Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I dream of two wheels...

"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Just to switch things up, I felt that it was time to make a post about my bicycling adventures. I hope you all don't mind.

June 2012...

bike_new photo bike_new.jpg

January 2013

Bike_Jan_2013 photo Bike_Jan_2013_zps8e11021d.jpg

As you can see, my bike has taken on a few improvements and changes since my July 2012 post.

Let me first talk a bit about my "philosophy" of bicycles.

I truly believe that the bicycle is an extension of my body. It is a vehicle where the passenger is at the same time the motor. I also see a bicycle as an empty canvas, awaiting the stroke of the rider to make it their own.

I am not a gram shaver - actually, I'm the opposite: I search out robust pieces that I know will last and serve me in the long run.

Nor am I a gear whore, although many cyclists (and most likely my girlfriend...)would describe me as such. I do not buy gear simply to satisfy my desire to have the latest, greatest, or lightest.

Replacing gear on my bike is an ongoing process of seeing what works and making adjustments as needed to assure that riding is a pleasant and satisfying experience. For me, the journey is not enough - although this is a large part of why I have decided to start riding - the process of making my bike a harmonious extension of myself is something that has fascinated me and that I have striven towards since I was a teenager.

I greatly desire to have a minimalistic single-speed but, sadly, it's totally impractical for me. Most of these are delicate works of art, designed with underfed hipsters in mind who will probably never ride the thing, only hang it in the hallway of their home. I also do not live in a city like Berlin, München, or Hamburg where something like that would be ultra-practical. I live in a village next to a larger village - the ability to transverse both distance and various terrain while carrying loads is a requirement. Finally, they just don't make 'em strong enough.

So, I've got what I've got.

You know, what I've got ain't too bad.

So, what did I change this time?

Most importantly, I washed it. So many people refuse (for whatever reason) to wash their bikes and I simply don't get it. You spent a lot of money on your bike, why not take an hour to make sure that the object of your passion is clean? I know that some off-road types think that to have a clean ride is somehow a sign of weakness but I wholeheartedly disagree. Not only do you get a good-looking bike but it's a great time to look and see where minor adjustments need to be made and how things are wearing.

Corollary: should you wash your bike with a high-pressure sprayer, I hope your bearings sound like a flock of angry sparrows and you are mocked and reviled endlessly by passing schoolchildren!

So, after cleaning up, I decided to lube my chain. I'm a real fan of the KryTech product from Finish Line. The addition of wax (mostly paraffin) really makes a difference when the weather is bad or I ride mostly trails. Oddly enough, I like to use the stuff around the house, like for sticky locks, door hinges, and window mechanisms. The dryness of the lubricant stays where I apply it and doesn't attract dirt.

Now, maybe I'm just strange but I find that oiling my chain is very meditative, like reciting a mantra. Each pivot gets a drop. Takes me forever. Very calming.

Once finished with that, I replaced my old Conti TownRides, a versatile, dry-weather city tire with something a bit sportier from Maxxis - the WormDrive.

Tires photo Tires_zpsec8a18de.jpg

Don't get me wrong - the Contis are a great tire, it's just that with the winter weather cycling between dumping snow and then warming up, I felt I needed something that had a tad more grip but wasn't a pure offroad tire. When you factor in that manufacturers have forgotten that there is an entire group of people who ride 700c wheels but want tires wider than 35mm, my choices were rather limited. I ordered the Maxxis' on Amazon, only to find out that Maxxis has discontinued the line. So now I'm burning tires that I can probably never replace.

Oh well. I like the added grip and safety, despite having to get used to the higher rolling resistance. I pumped those suckers up to 5.5-6.0 bar, so we'll see how long they last.

Now, if you would have told me when I was 16 and a budding road cyclist that someday I would be excited to get a new light for my bike, I would have had you declared as insane and probably never talked to you again. Well, I was really excited to get a new light for my bike:

Light photo Light_zps576060c9.jpg

Busch & Müller's Lumotec series is (here in Germany) the last word in affordable, innovative, super-bright bicycle lighting. I purchased the model Cyo T LED Senso Plus, which has daytime running lights and a 60 lux main light. This means that it's bright as hell at night without being blinding. Now, I run a light from my hub dynamo like you are required to do here in Deutschland and my old light was just not cutting it. On my ride through the forest to go home, I damn near ran over a family walking in the pitch dark (!!!) if it weren't for the little one waving at me in his white jacket. Now, this will no longer be the case, as I have a great light pattern to the front while the daytime lights provide peripheral vision.

I also replaced my grips. I am of the opinion that the contact surfaces (grips/seat/pedals) are some of the most important point on the bike, I invested some money in ergonomically correct grips.

Grips photo Grips_zps7092d056.jpg

As you can see, I chose the Ergon GS1 grip in black. The support that these provide is simply unbelievable. I figured that it was a gimmick but I would give them a shot. I can say with certainty that I will be a long-time fan of these grips. Over longer distance, they allow you to rest on your bars without causing your hands to fall asleep and I feel that you have better control.

Being that I am an innovator (yea, right...) I saw in the 'Net that someone was designing a leather frame carrying strap and I figured that I could do something similar out of paracord. The reason for my choice of materials is that leather would look out of place on my bike and I have *lots* of paracord. So, I made this:

Handle photo Handle_zpsf968dafb.jpg

Well, my version sucks.

Not the concept - the handle makes it a thousand times easier to carry my bike up and down the stairs (I store my bike in the cellar)- but my handiwork is rather lackluster. I figured that I could run a four-strand braid, tighten it enough to make a hold and then tie a double salomon bar between.

It sort of worked but the loops are loose and the thing slides all over hell and gone. I also made the carrying handle itself far too long, which give tons of play in the entire construction. I want to come up with a better solution for the loops that go around the tubing but I have failed up to this point. The use of premade Velcro tie-down straps looked really promising but failed spectacularly as soon as I weighted it - the Velcro was bound around the D ring via plastic heat weld bonding. That died almost instantly.

Footnote: By all means support Walnut Studiolo. I think that this is the kind of simple but effective innovation in the bicycle world that needs more support and I hope that they are successful in their endeavor. That and they make really cool bike stuff out of leather!

Other changes that have been made not supported by photographs:

I pulled my old Time pedals off my mountain bike to replace my Shimano PD-M324s. The Shimanos were a good pedal but the SPD system just doesn't give enough play to keep my old, broke-dick knees from hurting. Remember - contact points are important!

I replaced my aging, tired Cateye Enduro 2 bike computer (now being sold as the Enduro 8) with a spiffy new wireless O-Synce Urban Free. Wireless is the way to go with bike computers and O-Synce breaks out of the mold set by Sigma and the others. The little remote is a bit fumbly at first but with time became one of those "how did I live without this" things.

My El Cheapo™ waterbottle cage got switched out for a SKS Slidecage, which holds my water bottle better and has the possibility to hold non-standard size drink holders like thermal coffee bottles.

Oh, to address the lack of cat-related content, I leave you with Kali, doing what she does best...

KALIMAAAAAA!!!! photo KALIMAAAAAAA_zps72804379.jpg

"Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race." ~ H.G. Wells

I bid you Peace,

*Extra Disclaimer* - I don't get a single cent nor do I get any
swag from any of the manufacturers whose products I have shown and/or linked to.
It would rock, but it's not to be. All opinions are my very own. So there! :P

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The "Post Xmas and NYE Insanity" Epic Novel Part Two

So, where were we?

In Part 1, I regaled you all with the wonderment and magic that is the German Christmas Market. Now, I want to discuss an important topic, one that is close to your heart if you live in the Rheinland Palatinate...


That's right - the both feared and revered dish that is the very definition of all things Pfälzig. That which Helmut Kohl served to every visiting dignitary he could think of, not as a way to test their stomachs, but to show off something that he thought was the greatest thing in all of Germany.

I agree with him. Yet again, this is something that had humble beginnings as poor-man's fare and is now made with the finest ingredients possible. There's even a World Championship for saumagen.

You may be asking yourself "what does this have to do with Christmas and/or New Year's Eve?

Well...nothing. Does it matter?

Anyway, on the advice of a good friend, Anna and I traveled to a tiny village of Harthausen in the Palatinate to get what is regularly considered as the best saumagen in all of Germany. This is where Helmut Kohl (allegedly) got his to serve to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher so I assume that it is good enough for us.

That place is Metzgerei Schreiner.


A rather unassuming place. I can assure you though, the meaty delights inside makes the trek worth the time.

There are essentially two styles of saumagen: with or without chestnuts. I find them both to be delicious. I was given a tip from the woman at the counter: coat the slices with flour to keep the chestnuts from falling out into the pan. Worked quite well...


Now, the traditional style of serving is with sauerkraut (which I dislike) and good, hearty bread.


I tend towards serving it with mashed potatoes. Maybe it's the leftover American in me but for some reason I like it better.


This is living!

More Saumagenses

I can only say that if you somehow have the opportunity to get some, do it.

You won't be disappointed.

Guten Appetit!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The "Post Xmas and NYE Insanity" Epic Novel Part One


Well, the Holiday Season is finally over. My vacation is at an end and I have to get on the bike and head into the office like the rest of Unified Germany.

No more sitting around in my jogging pants, watching horrible daytime television. No more late-night forays in to the world of Battlefield 3. No waking up sometime in the afternoon, simply because you can.

Nope. The new year demands my contribution, as does my employer.

I will spare you all the lurid details of my vacation as no one really needs to hear tales of Anna and I traveling to her parents place with the cats in tow.

I mean, you can pretty much imagine the scene: my car filled to bursting with our luggage, my toys, and Xmas gifts for everyone and then things like bags of cat litter, cat food, scratching posts, and a travel box with two terrified, howling cats in the back.

Now, imagine being trapped in this automobile for over four hours. In traffic.

No, I won't get into the gory details. I will, however, show you the culinary delights that we enjoyed!

Cranking back the Hands of Time®, we have a look at something interesting that I found at a Christmas Market:

Eat Me

For some reason beyond my understanding, I felt compelled to purchase this bag of Physalis despite the fact that I hate the damned things! Fortunately, I was able to resist its siren's call and I was able to enjoy the rest of the market.

Now, for those of you who don't know, a German tradition is the Christmas Market. These begin appearing in every village and town on the first Sunday of Advent and continue until shortly before Christmas Eve.

Photo: Roland Berger License: Creative Commons by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Some of the more famous ones happen in places like Nürnberg, Stuttgart, Dresden, and Munich but markets can be found just about everywhere. Among other delights, the markets sell food, drink, and Christmas/Winter-related items from open-air stalls.


Popular at every market are the "glühwein" stands. The reasons for this being that the drink is very hot, so it keeps you warm and it's full of sugar, so it is sweet, easy to drink, and gets you bombed on the cheap. I can't stand the stuff but I encourage people to drink in mass quantities as it causes young men and women to do incredibly foolish but entertaining things, such as strip down to their underwear on a bet or have piggy-back races in a crowd of people on snowy ground. Hilarious!

Christmas markets are not recommended for people who are trying to lose weight as there is lots of food being sold.

Lots. Of. Food.

Not only is the quantity of vendors available huge but the portions are usually cripplingly large and unhealthy in a way that would make most dieticians have a nervous breakdown. Grilled bratwurst with fried onions, Lángos (deep fried dough with melted cheese or sugar), fresh waffles with cinnamon and sugar, crépes filled with Nutella, hot Reibekuchen, freshly roasted chestnuts, and more.







It's horrible! Evil! Should be illegal!!

You see, I've got a real problem with market food - I don't have enough hands to carry everything I want.

Not everyone was having a great time...


I think it could be worse. Not sure how, but worse.

On to Part 2 of our Epic!!!!