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6 Wheels In Germany – February 2017 (Month 35)

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

Anyway, here is where I rode in February.

And here are the individual rides listed.

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

Metric Century – to LaPaDu and Geldern

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

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

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

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

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

Except then I had to try a tiny piece…

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

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

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

Millie needs an electrician

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new home for Millie and Alfie

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

Events this month

Zeche Zollverein, Essen

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

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

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

A holiday in Tenerife with Mum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our local beach was rather more volcanic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The views from the top were glorious.

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

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

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

Then a lamb balti

With cauliflower bhaji (no rice).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cakes this month

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

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

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

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

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

6 Wheels In Germany – December 2016 (Month 33)

The end of the year!

Cycling this month

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

ascent-statistics

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

december-wheel

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

veloviewer-summary-2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have also ridden with the following people:

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

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

strava-ride-comparator

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

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

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

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_1

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_2

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_3

auszeit-magazine-helen-article_page_4

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

Cycle rides this month

Liegeradtreff Duisburg

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

jochen-and-klaus

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

endeavour-and-millie-1

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

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

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

endeavour-and-millie-2

endeavour-and-millie-3

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

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

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

This is the track for my route for the day.

liegeradtreff-track

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

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

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

velomobile-bags-1

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

The ADFC Nikolaus Tour

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

jochen-and-hat

Hartmut was towing Santa’s sleigh:

nikolaus-tour-1

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

nikolaus-tour-people

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

Here is our track for the day.

nikolaus-tour-track

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

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

nikolaus-tour-jochen-and-hat

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

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

A visit to a bicycle exhibition

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

bikes-old-and-new

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

early-vdo-bike-computers

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

bicycle-indicators

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

penny-farthing-three-wheeler

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

snob-bike-motor

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

Other events this month

Doggy training

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

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

doggy-training

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

The Bonn English Singers Carol Service

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

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

bonn-carol-service

Christmas in England

christmas-in-witnesham

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

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

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

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

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

christmas-starter

Roast turkey with all the trimmings

christmas-main-course

A cake with cream etc.

christmas-dessert

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

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

god-jul-biscuits

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

kasper-and-fire

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

yule-log

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

yule-log-2

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

nutella-christmas-tree

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

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

New Year’s Eve

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

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

cake-montage

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

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

Six Wheels In Germany – June 2016 (Month 27)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

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

June statistics

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

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

June Wheel

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

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

Here is the track from the day:
Overloon track

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

Vm Cake 1

VM Cake 2

VM Cake 3

And here is a view of the inside:

Cake inside

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

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

VMs in Straelen

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

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

Ready to leave Straelen

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

NL roads

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

Crossing the Maas by ferry

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

Jochen checking out Celeste again

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

Overloon

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

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

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

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

Celeste first puncture

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

Celeste on her side

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

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

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

A visit to Rolf’s again

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

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

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

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

VMs at Rolfs 1

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

Quest and Strada compared

Critical Mass Viersen

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

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

Critical Mass return

Tour des Monats mit der Landrat

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

TdM

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

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

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

Some new tyres

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

Shredda tyres

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

Shreddas front

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

Shredda in place

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

A visit to Dronten

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

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

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

The answer…

Penelope in Roomster 1

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

Penelope in Roomster 2

No.

Ah.

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

Penelope in Roomster 3

I went for a short drive around the block.

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

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

Penelope in Bus

P in Bus 2

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

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

Here is Penelope ready to be checked out.

P repair 1

The rear swing-arm has to be disassembled.

P repair 2

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

P repair 3

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

Old plastic ring

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

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

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

Carbon fibre mudguards 1

Carbon fibre mudguards 2

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

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

Cycling miscellaneous

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

Woof

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

Photographer in Geldern

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

Events this month

Another trip to England

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

Here are just a few images from our trip.

The obligatory curry!

Curry

And fish ‘n chips (well, scampi)

Scampi and chips

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

Deep fried mars bar

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

Naze tower

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

Cream tea

I organised some essential supplies to take back to Germany.

Tea and clotted cream

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

Trikes 1

Trikes 2

Trikes 3

Trikes 4

Trikes 5

Trikes 6

Trikes 7

The Brexit Referendum

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

Referendum

Particularly from my area in the UK, Tendring:

Tendring-voters

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

Work

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

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

Work food 1

And this nice vanilla mousse

Vanille Mousse

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

Velomobile Laugenstange

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

Maldon sea salt 1

Maldon Sea Salt 2

Other randomness

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

Cakes this month

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

Cakes for June 2016

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

Six Wheels In Germany – May 2016 (Month 26)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here are my rides for this month.

Statistics for month

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

Veloviewer Heatmap Wheel

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

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

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

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

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

One ride, two countries, three companions

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

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

1 ride 3 companions

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

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

Schpootenhuske

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

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

Klaus and Uli

Helen Klaus Uli

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

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

Helen and Uli at Walbeck

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

Radio Field Day

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

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

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

Helen and Oliver

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

Venlo watersports

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

Trike Treffen, Christi Himmelfahrt, Xanten

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

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

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

Trike Treffen Track

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

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

Trike Treffen waffle

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

Rhein

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

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

Campsite 1

Campsite 2

Campsite 3

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

Ladybird trike

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

Alleweder with Haribo

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

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

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

Trike Treffen route

It’s impressive seeing so many tents and recumbents.

Camping field 1

Camping field 2

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

Bikes on Radweg

The Rhein was in sight during lots of this ride.

Rhine bridge near Xanten

Weird bikes in normal town

Xanten lakes

Xanten lake 2

I was very impressed by this topiary!

Duck topiary

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

Alfie and friends

Unusual trike

Wooden trike

Leitra and two Mangos

Trikes under tree

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

Cheesecake

And then had a Flammkuchen (a very thin pizza)

Flammkuchen

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

Rheinfaehre Bill

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

Group underway

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

Across fields to Xanten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VM for touring

VM for touring 2

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

Screenshot to Millingen

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

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

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

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

Draengelgitter

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

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

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

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

Bridge to Rees

But of course a lovely view down the Rhein.

Looking down the Rhein

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

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

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

Emmerich Rheinterasse

Rhein and bikes

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

Waffle in Emmerich

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

Emmerich bridge and statue

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

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

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

Storks

Seeing these enormous birds flying is amazing!

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

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

Dingdung

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

Millingen border

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

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

Chinese

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

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

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

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

Screenshot home

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

Mountain

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

Different scenery

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

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

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

Red Baron plane

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

Planes

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

Slingsby Sedburgh

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

BAE Hawk model

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

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

Model Hawk flying

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

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

Goch to where

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

More trees

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

Cake in Weeze

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

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

Giant bike 1

It was on a trailer.

Giant bike trailer

I liked the Schwalbe sticker on the tyre.

Giant bike schwalbe

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

Giant bike 2

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

Giant pedal

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

Giant bike chain

Here is Penelope again with her new friend.

Penelope and giant bike

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

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

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

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

Riding with Kajsa Tylén

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alfie and Roomster

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

IJsselmeer

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

Afsluitsdijk

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

Windmills

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

Zurich

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

Afsluitdijk 2

My Garmin map was very blue!

Garmin

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

Both sides

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

Curve in road

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

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

Insects

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

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

Insect tide mark

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

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

lunch

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

Magnum and windmill

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

The track went through some woodland and was rather pleasant.

Woodland track

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

Kajsa

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

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

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

Selfie on Dijk

And here is a pic that Kajsa took of me.

Helen cycling with Kajsa

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

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

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

Scared horse

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

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

Sitting on trike

So they fortified me with apple pie…

Apple pie

Then I headed off for the three hour journey home.

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

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

ADFC Sternfahrt Mönchengladbach

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

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

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

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

Balloons on bikes

Here is the track of our ride.

Sternfahrt Track

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

Jochen velomobile fixated 1

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

Sternfahrt Eis

Eventually we arrived in Rheydt where the ride would start.

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

And here he is again..

Jochen fixated by Celeste 3

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

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

VMs at Sternfahrt 1

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

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

Sternfahrt Gudula and Frank

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

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

Ride through P's windscreen

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

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 1

Sternfahrt Velomobiles 2

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

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

A row of weird bikes

Sternfahrt VM noses

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

Helen Klaus Jochen

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

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

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

Some other ride pictures

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

This was Burg Linn near Krefeld early evening.

Burg Linn

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

Landscape sky

And on my way home one evening

St Hubert by sunset

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

Evo 1

Look at the size of that chainring!

Giant kettenblatt

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

Sharp rear of Evo

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

3 VMs 2 chaps

3 VMs

Life in Germany

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

Rotkohl

A visit to the Oberhausen Gasometer

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

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

Gasometer

Gasometer 2

Gasometer 3

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

Here are some views of the ground floor.

Ground Floor 1

Ground Floor 2

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

First Floor 1

First Floor 2

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

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

Here are some of the photos I took.

Earth 1

Earth 2

Earth 3

Earth 4

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

Earth and steps

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

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

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

Looking down on globe

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

At the top we are almost 105 metres above ground.

104.94 metres

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

Climbing up

Where there were some excellent views over the industrial areas.

View from Gasometer

View from Gasometer 2

And lots of evidence of landscaping by humans.

Hill

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

Fixing my CD Player

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

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

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

Here it is before I attacked it with a screwdriver

CD Player

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

CD player with lid off

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

CD player side view

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

Rubber off spindle

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

The right tools for the job

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

Nils does surgery

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

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

Working again

Top marks to Nils and me for our engineering geniusness!

Buying a watch

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

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

Watch catalogues

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

Gudula on Alfie

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

Antaria Tag Datum

Cakes this month

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

May Cakes

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

Lara's birthday kaese sahne

Her mother also made a Strawberry tart

Lara's birthday Sprudel

And a chocolate ‘Sprudel Cake’

Lara's birthday strawberry

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

Six Wheels In Germany – Month 11

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

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

Cycling Statistics for February 2015

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.44.50

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

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 14.45.10

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

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

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

Lazy Klaus

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

Bike maintenance day

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

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

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

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

New bike toolkit

New bike toolkit 2

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

Karneval

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

Man in bunny suit

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

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

Karneval DB 1

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

Karneval DB 2

Karneval DB 3

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

Karneval DB 4

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

windbeuteltorte

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

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

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

Gipsy dance 2

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

Gipsy dance

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

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

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

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

Here is a small selection of the floats.

Float 1

Float 2

Float 3

Spot the weird local dialect on this float!

Float 4

Float 5

These marionettes were very cool if slightly perturbing.

Float 6

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

Float 7

Float 8

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

Float 9

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

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

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

Street sweeping 1

Street sweeping 2

Friends and events

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

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

Penelope and Quest 1

Penelope and Quest 2

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

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

Helen in Penelope

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

Tortenschlemmen 1

Tortenschlemmen 2

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

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

Jochen in Penelope

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

WZ Article 1

WZ Article 2

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

Poppy watches Top Gear

Randomness

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

Under my car wheel 1

Under my car wheel 2

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

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

Pancake day

Poppy pancake

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

Tree pollarding

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

Next door's tree removal 1

Next door's tree removal 2

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

Next door's tree removal 3

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

Popster keeping an eye on things

Popster tired

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

Dog haircut

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

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

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

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

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

Blog reference 1

Blog reference 2

Blog reference 3

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

What to do in Viersen on a Saturday night

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

Scenery

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

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

Sun on fields

Sunshine over St Hubert Escheln

Sunset over Escheln

Misty morning

Cakes this month

Karneval Berliner

cheesecake from Gudula

Cheesecake 2

Choc cake 1

Gabi's lemon cake

cream doughnut

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Penelope gets a makeover

It’s been a little while since I’ve written about Penelope but that is partly because she has been a bit of a ‘work in progress’.

I mentioned in some of my earlier blog posts that she had sustained some damage from two accidents when friends were riding her (they each rolled her onto her side – once each side). I had also been working on improvements to her lighting as the installed lights weren’t bright enough for night riding.

Anyway, these tasks are all pretty much finished so I thought I would write a post to update on what’s been happening. Penelope looks rather different now (but still purple of course!)

Lighting Upgrade Stage 1 – New B&M Lights on 6V

Penelope is nine years old and her LED lighting (running on a 12V system) was a bit of a mystery to me. There was a mysterious black box near my feet (which had a plug which occasionally fell out and plunged me into darkness) and there were three different levels of brightness. These were dim, slightly less dim and very slightly less dimmer.

In other words, riding Penelope in the pitch black with just the installed lights was a very scary experience.

My initial solution was to buy a decent battery-powered light and mount it on Penelope’s upper side, attached to the place where the Versatile Roof fixes on (so I could only use this light when not using the roof). This improved matters enough that I could ride a bit more easily.

P in the dark

However the perennial recumbent three-wheeler problem persisted – when you go round corners the light does not go round the corner fast enough for you to really see what you are doing. So eventually I mounted the light on a bicycle helmet (I don’t usually wear them) and that worked OK. But it meant I had to wear a bike helmet (which I don’t like) and that if I was riding in the day (no helmet) I had to take the helmet with me in Penelope for a return in darkness. I also looked rather bonkers!

It seemed a very sensible plan to upgrade the pre-existing lights to something much brighter. I swear by the lights from Busch & Müller (as do lots of cyclists) and the German online bike shop kurbelix.de had the lights I would need for just a shade over 30 Euros each. Bargain.

I am no electronic engineer. Fortunately I know two of them (my husband and Klaus) and I managed to persuade Klaus to have a look at the lighting for me with the thought that James might do some work on it when he next visited.

Klaus spent some time playing with a test meter and then decided on a first plan of action which would involve wiring the two 6V Busch & Müller lights (Lumotec IQ Cyo Plus 60 Lux) in series for my 12V system. Although series is a bit rubbish it would be a good first step and we could decide how good the lighting was.

He had to buy a few bits and bobs for the job – here they all are!

P Lighting Stuff 1

On a sunny Saturday in October we planned to do the first bit of work on Penelope. It was decided to do it here in my house (as Frank, my landlord, has a very comprehensive tool room).

The first thing was to get Penelope in a position where she is easy to work on – in other words, lying on her side on a table. Frank, Klaus and I lifted her up and chocked her so the lid could be open without putting too much pressure on the hinge.

P on table

P open

She looks like a beached whale (orca!) lying on her side

Penelope the beached whale

P from underneath

And when you look inside you see this jumble of wiring and the metal frame in which the current lights were fixed.

P wire spaghetti

There were wires going from the battery area to the mystery black box and from there to the lights, so the black box was removed to see what was in there.

P Black Box

Mystery electronics.

Later on James worked out what was going on in the black box:

The penciled circuit diagram sketch is actually the old ‘mystery’ circuit from the black box – configured as twin current regulators.

James's circuit diagram

With the black box out it was time to also remove the existing headlamps.

Here is Penelope with one removed…

P one light missing

A close-up from the outside. You can see how scratched and crazed the perspex is which is also reducing the available light (apparently the perspex for the Orca is a slightly different shape so I can’t buy a replacement)

P one light missing 2

And here’s the view from inside with no headlamps (the wiring you can see goes to the indicators). And the very solid frame that the lights hung from.

P inside no lamps

Here is the gubbins removed.

Black box and old lamps

Frank my landlord had looked at the frame and bought a couple of items he thought would work to mount the lights – he explained his suggestions to Klaus who was doing the fitting and it all seemed good.

First of all an extra bracket was fitted to attach the lights to.

Light mounting bracket

And another one for the other light.

Brackets ready

The idea was to pass a screw across the bottom of the light (B&M lights are designed for this) and to attach it to the bracket, but the screws that Frank had didn’t have long enough threads. But it turned out Frank had a special thread-lengthening tool which Klaus used to make the thread go the whole way down.

Threading a screw

The wiring from the lights to the main power obviously needed to be done so that was the next job for Klaus.

Connectors ready

Soldering time

He had spent a lot of time with his test meter working out which cables to use as there were rather a lot jumbled up in Penelope’s nose but he found one that provided 12V so that was used. The second cable was just put aside as it wasn’t needed.

Then Klaus fitted the new lamps – which was a surprisingly fiddly job. They JUST fitted in the cut-out in Penelope’s eye sockets.

Lights in place

And here you can see the mounting point and the new wiring.

P new lights in place with wiring

So with all that done it was time for celebratory cake (made by Lara)…

cherry cake

And then to wait for darkness to fall to test the lights.

And the conclusion was:

6V lights completed

Brighter.

I then used Penelope a bit for some evening rides and very quickly came to the conclusion that they were still not bright enough for safe usage. So Plan B (which was always in Klaus’s mind) would have to come into play in due course.

Twist grip

As I was riding to my VHS German course one day I turned the grip shifter to change gear and… nothing happened! At the time I was crossing a busy road with the green pedestrian traffic light so I carried on pedalling very fast (I had attempted to change up two gears) and tried to work out what had happened.

It seemed that the Rohloff was stuck in one gear, a fairly low one. Which was inconvenient 10km into a 40km round trip.

I soon realised the problem was not actually with the gears but with the attachment between the grip-shift and the gear system.

The problem with grip-shifts on recumbents is that you have to use the opposite side of your palm from your thumb to grip to change gears (on an upright bike you are using the circle between thumb and forefinger). The heel of your hand is not very good at making a strong grip (which is the problem I often had with the grip shifts on my Trice Q in the rain). So what the makers of the Versatile did, very sensibly, is attached the Rohloff’s grip shift to the entire handlebar column that you hold – so you turn the entire thing.

Here is Poppy demonstrating…

Twist Grip unglued 1

Basically the superglue (yes, that’s what Flevobike used) had failed after nine years. It was possible to change gear by twisting the very bottom section (in this photo I have lifted up the twist grip so you can see the underlying metal) but this resulted in skinned knuckles.

Twist Grip unglued 2

Fortunately Frank glued this for me and harmony was restored.

Twist Grip reglued

It did actually fail a second time (Frank hadn’t had the ideal glue) whilst my husband was visiting so we invested in some superglue and it was further repaired and seems to be holding well.

Lighting Upgrade Stage 2 – Why did it go dark?

As mentioned above, I had already realised that the lighting upgrade was not enough for safe cycling in the dark, so had continued to use my helmet-mounted light as well. Which was rather fortunate as one day, 3km from home, the main headlamps went completely dark. No light. I had had occasional flickers from the right-hand side lamp but this was rather more dramatic.

I rode home just on the head torch and sent Klaus a message. He suggested bringing Penelope to his house the following Saturday (when I had my 3 hour choir practice fairly near where he lives) and he would borrow a testing gadget from work and have a look whilst I was singing. This was partly to check different brightnesses if we ran Penelope’s lights at a higher voltage. Apparently these lamps have a LOT more light at up to 7.5V. Friend Kim had given me various advice following testing of a lamp for her partner’s trike but the situation of these lamps is slightly different (behind a perspex screen so no cooling airflow). Klaus wanted to check the temperatures when they were running at higher voltages.

So I cycled Penelope to Klaus’s house and left her there while I went to my choir practice. This is what I found when I got back…

Penelope with testing machine

Testing stuff

Klaus had spent a lot of time testing brightness and temperature at different voltages, as you can see here (testing both lamps together).

Calculations 1

His conclusion was that he was concerned that if we ran the lights in parallel at 7.5V they would get too hot but he thought 7V would be OK. I managed to negotiate him up to 7.2V.

James my husband had done some investigation and decided on a mystery widget that reduces the voltage from 12V to whatever we wanted (I spent a lot of time trying to persuade Klaus that 7.5V would be OK but he wouldn’t budge).

Anyway, we agreed that James would buy the gadget and that when he was here over Christmas or in the New Year we would change the lights from 6V in series to 7.2V in parallel.

Klaus couldn’t find out why the lights went dark though (they were working the next day when I tried again) so that was a remaining mystery.

Repairs to Penelope’s bodywork

As mentioned above, Penelope had some redecoration when being borrowed by some friends of mine.

A low-speed roll onto the left side produced the following new features:

P scratch left side 1

P scratch left side 2

The roll to the right side was at a higher speed so the scratches were more extensive and went forward of the hinged lid.

P scratch right side 1

P scratch right side 2

I got some quotes from car paint places for repairs and they ranged from 400-600 Euros which seemed way too much. James my husband suggested that possibly a vinyl wrap (like people do on cars) might be a reasonable option.

We both looked into it a bit and it seemed like it was worth a go as if we did it ourselves the wrap would be pretty cheap and if it didn’t work well we could go for the professional paint job option.

James suggested the carbon fibre-effect wrap so there was a slight pattern (and any imperfections underneath would be less obvious). The issue was what colour – the pink/purple of Penelope did not seem to be available. In the end I decided on silver as I thought that would go OK with purple and would also perhaps be easier to see in the dusk (I think that Penelope is not always that visible).

Vinyl Wrap 1

Vinyl Wrap 2

However the actual wrapping needed to wait for James’s arrival in mid-January for a visit.

Lighting Upgrade Stage 3 – Regulator to run the lights at 7.2V

So James and Klaus had discussed everything between them and James had purchased the regulator widget thing that would be necessary to run the lights at 7.2V.

He tested it with a 12V battery at home and it seemed to light up nicely.

Regulator

The regulator was delivered to me in December when my friends from Colchester visited (James gave them a small care parcel for me). But with the busyness of Christmas we didn’t have a chance to do anything about the lighting upgrade until James’s visit in January.

Because we needed a Saturday (we might need to buy some parts during the job) it was decided that the day of James’s arrival we would work on Penelope, and in fact Klaus arrived before James got here. He’s a hard worker and settled down to work straight away.

Soldering

James arrived shortly afterwards directly from the Hook of Holland and settled down to a quarter slice of this rather fantastic cake I bought from the local bakery.

Cake

Then it was back to work – two electronic engineers soldering away on my dining table.

Two engineers soldering

The plan was to reuse the mystery black box to put the regulator in. So first of all the contents were removed and then it was necessary to fix the regulator in with a hot glue gun.

Sticking the thingie into the black box

Rather than using the existing connectors Klaus had liberated one of his work’s special connector thingies to use which would be a lot more secure.

Turck cables

The black box had a small window which now showed a red glow from the voltage readout. Because it would be beyond my feet in Penelope it would not be visible but would be a useful hint that the gadget is working.

The weather was really awful (blowing a gale, pouring with rain – James’s overnight ferry crossing had been with force 9 winds) so we weren’t entirely sure where we would do the actual work on Penelope. We had decided we would probably need to use the garage (but remove as much as we could from it) but that would probably mean lying on the floor as there wasn’t a large enough table in there. Fortunately my landlord Frank came to the rescue again and asked our next-door neighbour Gerd, who has a workshop for his historic tractor, if we could use his space. He said yes so Penelope was soon installed in an excellent workshop, protected from the wind and the elements.

Working on Penelope at Gerd's 1

Klaus’s job was to wire the regulator (in the black box) to the lights. James did a few odd jobs around other parts of Penelope, including cleaning up the mess of oil that had come out of the Rohloff.

Working on Penelope at Gerd's 2

Once the wiring was in place it was time to test the regulator. James and Klaus were looking at the box, I was asked to turn on the power. And, almost instantly, “TURN IT OFF!”

Magic smoke.

Something was clearly wrong and we had a rather bad feeling that perhaps the regulator was now dead (it was £3.50 from Ebay direct from China so not exactly a major investment, fortunately). Some further investigation showed that the wiring within Penelope wasn’t corresponding to the usual colour scheme so things were swapped around and we had another go, fully expecting the regulator to be dead. But no! Light! It appeared there was a sacrificial diode or something to deal with the wrong polarity (or whatever the problem was – I am a bit hazy on electronics).

We assume that this issue is why Penelope’s lights failed and occasionally flickered as the wiring was a bit weird.

Anyway, when it was all plugged in again wired the correct way round the lights were working! We dialled the voltage up and down and watched them get brighter and dimmer. We had agreed 7.2 Volts so that’s what the regulator ended up on. The black box was then sealed and the wires tidied away inside Penelope so that all was neat.

She had lights! They were clearly brighter than before! The proof was in the testing over the next few days… and the result is excellent. They are bright enough to ride by without any additional lighting and the 12V battery seems to last a lot longer than it used to. A real success! Once again thanks to Klaus and James for all their hard work with Penelope’s electrics.

A visit to the Netherlands for a service

Penelope’s Rohloff is supposed to be serviced every year but it had been almost two years since it was last done and it had been leaking oil for quite a long time (apparently this is normal). I had struggled to find good instructions on how to do the oil change – the rear swing-arm has to be disassembled – so in the end decided it would be much more sensible to take it to Ligfietsshop Tempelman in Dronten, to Gerrit Tempelman who is a Versatile Velomobile service chap. I had spoken with Gerrit on the phone a couple of times and he seemed very helpful.

The main issue was how to get Penelope to Dronten (near Lelystadt) in the Netherlands. The answer was, once again, to impose upon the helpfulness of Frank my landlord and borrow his VW Bus.

Penelope in bus

Before we went we gave Penelope a good clean and discovered a previously-unnoticed crack in her upper plastic.

Penelope crack

We suspect this was actually caused when she was lying on the table in Gerd’s garage when we were finishing the lighting. James effected a repair from the inside with a piece of plastic. this is not a structural element but it was a bit of a shame.

Anyway, we headed off in the VW to Dronten on another rainy, windy day. Not a day to be cycling, much better to be in a warm car. We had made an appointment with Gerrit so he had time to do the service and he had agreed we could watch it all so we knew what to do next time ourselves.

So Penelope was duly installed on a blanket on the floor of Gerrit’s workshop.

P service 1

One thing about Gerrit – he works really fast! Within just a minute or two the rear wheel was removed so the swing-arm was free.

P service 2

He then undid the panel underneath Penelope to check the chain – it was fine. It is the first time I have seen Penelope’s chain in 5000km of riding.

P chain

He then opened up the swing-arm. The loose-ish thing at the top is the Rohloff hub.

P open swing arm

The Rohloff just lifted out.

P swing arm without Rohloff

It was pretty much empty of oil so he put some more in and that was that. Normally you’re supposed to run the thing with a cleaning solution and change gear but as that involves completely rebuilding the swing arm, and then undoing it all again, he just adds the oil.

He put it all back together again fairly quickly (the whole thing was less than 15 minutes) and checked the idlers for the chain.

P chain fiddling

Because of the problems mentioned above with the twist-grip shifter I thought it worth having new Rohloff gear cables so he did those too.

P new Rohloff cables

And then the final major check was the suspension. These suspension arms can be rather pricey if they need replacing (I think he said 150 Euros each). Both had some cracks/tears in the gaiters so he changed them both and then tightened up the suspension. Some play had developed between the two steering handles and this was also improved a bit.

P suspension check

I wondered about lowering the seat (it was on the highest spacers) which he thought was a good idea as I am quite tall but he didn’t have the right size spacers. But he is clearly a resourceful chap and put together some spacers from washers and lowered the seat.

This was not just to keep my face a bit more out of the airflow but also because it marginally lowered the centre of gravity. I always feel safe in Penelope but the fact that two friends have rolled her means it is wise to be careful. Gerrit said that Versatiles can roll when ridden by people not used to recumbent trikes and probably the reason I have been fine is that I’ve ridden 75,000km in recumbent trikes so am used to them.

Gerrit’s shop was a real treasure-trove of recumbents and various parts.

Inside Tempelman's Shop 1

Inside Tempelman's Shop 2

Inside Tempelman's Shop 3

Inside Tempelman's Shop 4

Including this rather old and battered Versatile that he was servicing for someone.

Inside Tempelman's Shop 5

Overall we were there for an hour and three quarters and I was expecting a bill of about 300 Euro for that time (including parts) but was amazed that the cost was only 97 Euro. James and I were really pleased with that and we will definitely take Penelope to Gerrit again if she needs any more attention – excellent, efficient service and a good price.

Repairing Penelope’s scratches

So now James was back in Germany it was time to do the repairs to Penelope’s bodywork both sides.

The first job was to remove the signwriting of my blog name. This involved a hairdryer and some patience.

Scratch Repair 1

The next job was to fill some of the worst dents/cracks/scratches with some flexible filler. James had bought some boat stuff with him and it worked well.

Scratch Repair 2

After all this had dried James did a test section of wrap which was mediumly successful but it didn’t stick terribly well. The instructions had said that the wrap worked best when applied with an ambient temperature of 15 degrees or more – but it was less than 5 degrees in the garage.

Fortunately Klaus came to the rescue again. He and his wife offered for James to use their lounge to do the work (whilst the rest of us were out at the Karneval event mentioned in my recent blog post). There would be enough space for James to work and also some peace and quiet.

So I just needed to ride Penelope to Klaus’s house which I did – he came along too, and had a quick go in Penelope. Here you can see the filler on the side panel and the first section of vinyl wrap.

First test of vinyl wrap

So I rode to Klaus’s house in Viersen with him and James came along by car with the wrap and tools and whatever else was needed.

Here is Penelope safely installed in a nice, warm living room.

Considering the options

Ready for work on P

James just had to get started.

Interesting lounge decoration

We all disappeared off to Karneval (for another three hour session of shouting, watching people stomping around in strange clothing and attempting to catch flying food and small gifts) whilst James (and Poppy) peacefully worked on Penelope.

And when we returned…

Wrapping complete

He had done an excellent job (Poppy was impressed too).

And here is Penelope outside in the fresh air with her new look:

Penelope's New Look 1

Penelope's New Look 2

Penelope's New Look 3

The crack in her side was still a little bit visible underneath the wrap but all the other scratches had disappeared.

Penelope's New Look 4

This was an excellent job by James as you can see. I think the silver helps with visibility too. I am vaguely toying with the idea of getting James to wrap the rest of her on his next visit but there would be some extremely tricky areas round her rear-view mirrors and lights so it’s probably just best to leave her like this – two-tone trike.

I sent pictures of the new look to my mother in law who then stumbled across the perfect hat for Penelope at a church bazaar and bought it for me.

Penelope bobble hat

Lighting Upgrade Stage 4 – LED strip lights

On the German Velomobilforum I spotted a photo of an Orca (newer version of the Versatile) with LED striplights along the side. Of course I HAD to have these.

I contacted the owner of the Orca and asked what he used and he sent me the information so a few days later I had ordered some white and red 12V LED striplights and once again twisted Klaus’s arm to fit them for me.

The package arrived – tiny, tiny lights, 60 per metre.

LED lighting 1

LED Lighting 3

Poppy was impressed with them too.

LED Lighting 2

LED Lighting 4

I had 3 metres of white and 2 metres of red. The guy with the Orca had said that I would need 2.5 metres of red and 1.5 of white (but they only came in full metre lengths) so we had a bit of spare as well which might be useful.

Klaus developed a man-cold so didn’t want to do the work in the garage so once again his lounge became a velomobile workshop.

P ready for work

He nursed the hope that the other mystery cable that went into the original black box would also have a 12V feed and would work on the second light switch that Penelope has (there are two switches, red and green, which were for the different brightnesses of lights in the original installation. At the moment only the ‘green’ button did anything). If that wasn’t the case then he’d have to invent some kind of switch as I would not always want these lights on (they would use a lot more power than the headlamps so would drain my batteries more quickly).

Klaus wielded his test meter and lo and behold the second cable did indeed have 12V. Hurrah! This meant it ought to be a very easy job to fit.

It involved drilling holes in the very solid plastic of Penelope’s bottom half. This hole is for the wiring for the front light strip.

Drilling holes 1

Poppy was doing excellent duty of guard dog in the garden to prevent anyone stealing my cool velomobile.

Poppy as guard dog

And a second hole for the rear light cabling. (Poppy again is carefully observing that everything is being done correctly).

Drilling holes 2

And now feeding the cabling through the hole before soldering it in place.

Feeding wires through

And we decided to turn on the switch to check it works – it does!!!!!

Testing testing

Now we knew it worked the final solders were put in place and then it was time to stick the lights to the body of Penelope (it had a self-adhesive backing strip)

REar light in place

And here is the finished job.

FInished 1

Finished 2

Penelope seems rather happy with it too!

Happy Penelope

Klaus took a photo of me as I was about to set off home – how cool does the velomobile look?

Cool Penelope

On my 20km ride home I got so many astonished looks – even more than normal!

I kept the lights on the whole way home (they actually illuminate the near field rather well and that’s quite useful on some of the Radwege with bumps and tree roots) but as expected they did take quite a toll on the battery. I was using the left-hand battery (which I had used for about three hours previously with the headlamps and rear light on) but it reduced from three yellow blobs and three reds to just two reds in the 55 minute journey.

Battery meter

Obviously battery usage is something I will need to be aware of but for my usual ride lengths this is no problem at all.

I definitely think the extra visibility from the side is a safety bonus (as Penelope isn’t that obvious due to her lighting arrangement when viewed directly from the side) but of course the real reason for having the striplights is for the coolness factor.

I also put together the new wheel covers (the old ones had been damaged in the crashes) and fitted them to the wheels so she now has the solid wheel look. Velomobile friend Oliver had delivered me these new wheel covers almost eight months ago and I hadn’t yet got round to fitting them (the old ones were tatty) but I am glad I hadn’t as there was too much damage after the crashes to reuse them. So Penelope now looks very new and shiny.

So anyway, here is Penelope’s new look, which has cost about £110 in total (for the headlamps, strip lights and vinyl wrap) so great value. This is of course not factoring in any costs of labour from my two helpful engineers. Thanks again to James and Klaus for all the work on Penelope – my only payment to them is occasional cakes.

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

Churches in Kreis Viersen: 51-60

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

Churches visited this time

Churches in Kreis Viersen 51-60

51. Wegekapelle Lind, Boisheim-Lind
52. St Peter, Viersen-Boisheim
53. St Gertrud, Dilkrath
54. Johanneskapelle, Dilkrath
55. St Jakobus, Lüttelforst
56. St Heinrich, Mülhausen
57. Johanneskapelle, Nettetal
58. St Mariae Rosenkranz, Willich
59. St Lambertus, Leuth
60. St Katharina, Willich

51. Wegekapelle Lind, Boisheim-Lind

Linder Straße, Viersen-Boisheim
http://www.viersen.de/C125704A0030C552/html/27C7C0AB9F49CCA5C125705F0033D05B?openDocument

I visited this chapel in the early evening, dragging triker friend Klaus with me. The normal photo of the church with my velomobile or trike now has an extra trike!

Wegkapelle Lind

The chapel is in the middle of the countryside between Boisheim and Dülken in the farming hamlet of Lind and was built in 1911-12 to commemorate the tornado of 1 July 1891. The neo-Romanesque brick chapel was built in a Latin cross plan overlaid on an Octagon. You can see the field of potatoes next door!

Wegkapelle Lind 2

The description of this chapel on the website gives an interesting insight into the purpose of some of these small chapels:

Weiterhin ist sie ein Zeugnis für die Fortführung des Jahrhunderte alten Brauchs, nachdem Hagelkreuze und Wetterkreuze in die “Flur” gesetzt wurden, um Gewitter, Sturm und Hagel abzuwehren.

This explains that crosses were placed in the church to ward off thunder, storm and hail, the continuation of a centuries-old rite.

I found this interesting to read as I had, during this cycle ride, asked Klaus if he knew why so many of these little chapels were built. He didn’t really know but wondered if it was to do with collecting lots of money and having to have something tangible to show for it.

On our ride we then visited a third chapel in the middle of nowhere east of Lobberich but as this was a wayside one (no services held there) I couldn’t really include it, but it was in a beautiful location so I’ve put a few pictures here.

This was a chapel to St Hubertus (he seems popular round here – he’s the patron saint of hunting, I believe).

Wayside chapel

Inside there are no seats (and it was all locked up), just a little altar.

Wayside chapel St Hubertus 2

And this was the view if you sat outside the chapel – lovely!

View from St Hubertus wayside chapel

Klaus and I spent about 10 minutes trying to identify what we could see. Kempen was visible in the far distance because of the white tower of the Propsteikirche but we weren’t sure if we could see Grefrath or Oedt directly ahead of us. It turned out to be Oedt, which I had suspected because of the chimney also visible. In the far background we could see the Hülser Berg (near Krefeld) as well as the other moraine upon which Tönisberg sits.

St Peter, Viersen-Boisheim

Pastoratstraße 3, 41751 Viersen
http://st-cornelius-und-peter.de/

I visited this church on the way to visiting the furthest-distance church of my challenge, the church in Lüttelforst. I did a different route there and back, as you can see from the track below. On the way there I took the more western track which passed through Boisheim after I crossed the A61 motorway

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 09.34.33The church was a very impressive sight, for once not surrounded by buildings.

St Peter Boisheim 1

St Peter Boisheim 2

St Peter Boisheim 3And by the front door was this sign – ‘Church open’

St Peter Boisheim Kirche OffenIt wasn’t completely open, however. Well, you could go in the main doors but there were then some glass doors (with metal gates behind them) to prevent you going right into the church. However I was able to see the windows and it all looked rather nice.

St Peter Boisheim Interior 1There has been a church in this site for quite some time – in historical documents from 1290 it is mentioned that there is a ‘Capella’ in ‘Buyschem’.

A small brick church was built in 1487 and further enlarged in 1899, including the tower. The church was badly damaged in 1945 and repairs were completed in 1954.

53. St Gertrud, Dilkrath

Boisheimer Str. 52, 41366 Schwalmtal-Dilkrath
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Gertrudis_%28Dilkrath%29
When I arrived at this church there was a large procession of people walking down the road, a priest talking through a loud-hailer and lots of general activity. It turned out there was a funeral taking place and the church service part had just finished, they were now walking to the cemetery (I presume).

So I waited a bit around the corner until people had left so that I didn’t disturb them with my photograph-taking.

St Gertrud Dilkrath 1Because the church was open following the funeral I popped in to have a quick look.

St Gertrud Dilkrath 2

St Gertrud Dilkrath 3The church was originally built in 1460 and was much enlarged from 1902-1904, including painting the brick red.

54. Johanneskapelle, Dilkrath

Genend, 41366 Schwalmtal-Dilkrath
http://www.limburg-bernd.de/Viersen/DenkSch/Nr.%2022.htm

This was a gorgeous little chapel hiding in the fields – I thought the waypoint on my Garmin must be wrong as I couldn’t see the chapel, just a strange white tower, but the chapel was hiding behind the tower.

Johanneskapelle 2

Johanneskapelle 1

55. St Jakobus, Lüttelforst

Niederstraße 31, 41366 Schwalmtal-Waldniel
http://st-matthias-schwalmtal.kibac.de/#

So I made it to Lüttelforst (which I had always assumed was spelled Lüttelvorst and so had been writing it wrong for ages). It is the furthest-away church in my challenge and was an 80km (50 mile) round trip. Great fun though!

This church is perched on a hill above the road and was a pretty steep climb for Penelope.

St Jakobus Luettelforst 1The church was built in 1802.

St Jakobus Luettelforst 2

This stone shows that a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela would be a bit of a trek from here!

St Jakobus Luettelforst 3

It also had rather a lot of mosquitoes buzzing around whilst I was visiting – undoubtedly due to its close proximity to the river.

Lüttelforst seemed a very quiet little village without much going on but apparently there is a good restaurant at Lüttelforster Mühle which I may visit some other time.

56. St Heinrich, Mülhausen

Kirchstraße 4, 47929 Grefrath-Mülhausen
http://www.grefrather-pfarren.de/index.php?id=185

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed this church and gazed up at its rather ugly tower.

St Heinrich Muelhausen 2

On my ride back on the main road from Grefrath I have to wait at a traffic light opposite this church and the traffic lights are slow so I see it a lot.

However, I decided to pop in on one particular day as I was doing a nice 30km loop around Kempen.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.05.09

Apparently it was built in 1900 in the neogothic style but it looks to me like some industrial chimney or something. It goes a long way back and the rest of the church looked reasonably interesting but that tower! It totally takes over the look of the church!

St Heinrich Muelhausen 3

57. Johanneskapelle Nettetal

an der B509 zwischen Leuth und Hinsbeck

At this point I have to admit something shocking – that a few of these church visits have not involved me cycling from Kempen. Instead I have visited them when starting my ride from Viersen (when I have been riding with Klaus). The original plan was to ride to all these churches from Kempen but it seems rude not to bag them when I am passing anyway, and it’s usually on a long ride, and I have probably ridden past them when having cycled from Kempen at some other time, etc etc. Excuses. I let you the reader decide if I have been cheating on my Churches Challenge.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.07.19

This chapel is situated beside a main road down the hill from Hinsbeck. I think it might be linked to Haus Bey, which is now a golf course/centre near the Krickenbecker See.

Johanneskapelle Nettetal

It was built in 1617 as a memorial to Sophia Gräfin von Schaesberg (1823-1844) and was renovated in 1854 and 1994.

There’s a photograph of the interior, plus further explanation of this chapel in English, on this Flickr page.

58. St Mariae Rosenkrantz, Willich

Krefelder Straße 354, 47877 Willich
http://st-maria-rosenkranz.kibac.de/

This is another church that I visited when riding from Viersen rather than Kempen.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.15.47

I wasn’t able to take a good photograph but here is one from their website.

Klaus took a picture of me sitting underneath the bells and desperately hoping that they wouldn’t ring…

Helen at Willich Pfarrkirche St Mariae

I wasn’t able to find out much information about this church at all.

59. St Lambertus, Leuth

Johann-Finken-Straße 2, 41334 Nettetal

I had passed this church several times on my travels but decided to visit it whilst leading a group ride with several of Gudula’s friends. I’m not sure they understood exactly why we were stopping at the church and I was photographing it but it was a nice day and time for a water break for them anyway!

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 12.22.47Here they all are standing outside looking puzzled.

Leuth St Lambertus 1Here is Alfie with Gudula’s bike having a rest beside the church.

Leuth St Lambertus 2The webpage for this church seemed to be dead but this plaque tells you that the tower was built in the second half of the 15th century and the nave 1860-1861 in the neogothic style.

Leuth St Lambertus Plaque

60. St Katharina, Willich

Hülsdonkstraße 11, 47877 Willich
http://gdg-willich.kibac.de/sankt-katharina-willich/

Willich is pretty much at the bottom right hand side of Kreis Viersen and is somewhere I visit for the choir practices at the Auferstehungskirche but I hadn’t actually been into the centre of the town since arriving in Germany.

There were three churches to visit in Willich (including the aforementioned Auferstehungskirche) so I headed off directly to Willich, returning later via Anrath (where there are some nice cafés and for a variation in the route), riding 47km in total.

Screen shot 2014-07-25 at 20.31.55

I arrived at St Katharina – which is easy to see as it is yet another of these colossal churches whose spires are visible for miles around.

But when up close it’s impossible to fit the whole church in the photo!

St Katharina Willich 1

Round the corner, to get the side view, didn’t help much either because of the sun.

St Katharina Willich 2

Here’s a photo from Wikipedia:

“Kath. Kirche “St. Katharina” in Alt-Willich (Fotomontage mit blauem Himmel)” by Rolf van Melis, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_katharina_willich.jpg

This was another church about which I found it very tricky to find information. There’s plenty of information about services and the kindergarten but little about history. However, Willich’s entry in Wikipedia explains that there was a church here in 800 AD. There was a big fire in 1675 where most of the village of Willich was destroyed, including the church which burned to the ground. The present church was built in 1901 in the neogothic style.

Churches 51-60 complete

So that brings to an end the next batch of 10 churches which have been scattered all over Kreis Viersen (I haven’t been very systematic in my visiting). But the dots on the map are spreading a bit wider now which is good news!

Churches in Kreis Viersen 1-60

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1000 Versatile Miles

On 3 June 2014 Penelope crossed the 1000 mile / 1600km mark in my ownership.

Bike Stats 3 June 2014 in miles

Bike Stats 3 June 2014 in kilometres

So what have I learned about my new bike in that time?

Firstly, it’s brilliant fun riding a velomobile! Since I’ve had Penelope I’ve not used Alfie the ICE Sprint very much and, as is clear from the above screenshots of mileage, I certainly used him a lot in the past!

There have been lots of other little things that I’ve noticed during my riding which I’ll list below. Some of these may be specific to the Versatile, others might also be apparent with other types of Velomobile.

On hot days you need to wear gloves

This is something I should have remembered from riding my Trice Q which also has twist-grips. What this means is that to change gear you have to twist the bit of handlebar you are holding on the right hand side. This is normally no problem but if you have very wet hands (from rain on the Trice Q or from sweat in Penelope) it can be difficult to grip firmly enough. This is partly because you are gripping with the opposite side of your hand than you would on an upright bike; on an upright your grip is between the thumb and forefinger, very strong. Because the handlebars are vertical on a recumbent, you are actually gripping with your little finger side of the palm, not as strong and so it can occasionally be difficult. Cycling gloves will solve this as they always provide good grip.

Rohloff hub vs Alfine hub

The Rohloff is generally considered the top option for hub gears on bikes and deservedly so. They tend to be extremely reliable (and Rohloff the company are very good at dealing with any problems) and relatively maintenance-free, just an oil change every year or 5000km. The Alfine that I have on Alfie is slightly pickier as the cable length needs to be occasionally adjusted with a barrel adjuster to keep the cable length correct and the indexing smooth.

The Rohloff costs twice the price of the Alfine and I have to say I’m not entirely sure it’s worth the extra. It has been totally reliable so far for me but it is pretty noisy in the lower 7 gears. The Alfine seems quieter and somehow smoother. I guess time will tell! The Rohloff of course has three more gears than the Alfine which would make a difference in the Velomobile as it does need all 14.

Penelope is due her Rohloff oil change and I am currently investigating how to do this (I have bought the oil change kit as a starting point!)  There will be a blog post when I finally get round to this task – I have some promised help from a couple of German cyclists as it involves completely disassembling the rear swing-arm on the Versatile.

Penelope is not entirely waterproof

You stay pretty much dry whilst riding in her (apart from sweat!) but I was out in a colossal deluge and discovered that some water flicks off the front onto your face and neck (not a problem). But what I also found the next day is that some water had splashed up through the drain holes and made my bag of tools, which is stuffed behind the seat, slightly wet. I now have the tools in a waterproof bag that I already had so that was no real problem. However the amount of water that gets on you is tiny compared to the amount you would be drenched by with a normal bike or unfaired recumbent.

The batteries for the electrics take a bit of looking after

Penelope has a 12v lighting system and she has two battery packs that I can switch between. This works well and in normal usage one battery pack lasts about a week (normal usage just being the daytime rear light, occasional hooter use and indicator use). If the front lights are used that makes quite a difference to the battery capacity, especially as the front lights are rather poor (see below).

Alex gave me four battery packs with Penelope. Two were the originals from when Wilfred installed the 12v system (i.e. about seven years old now) and two others were newer that he had bought about a year before. The old ones are definitely looking old and I haven’t used them; the two newer ones work well except for one of the two tends to discharge very suddenly when it reaches halfway used. I’ve got a sticker on it so I know which is which and make sure that I always have the other battery topped up fully when using this one, in case it suddenly drops. My husband has made me a new battery pack which I will try out when I collect it mid-June and if it lasts longer he’ll make me another one.

When I was out riding along a bumpy cycle path I hit a series of tree roots which jolted the velomobile so much that the left hand battery packed jumped out of its mounting box and fell onto the floor (pulling out the connectors in the process). Although it was easy to put it back and put the connectors back together, I have since found that the cabling can be a bit picky – I think there’s maybe a weak solder join underneath some insulating tape. I’ll get my tame electronic engineer to have a look at it in due course.

Front lights

I have been completely spoilt with the front lighting on Alfie. He has a Schmidt SON Dynohub in his front right wheel which provides electricity for a Busch & Müller IQ Cyo front light, 60 Lux. What all that means is that basically I always have an excellently bright front light which is always enough to see by. It doesn’t need batteries, it just lights the way day and night.

Penelope has two headlights which are notably less bright than Alfie’s one. In fact, if I had to make a guess I’d say that they are combined less than 25 Lux. It makes for a bit of a scary ride in the dark on unfamiliar lanes, so much so that I have bought a Busch & Müller battery torch light (of 40 Lux) as an extra light. I can run Penelope pretty well on just this battery light (without her main lights) but if I have just the main lights and not the battery one it’s not enough to see by.

Clearly some replacement lights are in order (these are 7 years old and LED lighting technology has significantly improved in the intervening years). It’s a job beyond my engineering skills though so James my husband (who is an electronic engineer) will be drafted in to help me next time he visits! A nice pair of 40 Lux Cyos would be wonderful!

Position of parking brake

There’s a parking brake on Penelope roughly between my calves.

20140405-190842.jpg

When I was at SPEZI I spoke to Andre Vrielink (who designed the Versatile/Orca) and we talked about some of the changes which they brought in for the newer version, the Orca. One of which is the position of the parking brake. Andre said that some people had found their flappy trousers got caught around the brake and put it on whilst going along – not great. I don’t tend to wear flappy trousers when cycling but have been sure, when occasionally wearing jeans, to roll them up when I am riding.

Puncture repairs

I have written about the ride I did early on to Schwalmtal where I ended up with three punctures on the way back. I think this was because I didn’t initially realise I had a puncture and ran on the flat tyre for a kilometre or so, thus ruining the Tryker. However I am happy with the Schwalbe Marathon tyres I subsequently put on Penelope and haven’t had any punctures from them yet.

The little wheel jack that Peter made for me is just brilliant too!

Penelope on chock

Radabdeckung

The Versatile has wheel covers (the Orca has five-spoke wheels instead). They are a consumable item, really, as it’s quite easy for them to get damaged. With the Sturmey Archer Drum Brakes the axle is wider than the rest of the wheel (unlike in my ICE trike where the axle is flush with the tyre). What this means is that if you misjudge the width of a gap then the wheel cover takes the hit.

When I bought Penelope the rear wheel covers and one of the front ones were looking a bit tired. I subsequently did more damage to the front one when dragging it across a fallen tree. Friend Oliver had to order some new wheel covers for his Mango so he’s got a pair of covers for me too and we’ll meet up somewhere (probably for cake!) for me to collect them from him. They’re pretty cheap, about 20€ a pair I believe, so it’s not a big deal.

People talk to you all the time

I’m used to this with Alfie, of course, but people REALLY talk to you a lot in the Velomobile. The questions tend to be restricted to the following:
• “Does it have an electric motor?”
• “Do you have to pedal?”
• “How much does it cost?”

With Alfie the questions were “How much does it cost?” and “How do you steer?” so a slightly different selection.

I quite enjoy chatting to people (if I’m in a hurry I say so and head off) but I guess for some people it could get a bit irritating. Alex, Penelope’s former owner, says he doesn’t miss that side of things now he rides a more normal bike.

I am faster in Penelope than on Alfie

It’s tricky to compare bike speeds as so often when I’m out riding I may go through a town centre pedestrian precinct (i.e. very slowly) or have a tailwind or something. However, at the beginning of June I did a 50km ride on Alfie which I then repeated the next day on Penelope. The routes weren’t 100% the same (I diverted to photograph a couple of churches on each ride, different churches of course!) but I estimate the diversion time and distance was pretty similar.

The route was one sent to me by recumbent rider Klaus and he rode it on Sunday 1 June.

Here’s the set of statistics, in metric measurements:

ICE Sprint vs Versatile Velomobile

The ride on 2 June is on Alfie the ICE Sprint, the 3 June ride is Penelope.

The most noticeable thing for me, when doing these two rides, is that you feel the wind so much more on Alfie that I had the impression I was going faster overall (which I clearly wasn’t).

The second thing I noticed is that things are much quieter on Alfie (the Versatile makes more noise) but that I am lower down and can’t see as much.

Despite the fact that Alfie is notably lighter than Penelope, over a long journey Penelope’s fairing has more of a beneficial effect than her weight has a negative one, if that makes sense. If I were doing a short ride with lots of stops and starts then the trike would be a better choice (assuming the weather was nice) but for any sort of distance, the enhanced cruising speed on Penelope makes it easier and quicker.

The signwriting was worth it

I wanted the signwriting on the side so that people could find out about velomobiles (I had noticed lots of people photographing the blog address embroidery on Alfie, presumably they then look it up later). I’ve had some people contact me through this blog already having seen me cycle past – it’s fun and a good opportunity to get to know some other cyclists.

Knee issues

Penelope’s former owner had an issue with his knee that the weight of the velomobile exacerbated. When I started riding her I also had painful knees for a few days so was very careful with my riding. That all now seems to be past and she feels fine to ride, especially now I have got the seat how I like it. But a velomobile, like the trike, has the same warning that you can damage your knees by overpushing (in a way that you can’t on an upright bike) so I am always aware of this.

In very hot weather the trike can be more appealing

It’s 32 degrees today in Germany and my plan for my late afternoon ride (to a café) is to go on Alfie rather than in Penelope – it just feels a bit too hot for Penelope. With the trike you get the benefit of wind when cycling so feel a bit cooler.

You stay cleaner in a velomobile

Having ridden the trike on a couple of hot days I noticed that I tend to end up with dust and dirt on my arms when triking – and I remain clean in the velomobile. I think it’s probably that the front wheels on the trike pick up dust and flick it into the air and some lands on you, even if you have mudguards on the trike. I also noticed I had more insects in my face on the trike, probably a result of it being a little bit lower down and perhaps also because with Penelope the airflow pushes insects underneath the velomobile rather than into your face.

Routine maintenance

Apart from the above-mentioned Rohloff service which is due once per year or every 5,000 miles, Penelope hasn’t needed any maintenance apart from topping up her batteries once per week. I’ve wiped her down with a cloth a couple of times (she gets a bit dirty/sandy at times) but that’s about it. I’m not expecting to need to change the chains at all – reports of chain wear suggest they last upwards of 40,000km, so Penelope has 32,000ish to go!

Conclusions

I’m really glad I bought Penelope and have found her quicker to get used to that I expected.

Having now seen many other types of velomobiles it’s pretty clear I wouldn’t have been able to get in and out of them with my disability. I think the choice of the Versatile was definitely right for me (this was also confirmed to me by a cycling friend over here who had also seen lots of other velomobiles – he felt that this was the best option for me).

I wonder about how difficult she would be to ride back in the UK with our hills (she is ideally suited to the flat Niederrhein area), so if I return to England I’d have to weigh that up and decide whether to bring her back or to sell her here.

As summer is approaching I expect to use Alfie more, but the Versatile is a fantastic autumn, winter and spring machine, plus an ideal bike for when it rains, or it very windy. The only real time I expect to pick the trike over the velomobile is when riding in groups with others, taking the train or when it’s a very hot and windless, dry day.

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Churches in Kreis Viersen: 1-10

One of my challenges for my year (or more) in Germany is to cycle to all the churches in Kreis Viersen.

Kreis Viersen is sort-of equivalent to a UK local council area, such as Tendring in Essex where I live. Here is some information from the German Wikipedia site about Kreis Viersen:
Kreis Viersen details

So with an area of 570 square kilometres which makes it 1/37th of the size of Wales or the same size as 78,820 football pitches (two random measurement units often found in the UK media – I couldn’t find out how many Double Decker Buses would fit in a square kilometre, unfortunately) it’s a reasonably large area. Kempen is also right at the top right hand side of Viersen so I would be ranging a reasonable distance to visit churches on the bottom left hand side, roughly 36km or 22 miles.

Here is the map of Kreis Viersen (roughly). Click to enlarge.

Detailed map of Kreis ViersenI have made a Google Map with all the churches (that I have so far identified) marked on it – red if I haven’t yet visited them, green stars if I have been outside them and purple diamond if I have attended a service there.

As there are rather a lot of churches to visit I thought I’d break up my reports into batches of 10. I am not planning to visit the churches in any particular order, I’ll just visit whichever ones I am passing or that take my fancy one day. I have all 112 as waypoints on my bike’s Garmin so can see when I am passing reasonably near to them and can divert a little.

So… churches 1 to 10 which were visited in April were:

1. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde St Hubert (Gustav-Adolf Kirche)
2. Katholische Pfarre St Josef, Kempen-Kamperlings
3. Christus Centrum Kempen
4. Christ König, Kempen
5. Neuapostolische Kirche, Kempen
6. St Marien – Die Propsteikirche St Mariae Geburt
7. Friedenskirche Neersen,  Willich
8. Abtei Mariendonk
9. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Hinsbeck
10. St Peter Nettetal-Hinsbeck

And here are the locations on the map (click to enlarge)

Churches of Kreis Viersen 1-10

1. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde St Hubert (Gustav-Adolf Kirche)

Martin-Luther-Straße, 47906 Kempen-St Hubert

www.ekir.de/krefeld/kirchenkreis/st-hubert.php

Gustav-Adolf Kirche SignThe church is situated in a residential street on the western outer edge of the village of St Hubert.

It is the church that I have been attending as a ‘regular punter’ since I arrived in Kempen.

Gustav-Adolf Kirche Outside

This is a small wooden church but with a lot of rooms behind in which the choir, for example, practice. The bell is not in the bell tower but on the ground outside the front of the church. It is rung during the Lord’s Prayer and at other times (during confirmations), as well as before the service.

Gustav-Adolf Kirche Bell

Gustav-Adolf Kirche Bell Plaque

There are some rather lovely stained glass windows inside.
Gustav-Adolf Kirche Window

The history of the church was briefly explained to me by a parishioner. She said that originally St Hubert only had a catholic church and the protestants in the village had to go to the Thomaskirche in Kempen, two miles away. There wasn’t a lot of money amongst the parishioners so they didn’t think they could build a church. However, a businessman in Sweden offered to pay for all the wood to build the church and to send over some local builders to construct it and so the church was built.

The interior of the church is (not unsurprisingly) generally of wood with a corresponding dry acoustic for the singing. The chairs looked fairly new and were of a different, light wood and were reasonably comfortable – always important in German churches where you seem to sit for quite a long time (they don’t stand up to sing hymns).

Gustav-Adolf KircheThe organ, which seemed quite decent, is seven years old and has two manuals and the church is very proud of the fundraising which enabled them to build it.

It’s a very friendly community and they seem to have welcomed me. I’ve been to a communion service and a confirmation service already and it seems they have a lot going on within the community – they also hire out their rooms to the local catholic church (much larger) when they have special events such as First Communions and need more rooms for the after-event parties! Members of the Da Capo Choir, with whom I sing, sometimes sing for services at this church; several attend the Catholic church in St Hubert so it’s nice to see people visiting each others’ churches.

2. Katholische Pfarre St Josef, Kempen-Kamperlings

Eibenweg 1, 47906 Kempen

www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/st-josef.html

I visited this church when also bagging several others in Kempen, on Alfie the trike, as this GPX track from my Garmin shows:

CIKV 11 April Track

It’s one I’ve cycled past many times as it’s on the old Bahn Radweg (railway cycle route) which goes from Nettetal-Lobberich to Kempen.

There was originally a church on this site in 1970 but it was a prefabricated building and in not very good repair with some structural defects so the diocese decided to build a new church, parish hall and office area. The church was consecrated in 1990.

The architecture consists of a mainly polygonal structure with lots of nested spaces under one tent roof. The centre of the building is dominated by the 38 metre high tower. The church is roofed with lead and has some attractive stained-glass windows created by the artist Josef Ebnöther.

St Josef Kempen Kamperlings

The noticeboard showed that they have quite a lot going on – I wasn’t surprised as I saw several people going into the church despite me visiting on a weekday.

St Josef Kempen Kamperlings Service ListThe church is located right in the middle of a housing area and I liked its overall design and position – the tower is visible from the Bahnradweg although you can’t see the rest of the church due to all the foliage around.

3. Christus Centrum Kempen

Dunantstraße 23, 47906 Kempen

www.christus-centrum-kempen.de

I had looked at this church’s website before I moved to Germany and had downloaded a couple of their podcasts of sermons to see what they were like. They seemed most like some of the more charismatic evangelical free churches in the UK and their style isn’t something I like (nor, do I imagine, we would agree much on theology). However I was interested to see that there are some of the newer churches in Germany and it’s not just the traditional Catholic and Protestant churches in Kempen.

I initially cycled past the building. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it looked just like a car tyre shop or some other basic shop front.

Christus Centrum 1

Christus Centrum 2

I had arrived outside of their office opening times and there wasn’t much to see so I headed off to the next church, just around the corner.

4. Christ König, Kempen

Concordienplatz 12, 47906 Kempen

www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/christ-koenig.html

This is another catholic church in Kempen affiliated to the main group (Mariae Geburt). It was built in 1968 when Kempen the town had expanded to the north and it was felt that a new church was needed to serve the people there. Unfortunately some major structural problems with the building were discovered in the mid 1980s and it had to be rebuilt.

Christ König 1991The new church was consecrated in 1993.

Christ König

The main idea of the church is “The King Jesus Christ rules through service”. The symbolism is in the address, Concordienplatz (place of concord) which faces the King’s Wall. The interlocking of the church and the secular area (which has some shops) is another part of the theme of this parish.

Christ Koenig

I was rather disappointed that the church was shut as I had hoped to get a look from inside at these windows – I think they would be quite impressive. Instead you can see me with the shops reflected behind.

Stained Glass Helen

5. Neuapostolische Kirche Kempen

Birkenallee 15, 47906 Kempen

http://nak-krefeld.de/site/startseite/gemeinden/kempen/

It took me a little longer to find this church than I expected as I cycled straight past it – it looked rather like the houses that surrounded it.

NAK Kempen

NAK Kempen CloserI had seen a NAK church before in Falkensee near Berlin and a friend there had mentioned that they are a cult. I know very little about them but there’s a fairly extensive Wikipedia article which gives more information.

6. St Marien – Die Propsteikirche St Mariae Geburt

An St Marien, 47906 Kempen

www.st-mariae-geburt-kempen.de/unsere-kirchen/st-marien.html

Full marks to this church for having such an excellently long name, having the road it sits on named after it and – best of all – for being open when I visited on a weekday.

Propsteikirche 2

Propsteikirche 3

It’s such a large building and in the middle of the fairly densely-packed centre of Kempen that I couldn’t get a picture with the whole church in the frame. From outside Kempen, as you approach on some of the main roads in, it’s clearly obvious as the highest point for a few miles around. I like that aspect of towns and villages in this part of Germany – the churches are what you can see.

Propsteikirche 1

The interior was lovely.

Propsteikirche Interior 1

Propsteikirche Interior 2

This is the main Catholic church in Kempen and the other Catholic churches are linked to it. Almost all the other churches I’ve visited so far have been under 100 years old but this one is rather older – the original foundation stone was laid in 1200. The original small brick church had various additions in the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as a Lady Chapel built in the north aisle.

Kempen was a place of pilgrimage and received a large influx of pilgrims until the growing importance of the Kevelaer Pilgrimage route reduced its popularity. In 1490 the present church was completed.

Shortly before the end of World War 2 the church was badly damaged in a bombing raid. Fortunately the works of art and altars had been relocated or protected and so they were preserved. Restoration of the church took five years and it has had subsequent renovation work from 1980 to 1993.

I gather that they have a decent organ here and have some organ concerts and other music so I expect I will be visiting before too long for some cultural music!

 

7. Friedenskirche Neersen, near Willich

Bengdbruchstraße 1, 47877 Willich
www.emmaus-willich.de/friedenskirche

Friedenskirche Neersen Official PhotoI did cycle to this church and was able to get in and have a look around but this was because I combined my church visit with a choir practice at this very church.

Neersen TrackThe Friedenskirche is a member of the Evangelische Emmaus-Kirchengemeinde, a group of three Protestant churches in Willich. We will be having our choir practices in all three.

Friedenskirche Neersen Sign

It is another church of the rather concrete-and-sharp-angles school of design. There are few old protestant churches in this part of Nordrhein-Westfalen, it seems, and the 60s architecture can be a bit hard on the eyes.

Friedenskirche Neersen TowerWe were there on quite a warm day and I was consequently wearing summer clothing. Everyone else had jumpers and scarves when they arrived – it turns out the church is usually freezing. However something was clearly wrong with the heating as it was at 24 degrees and everyone was roasting – except me! The Pfarrer appeared to see if he could fix the heating and he turned out to be surprisingly dishy; I may visit again!

Friedenskirche Neersen

8. Abtei Mariendonk

Niederfeld 11, 4929 Grefrath

www.mariendonk.de

Abtei Mariendonk

I have cycled past this church what feels like dozens of times over the last couple of years as whenever I have holidayed in Niederrhein (and I have stayed here three times) I have used local GPS tracks for good cycle routes and most of them go past Abtei Mariendonk at some point.

It’s a still-functioning Benedictine Convent and I did once see three nuns cycling out of a gate. However since I’ve moved to Kempen I’ve cycled past four times and not seen anyone about at all. They seem to be having building work (I believe to create step-free access for disabled people) but there is never any sign of people doing work, just a few machines sitting idly.

Although the church itself looks nice it is surrounded by some less-attractive buildings.

Abtei Mariendonk buildingsYou can stay there apparently for a retreat or quiet time and it’s nicely in the middle of nowhere so that would be rather pleasant – although there are always cyclists passing, of course!

9. Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Hinsbeck

Parkstraße 22, 41334 Nettetal-Hinsbeck

www.lobberich.de/kirchen/evangelisch/start-rechts.htm

The same day that I visited Abtei Mariendonk I carried on to Hinsbeck (which is a hill!) and visited the two churches on the top of the hill.

CIKV 21 April TrackAs I approached Hinsbeck it was clear to see the competition between the Catholics and the Protestants as to who had the best spire. The Catholics won!

Battle of the SteeplesThe Evangelische Kirche was tucked away in a residential part of the village. Mind you, it wasn’t exactly easy on the eye so perhaps good that it wasn’t that easy to spot!

Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirche 1

This photo was taken by some very nice people I bumped into, although they weren’t able to get the top of the church in as well.

Hinsbeck Evangelische Kirche 2I chatted at length to these passers-by who said that the Evangelical church in Kaldenkirchen is much more attractive – I assured them that I would be seeing ’em all!

This church was also closed as it was a weekday.

10. St Peter Nettetal-Hinsbeck

Oberstraße 16, 41334 Nettetal

http://st-peter-nettetal-hinsbeck.kibac.de/index.html

This is the large Catholic church in Hinsbeck and its website looks like it has lots going on.

Hinsbeck Catholic Church

It was built in 1882 and the 64 metre high steeple became a focal point of the village. However there had been a previous church on the site with aspects dating to 1441.

Not only the church but most of Hinsbeck seemed closed when I visited (no bakeries open!) so I didn’t stay long but headed back.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at some of the churches in Niederrhein and their variety (as well as their similarities!)   Only another 102 to go!

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

Penelope goes to Venlo

Today Penelope returned to her home country of the Netherlands.

Today is 1st May and in Germany it’s a public holiday – thus most of the shops are shut. So it seemed like a good day to visit the Netherlands (I had already checked and that was still open).

Yesterday I happened to pass the chocolate factory in Kempen and so wandered in to get a few things…

Choc Factory Visit 1

That lot cost me about £8 (9,70€)

I had to fit it all into the velomobile which already had lots of tools, a spare tyre, a large casserole dish, some maps, a water bottle, a heavy lock, some Gü Chocolate Cheesecake dessert Pots, a couple of bread rolls, an Apfeltasche pastry, a loaf of sliced bread and some other stuff too.

Choc Factory Visit 2

You can fit a lot of stuff in a Velomobile although I found the large free blue bucket that I was given by Self (a DIY shop) didn’t fit very well and I had to put it under my chin.

Anyway, 1st May seemed like a good day to take Penelope to Venlo, except I had to do some repairs first. Last night, when cycling back from choir in the dark, I realised that the lights weren’t working properly. A previous owner, Wilfred, had arranged it so I have two front light settings – Bright and Brighter. There’s also the option of flashing the front lights using a button on the handlebars. Last night it became clear that the Bright setting wasn’t working, nor was the flashing, although if I switched on the second front light switch (for Brighter) then there was some light, although not enough to cycle fast on unlit lanes.

Not only that, my car had been off the road for the last six days – the flat battery before I went to SPEZI was still not sorted. Frank (the landlord) had charged up my battery but it wasn’t working so he had brought a replacement from work today.

First things first, a dog walk.

As I stepped out of the house I noticed that the tree outside was decorated with streamers.

Decorated tree

It turns out that this is a May 1 tradition. As friend Olaf explained to me:

It’s a “Maibaum”, erected by young men courting a girl. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maibaum Have a look at “Liebesmaien”.

“In einigen Teilen Deutschlands, zum Beispiel im Rheinland, …. ist es üblich, dass männliche Jugendliche und junge Männer am Haus der Freundin oder Angebeteten einen Baum anbringen. Üblich sind vor allem mit buntem Krepp-Papier geschmückte Birken, wobei die Farbe der Bänder ursprünglich eine Bedeutung hatte. Am Baum wird ein sogenanntes Maiherz aus Holz oder festem Karton angebracht, in das der Name der Angebeteten eingraviert und in der Regel auch ein Spruch als Zuneigungsbekundung geschrieben wird.”

Clearly it was for Lara (or possibly for Penelope?) but Lara is, as yet, none the wiser as to the secret admirer. Rather fun!

Anyway, Pops and I went out for a good walk in the early morning sunshine. She took her stick with her.

Morning dogwalk

This is a view of Escheln, the hamlet where I live. Idyllic!

Morning view of Escheln

And here is the asparagus growing in the local Spargelhof (where I also get fresh strawberries most days).

Spargel growing

So back to the electric repairs on velomobile and car… with my electronic engineer husband in another country.

Last night Alex, Penelope’s former owner, had told me that it was probably just a plug that had come out through vibration and it’s a pretty easy fix. So I stuck my head in to look – sure enough, the black box which should have had two plugs in it only had one – and the other one was dangling in mid air.

Here’s a photo so you can see what I mean – a photo that was taken on 22 April, so over a week ago. Shows how observant I am that the light wasn’t working!

Penelope unplugged

This is all right in the footwell beyond the pedals so I had to go head-first into the velomobile in a rather inelegant fashion but I plugged the plug in and lo and behold the lights now worked!!

Success!

Buoyed by this, it was time to tackle the car (with Frank’s help).

Dead car

Frank put the new battery in and turned the key.

The engine seemed to turn over OK but it didn’t start.

Oh dear.

Frank then disappeared into the garage and returned with a selection of tools. He proceeded to remove the spark plugs from the car and had a good look at them. With them out he then tried to turn the car on again for a bit – it was all a bit smelly but of course it didn’t start. He then put the spark plugs back in again (he told me the German for them – something Kerzen (candles)), turned the key and lo and behold the car started!

Frank’s diagnosis – because the car had been sitting for a couple of weeks, some unburnt fuel which had been there had settled and got a bit mucky. He suggested I take the car for a 10 minute drive to clear out the pipes and that I would need to use it once a week to keep this from happening again. He said he would also recharge the original battery, put it back in and see if it’s OK.

So I drove my car up towards Stenden and then back again. It was good to have had a successful morning of mechanical repair (although Frank gets all the credit for the car fix). Whilst we were doing the car Gudula took Poppy for a walk. As my Dad said to me earlier, I’ve really fallen on my feet in this household with dog walkers, car menders and more. I’m going to take the family out for a meal in due course to say thankyou for the car fixing.

By the time I was ready to head out in Penelope it was 11:30. Gudula was in the front garden doing some pruning with Poppy helping so I asked her to hold on to Poppy as I headed off else Poppy would try to come with me. So Gudula picked Poppy up and talked to her while I headed off, following my Garmin’s route, towards the Netherlands.

After about half a mile I heard a weird noise – weird, but familiar. The sound of running paws. Sure enough Poppy had just caught up with me. I stopped, opened the lid of Penelope and Poppy jumped onto my lap. I turned round and headed back to Escheln, seeing Gudula coming round the corner in hot pursuit. She said Poppy had gone first one way, then the correct one, trying to catch up with me, the little rotter! Poppy was panting after all her running and probably glad to be carried back to the house.

I carried on another 200 metres or so and then stopped and waited for five minutes to check that Poppy didn’t reappear (she didn’t). Then it was full steam ahead to Venlo.

I had plotted different routes there and back, the route to Venlo would be the most direct one and the route back a scenic option, if I felt energetic enough to do it.

Today's TrackThe northernmost track is my outward journey, through Wachtendonk, Wankum and Herongen.

This is the elevation profile for the day as well – when the Garmin was switched off in Venlo for lunch it got its elevation a bit confused but it gives a general idea.

Elevation ProfileI headed on the familiar route to Wachtendonk which goes under the A61 motorway on some farm tracks. However, today being 1 May there were more unusual things to see – not just the decorated tree. You can just see ahead in this photograph a tractor towing a sort of caravan thing decorated with tree boughs. This caravan thing was full of young Germans shouting and being generally noisy (probably with beer in their hands) and every time it passed a house the tractor sounded its horn at length. People then came out to see what was going on.

Wachtendonk tractorA closer view – various arms were hanging out of the back window just before the branches at some points.

Wachtendonk tractor 2Eventually the tractor pulled over and a mini queue of cars (two, and of course me) went past. I was rather surprised to note that the tractor driver was a young girl – she can’t have been older than 20! It was all good fun and good natured.

After Wachtendonk I ignored all the cycle route signs (I’ve done this trip enough times now) and took the main road to Wankum. Couldn’t resist photographing this bus stop sign.

Bus stop near WachtendonkFrom Wankum (which was up a bit of a hill – was quite hard work) I headed to Herongen. Some young lady in Herongen also had an admirer!

Decorated tree in HerongenHerongen is right on the border with the Netherlands and I soon arrived at this sign, 1km to go to the border. There were two ladies taking photographs of themselves by the sign so I offered to take some photos of them together (which they were pleased about) and they then took this pic of me in return.

Almost in NLHere are the ladies who were out on a random ride from Krefeld just to see where they got to. They said they do quite a lot of inline skating in the general area of Krefeld so I might see them about now and again.

My new friends from KrefeldWhilst talking to this lady I noticed my Union Jack jersey was fantastically reflected in her glasses – unfortunately it hasn’t come out very well on the photo.

Lady with glassesAfter a ten minute chat we headed off towards Venlo. Here is Penelope being welcomed back into her country of birth.

Welcome to VenloIt was an easy ride along some reasonably main roads to the centre of Venlo. I was impressed by these bins for bicycle riders though – you could just chuck your litter into them.

Waste bin for cyclists 1

Waste Bin for cyclists 2Less impressive were the buttons for the traffic light crossings – they tended to be difficult for me to reach from the velomobile (the ones in Germany seem to be in a slightly easier position).

My original plan was to find some poffertjes (the little mini Dutch pancakes which I love) but I had failed to find them in Venlo twice before. However, this time I was a bit more successful in finding the pedestrian centre of Venlo, through which I cycled at least twice. No obvious poffertjes cafés. There was one café that said it did pannenkoeken but I asked the lady if they did pofferjes and she said no.

At one point two policemen were walking past so I stopped them and asked if they knew of anywhere that served poffertjes. They said no but looked at me as if I was bonkers – clearly you don’t ask policemen for directions in NL like you can in the UK.

In the end I gave up on the poffertjes quest (again!) and decided to just pick a random café to have lunch. As it happened I moved from the first one as the prices were really steep. I have noticed that in NL the cafés and restaurants don’t seem to have to display their menus outside so you don’t know what’s available until they bring you a menu. In Germany by law they have to display the menu outside the door of the building so you can check what’s what before you go in or sit down outside.

The second place I stopped at seemed nice and I had a good view of Penelope – she had already garnered huge attention as I rode very slowly through the pedestrian area, now she was parked up people constantly peered in or photographed her.

Busy Venlo pedestrian area

Checking out Penelope 1

Checking out Penelope 2I ordered onion soup and hot water for my tea as the other meals were quite expensive (relative to German prices). The onion soup came with a side dish of extra onions 🙂

Onion soupService was a bit slow but I wasn’t in a hurry particularly.

I was interested to note that almost everyone around me was German. I barely heard any Dutch spoken. I suppose it was a normal working day for Dutch people whereas it was a day off for Germans but it was amusing. I did all my ordering and talking with the waitress in German – seemed easier.

Another thing I noticed is that there seemed to be more fat people than I normally see in Germany (although they were probably Germans so perhaps they just don’t hang out in the Niederrhein area generally). It was also very noticeable, whilst sitting outside, that there are lots more smokers than in the UK. I kept getting smoke wafting past me – I don’t like it very much.

After an hour of lazing around with my food and generally people-watching it was time to head back.

I set my Garmin for my alternative route back (the longer, more scenic version) as my legs still felt reasonable.

I found myself passing an unexpected dinosaur.

Unexpected dinosaurAnd shortly after I was at Venlo station – I waved goodbye to James here three weeks ago.

Venlo stationThe route out of Venlo when heading for the Hinsbeck area (rather than Herongen) is quite a steep climb. I’ve done it several times before (I visited Venlo a few times when holidaying in Nettetal a couple of years ago) and I got it wrong most times. This time I had what I thought was a good route plotted but lo and behold a cut-through between two roads (which cuts out a longer stretch of road) was clearly not velomobile-friendly.

Cycle route goes off-roadSo I stuck to the main road and probably had an extra kilometre or so to ride – not a problem.

I was slow up the hill out of Venlo but not appallingly so. I think I’m getting slightly more accustomed to the weight of the Versatile – I am certainly spinning the pedals more (which is good). Wilfred, who owned Penelope before Alex, reckons I could gear her down a bit more with changing the sprocket on the rear wheel, maybe to increase it by two teeth, and still be within the allowed range of the Rohloff. It’s not necessary for this bit of Germany but if I take Penelope back to England then I will probably have to do this, or something similar, otherwise I’ll conk out on some of our impressive hills.

Anyway, I made it up the hill out of Venlo, riding on quiet residential roads so I wasn’t annoying any vehicular traffic.

I was soon going past the glider airfield – very familiar territory for me. And then it was time to take the traditional photo of the Grenzgänger bicycle…

I took this picture a couple of years ago of Alfie with a foot in both countries:

And here is Penelope in the same location:

Penelope on the border

And from the other side (better lighting).

Penelope as GrenzgängerHer front wheels are in Germany, the rear wheel is in the Netherlands.

This route is really familiar to me and I whizzed onward through the crowds of cyclists (they were everywhere – to be expected on a bank holiday I suppose!) It’s all asphalted track with no cars so is a great route for cycling.

I saw this lady with a sausage dog in a basket on the back and asked if I could take a photo (she said yes). Photo was taken whilst I was cycling at about 25kph…

Dog in large basketNow the route that I took was a bit weird – you may have noticed that if you looked at the map at the top of this blog post. Here it is again as a reminder:

Today's Track

You can see that once I cross into Germany I do a bit of a detour to the south when there looks like a much shorter route through Hinsbeck. The reason for this is highlighted below:

HillYes, my big detour was to avoid a hill. aren’t I lazy! I probably added about 5km to the distance to avoid going up and over Hinsbeck but I enjoyed the quiet cycle lanes and joined the Bahnradweg pretty much at its start and followed it right through to Kempen.

Not without stopping at Secretis, a restaurant/Eiscafé near Sassenfeld which I have visited before. It was a really warm day so time for an ice cream and, miracle of miracles, they provided me with real milk for my tea!

Ice Cream at SecretisAs I was heading off to leave after enjoying my ice cream the waitress and another customer came to talk to me about Penelope for ages. I have had lots of people asking me about her today, the most frequent question being whether she has electric assist. “Nur Muskelkraft” I reply.

I still tend to ride faster than everyone else around (despite being a pretty slow recumbenteer/velomobiler). I think that Germans tend to use their bikes for utility cycling and they often have big, heavy, slow bikes that just keep going. Well, half of them are also dealing with the weight of electric assist too. There were a few racers out today I noticed but they tended to be on the roads not cycle paths and didn’t acknowledge me, even if I grinned at them (I can’t wave as my hands aren’t visible).

The stretch from Lobberich back home is one I’ve done five or six times since I’ve been here so it’s becoming very familiar, and familiarity makes it seem a lot shorter. I whizzed back, although with so many people on the Bahnradweg I had to keep the speed down (only had a short stretch at 40kph). I used my useless hooter a fair bit and people didn’t hear it or realise what it was so I was reduced to shouting ‘Achtung!’ or ‘Vorsicht!’ instead which was marginally more successful.

Rather than doing the little ring road around Kempen I went through the centre so that I could stop at a bakery which always seems to be open. And it was! I bought myself a cake and provided some entertainment to all the people sitting at cafés in Kempen as I sailed past.

Healthy cakeWhen I got back Poppy was safely in the apartment (and hadn’t run halfway to Venlo) and I was pleased to see that my lights on Penelope were still working well. All in all a very enjoyable day’s ride but I still didn’t get any poffertjes!!

The figures for today’s ride as as follows:

Distance: 35.51 miles/57.14km
Time taken: 3 hours 15 minutes
Average heart rate: 133
Maximum heart rate: 186
Maximum speed: 25.6mph/41.2kph
Calories burned: 1,677
Moving average: 10.9mph/17.5kph

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