Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Velo Purgatory

People who have lots of unfinished bike projects lying around must be used to this - but to me there is something sad and anxiety-provoking about having a bike at home that's missing parts, or a frame that has not had a chance to become a bicycle yet. It's as if the non-functional bicycles are in a state of velo-purgatory - crying out to be completed and ridden.

My beautiful Royal H. mixte frame came home today, and it looks like I will be building it up much later than I thought - possibly in the end of the summer, or whenever I manage to save the money. And my attempt to tackle the Sam Hillborne frame on my own over the winter did not end well. In the end I brought the frame back to Harris with the metaphorical tail between my legs, and it is only now being built up - in the very midst of the spring customer rush. Naturally, having a bicycle built at a shop is more expensive than doing it oneself, and so my plans for the Royal H. mixte are on hold until some serious financial recovery time after the Hillborne. In the meantime, I better wrap it in bubble-wrap and put it away. I don't think it's healthy to sit on the bed next to a bicycle frame and stare at it for this long.

My Mercier mixte is now also a "purgatory bike", albeit very temporarily. The large chainring is off getting "de-toothed" by a fine gentleman who is a reader of this blog, as part of my scheme to convert this bicycle to a 5-speed. The chainring will be back soon, and till then I respond to the Mercier's questioning glances by gently stroking its handlebars and assuring it that it is not being disassembled for parts but is being improved.

Ah the joys of obsessiveness, anthropomorphic tendencies and an overly vivid imagination!

23 comments:

  1. hah! I was at Harris a few weeks back and saw your frame hanging there, I was curious about that but decided to not pry.

    All things (and bikes) in time... you can't ride them all at once (trust me, I have tried and it does not end well ;) so a few "on the back burner" is not terrible...

    ...it is only terrible to neglect a bike, which it does not appear that you are doing.

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  2. At least you attempted the work on your Riv. Keep at it and you will be a home mechanic before you know it.

    In the mean time, get some nice bright shots of that custom frame. Maybe you are holding out for a big reveal? Did Royal H build a fork? I don't think I have ever seen a fork with the frame.

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  3. Great blog! I'm in love with all of your bikes, although I must admit, the DL-1 holds a special place in my heart! ;D

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  4. I shall be interested in seeing and hearing more about the detoothing...

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  5. Now at least you'll have some time to enjoy each new bike one-on-one, plus have something to look forward to in the future. I'm sure your brood understands :)

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  6. I am finishing two project bikes right now, one was started in 1987, has changed course several times and spent almost 15 years in "out of sight out of mind" barn storage. The other was bought in a thrift store 6 days ago, they both involve about the same degree of difficulty and effort(moderate/high) and cost(very little) and I got my first ride on each of them within a couple of weeks of each other. The long term project feels like a bigger accomplishment but the one week wonder has a neat "TA-DA" sort of feeling of magical appearance. I also anthropomorphise my bikes, give them names and get all irrational about them. It's silly but somehow unavoidable for some of us. My daughter Sarah calls her bike "my bike" and treats it like sports equiptment, my daughter Caroline calls her bike "Bob" and treats it like her puppy...

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  7. velouria, you said "People who have lots of unfinished bike projects lying around must be used to this - but to me there is something sad and anxiety-provoking about having a bike at home that's missing parts, or a frame that has not had a chance to become a bicycle yet."

    i think it depends on the situation. i have no problem with bike frames or components lying around the workshop waiting for assembly-- they are all part of a process that i have laid out. in fact, sometimes i have a frame lying around as i wait for the inspiration on how to transform it. for me, the idea development and the incremental progress of a project are part of what maintains my interest. i.e., the process is not merely the means to an end, but itself an end.

    however, i can *totally* identify with your comment when it comes to delays over which i have little or no control (and i think you know the example i'm referring to).

    so i wonder if for you the process means as much as the finished product-- i am guessing it doesn't, in which case i can understand your frustration and anxiety over not seeing your bikes in their completed state. i don't have any advice for that, other than to focus your attention on the projects that are closest to completion, such as the mercier and the hillborne.

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  8. See, I always advocate the "one perfect bicycle" theory.
    A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha....!

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  9. Yeah, I have a Raleigh Superbe frame sitting at home staring at me every time I take one of our bikes out. At the moment, my own Raleigh is again sidelined due to the aforementioned cotter issue, which still hasn't been resolved. Looking like I may need a new left crank for it :(

    We over-anthropomorphize everything as well, so I know just how you feel about your bikes giving you sideways glances and feeling sorry for them and whatnot :)

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  10. somervillain - I think one problem is that I have no workspace for the bikes, and no established tradition of "finished bikes" vs "project bikes". So when I have a disassembled bike, I walk past it constantly as I move through our small apartment, and it makes everything seem chaotic (pieces of bike everywhere!). But the element of control you mention of course gets to me as well - especially when I "had a plan" about how things were going to happen, followed that plan, and yet the plan got derailed. I also feel rather helpless not being able to work on bikes myself, but at this point it is clear that this would be unrealistic. Time-wise, the only way I could do it, is if I did it instead of writing the Lovely Bicycle blog, but I think I enjoy writing the blog more.

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  11. And I enjoy reading it more than working on bikes. :)

    And we both enjoy riding more than all of the above...

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  12. I enjoy the telling of your bicycle stories no matter what course of action is taken! The build outs happen when they will, in the mean time a good read can always be found here ;)

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  13. Five years ago I walked into my favorite bike shop, Kraynick's in Pittsburgh, to get help with a flat. The owner talked me through it and then as I was leaving he said, "Don't be afraid to work on your bike, there's nothing to it." Some of the best advice I've ever gotten.

    Dirt Rag review of Kraynick's

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  14. @Eric: I love Kraynick's... how's he doing? Right before I moved, Jerry cleaned up the back workspace. I couldn't believe the transformation! Kraynick is a living legend.

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  15. I've come to believe that these unexpected delays in bike projects serve to enhance our appreciation of the otherwise-overlooked members of the stable. I'm confident you will soon find that you're grooving to one of your other bikes in a way that hadn't presented itself before.

    Then, of course, the end of summer or whatnot will be in the twinkling of an eye. One advantage to growing older is that nothing seems to take very long. As a (younger) friend said recently of an allegedly far-off plan, "Six months? That'll be here in like a week."

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  16. @velouria - I can appreciate the anxiety. I share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate who doesn't share my fancy for older bicycles. I have an embarrassing number of bikes stashed in various parts corners and on our porch, as well as currently having two frames in my car!

    Some would call it an addiction. I prefer to think of it as an intense affection :)

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  17. Your bikes represent a wonderful work in progress. I have been slowly building my bike restoration skills.
    I have four bike projects in progress -- one for my nephew, one for my patient, understanding wife and two that will be shared, or perhaps sold, once they're done. So what did I do on our recent vacation? I bought another bike, of course. I looked through the rust and grime and saw nothing but potential, even though it will languish in the shed for a few months.

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  18. Bicyholics AnonymousApril 28, 2010 at 10:52 PM

    The first step is admitting you have a problem... :)

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  19. "I have an embarrassing number of bikes stashed in various parts corners and on our porch, as well as currently having two frames in my car!"

    That's very funny. :)

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  20. Three frames in the(still unfinished)garage/workshop,
    one in the basement. One frame will be craigslist-ed this week, but I paid to have a dropout repaired out of conscience. Working out color schemes for two of the remaining three. Hope to be done with the painting by the end of May...

    And still quite hopeful about the whole enterprise.

    I understand. Three years ago, I wasn't even riding the one functional bike I had. Now there are three, soon to be four, and a fifth by mid-summer.

    You'll be fine. Hang the Royal H Mixte on your Studio wall in the meantime. Or better yet, take beautiful high key photos of it to amaze us with...

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  21. I don't agonize over my incomplete bikes, as long as I have a bike to ride.

    I am not sure any of my bikes are really complete. They all seem to be ongoing projects. I am always looking at them and wondering if something would look better on it, make it a bit more comfortable or improve it's utility, or? I can emphasize with the lack of funds...Too many bikes and not enough money, time to go riding!

    Aaron

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  22. Just FYI:
    I stumbled across a Huret single stem shifter on ebay, in case you may still be interested in it for the Mercier.

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  23. Tom - Thanks, I already have one. Here it is!

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