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Since working at a local bike shop and maintaining the ever expanding family bicycle fleet (currently at nine bikes for six people, one of whom can’t ride yet, and your point is?) I generally think I’m pretty competent at basic cycle repairs, but there are some days when I wonder if I should be allowed out with as much as a hex key in my hand.

Take Wednesday as an example. After successfully not losing one of the wheels while juggling them between bikes, I’d also fitted Elder Son’s saddle to the commuter bike, as mine apparently wasn’t up to snuff. This done, we toddled off to prepare ourselves for the 80k ride the next day (ie, get lots of chocolate).

In the morning, we were just climbing the first major hill, when The Elder Son mentioned that his saddle had moved. When I tested this by poking it a couple of times, it wobbled and almost fell off.  We flagged down a fellow cyclist and were directed to a shop in a town a few kilometres away, where I shamefacedly confessed to not having fastened the saddle properly. The owner came and had a look, and announced that I had also managed to put the post on backwards. Fortunately he was sufficiently amused by this to not charge us for fixing it properly. I expect that story will go around the regulars for a while…

 

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Elder Son thought that his brakes may be snagging as well. I lifted the bike and checked both wheels. They turned freely. I harrumphed at this lack of trust in my maintenance skills.

Despite this we made it to Gutenberg. This is at the end of the valley and going further means climbing about 350m in 3 km (830ft in 2 miles), and I’m much too lazy for that sort of thing. So we took a not at all posed picture of the bikes in front of the church door and set off.

 

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After a quick break for lunch…

After our return I found the cause of the ‘dragging brake’. The valley that I’d assured Eldest Son was nice and flat climbs 300 m in 25km. Thats just under a thousand feet in fifteen miles.

Need to work on navigation skills as well as maintenance…

 

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Fresh wheel delivery by Bakfiets

The Elder Son has frozen onto my commuter bike as his preferred form of transport, and was ready to go on a bike tour. This meant moving his saddle over to the commuter and fitting a new wheel with a hub dynamo, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but as usual I faffed about and didn’t get on with it.

The wheel intended for the commuter bike was on the Xtracycle, bought as an emergency replacement in January when the original wheel rims finally split after being worn down over twenty years of use. Last week I finally bought a better wheel for the Xtracycle, so now we had to move the wheel on the Xtracycle over to the commuter, after removing the tyre, put the new wheel on the Xtracycle and take the older, dynamo-less wheel off the commuter. this would donate its tyre to the wheel off the Xtracycle before disappearing into the cellar.

Because we can’t do things the normal way, we added another elderly front wheel out of the cellar, and used that to prop each of the bikes in turn as we worked on their wheels. I have no idea why I have so many used bicycle wheels.

There was one interesting moment when I thought the brakes on the commuter were acting up as I couldn’t set them straight, but this was solved by pushing hard on the handlebars, which knocked the wheel in straight and suddenly everything made sense

I then made exactly the same mistake on the Xtracycle, but as we are taught at college, Occupational Therapists don’t make mistakes, we have ‘learning experiences’.

At some point when I’m less embarrassed about it I’ll tell you about the learning experience we had with the brakes and the saddle on the next day…

 

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Beautiful Daughter is now big enough that she doesn’t need a baby seat to travel in the Bakfiets, which means we can carry other things besides the resident small person, and we can go on a ride without Daddy mucking about with a rope for ten minutes to make sure the child seat is properly secured, the Japanese makers having neglected to make it compatible with a Bakfiets for some reason.

The Small One also approves because in her new sitting position she can see what is happening, instead of watching her dad pedaling away. From her point of view, this is a definite improvement.

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Three months have just vanished. We’ve gone from ‘getting to know you games’ to the first exams, and the first internship is starting after the summer holidays (did I mention that I have full school holidays? Six weeks off? just checking).

Meanwhile Eldest Son, who originally featured in the early days of this blog riding on a bike with stabilisers, is now able to ride on the commuter bike, hence the presence of both bikes at the end of the local tram line.

I feel old…

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t be allowed out alone.

Yesterday we had good cycling weather, so I cycled to the tiny tram stop at the edge of the valley to catch the tram down the hill. I’ve found this is far easier than dealing with the Scary Hill of Doom with impatient motorists first thing in the morning. The tram stop is hidden away in a quiet corner of the city, and comes complete with a convenient railing. I locked the bike to this (a bike rack would be preferred, but you can’t have everything), waited a few minutes, and got on the tram.

Leaving my cotton cap on the bench seat in the tram stop.

It wasn’t until I got off at the bottom of the hill that I noticed a distinct lack of headgear.

Fortunately the locals are too honest, or too wealthy* to be bothered with such things as a grubby hat, and ignored it for the seven hours it took me to come back and find it.

*Judging by the size of the houses, I suspect the latter.

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Well, it turns out there’s a lot to be said against using hardwoods for luggage racks. Sure, they’re nice and solid, but it made the bike turn like I’d cable tied a stack of bricks onto the front forks. As the route to college has a number of those ridiculous chicanes made to slow everyone* down when the cycleway crosses a road, it became a decision between taking up weight training just to get the bike around corners, or taking the whole contraption off. The rack also developed the interesting habit of sliding forwards and downwards, something I really should have expected if I’d been paying attention.

I think I could probably sort out most of the problems: I could make the rack lower, and about 8 cm shorter so it didn’t hang over the front of the bike as far, and add another fixing point to the forks so it doesn’t try to keep going whenever I brake, but at the moment what’s left of my brain is mostly engaged in trying to remember enough of my course to survive the first theory tests, so any bike related projects will have to wait for a couple of weeks until there’s spare capacity available.

*Excapt cars of course, because… er…

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Finally made the practical exam and got a 1,05, which is a pretty good grade, as the system starts at 1.0 and goes down to 6. This is largely due to the kindness of the College in letting me do the exam without the whole class watching (lovely people, to be sure, but doing an exam with 20 pairs of eyes on me was not going to work), and despite my reprinting the report at the last minute and managing to forget an important section, but I was allowed to bring that on Monday. My tutor is clearly still in a good mood having just become a dad…

Now I can relax, until the mid-term theory exams…

I had several ideas for todays post, and was in fact thinking about it when Beautiful Wife came in and reminded me that I was Supposed to collect Middle Son from his school sleepover at ten, and it was half past nine. And Middle Son’s School is two towns away.

So being a dutiful, if slightly forgetful dad, I set off on the Xtracycle to get him. With fifteen minutes to go. The weather was fine, not too hot, but nice and dry, as in fact it has been almost all week.

As I left the driveway, it began to rain. Hard. Which I think is unfair: it isn’t like I cleaned my bike or anything.

Thankfully, I’m British and pessimistic* so I’d grabbed my elderly waxed cotton rain coat on the way out. This coat is the source of much dismay to those more fashion conscious than I -which is to say, everyone else- by virtue of being as old as me and almost as tatty around the edges. But here’s the thing: whenever I use a jacket that passes the fashion police, it tends to have the waterproofing of a sheet of loo roll. When I took this highly unfashionable item off, I was much drier than my more sartorially aware colleagues.

My nice smug feeling almost compensates for the fact it is still raining…

*There’s some redundancy I can’t quite place in that sentence…

 

 

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So here’s what we are up to at the moment: messing about on bikes and generally being insufferably smug because I get normal school holidays and thus have two weeks to be with The Boys and Beautiful Daughter.

So normal blogging may be a bit sparse for a while.

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I wanted some extra carrying capacity for transport in the city so I didn’t have to schlepp all my books and coursework on my back. I could use a pannier but I have been known to attach them the wrong way, whereupon they fell off, causing much embarrasment when I was called by a complete stranger and had to ride across the city to retrieve same. I figured this way I would have a secure way to carry my bag where I could see it, and I could look vaguely civilised when I carried my normal bag into the college.

The other reason was because I saw a French ‘Porteur’ rack on this excellent post by the Accidental Hermit and thought it looked cool. This is pretty much as logical as my decisions get I’m afraid.

Most porteur racks are welded steel or aluminium. Being utterly incompetent in metalwork I made the corners and joins from beechwood, which had the extra advantage of making the design approximately square without having to muck about with jigs and welding.

I wanted to be able to carry a bag large enough to hold an A4 ring binder. Looking at the rack now, I may have overdone this, but there we go.

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Some improvisation was needed to get the rack to fit the new bent handlebars.

I’ll need to find a better way to keep things strapped down than a bungee chord and move the headlight will need moving as well as it currently lights up the deck and nothing else.

Will wait on those issues until I’ve tested the design for a week or two.

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