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Tuesday
Jul302013

High Point

I got back from High Point, North Carolina, on Sunday evening. I had been there since Thursday, July 25 for The Bicycle: Art meets Form event. I heard so many people remark that this was one of the best such events they had ever attended, and I had to wholeheartedly agree.

The whole event was centered around the USA Cycling Professional Criterium Men’s and Women’s Championships. The races with preliminary events took place on Saturday afternoon and evening. The start and finish was outside the High Point Theater, and there were bleachers and large screen monitors set up to watch the race round the entire course.

There was so much going on, mainly in three different venues, all within a city block, easy walking distance. The event hotel was the High Point Plaza, right in the city center, an older building that had been recently renovated. The rooms were comfortable, clean, and the staff were great. Prices were reasonable, like the hotel restaurant that served a good breakfast at prices one would expect in a chain restaurant.

There was a Vintage Bike Show downstairs in the hotel ballroom, I felt privileged to have three of my custom bikes on display. (Above.)

If you walked out of the hotel back door and across the street, there was a Mini Hand built Bicycle Show going on. Across the street again was the High Point Theater and Art Gallery, where there were more hand built bikes on display, and paintings and other art objects that featured bicycles.

In the theater there were talks and cycling movies shown. I spoke at 3 pm. on Friday, (Top picture.) I talked about my past work and history, an hour went by very quickly. I was back later to be part of a panel discussion with current framebuilders Peter Weigle, Mark DiNucci, Dario Pegoretti, Nick Crumpton, Dave Wages.

Sitting there listening to these other framebuilders, who it seems manage to cater to a small niche market of people who appreciate something hand built as opposed to something carbon that pops out of a mold.

It struck me that I was indeed fortunate to have had my career in the 1980s when hand built frames were the norm before the big corporations took over.

It must have been like the difference between a jazz musician playing in the Jazz Era of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and a jazz musician playing today. Neither is any more or less of a musician, it is just the size of the audience one is playing to.

Just as in the Jazz Era there were many more musicians, but there was more work available. I built frames in an era when the entire Tour de France field rode on hand built steel frames.

I had to compete with the likes of Colnago, Pinerello, and Cinelli, who were larger companies and with more advertising clout than I had. However, the market was big enough that I could grab a small piece of it, and make a decent living.

I had never been to High Point before, a nice little city with a small town feel. (Population just over 100,000.) It was once known as the “Furniture Capital of the World.” There were furniture factories all around, along with many textile mills.

These furniture companies still have showrooms in High Point and there is a huge furniture business trade show there every year, but sadly the furniture is all made in China now. The same way the bike business has gone. Oh well, you can’t fight progress.

 

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Thursday
Jul252013

The Bicycle: Art Meets Form

My apologies if my postings here have been a little sparse of late, but I have been really busy. This is my third month into writing as a “Bicycle Expert” for Answers.com, where I am committed to writing 10 articles per month.

This weekend I am attending “The Bicycle: Art Meets Form” event in High Point, North Carolina. Much of my time this past week has been taken up in preparation.

The four day event is centered around the US Professional Criterium National Championships. There will be a Handmade Bicycle Show featuring the work of Peter Weigle, Mark DiNucci, Dario Pegoretti, Nick Crumpton and Dave Wages. There will also be a Vintage Bike Festival, and Bicycle Swapmeet. I will be there as one of the guest speakers.

I always enjoy attending these kind of events because it gives me the opportunity to meet old friends, and make new ones. I’ll be back with pictures and a report next week.

 

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Wednesday
Jul172013

Profiling

The dictionary definition of Profiling:

The act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendenciesThe act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior.

There is a word there that I had to look up in the thesaurus: Extrapolating. It means, inferring, generalizing, deducing, and to draw conclusions, which pretty much sums up the whole crux of profiling.

Chris Froome was favorite going into the Tour de France, the press and the rest of the media all agreed he was the man to beat. So what happens when he lives up to everyone’s expectations? These same journalists are now questioning his performance, and it is not just journalists, but every amateur armchair analyst in the world.

He blew everyone away last Sunday on Mont Monteux, but barely had time to get from the finishing line, change his shirt, and get to the podium, before Twitter and all the Internet chat rooms were ablaze with cries of “Doper.”  I heard that one site crashed within minutes of the stage finish, they had so many people online.

This is profiling, pure and simple. Like saying, “Here is a black man, he might be a criminal.” Or, “Here is someone who looks like an Arab, he might be a terrorist.” People are saying, “Here is a professional cyclist, and he is going faster than everyone else, he might be on dope.”

I can understand being skeptical after all that has happened in the sport of pro cycling, but if a person is so skeptical that he goes on line to question a rider’s performance, just because he blew away the completion. Why is that person even watching the Tour de France? If one doesn’t believe what they are seeing, they might as well watch Professional Wrestling.

Chris Froome did not suddenly appear out of nowhere. He has been on form all season, which is why he earned the title of “Favorite” going into the Tour. He won the Tour of Oman, was second to Vincenzo Nibali in the Tirreno – Adriatico. He won the Criterium International, the Tour de Romandie, and the Criterium du Douphine, all multiple stage races. I suspect many of the armchair experts never followed those races, but have just come on board for the TDF. And I’ll bet most have never raced a bike, or have a clue what it takes.

Throughout history there have been cyclists who have stood head and shoulders above the rest. Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx. Why do some soccer teams, and football and baseball teams do better than others? It is the organization, the managers, and the coaches. Who gets fired when things go bad? Team Sky have the money and they can buy the best athletes, managers, and coaches, simple as that.

Team Sky have gone out of their way to be transparent in their organization, they fired a bunch of people who were suspect of previous dealings with dope. I believe pro cycling has an opportunity to get itself really clean like never before.

I am now reading that the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA) is telling the media to leave Chris Froome alone. So his fellow riders in the Tour de France are satisfied he is not doping. That is good enough for me, I can enjoy the rest of the Tour.

With everyone across the board saying they are clean, it would take one hell of a conspiracy if everyone was still doping as before. Anyone who has worked in an office knows that all people do is talk about stuff they were supposed to keep secret. If a team were doping, a mechanic or laundry boy somewhere would be sure to spill the beans to the press.

 

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Monday
Jul012013

Black shorts and retro style jerseys

There has been cycle racing almost as long as there have been bicycles. In the beginning bicycles were handmade and were expensive, cycling and cycle racing was initially a sport for wealthy young men. However, in the late 1800s the safety bicycle was invented, and soon mass production lowered the price, and made the bicycle available to the working classes.

Prior to the invention of the bicycle the working man could only travel as far as he could walk, he had no form of personal transport. The bicycle set the working man free, to travel and seek work outside his immediate area. It also set him free to travel outside the cities and into the surrounding countryside at the weekends.

All over Europe cycling and cycle racing became the sport of choice among the working classes. Cycle races were held on Sundays, after all working people had to work the rest of the week, which included Saturdays back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Sunday was for many their only day off.

Cyclists wore black, and especially black shorts, both out of respect, and so as not to offend those who attended church on Sundays. This tradition later became a rule of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) which is the world governing body for the sport of cycle racing.

For 100 years, racing cyclist both amateur and professional wore black shorts. It was both a rule and a tradition. Sometime in the 1980s that changed when the UCI allowed professional racing cyclists to wear different color shorts. This came about because professional teams are now often financed by multiple sponsors, and there was a need for more room for advertising on both the jersey and shorts.

Also technology and the modern fabrics that cycling clothing is now made from, lends itself to the printing of graphics and sponsors logos. In the old days jerseys were made of wool and the sponsor’s name was embroidered on.

So what does the casual cyclist wear for a non racing weekend ride. Many cycling clubs have their own matching jerseys and shorts, styled after the pro’s kit with the club sponsors name and logo. For others there a still plenty of plain black shorts that is still a good choice as it can be worn with practically any color top.

One interesting alternative is produced by Solo, a company from New Zealand that now has a worldwide distribution network in place. Solo produces very high quality “Retro” style cycling jerseys that are designed after the style of those worn by the Professional cyclists of the 1950s through the 1970s. The jerseys are not replica jerseys, and do not represent actual teams of yester-year; but rather are unique designs inspired by retro jerseys. 

Solo jerseys are a high quality garment and the price reflects this. Although the design is retro, the fabric is modern with the same easy care and sweat wicking qualities of any modern cycling jersey. The colors and designs are screen printed on, which makes them permanent and non fade.

Knitted collars and cuffs are a nice retro touch, and the jerseys have three rear pockets as is standard with most cycling jerseys, plus they have an extra zippered pocket for keys, money, etc. There is an elastic gripper strip sewn around the inside bottom edge of the jersey, that stops it riding up, and supports a load if the pockets a filled with food and tools for a long trip.

The 1950s to 1970s was an era when pro cyclists often had a single sponsor. Sponsors names had to be embroidered on, and designs created by sewing different color fabric together. The results were simple, but powerful designs which demonstrated less is more. Solo have done a fine job of capturing the feel of these designs. And of course the jerseys look best when worn with black shorts because that was what the pros wore back in the day.

Footnote: A poor man's sport

I recently wrote the above article as a product review for Answers.com. I reposted it here because I thought you might find the history of black shorts interesting, as well as helping the good people at Solo who are supporters of this blog.

A few weeks back when I wrote another article, I mentioned the slump in bicycle sales in the late 1950s and the 1960s due to working class people buying cars for the first time. One reader could not understand why that would affect sales of racing bikes.

Cycling, and cycle racing in the UK and the rest of Europe in the 1950s and before, was not like it is today. And it was nothing like the cycling scene as it is in the US today. Low income working class people rode bicycles as transport, it was how they got to work each day. A few raced on Sundays, but it was more a social thing, than a fitness thing like today.

Many owned one bike that they put mudguards on and rode to work on it all week.

On a Sunday they would ride to a race, (In the UK that would be a time-trial.) carrying their best wheels with tubular tires. (Picture left.)

The mudguards would be removed, best wheels would go in and they would race.

After the event the mudguards went back on, etc., and they would ride home. Many did no further training, other than ride to work and everywhere else.

Middle class people with a higher income, owned and drove motors cars, they did not exercise, or belong to Cycling Clubs. When the income of the working classes improved, they also bought motor cars and didn’t exercise, so they gave up cycling and cycle racing.

For many Cycling was never seen as exercise, it was what people did out of necessity. Joining a Cycling Club and racing on the weekends was a social outlet. Racing was easy because people were naturally fit.

It wasn’t until the US fitness craze of the 1970s, that sparked a second bicycle boom. Today, racing bicycle equipment is high tech and super expensive, low income people do not buy it. Cycle racing is no longer a poor man’s sport, and never will be again.

 

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Wednesday
Jun192013

1982 Custom

A custom frame I built in May 1982 sold on eBay last weekend for $886.54. The highest price paid for one of my frames for a while now. These custom frames are quite rare I only built and recorded 216 of them from 1982 to 1986.

There were a few others built in 1981 (But not recorded.) and a few more built after 1986, but so few I didn’t even record them. I would guess no more than 10 or 12 between 1986 and 1993 when I retired.

Before 2008 when this recession hit, these frames would have brought more, but the price of all vintage bicycles is down now. I recall one of my custom complete bikes went for $3,000, and soon after the bottom fell out of everything.

Like antiques, the price is determined by supply and demand. The supply will never increase, I will not be building anymore.

Out of the 216 plus a few more I have mentioned, only 35 are listed on my registry.

Some will have been lost through accidents, or thrown in dumpsters by people who didn’t know better.

In time the numbers out there will decrease. The whole purpose of my registry is to preserve as many as we can.

The demand for these frames will depend largely on the economy, and getting back to more prosperous times when people actually have something known as discretionary income.

In other words spare cash to plonk down on something that is nice to have, but let’s face it, not at all essential.  

There are three interesting features about the frame pictured here. The first is the paint job. Metallic blue with off white oval panels. This style of paint was popular in England, but not so much in the US. As a result only a few were painted this way, and as far as I remember, and only in 1981 and 1982 while working in the Masi shop in San Marcos, CA.

The second point is there are two water bottle mounts above and below on the down tube. It was done this way so a frame fit pump could be carried in front of the seat tube.

The other interesting point is the frame number. I accidentally stamped two frames with the same number, 5821.

As I recall I didn’t discover the mistake until after the frames were painted. The frames are not the same, they are different sizes, so there can be no confusion even though they have the same number.

This mistake only happened once, and I find it interesting that out of the number of frames built and the few that have come to light so far, that this particular frame has shown up. I hope the new owner will contact me and add it to the registry, and maybe one day the other 5821 will show up.

Someone is bound to ask, the DB53 stamp is the frame size. “DB” is for Dave and Brenda (My ex-wife.) She did some prep and finish work on the frames. She wanted her name somewhere on the frame. There was no way that was going to happen, so to shut her up appease her I stamped DB before the frame size. This only appeared for part of 1982, later I quietly dropped it.

 

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