Bike Touring Journals by Neil Anderson and Sharon Anderson Bicycle touring Germany
We rode south out of Potsdam and found a place in the woods. There was even an empty wooden cable spool we converted into a table. Our anniversary supper was curry chicken stir-fry. We popped a cork on a bottle of German white wine. Compliments of Arran, whiskey-spiked cheesecake was dessert. The combination was enough to give me a slight buzz by the time I headed for the tent.
Arran's wheels had been twanging, and his rear wheel wobbled like a sailor after a week long binge. He looked over his bike and detected two broken spokes in his rear wheel.
In the morning, carrying his rear wheel, Arran rode Rebecca's bike into Potsdam. I went along to accompany him. And to buy groceries. Tomorrow was Sunday.
Arran and I went to the bike shop by the train station. The mechanic replaced the broken spoke on the non-cluster side. He tried to remove the cluster but failed to loosen the Hyperglide locking nut. A group of customers arrived to rent bikes and he left to serve them.
Arran and I tried to gorilla the locking nut off... and succeeded in breaking the repair shop's chain whip. Arran and I searched through the plastic parts containers, found another bolt and fixed it. I had seen repair persons take Sharon's cluster off by sticking it in a vise and turning the rim. So I tried that. I learned Hyper-cassettes don't come off that way. I succeeded in tightening the locking nut.
We tried again with the chain whip. We broke it again. It was quicker to fix this time as we knew where the spare bolts were kept. The mechanic must have wondered what all the noise was about back there; it sounded as if we were demolishing his workshop with all the metal parts zinging about.
The mechanic came back and tried to hammer the lock-nut off, to no avail. He gave us a map of Potsdam and marked three other bike shops on it (along with the food store). We went to the first bike shop marked on our route and the guy wailed they couldn't fix the spoke until Monday.
"We'll fix it ourselves if you remove the cassette for us," we persuaded. They agreed and took the wheel into the back room. We heard breaking parts and bad words emanating from within.
An old guy came out, looking rather unhappy, and groused, "Kaput!" He handed the rim back to Arran.
We went to the next bike shop on our map. The woman there tried to remove the lock nut, and then gave the tools to us, along with a hammer. We went at it, hammer and tong, but again no joy. The woman stocked a flexible cable spoke with an end shaped like a fishhook and she threaded it in. Once repaired, Arran was so happy he almost married her. Instead, he bought a flexible spoke as insurance.
Arran and I hit the food store. I was still having a difficult time with how rude the German populace were. They were constantly shoving past and bumping into me. I complained to Arran they never murmured "Excuse me."
Arran responded, "Just push them back. They like that."
As I went down an aisle looking for dental floss, I came around a corner and bumped into another man. "Excuse me," I mumbled, reflexively.
"Pardon," he simultaneously trilled in a French accent. We both looked at one another and laughed. We were both foreigners. Who else uttered civilities to strangers in Germany? I never did find dental floss.
It was now one o'clock. We had spent four hours in town. We went back to the forest. Sharon and Rebecca had installed fenders on Arran's bike. They looked like they enjoyed more success than Arran and me, but complained it hadn't been smooth monkey-wrenching either. There hadn't been enough plastic nuts and bolts included in the package.
Arran, now a full-fledged bike mechanic, borrowed our spoke wrench to true his wheel. He discovered another broken spoke on the freewheel side. We couldn't put in the flexible spoke because a file was needed to shave off the excess once it was in. Instead, Sharon took one of our twenty-seven inch spokes, snapped off the rivet head and bent it into a hook. After a bit of persuasion, Arran threaded it in.
It was four o'clock by the time we left. We toured a ways down the road and Arran's front fender fell off. The plastic bolt had broken. He used a tie-wrap to hold it back on. In another few kilometers his water bottle fell onto the road. The metal cage had completely sheared off its bolts. We joked we would ride behind him to pick up pieces as they fell off.
Arran thought this was good fun and kept saying, "I see a letter coming here." He planned to write letters to each manufacture. "Dear Sir. My many friends have recommended your fine quality equipment and it has failed to live up to my expectations..."
We managed fifty kilometers despite a long section of cobble. The cobble drastically lowered our average speed. Fortunately, the cobbles were brick--not the rounded stone ones--and smoothed somewhat by heavy traffic and passing tanks.
Houses were simple structures constructed from concrete or brick. One home we passed had a star of David in its peak. Many others had conspicuous patches where something had been removed. Several converted military compounds were now being used for farming. Cattle stalls had been installed inside huge storage sheds.
The road we were on ran next to the former east-west border of Germany. Looking for camping, Arran started off into a forest. Sharon saw a sign with "Halt!" written on it and asked Arran what the rest of the sign meant. He translated it as "Unexploded Mines. Do Not Enter!" and cautiously tiptoed out retracing his footsteps.
The undetonated mines caused us to quickly remount our bikes. We continued to Malkenhausen, where we found a spot in an unmarked forest on the opposite side of the road. Ever the gentlemen, Arran and I said, "After you, ladies."
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