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Monday
Nov072016

Cyclo-Cross

Cyclo-Cross racing has become a popular winter sport here in the US, to the extent that some think it is a relatively new sport. Not so, Cyclo-cross has been around in Europe since the 1930s and possibly before. In the 1940s after WWII there was a World Championship of Cyclo-Cross.

I rode some cyclo-cross as far back as 1956 but it was in the mid-1970s, at the height of my framebuilding career that I took the sport seriously. During the spring and summer months I was far too busy building frames to find the time to train and race on the road, but winter time, the work load slowed.

My daily bike commute to work, 29 miles each way, kept me fit the year round.

When I couldn’t ride due to bad weather, I would run at least two miles. Plus I rode a cyclo-cross race every weekend.

I lived in the West-Midlands area of England, close to Birmingham, a hot bed for cycle racing. There was a full calendar of races, within easy driving distance, every weekend from October through January.

There were a small group of professional cyclo-cross riders in the West Midlands area. Too small to have their own separate events, so they raced alongside the amateurs, but there were separate prizes. This made the racing more interesting and competitive.

Also in some of the bigger races, pros and amateurs from Belgium, France and Switzerland would enter. One could learn a lot from just riding with this caliber of rider. For example I learned to pick up my bike and carry it differently.

The most obvious way is to pick the bike up by the down tube, the carry it on your right shoulder, with your right arm under the down tube and hold on to the left side of the handlebars with your right hand.

But the first thing that happens is you grab a handful of mud that has collected under the down tube. This is then transferred to the handlebar tape and it becomes a slippery wet mess. The rest of the downtube mud gets rubbed off on the sleeve of your jersey.

I started doing as the European pros did and picked up my bike by the top tube which is cleaner. Then held on to the bike with my arm around the head tube, and my right hand on the left side of the handlebars. (See pictures.)

Also I found when jumping over a ditch or a wooden fence, the top of the left crank arm would always smack me in the lower back as I landed. Carrying the bike with my arm round the head tube kept the crank, chainwheel, and bottom bracket away from my back.

I also noticed that the top European riders were all the same build as me. Small but physically strong. Weighing about 150 lbs. you can skim over the mud, whereas guys 30 or 40 lbs. heaver got bogged down.

I noticed also, the top riders pushed some really high gears through the mud. A higher gear means more traction, and more speed the less time to sink in the mud. However, I was already in my forties and past my prime. This was one technique I could not emulate.

Our bikes were very simple. I built my own frame of course. A one inch bigger frame than I used on the road brought the handlebars up to just below saddle height.

A little more fork rake gave more toe clearance. This meant a little less trail, but when riding on soft ground, the mud gets pushed up ahead of the front wheel and has the effect of increasing the trail.

I used a single chainring 46 or 48 teeth, with a chainguard to prevent to chain coming off.

A five-speed freewheel with 14-16-19-22-25 teeth gave me all the gears I needed. Lower gears only caused the rear wheel to slip on a steep climb and I could run faster.

A single bar end shifter on the left with the cable routed along the top tube, leaving my right hand free to operate the rear brake.

Cantilever brakes, not for the stopping power but because the collected less mud.

I used knobley tubular tires and as I never had the luxury of a pump with a pressure gauge, I cannot tell you what pressure I used. It was whatever felt right under my thumb.

I always reckoned, one hour of cyclo-cross was the equivalent of 80 miles on the road. At least that is what my legs told me after every race.

When I came across these old pictures the other day, it reminded me of the great times I had. I rode in the colors of the Worcester St. John's Cycling Club. One of the oldest cycling clubs in England dating back to the late 1800s soon after the bicycle was invented.

I didn’t win too many awards but had a whole lot of fun, and met some great people. After several years I got pretty good and beat many guys younger and stronger than me, purely on technique.

This was forty years ago, so some of the stuff I have told you here is probably outdated. Also a cross race in certain areas of the US where they have a dryer climate there will not be the mud, and to me mud is what makes a cyclo-cross race what it is.

 

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Monday
Oct312016

Let’s opt out of the culture of speed

All over the United States and indeed the world, people are riding bicycles. Forget about saving the planet, that is not the reason, it is a satisfying and civilized way to travel. Faster and more efficient than walking, and for not much more energy input. Compared to driving a person is burning calories rather than gasoline.

Many more people would ride bicycles but they are afraid of being hit by cars. There are still those who will try to intimidate and bully anyone in their way. The whole “Share the Road” concept is flawed in that it implies that the roads are for cars and cyclists are asking drivers to share space with them.

This is not the case, public roads are just that, “Public.” They are there for people to travel from their home to where ever they need to be. A person has the right to travel, it is not according to that persons’ mode of transport.

There is no pleasure in driving anymore, it is the myth and a lie being sold to the public by the auto-makers.

Look at any car ad on TV and what do you see? The obligatory slow motion shot of a car sliding sideways in a controlled skid, cars driving at break neck speed on deserted city streets.

Ads for alcohol show people having a good time, they don’t show people getting shit-faced. Car ads should show people driving responsibly too. It is false advertising, and it perpetuates the myth that it is okay to drive like the public streets and highways are your own personal race track.

This is not reality on today’s congested roadways, not only is driving fast impractical, it is downright dangerous. And what useful purpose does it serve? There is a legitimate argument for being allowed to maintain high speeds for long journeys on freeways that traverse miles of open countryside.

However, when freeways approach cities and become congested, there is a definite need to slow to the same speed as everyone else. It is the driver trying to maintain his high rate of speed under these conditions that not only cause accidents, but cause people to brake and in turn leads to the stop and go traffic conditions that are all too familiar.

The best thing a person can do is to realize that getting from A to B is a necessity, so if you can’t make it a pleasure then at least make it stress free. Opt out of the culture of speed, slow down and relax.

Speed limits need to be lowered to 20mph in crowded city centers where there are many pedestrians and cyclists. Would such a speed limit have a great impact on peoples’ over all drive time?

In most cases drivers simply accelerate to race from one red traffic light to the next. On long stretches of highway, traffic lights can be timed so someone driving the speed limit can have green lights all the way through a town.

The faster cars go the more space is needed between each car. Therefore, people moving slower but continuously in a procession can travel closer to each other.

This means when traffic is moving slower on any given stretch of highway, it is carrying a larger volume of vehicles. Is the overall flow of vehicles per hour that much less? Bottom line is, people still get to where they need to be. Stop and go, or a steady, continuous slower stream of traffic. which is better? I know which is safer and less stressful.

Driving fast only gives the illusion of getting there faster. How often do we see someone race past us, then a couple of miles down the road they are only one car ahead. Driving fast is nothing more than a habit, and like all habits can be broken with a little effort. And is a habit ever missed once it is broken?

The world is becoming more and more crowded, populations are exploding everywhere including the US. Every person who rides a bicycle is taking one more car off the road, making more room for those who choose to drive. We think traffic is bad now, what will it be like in ten years? Something has to change.

Wouldn’t life be a little more pleasant if everyone slowed down a notch? So what if it took you five or ten minutes longer to get to work, at the end of each day would that make a huge difference? Of course wishing for this is wishing for Utopia, but who would argue that it would be better if less people had to die on our roads.

Building more highways is not the answer, it only encourages people to drive faster, and there will always be a point where there is congestion, and people get angry and impatient when they have to slow down.

Only when the majority of people view driving fast as anti-social behavior, will this culture of speed end. It was only when public opinion turned against drunk driving, did the police start enforcing laws that were already in place.

It will be the same with speed limits. As it stands now, no one drives the limit, but pushes it to a point where they can expect to get away with it.

Speed kills, pure and simple. Less time to react, more road space needed to stop, greater impact when you hit something. And the crazy thing is, it doesn’t always get you from A to B any faster.

 

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Monday
Oct242016

It’ll be a Sad, Sad Day

The Interbike Show held in Las Vegas is the biggest annual bicycle trade show in America. It has always been the “Must Go To” show for anyone in the bicycle business. Whether you were a manufacturer or importer selling a product, or a retail bike store owner looking to buy product. Not any more, apparently.

According to this report I read recently, it appears this year people stayed away in droves. Both exhibitors and people attending. The article even goes so far as to ask whether the Interbike Show will be able to continue.

I attended this show for many years. It was how I got my product out there and presented my frames to bicycle dealers. There were many times I could barely afford the expense, there was the cost of the booth, the expense of traveling there, and hotels of course.

But attending this show year after year, put me on the map. It raised me above the status of a framebuilder building one off custom frames for local individuals, to that of a reliable business person with a high quality product that retailers could sell at a profit.

I was competing on level terms with the many import frames. (Mostly Italian.) Even though these companies had a far larger output than me, and therefore a much larger budget to attend these shows. Over the years I built a network of dealers all across America, and they provided me with a steady stream of orders for a number of years.

Apparently, this year’s Interbike Show, some simply could not afford to attend. I am sure many who did exhibit sold less and were left wondering, “Was it all worth it.” Bike dealers, with revenues down this year, could either not afford to attend, or could not justify the expense. Let’s face it, if someone has a new product, one can reach bike dealers on the Internet. Going to a super expensive Trade Show is a luxury not everyone can afford.

The article went on the say that there has been a steady decline in cycling participation for the last fifteen years. I find that hard to believe. In hard economic times there is usually an upswing in bicycle use.

“I don’t believe there are fewer cyclists, just fewer cyclists buying new stuff. They make do with what they have.”

That trend applies to everything, not just bicycles. We are currently living in an atmosphere of extreme political uncertainty. People are not spending money. Or rather they spend it on what they need, not necessarily on what they want. People don’t have discretionary income any more. When people have cash to spare, they buy stuff on impulse.

There is hardly a week goes by when a bike that I built in the 1980s or early 1990s comes up for sale on eBay. Many of these bikes are in excellent, even mint condition. The paint often looks like it just came out of my shop. These bikes have never been ridden.

I have come to realize that I was kept in business for many years, not just by people who rode bikes, but rather by people who bought my bikes on impulse. They saw one in the bicycle store, all sparkling and shiny, and they just had to have it. But then they rode it and their arse hurt, their back hurt, and they never had the discipline to reach a level of fitness where cycling becomes a real pleasure.

Many bikes I built were ridden. Many are owned by the original owners who still ride them, but over the years many were also bought and never used or used very little. These bikes bought on impulse helped not only to keep me in business, but bicycle dealers too. We could not have survived without them.

But that was a different time, prosperous times when people had money to spare. Do you remember the term “Trickle Down Economics,” from that era? What we are experiencing now, is the same principle but in reverse. People have just enough money to get by. (Some have barely enough.) They don’t go out and buy stuff on impulse any more. 

All retail stores, including bike stores are hurting, owners cannot afford to go to bike shows like the Interbike. Manufacturers, because they are selling less can’t afford to go either. It is an old cliché that things have to get worse before they get better. But I wonder, how much worse, have we hit rock bottom yet?

I believe the Interbike Show will survive. They may have to scale down, or go to regional shows. Long standing established events like the Interbike Show just cannot be allowed to disappear, it will be a sad, sad day if it does.

I’m so glad I am no longer in the bike business.

 

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Monday
Oct172016

West Coast Tour 2015

It was exactly a year ago today, October 17th. 2015, I finished my West Coast Tour. How time flies, so hard to believe it’s a year ago already. My wife Kathy and I had flown into Portland, Oregon almost three weeks earlier, the drove down the West Coast.

We made stops in Eugene, OR, Benicia, and San Jose in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then on to San Luis Obispo, and Chino Hills and Laguna Beach in the LA, Orange County area. We stayed at homes of DM Bike enthusiasts, and I spoke to groups of people at various venues on the way.

It was a wonderful series of events, and we met some incredible people, it was one of those special experiences that stay with me forever.

I have a number of West Coast Tour tee shirts left over and to mark the occasion I will give one of these away FREE when you buy one other shirt or sweatshirt. I have only a limited number in XL and XXL sizes, but plenty of the other sizes S, M, and L.

If you already have one, you can always use another, especially if it’s free. You might like one to frame and keep as a souvenir. In fact if you want it for this purpose, ask for a Small size as they fit in a frame easier. The shirts are all top quality and screen printed, not digitally printed or heat transfer printed as many shirts are today. The print will outlast the shirt.

Above is the West Coast Tour shirt. Bright white 100% cotton. Screen Printed in five colors that really pop. Features the Fuso logo and those of the other dave moulton brands. Normally $15.00, Free when you buy at least one other shirt from below. Don’t order the WCT shirt or you will be charged for it, but rather put “FREE WCT Shirt” along with the size you would like, in the space for a note on the Check-out page.

DM Braze Tee Shirt. Reduced to $15.00 and it will qualify you for a FREE West Coast Tour Shirt. It comes in the colors shown below, although I don't have every size in every color. The order page on my onlne store will indecate what is available.

(Below.) My New "Classic" design. $20.00 Qualifies for a fee WCT shirt. Comes in Black, Navy and Red. A great gift for any Vintage Bike Enthusiast. 

Below is my "Retirement" design, $20.00 add a FREE WCT shirt. Comes in black.

A really superb quality Black Fleecy Lined Hoodie with a tie neck. $40.00 Qualifies for a FREE WCT shirt and FREE Shipping.

Has a large design on the back featuring the FUSO, John Howard, Recherche, all the dave moulton brands.

A smaller shield design is featured on the front left side. 

 

Hoodie back design is shown above. The front design is shown left.

Orders over $40.00 qualify for FREE Shipping.

Start your Christmas shopping early, Remember I have Books too. 

Go here to view all the products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday
Oct102016

After the Storm

Most of you will know that Hurricane Matthew traveled up the east coast effecting Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. I live 25 miles inland from Charleston, SC. so the storm had less impact here.

We did have some flooding locally but not where I live. That was to be expected, the storm dumped 15 inches of rain in a few short hours. All that water can’t drain away quick enough. There were power outages as trees and tree limbs fell and brought down powerlines.

But it was not as bad as the media made it out to be. I wish they wouldn’t do that. If one believed what the TV News and the Weather Channel told us, we would all be engulfed in a huge tidal wave that would wash us from our beds, and send us to a watery grave.

Instead I looked out on my window around noon on Saturday, at the height of the storm, and thought, “I’ve ridden bike races in England in worse weather than this.” It was raining heavily and winds were at 50 mph.

Don’t get me wrong, this storm was a Category 3 Hurricane when it hit Florida, so damage there was much worse, and I am not trying to make light of that. But I know, as do all people who live on the east coast, that once these storms hit land they slow down.

As Matthew traveled up the coast line it was gradually downgraded to a Cat. 2 then Category 1. However, the media kept up its barrage of doom and destruction. As Matthew passed by Charleston, it was almost a Tropical Storm which is not even a Hurricane.

I am a positive, “Glass half full” type of person. I hate negativity. When these natural disasters happen, the media, especially TV whips up everyone into a frenzy of fear and negativity. People are already afraid, they need calming words and reassurance that they will be okay.

Of course it is the almighty dollar at work again. Fear ensures viewers will stay glued to the TV, and the advertising revenue will stream in. But I get annoyed because I can’t get accurate information. I look at the actual weather forecast which says 50 to 60 mph winds, but the TV is telling me I am about to get blown off the face of the earth.

So what was this bike race I mentioned earlier? It was in 1970. I rode a 25 mile Time-Trial on the East Coast of England. I had driven over 200 miles and stayed overnight to compete in this event. I didn’t sleep much the night before as there was a storm raging outside. On the morning of the event, it was raining heavily, with 60 mph winds, gusting to 80 mph.

There was no way I was not going to ride after all the preparation, and expense of getting there. British bike races rarely get rained out. The course was a straight out 12 and a half miles, and back. Out into the headwind it took me 45 minutes to get to the turn. Wind gusts almost brought me to a standstill. I turned at the halfway point, and came back in 20 minutes with the wind behind me, for a finishing time of 1 hr. 5 mins.

My biggest gear was 53 x 13. Had I had 53 x 11 like today I may have gone faster. I finished extremely cold and wet. I have ridden other races and many training rides in similar conditions, but remember this particular event well. It is the reason I still use it to measure storm intensity.

 

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