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Snow_2019_01_25.JPGThe Commuter is currently the main workhorse by virtue of being the only bike with spiked tyres. Today it was a trip to the local government office as part of the rush to get our boys naturalised as German citizens before March the 29th.

Snow spikes work so well I can cycle over surfaces where pedestrians were skittering about all over the place: I give them a lot of space to fall over.

I have since discovered one disadvantage: when swapping over to a Bakfiets with semi slick tyres you have to remember not to try turning on snow…

2018_09_19_05

 

If I’m honest, not a lot of cycling happened this year: I didn’t even take any particularly long rides, which is a bit disappointing. In my defence I was finishing my theory exams, starting work at my internship, and working on all kinds of Brexit- related officialdom, but still…

Worse, 2019 looks just as busy with the final project due in a couple of months, then a presentation to an examination panel the month after, followed probably by a new job and possibly a house move after that.

On the other hand, one goal I’ve been consistently setting myself every year and then completely failing to achieve is an imperial century: 100 miles or 160k I came close a couple of years back with a couple of 120k runs but that’s a mere 74 miles, so I’ve a way to go yet.

In the unlikely event of me actually achieving this, and you’ll notice, before actually riding anywhere, I’ve got all ambitious and decided I’ll make a ‘stretch’ goal of 200k/124 miles, possibly as an unofficial randonnée /audax ride, just because.

On this subject, Elder Son and I will hopefully complete the randonnée bike this year and make some tours on the same. As this is currently a frame on our balcony there’s some work to do there as well, but we’re making slow progress. He’s even said he may -possibly- even come with me on a few rides…

I’d also like to do some more drawing again, make some more spoons…

What is the one thing you don’t want to happen when, for example, you need to write a final project for a three year course (deadline: Soon) and incidentally send a stack of applications to possible employers?

Probably, the computer breaking down, on a week when there were no shops open so no possibility of getting it fixed or replaced in a hurry.

So guess what happened just after Christmas?

The all important project was already stored on a stick; external hard drive; my computer at work; and the work network, but I could have done without the extra complications*.

I can fix bikes and furniture but computers need more subtle approaches than whacking them with hammers, so after a technically minded friend declared death two weeks ago I started looking for a replacement. I now have a slightly newer ex-lease laptop, so I can at least write blogs again.

I mean, work on my project… I can work on my project again. That’s what I meant.

Normal service will be restored as soon as possible.

*Much more seriously, the proxy server at work has started blocking WordPress. I can’t think why.

The plan was for a 20k ride with Beautiful Daughter on the back, towards Stuttgart and then through a forest to a rather attractive castle. From there we’d follow a road through the valleys out into the countryside and wiggle back up through the hills to our village. The roads were dry and the wind had died down, so what could possibly go wrong?

Well, as we went past the local chemist their thermometer was displaying a temperature of -1°c. This wasn’t too much bother for me as I would warm up quickly hauling Beautiful Daughter up the hill, but it occurred to me that after 20km I’d probably have to chip my passenger off the back seat.

Then the Xtracycle gears decided was too cold and started playing up.

So we cycled around the local villages and followed the tram line for a bit then coasted back over the fields, and spent the next hour under a blanket drinking hot chocolate instead.

There’s always next time…


(Attempt at artistic photo utterly fails to show essential details.)


Most available brain capacity for the last few week has been taken up working out how to get the now cleaned frame, someone capable of welding and the Romanian braze-ons in the same place at the same time. There is such a person where I work, but getting the frame to him required some rather complex logistics arrangement involving Eldest Son, the commuter bike, several buses and a couple of trams.

After that it was a matter of saying what I wanted and not jumping through the door every five minutes to see if he’d finished.

By the time the bike was ready to come back I’d concluded that this sort of thing is what Xtracycles are for, so on my next Saturday shift -doing lighting and some stage management for an English speaking Panto group- I cycled down into the city and loaded up for the return.

I cheated for some of the way and took the tram on the worst of the hill.

Judging by the looks from other passengers people transporting freshly welded bicycle frames on a longtail are not a regular sight in suburban Stuttgart.

Work, my final dissertation, and family needs are combining to make sure I don’t have a lot of time for anything else at the moment, but looking at the weather forecast for this weekend I don’t think I’ll be planning any tours for a bit. They’re promising 88km/h (54 mph) winds and rain at 7.7 litres per m²

And typically, on the weekend when I’m working, so I have to cycle to the tram stop.

More news on the slow Ranndoneur conversion next week, if I’m spared.

Of the many problems the ugly bike had when we bought it, I felt being called a ‘Didgeridoo’ was probably one of the most serious, so with parts on order and making their way slowly from Romania,of all places, we decided to do something about the matter. As usual in our projects, “do something” generally meant “attack the problem with whatever seemed like a good idea at the time.”


We were pretty sure that the letters were stickers, rather than transfers, so we turned on the hairdrier and put it close against the frame.

Fifteen seconds later it overheated and tripped the circuit breakers.

A couple of minutes later we tried again, this time with the hairdryer a more prudent distance away and after what seemed a decent amount of time, I scratched at the sticker with a fingernail. This worked, but ten minutes later only two letters had been removed and so had most of my fingernails. Either we were going to have to work at a rate of two letters a week and allow fingernails to grow back in between or we needed another scraper.


We Started searching for a scraper, and found a Japanese 10 yen coin that I’ve kept for reasons far too boring to go on about here. This proved to be the ideal scraper: sharper corners than European coins, but soft metal so it didn’t damage the frame.

A few minutes getting rid of the sticky remains with a cloth and some cleaning alcohol, and we had:


Next step, sanding the frame and talking someone at work into adding the braze-ons for the gear levers. Of course that means getting the frame into Stuttgart and back, but I’ll think of something…

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Elder Son is now an apprentice bike mechanic. In Germany this is a two year course, mostly working in a bike shop with college one or two days a week. The college makes sure he has extra practical and theory lessons, and also theory, social studies, how and why the German government is built as it is, law and business studies: he’s not just being trained to be a bike wrench: he’s being trained to run a business.

And yes I am envious, even more so because it turns out he’s pretty good at it.

Take this week for example. As mentioned previously, we’d pulled most of the extra components off the bike frame ready for painting, but the cranks and bottom bracket (where the pedals go through the frame) needed some needed some tools I hadn’t got, so we arranged that Elder Son would ask his boss to lend us a couple. He was a bit unsure about this for fear of making a mistake (thanks schools system) but agreed to give it a go.

Yesterday evening he rang the bell and reported that he did have the tools, so I went downstairs to lend moral support. He’d already started, and waved the Mother Of All Spanners at me, saying “Hi dad, I thought you might like to see how this works”. He took hold of the bike, instructed me to hold it “Like that, no, a bit over here. That’s it…”
He waved the crank remover, fitted it, turned the lever and removed the crank.
I was instructed to rotate the bike. Next time I looked the other crank was neatly placed on the floor.
Then came the Mother Of All spanners. “This engages inside the ring here, look, my boss showed me this trick…”
The first screw loosened without protest
“Dad?”
“Yes?”
“Can you tun the bike around?”
“Oh, sorry.”
Spanner was applied again, Bottom bracket removed.
“Okay, so we can pack those up and sand the frame down.” He’d only taken the tools out of the bag three minutes earlier.
“Okay,” I said, “just one thing.”
“What?”
“Next time,let me have a go, okay?”
“I’ll think about it.”

You can’t buy that…

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…

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