25 April, 2015

Weak In The Knees

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I had finished a rather lengthy ride in some pretty brutal wind, got off the bike, and carried on with business as usual. The next morning, I couldn’t bend my leg without feeling some rather intense pain. Stairs were a problem. Kneeling to tie my shoes was not fun. I couldn’t understand what I had done that was causing me so much discomfort. It’s not like I haven’t ridden a bike long-distance before.

After a couple days of the pain persisting, I thought I’d attempt to get on my bicycle. Surprisingly, the range of motion while pedaling did not affect me in the slightest. Dismounting and everything else however, yup—still hurts.

A full week elapsed with no lessening of the pain, so I decided that I’d see a doctor about it. Then, mysteriously, the pain went away. I had no problem bending my leg, which was great, if not a little awkward to explain to the doctor. I expected him to tell me it was all in my head or to stretch more and send me home. But instead, he prescribed me a few sessions of physical therapy. “Hmm.” I thought to myself. “Not really what I had in mind.”

But I indulged the doc and went to physical therapy. The prognosis was something about the kneecap not being well enough supported, and thusly causing discomfort as it jostled all around in there. To put it one way, I was writing checks my knees couldn’t cash.

Thankfully, the physical therapist suggested that in addition to some light leg work to strengthen the area, I should also look into riding a bike. “Convenient”, I say. “I rode one to this appointment!”

And now all is well again. The moral of the story is, if you’re like me and your primary source of fitness is riding a bike, make sure to throw some squats or lunges in for good measure.* Your knees may thank you.

The End.

- Bicyclist Abroad

 

* I am not a medical professional and my advice should not be taken as such. Please consult your own primary care physician.BA Post Footer

09 April, 2015

Reluctant Pedestrians (Münster, DE)

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Münster is a city in North Rhein-Westphalia, and is known as Germany’s bicycle capitol. The Mrs. and I had planned to spend the weekend there, checking out the city and touring on our bikes to a couple of the castles in the surrounding region. In fact, around the city is one of the ADFC’s cycling routes known as the “100 Castles Route”, which is divided into four quadrants with Münster in the middle. What an excellent cycling destination.

Except, it didn’t work out that way. Sometime ago my knee began to give me trouble that I’m not sure was due to riding, but was certainly exacerbated by it. The Mrs. had her own affliction as well, having played volleyball a little too vigorously a few days prior and injuring herself in the process. So neither of us were able to commit to a weekend of riding, but our reservations were still in place, so we went to Münster anyway. At least neither of us felt like we were holding the other one back.

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Being in the bike capital of anywhere and not being on a bicycle is much like being the designated driver at the pub: you can’t help but feel like everyone else is having a much better time than you are. I’m familiar with this feeling however, as the first time I visited Portland, Oregon and Amsterdam, I was also without a bike. So I relegated myself to just looking at them as we walked by.

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Münster, like many bicycle-heavy cities in Europe, seems to be reaching what I call the “bicycle saturation point”. This is when every possible object you can lock a bicycle to, whether designed for such or not (most cases not) is occupied by a bicycle. As a reference, Amsterdam has exceeded this point, and that’s why they dredge bikes up out of their canals every year.

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The Mrs. and I walked around checking out the shops, cafes and cathedrals, stopping for a flammkuchen. We visited the Pablo Picasso museum. We ate at a Mexican restaurant.

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It was all very pleasant, but in a place where a bike-lane promenade encircles the city, I still couldn’t help but feel like it would be best experienced on a bike. So, we decided we would have to come back when we were not in such states of disrepair.

For more information on Münster (in English), you can visit the city’s official website here: http://www.muenster.de/en/cycling_capital.php

- Bicyclist Abroad

 

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29 March, 2015

Rain Delays (Sittard, NL)

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The forecast was 90% chance of precipitation. All day. Still, I was restless, it was the last day of Spring Break, and I needed to go for a ride. I also wanted to take photos. Maybe I’d just open an umbrella and shoot locally. Or, forget the camera and just go, rain be damned. Then, I came across an article from National Geographic’s website and was suddenly inspired to try taking some photos in spite of the wet weather. I packed my camera in my waist pack and layered my rain gear on, ensuring adequate coverage was provided. I forgot the umbrella. Of course, the final touch to my rain ensemble would be my neoprene water shoes, once again proving their versatility.

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It being a Sunday, most everything east of the Dutch border was a ghost town, so I decided to head into Sittard, a city in Limburg for those following along at home. While the Germans are busy silently doing whatever it is they do on Sundays, the Dutch are very much out and about, with many businesses remaining open. I stopped by a grocery store shortly to get out from the rain, and happened to catch a mom ride by with her two kids on this thing:

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It’s like a bakfiet, recumbent, and tandem bicycle all-in-one. The mom had the helm, the older boy sat up front, pedaling along, and the younger one just kind of sat back there on the rear rack. It was really kind of remarkable, I wish I had stuck around long enough to snap a photo of it in action. If I needed any reminder I was in the Netherlands, this was it.
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I approached the town center. The difficult thing about taking photos in the rain is finding somewhere dry to take said photos. There was this overhang between two wings of apartments, so I took advantage of it. If you appreciate symmetry, there is some here for you to enjoy, though it ends just past the apartment complex.

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Sittard has cobblestone streets, a lot of old buildings, and several steeples. Gazing up at these when it’s raining is a good way to get water in your eye. Still, I can’t help but wonder how roofs so steep are constructed.
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To get to the actual square in the center of Sittard, you pass through any number of alleys or passageways. This was one that I had never actually been through before, and it is attached to a restaurant. There used to be a Halfords nearby that sold bicycles, but it is now closed. Apparently, they went bankrupt in 2014 and shuttered most of their stores. Luckily, there is a half dozen more bike shops in the vicinity.

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I took refuge under a restaurant’s awning for a few minutes while I decided which establishment I would patronize. The rain continued on. There were several people on bicycles that rode by, and I took their photo, but they are blurry and terrible and I wish you’d stop asking me to show them to you.
I picked a small bar next to a Giant bicycle shop and had a couple beers while waiting for the water to dry from off of my jacket. There was a beer there I remember from the Bruges Beer Festival, but I can’t remember what it was called. There was a gnome on the logo? Oh well.

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Leaving Sittard, I chose a different route than that which I arrived, which is a common practice of mine. Often this leads to getting lost, but I’m ever optimistic that I know where I’m going. I had thought for a moment I had missed a turn I was supposed to take, but I kept going because 1.) tree-lined cycle paths like these are amazing, and 2.) I had an incredible tail wind that basically pushed me along with no effort on my part. I think, however, I might invest in a compass just so I know which cardinal direction I’m headed.

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I ended up coming into the town of Susteren, stopping at a local bar to, again, dry off and have a beer. They had Brand IPA, which is one of my favorites, and they had a little Dachshund running around. Everyone was watching the cycling race on TV, except for the person in the photo who is apparently under the table. I’m not certain what he was doing.
I don’t know where the race was being held, but it was raining there and it was raining here, so I’m assuming somewhere in Europe. I spoke exclusively in German and the bartender, who was Dutch, responded in English, so you can imagine how poor my German must be. The rain outside was only getting worse. 

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After having my final beer, I was set on returning home. I still had a tailwind for the most part, so I was very thankful for that. I passed through Echt and on to Maria Hoop, the last Dutch town before crossing back into Deutschland. Passing a stretch of woodlands, I caught a glimmer from somewhere within the trees, and I stopped to investigate further.
It was a bicycle; the make was Livingstone, something I’d never heard of before. The saddle, however, was a Brooks, and of course I knew them quite well. Sadly, it was left uncovered and getting rained on. The bike was locked to a tree, in the woods, for no reason I could ascertain. No one was around and it was getting dark. I left with a hundred mysterious scenarios running through my mind. No doubt its owner had gotten involved in an increasingly complicated series of bicycle-related exchanges and is now dead.

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Returning home, I was finally able to dry off completely. It then began to thunder outside, and I saw a lightning flash light up my window. The rain was fine, but I’m glad to have been spared all of that. As of this writing, it’s still raining. But at least now I’ve proven to myself that the rain itself isn’t such a big deal.

- Bicyclist Abroad

 

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