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Working Bike: Fast Eddie

At the end of September I wrote a piece here about a track bike I built, now being used by a New York City bike messenger. I have since learned more, the bikes owner is Eddie Williams, AKA Fast Eddie.

Fast Eddie has been in the bike messenger business since 1983. Coincidentally the year this frame was built. He and other Bike Messenger cohorts were riding fixed wheel track bikes on the street long before it was fashionable, in fact they were mostly responsible for starting the whole trend.

Eddie has confirmed that he bought the frame from the original owner Jim Zimmerman. Jim had raced it on the track and the colored ribbon hanging from the bike’s saddle is a prize ribbon he had won, and Fast Eddie asked if he could keep it when he bought the frame. It has adorned the bike’s saddle ever since.

These pictures snapped outside Teddy’s in Brooklyn where Eddie now delivers food, presumably fast. Not fast food, but good food delivered fast. The rear fender is a nice practical touch on a rainy evening.


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An open letter to all shorts manufacturers: Please take care of the Butt Crack issue

Back in 2007 I wrote a tongue in cheek piece called “Batman and Robin never had this problem.”

It addressed the problem of cycling shorts being so shear, that the outline of male genitalia could be seen in such detail that you could almost tell a person’s religious leanings, or ethnic background.

At the time I called for more padding in the shorts, and since then padding in cycling shorts has become larger and thicker, to the extent that we now see some serious male “Camel Toes” on the podium. This previous problem was not an issue when guys were actually riding their bike, but rather in parading around in coffee shops after riding. One does not want to see the “Brim of the Hat,” especially when eating.

So it seems cycling short manufacturers have taken care of the “Frontal” issue but are still ignoring the “Butt Crack” issue. The last thing I want to see when riding with a group, is to be staring at some guy’s butt crack as I am following his wheel.

Even if it is a female rider, there is nothing pleasing, or erotic about it, in fact it is downright embarrassing. I mean, what do you do? Ride along side and say, “Excuse me miss but did you know your butt crack is showing?” No you try to ignore it, and ride on wondering if anyone else notices.

In most cases if the shorts are worn properly with the rear seam centered correctly, it is amazing that a tiny row of stitching barely a quarter of an inch wide, is enough to hide the offending crack. But get the seam off to one side, as in the picture above, and the fabric stretched across the valley, becomes shear and see through. Especially when the sun shines on it. The old adage of “Put it where the sun don’t shine” does not apply in this case.

It is not just cheap shorts that have this problem, some expensive ones too. It seems to me that this would be an easy fix. An extra strip of the same material sewn on the inside would take care of it. This strip would only need to be no more than 2 inches wide. They could be advertised as “Hidden Valley” cycling shorts.


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On being Working Class.

If a man had a marijuana leaf tattoo on his neck and piercings in his nose and eyebrows, it would probably bar him from gaining employment in most places. On the other hand, if you had a poisonous snake that had taken up residence under your house, and this same man came to remove it, I doubt anyone would care too much about his appearance, as long as he had the necessary skills required to take care of the problem.

I have a friend who has a long beard of biblical proportions, his hair is also long and he wears it in a single braid down his back. Most would take one look and dissmiss him as an old hippie. He is in fact a highly skilled woodworker, and when one of those old historical homes in Charleston is in need of restoration, my friend can hand carve a banister rail for a curved staircase, for example, and his skills are sought after.

I remember growing up in England in the 1940s and 1950s when there were the remnants of a class system still in place. Two things ended the class system, the first was the Great Depression of the 1930s when the wealthy lost much of their wealth.

And second, the end of WWII when working men came home with an attitude of “I put my life on the line for my country, I want a piece of the pie.” In spite of Winston Churchill being regarded as a great wartime leader, he was voted out of office immediately after the war, in favor of a socialist (Labor Party.) government.    

When there is a radical change in government certain aspects of the old system remain. Things don’t happen overnight. One of the things that didn’t change immediately was the education system, so all my schooling took place under the old system, and change didn’t come until some years after I had left school.

Under the old system wealthy people sent their children to expensive boarding schools, where they lived and received intensive schooling. This was paid for by the parents, and when the student left school he was assured a top job, usually in the family owned business. They became CEOs and Captains of Industry.

The rest of the population went to a “Primary” school. There was no grade system as in the US. At 11 years old everyone took what was called “The 11 Plus” exam. This was a one shot deal. If you passed you went to a High School, often known as a Grammar School. Once there you would receive a good education that would set you up for a middle management job in industry.

If you failed the 11+ exam, you went to a “Secondary” school, were you received a very basic education, and finished at age 15. No graduation, or certificate of education, you just left and were out in the cruel world to do any laboring type job you could find.

One of the features of the Secondary school was a lot of corporal punishment and constant verbal put downs by teachers, designed to break a child’s spirit, and remove all self-esteem. So when these kids went out into the world, they would become good subservient workers who wouldn’t question authority. Or in bygone years these kids joined the army, and became cannon-fodder for the many battles fought to maintain the British Empire.

1947 was the year I took the 11+ exam. That was the same year my father got fired from three different jobs, and we moved to three different locations, and I went to three different schools. One school would be way more advanced than the last and I would be lost, then in a few months I would move to another school that was teaching stuff I already knew.

Needless to say I didn’t pass the 11+ exam. I don’t blame my father entirely, he had a drinking problem, and had a hard time adjusting to civilian life after the war. He served the entire war from September 1939, the month the war started until the end in 1945.

My saving grace was by age 13 we had landed in the town of Luton, just north of London, and my mother dug her heels in and refused to move again. Luton had a Technical School, not every place did, but Luton being a large industrial center, had this school that leaned towards an engineering education.

At the end of 1949 I did pass an exam to go to Luton Technical School, which later set me up for an engineering apprenticeship. Luton Tech was also a Community College where older students went. Lunch time would see me at the school bike rack, hanging my nose over the beautiful racing bicycles some of these older students owned. This lead to my eventually owning one and the beginnings of a life-time passion for bicycles.

So what does this all have to do with the man with the neck tattoo, and the other with the biblical beard at the beginning of this piece? Under the old class system in Britain, what set the working class apart was not tattoos and iconic facial hair, but a local dialect. And there were many different ones all over the UK.

This would have been educated out of me had I passed my 11+ and gone to a Grammar School. I would have been taught what is known as BBC English. That spoken by broadcasters on the BBC. A somewhat sterile but precise and correct version of the English language. I would have ended up a poor man’s Hugh Grant.

Instead I became a qualified engineer and later a framebuilder, so my accent didn’t matter. Like the hypothetical man with the neck tattoo, or my friend with the biblical beard, I had skills so it wasn’t a factor. Today I am proud of my working class roots.


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See you at the Philly Bike Expo

I will be at the Philly Bike Expo to be held November 8, and 9, 2014, at the Convention Center, Broad Street, Philadelphia. I was fortunate enough to be invited as one of the guest speakers.

I will be speaking from 12 noon to 1:00 pm. on Saturday 8th November. I will do my best to make the talk both informative and entertaining.

Among the other speakers are two other framebuilders from my era, namely Tom Kellogg, and Ben Serotta. I will be looking forward to meeting up with them again.

The thing I love about these type of events, it is always an opportunity to not only meet up with old friends, but I often come away having made many new ones.

I will be hanging out for the entire show, so if you happen to be there please stop me and say “Hi.” After the show I will be heading up to New York City for a few days.

The last time I was in New York was in the early 1980s when they had an annual bicycle trade show there. And of course when I first came the US, in 1979, I was at Paris Sport in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, just seven miles outside NYC, and went there most weekends.


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Working Bike

It gives me great satisfaction to see a bike I built in pristine condition, but there is also a measure of fulfilment when I see one that has obviously been ridden hard and has seen a lot of use. Like this one pictured here.

In the heyday of my custom framebuilding, the years 1982, 1983, and 1984 I built only three of these pure track frames. (One in each year.) They were all actually raced on the relatively few banked velodromes that exist in the US.

No one rode a brakeless, fixed wheel bike on the streets back then, with the exception of a few New York City bike messengers, who started the whole trend.

I built so few that looking through my original frame numbers record book, I can safely say (Even though I don’t have its frame number.) this one was built in February 1983. It is a 61cm. frame, the other two track frames built were a 49cm. and a 57cm. which is definitely not this one. It was built for a Jim Zimmerman, who I seem to recall was a pretty good rider.

It is fitting that this bike is now being used by a Brooklyn, NY bike messenger. My thanks to Patrick Gilmoure who saw it by chance, and managed to snap a few pictures before the bike’s current owner had to rush off to make another delivery. How cool is that? Enjoy the pictures as I did.


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