Penelope goes to Straelen

It’s mid April and the weather is being pretty variable – two days ago it was extremely windy, yesterday it was pretty cold but today dawned with a clear blue sky. I took the dog out for a walk and decided it was definitely cycling weather.

Morning dogwalkI had no specific plans for the day except to go out in Penelope for a morning ride to give me plenty of time to deal with any punctures etc in daylight. Those who have read my previous blog post (Penelope goes to Schwalmtal) will have read about an evening ride that had rather a lot of tyre deflations.

Fortunately I took some time yesterday to sort out the mess of my three punctured tubes and one rather sorry-looking tyre after I’d run on it flat a considerable distance.

This was the task that awaited me yesterday:

Penelope and tubes to repair
That’s three tubes to be repaired and two (front) tyres to change.

First I repaired the tubes (or so I thought!) Here they all are inflated to check the patches are holding.

Three repaired tubes

Then it was time to change the tyres.

I was very lucky that Peter (who delivered Penelope) had made me a little chock to help lift the wheel off the ground. It’s an ingenious design and has already proved extremely useful!

Here is the chock (I think the green matches his velomobile):
Peter's Chock 1

Peter's Chock 2

And here it is doing what it’s supposed to do – holding up my bike whilst I change the tyre:

Penelope on chockI took off the old Tryker tyre and it looked pretty mashed up after my experiences on Monday so this one went in the bin.

Tryer tyre

The other Tryker looked in rather better shape so I have kept it as an emergency spare tyre and it will now live in Penelope behind her seat. It’s a slightly different size than the standard Marathons that I’ve put on but I expect it’d be OK to get me home if I had some tyre-exploding disaster.

However I had a bit of a surprise when trying to change the second tyre on the side that hadn’t had punctures – the valve was one I wasn’t familiar with:

Woods Valve 2

Woods Valve 1
I am told it’s a Woods valve. The landlord had a pump that would inflate it but my little travel pump and my track pump wouldn’t so I swapped it out and put a normal Schraeder valve tube in.

So the job was now completed. Phew!

Rather than take Penelope out after my 60km ride the day before I chose to take Alfie for a run to Kempen. I also thought this would help my knees to recover a bit from their exertions of going up the hill on the way to Schwalmtal.

All was fine with Alfie except I had my first accident with a vehicle in 45,000 miles/72,500 km since I took up cycling six years ago. I was riding back from Kempen and had stopped at a t-junction. An HGV pulled up behind me, stopped, and then proceeded to bump me. Fortunately I didn’t have the brakes on so I just moved forward a metre or two (which was rather surprising) and, doubly-fortunately, there wasn’t any traffic on the side of the carriageway that I was pushed into.

I shouted a bit of Anglo-Saxon at the driver and he got out. I expected the usual British driver nonsense (“You don’t pay road tax!”, “You shouldn’t be on the road”, “you should be in a car”) but instead got “I’m very sorry, I thought you were moving off then.” To which I replied that I wouldn’t pull out when there was a car coming. “I’m sorry,” he said again, and as I checked Alfie over and he looked OK I just made some comment like “be a bit more careful” and let him head off.

The only damage was a scratch of his paintwork on my pannier:

Scratched PannierIt was clear that he had hit the pannier with a reasonable amount of force as the clip for the handle had been pushed along a fair way and it was done up quite tightly:

Pannier HandleWhat I didn’t realise, until I unpacked the panniers, was that the plastic handle on my new salad spinner had cracked (although it still works OK) and my bananas were bruised. Not too bad really for what could have been a pretty serious bump on a two-wheeled bike.

It is rather ironic, though, that having cycled for 40+ thousand miles in the UK, with our maniacal motorists and fairly rubbish cycle paths, I had my first actual coming-together with a vehicle in cycling-friendly Germany. Never mind, no harm done. I did award myself a biscuity-slice-thing as a consolation.

So that was yesterday. Today I decided that Alfie could have a rest and it was time for a ride on Penelope, as mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. But where to go?

I had the following message sent to me via my blog a few days ago:

as far as i know, in2014 you will move to Kempen.Not far away lies a small village named Straelen.The go one is build there. If you have Problems to enter a velomobil,perhaps the people there can help you. The address is:
Beyss Leichtfahrzeuge
Zeppelinstr 16
47638 Straelen

Those who have read my blog posts about choosing a velomobile might remember that i mentioned the Go-One but had no idea it was so local. So I thought I really ought to go and have a look (even though I already had a velomobile).

So Penelope and I set off on a lovely warm day with shorts and sandals (without socks, even though I am in Germany and over 40 years old!!!)

Within a couple of miles I stopped to try to get my phone camera out from behind me without scaring off the huge hare that was beside the road. Unfortunately it started running after I had faffed about trying to reach the phone so by the time i took the picture it was just a dot in the distance:
Hare running across field

I followed the same route I had taken previously to Wachtendonk but once I got to Wachtendonk I had a choice of two main roads to get to Straelen. I took the western option which goes through Wankum first, then turns more north to Straelen.

This is my track for the whole day – the wiggly route is the return route following the signposted cycle route between Straelen and Wachtendonk.

Penelope goes to Straelen track

Oh, and this is the Elevation profile of the ride:
Penelope goes to Straelen elevation

I felt things were going well with Penelope although a couple of times when I found myself slowing down I had to stop to check my tyres were OK – they were.

Once through Wankum I joined the main road the L39 that unfortunately didn’t have a cycle path beside it. However it did have a hard shoulder both sides and I rode on that – I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to, or not. If anyone knows, do tell me!

My Garmin had Beyss Leichtfahrzeuge as a waypoint and I was very quickly outside the building. I could see a large warehouse with an open shutter and some velomobiles inside. This is their website, for those interested in these gadgets: I cycled up, got out and saw a chap just leaving to go to the house next door – he turned out to be Michael Beyss, the joint owner, and he was just on his way to lunch. However he said he’d show me round quickly – and he did.

Go-One Velomobile WorkshopShells of Evo velomobiles in various states of completion. To the right, out of shot, was a prototype he asked me not to photograph.

We had a bit of a chat about the weight of these things – they are super-light, everything is from carbon fibre, he could pick these frames up one-handed (although I tried two-handed and couldn’t so he’s clearly pretty strong).

At one point I asked him if he had the wheel covers as there is a hole in one of mine on Penelope (although I’m expecting to buy a replacement when I got to the SPEZI Radmesse (weird bike cycle show) next week). He showed me that he did have some but they were carbon fibre and 150€ for two. Right. That’s a bit expensive.

Here’s the shell of one of their models.

Evo K Shell

This is its inside.

Inside Evo

Michael told me that if I came back after 1:30 I could maybe have a go in one (although I am pretty convinced I wouldn’t be able to get in and out). It was time for me to have some lunch so I said I’d return, he headed off for his lunch and I aimed for the centre of Straelen 2 miles away.

Straelen has a lovely pedestrianised centre and I arrived at a café at about a quarter to one. I parked Penelope and sat in a comfy chair outside enjoying the sunshine.

Straelen Centre 1

Straelen Centre 2

I ordered some food and sat and enjoyed watching the world go by.

I then began to actually get a little cold. This is a slight issue with a velomobile – you are always warm in it as you are protected from the wind and you generate heat through exercise but when you get out you really need to put on another layer. I hadn’t brought a fleece or anything with me – I need to remember to keep one in Penelope for just such a situation.

My lunch arrived – as I was in Germany during Spargelzeit (the asparagus season) it was time to have some Spargelcremesuppe.


And very tasty it was!

As I was finishing the soup I noticed a chap with two sons having a good peer at Penelope.

Family checking out Penelope

I went over and had quite a long chat to them about her and let the older lad sit inside and press some buttons (indicators and light flashers). He is learning English so his father made him speak to me a bit in English too. We had a good chat and then after I’d paid for my meal and was ready to go a gaggle of German chaps of pensionable age had a chat to me as well, asking me where the electric motor was and asking if I wanted to swap Penelope for one of their E-Bikes. I politely declined the bike swap offer.

I headed back to Beyss and this time saw Michael’s brother in the workshop – he was doing some welding so I had to wait for him to stop before I approached. He had a quick chat but was clearly in the middle of his welding so I left them to it and headed off back towards Wachtendonk.

Rather than taking the road without the cycle path beside it I thought I’d use the other road, the L361, but as I headed out that way I saw some cycle path signs for Wachtendonk so decided to follow them. What followed was a rather wiggly route on some farm tracks and past fields – quite a nice route but with lots of sharp corners which can be exciting in the Versatile.

I was chased by a dog for a bit so I stopped to chat to its owners who were really interested in the bike (as was the dog – he put his paws up and peered at me over the side, very cute). Although there was no traffic on these roads the surface was a bit bumpy with mud and gravel and I probably would have been faster on the main road, even though it would have been a longer journey.

I was soon back at Wachtendonk and took a similar route back to Escheln.

Total distance today was 23.59 miles which I did in 1 hour 57 minutes. This means the average was 12.1 which is definitely faster than I would have done the same ride on Alfie. It looks as though I am getting the hang of the velomobile and starting to benefit from its speed advantage. Doubly good news was that my knees were fine – they seem to have recovered from whatever was causing them to be slightly painful. Maybe I’ve got the seat position right on Penelope now.

My calorie burn was a fairly paltry 836, however, as my heart rate didn’t get above 165 and its average was 125. Probably the figures would have been higher in Alfie as I would have been struggling more against the wind.

You may think this is the end of the report for the day but it’s not… quite.

I started to write this blog and then decided I wanted a photo of the new arrangement I’ve got to mount my Garmin satnav. Frank, the landlord, helped me to fit a bike light mount widget that I bought in James’s favourite shop, Self, as it looked as though it might do the trick. Indeed it did (although I can’t use the more traditional cycle computer at the same time as there isn’t room). This was hard to photograph so this is about as good as it gets…

Red line points to the location of the mount:

Garmin mount 2A close-up of the mount – it gets in the way of the Topeak Panoram computer whose mount you can see behind it (the square one). This photo is taken with the lid up so there’s a decent amount of light.

Garmin Mount 3However, when I went down to take a photo and wheeled Penelope out of the garage to get these photos… I noticed one of the tyres was definitely soft. The front right one, so not the wheel that had had all the punctures yesterday.

As I said to the landlady, fixing a puncture at home on a sunny day with a cup of tea available is no real hardship. So I took out the tube, found the problem (which I think was partly caused by there being some leaf debris in the tyre which I must have introduced when changing the tyre for the new Marathon yesterday). I put in one of yesterday’s repaired tubes, started pumping it up… and I could tell air was escaping. Out came that tube – there was a pinprick hole in it. Perhaps this was a second hole that I hadn’t spotted when repairing them yesterday, but I thought I’d pumped them up and they’d held OK. Oh well, another repair.

I checked the tyre thoroughly – it was unmarked and everything inside was fine.

Fortunately I’d had a delivery today of new tyres and two new tubes so I grabbed an entirely fresh tube and put it in.

I thought I’d check what PSI I should inflate the tyre to, assuming it was the usual maximum 100psi. And I was surprise to discover that it said maximum 70psi. The older Marathons had this but the newer ones ran at a higher pressure. Never mind, I pumped it up to 60.

Then I realised I ought to let down the other side a bit as I had pumped it up to 80 yesterday. I went round, looked at the tyre and saw it said Maximum 100psi. Yes, I had not-quite-matching tyres. It was actually fairly obvious as the wording of Schwalbe Marathon was different – the 70psi ones are older. I wanted them to be the same so opened my exciting box of new tyres (which contained four of the 100psi ones):

Box of bike tyres

And then changed the front right tyre yet again. That wheel now has a brand new tyre and tube so it ought to stay inflated (and I checked it four hours later and it was still OK, fortunately).

I plan to take Penelope out again tomorrow, probably just around local roads, but in the morning so I have plenty of time for tyre repairs. I’m not expecting anything more (except the possiblity of a failed patch in the front left wheel as I ran through all my spare tubes on that on Monday and tend to use the best ones first) but here’s hoping all is well. I’m planning to take Penelope to Willich for the Karfreitag (Good Friday) concert at the church there and it should be a brilliantly fast run on all the Landstrassen (lovely long, straight roads) – maybe I will beat my speed record on Penelope.

Although I had not done my 50km which allows me to have a cake, Lara the landlady’s daughter took pity on me with all my tyre changing and gave me a slice of a pineapple cake she had made.

Pineapple Cake

I think I may have decided to give up with the “No cake unless you’ve cycled 50km or it’s a weekend” challenge. After all, life’s too short, and what’s the point of being in Germany if you don’t enjoy cake even after a 30km bike ride? What do you think?


  1. Have as much cake as you desire – You deserve it.

    If in Germany you find that on the right hand side of a road a part of the road is separated by a wide white line ( as opposed to the narrow interrupted line in the center of the road ) it means, that this is a multi-purpose track. Slower vehicles are recommended to go there but they don’t have to. When there’s an event nearby you’ll probably find cars parked in that area or under other circumstances cars, that have to stop for any other reason. Cycling there is convenient as you follow the main road and the surface is usually very smooth but you have to be aware that it may not be as clean as the main lanes and there might be debris like gravel or glass ot even the occasional bump in the road.
    So if you keep your eyes open you’ll be fine.

    P.S. The inflation pressure of the Marathons depends on the width of they tyre – My front wheels have 7 bar max and the rear wheel, which is a 47 mil, has only 5 bar max pressure.

    1. Thanks for the info about the road, Gerhard – that is very useful. In the UK on some roads we have something called the ‘hard shoulder’ which is where cars that break down can go but generally you’re not supposed to drive/ride on it, even if you were a slow-moving tractor or something. It’s good to know that I can use these bits of road – it was nice and fast!

      With regard to the Marathon tyre pressure, it’s the same size tyres (40-406 or 20″x1.5″), it’s just that they’ve changed the design/formulation. They have a number, HS something-or-other, which denotes which version of the tyre they have, I just hadn’t been paying attention when fitting them! I prefer the higher pressure new ones so I am glad I had four of those arrive in the post yesterday – I can use the single lower pressure one on a rear wheel of Alfie or Penelope when necessary.

      1. Well, I have read James May’s “Notes from the hard shoulder” but must admit that I didn’t know exactly what it was – So now we’ve both learned something, which ist good!
        The Marathons, I believe, are called HS408 but when ordering them it was simply “Green Guard” ( it’s not a “plus”-type ) and I prefer to have them not at max pressure since they get very uncomfortable at that and a little less doesn’t seem to make much more effort when riding.
        Never had a puncture with those although I did hear glass crunch several times.
        Looking at the prevailing weather at the moment Penelope definitely is a great advantage to an eager cyclistress and I do look forward to further travel reports.

  2. Nice Report as always. I was visiting Straelen just 5 days before with my Wild One. Straelen has a real beautiful Center place. I like it.
    In the past I used the Marathon XR for some 1000 km on my cross bike without any puncture. On my trike I am using Schwalbe Kojak. The first front set I had to change after 700 km. The second set is running now for 3000 km and the are looking good.

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