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Sep. 1st, 2013 @ 12:39 pm My Finished Build-Off Bike, by Deven Science
I finished my Ratrodbikes.com build off bike on time. It was entered into the "anything goes" category. It didn't qualify for the much more popular "traditional" class, because I altered the frame. In the end, 26 people finished their anything goes bikes, and I came in 6th place with this one. What counts is that I've got a cool bike made from almost all old parts that I'll be taking on those rides that invite you to ride vintage. I have actually since these pics changed out the seat back to the one from the 30s or 40s I had originally, but I've kept the tank on it. The tank and tires are the ONLY newer parts.

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Is This Science?
Bicycles
Aug. 3rd, 2013 @ 09:24 pm Reflecting on My Favorite Band, by Deven Science
Music has always been a big deal in my life. Cliché. It is for everyone. I just thought I'd chart my music listening through my favorite bands. It shows an interesting evolution.
When I was a kid, my brother and I mostly just listened to what came on the radio. This meant that Michael Jackson was a huge part of our childhood. A joke here would be too easy, so I'll not go there. Let me say it this way; My kids only know him as some freaky dude who probably touched kids inappropriately. It's hard to explain to them how much EVERYONE thought he was the shit back in the early Eighties. There was NO one bigger. The "Thriller" album was genuinely great, and we listened to it until the tape wore out.

The other big influence on us musically was the classical music that my mother was constantly playing. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, they were all there, with many others. For me, when it came to the classic composers,  the Russians were my favorites. Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" are bombastic, violent, and a bit unpredictable. So, through the late Seventies and early Eighties, I had the strange balance of Jackson and Tchaikovsky as my favorite artists.
In the late Eighties, I was taking my radio listening much more seriously. I was recording stuff off of the radio all the time, filling up 90 minute tapes (and cursing when the DJs talked too long over the beginning of the songs), and later even recording the "best" of those from one tape to another, making my own mixtapes. Most of you reading this are from my generation, and know what I'm talking about first hand, but for those that aren't, or didn't, these were poor in quality, being essentially a recording of a recording of an analog transmission. It's a testament to the technology of the day that these tapes were even listenable, which really, they wouldn't be by today's standards.

In that time period of mixtaping and taking my radio pop music very seriously, one band had emerged from the crowd as the first band that I would unqualifyingly call my "favorite band." That was Information Society. Their first two albums, their self-titled debut and their follow up "Hack," were on almost constant rotation. Everybody knew "What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy)" well enough, but I SCOFFED at those people, knowing that was just the tip of the iceberg. I thought nothing could topple them from the top spot in my heart, but the same year that "Hack" was released in 1990, a friend introduced me to the Circle Jerks.

My friend Chris moved to California from New York, and he brought with him, oddly, a California band. Now, my friend Monte and had tried to introduce punk to me a hundred times, but every time, I shrugged, and just didn't get it. Every band he played for me, the Dead Kennedys, the Misfits, the Ramones, I would later love, but I just wasn't ready for it at that moment. The Circle Jerks album "Wonderful" is the perfect gateway record into punk. It's loud, it's got screaming and fast guitars, but it also has the jovial melodic energy to it that a lot of punk lacks. Much of the punk scene took itself too seriously. Let's say, as seriously as I had taken the most ridiculous pop radio music just months earlier. But the Jerks seemed to be on the edge of laughing at themselves, and you the listener. It's even in their name. As Chris blasted such gems as "Killing For Jesus" and "Making the Bombs" from his '68 Chevy II Nova, well, it was love at first listen. I secretly kept InSoc on rotation, but publicly decried such sugar-coated radio junk food, and put the Dead Kennedys "Frankenchrist" on for all to hear. Eventually, punk was 90% of what I listened to, and though that percentage has dropped, it's still a large chunk of what plays through my iPhone, even today.

The next evolution came in 1993, when I heard the Pixies for the first time. Not quite punk, but what punk rock musicians listened to. What an odd band that is, when you really analyze them. The singers are kind of switched, with the lead male vocalist letting loose a high pitched scream, and the back up female singer bringing in the bass vocals. The guitar mostly sounded like sci-fi movie sound effects. The songs never seemed to keep a typical rhythm, playing way too fast or really slow at almost inappropriate times. But there was one aspect of their music that seemed so natural, that it never occurred to me that I hadn't really heard it before, and that was their signature LOUD quiet LOUD formula. With the verses quiet, and the choruses loud, or sometimes, oddly the reverse, it seemed like such a natural flow to songs, that I never noticed that other bands didn't really do that to the extent that the Pixies did. Well, no band before them, anyway, since so perfectly suited was that formula to rock and roll, that most other bands after them incorporated it into their sound. I devoured their catalog, and they remained my favorite band for many years.

In the 2000s, many bands vied for the top spot. The Pogues came close to bumping them. Okkervil River came the closest in 2007, but as much as I loved them, and in particular the LP "Black Sheep Boy," I just couldn't declare them my absolute, top of the pile, favorite. I figured something as momentous as one's "favorite band" was not to be knocked around willy-nilly. It's at this point that I want to note that I've never detailed everything out so explicitly before, so I never fully realized that some of my "favorite bands" were only such for a couple of years. I kind of imagined that any one band probably held that honor for a decade or so, when in fact, only the Pixies held it for that long.

But all reigns must come to an end, and thus it was for my beloved Black Francis and company. In 2010, while on deployment in Afghanistan, I discovered Rammstein. A German metal band that sings almost entirely in their native tongue, they were an unlikely band to knock the Pixies from the spot that they held so firmly for 17 years (more than that, really, since I didn't declare Rammstein my favorite band right away). Rammstein's Singer Till Lindemann has such a guttural sound to his voice, that the consonant heavy German language is actually very complimentary to his singing. He sounds like he is going to set you on fire as he sexes you up. If you were to dance in a club with Till, his dancing would consist of grinding up against you, while holding your neck firmly with both hands at the same time in a light choke hold. Google some Rammstein videos on Youtube. I'll wait... see? His appearance fits in flawlessly with his voice. Fucking him would hurt, and only MOSTLY in a good way, I guarantee it.

Rammstein formed in 1994, and one remarkable thing is that there has not been one change in their line up in all that time. That's pretty rare, especially considering that they are a larger band. People often ask me how I can enjoy listening to a band that doesn't sing in English, but this is a foolish question, if you really think about it. Folks the world over love opera, but most of them don't understand Italian. It's about the rhythm, and about that person using their voice as a musical instrument. Also, I took Kristine with me to see them live when they came through on a brief North American tour, and it was the best concert either of us had ever been to. Kristine is not even a FAN of them, and she said this. They know that you don't have a clue what they are singing about, so they put on a very visual heavy show, filled with pyrotechnics, people being set on fire, Till riding a giant pink six foot cock that spews white foam, and even exploding laser babies. For the encore song "Engel (Angel)," Till came out wearing these beautiful metal wings with a 20 foot wingspan, and during the finale, fire shot out of the wingtips about another 20 feet in either direction. That's a 60 foot wingspan of flaming metal goddamn wings.

So what band will come along to defeat Rammstein in my heart, and when? I don't know, but they will be a tough band to defeat. I mean physically. I mean Flake, the keyboardist, will go down quickly with a glass jaw, but the other five look like tough mother fuckers. They may maintain that top spot for quite some time. A new album would help, as it's been a while, and I'm itching for new material, but even without that, and even as they aren't as heavily played by me as they once were, they still remain, to this day, my favorite band.
Is This Science?
Devious
Jul. 6th, 2013 @ 04:44 pm Seeking Asylum, by Deven Science
I took a risk today. I decided to drive my '54 Chevy the 12 miles to McClellan for Asylum's weekly gathering. Asylum is a car club in the Sac area, and they meet several times a month, but the main one is Saturday mornings from 7 to 9am. Yeah, early, but in the summer, early is better for these old cars.

This truck had never made a trip that long since I've had it. In fact, this truck hasn't successfully made a trip to the gas station and back yet, having just attempted that on Thursday. That day, some progress was made, though. A kind, older stranger had taken a look under the hood, and spotted the fact that the choke has been stuck on this whole time, which is what has been causing the flooding of the carburetor. He rigged a temporary fix with some welding wire. I also bought a battery, so that I could stop needing to jump start it every time I drove it. This is all to say that I thought it just might make it.

Still, I prepared. I brought along the tow bar, and made sure Kristine had the keys to my Dakota. I had made it as simple as possible to tow me home, in case this (maybe inevitably when this) happens.

I. Fucking. Made it.

Now, it got rough when I was almost there, and I had to pull over for a second, pop the hood, and yank on the shift linkage (it stopped wanting to go to any gear except second), but then I got there. I was so happy.

I hung out for the two hours, and made some friends, and got some numbers for a couple of shops that may be able to help me get this thing running better, which was the main reason for coming. Good networking was had. Then, after the high of the trip there, I thought that even if it didn't make it home, the day wouldn't be ruined. I was too happy about the first leg. I even had the founder of Asylum (who I've met through some bike riding friends) offer to follow me home and/or tow me, should I not make it. So, I got some gas at McClellan, and started the return 12 miles. The return trip was much rougher, as I rarely found third gear (one of the major issues not solved yet), so I drove 10 miles down Watt Avenue in second gear, plus there was some grinding, some sputtering, and finally, when a mile from the house, death.

I was so close!! I was not upset at all, this time. The truck had made 23 miles for me today up to that point, which probably doubles the miles I've put on it in the few months I've had it. But I thought that to drive all the way home would be better for this vehicle's dignity, so rather than call for help, I thought I'd let it rest for a few minutes. It was still only 9:30, so it wasn't hot. I just chilled in the truck, safely having turned onto a side road when it was dying. I finished my soda, and put my foot on the starter pedal. Vroom! I had to keep some gas on it even at the stop signs, but she made it home.

It was a good day.
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Is This Science?
Wild One
Jun. 16th, 2013 @ 09:51 am Father's Day Thoughts, by Deven Science
My father was little more than a sperm donor (though to be fair, he seemed to do better with his other family, later in life), so this Father's Day, I'd like to thank my often-stand-in dad, Alice Murray. Mom, you wore both hats, and I think you did a great job of it.

I'll also add that this morning my thoughts find themselves pondering the whereabouts and life of one Jim Cox. He was my step-dad for some important developmental years of childhood (age 6-13). He could be abusive, and he liked spanking a little too much (with a wooden paddle, that we had to pick out of the lumber yard), I suspect as I look back, but he could also be loving, and he showed us some good things in life. With that in mind, like to give a shout out to him, as well. Though he'll never read this, and I haven't seen or spoken to him since the divorce in 1987, he was there through some important times, and I'll thank him, too.
Is This Science?
lonely soldier
Jun. 2nd, 2013 @ 05:54 pm Finishing Touches on the Thirty-Sixer, by Deven Science
Finished assembly on the Thirty-Sixer with the final powder coat and parts! I modified the bars to flow better with the frame, stole the red seat and beefy OOQI brand grips from my '54 Schwinn, and put on a smaller chainring, to give me a more comfortable gear ratio with my three speed. Next I'll be trying to make a shifter for this, I think.
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In the sun, to see the gloss black better.
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Is This Science?
Bicycles
May. 4th, 2013 @ 05:08 pm Avocado, by Deven Science
I've been wanting a vintage bike to ride in style when going on Rolling Relic Bicycle Club sponsored events. They all sport vintage bikes, and while I have a few, I don't have any that are comfortable for a man of six foot two to ride for long distances. Bikes just weren't made for guys my size back then.

With that, I decided to put together a cool ride using parts that I have on hand. The only additional cost this build will have (additional, since I did buy/trade for the parts, just some time ago) will be the $15 for some spray paint.

I'm starting with a '41 Schwinn DX frame, but I will be doing a slight stretch on it. The whole point is to make this one comfortable, after all.

I'm excited to use these parts. They're all cool pieces that I've collected over the last two years. Some traded, some from eBay, some from flea markets, and some from the for sale section of Rat Rod Bikes. All purchases and trades for cool parts that had no intended purpose. Western Flyer, Schwinn, Columbia, Eclipse/Morrow, and many other unknown brand name parts, such as the long spring seat, or the skip tooth crank and chain.

For the paint scheme, most of the parts will remain whatever color they are now. the only painting I will do is the frame, and possibly the wheels. I wanted a color that looks retro. A color not used anymore, but was once commonplace. Avocado. It screams of old appliances, grandmother's kitchens, and will be the perfect color to give my bike that vintage flavor. It can also have another meaning. To many, avocado, when added to other things, speaks of California. Any time you see "California blank" on a menu, you can bet your dinner that item has avocado in or on it.

So, this bike is a cool vintage ride that to me will say "vintage California style."

Let's go!
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Dieselpunk
Apr. 26th, 2013 @ 07:35 pm Vintage Ride, by Deven Science
My next project will be a different one. Once a month, one of the local bike clubs, the Rolling Relics, hosts a ride. They encourage vintage bicycles to be ridden. While I have a a few vintage bikes, none are really that comfortable for me. Bikes just weren't made for guys over six feet tall back then. But I do feel a bit weird never riding a vintage bike when many others are, and, you know, that's the point of the ride.

Over the last couple of years, I've been slowly collecting cool parts of all types. eBay, bike forums, Craigslist, flea markets and swap meets. If it's really cool, and reasonably priced, I bought it. Many with no real purpose or project in mind.

I've decided to put many of the coolest parts together to make a vintage ride to role with the Rolling Relics. Every part is old, from every decade of the first half of the Twentieth Century. The frame is a '41 Schwinn, the wheels and chainguard are from about the same time, the handle bars are from the 60s or 70s, seat from the 30s, springer front end from the 50s, etc.

It will still be me building this, and I want this bike to solve the comfort problem for rides, so I will be doing an unusual and subtle stretching of the frame which will raise up its coolness factor.

Post and pics to follow soon.
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Dieselpunk
Mar. 10th, 2013 @ 10:42 am Cantilevered Frames, by Deven Science
I decided to try my hand at making a cantilevered frame. For those not clear on what a cantilever is, you know how old Schwinns or even new Walmart beach cruisers look? When the seat stays, that is, the tubing that goes from the rear wheel up to the seat post, continues past the seat post, going forward to meet up with the front of the bike frame, that is a cantilever. It is the signature of the beach cruiser frame. I had also been avoiding it, as it's more difficult to make. But, I continue to challenge myself in bike building, so I decided to try it.

Here was my first one:
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Overall, it came out well. I used 1/2" tubing for the cantilever, and I think that was a little small, so I went beefier on the next one. I posted it on Facebook, and on Craigslist, and it did eventually sell. So, hooray! Then I made this one, which came down to points similar to my other earlier Science frames:
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This one came out much better, and it's for sale now. I don't plan on making cantilevered frames only from now on, but I will say that there has been much more interest in these frames, than in my previous builds, so there will be more.
Is This Science?
Dieselpunk
Jan. 29th, 2013 @ 10:49 am The Big 'Un, by De√en Science
I wanted to build something dramatic. I've been building 26" cruisers, lowriders, and stretched bikes, but I wanted to build something that would make jaws drop. Coker, the tire company that makes tires for older cars and trucks, such as whitewalls, also has a small line up of bicycles, mostly featuring a very large, very different set of wheels, some that are 36 inches. I e-mailed Coker, as asked if I could just order the wheel set, and while they aren't available separately on their website, they can sell them. So, I bought a 3 speed set.

I had this idea to make one of my Science frames for it, enlarged to fit the wheels. The thought was, from a distance, it looks like any other of my 26" bikes, but as you get close... well, then scale comes in to play.

I started by using 1 1/2" tubing, instead of the 1" I normally use, and then I went to work.
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Funny, I keep telling myself that my next bike won't be stretched, so that I'll have a bike that fits on my car's bike rack, but no, I keep building long bikes anyway.

Next I finished the frame, and let me tell you, this sucker is BIG! I'll include a shot of it next to one of my regular 26" Science bikes, as comparison.
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A couple of days later, I welded a short length of 7/8" tubing on the top tube, so I could keep the shifter off of the handlebars. I then drilled a hole near it, and on the other end of the top tube, to run the cable internally. I finished the day with some grips and seat, bend some tubing for the handlebars, and the bike looked pretty much complete!
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I'll continue to mess with it. I'll be altering the bars, eventually. But man, do I love riding this thing. It gave me the exact feeling that I was hoping it would. Normally, in order to get the leg stretch that I desire, the bike has to be long, which means low. And, I'm okay with that, but it felt awesome to ride a bike that gives me the stretch I want, in roughly the same position that others take on regular bikes. I love this bike! I felt like a kid riding his dad's bike.
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Wild One
Jan. 8th, 2013 @ 11:43 pm OOQI Grips, and My '54 Schwinn, by Deven Science
A couple of months ago, I brought some of my stuff to a bike swap meet, including my Science #3 bike. I was hoping to get a hundred bucks for the bike, though I didn't expect to. Science #3:
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I bought a few things there, as well, and one of the things I saw that caught my eye was a '54 (or '56) Schwinn. It was found in a barn, complete with house paint splatter, and it was so ugly, I loved it. He wanted $80 for it. I had this vision to keep the bike as is, with rust, old faded paint, and house paint splatter, but I wanted to replace any parts that could not be saved with a bright, contrasting color. He was eyeballing my Science bike, and I was about to suggest a straight trade, when he offered me $100 AND his Schwinn, for my bike. Um... sold? So, I brought it home, and started replacing the crumbling grips, the nasty chain, and the rotting seat with bright red parts. I also replaced the tires, and called her done!

While researching the internet looking for unique red grips, using some various Google searches as "retro rocket grips," "unique red grips," etc., I came across these fat guys, made by OOQI. They are a starter company out of Canada, and their claim to fame is that the grips are 1 7/8" around, so that there's a full inch of rubber over the standard 7/8" bar. It's supposed to make it more comfortable to hold, similar to fat motorcycle grips. More ergonomic, they say.

I'll say that they are indeed comfortable. They call their red ones "Magma," and they're firm, yet squishy. And I do like how it makes you feel like you're holding something more substantial. Also, the big, meaty grips make it stick out more, which could be a cool thing (I wanted the red parts to be bold). It makes the grips a more important accessary. They weren't the cheapest, but I think the total was about $28 for the pair out the door, with tax and shipping, and for a good pair of grips, I don't think that's too much to pay, either.

Here they are delivered:
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And the bike:
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The grips come in many colors. Check out OOQI's site, and support a young Canadian up-start.
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Devious