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Sunday
Dec042005

Perfectionism


Sometimes a person will say to me, “I am a perfectionist.” They say it with pride as if perfectionism is a virtue. Perfectionism is a curse that will bring nothing but misery to the perfectionist and those around them. It is a personality trait that goes hand in hand with low self esteem. Why? Because you can never achieve perfection, you are always a loser.

My own perfectionism led to my success as a frame builder but self hatred and anger as a person. My perfectionism was caused by abuse not only from my father but by the British school system; a system that beat down kids, and used sarcasm and ridicule as well as physical abuse. If you have seen the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” you will know what I mean. That movie touched me deeply and helped me understand later what was going on.

I believe the reason all the great music came out of Britain in the 1960s was because of our childhood during WWII and the school system there. I was just another child of that era whose creativity went in a different direction. But for the fact my anger was directed towards myself I could have just as easily gone a different direction. Had my anger been directed towards others I could have become a violent criminal as many of my generation did. This forms the basis for my novel Prodigal Child It is a work of fiction, a story of what my life might have been had it taken a different turn early on.

As a child I was never given credit for doing well; only punished for doing wrong. As an adult I continued with the self punishment if I screwed up and I would not tolerate anything but perfection from myself. This led to success as an artist, but failure in every other aspect of my life. Many times in my early days as a framebuilder I would take a hammer and destroy a frame because of some minor flaw. Afterwards I would sit and cry like a child, then work all night to replace the frame. This was my punishment for screwing up.

By the late 1980s my second marriage failed and I realized I needed to change. I was not always a pleasant person to be around; the sheet rock on the walls of my frame shop was full of the impressions of tools I had thrown across the room in a temper tantrums. The anger was always directed at myself never others, but those around me had to witness and listen to this. I knew I had to change; for my own sake as well as others around me. I started to look deep within myself to see why I was the way I was.

By the early 1990s the bike business had also changed. Bicycle dealers almost overnight it seemed were switching from road bikes to mountain bikes. By 1993 I knew it was time to leave and there was one incident that I think pushed me over the edge. A customer called me saying his Fuso Lux frame he had bought had a tiny bubble in the Columbus decal. Columbus decals were always a pain because of the material they were made from caused them to bubble when the paint was being baked in the paint oven. This is why you don’t see a Columbus decal on a custom ‘dave moulton’ frame.

I told the customer to send the frame back. When it arrived the “bubble” in the Columbus decal was buried deep within the clear coats and was so tiny you almost needed a magnifying glass to see it. I stood there looking at it, seething with anger. I had finally come to terms with my own perfectionism, but still had to deal with the perfectionism of others. This customer expected me to repaint this frame and there was no guarantee if I did that the Columbus decal would be any different, and maybe it would be even worse.

The frame was in a vise held across the bottom bracket faces. If a fit of rage I grabbed the head tube and folded the frame in two with the head tube ending up next to the rear drop-outs. This time I did not cry; I did not stay up a night building a replacement. Instead I walked into my office and wrote the customer a check for the full retail value of the frame. I attached the check to the frame with scotch tape, threw it in the box and shipped it back. I never heard from him again.

As well as coming to terms with my perfectionism I realized that all creativity comes from the same source. It is not a right brain, left brain thing; it comes from deep within the artist, his soul or very being. The artist is simply a vehicle through which art appears. Because all art comes from the same source; all art is the same and if I had been successful in one art form, I could do so in another.This is why I was able to leave the bike business and take up writing and songwriting. If I screw up in writing unlike frame building it’s easily fixed in a rewrite.

Writing has been great therapy for me; better to get all this shit out than to hold it inside. Which is exactly what I am doing now so thank you for allowing me to indulge myself?


  

Thursday
Nov242005

27 years ago the National Enquirer promised to do a story on me. I’m still waiting.

1978 was drawing to a close and I was winding down my framebuilding business in Worcester, England. Finishing up a few remaining orders and preparing to emigrate to the United States in January 1979.

The phone rang one day and a voice on the other end told me the call was from the US. It was someone from the National Enquirer and went on to tell me they were the largest circulation newspaper in America. The part about having the largest circulation was probably correct, but where they were misleading me was in describing the publication as a newspaper. Newspaper implies a paper containing news. But as the National Enquirer does not reach the British supermarkets; in my ignorance I took the man’s word for it.

Why were they calling me? They had somehow found out that I built bicycles and they needed a very special bicycle. There was a family in South Africa, a husband and wife with sextuplets. Actually, these were the Rosenkowitz sextuplets, three boys, and three girls born January 11, 1974. They were the worlds first surviving sextuplets.

Apparently this family had a contract with the National Enquirer which allowed them to exclusively take and publish photos of the kids. They were soon to have their fifth birthday and someone at the National Enquirer thought it would be a neat idea to photograph Mum, Dad and their six offspring on a bicycle made for eight.

What a strange coincidence I thought. Here was I just about to emigrate to the United States where very few people knew who I was, and here was someone from “The largest circulating newspaper” in the US calling me. I had visions of becoming a household name in the US overnight. The next thing I knew I was agreeing to build this strange octi-velocipede (or maybe octdem) at my own expense in exchange for them doing a story about how this special bike was built by a famous builder of racing bicycles.

I drew up sketches of the proposed machine; they sent me measurements of the two adults and their six children and I set to work. The design would be very simple as time was short and as I was paying for it labor and materials had to be minimal. I bought a pair of used moped wheels with balloon tires. They also had drum brakes built into the hubs which made the braking system very simple. All I needed was two brakes levers and cables to connect. The front rider would operate the front brake and the rear rider the rear brake. These would be the two adults; the kids would ride in the middle.

Rectangular 3in. x 2in. box section steel tube would form the lower part of the frame. Eight holes were drilled through sides of the bottom box section and plain bottom bracket shells were welded into place. Eight seat tubes of varying lengths came up at the appropriate angle above each bottom bracket. A fabricated heavy duty front fork and a conventional rear triangle and the frame was complete.

I used inexpensive steel cottered cranks and chainwheels; adult size front and rear and kiddie size with short cranks for the six children. Chain tension was taken care of with little adjustable jockey wheels at the bottom of each chain. This simple design as it turned out made for a very stable and easy to ride machine, because the weight of the steel box section tube together with all these heavy steel cranksets attached was well below the wheel center making for a very low center of gravity.

The National Enquirer commissioned a local photographer to take pictures of myself with the half finished eight seater. The bike was completed in December 1978 and a truck came to pick it up. The National Enquirer arranged and paid for it to be packed and shipped to South Africa. And that was the last I heard from them.

In January 1979 I arrived in New Jersey to begin work with Paris Sport. Sometime in the summer of that year a local bike rider came in with a copy of the National Enquirer. Inside was a photo of the special bike I had built with the family of eight actually riding it. Mother was up front steering and Dad was acting stoker at the rear and the sextuplets, I seem to remember three boys and three girls, pedaling merrily away in the center seats.

In the short caption under the picture there was no mention of the framebuilder, famous or otherwise. The only reason it had caught the attention of the bike rider who brought it in to show me was because I had the foresight to have ‘dave moulton’ painted in three inch letters on the down tube.

All my effort and expense had been in vain. I let the matter drop because I realized that very few serious bike riders read the National Enquirer anyway. But if anyone from the National Enquirer reads this blog; you owe me an article. I have the original drawing and a letter of intent from NE to prove it.

Perhaps they could dig out the original 1979 picture from their archives or even find the bike. The sextuplets will be in their thirties by now so how about a then and now picture. But I am not going to hold my breath and anyway I no longer build bikes. I am a writer now with a published novel, but I doubt many National Enquirer readers are into literature either.

Monday
Nov212005

A very nice 59cm. Fuso Lux just sold on eBay.





This Campagnolo equipped anniversary model (1987) went for $879; in my opinion a fair price. In monitoring eBay sales recently it seems the going rate for an FR1 model (Complete bike.) is around $500, and for a Lux model $800.

The extra 79 bucks paid for this one was well justified because it seems to be in near perfect condition and it is a 30th Anniversary model which makes it a little more special. The new owner can rest assured that there are many years of riding left in this bike and they may even show a profit should they decide to sell in a few years.

Incidentally another 57cm. Fuso, an FRX, failed to reach the reserve price when the sale ended and the highest bid was at $510. My advice, for what it is worth, is as follows:

If you are selling and you can live with the prices mentioned above. If you no longer ride the bike, look on it as passing the bike on to someone who will ride it and cherish it. If you put a reserve price about the price mentioned above, your bike may not sell. But put a reserve $200 or $300 less than that and the bike will probably go for the price you want. If you want more for the bike then don’t sell yet. Hang on to it.

If you are buying a lot depends on the size you are looking for. I built just under 3,000 Fuso frames between 1984 and 1993. Add to this about 200 John Howard frames, and about 150 Recherche frames. The most popular sizes and therefore the most built were 56, 57, 58, and 59. Sizes 53, 54, and 55 plus 60, 61, and 62 were the next most popular sizes. The sizes below 53cm. and above 62cm. there were even fewer built, but on the other hand there will be less people looking for these sizes.

If a bike comes up for sale in a popular size there are bound to be more than one person biding for it. But if you are not successful there will be others for sale probably quite soon. If you are on the look out for one of the least popular sizes, there may only be one or two bidding on it so you may get it for a bargain price. But if you really want that particular bike you might be prepared to bid a little higher because the chances of this particular size coming up for sale again soon is less likely.

I would like to stress that I have no financial interest in any bikes that sell anywhere. I do not own a single bike or frame that I built. But I am interested because I built them; I just don’t want to see anyone get screwed, be they buyer or seller.

Anyone buying or selling a frame I built can find more information on my website including frame number info and dates frames were built. You may also contact me if you have a specific question.

Monday
Nov142005

Not a highly sought after collectable. (Yet.)

“Not a highly sought after collectable.” Not my words but the opinion of several people talking about the Fuso on Classic Rendezvous open forum.

Actually I am fine with

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Nov122005

High Speed Shimmy.


You are out for a spin on your new lightweight road bike. On a steep descent you reach a speed of maybe 45 even 50mph when all of a sudden your front wheel begins to flutter back and forth and the whole bike shakes uncontrollably. You manage to bring the bike to a stop but you have just been scared out of your wits; you have experienced “shimmy.”

Shimmy is usually caused by not having enough trail. To explain trail for those who don’t know: If you draw a line through the center of your head tube and therefore the steering column, that straight line will reach the ground at a point (Point B.) ahead of the point where the wheel contacts the ground (Point A.)I always built my bikes with at least 2 ½ inches of trail. Trail is common to all wheeled vehicles, cars and even a shopping cart will have it. If you make the head angle steeper it means less trail because you move point B closer to point A. Also if you increase the fork rake (Fork offset.) you make for less trail; in this case point A moves closer to point B. The worst scenario is a bike with a steep head angle and a long fork rake; trail can be reduced to almost zero. Trail keeps the bike going in a straight line, and also assists a two wheeled vehicle in its self steering abilities. As you lean to the left, point B moves to the left and the wheel Pivoting on point A will turn to the left. The gyroscopic action of the spinning wheel also plays a big role in self steering, but this is another subject and I only mention it because the heavier the spinning wheel, the more it keeps straight. Road bikes with ultra light wheels and tires are more sensitive to small changes in the amount of trail.What happens in a high speed downhill shimmy the wheel is turned one way or the other by a bump in the road or a gust of wind. (Like when swinging out of a pace line.) The caster action of the trail corrects this, but if there is not enough trail it will over correct and then correct again starting the wheel fluttering back and forth. You can see exactly the same thing on a shopping cart if you run with it across the parking lot the caster wheels will flutter back and forth in the same way.Large frames are more prone to shimmy for two reasons. Large frames are taller and also should be proportionately longer, but there is a school of thought that believes a race bike should have a short wheelbase, so the builder makes the head angle steeper to shorten the wheelbase, but in doing so lessens the amount of trail. Large frames are more flexible because the tubes are longer, also they tend to have shallower seat angles to accommodate the rider’s longer legs therefore the riders weight is more over the rear wheel.Any vehicle that has its weight towards the rear is less stable; ask anyone who has driven an old VW bus in a cross wind. So if you are a tall person with a large bike frame, try to keep your weight forward when descending. Also keep your body in a low aerodynamic tuck; if you sit up wind pressure on you chest will push more weight towards the back wheel. Finally if you should get into a high speed shimmy; try not to panic, grip the top tube between your knees, and apply the rear brake first very gently and only apply the front brake after you have come out of the shimmy.

A bike with a shimmy problem usually has a design flaw in the frame and there is little you can do to correct it short of changing the frame. However do check that the head bearings are not loose. Also fitting a slightly heavier tire to the front wheel may increase the gyroscopic action of the spinning wheel enough to correct or lessen the problem. The design flaw will still be there but you have added and element to maybe alleviate the tendency to shimmy.

Addendum:
On August 18th, 2006 I wrote a second, more detailed article on the subject "Shimmy Re-visited."

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