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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 11

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

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

Cycling Statistics for February 2015

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.44.50

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

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.45.10

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

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

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

Lazy Klaus

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

Bike maintenance day

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

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

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

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

New bike toolkit

New bike toolkit 2

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


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

Man in bunny suit

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

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

Karneval DB 1

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

Karneval DB 2

Karneval DB 3

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

Karneval DB 4

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


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

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

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

Gipsy dance 2

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

Gipsy dance

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

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

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

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

Here is a small selection of the floats.

Float 1

Float 2

Float 3

Spot the weird local dialect on this float!

Float 4

Float 5

These marionettes were very cool if slightly perturbing.

Float 6

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

Float 7

Float 8

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

Float 9

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

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

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

Street sweeping 1

Street sweeping 2

Friends and events

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

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

Penelope and Quest 1

Penelope and Quest 2

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

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

Helen in Penelope

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

Tortenschlemmen 1

Tortenschlemmen 2

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

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

Jochen in Penelope

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

WZ Article 1

WZ Article 2

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

Poppy watches Top Gear


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

Under my car wheel 1

Under my car wheel 2

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

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

Pancake day

Poppy pancake

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

Tree pollarding

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

Next door's tree removal 1

Next door's tree removal 2

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

Next door's tree removal 3

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

Popster keeping an eye on things

Popster tired

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

Dog haircut

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

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

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

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

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

Blog reference 1

Blog reference 2

Blog reference 3

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

What to do in Viersen on a Saturday night

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


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

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sun on fields

Sunshine over St Hubert Escheln

Sunset over Escheln

Misty morning

Cakes this month

Karneval Berliner

cheesecake from Gudula

Cheesecake 2

Choc cake 1

Gabi's lemon cake

cream doughnut

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 10

January 2015

Cycling statistics for this month

January was fairly snowy in Germany with lots of strong winds as well. Despite the weather, being on three wheels meant I was still able to ride 844.29km which was pretty good. Here is the list of my rides.

Screen shot 2015-02-01 at 10.16.11

And this is a map of all the rides combined – as you will see, the short ride at the bottom to Tagebau Garzweiler was car-assisted.

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 11.16.15

My average speeds are pretty low for this month which is partly due to the weather (rides in snow are hard work!), with the knock-on effect of lots of clothing layers which makes it harder to ride fast for me, but also as I did some group rides with friends at a very leisurely pace.

I have continued riding regularly with Klaus – it’s such fun riding with another trike – although his route planning seems to have been letting him down a bit recently as we have been doing more than our fair share of mud and off-road (which I generally prefer to avoid). Routes such as this… spot the dot on the horizon who was trying to avoid my verbal wrath by cycling away quickly…

Muddy trike ride

My target for last year was 10,000km which I managed. This year I have chosen the same target as it makes for a nice daily amount. I’ll hope to do half-and-half velomobile and trike over the year.

But something rather exciting in the bicycling world started this month. Steven Abraham (aka Teethgrinder), a cyclist I have ridden with a few times, is attempting the Highest Annual Mileage record, currently held by Brit Tommy Godwin from 1939 (75,065 miles or 120,805km). At the same time (although starting ten days later) an American named Kurt Searvogel is also attempting this challenge, although he currently has rather more favourable weather in Florida (although worse traffic, it seems).

Anyway, you can read all about Steve’s challenge here: www.oneyeartimetrial.org.uk. Steve’s ride is being validated by the UCMA (an American distance cycling organisation). By the 1st February Steve was just a few miles short of 6,000 miles, an incredible distance in snow and wind and rain. Go Steve! Lots of people are providing donations to help Steve through the year (he has had to give up his job to do this, of course), more information on the oneyeartimetrial website if you’re interested. And if you want to ride with Steve (or follow in his wake) you can check his location here: http://audaxclubhackney.co.uk/tg.html

Bike things

Penelope repairs

I mentioned in a previous blog post that a friend who was trying Penelope had a slight accident which involved her rolling onto her left side and the paintwork being scratched. Well, another friend borrowed her just before Christmas and had a similar mishap, this time rolling her onto the other side. This meant that she was more symmetrical but really needed some remedial work. A respray was far too expensive so my husband and I came up with a plan to try a vinyl wrap – which has the advantage of being cheap as chips.

The repair was very successful and I will be writing a blog post about it all in due course (as well as explaining the new lighting that has been installed).

I also took Penelope to Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten, the Netherlands, and had Penelope serviced (including her Rohloff hub). This went very well and it was excellent to chat to Gerrit Tempelman who knows all about Versatiles. I’ll include some photographs in the post I do about Penelope’s repairs when it is completed.

People and Events

James’s visit

As mentioned last month, my husband James (and his family) visited at Christmas. He returned (with my car) in mid-January for two weeks. We didn’t do as much riding as we might have done due to the snow (he had borrowed a two-wheeled bike from Klaus) but we were able to do a nice ride with Klaus and his family one day.

3 trikes two bikes

You may be able to see in this photo (sorry for the bad lighting!) that there are in fact three recumbent trikes. This is because my old Trice Q made the journey from the UK to Niederrhein with James in the car and has now been lent to Klaus’s wife Claudia. We had to adjust the boom to a lot shorter (she is not as tall as me) and shorten the chain but she is finding it very comfortable which is great. She is also discovering that normal clothing doesn’t work so well on a trike so is on the look-out for the next Aldi or Lidl cycling gear event.

Poppy also came along on this trip.

Poppy in basket

She often comes along with me to the Edeka supermarket 2km away on the trike – she runs, I cycle (very lazy of me).

Poppy on trike

As mentioned above, James and I also decided to do a cycle ride to Tagebau Garzweiler near Grevenbroich (south of Mönchengladbach). I had visited this giant hole in the ground previously (it’s an open-cast coal mine) and found it very interesting and I thought James would enjoy seeing it. Here’s my report from my visit in December 2012.

Jüchen/Garzweiler was a bit too far for us to ride, particularly as it was a very cold day, so we decided to drive to Wickrath which is just south of Mönchengladbach and ride from there.

Here’s the track that we took – you can see the giant area of nothingness that is the mine on the map.

Screen shot 2015-02-02 at 11.38.16

On the way we found ourselves riding through a strangely quiet town.

Ghost town

The town was called Borschemich and when we got home we looked it up and discovered that the people are being resettled in a new town as Borschemich will in due course be dug up as part of the mine.

The Wikipedia article on it (in German) is here and makes for very interesting reading. The population was 518 in 2007 at the start of the resettlement but in 2013 had reduced to 88. I have no idea what the figures are today but the only other person we saw was a chap with a decent camera doing some photography, although a bus went through the town whilst we were there.

Anyway, our detour via Borschemich was to give us an additional view of the mine from further away but unfortunately the day was very misty so we couldn’t see it at all! James did get a chance for a close-up look at some interesting pipework though.

Interesting pump pipework

Apparently water has to be continually pumped away to prevent changes to the water table and problems with drinking water in the surrounding villages. Also the source of the Niers river has now disappeared and so comes from water being collected elsewhere (the Niers flows fairly near where I live).

It was a chilly day for cycling but in due course we arrived at the viewpoint and had a look at the hole in the ground.

Hole in the ground 1

Hole in the ground 2

At this Viewpoint area there was also one of the digger buckets, a huge lump of metal that must have weighed tonnes. It made rather a good trike shed though!

A shed for Alfie 1

More views of the hole in the ground.

Hole in the ground 3

Hole in the ground 4

The motorway that runs along the north side of Garzweiler is being rerouted because of the extension of the mine so they were working on this, which meant that my planned route was not possible (the road was closed). We tried a few alternative diversions but always ended up in a dead end so in the end decided we had seen enough in the misty day and rode back to the car.

It was once again an interesting visit – it’s an amazing place (although I would like to see it on a non-foggy day one day!) but I would hate to live in one of the surrounding villages.

James really enjoys visiting this sort of place so Klaus suggested that one day we all ride to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg) which is an old factory which has been turned into a park. We arranged to go on a Sunday afternoon so that we would be able to see it all lit up, but the plans kept changing because of the weather and because more people wanted to come. In the end Klaus and I decided to cycle there and a group of six others (including James) would come by car because the snow made riding a two-wheeler unwise.

Riding a three-wheeler had its moments on the way there:

Snow on the way to LaPaDu

Snowy trike rear wheel

We rode a large proportion of the way on roads (rather than the cycle paths) because of the snow but there were some sections where we had to work our way along snowy tracks and this can be VERY hard work with recumbent trikes. Needless to say we earned a cake when we arrived – especially as the others were stuck in a traffic jam and didn’t get there till half an hour after us.

Trikes at LaPaDu

LaPaDu is a really interesting place to visit – the old factory area has been turned into a multi-activity place with climbing walls, children’s slides, a sub-aqua centre, restaurant and lots of things to look at.

Klaus has previously done a lot of photography here – here is the link to his LaPaDu photos on Flickr. Well worth a look!

Because of time constraints we only had about an hour to look around (which was probably not a bad thing as it was really cold!) and then it was time for our meal. Here is James enjoying his traditional German beer.

James beer at LaPaDu

Willich Choir

Following our successful concert in November (Beethoven’s Mass in C) the choir had a bit of a break but rehearsals for the next concert (Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Elias/Elijah) started in January.

Willich choir Elias

There were loads of new women auditioning – I think at least thirty – so the ranks of altos had swelled significantly when it was time to start. Great fun though, and although I don’t know this work at all the first two practices showed that it’s going to be very enjoyable. The concert is in November so there’s a lot of work to do before then…

Kempen Fahrrad Stammtisch

In Germany there are lots of things called ‘Stammtisch’ which are meetings in a restaurant or bar to chat about something. Hartmut had organised a Stammtisch for the Kempen area of the Kreis Viersen and Krefeld ADFC which meets on the second Thursday of every month. I’d been unable to make the first two but was around for number 3 and brought Klaus along too (although we very lazily went in the car because it was raining. Very poor showing!)

I wasn’t entirely sure what a Stammtisch was about but had my suspicions which turned out to be correct – it’s just a chance to drink beer and have a chinwag and make occasional references to bicycles.

Fahrrad Stammtisch


I wrote a fair bit last month about my trip to the Karneval Proklamation. Well, I was offered a visit to another Karneval event as a spare ticket became available so of course I said yes! I had to check that the first experience wasn’t just a figment of my imagination.

No it wasn’t, it turns out. It was just as bonkers the second time (but I was more prepared!)

Part of my additional preparation was bringing along a flask of hot water, some teabags, milk and a mug.

Karneval supplies

This is because they didn’t serve any drinks I liked last time – not even still water. It was not allowed to bring your own drinks (obviously they want you to buy drinks from them) but we explained and were let off. So I had a couple of cups of tea during the three hour event which made it much more relaxing!

I detailed last time the throwing of food and other goodies when the Prince and Princess process in. Well the same happened this time but unfortunately our table was right to one side of the hall and their throwing arms were a little weak so this was my very meagre haul.

Poor haul of goodies

However the event is not about free food but watching the various dances. Little Lara, Klaus & Claudia’s daughter, was doing two events – one was a singing duet with another young girl dressed as a gypsy.

Karneval Gipsy scene

The other was another dance again.

Karneval dance

The event was broadly similar to last time except the MC job was shared between two young men who did a reasonable job but less slick than the adult chap who did it last time.

Claudia kindly bought me a waffle to keep me going.


I enjoyed the event again but still find it rather mind-boggling that people do this, and the considerable costs which are borne by the Prince and Princess. But once again I was glad to be invited.


Here’s a pic of Poppy enjoying the snow on our walk to St Hubert

Snowy St Hubert

But when you have a velomobile or trike you can still ride in the snow and ice – here’s how much fun it is on Alfie!

New haircut

I spotted some excellently-long German words in the wild on this ice-cream tub:
Ice Cream Long Words

And this rather amusing mistranslation:
Sensible for pushes

I bought James a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle for Christmas and he decided to start it here. He made reasonable progress before heading back to England so I have been continuing as a break from work.

Puzzle 1

Puzzle 2

Views I’ve enjoyed

The wonderful thing about living in Niederrhein is the constantly-changing views, particularly the wonderful sunsets. Here are just a few I have seen this month.

Scenery 1

Scenery 2

View south towards Düsseldorf from the eastern side of the Rhein
Duesseldorf in the distance 1

Duesseldorf in the distance 2

Landscape Sunset 1

Heron flying across sky

Cakes I’ve eaten

An amazing walnut cream cake from the fab bakery/cake shop in Uerdingen. Well worth a visit, even though it’s a 20km ride including faffing around the outskirts of Krefeld.
Uerdingen Walnuss Sahne cake

Claudia supplied this wonderful mixture of chocolate mousse, creme brulee and chocolate ice cream.
Mouse creme brulee and ice cream

Rosinen Schnecke 1

At the Hariksee there is a café that specialises in Windbeutel (sort-of profiteroles). I had this one which was very healthy of course as it had a banana with it.
Banana Windbeutel

Cake 6

Cake 5

Cake 4

Cake 3

Cake 2

Cake 1

Cake 14

Cake 13

Cake 12

Cake 11

Cake 10

Cake 9

cake 8

Cake 7

Cake 20

Cake 19

Cake 18

Cake 17

Cake 16

Cake 15

Choc cake thingie

A reminder that I have not eaten all of these cakes – some were eaten by my companions!

Anyway, January was a good month but I had lots of work to do so less time to write the blog. My workload continues in February but I look forward to more cycle rides, more cakes and more socialising!

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Six Wheels In Germany – Month 8

November 2014

Cycling Statistics for this month

This month I passed two reasonable milestones – the first was 9000km for the year (target is 10,000 so I was ahead) and the second was 80,000km since I took up recumbent tricyling six years ago. And, as you can see from the information below, I’m only 261km off my yearly target by the end of November. So that ought to be easily achievable!

Screen shot 2014-12-01 at 14.51.50

Here are all the rides I have done this month.

Screen shot 2014-12-01 at 14.52.13

I tend to regularly ride to Süchteln and Viersen (for Choir and VHS) so have not been travelling so far afield regularly. However I have a plan to cycle to Köln for the Christmas Market in a week or so’s time and either get the train back or cycle back, which should be fun.

People I’ve seen this month

Occasionally I spot recumbent tricyclists while I am out and about in the car or with the dog, and at the beginning of November I saw a chap on an orange Scorpion whilst Poppy and I were walking to St Hubert – so I stopped him for a chat. He realised who I was (he had seen me in Penelope before) and we had a nice chat about some of the cycling routes around here. He introduced himself as Mr Schneider.


I was also invited by a couple at church for tea and cake with them one afternoon which was very pleasant. We had a good chat and they made me feel very welcome – with cake of course.

I’ve also been doing a fair bit of riding with Klaus’s family as well, taking Lara and Claudia out for longer rides (to bakeries or cafés, of course) as well as encouraging them to try riding in the dark. I tried to get some photos one day in my mirror – it partially worked. Here are all three of them in Alfie’s mirror.

im Spiegel 1

Sankt Martin celebrations

The month of November has been surprisingly busy in terms of festival/celebration events.

I was surprised to discover that I rather missed having Guy Fawkes’ Night with the bonfires, fireworks and sparklers. However Niederrhein presented a very similar event a week later, part of the festival of St Martin.

Here’s a bit of info from Wiki about St Martin:

November 11 is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying from the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me.”

(From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Martin%27s_Day)

In all the local towns and villages schoolchildren take part in a St Martin’s Parade where they make lanterns and walk in a big procession through the towns singing songs. Apparently Kempen’s Parade is the best-known in the region so of course I had to go along.

The Wikipedia article says this about St Martin’s Day in Germany:

A widespread custom in Germany is bonfires on St. Martin’s eve, called “Martinsfeuer.” In recent years, the processions that accompany those fires have been spread over almost a fortnight before Martinmas. At one time, the Rhine River valley would be lined with fires on the eve of Martinmas. In the Rhineland region, Martin’s day is celebrated traditionally with a get-together during which a roasted suckling pig is shared with the neighbours.

The nights before and on the night of Nov. 11, children walk in processions carrying lanterns, which they made in school, and sing Martin songs. Usually, the walk starts at a church and goes to a public square. A man on horseback dressed like St. Martin accompanies the children. When they reach the square, Martin’s bonfire is lit and Martin’s pretzels are distributed.

In some regions of Germany (e.g. Rhineland or Bergisches Land) in a separate procession the children also go from house to house with their lanterns, sing songs and get candy in return.

The origin of the procession of lanterns is unclear. To some, it is a substitute for the St. Martin bonfire, which is still lit in a few cities and villages throughout Europe. It formerly symbolized the light that holiness brings to the darkness, just as St. Martin brought hope to the poor through his good deeds. Even though the tradition of the large, crackling fire is gradually being lost, the procession of lanterns is still practised.

In some regions of Germany, the traditional sweet of Martinmas is “Martinshörnchen”, a pastry shaped in the form of a croissant, which recalls both the hooves of St. Martin’s horse and, by being the half of a pretzel, the parting of his mantle. In parts of western Germany these pastries are shaped like gingerbread men (Stutenkerl).

What seemed to be in the local shops wasn’t the Croissant or Stutenkerl but something called a Weckmännchen – of course I had to buy one to try it. They also come with currants (which I am not too keen on).


Anyway, Carole and her daughter Coralie (who I provide English tuition for) offered for me to come to the St Martin’s Parade in Kempen with them, so I was pleased to agree. I also brought Gudula and Lara with me from home.

Heading off to Sankt Martin Parade

We went by bike of course – here we all are heading through St Hubert towards Kempen.

Heading off to Sankt Martin Parade 2

We parked our bikes behind the Post Office in Kempen town centre and took up our positions opposite the castle (where the fireworks are set). We arrived about 5pm so would have a fairly long wait until it all started but we had an excellent vantage point.

Sankt Martin Parade ideal spot

The Fire Brigade were just along the road from us – with a telescopic platform on the end of which was a cameraman from WDR (the German television station) who would broadcast the procession live.

WDR Up A Ladder

The darkness came and the castle’s windows were illuminated with red light… as the procession started to come through.

Sankt Martin Parade 1

These lanterns are all made at school with different themes and they were all wonderful!

Sankt Martin Parade 2

Sankt Martin Parade 3

Sankt Martin Parade 4

This section of the procession had a large boat at the front!

Sankt Martin Parade 5

Sankt Martin Parade 6

Sankt Martin Parade 7

And then the procession stopped, and the musicians (there were lots of brass bands) also stopped. Because… now it was time for fireworks!!

Sankt Martin Fireworks 1

Sankt Martin Fireworks 4

Sankt Martin Fireworks 5

It was a fantastic sight from where we were standing and lasted about twenty minutes.

After the fireworks were over the procession continued, with banners telling you which school the students were from. It was lovely and colourful and friendly and there were huge crowds watching it. Apparently lots of Dutch people drive over to visit, for example.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed it, despite finding it a bit chilly to stand out in the open so long (I had originally thought I might sit in Penelope somewhere but there wouldn’t have been space with all the crowds).

We cycled home, moving with the mass of other visitors on foot, with just a few cars trying to pass. That’s what I like about this bit of Germany – people use feet or bikes as transport methods.

I had also seen another smaller parade in Viersen when out on a cycle ride the week before – these parades seem to span a couple of weeks. They are great fun though.

St Martin Parade Viersen

Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday in the UK is the Sunday before 11 November and this is a church service that I always like to attend. It felt strange to miss it this year – but I listened on the radio to the broadcast from the Cenotaph. My parents had sent me a poppy through the post as I hadn’t remembered to bring one, so that was good.

I explained to several friends here about poppies and Remembrance Sunday and the two minutes’ silence which they didn’t know about. I also showed several people photos of the amazing poppies installation at the Tower of London.

Karneval Proklamation

Every so often, when you think you are getting familiar with a country, something happens that makes you realise you are still able to be utterly bemused. And the Karneval Proklamation was one of these things!

Klaus and Claudia invited me along to the ‘Proklamation’ as their daughter Lara was doing a dance in it. I was pleased to say yes as it would be interesting I thought – and boy was I right!!!!

I didn’t know what to expect – I suppose I thought we would be walking along the street (like the St Martin’s Parade) or something. I made some comment about how long it would take and was told that the event was three hours. Three hours!!! And that it was indoors.

Anyway, in due course I drove to Klaus and Claudia’s house to meet them. Lara was all ready for the event – dressed in a special outfit with white skirt, red waistcoat and red cape. The red and white theme was to be regularly seen in the event, as I discovered.

We walked up the road to the big community hall in Rahser (the northern part of Viersen) and it was decorated with lots of red hangings, flags and banners. And, rather surprisingly, there were lots of grown men and children in different uniforms. Very unusual!

We sat down at long tables with various goodies on (as well as a price list for beer – no tea was available unfortunately) as people started to arrive. Lara disappeared with her friends and I took the time to look around – lots of new sights and sounds to these British eyes.

And then the event started.

Klaus explained some of what was going on. It was the investiture for the new Prince and Princess (of the Karneval) but first we had the ceremony for the outgoing Prince and Princess.

At the beginning all the kids were up on stage.

Kids on stage 1

And then we had the ceremony for the outgoing Prince and Princess, Anton I and Jana I. But first they processed up the centre of the room to the stage. And Klaus said to me “watch out!” and I couldn’t work out what he was talking about – until small chocolate bars started raining down on me. The Prince and Princess (and their helpers) throw armfuls of goodies (mostly chocolates but also bags of crisps) to the audience. These land on tables with drinks and other stuff so it was quite an interesting thing in terms of health and safety.

This was my collection by the time the Prince and Princess had made it to the stage.

Pile of goodies 1

The prince and princess had a troupe of guards with them (young lads) who sat at tables at the back and seemed to just eat sweeties the whole time rather than keeping an eye on their charges!

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

The stage was full of people wearing read as the hand-over ceremony started.

Outgoing Prince and Princess

The Prince had to wear these rather unusual red shoes!

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

The prince had to give back his mace and special hat (with feathers on). Apparently this can be a very emotional time for the prince and princesses (although these two kept reasonably stiff upper lips).

Outgoing Prince and Princess 2

They had been Prince and Princess for a year and had been involved in lots of community occasions, apparently. They also had to get sponsorship for the cost of the year – as they are always having to throw these goodies around wherever they go, plus they have to buy the (expensive) clothing. Apparently if you want to be the Prince or Princess in Köln your budget is between half a million and a million Euros. Crazy!!

Throughout all this there was a chap being a kind of Master of Ceremonies and occasionally he would say words and the audience (except me!) would shout back. Claudia had told me something about this on the way there but I couldn’t work out what she was talking about at the time. Anyway, the chap shouts “ram” and we shout “di bam” back, three times, waving our arms in the air whilst a keyboard player played some crashing chords. Also he would shout “Viersen” and we had to reply “Helau” (three times), with fist waving too. There were some other calls and responses too. It was very peculiar.

We were also told to do something to do with a rocket (Rakete), I didn’t quite catch it, which was drumming our hands on the table three times (with a gap in the middle) as a prelude to the next set of people processing down to the stage. Apparently we are pretending to be a three-stage rocket or something – but I only found this out afterwards.

We also had some singing – the song in the video below was partly in the local dialect which Klaus said he couldn’t really understand.

And then the former Prince and Princess processed off the stage and there was a short hiatus (a chance to eat some of the goodies) before the next instruction to stand and cheer the next procession.

Which was the procession of the incoming Prince and Princess (Max I and Selina I) and they, too, threw lots of goodies.

This time my haul was some wine gums, a blue rubber duck, three roses and various more chocolates and cereal bars.

Pile of goodies 2

The mini chocolates (small kitkat-type things) provided a great opportunity to play Jenga – with a rubber duck on the top.

Pile of goodies 3

The new Prince and Princess were then officially welcomed/consecrated/investituted (no idea what the verb should be). The Prince was given his feathered hat and his mace by the local Catholic Priest.

Photo from http://roahser-jonges.de

The Princess was a really sweet-looking girl who was always smiling and twinkly-eyed.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

She is the third in her family to do this, apparently (one brother was a Prince and her older sister a Princess) so the family clearly know what they have to do.

They then recited some speeches, did a glove-puppet mini-sketch and the Prince also played his drums a bit.

New Prince And Princess

Then there was a long series of ceremonial bits where other Princes and Princesses (young and also grown-ups) from other areas came to give gifts to the new Prince and Princess. They were always given a Karnevalsorden, a kind of medal on a ribbon (and gave one in return), so by the end of these ceremonies (probably about 8 different areas’ Princes and Princesses) they must have been really weighed down by all the enamel medals hanging round their necks. Apparently these are no plastic but properly made. Here they are with the adult Princess of Viersen.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

The Prince and Princess had to kiss the cheeks three times of all the various people that they were honouring. I felt a bit sorry for this lovely sweet Princess who had to kiss 40-or-so middle aged men dressed in weird uniforms. But she was very good at her job – I was impressed by her! The Prince looked a little more ill-at-ease but still did a creditable job.

The local Bürgermeister (Mayor) and two of the local Catholic Priests also were involved in part of the ceremony, it’s obviously something quite integrated within the local community.

The chaps around them were dressed rather like French soldiers to my mind. Anyway, they processed out and I took a little film of it.

After all these ceremonial bits the Prince and Princess got to sit on their thrones.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

We had some entertainment which was a series of dance groups which were great fun. These girls were very good at high kicks!

Dancing Girls 1

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

And this is the group of dancers which Lara was part of.

Lara's Dancing Group

There was also a little sketch done by a young child (he can’t have been much more than five years old. And he was utterly, utterly brilliant. I reckon he has a promising career on the stage.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

And some more dancing girls, this time from Lobberich.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

At the end all the children came back up onto the stage.

All the children on stage at the end

These were really sweet!

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

This whole Carnival group started in 1936 (not such an auspicious year really!) so it’s a long-time thing in the area. I wasn’t able to work out if the people took it seriously or saw it as a bit of lighthearted fun but they certainly got into the spirit of it.

Photo from www.roahser-jonges.de

I cannot think of anything similar that happens in the UK except for Morris Dancing… and that doesn’t last three hours!

But I really enjoyed being at this evening – it was great fun, always good-natured, noisy and colourful. And there’s another thing on the 18th of January that the children are involved in too… so the Karneval continues (until Ash Wednesday, in fact, so nearly four months).

Here’s the official report of the event: http://roahser-jonges.de/dnn/Proklamation_2014/tabid/298/Default.aspx In German of course.

Weihnachtsmarkt at Schloss Dyck

Claudia and Klaus invited me to come with them to visit the Weihnachtsmarkt at Schloss Dyck on the first Sunday in Advent, 30th November. So we duly all headed off in my car to Jüchen (my car as Klaus wanted some Glühwein and German drink-driving laws are extremely strict – and I am teetotal), discovering along the way that my Satnav was having a bad afternoon and we had to use Google’s satnav instead. But we found it – I had cycled there a month or so ago but the car route is very different.

Anyway, we arrived, paid the rather high entrance fee (12 Euros) and started to have a look around.

It’s a wonderful backdrop for the market, as you can see from these photos.

Schloss Dyck 1

Schloss Dyck 2

Schloss Dyck 3

We had a good wander round, enjoying the ambience and a few edible items, as well as buying a few little Christmas bits and bobs. We also stumbled across the British Fudge Shop stand (this is a shop in Mönchengladbach) so I bought some fudge. The people selling it to me had great London-area accents so it was fun to exchange just a few words with them. Lara looked most bemused by my sudden descent into super-fast English.

This month’s music

Beethoven Messe in C

The 31st October was the Bach concert at the Auferstehungskirche in Willich, which was a dry run for the concert in Willich Sankt Katharina church, the Beethoven Messe in C. Practices for this started in January but I joined in April (when I arrived in Germany). It’s been a challenge – partly because the music is pitched very high for an alto but also because it’s a big group of people of varying skills.

Here we are during our full-day practice the Saturday before.

Choir practising

But finally it was time for the concert – after some very long practices!

The evening before the concert we had a practice in St Katharina.

Inside St Katharina Willich

The orchestra were there and it was completely different playing with them, particularly in the strange acoustic.

Orchestra 1

Orchestra 2

The practice didn’t go all that well. It’s hard to get used to a completely new acoustic and there were lots of mistakes. Plus we were sitting in very different positions to normal – I was in the front row! I really hoped the actual concert would be better.

Fortunately the next night for the official concert we did a better job. Here we all are in the vestry waiting to go in.

Waiting to go on stage 1

Waiting to go on stage 2

It was an enjoyable experience singing in such a beautiful church and the audience seemed to enjoy it – we did an encore of Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes from Die Schöpfung (the Creation) by Haydn. And, as you can see, we were all very relieved when it was over – the expression on the faces of two of my friends from this choir says it all!

Martina and

Overall I think it was a reasonably successful event and the good acoustics in the church covered up some of our hesitancy I hope!

The only review I was able to find online was certainly very positive: http://www.wz-newsline.de/lokales/kreis-viersen/willich/viel-applaus-fuer-tolle-beethoven-messe-1.1795127


Anja and I have been playing flute and piano together for several months, practising for a number of events, the first of which was us playing together in the church service for Totensonntag, which is the Sunday before the first Sunday in Advent and is when people in the church who have died that year are remembered.

We played three pieces – two Handel pieces and also a piece by Santo Lapis. We played at the beginning of the service, at the end and after the names of the dead had been read out and people were thinking quietly. It went well which was a relief and we had several comments about how much people had enjoyed it.

Ready to play flute

Anja at the organ

Kempen Music Evening

A long time ago Anja had invited me also to play at a music evening that takes place under the auspices of the Evangelical church in Kempen, the Thomaskirche. This event was to be on 28 November and we had practiced various bits of music, deciding eventually on a piece by Santo Lapis.

When I arrived at the church I was amazed to see how many people were there. There were 24 different performances listed in the programme and there was a heavy bias towards flutes (probably half of the things included a least one flute) but it was a very enjoyable evening with a range of different ages and levels of expertise. There was a lady playing the flute who was 85 years old, apparently.

It was good to attend this and to see the skill with which some of the young people were able to play their instruments. I also saw, for the first time, a bass recorder – an amazing-looking thing that was taller than me!

Niederrhein scenery

This part of the world is providing the most wonderful views as I cycle off to my evening events. Each day is a different sunset with incredible colours in the sky. The iPhone does not do it justice but hopefully this gives you an idea of some of the beauty around here.

St Hubert Windmill

New windmills under construction

Sunset towards Anrath

Amazing pink sky

Sunset behind St Hubert Windmill

Autumnal trees

Sunset 3

Sunset 2

Flaming sky 1

Sunset 1

Sunset 5

Flaming sky 2

Penelope sunset

Sunset 6

The view from my window one afternoon.
View From My Window 1

I made a special trip to the Krickenbecker See at sunset to take this photo as it is such a wonderful spot. There is a handy bench where you can sit and watch the sun go down – from where I took this photograph. Magical!

Krickenbecker See Sunset 29 Nov

Cakes this month

Here are some of the cakes that I or my companions have enjoyed!

Lara's Kaesekuchen

Straelen Apfel Kuchen

Rice cake

Cheesecake by Gudula

Cake in Waldniel

Coralie's birthday cake

Bienenstich und Apfelstrudel in Rahser

Rice cake in Born

Cherry victoria sponge

Stinges cakes

Black Forest Gateau

Lotsa cakes

A lady and her husband from the St Hubert church invited me for cake one afternoon and provided me with this nice plum cake

Fachner cake 1

And also some Stollen.

Fachner cake 2

My banoffee pie

Banoffee Pie

Most Brits have probably tried Banoffee Pie – it’s a fantastic dessert, sweet and caramely, with the added bonus that you can cause an explosion in making it that requires you to redecorate your entire kitchen. I hadn’t made it for years (partly because we had an expensive new kitchen in our previous house and I didn’t want to spend days removing exploded condensed milk from the ceiling and cupboards).

Anyway, Klaus and Claudia had invited me several times for dinner and I felt that I was well overdue to provide something to eat for them on my next visit. So I decided to make a Banoffee Pie.

Here’s an English recipe (which assumes your condensed milk is already boiled into dulce de leche) http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/banoffeepie_89031

For Germans who don’t know about this, there is a good recipe here (in German): http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/125001053614007/Banoffee-Pie.html

I hadn’t seen this recipe (in German) before making my pie. But that was OK as I could get all the ingredients in Germany.

Or so I thought.

Banoffee Pie is fairly simple. A biscuit base (mixed with butter), a layer of dulce de leche (condensed milk which is boiled in the tin for 2-3 hours until it becomes brown caramel – or explodes), a layer of bananas and then a layer of whipped cream. Simple.

The first issue I had is that I didn’t have the right dish for it. Never mind, my pyrex lasagne dish would do at a pinch (I had tried and failed to find disposable foil pie dishes – they don’t seem to be available in Germany. But then neither are pies!)

The second issue is that the normal base of digestive biscuits would be tricky as there don’t seem to be any digestive biscuits in Germany. Never mind, I bought some normal Butterkeks and crushed them up, mixed them with the melted butter and pressed them into the lasagne dish. It all then went into the fridge to harden.

The Dulce de leche is the big issue with Banoffee Pie. Fortunately one thing the Germans do have is condensed milk – and the tin looked about the same size as the normal tin I used in the UK. They even had smaller tins. So I bought a mixture (four altogether) so I could boil everything up in one go – it can be stored in the tin after boiling no problems.

I have a pressure cooker in my Wohnung so decided to use that. It has the advantage that if the tin explodes it is contained, and the second advantage that it apparently cooks it much quicker – in just an hour rather than 2-3. So I put the tins in the cooker and set them off to boil.

After an hour (with no explosions) I turned the heat off and let it all cool.

I was going out in a couple of hours so after everything had cooled I thought I’d check the tin. I lifted it out of the water, shook it – and heard stuff sloshing around inside. It clearly hadn’t set so couldn’t have turned into dulce de leche. Maybe the pressure cooker wasn’t working properly (it had been slightly leaking water from the lid join). So just to be sure I boiled everything again for another hour and a quarter. I turned the heat off and went out for my evening engagement, hoping that when I got home it would be OK.

So when I got home several hours later to four cooled tins, I fished them out of the water and shook them – still liquid. Argh!!!

Plan B was called for, which is the option you use if you don’t want to risk explosions by boiling the tins whole. You take the milk out and add it to butter and sugar and heat it up until it thickens. So I attempted this… and it didn’t thicken. For half an hour I was stirring this to no avail. Right, this was a disaster. I left it to cool, feeling very irritated that it wasn’t working.

I happened to go back into the kitchen half an hour later and saw that it had slightly set now it was was cooling so I decided rather than waste all the work I would pour the mix onto the biscuit base and see what it was like when chilled in the fridge.

The next morning the banoffee mix was slightly tacky so I decided it would do, and sliced the bananas on top. Then it was time to whip up the cream.

I didn’t have an electric whisk so I did this job by hand. And boy did it take a long time. The cream eventually started to stiffen but it was more liquid than I wanted and then… suddenly… it went flat and started turning into butter. Argh!!!!

So I covered the pie with foil (it had sliced bananas on it) and on my way to my dinner engagement I stopped off at Aldi, bought some more cream and used Claudia’s electric whisk to whip it up. I lost my nerve a bit soon so it was rather more runny than it should have been – as you can see from the photo above. There was very little of the banoffee caramel taste but my friends seemed happy enough to eat it. I have promised them a PROPER banoffee pie after I return from England next month and have a chance to get the correct ingredients.

A bit of research afterwards showed me that normal German condensed milk has a lot lower sugar content than English, it is more like evaporated milk. The German banoffee recipe above calls for ‘sweetened condensed milk’ rather than the normal. So I imagine that explains the not-turning-into-toffee issue. We live and learn.

Christmas is Coming

Yesterday, 30 November, was the first Sunday in Advent. Today as I finalise this blog post it is 1 December and Christmas is just around the corner.

I am having three friends visiting from England tomorrow for four days, I’ll be back in England for the third week of December and then will be returning here for Christmas with my husband and his parents, James’s brother and his wife and their three children. So it will be a really interesting and different Christmas, attending church in Germany, experiencing some of the different customs and hopefully having a relaxing and peaceful time.

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

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 7

October 2014

Cycling this month

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

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

Screen shot 2014-11-02 at 17.16.22

Anyway, here are the ride statistics for this month.

Screen shot 2014-11-02 at 17.20.09

People I’ve seen this month

Morten from Hamburg

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

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

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

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

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

TdM with Morten

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

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

Breakfast in Anrath

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

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

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

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

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

Kempen tower

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

Morten's cake

I had a nut/muesli option.

My cake

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

Quest and Strada

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

Velomobiles in the dark

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

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

Heading for breakfast

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

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

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

Breakfast at Hofcafe Alt Bruch

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

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

Here’s Morten underway.

Morten riding

Being chased down by Gereon and Lara.

Gereon Lara Morten

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

Helen cycling

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

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

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

Morten repair 1

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

Looking for a soldering iron

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

The world's biggest soldering iron 2

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

The world's biggest soldering iron


job done

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

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

Morten tries out Penelope

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

Morten tries out Penelope 2

And Alfie wasn’t any better.

Morten tries out Alfie

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


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

Morten at Kempen station

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

Gabi, Achim and Rolf again

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

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

Hartmut’s birthday meal

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, they were all very polite about it.

Hartmut's Birthday 3

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

Hartmut's Birthday 1

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

Hartmuts birthday 2

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

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

Hartmut's birthday chocolate cake

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

Michael and the Düsseldorf ADFC

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

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

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

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

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

ADFC ride from Duesseldorf

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

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

Azub trike

Azub trike and Penelope

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

Azub trike with Veltop

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

ADFC ride from Duesseldorf 2

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

Michael on his trike 1

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

Helen and Michael at Gut Heimendahl

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


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

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

The answer was yes – sort-of.

Penelope in Krefeld

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

Penelope in Babs's Flat

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

Life in Germany

Food again

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

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

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

Hummus 1

And then three days later in the REWE in Kempen:

Hummus 2

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

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

Real jams

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

Single bananas

Breakfast with Anja

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

Breakfast with Anja

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

Sir Winston tea

Seen on cycle rides

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

Cabbage Leaves on fields

Poppy the dog

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

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

Poppy running by bike

Other wildlife

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

Mr Mole very neat

Cycle rides this month

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

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

Sunset over Hinsbeck

Autumn Leaves

Hinsbecker Bruch

Gorgeous sunset on bike

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

Self-service ferry

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

Aiwa info

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

German rules for ferry

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

Ferry wheel

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

Self-service ferry with trikes

This was great fun!

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

Nette trifft Niers

And here are the rivers meeting.

Confluence of Niers and Nette

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

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

Sliced kojak

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

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

Helpful cycling companion

Here’s the repaired Kojak.

Reasonably tyre repair

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

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

Golf castle

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

On the way to Damnation

More music

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

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

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

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

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

Suechteln Choir Meal

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

Cakes this month

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

Donauwelle at Gut Heimendahl

Apfelstreusel 2

Gudula's cherry cake

Posh Apfelstrudel

Scones with Morten


Donauwelle in Wachtendonk

Apfel Streusel in Wachtendonk

Doughnut in Neersen

Gudula's chocolate cake


Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

Alfie rides the Sauerlandradring

A month ago I cycled the Vennbahnradweg from Aachen towards Luxembourg with Klaus, fellow recumbent triking chum here in Germany. We enjoyed our 162.5km on a disused railway line so much that Klaus did some more investigating as to other suitable Bahnradwege near here that we could try. And he discovered the Sauerlandradring.

This is an 85km route which consists of some Bahnradwege (former railway tracks converted to cycle paths) as well as some linking routes. He knew of some recumbent trike riders who had cycled this a while ago and said it was good, so we decided to give it a go and picked a weekend mid-October, hoping the weather would be good. We would need to borrow my landlord’s VW Bus again (to fit both trikes in) and it was available on Sunday 12 October so the date was fixed.

We had two options for this ride – doing just the Sauerlandradring (85km):
Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 10.54.01
or also adding the Nordschleife section (another 45km) which takes the route up to the River Ruhr. There was a note on the website for the Nordschleife that part of it was closed so we would have to cycle the same route up to Meschede (on the Ruhr) and back (it’s normally another circular route).
Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 10.54.29

I haven’t actually visited the Ruhr so fancied the extra section but we weren’t sure, this late in the year, whether that would be too much (it might be dark by the time we finished). So we gave ourselves the option by starting the ride from Eslohe (where the Nordschleife section heads off) so we would know, when we got back towards our starting point, whether we would feel like another 45km of cycling. The official route starts in Finnentrop. We would also ride it anti-clockwise rather than clockwise (the normal direction). After all, recumbent riders like to do things differently!

The description of the Sauerlandradring is as follows:

Radeln im Zeichen der Fledermaus: Ein Raderlebnis abseits der Straße, aber trotzdem auf bestens asphaltierten Wegen: Das bietet der SauerlandRadring. Mit seinen 84 Kilometern Länge spricht er vor allem Tourenradfahrer und sportliche Familien an. Auf der Hälfte der Strecke bewegt man sich außerdem auf ehemaligen Bahntrassen.

So it suggests it’s not on the road but on well-asphalted paths and it suitable for touring cyclist and sporty families. And half the route is on former railway routes.

So this all sounded very good, the 120km extra option was possible, and amazingly the weather forecast was pretty much perfect for our ride – dry, sunshine, 12-15 degrees (so not too hot).

I hadn’t originally realised how far away the Sauerland is, and how fiddly the road would be to Eslohe. I would have to collect Klaus from Viersen and the total driving time would be two and a half hours each way. So I said I would collect him at 7am which meant an early start for me. Frank readied the VW Bus with its flat load area for me the night before and I put Alfie in, along with my tools and spares. I had changed the chain the day before (it had done 12,000km, they often snap at about 5000km for me so this was a miracle) and in the process had managed to break my chain tool so I hoped it would be OK. It was, but I need to shorten the chain a bit when I find myself another chain tool as in the big ring the jockey wheel was hanging straight down so very low to the ground.

Anyway, at 7am I duly arrived in Viersen and Klaus appeared with his trike. It was the work of a moment to put the trike in the VW Bus with Alfie and then we headed off, using my iPhone’s SatNav app to direct us to Eslohe.

Now my App speaks English (which is easiest for me) and the chap has a lovely clear voice, but he doesn’t pronounce German place names very well. The two hour journey from Viersen to Eslohe appeared to afford Klaus considerable amusement with all these new pronunciations of place names – his favourite was Wuppertal which, in Co-Pilot Live Satnav Speak, is pronounced “woo purtle” (should be “vuhp err tarl”). I was delighted to see that we passed an Autobahn exit for Wickede on the way too.

It was quite a fiddly journey including three or four different Autobahnen and then a reasonably long stretch on an A-road which wound its way through some towns and villages. My app has a speed limit warning which is actually very useful as I’m not quite clued in to how the speed limits work in Germany. Klaus gave lots of very handy information, especially when I wanted to put the fog lamps on as it was a bit foggy. Apparently in Germany you can only use them if visibility is less than 50 metres (there are posts every 100 metres beside the road so you can gauge it) and you have to slow down to 50 km/h if you put then on. Rather different than the UK where people have them on if it’s a bit misty. Also if you pass a road sign announcing a village name then that’s automatically a 50 km/h speed limit (unless signs say otherwise) – not something I previously knew either.

Anyway, with the help of Co-Pilot Live and my co-pilot we arrived safely in Eslohe and found the public car park easily enough. We got the trikes out of the VW Bus and I noticed again what I had seen from the car – it seemed to be rather mountainous around here. Hmmm…


It was pretty chilly – the bus temperature gauge had said 7-8 degrees – so we had quite a lot of layers on to start. It was just 100 metres or so from the car park to join the track and I felt full of energy so zoomed ahead, before realising I was leaving my cycling companion behind. This is the result of having a proper English breakfast of Weetabix before you set off, rather than eating nothing.

The route turned out to be very well signposted almost the entire way (there were a couple of occasions where the track on my Garmin was useful).


And this is the actual track that we rode – as you can see we didn’t add the Nordschleife section to Meschede in the end.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.17.39

And here is the elevation profile of the GPS track.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.17.55

What this doesn’t show is how up-and-down the route was the whole time. Although it was partly old railway track routes there were an awful lot of sections which can’t have been part of the railway as they were very steep – 8% or 10% or more. Maybe only for 100 metres but that’s still pretty knackering on a trike. More anon.

So from Eslohe we headed west on a good-quality path, slowly uphill and getting our cycling bearings after sitting in the car for a long time.

We were rewarded very quickly for our hill-climbing efforts with some fantastic views.


The first major event doing the route in this way is the so-called Fledermaustunnel (bat tunnel), although its actual name is the Kückelheimer Tunnel.


There was a sign beforehand which explained that the tunnel is a home to bats.


And that we were lucky we weren’t a few weeks later as it would be closed (as winter roost for the bats!).


This sign tells you that the tunnel is 689 metres long and cool and damp – with water dropping from the roof and walls and thus it has a wet floor.

And indeed it was quite wet in there so I didn’t stop to take photos – so sorry these are fuzzy!


And here am I… spot the winter hat having its first outing in Germany.


The tunnel was great fun – wonderful to have it just for cyclists and pedestrians.

There were other reminders that we were on a former railway track for this section – such as this train rusting away gently on some tracks.


And a bit further along there was an old, rusting carriage by the side of the path – which had clearly had a very interesting life!



More mystery railway memorabilia.


The route continued, leaving the old railway as we approached the town of Fretter.

At this point I was rather keen on finding somewhere for a spot of cake and also for a toilet. We had a quick look in Fretter but couldn’t find any open bakery or café – then spotted a chap in his front garden and asked him. No, he said, nothing open here – or anywhere around really.

My toilet need was not yet at the critical stage but I was regretting my decision not to use the loo in the hotel next to the car park at the beginning of the ride. So we pedalled on, with a very uphill-downhill section which saw speed variations from 10km/h to 40km/h within a few metres.

Some of the hills were VERY hilly – here’s a short video I took of Klaus attempting to get up a 10% hill. He’d been cycling on the spot for about 30 seconds before I took the video (note that I had managed to overtake him – I have a 20″ rear wheel and he has a 26″ wheel which I think makes it slightly harder for him traction-wise on these hills).

And then I experienced a rather brown-trousers moment, entirely my own fault.

I was in the lead and we’d just crawled up a long hill and I was looking forward to the downhill that would surely come – which it did, as you can see here (the downhill was probably 200 metres in total).


So I whizzed down the hill, approaching the wooden bridge that you can see in shot.

And this was what was on the other side of the wooden bridge (not very visible from the trike’s seat as I whizzed down the hill) – a ninety degree bend in the cycle path.


I realised as I started crossing the bridge that I was going too fast to take this unexpected bend, but of course had no traction on the wet wooden bridge for braking so had to slam the brakes on when I got off the bridge and onto the paving.

This was the result…


An impressive set of skid marks with my brand new Schwalbe Marathon tyres. I was speeding towards the fence with a bit of a drop the other side and thought I was going to hit it pretty hard. I uttered a rude English word (something I almost never do) and prepared for impact. Fortunately the tyres gripped just enough that I was able to stop with just a light tap on the fence with my front chainring guard (one of the best £25 I have spent in ages – it took out a car bumper a few weeks ago and seems to entirely protect the trike and his headlamp from damage!). I did a huge stoppie though, in other words my rear wheel raised right in the air and the pedals hit the ground. It all seemed to happen in slow motion but there I was, finally stationary with the front of the trike jammed under the fence panel. And then I realised there was another trike bearing down on me… Klaus was able to stop but also with a stoppie (lifting his rear wheel) but had seen what was happening (or had not been going so fast) so didn’t end up in a giant skid like I did.

So I extricated Alfie from under the fence and stood around for five minutes feeling a bit shaky. Unfortunately we were standing next to a stream whose relaxing water trickling sounds made my need for the loo a bit more critical so I pulled myself together and we headed off again, in desperate hope that we would find a cafe with cake and toilet before too long.

We crossed the L737 Landstraße at which point there was a sign for a Café at the local mill. Down a long hill but worth it for food/loo, so Klaus headed off down the hill as I crossed the road (I was a little behind at this point). And I took a good look at the sign for the café and it said “open Sundays and public holidays 14:00-18:30”. The time was 11am so no luck. So I waited at the top of the hill and sure enough Klaus reappeared, saying it was shut. I had saved myself a hill climb so that was a bargain. I see from Google Maps that the café is owned by someone called Klaus Brill so rather a shame it was closed!

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 12.26.37

We knew that Finnentrop was only 7km away so pedalled onward, sure that we would find somewhere there. We arrived in Finnentrop – everything was shut. We found a lady walking a dog and asked if there was anywhere to get food and she gave a few suggestions but they weren’t particularly local. A look at my Garmin showed that the route continued after Finnentrop directly to a ribbon development named Bamenohl and that seemed to have several food places so we decided to carry on on the Sauerlandradring rather than trying to locate the places (a petrol station) the dog walker had recommended.

We did a short detour to a restaurant but all was dark and closed so carried on. 30km ridden and no open food establishments located – this seemed very strange!

As we rode down the main street of Bamenohl it was clear that the lady had mentioned places here (a bakery opposite the Sparkasse) but we found a nice looking restaurant with seats outside – and it was open! Hurrah!

I availed myself of the facilities and then we ordered lunch – proper food as who knew if we would get another chance on this ride! We were both hungry after all the hills too.


They also bought me Teewasser with milk at the first attempt which is unusual (usually cafés and restaurants in Germany forget the milk).

A lunch stop is not only a chance to feed the cyclists but also their navigation devices/cameras etc


We had a good hour’s break which was needed and decided at this point not to attempt the Nordschleife section – 85km on this hilly route would be enough for us both.

The route now continued along the B286 road which wasn’t very pleasant cycling. We were to discover this further on in our riding – although this is billed as a family-friendly cycle route there are several sections of 2-3km that are on main roads, and I mean on them – no cycle path. We were cycling on narrow-ish fast roads with cars occasionally hooting at us (“Use the cycle path!”) but this was the correct route, signposted as Sauerlandradring, with no alternative cycle path. I would not like to take inexperienced cyclists or children along some of these sections.

At Borghausen the route took us off the main road (phew!) and back into the up-and-down of the cycle route. There were some really steep hills around here, several of which weren’t asphalted. Recumbent trikes really struggle with traction on loose surfaces uphill and there was one very awkward section where we were both pedalling but nothing was happening except our trikes were kicking up sand behind them on each pedal stroke. The slightly damp ground and leaf litter cover didn’t help. It’s amusing for a short while but gets a bit annoying at times.

Klaus’s phone tracking app has registered a 21% incline at some point on the ride – which I think was actually a very fast downhill section as we approached Grevenbrück (if I remember correctly). Due to my earlier near miss I was using the brakes on some of the faster downhills but I still reached 50 km/h on this one.

We rode through Theten which was a nice, open area next to the river Lenne. As you can see, my cycling companion was enjoying the break from uphills (as was I).


We then found ourselves riding through the town of Altenhundem which seemed to have a collection of odd people out for walks. This section of the Sauerland has rather different inhabitants than Kreis Viersen. We kept pedalling, unfortunately once again beside a busy road.

Helen on the Sauerlandradring

The next section on a pavement cycle path beside the main road seemed to go on and on, through several villages. It wasn’t at all scenic, a real contrast from the earlier riding with fantastic views of the valleys and hills and the leaves turning on the trees.

After what felt like ages the route headed off the main road and back up some more hills, and more unmade surfaces (leafy sandy mud). More hard work! It was clearly time for cake so I suggested we diverted into the village of Saalhausen as my Garmin suggested that had several food places. Klaus agreed (he has now learned the importance of cakes on rides) and so we soon found ourselves at a very nice café sitting outside in the sunshine.

Rather than choosing a cake I had a waffle – I felt I needed the carbohydrates. But asked for ice cream and cream with it for the full unhealthy effect.


Klaus had a cheesecake.

Klaus's cheesecake

We had just 30km to go which felt about right – the hilliness of the route meant that would be plenty.

This route is variable – some horrible on-road sections, but then you are rewarded with some lovely views of the hills and valleys.


And of course the trees turning into their winter colours was a bonus.

We joined another Bahnradweg after a very unpleasant on-road section and whizzed along on the gentle downhill slope for about 8km.



We had a bit of a discussion if we’d want to do this route again in the future and the answer appeared to be no. Although it was lovely in places there were too many sections which were beside or on busy main roads and there weren’t enough food establishments on the route to keep me happy! The Vennbahnradweg, which we rode a month or so again, is something we would both like to do again.

The final section to Eslohe was up a really nasty long, slow hill beside a road. My legs were feeling very tired now (I am not well trained for hills) so was relieved when we got back to the car. We just had to sort the trikes out again to go in the bus and then we headed off back again to Viersen and Kempen.


Total distance for today was 84.83km at an average speed of 15.9 km/h (those hills, you know). I burned 2,438 calories so that was a bonus.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day and we were incredibly lucky with the weather for mid-October. My trike ran well (despite the new chain being a bit long) and the route was fairly well signposted so we didn’t ever get lost (although the Garmin helped on a couple of occasions when we weren’t sure). Thanks to Klaus for his company, and particularly navigating the driving along scary German Autobahnen in the dark, and to Gudula and Frank and Lara for lending me the bus and looking after Poppy!


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

Churches in Kreis Viersen 61-70

This is the seventh batch of church visits that I’ve blogged about. You can read about 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50 and 51-60 as well.

Churches visited this time

Churches in Kreis Viersen 61-70

61. Neuapostolische Kirche, Willich
62. Auferstehungskirche, Willich
63. St Michael, Waldniel
64. Kapelle St Maria an der Heiden, Overhetfeld
65. St Martin, Oberkrüchten
66. St Sebastian, Nettetal-Lobberich
67. Evangelische Kirche, Elmpt
68. Georg Kapelle, Brempt
69. St Anton, Schwalmtal
70. St Bartholomaus, Niederkrüchten

61. Neuapostolische Kirche, Willich

Franz-Liszt-Straße 9, 47877 Willich

This is the fourth of the Neuapostoliche Kirchen that I have visited here in Kreis Viersen and it looks just like the others (they seem to have very similar designs) and, like the other three, it is located in a residential side street and quite easy to overlook.

Willich NAK 1

Willich NAK 2

Auferstehungskirche, Willich

Krusestraße 20, 47877 Willich

This church is already very familiar to me as it’s where the choir that I attend practices some of the time.

Auferstehungskirche Willich

Their website explains that the Auferstehungskirche (Resurrection Church) was built in 1931 as a small wooden chapel opposite the Evangelical school in Willich. The build was possible because of the help of the steelwork company Becker, many of whose workers came from the east of Germany. Many of these were protestants.

In 1962 a new church was needed due to the growth of the Willich congregation and it was constructed in its present form.

Auferstehungskirche Willich 2

You can see the tower on the left, the main church in the middle and the building on the right is part of the extensive church halls/music practice rooms etc.

This is a photo of the stained glass window which makes up the left hand side of the main church.

63. St Michael, Waldniel

Niederstraße 31, 41366 Schwalmtal

This church is the central point of the pretty town of Waldniel which is in the Schwalmtal area.

Waldniel Church

I visited it partway through a long ride (101km) led by the ADFC. You can read more about that here.

64. Kapelle St Maria an der Heiden, Overhetfeld

An der Kapelle, 41372 Niederkrüchten-Overhetfeld

Visiting this chapel was an almost 70km round trip and I did it on a day which started out in bright sunshine, had a colossal downpour and lightning storm in the middle and finished with warm sunshine again. Penelope was the right choice of vehicle for those conditions although I was a bit hot at times!

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 17.11.33

I photographed this chapel whilst sheltering under an umbrella during a torrential downpour. It was still very pretty though!

Overhetfeld Kapelle St Maria an der Heiden

The chapel was built in 1703 and as a pilgrimage church was extended in 1734.

Here’s a picture of it from the church’s website in somewhat better weather conditions!

65. St Martin, Oberkrüchten

Kirchstr., 41372 Niederkrüchten

This church visit isn’t actually in the correct order as I originally spotted what I thought was another church in Breyell and photographed that. It was only later that I discovered I had actually photographed the Pastor’s house and not an actual church. From the photograph below you can see why I made this mistake!

Breyell St Lambertus

Anyway, I did visit St Martin, Oberkrüchten, on the Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen (during which ride I also visited church number 70).

Here is the church – with a lot of other cyclists outside.

St Martin Oberkruechten

This was another one of the few churches that are actually open outside of services. I understand the reasons for this, of course, as there are valuables in these churches, but it’s a shame you can’t go in most of them. This one had solved that problem by the glass wall method – you can see but not touch!

St Martin Oberkruechten interior

The church has a website with lots of information but not organised in an easy way for someone like me to find out anything much about this church apart from when the services are. But it looks like it’s quite a busy community.

66. St Sebastian, Lobberich

An St. Sebastian 33, 41334 Nettetal

I spent ten days in Lobberich in August 2012 and somehow didn’t ever cycle past this impressively-large church.

St Sebastian Lobberich

The church was originally built in 1818 but as that century neared its close it was too small so in October 1893 the church was enlarged.

It was closed between 1987 and 1990 because of problems with the building (things were falling from the roof!) while repairs were effected.

Their website shows that there is also an almost-identical church, St Aloysius Iserlohn.

67. Evangelische Kirche, Elmpt

Schillerstr. 1, 41372 Niederkrüchten

This was the church visited on my 126km cycle ride, whose route was as follows:
Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 15.10.18

Stopping to photograph this church almost led to me being flattened by a woman pulling out of a side driveway (as mentioned here). But I survived!

Evangelische Kirche Elmpt 1

Evangelische Kirche Elmpt 2

From the website it looks like they’ve got quite a lot going on.

68. Georg Kapelle, Brempt


I went past this church two days running – and seeing as it’s a heck of a long way from Kempen that is quite impressive!

As is the chapel itself.

Georg Kapelle Brempt

Georg Kapelle Brempt 2

The website describes the following:

Zum wertvollsten kulturellen Erbe Niederkrüchtens gehört die St. Georgs-Kapelle von Brempt, die wahrscheinlich von den Herren der Burg Brempt aus gegründet wurde. Der einschiffige Ziegelbau mit dreiseitigem Chorverschluss wurde in spätgotischem Stil etwa um 1500, wahrscheinlich als Burgkapelle erbaut.

The chapel was founded by the lords of Brempt and was built from 1500.

69. St Anton, Schwalmtal


This church was also visited on my 126km ride. It was impossible to get the whole church in shot, unfortunately! But here are Alfie and his friend the Wild One outside the door.

St Anton Schwalmtal 1

Parts of the current church date from 1490, including this inscription:

which, translated into German, is

Anno Domini 1490 und eins legte Wilhelm in der Linde und Lisbeth den ersten Stein, da war es also gestellt, dass ein Malter Roggen 7 ½ Gulden galt.

70. St Bartholomaus, Niederkrüchten

Dr.-Lindemann-Str. 3, 41372 Niederkrüchten

I visited this church whilst on the Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen.

Screen shot 2014-08-07 at 15.06.40

The route went three sides of a square around the church but I did a small detour to go and visit it.

St Bartholomaus Niederkruechten

It was a large church with a more English-look to it than most around here.

So that’s church number 70 visited – here is the complete map of all the churches I have visited so far:

Churches in Kreis Viersen 1-70

I bought a new Garmin recently and have had issues getting the remaining church waypoints onto it (well, I managed, but then accidentally deleted them and can’t remember how I did it) so I may have to be a bit more organised about visiting the remaining 30 or so…

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Filed under Churches in Kreis Viersen, Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

Alfie rides the Vennbahnradweg

Sunday 14 September 2014

Today was a ride with a difference – 100 miles (162km) along a former railway track that linked Aachen with Luxembourg and travelled over the Hohes Venn in Belgium, also part of the Eifel region.

I hadn’t heard about this route before but cycling chum Klaus mentioned it several weeks ago, that it was something he had wanted to ride for a long time, and it seemed to fit rather well with my wish to do a longer distance again. I’d ridden 100 miles three times in 2009 but hadn’t cycled that far since – the Vennbahnradweg seemed like a good opportunity to explore somewhere new and have a good long-distance ride.

There’s a full website about the route available (in English) here: http://www.vennbahn.eu/en/

This was always going to be a long ride as it would start in Aachen (an hour and a half from where I live) so a couple of weeks ago we booked a date that we would make the attempt (assuming the weather wasn’t abysmal). Fortunately the forecast was fairly good for today – sunny and twenty degrees with possibly a few spots of rain now and again.

The first issue with starting a trike ride somewhere other than you live is transporting the thing. Alfie folds very easily and will fit in a fairly small car but Klaus’s trike (now named Killer after he almost ran over a giant Nutria on a ride in the dark) does not fold and is also slightly wider and higher at the back due to its 26 inch rear wheel. At one point we considered taking two cars to Aachen (one trike in each car) but that seemed a bit wasteful of fuel and I checked with my landlord and landlady whether I might be able to borrow their VW Bus. They were very happy for me to do so.

I realised the easiest way to transport trikes is on a flat surface and the VW Bus rear bench seat folds flat so Frank showed me how to do that and I readied the bus on Saturday evening, putting a cloth down onto the seats in case the bikes dropped dirt. I had arranged to collect Klaus at 7am which involved me leaving St Hubert at 6:30am. Yikes!

So Sunday dawned and while it was still dark I headed off in the VW Bus to Viersen, Alfie in the back. Mindful of the weather forecast I had chosen shorts (rather than long cycling trousers) and my sandals which are most comfortable for a long ride. However it was fairly chilly first thing so as a last minute decision I added a pair of socks. Despite the appalling fashion disaster of wearing socks with sandals I am (a) over forty, and (b) living in Germany where that kind of thing doesn’t seem to be so much frowned over.

I arrived in Viersen and Klaus was ready with his trike. It took us a minute or two to work out the best way to tesselate two large three-wheeled machines into the bus but it all worked really well.

Trikes in VW Bus 1

We headed off to Aachen, Klaus giving directions (he had worked out a good place to park). There was very little traffic so early on a Sunday morning so it was an easy drive.

The chosen parking spot was in an Industrial Estate five miles from the centre of Aachen – the Vennbahnradweg was just 20 metres or so from where the bus was parked. We extracted the trikes and got everything ready, feeling a bit chilly in the 11 degrees – me especially (Klaus had chosen to wear long cycling trousers, a waterproof jacket and autumnal shoes).

Trikes in Aachen

My cunning plan about cycling 100 miles was, we knew, probably a bit too much of an ask for us. This was because I hadn’t reckoned with the fact that the route goes over a mountain range so the first 50 miles (if we did the 100) would be largely uphill. Not a particularly steep gradient but uphill is uphill, especially on trikes. Klaus had been unwell the previous week with a cold and still hadn’t entirely shaken it off and didn’t feel entirely fit when taking his trike for a quick spin two days before so we headed out with the assumption that we would ride as far as he thought sensible and then turn round and come back again (mostly downhill on the way back, fortunately).

Here is what ended up as our track for the day.

Vennbahnradweg Track

And here is the elevation profile – including heart rate data (orange) and speed (green).

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 10.42.07

There was no-one about as we set off on our ride at 8:30am and we had the lovely wide, smooth asphalt to ourselves. This meant we could ride side-by-side which always makes conversation easier (with my hearing problems), although the initial section felt quite uphill so was hard work. I was keeping an eye on my heart rate to make sure it wasn’t too much too soon as that’s an easy way to exhaust yourself when riding a long way, so periodically I suggested we slowed down a bit.

Working a bit hard up the hills would in some ways have been a benefit to me as I was definitely a bit chilly. I put a buff on my head which helped a bit but I rather wished I had chosen long trousers. I consoled myself with the thought that when the forecasted sun broke through around lunchtime and it reached 20 degrees I would feel much more comfortable.

The route was very well signposted (except for one short section fairly early on) and there were also loads of information boards as we voyaged forth.

Regular signage

This one had a rather nice bit of English about slumbering cyclists – that wasn’t in the German version at all!

Vennbahn Info

The blurb talked about the beautiful scenery and it was nice, in a rather misty kind of way. There was a lot of fog about which meant we couldn’t see too much but the sun filtering through the mist and the trees looked great.

Low sun and mist

After the first few miles we had escaped the outskirts of Aachen and climbed a fair way, now reaching pine forests with no sign of habitation or other people. The track crossed very few roads after the first few miles so it was a long, easy cycle (apart from the slight upward gradient) without having to pay attention to routefinding or other traffic. We just pedalled along, chatting and enjoying the scenery.

The route was on an old railway line but there were still traces of the railway in places – there are clearly sections that still have trains running on them as there were crossings from time to time.

Misty Railway Crossing

The fog hung around a fair bit, I suppose as we were getting higher up, but as we weren’t dodging traffic it wasn’t a problem.

Trike in morning mist

By eleven o’clock the mist was clearing and the sun made more of an appearance although it was still not that warm. It had warmed up enough for me to take off the buff on my head and use my baseball cap instead but that was about it. I was glad to have my socks!

Mist clearing

There were now a lot more cyclists too – we were regularly having to single out as people were coming the other way. This can be harder than you’d think on a trike as you may be pedalling along side-by-side at 25km/h and you see someone coming the other way. The person on the left stops pedalling and waits to tuck in behind the person on the right but the aerodynamics of the trike mean you don’t actually slow down that much so it takes a while before you can tuck in (using the brakes feels like a waste of energy). The person on the right tends to also speed up a bit to help things along but we were occasionally shouted at by random Belgians. There was always plenty of room as it was a wide path – and we were shouted at one time by two Germans cycling side-by-side. Still, when the Belgians shouted at us we couldn’t understand what they were saying so that was OK.

As with other Bahnradwege, there are quite a lot of train-related things left along this route. The station nameplates are a good example.

Regular station nameplates

Klaus has a tendency, when riding, not to stop for food/cake but he’s ridden enough miles with me to know that I like to stop and have a break (and cake) regularly. We didn’t pass very many food places at all (unlike lots of German cycle routes I have been on before where you are knee-deep in Biergärten the whole way). We stopped for an apple/banana after an hour or so but by 10:30 I was beginning to think about having a longer stop (with a loo opportunity). Klaus suggested, as we were fairly close to Monschau, that we stopped there – he knew of a restaurant that did the most fantastic Schnitzel mit Senf, apparently. 11:30am seemed quite early for Schnitzel to me but he looked keen so I thought, why not!

So after another hour’s cycling we arrived at Monschau.

Monschau info board

Like lots of the towns and villages we had passed, they had a little seating area.

Monschau Seating area

However, it became clear that we were actually 3km from Monschau centre. Klaus was still keen to visit the restaurant but warned me it was a long downhill that would require an uphill afterwards to get back to the Bahnradweg. This was not a problem, I didn’t mind a bit more climbing, so we headed off down the main road to Monschau. Which was a lovely fast road where the trikes got up to 50km/h easily.

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 09.17.15

We whizzed down the hill (which was clearly going to be hard work going back up again!) and then turned off the road into the main part of Monschau which is pedestrianised and cobbled. There was a fairly long cobbled section and it was so bumpy for me on the trike that my vision started to go a bit wobbly. It was a very peculiar sensation!

We arrived at the restaurant Klaus so liked – and it was closed! Oh no! Still, there were plenty of other opportunities for food so we took ourselves to a bakery for some cake.

Cake in Monschau

The bakery was in a building right next to the river Rur. This is not the Ruhr (where lots of German industry is) but a different, similarly-spelled river also in Nordrhein-Westfalen.

Bridge over the Rur in Monschau 1

There were lots of beautiful Fachhäuser to look at – although I gather owning one of these is even more nightmarish than a Grade 1 Listed house in the UK!

Bridge over the Rur in Monschau

After our cake and tea it was time to head back – over the cobbles.

Monschau cobbles

Klaus said that his ride over the cobbles hadn’t been too bad. Mine had been really rough (not helped by having Kojak tyres at quite a high pressure, I suppose) so he suggested swapping trikes for a bit to see if we could notice a difference.

Boy, was it different! On Klaus’s fully-suspended Wild One the cobbles barely noticed. He’d said this to me before and I assumed it was hyperbole, but indeed it was a very smooth ride, very comfortable (apart from the seat which doesn’t work for my shape). Klaus was behind me on Alfie undoubtedly discovering why I am rather slower across cobbles and probably hoping none of his teeth fell out.

I very meanly carried on riding the Wild One till we were back on proper asphalt and then we swapped back to our own trikes. This definitely gave me food for thought though – I tended to think previously that the complicated suspension on the Wild One was a bit unnecessary for normal riding but it clearly has its benefits if you live somewhere with cobbles!

As we had been whizzing down the hill from Monschau Bahnhof to the town I had noticed what looked like a shortcut back so we decided to take this. It would undoubtedly be steep but hopefully without many cars so it doesn’t matter if you ride slowly.

Sure enough we took the turning on the way back and started slowly working our way up the hill in some of our lowest gears.

As we rounded a corner, having covered about a third of the distance back to the Bahnradweg, the asphalt disappeared and we were faced with gravel/stones/Schotter. Klaus went first – and lost traction after about three metres. I sat on the asphalt considering the predicament. It would be a long haul uphill on the busy road if we returned the route we had come – we had probably less than a kilometre to ride on this gravelly path.

In the end we decided to carry on the only way possible at this point.

Uphill out of Monschau

Fortunately the track fairly soon flattened out enough so that we were able to ride again, albeit with occasional traction issues. This is a perennial problem with recumbent trikes – the rider’s weight isn’t really over the traction wheel so as soon as you get to loose surfaces or mud it can be hard to make progress.

We made it eventually – a very steep walk and ride up a hill – and had to have a bit of a breather at the top before carrying on. The wrong way, as it happens – I hadn’t noticed that the Bahnradweg was higher, we were just on an access road to a farm. We realised soon enough and turned round, went right back to the Bahnhof Monschau rest area that we had been at a good hour before, and got back on the right track.

Early on in the ride we’d briefly been into Belgium (which of course prompts a whole batch of “Willkommen in Belgien” text messages to all our phones) but had mostly been in Germany. After we headed south from Monschau we went into Belgium proper… again, not really noticeable (no text messages this time) except for slight differences in signage. This one was a bit of a giveaway though!

Belgian Schotter

As you can see, we were also at this point riding on Schotter rather than asphalt. This is annoying for me of course, but we knew it would be a short bit of riding. This was because despite not feeling entirely fit Klaus had decided to carry on after Monschau and as the path had been smooth and relatively flat we had covered a good distance. The original plan was to cycle either 161km (100 miles) or 166km (further than I had ever cycled in one day before). I’d shelved this plan at the beginning but it was coming back as a possibility when the Garmin read 75km and we were still heading towards Luxembourg.

The detour into Monschau centre had added about 5km to our track so we knew we needed to ride more than 80.5km before turning round if we were to get back at 161km but the Schotter was annoying so in the end we decided to turn round a little bit early and have the option of riding a bit further at the other end (we had parked 5km from Aachen so could always ride a bit further towards Aachen and then turn back again).

So… we reached a small crossroads in the Radweg and stopped to turn round.

Emergency Chocolate

Notice on the seat of my trike a Union Jack item? This is my Emergency Chocolate ration (“British Chocolate”) given to me by my friend Kirstie when I was in England in June. I had kept it in my flat for emergencies and had, as yet, not been so desperate that I needed it (despite the fact I haven’t allowed myself to buy any chocolates or biscuits from the Griesson de Beukelaer factory for the last three months). Anyway, as I am returning to England next weekend I thought I ought to bring this chocolate on the trip for an energy boost. So we shared the bar of milk chocolate (kind of like an aero but a bit melted) in Belgium looking across at the hills we had cycled up.

View from on high

And here are the statistics on the Garmin at the turning point.

Turning Point

As you can also see, the new Garmin Oregon, although an excellent bit of kit, is a bit thirsty with the batteries – I changed the batteries shortly after this and the replacement only just made it to the end. Fortunately it takes AA rechargeables but the old Oregon (which I also had along as a backup) lasted almost the entire ride on one set of batteries and they weren’t newly charged when I started it up.

So now we turned round and started heading back towards Germany, once again on the Schotter (for just 2km). This should be a generally downhill route now but it didn’t always feel like that. The route was also very busy with cyclists and families out walking so there were lots of ‘hellos’ to people, although we were rarely passed by other cyclists (only those on racing bikes as we are quicker than general cyclists).

There were some interesting place names underway.


And I found this an interesting sign as well – this was either end of a 5km-long stretch of perfect, smooth asphalt. Clearly someone local didn’t like the expense!


This whole section is just fantastic though – smooth, fast, flat, with some great views.

Downhill in dusk

On our outward journey we’d passed a café built into an old train which also had a lot of strange open carriages in front of it. On our return journey we passed about 20 of these actually on the tracks – obviously some kind of amusing pedal-power train car. I quite fancied having a go but we didn’t really have time!

Train bike

We were both feeling hungry now and as it was approaching 4pm that felt like time for lunch. Cycling friend Hartmut had recommended a place to me in Küschelscheid and I had made a waypoint on my Garmin for it. I saw this approaching so suggested to Klaus that we stopped there. It was a bit off-route (about 1.5km) and Hartmut had said it was up a hill but we thought we’d give it a go.

So we turned off the route at the relevant section and headed towards the café. Which was up a COLOSSAL hill, a real killer. We turned the pedals in our lowest gear and eventually made it, feeling rather worn out. It was an interesting café with lots of people outside and in. We sat outside but realised fairly quickly that there was only one woman serving, there were lots of other people still waiting for food, and the food choice wasn’t really what we wanted. After ten minutes of sitting there with no sign that the lady would come to take our order we decided to go somewhere else.

So we headed back down the awful hill and reached a top speed of 53km/h. At the bottom of the hill I saw a café and grabbed at my brakes to stop; there was a nice smelly brake pad odour but Klaus carried on saying we’d try somewhere else. The thought was to eat something in the train carriage on the tracks (where the weird pedalling things were), we’d passed it on the way to the café.

So we arrived at the train carriage, sat down on a table outside and noticed that they were only serving waffles. As nice as waffles are, we both felt like we needed more in the way of carbohydrates. “Let’s go to the Imbiss” said Klaus and I agreed – that would have chips! (although not a toilet).

So another 20 metres by trike and we arrived at Anja’s Imbiss which had a smallish queue. There were chips and currywurst and burgers and other options.

Anja's Imbiss

However, it didn’t take more than a minute to notice that Anja had not really got the hang of time-and-motion. She seemed to be cooking to order (including chips), doing one order at a time, and not finding out if anyone in the queue wanted something that was already available (currywurst). Klaus really wanted a can of coke, which she had in the fridge, but she didn’t ask ahead.

So we stood and waited, stood and waited. She served five people in front of us but we were both bemused to notice that when she finished the cooked chips, she didn’t put any more on to cook, although there were four more people in the queue. So when we placed our order she then stuck our chips in to fry. At least the currywurst were ready (which was why I had chosen that – otherwise I would have had a burger). What was also annoying was a man (who clearly also worked for the Imbiss) had arrived and asked if she needed help and she said no – Klaus and I both thought she definitely did!

It was a strange experience of Belgian food provision in one village – three different options, all of which seemed a bit hopeless. Do they not want our money?

Finally the currywurst arrived and we sat in one of the ubiquitous shelters to eat it.

Belgian Currywurst with Frites

The short food stop had taken well over an hour which seemed crazy but we were ready to carry on fairly quickly although I find after eating greasy chips (which were tasty) my stomach complains a bit if I cycle too fast. So we pootled on, still waiting for the wonderful downhill section we knew must be coming (as we had ridden a long way uphill at the start).

The route has regular signposts in the Belgian section with the countdown to Aachen. We had started 5km from Aachen so had to knock 5 off all of these for our distance back but it became clear because of the Monschau detour we would get back to the car before the 100 miles. We agreed to decide what to do then – I thought I could always head off for few miles to bag the 100. Klaus, being metric, was possibly less bothered by hitting this magic number!

Regular signage

I had forgotten there was another section of Schotter on this part of the route. On our outward journey we had swapped trikes briefly to see if the reason I ride slowly on it is to do with Alfie only having rear suspension; it was an inconclusive test but I still find it hard work. However this photo shows the common sight when I am riding on Schotter – my riding partner, whoever they are, pulling a long way ahead because I am so slow.

More Schotter

We had now ridden further than Klaus had ever been in one day and he started to have issues with his feet (quite common with recumbents because your legs/toes are so high up). He explained this to me in one of his excellent little English phrases which are rather influenced by German: “my feets are sleeping away”. So it seemed like a good idea to stop and walk around for a bit to get the blood flowing back into the toes – plus I wanted a drink. So at the next little stopping point we had a wander, read the signage about the area where we are, ate some more of the emergency chocolate and had a five minute argument about whether dishwashers are more useful than husbands.

Bahnhof Lammersdorf

The sun was heading to the horizon now but we had finally got to the excellent downhill section. This was really fast – we were averaging 32 km/h for long stretches, probably for 10km or more, so the distance to go was counting down rapidly.

Getting dark

Klaus has 81 gears on his trike and so his top gear is much higher than mine and I was having to pedal quite fast to keep up with him. But it’s such brilliant fun riding this fast on a path with no traffic – and the other cyclists had mostly gone home now so we generally had uninterrupted progress. I reckon in the velomobile I could have enjoyed this part of the ride at 50km/h.

The distance was counting down, we had switched on our lights, and soon we were in the busier section of the suburbs of Aachen with lots of road crossings. Klaus phoned his wife to say we just had three more kilometres to do but when we arrived back at the area where we had left the car we were on 97.5 miles. Except were we? My Garmin was giving a different reading to Klaus’s Runtastic software on his iPhone (which uses a sensor on the wheel to measure distance). He tried to explain to me that as the Garmin isn’t taking into account elevation with its distance (it assumes you’re on the flat), it is under-reading. His phone believed we had cycled 1km further than my Garmin. I argued that he couldn’t be sure he’d measured his wheel circumference perfectly and if it was a couple of millimetres out then his distance measurement would also be out. After a day of cycling with someone it’s quite easy to find things to argue about!!!

Anyway, he agreed we really ought to get to the Imperial Century as we were so close so we continued on the Radweg towards Aachen, still downhill. And I insisted on using my Garmin’s measurement as that’s what I’ve always used for my distance measurements. At 98.75 miles it was time to turn round and head back again – unfortunately uphill!

The last mile and a quarter was hard work (not least because my Garmin was using Imperial units and I’m used to kilometres going past rather more quickly than miles). But lo and behold the Garmin clicked to 100.0 miles just before we reached the car – hurrah!!!

I realised I hadn’t got a photo of the Vennbahnradweg signs that we had seen all day – it was rather dark but I made an attempt at the sign where we had parked the car. As you can see, it was not a success!!

Back at the start

Here is the proof from my Garmin in Imperial.

Trip Computer Imperial

And in metric.

Trip computer Metric

It took five minutes to get the trikes back in the car and then we were off back to Viersen and Kempen.

All in all it was a great ride – a real achievement for us both, but especially for Klaus who was still recovering from the lurgy. He made the better clothing choice (the promised sunny, warm day never arrived so I was sometimes a bit cold) and he also won on the number-of-stops thing as I usually like to stop every 25km or so and we only stopped twice in 162.

100 miles in a day is a fairly major milestone, the next being 200km in a day but I think that might be too far at my speed. Certainly the Vennbahnradweg was an excellent choice for a distance ride as there were so few road crossings but if it’d been flatter that would have made the first fifty miles a bit easier!

After downloading the track to my computer I got my more accurate figures. Klaus’s figures (after downloading to his computer) are in red. He didn’t have a HRM today.

Total statistics for this ride:

Distance = 162.45 km / 100.3 miles; 163.47 km
Ride time = 9 hours 09 minutes
Average speed = 17.6 km/h;  16.85 km/h
Average heart rate = 140
Maximum heart rate = 186
Maximum speed = 53.2 km/h; 53.13 km/h
Climb = 904 metres;  1163 metres
Calories burned = 4,604

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

Churches in Kreis Viersen: 51-60

This is the sixth batch of church visits that I’ve blogged about. You can read about 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40 and 41-50 as well.

Churches visited this time

Churches in Kreis Viersen 51-60

51. Wegekapelle Lind, Boisheim-Lind
52. St Peter, Viersen-Boisheim
53. St Gertrud, Dilkrath
54. Johanneskapelle, Dilkrath
55. St Jakobus, Lüttelforst
56. St Heinrich, Mülhausen
57. Johanneskapelle, Nettetal
58. St Mariae Rosenkranz, Willich
59. St Lambertus, Leuth
60. St Katharina, Willich

51. Wegekapelle Lind, Boisheim-Lind

Linder Straße, Viersen-Boisheim

I visited this chapel in the early evening, dragging triker friend Klaus with me. The normal photo of the church with my velomobile or trike now has an extra trike!

Wegkapelle Lind

The chapel is in the middle of the countryside between Boisheim and Dülken in the farming hamlet of Lind and was built in 1911-12 to commemorate the tornado of 1 July 1891. The neo-Romanesque brick chapel was built in a Latin cross plan overlaid on an Octagon. You can see the field of potatoes next door!

Wegkapelle Lind 2

The description of this chapel on the website gives an interesting insight into the purpose of some of these small chapels:

Weiterhin ist sie ein Zeugnis für die Fortführung des Jahrhunderte alten Brauchs, nachdem Hagelkreuze und Wetterkreuze in die “Flur” gesetzt wurden, um Gewitter, Sturm und Hagel abzuwehren.

This explains that crosses were placed in the church to ward off thunder, storm and hail, the continuation of a centuries-old rite.

I found this interesting to read as I had, during this cycle ride, asked Klaus if he knew why so many of these little chapels were built. He didn’t really know but wondered if it was to do with collecting lots of money and having to have something tangible to show for it.

On our ride we then visited a third chapel in the middle of nowhere east of Lobberich but as this was a wayside one (no services held there) I couldn’t really include it, but it was in a beautiful location so I’ve put a few pictures here.

This was a chapel to St Hubertus (he seems popular round here – he’s the patron saint of hunting, I believe).

Wayside chapel

Inside there are no seats (and it was all locked up), just a little altar.

Wayside chapel St Hubertus 2

And this was the view if you sat outside the chapel – lovely!

View from St Hubertus wayside chapel

Klaus and I spent about 10 minutes trying to identify what we could see. Kempen was visible in the far distance because of the white tower of the Propsteikirche but we weren’t sure if we could see Grefrath or Oedt directly ahead of us. It turned out to be Oedt, which I had suspected because of the chimney also visible. In the far background we could see the Hülser Berg (near Krefeld) as well as the other moraine upon which Tönisberg sits.

St Peter, Viersen-Boisheim

Pastoratstraße 3, 41751 Viersen

I visited this church on the way to visiting the furthest-distance church of my challenge, the church in Lüttelforst. I did a different route there and back, as you can see from the track below. On the way there I took the more western track which passed through Boisheim after I crossed the A61 motorway

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 09.34.33The church was a very impressive sight, for once not surrounded by buildings.

St Peter Boisheim 1

St Peter Boisheim 2

St Peter Boisheim 3And by the front door was this sign – ‘Church open’

St Peter Boisheim Kirche OffenIt wasn’t completely open, however. Well, you could go in the main doors but there were then some glass doors (with metal gates behind them) to prevent you going right into the church. However I was able to see the windows and it all looked rather nice.

St Peter Boisheim Interior 1There has been a church in this site for quite some time – in historical documents from 1290 it is mentioned that there is a ‘Capella’ in ‘Buyschem’.

A small brick church was built in 1487 and further enlarged in 1899, including the tower. The church was badly damaged in 1945 and repairs were completed in 1954.

53. St Gertrud, Dilkrath

Boisheimer Str. 52, 41366 Schwalmtal-Dilkrath
When I arrived at this church there was a large procession of people walking down the road, a priest talking through a loud-hailer and lots of general activity. It turned out there was a funeral taking place and the church service part had just finished, they were now walking to the cemetery (I presume).

So I waited a bit around the corner until people had left so that I didn’t disturb them with my photograph-taking.

St Gertrud Dilkrath 1Because the church was open following the funeral I popped in to have a quick look.

St Gertrud Dilkrath 2

St Gertrud Dilkrath 3The church was originally built in 1460 and was much enlarged from 1902-1904, including painting the brick red.

54. Johanneskapelle, Dilkrath

Genend, 41366 Schwalmtal-Dilkrath

This was a gorgeous little chapel hiding in the fields – I thought the waypoint on my Garmin must be wrong as I couldn’t see the chapel, just a strange white tower, but the chapel was hiding behind the tower.

Johanneskapelle 2

Johanneskapelle 1

55. St Jakobus, Lüttelforst

Niederstraße 31, 41366 Schwalmtal-Waldniel

So I made it to Lüttelforst (which I had always assumed was spelled Lüttelvorst and so had been writing it wrong for ages). It is the furthest-away church in my challenge and was an 80km (50 mile) round trip. Great fun though!

This church is perched on a hill above the road and was a pretty steep climb for Penelope.

St Jakobus Luettelforst 1The church was built in 1802.

St Jakobus Luettelforst 2

This stone shows that a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela would be a bit of a trek from here!

St Jakobus Luettelforst 3

It also had rather a lot of mosquitoes buzzing around whilst I was visiting – undoubtedly due to its close proximity to the river.

Lüttelforst seemed a very quiet little village without much going on but apparently there is a good restaurant at Lüttelforster Mühle which I may visit some other time.

56. St Heinrich, Mülhausen

Kirchstraße 4, 47929 Grefrath-Mülhausen

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed this church and gazed up at its rather ugly tower.

St Heinrich Muelhausen 2

On my ride back on the main road from Grefrath I have to wait at a traffic light opposite this church and the traffic lights are slow so I see it a lot.

However, I decided to pop in on one particular day as I was doing a nice 30km loop around Kempen.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.05.09

Apparently it was built in 1900 in the neogothic style but it looks to me like some industrial chimney or something. It goes a long way back and the rest of the church looked reasonably interesting but that tower! It totally takes over the look of the church!

St Heinrich Muelhausen 3

57. Johanneskapelle Nettetal

an der B509 zwischen Leuth und Hinsbeck

At this point I have to admit something shocking – that a few of these church visits have not involved me cycling from Kempen. Instead I have visited them when starting my ride from Viersen (when I have been riding with Klaus). The original plan was to ride to all these churches from Kempen but it seems rude not to bag them when I am passing anyway, and it’s usually on a long ride, and I have probably ridden past them when having cycled from Kempen at some other time, etc etc. Excuses. I let you the reader decide if I have been cheating on my Churches Challenge.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.07.19

This chapel is situated beside a main road down the hill from Hinsbeck. I think it might be linked to Haus Bey, which is now a golf course/centre near the Krickenbecker See.

Johanneskapelle Nettetal

It was built in 1617 as a memorial to Sophia Gräfin von Schaesberg (1823-1844) and was renovated in 1854 and 1994.

There’s a photograph of the interior, plus further explanation of this chapel in English, on this Flickr page.

58. St Mariae Rosenkrantz, Willich

Krefelder Straße 354, 47877 Willich

This is another church that I visited when riding from Viersen rather than Kempen.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.15.47

I wasn’t able to take a good photograph but here is one from their website.

Klaus took a picture of me sitting underneath the bells and desperately hoping that they wouldn’t ring…

Helen at Willich Pfarrkirche St Mariae

I wasn’t able to find out much information about this church at all.

59. St Lambertus, Leuth

Johann-Finken-Straße 2, 41334 Nettetal

I had passed this church several times on my travels but decided to visit it whilst leading a group ride with several of Gudula’s friends. I’m not sure they understood exactly why we were stopping at the church and I was photographing it but it was a nice day and time for a water break for them anyway!

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.22.47Here they all are standing outside looking puzzled.

Leuth St Lambertus 1Here is Alfie with Gudula’s bike having a rest beside the church.

Leuth St Lambertus 2The webpage for this church seemed to be dead but this plaque tells you that the tower was built in the second half of the 15th century and the nave 1860-1861 in the neogothic style.

Leuth St Lambertus Plaque

60. St Katharina, Willich

Hülsdonkstraße 11, 47877 Willich

Willich is pretty much at the bottom right hand side of Kreis Viersen and is somewhere I visit for the choir practices at the Auferstehungskirche but I hadn’t actually been into the centre of the town since arriving in Germany.

There were three churches to visit in Willich (including the aforementioned Auferstehungskirche) so I headed off directly to Willich, returning later via Anrath (where there are some nice cafés and for a variation in the route), riding 47km in total.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 20.31.55

I arrived at St Katharina – which is easy to see as it is yet another of these colossal churches whose spires are visible for miles around.

But when up close it’s impossible to fit the whole church in the photo!

St Katharina Willich 1

Round the corner, to get the side view, didn’t help much either because of the sun.

St Katharina Willich 2

Here’s a photo from Wikipedia:

“Kath. Kirche “St. Katharina” in Alt-Willich (Fotomontage mit blauem Himmel)” by Rolf van Melis, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_katharina_willich.jpg

This was another church about which I found it very tricky to find information. There’s plenty of information about services and the kindergarten but little about history. However, Willich’s entry in Wikipedia explains that there was a church here in 800 AD. There was a big fire in 1675 where most of the village of Willich was destroyed, including the church which burned to the ground. The present church was built in 1901 in the neogothic style.

Churches 51-60 complete

So that brings to an end the next batch of 10 churches which have been scattered all over Kreis Viersen (I haven’t been very systematic in my visiting). But the dots on the map are spreading a bit wider now which is good news!

Churches in Kreis Viersen 1-60


Filed under Churches in Kreis Viersen, Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany

Alfie does the Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen

Each month the ADFC (German cycling organisation) hold a ride called the ‘Tour des Monats in Kreis Viersen’ which is a leisurely ride of around 35km. I did this ride two months ago (last month I was in England) and really enjoyed it.

This month’s ride also sounded rather interesting, although we ended up doing it the other way round from this description:

Durchs Grüne zur Borussia
Radroute des Monats Juli startet am Schwalmtal-Dom

Die Radroute des Monats Juli startet an der Katholischen Pfarrkirche St. Michael, Schulstraße 33 in Waldniel. Die Grundsteinlegung des Schwalmtal-Doms fand im Jahr 1878 statt. Die neugotische Kirche beherbergt einen 84 Meter hohen Glockenturm. Vom Ortskern Waldniel führt die Tour zunächst nach Südwesten. Auf der Niederrheinroute führt der Weg über Ungerath und die A52 hinweg.

Dort biegt die Tour rechts ab auf den Schwalmtaler Rundweg. Der Waldweg führt den Lousberg hinab in die Schwalm-Niederung. Entlang des Wasserlaufs führt die Niederrheinroute Nr. 89 die Radfahrer in die Ortschaft Lüttelforst. Erstmalig urkundlich erwähnt wurde die Siedlung im Jahr 1255. Die Radler passieren die Kirche St. Jakobus. Über den Schürensteg überqueren sie die Schwalm.

Die Radfahrer kommen in den Kreis Heinsberg und erreichen dort die Knotenpunkte 67 und 68 auf der Niederrheinroute Rickelrath. Der Ort trägt den Beinahmen “Angerdorf” – die Häuser und Gehöfte gruppierten sich einst um eine große, ellipsenförmige Wiese, den Anger. Der Weg führt in Mönchengladbach auf die Niederrheinroute entlang des “Joint Headquarters” (JHQ), das ehemalige Hauptquartier der britischen Streitkräfte in Rheindahlen. An der Straße Rickelrather Peel passieren die Radler eine Wegekapelle.

Die Radroute des Monats biegt rechts ab und folgt der Niederrheinroute entlang der Straße Genhodderheide. Die Radfahrer erreichen das Knippertzbachtal. An der Rochusstraße biegt die Strecke links ab und verlässt die Niederrheinroute. Entlang der Broicher Straße geht es durch Broich und links in Richtung Gerkerath und Dorthausen. Die Radler erreichen Kothausen mit einer alten Fachwerkkapelle. Im Anschluss biegt die Strecke links ab. Kurz geht es entlang der Gladbacher Straße, dann links in die Ortslage Dorthausen.

Entlang der Straße Wolfsittard und rechts in den Rennbahnweg erreichen die Radler den Borussia-Park – die Heimspielstätte von Borussia Mönchengladbach. Der 1. August 1900 ist der offizielle Gründungstag des fünfmaligen Deutschen Meisters. Am 30. Juli 2004 ist die Borussia in den gleichnamigen Park im Nord-Westen der Stadt umgezogen. Das Stadion fasst rund 54.000 Zuschauer.

Entlang des Rennbahnweges führt die Strecke auf der Niederrheinroute zu den Ausläufern des Hardter Waldes. An einer Infotafel des Naturparks Schwalm-Nette fahren die Radler in den Wald hinein (Links-Rechts-Versatz). Entlang des Birkmannsweges und links ab auf dem Schlaaweg führt die Strecke durch den Hardter Wald. Wieder im Kreis Viersen angekommen, geht es über Hehler, Hostert und Berg. Nach rund 34 Kilometern erreicht die Tour wieder den Schwalmtal-Dom in Waldniel.

For those who don’t speak German, this is a route starting in Waldniel in Schwalmtal and visiting various sights along the way.

Waldniel is not exactly local to Kempen – it’s a 30km ride away. I realised that cycling there and back would give me a nice 100km ride so that seemed like a good idea, especially as the weather forecast was for another hot day with possible storms late afternoon. A trip for Alfie as it was way too hot for Penelope.

This is my track for the day.

Waldniel Track

My total mileage (or, I suppose, Kilometrage) ended up at 100.93 with an average speed of 17.2 but the ride was actually made up of four different sections with very different speeds.

I had invited fellow-triker Klaus to come along on this ride but in the end he decided just to do a short ride today – so we agreed that he would ride with me from Viersen to Waldniel and then go home again (a short 25km for him). So my first ride section, leaving home at 8:30am (yikes!) was from home to Viersen. I rode that at a leisurely 17.5km/h, knowing that I had a long day of riding. I also rode almost the entire way on the main road (not the cycle path), taking the most direct route through Kempen and then on the main road to Vorst. The cycle path alongside that road is in a very bad condition so I don’t usually go that way; there was so little traffic I thought it would be OK to ride on the road and it was. Just as I reached Vorst I headed off onto one of the many Bahnradwege (disused railway cycle routes) and rode comfortably towards Viersen. I am normally doing this section at what feels like 100 km/h trying desperately to stay on the wheel of a Steintrikes Wild One so it was quite nice to be able to ride it without feeling like I was about to expire. It was a nice, comfy 20km in reasonable temperatures.

Klaus was duly collected from home and he said he knew the way to Waldniel so I decided to follow his lead rather than my GPX track which I had made earlier not knowing the roads. We largely followed the route I had designed through Dülken and then through lots of open farmland towards Schwalmtal. At one point a huge tractor loomed from a side road – there was a young lad driving it with a phone to his ear. I was amused to see that he had his girlfriend with him in the cab – what a cool motor that chap had to impress her. That caused me to lapse into some reminiscences about life growing up in Southend (also known as Saafend), driving up and down the seafront and seeing all the souped-up Novas and Metros that the Essex Lads had stuffed to the gunnels with stereos and lights. Here in Niederrhein it seems your cool motor is a tractor.

We arrived in Waldniel quite early, despite riding at a relaxing 17.5km/h average. We got to the meeting point, the church, and were the first there.

Waldniel Church

It was only 10:20 and the ride’s official start was 11am so I suggested we repair to the rather nice café I had seen just before we reached the church for a cuppa. So we had a relaxed half hour sitting drinking tea/coffee and watching various cyclists riding past, trying to decide whether they would be part of the group or not. At one point Hartmut, the ride leader, whizzed past and I yelled at him so he knew I was there (he had probably spotted the trike anyway) and he waved back.

At two minutes to eleven we hopped back on the trikes and pootled to the church where a group of about twenty people had gathered.

Setting off from Waldniel

I had a bit of a chat with Hartmut and he asked if I wanted to ride at the front or the back (I explained that Klaus wasn’t coming on the ride). I suggested I rode at the back as tail-end-Charlie as it’s quite easy to see me from up ahead so he would know if the group was together.

Hartmut gave a short introduction to the ride, announcing me as his ‘last woman’ (which caused some comments!) and off we went.

After about 50 metres we stopped – the guy at the back had a puncture. He had a brand new bike with brand new tyres and a huge nail had gone right through the Schwalbe Marathon tyres that he had on there. He had a brief and fruitless attempt to pump it up and then decided we should go on without him and his wife – maybe they’d meet us at the lunch stop. With these rides you are supposed to have a roadworthy bike and to be able to fix your own punctures but this chap had a bike with electric-assist which I think makes it much more complicated to remove the rear tyre and it would probably have taken quite a while.

So we continued on without him and at the top of the road waved goodbye to Klaus who headed off home. We headed through the hamlet of Berg and I settled into my job of tail-end-Charlie which involved staying at the back and keeping an eye on everyone. One thing I noticed is that, as per usual in Germany, lots of people had rather flat tyres. I also noticed that almost everyone had electric assist on their bikes – I didn’t, Hartmut didn’t and two other people didn’t. So I make that 16 E-assist bikes. It’s clearly a booming market.

German cyclists - elektro

Sometimes they rode along some narrowish pavements which I ignored, being a broad triker.

Being TEC

After just a few miles we stopped at Eschenrath to look at a building (behind fences) which had previously been a British school but had a much darker history before that. It was a hospital and during the time of the Nazis 1044 patients were transported elsewhere and some new-born disabled children had been euthanised – there was a graveyard there with some symbolic crosses. Here’s a page with the history (in German).

There was a plaque on the wall that gave some of the history.

Anstaltsfriedhof plaque

Hartmut is a very good tour guide as he seems to know a lot of the history. He gave a good explanation of the site and further explanations later on. He seems to be very knowledgeable about history and dates and stuff.

From Hostert we rode through Hehler and then headed off through some woodland.

Woodland riding

This sort of surface is rather uncomfortable on a trike so I found I was actually dropping off the back of the group a bit. The electro-motors seems to pull the other cyclists along (that’s my excuse).

A few minutes later I received a text and when I tried to turn on my phone to look at it, it wouldn’t let me swipe across the iPhone screen. Well, I could swipe but nothing happened. I tried several times, wiped my fingers, tried some more… no joy. Oh well, I’ll just switch the phone right off. But this requires you to swipe the screen, so I couldn’t turn it off. Oh dear.

I fiddled about with it for a bit, hoping it would start working again, but no joy.

We arrived at Borussia Park which is the stadium for the Mönchengladbach football team. Hartmut explained a lot of the history of the British Army in this area, although I think it’s pretty much all gone now – although I did notice two English-registered cars as we were riding around.

My phone issues continued – I was unable to get beyond the front screen, although I did discover that Siri worked a little, so I could open my iMessage app using Siri. Once the app was open I could type replies and the screen worked perfectly well there (so it wasn’t that the screen had broken somehow) but if I went to the home screen then I couldn’t press on any of the other app icons. The 3G signal wasn’t great in the area (and Siri needs that) so as iMessage was working I stuck with that. I messaged Klaus to say my phone was partly Kaputt as I realised that this could be a problem if I had an issue with my trike on the way home. No way to phone anyone, no phone numbers stored anywhere readable, etc. Klaus offered to come and rescue me in the car at the end of the led part of the ride but I thought it the height of feebleness if I could abandon a ride because of a non-functioning phone – and it seemed like I did have the iMessage option at least, assuming I had some 3G signal if I needed to start the phone up.

One issue was, of course, I had no way of taking photos which was a shame as there were some interesting sights, not least a bus stop whose name appeared to be ‘Weg nach Woof’. I may have to make my way down the Path to Woof one day to see what’s there.

We rode round Rheindahlen (somewhere I had visited when I stayed in Mönchengladback for a week with trike) and headed back westwards near Wegburg (which apparently has a famous road around it) and then across the Schwalm river.

We arrived at the village of Schwaam (slightly different spelling) which was our lunch stop, although I was quite delayed as one of the cyclists was struggling with the distance (and probably the heat) and we had only managed 9 km/h for a couple of kilometres. It was a good thing I had the track on my Garmin as the other cyclists were out of sight.

In Schwaam we stopped at Gasthof Timmermanns which I gather has a good reputation and I did enjoy my Waffle although service seemed a little slow. However it was nice to stop for a break and I sat with a few ladies and had a good chat. It is unfortunate that I was unable to photograph my waffle – I’ll have to go back another time to get a pic of one!

We had completed all but 10km of our journey so it was a relaxing lunch, except I was still having issues with my phone. It occurred to me that I didn’t have the phone number of the Roddays (where I live) if I needed rescuing, nor could they contact me if there was a problem with the dog. The only number I was able to access was that of Klaus (as there is a link to his record through the iMessage app) so I borrowed a pen from one of the ladies and wrote down his numbers on a beermat in case I got stuck in the middle of nowhere with a dead bike and and phone and needed to phone for rescue using some kindly passing German’s phone.

I then remembered that Hartmut lives in St Tönis (5km from Kempen) so asked him if he was riding back – he said he was and I asked if I could ride with him most of the way. He said of course, so that was a relief.

He gave a little explanation of the Node Point system for bike routes which is common in Belgium and the Netherlands but not particularly prevalent in Germany. The Schwalmtal area does have them, though, and he described the system on a sign conveniently placed where we had parked our bikes.

We continued on through Lüttelforst (which I have visited to bag its church previously) and then did a scenic and not-as-steep diversion through some woodland before crossing the A52 motorway back to Schwalmtal. Lots of people said their goodbyes on this last stretch as they had come from around the general area so by the time I arrived back in Waldniel there were only four riders left!

This section of the ride, 33km, had been at an average of 15.7 km/h, nice and leisurely and enjoyable although I was quite dirty from the dust and muck thrown up by normal bike rear wheels (mudguards don’t go low enough to keep the muck from recumbenteers).

Hartmut asked if I wanted to have a drink before we continued on but I thought it best to get going and perhaps stop for a drink a bit later. So off we went – and he went off at mega speed! Once again I was hanging on for dear life trying to keep up – we did the first 6 km at an average of 24 km/h which is pretty quick when you have 65km in your legs! I guess I could have asked him to slow down a bit but pride is a terrible thing…

The route out of Waldniel was slightly different than the route Klaus and I had ridden in as it took in a new Bahnradweg which was only newly opened (and which Klaus had discovered as he rode back earlier as well). It was another lovely smooth route between Waldniel and Dülken. At Dülken Hartmut asked which way I wanted to go – the Viersen way or the Grefrath/Lobberich way. As I’d ridden there through Viersen I thought it more fun to take the other route back so we headed off to the west, me trying to keep up with Hartmut. We had turned into a headwind which helped me a bit but we had a long section at almost 30 km/h. That’s fast for me! We passed the chapel at Lind which I photographed a while ago so I had a vague idea where I was but the scenery was flashing by so I couldn’t really work it all out!

We swapped bikes for a bit (in an attempt to slow Hartmut down, which worked reasonably) and I rode his Litespeed upright bike for about 3km before my arm became too painful and we swapped back. This seemed to have taken the edge off Hartmut’s speed, fortunately, as we continued on through Boisheim and Dyck at a more normal pace. Phew!

The day had been warm and sunny but some thick clouds were rolling in and soon there were some large spots of rain. I was quite looking forward to the refreshing rain but had to take out my hearing aid (they do not like getting wet) which made conversation rather difficult. Hartmut is quite softly-spoken so I find him tricky to hear anyway – without the hearing aid it was very hard. Not that we did much talking as the rain seemed to spur him on to greater speed again and as we were on a very slight uphill going around Lobberich I was slower. He was out of sight some of the time but I do generally know this route so felt reasonably confident I would find my way to the Bahnradweg.

We did one slightly different section which involved some loose gravel which really slowed me down as it was on an uphill and I lost a lot of traction. I made a mental note not to take that particular route again.

The rain was REALLY coming down now, impressive stair-rods which were almost becoming hail. It was brilliant fun, as was the lightning visible in my mirrors. Lots of other cyclists were standing under trees looking forlorn but we kept going and I was really enjoying myself.

We arrived at the Bahnradweg and then it was full pelt along there to try to outrun the rain. There were some quite deep puddles which splashed water from my wheels onto the sidepod bags which aren’t waterproof so I had to stop under a tree to pack away my phone and hearing aid inside a bag inside the sidepods. There was a fair amount of water about.

We whizzed on to Mülhausen at which point I had decided to take the main road back. Hartmut thought he would escort me the whole way round but at Mülhausen I felt OK on my own as I know the area very well and there are plenty of houses to call in on if I needed help. However we decided to stop for a drink at the old railway station bar in Mülhausen first so had a very pleasant half hour there drinking tea and beer and giving the other bar customers something to laugh at (two drowned rats looking very cheerful). I was able to send a few more iMessages to various people who had wondered where I was/how I was getting on, and even managed (through Siri) to get Whatsapp going to communicate with Lara and warn her my phone was misbehaving (she’d sent me messages which I hadn’t been able to reply to until now).

The final section of the ride was on my own, just 12km but in the pouring rain still. I initially felt a bit cold (which seems a miracle after the hot weather we’ve had) but soon warmed up as I rode quickly along the road from Mülhausen to Kempen. I stuck to the main roads as I was on my own now, taking Berliner Allee in Kempen and then up the main Kerkener Straße to Escheln. I had to do a small extra loop at Escheln to ensure I had 100km but arrived back, looking utterly soaked but feeling very cheerful (apart from the phone thing).

The average speed for the ride back with Hartmut and then on my own was 21 km/h which brought the entire day’s 101km average to 17.2 which isn’t shabby. I burned 2,589 calories and only ate a waffle too!

The phone is still not working but I am currently waiting for its battery to fully drain in the hope that when it switches itself off properly it might then work when recharged and restarted. If not I’ll have to have a visit to the Apple Store in Düsseldorf which is a dangerous place to visit with a loaded credit card. I have decided, though, to take my English mobile phone (a non-smart phone) with me on my rides in future, and to make sure I have all the relevant phone numbers in it too.

Thanks to Hartmut for leading a great ride, to Klaus for accompanying me to Waldniel and offering rescue services and to the other riders for being friendly and chatty to the weird Englishwoman on a trike who kept prodding her phone and looking annoyed at it.

UPDATE – Dad has told me you can also turn the phone off by pressing and holding the two buttons for 5 seconds, and it worked! And my phone is now functional again, hurrah.


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

Alfie goes to the Maas River

The weather in Germany has turned hot.

Anything much over 22 degrees and it’s too hot for the Velomobile (at least for someone with as much personal insulation as I have).

So Alfie has been getting a few more rides recently, mostly in company with his new friend the Steintrikes Wild One (which seems, unfathomably, to not have a name).

A few exchanges of SMS yesterday morning with fellow-triker Klaus and a cycle ride was arranged for the late afternoon – with the Netherlands as our destination.

Once again I drove Alfie to Klaus’s house (he lives 20km away) so we could ride from there. It makes more sense than meeting up somewhere underway, especially as Alfie easily fits into my Honda Jazz with the back seats down. I have now also improved my skills at handling him when folding and didn’t end up covered in oil this time!

trike in car

Last Thursday evening I also rode with Klaus and on that occasion when I unfolded Alfie he had a few minor problems – partly related to his advanced mileage I think. This time, with my improved skills in lifting him folded, after I reassembled him he seemed unscathed. Which was good as this ride would also see him cross the 20,000 mile mark.

Klaus had plotted a route for me which is one he rides occasionally.

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 12.58.53

What I hadn’t noticed initially is that it goes up a pretty steep hill almost straight away. And boy was I slow – it was 29 degrees, I had spent all day at my desk working before heading out, and I am rubbish up hills anyway.

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 13.01.31

This was cycling across the Süchtelner Höhen, this very inconvenient moraine that is in the way if you want to go west from Viersen. There are lots of different routes across it of various steepness but Klaus sent us the Höher Busch route which is through some woodland so not asphalted. He took a wrong turn and we started going down a nettley path so had to turn round again – recumbent trikes and nettles and other similar vegetation do not mix well.

Anyway I was slow going up the hill – this is not news but previously I have blamed the fact that it is because I am on a recumbent trike (known for being slow up hills). When I am cycling with someone else on a recumbent trike and they are whizzing off into the distance when going up hills this rather shows that my slowness might be down to the rider rather than the machine!

However I am quicker downhill than Klaus. We had discovered this on a previous ride, that I freewheel downhill much faster, and had discussed a little whether this was because of differences between the trikes or maybe that the Wild One’s tracking wasn’t perfect. I had a great idea to do a test by swapping machines before a downhill and seeing if the ICE Sprint was still quicker.

The answer was no, with me riding the Wild One it went much faster down the hill after we crossed the A61 Motorway. The obvious reason would be that I have greater mass (= heavier) than Klaus but this would clearly be embarrassing for a lady so instead we have been trying to work out other reasons for this speed differential. We are currently working on the hypothesis that I am way more aerodynamic than him. I like to try to fool myself from time to time!

Anyway, having struggled up the side of the Süchtelner Höhen (and seen two other recumbent trikes going past but they didn’t stop for a chat) and had our race down the other side, we were now on flat territory rolling through Bistard, Boisheim and the unfortunately-named Schaag. There is a church in Schaag that I haven’t yet visited as part of my Churches in Kreis Viersen challenge but as we had 70km to ride and had only left Viersen at 5:15pm I thought it best not to delay us by stopping to photograph it.

I learned a few useful bits of information from my riding partner today when discussing the different roads. In the UK we have motorways, A Roads and B Roads (do we have C roads? I think not, I think they are just ‘unclassified’). Anyway, in Germany I have seen A roads, B, L and K but didn’t know exactly how these were specified. It turns out to be quite simple – A = Autobahn (I did know that), which is motorway. B = Bundestraße which is a national road. L is a Landesstraße which are the major main roads within a country and K are something to do with Kreis (district), I didn’t pick up the exact word. So the B, L and K roads are all of the quality and speed we would call an A road in the UK, but I guess different departments pay for maintenance/upkeep. Or something.

From Schaag we headed out into some very flat farmland towards Bracht which I have visited a few times (but from a different direction).

Whilst we were trundling along beside a road I suddenly realised that Alfie must have crossed over his magic 20,000 mile mark (unfortunately the mounting point for my bike computer wheel magnet thingie had snapped a few days ago so the trike’s trip computer wasn’t working, I only had my Garmin). So I stopped to take a photo of Alfie after his 20k miles – he doesn’t look too bad for having travelled that far in three years, all weathers.

Alfie at 20,000 miles

I’ll be writing a blog post about the 20,000 miles in due course.

Klaus made the mistake of saying to me that he doesn’t like riding in groups normally because it’s tricky to ride safely with other different bikes (a well known problem for recumbenteers – exacerbated by the fact that all you see in front of you are people’s backsides) but that he found it much easier to cycle with me. As we were riding side-by-side at that time I did a quick swerve towards him to see how he reacted. The answer was quickly, and nearly steered himself into a ditch. Oops! I wouldn’t have hit his trike (I am too sensible for that!) but clearly caught him out. Later in the ride he tried to do the same to me but I didn’t budge – I am made of sterner stuff (or more trusting?). Either that or I am now immune to this as yesterday I was cycling with an upright bike whilst I was in Penelope and there was a braking issue and the cyclist crashed into the side of Penelope. No harm done but after that I was feeling fairly invincible as of course I was entirely protected within the shell of Penelope. But the basic situation is indeed that two trikes riding together find it much easier than a trike with an upright bike (or even recumbent two-wheeler) as the speed and braking profiles/performances are much more similar.

From Bracht we crossed under the B221 and then headed through the hamlet of Heidhausen before entering the Brachter Wald. I feared we might find lots of mosquitoes but there weren’t any – it was probably too hot for them! The journey through the Brachter Wald is a long, slow downhill which gets steeper at the end until the border with NL where you have to do a 90 degree right turn through some traffic calming. I decided to see how fast Alfie would roll downhill with me on board – we managed to hit 47.9 km/h which was a bit disappointing (I did 60km/h when going down a short hill back in England a couple of weeks ago). I think it just isn’t hilly enough in Niederrhein to really get going. Which is actually a relief.

We crossed the border into the Netherlands at the De Witte Stein pub where we had been with the Trike Treffen group. There’s nothing obvious to make you realise you are in NL until you travel a bit further and come through the towns where you see different road signs and also slightly different designs in buildings.

I was now in a phone blackout though (I don’t use data when roaming) which meant all went very quiet on my phone – my husband is currently doing a sailing challenge of going round the British Isles (well, halfway round). He has just joined the boat in Oban in Scotland and they are making their way down the west coast. He’s been sending lots of iMessages to update his location and send photos of the amazing scenery – but once I crossed into the Dutch phone area it all went quiet. Which felt quite odd really.

We rode through Reuver and were soon at the Maas river, where we had to wait for a minute for the ferry.

Maas Ferry at Reuver

It is worth noting at this point that there was an ice cream van selling ice creams near the ferry point but I said nothing. Klaus’s last blog post suggested I kept whinging about lack of cake on our rides so I had resolved to be quiet about the fact he seems to ignore the need to refuel whilst underway. Which was mostly successful, in that I didn’t whinge, but an ice cream at that point would have been fab!

We rolled onto the ferry and the chap who came to take our 60 cents for the crossing had a good chat with us in multiple languages (a mixture of English and German, we couldn’t quite fix on what language we were going to speak).

Here are the trikes on the ferry as we have almost reached the other side. It was a chain ferry and the river is probably less than 100 metres wide at that point.

Trikes on Maas Ferry

We got off the ferry (I had an unexpected bit of heel strike due to the steep ramp, which might explain why the heels of my cycling sandals seem to be coming unglued) and then headed into the little village. There were several cafés and Klaus asked if I wanted to stop for a drink. I said no as we weren’t yet halfway round the tour and then checked on my Garmin – it said 25km to go, and we’d already done 29, so I changed my mind. Halfway point is a good time to stop.

Trikes at tea stop

We found a nice café with some shade (it was still really hot) and stopped. I ordered a cup of Teewasser/hot water for tea with milk and miracle of miracles, that is actually what I got! In Germany I usually don’t get any milk, despite specifically asking for it, and then have to wait for ages for them to remember. But I had my tea and then a glass of water and enjoyed a bit of a break from the sun.

It was time to get going again so we headed off on the road alongside the Maas. It’s not just a cycle path, there were some cars and quite a few mopeds whizzing along. There were also loads of roadie cyclists in packs. We weren’t overtaken that often though because we were riding at a decent pace. At one point I heard a nasty grinding noise from the back of my trike when rounding a corner – only to discover that I still had my parking brake on. It’s not a very effective parking brake but it does make you work harder if you ride for two kilometres with it on!

What was annoying was I could see that my light was flickering (I have a front light permanently burning on Alfie as it’s from the dynohub). I couldn’t tell if the fault was from the dynohub, the cabling or within the light itself but a bit of fiddling suggested that it might be the on/off/senseo switch which might possibly have experienced some water ingress in the last three years. It seemed to sort itself out after another 10km but it’s something I need to watch as I didn’t have a backup light with me – I will need to start carrying a torch as well in case something happens to the light.

The other thing I noticed was that my Garmin was counting up with the ‘distance to destination’ field. This is because we were doing the track the reverse way round than normal and I hadn’t realised this. So when we stopped with 25km to go that was actually false – we had another 35km to go. Well at least I had enjoyed my cuppa by the Maas.

I didn’t actually know where I was a lot of the time – just following someone else makes for very easy routefinding (unless they lose you!) but meant I kept asking where we were. This roundabout had a useful series of signs on it so I could tell roughly where I was.

Roundabout in NL somewhere

The section cycling along the Maas seemed to go really quickly for some reason – perhaps because it was a fairly fast, wide track. The views across the river were very nice and there were even some hills in evidence.

The plan was to cross the river again in Venlo on the motorway bridge (the A73). This is a shared motorway/bike bridge and is quite impressive.

Bridge crossing at Venlo

You feel well separated from the traffic which is good.

Trikes and traffic crossing Venlo bridge

From there Klaus wended a route through Venlo to the east and I was completely lost. I kept thinking I recognised sections but then was in unfamiliar territory again. I assumed we were heading to the Glider Airfield which is the route I always take out of Venlo but no, we were going by Leuth instead. We crossed back into Germany, passed another as-yet-unvisited church in Leuth and then headed towards the De-Witt-See, joining the Bahnradweg (which I cycle at least once a week) to head back.

This is such a great bit of cycle track – smooth, straight, wide enough for two trikes side-by-side (mostly) and not very busy at 9pm at night. We whizzed along, passing Sassenfeld where I had a week’s holiday in August 2012, then the top edge of Lobberich before heading towards Grefrath. Because our final destination was Viersen rather than Kempen we left the Bahnradweg before Grefrath and had to go up a bit of a hill – which seemed unexpectedly hard! – before heading to Hagenbroich, around Vorst and then to Süchteln on the Nordkanal route before arriving back at Klaus’s place. As usual he sped up for the last few miles (presumably thinking about home cooking and cups of tea and things like that) so it was all I could do to hang on. A booster rocket would be useful to help me keep up in these situations.

Alfie was packed away into the car in no time at all but I needed a few minutes’ breather before heading off as I felt really tired after the last few miles. I’d run out of water which probably didn’t help. By the time I had driven home I felt back to normal fortunately and had a very good feeling after such a good cycling workout.

Just under 70km for me and I burned over 2000 calories which was a bonus – and only had a cup of tea on the ride!

Klaus records his track with an iPhone App and I have here the two data files side-by-side when imported into my cycling software. The calories figure is wrong for Klaus’s side (the right hand side) – somehow my software is reading the wrong thing. His software gave him 1800 calories for the ride.

Distsance Data combined

And here is the elevation information – the iPhone app does not record this very well as you can see! (Again, my info is on the left, Klaus’s on the right)

elevation data

I was back at the car at 10pm so we were less than five hours on the road which wasn’t bad for a ride of this length and with a fairly good stop. Klaus usually rides these distances without stopping but I like having a loo break and a cup of tea if possible. I am still slightly amazed that I yet again didn’t manage to have a cake though!


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