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It does my heart good

It does my heart good to see a frame I built thirty years ago still being ridden and enjoyed.  Ken Avchen who owns this bike said:

“I did consider building this one up with period correct components, but I thought this is the bike I want to ride, not just admire it, so I went with a modern group.”

So let’s look at exactly what we have here. This hand built lugged steel Fuso frame built in 1985 will give a ride quality and precise handling that is hard to replicate in a modern frame.

The modern Campagnolo components offer a far wider range of gearing than was ever imagined possible back when this frame was built. Add to this shifting between gears at your fingertips, and the far superior stopping power that modern brakes offer, and you truly have the best of both worlds.

Another important factor, Ken did not have to take out a second mortgage to pay for this. It is still a buyers’ market for vintage frames and ones like this can be had for $300 - $400 on eBay.

Sure some sellers ask a lot more, but I built over 2,400 Fuso frames between 1984 and 1993 and I recently counted only 277 on my Bike Registry.

This means there are a lot of my frames sitting in people’s garages and basements waiting to be found. I good supply for many years to come.

This particular frame is what I call the 1st. Generation Fuso. At the time it was simply a ‘Fuso.’

There was only one model. The two tone paint with the white decal panels does not date the frame.

It was unique, and never really in style, and for that reason it never went out of style. In my opinion it does not look out of place decked out with modern components.

At the time I wanted to do a paint job that was different. It wasn’t widely copied because it called for some pretty complex masking work that took time to execute. There were a little over 1,000 painted like this from 1984 to 1987.

Then as customers demanded more and more colors, and in order to cut costs, I simplified the decals, reduced the amount of masking, and offered the frame in one, two or three colors. (Picture below.)

The 1st. Generation Fuso also had the metal head badge, which was a nice touch. (See above left.)

This too was replaced with a decal on later models. When in business there comes a point where one has to either raise prices or cut costs. It is often wisest to cut costs, people don’t like to pay more.

Paint jobs were simplified to make them easier to apply, but the quality of the paint was never compromised. Neither were the materials used or the build quality. The charcoal grey and red 1st. Generation Fuso, like the one featured here, has always been my favorite.

Unless you are an absolute weight fanatic and you are looking for a nice riding bike that won’t bankrupt you, this might be the way to go. Let’s face it, unless you are going man to man on a mountain stage of the Tour de France the slight weight difference doesn’t really matter.

If you still want a new frame, you might consider one of the new Fuso frames built by my ex apprentice Russ Denny. Feast your eyes on this beauty below. He started to work for me in 1985, the same year the featured frame was built. So that is thirty years of framebuilding experience under his belt. Russ’s email is rdbikes[AT]


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The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Since 1983 the English Department of the San Jose State University has sponsored the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

A whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the worst possible opening sentence to an imaginary novel.

Named after the Victorian English writer Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who penned a novel with the opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Later immortalized by Snoopy, the beloved Schultz “Peanuts” cartoon character.

Bulwer-Lytton is also credited with coining the now famous quotations, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” “The great unwashed,” and “The pursuit of the almighty dollar.”

During the more than thirty years the Bulwer-Lytton contest has been in existence it has grown in popularity to attract entries numbering in the thousands, from contestants worldwide.  Prestigious newspapers in the past have written articles about it, and requoted the winning entries.  

The number of entries per person is unrestricted making the total entries received far greater than the number of people. So I was thrilled when the two entries I submitted were recognized. I won First Prize in the “Children’s Literature” sub-section, with the following entry:

“The doctors all agreed the inside of Charlie’s intestinal tract looked like some dark, dank subway system in a decaying inner city, blackened polyps hanging from every corner like tiny ticking terrorist time bombs, waiting to burst forth in cancerous activity; however, to Timmy the Tapeworm this was home.”

Furthermore my second entry received a “Dishonorable Mention,” (Which is actually good.) in the Crime/Detective” sub-section:

“The janitor’s body lay just inside the door, a small puncture wound below his right ear made with a long thin screwdriver, the kind electricians use and can often be found in the bargain bin at the hardware store and come with a pair of cheap wire cutters that you never use because they won’t cut wire worth a damn and at best will only put a small indent in the wire so you can at least bend it back and forth until it breaks.”

These winning entries bring no monetary gain, but never-the-less it is a huge deal for me. It is recognition for my creative endeavors. Although it is extremely satisfying to have people admire my past work, namely bicycle frames I built, it is my “Past” work. I have moved on.

I was recently called out on my use of the term “ex framebuilder,” and it was suggested I should drop the “ex.” It is part of my title now, it has been the heading of this blog since its inception almost ten years ago. I haven’t built a frame since 1993.

When I walked from the bike business, I decided to direct my efforts in other creative directions, namely writing and songwriting. A difficult field to reach any level of recognition because there are way more writers and songwriters than framebuilders.

It is one thing to take metal and paint and create a functional object of great beauty, but to choose words and assemble them in the correct order, for me is the greatest form of creativity. It is truly creating something out of nothing. Songwriting takes this concept a step further, I am adding random musical notes to the equation.

So this is why this whimsical, nonsense, competition means so much to me. It is a level of recognition for what I do now. One cannot dwell on things they have done in the past, no matter how worthwhile. I like to think that my greatest creative achievements are yet to come.


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My Racing Weight

I wrote last week about the Imperial vs. Metric weights and measures. People in the UK still measure their personal weight in Stones. I currently weigh eleven stone, which was my racing weight. There are 14 lbs. in a stone, so eleven stone is 154 lbs. American.

As a teen I was pretty skinny and weighed around ten and a half stone 147 lbs. But by the time I reached my twenties and into my thirties I had added some muscle and was consistently 11 Stone. It was the weight I strived for every spring after packing on a two or three winter pounds.

It was the weight I was when I arrived in New Jersey in 1979. I rode a few races here in the US.

The picture left shows me in my Paris Sport, New Jersey Bicycle Club kit, having my number pinned on before a race.

I didn’t like the US Criterium style racing. Plus guys were openly snorting cocaine in the changing rooms and even on the start line, which hardly seemed fair to me.

The thing I really didn’t like was the way everyone talked about crashing, and showed off scars like it was some kind of achievement.

I rode three maybe four races and at 43 years old, decided it was time to hang up my racing wheels for good. In the years that followed framebuilding took up all my time and there was little time for riding a bike anyway. I was never grossly overweight and I think the most I have ever weighed was 175 lbs.

In recent years, in spite of eating healthy and riding my bike a lot, I seemed to be stuck at 12 stone, (168 lbs.) and I had that annoying belly fat. I came to the conclusion that exercise alone is not enough to lose weight, neither is diet. It has to be a combination of the two.

The first thing I did was check into my Resting Metabolic Rate. (RMR) This is an estimate of the calories I would burn each day if I did nothing but lay in bed or sit on the couch all day. I found this useful calculator. Your RMR depends largely on your gender, age, height and weight. Mine turned out to be around 1,300 calories a day. The cruel reality is, as you get older your RMR goes down.

I started about three months ago. I made sure I consumed no more than 1,300 calories a day, plus I rode my bike between 100 and 150 miles per week. I usually do a 50 or 60 mile ride on Sunday and I try to eat a good meal, with bread or pasta, the night before. I also carry food with me on the ride, just in case I should run out of gas.

I weigh myself every morning as soon as I get out of bed, and keep a log. Looking back at the log, I weighed 168 lbs. when I started. I immediately lost 3 lb. in the first three days. After that I seem to be on a cycle of lose a lb. maintain that weight for a few days then lose another lb. The overall pattern has been one of steadily losing weight.

I have lost a stone or 14 lbs. which was my target. One doesn’t realize how much even 10 lbs. is until you hold it in one hand.

Simple movements like standing up from a chair or climbing steps are so much easier. My belly is now flat and I can get into some clothes that I haven’t worn in years.

Here I am, 36 years after my last race and I’ve reached my “Racing Weight” once more. It's a good feeling.

All I have to do now is maintain it. On the days I don’t ride I just have to make sure I don’t go too much over my RMR. 1,300 calories. 


Footnote: Before anyone makes comments about my socks. Three-quarter length cycling socks is the one current trend I refuse to follow. The reason is simple. When I am wearing shorts and sandals in a social setting, (Which is most of the year here in hot, sunny, South Carolina.) I do not need a sun tan line halfway up my calf. I'm sorry, deal with it.

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Going Metric

Britain like the US resists going completely metric even though logically it makes sense to measure or count stuff in multiples of ten.

The US has always had a decimal monetary system. 100 cents equals one dollar. Real simple.

If you have 10095 cents, you simply stick a decimal point two digits in from the left, like so, 100.95 and you have 100 dollars and 95 cents.

Britain too has decimal money. 100 pennies equals one pound. It wasn’t always like that, the new currency was introduced in 1971, and I remember it well. I grew up with a system where 12 pennies made one shilling, and 20 shillings made one pound.

So in the previous example, 10095 British pennies first had to be divided by 12 to get 841 shillings and 3 pennies. Then divide the 841 shillings by 20 to get pounds, for a final amount of 42 pounds, 1 shilling, and 3 pence. A nightmare if you worked in retail.

Measuring length or distance is no different. 12 inches to a foot, 3 feet to a yard, and 1,760 yards to the mile. However, unlike money we hardly ever have to buy a mile length of anything and chop it up into one inch pieces. We don’t really need to know how many inches in a mile.

We do know what an 8 foot length of lumber looks like, and if necessary we can figure out how many 8 foot lengths we need to make a certain number of pieces measured in inches. But if the metric system is forced on us, and they start to sell lumber by the meter, there would be an outcry I am sure.

The same if you go to the grocery store to buy a quart of milk, or 10 lbs. of potatoes, and find those items are now measured in liters or kilos. There would be confusion and aggravation.  We also know how fast 30 mph. is, but 50 kilometers per hour, how fast is that? (Actually just over 31 mph.)

Britain is under more pressure to go completely metric because they are a member of the European Union where most other member countries are already metric.

I say leave people alone and let them use whatever they are comfortable with. Change will happen when the old system is no longer practical.

Even in industry in the US, many companies are manufacturing items measured by the metric system. They do this out of necessity when their product is being sold overseas.

When I built frames in England I built them in 1/2 inch increments.  21 inch, 21 1/2 inch, 22 inch, 22 1/2 and so on. When I came to the US, because of the huge influence of Italian made frames, customers asked for frames in centimeters. So I started building 53cm. 54cm. 55cm. 56 and so on. I didn’t fight it, it just made sense to do that.

Back in the 1980s and before that, the standard measurement for bicycle frame tubes were a 1 inch top tube, 1 1/8 inch seat and down tube, and a 1 1/4 inch head tube. Even Italian builders used these same Imperial sizes. (The French being extremely nationalistic would never use British Imperial measurements, and everything on their frames is metric.)

An English bottom bracket thread is 1 3/8 inch diameter, and 24 threads per inch. An Italian BB is slightly bigger at 36mm. and strangely the same 24 threads per inch and not metric. I wonder what happened at the meeting when that standard was decided on.

Traditionally, on English and for most of the rest of the world, front fork steering tubes were always 1 inch and threaded. In the 1990s when threadless steering tubes and headsets were introduced, there was an opportunity to go metric. However, the size chosen was 1 1/8 inch. (Were the Italian bottom bracket people at that meeting too.)

As a final word, I predict, (Though I will never live to see it.) when planet Earth has gone completely metric, and Imperial measurement is a distant memory, one of the last standards to change will be the 1/2 inch pitch bicycle chain. Because, so far even the French have not been able to get around that one.   


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Tonyon Universal Folding Bike Lock

If you use a bike for transport, securing it when you park it can be a problem. A length of chain and a padlock might do the trick, but an enterprising thief, with a set of bolt cutters in his back pack could take off with your bike in seconds flat.

The problem with bike locks, they are big and bulky, or if they are small and compact, then often they do not have the capacity to go around a stationary object like a bike rack or fence, and secure the frame and both wheels.

It was the reason the design of this lock pictured above had me taking a second look.

It folds up small when not in use, and when opened up its effective length is 32 inches. (81.3 cm.) Made up of 6 separate flat steel bars, jointed by rivets, the device folds up to measure 7 ¼ in. x 2 1/8 in x 1 ¼ in. (18.4cm. x 5.4cm. x 3.4cm.)

There is a built in lock, with what the makers call a “Class B” key, (See picture left.) making the lock difficult to open by usual lock picking methods.

In order to try the lock out and to take these pictures, I secured my bike to a nearby chain link fence.

The flat steel bars threaded easily through the wire fencing, and around the steel fence post.

I removed my front wheel and placed it alongside the rear wheel.

There was ample length to go around the fence post, frame and both wheels. (See picture below.)

The steel bars have a heavy duty powder coat, and are nicely rounded at the edges so they won’t scratch your paint. The rivets too are countersunk below the surface so they won’t scratch and also making them difficult to file or grind off.

Where the flat bars are riveted together, there is a loose washer in between, which would simply spin if any attempt was made to hacksaw through the rivets.

The lock fits neatly into a carrying case when not in use.

This is supplied with the lock and attaches to a set of standard water bottle mounts.

If you can’t afford to lose a water bottle, you could carry it in your back pack.

It would be too heavy for a jersey pocket. Weighing in at 1lb. 10oz. the weight is the one drawback.

But I don’t see a way round this. If a lock is to be effective as a theft deterrent, it has to be strong.

If this lock was made lighter by using less metal, it would be no better that a length of chain, and vulnerable to bolt cutters.

The lock comes with 3 separate keys.

Made by Tonyon the lock is available online at the Gearbest website for $31.27.


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