La Vie Velominatus: The VVorkshop

If the road is the cathedral where we go to worship at the altar of Merckx then the workshop must surely be the rectory. The workshop of the Velominatus is semi-sacred space where one goes primarily to sharpen one’s tool of worship. In so doing, the workshop also provides a space in which to meditate on the machine, make repairs from rides gone by, and prepare for rides to come. The workshop may not be the space where we engage in our most revelatory work, however, the work we do there both before and after each ride is no less important than the work we do in between.

Though we have no Rules governing the workshop, I suggest the following is what constitutes good workshops:

  • One’s workshop must be well provisioned. Like any suitable place intended for rejuvenation, the workshop should be well stocked with items such as spare tubes, a few tires (even if they’ve been retired but could still be used in a pinch), extra cable and housing, cleaning supplies, lubricants, and greases.
  • The workshop should be kept organized. Each tool has its place and once used should be returned to that place after it has been used and cleaned. There’s no greater satisfaction than knowing exactly where your chain whip is, for example, and being able to find it in that spot in clean, ready-to-use condition.
  • The workshop should be able to be well lit. You try getting that perfect bar tape wrap in a dimly lit dungeon.
  • The workshop must be well equipped. You are only as good at maintenance as your tools. And for Merckx-sake, invest in a shop stand.
  • Old parts are worth keeping. Mind you, you should know their history and discard them if they’re unsafe. But you never know if you’ll want to use that old saddle, stem, or frame again. Having a box or two of miscellany around goes a long way toward piecing together that next Rule #12 acquisition. And when you find yourself  in the role of Cycling Sensei, those old parts could take on a whole new life and meaning for your Pedalwan.

Beyond these basic guidelines there are other considerations one can make in order to give their workshop an even more shrine-like aura. Your workshop or workspace might include some or all of the following:

  • Cycling accouterments from by-gone era. Anything from that classic LeMan poster to old PDM jersey hanging on the wall that ties your space to our sport’s traditions and history is just plain cool in your workshop.
  • Audio-visual gear. Put a radio, iPod, or T.V. (for watching classic cycling videos only) in your workshop.
  • The hallowed bike. Maybe you’ve still got the retired steel Raleigh on which you reached your first podium, perhaps you own a Team 7/11 Huffy, or still have that  randonneur whip from college with 20,000k of stories from one year on it to tell. In any case, if you’ve got  a steed with panache, give it a worthy space in your shop.
  • Old couches and recliners are well worth it if you have the space. If you can create a clubhouse atmosphere in your workshop so that when your mates are over they can chill on that old flower-patterned couch or Naugahyde Lazy-Boy you’re doing a community service. Add to that a fridge for some cold malted beverage and you could start charging a cover.

Similar to our varied bikes and certainly to the vastly different places we all profess our devotion, our workshops are no doubt reflections of our own uniqueness as cyclists. That said, just as the Rules bind us, the spaces we retreat to in order to sharpen our tools should also provide us with a modicum of comfort in the familiar. In other words, I may not know my way around your kitchen straight away but if it’s a well appointed kitchen it shouldn’t take me long to learn my way around and start making good food.  Take a minute to share what you appreciate about your workshop (or workspace if it serves secondarily as a living room or kitchen). Additionally, maybe you can share a workshop tale. For the workshop should not be overlooked as an integral room of the church in which we pray.

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127 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: The VVorkshop”

  1. @Cyclops

    Last season a mate gave me about 80 VHS tapes with all the grand tours and classics starting around ’98 up until ’04 so I got plenty of motivation while sequestered to the back room through the winter.

    Sounds like a much better use than the old config. One question, what’s a “tape” in general, and “VHS” in particular?

    @Oli
    +1

  2. @Bintang

    And for Merckx-sake, invest in a shop stand.

    Any recommendations for a good shop stand?

    Park makes some good ones, as do Tacx. There are two main approaches to stands – clamp-style and fork-mount style. Then there’s folding ones for easy transport, and models that bolt to the floor. The clamp is quick and easy, but we don’t like squeezing our tubes too tightly, so be careful. Fork mounts are flexible and feature in A Sunday In Hell, which means I really feel that’s the way to go.

    I use a clamp-style stand because it was given me by my Cycling Sensei and I’ve never prioritized the cost of replacing a perfectly functioning stand over other bike gear. Just make sure its solid so it doesn’t fall over and you’ll be in good shape.

  3. Since I don’t own a stand, I tend to use my trainer when I need to work on the bike.

  4. my workshop is half a double garage detached from the ole cabin. Handy distance from the VMH, handy for me to go wrench in when she cycles herself. so i do.

    Mine is a shop for not only the bikes, which was its primary purpose…bike work area, work shop, storage, but also for the Landcruisers which I love. My FJ60 and FJ80. I also wrench on my lawn mowers, and tractor an old Allis-Chalmers, so it serves a great purpose. On the wall is my posters, my ribbons, my numbers, a ‘dirt rag’ steel worker poster here, a bunch of Velodrome retro posters there, and a standup coke machine working/buzzing quietly in the corner. CD player and radio cockeyed in another. My shop sounds like ChrisO’s generally, but I admit, my sin is it is dirty, it is utilitarian, it is in use almost daily. On the work bench are various lubes are scattered, at least 3 bins of grease that I know of, in a corner are a bag of rags, hanging from rafters are tyres, wheels, the lites are dim, the drawers are usually left hanging open for access to the tools and a few are left on the table because I always find a use for my Park 3 way 4/5/6mm wrench. Hanging on the board are various used cables, housing and all encircled one another, and a old whiskey jug in the opposing corner. The trash bin is full of wrappers, boxes from bar tape, and empty bottle of Rock-n-Roll Gold, and tubes hang off the corner of the stand, which i am prepping for repairs soon. I even have a mouse, who is nestled in behind the spare parts chest, who i haven’t been able to run off. Its a rather disorganized mess, except in my mind, where I know where every single bolt, nut and driver is at, every spare tube, patched or not. I was always taught a working shop is never clean, as there is something more important to be done, such as is maintenance. Your never done.

    I admit my sin when i own it and my shop doesn’t look at all like the above. Chapeau for those who do, I admire that and will attain it one day!

  5. This is a great piece. A really nice contribution. As others have lamented, the architecture of my current humble abode prohibits a shop. However, that does not keep me from lusting after others, and pondering how to remedy the situation. I have basically 2 choices:

    1. Rent a u-storage place, and accessorize it properly; or
    2. Replace my beat to fuck garden shed with a pre-fab outbuilding outfitted for the job.

    #1 certainly has less up front costs, and has the advantage of being able to share with other local Velominati. I could see a small cogality (!) forming something of a meeting place so as to labour undisturbned by non-VMH honey-dos. OTOH, this option also carries with it the inability to do quick tasks without commuting;

    #2 costs more, but is more in tune with the needs of the job. It’s just…difficult to arrange the logistics. Properly sized, it can have all the features Marco describes.

    All it takes is dead presidents in quantity.

  6. @ cyclops: i must have misread your post, you don’t cycle indoors…right? Please tell me I am wrong. You don’t basque in the warmth of the house, spinning like a rat in a cage with your VMH rubbing your shoulders the whole entire way, tipping your water bottle up for you between intervals, running to the kitchen preparing your musette on the long spins…please, please don’t tell me. I thought there were rules on this???

  7. @Souleur
    You paint a vivid picture of your space and something tells me it was all from memory. Sounds like a nice little haven. It also sounds like you and I may share some similarities of lifestyle; rural, outbuildings, tractors, welders, self-reliance. In my opinion the modern day renaissance man does not dwell in the manufactured culture of dimmed enlightenment and of the Jones’ keeping up with the rat race. The modern day renaissance man lives within himself in the pursuit of self-reliance and mastery, and through challenging the status quo.

  8. for fuck’s sake – no excuse for this – reflection of my mind probably – need to give up a sport, or maybe the house

  9. @Marko: thanks for the compliments, its a mindset I try to have, one that serves us all well. Your right, I do try, and your right, Jones don’t impress anyone around here.

    keep up the good work

  10. @Marko
    @Anjin-san
    Thanks for the recommendations!

    @frank

    @Bintang
    Fork mounts are flexible and feature in A Sunday In Hell, which means I really feel that’s the way to go.

    I guess I’ll be looking for a stand with a fork mount, then!

  11. Dear Dr. C,
    I hope you have a fire extinguisher in there somewhere. That just looks like a house fire waiting to happen! Rags? check. Wood? Check. Cloth? check. Flammable materials? Check. I’m a wee bit worried!

  12. @Dr C
    Is that a teak wood door your stand is mounted too? Perhaps a throwback to the sailboat days? Ahh, the beauty and durability of teak.

  13. Great piece! I wish I had room for a shop… *sobs* Sadly, my 1BR apt barely has room for my n bicycles, let alone a shop. I’m currently keeping parts and tools on a bookshelf, but really have no place to actually work on my bike.

    Soon…

  14. Another inspirational piece from the velominati. So much so I went down and cleaned mine out this morning. I haven’t used it in over a year because I’d been working in a shop, but that’s another story. Mine is not much of a shop but it’s very much like a cave. I’ve taken over part of the basement cantina in our building. Beaten earth floor, bare tufa block walls, not great lighting. There is, however, and old grape press, and all the other gear from back when my wife’s grandfather made wine, to give it a bit of atmosphere. Not really the ideal space but like I said it does have a certain atmosphere.

    I’m Nige by the way and I live in Napoli. Long time lurker, thought I should try and contribute something.

  15. Hello all, first time joining in. I’d love to share about my workshop as when I red this I felt compeled. The workshop is in some parts completely disobeys to the rules and in some other parts excels.

    The bad first: order is a long lost battle. My tools are in cardboard boxes and finding my pump takes between 5 sec and 5 min. However, I manage with that and still very much enjoy it.

    The good now: The workshop doubles as a brewery. Many beers were designed, created, spilled and finished there. This is how I conceive my “community service” to my fellow cyclist. I poor a beer, turn the radio on, or better spin my favorite The Cure record, and give love to a bike that needs it. Friends are surprisingly happy to flat near my house.

    I love my shop for every ride starts from its door and it lets me remember and focus on the good things in life and cycling.

  16. Saw at the LBS a very cool and crude setup for cassette removal/general wheel tinkering (except not for trueing)- built into the end of the workbench. A square frame of 2x4s with a cross brace underneath allowing one to lay the wheel down- rim to wood, no hub/spoke contact. The cross brace w/ a large center hole allows the “bottom” of the hub to be free of contact. A lot easier than wrestling on the floor with the damn chain whip and wrench… Just gotta build it.

  17. @Anjin-san
    This is my portable workstand of choice too. I’ve used mine in the workshop and at races in NZ, Australia and China. They are super stable while still being lightweight, have versatile clamping, plenty of height for those of us tall guys, and have superb ease of use. I also have a Park PRS-20 stand, but find it frustrating to have to remove one wheel or other to work on my bike, plus it’s a lot heavier than my Feedback stand. It’s basically been relegated to my bike washing stand…

  18. @Dr C
    It took guts to post that pic. :)
    I’m still envious though. At least you still have the room to work on your bike. I think the clamp on the wall is a good alternative to the bike stand if you don’t have much room.

    @All
    What are your thoughts on bike tools? Are there any recommended brands? What are the top 10 tools for a beginner bike machanic?

  19. @wiscot

    Dear Dr. C,
    I hope you have a fire extinguisher in there somewhere. That just looks like a house fire waiting to happen! Rags? check. Wood? Check. Cloth? check. Flammable materials? Check. I’m a wee bit worried!

    Seems we haven’t discovered health and safety over here yet

    @scaler911

    @Dr C
    Bully for you for having the balls to post those shots!

    just trying to shame myself into doing something about it! (think I may have succeeded)

    @Marko

    @Dr C
    Is that a teak wood door your stand is mounted too? Perhaps a throwback to the sailboat days? Ahh, the beauty and durability of teak.

    unfortunately I have no appreciation of such things, being of the “thank God someone invented GRP and carbon fibre” generation of yatters

    I’m so ashamed! (I’ll tidy it up the week after next…)

  20. @napolinige

    Another inspirational piece from the velominati. So much so I went down and cleaned mine out this morning. I haven’t used it in over a year because I’d been working in a shop, but that’s another story. Mine is not much of a shop but it’s very much like a cave. I’ve taken over part of the basement cantina in our building. Beaten earth floor, bare tufa block walls, not great lighting. There is, however, and old grape press, and all the other gear from back when my wife’s grandfather made wine, to give it a bit of atmosphere. Not really the ideal space but like I said it does have a certain atmosphere.

    sounds like a little corner in heaven

  21. @Dr C
    I have a friend who’s a volunteer fireman and I also live in the US – home of assigning liability for mishaps to others.

  22. @Dr C
    In reality I live in a pretty dodgy part of Napoli but I like it. Apparently some years the wine wasn’t too flash so old Giacomo would go for a bit of a drive to a neighboring area to buy wine from the co-operative in order to have something he could sell to the neighbours ;-)

  23. Here’s my nickel tour of the workshop. Absolutely thrilled when I moved into this house and got my first workshop.

  24. The space above is glorious. Unfortunately not in keeping with Rule #80, however the placing of the big and small spirit levels is rather delicious.

    I think Rule #79 should be “no skis/skiwear”. No Londoner (even Joe “Big time/Big Mountain JoeJoe big mountain would contaminate the rectory with skis.

  25. @William T Fox
    Welcome and thanks for the compliment. However, the ski/skiwear suggestion will not fly. Mainly because none of us would want to run it past this guy. But also because there are a few of us here of the nordic and or climactic persuasion that not only use skiing to maintain cycling fitness but actually quite enjoy it. Cheers.

  26. @Marko
    You realise that Americans showing off bits of their houses to other Americans thus sparking house envy was what caused the GFC?

  27. @RedRanger

    @frank
    I would love to see what is in that bag that you take with you on your rides. looked like a boatload of stuff.

    I don’t take it all with me; that’s just the bag that holds all the choices. Its got lights, spare tubes, and more in there. What I take with me on a ride is a latex tube, two C02 canisters, a C02 chuck, and small multitool. That’s all.

  28. @Marko
    The bench may not be granite, but am pretty sure there is a big flat screen TV lurking somewhere nearby. By the way, massive respect on the amount of drawer space!

    Dont know why i have this on my phone, but here is a small part of my workshop (which may also double as a wall in my garden shed).

  29. Now you’re just stereotyping us. Nice pic though. Classy. Although I can’t think of the last time I successfully used an adjustable wrench that size on a bike.

  30. @Marko
    I use it for more stubborn beer bottle tops when the Park Tool won’t suffice. Also think i have taken advantage of its leverage as a de facto pedal wrench on a mate’s bike.

  31. @Marko

    I have one probably the same size as @Marcus’ (hehehe…) that I use for leverage to unlock the lockring on my cassette. I was never able to loosen it with the short-handled chain whip I have in conjunction with a small wrench, but that big boy does the job nicely.

    It also doubles as a home defense weapon.

  32. @DeltaMngo

    Hey Delta, whilst his fitting principles aren’t exactly loved here on the site. Lennard Zinn’s book “The Art of Road Bike Maintenance” has your bike maintenance tasks split in to 3 or 4 levels & gives a rundown of the tools needed for each level.

    When I was getting started in la vie velominatus last year I found it pretty useful in getting me going on looking after the basic things to keep the bike running smooth.

  33. @frank

    @RedRanger

    @frank
    I would love to see what is in that bag that you take with you on your rides. looked like a boatload of stuff.

    I don’t take it all with me; that’s just the bag that holds all the choices. Its got lights, spare tubes, and more in there. What I take with me on a ride is a latex tube, two C02 canisters, a C02 chuck, and small multitool. That’s all.

    Glad to hear. I was beginning to worry. I carry a similar kit as yourself.

  34. @Chris

    @Dr C
    Tidy, your garage has a floor!
    I am not posting a photo of mine in it’s current state!

    Having had time to reflect, that was a pretty poor response to @Dr C‘s brave post admitting his garage is somewhat casually haphazard. As I also desperately need to get it in shape so that I can start on a couple of winter projects, I thought I would shame myself into doing something about it. (Winter project = new tools!!)

    Here are the before photos:

    I’ll have the after photos up by the end of the weekend!

  35. @Chris
    Much the the YJA wearer who’s too fat too climb, 8 months from peaking, riding a roadmaster but discovers the Rules – there’s nothing but potential in that shop.

  36. I just had to pull off a triple bar swap last night in my kitchen between 22:00 and 0:30. Ohhh, how I wish I had a nice shop to work in!

    And now I have to recable a bike with internally routed cables. Again, wishing I had such a nice shop, or any shop.

    A guy can dream though!

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