Tag Archives: Steintrikes

Steintrikes Wild One – Changing The Front Wheels

Klaus, with whom I regularly cycle, has a Steintrikes Wild One trike from Bike Revolution in Austria.

To read Klaus’s report on his wheel change, written some months after the event, you can go here (as long as you can read German): http://3-rad.blogspot.de/2015/05/km-11214-austausch-der-vorderrader.html

The Steintrikes is available in lots of different formats including a 26 inch or 20 inch rear wheel and for the front wheels 18 or 20 inches. Klaus originally chose 18 inches and thought the trike handled really well. However over time he discovered the limitations of 18 inches – not in terms of the trike but the options for different types of tyres. He could basically choose between Schwalbe Kojak, Schwalbe Marathon or Schwalbe Marathon Plus. The Kojaks didn’t last very long, the Marathons gave a great ride, and the Marathon Plus were never in the frame as they are so heavy.

But Klaus was continually toying with the idea of upgrading to 20 inch wheels and when the wheel bearings failed on his trike he decided to go ahead and order the new wheels (which also meant he had to order new mudguards to fit too).

Bike Revolution is a fairly small company run by the amusing and lively Thomas Seide but sometimes it takes a little while for spare parts to arrive. The wheels were ordered but the new mudguards took a little longer to manufacture, but eventually everything was ready and dispatched to Klaus.

Parcel has arrived

Unfortunately (for me) this was on a Wednesday which was my choir day. However I was really interested to see and help the wheel change event so decided to skip choir for that week and to be Bicycle Technician Assistant (and Photographer).

Changing from 18 inch wheels to 20 inch wheels

Klaus had prepared well for this job, making his own bespoke measuring tool for when we had to do the tracking. This is because with the different wheel size there would be a change in the tracking requirement and it involves measuring the wheel alignment from front to back.

Tracking rod

The tracking tool was an aluminium rod with a screw each end which could be screwed in or out and a nut to keep it in position – so a set width could be measured. He had also added a mark on the midpoint of the aluminium rod to help with wheel positioning.

Measuring Tool 1

So everything was ready – here is the box with wheels, tyres, tubes, screwdriver etc.

Wheels tyres tubes

And here is Killer (his name for the trike) ready to have his new wheels.

Ready to start

We removed the first wheel.

First wheel off

Here you can see the dead wheel bearing – worn away for some unfathomable reason. It runs really rough when you turn it with your finger.

Dead wheel bearing

The second wheel was removed – the bearing this side was not as bad but was still a bit rough so evidently failing. The two inner bearings (one on each wheel) appeared OK.

We then had to remove the mudguards which is a bit fiddly with the Steintrikes (compared to the very easy removal of the ICE Trike mudguards). It is a much easier job when there are two of you so we sorted it fairly efficiently. And then also the brake calipers.

Killer was now up on blocks.

Killer on blocks

Killer on blocks 2

The next job was to remove the disc rotors from the old wheel. I hope I never have to do this to my wheels as the bolts have rusted in place completely; Klaus’s bolts required a good bit of force from the screwdriver but eventually they all came undone. Phew!

Removing the disc rotors

Here’s one of the old wheels laid onto the new tyre to show how much larger the 20 inch wheels are:

Old wheel and new wheel

Once the disc rotors were removed we fitted them to the new wheels.

Putting the disc rotors on the new wheels

The lovely shiny new wheels had rather unshiny disc rotors. But we knew the wheels would get dirty soon enough!

The next job was to clean the axle area, now we could see it, and apply a bit of grease.

Cleaning and preparing the axle

Both wheels slipped on very easily and were tightened in place. Then they were lowered onto a bit of plastic to protect the edges of the rims before they had the tyres on. It is best to do the tracking without the tyres in place.

The start of the tracking

Wheels on tracks 1

Unfortunately Bike Revolution had sent no information about how actually to do the tracking. However common sense, plus experience from doing it on Alfie, meant we were pretty sure we knew what to do. Although because Killer has front suspension we knew it would be a little different.

The first thing to do was to measure the gap between the front of the wheels and see if the gap between the back of the wheels was the same.

Klaus with measuring stick 2

There was enough of a difference that we felt we needed to adjust the tracking. We did it with Klaus sitting on the seat so his weight would have the splaying effect on the suspension. There was about a 6mm difference in total which we felt was too much (ICE say 3mm is a good amount, in other words the gap between the wheels is 3mm narrower at the front than the back).

The way you adjust this on the ICE trikes is very simple – you undo the bolt at each end of the track rod and turn the rod and it extends or contracts the track rod until you have the right size, then you do the bolts back up again. However we discovered that this doesn’t seem to work on the Wild One – rotating the track rod made no difference. So Option 2 was to remove one end of the track rod from the mounting and then turn it so that it extended slightly.

This involved undoing a nut and bolt that were quite fiddly, with several tiny washers.

Removing screw for track rods

We rotated the track rode end two full revolutions, put it back together, did the same to the other side and then measured again. We decided that we had gone half a revolution too far so undid both sides again, rotated them back 180 degrees, and then put everything together again.

Klaus with measuring stick 1

This time, with the measuring, we had got it very well sorted! We decided it was good enough, certainly to test ride for a while.

It was then time to put the tyres on.

Fitting the first tyre

The Schwalbe Energizer Pros look surprisingly large!

It was then time for the second tyre, which took longer as Klaus’s track pump decided to briefly fall apart. But he fixed that and then both tyres were done.

Ready for the second tyre

The first seat on the new trike with wheels – it seemed bouncier than normal!

Sitting on new wheels

Although the brakes still weren’t attached Klaus went for a bit of a ride around the front of his house – first impressions were very good!

Killer looked surprisingly different with these new wheels. Much bigger and beefier.

Killer with new wheels

Now it was time to do the slightly fiddly brake caliper job. The old caliper settings weren’t right for the new wheels so we did the fiddling about with it all until it was reasonably correct.

Setting up the brakes

Another test ride – the trike rides really well!

We then fitted the new mudguards. Well, they had only sent the mounting brackets, not the mudguard sections, so we reused the old ones (but had to drill new holes as the brackets are different). This was slightly sub-optimal again, a bit disappointing that Bike Revolution hadn’t sent everything we needed.

And another thing to swap from the old wheels to the new – the spoke reflectors!

Adding the spoke reflectors

Adding the spoke reflectors 2

Everything was now complete. Klaus went for another ride around – he had to adjust the mudguard brackets a bit as the tyres were rubbing slightly on the mudguards (they are quite large tyres) but he got it reasonably well done.

Here he is looking very happy with his new trike wheels!

Job done

The first rides

As you can see from the photographs above, it was dusk by the time we had finished so he only had a quick ride. But the next day was a mill-bagging ride so a chance to really experience the new wheels.

Klaus’s immediate comment was that the trike feels really, really different. He felt that it rolled better, it had the same turning circle but perhaps was slightly different actually into the corners when riding fast.

As someone who regularly rides behind him or beside him, the trike actually looks very different as the underneath metalwork is now horizontal. Previously it sloped down towards the front wheels. And the fact that the wheels are slightly larger and the tyres are fatter really makes a notable visual difference. I think the trike looks more balanced with the larger wheels.

We rode again the next day, a longer ride to the Netherlands, and again he was really happy with how it felt. Some of the difference in feeling might be because of the different type of tyre but overall it felt stable (something that is important to Klaus) and it rolled really well. He had to do fine tweaks to the brakes as usual when you make a big change but all was going very well.

The new rim goes kaputt

Two days later it was time for another ride, this time also with Claudia and Lara so at a more leisurely pace. But at a nice ninety degree corner on a sandy track he enjoyed zooming round the corner, with me behind him… but then it appeared he had a puncture. He felt the trike wasn’t rolling right. But the tyre was still inflated!

The tyre had definitely looked wobbly to me so we checked for a broken spoke (what I thought the problem must be) but they were all fine – very tight in fact.

It didn’t take long for me to notice that the nice, smooth rim seemed to have ripples all round the spoke holes.

Dodgy felge 1

Dodgy felge 2

Dodgy felge 3

This was only on one side but clearly the spokes had deformed the metal of the rim.

This was a huge blow to Klaus who had been off the trike for three weeks waiting for the wheels and wheel bearings to arrive and had been so enjoying riding it again. He tried to adjust some of the spoke tensions to re-true the wheel enough for the ride home but they were so tight that this was only partially possible. A quick diagnosis was that the spokes were too tight and the stress of the corner (at less than 15 km/h) had deformed the metal. Clearly the rims were made of something more like cheese than metal – they had certainly felt a lot thinner than the old rims (and the rims on Alfie – still going strong after 40,000km and after I took the corner at the same speed).

So Klaus sent an email to Bike Revolution to explain what had happened to the new wheels and I took the old 18 inch wheels home with me, along with the two new bearings (they actually needed four not two, but two of the existing bearings were in a reasonable state) in the hope that I could find a bike shop to swap them out for me. This would mean we would have to refit the 18 inch wheels and go through all the brakes and tracking and mudguard adjustment again – but at least he would have a bike he could ride for an exciting long ride we had planned in six days’ time.

Options for new wheels

Klaus is not one to faff about so he decided to find some alternative options to the Steintrikes wheels, just in case.

He commented to me that he would be interested to know how much ICE would charge to build the wheels, seeing as I had ridden without issues on mine. So I sent them an email, including the photos of the deformed rims, and received the following reply just a short while later from the ever-helpful Neil Selwood:

Hi Helen,
Certainly looks like a case of rims made of cheese.

They seem to be single wall which is not necessarily bad (that is what we use at the moment) but it does look as though the material is either too thin or not of a sufficient grade and treatment of aluminium.

I can’t see from your pictures what the lacing pattern is but the less the crossing then potentially the higher the tension can end up needing to be to keep the wheel in line. Higher tension would deform the rim sooner obviously.

I don’t think we are particularly skilled or have some black art for building stronger and longer lasting wheels than anyone else doing a decent job. We just use appropriate materials and build carefully to a sufficient standard.

There is no question that we could build wheels stronger or with more accurate tensioning or straighter but what we do is generally suitable.
We have always been running with single wall rims on our sprints and adventures which are generally fine. A few issues will come up but they are well within acceptable limits.

Recently we noticed using our single wall rim on a hub motor system with low spoke crossing that on a 26″ wheel the rim was too flexy. Investigating this the rim turns out to be more flexy in itself than many other options. So we have selected a new rim primarily for the 26″ wheels but due to the mix and match nature of our wheel sets we are spreading those across the models as stocks switch over. The new rim is quite similar looking to what we have now but is box section and with some nice eyelets and just a little heavier than what we have now.

I am telling you all this to suggest that given suitable rims any good (and willing) bike shop would probably be able to rebuild his wheels at a price a good bit less than it would be from us.

I have attached a quotation including shipping the wheels back. Just one point – we only have 36 hole rims so if his hubs are 32 hole then we cannot help.

The price from ICE was competitive but his hubs are 32-hole so this would unfortunately not work.

Klaus had also investigated a company called Gingko Feine Veloteile who make lots of bits for trikes and velomobiles and other weird bikes. He sent them an email asking about the wheels and got an excellently-comprehensive answer back.

They provided plenty of information about what they would use, which included more elastic spokes which give a bit more cushioning and they’re only slightly more expensive. The price was higher than ICE Trikes’ quote but overall still within acceptable limits.

The third response was from Bike Revolution, the suppliers of the original wheels, saying that new wheels would be on their way shortly.

Repairing and refitting the old 18 inch wheels

Since the new rim deformed it was a matter of urgency to get the old wheels back into service.

As Klaus spends all day pretending to work at a desk, I offered to take the wheels and see if I could find a bike shop who could change the bearings (as I was able to get out and about during the day). So I took the wheels home with me on Sunday and started to think of a plan of action.

Which was entirely overtaken by Frank, my landlord, who’s a car mechanic and excellent all-round chap.

He had a look at the wheels. I showed him that there were four bearings, two of which were OK and two shot. I showed him the two replacement bearings from Thomas Seide and he said “that’s not enough, you’ll have to change all four”. I was not convinced by this, but I had a quick google and discovered that the 6001RS bearings aren’t particularly uncommon so I thought I ought to be able to pick some up from a parts shop in Kempen. They cost about 2,50€ each so hardly a big investment.

However Frank then told me he would make some phone calls first thing the next morning about the bearings. OK, I thought, that’s useful as I’m not great on the phone due to being (a) half deaf, and (b) English.

The next morning when I went downstairs Frank and the wheels had disappeared. He reappeared several hours later without the wheels and reported “I checked with three bike shops, one in St Hubert, one in Kempen and one in St Tönis. The one in St Tönis can change the bearings and they will do it this afternoon or tomorrow.”

The next day Frank went to work as usual and I headed off to the VHS before he returned home. But I had a message from Gudula later to say the wheels were back and all sorted.

When I got home they were waiting for me on the stairs – two wheels with completely new bearings (four new ones – the two from Thomas and two others) and a bag with the four old ones.

Wheels with new bearings

Here is a close up of the four old bearings – I can see now why Frank insisted all four needed to be changed. They were all a right mess!

Old Kugellager 1

Old Kugellager 2

What is noticeable with the wheels is that one of the four new ones is less smooth than the other three. I’m not sure why this is, as they felt normal before they were fitted, but they are a colossal improvement from before and will hopefully provide many thousands of kilometres more service (not that will need to as he will be back on 20 inch wheels soon).

So the next thing was to return the wheels so Klaus could refit them. The obvious time was before Choir on Wednesday when I usually have a spot of tea at their house before going with Claudia to choir. Only I wanted to go by bike rather than car – so it seemed a good idea to see if I could fit the wheels into Penelope or strap them onto Alfie’s rack.

The answer is…

Wheels in Penelope 1

Wheels In Penelope 2

Wheels In Penelope 3

Yes.

However I was saved the effort of cycling with them (and possibly discovering I couldn’t steer) as Klaus picked the wheels up on his way back from work.

This enabled him to get the wheels changed once again, which he did in just half an hour.

Changing the wheels again

He didn’t bother adjusting the tracking or changing the mudguards over to the smaller ones, so the change just involved removing the disc rotors and fitting them on the replacement wheels and adjusting the brakes.

Here’s a picture of the two wheels side-by-side so you can see the size difference.

Two wheels

And this is what the trike looked like with the 18 inch wheels and 20 inch mudguards

Small wheels big mudguards

Mudguards and wheels

We had an enjoyable 30km cycle ride with his family, discovering a rather nice new Bauerncafé near Tönisvorst. Somewhere to visit again! The 18 inch wheels performed well although Klaus said they felt really different to the 20 inch ones. However they also rolled a lot better than before (because of the new bearings) so that was a very worthwhile change.

I’ve asked Klaus to try to describe the difference in feel between the two wheels but it’s quite tricky to put into words except the 20 inch feel a bit more forgiving (because of longer spokes, presumably), and they roll over some bumps more easily. The original idea that the 20 inch wheels roll better was more likely to be a result of the bad bearings on the old 18 inch wheels.

As a result of the bearing issue, I took the front left hand wheel off Alfie (the only normal wheel – the right hand side one is the SON dynohub) to check my bearings after 40,000km. They were fine, one perhaps marginally less smooth than the others, but nothing to worry about at all. They are also the same type as Klaus’s bearings. And in face he experimented putting my wheel on his trike (for the fun of it) and also using my axle (which is very slightly too short).

The difference in the axles may possibly have contributed to the bearing failure on the Steintrikes. On the ICE Sprint the bearings are recessed in the hub and the end of the axle is a flat section that encloses them completely from the elements. The Steintrikes axle is a giant bolt with a hexagon end and a rubber cap that goes over that, but it is possible that water can get in around the edge of the rubber cap and touch the bearings. So perhaps this is why, or perhaps it was just bad luck. I guess he’ll find out after 10,000km on the new wheels.

The replacement 20 inch wheels arrive

The day after this ride the replacement 20 inch wheels arrived – hurray!

Here is a shot of Killer wearing the 18 inch wheels so the right hand side (front) of the frame is nearer to the ground than the rear section (left hand side).

Downward Slope 1

And here is my attempt at a comparative shot with the 20 inch wheels – where the underside of the frame is horizontal (as opposed to sloping downward).

Killer with 20 inch wheels

And here is a close-up of the 20 inch wheel, fitting rather better within the overall mudguard shape.

Killer's new wheels

You can see a slight red tinge around the centre of the wheel – this is a slight view of the wheel bearing (they are red on these new wheels). You can see the bearing on the inward side of the axle too. This leads to the question as to whether the bearing being slightly exposed leads to its early failure, as opposed to a concealed bearing (such as I have on my ICE trike) having possibilities of failing if water gets in and cannot get out. With the exposed bearing water can get out as well as in. The proof will be in the pudding – if these wheel bearings remain OK we can put the failure of the bearings on the 18 inch wheels down to defective manufacture or bad luck; if these start wearing early then it’s perhaps a sub-optimal design in the hub. We haven’t heard of other Steintrikes bearing failures so perhaps it was a one-off. It is worth remembering that I had to change the bearings in one of the wheels on my old Trice Q after about 35,000km, although the others have been OK (and on Alfie all seems OK).

We did a test ride of 107km on the new wheels and they performed very well. Although the rims look like they are the same as the others, the hope is that the spoke lacing is a little kinder and so hopefully all will be well with them.

The wheel change turned into a bit of a project and took longer than initially expected, with a few hiccups along the way, but as Klaus says he is now expert at adjusting disc brakes and also he feels like he has had three completely different bikes – the 18 inch wheels shod with Kojak tyres had one feel, when he switched to Marathon tyres the trike felt really different and now with the new size wheels and different tyres again (Energizer Pro) he has once again a completely different trike. It’s clearly been a fun experience for him trying out all the various options of tyres and it is noteworthy how much they change the feel of the trike. I found the same with Kojaks on my trike.

5 Comments

Filed under Trike maintenance, Trikes & Velomobiles

Alfie rides the Sauerlandradring

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

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

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

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

The description of the Sauerlandradring is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0607

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

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

beschilderung-sauerlandradring

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

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.17.39

And here is the elevation profile of the GPS track.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.17.55

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

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

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

IMG_0612

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

IMG_0620

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

IMG_0615

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

IMG_0616

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

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

IMG_0622

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

IMG_0627

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

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

IMG_0629

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

IMG_0632

IMG_0631

More mystery railway memorabilia.

IMG_0633

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0635

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

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

IMG_0636

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

This was the result…

IMG_0634

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

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

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

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 12.26.37

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

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

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

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

IMG_0640

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

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

DSC00002

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0645

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

Helen on the Sauerlandradring

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

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

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

IMG_0652

Klaus had a cheesecake.

Klaus's cheesecake

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

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

IMG_0653

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

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

IMG_0654

IMG_0656

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

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

IMG_0660

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

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

6 Comments

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

Alfie rides the Vennbahnradweg

Sunday 14 September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trikes in VW Bus 1

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

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

Trikes in Aachen

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

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

Vennbahnradweg Track

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

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 10.42.07

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

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

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

Regular signage

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

Vennbahn Info

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

Low sun and mist

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

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

Misty Railway Crossing

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

Trike in morning mist

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

Mist clearing

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

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

Regular station nameplates

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

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

Monschau info board

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

Monschau Seating area

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

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 09.17.15

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

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

Cake in Monschau

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

Bridge over the Rur in Monschau 1

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

Bridge over the Rur in Monschau

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

Monschau cobbles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uphill out of Monschau

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

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

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

Belgian Schotter

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

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

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

Emergency Chocolate

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

View from on high

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

Turning Point

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

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

There were some interesting place names underway.

Sourbrodt

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

Umleitung-Idiotie

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

Downhill in dusk

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

Train bike

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

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

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

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

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

Anja's Imbiss

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

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

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

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

Belgian Currywurst with Frites

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

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

Regular signage

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

More Schotter

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

Bahnhof Lammersdorf

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

Getting dark

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

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

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

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

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

Back at the start

Here is the proof from my Garmin in Imperial.

Trip Computer Imperial

And in metric.

Trip computer Metric

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

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

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

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

Total statistics for this ride:

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

1 Comment

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

Alfie goes to the Maas River

The weather in Germany has turned hot.

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

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

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

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

trike in car

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

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

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 12.58.53

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

Screen shot 2014-07-18 at 13.01.31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alfie at 20,000 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maas Ferry at Reuver

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

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

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

Trikes on Maas Ferry

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

Trikes at tea stop

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

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

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

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

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

Roundabout in NL somewhere

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

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

Bridge crossing at Venlo

You feel well separated from the traffic which is good.

Trikes and traffic crossing Venlo bridge

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

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

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

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

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

Distsance Data combined

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

elevation data

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

6 Comments

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

Alfie goes to Burg Linn, Krefeld

It’s a while since I’ve written up a trip on Alfie. This is partly because I’ve been using Penelope more but also because a lot of my Alfie trips have been as part of my Churches in Kreis Viersen challenge and so I haven’t written them up separately.

Today I decided that I would write a short blog post about Alfie’s trip to Burg Linn in Krefeld.

Krefeld is about eight miles from my home in St Hubert so that seemed a bit too near so instead of just riding there from home I put Alfie in the car and drove him 15 miles away. This time I would not be riding alone, I would be guided on my route by Klaus, who cycles on a Steintrikes Wild One recumbent trike.

(I shall mention here that Klaus has written a blog post – in German – about our ride last week which involved a nice downhill. If you want to read it then his blog is here, and it has a Google Translate option built in which does make for some rather amusing reading as it’s pretty inaccurate in places).

Klaus lives in Viersen so I arrived and opened the boot of the car to let Alfie out.

trike in car

I lifted him out and then unfolded him and discovered something wasn’t quite right – the chain tube had come adrift from the idler and a bit of double-sided velcro that holds the whole lot to the general hinge area had also come off.

I had got some help to lift Alfie into the car so I guess the helper grabbed onto the wrong bit. I had the mucky (back) end for that procedure and ended up with oil all over my arm.

Anyway, I wheeled Alfie to Klaus’s front door and then started to effect my repairs with a bit of help from the tame engineer. Fixing the chain tube back into the idler just required me to get oily hands and Klaus was able to reattach the velcro thingie (although it came undone later, although didn’t seem to be too much of a problem).

Klaus had prepared a route for us to take to Burg Linn which included a pretty direct route back through Krefeld. This was partly to save time as there was a lively electric storm forecasted and we wanted to get back before then – the flags on the trikes can be rather effective lightning conductors!

This is the route that we rode, doing the southerly section on the way to Krefeld.

Screen shot 2014-07-10 at 22.57.18

We started off wiggling our way to the south of Anrath but actually came upon a bit of a traffic jam at one point with other cyclists. Klaus is more polite than me and waited behind them for a bit; I would usually ring my bell and try to get past quickly.

Traffic jam in Neersen

We continued on, with Klaus leading the way most of the time on these familiar routes for him. The poor chap is getting used to me saying “I can see a church on my Garmin that I haven’t visited” and lo and behold one appeared on the bike satnav screen so I twisted his arm to take a photo of me outside the church to the north of Willich (more about this church on the other blog pages of course).

Helen at Willich Pfarrkirche St Mariae

I was desperately hoping no-one would suddenly start ringing those bells whilst I was under them.

We continued on in what was very weird weather – hot and sultry, following some huge rainstorms the day before. I learned a new German word – schwül – which means humid, muggy, sticky and is not to be confused with schwul which means gay. It becomes clear that I can’t properly hear the difference between the ü and u (which may explain why I am rubbish at saying Süchtelner Höhen) so I might have to avoid discussions about the weather or sexuality to prevent confusion.

This section of the ride, skirting Willich and then going through the outskirts of Krefeld, was less scenic than some of our other rides but had the advantage of fewer mosquitoes!

Huexhoff

It didn’t seem long (although was about 30km) before Burg Linn became visible in the distance.

Approaching Burg Linn

It’s a large castle that was built by/for some duke (Klaus’s tour guide skills need a bit of brushing up as he was very vague about it all) and looks very impressive. However before we got there we had a sudden stop along a path to chat to a chap and his dog.

trikes and dog at Burg Linn

the very nice doggie (a deutsche Pinscher) is in the photo above. It turns out the chap used to work with Klaus years ago so they had a good chat, catching up and discussing cycling (of course). I chatted to the doggie who had some kind of GPS tracker around her neck which can be activated if she runs off after hares or something so they can find her. Except she apparently regularly loses the collar so they have to activate it, follow the point on their phones until they find it in the middle of some mystery field somewhere. That’s modern technology for you…

After we’d chatted a bit to this chap (whose name escapes me) we carried on round to Burg Linn.

Burg Linn

It’s a really impressive place with a lake and moat and probably only a mile or so from the Rhein. Here is Alfie and the Wild One (as yet unnamed) outside. Alfie is wearing a German flag today (as well as the Union Jack) in honour of the German World Cup football team who are playing in the final this Sunday.

trikes at Burg Linn 1

We were parked in a little open courtyard place with interesting buildings all around.

trikes at Burg Linn 2

More trike shots.

trikes at Burg Linn 3

After spending five minutes off the trikes it was time to get going again to beat the storm. Our route back was going to be through Krefeld which isn’t the nicest of cities but we started off along a grassy path beside the tram which was quite good, although we’d taken a couple of wrong turns to get there. Klaus’s app does occasional rerouting when you’re not expecting it and I was distracted by some men in uniform (Policemen) by the side of the road so wasn’t paying attention to my Garmin.

We went almost through the centre of Krefeld, eventually heading out on a faster road which heads towards St Tönis. I was a bit lost but was following Klaus’s wheel as he seemed to know where he was going. I have learned not to let him get out of sight else I get lost so the ride was a good workout for me as he rides ever so slightly faster than me normally. On our rides together I double my calorie burn, and as he seems to have an incomprehensible inability to stop at bakeries/cafés I don’t get to eat any of them back either! Mind you, most bakeries are shut in the evening so I suppose I will let him off a bit.

We soon arrived in St Tönis (also called Tönisvorst on the map) and proceeded to join the Schluff (a railway cycle path) which I hadn’t previously discovered, despite cycling to St Tönis several times. This railway goes parallel with the main road to Vorst and then on to Süchteln-Hagen. It’s generally very decent and smooth asphalt although a bit narrower than some of the cycle paths so we cycled one behind the other. You don’t get any drafting benefit with recumbent trikes, unfortunately.

As we approached Hagen we spotted a lady cycling the other way – it was Camilla, the lady with the little dog who is Klaus’s neighbour and who I seem to keep seeing whenever I am cycling within 10km of Viersen. Random!

The clouds were looking a bit fierce so we sped up a bit for the last 8km, so I was definitely working quite hard to keep up. Also when Klaus gets to within about 5km from his home he gets some kind of homing speed boost and disappears off into the distance. I managed to hang on but probably only because I ate a whole packet of peanut M&Ms yesterday whilst working.

The last bit of this ride was on the now familiar Nordkanal Cycle Route which is one to probably try to do in its entirely someday (it’s 100+ km and goes to the Netherlands, although it’s not all asphalted). This little section, which goes from Viersen to Grefrath, is well done, though, with a good surface and not that many road crossings.

We arrived back before the storm started which was a relief and my trike went back into the car OK, although the velcro chain-tube holding thingie had come undone again. It obviously isn’t too vital – I shall try to effect a repair with cable ties in due course (or will ask ICE to send me another).

The statistics for the ride were interesting. The bottom two lines on this screenshot from Ascent are our two rides – mine is the top one (2 hours 48 minutes), Klaus’s is the bottom one (2 hours 46). He has a better GPS distance logger, I believe, but the barometric pressure altimeter on my Garmin is generally thought to be more accurate (as far as I know), and gives half the climbing figure that he has. We think the calories figure from his iPhone App isn’t actual calories (but something else) as it’s always ridiculously low.

Anyway it was a good ride, not somewhere I would probably have visited on my own as I’m not too keen on riding alone in Krefeld in the evening. It’s always great to ride with company, even if Klaus hasn’t yet realised the importance of tea and cake stops on a 50km ride.

This ride also bought Alfie to the grand total mileage of 19,954 miles so if I take him on my ride tomorrow to Waldniel he might cross the 20,000 mile marker (in just over three years). Except the weather forecast is looking like rain and storms again so it’s probably a Penelope day.

Klaus has also now written up this ride on his blog and it is available in German (with a Google Translate English option) here.

3 Comments

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

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 3

So it’s now the end of Month 3 in Germany. What have I noticed this month?

(You can read about Month 1 here and Month 2 here).

People I’ve met

Gundi in Köln/Cologne

I have a German friend called Gundi who lives in Colchester and who I met through a cycling group there. Gundi contacted me to say she’d be in Köln/Cologne for the weekend and to ask if I’d like to meet up. It sounded like a great idea so I said yes and we arranged to meet for Brunch at a restaurant called Maybach just off the Hansaring, a fifteen minute walk from Köln main station.

It turned out that the Rodday family were going to be away for the weekend so I would need to bring Poppy with me as the whole day would be too long to leave her alone.

So we headed off early on the Sunday morning to Kempen railway station. We went in the car and I’d checked earlier with Frank about parking – he said it was free. That seemed rather unlikely (I am used to paying lots for parking at railway stations in the UK) but he was right – no ticket machines whatsoever!

However, people still park stupidly. This car was on a bike lane. It was next to a car park with lots of spaces. Sigh.

Parking on bike lane

We got on the train (once per hour on a Sunday) and stayed on it through Krefeld (where there is the option to change), getting off at Meerbusch-Osterath where you can also change onto the same train that you would at Krefeld. There’s nothing at Meerbusch but it meant it was the same platform and I didn’t have to drag the dog around lots of people to change platform.

Poppy seemed to tolerate the train journey but not particularly enjoy it. She sat on my lap the whole time.

Dog on train

The journey to Köln Hauptbahnhof was just over an hour and we arrived at half past ten. The weather was very warm, 32 degrees for the day, and the forty minute walk to the Brunch place was pretty sweltering. It should have been twenty minutes but I got on the wrong road and didn’t realise for a bit. However I did pass this interesting gilded winged car on top of a building!

Winged car 1

Winged Car 2

Gundi and I enjoyed a very leisurely all-you-can-eat buffet lunch at Maybach. Drinks weren’t included and would have increased the cost significantly (it was already 16,95€ each) except I had brought a bottle of water for Poppy and we just refilled it with the taps in the loo. We bought a couple of teas/coffees but apart from that drank water.

Gundi was getting the train back to London so we walked back to the Hauptbahnhof together, passing this interesting tower.

Koeln tower

We got to the station quite early so Poppy and I posed for a photo in front of the side of the cathedral.

Poppy and Helen at Koeln cathedral

And then we stopped for another cup of tea. Poppy sat under the table – she was exhausted from such an exciting day, I think, plus the heat.

Hot tourist doggie

Klaus and his Wild One recumbent trike

I was really pleased, on the 1st June, to have my first bumping-into-someone-I-know experience when cycling 10km from home. I was riding on a field path and could see a flag coming towards me from a side path; the path curved and I saw a rider heading my way. He stopped beside me – and it was Klaus (occasional commenter on this blog) who I’d met at the Trike Treffen four days before. He was out riding with his family and we had a good chat and I tried his trike and he and his daughter tried Penelope.

Klaus and family

Klaus had some very unusual clipless pedals on his trike which I think he said he had made himself.

Klaus's magnetic pedals

They were basically magnets, and he had special cleats which worked with the magnets.

Klaus's magnetic shoe cleats

It meant that the smaller SPD cleats on my sandals were also able to stick to the pedals although the attachment wasn’t strong enough for me to feel particularly confident. It means that you can also use normal shoes on these pedals though.

It was interesting how much I appreciated bumping into someone I knew – I remember the same thing when I moved to Tonbridge when I got married. You arrive somewhere new and don’t know anyone, but the first time you bump into an acquaintance you start to realise you are feeling at home. The same happened here which was great.

I have ridden with Klaus a few more times this month as our speed (when I am on the trike) is very compatible and he’s trying to increase his riding distances – it helps to have company if you’re riding further as you have someone to chat to. He’s an extremely useful cycling contact as he knows the local routes and can often be persuaded to send me a GPX track of a recommended ride when I’m out on my own so I have somewhere new to visit and someone has already checked the route for recumbent-friendliness!

Riding a velomobile alongside a trike isn’t always ideal – with Penelope it’s less easy to ride together as the paths can feel narrow when you can’t see your front wheels to gauge the width.

Riding with Klaus

I also think I deserve some credit for tricking a German chap into riding a trike with the British flag during the world cup!

Klaus has a Steintrikes Wild One recumbent trike (from Bike Revolution in Austria) and one one of our rides I tried it for about 5km and it was great fun – the front suspension is good when you go over tree roots. The two trikes feel quite different, although Alfie’s seat definitely works better for my lady’s backside, which is rather too broad in the beam for the hard shell seat on the Wild One! When I returned to riding Alfie the steering felt quite twitchy as it’s so direct – I was used to it again within a minute but it was interesting to notice the difference between the two trikes. They may be the same general layout but they do feel different.

Here’s a photo nicked from Klaus’s blog of his trike:

Another difference is that this Wild One has 81 – count ’em, eighty one!!! – gears. Of course there are huge overlaps, but the main reason for this large gear number is that there is a SRAM Dual-Drive in the rear hub which gives three gears that you can change whilst stationary (alongside the normal 3 x 9 derailleur system). I guess things would be easier with one internal hub gear like an Alfine-11 or Rohloff but 81 gears sounds cool and was not quite as spendy!

The other notable thing about the Wild One was its different wheel sizes – it has a 26″ wheel at the back (that’s mountain bike size) and two 18 inch wheels at the front. Klaus has a slight issue with finding tyres to fit the front wheels as he is limited in choice because so few manufacturers make this size. It’s a nice trike though and he’s getting good usage out of it. You can read Klaus’s blog – in German – here). There is also a Google Translate option for each webpage (if you don’t speak German) but be aware that the translations are a bit weird.

Oliver and his Mango velomobile

Oliver (who I met last month for cake, and a couple of times at the Trike Treffen) had organised me some replacement wheel covers for Penelope as he was visiting the place that makes them. So we had to arrange to meet for him to hand them over to me – and for some cake to be consumed of course!

Oliver was looking after his son Max on the relevant day so we decided to meet a bit nearer to Oliver this time – it was a 20km ride for him and a 30km ride for me to Brüggen.

Oliver in his Mango with Max in the trailer were waiting when I arrived in Brüggen.

Weird bikes in Brueggen

Max had a quick look inside Penelope.

Max in Penelope 2

I think he liked her!

Max in Penelope

We enjoyed some cake and a chat and Oliver handed over the wheel-cover kit which, apparently, you need four hands to assemble so I shall wait until I have some useful help to do it.

Here are Max and I outside a church in Brüggen.

Max and Helen at Brueggen Church

Oliver’s usually a very speedy velomobile rider but with the trailer on the back his speed was cut by almost half. So more like my average speed then!

My parents

I celebrated my birthday this month and my parents came to visit for three days. We had a cultural day in Düsseldorf where we went up the tower for cake:

There’s a great view from the top!

We had Currywurst and Pommes for lunch.

And walked along the Rhine past the Altstadt.

I also took my parents to the chocolate factory!

Camilla and her dog

I met this nice lady in Viersen-Rahser. Her dog was very well behaved to sit in the basket without a lid.

Dog in basket in Rahser

He/she looks like he/she is having a fab time!

Dog in basket in Rahser 2

I saw Camilla and her doggie a second time when I was riding through Viersen-Rahser – quite a coincidence as this is 15 miles/25km away from where I live).

A week in England

In case you’re wondering what work I am doing here in Germany, I am actually one of that rare breed, a true teleworker. I remember 10 years ago we were all going to be working from home and not commuting vast distances to our offices but that doesn’t seemed to have panned out for many other people – but I am lucky and the company that I work for just require me to have a decent internet connection. So my move to Germany has made pretty much no difference to my work.

Four times a year we have a meeting which it is useful for me to attend so I booked a week’s holiday back in England to incorporate that day-and-a-half meeting in Eastbourne on the South Coast.

Poppy and I travelled back using the Dunkirk-Dover ferry (so it was less stressful for her) but seven hours of driving wasn’t too pleasant for me so she’ll have to put up with the Hook of Holland-Harwich ferry from now on. It was a good feeling to see the White Cliffs though.

Driving back to my corner of Essex was a very interesting experience, having spent two and a half months in Germany. Firstly, the roads seemed very narrow. Everything also looked a lot dryer – the weeds growing in the central reservation of the motorway were straw-coloured, so there’s clearly been less rain in the UK than in my bit of Niederrhein. I also initially found it a bit weird to be driving on the correct side of the road, although I was soon used to it.

The thing I noticed immediately as I arrived in the Colchester area is how hilly it is. This part of England is thought of as flat but it isn’t actually, it’s slightly undulating. I am now used to real flat which is Niederrhein. I took my old Trice Q out on a ride to Colchester and back – 16km – and did the same amount of climbing on that short ride that I would have done on my 50km Kempen-Viersen circular route.

Of course other English people would think that part of Essex is dead flat but I have more experience now and I know that’s not the case! I also begin to have doubts about the suitability of Penelope to this terrain – if I return, it may be wise not to bring her back with me.

The other thing I was reminded of was the incomprehensibility of British taps. Non-Brits had commented on this before – why don’t we have mixer taps? Why do we have a separate hot and cold tap which means you either freeze or burn your hands when washing them. I was sort-of used to it before but now I am returning to it, having used mixer taps for three months, it does seem bonkers.

(I have been given some explanations for this, such as not wasting water by running the mixer to cold, not scalding hands, being able to keep water at a better temperature against legionella, but as someone with a weak arm/hand individual taps are a right pain so I like the German system!)

We took a visit to the lovely village of Dedham to visit some friends along what I always thought were very quiet country roads (they seemed to be so when I rode along them over the last six years) but I now discover they are actually quite busy. My concept of a ‘normal’ amount of traffic is completely different. I also felt like the air seemed less clean somehow, perhaps a slight bit of pollution (it was quite humid when I was back in the UK) or perhaps it was just something psychosomatic.

The wide skies of Niederrhein aren’t so different to the farmland around the Tendring Plain as in Essex the farmers also grow potatoes, wheat, onions and sweetcorn, but the hedges along each road make the view from a bike quite different. It makes the roads seem narrower too, even if the asphalt is the same width. And of course the roads near where I live in Essex have all been surface dressed/chipsealed so the surface is rough, uneven and noisy. Not so good for cycling! And there were some massive potholes in Colchester which had developed since I last rode there – fortunately when I rode there James was with me and could call out a warning.

There are some great things about England though. One real convenience is that shops are open pretty much all the time – after cycling to church on Sunday I popped into M&S for a few things, then to Waitrose for some food for lunch. Each time James and I paid for something we did it with Contactless – we waved our credit card over the machine and the transaction was done in half a second, massively quicker than the slow, clunky German chip & pin machines.

The supermarkets in the UK weigh your fruit at the checkout rather than you having to do it as you sometimes do in Germany (I forgot to weigh my bananas when back in St Hubert and the checkout lady looked at me very sternly. I apologised and said I’d just got back from England and that clearly explained it all – things are weird in England).

English supermarkets have a much better selection of quality British food, of course (yes, there is such a thing! – more later).

One of the things that I have missed the most (which has come as a bit of a surprise) is the church that I attend in Colchester. I think it’s because the church, Lion Walk United Reformed Church, is very well known for its music. I suppose I had partly taken for granted the fact that every week there would be wonderful music played throughout the service by hugely accomplished musicians, and that the organ at the church and the grand piano are both excellent quality. It was wonderful to go back and sing with the people there again and in fact I found I had missed it so much that I delayed my return to England for a day so that I could attend the service the following Sunday too. Although I’ve found a church in St Hubert which is friendly and enjoyable it doesn’t quite scratch the itch that I now know I have!

I filled my car up with various things that people requested, or that I needed, and I have laid most of them out here (not the block of cheddar or the fresh bacon and sausages from the local butcher in Great Bromley)

Stereotypes – from the other side

I had a couple of conversations with German people which included comments by them about stereotypes of British people. All Brits know that Germans are organised, have no sense of humour and are punctual, for example. I wondered what the Germans and also the Dutch (as they are just around the corner from Niederrhein) think of the Brits.

So I asked a whole bunch of my German and Dutch friends to give me a few random ideas about how Brits/English people are considered in the media and elsewhere.

I initially also asked for Austrian opinions but apparently the Austrians don’t think much about the UK – we’re too far away and “British tourists seem to behave themselves usually” which is a surprise! Apparently most of the stereotyping is reserved for their neighbours, the Germans!

Thanks to the following for the answers: Alex, Gerhard, Gudrun, Jet, Klaus, Lara, Marieke, Olaf and Oliver.

One German friend started his response with one of the major issues:

First of all we must take into consideration that most Germans probably equal “British” with “English”.

He’s right, and because I am English, and because most people used ‘English’ in their answers, I will use that word from now on. But I suspect lots of the stereotypes also cover the Welsh, Scots and Irish too! The words seem to be used interchangeably by Germans and so, in this list, they are also used interchangeably (sorry to other British readers!) Also please note that these are not necessarily the personal views of those I talked to, they are what they report that the media suggests!

The Germans’ view of English people and England

  • the English are usually friendly
  • The food is terrible
  • All men have tattoos
  • Some Brits appear to believe that they are driving on the correct side of the road!
  • the beer is warm, and beans are eaten for breakfast
  • English people are always eating sandwiches. (The amusing thing about this comment was when I received the message I had just eaten a sandwich).
  • People are much better at queuing
  • The beer is warm
  • Pubs close at 23:00
  • England always loses at penalty shootouts
  • “During work English people are very correct; later in the evening after some beer they show a completely different side… best colleagues and friends. The next morning they are reserved again.”
  • They drink lots of tea, it doesn’t matter what time it is
  • The English don’t eat as healthily as the Germans – they might have a bag of crisps for lunch
  • they all watch loads of soaps like Eastenders or Emmerdale
  • British food is known to be the worst in the world (only true as far as porridge and pudding are concerned, I don’t know if the Haggis may be counted)
  • Brits are generally eccentric
  • Brits like to stand in line, e.g. while waiting for a bus (‘stand in line’ is American for queuing)
  • Brits, when it comes to holidays in the south, are the worst drunkards (apart from the Russians) and they have a horrible taste in clothing
  • British football fans are generally hooligans
  • Brits are enthusiastic about the royal family
  • Brits bet on everything
  • Brits love all kinds of racing (horses, dogs, cars) and they are football-mad
  • Brits have no idea how much they benefit from the EU
  • They have Shakepeare and Oxbridge but not much else in art and culture
  • British cars are absolutely rubbish in build quality, although some have great style
  • British gardens are great
  • British humor is weird

Gerhard (who supplied some of the above general stereotypes) also gave some of his personal views from his experiences of interacting with Brits and watching our TV.

  • They seem to be very much involved with the past – e.g. all Victorian or Edwardian stuff is always of great interest.
  • They seem to be very much into antiquities and auctions.
  • They are still traumatised with the war and dig into that history whenever possible
  • They hold the military in higher regard than seems to be fit
  • Many live in incredibly small/narrow and/or old houses
  • They tend to marry quite early
  • There are problems with education and social values by which many young people are concerned
  • They build their lives around a mortgage
  • There’s a health and safety craze going on
  • They seem to be incredibly backwards when it comes to energy and resource matters, e.g. house insulation, renewable energies. I’ve heard that some houses still have no meter for fresh water and I’ve never seen a coin box for electricity in Germany. Central heating appears to be not so common in Britain
  • Instead of trying to solve social problems the governments tend to criminalise every movement outside the norm and there are more people sent to jail than ever before
  • Britain’s got a real problem with illegal immigrants
  • British pop music is best
  • They haven’t overcome the class system completely yet
  • These days they are obsessed with food and statistics say that more than of the population half are obese

The Dutch view of Brits/English people and Britain/England

  • “The” British have a very dry sense of humour. That’s what “the” Dutch think, at least
  • The queueing bit is indeed true, something the Dutch cannot quite grasp.

I also had two longer responses from Dutch friends (marvel at their amazing command of English!)

This is what Marieke had to say:

What the Dutch think about the Brits:

All Brits drink tea during the day and go to the pub after work to drink beer (without foam, yuck). When they go home for the fish n chips or something else they call food, they watch the telly for a while before going to bed. That’s very understandable, because what the Brits lack in tasty food they make right in TV series and humour.

However, no matter how polite he or she is, every Brit turns into a hooligan when seeing a football. Even more than the Dutch, which says a lot! Even their posh accent seems to get affected and turns into something no-one can understand.

Apart from their amazing sense of humour they know their cakes. Brits can even create something amazing out of carrots, it’s close to magic!

It is worth mentioning here that Marieke has come to stay with me several times in the UK so perhaps this is where she has got her English view from!!!

Here’s the view from Alex:

I was brought up on a vision of an idealized, slightly eccentric, upper middle class england…

GB comedy: mostly about class; NL comedy: mostly about social embarrassment.

The Dabbler on Edith Sitwell’s death: “She died according to the code of her class, not wanting to make a fuss – her own splendid attitude to Death. Her last words were, ‘I’m afraid I’m being an awful nuisance.'” This, to me, epitomizes Britishness…

I suppose what I find interesting is a sense of desperate entitlement. So completely different from the Dutch, who always feel uneasy about their spoils, as if they can be taken away just like that. “The embarrassment of riches” Schama calls it, and he’s right.

Alex and I proceeded to have a wide-ranging discussion which was fascinating – he introduced me to lots of interesting Brits of yore, such as Richard Francis Burton, and his wife Isabel, with the comment “personages like those, we don’t have them in Dutch culture”. Although he later talked about Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje who was a pretty interesting chap!

He then further added:

I think figures like that [Richard Francis Burton] are the product of British Empire. Because he’s not a singular polyglot Victorian. Indeed that imperialism and its psychological influence is very British, in my opinion. NL had its own imperialism but came to it late, in the 1920s, and always thought that British colonialism was ‘weird’. And the first world war happened partly because Germany wanted to be an imperial power in its own right, ‘just like Britain’. Of course it’s my scholarly bias, but I think a lot of ‘Britishness’ has its roots in the Empire.

And just a footnote to this discussion – a British friend of mine, when seeing some of the comments, said:

“What…Germans, Dutch and Austrians said British food is horrible? Have these people ever eaten in their own countries?”

English/British food

As you can see from the above comments from my German and Dutch friends, there seems to be an idea that food in England/Britain is pretty appalling. I have had a quite a lot of ribbing on this subject from a German chum who feigned fear for my health if I had to eat British for a week. So I decided to document my week’s food – you, the blog reader, can decide if it looks good!

Saturday – home-made Chicken Pilau by James.

Monday – Curry at the Ganges Restaurant in Eastbourne (a work meal)

Tuesday morning’s full English breakfast (I had cereal to start and a fruit salad afterwards)

Tuesday lunchtime – light meals at the Beach Hut, Eastbourne (work again)

Tuesday evening – a Turkish restaurant in Tonbridge in Kent.

Wednesday evening – Steak & Ale Pie at the Haywain Pub, Little Bromley. Proper home-made shortcrust pastry pie, absolutely fab!

A caramel apple torte for dessert

In Britain I feel that we have a pretty good selection of food and it’s generally tasty although the more traditional English food is rather more suited for winter (hearty casseroles and pies, for example). However, despite the insults from the Germans, at least SOME of them might like British food as Aldi are just running British Food Week…

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 11.32.29

Life in Germany

Life in Germany continues very good, and having returned from a week in England I feel very at home here again. Here are some more of my random thoughts about differences to life in the UK.

Cigarette ends

I think I commented on the large number of smokers in last month’s post. Anyway, as a corollary to that I have noticed that cigarette ends seem to be everywhere. Do people not consider them litter (they don’t tend to litter with anything else generally). Platforms of stations feel like they are several centimetres deep in cigarettes as people chuck them away as they get onto the train. It makes some areas look really messy. I saw one chap just chuck his cigarette butt onto the floor and wanted to remonstrate with him but it’s probably not the form!

Public footpaths

This is something that confused me a bit – where am I allowed to walk in Germany? When out walking Poppy I met a chap, Jürgen, walking a golden retriever, and we chatted for a while. He said the thing he didn’t like about England is that you’re not allowed to walk everywhere. He then said you can wander all over the place in Germany.

This sounded a bit unlikely but it was confirmed to me by Gerhard (regular commenter on this blog) who said that indeed you are allowed to walk pretty much anywhere unless it’s specifically forbidden (or someone’s garden or something). Obviously you shouldn’t walk over fields of crops but fallow fields and woods are all fine generally.

Although I now know this, it still feels a bit odd to walk in a random field. I quite like the Public Footpath system as you know that definitely no-one can stop you walking there. And I am always worried about breaking one of the many German rules!

Wildlife

Here in the Niederrhein I’m only 300km as the crow flies from my home in Essex. As such, much of the wildlife is fairly similar. However I have noticed there are very noisy frogs in a lot of the local ponds – their volume seems many times that of frogs in the UK.

I spotted this dead shrew on a walk – it was tiny!
Dead shrew

I think I also saw a stork in a field, or it was possibly a heron but seemed a bit big. I believer there are storks in the general area so it is possible.

Soldiers and heroes

As I type this I am wearing my ‘Help for Heroes’ rugby shirt. Gerhard, a commenter on this blog, said that he finds the concept of soldiers being ‘heroes’ as a strange one as they are just doing their job (as are firefighters etc). I think this is a significant cultural difference, possibly related to the general histories of the two countries, but the mood in the UK does tend to be that our armed forces are heroic as they are putting their lives at risk fighting in wars that most probably don’t think are just (but were required by the politicians). Whatever, the Help for Heroes charity has been really successful in raising awareness in the UK of the risks to British soldiers. Living near Colchester, which has an army base, brings it home too. In Germany I gather that soldiers aren’t given any particular respect or attention.

Cashback

Oh how I miss this!

For those who don’t live in Britain (or another country that has cashback), this is a system where when you pay with your debit card in the UK you can also ask the shop to give you some cash out of their till. If your bill was £2.50 you could also have £20 cash so your Card would debit £22.50 and the supermarket cashier would hand you £20 in notes. This is really convenient as it means you don’t have to go to the bank – I can’t think of the last time I actually got cash out at a bank in the UK.

This is not an option in Germany, as far as I am aware, so it means I have to go to Deutsche Bank in either Kempen or Süchteln (they are the two I have found so far that are on some of my regular cycling routes) to get cash out. Which can be a pain.

Interesting buildings

I have whole blog posts about all the churches I am visiting but on the way back from bagging a few churches I spotted this impressive thatching job going on in Kehl.

Hobbit house thatching

Motorists

I find the German motorists generally very courteous when I’m out walking or riding the bikes. The one notable difference is when I’m out walking on country lanes with the dog and cars pass, they don’t seem to slow down very much at all. I haven’t felt unsafe but I am surprised that they don’t slow more in case the dog suddenly does something unexpected (fortunately I’ve trained her to stick close to me when cars are passing, and she’s almost always on the lead at that point anyway).

The Choirs

The Willich Choir which practises monthly also does a few extra bits occasionally. I discovered they were doing two Bach Cantatas in a church service at the end of October so I signed up for that too – with just four practices (one of which I will miss as I’ll be in the UK) it’ll be a nice challenge!

Bach Chorale music

Birthdays

June was a busy month for birthdays in my Wohnung – both Poppy and I celebrated becoming a year older.

Poppy’s birthday was on 4 June and I gave her an Octopus, named Paul of course after the late Octopus in Duisburg zoo who predicted World Cup football results four years ago.

Poppy and Paul the Octopus

My birthday was on the 18th June and I was slightly older than Poppy.

The summer is here

Germany had a bit of a heatwave in June. Temperatures of 32 degrees from midday till after 6pm make it pretty hot to go out walking or cycling so I switched to using Alfie rather than Penelope when it was really hot. Poppy learned the coolest spots in the house.

Hot dog

My car is getting more assimilated

I finally got round to getting an Emissions sticker for my car so it can experience the joys of Krefeld, Düsseldorf, the Ruhrgebiet etc. I had to take along my V5 (vehicle document) and pay a small fee of 5,50€ and now my car has a shiny sticker.

Car green sticker

Weird other vehicles I’ve seen on my travels

There are all sorts of bicycles that I see riding around with various baskets and panniers hanging off them, but on a ride to Süchteln I spotted something rather different.

It had gull-wing doors:

The owner was in the garden and came to chat to me about it. It’s all electric and does about 90km on one charge, with a maximum speed of 90 km/h. It has regenerative braking as well. Road tax is 25€, insurance about 100€.

He let me sit inside – here’s the driver’s view:

And here am I inside.

There’s a seat behind the driver and the passenger’s legs go either side of the driver’s seat. Apparently it works OK although you have to move the driver’s seat forward to get into the back seat.

The chap seemed very happy to talk to me about it and said he doesn’t get asked about it that often. Considering how regularly people talk to me about the trike and the velomobile that surprises me!

Royal Mail, Deutsche Post and the Dutch Postal System

When I was in England I bought four postcards to send to friends. I posted them on Monday morning, three to Germany and one to the Netherlands.

The three German cards arrived on the Wednesday (i.e. they only took two days to arrive) and the one Dutch one didn’t arrive until Friday (although it was only about 40 miles from the German ones!) From this we can conclude that Deutsche Post appears to be more efficient than the Dutch post. We can also conclude that the British post is expensive – 97p for a postcard to Europe! Sending one to England from Germany is about 75 cents I think (about 60p).

Other random discoveries

  • In Germany if you’re happy you’re on Cloud 7, not Cloud 9!
  • In Germany a dodgy car with lots of faults might be referred to as a Monday Morning car – in the UK it would be a Friday Afternoon one.
  • An English friend works with a German who says that they have the phrase “englisches Einkaufen” (English shopping) for shoplifting, although a couple of my other German friends hadn’t heard for this (although they had similar things for Polish people).
  • The mobile phone signal out in the countryside with Vodafone in Germany is much better than the phone signal on O2 in the countryside in the UK – in Germany I almost always have 3G access but in big chunks of Essex there seems to be only GPRS (including where our house is).
  • Sometimes German hyphenation doesn’t work in English!
  • Using a Velomobile to collect Pizza isn’t the optimum option due to having to store the pizza on its side behind my seat…

Cakes this month

The traditional monthly cakes roundup follows.

Windbeutel in Suechteln

World Cup German Cake

Eerdbeerschnitte

This cake was eaten in England (it’s a Tesco cream sponge)

This cake was my consolation prize when I accidentally revisited two churches in Süchteln – I hadn’t removed their waypoints from my Garmin!

Chocolate cake thing in Suechteln

This Amerikaner was eaten whilst underway on Alfie the trike.

Amerikaner on bike

This cake was given to me to eat in the car on the way to choir by Anja. She said it was a spare slice of cake that they had at home. Who on earth has heard of spare cake?????? It was lovely thought!

Cake from Anja

My landlady made some Donauwelle when my parents visited – this plate was left on the stairs and Poppy nearly got very lucky but unfortunately for her I saw it first!

This football-themed cake was enjoyed in Anrath. But why only 1-0?

Football cake

It was one of the Da Capo (local) choir member’s birthdays so he brought in a whole lot of home-made Schnecken.

Choir Schnecken

Cycling statistics for this month

Here is a map of all the journeys I have done around Kreis Viersen this month.

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 17.00.20

The month’s total statistics are as follows:

735.06km cycled
Average speed 18.4km/h
Maximum speed 62.4km/h (this was whilst I was in England – we have hills there!)
Total time spent cycling: 39 hours 22 minutes 57 seconds.

That brings my yearly total up to 4,140.21km. I am aiming for 10,000km for the year so am rather badly behind. I will need to do some more riding!!!

4 Comments

Filed under Cycling in Germany, Six Wheels In Germany