On this day, December 14, 2003, David Tesch passed away too soon at only 44 years old.
I first met Dave early in 1982. I worked for Masi from October of 1980 until the end of 1981. I always state that I worked for Masi, but strictly speaking I built Masi frames, working for Ted Kirkbride who was subcontracted to build the frames.
Roland Sahm the man who had brought Feleiro Masi to America in the mid 1970s still owned Masi USA. The original Carlsbad, CA factory had closed some of the equipment had been moved to Sahm’s ranch in Rancho Santa Fe, just north of San Diego. There were a few frames still being built by local framebuilder Rob Roberson.
Around 1980 there was an upsurge in Masi sales, due partly to the movie Breaking Away, in which a Masi played a leading roll as the main character’s bike. Local bike store owner Ted Kirkbride opened a small frameshop in nearby San Marcos, CA and I was brought in to build Masi frames in addition to those being built at Sahm’s ranch.
To keep his overhead low, Ted Kirkbride rented out space and use of the equipment to local independent framebuilder Brian Baylis, and ex-Masi painter Jim Cunningham who had a frame re-finishing business called Cyclart. In addition there was painter, Jim Allen who painted the Masi frames.
As I recall, it was Cyclart who brought Dave Tesch to the San Marcos shop to do frame repairs for them. Dave had some framebuilding experience having worked for Trek, in Wisconsin. Dave Tesch would have been about 22 or 23 years old at the time.
At the end of 1981, I had been laid off by Ted Kirkbride due to an excess inventory of Masi frames, and in January 1982 I too was building my own frames; renting space in a very small and what was becoming an increasingly crowded frameshop.
Into this crowded mix of very diverse, independently creative people; each with a different agenda and ego, came David Tesch; full of the energy and enthusiasm of his youth. What stands out most in my memory was the fact that he talked incessantly, and loudly. When he wasn’t talking to others in the shop, he was on the phone to his friends and family back in Wisconsin, recalling what he had learned that day.
The guy was like a sponge, just wanting to soak up every scrap of framebuilding knowledge he could. For my part I just wanted to get as much work done as I could, and get the hell out of there and into my own frameshop. It was like having a child who keeps asking, why, why, why? While you are trying to get work done.
Things were not made easier when I was asked to build Masi frames again, because now I had more than enough work building my own frames. This did give Dave Tesch the break he was looking for and he was able to take over the Masi production. Although we now had three separate framebuilders sharing the same equipment, and three painters, including myself, sharing one paint booth.
The following summer I was able to move into my own shop also in San Marcos, and my relationship with Dave Tesch and the others improved greatly with a mile distance between us. I went on to build the John Howard frames, and Dave Tesch worked part time for me.
Around 1984 Dave opened his own small frameshop across town in San Marcos, and took over the building of the John Howard frames when I switched to production of the Fuso.
I have never known a young framebuilder who became so good at his craft, as quickly as Dave Tesch; he obviously had a natural talent.
Physically he reminded me a little of Keith Moon, drummer with The Who. Dark hair, dark, sometimes wild looking eyes. Casual to the point of being scatter-brained in everything except his framebuilding, in which he was meticulous.
One story I recall, he came out of his frameshop one evening with a brand new frame he was to deliver to a customer. He was about to put the frame in his car trunk when his phone rang. He sat the frame down on its rear drop-outs leaning against the back of the car.
In typical Dave Tesch fashion he talked on the phone for an hour, and it was dark when he finally hung up. He locked up his shop, jumped in his car and backed over the brand new frame. Later when he told me the story, he thought it was hilarious; he could laugh at his own dumb mistake.
Dave had to close his frameshop in the early 1990s due to the fall off in demand for road bikes; for the same reason I would follow him a few years later. The difference was Dave Tesch was young enough that he probably would have returned to framebuilding had it not been for his premature death.
His frames still exist; treasured by their owners and each a tribute and a legacy of his craftsmanship.
Thu, December 14, 2006