Things normal people use while maintaining their bike:

Screwdrivers, hex keys, tyre levers and the occasional large hammer.

Things I ended up using to maintain my bike:

4 metre long belt sanders.

The Deck on the Xtracycle was looking a bit faded after about six years use, and was mostly a uniform dark brown. As I’d spent some time many years ago making it from several different woods to give a nice striped effect this was not ideal, so I gave it a bit of a going over at work to get past the sun bleached layer and find the original colours. After this it needed oiling and of course that meant I had to let it dry overnight, which gave the Xtracycle a strange appearance for a few hours:

The next morning I gave the whole lot a second coat of oil before work started, then fitted the cross pieces back on and dropped it back into the frame at lunchtime ready for the ride back to the apartment.

In other news, I’ve been offered the job I applied for, so in a few weeks the daily commute will go from about 10k to 30k a day. I hope my legs can take this…

I would be the first to admit I’ve been a bit lax about cycle maintenance, but that’s not why I still have spiked snow tyres on the commuter in May.

The thing is, the traffic free agricultural roads in Germany give a great network for cyclists, but they aren’t cleared or gritted in winter, so I wanted to be sure I had frost proofed transport for work. Temperatures haven’t been below freezing for a while now, so I decided it was time to swap tyres on the commuter. This way I’d have two usable bikes again, which would take the pressure of the Xtracycle which really does need some attention after a long winter.

I expect this will now result in a week of apocalyptic level winter weather in the upper Rhine valley; sorry about that.

So after getting back from work, I dug out the commuter bike, and went to get the tyre levers. These live in the little tool bag which… wasn’t there.

A memory of the tool bag on the touring bike last weekend presented itself for attention; in Stuttgart, 200km away.

I considered the options. I didn’t want to buy yet more tyre levers when I had a tool bag and a drawer full of the things. On the other hand, I did need a second bike, and I wanted to swap the commuter for the touring bike next time I went to Stuttgart, as part of the complex never ending logistical exercise of keeping all the bikes where I and other family members need them. I trundled across the village to the local bike shop on the Xtracycle. They were thankfully open and after the usual discussion (“That’s a long bike” “is it a tandem?” It must be really heavy”) paid for two bright orange tyre levers; the colour may be handy as well, knowing my ability to lose things in a phone box.

Back to the apartment, flipped bike over, removed front wheel. Bike tipped backwards immediately because tyres full of metal spikes are rather heavy. I learn this every year.

I swapped the tyres and pumped them up using touring pump which was fortunately in the Xtracycle, and squelched back to the bike shop on soggy tyres to avail myself of the free track pump outside.

Once the tyres were fully inflated the front brake jammed against the tyre. Having no tools due to the aforementioned inconveniently distant tool bag I disconnected the front brake and rode back very slowly, thankful that I’m in a small, quiet village with lots of back roads.

At the apartment I realigned the brake, noting as I did so that it really needed replacing. There’s always something…

Xtracycle on the way back from another interview. On the other hand this was with the same organisation as last time; I’m taking that as a good sign.

The interview went pretty well, I think, and there is talk of offering me a job much closer to where I live for at least part of the week, so this scene could become part of the daily commute. There are worse places to ride every day.

There’s a couple of other advantages as well, I’ll write about those if I get the job.

This is the time of year when being a car free hippy is very easy. I’m usually riding to work as the sun comes up and the local bird population is letting everyone know that they are awake; the Storks are back and at the moment at least, the roads are ice free.

Fortunately this particular road is also closed to motor vehicles. The main road is a couple of kilometres away, full of cars and going through a rather ugly industrial estate.

Notice that the Xtracycle is still in use, because I can’t decide if I should remove the ice spikes of the commuting bike or not. Usually doing this causes sudden freak storms, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures for a week.

I think I’ll leave it until after Easter, then see what happens…

It was a bit cold on the commute this week; so cold, in fact, that my rear gear changer froze solid while I was taking pictures.

I’m used to this as it happens most winters, it’s an unavoidable drawback of the extremely long gear cable; usually I can pull the cable a bit and get it to work again, but this time it was frozen solid.

At some point I’ll get myself into gear (ahem) to deal with the problem, which involves taking the cable apart and slooshing it out with lube or replacing it altogether, depending on the level of crud.

This may take a while though because fortunately the weather generally warms up by the time I’m coming back, which of course means that I completely forget about the problem until the next morning…

Being a car free hippy adds another layer of planning and logistics to job hunting; every new possible employer has to be checked on the map for distance, hills, and if necessary, train links.

Last week I had a very positive interview with an organisation about about 14 kilometres, or 8 miles away, which is somewhat further to the current one and I suspect may come as a shock for this moderately unfit cyclist. Thankfully, the local geography is also cooperating for a change and in those 14 kilometres there’s about 10 metres or 30 feet of climbing, mostly on a bridge. I cycled the return trip after the interview and it’s also almost entirely on traffic free or traffic calmed roads, so it looks possible.

On the other hand I’ll also need a plan B for when I need to be more flexible, it’s snowing heavily or I simply don’t want to bother cycling that day. Thankfully the train only takes about 6-10 minutes to get me to the right town, but of course they don’t like you taking a normal bike on board in peak times. I also have to get to the station and then from the station to work at the other end.

It looks like my usual policy of just leaving the commuter bike at the station all day isn’t going to work any more, so if I’m offered this job I think I’ll have to give in and get a folding bike…

On the way to work this week, always a welcome sight after several months of cold and dark commuting.

Of course it went gloomy afterwards and there’s rain and snow forecast for the rest of the week, but still…

Also, my contract is coming to an end and rather to the surprise of my colleagues it isn’t being renewed, so I’m now brushing off the CV again and making enquiries to possible employers. I suspect this means a longer commute, at least inthe short term, maybe involving trains and things. We shall see.

There’s been a lot of snow in the hills.

Come to that, there’s a lot of hills. When the snow melts it all has to go somewhere, and a lot of it goes through our village.

This explains the extremely well engineered flood defences all along the riverside. It’s still a bit disturbing to climb up the side of the river bank and find the water is higher than the surrounding countryside…

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…

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