Tag Archives: Strada

Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017

Despite having toured long distances on my trikes over the last nine years, I have only done one multi-day tour in a Velomobile which was my two day trip to Millingen aan de Rijn in Penelope two summers ago.

However, this state of affairs is very much changing within three weeks, starting with a four day tour over the Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day) break and then after a six day break (one week of work) then a two week tour to Usedom and Berlin and back. Almost 1700km in total. 

So, Christi Himmelfahrt. Klaus and I decided a short tour would be good, especially as the Trike Treffen was taking place in Bad Bentheim, 130km to the north. That seemed like a plan.

Trike Treffen involves camping and despite not having camped for 31 years, I decided to give it a go. So over the months leading up to the tour I purchased an isomatte (sleeping mattress), sleeping bag, super lightweight towel etc. I also bought a selection of Karrimor dry bags to help fit my belongings in Millie who isn’t exactly designed as a touring Velomobile.

We decided to extend the riding a bit so after one night at the campsite to ride to Soest, a beautiful old town to the east, and stay in a hotel there. Klaus has a good friend who lives there so we could visit him. For the journey back we planned to split it in two at Haltern am See, camping again.

Thursday 

The day dawned with a fantastic weather forecast, 23 degrees for the Thursday but quickly rising to 28 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

We managed to fit everything in the Velomobiles without any difficulty. We set off, heading first of all towards the Rhine bridge at Wesel but this involved going over the mega hill Tönisberg (20 metres!!) within 5km of the start. A rather rude warm up!!

Here is the track for the day:

We had a really enjoyable ride, the extra weight in the Velomobiles only really noticeable when we were pushing them around before getting in (especially noticeable with Millie as she has no handle at the back). With the warm weather and despite the headwind the bikes covered the ground very well.


We found the roads fairly empty of traffic and enjoyed the weather and scenery as we made our way towards the Rhein on familiar roads.

In order to cross the Wesel we needed to get into the Rheindeich… and this involved a pair of Drängelgitter that we couldn’t negotiate awheel.

However, a short break for walking is not a bad thing!

We then had the difficult entry onto the Wesel bridge with two hairpins which I cannot manage in one go with Millie’s turning circle but was able to shuffle back and forth and get round without too much inconvenience. The view as we crossed the bridge was lovely.

and here is the view looking down on the Rhein.

Now we had crossed the river we were heading into less explored territory. I was also tending towards needing the loo but we didn’t see many open bakeries. When we eventually found one it didn’t have a loo so we decided to ride further.

After 5-6 kilometres Klaus spotted a Biergarten beside the long, straight and fast B70 we had been zooming along so we decided to stop for a piece of Apricot Streusel.

We enjoyed our cake and tea/coffee and water and the chance to relax for a bit as we had been making good progress.


There was a group of motorcyclists there and they asked us how fast we rode as they had passed us in Wesel and were very surprised how quickly we had caught them up.

It was lovely to sit, relax and enjoy the sunshine, but the road was calling so after 45 minutes or so we got back into the Velomobiles and pushed on.

We left the B70 after about 10km and headed onto a quieter Landstraße which took us through Homer and then around the edge of Borken.

I saw signs to some familiar places – Südlohn and Stadtlohn. I remembered these place names from my Berlin to London tour many years ago.

In Stadtlohn I wasn’t paying attention and went the wrong way, which involved cobbles and pedestrian areas before I managed to catch up with Klaus again.

We were now heading to Ahaus and when we arrived it was time for some lunch (it is always time for lunch in Helenworld). We found cafe Muse and left the Velomobiles outside. It had interesting decor!


I enjoyed a schnitzel and salad but then found it impossible to resist a strawberry Schnitte – after all, fruit is healthy!

We were sitting inside as it was cooler and we needed a break from the sun. You are very much exposed to the sun in a Velomobile and so we were wearing hats and sun cream etc. Klaus had slightly pink upper arms so we wielded some sun cream again.

From Ahaus we cycled along the Landstraße L573 for a long time, sometimes on the cycle path but often on the road. The cycle paths beside the road weren’t bad in this sector but sometimes you can go faster on the road and there wasn’t much traffic.

This road took us all the way to Ochtrup where we turned more north and crossed the border out of Nordrhein-Westfalen into Niedersachsen. The last few kilometres to Bad Bentheim had slight hilly tendencies but we were soon at the campsite between Bad Bentheim and Suddendorf.

When we arrived we found the trike Treffen area but there were only a few people there – most were still out on the group ride. Klaus set out to put up the tent.

Once the tent was up I had a much-needed shower and then fashioned a Heath Robinson washing line between the two Velomobiles. Celeste has a handle on the back which I used but with Millie I had to fix the line to the Lichtkanone on the top. Not the best idea but it worked ok in the end.


After about an hour the rest of the people arrived and we talked to lots of acquaintances. We had signed up for the barbecue where the food was provided but hadn’t realised that was just the meat, so our dinner was two pork steaks each cut up with the knife on Klaus’s multi tool and eaten off a plate we borrowed from someone. A real low carb meal!

After Dinner I was so tired that I went into the tent and tried to get to sleep. However, I discovered why people said you need ear plugs when camping – the conversations of others kept me awake. I also found it difficult to get comfortable in terms of temperature – I think actually I was a bit dehydrated. Anyway, I didn’t have a brilliant night’s sleep but will be better prepared next time!

The total day’s distance was 143.64km at an average speed of 25.5km/h and I burned 2,671 calories.

Friday

We were awake and ready to leave by 8:30am with the tent packed away. Our washing was still damp (mainly from dew) so we packed it away in plastic bags and set off towards Soest. First plan of the day was to find somewhere for breakfast.

This proved trickier than expected as there were only very small villages on the beginning of our ride. However, when we arrived at Wettringen we found a supermarket with a bakery attached and managed to find something to keep us going…

There was a man siting outside chatting to everyone who passed and we had a good conversation with him. Of course he talked to me about Brexit – the flag on Millie rather gives away my nationality.

We set off after a leisurely stop and headed towards Emsdetten. There were some long stretches which meant we could get the speed up nicely – what I have noticed with Millie is that she is definitely better in the long distances. Because I only really have one power setting, it takes me a while to get up to speed, but Millie rolls so well that once I am up to 35km/h I can sit at that speed without expending much effort.

At one point when going over a bumpy bit I heard a pinging sound as if a stone had jumped up through the foothole and was crashing around a bit inside. I didn’t think much of it, but then during a lovely downhill when I was in my top gear the chain suddenly jammed. This was very annoying as I had to stop. It soon became apparent that my Schlumpf button had fallen out again – and it was the one from the other side! I walked back down the road but couldn’t find it.

Then Klaus, trying to free the chain, realised the button was actually stuck in my chain tunnel and rescued it. I was relieved to still have it (as I didn’t have the spares with me) but without its mini allen bolt it wouldn’t stay in for very long. So for the time being I put it in my bag for safekeeping and carried on, hoping not to have to experience too many steep hills.

The day was warming up but when you ride with enough speed the Velomobiles create enough draught that it is cooling. With Millie, anything above 25 km/h provides plenty of cooling, especially as I have a Naca duct (air intake). However, hills at a slower pace mean it heats up quite a lot inside, as does sitting waiting at traffic lights.

Again the roads were pretty clear and we were whizzing along. It was getting towards time to stop to refresh the water supplies so when we arrived in Sendenhorst, a reasonably-sized town, we decided to go off route and find somewhere to eat. We found a Greek restaurant and stopped, laying our wet washing on the velomobiles to dry in the sun.

The staff in the restaurant were super-friendly, chatting to us about the bikes and photographing them, sending the pictures to relatives in Greece. They also offered some very nice food – I had this great cold platter.

I asked to buy some cold still water and they gave me water that came from Greece. Because I was thirsty I tried to buy some more but in the end he gave me three bottles completely free of charge, which was very sweet of him. The whole cost of our lunch stop was extremely reasonable – Klaus’s litre of coke was about 2 Euros.

Once we had finished our lunch we discovered our clothes were pretty much dry so we packed everything away and headed off again towards Soest.

We skirted around Hamm and then started heading towards Soest on roads that were a bit more rolling. I had decided to screw my Schlumpf button back in and decided to keep checking it was done up – I really needed the extra gears and it wasn’t doing me any good in my bag. So I was able to Schlumpf for the hills on the way to Soest but they weren’t too bad. Klaus was a bit nervous I think about my speed when the hills start as he knows I don’t like them but with the high speeds we were riding it was mostly OK and I enjoyed it.

Just as we were going down the hill into Soest my Schlumpf button popped out again but it landed in the foodwell and I grabbed it. We found our way to the hotel which was the oldest guest house in Nordrhein-Westfalen, from 1307. Hotel Pilgrimhaus had really friendly staff.

I realised I was pretty dehydrated from the heat so spent the next few hours drinking lots of water but having very little output. This was a reminder that when riding velomobiles you maybe don’t feel the heat as much but the wind is wicking away moisture all the time. I resolved to be better with my drink planning the next day.

There was no storage space for our velomobiles but this wasn’t a problem as Klaus’s friend said we could store them in his garage so we rode there after our showers and he drove us back (it was just a mile), joining us for dinner at Hotel Pilgrimhaus.

Here are our bikes in his very roomy garage:

The total day’s distance was 129.21km at an average speed of 23.8km/h and I burned 2,429 calories.

The food at Hotel Pilgrimhaus was fabulous but I didn’t remember to photograph it (I was too keen on eating it!) except for the dessert, a white chocolate Panna Cotta. Lovely!

I was really really tired after my poor night’s sleep the day before so went to bed early and left Klaus chatting with his friend Dirk for a couple more hours. I went out like a light, enjoying a comfortable room and the peace and quiet without lots of other campers talking!

Saturday

Our original plan for today was to ride to Haltern am See and camp there for the night. However, due to my less than ideal camping experience on Thursday night, the weather forecast (super-hot), and the fact that 82km seemed way too short for a day’s ride, we considered riding all the way home instead, 162km. We didn’t know how we would feel riding in 30 degree heat but decided to give it a go. We would stop between 2pm and 5pm when the temperature is highest and would also ensure that we regularly drank lots of fluids whilst riding.

Here is our track for the day – as you can see, we did end up riding the whole way home.

We enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the hotel and checked out by 9am. Dirk was there to collect us and take us to his garage where we collected the bikes. Then it was time to head towards Haltern and maybe home.

The route out of Soest was absolutely beautiful – rolling hills, everything very green, few cars. I had been a bit concerned that I still wasn’t peeing much after my dehydration yesterday so I drank a litre of water just before we set out. Clearly by this point I had actually replenished my water stocks as after riding for about 10 minutes I was desperate for the loo. Klaus was far ahead and I had forgotten to get my radio ready and I couldn’t wait till I could catch up with him so nipped into a side road and made the most of rather sparse tree cover. Fortunately no-one came along!

Klaus waited for me a bit further on and I ensured I had my radio on after that. We had a lovely ride, really enjoying the scenery and the great road quality, except for one very disappointing downhill. It was curvy and fast but suddenly the road surface became awful! I had to brake from 50 to about 20 as it was so rough. Klaus, who was ahead, wanted to get on the radio to warn me but needed both hands on the tiller to hang on for dear life! We made it to the bottom, amazingly with my Schlumpf button still in place, and decided to stop shortly after for a scheduled drink spot. I had decided to ensure I drank a bottle of water every 25km.

We stopped at a car park area which happened to be at a cemetery so Klaus found some fresh water after we had drunk ours. I also found a convenient hedge for a loo stop again. It wasn’t too fiercely warm yet but the sky was blue and we could see we would soon be feeling the heat.

We went on, riding mostly on the roads as there were few cycle paths. It was a beautiful day.

We were keeping to our drinking schedule and going well. The plan was to ride to the campsite at Haltern am See but we realised that was a bit of a detour so could cut off about 5-10km if we decided to push on to Kempen. I had radioed Klaus to say I wanted to stop for water at about 60km but we were on such a lovely road I kept going – cruising at 35km/h you cover so much ground it seems a shame to stop! He had slowed a couple of times for potential stops but I kept going.

When we turned off the fast road I said we could now have our drink stop but Klaus’s Biergarten radar spotted something just up the road so we found ourselves at a campsite with beer garden near Datteln. We stopped and had a cuppa and a piece of cheesecake each.

We had 100km to go from this point and we discussed whether we should stay there for the heat but it was only midday so I thought it worth riding a bit further (the main heat hits at 2pm), plus I wanted to be more than halfway when we did our long stop. So we continued on after a good break, having refilled our water and eaten some salty peanuts to refresh our electrolytes.

The route followed the Lippetal canal and was very interesting. We weren’t on our official track because of the detour to shorten the route but soon joined back up with the official route at Haltern.

We were now looking out for our longer stop location as it was 2 o’clock and very hot, but didn’t find a suitable looking place. We went through the village of Lippramsdorf which had some hotels with garden terraces but Klaus kept going. Halfway between Haltern and Dorsten he spotted a sign for a Hofcafé – and really hit the jackpot!

This was a brand new cafe with some wonderful cakes and nice comfy seats outside with sunshades. The lady serving us was very nice and we spent two hours there, eating an enormous slice of Käse Sahne torte and drinking tea/coffee, watching the other guests (including a big group of bikers) and generally enjoying the peace and relaxation.

However our plan to stay there till 5 or 6 seemed a bit of a waste of time as it wasn’t getting any cooler so in the end we left at 16:15, ready to get back on the road and complete the final 75km to home. With refilled water bottles we set off again, riding through Dorsten (which was rather traffic-lighty) and then through Kirchhellen which had the most wonderful downhill towards Dinslaken. At this point our average speed for an 8km stretch was over 30km/h!

From Dinslaken we headed to Duisburg-Walsum where our Rhine crossing (a ferry) awaited us. Klaus began to feel he had low energy so we stopped at a Netto for him to buy some supplies – a bread roll each and he had a litre of buttermilk which he drank neat and it gave him his energy back. Whilst he was in Netto lots of the locals were asking me about the bikes – they had never seen anything like them before.

From Walsum it was a short ride to the ferry and we ate our bread rolls during the short Rhein crossing. Once on ‘our’ side of the river we were definitely on the home stretch and zoomed towards Moers, Neukirchen Vluyn and then round Siebenhäuser back to St Hubert, averaging 29km/h for the last 22km.

We got back at 19:15, unpacked the bikes and then Klaus tipped a whole bottle of water over his head to cool down! Gudula and Frank were having a barbecue so we ate with them which was very handy as I had no food in the house, not expecting us to be back until tomorrow!

Today’s distance was 161.72km (that’s a shade over 100 miles) with an average speed of 26km/h and I burned 2,627 calories.

All in all it was a fabulous tour. Millie is a much better touring velomobile than I had expected and her speed really eats up the distance. I need to fix the Schlumpf button before we start the Kempen-Usedom-Berlin-Kempen tour in a week’s time but I will sort something out – worst case scenario I will use threadlock or superglue on the current button.

With velomobiles you can ride a lot further each day which increases the visiting distance. I would like to do some more two day tours, perhaps with camping, in the Netherlands and north of here, so we can see some new places and ride some new roads. It’s all such fun!

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Filed under Christi Himmelfahrt Tour 2017, Cycle Tours, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Celeste the Strada gets new suspension (or, ‘Pimp my Velomobile’)

Klaus has now had Celeste the Strada Velomobile for about four months and cycled over 5,500km in her, including a 9-day 1,270km solo tour to the Baltic Sea last week.

Anyway, he’s the sort of chap who likes to do occasional modifications to his bikes and had purchased a couple of months ago a set of elastomers for Celeste’s suspension.

The usual suspension set-up for the Strada is a large spring underneath a piston-thingy (my terminology is not very good here), but some Strada owners had changed this for a system of elastomers to replace the springs which gave a harder ride but slightly better cornering handling. Or something. I’m not entirely sure of the purpose of the change but Klaus decided he wanted to Pimp his Velomobile a bit.

So on a rainy day when he had nothing else to do he decided to do the suspension ‘upgrade’ and asked if I wanted to help. I am always game for a bit of bike maintenance, especially as we are slowly reducing our incompetence level from High to Normal. The chance to practice on someone else’s velomobile, rather than my own, should not be passed up.

Changing the suspension spring for elastomer

I arrived at Klaus’s house after he had returned from his day sitting at a desk pretending to work in Mülheim-an-der-Ruhr. I was expecting to be working in the garage but no, as his wife was out he had introduced Celeste to their lounge…

Celeste in lounge

And here are the parts we had to substitute for the spring – some purplish-coloured elastomers, some blue ones, some white washers and there was also some silicone grease in a syringe.

Elastomers

Elastomers

Stage 1 was to measure the height of Celeste with her current suspension, so we stuck a piece of sellotape to her side and measured how high she was off the ground to this point.

Tape measure

I then measured again with Klaus sitting in the velomobile – 1.5mm lower.

MEasure with weight

Klaus had laid some cardboard on the laminate floor and also a soft mattress onto which Celeste was then laid.

Celeste underneath

This suspension leg is what we have to get at and disassemble..

Wheel and suspension arm

So the first job was to remove the bolts inside the cockpit which hold the suspension in place. Then remove the wheel. This was all very easy.

Without wheel

Here is a close-up of the drum brakes.

Trommelbremse from above

I had assumed he would remove the brake cable and the cable for the trip computer but he decided to leave these in place and just work on the suspension arm roughly in-situ.

We had to disconnect the metal plate under the suspension from the steering mechanism which just involved undoing three nuts-and-bolts.

Undo bolts 1

Once that was done we were able to bring the suspension out of the bodywork.

Suspension arm free

After removing a washer, rubber cover and plastic sheath we were able to pull out the innards for a look. This is the top half of the system, and the left hand side is what pushes against the suspension spring.

Contents of suspension

And then the spring came out…

Spring

Here is the suspension devoid of its innards.

Empty suspension arm

I had been very organised and laid out all the parts in order as we removed them – here is what we had to remove to get to the innards of the suspension.

Nuts and bolts

And here are the new elastomers arranged as to how we would need them – the two blue would be at the bottom end.

New elastomers

Klaus had very sensibly drilled small holes all the way through the elastomers so he would be able to get them out of the suspension arm if necessary with a skewer or something.

He used some of the silicone grease and then slid them in in a long sausage. It was pretty easy, but much more challenging (and unphotographed due to dirty hands) was getting the arm back in and the screws to bite into the sheath that holds it all in place. It took us about 15 minutes to manage it, which involved also removing a couple of the washers that we had put in with the new elastomers.

Once we had just about managed to screw the suspension arm back into the socket, we then put the bike back together and measured again.

Readings

The second column is the first measurement after the new elastomers were put in. Unweighted it was sitting much higher, but when Klaus got in it returned to the previous weighted measurement (15.5cm in this case). When he got out again I re-measured and the unweighted reading was now lower (presumably the elastomers had had their first compression).

Emboldened by our relative success (it only took 45 minutes to do the left hand wheel) we decided to do the other side, which took us only 20 minutes. We are getting good at this stuff!

So Celeste was put completely back together (wheel covers included).

Fitting radabdeckung

Klaus got in again to check she was level now both sides were done.

Ready to ride

And at this point we noticed that the two sides behaved a little differently when you rocked the velomobile from side to side. One side settled back to the level, the other side stayed a bit high up until you put weight on it.

We thought this might just be that we needed to ‘run in’ the new elastomers so Klaus went out for a short ride. His conclusion – it was a good modification, giving stiffer suspension on cornering although cobbles were a bit more teeth-rattling (he had known this would be the case).

He had mentioned whilst we were working that there might be something we had to remove from the top of the suspension piston thingy but it didn’t seem necessary so we didn’t do anything. It was after the successful test ride that Klaus decided to look at the detailed instructions he had been sent… and discovered there is indeed something we should have removed. And this might account for the fact that Celeste didn’t settle back down under her own weight so well.

As it had been raining and Celeste was wet we decided not to bring her back into the house but to check this out the next day instead.

Here is a short video by Velomobiel.nl showing the difference between spring and elastomer (a different variety of elastomer than Klaus bought):

And here is the thread in the Velomobilforum.de which describes it all at great length – assuming you can understand German!

And here is Klaus’s explanation as to why he didn’t remove the part:

Das mit dem Reibdämpfer habe ich allerdings irgendwie verteilt. Ich dachte es wäre ein massives Elastomerteil, deswegen habe ich die Finger davon gelassen.

And a response from the chap who sells them:

ohne die Reibungsdämpfung wird der Negativfederweg erst schnell genug.
Ich ließ bei meinen alten Elastomeren diese ja drin und der Unterschied ist wirklich groß.

So Klaus decided to remove this small part the next day.

Second attempt!

Klaus is the sort of person who really likes to complete a job when he’s started it so was clearly irritated that he’d left out this small task of removing a rubber collar thingie. One small part of the job needs four hands so I agreed to cycle over and give him a hand.

By the time I arrived (having not at first noticed his message to say he was on his way home from work) he had already disassembled one side and was already beginning to remove this mystery rubber collar.

Removing rubber collar 1

Removing rubber collar 2

Once that was off, it was just a case of putting the suspension arm back together.

And here is what was removed.

Removed part 1

Removed part 2

The whole job took about half an hour.

We then went out for a longer ride to test it out.

The first observation is that Celeste sits noticeably lower when looking at the front wheels. Previously there was quite an air gap at the top, now it’s a pretty tight space the whole way round (partly as Klaus is running relatively large tyres, Continental Perfect Moiree).

It initially seemed to me as if Celeste looked more jerky/bumpy, but Klaus reports the opposite – that the ride is better. He has particularly noticed that the handling is really secure – he seems to corner faster (which means I have to be careful not to try to follow him round corners too closely as Penelope is higher and more liable to roll) and has done some speed slalom tests which he says showed it is a great improvement. One minor downside will be a less comfortable ride over cobblestones but that could be improved by a change of tyres (he has bought some Shreddas and they are known to be better over rough surfaces, a fact to which I can attest).

The lowered suspension (which is effectively what he’s done) means he really has pimped his velomobile. Combined with the flashing light on the top, all he needs is a loud music system to play whilst riding along and he could fit in well amongst Essex Boy Racers in their souped-up Corsas!

Here’s a ‘before’ and ‘after’ photo to compare the difference in height when not in use.

Suspension comparator

Oh, and a final note. Klaus wrote a short report (in German) for the Velomobilforum. I include it here because of a rather amusing German word which is included. ‘Bewegungen’ are ‘movements’.

Heute habe ich es endlich fertig gebracht und konnte die Elastomere final einbauen. Das VM liegt jetzt ein wenig tiefer, das tur aber dem Komfort keinen Abbruch. Das Abrollen ist jetzt definitiv angenehmer und Schläge kommen nicht mehr hammerhart durch die Karosse. Großartige Wankbewegungen konnte ich keine feststellen und ich habe das Gefühl, dass sich die Kurvenlage verbessert hat. Wie bereits mehrfach berichtet…als ist so schön leise geworden. Die Lösung ist ein echter Gewinn.

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Filed under Recumbent Trikes