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Yesterday I decided that the bikes were filthy. Actually, I’d decided that some time ago and then put off cleaning them for ages, but I’d been using the Bakfiets to move gardening things and it was looking appropriately like a farm trailer inside and out, and the weather report was promising a lack of rain, so out came the Big Black Bucket.

The Commuter bike was done first, so that I can find and/or get at important moving parts and attempt some vague maintenance next weekend. Even though bikes are astonishingly low maintenance, after riding it about in all weathers for several months it reached the point where I need to spend actual money on it.


Essential tools of rural Bakfiets hygiene are a dustpan and brush and a large lump of wood. Close inspection of the moving parts below the box revealed some serious rust around the bottom of the steering column, so I’ll have to get the Hammerite out over summer.

Despite my lack of organisation I actually managed to finish all three bikes. I’m now hoping that the weather holds for the week so I can get on with fixing the commuter bike when the parts arrive…

 

 

 

 

Towards the end of the holiday the weather got bored with being wet and windy, and went to just being cold for a couple of days, leaving your correspondent with the usual dilemma: Should I take advantage of the sudden blue skies to clean wash about three months of accumulated crud off the bikes, or should I just ride a bike?

No contest really.

Having made it through the unfortunate mess that is Stuttgart Airport, I broke out into fields again, and past this monument to a more civilised form of flying. Apparently this is where one of the first Zeppelins made an emergency landing in a field with the great man on himself on board.

After making repairs they took off again and flew to Friedrichshafen. Try that with a 747.

Off to the next village…

And on, through the fields. These hills are the same as those seen from our balcony. I really should stop whining about where I live.


This was my goal: Hardthausen church. Churches in the region are very distinctive so I tend to use them as markers on a ride.

As I approached Stuttgart again things began to unravel. a mix of poor signage and poor guesswork landed me riding uphill on a busy road with drivers honking their horns at me. I’m going to assume they and the motorcyclist who shouted something indistinct and waved a boot in my direction were simply trying to be encouraging.

Then after following the route around the airport for several kilometres, I found this:

There was a small piece of paper taped to this showing a ‘diversion’ that went back along the way I’d come, then through another village and into a valley, using another busy road and adding about 3 hilly miles to the journey.

The other side of the roadworks, the crane is the same one as in the other image.

Sharp eyed viewers will notice that I could have gone around the fence and cycled the hundred yards or so straight through the roadworks, as it was a Sunday and they were empty of construction workers.

Of course, I was very good and didn’t do this.

This isn’t far from our town, just a short ride down into the valley…

And up the Hill Of Doom on the other side, which is the unfortunate end of every ride around here and never gets photographed because that would require me to stand up straight and be able to focus after the climb.

I managed 32km in total. Not much but it wasn’t meant to be a serious ride. Anything more adventurous will have to wait until after exams.

The long drawn out and very boring process of getting German citizenship I’ve described before is continuing: we’ve had a request for a rather large amount of money and more copies of the documents we had to copy earlier. We have to take them to an office at some unspecified point in the future, so we are hoping this means we are coming towards the end of that one. Of course this means chasing different government offices who move at the usual speed of government offices everywhere…

Exams continue: you’ve all experienced them and they are as fun and exciting as way back when, so I don’t need to go on about that…

On the other hand I’ve got a project week this week, which means I can start a bit later and get to make stuff and call it work. My group has to make and design a gate that will open for a wheelchair without the user needing to undo a bolt or turn a handle, and close securely after they have gone through. This last bit is important because we are back at the city farm I worked at a couple of years ago, and the gate goes to the rabbit pen.

On top of this the weather is good at the moment and I can ride the Xtracycle to the farm, and not get muddy in the process, which reduces a lot of the potential grumpiness…

I’ve been generally lazy about maintenance over winter, and for several weeks (probably months, but never mind) the back gears on the Xtracycle have been playing up, in particular the middle gears seemed to think clicking the lever was a suggestion, to be given some consideration and possibly followed. Eventually. It was one of those gradual problems that you get used to over time, which was why I’d not bothered about it much.

Then came several weeks when I almost exclusively used the commuter bike. For all its faults this has gears which change when I want them to, and the shock when I went back to the Xtracycle was enough that I finally got around to doing something about it.

That something was to remove the rear mech that came with the original Raleigh bike back in 1997, and which has survived all my mistreatment over the last 20 years, but which I was pretty sure had finally given up. Being me, I’d hoarded several replacements, including one from a ‘scrap’ bike a customer brought into our local bike shop many years ago. It took ten minutes to change it, plus about three days faffing about and putting it off.

This made very little difference, so I did what I should have done at first and cleaned out the outer tubing and replaced the brake cable. This got a result. The gears are still a bit iffy, but they usually change when told. Or within a couple of seconds, at least.

I’m wondering if the main issue is the over enthusiastic use of cable ties on the cable, but naturally now the bike is ridable again I’m ignoring the problem.

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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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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…

So, here’s the smallest member of the family, almost  eighteen months old, and collecting rocks. As you do.

cutiebug
She is currently at the ‘collecting things’ stage which is causing all kinds of problems especially as she recently ‘collected’ the key to the cleaning cupboard, which normally resides in a drawer well out of her reach, for obvious reasons. While she hasn’t mastered the art of opening a door with a key she has mastered the art of Putting Things In Strange Places. The key vanished.

Then the kitchen sink got all bunged up.

Usually the Tiny One can find things fairly quickly (Something she certainly inherits from Beautiful Wife as I frequently have to call my phone to find it), but when we asked her this time she just looked quizzical.

And offered us a rock.

Fortunately a few phone calls later and the Xtracycle was pressed into service to collect some borrowed Emergency Plumbing Equipment.

pluminproblem

So now the sink is free from crud and usable again. Unfortunately we still don’t have a key for the cleaning cupboard.

On the other hand, we have plenty of rocks…

That isn’t the most exciting thing to happen this week. I should have something much more interesting soon, just bear with me…

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I’ve long known that the world is run by extroverts, and last week I came across another example; for my seminar in Tübingen my employer only refunded one return trip for the week because “we have overnight accomodation”.

The accomodation is in shared rooms, so lots of contact with strangers 24 hours a day.

This is a bit like telling a left-handed person “Just use right-handed scissors.” It is not going to happen.

So I had to work out a way to travel to and from the seminar that wasn’t too expensive. After a couple of days experiencing the hilarity that is car sharing (Late one day because of traffic, and another because the driver had a flooded apartment and cancelled) I decided to spring for a ticket on the way to Tübingen, then cycle from Tübingen to Herrenberg on the way back. Herrenberg is on the edge of the Stuttgart transport zone, and as my railcard becomes an all lines pass within Stuttgart and region after midday, this meant I could catch a train to within a short cycle ride of our village and make the whole journey for nothing.

In practice it would have been less stressful if I hadn’t lost track of time visiting a good friend in Stuttgart (‘introvert’ doesn’t mean ‘antisocial’) and realised I needed to get to a station 25 kilometres away in about an hour and a half, on a route I didn’t know, uphill. And that I hadn’t eaten in several hours.

It worked out reasonably well though. The route was well signposted until I got to Herrenberg, where I was sent on to a major road into Stuttgart with lots of impatient drivers, but this is just a reminder to any tree hugging hippies from Tübingen that in the real world bikes are not a proper form of transport. I still made it in time for the train.

I got myself two fresh Pretzels as a reward. This is the second as I ate the first too fast…

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The only real issue was that the S-Bahn/outer suburban trains are too short to accomodate an Xtracycle…

TÜ_03

lonisbest

Observant people may have noticed that as well as having more daylight in the previous post, I’m also riding the Xtracycle again, after possibly the longest time out of service since I fitted the ‘Free Radical’ on the back of my Raleigh bike almost ten years ago.

I had got used to the normal sized commuter bike and I was a bit concerned that I’d feel the extra weight of the Xtracycle a bit too much, but it feels like I’m flying. I’m still not sure quite why this is, after all that plank on the back weighs a bit, and then there’s all the junk that accumulated in the luggage carriers that I keep forgetting to take out again -you can see some poking out of the back of the bike in the picture- but there you are. Riding is faster, smoother and more comfortable.

It isn’t perfect yet; the gears are still a bit strange, which is either because I’m still using the 19-year-old original mechanism, or possibly due to the incompetence of the bike wrench. I suspect the latter.

Unfortunately destiny means the Xtracycle and I will be parted for a few more days as I need to go to another seminar in Tübingen, so the commuter will be coming with me again.

Tübingen is known for having pretty good cycle infrastructure, so I’ll try to take pictures to bore you with when I get back.

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On the way back from work, taken at the same place as this picture and possibly a few minutes later in the day, and we now have real daylight. The ground is actually starting to dry off and the geese no longer have to swim to cross the farm yard.

Of course it snowed for several hours a couple of days ago, and there was ice on the window this morning, but at least we can now leave work without crashing into wheelbarrows and stray sheep.

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