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Spring is supposed to be on the way in theory, and I really need to ride more. I tell myself this when the alarm goes off stupidly early on Monday morning: I have a late shift, and don’t need to be in work until 10:00, but I’ve foolishly promised myself I’d go on a “medium” (10k) commute to try and get my miles back up again, so after breakfast I leave my apartment and ride away from work, towards the forest. My neighbours probably think I’m mad.

The first kilometre or so is getting out of my village; past the local high school, but pretty soon I’m away from buildings and turn into the forest. This apparently hasn’t got the memo about Spring yet as the trail is wet and slightly squelchy. Thankfully this is just last years leaf mulch and nothing more. There’s not much green yet but the forest is clearly full of birds who are either advertising to other birds or more likely trying to intimidate them, but rather like the sound of children playing it sounds very nice as long as you don’t know what they’re saying. The allegedly Roman drainage canals are pretty full, and there are sudden patches of rough stones hidden under the remaining leaves; hitting these unawares with my semi-road tyres is a great way to make sure I’m awake, and get rid of any loose fillings.

The turning point at the south of the ride is a very large covered bridge. this means climbing an actual gradient. Okay so it’s very gentle and surfaced with extremely smooth tarmac for the benefit of pupils at a nearby school for people with disabilities, but it’s a real, genuine climb, so there.

The fact there’s even a view from the top merely emphasises the extremely horizontal nature of the surrounding countryside.

Down the other side and into the village of “Wasser” (Lit: Water) Where the tiny fire station is hosting a new Crane nest. The village includes a handy bridge, useful for crossing the river and taking pictures of the magnificent 1240m (4068 ft) Kandel mountain in the sunrise, just because I can.

Emmendingen is the local big town. It’s pretty cycle friendly, a subject I’ll probably return to in future. Amongst other things a large part of the centre is closed to cars but open to bicycles and buses. I could go around here but I tend to go through the centre because it gives a bit of variety, and I like the old buildings. Of course I’m usually worrying about being late for work by this stage so I haven’t got many pictures.

Back along he river. Of course at this point I’m not only approaching work, I’m also riding towards my apartment. It makes sense to me so don’t spoil it..

Last view of the Kandel before work; despite my fretting I arrived in plenty of time.

Workshop last month; some way to go…

This week saw the final stage of The Great Tidying, which has been happening off and on for a while in preparation for an external health and safety inspection. Last month saw the final eviction of all the dangerous and pointless items in the storeroom, which was a good step forward but the intense clearing has meant the Workshop became something of s dumping ground for bits and pieces we’d certainly need but hadn’t time to sort out immediately.

Of more pressing concern to the manager was the three carpets thrown down some years earlier as cheap anti-slip mats. These were now filthy and curling up at the edges making them the sort of trip hazard that features in “What is wrong with this workshop?” training examples.

The removal of the carpets immediately improved the atmosphere from “dingy living room” to “vaguely professional workshop” mind you, you’d have to squint and ignore things like the slowly disintegrating cupboards. In particular the backs of these cupboards, not designed to hold heavy bike parts, were breaking away from the sides and top.

Being short on time, I put the cupboards along the wall, which wouldn’t solve the problem but would hide it, so I could pretend it wasn’t there for a few weeks.

Being too lazy to empty the cupboards, I borrowed a pallet wagon and rolled them into place.

Now things looked a lot better, but I knew the floor would be dangerously slippery as soon as I used any oil. A few minutes in the store with a donated carpet and a cutting knife and I had three new “anti slip mats”. Hurried application of yellow and black warning tape and they looked halfway professional and not at all like some old carpet placed on the floor upside down.

By the time the inspector arrived, the workshop looked like this:

The inspector was happy, the boss was happy, There was even cake at the staff meeting…

Now I need to show all this tidying will bear fruit in terms of repaired bikes and turnover…

The current bike project requires a set of lugs to be brazed onto the frame for the gear levers because I can’t use handlebar mounted levers like sensible people. It took a bit of organising but last week was supposed to be the moment where everything came together and I could I deliver the bikes to our in-house garage for the mechanic to fit lugs to frame so I could get on with making the bikes roadworthy.

The frames had been marked up ready, and the packet of lugs has been carefully kept in my kitchen where I’ll see it every day because otherwise I’ll lose them. This has been the case for over a year now.

So naturally when I went to get them the evening before delivery day, they were not there.

Poo. And other words.

Checked model making bench, checked bike bits box. checked drawers, cupboards and Xtracycle panniers. Found many useful things I’d been looking for, but no bike parts. Realisation dawned; I’d taken them to work, obviously; they were in my cupboard in the bike workshop. Panic over; went to bed.

Except they were not at work.

More rude words; this failed to make lugs appear.

Back to apartment, fortunately a few minutes away. Much digging in the storage cupboard: boxes litter apartment. Nothing.

Hang on. I checked my panniers right? Of course I did; that’s the obvious place if I remember taking them to work, I must have checked them.

Right, but did I check both panniers?

Looked in other pannier.

Lugs found.

Lock up apartment.

Back to work.

Bike and lugs delivered safely to our in-house car workshop. They made many comments about demanding customers, but promised to “Do what they can”.

In the meantime, the paint has arrived:

How long before I lose this, do you think?

The storage area for the bike workshop has been feral since long before I took over, and entering it has always been something of an adventure akin to looting a booby trapped pyramid.

With a health and safety inspection announced for next month this clearly will not do, I set a deadline for sorting the worst of the store to a state where the inspector wouldn’t be in danger of tripping over bike parts.

This got me moving a bit faster than my usual “Never mind we can do it tomorrow” type of speed.

I’d already removed some of the most dangerous/ useless items, to the accompaniment of indignant howls from various clients, but last week the order from the top was “Throw everything you won’t use”. I decided this was a good time to deal with the strange construction in the corner including the Shelf of Evil, launching point for cycle components to attack unsuspecting bike mechanics.

The area below the Shelf of Evil was a safe haven for many unmatched and broken pedals, chain wheels, and a mudguard colony that self-identified as a kraken.

This took a day of sorting out broken parts…

However, eventually I found the floor…

And replaced the strange bins with a pair of tables borrowed from another part of the store:

Meanwhile the wheel breeding colony had long been developing territorial ambitions:

Thanks to my current client who patiently helped dismantle and remove the remaining wheels therein, I was able to replace those very dodgy hanging rails and finally get the colony under control:

The ‘handlebar rack” came about after I tidied the rack by the entrance and realised it was held up by two screws, a cable tie, and presumably, skyhooks, so a replacement had to be built, and fast.

On top of this my very accommodating client helped dismantle the rest of the Shelf of Evil and then removed the strange contraption for storing seat posts, so I was -just- able to finish tidying up the opposite corner by the end of the working day yesterday:

This isn’t the end of this project, merely a step to make sure the storeroom passes the H&S inspection. After the inspection we will take some donated kitchen units and place them around the room, with the wheels hanging above from brackets on the wall to save space.

You’ll also notice I’ve not added pictures of the workshop itself; this is because it spent the week being a dumping ground/tool store for what we were doing here and looks like a pigsty whose occupier lost interest. Once it is vaguely presentable I’ll show the changes we’ve put in there…

Yes, I know, it’s well on the way into the second month of the year, but still…

Last year managed to be pretty eventful without having any particular resolutions, to be fair; I started unsure of where I was going and then was offered the opportunity to take over the bicycle recycling workshop, which was a pretty good outcome. Still, a few goals in general wouldn’t be a bad thing. so here goes.

Finish tourer 2.0

This really should be a lot more to this then a slightly rusty frame hanging in the bike store. It needs the appropriate lugs to take bottom bar shifter and a few other alterations besides, a coat of paint, and maybe if I’m feeling adventurous, a set of decals. We shall see. On the subject of paint, the original tourer would benefit from some touching up as well, and the Xtracycle is looking a bit tatty…

Ride more

Because of the location of the bike workshop and my new apartment my commute dropped from 20-30k (12-18 miles) to walkable in ten minutes. I went out for a ‘regular’ 60k ride a couple of weeks ago and my goodness but my legs were letting me know about it by the time I got back, so as the weather improves I’ll increase the commute and take more rides to recover my fitness, especially with a possible tour coming up in April…

With these developments I really should write more, especially here. Writing is like riding: if I don’t do enough the ability goes away and you end up in a vicious cycle, so I’ll try and post here more regularly and get that back into action.

One of the many advantages of my job this month was being able to build Beautiful Daughters bike for her. Unfortunately this didn’t work out as planned because some parts needed replacing and our supplier dropped the ball in the last weeks before Christmas, but we’ll gloss over that.

After someone further up in the company than I had words with the supplier, the missing parts for several bikes arrived. Unfortunately this meant I had to prioritise the showroom bikes, but at least I can get on and finish the bike fairly soon.

I’ll have to move quickly though, as Middle Son also needs a new bike and there is talk of a bike tour in April…

Oh, yes; happy new year.

I’ve gone on at length since moving here about the novelty of having a flat, short commute to work at last; so why, you may ask, was your correspondent to be seen wheezing his way up the side of the Black Forest last week?

Well, it turns out that suddenly changing from riding 20-30km a day to riding less than 2 km is not good for general fitness levels, especially with the underlying Asthma. I’d barely settled into the new route when I was floored by my first cold in years, so I’ve been looking for alternatives for the morning routine that involve a bit more exercise.

This ride had started out relatively sensibly. I’d set off from my village towards the extinct volcano known as the Kaiserstühl, and the French Voges mountains. In theory anyway, as there as a layer of fog and low cloud, but they’d been there last time I came this way so presumably they were still there somewhere. This takes the rider over the Autobahn, and past the big sign directing cars to “Karlsruhe” or “Basel (Switzerland)” which still feels incredibly exotic, and certainly more exotic than the industrial estate next to it. This is dominated by huge concrete silos owned by a firm making septic tanks. On the other hand local companies like this are what stops small villages dying or becoming dormitory towns, so I shouldn’t complain.

The next village is Nimburg. At first it’s quiet but suddenly I find where everyone has gone: there are cars everywhere, on the road, pavement, up grass verges and in every flat corner. People are streaming in and out of a gate under a grand sign announcing the entrance of “Nimburg Stadium”, the grandness slightly tarnished by the fact it’s longer than the gate itself, which would not look out of place on an allotment. The annual festival is clearly running and doing a roaring trade, as would a traffic warden should they choose to wander this way.

After negotiating what seems to be half of the county, then the entrance to the local small animal society, and various groups getting one last barbecue at the local picnic ground, I reach the forest; this is mixed beech and oak woodland growing in the fertile flood plain. It’s also apparently damp enough to need lots of drainage channels. A sign proudly says that some of the channels date back to Roman times, and judging by the surface, so do some of the trails. If Julius Casear had used a bicycle his first words on arrival here wouldn’t have been “Veni, vidi, vici” but “Ow, Ow, Ow…”

Thankfully the jarring soon gives way to a surfaced road, which passes yet another sports centre; (Germany must have the highest density of sports centres per head on the planet) and then to a main road which is supplied by a good segregated cycleway. I’m cycling from one route I know well to another so I’m soon back in familiar territory, and back onto the river path to the local county town.

At this point I could just follow the river path to my own village, but at this point I decided to try out my Very Silly Plan. This involved riding through the county town and taking a turn towards the hills.

The edge of the plain is a sudden climb into the foothills of the Black Forest with little warning. This is actually useful: I’ve forgotten my map, but generally travelling in the direction of Up means I find the way and I’m soon following a steep sunken lane more reminiscent of Devon than Germany, leading to the village of Malterdingen.

I manage another wrong turn here but soon I’m out of the village and following the cycleway up through the last of the vineyards, squeezed onto the few south facing hills before the forest takes over. As I cross a bluff the castle in Landeck, my goal for the ride, comer into view. Unfortunately it’s a fair bit higher than I am, just below the clouds and clinging to a bluff that would probably make it famous if there were not dozens of similar castles all around the region.

More climbing on a thankfully surfaced road, and then there’s another summit with a commanding view of the valley, the Kaiserstuhl, and the French Voges mountains beyond. I know this because there’s a large colour picture with all the sights labelled. This is what sensible people who don’t come up on a cloudy day get to see. My view, on the other hand, shows the last half mile or so of the road I just climbed, and then a lot of greyness.

Finally the road reaches proper trees and the actual cloud layer, as opposed to mist. it also meets the main road out of the forest on a cartoon hairpin just above the village and its castle.

Landeck is the sort of village where houses have two floors more on one side; the street entrance for several buildings is effectively in the attic. The only vaguely flat bit is taken up by the castle, with a tiny space left for the town hall and fire station, and a war memorial. The castle itself has long been a ruin, but it does give one of the best bus stop locations I’ve seen in a long time:

Eventually I point the bike down the road into the valley. Not for the first time I’m startled to find that it only takes ten minutes to roll from the apparently remote village in the hills to the busy valley. Soon I’ve passed back through Malterdingen and I’m approaching the main road and railway line; about three minutes after that crossing the river on the last few metres of my normal route to my apartment.

I’m sure a day will come…

…when commuting here seems normal or boring…

… but it hasn’t happened yet.

The chain on the my long bike (above) had been making rattling noises for some time, and the bike had long regarded gear changes as suggestions which it would think about for a bit and then possibly follow, or maybe not. Frequently it would jump gears or more likely, wait a bit until I’d forgotten about it and then suddenly change at an awkward moment.

This clearly would not do, especially now I have a workshop at my disposal, so this week I put the bike on the stand and had a look at it.

The chain on a bike will eventually wear out with use, and as it gets worse it starts to wear the gears, so it should be changed every few thousand kilometres. I couldn’t actually remember when I’d last changed any of the parts on this bike, but I knew it was before I moved to the Breisgau a couple of years ago, and possibly even before I cycled my first imperial century back in 2019, so it was probably overdue.

Many years ago I’d reluctantly changed from a seven speed system to an eight speed, simply because it as getting difficult to find spare parts for seven speed gear systems. The Xtracycle had always refused to accept the march of progress and had consistently jumped a gear. Strangely the gear was different depending on whether I was changing up or down.

I’d accepted this as part of life’s rich tapestry, because of the sheer length of cable on a long bike, but with some more experience in setting gears I wanted to see if I could persuade it to cooperate. I’d noticed that even a few centimetres difference on a gear cable could affect performance dramatically so I decided to see how I could make the new cable as short and straight as possible.This meant applying the “scientific method” ie: Trial and error. I ran the new cables along a route that seemed a good idea at the time and cable tied it to the frame where I could. This is about as close to engineering as I get, I’m afraid.

To my astonishment, it worked, and that without having to drag the gear levers back and forth as before. It also had ceased to make sufficient noise to frighten wildlife and small children.

I even had time to fine tune the brakes, so now the bike will start and stop on command.

There are rumours of a bike tour with the Boys in a few months; I’d originally intended to use the Wayfarer tourer but now that this bike is working better, possibly than ever before, I’m wondering if this would make an acceptable ride, so I’ll have to try some medium distance rides on it over the next weeks.

It’s tough, but I think I’ll manage it…

“A customer has come with a bike,” said the sales team on the phone “She said she bought it last week and the gears don’t work”

“Oh dear.” I replied, or words to that effect anyway.

The customer had changed into a lower gear while riding up a hill and suddenly there was no resistance; she nearly fell off her bike. I’ve mentioned before that the local culture is sometimes very “British” and here’s another example: the customer actually apologised for bringing the bike back.

The problem was intermittent and I couldn’t replicate it but her description sounded like the cable tension was insufficient. The system used on this bike relies on the cable being to just the right length; I’d set it according to the instructions, but it turns out that theory doesn’t always work in practice.

This time I reduced it by about 3mm, put the plastic top on, nearly lost the tiny screw to hold it down (again), rebuilt the bike and tested it for a good ten minutes to make sure it worked.

It didn’t do anything unpleasant so hopefully I won’t see it again until the 6 month service…

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