Online learning: things I have learnt that are not directly related to my job

September 7, 2011

Over my summer break I pondered upon how much learning I have done online. I’m not talking about learning relevant to my job (but I have learnt a lot online which has helped me in my job), but about learning not directly related to my job. The fixed wheel bicycle conversion I posted about a couple of days ago was possible through what I had learnt online. I bought most of the parts online. I read fixed wheel websites and forums to find out what I needed to do. Whenever I had questions or difficulties I found that other people had had these same experiences and had posted about them. I doubt that I could have achieved this in the pre-internet era. Moreover it was Sheldon Brown’s website that first got me interested in the idea of riding fixed in the first place.

I also look online when it comes to home DIY projects.  I wanted to know how long I should wait before applying paint to the new plaster in my hallway. My plasterer said a few days. Online the answers varied from a few hours to about six months. And then there was the question of preparing the wall prior to painting. My plasterer said to use a cheap white emulsion with about 10% water. Online some said you could use 50% water. Others said to use PVA. The emulsion people angrily responded that this is the last thing you should do. It’s unsurprising that there are differing opinions out there, but the passion with which opinions of how to prepare a newly plastered wall are held astonishes me. For the record I went to my plaster’s advice and it seems to have turned out ok. This case is different to the fixed wheel conversion in that in the pre-internet era I would have just done as the plasterer said the first place. Online learning offers the access to doubt as much as it offers the possibility of answers.

I know far more about computers than I ever planned to. But thanks to the internet I’ve been able to fix computer problems. I’ve even opened up the case to upgrade the memory. Similarly, when I couldn’t get the iplayer to work on my freesat dish, I spent much time looking online. Sometimes I don’t always find a solution to my problems, but to know that there were people out there with the same problems is some comfort.

Online learning:

  1. Makes me want to do things I didn’t even know about.
  2. Makes me want to check what I have learnt ‘face-to-face’.
  3. Offers a second or third opinion.
  4. Answers my questions successfully.
  5. Offers good advice.
  6. Offers bad advice.
  7. Helps me to doubt expert opinion.
  8. Gets me to buy stuff I need
  9. Gets me to buy stuff I might need
  10. Gets me to buy stuff I don’t need.

Converting my old bike to a fixed wheel

September 5, 2011

Last year I sought parts for my 1989 Dawes Horizon. No ‘off the peg’ rear wheel will fit into my 126mm drop-outs, at least not one which can take a 6-speed block and I quickly realised, after seeking advice, that bringing this bike back into action as a touring bike was likely to cost a lot of money (new rear wheel, plus cassette, plus new gear levers—I can’t believe how much gear levers cost!). It wouldn’t cost much more to buy an entry level touring bike. But the Reynolds frame is in good condition so I wanted to do something with it.

Over the past year I’ve been doing all my cycling on my Giant hybrid, a bike I got in order to ‘do everything’. However, I increasing became curious about the possibility of converting my Horizon to a fixed wheel, thanks to the late Sheldon Brown  The Giant has 27 gears, but I only use about six of them in Southampton. I finally decided to go for it over my summer break.

I only finished it a few days ago, but I’m hooked already. I bought a wheel with a flip-flop hub (fixed one side, free the other) a new bottom bracket, some bottom bracket spacers, anew chain and a new chainset. Not the cheapest way to covert a bike to a ‘fixie’, but one within my abilities (I was particularly not keen on redishing wheels).  I have removed the pannier rack and mudguards (this is a big step for me).

To cut a long story short I love it so far. I have a bike which seems to weigh about half that of my hybrid and I am able to go so much faster. It is exhilarating not being able to freewheel. It was ‘interesting’ going over speedbumps whilst continuing to pedal, but I’m getting the hang of it. I regret that I rode in on my hybrid this morning—it feels so slow.