Tourist Advice From A Croatian Olive Grower

Pics:

  • Passed a rock that looked like it had a blood stain and I was riding around without a helmet
  • Three rusted wheelbarrows
  • Charger GX Touring in front of a Croatian village sign
  • The fifth largest Roman Colosseum in the world is in Pula
  • James Joyce was here!

Although unable to snap a few pictures of the olive farm we went to yesterday on account it was raining like crazy, at least we now have eight bottles of delicious Croatian olive oil to take back to Germany, which we will use for salads, flavouring and, as recommended, for toping vanilla ice cream. That’s right, dear worst-reader. Did you get that? That’s the advice from our friendly olive grower after I asked what I should do with olive oil that is too good and too expensive to cook with it. She said to get your favourite vanilla ice cream and eat it with a few drops of olive oil on top. Since I’m not a big vanilla fan I immediately asked if it will go well with pistachio ice cream. Although she never tried it with pistachio, she thought it a good idear. Btw, between the olives, the grapes and the truffles–and the things you can do with all three–Istria, Croatia, has got to be one of the finest places to hang out if you’re into all things fine that won’t break the bank. Even though the weather has kind of turned on us the past two days–it rained cats & dogs last night–we’re still enjoying it here. The air is fresh, the views are brilliant and if a neighbour gives you a few fresh Anchovies all you have to do is slightly coat them with flower, add a touch of salt and pepper, and fry them up in olive oil. After the little fish are browned to perfection, all that’s left is to add a fresh salad and glass of local red wine. While enjoying it all, though, I couldn’t help but think of the one more piece of advice we received from a very friendly olive grower.

“Don’t come here in the summer. It’s hell here in the summer. Too many tourists. Too many!” -A Croatian olive grower

Rant on.

-T

Link that motivated this post:

Labin E-Bike Tour And Testing Limits

My better half surprised me with some R&R that includes e-biking. Since I’m staying at one of the higher elevations as my e-bike starting point, heed this: you’re either going up or your going down any given surface when riding an e-bike in Labin, Croatia. Other than the backyard where you rest your machine, or the beach where you stare at the euro-bikini-chicks (the flat area in the graph below), there’s no surface here that is NOT going up or down. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing if you’ve got the right e-bike–or if you’re a bit younger and not suffering from too much wine and too many truffles with noodles. With that in mind, hats off to my boys and gals at Riese & Müller–my favourite bike maker in the whole world. And since I’m not the great photo-maker (I am worst-photographer), let me share a few worst-words on what I’ve just experienced.

I just finished the hardest 4-5km bike trek I’ve ever been on. The whole ride was about 17km. Of course, this isn’t an issue of endurance or physical stamina (I have neither), it is instead a testament to what I consider to be one of the most difficult surfaces I’ve ever ridden on and the only bike I’d ever do it on again. As you may (or may not) note in the pics above, the two pics that show the trail and the gravel road are what you must face here if/when you leave paved roads. The trail, btw, (the one with the red sign) I haven’t done as of the writing of this worst-post–but I’ll get to it soon enough. The gravel road, on the other hand, I just finished riding UP. As you may (or may not) note in the pic below, that area where “Rocks, boulders and bears” is indicated is pretty much a pseudo-road filled with baseball and softball sized rocks that goes for about 3.5km… UP! The area approaching the serpintine (see the map) has grades of (I’m guessing) 20% before and after it. I didn’t make it up the front of the serpentine without having to get off the bike due to lack of control on the rocky surface. But I made it up the back after having learned/adjusted a bit how to navigate under e-bike power over the large and loose rocks. The average grade of the entire distance of the hill is about 7-12%. Would I ever attempt this without e-bike power? Only if I stop drinking wine and eating truffles. But then, if that happens, I wouldn’t be in Labin, Croatia. Or?

17km ebike trek Croatia

Although it only took me about half an hour to make it up the hill (Rocks, boulders and bears side of the graph above), and I plan on doing it again for practice, I’ve never before experienced my bike in this type of environment. This bike is so well built that I enjoyed feeling the tires gorging on the edges of rocks. The Bosch CX motor was brilliant in assisting me and not allowing any overcompensation with wild pedal kicking due to the rocky, loose surface. Also, I noticed for the first time how the Bosch computer was telling me when to up or down shift. In fact, for the past 5000km I thought the shifting indicators of the computer didn’t even work because this bike has a derailleur. Goodness knows, the “mountain biking” I’ve done up to now, which has been mostly in and around Wuppertal and Solingen, Germany, doesn’t compare to this rocky Croatian surface. With that in mind, I really feel as though I’ve finally tested my Charger GX to its limits. After riding just under 100km in this area as of this post, the bike is rattling, humming and weirding out on me as never before. But not one thing has snapped off, broke or come loose. Can’t wait to get back on it and find new trails tomorrow.

Note: The pic with my bike and the Adriatic Sea in the far background should provide some perspective on how high we are. The 3-4KM ride is up the side of the hill (cause it’s not quite a mountain yet, is it).

Keep up the good work R&M!

Rant and worst-ride on, baby.

T

PS The reason the grey Ortlieb bag is strapped to the top of the rear rack is because they jostle and bang around too much when hung on the side. Seriously rough surfaces here.

Pseudo-Review #6: R&M Charger GX At 5000km And Humming Brakes From Hell

Surpassed 5000km the other day on my beloved e-bike. As of May this year, it’s also just over a year old. Although I’ve met some who ride their bikes a lot more than worst-moi, I’m kinda tickled that I’ve been able to ride all these kilometres. With that in mind, perhaps it’s time to complain (or is it “rant”) a bit about this great bike.

First: the frame (see pics above). As mentioned in Pseudo-Review #5, I was gallantly (sarcasm off) delivered a replacement frame under warranty due to a chip in the paint right in the middle of the top tube. A few weeks after ridng around with the new frame though, I noticed that the shop re-installed one of the handle bar cables in the wrong position. A few weeks of riding caused the cable to thoroughly abrase the head tube.  Well, don’t you know! The whole frame replacement ordeal for the cracked paint (which took almost eight months) was all for naught. Although I got rid of the obnoxious chip, I now have an obnoxious scratch. Wow. Competance hard to find, eh?

Next: strange noises or humming brakes from hell. Although I tell people that I would buy this bike again and the main reason for that is the sheer quality it exemplifies, after a year of riding, it’s starting to show wear. This is most notible in noise. The seat, for example. Although I love this seat, it sqeeks and crackles something awful. The worst noise this bike makes, though, is a low humming sound coming from the rear disk brake.

I had to the take the bike to a shop this spring because, after changing the rear tyre last fall, something went awry when I re-installed the tyre. For the life of me, I could not get the rear tyre properly aligned when re-installing it. I’m assuming this has something to do with the complex axil mount R&M uses on this frame design.

Note: The Charger frame is special in that, unlike most bikes, the chain does not go through the frame–or the chain stay. This is in part why the axil mount for the rear wheel is so complex. As you can see in the pic above, the axil of the wheel is mounted to an adapter. The adapter is mounted to the frame. I’m assuming R&M chose this design to allow for choice in final drive solutions, especially belt drive systems which, unlike chains, require some form of frame separation to install. It’s a pretty ingenious design–if you can deal with the f’n humming brake noise that is, I’m guessing, caused by this complexity. But I digress.

After the shop checked the rear wheel they told me that the problem wasn’t the alignment of the wheel but instead I had jarred the drums of the brake pads in the wrong direction when I removed the wheel. This caused one side of the brake drums to protrude further out than the other. Of course, this made no sense to me because I understand hydraulic brakes, brake pads, brake drums, calipers, etc. When I removed the rear wheel, I was careful not to squeeze the brake lever–or mess with the caliper. In fact, I didn’t go anywhere near the brake lever till I had re-installed the wheel. The bike mechanic said that they simply had to push the drums all the way back into the calipers. Ok. Fine. They charged me twenty Euros and sent me on my way. But! Did they fix the problem? No. The brake is still rubbing and humming–because I’ve given up on the whole thing. This also means I have to unnecessarily and prematurely replace brake pads.

My worst-guess is that this is a two-fold problem and has to do with R&M frame design. There is simply not enough room for error or adjustment on the frame where the brake caliper is mounted. The complexity of the rear wheel mounts, derailleur, gears, hydraulic brake, etc., is also, IMHO, missing something. Unlike the front wheel, which has a through-axil, and requires no vertical or horizontal movement, the rear wheel, when removed, drops vertically. In this complex mounting situation there also needs to be some way to move the wheel horizontally if the brake caliper can no longer be adjusted. Needless to say, R&M have made something complex that should probably be a bit simpler. But on that note, I digress again.

All in all, this is a fantastic bike and at this point I wouldn’t trade it for anything but a Stromer ST2 at half-price. (And even with such an offer I’d have to think twice.) I’m hoping that in time I’ll figure out some of the complexities of it on my own. Till then, humming and squeaking be damned.

-Rant (and ride) on

-T

Mini Clubman Über Fun And Electric Bike Cheat Galore Or How I Learned To Love A Car Hitch

Subtitle: This Is Not A Review Of A 2017 Mini Clubman.

Sometimes when I’m riding around on my e-bike I hear these voices. At first I didn’t make much of the voices. But then they grew, they increased, and although they never got louder, they became part of life. After having lived among #Eurowastelanders for so long, especially z’Germans, I’m not unaccustomed to these voices, don’t you know. But I am, every once-a-once, surprised by what these voices say. For example. Most recently these voices made rude comments about the bike I’m riding. “Oh, he’s on an e-bike,” someone smirked. Or. “Look. That doesn’t count. It’s an e-bike.” And then there’s my favourite. “Guido, if you buy me an e-bike I’ll fcuk your brains out,” said the Wessie-schlampe to her half Italian pseudo boyfriend as I roared past them at 25km/h. But let’s not weird out too much worst-writing about living in tax them by the pu$$y Europe.

Although in my first e-bike post I made the claim that we gave up our second car so that we could become a single car household, and now we have two cars (again), I did not lie. Even though we’re once again a two-car household–on account my better half did something useful with her recent work slash compensation bonus–this situation is only temporary. After next September we will once again be a single car household. That’s when we are giving up the scam that is German corporate cars via greed mongering leasing companies. In the meantime, I’ve been given the challenge by my better-half to get used to our new vehicle and, more importantly, get it ready to do what it is we need it to do. I’m referring, of course, to our continuing to be not only a single car household but also to rely on our e-bikes for all of our local transportation needs and even some of our longer distance needs. That is, I use my e-bike for almost all my household chores. Whether I’m grocery shopping, picking up packages, or meeting with people in the city, my transportation of choice is my e-bike. Unless, of course, I have to lug around a few cases of beer, water or large amounts dog food for Beckett, our little killer pug. But that’s neither here nor there. Since I just surpassed my first year of e-bike ownership, I can’t say that I’m disappointed in this source of transport. Now that we’ve added a really, really cool Mini Cooper Clubman to the mix–with a friggin hitch–things have only gotten cooler.

Long worst-writing story short, we bought a Mini that has a factory installed hitch. The hitch, btw, is as cool as the Mini. The hitch fits neatly under the boot floor along with the spare tyre. When needed the hitch clicks neatly underneath the rear bumper and is conveniently locked in place. I bought a bike hitch-rack (Westfalia) via an Amazon warehouse deal; most certainly saved 150,-€ there. Secured to the hitch, the bike rack hangs off the back of the Mini as though it was meant to hang nowhere else. In other words, we’ve tested this bike hitch with more than 2000km so far and all I can say is… f’n cool! Although I can see through the rear view mirror of the Mini how the bikes sometimes wobble and shake while on the autobahn, I’m over all my fears that the whole shebang would just drop off while on our way to Croatia (which we’re gonna do next September).

As you can see in the pics (above), not only are the bikes fully integrated as part of the Mini when on the hitch & rack, but there is also the convenience of being able to access the split doors of the Mini, albeit only one at a time. That is, I’ve since learned that in order to access the boot of the Mini in this configuration, one needs to be prepared. First, make sure you pack stuff in the rear that only needs access if you can’g get to what you need through one of the two rear side doors. Remember that this is a six door vehicle. The issue recently came up when I forgot that I had put my wallet in a bike bag in the rear. At a gas station I had to then drop the bikes (see pic above) to get it. Obviously it was no problem. This wouldn’t be so easy, though, if the Mini was fully packed when traveling longer distances. And so. Heed this. Only one of the rear Mini barn doors is accessible with this hitch & rack, so you should pack the car accordingly.

Another cool aspect of this Mini + e-bike rack layout is that when it’s activated the electronic connector of the rack (for the rear lights, blinkers, etc.) responds accordingly. The rear doors no longer respond to remote activation. The rear parking guide also shuts off and the driver is given a fancy signal inside the car saying, basically, when backing up… you’re on your own. Btw, remote activation of rear doors is kinda waaaaaay Mini-cool. That might sound like a bit of blowhard BS by someone that doesn’t own a friggin Mini, but let me tell you: I’ve already been out and about with this vehicle where I had to park it in tight spaces. If you activate those rear doors with the remote and they swing open, anything in their way will be slammed and, worst, the doors will be damaged. So hats off to BMW/Mini folks for getting the rear doors right when the hitch is activated. Now I have to get it right when there’s no hitch.

As far as driving 2000+km with this bike/rack system on a friggin Mini Cooper? At first I was nervous. How can that little hitch hold all this–especially when driving 100+km/h on the German (drive with your brakes) autobahn? The answer: no problem. The hitch is rated at being able to carry much more than two e-bikes. Of course, I remove all excess weight from the bikes before putting them on. The battery is removed. The computers of the bikes are removed. The Abus lock on my R&M Charger GX is also removed. If on longer drives, especially where rain is expected, I also remove the seats and cover any open orifices with God’s tape. I mean, duck-tape. All in all, when emptied, each bike is around 20 kilos. The (Westfalia) rack is rated at being able to carry 60 kilos. Yeah. This is a pretty cool way to carry bikes around–even if they’re e-bikes (that might not deserve to be carried around; but that’s another worst-post).

Rant (and ride safe) on.

-T