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So last night I was riding the Bakfiets along the main road in the village, in the dark, and noticed I was being followed by something with a lot more lights than I had. Looking back this turned out to be a Big Black Truck.

About a thousand trucks drive through the village every day, which causes much harrumphing from the locals while they wait to pull out from side streets in their 4 x 4’s. This one had just squeezed around the sharp corner at the top of the hill and was rolling  about fifty metres behind my back wheel. I looked again to signal for a left turn, to find it was still there, but noted with surprise that he was hanging well back, giving me space and allowing himself a generous braking distance. Gratified that he was doing his best not to glue me to his massive bull bars, I signalled, pulled across the road and waved to acknowledge that I had seen the fifty tonnes of black and chrome just behind me. I was rewarded by a short flash of headlights with enough candlepower to safely guide ships, which projected my shadow on the buildings opposite.

It being rather late, there was no traffic in the opposite direction, so I could pull into our street easily enough. I stopped to wave again and got a quick honk on the horn and a wave from the shadowy figure in the cab as the behemoth rumbled out of the village into the darkness.

Why can’t it be like this more often?

(And let’s not ask why cyclists are sharing space with such massive vehicles on narrow roads in a small village, that’d spoil the story…)

 

 

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Thursday evening: the box outside the workshop and ready for delivery to college for the judging.

I didn’t take it all the way on the Bakfiets. I designed the project to be small enough for easy transport on the Xtracycle, but this plan was scuppered by having to take lots of tools and wood for the exam on the same day.

Yesterday the three of us being examined delivered our projects and built a chair in seven hours. The official letter to say if we passed or not arrives on Monday.

Right now I’m adjusting to the idea that I don’t have to do any more maths equations…

Gloves, for me, are frequently elsewhere: either forgotten at home, or at my destination, or in the worst case scenario, somewhere in the middle lying forlornly on the road and waiting for me to roll by and pick them up.

For gloves, also read ‘groceries’; ‘shopping’; ‘college notes’; ‘wallet’…  If I can put it down and forget it, I will. I think German Railways are financing a couple of large-scale projects with the proceeds from hats I’ve left on trains, and although I haven’t managed to lose my bike yet I know in my heart that it is only (1) because it is too big to forget easily, and (2) only a matter of time.

So when I set out this week to make some photocopies of rather important certificates, buy some stationery for Eldest Son, and then pick up something from the Chemist for Beautiful daughter, I was determined. Nothing Would Go Missing.

First the printer, I went in, made the photocopies, dropped them, picked them up, sorted them, and departed with everything organised, in the folder, uncrumpled, and without leaving the original on the glass. Success.

Next, the stationery shop, where Eldest and I managed to meet with the minimum of amusing ‘just missing each other’ moments* and we were able to pick up a worryingly small pack pf pens that we carefully zipped into a pocket: you can’t be too careful.

Two down, one to go: the Chemist was the next stop, where they actually had what we needed. This was also zipped away and we headed out of the door. Success was ours, All Items Would Be Delivered.

By now it was getting a little cold. As we stepped outside I reached for my gloves…

*Uses for a Bakfiets #873: instant meeting point/landmark.**

**Do not attempt in Amsterdam.

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Eldest Son tried out the Bakfiets for size on one of the last warm days this year. He’s almost big enough to ride it himself.

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After getting its fifteen minutes of fame a couple of weeks ago, the Bakfiets is now back doing the usual job, carrying 20kg of seed potatoes, 1 kilo of onions, some shopping bags for shopping in the next village, several pieces of very beautiful wood that is apparently uneconomical to work with and therefore fit only for burning unless I took it out of the workshop, three bags of rather smelly compost, a candle and a ‘rubble bucket’ How long before the poor thing gets as filthy as before? I reckon a week.

For those interested the seed potatoes are half earlies and half lates, we are supposed to plant after May the 20th  here because the climate can still throw a wobbly and freeze before then, so I’m not too late this year. As usual I read the label showing the variety very carefully and promptly forgot it before I’d left the shop.

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The Bakfiets spent the weekend being a “Fair Trade” shop at our local church. The shop was part of a general ecological information stand, so it made sense to show people an alternative form of transport as part of the display, and it got us noticed.

As the Bakfiets usually spends its weekends being used as a sort of farm truck, I spent a large part of Friday afternoon scraping the mud and cow poo off so it would be fit to be used for selling foodstuffs: I don’t think it has been this clean since the day I rode it out of Amsterdam. More people asked about the price of the bike than the contents. One or two people made sarcastic comments when they heard the price, then went off muttering when I pointed out it was the same as a car costs in about four months.

We got far more positive comments though, and a special mention in the announcements just for the Bakfiets

And I was allowed to ride my bike into the church hall, so it was worth it for that alone.

*This is a blatant ripoff of this post by Kim Harding.

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It turns out that riding the Bakfiets in all weathers as a family car/removal van/pickup truck/farm tractor, on and off-road in some very hilly places does make an occasional bit of maintenance necessary. Last week the brakes began to protest at my callous lack of attention to their needs by making a high-pitched squeal that caused dogs to howl, horses to bolt and cows to go off milking every time we tried to slow the bike down.

Not having any real experience with roller brakes I sent off an email to the nice people at Workcycles, who as usual responded extremely fast with the advice that the brakes need greasing now and again, preferably about every six months: the Bakfiets is nearly five years old so it was probably a good time to start, once I’d worked out how.

A quick search with the mighty Internet returned lots of advice, mostly with pictures of people dismantling entire hubs and rebuilding them, which was a bit beyond my capabilities, but the Shimano website helpfully showed an exploded diagram of the hub with two little holes which were apparently there for the purpose of adding the grease, but not just any grease, oh, no: this job called for the super-duper Shimano wonder goo which costs the same as molten gold but obviously absolutely essential as with a normal inferior grease the whole brake system would be destroyed. If I hadn’t managed this already.

I rode the Bakfiets over to my friendly bike shop for advice, and after the owners’ ears had finished bleeding from the noise he confirmed that grease was needed. I asked tentatively how much the whole operation would cost, given that the brakes were badly abused in the first place, possible removal and replacement of the hub, and the liquid gold that would be needed to avoid disaster.

He got out a syringe and squirted normal gearbox grease into the two holes. Sorted.

I showered his tips jar with gold, bought two brake levers for the Xtracycle (another story I’ll bore you with sometime) and cycled home. Not a squeak from the brakes.

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Family trip shopping in the next village, taking over a large section of the bike rack at the supermarket.

It was at this point we realised we hadn’t brought a single bike lock between us.

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Bakfiets at the garden, parked with its back wheel in the remains of a pile of cow poo and probably dreaming of nice clean dutch cycleways.

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Shifting stuff down to the garden would be a logistical nightmare if it wasn’t for the Bakfiets. I got hold of a load of used wood and had to take it to store under the roof of the shed.

It isn’t obvious from the picture but the wood does hang over the front by quite a bit. Perfectly safe but a bit lively on bumps. I’m also glad I didn’t have to explain this method to any representatives of the civil authority.

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