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The Elder Son -who made his debut on this blog riding a bike with stabilisers- needs a new bike to go to work. This it a matter of some urgency because at the moment he’s using the commuter bike, and it is only a matter of time before ‘my’ commuter bike becomes ‘his’ commuter bike unless I find an alternative.

So we’re going on a bike hunt.

The charitable organisation I work for runs several local bike shops as a way to help people gain skills and get back into work. They also recycle bikes and at this time of year there are usually a dozen or so refurbished items in unfortunate colour schemes in front of the shop, perfect for the rebuild/repainting we had in mind.

So we went to see what we could find. There are two such shops on the other side of the city, so we’d have plenty to choose from. The weather report threatened storms from mid afternoon., but there was no sign of them after lunch, and anyway, we were following a tram route the whole way, so we could always leap on the tram and come back in the dry. We snorted in derision at the weather report and set off.

Of course, after we’d been riding about half an hour -ie, we were far enough away from the apartment that it would take a soaking to get back- it started NAR. This, UK readers will know is ‘Not Actually Raining’; a very gentle drizzle or spit of rain that makes it clear that a good soaking is entirely possible.

We arrived at the first bike shop. instead of the line of bikes I was expecting, there were three: a mahoosive upright town bike, a tricycle, and a pink bike with stabilisers and plastic flowers. I suggested to Elder Son that the pink bike would suit him, but he’s fussy about things like that and wouldn’t even try it out. Young people these days.

The second shop had no bikes at all unless you counted a pile of bent scrap frames out the back.

Then the rain finally came. Not the British style of spring rain, that falls solidly but gently for hours: this was a German ‘auditioning to be a monsoon’ rainstorm, which hits the ground so hard it bounces twice and cracks flagstones.

Thank goodness we were at the tram stop, we agreed smugly.

Then we found that the station was closed for repairs and there were no trams running for the weekend…

 

The exams are over, certificates handed out, My new contract is signed and I am once more a commuter. For the next year at least.

I’m even sort of being paid, as this is a probationary year to get ‘proper’ accreditation so I’m only a ‘sort of’ Arbeitserzieher/Occupational Therapist. Of course the local transport authority doesn’t recognise this distinction so instead of having an ‘all zones’ student card I now have to pay more for a two zone commuter railcard. Still, it was good while it lasted.

I even have the luxury of two different routes to work -you’re excited, I can tell- but as one means going into the main railway station during rush hour (So… many… people…) I opted for the slightly slower way that trundles down the hill into the city to within a fifteen minute walk to work. There is a bus which in theory comes every eight minutes, but I soon discovered that bus timetables are a work of fiction when the drivers of Stuttgart all decide to go into the city at once. Besides the bus clearly likes to visit every corner of the suburbs before finally going to where I work, so there really isn’t much difference in time.

Of course, you will now be wondering why I don’t just cycle into the city, and it would be nice, as it is only about 12km one way, but Stuttgart is in a 200m deep valley, and in an effort to make sure everyone has lots of ‘choice’ about how to travel, the city has built several very wide fast roads which ensures that you can get there any way you want, as long as it is in a car.

Besides, most of what I’ve seen in my first month commuting has confirmed that the average driver in Stuttgart is not only unable to see a large yellow tram with three headlights from about ten metres away: they also have trouble noticing pedestrians, other cars, ‘no parking’ signs, mahoosive dayglo pink fire engines with flashing blue lights,  and the difference between a road and a pavement, so I don’t want to test if they will see a bicycle or not…

Well, week actually, but never let reality get in the way of a title.

This week was supposed to be one of being generally relaxed and pottering about, catching up on all the annoying jobs that get forgotten while revising. Of course it hasn’t worked out like that because of the demands of different offices that we fill in the correct form and/or turn up for an interview Right Now because my change of status to not-really-unemployed to not-really-employed had sent their systems into a hissy fit.

This is not very exciting to blog about.

Fortunately, once the forms were gone we could do all the things that were neglected in the last few months.

One of the most important of these as far as Beautiful daughter was concerned was going out for adventures on the Bakfiets, so we’ve been exploring.

We went to see some horses,

…and found out how useful dock leaves are after stumbling through some nettles on the edge of the forest.

Beautiful daughter found a warm space with some interesting shaped seeds and nice soft soil…

And of course we had to visit a river to throw Great Big Rocks into

While not finding interesting new places we had time being creative, and made a poster for Grandpa’s birthday.

Meanwhile a pile of revision notes has been sitting forlornly in the corner waiting for me to decide what to do with them…

 

Things are busy again for reasons which will be obvious pretty soon, so I haven’t written much. Instead here’s Beautiful Daughter on our regular road trip, which is far more interesting than I am anyway.

Beautiful daughter generally drags me in the direction of the door by about ten in the morning, insistently saying “Ride to cow farm, Ride to Rabbits… so off we go.

First we ride out to the ‘cow farm’, and then walk to the meadows next door to pick dandelion leaves…

Then we ride to the next farm, and feed the rabbits. Those rabbits have a good thing going I reckon; they’re certainly very fat.

We say hello to the two ponies…

Before going a few more kilometres out into the fields, where there is yet another farm, With even more interesting friendly animals…

…and a Pile Of Sticks. Which have to be tested very carefully.

Eventually we find our way back to the apartment. Via the playground. Unless I remember to avoid it.

We could do this by walking of course. But then it would take all day with the distances involved. Thank goodness for Bakfietsen…

 

One of these years I really am going to get my act together and fix all the little problems on the bikes before winter, as well as greasing the bolts on important places so they don’t seize up in the salt spray. Places like the bolt holding the kickstand on the commuter bike, for example, so when it goes all wobbly I can just tighten it up without the hex key socket turning to mush and leaving me with a wobbly stand for the winter.

One of these years, but not last year. Hence the rather drastic maintenance seen above.

for the last few months I’d avoided using the stand by leaning the bike against handy walls, railings and conveniently placed motor vehicles, and jamming bike tubes under the frame, but the stand was starting to move towards the wheel while riding which could have interesting consequences, so this week I visited the City Farm I sued to work at, and attacked the bit of aluminium holding stand to frame with hammers, chisels and the Very Big Drill untill it finally gave way under the onslaught of blunt objects and foul language.

Then problem, it seems was that the bike doesn’t have a fitting on the frame for a stand, so it will eventually twist under use. I’m wondering if this is an excuse to get a two legged stand, but I know the real solution is getting myself organised enough to grease the bolts more often…

 

It’s one of my favourite times of the year again, when the weather department realises it is spring and suddenly we go from freezing cold and rain to sunshine, flowers, and very nearly not a needing a coat. This also means I can ride most of the way to college instead of using the tram, and thus avoid the centre with all its annoyances without getting too muddy.

Most of the route is on routes through the forest and across fields where cars are supposedly not allowed.They are therefore indifferently tarmacked or gravel, and used as a turning circle for tractors ploughing. (The local town once made a big thing about how they employed a sort of park ranger who apart from anything else should keep these roads clean, which gave us all a laugh).

Having mudguards helps of course, as well as an improvised mudflap which is surviving far longer than I dared hope, but it is good to know I can ride through the forest and not hit mud or puddles.

Which made last week just the wrong time for the owners of the local forest to decide to play with their big tractors, and close the routes to Stuttgart so they could mess up all the trails undisturbed. It gave the journey an extra edge of adventure, especially as they only reopened them when they’d made sure there were wheel ruts across the trails wider than some local cycleways.

Just a small reminder that for all the hot air, we don’t really consider bicycles to be a proper form of transport.

Meanwhile, our version of Stuttgart is developing, slowly…

The rest of the world is getting madder and madder, but at least the sun has started to come out.

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Whoever invented spiked tyres was a genius.

Riding all the way into Stuttgart is still impossible even with spikes, so the current commute is as far as the nearest tram stop and back. This is only a few kilometres but means that I can at least ride that bit.

The local bus and tram company don’t seem to talk to each other so the bus frequently leaves a minute before the tram arrives. A cold fifteen minute ride is preferable to a freezing twenty minute wait for the bus.

Meanwhile, the mural is progressing:

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I have exams looming so blogging will be minimal for a while…

In December our glorious leaders, in the form of the town council, announced that they were introducing a new traffic calming scheme. Finally we are getting a speed limit of 30 km/h (Ca. 20 mph) through the village, instead of 50 km/h (30 mph). This, according to google and my rather wooly maths, will mean it takes 2 minutes 24 second to go through the village, instead of 1 minute 26 seconds. A ‘delay’ of 58 seconds.

Cue howls of protest from local drivers.

This limit will apparently cause chaos. And… and… er… traffic jams, yes, lots of traffic jams… and it’ll cause more of that… oh, what was the word… began with a P… pollution, that was it. Pollution. Because er… slowing cars down means they pollute… more… Yeah: pollution bad. But not bad enough to stop me driving.

Besides. It’s not because of cars. It’s because there are too many Lorries. yes. All the noise and pollution is the fault of the 1300 lorries that drive through the village each day, not the 13000 cars: it’s all the trucks. And what about those busses getting priority at lights? How dare these lesser road users get priority over me? Don’t they realise that as a car user I am a superior being? And of course buses take up too much space as well. Get rid of them.

So what we need is more roads. nice fast roads running around the village so the lorries can go around the village and we can drive in the centre as much as we want. That’ll solve everything. What? The new road will go through a nature reserve. Ah, well, at least the roads in the village will be nice and clear.

After all, building roads for the last fifty years has worked so well for everyone, hasn’t it?

For use in those parts of ‘civilization’ where the Xtracycle may prove just too tempting for thieves and vandals, I have a Commuter Bike, picked up as a very ugly looking mountain bike complete with yellow transfers bearing the name ‘Stampede’.

Wikipedia defines a ‘stampede’ as:

“…uncontrolled concerted running as an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd (or crowd) collectively begins running, often in an attempt to escape a perceived threat.”

Yes, that sounds just like a bicycle.

Anyway, I bought the bike back in 2012 and did the bare minimum to make it into a basic commuter bike that would present as unattractive a target as possible: I added some scrap mudguards, a stand, V-Brakes, a set of old tyres from the Xtracycle, some elderly lights and the cheapest dynamo I could find.

The bike then got on with its main purpose in life of not being nicked all day at the tram stop while I was at carpentry college. It managed this for two and a half years with no trouble at all, although the front light turned out to be pretty but useless so I changed it before I ran into something, or more likely before something ran into me.

At some point the awful foam handlebars turned back into whatever oil based slime they’d been made of, and needed a replacement quickly, so in desperation I fitted the only handlebar grips I had, which happened to be cork.

Then last week I took it out to see what I’d need to change for the new commute into Stuttgart, and noticed it isn’t looking that ugly anymore.

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And now I’m getting attached to the thing and wondering if I could give it some nice bar ends, or maybe at least get rid of those transfers and upgrade the luggage rack to one that doesn’t rattle… but that would defeat the object of having the bike in the first place. It’s there to be  ugly, dammit, or at least boring, so it doesn’t get nicked when chained to a lamppost in Stuttgart. Next thing you know I’ll be giving it a name…

Still, if anyone has an idea how to remove garish yellow transfers, please let me know…

Xtracycle_inna_bus

During school time the Farm is open Tuesday-Saturday, so from this week my weekend starts tomorrow. Normal blogging servce will be resumed then, with tales of cycle commuting, tractors, goats and flying gates.

In the meantime, and in an effort to keep the blog on subject, here is a picture of the Xtracyle fitting into a bus.

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