Dave Moulton

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Sunday
Apr192009

Lock your bike

Thursday
Apr162009

Mixed Signals

More and more states are passing new laws to protect cyclists. In most cases part of the package gives the cyclist the option of signaling a right turn with either their left or right arm. I have not heard any protest from cyclists over this until now.

On a Portland, Oregon blog named Two Five Fix, was this quote:

Please stop pressing the issue to pass the right-hand right-turn turn signal! There are three standardized hand signals that have been in place for years. By changing the rules for cyclist, you are saying "we get special treatment" and causing more us-them mentality. Motorists can't signal a right hand turn with their right hand so why should cyclists? Maybe we can start using blue lights on the back of our bikes too?

When I came to the United States thirty years ago, I accepted the rules, laws and customs of this country. I would ride my bike on the opposite side of the road, I would even refer to “chips” as French Fries and eat them with ketchup instead of vinegar, but I would be damned if I would signal a right turn with my left arm.

It seemed ludicrous to me to signal my intention to turn right by pointing my left forearm towards the sky.

The driver of a motor vehicle can only signal with one arm, and for those who drive on the right it is the left arm.

But people on bicycles, or for that matter motorcycles, mopeds, or scooters have their whole body exposed and both arms can be clearly seen.

So when I arrived on these shores in 1979, I continued to do as I had done all my life, and signaled a right turn with my right arm. To do any different may have been the law, but to me went against all common sense and logic.

I am not 100% sure, but I believe in almost every country in the world, cyclists and motorcyclists use their left arm to signal left, and their right to signal right; America is the exception.

Even to this day I am still caught offgaurd driving behind a motorcyclist on the freeway, when he raises his left left arm with clenched fist, like some militant biker power salute, then suddenly swerves right into the next lane. I am left to wonder, doesn't pointing in the direction you intend to go register in the human brain a split second faster.

Anyway, I have for the last thirty years; riding my bike on the roads of these United States always signaled a right turn with my right arm, pointing to the right. I may have been breaking the law, but there has never been any confusion as to the direction I intended to go.

However, it became a rebellion that no one noticed or even cared about; I was never locked up, or threatened with deportation. In thirty years no one has ever question why I chose to signal that way; not law enforcement, motorist, or cyclist.

The writer of the above comment is concerned that motorists will see different hand signals for cyclists as “special treatment.” It is my opinion that the motoring public could care less about hand signals. When do you last see a motor vehicle driver give one? Heck, many are too lazy to lift one finger to operate the mechanical turn signals.

I believe hand signals for motorists are obsolete. The average American motorist steers with his left hand, if he suddenly had to signal with it, he would be totally flummoxed. The right hand holds the cell phone, the coffee cup, or is used to communicate displeasure with other road users.

Be grateful that many states are giving cyclists the option to signal either way, with the left or right arm. Those used to indicating a right turn with their left arm their entire life, can continue to do so and do not have to learn a new procedure. And foreign nonconformists like me finally become law abiding citizens.

 

Friday
Apr032009

Success and Fame

Success and fame are two things that many strive for in a lifetime, but they are two entities that cannot be measured. By what yardstick do you measure them anyway? Can you measure success by money? I don’t think so. The brokers and bankers on Wall Street made a great deal of money, but I would hardly call them successful.

How do you measure fame? There are probably more people who know me as an ex-bicycle framebuilder, than when I was actually building frames in the 1980s. This is because of the Internet, and anyone can build a following with blogs and the social media. But is this fame, can I take it to the bank, and do I even need to take it to the bank in order to be successful in life?

I think I can safely say I was a successful framebuilder. I think one of the reasons for that is that I didn’t set out to be a “famous” framebuilder. In my youth I wanted to be a famous racing cyclist. When that didn’t happen, framebuilding was an offshoot of the bike racing.

I became a good framebuilder because I built a lot of frames, like any skill the more you practice the better you become. I didn’t want to be famous, I just wanted to make a lot of money. Back then, I believed success was money.

People strive for fame because they want to be noticed. It’s why teens dress in outrageous fashions. I’m not knocking it, I did exactly the same in my teen years. Without this drive there would be no artists, no music, no books, no movies.

Who would even stand up in front of others to perform in some way or other, if they were not saying, “Look at me, look at me, look at me?

So if I say, “Look at me,” I had better have something worthwhile to offer when people do look. Alternatively, if I don’t have anything worthwhile yet because I am only just starting out, (Everyone must start somewhere.) then at least I should recognize this and strive to be better.

The young and the inexperienced would actually be better off if they didn’t draw attention to themselves by dressing or behaving in an outrageous manner. They say, “Look at me,” and when people look there is nothing to see. Nothing substantial. Talent will always shine through in the end, and people will look because they want to.

I have come to realize that what drives me now is not any desire to be noticed, or famous, but to have a positive affect on the lives of others. I have been fortunate enough to build bikes that people still enjoy riding. I am fortunate that I am able to share the knowledge I have gained over the years.

When someone reads my book, or something I have written here, and they tell me it made them think, or they learned something, or they were entertained. That is a positive effect, it is all the success I need. I can’t measure it, but it is pretty big.

 

Wednesday
Apr012009

Tour de France could become fixed again

A recent Wall Street Journal article about the Tour de France and the fact that the family owned company that puts on this anual event, is considering selling it.

There was speculation that Lance Armstrong might be interested in buying, however, Lance immediately rejected the idea saying. “I love the Tour de France, but I am not interested in owning it.”

The latest news is that a young French Internet Billionaire, named Jacques LeLad, is the latest to show interest in the event. If this happens, it will change the Tour de France as we know it. LeLad is a twenty-something French Hipster and fixed wheel enthusiast. His plans are to change the TDF to a fixed only event.

The Tour de France does of course have a fixed wheel history. From its beginnings in 1903 up until 1938, the event was restricted to a single fixed gear. This was at the whim of then owner Henri Desgrange, whose opinion was that multiple gears took away from the purity and simplicity of the sport. Multiple gears had been available some years before 1938.

In the old days of the race, it took a course over the French Alps as it does today.

The single gear riders would stop at the foot of a climb, remove the rear wheel, and turn it around to a larger sprocket on the opposite side of the wheel. Repeating the process again at the top of the mountain in readiness for the descent.

In a recent interview, Jacques LeLad said that if his bid was successful there would be no more mountain stages. Through a translator he said,

“Fixie Bikes are of the street, and that is where the race should be.”

It will become a series of street races held in the larger French cities. The competitors will travel from one stage to the next in tour buses.

When asked if he thought the French public would come out to watch such an event, LeLad replied that he was unconcerned about spectators, as the event would draw fixie enthusiasts from all over the world. “They will be ’ere in their millions.” He quipped.

The sad thing is that he is probably right, and in this economy the French government is not going to turn away millions of potential tourists. It is doubtful the French government will stand in the way of this move.

The UCI, (The world governing body of cycling.) is powerless in the matter, as the Tour de France organizers, are a privately owned company.

There is a website where fans of the Tour de France as we know it can lodge a protest. At this time it is all we can do.

 

 

Saturday
Mar282009

Fiorenzo Magni: Third man, but not least

Often referred to as the Third Man of Italian Cycling behind Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, Fiorenzo Magni, who as I write this is 88 years of age, and is a living connection to the other two great Italian cyclists. He rode with them, raced against them, sometimes even beating them.

He also rode against other giants of that time, the likes of Geminiani, Robic, Bobet, Kubler and Koblet. In a time now referred to as “The Golden Age of Cycling,” when in countries like Italy, France, and Belgium, cycling had more fans than football. (Soccer.)

His numerous victories over the years included three wins in the Giro d’Italia, in 1948, 1951, and again in 1955. His epic ride with a broken collarbone to 2nd. Place in the 1956 Giro was the one that I wrote about in my last article. The reason for his determination to finish at all costs? He was about to retire that year and did not want to abandon his last Giro.

Above: Magni, Bartali, and Coppi.

Magni could have possibly won the Tour de France in 1950, but fate stepped in and denied him the chance. In stage 11 that went from Pau to St. Gaudens, crossing the Aubisque, Tourmalet and the Aspin, all famous climbs. At the top of the Aspin, Bartali and Frenchman Jean Robic crashed into a photographer. Robic remounted but Bartali was surrounded by angry spectators. He was kicked and punched.

After the crowd dispersed Magni and Bartali chased the field and caught the leaders, Bobet, Geminiani and Ockers. This effort gained Fiorenzo Magni 12 minutes and he took the overall lead ahead of Swiss rider Ferdi Kubler by two and a half minutes.

Above: Magni leads Coppi

The following morning the entire Italian team, including Magni, withdrew from the race. Partly in protest at the treatment of Bartali, but also because of concerns for the safety of the Italian riders. When asked in a recent interview, if he regretted having to abandon the TDF when leading, Magni replied:

Of course I felt bad about that but I believe that there are bigger things than a technical result, even one as important as winning the Tour de France. Team manager Alfredo Binda and the Italian Federation made the decision, on Bartali's suggestion. I stuck to the rules and accepted their decision. In my life, I have never pretended to have a role that was not mine.

When asked did he feel he could have won the Tour? His reply was:

That's another story. Hindsight is easier than foresight! I think I had a good chance of winning. But saying now that I would have won would not be very smart.

Magni was one of the first riders to negotiate sponsorship from outside the Bicycle Industry. In 1954 he managed to get a contract with Nivea. (The Face Cream Company.)

Professional cycling was struggling at the time, and this was a positive move for the sport. The sponsorship supported Magni and his entire team.

The move proved to be lucrative for both Magni and Nivea. It lead the way for other cycling teams to get sponsorship outside the bicycle industry. Especially important in the years that followed, when soccer started to gain public support over cycling.

When asked what it was like to ride against Coppi and Bartali, Fiorenzo’s reply was:

In life, defeats are more likely to happen than wins. Losing to Coppi and Bartali, and therefore congratulating them, is an experience that I am happy to have had and an experience that taught me a lot. I recognize as I always have that they were, simply fantastic Coppi was my age and we were very close. Bartali lived close by and we met very often.

I have always admired them for what they could do and esteemed them for who they were. Not only they were champions, they were also great men. Why do you think we are still speaking about them? Because they made history. I consider myself lucky because racing with them I could be part of this history. I would have won more without them but it wouldn't have been during a legendary cycling era.

Fioreznzo Magni was mentor to at least two famous framebuilders. Ernesto Colnago (Above center with Sr. Magni left.) worked on his first Giro d'Italia in 1954 as second mechanic. The first mechanic was Faliero Masi who Magni described in his interview as “The best mechanic of all time.” It was Masi’s idea to use the piece of inner tube to gain leverage, outlined in my last article.

Always a smart business man, Magni retired from racing in 1956. He could have gone on much longer, but he did so to manage his Motorcycle Dealership that he started in 1951. The business eventually became a car dealership in Monza, Italy, that still bears his name today. The picture below from recent years, shows Sr. Magni in the office of his business. The now famous picture from the 1956 Giro d'Italia is on the wall behind him.

He also is President of a Cycling Museum the "Fondazione Museo del Ciclismo.” The museum building is next to the famous Sanctuary of the "Madonna del Ghisallo.” The Madonna del Ghisallo is considered the patron saint of cyclists and the Sanctuary contains trophies, bikes, jerseys and photos from legendary champions.

You can read the interview with Fiorenzo Magni here. The responses to the questions show acceptance of the hand that life dealt him, without regrets. He also shows humility in accepting praise for his achievements, and a willingness to give credit to others. It shows the wisdom and character of Fiorezo Magni.

The joy for me is that this great man is still with us, when so many of the heroes of my teen years are not. Coppi, Koblet, Robic and Bobet, died tragically, and all relatively young. My memories of this era are from almost sixty years ago, and still there is a remote possibility I could one day actually meet Fiorenzo Magni.