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David Tesch

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.

Reader Comments (14)

As a shop employee in the mid '80s to mid '90s, I really admired frames from David Tesch, Almost as much as the ones from Dave Moulton. Thanks for sharing the history behind them.
December 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter Bob J
Thanks for sharing a part of cycling’s history; you clarify memories that were incomplete or inaccurate, having been there.
That's one thing keeping your blog interesting.
I remember “Smokin’” Dave shared a program on his HP 41 calculator (I had one also) to figure and print frame angles and lengths, at a time when programming was esoteric. And I remember listening to him, as you say he was always talking.
It saddened me to hear of his death, but brings a smile thinking what it was like to be around him.
December 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter VintageSpin
Having known Dave Tesch as well as anyone in the bike manufacturing business in California, I was shocked to hear of his passing. It proves to me that everyday is precious. Just a side note, not to take away from Daves passing, my husband had a ultra sound last March that found an aortic aneurysm at 7.5 cms in diameter, which is at a dangerous size. A stent was inserted and 10 days later he was back to work. Please never assume you are in perfect health.
January 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Brenda
I am Dave's sister. I miss him and hearing more stories lightens the loss.

Just to clarify. Dave did not die of a brain aneurysm. He had a Glioblastoma Multiforme, Type IV. Time from first symptom (2/03) to detection (5/03) to death (11/14/03) was far to short.

He was a wild guy, intense, sometimes irritating, but always interesting.

Ann Marie Schulz
April 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Ann Marie Schulz
I have some pictures of my 57 cm Tesch 101 frame with full 7 spd. Dura Ace 7401 if anybody would like to see them. I bought the bike off of Jim Cunningham in 3/2007. I used to own a John Howard back in 2004, but sold it because I couldn't afford to restore it. My 101 is beautiful as is. A real blast to ride. philip_w_moore_jr AT hotmail.com
So sorry to hear of Dave's passing. I am the owner of a "Killer Machine Red" 101 that I ordered from a short lived shop in San Diego called Damage Control. Mine has full Mavic friction gruppo. I was googling Daves name to see what it was worth. Hearing his story has pushed me in the direction of having the bike overhauled and using it on some group rides this summer in Portland OR. Thanks.
Mike Wonder
June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous

i'm so sorry to hear of daves passing, we were great friends and a great person to work with, i have some great storie about working with dave....i think we do !!!!

raymond w. schmal
July 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous
I have recently purchased a one off Dave Tesch track frame and have really enjoyed finding out the guys history!
It was built by him for a friend who was trialing for the Seoul Olympics, with a one of the kind, lugless fork crown.
November 6, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter steve
I worked with Dave at Framesmith in Tempe AZ. around 1993. Dave was the coolest "boss" I've ever had the pleasure of working with, it never felt like a job. The man was generous with his knowledge of bike building and just about everything else that had to do with engineering. My favorite memory... hanging out at Long Wongs on a hot summer night drinking gin and tonics and listening to Dave entertain a crowd of college students with crazy stories about flyng airplanes. I like the Keith Moon comparison mentioned in an earlier post. Thanks Dave.
November 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter twentieth_century
I was Daves neighbor in the industrial park in San marcos. He was a great guy. I always remember when he took a skil saw to the roof of his toyota wagon so he could fit his Husquvarna in it. He called it the "desert commuter" I always told him James Hogue was a liar. We had a lot of laughs together.
Tom McMellon
December 12, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter tmcmellon
I knew Dave back in high school in Wisconsin. He had such a passion for riding and working on bikes, and dreamed, even at age 15, of building his own bikes. We should all be so lucky as to live our dreams before we leave this life. Reading comments from those who knew him after 1975 paints a picture of a happy man.

When he was in the Navy in the 1970's on a sub and bored, he built a stainless steel cooler nearly coffin sized, insulated with leftover insulation from a nuke reactor. He mailed it to me from Italy. I still use it today, over 30 years later. Dave lives on in my memories, as he does in all of yours.

A special hello to Ann Marie, his sister.
Randy R.
sam7757 @ hotmail
December 28, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous
I am very pleased to say that my dad jsut gave me his old Tesch 101, and I have updated it with 10 speed shimano. The owner of the shop was amazed of the feel of this classic bike with 1200 gm Carbon wheels. I can't wait for the crit season t start!!!
January 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter Anonymous
I have a Tesch bike. Can anyone help with the id of this ride? Thanx
July 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter Nitrohawk

Dear Ann Marie; My condolences regarding the death of your brother. I own a John Howard bike that I always thought was built by Dave Moulton until I read this article. The bike was in fact built by Dave Tesch as identified by several aspects on the frame. I completed the 1981 Ironman won by John Howard. I still run long distances and plan to someday return to Ironman Hawaii. If I do, I'll be riding this bike and say a prayer for Dave.

September 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Weeks

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