Monday, January 23, 2012

Episode 1: Bicycle

To understand my passion for the bicycle, one must know that I am a bit eccentric when it comes to hobbies. My current situation with the bicycle has allowed me to do much research in building one. The idea of riding my bicycle in Hong Kong and Macau is exciting and a little daunting, but first on the nostalgia of riding a bicycle.

My interest has slowly gravitated to an iconic for of the bicycle, the high bicycle, most widely known as "penny-farthings." Though I know nothing except that it was conceived around the 1880s and that the lords and gods of the bicycle continuously refer to it, especially on the topic of gearing. If you're interested on this topic, read Sheldon Brown's article on gain ratios here. If you're interested in anything about the mechanics of the modern bicycle, his website is a wealth of information. 

A penny-farthing. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

I learned to ride a bike in the Philippines when I was five years old. I remember it was a simple BMX. It was love at first sight. As a British prime minister once said:
"Success is never found. Failure is never fatal. Courage is the only thing."
-Sir Winston Churchill
And that is exactly what I did in my childhood bicycling days- ride and fail to ride, a.k.a. fall. I applaud my little self for being so courageous. Once, I was showing off to my nanny in the Philippines- using the extreme limits of my BMX, going side to side until the bicycle eventually slipped from under me and I did a Superman on the pavement. It hurt to put on shirts for a while. Then my most serious accident- it was raining hard (because it does not rain lightly in the Philippines) and I was with friends. All my friends were on rollerblades and boxed me in so I had little room for maneuvering. As the box got smaller, the smart thing to do was communicate to the group that they were getting too close to me. But I foolishly decided to go with the flow and run my front wheel in between the legs of the friend in front of me. I remember coming back to my room finding out my inner thigh and accompanying vein was sliced open by the front chainring. If my memory serves me correctly, I did nothing else except put a couple of child-sized band-aids on it.

What I learned from those years, I still carry with me today. I do value my body and take care of it to the best of my ability. That is the reason why I ride bikes to this day. I refuse to own a car and especially pay for one; I will go as long in life without owning a car. It's worked so far. I love cars, but they are expensive. So I have fueled this mechanical interest into a less expensive hobby. Thus far it serves me well and the ideals I believe in:
  1. Exercise. This is nothing more fulfilling that a good workout right? In three hours one can get a 50 mile morning bike ride in and still have most of the day to get everything else done. 
  2. Invention. Reveling in the euphoric history of the bicycle through one-on-one maintenance time, and group rides gives me great joy. It is the most efficient human powered machine to date.
  3. Tinkering. I enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together hopefully in better condition than when I started. The labor of my work gives me pride in the overall ownership I have for something simple. 
The bicycle I'm building currently is built for utility. It's heavy and built for the long haul. If you're interested in the parts list, or pictures, it will be followed up soon with a post on my adventure building a bicycle all by myself. It has taken many hours of reading and application but it has been worth it.

If you have not ridden a bicycle in a while, I hope I have inspired you to at least go out for a bike ride. Though it is probably an inconvenience in most parts of the world this time of year, read this! I leave you with a philosophical quote:
"To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself." 
- Søren Kierkegaard 

On a side note, the information presented here is provided gratis, nonewithstanding the SOPA and PIPA acts. Thank you grassroots politics. Until next time.

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