Column: It’s a learning processNearly everything I know about working on bicycles, which is admittedly not a lot, I learned by pulling apart bikes I didn't need anymore and hoping I could put them back together in some form that still allowed them to function. Or at least function well enough that I wouldn’t get hurt if I rode it.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Nearly everything I know about working on bicycles, which is admittedly not a lot, I learned by pulling apart bikes I didn't need anymore and hoping I could put them back together in some form that still allowed them to function. Or at least function well enough that I wouldn’t get hurt if I rode it.
In other words, I broke a bunch of stuff, then hoped I could figure out how to fix it.
It all started a few years ago when, perhaps in an effort to be accepted into the Twin Cities’ growing hipster cycling community, I set out to turn a nearly 15-year old bike into a singlespeed.
It was a misguided plan for a couple of reasons. For one thing, real hipsters ride fixed-gear bikes. The two are similar, in that they each have just one gear. The difference is that a singlespeed has a ratcheting freewheel that allows riders to coast from time to time, while a fixed-gear’s pedals turn anytime the bike is moving forward. They also typically don't have brakes, relying on riders to use their legs to slow the pedals and thus the bike.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that a singlespeed is similar to a fixed-gear in much the same way as a horse is similar to a horse that actively wants to injure you.
I’m reasonably sure fixed-geared bicycles were introduced primarily as a way to manage the hipster population. It’s like deer hunting season, only you're expecting the deer to walk up to a guy in blaze orange and crash into his car door.
The other major problem, of course, is that I am in no way hip. I blame my aversion to skinny jeans and my inability to grow a beard.
I went ahead with the project, though, and I ended up with a nice, simple bike I can use for errands and short commutes. The bike is incredibly heavy, having apparently been constructed of a combination of lead and granite, but it gets the job done.
Recently, I had a chance to do it again. My brother wanted a bike to ride on his short trip to work, so I made one out of a frame old enough that my father used to pull me behind it.
I should point out that I was in a trailer. He wasn't living out some kind of old-west fantasy.
I’m not sure this will be a valuable skill to have, long term. There only so many opportunities to tear parts off of outdated bike frames and replace them with other parts. It’s been fun, though. And maybe I’m learning skills I can put to use someday as a bicycle mechanic. Or a bicycle thief. I’m not picky.
And maybe, just maybe, if I do it long enough the hipsters will accept me as one of their own. Give me a month or so, and I could probably at least work up some decent stubble.