Friday, 12 October 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel

10/13-UPDATE. Arg. It's rainy and humid today--going to have to wait on that second coat of lacquer. I'm outta here for 3 weeks. See you in November!

Ah, the end is in sight! All my parts and tools for the reassembly have finally been purchased, and today I put on the first lacquer coat, or clear coat. With the exception of one area on the frame which dripped a bit, it went on really well. I had buffed out the paint to a dull matte finish as recommended before the clear coat, and I was really happy to see the clear coat bring back the gloss and deepen the color. For the buffing, most everything I read said to wet sand with extremely fine sandpaper, but that made me nervous, so I used my "0000" steel wool (dry) to do the job, and it seemed to work fine.

I'll do the second lacquer coat tomorrow (24 hours, says the can). Then, I'll be away from the project for about three weeks (got actual work to do). When I get back, the clear coat will be nice and hard and I'll buff up the finish with some car wax and start putting it all back together. We'll see if I can remember where everything goes!

PS--I'll be in Chicago for about a week coming up, and I hope to snap some photos of old bikes around the University of Chicago while I'm there to post when I get back--love to see old bikes getting used!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Thoughts on a Quiet Revolution

Wired magazine today covers Interbike 2007, the bicycle industry's annual big hoopla trade show, and refers to a "quiet revolution" away from the high-end, high-performance road bikes and mountain bikes that were so popular during the 1990s and early 2000s. People have realized that getting about in the city is easier on a simpler, more comfortable ride rather than a mountain bike with fourteen kinds of suspension or a road bike that practically forces you to ride like you're in The Tour. The article cites the recent rise of fixed-gear bikes especially, with narrow handlebars for zipping through traffic, and even (gasp) fenders to keep you dry.

But who's fueling (ha!) the trend in fixed-gears? It's hipsters with iLives and no discernible source of income with which to buy these increasingly expensive bikes. Soon (if not already) the yuppies or yippies, or whatever, will turn in their mountain bikes they never take to the mountains and their racing bikes they never race with and buy a fixed-gear, some cropped bike pants, and a messenger bag and think they're the bee's knees. And bike manufacturers will be happy to jack up the prices on these simple machines as the demand skyrockets, making the fixed gear or urban commuter just as expensive and exclusive as the mountain bikes and racing bikes. It's already happening. It is a bicycle industry after all, and there's money to be made.

My humble suggestion: if people want a comfortable, reliable bike that's good in the city (and reasonably priced), go old. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of old bikes out there in barns and garages, just waiting to be fixed up and put back on the road for fairly minimal cost and effort. In the process, people can learn something, accomplish something, and get a truly personalized and unique bicycle in the end. I applaud the idea of a "quiet revolution", but if it's really going to be a revolution, it should be guided by people in their own garages with wrenches in their hands, not by the bicycle industry.

PS--The logo above is adapted from Revolution Cycles in Madison, WI, which hosts We Are All Mechanics, a group devoted to demystifying bicycle repair, particularly for women. I am not affiliated with either.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

This is Very Cool

File this under: "A Complete Waste of My Time Today"

If you'll take a gander at all the do-dads on the right of your screen, you'll notice my new Google map. I created this to chart the many bike rides around the city that I expect to be taking once my bike is up and running. So far, it's only got the ride around the block I took before deciding to dismantle my bike in July, but I hope it will have a lot more soon.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007


Okay, so I'm not a "bike guy." I know this, I'm okay with it. Why then, does going to a bike shop always make me feel like a second class citizen? I've been to two shops in two days looking for the last components, tools, etc. for my bike. Here's how it went.

Bike Shop#1: I went here to get my front rim trued, and to pick up new brake cables, bearing grease, cable cutters, tires, and tubes. I walk in the door with my front rim in my hand. Two employees look at me, turn away, and go back to what they were doing. I was less than five feet from both of them. I lingered near the front, near one side of the counter, trying to catch somebody's eye. When someone finally greeted me, I asked if they could true my rim, and asked about the other items on my list. All they had was the tubes, tires, and cables, and I was told to leave my rim until the next day. Fine. I'm told to call ahead to remind the guy to do the job, however, so that it's done by the end of the day. What? Why should I have to call to remind them to do their job? I'm irritated, but leave the rim anyway to pick up today.

Bike Shop #2: I went here to get the grease and cable cutters. Big bike shop, known throughout the city as one of the best. I didn't bother to call ahead, I was sure they would have what I needed. I walk in, the guy at the counter is on the phone. He asks if he can help me. Actually, he looks at me with the phone cradled on his shoulder and says, "Yeah?". Is he talking to me, or to the phone? It's me. "Do you have bearing grease or cable cutters?" I ask. "Nope, sorry," he says. I'm a little shocked. "Okay, do you know a place that does?" I ask. "No." Then the phone conversation starts again. I go home, get online, and find at least three places in town that seem to carry the stuff I need. Why didn't Phone Guy tell me about them? He didn't even think about it, or offer to look it up for me. I guess if I don't want to drop $500 on a new fixed-gear, I'm not a very valuable customer.

Gah. This is why ordinary people who want to do their own work on their ordinary bikes are put off and intimidated by bike shops and bike people, and honestly I think contributes to why we don't see more people on bikes. It's just assumed that there's this cult of bike knowledge and you have to be initiated to even get noticed when you walk into a bike shop (again, unless you're willing to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on some high-end bike that you don't have the first clue about how to maintain). Democratize knowledge, democratize access, and people who feel left out will begin to participate.

Maybe I should go look at my stencils some more. That'll make me happy.

Monday, 1 October 2007

The Stencils Turned Out Great!

I'm actually a bit shocked at how well they worked. I was going to wait until everything was put back together to post more pictures, but they turned out so well, I had to show them off. There are some edges that need smoothing and touching up with the red paint, but all-in-all the stencils worked better than I had thought they would. I've still got to do the insides of the letters on the chain guard, but I'll do that next week when I do the red touch ups.

Here's the rear fender with the "safety" stripe on the back--wasn't on the original paint job, but I like the way it looks on some of the old English three-speeds, so I stole it.

This is the modified fork motif. It used to be just the upside-down arrow design (which had all chipped off, leaving just the outline of where it had been), and I added the star from the chain guard to give it a little more character.

And here's the chain guard sans insides of the letters. The original had two stars, but I decided to go with just one, seeing as how I already added two to the fork. This is a bike, after all, not a My Little Pony.

With the touch ups left to do next week, it's going to set me a week behind again. This means that I probably won't get the clearcoat done until early November, since I'll be away for three weeks in October. Oh well, can't rush greatness.

PS--I finally figured out how to embed photos within the text in Blogger, so that's exciting. Durr.

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