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Tuesday
Apr112017

The One Thousandth Fuso

 

I never know from week to week what will pop up in my email inbox. Just this last week I heard from a Fuso owner living in British Columbia, Canada, he owns Fuso number 1000. He had bought it in 2008 from a friend who was the original owner.

It wasn’t until he sent pictures that the memory bank in my mind started to tick over, and I began to remember this one. It was a very special bike that was given some custom touches, like and all chrome front fork and rear triangle.

Built towards the end of 1986, that’s over 30 years ago and a long way to cast my memory back.

The first Fuso was built in 1984, I’m not sure what month, but a few months into the year.

The first frames were numbered 001, 002, 003, and so on. So up until frame number 999, it was always a three digit number.

So switching to a four digit number was an occasion. It also showed how successful the Fuso initially was as I had built a thousand of them in a little over two years.

In September every year I attended the Interbike Trade Show. I believe at that point it was still held in California. First in Long Beach, then Anaheim, before moving permanently to Las Vegas, Nevada in later years.

This 56 cm. bike was my center show piece for that year's Interbike, which is why I went all out with the special touches. It was essentially a Fuso LUX model, but on the rear end of the top tube where the “Fuso LUX” decal usually went, I put my signature, which was normally reserved for my custom frames only.

And on the front right side of the top tube it said, “1,000th Fuso.”

After the show the bike was sold to Los Angeles bike dealer, I. Martin Imports.

A few months later it was bought by the original owner, Brett Bandy, who later moved to British Columbia.

The current owner James Nicholls, still rides the bike. Here is a picture of James (Above left.) on this very same bike riding in the Vernon, BC Gran Fondo.

Thanks for the memory James.

 

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Tuesday
Apr042017

Horse Play

In the late 1950s I was taking part in a road race in Buckinghamshire, England, just North West of London. The race was held under the auspices of the British League of Racing Cyclists. (BLRC)

About an hour into the race, the riders were still in a single group, or “Bunch,” as we referred to it. The maximum number of riders allowed in a BLRC event was 40, so it was a Bunch rather than a Peloton.

We rounded a bend on a country road and passed two people riding horses, the bike riders startled the horses, and one of them threw its rider and bolted. The rider-less horse ran onto the road, right into the middle of the bunch.

By some miracle no one fell, but the bunch split. There were about a dozen riders in front of the horse, and they sprinted away. It was initially a move to get away from the horse, rather than to take advantage of the situation, although racing cyclists are not above seizing on such opportunities.

I found myself immediately behind the horse, and I can tell you it was a pretty scary situation seeing those large steel hooves that appeared to be directly in front of my face with each stride. I slowed as best I could, but was aware of the rest of the riders immediately behind me.

I was also aware that the horse could fall in front of me which would not be good. Steel hooves on asphalt do not make for the best of traction, plus the horse’s reins were trailing between its front legs, the animal could easily trip. As a kid, I had witnessed a runaway horse slip and fall on the road, it was not a pretty sight.

I needed to get around the horse. The road was clear so I went as wide as this somewhat narrow country road would allow, and out of the saddle, sprinted as hard as I could. As I went past the horse, I startled it again and it veered off the road and onto the grass verge.

I was now ahead of the horse and still sprinting as hard as I could. However, the horse now running on grass started to go faster. I could hear the quickening hoof beats immediately behind me. The faster the horse went, the faster I went.

I looked up and saw I was catching the dozen or so riders who were up ahead. Now I had a double incentive, and the chase was on to catch the lead riders. At the same time I was being chased by a large brown horse, and the last thing I wanted was to have him in front of me again.

As I caught the lead group, it included one of my team mates. “I see you got up then.” He said as I pulled alongside.

Another rider turned and quipped, “Did you have to bring the bloody horse with you?”

Just as I had done, the pace quickened to stay ahead of the horse, only now there were a group of riders working together. Gradually the hoof beats faded. I'm not sure whether the horse slowed, or we just dropped him. Or maybe he found some open fields to run in.

The lead group kept up the same pace that the horse had initiated. This proved to be too fast for most, and we dwindled down to three riders by the finish. I got second place that day. If I still had the horse to lead out in the final gallop, I might have won.

 

Originally posted in July 2009. 

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Tuesday
Mar282017

Enforcement or Education

I clearly remember coming to the US in 1979 and within a week or so I was invited on a bike ride.

It was early one Sunday morning, as bike rides tend to be. There was not much traffic, and we had only ridden a couple of blocks when we came to a red traffic light. I stopped and everyone else kept going.

The reason I stopped, it was what I had done all my life. At a very young age I was taught the rules of the road in school. Especially the ones that applied to pedestrians and cyclists.

This was my rude introduction to cycling American style. Soon after I witnessed people riding bikes on sidewalks, on the wrong side of the road, red lights and stop signs were completely ignored. I was surprised, even shocked, because in England at that time I had never witnessed anyone else riding in this fashion, neither bike enthusiasts or the general public. (I understand it is different now.)

As I see it, when people get on a bicycle, they don’t see themselves as the driver of a vehicle, but rather they are simply a Pedestrian on a Bike. (POB) And just as pedestrians walk where ever they please, they ride a bike in the same manner.

The reason I come to this conclusion is because whenever I see someone riding with complete disregard for any rules of the road, I think, ‘These people probably own a car, or at least have driven a car at some point, and they would never drive a car in this fashion.’  They must believe that the rules of the road don’t apply to bicycles.

I still stop at red lights, stop signs too if there is someone waiting ahead of me. I never ride on the sidewalk or the wrong side of the road. Why? Not because I am a perfect law abiding citizen, but it is what I was taught as a child.

The reason the majority of people don’t kill each other, or steal each other’s property, is not because we fear law enforcement or prison, it is because our parents and teachers taught us moral standards. In other words, education.

On the other hand, give a child a bicycle and send him out with no guidance what so ever, and he will ride that bike where ever and in any way he pleases. He gets away with it as a kid, because he is just a kid, and no car driver wants to hit a child. But what he learns as a child he carries into adulthood.

He learns about momentum, and how stopping and starting again requires effort. I witness so many cyclists on arriving at a road junction will not stop. If there is no gap in traffic they will turn towards traffic, or turn onto the sidewalk if that is the direction they need to go. I have seen people on bikes ride in a circle at an intersection, rather than come to a complete stop and wait.

In large cities like Chicago there are now so many cyclists that it is becoming a problem. I quote from one article, “There are getting to be so many cyclists, and so many are being killed or injured, something has to be done.”

Law enforcement in Chicago has stepped up the issuing of tickets for cycling violations, and now there are cries of unfairness, because more tickets are being written in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Does anyone consider that low income African Americans and Latinos, are being forced to ride bikes for economic reasons?

Law enforcement is not the answer anyway, any more than incarceration is the only answer to the crime problem. Education is key. Start teaching cycling proficiency in schools, and when issuing tickets to offending cyclists, give them the option of a hefty fine, or attend cycling classes over several weekends.

That would be both a deterrent and more useful. Motorists "Dooring" cyclists and other infractions involing cyclists, should attend the same weekend courses on road safety as the cyclists.

Also in large cities speed limits should be lowered to 20 mph. and enforce that. It is not that cars and bicycles don’t mix, it is the difference in speed that is the issue. Cyclists, even one’s riding badly are not the main problem, it is simply one of too many people in too small a space. We can’t all have the luxury of driving cars at high speed.

 

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Wednesday
Mar152017

Some I remember

I don’t remember every individual frame I built, there were too many of them, but those I do remember it is usually some little detail about the frame or the particular customer that will trigger a memory. And when someone sends me pictures years later, often after the frame or bike has changed hands, I will say to myself, “Oh yes, I remember this one.”

The one pictured above for example was built for the manager of Two Wheel Transit Authority, a large bike store in Huntington Beach, California, that sold a lot of bikes for me through most of the 1980s. I remember the customer visiting my shop in San Marcos in 1985 as clearly as if it were a few weeks ago.

It was unusual to see a customer in person as most of my orders came through bike dealers,

However, this particular customer was representing one of my biggest dealers, so it was an exception.

The frame ordered was a custom ‘dave moulton’ built in Reynolds 753,

Another reason I remember this particular frame, when I asked the customer what color paint? He answered “Surprise me.”

This is a freedom I rarely experienced. On all my custom frames the paint was always “Understated.” I felt that gaudy or flashy paint schemes would take away from the fine detail in the metalwork of the frame.

This one I simply mixed black and white to come up with a rather plain looking grey. But after applying black decals, I added a blue pearl to the final clear coat overall, giving the whole frame a blue sheen, especially in bright sunlight, and the decals appear as a dark midnight blue.

The pearl additive comes in the form of a paste in a small jar. A tiny amount on the end of a mixing stick, stirred into the clear Imron, and the overall finish takes on the color of the additive. Blue, green, red, silver, gold, many variants are available.

Pictures of this second frame I remember, came to me recently. It is a Fuso LUX model built in Reynolds 653. One of a kind I believe, with many of the features that were usually reserved for my custom frames. But that is not why I remember this one.

It was a persnickety SOB of a customer who insisted I measure this frame from center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top tube. And stamp the bottom bracket to reflect this.

As most know I always measured my frames center to top, the standard English way.

Why did do that? It was all I knew, I had always measured frames that way.

I was not exposed to Italian frames (Measured Center to Center.) until I came to the US.

Also it was not something I discovered the moment I stepped of the plane at Kennedy Airport.

By the time I realized that most in the US measured center to center, it was too late. I had a ton of frames out there already measured and stamped center to top, and it would have been chaos to change at the height of production in the mid-1980s. I had to remain consistent.

This frame was a 54cm. by my usual standard, but I had to stamp it 52.5 C.

I added the letter “C” to alert any future owner this was not measured the same as every other frame I built.

This bike is now a show piece in a bike store in El Paso, Texas. The Bicycle Company, drop by and take a look if you are in that area.

So there you have it. Two frames I remember, but for two completely different reasons.

The one because I knew the customer and was given the freedom to create paint of my own choosing. The other because my freedom was taken from me. A piddling little detail that should not annoy me, but it does.

This second frame was built in 1990 when business was dropping off, and I allowed myself to be manipulated for monetary gain. Something I regret, and know it is the reason it still annoys me.

 

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Monday
Mar062017

Moving Target

Paul Theroux wrote a series of essays in a book titled “Fresh Air Fiend.” One of the stories is called “The Moving Target,”

It starts out by talking about a traveler named Nathaniel Bishop, who in 1877 rowed a small boat from upper New York State to New Orleans. A distance of 2,600 miles.

On arrival in New Orleans, as the exhausted Nathaniel Bishop tied up his boat, a group of young drunks approached, mocked him, swore at him, and threatened him with violence. Theroux commented:

“This, I have come to think, is a very American reaction, rewarding eccentric effort with scorn and violence.”

Theroux then goes on to write about a man named A F Tschiffely who in the 1920s rode a horse 10,000 miles from Buenos Aires to New York City.

His two and a half year journey took him over the Andes, through Central America, across deserts, swamps, and jungles. However, his worst part of the journey was traveling through the United States.

Cars would deliberately swerve close to scare him and his horse. He had bottles thrown at him, and shouts of “Ride ‘em Cowboy.” In the Blue Ridge Mountains a driver sideswiped him injuring his horse’s leg. Then honked and waved in triumph as he drove away.

After two more serious incidents, Tschiffely had to abandon his ride in Washington, DC and finish the final leg to New York by train. Theroux goes on to write about intolerance towards cyclists and runners, or anyone engaged in any form of exercise in public.

After reading these accounts of how things used to be, I am reminded of a line from the 1969 movie “Easy Rider.”

“Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it.”

Isn’t that the truth? Haters are “Equal Opportunity” bigots. It is not just about race, and it probably never was. It is simply prejudice toward anyone appearing different, or doing something different, or behaving differently than the perceived norm.

 

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