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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
Because Millie is so low I couldn’t ride up this bump so had to get out.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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…
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…
Here we are riding over a motorway bridge
And enjoying the scenery as we head for the Rhine.
Crossing the Rhine bridge.
We arrived in Kaiserswerth and the group from Duisburg were already there.
I saw someone with a white DF – indeed he had been the chap Klaus and I saw yesterday, although he hadn’t seen us.
There were also lots of 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!
And we almost all managed to squeeze on one table!
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.
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.
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.
Here is the track for the day.
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.
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!
Frank, Hartmut, Jochen and a few others fettled his bike. There was a very impressive tear in the inner tube!
Fortuitously the puncture had occurred near a bench overlooking a field so the rest of us stood around enjoying the warm autumn sunshine.
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.
Here it is in two pieces – we now know it is entirely fondant icing.
We shared it around and there were just these small pieces left… which soon disappeared.
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!
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.
Unfortunately the red isn’t quite the same shade as the Lukendeckel red, but if I cycle fast enough no-one should notice!
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…
My reward was to enjoy a couple of these very tasty pufferkes. Yum!
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!
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.
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.
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.
And the view inside – a boom leading to… nothing!
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.
Christian cleaned up my pedals and fitted them to the cranks, then we were ready to fit the new part into Millie.
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!
And here it is 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