Tag Archives: Tempelman

Six Wheels In Germany – June 2016 (Month 27)

Cycling this month

Cycling statistics this month

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

June statistics

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

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

June Wheel

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

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

Here is the track from the day:
Overloon track

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

Vm Cake 1

VM Cake 2

VM Cake 3

And here is a view of the inside:

Cake inside

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

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

VMs in Straelen

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

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

Ready to leave Straelen

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

NL roads

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

Crossing the Maas by ferry

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

Jochen checking out Celeste again

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


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

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

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

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

Celeste first puncture

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

Celeste on her side

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

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

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

A visit to Rolf’s again

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

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

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

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

VMs at Rolfs 1

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

Quest and Strada compared

Critical Mass Viersen

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

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

Critical Mass return

Tour des Monats mit der Landrat

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


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

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

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

Some new tyres

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

Shredda tyres

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

Shreddas front

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

Shredda in place

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

A visit to Dronten

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

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

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

The answer…

Penelope in Roomster 1

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

Penelope in Roomster 2



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

Penelope in Roomster 3

I went for a short drive around the block.

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

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

Penelope in Bus

P in Bus 2

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

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

Here is Penelope ready to be checked out.

P repair 1

The rear swing-arm has to be disassembled.

P repair 2

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

P repair 3

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

Old plastic ring

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

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

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

Carbon fibre mudguards 1

Carbon fibre mudguards 2

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

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

Cycling miscellaneous

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


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

Photographer in Geldern

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

Events this month

Another trip to England

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

Here are just a few images from our trip.

The obligatory curry!


And fish ‘n chips (well, scampi)

Scampi and chips

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

Deep fried mars bar

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

Naze tower

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

Cream tea

I organised some essential supplies to take back to Germany.

Tea and clotted cream

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

Trikes 1

Trikes 2

Trikes 3

Trikes 4

Trikes 5

Trikes 6

Trikes 7

The Brexit Referendum

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


Particularly from my area in the UK, Tendring:


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


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

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

Work food 1

And this nice vanilla mousse

Vanille Mousse

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

Velomobile Laugenstange

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

Maldon sea salt 1

Maldon Sea Salt 2

Other randomness

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

Cakes this month

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

Cakes for June 2016

1 Comment

Filed under Cycling in Germany, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany

Penelope gets a makeover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P in the dark

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

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

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

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

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

P Lighting Stuff 1

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

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

P on table

P open

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

Penelope the beached whale

P from underneath

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

P wire spaghetti

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

P Black Box

Mystery electronics.

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

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

James's circuit diagram

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

Here is Penelope with one removed…

P one light missing

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

P one light missing 2

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

P inside no lamps

Here is the gubbins removed.

Black box and old lamps

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

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

Light mounting bracket

And another one for the other light.

Brackets ready

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

Threading a screw

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

Connectors ready

Soldering time

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

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

Lights in place

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

P new lights in place with wiring

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

cherry cake

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

And the conclusion was:

6V lights completed


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

Twist grip

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

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

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

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

Here is Poppy demonstrating…

Twist Grip unglued 1

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

Twist Grip unglued 2

Fortunately Frank glued this for me and harmony was restored.

Twist Grip reglued

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

Lighting Upgrade Stage 2 – Why did it go dark?

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

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

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

Penelope with testing machine

Testing stuff

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

Calculations 1

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

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

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

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

Repairs to Penelope’s bodywork

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

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

P scratch left side 1

P scratch left side 2

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

P scratch right side 1

P scratch right side 2

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

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

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

Vinyl Wrap 1

Vinyl Wrap 2

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

Two engineers soldering

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

Sticking the thingie into the black box

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

Turck cables

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

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

Working on Penelope at Gerd's 1

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

Working on Penelope at Gerd's 2

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

Magic smoke.

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

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

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

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

A visit to the Netherlands for a service

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

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

Penelope in bus

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

Penelope crack

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

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

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

P service 1

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

P service 2

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

P chain

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

P open swing arm

The Rohloff just lifted out.

P swing arm without Rohloff

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

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

P chain fiddling

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

P new Rohloff cables

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

P suspension check

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

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

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

Inside Tempelman's Shop 1

Inside Tempelman's Shop 2

Inside Tempelman's Shop 3

Inside Tempelman's Shop 4

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

Inside Tempelman's Shop 5

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

Repairing Penelope’s scratches

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

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

Scratch Repair 1

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

Scratch Repair 2

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

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

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

First test of vinyl wrap

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

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

Considering the options

Ready for work on P

James just had to get started.

Interesting lounge decoration

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

And when we returned…

Wrapping complete

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

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

Penelope's New Look 1

Penelope's New Look 2

Penelope's New Look 3

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

Penelope's New Look 4

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

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

Penelope bobble hat

Lighting Upgrade Stage 4 – LED strip lights

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

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

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

LED lighting 1

LED Lighting 3

Poppy was impressed with them too.

LED Lighting 2

LED Lighting 4

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

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

P ready for work

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

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

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

Drilling holes 1

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

Poppy as guard dog

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

Drilling holes 2

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

Feeding wires through

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

Testing testing

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

REar light in place

And here is the finished job.

FInished 1

Finished 2

Penelope seems rather happy with it too!

Happy Penelope

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

Cool Penelope

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

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

Battery meter

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

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

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

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


Filed under Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes, Six Wheels In Germany