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Friday
Oct172014

On being Working Class.

If a man had a marijuana leaf tattoo on his neck and piercings in his nose and eyebrows, it would probably bar him from gaining employment in most places. On the other hand, if you had a poisonous snake that had taken up residence under your house, and this same man came to remove it, I doubt anyone would care too much about his appearance, as long as he had the necessary skills required to take care of the problem.

I have a friend who has a long beard of biblical proportions, his hair is also long and he wears it in a single braid down his back. Most would take one look and dissmiss him as an old hippie. He is in fact a highly skilled woodworker, and when one of those old historical homes in Charleston is in need of restoration, my friend can hand carve a banister rail for a curved staircase, for example, and his skills are sought after.

I remember growing up in England in the 1940s and 1950s when there were the remnants of a class system still in place. Two things ended the class system, the first was the Great Depression of the 1930s when the wealthy lost much of their wealth.

And second, the end of WWII when working men came home with an attitude of “I put my life on the line for my country, I want a piece of the pie.” In spite of Winston Churchill being regarded as a great wartime leader, he was voted out of office immediately after the war, in favor of a socialist (Labor Party.) government.    

When there is a radical change in government certain aspects of the old system remain. Things don’t happen overnight. One of the things that didn’t change immediately was the education system, so all my schooling took place under the old system, and change didn’t come until some years after I had left school.

Under the old system wealthy people sent their children to expensive boarding schools, where they lived and received intensive schooling. This was paid for by the parents, and when the student left school he was assured a top job, usually in the family owned business. They became CEOs and Captains of Industry.

The rest of the population went to a “Primary” school. There was no grade system as in the US. At 11 years old everyone took what was called “The 11 Plus” exam. This was a one shot deal. If you passed you went to a High School, often known as a Grammar School. Once there you would receive a good education that would set you up for a middle management job in industry.

If you failed the 11+ exam, you went to a “Secondary” school, were you received a very basic education, and finished at age 15. No graduation, or certificate of education, you just left and were out in the cruel world to do any laboring type job you could find.

One of the features of the Secondary school was a lot of corporal punishment and constant verbal put downs by teachers, designed to break a child’s spirit, and remove all self-esteem. So when these kids went out into the world, they would become good subservient workers who wouldn’t question authority. Or in bygone years these kids joined the army, and became cannon-fodder for the many battles fought to maintain the British Empire.

1947 was the year I took the 11+ exam. That was the same year my father got fired from three different jobs, and we moved to three different locations, and I went to three different schools. One school would be way more advanced than the last and I would be lost, then in a few months I would move to another school that was teaching stuff I already knew.

Needless to say I didn’t pass the 11+ exam. I don’t blame my father entirely, he had a drinking problem, and had a hard time adjusting to civilian life after the war. He served the entire war from September 1939, the month the war started until the end in 1945.

My saving grace was by age 13 we had landed in the town of Luton, just north of London, and my mother dug her heels in and refused to move again. Luton had a Technical School, not every place did, but Luton being a large industrial center, had this school that leaned towards an engineering education.

At the end of 1949 I did pass an exam to go to Luton Technical School, which later set me up for an engineering apprenticeship. Luton Tech was also a Community College where older students went. Lunch time would see me at the school bike rack, hanging my nose over the beautiful racing bicycles some of these older students owned. This lead to my eventually owning one and the beginnings of a life-time passion for bicycles.

So what does this all have to do with the man with the neck tattoo, and the other with the biblical beard at the beginning of this piece? Under the old class system in Britain, what set the working class apart was not tattoos and iconic facial hair, but a local dialect. And there were many different ones all over the UK.

This would have been educated out of me had I passed my 11+ and gone to a Grammar School. I would have been taught what is known as BBC English. That spoken by broadcasters on the BBC. A somewhat sterile but precise and correct version of the English language. I would have ended up a poor man’s Hugh Grant.

Instead I became a qualified engineer and later a framebuilder, so my accent didn’t matter. Like the hypothetical man with the neck tattoo, or my friend with the biblical beard, I had skills so it wasn’t a factor. Today I am proud of my working class roots.

 

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Thursday
Oct092014

See you at the Philly Bike Expo

I will be at the Philly Bike Expo to be held November 8, and 9, 2014, at the Convention Center, Broad Street, Philadelphia. I was fortunate enough to be invited as one of the guest speakers.

I will be speaking from 12 noon to 1:00 pm. on Saturday 8th November. I will do my best to make the talk both informative and entertaining.

Among the other speakers are two other framebuilders from my era, namely Tom Kellogg, and Ben Serotta. I will be looking forward to meeting up with them again.

The thing I love about these type of events, it is always an opportunity to not only meet up with old friends, but I often come away having made many new ones.

I will be hanging out for the entire show, so if you happen to be there please stop me and say “Hi.” After the show I will be heading up to New York City for a few days.

The last time I was in New York was in the early 1980s when they had an annual bicycle trade show there. And of course when I first came the US, in 1979, I was at Paris Sport in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, just seven miles outside NYC, and went there most weekends.

 

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Tuesday
Sep302014

Working Bike

It gives me great satisfaction to see a bike I built in pristine condition, but there is also a measure of fulfilment when I see one that has obviously been ridden hard and has seen a lot of use. Like this one pictured here.

In the heyday of my custom framebuilding, the years 1982, 1983, and 1984 I built only three of these pure track frames. (One in each year.) They were all actually raced on the relatively few banked velodromes that exist in the US.

No one rode a brakeless, fixed wheel bike on the streets back then, with the exception of a few New York City bike messengers, who started the whole trend.

I built so few that looking through my original frame numbers record book, I can safely say (Even though I don’t have its frame number.) this one was built in February 1983. It is a 61cm. frame, the other two track frames built were a 49cm. and a 57cm. which is definitely not this one. It was built for a Jim Zimmerman, who I seem to recall was a pretty good rider.

It is fitting that this bike is now being used by a Brooklyn, NY bike messenger. My thanks to Patrick Gilmoure who saw it by chance, and managed to snap a few pictures before the bike’s current owner had to rush off to make another delivery. How cool is that? Enjoy the pictures as I did.

 

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Tuesday
Sep232014

I Don't Suffer for my Art

I have a new book titled “I Don’t Suffer for my Art.”

The subtitle inside reads “It’s the people who read this shit that suffer for my art.”

It is a collection of over 1,500 short humorous quips, together with 100 cartoons also drawn by me.

The book contains some strong adult language, and anyone who would be offended by this, I would rather they not read the book. I give fair warning of the content in the opening pages.

Here are a few excerpts:

Did you watch the Kentucky Derby? I haven’t seen that many horse faces and funny hats since the Royal Wedding.

When I know I’m right is when I need to shut up the most.

People buying cake and ice cream never actually “run” to the store. 

“Stake my wife, please.” (Vampire comedian)

According to my eye doctor, my right eye is dominant and my left eye is tired of taking this crap. 

I sometimes feel I’d rather see a person holding a bloody hatchet than a clip board in front of a store.

If you see a guy wearing a suit on a bus he’s probably on his way to court.

I have several motivational posters if anyone is interested, because I don’t think I’ll ever get around to hanging them.

It’s harder for a woman to dance her way out of a welding job than it was in the 80’s.

Do they say? “He died doing what he loved,” about people killed texting while driving.

I’ve spent most of my life dealing with the issue of being a man trapped outside a woman’s body.

I’m paranoid AND needy. I think people are talking about me, just not as often as I’d like.

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Then it’s a life of piracy on the high seas.

Danger is my middle name. First name: Avoids. Last name: Completely.

When I was a kid I stayed at my uncle’s farm. He said. “There’s 39 sheep out there, I want you to round them up.” I said, “OK there’s 40 sheep out there.”

True friends do not judge each other. They get together and judge other people.

If your kid can arm fart Ritchie Blackmore’s entire guitar riff from Smoke on the Water, he’ll probably go far in life 

I don’t have a problem with caffeine. I have a problem without caffeine.

It doesn’t take much to make a woman happy…. It takes even less to make her mad.

Parents today tell their kids, “Finish posting pictures of your food. There are children starving for attention in other countries.”

Iran declares “A Grand Day of Death to America.” With face painting for the kids.

Are retirement communities grey areas?

I once dated a Miss Universe…. But sadly not from this Universe.

I don’t get it, the accordion is such a difficult instrument to play. You could study to play one for 30 years and best case scenario you’re playing for three toddlers at a farmer’s market.

Did you know you can drop a baby off at any fire station, no questions asked? Doesn’t even have to be on fire. 

Note to every news channel…. Unless they are in a zoo, all bears are, “On the loose.”

Parents today don’t worry about their kids running away fromhome. Mainly because that would require going outside and gettingsome exercise.

Definition of irony: “Getting pregnant on a pull out sofa.”

 

 

The book will not be in stores until the end of October. If you would like a pre-release copy, email me at davesbikeblog[AT]gmail.com  

The book is in Paperback, 8.5  in. x 5.5 in. 195 pages. $14 plus $3 postage in the US (Media Rate.) $5 (Priority Mail.) You can pay with PayPal via the "Donate" button on the DaveMoultonRegistry. Overseas shipping unfortunately costs more than the book, but email if you are interested.

 

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Tuesday
Sep162014

NiteRider Rechargeable Bike Lights

Bicycle lights have improved tremendously since the introduction of LED light bulbs, emitting more light with longer battery life. There is really no excuse for anyone to ride at night without lights, and it amazes me that people still do. Most of the cycling fatalities happen during the hours of darkness.

Over the years I have always considered that the main purpose of bike lights was so that drivers of other vehicles could see me, I never really thought of it as a means to actually see where I was going in the dark. That was until a year or more ago when I bought a NiteRider MiNewt 350 headlight. (Below right.)

I bought it initially because I grew tired of constantly buying and replacing AAA batteries, and most annoying was that vibration caused the batteries to loose contact and the light would go out.

The NiteRider lights have rechargeable batteries.

The MiNewt unit has a separate rechargeable battery that straps firmly to the handlebar stem, and the tiny headlight fastens to the handlebar with a rubber “O” ring.

It throws a beam of light some 50 or 60 yards up the road ahead. The distance of the beam depends a lot on the angle you set the headlamp on the bars.

I am reluctant to set mine too high as the light can actually dazzle oncoming drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. I described the headlight as “Tiny,” but I was referring to its physical size. The headlight lens is only 3/4 inch (20mm.) in diameter, but the light is so intense that viewed head on in the dark, the light appears to be 3 or 4 inches in diameter. (75 to 100mm.)

The first thing I noticed was that when riding in the dark, cars approaching head on and wanting to turn in front of me, would actually sit and wait for me to pass. Even though there was often time for them to safely make the turn. On seeing such a bright light approaching, they might assume it is a motorcycle or motor-scooter approaching. The same is true for drivers emerging from side roads and driveways, they wait for me to pass before pulling out.

I ride on a local bike path at 6am. when temperatures are the coolest, but it is still dark. This headlight not only allows me to see the path ahead and ride at a reasonable pace, but I can see pedestrians and other bike riders without lights. Also the wildlife is still out including the occasional deer.

The headlight also throws a pool of light ahead so the cyclist is silhouetted in this pool of light making him more visible from behind. For this reason I continued to use my AAA battery power rear light, which I though adequate at the time. However, I was so pleased with the MiNewt Mini that I decided to put that one on my wife’s bike and I bought a NiteRider Lumina 700 headlight for my bike. (For 2015 it is a 750.)

This headlight (Picture at the top.) has an output of 700 lumens twice that of the Mini 350 I was using before.

The rechargeable battery and headlight is in one self-contained unit.

The lamp easily detaches from the handlebar mounting bracket, to facilitate recharging by plugging into the USB port of my computer. (Left.)

When I bought the new headlight I also bought two NiteRider Solas 2W taillights, for both my wife and my bikes.

I was a little confused at first by the clear lens in the center of this tail light. However, when in use it is the clear part that glows with an intense red light. When recharging it also glows red, but the light turns blue when fully charged.

The light has two flashing modes and a bright setting that are so bright that it is annoying or even blinding for another cyclist riding behind. For this reason there is a steady light “Low” setting. At this setting the makers claim it will run for 36 hours on one charging. On the low setting the light is bright enough that it can be seen at least half a mile away.

Above: The Solas rear light comes with a bracket that fits around the seat post. But I use a padded camera bag that I bought at Wal-Mart for around five bucks. It holds two spare inner tubes, tire levers, a Co2 pump and a patch kit. It attaches under my saddle the old fashioned way, with toe-straps. I made a loop for the lamp to clip on with a plastic zip-tie.

With these lights, I find that when riding in the dark, passing drivers give me more room in overtaking that they do in the daylight. I feel really safe. A must for someone commuting or training in the dark, and even in daylight, the headlight on flashing mode, really draws attention to your presence.

These lights are spendy, around $80 for the headlight, and $35 for the Tail-light. Shop around because prices vary. This is a quality product that comes with a 2 year guarantee. I have seen reviews where people have used these light for five years. So if you consider the cost and the hassle of buying batteries over a long period, plus the far superior light output, the initial cost I feel is worth it.

Finally, reflectors are good “No Maintenance” way to be seen at night, especially if on moving parts of the bike. Like these Salzmann Spoke Reflectors that turn your wheels into a spinning light show. (Picture above.) Salzmann also make a reflective back pack cover. Both the items are $14.99 each, an inexpensive way to be seen at night.

 

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