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Kylltal & Mosel Day 7: Koblenz to Cochem

This was the last day of our tour and would be the shortest at around 45km.

We breakfasted and then made ourselves ready. Once again we left for our morning’s ride around 9am – we have been very consistent about this!

I was relieved to find that my motor did indeed work this morning, that the battery was still functional despite a loose metal pin.

Here is our route for the day.

We had of course ridden this way yesterday. Well, it was not all the same as yesterday we did a section on the other side of the river and today we would stay on the left hand side. But that meant that 70% was just retracing our steps/wheeltracks.

But travelling in the other direction does show you some new things. It helped that the weather was a bit warmer today.

Here is the section on the way to Winningen where we are sandwiched between the railway on the left and some rocky walls on the right.

And here’s what it is all about… the grapes! A bit early for them, but there is some promise showing.

A few times on our tour we have seen the ADAC helicopter which is some kind of rescue helicopter I believe (like an air ambulance). We saw it set down in a very small field – there can’t be that many flat landing places in the Mosel valley!

I find it very interesting considering the age of the terraces which we were riding past. The Mosel has been used for viticulture for ever, and sometimes you come across something like these steps made out of stone which could be hundreds of years old.

The Mosel is, of course, a castles and wine river. Here is Klaus with a castle in front and some vineyards to his right.

On our journey to Koblenz yesterday we whizzed past this small area which had been planted for the bees. As we were going uphill to it today we stopped and had a look.

At Löf we stayed on the same side of the Mosel rather than crossing over and so had a short section with some new impressions. I liked this tower – I of course started quoting “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” and it turns out the German pronunciation of Rapunzel is quite different.

Here is a pic Klaus took of me. Notice I just have one pannier at the back – travelling light, the other pannier was in his car in Cochem.

Photo by Klaus

We decided to stop for cake after 35km in Treis Karden. We found a nice café and had a Schmandkuchen with a nut base. This is slightly more Keto than all the food we had eaten so far on this holiday! It tasted good, too!

We were looking across at this pretty church whilst enjoying our cake. The church had a sign saying it had been built in 1699.

Photo by Klaus

From Treis-Karden we had just 10km back to Cochem, although we had a couple of dodgy cyclists to contend with. One was a time-trialler doing at least 40 km/h on the cycle path (normal maximum is 15 km/h) and it was a path we were joining after crossing under the railway so visibility was bad. I think we gave him a bit of a shock but he should have been on the road, he was way too fast for the cycle path. We also had an idiot chap who just wheeled his bike across the path, blocking it – I think he had forgotten it was a cycle path in use and just thought it was part of the parking area where he was standing. Fortunately we have good brakes and Klaus can sound authoritative in German!

And then we arrived back in Cochem which was REALLY busy. The car park which had been almost empty yesterday morning was full now – presumably with visitors for the bank holiday weekend. In the final 5 metres of the tour, when Klaus had to ride up a steep slope to get to the car, he managed to put so much power through the pedals that he twisted the boom around. Clearly the boom quick release bolts weren’t quite tight enough. He was then stuck as he couldn’t get up from the bike as his brakes probably wouldn’t hold him, so I came to the rescue and stood behind the bike so he could get up.

We disassembled the bikes and managed to tetris them into the car again. I managed to get oil all over my hands and some on my face too, but this is normal.

We headed away from Cochem through the crowds of tourists. I don’t imagine there will be another June opportunity to tour the Mosel without hordes of other cyclists. We had noticed more every day as it was, and this reminded us why we prefer to ride in less-busy places. We are both a bit misanthropic!

Here are the statistics for the day.

And here is the map of the whole tour.

We rode in total 343km and enjoyed ourselves very much! Klaus is already planning future tours, with an eye to the Romantische Straße and also some 1-2 day tours in the Eifel. Of course, I need to get my upgraded batteries before that!

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 6: Cochem to Koblenz

Today we would be back on the road again, but a shorter day than the previous ones at around 60km in total.

But first we took the opportunity to offload some more unnecessary items to the car at Cochem Long Term Parking.

I made a last-minute decision to keep my rain jacket as the weather seemed greyer than the forecast yesterday had suggested.

Then we set off.

Today‘s motor plan was to ride on number 4, using number 5 for any inclines that slowed me down too much. I would try and keep to a relatively consistent speed. Klaus wanted to stay behind me again today to try to match his speed to mine.

I had issues with my squealing brake again (the disc rotor is slightly fouling the brake gubbins, but this will be a bit of a fiddly job to repair). I also had to adjust my seat. But it was OK for Klaus to wait for me to faff about taking off my jacket, etc, as the views were good!

We passed a lot of castles today but the light wasn‘t great for photography. But here is one!

There was quite a strong headwind at times today but then we would round a curve and it would be gone. This mini harbour at Hatzenport had incredibly still water.

We were making good progress today, averaging about 17km/h, and my motor was performing well on number 4. I was also giving a bit more Helen Power to the pedals as I felt more rested and energetic after our day off yesterday.

The route is largely alongside a road but we crossed over to the right hand bank of the Mosel at Treis-Karden for 15km or so. After we crossed back across the river at Löf we headed through Kattenes and then the cycle path crossed under the railway and went up a narrow path the other side of the railway to the road. This was much more scenic but the road surface was pretty rough too.

At another short faffing stop we were overtaken by a big bunch of leisure cyclists so we stayed put for a bit to give them a chance to get ahead so we didn‘t have to overtake them again.

Here we saw lots of the little metal bogies for the viticulture. Apparently they can go up slopes of up to 60%!!

We were making good progress but had been on the bikes for a couple of hours so decided to stop for cake at a likely-looking café in Kobern.

Cheesecake for both of us!

We carried on, crossing under the A61 motorway which is our usual choice of route when visiting Klaus‘s father or other places in the south.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

After the bridge we started climbing a little up the side of the hill on the way to Winningen. We watched gliders being launched from Winningen Airfield; my father once flew there with my Mum for a holiday (he was a private pilot).

I wasn‘t sure of the significance of this giant snail shell!

The route takes you down a steep hill in Winningen and at the bottom we saw a lady nearly fall off her ebike. It seemed that the act of turning a sharp corner in it was too much for her!

Along a road in Winningen we saw this amazing building with individual letters formed out of sheets of plate about 1 metre squared.

Photo by Klaus

Very posh for a wine shop!

We arrived in Koblenz-Güls where our hotel for the night was located. I asked if I could drop off my pannier, which was fine – the hotel took it. I said we would be back in about three hours.

From the hotel it was just six and a half kilometres to Koblenz. Klaus and I got split up twice, once when he fell foul of some unhelpful traffic lights and a second time when he chose not to go through the road closed sign that the rest of us cyclists did and ended up on a wild goose chase around Koblenz. But we both knew our destination, Deutsches Eck, and we were both there soon enough.

Photo by Klaus

This meant for Klaus he had joined up 3 river tours – Kylltal, Mosel and Rhein. There are lots of other rivers we need to add to our repertoire though!

The v-shape in the middle is our current tour. We need to join up from the Vennbahnradweg (south of Aachen) to Gerolstein. I have also ridden from Mainz to Frankfurt am Main but for some reason the GPS track is missing.

We decided it was time for some more food so stopped at the café Wacht am Rhein where we stopped on our velomobile tour. I had crepes and Klaus had Apfelstreusel.

Whilst we were there it began to rain so we had chosen a good time to sit under an umbrella! The rain eased off before we decided to head back to our hotel.

This time Klaus followed me through the Road Closed section as it was actually a lovely smooth new surface.

It felt like just a few minutes before we were back at the hotel in Güls.

We took our luggage off and then when I disconnected the battery from the motor cable – Disaster!

That little metal spike should not still be in there!!! There are four holes in the connector in the photo below, and one is missing its metal widget inside.

Was this Game Over? Klaus said that if necessary tomorrow he would cycle to pick up the car and fetch me, but I decided I would at least try to make a start on the ride back. It would probably be slow but I can ride 45 kilometres without motor assistance, just the Winningen hills would be a pain! I had resolved that I would give Klaus the pannier and the heavy stuff to carry.

I put the battery on charge just in case it would work after all. We then went out for our dinner in the restaurant next door to the hotel, and we had some good food. Klaus enjoyed his last glass of Mosel white wine on the Mosel.

Güls seems to be a bit of a ribbon development along the river but it is good to be close to the water.

When we got back from dinner the battery had fully charged. The suspense was killing me so I decided we would try it out tonight so that I would know if the motor would work for me tomorrow. I was most relieved, after carefully plugging it in, to see the battery was indeed providing power to the motor. We will see if that will be the case for the whole of tomorrow‘s 45km. But we have hope!

We have really enjoyed this tour. We have been lucky with the weather and also it is much less crowded than normal due to Coronavirus. I don‘t suppose the Mosel will ever be as empty again in June, so I am very pleased we have had the chance to see it like that.

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 5: Cochem

We both slept really well, starting to recover from a few difficult weeks at work. It is good to feel rested again!

Yesterday the WiFi was being tricky (we had to use a phone hotspot) so I didn‘t manage to include some photos that Klaus took of Cochem, but here they are now.

Cochem Castle by Klaus
Cochem by Klaus
Painted Stairwell in the bridge by Klaus

We had a leisurely breakfast knowing that we didn‘t have anything planned for today. We talked a lot to the Guest House landlord who was discussing all the ebikes and the problems they can cause. We saw this yesterday – many people riding ebikes who perhaps haven‘t ridden much for many years. They have quite a lot of speed and power available to them and tend to often ride on a very high power setting but with a very low cadence. We were regularly overtaken by ebikes and I am riding one myself. Probably we are more careful with energy usage as our journeys are longer – over 80km yesterday, for example.

After breakfast we did a bit of judicious packing for a bag we would leave in the car today. The weather forecast is improving so we don‘t need so much wet weather clothing. As we will just be riding to Koblenz and back over two days, about 110km in total, we don‘t need much with us. We had a full bag which we carried with us to the car park in Cochem where Klaus‘s car has patiently been waiting since last Saturday. It won‘t be moving again until Friday afternoon/evening. We will go tomorrow morning to buy parking for the next two days and I may well drop off my mudguards then too as they are annoying and rattly and if there isn‘t any rain then I would rather leave them. Klaus will probably keep his on as they are as yet rattle-free.

I also took the opportunity to telephone Gerrit Tempelman of Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten. He is the chap who always serviced my Versatile Velomobiles but is also an ICE dealer and has over the last few years developed a new side of the business which is electric motors for recumbents. As I needed a new battery or two (following the discussion between Klaus and I yesterday) but also really wanted my trike serviced (dodgy brakes), it seemed wise to take it to one place.

Gerrit was, as usual, very helpful. He can offer me two batteries that will work with my Bafang motor, although changing to a better socket system (the one for my battery is a bit tricky and I am always afraid the cable will break or bend badly, whereas the one for my Milan seems pretty bulletproof). I also explained that it is really hard to adjust the brakes with the Bafang electronic brake thingie and this is a known issue with these brake levers (with a motor cut-out sensor) and Avid BB7 disc brakes – there is simply too much travel on the brake lever. Gerrit can offer a gear sensor for the motor which is a much better idea (and which I have on Millie‘s motor).

Gerrit has a lot on but we booked for me to deliver Alfie to him in July and he will do a service, provide me with two new batteries, possibly provide me with a seat-mounting system for the batteries (rather than me using the sidepods, although I am happy with that option), add the gear change sensor, change back to my original brake levers (which I still have), provide me with batteries and new cabling for them… and also the basic service. Alfie will enjoy the attention! Hopefully having two good-size batteries means that I can go a bit faster on the longer rides with Klaus and we can maybe tackle some hillier routes too.

It wasn‘t raining so we decided to go out and deliver the bag of things to the car. We found the car undisturbed in its parking place and said a brief hello. We‘ll be back tomorrow to feed another 10 Euro to the parking meter.

We then sat on a bench looking at the Mosel for a bit. Looking behind us and to our right was Cochem castle and it didn‘t look like too high a hill… perhaps we could climb up and have a look.

So we set off walking through the town and up steeper and steeper cobbled roads until we found ourselves at two schools, perched high on a hill. Quite a tough walk to school for the kids! Past the schools was the route to the castle.

Photo by Klaus

It wasn‘t a difficult walk but neither of us are used to hill climbing, living as we do in the flatlands, so it was definitely a bit of effort!

At the top a gateway, we had to wear masks from this point.

The view from the top was worth it!

There was a terrace café but there was a big queue for it, so we decided to walk back down for our cake lunch.

This sort of sign was not around 10 years ago! No drones.

We decided to go down a different way, which took us past a little chapel built in the 1400s.

We were soon walking down steep cobbled streets again.

Photo by Klaus

Cochem is a nice town with lots of pedestrian areas although they also allow cars for residents so you do tend to have to dodge a lot of cars.

We found somewhere to sit for some cake!

Whilst we were enjoying our tea and cake it started to rain, but wonder of wonders we had accidentally managed to sit under a large umbrella so we stayed dry. We watched the people go past for quite a while before heading back to our Guest House for a rest (and for tea and blog-writing for me).

I popped out a bit later in the day to buy a new home card for someone, and a stamp, and managed to blag a free pen as I didn‘t have anything to write with. Card written, we then decided to go out for dinner and did a bit of googling for decent places as last night‘s Italian had been very disappointing. There was a place just down the road from our Guest House which looked good so we went there. I had a very tasty steak and Klaus had a schnitzel. We also had dessert of course!

Eistorte (known as Grillage Torte in the Niederrhein)
Weincreme

I‘m contemplating using just my sidepods for our 2 day trip to Koblenz and back. I did a test pack and it is just possible to fit everything I need to take just in the sidepods, which means I can leave my two 25 litre panniers in the car, but it also means the battery will be a bit squashed and, as mentioned above, I think the connector is a bit weak. I will decide tomorrow if I will risk it, but it would be nice to ride without panniers on the back. And of course the mudguards which I will take off as we have no rain forecasted. In fact, the forecast is for sunshine, up to 27 degrees in Koblenz on Friday.

Today has been a nice rest day and it was good to walk around Cochem. Back to the trikes tomorrow!

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 4: Bernkastel-Kues to Cochem

We woke to rather grey skies with misty hills in the distance – perhaps w would have a wet cycle ride today.

Here is a picture from my bedside table – charging station for phone, iPad Mini, Garmins etc, and some biscuits that Klaus bought yesterday. They worked well dunked in tea first thing in the morning!

Breakfast was served in a lovely room overlooking the hills. Because of Covid-19 the hotels are not allowed to supply a buffet breakfast, instead they deliver everything to your table. This Guest House had everything very nicely set out.

We went back to our room, packed everything and then retrieved the trikes from the garage. I needed to tighten my mudguard again as it keeps coming loose, and Klaus needed to tighten up his seat.

I forgot to mention in yesterday‘s blog that I had noticed part of the general cabling for the Bafang motor had slightly separated apart. I pushed the two sockets back together again and lo and behold my left brake motor cutout was magically working again. That was a relief!

Talking of the motor, I had a comment on my blog yesterday from regular reader antc1946 who said he has the same motor and he uses the 9 levels option, riding mostly on level 3. That means the battery lasts well. So I decided to switch from my 5 levels back to the original 9 levels and try riding on 3 as antc1946 suggested.

So we set off, again pretty much at 9am, assuming it would take us quite a long time to get to Cochem as it was 82km away and I would be using less battery power.

It was a bit grey as we started and we had our jackets on but not our coats as it was warmer than previous mornings.

Today‘s scenery was largely vineyards and there was quite a lot of activity going on as well – we saw lots of people walking amongst the vines, tractors in the vines, people using the funny little railway bogeys and even a helicopter spraying (see the photo below).

We crossed under this very impressive bridge, the Hochmoselbrücke, which carries a Bundesstraße across it.

You can see from the two photos above that the sun had come out and the sky was blue. When stopped to take these photos I took the opportunity to remove my jacket and socks.

It‘s really impressive to see where the vintners are able to place their vines – this area was particularly steep and they squeezed the vines in every nook and cranny.

Whilst on the ride today I reached a mini milestone with Alfie – 3,000km cycled using the motor. I was quite surprised it was that much as I only did a 3 day tour before with Alfie, the rest must have been lots of commuting and leisure rides.

When checking out the route last night Klaus had noticed that we could do a shortcut across the hill which avoids Zell on a river meander. However, the route planner showed it was a mighty hill and we didn‘t fancy it! You can see below the very narrow section we would have needed to cross.

However, we went the long way round, pootling around Barl. There was a sort section which wasn‘t asphalted and which had a couple of roller-coaster ups and downs.

As you can see from the above map, after we arrived at Zell we crossed the river was was our original plan, but you can see our track stops and we have to retrace our steps. It turned out the cycle path beside the road was blocked for bikes. There had been some signs showing diversions but it was not clear that the entire route was blocked.

Klaus and I had ridden up rather a hill to join the cycle path, only to discover it was still blocked at this further point. Here we are in a mirror at the top of the hill.

Looking at the road closed sign.

We ended up crossing back into Zell and then heading up the right hand side bank of the river, which was actually quite nice although the block paving needed to be repaired as there were lots of very lumpy bits due to tree roots.

We also failed to find somewhere for cake. We had been riding for 50km or so but all the places we saw were wine sales shops/cafes. I am a lifelong teetotaller so wine isn‘t anything for me, and as we were cycling anyway Klaus didn‘t want any. However, I know that the Mosel has loads of cafes so we would find one eventually.

After about 7km on the other side of the Mosel to our original plan we crossed back on this impressive double-decker bridge near Alf.

The scenery was still great of course – rolling hills, vines, water…

Fortunately we eventually found somewhere to stop for some food – an Italian which also did ice cream and strudel. Klaus chose the Strudel.

I went for a large ice cream.

We headed off again after half an hour with only about 30km to go. As the battery in my motor was doing much better than yesterday I increased the assistance level from 3 to 4, sometimes going up to 5. This was a very good thing as we had been rather too slow before this point, averaging about 14.5 km/h. Klaus had stayed behind me all day to try to match his speed to mine as I had been rather pooped yesterday trying to keep up with him, but it was very slow for him. My battery will not allow me to travel more than about 60km with lots of assistance. So I was experimenting with Level 3 today, which certainly gives me more range but isn‘t really enough help for me to ride at a useful pace. It seems clear I need to get a second battery so that we can do some longer rides at a faster pace.

I saw this impressive ruin on the other bank, not sure what it was!

With about 15km to go we saw some very heavy clouds in the distance and expected we would get rained upon.

However, we were lucky and the wind blew it round a corner. We managed to stay dry on the entire journey, with the rain starting heavily in Cochem about two minutes after we arrived.

About 200 metres from our Guest House I stopped to buy some cake for us to have when we arrived. It was very tasty!

Our guest house is pleasant with quirky furnishings and decor, a kettle in the room (which isn‘t functioning 100%, I have to hold the button down to get it to boil, but it does heat the water with this assistance!) and friendly staff. Our trikes were safely put in the garage.

After the traditional washing of clothes and unpacking we had a few cups of tea and then went out for a meal. As we like to sit outside (because of Covid-19 ) the choice of places wasn‘t that high but we found a generic Italian restaurant. The food was rather mediocre but that‘s often the case in tourist traps. We had a view of the river from where we sat and we were served fairly rapidly.

After the meal we had a short wander around Cochem.

We have a day off tomorrow so will probably spend some more time exploring and if the forecasted rain holds off we might do a short ride too. The following day (Thursday) we will head to Koblenz, staying overnight just outside Koblenz, and then will return to Cochem and our car on Friday and head straight home.

And here are the details of our ride today:

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 3: Trier to Bernkastel-Kues

We woke up a bit early – this is the disadvantage of a hotel in a city next to a supermarket. The deliveries for the supermarket come early and there is lots of banging and crashing of trolleys etc. But it was OK as we had had a fairly early night.

Breakfast was at 7:30 in the morning which worked out well – time for a bit of a chill out and to investigate possible hotels for tonight in Bernkastel-Kues.

We extracted our bikes from the bicycle storage room, I did a bit of maintenance on Alfie‘s left disc brake (which is squealing rather) and then it was time to roll, almost exactly 9:00 again, the same as yesterday.

We had a shorter and flatter ride today, only 65km rather than yesterday‘s 90, but I was pleased about this as I felt rather pooped yesterday after the riding with all the hills and an easier day would be good.

We had made a route out of Trier on the right bank of the Mosel (the official cycle path is on the left bank) as we had ridden 10km on the left bank on our way to Trier yesterday and it wasn‘t particularly attractive. After 11km the official cycle route would cross over to join us.

The first 3km coming out of Trier weren‘t particularly attractive either, we were on main roads with Monday morning traffic, but we made good progress and soon found ourselves on a separate bike path.

You can see here the beginnings of the vineyard valley sides which are so typical of the Mosel. And, of course, the river itself!

We were now bumbling along nicely. Interestingly, in order to keep up with Klaus I had to have my motor on number 3 (out of 5), whereas yesterday I had mostly been using number 2. We had a shorter day so I thought that would be OK. If I switched down to number 2 Klaus kept disappearing off into the distance, and if I was ahead and switched down to number 2 he would very quickly overtake me and disappear off into the distance. So Number 3 it was.

The scenery is lovely – lots of vineyards perched onto rocky hillsides, lots of weird machinery to tend the vines (little engines which pull up on almost vertical rails) and we saw lots of tractors spraying stuff; these are extra-narrow tractors which pass between the vines and which presumably have very grippy tyres!

I told Klaus before we started on this holiday that one of the delights of Mosel touring is watching the locks. Sure enough we arrived at Detzem and knew that about 10 minutes behind us was a barge, the Eentracht from Dordrecht. So we decided (well, I decided and Klaus didn‘t demur) to wait for it and watch the lock in action.

Looking downstream:

While we were waiting we did some photography… or Klaus did anyway (my pics of the bikes were no good)

Malcolm X, the ICE Sprint X

The barge came into view and the lock gates on the far side disappeared under the water…

We watched them tie the barge to the wall of the lock with just one rope to hold all that weight! And then the lock started emptying below our feet on the bridge over it.

It‘s surprising how quickly all the water is let out and the barge continued. We saw him again just as we reached our evening destination and had seen him right at the beginning of our time along the Mosel so it was interesting to compare our progress. I don‘t think he stopped for cake and photos as often as us!

Talking of cake, it seemed about the right time half an hour after the Lock experience so we stopped at a café which had a sign outside saying „Kuchen“. This was in Leiwen. The café was up some stairs with a view over the hills and the river.

With shade, too, which was welcome as the day had warmed up enough for us to remove our coats and at this point I even removed my socks (so I just had sandals on=.

The cake arrived – it was an extremely tasty cheesecake!

We had a very good leisurely break but eventually it was time to move on. We had done 30 of our 60 kilometres for the day.

In Neumagen-Dhron it started to rain. Not very heavily but enough that we eventually stopped under a tree and I put my waterproof jacket on. More for warmth than to keep the rain off. We carried on a few minutes later and the rain eased off.

One we went, and as we arrived in Piesport I saw a decent location to take a photo for the header for these blog pages.

At Piesport Klaus phoned the Guest House that we had chosen as our favourite option for tonight, and they said that they had a room free. We said we would be there in about an hour and a half.

In Mintrich there was a new cycle facility. I actually remembered having to cross a busy road and then cycle up a hill to get into Mintrich, but this time I saw the track on the Garmin was a bit different – they had built a bridge over the road. How nice of them.

Except… at the end some bright spark had put two planters together as a speed reduction method for bikes. But it was impassable for me with panniers on, I had to get off and shove the bike round the corner. It would be no fun with a trailer either. There must be a better solution!

Klaus was also doing some photography underway. He took this selfie…

And he also took this photo of the vines.

I was suffering rather with range anxiety now. The display on my Bafang controller was flickering down from 2 bars to 1 (from 4). Now I know that the display tends to overestimate the remaining juice, so I was really getting low. We had 15km to go. Riding at Number 3 all day had taken its toll, despite being a flat ride today.

I warned Klaus that my battery was running low and tried to conserve it as best I could, which is tricky when trying to keep up with a speedy trike rider. As we came into Bernkastel-Kues it was showing 1 bar all the time – a bad sign. I resigned myself to possibly having to ride up the hill to the hotel without a motor. Not an enticing thought.

And that is indeed what happened – about 500 metres from the hotel the battery was dead. I was on my own with my own muscle power, which wasn‘t much today as I rather overdid it yesterday. I crawled up the hill, eventually arriving at the hotel where Klaus was waiting for me. I was feeling a bit grumpy as I had to work a bit harder than I wanted – we discussed it later and we will go slower tomorrow, especially as we have 80km to ride rather than 65!

Our Guest House is really nice. We have our own room with a patio and a view over the Mosel. It gave us a great opportunity for a washing line art installation too!

After the usual shower, washing of clothes, cup of tea etc it was time to walk into Bernkastel-Kues for a bit of sightseeing and eventually our dinner.

It‘s a lovely quaint town.

Photo by Klaus
Photo by Klaus

We had a Schnitzel dinner and Klaus enjoyed some local wine.

We shared a dessert!

On the walk back to our Guest House across the river the light was lovely. Here is the Burg.

And here, although not a great photo, you can see the sunlight playing on the contours of the wine terraces.

All in all it was a very nice day, with some grey skies at time and a few minutes of rain but lots of sunshine and great views.

And here is where we went (track up, not north up)

We have looked at the weather forecast and although our ride to Cochem tomorrow looks dry, it seems the following day will be rain the whole time. So we have booked a hotel for two nights, as neither of us wants to cycle in the rain. We have the unusual advantage that Klaus‘s car is in Cochem so if we want to go somewhere else on the rainy day we can leave the bikes in the hotel garage and take his car for a spin!

The plan is the following day to ride to Koblenz and then back again to Cochem the next day, from where we will drive home. So it will be a six day bike tour which is a nice amount of time.

Klaus is now bonding well with Malcolm his trike and is learning again how trikes differ from Velomobiles. He has clearly chosen well, and although there are a few bits and bobs we need to do to Malcolm (and also to Alfie), they are both basically well-built and reliable machines. Alfie has done 45,000km, Malcolm 250, but they will both have a lot more miles on them by the end of this summer I think!

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Kylltal & Mosel Day 2: Gerolstein to Trier

We slept very well and then went down at 8am to a very good breakfast – served at our table rather than buffet-style due to Covid-19. However, they needed to give us a larger table really!

We unlocked the bikes and then put all our luggage on. This was the first real opportunity to check we had our handlebars in the right place, etc.

And then we were off!!!

We had been told by some friends that the Kylltal Radweg was very nice and they were correct! It weaves its way beside the river, crossing it regularly on bridges built especially for cyclists or walkers.

We had gone just one kilometre when Klaus, who was behind me, said „You‘ve lost something!“ He noticed that my British Flag was missing. Oh no, it must have blown away!

As we had only been riding a very short distance, and this was the beginning of several days of touring, I turned round to try and find it.

Phew, I found it! I attached it with a very tight cable tie and hoped that would do.

Onward we cycled, generally in very green surroundings. There was the odd castle or church to be admired.

The nice thing about trike touring is you are slower than in the velomobile and you tend to see more are you waft along. I was really impressed by this large carved bird, simply carved into a tree trunk beside the cycle path.

The path tended in a downhill direction but there were quite a lot of short, sharp inclines. This coincided with the brake motor cutout on my left hand brake on Alfie stopping working. This is an electronic cut-out so if I use the brake, the motor switches off. I have to dab on the brake before changing gear so that the motor doesn‘t damage the Alfine hub; I brake with my left hand and change gear with my right. However, the left hand brake cutout wasn‘t working so I had to brake with my right hand and then do the gear with it – this often didn‘t work well (I forgot which order to do things) and so I had some gear changes where I lost a lot of speed. Not much fun in sharp inclines and no fun for Klaus if he was following me – he ended up stuck in a high gear at one point having had to come to a complete halt as I had ended up stationary.

It worked best if Klaus rode in front in the rolling bits, so he did so a lot of the time.

We rounded a corner and passed an old factory with this most wonderful chimney. The Leaning Chimney of Usch.

It was an impressively tall chimney but everything was very derelict.

And here below is Alfie posing beside the Kylltal Radweg signage.

What was cool on this tour was that we went through two railway tunnels (there would have been a third but there was a detour on the route so we missed it). They are impressive constructions, presumably with two rail lines originally going through them, now single track which leaves space for a bike lane.

The tunnel was cool and dark inside and we discovered that Alfie doesn‘t have many reflectives on the back – Klaus said all he could really see of me was the tiny red LED light from my motor wheel sensor at the back!

We then reached Kyllburg – the name ‚burg‘ gives a bit of a clue, as it means fortress which is usually built on a hill. Kyllburg was indeed hilly.

We winched our way slowly up a long, long slope and near the top I saw this lovely wicker stork with a mask on his beak!

We had a very long, slow climb out of Kyllburg which was hard work! The battery in my motor was clearly taking a beating and was showing a rather lower energy reserve than I would like. We both got really hot by the time we got to the top of the 2km climb.

The view at the top was worth it though!

What goes up must come down… and so we shot down the other side of the hill and I ended up with my highest trike speed for a while – 65km/h. My brakes weren‘t brilliant so after this downhill I fiddled about with the disk pads and things improved a bit, although they were still a bit uneven.

We had decided we would divert to Bitburg for lunch as it is a major town in this region, although was a 4km detour from the Kylltal Radweg. The detour started with a nice bridge.

But then continued with a long, long slow climb. Bitburg, too, is at the top of a hill, and we were grinding our way up slowly. I knew we weren‘t even halfway on our route for the day so I had a bit of range anxiety with my battery.

We arrived in Bitburg and there wasn‘t much open (it is a Sunday) but we did find the Prinz Café with its very friendly proprietor who was keen to speak to me in English.

He also kindly took my battery and put it on to charge whilst we had our cake.

We had a good chat with him and he recommended a few places to visit on our tour.

After about an hour we headed back towards the Kylltal Radweg, this time enjoying a downhill run instead of the tough uphill on the way in.

We were in a quite leafy and green section with lush grass, quite a lot of insects, interesting birds (I saw a greater spotted woodpecker) and more. We saw this chap wheeling around above us – I think he might be a kite (Milan in German)

We were also impressed by a lot of the buildings we saw. This image below shows the railway station building for a small village!

We were mostly riding beside the river on asphalt, but there were a couple of bumpier sections, including a couple of kilometres where it wasn‘t asphalt just forest path. These were OK on the trikes, although I had to tighten up my mudguards a couple of times as they start to swing about with the bumps. There were a couple of more bumpy concrete-type surfaces, such as in the photo below.

Although our mega climb of the day out of Kyllburg was behind us, there were still lots of little ups and downs. And some of the downs were quite steeply down!

And then we would round a corner and see a lovely bridge, or house, or scenery.

Klaus kindly stopped in the middle of this mini ford for the photo below, and then couldn‘t get traction to get out again. I zoomed across and then came and helped him with a good push.

Then it was time for another tunnel, very similar to the first.

After a while the route seemed flatter as we were making our way down from the Eifel. We had the path to ourselves most of the time, as you can see from the photo below. That‘s Klaus in the distance.

At Kordel I felt a bit peckish and we saw a Guest House that looked like it might be open. I rang the doorbell and the lady said she would come, so we sat outside in the sunshine. The grey morning in Gerolstein had improved into a sunny afternoon nearing Trier and we were shedding layers throughout the day.

The lady said she could provide tea and coffee but no cake. That was fine. But then she came out with a slice of Black Forest Gateau and said „something for the lady“, and for Klaus she provided some Rosinen Brot.

She said to us a bit later on that it was actually a slice of cake she had bought for herself, so we were very grateful. It tasted really good!

The lady warned us that the cycle path down to the next town was closed and we would have to go on the main road, so we knew what to do when we reached the closed path sign and took the main road. There was no cycle path and we were of course much slower than the 70 limit but I found the car drivers very courteous and not bullying. A nice change!

And then we were at the point where the Kyll flows into the Mosel. We couldn‘t actually see the point, but it was behind this shrubbery here.

We now had about 15km to go to reach our hotel, but on pretty much entirely flat terrain as we are in the Mosel valley.

We faffed around the Trier harbour area and then eventually crossed the Mosel and made our way slowly through the pedestrian zone to our hotel which was just behind the Porta Nigra.

They had some good secure bike parking for us.

And we had a mini balcony to dry our washing!

After a short rest we went for a walk around Trier, of course having another look at the Porta Nigra.

We had an evening meal of a burger and Klaus enjoyed a beer (although not a Bitburger).

We loved looking at the beautiful buildings in Trier.


And finished up with an ice cream. I hope you can see Porta Nigra in the background!

And our route for today?

And here are the statistics:

90.4 km at an average speed of 17 kph. Total riding time 5:19:06.

And a few more details:

Tomorrow the plan is to cycle along the Mosel to Bernkastel-Kues and see if we can find a nice hotel there. Weather looks good too!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Kylltal & Mosel 2020, Recumbent Trikes

Kylltal & Mosel Day 1: Kempen to Gerolstein

One week ago Klaus bought a new trike. Today we set off for a cycle tour with this trike (and mine).

Klaus had yesterday off work and he spent some of the time doing a bit of trike maintenance, such as fitting a holder for his Garmin GPS, fitting bar tape onto his handlebars to replace the rather grotty foam ones and also fitted two new mirrors. Malcolm the Sprint X was ready to roll.

When I got home from work yesterday we put both trikes in the car – choosing a rather unsuitable time to do it, as we had a massive rainstorm. But we both wanted to get the job done so we managed to load the bikes only getting a little wet in the process.

To load two ICE Sprints in an Opel Insignia is not actually too difficult as it‘s such a large car. We put the back seats down and then pushed Alfie folded up to behind the front seats, then turned him round so his nose was pointing at one back window and his tail the other, and then we could put Malcolm in behind him in the boot proper. We stuffed the luggage in the back seat footwells.

We had been watching the weather forecast for a few days as it wasn‘t ideal – the warm May weather was turning cooler and rainier. But we were putting ourselves under no pressure, if the weather is awful one day we won‘t do any riding. Simple.

Saturday morning dawned rather grey and rainy-looking. We said goodbye to Poppy and set off at about 9:15 on the two hour drive to Gerolstein in the Eifel hills range.

We went through some mega rain storms on the journey to Gerolstein which meant we were slower on the motorway in places than normal. But we arrived safely at the hotel at 11:30am so very early, but I had pre-warned them that we would be delivering the trikes.

The receptionist was very helpful and friendly and showed us where we could park the trikes, in their covered parking area. It‘s not a locked parking area but we were not worried about this – Klaus had a lock for the trikes and they aren‘t as interesting to try out as Velomobiles.

We unloaded the car and rebuilt the trikes, fitting their mudguards as well due to the rainy forecast.

We then took our luggage to the hotel room (Klaus also took Malcolm’s seat with him) and then it was time to me to head off.

I was driving to Cochem to park the car at a possible finish point of our tour. Cochem is easy to access by train so if we don‘t end up there we can easily pick up the car via train. We had also found a very good value parking area – 15 € for a month. I headed off there.

My journey was along a lot of winding roads around the volcanic Eifel region. There were some good views and some sunshine and blue skies as well as more mega rain. I was briefly on the A1 motorway and saw a nasty-looking accident on the other carriageway. This was in a very heavy rainshower and we all slowed down some more after seeing that!

I arrived in Cochem at 12.48 and the bus was due to leave at 13:13. It was one bus every two hours so I didn‘t want to miss it. But first, the parking.

Strangely the parking signs had a different amount to the 15€ for a month. They said 5€ per day, but a maximum rate for 20 days of 20€ if you had a Cochem (COC) number plate. Which we did not. So for the 5 days I estimated was a sensible amount for our tour, we would need 25€.

The problem was… I had 2 x 10€ notes and 2 x 50€. And the machine did not give change. I didn‘t want to pay 50€ for a 25€ parking charge, so decided to walk to the bus stop to buy my bus ticket and so get change of a 50€ note.

The walk to the bus stop turned out to be longer than I thought as there wasn‘t a cut-through towards the railway station so I had to walk three sides of a rectangle instead of the short side. I arrived at 13:03 and saw a bus waiting at the stop – without any destination written on the front and with the driver eating his lunch.

The bus had a sign on the front door saying you couldn‘t go in that way and couldn‘t buy tickets from the bus driver. OK, so where do I buy the tickets? There was no machine near the bus stop and I went into the railway station and only saw a Deutsche Bahn ticket machine. I had investigated the Deutsche Bahn tickets on the Internet and it displayed the bus route (number 500) but doesn‘t give a price or the possibility to buy the tickets. I had found the price online, 10.80€, but there was no option on that website to buy a ticket.

So I went to the bus door and did an „Entschuldigen Sie“ to the driver, who opened the door for me. I asked where could I buy a ticket for the bus to Gerolstein. He said „not from me“. I said I was aware of this, but where was a ticket machine. He said he had no idea where I can buy them from, but I could just get on the bus if I wanted.

I said I needed to go and pay for my parking and I would see if I could find a ticket machine too. He said he would leave at 13:13.

I went into the café next to the railway station and ordered a bottle of water, simply to break up my 50€ note. I didn‘t actually want to drink anything as it looked as though I had no chance of the loo and had a 90 minute bus journey ahead of me! But now I had some change for the parking ticket machine.

So I went back to where the car was parked and put in my 25€.

So we had to either finish our tour by Thursday lunchtime or at least go past Cochem and buy a couple of days more if we were going to extend it. 5€ a day is a fair price though.

So now I needed to get back to the bus and buy a ticket somehow. Time was marching on, so I semi-jogged back from the car park to the railway station/bus stop. I am no runner/jogger!

I got back to the bus at 13:12. No time to play with the Deutsche Bahn ticket machine in the hall, instead I got on the bus to see if there was a ticket machine inside it (like there often are in trams). No.

So I then asked the people on the bus „where can I buy a ticket?“ They all shrugged their shoulders.

The driver heard this and said „I can‘t sell you one because of Corona“ (which I knew). But then he said „Take a seat.“

I said I would try to download the App and then buy a ticket.

There was a sign right in front of me with the logo of the ticket company:

This VRT is the Trier public transport company. And they had an App!

So I started downloading it (signal wasn‘t great) and we set off about 30 seconds after I had sat down, first driving along the Mosel. It was good to see it – my last Mosel tour had been 10 years ago.

The App eventually downloaded. It seemed I could only buy tickets for bus journeys in the future (not ones I had already started) but I assumed the ticket would be valid for all journeys. So I found it, bus number 100.

„Price not available“. No chance to buy a ticket. Great.

I was unable to buy a ticket from the driver, from a machine on the bus, from the app, and from the non-existent ticket machine at the bus stop. So I gave up. I would be a Schwarzfahrer. I have a suitable colour face mask for this highway robbery.

I did wonder how many other passengers actually had a valid ticket as no-one seemed to know how to buy one. There were 5-6 other passengers on board and we were all wearing face masks. One guy had one he had made out of a cut up face flannel with a bit of string.

The journey was very scenic, climbing steeply up the valley side of Cochem with some great views down to the Mosel. Then it was up and down around the volcanic Eifel region, through towns and villages. The bus driver was very skilled and it was a comfortable journey.

At one point we met the 500 bus coming the other way down a very narrow bit of road and the two buses stopped and the drivers had a five minute chat. All very friendly. These busses were also towing a trailer with a rack to hold up to 10 bikes – there were no bikes on either bus. The cycle tourist season is not going well due to Corona.

We were soon nearing Gerolstein and the rain cleared away to leave blue skies and sunshine. We passed a huge volcano caldera (Maar) and I think there are several others in this region. I think the volcanoes of the Eifel are technically only dormant, not extinct, so we could be in for a surprise on this tour!

I arrived back at the station in Gerolstein, got off the bus and then walked to the hotel. When I got there Klaus wasn‘t there, he had walked to meet me at the bus stop and somehow we had missed each other. I was very pleased to see him as I needed to go up to the room for the loo and he had the key!

After I had had a few minutes to chill out we went out for a very late lunch in Gerolstein which was a bowl of soup for me, a salad for Klaus, and then a crepe as a dessert (Klaus had a chocolate cake).

This was a very late lunch, nearly 4pm, but we still wanted an evening meal a few hours later so walked to a Pizzeria. We had a book with vouchers for 10% off the meal but of course we forgot to take the voucher with us!

And when in Gerolstein…

We walked around Gerolstein a little, including visiting the fountain outside our hotel.

And just around the corner was the river Kyll, which we will follow down the valley to Trier. It‘s not very wide or deep here!

We also saw a huge storage area with bottles of Gerolsteiner Water.

A great German word on this signpost!

And a German false friend. „Shooting“ with your whole family isn‘t generally considered a good thing in English!

Our Hotel Garni am Brunnenplatz is very nice, I can definitely recommend it. The room is pleasant, the staff very friendly and helpful, and we also have breakfast in our room rate too.

Tomorrow we will set off on the Kylltal Radweg. This heads to Trier and is 70km long, with 10km then along the Mosel to Trier. This is a manageable distance in a day on a trike but if the weather is bad we may have a shorter day stage. Trier is a nice place to visit, I have stayed there a couple of times before, and phoned this afternoon to book a hotel near Porta Nigra. We don‘t want to just whizz along, we want to stop and see the scenery – one of the great benefits of the trike over the Velomobile – but we have plenty of time so that should be no problem.

We were both pretty tired by 9pm, not just the driving but also the excitement of starting a tour and also we have both had a fairly tough few months at work. It is good to have a break!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Kylltal & Mosel 2020, Recumbent Trikes

Six Wheels In Germany – May 2016 (Month 26)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here are my rides for this month.

Statistics for month

And here’s VeloViewer’s Wheel which shows where I have ridden (except for a ride I did in NL). However, the total distance is wrong on this wheel – no idea why as Strava has the correct data (and it gets the data from Strava).

Veloviewer Heatmap Wheel

A word about cycling apps… at the moment the Velomobile community is rather annoyed with Strava (where many of us track our rides) because of the following message we received:

Hello, I’m from Strava Support. Please note that any activity performed while using a velomobile should use the activity type “Workout” or be made private and can not be marked as a standard bike ride according to our policy and outlined in our article, which is linked to below. This policy is in effect to protect the integrity and fairness of our segment leaderboards. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/articles/216919507-Uploading-E-bike-motor-assisted-or-non-conventional-bike-data-to-Strava-Guidelines

Any activity that is marked as a ride, but performed in a velomobile is subject to being flagged. Continued violation of the above mentioned policy may lead to the termination of a Strava account. We appreciate your cooperation in advance. Please submit a support ticket if you have any questions about this policy.

In the future, we do hope to add an activity type for velomobiles although we currently have no plans to do so. Please feel free to add your votes and thoughts on that feature request to the forum linked to below. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/208837707-Support-Aero-Velomobiles-or-Rocket-bikes-on-Strava

Basically, if we mark our rides as ‘workout’ or ‘private’ they are not included in leaderboards with other riders and many other features are lost. Several people have left Strava because their rides are constantly flagged (even if just round the corner for a coffee, no speed records) so it seems we may move across to Garmin Connect as that seems to accept velomobiles at the moment.

One ride, two countries, three companions

Chum Oliver who rides a Mango velomobile had contacted me to ask if I’d like to meet up with him on his way back from a longer ride (back from Ede in NL to his home near Roermond). He said we could meet for a cuppa in Arcen and then ride together to Venlo or something. Of course I said yes as it would be great to catch up with Oliver again.

Sunday mornings is a time that Klaus often rides, starting early in the morning (7 or 8am sometimes) as he has to be home at midday for breakfast. We decided to ride together to Straelen and from there I would head to Arcen to meet Oliver and Klaus would ride home again.

1 ride 3 companions

So Klaus and I set off from my house and rode together the relatively short route to Straelen, doing a detour to Obereyll and Nieukerk on the way to stretch out the ride a bit, and because that section of road is fab (smooth, fast and empty).

I had to stop to take the photo of this amazing place name on the road sign – a clear mix of the local dialect of German-meets-Dutch.

Schpootenhuske

We arrived in Straelen and stopped at Hoenen bakery where I had their breakfast and Klaus had a piece of cake. We were very early as Klaus would need to head back by 11 at the latest and I wouldn’t need to leave for Arcen until midday, but I thought I could safely sit in a bakery for an hour on my own with no problems.

Just as I had finished my breakfast and Klaus his cake we spotted chum Uli cycling outside. He had seen the velomobiles so parked his bike and came in to see us.

Klaus and Uli

Helen Klaus Uli

He was on his way to Walbeck which was a bit further north to attend a Radio Ham Field Day. I know a bit about these as my father was a Radio Ham previously and went to a couple of these field days. Anyway, Uli asked if I wanted to come along as I had some time to kill so I said yes of course.

Klaus headed off home and Uli and I set off to Walbeck, about 10km further on than Straelen. There was some kind of event on in Walbeck that day which meant some of the roads were closed and traffic was a bit random but we found the field with the Hams in in due course – right next to this windmill.

Helen and Uli at Walbeck

The sights and sounds were familiar from my youth when my Dad did lots of radioing (before the Internet appeared).

Radio Field Day

The chaps there were impressed to know that I had experience of Ham Radio but seemed appalled I hadn’t got into it myself. But I find the internet rather easier and involves less equipment!

After half an hour there it was time to head off on my own to meet Oliver in Arcen, so I said goodbye to Uli and the other chaps and zoomed down the hill to NL, my second country of the day. I stopped at the usual café, sitting outside to wait for Oliver.

He was on a 200ish kilometre ride back from Ede and had given me a very vague estimated time of 12:30 but he was spot on – I heard the thunderous noise of his Mango rolling over the cobbles before I saw him. I waved to him and he stopped, parked near to Penelope and we sat down for some lunch together.

Helen and Oliver

After lunch we rode together to Venlo where we stopped briefly to watch what seemed to be a championship of Water Polo played with canoes. Great fun!

Venlo watersports

At Venlo we went our separate ways and I dragged myself up the hill back to Germany, reaching home with 75km on the clock at an average of 20.1km/h. A fun day out with three companions on my voyage to two countries.

Trike Treffen, Christi Himmelfahrt, Xanten

Two years ago, when I had just been in Germany a month, I attended the Trike Treffen at the Hariksee near Brüggen. This is organised by people in the velomobilforum.de and liegeradforum.de and was great fun. I met Oliver there, and met Klaus for the first time as well, and also got to know other people who I have subsequently seen again.

Last year the Treffen was miles away in the south but this year it was back in Niederrhein, in Xanten which is just 40km away, so Klaus and I hatched a plan to visit on the Thursday (a public holiday in Germany for Ascension Day). The group were going to do a cycle tour during the day and then meet back at the campsite; we decided because of the distance just to go to the campsite after they were back, so leaving my house at about 13:00.

On the day Klaus had to pull out for domestic reasons so I set off on my own in Penelope on a lovely sunny day to head to Xanten via the route Klaus had planned.

Trike Treffen Track

I started out riding the eastern side of the track which was a much more interesting scenic route, particularly when I got near to the Rhein and there was a lovely cycle path on a very quiet piece of land, the Bislicher Insel. The place was heaving with cyclists and the sun was shining and it was a lovely day to be out on a bike.

I stopped at a café for a waffle which was extremely good value at 3,50€ with a free cuppa.

Trike Treffen waffle

Here was my first view of the Rhein as I turned towards Xanten.

Rhein

The track Klaus had planned went round Xanten rather than through it (a wise move on a busy public holiday) and I was soon at the campsite which is marked with the little photo square on the map above.

It was impressive to see how many people were there with their tents and bikes.

Campsite 1

Campsite 2

Campsite 3

I walked around a couple of times looking at all the trikes and velomobiles. I loved this decoration!

Ladybird trike

And this Alleweder A4 had a Haribo dispenser on the side!

Alleweder with Haribo

A very friendly chap who I had met at the previous Trike Treffen made me a cuppa and I sat chatting with friends, including Detlef who lives not too far from me and has a WAW velomobile (he let Klaus try it out before he bought Celeste). It was good to catch up with some people I knew.

After a couple of hours I decided it was time to ride home so I headed off, avoiding the huge hill at Sonsbeck by going round it and then taking the fast roads home. It was a very good route back and I averaged 22.4km/h for the day’s ride and hadn’t felt like I was riding particularly quickly.

I woke up very early on Saturday morning so made a last-minute decision to join the Trike Treffen tour that day. The plan was to drive with Alfie in the car to the campsite and join them on their tour along the Rhein around Xanten. So I quickly downloaded the track for my Garmin and headed to Xanten in the car.

Trike Treffen route

It’s impressive seeing so many tents and recumbents.

Camping field 1

Camping field 2

We had a little introductory talk about the route and then set off in a big group of what turned out to be 62 bikes and riders.

Bikes on Radweg

The Rhein was in sight during lots of this ride.

Rhine bridge near Xanten

Weird bikes in normal town

Xanten lakes

Xanten lake 2

I was very impressed by this topiary!

Duck topiary

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to a Rhine ferry crossing. We parked our vehicles under a tree as it was a very hot day!

Alfie and friends

Unusual trike

Wooden trike

Leitra and two Mangos

Trikes under tree

The organisers of the Treffen had booked food for the participants but as I hadn’t put my name down to come I bought my food separately in the restaurant. I started with a piece of cheesecake.

Cheesecake

And then had a Flammkuchen (a very thin pizza)

Flammkuchen

It was a really hot day and I was thirsty so had to order a bottle of water (they wouldn’t give me tap water). Look at the price of it!!!!

Rheinfaehre Bill

It was a very good sociable ride and I had lots of chance to chat to people underway. The pace was very sedate – we averaged 14.2 km/h for the 78.62km ride.

Group underway

I’ve ridden around here a few times so recognised some landmarks – Xanten is always easy to spot with the double-steepled cathedral.

Across fields to Xanten

Most of the group stopped off at a supermarket on the way back but I whizzed straight back to the campsite as it was time to get back to Poppy and I felt like stretching my legs a bit (using my electric motor to help me over the hill to Sonsbeck of course!)

I enjoyed the day very much and it was good to catch up with acquaintances and meet new people as well. There’s a lot of organisation that goes into these events but as a participant you don’t always appreciate how much work it is, so thanks to Walter who did the organising this year, as well as the others who helped him.

A short Rhine tour – part of my Metric Century A Month challenge

May is a strange month in Germany as it seems to consist almost entirely of public holidays. It feels like every week has at least one day off – Christi Himmelfahrt, Pfingsten, Fronleichnam…

Anyway, Pfingsten (Whitsun) was a free Monday. On the Saturday I was going to a Eurovision party with Claudia and Gudula but Sunday and Monday were completely free so I decided I would do a short bike tour. I’ve done the Rhein south of here lots of times but not really north of Kempen so I decided to cycle northwards along the Rhein. And for it to be my first ever proper tour in the Velomobile (overnight tour I mean).

Interestingly, you need almost as much equipment for a one-night tour as for a three week tour. You need two sets of cycle clothing and one set of casual evening clothing, including shoes that aren’t SPD/clipless. I also wanted my iPad. You need tools, wash kit, phone chargers etc. The only things I left behind were the charger for Penelope’s batteries (they would last no problem for two days) and the charger for my AA batteries for my Garmin.

What is notable about a velomobile on a bike tour is… other people can’t tell you’re on a bike tour. All the luggage is stored in the velomobile so as far as they are concerned you might be cycling round the corner to visit a friend. On a normal bike the touring panniers are a dead giveaway.

This is what Penelope looked like from outside and inside during my tour.

VM for touring

VM for touring 2

I had planned a route there which went first to Xanten (or near it, past where the Trike Treffen had been the previous week) and then on to the Rhein, following the southern bank until Millingen. That was the plan, but I changed it a bit underway.

Screenshot to Millingen

Anyway, I set off northwards to Geldern where I partook of a breakfast in the café overlooking the market square. I had all day, plenty of time for the 84km, and so I thought I would take it very easy. Also because Penelope was pretty heavy with my luggage (shoes, lock and iPad add quite a bit of weight!)

After Geldern I headed towards Xanten via Sonsbeck on the route I had taken home from the Trike Treffen Thursday evening meet. This had an excellent hill-avoidance diversion so I didn’t have to haul myself up the hill between Sonsbeck and Xanten, just looked at it to my left as I pootled along on the flat. A much better option!

I cycled past the road to the camping place for the Trike Treffen and then continued north, through Marienbaum and then eventually to the Rhein.

But before I reached the Rhein I had my first obstacle… Drängelgitter

Draengelgitter

These are a pain in the neck with velomobiles as you have to get out, manoeuvre the bike through and then get in again. My velomobile routes always avoid them if possible but I didn’t know these were here. Fortunately they were the only ones I encountered on my tour.

Soon I was up on the Deich/dyke and able to see my river, the Rhein. I was having a very relaxed ride, not overdoing it and being careful about my knee which has had a few problems recently. With a heavy velomobile and unknown route it would be easy to go too fast so I was careful. Well, that’s my excuse as to why the day’s average speed was only 18.9km/h.

Then I found myself on a familiar bit of road that I had cycled with Hartmut first, and then Klaus on the way back from Dronten – the bit before the bridge to Rees. I had been considering the distance of my tour – only 84km. I wasn’t sure if I would have another opportunity for a 100km ride this month and thought it sensible to extend the ride so I could bag the Century. I thought therefore it might be nice to cross at Rees and head to Emmerich for tea/cake as that ought to add on up to 10km. So I decided to follow the cycle signs to Emmerich (rather than my Garmin), and found myself riding up an extremely steep slope up to the bridge. I almost didn’t manage the slope because of traction issues… when I had crossed the bridge with Hartmut and Klaus we had gone on the road. The cycle path was definitely less suitable although I managed it.

You can see here how narrow the bridge pedestrian/cycle section is.

Bridge to Rees

But of course a lovely view down the Rhein.

Looking down the Rhein

It was an extremely windy day and once I crossed the river and turned north west and west I was directly into wind and even in Penelope I noticed it. It was actually quite a cold day and I had chosen unwisely when I wore a short-sleeved cycling jersey – long sleeves would have been better. Thank goodness for my buffs too, to keep my head and neck warm too. We had had a week of very warm temperatures in Germany (27-28 degrees) and then suddenly overnight it had gone down to 14 degrees and I was not accustomed!

Anyway, I pootled on following the signs after Rees to Bienen (German for “bees”) and then eventually to Emmerich.

I rode through the rather deserted town centre not seeing any likely cafés for lunch but soon realised that they would all be facing the river and found a long strip of food establishments with masses of bikes parked outside.

Emmerich Rheinterasse

Rhein and bikes

The hardy Germans were sitting outside but I was still cold and so decided to sit inside. I chose a waffle…

Waffle in Emmerich

After a relatively short stop I carried on, heading for the bridge to cross back over the Rhein.

Emmerich bridge and statue

It was really windy going over the bridge and the lady cyclist in front of me was weaving all over the place. I was a bit worried about the wind blowing my phone away so I didn’t take any photos!

Once back over on the left hand side of the Rhein I rejoined my Garmin’s track and cycled into a howling gale, overtaking lots of other cyclists on upright bikes who were really battling the elements.

I had a wonderful display at one point of a huge bird circling around… and I realised it was a stork. It was trying to join two other storks on a nest but they seemed not keen on this idea and chased him/her away. Here are the storks on the nest.

Storks

Seeing these enormous birds flying is amazing!

As I got nearer to Millingen I realised I still wouldn’t hit the 100km, I would be six short. So at one junction I saw a likely-looking detour along some quiet roads which would take me south west (side wind instead of headwind) and then I could go north-east back a little way, doing two sides of a triangle. I guesstimated it would be about a 6km detour so should do the trick. So off I went.

There was a fringe benefit for this detour – this excellent road name!

Dingdung

And then I found myself crossing the border from Germany to the Netherlands directly at the sign for the town of Millingen.

Millingen border

I found my hotel which I had pre-booked. It was pretty cheap (57€ for a single room including breakfast) and seemed fine, although the restaurant menu proved too expensive for me so I went to the chinese restaurant round the corner.

I ordered satay chicken and rice and a pancake roll. The pancake roll was enormous and the rice had, rather bizarrely, two slices of ham on it. Very Dutch I suppose!

Chinese

I had completed 100.69km for the day with an average heart rate of 130bpm which is lower than normal. A nice relaxing tour and although my back was hurting at the end (I have had back trouble for a month now) it wasn’t too bad and my knee had held up well.

After my Chinese I went to bed, pretty tired after the cycling.

I slept 10 hours which is extremely unusual for me – but shows again that cycle touring is a very relaxing holiday!

My route back to Kempen was much shorter as it was more direct, going round Kleve but through Goch, Weeze, Kevelaer, Geldern and Stenden. I’ve ridden to Kleve before on Alfie so vaguely knew the route, but had decided to take a different route to Goch which seemed to go through some kind of forest/wood.

Screenshot home

Of course, what I had failed to notice during my planning is that this route took me over a mountain…

Mountain

Here it is in the distance as I pootled my way across the landscape which was subtly different to my bit of the Niederrhein (more trees perhaps).

Different scenery

The forecast was for rain today and I was followed by some menacing clouds quite a lot of the time. Today of course I had a rather good tailwind so I felt like it was much easier riding – which is evidenced by my overall average heart rate of 110 with the maximum of 148. My average is usually around the 140 mark.

I decided I would stop at Weeze or Kevelaer for cake and had decided to just press on for home today rather than do any sightseeing but my plans changed when I spotted an RAF flag fluttering through some trees, shortly followed by a light aircraft landing and glimpses of more planes. There was tape preventing people from parking on both sides of this main road but then I saw a chap in a fluorescent tabard sitting on a chair beside a road closure gate and decided to go and investigate. I cycled past this chap, and also past some people who had money belts on (I later discovered other visitors were paying to go to see the airfield! Oops!) and found myself at an airfield where there was some kind of Open Day taking place.

This plane was called the Red Baron and you could have flights for 60€. It turns out to be an Antonov AN-2T Albatros from 1957 so not the actual Red Baron plane…

Red Baron plane

There were lots of other small light aircraft there, a beer stand, Bratwurst stand, seating area in the hangar and various displays from local sponsors (banks etc). Although I have to say there weren’t that many people there, perhaps because of the unfavourable weather forecast.

Planes

This plane had a Union Jack flag attached to the propellor. It’s a Slingsby Sedburgh with Dutch registration so no idea of the UK link.

Slingsby Sedburgh

But the UK link was very obvious on this plane (rather zoomed in so sorry for the quality!)

BAE Hawk model

The announcer told us over the tannoy that this plane was a one-third scale model of a BAE Hawk which has all the features of the real Hawk except a pilot! He told the crowd that the Hawk was the Red Arrows plane, and would now do a display including the coloured smoke. So this was definitely worth hanging around to watch!

Here is a small collage of some of the photos I took during the display, which was great fun and felt really, really close. That thing flies brilliantly!

Model Hawk flying

I’ve seen the Red Arrows a few times at air displays and this was just like seeing one of them… the size wasn’t really noticeable when up in the air. But he flew just 50 feet above the airstrip at some parts of the show which was fun. Apparently the chap built it himself which is amazing, and it runs on proper jet fuel and weighs 25kg.

After watching this display I was getting very cold (again, I didn’t have the right clothes really for this tour) so decided to continue on. I rode through Goch and then found myself leaving it on the way to… who knows!!!

Goch to where

Again, the landscape felt different than Kreis Viersen; more forests and not so wide views. But nice.

More trees

When I arrived at Weeze I decided it was time to stop for cake as I realised my track didn’t go through Kevelaer but round the outside and I hadn’t visited Weeze for a while. So I found a nice café which offered me a good selection of cakes… and I chose this very light moussy number.

Cake in Weeze

Having dodged a few raindrops during my cake session it was time to set off for the last 30 or so kilometres, all very easy and relaxed.

I went around Kevelaer and made a couple of detours to keep me off the B9 road where there is no cycle path (previously I rode on the road but with some ramps over railways I was slow at times and it was a bit uncomfortable with the fast cars). And on one of these small detours I spotted this rather large bike!

Giant bike 1

It was on a trailer.

Giant bike trailer

I liked the Schwalbe sticker on the tyre.

Giant bike schwalbe

The white pipework is I guess some kind of lighting for winter.

Giant bike 2

I think I could have fitted my entire foot on this pedal.

Giant pedal

I think the chain needs a bit of work to be effective!

Giant bike chain

Here is Penelope again with her new friend.

Penelope and giant bike

It was a very cool bike and I would have loved to try to sit on the enormous saddle but of course it was Zutritt Verboten.

The rest of the route home was very familiar from my recent Sunday rides into Kreis Kleve and went quickly apart from my brief detour into Geldern where the circus had closed some of the roads which made things a bit slow. I was home nice and early for a hot shower and some warmer clothes!

My ride back had been 73.87km at an average of 18.7km/h but I only burned 1,069 calories as I wasn’t working hard at all.

My conclusion about touring with the Velomobile – it works well, you can cover ground quickly, you keep warmer and if it rains it would have been ideal, but it’s harder to manoeuvre to park and through gates and things and some really steep ramps for cycle paths on some of the official routes might defeat me.

Riding with Kajsa Tylén

I have mentioned in previous blogs that a cycling acquaintance Steve Abraham was going for the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAM’R) last year, which was over 125,000km. He broke his leg partway through the attempt after a drunken moped rider hit him so didn’t get the record but Kurt Searvogel from America did.

Anyway, this interest in the men’s record of 67,000 miles in a year also awakened interest in the women’s record, set by Billie Fleming (née Dovey) at 29,603.7 miles (47,642.5 km) which she set in 1938. There are currently three women undertaking this record, Kajsa Tylén from the UK, Amanda Coker from the USA and Alicia Searvogel (wife of Kurt who holds the men’s record) also from the USA.

Kajsa started her attempt first, on 1 January 2016, and has been very successful with updates to supporters on Facebook, plus articles elsewhere such as the BBC. She encourages people to ride with her, although as she is riding to Guinness rules she is not allowed to draft. Several UK friends have ridden with her and said it was a really good day out.

I noticed from her website A Year In The Saddle that she would be travelling from the UK to Sweden in May/June and wondered if I could intercept her.

So I sent her a message through her Facebook site as I saw that she would be in NL for a few days which might work for me. She replied that she’d love for me to cycle with her and after a bit of diary-checking I realised the only day I could do this would be a Saturday when she was riding from Delft to Dedgum in Friesland.

I initially thought I would get the train to ride with her but Dedgum is miles from any railway places so in the end I concluded I would have to do a there-and-back ride, driving to Dedgum and then riding towards Delft, hopefully bumping into Kajsa along the way. Fortunately she has a spot tracker which gives her position every 10 minutes or so which meant I would be able to know when to expect her. She had also sent me a GPX track of her route which she intended to follow (with possible diversions on the day if necessary).

So on the Saturday morning I loaded Alfie into the car and headed off to Dedgum, which was a three hour drive. I arrived at the campsite and fished Alfie out of the car.

Alfie and Roomster

Here is a map of NL (with Kempen off the bottom, just to the south west of Essen) which shows where I rode.

IJsselmeer

And this is a close-up of the track. (The boxes show where I have taken photos and uploaded them to Strava).

Afsluitsdijk

The forecast for Kempen was 25 degrees and sunny but I knew on the coast it would be cooler. It was probably around 19 degrees so I was glad I had my windproof jacket on. The sun wasn’t really breaking through and there was a lot of wind – these turbines were turning pretty fast.

Windmills

I set off without using any e-assist. Although I was riding into wind I thought I might need all my motor’s help for the way back with Kajsa as she’s a lot faster than me. So I had a pretty slow trundle to Zurich where I stopped for a very overpriced ham roll.

Zurich

I stopped here to prepare for the next 30km which would be on the Afsluitdijk, a causeway built in 1932 that separated off the IJsselmeer. It is an impressive engineering feat and I was keen to have a look and cycle over it – twice.

Afsluitdijk 2

My Garmin map was very blue!

Garmin

Looking back over both sides – the North Sea on the left, the IJsselmeer on the right.

Both sides

After about 5km there was a curve and I could see the causeway stretching out into the distance.

Curve in road

There were a couple of motorway service stations along the 30km route which were accessible by bike but I kept going.

What was less pleasant were the huge clouds of insects that I found myself cycling through. I had to ride with mouth firmly closed, breathing through my nose, and could feel them hitting my face… You can see on this photo lots of little black dots – the insects.

Insects

There were patches where there weren’t any insects but for most of the journey across they were annoying.

When I got to the other side and got off the trike there was a visible tide mark of insects on my seat where my legs had been…

Insect tide mark

Once I was across the causeway I found myself in Den Oever. Kajsa’s track headed away from the village through some woodland but I checked the tracker and saw she was 20km or more away so decided to stop for food as I didn’t know if she would want to stop on the way back and I hadn’t really passed anything suitable anyway.

So I wandered into Den Oever and found a burger café which did me a burger and chips for a reasonable price.

lunch

As the day was warming up I decided to have an ice cream and photographed my Magnum next to the village’s windmill.

Magnum and windmill

It looked as though Kajsa was now about 5km away so I decided to start riding in her direction – as this would get me another 100km for the day as I had already done 49.

The track went through some woodland and was rather pleasant.

Woodland track

I checked the tracker again and she was less than a kilometre away so I stopped at the top of a small rise and watched the track in front of me. Soon enough a small figure came very fast towards me…

Kajsa

I settled in to cycling beside her, impressed at how well she was going after 150km. I had my electric motor on now to adjust to her speed and soon we were riding side-by-side quite effectively. If there was ever a reason to single out I was either a long way in front of her (so she couldn’t draft me) or behind.

I warned her about the insects on the causeway which she clearly wasn’t looking forward to but the reality was they had all been blown northwards by the time we got there. We were fast across the causeway with the tailwind Kajsa had had all day helping us to an average of 25-26km/h. Over 25 my motor switches off so I was using my leg power too!

Here we are – I had ridden ahead to try to get a selfie.

Selfie on Dijk

And here is a pic that Kajsa took of me.

Helen cycling with Kajsa

We had a really good chinwag over the time we were riding. It was fascinating talking to her and hearing about this mammonth undertaking. I’d been watching her videos on Facebook over the year so it was also a weird experience seeing her in real life for the first time as I felt like I already knew her.

We whizzed along, soon off the causeway and back into the Frisian countryside.

Kajsa realised that she would arrive at the campsite with 196.4km on the clock so we clearly had to do another four. We agreed to divert just before the campsite up a road but turned a bit too soon so we needed to do another 500 metres. This involved riding into the village of Dedgum where we met a lady on a horse and Kajsa managed to photograph the moment the horse saw my trike and clearly wondered “whatever is that!!!!????”

Scared horse

I had only used half of the battery in my trike despite riding for 60km with it on level 7 or 8 (out of 9) so I was pleased with that, although it’s party explained by us riding at above 25km/h in some sections which means there is no e-assist.

We got to the campsite and Kajsa kindly offered for me to have a cup of tea and slice of apple pie with them. She had a quick sit on Alfie too but after a 200km day had no wish to actually ride anywhere, especially as she had the wrong cleats.

Sitting on trike

So they fortified me with apple pie…

Apple pie

Then I headed off for the three hour journey home.

All in all it was a great day, some interesting new scenery and the Afsluitdijk was really cool to ride over (twice), and 109.44km for me at an average of 18.4km/h.

Every couple of days Kajsa does a video diary and here is the one where she mentions riding with me:

ADFC Sternfahrt Mönchengladbach

The ADFC (German cycling club) periodically organises things called Sternfahrten (Star Rides) where people ride from lots of different directions to a central meeting point. Mönchengladbach, which is a rather car-overrun city, has had two before and the last one was very successful. So the Sternfahrt for this year was planned… and a couple of ADFC acquaintances asked me to come along with the Velomobile.

One of the feeder rides was starting in Kempen so I persuaded various people (Klaus, Gudula and Frank) to come with me and to first of all have breakfast of cake in Kempen. Which we did.

Jochen, who was leading the ride from Kempen, joined us at the café. He is currently seriously considering buying a velomobile, probably a Strada, so he and Klaus had a lot to talk about!

We set off at 11:30am from Kempen with a few other riders, having decorated our bikes with ADFC-coloured balloons (blue and orange)

Balloons on bikes

Here is the track of our ride.

Sternfahrt Track

The feeder ride stopped also in Vorst (Tönisvorst) and then Viersen where we picked up more people. At each stop Jochen could be seen looking at Celeste and talking to Klaus about velomobiles…

Jochen velomobile fixated 1

As we were quite early to Vorst we also had ice creams.

Sternfahrt Eis

Eventually we arrived in Rheydt where the ride would start.

At Rheydt
(In the above picture you can see Jochen gazing at Celeste again)

And here he is again..

Jochen fixated by Celeste 3

More and more people were arriving – as were the rainclouds. Rain had been forecast but we were lucky that it had so far held off. But then it started.

As everyone began to put on their waterproofs a small peloton of velomobiles and recumbents arrived… some people from the Velomobilforum including Düssel who Klaus and I have met several times.

VMs at Sternfahrt 1

At just past three o’clock it was time for the ride to start. There were several police vans plus police motorcyclists and cyclists who would close the roads for us – fun!

Velomobiles are quite hard to ride in groups so we decided to all go at the back for the ride. The ADFC Facebook site had this great photo of the ride though, and Gudula and Frank are visible in it.

Sternfahrt Gudula and Frank

And there was also a video taken – the velomobiles are in the last few seconds!

The ride was just 10km long and very slow because of all the bikes. It was also raining a lot as you can see from this shot I took whilst riding.

Ride through P's windscreen

It was fun being in a group with the other VMs.

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 1

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 2

Passers-by were standing watching and cheering and it was good fun except for a few dodgy motorists near the end. There was a near-accident with a bus (who got a good stern talking-to by a policeman) and Klaus witnessed a policewoman knocked off her bike and he had a close shave. Still, it was great fun and lovely to ride in such a big group with people of all different abilities and ages.

When we got back to the square we lined ourselves up for a photo.

A row of weird bikes

Sternfahrt VM noses

And at some point the semi-official photographer got a shot of Klaus and I… and of course Jochen gazing fixedly at Celeste again!

Helen Klaus Jochen

We then rode back in the rain and I was very glad to be dry and warm in the velomobile.

I ended up with 82km for the day which wasn’t bad and brought me to the brink of 4,000km for the year.

If the weather had been good they would probably had double the number of participants but it was still fun and I enjoyed catching up with cycling friends who I’ve met over the last two years. I look forward to the next Sternfahrt!

Some other ride pictures

Here are a few other pictures taken on rides this month.

This was Burg Linn near Krefeld early evening.

Burg Linn

And this was a beautiful morning scene on my way to work one day.

Landscape sky

And on my way home one evening

St Hubert by sunset

And here was a very interesting velomobile that whizzed towards where Klaus and I had stopped for some soup on an evening ride. The rider stopped and had a great chat with us about his Go-One Evo R. He lives in Kaldenkirchen so not so far away from us!

Evo 1

Look at the size of that chainring!

Giant kettenblatt

And you can use it as a knife if riding in reverse!

Sharp rear of Evo

It was very good to chat to the owner Oliver. He says it is a really fast machine but not particularly comfortable on long journeys – it’s a stripped-down racer without rear suspension.

3 VMs 2 chaps

3 VMs

Life in Germany

Just a quick note to say that after two years here I appear to be beginning to assimilate. I found myself buying a jar of Rotkohl to have with my Bratwurst one evening…

Rotkohl

A visit to the Oberhausen Gasometer

I had several days off work as there wasn’t enough for us to do and this coincided with both Gudula and Frank also having a day off so we decided to go on a trip to visit the exhibition within the Oberhausen Gasometer.

There exhibition was ‘the wonders of nature’ and consisted of lots of photographs of nature with accompanying text. Lots of the images were from the BBC’s Planet Earth series.

Gasometer

Gasometer 2

Gasometer 3

Inside were two huge floors with the picture and video displays and then the floor above was something else altogether (more anon).

Here are some views of the ground floor.

Ground Floor 1

Ground Floor 2

And the first floor which was crisscrossed by girders and beams, most of which had spongy material on them in case you bumped your head!

First Floor 1

First Floor 2

I spent about an hour and a half looking at these two floors and then it was time for the third floor… which turned out to be a real surprise!

It was a huge, huge space with a giant globe suspended from the room of the Gasometer onto which were projected slowly moving images of the earth taken from the ISS and other space expeditions. The images slowly changed from night to day with the earth very slowly rotating. It was beautiful to watch, especially as there were beanbags for you to lie on so you could look up at the globe in comfort.

Here are some of the photos I took.

Earth 1

Earth 2

Earth 3

Earth 4

And here I walked around a bit away from the stepped seating area which you can just see at the bottom of this photo.

Earth and steps

I watched the images for half an hour and then they restarted – it was a very impressive show and quite hypnotising.

I met back up with Frank and Gudula and they said we should take the lift up to the top. We had to queue but they said it would be worth it – and it was!

Firstly, it was a glass lift so we were able to watch as we went above the globe, almost to the very top of the gasometer.

Looking down on globe

The above picture looks a bit like a jellyfish but it is looking down onto the globe and then lower onto the lit steps where people sit to watch the globe.

At the top we are almost 105 metres above ground.

104.94 metres

There was a slight extra bit to climb to get to the very top of the structure.

Climbing up

Where there were some excellent views over the industrial areas.

View from Gasometer

View from Gasometer 2

And lots of evidence of landscaping by humans.

Hill

It was well worth a visit to the Gasometer and I will probably go back again to see the next exhibition as it was all so well displayed.

Fixing my CD Player

A long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth people listened to CDs rather than MP3s or streaming music. Because CDs only contain about 45 minutes of music you had to keep changing the CD in the player. Except Sony invented a CD player that, like a slide carousel, held 300 CDs in one machine and worked rather like a jukebox. I had one of these.

I bought it back in 1992 or thereabouts and have used it ever since as the sound quality is much better than an MP3 player. However, it had started making some strange noises when rotating the carousel or selecting the disk… and eventually it stopped working altogether, just making slight noises but not playing anything. It was also not possible to open the door to get the CDs out.

Clearly I would have to get it repaired but I had no idea how much this would cost and whether it would be possible. So after procrastinating for a month or so I decided I would take the lid off myself and have a look. After all, to transport it to a repair person I would need to take all the CDs out so they didn’t fall out and get stuck.

Here it is before I attacked it with a screwdriver

CD Player

And with the lid off – you can see all the CDs lined up inside.

CD player with lid off

And from the side (I have removed a whole bunch of CDs here to get a better look).

CD player side view

Aha! The problem becomes evident. A rubber band has fallen off the two spindles.

Rubber off spindle

Nils came to help me and we decided that we would attempt to get the rubber ring back on the spindle. Whether this was the main issue we didn’t know but it was worth a go. So we had to find the right tools for the job…

The right tools for the job

We had to remove a lot of the CDs so we had space to move, and then Nils did his surgery.

Nils does surgery

He managed to fit the rubber ring back on the spindles. We turned the machine on and things started to happen but it didn’t entirely work right and when we stopped it the rubber ring had fallen off the spindles again. Perhaps it was a bit perished and had stretched (after all, it’s over 20 years old). But we tried again, removing some of the grease from the rubber ring with our fingers (it had dropped into a grease reservoir).

And then, the second time, it was working perfectly! So we put the lid back on, I put all the CDs back in (which is rather time-consuming) and now it is back in pride of place working excellently.

Working again

Top marks to Nils and me for our engineering geniusness!

Buying a watch

My Dad was always keen on watches and clocks and so I decided to buy myself a nice automatic watch as a way of remembering him.

I obviously needed to do some research so wrote to some of the brands I liked asking for their catalogues. I got some amazingly posh catalogues back, including the catalogue from Sinn which was more like a really high-quality hardback book.

Watch catalogues

Eventually after lots of studying and thinking I narrowed down my choice to two different watches by the firm Mühle Glashütte. A jeweller in Kempen had some of their products so Gudula came with me to have a look. I rode Penelope, Gudula used Alfie.

Gudula on Alfie

I tried on several watches at this jeweller (they didn’t have the specific models I wanted but had others in the range) and decided which one I would go for. I had identified one in stock at a jeweller in Nürnberg and had negotiated quite a good discount so I ordered it and it arrived a few days later. It’s a Mühle Glashütte Antaria Tag Datum and very lovely!

Antaria Tag Datum

Cakes this month

Because this blog post is rather long and difficult to download I have gathered all the cake pictures together for this month into one image. Enjoy!

May Cakes

Friend Lara had her twelfth birthday and she and I made a Käse Sahne Torte the day before.

Lara's birthday kaese sahne

Her mother also made a Strawberry tart

Lara's birthday Sprudel

And a chocolate ‘Sprudel Cake’

Lara's birthday strawberry

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

Alfie gets an electric motor

So Alfie has ridden 41,932.27km and it was time for an upgrade… so I bought a Bafang 8Fun bottom bracket electric motor, fitted it myself (with the help of Klaus) and have now ridden with it for 300km. Here is the story of the motor fitting…

An electric motor? At my age??!!!

The first thing to say is, why the heck have I bought an electric motor? I’m only 44!!

I can blame riding-partner Klaus for this as he first started talking about it many months ago. He thought an e-motor would be a good addition to his trike, particularly as his SRAM Dual-Drive in the rear wheel has started packing up. He decided he would buy a new rear wheel with an electric motor in it (in place of the Dual Drive) and spent a lot of time looking at a website, elfkw, and choosing exactly what he would have.

Klaus and I cycle at a very similar speed on the flat, although he is way quicker on hills. I am possibly marginally faster around sharp corners but apart from that he is probably always a little quicker than me and our compared average heart rates show this when we ride together (his is usually 5bpm less than mine). No problem in normal usage, but if he had an e-motor I would never be able to keep up!!!

So…

I started to think about them myself. I had previously said that I wouldn’t need electric assist until I was 60 but the more Klaus talked about it, and he talked about it A LOT, the more I started to think it was a good idea. But I would have to have a different option as I like my Alfine-11 hub gear and so wanted to retain the existing rear wheel set up. The only real option was a bottom bracket motor (where the pedals are). I began seriously thinking about this.

I emailed Neil at ICE who gave me some advice. ICE used to fit a bottom bracket motor (by Sunstar) but now only supply a rear wheel motor. However, Neil suggested I considered the Bafang 8Fun motor which he knew had been fitted to some ICE trikes.

Marc, a reader of this blog who also has a blog at https://etrike.wordpress.com/, pointed me to a thread on BentRiderOnline (a recumbent forum) from a chap who had done this very job on his trike… and there were some useful photos.

8Fun on trike photo

So a couple of months of googling, reading all about the subject… and then I saw a good deal on an 8Fun from China and pressed ‘buy’.

There are lots of different wattages – from 250 to 1000 watts – but European laws say maximum 250W with a cut out if you go over 25km/h. Bafang make 250, 350, 500 and 750 watt motors so the 250 is the weakest. Everyone suggested I went for a 350 or 500 but I was aware of the law and if I had an accident when using a more powerful motor than is legal I could be in a lot of trouble. I didn’t think it worth the risk so stuck to the fully legal 250W. It would also mean the battery would hopefully not drain as quickly.

This is what would come in the kit.

8Fun kit

I had a few issues with delivery of the motor and its 12aH bottle battery – I was a bit of a numpty and didn’t realise I would have to pay customs and VAT on the motor. But it arrived in due course and the whole kit cost just a shade under 800€ – pretty good value!

Motor arrives from China

Motor in box

And here is the battery and its holder.

Bottle battery

Bottle battery holder

I had done plenty of reading, as I said above, and realised I would need to buy a speed sensor extension cable as on most bikes the bottom bracket is very near the rear wheel but mine is a long way away. The cables are just 5€ each so I bought three (from Australia) as I wanted to make sure it was long enough. A good thing, too, as I needed all three.

Speed sensor cables

Research had told me that I also needed a few other tools in order to fit the motor.

It was time to buy a proper bike toolkit – James has one in the UK but I didn’t have one here and they are good value on eBay so I bought a 44-piece bike maintenance kit.

Bike toolkit

I would of course have to remove the old pedals and bottom bracket and so asked Neil at ICE if I needed a special tool that wasn’t in my bike toolkit. Yes I did, a Shimano Hollowtech II tool (my bottom bracket was a SRAM GXP which is the same time) so bought one.

IceToolz BB tool

From reading the thread on BentRiderOnline it also appeared that a lockring tightening tool would be needed to stop the motor rotating under its own power. A Park Tool was suggested with this photo:

Lockring tightener tool from BROL

So I ordered the relevant tool, also some bar-ends (as I realised there would be a lack of space for the display unit), some new SPD pedals (as I was very unsure if I would get the old, silver ones off) and a new rear light for Alfie.

Pedals, lockring tool, bar ends

So everything was ready. Everything had arrived in the post and Klaus had booked a day off work to come and help me with the challenge of fitting the motor to my bike. We were all set!

Fitting the motor to the trike

Klaus and I have done lots of bike maintenance over the last year or so. With three trikes and a velomobile doing reasonable mileage there’s lots to do. We have moments of incompetence but also many successes and I tried to decide how successful we would be with this install.

My estimate was that fitting everything on the handlebars would be a problem but the biggest issue would be to fit the new brake levers (which have a cut-out for the motor) on the right hand side handlebar due to my Alfine trigger shifter. I reckoned that could take us two hours. Klaus was slightly more positive about our skills, but we both realised we were going to be using a lot of guesswork.

The day Klaus had booked off work was a bit damp. Rather than work in the cramped and cold garage I decided we would do the work in my lounge so I brought Alfie upstairs.

Alfie upstairs

I had some large sheets of cardboard left over from last month’s furniture building so I laid that on the floor to protect it.

Klaus arrived and after a cup of tea and some biscuits we set to work.

Removing the old pedals and bottom bracket

First job – to remove the pedals and old bottom bracket.

Item one was to remove the screw from the left hand side pedal.

My special tool was put into service – it’s what the small middle bit on the right hand side picture is for:

But it didn’t fit!!! OH NO!!!!

Fortunately a standard large allen/hex/imbus key fitted this slot but it took us a while to find one large enough and long enough so we could exert enough force to unscrew this screw. I think it took fifteen minutes.

Removing first pedal

This was slightly worrying as this was literally the first step in a quite long procedure and it had been very difficult. I would not have been strong enough to do it myself alone. Possibly a bad sign.

But it was done, at last – hurrah!!!!

We had watched a video on YouTube about how to remove these pedals (or equivalent ones) – my iPad is hooked up to my TV and we watched several videos to give us a bit of a clue. So we knew that after removing the screw from the pedals we had to take out a little plastic widget and then pull the pedal off. It should just pull out. But did it?

No.

Really no.

We tried and tried and tried, including knocking it lightly with a hammer (we didn’t want to bend the medal of the frame at all so had to be super-careful).

Absolutely no luck.

Then Klaus suggested I check for videos on a Kurbelabzieher as he thought that would be a tool that might do it. So I found a couple and it seems there is a tool you screw into the pedal thread and then you can undo the pedal.

This is what we were looking at on the trike.

Kurbelabzieher thread

The YouTube video makes it look very easy – as long as we had the right tool. I said to Klaus, “Can you check if there is a Kurbelabzieher in my toolkit?” and he had a look and he said “no”. This was another major problem – we had now been working for an hour and only managed to undo one screw. There was nothing for it but to head to the biggest bike shop in Kempen and hope they had a Kurbelabzieher of the right size. I took the photo (above) with me to refer to in the shop and we hopped in the car to Metternich, the big bike shop on Vorster Straße.

They had two Kurbelabzieher in stock, looking very different to each other. One clearly wouldn’t fit, we hoped the other would and so bought it for 7€. The chap said that if it didn’t fit and we didn’t damage the packaging at all he would give us a refund.

Kurbelabzieher

We arrived back, having used 1 hour 45 minutes of our day to remove one screw. If this Kurbelabzieher didn’t work then the whole project would fail at this early point.

Removing pedal

Fortunately it did work. Hurrah!

So the 7€ tool was used once, took about two minutes, and then I went to put it into my bike maintenance toolkit – at which point I noticed that there was one in there after all. And it would indeed also have fitted. So I now have two pedal removal tools, if anyone ever needs one!…

We tapped out the right hand side pedal (having split the chain earlier) and progress had finally been made… after two hours we had removed two pedals.

Pedals off

The next thing was to remove the bottom bracket. We prepared ourselves by watching another YouTube video and then offered up my special tool to the bottom bracket. Hallelujah, it fitted!!!!

Because it wasn’t very deep it kept slipping off but eventually Klaus managed to unscrew the bottom bracket left hand side. It was then a very easy job to remove the other side and slide the entire bottom bracket out.

BB out

And this is what was left.

Hole in frame for BB

We had been working for two and a half hours and it was now lunchtime – I had made a chicken biryani for us to eat so we took a break to eat it. I was wondering how much progress we would actually make today as I had choir at 7:45pm and Klaus would have to be home before that. And this was just the easy bit we had done! Still, the biryani tasted nice and we fortified ourselves with a few more biscuits before resuming.

Fitting the Bafang 8Fun motor

This was the easy bit – and it was really easy!

We just had to screw the chainring onto the motor (with the supplied bolts) and then screw a plastic guard on the other side of the chainring. This lot was then all slotted into the bottom bracket. Easy!

There was a lockring and a plastic cover. We discovered the difficulty of doing up the lockring, first doing it by hand and then using the special tool I had bought. Except…

The correct tool, which I had bought, is a Park Tools HCW-17. Here is a picture of one in action on a normal fixed gear bike:

And here is the picture of the tool from BentRiderOnline that I had seen:

Lockring tightener tool from BROL

Can you spot the difference? The nose is missing from the tool being used on the trike. This is because the motor fouls a bit of the frame. So we couldn’t do the lockring up as tightly as we wanted. Oh well, it’d have to do.

Motor and lock ring

Once the lockring was as tight as we could make it we put on the black plastic cap.

Motor locked in place

The new pedals cranks went on very easily and we fitted the new SPD pedals to them.

Pedals on

That took less than fifteen minutes, but now we had the challenge of the wiring, the brake levers, the speed sensor, the thumb throttle and fitting the display and the on/off switch.

Considering the wiring

It was clear from the first moment that the power cable from the battery wasn’t long enough for my preferred initial position (on the back of the seat or in the sidepods), but should work from the water bottle holder area on the boom which would do for the time being although would mean there was rather a lot of weight forward.

Anyway, what was the bigger challenge was to get the old brake levers off and the new ones on. I was dreading this as I thought I’d have to dismantle the Alfine shifter. Fortunately the cable for the Alfine shifter was narrow enough that we could squeeze it through the small gap in the brake levers and fit them without completely disassembling the shifter. I thought that would be a two hour job but we managed it in ten minutes.

New brake lever

We then had to fit the speed sensor which is used to automatically power off the motor when going over 25km/h (this is a European law). We found a good mount for the sensor near the back wheel and had to use all three extension cables to reach it, but that worked fine.

The wiring for the Bafang is easy – there are colour-codes and it was dead easy to work out what went where. We fitted the bottle cage mount and the bottle and wired everything up.

Motor locked in place

My excellent foresight in buying bar ends was rather less efficient than I had thought as the bar ends were oval, not round, so the display for the motor didn’t fit on them. Klaus spent ages trying to work something out and eventually succeeded with the use of some cable ties. I knew I would have to order some properly round ones as soon as possible.

As we had removed the front derailleur (not needed, there is only one front chainring with the Bafang) we also needed to remove the JTek friction shifter for the gears. We could not undo it. But as we weren’t going to need it again Klaus collected a giant mole wrench (called an Englisch, in German apparently) and pulled the whole thing off. It looked rather sad and crumpled afterwards but wouldn’t be needed again.

We also fitted the thumb throttle and touched it briefly… and the trike rolled across the floor. It works!!!!!

The room was like a bomb site!

Room bombsite 1

Room bombsite 2

The fitting of the various electronic bits had taken hours, partly because there just simply wasn’t room on the handlebars for all the gubbins. I had to keep moving my existing bar ends (which I rest my hands on, and which hold the bell and mirrors) and we fiddled about with lots of options, but the main problem was that the on/off and motor assist level switch was on an extremely short cable to the display so had to be right next to it – and there wasn’t room. Oh well, something was cobbled together and so it was time to carry the trike outside and test it as it was already 6pm.

So we carried Alfie downstairs, got everything ready and I pedalled down the road – VERY FAST.

Wheeeeeeeee, it was great fun! A strange sensation but nice and quiet and it worked well.

After 100 metres I turned round and it was Klaus’s turn. He travelled a few metres, then nothing. Everything stopped. No power. Uh oh…

A quick look and the cables between the battery and the motor had come apart. So we tried to plug them back into each other but the two ends no longer reached each other. Why not???

We soon noticed – the motor unit had rotated under its own force and was just stopped by my headlamp. Clearly our lockring needed to be tighter but the tool was too big. Frustratingly we had to leave it there for the day – a bike with lots of wiring messily cable-tied to the frame and a rotating motor.

Still, excellent progress had been made and it was clearly going to work OK – if we could tighten that lockring up enough.

Frank to the lockring rescue

Frank my landlord is extremely good at mechanical things and when I showed him the problem (and the photo of the tool with the cut nose) he instantly set about fixing it.

Tool frank cutting off nose

The result had a sharp edge

Tool nose cut off

So he ground it down a bit

Tool smoothing nose

Et voilà.

Tool with nose cut

Frank then used this tool on the lockring and was able to turn it at least an additional 180 degrees so much, much tighter. Since then it has stayed put so this was a success and well worth modifying the tool.

Fitting the battery to the trike

My reading of reports about motors on trikes suggested that battery placement is rather important for the handling.

Friend Kim, who fitted a rear wheel motor to her partner’s trike, had told me that having the battery on the rear rack was sub-optimal in terms of weight and centre of gravity when cornering. She wished she had been able to mount it much lower down.

Marc (who has etrike.wordpress.com) had offered this advice to me:

I got a battery on the boom of my second Sprint with the big wheels, but even while having a hub motor as ‘counterweight’ in the rear of my Sprint, the rear wheel gets awfully light when braking…
In your case, I’d mount the battery to the seat as well. It will help in preventing lifting the rear wheel while braking.

Don’t use the rear frame triangle to mount the battery! You don’t want the heavy battery attached to the rear swing arm!

If you can fit your battery directly under the seat, fine! Depending how the battery gets mounted into its frame mount, it will likely be very fiddly to take it on and off, though. Probably its better to just use the inner two cross beams of the seat and mount the battery on the left side under the seat. As near to the frame as possible.

He pointed me to this picture of one mounting possibility that he uses:

sprint-battery-mounts

As mentioned above, initially the battery cable wasn’t long enough to have it anywhere but the bottle bosses on the boom, so that’s what I did at first to test the trike. It rode OK and the weight wasn’t too bad, although the back was definitely lighter (and it was a bit awkward to wheel it as when I lifted the back end up the nose wanted to really drop), but I did notice a very strong shimmy if I took both hands off the handlebars when riding at any speed. It happened within a second and was very strong, shaking the trike from side to side, so I had to always ride with one hand on (which is difficult when putting on gloves underway, for example). I experimented with riding the trike without the motor running – still shimmying. Then I experimented with removing the weight of the battery from the boom and riding along – no shimmy. So clearly the battery on the boom was unbalancing it.

Marc had sent me a few options of things I could use to attach the battery to the seat. I showed these to Frank who thought about it a bit (as always) and said he would get back to me as some of the eBay options would work out quite expensive. Frank had decided to use a piece of aluminium as a frame which would be attached to all three seat crosspieces.

Seat mount areas

Thus I needed three clamps to attach it to the frame and the nice clamps Marc had showed me were 16,50€ each. Ouch!

The first thing Frank did was to lengthen the cable for me so I could temporarily ride with the battery in my sidepods.

Soldering cable

I took the trike for a 20km ride like this and it was fine but I had problems with the cable trailing out of the sidepod onto the ground and also the weight on the sidepods meant they kept slipping to the left hand side.

Frank of course had some kind of brainwave and produced these items for me a day later:

Clamps and aluminium

A piece of aluminium for the frame and three clamps that are something to do with sewage pipes (I didn’t enquire too deeply).

Here is a close-up of one of the clamps on the frame:

Single clamp

And here are all three, roughly in position.

Clamps in place

The next thing was to drill holes in the aluminium sheet of metal to fix it to the clamps.

frame in position

It looked like it would all fit, so the next job was to paint it.

Preparing to paint the frame

Painting the aluminium

After the first layer of paint had dried Frank decided to drill the holes for the Battery clamp.

Frame with hole for bottle bolts

Then it was time for the second and third layers of paint, black to match the trike.

Second coat of paint and in position

Here is the framework in position.

Framework in place

And now with the battery clamp in place

Battery holder in place

Battery holder in place 2

Battery holder in place 3

And with the battery clipped in

Battery in place

Battery in place 2

Battery in place 3

Battery in place 4

Sorry for the mud in the pictures – I didn’t have a chance to clean the trike before my photography session. But it shows that the battery is liable to get a bit mucky in this position.

But I am currently riding without a rack on Alfie so using the sidepods which means the battery isn’t particularly visible.

Sidepods 1

Sidepods 3

Trike with sidepods

Overall this battery mount seems to work very well. I can access the battery to remove it once I take the sidepods off (for charging – I don’t bother to remove it when parking the bike somewhere as I don’t leave the bike for long) and the weight distribution is good. I have, however, had a recurrence of the shimmy when riding fast on bumpy surfaces, but not at slow speeds. I don’t know how to prevent this but overall it isn’t a massive issue as I am aware of it, but it is a slight shame. Perhaps I will think of a solution.

Fitting all the gubbins on the trike

As mentioned above, one of the biggest problems with this installation (once I’d got the old pedals off) was fitting everything on the trike.

The kit comes with the following:

Motor with built in controller and cabling (chainring and cranks are attached to this)

Display unit with On/Off and + – switch attached on very short cable

Thumb throttle

Speed sensor (for back wheel) with short cable

Brakes with motor cut-out

The problem for me with a recumbent trike was fitting the very large display to the handlebars. I didn’t feel I actually needed the display to be that visible and would have happily had it one the crosspiece of the frame or something but I did need the thumb switch with the + and – buttons to be reachable and as the cable was so short this meant that I also had to have the display to hand.

So eventually, once I bought some new bar ends that were actually round (although marginally short), I managed something. Initially I had the display on a bar-end at the top of the handlebars with the thumb throttle below it, but I discovered that I almost never use the thumb throttle but the + – buttons are very important so they are now at the top of the handlebar directly in the right place for my thumb.

With this photo you can see the display unit (currently off) with the On/Off and + – buttons to the right at the top of the handlebar. Below is another bar end with the mirror on and also with the thumb throttle next to the mirror.

Cockpit 1

You can see the cable from the Display unit disappears down the end of the handlebar (I have a plug sitting on the top which I need to cut away a bit so it fits better).

Display unit cabling

This is nice as it gets some of the cabling out of the way of my hands – there is nothing to foul them when holding the handlebars. Our first version of this, on the day I initially built up the motor, was much worse with two cables running down the handlebar where my hands were. But things were subsequently refined!

cockpit 2

And here is a close-up of where my left hand is – with easy reach of the + and – buttons which increase the power assistance from 0 (off) to 9 (the maximum).

cockpit 3

And this is what it looks like from the other side – spattered with mud, but it is December!

Cockpit from rear

This is a close-up of the brakes in place.

Brakes

As you can see, I not only have the usual brake cable but also an electronic cable. This is vital, as I will explain below.

The Bafang 8Fun is supplied with the cabling nicely colour-coded and it was easy to use. However, all those cables have got to go somewhere… and there are a lot of them!

The main cabling loom comes from the motor to an area where it splits into four (two brakes, speed sensor, display and on/off switch). On my trike this has to be slightly to the left hand side as the cable to the display is a little bit shorter than ideal for a recumbent trike.

Wiring loom

Wiring loom separates

And of course all these wires need to be attached to the frame. I have done it initially with reusable cable ties quite loosely and will sort everything out a bit neater when I have used the trike a bit more and decide what is best.

Cable ties 1

Cable ties 3

This is the main connector from the motor to the battery but I undo a different section when I take the battery out.

Cable ties 2

So this is the installation complete for the time being and pretty much how it will be long-term. Only time will tell if the battery is firmly enough secured in its current place and if there are any other issues.

How does it ride?

Helen on trike

As I am writing this I have covered 300km in the trike with the electric motor. That is 25km with the battery on the bottle mounts, 35km with the battery in the sidepod and 240km with the battery on the seat.

As with most e-assist options, there are different levels of help that you can choose.

Setting up the motor software

The Bafang 8Fun comes with a display unit which shows speed, level of assistance, time of day, distance covered (total and trip), remaining battery capacity and also has a backlight. There were no instructions with the parcel I received of the motor and gubbins but the internet has the answer to everything and I found a manual on how to program the display unit here.

At the beginning you choose miles or kilometres, set the clock but you also have to set the wheelsize (it offers from 8 to 32 inches). I set this to 20 (my rear wheel is 20 inches) but after a short time of use I noticed that it was overreading my speed compared to the Garmin so I set it to 19 and it is much nearer the real speed. This has a bearing on its use because I have set it to stop offering assistance at 25km/h. This is the law in Germany (in Europe generally, I believe). The unit allows you to set the maximum at which it offers assistance as much as 40km/h.

One thing I have discovered, whilst using the motor, is that although it does indeed cut out at 25km/h, the thumb throttle has no such limit and if you use it without pedalling but using the gears correctly on the flat it will power me to 40km/h. The law says that e-assist such as this (that is not classed as a pedelec, i.e. needs special testing and you must wear a helmet etc) must only work when you are pedalling. So I shouldn’t use the thumb throttle on public roads/cycle paths (and I don’t). It is OK to use it when off-road though.

The unit offers also 3 gradations of assistance. There are three options:

1-3
1-5
1-9

Initially I tried 1-3 (there are only three different stages) but decided I wanted a bit more choice. So then I set it to 1-5. That worked fine on my own but when riding with Klaus I found I couldn’t quite match my speed to him; I was either a bit too slow on level 2 (say), or a bit too fast on level 3. So subsequently I changed it to the 9 options and that works really well. If you are cruising at 18km/h on 4, if you switch up to 5 you get about another 1 km/h. So on level assist 9 it is happy riding at 25km/h (at which point the assistance stops). With nine different levels I can easily just press the + button to give a little more help if I go up a slight incline and if I am running ahead a bit I can press [-] and slow down.

Changing gear

I knew when I bought this that gear changing might be a slight issue. This is because with the Alfine (as with a Rohloff gearbox) you have to briefly come off the power when changing gear. No problem when you are pedalling – you just ease off the power for a millisecond – but with an electric motor that doesn’t know what you are doing you might get a lot of graunchy gear changes.

I assumed that I would have to either stop pedalling (the motor takes about half a second to detect the cadence has stopped and to stop itself) or dab the brake pedal. A bit of experimentation, when riding with Klaus, showed the first option was hopeless as he nearly ran into me a couple of times. Stopping pedalling just takes too long and you lose too much speed.

However, the brake option is instant and doesn’t slow you down when it is just a tiny pull for a fraction of a second. At that point you change gear, and the motor kicks back in again a second later (it takes about a second to respond to the pedals turning). I am doing this with the left hand brake whilst the right hand is involved in gear changing and I have got pretty slick at it. I only mistime it very occasionally (which produces a jammed gear at the back or a nasty noise).

I discovered an error code when setting off one day – but had already read about this previously as it’s a common problem if the speed sensor stops working. Indeed the little magnet on the spoke of the rear wheel had twisted round. I put it back into position and everything was fine.

What’s it like to ride with the motor?

My first experience of the motor is that it is very quiet. It makes sometimes a weird rattling noise at a particular speed but changing speed or changing the assistance level fixes that. Otherwise it’s pretty quiet.

It gives you the feeling of riding with a tailwind when in the lower assistance levels. In the higher levels, when pulling away at traffic lights you can really feel it pulling you along.

My riding with Klaus has also shown some differences. We ride at a similar speed, as previously mentioned, but he said he has had to get used to me being a different speed. Previously he said he always knew where I would be and adjusted his riding to that but now I am unexpectedly faster. It will take a little time to get used to it. I did also initially find my steering seemed a bit less precise but I think this was because of the battery on the boom and that affected steering as that has settled down, but for my first ride with Klaus we had a couple of odd corners where I felt I got a bit close to his trike.

Klaus and I often compare our average heart rates when riding together. Usually mine is about 5bpm more than his but now that has changed – I seem to be ten or so less. I have also found that I definitely seem to sweat less as I don’t have to work as hard on hills.

The big issue with ebikes is battery life and range anxiety. I haven’t run any proper tests of course but I did ride 125km over two days using assistance level 5 mostly but with a fair bit of 9 and it was only at the end that the battery was too low, so that is a good sign. Further experience will show how well that goes, but at least the bike is still usable when the battery is flat although hills would be more challenging with just the large chainring at the front.

And what about Klaus’s electric motor that he has been talking about for so long? Well, he has put it on the back burner so it’s just me who’s electrified at the moment but this was definitely the best way round to do it – if he had gone electro before me I would have had no chance to keep up.

All in all I would say that this is a very good option for an ICE trike. The motor and battery cost £460 plus 150€ customs and tax. I also spent a bit on various tools needed to remove the old pedals and tighten up the lockring, but overall it was a very cost-effective way of giving my trike a new lease of life and allowing me to be a bit more lazy!

Thanks again to Neil at ICE for his advice, as well as Kim and others at YACF including Tigerrr who has electrified a few bikes, and of course Marc and his blog and his helpful advice. And to Klaus and Frank for helping me fit the motor and for not calling me lazy!

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 12

March 2015

Cycling Statistics This Month

Here is the summary of rides I did this month – as you can see, not very many, only 224km!

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.01.11

And this is where I rode – not very far afield at all!

Screen shot 2015-03-31 at 22.02.08

As mentioned in last month’s blog post I was hit rather badly with the flu in February/March which seriously curtailed my cycling and meant I dropped behind my year target (10,000km again), having been on track for January and the first half of February. But the summer is coming and that will make it much easier to crank out more miles!

Once I started feeling better in mid-March it was time to get riding again, slowly as a three week layoff means you lose some fitness (although I also lost 5kg in weight with the flu which was a bonus!)

I started with a very gentle ride with Klaus, Claudia and Lara. Claudia seems to be enjoying using my old Trice Q. Here are all three recumbents ready for the off.

Trikes ready to ride

I attended the monthly Fahrrad Stammtisch again (my first longer cycle ride since the flu, riding there with Klaus). There had been a bike exhibition in Essen recently and two people had visited the ADFC stand and found out about the Stammtisch so we had some more faces.

Clockwise from top left: Jochen, new chap, Uli, Hartmut, me, Klaus, new lady

Clockwise from top left: Jochen, new chap, Uli, Hartmut, me, Klaus, new lady

I have enjoyed riding Penelope with her cool new lighting – which gets an awful lot of attention. I also seem to ride faster with the LED striplights on!

Anyway, when I arrived at the VHS the other day I noticed a slight issue…

One-eyed Penelope

This means that Penelope was now technically legal in Germany (you’re only supposed to have one light) but clearly something was amiss. I sent the photo to Klaus and he suggested I pop round on the way back from the VHS and he’d have a look (he lives just 2km away on my route home). So I appeared at his door at nine at night and he quickly identified the problem – in the tangle of wiring beyond my feet a plug had come undone. He sorted it within a minute and commented “we’ll need to change this for a better connector”. I had had a bumpy ride to Viersen along a rutted cycle path so perhaps that’s why.

Anyway, the next day I rode to the Süchteln choir and when I arrived…

One-eyed Penelope 2

But this time, as I knew what the problem was, I was able to fix it – although I wouldn’t have minded arms about a foot longer to assist with scrabbling around in Penelope’s nose.

Two-eyed Penelope

My goals for my year in Germany

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning of the ‘Six Wheels In Germany’ time you may remember I set myself some goals for this year in Germany (which has now extended, of course). But did I achieve them?

Here is the list:

(a) Increase my skill in German from B2 to C1 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)
(b) Cycle to all the churches in Kreis Viersen
(c) Join a choir
(d) Get involved in some kind of cycling group in the area

With regard to item 1, the VHS did offer for me to go up to the C1 course after my first semester of B2.2 but the course was on a Wednesday evening (when I have my Süchteln choir) so I decided to stay on in B2.2 as I am still learning plenty at that level. So I think (a) has been achieved.
(b) Is still a work in progress but I have only about fifteen churches to go now.
(c) I have joined two.
(d) I joined the ADFC and ride with them, plus the Fahrrad Stammtisch and also lots of rides with Klaus. So I guess I have achieved that too. Hurrah!

And after a year in Germany, what is my general impression about the Germans – are the stereotypes correct?

Well, as you’d expect, the answer is ‘yes and no’. Some stereotypes are correct, such as the significant bureaucracy in Germany compared to the UK (you have to get your chimney swept every year, for example. This is recommended in the UK but not mandatory). I have also found that German people are generally punctual (which is good as I am too), and they eat a lot of pork and pork products.

What has been quite different than I expected is the friendliness of Germans – even those I haven’t known long. The fact I speak some German clearly helps but I have been overwhelmed by how friendly and hospitable people have been. When ill with the flu I realised I had at least eight different people whom I could have phoned to asked to do things for me such as do some shopping, although this was not necessary as my landlady sorted me out, but it was very encouraging to know I had made such good friendships in a relatively short time.

Having read a lot on Toytown (English-speaking expats forum) I had heard a lot about petty nitpicking from neighbours, strict adherence to pointless rules etc, but I have seen none of that here. Everyone seems laid back, helpful, understanding and not too fussed by the rules (such as not mowing lawns on a Sunday, etc, not that I have to do any lawn mowing).

All in all this has been a fantastic experience of living in another country and culture, improving my skills in another language and getting to know a diverse group of people among whom I count some really close friends now. In fact, as I said to my mother the other day (and I had a bit of an epiphany moment whilst saying it), it’s probably been the best year of my life so far.

People I’ve seen/Things I’ve done

Rose Biketown

I’m leading a cycle tour to SPEZI Radmesse over the last two weeks of April. It will be a group of five trikes (me, Klaus, Simon and Joyce from the UK and also Nigel, a very experienced long-distance triker). That will be four ICE Trikes and one Steintrikes.

Anyway, Klaus doesn’t have any proper cycling waterproofs (being German he used to just leave his trike in the garage over winter; I have now trained him better) so he thought for a two week tour he really ought to get some.

We live an hour from Rose Biketown, a huge German cycling shop with masses of stuff (although the clothing seems rather expensive). Anyway, Klaus decided he would go along and see what he could find and I asked to tag along.

This was on one of the days when I was still recovering from the flu so I was rather weak but I managed to help Klaus choose a set of very smart waterproofs (jacket and trousers), some overshoes and some socks, with occasional sit-downs in the shoes department to recover. Me, I managed to buy some socks and a waterproof bag for my tools – 15€ spent by me, Klaus spent rather more!

Here’s a view of Rose’s clothing section.

Rose Biketown

Interestingly, if you want waterproof jackets your colour choice now seems to be black, red, green or high-vis. Klaus went for black as the jacket he liked the best only came in that colour.

A Concert in Wiesbaden

I’m a big fan of Andreas Scholl the German countertenor and have been for seven or eight years. Usually I go to four or five concerts per year, a couple in the UK and the rest in Germany (combining the concert with a short holiday). Anyway, having been in Germany for a year I hadn’t been to any concerts but discovered he was singing in the St John Passion by Bach in Wiesbaden this month. Wiesbaden is about two and a half hours’ drive away so I thought it worth the trip.

I bought two tickets (I was sure I could find someone to go with me). The Alto voice only actually sings two Arias in the St John Passion, one of which I don’t really like, but I knew I enjoyed the whole Passion with the Chorales etc so it was worth the trip for me, even if there is only a very small contribution by Andreas Scholl.

I was all set to drive there but a couple of weeks before, when Claudia found out I had a spare ticket, she suggested Klaus might like to come along (and drive me there). She would have really loved to come as well but was entertaining her brother as it was his birthday and they wanted some brother/sister time together. Klaus, being rather a third wheel, was offered as a taxi service, which I gladly took up (I am not very used to long distance driving now).

So we duly set off southwards with the traditional boring Autobahn view for most of the way…

On the way to Wiesbaden

However the journey was a bit quicker than I was expecting as Klaus is not afraid to put the pedal to the metal.

Slow German drivers

We arrived with plenty of time to have a cuppa (I eschewed the lovely-looking cheesecakes due to Lent) and a quick evening meal before going into the concert.

Our tickets were in the ‘Orgelempore’ which turned out to be a balcony with an excellent view.

Schiersteiner Kantorei

The acoustics were not so great up here at times and the wooden seats a nightmare for the back and backside but the concert was absolutely wonderful. I have heard the Schiersteiner Kantorei before but this time they were even better. All the soloists sang well but I was particularly impressed by the Evangelist, Andreas Weller.

All in all it was an excellent evening although with the uncomfy chairs I was looking forward to the interval… which didn’t come! They played the full two hours straight though.

We had a quick cup of tea before returning back to Viersen – also a chance to use the loo in the café.

It was the first time Klaus had heard Andreas Scholl sing live and was not the best acoustics for it but he said that he was ‘begeistert’ by the whole thing. It is always great to go to a live concert and we were also very amused to see a chap playing a Bassono grosso, a giant bassoon/Fagott that looks like this:


(This photo is actually taken from the Schiersteiner Kantorei website but I’m not sure if it’s the same chap playing it).

And here’s a report from the local Wiesbaden newspaper: http://www.wiesbadener-kurier.de/lokales/kultur/lokale-kultur/schiersteiner-kantorei-solisten-und-barockorchester-la-corona-glaenzen-mit-bachs-johannes-passion-in-der-marktkirche_15106097.htm

Visit to England

Every three months I visit England to see my husband, family, friends and to also have a day in the office in Eastbourne for our Sales Meeting.

I have got into a routine for this now – I get a list of English things my German friends want (cider, various moisturisers, teabags, Horlicks Light, Kettle Chips etc) before I leave and when I am in Eastbourne for work I go to the Morrisons Supermarket next door to the office and get everything.

I also make my once-per-quarter visit to the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolate factory (any more frequent is dangerous for my waistline) and get supplies to share with friends at church, work and others. I did well this time!

Chocolate supplies

As usual I had booked the overnight ferry so spent the day with friends and headed off from the Niederrhein to Hoek van Holland at 17:30. My car decided to give me some disco party lights (low oil warning light, then low brake pad warning light) but I pressed on, wanting to get to the ferry.

The Dutch are still redoing the roads around HvH so we had the diversion that takes the lorry route but I know where to go and it was fine. I arrived with an hour and a quarter before I planned to board the ferry (I like to leave it late so that Poppy has a chance for a final loo stop as late as possible) so I went to the Torpedoloos (Torpedo Lounge) again for a cuppa. And then decided on a waffle as I was a bit peckish!

After a relaxing hour Poppy and I boarded. Here she is in the car boot.

And here is my cabin – small but comfortable for the night’s crossing.

I arrived back at my house in the UK at 7am. Poppy was delighted to see James of course. I had to go through all my post (three months’ worth) and this included my new YACF jersey that I bought second hand… which will undoubtedly be appearing in photos in this blog on the SPEZI tour which starts in 25 days.

Just two hours after my return it was time to head off to church. We drove to Colchester and parked just down the road from the ruins of St Botolph’s Priory.

We arrived very early as I needed to attend the choir practice. This is the interior of our church – it’s just 25 years old, built over some shops in Lion Walk Shopping Precinct.

Although I am quite clearly in England in Colchester there are a few reminders of Germany – such as this Bockwurst stand in the precinct.

When we got back from church (where I had distributed lots of Griesson de Beukelaer chocolates) we discovered Poppy had found the sunniest spot in the house.

I take lots of photos of the beautiful skies around Niederrhein each month but Great Bromley also has some impressive sunsets – I was treated to this one on my first day back.

On Sunday evening we had some friends round for a Chinese take-away. I have not yet found a decent Chinese restaurant in Germany (and have really given up looking) so it was a definite must for this short visit back to England!

And of course, to finish we also had a cuppa. And just to prove that I am a proper Brit at times, I made it in a teapot.

It was good for Poppy to have a chance to revisit some of her favourite walks. I took her for a walk along the Stour River in Manningtree on what turned out to be a rather nice morning.

We then walked into Manningtree to visit the card shop for some birthday cards for friends. I’ve included this clock in this blog before – can you spot the mistake?

I liked this advertising board outside a pub in Manningtree.

As usual I had to visit Eastbourne for work as part of my UK trip so on Monday afternoon I headed off on the two and a half hour drive to the south coast and, with the reps and the boss and his wife, went out for another evening Curry at the Ganges Restaurant in Sovereign Harbour (where we used to keep our boats).

And of course the following morning it was a Full English Breakfast at the Camelot Lodge Hotel again!

The Sales Meeting at work went well and then it was time to head back to Colchester, stopping off in Tonbridge on the way back to see my in-laws and also my friend Charlotte whose birthday had been the day before. We went to Pizza Express which was nice but very pricey compared to German prices for Italian meals.

It is interesting how quickly Poppy settles down when back in England and gets into her routines – here she is resting her weary head after a day of sleeping on the bed.

I went for lunch with my parents, sister and niece at the Wheelhouse in Woolverstone Marina, Suffolk, overlooking the river Orwell. You can see the impressive Orwell Bridge in the background.

There was a very good selection of food for lunch, which included as starters calamari…

Goat’s cheese with chutney

And main courses chicken with a mushroom sauce

And Anna’s very healthy lentil and squash meal

Desserts included Sticky Toffee Pudding with custard

And a three-chocolate option

Here we all are after our meal. This photo was taken by my niece Gwenllian and is my sister Anna with me and our parents

And here are Anna and Gwenllian

It was great to see everyone and as a bonus my Mum and Dad have given me their old Dyson hoover (which they no longer use) as I can’t get on with the vacuum I have in my Wohnung.

My last day in England was a day for routine appointments – yes, I had the excitement (and expense) of a trip to the dentist, the optician and the vets (for Poppy’s rabies booster). Which involved visits to Brightlingsea, Manningtree and Colchester too!

Poppy of course realised that I was packing that morning when I put a few things in my bag and started to get a bit perturbed.

Poppy halfway down the stair

I went off to the dentist in the morning and parted with £75 for the pleasure. In the afternoon James came along to walk Poppy at Manningtree whilst I had my short (and only £26) visit to the optician.

Manningtree

Manningtree 2

When I got back from Manningtree I had an hour for a cuppa before it was time to go to my third appointment of the day – this time to the vet.

This was to update Poppy’s rabies booster. The reason being that several weeks ago I had noticed on her passport the original rabies stamp had “Authorised Veterinarian” as the title for the column

Rabies vaccination

Whereas for the worming treatment it just says ‘Veterinarian’.
Bandwurmbehandlung

I suddenly wondered if that meant that a normal vet can’t do the Rabies booster. So I emailed the government website to asked them and hadn’t had a response for several weeks until two days before I was due to return home and I got this message:

Yes a vet in Germany can administer the rabies booster provided that they are approved by the authorities in Germany. In GB we class them as Official vets in other EU countries they are referred to Authorised vets. You do not have to return to GB to have this booster.

Any vet who is licensed in the country of treatment can administer and record the tapeworm treatment in the pet passport.

A bit of googling showed this did not help much as I didn’t know what an ‘Authorised Vet’ would be in German and I couldn’t get anywhere with searching. So I quickly rang up my UK vet and fortunately they were able to book Poppy in for her booster, so she had it three months early but at least it was done by an ‘Authorised Veterinarian’.

After that it was time to cook dinner for my husband (toad in the hole, as we were in England) and then I packed up the car ready to head off for the ferry at 9pm.

Car packed

When I booked this crossing months ago I hadn’t realised it would be the first evening of the Easter Holidays and consequently there were long queues for the ferry check-in

Queue at Harwich

And the ferry itself was full. I just went to bed as usual.

The next morning I woke up early so went to the lounge area (wifi wasn’t working in the cabins as they are redoing it) and decided to have some breakfast. I purchased what has got to have been the driest roll in the Netherlands…

Breakfast on the ferry

Then it was the two-and-a-quarter hour drive home and I arrived back in Kempen at 11am. Poppy gave everyone in my house a rapturous welcome and I was delighted to confirm that indeed the central heating and hot water were now working, hurrah!

Poppy immediately returned to her usual German lifestyle of having a snooze during the day to recover from a tiring night’s sleeping…

Poppy asleep on chair

If a pillow is unavailable use a toy donkey.

Poppy with donkey pillow

The German Healthcare System

As mentioned, I’ve had the flu.

Normally I wouldn’t go to the doctor’s for flu but interestingly the German websites about flu all said “go to your doctor as soon as possible” (whereas the NHS sites say “stay at home”). So I did the NHS option but after two weeks when I was still very weak several (German) friends recommended I visited the doctor. So in the end I caved in.

Thus I was introduced to the German healthcare system.

As a Brit I am used to the NHS “free at the point of need”. What this means (for those not familiar with it) is that you don’t pay any money to see the doctor, have no insurance or anything. You just register with a GP (Hausarzt) and go and see them if you have a problem. They may refer you on to a hospital if you have something more serious but your first contact is always with the GP (unless it’s an emergency and you go straight to the local hospital Accident & Emergency department). You don’t pay any money for ambulances, hospital treatment, doctor’s visits. You may pay a charge for a prescription (medicine) but this is capped at £9 per item and most people don’t have to pay (if you have particular long-term health conditions you don’t pay, if you’re over a certain age or out of work, etc etc).

This is a fantastic safety net as you just don’t have to worry about healthcare costs. The money for the NHS comes from general taxation.

There have been lots of media stories about long waiting lists and things like that, which can be true in some cases (if you have a non-urgent situation such as a need for a knee replacement, for example) but my experiences of the NHS have been almost universally positive, as have those of my husband and parents. We love the NHS.

It is possible in the UK to have private health insurance as well but this is not something that most people seem to go for.

Anyway, the German system is somewhat different. By law you MUST have health insurance, either private or public. I would have qualified for the public insurance (as I have come from the EU and have ‘paid in’ to the NHS for years) but unfortunately the way they work out my contribution, as a freelancer, made it rather pricey – 350€ per month. That’s a lot.

However it is also possible to get an Expat International Travel Insurance policy which fulfils the German insurance rules requirements, and this is what I did (at £111 per month). It’s an AXA-PPP policy and is based in Tunbridge Wells in the UK (near where I used to live, in fact). I had been paying my £111 per month since I arrived in Germany.

So now it was time to see if this policy would work – although I have a £300 excess per year so it seemed unlikely that I would actually end up claiming.

So anyway I was ill. St Hubert has three doctors, which should I visit?

I asked the Roddays and my friend Anja and had mixed advice. Lara said not to go to the lady doctor as she always gives out the same tablets that don’t work; Anja thought she would suit me well. I looked at her website and she was clearly into homeopathy (the pointless pills) so I discounted her immediately.

The next two options, two male GPs, were in the same road so I decided to go to whichever one of those I could find. Lara came with me the first time to help out with translations if necessary.

I arrived first at Bernhard Heithoff’s practice which looked new and clean. I went in and handed over my insurance card and they had a look at it and told me to go and sit in the waiting room. There were another nine people already there – in Germany you don’t have appointments, it’s just turn up and pot luck when you get seen (although you are seen in order). As there was a huge flu plague sweeping Germany I wasn’t surprised the waiting room was full of people. And, typical for Germany, everyone says “Guten Morgen” and then when you leave they say “Auf Wiedersehen” or “Tschüß”, none of this unfriendly ignoring British behaviour.

After an hour and a half I was seen. The doctor was very nice and spoke absolutely brilliant English, which was great. I explained about having the flu and said that I felt my heart rate was rather high. He tested my blood pressure (very low – not a surprise as I had fainted in the shower a few days before and woken up lying on the floor very inelegantly) and my pulse rate was 150 which was very high as I was sitting down. So he said they would do an ECG (EKG) on me straight away – and lo and behold I was taken into the next room and the lady I thought was a receptionist (although she turned out to actually be a nurse, but in normal clothes) did the ECG. She took my blood pressure and said it was high but the ECG was borderline a bit high at 130, so better than five minutes before.

I saw the doctor again and he suggested I came back the next day for blood tests and for another ECG.

So the next day I went back (on my own) and had blood drawn. I declined the ECG as I’d been wearing my cycling heart rate monitor the previous afternoon and my readings were generally OK. I suffer from White Coat Syndrome (getting very nervous at the doctors) so readings taken there aren’t really very accurate. Also I had been informed by a German friend that EKGs cost about 80 Euros a pop – and I would be paying for this!!

They took the blood, did not seem to mind about the ECG and told me to come back the next day.

So the next day I arrived again, this time at 11am (when they said the results would be back) and saw the doctor after a wait of just half an hour. He looked a bit serious as he said a couple of values in my blood test, relating to liver function, were clearly very off. One reading (I didn’t get what it was) should be a maximum of 47 and mine was 1,620. He said he would do an ultrasound of my liver and lo and behold had a little room with an ultrasound machine and did it instantly. This was very reassuring as he said there was nothing obviously wrong with my liver, no gall stones or anything or liver tumour, but my spleen was a bit enlarged (not too surprising).

He suggested doing some more involved blood tests the following week to find out if I had some kind of hepatitis, and not to drink alcohol in the meantime (I am a lifelong teetotaller so that was not a hardship).

This was a Wednesday and the following Monday I went in to have the extra blood tests. In the meantime some of my symptoms for liver problems (related to what you might see in the toilet bowl!) had clearly improved a great deal and it looked like my liver was working pretty well again, plus I now felt much, much better. But the blood was taken and I then had the frustration of waiting for the results which took way, way longer than I expected (nearly two weeks – I thought they would be there the next day). In the end the receptionist rang up the laboratory and asked for them to send whatever results they had as I was going on holiday so they faxed through most of the results (which were all OK, according to the doctor).

In the meantime I had no idea how much this was all costing but had contacted my insurance company who sent me a form for the doctor to fill in and also gave me a ‘claim number’ so this illness was officially registered on their system. So far so good. Because I have only had the policy 11 months they had to ensure this was not a pre-existing condition (pre-existing conditions aren’t covered until you’ve had the policy for two years) but it isn’t so that was OK.

The bill for the first (simple) blood test came and it was 55€ so I paid that before my trip to England. On my return from England I had the bill for the Hepatitis blood tests – get a load of this!!

Impressive blood test bill

I’ll have two more at 55€ to come, as well as the bill from the doctor, so the total is looking around 800€. It’s interesting to see how much healthcare costs – God Bless the NHS!

Cakes this month

Somewhat bizarrely, the flu made me go off cakes. And once I was better I realised I’d had three weeks of the six week period of lent (Fastzeit) without cake so perhaps I could try to go for the full Lenten experience. Well, technically I did have cakes (two of ’em at the Tortenschlemmen) on Ash Wednesday but I decided to let that one slide.

So anyway, March was a cake-free month for me. Wow.

However, my friends still had cakes – and one was rather interesting. It was called a ‘Herman Cake‘ and was made with some kind of special sourdough which you pass along to two other friends in a kind of chain letter thing. It takes a week to make and seemed unnecessarily complicated. Claudia made one and offered me part of the mixture but we realised I would be in England for some of the time things needed to be done so that wouldn’t work, but Gudula had a go. Here it is partway through the procedure…

Herman cake

Anyway, this was the resulting cake that Claudia made – I didn’t try it (Lent) but it looked rather dry to me!

Herman cake

And here is Gudula’s finished cake…

At work in England we had lunch all together and a colleague had made a chocolate fudge cake but, due to Lent, I didn’t have a piece. A miracle!!

As Sunday is Easter Day and normal cake-eating service will be resumed you can expect to see some more photos of the great German cakes in my next ‘Six Wheels In Germany’ post, but I’ll be writing daily blog posts during my SPEZI tour (from 20 April till 1 May) so there should be more to read in my blog before then.

I’m writing this at ten in the evening on the 31st March – exactly a year ago I was boarding the ferry heading off for the start of this adventure. Long may it continue!

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