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Monday
May232016

Monday Musings

If you have just bought a new bike you may spend a great deal of time simply looking at it, and admiring every tiny detail.

Get a chair sit down, relax and take it all in. Make sure you have got your fill, because once you kit up and go for the first ride, you need to stop looking at it.

I know anyone with a more than a couple of neurons could figure that one out, but you would be surprised how many people have ridden into parked cars while doing just that. Looking down admiring their bike while riding.

The same goes for after cleaning your bike, or even shaving your legs. It is hard to claim that a parked car pulled out in front of you.

Medical bills and dental work can be extremely expensive, as can bike repairs. So the next time you find yourself glancing down at this beautiful piece of machinery, if only for a spit second, remember this little article, and get your eyes back on the road ahead.

I hope I have just saved someone a whole lot of pain, money and embarrassment.

I have always set my bikes up with the front brake lever on the right.

It was the way I was taught when I first joined a cycling club back in England in the 1950s.

This trend can also be traced all the way back to the invention of the bicycle. The early bicycles only had one brake that operated on the front wheel.

It was a crude device that pressed down directly on the solid rubber front tire.

It had to operate on the front wheel because that was the one closest to the handlebars and the brake lever.

The brake lever was placed on the right because most people are predominantly right handed. So when rear brakes were added, that lever was placed on the left, as everyone was already used to the front brake being on the right.

Also the early brakes were rod operated, cable brakes came later. It made sense for the rear brake operating rods to go on the left side of the frame away from the drive train on the right side. So I am no different from many older English and other European riders, I have always ridden bikes, even as a kid, with the front brake lever on the right, rear brake left.

So why in America is it standard to have the front brake lever on the left? Because in the 1970s when the bike US bike boom started, American bikes were mostly cruisers with rear wheel coaster brakes, and no brake levers were required.

When racing bikes started being imported from Europe, the U S Consumer Protection Agency deemed that all bikes would have the right brake lever operate the rear brake. It is just a government regulation that applies to new bikes. People are free to set their own bike up as they please.

There are many arguments which way is best, but if like me you have been used to a certain set up most of your life, it is probably not wise to switch just for the sake of change.

 

The English bike builder Hetchins have always been famous for their Curly Stays (Picture left.)

The design served no useful purpose, but it was a recognition thing, a talking point.

When you saw one go by on the road, you knew it was a Hetchins. Even today people will gather round one and talk about it.

In the 1950s there was a story going round about a group of British riders who went across to France to race. It was in the late 1940s, soon after WWII.

One of the group was riding a Curly Hetchins, and he crashed during the race, rendering himself unconscious. When he came around he found a group of French farm-workers were trying to straighten his bike.

I am pretty sure this was one of those urban myths that never really happened, but it’s a funny story none-the-less.

I do know however the Curly Hetchings was a source of amusement to the French.

I remember seeing a Picture of one in Miroir des Sports (But et Club,) a French Cycling Newspaper.

I never did find the full translation of the caption to the picture, but there was a mention of Queen Anne Legs.

 


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Monday
May162016

The Golden Age

There is a period in recent history known as the Golden Age of Cycling, during the late 1940s after WWII and into the 1950s.

In countries like Italy, France, Belgium and Switzerland, professional cyclists were the super stars of their day.

It is the period that the Eroica event celibates, and tries to recapture.

It was the era when I started cycling, and I remember what a joy it was to ride a bike in England back then. In the UK there was a lot less motorized traffic, and people were in less of a hurry.

We could always ride two abreast anywhere, and it was unlikely there was opposing traffic when a car needed to pass a couple of cyclists, or even a bunch of twenty or more.

There was no honking of car horns or screaming abuse, most people had grown up riding a bike to school, or probably their first job was delivering groceries on a bike, so they could relate. There was coexistence on the roads.

It has occurred to me recently that this era was not just the Golden Age of Cycling, but it was the Golden Age, period.

For a few brief years there was peace and prosperity, the world economy was booming as everyone rebuilt after the war. There were plenty of hard manual labor jobs available, where a person could work physically hard. Jobs for people of all levels of education.

Over the years life has become easier and easier, but easy does not necessarily go hand in hand with the quality of life.

Have we reached a point where our quality of life is now at a standstill or even in reverse?

At one point in ancient history people had to chase animals with a stick in order to eat and survive, life was extremely hard and there was much suffering.

The problem as I see it is that it took tens of thousands, if not millions of years to get from killing animals with a stick, to tying a rock on the end of the stick to make a simple tool.

Now in just the last two or three hundred years, technology has exploded and continues to develop at an ever increasing and alarming rate of speed.

Meanwhile our DNA, our bodies have not caught up with technology. We are still programmed to chase animals with a stick. We no longer have to work physically hard in order to eat, the result is we exercise too little, and eat too much.

Our children are unable to follow their basic instinct, and are constantly told, "Don't run." Watch any baby animal at play and it involves chasing each other, training for later life when they are either chasing or running away from other animals.

When I was a child our games too consisted of chasing each other, I remember I pretty much ran everywhere, two miles to school and back. Running was effortless, it seemed my feet hardly touched the ground. 

I loved to climb trees, sitting at the top of an eighty foot tree, looking out over the canopy of a wooded area, is an experience I will never forget. Squirrels and birds would come and sit close to me. I cannot remember the last time I witnessed a kid in a tree.

It is a shame children and young adults cannot experience adventure. When I was fourteen I went touring on my bike with a school friend. We rode all over England, we slept in a tent, or stayed at Youth Hostels for very little money.

Maybe the reason video games are so popular is because it satisfies a need for adventure, along with a primitive instinct to chase something.

The problem is only virtual adventure, all in the mind and there is no physical effort associated with it. Real adventure prepares one for the real world. It involves physical activity, and interaction with real people.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning video games out of hand. I can remember being told that Rock n’ Roll and long hair would cause the downfall of Western Civilization. It did not, and neither will video games.

One answer for a young person would be to take a job like construction work that is hard physical labor, or take up a sport so the exercise and training has an end purpose.

The problem is some are so stressed working to maintain a “comfortable” life style, they just want to relax after a hard day at the office, and lead a sedentary life.

If we are honest, we don’t work hard anymore, not physically hard that is. Our minds work hard, multitasking, trying to cram a million things into our day. We rush here, we rush there. We end each day mentally exhausted, rather than physically exhausted.

Physical exhaustion means sleeping soundly at the end of the day, whereas, mental exhaustion means stress and the likelihood of being unable to sleep.

Governments are not going to change things for us, it is up to each individual to decide on his/her own lifestyle. “Less is more” is a worn out cliché I know, but learning to live simply on less, rather than trying to make more, is worth considering.

 

Question: What are you doing to make your life better? Not necessarily more prosperous, or easier, but a better quality of life

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Monday
May092016

You can’t spell Classic without Class

 

Tee shirts are probably America’s favorite casual wear, so commonplace that most people will hardly give one a second look. So what people look for is a quality product, that has a pleasing and different design, and one that makes a statement about the wearer.

Like interesting people, an interesting tee shirt has something to say. It can be a conversation piece, which is why I think the trend is now to have the design on the front. A person would be unlikely to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I like the design on the back of your shirt.”

When I did an online search to find out what cycling related shirts were available, and what was trending, I was surprised, and somewhat disappointed, to find the choices limited, and often pretty generic. Hardly worth a second glance, or an “I like your shirt,” comment.

So I set about designing my own. My most recent one is at the top of the page, designed with the Vintage Bike enthusiast in mind. The bike picture I used was from an ad I placed in Velo-News back in January 8th, 1982, when I was still working in the Masi shop and trying to get my business off the ground. (See below.)

The original was a hand drawing from a photo of a bike I built in the late 1970s when I was back in England. The artist I only know as “Gustavson.” I don’t remember much about him, and I don’t think we actually met, he had contacted me by phone offering to do art work for me. Remember this was back long before computers and Photoshop.

One of my other recent designs (Above.) is my “Retirement Plan” shirt. The bike and rider is a modern one, I did not want to limit sales to “Vintage” bike enthusiasts. Designing tee shirts is just another way to keep my creative juices flowing.

To be successful in any venture one needs to be first, better, or different than everyone else. I can hardly be first, tee shirts have been around longer than I have. But I can produce a quality product that looks good and is different from others being offered. That business model served me well when I built bicycle frames. Wish me luck now. 

The shirts are available here: www.davemoultonstore.com Also eMail me davesbikeblog[AT]gmail[DOT]com if you would like the Classic design in a Hoodie Sweat Shirt, I am taking pre-orders. On the Hoodie the design will be on the back with a smaller design on the front left side. Let me know your size and color preference. 

 

Footnote: The Facebook Group for Dave Moulton Bikes is knocking on the door of 400 members. (396 at the time of writing this.) Check it out you don't have to be an owner to join.

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Monday
May022016

My Balls have Shrunk

Not physically, but metaphorically.

I used to write interesting stuff here, some of it controversial.

I would often try to act as Devil’s Advocate and get a discussion going.

Not anymore. For better or worse I mellowed out. Looking at this old post from five years ago. This was one of the turning points:

Title: Political Correctness 

Texas A & M has an annual contest for the best definition of a contemporary expression. This year (2011) it was "political correctness." And here's the winner

"Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end."

I hate Political correctness, it is a form of censorship. It makes people afraid to speak their mind, or to even mention certain subject matter.

Yesterday I wrote a piece which I intended to be a discussion around a podcast, “Are urban cyclists elitist snobs.”

In my view cyclists are a minority, and if a small element of our minority behaves badly, we all get smeared with the same shit stick.  

I was stupid enough to draw an analogy with other minority groups, namely people of color and gays. I should have known better, and I should not have even attempted to pick up that turd.

This morning there was a comment that suggested I was racist and anti-gay. My first reaction was to start composing a comment defending myself. Then I thought fuck it, why should I have to defend myself against something that is entirely untrue?

I deleted the piece along with all comments. Maybe I acted a little hasty, but I clicked “Delete” and it is gone. Forever as far as I am concerned.

I may not have done the right thing, but I did the “Safe” thing. A suggestion like that can quickly grow legs and with the help social media I could lose my reputation overnight, and all these years of writing here would be right down the toilet. All because of one little politically incorrect turd.

End of article.

 

So there you have it. My Balls have Shrunk. Maybe it is old age, but I just want to live a quiet life. Social media is a powerful thing, but it is killing free speech. It is hardly fair when the critics can remain anonymous, and someone like me is writing under their real name.

I may not be as interesting as I once was, but at least I’m still here.

 

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Monday
Apr252016

The UCI Disc Brake Ban, and the American Market

The UCI (The World Governing Body for the sport of cycle racing.) recently lifted their ban on disc brakes for road racing and allowed them to be used in the Paris-Roubaix race.

Then when Movistar rider Francisco Ventoso suffered a severe cut on his leg, that may or may not have been caused by coming into contact with a disc brake, banned them again just as quickly.

By the way, this is just an observation, but:

Don’t manufacturers see that the fears the pros have might be a little less if the current crop of disc brakes didn’t look like a device for slicing meat. (See top picture.)

I’m sure someone will explain to me why the outside edge can’t be smooth and rounded, instead of resembling the teeth of a circular saw.

After the UCI ban, I read stories about the major bike manufacturers being in a panic, as in recent years they have all invested heavily in the development of disc brakes for road bikes.

Looking back at my own experience coming from Europe to America some 37 years ago, the industry has not a thing to worry about. As far as cycling is concered, the American leisure market drives itself, unaffected by what the European Pros are using.

Not only does the US leisure market drive itself it eventually influences what equipment the rest of the world uses, including the pros. Take helmet use as one prime example of this.

When I first came to the US in 1979, I came from a cycling culture where everyone who was seriously into the sport belonged to a local Cycling Club. Almost all club members raced at some level, either in road races or time-trials at the very least.

No one used a helmet except for the leather hairnet kind (Right.) mandatory for amateur road races, but not time-trials.

Nowhere in the UK or the rest of Europe did cyclists wear helmets for leisure riding or training. In fact the idea was ridiculed.

Everyone had their bike set up like a pro, the club system saw to that. It helped coach and influence newcomers to the sport.

I arrived in the US to find no one had a clue what was going on in Europe, and neither did anyone care. Very few owners of racing bikes actually raced, and across the board everyone rode a frame that was 3 or 4 centimeters bigger than their European counterparts.

Handlebars were up level with the saddle, and brake levers were high up on the bars with the levers sticking out like a pair of six-guns.

And the helmets… Ugly white things that looked like an upturned pudding basin. And everyone had at least one story how their helmet had “Saved their Life.”

So the use of helmets is a prime example of how the American leisure market influenced the rest of the world. The UCI did not make helmets compulsory for the pros until as recent as 2003.

The Mountain Bike is another. Developed entirely in America, caught the imagination of all leisure cyclists and the general public, to the extent it killed the road bike market for a while. It created a huge market worldwide and got the corporations involved.

Index shifting too, brought about by the mountain bike and the large numbers of inexperienced riders it brought in. People who did not know how to shift gears with a friction shift. This then lead to gear levers up on the brake levers, and eventually 10 and 11 speed cassettes.

I am not suggesting these developments have been adverse, many have improved the sport. That is not my point. The technology was not developed in the pro peloton. In almost every sport, equipment is developed at the professional level, but not in cycling.

In fact the UCI bans the use of prototype equipment, thus stifling any useful technological advancement there. Disc brakes first appeared on mountain bikes, and have gradually made their way over to road bikes.

If the pros had more say in the development of disc brakes, their safety concerns would have already been addressed. But the UCI does everything ass backwards.

Meanwhile I don’t see why the big bike corporations are panicking (If indeed they are.) The American leisure rider doesn't give a damn what the UCI sanctions or what the European pros use. He never did, and never will. He is more influenced by what his buddies use on the next Sunday morning coffee ride.     

 

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