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Take wheel off Youngest Son’s bike. So far so good.
Take tyre off wheel. Much grunting.
Push valve into wheel and try to remove inner tube. Valve gets stuck. More grunting.
Finally persuade valve to go through ridiculously small hole. Drag inner tube out of tyre.
Find pump.
Pump up inner tube. Look for hole.
Nothing. Inner tube obviously, clearly, smugly, puncture free.
Push valve back into hole. Five minutes of twisting and pushing later it finally goes through the hole.
Clamp fingers in tyre.
Force inner tube into tyre with a combination of finger prodding and bad language.
Pump up inner tube slightly to avoid pinch punctures
Try to fit tyre into rim.
Try using tyre levers.
Bend tyre levers.
Remember that The Shop has a tyre lever the size and shape of a dinner spoon for just such emergencies.
Take tyre to shop.
Find The Boss playing strategy game on computer. (It was a slow day).
Boss is highly amused and demonstrates how to put a tyre on a wheel without tyre levers.
Pump up tyre in shop, tyre goes flat.
Boss even more amused.
Two customers come onto shop which giving your correspondent the opportunity to slope off home with tyre.
Find two holes in tyre large enough to admit small rodents, clearly made by errant tyre lever.
Find the biggest patch in the repair kit.
Fix puncture, put tyre on without levers as demonstrated by The Boss.
Drop wheel, lose wheel bearings.
Find bearings, put wheel on bike.
Return bike to Youngest Son


Make mental note to stock up on puncture repair patches.


For the first time in several months, we’ve seen the sun and the roads are actually dry. It’s quite novel to go for a ride and not have a filthy bike at the end, except when it was filthy to start with because I’m too lazy to clean it. (I think this post made me look more conscientious than I really am).

The weather decided to give us a pretty deep* snowfall on the weekend to make sure we didn’t relax too much. Of course it decided to come as I was cycling back from my Permaculture course…

*enough to cause chaos in Britain London

Such is the level of my cycling addiction that I cracked after three days of our holiday, liberated a bike from our friend’s garage and set off for France. Okay, so France was only six kilometres away, but it sounded good.

Two kilometres out of the village I decided to pump the tires up. This was a Very Silly Idea: the number one rule for using a borrowed bike is if it ain’t broken* don’t fix it, and don’t worry about details. After five minutes of frantic pumping there was less air in the tyre than before. I rode the 2 kilometres home with just enough air to keep the rim off the tarmac, muttering darkly about my utter stupidity in trusting a cheapo standard issue pump. After much digging about in the garage, I found a pump: amazingly, it actually put air into the tire. Off we went again.

My goodness but you can ride fast in flat places. The first real ‘need to change gear’ climb was the Rhine bridge. I moved the gear lever, there was a loud crunch and the bike stopped. Pedalling didn’t help and neither did swearing. Getting off and looking at the transmission revealed that the chain was tighter than on a fixie and the rear mech was horizontal. Clearly the last person to fix this bike had shortened the chain. They’d also jammed the quick release skewer in the ‘open’ position, which was interesting.

On to train, home, I persuaded the ‘quick release’ skewer to open with aid of a hammer; dropped the wheel; reapplied chain on a smaller gear, and put the wheel back on; properly this time.

New years resolution: Always, always always take my bike with me on holiday: Especially if it’s a flat place.

Except when we go to Japan, because I can’t afford to take the Xtracycle on a plane.

I wonder if I could get a Brompton?

*‘Not broken’ in this context being defined as: ‘assembled’.


I’m not the only one riding this winter. I spotted this handsome looking steed against the ticket machine in our local metro station while its owner waited for the service to the next town.

In the 1970′s Freiburg decided to encourage people to use public transport, walk ,or cycle, and to make it difficult to drive into the city. In the centre they closed a large area to cars and built tram lines which could take people right into the main shopping streets, and built a network of cycle lanes and other facilities. I can can report that the sky has not fallen, nor has the centre of the city become a wasteland.

On the other hand…

…there were lots of bikes…

…and cyclists…

And very little traffic.

In fact, the whole experience of walking in this city was far more pleasant than in our village.

Now there’s a coincidence.

Apparently the modal share of bikes in Freiburg is 27%, Not bad considering that Freiburg is right on the edge of the Black Forest, which is a Very Hilly Place. For comparison ‘driving a car’ is given as 26%, ‘car passenger’ as a paltry 6% and public transport covers 20%.

I asked David Hembrow when the Dutch City of Assen made the same policy decisions as Freiburg and the current modal share for bicycles. It turns out the main change was in the 1970′s and 80′s, and today bicycles have a modal share of 41%.

The coincidences just pile up, don’t they?

Pedelec in Würzburg. The sticker in the back window translates as: “How many cars do people need?”
Apparently they are made by a German company and are a battery/pedal hybrid.

Personally I’d go for a pedal-only huneligger, but I still like the look of it.

Eldest son is learning that interesting knots can be useful.

Trucker’s knot with extra half-turn securing backpack to luggage rack, making his kiddy bike into a workbike.

Pedestrians all seem to like the Xtracycle. The nice lady in the background told me three times that it’s ‘Geil’ (cool), fortunately she didn’t notice the mudguards were stuck on with gaffer tape.

Car drivers don’t usually say nice things, oddly.

I seem to destroy mudguards on the Xtracycle. I don’t know how. The first set was traditionally styled and made in black plastic, and kept me dry for a whole three days before dropping onto the road one damp night back in 1997. Generation two, a ‘Crud Catcher’ fishtail, was very effective for ten years but didn’t fit under the Xtracycle, so I fitted generation three with some trepidation, a lot of swearing, and a little help from my friends. These broke on a wet day last October, naturally when I was going to a job interview. Since then the back mudguard has been held on with a mass of gaffer tape. This is of course incredibly cool if it’s an emergency repair out in the bush, but looks pretty awful on a sort-of commuter bike. Especially after six mud-spattered months.

So now I’ve finally got around to fitting Mudguards 4.1: proper metal mudguards with parts scrounged from various scrap bikes including the bike I gave up on for beautiful wife. It took a bit of a wait for the right scrap bike to come in, but hopefully it’ll save more emergency repairs in a rainy night. As can be seen one set of rear stays needed a bit of ‘adjustment’ (clamped in a vice and bent horribly until they fitted) but they’re holding well.

The front end looks a bit strange at the moment after I fitted the scrap light . I’ll be replacing the cantilever brakes soon with Hydraulic or V-Brakes which will tidy that area up. I’ll need a switch for the lights somewhere as well.

New-fangled LED rear light with park light function, because being rear-ended at night wouldn’t be fun.  I left my work shoes in the Xtracycle again. Normally people look at me in a funny way when I take pictures of the bikes, but today they were all watching Germany play football.

Every now and again I do some spring cleaning on the Xtracycle, I’ll take the spraydeck and side loaders off, empty them, clean then thoroughly and then spend at least ten minutes trying to remember how to put them back on again. It’s quite an exciting experience because I often find things I’d lost months before and given up hope of ever finding again, although the thought that I’ve been schlepping them about for months is not encouraging.

This time I think I broke all records for an Xtracycle haul. The inside pockets contained (from top left):

Map of Stuttgart
cereal bars
Plastic rubbish picked up from road (goodness knows when)
Three packs of seeds
Pack of batteries for lights, pluss
Spare repair sheets for the bike shop.
Rubbish bag (for waterproofing things if it rains)
Torch and knife
First aid kit (3 Small boys- nuff said)
LED Blinky light
Two packs of dead batteries (Which by the looks of them, have been there some time, I really need to get a dynamo set)
Oily rag
Foam tube to protect paint when locking bike.
Bike lock
Hexagonal keys
Smallest Son’s waterproof coat
Hoodie top
Another plastic bag for waterproofing things. (Probably forgot about the rubbish bag)

To that, add the saddle cover, two trekking straps and 2m long rope, and hexagonal key set in the little meshpockets.

I don’t know which is worse: that I didn’t realise realise I was carrying this lot, that having found out I put most of it back into the bike, or that I found it interesting enough to write a blog entry about it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll try and figure how to put the side loaders back on the Xtracycle.

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