TL;DR I made a new page: kwon.nyc/bike
In January 2010 I was in my final year of medical school and had some rare free time for several weeks on a light rotation. My Local Bike Shop™ was offering classes on how to build a bike, so I enrolled and learned a lot about bike parts and bike maintenance. (Oddly enough, we didn’t actually build bikes.) Over the next few years I started building up a track bike, slowly amassing parts from my travels, getting the naked frame painted and framesaved, et cetera.
It was a meandering but fun process and a constant work in progress where I wasn’t sure exactly when I’d be done or what the thing would look like but I had a vague sense of the end goal. Kind of like this website and also my life. It felt like pulling on a thread without much intention, just waiting to see where it ended; the process of doing it was also the reason for doing it. I didn’t have much incentive to finish it quickly, because I already had my trusty bicycle1 that I used for everyday riding.
Unfortunately (but also fortunately), said trusty bicycle was stolen from outside my flat in East London where I was living for a year while doing research between my second and third years of residency. I never saw it again.
Few things feel worse than finding a sawed-through U-lock in the spot where you locked up your bicycle. My flatmate Paul joked that it was probably resold at the Brick Lane Market. Be quiet, Paul.
Anywho, as soon as I got back to New York I finally finished the new bike. It looked something like this (and by “something like” I mean “exactly like,” because this is a photo of my bike):
There’s something about planning a thing, building it with your own two hands, and then being able to use it afterwards (or, just as good, seeing someone else use it) that is just the best feeling. Especially if you’ve had some frustration along the way in trying to figure something out (how the heck does this headset work?), and then that 💡 moment when you finally get it.
So for my next trick, I decided to try and draw my bicycle. This was my first attempt:
I think this is actually not terrible for a freehand first attempt, but… if this illustration were a sound, it would probably be the Titanic recorder fail sound—you can tell what it’s supposed to be, but it’s just not very good. My second attempt was surprisingly much better:
My third attempt was the best of the three, but weirdly, not significantly better than the second:
I struggled with the wheels, because it’s very hard to draw a perfect circle or oval. So then I thought,
I’d have to be a computer to be able to draw a perfect circle or oval…
Wait, I have a computer…
But I don’t know how to use illustrator software.
Wait, I learned how to build a bike…
Could I learn how to use illustrator software?!…
So, just like trying to figure out how to install the headset on my bike IRL, I decided to roll up my sleeves and learn Adobe Illustrator.
My first attempt was about as rudimentary as my first analog attempt. (But on the plus side, check out how smooth those ovals are.)
At some point, I figured it out. I got over the hump. It was definitely well over 20 hours of messing around in Illustrator, getting into flow states, often getting frustrated and giving up, staying up late, but finally I came up with a version I am more or less happy with:
I also created an exploded view with the thought that I would label it with each of the parts to create a sort of spec (this part is still in progress).
Not bad, eh? My favorite part is the bottom bracket.
Also, this whole process took me so long that between the time I started this illustration and now, I also started using a-whole-nother design tool, Figma, and published some versions of these illustrations for downloading and remixing on my Figma Community profile, then embedded the file on kwon.nyc/bike.
Someday I’ll get around to adding the specs.
What if I was like “Hi, my name is Mike” and someone was like “short for Michael?” and I was like “No. Micycle” and then walked away. ↩︎