46% Bad – the zine

46% Bad

The 46% Bad sculpture of a drawing of a bike is accompanied by a 20-page (A5, B&W) zine. You can have a copy for £4 (includes UK postage, please contact me to arrange bulk or international orders)

The zine takes a short journey through some thoughts and observations about cycling infrastructure and other systems and frameworks that impact on us as we are mobile by bicycle (and tricycle, and…), all the time hoping that impact is something that doesn’t happen to us. Not on this ride; please not this time.

46% Bad

Working fast and intuitively with paper and pens over a long weekend has been a nice contrast to the slow processes of working with metal and hand files to make the sculpture. I’ve been increasingly interested in the potential of zines within my work and this has been a great space in which to try out a few ideas. Keeping an eye on my use of language and side-stepping the usual tropes of cyclists vs motorists has also been very good practise and hugely fascinating to observe how easy it is to fall into other people’s habits. Writing for mix of cycling/non-cycling, academic/non-academic audiences has been a good challenge all round.

Let me know what you think, as I suspect there’ll be more of this sort of thing to come.

46% Bad – making tools

A recurring theme throughout this project has been the need to make my own tools. I suspect this is something professional framebuilders find themselves doing quite a lot too, although hopefully with a bit more finesse!

Still, if it gets the job done…

Job #1: Removing bearing cups

There are a couple of places on the donor bike where there are races to hold ball bearings: the bottom bracket, where the cranks turn; and the headset, where the steering arrangement turns.

Bottom bracket cup

Bottom bracket cup

I still want these functions in the new bike I’m making, even if the pedals can’t turn without hitting the ground and the front wheel can’t turn very far before hitting the frame. This means I needed to remove the bearing cups from the frame to keep them safe whilst I was hacking the surrounding steel to bits and then welding stuff back together again.

The cups are pretty solidly wedged into their respective parts of the frame, so trying to prise them out with a screwdriver wasn’t going to work. This needed a proper tool …well, not a proper tool, as I couldn’t afford it, but at STEAMhouse I have access to other tools, so I could make my own bearing cup remover!

Cutting disc

A bit of work with the cutting disc


Cup remover

4 slits in a length of tube


Cup remover

Slightly splayed so the tube spreads out to be wider than the cup


Bearing race remover

And POP!

It took a few attempts to not overshoot, but once I got the knack it was easy to hammer out the cups.

Cup remover

You hammer on the other end of the tool and the splayed out fins catch on the edge of the cup


Removed cups

Cups removed and ready to be put somewhere safe


Job #2: Gripping tubes

I’m going to have to do a lot of filing mitres into tubes so that they fit snugly up against other tubes. Thin-walled tubes held firmly in vices doesn’t tend to go well, so I had to make some tube blocks.

Tube block halves

Tube block halves

Not a particularly tricky tool to build, just there’s so many sizes!

Tube blocks

A not quite complete set of not quite complete tube blocks

Anyway, they seem to be doing the job well.

Mitred tube

Mitred tube

Job #3: Bending stays

Here’s a reminder of the bike drawing I’m trying to make in 3D:

The bike I'm making

It’s not quite right, y’know…

That’s quite a lot of thingies that have to meet at the wheel axles.

Bicycle anatomy terminology breaks down a bit here, but I seem to have settled on calling them “stays” in a hand-waving kind of manner. Also I’ve had to make the executive decision that they will indeed go all the way to the wheel axles.

I’ve got some chunky tube to do the main bit of the frame, but I need something that comes out from that central plane, clears the width of the tyres and then joins on to the dropouts at the wheel axles. So I made a three-part jig so I could reliably replicate a suitable s-bend in some smaller diameter tube.

Stay jig

Side view: the tube is pushed up against a stop at the far right hand end, then clamped to the wall along the back edge, fitting behind the right-most pillar, which it is then bent out against.


Stay jig

Once the tube has been bent out towards the right, a plate with another pillar is slid up into position, clamped, and then the tube is bent back against it towards the left.


Stays and jig

Here you can see the three parts of the jig and two of the bent stays



Quite nice



Birds-eye view with a wheel between them

The results were quite nice, but you can see from the above photo that it takes a fair bit of space for the stays to come back in to the centre line and the thicker tube. This would mean there would only be a small length of the thicker tube and I’d lose the effect of it stopping at the edge of the tyre.

I realised that I had been led astray by how I knew bikes were made, versus how this drawing of a bike looks. I ditched the jig and have instead switched to a much more clunky approach that will be a much better conceptual fit for what I’m trying to achieve.


Stay array

An array of stays. Straight, this time.

46% Bad – the beginnings

I’ve been one of the Artists in Residence at the Birmingham School of Jewellery for the last year or so and, more recently, a member of STEAMhouse. Both these have given me the opportunity to get my hands dirty and start working with metal again. Something that I’ve been enjoying immensely!

I’m currently working on a project that has grown out of this representation of a bicycle that I spotted on a cycle path in Stourbridge:

A bike painted on a cycle path

I had to go back for a second look…

It’s nearly convincing, but when you start looking at it properly, you start to notice more and more ways in which it’s not quite right. …and then you start looking at painted bikes all over the place and you start realising more and more of them that are, well, just wrong.

(Some of a) bike icon in Bristol

(Some of a) bike icon in Bristol.

A bike icon in Birmingham

An offering from National Cycle Route 5 in Birmingham.

Well, there was only one thing for it, and I’ve embarked on trying to build a 3D version of the 2D version of the 3D object.

A donor bike and the measurements of the drawing it is to become

Recursive bikes and drawings.

I found a kid’s bike on ebay that seemed like it would be about the right size to use as a starting point, and I’ve stripped it and chopped it to get at various component parts that I want to use in the final build.

A cardboard box full of bits of bike

A lesson in how many bits go into a bicycle…

Translating the rough sketch from the photo into a 1:1 scale drawing to work off

Translating the rough sketch from the photo into a 1:1 scale drawing to work off

Bike frame and angle grinder

Ready for the chop

Angle grinding action

The chop

Bits of stuff laid out in a sort of bike shape

Trying to get a feel for what the drawing might look like as an object

STEAMhouse is supporting me to improve my welding skills and, whereas it’s mostly TIG welding that I want to learn, I’ve done a bit of MIG welding before and this has been a quick and easy way of adding bits of metal to other bits of metal to make bigger bits of metal. The first component to get this treatment was the crankset: the pedals need to be on long enough cranks that they extend below where the tyres make contact with the road surface, so I had to make and integrate some extensions.

Crank extenders being welded in

Crank extenders being welded in

In the photo above you can see the difference in the original and modified crank lengths. Below is the end result.

Finished, extended cranks

Finished, extended cranks

Paint and powder coatings aren’t great when they get zapped by the heat from welding (nasty fumes) so I spent half a day peering into a sandblasting cabinet stripping things down to the steel surface.

Fork about to get blasted with sand

Fork about to get blasted with sand

I’d originally thought I might use more of the original frame in the sculpture, but I think it’s likely to just be these components and the wheels.

Sandblasted parts

Sandblasted parts: head tube, bottom bracket, crankset, fork and seatpost. (Square tin for another project I’m working on…)

So, now begins the job of cutting and fitting all the remaining parts…

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