You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘cycle commuting’ tag.

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…

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?

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…

I mentioned that I’d be taking the tram to college more often in future. This is a bit annoying as I’ve finally got the commuter bike working nicely, but cycling into Stuttgart is a steep learning curve.

Firstly there’s the scary hill of doom, the old road into Stuttgart now a residential street offering views across the city. I can get up on a rack railway, and very nice it is too, but going down a long steep hill is stressful enough without dealing with some of the drivers who I’m supposed to ‘share’ it with.

The route isn’t supposed to a through road, partly because it is narrow and there are several nice wide fast roads going the same way, but mostly, I suspect because the residents are wealthy enough to get what they want from the local government. This only deters the more law abiding drivers, leaving it as an unofficial rat run for the impatient entitled types who think they have a right to drive wherever they want, as fast as they want. Added to this the road is partly one way for cars but bidirectional for bikes, my least favourite kind of route because the ‘Bidirectional’ warning signs are tiny so drivers don’t see them and get upset when they see a bike coming towards them.

I’m getting better at the etiquette, but I’ll probably be cycling to a local station more often and taking the tram from there: some some drivers seem incapable of seeing those either, but at least in a tram/car collision the tram usually has the upper hand.

blusky

This rather poorly taken image on the way back from work shows something exciting: daylight. At nearly seven in the evening.

Admittedly not much, and sandwiched between some clouds that had just dumped a load of snow on us, and some clouds that shortly after rained on us, but still.

Soon we’ll be able to get ready to leave the farm without tripping over things or walking into trees and random animals. If we are really lucky this will happen before the rain makes all the puddles in the yard join together and create a new lake for the geese…

Can someone explain how time becomes elastic when you are trying to catch a tram?

The ideal tram to get to work, the one which goes where I want to go, with plenty of space, leaves at 0831. This is exactly one minute into ‘off peak’ times when I’m allowed to carry a bike.

On a good day, I leave the apartment at about ten past eight, and pootle off up the hill in my usual way, coast past the farm, ride across the main road and past the field where they sell Christmas trees earlier each year (October, this time, I expect they’ll reopen in Summer this year), and get to the tram stop at about 0820. Which is fine, except that in winter it is a bit nippy standing on the edge of the fields waiting for a tram to turn up.

So last week I tried an experiment and went a bit later; actually that was less a plan and more because I forgot my keys, lunch and water, and remembered each item after I’d come back from retrieving the last one, but I was able to leave at about 0815. This was okay, because I still had a buffer of 5 minutes, but I decided to to move as quickly as a not particularly fit bloke with asthma can, pushed up the hill, raced past the farm, nipped across the main road between cars and arrived at the station at 0832, to see the tail lights of the tram as it wandered off to Stuttgart…

Explanations please…

[Update: Post finally updated to remove typo that ruined the already feeble punchline. I tried to do this earlier but the WordPress mobile editing page is even worse than the useless ‘Improved’ normal page]

Once again we’ve been collecting illnesses and sharing them on a democratic basis. and once again I’ve been hit by a cold. I’d blame the boys but as my job currently means being coughed and sniffled at by various miscellaneous sprogs from all over Stuttgart it is likely I caught this one All By Myself.

It’s annoying as it comes at the end of an eventful week where several of the events are blog worthy, and during the day I’m fine -cycling in to work and working partly outdoors help a lot- but right now my feelings are about the same as in this post I wrote almost exactly a year ago, so I’ll leave you to that and go back to feeling sorry for myself.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

This is the ‘Wangerhof’, which marks the half way point between our village and the college I attend. If I’d used a better camera and had better light, you would be able to see, ten kilometres in the distance on the right, the spire from the village church poking above the skyline, and to the left, the hills near the town I’m aiming for. What isn’t as obvious is that this also marks the end of significant hills on the way in: from here it is mostly flat or downhill, with a very gentle climb towards the end of the ride.

Notice highly professional green rubbish bags to waterproof luggage, a trick I learned working in Nepal where bags were often carried on the roof of taxis in monsoon season. Having spent upwards of eight hours on some of my drawings I’m not about to let them get all soggy before I hand them in.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Contact me

"]

Archives

Categories