Monday, August 30, 2010


They evolved over the years to meet our changing needs.
Leaving Netherlands along the Amelo-Nordhorn Canal and entering Germany on the paved bicycle path known as the “Grenz route” or border route we enjoy the friendly open borders of the Euro-zone.My wife Jane and I have been bicycling together for over forty year’s extensively in North America and all across Europe.
After all these years we have found that our most pleasure is in exploring on quiet paved roads. The slower we go the more fun we seem to have.
Having said that, we now own twelve different bicycles and they serve a variety of our needs.
This motley amalgamation or collection of cycles has filled the gap in our amusement, entertainment, and shopping requirements. After all these years we still roll along on our oldest machines that we refer to as our exotic bicycles.
For the past ten years we have not owned any motor vehicles and all of our travels are either by bicycle and public transport.
Jane’s sister said; “how can you possibly live without a car?” Well, I assure you that not only can we live without a car but our standard of living has actually been richly enhanced without one.
A word about our exotic bicycles; Jane over forty years ago purchased a used 27 x 1 1/4 inch Swedish go-fast bike as her second. At the time it was the most spirited bike I had ever ridden.

Not being racers or speed freaks, modifications began to evolve. For comfort Jane got new handle bars and a springy seat. For shopping and touring, a carrier rack was installed. Then alloy crank, wheels, and shifters became upgrades. Before our Rhine River trip up to Switzerland, new mountain compatible sprockets were installed. After our cross Europe trip through East Germany and into Poland where we broke twenty spokes on the cobble stoned streets, I replaced all of the spokes with Mexican industrial heavy duty. That was the end of the problem.
A computer, drink holders, and front rack for straddle bags or panniers were added to made cross-country tours even better.
My bicycle is a total make over; the only original parts are the front fork and handlebars that I inverted.
I originally started with a frame that was a tad too big. Forty years ago I was a lot more nimble and couldn’t resist the super-light all alloy bicycle. As the years went by that over sized frame began to be a problem. One day at a bicycle shop in Netherlands I purchased a smaller French frame and went home to our camper, swapped out all the parts and the net result was a frame size that I could handle.
For serious cross-country and shopping, fore and aft luggage racks fitted with packs and panniers made our bikes like little pack animals. A map holder and my personally designed “save my ass” bike seat came next. I designed the seat to save my sex life and protect my kidneys using light duty springs and special high density padding. A compass and two drink holders finished the innovations.
Our exotic bicycles are heavy but roll extremely well.
My bike innovations made me think back to a story my grandfather told to me;
One day when I was in his repair shop he held up a well worn little hammer and exclaimed; “this hammer has been in the family a long time, it has had seven handles and two new heads.”
That sounds a lot like my exotic bicycle.

Ten years ago I was 60 years old and many times made 120 kilometer days.
Now I am 70 years old and 40-50 kilometer days are enough…it must be global warming?
We still see people spending mega-bucks on ultra-light bikes and then strapping or bolting on so many extras that they are as heavy as discount store clunkers.
A brief history of our exotic bicycles.
Both were purchased second hand in Florida where we lived in five different locations over a period of twenty-two years. We even took them on a five month long junket aboard our commercial shrimp trawler Secotan where they were stowed in the fore-peak.
Next they were transported on carrying racks aboard our camper van and traveled everywhere across the US from Florida to the Pacific Northwest and from California to the state of Maine.
I still remember biking down Las Vegas Boulevard and pulling into the Mirage where the valet parked our bikes.
In Canada we biked the islands of British Columbia and across to the Maritime Provinces in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
We eventually had a home in Brownsville, Texas and biked the border towns there. Next the bikes came to Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.
Sixteen years ago we loaded the bikes aboard a commercial freighter along with our camper van and headed for Rotterdam, Netherlands. In Europe we have bicycled with our exotic bicycles from Norway and Sweden to Spain and Portugal. From Western Europe to Poland and every centimeter of the Rhine River from the North Sea all the way up to the Swiss Alps in Switzerland at the rivers headwaters and everything in between.
In Netherlands outside the old town of Ootmarsum where numerous well maintained bicycle paths meander through stately forests and past medieval castles…picnic tables abound. It is a bikers paradise.
Biking the sparsely populated Dortmund-Ems Canal region near Emsbüren.  Quiet paved roads and immaculately clean bicycle shelters make Germany as good as it gets.  We are still rolling on our exotic bicycles and they don’t owe us much.

© 2010 John M. Grimsrud

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