For our trip to Europe, my wife and I bought two cheap folding bicycles so we could get some exercise and extend our range without using a car all the time.
Before we left, my friend Paul, who knows a fair bit about folding bikes, suggested that we get better tires for our bikes, so I bought some Schwalbe “Marathons”. The Marathons are puncture resistant and can be pumped up harder than the tires that came with our bikes. Hard tires mean less resistance and friction, which in turn means less energy is used whilst cycling.
Being the slack guy that I am, I left off putting the new tires on our bikes until the day before we left for Europe. The new tires were so tight; I couldn’t get them on my wheels so I took them to a local bicycle sales and repair store to have them fitted.
As it seems to be usual (in Sydney at least), the bike mechanic was a young guy who exuded more confidence in his skills than he could demonstrate. After wrestling with my tires and rims for about an hour he handed them back to me and said, “this is the best I can do with them”.
I looked at the wheels and they didn’t look as they were seated correctly and I said so. The mechanic said not to worry as I should let the tires down for my upcoming flight anyway and that the tires would re-seat themselves when I pumped them up again.
When we got to Bruges in Belgium we pumped up tires up but they didn’t seat properly on the rims but we rode our bikes anyway. By the time we got to the Mosel in Germany we’d already spent a fair bit of time on our bikes and were putting up with the lumpy ride our badly seated tires were giving.
One of the parts of our trip we were both looking forward to the most, was cycling down the Mosel River. We started off on a Suday near the town of Kues and not long after we left, an irritating squeak started to emanate from my wife’s bike.
Eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh.
We tried everything we could think of. We adjusted her brakes, gears and mudguards but nothing seemed to work. We came to the conclusion that the badly seated tire on the rear wheel was causing the problem by making the spokes rub against each other but we kept cycling.
The constant, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh was driving us nuts and totally ruining the whole cycling experience.
After about 10kms we came to the lovely quite town of Erden and I made enquiries as to where the nearest bicycle repair place was. I was told there was a very good one only about 1.5kms away in Lösnich, but because it was Sunday and since the Germans are a civilised bunch who take their day of rest seriously, they were closed.
Both Engogirl and I knew we didn’t want to cycle anymore that day because it was so unaesthetic, so we stayed in Erden overnight.
First thing on Monday morning we rode to Lösnich and had our bikes looked at by Harald Warscheid at his shop and service centre. Harald is a very helpful and nice guy who took us into his immaculate workshop to work on our bikes. I’d never been into such a nice bicycle repair place before. The radio was playing some soft rock and various locals would drop by and shoot the breeze for short periods while Harald worked on seating our tires correctly and adjusting all the various other things that needed to be done.
All very calm, clean, convivial and civilised.
As I watched Harald work, I couldn’t help but think that I was watching a guy who had figured out how to make a living in a very pleasant way.
A bodhisattva of bicycles if you will.
As we chatted with Harald, it became obvious that he wasn’t impressed with the construction of our bikes (we already knew they were cheaply made) and he explained to us that the wheels had been assembled by a machine and machines over tighten the spokes. Our badly seated tires and over tightened spokes had caused our wheels to warp. Engogirl’s squeaky wheel had warped the most. Harald sorted out the tire seating problems and realigned the rims as best as he could, but the damage had already gone too far on the squeaky wheel and it couldn’t be fixed.
A new wheel was needed.
Now I know at this stage, many people might think that a mechanic would say that so they can sell you a new wheel, but Harald didn’t have anything to gain because he didn’t carry such small wheels.
Luckily Germany is the sort place that has bicycle stores in every other town and all the towns are only a few kilometres apart. So we rode up the Mosel a few more kilometres to the town of “Wolf”.
It was about five minutes to noon when we walked into the bicycle store in Wolf to buy a new wheel. We were told it would take an hour and a half to fit the tire onto the rim.
“Why so long”, I asked?
“Vee closs vor vun hour vor luntch” was the answer.
“Gee, I guess that means that we have to find some nice place and have some lunch ourselves?” I thought.
“Fine with me!” was my next thought.
So down the road we walked to a row of lovely little eateries near the river that cater to people cycling down the Mosel and had a delightful lunch of the local seasonal specialty of flammkuchen, washed down with some white wine from the Mosel region.
Thank goodness we needed a new wheel or we might’ve missed having such a nice meal.
Flammkuchen is like a thin crust pizza, topped with onion, crème fraîche and small pieces of bacon. It’s surprisingly tasty and with the cold white wine it was simply divine.
So simple, yet so perfect!
After lunch we picked up our bikes and set off to Zell.
The short time that we spent on cycling down the Mosel made me really envious of the German people for living in such a nice country.
I could really get used to such a way of living.