Saturday, December 31, 2011

This New Year

Woodie Guthrie's "New Years Rulin's" for 1942
{click to see larger}
via BoingBoing
I've developed a greater appreciation for New Year's resolutions in the last couple of years than I had previously. I once questioned the value of good intentions proclaimed once and then forgotten or even flouted, but I now see a great deal of potential value in the chance to genuinely reflect on the passing year and assemble a list of things you would like to do better in the new one.

Even the old chestnuts "lose weight" and "stop smoking" when pondered during an annual time-out represent a degree of concern and engagement with one's lifestyle and choices that we may not be able to muster during the humdrum of our daily routines during the rest of the year.

Although our culture seems to grow increasingly narcissistic, this is perhaps one moment in which we can productively turn inward and compose a new (or renewed) vision of ourselves that accomplishes something more worthwhile than Facebook or Twitter status updates or new profile photos. In refashioning what we expect of ourselves, we can perhaps also re-imagine what we might contribute to our shared cultures and communities, and how we might, through many small actions, be the agents of larger and greater things.

I have two big ones this year: 1) simplify and 2) slow down.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Don't Stop Pedaling

So here are some photos of the finished Bianchi project, a.k.a. "Big Red." As the title hints, it's a fixed gear. Aesthetically, I was shooting for a 1890s or early 1900s look, something that would evoke the early days of bicycling when all bicycles were fixed. I very consciously did not want to build either a trick bike or a track bike, but I did want to tune into the "pure" ethic of the fixed gear, and bringing in the historical element made a lot of sense.

I've been riding it for about a week, and since this is the first time I've ridden fixed, of course it's taking some getting used to. At first, it was fairly intimidating to feel the push back when I tried to stop pedaling or slow down with just my legs, and I was using the front brake a lot. As I've gotten used to riding it, I have started to get a feel for the intuitive response that devoted fixed gear riders talk about and I haven't been using the brake much at all. Think slower, go slower, almost like choosing to walk at a different pace.

Just as riding a bike makes me more aware of how I'm traveling through my environment than driving a car, riding fixed is certainly making me more aware of how I bicycle through my environment. Of course, the lack of gears is a big factor, but I'm also much more aware of my speed, other traffic, road surface, and topography. I'm still not comfortable building up much speed because I'm not yet entirely confident in my ability to bring the bike to a quick stop if I need to, but that's more psychological than anything, and between the front brake and my improving ability to regulate speed with my legs, I'm doing fine. Also, the gearing is fairly low (52-20) to accommodate our San Diego hills and the fact that I'm riding in an urban environment and not a velodrome.

Track stands and tricky dismounts and all that kind of thing are still a long ways off, if ever, but who knows, I might try some of that stuff as I build up confidence.

Geeky details:
Handlebars: Nitto Promenade B-617
Fixed/free hub and 20t cog: Soma
Saddle: Brooks B-66
Handbrake: Dia-Compe from my old parts bin
Tires: 27" Panaracer Pasela

The rest is what came with the bike, including the rear rim, which I used to build up the new rear wheel around the fixed hub. My LBS ordered all the new bits and consulted on gearing, etc., for which I'm grateful. I didn't want to throw a HUGE amount of money into the project on the off chance that I absolutely hated riding it, but that turned out not to be the case.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Here we are again...

Here we are, well into yet another month, and no new posts have been forthcoming.  It has indeed been a strange autumn. My instincts have been telling me to stay close to home, hunker down, pull back, and focus on simple things. This has meant renewed attention to work more than anything. My work is my work, not work done for someone else, so to be immersed in work in healthy and productive ways does a great deal to create a good state of mind. It has been a long time since I have found myself in such a positive relationship with my work, and it feels good. 

The Bianchi project is finished, I'll do a post on that before too long, once I get a chance to take some good photos. I bit more diligent online research and finally deciphering the remnants of the decals has identified the bike with 99% certainty as a 1973 Bianchi Strada. From what I can tell, a good quality road bike for the American market from the beginning of the 1970s bike boom.

I'll keep posting here as often as I can, maybe I'll try again to use this space for writing. Here's hoping that my handful of readers is doing well and staying warm as we approach the winter solstice.