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Mittwoch, 16. Dezember 2015

Over old hills and far away;-) - RIDE.

 Yesterday the weather was fine and the hills were calling violently. Now it has been some time since I just went on a ride into the foothills of the Sauerland, just so, just to ride, and it was about time.

Now with my new bike that carves like a razor I felt very much motivated and just put on my helmet and riding gear, made me a flask of tea and off I pedalled. I had to cover some distance to even reach the woods, for the trailhead is on the other side of the city, and the city at Chrismas sucks big style, but as soon as I hit the trail... aaahh. Silence.
 The creek that runs alongside the trail contributed to the peaceful atmosphere. It was very warm, what with the sun shining. The trails were grimy and slippery, and I realized my riding technique has deteriorated a lot since I last rode singletrails in winter. But it felt simply great to  be able to be outside and do some trails just for the fun of it. I will do quite some more riding, I guess, over the holidays. I usually put a lot of energy into very prosaic tasks and usually it ends in a catastrophe. Might be I should put some more effort into having some plain old fun...;-)
 It was not just that yo, jibbaman, yo-feeling. It´s not about wearing fancy attire and riding a great bike-business as usual you´d say, when I say it´s about the woods again. Of course it is, but there´s still more to it. It is different to when you go for a hike, it hardly can be intelligently described.
 Like this, see? How can I possibly explain to those who cannot refer to that feeling you have when you have ridden uphill on a technical trail and come to a clearing, wide open and all, and look over the distant valley and see those rolling hills, that roll, wave on wave, until one is the last that cuts the sky? The shadows were long...

And the sun shone with golden rays.

 On the hilltop I sat down...
 ...and had a sip of good strong tea.
Birds were singing in the grove. Felt more like spring than midwinter.

Then it was dropping the seat and give the beast a thrashing down the singletrail, slime-surfing, and I realized I was grinning wide and hooting and hollering the bike around the corners. It´s just if you have ridden a good bike before, and now you sit on an excellent one, and you realize you slam into an off-camber turn full tilt with a note of fear and all of a sudden you are already around it with no twitch or losing traction. Then you hit the next turn even faster and wonder where the limit of this beast actually might be? It was big fun again, and boy, I could not wipe that grin out of my face, even through the ride home through a city contaminated with madmen in  a Chrismas frenzy. On the ride home I got ten threats of getting my face rearranged just because I was on a bike and riding at the same speed as the cars in the traffic jam, one attack, and too many insults and foul language than I´d care to mention, but even so I was singing and grinning. The festival of love, you know...

I do this riding stuff  far too seldom, and I guess I have to change that.

In the thicket

 The sun was up and the weather was warm, and I was fleeing the city again for  a hike into the woods. I walk into the deepest woods, through thicket and underbrush to seek for solitude and a tiny shred of peace from the everyday mayhem of our world. And it never ceases to astound me how fast all the ruckus subsides as soon as you pass that threshold, subtle, yet distinguished, that last frontier of sense.

For in the forest it is that there indeed is violence, and injustice, and the strong prey on the weak... but all in a complex coherence of sense. Not in an arbitrary and mad manner, but to ultimately propel the wheel of life and creation. There is a room for violence as well as beauty, there is peace alongside the fox hunting the hare. I often think that there are dangers involved in treading the solitary paths I tread-but I think I´d prefer being eaten by some unknown predator or wild pig to living a life amidst all these hipster management types. At least they won´t make a fuss out of it and have a genuine reason;-). But I don´t want to focus on that, for the silence is deep and peace and solitude always do their job on me.
Through sun-enchanted woods I walked, and came across that fire road. Here in the shadow it was cold, and it was for once to be felt that it is actually December. Other than that it could be barely felt that we have winter. I was walking in a T-Shirt and a light jacket and even so built up a sweat!
But it became dark early, and I welcomed the twilight...
Along those green meadows to the wide open space beyond the forest...
...and where I suspected it the least...

...behind a thicket there was a tiny hunter´s path, nearly overgrown, and there it was: An obviously well-maintained and cared-for cabin, well stocked with firewood. I´d love to have one for myself...

...but fact is, I have none and won´t be able to afford one in the first place. So I put that thought into my mental drawer labelled "dreams" and went on my merry way;-).
The woods...
...have always been enough. And when twilight falls, I am right there, at home. When the wind moves through the soft treetops of spruce and fir, my cradle song I hear...

...and my heart is soothed, however searing my wound had been beforehand.

Donnerstag, 3. Dezember 2015

The Nightmare of the North - a skóggangr trail of twilight


 Strong is the call that is rising beyond the boundaries of the cities. From tree and grove and wood and hill there is this song that rises with the mist. Autumn had come, and stayed with colours and some warmer days; harvest has been and time did pass.



And from green hills there rise the mists. Few now know the song that rises from beneath the dark, rich soil. Few are wise enough to fear that time. And even fewer are those that still know how to tread that trail of twilight.


Into the murky woods I ventured, deep beyond the world of man, not space, nor time, that song I followed, a song like valiant steel and violent roar; and yet, but faintly is it heard.

The mists of time are blown away here and thence. No time fathomed by man is that song, nor space, not dream nor fancy, and yet it lives with thrumming vibration. Is it a fairy song, is it alvish lore? Is there death or is there life? The river runs two ways; three wells they foam with life and death, three mills they grind, grind endlessly.

Into the twilight, as I did so often before, but now I walked with new and deadly earnest. I walked deep into the darkness and the murk - to unbecome human.



The sun, that bright lantern of everyday business, sank beneath the veil of woods, of hill, of earth.


...and mists rose up to give the light a gentle goodbye in a flaming cold embrace.


From hill and dale and crevice deep they rose, rose like mist with lips as pale as frostbite flowers, rose with grace alien to man. No word was spoken, no song was heard.


And from afar I heard the faint murmur of a despairing world.


I did not look behind, I did not try to find a clue nor thought. I left the rags of my mortality behind, beneath the shroud of dancing mists. I walked on and further up the pathway and through a gate unfathomable even by a poet´s mind.

Horror unseen and terror unfathomed, joy and riches, wealth without measure strewn at their feet, unnoticed, undesired. The mists were cold, and the song grew louder, louder, more intense.


The fading light blurred all things living in favour of those who had never lived and live in spite.


Up rose the crescent of the moon above the blood-red light.


Above the twilight trail it shone serenely; and beyond the world the gates - they tremble:

On a haggard horse of silken midnight the nightmare rides on flaming hooves; high the song arises, louder still above the fields of battle, above the clamour, the outcries of pain and hate.

On a raven horse of midnight the nightmare rides from grove and creek, from hill and dale and silent rock; on a steed of darkness she rides. Blood she drinks from poets´skulls; ragged cloak of darkness´fabric, of twilight, iron, leaf and tree.

Out she rides from the three wells; their yarn has been combed, and cleaned, and spun. The sickle, silver light and crescent sharpness, rises up to cut. From spool and wheel and teasel their thread unrolls and spins... she moves the wheel of thirteen spokes to cut the thread, untie the knots, knots that bind, bind flesh to soul.

On a haggard horse of midnight she rides out on winter storms, on mist and trail. The eagle owl, the wolf, the raven feel the scent of death she leaves lying beside the flaming hooves.

From forest deep and canyon, from creek and hill and dale - up rise the violent mists. The gate it clashes and opens wide; out rides the nightmare from the three wells.

On  a haggard horse of burning midnight out rides the nightmare, the protector of the woods.

On a raven horse of midnight, the river flows two ways; three wells with fury overflow. The curse it rises to the leaden sky, the curse in tri- fold incantation is woven into her cloak, her sickle and her spear, in sword and poisoned arrow, the curse it weaves into the water, into the soil, the sky, the wind; the curse it rises on a midnight horse.

On a haggard horse of midnight out rides the nightmare, the protector of the woods.

Serenely the moon shone above the trail of twilight.

Stunned and smiling silently in stealth I left the mist - enchanted woods and the dreamlike fancy, knowing.

And unbecoming human.

Mittwoch, 2. Dezember 2015

Two projects on the bench-and some musings on the fiercer aspects of the German psyche


Germany is entering into the so-called "War On Terror". This means we´re fucked. I recently read the musings of one strategy specialist on a dpa press site about a ground offensive. He went into detail with strategems here and strategems there and spilled out tactical information that, had they been genuine would NEVER have found their way into the internet. But what was made abundantly clear is that the leaders of the German army don´t have an inkling what to do against terrorism. If we engage into a ground offensive in a conventional way we will lose many lives and we will never be able to end this war. Children will be born, grow up, grow old and die in this war, and we will be defeated in the end. We have several options left, however. The first one is assuming Muslim belief and modifying it over time as Christianity has done with pagan festivals. The second one is to nuke every Muslim country ten metres below ground zero, as Russian nationalists so aptly suggested. But the we have to be so thorough that we will eventually wipe out ourselves, too. The other is "good" old genocide. By the way, this is not my personal opinion, but one possible option. Along the sickening lines of this stratagem we had to extinguish any Muslim in the world as we Germans tried in the Third Reich, not an option to me at all, but possibly the only path that will be left, maybe in combination with the former option. We talk about the extinguishing of some millions of people. Since this, as I said, can´t be an option, but actually IS an option to the enemy, we have already lost.

But maybe not.

Often people from outside think Germans are quite easy to understand. After losing the war, we have become accepted members of the Western community. The goods we sell are still famed for their quality, the things we engineer and develop often have a stand-alone quality of innovation. We are famed for our social welfare (even though we are working on that to finally, finally, become the 51st state of America or at least America´s cherished lickspittle. Please do not take offence in that, you know well I know the differences, but I work together with entrepreneurs who really covet the Rockefeller style of capitalism, and this is what I criticize). Then there are Lederhosen and Gemütlichkeit and whatnot.

But there is an aspect of our culture that is fiercer than the lickspittle, and in a sick and perverted manner it shows in the deeds of Nazi terrorists like the DVU and PEGIDA. Sensible Germans are seldom patriotic in public. But I have the strong suspicion that there is a bit more of a spine in people than is shown everydays.

Let me put it this way. I live in the Sauerland region of Germany, in North - Rhine - Westfalia. The name Sauerland goes back to an Old German "Siuerland/Thiudaland". The word "Deutschland" goes back to "Diutisk land", from Old German "Theudo", people. So it can be argued that this region can for now stand pars pro toto for the whole. Now think about the missionary war that Charlemagne led with the Old Saxons, the "people", whose name was given because of the weapon they made famous, the "sahsa", (seax). The Saxons were defeated, their holy tree chopped down, and on blocks made from the tree´s wood they were beheaded after having been granted forgiveness if they gave up their weapons and swore the oath "tunaer ende seaxneath luginari" (Thunderer and Seax-wielder/fighter (are) liars). But it is said at least in local legend, that their leader, Widu-chind (Forest-Child) escaped and went into hiding applying a hit-and-run tactic, a guerrilla warfare. They could not be routed by the Frankish regular host, and hired assassins did not come back from the murky, misty woods.

Legend or no, there are still genuinely pagan customs in our region, from the maypole and oak to the existence of "Spökenkieker" (*spákonskaikari, those who meet the seeress, or, in a more modern connotation, seers in their own right) up to today. Charlemagne was very thorough in his genocidal mission, but simply did not manage to succeed to rout Saxon belief at all. Of course, the people were Christians up until 2000 or so, when Mammonism became the secret religion of state. But still there are seaxes made all over the world. Saxons contributed to British culture, and British culture influenced the founding of America, at least partly.

What I want to say is, you can aggravate a German a very long time until he gets angry. It takes a lot to make us furious, for we like to have our Gemütlichkeit. We are a bit like the hobbits in LOTR. We like good food, and a beer and an "Ollen Kloaren" (vintage barley schnapps). We don´t say much.

I am not proud of the history of the Third Reich, not at all. But German soldiers as individuals were feared and respected in WWI and WWII. The Werwolf units struck terror into the allies a long time after the war had ended ("Every friendly German civilian is a disguised soldier of hate. Armed with the inner conviction that the Germans are still superior ... [they believe] that one day it will be their destiny to destroy you. Their hatred and their anger ... are deeply buried in their blood. A smile is their weapon by which to disarm you ... In heart, body and spirit every German is Hitler."(Armed Forces Radio), and while ideologically this is not at all acceptable, this could and should be a way out. Yap, this war would bring us as low as that, but in order to survive we should do everything we could.

It´s funny, but the Muslim inhabitants of our country seem to stay away from the woods. At least I seldom meet any in the forest, and, having talked to some of them, young and old, it seems that they fear the woods or at least they are not that comfortable around them. The woods are still vast and sometimes prosperous, and we are the ones who know them.

It was in 2004 when on a trip to Solingen, the famed bladesmithing city in our vicinity, I went to see Mr. Broch, an experienced and somewhat mythical bladesmith in Solingen;-) and a nice guy to boot. he showed me a lot of tricks of the trade, and I owe him a lot. Not the least I owe him is that he showed me round his "garage", a right treasure trove of historical knives, and amongst them I found these untempered blades, a trench knife (right) and an infantry knife 42. It was Matthias Zwissler who taught me how to quench them and how to estimate the carbon content by spark analysis, and we tempered them in his smithy. And in the lake where I lived besides then I found the gunstock of an old 98K carbine that the soldiers that were fighting on the FLAK stand near the dam disposed of when the capitulation was at hand in 1949 by throwing it into the lake. I will make knives out of these blades, with a feeling of regret, but determined to preserve my roots.

But it will be not purely out of hate that I do this, but out of a furious love and respect, for the life of that old bladesmith, for Matthias, for the love of my old home and the woods and the world I grew up in. The love of my country, not a vague concept portrayed by lying politicians still not admitting we are at war. And not out of any propaganda reasons, but the sun gilding my beloved grove.

I fear for the future, but I love with a fierce passion the hills and trails and misty, murky thickets of my home. I fear for my loved ones and, for my own life, and my heart. I don´t want to kill. I don´t want to be the ugly German, and I will cling to talking as long as possible. Talking to people with different beliefs and showing them we don´t want to pose a threat for their religion, but "Gemütlichkeit" for all of us, Christian, Pagan, Muslim. Talking of how we can build a world together, for the world is still round, and still a ball of dirt swirling madly through the void on a rollercoaster ride to hell, for it will no less explode in some 3.000.000.000 years by hitting the sun. What good is trying to extinguish each other before that? I will fight for pluralism by talking. And asking. And respect. 

But when the talking´s over I am ready.

I can fly again;-)

 So, well, the world is ending, word. And still I got a new bike. And still I got a huge grin on my face. Not really a sensible one. Not bike nor grin. But still.

I have long contemplated getting a bug-out or overland bike built up, but fact is, I only just so could afford a new frame and fork and the parts that always look as if they fitted on and actually do not. ;-) And a bug-out bike is not that much fun, at least one as I think of. No suspension fork, and a relatively tame geometry, racks and panniers and all that stuff.

I got still a frame or two in the cellar that could fit that bill if required, but then, yap, "dress for the crash, not the ride", it would limit my riding. Chance is, this is the last bike I can afford anyway, so I wanted to say goodbye properly to a sport that has given me so much (Taken a lot, too. But still.). No thanks, by the way, to Orange cycles. For want of a derailleur hanger, the frame was lost, no indeed. I had to dispose of my former bike because there is no hanger available for a 2013 model, bummer.

Talking of which, there´s a funny story revolving about my buying this frame, a Dartmoor Primal. I called Dennis from Metal Motion Bikes if he had something bargain in the shop or to be ordered, and he recommended Dartmoor bikes, a Hornet frame, to be exact. I rummaged through the specs, and as Seppel and Frank, friends from my former club had a lot of good things to tell about that bike, I thought, well, get that, and began to look forward to it.

BUT.

Turned out the advertised frame was no longer available. the 2015 models were sold out in June. So, well I thought, can´t get the old frame, so take the new one.

BUT.

Turned out there were no 26" frames without a rear through axle, just 27,5" or 29". Now a rear through axle is an axle that is clamped into the frame, and having a good 10mm thicker diameter is stiff to boot, but simply put-I could not afford to buy new wheels.

Enter the Primal frame. Wow, I thought, what a good-looking thingy, simple and stiff, without a through - axle, normal measurements and a configuration for 26, 26+ (26" with 3" tyres) and 27,5" diameter wheels and suiting my suspension fork of choice. So, I called Dennis to go and order one for me.

BUT.

Turned out they were no longer available.

THOU SHALT NOT RIDE 26"!

Turned out the 2015 models were sold out in June, too. Got a bit angry, so I called the distributor and with my best clerk´s voice I demanded one to be put into reserve. Turned out there still was one being found in the storage, my size and all. So I called Dennis and told him to call the distributor to order the one I had put into reserve for an hour. Then I called him to ask for the price. Turned out no one knew. The frame arrived, I went to fetch it and took some money with me, eager to pay and get the whole deal done with.

BUT.

Turned out there was no bill and no prize list for it. Dennis and Ralf, his father were simply great, they just took out the calculator and made me a prize I was more than content with and threw in a headset, and a wire set at a bargain, and I want to make abundantly clear that they did one of the best jobs I have ever seen anyone do, and that includes me working as a bike mechanic, period. But I think the industry´s a bit over the top. Okay, it is not my religion to ride smaller wheels, but, hey, that is what I have, and they have definite advantages, being lighter, stronger and more lively. In surfing and kayaking there are long and short boards and boats, why can´t they just build versatile bikes for real people (like me?). That this is possible, is testified by this very frame, which can do most of it all. I strapped the shiny-blingy thingy to my backpack and rode home from Witten still with a singlespeed, but with laughter in my heart and joy.

Since my beloved neighbours would not have it that I build up bikes in my own cellar, and I did not want to quarrel with them, especially in the times that are to come, I took up my tools and parts and bike into my attic-turned-ahem-was-that-home ;-), took out a beer from the fridge, put on a Guano Apes CD and started to build it up.

I want to thank Seppel, who sold me a nearly new Rock Shox Domain suspension fork with 160 mm of travel and a through axle with a front wheel for a price that was outright ridiculous, and Michael, who did even more than that and unmounted the rear derailleur and cogset from his own bike and gave it to me for a bottle of mead. Bro, I know, what this means to you, and I hope you know I value it and take responsibility for this gift. Also Jandark, who gave me an old front derailleur, for my old one did not fit anymore, contributed a lot for this bike. Thanks, folks, I don´t want to get sentimental, but I guess you know what I mean when I call you friends.

Two bottles of beer later the beast took shape, I adjusted the gears as good as it would go (turned out it has an asymmetrical rear triangle, so I have to rebuild the rear wheel completely, but was too lazy and too eager to do it).

New brake discs, new shifter cables, a relatively fresh saddle, and I was off for the first ride around the block.

And nearly fell arse over tit as I hit the first berm. It was not that anything came apart, or anything was wrong. That bike is extremely stiff and light and can be flicked around by mere thought-control. It is a bit frightening if you oversteer the first bend because the fork is THAT stiff. Also, I was so amazed at the traction the beast has that I was getting timid. Uphill it can be ridden four gears harder, and my first bunny - hop, a jump over obstacles, was like going on an orbit mission. It is shorter, stiffer and meaner than the Orange, and with the 26" wheels it can be flicked around with a mere weight shift. It needs some dialling in on my part, for it requires a far more aggressive riding style than I was used to with the old bike, but I was laughing like a madman on that first outing.

 Another lousy picture, apologies, my camera will be dead soon... but what I want to say is three things. First, many modern bikes come with bars as wide as 1000mm. Of course, this gives you ample leverage, but try riding this on a REAL singletrail and you´d instantly know why I prefer smaller bars. Plus, if you stand absolutely relaxed with your arms dangling freely by your side, this is the most relaxed position your arms and shoulders can be in. To me, it appears logical, that the horizontal distance between your hands also is the most convenient length your handlebar grips should be apart. And third, many beginners make a mistake by setting up the stem on a long-travel hardtail too high. If your fork blows through the travel, of course you want a higher cockpit, but then your fork is set up wrong. You should always draw a triangle by taking a length of washing line and the help of a partner, fixing it to your navel and the contact points of the wheels to the ground. That triangle should have approximately equal lengths in all the sides. For a downhill bike the triangle can tend a bit farther to the rear, and with a crosscountry bike a bit farther to the front, but avoid the extremes. The Primal with the low cockpit setup precisely falls into a triangle with equal sides. It felt as if it all clicked into place! I have to move very little up or down to achieve the perfect distribution of weight and balance. The bike as is has a huge potential that I have to learn how to put up to, and this is something I last experienced when I got my Zaskar way back then. It can be fostering a whole new riding style!

...did I mention I am a bit excited about this?;-D
 The chain- and seat stays (the tubes at the chain and those that go into the seat tube, the tube with the saddle in it) offer PLENTY of tyre clearance and I daresay there´d be at least some 2,8" tyres in the near future...
 Once again, THANK YOU, Michael. I hope to put up to it.
 Yesterday it was extremely shitty weather, as you might notice from the pictures, and blimey, it was murky. I just craved to get outside! Was wet through in no time, and you could not tell the North or South end of a northbound elk from all the mist, but I hade a somewhat crazed grin on my mouth the whole time.
 Fire roads, singletrail, oh yeah, I was feeling extremely slow, and chance is, I was, but still....
It feels as if I am back on my trail. Now many might think of it as being superfluous and perfunctory, but I often think very grave thoughts, so I need a bit of escapism from time to time. But is it really? I often think that the feelings that my bike has offered me ingress to over the last 29 years have given me an insight, not to say enlightenment. It´s the flow phenomenon that shares many characteristics to Eucharist, Satori and Sírr... just thinking aloud, do I?

Flow has made me a different man. It´s in the wind, not in the tyres or the frame. It´s in the woods.

And if you have been there, you know what I mean when I say that there is respite in the temple of the wind, and eternity in the crystal of a moment. If you haven´t, all words are futile.

I can fly again, and I do.

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