A John Howard frame, built by Dave Tesch (Above.) recently came up for auction on eBay. The seller made no mention of who built it and as a result, I received several emails asking if it was one of mine.
I built the John Howard frame 1983 to 1984; I built just over 200. David Tesch took over in 1984. I’m not sure how long he produced the frame, or how many came out of his shop, but I think less than I built.
When Tesch took over he used the same lugs and seat stay caps. (Engraved with the “H” logo.)
The difference between the two builders is not immediately apparent at first glance, especially if a seller on eBay does not post many detail shots of the frame.
This particular frame has a silver to purple fade paint job, with no chrome plating, This is the first clue, as all the frames I built were a single color with chrome drop-out faces and chrome right chainstay. A completely chromed front fork was offered as an option on my frames.
Dave Tesch put his signature decal on the left chainstay. (Some of his early JH frames did not have this.)
My frames had the “From the frameshop of dave moulton” decal. Tesch used teardrop shaped chainstay bridge reinforces; I used round ones.
The frames I made were built to my design geometry, the same as the Fuso, and the Recherche that would follow. Dave Tesch had his own philosophy on frame design, and built frames with steeper angles.
Tesch stamped his initials DT before the frame size, and stamped the number across the bottom bracket shell; I stamped mine parallel with the BB faces. (See picture below.)
All the John Howard’s I produced had a yellow down tube decal. Dave Tesch used black, white, or yellow lettering.
I stopped building the John Howard frames because it was no longer a viable proposition to build less than five frames at one setting. Dave Tesch took over building the frames essentially as one off custom frames. He had a smaller shop with less overhead, was at the time anxious to get his business off the ground, and was hungry for work.
However, I think after a short while he found the arrangement was not financially viable. Framebuilding is such a labor-intensive business, and profits are tight. If someone produces a reasonable quantity of frames, and sells directly to bicycle dealers, as I did; then you have a viable business. With John Howard as the middle man, there was less profit to go round for everyone.
When I started producing the John Howard frames, and when Dave Tesch took over, the quality of the frames was equal to the Masi frames.
However, the product did not have the Masi name, and sold for less. The John Howard frame, in my opinion, was always under priced; one of the reasons it was short lived.
After Dave Tesch stopped producing the frames, John Howard approached the KHS Company, and the bike was produced in Taiwan. KHS is a reputable company and have high quality control standards. The KHS John Howard is a good product.
However, it cannot compare with the hand built frames that Dave Tesch and I built. So if the JH frame does not have the engraved seatstay caps and the other features mentioned above, it is a KHS Taiwan produced frame and its price should reflect this.
My thanks to Bill Battle for the pictures of the Dave Tesch frame; More photos can be seen here and here.
Thanks also to Bryan Graham for the pictures of the Dave Moulton John Howard.