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Monday
Jul012013

Black shorts and retro style jerseys

There has been cycle racing almost as long as there have been bicycles. In the beginning bicycles were handmade and were expensive, cycling and cycle racing was initially a sport for wealthy young men. However, in the late 1800s the safety bicycle was invented, and soon mass production lowered the price, and made the bicycle available to the working classes.

Prior to the invention of the bicycle the working man could only travel as far as he could walk, he had no form of personal transport. The bicycle set the working man free, to travel and seek work outside his immediate area. It also set him free to travel outside the cities and into the surrounding countryside at the weekends.

All over Europe cycling and cycle racing became the sport of choice among the working classes. Cycle races were held on Sundays, after all working people had to work the rest of the week, which included Saturdays back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Sunday was for many their only day off.

Cyclists wore black, and especially black shorts, both out of respect, and so as not to offend those who attended church on Sundays. This tradition later became a rule of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) which is the world governing body for the sport of cycle racing.

For 100 years, racing cyclist both amateur and professional wore black shorts. It was both a rule and a tradition. Sometime in the 1980s that changed when the UCI allowed professional racing cyclists to wear different color shorts. This came about because professional teams are now often financed by multiple sponsors, and there was a need for more room for advertising on both the jersey and shorts.

Also technology and the modern fabrics that cycling clothing is now made from, lends itself to the printing of graphics and sponsors logos. In the old days jerseys were made of wool and the sponsor’s name was embroidered on.

So what does the casual cyclist wear for a non racing weekend ride. Many cycling clubs have their own matching jerseys and shorts, styled after the pro’s kit with the club sponsors name and logo. For others there a still plenty of plain black shorts that is still a good choice as it can be worn with practically any color top.

One interesting alternative is produced by Solo, a company from New Zealand that now has a worldwide distribution network in place. Solo produces very high quality “Retro” style cycling jerseys that are designed after the style of those worn by the Professional cyclists of the 1950s through the 1970s. The jerseys are not replica jerseys, and do not represent actual teams of yester-year; but rather are unique designs inspired by retro jerseys. 

Solo jerseys are a high quality garment and the price reflects this. Although the design is retro, the fabric is modern with the same easy care and sweat wicking qualities of any modern cycling jersey. The colors and designs are screen printed on, which makes them permanent and non fade.

Knitted collars and cuffs are a nice retro touch, and the jerseys have three rear pockets as is standard with most cycling jerseys, plus they have an extra zippered pocket for keys, money, etc. There is an elastic gripper strip sewn around the inside bottom edge of the jersey, that stops it riding up, and supports a load if the pockets a filled with food and tools for a long trip.

The 1950s to 1970s was an era when pro cyclists often had a single sponsor. Sponsors names had to be embroidered on, and designs created by sewing different color fabric together. The results were simple, but powerful designs which demonstrated less is more. Solo have done a fine job of capturing the feel of these designs. And of course the jerseys look best when worn with black shorts because that was what the pros wore back in the day.

Footnote: A poor man's sport

I recently wrote the above article as a product review for Answers.com. I reposted it here because I thought you might find the history of black shorts interesting, as well as helping the good people at Solo who are supporters of this blog.

A few weeks back when I wrote another article, I mentioned the slump in bicycle sales in the late 1950s and the 1960s due to working class people buying cars for the first time. One reader could not understand why that would affect sales of racing bikes.

Cycling, and cycle racing in the UK and the rest of Europe in the 1950s and before, was not like it is today. And it was nothing like the cycling scene as it is in the US today. Low income working class people rode bicycles as transport, it was how they got to work each day. A few raced on Sundays, but it was more a social thing, than a fitness thing like today.

Many owned one bike that they put mudguards on and rode to work on it all week.

On a Sunday they would ride to a race, (In the UK that would be a time-trial.) carrying their best wheels with tubular tires. (Picture left.)

The mudguards would be removed, best wheels would go in and they would race.

After the event the mudguards went back on, etc., and they would ride home. Many did no further training, other than ride to work and everywhere else.

Middle class people with a higher income, owned and drove motors cars, they did not exercise, or belong to Cycling Clubs. When the income of the working classes improved, they also bought motor cars and didn’t exercise, so they gave up cycling and cycle racing.

For many Cycling was never seen as exercise, it was what people did out of necessity. Joining a Cycling Club and racing on the weekends was a social outlet. Racing was easy because people were naturally fit.

It wasn’t until the US fitness craze of the 1970s, that sparked a second bicycle boom. Today, racing bicycle equipment is high tech and super expensive, low income people do not buy it. Cycle racing is no longer a poor man’s sport, and never will be again.

 

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Wednesday
Jun192013

1982 Custom

A custom frame I built in May 1982 sold on eBay last weekend for $886.54. The highest price paid for one of my frames for a while now. These custom frames are quite rare I only built and recorded 216 of them from 1982 to 1986.

There were a few others built in 1981 (But not recorded.) and a few more built after 1986, but so few I didn’t even record them. I would guess no more than 10 or 12 between 1986 and 1993 when I retired.

Before 2008 when this recession hit, these frames would have brought more, but the price of all vintage bicycles is down now. I recall one of my custom complete bikes went for $3,000, and soon after the bottom fell out of everything.

Like antiques, the price is determined by supply and demand. The supply will never increase, I will not be building anymore.

Out of the 216 plus a few more I have mentioned, only 35 are listed on my registry.

Some will have been lost through accidents, or thrown in dumpsters by people who didn’t know better.

In time the numbers out there will decrease. The whole purpose of my registry is to preserve as many as we can.

The demand for these frames will depend largely on the economy, and getting back to more prosperous times when people actually have something known as discretionary income.

In other words spare cash to plonk down on something that is nice to have, but let’s face it, not at all essential.  

There are three interesting features about the frame pictured here. The first is the paint job. Metallic blue with off white oval panels. This style of paint was popular in England, but not so much in the US. As a result only a few were painted this way, and as far as I remember, and only in 1981 and 1982 while working in the Masi shop in San Marcos, CA.

The second point is there are two water bottle mounts above and below on the down tube. It was done this way so a frame fit pump could be carried in front of the seat tube.

The other interesting point is the frame number. I accidentally stamped two frames with the same number, 5821.

As I recall I didn’t discover the mistake until after the frames were painted. The frames are not the same, they are different sizes, so there can be no confusion even though they have the same number.

This mistake only happened once, and I find it interesting that out of the number of frames built and the few that have come to light so far, that this particular frame has shown up. I hope the new owner will contact me and add it to the registry, and maybe one day the other 5821 will show up.

Someone is bound to ask, the DB53 stamp is the frame size. “DB” is for Dave and Brenda (My ex-wife.) She did some prep and finish work on the frames. She wanted her name somewhere on the frame. There was no way that was going to happen, so to shut her up appease her I stamped DB before the frame size. This only appeared for part of 1982, later I quietly dropped it.

 

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Monday
Jun102013

Everything Clamp-on

The pictures here are of a 1968 Pugliaghi. Everything clamp on even the bottom bracket gear cable guides. Pictures from TheRacingBicycle.com

In the late 1950s through the early 1970s there was a slump in bicycle sales in Europe. In the 1960s the economy was booming and although in many places the bicycle had always been the mode of transport for the working classes; many were now buying cars for the first time. At the same time the fitness craze of the 1970s had not yet begun.

Racing bicycles and framebuilders were also hit by this slump and the price of a frame rose very little in that decade even though inflation did. Framebuilders had to look for ways to cut costs and one of them was to leave off all braze-ons.

Building a frame without braze-ons does save a considerable amount of time and therefore labor costs. The only braze-ons seen in this era was a chainstay stop and sometimes a little stop under the down tube to prevent the gear lever clamp from sliding down the tube. 

Having done that framebuilders could not tell their customers they were doing this to cut costs, hence the story that braze-ons weaken the frame. I think Cinelli started it; framebuilding was never their main source of income (Handlebars and stems were.) so the price of a Cinelli frame was always high. Everyone’s thinking was if Cinelli can get away with it so can we, and most framebuilders followed suit.

Do braze-ons weaken the frame? Maybe very marginally but it is part of the framebuilding process. I have seen down tubes break right at the clamp on gear lever. Imagine a shock wave from hitting a bump in the road, or the twisting forces on a down tube.

Normally these stresses would be dispersed around the frame, but instead are stopped rather abruptly by a solid clamp around the tube. Clamps require more maintenance they collect moisture under them and if over tightened can dig into the tube and start a stress riser.

Prior to the “No Braze-ons” craze, all the various derailleur manufacturers provided clamp-on fittings because there was no standardization in gear lever design, for example, and clamp-on gear lever had already been standard practice for the most part.

By the 1970s, when braze-ons made a return, Campagnolo so dominated the market that most frames (Especially Italian.) came with a Campagnolo brazed on lever boss. Other manufacturers (Shimano for example.) were forced to design their gear levers to fit the Campagnolo lever boss. 

I do feel if anyone is restoring a bike with a “No braze-ons frame” from this era should keep the cable clamps because they are authentic for that period.

 

Footnote: Re-posted from March 2006 with aditional content added.

                          

Tuesday
Jun042013

New Dave Moulton Owners Forum

Last weekend I put together a new “Dave Moulton Owners” Forum, it went live yesterday. I now have just under 200 owners of frames I built listed on my bike registry. A forum where we can chat as a community seemed like the next logical step.

Membership of the forum is not limited to just people who own frames that I built, but anyone who is interested may join. The people who come here to this blog for example, are most welcome, especially those who comment on a regular basis.

At the moment anyone interested needs to register and be approved. Not that I am rejecting anyone’s request, most sign up under a pseudonym so I have no way of knowing who they are. But I feel the small inconvenience of having to register will not deter anyone who is really interested, and it does give me some control over the tone and the content of the forum.

The people who comment here on this blog are for the most part a pretty civil bunch. We have very few flame wars, and I am confident the same atmosphere will transfer to my forum. I will not insist, but I will encourage everyone to sign up under their own name.

There is wat too much “Keyboard Courage” on the Internet. When a person posts under his/her own name, they tend to think through what they say if their friends or family might read it.

Remember what your Momma always said, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing.” I would add to that, “Don’t say anything under a pseudonym that you would not say to that person’s face.”

The new forum is at http://davemoultonowners.freeforums.net/ There is also a perminant link in the Navigation Bar at the top of this page.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

On another subject, in May I wrote 10 articles for Answers.com, who hired me at the end of April as a “Cycling Expert.” There is a link to the articles in the right hand column of this page. I am writing for an audience who are mostly newbie cyclist, so I doubt whether regular readers here will learn anything new.

The tone of the articles is also different. Here I always feel I am talking personally to a definite audience, whereas the articles on answers.com they require articles that are more authoritative and less personal.

I will always be looking for suggestions for subject matter. If you have question, bicycle related and you would like to know the answer, or something you already know but think it would make an interesting piece, please let me know.

 

                                       

Tuesday
May282013

Britain's bike friendly cars of the 1950s

I got my first lightweight bike in 1950; it was only five years after the end of WWII and the economic turnaround in Britain and the rest of Europe was only in its early stages. Petrol was in short supply throughout WWII for obvious reasons. It was needed for the war effort, plus off shore oil had yet to be discovered in the UK. Oil had to be imported, and petrol was strictly rationed.

Rationing did not end at the end of WWII, in fact in 1948, (Three years after the war ended.) The Motor Spirit Regulation Act was passed by the British Government, and red dye was added to some petrol. The red petrol was for agriculture and commercial use only. A private motorist caught with red petrol in his tank, could lose his driver’s license for a year, and a petrol station selling red gas to private motorists could be shut down.

The scarcity of petrol throughout the war and the five years that followed, meant there was very little motorized traffic on the roads, and even when petrol rationing ended in 1950, the average working man did not rush out to buy a car, many had never owned, or even driven a car. Traffic was light even into the mid to late 1950s.

In the late 1940s, my pre-teen years, I would ride my bike after school, in the dark using battery lights, with no fear for my safety from my parents. This era is now referred to as the “Golden Age of Cycling.” On the Continent of Europe, cycle racing was the number one sport.

Looking back, it was a great time to ride a bike. Many of the cars on the road were pre-war from the 1920s and 1930s. New cars produced were like the Morris Minor (Above.) and the Ford Anglia, (Below.) had a tiny engines around one liter. (1,000cc.) About the size of many motorcycles today.

You could forget about zero to sixty in a few seconds; for most vehicles, even the new ones, *60mph was the top speed, and that was probably downhill with the wind behind you. Throughout the 1950s, on city streets, there were still as many bicycles as cars, there were even a few horse drawn carts still in use.

A car driver did not sit fuming at a traffic light because there was a cyclist on a horse and cart ahead of him. The driver was lucky if he could get above 20mph between lights, and a fit cyclist on a lightweight bike could get away from a light faster than he could.

The first Motorway (Freeway.) the M1, did not open until 1959. It was approximately 70 miles long from London to Birmingham. I remember within the first few weeks it was littered with broken down cars, as people took their old clunkers out and took them up to speeds they were never built to maintain. The Golden Age of Cycling ended from that point on, as throughout the 1960s and 1970s, more motorways were built and other main roads were widened and straightened.

During the 1950s, most of the people driving cars had grown up riding bicycles, their parents probably still rode a bicycle as their personal transport. They didn’t get upset with cyclists on the road, and they were content to cruise along at 30mph, occasionally reaching 50 or 60 on a straight road that ran downhill. At least they were in they were protected from the rain and cold.

Gradually all that changed, and now you have a generation who never rode a bike as a kid. Owning and driving a car becomes ever increasingly expensive, and with the spending of all that money comes an attitude of entitlement. 

However, Britain is still the same size as it was in the 1950s, but with a far greater population. Improved highways mean that you can drive from one city to another in a very short time. But what do you do when you get to the big city, where there is nowhere to park, and streets where built for horse drawn vehicles?

The cars of the 1950s and before may have been underpowered by today’s standards, but they still got people from A to B. They were cheap to buy, used less petrol, and they were simple to work on. A person could do their own maintenance. Most of all because of their lack of power and speed they were less of a danger to pedestrians and cyclists.

 

*Footnote: I am sure someone far more knowledgeable about the Morris Minor will tell me it had a top speed was in excess of 60mph. But just as many of today’s cars have a maximum speed well over 100mph. few are ever driven to that limit.