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I’ve been a commuter for a month now. Not a proper ‘fight against early morning drivers to claim back the road from motor vehicles’ commuter, more a sort of ‘ride blearily through the fields to the next village and abandon the bike for a bus’ commuter. I only have a few hundred metres of road where there’s traffic and at half past six in the morning there isn’t even that much of it.
I’ve even managed to find some decent covered cycle racks (ie, not wheel eaters) which are pretty safe. I know this because the old peoples home next door has used them as to stack several new rolls of linoleum for a couple of weeks.
Normally I leave home at leave home at about 0615 which gives me plenty of time to get everything ready, discover something is missing, panic, run about the house trying to search quietly so I don’t wake up Beautiful Wife, wake Beautiful Wife, look for the missing item where she has told me to look, find it, pack my bag and leave, and ride over the fields at a reasonable speed catch the bus at 0635. The strange thing is, if I happen to be late (ie. When I’ve lost something and Beautiful Wife isn’t able to guide me to it), no matter how hard I ride, it still takes me five minutes longer to ride the same distance.
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?
On the way to Tübingen, Andi waiting for yours truly to stop messing about with the camera and decide which route to follow. (bigger picture)
There were a lot of decisions to make this month, but finally things are coming together. Watch this space.
Having foolishly said that I’d try to ride a century this year I needed some practice, so last week we went on a short (60km) tour. Unfortunately yet another post about riding through hils and valleys woith the birds singing and the hills being alive to the sound of music et c, doesn’t make for interesting reading, but thankfully for the purposes of a good blog there was one problem. The Motorised cyclists are back.
I have two theories for the phenomenon of the Motorised Cyclist:
1. They’re out to get me: I’ve annoyed the local drivers so much that not content with making assasination attempts on the roads, they have commisioned bounty hunters to take me out on the cycleways as well.
2. In the spring, SUV drivers all over Stuttgart dig the bike out of the shed, blow off the cobwebs and pull on their high-tech cycling clothes, then then set off down the cycle trail, forgetting that it isn’t an Autobahn and the squashy obstacles are actually allowed to be there.
So, for example, as I slowed down to pass a family with a wobbly toddler on a bike, the air was suddenly filled with the sound of disc brakes, swearing, and bicycle bells as the
drivers cyclists behind made their displeasure clear. They swept past with the traditional greeting of “schiebeauszervaygettinkfurfastergopersonens!”, and they were gone.
Until the next slight climb where we passed them again.
*It was entirely a coincidence** that I decided to slow down a bit more at that point, just in case.
** Sort of.
Spring is coming, but one of the rules of bureaucracy seems to be that for every form filled in, another two ae generated, so I’ve spent a lot of this week filling in and posting applications for grants rather than being outside, but at least I’m doing it in daylight now. Besides, cycling every day means I can notice the changing of the seasons as part of my everyday routine.
Of course, come November I probably won’t be as happy about that last bit, but theres always the option of staying indoors and filling in forms. Or burning them.
From our balcony I can see a range of hills (when it’s not raining, and of course today it is, but work with me) which form the European Watershed, which I find pretty exciting, but I did study Geography for several years. Rain falling this side of them will flow north to the Rhine and out to Amsterdam, and anything falling beyond will make an epic journey through Austria, Hungary and Romania and off to the Black Sea.
If todays weather is anything to go by, neither region will be short of water over the next weeks.
I could cycle over the European Watershed from here, I just haven’t got around to it yet. This is partly because I was otherwise engaged doing things like attending permaculture courses, visiting Japan and transporting poo, but also because I’m a lazyoaf and the idea of climbing up the side of said hills is a bit daunting. But next year I’m determined to cross that watershed.
I’ve done some serious plotting with things called ‘maps’*. It seems I can follow a route I’ve done before to the Neckar valley, which has a well signposted long distance route. From there it looks fairly easy to the city of Reutlingen, which looks a bit daunting, but after that there is a traffic free cycleway on an old railway line from Reutlingen through Lichtenstein (Not the tax haven, but it does have a nice castle) and then up the side of a
cliff hill to a smallish village called Engstingen, which is on a river leading to the Donau.
According to the mighty Google it’s about 65km. One way. And then I have to get back again, so 130km in total, which is a bit over my current record of 114km when we brought the Bakfiets from the Netherlands to Germany, and on that occasion it was in the sort of country where a bridge counts as a hill, whereas this route goes down into at least three valleys and back up out of them again, a caps the lot with a 200 metre (600 feet and then some) climb at the end. In theory, the return should be a bit easier because it’s down hill most of the way. Right…
Still, now I’ve told you lot about it, I’ll have to do it. I guess that’s not a bad new years resolution, especially as another resolution is to ride a full century (160km) next year** so It’ll be good preparation for that. I’ll put it on the list along with ‘sort out the garden’; ‘refurbish bike N+1′; and ‘write a blog entry each week’…
*A sort of papery thing that people used before GPS.
**Actually I said the same last year, but we’ll ignore that.
The other day was the sort where you can only find one glove. I’d been working late the night before so I was tired and therefore grumpy, and when I found the other glove (in the jam cupboard, don’t ask me) it was torn on one finger. By this time we were late and we barely got the boys to school in time via several Mercedes infested ‘traffic calmed’ streets. Despite the late working I was still behind schedule, and I had a theatre workshop to prepare for that evening; the job hunting wasn’t going well (although there’s been a bit of progress since, which I will hopefully, possibly hear more on soon); and it was raining with a damp grumpy drizzle that chills the air and your bone marrow. And the farmers had had a ploughing festival the day before where one of the main events was apparently “See who can leave the biggest pile of mud** on the cycleways”. Grump, grump grump.
Which would have made for a bog-awful morning except that:
Youngest Son gave me a huge smile and hug as picked him up out of bed and held on to me like a limpet for thirty seconds before being distracted by his advent calender.
On the way to work I was passing a tree and spotted a buzzard was sitting on one of the low branches, a bare two metres from me. I’m not sure which one of us was more startled by this, but for thirty seconds we stared at each other before he decided I wasn’t going to keel over and provide him with an easy meal, which I’m glad about because frankly, buzzards are pretty big when viewed from two metres, and flapped off to a tree further away.
*The nearest I reckon I’ll get to “Dances with Wolves”.
**I’m going to optimistically assume it was ‘Mud’.