Tag Archives: Velomobiel

SPEZI Radmesse – a quick report

For the past nineteen years there has been a Special Bike Show in Germersheim near Mannheim in Germany, called SPEZI Radmesse.

Spezi Radmesse

This year was my chance to attend!

Last July I met a bunch of velomobile riders from Germany, one of whom lives near me in Schwalmtal. Back them he said that I could go to SPEZI with him so all the details were finalised over the last few weeks. I would drive to Rolf’s house in Schwalmtal for 7am and then we would travel together in his car to Germersheim. The original plan was to collect Gabriele (Jedrik) and a friend on the way past Bonn but in the end Gabriele decided to cycle to Germersheim in her Quest Velomobile the day before, which she duly did (all 280km).

The night before I left for SPEZI Lara, the daughter of the house, asked what time I was leaving as she had to be at Kempen railway station by 6:15am for a train to Köln for a University event. As I had planned to leave at 6:15am I was happy to get up fifteen minutes earlier to save her cycling to the station and having to lock her bike up all day.

The battery in my car had seemed a bit weak recently but I was reluctant to start it the day before to check as I’d need to run it for a fair while to recharge it and I didn’t have anywhere to go on the car – I hadn’t used it for a fortnight and apart from this trip to Schwalmtal had no plans to use it for at least a month. So I warned Lara that it was a bit dodgy.

And I was right – the car didn’t start. It almost did, then gave up. Fortunately Lara’s father was awake and I had jump leads ready so we tried to jump start it using their Opel Agila; no dice. So Frank moved the Agila away and brought over their VW Transporter – again, it was almost catching but not quite. Time was ticking away for Lara’s train (she had a specific ticket for the 6:15 train) so I assumed Frank would drive her to the station himself in their car and I’d see what I could do about starting mine later (or get a taxi to Rolf’s or something). Instead Frank handed me the keys to the Agila and said to take that, and that his insurance would cover me.

So I grabbed my stuff, locked up my car and hopped into the Agila with Lara.

For the last twenty years I have driven an automatic car as my bad arm doesn’t get on well with manual gearboxes. Of course in a German car the gear stick is on my ‘good’ side but it was still an interesting start to the morning, driving an entirely unfamiliar car, left hand drive, which was a manual. I wasn’t very good at finding the clutch biting point for the first mile or so but eventually got the hang of it.

Lara made it to Kempen station with five minutes to spare. I dropped her off and then headed on to Schwalmtal.

There doesn’t seem to be that much traffic in this part of the world during the day but at 6:15am on a Saturday morning it was beautifully quiet – I was pretty much on my own for the whole forty minute journey.

I arrived at Rolf’s, parked the car and then we hopped into his Vectra and headed off to the A61 motorway which would take us pretty much the whole way to Germersheim. (333km).

Rolf said that a few years ago he got stuck in a traffic jam and it took him six hours – this year the roads were great and we were there after just three hours.

We parked right opposite the exhibition halls (with free parking – you’d never get free parking at an exhibition in the UK!) and walked past the Parcours to get to the Halls. There were bikes and trikes and other weird vehicles whizzing about everywhere the whole time!

The entrance fee was 9.50€ which I thought was pretty decent and was given a blue wristband to allow me access to the various halls and outside areas. There were also various brochures and maps handed to me.


I went straight into Hall 1 which had a group of exhibitors including ICLETTA who are the German distributors of ICE Trikes (and other bikes/trikes). ICLETTA’s stand was being shared with three chaps from ICE.

Displayed proudly on the stand was Maria Leijerstam‘s White ICE Cycle which she used to ride to the South Pole in December.

And here is Elliot from ICE who seemed to know exactly who I was when I introduced myself. Most of the visitors to SPEZI seemed to be Germans and speaking German so perhaps he was pleased to speak English with someone. Anyway he was extremely helpful, talking to me for over an hour about a lot about the changes and updates that ICE have been doing recently to the range. Here he is standing beside Kurt Seifert (of ICLETTA)’s ICE Sprint with Rohloff and various other changes from the standard ICE Sprint.

During our conversation we spotted a guy in a red cycling jersey with reflective writing on the front saying ‘Keep calm and ride an ICE Trike’. The chap had a Lonsdale London backpack and jogging bottoms so I assumed he was a Brit but no, he was German. We had a good chat (I translated the salient bits for Elliot) and discovered that this chap prints his own cycling jerseys. He gave me his card – he is Tomas Bernd Wiedemann and his website is www.mobil-mit-muskelkraft.de. And here is his page about jerseys and other cycling gear that he produces: Liegerad T-Shirts, Pullover, Trikots uvm. His comment to Elliot was that ICE didn’t do enough merchandising really!

After having a very enjoyable chat with Elliot I wandered on and had a really good look around. I was amazed at the number of different recumbent bike and trike dealers, as well as lots of upright bikes, Bromptons and other folders, electric bikes, vehicles for people with disabilities and more.

Readers of my blog know that I have recently bought a Flevobike Versatile. The Versatile is now marketed as the Flévelo Orca. Flévelo had two Orcas at the show and it was really interesting to see them – the differences in the nine years since Penelope was built aren’t significant but incremental.

I had a chat with André Vrielink, the original builder of the Versatile/Orca, and got a few bits of advice from him. He was keen to sell me a new Orca of course… maybe in the future with the electric assist…

There are a lot of Steintrikes (from Austria) trikes in Germany it seems. The Wild One, very popular, seemed extremely complicated at the front:

I subsequently saw one whizzing past and it seems to cant over on cornering which probably explains all that faffage at the crosspiece.

I did feel it was rather unfortunate that they used Comic Sans font for the logo though!

There were hundreds of people at the exhibition and it was a beautiful day – 25 degrees and sunny. The second day of the exhibition, the Sunday (today), it’s rather rainier in Germany so I hope those exhibiting outside are still having a good time.

There were some very fast-looking recumbents from Troytec

And hundreds of people whizzing around on recumbents and other weird bikes and I didn’t see a single crash. Rolf, who I travelled with and has visited SPEZI many times, said he had never seen an accident. Amazing! People were riding round the exhibition halls too.

I was also pleased to see loads of disabled people visiting – hopefully they were getting options for bikes that might suit their individual needs.

ICE trikes put a link on Facebook to photographs taken before the exhibition opened so you can get a flavour of what was on display without hundreds of people standing in the way:

Elliptigo were exhibiting – I last saw one of these on the last stretch of LEL. Amazing machines!

In the background here is Sinner, current makers of the Mango velomobile:

The very popular Velomobiel.nl stand!

An unusual vehicle:

More recumbents on display:

Räder-Werk with their world record Milan (I think!)

There were lots of Tandem stands including this one from Santana:

And here is the Hase stand – they had some Pinos on display as well (out of shot)

And the local Germersheim bike shop had their own stand with lots of things including some pretty cool flags (unfortunately 25€ plus so I didn’t succumb)

Three wheels good… four wheels better?

Or how about this, the Veloschmitt:

Modelled on the Messerschmitt Kabinenroller of the 1950s

And more photos (again courtesy of ICE’s Facebook feed)

These are all Greenmachines from Flevobike (who made the Versatile):

A folding electric bike thingy – but 27.5kg so quite a lot to carry

The display bikes were all pretty shiny although there were a lot that you could try out there and then. I had to periodically dodge people cycling within the Halls.

Outside lots of people had their own bikes/trikes/velomobiles that they had brought with them, some were for sale (a great opportunity to advertise your unusual bike to a receptive audience, I suppose). But there were also some fun things to try:

Five HASE trikes linked together like a train.

The SPEZI shuttle. I used this – knackering on the legs for just 200 metres!

A very shiny Ordinary. The chap says it was from the Czech Republic and very new.

And this very weird spinning bike thing – a Health & Safety nightmare if ever I saw one, but the Germans aren’t too fussed about H&S

And below should be a short video of it:

I had a very enjoyable day.

We had a two hour look around and then met for lunch with some others which was long and leisurely at a Vietnamese place, then went back to look at more bikes.

I managed to only spend about 20€ on things at Spezi – a t-shirt from the German HPV association (my friend was manning their stand) and a set of cleats for a tenner.

Rolf and I left at 5:30 after meeting up with some of his friends from the German Velomobilforum. You can tell velomobile riders – they all have very tanned faces but very pale arms and legs. I am purposely using Alfie the trike every few days to attempt to get a bit more of a tan!

Anyway, good fun was had, and I was home by 9:30pm without crashing the landlord’s car. Bonus!

I certainly recommend SPEZI as an event to visit – there was loads going on and plenty of food on offer which didn’t have ridiculous price hikes like you might see in the UK at exhibitions. There was some kind of racing event going on that I didn’t watch and a whole hall of E-bikes which I only had a cursory look around. All in all well worth the entrance fee and a great way to experience some of the weirder bike options that are out there!

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Filed under Alfie the Trike, Cycling in Germany, Penelope the Velomobile, Recumbent Trikes

Breakfast with Velomobiles

It’s not every day that, by 7:45am, you’ve seen five velomobiles ride past.

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Today, however, is the exception to that rule and I not only saw five velomobiles but also one recumbent bicycle (not sure of the type) and, of course, my own recumbent tricycle.

This little corner of Essex isn’t usually a mecca for weird bikes but today (and presumably one day next week too) it becomes part of a journey from Abroad to Edinburgh, part of the London Edinburgh London Audax.

Audaxes are long distance rides. They’re not a race but do have a time limit (minimum as well as maximum). Every four years the London Edinburgh London audax (LEL) takes place, starting at Loughton in north east London.

People travel from all over the UK as well as from Europe and even farther afield to participate (I think they have about 1000 riders this year). I have several friends who’ve ridden this audax, including the wonderful Andy Allsopp who wrote a book about LEL2009 which I typeset for him called Barring Mechanicals (well worth a read).

Anyway, LEL has been in planning for years and a lot of discussion takes place on YACF, a British cycling forum.

I read YACF regularly but not usually the audax subsection. However, as I know several people riding LEL this year I have taken the occasional look and noticed someone had asked for a good route from Harwich to Loughton (where LEL starts). As I’m familiar with the roads between Harwich and Colchester I offered some suggestions and after a few messages to and fro we (Gabriele, a German velomobile rider, and me) agreed to meet for breakfast in Manningtree. The overnight ferry from the Hook of Holland chucks passengers off at 6:30am so not much is open for food but the Crown in Manningtree agreed to open early for us to provide some hungry cyclists with a Full English.

Gabriele explained that there might be a couple of other velomobile riders as well as lots of people would be getting that ferry.

So anyway, this morning I got up bright and early (6:30am) and headed off by trike to Manningtree. Once I arrived at the Crown I saw they weren’t yet there (unlikely as it’s 12 miles from Harwich ferry port to Manningtree) so I thought I’d ride towards Harwich on the route that they were taking and meet them along the way.

It was a lovely warm morning with sunshine and very little breeze. This early on a Friday morning there wasn’t too much traffic and I enjoyed my ride. I got as far as Bradfield and then decided to wait there (rather than doing an extra hill), so when I got to the brow of the hill that goes to Wrabness I decided to turn round.

I did a U-turn on the road (there was no traffic) and then started cycling back towards Manningtree to find a layby in which to wait.

The u-turn involved my left wheel going through some grot at the side of the road for about a metre and lo and behold I had a puncture (my new fast tyres are not very puncture resistant!) so I rode on the deflating tyre to somewhere safe to stop and put the trike on the pavement.

One thing about these tyres is that they are very easy to get on and off the wheel and the puncture was really obvious too. There was nothing in the tyre, it was just a sharp stone or something that had punched a hole. I changed the tube, used my new pump (a Topeak Road Morph, worked really well) and as I was pumping up the tyre I saw two velomobiles approaching.

They called out to me “Do you need any help?” and I replied “No, I’m fine,” at which point they carried on. I assumed that this was Gabriele and some other random chap so as they continued on I called after them “I’m Auntie Helen, aren’t we breakfasting together?”

The guy who had called out to me turned round and came alongside. “I have no idea who Auntie Helen is,” he said, and then I saw that the other velomobiler was also a man. Not Gabriele then. I apologised and explained I was meeting some velomobilers. “Ah, you mean Gabriele, she went a different way at the roundabout from the ferry.”

These chaps carried on and as my bike was ready I followed them. I had a sudden thought that maybe Gabriele had taken an alternative route and was now at the Crown so it would be sensible to go back there.

I kept up with the two velomobiles without much difficulty until the downhill into Mistley at which point they shot off, turning left at Mistley Towers to go up New Road out of Manningtree. I carried on along the Stour River to the Crown. When I arrived the staff were preparing for breakfast but there were no other cyclists. I decided to wait at the Crown in case I otherwise missed them somehow.

After five minutes or so I saw, in the distance, the weird shape of a velomobile… and another… and another! They had arrived, along with a recumbent bicycle.

We said our hellos and everyone was introduced. Gabriele I knew previously (although had not met). I was introduced to Dutch man Bas, also in a white Quest velomobile, and two German chaps, Morten and Rolf. Rolf had a yellow Mango velomobile and Morten a very fast-looking recumbent bicycle.

Here are the vehicles parked in the Crown’s car park.


Then it was over to the picnic table outside for our Full English breakfast.

We started with some cups of tea and orange juice.

Breakfast at the Crown

And then a good old-fashioned English Breakfast arrived, with accompanying toast.

Full English

It was a very enjoyable leisurely breakfast. Gabriele has ridden LEL before (on a normal bike) but it is a new experience for the other three riders, although Bas (the Dutch chap in the other Quest velomobile) has ridden over in the UK a fair bit.

Here are the velomobiles – firstly Gabriele’s Quest.

Jedrik's Quest 1

And Rolf’s Mango – this is shorter than the Quest but I think otherwise very similar.

Mango 1

Bas let me have a good look around his Quest.

Quest Interior 1

Quest Interior 2

You can just see written on the edge of the cockpit the words “KEEP LEFT” – an aide memoire for riding in the UK!

Quest Interior 3

And on the side the elevation profile of LEL

LEL Profile

And here is Bas and his machine.

Quest and Bas

Here is the happy band of cyclists – without Bas’s Quest and with my trike instead.

Velomobilers and trike

Gabriele and Rolf in their machines.

In the cockpits

It was time to head off. I decided I’d ride with them to Colchester and lead them through the worst of the traffic so they were confident of their route.

We set off, straight up the hill in Manningtree in South Street (at least there’s no traffic). We certainly created quite a stir, a procession of weird vehicles!

Here’s a short video I took whilst riding at the front – a bit bumpy and noisy but you get the idea!

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We then headed along the A137 between Manningtree and Ardleigh. I led the way – this was the view in my mirror.

View in the mirror

We were holding up the traffic a bit but it was fun riding and we were making a reasonable speed.

We arrived in Colchester to discover that Eastgates Level Crossing was closed. No problem, I knew a good alternative that took us up Hythe Hill, but this would have been annoying for them if they were on their own.

At the top of Hythe Hill I took a photo.

In Magdalen Street

Then it was a fast zoom around the ring road of Colchester, a dual carriageway called Southway. Not much fun really (and a rather potholey/rutted surface) but cars seemed to be very willing to give us space. We had lots of smiles from people waiting at bus stops or walking along the pavement.

We arrived at the Maldon road which is the route out of Colchester towards Chelmsford. At this point I took another photograph of everyone and then said goodbye – I was heading back home again.

4 weird bikes in Colchester

They trundled off towards London leaving lots of astonished expressions on passers by in their wake.

Good luck to everyone with LEL – I hope that they enjoy it!

And if any of you want to track the riders on LEL, here is a website link for each of them:


For explanations of where they are on the route, here is the map of controls (the stops along the way to check in)

LEL Controls

And a week later I met them all on the way back. You can read all about it here: Dinner With Velomobiles


Filed under Cycling in England, Recumbent Trikes