Friday, November 25, 2016

A visit to AVD, builder of the Windcheetah recumbent tricycle

As we reported earlier this year we visited SPEZI, the annual special bicycle exhibtion in Germersheim on Rhine - see our blog dated  26 April 2016. We chatted to a number of exhibitors and had a long conversation with Karl Sparenberg who runs Advanced Vehicle Design Ltd. (AVD). Towards the end of our discussion I asked him where he was based. He replied that I would not know the village where his workshop is based. "It's in Abbey Village." We could honestly reply that we had been through the village a number of times on our way north from Bolton, my home town which lies 10 miles away. We said that when we were in Bolton we would try to visit the workshop. In October we rang Karl and made an appointment for us both and two friends to have a look at the production workshop.
The workshop is in a former small cotton mill to the west of the main street of Abbey Village. If you wish to visit the workshop, take a mobile phone with you when you go so you can ring Karl when you arrive. The mill is used by a number of small companies as workshops and storerooms. When we were there, there was no bell and we had some difficulty making ourselves known, because we, of course, didn't have a mobile phone with us. Matters were not helped by an early autumn rain shower,
We then enjoyed a fascinating hour's discussion about castings, carbon fibre tubes, quality control and giving road men and women on on expensive bikes a surprise by passing them on hills and pulling away on a trike. We were impressed by the care the company takes both to ensure that the customer buys the correct trike for their needs and that the trikes are built to high standards. The trike frames are constructed by bonding together cast and turned connection components and tubing, either aluminium and or carbon fibre. If the last connecting piece in spite of quality control checks is shown to be faulty then the frame is junked and a new one built.
The traditional sandcasting method proved difficult to control. This frequently led to manufacturing faults in the castings. AVD moved onto the modern investment cast method with the use of wax formers which means that the frame components can be manufactured from both aluminium or magnesium depending on Windcheetah model. We suspect that three-D printing of components is on the horizon.
We would just like to stress that none of us has a financial interest in AVD nor were we offered payment to write this blog. It is unlikely that we will buy a trike either from AVD or one of the other manufacturers, worldwide. Our interest is and was in the manufacture of tricycles and bicycles. To us Karl’s ideas and skills seem to represent the best of ‘the Northern Powerhouse’ ideals, quietly working away to produce perhaps small but useful engineering marvels.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Drais Hobby Horse Races

There will be a Karl Drais Hobby Horse race around the Wasserturm in Mannheim, Germany on 11 June 2017 as part of the celebration for the 200th anniversary of the first two wheeled vehicle excursion in 1817. There will also be klapprad races on 11 June and the HPV World Championship races will be held over the weekend of 10 and 11 June.
If you wish to enter the hobby horse races contact: Check out:,, or for more details.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Piste Cyclable / Radweg / Cycleway along the River Moselle in France November 2016

  • Schengen (L)/Perl (D)/Apach (F) to Thionville: Well established well signposted route.
  • Thionville to Metz: Fairly new excellent well signposted route with a link into the city centre of Metz.
  • Metz to Pagny-sur-Moselle: Continuation of above route. Follow the bike signs for Woippy from cathedral square and turn off right before the canal bridge to follow the right bank. The route changes from bank to bank but is well signposted as far as Arnaville. The route follows towpaths, forest tracks and minor roads. Once you cross the departmental border into Meurthe-et-Moselle signposting and the smooth tarred path disappears. You can follow a rougher route south to Pagny-sur-Moselle where you can cross the railway lines at a level or grade crossing by pushing the button to warn the signal box of your intention or continue on along a stretch of single track path to reach the new Moselle lock and Pagny-sur-Moselle. It can take a few minutes for the rail track to be clear.
  • South of Pagny-sur-Moselle: I suspect from reading the literature ( on this route that unless you are an experienced road cyclist that you would be well advised to catch a train in Pagny-sur-Moselle to Nancy. The Charles le Téméraire Cycle Route follows the D952/657 to Frouard and we did not enjoy the route as far as Pont-a-Mousson. Even on e-bikes the traffic was hairy.
We researched the route between Metz to Pagny-sur-Moselle as part of the updating of our Riesling Route guide. As the winter weather gets more unpleasant we will retire to our office to update and rewrite the book. Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Two hundred years of the bicycle

The first trip on two wheeled vehicle was made almost 200 years ago on 12 June 2017 by Karl Drais from the centre of Mannheim out to a pub on the road to Schwetzingen and back. The city is going to celebrate this over the next eight months. The first stage starts tomorrow with an exhibition on the history of the bicycle in the Technoseum, the provincial museum of science and technology. It runs until June next year.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Buying tickets for TER trains in Lorraine

We spent the beginning of November checking out cycle routes in the Moselle Valley in Lorraine. Rather than touring from city to city we stopped two nights in Nancy and took a train to Metz. The regional TER trains are operated by SNCF French national railways. As is usual in Europe there are two types of ticket machines on Nancy station: blue ones offering just regional TER tickets and bright yellow ones offering tickets for the whole French railways network, including the high speed TGVs. These machines speak only French, so brushez up votre Français. We found none of the ticket machines on Nancy station would accept either our German credit card or bank card. The machines do not accept notes either. We are not used to this as modern public transport ticket dispensers in Germany accept notes. We needed 14.60 € in coins which we did not have. (If I am cycling I try to carry the smallest number of coins possible to keep down the weight in my pockets.) In the end I joined a queue in the ticket office and managed to buy tickets before our train came in. We spent the day buying items separately to accumulate change. Fortunately smaller stations in France have staffed ticket offices and are often not that busy. We cycled from Metz to Pagny sur Moselle and bought tickets from a person in a ticket office.
There is another problem in buying tickets in general in la belle France. The French do not pronounce  names the way we do. It is useful when buying tickets from a ticket office to write out the name of the station you wish to reach to show the staff on the other side of the counter, because it is unlikely that they will understand your pronounciation. 
If you are buying tickets from a machine then remember that the machines although basically computers are very exact but dumb. Sensibly the TER ticket machines offer a list of major destinations in the region. If you want to travel to a small village you need to key in the first letter of the first name not the first letter of the second name in the case of a station with a double barreled name. We wanted to go  to a village called Avricourt. Its station lies between Avricourt and Igney and so the station is called Igney-Avricourt. It took a while for us to find it. Vive la France!

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