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Six Wheels in Germany – January 2018 (Month 46)

Cycling this month

I started this month with a rather better attitude than last month, managing to ride to work on many occasions. However, overall mileage was still very low due to poor weather (cold and/or rainy).

And here is where I actually went.

It seems that now Ralf has his DF velomobile we often all go out together on a Sunday morning. However, once per month the ADFC do a ‘Fit durch den Winter’ ride and we decided to join that ride at the end of January. There were four velomobiles and about 8 upright bikes.

And of course we stopped for cake – except Klaus and I had roast beef and vegetables instead.

A bit of maintenance on Millie

One Saturday morning Klaus and I planned to go out for a ride, so I thought I should pump up Millie’s tyres (I do that once per week) and noticed a broken spoke next to the valve. A bit more checking and there was a second broken spoke. So no riding for me, and Klaus went off for a 100km ride on his own.

I knew chum Jochen regularly has to rebuild his wheels as he is rather dangerous to spokes so I rang him to see if he had them the right length. He didn’t know, and as he was on his way to Velomobiel.nl in Dronten to pick up his repaired velomobile couldn’t tell me right away. However, he agreed to pick up some spare spokes from Velomobiel as it was they who supplied me with the wheel!

The next day we had an appointment with a chap from Cologne who contacted me asking to test ride my Milan as he is thinking of getting one. In the end he also had a ride in Celeste to get an alternative velomobile experience. Jochen turned up with the spare spokes whilst this chap was here so he was able to see 3 velomobiles and hear about them from 2 experts and from me!

The chap left with our recommendation to also try a DF and a WAW and then it was time for Millie’s spoke repair, which involved removing the front wheel. This is a non-trivial procedure in the Milan and actually took us about an hour and a quarter, mainly because we started by using the wrong size spanners (the nuts weren’t all the same size which tricked us!) It was a perishingly cold day and the back garden where we were working was being blasted with an arctic wind.

We had watched the guys at Velomobiel.nl do this to Millie a year ago when she had her new wheels but they made it look much easier than we found it.

Once the wheel was out we drove to Jochen’s house and he gave us a mini lesson in wheel repair… although it was also pretty cold in his garage! However, the two spokes were replaced and then it was back in the car to replace the wheel before the light faded as Millie was in the garden and there was rain forecast for later.

Replacing the wheel was pretty quick with regard to the fixings but trying to get the brake cable back on the end of the caliper was a very fiddly job and took us 15 minutes or so. Needless to say, since then the brake has been much sharper, so I wonder if I have an extra twist in the cable somewhere. But I hope not to have to remove the wheel again in the near future. I checked all the spokes 2 weeks later and they were all OK so this is a good sign that none others were weakened. As I pump my tyres up every week the spokes could only have broken on one of two rides between wheel pumping so it wasn’t running for long like that.

Then a week later I realised that my indicators on the right side weren’t working. This is a bit annoying as I ride on the road so really need functional indicators.

Jochen has replaced the rear indicator in his Strada and this was really an appalling job which took him hours and required child labour (his daughter) to squeeze her arm into a tight spot. That was a year ago so daughter is larger and that option probably doesn’t work now if he has to do it again!

We knew with the Milan it would not be as bad as the rear indicator is easily accessible and the front not too bad. So once again we laid Millie on her side on the garden table and Klaus had a look – he tested the rear LED and it was OK, he removed the front LED from its silicon sealant and it was dead.

He decided to short cut the wires for me so I had at least a rear indicator whilst we wait for the replacement yellow LEDs but struggled again with the very poor quality of cable used in Millie. It’s impossible to strip the sheath from the cable without the whole thing snapping, it is so brittle. So on the list is replacement cable when we do the LED replacement. On the fourth attempt he managed to strip the wire without the whole thing breaking and rigged it so the rear indicator works, so I felt confident enough to use Millie on my short ride to work and back. The new LEDs were ordered and we expect a visit to the local DIY store to get some cable sometime soon.

Penelope gets another makeover

Penelope’s new owner has sent me a couple of pictures of her. He has done some vinyl on her and also repaired a crack in her nose. He has also made some videos of riding with her.

I am not sure about the green myself but he likes it so that’s the main thing!

Life in Germany

Going Keto again

Last year in January I started following a ketogenic (low carb, high fat) diet and found it excellent for my health. I lost 10kg over 3 months and felt really good, very rarely hungry. However, I fell off the wagon a bit and in fact ended up putting on another 20kg over the course of the year, most in the last 3-4 months.

So Klaus and I discussed going Keto from January as he also wanted to lose 8kg.

So on January 1st I put all the pasta and other carby/starchy foodstuffs in one of our cupboards in the lounge so they weren’t a temptation in the kitchen, prepared a few lists of what items were low carb (mostly meat, dairy and veg that grows above the ground) and Klaus and I went shopping. We have decided to buy higher quality meat from a reputable source rather than Aldi/Lidl, but apart from that our buying habits have remained mostly the same, except minimal chocolate and no biscuits.

Here was our fridge on day 1:

I am writing this at the end of month 1 and it has gone very well so far. In fact, it’s been easier than last year because we are both doing it together (rather than me cooking for myself alone), we are finding lots of interesting recipes on the internet, and with two both doing it we can support and encourage each other. So far I have lost 7kg and Klaus has lost 2. He aims to lose 1kg per month, I hope to lose 2-4 per month (the first month you always lose more due to shedding water).

We have agreed to do the Keto diet at least until the end of June this year, so our 2 week bike tour will be during that. It will be interesting to see how possible it is to carry on keto eating when having to eat out at lots of restaurants, but so far restaurant meals have been fine.

This also means that I will not be eating any cakes! I might possibly allow myself one slice of cake at a special event, but at the moment have found it fairly easy to say no, despite my colleague often bringing cakes in to work. However, I include this photo of a cake that Ralf had on a Sunday morning velomobile ride with us, so that my blog readers who like cake pictures are not disappointed!

And also here’s a picture of the cake that Nasim my assistant arranged for Annette’s birthday (although I didn’t eat any of course):

Klaus and I were both in ketosis within a couple of days (according to the Ketostix) and think we are staying in Ketosis although Klaus’s body has already adapted so the Ketostix are no longer registering any ketones in pee. I still get results on the Ketostix but I guess this will also go away, but as long as I don’t feel hungry it should show ketosis is still working. That was the main benefit for me last time, and is this time too – not feeling hungry all the time!

I have also decided to do 18:6 fasting two days per week, that is Tuesday and Thursday. What this means is that I eat nothing for 18 hours, and only eat in a 6 hour window. This is incredibly easy as it means I don’t eat breakfast on Tuesdays or Thursdays, just eat my lunch as normal at 2pm and then evening meal before 8pm. I don’t feel hungry without the breakfast because of being in ketosis. I considered doing it two days running but did find on the second day I wanted breakfast so had it – I only want to do it if it is easy, and indeed it is!

We’ve found some good recipes for meals and are particularly enjoying discovering new curries, bakes and fish dishes. The choice of desserts isn’t always great but I am doing my best to find some more options! We will see where we are at the end of June.

And just a side note, I have a vegetable chopper machine that looks like Darth Vader!

A trip to Dresden and Leipzig

Klaus had a meeting in Dresden on a Friday and would use the Thursday to travel up. We decided we could make a weekend of it so I took two days’ leave and we drove up to Dresden on the Thursday. This was the day when a storm/hurricane was battering NL and Germany so it was a quite interesting drive directly downwind across the breadth of Germany. We saw many Transit-type vans lying on their sides after having been blown over, plus trees down, and of course the motorways were sometimes blocked so we had to do some cross country bits. But overall we arrived after seven and a half hours which wasn’t too bad (it should have been about five and a half).

Klaus had a meal and chat with his colleagues, I just chilled out in the hotel room of what was a very posh hotel right on the main square. However, before I went to bed I discovered the toilet didn’t flush at all. This was rather suboptimal but as I was already in my nightwear I didn’t go downstairs to report it (I also hadn’t noticed the phone in the room – I could have called reception).

The next morning Klaus had the very expensive breakfast (20 EUR per head!) with his colleagues and I decided to have breakfast later at a café. I got dressed and went downstairs to tell them about the loo but they didn’t seem that apologetic, just gave me the code to use the loo in the downstairs lounge area. Klaus also reported the loo but there wasn’t much interest, they just said someone would be along to fix it. I said I wouldn’t check out of the room until 11 (we were going to Leipzig that evening) so went out for some walks but generally hung out in the hotel room in the morning because it was cold and rainy outside. I had a low carb breakfast in a café.

I was back in the room when the workman came at about 10:30 and fixed the loo in 30 seconds, no idea what he did.

After I checked out I went for a longer walk around Dresden again, managing to find a rather fine hat and it was reduced from 30 EUR to 3 EUR so that was a mega bonus! I enjoyed walking around, especially as the rain had now eased off. There were lots of roof tiles on the ground following the storm.

Later in the afternoon I sat in the hotel’s lounge area and read until Klaus arrived and it was time for us to head off to Leipzig. The car had been in an underground carpark which had all the spaces numbered – but I liked their sense of humour on one space number!

The drive from Dresden to Leipzig was very easy, just an hour and a half.

We had booked an apartment which had very good reviews but we had to pick the keys up from a different location, which turned out to be a room with a code to open the door and then a code for each keybox. We picked up our keys OK and then headed off to our flat, which we found fairly easily. There was supposedly on-street parking but it was all full so we found a very convenient multi-storey car park about 100 metres away which turned out to be only 7 EUR per 24 hours. Bargain!

The apartment was very nice, on the ground floor of a very traditional old building. Klaus took a wonderful photo of the hallway:

There were also some lovely encaustic tiles on the floor outside our apartment, and I took a less-good photo of them.

The flat was very nice, spacious and with a very large bathroom. There was a kitchen with a double bed at the end of the room, a separate bedroom and a bathroom. Weirdly the bed in the separate bedroom wasn’t made up and had a note on it asking us to use the other bed. The other bed was in the kitchen and the fridge was noisy, so we decided no way and changed the bedding over. I thought this was very strange, as the bedroom had a sofa and an easy chair as well and the kitchen was just… well… a kitchen. Not somewhere I really want to sleep.

As soon as we had settled in we went out for food. We both fancied steak but when we walked to a googled steak restaurant it was full, so we headed back towards the centre of town and found an italian restaurant which did a very nice steak and they provided us with extra vegetables instead of potatoes which was great.

We walked back to the apartment after this as we were tired but saw a bit of Leipzig on the way. The next day was Saturday so we had plenty of time.

The next morning I was first to have a shower and thought it rather lukewarm. I ended up feeling a bit chilly afterwards. When Klaus has his shower it was ice cold! So immediately we both tried over 15 minutes or so to phone the number on the information if there are problems. The phone just rang and rang, no reply. The third time I left a message on the voicemail, and for good measure also sent an SMS. After all, if the hot water wasn’t fixed they needed to put us up in another apartment (they had over 30 on their books in the area). But no reply came.

We had our breakfast in the flat as I had brought eggs and bacon in Dresden, and after that we discovered the hot water was starting to work. Phew!

We headed out to walk into Leipzig. We were only about 300 metres from the centre, and just round the corner from our flat was the Leipzig Jewish Memorial.

It was interesting to see how you write Leipzig in Hebrew!

It is a lot of empty chairs arranged in even rows and I thought it worked really well.

From here we just had to cross a main road and we were in the pedestrian centre of Leipzig. The first thing we saw was the Thomaskirche, which was Johann Sebastian Bach’s church where he was the Kantor (Choirmaster) and composed for almost 30 years.

We noticed a sign outside saying there would be a Motette concert at 3 o’clock in the afternoon with the Thomanerchor which is perhaps the best boys’ choir in Germany, so decided we would definitely go along! We had tickets for an organ concert in the Gewandthaus (the main concert venue) at 5pm so thought it would all fit in nicely.

Leipzig is a lovely city. We enjoyed walking around, noticing that it has less expensive watch shops than Dresden, but it did have an expensive Piano shop!

We went to the Nikolaikirche which is where the peace protests started before the Berlin wall came down. This was a very moving and powerful experience for Klaus.

We enjoyed our walk around and Klaus spent some time looking at various mobile phones as he needed to update his current one. We went into Media Markt which is a huge electronics shop and looked at all the options. He wanted a Dual SIM version and found something he liked from HTC.

We wanted something warm for lunch and in our wanderings found a very lovely restaurant tucked away and enjoyed some soup. Klaus had Kürbis (pumpkin) and I had some very tasty spinach soup!

During our soup eating Klaus decided he would buy the HTC phone but with a contract at Vodafone as he wanted to upgrade to something with 4G/LTE (his phone contract was only 3G, as was mine). We enjoyed our lunch so much we booked to eat there again in the evening, and then set off back to the Vodafone shop.

It was very busy so we had to wait awhile but eventually we were seen by a very nice chap who persuaded us to take out a certain contract and so Klaus signed everything and we walked away with his new phone and a 4G/LTE SIM for both of us. Sadly we since discovered that the phone was a single SIM (Vodafone won’t do a dual SIM), the contract ran for two days and then it was the next month so Klaus paid a month’s cost for 2 days rather than 30, and the amount of data we received was less than the advertising because we had a phone with it, but that was buried in the small print. He has written emails to Vodafone to complain (mainly about the new month starting after 2 days!) but has not yet had any joy.

He couldn’t play with his phone straight away as we had to go to the Thomaskirche to listen to the Motette. It was a church service rather than a concert but they asked 2 EUR each for a programme. We sat down and I looked through the programme… and this is just the first page of it.

Hmmm, some of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Interesting. On the next page there was more Mass in B Minor.

The concert/service started, and wow! Not only was it the Thomanerchor but there were professional soloists and a full orchestra on a balcony in front of the organ (which we couldn’t really see from our pew). When they started singing the Mass in B Minor I couldn’t help but shed some tears – to be in Bach’s church hearing his music sung/played so beautifully. It was very, very special.

The service did have a very short sermon, we said the Lord’s prayer and also sung one hymn, but mostly it was fantastic music played/sung by really talented people. What a treat!

It finished at 4:30 and Klaus and I had started getting slightly shifty as we knew our next concert (!!!) started at 5pm. Fortunately it was just a 15 minute walk away and we soon arrived at the Gewandthaus with 10 minutes to spare. Our seats were in the middle on about the 10th row so an excellent view of the organ.

The programme was lots of Bach cantatas and the orchestra who sang were very good, as was the organist. We really enjoyed it, and the building had a very good acoustic. It was nice to be in comfortable seats too!

Two and a half hours of Bach music is quite mentally exhausting so by the end I was ready for some fresh air but it was wonderful.

We walked to the restaurant and enjoyed a lovely evening meal before returning to our apartment at 9pm. Shortly after that the apartment’s landlady phoned to ask if our hot water was working. We felt an 11 hour delay to answer the phone was very bad – we had no other way of contacting anyone. I have written this in my review on Booking.com, although the lady was very apologetic. But it was not good service.

The next morning we had our breakfast, checked out of the apartment and then walked to the Leipzig Bach Museum. This was great, there was a guided tour and the museum was very well laid out with lots of interesting exhibits. The lady tour guide was extremely knowledgeable although the fellow tour members asked rather a lot of questions. In the end we had to periodically sit down to rest our backs!

There were displays of period musical instruments including one of Bach’s organs, and the room was kept warm and humid, as well as manuscripts and lots of other information. The museum itself was in the former house of friends of the Bachs, right opposite the church.

We spent almost two hours there and then it was time for lunch and a sit down. We had a lovely salmon, broccoli and cauliflower Auflauf (bake) which is something I subsequently made at home and was equally tasty!

It was then time for the drive home which went very well. Not so much wind as the outward journey! We both agreed we must visit Leipzig again soon, and that having visited the Leipzig Choir and the Dresden Choir we really ought to go to the other important one in Germany in Regensburg, but that’s right down in Bavaria so quite a trek. Maybe later this year!

Life in Kempen

Nothing much to report from Kempen or St Hubert except on the Facebook page for Kempen people someone posted a fantastic photo they took of fireworks on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) in Kempen. Isn’t it great!

February looks like a fairly quiet month too but there is just a slight chance that my Quattrovelo velomobile will be available then. Who knows? I await the arrival of the new velomobile with great excitement!

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Six Wheels in Germany – December 2017 (Month 45)

So 2017 is at an end! This is a little something I wrote over the New Year 2017/2018:

I’m not the sort of person who looks back the whole time and lives on memories. Generally I feel happy with all my life choices so far and I appreciate the wonderful times I have had with family, friends and James over the last 46 years.

But a quick look back at last year shows that it was very different than I had expected!

I started the year relatively newly divorced but used to being on my own and happy with my own company (well, Poppy was also part of this!) I love living with the Roddays and find my life in Germany is peaceful and fun. Work was continuing its usual challenges but as I started 2017 my main focus was on trying to lose some weight and being a support to Klaus who was going through an incredibly tough time at home.

And then the path of 2017 rather changed as Klaus separated from his wife. As his closest friend I was happy to support him through this huge life earthquake and more time together confirmed what had been clear for a while really, that we could become a really good partnership. Our relationship developed quickly and we were soon planning to take a cycle tour together in June. This became a wonderful focus for 2017, a two week 1900km tour to Usedom on the Baltic Sea, then to Berlin, and then back. It was a fantastic life experience and my cycling partner was, as always, excellent company. On our return Klaus moved in with me.

There was lots of Velomobile activity over 2017, including our friend Ralf buying a DF and friend Hartmut making further investigations as to whether he should join the Velomobile gang. We took part in many group cycle rides with the ADFC and with others, finishing the year with the Oliebollentocht in Rotterdam with more than 100 velomobiles.

Klaus and I had several trips in the car too, to England for my hospital appointment and again for Christmas, to Dresden, to Berlin… all great fun and a chance to see a bit more of Germany or the UK without having to turn the pedals!

Looking forward to 2018, I have made few plans. One plan is to lose the 20kg extra that I put on this year (!!!!!!) so that I can fit in my Quattrovelo when it becomes available in February. This involves the low carb diet again and no cakes for the time being. Another plan is to increase my mileage, I want to make 10.000km this year, having managed less than 8.000km in 2017. Klaus and I have plans for 3 multi-day bike tours, one with Ralf, and we will also no doubt do some more trips in the car. I am developing plans to take my Mum to visit the bench in memory of my father on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. I will also be working full time, at least for the first couple of months of 2018, so must fit my social events in around that!

2018 will hopefully be one of health and fresh air and time spent with friends and family. Klaus and I are both enjoying the simple life, a chance to live within our means, to not buy unnecessary fripperies and to value what we have. With the uncertainty around Brexit and politics in general, it is good to have people with whom you can relax and be peaceful, and we have many good friends here.

I am looking forward to 2018 and wish you all a happy and blessed year!


The statistics speak for themselves… this year I have not done so much cycling!

I hope to achieve a bit more next year, but there were reasons why this year fell rather short of my target.

The Kempen ADFC group had arranged a Nikolaustour (cycle ride) at the beginning of December but there was such a heavy snowfall that we all drove in our cars instead to the venue where we were stopping for tea and cake.

Hartmut had provided a very attractive advent wreath based on a bicycle wheel and with remote control LED candles.

We also found ourselves on a cycle ride on Silvester (New Year’s Eve) as Hartmut realised the Fit Durch Den Winter tour had been advertised in the Rad am Niederrhein magazine although it had been run on another date. He felt he ought to do the ride anyway and asked if anyone else was about. In the end no unexpected people turned up, it was just the usual suspects, but we had a nice ride around St Tönis to Vorst where we stopped at Papperlapapp for tea and cake.

In the café was this excellent sign which ably demonstrates my concept for the year!

(Cake doesn’t make you fat, it just stretches out all the creases)

Unfortunately it is incorrect, cakes have made me fat (along with other things of course) so I shall have to eat a lot less in 2018!


Arguably the biggest event of the year for Velomobiles, the annual Oliebollentocht (cycle ride with Dutch Oliebollen doughnutty things),hart was in my diary from the beginning of the year as something not to miss. In 2016 there were 260 velomobiles, we looked forward very much to the Rotterdam 2017 version.

As Klaus and I were in the UK and coming back via Hoek van Holland/Rotterdam we arranged our return trip so that we arrived on the morning of Oliebollentocht. Ralf had very kindly offered to take our velomobiles to Rotterdam in a trailer and with friend Rolf along too it was a very full trailer!

Ralf and Rolf (also with Hartmut who came along for the ride) arrived way before Klaus and I as the border control out from the Ferry took forever. But we arrived in due course, helped get the VMs out of the trailer and then added them to the large selection parked in front of the trucker’s diner which was our base for the day.

Hartmut (on the right in the yellow/green waterproofs) was having a good look around before cycling off to visit his son. He is very interested in Velomobiles and this is about the best opportunity to get a look at a lot of them!

Hartmut appears in most of the photos and videos of the day, peering at various Velomobiles. Keep an eye out for him if you watch any OBT videos!

We were given armbands to wear which enabled us to have free tea and coffee and food that had been arranged. You can see that I have already got very oily from Millie after just being with her for 5 minutes!

Klaus and I had an omelette for breakfast at the café as we had nothing on the boat, caught up with friends and then we all rolled out on the ride of 63km which went along the Oude Maas via Portugaal before heading up to the heart of Rotterdam.

We stopped for cake at the restaurant Prachtig next to the Erasmus Bridge.

(Please note that some of the photos below are mine but others are from Klaus from Köln or Birger Landuyt, and possibly other Forum members)

We had some apple cake and tea.

Then it was time to leave.

Because Rotterdam has lots of traffic lights and pedestrians it was decided we would leave in groups of up to 10 velomobiles, so the guy in the dark green and cream Quattrovelo was our group leader. Klaus and I had already seen this Quattrovelo in Dronten and I had also seen it at SPEZI – it was the cause of my colour choice for my QV!

It was quite stop/start through the town and it was very hard to keep the group together. In fact, we didn’t succeed, and it split into various groups. Fortunately I had the route on my Garmin, as did others, as I wouldn’t have known where to go without as our leaders were often out of sight. The traffic lights take a long time!

The entire way around Rotterdam we were being filmed and photographed by people. It’s not often you see 100 jellybeans cycling around a major city!

Klaus spotted this photo amongst the thousands people have posted online – it is Millie and Celeste crossing the road.

I found myself leading a group of Velomobiles after a while as there was a younger girl who was not able to ride as fast so we kept pace with her and eventually my little group of 6 velomobiles grew to a larger group as we returned to the starting point. It was really fun riding in such a big group although quite tricky in the town, and there had unfortunately been one Quest/bollard interface at the beginning of the ride, plus another minor bump in Rotterdam centre.

We returned to the truck stop and whilst it was still light loaded up the trailer with the four velomobiles again. Here is Ralf practising his yoga.

Then it was time for the pea soup and Oliebollen (which shockingly I didn’t photograph!) and catching up with more friends again. It was good to meet Andrew Allen for the first time at OBT although it was sad to hear his tale of woe about his trip (he was taken out by a white van near Colchester on his way to the ferry and had to continue without his DF, mainly as he was collecting his new Quattrovelo). He discovered on the Rotterdam tour that the gearing on his new QV was too high and would have to delay his return to the UK to find an alternative sprocket for his Rohloff as these things are not so easy to get in the UK. I hope he had some success!

We had been lucky with clear weather although it was bitingly cold. It was a relief to be in the warm trucker’s restaurant with soup and tea. Ralf and Rolf headed off home pulling the trailer and Klaus and I left 15 minutes later. We had time to empty Klaus’s car of our week’s luggage from our England trip before the trailer arrived and we unloaded Millie and Celeste.

There are many videos on YouTube about Oliebollentocht 2017, it’s worth a watch if you have some spare time!

Thanks again to Ralf for transporting our velomobiles and for the organisers of Oliebollentocht for putting on such a fun event. We will be there again in 2018!

Life in Germany

Life in Germany continues much the same… I have been here over three and a half years now so am well settled in. But there are still always some interesting events each month!

In December we had a fair bit of snowfall. Most arrived on Sunday which was good as I didn’t have to drive (I don’t have much experience in driving in snow). Poppy investigated it in the garden but was cheesed off that I made her wear her fleece when we went out for a walk.

It had all cleared by the next morning and I drove to work on normal roads. But during the morning it snowed again so I had to clear the car before driving home!

More changes to our flat

Having an extra person in the flat means that we need to be a bit more organised with storage so I decided to buy a couple of sideboards. These arrived in 6 parcels altogether, each parcel weighing 30kg or more, but fortunately the delivery company carried them up the stairs into the lounge for us!

So one Saturday morning Klaus decided to start building the two sideboards, from the company Dänisches Bettenlager. They were called ‘Goliath’ which is pronounced totally different in German than English so we have had quite a lot of amusement over the names.

Anyway, he made a start:

He was ably assisted, as always, by Poppy:

Very complicated bags of screws, bolts, dowels, tacks and more…

But in just 2 hours Goliath Number 1 was complete!

Goliath Number 2 took less time as we were now experienced!

They remain relatively empty of items at the moment as we haven’t got round to sorting stuff out, but they will undoubtedly fill up soon enough!


This month I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I would increase my working hours to full time, at the request of the company. I thought long and hard and decided in the end to offer to work full time but with the proviso that if it became possible to return to part time I would do this as soon as possible. It was all agreed with my boss and so from 2 January 2018 I will be working full time. A bit of a change of pace for me, but I hope it will only be for a few months.

I have an assistant at work, a young chap from Bangladesh called Nasim, and he is very friendly. He noticed that we have cakes at work and so arranged for cakes to be made for Annette and I in the Bangladeshi style (except with less sugar as they like their cakes extra-sweet). How about these!

My colleague Annette regularly brings in a selection of cakes for us to enjoy during our meetings.

And the Quality Assurance representative of my customer also brought us cakes from Poland one day!

Nasim and I also had a visit from Nikolaus on 6 December

Christmas in England

Klaus and I booked to go to England for Christmas to stay with my mother. We travelled over on 21 December on the overnight ferry which was very packed!

As I had a lot of Stena reward points I treated us to an upgrade on the cabin – with a window and no bunkbeds! Also a free mini bar although we weren’t very hungry so didn’t get much value out of that.

We arrived by 8 in the morning and had a very relaxing few days with Mum before the busyness of Christmas. This included going to the village carol concert and I also went to my old church in Colchester for their Sunday morning service on Christmas Eve. After this service we went for a walk at Walton on the Naze near the Naze Tower – it was very blowy!

But we spent a lot of time hanging out at Mum’s house relaxing, chatting and making use of her fibre broadband!

We were treated to a beautiful day as well which showed her 450 year old house off at its best.

We celebrated Christmas Day with my Mum and her next door neighbours, plus some friends. We had good food (of course) and a very relaxing time.

On Boxing Day we had such beautiful weather Klaus and I decided to go to the sea again and this time went to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast.

The beach is stony but large and we had a good walk along.

We passed a fish smokery so purchased a fish pie each.

As the sign says, any fresher and it would still be swimming!

Whilst we were buying the fish pie I noticed some people with strange hats and bells on their legs – yes, the Morris Dancers were here! I explained it briefly to Klaus and we waited to watch the beginning of their dancing. Another example of English eccentricity for him!

Further along the beach there is a giant shell which is artwork to do with Benjamin Britten.

We walked back and then awarded ourselves a cream tea at a hotel in Aldeburgh.

We very much enjoyed our time with my Mum and took the overnight ferry back again (this time in a cheaper cabin with bunkbeds and no window!), arriving the next morning in Rotterdam for Oliebollentocht.

Silvester/New Year’s Eve

As a dog owner, New Year’s Eve in Germany is never much fun. We knew the fireworks would start at midnight and go on for an hour or so, and that meant an hour of Poppy barking. But we decided to go out to an organ concert a few hours beforehand (9:30pm in Kempen).

And this is what we heard.

It was a great concert and the organ in the Propsteikirche is obviously very decent. We will look out for more concerts there.


Who says Germans have no sense of humour?

Another item of randomness. I was at a party celebrating the 50th birthday of Klaus’s friend and colleague and we were serenaded by a bagpiper!

There has been a cheddar famine in Aldi for the last couple of months (apparently a production issue, not that they are no longer doing it). Fortunately Lidl had a special offer on Cheddar which was also very good.

Cakes this month

As these are the last cakes I will be having for some time I thought I would display them full size in their glory!

Starting with some Krapfen made by Rohallah who lives with Gudula and Frank. They were fantastic!!

So that’s the end of 2017, see you in 2018!!!


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

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.


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.


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!


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!


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

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, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

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.


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


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


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).


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:





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.


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.


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!



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.


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!


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!


Hartmut was towing Santa’s sleigh:


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!)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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.


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.


Christmas in England


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)


Roast turkey with all the trimmings


A cake with cream etc.


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.


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!


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!


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!


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!


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.


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, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

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!


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

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


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


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


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


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

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



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


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


And here it is fitted!


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

Then it was time for a short test ride…

Generally it was great, except my toe was now rubbing against the side of Millie. I had occasionally had this before when really pushing hard but it happened the whole time. It seems that the Mountain Drive pedal area (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!


and was introduced to my new Tretlagergehäuse.


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.


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.


Stage 1 was cutting a ring around the Tretlagergehäuse.


A bit more cutting was needed…


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



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.


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


And finally – Schlumpf is removed!!!




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.


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.


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!


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


Metric Century per month challenge

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

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

For October’s I started rather well.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Schlösser und eine Burg

or, in English, 7 castles and a castle.

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

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

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

And here was my route:


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

Liegeradtreff Düsseldorf und Umland

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

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

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

Here is my track for the day:


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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



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


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

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

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


Here we are riding over a motorway bridge


And enjoying the scenery as we head for the Rhine.


Crossing the Rhine bridge.


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



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


There were also lots of trikes.


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




And we almost all managed to squeeze on one table!


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

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

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

A speedy trip to Xanten

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

This metric century lark is easy with a fast velomobile!

Fit Durch Den Winter

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

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

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

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




Here is the track for the day.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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



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

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

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




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


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


So this was kind of a christening for Millie!

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

Millie the Milan GT Carbon

As mentioned once or twice already, Millie is fast!

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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



Millie gets a Schlumpf Mountain Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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



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


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


And here it is fitted!


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

Then it was time for a short test ride…

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

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

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

And after a week…

I am enjoying riding with the Mountain Drive.

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month



Filed under Cycling in Germany, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

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

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

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

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

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

Changing the suspension spring for elastomer

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

Celeste in lounge

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



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…


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.


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.


Filed under Recumbent Trikes

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.


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.


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



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!


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!


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.


Particularly from my area in the UK, Tendring:


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!


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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