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Tuesday
Apr022013

Weight Distribution

It was pointed out to me recently that of all the articles I had written about bicycle design, I had not written one about weight distribution.

It is a subject that while somewhat important, it is not as important as a good riding position, and once a frame or bike is built and the rider has set it up to his or her absolute best position, are they then going to alter that position to achieve a certain weight distribution? That would be counter productive.

The rider is the engine that propels the bike forward, and a proper riding position is of the utmost importance for the body to work at maximum efficiency. I am talking of the racing cyclist who is looking to get optimum performance from body and machine.

If you are riding for leisure or exercise, you may sacrifice some efficiency for comfort, especially if you are older or not in top physical condition. You will adjust your riding position accordingly and weight distribution is probably not important enough to be even thinking about.

Under normal riding conditions there is always be more weight on the rear wheel that the front, simply because of the mass of the rider’s weight is behind the center point between the two wheels. I always pump my tires up to 120 psi in the rear, and 100 psi in the front for this reason.

A figure that is often quoted as being ideal weight distribution for a racing bicycle is 55% of the weight on the rear wheel, 45% on the front. It is one of those figures that sound about right, but has anyone ever taken the time to prove that this figure is best. I certainly didn’t in all the years I built bikes.

How would you come up with such a measurement? Maybe set a bike and rider on two sets of scales. And then the weight ratio from front to rear wheel would vary from one rider to the next because of their differing physical build.

Any vehicle or moving object will hold a straight line better if the weight is towards the front. An arrow flies straight because its weight is at the front tip, if it were at the rear it would not fly straight. In the 1960s I once owned a rear engine VW Mini-Bus. It was awful to drive in a strong wind; I would be blown all over the road.

When I first started racing in the early 1950s seat angles were around 71 degrees. We sat further back and also rode with our saddles lower than today. Gearing was a lot lower, and the theory (Back then.) was in order to pedal fast a rider had to sit back.

I always questioned this because whenever I had to make a maximum effort as in sprinting for the finish line or just to bridge a gap to a break-away, I would end up sitting on the front tip of my saddle. I would see photos of other riders sprinting and they would also be in this same forward position.

“Riding the rivet” is an expression still used today when a rider is making maximum effort. It pre-dates the 1950s when saddles were real leather and actually had rivets. Riding on the front tip where the saddle is narrower had the effect of the saddle being even lower than it already was and to my way of thinking was definitely not efficient.

It was one of the reasons I started building my own frames in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It seemed to me that when I needed to go fast, my body took up a natural position that was a lot further forward that a 71 degree seat angle would allow.

Pushing the seat angle forward actually pushed the whole frame forward making a longer wheelbase. To avoid this I made the top tube shorter and used a longer handlebar stem. This put my weight out over the front wheel and I found I had a much better handling bike. It went round corners faster and descending hills at speed felt safer.

It is often said that bike riders who are good sprinters are often good at descending hills. It is sometimes speculated that their nerves of steel that allow them to mix it up shoulder to shoulder in the chaos that is a bunch sprint, makes them fearless when descending mountains at 50 mph or more.

Maybe so, but many sprinters are big guys with a lot of weight in their upper body, chest, shoulders and arms. When in a low tuck aero position this extra weight is towards the front making bike and rider much more stable.

I have written here about “Shimmy” or speed wobble. It is a subject that gets discussed over and over on forums all over the world. It has occurred to me that these bikes with the shimmy problem are often the same well known brand of bikes that the pros use in the Grand Tours and other races throughout the season.

None of the pros experience speed wobbles, there would sure to be a video of it if they did, especially if they crashed. It has occurred to me that the fault is not with the bike, it is with the rider, and the way they have their bike set up. Or rather the way they position themselves when descending.

The pros have their bikes set with the bars set low in relation the saddle. Their weight is therefore more over the front wheel, especially when in a low tuck aero position.

If a person buys this same bike and sets it up in a more upright position because his physical limitations do not allow him to ride like a pro. They should then accept the limitations in the design of the bike which after all is designed as a racing bicycle, and if it develops a speed wobble at 45 mph. the rider should consider either a change of position or keep the speed below 45.

You will notice the pros descend by moving forward on the saddle, or sometimes squatting down on the top tube in front of the saddle, then rest their chest on the handlebars. This not only reduces their frontal area, but it places much of their weight over the front wheel. Therein lays a clue.

While descending you may not feel safe or comfortable going to the extreme of some of the riders in the picture above. But don’t go to the other extreme of the “Old Skool” position shown at the top. Study the picture, most of the rider’s weight is behind the bottom bracket, this is just asking for shimmy to develop.

Descending with your butt hanging off the back of the saddle is good for Mountain Bikes or Cyclo-Cross, because if you hit a bump or your front wheel drops on a hole, you could be thrown over the handlebars. However, on a smooth road at high speed this is unlikely to happen.  

Move forward, lower your back and try to position most of your weight ahead of the Bottom bracket. If you achieve at least a 50/50 weight distribution you will be less likely to encounter the dreaded speed wobble.

 

                        

Wednesday
Mar272013

Do you recognize this bike?

BART Bay Area Rapid Transit have pictures of recovered stolen bikes on their website. Interestingly the first bike shown is a pink, white and blue Fuso FR1. If you recognize it call (510) 464 7040.

They will need to see proof of ownership, like a receipt with a frame number, which may be difficult to produce. So if your bike was stolen and recovered how would you prove ownership? Do you at least have the frame number written down somewhere; or better yet a photo of the bottom bracket with the number clearly showing.

If it was a frame I built, do you have it registered, possibly with pictures on my registry? That would be a good way to prove ownership. Another idea is to place a business card or maybe a copy of your driver’s license inside the seatpost. That way you ask that the seatpost be pulled and state what will be found there.

If you live in the San Francisco area you may know who owns this, and even if not please spread the word any way you can. Post it on Facebook and Twitter

My thanks to Karl Fundenberger for bringing the BART website to my attention.

 

                       

Wednesday
Mar202013

What’s in a Logo

What do you see when you look at the head tube logo on my custom frames?

 

Many people see a tic-tac-toe or the pound symbol you see on a telephone keypad.

If this is what you see, you are looking at the blank space inside the logo.

It is simply four lower case letter “m” placed north, south, east, and west in the form of a cross.

During the 1970s in England there were strict rules regarding the amateur status of athletes, especially Olympic athletes. No sponsorship was allowed and I could not advertise the fact that a few 'World Class' cyclists were riding my bikes. One way around this was to have my name prominently displayed on the frame.

 

 

I did this in a simple typeface similar to that used on British road signs, easy to read and distinctive in my name being spelled out in all lower case letters.

A picture of a leading cyclist riding my bike on the cover of the British "Cycling" Magazine (Like the one on the right of Paul Carbutt.) would result in a huge boost in sales.

Sometimes a photo would be a head on shot and all that could be seen was my logo on the head tube. The logo was simple and instantly recognizable.

When I resumed building my own custom frames in California in 1981, while still working for Masi, I used the old stock decals I had brought with me from England. This included the logo with the words “Worcester England” underneath. (The address of my English frameshop.) I felt somewhat justified because after all the Masi frames said “Masi, Milano” on the head tube even though they were built in California.

I later added a decal that read:

 


FRAME GUARANTEED HANCRAFTED
BY DAVE MOULTON
IN CALIFORNIA USA

This was placed at the top of the seat tube, under the seat lug where the tube manufacturer’s decal would normally go.

I followed Masi’s lead and left the tubing decal off my custom frames because they were prone to bubble and fester in the heat of the paint-curing oven.

To my chagrin there was resistance to the ‘dave moulton’ name on my frames when I first started building in California. “Not exotic sounding enough” was the excuse I usually heard. Some wanted to order a frame without decals for that reason, which I refused to do.

 

 

It was traditional for English framebuilders to have their full name on the frame, usually with an abbreviated first name; Bob Jackson, Ron Cooper, Harry Quinn, Stan Pike. To the ear (Or is it the eye?) of the American cyclist these names were not as appealing as Colnago, Cinelli, Pinarello, or Pugliaghi.

When I decided to bring out a line of production frames in 1984 my main competition was these Italian import frames, so I looked through an Italian/English dictionary for a suitable name. I ended up choosing a word that did not sound particularly Italian.

 

I came across the word “Fuso” Italian for molten metal. It was a play on words on my name.

I sketched out the logo of a crucible pouring molten metal into a mold, and the Fuso brand was born.

I did not know at the time that Fuso was also a Japanese word and there was a famous Japanese battleship named Fuso during WWII.

There is a subtle difference in pronunciation; my frame is pronounced the Italian way, Fuse-oh. The Japanese pronunciation is Foo-so. Mitsubishi has a line of commercial vehicles with that name.

If you can believe this also, when I brought out the Fuso frame, many of my customers protested and wanted ‘dave moulton’ on it. By now, I my reputation had grown and no one cared if the name sounded exotic or not.

However, to put ‘dave moulton’ on a line of production frames, even though the quality was high, would have been unfair to those who had paid top dollar for individually built custom frames. So once again, I had to refuse.

 

 

I am reminded of the old adage, “You can’t please all the people all the time.”

 

                       

Wednesday
Mar132013

Team Sky: Looking Good

The 2013 Professional Racing season is underway, and I enjoyed watching some great racing this last week in the Paris–Nice in France, and the Tirreno–Adriatico held in Italy. Both were stage races and they gave a taste of what is to come in the Grand Tours this year.

One thing I thought stood out was that Team Sky dominated in both races. Pretty impressive to be able to send two separate teams to two events and were strong enough to control both races.

Sky Team’s Australian rider Richie Porte won the Paris–Nice and proved he was the best man by blowing everyone away in the final time trial to win by 23 seconds in the final TT; 55 seconds in the General Classification.

If you didn’t follow the Paris–Nice below is a video of Stage 5, the moment Richie Porte took over the race.

It was during Stage 4 of the Tirreno–Adriatico race that Team Sky’s Chris Froome placed his stamp of authority on the race and looked like a sure winner when on the final climb of Prati di Tivo he took 11 seconds out of Nibali and 15 out of Contador. See the video below. The commentary is in Italian, but watch Nibali in light blue, and Contador in dark blue and yellow.

Everything changed on the penultimate stage when Froome lost the race leadership to Nibali. Stage 6 was held on a circuit with 18 steep climbs, including Sant’Elpido a Mare, with a 27% grade hill climbed three times. No climb was more than 2 km. in length but there was a total of 10,000 feet of climbing. Add to this a cold rain.

Vincenzo Nibali is a rider who excels in cold wet weather, broke away with another great climber Spain’s Juaquin Rodriguez, they were joined by Slovakia’s Peter Sagan. Sagan won the sprint (Picture below.) which was not surprising, but what is surprising is that the 23 year old Sagan managed to stay with two of the world’s best climbers over such a tough course.

I am thinking that Peter Sagan will develop into a rider in the ilk of Eddy Merckx; with the ability to win both stage races and single day classics. It is rare to find riders who excel at both.

Froome suffered from the cold and admitted he was tired after the effort he had made in previous stages; he finished 34 seconds down on Nibali. The final stage was a 9.2 km. Time Trial. Less than 6 miles there was no way Froome could take back 34 seconds.

(Above.) Stage 6 was so hard that some of the riders had to walk. And when Pros have to walk, the course is just too hard.

So Nabali won the Tirreno - Adriatico with Froome 2nd. 23 seconds down, and Contador 3rd. at 52 seconds. Froome had the satisfaction of beating both Contador, and Rodriguez, who will surely be his biggest rivals in the Tour de France this year. Now on to the One Day Classics; the Milan – San Remo and the Paris – Roubaix and others. I am excited.

In this Cycling News article, Richie Porte was bemoaning the fact that with any great performance there follows accusations of doping. This is unfortunate, but is to be expected.

If you are a fan of professional cycle racing as I have been my whole life, then you just can’t give up on the sport.

Team Sky have made such a strong (And very public.) stand against doping, even to the extent of firing some very capable people, I cannot accept that they are anything but clean.

For there to be doping there has to be a conspiracy between, riders, management, all the way down to the soigneurs and mechanics. During racing riders and helpers live in such close proximity that it would be impossible for an individual to dope without the knowledge of others somewhere along the line.

I believe that Team Sky is strong with such a wealth of talent, simply because they have the money to buy the best riders. It is the same way in other team sports, the team with deep pockets wins. So does this make me naïve to believe Sky is clean?

I don’t think so. If I believe in something, I have to remain positive.  What do you think?

 

Footnote: Go to Steep Hill TV for full results and more great pictures and videos.

                        

Tuesday
Mar052013

A Big Bike Event in July

When Chip Duckett was successful in his bid to organize this year’s US National Men’s and Women’s Professional Criterium Championships, he didn’t just stop there. He decided to make it a four-day celebration of cycling centered around the championships.

The event will run from July 25th to 28th and will be held in High Point, North Carolina. There will be a four-day exhibition called “The Bicycle: Art meets Form.”

One of the main events will be held at High Point’s Theatre Art Galleries. It will be a combined vintage bicycle show, and hand built bicycle show featuring the work of some of today’s best builders. These will include Peter Weigle, Mark DiNucci, Dario Pegoretti, Nick Crumpton and Dave Wages.

 

Chip recently bought one of my custom “Criterium” frames that I built in 1984. (Pictures above and below.) After corresponding with me for information on the frame, Chip invited me to be a part of this event. I will give some kind of presentation that I hope will be informative and entertaining.

Chip is being partnered on this venture by my good friend Dale Brown who is the owner of Cycles de’Oro, in Greensboro, North Carolina. I met Dale soon after I arrived in the US in 1979, and he became one of my dealers. Over the years he sold many of the frames I built. Dale Brown is also the man behind the Classic Rendezvous website, that has a wealth of information on classic vintage bikes.

I will be posting more information here as the event draws closer. In the mean time please check out the website. I enjoy these kind of events because it gives me the opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.