Monday, August 11, 2014

EASEL RIDER : PRO BUILD

After such a massive amount of energy being injected into the realisation of this fantasy it has been a pleasure to include it in an exhibition.  The overall show included a number of bikes, paintings and sculptures that explore various ways in which bicycles might be shifted to be considered in a more creative way and ways in which these things might help us to think about the world around us. 

Here are a few glamour shots of the bike, courtesy of Sam Roberts Photography. Of course it is important to note at this stage that the bike is most exciting when it is outside, doing its natural thing, rather than being motionless in a gallery. Those shots will come in due time.



The surface finish of this bike is a simple clear lacquer, allowing the viewer to see all of the metals' nuances and processes involved.  In terms of shifting the object into a sculptural consideration the emphasis here is on an honesty and directness in relation to materials. It will be great to build this up one day with a suite of juicy high end parts but that will have to wait for future versions and presentations.  The current build is courtesy of a generic urban single speed donor bike -pragmatic and cost effective with room for added indulgence.  

                     The bike becomes free standing courtesy of its easel attachment.


The easel component fits to the frame via a pair of bidon mounts.

                           
    The easel extensions are fixed in place via grub screws.


                                                 Did I mention attention to detail?


                                      Upper BB floating around all on its lonesome.


Lower BB junction


Seat stays.  If you look really closely (assume a squinting stance in front of your screen) you can see the tiny ring of bronze where the stays have been extended.

EASEL RIDER : ENTER THE MACHINE SHOP

This is a project that has passed through a range of phases to reach it’s current point.  It’s a basic riff on the idea of painting outside or en plein air, combined in this case with my fascination with the bicycle as a site for creativity.  You can check out some of the background and early versions of the project here .  The Easel Rider has become somewhat of a central reference point in a whole range of investigations that I’ve been pursuing over the last year or so.  Most of my outcomes have embraced a DIY approach that has a sense of punk and the backyard.  And whilst I certainly celebrate these politics and aesthetics I have always had a desire to see what would happen if I could find a way to execute some of these ideas to a very high degree of engineering.  I was recently able to negotiate some support from Arts SA to engage a highly skilled fabricator working in the bicycle industry to work with to realise this vision.  The following images and words document some of the many processes involved in reaching the outcome.

I chose to work with Jesse Geisler at the Bike Bar, in Melbourne.  Jesse is a man who is committed to accuracy and precision and has an approach suited to the challenge of realising a creative project.  I have know Jesse for a number of years through my own involvement in the industry and it is fair to say that he is a well-known for his uncompromising attitude.  Due to a number of external factors the turnaround time for the project became very compact, resulting in a couple of weeks of long and intense days of action to achieve our result.  Jesse’s workshop is a bit of a wonderland of exciting machinery and exotic bicycle components.  He is often engaged in frame repairs and preparation and has extensive experience toolmaking and a range of metal fabrication.
This project required a broad range of processes that I have had a mild understanding of in the past but no real hands-on experience so it was a huge learning opportunity for me.  Suffice to say, all of the processes were executed to a much higher degree of precision than is often the case in my shed.


After the development of a number of analogue and digital drawings we were able to arrive at a set of accurate lengths and angles to pursue.  Our tube selection included a range of conventional bicycle tubing components combined with some straight gauge chromoly tubing.  Most of the easel attachment has been made with stainless steel.  The drawing phase allowed us to compare conventional angles and angles of my prototypes as well as resolve dropout design.

The next step was to do a loose lay up of the frame which provided us with a more resolved understanding of the aesthetic of our tube diameter choices.


After mitering all of the tube junctions and the attachment of the upper bottom bracket the main frame was fixed in place on the table.  This approach differs from the conventional use of a frame jig which is limited in its parameters.  This particular instance required some ingenious extension of the engineering table on order to hold everything in place.


Once firmly in place each join could be tack welded.  For this build I wanted to use as much TIG welding as possible.  It is a process that I am developing my own skills in and one that I enjoy for it’s elegant outcomes.  I am attracted to the immediacy of the process that remains present in the finished aesthetic of the weld.  It is a process which has less ability to conceal short comings.
 

The particular angles of this frame required a bespoke dropout design.  Most often these are laser cut and then hand finished.  Being that Jesse is a purveyor of processes and machines considered obsolete by industry but still capable of high quality outcomes we chose to use a pantograph to cut the dropouts.  A pantograph is a type of machine that preceded laser cutting as a process and employs a series of linkages to drive a cutting head along a path which is determined by a template. The linkages are adjustable to be able to translate patterns or templates across a range of scale.  In this case we produced a version of the dropout in perspex, cut and finished by hand at a larger scale, which became our guide for cutting 6mm steel in our final proportions.


You can see the original mounted on the right and the facsimile in the process of being cut, on the left.

The dropouts then received a little tidying and finishing with the mill.
 

Below is an image of one of the finished dropouts.  Also pictured is a fork tip in preparation for insertion.  Jesse prepares his fork and frame tips in a way that includes a positive fitment of material rather than the common approach of simply inserting into slots filled with bronze.


Here are a few shots of the fork assembly process.  This is the steerer tube being fixed into the crown.  Those of you more familiar with common lengths might notice that this is quite uncommon.


This process involves the application of quite a lot of heat.  The heat bricks help to focus and maintain the heat required.  You’ll notice the presence of two torches here - one which is generating the largest part of the heat required, the other is applied in a more focussed manner.

 

Lots of heat.

The fork blades being slotted.

 Final fork assembly brazing.  Note the pink flux applied to the components to be joined.  

 

This image shows the process of extending the seat stays. Here they are held in the lathe and set to turn whilst heat is applied in order to braze the parts.


Indie watches all of the processes closely to ensure quality control.

Monday, June 23, 2014

GREEN MACHINE : HAVING A CRACK

Shooting the breeze recently with my mate Andy, we concurred that we both strongly support the notion and culture of ‘Having a crack’.  That’s certainly one of the main reasons I keep posting things on this site – in the hope that sharing things here encourages others to do have a crack themselves.  This little project was much more in the having a crack category than the nailing it category for me.



This one’s a bit of a make over of an ‘plain’ old road frame into a daily communter - note that this 80’s Kojima even came stock with a ‘plain’ sticker!  Now I know the paint on this was in good nick and some purists might scream out to keep this beast original but, really it’s nothing exotic in it’s original form and it made a good donor frame.  I haven’t really played with an oxy torch much and I was keen to get a bit of experience doing some simple braze-ons.  So, the main vision here was off with the down tube shifter mounts, a shuffle of the brake cable guides so that it runs under the top tube and on with a couple more cable guides to accommodate a riser bar conversion.  The torch was fun and this quite basic job definitely opened my eyes to just how much there is to learn.  This project was a good taster.



After the braze-on mods we pursued a special paint job experiment.  I’ve done a couple like this in the past where the first layer of colour is powder coat, providing some heavy duty and long lasting frame protection and then a thin layer of cheap matt black, slightly rubbed back to give the finish a little punk flavor.  The black wears with use making the bike look a little ratty and a lot less attractive to thieves.  This green is a special opaque number that goes on over a white layer.  The Webster family at Southern Powder Coaters were especially helpful here, taking extra time to carefully mask the braking surface of the of the rims that we had done to match the frame.  Special shout out goes to Mark at Standish Cycles Mile End for a very tidy job on the wheel build.











Tuesday, June 3, 2014

METICULOUSLY HANDMADE PENNY FARTHINGS

  

I came across Dan Bolwell by chance, though he was easy to spot, cruising the sleepy Sunday streets of the rural city of Horsham on bright red penny farthing.   And, as it happened, I didn’t really get a chance to strike up a conversation with Dan until we ended up on the same table at the cake competition hosted by the local CWA branch.  In parallel with the meticulously baked sweets we were surrounded by I began chatting with Dan about his meticulous penny farthing.  I became even more excited as he told me that he made his own, from scratch and that he had recently begun taking orders to make them for other people. I wasted no time in asking for a peek inside his workshop.

I have no substantial understanding of ‘Penny’s’ aside from the fact that they fit somewhere in the mythical creatures category of my mind.  I have seen a few variations over time but never really understood what I was looking at.  I had once seen a lone penny rider, with loaded panniers on a deserted stretch of road in the middle of Tasmania, only later coming to understand that Evandale and it’s annual National Championships are a definitive penny mecca in the whole of the southern hemisphere.

Dan made me a cuppa and filled me in on many of the technical traditions of penny building, the majority of which he continues to adhere to, albeit with minor engineering advances.   The wonderful thing about Dan’s building is that his meticulous machines begin life incredibly raw.  His workshop is not a dust free, air locked bunker filled with digital CNC mills- it is a simple backyard shed in which are applied a few simple DIY processes, a few basic skills, an immeasurable amount of passion and a genius approach.

Dan is a humble and articulate man and I am very grateful for the time he took to share his making.  I’ve cobbled together a few highlights from our chat but it’s safe to say that a I left Dan’s place with my mind overflowing and I simply couldn’t retain all of the great details that he openly shared. Enjoy the pics below and check out his site.  You’d better get your order in soon if you’d like one as his waiting list is already quite long.

It turns out you need a somewhat oversized truing stand to build penny wheels.  This is the one Dan made.


Bike nerds know what they are looking at here – radical custom spoke technology.  No heat, pure material, absolutely reliable 600mm (ish) spokes.  Did I mention that Dan makes his own hubs from scratch?  They are based around a modified BB axle – I’ll let your imagination do the rest.
 

 This is the lovely tool that Dan has made to create his awesome custom spokes.


A template for the unique headtube junction that becomes part of the ‘spine’.  Dan's headtubes are a traditional penny 'internal' design rather than the more common and contemporary design.


Prototype penny bars commissioned by Nitto, made in Horsham.


A very particular part of Dan’s design and his commitment to traditional forms are his tapered fork legs.  The best donor material for this happens to be pre-loved tailshafts!  Upcycle mastery.



Saturday, May 24, 2014

DADDY, WHAT'S A GRAVITY BIKE?

Well - let me offer some insight here -
Gravity bikes are two-wheeled machines that require gravity to move.  They most commonly have no drivetrain and are executed to various levels of engineering and finish according to the commitment of the racer.  Various interpretations of aerodynamic efficiency are applied and, whilst the aim of the machine is to go as fast as possible, brakes are an important control element for negotiating turns at high speed and the eventual stopping of the machine.  Personal protective equipment is also important to consider, though, once again, generally invested in according to the commitment of the rider.

Racers compete against one another on steep hills, often in similarly gravity assisted events such as billy cart competitions.  The Macclesfield Gravity Festival, held each year in March, is one such event where both carts and bikes use the same course over a series of rounds to determine a winner.  Here are some pics from this year's Gravfest that illustrate the wonderful spectrum of gravity bike creation, DIY and interpretation of things such as control and safety.

This is your typical entry level approach to creating a G-bike.  Simply flip your favourite BMX frame, attach a seat pan type arrangement of some kind and run your bars upside down to achieve the tuck position.


The variations below include some interesting ballast attachments.  The safety cones are actually in place to create an invisible gravity field so that the bikes don't spontaneously roll away.


 This gentleman demonstrates how to add swagger to your set up.


 Tim Cullen, of Macclesfield Aersospace Engineering, showed off his Moto GP inspired approach.


 Of course, things get most interesting when these beasts are set in motion.


This racer had grown his facial hair into a combination helmet and 'gravity catcher'.  It seemed to work.


 This particular man chose a somewhat unconventional position.  The overall effect became something like an Australian Air Force koala being shot out of a cannon on a roll of fencing wire.

  

And then we have the serious end of town.  You would be right in assuming that this is the fastest machine of the group.


 Meet Mr. Brett Phillips, current national and past world champion.  Brett wears special sneakers that allow him to walk like a normal person when combined with his Uncanny X-Men approach to gravity.  Brett also runs a great website called GRAVITY BIKE HQ which covers all things G-bike in Australia and beyond.  It's got great coverage of gravity events, people and ideas.  If you want more gravity - go there!


And here's one of last year's entries from the Tongue of Fire...


The SCUD - Gravity Bike from James Dodd on Vimeo.

ADELAIDE CARGO BIKE PARTY TROPHIES

If you ride a bike in Adelaide and you haven't heard of the wonderful Darren Wilson-Roberts then you've been riding under a rock.  Daz has contributed endless energy to the cycle culture in the 5000 and his passion is truly infectious.  Daz has worked together with other great Adelaide peeps such as Bonnie Bones and Manu et Manu to significantly shift the benchmark in our fine town.  Mega Tweed Rides, Bicycle Swap Meets, Cycle Food Vendor Fests all have their origins firmly located with these guys.

Their latest project is the 2014 Adelaide Cargo Bike Party.  Featuring various competitive activities, abundant high fives and bucketloads of general good times, this will be an event not to be missed.  I support these legends wherever I can - this time I have made a bunch of fun time trophies for the day.  So, if you think you have champion load styles - get down to the old netball courts on Anzac Highway, near the cemetary, from 11am on Sunday May 25th - bring your backfiets, trailer, boxbike, cycletruck or massive backpack and you may just roll home with one of these....