I haven´t told you yet about the mishap I had while doing a century ride, have I? Early this year I decided that I didn´t want to do all that many miles in the car anymore, so I did a lot of what we call Sternfahrten. This is basically a normal century ride, but the miles spent on the bike en route to the event also count. Of course you meet less people that way, also the fee stays the same but you don´t profit from food stops, but, as I said, it means less driving.
Of course less driving also means less compatibility of flea markets and cycling events. While I´m definitively shrinking my collection of vinyl and shellac discs, I still can´t pass by a fleamarket. In the car – no problem. You just throw the records in and forget about them until you´re back home. On the bike you need to plan your route more diligently to include the car boot sales, and also there´s the problem of carrying, say, 30 discs on a randonneuse. So what to do? I decided to press my Rohloff equipped touring bike into RTF service, because years ago I had found out a quite foolproof way of transporting LPs on it.
For this reason, I take my winter mitts even in 30 deg Centigrade weather, and I always take both of my trusty, by now 30 y-o Agusport panniers.
and Bob´s your uncle. I have carried close on 50 LPs in one go this way, and there´s no problem whatsoever. OK, granted, on steep descents the weight makes itself felt in some sort of weird rear end shimmy, but that´s a small price to pay. One Saturday this summer I bought 25 LPs and then went on a 120km ride.
One wonderful side effect is that the cyclists you meet during the small portions of the RTF route that you have to do in order to validate your license entry have a hard time guessing what´s in the yellow bag. One actually made me show him the discs as he wouldn´t believe that I took LPs on a century ride.
Anyway, back to the mishap. On one of these Sternfahrten with a carrier rack full of LPs, and about 35km from home, a pedal axle snapped, just where the adjustable cone starts, at the end of the thread. I was lucky enough to be quite close (10km) from the home of a friend who also is into bikes, so I was able to borrow a pedal, but I do hope that this is the last prank the cheapo stuff on the original chain store cycle has played me. You might remember that I bought the Rohloff used (and the Maguras, and the lighting, and…) hung on a frame which was so cheap as to be nearly unridable.
I then decided to get a decent pair of pedals and bought the heavy version Shimano reversibles.
Another funny thing about my bike is this dead spider
What else? Oh yes, the Rohloff´s been fine, and I have decided to perform the yearly oil change tomorrow. Well, bi-annual, this time. Sorry, hub. BTW, there´s a great write up of “Rohloff how to and why” on Marten Gerritsen´s m-gineering website (whose third Tubes and Coffee will be on Dec 20th, and unless something horrible happens you bet I´ll be there).
I can´t resist in offering some impressions from this wonderful autumn´s rides, beginning with a marvellously dangerous and rusty steamroller which has been stationary on our neighbourhood playground for decades. Kids can fall off, put their hands in holes, bang their heads on protruding things, cut themselves on sharp edges – they hardly ever do, and they love the machine.
Here´s one half of a Beetle. Before I chanced upon Volvos I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Citroen 2CV man, so I guess that this is the best thing you can do with a beetle – cut it in half and use it as a stopgap in the hedge.
This is a bike which I happened to see on one of my rides – a real cross frame ladies roadster, more precisely a Utopia Kranich (Heron). As so often in German bikes – good idea, cheapo build; just look at those lugs and the seat stay top.
Utopia started in 1982 and have always used steel frames, which is good, of course, but all Utopia frames I have seen were relatively coarse and, if I´m allowed to say so, priced in a way that I never bothered: A Kranich frameset is now +/- 1.000 Euros.
However, pricey as they may be, they are known for their ruggedness. A former neighbour of ours who is 6´7″ and weighs in accordingly has used a London, the gents´ version, with a Rohloff for more than a decade as his exclusive means of transport without a problem.
The frames are made in the Netherlands at van Raam bike speciality workshop in Varseveld near Doetinchem in the Achterhoek region, funnily enough only about 40km from where I spent my youth. The firm has been going strong for more than 100 years at different locations. If you look closely, the Utopia frame pictured above does look Dutch, too. According to their website, van Raam employs three framebuilders at the moment. Actually, the boxlining on some of the forks is done by Henk Kluver who, at 93 years of age, is the oldest employed person in the Netherlands. He´s been working at van Raam´s for an unbelievable 70 years.
Utopia have also had a strong connection with Rohloff and were presented with a pair of specially engraved Speedhubs for their 25th anniversary.