Six Wheels In Germany – Month 22

January 2016

Cycling this month

Here is the list of this month’s rides:

January statistics

As you can see, I had a good month and was able to cycle over 1000km.

Here is the map of the places I went (the trip to Essen out on the east of this map was to collect my car so I drove home with the trike in the car)

January tracks

We had a week of pretty cold weather with a bit of snow and ice. I was still able to ride my velomobile of course – although the new car was out of action as it didn’t have winter tyres (which you are supposed to have if the temperatures are under 7 degrees or there is snow or ice).

Cold and frosty morning

110km to Maasduinen with Hartmut

Hartmut sent an email around to his email list on Saturday 9th January to say he would be doing a 90km ride from Krickenbecker See to Venlo and then up past Venray to Maasduinen National Park the next day, and would anyone like to come along? It sounded like a great option so I sent him a message to say I would be there.

It would be a horribly early start to get to Krickenbecker See at 9:30 and I set off at just past 8am, in Penelope. Hartmut had said he was going to drive to Krickenbecker See but as I had no car, and as Alfie had no rear mudguard (it had broken and I had not yet received the new one to fit) and it was a wet day, Penelope was the only real choice – which meant riding the 20km to Krickenbecker See, the 90km loop and then 20 back. Although I realised I could perhaps do a cross-country shortcut at the end to Straelen.

Here is the track of the day.

Maasduinen 1 track

I cycled on the roads rather than cycle paths as I set off towards Krickenbecker See. This early on a Sunday morning Germany is pretty much asleep so I was only passed by a couple of cars. It was a beautiful clear day, although with a very strong wind and quite chilly, but perfect velomobile conditions. I was rewarded with some beautiful light as the sun rose through the trees.

Sunlight filtering through trees

I arrived at the Krickenbecker See Info Centre five minutes early expecting to see a group of cyclists milling around waiting for the off, but no-one was there. I waited ten minutes – still no-one. Was I in the wrong place? I phoned Hartmut and he said that it was just him and me, not an official ADFC ride, and he would be there in five minutes. Which he was. A car-assisted bike ride, the first time I’ve ever seen him using his car for a bike ride!

Hartmut and car

We set off to Venlo, passing around the north side of the town and then taking a route that I was reasonably familiar with that heads towards Arcen.

Unfortunately as we had had a lot of wet weather, and as the route was through a forest which was being managed, various tree-felling equipment had left the path very very muddy in places.

Muddy track 1

For Velomobiles as heavy as Penelope, soft ground is a bit of a nightmare as you are having to drive three wheels through channels that they make from their own weight. A couple of times I had to stop and get out and Hartmut helped me push Penelope. Here is an example – you can see why this was not rideable for me. Far too little traction!

Muddy track 3

It wasn’t all like this – other parts of the forest were hard-packed paths which were OK to ride on although not as fast as asphalt.

Woodland track 2

The route (which a friend had sent to Hartmut) visited Arcen twice in its figure-of-eight shape and when we arrived at Arcen, after 40km for me, it was time for breakfast. Hartmut very impressively ordered two cakes for breakfast, me just one!

Breakfast of cake

Here is my cake – a very light and fluffy number.

My cake

I made a bit of a mistake having something not very hearty as I didn’t eat again until 4:30pm and did quite a lot of energetic cycling in the meantime so might have had the cyclists’ bonk if I wasn’t careful. Fortunately I have very generous energy stores laid about my body…

We spent quite a long time eating our cake and relaxing. But we had to keep going as we had a long ride in front of us so headed off, noticing the wind had got a fair bit stronger.

I found myself very slow as we left Arcen and when we arrived on a real wind-blasted dyke I couldn’t work out why I was so slow. Then the bump-bump-bump feeling through my wheels intruded on my consciousness – a rear wheel puncture.

Hartmut had got quite far ahead at this point but I stopped and got out of Penelope and he noticed when looking back and came back to join me. Between us we laid Penelope on a grassy bank and then changed the rear tyre – which is dead easy as you don’t have to take the wheel off the axle as it’s a one-sided axle. The tyre was old so I used the spare tyre that I had carried around with me for 19 months and never used… finally it came in handy! We both got mucky hands changing the wheel as the velomobile was incredibly dirty from the muddy paths. But we were on our way again within about 10 minutes.

That was the first puncture in Penelope since April 2014!

It was an absolutely wonderful day for cycling!

Lane and Hartmut

You can see that Hartmut was ahead, which he often was, but as soon as we went into wind a bit more his speed dropped and I was able to overtake (the velomobile advantage). It’s hard to chat whilst riding along in a velomobile so we were mostly just ahead or behind each other, pootling along at a comfortable 20km/h or so.

Karneval is also a thing in the Netherlands, it seems.

Prins Lars

Part of our route was along the Maas river, and it was lovely to see the blue sky and the blue river.

Maas and Hartmut

I was impressed to see this ancient Citroën still on the road!

fantastic old citroen

We cycled around Maasduinen National Park at the north end of our route. I did a few shortcuts here as Hartmut’s route was clearly quite woodlandly and I could see a reasonable-looking road alternative, so he did some extra bits whilst I was lazy as my route was quicker at velomobile speed.

As we headed back towards Arcen we rode on this fantastic road which was for me really easy and fast but for Hartmut very very hard work indeed as the wind was full strength right into his face.

Super fast road to Arcen

When we were just outside Arcen it was time for me to head off on my cross-country detour, so I said goodbye to Hartmut. Here is his impressively-muddy bike!

Hartmut's muddy bike

I headed off towards Straelen as Hartmut turned back towards Venlo and, feeling very peckish, I decided to stop in Straelen at the Golden Crown café which is very pleasant. They were full so I asked to share a table with a couple, which they happily agreed to. They were impressed that I ordered two things but when I told them I had cycled 90km and had 20 more to do they were very impressed and decided I deserved eating both a sandwich and Kaiserschmarren.

Emergency sandwich

Kaiserschmarren

Time was marching on and I was tired so it was definitely time to head back after I had finished my food. I set off, following an oft-ridden route out of Straelen. When I got to the Drängelgitter gates I had to get out of Penelope to push her through the barriers and noticed, as I was getting back in, that one of the battery packs was half out of its holder. I pushed it back in, got in the bike and was about to shut the lid when I noticed some smoke… issuing from the battery. Then the smoke started pouring out! So I instantly undid the cable connection and released the battery, holding it just by the cable, and put it on the ground outside the velomobile. I thought I had seen a spark as I lifted it out and it was very smelly smoke. Once it was on the pavement it stopped smoking and calmed down.

Battery pack

Unfortunately this was the unused battery, the other one had been used all day and didn’t have much charge left. I waited for the battery to cool down a bit and then popped it on the floor of Penelope (I thought I needed to take it home to salvage its connector) and rode home. I concluded that when I pushed it back into the holder one of the cells must have been pierced somehow and that started a short circuit.

I arrived home after 110km feeling surprisingly fresh considering what a windy day it had been.

Garmin

Frank washed out the battery compartment with water, took off the cable for the battery so I could use it on another (which had lost its connector), and I decided I definitely need to improve my battery situation and get another spare.

All in all it was a really good fun ride in good company. Hartmut said he was testing out the route to ride with some others later… and later turned out to be two weeks later, and I rode it again!

Metric Century A Month Challenge

Lots of my friends have been doing a Century a Month Challenge (usually imperial, i.e. miles, but sometimes metric, i.e. kilometres) for several years and I’ve often wondered about trying to do this. As I have done two rides of 100km in January I decided I would go for it… although of course only one of those rides ‘counts’ to get me my January 100km. February and December may be more tricky but I will give it a go!

Klaus chooses a velomobile

I’ve been riding my trike with Klaus for a long time now and have instructed him in the English way of trike riding (we don’t care about the weather!) but he’s still German enough to dislike riding in rain, snow, sleet, hail, ice cold and super-windy conditions. He has talked off and on about velomobiles and in fact borrowed Penelope for several days back in September 2014… unfortunately rolling her onto her side. He subsequently lost his nerve a bit when trying to ride her again.

But in the autumn the velomobile theme came back into his mind and he decided to try to ride Penelope again, get over the fear of tipping over, and see what kind of speed difference being in a velomobile not a trike made for him. When he used to ride upright bikes he could maintain 23km/h but with the trikes it is more usual to be around the 18km/h mark. He wondered if he would be able to go further if he had a VM.

So anyway, he took Penelope out for a ride of about 8km one day. He had his phone with him to track his journey but no way of seeing it whilst he was riding (my Garmin mount for Penelope was not compatible) so he couldn’t see his speed. His feeling was that he was pretty slow, right up until the end of his ride when he overtook someone quite easily. His guess was that he had averaged perhaps 19km/h. When he got home and looked at his phone… 24!!!

So the next day he had another go, this time a longer ride and on some faster roads that I recommended as being suitable for the velomobile. Again he was fast and he felt more confident in Penelope. It seemed that he was leaning more and more to buying a velomobile for himself so he could ride all year round and maybe in the summer ride to work (a one-way journey of 55km so quite a task!)

Klaus can be pretty single-minded about things and does lots of research so he was permanently reading internet sites about VMs, looking at different options, considering in his head what was important and what not. He drove his family mad with his single topic of conversation. But eventually decided that a WAW would be a good choice. And it just so happened that we knew someone who had a WAW, a chap who we once met when he was out riding on his ICE Sprint, called Detlef. Klaus asked Detlef if he would be able to have a go of his WAW. “Of course!” said Detlef.

So one Friday evening on his way back from work, Detlef detoured a short distance to Klaus’s house. I was nosey and wanted to see the WAW too so cycled to Klaus’s house (I still didn’t have a car at this point), but arrived twenty minutes after Detlef had got there. And Klaus’s first comment to me was that he didn’t fit in the WAW!

Basically, it was too narrow for his shoulders, hips and even his legs. His legs were touching both sides of the frame as he pedalled, and to get his shoulders in was rather cork-in-bottle.

Shoulders too wide

Klaus in WAW side

Klaus in WAW front

Getting out was quite a challenge too!

Exiting WAW

He was pretty disappointed by this as he really liked the design and idea of the WAW, although the fact that it doesn’t have rear suspension was a minus point. But there was no way he could get one and ever feel comfortable. So the WAW was scratched off his shortlist… which had been just three velomobiles: WAW, Strada and Versatile. So now it was down to Strada and Versatile. But the Versatile was a bit too slow really.

Fortunately I knew someone with a Strada – Achim, the husband of friend Gabi the Audaxer with a Quest XS. So I contacted Gabi and asked if Klaus might be able to try out Achim’s Strada. “Of course!” she said (note the theme here, Velomobile owners seem happy to let others try them out!), so we arranged to drive to visit her in Bonn the next day and for Klaus to have a go in a Strada.

I went along with Klaus the next day on the 70 minute drive to Bonn. Klaus was quite nervous that the Strada wouldn’t fit him… because then his options were severely limited. But the relief on his face was visible when we walked into the house and Klaus saw that Achim, owner of the Strada, is taller and bigger than him.

I had made a Käse Sahne Kuchen for Gabi and family so we had a slice of that, and a cup of tea, first of all before we headed out to their garage to check out the velomobiles.

Three velomobiles

I hadn’t realised they also had a Mango, and this was the first thing that Klaus tried. He didn’t fit in properly – the shoulders were the problem again. This was not entirely surprising as friend Jochen had also failed to fit into a Mango last year and although Jochen is bigger than Klaus, it showed that the entrance is quite narrow.

Then Gabi extracted the Strada from the garage.

Strada 1

Strada 2

So the moment of truth… would he fit?

Climbing into Strada

Yes! Plenty of shoulder and leg room.

Shoulder room in Strada

The relief on Klaus’s face was quite comical. As was the excitement now he was finally fitting in a velomobile that fitted him and ticked all the boxes for what he was looking for.

Ready for a ride

We spent a few minutes trying to switch the pedals over (Klaus had SPD shoes but the pedals were a different type) but in the end, as we couldn’t undo the pedals in the Strada, Klaus borrowed Achim’s shoes instead – they had similar size feet.

Gabi said she would come along with Klaus to lead him on a good route so got her Quest XS out of the garage and followed him up the road initially.

Riding away with Gabi

Klaus had to get used to tiller steering (he is used to the Panzer/Tank steering on my velomobile) but he reported that it felt really natural. They had a ride of about 25 minutes and had a very good average speed which, for a first ride and wearing jeans and a t-shirt rather than proper cycling gear, was really good.

When Klaus returned he had a massive grin. He had found the right machine at last!

Velomobile grin

We had quite a long conversation with Achim about the Strada – things that he had needed to have repaired, options that were available, etc. Although originally Achim had considered selling his Strada is was off the market at the moment as his replacement velomobile was delayed. He advised Klaus against buying second hand, saying that the improvements that Velomobiel.nl have made over the last few years are really worth it.

So we drove back to Viersen and he then spent the next day or two checking prices and options and everything for a new Strada… and just a couple of days later he had ordered one, in white! It should be ready early March and Klaus wants to ride it home from Dronten in NL… so of course I will probably go along too with Penelope (she will have her annual service whilst in Dronten) and we will attempt a 200km ride in one day, which will be the furthest that both of us have ridden in one day before. Klaus has already plotted a velomobile-friendly route from Dronten via Emmerich am Rhein to Viersen which comes in at 205km. I am already looking forward to this challenge!

A second ride to Maasduinen

It turned out that the reason Hartmut and I rode the Arcen/Maasduinen route was to check it out for a more ‘official’ ride two weeks later. Hartmut invited some of our cycling chums and I decided to do the ride again. I also told Thomas T about it, a chap who had contacted me through my blog as he is another trike rider and wanted a chance to ride with other trikers. I suggested he came along on this ride so he duly turned up at Krickenbecker See at 9:45am. We were also joined by Hartmut, Uli and Petra.

The weather was much, much worse than last time… this time it was raining for pretty much the whole time. I had the roof on Penelope so was dry and warm but I had a lot of sympathy for the others!

As before we stopped for refreshment in Arcen. This time I had a rice cake.

Rice cake

We followed the route from last time and this time I knew about a diversion to save some off-road and Thomas came with me on it (as he was on his recumbent trike, an HP Velotechnik Skorpion with Pedelec motor). However between Venlo and Arcen there was a lot of woodland riding that we still had to do and this was very hard work on the wet ground for Penelope. Thomas had occasional issues with the electronics on his trike too. I was feeling pretty tired by the time we got to Arcen!

After Arcen the route was easier, and we were whizzing along nicely. Then Hartmut decided on a detour at Reindersmeer… we were riding along what looked like hiking trails. But all was revealed when we arrived at the self-service ferry… a shortcut!

Reindersmeer

Last time we cycled much further north round the top of the Maasduinen National Park.

However… the self-service ferry was quite small and we had a number of challenges to fit the bikes on.

Thomas's trike onto ferry

Thomas’s trike actually weighs more than Penelope, at around 50kg with his luggage. Penelope weighs 47 kilos but is in some ways easier to lift as there are lots of places you can hold and not many strange dangling wires. It took three of us to lift Penelope on and then the trike and we all got very dirty hands!

Here are Penelope and Thomas’s trike on there.

Recumbents on ferry

And finally underway:

Ferry underway 1

Here are Thomas and Petra on the ferry. You can see the wire that you have to use to pull the boat along.

Thomas and Petra

The view was lovely!

The lake

Here are Uli and Hartmut… Hartmut is propelling us along.

Ferry underway 2

It had taken us perhaps up to ten minutes to load the bikes onto the ferry (we fitted all 5 bikes and all 5 of us). What we didn’t realise was that there was a large queue of people on the other side wanting to take the ferry.

Waiting on the other side

When we landed these very helpful people all assisted us to lift the bikes off – and got exceptionally muddy in the process! We spoke a mixture of English and German and it was all very friendly.

However, once across we were faced with a distinct lack of a decent track. Maasduinen is sand dunes and we had to push/drag the trikes and bikes up this large hill.

Sandy route 1

I had to walk an awful lot of this section as Penelope has no traction when bogged down in sand.

Sandy route 2

It was very tiring but really good fun – the ferry was a highlight!

Almost immediately after we were back on the main roads I realised that we were heading for another muddy off-road section which I had ridden last time. A quick look at my Garmin showed a decent alternative for me on a nice straight road. Hartmut was quite far ahead but I said to Uli I would do this detour and meet them in about 5km on the track.

So off I went, revelling in a wonderful fast road and knowing I would reach the meeting point before them. I got there and sat down to wait. No-one came. Still no-one.

After 25 minutes I couldn’t work out why they hadn’t yet arrived so I phoned Hartmut and asked him where they were. 5km from Arcen, he said. I was 10km from Arcen so had somehow missed them and they had got ahead. He had thought we were meeting in Arcen so wasn’t worried they hadn’t yet seen me.

When I got home the reason became clear… the first map shows my track (blue), and you can see where I am waiting where the official route (red) joins my detour.

Helen's track

On Uli’s track you can see where they did a very tiny detour to shave off a minor distance… but that bypassed me. They were probably less than 100 metres away but I obviously didn’t see them.

Uli's Track

Anyway, as they were so far ahead I said not to wait for me and I would make my way straight to Straelen again. They were heading to Arcen and Venlo. So I rode very fast on some great roads to the outskirts of Arcen and then headed uphill to Straelen, stopping there for Kaiserschmarren again.

Kaiserschmarren

The ride was 10km shorter today, partly because of the ferry shortcut and also because of a better route to the start at Krickenbecker See

Garmin

Despite the fact I did half on the ride on my own in the end, it was great to spend time with everyone and to meet Thomas. And I was very impressed by everyone else’s dogged determination to ride a whole day in drizzle and mud. I was cosy and warm and dry in Penelope but the rest of them weren’t.. but they soldiered on and did between 120 and 150km for their total journeys depending on their start points. Impressive!

Fit Durch Den Winter

On the final Sunday of each month during the winter the ADFC runs a group ride called “Fit Durch Den Winter” which is organised by Hartmut. The one for the 31 January was actually a route suggested by me to Straelen, with some fine tuning by Jochen who had a better idea for the last bit into Kempen.

The ride starts and finishes in Kempen and would be 45km. As I needed 60km on this day to hit 1000 for the month of January I decided to do a scenic route to Kempen for the start which ended up as 12km instead of 5. Here is our track for the day.

Straelen Ride Track

I thought it might just be me and Hartmut but by the start time of 11am there were nine people – impressive because of the strong winds and rain forecast for later.

Ready to leave

We headed off at a reasonable pace riding through familiar territory for me (I often go to Straelen) but to make the ride a bit longer I had routed us first through Nieukerk.

As we were underway I telephoned the Café in Straelen, to let them know nine of us would be there, and the man said they were closing shortly because it was Karneval celebrations in Straelen and probably everywhere else would be shut too. Yikes!

We arrived in Straelen, passing people dressed up as pirates, animals, anything really. I found it amusing they laughed at me in my velomobile looking silly – the people looked much sillier! But indeed there wasn’t anywhere suitable open in the town square so one of our number suggested we went to Straelener Hof. We followed him and soon found ourselves at a hotel with a restaurant. It was very posh for nine smelly cyclists!

Posh table

FDDW Straelen Tour

We ordered lunch which was pricey but tasty. I had Roast Beef and here is a traditional German meal – note the lack of vegetables (in the UK I would have had carrots, broccoli, beans, cauliflower etc with it probably).

Roast beef

Hartmut enjoyed a beer as usual!

Hartmut and beer

We then ordered teas and coffees and I asked if there were any cakes. They said no, but brought out with our teas a little plate of doughnuts and Quarkbällchen so I had something sweet which was nice.

Doughnuts and Quarkbaellchen

The ride home was into a fairly strong headwind but we made good progress and, after waving goodbye to Uli at Abtei Mariendonk (he was heading directly home) the rest of us reached Kempen at about 4pm. I headed straight home wanting a shower.

Despite the drizzle that set in after the first hour it was a very enjoyable ride with some new faces to me. My route finding was OK and although our lunch stop didn’t work out as planned it is always amusing to see the Karneval people dressed up so oddly!

Events this month

Silvester/New Year

In 2014 I celebrated Silvester/New Year with friend Carole in St Hubert which involved watching the fireworks outside her front door (everyone buys fireworks and lets them off without any apparent thoughts about health and safety).

This year Claudia and Klaus invited me and Poppy to spend New Year with them. I offered to cook the main course of the meal (with Lara’s help), which they agreed to. I decided to do a chicken pie with mashed potato and vegetables, a good traditional piece of British food.

Claudia had said they would dress up a bit so I bore this in mind and dressed a bit more smartly than I usually do. A good thing, as it turned out that Claudia had decorated the table and organised the food in a very posh and attractive way. I was glad I wasn’t sitting there in my jeans!

New Year table

Here are the starters… Claudia had especially bought these plates (to add to her remarkable collection of crockery, that fills a giant cupboard!) for the starters.

New Year starters

New Year starters 2

Lara helped me with the chicken pie, mash and steamed veg. I have to say, though, that it was difficult to get the pie out of the dish and so it all collapsed a bit and looked considerably less attractive than Claudia’s efforts.

chicken pie

As I am not very good at making shortcrust pastry I used bought filo pastry which worked OK but wasn’t entirely right. But it was good hearty food, the sort of thing we Brits like. The vegetables (cauliflower, carrots and french beans) were steamed without any herbs or seasoning which for the Germans was a bit strange. I have learned, since being here, that Germans put herbs and seasoning (particularly salt!) on everything so find the plain vegetables a bit too, well, plain… but I like the flavour of the veg unadulterated sometimes.

Then Claudia produced her (wonderfully-displayed) desserts…

New year dessert

New year dessert 2

We were very full after the meal and enjoyed a cup of tea as we started to digest everything.

Earlier in the day Lara and I had built a 3D puzzle of Big Ben which had a light in it. We couldn’t see the light until it was dark outside but then we were very impressed – it changed colour too and made a lovely table decoration!

Big Ben puzzle 2

In due course midnight arrived and we drank some Sekt (well, I drank water!) and then Klaus, Claudia and Lara went outside to watch the fireworks and to have some of their own sparklers. Poppy was barking so I stayed inside with her so she didn’t get too afraid. She seemed fine, just noisy!

In the end we stayed up to 2:30am before going to bed. It was a very nice evening with good food and company as always – and Big Ben was a big success!

Tortenschlemmen with Babs

My landlady gave me a voucher for the Tortenschlemmen (all-you-can-eat cake) at Café Poeth for Christmas so I invited friend Babs to enjoy a Wednesday afternoon cake-a-thon. We arranged to meet at Poeth at 2:30; I was dropped off there by Gudula on my way back from the scrapyard where I had delivered my Audi to its final destination and got just 200€ for it (more of that on another blog post shortly). Anyway, I arrived… and Poeth was shut. A sign on the door said they were closed for a week’s holiday. Bummer!

Babs arrived and we found ourselves in the difficult situation of being in St Hubert with one of the three bakeries closed. We would just have to go to one of the others for cake (although not all-you-can-eat). So we headed to Stinges.

Here is Babs with her creamy streusel cake

Babs and cake

There wasn’t that great a cake choice but I found this cheesecake that did the trick.

Helen's cheesecake

As we were sitting down chatting one of the members of staff handed out bags of biscuits that they had left over (presumably), so that was rather nice!

Free biscuits

A trip to Wuppertal

Over the last 15 years or so, since I rediscovered Germany, I have regularly visited new towns for weekends to explore a bit. I used to fly to wherever Ryanair or Easyjet were going, spend a few days there, then fly home. I visited Dresden, Leipzig, Aachen, Köln, Berlin, München, Salzburg, Bremen, Lübeck and more. Since I have actually been living in the country I have done much less exploring (except by bike in my locality) and one of my thoughts at New Year was that I should try and visit a few more places.

So one grey day in January I set off by train to Wuppertal, which is east of Düsseldorf, to ride the Schwebebahn. I had actually done this as part of a bike tour in 2010 but I thought it worth another, longer visit.

Schwebebahn

The Schwebebahn is a hanging railway which is mostly built above the river Wupper. Here is a short summary from Wikipedia:

The Wuppertal Suspension Railway (German: Wuppertaler Schwebebahn) is a suspension railway in Wuppertal, Germany.

Its full name is “Electric Elevated Railway (Suspension Railway) Installation, Eugen Langen System” (Anlage einer elektrischen Hochbahn (Schwebebahn), System Eugen Langen). It is the oldest electric elevated railway with hanging cars in the world and is a unique system.

Designed by Eugen Langen to sell to the city of Berlin, the installation with elevated stations was built in Barmen, Elberfeld and Vohwinkel between 1897 and 1903; the first track opened in 1901. The Schwebebahn is still in use today as a normal means of local public transport, moving 25 million passengers annually (2008).

The suspension railway runs along a route of 13.3 kilometres (8.3 mi), at a height of about 12 metres (39 ft) above the river Wupper between Oberbarmen and Sonnborner Straße (10 kilometres or 6.2 miles) and about 8 metres (26 ft) above the valley road between Sonnborner Straße and Vohwinkel (3.3 kilometres or 2.1 miles). At one point the railway crosses the A46 motorway.

And another section about how it works:

The cars are suspended from a single rail built underneath a supporting steel frame. The cars hang on wheels which are driven by an electric motor operating at 600 volts DC, fed from an extra rail.

The supporting frame and tracks are made out of 486 pillars and bridgework sections. For the realisation Anton Rieppel Head of MAN-Werk Gustavsburg invented 1895-96 a patented structural system. The termini at each end of the line also serve as train depots and reversers.

The current fleet consists of twenty-seven two-car trains built in the 1970s. The cars are 24 metres long and have 4 doors. One carriage can seat 48 with approximately 130 standing passengers. The top speed is 60 kilometres per hour (37 mph) and the average speed is 27 km/h (17 mph).

The Kaiserwagen (Emperor’s car), the original train used by Emperor Wilhelm II during a test ride on 24 October 1900, is still operated on scheduled excursion services, special occasions and for charter events.

Anyway, I got the normal train from Düsseldorf to Wuppertal and got off at the Hauptbahnhof. I then decided to ride the Schwebebahn all the way to the end station, Oberbarmen, then back again to the other end in Vohwinkel, then back to the Hauptbahnhof.

Here are a few pictures.

Schwebebahn 1

Schwebebahn 2

At the end of the line in Oberbarmen is a turning circle for the trains.

Schwebebahn 3

And looking up at the metalwork holding up the rail

SW rail

Inside the cars are small and they rock from side to side, especially at stations when people get on and off.

Inside SB

The drivers have the best view!

Driver's view

What is really clever about this system is that it doesn’t take up a lot of space on the ground for the stations. They have a lift and a set of steps each side, and the rest of the station is high in the air so people can walk normally underneath, cross underneath easily etc etc. It is very space saving, although rather detracts from the beauty of the river scenery!

Here is one of the stations.

Outside of a station

And the view from above, looking down over the town

View from station

I took a few videos but they weren’t great. Here’s one I have found on YouTube taken on a rather sunnier day which gives a good general idea.

When I had ridden the whole way I went back to the Hauptbahnhof and did a bit of shopping (not something I usually do). I found a nice warm hat! I also walked a long way through the town, twice hopping on the Schwebebahn for a shortcut (I had a ticket that worked for the day).

I saw this very impressive clock.

Clock

As I said above, I had visited Wuppertal in 2010 although only for about half an hour (it was to get to the start of the Neandertal valley to cycle along it). But I felt that Wuppertal had a rather different feel than I remembered. It is very clear that there have been a lot of migrants settling in Wuppertal, the general mix of people walking about was very different to that in Kempen. I have heard that Pegida in Wuppertal has a lot of support and I just picked up the feeling that people were sometimes a little uneasy. This could all be in my mind, of course, and perhaps the grey weather didn’t help, but it was a slightly strange feeling.

Wuppertal town centre is like everywhere else with the same shops (H&M, Deichmann, New Yorker, Miss Sixty) and an Arkaden shopping centre. It also had a small open-air section which was selling crepes so I had one (of course).

It was good to visit, although Lara who I live with couldn’t understand why I had chosen Wuppertal of all places. It was because of the Schwebebahn and because it was dead easy to reach by train (I still didn’t have a car at this point) but I enjoyed my time there very much. These little trips are fun and I look forward to the next one… when I have decided where to go!

New Car

As mentioned above, I didn’t have a car at the beginning of this month. I have now bought one (a Skoda Roomster) and am currently writing a separate blog post about car buying in Germany as it’s quite different from the UK. That should be published soon, once I have got a few final bits of information.

Breakfast with Claire

A few weeks ago when I was in Aldi St Hubert doing some grocery shopping I heard a lady speaking English so I introduced myself to her and discovered that she also lives in St Hubert. Claire very kindly invited me to breakfast so I went round one morning before she went to work and we had a very nice time chatting about life in England and Germany (she has lived here for over 30 years).

Breakfast with Claire

What was amusing was that she told me her normal breakfast is Weetabix or another cereal – as is mine. It seems the English not only take their love of English tea with them but also breakfast choices!

I look forward to having Claire over for afternoon tea with me sometime in the near future. Although this might have to be after Easter because…

Giving up sugar for Lent

Lent or Fastenzeit is the 40 days before Easter (starts on Ash Wednesday/Aschermittwoch). Last year I toyed with the idea of giving up sugar for Lent but didn’t do anything about it. This year I have decided to properly go for it.

This means that I won’t eat any sugar or sugary cereals etc, but it also means that I won’t be eating pasta sauces or ready meals or anything with sugar as an ingredient. The exception to this is bread which usually has sugar in the making. I will also be avoiding all fruit juices (although I will eat fruit) and of course chocolate and cakes and biscuits. So next month’s and March’s reports will be interestingly low on cake photos!

Whether I will be able to stick to this for an entire month I don’t know – it will be a real challenge, especially as I am having a short trip to the UK with some friends after a couple of weeks when we will visit a nice tea room or two. But I am interested to see if I feel any different after giving up sugar, if I lose any weight and if it changes my concentration/energy levels at all. We shall see.

Playing the flute at church with Anja

After a hiatus of almost a year from making music with Anja, mainly due to both of us having lots on, we met again to practice flute and piano together and arranged to play at the church services in Tönisberg and St Hubert on the second Sunday in January. This was a communion service in both churches and we played two pieces by Santo Lapis and two more familiar Handel pieces too (including Air from the Water Music).

Here is the organ/piano at Tönisberg

Toenisberg church with Anja

It was a snowy morning so Anja picked me up from St Hubert church (where I had left the Velomobile) at 8:15am so we had a chance to practice in Tönisberg before the service. It was good to play together and we had several positive comments from the congregation. We then drove straight to St Hubert and played there too which worked well and we had more praise. It was very nice to participate again and to play with Anja – we seem to work together very well with our music.

Willich Choir

The Willich Choir, which does an annual event (previously Beethoven’s Mass in C and last year’s Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Elias/Elijah) started practising again – this time we are doing the Messiah by Handel but in German. I have also decided to join the tenors rather than singing Alto again so it is a bit more of a challenge for me (in learning the part). I have been very organised and made tabs on the side of my music score so I can easily find what we are singing…

Messias Score

Miscellaneous

I saw this sign on the door of the Sparkasse Bank in St Hubert… an understandable English misspelling but quite funny!

Witchy Safe

I also noticed this t-shirt for sale in Real and photographed it to show my German friends the mistake… which almost none of them could spot. Can you?

All what you really need is love

“All what you really need is love”… should be “All that you really need is love”. The ‘what’ is absolutely incorrect, but as Germans would say “Alles was…” it looks fine to them. What is interesting also is if you remove the ‘All’ then it has to be “What you really need is love” and cannot possibly be “that you really need is love” as a single sentence. Isn’t English strange!

Mind you, even if you read your English grammar book from cover to cover you might find you are making mistakes. I picked up a pocket English grammar book (for Germans) and spotted this mistake:

Plural of Abbreviation

The plural of abbreviations/initialisations/acronymns does NOT have an apostrophe, unless possibly the abbreviation ends in an S. So in these examples it should have been DJs and UFOs.

For many years part of my work has involved proof-reading and my eye is often drawn to typos before anything else on the page (annoying in restaurants etc). Gudula showed me a magazine about holidaying in the Niederrhein area and my eye instantly saw this mistake on the right hand page heading:

Entpspannung

The left hand heading was correctly spelled Entspannung. It was a mistake on the template as it was wrong throughout this section.

An interesting flavour of tea, not sure I fancy it!

Gunpowder Tea

Cakes this month

Here are the cakes that I or my friends have eaten this month (if not mentioned above)

Brueggener Muehle Rice Cake

Brueggener Muehle Waffle

I helped little Lara cook a three course meal for her parents. The dessert course was meant to be chocolate muffins but something went drastically wrong with them, as you can see…

Top hat cake 1

When we got them out of the muffin tin they somehow looked like Hats so I decided we had purposely planned to make hat cakes.

Top hat cake 2

They tasted chewy like Brownies and were very, very filling. Not sure why it went wrong except Claudia doesn’t have kitchen scales so we had to measure the flour with a measuring jug so I guess we didn’t use enough. Anyway, you win some, you lose some.

Gudula invited me downstairs for cake one day – a friend had made an apple upside-down cake… very tasty!

Apple upside down cake

I made a tray of banana flapjack as I had two bananas past their prime

Banana Flapjack

And a Rosinenschnecke as a treat after my 1000km for the month.

Rosinenschnecke

Next month

What’s in store next month?
Well, hopefully another 100km ride so I can keep up my Metric Century challenge, although I have only scheduled 750km for the month. This is partly because I have two trips to the UK, one for my niece’s wedding and the other with Klaus, Claudia and Lara for a short weekend.

I very much appreciate messages and comments from those reading the blog so if you have anything you want to say, leave a comment below or send me a message through the email option on the right hand side panel near the top of this page. I hope you have enjoyed reading this month’s instalment!

4 Comments

Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

4 Responses to Six Wheels In Germany – Month 22

  1. Geoff

    What fun! Finding and ordering a Velo. Fantastic. Good luck with your Lent sugar fast!

  2. Stefan

    Moin,

    wie immer schön zu lesen Deine Berichte!

    Witzig ist auch, bei der Erläuterung der falschen Übersetzung selber ein Fehler einzubauen (;

    … but as Germans would say “Alle was…”, es müsste m.M.n. “Alles was …” heißen.

    Ich habe eine Frage zum Garmin und der Erfassung der Herzfrequenz. Ich habe auf Deinen Bildern vom Garmin gesehen, daß dort schön die Herzfrequenz angezeigt wird. Nutzt Du den Garmingurt dafür, verbunden über ANT+?

    Wie ist die Verbindung bei Dir? Funktioniert der Connect auf Anhieb und bleiben Gurt und Garmin verbunden?

    Ich habe das Problem, daß der Gurt nicht zuverlässig vom Garmin erkannt wird. Also einfach Gurt anlegen und lostreten funktioniert nicht zuverlässig.

    Gibt es ggf. eine Alternative, z..B. ein Armband?

    Vielen Dank.

    Gruß
    Stefan

    • Hi Stefan,

      Thanks for the correction of my German… the text is now improved!

      With regard to my Garmin, I have a pretty old (at least 6 years old) Garmin heart rate monitor strap which I wear for longer rides, but don’t bother for short trips. It’s a proper Garmin one, Ant+, and has been pretty reliable, only needing three changes of battery in this time. The one I use is the ‘Classic strap’ in this picture: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/images/2012/08/how-to-fix-heart-rate-strap-chaffing-issues.jpgHRM

      Klaus bought a different Ant+ HRM strap but that wouldn’t work with the Oregon, interestingly.

      I have no difficulties keeping the HRM and the Garmin connected – it always just works (unless the battery is flat). However, I do put the HRM on about 10 minutes before I set off as it needs a certain amount of sweat (yuck!) before it can reliably get a reading of my heart rate, although it is connected to the Oregon without problems. Another option is to put some water on the connectors as you put it on or use KY Jelly (something available in the UK, not something I have looked for in Germany!) to facilitate the connection, but I find it usually works if I put it on ten minutes before I am going to use it.

      I don’t know of any alternatives. The HRM belt has changed its design which might be better – it is softer at the front, as you see from the picture I linked to. Mine isn’t particularly comfortable to wear for a long time and in summer when I am riding a lot I sometimes get a bit of a skin rash from the elastic on my skin. A wrist version would be great but I don’t know if they exist and if they would be effective.

      Klaus has just bought a Garmin Edge 1000 and various other items (cadence sensor, speed sensor, heart rate monitor) so it will be interesting to see how that all works out for him when everything is correctly installed in his new velomobile.

      • Stefan

        Moin,

        ich habe die neue Version. Bei meiner nächsten Ausfahrt werde ich den Gurt mal frühzeitig anlegen, vielleicht hilft das ja. Was Wassermethode hat nicht zuverlässig genug funktioniert.

        Ich bin auf den Bericht von Klaus gespannt (;

        Dank Dir für die Infos.

        Gruß
        S.

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