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Beautiful Wife asked me to get some emergency pizza when I picked Youngest Son up from Kindergarten. No problem, I thought, we can swing past the shop on the way.
Except that Youngest Son likes to cycle home on his bike these days, and the only shop in the village is directly on the main road, which happens to be one of the routes into the Stuttgart/Neckar valley industrial region. There’s no way he can ride there with all the cars and trucks and buses rushing into Germany’s sixth city, and of course, we can’t remove the right to choose your transport mode by say, slowing people down or stopping through traffic: then there would only be three fast roads, and imagine the pain and hardship that would cause.
On top of this a child under seven has to ride on the pavements/sidewalks in Germany. The idea, as I understand it, is to get them used to things like a high curb whenever they have to cross a side road; pedestrians appearing from buildings; and how to jump out-of-the-way* of Very Important Drivers coming out of driveways, opening car doors or just using the pavement as their own private parking space.
In this way children quickly learn that ‘cycling’ is what you do on a Sunday afternoon, and if you want to go more than twenty metres from the front door, get Mummy or Daddy to drive you there.
I’m being cynical: It’s probably just a cheap way to avoid building proper cycle lanes.
Either way, it’s surprisingly difficult to ride down a busy road and keep contact with a small person cycling on the other side of parked cars while Mercedes man leans on his horn because I’m delaying him in his Very Important Journey and distracting him from his Very Important Conversation on his mobile phone.
Now I’m sure some people (probably the people leaning on their car horn) would say I should get off the bike and walk along the pavement, thus getting out-of-the-way** of the Very Important Drivers, which would be fine except that because we are ever-so-special tree huggy types we are usually trying to get somewhere on our bikes.
Which makes it even more annoying that having made an extra trip to get the pizza, and riding all over the village to find quieter traffic calmed streets, we still ended up with an SUV behind us revving his engine and generally expressing his annoyance at our presence on the road.
*WordPress is convinced I need these hyphens. Do I? or is WordPress being nannyish?
** See previous footnote.
It turns out that you can, with some effort, make a hole in ‘puncture proof’ tyres. I do not recommend this, of course, and it does take a surprising amount of work and incompetence, but I have managed it as follows:
Pump tyres up to 4 bar, (one bar under the maximum, but the person who worked this out probably thought the tyres would be used as they were meant to be: on flat roads. Under a lighter bike).
Take Xtracycle to garden for family picnic.
Before going home, load Xtracycle with remains of picnic, a bag of compost, several gardening tools, a large plant pot and some work boots.
Decide Youngest Son is too tired to ride home on his own.
Put youngest son on already overloaded Xtracycle. Strap his bike on to tow it home as well.
Consider leaving some things but then realise that means coming back to get them in half an hour. Decide you can’t be bothered.
On the way home, drive up a very steep, badly surfaced road, putting entire weight of (overloaded) Xtracycle, Youngest Son, and and a rider that is ‘cough’ kilogrammes heavier than strictly necessary, onto the back wheel.
Mash pedals to get up hill.
Fail to notice one particularly sharp bit of gravel embed itself into the thickest part of the back tyre under the pressure.
Continue riding (and probably overloading) the bike for the next two days.
Result: one unscheduled visit to the bike shop for a replacement tyre and inner tube.
I guess that’s why the tyres are sold as ‘puncture proof’ rather than ‘idiot proof’.
Trying to defy physics a couple of weeks ago by making support for the french beans that won’t collapse as soon as the wind blows, despite not having anything like enough poles to support it.
The supports are still standing and the garden has moved on a lot since. I really need to take some photographs.
There are many reasons our neighbours think we are strange. One is that occasionally when they bring their car out for a clean, we are lining up our bikes.* I’m not sure if the looks are because of the unusual nature of the bikes we ride or just because, they’re bikes, as in, Not Cars. And that’s just weird.
I’m a bit obsessive about cleaning my bike, probably he result of dealing with mud encrusted machines at the bike shop. I’m especially fussy about the front forks or the main bar, where mud collects easily. Fortunately the mudguards take care of most of the mud, cow poo, horse poo and assorted other semi-liquid matter that covers the cycleways around here, and the long frame of the Xtracycle makes cleaning much more pleasant as the area around the front gears doesn’t get spattered all the time, and you can get at it to clean much easier with the back wheel out of the way.
My goodness but I’m boring. As it is now spring there’s a slightly higher chance that the roads will be dry most of the time, and that I can relax on the cleaning. The bike still gets some dirt, of course, but it’s a grey-brown patina of fine road dust which makes it clear that this is a working bike, and is therefore very cool, whereas mud just looks mucky.
I think I should get out more.
Of course the real advantage of cleaning a bike is that even after I’ve taken the deck off the back, unfastened and removed the luggage carriers, cleaned the frame down, replaced the luggage carriers, removed the three kilos of rubbish I’ve been carrying about for weeks and wheeled the shiny bike into the garage, my neighbours are probably only half way through cleaning their car.
*Currently seven bikes, for a five-member family. And your point is?
Youngest Son suddenly decided that pedals are the future and got his big brothers to teach him to ride a bike.. The first we knew about it was when Beautiful Wife saw him racing past the kitchen. He’s spent most of the week giving demonstrations and finding any excuse to ride anywhere (except up hills: still working on that). It’s great to see him happy, growing, more independent and mobile etc, but I’ll miss having a small person on my bike. The Kindergarten pickup has changed from carrying Eldest Son and as many of his friends as can fit into the Bakfiets, to towing a small bike up the hill using the Xtracycle, unhitching, and riding home together. That’s fun too, even if we have to follow a rather indirect route to avoid the main road, because people in cars are obviously more important than families who merely live here.
Anyway, Beautiful wife had mentioned that chocolate supplies were going down. This is a serious problem, so Youngest and I decided that we’d go to on the almost entirely traffic free route to the next town and resupply before things got dangerous: the sun was shining, and it would be a chance for Youngest to go out on a bike ride with a purpose. We decided on a plan: on the uphill bits I’d tow Youngest Son’s bike and he’d ride the Xtracycle, and if it rained (which of course it wouldn’t, as it was so sunny and bright) I could tow us home.
I really should have looked at the weather report closely, or taken more notice of those clouds behind us, especially as we had a tailwind. As we came out of the shop the weather caught up with us and my suspicions were confirmed that Youngest Son’s ‘waterproof’ coat wasn’t.
Fortunately there was a longer but less windy route through various housing estates and along the most expensive cycle lane in the world. By the time we’d made it to the top of the hill the rain had given up so Youngest Son got to ride the last bit and still seemed to be smiling when we got home. Of course the question is if he’s smiling because of the ride or smiling because it was over.
Ah, well, chocolate supplies restored…