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The Great Tidying for the upcoming Health and Safety inspection continues. The bike store has gone from this…

To this…

I’m getting there, slowly.

Meanwhile in the bike workshop, I’ve found the worktops and most of the floor.

An external health and safety inspection is to happen at work; the Great Tidying has commenced.

This has advantages. For one it’s the ideal excuse to tidy some of the areas I’ve been too busy to deal with up until now.

First on the list is the Bicycle Wheel Infestation. This has been a problem for a while because we have upwards of a hundred wheels of all shapes, sizes and states of repair. They’ve been piled up in the corner of the store and I’m fairly sure they breed;certainly there seemed to be more every time I looked. Looking for one for a bike or customer has until now meant clambering over the foothills while holding onto something to avoid falling over.

This clearly will not do so last week I set to with the intention of “dismantling” any that were not immediately usable, and hopefully finding a place to hang the rest.

The quickest way to dismantle wheels is the less than subtle approach of cutting the spokes. I’d lay a wheel flat on a fairly solid box, cut all the spokes, and drop them into the box under the wheel, put the hub in a basket for later, empty the wheel of leftover spoke bits, and dump the rims on a pile to be sold for scrap.

Of course this isn’t as neat and tidy as it sounds; spokes are under a lot of tension in a wheel, and have a habit of pinging out of the wheel to places unknown; the stubs then would then drop out of the rims, and leftover rim tape, it turns out, will stick to just about anything.

And of course it was just at this moment, with the room looking like it had witnessed the dismemberment of some steampunk leviathan that had been fighting back for the entire process; your correspondent centre stage wielding a large set of bolt croppers in a pair of orange gloves, size 41 boot on a half dismembered wheel, spokes flying into the distance, and unnoticed rim tape hanging off a sleeve like entrails, that the door opened and the boss arrived unannounced leading some local teachers on an impromptu tour…

Climbing from Stuttgart to my home village yesterday after getting off the train. Stuttgart is built largely in a couple of fairly narrow valleys and in the ten kilometres (6 miles) from the railway station to our village there’s about 200m or 650 feet of climbing. I can now reliably inform you that from bottom to top takes about thirty minutes of riding, pushing and complaining.

I know what you’re thinking:

“But this is Germany, surely there are trams or something that would carry your bike up that hill in a matter of minutes?”

Indeed there are, dear reader, indeed there are. In fact, there is a tram line running right next to this photo location.

So why was I cycling?

Answer: your correspondent had forgotten that there is a ban on bicycles on trams from 4 to 6:30pm, spent too long with some former work colleagues in Stuttgart, and had turned up at the tram stop too late to be permitted on board…

This week I decided that riding to the Rhine and following the French border again would be a bit dull.

Expatriate life is so hard sometimes.

Out came the map. I wanted a shortish ride because I had work the next day and I didn’t want to be exhausted, up to 50k (30 miles) was about the idea. On the map I found the ideal place, the Simonswälder Valley, a side tributary from the Elz Valley which I’ve followed a number of times. It’s fairly short but leads deep into the lower Black Forest. Also, being a weekday it would be quiet.

This isn’t the Simonswälder Valley; this is Waldkirch, where I got lost. This is for two reasons.

Firstly, my new apartment is a couple of hundred metres from the long, straight riverside cycle path which follows the Elz river almost the whole way to Waldkirch. I was rather enamoured by this idea so I just followed it instead of my usual route and ended up on the opposite side of Waldkirch to normal.

At this point I discovered the other reason: my map was on the kitchen table.

What with this and a lack of cycle signage I was a bit busy to take pictures but eventually I followed a long distance footpath sign through a housing estate, over a railway and under a road, and suddenly I was, finally, in the Simonswälder Valley.

The thing with the Black Forest, is that it’s very definitely the Black Forest; It’s not just that it’s obviously not say, Cleethorpes or Basingstoke, it’s also very different from the Rhine valley, a mere 20km/15 miles away.

25 km to the west from my village I’d cross the border into France, and unless you accidentally missed a bridge and landed in the Rhine, you’d not really notice. Here, it feels like I’m in a different country.

It can be a bit of a shock to stop at a bus stop and see the logo of the Freiburg Transit Authority on it.

For want of anything better, I’d aimed to ride to the Kapelle ohne Glocke, the “Chapel without Bells” which was almost exactly 25km from my apartment.

It turns out that the reason it’s the “Chapel without Bells”, is that they probably couldn’t fit any in.

I’d been climbing all he way and getting lost, et c, so it felt like I’d come a long way. Of course the return down the valley was rather faster, even with photo stops (and getting lost in Waldkirch again, but we’ll ignore that) and suddenly I was back in then open flat Rhine plain, following the cycle path by the river.

With one last crossing, a few more K’s and I was at the end of my street. I could get used to this…

Back at work this week. I’m still not sure how I managed to get this job but I’m not complaining. For those not taking notes, I work in a bike shop partially staffed by people with various difficulties. We get bikes as donations, from house clearances, and from several local waste disposal centres, so you never know what you are getting; it could be a barely ridden expensive mountain bike, or or a rusty old clunker with all kinds of hidden nastiness under the grime.

My first bike this week looked like it should be simple enough; a mid-range city bike in good condition. The “to do” list included changing the brake blocks front and rear, pumping up the tyres and turning the rear tyre the correct way around.

The front brake was lopsided, a turn of the wheel revealed that the wheel had so much buckle it could be a pair of boots. It took a long time and some… um, commentary, until I managed to get it to submit to laws of physics so I could reset the brakes.

Then I pumped up the tyre; the inner tube exploded. Oh dear, I said, or words to that effect… Dropped wheel, looked for new inner tube with the same valve, checked wheel and tyre, fitted tube, pumped; bang. On inspection both had popped on a seam on the inside of the tube. This has happened before so it could be the trouble was the batch of inner tunes.

Okay then, different tubes, but that would mean a different valve type, so I’d have to change the back wheel to match; not the end of the world as I needed to swap the tyre. Found a pair of car valve tubes, and to be on the safe side, some rim tape. Mount tube, mount tyre, wheel back on.

Go to back wheel; it’s a hub gear system, meaning the gears are hidden away in a big cylinder around the axle.. Hub gears are great when they work; Getting them to work can be a right fiddle. Unscrew bolts, drop innards of Sram on floor, retrieve, put in tray.

On cue I get a call from the sales team: a customer has a question they can’t answer. to till and back.

Remove tyre from wheel, swap inner tube, wheel back in droppers, pulling to tension chain with some difficulty, phone rings, It’s my colleague at the till again.

Wheel back on floor, go and sort customer out, back to wheel. Beginning to feel like Basil Fawlty.

Wheels on, brakes set, and wonder of wonders I haven’t lost any of the bits. Time for a test ride.

On cue it starts to rain, very heavily.

Test ride delayed to tomorrow; there’s plenty of other things to do…

In a not particularly surprising turn of events, the internet provider for my new apartment has gone from enthusiastically saying everything is fine to much tutting and “service not available at this address”, so I’ll be without any internet connection for a while. Of course it isn’t that simple; despite the company’s technician visiting and saying the required connection isn’t available, I now have to confirm with the apartment owner that this is the case, which will delay matters still further.

I’m not sure why it is but German internet providers seem to be required to follow this process every time they are asked to make a new connection. I’m not sure if it’s in the constitution or simply the notion that actually should provide a service for the payment they receive is a bit confusing to the poor dears, but if they would spend half the time actually sorting out connections that they put into delaying responses to people who have already paid them and now can’t get online, then Germany would have the best internet access in the world.

And yes, I am supposed to confirm that I can’t get online using an online form…

I can’t say progress on the “Wayfarer II” is blisteringly fast but it is moving forward slowly. Of course it’s made worse because I insist on using parts and methods the rest of the world abandoned years ago, so I have to spend ages finding the right bits, like these bosses and cable holders that recently arrived in a small jiffy bag from the US, of all places. If I’d just used normal modern parts I’d probably be finished by now, but where’s the fun in that?

However, they are now here, and the in-house welder at work has agreed to weld them to the frame. In the meantime I’m waiting for a quote from a local spray painting company and I’ve bought a bottom bracket to replace the one we wrestled out of the frame a couple of weeks ago, which I’m almost convinced is the correct size.

This is good, because there are rumours of a tour with the Boys in April so we’ll need another bike…

The lack of posts over the weekend was due to the rather sudden end to the flat hunting saga with the discovery of an affordable apartment close to work, and my previous landlady deciding she didn’t want most of the furniture in my current apartment and offering it to me at a very good price.

This was good news as it meant I now had a bed to sleep in, but instead of moving a few cardboard boxes I now had to transport lots of heavy wooden objects. Enter Middle Son who volunteered to come and help with the heavy lifting. The weekend thus involved shuttling backwards and forwards in a company van until all the furniture was in the correct place. This was probably the first time he’s been in a car with me driving in a decade and was thus remarkable for the lack of screaming.

Finally I was able to hand the key back to the manager and get back on a more civilised form of transport for the journey to Stuttgart and the family.

On arrival I discovered that Tinybug has all kinds of activities planned involving bike rides, making things from sticks, and Lego.

If you need me I’ll probably be in a forest somewhere…

One of the issues visible on the latest project bike was that the bottom Bracket was jammed. The Bottom Bracket is the bit where the pedal cranks meet, the frame:

Jammed bottom brackets aren’t unusual: they’re right where all the much and water is thrown up from the front wheel, which can wash the grease out, if indeed the assembler even bothered to use grease in the first place.

All attempts with spanners, pipe wrenches and bilingual swearing failed, so when I had to take a delivery of bikes to another centre, I went to ask a colleague if we could use the monster vice in his workshop. My colleague loves bikes and loves challenges, and was fed up with writing reports so we clamped the removal tool into the vice and turned the frame.

The tool was turning visibly, in fact the vice was moving slightly as well.

So this was it, the end of the story. We’d played nice and tried the mellow hippy approach and it hadn’t worked; it was time to get serious.

I work for a very unusual company, and we have an in-house car workshop, and so the frame was taken down there to be introduced to Mr. Impact Screwdriver:

The operation was complicated by the mechanic assigned to the case not being able to speak more than a few words of German, and yours truly managing to forget the German for “Impact Screwdriver”, but after some mutual misunderstandings, he applied the machine to the Bottom Bracket. Nothing.

After some sign language to communicate the fact that bottom bracket screws are reversed on one side, we had more success; thirty seconds later:

Uses for a bicycle number 198342: Bedsheet dryer.

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