trans-mechanics in Bern

From the lake constanz we continued our trip with high spirit, well-filled bellies and more money to spend on food and bike-parts.

With new Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour on the bike we rode along the bay of lake constance, then the bank of the Rhine river, which flows out of it. We followed it until we got to the Rhine Falls, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

While riding on the south side of the Rhine, we were in switzerland. Now, we went back north to get some spare parts for the bikes and I bought even more provisions (now accounting to a full mountain of supplies) to get through the expensive country of the swiss.

Again we crossed the boarder, which is the Rhine in this area, and put up camp only 10 meters from his bank. Without knowing, we were resting close to an old military point of WWII, the Fort Ebersberg. Getting up the hill surrounded by deep woodland the next morning was a refreshing physical exercise really different from riding the bike. The way was well build, as I remembered and expected work from the swiss.

From here, Michelle and I went seperate ways and agreed to meet again at near Lausanne.

I had always made the experience, that while traveling solo you interact with the world in a different, closer & more intense way. You are focused on the outside-world, your inner reaction and your interaction with it. With a traveling buddy, your attention and perspectiv will always be drawn to him or her, and take something of your absorbition into the scene.

I have the feeling, that while traveling alone you recieve a lot more interaction with local people, invitations for sleep & food and especially for sharing some time together instead of traveling in a group – yet maybe, that is just because I usually move alone.

Well, back to the Rhine river.

At the very first hill I realised, that I had bought way to much food. Cans of fruit, bananas, cans of beans and lenses, bread spreads, kilos of nudels & rice, cookies, nuts and also gas for the cooker… the weight must have been well over 10 extra kilograms.

Every mountain, hill and every elevation felt like my trailer was pulling me down, had extra brakes or turned into an anchor that ripped open the asphalt as I was fighting to get up, soon soaked in sweat.

Soon my anchor, the trailer I had pulled for over 900km, should be left behind.

“Hey there! Your trailer hangs pretty badly to one side!” – things like that I had heard a lot, unsually from people sitting comfortably in a car, overtaking me and slowing down to say that which I ***** know myself very well.

“Yeah, thank you, I know allready… Thank you anyway!” would be my usual response.

This trailer I got as a present from my mom for my 25th birthday.

After the first few rides, its end was leaning to the left side. With time, it got more & more, until it was at something like a 30º angle. The tire got worn down only on the left side, shreading it quicker than me realising that this would happen. When it was done, all I could do in this moment was patch the inner tube, change the direction of the weel and hope for the best.

I could contiue to ride with it for half a day. In defense for the trailer I got to say, that its pretty neat to travel with one, because your centre of gravity sits quite low, which allowes for better maneuverability, leaning into curves and stability in comparison to saddlebags. Also you have a lot of room to easily handle your equipment.

Again I had to make a decision. What now?

Replace the tire, get a new trailer, continue without?

I didn`t want to get a new tire, that would only shut up the symptom of the problem for a little while – not get to the real problem. I am interested in more medium-longterm solutions. To buy a new trailer hier, in switzerland, would propably be one of the most expensive places on earth.

I put all my stuff onto the rear rack and decided to look for a good trailer in france, maybe even make one myself.

The following days riding to Bern where one of the hardest I had so far on this trip. Even though most of the way was pretty flat (I was riding along the Aare, which eventually also flows through Bern) I was exhausted from the few inclines just after getting onto swiss territory and the high tempo.

One morning I was swimming in a specially beautiful part of the river. Returning to camp, there was a woman waiting for me. She saw me and wanted to be sure I made it out if the water alive – thanks for that!

I was invited to breakfast, enjoying some coffee, the eggs from the free chicken roaming the garden and good conversation with Tamara and her son Lino. He was just about to finish his formation as a bike mechanic and wants to go travel was well. What a good position to start your travel life from! All the best to you!

When I was back on the saddle and on the move, the heat of midday wasn`t far. I was looking for a opportunity to make a productive break, as there is almost always something to do – stretch the body, tighten up some screws on the bike (or as you say in swizz & france, “velo”), take notes about the travel or your thoughts.

Or, you can look for people who like to share knowleadge or information about the area you`re in. I met a really cool fisherman, who enriched me not only with Tips & tricks for fishing, but also with some proper equipment for my fishing rod!

Finally, I got to Switzerlands capital Bern – and I was not early. My rear rack was not made to take such a big load and the aluminium part used to adjust the height was bended (and put straight again by me) so many times, I was afraid it would be fragile and break.

When it was bended too strong, it would put pressure on my weels or even, if it was on the right side, interfere with my gears!

So you see, I was pretty happy to arrive at Ariels house…

I was happy meeting him again, and soon we took the dog of his neighbour and where walking the evening round with him. Tired from the last days on the road, I went to bed early and slept very well…

… and the next day something happened, that really took me by surprise…

the upgrade – bike lv. 2

While visiting Ariels neighbour the next morning I met Maya, Ariels sister. She lived in the same house, one floor over him. We had seen each other the day before, I had mistaken her for somebody I knew and had said hello with way too much enthusiasm 🙂

Maya is also a passionate about riding the bike. I was telling her about my faszination for the Rohloff-Speedhub, which I`d love to one day build into my traveling bike! It is propably the most durable and at the same time lowest maintenance trainsmission on the planet – while also, of course, being one of the most expensive…

She told me, that not so long ago she bought herself a new bike, which doesn’t have a Rohloff, but a similar one, running together with a beltdrive instead of a chain. When I saw her bike, it was the first time I saw this kind of drive system.

And her old bike? Well that one, she said, she wanted to send to Africa. If I wanted, I could just take the rear rack of that one, no problem! “You`re lucky, I was too lazy to bring the bike away, and now it seems really usefull :)”

“Soo… If your bike goes to Africa and I may take the rear rack… Could I instead send my bike there, and continue with yours?”

I should just swing myself on the saddle (after fixing the tires) and ride for some meters to tap into the bike/rider-connection, she said.

I didn`t need to hear this twice. While riding down the street, I immediatly fell in love with the agile 26″-bike!!

It was from the company Price, with 26″-Dt-swiss-rims, wheel hub dynamo + superb light, disc brakes and a shimano slx 3×9 derailleur system.

Swizz Quality, baby!

After a long & heartwarming hug, I grabbed my tools and started to work. The bike had been standing round for quite a while, and I need to adjust the breaks and the derailleur. Also I used from my old bike

  • the speedometer
  • 3x bottle holder
  • bicycle stand
  • saddle
  • front removable basket (which should become the basis for a super useful modification later)
  • the good old bell I got from my grandma

In addition, the bottom bracket, the ball bearings between the pedals, were worn out and had to be replaced. I also wanted to take these from my old bike, as well as the front chainring – but I didn’t have the specific tools for that. So off to the bike shop!

‘Der Drahtesel’ & ‘Velafrica‘ were less than 3 km away from me, the first a bike shop, the latter a euphoria evoking bike workshop with almost endless spare parts, that makes bikes fit for Africa.

In the bike shop, I wanted to change the bottom bracket and the front chainring, as well as buy and mount a new rear one (9-gear 12-36, for all those who want to know exactly). I was told that there waws hardly any time & staff for this. Of course, I was told I could also not do it myself here, for insurance reasons, all the usual talk you hear in a bike shop in these times of corona.

With a lot of persuasion and even more persistence, I was finally granted my wish. I was able to carry out all operations and the day was drawing to an end … The next morning I was back on the mat, this time at Velafrika, where I met much more cooperation and encouragement.

This time I wanted to replace my fork, as my old fork had a suspension with a quick release on/off switch at the handle bar – a somewhat bigger undertaking, with no guarantee of success – a 28″ fork with rim brakes, on a frame with disc brakes and 26″ – could that succeed?

Well, learning by doing, grab them tools again and go at it!

It was a lengthy affair with a few complications as I had no experience with disc brakes. In between I thought I had to reverse everything again, but the persistence and patience paid off and the transformation succeeded!

It occurred to me now that the frame is made of aluminum and that I could possibly exchange it. I would like to have a steel frame one day because of its resilience, elasticity and the possibility of “patching” it with the welding device while on the move. I ran around the area with a small magnet and looked to see which frames attach with a “click”, as aluminum, titanium and carbon are not magnetic, yet (most) steel is.

I couldn’t find a frame that would have fit all components and yet I was extremely satisfied with the upgrade of my bicycle!

The reliability and quality had raised enormously and I am honestly so very grateful to all the people, shops, bikes and good vibes involved

Thanks a lot!<3

my old bike from the Fahrradoase stays with Velafrika and will go to Africa soon – bye bye!

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