Chris Brown
Free Press Cycling Correspondent

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March 14, 2013
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CYCLING: Bicycle tool in the right hands is poetry in motion

There is a joy that comes from using hand tools that sends your mind into a deeper, quieter place.

I'm not sure how to describe it but I see it when I watch the mechanic and take note of the space he is working in.

It's almost as if the final goal is no longer the outcome but the experience.

When my wife uses her glue gun, the tip of her tongue sticks out of the corner of her mouth. There is no other time that I have ever noticed this happening.

Michael Jordan does the same thing. Both are true craftsmen.

I got a sniff of it watching the movie "Fly Away Home." I had no concern for the geese returning to Florida or the environmental themes of the movie but was captivated by the scenes of that darn workshop.

"The World's Fastest Indian" movie had the same mystique. The man peed on the lemon tree and then poured a new piston for his motorcycle using a soup can. Fascinating.

Who doesn't like to watch somebody mow grass or the guys that rake the field at a baseball game?

Hand tools create an intimate relationship between the craftsman and the final product.

Woodworkers get it. Sculptors get it, too. There is something about the way a sculptor touches their work when they are presenting it to you.

The way their hands move over the surface. I would never manhandle a bust like that.

Hand tools sometimes even tell stories to the creator.

I have a box of hand tools from Dave's Schwinn bicycle shop, 1960-1981.

The scratches and dirt on the handles, the nicks and the worn-out edges tell me something about those who worked in shops on Main Street and repaired bikes before I was born.

I have discovered that if I don't have the correct tool, I stop and put the project down. I then acquire the tool from the hardware store and complete the job.

Yes, it cost me an extra day in time but I am eternally grateful every time I look at the project and marvel at its wonders. The converse situation of drilling a hole in a chunk of metal with a flat-head screwdriver brings despair and shame.

Hand tools allow you express yourself in ways that words can't describe.

A mechanic's tool bench can represent chaos to order .....and sometimes back to chaos.

I've heard it said that a man's tool bench reflects the condition of his soul.

A painter's palette is a mess. All the colors are mixed up and dripping off the plate. And yet the painting is beautiful.

Have you ever seen Bryan Miick's work bench at The Bike Shop? It's a pile. And yet he is a speedy and competent mechanic.

As an "OCD Neat Freak," I have always assumed that a slob is slow and sloppy; however, in my years of wrenching, I have not been able to prove this.

Henry Patterson was one of the best bicycle/motorcycle mechanics on the Western Slope (1926-1953) and he was a slob. See the black and white picture.

Bicycle hand tools hold an extra special place in the workshop. They have remained virtually unchanged for 120 years.

The bicycle is an antiquated mode of transportation and one of human's most perfect machines.

The tools in the hands of a mechanic will either make the bicycle and rider sing or squeak as they cut through the atmosphere.

Music can enhance the creative experience but it has to be of the correct genre.

ABBA, big band swing and country can take you places. Classic rock like Rush and Kiss will just make you break things, except for "Beth" by Kiss. After all, that song is about a man in his workshop.


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The Post Independent Updated Mar 14, 2013 01:34PM Published Mar 14, 2013 01:33PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.