The lack of posts over the weekend was due to the rather sudden end to the flat hunting saga with the discovery of an affordable apartment close to work, and my previous landlady deciding she didn’t want most of the furniture in my current apartment and offering it to me at a very good price.

This was good news as it meant I now had a bed to sleep in, but instead of moving a few cardboard boxes I now had to transport lots of heavy wooden objects. Enter Middle Son who volunteered to come and help with the heavy lifting. The weekend thus involved shuttling backwards and forwards in a company van until all the furniture was in the correct place. This was probably the first time he’s been in a car with me driving in a decade and was thus remarkable for the lack of screaming.

Finally I was able to hand the key back to the manager and get back on a more civilised form of transport for the journey to Stuttgart and the family.

On arrival I discovered that Tinybug has all kinds of activities planned involving bike rides, making things from sticks, and Lego.

If you need me I’ll probably be in a forest somewhere…

One of the issues visible on the latest project bike was that the bottom Bracket was jammed. The Bottom Bracket is the bit where the pedal cranks meet, the frame:

Jammed bottom brackets aren’t unusual: they’re right where all the much and water is thrown up from the front wheel, which can wash the grease out, if indeed the assembler even bothered to use grease in the first place.

All attempts with spanners, pipe wrenches and bilingual swearing failed, so when I had to take a delivery of bikes to another centre, I went to ask a colleague if we could use the monster vice in his workshop. My colleague loves bikes and loves challenges, and was fed up with writing reports so we clamped the removal tool into the vice and turned the frame.

The tool was turning visibly, in fact the vice was moving slightly as well.

So this was it, the end of the story. We’d played nice and tried the mellow hippy approach and it hadn’t worked; it was time to get serious.

I work for a very unusual company, and we have an in-house car workshop, and so the frame was taken down there to be introduced to Mr. Impact Screwdriver:

The operation was complicated by the mechanic assigned to the case not being able to speak more than a few words of German, and yours truly managing to forget the German for “Impact Screwdriver”, but after some mutual misunderstandings, he applied the machine to the Bottom Bracket. Nothing.

After some sign language to communicate the fact that bottom bracket screws are reversed on one side, we had more success; thirty seconds later:

Uses for a bicycle number 198342: Bedsheet dryer.

This was it, I had to make a decision: Forward or back?

I hadn’t really planned to come this far: Yesterday evening a good friend had called and got me all motivated about going for a ride this morning. I’m not sure how, seeing as we’d mostly talked about his job, but nonetheless, after getting off the phone, I’d decided I’d go on a ride.

But not too far; let’s be sensible here.

A quick 50-60k around the Kaiserstühl, a very extinct volcano in the middle of the Rhine valley; yes, that sounded good; it was flat, I knew the route well, so I could just trundle around in my usual way and get back by lunch with plenty of time to tidy up the apartment, which was frankly getting right out of hand, and sort myself out for important things like work the next day, followed by an appointment to view an apartment.

So why was I in France, deciding whether or not to go exploring right across to the Voges mountains?

I’d woken up that morning with the feeling that following my usual route would be a bit dull, a bit lacking in adventure.

Why Not, I reasoned as I tried not to burn my toast on the grill, go over to Neuf Brisach in France and then find European Cycle Route 15 north, and then follow that to… I consulted Google again, spraying crumbs liberally on the keyboard… “Merckolsheim… and then cross back over into Germany?” it’d make the route a bit longer and a bit different, and it’s a canal, canals are flat and you can’t go wrong easily. My leg muscles registered disquiet, and my map only went as far as the Rhine, but undeterred I checked google one more time and made a highly detailed topographical representation of the route:

Two years studying for Geography A-Levels well spent, I think, not to mention GCSE Graphic Design.

Off I went, through the local villages, reached the border and crossed over the Rhine into France, through the curious concrete labyrinth of the planned French town on the other side and into Neuf Brisach, a Vauban fortified town and UNESCO heritage site. It’s also a normal town so there were great monuments and grand gateways next to the plumbers and post office.

Following the highly accurate map and some handy signs, I found Route fifteen and headed north.

The distances the signs showed to Colmar were shorter than I’d thought. At first I ignored this but as they kept getting shorter, my Sense Of Adventure began to agitate, whispering:

“it’s only a few kilometres, and it’s flat…”

“Excuse us” answered the Leg Muscles, “But we’ve not done anything like this for quite some time, so we’d like to just keep going and head back home, thankyouverymuch.”

The distances kept going down: 24km to Colmar… then 20km, then 18… and suddenly the junction of the canal turned up and the sign said “Colmar 15km.”

“Look” said my Sense Of Adventure. “15km, dead straight and dead flat. On Tarmac by the looks of it…”

“That’s 30km there and back” Butted in the Committee For Being Sensible, “It’ll take at least two hours longer. And there’s washing up to do, and the bedding needs cleaning, and have you seen the state of the floor?”

“Yes, and we would like to lodge a formal complaint at the treatment we are being given” added the leg muscles. “We are not used to this sort of thing, and…”

“Only 15km…”

“Ow.”

“Shutupshutupshutup…”

At this point some cycle tourists passed heading for Colmar.

You can guess what happened next.

Back to EU Cycle route 15 and north to Merckolsheim. It wasn’t far from the junction.

“Strasbourg 49km” said the sign.
“Don’t even think about it” said the legs…

There is talk of myself and a friend taking a bike tour in April 2022. Actually, we’ve been talking aout that since we picked up the Bakfiets in Amsterdam over a decade ago, but life always intervened.

On our previous ride we had to catch the train from Koblenz, a little over half way, and the plan had always been to go to Cologne and ride the second half in a more leisurely manner and on more appropriate bikes. This just kicked up a gear when Eldest and Youngest Son both said they would like to join, which I really didn’t expect. It also means I’m one adult sized bike short.

While tidying up the depths of the bike workshop I found this…

The wheels are worn out, and the bottom bracket (where the pedals go through the frame) is rusted solid and will need a Big Spanner to get it out, but it’s worth it for the frame itself.

Elder Son wants to make a new version of the “Wayfarer” bike we built a couple of years ago; this one has 28″ wheels instead of the 26″ of the original Wayfarer because Elder Son is a bit bigger than me, and also I’ve noticed the only issue I have with ‘Wayfarer 1’ is that the frame feels a tiny bit small.

After the tour, assuming Elder Son doesn’t hold onto it, this could replace the original Wayfarer as my commuting bike, so we could put the original Wayfarer back on light duties as I’ve ridden over 6000km on the poor thing over the last year or so.

That sounds like enough plausible sounding excuses reasons, time for the Big Spanner…

I’ve been spending money on bike stuff this week. Unfortunately not on my bike, but equally, it wasn’t my money.

I needed urgently to get some spares and tools for the bike workshop, and now I’d tidied up sufficiently that new items wouldn’t simply vanish in the pile, I placed a few orders.

We have half a dozen donated pumps and they’re all pretty rubbish, so these were top of the list.

I’ve used this make of pumps for over a decade and haven’t managed to break one yet so I’m pretty confident these will work well for us.

The workshop did have a compressor but I don’t like them, and it turned out the “workshop” compressor belongs to the previous mechanic, so I wanted it in storage where it couldn’t go wrong/get damaged.

We also really needed a cassette removal tool, which is this strange looking device, used to help take the rear gears off a bike axle. This was to replace a cheapo version that broke as soon as you waved it at a cassette. I’d ordered one from our regular supplier but it wasn’t turning up and we had several bikes waiting for a replacement.

On Friday morning I called to chase up said order; It turned out that the supplier hadn’t received the email containing last month’s parts and tools order, so I had to give it over the telephone and add this month’s order to it, which rather destroyed my cunning plan to order a bit each month so we don’t break the budget.

The accounts department is going to have a collective heart attack, but they did say to get what I needed…

Organising the bicycle workshop is taking longer than anyone expected, and keeps throwing up surprises. Last week I was trying to tidy up the bike store when I found a very large box full smaller boxes, all containing bicycle spokes, anything from 72 spokes to 500 in a box.

And then I found a bigger one behind it.

I worked in a bike shop for a while, and even rebuilt a wheel once or twice but I have no formal training, so pretty much all my knowledge about bicycle spokes was that they were rather important to the continued forward motion of a bicycle, and that they came in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes. This clearly was insufficient, so I went for my usual solution in these circumstances, and went online.

Well it turns out that as well as being all kinds of lengths, spokes can be different diameters. To make life even more complicated they can be narrower at one end than the other (“single-butted”), or in some cases narrower in the middle and wider at both ends (“Double butted”) Oh, joy,

Eventually I stole found some boxes from the depths of the sorting room and started by separating the single and double butted spokes, which thankfully was helped because the maker had colour coded the boxes, then slowly sorting all the boxes by length, which rapidly became sorting them into within 10mm of length because they were almost all different.

This took a while, partly because I had to clear another shelf to keep the sorted spokes in…

However, by the end of the day the floor was clear and most of the spokes were sorted (We’ll ignore those boxes on the top of the shelves for time being) and I am well on the way to being a spoke nerd.

Now all I have to do is remember how to actually build a wheel…

There are few things worse than waking up with a start at 4:30 in the morning; one is waking up with a start at 4:30 in the morning realising you forgot to set the alarm.

You may well ask why your correspondent is so concerned with getting up as such times in the morning.

Due to the increases in living costs, the German Government has made it possible for people to use local trains for a month with one 9€ ticket. It seems no-one stopped to think that with holiday season approaching, making rail travel throughout the country effectively free may mean a lot of full trains.

The previous week I’d learned the hard way that the only solution would be to get on the first train at silly o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately because it takes an hour to get to the main station, this meant an even earlier start, and now I was half an hour late.

After extensive experimentation, I can now say with some authority that swearing doesn’t slow time down. Fortunately I managed to catch the tram to central Stuttgart.

…and caught the train. Then I remembered that Stuttgart has a period in the morning when bike carriage on trains requires a ticket.

Unfortunately I couldn’t remember when that was, or when I would reach the edge of the Official Stuttgart Metropolitan area. I solved this by not saying anything when the ticket collector came by.

As we approached Freiburg, passenger numbers increased and I suspected I was approaching peak hours again, so I bailed at a place called Lahr im Schwarzwald and started what I call a “Utility Tour”; I was touring, but basically transporting myself from A to B. Not to mention schlepping all manner of stuff for being with the family…

Once out of the town of Lahr, there was the road, stretching away…

This being Germany, every few kilometres there was a village in the fields, which was a welcome chance to stop, get a drink and take some pictures and I absolutely didn’t get lost in any of them; honestly…

Soon I reached my old commuting route, so things got a bit quicker after that. On arrival I remembered that there was no food in the apartment, so out came the Xtracycle for a shopping trip.

With my usual level of organisation I went and bought a big pack of toilet paper, then opened the cupboard to find an unsealed bag full already there…

Beautiful Daughter and I have a tradition: when I’m staying with the family, we eat breakfast together, and watch a cycle touring video.

Then we tidy everything up, and we hit the road.

The usual destination is a forest, or as with this week, a local playground because the water pump has been switched on for the summer.

We got on with some serious civil engineering and learned a bit about water, flow, erosion, dam building, and of course what happens when you knock a dam down again…

Also, paddling was involved.

Tinybug is currently pushing to take our bikes to Japan when we next visit the family, so we can “go on bike tours”.

Flat hunting continues. This is resulting in a lot of interesting rides along new roads to attractive places, but unfortunately not, as yet, an apartment to move into…

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