Making The Mods That Make It Mine

As I’m sure you’ve found too, whether we’re talking bikes or cameras, no single one is perfect in every aspect.

Yes, some will come very close, with “imperfections” so minor that on a day to day basis they become all but invisible.

But even then, a camera or bike that is close to perfect for one purpose may not be what we want at all for a different purpose.

If I specifically want to use vintage film lenses with full manual focus for intimate control of depth of field, my Pentax K mount Samsung DSLR with an M42 lens or two is ideal.

But as a small, pocketable camera where I want to focus quickly on objects at a range of distances, it’s a poor option, and my Lumix LX3 could step in to fit the bill superbly.

With bikes, the electric assistance of my ebike (The Mule!) is much appreciated on cold mornings up the long hill on the way to work.

But for a leisurely cruise in the countryside, it just seems too heavy and cumbersome and over engineered, and my simpler, more comfortable and relaxed Specialized Crossroads comes into its own.

Even so, when I do find something that’s a very good fit for the required purpose, it’s rare that I will then just leave it as first arrived straight out of the box.

With my Lumix LX3, it wasn’t until I’d made a few modifications that I really started to enjoy it.

Layering foam then grip tape took the handling from cramped and awkward to comfortable and, well, grippy.

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Spending a bit of time experimenting with the dynamic b/w film mode and saving it as a custom setting on the main dial means I can now use pictures straight out of camera without endless fiddling about in camera, or any post processing.

And enabling the zoom memory and figuring out from the max aperture what the focal length is, means I can use it as if it has a 35mm f/2.3 prime lens the instant I switch it on, rather than it always defaulting to the almost always too wide (for me) 24mm.

This series of small mods have made the camera more mine.

With my Specialized Crossroads bike, the tweaks suggested themselves almost from the outset too.

Switching the saddle for a firmer yet far more comfortable one from another bike improved the ride no end.

Removing the front derailleur and swapping the middle and largest cogs on the crank means I have a seven speed bike where the range is low enough for ascending tough hills and high enough to fly down them again without spinning out, and it keeps my chain sweetly aligned in the middle for the two or three gears I use most often.

Wider Fat Frank tyres give extra cushioning and comfort and the peace of mind of puncture protection and reflective sidewalls for winter rides.

And adding a rear pannier rack so I can use the fantastic Ortlieb pannier bags I got for my ebike, means I can carry my stuff and ride freely without the need for a backpack and the associated unwanted weight and sweat.

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Again, these mods have made the bike feel more like it’s mine.

This little touches of customisation increase the camera or bike’s usability and invisibility, the argument being the best ones are those which disappear and let you fully enjoy the experience without any obstacles or irritations.

Yes, these may be just dumb devices built to serve a purpose, but I really enjoy developing some kind of emotional connection that makes it feel like the camera or bike is more like a fellow comrade in my adventures, rather than just a soulless, anonymous tool.

These collective modifications enhance this, helping to make the objects more personal, more special, more mine.

How about you? How have you modified your camera or bike to make it work better for you, and to increase your personal connection with it?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography and cycling life looks like right now.

7 thoughts on “Making The Mods That Make It Mine”

  1. Dan, that i.s a nice looking bike set up. I do love wide tires and adore my Ortleib panniers. I got the “Front” bags even though I use them in the back, to stop myself from over-packing. Mine have seen a lot of hard use and still work great. After learning some hard lessons, I now keep modifications to a minimum. Mostly adding water bottles and frame-mounted pumps. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the Flickr drama.

    1. Thanks Jon, yeh I’ve been out on the Crossroads this morning and it’s really smooth and comfortable to ride. With the tiny Sony DCS-L1 in my pocket it was ideal for exploring the countryside then stopping for a photo here and there.

      I started with some cheap Amazon found panniers – a top bag plus side panels that hung down. Quite effective but the side panels started to come away after a few weeks. So I bit the bullet and went with Ortlieb. Three times the price but that was for a pair, which gives more storage than I need I’ve realised, I rarely put the second one on. And they’re so well made and robust aren’t they? No substitute for quality! I have a similar rear rack on both my ebike and the Crossroads, so just lift the Ortlieb off from one to the others, which takes about 10 seconds.

      I don’t have much to say re Flickr, see my few thoughts on Jim Grey’s blog – https://blog.jimgrey.net/2018/11/02/how-does-flickrs-new-limit-of-1000-photos-for-non-paying-users-affect-you/

      I just went to look at a bike that’s on eBay locally, a mid 80s Raleigh mixte 10 speed. Really quite like it, it needs a good clean up, service, new cables and tyres, but pretty sound overall. Alas the seller wasn’t interested in a cash offer and wants to see the auction run its course. I’ll keep watching and see how it goes.

      https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/202487609900

      (Yes I know it’s listed as a ladies bike but the original mixte design came from France it seems and was designed as a unisex bike. Besides I really like the two tone blue paintwork!)

  2. Yes, when I lived in Boston those were just “bikes”. My German friend rode one from one end of the State to the other. Sounds nice.

  3. Wow, my folding bike is now much more me that it is Dahon! It’s mainly been the parts that I contact which have changed over the years (seat, grips and pedals – many times each), but I have also gone through combinations of lights as well. After a few mechanical failures, I changed from hub gearing to single-speed fixed gear and have tweaked the chainring and sprocket combos to find an optimum one. The terrible bottom bracket was ditched after about 500 miles and a new Shimano cartridge one installed which has lasted probably about 15,000 miles now and still going strong. Most recently, after having three frames crack in the same place) I got a fabricator friend to TIG weld an extra brace between the top tube and down tube. It’s a weakness tat Dahon have clearly overlooked, or they didn’t expect these bikes to do the miles that mine has!

    1. Ah yes, the contact parts are I imagine the parts most people look to change first with bikes if they’re not comfortable. I would include tyres in this, as they can influence the overall ride comfort greatly.

      Again it reminds me of my Lumix LX3 which had such disappointing handling when I first go it, but after some foam and grip tape now handles very well. With cameras it’ not usually possible to change things like the grip, so we have to improvise and make our own mods!

      That’s a bit of a worry about the cracking frame! Could you not contact the manufacturer? I’m not sure it’s a mileage thing, as people are riding about 50+ year old bikes with no issues. More like an inherent weakness in the design?

      1. It’s definitely an inherent weakness. I”ve had the frame replaced twice under warranty but to be honest, I got fed up with the endless effort with a surly dealer and so fixed it myself this most recent time. The bike has so many miles on it that it owes me nothing really so I don’t really feel aggrieved. I swapped out the tyres very early on for Schwalbe Marathons. I have had so few punctures since doing so, that I wouldn’t use anything else to be honest.

        1. I’ve just put Schwalbe Fat Franks on my Specialized Crossroads, and I’m hoping for many puncture free miles! They’re not the top level protection, but at level 3 they should be pretty good. Very comfortable ride too.

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