Friday, July 18, 2008

Off to Niles...

So, tomorrow I'm off to Niles, Michigan for my framebuilding course.

I signed up just over a month ago, and quite suddenly. I had the idea of taking a framebuilding course in the back of my mind, and was only really awake of UBI's program. But then a friend returned from the Cirque du Cyclisme having met Doug Fattic, and was enthusiastic to go. I was free during the two weeks of the course, so I decided this might be one of those once-in-a-lifetime chances, and took it. (My friend was not so lucky -- I'm heading there solo.)

photo © Bicycle Quarterly

About myself: I'm a 27 year old graduate student writing on English literature. I just finished the first chapter of my disseration, which is on the way that three writers (Wyndham Lewis, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot) responded to the political crises of the early 1930s by writing in new genres. (It is my honest belief, and the belief of these writers, that certain genres are better able to train readers as democratic subjects, and other genres make them more susceptible to authoritarianism -- I am happy to discuss this!) I've been a cyclist since my second year of university, when I got my first bike -- a beautiful green and white Marinoni Special -- which, though it's definitely a racing bike, I took on tour from Los Angeles to Eugene, Oregon (yes, heading north) in 2005. I'm now an active randonneur. I consider bicycles to be about the most aesthetically pleasing things there are.

As I am a PhD student, and as I have lots of time to think, I have decided to become a professional framebuilder about seventeen times in the last month, and about eighteen times decided not to do it. Since the thought had never really crossed my mind before last month, I expect this will remain a hobby. But creating things with one's hands is a very good complement to intellectual work -- I want to and expect I will keep building bikes. My immediate goal is to volunteer my framebuilding skills to my campus bike shop, repairing frames.

I was also not prepared for the course in the sense that I didn't know what sort of bike I wanted to build. I was lucky enough to get on the wait list for a Velo Orange Randonneur about a year ago, so my bike will be ready soon -- and so I don't need a randonneur. My original idea was to build a bike around the 650bx42 Hetre tires, but that quickly proved too much of a challenge, requiring fork crowns not in production, difficult-to-braze vertical dropouts, etc. (Many, many thanks to iBOB list member Bob Lovejoy who sold me a set of Mafac Raids, which I unfortunately now will have to save for frame #2). So now my idea is to build a bike something like the Rene Herse "winter training bike" from Bicycle Quarterly 5.2 (see above). This is admittedly premature, but I want to paint it the purple colour on the t-shirt at right.

I'm going to keep a daily blog of the frame building course, with lots of photos. I have no idea what to expect, and am quite worried about how I'll fare with a torch. But hopefully this blog will be useful to show others how the classes work, and to get some more insight to the way bikes are made. I look forward to your comments.

(By the way -- the blog name, Two Serious Bikes, is the name under which my girlfriend and I make bicycle pant straps, caps, and bags. I'm not sure if I'll put this name or my own name [or no name] on the bike I make... Some sort of prize goes to the reader who can spot the reference.)

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