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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.

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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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A couple of evenings ago I had to take Beautiful Daughter to her dance club, then pick up two different items in two different towns, and get back within the hour to pick Beautiful Daughter up again. This is the sort of thing that Xtracycles are for.

Unfortunately our Xtracycle is currently still sitting at the back of the garage with a dodgy bottom bracket, so transporting Beautiful Daughter would require the Bakfiets.

Regular readers will have noticed that one feature of this region is Hills; everywhere: the Bakfiets wasn’t going to make it all the way between these towns in an hour.

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So, Plan “B” was developed. As soon as Beautiful Daughter was safely in the dance class I legged it back to the Bakfiets and thundered downhill through the village to the apartment, where the Wayfarer was waiting with the bag attached and ready to go.

That’s forward planning, that is.

I forgot I wasn’t riding a 40 kilo Dutch cargo bike any more and stomped on the pedals, nearly tipped myself off, recovered, rode up the hill through the village, past the dance classroom, to the summit between our village and the next, caught my breath in the way down to the next town, wheezed up a bit into the next town and made the first pickup.

I had actually planned this bit of my route: I was at the highest point and there was gentle descent to the next town, I could make this easily if I didn’t get caught at the pedestrian lights.

I got caught at the pedestrian lights.

I also experienced that strange phenomenon that on a straight, otherwise empty cycleway, the three pedestrians and one dog in view for the next kilometre will always meet and block the cycleway just as you are approaching.

Despite this, when I passed the next tram stop the clock showed that I still had 30 minutes to go, and I was past most of the traffic lights. The next village was a couple of flat, downhill, kilometres away. The second pickup followed within ten minutes, and five minutes after that, our village came into view over the fields.

In another burst of forward thinking (I know, three in one day) I’d locked the Bakfiets outside ready for use. I swapped bikes, stomped on the pedals, felt every one of the 40 kilos I was trying to power back uphill, rattled though the old town, wriggled through a housing estate and arrived with three minutes to get my breathing back down to normal before Beautiful Daughter emerged from her dance class.

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And the main reason for all this exertion? I needed to get a prescription for my Asthma medication…

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One evening this week, Middle Son announced he’d lost his transit pass. Much crashing about in the room later, the transit pass was still AWOL.The problem was that he needs the pass to get to school.

Beautiful Wife suggested Plan ‘B’: Middle Son could take the Commuter Bike, (seen above on holiday near the Swiss Border). This was fine, except that I still needed to go to an appointment in Esslingen and my backup bike, the tourer, had been making funny noises in the front dynamo hub for a week. As usual I’d been putting off doing anything about it, and as usual this was going to come back to bite me.

An idea formed: I have a spare wheel with a hub dynamo that spends most of its time wrapped in a spiked winter tyre. This could provide a stop-gap to ride down the hill: all I had to do was take the winter tyre off the wheel, take the normal tyre off the dodgy wheel, put the normal tyre on the spare wheel, put the spare wheel back on the bike and readjust the brakes to work for the new wheel. In an hour.

This is why you shouldn’t procrastinate.

Still, I made it with minimal swearing. Now I need to sort out the dynamo hub on the main wheel, preferably before I need the spare for the winter tyres.

How likely is it that I won’t put this off until the last minute…

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The change from summer to winter came last week, and we all went from wearing T-shirts to coats and hats and gloves in the space of a few days. More annoyingly the Xtracycle, having given many hundreds of kilometres of service with minimal maintenance is starting to show up problems that cannot be ignored so will have to be taken out of service until I have the tools and bits to fix it.

This means trips with Beautiful Daughter will need to be taken on the Bakfiets for a while.

Last weekend we decided to take the long ride to the local supermarket around the fields, where the local farmers were doing agricultural things with tractors. The fields here can be quite small and the tractors seemed to spend as much time shunting back and forth as they did driving in a straight line.

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Beautiful Daughter wanted to watch until they finished the field but she’d brought along a real spoilsport who said we had to go to the supermarket.

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Job hunting continues to drain time and energy, but after the last shambles of a bike ride I decided I had to go somewhere before the weather closed in.

In an effort to find something new I set off west and ended up going through several bits of Stuttgart’s outer suburbs to avoid a big hill. Any smugness about this triumph of laziness evaporated as I got stuck in a second valley with an even steeper climb out. Then, finally:

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Pause for generic “bike in German woodland” picture.

A few kilometres along the trail I found this interesting feature:

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“WARNING: Boundary of the training area of the US Forces. Entry at own risk”

Hmm…

The sign underneath says “No unauthorised entry” with a long list of things that could possibly happen if you did. On the other hand, the map showed this was the cycleway, and if the US military really wanted to stop people getting in, they could have had a fence across the cycleway. It was also pretty obviously a well used path.

I carried on, and failed to get shot, blown up or suffer any of the other misfortunes the sign warned of.

After passing the military base itself, and then a rifle range, I came to this sign:

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You may have the most powerful military in the world, but don’t you even think of mucking up our forest with your nasty big tanks.

After another discouraging sign (this time for a large corporate headquarters) which tried to persuade us that there was no way to the cycleway that was clearly visible a few hundred metres away, I followed the railway line toward Dettenhausen, on the basis railway lines mean less hills.

How wrong I was. After taking a very poor decision I ended up at the bottom of a rather steep hill with no obvious way forward. A certain amount of swearing later I arrived back in the village I’d left half an hour earlier and stopped to take a picture. Not because I needed to wheeze a bit before getting on the bike again: not at all.

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Still, I made it to Dettenhausen:

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Apparently Dettenhausen is where they got all the stone for Cologne cathedral, although it seems the excitement has worn off considerably since then. It is also the start of a valley that in theory led back to known territory.

It took a bit of finding, but once past the car park, it was all like this:

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Ten kilometres of gentle descent and nice scenery. They even had a natural spring halfway down to fill water bottles.

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Another Generic “Bike in forest” picture. I’m convinced my average speed has halved since I started taking pictures to post on here…

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Then there was another climb, some rolling hills and villages, a short delay dithering about the route, and then I decided that as I was riding the tourer I could go along the valley to the edge of our village.

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Dithering about the next part of the route. It’s tough living here, I tell you.

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Final approach to the village, just before the Evil Hill Of Doom, which never gets photographed. This is because when going down I’m always gripping the brakes with white knuckles, and when climbing I’m concentrating on matters like oxygen supply and getting my heart rate down to a mere purr…

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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