Friday, September 24, 2010

The Project

This is indeed a project.  It is nowhere near completion... as you can see.  Please enjoy the process along with me.  Allow me to explain what I have here.  First of all, This is the frame of an old Schwinn World Sport that I purchased from a fellow at University of Colorado in Boulder.  He obviously spray painted it white and (unfortunately) replaced the fork with a cheap solid steel fork that is pictured below.

 This fork is not an asset.  Yes, it is a functional bicycle fork, but it is not a nice one.  It probably cost $5 at your local rummage-bin, and that's not a deal.

Attached to the fork is a good brake caliper, which I will probably use, if I decide to put brakes on the bike.  That may not seem like an optional thing to most people, but allow me to explain.  This bicycle may wind up a fixed-gear bike.  That means that it has only one gear, and when the back wheel turns, so does the crank (which is what the pedals are attached to).  So, if it is a fixed gear bike, you simply need to slow your pedaling speed to slow the bicycle.  That can, however, be difficult when you need to stop in a hurry, so I might add brakes anyhow.

On a recent escapade to Recycled Cycles here in Fort Collins, CO, I purchased a new (used) fork and planned on putting onto the bike (pictured above).  This fork is considerably nicer, with forged drop outs, a slightly down-slanted crown, and hollowed steel or chromoly (it's hard to tell when it's just a fork without the rest of the bike).   I did a little research and found that it once belonged to the front end of a Raleigh Technium road bike, in case you were wondering.  You may notice that the fork has some pieces attached to the steering tube, that is the head set.  It is what holds the fork onto the frame.  This particular type of headset is threaded.  Until recently, all headsets were threaded, but now there are threadless headsets, which means that the steering tube is not directly connected to the bicycle, but is snugly fitted into the head tube of the bicycle after which the handlebar stem is placed on top and finally a cap with a screw to hold the whole thing together.  That may seem confusing... yep.  Confusing.  Just look it up on Wikipedia if you are confused, they have helpful diagrams.

For those of you that are interested, here are some more pictures of the bicycle in detail, with short explanations.

This is the top of the head tube (that's at the front of the bike).  It currently has part of the headset stuck to it (that is the cupped part right on top).

These are parts of the headset.  There are two sets of ball bearings here, they are what allow the headset to turn side to side even though it is screwed down tightly.  One of those sets of ball bearings will rest inside of the cupped part and then the larger silver part on the right will go over them, etc.  The "threaded" part is this the larger silver piece that actually screws onto the threads which are on the steering tube of the fork. 

This is the crank set that came on the bike.  It is clean, and at least a decent crank.  I would prefer something like an old Shimano 600 or an FSA, but I can't complain.  It will serve it's purpose.  It is difficult to see, but you can see that the chain stays (the skinny tubes on the bottom), have dimples on them.  That's due to the manufacturers, it's not a devastating blemish.  Before they knew what to do about the crank arm coming around and hitting the chain stays, they just bent them a little to compensate for the discrepancy. 

Finally, we have the rear drop outs (this is the part that the wheel "connects" to).  Rear drop outs come in many different shapes and sizes.  It is important here that the drop outs are horizontal.  It is also common to see vertical drop outs, but for a fixed gear bicycle it is important to have horizontal drop outs.  This arises from the dilemma of having only one gear.  With only one gear it is unnecessary to have a rear derailleur (the part of the bike that moves the chain from one gear to another).  You may notice, if you take a look at the bicycle sitting in your garage, that without the rear derailleur, the chain would just flop around.  That is precisely what the horizontal drop outs fix.  You can't always take up the slack by removing links from the chain.  The slack, instead, is taken up by moving the wheel farther back in the drop outs and then tightening it up. 

That is my project.  I will be working on it periodically, and updating you on the progress. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bicycle Puchases

The news is small, but the implications are extravagant.  I have a new bike frame.  It's actually an old bike frame, but having just purchased it from someone else, it is now a new bike frame once again.  All possibilities are open.  I can do whatever I want with it!  My project is to convert this poor old Schwinn World Sport into a fixed gear bike for me to ride wherever I please.  It's fairly low profile (no one wants to steal an old Schwinn) and will get me where I want to go without putting my more valuable bike in harm's way.  

Needless to say, there is some serious work to be done, but I am prepared to do it.   

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day... A Time to Rest

There are some places that never leave you.  This weekend I took the opportunity to travel to my grandparents' home in South Dakota, where I was reminded of this.  The smells are what first reminded me that I am fully embraced there.  Everyone's home has a smell.  Most grandparents' homes have a certain tinge of clean mixed with the definite scent of age.  Those things are true of this home, but I'm also warmed by the scent of saw dust, cookies, and laundry.  I feel like I've been wrapped in a plaid blanket the moment I step inside.  I love that.  

One spring I spent a whole month with my grandparents.  I broke my hand just a week or two before the end of the school year, and being one of the years I was home-schooled I was excused from final exams and instead took an extended vacation.  Visiting this weekend flooded my mind with memories.  I was reminded of my love for asiago cheese bagels and frozen cookies.  My grandmother would buy the bagels for me to make sandwiches, but I chose to eat each ingredient separately.  I can close my eyes and see myself huddled in a leather la-z-boy recliner, holding a plate with meat, cheese, and a bagel.  I reasoned that it all ended up in the same place, and I enjoyed each entity in its purity.  My grandmother freezes cookies.  I love frozen cookies.  This weekend my grandmother took a bag of spritz cookies from the freezer and told me to eat them.  I needed no second bidding.  The one-gallon zip-lock bag is now nearly empty.  The buttery-sweet golden goodness is irresistible to me.  Not only do I love them for their taste, but they remind me of Christmas.  I don't think that there could be a better cookie.   

I live near the mountains, and I've realized that every mountain range is distinct.  The Black Hills, where my grandparents live, is filled by a dark green pine forest.  When the sun is low enough, the trees cast shadows.  The beams of light shoot in between them, but it's hard to tell which is more spectacular.  The shadows sprawl like fallen companions at the feet of their living counterparts, but they are just as full of life.  They are more than just the darkened ground where the sun cannot reach.  They are poetry scrawled on grass and rock.  Anyone can read it. 

Golf.  I'm positive that this word is somehow related to the word "Pain", but I haven't figured out the etymology.  I'm not a golfer, but I golfed this past Sunday.  On nine holes, I hit the ball roughly twice as many times as you are supposed to, if that's what "par" means.  I certainly got my money's worth.  Those poor folks that own the golf course must not know that people like me are out there, hitting twice my share strokes and demolishing more than twice my share of grass.  I did enjoy it, in the end.  Amidst the frustration there were a few strokes of genius.  These gems were few and far between, but I remember them better than all of the terrible shots I took.  This must be what motivates people to play time and time again. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fifteen Days

Fifteen days.  That's how long it's been since the last snow, but I can feel it coming again.  I remember the first day after the snow fell.  I climbed free of the tree I had been hiding under and paused on top of the drift that had kept the wind at bay the night before.  I watched as a small bird lightly pressed his feet into the white and hopped past me, toward an icy pine cone.  Each track blazed into my eyes as I stared down at them.  I don't know how long I stared.  Long enough for the bird to fly away before I noticed that he had nearly picked the pine cone clean, leaving behind a mess of brown flecks.  The brown startled me.  The tracks suddenly seemed so faint, so ethereal compared to the dirty brown flecks of the pine cone.  I know the tree where the bird feasted on the pine cone quite well.  I visited it every day for a week after seeing the little bird, just to see that pine cone, and look again at the tracks.  The tracks from the few animals that care to show themselves at this temperature are all mixed together now.  They remind me of the grass and how it grows whichever way it pleases, crossing over itself and mixing together into a frayed whole.  The pine cone is gone now, and the bird's tracks are completely undefinable, but I remember them well.

The forest is silent after the snow.  I wonder what the city would be like if it snowed this much.  The silence alone would drive half of the people mad.  Sometimes I think of the flakes as tiny pillows.  When I was young I used to scream into a pillow to get out frustrations.  No one can hear you when you yell into a pillow.  Now I don't need a pillow.  Like many things, the frustrations of youth seem distant and exaggerated now, but sometimes when the snow is falling hard I still scream as loud as I can.  The muffled sound is mysterious to me.  Sound waves hitting tiny pillows in the air. 

Snow changes as it ages.  I can dig down into the snow and count the layers like rocks in the grand canyon.  Each layer is a new chapter of the winter.  Some are long, some short, and some are missing altogether.  Time between snows can erase entire episodes of life that have been captured.  I knew that this snow would stay because the cold and sun have given it a hard upper layer.  When the wind blows I can hear the snow creak and moan like an old house.  It is time for a new layer, time for another pine cone, and more fresh tracks to mar the perfect white.  The snow will start to fall tonight, I know it. The clouds have rolled in, covering the sky.  It is only a matter of time before they cover this forest again. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Amnesty Please

    Let me write.  Please.  It seems that there are a great number of objections that could be posed to my writing, though I am entirely unaware of what they may be.  It would logically follow that I ought to begin with a plea, but that really isn't necessary.  This medium grants me amnesty, though anyone reading what is posted here may not.  Please understand that whatever I want to post here, I will.  It may seem a bit self-centered, but I do so only as a free expression of myself for the benefit of anyone who desires to know a little more of what is in my head.  
        I do not know what will be posted here.  I fully expect that I will write what I feel, think, do, and generally whatever comes to my mind that I want to write.  Subsequent posts may not be in any specific order.  Chronology may be thrown to the wind, reality and fantasy may swim in the same pool while memory plays in the deep end, and certainty might feel the sting of doubt.  One thing can be said for sure, I will write what I want to.  Indeed, anyone may say the same thing about themselves, but I feel it is appropriate to warn you what is coming.  
       Your feedback is welcome.  That means criticism as well.  There are very few things I write that I am satisfied with, so I don't expect anyone reading this to feel like I've done things perfectly.  Quite the opposite.  Say what you want, after all, I'm doing the same.  If you don't enjoy what you are reading, then don't finish.  If you want more, let me know.  Just because I am writing what I want to does not mean that your opinion cannot influence me.  
       When you get bored, check in again, you never know what will be posted.  I don't...