Monday, April 4, 2011
Two Years Older, Not Much Wiser!
the first Lovely Bicycle post. Since then I've acquired a few bikes, learned a great deal in the process, and improved my cycling skills by about a thousandfold. I have also aged two years and learned to levitate. Honestly, levitation is not that difficult compared to learning to ride a roadbike.
In my quest to penetrate the mysteries of The Bicycle, one thing I understand quite clearly is that I still don't know much about bikes, and won't any time soon. I am not trying to be humble or self-deprecating: I mean it, and I don't think it's a bad thing. I have been fortunate enough to speak with quite a few framebuilders over the past two years, and they all have something different to say about frame design and construction. Some have very concrete theories about which geometry, tubing, etc. work best, and can explain why in great detail. Other builders just shrug and say, "I have no idea why the bikes I make ride well. All that trail and angles stuff is nonsense and there is more than one way to skin a cat." The builders with the best reputations and most coveted bicycles fall into both categories, and if saying "I don't know" is good enough for some of my favourite builders, then surely there is no shame in it.
I am not suggesting that the making of bicycles is some mystical thing that we mere mortals can never hope to grasp. But the more I learn, the more I realise that there are just so many contributing factors to how any given bicycle handles, that it is exceptionally difficult to generalise. In fact, the safest and most reliable way to make a great bike I've heard framebuilders describe, is copying the geometry of their favourite vintage bike, then experimenting with minor modifications. After all, frame geometry is "open source" and anybody who knows how to take measurements correctly can use it: Why not make what you already know works? If contemporary manufacturers wanted to, they could all be producing vintage Raleigh Sports replicas in Taiwanese factories, which would ride much nicer than most modern commuter bicycles sold in bikeshops today. Why don't they then?.. That's something I haven't yet figured out either.
So there we have it: I don't know much, but that does not stop my continued interest in bicycles and cycling. One of the things I try to do on this blog, is to maintain a space where those who are new to bicycles can learn interesting things without feeling intimidated by industry jargon or by those who appear to be more knowledgable: Curiosity and openness are enough to enjoy cycling. Thank you for all the support I receive from you in its many forms: engaging discussions in the comments and over email, useful advice, shared information, trades for spare bicycle parts, donations for give-aways, and sponsorship. Thank you for reading, as I continue to share my mystified observations in year three of Lovely Bicycle!