Ten Wheels in Germany – April 2018 (Month 49)

April is a busy month in the world of Velomobiles as it is when the annual SPEZI Special Bike fair takes place, and once again I visited.

First things first, here are my list of rides this month:

And here is where I went:

The green rides are E-bike rides on Alfie.

Celeste, Humphrey and Millie

Each of our velomobiles has had a bit of rebuilding/maintenance/body shaping activity this month, but unfortunately for Celeste she was the one who drew the short straw…

Celeste gets a visit

It all started one Sunday afternoon when Klaus was driving to Hannover to take part in the Hannover Show. There were a lot of sirens going past and then our road had a visit from a friend of Gudula and Frank who came round in his Amphicar:

What can you spot in the background of the last photo? A fire engine, one of the 11-12 that were visiting the farm buildings about 400 metres away (this one was here for the water hydrant). Next to the farm there is also a house with some garages and we use one of the garages to store our spare bikes and spare car tyres. As it happened, only Celeste was in there (as Millie was at Emvelomobiel.be being serviced and Alfie was in the garage next to our house as I was using him to commute rather than Humphrey).

I had a call from the owner to ask if I was out riding my ‘Seifenkisten’ (Soap crates) but I said no. He suggested I come to check but the fire brigade had closed the road – I looked from afar and could see that the fire wasn’t that near our garage fortunately.

Klaus arrived in Hannover and phoned me to say that his tracker on Celeste had detected movement two hours ago but it was still showing as in the garage so presumably hadn’t been burnt to a crisp. I told him that the fire appeared to be far enough away and we shouldn’t worry.

The road was closed the entire afternoon and evening and so I couldn’t go and check. The local newspaper informed us that there were four lads between 12 and 14 years old who had set fire to the hay barn, which indeed was what was burning. There was a gas tank not far away which was causing them some concern and thus so many fire engines keeping it cool.

The fire was out the next morning so on my way to work I popped into the garage – no sign of fire there, so all good. I went on to work.

On the way back from work the fire had started up again, no surprise with a barnful of straw. It was out again a couple of hours later.

I spoke with Klaus again and said Celeste looked fine, no sign of fire, but I was surprised he had draped the spare tyre over her side. He said he hadn’t.

Uh oh.

So I whizzed round there again. The tyre was hanging off the side as the young lads had steamed through the garages (it turned out later), damaged the contents of many of them, smashed windows, farm machinery etc.

And here was Celeste, undamaged by fire but…

It looks as though they had sat on her.

They had also jumped inside with very muddy feet, stood on the tiller and also ripped out the tacho (although this is minor damage).

They had also punched a couple of holes in one of the wheel covers.

Klaus’s jacket that had been inside was chucked in a corner of the garage, but otherwise Celeste seemed OK. The wheels were all OK. We had her locked which is presumably why they didn’t go for a joyride.

Poor Klaus was devastated, and also was miles away in Hannover and unable to do anything about it. He first had a chance to see Celeste five days later.

I reported it to the police. The young people had all been arrested but it would be exceptionally difficult to get the cost of the repairs from them so we will just have to cover the cost of repair ourselves. Celeste is not insured under the house policies as she is so far away. The tracker did its thing and told us when she was disturbed by the lads but this doesn’t really help us. It’s such a shame.

Klaus checked her over the following Saturday when he returned and found nothing else damaged. We popped out the bump in the nose and some more of the gelcoat cracked off. We have had a rough estimate from Velomobiel.nl for the repair and will take her to them as soon as possible to get her fixed.

In the meantime, Klaus is using Humphrey. We are so disappointed that this stupid vandalism happened, but at least the value of the damage to us is not very great. For the farmer whose hay store was completely destroyed it is another story, and the parents of these young people will presumably be paying for their damage for some time to come.

Humphrey gets a service

As described in detail in my previous blog post about Humphrey, there were a number of issues with him that we wanted to get solved if possible, so we arranged for a trip to Velomobiel.nl to look at this.

1. Very swimmy rear suspension

2. Lack of comfort in the cockpit, partly because of no tiller hanger

3. Difficulties for me getting in and out

4. Fix the seat which moves a bit on one side.

We arrived at Velomobiel and talked about our issues. It turns out that they had very recently uprated the suspension dampers that they use at the back and that we still had the old ones, so Theo changed ours to the newer ones that are rated for more weight. Klaus had a mini test ride and said it was a huge improvement, and subsequent riding at home has shown this. Humphrey rides completely differently now, with a much more consistent feeling when going over bumps and kerbs at the back and he feels much safer. However, these new suspension dampers have a habit of unscrewing over rough ground and Klaus seems to have to screw them back together every couple of days. We will try something with Loctite in due course. We still also suffer from lots of loud noises at the back which are partly from the dampers and also from the transverse strut as part of the axle suspension structure. We have not found solutions to this yet.

The lack of comfort in the cockpit had become very significant for me on the ride from Nijmegen home at the end of our NL tour. We put the arm rests in which helped, but asked if Theo could fit a tiller hanger for us – which indeed he did. Which required him to dive headfirst into my velomobile.

We adjusted it a few times to find the right length cable and then tried it – also very good!

Theo had fixed a holder to the end of the boom nearest the seat and then used a brake cable to hold the tiller up.

He also filed off a sharp edge on the light adjustment lever on the tiller which kept catching my lycra trouser leg and had killed one seam.

The seat was fixed tighter, it wasn’t a crack in the carbon as we had feared, although this seems to have a tendency to come undone again.

We had a long talk about possibilities to help me get out of the Velomobile using my legs rather than just my arm to haul me out, but there really isn’t any suitable mounting point in the Quattrovelo for a foot rest which allows the knees to not get stuck behind the tiller/frame. So this was one we couldn’t solve.

Writing at the end of April Humphrey has now done over 2000km; I have ridden him 1049km and Klaus  1076km. Due to Celeste being out of action Klaus is now riding Humphrey all the time, and I am riding Millie who I finally got back two days after Celeste was damaged.

I also discovered when cleaning Humphrey that his maker left her name in the wheel arch:

Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!

Once the realisation dawned that Humphrey would not be a suitable velomobile for me for all purposes, because it was too painful for me to get out of him regularly because of my arm disability, I decided I needed to make Millie more user-friendly as I would keep her.

You can read all about it in this separate blog post here: Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover. Needless to say, this has been a huge improvement to Millie and I am loving riding her at the moment, although Klaus is faster in the Quattrovelo (when Klaus rides his Strada our speeds are broadly similar, but the QV gives him an extra 4 km/h).

Hartmut’s Birthday Bash

Friend Hartmut turned 60 and retired. He had been counting down to this date for several years and we had a date in our diaries for his celebration for at least six months. And at last the day arrived!

This was also a big day for Hartmut as he had awarded himself a velomobile for his 60th birthday (he is selling his car). He had spent a long, long time choosing what to have. He had borrowed Penelope but rolled her so this put him off. He tried the Strada and Quattrovelo but wasn’t keen. He loved the look of the Milan but wasn’t happy with the turning circle. In the end he chose a WAW from Flévelo and collected it a few days before his birthday bash.

His plan was for us to ride together to the café where we would celebrate with him and enjoy a buffet. We were all to meet in Buttermarkt in Kempen and then ride together to Hinsbeck where the party was.

We had all got t-shirts printed with pictures of our bikes/velomobiles, our names and then ’31’ which is a long-running joke with Hartmut which is too obscure to print here. We also got a shirt for Hartmut with his WAW on it.

I also got myself a new hat with a Milan which Poppy seemed to like:

Klaus and I arrived at Buttermarkt a bit early and stopped for a cup of tea. Then Hartmut arrived in his new WAW… with a flag on the back!

We headed off towards Hinsbeck, Hartmut going at a whopping pace which dropped all those on normal bikes. We had to tell him to slow down – I guess he was enjoying the velomobile speed feeling!

His wife was concerned about the visibility of the WAW and this was why he had the flag. It’s a bit of an aerodynamic killer though!

We had a great afternoon and evening in Hinsbeck. There were lots of Hartmut’s friends, many of whom we already knew (this was the gathering of his cycling freinds) and he got lots of presents, very many velomobile or bicycle themed of course! The food was also very good. It was great to show the velomobiles to lots of people who hadn’t had a close look before, and it was so lovely to know that Hartmut finally had his VM as he had wanted one for so long! We will undoubtedly do many rides together over the next months.

A search for a new Landcafé

Long-term readers of this blog know I have a knack of finding good cafés and good cakes in Germany (although this does not work as well in the Netherlands, unfortunately). Klaus and I like to do a Sunday morning ride for cake and we have our favourite places (zum Schafstall in Twisteden, Steudle in Geldern etc) but I felt that most of our good cafés were rather too close to home for a speedy summer Velomobile ride.

So a new plan was hatched – to experience cafés further afield. Maybe I will write a book on good cafés in Kreis Kleve.

I had a look on Google for ‘Landcafé’ and found a new one in Winnekendonk near Kevelaer, called Büllhorsthof. I  note that they were exceptionally quick-off-the-mark with the Internet as they have the following web address: https://www.bauerncafe.com/.

So off we went, on what turned out to be a 111km ride as it was such a good day and our legs were good.

When we arrived at the café the car park was full of Mercedes as there was some kind of historic Mercedes breakfast meet but they were actually leaving so we had the place almost to ourselves.

Bike parking is next to the Penny Farthing which also has an electric bike charging point (the old meets the new)

I had this very tasty peach cake.

We felt so good after our very relaxed cake eating we decided to ride further and ended up in Xanten via Marienbaum. We went around Xanten rather than through it as I wanted to ride on the Bislicher Insel again, where we stopped for a waffle.

And Klaus enjoyed a beer.

It was a really hot day and we both got a bit of colour! It was lovely to do a long ride again, although I did find Humphrey very hot in this weather as he doesn’t have as good airflow through the cockpit as Millie.

I must mention again though the convenient storage in the Quattrovelo. Here is a picture of Humphrey carrying 60 eggs and two glass jars of soup. All without any issues!

Alfie back in service!

We had a lovely spell of hot weather, with temperatures around 25 for over a week. This gave me the opportunity to fetch Alfie from the second garage (this was before the fire/vandalism) and use him with his most convenient electric motor for my commutes.

Klaus decided to ride Humphrey to work one Friday so we agreed to meet up in Moers on his way home (about 20km from home). I took Alfie, enjoying the fresh air but obviously not as fast. We met in Moers at Café Extrablatt.

It was time for ice cream!

We had a lovely leisurely time just watching the world go by and enjoying the sunshine.

A week later I rode Millie to Klaus’s workplace and then back with him (he had Humphrey) via Moers and we stopped for a pizza in the café next door to Extrablatt. This time the wind was blowing a gale and there were also heavy showers. The weather can certainly be different in April!

A visit from my Mum

This month my Mum came to visit for five days, which was lovely.

Unfortunately the situation with the fire, Celeste damage and police reports happened whilst she was here which changed our plans a bit, plus she came with me to collect Millie as we needed her back, but we managed to visit Kempen and Moers together and enjoy some cakes of course!

Klaus and I drove to pick Mum up from Hoek van Holland and stopped for breakfast on the beach there, the first time we had ever visited. It was a beautiful day with clear blue sky and as we had to wait until 9 for the café to open we had a bit of a walk along the beach.

The breakfast at Dechi Beach was very good!

I had to still work unfortunately whilst my Mum was here so in the mornings when I was slaving over a hot desk Mum took Poppy for walks, which Poppy was very happy about! In the afternoons we went on short outings.

I drove Mum back to Hoek van Holland via Maassluis where we stopped for dinner. Years ago I had my first Poffertjes experience there but we didn’t manage any this time.

SPEZI – Spezialradmesse

Once again I went to SPEZI, this time just with Ralf as Klaus was attending his daughter’s confirmation.

I didn’t take any photos there except of the pastries we had to fuel us before hitting the exhibitions.

For me, the purpose of visiting SPEZI has changed. At first it was so I could see what was available in the world of trikes and velomobiles, now it is really just a chance to catch up with friends as lots of our velomobile chums visit. I had a lovely chat with a couple who read this blog and said how encouraging it is for the lady, who also has a slight disability, to know of another velomobile-riding lady and the different experiences that I have as opposed to men’s experiences. She is right, the things that matter to men about velomobiles (mostly speed!) may not be quite the same for women who have usually less power. I think lots of women struggle to fit into the VMs because women are generally shorter; the Quest XS is a possibility but many other velomobiles are just too large. I am lucky in that I am tall and have long legs so can swap bikes with Klaus without any adjustment to pedal reach.

Anyway, it was good to be at SPEZI and meet up with lots of people. I also talked to Velomobiel.nl about Celeste’s repair, which we will have to organise in the next week or so. In the meantime I have ordered a second tracker (this time for Humphrey) as I think we now see the value of the tracker, and we are also looking at alternative garage options.

Some other random photos from this month

Here are some more photos from this month to give you a taste of life in Germany!

And a random event from this month too…

The company I work for shares a fence with Griesson de Beukelaer, the chocolate factory in Kempen. My 2 colleagues and I were sitting in our office pretending to work when a chap from de Beukelaer came round to ask if they could go through to one of the bits of fence as someone was checking it. We just had to get  a key for it, which we did. I said the chap “did you bring any chocolate with you?” and he laughed and said “no”. We ribbed him a bit about this, all very good naturedly.

He arrived back 10 minutes later with a large bag…

containing:

What a bonus! We are sharing the goodies around our colleagues.

Klaus and I are continuing with the low carb but are more relaxed about it at the moment, partly because of visits (my Mum, and he was at the Hannover show) where it is difficult to eat low carb. However we are back on the wagon now and are just allowing ourselves a piece of cake when we do a ride. After all, living here in Germany requires frequent cake eating in order to fully assimilate. I also make low-carb cakes that we have at home during the week.

Next month, May, has lots of public holidays (we have 3). plus several Brückentage (bridging days, when a public holiday is on a Tuesday or Thursday most companies shut on the Monday or Friday) so we have 3 weeks of just 3 working days. Klaus also has his birthday, as does Ralf, so we have bicycle and cake things planned. Watch this space!

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

Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!

Once the realisation dawned that Humphrey the Quattrovelo would not be a suitable velomobile for me for all purposes, because it was too painful for me to get out of him regularly because of my arm disability, I decided I needed to make Millie more user-friendly as I would keep her.

When you just have one car/bike/boat/plane you have nothing to compare it with. When you get a second you suddenly notice all the things that aren’t so good in your current one. Thus with Millie, after Humphrey appeared on the scene, particularly with regard to her gearing. Something had to be done!

The problems were as follows:

1. The Mountain Drive doesn’t work at all well

2. The gear packet at the back, a 13-30 cassette, is very close together which means in order to have a suitable high gear my low gear is not low enough and hurts my knees if I have to do lots of stop/starts

3. A brake light is a very good safety item and when you don’t have one it can be a bit scary when riding with other cyclists or on the road

4. Moving Millie around involves gripping her flanks with my hand to lift her. Some kind of lift handle would make life much easier.

5. I always end up with an oily leg as the chain going to the pedals is uncovered.

6. I often end up with oily luggage as the chain under the seat is uncovered, as is the idler, so anything that slides across her floor gets oily.

So Klaus and I took her to emvelomobiel.be in Belgium, an hour’s drive away, and left her there for Etienne to do his best.

After we discovered the damage to Celeste I contacted Etienne straight away to ask to collect Millie as we now needed her if we were to each ride a velomobile. Fortunately she was ready!

And here is what Etienne had done.

Mountain drive changed to double chainrings, and rear cassette changed

When I first bought Millie she had two chainrings at the front, a 53 and a 38. The 53 was much too small for my cruising speeds, and I couldn’t turn the twist grip to get to the 38 because of my weak left side arm/hand.

Below is a graphic that shows the theoretical gear ranges and speeds that I can manage with my 65 cadence (but please note with the small chainring only the first couple of gears were actually possible as the chain ends up too long for gear 3 and upward)

The yellow ones are overlapping gears, but I would use the large chainring in preference to the small one so really the yellow ones should be 5-9 in the small chainring.

From this you can see that my lowest gear was 2.57 metres and highest 8.28 metres, and I maxed out pedalling at 32.3 km/h.

I had this changed to the second-hand mountain drive with a 65 tooth chainring (a big increase to the 53).

This meant that my actual gear ranges were as follows:

(Please note that the original graphic here was wrong when I first published my post, I had used Humphrey’s 75t chainring, not Millie’s 65t. This is now corrected. Thanks to reader David Sharp for pointing this out!)

Notice no overlapping gears in this arrangement, but the lowest gear without Schlumpfing was 4.4 metres. My highest was now a whopping 10.15 metres, which meant I could pedal comfortably at 40 km/h.

Using the Schlumpf was something I avoided as firstly the button kept falling off when I used it, and secondly when I used the Schlumpf gear it was so low (2 metres) that I could only comfortably pedal to 8 km/h. I then had to Schlumpf up again, suddenly to the massive gear of 5.08 metres. You see the problem!

Etienne put my old 38 chainring back on, as well as a new 57 for the front (as the 53 was too small). He reused the old short cranks as I had kept everything, so this undoubtedly saved some money. He had to buy a new 57 tooth chainring for me, and also a sprocket packet for the back. This packet was a 12-36; I don’t know the individual sprocket sizes in between so the website has automatically calculated them, and we end up with this:

My lowest gear in the big chainring is now nice and low at 3 metres so I can use this for pretty much all my riding. I might only need to change down to the 38 tooth chainring on a mega hill. Again, I can only use the first 2 gears in the small sprocket because of the chain length, but that is fine. My second gear in the big chainring is lower than the first gear used to be, which is good to know.

My top gear is a better 37.6 km/h which is obviously not as fast as the 40 km/h but is pretty close! I only got the other speeds on downhill runs.

Etienne had obviously oiled or greased the grip shifter so I was able to manage it to change gears (although not very easily, it must be said!) so I will be able to work with that as I will hardly ever use it. He did buy a trigger shifter that he could fit if necessary, so we will see how I do over time.

Brake light and lift handle

Etienne also had the great fun of fitting a brake light. To reach inside the back of the Milan you need an arm about 2 metres long, so he said he managed to do it with a metal pole. Fortunately I have ventilation holes right at the back so he was able to poke the wiring through there.

For the lift handle, there was no way to fix anything inside as you cannot reach so I recommended what I had seen in other Milans, a hole drilled through and lined. He did this too, although said it was incredibly tricky to glue and is not sure whether the glue will hold. Lets hope so, if not we may need to think more laterally.

Obviously my next job is to redo the flag – this time I will get a professional to do it!

Chain covering

To avoid Oily Leg Syndrome Etienne fitted a very simple chain tube over the chain that goes up to the pedals.

For the chain cover inside the body of the Milan he was able to cut down a spare one from a Quest to fit.

He had to raise the seat up slightly to do this, and ended up mounting it on rubber blocks that are about 8mm high, and this had the unexpected side benefit of providing a little more suspension and removing the previous creak-creak-creak noise of the seat base grinding against the bottom of the velomobile with every pedal stroke. This is a real benefit!

It was a wonderful feeling to get into Millie again because I feel so much more comfortable in her cockpit rather than Humphrey’s. She’s more agricultural, the weave of her carbon fibre is less pretty, she’s got muck and gunk built up over the years so she never looks really clean inside and out, and she makes some rattling noises from time to time, but overall she is much quieter than the Quattrovelo because there isn’t that awful noise from the gears behind the seat, and she goes like the wind. She’s faster than the Quattrovelo with me riding at least, and I find her comfortable and reliable too.

She has her remaining downsides – complicated rear wheel axle which means a puncture is a pain, ludicrously wide turning circle, low-slung foot cover which means you scrape on the slightest of speed bumps/kerbs and of course a distinct lack of waterproofing which means when it rains you get wet – over your whole body. But despite this, if I could only keep one velomobile out of my two, it would be Millie. I am simply more comfortable riding her, it is more of an enjoyable experience because it is quieter and feels more alive. And I am in the very lucky position not to have to make that choice, I can keep both velomobiles so I can ride Humphrey in the rain and if I have a lot of grocery shopping to do, and Millie the rest of the time.

Oh, and important to mention here – I was very pleasantly surprised by Etienne’s bill for the work he did. It was about half what I was expecting, and I even thought it might cost three times as much and that would have been OK. So great service from emvelomobiel.be, although he’s not the quickest worker (due to only being part time with the velomobile work), but I shall definitely take Millie back to him next time she needs work that I don’t feel able to do, assuming he can face it!

This summer we will be riding around the Netherlands on a two week bike tour and it will be Milan and Quattrovelo which gives us both a chance to swap bikes if we need it, and of course Millie’s inconvenient luggage stowage is fixed by Humphrey (powered by Klaus) taking all the luggage with him. Hurrah!

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Filed under Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Velomobiles

Ten Wheels in Germany – March 2018 (Month 48)

So this month marks the end of my fourth full year living in Germany, and also the one year mark until Brexit, at which point my residence in Germany becomes more complicated, and my tax liability higher. Thanks, Brexiteers!

But away from politics, what happened in March?

Not a lot really, apart from work and of course cycling. So this report is all about cycling!

Cycling this month

This month ended up a much more successful cycling month, despite some fairly bad weather!

888km isn’t bad, although this did also include six days cycle touring that you can read about here: Rhein-Waal-Maas Tour 2018.

And here was where I actually rode to.

This month was also a busy month with the Velomobiles. I have a new velomobile, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, but as you can read in the tour report above, my first rides with him were not too successful.

Some DIY work on Millie

Klaus and I needed to repair the indicators on Millie and so we took a Saturday morning early in March to do this.

Friend Ralf had been storing Millie for us in his workshop and offered that we could use it to do the indicator repair because it was warm. March was freezing cold in Germany and we would have had to work outside if we did this at home – no fun at all!

So we had a nice heated workshop and Millie was laid on her side on a table so we could access her innards easily.

We had discovered some time ago that the quality of the cabling inside Millie is very poor and if you try to strip the sheath from the cable the entire cable breaks, so we had bought plenty of new cable to entirely replace the old.

The two indicators at the front had both failed, so we decided to replace all four so we only had to do this job once!

Pulling out the old indicators was easy enough – they were fixed in with silicon sealant though and it was almost impossible to remove this from the inside of Millie. I managed to excavate large enough spaces for the new indicators to sit (I hoped!) but there was still loads of silicon around. Perhaps warming it up with a heat gun would have helped but we were worried it would damage the paintwork on the outside.

Anyway, we soldered the first indicator onto the new wire to check it worked. It did!

Once the indicator was in place we then had to add silicon sealant to fix it. This was very tricky, especially as for the two front indicators we had to either work through the single foot hole or stretch our arms right to the front.

But we managed it! The rear indicator was easy, but we ran out of enthusiasm to do the final rear indicator so left it in place.

All four indicators worked and the new three seemed brighter. This was good news as this is a real safety issue!

Jochen has changed indicators on the back of his Strada and this turned out to be a really evil job; the job in the Milan wasn’t as bad although having a second foothole would help rather.

Ralf’s DF has shared its workshop with Millie for nearly a month, but she would soon be gone and the DF would have more space for itself!

After this we left Millie at Ralf’s for another couple of weeks before I fetched her for the second stage of our Rhein-Waal-Maas tour.

Getting to grips with Humphrey the Quattrovelo

During the tour I had a tough time with Humphrey. After the tour Klaus resolved to ride him and see if he could ‘run him in’ a little.

As the weather warmed up and Humphrey’s bits bedded in, he definitely improved in speed. Klaus found that he was faster now than the Strada and the noise levels inside reduced over time.

Another issue was my comfort inside the cockpit. We had bought a pair of armrests from Ralf (who had bought them with his DF but never needed to use them) and Klaus requested that we fitted them in Humphrey to aid comfort. I wasn’t sure that there would be room inside the cockpit but said he could try and in fact it made a real difference. The armrests meant that the tiller could more comfortably be supported and I felt more comfortable on longer trips.

For me, one of the issues with Humphrey will always be that he is harder to get in and out of. However, as long as I reduce the need to get out during rides this isn’t a complete hopeless issue. Losing more weight will help (I have shed 12.6 kg in the last three months).

However, we both have also noticed that Humphrey’s back end is very loose and liable to lose grip when going over small piles of mud, slight curbs, wet cobbles etc. When visiting EMvelomobiel.be (more later) we spoke to another QV owner who has different shock absorbers at the back and this is something we are going to speak with Velomobiel.nl when we visit them in early April for Humphrey to be checked over (we requested this as we felt Humphrey was underperforming, plus the seat may be cracked).

Klaus is enjoying riding Humphrey and I hope that his speed improvements continue. We will experiment with different tyres as Klaus feels that the Durano Plus are particularly bad in cold weather, although the forecast for April is looking much better anyway.

Humphrey is still a work in progress but at the moment it seems he will be staying…

Liegeradgruppe Ride

Each year the Liegeradgruppe Ruhr-Lippe do a Good Friday tour and this is very well attended. This year they decided to ride in our part of the world so the organiser, Günni, asked Klaus for some advice on a route. Klaus prepared a route leaving from Uerdingen on the banks of the Rhein which was 63km and we arranged to meet at 10:30 in Uerdingen.

Ralf, Jochen, Klaus and I all cycled together to Uerdingen on a rather chilly Good Friday morning. We warmed ourselves with a cup of tea and half a slice of cake in the Marktcafé whilst participants arrived. In the end there were about 30 people.

There were lots of different bikes on this tour, included 2-wheeled recumbents and lots of trikes too. We set off at an average speed of 15 km/h which is pretty tricky for velomobiles, especially for me in Millie as her gearing is so high.

We went along the dyke beside the Rhein. Here is a good photo by AndreasE from the Velomobilforum which shows the industrial bit of Uerdingen behind us.

before turning inland and riding along quiet roads with fields either side, with occasional stops for everyone to catch up (photo by AndreasE)

AndreasE got this pic of Humphrey and Millie together.

We headed towards Willich, where we stopped for a break at Café Streithöfe.

Humphey (who was being ridden by Klaus) hung out with fellow Quattrovelo belonging to Düssel.

Düssel has this laminated notice attached to his Schaumdeckel for when he leaves the velomobile.

We went inside and enjoyed a cuppa and I had a piece of Bienenstich.

After a break of just over an hour we headed off towards Hüls (near Krefeld), this time a bit slower as some of the riders were finding the pace a little fast. For the Velomobile riders it was very tricky so we stayed at the back, although Klaus was leading from the front.

Because Poppy was alone at home I headed directly home as we approached Hüls but Klaus carried on leading the group and they stopped in Hüls for an ice cream.

He then led them back to Uerdingen and then came home again.

Klaus’s ride was 107km, mine was 52km. This is the map of Klaus’s ride.

Pimp my Milan

Klaus and I have spent all March discussing Humphrey and what we do with him.

At first I thought I should probably sell him (and had already received two speculative offers for him) as I couldn’t get on with him, but wanted to give him more time to see if some of the issues could be ironed out, especially as we had our appointment in Dronten.

Klaus decided to use Humphrey himself to get another opinion and he started to get on pretty well with the Quattrovelo.

But one thing was clear, I would definitely be keeping the Milan for the near future, and would possibly use it for our two week summer tour.

This meant that I thought it was worth making some improvements to Millie.

Having used Humphrey’s Mountain Drive it is clear that Millie’s is really not up to much, and I made the decision to have it removed. I didn’t want to buy a new one (which is very expensive), I thought it made more sense to put back the old 2 chainrings and maybe change the gear ratios a bit. I didn’t want to do this myself so decided to contact EMVelomobiel in Belgium, who were very highly recommended by friend Oliver, to see if they were interested in doing some work on Millie. The chap Etienne said yes, so we arranged to deliver Millie to him on Easter Saturday and talk through what we would like.

We borrowed Ralf’s Sprinter again and as we were looking after Poppy that day she also had a trip to Belgium.

We talked to Etienne about the gears and it seems likely that he will change both the cassette on the back and also add a different chainring at the front. This is because my rear cassette is a very narrow range (13-30) which means I can have low gears or high gears but not both, and the front is currently 65. I will have a 38/56 on the front and on the back 11-36 which should give me much more range and should be more comfortable on hills.

We discussed some other items that I wanted for Millie:

  • a brake light
  • a handle for lifting her at the back
  • covering for the chain and the idler under the seat
  • raising the seat slightly
  • a chain tube for the chain going to the front chainring (I always get an oily right trouser leg)
  • servicing of the brakes

So it’s quite a lot of work but should make a huge difference, and Millie is worth the investment!

Etienne had a DF and Klaus decided to have a go… this one was very much set up for speed not comfort and had been rolled so wasn’t looking 100% tip top but Klaus enjoyed his ride, although his feet brushed the inside of the shell with each pedal stroke. He won’t be ordering a DF anytime soon though (fortunately!)

You can see a few more Velomobiles in this shot than just Millie. Some of our cycling friends from the Dutch Grensrijder group popped in during a tour so we had a good chat with them.

Poppy the dog really enjoyed the attention.

There were two more Quattrovelos there, belonging to Chris and Jean, and we had a very interesting conversation with Jean about Quattrovelo suspension and he has given us some tips for Humphrey.

They headed off on their ride and we stayed just a few more minutes speaking to Etienne about what we wanted for Millie. Then the gate opened again and chum Rolf from Germany appeared. He had come to buy some inner tubes and to book in his velomobile for a service; he was out of luck as I had just blocked off the next spot! It was lovely to see Rolf again, and was a reminder how small the Velomobile world is as we met two separate groups of people we knew whilst in Belgium and none of us come from Belgium!

Now Millie is being pimped and Humprey will also be looked at next week I hope I can get my velomobiles ready for a spring/summer of lots of fun kilometres. I have felt quite unfit this winter and have struggled over the first few months of this year but things are looking up and I hope to enjoy many more kilometres, alongside Klaus, in our great stable of velomobiles.

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 6: Roermond to Kempen

Day 3 of the second tour.

We had another good night’s sleep at the Vrienden op de fiets house in Roermond and were treated to a very good breakfast.

The bikes had spent the night safely in the garden.

Our hosts had to leave at 10am so we said goodbye to them at 9:30 and set off on our last stage of the tour.

We did quite a lot of this route just two weeks ago when I rode Humphrey to Roermond with Klaus and Ralf, and the route is very pleasant with lots of quiet roads. There were a few speedbumps which are not quite as comfortable in Millie as in Humphrey.

We saw this beautiful church underway.

We stopped for a short break and to enjoy the sunshine and chatted to a dog walker (who is rather unfortunately rendered in the photo below). I took the photo below because Millie was nicely reflected in Celeste!

This is what Klaus could see from his vantage point!

We enjoyed the quiet roads, although there were lots of leisure cyclists out as well, but we often had the whole road to ourselves!

Our plan was to stop in Venlo for some lunch/cake but as we came over the bridge into the town there seemed to be an awful lot of cyclists and walkers. As we reached the town it was clear something was going on – I have never seen so many bikes parked in one place. They were everywhere! There were sound stages and people dressed as runners… it was Venloop which is an annual half marathon. We knew it would be pointless to try to stop somewhere for food, plus we couldn’t really ride anywhere as it was all so packed. Instead we stayed on the roads and tried to make our way to the east so we could get on the road to Germany but road closures made it pretty tricky. We got lots of cheers from spectators – it was great to see that pretty much every Venlo resident was there, hanging out of the windows or cheering from the pavement.

We finally got across the main road into Venlo and could head towards the glider airfield. On the way we saw this very impressive bunting with the balloon runner!

We stopped for a while to watch the gliders and then discussed where we could go for cake. We both knew of, but had not visited, a café/restaurant not far away down an unmade road. We gave it a go and the unmade road was fine and the cake at Birkenhof was very tasty!

We were home fairly early after our ride of 61.62km which we cycled at an average speed of 18.7 km/h (very relaxed). My average heart rate for this ride was now a super-low 120 bpm.

We really enjoyed both our mini tours, although we were blessed with better weather for the second one. A tour of 3 days can be a very rich and exciting experience so we are considering whether we can manage more in the future by just taking one day off work. We shall see!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 5: Maastricht to Roermond

The second day of our second mini-tour.

We slept well and as agreed went down for breakfast at 8 o’clock. Anke had provided us a very good spread of breakfast items.

She talked to us a little about some of the cycle tours she had done.

Anke had to leave at 9 so we were gone before then. We decided to visit Maastricht itself and cycled over the bridge and through the pedestrian zone a little.

We found ourselves in a large square with lots of buildings around it and a large church.

Klaus took this interesting pic of Celeste!

And also this Panorama view of the square.

Here is Millie in front of the church.

Klaus had talked several times about the bookshop in a church so we googled it and discovered it was just around the corner. As I pulled up outside I noticed Millie rather nicely reflected in the doors!

We parked outside.

It was a beautiful building inside with very clever design for the bookshelves on three levels.

There was also a café where the altar used to be and so we stopped for a cuppa.

We set off again after a nice relaxing time in the bookshop and wended our way through Maastricht town on a Saturday morning. There was lots on as the weather was good. Klaus stopped to take a picture of a building and Millie photobombed him!

We then crossed the river and looked back at the town (photo by Klaus).

It was lovely to just stand in the sunshine, warm enough to be outside the velomobiles without jumpers/coats on.

However, we were on a bike tour so it was time to set off towards Roermond.

Our route today was as follows:

On the way to Maastricht we had ridden on the west side of the river/canal, this time we were going up the east side.

We had plenty of time for the 60km day so decided we would stop for a leisurely cake halfway if we could find somewhere. There were lots of interesting places along the way.

Here I stopped for a photo of a lovely church:

And at the same time Klaus was also photographing it from further back – you can see Millie in his shot.

You can tell from the skies in the above photos that it was turning into a really lovely day. The temperature was about 10 degrees but inside the velomobiles we were toasty warm.

It’s a very nice route that we were riding although surprisingly quiet for a Saturday, except for lots of MAMILs riding in chain gangs.

At about halfway we started looking for somewhere to stop for a cuppa but couldn’t find anything. Finally, just past Berg an de Maas, we discovered a restaurant with lots of signs saying ‘Open’ so stopped, only to find that the door was locked. We rang the bell but no response came. As we were waiting two more cyclists came and sat down.

We started checking on our phones to see if there was anywhere else open not too far away when a car arrived and two people got out carrying parcels from a bakery. It was the owners of the restaurant and they had cake. A bit odd they hadn’t put a sign up to say “back in 5 minutes” or something, but anyway, we got our tea and slice of cake.

Although they spoke no German or English and we spoke no Dutch we managed to communicate perfectly well.

In Maasbracht we saw this very pretty view whilst we were riding down a bit of a hill (photo by Klaus)

And we stopped to look at this windmill. Some passers-by said “hello” to us and they turned out to be Brits.

We continued on and eventually arrived in Roermond at 3 o’clock. I phoned the Vrienden op de fiets host but got no reply so we decided to go to the riverfront and eat something. We had originally said we expected to be there at 5pm so being two hours early meant perhaps they were out.

We ordered a bit of food

And Klaus relaxed with a bit of sun worship

We received an email from the host saying they were at home, possibly in their back garden, so we headed off there.
It was a retired couple with a lovely quaint house with lots of wood panelling (I reckon the chap used to be a joiner or something similar). This was our room:After we had showered Klaus got in touch with his friend Istvan who lives in Roermond to see if he was free. He and his wife invited us for dinner, so we hopped into the Velomobiles and rode the 3km to Istvan’s house, where we had a very tasty meal and lots of very good conversation. Istvan and his wife Ingrid were really interesting people and it was great to get to know them. Klaus met Istvan through a photography forum and had known him for ten years or so.Istvan has a very good coffee machine…We also had some cake!We were all pretty tired so headed off at 9:30pm through Roermond, which was a really lovely ride in the dark on the good cycle paths.The total ride today was 58.52km at an average of 18.4 km/h.Here are the statistics, note that the average heart rate is a very relaxed 120.Once again we were really happy with the Vrienden op de fiets accommodation. The velomobiles were in the garden under an awning and well away from prying eyes. We slept very well after our cycling and socialising!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 4: Kempen to Maastricht

And so the second part of our Tour began!

We had two days at home after the first three touring days, during which we washed our cycling gear and I collected Millie from friend Ralf’s where she had been staying.

My initial feeling when riding Millie was “wow, she is so easy and fast!” and the fact she is also a lot quieter than Humphrey was also fairly noticeable.

This was a chance to see if my difficulties with Humphrey were because of my fitness rather than his form. It was also a chance for me to rest my tired good arm and to enjoy a bit more cockpit space!

We decided that on the first day we would ride to Maastricht and so began the search for hotels which had room for velomobiles. We did lots of searching and didn’t find any very good options, so decided instead to join Vrienden op de Fiets and see if there were options to stay in Maastricht.

For those who don’t know, Vrienden op de fiets is a Dutch organisation where people can offer to host cyclists and the cyclist pays 19,00 EUR per night including breakfast. It costs only 10 EUR to join and then you have access to the database of hosts.

There were several in Maastricht and Roermond (for the next day) but in the end only one in each place was available. You are of course staying in people’s private houses and if they have something else on then it’s a no-go. Anyway, we had a place booked with a lady in Maastricht and with a chap in Roermond and thought we’d give it a go.

Klaus had planned the route this time, and this was our first day’s route:

It was planned to go past Ralf’s house as he thought he might be able to join us for some of the ride but in the end he wasn’t able.

We set off at 10:30am having packed everything into our velomobiles (I had to remember how to best utilise Millie’s limited space) and we headed off on very familiar roads at first.

It was a grey day and the weather forecast was for clouds all day but at least the temperatures were warmer than at the start of the first part of this tour – when it was snowing and minus four degrees! We were also happy to know that the forecast was improving for the next two days.

Unfortunately Klaus had an altercation with a dodgy driver after just 3km. Approaching a red traffic light the chap did an incredibly close pass on Klaus and then stopped at the light and jumped out and started remonstrating with Klaus. Klaus was about to get out of his velomobile (at which point he would have been seen to be considerably larger than this chap!) and the chap got back in his car and drove off when the lights went green. This wasn’t a very pleasant start to the tour, and especially not in Kempen which is Really Above That Kind Of Thing. The altercation happened 50 metres from the ‘Fahrradfreundliche Stadt’ sign (Bicycle-friendly city).

However, I guess all cyclists have these experiences from time to time, and we just have to suck it up and get on with our ride. Which we did.

At the roundabout onto the road to Grefrath we transition from the road to the cycle path and it’s a bit of a bumpy corner. Klaus was ahead and I noticed something black bouncing around in his wake. I cycled past it and it was a large black plastic circle. I couldn’t think where it came from on Celeste… and then after about 100 metres I suddenly realised it was a rolled-up inner tube. So I stopped and went back and indeed it was one of Klaus’s spare tubes that had bounced out of the luggage storage space at the front of Celeste. It was a Schwalbe one so that was a good 5 Euros saved!

Along the road to Grefrath we suddenly found ourselves riding over a couple of broken bottles. We stopped and immediately cleaned the tyres as best we could – I didn’t fancy getting a puncture, especially as I hadn’t had one since 1 January 2017!

As we headed into Lobberich I realised I was pretty desperate for the loo. I knew there were loos at Café Floral so we agreed to stop there. You can pay to use a loo if you aren’t a customer in Germany but in the end we decided to stop and to share a slice of cake, we chose this very nice cherry meringue cream confection.

We also had a cuppa each and enjoyed warming up a bit. But we realised that stopping after 17km on a 105km day was perhaps not the best distribution of breaks so it was time to ride on.

We rode past Breyell and then as we were heading to Boisheim I noticed Millie felt a bit rough. Soon enough that regular bump-bump-bump feeling intruded – clearly a puncture. Not only was it the first in fifteen months but I had had the same tyres on the whole time (which were pretty worn out). I used to use Duranos on Millie and had a puncture a week; since fitting Durano Pluses I had been puncture-free. They are heavier tyres so you pay a little with speed/efficiency but it is worth it as tyre changing is a pain in the neck.

It was cold where we stopped to change the tube and tyre and the cold wind whistling past us wasn’t nice. We put the new Durano Plus on and saw a very impressive flint that had got the whole way through the Durano Plus; the tyre was absolutely peppered with other pieces of stone and glass but they had all been stopped by the puncture-resistant band. I am very impressed with how these tyres have performed, and they had done 9000km too.

Our tyre changing provided a small amount of entertainment for the locals, as did pumping up a tyre to 8 bar (110 PSI) with a small hand pump, but we managed it between us and set off again.

We were approaching slightly less flat territory and I found myself on the road doing 61km/h at one point. I ended up with a Strava Queen of the Mountains for this so that was a bonus!

Klaus had routed us to the Meinweg National Park as we have ridden this great, smooth cycle road in the other direction but never going towards NL. Just before we crossed into the national park, whilst till in Germany, we had to have a pee stop behind some trees. This is very illegal in the Netherlands although apparently it is OK in Germany, so we made the most of the opportunity. I had also realised that if we were to make the time our host requested (between 17:00 and 17:30) we probably wouldn’t be able to have another stop – and had 70km to ride! This was a bit of pressure!

So we set off, riding separately at our own pace. Klaus had great fun with Celeste, managing to hit 71 km/h. I was a bit slower but enjoyed the downhills. We were now in the Netherlands.

We now followed Klaus’s track through some very nice countryside indeed, with lots of quiet lanes. Most of the photos below are taken by Klaus (as you can probably tell by the colour of the velomobile nose in shot!)

Following the pre-prepared Garmin track is very easy and means that we could relax and just enjoy the pedalling. There were a few trickier bits, such as finding the way onto the cycle track to cross this bridge. We were crossing a canal that runs a little way away from the Maas.

Most of our route was very good cycle paths, with some quiet B roads as well. We were making good progress, Millie was much easier for me to ride and the warmer weather also helped. Because we were following the canal and also later the Maas river we crossed from one side of the dyke to the other quite regularly and this included some short, steep climbs to get onto the dyke. At this point I discovered that Millie’s Schlumpf really doesn’t sound very healthy when in its low gear. Having now ridden Humphrey, who also has a Schlumpf, I know how it should feel and sound – and Millie’s is not well. I am making plans to either replace it or to put a normal double chainset on there, and also to reduce the size of the large chainring to assist me with hill starts etc. When riding along one has plenty of time to plan these things…

We crossed the Maas river with a ferry at Berg and then found ourselves in Belgium, so this was a 3 countries tour again.

As you can see, the road surface was pretty rough in Belgium, but it was a nice ride along the top of the dyke for quite a few kilometres before we turned and rode alongside the canal towards Maastricht.

We had ridden from Maastricht to Lanaken on our previous tour in this region and this time we approached Maastricht in the reverse direction, arriving where there were a lot of roadworks but we were waved through. The cycle path was still mostly in place!

Klaus photographed this former church which is now a gym. He had previously told me about a church in Maastricht which was now a bookshop, so they are obviously repurposing some redundant buildings!

We rode straight to our Vrienden House and arrived at the right time, having ridden the 70km non-stop. We met our hostess, Anke, who was very friendly and spoke very good German. Although I had sent her links to internet pages about velomobiles when checking she had room in her garage, she was a bit surprised how large they were. However, we did manage to fit them in her garage (she had recently had to empty her deceased mother’s house of belongings so they were stored in the garage too).

We had a good chat to Anke and our room was very nice. She had to go out in the evening but we said we wouldn’t do much, just go out for food, so we walked just down the road to a pizzeria we had noticed. It was very high quality food and I noticed they also had a Pizza Celeste!

We very much enjoyed our pizzas (we are off the low-carb diet when touring) and it was then time for bed. I am always pooped after a long cycle ride, particularly without many stops! In the end I went to bed at 20:15 so this is really showing my age! But we were very encouraged by our first experience of Vrienden op de fiets and already started discussing whether we could use this for our summer tour around the Netherlands in June.

Today’s ride was 106km and here are my statistics, the average heart rate is lower than on the first day of the tour with Humphrey but still pretty high.

We had purposely planned a shorter day the next day, just 55km to Roermond, but it was great to be touring again, even just for three days, and great to be in Millie again with the more comfortable cockpit for me.

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 3: Nijmegen to Kempen

Day 3 of the tour

Despite being on holiday I still woke up at 6 am. Oh well, it gave me a chance for a cup of tea and some reading.

Our plan this morning was to go to Roef’s for breakfast when he told us he was ready (he had to work a little in the morning first), we expected at about 10:30. As we were up and ready to ride much earlier we decided to head down to the riverfront for a cup of tea.

And it was very much DOWN, through lots of cobbled streets, with the velomobiles bouncing around and making lots of rattling noises. But we made it to the bottom and stopped outside Humphrey’s namesake bar:

Unfortunately it, and the neighbouring café, were both closed, but someone told us we could find some open cafés back up the hill again. Uphill. Oh well, we set off.

Humphrey has a Mountain Drive which is a gear system which reduces the gear ratio significantly (three times lower). What this means is that when you are using the normal gear range the lowest gear is OK for setting off on level ground or climbing very gentle slopes but anything steeper you need to ‘schlumpf’ which means suddenly you have an extremely low gear and have to pedal like mad to make any speed. As I am entirely unable to pedal like mad, I just slowly pootle my way up the hill in great comfort but at a low velocity. This enables Klaus to set up a nice photo though!

At the top of this hill there was indeed an open café so we stopped and had a cup of tea. Very shortly afterwards we heard from Roef that he was now free and we could come over for breakfast.

Roef had supplied us with a route to his place and it was yet another of these fantastic Dutch cycle ways. About 80% of the route was entirely segregated from all other traffic and was fast. There were very few road crossings. We zoomed along beside the railway line in our little pink-tarmacked world and thought again how wonderful the Dutch cycling infrastructure can be and how disappointing it is that few other countries manage this.

We arrived at Roef’s and put our velomobiles in his garage.

As you can see, he has an orange Strada. Klaus and I had very significant garage-envy, especially knowing that this garage is warm (as it is underneath the apartments).

Roef had arranged a very good breakfast for us, including porridge, croissants, rolls, yoghurt etc. We enjoyed chatting to him whilst we ate and then organised ourselves very leisurely to set off back home again. Roef would accompany us as far as Gennep.

Before our tour I had planned three separate routes back from Nijmegen to home. Of course, we didn’t use any of them in the end! It makes much more sense to follow the local who has much more experience of the environs, plus later on I discovered the Garmin Connect route planning software had done some weird things and we had to scrap one of the possible routes.

This was our actual track:

We were very lucky in that the weather was significantly better today than the last two days. It wasn’t hugely warm but the biting wind had subsided and when we were in the sun it felt very good. I suppose the temperature was about 10 degrees overall so much, much better.

The little procession of 2 Stradas and a Quattrovelo headed along the Maas towards Cuijk and Gennep.

The speed was comfortable for me in the Quattrovelo, which was running a bit better than yesterday. Well, I guess I must conclude that the problem lies mostly with the rider rather than the velomobile, but warm weather definitely helps me!

We were alongside the Maas at some times, at other times we moved a little away, but were largely on quiet roads that ran parallel to the main road and so had very low traffic.

We were cruising fairly well, staying close together as the speed worked for us all.

As we came into Gennep we decided to look for a café for a cup of tea as we had been riding for 30km in total. We found a café and of course the three velomobiles outside created a bit of a stir.

Although Klaus and I follow a low carbohydrate diet, we had decided that on this tour we wouldn’t keep to it as it’s a bit trickier with hotel breakfasts etc. And I have to say, I did fancy one of these desserts.

The Schwarzwälder Kirsch Meringue Gebak (at least three languages in that one name!) seemed like an excellent choice, and indeed it was! It was a kind of black forest roulade.

Klaus had the apple pie with cream.

I had been interested in what the ‘Speckkoek’ was, as it sounded like a bacon cake. I didn’t choose it, but after we had finished our cakes the waitress brought us a very small piece to try. It was OK (no actual bacon in it) but I preferred my black forest meringue thingie.

We had a very leisurely break as we felt there was no urgent need to push on. When  you don’t have to check into a hotel but are simply going home you aren’t under so much time pressure.

But eventually it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes to Roef, having really enjoyed the time spent with him. You can read his blog here: Roef’s Blog.

From Gennep we started off following the route that chum Rolf had sent us which goes to the west of the Maas but the plan was to then switch to Klaus’s route which would take us to Arcen. However, I did some last minute course changes when I realised that Garmin Connect had mucked up Klaus’s route and it was just sending us straight down the main road to Venlo. This would not be very scenic! So we continued to follow Rolf’s route and I could see the point where I needed to turn off it to continue to Arcen. Klaus just followed behind me, trusting I wouldn’t get him too lost!

Rolf had a slightly better route between Bergen and Nieuw-Bergen so that was good, and we were very soon on Ceresweg, the road that runs along the border between the Netherlands and Germany. It’s a lovely long road with minimal traffic and great scenery but the road surface is pretty hard which can be wearing over time. We made good progress though, and in this case the Quattrovelo’s suspension was kinder than Millie’s would have been.

Usually this section seems very fast but it felt to me like it was going on for quite a long time. I suppose with the Quattrovelo being slower, and also me being rather tired, it was harder work than I had thought. But eventually we were climbing the hill out of Arcen towards Germany and Straelen, and we then rode one of our standard routes home going the more scenic way for a couple more kilometres.

When we got home I felt really, really physically tired. It was 93km in total and not particularly fast (average 20.5) but I was still pooped. My arms were also complaining a lot. The main issue is that there isn’t much elbow room in the cockpit of the Quattrovelo so my arms are squashed against my side and also against the side of the QV. The cold air wicks through the carbon and straight into your bones! Also I have to support the tiller and this involves muscle power, especially as my disabled arm can only hang off the tiller, so the good arm is not only holding the tiller up but also supporting the weight of the disabled arm pulling down. My Milan has a tiller limiter thingie which attaches to the boom and ought to be possible with the QV, I am rather disappointed it is not an option. I will see if I can fit something, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of the too narrow cockpit.

Getting out of the QV was a challenge once we got home as my arms were cold and tired, but I managed it and enjoyed a lovely hot shower!

Here are my statistics for the ride today:

We had originally discussed perhaps heading off to Maastricht the next day for a short break but I realised I needed some time to rest and recover, so the plan was shifted a bit. I will collect Millie and then consider whether I do the Maastricht trip in her. Watch this space!

But in conclusion, we had a very good tour and visited some lovely towns. The cycling routes were mostly very good and some of the infrastructure in the Netherlands was brilliant. The weather was not particularly kind to us though, and I think we need to recognise that touring when it is below freezing is maybe not the best option!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 2: Rees am Rhein to Nijmegen

Day 2 of the tour, and another freezing one!

We slept really well and enjoyed a very leisurely breakfast in the morning. The day dawned with clear blue skies but it was still very windy and cold.

We got our bikes out of the garage and then I checked my seat as I had heard a few creaking noises from it. Lo and behold the left hand side fixing to the frame of the QuattroVelo had some wobble in it. Klaus tried to tighten the nuts that hold it in place but it was very tricky and he wasn’t entirely successful as there was still some wobble. He also got very cold working outside on my bike. We will have to look more closely at this when we get home.

We wrapped up again before we set off, with hats, buffs and with the Schaumdeckel on. The first kilometre was a bit challenging for me as I had to keep adjusting my mirror as it wasn’t quite right but couldn’t get my arm back inside the Schaumdeckel without stopping.

We rode alongside the Rhine heading west, fortunately with the wind mostly from behind us. Our speeds were a bit better than yesterday but still not anything special.

It was still very cold and I discovered, like yesterday, that I get very cold arms where they are jammed against the side of the QuattroVelo because it is narrower than most other Velomobiles here. The cold of the carbon really wicks into your bones (or, in my case, my titanium bone).

The banshee whistling had stopped as the wind was from behind but I found now that the noise from the gearbox was disturbing me more. The QuattroVelo seems altogether to be a very noisy machine!

Our route merged onto the cycle path beside a busy road. We remembered this road from before and worked out a small diversion to take us away from it, which we duly did. This was a lot nicer.

The route then went up onto the dyke and rather than tarmac we had bricks. The QuattroVelo rolls OK on rough surfaces, definitely better than the Milan, so this didn’t slow us down too much.

At one point there was an apparent short cut which meant we didn’t have to go back to the busy road. Klaus had already headed off to the main road but I decided to give the short cut a go.

Very soon there was yet another closed gate but with a narrow opening to the side. We had already ridden through four or five of these, but I noticed this one needed a very sharp turn to the left once you were through it as there was a big ditch straight ahead. Really it would be best to get out and walk through but getting in and out is very difficult for me, especially with the Schaumdeckel, plus it was so cold and windy. Instead I shuffled forward and back to get through the gate and do the sharp turn straight afterwards.

but…. disaster! There was a scraping noise!

I reversed back – there was a wooden post that I had not been able to see because of the long nose of the QV (it had been out of sight when I first headed for the gate). I felt sure Humphrey had a scratch on his nose now.

Once through I pootled along and Klaus soon joined up with me again, having done his alternative route which avoided scratches but involved some off-road. He said he could see a scratch on Humphrey.

We rounded a corner and realised that we were at the border between Germany and the Netherlands so stopped. Klaus got out and I was going to but realised how cold it was and changed my mind.

Klaus was braver and got out to take a pic.

We continued on pretty quickly as standing around will make you cold!

I was seriously considering doing the shorter route (not going via Arnhem) as I felt so tired and slow. Interestingly, my heart rate was much lower than yesterday, but I felt that I had even less power than before.

Klaus and I started looking for somewhere to have a spot of lunch but couldn’t find anything. We took the ferry between Pannerden and Doorenberg over the Nederrijn river and when we got to Doorenberg I said we needed to find a cafe and have a discussion about what to do next as this was where the track direct to Nijmegen split off.

We found a bar that did tea and coffee but no food, but as we needed to warm up it was worth it! I got out of Humphrey and looked at the scratch damage – argh!!!

Ouch and aua!

Oh well, there was nothing to be done about it for now. Maybe I can buy some touch up paint.

We had a leisurely drink and discussed why I was finding the riding so hard today. A summary of our points is as follows:

a) I find it tough riding in cold weather

b) The QuattroVelo is heavier than I am used to

c) I probably overdid it yesterday (see high heart rate) and have not yet recovered

d) Velomobiles need to be run in a bit before they are their most efficient. I have always bought used Velomobiles in the past

I think the first point is very valid; we couldn’t remember if I had ever ridden in such cold conditions in Millie. Oliebollentocht 2016 was pretty cold and I was not quick on the 180km ride home. Maybe I am just not designed for cycling in the cold. As it is, my power band is very limited and so if there are some additional things that take power that has a noticeable effect on me.

Whatever, I had not enjoyed my ride today, even before the scratch on Humphrey, so I decided to take the direct route to Nijmegen and save another 18km. Klaus fancied the Arnhem trip so went off on his own, which was fine by me.

I headed off on the direct route to Nijmegen and at last had a really decent road with a strong tailwind and I actually found myself cycling at 24km/h.

This section along the top of the dyke was fab, although it would have been a horrible grind the other direction into wind!

I could see some of the bridges of Nijmegen from a long way back and so could see where my destination  was. The cycle tracks were good and I very soon found myself at the hotel, where I was shown to my parking place.

Klaus was on his way back and although delayed by a puncture he arrived just after I had showered and had a cuppa.

He took this photo of the Waal.

And a reflection in Arnhem.

And saw this shop, which might be worth a visit one day!

Here is my track for the day:

And here is Klaus’s track:

Here are my statistics for the day:

Distance was 58.47km, average speed 18km/h which is very poor!

Notice ny max heart rate today is similar to yesterday’s average.

Here is Klaus’s report:

Der heutige Tag unserer Tour war wettermäßig wesentlich angenehmer als der gestrige. Gut…kalt war es immer noch und mächtig gezogen hat es auch, aber die Sonne lachte vom Himmel.

Die ersten Kilometer aus Rees waren noch ganz schön, aber dann ging es in Richtung Emmerich entlang der B8 nicht gerade berauschend. Irgendwo mittendrin haben wir uns dann seitlich verdünnisiert. Raus aus Emmerich würden wir über teilweise abenteuerliche Wege geschickt. Hier hat sich Helen auch noch den ersten Kratzer ins VM eingefahren…das tut weh. Insgesamt war es heute für Helen verdammt schwer. Keine Ahnung ob es am VM, am kalten Wetter oder an der Gesundheit hing, aber sie kam heute überhaupt nicht auf Touren. Nach einer längeren Aufwärmpause entschied sie für sich, dass sie eine Abkürzung nach Nijmwejn fährt, während ich wie geplant über Arnhem fahre. Die 17km nach Arnhem waren schnell abgespult. Der Wind hat ein wenig nachgeholfen. In Arnhem bin ich noch ein bisschen durchs Zentrum gerollt, bevor ich auf dem Radschnellweg nach Nijmwegn abgebogen bin.

Dieser Radschnellweg ist wirklich ein Gedicht. Mit teilweise über 40 ohne Hindernisse; meist Vorfahrt… Herrlich. Kurz vor Nijmwegn hatte ich in Rechtskurven ein komisches Geräusch… kurzer Stopp… Fingerprobe… Plattfuß. 5 Kilometer vor dem Ziel. Schlauch wechseln und gleich den Shredda noch entfolgt. Mit über 7000 km sieht die Lauffläche nicht mehr ganz so fit aus. Aus den Schnitten habe ich einiges an Glas und Steinen herausgepuhlt. Nach 15 Minuten ging es dann weiter. Noch ein paar Extrarunden bis ich das Hotel gefunden hatte. Auspacken… Duschen… Fertig.

We had been in contact with a Velomobile rider who lives in Nijmegen, Roef, and Roef had offered to make us breakfast tomorrow. Roef ended up coming to dinner with us in a restaurant in Nijmegen and there was lots of talk about Velomobiles. On our walk to the restaurant Klaus took this photo of the church:

We enjoyed our burgers followed by Apfelstrudel but then it was time to go back to the hotel as I was very tired.

Tomorrow we ride home following the Maas river some of the way. The weather forecast is finally looking a bit better, it should be up to six degrees with only a small amount of snow expected tonight.

Tomorrow is another day to get used to Humphrey and his strengths and weaknesses. I hope to have a bit more energy for the ride!

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Rhein-Waal-Maas Day 1: Kempen to Rees am Rhein

Day 1 of the Tour

We had seen the weather forecast and consequently planned a short day (under 60km) for today. My original route had been less direct and 20km more but with lots of snow and ice yesterday, and continuing light snow this morning meant we definitely wanted to limit the distance. It was minus 3 outside so we faffed around at home in the morning waiting for the snow to clear.

It didn’t, there were still periodic white flurries, but it wasn’t settling so we decided to set off anyway.

Yesterday we had pumped up the tyres and given the bikes a once-over, plus added my Garmin speed sensor to the rear axle and cadence sensor to the crank. Today we just hopped in and set off – once I had got my new Garmin to recognise the cadence and speed sensors, as well as the heart rate monitor. This was the work of moments, the whole thing extremely easy. Top marks to Garmin!

I have never previously ridden with a cadence sensor so today’s ride would be an interesting learning experience.

This was our route for today:

So we set off with flakes of snow swirling about. In this photo I tried to get some snowflakes but I don’t think I was successful!

We both chose to ride with the Schaumdeckel (foam cover) but underneath that we each just had one long-sleeved cycling top; you don’t need lots of layers inside a Velomobile as you generate your own warmth.

We planned to ride to Xanten first and stop there for lunch. Xanten is somewhere we ride to fairly regularly so we knew the way very well, but this time we were largely cycling on the cycle paths rather than on the road. This was because we were slower due to the weather. There were some icy patches so we had to take care.

We took the normal roads to Stenden, then Sevelen; we love the road to Sevelen as it is 7km of dead straight road with hardly any junctions (= Velomobile fun!) but when you are riding slowly and there is a bitter side wind buffeting you about it seems quite a lot longer!! We were not quick, but that was to be expected as it was very cold!

One thing that disturbed me a little on this ride was the wind noise whistling over the front of the QuattroVelo. I don’t know if it’s the sound of the wind on the visor, on the mirrors or just generally on the front, but at times it was a real banshee shrieking and it was very annoying. This  noise was louder than the gear noises! It seems to be related to side winds as when we changed direction it reduced, but it was very annoying. Klaus says he has it too on his Strada.

After cycling for an hour it was time to stop to put our feet down. When riding Velomobiles you can get cold feet and also lose the sensation in your toes a bit, so it is good to stop and take your feet out of the clipless pedals and let the blood flow back into them. Klaus especially has problems with cold feet when it is less than 10 degrees outside, and it was definitely that today! We stopped in a lay-by just after Issum for a five minute break.

We set off again, this time with me in the lead and on the road (no cycle path). This was a faster stretch and the snow had stopped, but it was still really cold! We wended our way towards Xanten and I also began to get very cold feet. The QuattroVelo has two large openings for the feet and they let the cold air in, and when the wind blew from a particular side angle it blew cold air up my trouser leg!

We had to go over a couple of motorway bridges and I noticed that my heart rate was very high on these slight inclines – reaching 190bpm. In fact, this year my heart rate has generally been very high when cycling (although my resting heart rate has reduced to 60 bpm) so I wonder if this has anything to do with the low carb diet. My average heart rate for the whole ride was 162, whereas Klaus’s was 133, which is where mine used to be. Perhaps it is just a sign of my lack of fitness.

There wasn’t much traffic about as we rolled into Xanten. We stopped at our usual cafe and ordered some hot soup and a hot cup of tea.

Klaus tried to thaw out his feet but it took a long time!

We sat in the cafe for about an hour, enjoying the break and the hot food. Klaus’s feet slowly began to regain some sensation, but we knew we would be pedalling in the cold again soon. Whilst we were waiting the skies cleared of snow and we saw some blue at last!

We set off out of Xanten taking a different route than normal. We usually take the Alleenradweg which goes to Marienbaum but this time we stayed closer to the Rhein, again staying on the cycle path. We had the fun of having to press some traffic light buttons which is not very easy from within a Velomobile with the Schaumdeckel on!

Part of this route goes along the Rhein flood dykes and this was great fun with a tailwind, comfortable cruising. The QuattroVelo isn’t fast but once it gets going it rolls nicely, and it is definitely smoother over rough roads than the Milan.

It was just 18km to Rees and the time passed quickly. We rolled over the bridge and then headed for the town, finding our way easily to our hotel, Rheintoreins.

We checked into the hotel, storing the Velomobiles in a locked garage, and then Klaus photographed himself in a ball whilst I was filling in the paperwork…

The room was very nice and we each had a much-appreciated hot shower and a cuppa as we warmed up a bit.

We went out in search of food and Klaus took these pictures of Rees.

We cycled over the bridge in the distance.

And proof of which river we were visiting today:

We found an Italian restaurant and had a pizza (carbohydrates!) as we fancied one after all our riding, then returned to our hotel.

The weather forecast is a bit better for tomorrow – cold still, but perhaps 3-4 degrees warmer than today, and with a slightly reduced wind. We hope to have slightly warmer feet during our riding. We have a bit further to go, 77km, but should have the wind more at our backs which will help.

And the statistics for my ride today, from Garmin Connect:

As you can see, I have a very low cadence (pedalling speed). We knew this, but it is interesting to now measure it. I cannot pedal any faster, this is my comfortable speed and has served me well for a decade.

Anyway, we are pleased to be on tour again despite the Siberian weather, and hope for another good day tomorrow.

And here is Klaus’s report for the day:

Wir sind erst gegen 12 Uhr losgefahren, um dem Schnee zu entgehen… naja hat nicht ganz geklappt. Ein ordentlicher Wind aus Nordost hat uns noch ein paar Flöckchen um die Ohren gehauen. Eigentlich ist es im VM schön kuschelig, aber die Fusszehen sind mir nach 2h fast abgefroren. Nach 1h Pause in Xanten hatte ich dann wieder etwas Gefühl in den Zehen. Die letzten 18 Kilometer waren einfach zu cruisen, da der Wind von schräg hinten kam.

Tomorrow we will cycle along the Nederrijn to Arnhem and will then rejoin the Rhine as it has become the Waal at Nijmegen. We are looking forward to it!

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Filed under Cycle Tours, Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Rhein-Waal-Maas 2018

Auntie Helen buys *another* Velomobile – Humphrey the Quattrovelo

A long, long time ago I ordered a Quattrovelo. Then I received this birthday cake celebrating it…

But then I had second thoughts about my ability to get in and out due to my disability and bought a second hand Milan instead. My place on the order list for the Quattrovelo was handed over to chum Detlef who duly received his Quattrovelo.

However, last April when visiting Velomobiel.nl to get Millie and Celeste serviced I had a trial sit in a Quattrovelo again and found it was fine to get in and out of. So, once again, I appeared on the orderlist.

When you have a Milan, why buy a Quattrovelo?

This is a good question! However, I did have my reasons.

Firstly, the negative points about the Milan GT.

  • It is very low-slung which means you scrape the bottom on most kerbs.
  • It has a very wide turning circle (something like 14 metres) which means lots of cycle tracks are off-limits.
  • Storage space for luggage isn’t very easy to access.
  • In my Milan the chainline isn’t protected so you end up with an oily left leg most days
  • If there is a rear puncture that’s a half hour job and not much fun at all as you have to take off the entire back wheel (this has only happened twice, fortunately)
  • The rear gears would be a complete nightmare if I had to replace anything. It doesn’t bear thinking about if something broke such as the gear hanger.
  • And, the real biggie for me, it is decidedly unwaterproof, even with the Haube (hood). This meant that if rain was forecasted I tried to avoid using the Milan as I would get a wet backside when getting in and out, wet legs from the rain that channels over the bridge and then my leggings soak it up over my thighs, and even wet feet from the rain coming in the holes for the lights. Also rain on my lap from the Naca duct.

The positive points about the Milan GT are legion, but include:

  • Looks fab!
  • Very comfortable riding position
  • Easy to get in and out – as long as your hips aren’t as wide as mine (the phrase “cork in a bottle” springs to mind)
  • Fast, fast, fast. Even for an overweight woman like me, Millie is very fast. With sidewinds she is even faster. I can keep up with Klaus when riding Millie and he is lighter, fitter and male. She evens out the disadvantages I have being female, underpowered and overheavy.

And what can the Quattrovelo offer that the Milan can’t?

  • The Quattrovelo is not a direct competitor to the Milan. It’s definitely not as fast but it has many other advantages, the main ones being excellent luggage space, easier access to rear wheels and gear gubbins and it is pretty waterproof.

So anyway, I decided to go back onto the orderlist for the Quattrovelo as I felt that having a second option of velomobile for my regular commute and maybe for touring too would be good. I sold Penelope so there was space in the second garage…

The waiting list is long…

Quattrovelos are relatively new and the waiting list was about 10 months. This gave me plenty of time to choose my colour and other specifications.

I had decided on a green colour and then when visiting Velomobiel.nl we saw a two-tone QV, dark green bottom with cream top, and I decided that would be for me, except not such a dark green.  I spent the next six months looking at different car colours until I fixed on British Racing Green as it appears on the BMW Mini.

I also decided for a Schlumpf Mountain Drive as I have in Millie, the standard open cockpit (not the Alienhaube or covering hood as it made me feel a bit claustrophobic).

And then finally:

I received an email with the above photo attached. My Quattrovelo had arrived in Dronten and was being prepared.

So two weeks later Klaus and I set off to Dronten, having borrowed friend Ralf’s Sprinter van so we could transport both velomobiles back (Celeste was going for her annual service), and here I am at my first meeting with Quattrovelo number 74:

When I test rode the Quattrovelo last spring I was 15kg lighter so was a bit worried if I would be able to get in and out of my QV. In worked OK…

Out was a challenge but possible if I opened the rear luggage space so I could put my arm there to brace myself as I lifted out.

Whilst we were at Dronten a couple of friends from Cologne popped in to collect a repaired velomobile and Klaus from Köln took several photos of QV74.

In the photo above you can see a reflection of other velomobiles that were being worked on. And in the picture below, a very elongated Quest!

In the photo above you can see the ‘boot’ is open. This is usually fixed shut by means of a velcro strap. However, I was unable to remove this strap whilst sitting in my seat and, as mentioned above, I needed to open the boot to put my hand behind me to get out.

Allert, Klaus and I discussed this and the best option seemed to be some cord that holds the boot shut but runs through eyelets so I can have the end in the cabin with me. Theo found some random pink and white cord to use, which isn’t exactly a matching colour scheme but does the job! Allert welded a couple of eyelets and fixed them inside the boot:

And then to an area behind my right shoulder to help the cord go round the back of the seat.

This cord was to hold the boot closed when travelling (not to close it, I do that with my hand, but the cord prevents it opening in strong winds).

When the boot is open the cord is loose behind my right shoulder on the rear wheel arch.

On the end of this rope was some sticky velcro which I could affix beside me when the boot is shut and it is an easy job to just unstick it if I want to open the boot. I can reach round and pull it tight and then fix it on the side of the QV to my right.

The system works well and in fact Klaus thinks he might have it on his Quattrovelo which should arrive early next year.

Here are some more of Klaus from Köln’s pictures:

Allert spent quite a long time getting my seat positioned correctly. Initially it was too far forward, I needed it further back as I have long legs. Moving the seat back made it easier to get out in some ways, but then the angle of seat recline had to change so that my shoulders didn’t bump on the sill around the opening and this made it harder again to get out. But I tried several times to get in and out and it worked, although not elegantly.

Once the seat position was decided Allert adjusted the chain length. Klaus and I both rode around the block and all seemed OK so the handover was completed with various other bits and bobs (pump for the tyres, pump for the air shocks for the rear wheel, spare battery etc etc). Then Klaus and I spent half an hour trying to squeeze Celeste and the QV into the Sprinter. It was not easy as the QV is so wide! In the end we had to build up a false floor where the step is for the side door so that Celeste could rest one wheel on that. We managed in the end, but not before poor Klaus had put his back out lifting Celeste.

We drove home (Klaus feeling very uncomfortable with his back) and unloaded the Sprinter before Klaus retired to bed with a hot water bottle at his back and I just put the QV in the garage, it was too late to have another ride.

First impressions of the QV

How it looks

The Quattrovelo looks great! I am extremely pleased with my colour choice and it has lots of different shades in the sunlight.

One of my first jobs was to fix some reflective blue and red tape to the mirrors for my Union Jack theme (after all, I had to Britishfy this velomobile otherwise no-one would know it was mine!). I did this job in the garage in the freezing cold without removing the mirrors so it was rather inexpert but was a start and I planned to do it again properly once I had discovered how well the tape stuck.

Here are a couple of pictures showing the lovely colour of my QV, this time parked outside my office.

How it rides

My first ride with the QV was to join the ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride from the ADFC to Wachtendonk. I had to ride first to Kempen where we were gathering before setting off to Wachtendonk. The ride to Kempen seemed quite slow and also very noisy – the cassette of gears is just behind the rider’s seat and the first three gears are pretty noisy.

I ended up being slightly late because the journey to Kempen had taken longer than expected so they were just setting off as I got there.

Off we headed in quite strong wind and I found it very tough going. The Quattrovelo felt slow, heavy and generally tough. There were times when I found it difficult to catch up with people on upright bikes – and these were people on Dutch bikes cycling in jeans and jumpers!

We stopped at Wachtendonk for tea and cake and then it was time to head back. I adjusted the seat position slightly (more reclined) for the ride back. The side of the Quattrovelo bends in and I found that my right elbow rubbed against the side of the velomobile, I wondered if I would end up with a weal after a long cycle ride, but seat adjustments couldn’t really help this. Losing a lot more weight would help, but that’s not exactly a quick fix!

By the time we got back to Kempen I was worn out and decided not to stay for a cuppa with the other riders but go straight home. I was actually rather disappointed with the Quattrovelo, but assumed I was just having a bad day.

The next day I rode it to work. Again it was hard work and noisy, and my average speed was 16.9 km/h. This was Penelope speed levels – Millie is usually 22-24 for my direct commute. My colleagues asked me how I liked it and I said I was rather disappointed.

I commuted the next day too, very slightly faster at 17.8 km/h. That evening was my choir in Kempen so I decided to ride there. I set off and after 1km the lights went out; the battery was flat and I had forgotten to put a spare in! So I had to ride back in the pitch black, trusting only to street lights and my reflectives on the bike. I ran upstairs to get the battery, completely out of breath because of riding the heavy, slow Quattrovelo. I fitted the new battery and rode to choir – I was late because of all this. My average speed ended up at 18.6 km/h, again Penelope territory rather than a faster velomobile.

When I got home I said to Klaus that I was really fed up. I was finding the Quattrovelo really slow and I didn’t want to go back to Penelope speeds and always be struggling to keep up with people. I didn’t know whether to keep the Quattrovelo – if it were going to be this slow there was no point. Millie was in storage at Ralf’s workshop waiting for her indicators to be fixed – I wanted her back to remind myself what speeds I could do!

Klaus counseled that it was super cold outside (-7 degrees for my commute) and that the velomobile was brand new and had to be run in. He also checked the wheels and noticed that the front right was binding – the brake had not been correctly adjusted. We corrected this in under a minute and then at least that wheel could run freely, although this would have only had a very minor effect. We have heard several tales of velomobiles collected by their new owners showing issues with the preparation – including two quite serious issues, so this is something to watch.

Millie was out of reach and needed new indicators anyway so I kept going with the Quattrovelo (which was always my plan anyway). We were discussing the bike tour we had planned for the middle of March – I said I couldn’t imagine cycling those distances in the Quattrovelo, it would kill me. Our plan was to cycle around the Pfalz region to see some of the almond blossoms but in the end we decided we would spend the week just doing tours from home or staying overnight a couple of times not too far from home, so I could ride as much as felt comfortable. This eased my mind a bit as I was very scared of consecutive 100km days in the Quattrovelo.

The horrendously cold temperatures gradually eased and with it the speeds crept up on the QV. Below is a screenshot of all my commutes which were direct (i.e. not going via the supermarket) so the speeds can be compared. The improvement becomes relatively clear.

Getting in and out, and comfort in the cockpit

I haven’t really got any better at getting in and out of the QV, and in fact my arm has started being a bit painful where I lean on it to hoist myself up, but these sort of things are fairly normal when adjusting to a new velomobile.

The Milan has a cable on the tiller so you can fix the maximum angle that it will hang down; the Quattrovelo doesn’t have this, the tiller can lie on the seat, so this meant for me that the tiller is resting on my belly. For gear changes I have to get my thumb behind the tiller. I found this position less comfortable but could not hold the tiller up with my hands as it was too much effort (as I am using my strong hand to hold up the disabled one). I will see if I can invent something to prevent the tiller from lying fully flat on my belly.

The Quattrovelo is waterproof though and this is a real bonus! It has meant I am happy to ride it to work even in the rain. Yes, you get a wet head (although if I had chosen the Alienhaube I wouldn’t even have that) but you get a bit of a wet head going by car anyway as I have to walk to my car. I am perfectly happy with how warm and dry I stay once in the VM.

A couple more test rides

It was several days before Klaus was able to ride with me because of his back, although he did take the QV out for a quick spin when I returned from choir because he didn’t think it could be that slow. His conclusion after this 15km ride was “it is about the same speed as a Strada” – which is much slower than it should be! We asked friend Jupp/Josef for advice as he had also suffered from a slow Quattrovelo at first and he gave us some ideas of what to do, such as cleaning the chain, oiling the Mountain Drive, checking tyre pressures etc.

Anyway, the following Saturday it was time for us to go for a ride together. I pumped up the tyres to 110psi (8 bar) which is usual for Durano Plus, although I had to lie the Quattrovelo on its side to pump up the tyres as otherwise I couldn’t wiggle the pump head into the right position without all the air leaking out. This is undoubtedly a situation where my technique will improve but was pretty annoying as I had to pump up one tyre 3 times.

Anyway, we set off to Geldern at a gentle pace. We went to the bridge over the A40 motorway and decided to do a roll test. This is where you hold the velomobiles on the brakes and then release the brakes and see which is fastest/goes the furthest.

The rolltest was interesting as Celeste accelerated much faster than the QV but by the end we were at about the same speed and travelled about the same distance. Millie always wins these rolltests by miles so it was yet another sign that the Quattrovelo was definitely in a slower bike league!

Riding along the cycle path the Quattrovelo was rolling better, although there was a mysterious loud noise which I eventually identified as the freehub in the back wheels.

When you roll over gravel or pieces of stick and they jump up into the wheelboxes it can be pretty noisy. I am used to this in Millie with the front wheels but the Quattrovelo has double the opportunity for pinball in the wheelboxes, but this is again something which I will get used to.

We enjoyed the ride to Geldern, taking it at a reasonable pace. We stopped for a cup of tea in Geldern and lots of people inspected our bikes.

I had to pop to the bank after this and Klaus took this pic. A bit of a shame I left the boot open!

We rode home fairly fast again and the average speed for the 50km was a respectable 22.9 km/h. The warmer temperature helped, as did oiling the chain I expect.

The following week I rode the Quattrovelo to work every day and got more used to it and its foibles. The speed was definitely improving so the bike was getting run in, and sometime during this week I decided that I would keep it. I still hadn’t bonded properly with it so hadn’t chosen a name, I was waiting to see what felt right.

The following Saturday we fixed the indicators on Millie at Ralf’s workshop. I had hoped to ride her home but it got too late so she stayed at Ralf’s. Klaus was of the opinion it was better that I didn’t have a chance to ride her as the contrast with the QV would be so strong that I might give up on the QV. I was not blind to the good points of the Quattrovelo though – luggage space, non-oily, very secure rear wheels (although it does some strange shimmies when you go over uneven ground at the back, but it is all very controlled).

The day after the indicator repair we decided to ride with Ralf on a longer tour. We decided to go to Roermond and to meet up with a couple of chums there too. We cycled to Ralf’s first to pick him up and then headed towards Roermond.

After only about 1km a very loud rattle developed in the Quattrovelo and I stopped and rummaged around in the boot in case something was rattling (although it felt like it was actually from the gears). I couldn’t find anything so carried on but stopped almost immediately again – the rattle was still there. Klaus tried the QV but wasn’t sure what I meant. We continued on but after another 500m I stopped as it sounded like I was doing serious damage to something!

Ralf and Klaus took the entire contents of my boot into their velomobiles so I had no luggage at all to rattle. Off we went, and the noise was still there, but I decided now I would have to live with it as we would be late to meet the others if we stopped any more.

After another 3km the noise gradually faded away, coming back a little when I changed gear but then disappearing again, and it was 6km before it had completely gone away. It didn’t come back, but I am none the wiser what it was. Odd.

We then had the lovely swoopy downhill road to Swalmen. Ralf went ahead in his DF, I pedalled as much as I could but the lower gearing meant I ran out of pedal power at 40 km/h. Ralf was a dot in the distance and Klaus was also ahead, but this downhill was fun for me too, although I kept thinking how brilliant it would be in the Milan.

The Quattrovelo’s gearing is lower than the Milan’s. This means I am faster to accelerate from stationary (as Millie’s lowest gear is actually pretty high and needs a lot of power) but I spin out with the Quattrovelo at 40 km/h whereas I can still pedal Millie at 60. But as I am unlikely to reach these speeds in the QV that’s not much of an issue.

We got to Roermond and met up with Oliver and Chris. Chris also has a Quattrovelo and showed us some of the things he has done, including putting acoustic foam around the gears to reduce the noise (I have now ordered some). We had lunch together, a good chat and then it was time to ride home. Chris and Oliver accompanied us for a short distance and then peeled off and the three German residents carried on towards Venlo.

Ralf and Klaus have both commented that the rear lights on the Quattrovelo are very good. I am also relieved to have a brake light; I don’t have one of these with Millie and I think it is a very important safety addition, particularly when riding in velomobile convoys which I do surprisingly regularly!

We crossed the Maas at Beesel/Reuver on the ferry.

We crossed back again at Steyl

Whilst riding through Steyl we took the cycle path which had lots of 90 degree bends. I remarked to Ralf afterwards, “I could never have done this in Millie!” Despite the Quattrovelo also having enclosed wheels, the turning circle is significantly better which is a real help.

In total I rode 101km in the Quattrovelo at an average speed of 21.4 which was an improvement on my earlier speeds (it was also a much warmer day).

Pimp my velomobile

I had been pondering over a name for the Quattrovelo for some time. It looks very like an owl so was working on owl-themed names (see the photo below for the owl similarities) during the long, long wait after my order was placed.

Klaus was keen on Athene as her familiar was an owl but I felt the QV was male. I was leaning towards some old English names for chaps who might have been racing British Racing Green cars in the 20s and 30s, so thought of Montmorency, Humphrey, Quentin… At Christmas I discussed this with my Mum and then we came up with the name Merlin which had an owl link and was a cool name. That was the top of my name choice before I met the Quattrovelo, but I knew I would have to wait until I met my actual one.

For the first two weeks I didn’t bond enough to name it, but then on the way over the hill in Grefrath whilst riding to Ralf’s for our Roermond trip I decided on the name for the Quattrovelo. I suppose it was at that point that I decided I liked it enough to keep and so I started to bond with it. And despite assuming before I collected the Quattrovelo that I would choose Merlin for the name, I actually decided at the end that Humphrey was a better choice. So Humphrey he is!

I had of course decorated the mirrors with a Union Jack (which I have subsequently redone with better quality reflectives) but I also felt it would be good to include my blog address as well, so I had ordered some lettering from eBay as well as a little flag and I fitted them.

Klaus and I rode to Kempen for a talk about Hans Jonas and Josef Goebbels, two sons of Mönchengladbach, and he took some excellent photographs of Humphrey after the event.

Another change I made was actually a rather expensive one. I have used a Garmin Oregon for the last 6-7 years (I am on my second one) and I really like it. On Millie the Oregon mount fits on the top of the tiller and it is therefore in an ideal position to see and also if I need to zoom in on the map or anything.

With the Quattrovelo, the tiller can be stashed behind the Süllrand/opening in a special area and in fact has to be in order for me to get out. However, it is impossible to fit the Oregon mount onto the tiller and still fit it behind the little tiller holder thingie.

Here is the tiller stashed behind the Süllrand:

There is very little clearance, it only just fits, thus the very thick Garmin mount had no chance.

A friend Stefan said he could 3D print me a mount to have on the right hand side front wheel arch and I said this would be great. However he was ill and didn’t have a chance to print it for a while and in the meantime I gaffer taped the Oregon mount to the relevant area and realised it was just too far away for comfortable vision, plus I had to take my eyes off the road to see it. It wasn’t a very satisfactory position.

Klaus has a Garmin Edge 1000 which has a different (very flat) mount and this fits fine on Celeste. He had a spare mount and fitted it to Humphrey so he could use his Edge when he took Humphrey out for a spin,

Here is the tiller with the Edge mount on – as you can see, it is very much flush with the grips.

It became clear to me that the only worthwhile option was to upgrade to an Edge 1000 too. So I ordered it and it arrived and I am very pleased with it so far. I will sell my Oregon as it works brilliantly and is in great condition.

Quattrovelo by sunset

I have to say, the Quattrovelo is a very good looking velomobile. As is the Milan. I pride myself on my choice of attractive velomobiles!

And here I am heading off into the distance (an unusual sight!)

Notice that this is a fairly rough road (a Wirtschaftsweg). The Quattrovelo definitely rolls more comfortably over potholey or cobbled roads compared to Millie.

My conclusions after 2 weeks of Quattrovelo ownership

I am writing this post two weeks after I collected Humphrey and having ridden 350km in him. And these are my main thoughts:

PROS

  • Very attractive velomobile; as the Germans would say, a real Hingucker
  • Good rain protection
  • Very well organised cockpit with trays both sides for  your possessions (this is part of the structural rigidity of the QV but is also handy, although needs non-slip matting)
  • Build quality seems good
  • Excellent stability at the rear, corners well and feels safe
  • Single-sided axles on all wheels so tyres can be changed without dismounting the wheels
  • Huge boot – you can chuck the kitchen sink in there and forget about it (assuming it is a lightweight kitchen sink)
  • Excellent lighting
  • Very good access to front and rear gubbins if something goes wrong (two footholes at the front and a removable panel underneath, rear gears just covered by a plastic cover – which will have soundproof foam added very soon!)
  • Gearing range is suitable for me (with a 75 tooth chainring at the front with a Mountain Drive, at the rear I have an 11 speed cassette)
  • Trigger shifter for the gears which works well
  • Drum brakes at the front (larger ones, 90mm) seem to stop me perfectly adequately. I do not regret not ordering the optional rear disc brakes
  • Schaumdeckel/foam cover keeps you warmer when riding and is also excellent to stop people getting into the velomobile when you leave it parked somewhere

CONS

  • Relatively heavy for this price level of velomobile (apparently it is 36kg and cost me just under 9000 EUR)
  • Lots of noise from the drivetrain just behind the seat
  • Also apparently noisy hubs on the back wheels (this may quieten down over time)
  • Reports of new Quattrovelos not being completely checked out before going to the customer so there are issues (my binding brake was a very minor version of this)
  • Narrows at the waist between the front and back wheels which gives much less arm space inside
  • Nothing to hold the tiller up
  • Required an additional Garmin purchase by me!
  • Strange wind whistling noise around the front visor when the wind is blowing from a certain direction
  • Front wheels throw mud on the sides just before the rear wheels. Most photos of Quattrovelos have a dirty section here.
  • When sitting in the QV it is not possible for me to get something out of the boot, such as the Schaumdeckel/foam cover or my purse.

There are obviously lots more things I could say but I will need to ride Humphrey a bit more to get a better view. However, after my 2 weeks of riding I felt that Humphrey will be a very good addition to the velomobile stable, but I will not be selling Millie just yet. If we want to have a fast ride on a nice summer’s day without carrying a lot of luggage then Millie would be the better choice. I am very lucky to have such a choice!

Next week Klaus and I are doing some touring as we have a week’s holiday from work so I will get a lot more kilometres under Humphrey’s belt and can give some reports on how I found him as a touring velomobile. Millie was a very pleasant surprise when we toured with her before, but Humphrey is a very different kettle of fish. We shall see!

An update after our tour.

We went on tour when it was minus 3 outside and slightly snowing. This isn’t ideal touring weather, but the three days and 230km gave me a good chance to get more acquainted with the Quattrovelo.

Unfortunately this tour didn’t teach me to love the Quattrovelo more. Its drawbacks (weight and narrow cockpit) become more and more irritating the more you ride. I was exhausted after relatively short rides as I just don’t have the power to propel a very heavy velomobile with a very heavy Helen in it at great speed.

What became more of an issue on the longer day rides was the lack of space for my elbows and arms. They were squashed against my body but at the same time rubbing against the sides of the velomobile. The cold was wicking through to my bones/titanium and the constant rubbing of my right elbow was getting sore. When I got back in the Milan again after the tour it was such a relief to have my arms in a comfortable position supported by the armrests (for which there is no room in the QV for me) and also the tiller being fixed higher so it does not have to be held up by me. Supporting the tiller with my right hand whilst the left (disabled) arm hangs off it leads to a lot of arm pain after a few hours.

The turning circle of the Quattrovelo was useful on the Netherlands cycle routes and the luggage capacity meant it didn’t take long each morning to stow my stuff, but these benefits were vastly outweighed by the fact it was slow and heavy and uncomfortable. It seems that my seat may also have broken (but I have to check this further).

The day after the tour I collected my Milan from Ralf’s where it has been stored for a month. What a fantastic feeling to ride in it again – fast, nimble, not quite as noisy and overall so much more comfortable for the rider. The drawbacks (low front so you scrape, massive turning circle) are not that dramatic and are far outweighed by the positives of speed and comfort.

The Quattrovelo has now been put into my other garage (500 metres away) and I will use the Milan for the next few days. When the rain comes I will swap back to the Quattrovelo, but for a dry day it seems to this rider at least that the Milan is a much better option.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Humphrey the Quattrovelo, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany