Posts Tagged ‘bicycle


Back on the mountain bike again and it feels great

Ian back on the bikeIt felt so good to be on the bike again – my real bike, not my daughter’s and definitely not the one that replaced the one that split in two as I was crossing the road last year – that I rode 45km along the Elbe just because.

Tuesday it will be three months since my ski injury, and only three weeks ago the physiotherapist at rehab said to me in a gentle, roundabout kind of way that my goal of getting back on the mountain bike would have to wait.

“I think we all knew that riding again by the end of your time here wasn’t going to be,” she said, “but I think by the end of the year you’ll be ready.”

The end of the year?  Another seven months of taking the bus?  I went home feeling despondent.  I was making progress on getting the knee to bend more and more, so why such a long, drawn-out recovery?  Maybe she was just trying to make sure I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high for a quick return to full range of motion.

By some scheduling quirk they assigned me a different physiotherapist the next week.  She’s no better than the first one, but somehow she stretched me out one day so much, it made all the difference.

That same afternoon – the Friday of week three – I got up on the exercise bike, the real one, the one with the real crank and not the one you adjust shorter for those with limited flexibility – and gave it a turn.  And another.  And another.  I could not believe it.  It felt tight at the top of the circle, but I could do it just fine.  I was so happy, I wanted to scream with joy.  It was like climbing to the top of a ridge when you’re heading for the summit and taking in an incredible view knowing that you’re finally over the first big push.  I clenched my fists, bowed my head,  wanted to scream but couldn’t, so it just happened – a gush of tears.  I could not hold them back.  I was so happy, so incredibly overjoyed at once again proving to myself my leg was going to get better enough to allow me to do this simple task once again.  I tried to hide it by swiping my towel, taking in deep breaths, but it didn’t work.  It was like a release from weeks of frustration and doubt.

I looked over to my right to the desk at the corner of the gym and there she was, the physio who only two hours before had had both my legs stretched out on the table saying, “Gee, you’re really doing this well.”

I wiped off my face and walked over to where she was sitting, leaned over and said as sincerely as I could, “thank you! Thank you!  Thank you!”  She didn’t know what I meant, but I pointed over to the bike and said, “over there, the bike – I can do it!”

I led her over and got back on and showed her, thanked her again, and kept on it for another 20 minutes.

Yesterday, after practising in the  meantime on my daughter’s bike, and the dreaded split-in-two bike, I took out my bike – the one I watched them build from scratch – and took it for a spin.  The right thigh might still resemble a sausage with a slice down one end, but it bends and is getting stronger.  It feels great.


Time to donate to charity

I wrote a rather long travel / what-we-did-on-our-summer-vacation post not too long ago with the following tucked in around the mid-point:

What?  You’re still reading?  Good for you!  Most would have started skimming or given up ages ago.  In honour of your perseverance, I will donate 10 euros to charity for every reader who takes the trouble to find my email address in the sidebar and send a mail with the following subject line:  I can’t believe I read the whole thing.  I bet I won’t have to pay a dime.  I’m dead serious.

Despite that rather cocky assertion that I probably wouldn’t have to fork it over,  four readers let me know they indeed had read the whole thing.  One left a comment instead of writing an email, but that’s OK.

So now it’s time to put my money where my keyboard is.

Saving the rainforest, curing cancer, feeding the homeless and supporting animal shelters are all worthy causes and I suppose the money would be put to good use wherever it goes.

We already sponsor a girl in Sri Lanka through Plan International, but there are also people close to home who could use a hand.

nutzmull-hamburgThat’s why I’ve rounded it up by €10 and given €50 to a workshop in Hamburg that employs deaf people as bicycle mechanics.

They take bikes that nobody wants anymore, fix them up with spare parts, and sell them for a reasonable price.  They not only give a steady job to people who might not otherwise find one, they recycle the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation going.  I’ve bought two from them over the years, using them as bad-weather wheels to save my main bike from the ravages of winter grit.nutzmull-hamburg-computers-printers

They have also developed a really good sideline business rejuvenating out-of-date computers and computer equipment and selling them on to people who might otherwise not be able to afford top-of-the-line gear.

So thanks once again Michele, Bellicose, Onkel Mo and Silke, who took the trouble to let me know they’d slogged through the whole thing.

It was a pleasure to drop by there and say hello today, and pass along the money to a worthy cause.  They were quite happy to see me, too. 🙂


How to make a new bicycle look too crappy to steal

About a month ago, the little red-haired girl’s bike was one of the 50 bicycles stolen every hour of every day in Germany – more than 400,000 every year. It wasn’t the best bike you can buy but it did cost about €400 and she used it every day to get to school, visit friends, go to horse-riding and clarinet lessons – to get everywhere that was close enough to home, anyway.

We didn’t have a convenient place to park it inside overnight, so we bought what we thought was a decent lock and stored it back of our place. Didn’t take long before it was gone.

It took a while to find a replacement, but we finally found an adult’s bike with a small frame that we hope she’ll grow into. And this time, we’ve gone all out to reduce the chance of getting this one stolen, too.

Number one is making sure she has a place inside to store it overnight.

So I bought a heavy wall anchor that is now permanently installed in the concrete wall of our basement space, cleared by throwing out junk and re-arranging other stuff. Whoever buys our place one day is going to inherit that thing, because I had to smash a ball bearing with a heavy hammer into each allen key hole so that it can’t ever be unscrewed from the wall. OK, I suppose a jack-hammer might do it, but that’ll wake up the neighbours.

We – that means I – now have to lug the bike downstairs and back up every evening and morning, but despite the hassle, the peace of mind is worth it.

It’s still not 100% safe, of course. During the day when it’s parked at school or at the bus stop the chances of it getting stolen are less than if you lock it outside overnight, but bicycles get stolen anytime.

So after Pete from Couchtrip suggested in a comment that I get these stickers to make the bike look so crappy, a thief passing by wouldn’t think of stealing it, I said what the hell, give it a shot – and ordered three packages from the website of British artist Dominic Wilcox for about €15.

The stickers really do look pretty authentic, even before they’re on the bike. You get 15 shapes per card – rust stains, chipped and peeling paint, a straight-edged rust strip you can wrap around a tube joint – enough to get you started I suppose, but really, you should go all out and get three. That way, it really looks crappy. Oh, and he’ll drop the postage charges if you get three.

We whiled away a pleasant half-hour on the balcony a couple of days ago sticking them on. I was a little unsure at first, but after looking at them for a couple of days I have to say the bike does look abused and neglected. The little red-haired girl says they blend in too well to the grey paint, but I think that’s what makes them work. Because the colouring in on a clear background, they show the background paint through the edges to look like real scrapes and rust spots.

OK – maybe not up close. I suppose if a thief were hanging around the bike checking it out, he’d see through the ruse; the handlebars are still shiny, the rims and hubs are pristine, and the stickers aren’t perfect.

But if it’s enough to deter the wrong guy at the right time often enough, odds are that normal wear-and-tear will catch up with it and it’ll get a chance to start looking its age in a few years’ time while still in her possession.

Insurance tip:

Another thing to seriously consider when you buy a new bike is insurance. Because the possibility it might get stolen had crossed my mind, we bought an insurance policy via Wertgarantie. (link goes to site in German only)

Their complete coverage package really does cover everything. They’ll pay for all parts and labour for repairs due to defects, vandalism, rough handling, wear and tear – everything. They’ll replace the bike full cost if it’s stolen while locked around an immovable object with a lock on their approved list. The lock is also insured and replaced if damaged. They’ll also replace parts stolen off the bike.

I went for it because even though the cost of the bike will be paid again over four or five years through the monthly fees, the time I save in not having to do any repairs at all during that time is more than worth it.

When the time came to report the theft they were friendly and helpful with all my questions both by phone and email. We found a new bike for about €600, but all we did was pay the €200 difference. They reimbursed the dealer the €400 for the old bike.

This is not a paid post, btw! I just think it’s a good deal – and was really pleased with the service they gave me when I actually had to make a claim.


Passive-aggressive note to a bicycle thief

Finally bought a new bike for the little red-haired girl to replace the one stolen from behind our place. Because writing passive-aggressive notes has now become a spectator sport, it occured to me that maybe I should tack one right where the bike was standing when the lock was snapped through in the middle of the night.

It should go something like this:

Dear Bike Thief:

Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to explore the inside of our local police station, play telephone and email ping-pong with our insurance company and discover just how difficult it is to find a suitable replacement bike for an 11-year-old at the end of summer when nothing is left in stock and new deliveries are a month away. She will no doubt grow into the adult bike we were forced to buy. In the meantime we have purchased at considerable expense a hefty anchor which has been installed for your convenience in the concrete wall of our basement cellar located behind no less than three locked doors. That’s where her new bike is now going to be standing overnight. You are now welcome to show you actually have the balls to pull off some real breaking-and-entering, instead of slinking off with another child’s bike after whipping out your fucking bolt-cutters. Our insurance will pay for it anyway.

But although it’s good to vent, the best way to make sure you don’t get ripped off again is to go on the defensive.

Because leaving a shiny new bicycle out in public in this country is like sticking a sign around it saying RIP THIS OFF, you can also pick up stickers that make a new bike look like shit!

Thanks to South African blogger Pete at Couch trip who dropped a link to the company selling rust and scratch camouflage stickers in his comment in the last post. Since the little red-haired girl is all for keeping her new bike at any cost, she said it’s OK to go ahead and buy a set. Once we get them in the mail and stick them on, I’ll post a photo of the rustiest, crappiest-looking new bike you’ve ever seen.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject…

Sick of roommates or colleagues stealing your lunch? You can now buy plastic bags that make it look as if that Wonder bread sandwich is covered in mold.

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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