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Sunday
Aug122007

The makeup of an artist

Most children are born with the potential to be an artist. A child’s imagination is pure creativity, and the basic instinct every child has; is to show off. “Look mommy, look at me.” The problem is the creativity, in most cases, is educated out of the child.

A child comes to a parent with some fantastic story, and they are told, “That’s not true, you made that up.” Instead of given credit for creating something, that is possibly quite cleaver. A better response might be, “That’s a wonderful story; did you make that up all by yourself?”

A child needs to be taught the difference between fact and fantasy, but what is writing a novel other than making stuff up and writing it down. In other words, child’s play.

I was fortunate that I had a mother who encouraged me to be creative, to draw and paint, and make things. She gave me praise for what I had created, and more important she told others about my creations. She built my self-esteem.

If your look up the word “ego” in the dictionary, it refers to self esteem; contrary to an “egotist” which refers to a self-centered person. As I see it, an artist can have an ego, and not necessarily be egotistical. However, we are often taught throughout our life that it is wrong to have an ego.

Children are taught that it is wrong to “show off.” Showing off is only wrong, when you have nothing worthwhile to show. The loud mouth in the bar is saying, “Look at me,” but when we look, there is no talent, nothing to see.

Most artists have an ego, the desire to “show off.” Without it, there would be no art. No TV or movies made; no books to read, and no music on radio or CD. Why would any actor get up on a stage or in front of a camera, if they did not have the ego to say, “Look at me, and look at what I can do?”

Initially an artist creates for their own satisfaction of seeing what they have created. I always got a tremendous rush from looking at my finished bicycle frames. For some this is enough, but for most, we need the validation of others. This usually comes in the form of people putting down their hard-earned money for what you have created.

The driving force behind most artists is not money. Those who become artists to make a lot of money usually are not good artists and rarely make any. Some artists do make a lot of money, movie stars for example. The money is really a validation of their work; a large number of people appreciate what they do.

All artists are successful, there are only varying degrees of success. The simple act of creating something is a success in and of itself, even if it only benefits its creator. Who would even attempt to write a book if they didn’t think in the first place that someone would read what they had written? If no one tried in the first place for fear of failure, there would be no books.

No creative work is a complete failure, sometimes it is necessary to create one piece of work, simply to enable the artist to move on to the next. Failure paves the way for success in the future. Success cannot always be measured in terms of money. This blog has a readership of 1,000 people a day; I would say that is successful, even though my rewards are not monetary.

The line between ego and egotistical can be extremely thin. How do I write about myself and not appear egotistical? I tell myself it is okay as long as I have something worthwhile to say.

I was blessed in this life to have been given the ability and the opportunity to build a few decent bicycle frames. Along the way, I gathered a great deal of knowledge about the bicycle and its design. Most of this knowledge is in my head and when I am gone, it too will be gone; that would be a shame and a waste.

Writing satisfies my creative passion, just as building bicycle frames did in the past. My purpose is to share knowledge, enlighten, and attempt to entertain. Statistics show that readership here is steadily increasing. As long as this trend continues, I will continue. This is my validation.

Thursday
Aug092007

53 x 11


A few months ago I came across a brand of coffee called 53 x 11.

My first reaction was, “What a cool name.” It’s a very “inside” name that only a cyclist would get, and maybe even only a road bike rider would get.

For the benefit of my non-biking readers, 53 x 11 refers to the highest gear on a road bike, this being the number of teeth on the chainwheel and the rear sprocket.

The name impressed me enough that I placed a link to their website on my favorite site list on this page. About two or three weeks ago I got and email from Evan Lawrence thanking me for the link and asking me if I would like a sample of their coffee.

Evan is one of the guys behind 53 x 11 coffee; the other is Owen Gue. These are two young and very enthusiastic bike racers, originally from Montana. Evan and Owen started training and racing together about six years or so.

Living in Montana had its advantages and disadvantages; there is some great riding but not very many races. So in order to race they found themselves road tripping together across the USA.

Being poor bike racers they often slept in their car and used whatever equipment they could find. Evan recalled using garbage bags as rain jackets because neither of them could afford at good jacket.

They were hooked from the start. Evan told me “There's just something about pushing yourself to the limit and then finding out that there are no limits. I guess that's what I love about the sport.”

Living in Montana also made it hard to train in the winter. Evan lived and worked at a ski resort, and after the crowds left he would ride his trainer in the lodge for hours every night. “I suffered on the trainer watching TV and vowed I'd never spend another winter like this.”

He didn't either. The next couple winters he lived and trained in Maui; Owen made it over the 2nd time. It was far from glamorous; they lived in a shack with dirt floors and a tin roof that leaked.

They both worked for a bike tour company riding tours 3-4 hrs a day and also worked at a little cafe in town. Evan recalled, “We would basically ride our bikes for half the day and then work an eight hour shift in the cafe. I was a prep cook and Owen washed dishes.”

Since those early days they both made their way through the ranks in the U.S racing scene and have been racing on some good teams over the past few years. Owen now races for Hagens Berman, a team out of Seattle, WA. He has had some very good results over the past couple of years. Evan is racing for a team out of Northern California called RHVille.

They now spend their winters operating a training camp in Tucson AZ called The Cycling House and run the 53 x 11 Coffee Company.

Evan told me, “We care about the environment and the people around us. It shows up in our two companies. The coffee we provide is Organic and Fair Trade. It’s better for the environment and for you. We have also started a volunteer 53 x 11 clean up crew. It’s a new concept, but we are hoping to get teams and clubs involved to do volunteer clean up along their favorite rides.”

I am pretty impressed with these two young guys. They have found a way to pursue their passion of racing bikes. At the same time they provide a winter training house to help other riders, and help the environment.

They also manage to have some fun along the way, and for the rest of us they provide some good coffee. After sampling it I can assure you, it is really good coffee.

Monday
Aug062007

Once a Cyclist....


Once a cyclist, always a cyclist.

At heart anyway if not by active participation.

Eric Clapton, in his youth, rode a bike as well as played guitar; he even raced a little and rode a few time-trials.

The guitar became his number one passion and won out over the bicycle, but the bicycle keeps popping up now and then throughout his life and career. In his early days with Cream he made an album called Disraeli Gears.

The story goes that one day in the recording studio Eric was telling the other band members about his bike racing and his road bike. One of them asked, “Did it have those Disraeli gears?”

This was quite funny because what he really meant was derailleur gears. Benjamin Disraeli was a British prime minister in the 1800s during Queen Victoria’s reign. This is how, the now famous album, got its name.


I recently discovered Eric Clapton has a personal blog. He doesn’t write much, mostly posts pictures of his travels, and of objects that interest him.

Recently he posted a picture of a Unicanitor bicycle saddle along with pictures of some cowboy belt buckles. You would be hard pressed to find more dissimilar objects than these and no one but an ex-cyclist would find a bike saddle interesting enough to take a picture.

A search through the archives, unearthed a picture of a Cinelli badge, the kind they used to put on their steel handlebar stems. Also, a fixed gear Cinelli track bike.

I checked back through all the previous posts via the “Back” button to the very first one posted on November 17th, 2006. At the top, he wrote:

“Driven by insatiable passions, governed by the need to be free and independent.......these are some of the things that stop me in my tracks.”

This quote is followed by photos of two different Ferrari cars, and a Dodge Night Runner truck. The fourth picture is of a vintage Cinelli Special Corsa road bike that appears to be in new condition.

Just goes to show how the experience of riding a simple machine like a road bicycle, even briefly in one’s life, can become embedded in a person’s psyche, their subconscious, and it never leaves.


Friday
Aug032007

Still bargains to be found out there


I recently heard from two people; each had a story of how they came across a Fuso bike under unusual circumstances and how they purchased those bikes at a bargain price.

Ed Arlt who lives in Northern California was telling a friend he was thinking of upgrading from his hybrid to a road bike. His friend told him of a neighbor of his, an older gentleman in his eighties, who wanted to give away his Fuso because he could no longer ride it.


Ed had never heard of a Fuso, but did an online search and within minutes knew he was on to something special.

He jumped in his truck, drove over and introduced himself to his friend’s neighbor. He was taken to the garage and there behind the lawnmower was a red Fuso in nearly new condition.

The owner told Ed he bought the frame from a Bay Area bike shop in the early 1990s and he hand picked all the other parts and had it built. He then rode it for a couple years until poor health caused it to sit for the last 10 years.

He wanted to give it to someone who would use it. Ed, to his credit, did not feel comfortable accepting such an offer, and paid the old gentleman $200 for it. Still a tremendous bargain.

The serial number on the frame is #100 which makes it even more interesting. It would have been built in 1984 the first year of production, but must have hung in the bike store until the early 1990s. The bike is pictured above.

The second story I received from Mark Worden who told me he came across a 30th Anniversary Fuso (1987) at a garage sale in Encinitas, CA. The owner told him it had been sitting in his garage for the past 18 years.

The frame was near pristine, but the components were slightly pitted, and the front derailleur clamp was broken. It had a $300 price tag on it, but after some wheeling and dealing, Mark came away with the bike for $75. The owner’s wife told her husband “Just get rid of it.”

Unfortunately, the frame was too small for Mark, but he passed his good fortune on to a friend of his who loves the bike. He wasn’t able to send me a picture, but told me he is now looking for a 58 – 59 Fuso and hopes he can repeat his good fortune. You never know he might just do that.

I built close to 3,000 Fuso frames from 1984 to 1993. Most were sold in Southern California. San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. A fair number also went to the San Francisco Bay Area. The rest in smaller numbers went to various parts of the US.

Where are these bikes now? I believe a lot of them, like these two examples, are sitting in garages unused. They are just waiting to be liberated, and I’m sure I will be hearing more stories like these in the years to come.

Wednesday
Aug012007

Tubulars: Part III, Gluing the tire to the rim


As you may have gathered from Part II, repairing a tubular tire is a lengthy process; so too is gluing the tires to the rim. To do the job properly it can take several days to allow the glue to cure and the tires to settle on the rim.

You can’t just fit the tires and go out and ride immediately as you can with clinchers; it is necessary to plan ahead.

Let’s assume we are starting out with brand new tires and new alloy rims. I have no experience with carbon fiber rims so I can’t advise on those. I understand there may be issues with tires not adhering so well to CF rims.

Before you even apply any glue to the rims, mount the tires and inflate them to the recommended pressure, and leave them on the rims for at least 24 hours. New tires are extremely tight on the rim and you really have to “muscle” them on.

Once they have been on the rim and inflated for a period of time, the tires stretch out and are easier to fit the second time around. You do not want to be dealing with glue and trying to get a brand new tire on at the same time.

By the same rule, don’t forget to pre-fit and inflate a spare tire; because if you get a flat you will not want to be trying to fit a brand new, un-stretched tire, by the roadside.

If you can’t get the tire on the rim the first time, it may be necessary to stretch the tire by putting it over your shoulder, diagonally across your back, and the put your knee inside the tire and push on it.

Before you apply any glue to a new rim, the concave inside surface where the tire sits, needs to be roughed up. This is to make sure the glue bonds to the rim; glue doesn’t stick too well to a shiny surface. Use some coarse emery cloth, and just scratch up the surface.

There are two types of tire adhesive; double sided sticky tape, or glue in a can that you apply with a brush. Some people like the double sided tape because it’s quicker and less messy that the glue. I don’t like it for the simple reason, when it comes time to change a tire, I never know if the tape will stay on the rim, or come off stuck to the tire. Glue is cheaper, I get many applications out of one can.

Getting back to our brand new rims that we have just roughed up with emery cloth; apply a coat of glue with a brush. I buy cheap glue brushes that come in a packet of five for a little over a dollar, and are cheap enough to use once and throw away.

When I apply glue to the rim, I deliberately miss a spot. The space between two spokes that is opposite the valve; that is the place where the manufacturer’s label usually is. (I am not talking about the new wheels with a large space between spokes. About 2 ¼ inches [56 mm.] is good.)

The reason I do this is, if a tire is stuck on correctly, it is hard to remove, even when deflated. This little dry spot with no glue gives me a place to start. The tire will not roll off because 2 ¼ inches of glue is missing. I choose the space opposite the valve so I remember where it is.

The first application of glue should be allowed to dry overnight. The next day, apply a second coat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. The tire manufacturers will tell you to apply a coat of glue to the base tape of the tire; I do not do this. I find it hard enough to get a new tire on a rim, with glue on it, it gets on my hands, then all over the sidewalls of the tire and the rims. Just a horrible mess.

What I do is; I put the tire on after two coats of glue to the rim. Inflate it and allow it to sit for several hours or maybe overnight again. Then I remove it and give the rim a third coat of glue. (The recommended initial amount.)

Now the tire has glue residue on it because it has been on the rim, but not as much as if I had applied it with a brush, plus the glue is partially dry. Also, because the tire has been on and off the rim twice now each time it gets easier to put on.

On the final fitting, I spin the wheel and make sure the tire is aligned. Partially inflate, and look at the edge of the base tape. Is there an even amount showing all around the rim, and is the tread central on the wheel? If satisfied the tire is straight, I fully inflate.

After allowing the bike to sit overnight, on the initial ride the next day, I take it easy and not push my speed to the limit on corners. By the next day, and after riding the bike, the tires should have bedded down and the glue should be cured.

A final test is to physically try to roll the tire off the rim with both hands and pushing with the thumbs. This is the test that officials will perform before a race. If the base tape lifts at all from the rim the tire is not sufficiently glued.

Whether you choose glue or double-stick tape, both types stay tacky for a long time. This means the tire can be removed when necessary, and if you change a tire on the road the glue is still tacky and will hold the tire well enough to get you home. (Riding with caution of course.) Once you get home you can remove the tire, give the rim a fresh coat of glue, wait 15 minutes, replace the tire and after the bike sits over night, you are good to go again.

At least once a year, or sooner if you make several tire changes, it will be necessary to clean off the old glue and start over. Use any kind of paint solvent to do this; I use lacquer thinner, it is probably one of the least toxic. Once the rims are clean and dry, start over as you would for new rims, although it may not be necessary to rough up the rim surface again.

Disclaimer: I have just explained how I fit my tubular tires. I have never had a tire roll off, but I weigh about 150 lbs. It would be remiss of me if I recommended you follow anything but the manufacturer’s instructions.

As I have often said, I am retired from the bicycle business, I have no connection with any company and I am not trying to sell you anything. I have given you the pros and cons of tubular tires. This is free information intended only to assist you in making your own decisions as to what type of tires you use.

Some of you have been asking about wider tubulars. Vittoria makes the Pave EVO CG, 24 mm wide, and the lower price Vittoria Rally training tire is available in 23 mm. Also, although tubulars are designed to be inflated to 120 psi or more, I find at my weight 100 psi is ample. Like the Sleep Number bed, find your own comfort level.

Footnote: This is the final in a three part series on tubular tires. Here is a link to Part 1 and Part 2.