Podcasts I Listen To

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts. Walking to school. In the car. On the turbo. Working in the cellar. Lifting weights. Cooking. Sometimes while jogging.

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As I'm always auditioning and curating I thought it might be good to keep a record of what I'm enjoying at a given time. Here's what I’m subscribing to in January 2019.

I like to keep a balance between highly-produced podcasts, often from big media houses, and amateur efforts with a fairly unstructured chit-chat style.

I bought a Mac last-June. But I don’t use Apple Podcasts. I paid a one-off fee to Pocket Casts. The desktop and mobile versions are good and sync perfectly. Highly recommended.

Make Stuff 1: WTS Transition Zone

While in Nottingham for the Outlaw Triathlon in July my brother suggested that we devote September to using our hands and building as many things as possible. I even drew up this build-docket.

But the return to work was more hectic than I had imagined and I really didn’t get much done. A few neckerchiefs and a drawstring bag. Luke did much better, managing this intricate hand-plane.

So I’m relaunching the concept. No month. No schedule. Just. Always. Be. Building. Here’s a project from Autumn 2017. When I had much more time on my hands!

As my three boys are always practising transitions, running mounts and flying dismounts, I started to build them a classic, scaffold-tubing transition structure.

“No. No. No. Stop Dad! We want a proper WTS transition area!”

So we found some photos online and then I got a closer look when I was in Rotterdam for the WTS Grand Final. Elliot and Etienne helped with measuring and painting.

They now carry them out into the street and also use them to store their bikes in the garage. The neighbours’ children have even asked if I can build more for them!

After Big Forest Frameworks

This is the fourth and final part of a blog series about the bike I built to race the 2018 triathlon season on. Here are the other parts. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

So I took the train back to Munich on Thursday morning with my frame protected in bubble-wrap. I was proud of my work and super-pysched to build it, test it and then race it.

Robert suggested I build the bike up and ride it before sending the frame for painting. To check alignment again and that we hadn’t forgotten any important braze-ons.

So in late January I threw on some old components and installed a cheap headset just for test purposes. But with all the snow on the ground I couldn’t get to ride it outside until late-March.

I took two of the boys to the local airstrip in Neubiberg. First impressions? I liked it. A lot. Everything worked and the position was near-perfect for a day long effort or a blast around Dorney.

In early-May I took the frame for painting at Gutenbiken in central Munich. I went for a deep blue and was congratulated on my choice by Marcus, one of the mechanics.

Gutenbiken is a cool, alternative bike shop that specialises in renovations, repairs, cargo bikes and bikepacking stuff.

Three weeks later they called and I had the finished frame in my hands. They also pressed in a Cane Creek headset for me before I did the rest of the build at home.

The idea was a minimalist-80s aestetic like Mike Pigg’s bike in this website’s logo. For 2019 I’ve fitted a Selle Italia Flite saddle and will finish building the wheels that I started last year.

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I ended up racing seven times on it. 2 Sprints, 3 Olympic Distances and an Ironman Distance event. The general handling, accelerating, straight line speed and comfort was as wanted.

I’m not going to link to results or anything. But I certainly don’t have any modern aero or carbon bike envy.

My perfect frame-building future plan is to find a local workshop where I can rent some time at a bench and some gas to keep myself and my family in racing and touring bikes.

Day 3 at Big Forest Frameworks

When I arrived at the workshop I got my frame out of the water bath. The flux had gone and frankly, it looked great! There was no more major brazing to do today but lots of finishing off to do.

  1. Braze brake and gear cable stops.

  2. Braze rack attachment points.

  3. Braze rear brake bridge.

  4. Braze chainstay bridge.

  5. Tap thread for under bottom bracket cable guide.

  6. Attach cable guide.

  7. Ream and face headtube.

  8. Ream and face bottom bracket.

  9. Cut a slot in the seat post clamp.

  10. Ream seat tube.

  11. File off some globs of silver that had run on to the tubes.

  12. Wrap frame in bubble-wrap to transport home.

We finished the day with a beer from a local brewery to celebrate the end of my course. In conclusion, the course was fabulous and everything I was hoping for.

I learnt a lot during these three days at Big Forest Frameworks. Not only about the process of building steel bike frames but also about bike mechanics in general.

Robert is an excellent teacher. I’m a teacher, so I know a good one when I meet one. He provides the right balance between clear instruction and backing off to allow you to gain experience with the tools and processes by yourself.

Today we had Italian for lunch and Gleiss 6 for the fourth time for dinner. I was super-exhausted on leaving the workshop and only managed a tiny run.

Part four, tomorrow, is about the first ride I took on the new bike, how I finished it off and riding a triathlon season on it.

Day 2 at Big Forest Frameworks

So yesterday I got the tubes of the front triangle cut to length. I was then able to slot them into the lugs and put the whole thing on the floor to get an idea of what the finished frame will look like. I then finished the day by having my first go at brazing, together with Jurgen, on some tube off-cuts.

Today I was pretty excited to start putting a hot flame to my own tubes. Although Robert was there to guide me through the process at the start, I eventually wanted to take control while not making any costly or esthetic mistakes.

The steps I took on Day 2 were:

  1. Cut chainstays to the correct length.

  2. Braze bottle cage bosses. My first proper braze.

  3. Braze chainstays to dropouts.

  4. Apply LOTS of flux to main tubes before tacking.

  5. Tack the front triangle tubes to the lugs in the jig.

  6. More flux. Braze in the bike stand.

  7. Cut seat stays to correct length. Braze in top plugs.

  8. Braze chainstays to front triangle.

  9. Braze seat stays to dropouts then to front triangle.

  10. Frame alignment checks in the jig.

  11. Put frame in a water bath overnight to dissolve the flux.

We broke again for lunch at 12:00. Yesterday we ate at a self-service place with good German food. Today we tried the fusion-Vietnamese. Again. Solid fare.

No run tonight but I did visit Downtown Potsdam. The streets were deserted and windswept with lots of posh shops and restaurants. So I went back to Gleiss 6.

Check back tomorrow for Day 3 highlights.

Day 1 at Big Forest Frameworks

Part one of a four part blog series about the bike that I started building last January. I’ve also planned a podcast to talk about why I built my own steel bike frame to race on in 2018.

I’ve wanted to take a frame building course for a few years. When my brother built his first frame in 2007 there wasn’t a lot of choice. He spent 5 days with Dave Yates in Norfolk.

I always thought I’d do a course at The Bicycle Academy in Frome. They specialise in bike education and boast established professional frame builders amongst their alumni. Such as Rob Quirk.

But when we moved to Germany the logistics of finding time to travel to the UK got trickier. I really needed a local solution.

I couldn’t find anybody who does this sort of thing in Munich. So I signed up with Robert Piontek, who owns Big Forest Frameworks. On Sunday 7th January I took the train from Munich to Berlin and the S-Bahn from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Babelsberg.

I like German trains. They’re spacious, you know in advance what platform they’re leaving from and you can sit in the bar and get a beer in a real glass. During the journey I finished reading Lugged Bicycle Frame Construction by Marc-Andre R. Chimonas.

The course I was taking was a 3-day lugged steel frame building course. I later found out that it was Robert’s first accelerated course. To get my frame built in time it had to be lugged not fillet brazed, without forks and with geometry decided in advance.

On Monday at 09:00, Robert met us outside his workshop. He rents a small space under an organic wine shop in Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. Without knowing it I’d booked an Airbnb right opposite the workshop.

We started the day by chit-chatting about our biking and building experience. I also got to know Jurgen, the other student I’d be sharing the workshop with. He was enrolled on a 5-day fillet brazing course. A 50th birthday present from his wife.

Below are all the steps that I took on the first day. I jotted them down for when I go to build something on my own.

  1. Practice filing a tube using a paper template from BikeCad.

  2. Mitre cutting technique and setting the drill angle.

  3. Select tubes and put in wooden storage box.

  4. Check drawing to understand the tube cutting measurements.

  5. Measure tubes. Mark cuts.

  6. Cut in order to avoid changing the cutter too often.

  7. File off burrs inside and outside of the cut tubes.

  8. Cut a bottom bracket notch in the downtube or seat tube.

  9. Cut the headtube to size leaving 20mm on the bottom.

  10. Dremel out and sandblast dropouts.

  11. Measure and mark chainstays for cutting.

  12. Press chainstays for tyre and chainring clearance.

  13. Drill water escape holes in the head tube and seat tube.

  14. Drill holes for bottle cage bosses in the downtube.

  15. Make a fake lug using two different diameter tubes.

  16. Clean the tubes inside and out with sandpaper.

  17. Apply flux to all aeras the flame will touch.

  18. practice brazing with oxy-propane torch and silver rods.

We finished at 17:00 and I was pretty exhausted. As we were underground I forgot it was going to be dark outside. But I still went for a run as planned.

Then it was back to Gleiss 6, a cool pub with excellent food and beer, that I’d found the night before.

Tomorrow I’ll post details from Day 2.

22 Triathlon And Life Goals For 2019

I’ve been jotting down stuff like this for the last three years. I usually tick off about fifteen. I used to include some performance related targets. Times. Places. But that doesn’t interest me now. It’s about fun & fitness. And going #guntotape.

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  1. Have a simple, repeatable triathlon week. Get up early.

  2. Lift. Near-daily. Get to Crossfit Munich once a week.

  3. Eat well. Continue to make improvements. Try new recipes.

  4. Race local, short, often and hard. Enter a team time trial.

  5. Do more XC skiing. Ice skate. Take a track cycling course.

  6. Do a full CX season. Build some CX race wheels.

  7. Attend an organised Bikepacking gathering.

  8. Improve German. Volunteer. Start a children’s triathlon club.

  9. Work on Version 2.0 of the bike that I built in January 2018.

  10. Train with the boys more. Do the Oberbayern Kids Cup again.

  11. Do the Level 2 Certificate in Cycle Maintenance.

  12. Start working on a soft-exit from teaching or parallel career.

  13. Kick my podcast project out of the door.

  14. Thru-run a long-distance hiking trail.

  15. Get home & dock devices. Play the guitar for 30 minutes.

  16. Make stuff. Grow stuff. Sew. Read lots.

  17. Have a uniform. Less jeans. More cords.

  18. Stick to the cleaning schedule. Get the kids to help.

  19. Weekly family adventures. Canoe. Hike. Bike. Climb.

  20. Muir Triathlon Tour. Three days. Two races. Camping. Gravel.

  21. Take some triathlon road trips. UK. France. Austria.

  22. Do some serious spectating. FGP, Bundesliga, Roth, UTMB.

    What are yours? Don’t train. Stay fit. Be ready for anything.