Six Wheels In Germany – August 2016 (Month 29)

Cycling this month

August has been an exceptionally good month for me for cycling mileage – as you can see I’ve done over 1,761km, that’s over 1000 miles. And enjoyed every one of them!

Cycling Statistics this month

Statistics August

And here is the Wheel with where I have gone (excluding a trip I did near Hannover).

Wheel

Rhein-Maas Cycle Tour

At the very beginning of August I undertook a trike tour along the Rhein, Waal and Maas rivers with Klaus and Claudia. You can read the reports of this tour here.

Jochen’s birthday breakfast

Jochen had his birthday in July but as various chums were away his Birthday Breakfast Celebration took place early in August, the day after I returned from my cycle tour with Klaus and Claudia.

The plan was to meet in Kempen and then ride together to Landcafé Steudle near Geldern for breakfast. So bright and early we gathered in Kempen – three velomobiles and five normal bikes.

Waiting in Kempen to start

It was a beautiful day for cycling and the route (provided at the last minute by Herbert – Jochen thought that Klaus or I would plan a route, and we thought that he would…) was very scenic although not 100% ideal for Velomobiles.

Here is the track for our 50km ride from Kempen to Steudle and back to Kempen.

Track Steudle

Here we all are underway.

Ride to Steudle 1

Ride to Steudle 2

Ride to Steudle 3

Ride to Steudle 4

When we arrived we sat outside and enjoyed the buffet breakfast, although Klaus just had a slice of cake and coffee as he had to get home as he was driving to the Baltic Sea for a family holiday later that day.

Here we all are.

At Steudle 1

At Steudle 2

We had a very pleasant few hours at the café before deciding it was time to head back to Kempen.

This hen seemed very interested in us.

Chicken and VMs

And in Penelope. A good place to lay an egg?

Chicken and Penelope

We rode back to Kempen and settled onto the picnic benches outside the Markt Grill. Kempen was just awash with cyclists.

At Buttermarkt 2

At Buttermarkt 1

We whiled away the afternoon very pleasantly drinking beer (or water in my case) and trying not to get too worried when people were peering into the velomobiles. As Jochen is a new VM owner he hasn’t quite managed to affect the nonchalance that you never feel when a kid with an ice cream is diving headfirst inside your bike.

4 chaps in Kempen 1

As many beers had flowed, and indeed some Ouzo or similar clear liquid made an appearance, lots of grand plans were made about cycling events over the next few months. One involves using a pistol to shoot more ventilation holes in Jochen’s velomobile, another a massively hilly weekend tour in the Mosel valley where I was unexpectedly invited (I am famous for my hill-avoidance); I expect Hartmut will think better of that invitation once he has sobered up else they’ll be riding till midnight as I winch my way slowly up the hills – and that would mean they didn’t have much time to sample the wine. Who knows!

But all in all it was a very enjoyable birthday celebration for Jochen. And thanks to him for inviting me!

The Duisburg Liegeradtreff… and a Milan!

Klaus and I set off on our usual Sunday ride but he had the whole day rather than just the morning. The original plan was to ride to the German Cemetery in Ysselsteyn, NL, which is near Venray, but then I hit upon the idea to visit ReneF in Duisburg as he has a Milan velomobile and I fancied trying one out, for reasons which will become clear later in this blog.

René said we were welcome to visit and to sit in his Milan and so Klaus and I headed off on what is his normal work commute as far as Duisburg Innenhafen.

Duisburg Treff

We arrived and had a chat outside René’s house. René has lots of very useful information on velomobiles as he has done lots of audaxes in the past. He had a go of Penelope and was a bit shocked at how heavy she is and how much she rolls in the corners.

He then mentioned that the Duisburg Liegeradtreff was just up the road and would we like to go, so we said yes and followed him the short distance to the pedestrian area where we met several recumbent bikers and trikers and caused great interest to the good burghers of Duisburg on a Sunday morning.

3 VMs 1

3 VMs 2

And in due course I managed to squeeze myself into the Milan SL (which is the small version). And yes, I look stupid in this photo – blame photographer Klaus.

Helen in Milan 2

And here I am with the lid on.

Helen in Milan 1

Klaus also had a go. Neither of us could actually pedal the thing as our knees hit the bodywork – we are not small enough it seems – but I was able to get in and out unaided which was an interesting discovery.

We decided to head to Landschaftspark Duisburg next and did a rather scenic route via the main docks where we stopped for a Currywurst for lunch. We then rode on to LaPaDu which was full of visitors.

I loved these symbols on the toilets!

Duisburg toilets

We rode through the park, which was very different in feel to when I had visited in winter when all the trees were bare and there was snow on the ground. This time it felt like nature was really fighting back.

Strada at LaPaDu

We get asked all sorts of questions when out in the velomobiles, and get lots of attention, but a lady at LaPaDu asked a question I have not previously heard in my 98,500km of recumbent riding… “Did you rent this bike?” No, I didn’t. But a random question!

After a short stop for some cake and to refill our water we headed off, deciding to ride back via one of the more northerly bridges. My initial Garmin-following led us down a footpath, then a set of gates we couldn’t pass through, then we gave up and took the main road (third time lucky). We had to pass through a closed road section although the cycle path was still functional but poor Klaus had a coming-together with a bit of road furniture which scratched the front of Celeste a little. It’s not very noticeable but still annoying.

We ended up riding on some of my favourite roads back, the route from Moers to Niep and then Siebenhäuser which is a lovely smooth but quiet road that goes round Tönisberg. It was a very enjoyable day’s ride, 82km in total at an average of 20km/h, not bad considering how slowly we crawled around LaPaDu.

A visit to Räderwerk

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

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

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

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

Helen in Milan 1

Helen in Milan 2

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

Jens had told me to head for Asenburg which is about 10km away and I seemed to arrive there a bit sooner than I expected. I turned round and headed back along the same road, this time able to go a bit faster as I knew that all the corners were manageable. The Milan corners like it’s on rails, a totally different feeling to Penelope (who feels like she is teetering on the edge sometimes as she leans into the corners with her very soft suspension).

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

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

Klaus and Jens

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

Metric Century a Month Challenge

Not only have I managed this twice this month, I have actually managed the Imperial Century (100 miles or 161km) twice too!!

A ride to Kleve and Nijmegen

I had a Sunday with absolutely nothing to do so clearly a long cycle ride was in order. Unfortunately rain was forecast but that was for mid-afternoon and perhaps I would be back by then.

Klaus said he could ride with me for a couple of hours in the morning so I planned a long route north via Kleve and Nijmegen, with several alternative shorter routes if my legs weren’t good, and told Klaus he could come to my house and cycle the first part with me. This seemed a good plan!

Here is my track for the day.

Nijmegen Track

We set off at about 8:30 under slightly grey skies but with a very comfortable temperature of about 18 degrees.

Heading to Geldern

My legs were good and we made decent speed to Geldern, arriving earlier than I had expected. I decided to have breakfast of a filled Fladenbrot to give me energy for my long ride ahead.

Geldern breakfast

Klaus enjoyed a cheesecake and then he set off home as I ploughed on northwards, next stop Kleve (Cleeves).

I was very lucky to have empty roads most of the way.

Riding on empty roads

I whizzed along at an average of 25 km/h, enjoying the long flat roads and lack of traffic lights! I rode through some quiet villages as I headed north. I liked this castle built of hay bales!

Castle of straw bales

As I arrived on the outskirts of Kleve I noticed it was rather hilly. I had to climb slowly up a hill to get onto the ring road and then as I headed round following my track I discovered I had to go over a veritable mountain. It’s visible in the elevation profile of my screenshot above. A real mountain (in Helen world anyway)!

What goes up must come down, so after a breather at the top I started my descent. And boy was that fun! I maintained between 57 and 60 km/h for the three kilometres before it flattened out a bit and I did 40 instead. Because of the gusty wind and Penelope’s relatively high stance I had to continually work to correct her direction on the downhill and probably looked a bit wobbly – none of the cars following me tried to overtake!

It was great fun but more of a hill than I generally like, especially in my velomobile which is heavy and only has 14 gears; the lowest gear isn’t low enough for mountains!

I pootled along, crossing the border into the Netherlands and then noticing up ahead a very large hill. My Garmin seemed to be suggesting I had to ride over it. Surely not?! Surely my route would go around it.

Nope. Mountain number 2 for the day. This one was harder. I had to have an emergency banana halfway up.

Banana up a hill

And when I got to the top I found a restaurant advertising Poffertjes!

Poffertjes

Whilst I was eating my poffertjes the rain started.

The downhill that came when I was back in Penelope was much slower than the last one. The rain was too heavy for me to ride without glasses (it was stinging my eyes) but with glasses it wasn’t always easy to see, so I had to go down pretty slowly, especially as it was a twisty descent. Disappointing!

I made my way to Cuijk for a Maas crossing.

Maas ferry Cuijk

I parked beside a couple of touring bikes and one promptly fell onto Penelope once the ferry started. There didn’t seem to be any damage to my velomobile, fortunately.

It was raining heavily so I just pushed on, still really enjoying myself but slightly regretting I didn’t have my Versatile Roof as that would have kept the area where my phone was lying a bit drier. I couldn’t take photos whilst the rain was this heavy!

I then arrived at the second ferry to take me back across the Maas. I had used this ferry on the trike tour with Klaus and Claudia at the beginning of the month.

Waiting for second Maas ferry

And a view of the Maas with very forbidding clouds!

Oppressive clouds

I arrived in Nieuw Bergen and it was time for some food and drink. I found a little bistro and settled my very wet self in one of their comfortable chairs.

Here’s the typical cyclist clobber – Garmin and smelly gloves!

Garmin and gloves

I enjoyed some hot soup and a cuppa.

Soup

I know the way home from Nieuw Bergen very well and as it’s familiar it seemed very quick, although I had 40 or so kilometres to go. I realised I wouldn’t quite make the Imperial Century with my current track so did a bit of a detour between Straelen and home, going via Aldekerk, which added enough kilometres to make the 100 miles or 163 km.

I arrived home wet but with a typical recumbent grin – what a great ride! I will have to do it again soon, but avoiding the two mountains if possible (I have already found a suitable route and it’s only 170km so a mere 12km detour).

I awarded myself a big chunk of this, my favourite chocolate, having ridden so far!

Milka Lufflee Caramel

My average speed was 22.4km/h and my average heart rate 146, max 175.

A ride to the German Military Cemetery at Ysselsteyn

Klaus had planned a route to the German Military Cemetery at Ysselsteyn (north west of Venlo) several weeks ago and we decided to ride there one Sunday morning.

Because the weather forecast was very hot (33 degrees around midday) and Klaus needed to be back in the afternoon we decided to ride out at ungodly o’clock, which meant leaving home at 6:15 for me, 6:30am for Klaus. We had planned to meet in Grefrath, a common meeting spot when we are riding together.

Here is the track for the day.

Track to Ysselsteyn

I wasn’t very fast when ! set off, averaging about 20 km/h (I have speeded up recently and tend to average between 22 and 25 now) but I think this was the early morning and lack of breakfast.

I did get to see a lovely sunrise though!

Sunrise

We rode to Venlo on familiar roads, then headed west on what was a new route for us and included the new greenway which has been developed for Venlo. It was a very enjoyable morning for cycling as the temperature was just right, around 22 degrees, and there were almost no cars.

I was most surprised to discover that, after just 40km, I had already reached America!

America

We rode on and soon arrived at the Cemetery.

Friedhof sign

Ysselsteyn info

The cemetery is on rolling ground which means when you first see the gravestones, all crosses marked with the names and dates of the soldiers and their ranks (Klaus was able to explain these to me), it just seems like a lot.

Graves 1

But then as you walk through you go over small rises and see more and more…

Graves 2

And then you realise over 31,000 German soldiers lie here. All soldiers who died in the Netherlands were moved to this site, including a few from the First World War.

Graves 3

The number of crosses marching across the grass is very poignant and I felt very emotional seeing all these young men who died.

Graves 4

And not just young men, there was a section with many women’s names, and also some babies and children (judging by the birth and death dates).

Graves women

We had to sit down a couple of times on the benches to try to digest all that we were seeing.

Graves on slopes

For me, as an Englishwoman, it was interesting that I felt just as much sadness seeing these graves, even though presumably some of these young men were happy to fight for the Third Reich, as I would seeing the graves of Allied soldiers. It’s the total futility and waste of war that comes across when you see these. I also found the vast number of these graves really sad – the families of these young men never knew what happened to them.

Unknown soldier

It was a sombre experience visiting this cemetery. I have not been to the Allied cemeteries in Belgium or France but it makes me want to perhaps do this one day.

All these wasted lives. So many young men wiped out.

Graves 5

It was with a very thoughtful mood that we rejoined our velomobiles and set off again.

Velomobiles

We had done 55km to get here and I had another 100km to go. I had brought 1.5 litres of water but had already drunk most of it so we thought it sensible to stop for some breakfast soon, but not straight away as we had spent a lot of time walking around the cemetery and could use another break later rather than straight away.

In the end we found ourselves in a village called Helenaveen 20km later and stopped at a food place that was serving cake.

Cake

Rather strangely I could only eat about half of it – I think the visit to the cemetery had rather dampened my appetite. So Klaus got some bonus Apple Cake. We refilled all our water bottles which was useful and set off towards Roermond.

Klaus had planned the route and it was very good but we were surprised by a fairly long stretch of off-road.

Off road

It was a lovely path along a canal with various other cyclists saying hello as we whizzed by, but we couldn’t ride as fast as normal because of the path so we were getting later and later.

We were riding through bits of countryside with names we had never before seen, a totally new stomping ground, but as it was the Netherlands the cycle paths were mainly very good although there were lots of sticks and small branches everywhere as there had been a wild storm last night. We had to weave around the larger branches but survived unscathed.

We arrived in Roermond and cycled through the centre. I caught sight of a Frites place and was feeling peckish (we had now ridden 100km) so I stopped and bought a small parcel.

Frites in Roermond

I was eating these as we made our way out of Roermond which involved a lot of traffic lights and also some uphill but we survived!

As we were heading out of Roermond a car parked in a layby up ahead and a man got out and started waving his arms at us. So we stopped and he told us he has a Quest and rides regularly with a friend with a Strada and he also knew our friend Oliver who has a yellow Mango. This chap had had all sorts of velomobiles in the past so we exchanged comments about them. I told him I was considering a Milan and he was less keen on that than the Strada but the Strada (and Quest and QuattroVelo) are too difficult for me to get out of because of my disability. We had a great chat though and he took lots of photos of us.

Klaus had plotted for us to do the Meinweg section of cycle route which is lovely wide asphalt just for bikes but it inconveniently has some hills. He was way faster than me up them but I enjoyed overtaking some elderly people on touring bikes – the only scalps I will ever get going uphill in Penelope.

Klaus was waiting at the top and as it was getting really late and he’s much quicker than me I suggested he rode home alone and I would take a different route. It would save him about half an hour. His original aim was to be home between 1 and 2 but it was likely to be 3:30pm before he got home if he went alone, and if he waited for me maybe another half hour (as the route was quite hilly), so he went off alone and I did my best to keep up, at least initially. I managed to keep up with him for at least ten metres!

I then wended my way through the villages started with B (Birth, Brüggen, Born, Bracht and Breyell), making fairly good speed. I was running low on water so when I got to Sassenfeld I stopped at a restaurant we have often visited and had a pancake (which I forgot to photograph!) and a cup of tea and also refilled my bottles. The people were amazed to hear I had already done 140 kilometres.

From here the route is very familiar but I decided I wanted to go for the Imperial Century so had to add another 10km or so, so when I got to Grefrath rather than retracing my route of the morning I headed north to Vinkrath and then to Abtei Mariendonk.

Unfortunately as I was leaving Grefrath Penelope’s suspension played up again – she did this a week or so ago, the suspension gets jammed fully down. It rides OK but the whole bike is leaning to the right, like riding with a very strong camber!

Here is what the dodgy side looks like on the left, the normal side on the right:

Low side

She had done it slightly earlier on the ride and I was able to fix it by pushing my fist between the wheel and wheel arch and extending my hand, but I couldn’t do it at all in Grefrath. Oh well, I just had to keep riding.

I got home and as I turned into the driveway whilst braking the suspension popped back up again. All was back to normal. But I decided this really needed to be fixed properly and as I would be travelling to England this week and so unable to use Penelope I would take the offending part off and post it to Gerrit Templeman in Dronten – I had already mentioned to him when it had gone wrong before and he said he could take it apart and have a look.

Last time Frank helped me but this time he just gave me the tools and I did it myself. Frank is like that, he assumes that you will learn how to do stuff and doesn’t assume that women are all incompetent. I really like that! Obviously it took me a bit longer to do it on my own but I managed!

Penelope without suspension

The next trick was to find a suitable-size box to put the suspension arm in and then post it to Dronten.

The ride was brilliant though, 161.9km at an average of 22.4km/h, average heart rate 138 and maximum 185. And if you would like to relive the ride as a video, here is your chance!!

https://www.relive.cc/view/692159923

A short ride – with a rainbow

Klaus and I arranged to ride together one evening and picked St Tönis as our meeting place. I thought we could ride to Uerdingen from there to take a look at the Rhein.

Anyway, Klaus was already there when I arrived. And barely thirty seconds later Jochen turned up in his Strada. He had cycled 160km already and had seen Penelope’s front lights when he was heading through St Tönis so went to investigate.

Jochen Klaus and Penelope

We asked if he wanted to join us and he said yes, so we all headed for Uerdingen.

Halfway there a sudden heavy rainshower started so we sheltered under some trees until the worst was over. Then we set off again and were treated to a lovely rainbow.

Jochen Klaus Rainbow

The rainbow was still in evidence when we arrived at the Rhein. We were at the ferry crossing (which was closed for the evening) and were probably disturbing the two young people in the car!

Rainbow over Rhine

We crossed over the small bridge past the Crefelder Yacht Harbour as night was falling.

Crossing bridge in Krefeld

We headed back from Uerdingen, once again trusting my Garmin to plot us a route on the fly. Now I have no trouble finding Uerdingen but have tried twice before to plot a route back whilst on the road and have found myself in a less-than-successful route. Klaus has enjoyed commenting about my suboptimal routefinding.

So this time I promised them I would do better. And it was all going swimmingly, we were going on roads that I recognised that went in the right direction (and not through the centre of Krefeld which happened last time) and then suddenly we were sent up a side road and onto a footpath.

We cycled gamely on, and then I became a bit concerned as the footpath had got to a very narrow path, only about 30cm wide, with grass either side. The chaps were brave enough to carry on though so after 500 metres of cycling on grass we got to a slightly more suitable road. And eventually onto more familiar routes which were somewhat better! And we were soon on the right road and cycled together to Hüls. From there Klaus took the direct route home and Jochen and I headed towards St Hubert.

It was lovely to bump into Jochen unexpectedly. He ended up with more than 200km for the day but he is using Endeavour all the time and achieving great distances and speeds for a newcomer to recumbent cycling.

Life in Germany

New job

I started a new job this month!

I am working at a mixing and packaging company and am slowly learning the ropes. My job is in administration and I am looking after a major client who is Russian. Communication language is mostly English but with some German involved, and of course in the office it’s mostly German but with occasional English bits.

There is a lot to learn and no real handover from my predecessor who left in July but hopefully I will get a grip on it all before too long. I will be picking up extra areas of work responsibility in due course but we are starting relatively slowly which is good.

A photographic shoot

Last month I was interviewed for Niederrhein Tourismus GmbH for an article entitled “The Niederrhein from the view of a recumbent triker” (but in German). They wanted to take some photos to go with the article but had to wait for the perfect weather – obviously the Tourist Board wants blue sky and sunshine!

That day came and the photographer contacted me. We met near Tönisberg and he explained to me what he wanted to achieve – firstly, photos from the Trike as he went down a hill, so he hopped on Alfie and headed off, camera in hand.

Photographer 1

We went to a couple of other locations, and then returned to my house and I collected Penelope and we took some more photos with her. I reckon he took maybe 300 photos in all, and in due course I will have access to them. If I can find one where I am not gurning I will post it on this blog!

Visit to England

At the very end of the month I headed to England for a few days for a hospital appointment and to visit my Mum. For once supplies of teabags in my kitchen are sufficient that I don’t have to panic about getting more!

My Mum is coming back to Germany with me for a week so it will be good to show her around a bit more. She’s visited me here twice before but this time will have more time on her own as I have to work from 8:00-13:00 every weekday. She and Poppy will probably enjoy pottering around in the garden!

Cakes this month

Cake August 2016

6 Comments

Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Six Wheels In Germany

6 Responses to Six Wheels In Germany – August 2016 (Month 29)

  1. Nice month. Next time you comming trought Nijmegen you are welcome to drink some tea at my place.

  2. Nice, it’s very hilly at the east side of the city. But I live at the flat side near Wijchen. So it’s safe to come over, only a few bridges to climb over ;-).

  3. Hello from the north of England.
    Really fun reading about your journey’s, and such long trips too.. I have an azub6 ‘bent (2 wheels) which I just about get away with on our tight English hills. Would love a VM but our roads up here really not suited 🙁 The Milan seems to be significantly more efficient than Penelope – maybe due somewhat to not running the Rholhoff? Best regards, Paul

    • There are actually lots of reasons why the Milan is faster. For a start it’s 27kg instead of 47kg, more aerodynamic shape, closed footholes, lower centre of gravity, enclosed wheelboxes and of course more efficient gearing (derailleur instead of Rohloff). But I think the Rohloff wouldn’t account for too much of the speed and weight differential, but it’s like Marginal Gains, lots of small things together can equal a large amount.

      • At 47kg your aversion to hills is understandable 🙂
        I just weighed my Azub – it’s only 5kg lighter than the Milan weight you mention. That’s quite an achievement. With a slight downhill gradient as well as on the flat I do pick up a good pace in comparison to my ‘normal’ bike

Leave a Reply