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Watch out for the Right Hook

An accident so common it has a name: The Right Hook.

You are plugging along on your bicycle at about 15 or 20 mph on the right hand side of the road as you should be. A car approaches from behind; he is doing 30 or 40 mph and catches and passes you quite easily. But then the driver brakes and slows down to make a right turn.

Car brakes being as efficient as they are, he slows down quickly to about 15 or 20 mph, the same speed you are doing and as a result does not completely pass you. You are now along side the car, or a little behind the driver in his blind spot. He makes the right turn and you either run into the side of the car, he side swipes you, or in the worst case he runs right over you.

A good and careful driver would slow and stay behind the cyclist and wait until the bike rider clears the junction before he turns. Unfortunately, careful drivers are in the minority and it is really in a cyclist’s interest to ride defensively and be alert to hazards like this at all times.

First, be aware that you are approaching a turn off to the right; be it a road, entrance to a parking lot, or a driveway. Next, be aware of vehicles approaching from the rear. If they partially pass you then slow, it may be in your best interest to slow also. With your hands already on the brakes, you are ready for a panic stop.

If there is a separate right turn lane, do not ride your bike there unless you plan to turn right. Other road users will assume you are turning right, and you are asking to get hooked if you try to go straight.

I always look over my left shoulder as I approach a right turn lane and give a going left hand signal. Not an arm straight out left turn signal, but more just pointing at the road to my left to show, “I’m moving over to the next lane.”

Then I ride just outside the turn lane, close or on the lane marking. This gives vehicles plenty of room to pass on the right. You will still get the occasional joker who will pass you on the outside then cut in front of you to turn right. But I find a look over my left shoulder is the best signal to give, and most drivers will stay behind you when they see this.

Sometimes the lane markings are for straight ahead and right turn; in other words, it is not a lane designated for right turns only. In this case, I do the same glance over my left shoulder and if there is no one immediately behind me, I signal and move towards the center of the lane just so everyone knows I intend to go straight ahead. I try to do this at least 100 feet before the junction to cut down the risk of being right hooked. Once clear of the junction I move back over to the right.

Interval training is the best form of exercise, in terms of being good for the heart and for burning calories. I treat riding in traffic as interval training, slowing when caution is called for and reserving energy for when a sudden burst of speed is needed to clear a junction for example. If someone causes me to brake and slow down, it is another interval opportunity getting back up to speed.

I try to accept bad driving on the part of a few road users as an unfortunate fact; otherwise if I let every little incident upset me, it ruins my ride. I find anger on my part, keeps me focused on the stupidity and carelessness of others. If I take the attitude, “Ah well, this is South Carolina, we have some of the worst drivers in the whole country here, so this is what I should expect.” My ride is a lot more enjoyable.

Foot Note: If you live in the UK or some other country where you drive on the left, the Right Hook becomes a Left Hook. (Picture, left.) The same rules apply, just read left for right and vice versa.


Framebuilders at The Cirque

I attended the annual Cirque du Cyclisme in Greensboro, North Carolina last weekend. Among those attending was a veritable who’s who of super plumbers framebuilders. Here are a few who stopped to chat and gave me an opportunity to snap a picture.

Brian Baylis: Brain and I go way back to 1980 when we both worked in the Masi circus frameshop. Brian’s bike won an award at the show for "Best Original USA."

Joe Bell: I met Joe in the early 1980s and had not seen him since; I don’t remember him being this tall. Not a framebuilder but one of the most highly respected frame painters in the business. A bike Joe painted won the "Best Paint" award at the show.

Steve Belenky: I can’t remember when I first met Steve; let’s just say a long time ago. Steve picked up two awards for “Best Fancy Lugs” and “Peoples Choice.”

Richard Sachs: Richard was one of the first American builders I met when I first came to the US in 1979; it was at the New York Bike Show that year. At the time I took one look at Richard’s frames and realized I had to pay attention to aesthetics if I was to sell frames in America. Richard won “Best Race Bike” for his cyclo-cross entry.

Peter Weigle: Fine framebuilder, another one I first met sometime in the 1980s. Peter's bike won the “Best Randonneur” award.

Darrell McCulloch, Llewellyn Bicycles: Australian framebuilder and speaker at the Saturday seminars. I was dead chuffed thrilled when Darrell told me he used to read all the magazine articles about my work in the 1980s. Darrell’s bike won “Best in Show.” He is doing some amazing work with stainless steel lugs that he designs and produces himself.

Sasha White, Vanilla Bicycles: Another seminar speaker. It was interesting to hear him speak of people saying his bikes are “too beautiful to ride.” That troubled me when I used to build custom frames, and was one of the reasons I started producing the Fuso frame. Sasha is obviously a natural talent, with skills far exceeding what would be normal for someone relatively new to the framebuilding.

Darrell McCullock and Sasha White are the new generation of framebuilders who I believe will take the craft to the next level. That is, way beyond anything that has been done before.

In the closing moments of the show I spoke with Mark Nobilette, unfortunately my camera had already gone out to the car. Mark has been building since the 1970s and like many of the others I first met him sometime in the 1980s.

It was great to have the opportunity to meet many old friends and to make a few new ones.


Headset Removal and Replacement

My recent new bike build up called for the removal and replacement of the headset cups and bearings. I did this with a few simple items I picked up at my local hardware store.

To remove the bearing cups from the frame I purchased a piece of copper tube. I found a ¾ inch repair coupling that was ¾ inch diameter inside and slightly under and inch outside. These come in various lengths; 12 inch long worked fine for my needs and the ends were already machined nice and square.

All I had to do was cut four slots down the length of the tube about 4 inches long, using a hacksaw, and bend the four pieces outwards as shown in the picture above. These squeeze in to insert through the headset cup and then spring out again inside the head tube. With a hammer or mallet, the cups can be safely knocked out of the frame.

This worked in exactly the same way as the professional Campagnolo tool that costs a great deal more. To remove the lower ring from the fork, I turned the fork upside down resting the threaded end on a wooden block, and drove the ring off with a hammer and flat punch.

It is necessary to tap first one side of the ring, then the other to get it to come off straight. The bottom ring was hardened steel so the flat punch did not damage it in any way.

To press the cups in the new frame I bought a 5/8 dia. nut, bolt, and several large flat washers. I pressed the top cup in first, which again was hardened steel, with the bolt facing up and the nut on top. Tightening the nut on the bolt squeezed the cup into the frame.

Then I removed the nut and bolt, reversed it and pressed the lower cup in. (See picture, left.) The bottom cup was light alloy so I placed the lower steel fork ring inside, upside down. This brought it flush with the outside edges of the cup so the washers were pressing on the inner hardened steel bearing surfaces, rather than the soft alloy outer edge of the cup.

Don’t press the cups in with the ball bearings in place, or you may damage the balls or the bearing surfaces.

Finally, to drive the lower ring on to the fork; I found a short piece of one inch black iron pipe. This was slightly bigger than an inch inside so it slid easily over the steering column.

Holding the fork in one hand, I drove the bearing ring onto the crown race, using the piece of iron pipe as a hammer. (See picture, right.) Once again, because the lower ring is hardened steel the iron pipe did no damage. The piece of iron pipe does not have to be threaded as shown here. It just happened to come that way, in the length and weight I needed to do the job.

If you have a 1 1/8 dia. threadless steerer you will need a pipe with a larger inside diameter. Just make sure it is loose and slides easily on the steering column.

Finally, use plenty of grease in the inside of the head tube. It will help the cups slide in and prevent corrosion in the future.


Building my blue bike while Barry blew

With tropical storm Barry breezin’ through town this weekend, bringing heavy rain and high winds, it was the ideal time to be indoors building up my new Recherche.

By Sunday afternoon the worst had past and the rain abated long enough to get outside and take a few photographs.

However, gale force winds and the threat of more rain made even a short test ride out of the question. Of course I know how the bike will ride; exactly the same as all my previous bikes.

I had blue tires and blue handlebar tape just waiting for another blue frame, so I am pleased to have found one.


Twenty-two years old and never been kissed

I recently wrote about the Recherche; a private label frame that I built in California from 1985 to around 1987. Only a little over 200 were built, and I wondered at the time of writing, what would be the chance of finding one in my size?

Not only did I find a frame, but came across one built in 1985 that had never been built up into a bike. New Old Stock that has probably been hanging in a bike store somewhere for the last 22 years.

The picture above shows virgin paint on the front and rear tips that has obviously never seen a pair of wheels. The steering column was also uncut so a headset had never been fitted.

The picture illustrates the special and distinct treatment of the fork ends and rear dropouts on the Recherche. The brass filler was allowed to sink into the end of the tube to give a scalloped effect.

I will be building the bike up this weekend in readiness for the Cirque du Cyclisme in Greensboro, North Carolina the following weekend. Watch for more pictures this coming week.