Category Archives: bicycles

MPub Project Report: CHECK!

Warning: serious nerdery ahead.

It’s done!

On Monday, April 23rd, I trudged around Vancouver BC obtaining approval signatures, then submitted my project report to the SFU Theses Office. The next morning I picked up some of my favorite cinnamon rolls, closed my Canadian bank account, and went home.

Publishing to Inspire: The Role of Publications at Adventure Cycling Association explores how non-profits can use their publications to actively forward their mission.

As a follow-up to my FAQ blog post about the SFU MPub program, I’m going to talk a little bit about the process of doing the project report in this post. It happens that on this topic I’ve actually been getting more questions from my fellow students than prospective students. Of the 20 people in our cohort, I believe a total of only seven of us have submitted our project reports one semester later than the program’s timeline. In other words, even after an extra semester, only 1/3 of my fellow students are done with the program.

Like many MPub classmates, I had basically taken the fall off to tend to other matters. I spent about three months working in my house so I could move back in. On the last day of December, some sobering circumstances led me to vow that I would complete my project report in the spring semester, which would mean handing in the final version by April 27th. As accountability helps me achieve goals, I sent a massive email asking friends to check in with me periodically, and I even wrote a blog post about my 750 word daily goal to get the rough draft hammered out.

Writing the rough draft in January was probably the toughest part of the process. It took a couple of hours agonizing that first day before I just decided to freewrite it: write all the ideas that had been percolating in my head, just to get them on paper. After that I started expanding as I could on this or that idea, adding words, and I was able to start structuring the thing to match the outline and proposal I had previously submitted. It was tough going, but the first draft got plopped into InDesign and sent out a couple days before January 31st.

InDesign was a bit of a pain until the very end—for every version I submitted, I needed to reflow all the text in the document, and I was having footnote numbering issues. In early April it took a friend and I several hours to unlock all the mysteries, even after receiving advice from one of my MPub professors.

Fortunately my senior advisor never sat on anything too long. Of course, I deliberately chose him because I knew we would have a great working relationship compared to my other option. And we did! Starting in January I clearly stated to him my intention of finishing in one semester, and I’d like to think that teamwork made it happen. Toward the end, he even gave me a little insider advice to get the quickest turnaround from one of my other committee members.

One thing that was never spelled out to me was this: while everybody knows you are allowed three submittals to produce your final product, only your senior supervisor will see it at first. Mine told me when I was “clear” to send it to the other two. This was slightly nerve-racking considering we were nearly in April at that point, and either of them might have had a lot to say about what I wrote.

Fortunately none of my drafts needed vast amounts of content work—most of it focused on my comparative section, which was weak because neither of the two organizations really helped me when I contacted the current staff. Once I sent my last draft to the other two committee members, I got very few content corrections, but many copy edits from our resident editor. Those took me about two days to work through. In the process I got a glimpse of the most common errors in my writing, which was a real treat. (Note to self: review that vs. which! Stop inverting sentences!)

Obtaining the requisite signatures in Vancouver was the best part of my trip. My senior advisor and other SFU advisor gathered in our program coordinator’s office and the mood was giddy. It was great to see them having such fun! Of course the tall Oregon microbrews and thank you cards I brought them probably didn’t hurt. Then it was off to Burnaby to wait in line at the Theses Office.

Dealing with the thesis office was more problematic. They have a series of guidelines available on their website which, like everything else on SFU’s website, were fairly difficult to understand. I started referring to one of the guideline lists as the “three easy steps” document—these “three easy steps” took about four solid pages of text, printed out, with a fair amount of that text in red, to provide an overview of the thesis submission process. Their help site has multiple types of instructions to cover different type of theses and dissertations, from the breadth of SFU departments. Our program gave us an InDesign template to use for our project report, but as I carefully combed through the Theses Office guidelines, suddenly I was questioning whether the typeface I had chosen was acceptable, among other things.

The reason I was being so careful? Of course, I didn’t want to drive from Portland to Vancouver only to be turned away for a minor detail I had gotten wrong. So the woman who runs the Theses Office got familiar enough with me that when I was finally sitting face-to-face with her, I only had to introduce myself as “the one from Portland.” After having sat in line for an hour and a half to see her (no, I’m not kidding), our conversation was slightly terse as she pointed out the two(!) errors on my cover page. There are only a few things they check during the intake process, and they are very exact about the cover page.

Planning to add a comma to “Faculty of Art, Communication and Technology” so the Oxford comma will be consistent with the rest of your project report, using the guidelines your department has set? Whoop-whoop! Call the thesis police!

It may have been the eyeballs popping out of my head and the flurry of detailed questions that followed, but we compromised—if I would fix my cover page and send it back electronically, she could reprint it in their office on archival-quality paper. This turned out to be ideal for me—if she had required me to reprint it myself I would have needed to buy a copy card to print out two sheets of paper. At a library that I would likely never find myself in again.

Originally I was planning to attend graduation, but last week those plans changed. When I was in Vancouver delivering my thesis, I asked various SFU staff if there were any other costs associated with being in the commencement ceremony. Nobody had reason to believe so, and I couldn’t find any mention on the commencement website, so I closed my Canadian bank account before leaving. Only after I confirmed my attendance online this week was any mention made, and I still had to proactively call the graduate studies office to find out that yes, for the past two years there has been a $35 charge for students to rent the regalia. Factoring in many other considerations and finally fed up with SFU’s poor communication to students, I requested to cancel my confirmation. On June 15th, my mom and I plan to attend a private graduation ceremony at a local restaurant and spend—you guessed it—$35.

Do you have any other questions about the project report process? Ask away!



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Bicycling Buffalo Soldiers

Since I am both Bookish and Bikish, every so often something will pop up that requires deliberation about which blog is more appropriate. Blogging about bike books: more bookish, or more bikish? Should I be cross-posting? Do I need a policy, or can my policy for the moment be dictated by my whimsy? Thoughts? At least for now I think I’ll post here, since Bookish gets more traffic (hello, spambots!) and Bikish is still finding its audience.

This summer I’ve been living in Missoula, MT, interning the the publications department at Adventure Cycling Association. My internship is now officially over, but I’m wrapping up a couple of projects—including a short film that will be featured as the last blog post of my series “Backstories,” about bike history.

Adventure Cycling is certainly a cool piece of Missoula’s bike culture, but in my opinion, not the coolest. Earlier this summer Atticus and I spent a day at Fort Missoula and learned that Missoula was home to the 25th Infantry, a group of African American soldiers. In the late 1890s, the unit was tasked with experimenting with the newfangled safety bicycle to assess it for military use.

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has embraced the unique story they can claim that no other Army fort is able to. One section of the exhibits is dedicated to the bicycling soldiers, and include an interactive that puts visitors on a bike with 75 pounds of gear. In the store, the museum sells T-shirts and magnets with “Fred E. Fox,” a bicycling soldier. For those who are curious beyond the artifacts and interactives that the museum exhibits have to offer, the museum sells a booklet (really, more of a zine) explaining the experiments in more detail.

It’s a quick read, but satisfied this cyclist’s thirst to know more. Contextual information was included about how the 25th Infantry was formed, and how Missoula was a hospitable place for the group compared to other towns. While the unit did different types of experiments with the bikes (formation work, long-distance travel, and front line message delivery), the booklet focused mostly on their long-distance travel, even though it seemed like the least successful experiment.

The soldiers embarked upon three trips: a short trip from Fort Missoula to Seeley Lake; a longer trip from Fort Missoula to Fort Yellowstone; and an epic journey from Fort Missoula to Missouri. The challenges increased the longer the distance traveled, and the booklet outlines problems stemming primarily from the lack of good roads in the United States. Unfortunately though, before the good roads movement made any headway, the soldiers’ next trip was cancelled due to the unit being sent to fight in the Spanish-American war. (Why were they deployed first? The theory was African American soldiers were not as susceptible to the tropical diseases in the Philippines as caucasian soldiers would be. Not true!)

Eventually the unit was transferred out of Fort Missoula and into a more racially-charged community in Texas. What led to the unit being disbanded was a sad shot of historic reality in what was otherwise an inspirational and intriguing story. No spoilers, though—you’ll have to read it for yourself.

Can’t make it to Fort Missoula but you’d like to read more? Here’s “The Bicycling Buffalo Soldiers,” an article that appeared in Adventure Cyclist earlier this year. Don’t forget—you can also get the booklet via interlibrary loan through your local library!

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Filed under bicycles, books, history, zines

Brilliant Bookish Families

Whenever I figure out that two people I adore are related, I feel pangs of jealousy for members of their family. Have you noticed all the talented families out there creating great art?

• Decemberists’ wunderkind (and Montana native!)  Colin Meloy not only has a artistic wife in Carson Ellis, with whom he is releasing a book (Wildwood) this fall—but a gifted sister as well! Recently Maile Meloy wrote a piece for the New York Times called “Reading and Its Rewards,” which linked books with bikes. A winning combination!

• If you’re not familiar with Mark Bittman, he is a New York Times columnist and brilliant food writer. Follow his blog and you will be drooling on yourself regularly—and the best part is, his recipes are usually fairly simple and able to be prepared by those of us who haven’t attended Le Cordon Bleu! His daughter Kate works for The New Yorker, and in June they produced a video together for the magazine about cooking on Father’s Day.

• Perhaps less modest than the other two families, but certainly more amusing, are the Talent FamilyAmy and David Sedaris. Individually they create very different books, David having earned his notoriety by personal essay and Amy coming to books via comedy, first withWigfield and then her breakout title I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. To date they’ve only worked together as the Talent Family once, to write the script for The Book of Liz. Independent projects aside, they often appear in one another’s work: Amy has cameoed in David’s stories and provided voice talent for his audiobook recordings; and David has contributed recipes to Amy, including instructions for the notorious “Fuck-It Bucket.” Even David’s partner Hugh Hamrick contributed endpaper design for Amy’s first book, and usually takes David’s portrait for the back cover of his books.

• The previous families are still alive and working, but the Brontë sisters were another noteworthy bookish family. Writing originally under male pen names, their novels are still considered noteworthy classics of English literature, with compelling stories that continue to enthrall readers more than a century later.

Do you know of any other families where genius runs rampant?

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Introducing Bikish!

Now that Bookish is pretty focused on looking at the world through book-colored glasses, I’ve missed writing about bikes. That’s why I created Bikish as a companion piece to this blog!

Many Bookish readers are avid cyclists as well. Head over there and join the conversation!

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Bookish Updates

• It’s official! This summer I’ll be interning with the publications department of the Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula, Montana. It looks like I’ll primarily be helping the magazine develop its online presence, but will likely have my fingers in plenty of other projects too. As everyone in my program knows how into bikes I am, I don’t think this came as a surprise to anybody.

• Want to read my piece in the next issue of “Taking the Lane,” Elly Blue’s zine? Printing is paid for in advance via Kickstarter, so go to the project’s website to chip in. Your copy will be sent to you when they’re all printed in April!

• Over the next week, I’ll be writing a long paper about the publication history of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. During spring break, I biked up to UBC Special Collections and viewed some early editions of the book (from 1897 and 1900), which were polar opposites in terms of treatment of the text. While excited about the topic, I’m a little overwhelmed, and working on my blog is arguably my method of procrastination du jour.

• Armed with fearlessness, I’ve been doing a bit of customization with Bookish. This is directly linked to my MPub technology project—over the next several weeks, my group will be doing some testing on a web-based system for doing magazine submissions, which was completely built in WordPress.

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Sweetpea Journey #5: It’s a Bike!

If you didn’t know, I’m getting a custom-made bike from Sweetpea Bicycles. Natalie Ramsland builds these bikes specifically for women, one of just two women frame builders in the United States (the other is Luna Cycles). Many people I know are interested in hearing about the process, so I hope to be blogging about it each step of the way. Read the series here. Now–the fifth installment. Away we go…!

This evening I was at the gallows about to go on at my first choir concert in a bazillion years when I got an email giving me some awesome news.

tacked frame in jig

Wait–I’m getting way ahead of myself. Over the past two weeks, as I have been busy trying to meet some deadlines, Natalie continued her hard work. (During this time, I also found a comic that made me think of her.) You may remember seeing the frame put together, but not yet welded, in the jig. Here we have some welding work:

brazed dropout-1

After the main triangle was together, Natalie started working on the chainstays. Here is a dropout:

chainstays mitered to bottom bracket

Here are the chainstays attached to the bottom bracket:

dropouts in slotted chainstay

Here’s a better photo of just how the dropouts go into the chainstays:

right dropout all shined up

After welding it all together, Natalie gave it a spit shine until it gleamed:

seatstays on

Oh! But now we’re getting back to tonight’s exciting email. The photos aren’t as snazzy, but the news really is! Natalie worked really hard the last couple of days to get the seatstays on:

ready for the lil' bits

And then–OH then! She trimmed down the head tube, putting some fancy-yet-stylish reenforcing rings on it, trimmed the seat tube, and put on the seat lug. Meaning….HEY! That’s an honest-to-God FRAME!

That’s right, kids! That is my bike frame! Yeeeee-haw! It needs some finishing touches before it gets shipped off to Colorado(!) for 4-6 weeks to get powder coated, but this bike is real enough that I want to go read Shakespeare to it and play peek-a-boo.

Next: Natalie puts the finishing touches on the frame. While it is being powder coated in Colorado, she and I get down to nitty-gritty about parts. What chainring to use? Which grips will I have? Does the Nifty Swifty have a cutesy enough name to be on my bike? Oh, and did you notice I didn’t mention what my final color is going to be? Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

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Sweetpea Journey #4: Lie Back and Think of England

If you didn’t know, I’m getting a custom-made bike from Sweetpea Bicycles. Natalie Ramsland builds these bikes specifically for women, one of just two women frame builders in the United States (the other is Luna Cycles). Many people I know are interested in hearing about the process, so I hope to be blogging about it each step of the way. Read the series here. Now for the fourth installment. Away we go…

This is the part of the process when I lie back and think of England. While I have been blithely going about my daily life Natalie has been rockin’ and rollin’ at Sweetpea World Headquarters. And sending me photos.

Last week she built the front fork of my bike. Originally she was going to use a carbon fork, but turns out that’s not really a great idea for a 650B wheel size.

Here’s how the magic happened (narrated by me, a person with no knowledge of either frame building or welding):

She took just a teeny bit of fork…

upside down fork crown

Added a dropout and sneezed on it…

droput ready for brazing

Welded it on…

brazed dropout

Got it to submit to her will using a medieval torture instrument…

Fork in a fixture

And voila! All forked up! She didn’t even have to go back to the drawing board once.

Fork drawing and pieces

The finished fork! Hurray Natalie!

Still life with fork and potted blueberry

An important part of the process was the quality control inspection, done of course by Sweetpea’s office manager Greta…

Greta inspects the work

You’ll be happy to know it passed with flying colors. Greta worked so hard she needed to snooze the rest of the afternoon.

After a restorative weekend break, Natalie started working on the frame of my bike.

Materials gathered? Check!

Frame materials

Jig set up for all my lady-like angles? Check!

Jig set up for your bike with biggest protractor ever

Insert tubing, CHECK!

mitered frame in the jig

We’ve got seat tube to bottom bracket CONTACT!

first joint brazed - seat tube to bottom bracket

It’s starting to look like a bike!

head tube miters

While Natalie has been working so hard, I’ve been reconnecting with my teen angst. Seeing these photos made me realize that I’m soon going to have a bike frame, all ready to go get powder coated. And when it gets shipped off to Colorado, I’m going to need to tell them what color to paint it. And what finish to use. ACK!

Next: A final color choice? A completed frame? I have no idea.

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Sweetpea Journey #3: All Mixted Up

If you didn’t know, I’m getting a custom-made bike from Sweetpea Bicycles. Natalie Ramsland builds these bikes specifically for women, one of just two women frame builders in the United States (the other is Luna Cycles). Many people I know are interested in hearing about the process, so I hope to be blogging about it each step of the way. Read the series here. Presenting the third installment…awaaay we go!


Less than 24 hours after my fitting, Natalie posted two design options on her project management site to peruse, based on two wheel sizes. When I took a look, suddenly I got a glimmer of what it must be like for a pregnant woman to get an ultrasound–my bike is going through a slow gestation process, and I could finally see it was real! (While that probably comes off as completely tongue in cheek based on this past post, at the time the feeling was very serious.)

As for the designs, the 650B bike looked well-proportioned, but because of the non-standard wheel size I’d need to be prepared at all times for a major flat, as replacement tubes and tires aren’t readily available. On the other hand, the 700 bike (above) had a standard wheel size but didn’t look as elegant. An important difference though, was that Natalie determined that structurally, that bike would work better as a mixte.

At some point, I knew I’d need to decide between a mixte and a regular diamond-frame bike, and I had been dreading it. Mixtes are certainly more fancy, but the structural strength lost in the angled top tube is made up by adding steel, increasing the weight of the bike. Mixtes do have a practical purpose for women though–you can ride a bike wearing a skirt! However, since I don’t wear skirts very often at all, this is not a huge issue. Oh yeah, and it would require a $100 mixte “upgrade.”

Over the next five days, I agonized over this crucial juncture in my Sweetpea journey. Did I want a mixte or a standard frame? And did I want a 650B or 700 wheel size? I consulted trusted friends, like James the super mechanic at Bike Gallery, April the mixte aficionado, and of course my only real friend in the world, the internet. It seemed only fitting to do due diligence before making such a major decision, to be fully informed on what I was getting myself into. After all, I don’t want to have any regrets or negative surprises when I finally get my dream bike, right?

On Monday, Natalie reminded me that I shouldn’t be wrestling with two separate dilemmas, but the bike style would be tied to the wheel size. This helped streamline the decision process. Meditation was making it clear my gut was leaning toward the 650B standard frame, but I wrapped up my due diligence by consulting my friend Beth, who works at Citybikes (they stock 650B tubes and tires!), and wonderful Theo, who has a 650B Kogswell, and even uses the same tires I likely will end up with, Rivendell’s Nifty Swifty.

After informing Natalie of my painstakingly researched and thoughtfully considered decision, about five minutes later she turned around a revised design of my final choice, including frame specs, and some additional features (pump peg, cable routing for a dynamo, etc.) I could add on for a fee. We’ve scheduled a phone call to review everything together tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, I get to continue agonizing over the color of my bike. Last week I stopped by the shop to see the color of HW (Heliotrope Wonder), which was a super dark purple with multi-colored sparkles in it–fuschia and blue–that aren’t really visible via photographs. It’s lovely, and the base is very close to the color I originally thought I wanted. However, I had a slightly different idea in mind in terms of the finish, and upon inquiry with Natalie’s powder coaters in Colorado, it looks like they can do a work around for something that can usually only be done in paint. We’re probably going to have them do a water bottle cage as a relatively inexpensive test to see if the dream can be realized.

Last night I had a pretty lengthy conversation with my mom about the color of my bike. (She loooves that stuff.) I told her about a couple of ideas that Natalie and I had been tossing around. She was very helpful, and in passing even gave me a concept anchor, describing this bike “like a big berry rolling down the street.” I think that this is indeed the palette I’m going for, and I think the phrase helped solidify what this bike is going to look like just a little bit more.

One thing is certain: it truly takes a village to build a bike.

Next: Final design? Fun with powder coating? Components? Even I have no idea what’s next right now.

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Sweetpea Journey #2: Bike Fitting!

If you didn’t know, I’m getting a custom-made bike from Sweetpea Bicycles. Natalie Ramsland builds these bikes specifically for women, one of just two women frame builders in the United States (the other is Luna Cycles). Many people I know are interested in hearing about the process, so I hope to be blogging about it each step of the way. Read the series here. And now the second installment. Awaaay we go!

This afternoon I had the first of two bike fitting appointments at Bicycle Fitting Services. During this the two hour session, we discussed my bicycling habits and goals; looked at my body’s motion-related quirks, measured my flexibility in various ways, and took a special bike used specifically for fitting, plugged in my bars and slapped on my saddle, and played around with the adjustments until everything was as snug as a bug in a rug.

Fortunately my dear friend Yeltie was willing to come with and be the official Bookish photographer for the day…or at least for the first half hour, which is why photos from the next hour and a half are sparse. He was willing to help a friend despite being a little stressed out lately. Thanks, Yeltie!

Stephanie was my fitter. Not only was I excited to work with her because I already knew her, but she is apparently quite good at working with pain issues, such as those I’ve had on my bikes of the past.

After pleasantries and paperwork, we talked about my experience as a cyclist and my expectations for my new bike. As it stands, I use my bike primarily for commuting, but I have one motherlode of a commute: it takes me about an hour to get into the heart of the city. Additionally, I have been known to participate in bike moves, bike camping, and other events that result in even more time on the bike than just a simple commute. I usually carry quite a load, including my own body. My approach to the bicycle is very utilitarian–the reason it works for me is that I incorporate it into my everyday life, rather than using my bike just for recreational activities.

After the discussion, we got up to start some floor work. Stephanie had me stand in a neutral position while she and Natalie stood in front of me and talked about the minute differences in the skeletal structure of my body. A pelvic injury I suffered eight years ago, which I still have to visit the chiropractor regularly for, could actually be seen by them standing a fair distance away, by looking at where my hands were when asked to place my hands on my hips. As someone who is pretty insecure about her body, it was a little odd to have two people looking at me and noticing that my knees stick outward, or that my right foot and leg stick outward at rest. They then stood a fair distance behind me, almost immediately noted “do you see her ankles?” and it felt a little awkward. As they drew dots on my Achilles tendon as a teaching tool, Yeltie distracted me by taking photos of my feet. Just call me John Merrick.

Next, they had me perform a series of easy range of motion exercises. I learned that I have a long cranial-sacral mobile (I think that was the term?), which is why I’ve always been able to easily touch the ground when flopped over at the waist. I got to practice my tree pose mental balance technique in another exercise, and as I moved I felt my ankle tremble just before another exclamation: “look what her ankle is doing!”

Finally, as I layed on a squishy yoga mat on the floor, Stephanie manipulated my legs to get some numbers related to my flexibility. Once again, my old injury was easy to spot, as the numbers were way large on the right leg, and equally small on the left, as they compensate for each other when my pelvis is out of whack (I just got adjusted on Monday…?!?!)

We then transitioned over to the large mirrors and cycle fit area, where they put my current bike on the stand, I rode, and they analyzed my current fit. Pretty good, except for my arms are still at too obtuse of an angle (see above photo). They even did a seat post adjustment that should alleviate my recent knee pain. Afterward, they switched to the special bike used for fittings, putting my Brooks saddle and the bars Natalie had ordered onto a bike where literally everything was adjustable.

I didn’t think much about my comfort as I was told to dismount, remount, and ride several times, as I was expecting Natalie and Stephanie would be making the decision on what was correct based on what they saw. They did start asking me about my comfort, and suddenly I realized my forearms felt really tense. Or my elbow was kinda sore, and they noticed I was locking my elbows. I suspected that much like smelling too many samples in a perfume shop, I wouldn’t be able to tell if something was right as I’d be on muscle memory overload.

But then it happened.

Immediately after starting to pedal, I had a moment where it just clicked, and I knew that was it. Natalie and Stephanie liked what they were seeing, and we were mostly done. They wrote down measurements from the adjustable bike while I snapped a few shots.

As I watched them work from across the room, I took in the visual of the saddle and bars, and realized that my bike is going to be pretty classy. Since last week I’ve been able to close my eyes and actually start to visualize my new bike for the first time, and seeing the saddle and bars together sharpens that image a little more. As Stephanie was so kind to put my Brooks saddle on my old bike, Natalie and I chatted about other things relating to the direction this bike is going to go in, including the goal of the bike, and discussing some interesting paint options. She surprised me immensely when she said she would likely have some design options ready within days, although it sounds that because the frame needs to get shipped to Colorado for powdercoating, it’s pretty likely that I won’t get my completed bike until November. I was hoping to get it in October, my favorite month. Oh well!

Next: designs! (Hopefully)

See more photos from the session here.


Filed under bicycles, sweetpea

Sweetpea Journey #1: First Steps

If you didn’t know, I’m getting a custom-made bike from Sweetpea Bicycles. Natalie Ramsland builds these bikes specifically for women, one of just two women frame builders in the United States (the other is Luna Cycles). Many people I know are interested in hearing about the process, so I hope to be blogging about it each step of the way. Read the series here. And awaaay we go!

My Sweetpea journey started in Spring 2008 when I heard word that my credit union, Unitus, was going to start offering bike loans. A long-time Unitus customer, I agreed to be the guinea pig for the program, and when talking to the woman developing the program, said that if I could choose anything, I would prefer to get my bike from Portland’s own Sweetpea Bicycles. The woman said if I could convince them to sign on to the loan program I could do it, and one short phone call later, it looked like my wildest dreams would be coming true.

Meanwhile, as the details of my loan got worked out, I sent in my $500 deposit to Natalie to hold my place in her wait list, which at that point was approximately a year and a half. This was May 2008. Immediately after sending in my deposit, I wrote out a lengthy description of what I was thinking I wanted my bike to be, to do, and to look like.

Because the bike loan program was a pretty new idea for the United States, there was a fair amount of press I was in (including here and here). It gave me a chance to get some good attention for bikes, an awesome local bike builder, and my favorite credit union, all in one!

In the following months, I saw Natalie now and again, and sometimes conversation would touch upon my bike, but usually not. My bicycling enthusiast friends would ask me a couple of times a month how much longer I’d have to wait–so occasionally I would check in and try to get a time estimate. As much as possible, I tried to abide by their philosophy to “practice zen-like calm and patience,” but man is it hard when you see your builder and/or her husband on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Natalie got some national exposure in Bicycling Magazine and Outdoors, and her waiting list doubled in size.

Finally, when I was recovering from a cold in the middle of August 2009, I got an email from Natalie suggesting we set up an appointment for my first fitting, as it was almost go time!

When I scheduled my fit appointment at Bicycle Fitting Services, her preferred fitter, I learned that it’s actually a two-appointment process. The first appointment happens before your bike is fabricated. Over the course of two hours, as I sit on the top of a completely, totally adjustable faux bike, Natalie and the fitter (in my case, Stephanie) get all sorts of measurements and information. The fact that I have a wonky pelvis and sometimes my legs are two different lengths (as much as an inch and a half at times!) is important. The second appointment is done after the bike has been fabricated, for final fit and micro-adjustments.

Last weekend I biked the hour and a half from my house to Sweetpea World Headquarters, where Natalie and I drank tea, hung out and ended up chatting a bit about my bike. She had me try a specific set of bars she was thinking would work well, and they did–but she needed to order a pair before my fitting, meaning I’d have to delay the appointment a bit. In this process, I learned, it’s ideal to come to your first fit with the bars, saddle, and pedals (the three contact points) you think you’ll be using on the final bike. I already knew I’d be using a Brooks B17 Champion Special saddle, and flat pedals, because I don’t use SPDs and haven’t really enjoyed my experience with toe clips. Natalie ordered the Nitton all-rounder, which you can see on a bike here.

Soon after the bars got ordered, I got a flurry of emails from Natalie through her project management web site. I soon discovered this site is communication central, where ideas are tossed around between client and builder. Boilerplate information about paint is posted, JPGs of other bikes are uploaded to have a common frame of reference, and discussions about design ideas are archived in threads to make things as efficient as possible.

Next: my first fit appointment this afternoon. I’m bringing a camera, so hopefully I’ll be able to get a photo or two!

This is the first post in a series about the journey to getting my Sweetpea Bicycle.

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