You have got to train and train some more

1 09 2011

I think most people would take it as a given that you have to physically train to be an athlete.  One cannot get physically fit once in their lives and then hope to perform for future events without consistent training.   Another aspect we all take for granted is that one has to work on building new skills or working on the stuff that does not come naturally to them.   If a basketball player has amazing skills with layups but cannot free-throw well it makes sense that you would practice a lot more on the weak part of your game and not the strong one.

The very same is true of craft.  In this case framebuilding.    It takes practice and consistent training to grow as a craftsmen.   It is not enough to be very good at part of it and ignore your weak points.   One should study then practice new skills that will make one a better crafts-person.

Sadly though I see this very problem all too often within the framebuilding community and it is also perpetuated by the consumer themselves.

Everyone starts as a beginner, that is to be expected.   Then there is the period of learning.   You soak up everything you can read and practice.   Your muscle memory begins to develop and your work gets better by leaps and bounds.   A lot like bike racing where an athlete with talent moves up the ranks quickly and then seems to  peter  out when the going gets really tough the same thing happens to crafts-people.    I am not sure why.  Either they are not capable of more, or they feel that is good enough.    These are the types who would often say ” I have been doing it this way for X years and it is good enough for me”.   They don’t practice anymore, they don’t look for new and better solutions, they don’t seek out new skills to add to their existing repertoire.

Customers are also guilty of this.   I know it may come as a shock to some but I do not know how to do everything, I am constantly learning.   Painting  is good example of this for me.   I started the process of learning how to paint around 2006.   Many of my customers expected that two weeks of private instruction would make me a master of bicycle frame painting.   Five years later I am just to the point where I feel confident that I can tackle most anything you throw at me and even though I would be confident I could do it, I still know I have a long way to go.   I train with my painting.   By that I mean I paint more than bicycle frames that come in for service or my own work.   In order to be a good painter you have to…wait for it….PAINT!   I paint everything I can get my hands on.   My motorcycle, my car, the mailbox etc.  On weekends I practice airbrushing or mix a new color or make a panel.   How would I know what could be done unless I try it?  How will I be able to offer my customers something really neat unless I have experimented with it in the past.

So, what I am getting at here is that the time involved with building a bicycle or for that matter a guitar, chair or wonkywonderburple from Dr. Suess is not just the time you use to make it, its the time that you trained to get there.  It’s the time that you practiced and learned and read and failed.    A concert given by a violinist is not one hour at the music hall that you paid for but the thousands, maybe 10’s of thousands of hours that went into that one hour.    A great bike frame is not 300 dollars in raw materials and 16 hours like some think it is.   To me it’s the culmination of all the years that went before, all the knowledge and all the hours, dollars and setbacks. Only after all that effort,consistent training and practice will you be able to make something really great.