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6 Wheels In Germany – May 2017 (Month 38)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month I did a bit better with my distance but I am still not riding as regularly as I used to do (excluding work commutes). This is because life is busy and has been changing quite a lot recently! But it’s all good.

And here is the ‘wheel’ of where I went, including my 3 day tour to Bad Bentheim and Soest.

Millie in the news

I was interviewed by the Westdeutsche Zeitung and they wrote two articles on me, and here they are…

They are great articles and I have already been recognised by one reader of the newspaper!

Cycle Tour – Trike Treffen

I have written a separate blog post about my short tour to Bad Bentheim, Soest and back with Klaus. You can read about it here: Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Events this month

Visit of my Mum

My Mum came to visit me for just under a week and we had a really good time.

On the Saturday Klaus drove us to Monschau, a beautiful town in the Eifel. On the way we stopped off at the Giant Hole In The Ground at Garzweiler near Jackerath. This is where they are currently re-routing the Autobahn as they will be digging coal from where it currently runs.

Then we drove on to Monschau and had a look around.

Monschau lies on the River Rur (not Ruhr, that is a different one) and I had cycled there with Klaus once.

There is a Rur Radweg but it’s not suitable for Veloombiles so we might try it on the trikes on day but it’s quite off-road.

Klaus, Poppy and I climbed up the hill behind the town and looked down on it – you get to quite an impressive height.

Another cake!

This month Klaus celebrated a round birthday so I organised him a cake from our local bakery, Café Poeth. I sent them some photos and they did an excellent job!

His actual birthday was on the day of the Fahrrad Stammtisch so that worked rather well for cake-sharing. Cycling chum Ralf was 50 the day before and was also at the Stammtisch so it was a great celebration.

Once the cake was all eaten we kept Mini Celeste and I decided to see how she compared to Big Celeste. Very similar!


I have cycled to work most days this month and am often treated to lovely skies but this one was a cracker!

Cakes this month

This month I enjoyed rather more cakes than I should have, although some in this collage were consumed by Klaus rather than me. But they were all yummy!!

From tomorrow I will be off on my bike tour so expect daily blog posts. The forecast for tomorrow is thunderstorms and 12mm rain which is rather sub-optimal with leaky Millie, but we will survive! I am a Brit after all and used to rain.

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6 Wheels In Germany – February 2017 (Month 35)

A cold and wet February but I managed 447km. A rather paltry total but I did also fly off somewhere warm for a holiday over the end of February which reduced cycling days.

Anyway, here is where I rode in February.

And here are the individual rides listed.

As you can see, I managed a 100km ride – to LaPaDu and then to Geldern with Klaus. Most of the rest of my rides were just commutes though. I am really looking forward to the better weather!

Metric Century – to LaPaDu and Geldern

Klaus and I both signed up for the Strava Gran Fondo challenge for February which was to ride a 100km tour. Not that difficult but the weather wasn’t really that great, but we spotted a chance and decided to start off by riding to LaPaDu (Landschaftspark Duisburg).

We rode via the Orsoy ferry and I reminisced about meeting Olaf there nearly three years ago when he brought me a British potato peeler all the way from John Lewis’s in London by bike 🙂

It was cold and a bit drizzly when we got to LaPaDu, having ridden through Marxloh which is the most deprived area of Germany. It has no end of bridal shops there which is a bit random! We parked our bikes which as soon as we left became a magnet for people to look at.

We parked and then went into the café which is a very interesting room – an old electricity substation I think.

Because I am doing the low-carb thing I watched Klaus eat an enormous slice of cake and nursed my black tea.

Except then I had to try a tiny piece…

Although the forecast was for a lot of rain it seemed OK so we decided to try for the 100km. From Duisburg the only really safe (= flat) direction to go is west so we headed off towards Moers.

We maintained a very good average speed on the fast roads and decided then to go further to Geldern, where we arrived along with some more rain so put the bikes under an awning outside the restaurant.

We had some nice warming soup and then headed back, completing our 100km Gran Fondo ride. This was the only ride over 50km I did during the entire month. Shocking!

Millie needs an electrician

I was out on a ride with Klaus one day and he commented that my indicator was slightly flashing on, even though I didn’t have the indicators on. That seemed odd, but it fixed itself when I got home and jiggled some cabling about.

Then a day later we rode to Arcen together and I really enjoyed the downhill… until I realised that my Lichtkanone was no longer lighting up the way ahead. We stopped at Arcen, realising we would have to ride directly back if we couldn’t fix it as dusk was on its way.

Fortunately Klaus managed to do a quick repair with a penknife and some insulating tape but we knew it was time to do a proper repair – the cabling between the battery and Millie’s electrics was a bit dodgy, using cheap chockblocks to join bits of wires together.

So we decided to have a Bike Maintenance Day the following Saturday and invite Jochen round too as he is permanently fixing his Strada and could give us a hand.

Klaus and I went round Obi (like B&Q or Homebase) and bought some cable and other bits and bobs, as well as velomobile cleaning and waxing materials to try to improve the muddy state of our bikes (except we haven’t actually done anything with these items yet, but at least buying them makes you feel like you have made a start).

So on the Saturday Jochen popped round in Endeavour and we moved Millie and Celeste round to the back garden.

Klaus needed to change the batteries in his cadence and speed sensors and as Jochen is so familiar with the Strada he did this whilst we were doing Millie’s electrics.

For Millie’s electrics we increased the cable length between the battery and main wiring to give us more room to move, took away the chockblocks and soldered the joins instead. (I say ‘we’ – all I did was held two ends of cable together whilst Klaus soldered them and attempted not to burn my fingers). The whole lot was much neater when we had finished and hopefully the dicky connectors will be a thing of the past.

My second job was to replace the peeling-away cheap Velcro for the armrests in Millie with the decent-quality large Velcro patch I had bought. We warmed the adhesive up with a heat gun before sticking it and that worked well.

Klaus then replaced the weak velcro for his sun visor with my better velcro.

Jochen had meanwhile changed the batteries of the speed and cadence sensors and he and Frank had had a good look at Klaus’s rear gear cable. Jochen has been very successful in snapping these when underway and it’s a mega-fiddly job to fix them by the roadside. Jochen’s prognosis was that the gear cable was rather worn and as he had a spare he was going to replace it… but they then discovered the small bolts holding it in place on the tiller were so soft that the allen key used to try to unscrew them had stripped the heads. They would probably need to be drilled out so we stopped there before doing any more damage and Klaus decided he would expedite his trip to Dronten to get Celeste serviced and ask Velomobiel.nl to change the cable there.

It started to spit with rain so we decided not to bother with the bike washing but had achieved the main goals so it was a relatively successful bike maintenance day. But we really must clean them up, Millie is probably 3kg heavier with crusted-on mud!

A new home for Millie and Alfie

Alfie the trike had been living under my Grand Piano in my lounge for six months and this seemed a sub-optimal place to store him when the summer came and I might want to ride him. Having Millie and Penelope fills up the garage so I asked a couple of neighbours if they had garage space to rent and they said no, but my landlord thought that one of the local farmers might have some space – and indeed he did! So I am renting a large garage about half a kilometre from my house and Alfie and a velomobile are staying in there (depending which velomobile I am using). Klaus’s Celeste is also now in the garage at my house so it is most handy to have the new garage space – which now also has my summer car tyres and the summer tyres of my landlord and landlady too. When you have the space you have to fill it up of course!

Events this month

Zeche Zollverein, Essen

February, despite being cold and windy, had a couple of nice days and on one of them I visited the Essen Zollverein which is a retired mine and cokery (is that a real word?) which has now become a space to visit and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It has the highest escalator in Europe. These are the stairs between the two escalators.

It’s a quite bleak site in some ways but also really interesting.

A holiday in Tenerife with Mum

At the end of February I flew out from Düsseldorf to Tenerife, meeting my Mum at the airport in Tenerife before we headed off to our Apartment.

We had a 2-bed apartment with kitchen and a bathroom each so it was rather luxurious, although the Wifi didn’t work which is a pain. Here was the view from our balcony.

The next morning was Sunday. We had a breakfast with the food that was already in the apartment and then decided to go food shopping to find me something low-carb for lunch. We found an open small supermarket but had been warned it would be expensive – and it was. This lot cost over 20 Euros!

I took the food back to the apartment and then met Mum back at the beach where we walked to the marina which had some very interesting boats – a submarine here, with a Viking boat behind it.

On the way back from the Marina I saw this amusing signwritten van. Can you spot the man’s name if you call him (small print on the rear door)!

Although I was on islands off the coast of Africa it seemed as though I was back in the UK for the food!

We returned to the hotel after a really good walk about and I took this photo of the pool area – it looks like a photo from a holiday brochure!

Back in our apartment we ate our evening meal and then watched the sunset from the balcony.

We did quite a lot of walking over the week, going twice to Los Cristianos which has a lovely sandy beach (with sand shipped in from the Sahara).

Our local beach was rather more volcanic.

However the sea was still beautiful and blue, although the water too cold for swimming.

The Tuesday that we were there was Shrove Tuesday and lo and behold…

Despite the low-carb diet I decided I really ought to have a pancake. So I did!

It was very tasty! I also had a couple of ice creams over a few days – after all, I was on holiday – and had lost 10kg in two months so thought I was allowed to have a little break from being very good with my food choices!

There was a bookcase with books people could take and return so I did a lot of reading, relaxing by the pool.

I also did a little bit of swimming – not much as it is bad for my disabled arm, but the outdoor pool was slightly heated and it was lovely to have a 10 minute swim each day.

Mum and I had been travelling around on the local buses to get to various places but I decided to do a proper excursion one day to the Teide National Park with the Mount Teide volcano. Mum stayed behind on that day so I set off alone on the coach tour up the mountain via the village of VilaFlora where people stopped for tea and cake (but there was nothing low-carb so I just enjoyed the fresh air outside).

We went first to an interesting rock formation which is actually the stack of various volcano vents where the surrounding rock has been eroded by wind/weather etc, with an impressive view of Mount Teide in the background.

Then it was to the Cable Car station where we had a short queue before boarding our booked cable car ride up to just below the summit.

On the top it was noticeably cooler and the air was thinner (we were at about 3500 metres or 12,000 feet high), and there was also some snow lying.

The views from the top were glorious.

I went down again in the cable car and then we carried on visiting a few places in the Teide National Park, including the site of the most recent volcanic eruption in 1909 (the darker patches on the mountain are the fresher lava flows).

It was a very interesting tour and good value too. It is impressive to see a volcano up close and personal – especially one which is still officially active!

Mum and I went out for an Indian meal that evening as I love eating Indian food and don’t find it very often in Germany. I also ate (mostly) low carb, starting with a chicken Tikka salad

Then a lamb balti

With cauliflower bhaji (no rice).

The next day we had a Chinese buffet at lunch time and I did eat a bit of rice there, but it was our last full day and it did look tasty!

Mum and I both bought a pair of sandals in Los Cristianos, and I saw (but didn’t buy!) this present for my Velomobile.

On the way back from Los Cristianos I treated myself to a meringe cake thingie. Very nice!

On the day we were due to leave we waited in vain for the bus to take us to the airport. After it hadn’t appeared despite being 20 minutes late we took a taxi.

My check-in queue was very long so Mum and I said goodbye at the check-in area. She was flying back to Southend, me to Düsseldorf.

I had a good flight back, watching lots of TV programmes on my iPad and enjoying the bag of nuts I had brought with me for mid-flight fuelling. Klaus collected me from Düsseldorf airport which was nice as it was raining and cold and my coat was packed in my suitcase so good that I didn’t have to wait for a bus…

It was a lovely holiday, having sunshine every day for a week is really good in the depths of winter. It was of course also great to spend time with my Mum. I definitely like the idea of a holiday somewhere warm in February, I shall have to think about it again next year!

Cakes this month

My two cakes have been included above. That’s three slices of cake in two months. Shocking!

The plan is to do low-carb until the end of March and then consider further what I do. I think I will probably introduce more carbs from April, but probably only cakes when out cycling (I will try not to go back to bread and pasta and rice except on special occasions). Despite eating well on the holiday, after 3 days back in Germany I had returned to my pre-holiday weight.

I am also making plans for some bike tours over the summer, starting with a short tour to the Trike Treffen over the Christi Himmelfahrt long weekend in May. This year the Trike Treffen is north of here, in Germany but near the Dutch border at Entschede, so about 140km away. It’s always fun meeting other trikers and velomobile riders and I have been to two of the last three Trike Treffens so am looking forward to it again.

I am hoping that March will be less rainy than February and I can do some more cycling kilometres. Watch this space!

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6 Wheels In Germany – December 2016 (Month 33)

The end of the year!

Cycling this month

Despite the rather chilly December we have experienced in the Niederrhein region, I did manage almost 900km.

ascent-statistics

And this is where I went this month. You can see the long ride back from Oliebollentocht, which is a separate blog post.

december-wheel

And Veloviewer also produced a graphic for the year which is rather interesting.

veloviewer-summary-2016

And from Strava, a short video of my year.
My Year in Sport from Strava

And click here for my Strava Heatmap which shows the routes I have travelled the most over the year.

My Metric Century A Month challenge was completed this month – not only did I manage to ride a metric century every month this year, I also managed an Imperial Century (100 miles or 162km) in February, March, August (twice), October and December.

I also achieved my cycling goal of 12,000km for the year. I had initially set the goal at 10,000 but realised in about August I was quite ahead so increased the target to make it harder.

It is interesting to compare my yearly distances and average speeds since I have been riding my recumbents/velomobiles:

2008 – 4082 km at 18.9 km/h
2009 – 19,450 km at 18.77 km/h
2010 – 12,885 km at 16.89 km/h
2011 – 8,170 km at 16.45 km/h
2012 – 12,922 km at 17.64 km/h
2013 – 13,304 km at 18.28 km/h
2014 – 10,203 km at 17.6 km/h
2015 – 10,096 km at 16.86 km/h
2016 – 12,151 km at 20.62 km/h

Total cycling distance 103,267km at an average speed of 17.98 km/h. That’s 3,110 rides.

And for this year, I have ridden more in company with other people than on my own.

My main riding partner has of course been Klaus, with whom I have cycled 6,231.75km in 99 rides.

I have also ridden with the following people:

Andreas – 50km
Claudia – 694km
Dirk – 171km
Frank – 233km
Gudula – 205km
Hartmut – 1029km
Herbert – 179km
Jochen – 1070km
Kajsa Tylén – 109km (she managed over 50,000km this year for her Guinness World Record!)
Olaf – 142km
Petra – 433km
Uli – 553km

Rather amusingly, on 19 December Klaus noticed that we were both on the same mileage for the year to date, a shade under 12,000km. You can see the side-by-side Strava comparator here (Klaus is the first column, I am the second).

strava-ride-comparator

What is rather noticeable is that Klaus had achieved his rides in a slightly shorter time. The additional 300 metres that I had ridden had taken me 72 hours 5 minutes!!!

By the end of the year Klaus had smashed all his previous records, having achieved a fantastic total of 12,514km. Well done!

I also featured in the Niederrhein Tourismus Magazine Auszeit am Niederrhein. They interviewed me before I bought Millie and we also had two photoshoots. The results are here:

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_1

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_2

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_3

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_4

All in all, it was a very good year for cycling, although I would have liked to do a bit more overnight touring. I have plans for next year!

Cycle rides this month

Liegeradtreff Duisburg

The Velomobilforum has lots of local groups who arrange rides for recumbents and velomobiles and there is one such group that meets once every two months in Duisburg. I’ve been once before, but one Sunday Jochen said he was going so I decided to come along too, as did Klaus at the last minute. They met outside my house, wrapped up against the cold.

jochen-and-klaus

We rode first to Duisburg along a route that I have ridden many times when heading towards Mülheim. However, we were making good time and Klaus was feeling a bit peckish so we detoured for a slice of cake and a coffee in Moers-Kapellen. We weren’t actually sure if anyone would be at the Treff anyway, but in the end we arrived there pretty much dead on 11am. And were the only ones there – except for the pedestrians wandering around the Christmas Market.

endeavour-and-millie-1

It was cold and a bit rainy so we put the bikes under an overhanging shop front and then some other people started to arrive, including Tom on his ICE Sprint who I have met several times at various events.

We stood around and chatted, causing a significant interest amongst the Duisburgers who came and chatted to us a lot.

As you can see from the pictures, Millie was also sporting some new tail decals. I had an idea what I wanted but everything was very expensive, and then I saw these decals for a Mini and thought they would fit. They were very cheap (£20 the pair) so I went ahead and fitted them. The quality of the vinyl is rather poor and the colours seem likely to run a bit, but as a test they are working well. And I like them! They were very useful for Oliebollentocht too, with 209 Velomobiles it is useful to be able to stand out!

endeavour-and-millie-2

endeavour-and-millie-3

Anyway, this Treff usually involves a group cycle ride. Jochen, Klaus and I decided that rather than riding straight home we would detour to Kaiserswerth to make it a bit more interesting, not that any of us had a route there. Tom gave me some waypoints and I put them in my Garmin ready to head off. A final check of Millie – oh! she had a front puncture!

This was a relatively quick tyre change (maximum 10 minutes I think), and it was helpful to be able to use Klaus’s track pump. I was not too surprised about the puncture as there was a fair bit of glass around on the paths.

As we set off one of the other Liegerad chaps, forum name Hirsch, on a 3-wheeler Hase Lepus said he would come with us a little way.

This is the track for my route for the day.

liegeradtreff-track

We headed south from Duisburg along some rather grotty streets until we reached a long canoeing lake that Tom had told us about – with a cycle path beside it. This was very good and nice to ride away from the traffic for a bit. We started looking for food as we approached Kaiserswerth but didn’t have much success, the one restaurant we stopped at was ridiculously expensive (9 Euro for soup!) so we carried on, ending up in the café in the centre of Kaiserswerth for cake. I have eaten there before. It was right next to a Christmas Market with plenty of people walking around so leaving the velomobiles unattended and out of our sight wasn’t ideal but we couldn’t do much about it.

After a nice lunch of quiche and soup and sandwiches we said goodbye to Hirsch who rode home and we went for the Rhein ferry, crossing back to ‘our’ side of the Rhein.

We returned on the route that skirts to the south of Krefeld, ending up at Jochen’s house. Our original plan was to do some bike maintenance but we ended up a bit late so just had a cup of tea at his house instead. I liked the row of Velomobile bags in his hall… and you can see we have walkie talkies to communicate with each other too!

velomobile-bags-1

Klaus went straight home but I decided to do a slight extra ride rather than going directly home as I wanted to get my 100km for the month, so I did a minor detour towards Grefrath with Jochen for company before heading home again, ending up with 100.3km at an average speed of 20.3km/h. It was fun to ride with the other two although I obviously slow them down a lot, but cycling in company brings lots of other benefits and it was good to meet up with the Duisburg lot, although I have no particular desire to ride in Duisburg again as I always get a puncture there!

The ADFC Nikolaus Tour

Hartmut organises the Fit Durch den Winter series each winter and the December one of these rides was also the Nikolaus tour where we were to dress up and to decorate our bikes too. I stuck some Christmas lights onto Millie, and Jochen wore a most fetching hat!

jochen-and-hat

Hartmut was towing Santa’s sleigh:

nikolaus-tour-1

Klaus was able to ride before the tour so we met in Grefrath and rode to Wachtendonk, discovering that the coffee machine at the bakery there was out of order so we headed straight back to Kempen to wait for the others, fortifying ourselves with cake and tea/coffee in Kempen. By the time 11am arrived there were quite a lot of people in Kempen, standing in front of the Christmas Market with the nativity scene in the background (including a dromedary camel!)

nikolaus-tour-people

Of course, three Velomobiles standing in a busy pedestrian zone means lots of people are talking to you and we hadn’t quite realised Hartmut was setting off until the group of people began to shrink. We got in the velomobiles and set off but the others were out of sight and we didn’t know what route they were taking (although we did know that they were heading to Hülser Berg, although on a scenic route). Trying to phone Hartmut failed, the radio with Uli wasn’t great either, so in the end the three velomobiles and upright cyclist Ralf had to give up and make our own way to Hülser Berg.

Here is our track for the day.

nikolaus-tour-track

Klaus, Jochen, Ralf and I went the fairly direct route to Hülser Berg. Poor Ralf, riding a very nice upright bike, found the difficulty of maintaining pace with velomobiles as our speed profiles are so different. They all whizzed up the Hülser Berg (which is a very steep mountain!) and I climbed my way up slowly, pleased to discover that my Schlumpf Mountain Drive was working perfectly!

We parked our bikes at the top. You can see Millie’s Christmas light chain on the photo below except I had turned the lights off before taking the photo.

nikolaus-tour-jochen-and-hat

Klaus headed off back home again and the rest of us went inside the restaurant at the top of Hülser Berg. The owner is a very keen cyclist and always comes to chat with us. Although there were lots of heaters I started to feel rather cold. After about half an hour the rest of the tour arrived and we all enjoyed some lunch (currywurst and chips in my case). I was getting very cold so was glad when we all set off, although I took the direct route home (well, nearly direct – I took the Siebenhäuser route as the road is so much nicer and it’s only a couple of extra kilometres).

The ride total for me was 65km and it was good fun to have my Christmas lights on Millie but I took them off the next day – there are some blue lights on there and the police might not take very kindly to that if they saw me!

A visit to a bicycle exhibition

One chilly Sunday morning I visited a bike exhibition which traced the history of cycling in Germany.

bikes-old-and-new

The exhibition wasn’t just about bike frames, although there were many of those, it was also about bicycle accessories, such as this rather wonderful speedo (and clock?) from the company VDO who still make bike computers today.

early-vdo-bike-computers

The same bicycle also experimented with indicators, which periodically get reinvented in IndieGoGo or other Crowdfunding sites – although their value on a normal bike is very debatable!

bicycle-indicators

The Germans also experimented with three-wheelers quite early on, this was a Penny Farthing Trike.

penny-farthing-three-wheeler

A Düsseldorf company designed the SNOB Bike Engine – not a brand that works so well in English!

snob-bike-motor

Although small, the exhibition was interesting and I had a long chat with one of the staff there as they had an exploded diagram of a Rohloff hub, as well as various other old-fashioned front lights. The first English lights had red and green lights on each side – presumably Port and Starboard!

Other events this month

Doggy training

Gudula my landlady had the idea to train Poppy as a hospital or Old People’s Home visiting dog. Previously I had a labrador who visited a hospital in Tunbridge Wells every week with me for about two years – it’s a very rewarding thing to do as people appreciate so much having a chance to pat or cuddle a dog when they are separated from their own pets.

For Ben the labrador to qualify as a Pets as Therapy dog he had to visit a vet for a health check and be assessed by someone from the charity who checked him over for about half an hour and then he was deemed suitable. We joined the charity which provided the liability insurance and then were able to visit the hospital. Now I am in Germany things are a trifle different. First of all Poppy had to go to a course for 1.5 hours once a week for four weeks, just to see if she would be suitable. This cost 90 Euros. At the end of this course she was deemed suitable, and we were informed she would have to do the Hundeführerschein (Dog Driving Licence!) which includes a written test (which I am guessing the owner, rather than the dog, completes). After this she would need an additional test to be a visiting dog. Estimated time nine months, estimated cost 600 Euros. This seemed a crazy amount so we are still thinking about it, and have found another option in Krefeld which may mean we can finish earlier and is much cheaper. I was a bit unsure of the value of a lot of the training and the cost was very high. But someone who definitely enjoyed the first four weeks was Poppy – here she is with Gudula sitting nicely awaiting a treat.

doggy-training

So perhaps in the New Year Poppy will start her Hundeführerschein… but we will see. To do voluntary work it seems like rather a lot of barriers (financial and time), but we both think Poppy would make an excellent visiting dog and would really enjoy it herself.

The Bonn English Singers Carol Service

Last year I went to the Bonn English Singers 9 Lessons and Carols service with Christine and it was wonderful. This year there were several different concerts by the Bonn English Singers but Christine and I, joined by Gudula, went to the one in Beuel again. It was so lovely to sing English Christmas Carols – people were singing with great gusto and the choir were excellent again.

After the concert there was tea and mince pies… and I noticed they were selling packets of Tetley Teabags, 4 Euros for 80 teabags. I had already placed an order with my Mum for two packs of 280 teabags so didn’t need to avail myself of this offer.

bonn-carol-service

Christmas in England

christmas-in-witnesham

This year’s Christmas would undoubtedly have its sad moments as it would be the first Christmas following the death of my father. But in the event it was a joyful and peaceful occasion and it was good to see family and also to go to the midnight service at my church in Colchester and see old friends again.

On Christmas Day Mum and I travelled with her friend Stephanie to visit some other friends in Norfolk in a village where Mum and Dad had a holiday cottage. Hans and Hilda had a 95-year-old neighbour with them too and she was wonderful – full of interesting stories and totally ‘with it’.

Hans used to be a chef and he and Hilda provided a wonderful meal.

For the non-Brits who read my blog, here is an example of a UK Christmas Dinner (on the 25 December, of course).

A herring salad starter (not so usual for the UK)

christmas-starter

Roast turkey with all the trimmings

christmas-main-course

A cake with cream etc.

christmas-dessert

Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake are traditional but not everyone likes them (including me!) so it was nice to have something else for a change.

Hans had also made some Swedish Biscuits with God Jul on them.

god-jul-biscuits

Their dog Kasper enjoyed lying in front of the fire and watching in a vain hope that we might drop some food for him. It was too tasty to give to a dog!

kasper-and-fire

The next day my sister, her husband and two of her daughters came, bringing their Christmas leftovers so we had Christmas Dinner Mark 2, which was also lovely! Anna had made the traditional Swiss Roll Yule Log which she has always made – a real reminder of my childhood!

yule-log

Her daughter Ceri and I fought for possession of the piece with the flake in it and I was awarded this as flake’s aren’t available in Germany. Bonus!

yule-log-2

Oh, and earlier in the month I had seen a Facebook recipe for Nutella Christmas Trees and I made a few and gave them to colleagues at work. Here’s one of them – they look nicer than they tasted!

nutella-christmas-tree

I headed back to Germany on the evening of Boxing Day, ready for Oliebollentocht two days later. It was lovely to spend time with my Mum and sister and her family, it’s great to visit England again although the roads all seem so narrow and hilly!

Visting England now is a bit strange as my roots are being pulled up. James and I were divorced in November and he is now engaged to a new lady, someone we both knew at University. Our house is in the process of being sold, we are just going through the paperwork with the buyer, and then I will no longer have a home in Colchester. My life has very much transferred over to Germany and I feel that this is now my home, but it is always lovely to catch up with old friends in the UK and events such as the Bonn Carol Service give me a lovely warm feeling as it is the remembrance of decades of Christmases in the UK.

New Year’s Eve

I am writing this at 10pm on New Year’s Eve. I went to our next door neighbour’s New Year’s Eve party with Frank and Gudula – when Frank was invited he said we could come for an hour or so but then had another invitation – and we were most surprised when the front door opened that our neighbour was in a wedding dress. They had got married at 11am this morning and the New Year’s Eve party was actually a wedding party! This was a real surprise to us but it was lovely to be part of their special day and to meet some of their friends and family. We came away after an hour and a half as Frank and Gudula went to their other party and I stayed at home to look after Poppy who is not that keen on fireworks.

So the year is almost ended – I am writing this at ten o’clock so two hours to go. My third New Year’s Eve in Germany. Next year, 2017, is in a way a blank sheet – I can make of my life what I will. I have already planned to do a cycle ride from Rostock to Copenhagen and back to Kiel with some ladies from the Velomobilforum and will also be joining a new Gospel Choir in Wachtendonk now that I am not part of the Süchteln one. I will also be singing Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s “Paulus” with the Willicher Musikprojekt and Anja and I plan to resurrect our piano/flute duets. There is plenty to look forward to, not least more cycling and hopefully increasing my range and decreasing my belly a bit! However, the Cake Montage will probably continue.

cake-montage

2016 has had some difficulties and the political situation with Brexit and Trump fills me with gloom, but there are always positive things to be thankful for and I hope that we will all start 2017 with hope and looking forward to the good times. I wish all my readers a Happy New Year!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Penelope the Velomobile, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

Six Wheels In Germany – October 2016 (Month 31)

October was a mixture of warm, sunny weather and definite autumnal/winter days.

However, this month’s blog is decidedly not a mixture… it is almost entirely bicycle-related (with just my cake collage at the end) so if velomobiles and trikes aren’t your thing I suggest you give it a miss this month.

What can I learn from this? Perhaps I need to diversify in my interests a bit! However November’s blog should contain a bit more variety as the choir I sing in will be performing the Messiah in Anrath and Krefeld.

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Another good month in terms of distance, just a touch shy of 1500km, but that is due to the speed increase with the Milan. I am probably riding the same amount of time per month, just getting there more quickly!

october-statistics

And here is the ‘wheel’ to show where I have ridden this month. It also shows I managed four metric centuries, and indeed one ride over 200km.

october-wheel

Metric Century per month challenge

Since the advent of Millie the Milan GT Carbon velomobile, distances have been rather easier to come by! When the average speed increases from 22km/h to 30km/h, that means in a four hour ride you can do 120km instead of under 90km. It also means that a 100km ride is only an investment of just over three hours’ riding time.

Anyway, the challenge to cycle 100km at least once per month continues.

For October’s I started rather well.

On the 2nd October I did a 62km cycle ride but decided as the next day was a bank holiday and I had nothing planned I would try for a longer ride.

I decided to have another go at my ride to Kleve and Nijmegen that I did in Penelope a few months back, this time avoiding the two mountains I had to haul myself over. This involved a detour of about 12km but it was definitely worth it to avoid those mega hills.

Klaus was able to ride with me for a short while in the morning so he came to meet me at my house and we headed straight off north on our regular Sunday morning ride into Kreis Kleve.

nijmegen-track

We set off at a medium pace as my legs weren’t feeling brilliant and it was also a bit chilly and rainy but soon got into the groove and were approaching Geldern. Klaus asked if I wanted to stop here; I had planned to ride a bit further than 18km before my first stop but he didn’t really have time to ride further so I agreed we would stop in Geldern in the café we often visit in the market square.

We parked our velomobiles… of course they caused quite a stir.

millie-and-celeste-in-geldern

AFter some tasty cake I headed off northwards and Klaus went for a detour on his way home via Neukirchen Vluyn.

The cake had given my legs a bit more energy and I enjoyed my speedy ride northwards towards Uedem. However, just before I reached Uedem there was a ‘Road Closed’ sign. Never mind, I thought, as the cycle route was still free – I would ride on the road until the proper closure and then hop on the cycle path.

This worked OK except the cycle path was horribly bumpy when I got onto it and the Milan has much harder suspension than the Versatile. I was zooming along when I saw something ahead and slammed on the brakes. A good thing too, as I was faced with a sudden cessation of Radweg…

road-closed-1

Because Millie is so low I couldn’t ride up this bump so had to get out.

road-closed-2

Getting in and out is a faff so this was annoying. I then had to push Millie along the road until I could find proper tarmac again. It was a short walk of about 100 metres but annoying nonetheless. When you see road closures in Germany it is not usually clear whether the cycle path is also closed.

However, once I had negotiated this obstacle I continued on, glad to have walked about a bit to warm up my toes.

I had made three different tracks for the day, one which was 178km and went to Nijmegen but two shorter ones which turned back sooner if I wasn’t feeling so energetic. I wasn’t sure which I would do, and in fact was still deciding as I reached Bedburg-Hau where one of my tracks headed west to NL. But in the end I decided to continue on to Kleve.

I didn’t actually go into Kleve this time (that’s one of the evil hills) but instead skirted around to the east, getting nearer to the Rhine. I then followed part of the Rhein flood plain towards Nijmegen (very close to Millingen aan de Rijn) which involved small country lanes which were often quite mucky with tractor mud.

At one point I felt a regular bump-bump-bump in one wheel and thought “oh no! A front puncture!” So I stopped and got out – but both front wheels (and also the back) were fully inflated. I guess it was a bit of mud but it was another chance to move my feet around and drink some water. I was wearing some brand new shoes I had bought from Rose and had done them up a bit tight to start with so my left ankle was complaining; having loosened them off things were improving but I did think such a long ride with new shoes was perhaps a little unwise. But the challenge of the open road and fast Velomobile overcomes such sensible thoughts!

After a five minute break I carried on, and started to recognise the bit of dike I was cycling on… I had been on this route on the trike tour at the beginning of August.

nijmegen-bridge

Very soon I was passing the boat where we had spent the night in Nijmegen and riding along the waterfront looking for somewhere to eat some lunch. I found a lot of cafés and parked outside.

parked-at-nijmegen

This was a tasty burger but I was only able to eat half of it – this can be a problem when riding long distances, your stomach doesn’t really want to have to do too much!

burger

After more water (the day had got warmer and cycling at speed means the wind whips away a lot of moisture) it was time to carry on.

My previous route from Nijmegen involved a ferry crossing at Cuijk and then down the west side of the Maas to Arcen. As I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to ride Millie onto these ferries (very steep!) I decided to stick to the east bank of the Maas and ride via Gennep.

What I didn’t know, and neither did my route planning software, was that the nice fast road around Gennep is not allowed for bicycles, so I had to do some on-the-hoof rerouting and ended up riding through the middle of the town. This was of course slower but more interesting.

The roads weren’t as quiet as the roads the other side of the Maas so I expect I won’t do this sector again, although once I was a fair way south of Gennep it improved a lot.

I had a waypoint on my Garmin counting down to Bergen which is somewhere I seem to regularly cycle through and feels like it is quite close to home (although it is 45km away), and soon enough I arrived… except the road was blocked with a circus. Of course there wasn’t room to turn around in the velomobile so I had to get out again… very irritating. The circus people were chatting to me in a mixture of Dutch, German and English, asking about Millie.

Once I had turned round I rode off again, arriving in Bergen a few minutes later after the small detour and going to the bakery for some nice rice cake and a cuppa.

rice-cake-in-bergen

I was feeling pretty good still and wondered about going for a double century. Another 22km over my plan would be eminently doable. So I headed off, feeling that I still had plenty of energy, back on roads I know very well which are fast and have almost no traffic. Although there was in fact more than I was expecting as this was not a public holiday in the Netherlands.

Anyway, I zoomed back to Arcen, to Straelen and then decided to do a detour up to Geldern to get my extra kilometres. Once in Geldern I realised I needed a few more… and knowing that Klaus had been to Neukirken Vluyn today I decided to also go there. So I did, via Kamp Lintfort.

My plan was to avoid the annoying hill by the spoil heap at Eyller Berg but of course I miscalculated my route and ended up riding up there. Oh well, it’s much less hard work in a Milan than a Versatile. Coming down the other side was nice!

The 200km was in sight, but I then thought about my longest ever ride. 201km, back from Dronten. Yes, I could beat that… but what was the next challenge after that? What was Klaus’s longest ride? Fortunately with the marvels of Strava I could see that his longest ride was 213km. Hmmmmmm, only another 12km after my personal record….

So I continued stretching out my route, doing a detour around Siebenhäuser (a lovely bit of road!), then going past St Hubert and heading south to Kempen. I decided I didn’t fancy the mountain over the railway bridge on the way to St Tönis so turned off just before that which involved a rather bumpy road and also a brief moment of sheltering under a tree because of unexpected hail! It was at this point that I had a message from Klaus who realised I was not yet home and therefore must be extending my ride (I had sent him a message when I was near Straelen). “Are you going for the 200km?” he asked. Oh no, old bean, I am going for your record!! (I didn’t actually send this).

I rode back through the outskirts of Kempen, watching the kilometres tick over on my Garmin. Because sometimes there are discrepancies between the Garmin track and what Strava gives me I knew I had to do a bit extra – it would be gutting to be 100 metres short! So when I finally rolled up outside my house I had done 215.1 kilometres. Moving time was 8 hours 4 minutes so the average speed was 26.7 km/h. Not bad at all!

Klaus soon saw on Strava that I had exceeded his longest ride so undoubtedly he will be overtaking me again soon. But a bit of a challenge is good for us, it encourages longer rides and exploring new places. But it is a great feeling to have done such a long ride, and such a huge contrast to the 201km I did in Penelope which nearly finished me off (and took 11 hours 43 minutes).

The route apart from the Gennep bit was good so I will try it again sometime, probably in the Spring/Summer, as now the nights are drawing in the long rides aren’t quite as appealing. But I am pleased with myself, with how well Millie rolled, and that I burned enough calories for both slices of cake (officially I burned 4,212 calories, average heart rate 147, maximum 185).

7 Schlösser und eine Burg

or, in English, 7 castles and a castle.

A week after my 215km ride it was time for another longer ride and this time Klaus had a bit of a brainwave that we could visit Düsseldorf and take in some castles on the way.

We ended up passing 7 castles and I also passed the castle in Kempen. I was talking today to friend Babs about the difference in meaning between Schloss and Burg but we couldn’t really work out the specific variation except that Burg is more of a stronghold/fortress and Schloss, although also a castle, is also a bit like a palace or a giant country house. Maybe.

Anyway, the ride took in the following castles: Schloss Neersen; Schloss Myllendonk; Schloss Rheydt; Schloss Dyck; Schloss Hülchrath; Schloss Benrath; Schloss Mickeln; Burg Kempen.

And here was my route:

castles-track

It was a fairly chilly day and I set off with buffs and hat on. The plan was to meet Klaus somewhere near Neersen and we ended up meeting in Anrath. I was a bit slower than I had expected to get there as it was cold and I tend to be slower in the morning.

From Anrath we headed south towards Mönchengladbach, passing Schloss Neersen of course, and also fairly quickly Schloss Myllendonk. Shortly after Mönchengladbach we passed Schloss Rheydt where I have occasionally partaken of a pizza!

As we headed towards Schloss Dyck we had a brief section riding straight towards Garzweiler, one of the huge holes in the ground where Brown coal is extracted. Klaus was whizzing far ahead here, as you can see from the photo – with the chimneys spouting smoke from the power stations that feed on the coal.

towards-garzweiler

We arrived at Schloss Dyck and stopped briefly. I said to Klaus I was feeling a bit pooped – I decided I was rather hungry (hadn’t had much breakfast). He said he thought about riding to Schloss Benrath – perhaps we could eat there. We weren’t sure how far away it was, perhaps an hour, so I thought it would be OK to carry on.

Klaus had sent me the track but it arrived after I had switched off my computer so I didn’t have a chance to load it on my Garmin and was just following him without really knowing where we were going, but it was a great and varied route, passing through towns I had never even heard of.

Klaus is good at route planning but no ride is complete without a spot of off-road!

off-road

I was now beginning to feel a bit rubbish, definitely low on food. My heart rate was also very low which is unusual for me. I kept a beady eye out for bakeries but saw nothing. There was a café next to Schloss Hülchrath but they were closed for a holiday.

On we went, I was going slower and slower. Memories of the long ride back from Dronten where I just lost all energy! And then hallelujah, in Nievenheim we found a very nice café! They had cakes but no warm food, so a cake and filled roll were just the thing. A hot cup of tea helped to restore some of my energy. It had come just in time as I was definitely heading into what is called the cyclist’s bonk.

I felt lots better after my food and we headed off again, with me feeling that I had much more power. Interestingly my heart rate was now way higher as my body worked to digest the food.

It was a short distance from Nievenheim to Zons, and then it was the Zons ferry. We did this ferry on the SPEZI tour last year with Simon and Joyce; it was good to be in Zons again!

ferry-at-zons

From Zons it was a short ride up past Schloss Benrath and then past Schloss Mickeln to Düsseldorf. I asked Klaus if we could detour to the Medienhafen to photograph Millie in the mirrored building… so we did.

img_1214

lots-of-millies-2

lots-of-millies

Then it was heading through the Altstadt north and further to a crossing of the Rhein. We took the Helter Skelter Bridge, as I call it, but on the way down the other side there was a steep curb so Klaus pushed me back up the slope a bit – hard work for him! But Millie’s very wide turning circle means it takes forever to turn round in a narrow area.

As we were cycling north along the Deich we saw another velomobile, a cream or white DF, going over a bridge. We wondered if he had seen us (it turned out he hadn’t!)

We rode back through Meerbusch and went our separate ways near St Tönis. I ensured I cycled past Burg Kempen on the way home so I definitely bagged that one too!

It was a very enjoyable ride although my lack of food in the morning had shown me that I do really need to prepare properly for longer rides! 140km for me at an average speed of 24.8 km/h.

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf und Umland

The Velomobileforum has various groups for local cyclists and I had seen that there was going to be a meeting for the Düsseldorf people and also the Duisburg people in Kaiserswerth. As Kaiserswerth (north of Düsseldorf) isn’t so far away from me, I thought I would go along. It was the day after my 7 Schlösser Tour but I felt energetic enough for another 100km ride.

The plan was to meet in Büttgen where one of the forum members lives, have a cuppa there and then ride together to Kaiserswerth. Sounded good!

The meeting time was 11am which was eminently easy. I told Klaus I was planning to go to that and he said he would like to ride a bit with me in the morning (he had to be back at midday) so we decided to ride together to Uerdingen for cake and then I would go on to Büttgen which is near Kaarst, so the Neuss area (left hand side of the Rhein).

Here is my track for the day:

liegeradtreff

So Klaus came to my house and we set off together on familiar roads, except were almost immediately caught out by the closure of the B9 road – we wanted to go to Siebenhäuser but the road was closed. There was nothing for it, we had to cycle up the mega hill to Tönisberg.

We got to the top and then took the nice road down that leads to Siebenhäuser but this time we headed to Niep and from there towards Uerdingen. These are roads we have ridden several times and it’s a good route.

Once we got to Uerdingen I assumed we would ride onward but Klaus was happy to stop for cake, although our usual café wasn’t yet open. We found another though and enjoyed some tea and cake.

He said he would ride with me to Kaarst and then go home from there, so after our cake we zoomed off on empty roads and great speeds. I hadn’t realised how fast we were going but for a 10km section our average speed was 33 km/h. This in Millie is fairly easy as long as you don’t have to keep stopping but for Celeste it was harder work – she presents a larger area to the wind and probably has a little more rolling resistance too with her tyres. Klaus was working quite hard to keep up (this is a real role reversal as it’s always previously been the other way round!).

We were making excellent time so he said he would come with me to Büttgen to say hello to the others, it was only a detour of 3km. Unfortunately my planning for this section was sub-optimal and we had a kilometre off road. This provoked a barrage of complaints from my riding partner, but I pointed out we had been off-road yesterday on his track. But apparently that was less off-roady or something.

Anyway, we arrived in Büttgen without punctures or anything falling off the Velomobiles and all our teeth still in place… and after a brief hiatus when I missed the road and couldn’t find where we were supposed to be, followed by me being nearly crashed into by a car who decided to ignore my left-signalling indicator… we arrived. And Celeste met her new cousin the DF belonging to Podbiker (Stefan).

df-and-celeste-1

df-and-celeste-2

I had cycled with Stefan and his DF before to Kevelaer but that was in Penelope. It will be fun to ride with him when I am in Millie – it won’t be so slow!

As you can see from this photo, there was a real colour scheme going on – Celeste or white-and-red.

df-and-celeste-3

More velomobiles arrived, including Düssel (who we often see) in his Mango this time (he also has a WAW) and he had a quick go in Millie. There were also a few trikes. The wife of Norbert had made us some snacks to keep us going.

nibbles-1

nibbles-2

Klaus had headed off home at this point and it was then that I discovered an ingenious seat raising device a fellow rider used for his Mango…

seat-dictionary

Not only is his seat the right height, if he has an urgent need for an English word it is at his fingertips!!

After eating the food, drinking tea and coffee and peering at each others’ velomobiles, it was time to head off in our group of 11, following Norbert on his trike. The pace was very relaxed as Norbert has an electric trike due to disability but we certainly provided great entertainment for those we passed. So many weird bikes!

Some of the riders zoomed ahead and then took some photos. Here am I wafting past…

helen-passing

Here we are riding over a motorway bridge

velomobiles-crossing-bridge

And enjoying the scenery as we head for the Rhine.

milan-unterwegs

Crossing the Rhine bridge.

crossing-rhine-bridge

We arrived in Kaiserswerth and the group from Duisburg were already there.

vms-kaiserswerth-1

vms-kaiserswerth

I saw someone with a white DF – indeed he had been the chap Klaus and I saw yesterday, although he hadn’t seen us.

cream-df

There were also lots of trikes.

kaiserswerth-trikes

We were providing great entertainment for all the people at Kaiserswerth and lots of people were asking us questions. It looked as though it would take a long time to get served food so Düssel suggested we decamped to a place he knew with a large garden area for the trikes. So we followed him for a few kilometres and reached the café. Their garden was indeed full of bikes!

vms-in-pub-parking-area-1

vms-in-pub-parking-area-2

vms-in-pub-parking-area-3

And we almost all managed to squeeze on one table!

liegerad-group-eating

After some tea and cake we decided to head back. I thought I would use the Kaiserswerth Ferry back to my side of the Rhein, although I wasn’t sure how well it would work with the low ground clearance of Millie. In the end it was fine, and a group of four of us in velomobiles made the crossing before heading off in different directions on the other side.

I then rode home alone, ending up with 104km on the clock at an average speed of 22.5 km/h. It was a really enjoyable day and great to meet so many other velomobile riders.

It also meant that this week I ride 641.7 kilometres which is pretty good going! Three rides over 100km and one over 200km. I love riding my velomobile!

A speedy trip to Xanten

One Sunday morning when I had nothing to do I decided to try for a speedy ride and see if I could maintain a reasonable speed for a longer time.

xanten-track

This was the track I rode, going via Geldern on the way (so the western side) and then returning via Alpen and Kamp-Lintfort.

My ride to Xanten was completed with an average speed of 31 km/h so I was very happy with that. I made my way to the nice café in the central market place and had a cake.

Millie was definitely an item of interest for the passers-by.

millie-in-xanten

My route back was initially great, going via the Bisslicher Insel which is a nature reserve. I zoomed along decent asphalted surfaces with very little motor traffic. I then turned away from the Rhine and towards Alpen, having forgotten about the big hill I would have to go over. Not fun but I managed it!

However, the downhill the other side was wonderful! I could only pedal up to 40 km/h (I have a very slow cadence and cannot spin the pedals fast) but Millie keeps on and on and on accelerating, even when you are no longer pedalling. It was a long, straight downhill on a smooth bit of road and saw 61.9 km/h on my Garmin’s speedo. This was great fun!

There was a further hill at Rheurdt but soon I was home, although annoyingly under 100km. However, I checked my emails and saw a message from Hartmut; he was on his way to Wachtendonk, having called in at my house fifteen minutes before to deliver a velomobile bag he had picked up for me from Dronten. So I rang him and we agreed to meet in Wachtendonk. I whizzed over there, found him at the Ice Cream Café and we swapped bags and money, and of course had an ice cream. I returned home and then ended up with 106.73km for the day, at an average speed of 30.6 km/h.

This metric century lark is easy with a fast velomobile!

Fit Durch Den Winter

Last year Hartmut instigated a new bike tour series, ‘Fit Durch Den Winter’ (fit through the winter) which was a 40-45km ride once per month from Kempen. I participated in several of these.

On the last Sunday in October he had scheduled the first of this season’s rides and sent an email to some of us asking for recommendations of where to go. I suggested Straelen and got the response “great, you are the ride leader”.

So at 11am on Sunday morning (having had an extra hour in bed due to the clocks changing) various people gathered in Buttermarkt in Kempen by the fountain. There were lots of people I didn’t recognise, who I think had read about it in the Rad am Niederhein magazine which is widely distributed.

Jochen arrived in Endeavour, sporting some new scratches; the velomobile was caught by the wind when parked at his workplace and blown across the car park into a van! Fortunately the marks weren’t that obvious.

millie-endeavour-1

millie-endeavour-2

millie-endeavour-3

Here is the track for the day.

fit-durch-den-winter-track

We eventually set off at about 11:10 after some last-minute faffing.

We rode the route clockwise, heading towards Vinkrath and were met by Uli at Abtei Mariendonk. We continued westwards and I had a couple of messages from Klaus who was riding on his own and had been at Straelen for cake; he decided to try and intercept us on his way back and indeed we saw him whizzing towards us as we headed towards the Blaue Lagune. He and Jochen rode together for a short way before Klaus peeled off for home (he ended up having ridden 104km and had planned to just pop out for a short ride first thing…)

Part of the route had been planned by me without knowing whether I had ever actually ridden the roads. It became clear, when there was an off-road section, that I hadn’t – and this section was not suitable for Velomobiles. Jochen and I agreed to meet the rest of the group at the other side of a road crossing (they were going over a small bridge). We would go the long way round on the main road.

As I was winching myself up a hill with Jochen behind he announced to me that my back tyre looked flat. Oh no!!! So when I got to the top of the hill I stopped and had a look – it was indeed very spongy although not completely flat.

To fix a puncture in the rear tyre on Millie takes about half an hour so I thought it was best to pump it up and maybe do the repair when we got to Straelen, only about 6km away. So Jochen produced his lightweight track pump and added some air – perhaps not to the 8 bar (120psi) that my tyre needs, but a real improvement.

We rode on and the tyre stayed up. This got me thinking… I had pumped all three tyres up four days before (they were down to 5.5 bar), and perhaps I hadn’t done the valve up properly. I had also noticed over the last two days that the steering felt a bit imprecise at speed, that I had to continually make small corrections. Perhaps this was due to the soft rear tyre? And perhaps this explains why my ride the day before to choir seemed such hard work. Once the tyre was pumped up again then the squirmy steering feel went away.

I made it to Straelen with the tyre still up and we stopped at Café Krone for some food – I had Kaiserschmarrn which is excellent cyclist food.

kaiserschmarrn

After we had all enjoyed cake and hot drinks we headed off back again to Kempen, this time via Wachtendonk. My tyre was still inflated which was good, but as we were nearing Wachtendonk there was a loud bang and Frank’s rear tyre definitely wasn’t!

puncture-repair

Frank, Hartmut, Jochen and a few others fettled his bike. There was a very impressive tear in the inner tube!

split-tube

Fortuitously the puncture had occurred near a bench overlooking a field so the rest of us stood around enjoying the warm autumn sunshine.

waiting-for-puncture-repair-1

waiting-for-puncture-repair-2

We carried on and where the track diverts to Kempen Frank and I headed off home and the rest continued on.

The ride was 45.1km for me and with an average speed of 16.6km/h which has rather affected my statistics for Millie!

Later that day several of us met in a restaurant to celebrate Hartmut’s birthday. And at this point we also shared my icing velomobile which had been in my deep freeze since my birthday. This was a velomobile model which was on my birthday cake – I had saved it for when I received my QuattroVelo. Seeing as I now had Millie and would not be having a QuattroVelo, and that everyone who had bought me the cake was at Hartmut’s do, I borrowed a knife from the restaurant and divvied up the mini QuattroVelo.

cake-qv-1

helen-cutting-cake

cake-chopped-in-half

Here it is in two pieces – we now know it is entirely fondant icing.

in-two-pieces

We shared it around and there were just these small pieces left… which soon disappeared.

remnants-of-qv

So this was kind of a christening for Millie!

Thanks to Uli, Hartmut, Jochen, Herbert etc for the birthday cake and the Velomobile 🙂

Millie the Milan GT Carbon

As mentioned once or twice already, Millie is fast!

Bear in mind that she has the same engine as Penelope and Alfie, i.e. me. But the speeds are very much quicker. It just goes to prove, it is about the bike!

You can see a small example here from a Strava Segment Comparator. I rode this segment in Penelope and then more recently in Millie. The speed difference is rather noticeable!

segment-comparator

When I bought Millie from Ludwig in Ostfriesland I decided I didn’t want the Haube (complete head covering) that he had which was very narrow (it was a racing one), so instead he got me the red Lukendeckel (flap thingie) and gave me a price reduction.

Of course, after two weeks I realised that I would also want to ride Millie in the rain and that a Haube would probably be a good idea.

Räderwerk sell a Haube you can add to the existing Lukendeckel which is a bit more roomy inside than the racing one that Ludwig had. They occasionally come up for sale second hand so I decided to put a request out on the Velomobilforum to see if anyone had one for sale – and I struck lucky immediately. Friend Tim who lives near Bodensee had one that he never used and was happy to sell it to me at a very decent price. Not only that, it was red!

In due course it arrived and I fitted it, after first having to reassemble it.

haube-ready-to-be-screwed-together

Unfortunately the red isn’t quite the same shade as the Lukendeckel red, but if I cycle fast enough no-one should notice!

haube-1

When riding with the Haube on I have about an extra 2.5km/h average. So more speed. In fact, on my first test ride with the Haube I did a 31.93km round trip and up until the last 3km when I had several red traffic lights and a traffic jam I was averaging over 35km/h. In the end my average was 34.3 which is still rather good!

Millie attracts attention just like Penelope, and various velomobile friends have had a go. Here’s a Mango owner who lives south of Kempen and invited me for some home-made Pufferkes…

rowjoh-in-milan

My reward was to enjoy a couple of these very tasty pufferkes. Yum!

pufferkes-1

pufferkes-2

Millie gets a Schlumpf Mountain Drive

When I test-rode Millie she had a 65 tooth chainring at the front. This meant that she had lovely high top gears but her lowest gear was rather high to start off on a slope or indeed to climb a hill. Ludwig seemed to have no problem with it but I was concerned. There was a second smaller chainring at the front but he said he used that only for emergency hill climbing.

Ludwig suggested that he changed the chainrings for me to a 53 and 43 so that I had more lower gears that worked better for me overall. He said I would be able to pedal up to 50 km/h no problems. So we went ahead with the swap.

It became clear to me fairly quickly that my low cadence means that I can’t really pedal over 40km/h without wobbling all over the place. My legs just don’t go that fast, and after 100,000km in recumbent trikes and velomobiles (yes, I passed that milestone this month!) it isn’t likely to change. I am comfortable in high gears, cruising with medium power. My knees generally are OK with this plan.

I could of course have changed the front chainring for a larger one but then I would have the same problem with starting in low gears. I had already discovered that my weak arm made it extremely difficult to use the grip shift for the front chainring; changing down to the small ring was OK but changing back up again almost impossible. Ludwig suggested I got someone to fit a trigger shifter or bar-end shifter (although that would mean my indicator button would have to move) but I wasn’t sure.

I had been thinking for a little while about a Schlumpf Mountain Drive and decided to do a bit of research on this. The Schlumpf range have several drives (speed, high speed, mountain) and it is a small internal gearing system that lives in the bottom bracket (pedals/cranks). It is effectively like switching chainrings at the front, and involves no cabling (you hit a button with your heel and that changes the gear).

The Speed Drive and High Speed Drive have their normal mode in low gears and then you can click up to a higher gear but that is using the innards of the drive so a bit lossy. The Mountain Drive is the other way round, the ‘neutral’ gears with direct drive are the high gears but you can knock it down by 2.5x for lower gears if you need them. This sounded very suitable for me!

My local recumbent shop is Liegeradbau Schumacher in Willich. I had visited them several years before and found them to be knowledgeable and with a large amount of stock. I decided to give them a ring and find out if they fitted the Schlumpf – yes they did, so I said I would pop round the next day and have a chat.

I did pop round and we talked about it. It sounded like a great option – until I heard the price. These things are expensive! Especially as I would need shorter cranks (not much room in the nose of Millie) and the larger chainring. The price was just too high for me to justify for some emergency low gears.

We talked a bit more about anything else I might be able to do (new shifters for my existing gear) and then the chap talking to me had a bit of an idea and went to talk to a colleague. It turned out they had a second hand Mountain Drive in stock and they made me a price offer for that, the cranks and chainring and fitting, which was very good and I decided to take them up on it.

They ordered the chainring and pedals and a couple of weeks later we had an appointment for them to do the fitting, hopefully while I waited.

I arrived and met Mr Schumacher (senior) for the first time. We ended up having a lovely time chatting together – the trike world is small and the velomobile world smaller and we had several acquaintances in common. He’s been in the world of recumbents for 30 years so has a vast amount of experience. It was really interesting talking to him.

First of all they showed me my new chainring – a real pizza plate!

pizza-chainring

Apparently when it had arrived Mr Schumacher assumed it was for some super-fit young man, and was clearly a bit surprised to see a middle-aged overweight woman who needed it! But the velomobile’s speed makes all the difference.

Christian Schumacher, his son, would do the fitting and the first plan was to get Millie onto a fork lift so that he could work through the foot hole.

millie-on-forklift

Mr Schumacher Senior and I held Millie steady whilst Christian removed the bottom bracket from the boom. Here it is coming out – and was surprisingly heavy. The Schlumpf Mountain Drive with pedals and chainring actually weighed less.

old-chainrings-come-out

Millie was lowered back down to the floor whilst Christian fitted the mountain drive to the bottom bracket, which involved some work on the aluminium holder. You can see the bits of metalwork that hold the boom in place on the floor in front of Millie’s nose.

boom-bits-on-floor

And the view inside – a boom leading to… nothing!

inside-no-chainrings-or-pedals

Now Christian spent some time removing the old pedals and bottom bracket and fitting the Schlumpf, which involves some metalwork I believe.

They let me see and test it when he had finished, turning the pedals with one finger and then pressing the button and seeing the speed change.

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket-2

Christian cleaned up my pedals and fitted them to the cranks, then we were ready to fit the new part into Millie.

with-pedals-and-ready-to-fit

Here we all are working on Millie – Christian drew the short straw and had to lie on his back with 28kg of carbon fibre balancing inches from his nose!

three-people-working-on-millie

And here it is fitted!

fitted

We removed the cabling for the front gear changer – another minor weight saving (20 grammes?) – which you could see in the photo above.

Then it was time for a short test ride…

Generally it was great, except my toe was now rubbing against the side of Millie. I had occasionally had this before when really pushing hard but it happened the whole time. It seems that the Mountain Drive pedal area is wider than the previous chainrings arrangement (Theo at Velomobiel.nl had talked to me on the phone about Mountain Drives and said I needed to have the narrow one; I had asked Schumacher if that was what they had and they said yes, but I do slightly wonder now). Anyway, Christian came to the rescue again with a very simple solution – moving the cleats on my cycling shoes so my feet were more inward.

The second test ride and it was fine, only very occasional brushing of my shoe on Millie’s side, certainly to an acceptable level.

The fitting had taken three hours which was longer than expected but they had clearly done an excellent job and it was interesting to see everything in action. I rode home, very quickly getting used to the new drive and finding the gear changing buttons very simple to operate.

And after a week…

I am enjoying riding with the Mountain Drive.

I am definitely benefitting from the larger chainring. I find it more comfortable to ride at speed. I am able to pull away in first gear most of the time without problems, unless it’s on a slight uphill, at which point I use the Mountain Drive to step down from what is a 4.6 metre gear to a 1.5 metre (that means I travel 4.6 metres along the ground per pedal revolution). Also on some steeper hills I switch into Mountain Drive mode.

As was mentioned by many commentators, the Mountain Drive does give a spongy feel when using the stepped down gears. It is noticeable but as I am only riding in this gear arrangement for a short time it is no problem. Also because of the wide range in gearing it’s quite a big jump back into the higher gears but, again, because you know it’s coming you can adjust accordingly. I like the simplicity of the system and find it easy to do with my heels, even wearing cleats.

With regard to the cleat position, after Christian had adjusted one shoe I obviously had to adjust the other. I then thought about moving the cleats even further and tried that – and found I had unusual foot pain. I suppose after 100,000km with my cleats always on one position the ball of my foot didn’t like the change! So I moved the cleats back to a middle position where my foot only brushes the side of the velomobile when really pushing but the cleats are comfortable.

I have now done 1,900km in Millie since I bought her in mid-September and am really happy with my choice. There are a few drawbacks with the Milan (such as the turning circle, low freeboard so you can scrape when going up kerbs) but they also confer advantages (more speed, more speed) so it’s a choice. I still use Penelope for my commuting but Millie for all social rides.

I have ordered some Union Jack decals to go on her tail. They are on their way from the UK and once they arrive I will have to find the best place to fit them. This might be a challenge but it should be a deterrent to thieves if she is British Flagged!

Cakes this month

cake-collage-october

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles