2019_10_09_Airport_loop_rain_04Beautiful Daughter had a friend around yesterday, and although Beautiful Daughter is a source of great joy and delight in our lives, other people’s children are an entirely different matter. Besides, I’d dismantled one of the pedals on the Wayfarer and rebuilt it to stop it clicking so it needed a ‘test ride’.

Possibly not the best excuse, but it would do. Especially as after several days of mucky weather, there was actually some blue sky visible.

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I followed a regular route, a long rectangle around the city airport. The bike was riding nicely (and never mind that the back mudguard is still held on with cable ties), weather holding, and all was well with the world.

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After the woods came a small town and then the first headwinds. This slowed progress, but I’d have the wind behind me for the fifteen kilometres on the other side of the airport, so it was good.

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I should have realised this was a trap. As I left the main town for the long exposed section, and naturally almost exactly half way around the route and with the runway between me and our nice dry apartment, the rain began. Nothing too bad, just enough to let you know that it is there and could get a bit more serious if it felt like it, but not enough to make the roads wet and muddy…

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Oh.

The south side of the Airport is given over to growing salads, vegetables and vast amounts of cabbage, and it is picking season so the farmers are driving their tractors around the fields with enthusiasm and bringing large amounts of ‘field’ onto the roadway.

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There is a road under there, honest.

After half an hour of mincing along trying not to slip over on the mud with the rain getting more persistent, I gave up and took a shortcut into the valley, fortunately on a road that isn’t heavily used -which it has to be said did clean out my mudguards pretty well- and climbed the evil hill to our village.

On the other hand, the pedal emitted not a single click, so it wasn’t all bad.

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Sorting out pictures from the recent family holiday I came across this one of all our bikes crammed into the “Bikes and disabled passengers” space on the train from Aalen.

Trains here have started carrying massive icons of a wheelchair and a bike on the outside to show where you can get on, so the drill is that you look for that and go for the nearest door.

Being me, I assumed the door with a wheelchair icon in front of us showed all of the available space, so we squeezed on with the result shown above (the bog was out of order before someone complains we’re blocking the door) As you can’t get five bikes into that space we also had to use the overflow…

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This caused a certain amount of muttering about people who design cycle spaces and who had clearly never actually taken a loaded bike on a train.

Then, by chance we caught the train a couple of days later, and happened to get on the other end. This also had a big picture of a bike on it…

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Enough space to swallow all five of our bikes and several others besides.

No steps either.

So there. Always check the other door…

So I was happily pootling along on my randonneur bike this morning, when a slight rattle from the rear of the bike became a loud clanking noise. Closer inspection revealed that bracket holding the rear mudguard had snapped, leaving said mudguard flapping about in the breeze.

The mudguard itself is made of thin metal and torn as well, so it will need replacing too.

I have another rear guard kicking about*, so option one would be to find another right angle bracket and some extra large diameter washers to spread the load a bit more, and use these to fit the replacement mudguard. This has the advantage that I can keep using my current rear light, because the mudguard has holes for a light to attach to it directly, and I retain my smug green tree huggy glow and can continue to whine incessantly about the throwaway society, et c.

Alternatively It could work out as cheap if not cheaper to replace both mudguards with plastic versions.

Apart from the inevitable smugness dimming this would cause, I’m struggling to find 26″ all-over mudguards that I can afford, and/or look like they may survive more than a couple of kilometres. I’ve had several plastic versions just snap on me and on one memorable occasion arrived at an interview with one held together with gaffer tape, which is why I tend to go old-school.

The other question is if I can fit my rear light on a plastic mudguard. Metal guards are no problem: 3 minutes with a drill and voila, light fitting. Plastic versions look suspiciously like they will snap if I try that.

Any suggestions?

*Minor victory for bicycle part hoarding…

Yesterdays plan went awry because Beautiful Daughter woke up too early.

 

The Plan was to get up early and take the randonneur bike our for a longish test having finally (I think) got the headset to behave.

Unfortunately for this plan, Beautiful Daughter went and woke up before I did*, and decided she wanted to come too, so a ‘test ride on the Rando bike’ became ‘Tour with Beautiful Daughter on the Xtracycle’.

Such is life.

We tried to learn map reading. Notice all important chocolate.

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We followed a route I’ve written about before, and stopped for a picnic in a village.

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And then because we were only half way around the planned loop and time was passing, we cut the loop short and headed back over the hills. Thank goodness for low MTB gearing.

There’s a castle over there. Honest.

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Looking the other way, we can see our village in the distance. Unfortunately there’s a valley in the way so it wasn’t all downhill from here. Beautiful Daughter getting a bit tired.

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After getting back to our village and fuelling up on chocolate, I went out again and returned some panniers we’d borrowed from friends, then came back and discovered I’d cycled 65km, 50 of them with Beautiful Daughter on the back, which probably explains why my legs are aching this morning…

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I can take the Randonneur out another day. Perhaps when it stops pishing it down…

*Read: I overslept…

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I’ve been off travelling again, this time with Beautiful Wife and family on a train/bike holiday a moderately long train/bike ride away from Stuttgart.

Today I came back with Youngest Son after an extra day camping, and now we’re trying to do the washing and recover.

Normal posts will resume as soon as I have the energy…

 

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This week life intervened in a rather frustrating manner, so rather than sit around making the family depressed I spontaneously got on the new bike to see if I couldn’t get my head straight.

I decided this would require more than a quick pootle around the fields and set off for one of my favourite loops, along a valley known as the Siebenmühlental, back down the Neckar valley and over the hills to our village. I also decided to try a new route in the hills.

This would either mean I got around a hill or would give me some new scenery to look at as I winched my way by.

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I took a new route for this ride and stopped to read the information on this monument by the side of the road. It commemorates one Walther von Horwe, knight from the middle ages who accidentally killed his own son while hunting, and as penance went on a pilgrimage to Rome. Clearly finding this wasn’t enough to show his remorse he resolved to carry a wooden cross on the journey.

The pillar commemorates the point where he collapsed under the weight.

Continuing from this cheery monument, I wiggled through some of the outer suburbs of Stuttgart and on to the Siebenmühlental cycleway.

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Which it turns out is just as lovely in the early evening as at silly o’clock in the morning.

 

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Having navigated the low pass into the Neckar valley:

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…I nearly missed the turning for the bridge over the river. I need a bit more practice braking with drop bar brakes.

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I’ve never cycled here in the evening before, which meant that for the first time the sun was in the right place for taking photographs. This proved to be a big distraction…

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Church of St Laurentius in Nürtingen

Past Nürtingen I turned out of the valley and into the ‘rolling hills’ between there and our village. I know the route here well having cycled it at least once a week when commuting to college some years ago, but today I decided I needed a bit more distance and legwork to work off the emotions from earlier, so I went exploring…

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Sunsets: the mediocre photographers best friend.

I thought I’d be clever and get all the climbing done at once, so rode up to the ridge before turning towards the forest. This resulted in my following a track that petered out into nothingness. After asking a friendly dog walker for directions, I ended up going back down the hill…

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And having gone around three sides of a square, I went back up along the track I should have followed in the first place…

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By now the light was fading so I braved the trolls and other forest creatures, and after apparently making a few oncoming cyclists nervous (they had been wondering why a light was apparently floating through the trees at waist height) reached another town, from which there is a bridge over the valley to our side.

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Not this bridge. It was a bigger one, but this is prettier.

By the time I was back on our side of the river, the moon had risen:

 

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Thank goodness for hub dynamos.

Approaching the village, 60k riding and what turns out to be a lot more climbing than on the normal route.

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The bike is riding well, although the headset is a bit funky, and I really need to work on that handlebar tape…

I went to Göppingen: I can’t explain it.

I had an appointment with the Employment Agency which finished early, and my plan was to follow the Neckar river for a bit, then explore up the river Fils. I’d not followed this route before because on the map it looked like a line of semi-industrial towns with busy roads and a Landesstrasse (dual carriageway) filling half the valley, but as I was already in the Neckar valley I decided to give it a try: a short ride to get the bugs out of the new bike.

It turned out to be a line of semi-industrial towns with busy roads and a dual carriageway filling half the valley. I’d planned to find the first village with a bridge, cross the river and come back on the other side, but the first town was so underwhelming that I carried on in the hope the next would be better. And when it wasn’t I tried the third…

And thus, with repeated disappointments, I came to Göppingen. where I took a photo of the railway station railway station because I felt someone ought to.

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The centre of Göppingen looked nice enough.

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But as usual I ended up taking pictures of interesting bikes. Gotta have pictures of interesting bikes…

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There was also a rather exclusive looking clinic/hospital on the edge of town with a large sculpture that I think is supposed to be a modern style St. Christopher…

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As you can see the weather was as exciting as the scenery.

I’d come in on the ‘northern cycle way’, the signage of which I’d describe as ‘variable’: ie, it directed you down a cycleway which expired a hundred metres further, then pointed vaguely towards Göppingen. and gave up. I may have been following the route, I may not, it was hard to tell.

On the way back I tried the ‘south’ route, which sent through a couple of industrial areas before becoming a gravel track between dual carriageway and river, and went on, and on…

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and on and on… and just for a joke got a bit narrower occasionally so I wasn’t entirely convinced it wouldn’t just disappear.

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If we built the road network like these local towns built cycleways, we’d never have a problem with traffic.

Fortunately the next town took a more enlightened approach and had built some real infrastructure, like this rather fun winding bridge.

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Eventually I found the valley towards our village and the local geography improved…

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Having made it back up the hill, the sun finally came out, so I stopped for the obligatory ‘new bike’ picture on the ‘Landscape steps’ in the large new development in the next town but one.

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When I first came to Germany this was a US army base.

I ended up riding 63k (ca. 40 miles) rather more than I was planning. The bike has shown up a couple of problems but rides well. My legs on the other hand expressed their displeasure in no uncertain terms…

Beautiful Daughter views a Picnic as the height of adventure, and yesterday afternoon she was slightly put out that when we went to visit the rabbits we didn’t have one.

She was slightly mollified when we promised one in the evening, but insisted we had to make sure it was a proper picnic, with a cloth to sit on and everything.

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So we did.

I’m also delighted to report that civilisation is reaching Germany: we can now buy decent salt and vinegar crisps, even if they get the name wrong.

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Even better, her brothers came too.

We played Frisby. Here you can see them trying to retrieve the Frisby from the nettles. Again.

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Finally the bike rebuild project is finished, or at least close enough that we can ride it, so I’m calling her done. I’m pretty pleased how it looks as well, considering where we started from:

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Elder Son has frozen onto the machine for commuting: not only that but his brothers have decided they like it too, so I reckon it must ride reasonably well.

When I actually get a chance to try it out myself I’ll let you know…

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I’ve been getting interviewed again, this time so far down on the south end of Germany that I had to go into Switzerland to get there.

The most important question when going to the interview of course was if I should take my bike. I am an interminable and probably quite boring advocate of bicycles as transport but I had three trains to catch and wasn’t sure if lugging the thing all the way down there was really worth it. However, it turns out that German Railways are gradually working out that people who travel by train may cycle and offer this as a specific option when booking. Not only that but I had bike space on all the trains I travelled on.

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I was glad I didn’t bring the Xtracycle though.

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Basel railway station where your I changed from a German train (Right) that had just brought me through Switzerland, to the Swiss Railways local train (left) to continue the journey back into Germany.

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If the Swiss provide bike spaces like this, I’m not complaining.

It also turned out that my possible employers office is right next to a wide paved cycleway, so after my interview was finished and I found myself with about 3 hours before my train, there was only one thing to do, namely follow it.

And thus it was that I accidentally entered Switzerland. The first I noticed was that the cycleway signs had changed from green to red. Once the reason for this had sunk in, I went back to take a look. There was a small sign pointing out that this was in theory a customs border, and a playground on the German side with a low fence running along the exact border, presumably so no-one inadvertently exported a football. The German and Swiss character being what it is the two countries had tarmacked the cycleway to the exact border, so there was a fine, almost invisible, and completely straight line marking the point where I’d just become foreign.

To someone who grew up with the idea that any self-respecting national border should involve about 22 miles of sea, this always comes as a shock.

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I’d never cycled in Switzerland before. Not only that, this part of Switzerland is squeezed in between Germany and France, so I realised all I had to do was keep going and I’d probably run into France sooner or later, thus visiting three countries in one day.** Admittedly I didn’t have a map but France is about 640,000 km² (250,000 sq mi) so it is pretty hard to miss.

A quick look at a tourist map in the city confirmed that if I just followed the tram to the Rhine then turned right along the other side of the river, I should reach the border fairly quickly and get back in time for my train.

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The French border, closed for maintenance apparently, except for weekends.

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But I did ride my bike in France, if only for five metres.

In other news, the interview went well enough that I’ve been invited back to work in the company for a couple of days to ‘see how we get on with each other’. We shall see…

* It will be obvious from this that French is not one of my languages.

**I’m a geography nerd, okay?

 

 

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