Tag Archives: velomobile

6 Wheels In Germany – May 2017 (Month 38)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

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

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

Millie in the news

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

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

Cycle Tour – Trike Treffen

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

Events this month

Visit of my Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another cake!

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

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

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


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

Cakes this month

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

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

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany

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, Six Wheels In Germany, Trikes & Velomobiles

6 Wheels In Germany – February 2017 (Month 35)

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

Anyway, here is where I rode in February.

And here are the individual rides listed.

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

Metric Century – to LaPaDu and Geldern

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

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

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

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

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

Except then I had to try a tiny piece…

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

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

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

Millie needs an electrician

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new home for Millie and Alfie

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

Events this month

Zeche Zollverein, Essen

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

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

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

A holiday in Tenerife with Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our local beach was rather more volcanic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The views from the top were glorious.

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

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

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

Then a lamb balti

With cauliflower bhaji (no rice).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

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

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

6 Wheels In Germany – December 2016 (Month 33)

The end of the year!

Cycling this month

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

ascent-statistics

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

december-wheel

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

veloviewer-summary-2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have also ridden with the following people:

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

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

strava-ride-comparator

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

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

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

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_1

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_2

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_3

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_4

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

Cycle rides this month

Liegeradtreff Duisburg

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

jochen-and-klaus

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

endeavour-and-millie-1

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

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

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

endeavour-and-millie-2

endeavour-and-millie-3

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

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

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

This is the track for my route for the day.

liegeradtreff-track

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

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

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

velomobile-bags-1

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

The ADFC Nikolaus Tour

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

jochen-and-hat

Hartmut was towing Santa’s sleigh:

nikolaus-tour-1

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

nikolaus-tour-people

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

Here is our track for the day.

nikolaus-tour-track

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

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

nikolaus-tour-jochen-and-hat

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

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

A visit to a bicycle exhibition

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

bikes-old-and-new

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

early-vdo-bike-computers

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

bicycle-indicators

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

penny-farthing-three-wheeler

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

snob-bike-motor

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

Other events this month

Doggy training

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

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

doggy-training

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

The Bonn English Singers Carol Service

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

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

bonn-carol-service

Christmas in England

christmas-in-witnesham

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

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

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

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

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

christmas-starter

Roast turkey with all the trimmings

christmas-main-course

A cake with cream etc.

christmas-dessert

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

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

god-jul-biscuits

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

kasper-and-fire

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

yule-log

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

yule-log-2

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

nutella-christmas-tree

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

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

New Year’s Eve

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

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

cake-montage

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

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

Fitting a Schlumpf Mountain Drive into a Milan Velomobile

The first part of this Blog post was also published in the following post: Six Wheels In Germany – October 2016 but I have added more information below.

When I test-rode Millie the Milan Velomobile she had the following gearing:
2 fach Ritzel vorne (2 chainrings front) 64/38
9 fach Ritzel hinten (9 sprockets rear) 13/14/15/16/18/21/25/27/30

This 64-tooth chainring at the front meant that she had lovely high top gears but her lowest gear was rather high to start off on a slope or indeed to climb a hill. Ludwig the seller seemed to have no problem with it but I was concerned for my knees. There was a second smaller chainring at the front but he said he used that only for emergency hill climbing.

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

It became clear to me fairly quickly that my low cadence means that I can’t really pedal over 40km/h without wobbling all over the place. My legs just don’t go that fast, and after 100,000km in recumbent trikes and velomobiles in 9 years it isn’t likely to change. I am comfortable in high gears, cruising with medium power. My knees generally are OK with this plan.

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

I had been thinking for a little while about a Schlumpf Mountain Drive and decided to do a bit of research on this.

From Wikipedia:

A Schlumpf Drive is a two-speed planetary gear assembly for use on bicycles. It is distinct from other bicycle planetary gear assemblies in that it is located behind the chainring rather than in the rear hub. A push-button on each side of the axle allows the rider to switch between high and low ratios. These are operated by the rider’s heel.

Schlumpf Drives are primarily used as an alternative to multiple chainrings. Four models are currently produced, with differing ratios from pedal revolutions to chainwheel revolutions.

Speed Drive, this allows a 65% increase in the final drive (ratio 1.65).
High Speed Drive, this allows a 150% increase in the final drive (ratio 2.5).
Mountain Drive, this allows a 60% reduction in the final drive (ratio 0.4).
Reha Drive, this also allows a 60% reduction in the final drive (ratio 0.4). However, it is specifically designed for hand-cranked disability vehicles and requires less pressure for shifting.

Schlumpf drives are currently used in some Pashley[3] and Moulton bicycles.

Schlumpf products were initially designed and manufactured in Switzerland. They are now manufactured in Germany by Haberstock Mobility.

It is effectively like switching chainrings at the front to a very small chainring but doesn’t need any cabling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pizza-chainring

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

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

millie-on-forklift

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

old-chainrings-come-out

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

boom-bits-on-floor

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

inside-no-chainrings-or-pedals

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

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

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket-2

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

with-pedals-and-ready-to-fit

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

three-people-working-on-millie

And here it is fitted!

fitted

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

Then it was time for a short test ride…

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

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

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

And after a week…

I am enjoying riding with the Mountain Drive.

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

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

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

That spongy feeling…

The above was published on my blog in October and I note that two paragraphs previously I mentioned the gearing feeling a bit spongy – when you first push on the pedals there is a bit of give before you start making progress. I had read about this so expected it, but it seemed to be getting a bit worse over time, as if the rear wheel was slipping. Never mind.

Then in November I did a long ride to Xanten which involved the Mountain Range (small moraine) known as the Sonsbecker Schweiz and as I was trundling my way up there the Mountain Drive was slipping more and more. I had it in the lowest gear but my pedalling was very ineffective – it was as if the back wheel was slipping. Perhaps it was? So I did an experiment and put the parking brake on and tried to pedal. It worked – the pedals went round but the chain didn’t move. Uh oh, something is wrong with the Mountain Drive.

In the short term I had to get up the hill so I switched the Mountain Drive back to its ‘normal’ setting where it’s giving me the high gears and not doing any gearing gadgetry and it worked OK, except that climbing a hill in my lowest gear of the high gears is definitely not fun – it works out at 4.48 metres of travel per revolution. That’s lots! (In my highest gear I get 10.34 metres per pedal revolution, and in my lowest gear with the Mountain Drive active it is 1.79m and in the highest gear but with the Schlumpf 4.14m, so less than the lowest gear without the Schlumpf). In old money my lowest gear without Schlumpf is 56 gear inches, with Schlumpf is 22, highest gear is 129 gear inches and with Schlumpf is 52 gear inches.

In short, riding up a long hill from a stationary start with the lowest gear as 4.48 metres/56 gear inches causes knee pain so I had to be very careful and for the rest of the ride and struggled on a few smaller hills.

I contacted Liegeradbau Schumacher and also asked for some advice from people on the Velomobilforum and it became clear that it was a problem of the Tretlagergehäuse as it is called in German – the bottom bracket in English (I think). This is the tube through which the pedals go. It looks a little bit like this:

The Schlumpf has to be tightened so that a small metal ring with teeth bites into the metal and stops the whole thing rotating under the power of my legs pushing.

Schlumpf cone rings

Unfortunately the Tretlagergehäuse in the Milan is thinner than that of normal bikes (weight saving I guess) and it was deforming when they tried to tighten it up to the suggested 160 Newtons so only managed 120 Newtons. It seems my ladylike thighs are able overpower this – and once it had started spinning within the tube it quickly stripped the teeth from this metal thingy.

Some people on the Velomobile Forum pointed out instantly my problem – I had the ‘wrong’ Mountain Drive. When using a Schlumpf with a Velomobile you need the version with a torque lever that prevents it from twisting.

The Schlumpf website explains:

Mountain-drive – installation with torque lever (anti-twisting bracket)

There is a very simple way to hold a mountain-drive against the reaction torque. The housing with integrated anti-twisting bracket doesn’t need any modification of the frame at all. The clamp is connected to the rear chainstay. That’s it! No chamfering, not even a high tightening torque is required.

I reported back to Schumacher and they said they were considering their options.

The next day they made their suggestion – that they ordered a new Tretlagergehäuse from the Netherlands to replace the one I have on Millie with a thicker one that can take the Schlumpf. So I agreed to this and they ordered it – from Gerrit Tempelman no less! [Edit – from the comments below I see that Allert Jacobs from Velomobiel.nl made the Tretlagergehäuse, not Tempelman, and it was a special one-off).

How to remove an old Schlumpf when it doesn’t want to be removed

What I had not considered, of course, is that the old Schlumpf would be a right pain to get out.

I had a call from Liegeradbau Schumacher after a couple of weeks (during which I had taken my hill-avoidance route planning to new heights of expertise) to say the new Tretlagergehäuse was ready and we scheduled a time for me to visit to have it changed.

So on a Thursday after work I rode to Liegeradbau. The route there isn’t very nice really, on a quite busy road so I rode on the cycle path – a mistake as I later discovered.

Anyway, as I arrived I was given a biscuit!

biscuit

and was introduced to my new Tretlagergehäuse.

tretlagergehaeuse

Very shiny and much, much thicker than the existing one. The tube through which the pedal bracket goes was at least 2.5mm thick instead of the 1.5mm (estimated) thickness of the current one.

Mr Schumacher Senior was still rather surprised I was strong enough to strip the teeth from the cone rings – it just goes to show what Frauenpower can achieve!

Millie was put up on the fork lift and Christian was able to remove the Tretlagergehäuse in just a few minutes.

We went into the workshop and they fixed it all to a bit of square pipe they had hanging around, then used the tool to remove the pedals and attempted to undo the lock ring on one side of the Mountain Drive so it can slide out of the bottom bracket.

Oh dear. The lock ring just spun round. Which of course made sense as that was the problem with the Schlumpf.

First of all they tried to clamp the aluminium of the Tretlagergehäuse with some band thing to do with a car. But that didn’t work.

Then Mr Schumacher said “Plan B” – which was a giant wrench with jaws to hold the Tretlagergehäuse in place so that the Schlumpf within didn’t rotate.

“What is plan C?” I asked. “Is it to kill the customer?” He laughed…

Anyway, plan B using the gripper/wrench thingie was also unsuccessful. They found larger jaws and extended the handles with bits of pipe to get better purchase but still no success, the Schlumpf continued to rotate within the tube as they tried to unscrew the lock ring.

Hmmmm.

The original plan was that I would be able to keep the old Tretlagergehäuse in case I ever put the old chainrings back on but it was now very marked by the teeth of the grippers. There were a few scratches on the Schlumpf chainring holder too.

I tentatively asked if we were now onto Plan C, kill the customer, but Mr Schumacher said it was Plan B part 2 – to cut away at a bit of the Tretlagergehäuse to hopefully allow the Schlumpf to be gripped more strongly.

Christian got out his circular saw and ear defenders and we retreated to a safe distance.

circular-saw-1

Stage 1 was cutting a ring around the Tretlagergehäuse.

xhzkz

A bit more cutting was needed…

circular-saw-2

Then he was able to remove some pieces of the aluminium. Here is the view from both sides.

removed-piece-1

removed-piece-2

However, this did not solve the problem. The pesky lock ring (next to where they have cut away the metal) still could not be loosened, the entire item inside rotated.

The Tretlagergehäuse was clearly ruined so I suggested Plan B part 3 (in preference to Plan C), cutting away the entire Tretlagergehäuse. This was clearly the only option. So Christian got his circular saw out again.

First section… You can see the marks of the toothed grippers on the part of the Gehäuse that butts against the black disc of the Schlumpf where the chainring is fitted.

opening-1

And from the other side. You can see how thin the aluminium is – about 1.5mm we thought.

opening-2

And finally – Schlumpf is removed!!!

opened-1

opened-2

Success!!!

The cone ring from within was interesting – its teeth had be worn away so it was almost smooth. It was clear why it was not able to withstand the torque from my pedalling.

Here is the old Gehäuse next to the new one.

old-and-new

Fitting the Schlumpf to the new Tretlagergehäuse was the work of 5 minutes, and they managed to tighten it to more than 160 Newtons – this one would not be rotating!

Christian fitted it back into Millie fairly quickly and we were ready for a test ride. Except I had a quick look at her tail – flat rear tyre! Fortunately it was in a warm place with an air compressor to pump up the tyre so the rear wheel extraction and tyre change didn’t take long at all (I am getting better at it!) The old tyre had some very bad sidewall damage so was retired there and then. I have since fitted a Schwalbe Marathon on the back – it’s wider and slower but at least has some puncture protection. That’s two rear punctures I’ve had in 2000km, fortunately both times under cover with suitable tools and track pumps. I wouldn’t like to have to change a rear tyre in the dark, rain and cold.

After the new tyre was fitted I did a short test ride and thought initially that it was still not right, but it turns out this is just the normal sponginess of the Schlumpf, plus a lot of slack in the chainline getting taken up when I put a lot of torque through.

I rode off home again with the old Tretlagergehäuse as a bit of modern art, periodically testing the Schlumpf and all seemed well. I have since ridden 300km with it including a significant hill and all is working well. I do notice the sponginess when using the Mountain Drive gearing, but when in the higher gears it is as if nothing was there. The gear change is easy with my heel and it’s great to have this emergency step-down gear.

I am also very happy with Liegeradbau Schumacher’s help with this. It is unfortunate that it was the wrong type of Mountain Drive but none of us knew that and the problem was solved. It took a lot of time for Schumacher (probably they worked on Millie for 6 hours in total) but they were always friendly and helpful. They said I should pop in whenever I’m passing, but preferably not if Millie has a problem…

Riding with the Schlumpf

For Velomobiles I think the Schlumpf Mountain Drive is an excellent option. It allows the rider to have a large chainring which is useful for the high speeds a Velomobile can attain. It’s lightweight and doesn’t add much drag at all to the pedalling (someone said 1-2 watts). No cabling is a bonus as working in the nose of the Velomobile is no fun at all. Being able to change gear when stationery is really useful, and having such a wide range of gears is extremely helpful.

A couple of other friends with Velomobiles are considering the Mountain Drive. I think more would take it up if it wasn’t such an expensive option (it costs at least 600 Euros, with new chainrings and pedals and fitting this amount can get close to 1000 Euros very quickly), but I think for me and my special requirements it was worth it (although I paid about half of that amount because it was second hand). It’s something I can recommend, with the few disadvantages in mind (hard to fit yourself without the right tools, wider than the normal pedals it replaced which means my feet are closer to the sides of the Velomobile, has to have oil injected in once per year which will involve grovelling on the floor under the Velomobile, and the mega faff if like me you fit the wrong one) but these are small in comparison to the advantage of convenient gearing without cables.

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany

Six Wheels In Germany – October 2016 (Month 31)

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

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

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

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

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

october-statistics

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

october-wheel

Metric Century per month challenge

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

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

For October’s I started rather well.

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

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

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

nijmegen-track

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

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

millie-and-celeste-in-geldern

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

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

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

road-closed-1

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

road-closed-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

nijmegen-bridge

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

parked-at-nijmegen

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

burger

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

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

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

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

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

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

rice-cake-in-bergen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Schlösser und eine Burg

or, in English, 7 castles and a castle.

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

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

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

And here was my route:

castles-track

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

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

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

towards-garzweiler

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

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

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

off-road

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

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

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

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

ferry-at-zons

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

img_1214

lots-of-millies-2

lots-of-millies

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

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

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

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

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf und Umland

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

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

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

Here is my track for the day:

liegeradtreff

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

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

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

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

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

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

df-and-celeste-1

df-and-celeste-2

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

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

df-and-celeste-3

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

nibbles-1

nibbles-2

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

seat-dictionary

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

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

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

helen-passing

Here we are riding over a motorway bridge

velomobiles-crossing-bridge

And enjoying the scenery as we head for the Rhine.

milan-unterwegs

Crossing the Rhine bridge.

crossing-rhine-bridge

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

vms-kaiserswerth-1

vms-kaiserswerth

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

cream-df

There were also lots of trikes.

kaiserswerth-trikes

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

vms-in-pub-parking-area-1

vms-in-pub-parking-area-2

vms-in-pub-parking-area-3

And we almost all managed to squeeze on one table!

liegerad-group-eating

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

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

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

A speedy trip to Xanten

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

xanten-track

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

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

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

millie-in-xanten

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

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

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

This metric century lark is easy with a fast velomobile!

Fit Durch Den Winter

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

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

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

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

millie-endeavour-1

millie-endeavour-2

millie-endeavour-3

Here is the track for the day.

fit-durch-den-winter-track

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kaiserschmarrn

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

puncture-repair

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

split-tube

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

waiting-for-puncture-repair-1

waiting-for-puncture-repair-2

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

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

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

cake-qv-1

helen-cutting-cake

cake-chopped-in-half

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

in-two-pieces

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

remnants-of-qv

So this was kind of a christening for Millie!

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

Millie the Milan GT Carbon

As mentioned once or twice already, Millie is fast!

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

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

segment-comparator

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

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

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

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

haube-ready-to-be-screwed-together

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

haube-1

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

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

rowjoh-in-milan

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

pufferkes-1

pufferkes-2

Millie gets a Schlumpf Mountain Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pizza-chainring

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

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

millie-on-forklift

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

old-chainrings-come-out

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

boom-bits-on-floor

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

inside-no-chainrings-or-pedals

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

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

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket

mountain-drive-in-bottom-bracket-2

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

with-pedals-and-ready-to-fit

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

three-people-working-on-millie

And here it is fitted!

fitted

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

Then it was time for a short test ride…

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

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

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

And after a week…

I am enjoying riding with the Mountain Drive.

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

cake-collage-october

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

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 Trikes & Velomobiles

Six Wheels In Germany – June 2016 (Month 27)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

This month was a pretty good one for cycling, with over a thousand kilometres ridden despite also working for 110 hours.

June statistics

Notice the increase in my moving average speed since Klaus got his velomobile and I had to speed up (the penultimate column).

And here is the Veloviewer Wheel of where I have been in June.

June Wheel

Metric Century A Month Challenge – my Birthday cycle ride to Overloon

My birthday is in mid-June and so to celebrate turning 45 (yikes!) I planned a cycle ride with Klaus, Jochen and Uli (Hartmut was away) to Overloon in NL, somewhere I had wanted to visit for a year to see the exhibition of tanks etc.

Here is the track from the day:
Overloon track

Jochen and Klaus agreed to come first to my house and we would all set off from there at 9am. Jochen arrived early though… with my birthday present. This amazing cake with a QuattroVelo (new Velomobile) on the top!

Vm Cake 1

VM Cake 2

VM Cake 3

And here is a view of the inside:

Cake inside

Jochen got absolutely soaked on the way to my house. The weather was appalling. Uli had arranged to meet us in Straelen at 10am but we assumed he wouldn’t be riding in the awful weather. So we sat in my lounge with a cup of tea, thinking about a change of plans.

And then we heard from Uli – he was soaking wet and in Straelen. I suggested we at least breakfasted together in Straelen and then decided what to do, so the three of us headed off from my house to Straelen, about 45 minutes away.

VMs in Straelen

We met Uli in Cafe Krone where we enjoyed a nice breakfast using a voucher that Gudula and Frank had given me for my birthday. It was nice to relax and chat, but clearly our 120km ride would be a challenge in the awful weather.

Whilst we were breakfasting the weather improved a bit so we decided to cycle further. Uli said he would come with us at least as far as Arcen, so we set off after a quick photo of the intrepid cyclists.

Ready to leave Straelen

Fortunately the rain mostly stayed away and we enjoyed very car-free roads once we were in NL.

NL roads

We had to cross the Maas river, on the outward trip by ferry

Crossing the Maas by ferry

Jochen took the opportunity to inspect Celeste again. He still has to wait 5 weeks until his velomobile is ready.

Jochen checking out Celeste again

As we approached Overloon the clouds grew dark and the first drops fell as we passed this sign.

Overloon

It was definitely time for lunch as we had cycled 55km and we found a traditional Dutch chips & burger place and went in just as the heavens opened! Excellent timing.

What was even better was that after we had finished eating the rain stopped. However we decided that we didn’t have enough time to visit Overloon the site as it needs several hours, we were wearing click shoes which aren’t too comfortable to walk in and we were a bit wet and with time pressure. So we decided we would come back by car one day and would ride onward.

So we headed now back towards Venlo following the Maas river. We were making reasonable time and really enjoying the scenery and the riding and the chatting.

We stopped for me to fiddle with something (I think I needed to put on my hat or something) and then I noticed that Klaus’s tyre was looking a bit deflated.

Celeste first puncture

Yes, he had his first puncture. It was a quick job to change the tube and then we headed onward.

Celeste on her side

We arrived in Venlo, sheltering under a bridge during a brief rainstorm and then riding up the hill out of Venlo towards Germany. At this point Jochen and Uli were a bit ahead and as we crossed the border back into Germany we watched them cycle away as Klaus had another tyre deflation, the same wheel. This time he used his replacement tyre and borrowed an inner tube from me (to save repairing the one he had from before). The others didn’t notice we had stopped and so when we set off again I phoned Jochen to suggest he went straight home and then came to my house later for tea and birthday cake.

Klaus and I arrived back with me having done 123km. Klaus spent some time sorting out his tyre and re-seating it, using my track pump, whilst I got ready for the visit of a few friends for pizza and birthday cake.

The Velomobile made of icing I put in the freezer; when I take delivery of my QuattroVelo next year I will defrost it and eat it in honour of the new VM…

A visit to Rolf’s again

Every so often friend Gabi cycles up from Bonn to Schwalmtal to have tea and cake with Rolf and I am also invited.

This month was special as it was the first time I’d seen Gabi since January when she let Klaus try out her family’s velomobiles, and he was also invited as he now has Celeste. So the two of us rode together to Rolf’s house near Waldniel and I brought along some clotted cream and jam from the UK and some home-made scones.

It was great to see Gabi again as she has been unwell and it was good to see her back in the velomobile and looking much better. She had a round trip that day of over 200km so clearly is back into cycling!

After the food and general chat it was time to have a good nose around each other’s velomobiles.

VMs at Rolfs 1

Klaus is here trying out the Quest that belongs to Rolf… very similar inside to his Strada. Rolf is disappearing inside the Strada headfirst…

Quest and Strada compared

Critical Mass Viersen

A chap in Viersen has been organising Critical Mass once per month since last autumn (with a break over the winter) and as Klaus and I were free the Friday evening in June when it was on we decided to go along. We met Jochen there at the start.

Unfortunately only 13 people came along and you need 16 to be allowed to ride on the road in a big group and function as one vehicle, so we had to stick to the cycle paths. We rode to Süchteln for ice cream and then Jochen and I decided to ride straight home from there, rather than back to Viersen first, and Klaus came with us to get some more miles in.

Critical Mass return

Tour des Monats mit der Landrat

Once per year Kreis Viersen does a special Tour des Monats event where a local dignitary starts it off and there are some freebies – and a police escort! This time it was from De Witt See in Nettetal so I rode there (meeting up with Klaus, Claudia and Lara on the way) and then rode with more than 100 people around a relatively short route (24km) back to De Witt See.

TdM

Although Hartmut had organised the route it was actually ‘run’ by some of the staff from Kreis Viersen and they were much less experienced in ride leading so the group broke up and eventually I found myself leading a small group of 10 people who had got separated from the main field. I had the track on my Garmin so they followed me. Earlier there had also been an unnecessary 3km diversion as the lady from Kreis Viersen insisted we had to turn left when we obviously needed to go straight ahead. Hartmut, Herbert and I all said “no, straight ahead” but she was 100% insistent so we went left, had about 3km extra including another hill.

I changed to the back of the field to avoid getting snarky with this lady and this is how I ended up leading a group when they were left behind.

Still, it was an enjoyable ride and afterwards we had a leisurely lunch at De Witt See (I also had some cake of course) and Hartmut talked to us about the GBI tour that he does each year – a charitable bike tour over about a week with people from all over the globe. Next year is London to Düsseldorf; I had already said I would go but Hartmut started working on Klaus who is now interested, especially as there might be the possibility to transport the Velomobiles there for the start. Although cycling to London would only take three days anyway from Kempen and is perhaps a better option (via the Hook of Holland ferry). Anyway, that’s for next year…

Some new tyres

Various velomobile riders have told me that they now use Schwalbe Shredda tyres (which are BMX tyres) as these are much faster, maybe up to 2km/h average speed increase. Now this was clearly nonsense but I eventually decided to give it a go…

Shredda tyres

So Penelope was laid on her side and I changed all three tyres. Here she is with new boots just on the front.

Shreddas front

And here is one on a wheel, note the unusual tread.

Shredda in place

And my conclusion? They are a great deal faster! They really do make a difference. The sound is quite different from them, a bit louder than the Marathons perhaps, but the velomobile rolls faster and I seem to have gained the purported 2km/h so it clearly wasn’t nonsense. They have much less puncture protection than the marathons, and the marathons I removed had loads of cuts so I might be doomed to lots of punctures, but so far I’m pleased!

A visit to Dronten

I noticed a slightly unusual creaking sound from the back of Penelope a few weeks ago and after ignoring it for a bit I decided to check what was causing it – and discovered that the rear swing arm could be moved slightly from side to side, around the area of the rear axle.

This seemed like it was probably bad news so I phoned Gerrit Tempelman at ligfietsshop.nl. He said it could be two different things, one was very bad news (cracked Rohloff, but told me what to look for and it wasn’t that) and the other was probably relatively easy to fix. So we made an appointment for me to deliver Penelope to him one afternoon after work and either leave here there or hopefully he could fix her while I waited. He said it was OK to keep riding her at the moment so I arranged to visit him after my Overloon trip as I didn’t want to have to put that off.

I bought a Skoda Roomster in January and had seen a photo of one with a Mango velomobile in so thought I would give it a go to see if Penelope could fit in.

The answer…

Penelope in Roomster 1

First I had removed the three back seats (very easy!) and then Frank helped me lift Penelope in. The clearances were incredibly tight… and I even had to deflate the rear wheel so she could get in. The final test then came – could we shut the tailgate?

Penelope in Roomster 2

No.

Ah.

The problem was the armrest (an extra feature in my Roomster), but Frank, as a very efficient car mechanic, soon removed that for me and we tried again.

Penelope in Roomster 3

I went for a short drive around the block.

Unfortunately, having such a large and high velomobile right beside the driver meant I could only see part of the right hand side mirror and couldn’t see out of the passenger window at all. For safe driving on motorways and in smaller roads with the ‘Rechts vorfahrt’ rule this was clearly too dodgy.

So I returned to the usual method. In the VW Bus belonging to my landlady and landlord.

Penelope in Bus

P in Bus 2

So I drove straight from work at midday to Dronten in NL to take Penelope for her repair.

Gerrit Tempelman is amazingly efficient and knowledgeable and he diagnosed the fault before we had even got Penelope out of the bus. There’s a white plastic ring that’s part of the swing arm and it gets worn away and this introduces play into the hinge.

Here is Penelope ready to be checked out.

P repair 1

The rear swing-arm has to be disassembled.

P repair 2

And a look inside the hinge – the plastic ring was indeed very degraded.

P repair 3

Here is the old ring, it was replaced with a lovely fresh white one.

Old plastic ring

Unfortunately the gunk around the old ring had worn away the metalwork of the hinge so Gerrit said that this is probably the last time he can do this repair (he’s done it before with Penelope), and the next time he will need to mill me a new hinge part. With parts and labour that will be 500€. He said that only the early Versatiles had this design of hinge (for this reason); subsequent ones had an extra part that could be replaced if it got worn. He reckoned I might get another 6000km out of Penelope before it gets very bad. Which, at current distance rates, means that will be before my new Velomobile is ready.

Yes, have I mentioned before that I ordered a QuattroVelo? Mine will be ready sometime around April 2017. I popped round to Velomobiel.nl and picked up some armrests for Klaus’s Strada and had a look again at the QuattroVelos. They are cool! I still need to practice getting in and out though, but the entry looks similar to Klaus’s Strada which I have managed (albeit inelegantly).

The total work time for Gerrit was half an hour so my bill was ridiculously cheap, just 27.50€. I told him he should charge more as he is so efficient and such an expert but he said he was happy with what he got. We had a great chat about trikes – he has recently designed some carbon fibre mudguards for the ICE trikes and he showed me his.

Carbon fibre mudguards 1

Carbon fibre mudguards 2

You can see that they provide a little more protection to the rider from water flicking up from the insides of the wheels.

All in all I was glad to get Penelope so easily repaired but am aware that I have a bigger bill on the way and will need to be without Penelope for up to two weeks.

Cycling miscellaneous

The other day on an evening ride back from Wegberg I found myself riding through the fantastically-named ‘Woof’. I got a photo of a bus stop as proof!

Woof

And I took this photo of someone else taking a photo whilst Klaus and I were eating cake in Geldern.

Photographer in Geldern

Although people chat to me when I am on my own in the velomobile, when there are two of you you get a lot more attention. People seem much more likely to talk too, perhaps because they can see you are slightly more social!

Events this month

Another trip to England

At the very end of May and for a couple of days at the beginning of June I was in England with friend Babs and her husband Micha. I visited my Mum on several days whilst Babs and Micha did some sightseeing in my car.

Here are just a few images from our trip.

The obligatory curry!

Curry

And fish ‘n chips (well, scampi)

Scampi and chips

Babs was brave enough to try a deep-fried mars bar but decided it was overrated.

Deep fried mars bar

We had a visit to Walton-on-the-Naze and the Naze tower but it was super windy and cold so we had to beat a fairly hasty retreat to the car.

Naze tower

We also went to the Tiptree Jam Factory and had a cream tea there.

Cream tea

I organised some essential supplies to take back to Germany.

Tea and clotted cream

In the queue for the ferry on the way back to Germany we spotted these three trikes, made by their three riders from designs/kits from the internet.

Trikes 1

Trikes 2

Trikes 3

Trikes 4

Trikes 5

Trikes 6

Trikes 7

The Brexit Referendum

I voted by post as soon as possible. Obviously for Remain. It’s hard to say how gutted I am about the result.

Referendum

Particularly from my area in the UK, Tendring:

Tendring-voters

Obviously nobody knows what’s going on at the moment with it all but I am very disappointed in the result. Oh well, that’s the trouble with democracy!

Work

I have been working longer hours this month and am now mostly in the office (occasionally helping out in the kitchen when necessary).

Working in a catering firm has some useful benefits – occasional edible goodies come my way. Here was some Panna Cotta:

Work food 1

And this nice vanilla mousse

Vanille Mousse

I also thought this Laugenstange looked rather like a velomobile so added some Mozzarella wheels!

Velomobile Laugenstange

And I was interested to spot that we have Maldon Sea Salt in our stores…

Maldon sea salt 1

Maldon Sea Salt 2

Other randomness

On the last day of June I was interviewed by a very nice chap from Niederrhein Tourismus GmbH, the Tourist Office, for an article for their magazine about life in Niederrhein for a recumbent bike rider. Originally a photographer was coming but as the weather wasn’t great he said he would come another time when he could get photos with blue skies. The journalist and I chatted for about an hour and he had a go in Penelope and Alfie which he seemed to enjoy. When the article is published I will post a link to it if there is an online version available.

Cakes this month

Here are all the cakes that I and my friends have enjoyed in June.

Cakes for June 2016

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

Six Wheels In Germany – May 2016 (Month 26)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here are my rides for this month.

Statistics for month

And here’s VeloViewer’s Wheel which shows where I have ridden (except for a ride I did in NL). However, the total distance is wrong on this wheel – no idea why as Strava has the correct data (and it gets the data from Strava).

Veloviewer Heatmap Wheel

A word about cycling apps… at the moment the Velomobile community is rather annoyed with Strava (where many of us track our rides) because of the following message we received:

Hello, I’m from Strava Support. Please note that any activity performed while using a velomobile should use the activity type “Workout” or be made private and can not be marked as a standard bike ride according to our policy and outlined in our article, which is linked to below. This policy is in effect to protect the integrity and fairness of our segment leaderboards. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/articles/216919507-Uploading-E-bike-motor-assisted-or-non-conventional-bike-data-to-Strava-Guidelines

Any activity that is marked as a ride, but performed in a velomobile is subject to being flagged. Continued violation of the above mentioned policy may lead to the termination of a Strava account. We appreciate your cooperation in advance. Please submit a support ticket if you have any questions about this policy.

In the future, we do hope to add an activity type for velomobiles although we currently have no plans to do so. Please feel free to add your votes and thoughts on that feature request to the forum linked to below. https://support.strava.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/208837707-Support-Aero-Velomobiles-or-Rocket-bikes-on-Strava

Basically, if we mark our rides as ‘workout’ or ‘private’ they are not included in leaderboards with other riders and many other features are lost. Several people have left Strava because their rides are constantly flagged (even if just round the corner for a coffee, no speed records) so it seems we may move across to Garmin Connect as that seems to accept velomobiles at the moment.

One ride, two countries, three companions

Chum Oliver who rides a Mango velomobile had contacted me to ask if I’d like to meet up with him on his way back from a longer ride (back from Ede in NL to his home near Roermond). He said we could meet for a cuppa in Arcen and then ride together to Venlo or something. Of course I said yes as it would be great to catch up with Oliver again.

Sunday mornings is a time that Klaus often rides, starting early in the morning (7 or 8am sometimes) as he has to be home at midday for breakfast. We decided to ride together to Straelen and from there I would head to Arcen to meet Oliver and Klaus would ride home again.

1 ride 3 companions

So Klaus and I set off from my house and rode together the relatively short route to Straelen, doing a detour to Obereyll and Nieukerk on the way to stretch out the ride a bit, and because that section of road is fab (smooth, fast and empty).

I had to stop to take the photo of this amazing place name on the road sign – a clear mix of the local dialect of German-meets-Dutch.

Schpootenhuske

We arrived in Straelen and stopped at Hoenen bakery where I had their breakfast and Klaus had a piece of cake. We were very early as Klaus would need to head back by 11 at the latest and I wouldn’t need to leave for Arcen until midday, but I thought I could safely sit in a bakery for an hour on my own with no problems.

Just as I had finished my breakfast and Klaus his cake we spotted chum Uli cycling outside. He had seen the velomobiles so parked his bike and came in to see us.

Klaus and Uli

Helen Klaus Uli

He was on his way to Walbeck which was a bit further north to attend a Radio Ham Field Day. I know a bit about these as my father was a Radio Ham previously and went to a couple of these field days. Anyway, Uli asked if I wanted to come along as I had some time to kill so I said yes of course.

Klaus headed off home and Uli and I set off to Walbeck, about 10km further on than Straelen. There was some kind of event on in Walbeck that day which meant some of the roads were closed and traffic was a bit random but we found the field with the Hams in in due course – right next to this windmill.

Helen and Uli at Walbeck

The sights and sounds were familiar from my youth when my Dad did lots of radioing (before the Internet appeared).

Radio Field Day

The chaps there were impressed to know that I had experience of Ham Radio but seemed appalled I hadn’t got into it myself. But I find the internet rather easier and involves less equipment!

After half an hour there it was time to head off on my own to meet Oliver in Arcen, so I said goodbye to Uli and the other chaps and zoomed down the hill to NL, my second country of the day. I stopped at the usual café, sitting outside to wait for Oliver.

He was on a 200ish kilometre ride back from Ede and had given me a very vague estimated time of 12:30 but he was spot on – I heard the thunderous noise of his Mango rolling over the cobbles before I saw him. I waved to him and he stopped, parked near to Penelope and we sat down for some lunch together.

Helen and Oliver

After lunch we rode together to Venlo where we stopped briefly to watch what seemed to be a championship of Water Polo played with canoes. Great fun!

Venlo watersports

At Venlo we went our separate ways and I dragged myself up the hill back to Germany, reaching home with 75km on the clock at an average of 20.1km/h. A fun day out with three companions on my voyage to two countries.

Trike Treffen, Christi Himmelfahrt, Xanten

Two years ago, when I had just been in Germany a month, I attended the Trike Treffen at the Hariksee near Brüggen. This is organised by people in the velomobilforum.de and liegeradforum.de and was great fun. I met Oliver there, and met Klaus for the first time as well, and also got to know other people who I have subsequently seen again.

Last year the Treffen was miles away in the south but this year it was back in Niederrhein, in Xanten which is just 40km away, so Klaus and I hatched a plan to visit on the Thursday (a public holiday in Germany for Ascension Day). The group were going to do a cycle tour during the day and then meet back at the campsite; we decided because of the distance just to go to the campsite after they were back, so leaving my house at about 13:00.

On the day Klaus had to pull out for domestic reasons so I set off on my own in Penelope on a lovely sunny day to head to Xanten via the route Klaus had planned.

Trike Treffen Track

I started out riding the eastern side of the track which was a much more interesting scenic route, particularly when I got near to the Rhein and there was a lovely cycle path on a very quiet piece of land, the Bislicher Insel. The place was heaving with cyclists and the sun was shining and it was a lovely day to be out on a bike.

I stopped at a café for a waffle which was extremely good value at 3,50€ with a free cuppa.

Trike Treffen waffle

Here was my first view of the Rhein as I turned towards Xanten.

Rhein

The track Klaus had planned went round Xanten rather than through it (a wise move on a busy public holiday) and I was soon at the campsite which is marked with the little photo square on the map above.

It was impressive to see how many people were there with their tents and bikes.

Campsite 1

Campsite 2

Campsite 3

I walked around a couple of times looking at all the trikes and velomobiles. I loved this decoration!

Ladybird trike

And this Alleweder A4 had a Haribo dispenser on the side!

Alleweder with Haribo

A very friendly chap who I had met at the previous Trike Treffen made me a cuppa and I sat chatting with friends, including Detlef who lives not too far from me and has a WAW velomobile (he let Klaus try it out before he bought Celeste). It was good to catch up with some people I knew.

After a couple of hours I decided it was time to ride home so I headed off, avoiding the huge hill at Sonsbeck by going round it and then taking the fast roads home. It was a very good route back and I averaged 22.4km/h for the day’s ride and hadn’t felt like I was riding particularly quickly.

I woke up very early on Saturday morning so made a last-minute decision to join the Trike Treffen tour that day. The plan was to drive with Alfie in the car to the campsite and join them on their tour along the Rhein around Xanten. So I quickly downloaded the track for my Garmin and headed to Xanten in the car.

Trike Treffen route

It’s impressive seeing so many tents and recumbents.

Camping field 1

Camping field 2

We had a little introductory talk about the route and then set off in a big group of what turned out to be 62 bikes and riders.

Bikes on Radweg

The Rhein was in sight during lots of this ride.

Rhine bridge near Xanten

Weird bikes in normal town

Xanten lakes

Xanten lake 2

I was very impressed by this topiary!

Duck topiary

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to a Rhine ferry crossing. We parked our vehicles under a tree as it was a very hot day!

Alfie and friends

Unusual trike

Wooden trike

Leitra and two Mangos

Trikes under tree

The organisers of the Treffen had booked food for the participants but as I hadn’t put my name down to come I bought my food separately in the restaurant. I started with a piece of cheesecake.

Cheesecake

And then had a Flammkuchen (a very thin pizza)

Flammkuchen

It was a really hot day and I was thirsty so had to order a bottle of water (they wouldn’t give me tap water). Look at the price of it!!!!

Rheinfaehre Bill

It was a very good sociable ride and I had lots of chance to chat to people underway. The pace was very sedate – we averaged 14.2 km/h for the 78.62km ride.

Group underway

I’ve ridden around here a few times so recognised some landmarks – Xanten is always easy to spot with the double-steepled cathedral.

Across fields to Xanten

Most of the group stopped off at a supermarket on the way back but I whizzed straight back to the campsite as it was time to get back to Poppy and I felt like stretching my legs a bit (using my electric motor to help me over the hill to Sonsbeck of course!)

I enjoyed the day very much and it was good to catch up with acquaintances and meet new people as well. There’s a lot of organisation that goes into these events but as a participant you don’t always appreciate how much work it is, so thanks to Walter who did the organising this year, as well as the others who helped him.

A short Rhine tour – part of my Metric Century A Month challenge

May is a strange month in Germany as it seems to consist almost entirely of public holidays. It feels like every week has at least one day off – Christi Himmelfahrt, Pfingsten, Fronleichnam…

Anyway, Pfingsten (Whitsun) was a free Monday. On the Saturday I was going to a Eurovision party with Claudia and Gudula but Sunday and Monday were completely free so I decided I would do a short bike tour. I’ve done the Rhein south of here lots of times but not really north of Kempen so I decided to cycle northwards along the Rhein. And for it to be my first ever proper tour in the Velomobile (overnight tour I mean).

Interestingly, you need almost as much equipment for a one-night tour as for a three week tour. You need two sets of cycle clothing and one set of casual evening clothing, including shoes that aren’t SPD/clipless. I also wanted my iPad. You need tools, wash kit, phone chargers etc. The only things I left behind were the charger for Penelope’s batteries (they would last no problem for two days) and the charger for my AA batteries for my Garmin.

What is notable about a velomobile on a bike tour is… other people can’t tell you’re on a bike tour. All the luggage is stored in the velomobile so as far as they are concerned you might be cycling round the corner to visit a friend. On a normal bike the touring panniers are a dead giveaway.

This is what Penelope looked like from outside and inside during my tour.

VM for touring

VM for touring 2

I had planned a route there which went first to Xanten (or near it, past where the Trike Treffen had been the previous week) and then on to the Rhein, following the southern bank until Millingen. That was the plan, but I changed it a bit underway.

Screenshot to Millingen

Anyway, I set off northwards to Geldern where I partook of a breakfast in the café overlooking the market square. I had all day, plenty of time for the 84km, and so I thought I would take it very easy. Also because Penelope was pretty heavy with my luggage (shoes, lock and iPad add quite a bit of weight!)

After Geldern I headed towards Xanten via Sonsbeck on the route I had taken home from the Trike Treffen Thursday evening meet. This had an excellent hill-avoidance diversion so I didn’t have to haul myself up the hill between Sonsbeck and Xanten, just looked at it to my left as I pootled along on the flat. A much better option!

I cycled past the road to the camping place for the Trike Treffen and then continued north, through Marienbaum and then eventually to the Rhein.

But before I reached the Rhein I had my first obstacle… Drängelgitter

Draengelgitter

These are a pain in the neck with velomobiles as you have to get out, manoeuvre the bike through and then get in again. My velomobile routes always avoid them if possible but I didn’t know these were here. Fortunately they were the only ones I encountered on my tour.

Soon I was up on the Deich/dyke and able to see my river, the Rhein. I was having a very relaxed ride, not overdoing it and being careful about my knee which has had a few problems recently. With a heavy velomobile and unknown route it would be easy to go too fast so I was careful. Well, that’s my excuse as to why the day’s average speed was only 18.9km/h.

Then I found myself on a familiar bit of road that I had cycled with Hartmut first, and then Klaus on the way back from Dronten – the bit before the bridge to Rees. I had been considering the distance of my tour – only 84km. I wasn’t sure if I would have another opportunity for a 100km ride this month and thought it sensible to extend the ride so I could bag the Century. I thought therefore it might be nice to cross at Rees and head to Emmerich for tea/cake as that ought to add on up to 10km. So I decided to follow the cycle signs to Emmerich (rather than my Garmin), and found myself riding up an extremely steep slope up to the bridge. I almost didn’t manage the slope because of traction issues… when I had crossed the bridge with Hartmut and Klaus we had gone on the road. The cycle path was definitely less suitable although I managed it.

You can see here how narrow the bridge pedestrian/cycle section is.

Bridge to Rees

But of course a lovely view down the Rhein.

Looking down the Rhein

It was an extremely windy day and once I crossed the river and turned north west and west I was directly into wind and even in Penelope I noticed it. It was actually quite a cold day and I had chosen unwisely when I wore a short-sleeved cycling jersey – long sleeves would have been better. Thank goodness for my buffs too, to keep my head and neck warm too. We had had a week of very warm temperatures in Germany (27-28 degrees) and then suddenly overnight it had gone down to 14 degrees and I was not accustomed!

Anyway, I pootled on following the signs after Rees to Bienen (German for “bees”) and then eventually to Emmerich.

I rode through the rather deserted town centre not seeing any likely cafés for lunch but soon realised that they would all be facing the river and found a long strip of food establishments with masses of bikes parked outside.

Emmerich Rheinterasse

Rhein and bikes

The hardy Germans were sitting outside but I was still cold and so decided to sit inside. I chose a waffle…

Waffle in Emmerich

After a relatively short stop I carried on, heading for the bridge to cross back over the Rhein.

Emmerich bridge and statue

It was really windy going over the bridge and the lady cyclist in front of me was weaving all over the place. I was a bit worried about the wind blowing my phone away so I didn’t take any photos!

Once back over on the left hand side of the Rhein I rejoined my Garmin’s track and cycled into a howling gale, overtaking lots of other cyclists on upright bikes who were really battling the elements.

I had a wonderful display at one point of a huge bird circling around… and I realised it was a stork. It was trying to join two other storks on a nest but they seemed not keen on this idea and chased him/her away. Here are the storks on the nest.

Storks

Seeing these enormous birds flying is amazing!

As I got nearer to Millingen I realised I still wouldn’t hit the 100km, I would be six short. So at one junction I saw a likely-looking detour along some quiet roads which would take me south west (side wind instead of headwind) and then I could go north-east back a little way, doing two sides of a triangle. I guesstimated it would be about a 6km detour so should do the trick. So off I went.

There was a fringe benefit for this detour – this excellent road name!

Dingdung

And then I found myself crossing the border from Germany to the Netherlands directly at the sign for the town of Millingen.

Millingen border

I found my hotel which I had pre-booked. It was pretty cheap (57€ for a single room including breakfast) and seemed fine, although the restaurant menu proved too expensive for me so I went to the chinese restaurant round the corner.

I ordered satay chicken and rice and a pancake roll. The pancake roll was enormous and the rice had, rather bizarrely, two slices of ham on it. Very Dutch I suppose!

Chinese

I had completed 100.69km for the day with an average heart rate of 130bpm which is lower than normal. A nice relaxing tour and although my back was hurting at the end (I have had back trouble for a month now) it wasn’t too bad and my knee had held up well.

After my Chinese I went to bed, pretty tired after the cycling.

I slept 10 hours which is extremely unusual for me – but shows again that cycle touring is a very relaxing holiday!

My route back to Kempen was much shorter as it was more direct, going round Kleve but through Goch, Weeze, Kevelaer, Geldern and Stenden. I’ve ridden to Kleve before on Alfie so vaguely knew the route, but had decided to take a different route to Goch which seemed to go through some kind of forest/wood.

Screenshot home

Of course, what I had failed to notice during my planning is that this route took me over a mountain…

Mountain

Here it is in the distance as I pootled my way across the landscape which was subtly different to my bit of the Niederrhein (more trees perhaps).

Different scenery

The forecast was for rain today and I was followed by some menacing clouds quite a lot of the time. Today of course I had a rather good tailwind so I felt like it was much easier riding – which is evidenced by my overall average heart rate of 110 with the maximum of 148. My average is usually around the 140 mark.

I decided I would stop at Weeze or Kevelaer for cake and had decided to just press on for home today rather than do any sightseeing but my plans changed when I spotted an RAF flag fluttering through some trees, shortly followed by a light aircraft landing and glimpses of more planes. There was tape preventing people from parking on both sides of this main road but then I saw a chap in a fluorescent tabard sitting on a chair beside a road closure gate and decided to go and investigate. I cycled past this chap, and also past some people who had money belts on (I later discovered other visitors were paying to go to see the airfield! Oops!) and found myself at an airfield where there was some kind of Open Day taking place.

This plane was called the Red Baron and you could have flights for 60€. It turns out to be an Antonov AN-2T Albatros from 1957 so not the actual Red Baron plane…

Red Baron plane

There were lots of other small light aircraft there, a beer stand, Bratwurst stand, seating area in the hangar and various displays from local sponsors (banks etc). Although I have to say there weren’t that many people there, perhaps because of the unfavourable weather forecast.

Planes

This plane had a Union Jack flag attached to the propellor. It’s a Slingsby Sedburgh with Dutch registration so no idea of the UK link.

Slingsby Sedburgh

But the UK link was very obvious on this plane (rather zoomed in so sorry for the quality!)

BAE Hawk model

The announcer told us over the tannoy that this plane was a one-third scale model of a BAE Hawk which has all the features of the real Hawk except a pilot! He told the crowd that the Hawk was the Red Arrows plane, and would now do a display including the coloured smoke. So this was definitely worth hanging around to watch!

Here is a small collage of some of the photos I took during the display, which was great fun and felt really, really close. That thing flies brilliantly!

Model Hawk flying

I’ve seen the Red Arrows a few times at air displays and this was just like seeing one of them… the size wasn’t really noticeable when up in the air. But he flew just 50 feet above the airstrip at some parts of the show which was fun. Apparently the chap built it himself which is amazing, and it runs on proper jet fuel and weighs 25kg.

After watching this display I was getting very cold (again, I didn’t have the right clothes really for this tour) so decided to continue on. I rode through Goch and then found myself leaving it on the way to… who knows!!!

Goch to where

Again, the landscape felt different than Kreis Viersen; more forests and not so wide views. But nice.

More trees

When I arrived at Weeze I decided it was time to stop for cake as I realised my track didn’t go through Kevelaer but round the outside and I hadn’t visited Weeze for a while. So I found a nice café which offered me a good selection of cakes… and I chose this very light moussy number.

Cake in Weeze

Having dodged a few raindrops during my cake session it was time to set off for the last 30 or so kilometres, all very easy and relaxed.

I went around Kevelaer and made a couple of detours to keep me off the B9 road where there is no cycle path (previously I rode on the road but with some ramps over railways I was slow at times and it was a bit uncomfortable with the fast cars). And on one of these small detours I spotted this rather large bike!

Giant bike 1

It was on a trailer.

Giant bike trailer

I liked the Schwalbe sticker on the tyre.

Giant bike schwalbe

The white pipework is I guess some kind of lighting for winter.

Giant bike 2

I think I could have fitted my entire foot on this pedal.

Giant pedal

I think the chain needs a bit of work to be effective!

Giant bike chain

Here is Penelope again with her new friend.

Penelope and giant bike

It was a very cool bike and I would have loved to try to sit on the enormous saddle but of course it was Zutritt Verboten.

The rest of the route home was very familiar from my recent Sunday rides into Kreis Kleve and went quickly apart from my brief detour into Geldern where the circus had closed some of the roads which made things a bit slow. I was home nice and early for a hot shower and some warmer clothes!

My ride back had been 73.87km at an average of 18.7km/h but I only burned 1,069 calories as I wasn’t working hard at all.

My conclusion about touring with the Velomobile – it works well, you can cover ground quickly, you keep warmer and if it rains it would have been ideal, but it’s harder to manoeuvre to park and through gates and things and some really steep ramps for cycle paths on some of the official routes might defeat me.

Riding with Kajsa Tylén

I have mentioned in previous blogs that a cycling acquaintance Steve Abraham was going for the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAM’R) last year, which was over 125,000km. He broke his leg partway through the attempt after a drunken moped rider hit him so didn’t get the record but Kurt Searvogel from America did.

Anyway, this interest in the men’s record of 67,000 miles in a year also awakened interest in the women’s record, set by Billie Fleming (née Dovey) at 29,603.7 miles (47,642.5 km) which she set in 1938. There are currently three women undertaking this record, Kajsa Tylén from the UK, Amanda Coker from the USA and Alicia Searvogel (wife of Kurt who holds the men’s record) also from the USA.

Kajsa started her attempt first, on 1 January 2016, and has been very successful with updates to supporters on Facebook, plus articles elsewhere such as the BBC. She encourages people to ride with her, although as she is riding to Guinness rules she is not allowed to draft. Several UK friends have ridden with her and said it was a really good day out.

I noticed from her website A Year In The Saddle that she would be travelling from the UK to Sweden in May/June and wondered if I could intercept her.

So I sent her a message through her Facebook site as I saw that she would be in NL for a few days which might work for me. She replied that she’d love for me to cycle with her and after a bit of diary-checking I realised the only day I could do this would be a Saturday when she was riding from Delft to Dedgum in Friesland.

I initially thought I would get the train to ride with her but Dedgum is miles from any railway places so in the end I concluded I would have to do a there-and-back ride, driving to Dedgum and then riding towards Delft, hopefully bumping into Kajsa along the way. Fortunately she has a spot tracker which gives her position every 10 minutes or so which meant I would be able to know when to expect her. She had also sent me a GPX track of her route which she intended to follow (with possible diversions on the day if necessary).

So on the Saturday morning I loaded Alfie into the car and headed off to Dedgum, which was a three hour drive. I arrived at the campsite and fished Alfie out of the car.

Alfie and Roomster

Here is a map of NL (with Kempen off the bottom, just to the south west of Essen) which shows where I rode.

IJsselmeer

And this is a close-up of the track. (The boxes show where I have taken photos and uploaded them to Strava).

Afsluitsdijk

The forecast for Kempen was 25 degrees and sunny but I knew on the coast it would be cooler. It was probably around 19 degrees so I was glad I had my windproof jacket on. The sun wasn’t really breaking through and there was a lot of wind – these turbines were turning pretty fast.

Windmills

I set off without using any e-assist. Although I was riding into wind I thought I might need all my motor’s help for the way back with Kajsa as she’s a lot faster than me. So I had a pretty slow trundle to Zurich where I stopped for a very overpriced ham roll.

Zurich

I stopped here to prepare for the next 30km which would be on the Afsluitdijk, a causeway built in 1932 that separated off the IJsselmeer. It is an impressive engineering feat and I was keen to have a look and cycle over it – twice.

Afsluitdijk 2

My Garmin map was very blue!

Garmin

Looking back over both sides – the North Sea on the left, the IJsselmeer on the right.

Both sides

After about 5km there was a curve and I could see the causeway stretching out into the distance.

Curve in road

There were a couple of motorway service stations along the 30km route which were accessible by bike but I kept going.

What was less pleasant were the huge clouds of insects that I found myself cycling through. I had to ride with mouth firmly closed, breathing through my nose, and could feel them hitting my face… You can see on this photo lots of little black dots – the insects.

Insects

There were patches where there weren’t any insects but for most of the journey across they were annoying.

When I got to the other side and got off the trike there was a visible tide mark of insects on my seat where my legs had been…

Insect tide mark

Once I was across the causeway I found myself in Den Oever. Kajsa’s track headed away from the village through some woodland but I checked the tracker and saw she was 20km or more away so decided to stop for food as I didn’t know if she would want to stop on the way back and I hadn’t really passed anything suitable anyway.

So I wandered into Den Oever and found a burger café which did me a burger and chips for a reasonable price.

lunch

As the day was warming up I decided to have an ice cream and photographed my Magnum next to the village’s windmill.

Magnum and windmill

It looked as though Kajsa was now about 5km away so I decided to start riding in her direction – as this would get me another 100km for the day as I had already done 49.

The track went through some woodland and was rather pleasant.

Woodland track

I checked the tracker again and she was less than a kilometre away so I stopped at the top of a small rise and watched the track in front of me. Soon enough a small figure came very fast towards me…

Kajsa

I settled in to cycling beside her, impressed at how well she was going after 150km. I had my electric motor on now to adjust to her speed and soon we were riding side-by-side quite effectively. If there was ever a reason to single out I was either a long way in front of her (so she couldn’t draft me) or behind.

I warned her about the insects on the causeway which she clearly wasn’t looking forward to but the reality was they had all been blown northwards by the time we got there. We were fast across the causeway with the tailwind Kajsa had had all day helping us to an average of 25-26km/h. Over 25 my motor switches off so I was using my leg power too!

Here we are – I had ridden ahead to try to get a selfie.

Selfie on Dijk

And here is a pic that Kajsa took of me.

Helen cycling with Kajsa

We had a really good chinwag over the time we were riding. It was fascinating talking to her and hearing about this mammonth undertaking. I’d been watching her videos on Facebook over the year so it was also a weird experience seeing her in real life for the first time as I felt like I already knew her.

We whizzed along, soon off the causeway and back into the Frisian countryside.

Kajsa realised that she would arrive at the campsite with 196.4km on the clock so we clearly had to do another four. We agreed to divert just before the campsite up a road but turned a bit too soon so we needed to do another 500 metres. This involved riding into the village of Dedgum where we met a lady on a horse and Kajsa managed to photograph the moment the horse saw my trike and clearly wondered “whatever is that!!!!????”

Scared horse

I had only used half of the battery in my trike despite riding for 60km with it on level 7 or 8 (out of 9) so I was pleased with that, although it’s party explained by us riding at above 25km/h in some sections which means there is no e-assist.

We got to the campsite and Kajsa kindly offered for me to have a cup of tea and slice of apple pie with them. She had a quick sit on Alfie too but after a 200km day had no wish to actually ride anywhere, especially as she had the wrong cleats.

Sitting on trike

So they fortified me with apple pie…

Apple pie

Then I headed off for the three hour journey home.

All in all it was a great day, some interesting new scenery and the Afsluitdijk was really cool to ride over (twice), and 109.44km for me at an average of 18.4km/h.

Every couple of days Kajsa does a video diary and here is the one where she mentions riding with me:

ADFC Sternfahrt Mönchengladbach

The ADFC (German cycling club) periodically organises things called Sternfahrten (Star Rides) where people ride from lots of different directions to a central meeting point. Mönchengladbach, which is a rather car-overrun city, has had two before and the last one was very successful. So the Sternfahrt for this year was planned… and a couple of ADFC acquaintances asked me to come along with the Velomobile.

One of the feeder rides was starting in Kempen so I persuaded various people (Klaus, Gudula and Frank) to come with me and to first of all have breakfast of cake in Kempen. Which we did.

Jochen, who was leading the ride from Kempen, joined us at the café. He is currently seriously considering buying a velomobile, probably a Strada, so he and Klaus had a lot to talk about!

We set off at 11:30am from Kempen with a few other riders, having decorated our bikes with ADFC-coloured balloons (blue and orange)

Balloons on bikes

Here is the track of our ride.

Sternfahrt Track

The feeder ride stopped also in Vorst (Tönisvorst) and then Viersen where we picked up more people. At each stop Jochen could be seen looking at Celeste and talking to Klaus about velomobiles…

Jochen velomobile fixated 1

As we were quite early to Vorst we also had ice creams.

Sternfahrt Eis

Eventually we arrived in Rheydt where the ride would start.

At Rheydt
(In the above picture you can see Jochen gazing at Celeste again)

And here he is again..

Jochen fixated by Celeste 3

More and more people were arriving – as were the rainclouds. Rain had been forecast but we were lucky that it had so far held off. But then it started.

As everyone began to put on their waterproofs a small peloton of velomobiles and recumbents arrived… some people from the Velomobilforum including Düssel who Klaus and I have met several times.

VMs at Sternfahrt 1

At just past three o’clock it was time for the ride to start. There were several police vans plus police motorcyclists and cyclists who would close the roads for us – fun!

Velomobiles are quite hard to ride in groups so we decided to all go at the back for the ride. The ADFC Facebook site had this great photo of the ride though, and Gudula and Frank are visible in it.

Sternfahrt Gudula and Frank

And there was also a video taken – the velomobiles are in the last few seconds!

The ride was just 10km long and very slow because of all the bikes. It was also raining a lot as you can see from this shot I took whilst riding.

Ride through P's windscreen

It was fun being in a group with the other VMs.

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 1

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 2

Passers-by were standing watching and cheering and it was good fun except for a few dodgy motorists near the end. There was a near-accident with a bus (who got a good stern talking-to by a policeman) and Klaus witnessed a policewoman knocked off her bike and he had a close shave. Still, it was great fun and lovely to ride in such a big group with people of all different abilities and ages.

When we got back to the square we lined ourselves up for a photo.

A row of weird bikes

Sternfahrt VM noses

And at some point the semi-official photographer got a shot of Klaus and I… and of course Jochen gazing fixedly at Celeste again!

Helen Klaus Jochen

We then rode back in the rain and I was very glad to be dry and warm in the velomobile.

I ended up with 82km for the day which wasn’t bad and brought me to the brink of 4,000km for the year.

If the weather had been good they would probably had double the number of participants but it was still fun and I enjoyed catching up with cycling friends who I’ve met over the last two years. I look forward to the next Sternfahrt!

Some other ride pictures

Here are a few other pictures taken on rides this month.

This was Burg Linn near Krefeld early evening.

Burg Linn

And this was a beautiful morning scene on my way to work one day.

Landscape sky

And on my way home one evening

St Hubert by sunset

And here was a very interesting velomobile that whizzed towards where Klaus and I had stopped for some soup on an evening ride. The rider stopped and had a great chat with us about his Go-One Evo R. He lives in Kaldenkirchen so not so far away from us!

Evo 1

Look at the size of that chainring!

Giant kettenblatt

And you can use it as a knife if riding in reverse!

Sharp rear of Evo

It was very good to chat to the owner Oliver. He says it is a really fast machine but not particularly comfortable on long journeys – it’s a stripped-down racer without rear suspension.

3 VMs 2 chaps

3 VMs

Life in Germany

Just a quick note to say that after two years here I appear to be beginning to assimilate. I found myself buying a jar of Rotkohl to have with my Bratwurst one evening…

Rotkohl

A visit to the Oberhausen Gasometer

I had several days off work as there wasn’t enough for us to do and this coincided with both Gudula and Frank also having a day off so we decided to go on a trip to visit the exhibition within the Oberhausen Gasometer.

There exhibition was ‘the wonders of nature’ and consisted of lots of photographs of nature with accompanying text. Lots of the images were from the BBC’s Planet Earth series.

Gasometer

Gasometer 2

Gasometer 3

Inside were two huge floors with the picture and video displays and then the floor above was something else altogether (more anon).

Here are some views of the ground floor.

Ground Floor 1

Ground Floor 2

And the first floor which was crisscrossed by girders and beams, most of which had spongy material on them in case you bumped your head!

First Floor 1

First Floor 2

I spent about an hour and a half looking at these two floors and then it was time for the third floor… which turned out to be a real surprise!

It was a huge, huge space with a giant globe suspended from the room of the Gasometer onto which were projected slowly moving images of the earth taken from the ISS and other space expeditions. The images slowly changed from night to day with the earth very slowly rotating. It was beautiful to watch, especially as there were beanbags for you to lie on so you could look up at the globe in comfort.

Here are some of the photos I took.

Earth 1

Earth 2

Earth 3

Earth 4

And here I walked around a bit away from the stepped seating area which you can just see at the bottom of this photo.

Earth and steps

I watched the images for half an hour and then they restarted – it was a very impressive show and quite hypnotising.

I met back up with Frank and Gudula and they said we should take the lift up to the top. We had to queue but they said it would be worth it – and it was!

Firstly, it was a glass lift so we were able to watch as we went above the globe, almost to the very top of the gasometer.

Looking down on globe

The above picture looks a bit like a jellyfish but it is looking down onto the globe and then lower onto the lit steps where people sit to watch the globe.

At the top we are almost 105 metres above ground.

104.94 metres

There was a slight extra bit to climb to get to the very top of the structure.

Climbing up

Where there were some excellent views over the industrial areas.

View from Gasometer

View from Gasometer 2

And lots of evidence of landscaping by humans.

Hill

It was well worth a visit to the Gasometer and I will probably go back again to see the next exhibition as it was all so well displayed.

Fixing my CD Player

A long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth people listened to CDs rather than MP3s or streaming music. Because CDs only contain about 45 minutes of music you had to keep changing the CD in the player. Except Sony invented a CD player that, like a slide carousel, held 300 CDs in one machine and worked rather like a jukebox. I had one of these.

I bought it back in 1992 or thereabouts and have used it ever since as the sound quality is much better than an MP3 player. However, it had started making some strange noises when rotating the carousel or selecting the disk… and eventually it stopped working altogether, just making slight noises but not playing anything. It was also not possible to open the door to get the CDs out.

Clearly I would have to get it repaired but I had no idea how much this would cost and whether it would be possible. So after procrastinating for a month or so I decided I would take the lid off myself and have a look. After all, to transport it to a repair person I would need to take all the CDs out so they didn’t fall out and get stuck.

Here it is before I attacked it with a screwdriver

CD Player

And with the lid off – you can see all the CDs lined up inside.

CD player with lid off

And from the side (I have removed a whole bunch of CDs here to get a better look).

CD player side view

Aha! The problem becomes evident. A rubber band has fallen off the two spindles.

Rubber off spindle

Nils came to help me and we decided that we would attempt to get the rubber ring back on the spindle. Whether this was the main issue we didn’t know but it was worth a go. So we had to find the right tools for the job…

The right tools for the job

We had to remove a lot of the CDs so we had space to move, and then Nils did his surgery.

Nils does surgery

He managed to fit the rubber ring back on the spindles. We turned the machine on and things started to happen but it didn’t entirely work right and when we stopped it the rubber ring had fallen off the spindles again. Perhaps it was a bit perished and had stretched (after all, it’s over 20 years old). But we tried again, removing some of the grease from the rubber ring with our fingers (it had dropped into a grease reservoir).

And then, the second time, it was working perfectly! So we put the lid back on, I put all the CDs back in (which is rather time-consuming) and now it is back in pride of place working excellently.

Working again

Top marks to Nils and me for our engineering geniusness!

Buying a watch

My Dad was always keen on watches and clocks and so I decided to buy myself a nice automatic watch as a way of remembering him.

I obviously needed to do some research so wrote to some of the brands I liked asking for their catalogues. I got some amazingly posh catalogues back, including the catalogue from Sinn which was more like a really high-quality hardback book.

Watch catalogues

Eventually after lots of studying and thinking I narrowed down my choice to two different watches by the firm Mühle Glashütte. A jeweller in Kempen had some of their products so Gudula came with me to have a look. I rode Penelope, Gudula used Alfie.

Gudula on Alfie

I tried on several watches at this jeweller (they didn’t have the specific models I wanted but had others in the range) and decided which one I would go for. I had identified one in stock at a jeweller in Nürnberg and had negotiated quite a good discount so I ordered it and it arrived a few days later. It’s a Mühle Glashütte Antaria Tag Datum and very lovely!

Antaria Tag Datum

Cakes this month

Because this blog post is rather long and difficult to download I have gathered all the cake pictures together for this month into one image. Enjoy!

May Cakes

Friend Lara had her twelfth birthday and she and I made a Käse Sahne Torte the day before.

Lara's birthday kaese sahne

Her mother also made a Strawberry tart

Lara's birthday Sprudel

And a chocolate ‘Sprudel Cake’

Lara's birthday strawberry

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

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 11

My original plan was to spend a year in Germany – what I good thing I decided to extend that a long time ago as a year would have been nowhere near long enough!

February has been a bit of an odd month as will be explained below. But the first hint can be gathered by my cycling statistics for this month.

Cycling Statistics for February 2015

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.44.50

As you can see, I didn’t ride very far at all this month – and my last ride was on the 19th of February. And here’s where I went.

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.45.10

The reason I did so few miles is that I came down with the flu rather badly and it completely wiped me out for two weeks (and it’s now the third week and I’m still recovering and not back to full bike riding). It also did something odd to my liver so I’ve been seeing the doctor about that although things look like they are improving (more about the German healthcare system in the report for next month).

Doubly-unfortunately the flu came in the two weeks I had set aside (with few engagements) to get a good lot of work done. Needless to say I spent the time instead in bed reading, listening to podcasts and getting very bored. I was slightly saved by the chance to listen to the ‘Germany: Memories Of A Nation’ podcasts from Neil McGregor of the British Museum. These were on Radio 4 in the UK some months ago and several people had recommended that I listen so I downloaded the podcasts and waited for the right time (which came this month). I had also requested the book for Christmas so was able to read extracts of that as well (and see the pictures that he is describing as well).

I did manage some good rides earlier in the month though, including some more church-bagging (I’ve got very behind with writing those visits up, I’ve done about another twenty now). It seems that my regular cycling companion Klaus doesn’t find visiting churches quite as interesting as I do.

Lazy Klaus

We also had a trike maintenance day. I needed to replace the brake cables on Alfie (spot the smart new red ones!) and also checked my brake pads, which ended up with a rather unexpected complete disassembly of a BB7 brake. It took Klaus and I about an hour and a half to put it back together again so we won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

Bike maintenance day

We had to do a fair bit of brake adjustment on both trikes after a lot of winter riding. Disc brakes do seem to need a lot more attention than the drums that I have on the Trice Q but I do like how positive the discs are.

Klaus added some inner tube to the rack on his trike to make his smart new Vaude panniers fit a bit better. I also changed the tyres on the Trice Q that Claudia is borrowing to some old Marathons (they had Marathon Plus on) but had trouble getting the tyres to sit properly, which involved another attempt a couple of weeks later. Perhaps when the tyres get old they become cantankerous.

I also ordered online a few more bike tools as I was getting fed up with having to swap my one bike toolkit between the two bikes – and the risk is that I would forget the kit (which I have done twice before). A puncture then would be a disaster!

The pump that I use (for one-handed people) is rather expensive at 40 Euros so I decided instead to try a CO2 pump. That was pretty good value (assuming it works) although the cartridges are 2,50€ if you buy them individually (bulk is way cheaper but I don’t know how often I will use them).

New bike toolkit

New bike toolkit 2

The plan is to have the real pump in Penelope and the CO2 pump in Alfie (because if it doesn’t work for some reason I have many more options for rescue with a bike that fits easily in a car). I am also often riding in company with Alfie and that company is likely to have a pump too. But it’s nice to not have to remember to get the toolkit out of the other bike each time I swap – and it was a good chance also to rationalise the things I am carrying around with me. The toolkits seem to rather grow in content!

Karneval

Karneval is the gift that keeps on giving throughout the winter – there’s always another event to visit if you have the fortitude. There are also various unusual sights available… such as this man walking in a pink bunny onesie in Escheln at midday on a Wednesday.

Man in bunny suit

As I had clearly developed a reputation as a hardy Karneval-goer I was invited to a double-event by Claudia at which Lara was performing. Two “Auftritt” (performances) with a bit of a gap in the middle (I was offered the inducement of cake). So of course I thought it would be nice to go. This was all in the run up to the last Karneval weekend (the whole thing finishes the day before Ash Wednesday).

Claudia said something about the first event being in Deutsche Bank in Viersen. I assumed she meant outside but once again my powers of imagination were lacking as it was indeed inside the bank. I went and got some money out surrounded by people in uniforms with swords.

Karneval DB 1

When Lara processed in for the start of her dance we followed her into the main banking are and it was full of people dressed as cowboys and indians with copious amounts of beer flowing. There were a surprising number of drunk people in a bank at 2 in the afternoon.

Karneval DB 2

Karneval DB 3

Lara’s dance was rudely curtailed by dust on the CD which meant it kept skipping but the cowboys and indians didn’t really seem to notice. She was rather disappointed though.

Karneval DB 4

Lara went off with the other dancers after this and Claudia and I went for our cake. I had something called a ‘Windbeuteltorte’ although it didn’t taste very Windbeutely.

windbeuteltorte

We ended up with about an hour and a half before the next event, which was Lara’s other performance (singing a duet dressed as a gipsy). This would be outside the Rathaus (town hall) so a walk of about 20 metres from the café. A real hardship.

There were lots of different performances (several of which I have now already seen) but this time in the open air with the Mayor of Viersen on the balcony being included in the event. There were lots of football jokes which rather passed me by.

Unfortunately the MC completely forgot about Lara’s Gipsy dance and so announced the ‘final item’ (which was a group of chaps dressed in French military uniforms from the 18th century doing some dances). Lara and her co-dancer went over to the MC and so they had their moment of glory at the very end – except they weren’t given microphones.

Gipsy dance 2

Fortunately the crowd realised and started shouting “they’re singing!” so the music was stopped and the MC (who only had the one microphone) turned himself into a microphone stand and they did their routine, this time singing audibly.

Gipsy dance

I was very impressed at how they coped with the several hiccups during today’s performances. Well done!

However the final Karneval event that I attended was perhaps, for my hosts, a slight disappointment in that their regular attempts to discombobulate the Brit failed. As we have this kind of thing in the UK (processions through the streets with people on various different floats). So this felt more ‘normal’ than all the rest of it, although the throwing of food to spectators isn’t something you get in the UK. This was a Karneval Umzug and all the roads were closed for several hours.

Claudia had decided where we would be and we met up with some more of their friends as we walked to our spot. I had hoped to be able to take the trike (to have somewhere to sit – the event was apparently going to be three hours long) but was told there would not be room. In the end there would have been room, but we were only there for an hour and a half anyway so my back survived standing up that long!

The Umzug is lots of floats from various Karneval organisations around (including one Dutch one), mostly pulled by tractors. In fact the variety of tractors was really rather interesting to see!

Here is a small selection of the floats.

Float 1

Float 2

Float 3

Spot the weird local dialect on this float!

Float 4

Float 5

These marionettes were very cool if slightly perturbing.

Float 6

And here was the float of the Roahser Jonges Prinzenpaar – the group that Lara was involved with. She was on the wagon throwing out goodies (but the other side from where I was standing).

Float 7

Float 8

The final float was the Viersen Prince and Princess, preceded by their Guard on horseback.

Float 9

At this point all the spectators disappeared off. We had an hour to wait for Lara (as she had another thing afterwards) and so headed to Claudia’s favourite café for cake, only to discover that it was closed. Disaster!!!!

We decided in the end to go back to their house and that Claudia would come back to collect Lara later.

On our walk along the route the ever-efficient Germans were already out cleaning the streets from all the mess following the procession.

Street sweeping 1

Street sweeping 2

Friends and events

Once again it was great to meet up with Gabi and Rolf (other velomobile riders) in Schwalmtal.

Here is Gabi’s Quest (with new race cap) and Penelope.

Penelope and Quest 1

Penelope and Quest 2

As always it was lovely to sit and chat with them both – and to hear Rolf’s plans of buying himself a Quest velomobile instead of his Mango. Exciting stuff!

Gabi had once again cycled up from Bonn (and she brought a wonderful home-made lemon cheesecake, with lemon from her own lemon trees!) and although it was a very cold day (about -1 degrees) we both enjoyed our rides in the velomobiles, staying very warm. I needed a hat and buff to keep my face warm (no racecap) but Gabi was always toasty warm.

Helen in Penelope

I was also pleased to see friend Babs again on Ash Wednesday when we went for the Tortenschlemmen (all you can eat cake) at my local cafe. Once again I only managed two cakes. But they were tasty!

Tortenschlemmen 1

Tortenschlemmen 2

And the next morning (which happened to be the day I came down with the flu) I felt a bit rough but struggled out on Penelope to meet with Hartmut and Jochen (of the ADFC) for a photo shoot about the new Knotenpunkte that have appeared in Kreis Viersen this year. A photographer from the Westdeutsche Zeitung was coming along to take a picture of us next to one of the special points (with a numbering system you can use to navigate easily).

I rode over there in Penelope feeling pretty rough, and when I got to the agreed point Hartmut was already there. Jochen soon arrived and had his first sit in Penelope.

Jochen in Penelope

After about ten minutes the photographer turned up – by bike!!! He took a picture (I stupidly forgot to put Penelope’s bling lights on) and it appeared in the paper a week later.

WZ Article 1

WZ Article 2

By this point I was really in the grip of the flu, bedridden and bored out of my mind. Poppy and I did have occasional light relief though – watching Top Gear for example.

Poppy watches Top Gear

Randomness

One Sunday morning as I headed out to my car I spotted this!

Under my car wheel 1

Under my car wheel 2

It paid for a nice selection of bread and cakes to take to my friends’ house that morning for Brunch.

Pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) arrived and I was concerned that I didn’t have any eggs. I went round to visit a neighbour (who works as a translator into English and indeed her English is incredibly good) and fortunately she has hens and gave me a half dozen eggs. So I had a few pancakes myself and also made one for Poppy.

Pancake day

Poppy pancake

Poppy and I were out for a walk and we saw what seemed to be a rather over-engineered way of pollarding some trees. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t just do it from the other side of the ditch…

Tree pollarding

It seemed to be the month for tree removal as our next door neighbour decided to remove the large tree at the front of his house. Frank and Lara helped, and it was obviously quite an involved procedure!

Next door's tree removal 1

Next door's tree removal 2

There was an awful lot of tree on the ground at the end – Frank spent a couple of days chainsawing it up and it will be running the woodburner next year I suppose!

Next door's tree removal 3

Poppy the dog loves her life here in Germany – particularly as there are lots of other people to hang out with if I am out of the house. Lara who lives upstairs has a huge beanbag that Poppy finds most comfortable.

Popster keeping an eye on things

Popster tired

However she is less impressed with my haircutting skills – when doing it on my own it’s quite tricky so I hit upon the idea of standing her on the wheelie bin. She was not impressed but it stopped her running away!

Dog haircut

My mission to spot ridiculously-long German words in the wild continues and I had some success with the German Velomobile forum. How about this for a word (made up, of course)!
FullSizeRender

It’s worth noting that in my time here in Germany I’ve found several words commonly used which I didn’t learn at school and hadn’t really seen written down either (they seem to be mainly spoken rather than used in the written language). They are:
kriegen – to get (pronounced krichen)
gucken – to look
heftig – difficult

Equally, I have been asked by several different Germans what is the English for Brötchen (rolls). They also tend not to have heard of a duvet and also have little understanding of the difference between a town and city. Germans have said to me (in English) “the city of Kempen” (and it is most certainly too small to be a city).

I’ve missed two sessions of the VHS because of my flu but am looking forward to continuing my German studies. My interactions with Klaus’s family, almost entirely in German, seem to be the most helpful thing in improving my language skills though. I hope that they, too, are learning some English from me.

I took a look at some of the info on this blog about referrals (how people arrive here) and discovered I have been mentioned in a few new places. Here’s a small selection (the black page is friend Oliver the Mango velomobile rider).

Blog reference 1

Blog reference 2

Blog reference 3

And, a final bizarre bit of randomness… Before my flu hit Claudia decided we ought to do something more interesting one Saturday evening (as Lara would be away). Perhaps visit the theatre or cinema. Unfortunately the eight local cinemas were all only showing ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ which none of us wanted to see. There was nothing on at the theatre. So I resorted to googling… and got this option:

What to do in Viersen on a Saturday night

We decided regenerative cryotherapy wasn’t really our thing either, and in the end I was stuck in bed with the flu. But it just goes to show there is always something new to experience in Germany, even in the sleepy Niederrhein!

Scenery

The wonderful Niederrhein scenery continues to take my breath away at times.

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sun on fields

Sunshine over St Hubert Escheln

Sunset over Escheln

Misty morning

Cakes this month

Karneval Berliner

cheesecake from Gudula

Cheesecake 2

Choc cake 1

Gabi's lemon cake

cream doughnut

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