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The Recherche

The Recherche was a private label frame that I built for two brothers, Kent and Kyle Radford. They owned a specialist bicycle store in Rancho Bernardo, which is in San Diego County, California.

They sold the frame out of their own store and also marketed the frame to other dealers, primarily in Southern California. The frame was first built in 1985 up to late 1987 or 1988. There were a little over two hundred of them built.

I have been in touch with Kent Radford in the last year, he still owns the number one Recherche. The name and the decal design was the Radford brother’s creation. They always pronounced it Reh-shur-shay. I believe it means “to search” in French, (Please correct me if I am wrong on that.) and that is probably not the correct French pronunciation.

It was a “no frills” frame, painted in a single color with the white Mylar panel decals; at first available only in red; later it was offered in blue and black also. Although I describe the frame as “no frills” it was of course built by me to the same high standard as any frame from my shop.

The frame was the exact same geometry as the Fuso; in fact the production of the Recherche was grouped together with the Fuso on the same jig setting, and both brand names brazed in small batches at the same time.

The frame was built in the same Columbus tubing, with Campagnolo or Columbus front and rear dropouts. With a Cinelli investment cast bottom bracket shell. The Recherche lugs were also investment cast but a different style than the Fuso; the seat stay caps were also different.

Most Recherche’s had a distinct cast fork crown with two decorative grooves cast into the top. (See left.) Towards the end of production this crown became unavailable and a plain sloping crown was substituted.


The way the tubes were finished at the front and rear drop outs was distinctive. The tube ends were scalloped with a round file and the brass allowed to sink inside as the brazing cooled. I was imitating a style that is common to many French frame builders.

These small but unique features made the Recherche different in appearance, but because the design and workmanship was equal to other frames from my shop, the finished bike rides and handles the same as any other I built.

The red paint finish that the majority of Recherche frames had was achieved by painting a candy red over a bright orange base coat. Most red paint jobs appear orange, especially after they start to fade in bright sunlight. The candy red method I used was labor intense because of the extra steps in painting, but the end result was a truer longer lasting deep red.

My thanks to Lorin Youde, who lives in Southern California not far from my original San Marcos shop, for sending me these pictures. He picked up this 62 cm. Recherche last year, with original red paint and very few miles on it. It is number 201 so one of the last few built.

With so few of these built compared with close to 3,000 Fuso frames produced and with the small but unique differences I have described here; the Recherche could be a desirable frame to own should anyone be lucky enough to come across one.

Because so few were built the chances of finding one in any given size is slim, especially in the less popular very large or small sizes. If Recherche does indeed mean “to search” then maybe the name will become prophetic.


The National Enquirer to Sponsor a Pro Cycling Team

Regular readers of my blog will remember an early story I did about a special bike I built in 1978 for the National Enquirer, and how they owed me a story. It appears that a few weeks ago an executive at that publication found my blog during a Google search.

I am pleased to announce that The Enquirer has gone way above and beyond just doing an article, and are talking about full-blown sponsorship of a professional team to be entered in the 2008 Tour de France.

The exiting news is that the team will be riding my bikes. As I write this, people at the Enquirer are scouring EBay and Craigslist looking for suitable bikes and equipment.

The executive I spoke with, whose name I am not at liberty to divulge just happens to be a huge fan of 1980s lugged steel. I questioned how he expected the team to compete on “old tech” equipment. His answer was simple. Steroids.

This just goes to show the forward-thinking-ness of the Enquirer. At a time when everyone else is trying to rid sport of drugs, here is an outfit with the balls to come out and say that modern professional sport demands stimulants.

As he pointed out to me, people these days go to a ballpark and want to see some freak with a large head, knock one over the stands. So, what greater spectacle than a guy built like a semi-truck, winning stage after stage, charging through the pack like a 280 lb. ball through a set of bowling pins.

While on the subject of large heads he doubted anyone on the team would fit into a modern Styrofoam helmet. With this in mind, his plans are to go full retro with wool jerseys and leather hairnet style helmets that would be easier to custom fit.

The intention is to hand select team members as soon as possible so they can start ’roiding up for the rest of this year in preparation for the 2008 season. It was mentioned that it is essential for the team to be on lugged steel. “These guys will tear a carbon fiber frame apart like a baby with a balsa wood airplane.” Was one quote.

No one at the Enquirer seemed too perturbed when I pointed out the Tour has stringent rules and drug tests in place. Again, I quote, “We’ll deal with that issue when the time comes with good old American ingenuity, good attorneys, and a few well placed bribes.”

I have to admit when it comes to bullshit, no one is better equipped to deal with it than the Enquirer; they have been specializing in it for years. It should be interesting.

Charleston, SC April 1st, 2007.


Recovery Report

I’ve been getting quite a few emails recently concerning my recovery from my accident last December. Here’s an update on my progress.

The biggest problem was that I damaged a nerve in my right eye and it left me with severe double vision. The nerve controls the movement of that eye.

A few days ago, I got up in the morning and found my vision was almost normal. Naturally, I was extremely exited about this sudden and quite dramatic improvement, but it turned out to be short lived. After being up for an hour or so, the double vision returned.

Since then this re-occurs every morning, I can see normally on waking but it only lasts a short time. However, I feel this is a definite good sign that something good is happening and permanent normal vision will return eventually.

I am riding my bike about three times a week. When I do, I use a thin strip of black tape stuck to the right lens of my glasses, which cuts out the double vision, but allows me to see off to the side. In other words I don’t have a blind spot that a complete eye patch would cause.

Thanks again to everyone for the well wishes; these are greatly appreciated. I will keep you posted on my progress from time to time.


See you at the Cirque?

I have just signed up to attend this year’s Cirque du Cyclisme vintage bicycle rally held in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 8, 9 and 10.

I attended last year for the first time and it was great meeting old friends I hadn’t seen in years. I also made many new friends, including some I had previously corresponded with through email. It’s always nice to put a face with a name.

I'm looking forward to the same this year.


Cord Whipping Handlebars

My profound thanks go out to Ben Spencer from Seattle who sent me a really nice pair of Cinelli, Giro d’Italia handlebars to replace the ones I had bent.

I was up at the crack of dawn this morning to install them before heading out for a twenty-five mile ride. I decided to stay with the blue tape because it goes with my blue tires.

After wrapping the bars, normally I would have done what many people do, and reach for the black electricians tape to finish off. However, this time I decided to spend a little extra time and finish off by cord whipping with some black cord.

If you haven’t tried this, it is not that difficult. Make a loop with the cord, and hold it with one hand under the bars while you start winding the chord over it. Once you get a couple of turns over the loop, it will hold itself in place.

Start at the center ferule and wind back over the tape. I usually stop the tape and cut it about a quarter inch short of the ferule, otherwise it gets too bulky with the cord over it. You want the cord to sit neatly against the ferule so that you start winding nice and square.

When you have enough cord to cover the end of the tape, (Usually about an inch.) put the end of the cord through the loop and pull on the other end. Don’t pull it all the way trough, but stop when the end is tucked neatly under the winding.

Trim the ends of the cord with a sharp knife, and apply several coats of clear urethane over the cord to waterproof and to help seal it so it doesn’t come unraveled. It is advisable to place some masking tape either side of the cord whipping so you don’t get urethane all over the ferule and handlebar tape.

I had a hard time finding black cord, and what I found was quite thin. It would have been easier and probably have looked neater if the cord was a little thicker.

It occurred to me after; I could have used fine round string and painted over it with black paint instead of using clear urethane. You can buy tiny jars of enamel paint at the hobby shop in any color you wish.