Tag Archives: Schwalmtal

Churches in Kreis Viersen 61-70

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

Churches visited this time

Churches in Kreis Viersen 61-70

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

61. Neuapostolische Kirche, Willich

Franz-Liszt-Straße 9, 47877 Willich
http://www.nak-krefeld.de/site/startseite/gemeinden/willich/

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

Willich NAK 1

Willich NAK 2

Auferstehungskirche, Willich

Krusestraße 20, 47877 Willich
http://www.emmaus-willich.de/auferstehungskirche

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

Auferstehungskirche Willich

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

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

Auferstehungskirche Willich 2

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

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

63. St Michael, Waldniel

Niederstraße 31, 41366 Schwalmtal
http://www.sankt-michael-waldniel.de/

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

Waldniel Church

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

64. Kapelle St Maria an der Heiden, Overhetfeld

An der Kapelle, 41372 Niederkrüchten-Overhetfeld
http://www.sankt-laurentius-elmpt.de/

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

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 17.11.33

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

Overhetfeld Kapelle St Maria an der Heiden

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

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

65. St Martin, Oberkrüchten

Kirchstr., 41372 Niederkrüchten
http://www.katholische-kirche-niederkruechten.de/

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

Breyell St Lambertus

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

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

St Martin Oberkruechten

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

St Martin Oberkruechten interior

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

66. St Sebastian, Lobberich

An St. Sebastian 33, 41334 Nettetal
http://www.lobberich.de/stsebastian/

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

St Sebastian Lobberich

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

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

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

67. Evangelische Kirche, Elmpt

Schillerstr. 1, 41372 Niederkrüchten
http://www.kirche-brueggen-elmpt.de/Kirche-Brueggen-Elmpt

This was the church visited on my 126km cycle ride, whose route was as follows:
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Stopping to photograph this church almost led to me being flattened by a woman pulling out of a side driveway (as mentioned here). But I survived!

Evangelische Kirche Elmpt 1

Evangelische Kirche Elmpt 2

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

68. Georg Kapelle, Brempt

https://www.niederkruechten.de/C12574B8002AED90/html/64BA69CCF8017F1AC12576CB00468175?OpenDocument

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

As is the chapel itself.

Georg Kapelle Brempt

Georg Kapelle Brempt 2

The website describes the following:

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

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

69. St Anton, Schwalmtal

http://www.sankt-anton-schwalmtal.de/

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

St Anton Schwalmtal 1

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


which, translated into German, is

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

70. St Bartholomaus, Niederkrüchten

Dr.-Lindemann-Str. 3, 41372 Niederkrüchten
http://www.katholische-kirche-niederkruechten.de/

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

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

St Bartholomaus Niederkruechten

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

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

Churches in Kreis Viersen 1-70

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

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

Alfie does the Tour des Monats im Kreis Viersen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my track for the day.

Waldniel Track

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

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

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

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

Waldniel Church

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

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

Setting off from Waldniel

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

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

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

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

German cyclists - elektro

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

Being TEC

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

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

Anstaltsfriedhof plaque

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

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

Woodland riding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penelope goes to Schwalmtal

I’ve now had Penelope the Versatile Velomobile with me for a week and have done a reasonable amount of riding in her to slowly get the hang of riding a velomobile rather than my recumbent trike. She and I had done 73 fairly easy miles and apart from a slight bit of pain in my knees (which isn’t uncommon but meant that I didn’t do much riding over the weekend to give them a rest) I was enjoying my new mode of transport.

One thing I did need to get for her was a decent lock – the curly Abus lock I have for Alfie is a bit inconvenient for a velomobile. Alex, who sold me Penelope, had an excellent chain system which worked really well so I decided to buy a lock like that myself. It was an extra bargain when I discovered that German ebay sells pink chains!

Penelope's lock

The way that this is used (that Alex showed me) works really well – the lock is fixed around the structural metal T-piece that attaches the seat to the velomobile.

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And then you shut the lid, pull the chain through and attach it to a handy lamp post or railing.

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This is very secure and has the additional bonus that people can’t open the lid of the velomobile and get in.

Anyway, today was to be a longer ride. Friends Gabriele and Rolf, who I’d met in England last year on LEL, agreed for us all to meet at Rolf’s house in Schwalmtal. I would cycle over from Kempen, Gabriele had a rather longer ride from Bonn (but she’s a very fast audaxer). The plan was to meet at 3:30 and as it was 20 miles there I thought it best to give myself two hours as it would be my first long ride with the velomobile.

Rolf had plotted me a recommended route (well, he had supplied two, so I decide to use both, one each way) and this is my outward journey:

Outward route

I stopped off at the Griesson de Beukelaer factory in Kempen to buy some easter choccies for Rolf and Gabriele.

I then made the mistake of trying to take the cycle route ring that goes around Kempen slightly outside the main centre. It’s a great route on a normal bike or on Alfie but it had rather too many gates to stop cars which were very tricky in Penelope. In the end I gave up and used the main roads.

On the way out of Kempen I found myself waiting for ages at a traffic light, only to realise that this one did require you to press the button (the ones in Kempen itself tend to have a lights phase for bikes anyway). This can be tricky in a velomobile but fortunately I have long arms!

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Whilst I was waiting for the lights I had a message from Lara, who lives downstairs, to say that Poppy was helping her with the lawn mowing.

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I thought I might be out for rather a long time so asked Lara if she would take Poppy out to the garden late in the afternoon – Poppy was clearly getting a much more interesting expedition. Lara also took her for a walk later which was great, and then Gudula (the landlady) took her out for another walk!

My ride went through Oedt and then on very quiet roads to Hagenbroich. So far the ride was fine and I was extremely glad I had the velomobile because of the weather. Today was a super-windy day with forecasted gusts of up to 40mph/60kmh. It was certainly a very strong wind which also brought with it occasional rain showers but the velomobile is just the right sort of vehicle for this –  you stay warm and mostly dry and the wind doesn’t have that much of an effect.

I had debated whether to put the roof on the Versatile for this trip but thought that as the wind was so strong it might be best not to (Peter told me his roof had once blown off). Besides, the sun was shining most of the time. During the sharp showers that rained on me a couple of times I just zipped up the cover around my neck, put a hat on and I stayed comfy and dry and warm. Much, much better than on exposed Alfie!

After Hagenbroich I started to climb – and climb, and climb. I thought Niederrhein was flat! But no, there was a quite significant hill, and I found that the Versatile’s lowest gear wasn’t as low as I’d like. I wished for one or two lower gears but had to make do with what I had, winching myself up slowly.

You can see the elevation profile for the entire ride (there and back) here:

Elevation profile

The green lines are my speed and the red lines my heart rate. But you can clearly see that first significant hill!

I felt pretty knackered after climbing that but then had the delight of the accompanying downhill which was tempered by the gusty wind which blew Penelope around a bit. It was a slightly white-knuckled descent but I managed it. I notice my maximum speed today was 24.1mph so that’s not actually that fast – on a straight, smooth road on a non windy day I would have done much better!

The last bit of the journey through the Schwalmtal area had rather bumpier roads which were mostly quiet tracks (I was following Rolf’s route) and the blowing dust off the fields made it quite hard work. I realised I wouldn’t be there at 3:30pm but ended up only being ten minutes late. Gabriele was already there and drinking tea with Rolf – when I arrived the cakes made an appearance:

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Very yummy! Rolf had also made a cheese and bacon quiche for us!

I selected this chocolate cream cake slice to have with my Tetley Tea.

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We had a really good chat, organised our plan to go to Spezi (the German weird bike exhibition) in a fortnight’s time, discussed the things I have been unable to find here (decent potato peeler, non-expensive towelling bathrobe, cutlery drainer) and where I might find these elusive items.

After our chat we had worked up an appetite again so it was time for Cake Slice 2. This time we went for half slices and I went for the healthy fruit option – some apple cake. Yum! (There was a pear in my previous chocolate/cream cake so that was pretty healthy too, really).

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It was approaching 6:30 so time for us to get back – Gabriele had a four hour ride back to Bonn (100km away) and I had my 30km ride that would take me two hours (or so I thought!)

Gabriele first showed me that she had learned to get in and out of her Quest XS velomobile without using her hands. Rolf and I agreed that neither of us were gymnastic enough to do this!

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Gabriele has Busch & Müller IQ lights in the front of her Quest – this is a tempting upgrade as the lights on Penelope are a bit of a disappointment compared to Alfie’s B&M IQ light.

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Here’s Rolf peering at Penelope as Gabriele is about to set off.

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We left together but Gabriele turned right where I turned left after just 100 metres so I was on my own, hoping to get back before dark (8:30pm).

This was my route back, slightly different and including the old railway line from Nettetal-Lobberich to Grefrath.

Return route

So I headed off, hoping that the return route would be less hilly. And it was – the railway route smooths it all out nicely!

But I am getting ahead of myself – here I am at the top of a short gradient (which seemed extremely hard work) to get onto a bridge over the motorway, the A51, looking at what should be a nice speedy downhill.

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Except it wasn’t. Bump Bump Bump went my left tyre – a familiar sound. Oh dear.

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A puncture. I’d probably had it for a while but had been riding so slowly that it didn’t really notice but it did explain why the incline had felt so hard!

So I did my first puncture repair on Penelope. Peter had made me this fantastic little wooden chock thingie to lift the wheel off the ground and it worked excellently. I popped the disc cover off the wheel (it’s just fabric stretched over a hoop) and took the tyre off. The tyre was a Schwalbe Tryker and didn’t look in that good condition really – there were threads showing at the edges. I found a massive flint that had pierced the tyre and also cleaned out a few other minor stones. Trykers have RaceGuard rather than GreenGuard puncture protection and it was easy to see that it is less robust than the GreenGuard on the normal Marathons.

Still, it only took me ten minutes and the rain held off until I’d finished and was back in the warm Velomobile.

Here is a rainbow over the hill I was about to climb.

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…except that this version of Rolf’s route took a very long, winding approach to the hill so that it wasn’t really that noticeable. I was soon on the disused railway bike path and with the wind now nearer my tail I whizzed along briefly, enjoying (for a two mile stretch) an average of 14mph, much faster than my normal 10.5-11.5mph speed.

Until I had to stop for this.

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This was actually quite a significant problem. With Alfie I could lift him over, Penelope is too heavy. I had a go at dragging the branch but it wasn’t going to work – it was still largely attached to the tree.

In the end I had to drag Penelope backwards past the top end of the branches (the right hand side of this photo) but it was all a bit nasty and there were some unpleasant graunching sounds against her paintwork (which appeared, fortunately, to be unmarked).

Still, I had overcome that obstacle and I rode on through Grefrath, heading out then on a main road (not the rest of the railway route this time) to the western side of Kempen.

The going seemed to be pretty tough again, especially as the wind was at my eight o’clock so should be helping. I stopped to check the front left tyre again.

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Another one.

So I changed the tube again, pumped it up, then faffed about a bit with my phone (which was running out of battery and getting its knickers in a twist). I texted my landlady to say I was delayed and I hoped Poppy was OK – she said Poppy was sitting on her lap watching TV so was clearly OK! She said she could come and rescue me if I wanted but I replied that I was fine – punctures aren’t that big a deal. I plugged my phone into my battery charger, then before I got in I checked the tyre again – it had partially deflated! Oh no!

I couldn’t face changing it AGAIN, without having moved an inch, so I pumped it up again and headed off. After about 400 metres I had to stop to put some more air in. I carried on again, this time I had to put more air in at 300 metres and the valve had gone rather wonky. I managed to ride to the pedestrian bit of Kempen (another 200 metres) before I had to stop. At least now there were shops with lights on (as it was now dusk) so I wheeled Penelope to a particularly bright shop (which was closed but had lights on) and put her up on Peter’s excellent chock and changed the tube again to my third and final one.

I found the puncture – it was in an entirely different place to the first one and the second one. Weird!

I had four miles to go and wasn’t at all sure if I’d get there with an inflated tyre – experience suggested not. The Tryker tyre had not appreciated being run flat and I’d need to change it when I got home (I had two replacement Marathons in the garage so that wouldn’t be a problem).

So I put the tube in more in hope than expectation, pumped it up and zoomed off as quickly as possible, on the most direct route, often in the road rather than on the cycle path. I had all my lights on now as it was dark.

When I stopped at some traffic lights there were a few  youths on bikes beside me. I asked one of them if he could see if I had a puncture (you can’t see the wheels from inside Penelope) and he said no. Phew!

I pedalled on, lifting the lid so I could lean out to check the tyre at the next traffic lights (still up!) I rode on, getting nearer and nearer home.

When I turned into Escheln for the final mile I was very relieved – it looked like I would be OK on my third and final replacement tube. And indeed I was, I made it to the garage with three inflated tyres. I was feeling pretty knackered by now, as you can imagine.

Here are the various readings every two miles for this trip – including heart rate and calories burned. You can see that 33-34 miles I burned loads of calories – I think that was partly through riding on a flat tyre and then having to pump it up a lot!

Here it is in imperial:

HR data etc in Imperial

And here’s the metric version for you continental types!

HR data etc in MetricI put Penelope in the garage, leaving all the holey tubes stuffed behind her seat. That’s the great thing about a velomobile – there’s loads of space for stuff!

Although I’d had a rather hard work journey home, I’m not sure I would have attempted the journey at all on Alfie with the weather forecast. The wind would have been really evil in an open recumbent and the rain wouldn’t have been much fun either. Gabriele commented to me that with a velomobile you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing as you’re always warm enough and you don’t get wet. I tend to get quite smelly when I ride Alfie in the winter because of the waterproof jacket which is rather boil-in-the-bag, even though it’s a good quality breathable one. I did all my riding today in just a cycling t-shirt and light cycling trousers and was always warm enough. However I do need to carry a waterproof jacket in case I get a puncture in the rain!

When I got back Poppy was still in with Gudula. She seemed pleased to see me and came up to my apartment with me and promptly fell asleep. She’s totally shattered and hasn’t moved for two hours, she has just been cuddled up to the imaginitively-named Bear.

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It was great to see Rolf and Gabriele and do a bit of a longer journey in Penelope. My knees held up OK too, although they might complain a bit tomorrow. Total distance travelled: 37.72 miles in 3 hours 44 minutes. The Garmin switched off for about half a mile so those figures are a slight under-read but that’s OK. Average speed 10.1 mph, lots of which is me riding on a flat tyre. And the best news of all – 2,490 calories burned. That’s more calories than were in the cakes I consumed!

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