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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…

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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.

Recently I’ve been noticing a change in the morning ride to the tram stop. The sky is becoming brighter, and occasionally there is blue visible. On some rather exciting days several people reported seeing the sun for several seconds at a time.

Spring is happening. And about time too.

A proper tree hugging hippy isn’t supposed to worry about things like winter of course, we’re supposed to, as it were, chill. However, a combination of exams and spending days in a concrete fridge in central Stuttgart have left your correspondent with a severe vitamin D deficiency and a strong desire to hibernate, so when we were greeted by the sunrise above on Friday, we went into the weekend ready to welcome Spring.

And then Saturday dawned…

Towards the end of the holiday the weather got bored with being wet and windy, and went to just being cold for a couple of days, leaving your correspondent with the usual dilemma: Should I take advantage of the sudden blue skies to clean wash about three months of accumulated crud off the bikes, or should I just ride a bike?

No contest really.

Having made it through the unfortunate mess that is Stuttgart Airport, I broke out into fields again, and past this monument to a more civilised form of flying. Apparently this is where one of the first Zeppelins made an emergency landing in a field with the great man on himself on board.

After making repairs they took off again and flew to Friedrichshafen. Try that with a 747.

Off to the next village…

And on, through the fields. These hills are the same as those seen from our balcony. I really should stop whining about where I live.


This was my goal: Hardthausen church. Churches in the region are very distinctive so I tend to use them as markers on a ride.

As I approached Stuttgart again things began to unravel. a mix of poor signage and poor guesswork landed me riding uphill on a busy road with drivers honking their horns at me. I’m going to assume they and the motorcyclist who shouted something indistinct and waved a boot in my direction were simply trying to be encouraging.

Then after following the route around the airport for several kilometres, I found this:

There was a small piece of paper taped to this showing a ‘diversion’ that went back along the way I’d come, then through another village and into a valley, using another busy road and adding about 3 hilly miles to the journey.

The other side of the roadworks, the crane is the same one as in the other image.

Sharp eyed viewers will notice that I could have gone around the fence and cycled the hundred yards or so straight through the roadworks, as it was a Sunday and they were empty of construction workers.

Of course, I was very good and didn’t do this.

This isn’t far from our town, just a short ride down into the valley…

And up the Hill Of Doom on the other side, which is the unfortunate end of every ride around here and never gets photographed because that would require me to stand up straight and be able to focus after the climb.

I managed 32km in total. Not much but it wasn’t meant to be a serious ride. Anything more adventurous will have to wait until after exams.

It’s cold and slippery, and as usual I’ve put off fitting the magic snow tyres, and nearly slithered off into a field on the morning commute. The weather report predicts foul conditions and sub zero temperatures for the next week so I’ll have to try and fit the tyres over the weekend.

On past experience this will cause sudden freak warm weather from Monday.

Days have got so short here now that I rarely see the place in daylight, but yesterday I’d decided to skip the scheduled “team building games workshop” as I wasn’t about to spend six hours running about in a smelly room when I could hang out with my daughter on her 3rd birthday. I also had some revision to do.

I felt a bit guilty about this, until the college called to say the workshop was cancelled because the trainer was off sick.

So yesterday was about building presents and building cushion houses instead.

 

 

 

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