After eight years of renting out my tiny spare bedroom, I decided that it'd be far more rewarding to transform it into my own little workshop. Turns out that I probably should have done that a long time ago.
After a few years of living in a battered house with the whole 'I'm an adult now
' package that goes along with it (a cat, a vacuum, and cutlery that wasn't stolen from Dennys
), I decided that downsizing was the right thing to do. I'd be lying if I said money wasn't a factor in the decision, but what it really came down to was time and how much of it I wanted to spend looking after stuff that I didn't care about. So, eight years ago, I got rid of the house and "downgraded
" to a cozy little two bedroom apartment. In doing so, I said goodbye, or so I thought, to ever having a proper workshop where I could tinker on bikes while eating stuffed crust pizza and listening to questionable rap music, which is just my personal variation of what's otherwise known to a lot of guys as The Dream.
Because I only need to sleep in one bedroom per night, I decided to rent out my apartment's spare room for some extra cash. After all, what else is a single, lonely man going to do with an empty 8ft x 7ft room? But when my most recent renter moved out late last year, I found myself contemplating over if I really did want to post yet another ad on Kijiji or Craigslist and roll the dice on if I'd get someone normal or someone who'd be sniffing my boxer shorts when I wasn't around. I'm okay with either so long as they pay me, but then I came across a story on Petrolicious about a man named Jack Olsen
who turned the relatively small two-car garage of his suburban home into what can only be described as a dream workshop, complete with a beautiful Porsche 911. He even installed a hydraulic lift that sits flush with his tiled floor when not in use. My eyes were pretty much in the back of my head during the entire ten-minute video
That got me thinking: bikes are smaller than cars, aren't they? And I don't even think that I need a hydraulic lift to work on them! So I set about turning that little room with John Deere green walls into my own downsized version of The Dream.
Basic things came first: carpet out, extremely low-quality laminate floor in, and then some large wall hooks into a two-by-four that were screwed into the studs. I hung some shop lights from the ceiling as well. I don't need a vehicle lift, but I do find that most of the folding stands are finicky and not up to the job when you need to use a leverage bar or hammer to break, I mean work on, your bike. So I got a big daddy, steel workstand with a shop-quality head, and then bolted that sucker to a massive steel plate that weighs enough that I had to use a dolly to bring it into the apartment and still managed to f*ck my back up. Then I stripped the poorly cut threads in it and had to resort to massive amounts of JB Weld, but now I can do chin-ups on it if I wanted to. I don't, but I could.
I also wanted a serious workbench, one with a thick wood top that would last forever and be sturdy enough to bolt a vice onto. A bunch of built-in steel drawers and cabinets were also on the wishlist, and so I ended up spending too much money on a workbench that's large enough to be considered a medium-sized family home in parts of Asia. Drawers for tools, organizers for every different size of bolt and washer that I might ever need, cabinets down below for the things that need to be plugged into the wall to be able to cut my fingers off, and a cup holder for my tea. It's probably the most extravagant purchase I've made besides the apartment that I have it in.
All that would be pretty useless if I didn't have some tools to go with it, and, after having spent over a decade in an extremely well-stocked bike shop that didn't shy away from any repair, I'm pretty spoiled when it comes to those. So now I have everything that I might ever need, short of a cutting torch and bandsaw (damn strata bylaws
), and am constantly trying to avoid my friends who ask me to fix their broken bikes. There are still a few things I'd like to add when I get a chance, like a small grinder and some wheel and tire storage hooks made from PVC pipe that I'll hang from the ceiling, but I feel like it's mostly done.
I've had The Dream up and running for about half a year now, and I'm constantly finding excuses to tinker around in it... ''I've had this fork for a week, so it probably needs a complete overhaul, right?'' Or, ''These test wheels are perfectly straight, but I bet I could get them straighter.'' And it's not just bikes. ''I need to install that low center-of-gravity carbon chassis for my remote control car that I never use, right freaking now!'' I disassemble things like test forks well past the point of where some companies would like me to (sorry, BOS), which lets me shoot photos of their inner workings that you and I probably wouldn't otherwise get to see. Sometimes I even manage to get things back together correctly.
I fully realize that I'm extremely lucky to have a spare room at all, no matter how small it might be, as well as more tools than I know what to do with (then why do I keep looking for more?
), but putting The Dream together has also made me realize that I get so much more out of that little space than any amount of money from an underwear-sniffing renter would ever be worth. A home workshop is obviously a complete luxury, but now I know that it doesn't need to be a big, sprawling shop, or even need to be stocked with one-tenth of the tools that I've managed to accumulate. It just needs to be a space to call your own, a place to eat pizza and hang out. That could be your own two-car garage if you're fortunate enough to have one, or it might be your living room floor after you've wiped as much dirt off your bike as you could.
Whatever it is, let's hear about it. Tell us about your own home workshop.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to try and get this fork back together.