I always took the minimalist approach to frame design and building. Less is more, and why do more than is necessary, especially if it doesn’t improve the end product. My bottom bracket gear cable guides were an example of this.
On my custom frames I filed two grooves with the corner of a square file, brazed a piece of wire across the groove, and then drilled a hole through. (See picture above.)
When I started production on the John Howard frames in 1983 and the Fuso a year later, I simplified the procedure. I filed two grooves with a small round file, took a short piece of automotive steel brake fluid line and brazed it in the groove, finishing it off by chamfering the edges with a hand held belt sander. Very simple and it did the job. (See below.)
There were always critics who questioned, “Isn’t it a bad idea to have the bare cable touching the paint.” To which I answered:
Unless the frame is chrome plated, cables have always and will always touch paint somewhere.
If I brazed a channel that covered the whole area where the cable went around the bottom bracket shell, it would then be painted and the cable would still run on the paint. It would take longer to produce, look ugly, and not really improve anything.
Throughout the 1970s gear cables were run through cable guides that were brazed to the top of the bottom bracket. These were of course painted along with the rest of the frame, and the cable ran on the paint, which is why I knew it would be okay. The cable runs in one position and the constant movement of the cable prevents it rusting. (See below, a 1972 Italian Masi.)
The cable guides on top of the bottom bracket collected dirt and made it harder to keep the bike clean in that area. By the 1980s framebuilders realized a neater and much simpler idea was to run the cables under the BB. It has been pretty much standard practice ever since.
So fast forward to today, or to be precise the end of last week.
Someone on Facebook questioned the cables running on the paint.
Why didn’t I do it this way? With a picture (Right.) of someone else’s frame.
As usually happens on the Internet others chime in with comments like, “Oh yea, that always concerned me too.”
Next I find myself writing lengthy explanations, getting really annoyed that I am having to justify something I did 30 years ago. Then I realized people send me pictures of the underside of the Bottom Bracket with the frame number stamped on it. I always save these pictures so I pulled up several from my archives.
Fuso frames numbering from 020 (Above.) to 693, old frames built from 1984 to 1986. All with original paint, some with the bare frame with the cables removed, showing surprising little wear at all. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it is true in this case. I have about 8,000 or 9,000 worth here.
So if this is something that has concerned you in the past, look at these pictures and realize you are worrying about a problem that doesn’t exist. The latter frames shown had BBs made by the Japanese Takahashi Company. These had the cable guides cast in the shell and I didn’t have to do a thing. The others were finished in the manner described earlier.
I am always willing to answer questions about my framebuilding practices, but please use a little respect and tact when doing so. When someone asks “Why did you not do it this way?” it is a direct insult, and implies I didn’t know what I was doing.
Footnote: The plastic cable guide (Left.) was not in general use in 1983 and 1984 when I began production of the John Howard and Fuso frames.
In 1985 I used it on the Recherche frames, it saved a lot of time and ended the controversy of cables running on paint.