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Monday
Nov212016

Life is all about Ass

I try not to take life too seriously, or to rephrase that, I try not to take my own life too seriously. I have been blessed during my time here to have had the ability to build a few good bicycle frames, and that brings me joy and satisfaction.

The fact that people tell me they get pleasure from owning and riding bikes I built many years ago, to me is the gift that keeps on giving. Also the thought that many of these bikes will still be here long after I am gone, brings further satisfaction.

But in the whole grand scheme of life in general, to take it all seriously would be foolish. I look back at my childhood and it all seems such a short time ago. It is all pretty insignificant. It seems that all creatures, (And we are no different.) are put here to survive and procreate. To ensure that life continues in other words.

Anything else we do is for our own joy and happiness, and if we can bring joy and pleasure to others along the way, it is the sugar that compensates for the bitterness in life. That we largely bring on ourselves, I might add.

When I left the bike business in 1993, I was extremely bitter. My previous marriage had ended at the same time, and I felt abandoned on two fronts. The bike dealers and their customers who had supported me for years were gone. They too were chasing a new love, namely the mountain bike. Depression hit hard.

I got a job, and I decided to do what I wanted to do. As a young man I had dreamed of writing songs and playing music. So I moved closer to Los Angeles, and hung out with the songwriting community there. Learned the craft of songwriting.

I lost all contact with the bike business or anything to do with bikes for that matter. It was ten years later in 2003 when I wrote a novel called “Prodigal Child,” and put up a website to promote it, bike enthusiasts re-contacted me.

Today life is good. I am part of a wonderful community of writers and songwriters in the Charleston South Carolina area. I was recently offered a chance to make a video with the Musical Fiction Alliance of America. (MUFIC) The video is at the top.

It is a little novelty song called “The Ass Song.” Things have gone full circle again and songs like this bring pleasure to others. It makes them laugh. Several local musicians are performing this song in music venues in my area.

Please share the video with your friends, It would be nice if the the cycling community could send it viral. Success today is measured in the number of clicks you get.

If you view the video on YouTube, check out Tim Styles the young man who interviews me. He is an extremely talented songwriter/musician and deserves a wider audience. These songs in particular:

Million Dollar Shoes

Old Outlaw

Meaning of Life  A more serious meaning than my song

 

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Thursday
Nov172016

Going above and beyond

Last week I got an eMail from an Officer James Duffy, who is with the Moreno Valley, CA Police Department. He had a Fuso bike he believed to be stolen, and was trying to find its rightful owner. The bike is pictured above.

He told the story of how a local citizen had spotted someone acting suspiciously. It was late Saturday night and this person was riding a bike, and pushing the Fuso alongside. This Good Samaritan decided to call it in to the police, and followed the suspicious person in his car.

When the suspect realized he was being followed, he dropped the bike in front of someone’s house and took off. The driver, still on the phone with the police, waited for an officer to arrive. Officer James Duffy then took possession of the bike, and went to the trouble of Googling my name as the builder of the bike to see if I had records of the owner.

He told me, and I quote: “I want to get this back in the hands of whomever it belongs to, because it's obviously in good condition, and probably quite loved.” I am impressed. Here is an officer going way above and beyond his duties as a Police Officer.

Unfortunately, the bike was not listed on my Registry. The Moreno Valley PD. have a Facebook page where they posted pictures of the bike. People I know who work in bike stores tell me that people who have their bike stolen, rarely report it to their local police. I can’t think why? In this case had the owner done so, he would have his bike back by now.

If you live in the Moreno Valley area, please help spread this information. This story needs to have a happy ending. 

 

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Friday
Nov112016

It’s all over bar the shouting

America, the Land of the Free. It is even in the National Anthem. But I am only as free as other people allow me to be.

I am free to ride my bike on a public highway, but it will only take one butt-hole who in his opinion thinks I shouldn’t be there, and if he feels strong enough he could run me down and kill me. And he could even get away with it if there were no witnesses, it would be labeled, “Just another accident.”

I have freedom of speech, I can say anything I wish, or can I? There used to be a saying that went:

“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend until the death, your right to say it.”

What happened to that sentiment?

For today if someone says something the goes against popular opinion, he or she will be ostracized in the social media. Not only do people disagree with someone’s opinion, they no longer defend their right to have that opinion. And on top of that they want that person punished for their opinions.

The only real freedom people have left is their own thoughts. And God help us if technology ever finds a way to read our thoughts. The other freedom is the vote, because like people’s thoughts no one really knows how they voted. Not friends or even close family. They can say nothing, or say the opposite of how they voted. No one really knows.

I don’t get to vote, I am not a US citizen, I am a legal Resident Alien. So I don’t express my political opinions. I feel if I can’t vote I do not have that right. I just observe. I was surprised as anyone else when I woke on Wednesday morning to find that Donald Trump was president. I believe even Donald Trump was surprised.

Because here was a man who it seemed was hated by everyone. Members of his own party distanced themselves from him. Major newspapers even the Republican ones wrote editorials saying, “Don’t vote for this man.” The rest of the media mocked and ridiculed Donald Trump.

So WTF happened? I tell you what happened. People exercised the only real freedom they have left, their thoughts and their vote. Now that may be a scary thought in and of itself to some people. But it is democracy in action, proof that we still have a democracy.

There is another old saying that goes:

“It’s all over bar the shouting”

 

There is much shouting going on right now, but it is over. Deal with it for at least the next four years. You don’t get to do it over because the result didn’t turn out as you expected. Exactly the same thing happened recently in Britain. There was a vote whether or not to leave the European Union. (EU)

It appears the majority of Brits, thought “That will never happen,” but those for “Brexit” got out and voted, and many of those against stayed home. Then when the result came in with a small majority for leaving the EU, everyone went, “Oh no, that’s not what we wanted.” Sorry, but it’s a done deal, people voted. Maybe something similar happened in America.

This is really not a time to take the “United” out of the United States of America. There are people in California want to secede from the Union, and become their own country. Really, you’re going to take your ball and leave, because you don’t like this game anymore.

Rioting and destroying stuff never achieved anything either. And if anyone stops to think about it, it is a good thing that it doesn’t. Racism and sexism can only be eradicated by peaceful means, by example and education. You can’t enforce it by rioting, and you can’t enforce it with political correctness. People just stop saying racist and sexist stuff. It doesn’t stop them thinking it.

 

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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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