6 Wheels In Germany – March 2017 (Month 36)

This is Month 36 of my time in Germany. On 31 March 2014 I left the UK for my new life in Germany. The three years have gone really fast!

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

As you see, a better total for March but I am still behind my target of 10,000km for the year. Oh well, the summer is on its way!

And here is where I have cycled this month. Mostly commutes and just a couple of longer rides.

A long ride for a great downhill

Last August I did a long ride in Penelope via Kleve which included a very fast downhill which was great fun. I had thought for a while it would be good to try in with Millie and see which speed I could reach, and Klaus was very keen to come along, so we planned to enjoy a really long ride one Sunday including this hill, but also going via Xanten and back through the Netherlands.

This is our track for the day:

The weather forecast was good although not particularly warm. We set off at about 9:30am and rode very quickly to Xanten, where we stopped for the obligatory cake.

We then headed along the former railway (now cycle path) towards Marienbaum, heading north-west towards Kleve.

Once we were back on the main road the route became very slightly rolling and as usual in these situations I got left behind on the uphills – my hill climbing is very poor. I was pleased that my Schlumpf had successfully worked on the hill climb towards Xanten (where last time it had started slipping inside the Tretlagergehäuse which ended up with me having a new one fitted). However, as I was cresting one of the hills and tried to switch the Schlumpf back to high gear, nothing happened. There was no longer a button on the left hand crank spindle! Oh no!

I had remembered 2km back hearing a weird noise – I put this down to rolling over a bit of metal or something – but now gloomily realised this was probably my Schlumpf gear button falling off. But I was delighted to see that it had fallen sideways and was actually nestled in my right-hand-side footwell (the left hand side is open so I was lucky it hadn’t fallen straight downwards).

I got on the radio to Klaus and told him my Schlumpf wasn’t working and he headed back. Here is the offending button.

There is a small thread in the middle and when Klaus had a look he decided it should be fine to just refit it and tighten it by hand. Which he did, although reaching the pedals in Millie is not so easy! Good thing he has long arms.

The Schlumpf now worked properly so we carried on. Problem solved, at least short-term.

We were riding on a Landstraße between Xanten and Bedburg Hau/Kleve and this was lovely and fast so we were making great progress. I had told Klaus about the wonderful downhill but that there was an awful uphill first to get to the top of the Kleve mountain. He reached the top first, of course, but only had to wait a couple of minutes for me to arrive.

We decided that I would go first down the hill as I had ridden it before and Millie is a bit faster downhill. Off I set, very quickly reaching 70km/h (which was the speed limit on that section of road) and I got up to 72km/h for a good half kilometres. Klaus wasn’t quite as fast and unfortunately had a couple of cars behind him but they couldn’t overtake as he was almost doing 70. Despite it being a blustery day Millie felt very stable and I was able to pedal up to about 65km/h; at higher speeds than that my legs wobbled the tiller too much so I cruised down the hill, only pedalling occasionally to keep the speed up. It was brilliant fun!!

What was very pleasing was that when we got home and uploaded our tracks we discovered that we had both posted the fastest times on the downhill for our genders – I got the QOM (Queen of the Mountain) and Klaus the KOM (King of the Mountain) on Strava.

Anyway, once down the hill to the west of Kleve it was time to turn southwards and head for home. We had a very lovely section through some woodland where the cycle path beside the road was decent so we used that. We found ourselves crossing the Niers, which is a river very local to us, so stopped to photograph it – much larger here, although still pretty small.

We hadn’t stopped for any food since our cake in Xanten but saw a large restaurant beside the road and so decided to grab some soup.

After refilling our water bottles, using the loo etc we headed back to the road and enjoyed cycling along the Netherlands’ roads and cycle paths.

The final 35km of the route was the oft-used Ceresweg which heads to Arcen. It’s a lovely long road with little traffic but the road surface is a bit rough and that really slows me down. If they resurfaced it with German-quality asphalt it would be a perfect route!

We climbed the hill to Straelen and then decided it was time to stop for another bit of refuelling as the nice Café Krone in Straelen was open.

After some tasty Grillagetorte we headed home, Klaus doing a small extra bit at the end to get 150km, I finished up with 144.85km at an average speed of 25.8km/h. I burned over 3000 calories which was a bonus too!

The Schlumpf Button makes a more successful bid for freedom… and other tales of Velomobile problems

Following this ride I thought I ought to do something about the Schlumpf button. I mentioned it to Frank and he said he had some threadlock-type-stuff I could use. I thought I would have a look at the weekend.

A couple of days later Klaus and I went out for an evening cycle, just a short 40km loop to Hinsbeck and Lobberich. Unfortunately as we were approaching De Witt See I noticed my lights flickering… We stopped immediately and I got the battery and holder out to check. The connection was dicky. We fiddled a bit more and lo and behold the cable snapped right where it joins the holder. It was cheap cable (we had replaced some other bits) but there was no way we could fix this in the dark in the middle of nowhere without a soldering iron and spare cable.

People always say you should have backup lights for your velomobile and indeed I have a battery rear light on Millie all the time. Since I bought Millie I have carried around a Busch & Müller Ixion front light which had not seen a charger since Autumn and I had never attempted to mount it onto Millie’s bodywork before. I suppose I vaguely thought it would be best as a head torch – but I had no fixings for that.

One option was to fix it to my Lichtkanone behind my head but the mount was entirely the wrong way for that. The only other option was to strap it to one of my mirror mounts and hope that did the trick. Indeed it did, although it cast a weird shadow across Millie – on left turns I couldn’t see very much at all. I stayed behind Klaus and we rode a direct route home but on routes with very little traffic. You get used to good quality lighting and when you find yourself with rather less satisfactory illumination it really slows you down!

We were pootling along the Lobberich Bahnradweg and I heard a sound which I realised almost immediately was identical to the sound I had heard on Sunday when my Schlumpf button bounced off. I immediately changed the Schlumpf gear down, and then tried to change back up again – but indeed the button to switch to the higher gears had once again disappeared. I stopped immediately and looked in the footwell – no luck.

Klaus (who was quite a way ahead) returned to find me walking up and down the path with my hand torch (being used for its second purpose in one evening, rather a record) trying to look in the ditches and leaves for the button. I also needed the torch to pick my way past all the frogs who had chosen this evening to wander all round. They were very sweet but we had had to slalom our way on most of the last 2km to avoid them and with my reduced light this was harder.

Anyway, despite covering the ground twice I failed to find the button. Damn.

I was now stuck in the low gears so we decided to see if we could change up for me. We had heard an Allen Key is what you need and Klaus had to fiddle around for quite a while before it worked, but fortunately I was back in my ‘normal’ gear range and so was able to ride on without difficulty, except on uphill starts.

The next evening was a bit of bike maintenance to fix my lighting.

Klaus soldered a new decent bit of cable into the battery holder and then discovered that it was rather hard to close it as it needed the thinner cable. After a lot of persuasion it finally closed and so the wiring was ready. Hurrah! During this procedure Jochen arrived to show us that he had just punched a hole in the carbon fibre shell of Endeavour, his Velomobile, after sliding at low speed into a sharp metal piece of scaffolding. He now has a letterbox-sized air intake in front of his left wheel. He was gutted – and will have to learn carbon fibre layup over the next months to fix it.

Anyway, we were all in the garage commiserating with Jochen for his new air vent and trying to get my electrics working. They just kept flickering on and off and in the end it was clear that the battery holder thing, which is designed for a camcorder battery charger rather than velomobile-specific, was just not really up to the job. A little metal pin that needs to make contact with the battery kept sliding away so in the end Klaus fixed it with a tiny amount of solder metal holding it in place.

Since then it has worked OK but we decided one job was to change the battery and connectors to the normal Velomobile system. As my batteries are 7.4V instead of the normal 12V this would involve fitting another power regulator (like we did to Penelope) so I have purchased all the required bits and pieces and we will fit it some time next month once we have bought the batteries from Velomobiel.nl when we visit at the end of March. Here is the power step-down gadget thingie in its protective case:

I have also ordered a battery level meter as I don’t have one at the moment and it can cause some issues as I don’t always realise my battery has run out.

As for the Schlumpf button, I contacted Velomobiel.nl (as we would be visiting them) and they provided me with two buttons but of the newer design so I am not sure if they will stay attached.

I initially contacted Liegeradbau Schumacher who fitted the Schlumpf and they asked for a photo of the relevant part (as they varied) and then sent me one in the post a week later, which was very kind of them.

Millie is fairly sparsely-outfitted with very few extras (no brake light, no audible indicator warning etc) but she does seem to be struggling a bit at the moment. I also discovered a week later that the back wheel has gone slightly out of true, it seems that one spoke has slightly deformed the rim, so I guess I will be ordering a new rear wheel before too long. But I will wait until next month’s pay cheque for that one!

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf

Every so often a meeting is arranged for recumbent riders and velomobile owners in the Düsseldorf and surrounding region (into which Kempen just about fits). These are often organised by a chap called Norbert who has previously invited us to the care home where he lives where he and his wife can hire a room for us all to have food in before going for a ride. He’d arranged another of these for the third weekend in March and we were incredibly lucky to have an excellent weather forecast.

Klaus and I had said we would go but Jochen was originally going to be doing a long ride the day before, but eventually due to man-flu he wasn’t fit enough for that ride so said he would come with us.

We arranged to leave my house at 9am and head first to Uerdingen for some cake. Uerdingen is where Jochen had his mini velomobile accident that cut a chunk out of Endeavour but he bravely decided to revisit the scene of this trauma.

Because Jochen was still recovering from man-flu he said he would be slower than normal. Of course, at my even slower speed I did not notice this!

We did a nice relaxed route to Uerdingen and stopped there for some very nice cakes.

Both Jochen and I are supposedly doing low-carb but we’ve both been more lax this week so enjoyed our sweet treats!

From Uerdingen to Büttgen where Norbert lives is a very pleasant 25km with some very fast roads. I did the trip between Uerdingen and Büttgen once before and that time I was actually too fast for Klaus (he was having a slow day). This time he kept up no problem, and in fact pulled ahead to chase a cyclist on tri-bars, but commented again that i am really quick on this sector. I guess it’s the cake fuel from Uerdingen.

I had made some shortbread biscuits to bring with me (with the help of Klaus’s daughter Lara the day before), but they weren’t really necessary as several people had brought cakes with them too!

We chatted and enjoyed the food for a couple of hours, meeting some people for the first time but also catching up with old friends.

At 2 o’clock we set off on a ride which ended up on one of our regular stomping grounds near Neersen. There were 11 velomobiles and 7-8 trikes so it was a good group!

Klaus from Köln took some wonderful photos and here are just a few of them (featuring me and/or Millie of course!)

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Klaus started having some strange noises from his suspension so when we were having a short stop he had a look.

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

And I absolutely love this photo – can you tell what is going on?

Picture courtesy of Klaus from Köln

Basically I had been informed that my back wheel wasn’t quite true so Klaus and Stefan decided to have a look – I had to lift Millie up and spin the wheel. Conclusion was that yes, it was slightly out of true. More on that next month!

We rode for about 25km in total and then returned to Norbert’s place, at which point we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes.

Jochen, Klaus and I stopped for some food in Kempen on the way back – the Buttermarkt was packed with bicycles.

And when we got back to my garage Klaus decided to check out why his suspension had started being noisy – it turned out he just needed to oil the elastomers in the suspension a bit. It only took him about 5 minutes to fix the problem so they are proving to be a really good option for him.

It was really great to ride with other velomobile owners (although it is not always so easy riding in such a group) and of course great to chat with people who share our hobby. We look forward to the next meet up!

Radler Kaffeeklatsch

Some months ago Uli started to organise cycle visits to cafés for cake with his friends from the amateur radio world, as well as cycling chums. This is becoming a regular event and when it’s not too far from my house I can get there after work without too much difficulty.

One week we were at Wingertsches Erb which sells very nice cakes although is quite pricey.

A couple of weeks later we were at Café Kornblume which is just 4km away. Gudula came with me this time, as did Poppy running the whole way. But as it was such a nice sunny day I took Alfie for that al fresco experience!

We sat outside enjoying the cake and sunshine. Poppy too!

Here is a picture of us all with me looking remarkably spaced-out.

Life in general

The first of April marked 3 years since I arrived in Germany and also the first anniversary of my father’s funeral, so lots of thoughts around that time. Brexit was officially started as well which of course is something I am very disappointed about. But life continues to be very good here in Germany and I don’t regret for a second making the move to come and live here.

Cakes this month

Despite the low-carb diet, I have been a bit more relaxed this month following my holiday in Tenerife. This means that when I am on a cycle ride I allow myself a cake now and again.

These are the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month.

My low carb diet was officially from 3 January until 31 March but I am continuing it (perhaps a bit less strictly) as it has been so successful. I have lost 11kg and feel much better for it. I also have more energy on the bike and don’t tend to fade in my power over time. It’s not always particularly easy, especially when eating out (you tend to have to almost always have a salad) but it is definitely healthy and I hope to continue it reasonably successfully. We shall see!

On the last day of March I went to Dronten with Klaus for some velomobile maintenance courtesy of Velomobiel.nl. They worked on Celeste on the Friday and then Millie on April Fool’s Day, so I will write about this trip next month.

Anyway, it’s a shorter report for this month, I have been busy with work and various things but I hope to write a bit more next month – and perhaps not just about velomobiles. We shall see!!

1 Comment

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

6 Wheels In Germany – February 2017 (Month 35)

A cold and wet February but I managed 447km. A rather paltry total but I did also fly off somewhere warm for a holiday over the end of February which reduced cycling days.

Anyway, here is where I rode in February.

And here are the individual rides listed.

As you can see, I managed a 100km ride – to LaPaDu and then to Geldern with Klaus. Most of the rest of my rides were just commutes though. I am really looking forward to the better weather!

Metric Century – to LaPaDu and Geldern

Klaus and I both signed up for the Strava Gran Fondo challenge for February which was to ride a 100km tour. Not that difficult but the weather wasn’t really that great, but we spotted a chance and decided to start off by riding to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg).

We rode via the Orsoy ferry and I reminisced about meeting Olaf there nearly three years ago when he brought me a British potato peeler all the way from John Lewis’s in London by bike 🙂

It was cold and a bit drizzly when we got to LaPaDu, having ridden through Marxloh which is the most deprived area of Germany. It has no end of bridal shops there which is a bit random! We parked our bikes which as soon as we left became a magnet for people to look at.

We parked and then went into the café which is a very interesting room – an old electricity substation I think.

Because I am doing the low-carb thing I watched Klaus eat an enormous slice of cake and nursed my black tea.

Except then I had to try a tiny piece…

Although the forecast was for a lot of rain it seemed OK so we decided to try for the 100km. From Duisburg the only really safe (= flat) direction to go is west so we headed off towards Moers.

We maintained a very good average speed on the fast roads and decided then to go further to Geldern, where we arrived along with some more rain so put the bikes under an awning outside the restaurant.

We had some nice warming soup and then headed back, completing our 100km Gran Fondo ride. This was the only ride over 50km I did during the entire month. Shocking!

Millie needs an electrician

I was out on a ride with Klaus one day and he commented that my indicator was slightly flashing on, even though I didn’t have the indicators on. That seemed odd, but it fixed itself when I got home and jiggled some cabling about.

Then a day later we rode to Arcen together and I really enjoyed the downhill… until I realised that my Lichtkanone was no longer lighting up the way ahead. We stopped at Arcen, realising we would have to ride directly back if we couldn’t fix it as dusk was on its way.

Fortunately Klaus managed to do a quick repair with a penknife and some insulating tape but we knew it was time to do a proper repair – the cabling between the battery and Millie’s electrics was a bit dodgy, using cheap chockblocks to join bits of wires together.

So we decided to have a Bike Maintenance Day the following Saturday and invite Jochen round too as he is permanently fixing his Strada and could give us a hand.

Klaus and I went round Obi (like B&Q or Homebase) and bought some cable and other bits and bobs, as well as velomobile cleaning and waxing materials to try to improve the muddy state of our bikes (except we haven’t actually done anything with these items yet, but at least buying them makes you feel like you have made a start).

So on the Saturday Jochen popped round in Endeavour and we moved Millie and Celeste round to the back garden.

Klaus needed to change the batteries in his cadence and speed sensors and as Jochen is so familiar with the Strada he did this whilst we were doing Millie’s electrics.

For Millie’s electrics we increased the cable length between the battery and main wiring to give us more room to move, took away the chockblocks and soldered the joins instead. (I say ‘we’ – all I did was held two ends of cable together whilst Klaus soldered them and attempted not to burn my fingers). The whole lot was much neater when we had finished and hopefully the dicky connectors will be a thing of the past.

My second job was to replace the peeling-away cheap Velcro for the armrests in Millie with the decent-quality large Velcro patch I had bought. We warmed the adhesive up with a heat gun before sticking it and that worked well.

Klaus then replaced the weak velcro for his sun visor with my better velcro.

Jochen had meanwhile changed the batteries of the speed and cadence sensors and he and Frank had had a good look at Klaus’s rear gear cable. Jochen has been very successful in snapping these when underway and it’s a mega-fiddly job to fix them by the roadside. Jochen’s prognosis was that the gear cable was rather worn and as he had a spare he was going to replace it… but they then discovered the small bolts holding it in place on the tiller were so soft that the allen key used to try to unscrew them had stripped the heads. They would probably need to be drilled out so we stopped there before doing any more damage and Klaus decided he would expedite his trip to Dronten to get Celeste serviced and ask Velomobiel.nl to change the cable there.

It started to spit with rain so we decided not to bother with the bike washing but had achieved the main goals so it was a relatively successful bike maintenance day. But we really must clean them up, Millie is probably 3kg heavier with crusted-on mud!

A new home for Millie and Alfie

Alfie the trike had been living under my Grand Piano in my lounge for six months and this seemed a sub-optimal place to store him when the summer came and I might want to ride him. Having Millie and Penelope fills up the garage so I asked a couple of neighbours if they had garage space to rent and they said no, but my landlord thought that one of the local farmers might have some space – and indeed he did! So I am renting a large garage about half a kilometre from my house and Alfie and a velomobile are staying in there (depending which velomobile I am using). Klaus’s Celeste is also now in the garage at my house so it is most handy to have the new garage space – which now also has my summer car tyres and the summer tyres of my landlord and landlady too. When you have the space you have to fill it up of course!

Events this month

Zeche Zollverein, Essen

February, despite being cold and windy, had a couple of nice days and on one of them I visited the Essen Zollverein which is a retired mine and cokery (is that a real word?) which has now become a space to visit and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It has the highest escalator in Europe. These are the stairs between the two escalators.

It’s a quite bleak site in some ways but also really interesting.

A holiday in Tenerife with Mum

At the end of February I flew out from Düsseldorf to Tenerife, meeting my Mum at the airport in Tenerife before we headed off to our Apartment.

We had a 2-bed apartment with kitchen and a bathroom each so it was rather luxurious, although the Wifi didn’t work which is a pain. Here was the view from our balcony.

The next morning was Sunday. We had a breakfast with the food that was already in the apartment and then decided to go food shopping to find me something low-carb for lunch. We found an open small supermarket but had been warned it would be expensive – and it was. This lot cost over 20 Euros!

I took the food back to the apartment and then met Mum back at the beach where we walked to the marina which had some very interesting boats – a submarine here, with a Viking boat behind it.

On the way back from the Marina I saw this amusing signwritten van. Can you spot the man’s name if you call him (small print on the rear door)!

Although I was on islands off the coast of Africa it seemed as though I was back in the UK for the food!

We returned to the hotel after a really good walk about and I took this photo of the pool area – it looks like a photo from a holiday brochure!

Back in our apartment we ate our evening meal and then watched the sunset from the balcony.

We did quite a lot of walking over the week, going twice to Los Cristianos which has a lovely sandy beach (with sand shipped in from the Sahara).

Our local beach was rather more volcanic.

However the sea was still beautiful and blue, although the water too cold for swimming.

The Tuesday that we were there was Shrove Tuesday and lo and behold…

Despite the low-carb diet I decided I really ought to have a pancake. So I did!

It was very tasty! I also had a couple of ice creams over a few days – after all, I was on holiday – and had lost 10kg in two months so thought I was allowed to have a little break from being very good with my food choices!

There was a bookcase with books people could take and return so I did a lot of reading, relaxing by the pool.

I also did a little bit of swimming – not much as it is bad for my disabled arm, but the outdoor pool was slightly heated and it was lovely to have a 10 minute swim each day.

Mum and I had been travelling around on the local buses to get to various places but I decided to do a proper excursion one day to the Teide National Park with the Mount Teide volcano. Mum stayed behind on that day so I set off alone on the coach tour up the mountain via the village of VilaFlora where people stopped for tea and cake (but there was nothing low-carb so I just enjoyed the fresh air outside).

We went first to an interesting rock formation which is actually the stack of various volcano vents where the surrounding rock has been eroded by wind/weather etc, with an impressive view of Mount Teide in the background.

Then it was to the Cable Car station where we had a short queue before boarding our booked cable car ride up to just below the summit.

On the top it was noticeably cooler and the air was thinner (we were at about 3500 metres or 12,000 feet high), and there was also some snow lying.

The views from the top were glorious.

I went down again in the cable car and then we carried on visiting a few places in the Teide National Park, including the site of the most recent volcanic eruption in 1909 (the darker patches on the mountain are the fresher lava flows).

It was a very interesting tour and good value too. It is impressive to see a volcano up close and personal – especially one which is still officially active!

Mum and I went out for an Indian meal that evening as I love eating Indian food and don’t find it very often in Germany. I also ate (mostly) low carb, starting with a chicken Tikka salad

Then a lamb balti

With cauliflower bhaji (no rice).

The next day we had a Chinese buffet at lunch time and I did eat a bit of rice there, but it was our last full day and it did look tasty!

Mum and I both bought a pair of sandals in Los Cristianos, and I saw (but didn’t buy!) this present for my Velomobile.

On the way back from Los Cristianos I treated myself to a meringe cake thingie. Very nice!

On the day we were due to leave we waited in vain for the bus to take us to the airport. After it hadn’t appeared despite being 20 minutes late we took a taxi.

My check-in queue was very long so Mum and I said goodbye at the check-in area. She was flying back to Southend, me to Düsseldorf.

I had a good flight back, watching lots of TV programmes on my iPad and enjoying the bag of nuts I had brought with me for mid-flight fuelling. Klaus collected me from Düsseldorf airport which was nice as it was raining and cold and my coat was packed in my suitcase so good that I didn’t have to wait for a bus…

It was a lovely holiday, having sunshine every day for a week is really good in the depths of winter. It was of course also great to spend time with my Mum. I definitely like the idea of a holiday somewhere warm in February, I shall have to think about it again next year!

Cakes this month

My two cakes have been included above. That’s three slices of cake in two months. Shocking!

The plan is to do low-carb until the end of March and then consider further what I do. I think I will probably introduce more carbs from April, but probably only cakes when out cycling (I will try not to go back to bread and pasta and rice except on special occasions). Despite eating well on the holiday, after 3 days back in Germany I had returned to my pre-holiday weight.

I am also making plans for some bike tours over the summer, starting with a short tour to the Trike Treffen over the Christi Himmelfahrt long weekend in May. This year the Trike Treffen is north of here, in Germany but near the Dutch border at Entschede, so about 140km away. It’s always fun meeting other trikers and velomobile riders and I have been to two of the last three Trike Treffens so am looking forward to it again.

I am hoping that March will be less rainy than February and I can do some more cycling kilometres. Watch this space!

1 Comment

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

6 Wheels in Germany – January 2017 (Month 34)

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Well, the first month of 2017 is now over, and it’s been a somewhat quieter month than usual. This is partly because of some very cold weather that meant I didn’t do much cycling, and also because my riding partner Klaus had the man-flu and was also out of action for three weeks. So my usual 1000km per month on the bike was dramatically curtailed! I hope to do better next month.

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here is the Wheel image from Veloviewer of all the places I cycled this month. As you can see, not very many varied trips – the majority of my riding was my regular work commute.

And here is the list of individual rides from my software. My work commute is 8.61km…

But I did do a couple of rides, including an evening trip to Zur Fluchtburg near Grefrath for a cuppa whilst Millie waited outside.

As usual each month we had the Fahrrad Stammtisch on a Thursday evening in Kempen.

I also decided to re-fit the Durano Plus tyres on Millie after having yet another front puncture on a cold day. Which isn’t very much fun.

Knowing how hard the Schwalbe Plus tyres are to get on the rims, and the difficulties I had had just before Oliebollentocht when trying to fit them, I prepared sensibly – keeping the tyres on a hot radiator for a day!

In the end they went on OK and – cross fingers! – I haven’t yet had a puncture with them. They aren’t too much slower either – but the cold weather really slows me down anyway, whatever tyres I have.

Life in Germany

As I said above, it’s been a very quiet month. I have been at work of course – it’s interesting having to get up at 6:30am and to cycle to work in the dark (I start at 08:00), but as the month wore on the mornings were lighter and lighter. I experienced some beautiful scenes on my journeys to work.

And for a few days we had snow on the ground, although it was still fine to ride in Penelope.

A couple of days running I rode in with temperatures of -7 Celsius but was always warm enough with just a fleece over my work shirt, as long as I had a hat and buff on to keep my head (which is rather exposed) warm.

One day at work my boss had left a book on my desk for me to read. It’s very interesting, but possibly also a veiled swipe at me for only working 5 hours a day and going home at 13:00 whereas the rest of them toil on much longer. But life’s too short to work full-time!

I have joined a Gospel Choir that is based in Wachtendonk so very convenient. They are a very friendly group and we meet on Tuesday evenings for a two hour practice. Most of the songs are at least vaguely familiar to me and they have a Dropbox link with all the music scores so I am able to have them on my iPad and sing along.

We also had a guest for a week who was definitely not to Poppy’s taste. Maila the Bernese Mountain Dog (8 months old) came to stay and that put Poppy’s nose out of joint rather badly. By the end of the week Poppy was tolerating her and it was mostly OK, but Poppy definitely prefers to be the only dog!

Friend and neighbour Christine invited me to come to a concert in Kevelaer on one icy night. Her husband drove us there and we ended up sitting in the front row because it was so full! It was theatre music and done extremely well – they had a real range of singing talent for solo pieces, as well as some very short acting pieces to link the songs. It was great fun.

Cakes this month

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you – this was the only slice of cake I had this month.

Why?

Well, I decided to try eating low carb for the first three months of this year to see if it improved my stamina when cycling (I tend to lose energy and have to stop for cake) and so unfortunately low carb means no cake.

I did decide to try to bake a low-carb cheesecake and followed a recipe. I invited Jochen round to sample some (he is also doing Low Carb at the moment) so he came round in Endeavour.

Although the cake looked good it tasted a bit strange and Jochen and I only had one slice each. However Lara who lives here liked it and ended up polishing off the whole lot for me over a couple of days.

My normal lunch is a salad like this:

Evening meal will be a stir-fry with cauliflower rice, or something similar. Here is a curry I cooked which was rather tasty.

Dessert tends to be joghurt or a Mascarpone Mousse Creme thingie that I make out of mascarpone and whipping cream with blueberries on top.

Anyway, over the month of January I stuck very well to the diet and managed to shed 7kg so it is a good start. We will see how it pans out over the next two months, as I have committed to doing this diet for that time at least. Afterwards I will see how it goes – but may return to a few cakes here and there when on long rides!

So a very short report for January, but I have some plans in place for the year including some cycle tours, maybe to Berlin. I’m looking forward to the better weather and doing some longer rides in Millie with Klaus, and am also looking forward to a visit from my sister and her children around Easter time.

4 Comments

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

6 Wheels In Germany – December 2016 (Month 33)

The end of the year!

Cycling this month

Despite the rather chilly December we have experienced in the Niederrhein region, I did manage almost 900km.

ascent-statistics

And this is where I went this month. You can see the long ride back from Oliebollentocht, which is a separate blog post.

december-wheel

And Veloviewer also produced a graphic for the year which is rather interesting.

veloviewer-summary-2016

And from Strava, a short video of my year.
My Year in Sport from Strava

And click here for my Strava Heatmap which shows the routes I have travelled the most over the year.

My Metric Century A Month challenge was completed this month – not only did I manage to ride a metric century every month this year, I also managed an Imperial Century (100 miles or 162km) in February, March, August (twice), October and December.

I also achieved my cycling goal of 12,000km for the year. I had initially set the goal at 10,000 but realised in about August I was quite ahead so increased the target to make it harder.

It is interesting to compare my yearly distances and average speeds since I have been riding my recumbents/velomobiles:

2008 – 4082 km at 18.9 km/h
2009 – 19,450 km at 18.77 km/h
2010 – 12,885 km at 16.89 km/h
2011 – 8,170 km at 16.45 km/h
2012 – 12,922 km at 17.64 km/h
2013 – 13,304 km at 18.28 km/h
2014 – 10,203 km at 17.6 km/h
2015 – 10,096 km at 16.86 km/h
2016 – 12,151 km at 20.62 km/h

Total cycling distance 103,267km at an average speed of 17.98 km/h. That’s 3,110 rides.

And for this year, I have ridden more in company with other people than on my own.

My main riding partner has of course been Klaus, with whom I have cycled 6,231.75km in 99 rides.

I have also ridden with the following people:

Andreas – 50km
Claudia – 694km
Dirk – 171km
Frank – 233km
Gudula – 205km
Hartmut – 1029km
Herbert – 179km
Jochen – 1070km
Kajsa Tylén – 109km (she managed over 50,000km this year for her Guinness World Record!)
Olaf – 142km
Petra – 433km
Uli – 553km

Rather amusingly, on 19 December Klaus noticed that we were both on the same mileage for the year to date, a shade under 12,000km. You can see the side-by-side Strava comparator here (Klaus is the first column, I am the second).

strava-ride-comparator

What is rather noticeable is that Klaus had achieved his rides in a slightly shorter time. The additional 300 metres that I had ridden had taken me 72 hours 5 minutes!!!

By the end of the year Klaus had smashed all his previous records, having achieved a fantastic total of 12,514km. Well done!

I also featured in the Niederrhein Tourismus Magazine Auszeit am Niederrhein. They interviewed me before I bought Millie and we also had two photoshoots. The results are here:

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_1

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_2

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_3

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_4

All in all, it was a very good year for cycling, although I would have liked to do a bit more overnight touring. I have plans for next year!

Cycle rides this month

Liegeradtreff Duisburg

The Velomobilforum has lots of local groups who arrange rides for recumbents and velomobiles and there is one such group that meets once every two months in Duisburg. I’ve been once before, but one Sunday Jochen said he was going so I decided to come along too, as did Klaus at the last minute. They met outside my house, wrapped up against the cold.

jochen-and-klaus

We rode first to Duisburg along a route that I have ridden many times when heading towards Mülheim. However, we were making good time and Klaus was feeling a bit peckish so we detoured for a slice of cake and a coffee in Moers-Kapellen. We weren’t actually sure if anyone would be at the Treff anyway, but in the end we arrived there pretty much dead on 11am. And were the only ones there – except for the pedestrians wandering around the Christmas Market.

endeavour-and-millie-1

It was cold and a bit rainy so we put the bikes under an overhanging shop front and then some other people started to arrive, including Tom on his ICE Sprint who I have met several times at various events.

We stood around and chatted, causing a significant interest amongst the Duisburgers who came and chatted to us a lot.

As you can see from the pictures, Millie was also sporting some new tail decals. I had an idea what I wanted but everything was very expensive, and then I saw these decals for a Mini and thought they would fit. They were very cheap (£20 the pair) so I went ahead and fitted them. The quality of the vinyl is rather poor and the colours seem likely to run a bit, but as a test they are working well. And I like them! They were very useful for Oliebollentocht too, with 209 Velomobiles it is useful to be able to stand out!

endeavour-and-millie-2

endeavour-and-millie-3

Anyway, this Treff usually involves a group cycle ride. Jochen, Klaus and I decided that rather than riding straight home we would detour to Kaiserswerth to make it a bit more interesting, not that any of us had a route there. Tom gave me some waypoints and I put them in my Garmin ready to head off. A final check of Millie – oh! she had a front puncture!

This was a relatively quick tyre change (maximum 10 minutes I think), and it was helpful to be able to use Klaus’s track pump. I was not too surprised about the puncture as there was a fair bit of glass around on the paths.

As we set off one of the other Liegerad chaps, forum name Hirsch, on a 3-wheeler Hase Lepus said he would come with us a little way.

This is the track for my route for the day.

liegeradtreff-track

We headed south from Duisburg along some rather grotty streets until we reached a long canoeing lake that Tom had told us about – with a cycle path beside it. This was very good and nice to ride away from the traffic for a bit. We started looking for food as we approached Kaiserswerth but didn’t have much success, the one restaurant we stopped at was ridiculously expensive (9 Euro for soup!) so we carried on, ending up in the café in the centre of Kaiserswerth for cake. I have eaten there before. It was right next to a Christmas Market with plenty of people walking around so leaving the velomobiles unattended and out of our sight wasn’t ideal but we couldn’t do much about it.

After a nice lunch of quiche and soup and sandwiches we said goodbye to Hirsch who rode home and we went for the Rhein ferry, crossing back to ‘our’ side of the Rhein.

We returned on the route that skirts to the south of Krefeld, ending up at Jochen’s house. Our original plan was to do some bike maintenance but we ended up a bit late so just had a cup of tea at his house instead. I liked the row of Velomobile bags in his hall… and you can see we have walkie talkies to communicate with each other too!

velomobile-bags-1

Klaus went straight home but I decided to do a slight extra ride rather than going directly home as I wanted to get my 100km for the month, so I did a minor detour towards Grefrath with Jochen for company before heading home again, ending up with 100.3km at an average speed of 20.3km/h. It was fun to ride with the other two although I obviously slow them down a lot, but cycling in company brings lots of other benefits and it was good to meet up with the Duisburg lot, although I have no particular desire to ride in Duisburg again as I always get a puncture there!

The ADFC Nikolaus Tour

Hartmut organises the Fit Durch den Winter series each winter and the December one of these rides was also the Nikolaus tour where we were to dress up and to decorate our bikes too. I stuck some Christmas lights onto Millie, and Jochen wore a most fetching hat!

jochen-and-hat

Hartmut was towing Santa’s sleigh:

nikolaus-tour-1

Klaus was able to ride before the tour so we met in Grefrath and rode to Wachtendonk, discovering that the coffee machine at the bakery there was out of order so we headed straight back to Kempen to wait for the others, fortifying ourselves with cake and tea/coffee in Kempen. By the time 11am arrived there were quite a lot of people in Kempen, standing in front of the Christmas Market with the nativity scene in the background (including a dromedary camel!)

nikolaus-tour-people

Of course, three Velomobiles standing in a busy pedestrian zone means lots of people are talking to you and we hadn’t quite realised Hartmut was setting off until the group of people began to shrink. We got in the velomobiles and set off but the others were out of sight and we didn’t know what route they were taking (although we did know that they were heading to Hülser Berg, although on a scenic route). Trying to phone Hartmut failed, the radio with Uli wasn’t great either, so in the end the three velomobiles and upright cyclist Ralf had to give up and make our own way to Hülser Berg.

Here is our track for the day.

nikolaus-tour-track

Klaus, Jochen, Ralf and I went the fairly direct route to Hülser Berg. Poor Ralf, riding a very nice upright bike, found the difficulty of maintaining pace with velomobiles as our speed profiles are so different. They all whizzed up the Hülser Berg (which is a very steep mountain!) and I climbed my way up slowly, pleased to discover that my Schlumpf Mountain Drive was working perfectly!

We parked our bikes at the top. You can see Millie’s Christmas light chain on the photo below except I had turned the lights off before taking the photo.

nikolaus-tour-jochen-and-hat

Klaus headed off back home again and the rest of us went inside the restaurant at the top of Hülser Berg. The owner is a very keen cyclist and always comes to chat with us. Although there were lots of heaters I started to feel rather cold. After about half an hour the rest of the tour arrived and we all enjoyed some lunch (currywurst and chips in my case). I was getting very cold so was glad when we all set off, although I took the direct route home (well, nearly direct – I took the Siebenhäuser route as the road is so much nicer and it’s only a couple of extra kilometres).

The ride total for me was 65km and it was good fun to have my Christmas lights on Millie but I took them off the next day – there are some blue lights on there and the police might not take very kindly to that if they saw me!

A visit to a bicycle exhibition

One chilly Sunday morning I visited a bike exhibition which traced the history of cycling in Germany.

bikes-old-and-new

The exhibition wasn’t just about bike frames, although there were many of those, it was also about bicycle accessories, such as this rather wonderful speedo (and clock?) from the company VDO who still make bike computers today.

early-vdo-bike-computers

The same bicycle also experimented with indicators, which periodically get reinvented in IndieGoGo or other Crowdfunding sites – although their value on a normal bike is very debatable!

bicycle-indicators

The Germans also experimented with three-wheelers quite early on, this was a Penny Farthing Trike.

penny-farthing-three-wheeler

A Düsseldorf company designed the SNOB Bike Engine – not a brand that works so well in English!

snob-bike-motor

Although small, the exhibition was interesting and I had a long chat with one of the staff there as they had an exploded diagram of a Rohloff hub, as well as various other old-fashioned front lights. The first English lights had red and green lights on each side – presumably Port and Starboard!

Other events this month

Doggy training

Gudula my landlady had the idea to train Poppy as a hospital or Old People’s Home visiting dog. Previously I had a labrador who visited a hospital in Tunbridge Wells every week with me for about two years – it’s a very rewarding thing to do as people appreciate so much having a chance to pat or cuddle a dog when they are separated from their own pets.

For Ben the labrador to qualify as a Pets as Therapy dog he had to visit a vet for a health check and be assessed by someone from the charity who checked him over for about half an hour and then he was deemed suitable. We joined the charity which provided the liability insurance and then were able to visit the hospital. Now I am in Germany things are a trifle different. First of all Poppy had to go to a course for 1.5 hours once a week for four weeks, just to see if she would be suitable. This cost 90 Euros. At the end of this course she was deemed suitable, and we were informed she would have to do the Hundeführerschein (Dog Driving Licence!) which includes a written test (which I am guessing the owner, rather than the dog, completes). After this she would need an additional test to be a visiting dog. Estimated time nine months, estimated cost 600 Euros. This seemed a crazy amount so we are still thinking about it, and have found another option in Krefeld which may mean we can finish earlier and is much cheaper. I was a bit unsure of the value of a lot of the training and the cost was very high. But someone who definitely enjoyed the first four weeks was Poppy – here she is with Gudula sitting nicely awaiting a treat.

doggy-training

So perhaps in the New Year Poppy will start her Hundeführerschein… but we will see. To do voluntary work it seems like rather a lot of barriers (financial and time), but we both think Poppy would make an excellent visiting dog and would really enjoy it herself.

The Bonn English Singers Carol Service

Last year I went to the Bonn English Singers 9 Lessons and Carols service with Christine and it was wonderful. This year there were several different concerts by the Bonn English Singers but Christine and I, joined by Gudula, went to the one in Beuel again. It was so lovely to sing English Christmas Carols – people were singing with great gusto and the choir were excellent again.

After the concert there was tea and mince pies… and I noticed they were selling packets of Tetley Teabags, 4 Euros for 80 teabags. I had already placed an order with my Mum for two packs of 280 teabags so didn’t need to avail myself of this offer.

bonn-carol-service

Christmas in England

christmas-in-witnesham

This year’s Christmas would undoubtedly have its sad moments as it would be the first Christmas following the death of my father. But in the event it was a joyful and peaceful occasion and it was good to see family and also to go to the midnight service at my church in Colchester and see old friends again.

On Christmas Day Mum and I travelled with her friend Stephanie to visit some other friends in Norfolk in a village where Mum and Dad had a holiday cottage. Hans and Hilda had a 95-year-old neighbour with them too and she was wonderful – full of interesting stories and totally ‘with it’.

Hans used to be a chef and he and Hilda provided a wonderful meal.

For the non-Brits who read my blog, here is an example of a UK Christmas Dinner (on the 25 December, of course).

A herring salad starter (not so usual for the UK)

christmas-starter

Roast turkey with all the trimmings

christmas-main-course

A cake with cream etc.

christmas-dessert

Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake are traditional but not everyone likes them (including me!) so it was nice to have something else for a change.

Hans had also made some Swedish Biscuits with God Jul on them.

god-jul-biscuits

Their dog Kasper enjoyed lying in front of the fire and watching in a vain hope that we might drop some food for him. It was too tasty to give to a dog!

kasper-and-fire

The next day my sister, her husband and two of her daughters came, bringing their Christmas leftovers so we had Christmas Dinner Mark 2, which was also lovely! Anna had made the traditional Swiss Roll Yule Log which she has always made – a real reminder of my childhood!

yule-log

Her daughter Ceri and I fought for possession of the piece with the flake in it and I was awarded this as flake’s aren’t available in Germany. Bonus!

yule-log-2

Oh, and earlier in the month I had seen a Facebook recipe for Nutella Christmas Trees and I made a few and gave them to colleagues at work. Here’s one of them – they look nicer than they tasted!

nutella-christmas-tree

I headed back to Germany on the evening of Boxing Day, ready for Oliebollentocht two days later. It was lovely to spend time with my Mum and sister and her family, it’s great to visit England again although the roads all seem so narrow and hilly!

Visting England now is a bit strange as my roots are being pulled up. James and I were divorced in November and he is now engaged to a new lady, someone we both knew at University. Our house is in the process of being sold, we are just going through the paperwork with the buyer, and then I will no longer have a home in Colchester. My life has very much transferred over to Germany and I feel that this is now my home, but it is always lovely to catch up with old friends in the UK and events such as the Bonn Carol Service give me a lovely warm feeling as it is the remembrance of decades of Christmases in the UK.

New Year’s Eve

I am writing this at 10pm on New Year’s Eve. I went to our next door neighbour’s New Year’s Eve party with Frank and Gudula – when Frank was invited he said we could come for an hour or so but then had another invitation – and we were most surprised when the front door opened that our neighbour was in a wedding dress. They had got married at 11am this morning and the New Year’s Eve party was actually a wedding party! This was a real surprise to us but it was lovely to be part of their special day and to meet some of their friends and family. We came away after an hour and a half as Frank and Gudula went to their other party and I stayed at home to look after Poppy who is not that keen on fireworks.

So the year is almost ended – I am writing this at ten o’clock so two hours to go. My third New Year’s Eve in Germany. Next year, 2017, is in a way a blank sheet – I can make of my life what I will. I have already planned to do a cycle ride from Rostock to Copenhagen and back to Kiel with some ladies from the Velomobilforum and will also be joining a new Gospel Choir in Wachtendonk now that I am not part of the Süchteln one. I will also be singing Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s “Paulus” with the Willicher Musikprojekt and Anja and I plan to resurrect our piano/flute duets. There is plenty to look forward to, not least more cycling and hopefully increasing my range and decreasing my belly a bit! However, the Cake Montage will probably continue.

cake-montage

2016 has had some difficulties and the political situation with Brexit and Trump fills me with gloom, but there are always positive things to be thankful for and I hope that we will all start 2017 with hope and looking forward to the good times. I wish all my readers a Happy New Year!

1 Comment

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

Oliebollentocht 2016

Oliebollentocht is an annual gathering of Velomobiles, usually in NL (where most of them are built). It is named after Oliebollen which are Dutch spherical doughnut thingies, similar to Quarkbällchen or Pufferkes in Germany.

I heard about Oliebollentocht in the summer and it sounded like it might be interesting, so when a list was started for people to register I put my name down. This year it would be in Dronten, where many of the Velomobile shops have their base.

I decided that I wouldn’t be able to cycle there and back and so hired a van. I realised that I had two spaces for other velomobiles so mentioned it to several local friends and in the end Klaus and Stefan (Podbiker) bagged the two spare places we calculated were available.

We had to do a fair bit of planning as it looked like it would be quite tight to fit a Milan, a Strada and a DF-XL in the Citroen van that I had hired, but both Stefan and I separately worked it out and decided that they would fit – just. Phew!

As the day approached I wondered about trying to cycle back rather than take the van. Klaus was also very keen on this idea as most people would be staying overnight afterwards. Stefan had to get home to his family and said that he was willing to take the van back alone and leave us in Dronten. So everything was organised.

I travelled back from England the day before and the drive back from Hoek van Holland to Kempen was very hard work as unfortunately I had hurt my thigh/back in England and I was very stiff and moving like an old woman. I wasn’t too sure how well I would cope with riding Millie but always had the option to go back in the van with Stefan if I felt I couldn’t ride the 170km home the next day.

I also worried a bit about punctures on such a long ride back in the cold (forecast was for 4 degrees for the journey back) and so decided to fit Durano Plus tyres that I had bought for the front wheels. The first one went on OK but the second one was a colossal struggle, not helped by my bad back which meant I had to keep standing up and walking around. I think it took 45 minutes to fit the tyre and I was a bit worried I might have pinched the tube. But the air stayed in and I had no more energy to check it further.

The plan was for us all to meet at the van hire place in Kempen, for Stefan and I to show our driving licences and then to load the velomobiles and head off. The van rental opened at 8am and the Oliebollentocht tour started at 10:30 so this was pretty tight for time (it’s about a 2 hours 15 minutes drive to Dronten) but it was possible and we had the routes for the tour on our GPSes so could potentially catch up with them or take a short cut to the coffee stop.

A short ride to pick up a van

I woke up with a slightly improved back – hurrah, I thought I would be able to cycle! I also woke up two hours early and so ended up deciding to leave home at 7:15 which would give me 45 minutes to get to the van hire place (15 minutes away). Hopefully I would be ready and waiting if the staff arrived early and gave us the key.

Millie’s two new tyres still had air in, hurrah, so I wheeled her out of the garage in the pitch dark and frost and stuffed my overnight bag in her storage area behind the seat. I was travelling light as Millie doesn’t have as good stowage areas as Penelope, but it turned out I could have brought more along without any problems.

I settled into Millie and then headed off up the road. The tiller seemed to be shaking in an unusual manner, and then I felt the regular bump-bump-bump of the valve of a flat tube contacting the ground. Oh no, a puncture!

At this point I should have turned round and cycled back to my garage but for some reason early morning brain meant I carried on for another half kilometre before I decided what to do. I only had one spare tyre which was a normal Durano, not a Durano Plus, but would have to change to that. As I was on a lane next to open fields in the freezing cold I decided to carry on to St Hubert and stop outside the Stinges bakery where there is plenty of light. In fact I saw a light on in the house of a friend of my landlady so stopped there, she came out and offered for me to shelter in their garage whilst I changed the tyre. Unfortunately they didn’t have a track pump I could use, I would have to use my hand pump.

And then I discovered the second problem with Durano Plus… they are extremely hard to get off! I just wanted to do a quick tube-and-tyre change but it took me almost 15 minutes and very painful thumbs and fingers to get the old tyre off. Putting the new tyre on (a standard Durano) was the work of a moment, pumping it up with my hand pump was OK and at five to eight I was rolling down the road towards Kempen. I phoned Klaus and told him I would be late.

When I arrived at five past eight Klaus and Stefan were already loading the van.

loading-van

I had dropped off some cardboard the day before which we put around the velomobiles to protect them as they were tight against the sides, plus some blankets and my bag of spare clothing. In the end all three fitted in very snugly and were strapped in place. I think if Millie had been more than 4cm longer we wouldn’t have been able to close the van doors!

My short ride of 4.5km took 40 minutes and left me with mismatched tyres, one of which was underinflated. Oh well!

The Oliebollentocht Ride

The roads were clear and Stefan drove us confidently to Dronten. We certainly knew when we had arrived – the road was full to bursting with velomobiles. I had never seen anything like it!

Photo from diesch on the Velomobilforum: Oliebollentocht für Velomobile 2016

And another, with the DuoQuest (two person velomobile) in the foreground:

Photo from TimB on the Velomobilforum: Oliebollentocht für Velomobile 2016

We parked the van around the side and started unloading. Various familiar faces came past, including Rolf who lives near us in Schwalmtal.

Once we had unloaded we realised the others were leaving so didn’t have time to pump up my tyre, or even use the loo, we just jumped straight into the velomobiles and set off at the back of the queue.

The route was all on cycle paths and we were fairly quickly out of the Dronten Industrial Estate and on a path beside a main road. It was very misty so that visibility wasn’t too great, and I also found the pace pretty high for me. My back wasn’t too bad but my left thigh muscle had also been affected by my back and it was complaining. I was having to work quite hard to keep up – velomobiles are fast!

After about 5km we all stopped as there was a choice of routes – long or short. I opted for the short as I knew I needed to take it easy because of my back. At the point where we divided the Short route all bunched up waiting for everyone to be ready… and a chap called Paul van Roekel took this wonderful photograph, which I also used for the header for this page.

Oliebollentocht, photo by Paul van Roekel

Oliebollentocht, photo by Paul van Roekel

This is what it is like when there is a traffic jam of velomobiles on a cycle path

Photo by Lee Wakefield, UK

Photo by Lee Wakefield, UK

We rode on, I was dropping towards the back due to my lack of speed but occasionally overtaking people who had stopped for a nature break or TimB to fix a puncture and the family with two QuattroVelos with children in the back to let the children stretch their legs.

Here are two tweets with Millie featured. That Union Jack was a great idea!

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-27-09

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-26-01

It was brilliant seeing all the different velomobiles and their riders, and passing cars were clearly amazed. One guy parked his car in a side road, holding up traffic behind him, as we cycled past and he filmed it with his camera.

Soon we arrived at our lunch spot, Flevonice which is an ice rink. The velomobiles were scattered everywhere and the people queuing to get into the ice rink were clearly amazed at this huge plague of carbon fibre weird bikes…

Lunch at Flevonice

Someone had counted the velomobiles – there were 209. This is by far a new record of velomobiles all in one place, no wonder people were staring!

Here is a picture taken by Crummel which shows them all very well:

The event this year was organised by Intercitybike in Dronten who make the DF velomobile as well as selling others. They had arranged for tea, coffee and cake to be laid on. I went straight to a comfy chair to sit down to relieve my back and was joined by TimB who sold me the Haube for Millie some months ago and who I usually have a long chat with at SPEZI. He went fairly early to get himself a coffee and most kindly returned with some tea and cake for me – thank you Tim!

cake-at-flevonice

The room was filled with familiar and unfamiliar faces and it was great to chat to old friends and get to know new people. Lee Wakefield who has a Milan and lives in the UK was introduced to me. He thought initially I was in the UK (due to the Union Jack flag) so thought there was another Milan there; I had to say that I was actually in Germany. He had some suggestions for me to optimise the load carrying in Millie by making a chain baffle and showed me how he had done that in his Milan SL.

I had brought along some biscuits and shared them around. It was nice to be in the warm and to have a chance for the loo. I was a bit worried about my low speed and decided I really had to pump up my replaced tyre before we set off again as that must be slowing me down. As I had used a Schraeder valve (Autoventil) I wouldn’t be able to borrow a track pump from any fellow velomobilists as they all seem to use Presta (SV), so I had to use my hand pump some more, but it definitely improved matters.

The ride back to Dronten

The route back to Dronten also had a long or a short option and I once again took the short one. It was cold and my back was hurting, but it was still such fun to travel in such a big group. I got dropped at one point and found myself cycling along completely alone in the fog – a weird feeling! I then found myself overtaking an orange QuattroVelo… the rider was Rob Hague, an Englishman, who had collected his brand new Velomobile a couple of days before. I asked if he was OK; he said yes, but he thought the pedals were too long for him and it was taking some getting used to. I kept with him as I wasn’t sure he had the track and might get lost, although I led us wrong at one point where we should have taken an underpass but ended up having to do a U-Turn on a main road. Oh well! We survived!

We arrived back at Dronten before 4pm and I saw Gerrit Tempelman directing traffic. It was good to see he was also involved.

We parked our Velomobiles all over the place and then went and warmed our hands and feet round a fire in a metal bin, before heading into the hall for the Oliebollen and soup.

Here is Millie parked amongst friends (four DFs in fact – she is the odd one out).

Photo from KLKöln on the Velomobilforum: Oliebollentocht für Velomobile 2016

The Oliebollen

The hall was a huge space with lots of picnic tables and benches, now filled with cyclists drinking coffee and tea and chatting away.

Here is a photo taken before we all arrived

We helped ourselves to tea and coffee and sat chatting. And then the Oliebollen arrived…

Photo from KLKöln from the Velomobileforum: Oliebollentocht für Velomobile 2016

Here we all are in the hall enjoying our Oliebollen.

Photo from Neidrider on the Velomobilforum: Oliebollentocht für Velomobile 2016

And also some vegetarian/vegan bean soup!

Photo by Matthijs Leegwater: http://quest412.blogspot.de/2016/12/obt-2016.html

It was all very tasty and the seating arrangement meant you could easily move around and go and chat to other people.

Here is one of my three Oliebollen (they are very filling!)

oliebollen-in-my-hand

I also took the opportunity to buy two new tyres (Duranos) from Ymte who runs Intercitybikes as I was worried about the journey home – if I got a puncture, I wouldn’t be able to get the Durano Plus on in the cold, and that was now my only spare. Convenient to have the tyres I wanted directly available. This meant I actually had 7 tyres with me (3 on Millie, one spare rear tyre, one spare front Durano Plus and two spare front Duranos) which is possibly more than necessary – but a better feeling than having none!

Several people talked to me about my Schlumpf fitting, including Theo from Velomobiel.nl and Rolf, who was in fact having a Schlumpf fitted in his Quest the next day. KLKöln had one fitted and showed me photos of what it is supposed to look like (narrow, and with a torsion arm). Looks very different to mine! Oh well, we live and learn!

AfFter the Oliebollen and soup we were very full and as it was starting to get dark we decided to head off to the guest house – both Klaus and Rolf were staying in the same place as me so we rode there together, 17km in the fog and dark. When we arrived there was an apple turnover each too!

apple-pastry

Stefan drove the van home and in fact gave a lift to another Velomobile rider who lives fairly near us who had experienced knee issues on the way up.

It was a truly enjoyable day and I can’t wait for the next Oliebollentocht – I will definitely be there!

Several people have produced videos of the day, and here are some of them:

This video from Belle includes Klaus riding past at 8:49. Millie at 8:52 and again at 16:10.

Here is a second one with a brief shot of Millie’s nose but it gives a better impression of the vast number of velomobiles there.

The Kempener Bummelzug

The journey up to Oliebollentocht by so many velomobiles meant that various groups were organised where people travelled together. The Rumeln Express, organised by Liegender_Robert, started in Rumeln, a part of Duisburg, and was a fast group (they average 30kph).

TimB had (foolishly?) decided to join this group and had to set off from Bonn at 5 in the morning to get to Duisburg at 9. They were in Dronten by 17:00 the day before Oliebollentocht. Tim was feeling the effects of such a long ride the next day so he took the shorter routes, as I did, but with far more justification!

Anyway, the route that the Rumeln Express were taking had been available to download so I used that route as a base for the journey back to Kempen for Klaus and I the next day. Of course, if we started before the Rumeln Express return journey they would overtake us – I knew I had zero chance of keeping up with them and it would probably have been a bit much for Klaus too. In the event they left at 8am so almost two hours before us – we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast chatting with Rolf and hoping the fog would clear.

amazing-breakfast

Rolf had a trailer on his car with which he had transported his Quest. It was having the Schlumpf fitted and then he was driving home again. Millie had spent the night in the trailer with the Quest to keep her out of the cold (there was only enough room in the bike shed for Klaus’s Celeste), and as Rolf and Klaus were lifting her out I thought how nice it would be to have a warm, comfortable ride home in Rolf’s car. I was quite tempted!

But then I decided to man up (woman up?) and ride it – after all, on this ride I would hit my year’s goal of 12,000km. And so what if the temperature is minus 3, that’s why I have a Velomobile!

So Klaus and I set off at 9:40am, following the route of the Rumeln Express which was a very different route from that we had used when we rode back from Dronten in March. Not least that it was 30km shorter.

The route goes over a large hill which appears to be a country park. We had been warned by Rolf that it wasn’t the best quality surface and could be quite narrow but it turned out to be OK and I would take that route again.

I didn’t take any photographs of it but here is one taken by Hajo, part of the Rumeln Express, as they passed through earlier in the day.

Klaus and I were both suffering from frozen feet so stopped for a walkabout (by him) and for me to put my feet down inside the velomobile (I didn’t want to get out because of my back). I also loosened the laces of my shoes which helped a lot with blood flow. It was probably minus 5 but all that was really cold were our feet – the velomobile keeps the body mostly warm and we had decent headgear.

After a five minute break it was time to move on. I was briefly celebrating hitting my 12,000km for the year target too!

This is the route we took.

kempener-bummelzug

After the country park we headed through Apeldoorn – the first of two towns of this name on our journey (we later went through Appeldorn in Germany). This was a bit fiddly and faffy, plus we had to watch out for glass on the cycle paths as it was quite a busy town. We stopped for Klaus to buy some bottled water and nuts and then headed on, soon out of the town and following the Kanaal Zuid all the way to Dieren. This was a lovely stretch of the route with smooth, fast cycle path with no-one else on it. The fog was still there, the day was still freezing, we both had very cold feet, but it was lovely to trundle along, enjoying the sunbeams filtering through the trees, the frost on the fields and more.

When we got to Dieren we were feeling hungry so decided to go off-route and try to find a café. Now I always have a very high success rate in Germany to find a bakery or café but this does not work so well for me in the Netherlands, and again this was the case. Dieren just seemed to be a dormitory town with no shops. I asked a lady walking past but she gave some very vague directions and didn’t speak much English. In the end we just followed the main road and eventually it joined up again with our GPS track we were following, at which point we found a nice-looking café and stopped.

lunch-on-the-way-home

It was lovely and warm in this café and so I laid my scarf, hat, buffs and gloves on the radiator to dry.

drying-out-buffs

We had some warming soup and some hot drinks and I also had several glasses of water. I felt that I wasn’t drinking enough and despite the cold day I was still losing moisture through sweat and breath. It is a problem I do seem to have.

It took a bit of willpower to leave the confines of the nice warm café and head back out into the cold. We still had a long way to go, we were only just halfway, and it was already three o’clock. Oh well, we had plenty of time. I had the option to overnight at Rees and had checked hotel availability in the morning (lots of cheap rooms) in case my back protested too much at the 170km ride. But I could decide that later.

The road from Doesburg/Dieren then went to Eldrik and then through Doetinchem where we changed direction to a bit more south and found the landscape and buildings looking more German. We still had a little way to the border but once again we had experienced that feeling that you get on a long ride, that you are covering so much ground that the landscape and styles of buildings is changing.

We crossed into Germany at Netterden and then almost immediately found our route to cross the A3 motorway had a diversion that added about 4km to our ride. It also meant that motor traffic was stuck behind us on narrow roads for longer than they probably liked. But eventually we rejoined our route.

At a roundabout in the middle of nowhere we stopped to eat some peanuts and drink some water as the energy levels needed topping up. Then it was onward to Rees through the village of Bienen which included a sharp downhill which seemed very frosty indeed. The sun had set and it was getting dark and cold – the skies were clear and we could see the stars.

We approached Rees and I went straight onto the bridge over the Rhein, bypassing my option for a shorter ride and a night’s sleep. It was only 50 miles to home which shouldn’t take more than two and a half hours.

I seemed to be maintaining my speed OK over the whole ride. It wasn’t fast – we tended to ride between 18 and 22km/h depending on road surface etc. It was getting colder though, and when I had to get out to change my battery for the lights (which is behind the seat) it was very chilly indeed!

After Rees I had planned a new route which avoided the awful hill Totenhügel and the road around Uedem was quite good, although both Klaus and I had no real idea where we were. We decided we would like some food once it got to seven in the evening so we made a brief detour to Kervenheim but cycled fruitlessly through the town centre looking for a restaurant. We found a bar but they were only serving drinks. “No restaurants here,” the chaps nursing their pints said, “you have to go to Kevelaer”. I said we were heading next through Winnekendonk and they said we would find food possibilities there too, so we headed off. It was strange that Kervenheim was so empty – we didn’t pass a supermarket or anything. It’s about the size of St Hubert which has 3 bakeries, 9 or 10 restaurants, two supermarkets etc etc.

Winnekendonk was just four kilometres away and Klaus, who was in the lead, espied a pizzeria so we stopped and ordered. As we were on long rides our appetites had reduced so we each ordered a small pizza. My hawaiian was very nice – this photo seems to have picked up the weird colour lighting from above. I promise my cheese wasn’t purple!

pizza-in-winnekendonk

After Winnekendonk we went through a couple of small villages and then we arrived in Geldern – back on very familiar roads! The route from Geldern to home I could do in my sleep… and I have to say I was feeling tired! I made a last-minute route adjustment to avoid the bridge over the A40 but instead go under the A40 on the main road – entirely due to laziness!

Klaus waved goodbye to me where my road diverged from his route back through Kempen and I did the last 1.5km alone, really looking forward to my nice hot shower.

In the end the total distance for my journey back was 170.14km and moving time was 8 hours 49 minutes, which is an average of 19.3km/h. Slow, but it was cold! Total door to door time was almost exactly twelve hours. Klaus got home about half an hour later, having done 186.8km. He was much fresher than me, I think; it’s hard to tell if it was my Durano Plus tyre (and possibly underinflated tyres), various minor aerodynamic reductions (Millie has a muddy underside), my post-Christmas lardiness, the cold weather… but anyway, the 170km were not particularly easy. When I compare this ride to my 215km ride a few months ago, that was much easier, and faster, and longer. But I guess that’s the effect of weather for you.

And if you’d like to see a video of my ride viewed from the air, here it is!

But as an overall event, Oliebollentocht was a fantastic experience. The group ride with 208 other velomobiles, meeting and chatting to friends old and new, and then a challenging but very rewarding ride back. It was all great and I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Other blog posts on Oliebollentocht

This is of course not an exhaustive list but is blogs that I have seen.

In Engish:
https://dievelonauten.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/oliebollentocht-2016-in-dronten/

In Dutch:
http://quest412.blogspot.de/2016/12/obt-2016.html
http://redstrada.blogspot.de/2016/12/oliebollentocht-2016.html
https://kampeerwijzer.com/2016/12/29/recordopkomst-oliebollentocht-2016/
http://mooigeelisnietlelijk.blogspot.nl/2016/12/een-in-nevelen-gehulde-omweg.html
http://roeifietsen.blogspot.nl/2016/12/obt2016waar-zijn-jullie-allemaal.html
http://questbeleving.blogspot.nl/2016/12/dat-smaakt-naar-meer.html
http://wieringer-velomobiel.blogspot.nl/2016/12/mistige-oliebollentocht-2016-met-alles.html

In German:
https://oldenburger-liegeradgruppe.jimdo.com/aktuelles-2016/ under Mekka der Velomobile (short report)

I will add more to this list as I am notified of them.

In short, if you are a velomobile rider, make sure you come to next year’s – it’s worth it!!!

6 Comments

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

Fitting a Schlumpf Mountain Drive into a Milan Velomobile

The first part of this Blog post was also published in the following post: Six Wheels In Germany – October 2016 but I have added more information below.

When I test-rode Millie the Milan Velomobile she had the following gearing:
2 fach Ritzel vorne (2 chainrings front) 64/38
9 fach Ritzel hinten (9 sprockets rear) 13/14/15/16/18/21/25/27/30

This 64-tooth chainring at the front meant that she had lovely high top gears but her lowest gear was rather high to start off on a slope or indeed to climb a hill. Ludwig the seller seemed to have no problem with it but I was concerned for my knees. There was a second smaller chainring at the front but he said he used that only for emergency hill climbing.

Ludwig suggested that he changed the front chainrings for me to a 53 and 43 so that I had more lower gears that worked better for me overall. He said I would be able to pedal up to 50 km/h no problems. So we went ahead with the swap and then I took possession of Millie.

It became clear to me fairly quickly that my low cadence means that I can’t really pedal over 40km/h without wobbling all over the place. My legs just don’t go that fast, and after 100,000km in recumbent trikes and velomobiles in 9 years it isn’t likely to change. I am comfortable in high gears, cruising with medium power. My knees generally are OK with this plan.

I could of course have changed the front chainring for a larger one but then I would have the same problem with starting in low gears. I had already discovered that my weak arm made it extremely difficult to use the grip shift for the front chainring shifter; changing down to the small ring was OK but changing back up again almost impossible. Ludwig suggested I got someone to fit a trigger shifter or bar-end shifter (although that would mean my indicator button would have to move) but I wasn’t sure.

I had been thinking for a little while about a Schlumpf Mountain Drive and decided to do a bit of research on this.

From Wikipedia:

A Schlumpf Drive is a two-speed planetary gear assembly for use on bicycles. It is distinct from other bicycle planetary gear assemblies in that it is located behind the chainring rather than in the rear hub. A push-button on each side of the axle allows the rider to switch between high and low ratios. These are operated by the rider’s heel.

Schlumpf Drives are primarily used as an alternative to multiple chainrings. Four models are currently produced, with differing ratios from pedal revolutions to chainwheel revolutions.

Speed Drive, this allows a 65% increase in the final drive (ratio 1.65).
High Speed Drive, this allows a 150% increase in the final drive (ratio 2.5).
Mountain Drive, this allows a 60% reduction in the final drive (ratio 0.4).
Reha Drive, this also allows a 60% reduction in the final drive (ratio 0.4). However, it is specifically designed for hand-cranked disability vehicles and requires less pressure for shifting.

Schlumpf drives are currently used in some Pashley[3] and Moulton bicycles.

Schlumpf products were initially designed and manufactured in Switzerland. They are now manufactured in Germany by Haberstock Mobility.

It is effectively like switching chainrings at the front to a very small chainring but doesn’t need any cabling.

The Speed Drive and High Speed Drive have their normal mode in low gears and then you can click up to a higher gear but that is using the innards of the drive so a bit lossy. The Mountain Drive is the other way round, the ‘neutral’ gears with direct drive are the high gears but you can knock it down by 2.5x for lower gears if you need them. This sounded very suitable for me!

My local recumbent shop is Liegeradbau Schumacher in Willich. I had visited them several years before and found them to be knowledgeable and with a large amount of stock. I decided to give them a ring and find out if they fitted the Schlumpf – yes they did, so I said I would pop round the next day and have a chat.

I did pop round and we talked about it. It sounded like a great option – until I heard the price. These things are expensive! Especially as I would need shorter cranks (not much room in the nose of Millie) and the larger chainring. The price was just too high for me to justify for some emergency low gears.

We talked a bit more about anything else I might be able to do (new shifters for my existing gear) and then the chap talking to me had a bit of an idea and went to talk to a colleague. It turned out they had a second hand Mountain Drive in stock and they made me a price offer for that, the cranks and chainring and fitting, which was very good and I decided to take them up on it.

They ordered the chainring and pedals and a couple of weeks later we had an appointment for them to do the fitting, hopefully while I waited.

I arrived and met Mr Schumacher (senior) for the first time. We ended up having a lovely time chatting together – the trike world is small and the velomobile world smaller and we had several acquaintances in common. He’s been in the world of recumbents for 30 years so has a vast amount of experience. It was really interesting talking to him.

First of all they showed me my new chainring – a real pizza plate!

pizza-chainring

Apparently when it had arrived Mr Schumacher assumed it was for some super-fit young man, and was clearly a bit surprised to see a middle-aged overweight woman who needed it! But the velomobile’s speed makes all the difference.

Christian Schumacher, his son, would do the fitting and the first plan was to get Millie onto a fork lift so that he could work through the foot hole.

millie-on-forklift

Mr Schumacher Senior and I held Millie steady whilst Christian removed the bottom bracket from the boom. Here it is coming out – and was surprisingly heavy. The Schlumpf Mountain Drive with pedals and chainring actually weighed less.

old-chainrings-come-out

Millie was lowered back down to the floor whilst Christian fitted the mountain drive to the bottom bracket, which involved some work on the aluminium holder. You can see the bits of metalwork that hold the boom in place on the floor in front of Millie’s nose.

boom-bits-on-floor

And the view inside – a boom leading to… nothing!

inside-no-chainrings-or-pedals

Now Christian spent some time removing the old pedals and bottom bracket and fitting the Schlumpf, which involves some metalwork I believe.

They let me see and test it when he had finished, turning the pedals with one finger and then pressing the button and seeing the speed change.

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket-2

Christian cleaned up my pedals and fitted them to the cranks, then we were ready to fit the new part into Millie.

with-pedals-and-ready-to-fit

Here we all are working on Millie – Christian drew the short straw and had to lie on his back with 28kg of carbon fibre balancing inches from his nose!

three-people-working-on-millie

And here it is fitted!

fitted

We removed the cabling for the front gear changer – another minor weight saving (20 grammes?) – which you could see in the photo above.

Then it was time for a short test ride…

Generally it was great, except my toe was now rubbing against the side of Millie. I had occasionally had this before when really pushing hard but it happened the whole time. It seems that the Mountain Drive pedal area (Q-factor) is wider than the previous chainrings arrangement (Theo at Velomobiel.nl had talked to me on the phone about Mountain Drives and said I needed to have the narrow one; I had asked Schumacher if that was what they had and they said yes, but I do slightly wonder now). Anyway, Christian came to the rescue again with a very simple solution – moving the cleats on my cycling shoes so my feet were more inward.

The second test ride and it was fine, only very occasional brushing of my shoe on Millie’s side, certainly to an acceptable level.

The fitting had taken three hours which was longer than expected but they had clearly done an excellent job and it was interesting to see everything in action. I rode home, very quickly getting used to the new drive and finding the gear changing buttons very simple to operate.

And after a week…

I am enjoying riding with the Mountain Drive.

I am definitely benefitting from the larger chainring. I find it more comfortable to ride at speed. I am able to pull away in first gear most of the time without problems, unless it’s on a slight uphill, at which point I use the Mountain Drive to step down from what is a 4.6 metre gear to a 1.5 metre (that means I travel 4.6 metres along the ground per pedal revolution). Also on some steeper hills I switch into Mountain Drive mode.

As was mentioned by many commentators, the Mountain Drive does give a spongy feel when using the stepped down gears. It is noticeable but as I am only riding in this gear arrangement for a short time it is no problem. Also because of the wide range in gearing it’s quite a big jump back into the higher gears but, again, because you know it’s coming you can adjust accordingly. I like the simplicity of the system and find it easy to do with my heels, even wearing cleats.

With regard to the cleat position, after Christian had adjusted one shoe I obviously had to adjust the other. I then thought about moving the cleats even further and tried that – and found I had unusual foot pain. I suppose after 100,000km with my cleats always on one position the ball of my foot didn’t like the change! So I moved the cleats back to a middle position where my foot only brushes the side of the velomobile when really pushing but the cleats are comfortable.

That spongy feeling…

The above was published on my blog in October and I note that two paragraphs previously I mentioned the gearing feeling a bit spongy – when you first push on the pedals there is a bit of give before you start making progress. I had read about this so expected it, but it seemed to be getting a bit worse over time, as if the rear wheel was slipping. Never mind.

Then in November I did a long ride to Xanten which involved the Mountain Range (small moraine) known as the Sonsbecker Schweiz and as I was trundling my way up there the Mountain Drive was slipping more and more. I had it in the lowest gear but my pedalling was very ineffective – it was as if the back wheel was slipping. Perhaps it was? So I did an experiment and put the parking brake on and tried to pedal. It worked – the pedals went round but the chain didn’t move. Uh oh, something is wrong with the Mountain Drive.

In the short term I had to get up the hill so I switched the Mountain Drive back to its ‘normal’ setting where it’s giving me the high gears and not doing any gearing gadgetry and it worked OK, except that climbing a hill in my lowest gear of the high gears is definitely not fun – it works out at 4.48 metres of travel per revolution. That’s lots! (In my highest gear I get 10.34 metres per pedal revolution, and in my lowest gear with the Mountain Drive active it is 1.79m and in the highest gear but with the Schlumpf 4.14m, so less than the lowest gear without the Schlumpf). In old money my lowest gear without Schlumpf is 56 gear inches, with Schlumpf is 22, highest gear is 129 gear inches and with Schlumpf is 52 gear inches.

In short, riding up a long hill from a stationary start with the lowest gear as 4.48 metres/56 gear inches causes knee pain so I had to be very careful and for the rest of the ride and struggled on a few smaller hills.

I contacted Liegeradbau Schumacher and also asked for some advice from people on the Velomobilforum and it became clear that it was a problem of the Tretlagergehäuse as it is called in German – the bottom bracket in English (I think). This is the tube through which the pedals go. It looks a little bit like this:

The Schlumpf has to be tightened so that a small metal ring with teeth bites into the metal and stops the whole thing rotating under the power of my legs pushing.

Schlumpf cone rings

Unfortunately the Tretlagergehäuse in the Milan is thinner than that of normal bikes (weight saving I guess) and it was deforming when they tried to tighten it up to the suggested 160 Newtons so only managed 120 Newtons. It seems my ladylike thighs are able overpower this – and once it had started spinning within the tube it quickly stripped the teeth from this metal thingy.

Some people on the Velomobile Forum pointed out instantly my problem – I had the ‘wrong’ Mountain Drive. When using a Schlumpf with a Velomobile you need the version with a torque lever that prevents it from twisting.

The Schlumpf website explains:

Mountain-drive – installation with torque lever (anti-twisting bracket)

There is a very simple way to hold a mountain-drive against the reaction torque. The housing with integrated anti-twisting bracket doesn’t need any modification of the frame at all. The clamp is connected to the rear chainstay. That’s it! No chamfering, not even a high tightening torque is required.

I reported back to Schumacher and they said they were considering their options.

The next day they made their suggestion – that they ordered a new Tretlagergehäuse from the Netherlands to replace the one I have on Millie with a thicker one that can take the Schlumpf. So I agreed to this and they ordered it – from Gerrit Tempelman no less! [Edit – from the comments below I see that Allert Jacobs from Velomobiel.nl made the Tretlagergehäuse, not Tempelman, and it was a special one-off).

How to remove an old Schlumpf when it doesn’t want to be removed

What I had not considered, of course, is that the old Schlumpf would be a right pain to get out.

I had a call from Liegeradbau Schumacher after a couple of weeks (during which I had taken my hill-avoidance route planning to new heights of expertise) to say the new Tretlagergehäuse was ready and we scheduled a time for me to visit to have it changed.

So on a Thursday after work I rode to Liegeradbau. The route there isn’t very nice really, on a quite busy road so I rode on the cycle path – a mistake as I later discovered.

Anyway, as I arrived I was given a biscuit!

biscuit

and was introduced to my new Tretlagergehäuse.

tretlagergehaeuse

Very shiny and much, much thicker than the existing one. The tube through which the pedal bracket goes was at least 2.5mm thick instead of the 1.5mm (estimated) thickness of the current one.

Mr Schumacher Senior was still rather surprised I was strong enough to strip the teeth from the cone rings – it just goes to show what Frauenpower can achieve!

Millie was put up on the fork lift and Christian was able to remove the Tretlagergehäuse in just a few minutes.

We went into the workshop and they fixed it all to a bit of square pipe they had hanging around, then used the tool to remove the pedals and attempted to undo the lock ring on one side of the Mountain Drive so it can slide out of the bottom bracket.

Oh dear. The lock ring just spun round. Which of course made sense as that was the problem with the Schlumpf.

First of all they tried to clamp the aluminium of the Tretlagergehäuse with some band thing to do with a car. But that didn’t work.

Then Mr Schumacher said “Plan B” – which was a giant wrench with jaws to hold the Tretlagergehäuse in place so that the Schlumpf within didn’t rotate.

“What is plan C?” I asked. “Is it to kill the customer?” He laughed…

Anyway, plan B using the gripper/wrench thingie was also unsuccessful. They found larger jaws and extended the handles with bits of pipe to get better purchase but still no success, the Schlumpf continued to rotate within the tube as they tried to unscrew the lock ring.

Hmmmm.

The original plan was that I would be able to keep the old Tretlagergehäuse in case I ever put the old chainrings back on but it was now very marked by the teeth of the grippers. There were a few scratches on the Schlumpf chainring holder too.

I tentatively asked if we were now onto Plan C, kill the customer, but Mr Schumacher said it was Plan B part 2 – to cut away at a bit of the Tretlagergehäuse to hopefully allow the Schlumpf to be gripped more strongly.

Christian got out his circular saw and ear defenders and we retreated to a safe distance.

circular-saw-1

Stage 1 was cutting a ring around the Tretlagergehäuse.

xhzkz

A bit more cutting was needed…

circular-saw-2

Then he was able to remove some pieces of the aluminium. Here is the view from both sides.

removed-piece-1

removed-piece-2

However, this did not solve the problem. The pesky lock ring (next to where they have cut away the metal) still could not be loosened, the entire item inside rotated.

The Tretlagergehäuse was clearly ruined so I suggested Plan B part 3 (in preference to Plan C), cutting away the entire Tretlagergehäuse. This was clearly the only option. So Christian got his circular saw out again.

First section… You can see the marks of the toothed grippers on the part of the Gehäuse that butts against the black disc of the Schlumpf where the chainring is fitted.

opening-1

And from the other side. You can see how thin the aluminium is – about 1.5mm we thought.

opening-2

And finally – Schlumpf is removed!!!

opened-1

opened-2

Success!!!

The cone ring from within was interesting – its teeth had be worn away so it was almost smooth. It was clear why it was not able to withstand the torque from my pedalling.

Here is the old Gehäuse next to the new one.

old-and-new

Fitting the Schlumpf to the new Tretlagergehäuse was the work of 5 minutes, and they managed to tighten it to more than 160 Newtons – this one would not be rotating!

Christian fitted it back into Millie fairly quickly and we were ready for a test ride. Except I had a quick look at her tail – flat rear tyre! Fortunately it was in a warm place with an air compressor to pump up the tyre so the rear wheel extraction and tyre change didn’t take long at all (I am getting better at it!) The old tyre had some very bad sidewall damage so was retired there and then. I have since fitted a Schwalbe Marathon on the back – it’s wider and slower but at least has some puncture protection. That’s two rear punctures I’ve had in 2000km, fortunately both times under cover with suitable tools and track pumps. I wouldn’t like to have to change a rear tyre in the dark, rain and cold.

After the new tyre was fitted I did a short test ride and thought initially that it was still not right, but it turns out this is just the normal sponginess of the Schlumpf, plus a lot of slack in the chainline getting taken up when I put a lot of torque through.

I rode off home again with the old Tretlagergehäuse as a bit of modern art, periodically testing the Schlumpf and all seemed well. I have since ridden 300km with it including a significant hill and all is working well. I do notice the sponginess when using the Mountain Drive gearing, but when in the higher gears it is as if nothing was there. The gear change is easy with my heel and it’s great to have this emergency step-down gear.

I am also very happy with Liegeradbau Schumacher’s help with this. It is unfortunate that it was the wrong type of Mountain Drive but none of us knew that and the problem was solved. It took a lot of time for Schumacher (probably they worked on Millie for 6 hours in total) but they were always friendly and helpful. They said I should pop in whenever I’m passing, but preferably not if Millie has a problem…

Riding with the Schlumpf

For Velomobiles I think the Schlumpf Mountain Drive is an excellent option. It allows the rider to have a large chainring which is useful for the high speeds a Velomobile can attain. It’s lightweight and doesn’t add much drag at all to the pedalling (someone said 1-2 watts). No cabling is a bonus as working in the nose of the Velomobile is no fun at all. Being able to change gear when stationery is really useful, and having such a wide range of gears is extremely helpful.

A couple of other friends with Velomobiles are considering the Mountain Drive. I think more would take it up if it wasn’t such an expensive option (it costs at least 600 Euros, with new chainrings and pedals and fitting this amount can get close to 1000 Euros very quickly), but I think for me and my special requirements it was worth it (although I paid about half of that amount because it was second hand). It’s something I can recommend, with the few disadvantages in mind (hard to fit yourself without the right tools, wider than the normal pedals it replaced which means my feet are closer to the sides of the Velomobile, has to have oil injected in once per year which will involve grovelling on the floor under the Velomobile, and the mega faff if like me you fit the wrong one) but these are small in comparison to the advantage of convenient gearing without cables.

3 Comments

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

Six Wheels In Germany – November 2016 (Month 32)

A short report for this month (phew, you say!!)

Cycling this month

Cycling Statistics this month

November was not such a good month for cycling for me. This is mostly due to the weather – it was very rainy for several days, and very cold for a couple of weeks, and with my job it means I have to make an effort to ride straight after work if I want to cycle in daylight. Which I sometimes manage, but not always.

Anyway, my total distance for November was 726km so half of what I managed the previous month.

november-figures

And here is where I rode to:

veloviewer-wheel-nov-2016

Metric Century a Month Challenge

After last month’s statement from me that this challenge was really rather easy now, I found I had to eat my words almost straight away as the ride for this month was tricky.

xanten-kalkar

Klaus was able to ride with me so we planned to go to Xanten and see where we fancied going after that. We met in Kempen where there was an ADFC Light Check stand so we put in an appearance there for an hour and talked to the police and the local bike shop chappie with our velomobiles proving a bit of a draw. But it was cold just standing around so we were pleased to get back into the Velomobiles and ride. We set off for Xanten following a route that Klaus had prepared which took us up a bit of a hill on the approach to Xanten. And it was at this point that I discovered I had a bit of an issue with my Schlumpf gearing in my bottom bracket. It seemed to be slipping!

As I was pedalling only a small amount of the pedal stroke transferred to the wheel, the rest of the time it just slipped. So I had to very quickly go down the gears to first gear which was very slippy and when I reached a slightly steeper bit of slope I was pedalling but getting no forward motion. Oh no!!

I changed the Schlumpf up into the high gear (no reduction gear) and it worked OK but my lowest gear in this configuration is very high – I think about 3.8 metres per pedal stroke – so my knees were really complaining. I got to the top of this long slope and said to Klaus that I needed to avoid hills after this until I could work out what was wrong with the Schlumpf.

I very much enjoyed my restorative slice of cake in Xanten and of course my cup of tea. The Christmas Market was taking place in the large square in front of the café so there were people everywhere and the two velomobiles make a very interesting picture too, but I had to bang on the window when one man decided to open up Millie’s flap and look inside. People can look, but not touch!

After the cake and tea it was time to carry on and we decided to ride towards Kalkar along a former railway line to Marienbaum which is now a cycle path. It was suitable for Velomobiles too so we pootled along – pootling because my knee was complaining and I needed to rest it a bit and also let it warm up slowly. It was a cold day for cycling and I still had summer-weight cycling trousers on (normally OK in velomobiles).

We reached Kalkar and decided to carry on to Goch. On our way to Goch we went through what turned out to be a very large village called Pfalzdorf. Klaus comes from the Kurpfalz area of Germany and it turns out that some people from the Kurpfalz region had wanted to emigrate to America but had only got as far as the Dutch border and been turned back, so they settled near Goch in Pfalzdorf. Apparently they still speak the Mannheim dialect there too, although we didn’t see anyone to speak to – just experienced an unexpected hill which was No. Fun. At. All in my high gears.

We rode through Goch where I had hoped to stop for cake but Klaus had to be home so we carried on, but unfortunately I was running out of energy so in the end suggested he rode directly home and I would stop for some food in Straelen. I arrived at Café Krone which I like very much, waved goodbye to Klaus and had this very tasty pumpkin soup in a Kilner jar.

soup-straelen

It gave me more energy back and I rode home much more quickly, arriving home with 126km on the clock. Klaus ended up with 142km.

I have spoken to Liegeradbau Schumacher about the Schlumpf and it seems that the boom end on the Milan is of rather thin metal so that they couldn’t tighten the Schlumpf enough and it rotates inside the bottom bracket because of the very high power when in the low gears. They have ordered a new, normal-thickness bottom bracket shell from Tempelman in the Netherlands and will fit it to Millie when it arrives. In the meantime I am riding just with my high gears and doing even more hill-avoidance than normal!

Bike maintenance

The Milan is a pain in the neck if it gets a rear wheel puncture as you have to take out the back wheel to fix it (unlike most Velomobiles). I had practised this when I first got Millie but discovered one day when I was getting Penelope out of the shed that Millie had a puncture. At least this meant I could fix it at a time of my choosing.

Anyway, I did a reasonable job which took just 45 minutes but the tyre had a bad cut so I decided I would buy a new one. I also decided to change to AV tubes (Auto ventil, car valve) rather than the Französische (Presta) valves which I find a bit awkward. So I ordered some tyres and tubes, including a wider Marathon tyre for the rear wheel for winter. It will be slower but much more puncture resistant. A puncture in the dark and the rain is no fun at all!

bike-spares

Klaus had reported that he had a puncture on one of his solo rides and had an AV tube which didn’t fit through his wheel rim. This caused a brief panic for me as I had just bought 4 new AV tubes but I tested one in the front wheel of Millie (without completely removing the old tube – no need for extra effort!) and it worked fine.

checking-valve-holes

I have ridden Millie to work a couple of times recently – she looks amusing in the car park. She is longer than the Smart Car I parked beside!

bike-at-work-1

bike-at-work-2

Starting work at 8am means I cycled through some wonderful sunrises in November.

sunrise-1

sunrise-2

sunrise-3

Velomobiletreff

Rolf once again organised his Velomobile Meet in Schwalmtal, although this time it ended up with just Jochen and I visiting due to illness or busyness from the other velomobile riders.

Here are Millie and Endeavour side by side.

velomobiletreff

And here is the very tasty soup Rolf made for us, most welcome on such a chilly day!

rolfs-soup

Non-cycling events!

Messiah Concert

As in the previous two years, I have spent the entire year practising with the Willicher Musikprojekt for a big concert in November. The first year was Beethoven’s Messe in C, last year was Elias by Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and this year was the Messiah by Handel (but in German).

In the previous years we have had just one concert but this year two were planned, one in Krefeld and one in Anrath (where we normally have the concerts). The Krefeld church is a very large Evangelisch church which seats 1000 people and in which the group had not previously sung.

Here was our final dress rehearsal…

krefeld-church-concert

We had to work out where we would all sit as to get 100 singers on the staging is challenging!

The rehearsal was on a Friday night and the concert on the Sunday evening. Here is a selfie taken just before…

before-the-concert

There were a lot of people out there in the audience!

krefeld-orchestra-and-audience-2

krefeld-orchestra-and-audience

The concert went well although we noticed a few mistakes and I am not sure how good the acoustics were for those in the audience at the back. But it was lovely to sing after all our hard work together.

The second concert was the following Friday in Anrath, which has excellent acoustics.

selfie-anrath

As we had already sung the whole thing through once five days before we did a better job with this one I felt, although the audiences seemed very happy with both concerts. I really enjoyed singing it and look forward to starting our new project in January, Paulus by Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Miscellaneous

Other events this month included the Fahrrad Stammtisch, an ADFC ride where I just met them for lunch, I continued providing Nachhilfe (tutoring) in English to a lad in St Hubert, and I attended three dog training sessions with Poppy. This is because Gudula wants to get Poppy registered as an official Visiting Dog so she can visit old people’s homes or homes for disabled people. This involves first of all a four week course at a dog training centre 10km away but Gudula could only make two of the four sessions as she and Frank were on holiday, so I agreed to go to the other two.

It was interesting to see the dogs and what they do – but I had lots of problems hearing in the large, barn-like hall. It was also very cold! I think all the other dogs had done their initial dog training there so knew specific things that they had to do whereas some of it was entirely new to Poppy but she seemed to really enjoy it and clearly has the temperament for a visiting dog, although she needs to have some more training.

For the last session I went with Gudula as we had to decide what to do in the long term. Rather shockingly, Poppy will need another six months training before she can do the exam (yes, they have an exam!) and I am not 100% sure if we want to do it as Gudula has to work shifts so may not be able to make all the sessions and it isn’t something I particularly want to do at the moment. Plus it’s expensive (500 Euro in total). But we are still considering.

With the change in weather from warm to very cold, and of course the clocks changing at the end of last month, winter is most decidedly on its way.

Decorating houses for Christmas seems to start rather early in Germany. Some people seemed to have already put up lights and baubles etc in mid-November. For me, the first day of Advent is maybe a bit early…

Anyway, one day I came into work and discovered a Christmas decoration on my desk.

christmas-decorations-at-work

I have now been in my job for four months and am getting the hang of it. I speak about 50% German and 50% English, and some of my colleagues now speak to me in English to practise it. I also work closely with a chap from Denmark who speaks Danish, English and German, but my main contact is with a Russian customer so the mutual language is English. It’s very interesting to be dealing with people from many countries although that also has its challenges!

Cakes this month

And here are the cakes that I, or my companions, have eaten this month. Yummy!

cake-collage

3 Comments

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

Six Wheels In Germany – October 2016 (Month 31)

October was a mixture of warm, sunny weather and definite autumnal/winter days.

However, this month’s blog is decidedly not a mixture… it is almost entirely bicycle-related (with just my cake collage at the end) so if velomobiles and trikes aren’t your thing I suggest you give it a miss this month.

What can I learn from this? Perhaps I need to diversify in my interests a bit! However November’s blog should contain a bit more variety as the choir I sing in will be performing the Messiah in Anrath and Krefeld.

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Another good month in terms of distance, just a touch shy of 1500km, but that is due to the speed increase with the Milan. I am probably riding the same amount of time per month, just getting there more quickly!

october-statistics

And here is the ‘wheel’ to show where I have ridden this month. It also shows I managed four metric centuries, and indeed one ride over 200km.

october-wheel

Metric Century per month challenge

Since the advent of Millie the Milan GT Carbon velomobile, distances have been rather easier to come by! When the average speed increases from 22km/h to 30km/h, that means in a four hour ride you can do 120km instead of under 90km. It also means that a 100km ride is only an investment of just over three hours’ riding time.

Anyway, the challenge to cycle 100km at least once per month continues.

For October’s I started rather well.

On the 2nd October I did a 62km cycle ride but decided as the next day was a bank holiday and I had nothing planned I would try for a longer ride.

I decided to have another go at my ride to Kleve and Nijmegen that I did in Penelope a few months back, this time avoiding the two mountains I had to haul myself over. This involved a detour of about 12km but it was definitely worth it to avoid those mega hills.

Klaus was able to ride with me for a short while in the morning so he came to meet me at my house and we headed straight off north on our regular Sunday morning ride into Kreis Kleve.

nijmegen-track

We set off at a medium pace as my legs weren’t feeling brilliant and it was also a bit chilly and rainy but soon got into the groove and were approaching Geldern. Klaus asked if I wanted to stop here; I had planned to ride a bit further than 18km before my first stop but he didn’t really have time to ride further so I agreed we would stop in Geldern in the café we often visit in the market square.

We parked our velomobiles… of course they caused quite a stir.

millie-and-celeste-in-geldern

AFter some tasty cake I headed off northwards and Klaus went for a detour on his way home via Neukirchen Vluyn.

The cake had given my legs a bit more energy and I enjoyed my speedy ride northwards towards Uedem. However, just before I reached Uedem there was a ‘Road Closed’ sign. Never mind, I thought, as the cycle route was still free – I would ride on the road until the proper closure and then hop on the cycle path.

This worked OK except the cycle path was horribly bumpy when I got onto it and the Milan has much harder suspension than the Versatile. I was zooming along when I saw something ahead and slammed on the brakes. A good thing too, as I was faced with a sudden cessation of Radweg…

road-closed-1

Because Millie is so low I couldn’t ride up this bump so had to get out.

road-closed-2

Getting in and out is a faff so this was annoying. I then had to push Millie along the road until I could find proper tarmac again. It was a short walk of about 100 metres but annoying nonetheless. When you see road closures in Germany it is not usually clear whether the cycle path is also closed.

However, once I had negotiated this obstacle I continued on, glad to have walked about a bit to warm up my toes.

I had made three different tracks for the day, one which was 178km and went to Nijmegen but two shorter ones which turned back sooner if I wasn’t feeling so energetic. I wasn’t sure which I would do, and in fact was still deciding as I reached Bedburg-Hau where one of my tracks headed west to NL. But in the end I decided to continue on to Kleve.

I didn’t actually go into Kleve this time (that’s one of the evil hills) but instead skirted around to the east, getting nearer to the Rhine. I then followed part of the Rhein flood plain towards Nijmegen (very close to Millingen aan de Rijn) which involved small country lanes which were often quite mucky with tractor mud.

At one point I felt a regular bump-bump-bump in one wheel and thought “oh no! A front puncture!” So I stopped and got out – but both front wheels (and also the back) were fully inflated. I guess it was a bit of mud but it was another chance to move my feet around and drink some water. I was wearing some brand new shoes I had bought from Rose and had done them up a bit tight to start with so my left ankle was complaining; having loosened them off things were improving but I did think such a long ride with new shoes was perhaps a little unwise. But the challenge of the open road and fast Velomobile overcomes such sensible thoughts!

After a five minute break I carried on, and started to recognise the bit of dike I was cycling on… I had been on this route on the trike tour at the beginning of August.

nijmegen-bridge

Very soon I was passing the boat where we had spent the night in Nijmegen and riding along the waterfront looking for somewhere to eat some lunch. I found a lot of cafés and parked outside.

parked-at-nijmegen

This was a tasty burger but I was only able to eat half of it – this can be a problem when riding long distances, your stomach doesn’t really want to have to do too much!

burger

After more water (the day had got warmer and cycling at speed means the wind whips away a lot of moisture) it was time to carry on.

My previous route from Nijmegen involved a ferry crossing at Cuijk and then down the west side of the Maas to Arcen. As I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to ride Millie onto these ferries (very steep!) I decided to stick to the east bank of the Maas and ride via Gennep.

What I didn’t know, and neither did my route planning software, was that the nice fast road around Gennep is not allowed for bicycles, so I had to do some on-the-hoof rerouting and ended up riding through the middle of the town. This was of course slower but more interesting.

The roads weren’t as quiet as the roads the other side of the Maas so I expect I won’t do this sector again, although once I was a fair way south of Gennep it improved a lot.

I had a waypoint on my Garmin counting down to Bergen which is somewhere I seem to regularly cycle through and feels like it is quite close to home (although it is 45km away), and soon enough I arrived… except the road was blocked with a circus. Of course there wasn’t room to turn around in the velomobile so I had to get out again… very irritating. The circus people were chatting to me in a mixture of Dutch, German and English, asking about Millie.

Once I had turned round I rode off again, arriving in Bergen a few minutes later after the small detour and going to the bakery for some nice rice cake and a cuppa.

rice-cake-in-bergen

I was feeling pretty good still and wondered about going for a double century. Another 22km over my plan would be eminently doable. So I headed off, feeling that I still had plenty of energy, back on roads I know very well which are fast and have almost no traffic. Although there was in fact more than I was expecting as this was not a public holiday in the Netherlands.

Anyway, I zoomed back to Arcen, to Straelen and then decided to do a detour up to Geldern to get my extra kilometres. Once in Geldern I realised I needed a few more… and knowing that Klaus had been to Neukirken Vluyn today I decided to also go there. So I did, via Kamp Lintfort.

My plan was to avoid the annoying hill by the spoil heap at Eyller Berg but of course I miscalculated my route and ended up riding up there. Oh well, it’s much less hard work in a Milan than a Versatile. Coming down the other side was nice!

The 200km was in sight, but I then thought about my longest ever ride. 201km, back from Dronten. Yes, I could beat that… but what was the next challenge after that? What was Klaus’s longest ride? Fortunately with the marvels of Strava I could see that his longest ride was 213km. Hmmmmmm, only another 12km after my personal record….

So I continued stretching out my route, doing a detour around Siebenhäuser (a lovely bit of road!), then going past St Hubert and heading south to Kempen. I decided I didn’t fancy the mountain over the railway bridge on the way to St Tönis so turned off just before that which involved a rather bumpy road and also a brief moment of sheltering under a tree because of unexpected hail! It was at this point that I had a message from Klaus who realised I was not yet home and therefore must be extending my ride (I had sent him a message when I was near Straelen). “Are you going for the 200km?” he asked. Oh no, old bean, I am going for your record!! (I didn’t actually send this).

I rode back through the outskirts of Kempen, watching the kilometres tick over on my Garmin. Because sometimes there are discrepancies between the Garmin track and what Strava gives me I knew I had to do a bit extra – it would be gutting to be 100 metres short! So when I finally rolled up outside my house I had done 215.1 kilometres. Moving time was 8 hours 4 minutes so the average speed was 26.7 km/h. Not bad at all!

Klaus soon saw on Strava that I had exceeded his longest ride so undoubtedly he will be overtaking me again soon. But a bit of a challenge is good for us, it encourages longer rides and exploring new places. But it is a great feeling to have done such a long ride, and such a huge contrast to the 201km I did in Penelope which nearly finished me off (and took 11 hours 43 minutes).

The route apart from the Gennep bit was good so I will try it again sometime, probably in the Spring/Summer, as now the nights are drawing in the long rides aren’t quite as appealing. But I am pleased with myself, with how well Millie rolled, and that I burned enough calories for both slices of cake (officially I burned 4,212 calories, average heart rate 147, maximum 185).

7 Schlösser und eine Burg

or, in English, 7 castles and a castle.

A week after my 215km ride it was time for another longer ride and this time Klaus had a bit of a brainwave that we could visit Düsseldorf and take in some castles on the way.

We ended up passing 7 castles and I also passed the castle in Kempen. I was talking today to friend Babs about the difference in meaning between Schloss and Burg but we couldn’t really work out the specific variation except that Burg is more of a stronghold/fortress and Schloss, although also a castle, is also a bit like a palace or a giant country house. Maybe.

Anyway, the ride took in the following castles: Schloss Neersen; Schloss Myllendonk; Schloss Rheydt; Schloss Dyck; Schloss Hülchrath; Schloss Benrath; Schloss Mickeln; Burg Kempen.

And here was my route:

castles-track

It was a fairly chilly day and I set off with buffs and hat on. The plan was to meet Klaus somewhere near Neersen and we ended up meeting in Anrath. I was a bit slower than I had expected to get there as it was cold and I tend to be slower in the morning.

From Anrath we headed south towards Mönchengladbach, passing Schloss Neersen of course, and also fairly quickly Schloss Myllendonk. Shortly after Mönchengladbach we passed Schloss Rheydt where I have occasionally partaken of a pizza!

As we headed towards Schloss Dyck we had a brief section riding straight towards Garzweiler, one of the huge holes in the ground where Brown coal is extracted. Klaus was whizzing far ahead here, as you can see from the photo – with the chimneys spouting smoke from the power stations that feed on the coal.

towards-garzweiler

We arrived at Schloss Dyck and stopped briefly. I said to Klaus I was feeling a bit pooped – I decided I was rather hungry (hadn’t had much breakfast). He said he thought about riding to Schloss Benrath – perhaps we could eat there. We weren’t sure how far away it was, perhaps an hour, so I thought it would be OK to carry on.

Klaus had sent me the track but it arrived after I had switched off my computer so I didn’t have a chance to load it on my Garmin and was just following him without really knowing where we were going, but it was a great and varied route, passing through towns I had never even heard of.

Klaus is good at route planning but no ride is complete without a spot of off-road!

off-road

I was now beginning to feel a bit rubbish, definitely low on food. My heart rate was also very low which is unusual for me. I kept a beady eye out for bakeries but saw nothing. There was a café next to Schloss Hülchrath but they were closed for a holiday.

On we went, I was going slower and slower. Memories of the long ride back from Dronten where I just lost all energy! And then hallelujah, in Nievenheim we found a very nice café! They had cakes but no warm food, so a cake and filled roll were just the thing. A hot cup of tea helped to restore some of my energy. It had come just in time as I was definitely heading into what is called the cyclist’s bonk.

I felt lots better after my food and we headed off again, with me feeling that I had much more power. Interestingly my heart rate was now way higher as my body worked to digest the food.

It was a short distance from Nievenheim to Zons, and then it was the Zons ferry. We did this ferry on the SPEZI tour last year with Simon and Joyce; it was good to be in Zons again!

ferry-at-zons

From Zons it was a short ride up past Schloss Benrath and then past Schloss Mickeln to Düsseldorf. I asked Klaus if we could detour to the Medienhafen to photograph Millie in the mirrored building… so we did.

img_1214

lots-of-millies-2

lots-of-millies

Then it was heading through the Altstadt north and further to a crossing of the Rhein. We took the Helter Skelter Bridge, as I call it, but on the way down the other side there was a steep curb so Klaus pushed me back up the slope a bit – hard work for him! But Millie’s very wide turning circle means it takes forever to turn round in a narrow area.

As we were cycling north along the Deich we saw another velomobile, a cream or white DF, going over a bridge. We wondered if he had seen us (it turned out he hadn’t!)

We rode back through Meerbusch and went our separate ways near St Tönis. I ensured I cycled past Burg Kempen on the way home so I definitely bagged that one too!

It was a very enjoyable ride although my lack of food in the morning had shown me that I do really need to prepare properly for longer rides! 140km for me at an average speed of 24.8 km/h.

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf und Umland

The Velomobileforum has various groups for local cyclists and I had seen that there was going to be a meeting for the Düsseldorf people and also the Duisburg people in Kaiserswerth. As Kaiserswerth (north of Düsseldorf) isn’t so far away from me, I thought I would go along. It was the day after my 7 Schlösser Tour but I felt energetic enough for another 100km ride.

The plan was to meet in Büttgen where one of the forum members lives, have a cuppa there and then ride together to Kaiserswerth. Sounded good!

The meeting time was 11am which was eminently easy. I told Klaus I was planning to go to that and he said he would like to ride a bit with me in the morning (he had to be back at midday) so we decided to ride together to Uerdingen for cake and then I would go on to Büttgen which is near Kaarst, so the Neuss area (left hand side of the Rhein).

Here is my track for the day:

liegeradtreff

So Klaus came to my house and we set off together on familiar roads, except were almost immediately caught out by the closure of the B9 road – we wanted to go to Siebenhäuser but the road was closed. There was nothing for it, we had to cycle up the mega hill to Tönisberg.

We got to the top and then took the nice road down that leads to Siebenhäuser but this time we headed to Niep and from there towards Uerdingen. These are roads we have ridden several times and it’s a good route.

Once we got to Uerdingen I assumed we would ride onward but Klaus was happy to stop for cake, although our usual café wasn’t yet open. We found another though and enjoyed some tea and cake.

He said he would ride with me to Kaarst and then go home from there, so after our cake we zoomed off on empty roads and great speeds. I hadn’t realised how fast we were going but for a 10km section our average speed was 33 km/h. This in Millie is fairly easy as long as you don’t have to keep stopping but for Celeste it was harder work – she presents a larger area to the wind and probably has a little more rolling resistance too with her tyres. Klaus was working quite hard to keep up (this is a real role reversal as it’s always previously been the other way round!).

We were making excellent time so he said he would come with me to Büttgen to say hello to the others, it was only a detour of 3km. Unfortunately my planning for this section was sub-optimal and we had a kilometre off road. This provoked a barrage of complaints from my riding partner, but I pointed out we had been off-road yesterday on his track. But apparently that was less off-roady or something.

Anyway, we arrived in Büttgen without punctures or anything falling off the Velomobiles and all our teeth still in place… and after a brief hiatus when I missed the road and couldn’t find where we were supposed to be, followed by me being nearly crashed into by a car who decided to ignore my left-signalling indicator… we arrived. And Celeste met her new cousin the DF belonging to Podbiker (Stefan).

df-and-celeste-1

df-and-celeste-2

I had cycled with Stefan and his DF before to Kevelaer but that was in Penelope. It will be fun to ride with him when I am in Millie – it won’t be so slow!

As you can see from this photo, there was a real colour scheme going on – Celeste or white-and-red.

df-and-celeste-3

More velomobiles arrived, including Düssel (who we often see) in his Mango this time (he also has a WAW) and he had a quick go in Millie. There were also a few trikes. The wife of Norbert had made us some snacks to keep us going.

nibbles-1

nibbles-2

Klaus had headed off home at this point and it was then that I discovered an ingenious seat raising device a fellow rider used for his Mango…

seat-dictionary

Not only is his seat the right height, if he has an urgent need for an English word it is at his fingertips!!

After eating the food, drinking tea and coffee and peering at each others’ velomobiles, it was time to head off in our group of 11, following Norbert on his trike. The pace was very relaxed as Norbert has an electric trike due to disability but we certainly provided great entertainment for those we passed. So many weird bikes!

Some of the riders zoomed ahead and then took some photos. Here am I wafting past…

helen-passing

Here we are riding over a motorway bridge

velomobiles-crossing-bridge

And enjoying the scenery as we head for the Rhine.

milan-unterwegs

Crossing the Rhine bridge.

crossing-rhine-bridge

We arrived in Kaiserswerth and the group from Duisburg were already there.

vms-kaiserswerth-1

vms-kaiserswerth

I saw someone with a white DF – indeed he had been the chap Klaus and I saw yesterday, although he hadn’t seen us.

cream-df

There were also lots of trikes.

kaiserswerth-trikes

We were providing great entertainment for all the people at Kaiserswerth and lots of people were asking us questions. It looked as though it would take a long time to get served food so Düssel suggested we decamped to a place he knew with a large garden area for the trikes. So we followed him for a few kilometres and reached the café. Their garden was indeed full of bikes!

vms-in-pub-parking-area-1

vms-in-pub-parking-area-2

vms-in-pub-parking-area-3

And we almost all managed to squeeze on one table!

liegerad-group-eating

After some tea and cake we decided to head back. I thought I would use the Kaiserswerth Ferry back to my side of the Rhein, although I wasn’t sure how well it would work with the low ground clearance of Millie. In the end it was fine, and a group of four of us in velomobiles made the crossing before heading off in different directions on the other side.

I then rode home alone, ending up with 104km on the clock at an average speed of 22.5 km/h. It was a really enjoyable day and great to meet so many other velomobile riders.

It also meant that this week I ride 641.7 kilometres which is pretty good going! Three rides over 100km and one over 200km. I love riding my velomobile!

A speedy trip to Xanten

One Sunday morning when I had nothing to do I decided to try for a speedy ride and see if I could maintain a reasonable speed for a longer time.

xanten-track

This was the track I rode, going via Geldern on the way (so the western side) and then returning via Alpen and Kamp-Lintfort.

My ride to Xanten was completed with an average speed of 31 km/h so I was very happy with that. I made my way to the nice café in the central market place and had a cake.

Millie was definitely an item of interest for the passers-by.

millie-in-xanten

My route back was initially great, going via the Bisslicher Insel which is a nature reserve. I zoomed along decent asphalted surfaces with very little motor traffic. I then turned away from the Rhine and towards Alpen, having forgotten about the big hill I would have to go over. Not fun but I managed it!

However, the downhill the other side was wonderful! I could only pedal up to 40 km/h (I have a very slow cadence and cannot spin the pedals fast) but Millie keeps on and on and on accelerating, even when you are no longer pedalling. It was a long, straight downhill on a smooth bit of road and saw 61.9 km/h on my Garmin’s speedo. This was great fun!

There was a further hill at Rheurdt but soon I was home, although annoyingly under 100km. However, I checked my emails and saw a message from Hartmut; he was on his way to Wachtendonk, having called in at my house fifteen minutes before to deliver a velomobile bag he had picked up for me from Dronten. So I rang him and we agreed to meet in Wachtendonk. I whizzed over there, found him at the Ice Cream Café and we swapped bags and money, and of course had an ice cream. I returned home and then ended up with 106.73km for the day, at an average speed of 30.6 km/h.

This metric century lark is easy with a fast velomobile!

Fit Durch Den Winter

Last year Hartmut instigated a new bike tour series, ‘Fit Durch Den Winter’ (fit through the winter) which was a 40-45km ride once per month from Kempen. I participated in several of these.

On the last Sunday in October he had scheduled the first of this season’s rides and sent an email to some of us asking for recommendations of where to go. I suggested Straelen and got the response “great, you are the ride leader”.

So at 11am on Sunday morning (having had an extra hour in bed due to the clocks changing) various people gathered in Buttermarkt in Kempen by the fountain. There were lots of people I didn’t recognise, who I think had read about it in the Rad am Niederhein magazine which is widely distributed.

Jochen arrived in Endeavour, sporting some new scratches; the velomobile was caught by the wind when parked at his workplace and blown across the car park into a van! Fortunately the marks weren’t that obvious.

millie-endeavour-1

millie-endeavour-2

millie-endeavour-3

Here is the track for the day.

fit-durch-den-winter-track

We eventually set off at about 11:10 after some last-minute faffing.

We rode the route clockwise, heading towards Vinkrath and were met by Uli at Abtei Mariendonk. We continued westwards and I had a couple of messages from Klaus who was riding on his own and had been at Straelen for cake; he decided to try and intercept us on his way back and indeed we saw him whizzing towards us as we headed towards the Blaue Lagune. He and Jochen rode together for a short way before Klaus peeled off for home (he ended up having ridden 104km and had planned to just pop out for a short ride first thing…)

Part of the route had been planned by me without knowing whether I had ever actually ridden the roads. It became clear, when there was an off-road section, that I hadn’t – and this section was not suitable for Velomobiles. Jochen and I agreed to meet the rest of the group at the other side of a road crossing (they were going over a small bridge). We would go the long way round on the main road.

As I was winching myself up a hill with Jochen behind he announced to me that my back tyre looked flat. Oh no!!! So when I got to the top of the hill I stopped and had a look – it was indeed very spongy although not completely flat.

To fix a puncture in the rear tyre on Millie takes about half an hour so I thought it was best to pump it up and maybe do the repair when we got to Straelen, only about 6km away. So Jochen produced his lightweight track pump and added some air – perhaps not to the 8 bar (120psi) that my tyre needs, but a real improvement.

We rode on and the tyre stayed up. This got me thinking… I had pumped all three tyres up four days before (they were down to 5.5 bar), and perhaps I hadn’t done the valve up properly. I had also noticed over the last two days that the steering felt a bit imprecise at speed, that I had to continually make small corrections. Perhaps this was due to the soft rear tyre? And perhaps this explains why my ride the day before to choir seemed such hard work. Once the tyre was pumped up again then the squirmy steering feel went away.

I made it to Straelen with the tyre still up and we stopped at Café Krone for some food – I had Kaiserschmarrn which is excellent cyclist food.

kaiserschmarrn

After we had all enjoyed cake and hot drinks we headed off back again to Kempen, this time via Wachtendonk. My tyre was still inflated which was good, but as we were nearing Wachtendonk there was a loud bang and Frank’s rear tyre definitely wasn’t!

puncture-repair

Frank, Hartmut, Jochen and a few others fettled his bike. There was a very impressive tear in the inner tube!

split-tube

Fortuitously the puncture had occurred near a bench overlooking a field so the rest of us stood around enjoying the warm autumn sunshine.

waiting-for-puncture-repair-1

waiting-for-puncture-repair-2

We carried on and where the track diverts to Kempen Frank and I headed off home and the rest continued on.

The ride was 45.1km for me and with an average speed of 16.6km/h which has rather affected my statistics for Millie!

Later that day several of us met in a restaurant to celebrate Hartmut’s birthday. And at this point we also shared my icing velomobile which had been in my deep freeze since my birthday. This was a velomobile model which was on my birthday cake – I had saved it for when I received my QuattroVelo. Seeing as I now had Millie and would not be having a QuattroVelo, and that everyone who had bought me the cake was at Hartmut’s do, I borrowed a knife from the restaurant and divvied up the mini QuattroVelo.

cake-qv-1

helen-cutting-cake

cake-chopped-in-half

Here it is in two pieces – we now know it is entirely fondant icing.

in-two-pieces

We shared it around and there were just these small pieces left… which soon disappeared.

remnants-of-qv

So this was kind of a christening for Millie!

Thanks to Uli, Hartmut, Jochen, Herbert etc for the birthday cake and the Velomobile 🙂

Millie the Milan GT Carbon

As mentioned once or twice already, Millie is fast!

Bear in mind that she has the same engine as Penelope and Alfie, i.e. me. But the speeds are very much quicker. It just goes to prove, it is about the bike!

You can see a small example here from a Strava Segment Comparator. I rode this segment in Penelope and then more recently in Millie. The speed difference is rather noticeable!

segment-comparator

When I bought Millie from Ludwig in Ostfriesland I decided I didn’t want the Haube (complete head covering) that he had which was very narrow (it was a racing one), so instead he got me the red Lukendeckel (flap thingie) and gave me a price reduction.

Of course, after two weeks I realised that I would also want to ride Millie in the rain and that a Haube would probably be a good idea.

Räderwerk sell a Haube you can add to the existing Lukendeckel which is a bit more roomy inside than the racing one that Ludwig had. They occasionally come up for sale second hand so I decided to put a request out on the Velomobilforum to see if anyone had one for sale – and I struck lucky immediately. Friend Tim who lives near Bodensee had one that he never used and was happy to sell it to me at a very decent price. Not only that, it was red!

In due course it arrived and I fitted it, after first having to reassemble it.

haube-ready-to-be-screwed-together

Unfortunately the red isn’t quite the same shade as the Lukendeckel red, but if I cycle fast enough no-one should notice!

haube-1

When riding with the Haube on I have about an extra 2.5km/h average. So more speed. In fact, on my first test ride with the Haube I did a 31.93km round trip and up until the last 3km when I had several red traffic lights and a traffic jam I was averaging over 35km/h. In the end my average was 34.3 which is still rather good!

Millie attracts attention just like Penelope, and various velomobile friends have had a go. Here’s a Mango owner who lives south of Kempen and invited me for some home-made Pufferkes…

rowjoh-in-milan

My reward was to enjoy a couple of these very tasty pufferkes. Yum!

pufferkes-1

pufferkes-2

Millie gets a Schlumpf Mountain Drive

When I test-rode Millie she had a 65 tooth chainring at the front. This meant that she had lovely high top gears but her lowest gear was rather high to start off on a slope or indeed to climb a hill. Ludwig seemed to have no problem with it but I was concerned. There was a second smaller chainring at the front but he said he used that only for emergency hill climbing.

Ludwig suggested that he changed the chainrings for me to a 53 and 43 so that I had more lower gears that worked better for me overall. He said I would be able to pedal up to 50 km/h no problems. So we went ahead with the swap.

It became clear to me fairly quickly that my low cadence means that I can’t really pedal over 40km/h without wobbling all over the place. My legs just don’t go that fast, and after 100,000km in recumbent trikes and velomobiles (yes, I passed that milestone this month!) it isn’t likely to change. I am comfortable in high gears, cruising with medium power. My knees generally are OK with this plan.

I could of course have changed the front chainring for a larger one but then I would have the same problem with starting in low gears. I had already discovered that my weak arm made it extremely difficult to use the grip shift for the front chainring; changing down to the small ring was OK but changing back up again almost impossible. Ludwig suggested I got someone to fit a trigger shifter or bar-end shifter (although that would mean my indicator button would have to move) but I wasn’t sure.

I had been thinking for a little while about a Schlumpf Mountain Drive and decided to do a bit of research on this. The Schlumpf range have several drives (speed, high speed, mountain) and it is a small internal gearing system that lives in the bottom bracket (pedals/cranks). It is effectively like switching chainrings at the front, and involves no cabling (you hit a button with your heel and that changes the gear).

The Speed Drive and High Speed Drive have their normal mode in low gears and then you can click up to a higher gear but that is using the innards of the drive so a bit lossy. The Mountain Drive is the other way round, the ‘neutral’ gears with direct drive are the high gears but you can knock it down by 2.5x for lower gears if you need them. This sounded very suitable for me!

My local recumbent shop is Liegeradbau Schumacher in Willich. I had visited them several years before and found them to be knowledgeable and with a large amount of stock. I decided to give them a ring and find out if they fitted the Schlumpf – yes they did, so I said I would pop round the next day and have a chat.

I did pop round and we talked about it. It sounded like a great option – until I heard the price. These things are expensive! Especially as I would need shorter cranks (not much room in the nose of Millie) and the larger chainring. The price was just too high for me to justify for some emergency low gears.

We talked a bit more about anything else I might be able to do (new shifters for my existing gear) and then the chap talking to me had a bit of an idea and went to talk to a colleague. It turned out they had a second hand Mountain Drive in stock and they made me a price offer for that, the cranks and chainring and fitting, which was very good and I decided to take them up on it.

They ordered the chainring and pedals and a couple of weeks later we had an appointment for them to do the fitting, hopefully while I waited.

I arrived and met Mr Schumacher (senior) for the first time. We ended up having a lovely time chatting together – the trike world is small and the velomobile world smaller and we had several acquaintances in common. He’s been in the world of recumbents for 30 years so has a vast amount of experience. It was really interesting talking to him.

First of all they showed me my new chainring – a real pizza plate!

pizza-chainring

Apparently when it had arrived Mr Schumacher assumed it was for some super-fit young man, and was clearly a bit surprised to see a middle-aged overweight woman who needed it! But the velomobile’s speed makes all the difference.

Christian Schumacher, his son, would do the fitting and the first plan was to get Millie onto a fork lift so that he could work through the foot hole.

millie-on-forklift

Mr Schumacher Senior and I held Millie steady whilst Christian removed the bottom bracket from the boom. Here it is coming out – and was surprisingly heavy. The Schlumpf Mountain Drive with pedals and chainring actually weighed less.

old-chainrings-come-out

Millie was lowered back down to the floor whilst Christian fitted the mountain drive to the bottom bracket, which involved some work on the aluminium holder. You can see the bits of metalwork that hold the boom in place on the floor in front of Millie’s nose.

boom-bits-on-floor

And the view inside – a boom leading to… nothing!

inside-no-chainrings-or-pedals

Now Christian spent some time removing the old pedals and bottom bracket and fitting the Schlumpf, which involves some metalwork I believe.

They let me see and test it when he had finished, turning the pedals with one finger and then pressing the button and seeing the speed change.

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket-2

Christian cleaned up my pedals and fitted them to the cranks, then we were ready to fit the new part into Millie.

with-pedals-and-ready-to-fit

Here we all are working on Millie – Christian drew the short straw and had to lie on his back with 28kg of carbon fibre balancing inches from his nose!

three-people-working-on-millie

And here it is fitted!

fitted

We removed the cabling for the front gear changer – another minor weight saving (20 grammes?) – which you could see in the photo above.

Then it was time for a short test ride…

Generally it was great, except my toe was now rubbing against the side of Millie. I had occasionally had this before when really pushing hard but it happened the whole time. It seems that the Mountain Drive pedal area is wider than the previous chainrings arrangement (Theo at Velomobiel.nl had talked to me on the phone about Mountain Drives and said I needed to have the narrow one; I had asked Schumacher if that was what they had and they said yes, but I do slightly wonder now). Anyway, Christian came to the rescue again with a very simple solution – moving the cleats on my cycling shoes so my feet were more inward.

The second test ride and it was fine, only very occasional brushing of my shoe on Millie’s side, certainly to an acceptable level.

The fitting had taken three hours which was longer than expected but they had clearly done an excellent job and it was interesting to see everything in action. I rode home, very quickly getting used to the new drive and finding the gear changing buttons very simple to operate.

And after a week…

I am enjoying riding with the Mountain Drive.

I am definitely benefitting from the larger chainring. I find it more comfortable to ride at speed. I am able to pull away in first gear most of the time without problems, unless it’s on a slight uphill, at which point I use the Mountain Drive to step down from what is a 4.6 metre gear to a 1.5 metre (that means I travel 4.6 metres along the ground per pedal revolution). Also on some steeper hills I switch into Mountain Drive mode.

As was mentioned by many commentators, the Mountain Drive does give a spongy feel when using the stepped down gears. It is noticeable but as I am only riding in this gear arrangement for a short time it is no problem. Also because of the wide range in gearing it’s quite a big jump back into the higher gears but, again, because you know it’s coming you can adjust accordingly. I like the simplicity of the system and find it easy to do with my heels, even wearing cleats.

With regard to the cleat position, after Christian had adjusted one shoe I obviously had to adjust the other. I then thought about moving the cleats even further and tried that – and found I had unusual foot pain. I suppose after 100,000km with my cleats always on one position the ball of my foot didn’t like the change! So I moved the cleats back to a middle position where my foot only brushes the side of the velomobile when really pushing but the cleats are comfortable.

I have now done 1,900km in Millie since I bought her in mid-September and am really happy with my choice. There are a few drawbacks with the Milan (such as the turning circle, low freeboard so you can scrape when going up kerbs) but they also confer advantages (more speed, more speed) so it’s a choice. I still use Penelope for my commuting but Millie for all social rides.

I have ordered some Union Jack decals to go on her tail. They are on their way from the UK and once they arrive I will have to find the best place to fit them. This might be a challenge but it should be a deterrent to thieves if she is British Flagged!

Cakes this month

cake-collage-october

4 Comments

Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Six Wheels In Germany – September 2016 (Month 30)

cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Last month I increased my year’s cycling target from 10,000km to 12,000km which means I need to do 1000km per month (plus a bit more to make up my slight deficit). I’m glad to say that by the end of October I had made up the deficit so I am now on 9000km ridden, as you can see from the screenshot from my software Ascent that tracks my riding.

statistics-for-september

And here are the tracks of where I have ridden (except for the test rides of my new Milan in Ostfriesland)

veloviewer-wheel-september

Metric Century a Month Challenge

As you can see from the Wheel above, I did three Metric Centuries this month. I think for next year I might try for the Imperial Century Per Month challenge (162km or 100 miles) but I will think a bit more about it. With a faster velomobile it’s much less of an investment in time to do these longer rides.

A ride to meet the Fridays

When I was in the UK I did a couple of the ‘Friday Night Ride to the Coast’ rides organised through the cycling forum CycleChat. I made some friends there, including Olaf who brought me a potato peeler when I first moved over to Germany.

Anyway, the Fridays had organised a holiday where they would all ride to Cologne from the Hook of Holland and from there into Belgium. I had met Olaf when he did the recce ride a couple of months ago, and now it was time for the real ride.

Because I am now working I realised I wouldn’t be able to ride with them, but it turned out they would be riding from Tilburg to Venlo on a Sunday in September so I thought I could meet them in Venlo, or perhaps a bit earlier. I contacted Olaf and he sent me the track they were planning to ride from Tilburg and I said I would ride along the track towards them until we bumped into each other.

Here is my actual track for the day (142.6 kilometres):

track-to-helmond

Jochen said he would come with me, and Klaus also wanted to ride a little way with us before going home. So we set off, three velomobiles, but in the usual arrangement (me struggling to keep up with the two chaps in their Stradas…)

trying-to-keep-up

Klaus had forgotten to put fresh batteries in his walkie talkie so communication wasn’t always that easy but we managed to cycle together without any issues to Arcen, where we stopped for tea and cake.

trikes-in-arcen

We’d only done 30km (well, Klaus had done 50) but they both look like they are striding very purposefully towards cake!

purposeful-walking

I not only had a slice of cake but also poffertjes. I needed fuelling for what might be quite a long ride.

poffertjes

Although Klaus had originally planned to turn back at Arcen it was such a nice day for cycling he decided to continue on with us. He thought I was expecting to meet the Brits at America, but I hadn’t explained this clearly enough – America was where our track would intercept with theirs, so I had to be sure we would get to America before them. But we didn’t find this misunderstand out until we got to America.

But first, a ferry across the Maas.

maas-ferry

Then a wonderful speedy ride on roads we had used on the way to Ysselsteyn a few weeks before, and soon enough we arrived at America (sorry for the fuzzy photo, we were cycling too fast!)

america

No Brits were evident, and as I had been exchanging messages with Olaf I knew that they were expecting to stop at Helmond for lunch at about 12:30. So clearly they were a long way west of us – but now we could cycle along their track until we all met up.

Because we velomobiles were fast, we actually got to Helmond just 15 minutes after the Brits had arrived there and stopped for lunch in various eateries. As we rolled into the centre of town I noticed lots of bikes lying around with panniers and various vaguely-familiar faces. We had found some of them!

We parked up and had some food as various Brits came over to say hello. It turned out there were 26 of them!

vms-in-helmond

And here are the three of us awaiting our food, photo taken by Ian.

14225382_1080572785360505_9136744009717800530_n

The velomobiles excited lots of interest of course, so we chatted to a lot of people about them, but we were also pretty interested in eating and drinking as it was a hot day and we’d done 70km (or 90 in Klaus’s case).

The Brits (well, two of them were German!) started to head off so we joined the back of the group. This was riding in a group proper-style with waymarkers etc. This is actually quite hard for velomobiles as the braking and acceleration profiles are so different. We started off at the front but kept going too fast. At one point we were off the front and there was a problem (puncture or something) behind so we realised they had stopped. Jochen was playing his music through a loudspeaker in the velomobile and Klaus used the opportunity for a quick nap.

mr-grumpy-napping

In the end it was better for us to stay at the back. The group spread out a bit but always came together after 10 or so minutes.

riding-ina-group

At one of these gathering points we stopped for several minutes and chum Kim (a fellow recumbent-rider, although usually two-wheelers) had a go in Penelope.

kim-in-penelope

We rode on and Jason got some photos of Jochen, Klaus and me whizzing along. Except that we look stationary. In reality we were going about 25 km/h.

three-vms-1

three-vms-2

Just before we reached Venlo we lost Klaus when he turned the wrong way and didn’t see which way we’d gone. When I realised he wasn’t behind us I turned round, as did Jochen, and we found him after a minute. Unfortunately the Brits had all gone out of sight and as we were only 3km from Venlo at that point we weren’t able to catch them up. But it had been a great ride and it was lovely to see lots of different people and reconnect with some old friends.

Klaus and Jochen dropped me off at home and then decided to continue riding so they could do over 200km. Klaus ended up with 213km I believe, which is rather a change from the original plan to ride 50-60km and be home for lunch. But it was a great day and lovely to share the road with some other Brits!

Another visit to Rolf’s

Rolf in Schwalmtal seems to have developed a little Velomobile Stammtisch with Gabi (and sometimes her husband Achim) riding up from Bonn, me visiting from Kempen, and Klaus and Jochen also invited. I received another invitation to come along and cycled over in Penelope. Unfortunately neither Jochen nor Klaus were able to attend this time, but HaJo (well known from the Velomobilforum) was there. Here is the selection of velomobiles, excluding Rolf’s Quest which was stored safely in his garage.

three-vms-at-rolfs

hajos-df

We enjoyed some lovely cake made by Rolf’s wife.

cake-at-rolfs

After a good natter it was time to head for home before the rain really hit, so we said our goodbyes and I rode home via Waldniel. I had a 30km ride, Gabi and Hajo had near enough 100km to go. But they are much faster than me!

Trikes and Velomobiles

The heading of this section of the blog is ‘six wheels in Germany’ which is clearly inaccurate as from the 18th September I had two velomobiles and two trikes. This is because I bought myself a Milan GT Carbon. That’s 12 wheels in total!!

So something needed to be done, especially as the garage will only fit two bikes/velomobiles. The first stage was to store Alfie in my lounge for the time being whilst I decide what to do.

alfie-in-lounge

The second stage was to sell my Trice Q which Claudia no longer wanted to ride. So I mentioned that I was selling it to Dirk from the ADFC in Mönchengladbach (he had talked to me about trikes at SPEZI) and lo and behold he was very interested. We arranged for him to try it out and after a short test ride the deal was done!

What was rather lovely was that when Dirk came to collect the trike, and Klaus and I decided to accompany him home to Mönchengladbach as it was his first proper recumbent ride, I realised that during the course of the ride (which was 101km for me) I would reach 100,000km cycled with recumbents. This was riding my newest, Millie, but being accompanied by the first recumbent I owned, the Trice Q. So that was a big milestone and it was lovely to share it with the Trice Q.

trice-q

Dirk rode the Trice Q to the Critical Mass in Mönchengladbach five days later (which I also attended) so he’s already getting the hang of it. I know it has found a very good home – but I predict that he will be on the lookout for a velomobile within two years!

And as for my new Milan, I have received lots of great advice from Ludwig who sold it to me, and also TimB in Konstanz who has been very helpful through the internet. I decided I needed to practise changing the rear wheel as it is known to be tricky, so on a warm Saturday morning I laid Millie on the grass and experimented.

practising-millies-rear-wheel-1

It wasn’t as bad as I had thought getting the rear wheel out but I did have a few moments with the derailleur system when putting the wheel back in. I have a bit of a thing about derailleurs, I really don’t get on with them, but I managed. I don’t fancy doing it in the dark and rain and cold but hopefully that won’t happen too often – rear-wheel punctures are very rare.

The front wheels are not as easy as Penelope either as there’s not much room to work. I didn’t take the tyres off but did pump them up – I will have a go at tyre removal one day when I am very bored. What is nice about the Milan is that you can prop it up partly on its side.

practising-millies-front-wheel-1

The space inside Millie is very different and so I have bought a couple of soft bags to hold my things; anything with metal (such as clip or buckle) has the potential to rattle against the carbon shell so I have chosen wisely. I had a trip to Rose Bikes to get some new cycling shoes and found a few other bits and bobs.

And the next purchase was a Haube (cover for my head). I had the option of buying one with Millie but took a reduction of the purchase price instead. Of course after two weeks I realised I would want to ride her in the rain (I had assumed I would use Penelope in that case) and so I asked around for a second hand one and TimB had one he could let me have at a very decent price. So that should arrive next week and I will work out how to fit it… We will see how it goes!

I have had Millie for 13 days and have cycled 593.87km. When riding alone on decent roads I average 28-30km/h but in group riding with normal bikes (such as Critical Mass which I rode last week) it’s much slower so my current overall average is 26.2 km/h. This compares with my overall average for Penelope over 14,460km of 19.36 km/h, and Alfie 17.36 km/h (with 44,114km). I’m hoping to do a longer ride in Millie, perhaps a 175km ride, within the next few days to stretch my legs a bit and see how I do with the longer distances. I am looking forward to it!

And at some point I will do a new header for this blog with Millie and Penelope.

Penelope’s suspension

As mentioned in my last blog post, Penelope’s suspension had been getting stuck so I sent the relevant part off to Gerrit Tempelman in Dronten for repair.

It arrived back after a bit of to-and-fro-ing with the delivery company who for some unfathomable reason didn’t like the address (which was printed perfectly correctly on the parcel).

penelope-repaired-suspension

I refitted it and all was working much better. However, the dodgy creaking from the rear swing-arm has started again (as Gerrit warned it would) and this will be a long repair (maybe 3 weeks) so it’s a good thing I now have a spare velomobile as being without a VM for three weeks as winter approaches would be most annoying!!

Life in Germany

In England again

The month started off in England where I was visiting my Mum and also having a day trip to London for my annual hospital visit where they x-ray my arm and check the metalwork is still attached. All seemed as usual and we celebrated my 23rd year of survival post-cancer by having a very nice curry in Ipswich!

The day before Mum and I and James had visited Otley Hall for tea and cake. It’s a private house but with a tea room open. It’s a lovely spot with beautiful gardens and I think this photo shows how the house is a very traditional English country house – it’s lovely!

otley-hall-1

I took the overnight ferry back and collected my car from the car park at Hook of Holland and then whizzed back to Germany. This is by far the best option time and cost-wise, as my Mum collects me from Harwich. Taking the car on the Harwich Ferry is very expensive but going as a foot passenger (or with bike) is a pretty good bargain. One day I shall do it by Velomobile, perhaps next year for the GBI Charity Ride that I will be doing with Hartmut and Klaus.

Mum came back with me to Germany for a week and had quite a lot of time just relaxing in my flat as I had to go to work from 8am to 1pm each day. However, we went on a trip to Villa Hügel in Essen on Wednesday afternoon with Gudula and Lara. It’s the very posh country house which was built by the Krupp family (of Thyssen-Krupp fame) who were huge industrialists in Essen starting in 1810.

Here are Gudula and Mum sitting outside – you can see we had a lovely warm day for the visit.

gudula-and-mum

It was a very ornate style with lots of wood. It felt actually rather dark inside.

villa-huegel-1

villa-huegel-2

There was a smaller building attached to the main building and this contained an exhibition of the history of the family which was very interesting. The Krupp family were so important for Essen and its development in the industrialisation of the Ruhr, but there were also some interesting reminders of how the UK also used to be strong in this area.

england-pioneers

Although there are still steelworks in Germany they are struggling mightily against China’s cheaper production and who knows what the future will be. But Germany at least does still have a reasonable industry, unlike the UK (as far as my limited knowledge goes, anyway).

Afterwards we drove the short distance to the Baldeneysee and had a piece of cake whilst looking over the lake (where the Ruhr gets wider).

cafe-on-baldeneysee

It was a very enjoyable day and good to visit a bit of local culture that’s not bicycle-related for me!

Miscellaneous

I think I would go for the Garlic sauce…

yuppie-sauce

On my way to work I pass this fantastic pumpkin caterpillar!

pumpkin-caterpillar

And when cycling through Oedt pass this amusingly-named shop for kitchens and indeed bathrooms!

bog

The fan within my car had stopped functioning and Frank did a fantastic job of replacing the thingie that had gone wrong. The company he works for had estimated it as six hours’ labour; he did it in his spare time so I only had to pay for the parts. Frank is a real hero!

helens-car-in-bits

Cakes this month

And here is this month’s cake collage…

cake-collage-september-2016

2 Comments

Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Auntie Helen buys another Velomobile!

Yes, I have done it – I have bought a companion for Penelope.

Yes, companion. I am not planning on selling Penelope in the short term as she fulfils a role that her new stablemate, the Milan, cannot. She is an everyday load-carrying workhorse, the Milan is a speedy long-distance rocket.

This all seems very sudden doesn’t it? But it isn’t, I had been thinking about getting a faster Velomobile for quite a while, and in fact that’s why I had asked to go on the Order List for a QuattroVelo. But when I realised I would have difficulties getting in and out of a QuattroVelo I widened my search for a fast velomobile that I could use despite my arm disability.

As mentioned in the blog post for August 2016, I went to Räderwerk near Hannover to try out a Milan. I will include here what I reported in the other blog post:

A visit to Räderwerk

Having tried out the Milan SL and found it was possible to get out of it without needing a crane, I decided to visit Räderwork (the manufacturer) near Hannover for a test ride.

The fan for the air conditioning on my car decided to stop working so I was extremely lucky that Klaus said he would come with me – which meant we went in his company car (free diesel and, rather more vital at this point, functioning air conditioning).

You can only do a test ride on weekdays so we went on a Friday afternoon when Klaus was able to leave work earlier. It’s a long drive, three hours, to Siedenburg where the test ride would take place and we eventually arrived at about 5pm.

We met Jens with whom I had chatted a few times on the phone and he set the test Milan GT up for my leg length and after a few bits of fiddling about to get it right I set off.

Helen in Milan 1

Helen in Milan 2

Unfortunately the Tacho wasn’t working and as my Garmin was out of sight on the floor behind my seat I had no idea of what speed I was going, but my impression was not particularly fast. I had to get used to the tiller steering and the very wide turning circle (14 metres instead of Penelope’s 6 metres). But it was good fun and as the lid was missing there was lots of nice fresh air as it was 34 degrees outside.

Jens had told me to head for Asenburg which is about 10km away and I seemed to arrive there a bit sooner than I expected. I turned round and headed back along the same road, this time able to go a bit faster as I knew that all the corners were manageable. The Milan corners like it’s on rails, a totally different feeling to Penelope (who feels like she is teetering on the edge sometimes as she leans into the corners with her very soft suspension). One unfortunate thing was a very loud noise from the rear wheel a lot of the time, pretty distracting; Jens thought it was to do with my pedalling style but I was unsure.

I got back to where Klaus and Jens were waiting and extracted my Garmin – 34.5 km/h average. Wow! My average for the same cycling power level in Penelope is about 22 km/h. That’s a 50% increase in speed!

So then it was time for Klaus to have a go. He was wearing his normal work clothes but had brought his SPD shoes with him so in jeans and a t-shirt he headed off up the road to Asenburg. He appeared back in half an hour – with an average speed of 40 km/h. He can do 35ish in his Strada so the increase in speed for him was not as marked, but it was still faster.

Klaus and Jens

I’m considering whether to order one of these as a companion for Penelope and when I want to do longer rides and faster rides but the Milan isn’t always as easy to live with as Penelope; punctures in the rear tyre are a complete nightmare, the lights are a bit low down for ideal visibility in night riding, water can come in where the flap thing shuts, they can be noisy around the back wheel (the test one was very noisy but it seems there might have been a fault with it), plus there’s at least a six month lead time once you order. But I am sorely tempted and am taking the opportunity to talk to some Milan owners and see what they think about them.

So I bought one?

Following my visit to Räderwerk I thought about it for a couple of weeks, and did indeed talk to some other Milan owners or ex-owners. Their main comment was that the loud noise I had heard from the back wheel whilst doing the test ride is not normal, as that had rather put me off. I send a couple of emails to Jens at Räderwerk asking him to give me a price according to my specification, but hadn’t got much further than that.

And then, last Monday morning, I got two messages at work – one from Klaus and one from TimB from the Velomobilforum – both telling me that someone was selling a Milan GT Carbon which looked good. I looked at the advert – it did indeed look good, pretty much my specification!

So as soon as I got back from work I phoned up the owner, Ludwig, and we agreed I would come and visit the next day after work to try it out. He lives in Ostfriesland so it was a three hour drive for me each way, but I thought it worth getting an early look at the velomobile before someone else pinched it from under my nose.

I managed to negotiate leaving work at midday so I wouldn’t be horrendously late home and set off to Ostfriesland in the car belonging to Gudula (because my air conditioning wasn’t working and it was 34 degrees outside!).

I arrived easily enough and got my first look at the Milan, just a year old…

milan-close-up

milan-from-front-right

milan-from-front

milan-from-side

Everything looked really good. Ludwig is a racer rather than a tourer so it was set up for speed and is very lightweight (about 27.5kg he said). He had initially thought he would need to adjust the boom length for me as he is 1.83 metres tall (I am 1.76) but I have long legs so in fact the boom length was fine.

After a good look at it and a chat I had a test ride with Ludwig following behind in the car – partly to act as my mirrors as there were no rear-view mirrors when the Racecap was removed (I wanted to ride open).

The ride went well, it was about 29km/h for the 12km and this included some less well-surfaced roads. The Milan was very quiet, way way quieter than the test one at Räderwerk, and pretty comfortable except for the sharp bit of something poking into my buttock from the Ventisit on the seat. Ouch!

When we got back Ludwig helped to adjust the seat to give me a more upright position, which I thought would suit my riding style better, and he also fitted the Deckel (lid thingie) which is what I would like to have, rather than the full racecap.

I had a second go riding with the Deckel (and he had also fitted a rear-view mirror) and all went well.

I got in and out four times over the time I was there. It’s not elegant but it is manageable. After my test rides and some conversation with Ludwig I agreed to buy the Milan. Ludwig agreed to change the chainring (65 tooth) for a smaller one for me and to put a small amount of carbon fibre strengthening where I put my hands as I climb out as I have to grab the edge of the cockpit in a place which isn’t as strong.

The deed was done, we shook hands on it and I drove home. The plan was for me to either collect it the next Sunday or the following one.

Collecting the Milan

My plans were such that the first Sunday was available to collect the Milan and Ludwig had time to make all the changes he planned. So rather than putting it on the roof of my car (still without air conditioning!) I hired a van from a local place in Kempen and drove up to Ostfriesland early on the Sunday morning, arriving at 11am for a spot of breakfast with Ludwig and his wife. Their hospitality to me was very generous, especially as I was horribly British and asked to use my English teabags for my tea (shocking, as Ostfriesland is known for its tea!)

He then showed me how to do all the maintenance on the Milan, which includes fixing punctures in the front and back tyres (more complicated as they are hidden within the body of the velomobile). We took the rear wheel off to see how it is done, and put it back again; he recommended I try this a couple of times at home so I am very confident with it, although rear wheel punctures are pretty unusual.

And then it was time to head home with my new toy. Ludwig was very sad to see it go as he had just discovered that his replacement Velomobile is significantly delayed and he will have to wait until February before it arrives. He admitted he had sold his Milan too soon but I have benefited very much from that – he has really set it up excellently and it runs beautifully.

We put the Milan in the van – there was plenty of room.

milan-in-van

I drove home, getting stuck in a few traffic jams, but was home by 5pm. Klaus was doing a really long solo ride (he ended up with 213km) and was passing so stopped off to have a look at the Milan – and in fact helped me and Frank get it out of the van and had the first ride in it since I was the official owner. Here is the Milan with Celeste and Penelope.

three-velomobiles-1

three-velomobiles-2

Over the last few days I have slowly been setting it up for me and my dodgy arm, which involves adjusting the seat angle, tiller position and, most fiddly, the armrest position. The armrests are stuck on the side with velcro but the sticky velcro is not keen on sticking to the carbon fibre, plus sweat loosens the adhesive, so I will probably have to invest in some proper 3M stuff. It is a bit of a fiddly job for me finding a position where my dodgy left arm is comfortable because of scar tissue but I think I am almost there.

Here is the view from the cockpit.

view-from-cockpit-2

view-from-cockpit-3

And here are the rides I have done, including on 13 September the test rides in Ostfriesland. As you can see, I am notably faster than in Penelope. I am using Penelope for commuting and the Milan for leisure.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-17-05-28

And due to an unfortunate lack of garage space – I already have half of the garage so Frank, Gudula and Lara don’t have much room for their bikes – I am currently storing Alfie folded in my lounge. I am looking for some garage space to rent for him but if I don’t find it I may have to sell him – it depends if I find I am using him at all.

alfie-in-lounge

I am slowly building up the miles in the Milan, fiddling with the seat position etc and will do my first ride in the dark this evening (so I will find out how good the lights are!) But so far I am really enjoying the speed, the fast cornering, comfortable ride (surprisingly!) and having something a bit different. I am also considering getting a signwriter to put a Union Jack on the tail…

The name for the Milan

Herein lies the colossal problem.

Penelope is definitely Penelope, and Alfie Alfie.

I decided I would obviously need to find a name for the Milan. Maybe something Italian? Maybe something to do with birds (‘Milan’ is German for Kite, like Red Kite, the raptor). However the big sticking point is what gender the Milan is.

As the person riding it, from inside it is basic and a bit unrefined so more masculine, but almost everyone tells me that from outside it is definitely female because of the curves. My shortlist of names is ‘Millie’ if it’s female or ‘Hector’ if it’s male, but I cannot yet decide the gender. Any comments gratefully received!

Update…

Lots of people have now seen the Milan and the overwhelming majority of opinion is that it is female, therefore it is now christened Millie.

I think the comment below from gear7lover says it all!

6 Comments

Filed under Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Trikes & Velomobiles