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Dave Moulton

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Friday
Sep042015

The Story of a Thousand Crowns

A Fuso owner emailed me recently and asked, “Why does my frame not have the FUSO name on the top of the fork crown? Did someone switch out the front fork?”

The answer is no one switched the fork, not all Fuso frames have this feature, in fact out of somewhere over 2,400 Fuso frames built, just 1,000 have the name cast into the fork crown. Yes, it was in the mold during the casting process, not engraved, which would have been cost prohibitive.

In the late 1970s early 1980s bicycle frame lugs, bottom bracket shells, and fork crowns became available made by an engineering process called “Investment Casting,” A way of making precision castings that come out of a mold practically ready to use with a minimum of machining or further preparation needed.

Also known as, “Lost Wax Casting.” The method had actually been around for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until the ‘70s and ‘80s the technology became available to make the process economical and cost effective.

There is a video at the bottom of this piece that explains the process so I won’t go into it further here, but these cast frame lugs and other parts were a vast improvement over anything that had been available before. Although these cast parts were more expensive, there was a huge saving on labor and it enabled the framebuilder to build a far superior frame.

The first Fuso frames were built in 1984, I started the serial numbers at 001 and went on from there in sequence. The early frames had investment cast lugs and bottom bracket shell made by the Japanese Hitachi company. I used an Italian Cinelli fork crown. Later I used lugs and BB shells also made by Cinelli.

Sometime in 1985 a rep from the Cinelli Company told me that if I ordered a minimum of 1,000 fork crowns, I could have my own name or logo cast into the crown at no extra cost. So I went ahead and ordered 1,000 crowns with the FUSO name on either side of the crown top. (See top picture.)

When the crowns arrived and I started using them I was up to frame number five hundred and something, somewhere under #600. After that the next 1,000 frames had the FUSO fork crown, until frame number 1,500 and something.

When the crowns ran out, I can’t remember if the offer was no longer available, or it the price had gone up, but I never re-ordered and went back to the plain crown. So that is the story of the 1,000 Fuso crowns and the reason why all the frames don’t have it.

If you go to the Picture Gallery on my Bike Registry, and scroll down to the Fuso pictures, you will see Fuso #591 has the FUSO crown, and so does #1511, so presumably do the ones in between those numbers.

I would be interested to hear from Fuso owners with frames numbered just outside that numerical range with the FUSO crown. This will establish when the Fuso crown started and ended.

Update: After writing this, seaching through my archives I found this picture (Left.) of Fuso #439 with the named crown. So earlier than I initialy thought.

 

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Wednesday
Sep022015

My West Coast Tour: Update 1

 

This is how this three week tour came about. My Bike registry now has some 400 members who live on the West Coast.

For some time now I have felt that I would like to meet some of these owners of bikes I built.

I also realized the possibility some of these owners might like to meet me. So the idea was born.

I emailed the 400 members to see if there was an interest, and there was. Now to decide how long and when.

Every year I attend and take part in a private mini-music festival held the last weekend of September. The event takes place on St. Helina Island, South Carolina. We call it “Frogstock” because it is held at a place called Frogmore.

So that pretty much decided when. My wife Kathy has three weeks’ vacation, so that meant we could leave on the Tuesday 29th September, right after Frogstock.

It became apparent we couldn’t cover the entire west coast in three weeks, it either had to be from Washington to hallway down California. Or starting out in Oregon and going all the way through Southern California.

I chose the latter because there was far more response to my initial email from people in Southern California than from Washington. This was not surprising. My business was in SoCal, so that is where most of my frames were sold and where most of them still are to this day.

So our flight was booked to Portland, Oregon on the 29th September. From there I will rent a car and drive South to later fly out of Ontario, CA back home, on the 17thh October.

There was an almost immediate interest from a group known as the ‘Greater Eugene Area Riders,’ or G.E.A.Rs. for short. They a arranging a group meeting that will take place on the evening of Thursday October 1st. I will announce the venue and time when I have that information.

The word got out from G.E.A.Rs. and reached Maria Schur an event planner from  Portland. She contacted me and as a result I will be speaking at the Bike Commuter in Portland on the evening of the 29th September.

I will be at the US Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, CA on Sunday afternoon 4th of October. Empire Bikes in Chino Hills on Monday 12th October. 5 -7 pm.  

Obviously a lot of dates to be filled in, more to be announced later.

 

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Thursday
Aug272015

My West Coast Tour

On September 29th I will be flying to Portland, Oregon to begin a three week speaking Tour of the West Coast. From Portland I will drive south to Eugene, and then on to the San Francisco Bay Area.

My next stop will be San Luis Obispo in Central California, before traveling down to Los Angeles, and Laguna Beach in Orange County. I will also be in the Chino Hills area of the Inland Empire, and I am hoping to make it down to San Diego.  I fly back home to South Carolina on the 17th. October.

The purpose of my trip is to meet with people who own bikes that I built, obviously, but not exclusively. I will meet up with anyone who is interested. Bike enthusiasts in other words, and I need the meetings to be in a group setting in order to reach as many people as possible.

I do not have an exact itinerary at this moment, other than the trip will be from September 29th. to October 17th. Please contact me if you are interested in attending a meeting along the way, or even organizing a meeting. I will be posting updates here and on the “Dave Mouton Bikes” Facebook page.

The top picture is a tee shirt design, that can also be used as a poster.

A second tee shirt design will printed white on a dark colored shirt. (Picture left.)

A brown shirt is shown here, and at this time I am doing a test run in black, brown, navy, dark grey, forest green and burgundy.

A larger image is shown below. Let me know if you would like to reserve one, or would like one even if you are not on the West Coast, I can mail it to you.

My contact email is an easy one to remember, davesbikeblog[AT]gmail.com

 

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Thursday
Aug202015

It does my heart good

It does my heart good to see a frame I built thirty years ago still being ridden and enjoyed.  Ken Avchen who owns this bike said:

“I did consider building this one up with period correct components, but I thought this is the bike I want to ride, not just admire it, so I went with a modern group.”

So let’s look at exactly what we have here. This hand built lugged steel Fuso frame built in 1985 will give a ride quality and precise handling that is hard to replicate in a modern frame.

The modern Campagnolo components offer a far wider range of gearing than was ever imagined possible back when this frame was built. Add to this shifting between gears at your fingertips, and the far superior stopping power that modern brakes offer, and you truly have the best of both worlds.

Another important factor, Ken did not have to take out a second mortgage to pay for this. It is still a buyers’ market for vintage frames and ones like this can be had for $300 - $400 on eBay.

Sure some sellers ask a lot more, but I built over 2,400 Fuso frames between 1984 and 1993 and I recently counted only 277 on my Bike Registry.

This means there are a lot of my frames sitting in people’s garages and basements waiting to be found. I good supply for many years to come.

This particular frame is what I call the 1st. Generation Fuso. At the time it was simply a ‘Fuso.’

There was only one model. The two tone paint with the white decal panels does not date the frame.

It was unique, and never really in style, and for that reason it never went out of style. In my opinion it does not look out of place decked out with modern components.

At the time I wanted to do a paint job that was different. It wasn’t widely copied because it called for some pretty complex masking work that took time to execute. There were a little over 1,000 painted like this from 1984 to 1987.

Then as customers demanded more and more colors, and in order to cut costs, I simplified the decals, reduced the amount of masking, and offered the frame in one, two or three colors. (Picture below.)

The 1st. Generation Fuso also had the metal head badge, which was a nice touch. (See above left.)

This too was replaced with a decal on later models. When in business there comes a point where one has to either raise prices or cut costs. It is often wisest to cut costs, people don’t like to pay more.

Paint jobs were simplified to make them easier to apply, but the quality of the paint was never compromised. Neither were the materials used or the build quality. The charcoal grey and red 1st. Generation Fuso, like the one featured here, has always been my favorite.

Unless you are an absolute weight fanatic and you are looking for a nice riding bike that won’t bankrupt you, this might be the way to go. Let’s face it, unless you are going man to man on a mountain stage of the Tour de France the slight weight difference doesn’t really matter.

If you still want a new frame, you might consider one of the new Fuso frames built by my ex apprentice Russ Denny. Feast your eyes on this beauty below. He started to work for me in 1985, the same year the featured frame was built. So that is thirty years of framebuilding experience under his belt. Russ’s email is rdbikes[AT]yahoo.com

 

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Tuesday
Aug112015

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Since 1983 the English Department of the San Jose State University has sponsored the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

A whimsical literary competition that challenges entrants to compose the worst possible opening sentence to an imaginary novel.

Named after the Victorian English writer Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who penned a novel with the opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Later immortalized by Snoopy, the beloved Schultz “Peanuts” cartoon character.

Bulwer-Lytton is also credited with coining the now famous quotations, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” “The great unwashed,” and “The pursuit of the almighty dollar.”

During the more than thirty years the Bulwer-Lytton contest has been in existence it has grown in popularity to attract entries numbering in the thousands, from contestants worldwide.  Prestigious newspapers in the past have written articles about it, and requoted the winning entries.  

The number of entries per person is unrestricted making the total entries received far greater than the number of people. So I was thrilled when the two entries I submitted were recognized. I won First Prize in the “Children’s Literature” sub-section, with the following entry:

“The doctors all agreed the inside of Charlie’s intestinal tract looked like some dark, dank subway system in a decaying inner city, blackened polyps hanging from every corner like tiny ticking terrorist time bombs, waiting to burst forth in cancerous activity; however, to Timmy the Tapeworm this was home.”

Furthermore my second entry received a “Dishonorable Mention,” (Which is actually good.) in the Crime/Detective” sub-section:

“The janitor’s body lay just inside the door, a small puncture wound below his right ear made with a long thin screwdriver, the kind electricians use and can often be found in the bargain bin at the hardware store and come with a pair of cheap wire cutters that you never use because they won’t cut wire worth a damn and at best will only put a small indent in the wire so you can at least bend it back and forth until it breaks.”

These winning entries bring no monetary gain, but never-the-less it is a huge deal for me. It is recognition for my creative endeavors. Although it is extremely satisfying to have people admire my past work, namely bicycle frames I built, it is my “Past” work. I have moved on.

I was recently called out on my use of the term “ex framebuilder,” and it was suggested I should drop the “ex.” It is part of my title now, it has been the heading of this blog since its inception almost ten years ago. I haven’t built a frame since 1993.

When I walked from the bike business, I decided to direct my efforts in other creative directions, namely writing and songwriting. A difficult field to reach any level of recognition because there are way more writers and songwriters than framebuilders.

It is one thing to take metal and paint and create a functional object of great beauty, but to choose words and assemble them in the correct order, for me is the greatest form of creativity. It is truly creating something out of nothing. Songwriting takes this concept a step further, I am adding random musical notes to the equation.

So this is why this whimsical, nonsense, competition means so much to me. It is a level of recognition for what I do now. One cannot dwell on things they have done in the past, no matter how worthwhile. I like to think that my greatest creative achievements are yet to come.

 

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