April is a busy month in the world of Velomobiles as it is when the annual SPEZI Special Bike fair takes place, and once again I visited.
First things first, here are my list of rides this month:
And here is where I went:
The green rides are E-bike rides on Alfie.
Celeste, Humphrey and Millie
Each of our velomobiles has had a bit of rebuilding/maintenance/body shaping activity this month, but unfortunately for Celeste she was the one who drew the short straw…
Celeste gets a visit
It all started one Sunday afternoon when Klaus was driving to Hannover to take part in the Hannover Show. There were a lot of sirens going past and then our road had a visit from a friend of Gudula and Frank who came round in his Amphicar:
What can you spot in the background of the last photo? A fire engine, one of the 11-12 that were visiting the farm buildings about 400 metres away (this one was here for the water hydrant). Next to the farm there is also a house with some garages and we use one of the garages to store our spare bikes and spare car tyres. As it happened, only Celeste was in there (as Millie was at Emvelomobiel.be being serviced and Alfie was in the garage next to our house as I was using him to commute rather than Humphrey).
I had a call from the owner to ask if I was out riding my ‘Seifenkisten’ (Soap crates) but I said no. He suggested I come to check but the fire brigade had closed the road – I looked from afar and could see that the fire wasn’t that near our garage fortunately.
Klaus arrived in Hannover and phoned me to say that his tracker on Celeste had detected movement two hours ago but it was still showing as in the garage so presumably hadn’t been burnt to a crisp. I told him that the fire appeared to be far enough away and we shouldn’t worry.
The road was closed the entire afternoon and evening and so I couldn’t go and check. The local newspaper informed us that there were four lads between 12 and 14 years old who had set fire to the hay barn, which indeed was what was burning. There was a gas tank not far away which was causing them some concern and thus so many fire engines keeping it cool.
The fire was out the next morning so on my way to work I popped into the garage – no sign of fire there, so all good. I went on to work.
On the way back from work the fire had started up again, no surprise with a barnful of straw. It was out again a couple of hours later.
I spoke with Klaus again and said Celeste looked fine, no sign of fire, but I was surprised he had draped the spare tyre over her side. He said he hadn’t.
So I whizzed round there again. The tyre was hanging off the side as the young lads had steamed through the garages (it turned out later), damaged the contents of many of them, smashed windows, farm machinery etc.
And here was Celeste, undamaged by fire but…
It looks as though they had sat on her.
They had also jumped inside with very muddy feet, stood on the tiller and also ripped out the tacho (although this is minor damage).
They had also punched a couple of holes in one of the wheel covers.
Klaus’s jacket that had been inside was chucked in a corner of the garage, but otherwise Celeste seemed OK. The wheels were all OK. We had her locked which is presumably why they didn’t go for a joyride.
Poor Klaus was devastated, and also was miles away in Hannover and unable to do anything about it. He first had a chance to see Celeste five days later.
I reported it to the police. The young people had all been arrested but it would be exceptionally difficult to get the cost of the repairs from them so we will just have to cover the cost of repair ourselves. Celeste is not insured under the house policies as she is so far away. The tracker did its thing and told us when she was disturbed by the lads but this doesn’t really help us. It’s such a shame.
Klaus checked her over the following Saturday when he returned and found nothing else damaged. We popped out the bump in the nose and some more of the gelcoat cracked off. We have had a rough estimate from Velomobiel.nl for the repair and will take her to them as soon as possible to get her fixed.
In the meantime, Klaus is using Humphrey. We are so disappointed that this stupid vandalism happened, but at least the value of the damage to us is not very great. For the farmer whose hay store was completely destroyed it is another story, and the parents of these young people will presumably be paying for their damage for some time to come.
Humphrey gets a service
As described in detail in my previous blog post about Humphrey, there were a number of issues with him that we wanted to get solved if possible, so we arranged for a trip to Velomobiel.nl to look at this.
1. Very swimmy rear suspension
2. Lack of comfort in the cockpit, partly because of no tiller hanger
3. Difficulties for me getting in and out
4. Fix the seat which moves a bit on one side.
We arrived at Velomobiel and talked about our issues. It turns out that they had very recently uprated the suspension dampers that they use at the back and that we still had the old ones, so Theo changed ours to the newer ones that are rated for more weight. Klaus had a mini test ride and said it was a huge improvement, and subsequent riding at home has shown this. Humphrey rides completely differently now, with a much more consistent feeling when going over bumps and kerbs at the back and he feels much safer. However, these new suspension dampers have a habit of unscrewing over rough ground and Klaus seems to have to screw them back together every couple of days. We will try something with Loctite in due course. We still also suffer from lots of loud noises at the back which are partly from the dampers and also from the transverse strut as part of the axle suspension structure. We have not found solutions to this yet.
The lack of comfort in the cockpit had become very significant for me on the ride from Nijmegen home at the end of our NL tour. We put the arm rests in which helped, but asked if Theo could fit a tiller hanger for us – which indeed he did. Which required him to dive headfirst into my velomobile.
We adjusted it a few times to find the right length cable and then tried it – also very good!
Theo had fixed a holder to the end of the boom nearest the seat and then used a brake cable to hold the tiller up.
He also filed off a sharp edge on the light adjustment lever on the tiller which kept catching my lycra trouser leg and had killed one seam.
The seat was fixed tighter, it wasn’t a crack in the carbon as we had feared, although this seems to have a tendency to come undone again.
We had a long talk about possibilities to help me get out of the Velomobile using my legs rather than just my arm to haul me out, but there really isn’t any suitable mounting point in the Quattrovelo for a foot rest which allows the knees to not get stuck behind the tiller/frame. So this was one we couldn’t solve.
Writing at the end of April Humphrey has now done over 2000km; I have ridden him 1049km and Klaus 1076km. Due to Celeste being out of action Klaus is now riding Humphrey all the time, and I am riding Millie who I finally got back two days after Celeste was damaged.
I also discovered when cleaning Humphrey that his maker left her name in the wheel arch:
Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover!
Once the realisation dawned that Humphrey would not be a suitable velomobile for me for all purposes, because it was too painful for me to get out of him regularly because of my arm disability, I decided I needed to make Millie more user-friendly as I would keep her.
You can read all about it in this separate blog post here: Pimp my Milan – Millie gets a makeover. Needless to say, this has been a huge improvement to Millie and I am loving riding her at the moment, although Klaus is faster in the Quattrovelo (when Klaus rides his Strada our speeds are broadly similar, but the QV gives him an extra 4 km/h).
Hartmut’s Birthday Bash
Friend Hartmut turned 60 and retired. He had been counting down to this date for several years and we had a date in our diaries for his celebration for at least six months. And at last the day arrived!
This was also a big day for Hartmut as he had awarded himself a velomobile for his 60th birthday (he is selling his car). He had spent a long, long time choosing what to have. He had borrowed Penelope but rolled her so this put him off. He tried the Strada and Quattrovelo but wasn’t keen. He loved the look of the Milan but wasn’t happy with the turning circle. In the end he chose a WAW from Flévelo and collected it a few days before his birthday bash.
His plan was for us to ride together to the café where we would celebrate with him and enjoy a buffet. We were all to meet in Buttermarkt in Kempen and then ride together to Hinsbeck where the party was.
We had all got t-shirts printed with pictures of our bikes/velomobiles, our names and then ’31’ which is a long-running joke with Hartmut which is too obscure to print here. We also got a shirt for Hartmut with his WAW on it.
I also got myself a new hat with a Milan which Poppy seemed to like:
Klaus and I arrived at Buttermarkt a bit early and stopped for a cup of tea. Then Hartmut arrived in his new WAW… with a flag on the back!
We headed off towards Hinsbeck, Hartmut going at a whopping pace which dropped all those on normal bikes. We had to tell him to slow down – I guess he was enjoying the velomobile speed feeling!
His wife was concerned about the visibility of the WAW and this was why he had the flag. It’s a bit of an aerodynamic killer though!
We had a great afternoon and evening in Hinsbeck. There were lots of Hartmut’s friends, many of whom we already knew (this was the gathering of his cycling freinds) and he got lots of presents, very many velomobile or bicycle themed of course! The food was also very good. It was great to show the velomobiles to lots of people who hadn’t had a close look before, and it was so lovely to know that Hartmut finally had his VM as he had wanted one for so long! We will undoubtedly do many rides together over the next months.
A search for a new Landcafé
Long-term readers of this blog know I have a knack of finding good cafés and good cakes in Germany (although this does not work as well in the Netherlands, unfortunately). Klaus and I like to do a Sunday morning ride for cake and we have our favourite places (zum Schafstall in Twisteden, Steudle in Geldern etc) but I felt that most of our good cafés were rather too close to home for a speedy summer Velomobile ride.
So a new plan was hatched – to experience cafés further afield. Maybe I will write a book on good cafés in Kreis Kleve.
I had a look on Google for ‘Landcafé’ and found a new one in Winnekendonk near Kevelaer, called Büllhorsthof. I note that they were exceptionally quick-off-the-mark with the Internet as they have the following web address: https://www.bauerncafe.com/.
So off we went, on what turned out to be a 111km ride as it was such a good day and our legs were good.
When we arrived at the café the car park was full of Mercedes as there was some kind of historic Mercedes breakfast meet but they were actually leaving so we had the place almost to ourselves.
Bike parking is next to the Penny Farthing which also has an electric bike charging point (the old meets the new)
I had this very tasty peach cake.
We felt so good after our very relaxed cake eating we decided to ride further and ended up in Xanten via Marienbaum. We went around Xanten rather than through it as I wanted to ride on the Bislicher Insel again, where we stopped for a waffle.
And Klaus enjoyed a beer.
It was a really hot day and we both got a bit of colour! It was lovely to do a long ride again, although I did find Humphrey very hot in this weather as he doesn’t have as good airflow through the cockpit as Millie.
I must mention again though the convenient storage in the Quattrovelo. Here is a picture of Humphrey carrying 60 eggs and two glass jars of soup. All without any issues!
Alfie back in service!
We had a lovely spell of hot weather, with temperatures around 25 for over a week. This gave me the opportunity to fetch Alfie from the second garage (this was before the fire/vandalism) and use him with his most convenient electric motor for my commutes.
Klaus decided to ride Humphrey to work one Friday so we agreed to meet up in Moers on his way home (about 20km from home). I took Alfie, enjoying the fresh air but obviously not as fast. We met in Moers at Café Extrablatt.
It was time for ice cream!
We had a lovely leisurely time just watching the world go by and enjoying the sunshine.
A week later I rode Millie to Klaus’s workplace and then back with him (he had Humphrey) via Moers and we stopped for a pizza in the café next door to Extrablatt. This time the wind was blowing a gale and there were also heavy showers. The weather can certainly be different in April!
A visit from my Mum
This month my Mum came to visit for five days, which was lovely.
Unfortunately the situation with the fire, Celeste damage and police reports happened whilst she was here which changed our plans a bit, plus she came with me to collect Millie as we needed her back, but we managed to visit Kempen and Moers together and enjoy some cakes of course!
Klaus and I drove to pick Mum up from Hoek van Holland and stopped for breakfast on the beach there, the first time we had ever visited. It was a beautiful day with clear blue sky and as we had to wait until 9 for the café to open we had a bit of a walk along the beach.
The breakfast at Dechi Beach was very good!
I had to still work unfortunately whilst my Mum was here so in the mornings when I was slaving over a hot desk Mum took Poppy for walks, which Poppy was very happy about! In the afternoons we went on short outings.
I drove Mum back to Hoek van Holland via Maassluis where we stopped for dinner. Years ago I had my first Poffertjes experience there but we didn’t manage any this time.
SPEZI – Spezialradmesse
Once again I went to SPEZI, this time just with Ralf as Klaus was attending his daughter’s confirmation.
I didn’t take any photos there except of the pastries we had to fuel us before hitting the exhibitions.
For me, the purpose of visiting SPEZI has changed. At first it was so I could see what was available in the world of trikes and velomobiles, now it is really just a chance to catch up with friends as lots of our velomobile chums visit. I had a lovely chat with a couple who read this blog and said how encouraging it is for the lady, who also has a slight disability, to know of another velomobile-riding lady and the different experiences that I have as opposed to men’s experiences. She is right, the things that matter to men about velomobiles (mostly speed!) may not be quite the same for women who have usually less power. I think lots of women struggle to fit into the VMs because women are generally shorter; the Quest XS is a possibility but many other velomobiles are just too large. I am lucky in that I am tall and have long legs so can swap bikes with Klaus without any adjustment to pedal reach.
Anyway, it was good to be at SPEZI and meet up with lots of people. I also talked to Velomobiel.nl about Celeste’s repair, which we will have to organise in the next week or so. In the meantime I have ordered a second tracker (this time for Humphrey) as I think we now see the value of the tracker, and we are also looking at alternative garage options.
Some other random photos from this month
Here are some more photos from this month to give you a taste of life in Germany!
And a random event from this month too…
The company I work for shares a fence with Griesson de Beukelaer, the chocolate factory in Kempen. My 2 colleagues and I were sitting in our office pretending to work when a chap from de Beukelaer came round to ask if they could go through to one of the bits of fence as someone was checking it. We just had to get a key for it, which we did. I said the chap “did you bring any chocolate with you?” and he laughed and said “no”. We ribbed him a bit about this, all very good naturedly.
He arrived back 10 minutes later with a large bag…
What a bonus! We are sharing the goodies around our colleagues.
Klaus and I are continuing with the low carb but are more relaxed about it at the moment, partly because of visits (my Mum, and he was at the Hannover show) where it is difficult to eat low carb. However we are back on the wagon now and are just allowing ourselves a piece of cake when we do a ride. After all, living here in Germany requires frequent cake eating in order to fully assimilate. I also make low-carb cakes that we have at home during the week.
Next month, May, has lots of public holidays (we have 3). plus several Brückentage (bridging days, when a public holiday is on a Tuesday or Thursday most companies shut on the Monday or Friday) so we have 3 weeks of just 3 working days. Klaus also has his birthday, as does Ralf, so we have bicycle and cake things planned. Watch this space!