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So that was… interesting. As far as riding on a snow packed road in sub-zero temperatures on a bike with unsuitable tyres in the dark can be ‘interesting’. Several times I realised the dark patch of road that had appeared in my front light was sheet ice covering the entire road for some distance, and had no option but to coast in a dead straight line and hope the ice would stop  before my momentum did, or I landed in a field…

Generally though, I found that I could ride on any surface I could walk on. And I quickly worked out how to tell the difference between clear tarmac and sheet ice in the split second it appeared in my light which must rank as one of the more obscure skills I’ve picked up in the last year.

It’s still pretty stressful though, and it takes ages. I’ll be glad when the spikes arrive…

Just got back from a weekend away to find the memo about it being ‘winter’ has finally got through and the temperature dropped like the speedometer of a Porsche approaching a traffic camera. I’ve finally stopped dithering and ordered a pair of fancy-schmancy spiked tyres: these will arrive at the end of the week (which I confidently predict will usher in several weeks of warm, sunny weather) but this still leaves me riding to work on semi-slick tyres until they do turn up.

It’ll be fine. As long as there’s not too much traffic. Or wind. And I don’t try to stop suddenly.

Updates soon. If I’m spared…

Hmpf…

So yesterday my main concern was avoiding the worst of the puddles on the way to work, so I wouldn’t have to wash the Xtracycle again this week…

Then this happened…

snowtyresyes

Six hours of snow. mostly horizontal, &  -3°c.

Looks like I’ll be getting those snow tyres…

Esslingen_Cycle_signs

There’s a massive effort in several local towns at the moment, probably connected to the end of year spending and the belated recollection by a few officials that they’ve signed up to the ‘cycling friendly towns’ scheme. If the evidence so far is anything to go by, to be a ‘cycle friendly’ town means painting a couple of hundred metres of dotted white lines on the edge of some roads -apparently with the express goal of channeling cyclists into the door zone or onto a roundabout- scattering a few bike racks about, and most importantly, Putting Up Signs.

This last one is by far the most popular because it has the advantage of making it look like you are providing lots of things for cyclists while not actually giving the cantankerous treehuggers any actual road space or slowing down the Very Important Drivers, so there’s barely a lamp post on my way to work that hasn’t sprouted a little green bicycle and an arrow, several of which point the right way.

I saw these examples in our local big town of Esslingen this week -forgive the quality of the photograph but I was hosting a friend who hasn’t reached this level of geekery and I couldn’t stop to try again- and noticed that they have little extras like a castle symbol and warnings that there may be a hill coming up. As all the destinations on these signs are on the top of steep hills, this seems like a cruel joke on the part of the sign makers, or the locals are so used to hills that only the most murderous gradients are considered worthy of mention.

I cracked: I cleaned the Xtracycle again…

cleanXtra_01

I even took the panniers of the back and removed the accumulated crud of Autumn, thus reducing their weight by about a third.

cleanXtra_02

If last time I did this is anything to go by, expect Christmas in south Germany to feature sustained foul weather and plagues of mud.

Still, I hope that wherever you end up, and whatever the weather in your end of the world, your Christmas will be a happy and peaceful one…

Drivers: you may have noticed a lot of white stuff hanging about recently? That is called ‘fog’: It stops you from seeing quite so far as usual, I don’t know if you noticed. Actually, I suspect you probably didn’t, judging by the numbers of drivers who pass me while texting, reading their phones, navigators, and in one case a paperback.

However, take it from me, if you were to look up from these important activities, you’d probably notice the fog, or at least the fact you can’t see more than about a hundred metres.

In the circumstances, I’d like to ask a favour. No, don’t worry, I’m not silly enough to suggest you slow down, stop at red lights or even that you switch your phone off: I understand that your very important phone calls and text messages simply cannot wait until you reach your destination (how did society survive without your wisdom being constantly available?). My request is that you might, perhaps, consider turning your lights on when you are driving through the fog. Thus, when you are reading your text message/novel et c whilst racing toward or through the next set of red lights, we can see you and keep out of the way.

If this isn’t possible, could you at least refrain from the rude gestures aimed at us when we have the temerity to be occupying the road/pavement/cycleway/pedestrian crossing when you want to be driving on it. The reason we are interrupting your important journey (or conversation, or novel) is that we didn’t know you were there…

So yesterday I went back to have the bandage changed on the smallest industrial injury ever. I was a bit apprehensive about this to be honest because I wasn’t sure where the surgery was, and after the faff we’d had driving there I thought it may well be in the outer reaches of Karlsruhe, or possibly Paris.

Then I looked on Google and found that this same surgery that had taken almost an hour of stop-go traffic to reach, was ten minutes away by shared use pedestrian/cycle roads and residential streets.

It isn’t supposed to work that way: cycling is supposed to be really inconvenient, fine for a trundle on a summer Saturday but not a serious way to get anywhere you need to go. I know this because I’m told by several people a week. Driving -even allowing for taking wrong turns, shouting at the navigator when it claimed we were at our destination when we clearly were not, and getting stuck in a one way system- must still be faster. Because cars are faster. End of story.

I suppose this has one advantage of making sure the cycleways are empty. If the drivers of Stuttgart collectively notice how much easier it is to cycle even on the paltry facilities we have, then the currently quiet cycle ways may well be filled with ex-motorists all trying to cycle as if they’re driving along an Autobahn, scattering slower cyclists and pedestrians then promptly collapsing in a heap and blocking the way at the slightest hill, and no-one will be able to get anywhere…

Or maybe it will become safe to cycle along those wide, smooth, well-maintained roads and a virtuous cycle will start, of ever improving cycle facilities and ever decreasing car use, causing drastic reductions in urban pollution and traffic deaths, so the only thing visible in the otherwise entirely clear sky will be the flock of pigs flying overhead.

I can dream. Still, cycling is a lot faster and easier than people think. I’m just saying…

Mess_BW

We’re organised. We know where everything is. No, really…

Something to bring joy to a cyclists heart: on a very narrow residential street on the route to work there’s a diversion while the water company makes a big hole along one side. There’s enough space to ride a bike through, so I do: I find it much safer to deal with a hole in the road than frustrated drivers trying to make up the lost seconds on winding residential streets.

After passing the barrier yesterday I was in turn passed by three speeding cars, all -judging by the 3 cm of space they left me- oblivious to mere cyclists or pedestrians. Instead, all three drivers were looking with rapt concentration on the glowing screen of their navigator, trusting that the little black box would find a way through. A few seconds later the road was lit by three sets of brake lights as they realised that you really can’t get a car through a one metre gap between a digger and a concrete wall, and that all the driveways were on the other side of the hole, so there really was nowhere to turn around. As I left them they were jockeying for position to be first to get back out again.

This was tempered by the news brought home by Eldest Son last night, that a friend is in hospital after having his foot run over by a car. Here’s hoping there won’t be any permanent damage.

Suddenly, wearing steel toe capped boots on the morning commute seems less eccentric than I thought…

This week it rained. And rained. And rained. Working in a place where many activities are outside, this can get a little trying. The horses were looking dejected as only a soggy horse can, and the fire pit became a new pond for the geese. We tried all kinds of things to dry the fire pit -even delivering wheelbarrows full of sawdust to try and soak up the water, but the sawdust just floated on the top looking like the largest and least appetising bowl of porridge in the world.

This morning I woke up and found that the weather was raising the stakes, just dropping a small reminder that it is November, and we’re 312m (1023 ft) above sea level.

Snowy_day

About this time of year I look up snow tyres or similar and decide I’m not riding enough/it won’t snow much more/its nearly spring anyway, and spend the rest of the winter skittering about.

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