The “commuting” bike has been attracting attention at work because it is now fitted with metal spikes on the tyres; apparently these are bit revolutionary in this region. Normally, fitting spike tyres on the bike is the best way to ensure a long spell of warm, dry weather, especially as this is the warmest part of Germany with a Mediterranean climate and is known as the “German Tuscany” in the tourist information brochures but the day after I fitted the tyres it snowed all morning, and then over lunch time it snowed, and all afternoon, then in the evening evening by way of variation it snowed a bit more.

On leaving work I discovered that the unfenced road to my village was now an adventure in improvised navigation, especially as it was still snowing, and contrary to the German stereotype of efficiency and logic the road wanders all over the rather flat landscape because apparently it was really important for everyone to experience that field just there, and also because it is theoretically a traffic free route and thus only a couple of cars had ventured along it, so I had some tyre tracks for guidance and that was it.

The snow had drifted randomly between the trees in the forest, and drivers using the route as a convenient shortcut had skidded in the slush, (spraying snow for good measure) and the mess had since frozen solid in places. Winter tyres for bikes are a marvellous invention but when the front wheel finds an interesting groove in the ice it’s going to follow, spikes or no.

The result was probably the slowest, most carefully executed and certainly ugliest cycle commute recorded in southern Germany, a form of forward motion that developed as ride, wobble, panic, dab, scoot along a bit; repeat.

Eventually this section ends at the edge of my village where the cars had broken down the snow a bit more, so I could accelerate a bit and trust the spikes to break through the snow and slush. The last couple of kilometres were merely a bit damp as opposed to white knuckle territory.

Well, if it was always a Mediterranean climate it’d be boring…

Christmas festivities this year consisted in a large part of “cycle tours ” with Beautiful Daughter. She’d worked out that her newly extended range on a bike meant she could go and find new places to visit, and so your correspondent was called upon to find routes to playgrounds in local villages.

Thank goodness for the traffic free road network in rural Germany.

There was also snow, some of which was used to make a snowman, all of 10″ or 25cm tall, but of course priority went to throwing snow at Papa…

Happy Christmas and thank you for coming along for the ride this year.

The daily commute from work; Xtracycle in use again as a wood delivery van.

People frequently opine that it must be incredibly inconvenient to be car free and “only” able to use a bike to commute.

“Yes”, I tell them, “it’s tough”…

Okay own up…

Who stole the view?

Autumn has come, as can be seen above.

We are in a sort of “Lockdown light” so it isn’t causing quite as much disruption as before. Work continues as normal because we are an “essential” service working with people with Psychological disabilities. Of course it means I’m at a slightly higher risk of picking up the bug, but it’s swings and roundabouts…

It also helps that I’m not particularly sociable at the best of times, and live in a rural area so I can keep a good distance from fellow citizens.

Unfortunately there are limits to how many ways I can say “I went on a bike ride” without boring myself let alone anyone else, so I’m looking for ideas. What could I write about that would be of interest? Answers in the comments please…

I’m back in Stuttgart and one of the things I promised Beautiful Daughter was bike rides, so naturally on the first day back it absolutely piddled it down with rain.

Day two dawned and Beautiful Daughter announced that this was the day for a bike ride. I pointed out that it was still drizzling. Beautiful Daughter wasn’t interested.

“If it’s cold and wet we can come back and have lots of hot chocolate”

The promised ride is “To the cow farm and the rabbit farm”, two agricultural establishments nearby. As the name suggests one keeps a large herd of dairy cattle and one has a cunning marketing strategy in the form of a sizeable pen full of cute bunny rabbits alongside the farm shop.

After a steep first few metres, the road levels out for a bit and Tinybug accelerates, for a bit anyway. After a while the hill get steeper and she slows until I catch up with her and put my hand on her back. I wait for the usual instruction:

“Just for the steep bit Papa”

“Okay…”

At the top of the village, away from the shelter of the houses the rain comes at an angle, but Tinybug has her eyes on the reward for the climb: a second road that branches off from ours and around the hill we’ve been climbing. At the turn the pressure on my hand falls way and she’s off, disappearing behind a field of mangy looking sweetcorn; thank goodness for traffic free agricultural roads.

I trudge after her, the rain obscuring the view across the valley. We have an agreed meeting point at the junction between this road and the route to the farm, and as I round the hill I can see her in the distance.

I am a fairly introverted person, in fact for me one advantage of cycling is that I’m not expected to actually talk to people I know. Beautiful Daughter is the exact opposite and will happily converse to anyone who stands still long enough. Even here on an empty hillside in the rain she’s found some kind soul who probably stopped to ask if she was okay (A reasonable question when meeting an apparently unattended five year old in the pishing rain in the middle of nowhere) and is now probably getting an animated account of the ride, last week and matters arising.

On seeing me the relieved looking jogger carries on and we turn up the straight road to the cow farm. The cows are all in their nice dry barn; sensible creatures, cows.

It occurs to me that the rabbits are probably following a similar policy, and clearly Tinybug is thinking the same thing. At the next junction we can go right to the Rabbit Farm or left to take the short route back to the apartment. She is clearly weighing up the options

“What are you thinking?”

“It’s cold.”

She weighs the decision: Rabbits or hot chocolate? Hot Chocolate wins.

After a small hill the rest of the route is back into the valley and she’s off down a nice flat concrete road. I find her waiting by our regular meeting point, the “Red House”, home of a local sculptor who puts artwork along the grass verge. I find her looking critically at a complex abstract piece that probably took weeks to produce and is likely worth tens of thousands of Euros.

“Can we climb on that?”

From here I can watch her all the way down to the end of our road so she can roll ahead again until the corner and we come to the apartment together. Bike parked and she’s bounding up the stairs two at a time, no small feat for a five year old.

“What’s the hurry?”

I get that look children give hopelessly forgetful adults.

“It was cold, so we get Lots of Hot Chocolate…

My commute took an hour today, which is as long as it used to take when I worked in central Stuttgart.

On the other hand, it looked like this:

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And according to the signs, there’s even more where this came from:

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Further exploring will follow, although hopefully with a better camera.

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Saddles are possibly the most important part of a bike when riding: a poor saddle can ruin any enjoyment of cycling, not to mention the quite unpleasant health consequences that are the stuff of cycling forums.

A long time ago I needed a new saddle for the Xtracycle and finally sprung for a Brooks, known as the Rolls-Royce of saddles, and after a few hundred kilometres of “breaking in” (either of the saddle or of my anatomy, opinions vary) it has been resounding success, with many more years still in it.

I decided to get one for the touring bike. Unfortunately about the end of the “breaking in” process, the protective upper surface began to rub off the saddle, which looked ugly and also meant it wasn’t going to last very long.  The shop in Germany quickly replaced the clearly defective saddle and all was well, except that the process repeated itself.

Brooks in the UK lived up to their extremely good reputation, offering to replace the saddle if I sent it. Then they went into C-19 lockdown.

There are more important things in life than a saddle, so I used the old one for a while longer. Last month an email came through that Brooks were open for business, the old saddle went off to Wolverhampton and a replacement arrived quickly, along with a large tin of proof hide, cloth, and very nice rain cover.

Now it’s fitted to the bike, and so far has travelled about 500k with no sign of untoward damage to the saddle or to me. Everyone is happy.

I was feeling a bit rough today and it was entirely self inflicted…

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By which I mean I stayed up reading late on Saturday, then went for ride into the hills on Sunday…

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…in which I completely failed to make a metric century, because just after taking this picture the sky went black and the resident cycle touring expert had completely failed to pack anything waterproof.

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This resulted in a race 40k back down the valley to get back before the weather went all apocalyptic. I made it back dry but exhausted and compounded this by not eating properly, sleeping badly, setting off for work this morning in a slightly muggy state of mind.

On previous occasions when leaving the apartment in this state I’ve been known to forget to lock the door, thankfully the apartment is in a rural area and invisible from the road, but I wasn’t about to make a habit of this, so today I made a point of turning the key in the lock and left feeling muggy but smug.

However, on my return this afternoon I remembered that while locking a door is important, I should also attend to other details.

Primarily, making sure the door is actually closed first…

 

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