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Sunday
Dec162007

Raymond Poulidor: A working class hero

Three won the Tour de France multiple times; however, Raymond Poulidor never won, or for that matter never wore the race leader's Yellow Jersey during any of the Tours.

He did place second in 1964, 1965, and 1974; and placed third in 1962, 1966, 1969, 1972, and 1976. He entered the Tour de France 14 times and finished 12 times; he was consistently in the top ten.

He had a longer career than is usual for a professional cyclist. His first major victory was in the classic Milan-San Remo in 1961. His third place in the Tour in 1976, came at age 40.

His inability to win the Tour de France won him the nick-name in the press as the "Eternal Second." However in spite of this he was immensely popular with the French public, and was more often than not known affectionately as "Pou Pou."

During the first part of his career, Poulidor had to race against Jacques Anquetil, and although the former could get the better of Anquetil on the bigger climbs, he lacked Anquetil's tactical ability, especially in the discipline of the time-trial. Poulidor’s riding style was aggressive and attacking, whereas Anquetil would control the race in the climbing stages, then win in the time trial.

There was always intense rivalry between these two riders. (Pictured together, left.) Anquetil was the top French rider of his day, and it always irked him that Poulidor was in many ways more popular with the French public, and was often given more favorable coverage in the French press.

For example in 1965, when Poulidor was perceived to have received more credit for dropping Anquetil the previous year on the Puy-de-Dôme than Anquetil had received for winning the whole Tour.

Long after their retirement, Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor would finally become friends. Anquetil died of stomach cancer in 1987, and the day before he died, he told Poulidor, “Once again my friend you will be second to me.”

In the latter half of his career after Anquetil had retired, Poulidor could still not win the Tour de France. He was then up against Eddy Merckx, considered by most to be the greatest cyclist ever. He does hold one record, in that he finished in the top three in the Tour de France no fewer than eight times. No one has done that before or since.


Today Raymond Poulidor is still immensely popular with the French people; see above as he signed autographs in October 2006. (Picture by Thierry Malaval.)

When asked in a national survey in 1991, which man they would like to invite for a Christmas dinner, a French audience overwhelmingly answered Raymond Poulidor, beating out famous movie stars.

What could be the reason for such popularity? He came from peasant stock, from the farming midlands of France. He speaks with a regional accent; in other words, he is a "Working Class Hero."

There is something about a person who attains success in life, but they retain their "down-to-earth" qualities that the ordinary man on the street can relate to. Think of the continuing popularity of rock stars like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young; they have that same working class persona.

Or maybe Raymond Poulidor’s popularity was in the fact that he never did win the big one, but at the same time never gave up trying. The world will always admire such spirit, that of the underdog.

Friday
Dec142007

Velo News


The number of readers on my blog has steadily increased this year from 100 visitors a day in January, to 500 a day at the beginning of December. It always drops down a little on the weekends, but stays pretty steady Monday through Friday.

Last Tuesday Velo News featured this blog as “Site of the day,” and the number of hits that day shot up to over 5,000. It has since dropped back again, as Velo News moved on to feature other sites of the day.

When things level out again it will be interesting to see how many new readers I pick up. All this has made me realize that I am only scratching the surface when it comes to the number people who read the stuff I write here.

These last three days there have been new comments on some of my older blogs. This tells me that new readers are going back through the old stuff. Don’t forget to look at the “Archives” page on my website; this lists almost 200 articles on a single page.

All this increased activity here and on my website has meant that my Web Host is having to move my personal site to another server. Because of this, www.ProdigalChild.net will be down for about an hour on Saturday, December 15, sometime between noon and 5:00 pm. (EST.)

I thank Velo News for posting the link, and Chris, the guy who wrote and told VN about Dave’s Bike Blog. Thanks to all the regular readers, I see you as my extended circle of friends. And welcome to new readers, I hope you will stick around.

Wednesday
Dec122007

It must be all this talk about cycling is the new golf

If you Google “PGA Drug Testing” you will find many conflicting views whether professional golf should, or should not test for performance enhancing drugs.

One thing is clear, to the top officials of that sport; “de Nile” is not just a river in Egypt. Or is it denial.

To hear PGA officials talk, golfers apparently do not cheat they play by the rules. After all, they keep their own score cards, and if people cheated the whole system would break down.

PGA Tour Chief Tim Finchem said if he had any indication a player was using illegal drugs, he likely would confront the player. All righty then, that takes care of that problem.

I know sod all about golf, in fact I have little interest in any sport that involves a hitting a ball, running after a ball, much less searching for a ball in the long grass; so why am I even writing about this?

I am tired of reading articles by sports writers who hold up cycling as the worst case example of a sports organization failing to control the use of illegal substances.

Pointing the finger and saying, “We are not like those guys.” It is easy to pick on cycling because it doesn’t have the fan base of say the NFL, Baseball, or for that matter the PGA.

I believe the fan of cycle sport is actually more concerned about the use of illegal substances than NFL or Baseball fans, most of whom could care less. The reason being most cycle-race fans, at least in the US and the UK, actually ride a bike, whereas fans of the major sports are mostly non-participating spectators.

The nature of the war on illegal substance use is the same as the war on crime, one side trying to detect, and the other side avoiding detection. A war that is ongoing with no winner, and no clear end.

It seems logical to me that illegal substances used in cycling would be basically the same as those used in other sports. So if cycling does not have control over the issue, then neither does any other sport that has a drug testing policy in place. This would include the PGA, if and when they start testing.

Implementing drug testing does not immediately stamp out the problem; I doubt there is one sports controlling body that has a complete handle on the issue yet, and there won’t be. Professional sport is big money, and so too is the manufacture of illegal substances.

It used to be just about dope, stimulants that give more energy; now it is body-altering chemistry. Not just bulking up like a football player, but lower, often-undetectable doses of human growth hormones, building lean body mass, enhancing the strength of the athlete.

I have written about this before, but it stands repeating. I believe there has always been dope use in all professional sport throughout history since performance enhancing drugs have existed, for this simple reason. Professional sport is entertainment, and the greater the athletic performance the greater the entertainment value, which translates into more money for sports promoters, the athlete, and the people managing the athlete.

When big money is involved, unfortunately, it is human nature in some to look for an edge in improving performance, and professional golf is definitely big money. Are cyclists any less human than golfers, or vice-versa? Or any other professional athlete for that matter.

No one can convince me that lean body mass, and extra strength would not help a golfer hit a ball further. Professional golf officials need to get their head out of their ass and get with the times. Denial of a problem is not a cure for a problem.

In addition, sports writers need to back off, and give the sport of cycling a break; at least officials of the sport are trying. The UCI was criticized in the past for doing nothing; now there is large scale testing and a few offenders are getting caught, they are still criticized. They find themselves in an unenviable no win situation.

Cycling happened to be one of the first to be exposed for doping; most other sports have since had to deal with the same problem.

Just because cycling was first, doesn’t make them the worst, any more than thinking because professional golf is one of the last to implement drug testing, makes them squeaky clean.


The picture at the top is from an article in the Wall Street Journal, called “Golf, Drugs and Denial” by John Paul Newport.

Monday
Dec102007

In search of the perfect fork blade


When a fork blade comes from the tube manufacturer’s factory, it is straight; the framebuilder bends it to a curve that suits his requirements.

An un-raked road fork blade is oval at the top; the oval section runs parallel for about a third of its length. Then the cross section becomes round and starts to taper gradually to its smallest section at the bottom end.

The fork blade is bent on a curved form that is sometimes made from hard wood. I used one I made myself from two heavy-duty steel fork blades, bent in the desired curve, and brazed together side by side. This made a natural grove between the two blades where the blade would sit as I was bending.

I would slip a short piece of tube over the thin end of the form and the blade I was bending to hold it in place. Then start bending, first by pushing down by hand. The thin end of the blade bends easily, and I would finish off by squeezing it in a vise.

Bicycle tubing is hardened, and it will spring back after bending. Because of this, the form needs to be a greater curve than the finished fork blade will be.

A fork blade is several inches longer than it needs to be. The framebuilder chooses where he will put the bend, and where he will cut to length. For example, if I were making a criterium frame and wanted a very stiff fork, I would cut from the bottom, thin end.

If I were building a touring frame, and wanted a flexible fork for a more comfortable ride, I would cut from the top end and leave the blade thin at the bottom end. The framebuilder creates the perfect fork blade, by selecting the best place to bend the blade, and by choosing how much to cut from either end.

It is rather like a furniture maker choosing where to cut from a piece of wood to achieve the best end product. Once I arrived at the perfect fork blade, it was then an easy matter to repeat the process again and again.

On a John Howard

On a Fuso

And on a Recherche

One exception to this process was the Reynolds 753 fork blades. 753 was heat treated to a degree that the material could not be bent after. These were bent at the factory, then heat treated, and the framebuilder then cut to the required length. You will notice on the 753 Fuso Lux frame (Pictured below.) that the fork bend is a different shape than the ones bent by me. More pictures of this bike can be seen here.

Chainstays and seatstays are also tapered and the same selective cutting to length is employed. In this case, where the cut is made depends a great deal on the size of frame and its end use.

The perfect fork blade is stiff enough to allow precise handling, but with some flex to absorb road shocks. It also looks pleasing to the eye. I have a theory that when something is designed correctly from a functional standpoint, it has a natural aesthetic beauty. This is true of a boat, a bridge, a building, and even a bicycle frame.

The modern trend of building straight forks of course saves the framebuilder a great deal of time and effort. If this look has become acceptable, why should today’s builder go through all the time consuming process I have described here?

The straight blade is angled forward so the same fork rake or offset is achieved and handling would be the same. I can’t comment on the shock absorption qualities because I have never built a frame with a straight fork.

In my view, a great deal is lost aesthetically, so where does that leave my theory about function being linked to aesthetics? On the other hand, is it simply that beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

Friday
Dec072007

The Fuso Lux



When I first produced the Fuso in 1984, I had hoped to keep things simple. My goal was to produce a frame that was built better than the average import frame, was better finished, and rode and handled better. At the same time was competitively priced.

In order to achieve this I built one model, and offered it in four different two-color paint schemes. The frame was available in 18 different sizes in one-centimeter increments, so the customer got virtually a custom fit.

However, I soon found that you can’t please all the people, and soon I had requests for different colors, chrome plating, etc, etc. I explained that this was not “Burger King;” it was not quite as simple as, “Hold the cheese, and add a pickle.” I still offered my custom ‘dave moulton’ frame, but the price was much higher, and the wait was longer.

In 1986 I gave in to the whiners compromised and brought out the Fuso “Lux” model. The standard Fuso was always in stock (Unpainted.) in every size, so I could fill an order immediately. The Lux was built to order, in other words an order existed before the frame was built.

It was built in the same standard geometry as the other Fuso frames. However, it had a different rear brake bridge, tubular, with diamond shaped reinforces. (See top pictures.)

Later Lux frames would have the same flat machined brake bridge as the standard Fuso, but engraved with the words, “Fuso LUX.” At this same time, the Lux had engraved seatstay caps. (See left.) The earlier Lux, (Pictured at the top.) had the same seatstay caps as the standard Fuso.

The Lux had Chrome plated dropout faces, and a chrome right chainstay; it also had an integral aero fork crown, which gave a one-piece look. (Below right.)

The big difference was in the paint finish; the Lux had the decals “buried” under eight clear coats, then sanded smooth.

All this LUXury came at a price. In 1990 a standard Fuso FR1 with C-record components retailed at $1,600, a LUX with the same components was $3,150.

A week ago received photos and an email from Hiram Sloan, he said,

“I recently purchased a Fuso Lux; it is the 1987 anniversary model. I was thrilled to find it among the used bicycles at Richardson Bike Mart in Richardson, Texas. As you can see in the pictures attached, it is in pristine shape and has been ridden very little.”

Hiram's bike is the red and yellow model pictured at the top. I never kept records of exactly how many of the Lux model were built; out of just under 3,000 Fuso frames, I’m guessing about a hundred or so.