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My Racing Weight

I wrote last week about the Imperial vs. Metric weights and measures. People in the UK still measure their personal weight in Stones. I currently weigh eleven stone, which was my racing weight. There are 14 lbs. in a stone, so eleven stone is 154 lbs. American.

As a teen I was pretty skinny and weighed around ten and a half stone 147 lbs. But by the time I reached my twenties and into my thirties I had added some muscle and was consistently 11 Stone. It was the weight I strived for every spring after packing on a two or three winter pounds.

It was the weight I was when I arrived in New Jersey in 1979. I rode a few races here in the US.

The picture left shows me in my Paris Sport, New Jersey Bicycle Club kit, having my number pinned on before a race.

I didn’t like the US Criterium style racing. Plus guys were openly snorting cocaine in the changing rooms and even on the start line, which hardly seemed fair to me.

The thing I really didn’t like was the way everyone talked about crashing, and showed off scars like it was some kind of achievement.

I rode three maybe four races and at 43 years old, decided it was time to hang up my racing wheels for good. In the years that followed framebuilding took up all my time and there was little time for riding a bike anyway. I was never grossly overweight and I think the most I have ever weighed was 175 lbs.

In recent years, in spite of eating healthy and riding my bike a lot, I seemed to be stuck at 12 stone, (168 lbs.) and I had that annoying belly fat. I came to the conclusion that exercise alone is not enough to lose weight, neither is diet. It has to be a combination of the two.

The first thing I did was check into my Resting Metabolic Rate. (RMR) This is an estimate of the calories I would burn each day if I did nothing but lay in bed or sit on the couch all day. I found this useful calculator. Your RMR depends largely on your gender, age, height and weight. Mine turned out to be around 1,300 calories a day. The cruel reality is, as you get older your RMR goes down.

I started about three months ago. I made sure I consumed no more than 1,300 calories a day, plus I rode my bike between 100 and 150 miles per week. I usually do a 50 or 60 mile ride on Sunday and I try to eat a good meal, with bread or pasta, the night before. I also carry food with me on the ride, just in case I should run out of gas.

I weigh myself every morning as soon as I get out of bed, and keep a log. Looking back at the log, I weighed 168 lbs. when I started. I immediately lost 3 lb. in the first three days. After that I seem to be on a cycle of lose a lb. maintain that weight for a few days then lose another lb. The overall pattern has been one of steadily losing weight.

I have lost a stone or 14 lbs. which was my target. One doesn’t realize how much even 10 lbs. is until you hold it in one hand.

Simple movements like standing up from a chair or climbing steps are so much easier. My belly is now flat and I can get into some clothes that I haven’t worn in years.

Here I am, 36 years after my last race and I’ve reached my “Racing Weight” once more. It's a good feeling.

All I have to do now is maintain it. On the days I don’t ride I just have to make sure I don’t go too much over my RMR. 1,300 calories. 


Footnote: Before anyone makes comments about my socks. Three-quarter length cycling socks is the one current trend I refuse to follow. The reason is simple. When I am wearing shorts and sandals in a social setting, (Which is most of the year here in hot, sunny, South Carolina.) I do not need a sun tan line halfway up my calf. I'm sorry, deal with it.

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Going Metric

Britain like the US resists going completely metric even though logically it makes sense to measure or count stuff in multiples of ten.

The US has always had a decimal monetary system. 100 cents equals one dollar. Real simple.

If you have 10095 cents, you simply stick a decimal point two digits in from the left, like so, 100.95 and you have 100 dollars and 95 cents.

Britain too has decimal money. 100 pennies equals one pound. It wasn’t always like that, the new currency was introduced in 1971, and I remember it well. I grew up with a system where 12 pennies made one shilling, and 20 shillings made one pound.

So in the previous example, 10095 British pennies first had to be divided by 12 to get 841 shillings and 3 pennies. Then divide the 841 shillings by 20 to get pounds, for a final amount of 42 pounds, 1 shilling, and 3 pence. A nightmare if you worked in retail.

Measuring length or distance is no different. 12 inches to a foot, 3 feet to a yard, and 1,760 yards to the mile. However, unlike money we hardly ever have to buy a mile length of anything and chop it up into one inch pieces. We don’t really need to know how many inches in a mile.

We do know what an 8 foot length of lumber looks like, and if necessary we can figure out how many 8 foot lengths we need to make a certain number of pieces measured in inches. But if the metric system is forced on us, and they start to sell lumber by the meter, there would be an outcry I am sure.

The same if you go to the grocery store to buy a quart of milk, or 10 lbs. of potatoes, and find those items are now measured in liters or kilos. There would be confusion and aggravation.  We also know how fast 30 mph. is, but 50 kilometers per hour, how fast is that? (Actually just over 31 mph.)

Britain is under more pressure to go completely metric because they are a member of the European Union where most other member countries are already metric.

I say leave people alone and let them use whatever they are comfortable with. Change will happen when the old system is no longer practical.

Even in industry in the US, many companies are manufacturing items measured by the metric system. They do this out of necessity when their product is being sold overseas.

When I built frames in England I built them in 1/2 inch increments.  21 inch, 21 1/2 inch, 22 inch, 22 1/2 and so on. When I came to the US, because of the huge influence of Italian made frames, customers asked for frames in centimeters. So I started building 53cm. 54cm. 55cm. 56 and so on. I didn’t fight it, it just made sense to do that.

Back in the 1980s and before that, the standard measurement for bicycle frame tubes were a 1 inch top tube, 1 1/8 inch seat and down tube, and a 1 1/4 inch head tube. Even Italian builders used these same Imperial sizes. (The French being extremely nationalistic would never use British Imperial measurements, and everything on their frames is metric.)

An English bottom bracket thread is 1 3/8 inch diameter, and 24 threads per inch. An Italian BB is slightly bigger at 36mm. and strangely the same 24 threads per inch and not metric. I wonder what happened at the meeting when that standard was decided on.

Traditionally, on English and for most of the rest of the world, front fork steering tubes were always 1 inch and threaded. In the 1990s when threadless steering tubes and headsets were introduced, there was an opportunity to go metric. However, the size chosen was 1 1/8 inch. (Were the Italian bottom bracket people at that meeting too.)

As a final word, I predict, (Though I will never live to see it.) when planet Earth has gone completely metric, and Imperial measurement is a distant memory, one of the last standards to change will be the 1/2 inch pitch bicycle chain. Because, so far even the French have not been able to get around that one.   


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Tonyon Universal Folding Bike Lock

If you use a bike for transport, securing it when you park it can be a problem. A length of chain and a padlock might do the trick, but an enterprising thief, with a set of bolt cutters in his back pack could take off with your bike in seconds flat.

The problem with bike locks, they are big and bulky, or if they are small and compact, then often they do not have the capacity to go around a stationary object like a bike rack or fence, and secure the frame and both wheels.

It was the reason the design of this lock pictured above had me taking a second look.

It folds up small when not in use, and when opened up its effective length is 32 inches. (81.3 cm.) Made up of 6 separate flat steel bars, jointed by rivets, the device folds up to measure 7 ¼ in. x 2 1/8 in x 1 ¼ in. (18.4cm. x 5.4cm. x 3.4cm.)

There is a built in lock, with what the makers call a “Class B” key, (See picture left.) making the lock difficult to open by usual lock picking methods.

In order to try the lock out and to take these pictures, I secured my bike to a nearby chain link fence.

The flat steel bars threaded easily through the wire fencing, and around the steel fence post.

I removed my front wheel and placed it alongside the rear wheel.

There was ample length to go around the fence post, frame and both wheels. (See picture below.)

The steel bars have a heavy duty powder coat, and are nicely rounded at the edges so they won’t scratch your paint. The rivets too are countersunk below the surface so they won’t scratch and also making them difficult to file or grind off.

Where the flat bars are riveted together, there is a loose washer in between, which would simply spin if any attempt was made to hacksaw through the rivets.

The lock fits neatly into a carrying case when not in use.

This is supplied with the lock and attaches to a set of standard water bottle mounts.

If you can’t afford to lose a water bottle, you could carry it in your back pack.

It would be too heavy for a jersey pocket. Weighing in at 1lb. 10oz. the weight is the one drawback.

But I don’t see a way round this. If a lock is to be effective as a theft deterrent, it has to be strong.

If this lock was made lighter by using less metal, it would be no better that a length of chain, and vulnerable to bolt cutters.

The lock comes with 3 separate keys.

Made by Tonyon the lock is available online at the Gearbest website for $31.27.


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1978 Aero Track Frame

I came across these photos the other day of an experimental aero track frame I built at the end of 1978 a matter of weeks before I came to the US to work for Paris Sport.

The tubing was Reynolds 531, which I had modified by squishing to an oval shape between two pieces of angle iron held in a vise. The frame was a lugless filet brazed construction.

There was a sheet metal aero foil behind the head tube, and another just behind the bottom bracket in place of a chainstay bridge.

The reason for building this frame was that it went to the Reynolds Tube Company, along with a proposal that they make some special tubing for the US Olympic team bikes, to be built by me after I took my new position with Paris Sport in January 1979.

In the Spring of 1979 I did build the frames with the help of American builder Mike Melton.

The whole project turned out to be a huge fiasco and the US team never did ride the bikes.

Reynolds Tube Company had gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to produce this tubing.

The tubing never did go on the market, but Reynolds did send a few of these special sets to the French Bicycle Company, Gitane.

Gitane built an aero frame for Bernard Hinault, he rode it in the 1979 Tour de France time trial stages.

The bike got quite a bit of attention at the time, so at least Reynolds got some publicity out of it.

I got very little out of it, except for the satisfaction of knowing that if it wasn’t for the frame I built in the above pictures, then this other photo of Bernard Hinault (Below.) would not exist.

According to my record book, the frame I built was number M8292, I have no idea where it is now. The last I saw of it was when I dropped it off at the Reynolds factory just before Christmas 1978.


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Why so short?

Have you ever pulled the fork from a Fuso, or any other frame I built, and wondered why the thread on the steering tube is so short?

There is about 2 cm. (3/4 in.) of thread, when most frames have as much as 5cm. (2 inches.) of thread.

Actually there is just enough thread to adjust the headset with a few thread turns to spare, so any extra thread is not needed.

But why be so precise, and doesn’t this seem a little OCD? Not really, it is done for a good reason.

After a frame left my shop I had no control over the way it was assembled and set up.

I knew that in the many years this frame would be in use, at some point the owner might raise the quill stem as high as possible, then crank on the expander bolt so tight that it split the steering tube.  

The threaded portion also has a key slot for the headset lock-ring, making it is the weakest portion of the tube.

And if the handlebar stem expander nut was inside this threaded portion, it would not take much pressure to split or crack the steering tube.

With the thread as short as possible, even if the Handlebar stem was placed dangerously high, way above the limit mark, the expander nut is still inside the plain unthreaded part of the tube where it is its strongest. (See picture below left.)

Another reason for leaving the threaded end short. A steering tube has to be cut to a precise length.

For Campagnolo and most other headsets this was 39mm. longer than the frame head tube. In other words the “Stack” height of a headset was 39mm.

If I didn’t cut the excess from the threaded top end, then I would have to cut it from the bottom end before it was brazed into the fork crown.

Steering tubes come in various lengths, and the framebuilder chooses one that is as close as possible to the required length. The tube is “Butted,” thicker at the bottom end where it takes most of the stress.

A Columbus steering tube also has 6 spiral reinforcing ribs on the inside. By cutting the surplus length from the top threaded end, I retained more of the bottom reinforced end, making a stronger fork.

Incidentally, Columbus always had these spiral ribs inside their steering tubes. It was a feature, and a way to tell if a frame is Columbus. (See picture below.)

Don’t confuse these steering tube spiral ribs, with those inside SLX and TSX tube set. These were introduced in the late 1980s, and had the spiral ribs inside the frame tubes as well.

SLX had the ribs at the butted ends of the tubes. TSX (T for total.) the ribs went the entire length of the tube. (Except the seat tube of course, that had them at the bottom end only, to accommodate the seat post.)

However, the spiral ribs inside the steering tubes had been there for many years, as far as I know from the Columbus tube’s inception.

While I am on this subject, I have read comments online (Mostly by people with little frame design knowledge.) that these spiral ribs inside Columbus SLX and TSX where nothing more than a marketing gimmick. A rip off even.

I strongly disagree. It was a clever way to remove material from inside the tube, thereby saving weight, but at the same time retaining much of the tube’s strength.

A frame is constantly twisting as it is being ridden, especially when climbing, as the rider pushes down on the pedals on one side and pulls up on the handlebars in the opposite direction. A good frame will have a resistance to this twisting, thereby transmitting the power to the rear wheel, rather than the rider's energy being absorbed by the frame.

In order for a frame to twist, each individual tube must twist. The spiral ribs are one way to make a tube that resists twisting. Straight ribs would make little difference, whereas spiral ribs offer resistance to twisting, both with and opposite the direction of the spiral, because the twisting motion is either pushing or pulling directly along the rib.


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