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Sunday
Jun192016

 Fathers

Today being Fathers’ Day gave me occasion to think not only about my own father, but fathers in general.

As I see it fathers come in four categories. Good, bad, and indifferent, or missing completely.

Those missing complexly may either have left at some point, and whereabouts either known or unknown.

Or just plain not knowing who the father is.

I once knew someone who was conceived during a drunken one night stand. His mother not only didn’t know who the father was, she didn’t even have a name to trace him. All she could remember was that he was one of the most handsome men she had ever met.

This particular young man was absolutely obsessed with the fact that he didn’t know who his father was. Obsessed to the point that he allowed it to ruin his life. He blamed his mother, which spoiled that relationship. His mother could have just as easily aborted the pregnancy, or put him up for adoption, but instead raised him as a single parent. She was a loving mother as far as I could tell.

One day after growing tired of listening to him complain about his missing father, I told him to concentrate on what he did know instead of constantly complaining about what he didn’t know. He had good features and a fine physique, no doubt inherited from his father, whoever he was. He had a good brain in his head, and was well educated.

I told him about my own father who was not a particularly good one. He had abused my mother and me, physically, verbally, mentally, leaving scars that took years to heal. Until one day I realized we none of us get to choose our parents, we all have to make do with what we are given.

My father was one of the first to be drafted when WWII broke out in September 1939. I was only three and a half years old so don’t remember him before he left. He fought in the North Africa Campaign for almost five years, then came home briefly in 1944 when I was nine years old.

He then went over to France in the follow up to D-Day and was gone another year. He came through all this unscathed, physically that is, I am sure it affected him mentally. I often wonder, what if he had been killed.

All I would have is pictures like the one above, taken 1940 somewhere in the Sahara Desert. My mother would have no doubt told me wonderful stories about him. I often wonder would I have then spent the rest of my life trying to live up to this image of my father. Not a real image but a perceived one.

Would I be any less screwed up or emotionally scarred in later life? We all have fathers whether they are known to us or not. If we have a good one then we should consider ourselves lucky. Because the odds are greater that we have one who is bad, indifferent, or just plain unknown or missing.

We are all a product of where we came from and what we did along the way. No matter how hard I try my past will never get any better. So what would be the use of continuing to blame my father for problems I have now? This was the point I tried to make to the young man who didn’t know his father.

My father died in 1996, I wrote this some years later:

When I finally forgave you I had to reach beyond the grave, I didn’t choose the hand you dealt, but chose the game I played.

I stepped into a time and place where I’d stop blaming you, and take responsibility for everything I do.

I wouldn’t trade what I have now to change one yesterday, that goes for you, you were my dad, that’s all there is to say.

I swore I’d never cry for you when I was just a kid, but the day I heard you’d passed on, cryin’ was the first thing that I did.

 

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Wednesday
Jun152016

Looking back at the Classic Rendezvous Weekend

I got back late on Monday from the Classic Rendezvous weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina. I met so many old friends, and saw a lot of new faces. Many introduced themselves as readers of this blog. I didn’t take notes of names to go with all the faces, which would have been a chore.

One name and face I didn’t need to note was that of Dale Brown, (Left in above picture.) owner of Cycles d’Oro Bike store, who organized the whole show. Dale was one of my early bike dealers when I first opened my own California frameshop in 1983. We have remained friends ever since.

Picture right: With Bill Russell from Atlanta, Georgia. With Bill's #002 Fuso.

Organizing shows like the Classic Rendezvous is a huge amount of work, all done as a break even proposition.

Break even money-wise that is, if you are lucky. The many hours of work entailed I’m pretty sure is unpaid for.

We are none of us getting any younger and Dale expressed this would be the last he would be organizing.

Hopefully, some other vintage bike enthusiast will step up and fill the void.

These types of events are a joy to attend, a whole lot of fun, and cement together a community of like-minded bike enthusiasts.

However, they are an expense for the organizers and those attending. Travel expenses, hotels, and the cost of shipping bikes adds up.

I was privileged to be invited as a guest speaker on Saturday afternoon. I spoke more about my past experiences than bike tech stuff. In between talking I played and sang a few of my original songs.

It is what I do now, but this was the first time I have done this in front of a group of bike enthusiasts. (Picture left.)

I did not know what to expect, or how it would go over. I believe there were 80 or 100 people in the room.

The sound system was not the best for a musical performance, but they were a gracious audience.

Many expressed after that they enjoyed it, and I greatly appreciated that.

Once again I came away with the feeling that I am indeed a lucky man. Lucky to have had the opportunity to have actually built frames in the 1970s and 1980s, the vintage era. And now that I have been out of the business longer than I was in it, I find it satisfying that people still remember me and my past work.

Many show attendees bought copies of my book and tee shirts, which more than offset my expenses for the weekend. Plus my wife Kathy and I had a great time, a mini-vacation.

So many approached me at the show, saying they were long time readers of this blog. Some named specific articles that had particularly touched them. That means a lot to me as a writer. I sincerely thank you all.

 

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Monday
Jun062016

Classic Rendezvous Weekend

I am looking forward to next weekend June 10 – 12, I will be at the Classic Rendezvous Vintage Bike Show, in Greensboro, North Carolina. As usual it will be an opportunity to meet with old friends and hopefully make new ones.

I am fortunate to be one of the guest speakers. (Sat 11th. 4 pm.) I say fortunate because I am just that, a very lucky man. Blessed, not only to have the ability to build a few good bicycle frames over the years, but to have been around in a time when it was possible to make a good living doing it. Of course I speak of the 1980s.

It is a safe bet to say that the majority of bikes at the Classic Rendezvous Show will be from the 1980s, there will also be earlier ones of course, but the 1980s really marked the end of hand brazed, lugged steel. And possibly marked the end of an era when bicycles will become collectables in the future. In much the same way than modern cars will not be collected either.

I will do my best to make my presentation both entertaining and informative. One of the topics I plan to touch on is positioning. I plan to talk about it in a way that I have not written about here, for the simple reason it needs to be demonstrated rather than written about.

There was a nice article by Matthew Butterman in the Handbuilt Bicycle News. Matt pulled a picture from my archives and it happened to be from 2009 when I was at my heaviest (See below.) So I took a current picture to illustrate this article, otherwise you may not recognise me, or think I am wasting away or something. (See skinny Dave. top. 150 lbs.)

I hope to see some of you at the event. If you are attending please introduce yourself. 

Above Fat Dave February 2009, 178 lbs. 


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Monday
May302016

The Newspaper Boy

What did Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Wayne, and Martin Luther King all have in common?

They were all former paper boys.

Long before the newspaper industry went into decline, the newspaper delivery boy disappeared, and that is a shame.

Not only from a nostalgic perspective, but a newspaper route gave a kid a certain amount of independence, and above all it taught the importance of taking responsibility.

Once a youngster had taken on the job, a commitment had been made and there were a great many individuals relying on this young bicycle courier for their daily paper.

There were many reasons the newspaper boy disappeared. Fear by parents for the youngster’s safety, changing child labor laws, school classes starting earlier, etc., etc.

There was hardly a Hollywood movie made up until the 1970s, set in suburban America, that didn’t include a scene where a newspaper boy is riding his bike, and throwing newspapers somewhere in the approximation of the front porch.

Strange thing is, I occasionally see a newspaper boy depicted in a TV commercial, are there still any out there, has anyone seen a real one lately?

It occurred to me that a lot of readers that visit here are ex-newspaper boys or girls, and maybe for some that’s how interest in cycling began.

I thought it would be interesting to hear some of your experiences, and to know how long ago that was. Kind of like a survey to find when and why the newspaper boy went into decline. 

 

Footnote: I would like to thank all those who contributed their personal stories in the comments section below. It adds a great deal to the original piece. Dave

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Monday
May232016

Monday Musings

If you have just bought a new bike you may spend a great deal of time simply looking at it, and admiring every tiny detail.

Get a chair sit down, relax and take it all in. Make sure you have got your fill, because once you kit up and go for the first ride, you need to stop looking at it.

I know anyone with a more than a couple of neurons could figure that one out, but you would be surprised how many people have ridden into parked cars while doing just that. Looking down admiring their bike while riding.

The same goes for after cleaning your bike, or even shaving your legs. It is hard to claim that a parked car pulled out in front of you.

Medical bills and dental work can be extremely expensive, as can bike repairs. So the next time you find yourself glancing down at this beautiful piece of machinery, if only for a spit second, remember this little article, and get your eyes back on the road ahead.

I hope I have just saved someone a whole lot of pain, money and embarrassment.

I have always set my bikes up with the front brake lever on the right.

It was the way I was taught when I first joined a cycling club back in England in the 1950s.

This trend can also be traced all the way back to the invention of the bicycle. The early bicycles only had one brake that operated on the front wheel.

It was a crude device that pressed down directly on the solid rubber front tire.

It had to operate on the front wheel because that was the one closest to the handlebars and the brake lever.

The brake lever was placed on the right because most people are predominantly right handed. So when rear brakes were added, that lever was placed on the left, as everyone was already used to the front brake being on the right.

Also the early brakes were rod operated, cable brakes came later. It made sense for the rear brake operating rods to go on the left side of the frame away from the drive train on the right side. So I am no different from many older English and other European riders, I have always ridden bikes, even as a kid, with the front brake lever on the right, rear brake left.

So why in America is it standard to have the front brake lever on the left? Because in the 1970s when the bike US bike boom started, American bikes were mostly cruisers with rear wheel coaster brakes, and no brake levers were required.

When racing bikes started being imported from Europe, the U S Consumer Protection Agency deemed that all bikes would have the right brake lever operate the rear brake. It is just a government regulation that applies to new bikes. People are free to set their own bike up as they please.

There are many arguments which way is best, but if like me you have been used to a certain set up most of your life, it is probably not wise to switch just for the sake of change.

 

The English bike builder Hetchins have always been famous for their Curly Stays (Picture left.)

The design served no useful purpose, but it was a recognition thing, a talking point.

When you saw one go by on the road, you knew it was a Hetchins. Even today people will gather round one and talk about it.

In the 1950s there was a story going round about a group of British riders who went across to France to race. It was in the late 1940s, soon after WWII.

One of the group was riding a Curly Hetchins, and he crashed during the race, rendering himself unconscious. When he came around he found a group of French farm-workers were trying to straighten his bike.

I am pretty sure this was one of those urban myths that never really happened, but it’s a funny story none-the-less.

I do know however the Curly Hetchings was a source of amusement to the French.

I remember seeing a Picture of one in Miroir des Sports (But et Club,) a French Cycling Newspaper.

I never did find the full translation of the caption to the picture, but there was a mention of Queen Anne Legs.

 


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