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Monday
Apr112016

Minimalist

I always took the minimalist approach to frame design and building. Less is more, and why do more than is necessary, especially if it doesn’t improve the end product. My bottom bracket gear cable guides were an example of this. 

On my custom frames I filed two grooves with the corner of a square file, brazed a piece of wire across the groove, and then drilled a hole through. (See picture above.)

When I started production on the John Howard frames in 1983 and the Fuso a year later, I simplified the procedure. I filed two grooves with a small round file, took a short piece of automotive steel brake fluid line and brazed it in the groove, finishing it off by chamfering the edges with a hand held belt sander. Very simple and it did the job. (See below.)

There were always critics who questioned, “Isn’t it a bad idea to have the bare cable touching the paint.” To which I answered:

Unless the frame is chrome plated, cables have always and will always touch paint somewhere.

If I brazed a channel that covered the whole area where the cable went around the bottom bracket shell, it would then be painted and the cable would still run on the paint. It would take longer to produce, look ugly, and not really improve anything.

Throughout the 1970s gear cables were run through cable guides that were brazed to the top of the bottom bracket. These were of course painted along with the rest of the frame, and the cable ran on the paint, which is why I knew it would be okay. The cable runs in one position and the constant movement of the cable prevents it rusting. (See below, a 1972 Italian Masi.)

The cable guides on top of the bottom bracket collected dirt and made it harder to keep the bike clean in that area. By the 1980s framebuilders realized a neater and much simpler idea was to run the cables under the BB. It has been pretty much standard practice ever since.

So fast forward to today, or to be precise the end of last week.

Someone on Facebook questioned the cables running on the paint.

Why didn’t I do it this way? With a picture (Right.) of someone else’s frame. 

As usually happens on the Internet others chime in with comments like, “Oh yea, that always concerned me too.”

Next I find myself writing lengthy explanations, getting really annoyed that I am having to justify something I did 30 years ago. Then I realized people send me pictures of the underside of the Bottom Bracket with the frame number stamped on it. I always save these pictures so I pulled up several from my archives.

Fuso frames numbering from 020 (Above.) to 693, old frames built from 1984 to 1986. All with original paint, some with the bare frame with the cables removed, showing surprising little wear at all. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it is true in this case. I have about 8,000 or 9,000 worth here.

So if this is something that has concerned you in the past, look at these pictures and realize you are worrying about a problem that doesn’t exist. The latter frames shown had BBs made by the Japanese Takahashi Company. These had the cable guides cast in the shell and I didn’t have to do a thing. The others were finished in the manner described earlier.

I am always willing to answer questions about my framebuilding practices, but please use a little respect and tact when doing so. When someone asks “Why did you not do it this way?” it is a direct insult, and implies I didn’t know what I was doing.  

Footnote: The plastic cable guide (Left.) was not in general use in 1983 and 1984 when I began production of the John Howard and Fuso frames.

In 1985 I used it on the Recherche frames, it saved a lot of time and ended the controversy of cables running on paint.  

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (13)

It sounds to me that you are perhaps being a touch too sensitive? That people are questioning your production methods implies that the work you did is worthy of scrutiny. If your reputation was not as it is, then nobody would be concerned over what appears to be small detail weakness. Your blog post ably demonstrates there to be no weakness. Surely your whole blog was set up to pass on knowledge and educate? I would think that people questioning you over exactly how and why you guided cables in the ways you did would be cause for mild pride rather than irritation.

Personally, I have learned a lot about frame geometry and practical hands on engineering from your blog and while I'm never likely to use that knowledge to build bike frames I consider your approach to be inspirational.

April 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPBA

What is too sensitive? Unless anyone has lived my life or walked in my shoes they cannot truly answer that. I grew up in a different era when I was not only criticized for making mistakes, I was punished for making mistakes. And then never given credit when I did well.

So no, I don’t take criticism well, unless it is constructive criticism for something I am doing now. To be criticized for something I did 30 years ago about some piddling little detail that I can’t go back and fix even if I wanted to, is not constructive.

That is just someone venting their own disappointment that the Fuso frame they ordered all those years ago did not measure up to their own unrealistic expectations.

And yes the purpose of this blog is to educate, but it is also a platform for me to occasionally vent my own frustrations. I look back and wonder that I ever had any success at anything, my upbringing set me up for failure.

I achieved success by setting myself very high standards, but then also giving myself the credit and acceptance of my own shortcomings that I never got from others growing up.

If my own high standards don’t measure up to those of others, then you will have to excuse my “Fuck you” attitude. It is a survival mechanism.

Dave

April 11, 2016 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

And don't forget this was a very competitive business back in the day. Time spent labouring over insignificant details ("frills") was profit lost - especially on bikes built to be used and not to hang on the wall.

I'm re-reading The Custom Bicycle (copyright 1979) and the authors mention that many of the US framebuilders they interviewed went out of business between them starting and finishing the book!

Another startling stat was that Raleigh had a 64 acre complex in Nottingham, with 8500 employees at that time. Can you Adam and Eve it?

April 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteveP

One of my frames is an Alan aluminum, and the guides are just a couple of grooves. Over the first couple of years there was some wear, but as the cable fit better there was less pressure and less wear.
With all of these solutions they reach a stable situation fairly quickly and then all is well.
The modern plastic guides are an improvement, but nothing worth talking about.

April 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteredstainless

I have no issue with cable on paint/metal over time. But being who I am, I have used cable housing liner to cover the contact area. My specific BB did show wear as it is 33+ years old. The liner also reduces metal on metal friction. NOT to be anal or anything!

April 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersjx426

Dave,

Thanks for the post! I really like the look of your integrated cable guides.

It is my understanding that the shift away from above-the-BB cable guides was for manufacturers and frame builders to save money on each frame - below BB guides were cheaper. This shift was made even though above-the-BB guides are "better", since it allows you to run the rear mech cable above the chainstay, resulting in a cleaner bend as it enters the rear mech.

Running the cable under the chainstay means that an extra bend is introduced into the system as the cable bends up across the chainstay.

Can you speak to this?

Also, is there any advantage to the above-the-BB guides being integrated onto the frame as opposed to being clamped on?

Many thanks.

April 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDAnn

Welcome to the Cult of (give any appropriate title to our society); when you wake, can you smell the Kool-Aid?

That “Fuck You” attitude is in response to society, including all these trite expressions reflective of a self-appointed ‘superior’ dogma. Take “You shouldn’t feel that way”, or “Sorry you feel that way”. That says your feelings are wrong, you are wrong, and your feelings are invalid.
Or: “I get that”. That means, I don’t want to hear anything, or your side of it, or any counter arguments, as I have my mind set (usually ascribed to pseudo-consensus).
These are conversation stoppers; they tell others to just shut up and listen! No wonder so many walk around with Fuck You attitudes. They have no freedom of expression! Only membership in the Cult.

Welcome to the Cult of Hate.

April 12, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Anything you can do, I can do better? Yes you can. No you can't ??? Don't sweat the small stuff RIGHT. Just ride the bloody bike is my motto. By the way Eroica Ca was a great weekend. Lots of Moulton built bikes. Can't wait for Greenboro in June

April 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Strange how some people will obsess about the smallest of things.

April 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJW

hey buddy,
so awesome sounds good thanks a lot ! keep updating information i will be glad to see them Arvixe coupon

June 13, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjack wilson

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October 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMahi

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December 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRajiv

The design of a racing bike is indeed an exercise in minimalism. I regard a bike as 'perfect' when nothing more can be stripped out from it and nothing more can be added to it. Filing a couple of grooves in the bottom bracket might not be the only way of accommodating cable guides, but it is legitimate and it is consistent with Mies Van De Rohe's famous dictum. I would not think less of a frame made in this method.

February 4, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpervertt

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