Holy Hell It’s Been a Year

Look, I’m just going to skip over a bunch of the last year because the last thing I need to is to relive this horror-show. It’s been/is bad, people. Real bad. I’ve tried to make some amount of lemonade out of this truckload of rotten lemons. It’s been hard.

A couple of highlights:

  1. The gravel bike is done- minus maintenance. Tubeless tires, a new Chris King headset, lower gears and a new crank (46/29 chainrings!), and so on. It’s such a fun bike to ride, and I’m super happy I took the time to really build this thing out. I still have a tendency to take it on overly-technical trails, but let’s be honest: I was going to do that on any gravel bike.
  2. I finally sourced a new handlebar and stem combo for my road bike. I needed to shorten the reach and raise the bars a bit (from a hyper-aggressive fit) to ease my aching back. It’ll be the first change I’ve made to that bike in ~20 years (besides consumables).
  3. I ordered a new mountain bike. Fully custom/bespoke, it’s a Waltworks steel hardtail. Custom sizing, custom geometry, custom everything. I’ve built a number of custom bikes over the years- and while I’ve been constrained by budget before, I’ve never been so constrained by availability. Sourcing parts was really difficult on this one. I’m still building it- wheels are backordered and the drivetrain is en-route, but the frame/fork and some parts are here.
  4. We made a makeshift garden last spring that was a massive success- we grew more things in a tiny space with more success than I’d ever imagine. Heck, we grew watermelons and cantaloupes and pumpkins and peppers and greens and all manner of things. So: we’re quintupling the garden size for next year- and we’re getting better seeds and starting things earlier and and and. Pretty excited here. The calming effect of hanging out in the garden cannot be overstated- it’s been a massive benefit for us all.
  5. We’re likely doing a few goats this spring. There are a lot of reasons, and it really deserves it’s own post, so I’ll do that as we get closer. Likewise the garden, really.
  6. More hiking. We’ve been pushing to get outside as often as we can- and walking in the woods has really helped the whole crew here manage some of the stress. We’re looking to keep doing this all through the winter.


Here’s where things stand, currently:

The gravel bike has seen some work- it has “new” wheels (with ceramic rim sidewalls- next best thing to disc brakes!), a “new” cassette (11-32, for more hill-climbing low end), re-fitted fenders (which currently need a new adjustment, give new wheels and tires), and a new stem and bars. Stem is 10mm shorter and 40mm taller, bars are 40mm wider (at the hoods, more so in the drops). HUGE change to the nature of the bike- it feels a lot more balanced and capable. It needs a “new” rear derailleur installed to really make use of that 32t cog, but it’s in the parts bin already.

I’ve been sewing a bit again. The gravel bike will likely get a front rack/basket combo for longer rides (to better keep weight off my back/out of my jersey pockets), so I needed a basket bag. Sure, there are loads of people that make really nice well thought out bags for just this sort of thing. But why buy one of those when you can hack together a mediocre version yourself? I’m currently on a second prototype- and it’s not too bad. Simple, mind you. But not too bad.

Iv’e also started working on a pattern to sew bike caps. I’ve always liked these, thought they seem to have gotten somewhat harder to find these days. I couldn’t find a pattern I liked, so I made my own based on some measurements from a cap I’d bought. The first draft surprisingly came out wearable (thought there’s obviously still lots of room for improvement). I’m super excited about these for some reason.

House-bike infrastructure needs some work. I’ve added some bikes and tools to the fleet recently, and I’ve not updated storage or workspace to take that into account. The garage, especially, needs some love to really be workable as a space.

I’m working on a custom yearly reference book for myself. I’ve toyed with this idea for a long time- and I’ve made analog attempts before, but I think I’ve finally settled on form. I’ve had some success in the past using POD services to output one-off books for myself. That’s been collections, custom texts, portfolios and whatnot, but I’m working on what feels like a cross between a photo book and a commonplace book. I’m likely going to use Blurb to print a copy or two (not for resale!), and then I’ll start compiling next year’s copy. It’ll be full of reference that I’ve created/aggregated/compiled during a given year, and it’ll function as a research time capsule. Pretty excited about this one.


Still here.

  • I’ve moved most of my sitrep style posts elsewhere- I couldn’t help but feel they weren’t doing that much help here, and I thought they might be cluttering things up, here. Maybe I’m wrong, but I like the separation regardless.
  • I’ve been working on some custom visual reference books for myself. There are some things I really do prefer analog for, and this is one of those times. Sure, I could have a folder on my computer stashed with all manner of visual notes/inspiration/reference, but… what about when I’m out and about? What about when I want to scribble a note on a picture, stick a flag postit on an image, or otherwise interact with the content? No. I’m laying the would-be-content of those folders out for full color printing. I’ve done a short run 2019 version already, but I’m working on the longer form “timeless” version. They aren’t meant to be precious- these are designed to be used. Not for sale, either.
  • Bike projects are slow right now (what with this being New England and the winter and all). The I’ve got a couple of upgrades/changes to make to some of the bikes, but I’ll save those for another time.
  • Bag development continues. The shoulder bag prototype has seen some heavy use and has suffered muchly. That’s a good thing, here, as it reveals weak spots in design and construction that I can take into account in the eventual re-design and construction of the final product. I’m glad I’ve not rushed this, as I’ve had time to come up with a couple of innovative changes that will make the bag much more functional in my day to day use.


Updates, I suppose.

  • I worry my riding season might be over- the weather has been rubbish, I’ve been sick, and there’s been very little time. I’d like to get another ride or two in before the year is over, but… we’ll see.
  • My prototype bag has been in heavy use now for a few weeks- and, oddly enough, it’s holding up (thus far). I still haven’t ordered final fabrics, but that’s ok, as I need (at least) a few more weeks of testing before I’d even think about finalizing. Still, I’m leaning towards the X-Pac V42 for the body of the bag- with something much lighter for the liner.
  • Studio 3.0 has made much progress, strangely. I still need to build the new rack mount cabinet to hold gear, but a lot of organization has been done and things have moved along nicely. Obviously, some odds and ends linger, but I figure I’m 2-3 good efforts away from v3 being finished.
  • I haven’t put out a newsletter in… a while. I’ve had one pretty much done for weeks, but I’ve just not had the… I dunno- energy? to send it out. I don’t know if that means I’m done with sending them (I’ve been putting them out pretty regularly for three years or so now), or if I’m just stretched too thin emotionally to stomach the inevitable unsubscribes that follow (regardless of how good the newsletter is). And yes, I know I shouldn’t take unsubs personally.



And so.

  • The new prototype bag I’m building has been stuck at a half-done state for a week now- I’ve been waiting for fabric samples and zippers to come. Those showed up yesterday, so it’ll be time to put in the top, zipper, handles, and strap- and start testing this thing. Leaning towards X-Pac for the final bag, but nothing’s set in stone yet.
  • I’m barely riding right now- it’s gotten very wet and pretty cold, so it’s not been too possible to get out much. I hope this isn’t the end of my season, but that’ll depend on what the weather does. I just started debating a group ride this weekend- I’m uncertain about it. I went last year and didn’t have a very good time. I’ll take some of that blame, as I seem to have gotten in the wrong group- but it wasn’t an overly friendly group. We’ll see if I go this year.
  • When I put in my fabric order for my bag, I’m going to get some other cuts as well- new seat rolls (I’ve been running prototypes of these for a season, and it’s time to finalize). It’ll be fun to have some new stashes of high tech fabric kicking around.
  • I’m still shooting/editing/posting lots of videos. I dunno why, really- maybe it’s taking some of the place of writing these updates? Some sort of public record of what I’m up to? Regardless, I’m enjoying thinking about how to tell these (little) stories, and that’s good for my brain.
  • I finally finished setting up my PiHole kit from Adafruit. Seriously: think about getting one. It’s a much better browsing experience.
  • Things will likely get quiet here for a bit (what with the craziness of the holidays and whatnot), but rest assured: I’m still on that grind (is that a thing people still say?).


Better late than never.

  • I’ve been putting up YouTube videos much more regularly. I’m doing a variety of topics (bikes, making, literature…), and I’m trying to keep to something of a release schedule. Gotta keep the creativity moving. No idea what my end goal here is.
  • As part of that effort, I’m working on a new bag for commuting. It’ll be a shoulder bag (or a soft briefcase), and I’ve got the basic design sorted. It’s time to build the prototype out of cotton duck cloth (10-12 oz), and we’ll see how the design works. Then I’ll have to build a finished product out of the actual materials (which I still haven’t settled on).
  • My mountain bike continues to evolve- recently, that meant a pair of flat pedals and a dropper seat post, and now I’ve pulled my stem back from 100mm to 60mm. We’ll see- that puts it much more inline with modern bikes (in terms of total reach), but that doesn’t mean I’ll like it.
  • I’ve been recording many/most of my newest videos with external audio- I’m using a lavalier mic run into an iPhone in Voice Memo mode. Honestly? Better than it has any right to be. And since I’m editing in iMovie for simplicity and speed, even syncing two cameras to an audio track isn’t too bad.
  • I kinda want to buy a serger. Maybe.
  • I’m tired.


Progress on many things.

    • Got my @ManifestButter -style patch made, and I’m pleased thus far with how it turned out. Time to make more!


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    • Built some new wool felt pouches for better organization of my bike riding tools & parts. Inferred how to make better labels from @ryannagata and added those, too.


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    • I’ve been doing a better job of making videos- and while my production values haven’t gone up (per-se), my frequency has, and that’s something. I’m figuring that instead of endlessly mucking about in an attempt to some day make one “perfect” video isn’t an especially good route. Instead, I’m trying to make less than perfect videos much more regularly, and I’m wagering that the higher volume of production will improve my quality.
    • I’ve been shown the neat keyboard work of Andy Clymer, and now I kinda want to order some boards and build some periphery input keyboards.
    • I ended up on a mountain bike ride with a high school team over the weekend- totally unexpectedly. I bumped into them on the trail, and I happened to know two of the adults leading the ride, so that was kinda fun. It was only my second ride with platform pedals, so that was… interesting. I was not at my best, let’s say.


On the mend.

  • The Pi Hole kit from Adafruit came- it’s up and running now, though I still have some configuration of the display screen to finish and whatnot. Still- a lovely thing. And considerably better experience web browsing for everything in the house, now.
  • I finally bit the bullet and ordered a dropper post for my mountain bike (and some platform pedals). I’ve gotten back to the point of comfort and control on the bike and I’m now hindered by the equipment- so it was time to join the modern masses. I’m cautiously optimistic about it. Now I’m thinking about a (still) shorter stem, too. I’m at a 100mm right now, but having reviewed the numbers on my frame (and some current-geometry frames), I’m thinking about going shorter.
  • I’ve been making videos more regularly again- so that’s good. I’m still sorting out a decent workflow and method- what the general process for a shoot for me should be, but it’s nice to have a creative project like that going.
  • I’ve taken yet another swing a building a camera strap I like. I struggle with these for some reason (despite their apparent simplicity). This one is adjustable with a strap adjuster, and I’m hoping that makes the difference. It’s attached to my Canon EOS M that I use for video work, and I’m hoping to make it easier to carry it more often (with the vague hope that bringing it with me more often will mean I shoot more often).
  • I’ve become somewhat enamored with the folks at Manifest Butter. They’re doing one-of-one design work on all-weather jackets, and all of those things are super interesting for me. Now it’s got me researching what sort of markers and paint pens are the right move. Testing testing testing to follow. (and, clearly, none of the paint markers I already own will possibly work for this)



  • I’m sick, again. Bronchitis this time (though I suppose I should be happy it’s not yet-another-round of pneumonia). I’m hoping to be back in one piece in a couple of days.
  • I put up a new riding video (for the first time in months). It was nice to get out a ride a bit- though in retrospect, it seems I was likely riding while pretty sick. That’s my excuse for my slowness while riding. So that’s good. I’ve been focusing on body rigging my GoPro for better dynamic shots, but I think it’s time to start including both static shots and dynamic- a combination of what I used to do with what I’ve been doing. Optimal results await, I’m sure. Fame. Glory. Etc. I think I’m also going to experiment with external audio recording, too- it might make it easier to narrate when I’m riding.
  • I’ve been fixing some speakers that were given to me- a set of Boston Acoustic A40’s. They are/were lovely bookshelf sized units, and they cam with a pretty nice NAD receiver/amp, so I was excited to put them to use in my studio. They were making terrible noises, and that’s when I realized the foam surrounds on the woofers were gone- a typical outcome for speakers of that time. So: with kits to re-foam them difficult to find, I put my plotter/cutter to work and ran some tests. Plain 1.5mm sheets of EVA craft foam sealed properly, but were far too stiff and were hurting the speaker’s performance. Also, my first glue-ups were less than optimal. So I ran some tests with using my cutter to stipple the foam (to give it more flexibility), and that seems to have worked. Tests on one speaker yielded much better performance. The second unit is drying right now, actually.
  • I just ordered (at the recommendation of my Dad) an Adafruit PiHole kit- that’s a Raspberry Pi 3 B with a case and screen that functions as an internal DNS server- which seems unnecessary. But: when your computer sends it a DNS request, it simply doesn’t query ad sites- so the request for data never gets sent. It’s better than an ad blocker because it’s invisible, and it’ll work on any device on your home network. Pretty excited. I’ve been running the Ghostery extension on my browsers for a while, and it makes some sites useable (that previously would be very, very slow).


What’s new? This week has been exhausting. Emotionally, physically… just a mess. I’ve not looked forward to a weekend this much in a long time.

  • I’m seeing Hamilton in Boston this weekend. I’m pretty excited- I enjoy theater a lot, and I’ve been hoping to be able to see this show for a long time.
  • The new car is on order. If I understood the dealership properly, it’s on a boat right now- and it’s due in some time in mid-October. I did some hunting around to see if I could find one in stock we could buy sooner, but all the model/trim/color we’re buying are on the same boat, apparently.
  • New phones are here. I’ve long-since stopped being overly excited about cell phones, and this isn’t really an exception to that. It’s nice, mind you- bigger screens are good. And FaceID is pretty slick. But it’s a phone, right?
  • I still need to replace the chain (again) on my mountain bike. It’ll be the second or third chain this season, I think. I’m not sure if my chain failed and took my chainguide with it, or if the chainguide failed and killed my chain. Either way, I need to install a new one.
  • Salsa cycles has stopped production on the tandem I was looking at buying. That’s ok, I suppose, as I’m (apparently) buying a car right now. On the other hand, it’s going to make eventually finding a reasonable bike that much harder.