Family Bike Ride – Lautertal Radweg

A Covid Compliant Adventure

Restrictions are beginning to ease, but we are still largely home bound.  Time for a Covid compliant adventure, our traveling perimeter has widened and Germany is riddled with biking trails.  We have explored just about everything within the immediate vicinity, so we decided to pack up a lunch, load up the bike rack and do something a little further out.

Our boys are still young, so an easy family friendly path with little climbing is preferred.  Nearby is a well traveled mainly flat biking path that we could take anywhere from 2 kilometers to 30 if we felt up to it.

The youngest is excited to try his new (to him) mountain bike out on a real trail, and the older one is excited to “show him how it’s done”.  With my bike finally done being built, my wife has regained full control over her bike, and is ready to take it for a spin.

The Lautertal Radweg (Radweg = Bike Path or Bike way to be precise) runs from Kaiserslautern, Germany up to Lauterecken, some 35 or so kilometers away.  I knew we wouldn’t make it that far with an 8 and 6 year old, but who knows.

The trail is scenic as it wanders along between the train tracks and stream.  Just on the other side of the tracks we cruise on by small, quaint little towns.  Lots of bikers had the same idea that we had so we are forced to stay in a single file line or as the boys yell out when someone is spotted heading our way “Snake Formation!”.  Departing Kaiserslautern we pass by Erfenbach and decide to stop for the lunch that we brought with us.  After a quick meal it’s on to Otterbach and Sembach.  As we continue into Katzweiler our little one is showing signs of fatigue.  Not too bad considering we are about 9 kilometers in.

Turning around in Katzweiler, our youngest is not too enthused to find out that he now has to pedal back the entire way that he just came.  We mosey back the way we came, stopping plenty for photos and to check out the stream.  Each time that we remount the bikes, we egg him on with a reminder that there will be a surprise at the end of the ride.  Not knowing what the surprise is going to be just about drives the older one insane.

Pedaling back into K-Town we pass by the car and keep going, leading them just to the end of the parking lot fence.  An outdoor restaurant, just recently allowed to open up outdoor seating is situated in the middle of a plaza with a fountain.  Other bikes are parked all over the plaza, we add ours to the mix and sit outside the restaurant for…Beer and Ice Cream!  Beer for the wife not the kids, just in case you were wondering.  

PROST!!!!

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Bike Build Step #6

Cosmetics, Cockpit & Completion

Hey guess what!  My handlebars have arrived!  So, taking my single speed Frankenstein bike for a cruise, is a real possibility.  I am going to use this beautiful afternoon to apply a couple cosmetic fixes that have been bothering me and get my cockpit set up.

My vintage frame is equipped with a plethora of welded on cable guides that I have since been rendered useless with my rebuild.  It was also designed to carry rim brakes that will no longer be needed, so the welded on mounts for those can be removed as well.

I borrowed a Dremel tool affixed with a metal cutting blade and moved my maintenance rack outside.

I started with the smaller cable routing mounts, and then once I got the hang of it I moved onto the rim brake mounts.  Looking at the front fork, I decided to leave most of the mount and just remove the pegs.  I tried to just unscrew the pegs but for the life of me I couldn’t get them to go.

Exercising patients and a steady hand I methodically removed all of the mounts.  Already I feel the weight of nagging cosmetic nuances lifted from my shoulders.  Switching to a sandpaper attachment on the dremel I go over each location once more and smooth out the remnants.

A quick dusting and I am ready for touch up paint.  Just so happens that the paint job was done recently as you may recall, and I still have my spray cans at the ready.  Using some well placed cardboard and towels I blend the new paint to the old without overspraying any of my new parts.

I let it sit out in the sun to dry, while I get all the pieces to my cockpit together, feeling good about getting those nagging cosmetic issues taken care of.

Handlebars, Grips, Headset Star Nut & Cap

First and foremost, I have a 1” steerer tube that I adapted to a 1 ⅛”, so I needed a 1” starnut to secure the headset cap.  A star nut installation tool is a specialty tool that I don’t see myself using very often, but it’s cheap and I don’t know anyone that has one, so I bit the bullet and bought one.

The installation tool is easy to use and convenient, no guesswork needed.  I hammer the star nut into place.  I didn’t install the headset cap at this point because I may have to adjust the angle of the headset once I attach the handlebars.

I loosen the front of the headset enough to slide my new handlebars in.  I chose handlebars with a little bit of a rise to them for comfort reasons since I plan to use this as a commuter bike and not a trail bike for the most part.  I tighten the bolts down in a cross “X” pattern to keep the pressure even.  I orient the handlebars at zero degrees to start, and will adjust them after a few rides once I get a feel for where I want them.

Eyeing up the orientation with the front wheel, I determine where straight is, make sure all the bolts on the headset are tight, then install the headset cap into my newly installed star nut.

As you know, my simple, minimal design requires no cables or levers.  So the only thing left to install is the grips.

I got a pair of brown leather, ergonomic, lock on grips to match the saddle.  I slide them into place and roughly position them where I think they should be, tighten a couple Allen bolts and I’m done.

Stay tuned for recaps and reviews of my first rides!

Tools Used For This Step:

Dremel with a metal cutting bit and sandpaper bit (borrowed)

Spray Paint (left over)

Star Nut Installation Tool

Hammer

Allen Wrenches

Total Cost For This Step – $121.39 (111.96 Euro):

1” Star Nut – $5.50 (5.07 Euro)

Star Nut Installation Tool – $22.95 (21.17 Euro)

Headset Cap – $16.98 (15.66)

Handlebars – $33.06 (30.49 Euro)

Grips – $42.90 (39.57 Euro)

**All parts are linked to the same or similar parts on Amazon**

Complete Cost of the Bike Build: $560.82 (515.39 Euro)

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The Truth Behind Oval Chainrings

An oval chainring is a necessity for any single speed bike, hands down.  Let me explain.

  • Maximize your leverage.
  • Ease your transition.

Maximize – Between the 1 and 2 o’clock position through the 5 o’clock position for either foot is the location where the most leverage is found when riding a bike.  Having the widest part of the chainring vertically for this area is the equivalent of adding 2 teeth to the chainring, essentially giving you an increased gear.  Ex. a 34 tooth oval chainring will put out a power equivalent of a 36 tooth round chainring throughout this position.

Ease – Conversely, the muscle transition zone in your pedal motion occurs between the 5 and 7 to 8 o’clock position for either foot.  As a result this is where your leverage is at its weakest. With an oval chainring the narrowest part of the chainring falls throughout this area, reducing the chainring to the equivalency of a 32 tooth round chainring.  Essentially given you an additional decreased gear, making this area easier to pedal, and easing the strain on your knee and ankle joints and muscles as this transition takes place.

In order to recreate this effect with round chainrings, you would have to have 2 gears and a front derailleur that is ready to do some serious work.  For every full revolution of your pedals you would have to shift between a 32 and 36 tooth chainring 4 times. 36 tooth at the 1 o’clock position; 32 tooth at 5 o’clock; back to 36 tooth at 8 o’clock; back to 32 tooth at 11 o’clock.  Then repeat for every revolution…

Often the main argument against oval chainrings is in reference to the failed Biopace oval chainrings of the 80’s and early 90’s which lead to multiple knee and ankle issues with riders.

There was one fatal flaw with the design of Biopace chainrings that resulted in these injuries.  They were designed to be installed 90 degrees off from the current ones, and that makes an incredible difference.  Installed in that manner places the hardest part of the chainring (36 tooth area) directly in the muscle transition zone.  So you were struggling to power through the most difficult part of your pedal rotation while your knees and ankles are at their most vulnerable.

The rationale from Biopace was that the increased momentum gained from the easier section being in the high leverage zone would virtually pull itself through the transition area.  A flywheel concept of sorts. Unfortunately, mountain biking is rarely a smooth, flat, open road and generating enough momentum to achieve a flywheel effect is virtually impossible, even with road biking this would be nearly impossible.  Hindsight also proves that this theory was implausible, evident in the resulting knee trauma. 

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Nomatic

Bike Build Step #1

The Breakdown

I started with the easy stuff.  Front and back wheels off. I search the chain for a master link but don’t see one, no worries.  I am turning this sucker into a single speed anyway, I will just remove the front and back derailleurs with the chain still looped through them…wait.

I will be getting a new half-link chain in an effort to match the magic length of a single speed chain without the use of a tensioner.  Since I am not worried about reusing this one, I just take a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and snap a link in half to remove it.

Next, I fish all of the brake and derailleur cables out of the cable guides and remove them.  The front forks and the cockpit are in dire need of a replacement, I am looking forward to saying goodbye to the twist grip gear selector but in all honesty, I don’t really know how to remove them.  So I don’t, I take the entire handlebar assembly off as a whole, and just leave the forks and headset.

I unscrew each piece of the headset allowing the forks to fall right out.  I reassemble the headset as it was for reference when it comes to buying the new forks and new headset.  I leave the internal cups for now, I hope to maybe be able to reuse them.

I remove the rear rim brake assembly and the pedals with the help of a cowboy and bedhead riddled little man.  Tip – both pedals unscrew towards the rear of the bike so the right side unscrews counter clockwise, and the left side unscrews clockwise.

For the bottom bracket I employ a plumbers wrench, another tip – on the non-gear side the nut unscrews clockwise.  I remove the bracket and reassemble this as well for future reference. I leave the internal cups in here as well for possible reuse.

Oddly enough, the old kickstand is the hardest piece for me to remove because I don’t have a big enough allen wrench, I remove the stand itself with its spring but have to leave the bracket on for now.

Last thing left to do is clean it up a bit…

Tools used for this step:

Phillips screwdriver

Pliers

Adjustable wrench

Open ended ⅝” wrench

Plumbers wrench

Flat head screwdriver

Allen wrench set

Total Cost so far: $0.00

I will be giving the frame a light sanding and will repaint it next, then reassembly will begin – stay tuned.

Life on Two Wheels

Germany is a very bicycle friendly country, in fact all of Europe shares this trait.  It is healthy, environmentally friendly, efficient, low budget and an activity that is very Hygge-list.  The benefits of bicycling for your own health are innumerable, not to mention the multitude of benefits to the environment.  The communities of people and personalities that enjoy pedaling as their primary source of transportation lead to experiences and friendships that will last lifetimes.  As you can imagine, I am eager to join this community.

I do own a bicycle, albeit it is a decade or so past its prime but it is functional.  This winter I have decided that it is time for my dusty old bike to go under the knife.

This page will track my progress as I rebuild my bicycle into something I can be proud to ride come spring time.  It will then document my many explorations on two wheels across the countrysides of Germany and its neighboring countries.