You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Cycling’ category.

RND_10With Elder Son becoming more confident that he won’t break something vital while fixing stuff, we pulled the Ugly Bike out of the cellar to begin turning it into a beautiful randonneur/adax bicycle.

We’d decided to pull off everything we could with the tools we had in the drawer, up to and including a big hammer if the mood took us. For anything else we had an agreement of Elder Son’s employer and trainer that we could use some of the more specialised tools. Of course we could have waited until we had everything on hand but this bike really was just too ugly to be left any longer.

RND_09

Elder Son began at the back end with chain and dérailleurs while I got to grips, ha, ha, with with the handlebars. The grips themselves proved immune to persuasion, WD40 and bad language, and I ended up taking a knife to them before dealing with the combined brake and gear units. Normally this would be an opportunity to whine about the evils of capitalism as evidenced by the practice of combining gear and brake levers, and forcing users to replace the lot every time one element failed, but on this occasion we were changing to V-Brakes and drops and the gear shifters were worn out anyway, so I just dumped them in the bin without comment.

RND_12

We discovered that our tools aren’t the right ones to remove the crank and bottom bracket, but we changed the handlebars anyway, even though we’ll need a different stem, This was as much a statement of intent and a morale booster as anything.

Any suggestions we then coasted up and down the drive making ‘woosh woosh’ noises are pure fiction…

This box represents an big step forward in the InGermany household.

We’ve bought a new microwave.

Our previous Microwave was given to us by some friends with a slightly apologetic comment of “My Granny was throwing it out: It’s a bit old.” and it was, in fact it was ancient, but we needed a microwave and we figured we could replace it later.

That was about seventeen years ago.

People have commented at times at the age of the microwave, but we’d always had other things to do and it still worked, after a fashion. It was noisy and the light packed up several years ago, but we got used to that.

Then someone pointed out that the power consumption on the thing must be pretty high: I believe their actual words were “I can see the lights dimming whenever you cook something” so we started looking around for a replacement -until something came up, and then something else… you get the idea.

Anyway, Beautiful wife got fed up and went online last month. It took ten minutes to order a new one, and finally we have a microwave made in this century.

If things go on like this we may all have a smart phone by 2050…

Every now and again Beautiful Wife expresses the opinion that German food, while certainly filling, lacks a certain gastronomic variety, and that it’s time the boys experienced a little more of their maternal heritage. So last week we went of to visit the Asian supermarket in Stuttgart.

The catch-all Asian supermarket, like the informative bus stop, is a fairly new development in Stuttgart. Despite being an engineering centre the city doesn’t have an east Asian community anything like as big as the cities to the north, and it’s only recently begun to have a cosmopolitan feel. Last time I bought some Marmite I even had to order it from Cologne.

Possibly a bad example there.

The supermarket is on the main shopping street in the centre but hidden inside a large sportswear shop, of all things. Once¬† got past the piles of 2018 German football strips being sold off at reduced prices, we go down into the basement and landed in East Asia. Beautiful Wife went off in search of Green Tea ice cream and I went for a slightly nostalgic wander through shelves of “Healthy Boy Brand Chilly Sauce”, packed in what looks like glass lemonade bottles and source of some epic endurance contests amongst some colleagues in Thailand.

There were also assorted items I was quite glad to leave behind in Japan like the unfortunately named ‘Calpis’ sports drink, sold in concentrate, with the English boast that “with 1.5l you can make 7.5l of Calpis”, which never failed to amuse our boys. Not far away is the dreaded Natou (“Na-chow”) sticky beans, made -let’s be honest here- by allowing beans to ferment, ie, rot, packaging the result up and selling it as a delicacy.

But then being British means you can never be too cocky about other people’s tastes in food. As I was wandering about the cooking section which has the largest collection of woks I’ve ever seen, Beautiful Wife came around the corner waving a pot of Marmite.

Bike maintenance seems to be like buses: nothing for ages and then a load of it all at once. This is probably because I keep putting it off, but still…

Having managed to change my cassette and chain without breaking any more tools, I set out for work feeling appropriately smug to find that the bike had a new party trick. When I used the big ring on the front gears, the chain would refuse to drop back down to the middle again. As my cycling style could charitably be called “relaxed” this was arguably not a major problem, but still…

Normal procedure for this is to mess about with the tension on the cable, and there’s a little twiddly bit on the gear shifters for this very purpose. Twiddling this improved matters slightly, but then the chain started rattling at annoying random intervals. Eventually I found that I could force the issue by changing gears down until I was on the smallest front ring and then changing back up to the middle.

After a few kilometres the bike decided it had had enough of this and dropped the chain over the big ring and somehow wrapped it into the mech at the same time, before vomiting it onto the road.

Fortunately it is uphill from my village for most of the commute, although in accordance with the usual law of the universe I had just descended the only steep hill, so I plodded up to the summit and coasted back to the apartment.

I go to work pretty early to allow time to prepare the activities for my clients, so I wasn’t about to be late. Instead of taking the bus I decided to have a look at the bike. On inspection I discovered the link designed to join the chain had been torn out, along with another link or two. I also discovered that I’d been far too cautious as usual, and left the chain stupidly long to the point it was dragging on the frame in some gears. I removed several links so it looked less like a piece of damp spaghetti.

Twenty minutes later we were off again, and suddenly the chain was much smoother, which is not a surprise in the circumstances. Even better, the chain obediently drops out of the big ring on command. I’m still not sure if this is because of the shorter chain or because the front mech was bent into submission when the chain became an ugly shape, but hey, it works, so I’m not complaining…

This post is brought to you by a combination of poor planning and procrastination. For some time I knew the chain and cassette on my commuter bike were getting pretty worn: I’m not sure I changed them when I bought the bike about six years ago and they’ve done a fair bit of distance since, but they were still just about working so I decided to leave them until winter when I’d put a new chain on and put on the winter wheel with an equally new cassette. Of course, I’d actually said this about a year ago, but hey, the problem wasn’t urgent so I kept forgetting.

Fortunately the chain and cassette wear together, so I could get away with ignoring the problem as long as I didn’t change any components. So of course when I swapped my winter and summer wheels without thinking, the smallest (ie top) gear began to slip. I ignored it for a bit until the next one started to do the same and I realised I’d have to do something.

Most modern(ish) cassettes are held on with a locking ring that has ridges on it to stop it rattling loose, so the one thing you don’t want to do is make it very tight. Unfortunately whoever had put this lock ring on had not been told this as I discovered when I failed completely to move the ring at all.

The usual way of dealing with an over tightened ring is to clamp everything down firmly, and use a piece of tube on the cassette removing tool to gain more leverage. This in theory results in a clicking noise and a loosened cassette.

In my case it resulted in a loud snap and a broken removing tool.

Situations like this are why we have Bakfietsen. Off we went to the bike shop in the next town, where the mechanic applied a professional removing tool to the wheel. This didn’t work, so he called a colleague over to help. Eventually it took both of them and a length of what looked like scaffolding before the lock ring gave up. Now we have the new cassette on, new chain on, and I’ve got a commuter bike again…

Now, will I learn from this experience and get to grips with maintenance before it all goes to pot again?


Yesterday I decided that the bikes were filthy. Actually, I’d decided that some time ago and then put off cleaning them for ages, but I’d been using the Bakfiets to move gardening things and it was looking appropriately like a farm trailer inside and out, and the weather report was promising a lack of rain, so out came the Big Black Bucket.

The Commuter bike was done first, so that I can find and/or get at important moving parts and attempt some vague maintenance next weekend. Even though bikes are astonishingly low maintenance, after riding it about in all weathers for several months it reached the point where I need to spend actual money on it.


Essential tools of rural Bakfiets hygiene are a dustpan and brush and a large lump of wood. Close inspection of the moving parts below the box revealed some serious rust around the bottom of the steering column, so I’ll have to get the Hammerite out over summer.

Despite my lack of organisation I actually managed to finish all three bikes. I’m now hoping that the weather holds for the week so I can get on with fixing the commuter bike when the parts arrive…

 

 

 

 

Meet Mr. Ugly, a bike only a mother could love. I’m guessing this dates from sometime in the mid 1990’s, because I can’t imagine another time when a design committee would have looked at a mountain bike and a colour chart, stared at each other an in unison whispered ‘Purple‘.

As if that wasn’t enough they then went and upped the ante by giving it the name ‘Didgeridoo‘.

Close up the bike is a small rolling museum to 90’s MTB technology. It is almost identical to the original setup on the Raleigh bike that became the front half of the Xtracycle.

 

So the goal now is to turn this into a retro-styled drop handlebar commuting/touring bike. Just because.

 

Step one is to replace these handlebars with a pair of drops salvaged off an elderly racing bike and hoarded for six years in case they might become useful, and add some bottom bar levers from the same source.

If we get on with the drops we’ll make the world a slightly better place by taking the bike to bits and spraying it a different colour.

Then we’ll add mudguards, breaks and wheels from the hoard of bike bits that infests the cellar (and apparently includes a breeding colony of straight handlebars) to make it an all weather bike with luggage rack. Otherwise we’ll do much the same but with straight shifters.

That’s the plan anyway. the problems, deviations and other issues will doubtless appear here…

We’ve finally succeeded in finding a bike. It is thoroughly ugly, but we can deal with that bit as the idea was always to repaint and convert the bike into a hybrid with drop handlebars and bottom bar shifters.

The over ambitious conversion plans are partly simply because we want to try it, but as Elder Son pointed out, he doesn’t want to ride an ugly bike so it doesn’t get stolen. Making a bike with drops and friction shifters hopefully will mean that it is hard to sell, and therefore not worth stealing, so we can make a bike that looks attractive and that he can enjoy commuting on, especially as it will combine the whole ‘forget it it’s not worth nicking’ vibe with solid bike locks.

Having got nowhere with the bike shop I decided to try online adverts. I wasn’t very hopeful, and as expected spent the first few minutes having a hearty laugh at attempts to sell cheapo supermarket bikes for three figure prices.

After some more searching I found something that looked like it might work. It was a foul colour, but the frame was clearly steel and didn’t have any obviously large rust holes. I called Eldest Son over and warned him to wear sunglasses. His response of “Woah, welcome to the nineties” was expected, but once he got past that he saw the frame shapes and agreed to make an approach.

After a rather cautious discussion with the seller -on my side because I thought he’d want a couple of hundred for it, from his side I later discovered because the last possible buyer offered a fiver- we agreed a ballpark figure and I took the Elder Son to have a look. I checked that there were no obvious cracks, and even found it was chromoly steel, which was a nice surprise, and Elder son took it for a test ride and came back happy.

So now it’s in the garage, giving the spiders headaches while we wait for the money tree to recover enough to make the next step.

Eldest Son is pricing up paint…

The Elder Son -who made his debut on this blog riding a bike with stabilisers- needs a new bike to go to work. This it a matter of some urgency because at the moment he’s using the commuter bike, and it is only a matter of time before ‘my’ commuter bike becomes ‘his’ commuter bike unless I find an alternative.

So we’re going on a bike hunt.

The charitable organisation I work for runs several local bike shops as a way to help people gain skills and get back into work. They also recycle bikes and at this time of year there are usually a dozen or so refurbished items in unfortunate colour schemes in front of the shop, perfect for the rebuild/repainting we had in mind.

So we went to see what we could find. There are two such shops on the other side of the city, so we’d have plenty to choose from. The weather report threatened storms from mid afternoon., but there was no sign of them after lunch, and anyway, we were following a tram route the whole way, so we could always leap on the tram and come back in the dry. We snorted in derision at the weather report and set off.

Of course, after we’d been riding about half an hour -ie, we were far enough away from the apartment that it would take a soaking to get back- it started NAR. This, UK readers will know is ‘Not Actually Raining’; a very gentle drizzle or spit of rain that makes it clear that a good soaking is entirely possible.

We arrived at the first bike shop. instead of the line of bikes I was expecting, there were three: a mahoosive upright town bike, a tricycle, and a pink bike with stabilisers and plastic flowers. I suggested to Elder Son that the pink bike would suit him, but he’s fussy about things like that and wouldn’t even try it out. Young people these days.

The second shop had no bikes at all unless you counted a pile of bent scrap frames out the back.

Then the rain finally came. Not the British style of spring rain, that falls solidly but gently for hours: this was a German ‘auditioning to be a monsoon’ rainstorm, which hits the ground so hard it bounces twice and cracks flagstones.

Thank goodness we were at the tram stop, we agreed smugly.

Then we found that the station was closed for repairs and there were no trams running for the weekend…

 

Exams are kicking in at the moment, hence the lack of posts here. The coming week is a practical exam, where I go off to a workshop for people with disabilities and train someone to do something, which is more fun but unfortunately less photographically interesting than my last exam.

I’ve been allocated somewhere way over yonder on the north side of the city (while people living there have to commute to a workshop just down the road from here, which seems a bit silly) It is also on a greenfield site and I’m not sure how many buses run past the door so I’ve borrowed a folding bike for the week just in case.

This of course involved a logistical exercise because the tram stop is in the next village, which meant a slightly complicated multimodal journey involving the Bakfiets, folding bike, and tram, but I made it in the end.

Tomorrow we’ll see if I need it.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Contact me

"]

Archives

Categories