In 1981 when working for Masi in Southern California, I went to a bicycle trade show in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Falerio Masi, founder of the company, flew over from Italy and met us there on the opening day. When I arrived at the Masi show display from my hotel that morning, Falerio was already there and very upset.
He was speaking in Italian through an interpreter and flicking angrily with his finger tips at the brake cables on one of the bikes on display. I did not need to know what he was saying; I knew exactly what the problem was and why he was angry.
The bike was set up (Similar to the bike pictured above.) with the brake cables running under and in front of the handlebars. This was a huge fashion Faux Pas in Europe, it drove me crazy too.
Brake cables were supposed to flow in a pleasing curve from the brake lever, to the front brake, and to the top tube en route to the rear brake. The brazed on cable guides were precisely placed along the center of the top tube to facilitate this.
I heard Falerio Masi told,
“It is no big deal, and Americans don’t care about such things.”
That statement was probably true at the time. Many bikes being sold and ridden in the US were bought by people who today would buy a Mountain Bike, or a Hybrid. They were often set up like this Fuso (Above.) that came up for sale on Craig’s List last week.
Frames were usually too big for the rider. (By European standards.) The result was, the saddle was too low, and usually the bars were set too high. The brake levers are set too high on the curve of the handlebars, and the levers start to stick out front like a pair of six-guns.
This all indicates to me that the rider never should have been on a dropped handlebar bike in the first place, and I would rather have seen this bike set up with flat handlebars than set up looking like this.
On an “Old Skool” bike, the external brake cables were an important part of the aesthetics of the overall look. On my own bike for example (Above, and close up below.) notice how the cables leave the brake hoods, following the same curve of the lever.
Notice how the rear brake cable flows from the brake lever to the first cable guide on the top tube. It doesn’t matter if the front brake is on the right or the left, that is a personal preference.
The top of the curve of the cables just happen to be level with the top of the saddle, which has nothing to do with anything. However, this being my correct size frame, the handlebar to saddle height ratio is also correct, this is most likely the reason why it turned out that way.
Because when form and beauty meet function, there is harmony and balance. A machine set up to perform correctly from a functional stand point, will also look right from an aesthetic view point