Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Retrospective Resolutions



Over the holidays I was doing a major house cleaning, which included sorting my clothing. In the process I discovered something unexpected. Most of my current wardrobe - sweaters, dresses, skirts, even socks and hats and gloves - are of my own making. As a rather proficient knitter and a middling but brave sewer, I have always made bits and pieces by hand. But there is a difference between that, and being able to make most of the clothing I need myself. The latter had long been a dream. But some time in 2016 it became a reality. Is there such a thing as a retrospective New Year's resolution? If so, I achieved one of those last year. And to notice this was such an odd feeling - like the opposite of (the more usual) making a resolution and not keeping it. So perhaps keeping a resolution without making it is the way to go?



I mention knitting a lot here, which must confuse those who read this blog purely for cycling content. But in my mind, the two are inherently linked. Cycling for transport in this damp, cold and windy climate has influenced the direction of my designs, the choice of yarn I use, the technique I've developed, even the speed of my progress. Without cycling and the specific set of challenges it has posed over the past 3 years, I would not have reached my current level of skill, creativity and proficiency as a knitter.  So... thank you, cycling, for this achievement.


The connection between the two things goes deeper though. Because 2016 was also the year I got my bike-tinkering mojo back, and with a vengeance. I have made no secret here of the fact, that I find it difficult working on bikes. In part due to physical strength limitations, in part due to nerve damage in my hands, even the most rudimentary repair and maintenance tasks have always been a challenge - making me feel helpless and inept. For someone who takes 30 minutes plus to change a flat, learning the skill of framebuilding was really an exercise in masochism. It involved so much sweat and tears and handholding, the experience did not make me feel empowered as I'd hoped; it made me feel terrible about myself - if anything, cementing my decision to limit my interest in design to the abstract, and leave the physical aspects of working on bikes to others.

Then, this year, the Wheel Obsession happened. I don't know why now, and not earlier or later. People have been trying for years to interest me in the role wheels play in the cycling experience, but it fell on deaf ears. I guess one has to be ready for that kind of thing, ready to process the information. And this year, I must have been finally ready. The result initially was an interest in rim shape, which progressed to an interest in tubular and tubeless setups, and finally in the wheelbuilding process. I had no intention to do the latter myself at fist. But once I tried it, I realised I was actually... good at it. Unlike most other bicycle-related tasks I've tried, not only did it present no physical challenges, but it was also, for me, quite intuitive. I can look at a lacing pattern and it makes sense to me; I don't need instructions. It is as if I can visualise the end result and then space out, letting my hands do the work, until I snap out of my daze and - oh look - it's done! In that sense it is much like knitting.


Unfortunately, unlike knitting you can't quite make a regular practice out of building wheels. There are only so many sets you need for yourself after all, and the parts are far too expensive to make them as gifts. But while I won't be building wheels on a regular basis, the very fact that I can has boosted my confidence in bicycle DIY tremendously. And this too, has felt like an unmade resolution kept.

What about you?  Have you had a bicycle-related breakthrough, achievement or realisation "sneak up on you" over these past few years?  Here's hoping for 2017!

42 comments:

  1. I have changed a tire in 2 minutes flat yet there are still times it takes 30 minutes. So many little things can go wrong. After practicing tire changes a half century and doing thousands for myself and others I would never make a prediction as to how long it might take. No one should feel bad about a slow change. It happens.

    Both those sweaters are wonderful.

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    1. 30 minutes is my fast time : ) If they're Grand Bois Hetres, god forbid, that can take half a day with breaks for crying and further breaks to go out and buy an extra gallon of liquid soap...

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    2. Give a try to talcum powder in place of the soap. With as much difficulty as reported here it may or may not help but sounds like it couldn't be worse. My issue with liquid soap is it goes everywhere, then my hands won't grip the tire. Talc makes tire and tube move freely, hands work almost normally. Talc inside tire casing. There is a reason that talc is already inside the inner tube.

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    3. I've just fitted my first pair of Grand Bois because they are going to make me look so cool. First puncture I'm just going to throw away the whole damn wheel, campagnolo or no campagnolo.

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    4. https://www.rosebikes.co.uk/article/xtreme-long-lever-tyre-levers/aid:114243

      maybe good for you?

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    5. and/or http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/lezyne-sabre-lever-tyre-cro-mo-wrench/rp-prod73465

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    6. I've had a couple of those super long dizzy-wig levers, including one (forget the brand now) that hooks onto the hub. Broke them. Haven't seen those Lezyne thingies before though, looks pretty cool.

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    7. Just another thought about talc. It goes all the way around the inside of the tire and covers the whole tube. When using soap what you are trying to do is lube the bead. If you ran it all over you'd have a swimming pool. Talc does make the entire tube/tire ensemble move easier. For example if you finish and discover the valve is not straight and you have talc inside you can simply deflate and rotate the whole tire in the desired direction. AFAIK that would not be possible with soap. When you do have a flat out on the road the talc is usually still active. My tires have all been talc'ed for so long my basis of comparison is skewed but I do know that when assisting others roadside there have been times when my trusty Dunlop talc puffer has saved the day for difficult mounting jobs. Yes, the large Dunlop patch kit in the big yellow tin included a small device for carrying and dispensing talc, and it was refillable.

      When I encounter tires as troublesome as what others here describe I give them away. With a caution, and with the understanding that I am not doing the recipient much of a favor. Presently all of the clinchers in house go on and off without levers and without a fuss.

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  2. Interesting, resolution vs. hindsight. Does one resolve to get something done or during the course of one's daily moving about does it just get done on it's own? In hindsight I can see a lot I've accomplished despite any firm resolutions, it's always been the case. My passions and curiosity take me places I hand not been able to think of prior and the results are often humbling and gratifying. Is this what you're saying?

    I've, sadly, had now bicycle-related breakthroughs, at least that I can see at the moment and even though it dominates my life, again, sadly.

    That said, I'm still hopeful for a perspective which may make me begin to feel better about myself and what I do with my time. It's often a double edged sword. You're in the fortunate camp. Kudos.

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  3. Been fixing my own bike as long as I can remember; not a knitter though. Still, I can certainly understand the draw to make ones own clothes, especially as a cyclist. Ready made cycling clothes rarely have everything you desire and generally speaking off the rack street clothes leave a lot to be desired for on bike use. that leaves you thinking 'I wish I had a pocket here" or I wish the tail of this shirt was extended slightly, Etc.
    Question is; is a Lovely bike Clothing line in the offing?
    Mas

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    1. I make clothes to order and tried to put together a ready made shop last year, but it's tricky - as the sort of things I make are really at their best as custom orders. We'll see though what this year brings.

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    2. This is a bit far afield but our esteemed bloghost has to be one of very few who might be interested in this antiquarian lore. I wonder, have you ever seen a jacket or jersey by Hans Lutz? In spite of the name they were made in England. Nearly all the examples I remember were Raleigh teamwear. They were knit tight, as a jersey should be, but much heavier yarn than other jerseys. And the jerseys were heavy. In hot weather they held pounds of sweat. No one who owned one cared. My mother the knitter said the fabric was frame knit but done purely by hand on a small simple frame. She was disappointed by her own experiments with frame work, looking at a Lutz jacket almost got her motivated to try one more time. I wish. Last new Lutz item was seen early 80s, that was probably old stock. They were always the most expensive jersey even though stores mostly let them go at cost. Purchased through the Raleigh sales rep but separately invoiced, preferably cash.

      A story about March training rides in the snow with a pro. He always looked good when coming home after a winter campaign on board track. And he always had the most amazing kit. I asked him about the kit once. He told me what he wore was not available for sale anywhere. Some of it was more or less through the industry, all of what I was looking at was 100% handmade and made by fans. Some of the knitters had or had once had a day job in the trade, some were purely fans. So it is possible to make kit one by one.

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    3. I would love if you made your knitting designs available as patterns!

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  4. Hmmm, I'm going to look into wheel building. I can do most bike stuff these days, (sometimes with YouTube's help), except wheel repair/building. A few decades ago I tried tighten some loose spokes and true up a little wobble. I managed to fix the wobble but the wheel was no longer round.

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    1. I managed to make a wheel egg shaped many years ago,trued but definitely not round, rideable still, and had to be as I was very poor back then. I let others with more skill and experience do all my spoke work from then on.

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  5. I used to go to evangelical churches and marveled at the ways in which pastors or ministers or whatever they're called created narratives which were always personal and universal and crafted with all the appropriate pulls. Your methods are similar so I read every post with my usual skepticism. The wool has been pulled over my eyes too often. That said, I do trust that you're sincerely grateful for your current place and loved ones and those ways they've made you happier, fulfilled, optimistic, or what ever words are smarter than those. You blog about your life with bikes and it's the same as all of ours. Relationships do that, right?

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    1. A think that 'friendly skepticism,' for lack of a better term, is a healthy way to approach almost anything. Thank you for reading and be well.

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  6. The answer to your question is yes. When one chooses to replace a car with a bike there will certainly be revelations one may not have anticipated. Isn't that the beauty of living?

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  7. Happy New Year! I hope allz well by you!!
    Vsk

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  8. Knitting a wheel is a common expression, at least here, so I can see the connection. As, evidently, people have done for many decades; probably since the first spoked wheels.

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    1. Interesting, I've ever heard that phrase.

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    2. Knitting a wheel? We say the same thing here in Venezuela!!

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  9. Well, I can only admire since I can't emulate your cycling and knitting related skills attained despite the physical infirmity in your hands. You've an intrepid spirit especially when you talk about your history with bikes; " still cannot mount a bicycle properly." Way to inspire! Beautiful pix especially that yellow sweater with blue buttons. Thanks! Jim Duncan

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  10. You may be amused to learn that when the Calgary Cycle Tracks were made permanent in December, there were 5 people knitting in the Chamber audience while the public presentations happened. It was a bit of a joke in the room and spawned a revamp of our #yycbike into #yycbikeknitter. The two definitely go hand-in-hand over here!

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  11. I think you are very creative indeed and obviously always have some project on hand, your photography, cycling related activities, knitting and sewing to name a few. Making your own clothing is a real achievement, I can knit and sew but have not made any clothing for years, succumbing to the ease of retail. The two sweaters (jumpers here) featured are really lovely, I am glad that the nerve damage in your hands does not affect your ability to knit as you are very talented.

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  12. Not sure this is the sort of thing you mean, but I finally learned to ride no hands last year. After struggling to figure it out for years and eventually giving up, it happened when I wasn't even trying. So 2016 wasn't all bad after all!

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    1. Nice, congratulations! I can sort of do it, and only on certain bikes. Still waiting for that eureka moment when it just clicks and I can ride no hands no matter what, changing my coat and eating sandwiches as I pedal. Some day.

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    2. Riding no hands is not as challenging as it seems, but I have found it more challenging as I get older, not because I am older necessarily, but because I am heavier. I used to cruise around on my XO-1 without hands all the time when I was younger, but then after putting on some weight I rode it again after several years, went to sit up in the saddle as I'd done thousands of times before and the front end nearly went out from under me! That bike has very fine seat stays and I am guessing not really designed for a 250lb. man! Yikes!
      Now as I have gotten into more touring bikes I find the trail seems to have a big effect on riding no hands at speed, with all the Low trail bikes out there now it's interesting switching between bikes and noting how well they track when riding with no hands! Not surprisingly it seems to me that a bike with medium trail works best for no hands riding, but I must say I haven't really gotten very scientific with it, so it's more of a general impression. There are so many factors on top of that. - masmojo

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  13. I assembled a bicycle from the frame up for my wife last week. It was my first attempt to build up a bike and aside from a few glitches ordering wrong parts and one extra trip to the LBS it went well. Confidence is everything...mainly the confidence to order correct parts!

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  14. I can't remember a time, even early childhood, when mechanics was not easy and fun. It was always what I did, either for work or enjoyment. Now that I'm older and with the aches and pains it brings, I moan that I can't just mindlessly fall into my work, I must WORK at it.
    I used to laugh at my wife's uncle who knitted, and now I am thinking that knitting may be what I have to do to produce something that I can lift easily, and keep at it.
    I have enjoyed your life as you have shared with us here.

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  15. I think that people that tend to be self-sufficient (or at least not afraid to figure things out on their own and not just pay their way out of everything), are the sort that are more inclined to bike for transport, grow their own foods, sew their own clothes, etc. I can definitely see the connection.


    Also, your knitted things always look so nice and comfortable. The yellow sweater pictured in this post is quite nice, I love the color of the blue buttons against the yellow. Also, the... cables (? sorry I'm sure that's not the right name for it, knitting terminology is not exactly in my wheelhouse), the different textured bits, whatever you call 'em, give an interesting texture to the sweater.


    Wolf.

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  16. I've discovered if one can cook, one can wrench. Wheel building is on my agenda for this spring, and I suspect it will be like making a puff pastry. Patience and attention to detail along with a "feel" for the end product. One has to listen with all senses to how it wants to go.

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  17. Very unexpected, but I've learned to love cycling in the dark and in the winter - barring slippery conditions. For my 5 mile commute I seem to tolerate the cold just fine.

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  18. I was just confessing to my partner that I felt guilty for having little to no interest in changing the flats, let alone the rear flat on our longtail (which involves taking apart the frame to get to the 20 inch wheel). I feel a little bit like a failure as a feminist given that doing flats makes me cry (but changing out a tire on a car doesn't... why???). Alas, I'm not a knitter either, but my mum is, and I would LOVE a knitting for cyclists post some time? If the spirit moves you? Happy New Year!

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  19. bad boy of the northJanuary 5, 2017 at 6:04 PM

    it was nice the way you weaved your personal story about knitting and learning to lace up wheels.you tied it up nicely with no loose ends.
    I never thought how cycling and knitting can correlate but now I do.thanks for that perspective.happy and healthy new year!

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  20. You'll have to try spinning yarn on a wheel next. It's bike-related with a drive belt, wheel and pedals. Though unlike a bike wheel I can't fix the warp in mine with a spoke wrench!

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  21. No new skills learned in 2016, but "build my own wheels" is on my 2017 to-do list. Thank you for the inspiration!
    Scott

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  22. I built a frame in 2015 and it was also challenging to me for several reasons, including weak grip strength in my left hand and arthritis developing in my right thumb. Filing my lugs took forever and was killing my hands. I also had a ton of problems with brazing my fork dropouts, heating up too low on the blade, pulling way too much brass inside, then blobbing a ton of excess brass on the outside. I was getting frustrated and falling behind the rest of the builders. One of the instructors told me to allow myself to be a novice. I.e., to understand that the process of learning requires mistakes.

    It helped, maybe more after the class was finished, but it did help. I think I may build more frames in the future, but I didn't go into it (or come out of it) expecting to be the next Richard Sachs. I have a solid frame for my efforts and a much greater appreciation for framebuilding in general. If I do build more in the future, knowing my physical limitations will allow me to adapt to the process. I think we all have to suffer through some painful (physical or other) roadblocks to figure out how we move forward as individuals.

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  23. I finally finished knitting myself a sweater -- my first complete knitted clothing! Unfortunately, the wool is super itchy, so I can't wear it. I feel discouraged. -Josette

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    1. Sorry to hear that. Is it itchy even over a long sleeve base layer?

      Try wools labeled merino and alpaca/ alpaca mix. Very soft and available quite inexpensively from places like Wool Warehouse (UK) and Knitpicks (US).

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  24. My 21 year,"Other", spins yarn from our 24/7 shedding Great Pyrenees,and makes wonderful hats and scarves...I wove a Potholder at summer camp once.

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