Six Wheels In Germany – July 2016 (Month 28)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

Here are my rides this month.

July Rides

And here is the Veloviewer Wheel which shows where I have been.

July Wheel

To Venlo to meet Olaf and Gordon

Olaf is a German chap who lives in London with his wife and who I first met on a Friday Night Right To The Coast. Since we met and got to know each other I’ve moved to Niederrhein, just round the corner from his old stomping ground, and he kindly delivered me a potato peeler by bike when I was first here.

Well, he contacted me to say he and a friend Gordon were doing a test ride for a tour later in the year with lots of the Friday Night Ride people and they would be in Venlo for an evening meal – would I like to join them? Of course I would!

Olaf track

So I rode with Penelope via Süchteln (where I was singing with the choir), enjoying the whizz downhill into the Netherlands. I parked myself in the middle of the pedestrian precinct and waited for the chaps to arrive.

Rather amazingly, they cycled past me without noticing me (and I didn’t see them because there were thousands of upright bikes going past and I was mostly fiddling with my phone). Eventually they doubled back and spotted the large purple velomobile…

We found our way to an Italian restaurant and provided our own bike parking.

Bikes in Venlo

Here are Gordon and Olaf.

Olaf and Gordon

And the three of us.

Three of us

Also a Selfie!

Three of us 2

It was interesting to talk with Olaf about the Brexit and what that means for him – he has been in the UK long enough for him and his wife to get British Citizenship if they wanted but it sounded more like he thought they would be moving back to Germany. As an economics journalist for Reuters he has plenty of interesting thoughts about the whole Brexit thing, a never-ending source of discussion these days. Sigh.

Anyway, it was lovely to see them both and share food and a beer and I waved them off on the rest of their trip. They will be back in September so hopefully I might have a chance to catch up with them then, if I’m not working.

Critical Mass Viersen

July’s Critical Mass was also to be an opportunity to present Dr Ingo Wolff, who has started the Critical Mass in Viersen, with the “Radler des Jahres 2016” certificate (“Cyclist of the Year”). A news report in German about it is here.

For this special occasion a group were coming from Mönchengladbach which meant we were pretty sure we would reach the minimum participant number of 16 which means we can then ride on the road. In the end I think there were around 40 people.

Here we are assembling at the start in Gereonsplatz.

Critical Mass 4

At the start… Dirk Rheydt from Mönchengladbach using Penelope as a hanger for fluorescent vests!

Critical Mass 1

Stefan who rides a Trice Q (and I have met several times) was also there (wearing yellow in the photo) as well as the chap on the handbike who we had met at the Tour des Monats. Great to see such a variety of bikes participating!

Critical Mass 2

Klaus and I decided we would be at the back of this ride, it is much easier, so he was still standing chatting to people sitting in the café whilst the first cyclists set off.

Critical Mass 6

We trundled through the quiet side streets of Viersen.

Critical Mass 3

A good photo of me, Klaus, the handbiker and Hartmut on the upright with the fluory vest.

Critical Mass 5

We rode up to Süchteln, with a collection of cars behind us at times who were generally well-mannered although there were a few who got annoyed. But bikes are traffic too!

For the way back Stefan rode with us a little way, he hadn’t met Klaus before so they were chatting about riding.

Critical Mass way home

It was an enjoyable evening and great to see so many cyclists there. Whether we can get enough numbers for the August one is questionable but who knows.

Metric Century A Month Challenge – to Kevelaer with a new Velomobile

Podbiker on the Velomobilforum said he had a few days off work and would love to do some rides with forum members. As he lives in Krefeld I suggested we could do a ride together, although I am slow. He was happy to ride with me one day when I had the day free from work so we arranged to meet in Kempen’s Buttermarkt at 10:00am.

Penelope at Buttermarkt

I met Podbiker (Stefan) previously at the Sternfahrt when he was cycling in a Quest velomobile. So imagine my surprise when this turned up!

DF 1

Another Celeste-colour velomobile! This time a DF.

DF 2

DF 3

DF 4

Here is the track of our ride today – with a few oddities at the bottom right hand corner as I overshot home on the way back in order to get the 100km for the day.

Track of ride with Podbiker

Stefan is a fast rider and the DF is lightweight and accelerates well. However he was happy to sit behind me as I took us on the lovely quiet rides of Kreis Kleve up to Kevelaer. When I ride with Klaus he is right behind (or sometimes alongside so we can chat) but Stefan was usually 10 metres or so behind so there wasn’t any chance to talk except at occasional junctions.

It was a very warm and sunny day and we saw lots of wildlife whilst we were riding and few cars. When we arrived in Kevelaer it was definitely time for tea and cake and as I knew the nice café offered Grillagetorte I ordered that (it’s a mixture of cake and ice cream). Despite Stefan having lived in the Niederrhein area for 5 years he didn’t know what Grillagetorte is. As a German Cake Expert I recommended he tried it – and it was very tasty!

We rode back at a good speed again, me trying to ride pretty hard, him probably barely turning the pedals. I ran out of water which was a bit unfortunate on such a hot day but decided to make the 100km (I would have been home with 93) so rode towards Tönisvorst with him, heading back to St Hubert when I knew I would hit my target.

It was great to meet Stefan again and to have a chance to chat to him. It was also amusing to watch all the passers-by in Kevelaer peering into our velomobiles. They always invite lots of conversation!

Jochen collects his velomobile

I expect I have mentioned previously that chum Jochen, who had long been interested in velomobiles, finally ordered a Strada from a couple of months ago. He was extremely excited about this new purchase which will entirely replace his car.

The date was set to collect Endeavour, his new velomobile, and Hartmut and I were invited along to join the festivities – we would drive Jochen to Dronten and he planned to cycle back.

Hartmut offered to drive and he and Jochen collected me at 7am on Saturday 30th July and we headed towards Dronten on the two hour drive. Jochen had brought some bread rolls and cake with him, I had made some shortbread so we wouldn’t starve on the journey.

We arrived and Jochen met his new Velomobile, Endeavour, for the first time.

Jochen at Velomobielnl

Jochen and E 1

He got in and it was clear that it would take a little while to get Endeavour arranged so Jochen fit properly as he is tall and well-muscled.

Jochen and E 2

Theo at changed the mounting points for the seat and that improved matters. But Jochen realised that his feet were banging on the bottom of the foot holes… so Theo enlarged them.

First he laid Endeavour on his side

Foot holes 1

Then he marked with pen where he needed to cut

Foot holes 2

And then he cut out the shapes to enlarge the foot holes.

Foot hole enlarging 2

Things were better now but Jochen realised that he needed the seat slightly lower so the Ventisit seat matting was changed for something a bit thinner. Then with another small bit of foot hole cutting he was ready to go.

Foot Hole Cutting 2

Of course he had to pay for the velomobile – and had brought cash!

Payment for VM

It had taken two and a half hours to get everything sorted but finally he was ready to go.

Ready to ride

Carbon Strada

His Navi had a track of 201km to home…

Navi ready

And then he was off!!!

Hartmut and I had taken the opportunity to look around at some of the new QuattroVelos which had come into stock.

QV 1

I loved this red colour!

Red QV

Hartmut tried out a Strada himself, and then he and I went round the corner to talk to Gerrit Tempelman who looks after Penelope. It was then time to drive home and wait for news of Jochen – who arrived home after 7.5 hours of riding, with an average speed of just under 30 km/h. For someone not used to recumbent riding that is very impressive!

Of course Klaus (who had been unable to join us in Dronten) was interested to see the new Strada in town so the next morning he and I happened to go to Kempen for a slice of cake and while we were there we phoned Jochen to see if we could pop in. We could, and so Celeste and Penelope met Endeavour.

Three VMs 1

3 VMs 2

Two VMs

We then all rode to Viersen and the chaps left me miles behind as they raced each other. They have a combined age of 94 but were behaving like eighteen year olds!!

Anyway, it is great that we have another velomobile in the fold and we look forward to lots of rides with Jochen in the future.

Life in Germany

July has been a strange month with the spate of terror/lone wolf attacks in France and Germany. Despite these sad events, life here generally feels safe and friendly.

New job

I started at the catering firm in February and have worked in a variety of roles there including washing up, driving the delivery van, a small amount of food preparation, website work and latterly general day-to-day administration. Admin is my main skill so I was glad to get out of the kitchen and into an environment where I could be more helpful.

However the opportunities for progression and in some respects job satisfaction weren’t great with such a small company and so when I happened to see a job advert for a part-time jobshare office admin role in Kempen I thought I would apply.

I had a call the next day, asking me to come for an interview which was good news. The interview was early the following week and it went very well, with a second interview a few days later with the Geschäftsführer. The job they ended up talking to me about wasn’t the part-time jobshare admin work, more of a varied role in admin with some PA type work and also possibilities for marketing and website work too (all of which I have done previously). The job is also English-speaking as this company has lots of international clients.

The second interview was two hours long and the boss talked through his vision for the company, some of the possible weak spots in its workforce (which I would hopefully be able to strengthen) and various other things. I was offered the role, but they wanted full-time. I negotiated to 5 hours per day (Monday to Friday) as I would really prefer part-time work but if the job is as interesting and challenging as it sounds then I may end up wanting to do more hours in due course.

The contract was sent to me that evening because of the deadline for me giving notice for my current job.

For those who don’t know about German work contracts, the Resignation thing is a bit different than the UK. In a UK contract you might have “one month’s notice” which means if I handed in my notice on 17th July I would finish on 17th August. Although my notice period is ‘four weeks’ in Germany (I have a standard job contract) you can only finish on the 15th or the last day of the month, so I had to give my notice four weeks before the 15th. If I had been one day later I would have had to work until the end of August rather than the 15th.

Thus my resignation letter here, dated 15 July (as the 16th and 17th were Saturday and Sunday)…


Because I had not taken any paid annual leave I had 10 days’ leave which meant I only actually needed to work another two weeks. I’d discussed everything with the boss before my second interview and he asked if I would continue to do the website for the catering firm as a freelance, which I agreed to (and the new firm know this).

So as you are reading this I have already had my last day at the catering firm (despite still being officially employed until the 15 August) and so have had to say goodbye to my lovely colleagues and also to the occasional nice bits of food that get handed my way. I have put on weight since working there so this is perhaps a good thing really!

The new job is in Kempen rather than Stenden, 3.8km away. This is 200 metres further than the old job each way. However there’s a nicer route there (more scenic) which is 5km which seems like a better plan. The danger is… the new company is round the corner from the Griesson de Beukelaer chocolate factory!!!

Highjump Competition

Nope, I’m no sportswoman, but every year in Viersen there is a high jump competition and I’d fancied going along. Claudia, Klaus and Lara invited Poppy and I to go with them this year so on what turned out to be a baking hot day (which caused me to get a sunburn unfortunately) we went to the sportsground in Viersen to watch the highjump.

First it was the ladies – a local Kempen lady, a couple from the Netherlands and a few other Germans.

highjump girl

And here they are at the end with their medals.

Highjump girls

After quite a long hiatus the men started warming up for their competition.

highjump men getting ready

Apparently of the 13 men taking part, 9 would be at the Rio olympics. They included a chap from Australia, one from Malaysia, an Englishman, a Scottish chap (who got into the last three) and a couple of Germans, plus a Pole and a few others from further afield.

The German chap won – here he is with the winning jump.

Highjump German chap

It was great fun although really hot. Poppy and Klaus found some shade further away but I stayed with Claudia at our relatively good spectating position, not realising that I was burning. Oh well, the water fight that we had afterwards when we got back to their house was a welcome relief.

And a note about my sunburned shoulders and back… I almost never burn because I am out in all weathers on the trike, slowly building up my sun exposure. However as I’ve been riding Penelope almost exclusively this year, and she gives almost total sun protection, I had had little chance to build up a bit of tan and had forgotten about this as it’s not been an issue for years. Oh well, an uncomfortable night serves to help me remember to put on sun cream – no excuse for forgetting it!


It’s been quite hot at times this month – Poppy has found it difficult to keep cool and has taken to sleeping on cold floors where she can find them.

Hot dog 1

Hot dog 2

Hot dog 3

Or hiding under the VW Bus

Poppy under VW Bus

Poppy has been cycling with Gudula a few times recently, rather squashed in her basket.

Poppy in Gudula's old basket

So I treated Poppy to a new basket with a better fixing mechanism. I will also be able to use it on Alfie, although as she barks when in the basket on Alfie (but not with Gudula) that is a less appealing thought!

New bike basket

I spotted this car when I was shopping in Tönisvorst – a very patriotic Englishman/woman!

English car 1

English car 2

I am one of the executors of my father’s estate and had a letter from the Probate Office saying I needed to swear an oath and get a Notary Public to witness it, and to witness me signing a copy of the Will. So I phoned up a Notary Public in Kempen, said what I needed, and they said “70€”. This seemed a bit steep to me but as I needed to have it done I made the appointment.

The next day I arrived, signed the document in two places while the woman looked on, and she said that I could collect the documents the next day when she had finalised her signing.

So when they rang the next day to say everything was ready and I enquired how much the total was, I was flabbergasted to find out it was 221,40€. I couldn’t believe it was so much! When I got there they handed me the itemised bill – 70€ to witness each signature, plus 19% VAT, plus a charge for it being in a foreign language, plus a charge relating to the value of Dad’s estate… daylight robbery! So I have two pages with this on for the best part of £200. Not amused.

Notary Public

The entire cost of Probate was only £400 and that’s a lot more work. I had heard that German Notar and Solicitors etc get paid stupid amounts of money and now I see it! They definitely got the message from me as well that they should have told me the real cost, especially as I had told them what the documents were on the phone and that there were two signatures. Bah!

Cakes this month

These are the cakes that I and my friends/companions have enjoyed this month.

Cakes July 2016

As I write this I am getting ready for a bike tour with Klaus and Claudia on the trikes. We are leaving tomorrow and going for a six day tour along the Rhein into the Netherlands and then back along the Maas. The weather forecast isn’t brilliant (rain most days) but it will be lovely to be on a proper tour again. I hope to update this blog each day so stay tuned!

One comment

  1. Hello Helen,

    It’s been a while since I’ve visited your blog. Glad to hear all is well. Jochen’s velomobile looks very nice. These are trying times in Europe and America with the threat of terrorism. Be safe, to you and all your chums.

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