Sunday, June 8, 2014

Inspiring Correspondence

Here is some correspondence that we received recently from a fellow member of the cycling community, which needs no further introduction from us.

The accompanying pictures were provided by RW of his 1994 Bilenky Signature Tourlite.

Thank you. Keep sending us this great stuff.



Dear Steve Bilenky & the Whole Bilenky Team,

I just wanted to reach out and thank you for your wonderful work in metal.  I’m looking forward to reading the review of your tandem in the upcoming Bicycle Quarterly.

I am aware of your factory and some of your philosophy, which I call rebuilding an older mode of transportation over the ashes of a newer one.
Anyway, I just love your dedication to MAKING THINGS.  I, too, love to make things.  I have recently completed assembling my own bicycle on a Velo Orange Polyvalent frame (except for the arduous task, for a novice, of fishing the wiring for the headlight from the dynamo hub through the front fork & up through the fender).  Yes, I learned how to lace and true wheels, although I finally got so frustrated with the finicky details, I had the bike shop give the wheels their final tensioning.  And I have enough bike tools that I guess my NEXT bike will be RELATIVELY inexpensive!

As I say to people who look at me, astonished, and say, “You built your own bicycle?”, I say, “Well, I only built it out of PARTS, I didn’t build it out of ROCKS.”  The parts are designed to fit together!  I am sure you are very aware of that great little book, The Toaster Project, and REALLY building something out of rocks!  If we can see farther, and do more, it is only because we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Imagine all of those toiling, dirty, sweaty, hot metal smiths of the distant past, in front of their kilns and banging on their anvils, each one perhaps adding one little improvement to metalworking, making metals more pure, coming up with new alloys, making a more resilient sword or shield, making lots and lots and LOTS of mistakes along the way, but a few of those mistakes turning out to be advances in the craft.
I was (and am) a woodworker, and I felt a kind of snobbish distaste for metal.  But then I got into building this bicycle and gained a whole new appreciation for metal, and I’m no longer a metal snob.  Indeed, I desperately crave a nice used metal lathe.  I know I’m rambling here, forgive me, but perhaps you are aware of the Cole Porter song, “It’s De-Lovely!”?  In the preamble to the song, the woman begins,
     “I feel a certain urge to sing/
      The kind of ditty that invokes the Spring!”

With my fetish for a metal lathe, I want to sing,
     “I feel a certain urge to knurl…”

But I haven’t thought of a good word to rhyme with knurl!  I have the complete sets of the Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia, both the 1954 and 1968 editions, and in both sets, it seems you just couldn’t be a “real man” unless you had a metal lathe in the basement!  Amazing how much the idea of DIY was much more prevalent earlier in the last century.  I’m glad you are bringing back the art of craft.  Craft is good.  The work of hands is good!
I actually have an idea for a garden implement that I am going to fabricate from 3/4” copper pipe that I think might even be patentable (in my fondest dreams!), and I’m looking forward to designing and redesigning and building it.  And I also have an idea for a backpack frame that might be workable.

Anyway, in this age of electronics, which is also building things, and I’m not an electronics snob either, and in fact I want to learn all about electronics and maybe build a simple computer, or perhaps you are aware of the factoring machines that use rotating chains to find prime numbers….
As I was saying, before I got distracted there, in this age of electronics and social media, I just want to congratulate you on building things that are so beautiful, so spare, and yet so efficient, effective and useful!  And I hope my next bike will be built around a Bilenky frame!

Thanks for reading through this screed, and, basically, just thank you for all you do!

Washington, D.C. & Charlottesville, Va.

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