Tag Archives: ADFC

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 11

My original plan was to spend a year in Germany – what I good thing I decided to extend that a long time ago as a year would have been nowhere near long enough!

February has been a bit of an odd month as will be explained below. But the first hint can be gathered by my cycling statistics for this month.

Cycling Statistics for February 2015

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.44.50

As you can see, I didn’t ride very far at all this month – and my last ride was on the 19th of February. And here’s where I went.

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The reason I did so few miles is that I came down with the flu rather badly and it completely wiped me out for two weeks (and it’s now the third week and I’m still recovering and not back to full bike riding). It also did something odd to my liver so I’ve been seeing the doctor about that although things look like they are improving (more about the German healthcare system in the report for next month).

Doubly-unfortunately the flu came in the two weeks I had set aside (with few engagements) to get a good lot of work done. Needless to say I spent the time instead in bed reading, listening to podcasts and getting very bored. I was slightly saved by the chance to listen to the ‘Germany: Memories Of A Nation’ podcasts from Neil McGregor of the British Museum. These were on Radio 4 in the UK some months ago and several people had recommended that I listen so I downloaded the podcasts and waited for the right time (which came this month). I had also requested the book for Christmas so was able to read extracts of that as well (and see the pictures that he is describing as well).

I did manage some good rides earlier in the month though, including some more church-bagging (I’ve got very behind with writing those visits up, I’ve done about another twenty now). It seems that my regular cycling companion Klaus doesn’t find visiting churches quite as interesting as I do.

Lazy Klaus

We also had a trike maintenance day. I needed to replace the brake cables on Alfie (spot the smart new red ones!) and also checked my brake pads, which ended up with a rather unexpected complete disassembly of a BB7 brake. It took Klaus and I about an hour and a half to put it back together again so we won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

Bike maintenance day

We had to do a fair bit of brake adjustment on both trikes after a lot of winter riding. Disc brakes do seem to need a lot more attention than the drums that I have on the Trice Q but I do like how positive the discs are.

Klaus added some inner tube to the rack on his trike to make his smart new Vaude panniers fit a bit better. I also changed the tyres on the Trice Q that Claudia is borrowing to some old Marathons (they had Marathon Plus on) but had trouble getting the tyres to sit properly, which involved another attempt a couple of weeks later. Perhaps when the tyres get old they become cantankerous.

I also ordered online a few more bike tools as I was getting fed up with having to swap my one bike toolkit between the two bikes – and the risk is that I would forget the kit (which I have done twice before). A puncture then would be a disaster!

The pump that I use (for one-handed people) is rather expensive at 40 Euros so I decided instead to try a CO2 pump. That was pretty good value (assuming it works) although the cartridges are 2,50€ if you buy them individually (bulk is way cheaper but I don’t know how often I will use them).

New bike toolkit

New bike toolkit 2

The plan is to have the real pump in Penelope and the CO2 pump in Alfie (because if it doesn’t work for some reason I have many more options for rescue with a bike that fits easily in a car). I am also often riding in company with Alfie and that company is likely to have a pump too. But it’s nice to not have to remember to get the toolkit out of the other bike each time I swap – and it was a good chance also to rationalise the things I am carrying around with me. The toolkits seem to rather grow in content!

Karneval

Karneval is the gift that keeps on giving throughout the winter – there’s always another event to visit if you have the fortitude. There are also various unusual sights available… such as this man walking in a pink bunny onesie in Escheln at midday on a Wednesday.

Man in bunny suit

As I had clearly developed a reputation as a hardy Karneval-goer I was invited to a double-event by Claudia at which Lara was performing. Two “Auftritt” (performances) with a bit of a gap in the middle (I was offered the inducement of cake). So of course I thought it would be nice to go. This was all in the run up to the last Karneval weekend (the whole thing finishes the day before Ash Wednesday).

Claudia said something about the first event being in Deutsche Bank in Viersen. I assumed she meant outside but once again my powers of imagination were lacking as it was indeed inside the bank. I went and got some money out surrounded by people in uniforms with swords.

Karneval DB 1

When Lara processed in for the start of her dance we followed her into the main banking are and it was full of people dressed as cowboys and indians with copious amounts of beer flowing. There were a surprising number of drunk people in a bank at 2 in the afternoon.

Karneval DB 2

Karneval DB 3

Lara’s dance was rudely curtailed by dust on the CD which meant it kept skipping but the cowboys and indians didn’t really seem to notice. She was rather disappointed though.

Karneval DB 4

Lara went off with the other dancers after this and Claudia and I went for our cake. I had something called a ‘Windbeuteltorte’ although it didn’t taste very Windbeutely.

windbeuteltorte

We ended up with about an hour and a half before the next event, which was Lara’s other performance (singing a duet dressed as a gipsy). This would be outside the Rathaus (town hall) so a walk of about 20 metres from the café. A real hardship.

There were lots of different performances (several of which I have now already seen) but this time in the open air with the Mayor of Viersen on the balcony being included in the event. There were lots of football jokes which rather passed me by.

Unfortunately the MC completely forgot about Lara’s Gipsy dance and so announced the ‘final item’ (which was a group of chaps dressed in French military uniforms from the 18th century doing some dances). Lara and her co-dancer went over to the MC and so they had their moment of glory at the very end – except they weren’t given microphones.

Gipsy dance 2

Fortunately the crowd realised and started shouting “they’re singing!” so the music was stopped and the MC (who only had the one microphone) turned himself into a microphone stand and they did their routine, this time singing audibly.

Gipsy dance

I was very impressed at how they coped with the several hiccups during today’s performances. Well done!

However the final Karneval event that I attended was perhaps, for my hosts, a slight disappointment in that their regular attempts to discombobulate the Brit failed. As we have this kind of thing in the UK (processions through the streets with people on various different floats). So this felt more ‘normal’ than all the rest of it, although the throwing of food to spectators isn’t something you get in the UK. This was a Karneval Umzug and all the roads were closed for several hours.

Claudia had decided where we would be and we met up with some more of their friends as we walked to our spot. I had hoped to be able to take the trike (to have somewhere to sit – the event was apparently going to be three hours long) but was told there would not be room. In the end there would have been room, but we were only there for an hour and a half anyway so my back survived standing up that long!

The Umzug is lots of floats from various Karneval organisations around (including one Dutch one), mostly pulled by tractors. In fact the variety of tractors was really rather interesting to see!

Here is a small selection of the floats.

Float 1

Float 2

Float 3

Spot the weird local dialect on this float!

Float 4

Float 5

These marionettes were very cool if slightly perturbing.

Float 6

And here was the float of the Roahser Jonges Prinzenpaar – the group that Lara was involved with. She was on the wagon throwing out goodies (but the other side from where I was standing).

Float 7

Float 8

The final float was the Viersen Prince and Princess, preceded by their Guard on horseback.

Float 9

At this point all the spectators disappeared off. We had an hour to wait for Lara (as she had another thing afterwards) and so headed to Claudia’s favourite café for cake, only to discover that it was closed. Disaster!!!!

We decided in the end to go back to their house and that Claudia would come back to collect Lara later.

On our walk along the route the ever-efficient Germans were already out cleaning the streets from all the mess following the procession.

Street sweeping 1

Street sweeping 2

Friends and events

Once again it was great to meet up with Gabi and Rolf (other velomobile riders) in Schwalmtal.

Here is Gabi’s Quest (with new race cap) and Penelope.

Penelope and Quest 1

Penelope and Quest 2

As always it was lovely to sit and chat with them both – and to hear Rolf’s plans of buying himself a Quest velomobile instead of his Mango. Exciting stuff!

Gabi had once again cycled up from Bonn (and she brought a wonderful home-made lemon cheesecake, with lemon from her own lemon trees!) and although it was a very cold day (about -1 degrees) we both enjoyed our rides in the velomobiles, staying very warm. I needed a hat and buff to keep my face warm (no racecap) but Gabi was always toasty warm.

Helen in Penelope

I was also pleased to see friend Babs again on Ash Wednesday when we went for the Tortenschlemmen (all you can eat cake) at my local cafe. Once again I only managed two cakes. But they were tasty!

Tortenschlemmen 1

Tortenschlemmen 2

And the next morning (which happened to be the day I came down with the flu) I felt a bit rough but struggled out on Penelope to meet with Hartmut and Jochen (of the ADFC) for a photo shoot about the new Knotenpunkte that have appeared in Kreis Viersen this year. A photographer from the Westdeutsche Zeitung was coming along to take a picture of us next to one of the special points (with a numbering system you can use to navigate easily).

I rode over there in Penelope feeling pretty rough, and when I got to the agreed point Hartmut was already there. Jochen soon arrived and had his first sit in Penelope.

Jochen in Penelope

After about ten minutes the photographer turned up – by bike!!! He took a picture (I stupidly forgot to put Penelope’s bling lights on) and it appeared in the paper a week later.

WZ Article 1

WZ Article 2

By this point I was really in the grip of the flu, bedridden and bored out of my mind. Poppy and I did have occasional light relief though – watching Top Gear for example.

Poppy watches Top Gear

Randomness

One Sunday morning as I headed out to my car I spotted this!

Under my car wheel 1

Under my car wheel 2

It paid for a nice selection of bread and cakes to take to my friends’ house that morning for Brunch.

Pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) arrived and I was concerned that I didn’t have any eggs. I went round to visit a neighbour (who works as a translator into English and indeed her English is incredibly good) and fortunately she has hens and gave me a half dozen eggs. So I had a few pancakes myself and also made one for Poppy.

Pancake day

Poppy pancake

Poppy and I were out for a walk and we saw what seemed to be a rather over-engineered way of pollarding some trees. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t just do it from the other side of the ditch…

Tree pollarding

It seemed to be the month for tree removal as our next door neighbour decided to remove the large tree at the front of his house. Frank and Lara helped, and it was obviously quite an involved procedure!

Next door's tree removal 1

Next door's tree removal 2

There was an awful lot of tree on the ground at the end – Frank spent a couple of days chainsawing it up and it will be running the woodburner next year I suppose!

Next door's tree removal 3

Poppy the dog loves her life here in Germany – particularly as there are lots of other people to hang out with if I am out of the house. Lara who lives upstairs has a huge beanbag that Poppy finds most comfortable.

Popster keeping an eye on things

Popster tired

However she is less impressed with my haircutting skills – when doing it on my own it’s quite tricky so I hit upon the idea of standing her on the wheelie bin. She was not impressed but it stopped her running away!

Dog haircut

My mission to spot ridiculously-long German words in the wild continues and I had some success with the German Velomobile forum. How about this for a word (made up, of course)!
FullSizeRender

It’s worth noting that in my time here in Germany I’ve found several words commonly used which I didn’t learn at school and hadn’t really seen written down either (they seem to be mainly spoken rather than used in the written language). They are:
kriegen – to get (pronounced krichen)
gucken – to look
heftig – difficult

Equally, I have been asked by several different Germans what is the English for Brötchen (rolls). They also tend not to have heard of a duvet and also have little understanding of the difference between a town and city. Germans have said to me (in English) “the city of Kempen” (and it is most certainly too small to be a city).

I’ve missed two sessions of the VHS because of my flu but am looking forward to continuing my German studies. My interactions with Klaus’s family, almost entirely in German, seem to be the most helpful thing in improving my language skills though. I hope that they, too, are learning some English from me.

I took a look at some of the info on this blog about referrals (how people arrive here) and discovered I have been mentioned in a few new places. Here’s a small selection (the black page is friend Oliver the Mango velomobile rider).

Blog reference 1

Blog reference 2

Blog reference 3

And, a final bizarre bit of randomness… Before my flu hit Claudia decided we ought to do something more interesting one Saturday evening (as Lara would be away). Perhaps visit the theatre or cinema. Unfortunately the eight local cinemas were all only showing ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ which none of us wanted to see. There was nothing on at the theatre. So I resorted to googling… and got this option:

What to do in Viersen on a Saturday night

We decided regenerative cryotherapy wasn’t really our thing either, and in the end I was stuck in bed with the flu. But it just goes to show there is always something new to experience in Germany, even in the sleepy Niederrhein!

Scenery

The wonderful Niederrhein scenery continues to take my breath away at times.

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sun on fields

Sunshine over St Hubert Escheln

Sunset over Escheln

Misty morning

Cakes this month

Karneval Berliner

cheesecake from Gudula

Cheesecake 2

Choc cake 1

Gabi's lemon cake

cream doughnut

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 7

October 2014

Cycling this month

This month I missed my target of 1000km by less than 1km. This was because I had two days off the bike feeling slightly under the weather and didn’t have a chance to make up the rides as it was at the end of the month because I thought the target gap was too big – but actually I had failed to record a ride earlier in the month (which I realised just now) which was 27.27km… so I was so near but not quite enough!

Anyway, I still managed a good distance and I am really enjoying cycling in the fantastically beautiful autumn scenery around this part of Niederrhein.

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Anyway, here are the ride statistics for this month.

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People I’ve seen this month

Morten from Hamburg

Long-time readers of this blog will be familiar with Morten, the surprisingly-tall (2.04 metres) recumbent bicyclist who I met on the LEL Audax, visited in Hamburg last December and saw again on the HBK Audax.

Anyway, Morten decided to come and visit me for the bank holiday weekend of Tag der deutschen Einheit which was great news! Especially as there was a Tour des Monats cycle ride planned for the Friday when he would arrive, a nice chance to show him around some of the breweries in Kreis Viersen (apparently).

I collected Morten from the station and we rode back to my house for him to drop his bags off before heading almost straight away to St Tönis for the Tour des Monats, led again this month by cycling chum Hartmut.

There was a good group of cyclists collected in St Tönis. As I was in Penelope the Velomobile it seemed best to ride at the back (this always works better in a group) so I pootled along behind everyone, chatting to Morten and continually being amazed at how he could continue riding a recumbent bicycle at extremely slow speeds. Those things are difficult to balance!

We had another visit to the un-asphalted Bahnradweg from Tönisvorst which is no fun on a three-wheeler and even less fun in a velomobile.

TdM with Morten

As usual for routes planned by Hartmut it was a good mixture of sights and pretty much all on quiet roads or cycle paths. Hartmut gave occasional bits of information relating to the brewery theme but it was really just a chance to cycle to particular places, we didn’t see any beer!

We stopped in Anrath for lunch at which point Morten and I shared a veggie breakfast.

Breakfast in Anrath

I misheard Hartmut’s comment about what time we were leaving so ordered a cup of tea just as people were heading off. As I had the track I said I’d catch them up (I had to pay for this tea so I was going to drink it, although it was too hot initially). Morten waited with me and we set off about five minutes after the rest of them had disappeared.

As we raced to catch them up I felt a bit odd – the tea was swishing around rather unpleasantly in my stomach – and by the time we did catch up with everyone I felt a bit sick. We decided not to ride with them all the way back to St Tönis but instead left the group at Kehn and did the short cut back to St Hubert.

When we got back I put Penelope away, walked into my flat and felt appalling – I went straight to bed. Poor Morten found himself on his own for the rest of the day – he had a bit of a snooze (he’d had a very early train from Hamburg) but ended up having to cook his own dinner as I didn’t feel like food at all and couldn’t stand up for more than a minute or two. It was some mystery lurgy but came at a rather unfortunate time. Morten was a very gracious guest, though, considering his host was so rubbish!

The next morning I felt a bit more human and we decided to take a trip to Kempen. In the car (I didn’t think I could cycle 5km), which meant I had to learn where the car parks are (not something I really know). But we found a space and set off on a very slow walk around the town walls with lots of stops on benches for me to gather my energy again.

Kempen is a beautiful town and the walk around the walls is always worthwhile – and only about 2km.

Kempen tower

We stopped for some cake – Morten chose two different things.

Morten's cake

I had a nut/muesli option.

My cake

In the evening we had the opportunity to meet friend Gabriele and her husband Achim who were riding their velomobiles back from Dronten in the Netherlands to Bonn (a heck of a long way). Gabi rang us to say we could meet in Oedt at 7:15pm so we headed off (again by car) and found them outside a take-away pizzeria (the Italian restaurant we had planned to meet at was now closed).

Quest and Strada

We had an enjoyable meal chatting with them as always and then it was time for them to continue their journey on to Bonn. Good thing they are both very fast cyclists as that’s a long, long way in one day.

Velomobiles in the dark

The next morning I was feeling human enough to get back on a bike – which was a good thing as I had no breakfast food for Morten as I had planned for us to eat breakfast at Hofcafé Alt Bruch (fortunately Lara had delivered some rolls for breakfast for Saturday morning as I was too poorly). Klaus was going to meet us on the way to the Hofcafé and I also asked Lara along. Five minutes before we set off her friend Gereon appeared at the front door so he came along too.

This is the little group of random people heading 20km for breakfast…

Heading for breakfast

We met Klaus at the start of the Bahnradweg in Grefrath where we also stopped to do a small amount of maintenance on Morten’s Alfine-11 hub gear (in his front wheel – he has a front wheel drive recumbent). Once the cable was slightly adjusted (he was suffering from the neutral gears issue you get when the cable length is wrong) we headed off along the fast Bahnradweg to the Hofcafé.

I hadn’t booked a place for us, assuming this was unnecessary, but it turned out that the café was full! There were no spare tables but there was a large table with just two ladies on it so we asked to join them and they said that was fine. They may have regretted it later when the fragrance of cyclist wafted across to them.

These ladies turned out to be British so we had a bit of a chat with them and they took a photo of us halfway through our breakfast.

Breakfast at Hofcafe Alt Bruch

It’s an ‘eat as much as you like’ buffet breakfast and we were there for a couple of hours so managed to eat a fair bit. Klaus and I were asking Morten about longer distance cycling – he is an audaxer after all – and what recommendations he could give for longer rides.

In due course the café started emptying and it was time for us to head back. We waved goodbye to Klaus in Grefrath and continued on back to Kempen.

Here’s Morten underway.

Morten riding

Being chased down by Gereon and Lara.

Gereon Lara Morten

And Lara took this picture of me trying to catch up with everyone after doing my photography.

Helen cycling

When we got back we had the next task – repairing Morten’s bike wiring. He’d had to separate his bike into two pieces on the train which involves disconnecting the electrics. He has the same connectors as Penelope has and had discovered the same problem with them – they aren’t really designed for this kind of thing and the connector had pulled out of the plastic housing slightly. It needed a bit of TLC – he would need his lights when he got back to Hamburg to cycle home.

Frank and Gudula were out which was unfortunate as Frank seems to have all the tools one might need – but I didn’t know where.

First of all Morten had to ease the little metal connectors (that have metal backward-pointing hooks to keep them in place) out of the plastic connector mounting. A selection of screwdrivers and allen keys were offered from my toolkit and he found something suitable.

Morten repair 1

Clearly it needed to be soldered in place – but I didn’t have a soldering iron and didn’t know where Frank kept his. Fortunately Lara came back home at this point and she let us into the treasure trove of Frank’s tool room (which I didn’t know existed!) and we played hunt-the-soldering-iron.

Looking for a soldering iron

We couldn’t find one although I had previously seen Frank with one, plus we found some reels of solder, so one must exist somewhere. But we did find a giant similar version and Morten thought it would probably do.

The world's biggest soldering iron 2

So he set to work and did manage to solder the connector to the wire.

The world's biggest soldering iron

Success!

job done

He tested the lights and they were working – hurrah! I have plans to change these connectors on Penelope as I have also had trouble with them; Morten says he is interested to know what I choose instead as he may also change the connectors on his bike. But it’s probably a winter job.

Morten then tried out Penelope – he really isn’t the right size for a Versatile.

Morten tries out Penelope

Although the lid almost closed (not quite) he was entirely unable to turn the pedals as his knees touched the top.

Morten tries out Penelope 2

And Alfie wasn’t any better.

Morten tries out Alfie

We changed the tyres on Alfie (I thought I might as well make use of having a chap about) and as a reward we had some scones with the last of the clotted cream I had brought back from England.

scones

And then it was another quick ride to Kempen railway station to wave Morten off on his train. Our bikes created quite a stir.

Morten at Kempen station

It was great to have a visit from another cycling chum. A lady I have met here said “You seem to know more people in Germany than I do” and she maybe has a point – I have got to know lots of people all over Germany in the last ten years and it’s great to have these links and to visit the people and have them visit me.

Gabi, Achim and Rolf again

We seem to have got a regular routine of meeting at Rolf’s house for cake – me cycling from Kempen (30km), Gabi and Achim cycling from Bonn (somewhat further). Rolf extended another invitation so again we all met – this time for homemade soup by Rolf (which was wonderful) and this time I came by car as I had another engagement straight afterwards.

Once again it was good to see everyone and to have a chance to chat about all things Velomobile.

Hartmut’s birthday meal

I’ve mentioned Hartmut a few times in this blog – he’s one of the movers and shakers in the local ADFC (German cycling group) and leads a lot of cycle tours, including some very long charity ones. He is also incredibly knowledgeable about a lot of the history of this area and always has great information when you’re out riding with him.

It was his birthday this month and he invited a group of his cycling friends to a Portuguese restaurant in Krefeld – and I was included!

The thing we all have in common (apart from the cycling) is that we all have bikes with Rohloff hubs. So I decided I would ride Penelope to Krefeld although I am usually less keen on riding her there because of the terror of the tram tracks.

Anyway I set off in plenty of time and had a leisurely ride, taking a new route which is longer but much less within the city. It turned out to be a huge improvement – I was on fast Radwege beside Landstraßen right up to three kilometres before my destination (I usually cycle all the way through Hüls which is about 8km of town riding).

I pulled up outside the restaurant and could see through the window Hartmut and the other sitting around the table with several beer bottles in front of them. But I was ten minutes early!

No I wasn’t, I was almost an hour late. I had misread the time, like a numpty, thinking we were meeting at 7pm when actually it was 6pm. Very embarrassing!

Anyway, they were all very polite about it.

Hartmut's Birthday 3

Here am I looking a bit embarrassed after my late arrival!

Hartmut's Birthday 1

Hartmut had ordered a selection of starters which were all very tasty (his wife is Portuguese so he visits there often and is very familiar with all the food). The different main courses that people ordered arrived and were great.

Hartmuts birthday 2

I was extremely impressed at the amount of beer and wine my companions were putting away and remaining apparently sober. We enjoyed some good discussions and it was great to see Hartmut, Jochen, Uli and Herbert again, and to meet for the first time Andreas and Michael.

A group of (I think) Portuguese people came into the restaurant a bit later and they had a birthday cake and sang happy birthday to one of the group. We mentioned that it was Hartmut’s birthday too and they incredibly kindly shared the birthday cake with our group! So friendly.

Hartmut's birthday chocolate cake

It was a great evening and I also discovered that in Germany if someone invites you for a meal like this then they pay, which was incredibly generous.

Michael and the Düsseldorf ADFC

Through the magic of the internet (well, actually Google Plus, it turns out someone DOES use it!) a man named Michael contacted Klaus to say that he had a recumbent trike and was in the Düsseldorf area and perhaps they would bump into each other one day. He then added that the Düsseldorf ADFC were doing a ride on Saturday from Düsseldorf to Kempen and would Klaus like to join as it wasn’t far from where he lived. Klaus had no spare time but he forwarded the message to me and I decided to ride their route backwards (they had supplied a GPS track of the route) and meet them halfwayish, then ride back with them to Kempen (where they were having lunch at Gut Heimendahl).

It was a very windy day although fairly warm so I dithered about which bike to take (Alfie good for heat, Penelope good for wind) and in the end decided on Penelope because it’s after all such a cool-looking machine.

So I set off following the track from Kempen towards Düsseldorf, finding myself on a few roads that were previously unknown to me.

I hadn’t intercepted the group by the time I reached Höxhöfe and was beginning to worry that they might have been following the GPS track the other way round (so I would never intercept them) but then I decided that the strong wind might be slowing them down (even thought it was a tailwind) so I decided to press on.

And then finally I saw a group of cyclists in the distance – including a recumbent trike. So that was probably them – and indeed it was!

ADFC ride from Duesseldorf

We stopped and had a bit of a chat – and Michael had a go in Penelope.

This is his trike, an Azub folding trike which was also reasonably lightweight (once he had removed his bags).

Azub trike

Azub trike and Penelope

It has a veltop fairing which looked interesting (not that I need a trike fairing as I have a velomobile, but I think it can make quite a difference in winter if you suffer from cold feet).

Azub trike with Veltop

There was a group of about 15 of us pootling along the country lanes – very enjoyable!

ADFC ride from Duesseldorf 2

The 20km journey back to Gut Heimendahl passed fairly quickly as I was chatting with Michael and then we arrived at our destination and stopped for lunch (except I had cake). I had a good chat with Michael and it was good to get to know him. Here he is on his trike.

Michael on his trike 1

He asked a passer-by to take a photo of us both.

Helen and Michael at Gut Heimendahl

I left the rest of them at Gut Heimendahl and headed straight home as Poppy the dog had been left for quite a while, but it was great to meet Michael and I am sure we will ride together again soon in the near future.

Babs

Friend Babs has been mentioned on this blog many times as she has been brilliant – giving me helpful advice and friendship! When I was back in England last month I got a few supplies for her and we fixed a convenient time for me to drop them off to her and see her new flat in Krefeld.

The idea was for me to come in Alfie (as we didn’t think Penelope would fit in her apartment lobby) but the weather was definitely velomobile weather so I decided to take Penelope and just park her outside if necessary. So I cycled to Krefeld and when I arrived at Babs’s apartment we thought we’d see if we could get her into the lobby.

The answer was yes – sort-of.

Penelope in Krefeld

We stuck a notice on her nose in case anyone came in and needed to get into the room behind where she was parked (which Babs said was extremely unlikely).

Penelope in Babs's Flat

It was great to see Babs again and to have a good old chinwag. And it’s really handy that she now lives a lot nearer to me – just a 40 minute cycle ride!

Life in Germany

Food again

When I returned from England last month I brought back one of the Tefal Multi-cookers that does excellent rice. This is to go with all the curries I make so I’ve been enjoying them.

One of the things that I had been unable to find in Germany except for in the huge Real supermarket (in a tin) was hummus. The fresh stuff that is ubiquitous in British supermarkets was just not available.

Imagine my surprise this week when I found this in Aldi:

Hummus 1

And then three days later in the REWE in Kempen:

Hummus 2

It’s a miracle! Obviously a winter-only food in Germany.

Real has also extended its range of Wilkins & Sons Jam from Tiptree.

Real jams

The Edeka in St Hubert also had some wag who did an amusing sign for the bananas.

Single bananas

Breakfast with Anja

Anja, with whom I do various musical things, invited me for a light brunch after one of our practices. Which was most kind of her – and another example of the excellent German attitude towards breakfast (you eat a lot and take a long time over it, rather than a quick bowl of cereal).

Breakfast with Anja

I also noticed this rather excellent tin of tea in her kitchen – there are lots of fake British brands in Germany and I think this is another of them!

Sir Winston tea

Seen on cycle rides

You really know you’re in Germany where there is a field with piles of red and white cabbage leaves.

Cabbage Leaves on fields

Poppy the dog

Unfortunately this month Poppy the dog caught kennel cough. This is Zwingerhusten in German and is apparently rife around here – whether or not your dog stays in kennels. Anyway, she duly got it and started coughing so a quick trip to the vets and some antibiotics was called for.

She got over it pretty quickly (about a week) but the visit to the vet showed that she has actually put on weight – from 7.5kg to 8.25kg which is quite an increase! So Poppy now has a bit of a reduced food/increased exercise fitness regime which has included several rides with Frank (he cycles, she runs) and also today’s run to the supermarket with me, a 4km round trip for Poppy.

Poppy running by bike

Other wildlife

I’ve been doing loads of cycling at dusk, going to my various choir practices and the VHS in the evenings. I’ve seen bats and owls and all sorts of running mousy-type things. One morning we woke up and saw that Mr Mole had been very busy around the patio area.

Mr Mole very neat

Cycle rides this month

Because of my remarkably busy schedule, with things on three to four evenings per week, I’ve been doing loads of cycling in the dusk/dark where you can’t see as much. But I’ve also continued riding about once per week with Klaus and we tend to set off a bit earlier so it’s been a chance to make the most of the fantastic scenery here at this time of year.

Here’s a flavour of some of the sights we’ve seen as we trike around Kreis Viersen.

Sunset over Hinsbeck

Autumn Leaves

Hinsbecker Bruch

Gorgeous sunset on bike

I also visited a couple of interesting places with Klaus, one of which is less than 10km from my house here but I had not previously found it (it required a short detour up a grassy track and I tend to avoid these). It is a rather special crossing of the river Niers.

Self-service ferry

As usual for Germany there is a helpful information board about this self-service ferry.

Aiwa info

And of course another information board with the rules for using it!

German rules for ferry

Basically it’s a floating pontoon with a wheel which pulls you along a chain. There’s also a wheel at either riverbank to haul the ferry to you.

Ferry wheel

There was just about room for two trikes and two people.

Self-service ferry with trikes

This was great fun!

And then 200 metres or so further we reached the confluence point of the Niers and the Nette rivers – both pretty small really, but significant enough that they put a special little plaque on the ground.

Nette trifft Niers

And here are the rivers meeting.

Confluence of Niers and Nette

Of the 75,000ish kilometres I’ve ridden over the last six years, probably 85-90% of these have been on my own. Although cycling on your own is still fun, it can be much more enjoyable riding with someone else – and there can also be other benefits. As discovered on a trip Klaus and I did to bag three castles in the Mönchengladbach area.

We were riding along a radweg beside a main road when there was a huge BANG from my tyre and it instantly deflated. It was not exactly a challenge to identify the problem.

Sliced kojak

For the last 75,000km I have carried a tyre boot in my bag of tools (a boot is a cut-off piece of old tyre that you can use to patch large holes like this). So for the first time ever I actually used it!!!

And this is where the cycling companion comes in useful. You can pretend that you are too weak and feeble to pump up a tyre.

Helpful cycling companion

Here’s the repaired Kojak.

Reasonably tyre repair

It managed another 100km before I got round to changing it so the repair was reasonable. But I didn’t want to risk it any further – plus with the seasons changing my usual tyre choice of Marathons is more sensible.

Here’s one of the three castles we visited – which is now a Golf course (Schloss Myllendonk).

Golf castle

And later on we found ourselves heading for an amusingly-named town.

On the way to Damnation

More music

The longer I am in Germany, the more time I seem to spend making music. Which is great – it makes all the money my parents spent on flute lessons for me more worthwhile!!!

Anyway, as mentioned above, Anja and I play together – I play the flute and she accompanies me on the piano or organ. We’ll be playing together in the church service on Totensonntag which is at the end of November, as well as on Christmas Eve at the morning church service and Christmas Day at a social musical evening in Kempen.

I mentioned last month that I had also joined another choir – this one is in Süchteln and it’s a gospel choir. I’m really enjoying singing with this choir and it has the advantage that it’s a 45km round trip as well so a great excuse to cycle! Lara who lives here came with me to one of the practices which was the last before the choir would sing in a church service to welcome the new minister to Süchteln Evangelische Kirche.

So on Sunday 26 October we headed in the car (dressed smartly!) to the Johanniskirche in Süchteln (which is a Catholic church but which the Evangelische Kirche borrow when they need a lot of space as their church is quite small) for the service. The service went well, the singing was good but the acoustics in the choir area were a disaster for me (and I had forgotten to bring my hearing aid) so I couldn’t follow any of the rest of it really.

After the service we were invited back to the Gemeindezentrum (church hall) for cake. Well this seemed like a great plan and my car passengers (Lara and also her parents who had come along) agreed so we followed a friendly lady who knew where there was some parking and then went into the centre (which is where we practice our singing). It looked really different with various partition walls opened and tables groaning with food and cakes. Lots of cakes!

Suechteln Choir Meal

It was interesting being at such an event – there were lots of speeches and some music and we sat with Claudia and Lara (Klaus’s wife and daughter) and enjoyed the cakes and drinks. German people seem very good at generously bringing lots of food for social events and I seem to regularly benefit from this!!

Cakes this month

Here are some of the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed this month in Germany.

Donauwelle at Gut Heimendahl

Apfelstreusel 2

Gudula's cherry cake

Posh Apfelstrudel

Scones with Morten

Dougnhut

Donauwelle in Wachtendonk

Apfel Streusel in Wachtendonk

Doughnut in Neersen

Gudula's chocolate cake

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Penelope does the Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen

The ADFC (German cycle club) in the region Krefeld-Kreis Viersen seem to have quite a lot going on (hurrah), although I suppose this is to be expected as this part of Germany is well known for its cycling.

Having been on the ADFC ride to Xanten and Wesel last Sunday I was interested to see that this Sunday’s ride was rather different in flavour, a much shorter distance.

Tour des Monats info

There was also a very detailed webpage for this tour with a GPX track and more.

I contacted Hartmut Genz to say I’d be coming along and he sent me a very nice email with lots of information about various cycling events that they have done in the past. He said he’d be at an event in Kempen the next day (Saturday, the day before this ride) and if I wanted to say hello then I should come along.

So I cycled over to the Hoffest at Gut Heimendahl (a very interesting farm complex) and enjoyed the stalls selling crafts and more, food, music and having a chat with Hartmut (on the left) and his cycling friend Ulli (on the right).

Hartmut, Ulli and meI told Gudula (my landlady) about the ride and she said that she and Frank and daughter Lara would also go so it’d be a rather enjoyable family trip. The weather forecast was for sunshine and 21 degrees so it had all the makings of an excellent day.

Which it was! I gave the dog a good walk and then came back and got ready to head off to Grefrath where the ride starts (13km/8 miles away). Originally Gudula had said they would drive to Grefrath with the bikes in the trailer as she is less used to very long rides but it turned out they decided to ride there and back as well. Lara’s friend Jonathan also decided to come along.

So at 10:15, having caught an escaped Poppy twice (she wanted to come too!) and put her back into the house, our little group of five cyclists headed over to Grefrath. One velomobile and four traditional German city bikes.

Ride to Grefrath TrackThis was 12.71km and it took us 40 minutes – we averaged 19km/h which is a pretty good speed with the German City bikes. As we were heading into Grefrath I spotted a really fast-looking recumbent bike with tailbox whizzing along the other side of the road and waved at him. I mentioned this sighting on the German Velomobile/Recumbent forum and the chap who it was said hello – he lives in Viersen and has an ICE Vortex but this was his TT bike – which I think was a TroyTec. Looked very fast anyway!

There were people marshalling us to the start point as we approached the Grefrath Freilichtmuseum (which is apparently very well worth a visit). And there were a heck of a lot of people there already, milling about and picking up various free gifts and other goodies.

I had read beforehand on the Kreis-Viersen website that there was a 5€ charge which was for lunch. Frank paid for all our entrance tickets (apparently if you have Gazelle bikes then it was free, and Frank and Gudula both ride Gazelles, but I don’t know if they got free entry) and we were each given a little book of four raffle-type tickets, the top one said ‘Essen’ and there were three that said ‘Wertmarke’. Apparently this was one ticket for food and three for drinks at the lunch stop.

WertmarkeAt the registration desk there were lots of free goodies too – a map of the route, free rear blinker lights for your bike, free baseball caps (I didn’t realise they were free else I would have got one – they were advertising Kreis Viersen, our local council) and, very typical for Germany, a free box of matches for those smoking cyclists. Oh, and a free reflective elastic trouser clip.

Kreis Viersen Free GiftsThe bag contained various newsletters, cycling information books (ringbound and laminated so good in the rain) and more. Including a leaflet on the rules about when you must use the cycle path and when you can use the road – I’ve read it all but there’s no mention of special rules for Velomobiles as there are in the Netherlands (in NL you can use the road if you are wider than 75cm which all velomobiles seem to be – probably on purpose to make the most of this ruling).

I met Hartmut, the leader, before we set off and he suggested I started off near to the front. He’s an experienced recumbent rider and knows that it can be difficult to see what’s going on in a big group when you’re on a laid-back bike. There were loads of photographers around and even people filming – there was a chap from Kreis Viersen (a council worker I guess) who had a Go-Pro attached to the back of his bike – I rode behind him for a bit so I expect I’m on film somewhere.

Here we are before the off.

Before the start
Hartmut had told me that he expected about 150 people and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were actually more than that.

I had no idea before the ride how incredibly organised it was (although this was Germany so I should probably have expected it!) I had found the GPX track online beforehand, and the official map, but I didn’t realise that they had booked out the entire lunch café for us (so we could have our food and drink with the tickets) and I didn’t really twig what the role of the police would be.

Here are two of our police escorts.

Two of our police escorts
Notice they carry guns in Germany – I find that very weird as, as an Englishwoman, I’m not at all used to guns and have never seen a pistol in the UK (as I live near Colchester where we have an army base I am used to soldiers carrying machine guns and also living in a farming area I am used to shotguns, but pistols are entirely alien to me). Anyway, there were four policemen all riding what were presumably their own bikes, the usual German city bike.

So we set off, initially riding through some of the residential areas of Grefrath.

Trundling along the back streets in Grefrath

It was quite hard riding in such a large group – people were generally riding two abreast which meant it wasn’t easy to pass, so for the first couple of miles I was pretty much stuck in the same location in the big group.

Here is our track for this ride:

ADFC Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen May 2014

Click here to see the GPSies.com track where you can zoom in and see the route a bit more clearly.

We were soon out of Grefrath and cycling through some of the farmland that’s a feature of this area. The long line of cyclists stretched back, with people of different ages and abilities trundling along at 14km/h.

A long line of cyclists

Most cyclists wore jeans or shorts and t-shirts, there were just a few of us in lycra. It was a good example of the German attitude towards cycling – it’s an everyday thing which you do in normal clothing with any old bike. Most of the bikes were a bit battered and old and I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of racing bikes and even British-style touring bikes. I was a bit surprised at one point, though, to see a chap who appeared to be cycling in his boxer shorts/underpants. I’m not sure if they were meant to be normal shorts but they didn’t look like it and I made sure I didn’t check too closely.

Between Grefrath and Mülhausen we used the Bahnradweg which I use regularly and normally feels like a fast, easy ride. With a group this size it didn’t – it felt too narrow and of course loads of other people were out on a Saturday cycle ride coming in the other direction which meant there were regular shouts of ‘Gegenverkehr!’ to warn us to squeeze across to the right a little more.

Bahnradweg

After Mülhousen and a brief additional section on the Bahnradweg we headed north towards Klixdorf in open fields.

Cyclists in open farmland

I’d stopped to take some photos and ended up riding behind my little party but one of the ADFC chaps appeared and suggested I followed him up to the front, so off we went, zooming along beside the long string of cyclists until I hit the front of the long trail of riders. I must admit the view is better at the front – you can see more of the landscape and less of other cyclists’ backsides. It was pretty hot in the velomobile at such slow speeds (it requires a bit more speed for the ventilation to work successfully) so I did a brief blast off the front to cool myself down, although I didn’t go past our police escort, of course.

Our police escort

After Klixdorf we headed to Schmalbroich and then up to Ziegelheide, past a couple of the little chapels I have visited recently. Then we crossed one of the main roads (from Kempen to Straelen), where the Police stopped the traffic while we all crossed – which is extremely cool!

Police cyclist stops traffic

We were then riding in Wall which is just a couple of kilometres from our start point but soon turned away again, heading west towards Abtei Mariendonk (the convent where pretty much every ride in this area seems to have to go past).

As we were on quiet country lanes I asked Lara if she fancied a ride in the velomobile and she did, so I hopped on her bike and she took over Penelope for four or five kilometres.

Lara in Penelope

It’s very interesting riding one of the traditional German bikes. For a start, Lara’s bike hasn’t seen any oil in a few decades, by the look of the chain, and it makes weird grinding noises on every pedalstroke, and the basket on the front makes the steering weirdly heavy, and it has a back-pedal brake so no brake lever on the left side, and the grip-shift gears turned the other way than Penelope’s, and… and… but it didn’t matter as I pootled along happily at 15km/h which was the speed of this large group. I was able to take some photos whilst riding as well as a short video.

After we passed Abtei Mariendonk we heded south along Grasheider Straße before turning off into a little wooded area (still with a tarmac road, fortunately) and our café lunch stop. Which had signs up saying it was closed for a special event (private function, as we would say in the UK, although over lunch when we discussed this the Germans would never consider this private as anyone could join at the start. A linguistic difference!)

Lunctime café stop

Bikes were everywhere, but I noticed people were locking them (which surprised me a little). I didn’t bother locking Penelope of course – it would be massively obvious if anyone tried to ride away in her. I always take my valuables out when I leave her though – that’s only sensible.

mass cycle parking

It was here that our special tickets for our lunch came into play. We all settled outside and people came round with trays full of various drinks (beer, fizzy water, Apfelsaftschorle (a very popular German drink), Coke, Fanta) and you just handed over one of your Wertmarke tickets per drink. All drinks appeared to cost the same – one ticket.

Unfortunately I don’t like beer, fizzy water, Apfelsaftschorle, Coke or Fanta. I am very picky and I only like tea, pure orange and still (tap) water. So I asked for tap water and they brought me some after a short delay – I still had to pay with one of my Wertmarke tickets but that was OK.

Lunch was Gulaschsuppe and bread, paid for with the ‘Essen’ ticket.

Gulaschsuppe

It was very hot and tasty and much needed after a long ride on a hot day.

The drinks kept coming round and so I had a second drink of water. You just had to put the ticket into a beerglass on the tray which I did but some people found the server had walked away without taking the ticket, thus we ended up with some spares.

I asked whether it was possible to have either an orange juice (pure orange) or, even better, Teewasser (hot water for a cuppa), and the server said he’d have a look. I thought he had forgotten about me as he disappeared for a while, during which time the ADFC leaders offered a short guided walk to something notable in the forest (I didn’t catch what that was). Lara and Jonathan went off on the walk but I just had cycling sandals with SPD clips so I didn’t fancy too much walking and am aware of the slight issue of ticks around here – didn’t fancy a tick on my toes. So I stayed behind with Gudula and Frank and some other people who had sat on our table including a chap who appears to have gone to school with Frank years ago (they were discussing various people that they both knew).

Then the server appeared and said “I managed to get you an orange juice!” and there it was – lovely and cold and refreshing. So I gave up my third drink ticket.

And then about a minute later a woman came along with my Teewasser. I had run out of tickets but the chap we were talking to gave me his – and then the woman refused to take it anyway (so I gave it back to the chap). The cup of tea was very refreshing and of course I was able to demonstrate the marvel that is the Tetley Drawstring Teabag.

The ADFC had set up a stand with various maps and other goodies and I had a look, taking away a leaflet on the Fietskanal route (which goes from Neuss, near Düsseldorf, to the Netherlands, and is 100km in total). Gudula was very interested in this as she’s leading a ride with some friends next month so might use part of this route. When Hartmut wandered past we nobbled him to get more information about the route and it was very helpful.

The excellent organisation of this ride was also shown by the fact that the St John Ambulance were in attendance at the lunch stop (and at various other points on the ride) in a car and there were a couple of cycling St John Ambulance people too. All extremely well thought through and with lots of sections where we were filmed and photographed by chaps from Kreis Viersen council.

After a stop of an hour and a half (after 25km or 15 miles!) it was time to head off again.

This next bit of the ride took us through some more flat field sections before we started heading up the hill to Hinsbeck. I had ridden this entire ride on Friday (two days before) to check that it was Velomobile-friendly (it was), but the long ride up into Glabbach was rather hot in the VM at such slow speeds. In the end I decided to head up the outside of the column of riders to get a bit more speed and airflow which, although involving more energy expenditure, meant I was a lot cooler. So I was veritably whizzing up a long hill, passing lots of people with their electric bikes – a good feeling!

I got near the front of the queue when we all stopped to gather the group together before the downhill back towards Grefrath. The downhill wasn’t as fun as it had been on my own on Friday as I spent the whole time on the brakes – Penelope wants to go much faster than everyone else downhill but on a narrow-ish road this was not possible. Still, at least everyone went a bit faster downhill so there was more cooling air going through Penelope’s cockpit.

We then joined the Bahnradweg again between Lobberich and Grefrath which is my favourite cycling section here in Germany as it’s so fast! Except not when in a group of 150 people going at 15km/h. In the end I decided to have a quick blast off the front of the group so put the pedal to the metal and had a bit of fun for half a mile or so, reaching 43km/h before slowing down as I reached the police escort at the front. It was brilliant fun – Lara and I are going to have a couple of races along this section with my trike and velomobile sometime in the next few weeks to see who is the fastest (she is super-sporty and wins everything but I am an experienced recumbenteer…)

Then it was back along the residential bits of Grefrath, where we passed some light blue paint on the side of the road which apparently denotes the Fietskanal Radweg, useful for Gudula to know when she organises her ride.

Back at the Freilichtmuseum, our start point, was the draw for the raffle. Every person who registered got a chance in this raffle which included some pretty decent prizes in a bike-related theme, the top prize being a cycle holiday for several days (I didn’t quite hear exactly what it was all about). Gudula was very disappointed not to win one of the ten prizes!

Raffle prize at the end

The group section of the ride had been 38.33km (23.82 miles) in total, and our moving time was 2 hours 36 minutes so that makes and average of 14.7 km/h (9.1mph). Which is pretty slow! And amongst this huge group there was not one puncture that I heard about although apparently there was a slight accident somewhere – presumably two bikes coming together. Not that surprising really with so many people.

It was time for our little group to head back to Kempen so we set off, enjoying riding at a much faster pace – our return home, 12.7km or 8 miles, took just 37 minutes which is a speed of 20.4km/h or 12.7mph.

Calorie burn for this ride (I was wearing my heart rate monitor) was 368 calories for the journey to Grefrath and 310 for the return (I think the HRM wasn’t recording properly on the return) and 901 for the actual group ride section (because it was so slow – my average heart rate for that section as 119 but it’s normally 140 or above!)

All in all it was a very enjoyable day with 63.75km/40 miles ridden in total, and we all went out for an Italian meal in Kempen in the evening (also by bike, another 11km or 6.87 miles). Sunshine all day on the bike and a meal outside at 8pm in the warm makes for a pretty good day!

Thanks to the ADFC for organising such a great ride and to Kreis Viersen for providing free gifts and policemen!

And here’s the official report of the ride on the Kreis Viersen website: http://www.presse-service.de/data.cfm/static/881229.html?CFID=14938995&CFTOKEN=77810165

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

Alfie goes to Xanten and Wesel

Today, for only the second time since I’ve been in Germany (and I’ve been here over five weeks), I took Alfie out on a long cycle ride.

This was because it was a ride with the ADFC (the Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrrad-Club), which is the German touring cyclists’ group (like the CTC in the UK). And the ride would be train-assisted which ruled Penelope out.

The ride was advertised in the Rad am Niederrhein magazine which is produced by the ADFC in this area and has loads of useful information about rides, second hand sales and more. Anja had given me this magazine (she’s an ADFC member) and when I finally had a chance to look at it I saw several good opportunities for rides.

Unfortunately lots of the rides seem to be on Sundays. Usually I’d prefer to go to church but since I’m in Germany to meet people (and that doesn’t seem so easy at church!) I decided that I’d take the opportunity to do these rides when suitable ones arose, whether or not it was a Sunday.

This particular Sunday (11 May) is Mother’s Day in Germany. I checked with the family downstairs that they could look after Poppy for what would be a long day for me (they could) and so I contacted the ride leader, Reinhard Hilge, to let him know I was planning to come along.

This is the description of the ride from the magazine:

Sonntag, 11. Mai – Krefeld
Zur alten Römerstadt Xanten und in die Rheinstadt Wesel
75 km, mittel (15-18 km/h)
Tour mit vielen Facetten und einigen Höhepunkten des Niederrheins. Auf Nebenstraßen über Neukirchen-Vluyn zunächst nach Kloster Kamp, dort wahlweise Einkehr oder Besichtingung des Klostergartens. Weiterfahrt durch das Waldgebiet “Die Leucht” über Alpen und Sonsbeck (Aussichtsturm) nach Xanten (Besichtigung einer historischen Windmühle) und schließlich über den Rhein nach Wesel. Rückfahrt mit dem Zug. Zusatzkosten für VRR-Bahnticket. Die Tour kann auch in Xanten beendet werden. Die Strecke reduziert sich dann auf 60km. Rückfahrt stündlich, Fahrradmitnahme aber abhängig von Kapazität des Zuges.
9.00 Uhr, Krefeld, Von-der-Leyen-Platz (VHS).

A 9am start from Krefeld meant a start no later than 8:15 from my house (it’s 7.5 miles away). The weather forecast was a bit rough with 25mph winds (fortunately mostly from the south-west and we would be cycling north-east) but I had a fairly stiff sidewind for my ride to Krefeld.

Escheln to Krefeld track

After a couple of miles it was clear I still hadn’t got the boom length right on Alfie since unpacking him from the car – my legs didn’t feel as if they could extend properly. I wasn’t keen to stop and adjust it on the way as I would rather arrive at the meeting place and fiddle about with it all there, in case I got a puncture on my way as well.

I arrived at the Rathaus which is next to the VHS (Volkshochschule).

1 Krefeld Rathaus

There was one other person there with a bike – a chap on a rather clean-looking Raleigh tourer. The more I looked at this bike the more I realised it was a rather nice example of the sort of bike you see in Germany (but seldom in England) but with a few differences, such as disc brakes. He even had an E-Werk (Busch & Müller charging system for your phone that uses the hub dynamo). The bike looked in very good condition at the beginning of the ride (by the end it was covered in mud).

I imagine this chap offered me his name but I forgot it immediately and never got round to asking again so I will call him Raleigh Man from now on.

He helped me with the trike boom lengthening, holding onto Alfie’s seat as I wrestled the boom longer against the pull of the chain. It is generally a two-person job.

A quick pedal around the square and it seemed the pedal distance now felt right (I’d moved the boom about 5mm maximum).

Raleigh Man and I were both 15 minutes early but soon our ride leader Reinhard arrived. It became clear it would just be us three – we assumed the bad weather had put some people off, plus Reinhard said they had done this ride a few times over the last few years.

We had to fill in our names on a form (I did mine first so didn’t get Raleigh Man’s name that way) and indicate whether we were ADFC members. I said I was about to join but wasn’t yet, neither was Raleigh Man, and it turns out we have to pay 3€ for the trip if we’re not members.

Here is the track of our ride today:

ADFC Xanten Wesel track

We headed off, briefly going along an unmade path through a park before joining up with what turned out to be my route to Krefeld through Hüls.

2 Heading off through Hüls

Reinhard had told us that we were going to Hülser Berg (which is a big hill) but fortunately we sidled round it rather than going over it. Phew!

We had to keep stopping to put on rain jackets for the regular rain-showers, then take them off fifteen minutes later when the skies cleared again. Raleigh Man had a pair of Rainlegs (I own some of these too) as well as a smart Vaude jacket but Reinhard and I just ended up with wet legs (mine were wetter being horizontal).

Once past Hülser Berg we were out in open farmland again on decently surfaced quiet roads with almost no cars to be seen.

3 Quiet roads

I thought that Reinhard had a rear puncture in his bike as the tyre was very low but he said he just hadn’t pumped it up for a while. He did the whole ride like that which must have added a fair amount of extra effort – and confirmed the weird fact that most German bikes seem to have at least one tyre that’s halfway flat but they don’t do anything about it.

I learned from him the names for the different valves in German – what we call Schraeder are “Car valves”, what we call Presta are “French valves” and what we call “Woods” are “Valves”.

As you can see, we passed this wind turbine which had a rather different tower than the solid ones you usually see.

5 Pylon Wind Turbine

We headed through Lamershof, a tiny village, then cycled over the A40 motorway before skirting the western edge of Vluyn.

After this we were back in the field paths and I was interested to notice this big bit of machinery on a hill at Eyller Berg, some kind of works.

4 Works on hill

Just around the corner we arrived at Kamp-Lintfort with its large Kloster (monastery), founded in 1123, visible on top of the hill.

Kloster Kamp is known as the Sanssouci of Niederrhein and, once we had cycled up the hill and parked our bikes round the back, it became clear why.

6 Kloster Kamp Gardens

The gardens were amazing. I’ve found a few photos on Google too which show what it’s like from ground level.

Kloster Kamp from Wikipedia.
Carschten [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

The building itself looked rather impressive too.

7 Kloster Kamp 1

Unfortunately it was undergoing renovation works inside, apparently, so we couldn’t do the usual tour. The church was still open but a service had just finished so I didn’t really want to go in as people were still in there.

Here’s a picture of the inside attributed to Karl Thelen (http://www.fotocommunity.de/pc/pc/display/24287155)

kloster-kamp-am-niederrhein-by-Karl-Thelen

Having not had breakfast (it was too early) I was now feeling really hungry as it was 10:55am and so was pleased when the café opened five minutes later.

Rather surprisingly there were no prices for the tea or cake, you just gave a donation. I ordered some Teewasser (hot water for tea) and a slice of cake they said was similar to Donauwelle.

8 Kloster Kamp cake

And gave a donation of course.

The ladies serving were very friendly – I wondered whether they were volunteers and Reinhard thought so.

We chatted over our cake, discussing who was the best James Bond and a bit about the forthcoming elections. I found Raleigh Man harder to understand as he spoke quite fast and fairly quietly but we managed to communicate OK I think. It’s getting less tiring speaking German at length now, at least!

Reinhard warned me that there would be a section after this that I might not like (I’d already had to slow down considerably for a couple of forest paths as they are hard going on the trike with small wheels).

So we set off and were straight away into rather a long stretch of woodland between Kamp-Lintfort and Alpen.

9 Fuzzy forest path

Sorry for the fuzzy photo – it was a rather bumpy ride as I was taking the photos (and that was the best of three!)

At one point I could see in the distance a load of pink and assumed it was a Biergarten with dozens of pink parasols. I was wrong – it was an entire garden fence/wall/hedge of hydrangeas. When I got nearer I could see the front of the house – just – through the amazing display.

10 Amazing Hydrangeas

We cycled across the A57 motorway, plunging back into the woodland again with the rather mucky track.

Reinhard then told me there was an even worse section of path which was one of the official Niederrhein Radwege. It just goes to prove that even the Germans can provide ridiculous cycle routes!

11 Suboptimal cycle route

As you can see, Raleigh Man is also walking. I managed to cycle a bit further than he did before I lost traction and had to walk. Lifting Alfie’s back wheel and pulling him up a leafy path isn’t great for the back and I was pretty knackered after 200 metres or so when I reached a load of large stone chippings and some houses. Reinhard explained that lots of mountain bikers use that track (it would suit them I suppose) and that the people who live at the end don’t like it so they put down these huge stones to slow them down so they have to walk. It certainly worked for me and I dragged Alfie over these stones feeling rather pooped after all the exercise!

We’d seen some signs to Xanten when in Alpen but didn’t head in that direction at all – instead we went towards Bönninghardt on which turned out to be a pretty significant diversion (probably added 10 miles or so to the complete distance) but which was, on reflection, probably worth it!

The detour was to Sonsbeck and to its viewing platform. The rain had started heavily again and I was getting pretty hungry so was keen to press on and we kept up a good pace on the cycle path beside the Landstraße (i.e. reasonably fast) as we headed towards Sonsbeck.

We arrived on the edge on Sonsbeck and Reinhard led us round through the industrial estate and then across a little bridge to a very, very muddy track with puddles all the way along. I struggled to ride this (just about managed) but had a few moments where I thought Alfie would grind to a halt whilst ploughing through inch-deep mud and I’d have to put my feet down. Fortunately not but he picked up masses of muck that was grinding away inside the mudguards for a while making a terrible noise. Even Raleigh Man’s super-clean bike was looking rather mucky.

Rather frustratingly I could see on my Garmin a road parallel to our track (less than 50 metres away) in the industrial estate which was presumably non-muddy. If I hadn’t been left behind (the other two rode on to keep progress up in the mud) I would have told them I’d turn back and take the road but they were too far ahead to hear me so I soldiered on.

Fortunately after 200 metres or so we rejoined proper roads, whizzing through Sonsbeck (I was hoping for some lunch, but no luck), and then heading out the other side. There was a sign that said Xanten 11km so that was a relief – it looked as though Xanten would be lunch stop.

We headed off on the cycle path along the Landstraße and Reinhard said we would visit the Aussichtsturm (viewing tower). This was rather interesting as I could see on my Garmin that the track to the Aussichtsturm wasn’t on the main road but on one parallel to it, as you can see from the track we took here (we were cycling from the bottom of the map in a north-east direction). I am not sure why we didn’t take Bögelsche Weg to start with as it was asphalted – instead we had quite a detour which involved even more hill climbing (this was all rather hilly).

Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm diversion closeup

Anyway, we soon arrived at the base of the tower.

Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm 1

The tower (officially called Der Aussichtsturm auf dem Dürsbeg) was built in 1981. Made of wood, it has 154 steps which take you up 100 metres above ground level.

17 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm View Stairs

Here is a photo I found on the internet which shows the whole thing with less foliage.

18 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm

And this is what it looked like to me just before I started the climb.

Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm 2

I was feeling pretty knackered before I started the climb (a ride in bad weather on a bike I have become less familiar with, whilst often feeling chilled from the rain, and riding with non-recumbenteers so not always at the best pace), but it was worth it for the view from the top, despite the less-than-stellar weather.

This is the view back towards Sonsbeck.

14 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm View Sonsbeck

And this is the view of our next destination, Xanten – you can see the twin towers of the cathedral (you may have to click on the picture to enlarge it).

15 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm View Xanten

And looking down at our bikes.

16 Bikes from Aussichtsturm

Here is a photo of Reinhard (left) and Raleigh Man.

19 Sonsbeck Aussichtsturm Fellow CyclistsIt was very cold and windy up on the top of the tower so we didn’t spend long there, heading down the stairs again and jumping back on the bikes (or creaking down onto my trike, in my case) before heading off towards Xanten. Apparently there were no more hills before we got there – phew!

Here’s the elevation profile from the group section of the ride (i.e. leaving Krefeld and arriving at Wesel) and you can see Sonsbeck’s hill rather obviously: at 31 miles

ADFC Ride Elevation Profile

It seemed a very quick ride into Xanten from Sonsbeck – the tailwind we’d had most of the day was still blowing strongly and it definitely helped. The twin towers of the Xanten Dom (cathedral) were visible from a long way away so we just headed along a smooth cycle path along a road for several miles, aiming at those towers.

We arrived in Xanten at just after 2pm and I was hungry enough to gnaw one of my legs off (except then I wouldn’t have been able to cycle any further). So I was relieved when we went pretty much straight to the suggested lunch place, a Biergarten next to a working windmill.

1 Xanten WindmillThe mill still grinds flour and bakes bread from it (they had a little shop) and we were able to sit outside (under an awning as it started pouring again) to eat our lunch.

I ordered a pot of tea, of course.

2 Tetley TeaThe waitress asked me if I was a mother. I said no. She said that if I was, they would have given me a free glass of Prosecco as today was mother’s day. I said I am teetotal so it would be wasted on me. We placed our food orders and off she went.

I then realised I’d been a bit dim as perhaps my companions might like some prosecco (they said yes), so when she returned I said I’d remembered I am a mother to a little doggie. So she brought me a glass, with a smile, and I handed it to the chaps to share.

3 ProseccoThen our food arrived. I had ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and hadn’t paid that much attention to the description – it also had an egg (yummy). Less yummy were the slices of gherkin which I don’t like and I piled them to the side.

4 SandwichInterestingly Raleigh Man asked if I wanted them and when I said ‘no’ he asked if he could have them. That was fine, I was happy to share, but I think British remoteness would mean that one probably wouldn’t ask that of a chance-met acquaintance on the first day. Which would mean gherkin-lovers miss out, I suppose. It’s also probably part of the waste-not, want-not mentality. Reinhard had some of the spare coleslaw from Raleigh Man’s plate so it’s clearly the done thing. Sensible really.

I noticed this rather unusual name for a cake in the Cake Stand.

5 Hugo's FriendAfter a fairly leisurely meal and then the fun of paying three separate bills for our meals when we all only had large denomination notes, we headed off in more drizzle.

I liked this old building down a side road.

6 Xanten HouseReinhard had explained that most of Xanten was flattened in the war but they rebuilt things like the Dom in the same style as before. The windmill, too, had clearly been repaired from a shell. In the UK we tend to build something modern in place of something that’s destroyed. I think I probably prefer the German way as you tend to get more attractive buildings (although I guess it costs a lot more).

Before we left Xanten we had to look at the Dom:

Xanten Dom from Wikipedia: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Xanten_dom_IMGP1422_wp.jpg

I couldn’t get a good photo of it so have used a Wikimedia one.

We didn’t go inside either but here’s a picture taken by Heinz Kottysch, found on the Internet.

7 Xantener Dom Heinz Kottysch

On the way out of Xanten we passed signs for ‘Schokoladen und Konditorei Museum’. What a good thing it was Sunday and therefore closed otherwise I might have had to have a look around!

1 Schokoladen Museum

Earlier in the ride I had thought I would bail out at Xanten as I was feeling so tired and often chilly. However the lunch had revived me and as Wesel was only 15km (9 miles) away I thought it worth carrying on.

Although the drizzle was still annoying we soon joined the path near the Rhein with occasional glimpses of the river over the dyke to our left.

2 Wesel in the distanceThis was very amusing – as I was cycling towards this gate I watched a herd of cows crossing. The gates were locked shut and we saw the various farmers corralling the cows into the cowshed to the right. But no-one seemed to be coming to open the gate. In the end Reinhard asked if I could lift the bike over and I said I thought it’d be better to wait for one of the farmers to open the gates.

In the end a lady shouted up to us ‘open the narrow gate’ and it turned out that the right hand gate wasn’t actually locked! We felt right fools opening that, having waited for about five minutes!

3 Gate LockedAs we continued along the dyke Raleigh Man was chatting to me about his bike. Unfortunately because of my hearing difficulties and his softly-spoken and fast German I wasn’t really able to understand all that much. But I did notice when he said “You can see the old Rhein bridge.” And indeed we could!

4 Old Wesel BridgeThis bridge was apparently blown up by the Wehrmacht during World War 2, along with lots of others down the Rhine.

The newer Wesel bridge is rather impressive – I went over it by car last week, it was good to have a chance to photograph it from the bike.

5 New Wesel Bridge

6 New Wesel Bridge

7 New Wesel BridgeThe view from the bridge of the Rhein isn’t particularly scenic.

8 Rhein from Wesel BridgeWe crossed the bridge and then followed the signs to the railway station. Wesel is apparently twinned with Felixstowe in the UK (not far from where I live in England).

When we got to the railway station we had about ten minutes before our train. Some train ticket purchasing was required and there followed a traditionally-baffling German ticket sharing experience.

Reinhard appeared to have some kind of train season ticket. He said that one of us could travel on his ticket but the other would need to buy a ticket. So I turned to Raleigh Man and said I assumed we’d pay half each for the extra ticket to be fair, and he nodded.

Reinhard then proceeded to buy a ticket from the machine. I assumed this was the third ticket but no, he said I had to buy one (if I had an EC Card, which I did). He asked if I wanted the ticket to Kempen (and typed in the details of Kempen for the ticket) and it was 13,10€. I asked how much it was to Krefeld and he didn’t know (which surprised me – hadn’t he just bought a ticket?), so he went through the ticket query thing again and Krefeld was 11€ so I said I’d go for that one (I am happy to cycle another 5 miles to save 2,10€, clearly). So I used my card and the machine printed out my ticket. I was about to go when he said “you also need your Zusatz ticket”, which is another word for a bicycle ticket. Apparently I couldn’t buy this in the same transaction as the main ticket. So he pressed the buttons for me for the Zusatz ticket and whilst I was putting my card for the 3,10€ cost in he asked Raleigh man for 6€, which he gave to him. And then that was apparently that. I had paid 14,10€, Raleigh Man a mysterious 6€ (for what?) and Reinhard had bought something from the ticket machine but who knows what. I can only guess that Raleigh Man paid for both bike tickets (minus 0,20€) for him and Reinhard for his contribution. But overall I came off worst.

13 Wesel railway ticketsTime was marching on so we went quickly to our platform and I was able to get Alfie in the lift. The train arrived and was one with a large bicycle compartment; Alfie’s wheel was crossing the line but I got away with it.

10 Alfie on train 1After a couple of stops some of the other bikes (and their riders) left the carriage so there was room for us to sit down. I was faffing about charging my phone when Reinhard said “we’re changing here”. I thought I was on a direct train but no – we were at Duisburg and needed to change. He said we had 15 minutes for the change so at least it wasn’t a rush.

So I got off and wheeled to the lift, Reinhard having told me to go to Platform 4.

When the lift eventually arrived I discovered it was too short for Alfie. Bummer. I’d have to carry him down the stairs.

So I picked him up and carried him down three flights of stairs – not very easy to be honest. Still, I made it.

I wheeled along to Platform 4 and decided to check that this was indeed the right platform (didn’t want to walk up the stairs if it was wrong) but I couldn’t seem to find our train on the departures sheet anywhere. I looked and looked again – nothing was going to Krefeld. Weird.

In the end I gave up and thought I’d go up to the platform anyway, so I hoisted Alfie up onto my hip and staggered up the stairs, feeling pretty exhausted. When I got to the top Reinhard and Raleigh Man were waiting, wondering where I had got to. “The lift was too small” was all the explanation they needed!

Raleigh Man showed me the Timetable on the wall and our train – it turned out the timetable downstairs had been for the S-Bahn, not the RegionalBahn, thus why our train didn’t show.

The train duly arrived and we had to walk briskly along the platform to the front where the bike storage was. Reinhard indicated to me to get on at a different set of doors as the carriage was full, so I squeezed him into the little vestibule by some doors.

11 Alfie on train 2Fifteen minutes later we were in Krefeld and a couple of people helped me lift Alfie out (hurrah!) There was yet another too-small lift so I had to carry him down yet more stairs. The Krefeld to Duisburg line is not one for people with weird bikes or Tandems!

At the bottom of the stairs, at a narrow pinch point, Raleigh Man and Reinhard were waiting for me, causing a traffic jam. I went off to the side to make some space and Raleigh Man said goodbye as he was going out the other way. I didn’t get much of a chance to say goodbye properly (I was still flustered from the stairs) which was a shame as he had been quite gentlemanly on the ride, often cycling with me for company and chatting to me. And we’d had a wonderful speedy section between Xanten and Wesel where we were riding as hard as we could with the tailwind – we got up to 35 km/h. Reinhard with his flat rear tyre was left behind on that bit.

I hadn’t got a pre-plotted route back to St Hubert from Krefeld railway station so Reinhard led me back to our original meeting point and I picked up my outward route from there.

return route Krefeld to EschelnThe disadvantage with following a route in the reverse direction is that places with one-way streets – like Hüls – become a bit awkward. I did some pavement riding the wrong way along a one-way street but in the end gave up with that and trailblazed a slightly different route (shown by the wiggly line in Hüls in the map above).

There was an unexpected benefit – I came out of the shadow of some large buildings and saw this impressive water tower which now seems to have a youth club attached to it.

12 Hüls Water TowerI soon rejoined my familiar route through Hüls and fighting against the head/sidewind made my way back to St Hubert.

On the ride I was doing a bit of mental arithmetic and realised that my route would be slightly under 100km if I went directly home (I’d reset the trip computer on my Garmin so didn’t have a definite figure to hand but had a vague idea). So I thought it worth doing a 2 mile extra detour at the end to ensure I made the 100km. And it worked – I did complete a metric century. I felt pretty pooped afterwards and my lovely hot shower was just wonderful after the chills of the rain. I’ve got out of practice at riding a bike in bad weather due to having the velomobile.

Anyway, I had a very enjoyable day and will be joining the ADFC before the next ride, which is on Sunday and meeting in Grefrath for a shorter 35km. As I can ride to and from Grefrath I’ll take Penelope for the fun of it – here’s hoping there won’t be too many awkward gates or forest paths.

 

Statistics for today’s ride:

First the section of the ride with the others
Distance: 45.01 miles/72.43 kilometres
Moving time: 4 hours 35 seconds
Moving average: 9.8 mph/15.8 km/h
Average heart rate: 123
Maximum heart rate: 185
Maximum speed: 30.2 mph/48.6 km/h
Calories burned: 1,972
Total climb: 818 feet/249 metres

Now the ride combined with my outward and return trips to Krefeld
Distance: 62.88 miles/101.2 kilometres
Moving time: 6 hours 17 seconds
Moving average: 10 mph/16.1 km/h
Average heart rate: 126
Maximum heart rate: 185
Maximum speed: 30.2 mph/48.6 km/h
Calories burned: 2,822
Total climb: 956 feet/291 metres

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