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Monday
Jun262006

Why did I quit riding, and why am I about to start up again?


This was a question asked of me recently. When I left the bike business in 1993 I also scaled down my lifestyle and got rid of most of my possessions, even my bike. I moved into a small studio apartment and there was no room for a bike.

I took up running to stay in shape; I found if I ran for 30 or 45 minutes I could get a good work out. On a bike my ride would take much longer than this, so running gave me more time for other things.

I am no stranger to running; in the 1970s when I lived in England my chosen sport was cyclo-cross. For those non biking readers of this blog; cyclo-cross is the winter sport of cycling and basically you find a course that is un-ridable on a bicycle and you hold a bike race on it. Riding cross country on grass and mud, and when the terrain gets too hard to ride you dismount and run with the bike on your shoulder.


(Above) See what I mean about un-ridable!

Cyclo-cross suited me for several reasons. During the summer I was busy building frames and had no time to train and race. The cyclo-cross season ran from October to February and as training I could get by running five miles each evening, and riding cyclo-cross at weekends.

In 1970 while on a training ride at night I was hit head on by a motorcycle taking a corner on the wrong side of the road. My right fore-arm was shattered in three pieces and I still have a stainless steel plate in my arm to this day. My arm was in a cast for five months; after that I was a little wary of riding in the dark.

Cyclo-cross events are usually held on a circular course about a mile in length. You race for one hour plus a lap. The slower riders will be lapped by the faster riders several times during the race, but each rider has the number of laps counted, and at the end of an hour a bell is sounded and everyone does one more lap.

One hour cyclo-cross is the equivalent of eighty miles on the road in terms of effort and energy expended. Pros and amateurs rode in the same event and some of the bigger events would have riders from France, Belgium, and Switzerland competing. I did alright in cyclo-cross; became skilled in the many techniques required of the sport like dismounting and mounting the bike without stopping, and because of this I could beat riders who were younger and fitter than me.

So this is why I have no problem with running or rather I didn’t until about three years ago when my hip started to give me trouble. I had to give up running and take up walking. Now walking doesn’t do it for me anymore; I walk as far as twelve miles taking three hours which is too much time out of my day. So time to get back on the bike again.

I bought a Fuso frame recently that I built in 1986; figured I better get one before they got too expensive. A good friend of mine sent me enough components to build it up; all Campagnolo SR from the 1980s; I’m just short a bottom bracket, but one is on its way to me now so watch this space for updates and pictures.

Monday
Jun192006

I just saw this post on I-Bob.

"I had high hopes for Dave Moulton's bike blog, and I really enjoyed reading the first entries from the semi-legendary frame builder, but he's been a little tardy with the updates. :)"

Wow I'm half a legend; how cool is that? The smiley face at the end did not go un-noticed but the word "Tardy" cut a little.

Tardy implies laziness; I may be a lot of things but not that. For a so called retired person I have a hell of a lot going on in my life. On the weekend of June 9, 10, and 11 I attended “ Le Cirque du Cyclisme.” In Greensboro, NC. A wonderful event, I had a great time. I spent most of the week before preparing my presentation. So when I got back I had to play catch up on all the stuff I didn’t do the week before.

Last Sunday; my wife’s birthday no less, I spent the whole morning replying to emails that had stacked up. Get the picture; it’s not easy being half a legend. Thank God I’m not a whole legend.

Tonight I’m off to The Ocean Song Café on The Isle of Palms to attend a songwriter’s night. I haven’t played my guitar in two weeks; I probably won’t play worth shit. I’ve been recording a CD for a year now and it’s still not finished.

I recently bought one of my frames, a Fuso built in 1986. I haven’t owned a bike since I left the business in 1993; figured I’d better get one before they get too expensive. I’m building it up with old Campagnolo SR from the 1980s. When it’s finished I’ll have to find time to ride it.

Help me out here bike people, send me ideas for blogs. Ask me a question; I’ll do my best to answer it. And it would be nice to see the odd comment just so I know someone’s reading them.

Wednesday
May172006

There are some God awful paint schemes on Fuso frames out there: Not my fault.


I recently saw a comment posted on Classic Rendezvous Bike List saying something like, “Picked up a Fuso recently with weird purple and yellow paint.”

When I introduced the Fuso frame in 1984 I offered it in four very tasteful (I thought.) color schemes. There was my favorite Charcoal Grey Metallic and Red (Pictured below.) Red and Silver Metallic, Dark Blue Metalic and Light Blue Metallic, and Dark Plum with Lilac Metallic.


I was trying to keep costs down and by limiting color choice to four meant I could paint batches of frames all the same and keep them in stock for immediate delivery. Almost from the beginning I started getting requests for this color and that color. I refused at first but after fighting it for two years, I gave in, simplified the decal design, dropped the metal head badge (I had to cut costs somewhere.) and offered the Fuso painted to order in 1, 2, or 3 colors and offered at least a dozen colors to choose from.

Through the latter half of the 1980s I painted some pretty garish color combinations at my customer's request. As well as the Purple/Yellow afore mentioned there were a lot of Powder Blue and Pink, Turquoise and Pink, Green and Purple and every other stomach turning combination you can think of. I hated it, but I was running a business and like all successful businesses I was giving the customer what they wanted.

You have to remember people ordering these frames were from a generation who grew up in the 1960s psychedelic era and maybe partook of a little too much pot or LSD in their youth. After that came the 1970s when kitchens throughout America were equipped with Avocado Green refrigerators. Red and green plaid pants worn with a striped or polka-dot shirt was the height of fashion.

The 1980s were no better, this was the era when bicycle shorts and fanny-packs became fashion items. People who grew up in this era did so in a cultural and artistic wilderness where every speck of good taste had evaporated like water from the desert. It is interesting that now everyone has come out of the drug induced haze of those former years, peoples taste in just about everything has improved immensely.

The people who ordered these frames cannot be blamed, they knew no better and it looked cool at the time. Now they look as outdated as a pair of yellow polyester pants, and like the polyester pants they will last forever so they are going to be around for a long time.

I make no apologies for these God awful paint schemes. I’m not particularly proud of them but like Oliver North, I was just following orders. If you want a nice looking Fuso, look for what I call the first generation in the original four color schemes offered. And not all frames that came later were garish; there were a few people around with good taste.

The person, who commented on his purple and yellow Fuso that prompted this piece, also said “I would have preferred red and yellow, but then someone else may have snapped it up.” So there you have it; because people balk at these wild and crazy color combos, there are bargains to be had out there, and if you maybe wear some really dark glasses you will find that under the gaudy paint there is a bike that is built to be ridden.

Maybe in time you will grow to like the bike enough that you will spring for a repaint. In which case you will be doing me a huge favor, and making the world a better place by removing one more piece of visual pollution.


Saturday
May062006

The Road Bike; an Elitist Machine.


If I am having a conversation with someone who knows nothing about bikes; on learning that I once built racing bicycles they invariably ask. “Isn’t it uncomfortable to ride bent over like that?”

You may as well ask. “Isn’t uncomfortable for a jockey to sit on a horse like this?”


If you had little or no experience in riding a horse then of course it would be extremely uncomfortable to ride in this position and you wouldn’t even attempt it. And yet with bicycles people see Lance Armstrong on a bike and think “Anyone can ride a bike.” And off they go to their local bike store and buy a top of the line road bike.

Before long they realize they are uncomfortable and this is not as easy as it looks. Next they are raising the handlebars defeating the whole object of dropped bars. They may as well start out with a bike with flat handlebars.

The truth is the road bike is an elitist machine and you need a certain degree of fitness and suppleness just to even ride one. I used to work for a man who used to go skiing for a one week a year, play golf for one week every year, and go sailing for another week each year. Of course I imagine he was not very good at any of these sports, but he could at least participate. Road cycling is not that kind of sport, to enjoy it you have to make a regular and long term commitment.

You don’t necessarily have to race or even ride with another person. The road bike is the most efficient machine know to humankind; riding in that low tuck position is not just about aerodynamics, it is about getting maximum power to the pedals not only through the legs but from arms, shoulders, and back also.

There is nothing like the feeling you get when the rider and machine become one; the bike becomes an extension of the athlete. Just as I am sure the jockey must feel when in full flight and the man and horse become as one.

Friday
Mar312006

The John Howard Frame Saga


There is a part of the story I have not told before; how I opened my frameshop in San Marcos, California in 1983 and started producing John Howard frames and why this arrangement only lasted about a year?

I went to work for Masi in October 1980 and through the following year I built about 25 or 30 frames a month. The problem was they were not selling close to that number and by the end of 1981 there were hundreds of Masi frames hanging from every available space in the shop. I had in effect worked myself out of a job, and in December 1981 I was laid off temporarily and told to sign on unemployment.

I actually got as far as standing in line at the unemployment office. I found it very degrading and left without actually signing on. I went back to Masi and asked if I could build my own frames in their shop using their equipment. I had already been building a few of my own frames on my own time the year before and I had a few orders to get me started. I started calling bike dealers all over the US offering to build custom frames. I could build a custom frame within two weeks which was unheard of at the time.

Enough work came in that I did not have to sign on unemployment. The problem came six months later when Masi had made inroads into their stockpile of frames and wanted to start production again. I now had enough work on my own frames and didn’t want to go back to building Masis. It just so happened that Dave Tesch had come along and was able to step into the breach for Masi. But the problem was we were all using the same equipment, and it became obvious that I would soon need my own shop.

I had about $7,000 of my own money saved but needed to borrow another $23,000 to open a full production frameshop. I managed to borrow this from a local bank which was somewhat of a miracle because I had only been in the US for three years and didn’t have enough of a credit rating to even get a credit card.

One of the things that helped me get the loan was that John Howard an ex Olympian and had won the prestigious Iron Man Triathlon in 1980, had asked me to build a line of frames with his name on them. I opened my frameshop around July of 1983 in a brand new industrial building in San Marcos, CA about a mile from the Masi shop. John wanted his frames to be of the same standard of workmanship and quality as the Masi frames, but he intended to sell them for less. Tough to do but we agreed on a price; the agreement was that I would build five frames all the same size at one time, and repeat that every week.

Now here is were the story gets interesting and is the part I have not told before. There was an individual who had a business in La Jolla, next to San Diego. He was a broker dealing in foreign currencies. He had salesmen going around getting investors and everyone was making lots of money. He was sponsoring the local triathletes and paying John Howard a considerable amount as their coach.

This was the money John was using to buy frames from me. Every thing went great for about a year then the investment broker it appears was not investing in anything. He was a crook and the whole thing was a Ponzi scheme, a scam using new investors money to pay off old investors.

John Howard was of course a victim of all this as much as anybody, as well as losing his source of income; he too had invested heavily with this guy. John no longer had the means to order five frames a week from me, and I had to scramble to fill the void in my production. This is when the Fuso was born.

I don’t remember the name of this individual from La Jolla which is perhaps as well. He did go to prison for a long time. He also indirectly helped the then new sport of triathlons get a boost, helped me get my frameshop going and forced me to start a line of frames called Fuso.