A friend came across an old copy of the British “Cycling” weekly magazine from 1976 offered for sale on eBay. It contained an article I had written about frame design. He bought it and sent me a PDF copy.
It seemed strange to read the words I had written almost 37 years ago, and I could not help but wonder what some of the older established framebuilders of that time thought of me. Many had been in business a lot longer than me.
But to me the proof of the bike was in the riding. So often when riding a new bike a rider needs a week or two to get used to it, but so many times I had riders take delivery of a bike on Saturday, and do a personal best ride or even win a race the following day on the new bike. I felt confident that I was doing something right.
I had been questioning conventional frame design since the 1950s, and had been experimenting with my own frames since the early 1960s. I was a rider of somewhat short stature, 5’ 6” (168cm.) and I always felt that because all racing bicycles have the same size wheels, my bikes were a cut down version of a larger frame. Cut down rather than scaled down.
It also did not go unnoticed that the top riders in the world were between 5’ 8” and just under 6 feet. In other words the ones who would fit on the mid-size frame around 56cm to 58cm. When I think about it, it is not much different than today. There are always exceptions of course, and the average range today is probably something like 5’ 10” to 6’ 1”.
It has always been the case throughout history that the people who build bikes do not race them, and top riders who race do not build them. One exception I can think of is Eddy Merckx, who went on to open a successful frame building business after he retired. But even Eddy Merckx fits neatly into that mid size range riding a medium size frame, so can he appreciate the needs of someone much shorter, or indeed taller.
Framebuilders in the past have always done what suited them, lugs somewhat dictated the angles, rather than the angles being altered to suit the rider. And carbon fiber frames built today from what I have noticed seem to follow the tried and tested geometry of the old lugged steel frames that preceded them.
I can fully appreciate that it is a costly proposition to make a mold for a frame just to experiment; one would need to make a welded steel or some other metal prototype fist. And where can such a prototype be tested under race conditions when the UCI now bans the pros from riding prototypes,
One area that could be looked at is fork rake (Offset) which seems to have increased in recent years to around 45mm. A shorter rake, as much as a centimeter, bringing it down to 35mm would increase the amount of trail and would make the bike more stable, and hold a tighter line when cornering.
I notice what seems to be an awful lot of crashes in races, and wonder why this is. Are bikes today more skittish, or it could be we are now seeing more videos of the complete race, and we just didn’t see some of these crashes before?
See the PDF file here The first 2 1/2 pages are written by me, the rest are from other contributors.