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Monday
May222017

In search of the perfect fork blade

When a fork blade comes from the tube manufacturer’s factory, it is straight, the framebuilder bends it to a curve that suits his requirements. 

An un-raked road fork blade is oval at the top. The oval section runs parallel for about a third of its length.

Then the cross section becomes round and starts to taper gradually to its smallest diameter section at the bottom end.

The fork blade is bent cold on a curved form that is sometimes made from hard wood. I used one I made myself from two heavy-duty steel fork blades, bent in the desired curve, and brazed together side by side. This made a natural grove between the two blades where the blade would sit as I was bending.

I would slip a short piece of tube over the thin end of the form and the blade I was bending. This acted as a collar to hold it in place. Then I'd start bending, first by pushing down by hand. The thin end of the blade bends easily, and I would finish off by squeezing it in a vise.

Bicycle tubing is hardened, and it will spring back after bending. Because of this, the form needs to be a greater curve than the finished fork blade will be. 

A fork blade is several inches longer than it needs to be. The framebuilder chooses where he will put the bend, and where he will cut to length. For example, if I were making a criterium frame and wanted a very stiff fork, I would cut from the bottom, thin end.

If I were building a touring frame, and wanted a flexible fork for a more comfortable ride, I would cut from the top end and leave the blade thin at the bottom end. The framebuilder creates the perfect fork blade, by selecting the best place to bend the blade, and by choosing how much to cut from either end.

It is rather like a furniture maker choosing where to cut from a piece of wood to achieve the best end product. Once I arrived at the perfect fork blade, it was then an easy matter to repeat the process again and again.

On a John Howard

On a Fuso

On a Recherché

One exception to this process was the Reynolds 753 fork blades. 753 was heat treated to a degree that the material could not be bent after. These were bent at the factory, then heat treated, and the framebuilder then cut to the required length. You will notice on the 753 Fuso Lux frame (Pictured below.) that the fork bend is a different shape than the ones bent by me.

Chainstays and seatstays are also tapered and the same selective cutting to length is employed. In this case, where the cut is made depends a great deal on the size of frame and its end use. 

The perfect fork blade is stiff enough to allow precise handling, but with some flex to absorb road shocks. It also looks pleasing to the eye. I have a theory that when something is designed correctly from a functional standpoint, it has a natural aesthetic beauty. This is true of a boat, a bridge, a building, and even a bicycle frame.

The modern trend of building straight forks of course saves the framebuilder a great deal of time and effort. If this look has become acceptable, why should today’s builder go through all the time consuming process I have described here? 

The straight blade is angled forward so the same fork rake or offset is achieved and handling would be the same. I can’t comment on the shock absorption qualities because I have never built a frame with a straight fork.

In my view, a great deal is lost aesthetically, so where does that leave my theory about function being linked to aesthetics? On the other hand, is it simply that beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

 

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Monday
May152017

10 useful tips for car drivers

1.)    If you see a cyclist ahead and you can’t pass because of opposing traffic, resist the urge to run over him, even though you can. You know what a mess it can make of your car if you hit a deer, a cyclist will probably do even more damage.

2.)    Don’t throw stuff at cyclists: In some states there is a $250 fine for this, plus there is a $1,000 fine for littering. It can add up. If you feel you must throw something at a cyclist, think of the environment and throw something that is biodegradable.

3.)    Don’t waste time thinking of clever things to yell at cyclists as you drive by at 50mph. Just shout, "Garble, garble, garble, fucking road." It is all they will hear anyway

4.)    If you are approaching a right turn, slow and wait behind the cyclist ahead of you. If you can’t do this at least be consistent and race ahead of other cars, then cut them off by turning right in front of them.

5.)    Use the buddy system. If you can’t resist the urge to text while driving have a buddy ride along to look out for cyclists.

6.)    Pedestrians can also be annoying. They will not stay on one side of the road and are likely to interrupt your texting by crossing over to the other side at some point.

7.)    Resist the urge to lay on the horn. If you can’t do this consider fitting a second horn inside the car a few feet from your head. This will give you a realistic feel of how incredibly fucking loud your car horn is.

8.)    Watch your blind spot: Looking in store windows or at pretty girls as you drive by creates a huge blind spot ahead of you. Cyclists have an annoying habit of riding in this blind spot.

9.)    If a cyclist is riding in the middle of the lane, it could be because he will not ride within five feet of a parked car. (The door zone.) If you expect cyclists to ride within inches of parked cars, set an example by driving within inches of parked cars.

If more drivers did this and removed a few car doors, and busted a few knuckles as a result, it would help by reminding people to look before opening a car door. At the present time cyclists hitting car doors does not have the same impact.

10.)  Avoid hitting cyclists by simply going around them. If you should hit one because he happened to be there when you were applying makeup, or you were distracted in some other way. Don’t say “He swerved in front of me.” Simply tell the police officer, “I didn’t see him.”

This is becoming the more widely accepted defense. After all it is the truth and a driver can’t be expected to see everything. (Don’t try the “I didn’t see it” defense if you run a stop sign. For some strange reason this does not work.)  

 

First posted December 2011. 

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Tuesday
May092017

Riding Position Simplified

There is so much information available on bike riding position, it can be confusing to both beginners and experienced riders alike. A whole cottage industry has sprung up dealing with bike fit, and one can spend a great deal of money, and often be no better off.

So let’s forget about computer programs and magic formulas, and look at the basic issues we are dealing with. Assuming our bike is the right size, and not too big or small by extremes, how can we find a good place to start? Find a position that is both efficient and comfortable.

There are really only two main issues we need to concern ourselves with. That is saddle height, and position of your arms in relation to your legs. Whether you are looking for an extreme aero racing position, or a more upright leisure riding position, the same principle applies. You need an efficient position, whether your goal is to go fast, or ride in comfort.

1.)    Saddle height. Imagine you are doing squats with a weight as shown in the picture above. Note that when in the lowest possible squat, the knees are spread apart. That is because the hip joint in the pelvis has a limit to how far it can travel. When you reach that limit the only way to squat any lower is to spread the knees apart.

When you see someone on a bike riding with their knees spread, it is often an indication that their saddle is too low and the hip joint has reached its limit of rotation. An extremely low back position, or the saddle positioned far back will exacerbate the problem because you are rotating the pelvis forward. However in most cases if the saddle is high enough, no matter how low your back, at the top of the pedal stroke, the hip joint will not be at or near its limit.

When doing squats with a weight it is hard to lift from the lowest position. It would be much easier if you started from the half way position. In other words, leg muscles work more efficiently near the top end of the lift. So if you can ride a bike with the saddle as high as it can be, you are pedaling with more efficiency that with the saddle set low.

How high would be too high? Well, if you are stretching for the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, and your pelvis is rocking side to side, it would indicate your saddle is too high. With one crank at its lowest point, your toe should be pointing down, but not stretched. You should be then able to lift your butt 1/4 inch (6mm) above the saddle. If you can lift yourself more than that, your saddle needs to go higher. When riding, it is easier to tell by feel if a saddle is too high, but not so easy to tell if it is slightly too low.

2.)     Position of arms in relation to the legs. When pedaling at maximum effort we are pushing down with more than our body weight. The only thing holding us down is our hands grasping the handlebars. Power is transmitted through the arms, shoulders, and back muscles to the legs.

Look at the top picture of Peter Sagan. With the crank arms horizontal and the pedal on its downward stroke, the red line line drawn from the hip joint to the pedal, is approximately parallel to a line drawn from the shoulder to the hands on the drops. In other words arms are in exact opposition to the legs.

Notice I said approximately. The lines do not have to be exactly parallel, but if there is a wide difference this is not a good position. It doesn’t matter what your back angle is, horizontal or a leisurely 45 degree angle. Arms opposing legs still apply.

Many recreational riders make the mistake of raising their handlebars higher and higher to achieve a more upright back angle, when a better approach might be to fit a shorter stem and raise it less. (The resulting back angle is the same.) If the arms are not opposing the legs, backache can result, or you find yourself constantly sliding forward on the saddle.

Weight distribution too comes into account. Weight should be distributed between the pedals, saddle and handlebars. If the bars are above the saddle then all the weight is on the saddle.

 

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Monday
May012017

If you ride a bike, check your auto insurance

If you ride a bike and own a car, and let’s face it most of us do, check your car insurance. That’s right your car insurance.

If you are hit by a car while on your bike and end up with $60,000 or more in medical bills, it will not help you if the driver at fault has only minimum legal coverage of say $25,000.

Worse yet he may have no insurance, or as is happening in more and more bicycle/car crashes, it is a hit and run. The driver leaves the scene and there is no one to make a claim against.

Most cyclists do not know that in most cases you can claim for expenses and compensation from your own insurance company, and if you are not at fault you are not penalized. However, this is only the case if you previously bought sufficient coverage on your own policy.

I was advised to do this a few years ago by an attorney friend of mine, and as a result I upped my underinsured and uninsured driver coverage to $250,000. It is advisable to carry at least $100,000 and up to $300,000. It may cost you $8.00 a month for the extra coverage, but the peace of mind it brings is worth it.

This advice was reiterated in a free book I just received called “The Utah Bicycle Accident Handbook.” As the title suggests it applies to the state of Utah, but much of the advice is good in most states.

The book also pointed out that I might consider Personal Injury Protection, or No Fault Coverage. This allows for my medical expenses to be covered immediately, instead of having to wait for the other party’s insurance to accept responsibility for the accident. If they do eventually accept responsibility my insurance company will seek reimbursement from the at fault insurer.

I had a serious bike accident a few years ago, and I was fortunate in that the person who caused the accident owned a business and had excellent auto insurance. There was also a witness who came forward, and I had an attorney who specialized in bicycle cases handle the claim.

I would advise anyone to do the same. An attorney will take a third of the final settlement, but they take no money up front, so it is in their interest to get the best settlement possible.

Insurance companies are in the business of paying out as little as possible, that is how they make a profit. In my case I would have had no idea what would have been a fair offer, or just how much they would have paid, but an specialist bike accident attorney has that knowledge and experience. 

The lawyer who helped me was Peter Wilborn, of Charleston, SC. He is in touch with a network of other bicycle accident lawyers all over the US, and can probably put you in touch with some close to you.

Peter Wilborn's Bike Law wensite has also covered this subject here.

 

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Thursday
Apr202017

Cycling Specific Prescription Eyewear

It is hard to believe it has been almost three years since I first ordered my own prescription sunglasses back in June of 2014. (Pictured below right.) Later that year I ordered a pair of clear, no tint lenses that were interchangeable in the same frames. I was then covered for both bright sunlight and low light conditions.

Fortunately my prescription has not changed and the glasses still serve me well.

Recently my wife Kathy was in need of a pair of prescription sunglasses, and once again we went to Sport RX, a San Diego based company that specializes in sports eyewear.

As before, I initially emailed then spoke with Rob Tavakoli on the phone, and he was most helpful in guiding me through the many choices. Price was a consideration, but so too was quality. Rob steered me on to the Tifosi brand.

We are all familiar with the big brand names in sunglasses, and Sport RX stocks them all, but Tifosi is an American brand, that doesn’t even try to match the big names with an army of reps on the road, and a huge advertising budget. Rather they concentrate on producing a quality product at a competitive price.

I could relate absolutely to this strategy, it was how I ran my bike business. I didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on advertising, so instead produced a quality product, and relied on a dealer network to educate the consumer, and sell it. When all is said and done, the huge advertising budget is ultimately paid for by the consumer, with the higher prices you pay for the big brand names.

This time we went with Transitions Xtra Active adaptive lenses. The kind that adjust automatically, and darken or lighten according to the lighting condition. Added to this was Sport RX own anti-glare coating. At nighttime the lenses are almost clear, making them ideal for riding in the dark, or for that matter they can double as night driving glasses, as they cut down on glare.

In bright sunlight they darken quite rapidly, within a few minutes. On some of our rides, there are old growth trees that completely cover the road like a shaded tunnel. Again the lenses adapt to a lighter shade to accommodate this.

The lenses, like my own, are fully progressive, with distance vision in the top portion, and the close up prescription at the bottom. When riding leaning forward, you are looking through the top (Distance.) portion anyway, and having the close up option, it is there if you need to read something, or make adjustments on the bike. It saves having to carry a separate pair of reading glasses.

Above: The Tifosi "Wasp" glasses come in a nice semi-hard case with a zippered closure. This picture illustrates how the Transitions lenses are almost clear straight out of the case. Included with the frames but not shown in this picture, are non-prescription clear and tinted lenses.

As I started out saying, after three years of using my own prescription riding glasses, I can highly recommend them. The curved frames and lenses, fit close to the face so keep out the glare. The curved lenses also make it easier to see sideways, and when turning the head to look behind. They also stay in place on your face, and don’t slip down your nose like regular glasses do.

They are really part of your essential equipment, along with the shoes, shorts, gloves and helmet. Not only from the safety aspect, but proper cycling specific sunglasses make your riding experience just that much more pleasurable. 

I highly reccommend Spot RX. They go out of their way to find a product that best suits the individual customer. They understand cyclists and the cyclist's needs. This is the third time I have done business with them and I have never been disapointed. Please mention this blog, because it can't hurt.

 

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