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Monday
Feb052007

Handlebar Drop

I have a frame sizing chart on my website; it was formulated about 30 years ago from actual customer measurements and the frames that I built for them. Apart from a few minor updates, it has remained basically the same.

I am of the opinion that while bicycle frame design has changed, and to some degree riding styles change; human bodies remain the same. Therefore, the basic frame fit issues are the same as they have always been.

One question I find people are asking more and more is “How much handlebar drop should I have?” In other words the difference in height between the saddle and the top of the handlebars.

When I retired from framebuilding in 1993 handlebar drop was not even in the equation. The reason being that top tubes were level and the quill stem was placed at a height where the top of the handlebars were about 7cm. above the head bearing. (See picture above.)

The stem could easily be adjusted up or down a centimeter or so either way, and assuming the rider was on the correct size frame the difference between the seat and handlebar height was automatic. Head tube length had absolutely no bearing on anything.

It didn’t matter who built the frame or how the frame angles differed there was always the constant of the level top tube. If a rider switched from one 56-centimeter frame to another 56 from a different manufacturer, the handlebar drop remained the same. In fact the term handlebar drop was not even used.

All this has changed now with compact frames with sloping top tubes; the manufacturer can make the head tube as long or as short as they wish, thus effecting the saddle/ handlebar height difference. Adding to the problem, the new threadless steerers and stems are not as easily adjusted for height as the old quill stems.

Manufacturers are already listing their frames by virtual sizes rather than the actual seat tube length. I think they should also give the virtual top head bearing height. In other words, how much higher or lower is the head bearing compared to a level top tube frame?

Below is a preliminary handlebar drop column added to my frame size chart. I no longer have the luxury of actual customer measurements in front of me. I had to rely on memory and my gut feeling to come up with these numbers.

You will not find compact frames in all these sizes, but if for example, your size is a 57cm. but you can only find a 56 or a 58, set the reach and drop as you would for a 57.

Your input is appreciated, how does this compare with what you are riding? Bear in mind this is for a racing position; adjust accordingly if you want something for a more leisurely style of riding. Please post a comment

Friday
Feb022007

Major Taylor




February being Black History month, I wanted to remind everyone of this remarkable athlete.


Marshall Walter ("Major") Taylor (November 26th 1878 – June 21st 1932) was an African American cyclist who won the World One-mile Track Cycling Championship in 1899, 1900, and 1901.

Major Taylor was the second black world champion in any sport, after boxer George Dixon. The Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis, Indiana and a bicycle trail in Chicago are named in his honor. On July 24, 2006 the city of Worcester, MA changed the name of part of Worcester Center Boulevard to Major Taylor Boulevard.


When I started cycling in England in the early 1950s many riders had only one bike that was their transport to and from work, and at the weekends, the same bike would be used for racing. Alternatively, they would put mudguards and a saddlebag on it and go touring.

Because of this, many used a handlebar stem that was adjustable for length. It was known as a Major Taylor stem. For years I had no idea who Major Taylor was, and when I came to the US in 1979 there was still little information available about him.

This has changed in recent years thanks to the Internet. You can learn more here:

MajorTaylor.com

The Major Taylor Association

Wikipedia

A book is available on Amazon

Tuesday
Jan302007

Gear Table






Picture left:

If you are wearing this many medals on your chest, do not go cycling in a thunderstorm.

Unless you have aspirations to become a conductor.








Bicycle gears measured in inches date all the way back to the Ordinary or Penny Farthing bicycle. The large drive wheel was usually around 50 to 60 inches in diameter.

When the first chain-driven Safety bicycles were built the manufacturers advertised them as having, for example, a 60 inch gear. In other words, the gearing was the equivalent of a 60-inch diameter drive wheel.

The formula for calculating a gear is simple; it is the diameter of the rear wheel, divided by the number of teeth on the rear sprocket, times the number of teeth on the chainwheel.

A bicycle with a 27 inch wheel, an 18 tooth rear sprocket, and a 48 tooth chainwheel, would have a 27, divide by 18, times 48, equals a 72 inch gear. The equivalent of a 72 inch diameter drive wheel on an Ordinary.

You can make a handy custom gear table on your PC using Microsoft Excel. Print this easy to follow step-by-step instructions in PDF format.

Gear tables are useful especially when you have multiple gears in comparing different rear sprocket and chainwheel combinations.

If you are new to the sport of cycling, you will soon learn that gears in the 90 to a 100 inch and above are hard to push. You will use gears in the 70 to lower 80s range for most of your riding; 60 inch and below you will use on the hills.

A rule of thumb is one tooth difference on the rear sprocket is the same as between three and four teeth on the chainwheel. If you shift down from a 52 chainwheel to a 42, you need to shift up 2 or 3 teeth on your rear freewheel cluster to be the equivalent of one step (or one tooth) lower. A gear table is useful to see where these changes are.

Saturday
Jan272007

Cycle-Clips





No, I don’t mean the one-eyed giant from Greek mythology; that’s Cyclops.


I mean cycle-clips; made out of spring steel, usually coated in plastic, and they hold your pant leg at the bottom so they don’t get caught in your chain.

Very important if you ride a fixed gear bike as Fritz found out recently when his entire right pant leg was ripped from his leg.

Growing up in England, cycle-clips were standard equipment; as common in any household as a can-opener. If you owned any kind of bike you owned cycle-clips.

I don't understand why they never caught on the US.


Footnote: Cycle-Clips also can be used in the sport of Ferret Legging.

Thursday
Jan252007

I Mistook a Silk Purse for a Pig’s Ear

When I posted my blog last Saturday about two rare track frames, one a yellow and black Fuso, the other I described as re-painted Paris Sport frame built around 1979 - 1980. The frame has turned out to be a custom ‘dave moulton’ frame built in 1991, probably one of the last track frames I built as I retired from the business in 1993.

The problem was the picture sent to me did not do the frame justice. I looked at the funky straight fork (Not the original.) and the geto bars with no tape, and immediately assumed the frame was “an old beater.”

The owner had been corresponding with me about this frame via email, but because someone else sent the picture, I didn’t realize this was the same bike. Yesterday, the owner sent more pictures, and it all became clear that not only was this the original paint but the frame is in immaculate condition.


The first clue, the frame is built in Columbus SLX tubing; SLX was not around in 1980. The decals also threw me a curve, these were newly designed around 1991 when this was built.


The road bike market had gone right down the toilet, due to the mountain bike craze, and I thought I might survive by building a few high-end custom frames. With this in mind, I redesigned the decals for the custom frames, but as it turned out only two or three frames were ever finished with these decals, making this particular frame unique.

My apologies to the current owner of this bike for my mistake, incidentally, he tells me he has the original fork, but as it is not drilled for a brake he has temporarily replaced it with the one you see here.

I’m also taking up a collection to send him money for handlebar tape.