Ligfietsshop Tempelman.

In this picture you can see the back is open – the yellow thing on the right hand side is the new rear cover. This will be fitted after the electrics and other things are done.

I asked Gerrit if he might be able to do the electrics for me and he cobbled together a suitable battery and lo and behold it seems that the electrics are actually OK (except for the headlamps). He would replace the headlamps with some decent ones, change the battery connectors to the same ones we have on our other velomobiles, and would also service the Rohloff and change the ball heads on the steering mechanism etc. There were lots of other small jobs to do but the spare parts that the previous owner had bought were mostly the wrong ones, according to Gerrit. I trust him absolutely to do a good job so I left it up to him how much he did.

This is the only picture I have taken of the new velomobile. As you can see, it is very yellow. I am now on the search for a good name for it; at the moment I am considering giving it some black stripes in a vinyl wrap to make it look like a bee, seeing as the house we live in is called Bienenstock (Beehive) and therefore it needs a name starting with B. I am considering Boris, Bertie or Brian. I will wait to see what name best suits when I have him back sometime in August/September. There was no hurry for the work to be done, and Gerrit Tempelman has holiday in August, so I asked him to fit in the work when he felt like it and I would collect when it is ready.

When I returned to Velomobiel.nl Millie’s shifter was changed and the broken spoke I had picked up on our NL tour was fixed. I have since used the shifter a bit and I am still struggling with it; it’s better than the previous grip shift but it is still very difficult for me to change back up to the big ring as I am not strong enough to push the lever really hard which it seems to mean I have to go up and down the gear for a minute or so before it finally works. I have asked Klaus to see if he can do it better and work out what the knack is and that might give me a hand. Really a Schlumpf Mountain Drive would be the best option for me but my previous one was faulty and new ones are just too expensive. That’s life, but at least living in Niederrhein I very rarely have to use my Granny Ring!

I look forward to reporting when I collect the yellow Versatile and how I get on with it.

A visit from Bobb

When I lived in the UK I was part of a very loose cycling group based in Witham in Essex who used to do evening rides, and occasionally I would join them (usually car-assisted as Witham was a fair way away). One of the riders there was Rob (known as Bobb) and I had him as a Facebook friend.

He was on a very long bike tour from Spain back to the UK via France (including some of the big mountains), the Rhine valley and then NL. I realised he would be fairly near Kempen on his way through so offered for him to stay one night with us (rather than camping).

That fitted in very well with his plans and so we arranged for him to stay the night with us and I offered to ride to meet him somewhere on the way. This was on a Thursday so a work day so I checked with him where he was once work finished and we agreed to meet in Willich. I rode there in Millie and sat at an Eiscafé to enjoy an ice cream on a sweltering day!

Bobb arrived five minutes later on his very laden Surly Long Haul Trucker (here is a picture outside our house later).

We rode a scenic 25km ride back at a leisurely pace.

Once we got home it was Bobb’s time for a velomobile test ride.

We rode a short loop around our hamlet, it was a very different cycling experience for Bobb!

We had a pizza in the evening and then a good chat. It was very interesting from Klaus and I to hear of Bobb’s touring experiences, especially as he went over some real mountains in the pyrenees with his heavy bike. Respect!

I plotted a good route for his next day and we googled a good campsite, so he set off the next morning early as I had to take Poppy to the vets to have her teeth cleaned. Congratulations again Bobb on your impressive tour!

A new skill – soldering!

Three of Millie’s four indicators have had to be changed since I owned her, and Klaus has wielded the soldering iron for this. On our NL tour the left side indicators stopped working so I had to use hand signals for indicators. However, I decided to check what had caused this one afternoon and a quick peer inside Millie’s cabin showed me the problem…

I had some spare LEDs from when we had previously repaired it, so I wondered about whether I could try the soldering myself. I would also solder an extension to the cable as it was too short inside Millie, which was one of the issues (the cable could easily be kicked by my foot during pedalling and it was under strain).

My main issue was to ensure that I had the terminals the right way round, so I took a photo…

I had my first ever soldering experience and it went very well – I was able to solder the cable onto the new LED very neatly which would make it easier to fit in place in Millie’s nose. Soldering the new cable onto the old was not so easy as I needed three hands but I eventually managed it. And the new LED worked!

When Klaus got home from work we put Millie upside down in the garden and fixed the LED in with silicone sealant as usual. This worked really well for the first three weeks but then the hot weather released the gaffer tape which was holding the cable to the side and I caught it with my foot and pulled the LED and cable out of the silicone holder. The silicone was just too soft from the heat. The LED still works, it’s just attached to a long cable hanging loose inside the velomobile! I will fix it in place again when the weather is a bit cooler so that the silicone sticks (hopefully) and we will also find a better cable fixing option. But I am very proud of a new skill – soldering! – and this at the advanced age of 47.

Other news

Auntie Helen’s Brexit Stage 1

I am absolutely gutted about Brexit of course, I think it is a complete disaster and hope against hope it can be prevented. I want to stay a citizen of Europe with the right to live in Germany!

However, I have to plan for the worst, and I did the first stage of this… changing my Driving Licence to a German one. I had held off doing this as you lose a lot of the entitlements with the German licence. I took my UK licence to the Stadthaus in Viersen and had to fill in a form, supply a photograph and pay them 28€ and I should receive a new German licence in due course.

I took a photo of the categories I am allowed to drive on my UK licence. We will see when the German one comes what I still have. I think it will probably only be B1, B and C1. No way will I have C1E or D1E on my German licence.

Poppy’s dentist experience!

Poppy ended up having to have her teeth cleaned as she had very bad scale on them. This has to be done under a general anaesthetic of course.

Rather different to the UK, I was there when they put her under and they also made sure I was back before they woke her up. They said this is less stressful for the dog, which I can believe. In the UK you just hand your dog over and have no idea what happens.

Anyway, when I returned after an hour to see if she was waking up, they told me that they had had to remove seven teeth!

These were mostly teeth from her upper jaw although the two at the front of the bottom jaw were also gone. They woke her up whilst I was there and she was obviously very woozy and not too happy. She would not be allowed toys or dry food for ten days as she had stitches in her gums (she could have moistened dry food but I decided to buy her some upmarket wet food instead, which she really loved!)

Whilst she was under I had asked them to clip the hair on her belly which we are not allowed to do and which had got long and matted. They completely shaved her belly and this actually caused her problems with itching as her skin is clearly sensitive and was constantly irritating her. She would scratch it with her back legs and make it red and sore. She got really upset by this and wouldn’t settle, she was often hyperventilating, so on the Monday morning I took her back to the vets for an injection which was like an antihistamine and this did the trick. But she had a very uncomfortable weekend before! I must remember not to have a procedure done on a Friday as there is no vet surgery at the weekend! She hasn’t seemed to mind missing her teeth, but she is disappointed that we have not continued with the wet food which she absolutely loved. It’s a very expensive habit to get into though!

Cakes this month

Here are a selection of cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month!

July has been a swelteringly hot month and the beginning of August has continued the trend. This is tiring, and a bit noisy as we have to sleep with a fan running, but it looks as though August should become a little cooler. We all hope so!

Thanks for reading, any comments greatly appreciated as always!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Ten Wheels in Germany – June 2018 (Month 51)

Cycling this month

This month was a very good month for cycling because of our Helen and Klaus round NL tour. Here are the total distances I have ridden (green = recumbent trike):

And this is where I went (mostly round the Netherlands and a few commutes)

 

There were a number of events on this month for cycling. The Stadtradeln started on 2 June and this is a competition between various towns to get more people cycling. We had an ADFC Kempen team with Hartmut, Klaus, me, Jochen, Ralf, Rolf, Uli and several others, and over the 21 days of Stadtradeln our average distance was just under 1000km (and two of the 11 members rode under 16km in total!). Hartmut managed an amazing 2100km as he set himself a challenge to ride 100km a day. Well done Hartie! Klaus, Burkard and I took the next places, and in fact the first six were all over 1000km I believe. It was good fun!

We also went out on a cycle ride at the beginning of the month with Hartmut and Ralf.

Ralf and Hartmut had been visiting various towns which were having events to start off the Stadtradeln. Ralf was given a flower which he attached to the Cookie Monster velomobile.

There was a ride going from Grefrath but we decided not to join it as velomobiles are too much of a different speed. Instead we rode separately to Landcafé Bruxhof in Klixdorf for some very nice cake!

The Return of Celeste!

As mentioned in a previous blog, Celeste the Strada was damaged by vandals who steamed through a local farmer’s garages/sheds and then set alight his hay barn. We were storing Celeste and a few other bits and bobs in one of his garages and Celeste was damaged by the vandals; they sat on her, breaking her nose, pulled out some wiring and stamped inside.

Anyway, we delivered her to Velomobiel.nl a couple of months ago and they would repair her. Klaus had a message to say that she was ready and could we collect her sooner rather than later as they had so many velomobiles in their shop at the moment.

Klaus had long hatched a plan to cycle her home and so he started putting this into action. I would drive him to Venlo railway station and from there he would catch a train to Dronten (we had a train ticket courtesy of my Mum who didn’t use it, and it would be valid for the trip) and then cycle home. All good, the date was picked.

Then a couple of evenings before, Ralf phoned up. When we were driving up to collect Celeste, could we take his DF? He had broken the chain and was having front shifter problems and wanted it fixed by Intercity Bike in Dronten. All good, except Klaus wanted to ride back! The obvious solution was that I drove up with Ralf’s DF and Klaus, and Klaus cycled home and I drove home with the DF once it was done. Plans all agreed, we collected Ralf’s Sprinter van with his DF on the Friday evening so we could make an early start on Saturday. Ralf had no time to travel to Dronten himself as his daughter was having her Uni graduation ball.

Klaus and I set off at 7:15am and were at Velomobiel.nl by 9:30. There was already lots going on there with several people having bikes repaired/adjusted. We also saw loads of Quattrovelos there, including the gold/yellow one belonging to Ingrid (wife of Gert) who we visited during our NL tour. She wasn’t sure how the colour scheme would work, I personally am not convinced but a colleague at work, to whom I showed the photo, thought it was wonderful. It’s probably a Marmite colour scheme but as long as Ingrid loves it then it’s great!

And then we were reunited with Celeste.

They explained that it had been hard to get a decent colour match. The paint they ordered was totally wrong so they got a local car paint shop to make up the colour and respray the entire top, which they did. The match is very close; not perfect, but good enough! The repair was excellent, we could see no traces of the damage.

Klaus rode her around the block to check everything (he said she felt very different than Humphrey), fitted the cadence sensor and then set off.

I then did the 1.5km journey to Intercity Bike to hand over Ralf’s DF.

Ralf had discussed with Ymte and decided to have the front 2 chainrings replaced with a Schlumpf Mountain Drive. This is partly as a result of our recommendations, and it helped that Ymte had a second hand one that had done just 5000 miles that was an excellent price.

It was Peter who was working there today and he told me that as the chain was broken and one half had disappeared inside the innards of the DF it would take a bit longer to fix, maybe up to 3 hours (as they also had a couple of visitors coming for test rides). He recommended I headed to Kampen for a walkabout and a cuppa, so off I went.

Klaus and I had stayed in Kampen when having servicing done on Millie and Celeste last year and we had had a little walk in the town but I had much longer this time and got to see plenty of it – once I had parked the Sprinter of course. Such a long van isn’t easy to park and I ended up in a normal car park, hoping I wouldn’t get a ticket for being one and a half car lengths long. Fortunately the car park was only half full.

I walked into the main centre of Kampen on what was a very hot and sunny day.

I enjoyed my walk around in the sunshine, looking at the different cafés and restaurants to see where I should have my lunch. In the end I stopped for a Flammkuchen (very thin pizza) at one place and drank a fresh orange juice too. After this I walked around a bit more, bought a pair of shorts, then it was time to stop again for cake and cuppa as I had 25 minutes until my parking ticket ran out.

I stopped at a coffee place that advertised cakes and they had something which turned out to be similar to Lemon Meringue Pie in the UK. I had this cake and a cup of tea using my teabag.

We spent two weeks touring the Netherlands in June and one of the big negatives was the price of the food (and also, to some extent, its quality). This smallish piece of cake and the tea cost me 7,50€. To put that into perspective, the next day in Germany Klaus and I had two large slices of cake, a tea and a Latte Macchiato, and that was 8,20€. If you want good value and large cakes, best to stick to Germany!

Whilst I was sitting down eating this cake (which did taste fine), I had a message from Fritz who is touring Scotland with his partner Brigitte and their two DF Velomobiles. You can see some pictures of his tour on their Facebook page @Tandemontour.

Anyway, a week ago whilst in Scotland they had bumped into Woollypigs and Peliroja, cyclist acquaintances of mine who were on holiday with their dog. Woolly borrowed my old trike years ago. Anyway, Woolly spoke to them and asked if they knew me and of course they did. But now I had another message from Fritz as you can see below:

Joyce, or Mrs Miggins, toured with her husband Simon, me, Klaus and Tigerbiten on our Spezi Tour three years ago. And she bumped into some Velomobile owners in Scotland whilst on holiday and of course they knew me. The world can be so small! It was lovely to have this connection.

It was time to walk back to the van and this time, as I walked past the church tower, some people were hauling life-size models of cows up on giant cables whilst a film crew recorded. I have no idea why.

The cows nearly at the top…

An everyday Saturday in NL?

I drove the 10km back from Kampen to Dronten and Ralf’s DF was now ready. I had a chat with Peter about it, and about velomobiles in general. It’s good to know that ICB are also working on new velomobile models and improvements/enhancements.

Peter helped me fix the Cookie Monster into the Sprinter.

And then it was time for me to drive home. I guess I left at about 2pm.

Meanwhile, Klaus and Celeste had been making their way along a lovely route, originally given to us by the late Robert Frischemeier.

The beginning of this route goes through the Veluwe National Park which is lovely.

It was a really hot day and Klaus was having a relatively gentle ride as he had not ridden Celeste for months and didn’t need to overdo it.

He stopped for drinks and ate food he had brought with him (banana, figs etc).

Because this route was developed by a velomobile rider it is much more suitable for our transport than if we just tried to make a route ourselves. There’s a lovely long section along a canal and Klaus was having a really good ride.

I half planned to ride somewhere to meet him but it was clear from his messages that he was making such good progress I would be too late. I drove the Sprinter directly back to Ralf’s house and helped him unload the DF. After a short chat I drove home again in Klaus’s car that we had left there, going via Aldi as we needed some food. As I was coming out of Aldi Klaus sent me a message to say he was in Issum so only 15km or so away!

By the time I got home from Aldi and unloaded the shopping Klaus was in Aldekerk. He suggested we meet in Kempen for ice cream so I hopped onto the trike and zoomed into Kempen to meet him, arriving to discover there was some big event on in Kempen with lots of people. Klaus arrived five minutes later and we found a seat at one of the bars on Buttermarkt where I had an ice cream and Klaus replaced some fluids and electrolytes with an Alkoholfreies Weizen or two.

We rode home together and he ended up with 190km with an average of 25.7 km/h.

So how was Celeste after her repair? Absolutely fine, but in the intervening time Klaus has ridden 4,000km in Humphrey and has got used to him. Given the choice of only having one of the two, he says he would choose the Quattrovelo. He finds it somehow uses less energy, particularly in windy days, and also seems to find the riding position more comfortable (although this could be changed in both). Here is his report in German from this ride:

Mal ein kurzer Bericht von meiner Heimfahrt. Bei der Streckenführung haben wir uns von unserem leider verstorbenen Velomobilisten Robert Frischemeier inspirieren lassen. Das erste Mal bin ich diese Strecke im Dezember 2016 nach dem OBT gemeinsam mit Helen gefahren. Die Strecke führt grob durchs Veluwe bis Apeldoorn, dann entlang des Canal Zuid bis Dieren, bei Rees geht es über den Rhein und dann ist man schon fast zu Hause.

Die ersten Kilometer waren schon ein wenig ungewohnt aber das gab sich recht schnell. Wie bereits erwähnt, die Strecke ist ein echtes Highlight, Wälder und Heidelandschaften auf den ersten 50km. Nach Apeldoorn hatte ich die erste Pause am Kanal und ich merkte schon irgendwie, dass mein Körper in der letzten Zeit ein anderes Velomobil gewöhnt war. Keine massiven Probleme, aber dennoch spürbar. Was schon nach wenigen Metern festzustellen war; die Ruhe in der Hülle. Das ist schon ein bemerkenswerter Unterschied. Sicherlich kommen da mehrere Dinge zusammen… Die Reifenwahl, Elastomerdämpfung vorne und der Aufbau ansich. Auch die Pflastersegmente in den niederländischen Innenstädten sind mit den F-Lites wesentlich angenehmer zu fahren. Die gestrige Windsituation war auch nicht unbedingt Strada zuträglich. Bei Seiten wind muss ich doch etwas mehr arbeiten. Nichts desto trotz es hat Spass gemacht und die Zeit verging wie im Fluge. Ich freue mich schon auf die nächste Tour.

Im direkten Vergleich QV/Strada muss ich dem QV den Vortritt lassen. Trotz der bekannten Nachteile ist das Reisen weniger anstrengend. Der Kraftaufwand scheint sich gerade auf den längeren Strecken bemerkbar zu machen. Heute (1 Tag später) war ich mit dem QV 170km unterwegs und ich fühle mich wesentlich ausgeruhter. Mal sehen wann mein QV kommt; ich freue mich. Eventuell behalte ich Celeste als Backup. Wir werden sehen.

It’s good to have Celeste back, except she has been returned to the same garage where she received her vandalism. We have no other storage option at the moment. However, she has a more powerful tracker installed which will notify us if someone so much as touches her, and we will zoom straight round there in that case! We need to probably work out some alternative for the future if we keep her as the ‘spare’ velomobile, but we need a bit of time to think about it all. The Velomobile Stable is regularly changing, after all! We were notified in Dronten that Klaus’s new Quattrovelo (to be called Emily) will be ready in August/September so he will have another trip to collect her and once he is happy with her, we will sell Humphrey. If anyone is interested in a 6 month old Quattrovelo with currently 5000km on the clock, let me know!

Searching for some new Landcafés/Bauerncafés.

Since we have been riding velomobiles we have increased our daily riding distance. When we rode the trikes, a ride of 60km was an expenditure of energy and 100km was pretty impressive. With the additional speed and efficiency of the velomobiles, we have effectively doubled our range for the same effort and level of tiredness.

We visited many cafés and restaurants over the years in places like Straelen, Geldern, Wachtendonk, Grefrath, Kaldenkirchen. But these places are all around 20km away or less; we were now on the hunt for a good destination for a ride around the 35-40km mark which naturally could offer good cake.

We already had Landcafé zum Schafstall in Twisteden on the list, Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk, and cafés in Xanten, Bislicher Insel etc, but we needed some more. So I had a bit of a google and found a few places to visit which looked nice and were at least a 70km round trip.

Reichswalder Dorfcafé.

One of these was right to the north of Kreis Kleve just outside the town of Kleve (Cleeves) itself. I plotted a route there and Klaus and I set off on a ride on a pretty warm day.

The ride ended up at 154km for me and 200km for Klaus (he extended it a bit), and we visited 3 Bauerncafés and an Eiscafé.

It was a fair distance to Kleve so on our way we stopped at Büllhorsthof in Winnekendonk to just have a drink (no cake!).

We then continued on during a pretty hot day to reach our planned new Bauerncafé. This was the Reichswalder Dorfcafé which is in a small residential area south of Kleve right next to a large green area and then the border with NL.

They had cake!

We had ridden fairly speedily there so spent quite a long time relaxing enjoying the cake. In fact, we ended up then sharing a slice of Grillagetorte as we were there so long!

But then it was time to ride home. We were so near NL it would be rude not to do a diversion, so we headed to Ottersum in NL and then south to Siebengewald where we returned to German roads.

We headed south on roads that we now know quite well, and then felt it was time for another drink. We had hoped to find somewhere to have a drink or ice cream in Twisteden itself but there was nothing so we did a mini detour to our third café of the day, Café zum Schafstall, and I had a pancake with strawberries and cream (which I forgot to photograph!)

We set off again, suitably refreshed, and decided to do some mini detours to increase the distance. We ended up in Kempen for an ice cream.

After this I wanted to go home as my knees were hurting but Klaus fancied a bit more riding so our ways parted and I headed back for the 154km, he continued to 200km.

Landcafé Binnenheide

As I am now working just two days a week, I decided I ought to do some riding on my own on my days off. As it was so warm in June this didn’t end up happening very much, but one day I did manage to get out to visit a new Bauerncafé in Winnekendonk. There is already one there that we visit, Büllhorsthof, but I thought I would try the other, which is a little south of the village near the river.

It turned out to be a little trickier to find than I had expected as my Garmin kept routing me down narrow roads which petered out into farm tracks.

I ended up retracing my route a couple of times to get back to proper roads but found the Bauerncafé in the end, although I suspected I approached it from an unusual direction. I saw no signs giving directions on the roads I took, so I wondered if the place would be empty, especially on a Wednesday afternoon in June. But clearly other people knew about it, as it was pretty busy when I arrived.

This was the entrance – they obviously do an awful lot of gardening and decorating of their buildings. It was very country café and pretty.

The cake was called a Frieslander.

In the ladies loo there was an encouraging blackboard message about cake consumption!

(The more you weigh, the harder it is to kidnap you. Protect yourself and eat cake.)

I wasn’t the only strange vehicle parked outside.

It was a very nice café and I will bring Klaus and Ralf there one day to visit, although I will have to work out a slightly better route.

Here is my track for the whole ride:

It was a 72km ride at an average of 27km/h. And fun!

Bauerncafé Winthuis

Ralf appeared on the first Sunday in July (yes, this should be in next month’s blog really, but it’s the third of our “New Café” trips) as this was the day of the Niederrheinisches Radwandertag, the Niederrhein Bike Touring Day. Apparently you could get some document stamped if you visited multiple places and get some kind of prize. It was all a bit hazy, but Ralf knew of a café in Goch that was taking part and we should go there.

He wasn’t terribly sure of where it was or the name, but when he arrived at our house at 9am we Googled it and discovered it was called Bauerncafé Mönichshof and it didn’t open till 14:00. As Ralf needed to be home by around 3, and it was 50km away, this wasn’t going to work. But I spotted on my Google Map another Bauerncafé which we hadn’t previously visited and which said it would be open – Bauerncafé Winthuis. So we headed off towards Weeze (it was between Twisteden and Weeze) and hoped to be able to navigate to the waypoint on my Garmin when we got close.

Sunday mornings are such a great time to ride as there seem to be almost no people in Kreis Kleve. They are all still in bed I guess, but we enjoyed having the roads to ourselves – right until we made our way through Twisteden when there seemed to be more cars than normal. And then we found ourselves in a traffic jam – which turned out to be for Irrland, a children’s play area/destination thingie. I’m not really sure what it is but most of Germany and half of NL wanted to go there today, so there were queues of cars. Fortunately this section of road has a cycle path so we hopped onto that and queue jumped very enjoyably.

After we had got away from Irrland the number of cars rapidly reduced again and we were on our own. Well, there were lots of cyclists about – the Radwandertag had lots of group rides and painted routes for people to ride on their own and it seemed to be very well attended.

We found Winthuis easily enough, although just before we got there we passed a group of cyclists including a lady who had clearly had an accident and was lying in the road. Klaus and Ralf offered help but the group around her said they were OK.

Winthuis turned out to be lovely with that rare treasure, excellent customer service!

And the strawberry cream meringue cake I had was possibly one of the tastiest cakes I have eaten in Germany. And I have eaten a lot!!!

Whilst sitting in Winthuis we had a message from Uli to say he was manning a stand at the Radwandertag event in St Tönis. This was 50km away but naturally we felt we ought to go and support him, so we sent him a message to say we would come and set off back towards Kreis Viersen.

It was a really hot day and for the last 15km or so I was really losing energy, as was Klaus (who had ridden 190km in Celeste the day before). But eventually we made it to St Tönis and Obstgut Tackheide, which turned out to have a café that I had not previously visited, despite it being only 10km from home!

The place was full of bikes and had marked bike parking too.

We helped Uli, Petra and Marlies clear up their stand as they had finished (they had in fact stayed open longer as they were waiting for us) and then we all went to get some cake.

Marlies kindly gave me a bottle of water to drink as I was really thirsty. We had ridden fairly speedily on a very hot day on a ride that ended up 97km for me, so I needed more water!

At Tackheide there was a Stempelstation where I could get my card stamped for the Radwandertag. But I didn’t have a card, and hadn’t visited any other stations, so I couldn’t actually get my badge or whatever the prize was, despite my pretty good distance!

After the cake I decided to go straight home and Klaus once again did an extra loop. He ended up with 167km, which brought his weekend total to almost 350km in two days. Not bad!

So four new cafés were discovered this month, including one in Kreis Viersen. There are still a few more to check out so I guess I won’t get bored (or thin!)

Life in General

Life carries on as normal! Obviously a two week bike tour makes a bit of a difference, as does reducing my working hours. The fact I am only in the office two days a week is probably good as my two colleagues Annette and Alex both are wonderfully slim and yet eat constantly – cakes, sandwiches, chocolate. And they both put on no weight at all! The consequence of this is that we often have pastries in the office…

This second selection of pastries was to give us all energy when we had a visit from my Russian customer for an inventory. This lasted 3 days, and two of those days were full time plus evening meals, so I was barely in the house (and earned a nice amount of overtime!). My Russian contact Julia bought me some gifts…

And as she comes from Moscow, we talked about the World Cup:

And in fact, one evening it was just she and I who went out to eat. It was the day of the England Belgium match so we watched it together after our meal outside a café in Buttermarkt.

Everyone else was cheering for Belgium, but they are a direct neighbour of Germany.

For the World Cup I am of course supporting England (as Germany have gone out). I don’t have an England flag but our house is proudly flying the Union Jack. Which is of course deeply embarrassing for all the other members of the house!

And another local event this month, our little hamlet of Escheln received its first Stolperstein which is a brass plaque on the floor that remembers a victim of the Holocaust where they lived or worked. Here is a news report in German about it.

June was a busy month but I hope you have enjoyed reading all about it!

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

NL2018 – Thoughts on Velomobile touring in the Netherlands

Having toured now for two weeks, we thought it would be good to give an update on some of the equipment we have used and our experiences in the Netherlands.

My report is first, then Klaus’s in German below.

Helen’s Report

The Milan GT Velomobile

The Milan is not a touring Velomobile. It is designed as a racing machine. I am using it outside its preferred milieu, especially bearing in mind that I am a heavy and low-powered female rider.

The Milan is comfortable. There is plenty of space for the rider in the cockpit, there is room for the Radical Velomobile bags both sides, and I can also fit touring luggage behind the seat. It would not be possible to carry a tent though.

As it’s a racing machine it’s very low slung and this is not good in NL with all the drempels and other bumps. Likewise, the 14 metre turning circle is OK if you are riding on roads but causes issues riding on NL cycle paths. But I managed a two week tour in NL with this unsuitable bike and it wasn’t such a problem that I wished I were in a different bike.

We were lucky we had almost no rain as I would have been wet. However, I was glad for the good airflow in the Milan on the hotter days. There is a fair bit of cooling when riding at decent speeds, and I think it is a fair bit cooler than the QuattroVelo.

The weight of the Milan is a real plus point as it’s relatively light, even with my tools and luggage. However, constant stopping and starting does not play to the strengths of this bike, or any velomobile really. They need to be cruising at around 25km/h before the aerodynamic shape can give its benefit. Ride a Milan at 30 and it gets blown along and is really easy to pedal. Getting it to 30 on narrow cycle paths is not easy.

I have front and rear suspension in the Milan GT and I find the suspension good enough for the road surfaces I experienced here, but my lack of power means that rough surfaces slow me down a lot, which has the knock-on effect of reducing the aerodynamic and making it harder to ride. A stronger rider would be able to push these speeds higher and probably have a smoother journey.

As mentioned in the blogs, I am unable physically to use the grip shifter for my front chainring so rode almost the entire holiday in my 56 tooth chainring at the front and with 9 sprockets at the back (12-36) and this was perfectly adequate except for the hill in Berg aan de Maas. When I changed down to the granny ring twice this helped me conquer the hill but led to significant problems changing back up again afterwards. If I possibly can I keep the bike always on the large front chainring.

The wiring on the Milan was of a poor quality, and although we have upgraded sections there were still some old bits that caused us an issue right before the tour and was possibly also the reason for my lack of indicators on the last two days. Millie probably needs a rewire but that’s a bit of a mega job that I will try to put off for as long as possible!

And finally, the white paint on Millie is very forgiving, both of dirt/bird poo and also scratches. The British Racing Green paint on Humphrey developed some new scratches and these are very obvious; the Milan is pretty battered in some places but it’s not all that visible.

The Quattrovelo Velomobile

For Klaus this was an ideal touring machine. It’s so nice to be able to just chuck your luggage in the boot without having to stow it carefully around you. The bike was stable and easy to use, despite the extra weight of all our belongings. He found Humphrey comfortable and reliable and not as tricky on the larger hills than he would have thought. The turning circle compared to his Strada was an issue with the NL cycle paths but overall the Quattrovelo was a good option for touring.

Garmin Edge 1000 GPS

I have had my Garmin Edge for a few months and generally I like it. Previously I had a Garmin Oregon and I was very happy with that, but it was too large to fit on the tiller of the Quattrovelo so I sold it and bought and Edge.

The Edge has limited battery capability (it has just an internal battery, the Oregon had AA batteries which you could change if necessary) but this has not affected me on this trip as my rides are short enough that its battery can last the whole ride time.

One issue I had with it is its speed at drawing the map when rotating. If you are following a track round a roundabout it can be very slow to rotate the map as you go round the roundabout, which meant that both Klaus and I occasionally took a wrong turn if there were multiple manoeuvres in a short time.

I also had issues uploading the day’s completed track to Garmin Connect from my Garmin via my android phone. I can only do this through WiFi as if I try with bluetooth then my phone goes completely bonkers (windows open and close, it flicks across screens, there is a mouse pointer symbol!!!!) and I can only get the phone to function again by switching off bluetooth and turning the phone right off. Not good. As I am not using Bluetooth I have set the Edge to use WiFi upload but it can be very reluctant to do this. WiFi download from Garmin Connect (for example, a new track) is also very unreliable. It took eight hours before it would download a new track one day.

But the main thing – it displayed the map and track of where I needed to go, and it recorded where I had been and what speed and heart rate and cadence I had. Those are its core purposes and it did them well enough.

NL hotels, B&Bs and Vrienden op de Fiets

We have had very good hotels and B&Bs except for the one in Egmond which was a bit sub-par. Cleanliness has been fine, they are usually fairly spacious and there have been some really lovely B&Bs in Burgh Haamstede, Groningen (the caravan), Weert and Nuth. Prices for accommodation seemed a bit keener than in Germany, but this was offset by the increased price of food so overall I think we spent more per day.

Vrienden op de Fiets has also worked well for us. We pay 20 Euros a night each and this includes breakfast. Sometimes the descriptions on the website weren’t 100% correct (in Maastricht and Den Haag the blurb said there was a separate bathroom for us but we shared the family’s bathroom), but we found this a very good option, especially in Den Haag. The hit rate was low, I wrote to about 8 hosts for each confirmed booking, but this could partly be explained by our large bikes needing a home too. We could of course have extended our search to AirB&B but that is not something I have used before. But generally the accommodation was fine.

NL food and customer service

Klaus and I both like German food. We find NL food rather dull and also overpriced. A pizza that would be 8 Euros in Germany seems to be 11 Euros in NL for the same or lesser quality. We also find the bread very tasteless compared to German bread. German breakfasts in hotels are much more to our taste! Cakes are also often a disappointment, although we have had a few nice ones. Choice is often fairly small. Apple cake is usually a safe choice but it’s not what I generally want.

Supermarkets are good although some of the items are expensive. We had three evenings where we just ate food we bought in a supermarket. Our impression was that there was more plastic packaging than in Germany as well. We also noticed once again the huge difference in price between the Netherlands and Germany for medication. Germany is hugely expensive for just basic things such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, antihistamines. The Netherlands has prices more like UK prices and sells these basic items in supermarkets.

However, a big bonus for me is the tea making. When I order tea (explaining I have my own teabag so just need hot water and a little milk) I get what I ask for without any further explanation. In Germany this is such a complex request that I usually end up with no milk. However, in Germany I probably only get charged for 1 in 3 teas, whereas in NL I was charged for all of them except 2 (so that’s probably 1 in 20 that is free!)

Customer service in NL is very good, much better than Germany which has a reputation for poor customer service which we often experience. The servers are friendly and helpful; you often get great waiters and waitresses in Germany but you also often get very sour people who can’t do anything even slightly away from the standard requirements. In NL it seems you often need to pay at the bar but that’s fine, you can usually get the bill settled quickly; in Germany you are often waiting ages for them to come to you to settle the bill.

NL Landscape

Most of our time in the Netherlands seems to be on the motorway heading to Hoek van Holland or to Dronten, and it all seems featureless and concretey (as you would expect on a road). Because I knew NL was flat I sort-off assumed it always looked pretty much the same, but this was decidedly not true! What has been really nice for us on this tour is seeing the wide variety of landscape around the Netherlands. It’s not just flat with windmills, there are very obviously different types of landscape including sandy dunes, woodland, arable and of course the canals and reclaimed land sections.

What I particularly liked were the houses. They are of a very different style than German ones. Firstly, the windows in Dutch houses are much larger which must make the houses brighter inside. The houses are often also more interesting designs – more like English houses, not just a flat block. I was very surprised about how many thatched houses there are, even including brand new houses. And when inside, even modern houses seem to have very narrow or steep stairs. In Germany it seems most houses have spiral staircases, in NL they are straight but steep.

We found the towns with pedestrianised centres were much nicer to sit and relax in. When we visited Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog our lunch was spoiled by all the cars and trucks driving past. Germany seems to have been a bit more organised in pedestrianising towns, or perhaps it was just an artefact of the route that we took.

NL cycle infrastructure

The NL cycle infrastructure is lauded throughout the world. Yes it is very good, has some excellent benefits but it is not always ideal for people in non-standard bikes. We in Velomobiles are a real minority and are not in the minds of cycle infrastructure planners, but we both feel that we would probably avoid NL for a longer tour again because of the difficulties of using the cycle paths with velomobiles and the drempels and cobbles. Adults on upright bikes are well catered for, short children and velomobilists can end up riding blindly into dangerous situations with road crossings. But we love the fact that bikes are everywhere, they are everyday transport, they are just normal.

We also like the fact that the Dutch don’t feel the need to poke at our otherwise touch our velomobiles. In Germany people seem to have a feeling of entitlement, their children may be touching this private property but they don’t stop them and get annoyed when we remonstrate. We felt more relaxed leaving the Velomobiles parked somewhere and sitting down for a cuppa when in the Netherlands.

Despite many of the VM manufacturers being in NL, most of the people we need haven’t seen a velomobile before. I suppose there are probably only 1000 or so in the Netherlands, but I did find it interesting that we met two velomobiles whilst riding although unplanned. So they are there in the wild!

 

Klaus’s Report

2017; Ostsee-Berlin; 1900k; 3 Länder… wie kann man so etwas toppen? Wir hatten einige Ziele in Erwägung gezogen wie beispielsweise die Voralpenregion oder auch eine klassische Flusstour. Wir haben uns dann aber letztendlich für die Tour Rund um die Niederlande entschieden.

Die Gründe für den Entschluss lagen zum einen im überschaubaren logistischen Aufwand, dem zur Verfügung stehenden rollenden Material und dem eigenen Fitnesslevel.

Nachdem wir mit eigenen Streckenplanungen schon angefangen hatten, haben wir uns dann schlussendlich auf eine bereits bestehende und velomobilgeeignete Tour aufgesetzt. Basierend auf der Strecke der Dutch Capitals Tour, die durch die Hauptstädte aller niederländischen Provinzen führt, haben wir unsere Tour geplant.

Helen hat wohlweislich, bedingt durch die zu erwartende niedrigere Durchschnittsgeschwindigkeit, die Etappenlänge auf  max. 120 Kilometer/Tag begrenzt. Obwohl ich anfangs nicht so sehr davon begeistert war, musste ich Verlauf der Tour feststellen, dass dies eine sehr gute Entscheidung war.

Die Vorplanung der Übernachtungen hat auch dieses Mal der Cheforganisatorin Helen übernommen, wie eigentlich auch die gesamte Tour von Helen geplant wurde. Ich muss sagen eine sehr entspannte Art des Tourens.

Jetzt, einen Tag nach Tourende ist natürlich noch die ganze Seele von den Eindrücken der letzten 15 Tagen erschlagen und ist kräftig am Verarbeiten, doch ich werde versuchen ein Resümee zu ziehen.

Das Land:

Wir haben natürlich die Niederlande direkt vor der Haustür und viele unserer Touren gehen auch ins benachbarte Ausland. Eigentlich denkt man, man hat schon Alles gesehen. Auf einer solchen Tour wird man aber sehr schnell eines Besseren belehrt. Die Niederlande sind eben nicht nur plattes Land, Nordsee und Amsterdam. Vielmehr ist die Landschaft äußerst Abwechslungsreich; Heidegebiete, Wälder, Alleen und kleine Dörfer und zu guter Letzt auch Berge.. Dutch Mountains.

Die Leute:

Im Großen und Ganzen (wenn man das so pauschalieren darf) ist der Niederländer ein recht entspannter, offener und freundlicher Zeitgenosse. Unsere Gastgeber ob bei Vrienden op de fiets, B&B oder Hotels waren sehr zuvorkommend und der Service, dann doch eine Klasse besser, im direkten Vergleich zu Deutschland. Diese Unkompliziertheit macht das Reisen schon wesentlich entspannter.

Die Fahrradinfrastruktur:

Die Niederlande gelten ja schlechthin als Fahrradnation und dem kann ich auch uneingeschränkt beipflichten. Überall fahren die Leute Rad und in den Großstädten kann man erahnen, wie eventuell die Zukunft aussehen könnte. Das ist schon sehr beeindruckend. Wir mit unseren Velomobilen passen allerdings nicht so ganz in diese Welt. Wir sind zu sehr abhängig von bester Asphaltqualität, gerader langer Strecken, wenig Stop and Go. Das bekommt man in den Niederlanden nicht überall geboten. Die Radwege sind teilweise eng geschnitten und die Kurven erfordern doch manches Hin-und Her-Manövrieren. Die Oberflächenqualität lässt meist auch sehr zu wünschen übrig. Pflastersteine in fast jedem Dorf oder Stadt (sind zwar nicht so schlimm wie deutsches Kopfsteinpflaster) reduzieren im erheblichen Maße die Durchschnittsgeschwindigkeit und zerrten an unseren Nerven.

Abgrenzungen mit Hecken haben auch so ihre Tücken, speziell wenn man mal wieder irgendwo über die Straße geschickt wird. Die Sicht auf den Verkehr ist gleich null. Jetzt könnte man behaupten, dass wir ja ziemlich niedrig sind und somit selbst Schuld tragen, aber es gibt auch Verkehrsteilnehmer die nicht auf einem Hollandrad 1,80m über Straßenniveau sitzen beispielsweise Kinder, Menschen in Rollstühlen etc.

An fast jeder Straße ist auch irgendwie ein Radweg angeflanscht. Das trägt natürlich wunderbar zu einem entspannten Leben zwischen Autoverkehr und Radverkehr bei auf der anderen Seite ist das natürlich auch ein enormer Landschaftsverbrauch. Die Niederlande zählen zu den dichtbevölkerten Länder und freies Land ist ein hohes Gut. Da stellt sich wirklich die Frage, ob man Alles zubetonieren muss. Just my two cents

Das Essen:

Ja wir haben in den letzten Tagen einige Highlights erlebt. Marieke und John Spijkers (ein Arbeitskollege) haben uns bei sich zu Hause für eine Nacht beherbergt. John zauberte am Abend ein leckeres Abendessen in deren formidabler Küche. Besten Dank nochmals für die Unterbringung und Verpflegung. Auch das letzte Abendessen in Nuth… sehr lecker. Ansonsten war das Essen nicht schlecht aber auch nicht gerade herausragend gut. Auch die Preise hatten es doch in sich. Besonders zu erwähnen…. Kuchen- und brottechnisch sind die Niederlande eher Entwicklungsland. Aber wir wussten auf was wir uns einließen; wir waren vorgewarnt. Also liebe niederländische Freunde… tolles Land, tolle Menschen das gute Essen beziehungsweise Kuchen müsst ihr uns noch beweisen.

Die Tour:

Größere Überraschungen und Herausforderungen waren nicht zu erwarten. Wir planen unsere Touren nicht als Abenteuer und man bewegt sich in einem Land mit perfekter Infrastruktur. Da kann fast nichts passieren und selbst wenn, ist man gut aufgehoben und versorgt.

Die 15 Tage waren wieder sehr erholsam für Geist, Seele und Körper (der Kontakt mit den Eichenprozessionsspinner lassen wir mal außen vor).

Wir sind beide sehr positiv die Tour beendet und planen die eine oder andere Region wieder zu besuchen.

Das Material:

Beide Velomobile sind ohne größere Schäden durch die Tour gekommen. Eine Speiche, ein Plattfuß, ein defektes Ladegerät und defekte Blinker, sind die einzig zu beklagenden Schäden (Humphrey hat noch an ein paar Stellen Lack abgeben müssen). Ich durfte Helens Quattrovelo bewegen (mein Strada ist derzeit in Reparatur) und konnte die sehr gute Reisefähigkeit dieses Velomobils erfahren. Gepäck für zwei Personen, Ersatzteile und Unterwegsverpflegung war problemlos unterzubringen. Das Fahrverhalten, trotz des Mehrgewichts, neutral und unspektakulär. Selbst die Bergetappe am vorletzten Tag war ohne Probleme, und zu meiner vollen Zufriedenheit, abgelaufen. Ein tolles Velomobil.

Nochmals besten Dank an das Team von Velomobiel.NL und Alex de Jong, die uns bei der Ersatzbeschaffung des Ladegeräts behilflich waren.

Fazit:

Tolle Tour. Es hat Spaß gemacht und wir sind schon am überlegen, wo wir nächstes Jahr hinfahren. Das Reisen mit den Velomobilen ist schon ein einzigartiges Erlebnis. Lieben Dank an meine “Wing Woman” Helen. Hervorragende Planung, liebenswerte, verlässliche und besonnene Reisebegleitung; was braucht man mehr.

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Netherlands Tour 2018

NL2018 Day 15: Nuth to Kempen

Saturday 23 June 2018

Here is our planned route for the day:

And here is the actual route we rode:

We slept really well in the very lovely B&B de Pingerhoeve and enjoyed a tasty breakfast.

Our ride today would be just 90km so there was no major rush to get going. We packed the bikes up for the last time and were on our way at 10:15.

We actually stopped after about 200 metres as I had some weird noises at the back of Millie. I had completely rearranged a bag with some spare clothes and a rain Mac when packing everything in this morning so I shuffled that around a bit and the noise stopped. We carried on.

I had noticed from the track that there was a bit of a hill near the beginning of this ride, and it arrived very soon! It was so steep that I had to switch to my granny ring; this is fine, but I find it almost impossible to twist the grip-shift back to change to the big ring. I eventually managed it today but it was so tough I resolved to avoid doing it again. I end up weaving all over the road as I have to use my right hand to change the left hand shifter and so it’s not something I can safely do if there are any cars around.

Very shortly afterwards in the village of Puth there was another big hill. I decided not to change to the granny ring and Klaus very kindly rode just behind and to the side and gave me an occasional push to help me. It was tough going though as it was a long hill.

I stopped at the top for a breather – we could see a long way down to the Maas valley.

Cycling up hills can be hard work (particularly for me), but cycling down is just mega fun. And so was this!

We zoomed down… I ended up sitting at about 65 km/h for a fair distance; I used the brakes slightly to prevent me going much faster as I felt that the front tyres were a bit under inflated and didn’t want to go too fast on them, but Millie was stable and easy to steer. Klaus also had a great experience with Humphrey, finding him rock solid on the fast downhill.

I got a Strava QOM for this downhill as I cycled the 1.1km of this segment at an average of 57.8 km/h. Fun!!

We were slowly getting closer to familiar routes. Our track took us through Sittard which was OK but lots of traffic lights. I was ahead on the cycle path so had the job of trying to reach the button for the traffic lights. This provides a bit of an upper body workout!

After Sittard we headed to Susteren on a fast bit of cycle path. I was finding the cycling easier going today than yesterday and the day before.

After Susteren we continued along and ended up cycling through Echt again. We had ridden through Echt two days before.

As we were riding between Echt and Roermond we spotted a yellow velomobile coming towards us on the cycle path. Lo and behold it was chum Rolf from Schwalmtal. He was on his way to emvelomobiel.be to have some work done on his velomobiel; we also bumped into Rolf when we were at emvelomobiel.be some weeks ago. It is a very small world! We had a short chat but he had to get going as he was being collected from there by car; we will meet up with him soon again no doubt.

We were soon arriving at Roermond, 40km after we set out. We stopped for a cuppa at a cafe in the central market area.

There was a street market on so it was very busy. We were very near to Germany here and there were lots of Germans wandering around, and once again we found that people were tending to touch the velomobiles. We had had two blessed weeks of peace from that with the Dutch who seem to have more respect for others’ property.

We had decided not to have any cake as we wanted to experience some German cake instead. We had decided to do a slightly alternative route back, travelling up into Germany from Swalmen rather than Steijl.

We left Roermond and rode towards Swalmen, then turning onto the road that leads to Germany. This is a long, 9km ride to Brüggen, but the cycle path is smooth and the slight uphill barely registered.

And then we crossed back into Germany. It was a nice feeling, to know that we had cycled all the way around the Netherlands but were on our way home.

In Brüggen we stopped for cake.

Then we headed off and found ourselves round the corner from Ralf’s so popped in to see him and his wife and enjoy another cuppa.

The final stretch from Ralf’s to our house, 20km on smooth German roads, showed that the speed issues that I had with Millie are related to the riding conditions in the Netherlands and the way I become tired with all the stopping and starting. We were cruising at 30 km/h between Grefrath and Kempen and it was great fun. Klaus diverted to the supermarket in Kempen but I rode directly home as I had a bit of a headache and didn’t feel the need to tackle a German supermarket!

It was lovely to be home and greeted by Poppy the dog. The washing machine is now doing its thing and we are enjoying relaxing in our own home whilst watching Germany playing in the World Cup.

Today’s ride was 91km at an average of 21.2 km/h.

Here is the list of all rides on this tour, a total of 1,311km for me, 1,336km for Klaus:

And here is the ‘wheel’ which shows where we have been.

Now we’ve had a couple of weeks of touring in NL, we have a bit more experience of the suitability of our bike choices for touring in our Dutch neighbour country. Klaus and I are both writing an additional post that we will probably publish tomorrow with our thoughts about cycle touring in NL and the velomobiles and other equipment that we chose for it.

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NL2018 Day 14: Maastricht to Nuth

Friday 22 June 2018

Three weeks ago I planned our route for the day:

However, due to my broken spoke and dislike of hills, I decided to do an alternative much shorter route that avoided the worst of the hilly bits. Klaus wanted to try the original route. There will be a ride report from him on that below.

My route was planned using Garmin Connect on the iPad and then uploaded to my Garmin. This had its limitations. Below is the actual route that I rode.

We slept well and had breakfast at eight in the morning. This breakfast had the least variety of all the breakfasts so far, in that we just had standard Dutch brown bread (no rolls or croissants). It was OK but not that exciting.

We got the bikes out of the storage area and got them ready on the road. I was pointing one way, Klaus the other, as our routes were entirely different. I waved Klaus off and then checked everything on Millie. Some of the gaffer tape holding my cables in place over my left foot was hanging down again (the adhesive doesn’t seem able to cope with warmer weather) so I stuck it back and then got my hat and gloves on.

It was then time to test the lights (I always do this). No indicators on the left side. Damn! This was the side where we had replaced both indicators, and their cabling, but since then Etienne had done some more wiring and the cable going to the front LED is very tight and liable to interfere with my feet. Thus the gaffer tape that had been falling down. I don’t know if the gaffer tape adjustment meant something went wrong with the connector, or whether one of the LEDs has just failed, but this was not something that could be checked today. I would just have to ride without a left indicator, and we’ll have another Bike Maintenance day soon. At least it’s warm and summery and this is not in the depths of winter!

My route at the beginning was the reverse of the route we took yesterday, past Elsloo to Stein. Elsloo was where there was a horrible downhill on cobbles but Garmin had offered me a cycle path along the top of the dike instead. Hopefully that would avoid unnecessary hill climbing and cobbles, two things I don’t like.

I pootled off along this route, finding the going a bit easier than yesterday but I still wasn’t fast. I only had 36km to ride and Klaus had 60km and some mega hills so there was no hurry. The accommodation would let us in early which was nice, but I didn’t want to get there before lunch!

I made an early mistake by following the Garmin’s route which wanted me to cross a busy road rather than using the bridge we had ridden across yesterday. There was no way to cross the road, I had to find my way to the bridge and this involved a hairpin turn which took me about 6 shuffles-forward-and-back to manage. This is common with the Milan and it’s not a major issue, but when you are wearing sandals and sliding your foot through the foot holes it is possible to jab your toes on the sharp edges of the carbon fibre foot hole. Don’t ask how I know this.

Eventually I was up on the bridge and riding across, following generally decent cycle paths back to the north.

At Geulle the Garmin wanted me to leave yesterday’s track and go nearer to the canal so I followed this road which became a narrower track and then eventually petered out into a narrow footpath. So I turned round and went back again to our yesterday’s route.

At Elsloo I saw the route my Garmin wanted me to take – off the main road and onto a slightly unmade section where there were several workmen. However, if this were possible it would be a big improvement over the horrendous cobble hill. I asked the workmen if I could get through and the spokesman, who spoke no English, said some Dutch to me that sounded like I could. We had a mini conversation, neither of us really understanding the other, and then I rode on and he cheered.

Next obstacle was a giant excavator thingie which they moved out of the way so I could ride past… but the way ahead was very narrow and overgrown. I could almost guarantee that in 300 metres it would be down to gravel or packed earth. No thanks!

So I turned round and said to the chaps that the way was too narrow. They seemed to understand that and gave me lots of smiles. The Dutch guy made some noises in Dutch which sounded like he was asking if it was electric, so I said no, just muscle power, and he slapped his thighs and seemed to think this was very impressive. Smiles all round, I carried on.

Here is what I have been moaning about for days. See this small gully – it’s just the right size to collect my front wheels whilst the nose of the Velomobile slides noisily onto the cobbles. This happens the whole time when touring in the Netherlands and is noisy, uncomfortable and irritating.

And this was the hill I had been trying to avoid by taking the cycle path on the dike. I knew it was fruitless to ride up there so I wheeled the Milan up by hand which was OK, although of course the cobbles meant that the steering kept changing direction.

I made it to the top, got in and was about to pedal off but something was funny. Yes, the bumpy cobbles had meant that whilst I was pushing the seat pinged out of its mounting one side. That is the work of a moment to fix but getting in and out unnecessarily is annoying for me. Because I am lazy!

From Elsloo it was a short ride on faster road surfaces to Stein, where I diverted for the final time from yesterday’s route and headed more to the east.

I was riding beside a fairly busy road but the cycle path was nice and wide and smooth. I then turned right under a motorway and then past the Chemelot chemical works with lots of towers, railway sidings etc.

I was now riding round the outskirts of Geleen and this was a good cycle path but without priority at the road crossings, you had to stop and press the traffic light button. And here is an example of another issue with Velomobiles in NL – I could not reach this button on the right of this photo.

There is no way I could have cornered at the right angle to be able to press the button. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, the traffic lights detect you anyway, but in this case not. But this is NL, I knew I wouldn’t have to wait too long until another cyclist appeared, and after two traffic light cycles there was indeed a lady on the other side and she pressed the button so I could cross.

I had about 5km to ride to Nuth so thought I might stop if I found a cafe but wasn’t successful. I was also really angered by something that happened as I passed a large college; I saw a sign written van from that college driving extremely slowly beside me; the driver was filming me from his mobile phone, whilst driving. Great. He then pulled into the road I was crossing, still filming. I was so angry with this dangerous manoeuvre I considered riding into the college and reporting him, but then I decided not to bother. After all, Velomobile owners are used to seeing drivers filming or talking on their phones whilst driving. Who cares if they hit and kill and injure someone, it’s just important that they can have that conversation/take that photo when they want. They are drivers, they own the road!

I cycled on, discovering that I was entering a bit of a hilly region. I went through Spaubeek and there were lots of signs warning of a road closure. Of course, when you are a cyclist visiting from outside this doesn’t really help as I didn’t actually know which roads I was taken, I was just following the purple line!

But of course, the road that was closed was the one that I wanted to take. I stopped in front of the giant tarmac resurfacing machine thingy and asked the driver where I should go. He indicated a small path to the side which clearly went under the motorway and I wanted to stay on this side, but hey ho, I gave it a go. Fortunately I was able to cross back again at Nagelbeek just before Schinnen.

But then, very weirdly, the road I wanted to take (where the purple line went) had completely disappeared and was a pile of sand with various JCBs driving around on it, but a shiny new road which didn’t feature at all on my Garmin was there before me so I went on that. Nice, smooth asphalt. This was heading towards Nuth so I kept on this road, eventually turning off and crossing under the motorway again as I followed a cycle sign to Nuth. Once over the railway I saw a sign indicating Nuth for bicycles was down a narrow track. I preferred the option of the main road (which my Garmin was indicating) so I ignored that, carried on and then the cycle path disappeared and there was a ‘no cycles’ sign on the road. I couldn’t go further so I returned to the narrow track and went down it. It widened out and was OK.

I crossed under the Motorway again and found my way into Nuth. I wanted to find a cafe so headed towards what looked on my Garmin like the town centre. I was almost there when I saw a decent looking cafe so stopped for a cuppa and some lunch.

The tea came with a mini ice cream (and a mini portion of milk)

I ordered soup and something that sounded like chicken satay sandwich. The soup arrived in a mini tureen

And at the same tie the chicken satay ‘sandwich’ also arrived in an identical tureen. I had thought it was a sarnie but it was more like a stew with some mini prawn crackers.

It was tasty and warm though, so that was fine.

At one o’clock I decided to head to the B&B which was downhill in Nuth (which is a bit hillier than I generally like). The direct route wasn’t possible as I found myself at the top of a flight of steps, not ideal in a Velomobile, but a minor detour led me to B&B de Pingerhoeve. What a lovely room we had!

I had some entertainment as I arrived as they were putting up a giant tarpaulin/tent in the entire Innenhof as there would be a party there tomorrow.

I had my shower, put on the kettle and then thought I had better check where Klaus was. He had sent me pictures from the Drei-Laender Punkt (where Germany, NL and Belgium all meet) and then had been having some lunch. A look at the tracker – he was just 1km away! He had enjoyed a really good ride today and despite 800ish metres of climbing wasn’t that pooped.

Klaus’s Report

Nachdem sich eine Speiche bei Millie verabschiedet hatte, war eigentlich klar, dass ich die Tour zum 3-Länder-Punkt alleine fahren werde.

Freundlicherweise hatte Helen ihr Gepäck, welches ja von mir transportiert wurde, um ein paar Gramm erleichtert. Das half natürlich enorm beim Anstieg. Garmin errechnete ca. 620 Höhenmeter für die knapp 65 Kilometer und das Höhenprofil hatte mir auch keinen Angstschweiß auf die Stirn gezaubert. Also ging es dann kurz vor 9:30 in südlicher Richtung los. Die ersten 6 Kilometer waren schön zum eincruisen. Irgendwann bog der Track dann nach Osten ab und stieg dann sanft mit 4-5% an. Das Wetter war recht angenehm und das stetige Hochkurbeln bei mäßigen Prozenten liegt mir. Die erste Steigung war nach einer Stunde geschafft. Die erste Abfahrt war für mich auch die Frage, wie bewähren sich die Bremsen. Ich habe es nicht brutal laufen lassen und die höchste Geschwindigkeit betrug 66km/h. Jetzt ging es in einem Art Sägezahn weiter. Immer wieder Anstiege um die 8% und danach Abfahrten, die die gewonnen Höhenmeter gefühlt wieder vernichteten. Aber die Aussichten unterwegs waren ein Genuss. Jetzt weiß ich wieder was ich in den letzten Jahren Radeln am Niederrhein vermisst habe.

Die geschwungenen Landschaften und immer mal wieder ein kleines Dorf mit einem Kirchturm.

Nach der Kurve die nächste Rampe. Natürlich wurde ich von einer Menge Rennradler überholt. Strava King of the Mountain habe ich heute keine abgeräumt. Das war allerdings auch nicht zu erwarten mit einem 45kg Dickschiff.

Es war den ganzen Tag ziemlich windig und so wechselten die Wolkenstimmung sekündlich.

 

Auf den letzten Metern wurde ich noch von weiteren Rennradlern überholt (das war auch kein Wunder bei meiner Geschwindigkeit), aber letztendlich habe ich es doch gepackt. Beinahe hätte ich den 3-Länder-Punkt verpasst. Das obligatorische Beweißfoto wurde geschossen und dann war es Zeit für eine kleine Stärkung in einem der 1000 Restaurants habe ich mir eine Tomatensuppe und zwei Cola gegönnt.

Im Restaurant habe ich mich noch länger mit ein paar Rennradler über das Reisen und Radeln mit Velomobilen unterhalten. Die waren beeindruckt, dass ich mit dem Dickschiff hier hoch geradelt bin. Nach der Stärkung habe ich mich wieder in Humphrey hineingewunden. Zuvor habe ich noch dieses Bild geschossen. Im Tal sieht man Aachen.

Jetzt dachte ich, geht es nur noch bergab….weit gefehlt. Am höchsten Punkt hatte ich ca. 620 Höhenmeter. Auf dem Weg nach Nuth kamen nochmal 350 Höhemmeter hinzu. Das hatte ich irgendwie nicht so ganz auf der Rechnung. Und dabei war noch ein ganz fieses Ding 700 Meter lang mit 10-13% und vom Start faktisch mit 0km/h. Das zog dann doch etwas in den Muskeln. Aber das war es dann auch. Kurz vor Ende wurde ich noch mit einer rauschenden Abfahrt belohnt; über 82km/h und es hätten noch mehr werden können, aber der Seitenwind drückte recht heftig an der Karosse und so entschied ich doch vorsorglich den Bremshebel zu ziehen und kinetische Energie und Wärmeenergie umzuwandeln.

Was will ich sagen…Bergfahren macht Spaß. Solange ich meinen Rhythmus finde und die Steigungsprozente nicht allzu brutal werden, macht das richtig Spaß. Erinnerungen an meine längstvergangene MTB-Karriere wurden wach.

Back together again

As explained above, Klaus arrived much earlier than I expected.

Once the tent was up the two velomobiles could be stored in the Innenhof for the night. This was the view out of our window.

The B&B people were adding lights and other decoration for the party.

It’s a lovely place to stay, with occasional noises of aircraft overhead which we think are from Geilenkirchen US airbase.

We ate our evening meal in the restaurant attached to the B&B and it was the tastiest food we have eaten so far in the Netherlands.

Tomorrow we ride home via Roermond, a 90km day. It will be nice to be home again and to see Poppy the dog, but we have really enjoyed our tour and particularly meeting so many friends and interesting people.

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NL2018 Day 13: Weert to Maastricht

Thursday 21 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

We had a good night’s sleep and then enjoyed an excellent breakfast in our little B&B. everything was really well presented.

We had contacted the Vrienden op de Fiets place where we would be staying tonight and they had said we couldn’t arrive before 5pm. As the distance for the day was planned as 70km we didn’t have any urgency to leave and so stayed until past ten o’clock.

But it was eventually time to head off towards Maastricht so we opened up the garage.

We had a nice chat with the landlady about velomobiles. We really liked B&B Piekoo Belloo and would recommend it to anyone staying in Veert – as long as you can cope with steep stairs (although you need to be able to cope with those for most houses in NL it seems!)

Having had lots of issues with cycle path quality yesterday, today’s route began as. A very big improvement. We had mostly very smooth cycle paths and they were wider than they often can be. Despite this we were riding at a very relaxed speed – I didn’t feel the need to rush and wanted the rest really. We rode to Stramproy, Haler and Ittervort on what seemed like really quiet roads.

At Wessem we crossed the Maas.

We thought we might stop for a cuppa in Maasbracht but ended up riding a bit further, to Echt, before we found a suitable stopping place.

Klaus was feeling more peckish so then had a spaghetti Bolognese. I had had a larger breakfast so didn’t need any food at this point.

We spent quite a long time in Echt and on our way out we stopped at an Aldi to buy some biscuits and chocolate.

After Echt we had a long climb up a ramp to cross the Julianakanaal on a bridge we have been over a few times before. This time on the downhill afterwards I rode on the cycle path but noticed too late that the hedges either side had recently been cut. I expected a puncture but was very lucky that I didn’t get one. Klaus had wisely ridden on the road here.

I did wonder if I had a puncture as I found the going very hard after this point. Klaus was up ahead and I had difficulties keeping up with him. We had a few interesting bits of routing, including the bridge below just for bikes (you can see Humphrey crossing it).

And now my turn…

The bridge had been put in for bikes to cross over some kind of construction area.

But just to keep us on our toes there was a ‘bicycle sluice’ to slow us down but Humphrey and Millie were able to squeeze through.

From here we were riding along quiet lanes through villages without much activity. And then we arrived at Berg aan de Maas, somewhere we have found ourselves many times. We were following the route from Roef and it took us up the massive hill in the centre of Berg. I had to change down to my Granny Ring to get up it (only the third time I have used this in the last 3 months) and found that once I wanted to change back up to the big ring I wasn’t able. This is due to my arm disability and the grip-shift which is very stiff. In the past I was able to use my right hand to change the gear with a bit of contortion but I couldn’t manage it this time for ages. Eventually I managed it but had been freewheeling down the street unable to pedal fast enough and with Millie’s lid half open so I could get my good hand onto the left side. I didn’t enjoy it at all. Etienne at EMvelomobiel.be has a trigger shifter in stock for me and one hope was for me to visit him tomorrow to get it changed. This absolutely confirmed that I couldn’t do the mountainous riding tomorrow though – if I can’t change into the granny ring then there’s no hope.

I had just got the chain back onto the big ring when I realised I had taken a slightly wrong turn and we were now going up another hill to a bridge over the canal, which was wrong! I was painfully slow up this hill and wanted to try to divert off this wrong route but there was no chance. Klaus who was right behind me got a close pass from a lady, who then proceeded to cut right in front of me, making me call out in fright.

Klaus overtook and we turned around in a side road, going back down into the town and back onto Roef’s route. This took us down some back roads and then we found ourself at some roadworks and there was no way through. We had to turn round again and clearly the best route was over the bridge over the canal and down the other side. So it was up the hill to the bridge again.

Once we got over the bridge and onto a side road I had to stop. I was completely exhausted. Having ridden the first steep hill, then had the stress with the gear change, then the hill to the bridge, then the close pass, then more fiddly routing, then turning round because of roadworks and over the bridge again, all within ten minutes, my energy had just disappeared. I have limited energy reserves for hills and need to have a chance to build them back up again, but this had all been too much.

I ate a biscuit (I wondered if not having lunch was a factor in my tiredness) and after a few minutes carried on, but I had no power at all. I was managing to ride at about 14 km/h.

After a few kilometres we reached Elsloo and I spotted a reasonable looking cafe. I felt it best to stop to try to give myself a rest so that I could manage the final 15km to Maastricht. I was completely pooped.

They had a decent cake – this would be called Stachelbeer Baiser in Germany.

We stopped for about half an hour and had a cuppa as well as the cake. We started talking again about fitting an electric motor to Millie to help me with this sort of situation (hills and acceleration from stationary).

When we set off again we had instant appalling road surface – really rough cobbles on a fast downhill with a sharp turn at the bottom. My teeth were nearly rattled out of their sockets!

We pootled on, on mainly quiet roads but with a few complicated road crossings. At one point I was overtaken by a guy on a loaded touring bike; clearly I was not riding at my best!

It was not completely flat where we were riding, there were a few very gentle inclines. In the background of this shot you can see a few of the hills around Maastricht.

Klaus will, on his ride tomorrow, have a fair bit of climbing and descending.

Because of my tiredness I also made the decision not to go to emvelomobiel.be tomorrow as I felt the 60km round trip, returning late in the evening (he only opens at 18:00) would not be a good idea. Fortunately the B&B that we will be staying at tomorrow is happy for me to arrive very early.

For today’s accommodation we had found a Vrienden op de Fiets in Heer near Maastricht. There was a good parking area for the bikes and the hosts’ daughter’s dog was very interested in them!

We had a room in the attic with a view over the Maastricht skyline. The blurb from Vrienden op de Fiets said we have a separate bathroom but this was not the case; however, they had a second room and a guest came at 9:30pm and her room did have a bathroom and also a mini kitchen. I am not sure why we were relegated to the lesser room!

We had a short walk down the road to a pizzeria – which was my first proper food since breakfast. I guess my tiredness is a mixture of food choices today, overall food (too many carbs, Klaus and I feel much better on low carb), the cumulative effect of drempels and cycle lanes and bumpy roads and perhaps just a bad day. I feel very tired which I don’t usually on a longer tour, I usually get fitter and fitter. We will see what tomorrow is like, but my actual route is only about 20km so I should have plenty of time to recover!

Tomorrow Klaus will brave the mountains around Maastricht. I hope that he will take some photos that I can include in the blog tomorrow. Watch this space!

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NL2018 Day 12: Tilburg to Weert

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Here is our planned track for the day:

Today was planned as another shorter day at 80km.

After a good breakfast with John and Marieke we headed off at just past 9am.

Today was another day of mixed road surfaces. We had some fast roads but also lots of bumpy cycle paths.

There was one very long segment on a decent quiet road where a new cycle path beside the road was being constructed. This seemed to be a lot of work for a path where it wasn’t really required, in our opinion, although this road did have some kind of nature centre on it so perhaps they were hoping to attract younger children on bikes. Anyway, the area being constructed was at least 5km long.

And then suddenly an older cycle path appeared – which was wonky bricks and bumpy.

The problem with these bricks is that if you ride at a fast enough speed it changes from bumpy to buzzy but it is not comfortable for long. The velomobiles rattle and shudder and the Quattrovelo does lots of ghost shifting (changes gear). It needs more energy to ride on bumpy roads. On smooth asphalt today we were riding at 30-32km/h, on these bricks at 22km/h. That adds a lot of time to the journey!

And in this next picture you see the three road surfaces as we are waiting for the lifting bridge. I am on the bricks, then there are proper cobbles, then on the main road there are bricks in a different pattern (diagonal). All very irritating!

We were heading towards Belgium and would in fact have a few kilometres over the border as part of our ride. I noticed a familiar name on this road side – Kempen wood!

We had checked out the route before we left and decided to stop at 30km at Hapert as it looked large enough for us to find a bakery. After some minor explorations in the town centre we returned to a bakery Klaus had spotted on the main road going into the town and had some cakes which were actually pretty decent!

We were basically riding a large semicircle around Eindhoven and had very lovely views for most of the day, especially as the sun came out. In fact it ended up pretty warm by mid-afternoon, around 28 degrees, but when riding fast on decent road surfaces we had a good cooling breeze.

You can see below that we weren’t always on the brick road surface but this light-coloured surface was often fairly rough too. The suspension of the bikes smooths out most of the bumps but you do get a bit more noise in the velomobiles.

We crossed into Belgium at Saint Benedictus Abbey and rode along very pretty roads through woodland with lots of walking paths signposted either side. I don’t have any Belgium maps on my Garmin so took a wrong turn in Hamont but Klaus hooted Humphrey’s horn so I realised my mistake.

We had planned our lunch stop in Budel which was 65km into the ride so with only 15 to go. It was the only really decent sized town on the second half our of route. We found a pedestrianised centre area with several restaurants and sat down in the shade of a large umbrella outside one of them. It was hot!

I had another “Twelve O’clock” which this time had a mini jar of tomato soup too!

I had messaged the B&B to say that we were ahead of schedule and rather than being with them at 4pm might be an hour earlier. I got a message back to say that she wouldn’t be in until four, so we stayed a bit longer in Budel and had a cake each while we waited!

We set off at ten past three which gave us loads of time to get to Weert. Which was good as we had mostly rough road surfaces for this last sector. But we did see some interesting things – who knew Kempen had an airport?

The run into Weert was OK although there were a lot of other cyclists going very slowly which upsets the Velomobile cycling rhythm.

We arrived at our B&B which is really lovely (it has a rating of 9.8 on Booking.com). There was a large garage area for the velomobiles and the landlady proudly showed us the electric garage door. She closed it and it became clear – too late! – that the concrete markings on the floor for the garage did not correspond to where the door actually descended. The door landed on Millie’s rear end.

We shouted at the lady to stop the garage closing but she fumbled it a bit. In the end it was only the rear brake light which was knocked off; this is glued on so I guess it isn’t a major issue and we will fix it with gaffer tape for the time being. But this was a slightly inauspicious start.

However, the B&B is absolutely lovely! It’s very cosy with lovely decoration and furniture. There were some little slices of cake to welcome us.

Of course our stuff is everywhere making it look messy but it is very quaint and we feel comfortable.

We ate dinner at a Greek restaurant and then enjoyed a very nice ice cream on the way back; the queue out of the ice cream parlour was really long so we knew it would be good!

Klaus and I would be very interested to know what my Dutch readers think of the Netherlands cycle paths if they have velomobiles. Do you find them good? Would you rather ride on the road? Do you feel safe on the cycle paths? Would you normally prefer to use an upright bike rather than Velomobile for shorter journeys? Comments on this blog post would be gratefully received!

Tomorrow we have a mere 71km to Maastricht and cannot arrive at our Vrienden op de Fiets place until 17:00 so I expect us to have a more relaxed start and perhaps longer at cafes along the way!

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NL2018 Day 11: Roosendaal to Tilburg

Tuesday 19 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

After a hearty breakfast we packed up all our belongings. Unfortunately the clothes we had washed yesterday afternoon hadn’t dried and overall our clothing is getting a bit whiffy. This isn’t the end of the world but it is one of the discomforts of cycle touring (I like clean clothes!)

Today we were heading to Tilburg to stay at the home of one of Klaus’s colleagues, John. As Tilburg isn’t that far away from Roosendaal we decided to go via Baarle Nassau/Baarle Hertog. More later. This made the journey 80km.

We fetched our bikes from the bicycle parking place – what a brilliant idea, I hope to see more of these in future! Then under heavy skies which threatened rain we set off again.

The way out of Roosendaal was a bit easier than our way in, but it was still a bit fiddly with various road crossings, drempels and rough surfaces. This turned out to be the theme for today which made the ride today rather harder than expected.

We rode south east towards Schijf and then back northwards again towards Breda. We had a mixture of road surfaces but our progress was reasonable. There wasn’t much wind and it was mostly behind us.

We had decided we would stop in Breda for a cuppa but weren’t exactly sure where to go as our Garmins had us just bypassing it. In the end we had a bit of a fiddly ride to try to cross a main road (eventually we found a bridge, having taken a wrong road that led us only to a hospital with no way into the town). We weren’t actually in the centre of Breda but inn Princenhage, but they had a chocolate milk drink for Klaus and I had a tea of course.

It was a bit warmer today so nice to sit outside and watch people walk past.

It was a more sticky day, so not particularly hot but I found it a bit sweaty riding. Yesterday I had worn some arm warmers to keep my arms away from the side of thee Velomobile (I keep getting a sweat rash, but the arm warmers didn’t help that much). Today I just had a buff over my right arm which worked better to reduce the irritation (no Lycra, I think I am slightly sensitive to it when mixed with sweat) but only one buff so the left arm was bare. But it seemed to be OK overall.

After Breda we headed south towards the Belgian border. At Strijbeek we were probably only a couple of hundred metres away. We had some good country lanes but also lots of slow and difficult riding through towns and villages. Brick paving, drempels, awkward cycle paths… But the countryside bits were very nice.

The landscape has changed again, there are more trees – and also some more warnings for the Oak Processionary caterpillar so Klaus was riding with his arms inside the Velomobile when we saw these. Fortunately our itches have mostly healed up, although Klaus is now suffering from sunburnt/windburnt lips.

A view across to Belgium:

We found ourselves on cycle paths which were much less well maintained than others on this trip. There were lot of tree roots which pushed up the asphalt and made it very bumpy and rattly. As well as this there were long stretches of wide tiles/stones which tend to end up undulating a bit so we were bumping in and out of dips in the road. Millie scrapes regularly in this situation and the sound is a bit unnerving. And of course there were more drempels, big ones that meant I scraped on the way up and on the way down again.

We ended up on a very long road from Chaam down to Baarle and this was a narrow-ish cycle path. It was better than the road beside it though; that was brick paving. Except after a while it wasn’t, it turned into sand. I began to worry that our nice smooth asphalt might turn into sand too, then we would have a long ride back again. Fortunately the asphalt continued right to the end at our planned lunch stop in Baarle Nassau in the Netherlands. Or was it Baarle Hertog in Belgium?

Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau is a very interesting part of the world as there are enclaves of Belgium within the Netherlands, and within these Belgian enclaves a few Netherlands exclaves. The picture below shows it – H is a Belgian enclave, N a Dutch one.

You can read about this in Wiki: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Hertog and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Nassau.

When we arrived we had to stop our bikes on the border. This was just outside the pancake cafe where we stopped for some lunch. As you can see, Millie’s nose is in Belgium in the town of Baarle-Hertog and her tail is in NL in Baarle-Nassau.

A sign on the pavement explains it in Dutch.

And here is a screenshot of Google Maps where we were sitting for lunch. In NL, but Belgium was about 20 metres south.

This is a tourist town because of these weird borders. THere are restaurants with some tables in NL and some in Belgium and the licensing rules used to be different so diners would move to another table if they wanted to stay later. There is also a house whose front door is smack bang on the border so the house has two numbers, one in Baarle-Nassau and one in Baarle-Hertog. I wonder how you decide which country you live in if your house straddles the border – presumably the one with the lower taxes!

Here you see a line of bricks zigzagging across the road; this is the border, with Belgium on the right. The person sitting at a table with a bike propped up beside them is in NL but the bike is actually in Belgium.

It was time for lunch so I had some soup and then followed it with one of my favourite bike touring treats – poffertjes!

We had noticed the menu also offered ‘Banoffee’ so ordered that and it turned out to be a Banoffee ice cream with popcorn.

It’s a fascinating town but what spoilt our time there was the large volume of traffic passing through the whole time. Huge HGVs were turning the sharp corner to take a different road right in the middle of the town where people were sitting outside eating lunch. There were also lots of cars. It’s noisy, spoils the air quality and makes it less relaxing. It’s a real shame they couldn’t pedestrianise it.

The route between Baarle and Tilburg is a former railway line that is now a cycle path. We had great hopes for this as our day had been difficult with some tiring riding. But we were actually a bit disappointed.

The cycle path diversion as they were building a new bridge wasn’t too bad – the gap was wide enough for Humphrey and Millie:

But the path quality was not great. It was very rough asphalt, not particularly wide and at every crossing of a road the cycle path had to give way. This seems very inefficient as there was lots more bike traffic than car traffic.

After the railway had closed a few businesses had built across the old route so there were a couple of diversions. These tended to follow the “add a 90 degree bend into the cycle path just before a crossing of a major road on a slight incline with a wide hedge beside it”. In other words, those of us in velomobiles with closed wheel boxes have to do a 6 point turn to get around the corner, at which point we can’t see if any traffic is coming and can only start very slowly as it’s uphill. Fun.

After 17 kilometres we arrived in the outskirts of Tilburg. At first this route was OK but as we got closer to the centre we had to do more stopping and starting again. This is tiring for me as Millie takes a bit of effort to get going. I was feeling tired despite the relatively short distance. The road surfaces today had doubled the effort required for this ride!

We went right to the centre of Tilburg on a cycle route and then moved past and to the north east where Klaus’s colleague John lived. The final 5km were a reasonable speed at last, and we arrived at our host’s house at 4:30pm. John and his wife Marieke welcomed us, gave us tea and let us shower and, most wonderful of all, washed ALL our cycle clothing! I was so relieved about this as I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable in it; my clothes were smelly and were irritating my skin a bit. Hurrah for a washing machine!

After we were showered and freshened up we had a lovely dinner that John cooked for us, an indonesian stir fry. Really tasty!

And then it was time for them to try Humphrey and Millie!

Marieke is a little short for the velomobiles and could only just see out.

John was a better height although his legs were slightly shorter than mine.

In conclusion, Marieke preferred Humphrey and they both though that he seemed more solid and comfortable. The extra 9kg are put to good use!

So it was really nice to have a cosy evening with chums. Tomorrow we ride to Weert which is just really a staging post on our way to Maastricht, but the B&B where we will stay has a 9.8 rating on Booking.com so that should be interesting!

And this is where we have ridden so far on our tour…

We only have a few more days of touring. We are really enjoying ourselves and are already discussing where we should go next year!

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NL2018 Day 10: Burgh Haamstede to Roosendaal

Monday 18 June 2018

This was our planned route for the day:

A short report for today as it’s my birthday and I want to enjoy a relaxing evening with Klaus!

We left our brilliant B&B at 9am and headed off in a light drizzle towards Burgh Haamstede itself and then further south towards Middelburg.

We had some more impressive dams/sluices/bridges for the day.

This one looked very complicated!

The only obvious place to stop in the first 50km was Middelburg, which at 30km was quite early but I needed the loo! We found a cafe where we just had drinks as it was too early for cake. Middelburg seemed very lovely, I saw this impressive row of buildings on the way out.

The rain had stopped and we were now on really fast bike paths so were zooming along at 30 km/h for long stretches.

We crossed more canals.

Saw more impressive bridges

And then decided to stop in Kruiningen for lunch and found a bakery/ice cream cafe/post office that was open.

They had sausage rolls!

I also had a cake as it was my birthday but once again it was a bit of a disappointment.

We carried on, keeping up a good speed and our average was creeping up too. Although today was a longer distance at 118km, which would normally be 6 hours at our NL speed, we realised we would arrive at the hotel a bit earlier than originally expected.

More bridges.

And this, dead ahead, is Antwerp. We are on the edge of Belgium.

We went down one street where the Belgian border was on our right hand side. We rode at a good pace except for a few bad cycle routes and brick paving in towns. I liked this road name!

Our average was at 23.5 km/h as we arrived in the outskirts of Roosendaal, at which point Klaus and I lost each other as I had a navigation issue due to a missing cycle path. But we met again outside our hotel which, despite having slightly singular proprietors, seems very nice. Our bikes were stored in one of two special bike parking areas which have someone watching the bikes. This is free of charge, it is just provided by the city, and was in a building in the main pedestrian precinct. Excellent!

We went out for a celebratory birthday dinner at a local Greek restaurant which is apparently the second best in the Netherlands. I enjoyed the meal very much but was a bit amazed at one of the dessert options (and which Klaus chose), which was Banoffee Pie. This Eastbourne dish has really travelled through Europe!

I had a Baklava as I love them!

Anyway, we had a good day although I’m feeling a bit tired now. Tomorrow we visit some Dutch/Belgian Enclaves and Exclaves and then will stay with a colleague of Klaus’s in Tilburg for the night. A shorter day but with plenty of interesting things to see. We are now heading eastwards with the wind either behind us or to our quarter, so the riding is easier and this is a sign that the tour is drawing to an end.

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