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Sunday
Dec242006

Why is my Front Brake Lever on the Right?

I have been asked that question since I started posting pictures of my bike on this blog.

It came up again when I posted a picture of my now wrecked bike last Thursday.

Why is my front brake lever on the right?

The simple answer is that I have always had my brakes set up that way since I started riding back in the 1950s, and it is what I am used to.

From the 1930s through the 1950s the most popular side-pull brake was the Swiss made Weinmann 500; the caliper arms were opposite to most current side-pulls today. The front brake caliper arms were on the left, so with the brake lever on the right the cables crossed.

You can see this in the picture of me, circa 1953.

I did not put the front brake on the right just so the cables would cross, but rather followed the style of the day and did what people with far more experience were doing.

As I remember, it had a lot to do with the fact that both front and rear derailleurs were shifted using the right hand, leaving only the left hand to operate a brake.

The front derailleur was operated by a lever whereby you reached down between your legs with your right hand. Now dubbed, suicide shifters, although I don’t recall this ever being a problem.

The picture on the right is of a Huret front derailleur that was very popular in the 1950s.

[Picture from The Racing Bicycle.com]

Campagnolo did not come out with a brake set until 1971; when they did, it was opposite to the Weinmann and most other side-pulls of that era. It had the front brake caliper arms on the right.

Campagnolo quickly became the brake of choice among racing cyclists and enthusiasts world wide, and as a result, other side-pull manufactures copied the Campagnolo style.

An observation I have made is that many people who like me started riding in England in the 1950s have their front brake lever on the right. Others who started later in the 1970s have the front brake lever on the left.

There is also a theory that the English, front brake on right set up, can be traced all the way back to the Ordinary (Penny Farthing) bicycle that had a single spoon brake on the front wheel only, operated by the right hand.

Early "Safety" bicycles had the same front brake only set up, so when rear brakes were added later, people were already used to having the front brake on the right.

Old English roadster bikes with roller brakes had the front brake on the right. The explanation for this could be as simple as the rod operating the rear brake went down the left side of the frame to keep it clear of the chain and chainwheel on the right side.

Some could argue a right and a wrong way to set up brake levers, but I only speak for myself when I say I continue to set mine up the way I always have. Simple as that.

Thursday
Dec212006

Now the Toe-overlap is a Problem


I finally got my bike back from police custody yesterday, two weeks after my accident. The front fork is bent backwards, and the top and down tubes are buckled just behind the head lugs.

The woman driver of the SUV I hit went to court yesterday, charged with ‘failure to yield.’ Her defense was, she didn’t see me; she stated “I had no idea what had hit me.” I told my side of the story and the judge dismissed the case because it was just my word against hers, and he couldn’t convict beyond a reasonable doubt. There were witnesses but they only saw the impact they did didn’t see from which direction I came from.

There seemed to be some confusion as to whether I traveled straight down Savannah Hwy. (Which I did.) or if I had just turned onto Savannah Hwy, at a light some 150 feet from the point of impact. To me this is irrelevant because either way I was traveling south and had the right of way, and she pulled in front of me. The proof is the fact that I hit her.

To say “I didn’t see him” as a defense is like saying “I didn’t see him standing there when I fired the gun in that direction.”

The judge seemed to be full of the Christmas Spirit, dismissing almost every case that came before him where the defendant pleaded not guilty, and those who pleaded guilty had their fines halved.

Anyway we move on. I have put the case in the hands of cycling attorney Gary Brustin. Those of you who have not heard of Gary, he limits his practice to cycling accidents only. He is an avid cyclist himself, and owns a Fuso and a custom ‘dave moulton.’

My recovery is slow; after 17 days my right hand is still bruised and looks like this.


I have no strength in that hand and can barely hold a cup of coffee with it. I still have double vision, so I cannot drive a car. I spoke with my daughter who lives in England and is a nurse; she told me the inside of my head is probably just a badly bruised as my hand.

She is probably right, and my recovery is just going to take a little longer than I had originally hoped. I will be getting plenty of rest over the Holidays and will not be doing anything too strenuous.

Tuesday
Dec192006

I’ve Been Tagged

I have been tagged by MN Bicycle Commuter. This means I have to write five unknown facts about myself. This seems a pretty harmless exercise, and bloggers are always looking for ideas to write about; so here goes.

1. It was 1946 in England, WWII had been over a year; I was ten years old. King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth was coming through our town on his way somewhere else. In the days leading up to this event, we made paper flags at school

Whether real flags were not available, or the school was too cheap to buy us flags, I don’t know. But we each drew and colored a British flag on both sides of a piece of paper and then glued it to a stick.

The day finally came, and we all lined up at the roadside. We waited, and we waited, freezing our little asses off, for at least an hour. Finally, here came the motorcade, passing through at about 45 mph. We all started cheering and waiving our little paper flags.

Someone shouted “There he is” and pointed. I think I saw King George VI that day.

2. In 1967 I saw Jimi Hendrix play in Nottingham, England; at the time he was still relatively unknown in America. The show was in a fairly small venue, and was the loudest concert I have ever been to. He had Marshall speakers stacked floor to ceiling. I stood at the back of the room and the sound was pushing my chest in. I don’t believe it was by chance his band was called “The Jimi Hendrix Eperience.”

3. In the mid 1980s the owner of a bike store in Denver asked me if I would make an exception for a very special customer and personally measure him for a custom frame. The customer was the manager of the Denver Broncos football team. (I don’t recall his name.) The team was coming to San Diego to play the Chargers and after the game he would drive up to see me.

The outcome was, the Chargers beat the Broncos, and the team and the manager took an early flight home. (Obviously sore losers.) I never did get to measure him, or build him a frame. Had I done so I would probably remember his name.

4. I am married for the third and last time. I say that not only because I know I got it right this time, but because I believe a person should not be allowed to marry more than three times. If you can’t get it right after three times, you should have your license revoked, or something.

5. I am not a US citizen, but a green card carrying resident alien. I could apply for citizenship as I have lived here since 1979, but it is not one of the things that is high on my to do list. I have all the same rights as a citizen; they let me pay taxes, etc. The only things I can’t do, is vote, and do jury duty; two responsibilities I can live without.

So there it is, five pieces of little known and useless information about myself. Now, according to the rules of tagging, I have to tag five other people. Keep multiplying by five and I wonder how quickly every blogger on the planet will be tagged? I can only assume once you’ve been tagged, you are exempt from future tagging.

I tag:

Howard
Kent
Tim
Jason
Heather

Sunday
Dec172006

Thank Heaven these are Isolated Cases

On the heels of a report of a Mission Viejo cyclist who was chilled recently after being hit by a fast moving cold front; comes another troubling story of a San Clemente man who rode his bicycle down a busy street and turned into a Seven Eleven.

Taking a big gulp before commenting on this startling and unexpected transformation his wife said, “He had a brother who a few years ago turned into a woman, but we never expected this. I’m afraid now people will say this is just a marriage of convenience”

Ending on an optimistic note she added, “It is nice to be able to get coffee and doughnuts at any time of the day, Grandma doesn’t have to go far for her lottery tickets, and we never run out of milk.”

Thursday
Dec142006

David Tesch


On this day, December 14, 2003, David Tesch passed away too soon at only 44 years old.

I first met Dave early in 1982. I worked for Masi from October of 1980 until the end of 1981. I always state that I worked for Masi, but strictly speaking I built Masi frames, working for Ted Kirkbride who was subcontracted to build the frames.

Roland Sahm the man who had brought Feleiro Masi to America in the mid 1970s still owned Masi USA. The original Carlsbad, CA factory had closed some of the equipment had been moved to Sahm’s ranch in Rancho Santa Fe, just north of San Diego. There were a few frames still being built by local framebuilder Rob Roberson.

Around 1980 there was an upsurge in Masi sales, due partly to the movie Breaking Away, in which a Masi played a leading roll as the main character’s bike. Local bike store owner Ted Kirkbride opened a small frameshop in nearby San Marcos, CA and I was brought in to build Masi frames in addition to those being built at Sahm’s ranch.

To keep his overhead low, Ted Kirkbride rented out space and use of the equipment to local independent framebuilder Brian Baylis, and ex-Masi painter Jim Cunningham who had a frame re-finishing business called Cyclart. In addition there was painter, Jim Allen who painted the Masi frames.


As I recall, it was Cyclart who brought Dave Tesch to the San Marcos shop to do frame repairs for them. Dave had some framebuilding experience having worked for Trek, in Wisconsin. Dave Tesch would have been about 22 or 23 years old at the time.

At the end of 1981, I had been laid off by Ted Kirkbride due to an excess inventory of Masi frames, and in January 1982 I too was building my own frames; renting space in a very small and what was becoming an increasingly crowded frameshop.

Into this crowded mix of very diverse, independently creative people; each with a different agenda and ego, came David Tesch; full of the energy and enthusiasm of his youth. What stands out most in my memory was the fact that he talked incessantly, and loudly. When he wasn’t talking to others in the shop, he was on the phone to his friends and family back in Wisconsin, recalling what he had learned that day.

The guy was like a sponge, just wanting to soak up every scrap of framebuilding knowledge he could. For my part I just wanted to get as much work done as I could, and get the hell out of there and into my own frameshop. It was like having a child who keeps asking, why, why, why? While you are trying to get work done.

Things were not made easier when I was asked to build Masi frames again, because now I had more than enough work building my own frames. This did give Dave Tesch the break he was looking for and he was able to take over the Masi production. Although we now had three separate framebuilders sharing the same equipment, and three painters, including myself, sharing one paint booth.

The following summer I was able to move into my own shop also in San Marcos, and my relationship with Dave Tesch and the others improved greatly with a mile distance between us. I went on to build the John Howard frames, and Dave Tesch worked part time for me.


Around 1984 Dave opened his own small frameshop across town in San Marcos, and took over the building of the John Howard frames when I switched to production of the Fuso.

I have never known a young framebuilder who became so good at his craft, as quickly as Dave Tesch; he obviously had a natural talent.

Physically he reminded me a little of Keith Moon, drummer with The Who. Dark hair, dark, sometimes wild looking eyes. Casual to the point of being scatter-brained in everything except his framebuilding, in which he was meticulous.

One story I recall, he came out of his frameshop one evening with a brand new frame he was to deliver to a customer. He was about to put the frame in his car trunk when his phone rang. He sat the frame down on its rear drop-outs leaning against the back of the car.

In typical Dave Tesch fashion he talked on the phone for an hour, and it was dark when he finally hung up. He locked up his shop, jumped in his car and backed over the brand new frame. Later when he told me the story, he thought it was hilarious; he could laugh at his own dumb mistake.

Dave had to close his frameshop in the early 1990s due to the fall off in demand for road bikes; for the same reason I would follow him a few years later. The difference was Dave Tesch was young enough that he probably would have returned to framebuilding had it not been for his premature death.

His frames still exist; treasured by their owners and each a tribute and a legacy of his craftsmanship.