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I’m currently visiting family in York, UK and generally being a tourist, as in wandering about in a bewildered manner getting confused by the simplest things. So far these included the inability of the bus driver to sell me a return ticket, how to ‘tender exact change’ in unfamiliar currency, looking the wrong way when crossing the road (which coupled with the apparent disregard for the pedestrian crossings shown by UK drivers could end badly) and working a self-service till.
Fortunately York is on the tourist trail and full of similarly bewildered foreigners, so I fit right in. I’m even stopping at random to take photos, although on getting home I realised that having walked along the walls, along the river, through the centre and past the minster, surrounded by 800 years of history, my camera card was filled with pictures like these…
Oh, well. I’ll try again, once I’ve mastered crossing the road.
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…
If I’m honest, it’s about five minutes after I wrote my last post: I’m going to let this go online automatically so I have a bit of time to get settled in and sort out my internet connection in a castle in the middle of a field.
Here’s the bike that I’ve been working on, and if all goes to plan, the one which will have transported me some of the way to Schloss Daschow and the Nee-Naw training school. The finished result isn’t going to win any beauty competitions but that’s not the point. The point was to make something reliable but not likely to be stolen. (and as it used to look like this, I couldn’t make it any worse anyway)
Stuttgart is filled to the place denoting filled-ness with cars. This is means the bike infrastructure is pretty awful (a point I will probably labour next month when commuting in the city) but on the other hand, it means that the chances of your bike getting nicked isn’t high. This is because hardly anyone wants a bike, because everyone else drives a car.
Now, I’min a region known for cycling*, and thus a place where bikes get nicked more often. Fortunately Stuttgart helped here as well because people chuck all manner of useful stuff away for the diligent scrounger to collect, so I didn’t have to spend too much to get this bike working nicely, fortunately for you I can’t remember what came from where so you’ll be spared the details. so you’re spared the details, although I know the mudguards came free from a pile of ‘rubbish’ I was able to get at before the council picked it up and the luggage rack came from another bike a customer brought into the shop last year to “get rid of it”. I just knew I’d use it one day. The tyres are reused as well, but that doesn’t count because they were mine and I bought them about fifteen years ago in the UK, which makes me feel old. The Boss at the bike shop is convinced they will end their days in a formula-1 style blow-out with bits flying in all directions and throw me into a ditch somewhere.
But then if I’m going to have an accident, a school full of wannabe ambulance drivers is the place to do it…
*Which of course, I’m not, yet, but you get the idea.
Last week we went to Tübingen. The week had been bright and sunny, so of course it was overcast. Foolishly I agreed with my co-rider, Andi, that we should try a direct route that he’d found on the map. I never learn.
Andi and I have a different approach to cycling an that’s all there is to it. I look at a map and find valleys and rivers and work out a nice flat route towards the goal. Andi just puts a ruler across the landscape and there’s his route. He doesn’t worry about contour lines, but then to be fair he doesn’t notice hills, just powers up them. At least he’s kind enough to wait for me. Occasionally.
So off we went over the hills and far away, where we found more hills and possibly lions and tigers and bears but I was too busy trying to keep up to notice. The downhill bits were fun though.
And eventually, after a couple more hills, and a secret cycleway through a fence, we went through another forest and arrived in Tübingen, where for the first time in a week, it was raining. On the other hand we also had a tailwind down the valley, which meant I could at least keep up with Andi.
And while I’m here, a question for German readers: If you wanted to make a set of wooden mudguards, what sort of glue would you use, and what sort of lackierung? And where would you get it?
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.
Bakfiets making friends at the local supermarket.
Germany has a lot of ‘utility’ or transport cyclists, although the majority seem to hibernate for winter.
I can’t help thinking that if Ostfildern actually made some slightly better infrastructure and kept the cycle lanes clear we would get a lot more, but then my cynical side wonders if more cyclists is exactly what the local government is trying to avoid.