Friday, December 9, 2016

Planning a Wheelbuild: Hypothetical Practicalities

After my earlier post on wheelbuilding, many expressed an interest in the concrete details of the process: specifically the costs, and where to source supplies. I had planned to cover that in describing my recent 650B project (all done now!). However, as I prepared to write about it, I realised that would not really work. Being more of a re-build than a fresh build, I did not actually buy anything for that project other than spokes, so it won't provide an opportunity to discuss the thought process behind sourcing parts. So instead I’ve decided to dedicate a post to a hypothetical but very realistic build, starting from scratch.

A crucial part of the wheelbuilding process is the planning stage. Firstly, because we must make sure all parts are compatible. But just as importantly, because the feel, performance and weight of our end-result wheels will depend on the parts we start out with. Therefore, at the onset, it might help to ask ourselves some questions:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Seek the Wise One

"What is the thing you want most in the world?" they asked the Struggling Cyclist.

"I want to climb steep hills on my bike," he replied. "And I want to be fast. And I want it to feel easy."

"Ah! Well, you just have to ride again and again until all of those things happen."

"I have tried. But it's hard. And my progress is slow. I am always the Struggling Cyclist."

"Oh. Well, in that case there is only one thing to do."

"And what is that?"

"You must visit the Wise One. If you go to him, and give him the things he asks for, he will teach you secrets - tremendous, spiritual secrets - that will help you circumvent all that and make your wishes come true."

And they marked the address on a map.

Friday, December 2, 2016

On Tyre Width: Sensations and Social Representations

There is a branch of psychology, nearer to its border with philosophy than with science, which deals with a concept called Social Representations. It is an intriguing field of study, with the central premise that an individual’s perception of reality is shaped inasmuch by cultural narratives as it is by direct physiological perceptions. And further, that physical sensations are, in of themselves, shaped by cultural narratives to begin with.

In the cycling world, trends in tyre width offer an almost too perfect real-life scenario to see this phenomenon at play.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

DIY Two-Tone? Long-Term Impressions of Brooks Leather Handlebar Tape

I still remember how uneasy I felt when, 5 years ago, I decided to wrap the handlebars on my nascent new roadbike with leather bar tape. It is not that I am against using leather. I have owned leather shoes, bags, jackets, bicycle saddles. But in using leather, I feel a heavy sense of visceral respect for the material. And I reserve it for products which I know will see a lot of use; products which I hope are with me for the long haul.

This is why the leather bar tape gave me pause. Me and handlebar tape... we did not have a history of long and meaningful relationships. On my previous roadbike I must have changed bar tape (cloth and synthetic variants) more than half a dozen times within a two year period. On a couple of those occasions this was because I altered my handlebar setup and the tape did not survive the re-wrap. But in the other instances, I would simply wear it out with alarming speed - destroy it with my death grip, or corrosive palm sweat, or who knows what. The synthetic cork would quickly grow filthy, then curl at the edges and tear. The shellacked cloth would crack or wear down. The microtex stuff I'd tried toward the end lasted longest, yet still grew tattered in a way I cannot account for by the time that bike made it to its new owner.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Fine Day for a Knit-a-Bike

It seems that a good portion of LB readers are fellow knitters! And recently someone asked whether I know of any bicycle knitting patterns that are designed around a step-through, not a diamond frame bike. I recalled having seen one, but couldn't remember the source. So I did a little search, and not only found it, but ended up testing it out.

The pattern is available for free, and from none other than Po Campo - the Chicago-based manufacturer whose Loop Pannier I reviewed here a few years back. The "Bike and Be Free" dishcloth pattern features a 2-tone colour chart for this step-through bicycle motif.  And of course the chart need not be used exclusively to make dishcloths; you can integrate it into anything from a simple scarf, to a hat, mittens or a sweater.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Knowing Our Limits

It was about a month ago that it first happened, this role reversal of sorts. It was a beautiful autumn day and I was cycling with my husband down a winding descent. Not too steep, not too tight, the kind  - I thought - where I can pick up speed with a calm confidence, especially if I know the road. It was a crisp sunny morning, with golden foliage scattered over the road and glistening after the rain.

I was riding slightly ahead. And on approaching a bend, bordered by a stone wall, I could suddenly hear behind me: "Slooow!"

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Cutting-Edge Classic

There are times when you see a bicycle, and you know straight away it has nothing to do with you; you know that it is wholly inappropriate for your style of riding. And yet... And yet, there is something about it that grabs you, that engages your imagination.

It was this very thing that I felt, when I saw Raymond's Argos racing bike.

"Wait... What is that? Why is that?" I wanted to ask. I could not stop running my hand along its unusual knife-thin fork blades.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wheelbuilding: For Health and Recreation

Ladies! Have you always dreamed of your man becoming a wheelbuider, but were never quite sure how to nudge him in that direction? Well, you can now follow these simple steps:

1. Bring home a set of handbuilt wheels made by somebody else.
2. Talk endlessly about how great they are - how light, how quick, how exquisite.
3. Soon he'll wonder out loud whether he ought to try it too.
4. And to this you reply: "Oh, I don't know... it seems so difficult."

Now, sit back and enjoy as he pores over spoke length charts, youtube videos, and memorises Sheldon Brown passages in their entirely (difficult you say?!).

You are very welcome.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I Am a Slow Moving Vehicle

I got chatting to a fellow the other day who commutes to work by bike. He has been cycling for a couple of years now, having bought a racing bike as part of the cycle to work scheme.

Eying up the bike I was on, he said, "Right enough, all that would be handy!" - gesturing sweepingly at the mudguards and racks and bags and upright handlebars.

"Why didn't you get one like it?" I ask.

"Ach, where I live it would be too slow. Drivers would go mad sitting behind me!"

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ground Control

Since the start of this blog, I have tried not to comment on political events. This is not because I do not care, or do not have opinions. It's because I wanted to establish a separation between Bike and State, so to speak, so that readers of all political leanings could perceive this as a "safe space" to express their shared love of niche bicycle-related minutiae.

I make no exception to this now. And neither do I make assumptions regarding where any given LB reader stands on the British vote to leave the EU, and on the US presidential election.