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Thursday
Apr262007

Mike Melton


From time to time, I get emails asking for information on framebuilder Mike Melton. I always respond that I have no idea where Mike is now. However, here is the little I do know.

I met Mike in 1980 a year after I came to the US and I was working for Paris Sport. I was building some aero-bikes for the US National Team. Time was running short and Mike Fraysee of Paris Sport brought Mike Melton in to assist me.



Mike was an established and well-respected American framebuilder from Columbia, South Carolina. We worked together for a week and obviously got to know each other pretty well during that time.

Afterwards we went our separate ways and usually met up at least once a year at the various bicycle trade shows. Mike continued his connection with the US team when he later went to work for Huffy and built frames for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In the years that followed he would design and build some carbon fiber frames for the US team and was somewhat of a pioneer, in building frames using that material.

Below is a picture of an earlier 1982 steel tube Aero frame that Mike Melton built for John Marino for his winning “Race Across America” ride.

I have not heard anything of Mike since the late 1980s and I would love to renew our contact. I recently received a request for info from Matthew Marion who sent me the photos of his red Melton frame you see here.



I believe Mike is a few years younger than I am so he may or may not be retired now.



If he wishes his whereabouts to remain unknown, I will of course respect that. However, he may not even know that his past work still has a following and their owners treasure the fine crafted frames he built.

Update 1/29/11: Mike Melton died on January 26th, 2011, after a long illness resuling from a rare neurological disease believed to be spinal cerebella ataxia, similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Monday
Apr232007

I Rode to the Edge of America and Back

Early last December I rode my bike to Folly Beach. A long narrow barrier island, close to Charleston, known to the locals as “The Edge of America.” It was a beautiful sunny day, temperature in the eighties, with a cooling breeze.


I stopped to take some pictures of my bike on the pier; they were never posted here (until now) because two days later I would be involved in an accident and my frame was wrecked.

Just five weeks ago I started riding again; I’ve been riding three days a week, 25 to 30 miles each day.

Yesterday was an almost identical day to the one when I last rode to Folly Beach. Temperature 81 degrees, with a light breeze; perfect riding weather.

That day last December I was flying, I really felt I was starting to find form. I decided to do the ride again to compare my fitness level with that before my accident.

I didn’t take the direct route because Folly Road is narrow and highly congested, especially on a warm, sunny day when everyone heads to the beach. Instead I headed south on Savannah Hwy. actually going away from Folly Beach.

Left on Main Road an over the Stono River bridge. Left again on Rivers to Maybank where another left took me over the Stono River for a second time. Then a right on Riverland Avenue; a pleasant road to ride on, shaded by old growth live oak trees.


A long way around but worth it because when Riverland finally merges with Folly Road, the road is much wider at this point and in a few miles there is a bike lane.

A turn around at Folly Beach without stopping and I headed back the exact same route. About fifty miles round trip done in three hours; 15 minutes slower than when I did the same ride last December.

It appears I have not quite reached my previous form, but I’m getting there.

Thursday
Apr192007

Would you buy it, strip it, dump the frame?


A Paris Sport tandem that I built in 1980 has been up for sale on SF Craigslist for a few weeks now. The price is right at $1,000 and there maybe several reasons why it hasn’t sold yet.

Craigslist doesn’t have the safeguards that eBay has so you really need to go look at something before you buy. That limits potential buyers to people within driving distance of Sacramento, where the tandem happens to be.

No one buys a bike unless it fits them; here you have a machine that has to fit two people. Therefore limiting potential buyers still further, unless someone buys it first then goes out to find a partner to fit the other half.

I am in no way connected to this sale, but I do happen to believe this sale is genuine. I have previously corresponded with the owners, who are the original owners. I also wrote about this one in a blog (July 2006)

This morning the sale was mentioned here, and I quote from the post: “I reckon someone might want it just for Phil Wood stuff...”



WTF. Has the value of my work sunk so low that someone would suggest buying it just to strip it of a few of the component parts?

Now you can call me over sensitive, or call me an egotistical MF, but when I read something like this, it is like a swift kick in the bollocks.

Friday
Apr132007

1981 Custom

Here is a very early California built custom ‘dave moulton.’ Built in January 1981 while I was working for Masi, having just moved there three months earlier.

My thanks to owner Ken Meyers for these pictures. Ken is the original owner, and this 56 cm. frame still has the original paint.




Built in Reynolds 531 tubing, this one definitely shows my English heritage. The contrasting color on the head tube and panels on the seat and down tubes was typical of English frames from the 1970s.


The World Championship rainbow bands that edge the panels were from a small supply I had brought with me when I moved to the US just two years earlier. The “Union Jack” British flag decals were cut from the Masi Gran Criterium decals that had flags of several nations.

The concave seat stay caps, made by brazing in place an off-cut of head tube would become typical of my custom frames. Also used on many frames that followed was the slim-line fork crown. Investment cast in Italy by Microfusioni, (The company that cast Cinelli crowns and BB shells.) and imported by the British company, Saba.

There is no engraving on the fork crown and bottom bracket of these 1981 custom frames, that started the following year in 1982 when I started building my own frames full time.

This frame was built with “Henry James” lugs, hand cut at the head tube to the shape you see here.

Monday
Apr092007

Head Angles and Steering

If the head angle of a bicycle was vertical (90 degrees.) when you turned the handlebars to round a corner, the front and rear hubs would remain in the same plane.

Because the steering tube on a road bike is angled forward, usually at an angle of 73 degrees, when the steering is turned, the fork blade that is on the inside of the turn drops and the other side raises. Therefore the front and rear hubs are not in the same plane.

Going through a turn the front wheel is leaning slightly more than the rear wheel. This adds to the stability of the bike because the front wheel is outside the centerline of the frame.

Because the front wheel is leaning slightly more than the rear wheel, it is turning at a slightly tighter turning radius, creating over steer. This is a good thing; centrifugal forces are pushing the bike wide on the corner, over steer is counteracting this.

Now try this demonstration. Hold your front wheel vertical with both hands while turning the wheel to the left or right. You will notice the bike will lean in the opposite direction to the turn. (Left.)

As stated in the second paragraph above, when the steering is turned, the fork blade on the inside drops. Only this time it cannot drop because you are physically holding the front wheel vertical. Instead of dropping, it pushes the bike in the opposite direction.

You have just demonstrated the action of counter steer. Widely taught and practiced in motorcycle riding, though not as essential in bicycle riding, counter steer can never the less be used very effectively.

Imagine you are riding your bike at speed in a straight line and you want to make a sharp right hand turn. Because you are riding straight the gyroscopic action of the spinning wheels, plus your own weight and momentum, is holding you vertical just as surely as if you were physically holding the front wheel.

When you reach the point where you wish to turn right, nudge your handlebars slightly to the left. (Hence, counter steer.) A good way to do this initially is to push the right side of your bars forward, thus steering left. The slightest touch is all it takes to immediately push the bike over into a right hand lean and the bike steers itself around the corner.

The reason the bike turns to the right the moment it leans to the right is that three different forces come into play.

1.) The law of gyroscopic action states; a spinning wheel will turn in the direction it is leaning. If you roll a coin on a flat surface, it will roll in a circle because it turns in the direction it is falling.

2.) Because the front fork is bent or raked forward, there is more of the wheel ahead of the steering axis than behind it, and its own weight will cause it to turn in the direction it leans. In addition, the weight of the handlebars is in front of the steering axis. You can demonstrate this by leaning a stationary bike, the front wheel will turn in the direction it is leaning

3.) If you draw a line through the steering axis (The center of the head tube.) and extend it to the ground; it will reach the ground at a point slightly ahead of the point where the wheel contacts the ground. This is known as “trail” and gives the steering a caster action that helps keep the bike straight, but also as the bike leans to the right, the head tube and the steering axis move to the right. The front wheel pivoting on its point of contact with the road will therefore turn to the right.

It has been established since at least the 1930s that the ideal head angle for a road bike is 73 degrees. (Give or take a degree either way.) Track bikes designed to be ridden on a banked track or velodrome are a different matter.

The banking of the track counteracts the centrifugal forces of turning. In theory the bike is at 90 degrees to the track surface when traveling at speed, and acts as if the bike were traveling in a straight line with no corners.

The only time a rider needs to deviate from a straight line is to go around an opponent. The rider needs to be able to physically steer around another rider without throwing the bike into a lean to the left or right. Steeper head angles of 75 or 76 degrees achieve this characteristic, along with less fork rake and less trail.

So how will a track bike handle on the street when it is designed for a banked velodrome? Not too badly actually. The steeper head angle is going to make the steering more sensitive, it may call for smooth pedaling to keep the bike going straight.

On the other hand the steeper more sensitive steering needs less trail to keep it straight. It may not corner as well as a bike designed for the road, but as long as a rider is experienced and considers this, there should be no problem.