I just got back yesterday from a weeklong trip to Philadelphia and New York City.
It came about when I was invited to speak at the Philly Bike Expo, held at the Convention Center there. (Pic left, Broad Street entrance.)
My wife and I decided to travel on to New York for two and a half days after, to take a mini-vacation.
My wife had never been to New York, and I had never been back since 1980 when I worked for Paris Sport in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, and was located just 7 miles from NYC, just over the George Washington Bridge.
Philadelphia is a very nice city that I would like to visit again and spend more time there. It seems they have a great bike culture. It was a pleasure to see bikes mingling with motorized traffic in what appeared to be a somewhat orderly and cooperative fashion. Not too much honking and yelling that I witnessed.
My previous memories of Philadelphia was from 1980 when I rode my last bike race there. I had come from England the year before, where bike races where a safe and friendly social event that combined fun and exercise for riders of all levels.
I found in the US, at Category 4 level anyway, people had no clue what racing was about and thought that bike racing was a contact sport like football. People were actually trying to knock me off my bike. In my mid-forties I realized I was not going to make it back up to Cat 1 or 2 again, and US style Criterium racing was not for me. I hung up my racing wheels and concentrated on building bikes from then on.
I gave a talk at Noon on Saturday (Pic above.) with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek title of, “The Bicycle: Evolution or Intelligent Design.” I had what I thought was a pretty good size and attentive audience. I will have to write about the content of my talk in a later article, as this one is about the actual trip.
I got to meet Bike Snob NYC, who gave a talk on Sunday. We had corresponded by email before but never met. I envy this young man for his ability to poke fun at the cycling culture with impunity. When I try to do it I get blasted as a retro-grouch or a curmudgeon.
Rant alert: For me cycling is fun. For that matter life is fun, and I find too many people take both way too serious. The bicycle is one of the simplest and yet most efficient machines that mankind has ever built. You push one pedal down, and the other side comes up. The further you stray beyond that concept, the more you stray into the realms of bull-shit. Just ride the damn bike, lighten the fuck up, and don’t over think it or get too technical. (End of rant.)
On Monday we traveled to New York, and that evening took the subway over to Brooklyn to meet with Patrick Gilmour. Patrick is an Irishman, and a few weeks ago was walking by Teddy’s, a quaint old bar that dates back to the late 1800s. Parked outside was a ‘dave moulton’ track bike. Patrick, being a regular reader of this blog, and owner of a Fuso, thought, “There’s something you don’t see every day.”
He snapped a few pictures and emailed them to me, and I posted them here. Later he found out the bike belonged to “Fast Eddie” Williams something of a legend among New York bike messengers. Eddie started as a messenger back in 1983. Incidentally the year I built his track frame.
On Monday I got to meet Fast Eddie. (Picture above.) At least 6’ 6” tall this 61 centimeter frame fitted him as if I had built it for him. He had bought the frame at a swap meet back in 1998. He knew nothing of its history or about me for that matter, but knew enough to see this was a quality frame. He also knew enough that it was worth the $700 he paid for it, and built it up with Campagnolo Super Record components.
Eddie had questions like, ”Why is this bike so fast?” I explained that it was designed and built to be raced on the track. Its slightly steeper angles and tighter fork rake made it handle quicker. A track rider has no brakes and relies on fast reactions to get out of trouble and to change direction quickly in a sudden attack.
Built in Columbus PS (Pista Sprint.) Tubing, much thicker and heavier that other Columbus tube sets. Not a particularly light frame it would be extremely responsive when its rider makes a sudden effort.
Whilst I would not recommend that people ride brakeless on the streets of New York, I can see where this particular bike is a perfect match for Fast Eddie operating as a bike messenger. With the physical ability to ride at the speed of motorized traffic, he relied on fast reflexes, acceleration and maneuverability to stay out of trouble rather than stopping power, much like a track rider.
On Tuesday evening I met with Alpheus Clendening who took me to his home in Queens, NY. Alpheus has a pretty unique collection of five frames and bikes I built. He has a 1983, 57cm custom ‘dave mouton’ bike that was originally built as a showpiece for “Buds Bike Store” in Claremont, CA. It has a very special paint job, which involved a lot of painstaking masking, and striping with auto striping tape that was subsequently “Buried” under 10 clear coats, then sanded and re-cleared again to ensure a smooth finish. (Pictured above.) This paint finish later inspired the Fuso decal design.
Alpheus owns a 1990 Fuso, Columbus Max frame. This was another showpiece that was built for the Interbike Show. It was featured on a poster, a copy of which I have hanging over my desk. (Above.) My copy is signed by Antonio Columbo, (Son of the Columbus founder.) And Valentino Campagnolo. (Son of Tulio Campagnolo.) Right after the 1990 Interbike Show the bike was sold and I never saw it again until last Tuesday evening. The frame is currently stripped down for a rebuild, pictured below with me holding it.
Others in the collection are a 1987 30th. Anniversary model Fuso Lux frame in mint condition. Red and Yellow fade paint. (Picture below.) Another is a first year production Fuso bike with a two-tone blue finish, one of the original four different color schemes offered.
The final bike is an extremely rare Fuso Mixte, ladies model. One of a kind originally built for a friend in trade for decals and brochures printed by their company. (Picture below.)
In addition to the Alpheus Clendening collection, his brother Daniel has a 1st, Generation Fuso bike that is also a 3 digit early first year production model. I would have liked to hook up with the other owners of my frames in the New York area, but there was not time in this brief visit. Maybe next time. As it was, for me, two very memorable evenings spent with some pretty special people.
Finally in writing this piece I am once more amazed by things that occur in life by coincidence. In February 1983 I built a total of nine custom frames that month. The first was the showpiece one that Alpheus has in his collection. The second is a frame owned by original owner Chuck Schmidt, of Pasadina, CA. A picture of this bike adorns the cover of my new book. I knew these two frames were twins, built on the same jig setting.
What I didn’t realize until I wrote this article, was that the number 3 frame that I built in February 1983 was the track frame that Fast Eddie now owns. That just blows me away. Am I in the Twilight Zone?
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