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« Running stop signs | Main | Group Riding »
Sunday
Sep122010

Character 

In the early 1960s I lived in Nottingham, a part of England's Industrial Midlands area. Raleigh had a huge bicycle factory there, the size of a small city itself.

Raleigh was already showing signs of decline even back then as the working classes all over Europe switched from bicycles to autos as their mode of transport.

Nottingham was also a coal mining area, and you always knew an older coal miner by the little blue scars all over his hands, arms and face.

These were caused by cuts and knicks collected on the job; coal dust had entered the wound, it had healed over leaving a permanent blue tattoo as a reminder.

These men were some of the finest people it has ever been my privilege to meet. Beauty was not in their physical appearance, but in their character.

I drew this analogy when Brian McCoy sent me details of his Fuso for inclusion in my Bike Registry.

A 60cm. 1st Generation Fuso with the serial number 601. The picture included with his email showed a frame that had been well used, but somehow its beauty still shines through.

Brian bought the frame on Craig’s List two years ago; he stated:

“It has the original paint, which is in pretty rough condition. I am happy to have given this beautiful frame a second or possibly third or fourth life.”

My sentiments exactly. While it is highly satisfying for me to see frames I built, often owned by the original owners, and many still in pristine condition.

It is also just as satisfying to see one like this that has been well used, and is still being ridden and enjoyed. I have said many times, I built these bikes not as art objects, but to be ridden.

This bike’s beauty is not in its appearance, it is in its character. There must be several thousand of these frames and bikes gathering dust in people’s basements and garages, and there is no satisfaction in that for me.

That is the purpose behind my Bike Registry to encourage people to let these bikes out of hiding and back on the roads and streets again. That is what gives me real satisfaction.

 

                         

Reader Comments (8)

What a quote Dave:

This bike’s beauty is not in its appearance, it is in its character

How may bike character be defined?

Regards from Chile,

Roberto

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

Roberto,
How does this bike have character? In the same way an old leather jacket can have character, or a piece of antique furniture that has hundreds of years of dirt and grime in its finish. It is how an old guitar or violin bears the wear marks from being played thousands of times.
Life gives an inanimate object character as surely as it does people, but you cannot create it artificially, although the makers of blue denim jeans try.
Also it is not to say other people who own my bikes are wrong to try to keep them in pristine condition. To do any other would be like neglecting, abusing and beating a child to build strong character.
Neglect, abuse and punishment or for that matter the scars collected due to hard living, either destroy or build character. That is true of people and it is true of this bicycle.
Dave

September 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

A bicycle’s character is not contained in the frame. A bicycle is made to be ridden, and it is incomplete without the rider.
The bike, the rider.
Together they form character. So a classy rider on a classic bike represents a history of why cycling continues to have a pull upon persons perceptive to what is real.

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Steve,
So very true. Some antique guitars are collected by people who don’t even play. Some hermetically seal them in their cases, so we can’t even hold or see them.
This drives up the price of these old instruments so high that a musician, who would love to own and play one, cannot afford to do so.
So well said Steve, just as a musical instrument needs a musician to play it, a bicycle needs a rider.
Dave

September 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I've seen camera collectors by new Liecas and put them immediately on the shelf. A complete waste. My around campus bike is a 73 Raleigh Grand Prix, gas pipe version, original paint. Using it for 18 years now. My commuter is now a 77 Raleigh Super Corse, set up fixed, new powder coat. Over 1K miles this summer. Kept all the bits should someone want it to go back. Great old solid bikes. They will be around and useful after I stop riding.

September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

You're right on - bikes are meant to be ridden - not saved. Buying something new to "save it" - guitar, camera, bike, car - whatever, seems incredibly goofy to me.

I am guilty of saving a few bikes that I've ridden a zillion miles on, then semi-retired. I'm not purposely saving them, I just ride the newer ones. I do occasionally sell one off - then miss it. It's like selling off an old friend, a vehicle of memories.

Is that same as "collecting" bikes? I hope not....

September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Dave a good post
I am from Ilkeston nr Nottingham and worked at the Giant Raliegh factory finishing in 1993. I brazed some of the last frames to come out of the factory and then went on to the mig welded frames ( clumsy frames as I called them ).
I remember the great Raleigh team that won the tour de france and as a boy I dreamed of being a proffesional. Sadly I wasnt good enough but still ride my bike at a good average 19/20mph in the Peak District.
A bike is def for riding
Ive been looking for one of your frames for years. Size 53 please as Im quite small.
Have you any left ?

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdaz h

Glad to see more of the old bikes being unearthed and cared for!

Dave,
Do you have any idea how many touring bikes you built? Or was it just that one gorgeous yellow one?

Thanks
Aaron

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter2whls3spds

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