Nine Wheels in Germany – September 2019 (Month 66)

Cycling this month

Last month I rode 1,600km, this month rather less:

However, I did use all three of my bikes this month.

And this is where I actually cycled to:

A bit of a weird-looking map, but you can see there was some riding in the east of England, a ride between Hoek van Holland and Rotterdam, and then riding at home around Kempen. More will be revealed below!

A Velomobile tour to the UK

Klaus and I had planned early in the year to visit my Mum in the UK in September, and then we thought it might be rather nice to go in the velomobiles! So over the last weekend in August and the first week of September we headed to Blighty.

England Trip – Day 1: Kempen to Maren-Kessel

As the ride to Hoek van Holland is about 200km, we decided to do it in a leisurely manner over two days. We were both working on the Friday but Klaus was able to leave a bit early so we set off around 2pm in beautiful sunshine.

The first 45km of the ride were our standard route to Siebengewald and then we were riding in NL. The roads were fairly clear and we were making great progress.

Our ride was to be about 110km and we had given the Vrienden op de Fiets hosts an estimated arrival time of 6pm. So we decided to stop for a cup of tea after the halfway point. Up till now the route had been really good.

Once we had had a couple of drinks we headed off again, still enjoying the weather and the good roads. This time I had allowed the Garmin software to choose the route to Maren-Kessel and it had done an excellent job, this was a really good route which I am sure we will use again if we ever go in this direction. Lots of quiet roads but long, straight routes too so we were able to keep up a good speed – we averaged over 30 km/h for the 110km and that is including lots of luggage!

Our host and hostess had agreed to provide us with dinner (for an extra cost of course) and we enjoyed our evening meal with them, relaxing at the outside table in their garden. The next day would be shorter and nice and relaxing hopefully!

England Trip Day 2: Maren-Kessel to Hoek van Holland

We had a leisurely start this morning, so I went out for a walk before breakfast as I woke up early. It was lovely walking along the Maas looking at the sunrise over the fields.

And then we were treated to another wonderful breakfast at this Vrienden op de Fiets.

At a quarter to ten we were on our way with just 120km to ride.

The route started along the dike beside the Maas (I had especially planned this) and it turned out to be absolutely wonderful.

Long, smooth roads with no traffic. There was a minor detour due to some roadworks but we soon found ourselves back on the dike. We pedalled smoothly and efficiently, enjoying the morning sunshine.

One small section went through a field of sheep!

But then we were back on our cycle route with rather cleaner road surfaces!

We were to cross the Maas many times today, and our first crossing involved coming down off the dike with what turned out to be a hairpin bend. This was very tricky in Millie and I had to shuffle back and forth quite a lot.

But then we were on the ferry, which turned out to be free!

Here is the Maas.

And here is my cycling companion – and me!

This was such a great route, as we were now on a route that had been sent to us by friend Gabi who had ridden it with other friend Rolf. We went through lots of interestingly-named places and some lovely Dutch villages.

After a while we felt it right to stop for some cake and I had already identified on the map a bakery in Almkerk. Unfortunately it was a bakery that didn’t offer tea or coffee so we left and then stood around outside trying to work out where we could go instead. A lady passer-by who had heard us asking about a place for a hot drink suggested we tried a different place a couple of kilometres away (unfortunately in the wrong direction!) but as we had plenty of time we gave it a go.

There was some kind of event going on so we were surrounded by Dutch people having some kind of mini presentation but we had some drinks and a piece of cake each and enjoyed the rest.

After an hour and a half we moved on, carrying on along the route. We rode along the Waal for a while and then it was time for another river crossing on a ferry.

We were now approaching Dordrecht and the beginning of the more built-up areas. We had also arranged to meet chum Alex somewhere around here so various messages were exchanged, with the meeting point decided as Zwijndrecht Station.

However, our excellent route started to go non-excellent from this point. First of all, I missed a slight right fork in a cycle path and kept on the left side which then took us the wrong way. Never mind, I could see we would join up further ahead – except we didn’t, as the other cycle path would have taken us onto a higher street level and we were stuck down underneath. We also briefly had the entire cycle path blocked by some police vehicles and had to wait about five minutes.

We had stops, starts, curves, traffic lights etc and were beginning to get annoyed with Dordrecht. And then… the absolute classic!

The railway line is a significant obstacle so the cycle-friendly Dutch have built a bicycle tunnel underneath it. A great idea. Except that if you are heading towards Zwijndrecht and want to go under the tunnel, you have to do a hairpin curve. Not just any curve, one with built-up kerbs both sides, so you cannot move out of your cycle lane. Which is maybe 1.5 metres wide maximum.

And just look at that curve!

I think I needed about a 30-point turn to get round there, and there was a queue of bikes behind me as no-one could overtake me as I tried to get round. Plus Klaus was behind me and would have to do the same thing too. This was very inconvenient for velomobiles, and also for other cyclists!

But eventually we got through, out the other side, and the we crossed the bridge past Dordrecht.

Zwijndrecht was also very difficult, with fixed cycle routes with sharp bends and traffic light buttons we couldn’t reach, etc. We were both feeling pretty annoyed with these built-up areas by the time we met Alex.

Alex headed off in the lead and almost immediately we were faced with roadworks which were tricky to find a way around. We had ended up back at our meeting point after riding 1-2km before finally escaping that bit of the city.

And then we lost Alex again as he went off ahead and we had to follow our route (as had no idea where we would be going otherwise) but he caught us up again.

Unfortunately we lost him again a bit later. He was off the front and we needed to stop as we needed to put our feet down. We have not really optimised our riding with Alex as we always seem to end up going different ways and not riding together!

Anyway, after a brief break (and I had an ice cream) we carried on. We passed Portugaal.

Just after this point it turned out we had passed Alex who was at a café having a drink but we didn’t see him, and as he had only just ordered we realised we wouldn’t see him again unless he decided to come to Maassluis where we were going to have our evening meal. In the end the weather wasn’t so good so he went home – we’d only had a brief time with him but it was nice to see him again!

At Hoogvliet we crossed a bridge over the Oude Maas towards Spijkenisse and then another bridge over the Hartelkanaal where we were riding through an industrial area but with an excellent cycle infrastructure.

We were actually zooming along here, past the port of Rotterdam.

As we neared Maassluis our route was suddenly closed – with no information about a diversion for cyclists.

Fortunately we could see on our Garmins an alternative route, which was the car route which we took – on the road, as we didn’t spot the cycle path early enough and there were no ways to join in after the beginning.

We crossed on the ferry to Maassluis and then rode around a bit before we found a Greek restaurant where we ate a hearty evening meal as a few raindrops started to fall.

We headed off to the ferry along the Maas, enjoying the beautiful skies and great light. This cycle route between Maassluis and Hoek van Holland is very nice to ride, even in a Velomobile!

And before long we were in the queue of cars, 95% of which had British registrations, to get on the ferry.

We were directed to park near the motorbikes.

We went up to our cabin and, seasoned travellers that we are, had a cuppa in the lounge before going for an early night. The next morning would be Klaus’s first experience of cycling in England!

England Trip Day 3: Harwich to Witnesham

I have ridden the route from Harwich to Manningtree loads of times on my trike but this would be the first time in the Velomobile. Likewise the route from Manningtree to Witnesham. It would be interesting to see how well the velomobiles performed.

But first, breakfast. Like NL, Britain doesn’t go in much for breakfast, and definitely not at 6:30am on a Sunday morning. However, I had seen a new McDonalds near Parkestone, Harwich, when I was in England a month or so ago, and indeed it was open for a McBreakfast, after a 1km ride from the ferry terminal.

The choice of breakfast is different in the UK to that in Germany – McMuffins are more of a thing here. And of course proper tea!

After we had fuelled up it was time to head off to Witnesham. The day was fabulous, with blue skies. We wended our way up the hill into Harwich, then down again (this was to avoid the A120) and around the roundabout to Ramsey, where we started on the traditional winding country lanes of the UK with high hedges and sudden unexpected views.

It was also very up and down, which I had known about from my triking days. Of course, with the motor this was no issue at all for me – I just turned up the power from Number 1 to Number 3 or 4 or 5 (depending on how steep the hill was) and kept going. Klaus was proving once again that he is a very decent hill climber in the heavy Quattrovelo and only had to use his Schlumpf Mountain Drive (the clue is in the name) once. This was on a 16% slope so fair enough!

I knew as we cycled towards Mistley Heath we would have a bit of a view, and so we did – the river Stour, which flows out at Harwich. We were looking across at Holbrook where the Royal Hospital School occupies a prime position – we would ride past this a bit later.

Here is Klaus still looking cheerful despite the hills!

We rode into Manningtree and then crossed the border into Suffolk, leaving Essex behind for today. We then toiled up the hill towards Brantham which was one of my least-liked hills when I used to ride my trike all around here. We were slow, of course, but then a group of race cyclists came past us. That would never do, so Klaus sped up and so did I (with motor assistance for me), and as the hill levelled off we passed the cyclists. Klaus was justifiably proud of this as he had 15kg or so of luggage in his Quattrovelo (which they couldn’t see).

We turned off shortly afterwards to head to Stutton (didn’t want to take the really busy road into Ipswich as it is narrow and fast) and I rather hoped the race cyclists would carry on, but they turned off too so we had to keep pedalling at speed till they were out of sight behind us. Strava Flyby shows us that they actually stopped just after the turn-off.

We were now on the country lanes heading to Holbrook with lots of ups and downs. My front wheels in Millie weren’t very round (I had one broken spoke each side) and I felt it upon braking, so I was nursing Millie a bit trying not to corner TOO fast. Which is a shame as there are some nice corners, albeit with blind exits where you could run into a tractor or an Essex Boy in his car.

The road surface magically improves as you go past Royal Hospital School, a very expensive private school with impressive grounds and lots of interesting buildings. Klaus was going too fast for me to stop and get a photo! And then once you leave Holbrook the roads become rough and potholey again.

We rode through Holbrook and then past Freston where we joined the Orwell river and cycled under the impressive bridge.

From here we joined back on the main road from Manningtree to Ipswich and headed into Ipswich Town itself, which was pretty quiet as it was 7:30am on a Sunday morning.

Riding through Ipswich was OK at this time of day, particularly as we are familiar with the route as it’s the same route we take with the car.

In the centre of Ipswich we had the very steep climb up by Ipswich School, and then we were heading out to the north on some nicer, wider roads.

We were on the Westerfield Road where we drive so often, and it was interesting to experience it in velomobiles. The distances seem further (of course, as we were slower), and the road surfaces rougher than we are used to, but it was a lovely ride and Klaus was really enjoying his first experience of cycling in England. It helped that no car drivers had tried to kill us yet.

After Westerfield we had lots of ups and downs, including America Hill, where I saw the first sign to Witnesham, our destination.

It’s a very long, thin village but we soon arrived at Mum’s house. The gate was open (her neighbour had opened this for us) so we could ride right into the Cart Lodge where the velomobiles would spend the week, hanging out with Mum’s car.

Mum was actually away on holiday so we had the place to ourselves for two days. We hit the supermarket for food (by car), driving to Ipswich, and on the way we were passed by someone in a Quest Velomobile going the other way! This Quest appears periodically in the local papers and Mum once talked to him – he uses it to cycle to work but lives in Bentley and his furthest distance is apparently to Ipswich (16km or so) so he’s not so much a mile-eater. A lady who is interested in velomobiles and lives in Ipswich told me on Facebook she had never seen a velomobile in the flesh, and we saw one after 10 minutes of being in Ipswich!

In the afternoon I went out for a bit of a walk to enjoy the English countryside.

Looking back at Mum’s pink Suffolk cottage across the field behind the back garden
Traditional English country lane
Rough road surface for bikes!

Part of the purpose of my walk was to see if I could spot any decent blackberry bushes – there were loads so I was in luck!

At the end of the lane was an old telephone box. This one, like many others, has been repurposed as a book exchange.

But the old postbox next to it still carries out its main function.

When I got home I had definitely earned my cream tea. Klaus enjoyed his too!

England Trip Day 4: A DF in Diss

We had been in contact with the Velomobile Club of Great Britain before we headed to the UK to say we would be there, and did anyone want to meet up. A chap called Bill who lived in Suffolk said he would, so we arranged to meet in Diss for lunch on the Monday. That would be a 60km round trip for us and similar for him.

Before we headed off I went for a bit of a walk again. My walk this time took me towards the Village church which is at the bottom of one of the hills. There’s a small stream which clearly floods.

The sign is another reminder you are no longer in continental Europe – no metres!

I returned to Mum’s house and we got the velomobiles ready to head to Diss.

I had ridden the route to Diss once or twice before on my trike and it had felt like a long way then. However, riding at almost double the speed in the velomobiles it was a much quicker journey.

By bike you see much more than by car. We passed some beautiful houses, went through a few villages (Debenham, Eye) and had a long stretch of about 6km on brand new surface-dressed chip-seal. Horribly rough and noisy!

This route was also quite up and down, and with the rough road surface I wondered if Klaus would be enjoying it. Turned out he really loved it, particularly the twisting, curving roads with different views around each corner.

Just before Diss we had a pretty nasty crossing of a main road where we had to wait quite a long time, but safety first! I have no idea why no refuge had been built for cars/cyclists but there you go, it often feels like UK road infrastructure thinks only of cars.

We arrived in Diss at the riverside restaurant I had chosen (via Google) and discovered there was nowhere to park our velomobiles within sight of the restaurant. However, some guys selling coffee out of a historic car said they would watch over them for us. They were very friendly chaps, and I made sure to tell them we had alarms on the bikes which would inform us also if anyone touched the bikes. So in the end they were pretty safely tucked away.

Bill arrived just a few minutes later in his cream-coloured DF.

As you may be able to see from the photos, he had rolled his DF fairly recently. We discussed this with him and it seems there is some kind of problem with his suspension/steering linkage as it all feels very nervous when riding over 40 km/h and that should not be the case with a DF. We had a look and there was definitely some play in the front wheels which should not be there, so he now knows this is not normal and will look into it.

Klaus and I chose our food. I had a steak and kidney pudding, one of those things I loved as a child (I picked the kidney out though), but a pub version of a suet pudding is nowhere near as good as Mum’s. It was still nice to have some good, hearty English food again though. Not very Keto.

Klaus went for a burger and chips.

It was really good to chat with Bill, and we had a very pleasant lunch. Then it was time for us to go our separate ways so we went back to the velomobiles, had a bit more of a chat, and then off he went. He had locked his DF back wheel to Millie’s front wheel. This was interesting as Klaus and I never think of locking our velomobiles (we don’t actually carry a lock) but Bill seemed to think it wise in the UK. Hmmmm.

The ride home ended up being the same route as the outward ride. The ride was slightly slower, though, as when in Diss I had checked my front wheels again and found a second broken spoke on the right hand side. This was quite concerning as I wasn’t sure if it was entirely safe riding with two broken spokes. I decided I would be careful on the speedy corners and on braking and take it much more gently, which I did.

We got home via a stop at a supermarket for some food (adding more weight to the Quattrovelo) and overall really enjoyed our day. In fact, Klaus started floating the idea that instead of doing an Elbe tour next year, we could perhaps do Harwich to Edinburgh or something. There is a ferry to Newcastle from Rotterdam so we could do a bit of a round tour from Newcastle to Ipswich along the coast, possibly going a bit north of Newcastle first (maybe the borders) but I thought Edinburgh seemed a bit far away. We will look into this some more.

Once we were home I also checked my tyres – they were cut to pieces, presumably from the chip-seal. We would have to factor this in for a UK tour – that brand-new tyres can be ruined very quickly!

England Trip – The rest of the holiday

When we got back from Diss Mum had returned from her holiday, so the velomobiles were put back in the garage and we spent more time with Mum. I still did some walking of course, enjoying a walk across the fields one day and persuading Klaus to come with me the next day.

I saw this sign which I thought was rather relevant to Millie.

I was a bit concerned about the broken spokes on my Milan so took some advice from the Velomobilforum and also from Ginkgo (who were building my new wheels) and the general advice was that it was OK to continue riding but I needed to not corner too fast and not brake too hard.

Klaus and I took a trip to Ipswich for me to visit Marks & Spencer for the obligatory undies and stopped for some cake in Costa Coffee.

Our plan was to cycle to my cousin Moyna’s house on Wednesday and then cycle back via Dedham where we would meet friends Gwenllian and Mark. Unfortunately on Tuesday I realised I was developing a significant cold and it was clear on Wednesday morning that I shouldn’t cycle with it (120km round trip), especially as I had the extra issue of my broken spokes.

So in the end we bagged Mum’s car and drove to Moyna’s thatched cottage where we sat out in her garden house and had some lunch.

It was lovely to see Moyna again (I had visited her when I was in the UK in June too) and have a good chinwag. And she made us some lovely lunch of a quiche and new potatoes,

We then drove to Stratford St Mary to Hall Farm Shop where Gwenllian and Mark joined us and we had some of their huge cakes!

I have to say, that I prefer German cakes. British cakes are very spongey and sugary, German cakes are lighter and more creamy. Such a hefty slice of a British cake can be a bit overwhelming, especially when like me you don’t eat much sugar at all (Keto diet). Although I enjoyed my cake, if I had a chance of a Käse Sahne Torte I would have chosen that instead.

It was lovely talking to Gwenllian and Mark and reconnecting with the Colchester world. I have moved away permanently now so I have few connections there except for some friends and church, but it is good to revisit some old haunts like Hall Farm shop and of course see friends again.

The next day I was still coldy, but felt well enough to do what we had planned – a trip to Southend on Sea! I had threatened Klaus with this trip for some time – I wanted him to see some of where I grew up. So we drove to Southend and I showed him The Sea and The Pier and Rossi’s ice cream.

After this we dropped in to see Wowbagger and Jan, who had of course visited me in Germany twice before and so Klaus already knew them. We had a nice cup of tea and some cake with them too.

After this we went to my sister’s house and then off for an Indian Meal in Benfleet to celebrate my sister and my niece’s birthday. It was great to eat proper Indian again – and good preparation for Klaus who was off to India the following week.

The next day was Friday, the day we were due to return to Harwich and the ferry in the evening. When I woke up I felt much rougher with my cold, all I could really do was lie around the house blowing my nose.

At about 11 o’clock Klaus made the decision that I couldn’t cycle home from Hoek van Holland to Kempen the next day. My cold was travelling down towards my chest and it would not be good, especially as rain was forecasted on the Saturday and Sunday. He set about finding out if we could hire a sprinter in NL. It was clear we would have to ride to Harwich as hiring a sprinter from the UK just wouldn’t work

In the end we found an option at Sixt rental, but we couldn’t return the Sprinter to Venlo but would need to take it back to Rotterdam. That meant a lot of driving back and forth for Klaus. Unfortunately my brain was a bit foggy so all I could focus on was the 50km to Harwich in the dark, cold and rain that evening. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but at least I knew I could have a hot shower when I got on the boat.

So we cancelled our Vrienden op de Fiets in Eindhoven for Saturday night and Klaus’s credit card took a hit for the Sprinter.

It was raining in the late afternoon but the weather radar suggested it would stop around 6pm. We decided it was worth waiting to see if this happened because riding in the dry would be much better for me. Sure enough, at almost exactly 18:00 the rain stopped and we set off in the velomobiles, me wrapped up in buffs and with a jumper on.

We retraced our route of the previous Sunday, which meant of course riding up America Hill almost immediately. For Klaus, without warmed-up muscles, this was a bit tougher than last time, but he soon got in the swing of it.

This time Ipswich was more happening and we had lots of people shouting and laughing at us and hooting their horns. This is often very annoying.

The climb up after the Orwell Bridge was pretty tough as we had a bit of a queue behind us and nowhere to stop. There were some lovely views of sunset over the river Orwell but no chance to photograph them unfortunately.

We were back on the country lanes of the Shotley Peninsula before long and the up-and-down route carried on, with me being extra careful on the fast descents and corners due to my spoke issues.

I felt a bit muzzy-headed but otherwise OK to ride as it wasn’t too cold yet. We arrived at Manningtree and I decided to stop at the supermarket and buy some sandwiches – we had thought about stopping at a pub somewhere but I was worried about getting cold sitting around in cycling gear. So the sandwiches were a good option as we could eat them on the boat.

We checked in but unfortunately were not boarding straight away. I stayed in Millie most of the time as I got a bit cold when I got out. Lots of people came to talk to us about our bikes of course.

And then finally we were able to board, go to our room and I could have a hot shower which was wonderful. Tomorrow we still had a bit of a ride as we had to get to the Rotterdam Sixt Van Hire place which was on the east side of Rotterdam, but I thought that would be manageable.

England Trip – Back in continental Europe

The next morning we woke up in Hoek van Holland and had a hot cup of tea before it was time to disembark.

What was very annoying was that several of the motorcyclists around us switched on their engines long before there was any chance of leaving the ferry. All those exhaust fumes in a confined space! Klaus even patted one guy on the shoulder and asked him to switch the engine off and he just shuffled forward about 20cm.

We left the ferry into some light drizzle. The Dutch border guards directed the bikes all to a side area where we were processed very quickly – so we effectively queue-jumped the cars which feels good. Mind you, it was raining so it was nice not to be stationary for too long.

This was our route for the day.

We set off along the same route that we had ridden six days before, but this time heading towards a black cloud.

I was actually feeling a little better than I had expected, but was very happy to just be riding 39km rather than 120.

I had asked my Garmin to plot a route straight to the Sixt Van Hire place and the route it chose was actually really good. We had a detour coming out of Hoek van Holland because of building works on the path, and the signage was a bit feeble (we did a different route than on the way to HvH and it turned out to be a lot longer, but I didn’t see any sign to show an alternative), but we were soon back on the known track and at Maassluis. Rather than crossing at Maassluis we continued on towards Rotterdam.

Riding through Rotterdam I found myself behind a lady on a Dutch Bike who was riding at 20 km/h. She seemed to know where she was going so I tucked in behind her and followed her, as she could press the buttons on the traffic lights. This worked well as you do have to concentrate a lot when riding in a strange city on cycle paths and my brain was still a bit foggy. It was probably tougher for Klaus behind me as Emily doesn’t ride so well under 25 km/h.

We were heading to the area called Alexander and we got there without too much trouble, although not particularly quickly. We went in to get our van and the lady confirmed what she had said on the phone to Klaus yesterday, that they would have to ‘upgrade’ us for free as the Sprinter had a puncture and they hadn’t been able to get it fixed. The upgrade was to a 3.5 tonne truck with a tail lift.

In some ways this was good (easier to get the VMs in and out) but for Klaus it would be more of a driving challenge and would use more fuel.

As we started loading the velomobiles the heavens opened and we got absolutely soaked. But we were eventually on our way, despite another car almost backing into us after about 10 metres driven!

We used my phone’s SatNav propped up on the dashboard as there was no Satnav in the van, and soon got onto the familiar motorways that lead us through NL.

We arrived home under grey skies but it was at least dry.

We extracted our Velomobiles.

The tail-lift was very useful although we had to put the velomobiles on it sideways as they were too long for it if they went nose-first.

But finally our bikes were home.

Klaus had an hour’s rest and recuperation and then it was time for him to drive back to Rotterdam. The plan was for him then to get the train back to Venlo and I would collect him from there. It would make for a very long day.

He started feeling not so good on the way back to Rotterdam, and then the train journey did not improve things. It looked as though he had picked up the bug I had. I picked him up from Venlo and he was so relieved to be home again. It was Saturday evening but we didn’t do anything on Sunday and then were both off work on Monday due to feeling ill, and although Klaus went back to work Tuesday I stayed at home that day too. I went back to work on Wednesday and presumably gave it to my colleague who was then off work for a week and a half!

What is interesting is to see the stress that my body was under for the cycling and travelling whilst feeling ill. My Garmin Vivoactive 3 tracks stress and this is what it showed for the day we came back from Hoek van Holland:

And the image below is a ‘control’ day, the day we cycled to Diss when we were in the UK when I was feeling much better. My stress score is almost always under 25 (because I ensure I have as stress-free a life as I can!)

What our experience with having to come home by van also showed us is that velomobiles have the disadvantage that you can’t really easily be rescued. You can’t go on a train with them, most people don’t have a suitable trailer available, and especially if you are in another country there can be problems with hiring vans (it was not possible with the first van hire place we tried in NL as we didn’t have an NL address).

Undoubtedly if we had given a couple of days’ warning and put messages on Facebook and in the Velomobilforum we would have had an offer for someone at least to look after our velomobiles whilst we got the train home. However, we made the decision we couldn’t ride at 11am on Friday morning and were leaving at 18:00 that evening, so we had 7 hours to sort something out. That wasn’t enough time to wait for the marvels of social media.

I wondered on the Saturday if I would actually have been able to ride to Eindhoven as I actually felt a bit better. However, Klaus ended up also feeling ill and we couldn’t have known that’s how it would be when deciding what to do on Friday. Van hire, fuel and train tickets came to about 250€ so it was expensive too, but that’s the risk with the velomobiles. We talked together about how it is easier with open trikes (you can usually use the train) and wondered about maybe in the future doing touring in trikes as you see more and have more options, although can only go half the distance.

It didn’t ruin the holiday but it was a bit of a shame, but also a learning experience. We will probably built exit strategies into future tours, and I think we should think more about seeing if the velomobile can be stored at a hotel or somewhere if we have to get the train home in an emergency.

More Millie pimping

When on our Münsterland Tour I tried out Otfried’s rain cover for his Quest which fitted rather well. I thought it worth trying something similar for Millie, although it would have to be larger to cover the Naca duct. So I ordered a piece of relatively thin tarpaulin and added some elastic into the eyelets. It seems OK, and folds up pretty small. I have not used it in anger yet though.

I also finally bit the bullet and bought my new wheels for Millie. I had decided this last month and placed an order with Ginkgo Veloteile who make lots of wheels for velomobilists. Lutz the boss was very kind to advise me by email when I had my spoke problems in England, and so I was very pleased to receive the new wheels a couple of days after we got home.

They felt lighter than the old wheels. I stupidly didn’t weigh them, but I did weigh an old wheel and that was 1205g per wheel. So one day I will weigh the new ones, but that will mean I will have had to remove them which is no fun at all!

One unfortunate thing was that the rims only had holes drilled for Presta (SV) valves. I like using Schraeder (AV/Autoventil) and so this was rather a pain as I have had to adjust all my pumps to take Presta. Plus I don’t like them. I have ordered an adapter that I can screw on the Presta and then use a Schraeder pump but I will see if I can get used to using a Presta pump fitting first. I said nothing to Ginkgo about this so it’s my own fault. I of course had to buy 4 new tubes as well.

Anyway, when the time came to change the wheels, Frank kindly helped me. Klaus was keeping out of the way as he had to look after his back as he was flying to India the next day… more about this later!

Anyway, Frank very efficiently removed each wheel. Here is the old with the new.

We refitted them with only minimal trauma. Except when I had finished, and was feeling very proud about my new wheels, I noticed one of the old wheels had a screw-on magnet. Yikes, that was for the speed sensor for the motor! Fortunately I was able to screw it on tightly enough to the replacement wheel in situ and didn’t have to take it out again (which would have been NOT FUN).

And the conclusion… the wheels are much rounder so the ride is smoother, they (currently) have no broken spokes, they seem to give better shock absorption over minor bumps, and they are generally a real improvement. It took a short amount of time for the brakes to bed in, but now all works fine. It was a very worthwhile upgrade, and I just hope they survive without spokes breaking for a while!

Klaus wanted to improve the foam in the side pockets of the Quattrovelo so bought some Ventisit-type thin material from eBay, which turned out to be pretty decent. He got a large amount so I could steal some for Millie – it sits on her floor under the seat and stops things sliding around, plus hides some of the cables snaking around on her floor.

Whilst Klaus was in India we had a hot day so I decided to do a hot-weather job which is to redo the vinyl wrap on Millie.

I hadn’t done the best job with the previous wrap (my own bit of artwork, the first was a sticker I put on). I felt the red was too thin, the large areas of blue had some bubbles/slices in, and I felt it didn’t look quite right.

So I googled images of flags in movement which I felt would be nicer for Millie. But I didn’t have much success, and decided in the end to just try SOMETHING, as I could always redo the above version but with wider red and white sections.

First job is to remove the old vinyl. Not too tricky, but removing the adhesive isn’t so easy. I used lots of isopropyl alcohol and elbow grease. And eventually got there…

Next job was to get a large sheet of paper and lay it against Millie. There was enough remaining adhesive that the paper stayed in situ, and I just drew freehand an idea for a flag.

I then used this freehand drawing to cut a couple of red pieces, using the same template for both sides (but obviously mirror-image). I fitted the red and quite liked it – I was using much smaller pieces which tapered to a narrower point. It is much easier to fit the wide section first and then guide the narrower sections with the flexibility of the vinyl.

I also took a lot of care to line up each side of Millie so that when I viewed her from the back it would be straight and level. This was surprisingly tricky but I managed it. I had removed the rear brake light for this (it had mostly fallen off anyway) and was just hanging down by its cable, I would superglue it back in place when the flag was finished.

Just two small blue pieces each side finished the job. The large blue pieces last time were a complete nightmare but these were easy, although in retrospect I wish I had slightly changed the shape (I may redo the blue sometime – I have enough blue vinyl left to wrap about 20 Milans).

And here is the finished product!

I’m very pleased with it! Millie looks like she goes faster now…

On this day I also had a visit from a chap named Kai and his cycling pal Micha. Kai had become interested in Velomobiles and was trying to learn about them. As he lived not too far away I suggested he could come and view our 4, although further conversation with him showed he was an out-and-out speedy rider so could ignore the Strada and the Versatile; he was actually mainly interested in the Milan.

Kai on the right

We had a really good chat and he had a short test ride in Millie with and without motor (he was considering a motor due to some long-standing knee issues). He is considering a velomobile for his commute which is 35km each way with mainly open roads and a gentle slope for the final 6km. A Milan would be great (SL or GT), and a DF or Alpha7 might also do the trick, so he’s doing some more investigation.

It was good to meet Kai and Micha and I have no doubt we will meet him in a velomobile before too long!

It’s now dark when I ride to work (around 6:45am, sometimes earlier), so I am treated to some lovely scenery on my commute.

I also pass a local farm who each year do a lovely pumpkin display.

We have had some impressive skies.

But now it’s mostly dark when I arrive. I am using Bertie for the rainy days of course.

Because of our England trip (and bad colds afterwards), plus Klaus’s trip to India, we didn’t ride much in the month. He had a two-week break from cycling (I was still commuting) so we were delighted to both get out on the bikes to ride to the 50th birthday celebration of our friend Inge.

This was a lovely ride through the countryside on the way to Süchteln, we were so happy to be out on the bikes again.

Inge had asked us to bring the velomobiles as she had borrowed Celeste and was interested to show her friends our velomobiles. So we parked near the seating area – near the tents where Inge and family were overnighting.

Other News

As mentioned above, Klaus had a business trip to India. He was to fly out on the Sunday morning and stay until Thursday night, returning on the overnight flight and I would pick him up on midday Friday from Düsseldorf airport.

As mentioned above, he was concerned about such a long flight as he is no longer allowed to fly business class (cost-cutting) so he decided he should keep away from the maintenance work on Millie’s wheels as that can give him back problems.

So it was of course typical that whilst I was working on Millie, he was carrying the washing down the cellar steps and somehow slipped down the bottom 3-4 steps and turned his ankle. Which swelled up a lot.

We were concerned about him having to spend most of the next day sitting immobile in an aeroplane seat (thrombosis?) so we went to the A&E department of Kempen hospital. The lady doctor he saw there was surprisingly dismissive of him (“Why have you come, of course you can fly!” but at least we had official word he could make the trip. On the way to hospital we had both said we thought it was probably not possible. She took an x-ray as Klaus looked a bit surprised by her response, and it showed nothing broken, so that was good news – they strapped his foot up tightly and said to keep it raised up.

So he went to India, wearing loose-fitting shoes and keeping his foot up as much as possible. While he was there I had use of his car, and I took the opportunity to redecorate the rear passenger-side door whilst having a rather-too-close encounter with a low brick wall.

The brick wall actually came off worst.

Unfortunately the brick wall belongs to Gudula and Frank, and it is also the second time I have done this (I also did it with my Roomster). So Klaus is dealing with the insurance for his car and I am looking for a Maurer (brickie) in the locality who will do a repair/replacement for me.

And Klaus’s experience in India? Mixed, as he found Mumbai and Puna both rather dirty and scruffy with lots of poverty, and then there would be pockets of ‘normal’ and posh areas, cheek by jowl with the slums.

We were glad to see him home and our Household Blackboard showed his route:

Route home from India. Note the scratch on the car door for the journey home from Düsseldorf!

The Brexit and general UK implosion story keeps going, as we have all experienced! However, Germany has organised a law which shows I am safe here with my right to stay. Phew!

I have been getting more and more fed up with the whole Brexit shenanigans so have decided to set aside my lifelong rejection of swearing and have bought myself a mug for work which shows how I feel.

I also have two cracking t-shirts…

I ordered these three items from the “Very Brexit Problems” facebook page and they were produced in Latvia and delivered to me in Germany 3 days later. The European Union in action. You can order your own, or lots of other goods, here:

As mentioned above, my colleague Alex went down with a bug (presumably mine from England) on the Tuesday of my first week back at work and was off for the rest of that week and the entire following week. This meant that I ended up doing rather a lot of overtime, working 8-10 hours per day instead of my usual 5, so I have built up loads of overtime. This will translate into lots of days off over the next couple of months, although I already have two weeks of holidays booked in October (Mum visiting and then going to Berlin with Klaus).

I also had a couple of choir practices this month, including our Probentag which was from 10am until 5pm. We are singing Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem and it is lovely! The concerts (two) will be in November and I am really looking forward to it again. I even managed to go by velomobile to the Probentag despite a weather forecast of rain (which I mostly missed), so I am getting braver about riding in the rain now winter approaches. But generally, riding in rain is about going slowly in Bertie and staying dry!

Cakes this month

Most of this month’s cakes have already been included in the images above, but here are a couple of money ones!

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