Six Wheels In Germany – Month 19

October 2015

cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

October statistics

And here is the map of all my tracks.

October rides

Another interesting (well, to me anyway!) statistic relates to this photo:

Rear puncture

This is a rear wheel puncture in Alfie. What’s so odd about that, you ask? Well, it just so happens that I am a bit nerdy and have kept a record of all the punctures that I have had with Alfie over the time I have owned him.

Punctures

As you can see from this spreadsheet, punctures in the rear wheel are very unusual. What you can also see is that since I have moved to Germany I have had the longest ever gap between punctures. In fact I have only had three altogether in eighteen months, one of which was a puncture which I managed to get when the bike was in the car somehow. The lack of hawthorn hedges probably accounts for this puncture avoidance, especially considering i was running Kojaks for 3000 miles and they aren’t very puncture resistant. You will also see that the Panaracer Minits Tough which I had in the UK before I moved to Germany were decidedly untough. 10 punctures in under 1000 miles meant I swapped those out and went back to Marathons.

I had bought a Schwalber Energizer Plus tyre whilst at SPEZI this year and decided to put that on the back wheel of Alfie when I repaired this puncture (the old tyre had a nasty slash so I had to chuck it). So I fitted the tyre, put the wheel back in Alfie… and then discovered that the tyre was a bit bigger overall and was fouling the mudguard. So I took it off again and put another Marathon back on. The Energizer will have to go on Penelope instead.

Cycle Rides this month

A ride to LaPaDu

In January I rode with Klaus to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg) which is the site of an old industrial complex which has been turned into a park and visitor’s attraction and was very interesting. There was snow lying on the ground that time and the route wasn’t always ideal.

Anyway, I decided to visit again (with the possibly of continuing on to the Zollverein in Essen which is also apparently worth a visit). Klaus had ridden to LaPaDu with Claudia a few weeks before and had found a much better route, so he agreed to plot a route for me starting from my house. It wasn’t going to be exactly the same as his route as he knew I would be taking the Velomobile.

LaPaDu track

So I set off, following some familiar paths past Hülser Berg. The route I took is the more wiggly one on the map above, the more south route at the beginning and where the tracks cross I then took the northerly section which then got very wiggly. There were a couple of reasons for these wiggles. One was…

Cycle path stairs

This is sub-optimal for a velomobile but Klaus had no idea there was such an obstacle when he was drawing the track using Google Maps. Anyway, I was able to find a slope which took me up to the end of these stairs (there were five such flights of stairs to get you up to an elevated section which was an old railway line).

The route was actually great, very scenic and not going through the grotty bit of Duisburg, although there were lots of turns and stops/starts which is a bit hard work in a heavy velomobile.

There was also this railway crossing which was impossible in Penelope.

Railway crossing

Fortunately a minor detour of 200 metres took me over the railway without the tricky gates.

There was also a very interesting bit of cycle route which was a metal bridge that took you from the road up to another elevated section of former railway. It was pretty steep – one of those bits of cycle route that made me wish for a lower lowest gear. But I made it!

Ten per cent

When I got to LaPaDu the place was swarming with schoolchildren. I cycled around and then headed for the café as I was in need of some cake.

LaPaDu Cake

Although it was a lovely sunny day, I got pretty cold once I stepped out of Penelope because I had sweated a lot with the ride (lots of stops and starts and uphills which are hard work) so I sat inside at the café.

As lovely as the route had been on the way to LaPaDu, I fancied a faster and more velomobile-friendly return route, even if it was rather less scenic, so I just followed my Garmin and zoomed back along the main Landstraßen via Neukirchen-Vluyn which did involve then going up the hill to Tönisberg right at the end. But it was a very enjoyable 66.5km ride at an average speed of 18.7.

A ride to NL to meet Oliver

The next morning I had a facebook message from Oliver – he had the day off and fancied a ride, did I want to cycle with him to Düsseldorf or Venlo or somewhere?

That sounded like a great plan. As I’d visited Düsseldorf twice in the previous week I suggested Venlo so we arranged to meet there a few hours later. Oliver said he had read about a new bike track there and was interested in visiting it – and I said that I knew the chap who was the organiser and I would get in touch with him and see if he would open it up for us to see (this was Henk who I met in August when riding with the Wowbaggers). I did think it rather amusing that a Dutchman who wanted to look at a Dutch facility would find it useful to know an Englishwoman who lives in Germany and who had the required contacts.

Here is the track from the ride today.

Ride with Oliver track

Oliver and I met at Venlo main station as planned.

Oliver at Venlo Station

VMs nose to nose

I had had a call from Henk and it seemed he wouldn’t be available until after two so Oliver and I decided to cycle to Steijl for a cup of tea and piece of cake. We set off but only got as far as Tegelen before we had a call from Henk who said he could meet us at the racetrack in half an hour, so we turned back and rode straight there, arriving just five minutes before Henk.

Here is Oliver standing outside and modelling his Cycle Vision t-shirt.

Oliver at the bike park

Cycle Vision is a yearly race for bikes held at Venray which is 50km up the road from Venlo. Oliver had in mind the possibility of moving Cycle Vision to the Venlo racetrack if it was more suitable, thus the visit.

Henk was his usual friendly and helpful self, he is justifiably proud of the facilities they have developed over the last few years.

Oliver and Henk

Oliver and Henk 2

He had a go in Penelope and found her rather heavy.

Racetrack track

He had a go in the Mango and undoubtedly found that better. I took lots of photos of him with his camera as he zoomed towards me in the yellow velomobile. Oliver then decided to have a race around the track and Henk decided to go with him… but was rather taken aback by the speed of the Mango which went way ahead (Henk has won some time trials for his age group locally). Oliver was way out in front and hadn’t really warmed up. Good fun!

We said goodbye to Henk after having a good look around and then Oliver and I felt it was definitely time for some food. I said I’d prefer to go to Germany for food (better choice, better price) so we headed for the Krickenbecker See but had no luck finding something suitable open, so ended up at Waldesruh which I have occasionally visited. They were having an Oktoberfest month so the menu was different – we both plumped for Kaiserschmarrn which is ideal cyclist food.

Kaiserschmarrn

After lunch I waved goodbye to Oliver and headed home. 62.5km for me for the day at an average of 19 km/h. By the time I got home Penelope’s seat was creaking rather badly – two days of over 60km had rather stressed the cracked metal on the seat so I decided I should only use Penelope for short runs until it is fixed.

Fit durch den Winter

The Tour des Monats in Kreis Viersen series of rides takes place in the spring and summer months but Hartmut also organises ADFC-affiliated rides called ‘Fit durch den Winter’ which are on the last Sunday of each month. As the weather forecast was OK for the October ride I decided to give it a go, especially as it was starting in Kempen and finishing up in the restaurant Ela in Kempen where Hartmut had invited some of us to celebrate his birthday with him.

This is the track of the ride today.

ADFC ride track

We met in Kempen at the castle, a group of eight people including Jochen with his seven-year-old daughter. We headed off towards Wachtendonk at which point the group got slightly split up. Hartmut had provided me with a GPS route but had subsequently changed slightly his plan but as I was up ahead I led us the wrong way. We met up again in due course though. Jochen and his daughter turned back as they didn’t want too long a ride, so now we were six.

Riding through the autumn

ADFC Ride 1

We had to stop for this excellent toadstool!

Hartmut and toadstool

Our lunch stop was at De Witt See. The restaurant there reopened in May, although I’d already visited it a couple of times. We had a leisurely lunch which for me included two slices of cake. What a piggy!

At lunch stop

On the way back we cycled to Mühlenberg which was a tea room that I had not previously visited! We stopped there for a minute for Hartmut to deliver some ‘Rad am Niederrhein’ magazines, and for me to have a quick look around.

Zum Muehlenberg

A surprising claim to fame for this café!

Highest point between Duesseldorf and Amsterdam

We rode back to Kempen and then I headed straight home to freshen up before returning by car for Hartmut’s birthday meal. It was an enjoyable 54km ride in great company as always.

The evening meal was also really good fun.

Hartmut's Birthday Meal 1

Fahrrad Stammtisch

Once a month, on the third Thursday, there is a Stammtisch (social meeting) of cyclists in the restaurant Ela in Kempen. I’ve been to most of these and it’s a good chance to chat to some of my friends.

Here’s a few pictures from this month’s Stammtisch – I managed to persuade Jochen to pose for a selfie…

Jochen and Helen

And here is Uli.

Uli

And here is my very tasty baklava dessert.

Baklava

Rad am Niederrhein Article

Andreas Domanski, the head of the ADFC Krefeld/Kreis Viersen, had asked me to write an article about my experiences of cycling in Germany. So I did, translated it into German, then got Gudula my landlady to help me improve the German (she did a LOT of improving!)

Here are some pics of the article as it was printed but you can read it online here: Rad am Niederrhein article

Six Wheels Article 1

Six Wheels Article 2

Bike maintenance

This month Penelope has been partly out of service. This is for two reasons.

The first problem, which I mentioned last month, is one that many cyclists report in the bottom brackets of their bikes, variously known as the ‘crack ‘o doom’. Mine was in a somewhat different place, the metal frame of the seat, but was clearly getting worse after two 65km days cycling, so Penelope was transferred to light duties (shopping in St Hubert) until I could get a replacement from Gerrit Tempelman.

However Frank, my landlord, who enjoys an occasional engineering challenge, asked me to give him the cracked bit of metal to see if he could find an aluminium welder to have a go at it. It seems aluminium welders are thin on the ground so he sourced an alternative – a stainless steel tube which would work. It needed some screw threads drilled into it, which is how the seat tube attaches to the frame of Penelope, and said he didn’t have the right tool but that a neighbour did so the new tube was taken up the road to a neighbour and came back a few days later.

It was fitted to Penelope and was perfect! She is back on the road again, hurrah!

Penelope new seat tube 2

(the blue thing the seat is leaning against is my car – I haven’t bought another velomobile (yet!))

Penelope new seat tube 1

The second is that her battery charger (for the batteries that run the lights, indicators and hooter – remember, no electric motor for my Penelope!) stopped working. I plugged in one of her two batteries to recharge and nothing happened. This explained the mysterious ‘BANG!’ noise from my recharging station a few days before. I couldn’t work out what had happened… but eventually I found out what had caused the bang.

I had long planned to change the connectors that Penelope uses as I find them fiddly and also a bit prone to breaking (they are Tamiya connectors) and this seemed like an ideal time, but the reality is that I wanted to get Penelope back on the road in case of rain and my tame electronic engineer Klaus would we away for work a lot with little spare time to sort out my electrics, so I decided to buy a replacement for the existing charger, with the Tamiya connectors, and do something about the overall connector issue at a later date. Mañana mañana.

Penelope charger

Alfie, too, has slightly been in the wars. In last month’s Ruhrtal Tour I noticed that a bolt had sheared in the rack. Frank my Landlord sorted that for me but the rack has subsequently developed a lot of rattles and bangs and some bits of the fitting are cracking away (some plastic washers that some pins go through). I phoned ICE to ask what to do and they are sending me an old rack (the design has been changed twice since Alfie was delivered) which has most, but not all, of the parts and hopefully there are enough bits together to cobble together one rack. We shall see!

Life in Germany

Life in Germany continues. The winter is approaching and the weather has turned colder and damper (at least in the first half of October) but overall it was still pretty decent weather.

However, the winter is coming so it seemed like a good idea to find some indoor sports. I had played squash with Lara R who lives with me last month and that was good. This month I was able to persuade Claudia and little Lara to also give it a go.

Squash 1

I love the speed and ferocity of the game but it’s not that easy to start with. The conclusion of Claudia and Lara was that badminton is more their thing. However, after our hour of squash in Mönchengladbach we treated ourselves to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet lunch. Yum!

Chinese 1

That was the first of my three platefuls. I felt a bit dodgy afterwards having rather overdone it, but it was very tasty!

Anyway, Claudia suggested that we try badminton instead the next week, so we did.

Badminton 1

Badminton 2

Badminton 3

I’m much better at squash than badminton but it was fun and not quite as knackering!

The job search

My job search continues. Despite having very good academic qualifications in the UK they aren’t particularly useful in Germany. However I am being open-minded about work and am applying for things that I think I could do, even if I have had no experience.

I have registered at a temping agency as that might be a good way to get to know the German work environment, although the pay is pretty bad apparently.

I have done lots of job applications and have been invited for a few interviews. On the 28th October I had an interview in Krefeld-Uerdingen for a job as a postwoman for Postcon which is the Dutch post company which has expanded into Germany.

Anyway, the advert said they were looking for people to deliver in Kempen, Hüls and Krefeld. I thought it worth a punt as Kempen might be OK and not too far to cycle, so I applied and was invited for the interview day.

They asked us to arrive at 10am so at ten to ten I arrived at the door on Alfie, parked him round the back and went in. They asked me to take a seat in the mail sorting area – I was the first to arrive. Another chap arrived pretty much on the dot of ten. Only two of us!

The lady from HR started to explain the job and after ten minutes two Russian chaps arrived and also sat down. The lady continued and it became obvious that one of the Russian chaps was translating for the other. At a quarter past ten two other chaps arrived. The others were all in their fifties or sixties, all male.

Although this was supposed to be part time work it turns out to be 30 hours per week with regular (but mostly unpaid!!!) overtime. It’s Monday to Friday (and some Saturdays if you have a backlog) starting at 7am. Oh, and the pay was 8,50€ per hour. This was pretty dire. The lady then said that people had to have a decent command of German so one of the Russians and one of the other guys, who spoke no German, were out. So there were four others and me. She invited me first for the one-to-one interview and seemed really keen on employing me because I am young, fit, speak German and am clearly a cyclist (I told them how much I cycled). I would have to use one of their bikes though which are big and heavy with massive panniers on the front. I was very unsure as to whether this would work for me but thought I could try.

Then the unexpected news. No vacancy in Kempen, I’d have to go to Hüls. This was very bad news and I was inclined to say ‘no’ there and then but she was very keen for me to do the two day Probetag (trial days) where I shadow another worker. So I signed up for this and left. I don’t know how much success she’ll have with the other chaps.

On my ride home I thought more about it and decided against taking up the job (and therefore not wasting their time with the Probetag). Working from 7am till 2pm, sometimes as late as 4pm, in all weathers on a heavy bike with no overtime and having to drive to Hüls first, and the Krefeld side of Hüls so quite a long way, is no way worth it for 8,50€. So I telephoned the lady in Hüls to say I would not be taking up the Probetag. But it is all an experience!

Breakfast at Royals Café

Last month our team won the Royals Café English Quiz again (the team of Christine and Andreas my neighbours, Uli my cycling chum and me) and once again we received a voucher for a breakfast. We finally managed to organise all meeting at the café for breakfast. Unfortunately in the end Uli couldn’t make it but Sarah, who had been in our winning team the month before, was also able to come with her partner, so there were five of us for a Saturday English Breakfast.

I ordered tea with my breakfast and checked that it was proper British tea. Yes, it was.

Royals Teabag

The full English breakfast arrived… and was as one would expect.

Full English

We also had the traditional rack of toast, except the bread was a bit German.

Toast rack

It was a very nice way to spend a Saturday morning and I enjoyed a bit of genuine English food (the sausages and bacon are imported from the UK). I hope to go again soon with my second voucher.

Cinema trip

As I am unemployed and have a bit of time on my hands during the day I decided to go to the cinema to watch The Martian in Krefeld. This would be watching the film with German dubbing but as I’d read the book a couple of times I thought that would be OK.

I haven’t been to the cinema much and it’s got pretty pricey – 9,70€ for a showing at two in the afternoon. I was a trifle late so only had a few minutes before the film started when I arrived and the queue for popcorn was long so I eschewed it – which was a mistake as of course we had 25 minutes of adverts and I was popcornless for the entire film.

The Martian Helen

It was good though – I’ll probably see it again on DVD sometime.

The Martian

A visit to Marieke in the Netherlands

Many years ago, before I discovered cycling, I had some other hobbies, one of which was following the band Muse when they were fairly new on the scene. The official Muse messageboard was a great forum and I got to know some good friends there, including Stefan from Germany, Johanna from Finland, and Marieke and Jet from the Netherlands. We visited each other several times, and in fact Stefan popped in to see me when I was in Nettetal three years ago on holiday.

Anyway, four or so years ago Marieke and I had met in Arnhem for the day and as she only lives two hours’ drive away I thought it was about time I went to see her, so a visit was duly arranged.

I said I’d bring along some German cakes so bought some from Café Poeth and headed to Hilversum, near Amsterdam, in my little Honda Jazz.

It was wonderful to see Marieke again and to visit her new house.

We shared the cakes (Marieke’s partner Branco also had one).

German cakes

Here we are.

Helen and Marieke

And these are the very pretty little marzipan biscuits Marieke provided.

Marzipan biscuits

She also gave me a box of Dutch food goodies such as the Droste Pastilles (milk chocolate) and other goodies including something for Sinterklaas (which is in December).

Marieke and biscuits

It was lovely to have a chance to catch up with Marieke and chat about life. Since we last met she’s had a daughter and moved house so there was lots to hear about.

Helen and Marieke 2

We have resolved to meet up again much sooner than four years, and maybe also see if we can get Stefan to come along as he doesn’t live that far away either.

A non-concert in Mainz

I have long been a fan of the countertenor Andreas Scholl and have attended many of his concerts in the UK and Germany. I was delighted to see that he would be singing English folk songs in a church in Mainz, just two and a half hours away. Klaus and Claudia said they would like to come along and so I investigated tickets which were, amazingly, free of charge! So I ordered three.

The plan was for Klaus to drive us all to Mainz for the concert then back again – a five hour drive but worth it to hear Mr Scholl.

The day before the concert I got an email… which had a little more information about the concert:

wir freuen uns wie Sie schon auf das Konzert “Wenn die Musik der Liebe Nahrung ist” mit englischen Lautenliedern unter der Leitung von Andreas Scholl.

Hmmm…. that seemed a bit odd. He’s directing the concert? A bit more investigation on their website turned up the following information:

Solistinnen und Solisten von BAROCK VOKAL – Kolleg für Alte Musik an der HfM Mainz

In other words, it was members of the Music School doing the concert, not Andreas Scholl (who has been Artist in Residence there).

We had a bit of a think about it and decided that a five hour round trip in the car was a bit too much to hear some unknowns sing, so decided to cancel our plans. Which left me feeling a bit of a numpty really but the information had been rather sparse up till now!

Silly signs

I’m used to seeing the stickers saying “eating animals” on STOP signs but this was a new version…

Stop Eating Animals Eat Humans

I also thought this name for a kind of vanilla pudding thingie at Burger King was rather amusing!

Hot blondie

I had to eat a Hot Blondie to try it out. It wasn’t that exciting!

Hot blondie 2

Randomness

My long-suffering friends in the UK know that I like to pick up roadkill vegetables where possible. In the UK I was very lucky to live near fields where onions are grown and was usually able to collect a year’s supply. I’ve had much less success here in Germany, partly because the rules about gleaning are much stricter, but I did pick up a few of these spuds on a roundabout.

Roadkill potatoes

I gave the dog another haircut. The last haircut was by a dog groomer here in Germany and it had been almost a month since that cut. Poppy behaved extremely well this time, she just sat on the bin without moving and so ended up surrounded with her own hair.

Poppy haircut 1

Poppy haircut 2

Talking of hair, I noticed this new shampoo for men in the local Edeka, rather a contrast in marketing idea than the lady’s shampoo next to it:

Shampoos

Cakes this month

The large number of cake photos has been causing problems with reading my blog on some tablets, apparently, so I have put them all together as one image. Except…

I made these Apple Roses from a recipe I found on the internet.

Apple Roses

I also made a pineapple upside down cake which used to be my signature cake. Except I couldn’t find glacé cherries anywhere in the German supermarket so it had to be cherry free.

Pineapple upside down cake

And a Dutch Apple Cake from a recipe from my mother-in-law from an ancient cookery book. All measurements were in ounces and for caster sugar it spelled it ‘castor’ which is apparently an older spelling. Tastes good anyway!

Dutch Apple Cake

And here is the cake montage:

Cake montage October 2015

1 Comment

Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

One Response to Six Wheels In Germany – Month 19

  1. I shouldn’t read this on the day before food shopping 😉 Mmm…. caake.
    One of only two things to defeat the Marathon plus tread so far on Saphira my trike was a hawthorn spike. Nature’s “stingers”.

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