Taking things apart (and hacking back together… by Jess)

Nance’s reading reminded me of something I learned about myself over the summer. Though I’ve been riding bikes for years, I’ve never done any bike maintenance. A few months ago, however, that changed when I decided to fix up a three-speed Hiawatha from 1968. Brakes, tires, fenders? I watched a few YouTube videos, read some tutorials—these were helpful, but were not specific to my bike (which was apparently not documented anywhere). My home turned into a bike shop. I became fascinated with this brilliant invention. The three-speed hub and brakes were subject to tinkering, tightening/loosening, and pulling. I wrestled with spokes and learned that a hard hit with a hammer fosters handlebar adjustment. Suddenly, it was apparent to me that a bicycle is really all just tensions and structures, things working together in perfect harmony. It reminded me of design elements working together in visual tension and structure—something akin to craft? A similar thing happened to me when I started building websites from scratch: the “a-ha!” moment didn’t hit me until I literally tore apart a website and figured out what made it tick.

So, I learned that I learn by “reverse-engineering” things…. in short, by taking them apart. Whether covered in bike grease or on a keyboard (hopefully not at the same time), my hands link to my brain in a way where things make sense. And then it’s just a matter of putting it all back together.

It should be noted that I never did get the brakes back together correctly, and they had to be done by professionals recommended by Anna (thanks again!). The fundamentals, however, are locked into my brain.


2 responses to “Taking things apart (and hacking back together… by Jess)

  1. I had a similar experience “fixing” my Huffy when I was a kid. This bike carried me through hell and back and a few horrific wrecks which I still have many scars from. I had to play repairman after a friend sat on my bike as it was laying on it’s side. I discovered that a bike just won’t work well if the spokes aren’t all straight and it’s very difficult to get new spokes all tightened to the same tension. I eventually gave the bike away.
    -Rich Yates

  2. Just as important to the creative process is the ability to “steer” towards a solution. Recognizing that you couldn’t fix the brakes yourself, then the next step is to find someone who can.
    And for those in need:
    Hiawatha Cyclery on 54th street and 42nd Avenue, Minneapolis.

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