Ahearne Cycles

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Down Under Nearly Over

Travel, Thoughts, NewsJoseph Ahearne2 Comments
Jesse and frame #1

Jesse and frame #1

Jesse and I constructed the very first bicycle frame in the Surreal Foundry & Cycle Shop here in Fremantle, Western Australia. A lugged single speed road bike meant for around town riding. Jesse’s dream workshop is now a reality, and he’s even had an inaugural party to announce the completion of the workshop to the world at large. The ‘world at large’ being, mainly: Friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, people who somehow helped out with the workshop’s construction, anyone else interested or related. And, perhaps even more importantly, by celebrating the workshop’s completion, this brings a long and somewhat trying process to a point of Closure for both Jesse and his partner Kerry. 

Workshop with a Wall of Windows

Workshop with a Wall of Windows

The workshop is gorgeous. It’s behind the house, is an asymmetric design, kind of wedge-shaped, which fits well with the huge Norfolk pine and the “flow” of the back garden. The inside of the workshop is I’d guess about 7 or 800 square feet, has it’s own water-efficient toilet, two deep stainless steel sinks, a small area which will eventually be a paint booth, and is stocked with most all of the tools needed to build bikes. Jesse and I have been talking over the past couple of years about

Anvil Jig with Frame

Anvil Jig with Frame

equipment, and he’s gotten himself an Anvil frame fixture and fork fixture (your stuff is bad ass, Don!), a blasting cabinet, a couple of different belt grinders, a variety of hand tools, and this table from Germany that is kind of like the King of All Tables, in terms of what you’d want in a workshop. 

The King of All Tables

Professional Extreme with Fork Blade Bender, Clamps

Professional Extreme with Fork Blade Bender, Clamps

…is made by a company called Seigmund, as I said, in Germany. It’s perforated and modular and has all these clamps and brackets you can buy that fit the holes so that you can set up and work on anything that needs fixturing in any way. The table weighs right at a ton (850 kilos). It’s called the Professional Extreme 850, if that tells you something, and it’s made from “special” tool steel and is “plasma-nitrided and coated.”

What this means is that the table is extremely tough, heat resistant, scratch resistant, and just generally hard. There’s this awesome video advertisement for the table showing off how tough and bad ass it is by dropping a car on it from like 40 feet up (15 meters) and burying it in gravel and dragging it out with a crane, unscathed. They even blow it up with dynamite (check out the guy in work overalls and hardhat blowing a little bugle to announce the explosion), and the table gets not even a scratch. The video is only 2 minutes long, and is well worth it, even for just the acting and heavy machinery and general absurdity of it all. And everyone in the video keeps a straight face the whole time. Those Germans are something. 

Check out the video for the Seigmund Professional Extreme 850 here.

Belt Grinder in Action

Belt Grinder in Action

But I’m getting side-tracked. Tools & tables. Building a first bike in a brand new workshop with new tools, you’ve got to expect to run into difficulties, so-called bumps in the road. And we did. We had to make a fork blade bender before we could start the fork. We had to fill the tanks and set up the torch and we then had to replace the faulty regulators. We had to buy silver and flux. I had to learn to braze with these new types of flux, figuring out their properties and heat-windows and all that. We had to figure out the abrasive system for mitering. Oh, and yes, we had to uncrate the frame jig and set it all up. Nice job packing the crate, by the way, Don Ferris. Seems like you’ve spent some time figuring that process out. We had to design a bike around the lugs that Jesse already had in his possession. We had to guess at the lug’s actual angles, because Jesse bought them off a guy who used to build bikes quite a while ago and there was no finding the guy now, not on the internet or otherwise. Japanese track lugs, not like any I’ve seen, exactly. We made an educated guess at the angles. We had to order more bits from Ceeway in England; tubes, steerers, braze-ons, etc., and wait for them to come before we could finish off the bike. 

Offset Vice

Offset Vice

Many hiccups and minor set backs (like right off I cut the first set of fork legs 1 cm too short, which made me feel kind of like an asshole, but not too much so, because that’s just the way it goes sometimes, especially if you let yourself get distracted), but we took the time and did the work and the first set of tubes and lugs became the first bicycle frame built in Jesse’s shop. I was pleased, Jesse was pleased, it’s all going to work out just fine.

Street Art in Freo

Street Art in Freo

Jesse’s got a lot of work ahead of him, learning the millions of little details and skills and the handiwork that goes into building a frame. But he loves bikes and he’s spent a good portion of his adult life making things that uses sapphires and electrons and can read things at distances with a timing that is more accurate than I can even imagine — clocks, he calls them; really high-end clocks. I didn’t study physics enough to comprehend but about 3% of what Jesse made, but whatever it was was quite a bit more complex than making a bicycle frame. A very different skill set.

A Snake! With Legs!

A Snake! With Legs!

But I think that one of the things Jesse likes about bikes, which is one of the things that I, too, like, is the very physical interaction with the final product, and the variability of the subjective experience of it. To conceive it, to design it, build it, and then to ride it and get feedback and take that bit of knowledge back into the workshop and refine it and do it again and again, always pushing a little closer to a level of perfection that is yours and yours alone, and sharing it with others and hoping they see what you see — that’s the art, the craft, and really that’s the fun of it, the part that really makes it all worthwhile. In my opinion, anyway. 

Jesse’s off to a good start. Now he gets to spend a lot of time working with Seigmund to make his next bike.  


The Beach

The Beach

Big Ass Hairy Spider

Big Ass Hairy Spider

My time here is winding down, and spring is in full bloom in Australia. The bike is built and my duties here are pretty much finished. For now. I’m headed out soon; back to the states, to Oregon, home. The past few weeks, even including the time we were working, have been eventful and easy and in many ways a lot like a vacation. I’ve learned a lot of things about Australia that I didn’t know: Natural things, cultural things, things about the economy and government and people’s attitudes toward others and some of the less obvious stuff like how people deal with conflict and what they think of the American Presidential Circus (APC). 

Bike Path by the Beach

Bike Path by the Beach

I started writing what I thought was going to be a blog post over a week ago, but I’ve got so much material and so many things I want to talk about that it (the writing) became longer and longer and I thought, well shit this isn’t a book it’s a blog, this isn’t going to work at all. I’ve got to cut it down. Maybe put it together in pieces, post it in parts. Subjects I’ve written about include, but are not limited to:

— The timeline and historical significance of the band AC/DC, especially in regards to former front man and lead singer Bon Scott, who died from asphyxiating on his own vomit in the front seat of a car after a night of heavy drinking. This was while the band was on tour in London in 1980. And what happened to the band then. Bon Scott’s grave is here in Fremantle, Western Australia. 

— Nature. Meaning plants and birds. Big birds little birds water birds pretty birds dumb birds birds of prey and so on. There are a lot of weird birds in Australia, and plants and trees unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Lizards, frogs. And the birds make these sounds, it’s almost terrifying at certain times, and then at other times the way their voices cry out you’d think they were genuinely making fun of us humans. Mocking our children. And the plants, they may walk around at night when no one is watching. And whales. And sharks (there was an attack listed in the paper within a few days of my arrival, which made the ocean seem a little menacing, despite how clear and blue-green it is). I didn't tell Maggie about the shark attack because I didn't want to talk about it. And I didn’t see any actually hopping around, but kangaroos, too. Dogs everywhere. Little snakes with legs. Writing like I'm Nature Boy. 

— And speaking of birds, I found an emu egg at a market and couldn’t help myself. I bought it, cooked it up and ate it. Maggie, bless her, she helped with the process. Emus are the second largest bird on the planet, next to the ostrich. This egg was BIG. The whole process was very weird and disproportionate and disconcerting. But I did it anyway. The yolk was like the size of my fist, but softer. I scrambled it with vegetables. Catsup & hot sauce. Toast. 

Bunker Bay

Bunker Bay

— Bunker Bay, Dunsborough, Yallingup, the entire Margaret River region, cape to cape, south of Perth; Towns with unbelievable beaches and olive oil and chocolate and wine and products made with fine marino wool, lazy winding roads through a canopy of trees whose palette is more on the yellow and light grey side, rather than the deep greens and browns that I’m used to. Surf towns, beach towns, very relaxed towns. Lots of nature to lose yourself in. Whales migrate past from colder arctic waters further south to wherever else they go to spawn and breed and eat. Hippies and yogis and a lot of very rich people live in these places.

— Reading the Infinite Jest in Australia. I read this book many years ago, in another foreign place, and took some things from it, but I know a lot more about the author now, his life and death and quirks and history and what he seemed to like to think and write about. It’s a big book and requires some readerly work and energy, but hot damn he’s a good writer. 

Writing in the Morning

Writing in the Morning

— This is only a few of the bigger subjects I’ve been thinking about. Others include a discussion of the pros and cons of Airbnb; thoughts on addiction and habituation and routine and practice; the night sky (yes, I’ve seen the southern cross); a couple of weird dreams; and bike building in a new workshop, which I’ve already said a few words about…

Wild Flower Season

Wild Flower Season

I’ll have to come back to some of this other stuff. This is probably just enough for now. Actually, my plane is leaving soon. It's hard to believe after a trip like this that I'm actually going home. No more beach or sun or shorts and bare feet for a while to come. But I'm looking forward to getting back into my workshop. 

Real Evening Colors

Real Evening Colors

Rosellas, I think. They were everywhere.

Rosellas, I think. They were everywhere.

Wind Swept Tree

Wind Swept Tree

That's all, folks!

That's all, folks!


Working in Australia, New Zealand

News, Thoughts, TravelJoseph Ahearne2 Comments

In just over a week I leave for Australia and New Zealand. This trip is going to have a few different elements to it. I’m traveling for the sake of travel, on the one hand, but I’ve also got some work lined up that is going to occupy some of the time I’m there. The work, though, sounds almost as fun as the exploration of these new places. 

All said, I’ll be out of town for about six weeks, from 17 September through 3 November. That’s a good, long trip, and if you’re interested, I’ll give you an overview of what’s happening, a quick run-down.

— September 19 - 21 I’ll be in Sydney with Travel Portland helping them to give away a couple of bikes; one of my bikes and a Breadwinner. If you’re interested in knowing more about it (and I’d say if you’re anywhere Sydney or Auckland during this time, you ought to check it out), here’s all the information you'll need

— September 22 - October 3 I’ll be in Auckland, New Zealand. The first 4 nights of this I’ll be helping give away another 2 bikes, (1 Ahearne, 1 Breadwinner). Then I have a week to explore in and around Auckland, see the sights, meet some people, hopefully ride my bicycle (yes, I’m bringing a bicycle that I will be leaving in Perth, but that’s a story I’ll get into in a moment). 

— 4 October - 2 November I’ll be in and around Fremantle and Perth on the west coast of Australia. During this time I’ll be the first “Artist in Residence” at the Surreal Foundry & Cycleworks. Jesse Searls is an aspiring bicycle frame builder and the founder of the Foundry. He is in the process of finishing the construction of his workshop as I write this. We’ve spent the past several months discussing bike making equipment, tools and jigs, etc. It sounds like he has bought a lot of the equipment needed, and so, for much of the month of October we’re planning to work together to get his workshop up and running, and to build a bicycle frame or two together. I believe we’ll be going at a fairly relaxed pace, so there should be plenty of extra time for me to explore, cycle, read & write, swim & surf, and generally get out and about and see that part of the world. Maggie will be coming for the second half of October, so she and I will be exploring as well. 

I can’t say enough about how excited I’m becoming for this trip.  Jesse first contacted me in March 2014, asking about a bike I had advertised for sale on my website.  Yes, I told him, it’s still for sale.  He was considering buying it for his son, who plans to ride from coast to coast across Australia following the most southerly roads along the Great Australian Bight.  Jesse and I exchanged several emails, and he told me his story, which I found to be very interesting.  Jesse is a recently retired physicist who had, quite a number of years ago, helped invent technology which enabled new capacity in digital networks and improved the sensitivities of radar systems.  It was a significant enough improvement that he started a company to produce the technology, and his company was eventually bought by an international contractor.  For the next bundle of years Jesse worked for his company as they did international sales, and as he explained it, the burden and stress of this work was incredible.  

Now that he’s stepped away from the company, he realized that some of his most personally satisfying moments were when he was able to take concepts and designs that were theoretical and to actually fabricate them — to make them into something physical. Jesse’s love of bicycles started in 1973 when he bought a Frejus racing bike to use as his primary mode of transport.  Since then he has had a yearning to learn how to build them. Transforming an idea into a “thing” by using the hands to fabricate it, then getting to test it and use it, or watch someone else do so and hopefully see a smile peel open their face — there is a great deal of joy to be found here. And this is where I come in. Having built a lot of bikes and having taught a lot of people how to build their own bikes, Jesse thought I might be a good person to hang out with for a while. Lucky for me. 

In all of this, I do feel very lucky. Jesse wants the bike I had for sale, and I’m going to bring it over with me. We’re going to work together to set up his workshop, and then I’m going to help him use the equipment to learn to construct his own bicycle frames. Based on our interactions through email I think both Jesse and I are pretty mellow individuals, and I think we’re going to get along just fine. I’m really very excited to meet him in person and to see the workshop he’s constructed. What a dream come true in itself — to be able to consider every last detail of a workshop and build it from the ground up. And then to have the dream, part II, where you get to fill the workshop with great tools, and then part III, actually using them to make things. As I said, I feel really fortunate to play some part in this. 

I am also looking forward to the opportunity to see some of the beaches and treks in southwestern Australia.  Apparently, it has some of the best surf beaches in the world, big trees, and a broad range of vineyards and gourmet food producers. There's also the Munda Biddi Trail (which means "path through the forest" in the Noongar Aboriginal language), which is a 1000 kilometer off road cycling path. If I'm lucky I'll get to spend some time exploring this as well. 

While I’m away I’ll have my computer, and plan to post photos and words about what’s happening. Please check back if you’re interested in hearing about the place, the trip, the progress, the work, the experience. 

Biking from Eugene to Portland

News, Touring, TravelJulie4 Comments

This past Friday I went down to Eugene to pick up one of the off road touring bikes I built. Eric from Winter Bicycles was kind enough to take it with him to the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show. I've heard mixed reviews about the show, but I was grateful to have a bike there anyway. 

I took the bus down to Eugene and planned to ride the bike back up to Portland. On the computer I found the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which is a state promoted bike route through the valley. There are signs marking the route, and there are detailed maps you can print off and take with. The bikeway is just what it says it is, a scenic route. I wanted to make the trip in two days, and the state route winds around, following the river, totaling about 160 miles. The route ends (or begins, depending on which way you're headed) at Champoeg State Park, which is about 30 miles south of Portland.

Country Roads Much of the countryside between Portland and Eugene is farmland. I had a GPS with me, so I cut some corners from the mapped route and stayed on the small roads as much as possible. I knew I wasn't in shape to comfortably make it 80 miles a day on a loaded bike, so I tried to shorten the trip without ending up on roads that were too busy. Driving to Eugene is only about 105 miles, so I figured there had to be a bike-able way that was a little more direct.

The bus arrived to Eugene at about 10 in the morning. Because I had to change some things on the bike before riding (tires, saddle, brake lever positioning), get my bags set, and then ingest some fuel, I didn't start pedaling until a little after noon. I ate eggs, potatoes, toast and some sort of salmon patty at the Keystone Cafe. Everything was great except for the salmon, which was a dry and mealy wafer, like it had been frozen for too long and then pan-fried into despair and dehydration. I guess that's what the dill mayo was for, to coat, mask and rehydrate.  

Big Sky, Big EarthIt's never a good idea taking a brand new bike on tour. I know better than that, and I went into this expecting some unforeseen issues. It's wise to put some miles on a bike and figure out the body position, and make sure everything is set up the way you want, both for comfort and general functioning. Because this was going to be a relatively short trip I wasn't too worried about it. I was more worried about the weather holding out. It had rained almost every day that week, and I knew I'd be lucky if I didn't get at least some rain. 

The first day I saw patches of sun and patches of rain, both moving all around me like I was a piece of dust on a very large chess board. The wind was blowing steadily out of the west at about 10 - 15 mph. I was touched by the sun several times, and was lucky with the rain. I somehow managed to ride between patches of rain clouds and only felt light sprinkles a couple of times. Later in the afternoon the wind came around into my face and stayed steadily out of the north for the rest of the trip. It (the wind) was just strong enough to make it feel as though I was headed up an incline, and wore me out more quickly.

Dicky's Half Way InnSomewhere between the towns of Halsey and Albany I came across this sign posted on the side of a barn. As I rode past I misread the sign and it took a moment for it to register. All I saw was, "Dick's Half Way Inn," and when it clicked in my head, I turned around, just to be certain. Clever randy Dick. But, alas, my head must have been elsewhere. Dicky's it was. The barn didn't look like an inn, it just looked like a workshop, so maybe Dicky was just being funny. Waiting for somebody to come by and share a beer. I was in the groove, and still miles from where I wanted to be, so I pressed on. 

My plan had been to camp, but by the time I approached Albany it was getting late enough that I was ready to stop for the night, and there was no camping until well past town. I ate a decent roasted portobello & red pepper sandwich and fries at a deli, then found a cheap hotel room and called it a day. I'd gone just shy of sixty miles. Not being in very good shape, my legs were spent. The hotel shower was kind of a pressure-less piddle, but at least it was hot. The room smelled strongly of disinfectant, and the sheets looked clean. Things could have been worse. 

Disinfected Hotel RoomThe next morning, Saturday, I woke early, packed and set off. The hotel was near the highway and my choices for food were limited. I stopped at a Denny's because that's what was there. I ate a veggie omelet, potatoes, toast, and a side of pancakes. Starch and protein for fuel. I'm always uncertain if an omelet's yellow is too uniform. I like to know I'm eating eggs when I'm eating eggs. No yellow #5, or any other funny business. But that's just me. I'm suspicious when it comes to food. At Denny's, the jam comes pre-portioned in little plastic rectangles. The pancakes were grainy and too rich to finish, like eating raw batter. 

Denny's has an entire menu devoted to bacon. They call it a Baconalia, like a celebration of bacon, or an indulgence; a bacon orgy. This menu is separate from the regular menu, and is full of lurid photos in which the grease glints & glistens and the yellow cheese shines like buffed plastic. There was even a paper place-mat that advertised milk shakes that they claim will cure your salty thirst after all that bacon. I'm not sure I understand. There was also the colorful dessert menu that opens like an enchanted children's book and is shaped on top like a dollop of ice cream. It's formatted with tabs for quick reference and an easy thumbing-through, and shows all the different ways to supplement your girth; ie. cakes; shakes; floats; sundaes; pies; and the ubber-thick and creamy-seeming Oreo Blender-Blaster. Sure to cause projectile eruptions and/or formidable expansions. 

The morning was cold, but it was sunny and there were few clouds. I rode away from Denny's gurgling in the gut and town quickly gave way to farmland. Traffic was light and it was looking like a good day to ride. The only thing I had to contend with was the head wind. It was still coming steadily out of the north and was enough to keep the flags flat open and flapping. There were gusts that kicked up and caused me to shift down. I was only able to maintain about 10 mph, sometimes less.

The Bike & Me, Ground & SkyMost of the rest of the day was good riding. I cut through the countryside and stayed on the farm roads until hitting 99E, which heads toward Oregon City. Out this far the traffic wasn't too heavy, but I think it might have been better to stick to the smaller roads. Since returning home I found a more direct route from Eugene to Portland that includes a ferry crossing of the Willamette River. The website is bikely.com and they seem to have a lot of good information for people touring by bike.

Fueling StationJust outside of Woodburn I passed a small Taqueria that looked like all good taquerias do -- small and kind of a dive, big neon beer in the window, gravel drive, hand painted sign. I needed to refuel, so I stopped. The smiling woman behind the counter was like my Mexican Mother, she was so eager to get some food in me. I ordered two fish tacos and she made sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed; the table was clean, I had water, clean cutlery. The plate of food was the right size for somebody needing to fill up. It was perfect, and by the time I finished I was ready to pedal the rest of the way home. 

Super Fuel

I might have done better paying more attention before I left on this trip. Taking 99E was fine until the last 10 or so miles to Oregon City, where the road became a four lane truck-&-auto race. I started into the final hills just as rush hour was picking up. The road narrowed in places so there was almost no shoulder, and a sheer rock wall rose up off my right. It was nerve-wracking and not very fun. By the time I arrive to Oregon City I was pretty well spent. That last ten miles was the most stressful of the whole trip.

I was ready for the last leg home, but lo, I discovered the Oregon City Bridge was closed. I obviously haven't been paying attention, and never thought to check. They are working on the bridge and it's not going to be open until around 2013. I didn't feel like waiting two years to get home. The next bridge open was the freeway bridge, the I-205, illegal for bikes. After that, I don't know, I would have had quite a few extra miles to go. But, I discovered, there is a free shuttle from Oregon City to the other side of the river, for pedestrians and bikers. 

Anyway, to make a long story slightly shorter, the shuttle trip was easy, and the last leg of my trip was relaxed. I took the bike path along the old street car tracks from just north of the Sellwood Bridge all the way to the steel bridge along the southwest water front. A very nice, Portland-style finish to the ride. I rode a total of 87 miles on Saturday, with slightly over 8 total hours in the saddle. I'd left the Denny's in Albany at about 9 that morning and arrived home at about 8:30 in the evening. Long day, my legs were tired and my ass was sore. It was good to be home. 

Lessons taken from this trip are: Know your bike and know your route before you start. I plan to ride back down to check out Champoeg State Park a little later in the season, when the weather is more reliably sunny. The next time I go I'll be looking for that ferry crossing. 

Out...

 

 

 

Home From Thailand

NewsJulie

I just got back from Thailand a couple of days ago. Wow, that's a long way to travel. Throw in a flight delay, a ten hour layover in Seoul, South Korea, and a train ride down from Seattle, and it all makes for a severe case of jet lag. 

And talk about jumping right back into things: Tomorrow, Monday, the 28th of March I begin teaching the next brazing class at UBI. This will keep me busy for the next couple of weeks. I'm back, so there's no reason I shouldn't get started. 

In Thailand I took lots of photos of bikes and food, markets and street scenes. The internet was spotty at best, and slow as molasses. I only tried uploading photos once -- it took hours to get about 18 photos onto Flickr. After that I decided to wait until I returned home to try again. I've been sorting through them, so you can expect to start seeing some of them soon. 

It was a great trip, and I'm glad to be home. 

 

Time To Travel

NewsJulie3 Comments

Time To Travel

This coming Tuesday the 22nd of February will be the first day of a month-long closure of Ahearne Cycles.

I'll be packing my gear and headed off to Thailand. The quick summary on what you can expect is this:

The shop doors will be closed, so if you were thinking of dropping by for a visit, it'll have to wait until my return.

All online orders (flask holsters & handlebars, etc.) will continue to be shipped