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Monday
Mar242008

Prejudice and intolerance

Chicago’s Mayor Daley introduced an ordinance last month that would impose fines ranging from $150 to $500 on motorists who turn left or right in front of someone on a bicycle; pass with less than three feet of space between car and bike; and open a vehicle door into the path of a cyclist.

When the Chicago Tribune posted the story on their website in the form of a very short two-paragraph piece. I thought the comments from readers that followed were disappointing.

One would have thought cyclists would have welcomed this as good news; instead, cyclists commented with attacks on car drivers, and of course, drivers responded. It showed that prejudice and intolerance between people who drive cars and cyclists is alive and well in Chicago, as it is the world over.

The same old rhetoric on each side; each one canceling the other out. Nothing achieved. Just a whole lot of hatred stirred up on both sides. Cyclists recalling times they have been hit, and their many near misses. Auto drivers using the same old clichés like, “Cyclists are always running red lights and stop signs.”

Just as in racial prejudice, the actions of a few are used to tarnish the whole group, and give the bigots an excuse for their verbal attacks and behavior. To say all cyclists disregard the laws of the road is akin to saying that all people of a certain ethnic group are criminals.

As cyclists, we can be guilty of the same prejudice. There are many bad drivers out there, and we tend to focus on these and view all drivers as the same. However, I still believe in human decency and that the majority of drivers would not deliberately put another human being in harms way.

Bad drivers are careless and inattentive, but still I believe it is a tiny minority that are malicious. By focusing on this minority, cyclists are practicing the same prejudice as drivers who condemn us for the actions of a few.

I do not run red lights, even if I stop and there is no vehicle coming in the opposite direction; I wait for the light to change. Not out of fear of getting a ticket, that possibility is remote. My reasons are simple, I would not do it in my car, and therefore if I expect others to view my bike as a vehicle; I must behave as any other vehicle.

In addition, when drivers expect me to ride though it creates a good impression when I don’t. A driver seeing me do this is more likely to think favorably of me, and maybe will exercise caution when he passes me a short distance down the road. It is human nature to show consideration for those we see in a good light.

The only exception to stopping on red would be, early in the morning and there is not another car in sight. My bike will not trigger the light, and after stopping and looking all around I go on through. No one sees me, no harm, no foul, and I have not really broken the law. I may have to wait an unreasonable time for a car to come along and change the light.

The same with stop signs, if I am in a quiet neighborhood and there is not another vehicle in sight, I slow, and then ride through. If there is other traffic there, I come to a complete stop and wait my turn. One of the grievances drivers have with cyclists is that they are unpredictable. No one can say I am unpredictable if I obey the law as if I were in my car.

Cyclists who run red lights and stop signs argue that they do it in the interest of their own safety, to stay ahead of traffic. Only another cyclist could understand this logic, to everyone else they are breaking the law. And it pisses people off.

You never stay ahead of traffic entirely, eventually the driver you pissed off at the last light will catch up, and when he does, he is then expected to treat you with respect and consideration.

Cyclists who still run red lights and stop signs might ask themselves this, “Am I really doing this in the interest of my own safety, or am I doing it out of habit because I have been doing it for so long, and because I can get away with it.”

This is not the first time I have touched on this subject, and as before, it is not my place to tell others what to do. However, verbally attacking drivers achieves nothing except to stir up more conflict. It is far more difficult to change the behavior of others, easier to change our own.

If cyclists stopped running red lights and stop signs, if nothing else, there would be one less piece of useless rhetoric that can be used against us.

Thursday
Mar202008

Like finding an old Corvette in a barn


The smiling face you see above is Tom Cook of Chandler, Arizona. Tom has good reason to smile; a friend of his, knowing he was an avid cyclist, gave him his old bike that had been sitting in this original owners garage for many years.

When Tom emailed me last week, he said, “I feel like I have discovered an old Corvette in a barn.” The bike, covered in dust and minus wheels, was otherwise complete with the old Campagnolo equipment that was on it when the original owner bought it as a teenager in 1981.


The frame number (N814) recorded the date it was built; November 1981, the last digit showed it was the 4th frame built that month.

At that time I was still working full time for Masi in their San Marcos, California shop, so to build four of my own custom frames in one month, in my spare time, shows I was putting in some long days back then.

The DB57 is the frame size (Center to Top.) The DB was an identification mark I used on 1981 and 1982 frames. DB came from Dave and Brenda. (My ex wife.)

This particular frame and its components seem unaffected by the years of neglect, and actually cleaned up nicely to reveal the original paint.

The oval panels were an idea I had used in England in the late 1970s. See the picture of me on the left, holding my personal bike with similar painted on panels. This picture was taken late in 1978 a few weeks before I moved to the US in January 1979.

When I started building my own frames again in 1981 I used the same decals I brought with me from England, even using the logo with the words “Worcester, England.”

I did this partly for economic reasons; I couldn’t afford to re-design my decals. Also I was proud of my heritage and where I had come from.

I had a small extra decal made that stated, “Frame guaranteed handcrafted by Dave Moulton in California USA.” This was to avoid any confusion as to where the frames were built.

The oval panels were a big hit in England, not so much in America. In the UK customers wanted my name prominently displayed; in the US, I was an unknown and it seemed customers preferred to have the name understated.

Only a few frames were painted in this fashion in the US; I am guessing two or three. By 1982 when I started building my own frames full time I had dropped the oval panel idea.

This particular frame has only one set of water bottle mounts on the down tube. It is a “Criterium” frame designed to be raced in short events.

I remember it drove me nuts when I started working for Masi and the frame had two water bottle mounts and a pump peg behind the head tube.

To me the Masi was a classic frame, one which I was every bit as proud of as my own frames. To carry a pump under the top tube was, in my opinion, downright “Hokey” for want of a better word. It spoiled the look and the lines of the whole bike. Plus it got in the way when shifting gears.

I built frames with water bottle mounts on the seat tube in England, but riders would only use two bottles when racing and they were not carrying a pump. The rest of the time the pump was carried in front of the seat tube.

So on these early frames I refused to add a pump peg. I soon capitulated, realizing I was not selling frames in England any more. I had to adapt to my customer, not the other way around. In addition, I began to see that in the hot California and Arizona climate, people really needed two water bottles.

These strange little quirks of the framebuilder back then, made these frames different.

Now it serves to remind me what an ornery, stubborn bastard I was at that time, and it was a wonder I didn’t drive away more potential customers than I sometimes did.

Apart from that, it does my heart good when one of these old examples show up like this, bringing back so many bitter, sweet, sweet memories.

Monday
Mar172008

1970s Time-Trial Bike

Fag paper clearances. (British slang for cigarette paper.) Meaning the rear wheel was so close to the seat tube that you could barely get a cigarette paper between the tire and the frame tube. See the picture above.

This was an extreme fashion fad in the UK during the mid 1970s especially on time trial bikes. It served no useful purpose except to make the chainstays shorter thereby saving a little weight, and making the rear triangle a little stiffer. The frames were usually built using vertical rear dropouts to achieve the close clearance.

When fads like this become fashion a framebuilder can do little but follow the latest trend, or loose business; I was no different. However, I did not follow the extremes of some framebuilders who built these frames with clearances so close you had to deflate the rear tire to get the wheel in and out. This bordered on the ridiculous.

Some built frames with extremely steep head angles so the front wheel barely cleared the down tube. This was a part of the trend I refused to follow, as it made for some very “squirrelly” bikes. The last thing a rider needs is a squirrelly time trial bike; a TT bike needs to hold a straight line.

I remember one frame (not one of mine.) brought to me for repair. The down tube and top tube were bent. My first question was, “What did you hit?” The owner replied, “Nothing, I slowed to take a corner, and the frame collapsed under me.”

When I inspected the frame the first thing I noticed was a black rubber tire mark under the down tube right where the tube folded. It became clear to me what had happened. The front wheel was so close to the down tube that when the rider applied the front brake there was enough flex that the front wheel touched the down tube.

Maybe his headset was a little loose, whatever the cause, once the front wheel touched it would have stopped the bike very quickly and the forward momentum folded the frame. I replaced the top and down tubes, making sure to make the head angle a little shallower, making for a little more front wheel clearance.

The bike pictured at the top was one I built for John Patston, an international class rider who represented Great Britain on their national team. In the above picture, John Patston is leading, followed by Paul Carbutt, and Pete Hall. (All on ‘dave moulton’ frames.)

The forth rider Grant Thomas is obscured behind Patston. This was the British Team riding in the 1975 World Championship 100 km. Team Time Trial event.

John Patston was primarily a road rider, very strong and aggressive, often riding away from the opposition to win solo. If others stayed with him, he would usually win the finishing sprint. He was also an excellent time trialist.

I received a great deal of publicity from this particular bike. It featured in the British “Cycling” magazine. (Affectionately known by cyclists throughout the UK, as “The Comic.”)

I can’t remember whether the bike was built in Columbus or Reynolds tubing, but the complete bike built up with Campagnolo titanium components, weighed in a 19 lbs. Pretty light for 1977 when this was built.

The bike was also featured in “The Penguin Book of the Bicycle” published in 1978. (Left.) The same photo shown at the top was used for the title page as the book was opened. (See below.)

My name was airbrushed from the picture, as were the spokes from the wheels to make room for the title text. However the same picture appeared again later in the book, this time with my name intact.

The frame was painted black and had gold pin striping on the edges of the lugs. It also had John’s initials “JP” painted in gold on the seatstay caps. Cycling magazine drew an interesting parallel to this, one that I had not realized when I chose that particular color scheme.

The British tobacco giant “John Player,” also with initials JP, sponsored a Grand Prix racing team at that time. The cars built by Lotus were painted black with gold lettering.


My thanks to Lance Woodman for reminding me of this bike.

Wednesday
Mar122008

Awareness Test

London Transport is a huge government agency that runs all public transport in the City of London. The Underground (Subway) system and those familiar red double-decker buses are London Transport.

They also view bicycles as a genuine form of transport, and have put out this wonderful video. View the whole thing, including the intro; it is quite short.

Turn your sound on and DO THE TEST

My thanks to the Maltese Falcon for bringing this to my attention.

Monday
Mar102008

Fixing fixed wheel terminology

Buffalo Bill writing on Moving Target about an article in the British Guardian/Observer newspaper on the Fixie craze.

Bill was ticked at the journalist writing the piece because she referred to the bikes as “fixed gear” when the correct term for the UK should be “fixed wheel.”

I agree, this is a British journalist writing in a British newspaper for a British audience; she should have used British terminology. Anyway, fixed wheel should be the correct term anywhere; it is a “fixed” wheel as opposed to a “free” wheel.

These bikes are described as having “no gears,” then are called “fixed gear.” As I see it, fixed wheel is the more logical term.

I have been guilty in the past of using the “fixed gear” term. In my defense, I can only plead that living in America for the last 29 years, using American terminology comes as second nature to me. Often if I don’t use American English no one knows WTF I am talking about.

If Bill is offended by the term “fixed gear,” let me say it drives me nuts that the fixie crowd refer to toe clips as “cages.” The reason we have all this strange terminology is that people don’t know the correct term, so they make something up.

These are cages.


These are toe clips.

That’s why we have clipless pedals. Pedals without toe clips; like sugarless gum is gum without the sugar. Don’t ask me why you “clip in” to clipless pedals because you’ll get me even more confused.

I’m already confused because some refer to the part of the pedal where the toe clip bolts on to as the “cage.” However, whenever I have seen “cages” come up on the various forums, they are defiantly talking about the shiny bits that go around your toes.

I see subjects like: "My cages hit my front wheel." Answer: Don’t carry yer budgie on the handlebars. (US translation: A budgie is a parakeet.)

The writer of the Guardian article seemed to think the fixie craze was started by West Indian immigrants in New York City in the 1980s. That is a new one to me; I hadn’t heard that one before. If this trend did start in NYC in the 1980s, why did it take over 25 years to go mainstream?

To set the record straight, the fixed wheel craze started the moment the first bicycle was built. The first bicycles had a fixed wheel, often with no brakes or minimum braking; the freewheel and efficient braking were invented later.

Fixed wheel bikes have always been ridden and enjoyed by bike enthusiasts. Ideal for commuting and riding in heavy traffic, or riding in close quarters with other riders. The rider has more control over the bike and can speed up or slow down at will.

Now the trend or current craze is “Riding a fixed wheel bike for no reason other than it is trendy to do so.” Just because everyone else is doing it.

Going brakeless is also a trend, and not necessarily a good one. Having a front brake will not impair your cycling pleasure, or performance one iota; you don’t have to use it. However, in an emergency, you may just be glad it is there.

I think the whole brakeless thing started because bike messengers were riding track bikes that were built with no provision for brakes. Bike messengers probably felt they were experienced enough not to need a brake. They could be right; they are professionals riding a bike all day, every day for a living.

Trendy or not, riding a bike with no alternative means of stopping is not right for everyone. It doesn’t mean that anyone can jump on a brakeless fixed wheel bike with little or no experience, and ride safely in today’s traffic.

You can always spot the inexperienced rider on the track; (Although often these are experienced road riders.) in an emergency, the first they do is stop pedaling and reach for the brakes that aren’t there.

While they are getting over the surprise that the pedals keep on turning, they plow into the rider who has fallen in front of them. Whereas the experienced track rider will instinctively steer around the obstruction.

Anyway, to sum it all up as I see it; it doesn’t matter that people are getting into this trend for all the wrong reasons. For a few, cycling will get into their blood and they will continue in some form or other long after this trend has passed.

Just as many who took up mountain biking in that craze during the late 1980s, early 1990s, and later switched to road bikes. Many are the hardcore, bike enthusiasts of today.

If nothing else, they will experience first hand what it is like to ride a bicycle in traffic. Maybe as adults they will become better car drivers because of it; at least drivers who are tolerant towards other people riding bicycles.