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I was off being interviewed this week, this time in Rottweil, (yes, where the dogs come from) on the Edge of the Black Forest. My cunning plan was to cycle to the edge of Stuttgart, catch the intercity train to Rottweil, cycle to my interview and back, then catch the train to the edge of Stuttgart again, and cycle across to our apartment.

This would save money, avoid the horrors of central Stuttgart, and increase my smug green glow.

Except that the tickets include a “city ticket” at both ends, which are valid on all public transport in Stuttgart and Rottweil for the whole day. This is great, except that I didn’t notice until after I’d paid an extra 10€ for a bike ticket…

On the other hand, I could still avoid central Stuttgart, and I could do some cycling for a bit, so I reckon I’m still ahead.

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Last week we had a much of the foul wind and rain as everyone else so I set to work on the Xtracycle. This has been out of use for a few weeks with a worn bottom bracket, the axle that runs through the frame connecting the pedals. This part of a bike takes a lot of punishment and mine had gone all wobbly, and while I waited for a replacement I decided to take the opportunity to clean the chain wheel (seen above) because I’m exciting like that.

This chainwheel is one of the few parts that was already attached to the bike in 1997 when I bought it from the long-defunct “Shepherd’s Cycles” in Wellington in Somerset. Remarkably for a chainwheel that has seen 20 years of use in all weathers, it is still going well, but it was ever so slightly mucky.

As usual I attacked it with a complete lack of a plan and whatever seemed a good idea at the time. I ended up going at it with an old toothbrush and some cleaning alcohol, and twenty minutes later, it looked like this:

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Notice the second image is taken on the balcony. This is because using the cleaning alcohol indoors for any length of time would mean I wouldn’t care how clean the chainwheel was…

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On a longish ride last week I noticed a creaking sound whenever I pedalled. it was light but constant, on every pedal stroke:

Push, creak… push, creak… push, creak…

I stopped pedalling and coasted for a bit:

Silence.

This didn’t sound good. In fact it sounded like the bottom bracket was loose. This is where the pedals go through the frame and a loose one is just the sort of thing that you don’t want 50-odd kilometres from your destination. I carried on for a bit:

Push, Creak… push, creak… push, creak…

Stopped and checked the pedal cranks to see if there was anything noticeably loose. All seemed solid. I started again:

Push, Creak… push, creak… push, creak…

Suddenly the penny dropped. I stood up on the pedals…

Silence.

Sat down:

Creak… Push, Creak… push, creak… push, creak…

Bounced on the new saddle:

Creakcreakcreak…

Can you oil saddle springs?

2020_01_17_Tübingen_one_way_01

Last Monday I managed to have two appointments: one in a town a few kilometres away, and another job interview, this time in Tübingen, some 50k to the south.

Our public transport system is efficient at taking people from the edges of Stuttgart to the centre; it isn’t so good at carrying people from one part of the outskirts to another. An organised person would solve this by making sure that the two appointments were on separate days.

I am not that person.

I worked out that with an earlyish start I could cycle the 10k to my first appointment, then catch three different trains to Tübingen, ride to my interview with time to change and scrape the worst of the muck off, and then afterwards cycle back. This would also give me a shortish ride to test out the Brooks saddle recently fitted to the bike.

It turned out this was the best possible plan because that morning all the local farmers were protesting some government policy by driving their tractors along all the main roads. Sunrise was accompanied by the sound of hundreds of diesel engines and car horns, with your correspondent passing the whole procession on the bike lane.

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Thankfully the first appointment was right next to the railway station so after it finished I legged it down to the train, and after a moderately epic journey found myself in Tübingen. I rode to the interview venue, and an attempt to look civilised in the privvy, and went to my interview.

After making polite conversation for an hour I reversed the transformation to become a car free hippy again, and joined the cycle route to Stuttgart.

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To my rather great surprise I found myself at the “blue bridge” only 45 minutes after leaving Tübingen. This is about 15k from the city and normally takes at least an hour.

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Some context is needed for this. I’m used to being one of the slowest riders in a group, and I’m usually found at the back or taking a similar role to all those tractors I’d encountered earlier. Either there was a strong tailwind, or this bike was a fair bit faster than I thought.

Right then…

The next waymark is the town of Nürtingen, about fifteen kilometres away and usually another hours riding. It was 3:45pm, If I pushed it a bit and stopped faffing about taking photographs quite as much, I could make Nurtingen in under an hour as well. That was pretty fast. Well, for me anyway.

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Okay, so I took a few photos…

Chain up onto big ring, and off we went, through the next village, over the river on the road bridge, and back onto the cycleway. This zigzagged for no apparent reason through the fields, then back to the road where it gave up and became a footpath before becoming a road in an industrial estate. After this a graceful bridge crossed the river and onto a fairly busy road, so busy in fact that there was a traffic jam, so I was and slipped between two cars for a few seconds before cutting through the village itself.

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Another bridge (Okay, so I took a picture there too, I told you I wouldn’t be that fast) and I was out in fields again. This lasted several more kilometres and there was a strong feeling of Deja-vu as the cycleway gave up in yet another village. This became a park with a curving pedestrian/cycle bridge which once again became an utterly inappropriate cycleway and a dangerous turn to a road which was at least straight, so I pushed a bit to the edge of the houses.

Here the cycleway follows a farm road, and I swung onto this with graceful aplomb, and remembered why this wasn’t a good idea when I hit the first pothole. Some loosened teeth later, the cycleway turned through horse pastures, past a small resort, with the restaurant still closed and shuttered for the winter. Then there was a forest, and I was back alongside the river with rowers charging up and down the now slow flowing water. Ahead of was a road bridge, and then the church tower at Nürtingen came into view, reflected in the water.

Unfortunately it was showing 5:20pm, which meant I was even slower than before.

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Then I cleaned the muck off my glasses, and looked again.

4:20pm.

I’d just cycled 15km in about 35 minutes.

Of course the fundamental rule of cycle touring is that riding as fast as you can for 30km is a bad idea when the next 15km is going to be rather hilly.

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I probably should have thought about that sooner.

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Absolutely worth it though…

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Temperatures in the mornings are currently between -3 to-6°c (ca.26 to 22 °F). Despite this I’ve been riding to interviews and other official appointments quite a lot. This saves time and money and allows this introvert time to unwind. Besides, after the first hill I don’t really notice the cold anyway.

Unfortunately it doesn’t make for interesting blog posts.

Above is the touring bike on one of those trips. This was on the way back mid-morning, and it was still well below freezing. This is actually an advantage, as the surfaced roads are dry and the cold makes any mud freeze solid so I save on bike cleaning.

 

2020_01_06_Kemnat_Bakfiets_00

In case you think I spend all my time exploring interesting new places and enjoying myself, here’s a “Utility Ride” with the Bakfiets, hauling toys that Beautiful Daughter has grown out of to their next user.

There’s an informal system of passing toys and clothes around between families in the village, so you don’t as much own items as have free loan of them until they fall to bits.

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This, I’d add was a real “utility” ride to get stuff done, so there was no gallivanting about the countryside afterwards…

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Enjoying the sunshine…

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Any evidence to the contrary can safely be ignored.

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I’m glad we’ve sorted that out.

2019_01_01_Tübingen_Lunacy_02

Signing up for a challenge to ride a set distance for every lunar month of 2019 seemed like a good idea at the time: I’d be motivated to ride more, explore new and interesting places, and get fitter et c. Images of a Svelte healthier version of me slipped through my over active imagination, zipping along cycleways in bright sunshine.

This seemed less appealing when the alarm exploded at 5am on New Years Day.

I’d even said I’d ride 100km (60miles). For goodness sake. Why didn’t I say fifty? Or perhaps fifteen.

Pulled myself out of bed and ate lots of toast. Got dressed. Put coat on.

Checked the weather: minus 3°c (26°f).

Found thicker coat, manned up and went out into the dark and stormy night.

Well dark and foggy morning anyway.

The first section of the ride went uneventfully, if we ignore missing the first turn in the valley because of the thick fog, and the “short cut” which was churned up by tractors, and flooded. Attempting to get around the large puddle in pitch darkness resulted in getting tangled up in a bush. It took so long to get back out that “Sunrise from bush interior” seemed a likely header picture.

Things improved when I reached the long distance cycle trail, as this at least was surfaced and relatively flat. The sky was lightening as well, which helped avoid any more arboreal encounters, and to my rather great surprise I managed to reach the summit I was aiming for to take the “First Sunrise of 2020” image.

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Straight after this I dropped down into the fog-filled Neckar Valley. Oh my goodness it was cold; really, really cold. Ice forming on the bike cold. Losing all sensation in my fingers cold.

Cold, cold, cold, cold, cold

You get the idea.

Sat on my hands in a bus stop. Considered going back, but I’d still have 40k by the shortest route and Tübingen was about 15k away by this time. The sun was beginning to burn through the fog: If I kept the gloves on instead of taking pictures every few minutes I’d probably be okay until it warmed up.

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Sunshine, warmth…

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Tübingen was clearly getting over a collective new year hangover. Walked up the deserted street feeling smugly superior for being awake, and trying to get the circulation in my feet to work again. I stuffed down cereal bars and Skittles in the square outside the church to the accompaniment of someone practising something beautifully complicated on the organ inside.

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Contrary to appearances I do actually plan these rides, and I had a sensible reason for cycling to Tübingen: the ride back is slightly down hill for the first 35k.

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Thankfully, it was also warmer; the sun was out and the fog was gone…

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…so I could relax a bit

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and generally pretend I was that svelte version of myself zipping along the roads, and the reason I was stopping was to take photos, not get my breath back after every hill.

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Still, I managed the ride in about seven hours including stops for photos, eating and defrosting; not too bad considering my last longish bike ride was a few months and several Christmas dinners ago.

Now I just have to do the same 12 more times before December the 31st.

 

I only had one resolution last year, to ride an imperial century (100 miles or 160 km), with a possible stretch goal to do a 200k afterwards if I managed this.

To my rather great surprise I managed the 100 miles, kind of by accident but we’ll ignore that bit.

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To get to this I was more motivated to make lots of practice rides and commute more by bike, which did my personal fitness levels a lot of good, and meant I got to see lots of nice places.

I didn’t manage the 200k though, so that’s something to work on for this year.

We also managed to finish the bike rebuilding project, turning an elderly and rather ugly mountain bike into a drop handlebar tourer.

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We’re still getting the bugs out of that one, but I’ll need to sort it out soon as I’ve signed up for a new challenge, cycling 100k for every lunar cycle in 2020…

 

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I need to get one thing clear: this is about a utility ride: it wasn’t for anything frivolous or fun, but for serious stuff and errand running. Don’t get the idea I was enjoying myself.

Glad we’ve sorted that out.

We make our own Christmas/New Year cards, and having made a digital copy, I needed to get it printed off. Unfortunately our local printer had closed last year, so I had to go to Esslingen, the local big town. This is a mere 5 km away, but also about 200m downhill.

As usual, I have no pictures of the downhill section, because it squeezes those 200m of altitude into about 1.5 km so I spent it in the usual way of holding onto the brakes to keep the bike under control.

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Still, it could be worse. Esslingen is a bit like York but with a rather larger old city. At the time, it still had the Christmas market…

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And opposite that, the “Medieval Market” which fits well into Esslingen, the city banner even makes a good ‘medieval’ flag. This is a major tourist draw, bringing in people by the coach load. Apparently it is particularly popular with the Swiss.

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“Olde Worlde” ambience only slightly marred by electrical trunking crossing the entrance.

Motorised traffic is heavily restricted in the old city, but bikes and pedestrians can travel along all the back streets. Bicycles tend not to go too fast because on anything but a full suspension bike those cobbles would loosen your teeth.

I wasn’t about to climb up that hill I’d just come down so after cutting through the city, I left via the Wolf’s Gate

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(No entry for cars, bicycles allowed)

And back into the 20th century. Well, mostly.
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I took a dog leg through a couple of valleys which eventually brings me back to just below our village. This way I climbed most of those 200m gradually, leaving only a relatively short steep section.

The route goes through some villages…

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And past the old hunting lodge of the kings of Württemberg before there was a revolution in 1848 and they were booted out.

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There is even a road from the “country residence” to the hunting lodge, Called the “Königstraßle” or “Little Kings Way” Now this is a traffic free “agricultural road” which brought me to the bottom of the evil hill to the village.

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Yeah, it’s tough. I wasn’t having fun at all..

Chainstar

It’s that time of year again.

For once I managed to be vaguely prepared by combining model making and cycling, using bicycle chains to make into Christmas decorations to send to people.

This outbreak of forward planning was very nearly ruined mid-November by yours truly tidying up and very nearly pitching all of the hoarded bike chains into the bin.

Thankfully I managed to remember in time, and thus strike a blow against global capitalism.

So, Happy Christmas to you and yours, wherever and however you spend it…

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