Saturday, 20 September 2014

Form and the art of eating together

So I'm back from the Eurobike, back into giving workshops, and excited to share some workshop wisdom...

Form is a class in the foundations year of design school. Form, Color and Space...

(In writing this I realize that what I actually wanted to talkabout, 3-dimensional form, is what the foundations year of design school called space. But whatever. I'll stick to my guns and call it FORM despite the 3rd dimension.)

...ahem. So Color, Form, and Space are the three segments of the first year of design school, and with much of this first year I really didn't get the point until after graduating.

The Space segment included a project that involved creating a block of nicely shaped wood. That's it. Just taking some nice wood and cutting and sanding around until it's nice. Seems simple enough. It isn't. Mine turned out looking like a potato. I couldn't tell the difference.

Low and behold nowadays I spend my time teaching people how to take a piece of bamboo, putty it, cut it and sand it till it looks nice. That's it. And sometimes I explain it just like that.  "this is your head tube joint, just sand around till it looks nice" I say, as a a sort of test. To pass this test,  you simply have to say "Ok no problem " then spend the next hour filing and sanding and cutting till your head tube joint looks nice. Simple as that.

The more realistic answer is,  "eh,  say what now? What do you mean with 'nice'? Give me some real guidelines here! " and then I bust out with the red marker and a stencil and give a real explanation. That IS what the customer paid for. After all,  the whole point is for the workshop customer to learn some theory about 3-d form.

But sometimes, JUST SOMETIMES, I have someone who says, "Ok, no problem " and spends the next hour producing a beautiful,  expertly crafted 3-d shape in the form of a head tube joint. And a good many of these people have zero experience with any type of sculpture or craftsmanship. They have never studied design. They have never before used a rasp. They SHOULD have no idea what they are doing. And yet,  the result is as good as I can do myself.

What does that mean?

And then, sometimes... JUST sometimes I get someone who not only has a good feel for 3-d form, but also has a detailed concept of exactly what they want their 3-d form to look like and comes with sketches, knowledge and expertise. Sometimes this person has even done the space lesson of design foundations and had gone on to finish his degree and persue a career as an industrial designer. And sometimes this person is named Benjamin Drossel.

And sometimes Benjamin Drossel excersises his secret superpower of teleportation, as evidenced by this miraculously timed photograph...

For good or for evil... Or just to get the last bit of sauce...

And so it is, that a collaboration begins between the ozon cyclery and designer Benni Drossel... Stay tuned for the results...


Dearest reader,  one again a year old draft of a post, forgotten and unfinished. Just FYI, Benni made perhaps the most beautiful bike ever to come from our workshop, and we collaborated on the design for our bamboo cargo bike. We 3d cad modeled both, entered in the bamboo transportation design Competition 2014 in Korea, and lost to a very questionable entry that had little basis in reality.  Nonetheless a self gratifying project slated to be continued this winter,  when Benni and I both have some free time. 

Ps. Apparently the blogger app doesn't have the function to control text formatting,  which is why I'm stuck in centered text mode.  Entschuldigung!

Friday, 12 September 2014


So let me first say that my good friend Birger, whom I've known since moving to Berlin, happens to have landed job as a key account manager for the Eurobike. What does that mean?  Not only that I get to hang out with Birger during the show,  but get to do so in the VIP lounge, schmoozing with execs and special guests, eating catered fingerfood and drinking cappuccinos from the automat. Not bad for also sleeping in a tent in the park and wearing the same clothes every day.

I got to see three whole days of the show, compared to the 1 that I planned and 2 that I hoped for.
You can see how excited I am to ride all the way across the country just to see the people I see everyday anyway

And the very first stand to be seen was none other than Pedal Power, our neighbors from the Kaskelstrasse back in Berlin!

The modern day penny farthing

My absolute favorite thing of the entire show was this thing: super high tech, carbon fiber, modular, customizable, disc brakes, and utterly purposeless. What does it do? I ask the Chinese college student Manning the exhibit.  You can adjust the ride position!  He explains.  Why? So that, if you get tired of one ride position,  you can have a new one!  He exclaims. Is that for fitting, like, to determine which ride position is best for your body?  No, because none of its ride positions are good for your body.  Does it fold up into a tight space?  Eh,  kind of.  But that's not really the point. So it's really just kind of...  for fun?!  Yes!  Look,  you can ride like this (he folds it from one awkward position...)  and then ride like this! ( another awkward position). Not to mention that the pedals steer with the front wheel, adding a whole nother level of amazing/awkward-ness.

I want one.

Bamboo bikes were for the most part absent from the show One distributor of Calfee trained african bamboo frames was there, but without much to see. However, I saw a plethora of frames made of wood. Some were truly spectacular, and many I had never heard of. One even looked like it was made of cardboard tubes. What does this mean?   Here some examples:

Bamboo is CLEARLY A SUPERIOR FRAME MATERIAL so don't go and decide you'd rather have one of these beautiful, handcrafted wooden frames. Stop thinking about it. Forget I ever showed the pictures.

Ken, these next two are for you...

NASA's wheel truing stand

Now concerning cycling apparell... There was a fashion show where Shimano, Gore and the other big companies hired some dancers to sport their new cycling fashion line. Aside from padded tricots looking like adult diapers, and cycling shoes being so dangerous to walk in that the dancers refused, I'd like you all to take a look at the following apparel and tell me which you would rather be caught wearing.


Or Shimano?

Do you feel like dressing like a human, or a lighting bug? Allright, I'm also a sucker for neon stuff, after all it keeps you alive. But still. There has to be a better way.

For all you gearheads out there, this is what a wheelbuilding machine looks like.

And that, my friends, was a tiny bit of Eurobike! Obviously theres about a bazillion more things to see in person, so maybe we'll see eachother there next year. I leave you with this absolutely terrible polka band, with highly desirable shoes. The Meckenbeuren train station festival at its finest...
You gotta click the link and go to youtube, this is just a preview...

Monday, 1 September 2014

Balance and the act of riding a bus.

Dearest reader,
Please don't be alarmed by the lack of chronological continuity in my posts. Nor by the lack of anything about the Eurobike itself. I promise, I was really there. I saw a bunch of amazing stuff. And I will write all about it shortly. Heres proof.

Now I'd like to share a thought that I had on my lasts days of riding, nearly a week ago. Now that I'm on a bus back to Berlin. A theme that was strong at the Eurobike itself. An idea I strongly believe in. It's the idea of balance vs. competition. Let me elaborate in the form of a short series of narratives.


The three sisters
In ancient America there was a traditional farming practice of growing beans, corn and squash at the same time in the same soil. Called the "three sisters ", these crops thrive when grown together, have staggered harvest seasons and thus provide more sustinence per acre than even modern methods. It's not, however, mechanizable and thus loses the race in today's economy.

This was the most perfect apple tree in the world.

Photography and cycling
While doing a bike trip, you have goals set from the beginning. For me it was Berlin to Friedrichshafen in 10 days or less, such that I make it to the Eurobike by The 30th or earlier. That meant 100km /day average, and at the start of my trip this seemed like a realistic goal.
But as the trip went on, I realized I had many other goals as well. I wanted to blog each day and tell of my thoughts and experiences. I wanted to absorb the countryside and better understand Germany. I wanted to use Couchsurfing and get to know some people. And, although not a conscious goal at first but one that became increasingly important, I wanted to take the time to photograph things along the way that would entertain and inspire others. To tell a visual story of my trip and include everything that you, the reader of this blog, would want to see. To capture the imagination and let the viewer experience a bit of what I did, or if their imagination is healthy, perhaps even more.
These are a lot of goals, and they all take a bit of time. 100km a day isn't too much, but when you stop every 20 minutes, for 20 minutes, to take pictures, and take an extended lunch everyday to write in a blog, then 100km can take alllllllll day long. And it did.
There was a flock of sheep on a hill in Thüringen. Tending to the sheep was a shepherd in lederhosen with big, bushy black hair. I wanted to stop, take a picture. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to interview him and share a bit of his life with you. Has he always been a shepherd? What's it like acting out an ancient career in a modern world? But I had to keep going. I didn't have any more time to stop.
At some point I'd like to do a bike trip where the deciding goal is not to ride a certain distance each day, but to search for the amazing things around us and photograph them. To tell the most complete story possible. And let the distance travelled be merely a byproduct of the search for adventure.

No photoshop here, its a picture of a big banner with a room behind it with another big banner.

A trade show full of space explorers
The Eurobike is filled with space aged technology and colorful logos. The bicycles look like space ships. The style seems to vary between Marvin the Martian and Darth Vader. The clothes are covered in flashy logos and bright colors. The bikess are painted like warships from other planets.
All of this comes from a single culture; racing.  Racing: where your shirt is a billboard. Where your bike is a spectacle. Where it's about who's looking at you, not what you are looking at. Where the one and only goal is being fast. Coming in first.
What if you have multiple goals? What if your success is measured by multiple factors, not just one?
Imagine a professional cyclist who stops in the middle of a race to whip out his cell phone and take a picture. What the hell are you doing?  His manager would exclaim. I'm giving my fans a view from my perspective, so they can see what is like to be in a professional race! He would say. After all,  I'm pretty far ahead,  it doesn't really matter if I drop from 15th to 25th place. What matters is that my fans get a well rounded experience!
That wouldn't go over too well.
Now imagine someone doing a trip across the country. As you ride together, you see the most amazing waterfall with a rainbow. Hey,  let's stop and appreciate this!  You say. No way!  He says. I need to keep up my time!  Yesterday I finished in 6 hours and 35 min,  Today I'm trying to cut that down to 6 hours and 20 min.
What a moron!

you can see my anguish, having to experience Münchberg through a window

10 hours of riding the bus...
...seemed like an eternity, and yet 7 days of cycling flew by like no time at all. Why? Because the cycling was self gratifying. Every moment was both exercise, fresh air, adventure and meditation. The 7 days spent cycling were just that: 7 days of cycling.
Getting to the Eurobike was merely a byproduct of 7 days of cycling.
Comparing that to 10 hours of riding the bus. It seemed like an eternity. I hate riding the bus. There were no redeeming qualities to my bus ride back other than that it got me home.
So which took longer,  getting there,  or getting back?  Getting back took 10 hours. Getting there.. Well, I outsourced getting there. I externalized the cost. Getting there took no time at all. By virtue of cycling for so many other reasons, by the time I left I was ALREADY THERE.

Not the quickest way to travel, but entertains children at the same time. Yes, real steam power.

Balance and the act of riding a bicycle
To cycle you must have balance. Sometimes it requires better planning, not catering to impatience but rewarding foresight. Sometimes it is less comfortable, and constantly demands your performance and concentration. However, I firmly believe in a world where every action we undertake has multiple purposes. Where there is no such thing as a lost time or wasted resources. Where every investment we make is in itself gratifying, regardless of its success. Where our net productivity as people is enormously high, albeit not automatable.
This is all possible but not by running the race and competing. It is possible only by using balance.


Dearest reader,  the above post was written nearly a year ago and never finished nor published. Had completely forgotten about this post. So now I tube it to you, in its raw and unfinished form. Enjoy!